I made it to the end of term!! Which means I have a two week holiday before full-time placement at Lincoln begins…which means I spent hours on hours the last couple of months researching, seeking advice, booking tickets, and drafting very detailed, very packed one week itineraries for both the North and South Islands. If I had my druthers, the North Island alone would be a four week trip. But like Americans in the corporate world who fly all the way to NZ for a two week vacation, this is all the time I’ve got. So I am efficiently jamming in as much as I can into a very condensed schedule. Georgia is afraid I’m going to run her ragged. By her standards, this is no “holiday” – just a helluva lot of high intensity activity. I am more energized than I have been in weeks.
First stop: Wellington.
People I’ve talked to that love Wellington REALLY love Wellington. They also tend to all be pretty carefree; they are my friends who tend to see rules as suggestions rather than law. With a 7 am flight on a Saturday morning, we arrived to a slow city still sleeping off hangovers from a few hours before. By lunch though, the city once again bustled with droves of twenty-somethings that have made op-shop hipster style mainstream. Eateries on Cuba Street span the gamut – food truck burgers, ethnic food originating from countries anywhere between Lebanon and Japan, vegan cafes, and upscale fine dining. There are coffee shops everywhere, craft beer is on point, and if you know the right places to go, there are lots of unique bars hidden on the second floors of random alleys in the city centre.
For having such an intense itinerary of where to go when, I confess I hadn’t really looked into the details of what to do in what order. After a not-so-quick pitstop at the i-Site, we got a game plan together and headed to the Gallipoli exhibit at the National Te Papa Museum. With ANZAC day approaching, it was particularly fitting to absorb the stories and history behind the World War I slaughtering the Kiwis and Aussies valiantly endured on the coast of Turkey.
My regiment was literally cut to pieces, and although we charged several times, we were unable to gain any ground under such a terrible fire…At the first roll call…in my platoon, 14 of 50 answered. -Private Peter Thompson
Nearly a century ago, everyone knew someone who died in the war. Throughout the impressive exhibit, there were five giant models of soldiers and others involved in the effort. “Life-like” is an understatement. You could see their skin follicles, their sweat and tears, their three-day dirty scruff. Absolutely unreal.
True to Compton genetics, we didn’t pay enough attention to where we parked, and after lunch we ended up aimlessly walking around the city looking for the right parking garage…Whoops. Compton women are so bad at navigating. It’s comical, until you’re stuck in a new city, and your rental car has become a life-size geocache with no hints on where it’s hidden.
When we did finally stumble upon it, we drove up to the Mt. Victoria lookout, where we absorbed a stunning 360 view of the city, surrounding harbor, and hillsides. Our hair also got thoroughly tangled up.
Other activities later that day included going to the zoo, which was actually really good; I enjoyed the penguins, and Georgia had a special one-on-one moment (she won’t stop talking about it) with the tiger.
We then took the trolley up and strolled down through the Botanical gardens as the sun set, finishing off the night at a comedy show our couchsurfing host recommended.
As we observed at the lookout, Wellington’s weather is capricious. The wind is so strong that it pushes clouds quickly across the sky, covering and revealing the sun about every ten minutes. When it is sunny, Wellington is delightful. Wellingtonians are pretty proud of their city, even if the weather isn’t dependable. The comedian honed in on this and poked a little fun that had me in a fit of giggles. He brought up the phrase, “You can’t beat Wellington on a good day,” apparently an oft-said expression among locals. For our short stint in the city, the saying rang true. Wellington is vibrant and fun, and we had a very good day.