Luckily we had sun to walk to the ferry terminal with our bags. If we weren’t already aware, I believe it might have been obvious there was an All-Blacks Rugby game in Wellington that night. The ferry terminal was crowded with people dressed in support of their team. The All-Blacks were playing the Wallabies from Australia which apparently is a big deal here as they are quite long standing rivals. We did in fact already know about the game and had considered getting tickets but opted not to. We have watched a bit of rugby here; you can’t really help it, as it seems to show up everywhere. However, we haven’t watched enough to pick up on all the rules which is the main reason we chose not to go to the game. Watching it on TV you have the advantage of the commentators explaining what’s happening. What it meant for the ferry ride, though, is that it would be crowded. We were happy to find two seats together with a view out the front. As we departed, the captain did warn us there would be considerable movement of the vessel once we reached the open water of Cook Strait. Indeed there was movement of the vessel there was also considerable movement of passengers making trips to grab seasick bags from the dispenser in front of us. I was glad to not be one of them. The queasy feeling stayed away as long as I kept my eyes focused on the horizon.
We docked in Wellington just before the game got underway which meant that many of the passengers dispersed quickly. Then we set off on what we expected to be an interesting journey to get to the apartment we’d rented. We arrived too late to retrieve the key from at the building, so we first had to visit a self-storage building to get one from a lock box before even finding the actual apartment building. Aided by our handy electronic navigator and a friendly ferry worker we found a walk path to the storage place where we toted our bags. From there, once Paul retrieved the key thanks to very clear detailed instructions from our host, we embarked on our first Uber ride. Paul launched the app to summon a ride unable to make a comment to indicate we needed transport for luggage including two large suitcases in addition to two people. We stood curious and anxious about the size of car we might get. Less than five minutes later we were helping the driver stuff our suitcases into his tiny car. We managed by putting one in the back seat next to me holding a couple of our carry-ons. As the car climbed up a steep hill, we were very glad we did not try to walk to the apartment. The most complicated part turned out to be figuring out how to get into the building. I’m sure we would have eventually figured it out, but there just happened to be a security guard at the building that night monitoring people coming and going. He said he was making sure people had appropriate access and were not sneaking in and then commented that we looked like we may need to be given access, with a chuckle as he observed us simply trying to figure out even which door we needed to enter. When Paul produced the key, he gladly explained how the entry and exit process worked. It was as complicated as holding the key fob against the reader so it would unlock the door and then doing the same on the elevator. It’s a breeze, as long as you are at the correct address. The apartment was on the 8th floor and offered nice views of the street below “The Terrace” and we could even see a patch of the sea in between two buildings. Having spent time in Wellington before we knew we would not have a problem getting around without a car. Wellington is a very “walkable” city, if you don’t mind hills that is. We didn’t stay put for very long as it was past dinner time and yes, we chose food over Rugby. Fortunately, another great thing about Wellington is all the restaurants. We knew we wouldn’t have to walk far to find a good eatery. The Boulcott Street Bistro caught our eye in the online search and within minutes we were walking into the charming little place welcomed by the friendly owner saying there was absolutely room for two since everyone had just left to go to the game.
I don’t typically have a difficult time deciding what to order but I was torn between several choices on this menu. At the waitress’s suggestion I chose the beef wellington, I liked the idea of having it in Wellington, plus it was part of the special that also came with a glass of wine and a pavlova burger for dessert. The beef wellington and wine were fabulous but the highlight for me, as much for presentation as for taste, was the pavlova burger. For those reading who are unfamiliar with pavlova, a favorite and popular New Zealand dessert, let me describe it so you may have a better idea of what a pavlova burger might be. The basic description is a meringue cake, it looks like a cloud with a slightly hardened crust covering the outside. It’s as light as a feather and when you bite into it, the delightfully sweet powdery center crumbles and instantly dissolves on your tongue. It’s made in all sizes, from large cakes layered with fruit to small personal servings topped with fruit compote. This “pavlova” burger, though had me intrigued. It arrived with the most delightful presentation. They served it in a burger box. The “buns” were miniature little pavlovas sandwiching different layers of fruit.
The waitress asked if I wanted strawberry ketchup and when I said “No, thank you.” She smiled, reached over and squirted the red sauce all over the top of my burger. Paul and I found that to be utterly hilarious as it was obvious she wasn’t listening for an answer. Even though I didn’t really want any, it didn’t ruin the dessert for me. So, it was just good for a laugh. The only thing I didn’t like about the dessert burger is that it was a bit difficult to eat as the pavlova had gotten a bit sticky in the area where it was laying against the fruit which made it chewy. The taste though was delicious and did I mention the presentation?
The next morning we got to sleep in again and when we got up and about, we set off in the sunshine to find brekky. (That’s kiwi slang for breakfast) Without researching a destination first we knew we might risk walking around until lunch time before we decided on where to eat so we turned into a tiny little corner shop called the Yellow Bird Café’ It was so small, but it was just right for what we were in search of. A good breakfast and cup of coffee, or hot chocolate in Paul’s case. Paul’s choice of activities for his birthday was to be by the water. Wellington has a wonderful walk path around the harbor, it always seems to be bustling with people but doesn’t seem crowded because it’s wide and accommodating for all modes of non-motorized transportation.
Plus, on the weekends there’s even more to see as you’ll see street musicians and vendors set up all along the way. Just after we got down to the harbor and stopped for a break we noticed some birds out on the water. It just seemed to be a frenzy of activity and within minutes they had moved right up next to the path. I don’t know what kind of birds they were but it was mesmerizing watching them skim across the surface of the water and then dive straight down. You could watch them travel quite deep but they were so fast it was impossible to track one bird for very long. Just as quickly as the diving one’s were disappearing into the water there were more popping up on to the surface. We stood and watched for a long time and they seemed perfectly intent on the feeding frenzy as long as the food was there. Click here to see them in action. As we neared the rowing club we walked along an area of permanent little shops and café’s and were lured to the ice cream shop. It was a nice day and the sun was out but it was not particularly warm, so after we stood by the water, in the breeze eating ice cream both of us were chilly. Seeking a place out of the wind and in the sun we made our way up the City to Sea pedestrian bridge, a favorite sitting spot for us. We’ve been known to sit there for a lengthy amount of time on previous visits to Wellington.
After we were sufficiently warmed in the sunshine we continued around the harbor, past TePapa, another favorite place of ours in Wellington. It’s the most incredible museum. We did not go in on that day because we’ve been there a couple times before and the weather beckoned us to stay outside. As we walked around the museum we walked right into the weekly street market, an enormous farmer’s market right in the heart of the city. More street musicians were situated in between all sorts of food vendors, offering a huge variety of choices from crepes, to kebabs to seafood and Greek. Then there was a maze of fresh vegetable displays. After pausing to listen to a musician making wonderful sounds on an instrument I can’t even name we journeyed on around the harbor. Click here to hear a sample. At that point Paul received some birthday wishes from back home and a skype invitation. We decided we could get back to the apartment and be ready to skype when they suggested would be the best time. We stepped into the supermarket to grab a couple of things and carried them up the hill to the apartment. For Paul’s birthday dinner he chose a quaint little Italian restaurant “Pizza Napoli” which happened to be where I had my birthday dinner last year. The reason, the dessert donuts.
If you’ve picked up that we seem to have a sweet tooth, well, we do. The pizza there is quite authentic and delightful too. An added bonus to the evening was that the weather remained dry for the decent walk from the apartment. The next day would be our last in Wellington, this time around. We were greeted with another pleasant day, though not as sunny as the last couple of days, it was not raining. We eventually set out again for the water, we just wanted to take advantage of every opportunity we had to see the sea before leaving it behind. We walked back to the city to sea bridge and this time stepped into a grassy patch for some hacky sack and handstands to warm up since the sun hadn’t appeared from behind the clouds yet.
The ice cream we’d gotten before made enough of an impression that we sought it out again. They did not have the shop open at the water front, but thanks to Paul’s hotspot, we were able to find the shop in the city and we were off to visit. I had to go with the black doris plum flavor again, I mean, where am I going to find that back in the US? With our cups of sweetness we meandered back to the waterfront to sit and contemplate a while before going back to the apartment for salmon.
The train we were taking to Auckland, The Northern Explorer, departed at 7:30 am the next morning and we planned to walk to the station with our bags. It wasn’t far and mostly downhill which made it easier to tote the suitcases and bags along. When we boarded there were only a handful of people in our carriage and only a few more got on after us.
We didn’t quite realize what a treat we were in for. The scenery was amazing accentuated by a brilliant day of weather. Plus, with so many empty seats, we were able to move around easily and catch the views from both sides of the train.
The ride from Wellington to Auckland was about 12 hours but it didn’t seem like it took that long. All throughout the ride there was periodic commentary about the areas we were traveling through so we could learn a bit of history too.
By the time we came to a stop at the station in Auckland, it was dark. They provided a free shuttle to downtown where we made use of Uber for the second time in our lives. It worked like a charm and soon we were rolling our bags into the last apartment of our adventure. What a place to end the trip! We both were excited by how fortunate we were to find such a great place that fit our budget. It was comfortable and there was a pool just outside our door, which would have been more inviting if it were a bit warmer. We did enjoy lounging poolside anyway, just for the view.
There was a supermarket within walking distance and there was a walking track just off the driveway that led down to the water. The track also connected to a larger system of coastal trails and parks so we could have walked along the water practically all day long. On our first journey out onto this track we went down to the water and Paul checked the Auckland tide to see if we would be safe continuing along the water’s edge and we saw that it was just past low tide. That would give us time to get around the one point we needed to in order to make it to another path that connected to the neighborhood where we were staying. It was slippery in spots but surprisingly not too muddy. We chose our steps carefully and slowly taking time to marvel at the unique tide pool creatures. Click here to see some. Yet, somehow after one step I found myself staring face to face with a rock and luckily not tasting it. In an instant I’d slipped and fell forward landing with both of my palms in a small pool filled with rounded seashells. They acted like cushions. Unbelievable that the only evidence of the fall I ended up with was wet hands and a spot of mud on my jeans. Man, I was glad not to have landed on my face! When we reached the point of rock we need to get around there was too much water so we were forced to return the way we’d come. We were surprised to see that the water had receded even more once we got back to the house. That didn’t make sense based on where we thought the tide was supposed to be. Well, upon further research, Paul realized that there was a separate tide chart for the suburb of Auckland we were in and it was named differently that “Auckland” which was what he originally looked up for the tide times. Come to find out they are nearly opposite. That is utterly fascinating. It just didn’t seem possible that there could be that much variation in tides in such a short distance. The next day we walked the opposite direction on the track and returned via the coastal route at low tide. On our way down to the water from the apartment we got to walk through Wattle Bay. Just as I had hoped there were loads of wattle trees, and they were in bloom. I just love their little yellow pom-poms.
Down along the water, the rock formations were so interesting. There were all sorts of patterns of erosion and the results were beautiful. Then to make the photo opportunities even better, there were moss covered rocks, toi toi grass and trees. I took a ton of pictures.
A few weeks ago some of Paul’s family traveled to Ireland and caught up with some distant relatives. While they were there they learned there are also relatives living in New Zealand and some of them in Auckland. We knew it was a bit of a long shot to try and meet them before we left, but we did have four days in Auckland. One couple, Doug and Liv, were not only willing to meet us, they offered to pick us up, give us a brief sightseeing tour in Auckland, take us to lunch, spend the entire day with us, and then drive us to the airport.
That’s the brief version of how we spent our last day of this adventure. The entire experience was a completely unexpected treat. Not only did we get to meet Doug and Liv, we met their sons and grandson. I don’t have a clear understanding of exactly how they are related to Paul without studying the family tree, I just know that they are. The lovely apartment we stayed in coupled with meeting relatives allowed us to see a more intimate picture of Auckland that changed our perspective of it. Prior to this we’d quite honestly tried to avoid Auckland because we viewed it as just another big city. Now we recognize it as a more desirable place to visit and why so many people call it home. We had such a blast visiting with Doug and Liv and look forward to seeing them again. We could not have asked for a better send off. Doug dropped us off at the airport bound for Colorado.