Trip to Wanganui & Wellington
15th - 18th of September, 2010
After an incredibly cheap flight to Wellington, I was met with a sign at the baggage claim. I think this is the first time in five years that I’ve had a sign just for me. After a ride into the city centre I picked up my rental car (a first for me) and headed north from Wellington to Wanganui (It was Wanganui when I lived there, so I will stick to that spelling).
I stopped at the Kapiti shop on route and picked up some nice cheese and an ice cream - Manuka Honey and Chestnut. A rather excellent combination!
I arrived in Wanganui late afternoon and spent the evening wandering around town. I was interested at just how little the city had changed. There were basically no new buildings and nothing seemed to have aged all that much. The phone box next to the KFC still looks like it gets broken or graffited every week, the youth still seem as disillusioned and insolent as they ever did, there is still a queue for the drive through at KFC.
A few things were different - there were more kebab shops and the old dominos pizza place has gone. It did seem a little smaller, maybe I’m just a little taller or a little fitter or a little more experienced with larger cities. I used to think of Wanganui as a bit of a dump - and for the most part it is - but its no more of a dump than most small towns or the suburbs of somewhere like Christchurch.
The next morning I visited my old school - Wanganui Collegiate. Six years on, the school looks pretty much the same - though the grounds are better maintained than they used to be. Some of the same teachers are still there and I had a chance to catch up with them.
Interestingly, I found the smells of the place to be one of the most memorable things about it - the smells of wood and polish in big school, candles in the chapel, the smell of carpet in the houses, noodles in the tuck room, and something fried in the common rooms. The dining hall has that smell of institutional cooking that one can never escape - a slightly unplesant and pervasive fried old onion smell.
I found it interesting that I seemed to automatically settle into old routines in the way I walked through the school - which doors were usually unlocked, which route to take etc. Finally, it brought back a host of interesting memories for me to sort through. I didn’t stick around for long though.
The weather started to close in and I decided to head back to Wellington. Apparently the largest storm on earth was starting to strike New Zealand - though the promised gale force winds didn’t eventuate that day. Back in Wellington, I met up with some friends for dinner at the Plum Cafe. The atmosphere was kind of cool and for the most part the food was good - though I wasn’t particularly impressed with the vegetarian risotto main (risotto is definitely the new omlet). They seemed to like their baby beetroot and they did it pretty well (recalls serving Oliver roast baby at Manwell). I was joined by Oakley, Fred, Clare, Hamish, and Rosa (who I sure will blog about the evening herself).
I dropped Clare off and headed to Lower Hutt to find Oakley’s place - it turned out the maps I had really sucked - but I found it eventually. Oakley and Fred have a really nice place - warm, cosy, and modern. The very generously allowed me to crash in their spare room.
The next day I headed into town and returned to car. While there was a stiff breeze, the weather was still fine. My next port of call was the World Press Photo 10 exhibition in Shed 11. While quite a few of the images were harrowing, the exhibition was very imformative and defenitely worth while. If you don’t get a chance to visit the exhibition, the images are online.
For the rest of the afternoon I dodged rampant and flaying thunder storms as I wandered around the city. In the evening, I went with Oakley and Fred to Las Margaritas, a Mexican restaurant in Lower Hutt. The food was top notch, as was the company. The owners are Mexican; however the maître d’ was a jovial Maori fellow who added a lot of energy to the place to a series of rather over-the-top jokes.
The following day, a Saturday, we slept in a little and then headed into town. Two stops of note were La Cloche an amazing French cafe just north of Wellington. You can see my review of their mille-feuille on Rosa’s excellent blog.
In addition we stopped at Moore Wilsons, this store is a Wellington tradition that I had not encountered before. A series of food shops providing everything from equipment to bulk food to the finest gastronomical delicacies. It was one of those places that simply visiting seems very indulgent.
At the airport, I said my goodbyes to my hosts and finally caught my late flight back to Christchurch. Luckily the weather had cleared a little, but the flight was rather turbulent.