flower power

it's pretty well known that the weather in wellington can be pretty terrible.  the city even had nicknames about the amount of wind you generally experience when visiting, much like chicago ("the windy city").  despite this, i was lucky enough to experience not just one, but two full days of wonderful weather in wellington.  that's right kids - 48 hours of glorious sunshine.  something i unfortunately haven't yet become accustomed to in NZ.

i decided to take advantage of my sheer luck, and on sunday i took the cable car through town and headed up to the wellington botanical gardens.

cable car to the top of the city.

view of the city from the lookout.

good old windy wellington.

there's honestly not much you can really write about botanical gardens.  being perfectly honest, they're kind of much of the same wherever you go, but walking through a garden on a beautiful day is nothing to go whining about. so in a nutshell: i walked through the gardens, i saw some flowers, i ate some lunch in lady norwood's rose garden, and i took a lot of photos which probably tell a much better story than i could.

lady norwood rose garden. 


beach bach

the afternoon before i left for wellington, i was out at an agency lunch and started talking about my trip.  the other american OMDer, ashley (who is also my friend by the way, but "the other american OMDer" was more fun to say), mentioned that she had an american friend living in wellington and gave me his number in case i wanted a buddy to check out the city with.

it probably sounds stupid, but every once in awhile and probably more often than i'd like to admit, it's really refreshing to spend time with another american.  i can't even really explain it all that well, other than it's nice to know that no matter what you say it will be understood, they can probably relate, and they will understand all your pop culture reference jokes. so, knowing this i decided to scrap my whole i'm-spending-a-weekend-on-my-own thing and give my mutual friend a shot.

jason is originally from texas, and has been living in NZ for about a year an a half-ish.  he moved from auckland to wellington awhile ago, and has made a big group of local friends that all call him "tex." he's definitely up there as one of the nicest people i've ever met, and offered to take me to a little bach (vacation house) that him and his friends hang out in on the beach for the rest of the afternoon for a little party.

inside of the bach

just your average bathroom photo.

outside the bach

the bach was on a beautiful stretch of beach that was basically impossible to get to unless you had a 4wd vehicle.  we caught a ride with one of jason's friends, and drove along the beautiful coastlines until we reached the house.  then we put our beer/wine in the cooler, turned on the music, and sat out in the sunshine while i got to know some of his friends.

it wasn't exactly like hanging out with a group of my sorority sisters back home.  at first glance, i didn't fit in, but really i sort of did.  i met ann who was so sweet and good humored, and sat most of the time with her dog, moe.  i met sarah, who works at te papa and was interested to hear about my experience earlier in the day.  i met stuart, who runs a tourism company in wellington with his best friend and gets every other week off work.  i met one guy who had been to more of the US than i had, and i met a girl that i agreed to start a brunch business with, neither of whom i remember their names (names and dates have never been a strength of mine).

all in all, it was pretty random. but a really great day. and my calves got really tan from standing in partial sunlight, which is sort of good right? i'll look great in capris this week anyway.

new friends for the afternoon

probably eating a spring roll in ketchup - my dinner for the night

 resealable individual wine glasses - might be the best invention since the light bulb. not sure why i picked light bulb...

even with a few too many wines in me, i can recognize a good photo op


te papa

Te Papa (or “The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa” – which you didn’t really need to know because i sort of doubt many people actually know the formal name), is the national museum of NZ.  the first question most people would ask is “so is it a MOMA-type museum or like a Museum of Natural History-type museum?” well, my friends – it’s both.  please. try and hold your gasps until the end, it gets better.

to be honest, i didn’t spend much in the arts section.  partly because the main feature at the time was a history of wedding dress designs which didn’t seem like a good idea considering my veeeeeeeeeery single status, and partly because it cost money and the rest of the museum was free. did a little pro/con, and the cons won out on this one.

the most interesting part of the museum was actually learning about the history of NZ.  compared to a couple of guys sitting down and signing a paper that said we all had free will (no offense, America), the history of NZ was almost like a work of fiction it was so good.  there was a bit of magic involved in everything and the patriotism behind the stories was obvious in all the detail in the descriptions.  i’m definitely not what you’d consider a history buff either. in fact, it was my least favorite subject in school.  i sort of feel ridiculous that that’s the only way i can really convey how much i don’t like the subject of history, but it’s really all i’ve got at this point in my life.  call me in 10 years when i’m also not reading any bernard cornwell novels.

the treaty of waitangi.

the history of NZ taking their customs entry very seriously.

products i thought came from NZ.

you learn something new everyday.

the other interesting thing i found in the museum was some of the species of animals that i saw (non-living of course) that i had never even heard of.  it’s one thing to have a different slang words between countries, and i understand that there are animals here and in Australia that we don’t necessarily have in the US, but i’ve heard of a kiwi and a kangaroo.  i’ve never heard of a moa or haast’s eagle.  and i’ve never seen a colossal squid, until my trip to the museum of NZ.

a moa being attacked by a haast's eagle.

WHAT are those?! that's what i said out loud anyway.

the colossal squid.

the squid i made on the computer after i patiently waited for the rest of the 8 year olds to finish up.

oh look, the kakapo. a very interesting bird because....

i'm incredibly mature.

"day in the life of a sheep" interactive video. hilarious.



this past weekend, i took my first actual trip in NZ.  by "actual trip," i mean i had to actually buy a plane ticket for this one. i'm a woman who is bound and determined to see the rest of this country.

appropriately, my first "trip" was to wellington, the capital city of NZ, sometimes referred to as "wellywood."  according to wikipedia, this has something to do with the city's relationship with the film industry, which seems all mostly in part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy that was filmed in surrounding areas. it is a semi-controversial nickname, in that a few months ago there was a bid to put up a "wellywood" version of the "hollywood" sign for passengers arriving at the wellington airport that was recently shot down.  might be better to come up with a slightly more original idea....

in the planning stages/two days before i left for my trip, i did was seemed to work well for me in thailand. i googled generic phrases like "things to do in wellington, new zealand" and "wellington trip advisor tips" and "top ten things to do in wellington on a budget."  pretty much all that came up was $150 day tours to places where LOTR was filmed, and while i'm sure it's beautiful, paying that much for a tour to hear about characters i've never heard of and to see movie sets in real life before on a screen seemed unnatural.  maybe that's a dramatic comment, but i instead turned to lonely planet.

the wellington waterfront.

solace in the wind sculpture on the waterfront.

some guy taking the statue a LITTLE too seriously.

cuba st - where most of the cute restaurants and shops are located in wellington.

the bucket fountain on cuba st.

for caption, please read the sign.

some skatepark i only cared about because it made for a good photo.

when i came into work on monday and was asked how my trip was, i surprised myself with gushing descriptions of how wonderful my weekend was, especially considering the trip was only an hour by flight.  normally it feels like you have to get a bit further away to have a trip that you go on and on about.  of course most of this started with "the weather was GREAT," which is a sure sign of a girl who has been deprived of a summer, but overall i might actually rank wellington in my top ten cities. that statement reeks of a pretentious traveler, but the weather was great, the city was beautiful, everything was well priced (there were even good free activities), and it was really easy to get around.


la cigale

my mom has been telling me how great farmer's markets are for years now, but pretty much the only thing about farmer's markets that stuck out in my mind prevented any effort to go to one - you had to wake up SO freaking early.

luckily, here in NZ, there are a few farmer's markets that you don't have to arrive at by 5 am to get to the good stuff.  i'm sure there are others that exist in the world, but that's my excuse and i'm sticking to it.  one of these farmers markets has has a french theme and occurs every weekend in a section of auckland called parnell.  it's called la cigale.

view of the market from the inside - because it started raining

inside the cute french themed shop

there were so many great things to try at the market.  the best part, and much to my surprise, the prices beat the supermarket all around.  who would have thought that specialty breads and fresh produce would cost less than the crap that everyone's rubbing their grubby fingers all over at the grocery store? not that i'm a germaphobe or anything.

delicious breads - bound and determined to try the kumara loaf next week

about 1/8 of the olive selection at one of the booths.

there were also a couple of things that confused me. meaning actual products i had no idea what they were.  unfortunately i was too embarrassed to ask about most, and too poor to buy all of them.  i did try some unrefined honey, which was interesting.  kind of grainy and not actually my thing despite my strong feelings about honey, but it's kind of refreshing to know that there are new exciting foods to try in a place that i'm actually living in and not visiting. (i.e. i don't have to pack it in quickly and eat 7 meals a day just to try the new foods over the time that i'm here)

(apple) cucumbers? hm.

lucky for my waistline, new years resolutions kept me away from eating the entire pastry section (not as insurmountable a task as it sounds - believe me).  that didn't stop me from having a browse/taking multiple photographs/drooling on myself.


koh phi phi don and leh

on the ferry ride to koh phi phi, i kept doing that annoying thing at the end of a vacation where you start to think about going back and how depressing it's going to be.  the ride was about an hour and a half, and the island was just far enough away from phuket that there was a good half hour at least where we felt like we were in the middle of the ocean.  approaching the islands of koh phi phi, however, wiped all thoughts of my future of 8 hours a day behind a computer away as my attention was turned to the kind of landscapes i thought only appeared in postcards.

by the way, this technically happened before my last post, but i decided long ago i was going to end my thailand posts with koh phi phi, as it was my favorite part of my trip to thailand.

on the ferry on the way to koh phi phi

glamor shot. try not to be jealous of my hair - i spent hours on it

the pictures don't do it justice, but you're pretty distracted from work now aren't you?

we arrived in koh phi phi don and dropped our packs at a dive shop as we had plans later in the afternoon to go on a camping trip i had stumbled upon during one of my thailand google sessions.  we wandered around the island, got fish pedicures, and stopped in about 100 little bodegas selling the usual touristy knick knacks.  this was exciting for us because after a couple stops in thailand, we each had pulled together a list of necessities to return with (me: a chang tank top and linen pants that knot at the top, alex: jean shorts and a tie dye dress).  of course i ended up with a chang tank top, a "same same but different" tank top, fake havaianas, a bracelet, and a bright purple waterproof bag i vowed to use at least one more time in my life.  the pants would have to wait until later.

at 3 pm, we made our way back to the dock and got on a boat that was set to take us on our camping trip.  i'm being pretty vague about this to try and build dramatic effect, but this wasn't just any camping trip.  there are two islands that make up koh phi phi - don (the big one) and leh (the small one).  don is the island most people visit and stay on, as it's the only island with accommodation. leh, the smaller of the islands, is reserved for day trips and half day trips - unless you are an expert googler of course and can find the camping trip that allows you stay overnight and sleep open air on the beach.  which, for anyone that has seen the movie, is where "the beach" was filmed.

alex and i on the boat ride over to maya bay on koh phi phi lee

viking cave - only locals are allowed inside. only locals want to go inside.

jumping off the top of the boat.

once we got to the beach, the group made a few circles on the beach and we all got to know each other.  there were a few other americans on the trip who of course we made friends with off the bat, a large group of australians, and a few others from the uk.  there were also a couple of canadians on the trip, but they were weird interesting.

we had a dinner cooked on the beach of chicken panang, some other kind of chicken that i also liked, and rice.  after that it was pretty simple, we sat on the beach, drank buckets of rum and sprite or coke, and made new friends.

we were each given a straw mat, sleeping bag, and a pillow to sleep on for the night.  alex and i took our gear to the middle of the beach near the water, and set up camp.  it was pretty amazing falling asleep in the middle of an empty beach, despite the torrential wind that miraculously woke us both up at the exact same time and encouraged us to move into shelter for the rest of our sleep.  but hey, glass half full it was basically a spa day for us after a fish pedicure and natural exfoliation (wind + sand).

buckets on the beach.

moon over the beach

the next day we woke up, ate some breakfast, hung out on the beach for a few hours, and then got back on the boat to return to koh phi phi don - thankfully before most of the day trips with tourists started arriving.  most of the early birds were pretty puzzled as to how there were people on the island before they arrived.  which made it feel like a secret. which made it feel even MORE awesome that we got to experience this.

you know how everyone always asks what your favorite part was at the end of a trip? normally i don't have an answer, but this time i do.

the whole group the next day - photo taken by francoise. please get that joke...

the girls on THE beach.

byeeeeeeee, best place i've ever been!