Welcome to Wellington

I finally arrived in Wellington, the first real stop on my vacation. It was an uncomfortable 7.15 am yesterday that I started trudging around the Courteny district. An hour later and four blocks in the wrong direction I finally found the Cambridge Hotel. It’s a cute place, supposedly with some history, but the best part is its proximity to Courteny Place and Te Papa National Museum.

Clearly being in a city for the first time in ages, I spent the morning doing errands, finding the shops I needed to visit and a pub to watch the Superbowl. I ended up at Four Kings, a great place with over 20 television screens, all of them with the greatest day in American football playing. After some lunch and a couple of draft ciders, I went home to take a nap. Several hours later with no time left at any of the museums, I went to the cinema to see Nine. There were some great performances, but the story really didn’t make sense. I had to read the summary online afterward to get it. Ok Guido, make your penance with your film, I’ll eat my Chinese food.

Today I got up and (like a nerd) took a Lord of the Rings tour with Wellington Rover. We spent the morning running around to several film sites for Rivendell, the forest past Hobbiton, the city of Gondor, the river Anduin, etc. and comparing the scene we were looking at with a laminated slide from one of the films. I was looking for a bit more history and importance to the area tacked along with the scene re-enactments that we shamelessly performed and photographed. Yes, I paid $90 for this tour, and I would not recommend it.

Once back into Wellington, I took the city bus out to Miramar to the WETA Cave, were I saw some of the costumes, the figurine collection, and a ‘making of movie magic’ documentary about WETA and their work. I also purchased a signed copy of the Lord of the Rings Location Guide (it was signed!). If I had known it, I would have bought the book, rented a car and gone to visit the places myself. It contained all the local information I wanted that our tour guide didn’t provide. She did however come with pastries and fizzy drinks.

Keeping on schedule, I whizzed over to Te Papa. If you go, start at the top and work your way down. I was tired by the time I got to the art gallery on the 6th floor and couldn’t enjoy it. There were great exhibits in the museum like the colossal squid that was over 10 feet long. The museum also had tons of great information about how the islands of New Zealand were formed, as well as the deforestation due to man encroaching on completely isolated habitat. The art gallery did give a nice insight into the impact of European art on New Zealand, and even included some modern Maori carvings and restoration projects.

I took my shoes off and wandered down the pier. It’s completely normal to walk around in and out of shops without shoes on in New Zealand: they have no poisonous spiders or snakes. School kids were out in force rowing across the bay in afternoon gym classes. The playground was empty as clouds crept solemnly over the city. And I talked myself into riding the cable car up to the botanical gardens. The view was worth it. Climbing above the city in a polished, wooden cable car we passed the university and several other stops. People even have miniature cable cars at their homes around Mount Victoria that I had seen earlier that morning. Imagine, a cable car to carry the groceries upstairs…

I climbed up a gigantic bush to get an even higher view and found some teenagers keen to take my photo. Then barefoot again, I stumbled down hill to find the rose garden. I was tired from a day of heavy exploration, but it was worth it. Spread out in blocks, this rose garden, just like the one in Hamilton, was filled with experimental flowers. Roses that had been cross-bred to create new colors and petal configurations. I could have wandered through them all day. Each one had different names, Wanderer, Romeo, Her Majesty. And the one titled “Memory Lane” only had two or three blossoms, while the others were full beds. How curious.

Back at the Cambridge, I caught up on a bit of Grey’s Anatomy with the help of a few other girls in the lounge and put my feet up. Wellington in one day, wow.

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