A Mixed Reception and First Impressions
Helen came to the hotel at 6.30am to collect us and take us to the airport for our flight to Wellington. Check-in was very friendly despite having to pay 40$ for the privilege of having a third piece of hold luggage.
The flight was really good and the fact that we were unexpectedly fed made up for the excess payment. The airhostesses were some of the friendliest I have come across, finding time to chat to us and show interest in us. The airport took a while to maneuver through with passport queues, baggage collection and finally to have our bags checked for anything, which might be illegal or harm the environment. The chap placing the bags on to the x-ray machine conveyor yawned hugely as he lifted one of mine. His excuse, ‘…tired from celebrating winning all the time…’ New Zealand had won the IRB 7’s again this weekend. All you can do in such circumstances is congratulate and shake hands. The woman at the other end of the x-ray machine was rather less friendly and hit us with, ‘You can be fined 400$ for not declaring everything!’ She asked about walking boots. I don’t have any. ‘What about the walking poles?’ In the end you just hold your hands up and say ‘Sorry’.
The real welcome came a few moments later with Ben and Kelly’s beaming smiles greeting us as we came through the doors. Lots of hugs and kisses! It was so good to see them.
Despite Wellington being the capital, the airport is very much a provincial one with limited flights because of the length of the runway. Most international flights will arrive in New Zealand at Auckland and then connect with other places through a domestic service.
The drive from the airport into town was fascinating and nothing like I expected. With the exception of the city centre, which is like nearly all other city centres, concrete, tarmac, shops and offices, the suburbs seem to lack permanence. All the houses are wooden, perched on hillsides or hugging the shoreline. There are very few manicured gardens so that the houses jut out of the natural vegetation, which, if allowed, would consume the buildings. The gardens are out there, on the hillsides, on the shore, a blaze of flower and just about every variant of green imaginable. Beautiful!
Our first stop was to the house Angela and I are borrowing from some friends Ben and Kelly’s. It is a wooden house as they all seem to be, in a narrow, lush, green valley with a road running through the bottom of it a few houses dotted through it. Inside it is a treasure trove of Maori culture. Shane works for the Maori Museum and is a collector of all sorts of Maori, art, musical instruments and paraphernalia. You could spend hours looking and touching. We are very lucky they are away and that we can use their house. We will eventually meet them at the wedding next month.
Ben and Kelly’s flat is superbly positioned with a huge picture window giving them an elevated view of the whole of the harbour. (In the space of three days we had been to Helen’s, Rijan’s and now Ben and Kelly’s flats and the one thing they all had in common was a superb view.)
After a catch-up over a couple of beers and some bucks fizz, we ventured out to find a restaurant for a meal. Ben took us through the Botanical Gardens so we could take the funicular down into town. The driver was not very friendly and slammed his newspaper down when I suggested he read out the clues to the crossword! Oops!
The restaurant chosen was a pizza one on the harbour. It was not busy but had a reasonable number of customers. It was Sunday evening after all. Having ordered we waited, and we waited, and we waited. In the end Ben asked where was our starter, a plate of antipasta to share. It eventually came after we had waited nearly an hour. That polished off we thought it would be quickly followed by our three pizzas to share. Again we waited, and we waited, and we waited. Again Ben went to check and nobody seemed to be working hard and our three pizzas hadn’t even gone into the oven. We left.
At least the taxi driver was friendly and chatted away all the way back to our house.
The Girlie Perspective
Wow! Here in NZ at last! Here for hugs and kisses and I have to confess to a few tears too! Unbelievable views, there are clouds in the sky, but not the predicted wind. It is warm and welcoming. Our flights have been comfortable & we have been able to catch up on sleep so not feeling too jet-lagged. The Botanic Gardens are opposite B & K’s flat so we walked there on our way out in the evening and enjoyed the aroma from the roses. We have a lovely big bed to flop into at Shane & Kay’s. Phew!