Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Well, all is well that ends well in Wellington.

When Sarah last posted, she and I had just reached the town of Martinborough, in the middle of our extended Wine Tour of the North Island. Martinborough ended up being a wonderful small little town, with a central square, quiet camp ground and a score of wineries within stumbling distance of each other.

After spending two days tasting the local Pinot's (something I'm sure Sarah will describe in more detail in a future entry), and spending more time on the phone with our WaMu (which continues to periodically close our account, no matter how many times we tell them we are travelling); we decided to spend our last evening at the Circus Cinema.

Circus Cinema is a movie theater which shows second run and art house pictures with an attached bar and pizza restaurant. We started the evening with a nice Rose wine and a screening of Ms. Potter (sometimes I'm macho like that), and ended it with some local beer and a spicy chili and pepperoni pizza (not quite as macho).

The next day, we were on the road again, making our way to Wellington. Unfortunately, it was the Friday before Easter, which is a national holiday... so every other person in New Zealand was on the road. As a result, not only were we winding the Enterprise up mountain passes that seemed to be impersonating the intestinal tract of a contortionist; we were also doing it with hundreds of camper vans roaring by in the other lane, as motorcyclists tried to squeeze by any way they could.

Somehow we managed to make it to Wellington in one piece, and make it to the hostel we were parking the Enterprise at. Generally, we've been staying at campgrounds (or "holiday parks") while driving the Enterprise, but since we wanted to be able to explore Wellington on foot, we had to find a place that would allow us to keep the Enterprise docked. Luckily, there was a hostel in town that allowed camper vans to park in the parking lot behind it, and use their bathrooms and kitchen for a nominal fee. Unluckily, it also typified the worst aspects of hostels: A massive warren of shabby rooms filled with half-drunk twenty-somethings stumbling the halls and scheming as to whether they should venture in town, or just hit on someone else staying on their floor.

With that attactive base camp, Sarah and I quickly made our way downtown. If I were to descibe Wellington to someone from Washington, I'd say it reminded me of Tacoma... except cute ...and hip. Unfortunately, because it was still the Friday before Easter, it was also a ghost town. Apparently, the government of New Zealand actually fines businesses that are open on national holidays, unless they arrange a special permit ahead of time. As a result, all the businesses were closed, and the majority of the restaurants too.

Still, we started with a walk down Cuba Street, which is similar in feel to Broadway in Seattle, or maybe Haight-Ashbury in San Fransisco, with scores of funky shops (all closed) and trendy restaurants, cafes and bars (mostly closed).

Sarah on the waterfront in Wellington.

This led us to the Waterfront, where we walked along the boardwalk and then checked out the Te Papa Museum. Te Papa is Wellington's massive natural history and science museum, which manages to be interesting, interactive and free. In addition to some other interesting exhibits, it served as a great primer on both the wildlife of New Zealand and the Maori culture.

After Te Papa, we discovered that Wellington had a cable car and that (surpise!) it was actually running on Good Friday. So, we hopped on that and rode it up to a fatastic view point, and a nice Botanical Garden.

The cable car is a bit crowded for Tyler's taste... probably because its the only thing open in town.

A view of Wellington from the top of the hill the cable car climbs.

Sarah at the rose garden in the Botanical Gardens...

...just remember, even if you are on a whistle-stop tour of the World, its always important to stop and smell the roses.

The next morning, we woke up early, and boarded the ferry the South Island. The ferry ride lasts about three hours, as the ferry crosses to the South Island and makes its way to Picton through the Malborough Sound. The ferry was notable in tow ways: it was ginormous and (becuase of the Holiday traffic) really, really crowded. But then, from Picton, it was just a short drive toour next stop: Nelson.

How can something so very, very big be so very, very crowded?

Now, if I were to describe Nelson to someone from Washington, I would say it reminded me of Bellingham ...except cleaner ...and not as depressing. Unfortunately, because it was the Saturday before Easter, Nelson was also a ghost town. Notice a trend here?

Despite the fact that it was dead, Sarah and I still got a chance to explore around town a bit, enjoy some local beer at the House of Ales. And then finish the evening with a fancy dinner at the Cut (a restaurant we both agreed was "good" but not "great").

The next morning, as the bells of the large, severe-looking, Christ Church Cathedral in the center of town chimed for Easter service in the distance, Sarah and I boarded the Enterprise and headed for our next destination: Abel Tasman Park.


ambika said...

Lovely, lovely pics! Tyler, you look rad in the hat and Sarah, I will never get tired of that green jacket.

Can I just tell you how much we all talk about this blog and appreciate how much you guys update it? At my PT appts, Steph and I chat about the blog. Crafting at Christine's, we chat about the blog. At your brother's place, we talk about the death of the board and the blog. It really is so awesome to see what you guys are up to while you're there.

Sarah said...

Thanks, Ambika! And, yeah, the green jacket is going away anytime soon. It is cold with snow flurries in Queenstown, and it's the warmest thing I have!!

The General said...

Ambika, that is wonderful to hear. Sarah and I have really enjoyed being able to do the blog, so we are really glad that people back at home are enjoying it. It's been a great way of feeling like we are staying in touch with people... and I'm also sure that it'll be a great way for Sarah and I to look back on our trip when we get back.