Stay Off the Road: Our Trip to Wellington

Wellington is the capitol of New Zealand and a city of about 200,000 people. It has a hipster area in Cuba Street, lots of bars and strip clubs (oddly enough), and is home to New Zealand’s film industry, hence the nickname Wellywood. Peter Jackson has his studio here, and so did lots of filming for the Lord of the Rings in the area. Naturally, we found a film location to enjoy, but we were careful to “Stay off the road…”

We started our day and a half at the ferry terminal, from which we walked about 4km with our packs on our back to the Abel Tasman Hotel downtown. Our room was large, though a little outdated, but it sufficed for our two nights of exploring. We wandered around a little and then headed to dinner at a lovely little “Modern New Zealand” restaurant called Capitol, about 1km from our hotel. The food was great, the waitress was adorable, and the ambiance was very affluent-urbanite-on-a-date, exactly my flavor in my jeans and shirt I had sweat through on the way to the hotel. But as is the case in New Zealand, no one cared and we had a lovely dinner of Italian inspired fare – rigatoni with basil in some kind of delicious cream sauce and fresh catch of the day over ristto. We picked a wine because it was called Rippon, we assumed named after Ripon, our favorite town on Interstate 5 between San Francisco and LA (we always say, “Better to be Ripon than Ripoff!” as we drive through it), and it was delicious.

The next morning, we set off to explore Wellington in all of its splendor. We began with a brief yet brutal hike at a 60 degree angle up to the Mount Victoria Lookout, which gives you a great view of the city, making it barely worth the steep climb. Fun fact: New Zealand was settled by the British during the time of Queen Victoria, so to honor her, and avoid having to come up with original names, everything in New Zealand has some Victoria something-or-other. Queen Victoria Track, Queen Victoria Road, Victor Victoria… Anyway, on the way down, I noticed something familiar, a path that looked exactly like the road that Frodo stupidly walks on in The Fellowship of the Ring, even though Gandalf explicitly tells him not to do so. I kept yelling, “We have to get off the road!” and Rebecca thought I was nuts, but sure enough, we found a trail called Hobbit’s Hideaway where they had filmed that scene. I dorked out for a second, took a picture or two, and headed back down the hill towards town. We then walked to the wonderful Te Papa museum, the national museum filled with exhibits explaining the natural and cultural history of New Zealand. It is definitely worth a trip if you are in Wellington- thanks for the recommendation, Jen!

From Te Papa, we worked our way around the marina area and then headed for the Botanical Garden. In pretty much every city we visit, we take a trip to the botanical garden, since they are a great way to see native plants and flowers and are usually quiet places to relax for a little bit. This was no exception, with lots of lovely plants, few people, and a rocking rose garden for us to smell. I accidentally walked in on two pigeons mating, and though I know better, I am pretty sure they gave me the stink eye, like I had walked into their pigeon bedroom. Why they have any expectation of privacy in such a public place is beyond me, but there it is.

We went back downhill to change for the evening’s activity, dinner and a movie. We got takeaway dinner at Heaven (more about Heaven in my pizza-related blog post) and went to see The Desolation of Smaug, the second saga in the Hobbit trilogy. It was fun to see it in New Zealand, but the movie was OK at best. I am annoyed that they turned a pretty small book into three movies, but that’s for another post when I run out of other things to talk about. More interesting is that the movie theater had a bar outside, where you could order beer, wine and food and have it delivered to your seat. Pretty nice, but appropriate, given the ticket price (about $20USD per ticket, including 3D glasses that were ours to keep – hooray). We left and went back to the hotel to pack, since we were leaving at 6am for our flight to Auckland.

We wished we had more time in Wellington. It was the first city that we would have enjoyed going out in at night, but we didn’t have time with our schedule. And it is so cute! So let that be a lesson to you all: go with enough time to go to a rugby game and experience the nightlife. At least don’t schedule your flight out in the morning, so you have a little recovery time from your exciting night on the town.

One more entry for New Zealand, and then it’s on to Asia – so keep on reading!

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