Saturday, January 23, 2010

Islands in the sea

Day 4 here in Wellington dawned overcast, but it quickly grew warmer as the sun came out. A short walk along the waterfront and we were at our destination: The City and Sea Museum. Ten years old, this museum boasts an extensive history of Wellington life and commerce. I know, sounds boring. But it was actually a really neat little museum.

Here is a hobbit foot. You're welcome.

My favorite was their Alice-in-Wonderlandish tribute for their anniversary. It was very Jules Verne/steampunk and a really clever medium to deliver information.

After the museum, we boarded the ferry and headed for Somes Island. We ate lunch on board, catered fish & chips. The chips were very good: thick-sliced and hot. The fish was nice, as well. The ferry trip took about 15 minutes across gloriously blue waters that were relatively calm.

Somes Island is a wildlife sanctuary free of predators. Once we disembarked the ferry, we were lead into a small room with two doors. We were asked to check our bags for rodents or ants, as well as our shoes for dirt. Non-native pests could be devastating for the environment at Somes, so we all understood.

The walkabout on Somes was a fairly gentle slope winding around the perimeter of the island. It was a trek, but not as bad as the day before. It was, however, hot, and bit uncomfortable because of it. We didn't notice that much because we were distracted by the beautiful views and the birds.

Once we arrived back to the dock, we found we had over an hour before our ferry was due to come back. So I kept myself busy taking pictures of the birds on the beach.

Back on the mainland, plans for the evening were a bit sparse. JNerd had a function and I elected to stay in for the night. A can of chili, a candy bar and my computer, and I was set. I really just needed a night to recharge. I truly believe I am just a homebody at heart.

T, who is having a wonderful time

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The one where we go uphill...both ways!

Day 3 here in Wellington, New Zealand dawned warm and sunny. Just the kind of glorious day that makes you glad to be alive. The tour started out with a walk along the water front. We had a tour of the capital building, called the Beehive. See if you can figure out why!

We had to go through security, and check all of our bags. There was no photographing of the building, so I missed out on some nice shots. Kiwis are very proud of their heritage. And symbolism is very high on their list of priorities. The artwork in the gallery area of the courtyard is fraught with meaning: the earth, the sky, the night, it all has a deeper point. It was interesting.

Afterwards, we set out for a walking tour of the Thorndon area, where there are some quaint cottages. We started out touring a beautiful old church, and I didn't want to leave. It was spectacular.

We walked to the Botanic Gardens (uphill, thank you very much!) and stopped for lunch. Then there was time for a wander as we hiked up more steep hills to to get to the top and take the cable car back down to the city. What's wrong with this picture, you ask? Shouldn't we have taken the cable car UP and then walked back DOWN hill, you ask? And, you would be right to question it. I don't make the rules though, so though it killed a lot of us, we just toughed it out.

Here you can see just how high we were. YES, we had to walk the entire hill to get there. Flat ground, to mountain slope, complete with switchbacks. I now know why people in Wellington are so fit! They are masochists!

Back in town, the geeks cooked dinner at the hotel and we were in for the night. I was really too tired after my hike to go much of anywhere!

T, who figures I'll be a size 2 by the time I go home

Monday, January 18, 2010

"Nothing beats Wellington on a good day"

I have so many pictures and cannot possibly do them justice. If you want to see, check my flickr.

Let me tell you, internal body clock mess is weird. This morning I snapped awake, convinced I had overslept and missed the alarm. Turns out we were fine, and my body was responding to California time, thinking it was 10 a.m. It was actually 7 a.m. New Zealand time. So, once awake, we dressed and headed to the convention center. After some coffee and an amazing chocolate croissant, I was ready to play tourist with the rest of the group.

We boarded a bus for a tour of Wellington, which was beyond fascinating. No, that's not sarcasm, it really was. I found out why we couldn't find food last night (the city is compartmentalized; restaurants and bars are located on Courtnay Place, where all the cool people eat, apparently.

I also know now that the passing resemblance that Wellington has to San Francisco is not a coincidence. By design, English colonists visited San Francisco and brought 4 house frames with them with which to build houses in the city. Wellington and San Francisco have common traits: both are on a bay, both are hilly, and both are on fault lines. Wellington's founders figured San Francisco was doing it right, and set out to model the city after The City by the Bay. The result to me is a place that feels vaguely familiar; dynamic and quirky.

By mid day, the sun was out, if you can believe it. We stopped at the top of Mount Victoria, and were afforded some of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen. The natives say that Wellington on a good day cannot be beaten. I would be inclined to agree. If the sun shined every day here, they would never be able to be rid of visitors!

Afterwards, we took a turn through the opera house, which was older and beautiful. I have a lot of photos of the Opera House, and you have to see them large on my flickr.

Lunch was next and then we were off to the Te Papa Museum.

Built in 1998, and completely free, the Te Papa is one of the most interesting museums I have ever visited. Covering most of New Zealand culture, the Te Papa is a 6 floor buidling jam-packed with exhibits from native history to natural disasters to the Colossal Squid. I couldn't see it all even if I had a week. But I will definitely go back before we leave.

Te Papa reminds me of a bit of Monterey Bay Aquarium, L.A. Museum of Natural History and a science museum all in one. It also houses extensive art galleries. The funky vibe from the architecture is infectious. It is inviting and encourages wandering. It is extremely kid-friendly with a ton of interactive exhibits and "Discovery Centers" where you can delve deeper into the exhibits by doing research. It really is an amazing place. And? Colossal Squid!

Afterwards, a few of us headed upstairs to the cafe for snacks. It was very relaxing sitting in the middle of the museum and sipping a mocha. I have to say, Wellington has ruined me for coffee anywhere else, I think. They take their coffee seriously, and Wellington is home to not one, but two coffee roasteries. Pretty amazing, considering that Wellington only has 260,000 residents!

I finished my day with a walk along the waterfront, taking pictures as the mood struck. It was a glorious day, full of warmth and sun. Many people came out to jog, bike and walk babies in strollers. It is hard not to be happy in the face of that joy.

I picked JNerd up from the conference and we headed to the tweet up scheduled for the evening. Some chatting, some laughing and some beer (not necessarily in that order) finished off a simply wonderful day. I was tired, but content.

Tomorrow, a tour of the Parliament building. I hope my feet can stand up to the punishment. It is bound to be heavy on walking.

T, who is NOT leaving

Sunday, January 17, 2010

You need wellies in Wellington, New Zealand..THIS is summer??

I apologize in advance for turning this blog into a travelogue, at least for the next two weeks. But you see, I never go anywhere. (well, unless you count BlogHer). Finally, after 20 years, my husband and I have taken a trip together. He is speaking at Linux Conference Australia and I came along for the ride. Well, actually more like a 12 hour plane trip to New Zealand. But if you absolutely cannot stand it, you can take the advice to the left and an orderly fashion.

I plan to record the stay for family and those who might care. I loaded the images smaller to make it easy to upload from New Zealand, but you can visit my flickr for the larger images. Most of the pictures are available larger. Just click on the pictures for more detail.

After twelve hours on the plane, we arrived in Auckland only to have to sprint to our connecting flight transfer to Wellington. We had little time to make our connection and were really out of breath (which meant I could curse my husband less for such a short layover). After a short hop, we landed in Wellington. It was raining and windy. It still is...and is scheduled to rain all week.

Our car picked us up and took us to the no-frills student housing which was a trip down Twenty-Something Lane about twenty years too late. We walked into our "room" to find a large stain on the floor of something nondescript, a sink, a rickety double bed with a thin coverlet, a stainless steel military-issue desk and an Ikea-type budget wardrobe. That's it. I have to tell you, after twelve hours on the flight to Auckland, and another hour to Wellington, it was too much for me. I cried. Go ahead, laugh. Ok, you suck. No, really. I am laughing about it now as well. But at the time? It wasn't funny.

The room has NO bathroom. I have to go down the hall to the bathroom and the shower. And the shower? Ack, don't get me started! It isn't a spray, it is a spigot, sticking out of the wall. And the hot water is non-existent. I washed my hair in cold water and it took a long time to get warm again. Clearly, this set up was designed by the Marquis Du Sade. Or his evil twin brother, Hector. I do have to say, the "common areas" of the place make up for it. There is a really nice tv room, a communal meeting area, an exercise area with recumbent bikes and a kitchen as well. And a giant chess board. How cool is that?

I have to give my JNerd a pass on this one, though. He wanted to be where the students were so he could hang out and get to know them. And it is his conference,not mine. He is in a select group of speakers here, there's a lot of competition for those coveted speaker slots. So I have to give credit where it is due. It's His Thing. I just let him do it.

The venue for the conference is beautiful. Located at the convention center, it is well-appointed for events. The main hall is daunting and amazing. It is also where JNerd is going to be speaking on Friday. Wow.

The town is quaint and picturesque. It's artsy. Because it is a student town, it is also a mecca for backpackers. There are a lot of very inexpensive accommodations here. The vibe is young, and funky. Everyone I have seen is physically fit and stylish. I on the other hand, brought summer clothes, because well, it is supposed to be summer here! But it is colder than my southern California winter. Go figure.

The food here is good, when you can find it. We had wonderful breakfast this morning. I am now ruined for pancakes without ice cream and strawberries.yes, ice cream on pancakes..who'da thunk? Dinner was a bit tougher. Being Sunday, most every place closes early. We had to walk quite a few blocks before we found the Belgian restaurant where we eventually were able to get dinner. Walking back, it was dark, and windy. But our bellies were full of delicious warm yummies to sustain us on the walk back to the hotel.

Dinner was passable: meatloaf sandwich, a bit peppery. But dessert was amazing. And I had the most perfect cappuccino to prove it.

Tomorrow, I join the Partner's Program for the duration of the conference. Wellington bus tour here I come. Nobody here but us tourists!

T, who is enjoying the first real vacation in 20 years

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