2023 Women’s World Cup

Cathy and I joined a bunch of friends to cheer on the USA Women’s World Cup team in New Zealand and Australia in July/August 2023. Although the trip was great, the soccer was not. The USA Women’s team exited the tournament sooner than anytime in their history. 

We started with a 37 hour door-to-door journey from home to Wellington, New Zealand. Wellington is a port city at the south end of the north island of New Zealand. We traveled with our neighbors (Brock and Denise), their two children (Kenzie and Zane), and Kenzie’s boyfriend Casey. If you drive to Boston, fly to Chicago, fly direct to Auckland and the have a 6 hour layover to fly to Wellington, you will travel for 37 hours. Needless to say, it’s a long journey.

We arrived in Wellington to a cold and windy New Zealand winter. We started by finding a great breakfast place called the Arborist before exploring the city and visiting a couple of museums. The Wellington Museum was a fun and quirky with a powerful exhibit of the Wahene Shipwreck. Before visiting the wonderful Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, we tasted our first local gin, Scapegrace, at Panhead Brewery. The museum’s  exhibit on Gallipoli, documenting NZ’s involvement in the Battle of Gallipoli during WWI, is worth visiting just for that experience. 

Our first evening ended by meeting up with Kaela and Tai (Wiscasset) at a funky Mexican Restaurant where the food was great and the Margheritas are small. 

Thursday, game day, started with another great breakfast before riding a cable car and walking through the Wellington Botanic Garden to the game. We were in a great cheering section behind the goal with our Texas friend (see our Womens World Cup in France travel blog). Despite our voices, USA drew with Netherlands 1-1, a score that would come back to haunt us. On the way out of the stadium Brock and I ran into our friends who have season tickets next to us at New England Revolution games, totally random meeting on the other side of the globe. 

Friday was travel day as we took a scenic train ride through the middle of (almost) the entire north island. It was a beautiful train ride through the NZ landscape of mountains, farmland, sheep and cattle. It’s a long train ride…12 hours…about 8 hours would have been perfectly fine. We arrived to Auckland with much improved weather and a fantastic location of our BnB in the Ponsenby area, about a 20 minute walk from downtown. A much shorter walk along Ponsonby Street is a the Tinted Rose cocktail lounge where we tried their local gin, Source.

Saturday was a trip to the top of the imposing Sky Towers for views of the city before touring the impressive NZ All Blacks rugby museum. By far the highlight was a full size video of the All Blacks performing the Haka while you stand opposing the team in the national stadium. My two years of college rugby gave me an appreciation of the game, but witnessing the All Blacks play in person is still on my bucket list. Cathy spent the afternoon at the maritime museum, I sketched around the city. 

We rented a car Sunday to drive to Hobbiton to tour the hobbit’s village where they filmed some of the Lord of the Rings. We had some time so we hiked to see the north island’s tallest waterfall, Wairere Falls. A moderate hike in NZ is not the same as in America, we made it halfway to a viewing area and then scrambled down to make our tour time. Hobbiton was a great fun. We toured the entire village visiting the outside of hobbit homes and then had a feast inside the Green Dragon Inn.

We woke up Monday to beautiful weather, a 40 minute ferry road brought us to a sliver of paradise, Waiheke Island, for a day long guided wine tour. We visited three of the 30 vineyards on the island, starting with the incredible picturesque Mud House. Our group favored their Chardonnay. Our next stop was an organic vineyard, Kennedy Point, and then ended at Casita Miro, a Barcelona inspired vineyard where we enjoyed 5 flights of wine. We finished with a late lunch on the beach before catching the ferry back to Auckland. 

Game day Tuesday started at a fun rooftop bar on the water before the pre-game meetup near the stadium, where we continued the tradition of playing soccer 4-square. Unfortunately, the game was a let-down as the US could not score against Portugal and the game finished 0-0. On top of that, our plans from months ago for the US to finish at the top of their group and play in Sydney were ruined. USA would play Italy in Melbourne without us, we were not changing our plans now. 

Wednesday is travel day to Sydney. It took much of the day, but our hotel in the Rocks district is a perfect location next to the harbor with loads of restaurants and bar. It did not take long to find our favorite cocktail bar, Frank Mac’s, and their local gin, HIckson is distilled a few doors down from the bar. We also ran into Alexi Lalas while sitting outside the bar. 

I was able to get my first close view of the Sydney Opera House on Thursday. What a treat! It’s been something I’ve wanted to see since my thesis project in college. Another great weather day we took a ferry through the harbor to Manly Beach for seafood lunch at Garfish and a walk-about around the seaside town and island. We ended with dinner on the water and a nighttime ferry ride home to see the city lights. 

Friday was hat day in Sydney. Brock and I want hat shopping, first to the classic hat store, Strand, in a beautiful retail arcade, and then to a more successful shop back at the Rocks. The afternoon was devoted to our favorite walk of the trip over the Harbor Bridge. We were fully harnessed in to the railing as we walked on top of the bridge and back during dusk and the lights coming on in the city. We enjoyed spectacular views and a great sunset. 

We toured the opera house on Saturday and walked the city. It really is an extraordinary building, and everyone in our group (non-architects) especially enjoyed the tour and learning about this building. We ended the evening with our Texas friends on the other side of the harbor called Sails, with picturesque views of the Sydney skyline at night. 

Game day Sunday was a disappointment. While I went to the Netherlands vs South Africa match in Sydney, Cathy got to see Sweeny Todd at the opera house. At night we watched the USA vs Italy game on the large screens at the Sydney fan fest area with a few thousand other disappointed USA fans. It came down to penalty kicks, and even though the US had many chances to win, they lost in PK’s.

Monday was travel day home from Sydney to LAX to Boston. A very long day, it seemed much easier than the travel to NZ/AU.

So we didn’t see the USA women win, but we did have a fabulous two weeks of travel. As our saying goes, “enjoy soccer, see the world.”


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