On Thursday evening, we arrived in New Zealand’s Capitol City, Wellington. As we cabbed from the airport to our hotel in the city center, Erin and I agreed that Wellington, a city of about 400,000, was instantly – and perhaps aided by the clouds and drizzly storm weather – reminiscent of Vancouver, San Francisco, and a small part Tel Aviv. The rolling hills, nice homes, and lush greenery should be proof enough for anyone.
Among the things I haven’t mentioned thus far are the number of tattoo parlors in New Zealand. They seem to make sense given the number of visible tattoos on both Millennials and “Gen Z” youth. A lot of women here in New Zealand seem prone to decorate their legs with ample body art, made clear only due to the lovely spring weather we’re enjoying. I say more power to them. There is a lot of Maori history and tradition here, and a lot of tattoos celebrate Maori art and symbols.
The Astelia Hotel and Apartments was very reminiscent of a European or Israeli boutique hotel, no bells and whistles, and sure – hollow, narrow doors, — but clean accommodations and authentically hospitable without being overly “salesy.” We are very appreciative of the Astelia for accommodating a Suite for Night 2 to provide some distance between my snoring and Erin’s peaceful slumber.
As we awoke Friday morning, Wellington’s dark grey clouds suggested the city was primed for another rain, much like the drizzly matter that greeted us on Thursday evening upon arrival.
Friday morning meant a deep dive into Wellington. We started with breakfast at “Hangar,” a top-rated breakfast nook where several of the baristas were award winning within New Zealand. Later, we walked northward a ways to the Wellington Cable Car, which took us to the luscious Wellington Botanical Gardens, where diverse foliage from around the globe populated about 5 hectares of space in Wellington’s northwest end.
From the botanical gardens came a walk to New Zealand’s Parliament. Simple by U.S. and even California State Government standards, the Well of the Legislature is nevertheless a picturesque example of a Parliamentary system, with green leather chairs making up the +120 seats of the Unicameral body. It was an honor to stand in its rostrum, and a shame we were not allowed to take pictures to cement the event. Future efforts to follow the N.Z. Government can be followed at www.parliament.nz. Unlike the U.S. House, we are allowed with the permission of the current Speaker to step foot on the Parliament floor. Like all things great, it seemed of course smaller than expected or seen on TV, but once there, one could feel the weight of one’s dialogue and descent on the floor of such an active body.
From Parliament, Erin and I kept the urban workout going towards the Harbor walk towards Te Papa Tongarewa, the New Zealand National Museum. Prior to museum entry, at Portofino, we enjoyed luscious Italian cuisine. The difference here is that our server was actually an apprentice of the restaurant, which encouraged our faith in internships and apprenticeships building the future workforce.
After lunch, and inside Te Papa, Erin and I took in an all-too-brief dedication to New Zealand suffrage, which – DID YOU KNOW THIS? – was the first nation to grant women the right to vote. I also visited the comprehensive and graphic “Gallipoli” Exhibit, which revisited the one middle-eastern theater where the English were humiliated to some degree during the “Great War.”
This is also an important flashpoint to mention New Zealand cemeteries. They are very important to the people here, and we’ve seen no fewer than 15 cemetery plot and locals dedicated to those lost to New Zealand than we have in the last several days. The cemeteries are clearly marked, honored, manicured for improved aesthetics, and gardened to perfection here, a clear sigh the Kiwi’s value a life well-lived.