16 October, 2013 – Wellington, New Zealand

My travel agent, Shari, seemed surprised that I wanted to stay so long in Wellington, as she’d heard that people don’t really like to stay that long there.  I think I could have spent an entire week here still have lots of things left to do!

My coach arrived at the train station in Wellington around 6:30 am.  From there it was a 45 minute walk to my hotel.  I chose to walk, instead of taking a cab because A. I’m cheap.  B. I thought the fresh air would be good for me after a night on the bus.  Basically, if I could walk to any one point within and hour and a half, I walked.  (An hour if I was toting my suitcase).  Of course, I arrived much too early to check in, so I gathered what I needed for the day and dropped the rest of my bags and headed back out.

WellywoodMy plan for the day was to take a ‘hop on/off’ tour of the city so I walked back to the visitor centre where it would start and found some place nearby to get breakfast.  I have no idea what it was called, but the food wasn’t great and though I still had an hour or so to wait for the tour, I wasn’t in the mood to stick around.  By that time, however, the place I had wanted to have breakfast – a wonderful coffee shop in the city’s main library “Clarke’s Cafe” was open, so I stopped in there for a pot of tea until it was time to go.

I really enjoyed my day on this ‘tour’. John and his drivers were awesome, friendly and able to answer any questions we had. When I forgot my notebook on one of the vans, they were happy to retrieve it for me and I picked it up the next morning while having a nice chat with John. This is a great way to see all the main sights in Wellington, especially those that are a bit further from the city centre (which is why I chose to take this tour in the first place). The group sizes are small – the day I was on the tour, the most people in the van was three or four. This means you get a very personalized experience. But it’s not your typical Hop on/off Tour that just drives around the city all the day and you just hop on when you feel like it. The driver will ask you how much time you wish to spend at a stop (in hourly increments) and will come back to pick you up at that time. It’s a great service! I can’t really complain – No one gets left behind. My problem was… how much time do I want? One doesn’t know because they’ve never been there before. You can only really go by the driver’s recommendation. If you need more time, you can call the company and given them an updated time, but I found that by the time I decided ‘no, I really need more time’, it was too close to the pick up time.

First, the coach stopped for everyone to get off at the Mount Victoria lookout, which was very pretty.

I got off at three stops –

WETA Cave where I took the recommended hour which gave me time to look around and see the video. I should have taken two hours to do the extra things there and not rush.  WETA Cave is basically the showroom for WETA, not where they do most of their work.  They had a small display of props and replicas from their movies and a store with WETA and movie related souvenirs, collectibles and books.  I did a lot of Christmas shopping here! I went in to see the movie about WETA cave.  Though it was about the studio more than the movies, I felt that I didn’t learn anything new from what I’d seen in the Lord of the Rings DVD bonus features.  All of this was free.  They did have a small studio that you could visit for a fee, but I didn’t have time.  I’m not sure how to recommend this one… Maybe if you have a passing interest in the movies you should go.  If you don’t like the movies at all, of course it’s a pass.  If you are a huge fan of the movies, or have even seen just one bonus feature, there’s probably nothing new for you here.  Perhaps I’d feel differently if I’d done the extra tour.  I almost skipped the cave altogether, but at the time, I thought it would be the only Hobbity thing I was doing as I’d decided not to visit Hobbiton while in Rotorua.

Wellington is sometimes called “The Hollywood of the Southern Hemisphere” so, of course, they have their own Wellywood sign (at the top of this post).  I had to get a shot of this from the van, of course, to match my Hollywood sign (also a drive by).  During the drive, we also went by houses that were on such a steep slope that they had private cable cars!

Carter Observatory – The driver again recommended an hour, which would probably be good for most people but I know that wouldn’t be enough for me. I chose two hours, but I wish I had taken three.  This was probably the one thing I was looking to most of all.  I should have just come back later in the evening.  Honestly – I was cheap.  It had an $18 entrance fee and I didn’t want to pay twice.  I started off with a planetarium show and a movie.  Part of the ‘housekeeping instructions’ (bathrooms, fire exit, etc.) included earthquake instructions.  Then there were the museum/science displays.  It started off with the usual (with a Southern Hemisphere spin of course) – creation of Stained Glassthe universe/galaxy/solar system/earth and at the end was all of the information on the Maori view of all this.  And when I arrived there, it was time to go!  That was the part of the displays I was most interested in. I should have took a quite dash through the displays to see what there was and how to prioritize.  I took a quick look in the small store, hoping to find a book with that information but didn’t see one.  I really should have just gone again.  But… so many things to do and only a couple of days to do it in!

I then got off at St. Paul’s and worked my way back into town on foot.  St. Paul’s is a beautiful church full of dark wood paneling. After that, I wasted a bunch of time panicking about the notebook I’d left on the van.  In the end, I just headed back to the hotel.  Chilled out for a bit, then found some food – some very yummy pizza and new beer!

Wrap-Up

Impressions: I loved Wellington!  For the first time on this trip, I found a place I wanted to return to!  (Not that the other places weren’t great, but I would never throw down another $10k to go back to).

Daily Casualties: 

1. The little notebook I was writing down all my notes in.  Status: Found in tour van, picked up the next morning.

2. $300 cash.  Status: Never lost but I had about 15 minutes of panic and an almost heart attack until I realized I just put it ‘safe’ and hidden in my suitcase.

Walked: about 4 miles

The Rest of the story:

Aurora Announces her trip!
Aurora’s Australian Pre-planning
Working with a Travel Agent
My Trip Down Under:
– Day 123 – The Journey
– Day 4 – Auckland
– Day 5 – North Island Culture
– Day 6 – Rotorua
– Day 7 – Wellington
– Day 8 – Wellington
– Day 9 & 10 – South Island Scenery
Day 11 – Queenstown
Day 12 – Middle Earth
Day 13 – The Last Day
Day 14 – Great Barrier Reef
Day 15 – Alice Springs
Day 16, 17 & 18 – The Outback
Day 19, 20 and 21 – Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road
Days 22 to 25 – Sydney and the End
Down Under Assignments

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