Warning: This is not an astro post- in fact it has nothing whatsoever to do with anything astro and everything to do with a travel post.
Wellingtonians have this joke. It’s about the weather- as most things Wellingtonian are.
In fact you are reminded about the weather from the minute that you land, if not before if there happens to be a southerly blowing (you get an awful lot of landing for your money at Wellington Airport). Perhaps it is the wind farms (that generate enough power to service the city) that you see from the air on your approach? Perhaps it is the sideways view of the runway on a particularly blowy day?
It will certainly be the assortment of wind sculptures as you leave- the Madonna bras (these conical shaped wind indicators), the giant needle (that balances seemingly impossibly like one of those 1970s bird dipping into your drink things that you absolutely never want to see pointing downwards), or the spinning squares, or the spinning smarties. The local rugby team aren’t called the Hurricanes for nothing!
Anyways, the weather is important. Which brings me back to the joke. Complain to anyone in Wellington about the weather and you will invariably get the reply “you should have been here yesterday, it was perfect then…”
Last weekend, we must have arrived yesterday- because we had a whole weekend of yesterdays. Bright blue sunny skies, clearer than you can imagine clear skies to be. It seems to be bluer down here, brighter somehow.
For us, flying in from an unseasonably warm Sydney, the temperatures were still cool, but for Wellingtonians, it was perfect Spring weather. Shorts and t-shirts even. Hmmm.
But then this is a city which is built around a beautiful, yet hazardous harbour, has incredibly steep streets that can only be (sensibly) reached by cable car or in low gear and has some of the best food in New Zealand.
Not as internationally cosmopolitan or activity based as Queenstown or as business and financially orientated as Auckland, Wellington is one of those towns where it is difficult to get a bad cup of coffee- unless you make a mistake and venture into a Starbucks.
It is also one of the most active cities I have ever visited. It is easy to keep fit here- the hills make sure of that. On a sunny day they (the hills, that is) are full of people walking, running and cycling- and mostly uphill. Why? Because they can.
Anyways, to the tourist bits. Obviously the cable car. I have posted pics on that before. The only (sensible) way to get to the top of the Botanical gardens and a wonderful view- the alternative involves a buns of steel buttock clenching, thigh burning climb. At this time of the year the gardens are full of spring bulbs and simply glorious.
Mount Victoria is the main panoramic view, but also venture up Brooklyn hill to the wind turbine. Just magic…but icy when a southerly is blowing.
If you are into movies, Peter Jackson has done more than anyone else to put Wellington on the map- to the extent that Wellington is now referred to lovingly as Wellywood. His studio is located in the suburb of Miramar (which itself is worth a visit for the art deco Roxy Cinema and some pretty cool cafes) and is where they are currently filming The Hobbit. He has come a long way since the days of the rather feeble and completely cringeworthy Meet the Feebles.
There are a few tourist companies that run Lord of the Rings tours around Wellington to see where key scenes of the trilogy were filmed. Most now include a visit to Weta Cave where you can get a behind the scenes look at what goes on in the studios. In case you are wondering, a weta is like a cross between the biggest cockroach and the biggest preying mantis in existence. Australia might have the greatest conglomeration of poisonous things, but New Zealand has the giant roach like creature. Something more to be proud of.
An unmissable is Te Papa Tongarewa- Museum of New Zealand. Maori culture, history, a Marae (communal meeting place), the earthquake house, plenty of interactive stuff for kids & a colossal squid. Oh, and the bits of Pharlap that aren’t in Australia. Pharlap was arguably Australia’s most famous racehorse, but was bred in New Zealand and died under suspicious circumstances in the US. This all happened back in the 1930s, but he was so revered that his heart is in Canberra, his hide in Melbourne & his skeleton in Wellington. Poor bugger. Oh, and the conspiracy theories still rage.
There are always new rides and exhibitions, so always something new to see. Just don’t leave without paying a visit to Te Papa Store. Some amazing shopping opportunities there.
If you have access to a vehicle, take a drive around the coast. Places like Makhara Beach have a desolate wildness, while Scorching Bay and Seatoun are well worth a look-see.
Also within easy reach is Martinborough in the Wairarapa wine region. Regular readers of this blog know that I am partial to a glass of decent grape, and there is plenty to be had here- with most of the wineries within cycling distance of the town…I know, because I’ve done it!
All this aside, the reason I visit Wellington in September/October most years is simple- WOW.
The World of Wearable Arts Award Show, to be precise…but WOW is so much more descriptive. Not a fashion show, not an art show, not standard theatre, WOW defies description in a bladder busting 2 hour no intermission, no commentary, no speakies spectacular involving music, dance, amazing stage design and, this year, a bit of opera, ballet and some sheep and gumboots. Did that come out the way it was meant to?
Naturally the focus of the show is the award entries. And these are pretty cool. Wearable arts made from suntuff roofing material or cable ties or sheet metal. There are always a few plastic bag entrants, but this year there was also an amazing dress crafted from eggshells that had been individually died reminiscent of an impressionist painting. Another had been made from horse hair, whilst the highlight for my 13 year old daughter was a man wearing little else but a strategically placed bouquet of flowers and a fig leaf on a body stocking. That’s 13 year old girls for you.
My Scorpio hubby doesn’t do fashion, theatre or art, so was understandably reluctant to accompany us this year…but is now a convert. The comments “not just for chicks” and “so much to look at” were heard to leave his lips.
Check out the website for more information and show previews. Follow the links to see some pics of the winning entries. Just amazing. If you are interested in going next year, you do need to plan ahead as the 2 weeks worth of shows sell out quickly in March.
And as for shopping? I’m not a huge shopper, but Cuba St has some really cool little out of left field boutiques and gift shops. One of my faves is Abstract Designs- I love their pressed metal wall art and bowls. The Old Bank Arcade also is worth a look, as is Featherstone St for fashion. Just wander… and, with some luck, you will also arrive yesterday.