Monday, 3 February 2014

Kia Ora everybody

Hello chums, and warmest greetings from the “coolest little capital in the world”. Well, that’s how the locals describe their fair city of Wellington, our base for the next 10 weeks or so, and it certainly delivers of its claim – a small, easily walkable city centre, set around a sweeping bay and small, cosy suburbs, which nestle on hillside locations surrounding the city centre. It reminds me very much of the Hollywood hills, around LA.
The local tourist authority claim the city has more bars and restaurants per capita, than any other city, and walking down the waterfront, you can easily believe it. It’s a very laid back place. And more about coffee later.
This is not our first visit to Wellington and I doubt it will be our last, and each time we come back I warm a little more towards the place, despite its other claim as being one of the windiest cities on earth. However, since our arrival, a little more than a week ago, the weather has been warm and today (Monday) it is hot, with a breeze, of course.
Livi helps Granny Pat in the kitchen bake some biscuits
I am writing this looking out over Karori park, which backs on to the property and the sprinklers are working overtime, while a chap on a ride-on mower cuts the grass to one side.  Sparrows are chirping and there is not a cloud in the sky.  It’s a large green space, and most evenings and at weekends, there are several games of cricket going on, plus kite flying and one chap brings his model aircraft down to fly them. It’s also where the swings are, which are a daily obligation for Pat and me; sometimes twice a day.
We are here for several reasons. One is to escape the ravages of our English winter, but primarily we are here to see our daughter Erica, her huband James, and their little one, Livi, who will have her second birthday while we are here in March. So we are basically on baby-sitting duty while Erica returns to her job as a teacher full-time. I have found out, very quickly, that you can learn a lot from spending some time with pre-school toddlers. I never knew, for example, that in New Zealand frogs do not go “rivet” or “grumph”, rather they go La, la, la, laa. Well that was the interpretation at last Friday’s “Rock & Rhyme”, at the local library up the road, for the under 3s: who am I to argue.
Elevenses at the Park Cafe. Home is one of the townhouses on far left. Joining us is Dan, an old University friend of Erica and James. Livi looks forward to her "Fluffy"

Livi gets to grips with her "Fluffy"

It makes a great face-wash too, Grandpop
We are also getting a toddler-eyed view of Wellington’s coffee culture. Forget your skinny lattes and cappuccinos. The drink of choice for any self-respecting  2-year old is a fluffy (frothy milk with a marshmallow in it). Ideal for elevenses and it makes a good face-wash as well, as this picture illustrates.
I must say , even after a week, it’s still a novelty to turn a tap on and not have to worry about how much I use (no water rates in Wellington). And we have a big bed, so we can move about without bashing into each other, as we often do on the boat. I think we both miss life afloat  though, and it’s great to have these two distinct parts of our life where we spend part of the winter here and the summer, cruising the canals and waterways of Britain.

We take Wellington's Cable Car up to the Botanical Gardens
Our journey here went very smoothly. Emirates to Dubai, then a couple of hours wait before a Quantas flight to Melbourne, and a change “across the ditch” to Wellington. I had never flown direct to NZ, though Pat has. We had always broken our journey somewhere on the way, so this time I booked and paid for an exit seat on the 14-hour section from Dubai. Pat sat in front. It was money well spent and I got some sleep in, which I always find difficult to do on planes. I have already booked the same seat on our return at Easter. It’s a massive 13-hour difference here at the moment, and the jet lag, was not too bad, thanks to the sleep we both enjoyed.
Our overall plan is to spend Monday-Friday in Wellington, looking after Livi, which is a delight, and then to take off at the weekend. That starts this weekend when we have a 10-hour drive north up to the Coramandel peninsular to visit our Kiwi pals Helen and Kevin who have a holiday home there. It’s a Bank Holiday weekend for NZ this weekend with Waitangai day this Thursday afternoon. I have been asked to play ukulele at a Waitangai concert on Thursday with “The Ukes of Wellington”(I brought my uke with me). It’s a shame we will not be here, but I’ll catch them on our return. They have a regular Sunday strum in a bar in the city centre. They did send me the play list and a few of the songs are in Maori, which I don’t know, so it’s probably best to decline this invation. I am sure there will be other opportunities.
Toodaloo chums

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