Wellington: part 2
From Master’s in Teaching candidate Lisa Cabias.
It is now time to expand on my adventure from last weekend. If you are able to get to Wellington (just don’t get off the bus on the way) I highly recommend a visit. The fact that the skies opened and poured water upon every inch of the city (and sideways, for good measure) nearly the entire time during my visit and that I still loved every minute is tribute to the fabulousness of this city.
Te Papa is New Zealand‘s National history and culture museum (picture the Kiwi Smithsonian). I spent an entire day wandering aimlessly in this incredible building. I saw a real giant squid encased in preservative and on display. I saw green-stone adornments that were once worn by Maori elders. There were a great many taxidermied kiwi birds to explore. The museum also has an outdoor area that is planted to look like the bush, complete with gloworm cave. This cave, as I later found out, is disappointingly devoid of real glow worms.
A gentle word of advice for those traveling without princely sums of money: you should probably just not go into either of the gift shops at Te Papa. It isn’t that every item is terribly expensive, it is just that you will want so many of them! Who could pass up a stuffed toy of a ferocious giant squid?! Did you know that the tenticles of giant squid have swiveling barbs on them to help them snag onto the skin of their prey? Did you? Now you probably wish that you had that stuffed toy!
If you are hungry while touring Te Papa, and it happens that it is Sunday, you might just grab your raincoat from the free coat check and walk to the parking lot to enjoy the incredible farmer’s market. This market wowed me with its mouth watering fresh produce and local goods. It was very difficult to convince myself that I, in fact, was not going to purchase a large sack of pristine fruit, lug it around the museum for the second half of the day, and then prepare said fruit into some lovely dish later on in my motel room. This was not happening. I chose the next best option, which was to buy something lovely already prepared at the market to eat for lunch.
My market lunching experience deserves its own special paragraph. Not only was my cheese, rocket and ham crepe delicious but it was lovingly prepared to the musical stylings of Queen. Because it was pouring (and the creperie proprietor was doing impressions of Forrest Gump talking about various kinds of rain), I was invited to take shelter under the crepe stand to eat. Unlike my unfortunate decision to de-bus earlier in the weekend, this was a *good choice*. I was soon greeting members of the market community, being coerced into cramming a taste of clay oven pizza into my already full gullet, and drinking a fine cup of organic coffee in a fully compostable cup. The enjoyable selection of music and friendly flow of conversation continued as I watched savory crepes being drizzled with truffle oil and bananas being expertly fried to add to sweet crepes. We heard some Johnny Cash. We heard some Brazilian electronica. We saw some crepe makers dancing. It was almost a shame to return to the museum, almost.
My next favorite and entirely free activity in Wellington was a rainy self-guided tour of the Botanic Gardens. The gardens sit above the city in a surprisingly hilly area with spectacular views, even on a cruddy day. The tour was blissfully free of hordes of people. This is probably because most people in the city had taken shelter from the rain and are not horticultural nerds with degrees in Botany, such as myself. I gleefully frolicked in a world where all plants are labeled with their Latin name and organized according to color, fragrance, family, and so on! As much as I enjoy and have missed travel with a companion on my two month odyssey, this was a time where I was content to not have a counterpart along for the ride who might shatter my revelry with their silly human needs, such as being tired, cold, wet, hungry or lacking patience in dealing with me while I shout, “Wait, I just want to see what this one is called!” for the billionth time.
A tour of the City Gallery, also free, was a memorable experience. This gallery houses some inspiring and strange art. Luckily for me, the beautiful works of New Zealand artist and poet John Pule were being featured. Along with the Pule exhibition, I was able to enjoy an entire room in which a large number of boxes had been stapled together, floor to ceiling, in a sort of lumpy spherical shape. Windows had been cut in so that the keen observer might note that the entire inside of the box-vessel had been meticulously painted white. Another room had been filled with a great many laundry drying racks decorated in crystalline drops of hot glue. Beneath the racks were sideways wine bottles with smooth sheets of white silk billowing via small fans. I enjoyed it!
Not everything in Wellington is free. Still, by the end of the weekend I began to feel that the great experiences I had may just have been worth the thorough bus hazing I endured on the way there!