Sunday, January 27, 2013

New Zealand - Wellington (Day 5)

Wellington. Capital of New Zealand. Home to about 396,000 people and still the second most populated city in New Zealand. This may explain why I loved New Zealand, and Wellington in particular. There are 46 cities in the US larger than the second most populated city in New Zealand. I guess my bottom line is, this did feel like a city...there were tall buildings, museums, parks, bars, restaurants, music venues, lots of trendy young people out on Saturday night. But it also felt clean, green, walkable, and totally not overwhelming. I fell in love with this city and would welcome an opportunity to spend more than one day there. There was a lot we didn't get to do, but I feel like we got a great taste of this marvelous city and still have some things on our to do list to check off if we make it back there in the future.

Wellington is at the southernmost point of the North Island (yes, New Zealand has two main islands - the North and the South) and on a harbor that is part of the Cooks Strait. We drove south for an hour from our free campsite and arrived in the city around 9am. We were concerned about finding a place to park the campervan in the city all day, but there is a great parking lot right on the harbor (by the Bluebridge ferry terminal) that allows up to 12 hour parking. (It says it allows 24 hour parking, but we learned the hard way and got a ticket for parking there overnight. Talk to someone before attempting this.)

Before heading to New Zealand, we decided we wanted a hotel in Wellington because we didn't feel super safe camping in a "big" city. Although the hotel was super nice and it was nice to have a real shower and some privacy, it isn't necessary. You can park your campervan for $50 in the campervan site right on the harbor, if you don't want to splurge for a hotel.

Highlights of our day included: walking along the waterfront (saw a penguin, lots of people running and walking, kids jumping from platforms into the, no doubt, freezing cold water, and just generally spectacular views of the harbor), walking up to the Mt. Victoria Lookout (quite the walk but so so so worth it), visiting the Te Papa National Museum of NZ, and dinner at The Tasting Room. In between and all around, there was lots of people watching and checking out the different neighborhoods we had to walk through to get to our next stop.

Walking along the waterfront

 We could not escape LotR (not like we would want to...)

Favorite sign ever

 Solace in the Wind

 Second favorite sign ever

 Look at those kids having fun on the climbing wall! 

 Strong, confident men can walk now

Site of the World Premiere of The Hobbit

Follow the signs to Mt Victoria Lookout 

 On our way up, up, up

 That's a lady on a tree swing. Super cool. 

 Mt. Victoria Lookout

Two thumbs up for big beautiful trees and parks in cities. This park reminded me of Golden Gate Park, so it gets another thumbs up for that. 

A fern before it has opened up. Koru (Maori for loop) is a symbol of new life, growth, strength, and harmony. 

 Te Papa Museum 

We saw one other obvious gay couple on our whole trip in New Zealand, so was happy to see things that demonstrated acceptance. Although we did get looked at a lot, we didn't encounter any negativity at all. 

 Back on the waterfront

 Not sure what two guys getting married by the pope has to do with a power company, but I'll take it!

 Thanks Simon! Drinks on him. 

Great dinner at the Tasting Room, sitting outside in December and watching tons of young people out celebrating the holidays. 

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