New Zealand / Travel

A Weekend (or two) in Windy Wellington

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It would be nothing short of criminal to be in New Zealand for a long period of time without seeing some live rugby. It’s new Zealand’s national sport and as Toby is also rugger mad we decided to go to the Rugby 7s in Wellington a few weekends ago. We thought it would also be a good chance to see the capital city and an exciting activity during our two weeks off work.

We travelled down to Wellington on the Friday, our longest journey in our trusty station wagon, John. We drove for the best part of the day, passing through many small townships, which were very sweet and had a generic suburban middle-America type vibe. As we arrived in Wellington late in the afternoon on Friday, and we were due to leave on Monday morning to get back in time for work on Tuesday, we only had two full days in Wellington. One of our days was to be taken up by the rugby, so we had to try and cram in as much as possible into one day. We were exhausted tourists by the end! Here’s a run down of what to do in a flying visit to the Kiwi capital…

Friday Night – Testing the Wellington Bar Scene
We settled into our hostel and then we were pretty keen to go out and explore. Grace and Toby were fairly tired from the drive, so we thought we’d leave the touristy stuff for the next day. Our hostel was right in the city centre, so it wasn’t a long walk to find a beer. We visited a couple of bars on Courtenay Street which offered $10 jugs of beer (the cheapest we had yet found in all of NZ!). The weather was mild so we sat outside and people-watched. It proved a pretty good place to watch the world go by; Wellington is the cultural capital of New Zealand, which draws in the most interesting and diverse group of people.

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Saturday Morning – Exploring Te Papa, New Zealand’s Best Museum
We woke up to a drizzly Wellington, and after checking the weather we saw it was meant to clear up after lunch. We decided to visit Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum, after hearing rave reviews from kiwis and travellers alike. Te Papa is pretty large so we decided to limit our exploration to New Zealand’s history and Maori culture. We’re spoilt living in London, we have so many wonderful galleries and museums, so it takes a lot to impress. However, we enjoyed Te Papa very much and we learned loads about Maori history, from its pre-European past, the Waitangi Treaty and its dubious, rushed and somewhat inaccurate translation, to the story behind the famous Haka. Our exploration took up a good few hours, and after a visit to the gift shop (which was impressive in itself), we ventured back onto the streets of Wellington to find a spot to eat our packed lunch – we are penny-pinching backpackers after all! We sat on Oriental Parade enjoying roasted vegetable cous cous and Toby-made banana cake.

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Saturday Afternoon – Welly’s best milkshake and a trip on the famous cable car
After lunch we headed along to Cuba Street, a buzzing pedestrian road famous for its cafés, bars, shops and street musicians. I read somewhere that Wellington has more cafés and restaurants per head than New York, and it’s famous for its good coffee shops. We walked down Cuba Street to Fidel’s, a Cuban themed café (in case you hadn’t guessed) to experience the capital’s ‘best milkshake’. Grace had a Snickers milkshake that was bigger than her, Toby had a salted caramel hot chocolate and I had an iced coffee which was at least 90% ice cream. All were delicious and we left feeling pleasantly sick. We then set off on foot to Wellington’s famous red cable car, which offers stunning views of the city and conveniently finishes in Wellington’s Botanical Gardens. A ramble through the Botanical Gardens followed, bringing us back into the the city by the Beehive parliament building. That evening we met up with Rhondda and Allan’s niece, Michaela, and her partner, Hazel, and they took us to some of their favourite Wellington haunts. We tested out local beers, and then headed to Sweet Mother’s Kitchen for some delicious curly fries.

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Sunday – Experiencing true Kiwi culture at the Rugby 7s
We had already been up close to All Blacks, and National treasures, such as Dan Carter and Richie McCaw at the Rugby World Cup champions parade in Auckland, but we were looking forward to watching some live rugby. The games were fast paced and short, so held our attention well (by this I mean Grace and me – Toby could watch Rugby for hours and hours without ever getting bored). We cheered on England, who were unfortunately beaten by the tournaments champions, you guessed it, the All Blacks. The atmosphere was fun, and the All Blacks victory was probably the best outcome in that respect. We drank beer all day, got sunburnt and followed it up afterwards with a pizza. A successful day all round, I’d say. The next morning we returned to Hawkes Bay to start work again, not to return to Wellington for a good few weeks.

Our return to Windy Welly en route to the South Island
I am now writing this follow up several weeks later after our second visit to Wellington. We have finished working, and have become proper travellers once again. This time around we stayed with Michaela and Hazel in their adorably quaint seaside flat (which is accessed by its own cable car!) in Lyall Bay. In the afternoon we arrived and met Hazel once she’d finished work, and we went for a stroll along the beach and stopped for an ice cream on the return walk back. We spent the evening in, enjoying the beautiful views of the bay, and out to Wellington city in the background.

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The next day we had another touristy day in Wellington, visiting the small, but still impressive, Portrait Gallery, and the Wellington Museum, which was full of odd curiosities and interesting tales of the people and events of Wellington. We then headed back to the flat to meet Hazel in order to play as stand in members for her local touch rugby team. It turns out this was actually their last game of the season, and the final, which meant we felt as though we couldn’t let them down! Toby was definitely the best of the three of us, but Grace and I still gave it our best shots and managed to prevent a few potential tries. We didn’t embarrass ourselves, and luckily our team won 13-9. Phew! Hazel’s teammates were all very kind in telling us how well we did, even though I think they may have been stretching the truth slightly. We returned back to the flat feeling very hungry, and enjoyed tucking into a vegetable curry we had made earlier in the day.

That was yesterday, and we are now on the Interislander ferry, cruising through the beautiful Marlborough Sounds on our way to the South Island. Next stop: Kaikoura!

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