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Monday, 21 February 2011

Day 297-304: What's not to love?

Ahh Wellington, Wellington – where should I begin? Should priority be given to the beautiful architecture? Or the fantastic shopping that effortlessly mixes every-day necessities with high street brands, quirky designers and treasure troves of vintage clothing? What about the bars and little coffee shops that spill out onto the street at every possible opportunity, battling for pavement space with endless buskers, artists, hari krishnas, beat-boxers and magicians.

No, I'll begin with the first thing that really struck me about Wellington; it's diverse. Walk around town and you will pass people from every corner of the world; Chinese, Malay, European, Indian, Polynesian, African, Japanese, even a few Latinos – and they aren't tourists, they are people who call Wellington home. Now this may sound like a strange thing to notice first-off but, with the exception of Singapore, [Warning! wild generalisation approaching] everywhere we have been on this trip has been 95% local and 5% white-skinned tourist.
Get on a train in India and everyone you'll see will be Indian, apart from a few European tourists (us), go to a market in Indonesia and pretty much everyone you'll see will be Indonesian apart from a few (mostly Dutch) tourists (again, inclusive of us). I'm not saying this is a bad thing – but there was very little mixing in these societies, the local/tourist divide was as clear as the colour of our skin. But in Wellington, everything was all mixed up, and I loved it.
Maybe when you grow up in London, where ethnic diversity is a beautiful reality, you're naturally more inclined to notice it (or the lack of it) in other places you visit. That said, I don't think that it's a coincidence that Singapore and Wellington are the only places I'd really consider living more permanently in. It just feels more right here.

Maybe too because the “windy city” did not live up to this reputation at all – we enjoyed a week of glorious sunshine with often not so much as a cloud in the sky. Which was particularly good news for Emily [below], one of my oldest and best school-friends, who arrived from Sydney on the stroke of midnight with a rucksack that had been quarantined into a huge plastic bag and without her tent pegs which had been taken from her by a less than friendly customs officer under the absurdly stringent anti-contamination laws.

Not to worry though, actually the spot that Rob and I had found to camp up each night in was a glorified car park over-flow that climbed into the hill side at the tiny and incredibly scenic Scorching Bay [above] about 5km south of Wellington. So most of the ground was tarmac and not exactly peg-friendly anyway. After a few failed attempts in the dark (we would later become incredibly quick at this) we got the tent up, tied the guide ropes to Emilio and the railings and we were good to go. Like I said, it was really lucky that it didn't rain.

The morning brought the small matter of turning 25 for me and with it croissants and coffee on the beach for breakfast. A day spent perusing the shops was broken up only to eat a delicious lunch and in the evening we met up with a friend we had made in Thailand and she brought the kind of local knowledge that means $1 glasses of champagne for ladies on a Wednesday [thanks Yvonne.] Needless to say, I had an utterly awful time of it :)

Thereafter each day brought something new and exciting; least one day was lost to the seemingly impossible task of obtaining an Australian working-holiday visa for Emily but even that ended in a feast of falafel...and eventually (days later) a visa too. We spent a day shopping, a day relaxing on the beach at Scorching Bay – which did live up to it's name - and even needed two days to wander slowly through the wonderful Te Papa museum [right], which features everything from geology to gay rights and has a fabulous exhibition on photographer Brian Blake on the top floor.

Emily and I also spent a day wine-tasting in the famous Wairarapa Valley region. Martinsborough is just an hour and a half away and it must surely hold the record for the most wineries per km2 – the place is packed with them! And tasting is the name of the game. We stopped in a few, all walking distance from the small high street, enjoying crisp Chardonnays, bold Pinot Noirs and some surprisingly moreish sweet desert wines. Our favourite spot, though, was the Vynfilds winery; a huge white manor-house type of a building surrounded by vineyards where you could taste a 'flight' of wines – 5 half or quarter glasses – with tasting notes and some great bread-and-dips to wash it down with.

Wellington has been one of our longer stays on the trip and it has definitely been one of my favourites; friends, sun, good food, great wine and even champagne on a Wednesday. What's not to love?


  1. Trish says:

    Can't believe it! Literally looks perfect. Definitely nothing not to like. Great pics again Rob - vineyards, horses, good weather - my kind of place! xxx

  2. UI concur definitely my kind of place too - wow don't things change - I am sure it was never like that 28 years ago! So very pleased you had such a wonderful time - and again love the photos - good to know you're safe.

  3. Actually I can't take credit for the photos this time - its all Emily and her vastly superior photographic skills! Awesome place though - I'm sure everyone would love it. xx


  5. it's going to be your face in our pics soon sweetheart - less than 2 months to go! xx