Wellington (Part One)

19 01 2011

Salutations and welcome to the first post of 2011! I hope that this year has started well for you all. Apologies for the delay in posting my first epistle of the year, however I can report that this year I have resolved to post on a much more frequent basis. I also have plans for this blog – here’s to the year of shininglikeadiamond!

Text from Maurice GeeAs I wrote in Hijacking Rainbows and Christmas 2010, I journeyed to New Zealand in December where I spent time back in Wellington with family and friends.  This and the next post were inspired by the trip back home and the opportunity I had to re-visit some of my favourite things in my favourite city with renewed eyes after two and a half years away. 

Wellington is absolutely, positively the best little city in the world.  It sits nestled between hills and harbour and has a vibrant mix of suit-and-tie CBD and tie-dyed bohemia.  About a 30 minute drive north from Wellington is Porirua, which is a city in its own right and part of the greater Wellington region.  I have fond memories of growing up in and around Porirua.  Over the years I moved a little further south to Tawa, one of the outer suburbs of Wellington.  During this time Wellington Railway Station became a daily destination for me as I travelled in and out of the capital for school, then university and finally work. I became accustomed to the station’s nuances, nooks and crannies and in the end I came to really enjoy passing through it on my daily commute. As the station is such an integral part of the city, and since I have spent a fair bit of time passing through the building, it seemed somewhat fitting Wellington Railway Station was the first of my favourite things. 

Wellington Railway Station is, as far as railway stations go, an attractive building.  It was completed in 1937 and was at that time the largest building in the country; it is currently New Zealand’s busiest station.  The façade of the building reminds me somewhat of the clock tower in Back to the Future, which may add to its coolness factor.  The station even has a claim to international fame – it was used in an advertisement for thetrainline.com (the one with all the sheep).  I find this amusing as 1) they have used a New Zealand station to advertise travel solutions for within the UK and that 2) they have filled it with sheep. 

Next to the station is Westpac Stadium (right).  The stadium was built in 1999 and its yellow seats are visible from the plane as you fly into Wellington (the city’s colours are yellow and black).  I have been to many a rugby game at the stadium and also the odd concert.  While I have a strong attachment to the old Athletic Park, the stadium still makes it as one of my favourite places in the city.  I have dearly missed attending the Lions, Hurricanes and All Black games that have been played there while I have been in the UK.

Outside the front of Wellington Railway Station is one of a series of signs that can be found around the city.  These signs use a three-dimensional image as visual embellishment.  Wellington Railway Station’s sign (left) has a train on it, while the sign for Bunny Street has a Buzzy Bee and the sign for Cable Car Lane has a cable car (both below).  I reckon these signs are pretty awesome, they are certainly more enjoyable than your average street sign. I made a point of taking a photo of each during my expeditions to the city.  These signs also point the way to my next two favourite Wellington things for this post: the parliamentary grounds and cable car. 

As a Wellington Girls’ College student, one of the routes to school took me past the Beehive.  This was my preferred route to school – in part because it took longer, but also because I enjoyed the parliamentary scenery.  New Zealand’s parliamentary buildings consist of the Beehive (right), Parliament House, Parliamentary Library and Bowen House (which is across the road).  The Beehive is probably the most iconic of the buildings and its nickname clarifies why the sign on Bunny Street (right)  has a Buzzy Bee on it and not a rabbit.  The reason for a Buzzy Bee in particular (as opposed to a common garden bee) is that the Buzzy Bee is an absolutely iconic Kiwi childhood toy (I had one growing up).  When Charles and Diana visited with baby William in 1983 one of the photos from that tour was of them and William on the lawn of Government House (Auckland) with a Buzzy Bee.  I imagine that if the Buzzy Bee did not exist (and what kind of world would that be?!) that William would have received a toy sheep instead.  The parliamentary grounds are also a favourite spot for lunching Wellingtonians on warmer, dryer days.  I’ve spent more than one lunch time lying under the trees there. The photo (right) is my particular, favourite spot: warm but with enouigh shade to avoid the worst of the Kiwi sun.

The Cable Car is the last of my favourite things for this post.  It is one Wellington oldest tourist attractions and an icon of the city.  It runs between Lambton Quay and the Wellington Botanic Gardens, stopping at The Terrace, Kelburn Park and Victoria University on the way.  During my first year at Victoria University, I used the cable car on a near daily basis to get to lectures.  There is a good reason why the Cable Car is a tourist attraction. Aside from the history of it, the views from the top are stunning.  If there is one thing about Wellington that I love, it is that no matter the weather – no matter how skin-scorching the sun is, or how knock-you-over strong the southerly wind blows – the view of the city and its harbour always take my breath away.  The city’s landscape has a blend of rugged and tamed that makes it indescribably beautiful.  There is a saying amongst Wellingtonians: “you can’t beat Wellington on a good day.”  In truth, you can’t beat Wellington on a bad day either.

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