The drive from Napier was long and wet. A Kiwi described the pulse of rain as a weather bomb which seems apt. It was pretty smooth, mind you, since the traffic out of Wellington (maybe it’s a long weekend or something) looked horrendous.
Our hotel is quirky – mostly our accommodation has been anything but utilitarian. This – the Museum Hotel – was once on the other side of the road. I kid you not, they picked it up and moved it. I’ve seen film of the Canadians moving houses but moving a hotel? Mad.
Our first day was an explore. We took advisement for breakfast – Drexels, fluffy pancaks and porridge with spiced apple compote – and then cable-car’d our way up to the Carter Observatory.
Having taken in their space age displays and treated the Lawyer to a session in the planetarium, we wandered back via the botanical gardens, the Lady Norwood rose gardens, the begonia house and the herb garden.
That left us at the Parliament buildings, three of which are linked. The oldest is the prettiest, the most modern – the Bee Hive – an ugly lump of brutalism that will be well loved in fifty years. What struck me most was the lack of apparent security. A car could drive up to the buildings and the driver blow him/herself up easily enough. You just need some nutter, whether a Breivik or Atta or whoever and such complacency costs lives. It’s not like the NZ Government has had its troops stick their noses in where they don’t belong, just as the rest of us have done recently.
From here we headed for the sea; the docks are, like most in the western world, no longer working and are given over to expensive housing or, as here,, entertainment and culture. We strolled along the quay walk admiring the splendid views and ended up at the Museum of New Zealand – Te Papa – where we whiled away a good two hours.
Especially interesting were the exhibits on NZs volcanic history and geology and the settlements following the many disputes that arouse out of the Waitangi treaty in the 1840s. Of particular note was the dispute over the history, provenance and ownership of the Haka. As I have already explained this forms a major part of the Kiwi identity around national sport, Rugby, so any idea that a tribe of Maori might claim some sort of ownership of it or any part was never going to fly. A compromise was signed – a memorandum of understanding it was called but it sounded a little like there was a lot of memorandum and little understanding – just in time for the 2011 Rugby world cup, hosted here in NZ.
I can usually spend up to three hours in any good museum before my need for (a) a seat (b) a pee and (c) a coffee drive me from the exhibits. This proved no different. The Lawyer and I spun a coin and headed for a quaint indie movie theatre in the BoHo district around Cuba Street (named after an early survey ship and not some Spanish influence) to see Jake Gyllengal in Nightcrawler (creepy as all hell – his character makes amoral sound like Mother Teresa). We tried a stone-grilled mixed grill at the highly recommended Southern Cross too. Please add it to your list of fine eateries.
Here’s some street art….
And, then as Zebedee told those of us brought up in the 60s and 70s, it was Time for Bed.