After gathering all of our assorted bags and bundles from the ferry and making our way to our apartment (which is delightfully enormous, allowing us all some much-needed solo space), we decided to eat out for dinner. Jeremy found the Southern Cross restaurant a few blocks away, and we enjoyed a delicious meal there. Our apartment is in the Te Aro neighborhood of Wellington, just a block from Cuba Street’s many cafes and restaurants, so we are spoiled for choice.
Thursday we relaxed into a slow morning at home, doing some laundry, reading, cooking breakfast. But by lunchtime we were on our way to Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand. It’s a gorgeous building, with an eclectic and interesting collection. We began with the native bush walk outside, where we spotted (and heard!) our first Tui bird. Take a listen to the positively astonishing range of sounds it produces:
Next we went to the exhibit on Gallipoli in turns—and a good thing we did, as it was a visceral representation of suffering by Kiwi soldiers in WWI. The models were enormous—not tiny but instead 2.5 times the size of humans, sculpted with incredible verisimilitude. Penelope sat outside with each of us while the other toured, happily reading her Kindle. Her favorite book at the moment is The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone, by Jaclyn Moriarity, and I believe she’s reading it for the third time. 🙂
After we finished the Gallipoli exhibit, we moved on to the floors focused on New Zealand history as well as Maori culture, art, and history. Te Papa does a wonderful job interweaving art and history, along with interactive videos, games, and experiences. And they have children’s spaces scattered throughout the museum, where kids can try out costumes and instruments and art.
The last floors we visited were the art galleries, which were again terrifically organized and filled with interactive elements. We particularly appreciated the deck of cards at the beginning, called 101 Ways to Look at Art. Each visitor is invited to take a few to use in the galleries. We asked the docent if the whole deck was for sale, but alas no. So we made do with this snapped photo—and will definitely be using these questions again with Penelope when we visit the museums of Italy and France.
Friday we opted for another day of exploring Wellington, and this time our focus was on the great outdoors: the Cable Car and the Botanical Gardens. Wellington has hundreds of cable cars, but all but one are privately owned. Those hundreds are more accurately known as funiculars, and these two-person cable cars allow hill-dwelling Wellingtonians to park their car at street level and then ascend or descend hundreds of feet to their house perched on high. The public cable car, on the other hand, carries about a hundred people at a time, from Lambton Quay to the hilltop above, where you can descend through the Botanic Gardens back to the city below. And the view from the top is pretty lovely too!
We spent the next two hours slowly walking down through the gardens, with an extended stop at the playground en route. Also spotted: the gorgeous tree fern, a sunlit hillside filled with hydrangeas, and absolutely, positively the most beautiful trees I’ve ever seen. I would like our future hobbit hole to be surrounded by a glade of these specimens.
That evening we ventured out to the Wellington Night Market, noting once we arrived that to call the alley a “market” somewhat overstated the offerings on hand…but we still enjoyed ourselves. It was just like the Off the Grid food truck gatherings in the Bay Area, and, as at home, we devoured our dumplings and roti burritos. The live music was a lovely bonus.
Saturday was girls’ day out: Penelope and I started the day by walking from our apartment over to the waterfront, following the harbor to the Wellington Underground Market. Every Saturday there’s an arts and crafts market that takes over an underground car park, and it was definitely worth the visit. Though we were mightily tempted by a gorgeous wire bird feeder, I wasn’t sure we could get it home in one piece. Penelope spent nearly half an hour at the dollhouse miniatures booth, choosing just the right sweets for her “lolly” jar. I exercised my patience muscle. And she did end up with a lovely collection of sweets, in addition to a jar of fruits (most appropriately, she chose the kiwis).
After a lunch made to order from one of the booths at the Underground Market, we continued our walk around the harbor, pausing to snap a selfie and gawk at the divers jumping from the various platforms set up by the city. A climb, a leap, and a splash into the sea. Very cool.
The park we’d originally played to go to seemed to be under construction, so we continued walking to Waitangi Park… where we discovered a small Highlands Festival underway. Mind you, we’d also passed a Holi / Color Festival that morning, and there were huge Chinese New Year celebrations planned for the next few days. Wellington is definitely a cultural crossroads—another way in which it reminds me of San Francisco. We watched some Highland dancing for a bit and then found the nearby playground. An hour there, and Penelope asked if we could return to Te Papa for part of the afternoon. Sounded good—so off we went, and Penelope enjoyed playing drums and dress-up with other kids. Afterwards, we browsed some shops as we leisurely made our way home for dinner with Jeremy.
After dinner, we capped our third day in Wellington with a delectable ice cream treat at Kaffee Eis on Cuba Street: after trying a wide array of flavors, we settled on Biscotti (which tasted like Biscoff cookies), Pistachio, Cinnamon, and Bon Bon Rocher (chocolate hazelnut). All delicious!