Waking to blue skies and sunshine again has led us to start losing faith in the weather forecast and are now just going to start believing that the sun will shine every day for us …. ha ha, yep – right, dream on!
After breakfast we headed towards to the train station and for $15 return each, within half an hour we were in the center of Wellington … not too bad. Although the sky was threatening to be emotional – very moody clouds – we decided to risk it and head up through Bolton Street Memorial Park and on into the Botanical Gardens and Observatory so we could look out over the city from high. The route took us past the ‘Beehive’ Houses of Parliament (above) and then through Wellingtons oldest cemetery dating back to the 1840’s. The cemetery itself was closed to new burials in the 1890’s but controversially, it was split in two by a motorway in the mid 1970’s, requiring roughly 3700 graves to be exhumed. The cemetery is the oldest in Wellington and is in three sections, one part each for Catholics, Anglicans and Jews … the Jewish section only having 40 gravestones, although to be fair there were only 1334 headstones in the whole cemetery – of which 35 are made of wood – for what they believe to be 8500 people buried so there may be a few more Jewish graves in there somewhere. Not wishing to ramble on about cemeteries I will conclude by saying that it is worth a visit if you are nearby!
We walked up to the Observatory which offered pretty impressive views out over the bay and then over to where the cable car (which originally started in 1902) comes up as well before heading back down through the botanical gardens which were beautiful, offering a lovely place for a quiet walk as well as lots of spots for educational sessions for kids. Very impressive at the way that they have incorporated it into the NZ educational programme and made it such a lovely space for everyone to enjoy.
Pleased that we had managed to take in the views on a clear-ish day we decided to walk round the waterfront and out past Oriental Bay. In contrast to Auckland, Wellington has started to really make the most of the waterfront, providing promenades for walkers/runners and cycle paths for bikes as well as lots of activity centres for climbing, indoor football, kayaking, etc…. encouraging everyone to get involved and off their backsides. There also appear to be lots of bars and restaurants all the way along the front, some just little coffee or shake huts, others providing a more comprehensive ‘dining’ experience – nothing we saw appeared to be too ‘posh’, everything was pretty normal and open to everyone no matter if you were out for a business lunch or with young kids which is unusual for water frontage in big cities. I am sure that there are some really expensive places hidden in there somewhere but we didn’t come across them!
After watching the swimmers and kayakers in the bay whilst eating our lunch, we headed into town to explore Cuba Street and some of the quirky cafe’s and shops, before finally heading back on the train to Plimmerton with tired feet.
I spoke too early as we have apparently run out of blue and yellow in the sky pallet and Day 2 in Wellington brought rain. Although it started to rain gently whilst I was out for a run, upping the anti roughly ten minutes from the end, thankfully it didn’t really pour down except for while we were inside so we were happy! Considering the weather, we had decided to bite the bullet and headed straight for the Te Papa (New Zealands National museum), surprising ourselves by actually managing to pretty much complete the whole thing … to be fair one floor was an Art exhibition, which took less time to look around and a couple of the other exhibits were closed … needless to say, I think we will be holding off on any other museums for a little while!!
The history of New Zealand is incredibly interesting and for us although we were aware that the government is doing everything they can to protect the species of birds and animals that they have here, I don’t think we were quite so aware of the quantity of animals native to New Zealand that are now either extinct or nearly extinct – specifically birds. Evolution is cruel and as New Zealand was such a safe and protected place without predators, many of the birds got lazy and lost the use of their wings over time so when vermin such as Rats and Possoms were introduced they were easy picking. A couple of birds worth mentioning are the Kakapo, of which their are currently only 148 known living birds, it is the largest and heaviest of the Parrot family (look it up as they are also pretty odd looking and very unusual in their breeding habits) and the Kiwi which although is still around in different sub-species, is also classed as endangered. I hadn’t realised until we read it in the museum that they also lay the largest egg in relation to their body size of any bird in the world…. learning something everyday!
Properly ‘museumed out’ we headed to the Leeds Street Bakery for a Chai Latte and Hot Chocolate before we meandered back through the center to catch our train back to Ava in Plimmerton.
Leaving Wellington behind us we had planned this weekend around some friends (John and Jo) who moved over here nearly five years ago and have now settled in Martinborough, one of the other areas (in addition to Hawkes Bay where we were last week) renowned for vineyards in New Zealand, this area being particularly well known for its Pinot Noir.
Both John and Jo work in Wellington and weren’t going to be back until later, so we decided to take a slow wander over to Martinborough, stopping to do some food shopping in Upper Hut – which appears to constantly have a grey cloud over it -before heading up into the cloud to get over the hills to reach Featherstone, a little village known for its cheese shop. We are a little spoilt in Europe in regards to cheese but it is fair to say that ‘C’est Cheese’ does an excellent job of offering the Kiwi equivalent… although some of the cheeses on offer were French or Dutch, the majority were local. Naturally we bought a selection of Goat, Blue, Cheddar and unusually for us, a vintage Gouda …. all of which were tucked into on Saturday night after a beautiful Steak cooked on the Bar B Q by John’s fair hands and were delicious.
Second stop after Featherstone was Greytown which apparently won the prize for New Zealand’s most beautiful small town in 2017. It is full of boutique shops, cafe’s, restaurants and a lovely butcher where we stocked up on some chicken and a couple of varieties of sausages to go in a cassoulet before finally heading over to Martinborough to park up and settle for the weekend.
Martinborough is tiny with a population of just over 1600 people although in contrast it has nearly 40 vineyards … not bad proportions if you ask me! The town itself was founded in the 19th century by John Martin who designed it in the form of the Union Jack – something only really visible from the air but an interesting concept none the less. We headed out to stretch our legs before John and Jo got home and fell upon the only brewery in town – The Martinborough Brewery – and felt obliged to stop and do a little tasting before heading back to put the casserole on just to help ease us into the weekend – little did we know that John and Jo know everyone in Martinborough and we would meet the owner and brewer in one of the bars on several occasions over the weekend!
It was lovely to catch up and we tasted several different wines, including a lovely bottle that John and Jo had kindly laid down for us in one of their local establishments before heading back for the well cooked casserole on Friday night. The town definately has a lovely feeling to it, a real community.
Saturday was wine tasting day and after some delicious bacon sandwiches for breakfast, we headed out on foot to explore a small handful of vineyards. We stopped in at Schubert, Tirohana Estate, Poppies, Stonecutter and then finally Columbo tasting different versions of Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Rose and Pinot Noir in the whole with a couple of additional Germanic grapes and Syrah’s thrown in as well. We were lucky with the weather until we got to Columbo when the skies opened so we took it as a hint that it was time to get some food then head home for the evening.
Waking to grey clouds, John very kindly took us out for a drive to see a bit more of the local area whilst Jo caught up on some Ironing. I think that between us we turned the house into a bit of a Chinese laundry on Sunday morning, when one of us took a load out of the machine the next put one in… playing catch up!
We drove out to see Lake Ferry which has volcanic black sand, then round the coast to Cape Palliser which is beautiful in parts and then a little bleak as you get further round as it is very rugged and dry. We learnt a lot about New Zealand farming as the company John came over to work for provides software for cattle and sheep farms …. just a little bit different from email and web security, but all very interesting and it helped us understand more about some of the farms we have seen so far in New Zealand and their set up.
Hungry, we headed back to find Jo, hoping that she hadn’t been completely consumed by the ironing and to head out for lunch and a lazy afternoon before Jo cooked Toad in the hole for dinner…. not really what we were expecting half way round the world but it was very tasty despite the oven being a little on the temperamental side.
Trying to find a dry day to do the crossing over to the South Island (whilst also being swayed by one of John and Jo’s favourite places cooking a curry on Monday night) we decided to stay and extra night and book the crossing for Tuesday. So with a free day … albeit very grey and rainy, we booked ourselves in for lunch at Poppies, something John and Jo had hoped to do with us on Saturday but it was full.
Needless to say we were not disappointed, apart from being a fantastic venue, the platter contained pretty much everything you could think of … roast beef, freshly smoked salmon, brie, houmus, polenta cake, tapenade, pepper stuffed with cheese, vine leaves stuffed with rice, pork belly, tortilla, roasted red onion and pickled red cabbage – delicious. All washed down with a lovely glass of Poppies Rose which is definitely one of our favourites from the last few days.
Contented, we set out in search of some Lighthouse Gin as my stock levels appear to be getting low and John introduced me to a local one which was pretty tasty on Saturday. We followed the road and ended up in the Te Kairanga Vineyard where they distill the gin and also produce some nice Sauvignon Blanc’s and Pinot Noir’s which we decided to try before making our purchase and heading back to the house to wait for John and Jo to go out for our last night in Martinborough.
Unknown to us, Martinborough can become a little cut off when it comes to rain and as it had been raining heavily for 48 hours the water levels had increased quite dramatically closing the normal route to Featherstone and Wellington. More cumbersome for John and Jo in the morning to get their train at some ungodly hour, we just set off slightly earlier and although the rivers were running high and several fields were flooded it didn’t impact our journey to the ferry terminal too much – although it looked like we were in for a rough ride.
Despite taking an addition 15 minutes and probably having 45 minutes of a bit of a rough ride, it was wet, windy and very grey but not too bad considering what we were looking at when we started out from Wellington AND we saw a Penguin …. which is worth 3-4 meter swells any time!!
Arriving into Picton just before 7pm we headed for the RSA club to park up tonight to welcome in the South Island and the next part of our trip.