Friday, February 2, 2007

Windy Wellington

We knew we were going to like Wellington the moment we drove off the expressway and found the hotel lobby right there. Once again, we had booked a last minute ‘flaming deal’ on, and were not disappointed. Our up-graded 23rd floor room in Wellington’s largest hotel had been beautifully renovated, and we immediately went downstairs, and successfully negotiated two more nights at the very modest rate of $125 NZ. This equates to just over $100 CDN, and includes all applicable taxes. (Actually, there is only one tax, the 12.5% GST which is included in the price of everything you buy. I often wonder what New Zealanders must think when they get their hotel bill and see just how many additional taxes they must pay.)

After an evening wandering around renovated waterfront buildings, the next day, we arranged for a tour of the city. We found a very windy, but scenic capital city, with hills and water. There is an overriding sense of creativity and culture. Much of it feels like Kitsilano, although Kitsilano doesn’t have any penguin crossings. Nor was Lord of the Rings made in Kitsilano. Some of it was shot in Wellington, which aspires to become Wellywood. After showing us some of the film’s shoot locations, our guide told us that his company’s Lord of the Rings Tour is now more popular than the City Tour we were on.

I was curious to see Parliament House, but unfortunately, I never did get a good photo of it. Perhaps that is because they didn’t get a good design! The original building was never finished as originally planned, and many people now confuse Sir Basil Spence’s ‘beehive’ addition, which houses government offices, with the actual Parliament building next door. Sir Basil’s building has become the architectural symbol of the country.

But I did get a good photo of two boys who represent the spirit of Wellington. I first saw the one with striped hair, and asked for a picture, since I knew my daughter Claire would love the way he coordinated his hair with his shirt. “Can I photograph you for my daughter?” I asked. “She has leopard skin hair”. “Photograph my friend”, he replied, whipping off his hat. “He has leopard skin hair too”. Ah yes, but I bet his father doesn’t have a matching yarmulkah, like I have!As soon as I saw this wall sculpture, next to the Chocolate Fish Restaurant, I knew I had to take a picture for Jim Moodie. Jim is a very creative guy. But he rarely works in shells. Jim, I hope this inspires you to do something clever on your neighbour’s wall.A highlight of Wellington is Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand. It’s an impressive new gallery on the waterfront, with wonderful displays. Sally and I particularly enjoyed the earthquake. You get to experience what it is like to be in a home when an earthquake strikes. We immediately wanted to return to Vancouver and rearrange some of our furnishings. (But don’t worry Harley and Joani. We think you should be safe in our house until we get back.)We wanted to spend more time in Wellington, but having spent more than two weeks on the North Island, we thought we should head off to the South Island. And so we're off.

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