Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Five Wellington weekends

Now that the Arts Festival has wrapped up, you'd think it would be time for Wellington to have a collective cup of tea and a lie down. But no: there's still so much on that it's too much for any one person to take it. And to prove that Wellington's got something for everyone, here are suggested itineraries for five completely different weekends that you could have this weekend, depending upon your inclination: Arty, Sporty, Greenie, Groovy and Foodie.


Opening of AaronLaurenceGallery - interiorFriday: Kick off your evening with a quick visit to Popup gallery, which will have just opened. Wolf down a roti chenai at Satay Kingdom, then wander past Wineseeker to grab a few bottles of something quaffable before heading to Aaron Laurence Gallery to Shake the Foundations with dark sampled soundscapes, acoustic guitar wizardry and some indescribable Bhartiphone magic. From 10pm, music zine A Low Hum is having a party at Indigo featuring local band-to-watch Connan and the Mockasins.

Saturday: Start a Cuba-themed day with breakfast at Fidels, then check out local independent galleries like Peter McLeavey, Idiom Studio, Enjoy, Mary Newton and Thistle Hall. Shop for vintage fashion at Ziggurat and Hunters & Collectors, streetwear at Area 51 and Rex Royale, secondhand music at Slow Boat Records and books at Pegasus, Ferret and Arty Bees. Investigate the wealth of New Zealand cinema beyond Peter Jackson at the Mediaplex, then brave the dark alleys and side streets to experience a rich collection of street art. Have dinner at Olive, which has some of the most intriguing exhibitions of Wellington cafés. There's a wealth of live music on in the evening, including A Band Called Dave at Katipo (the café that thinks it's a bar), Phoenix Foundationer Luke Buda (among others) at the artist-run avant-noise basement Happy, and the regular African Dance Party at Bar Bodega.

Sunday: begin a more leisurely day with brunch in the clean white spaces of Nikau at the City Gallery, which leads on conveniently to the major Michael Smither retrospective and the weirdly touching Anne Geddes meets David Cronenberg creations of Patricia Piccinini (complete with podcast commentary). Wander across the City-to-Sea bridge to Te Papa and have a look at the Cézanne to Picasso exhibition, thus allowing you to sniffily dismiss the named artists and knowingly express your preference for the Vlaminck and Léger pieces. Take a slow walk along the waterfront, keeping an eye out for the Writers' Walk plaques and the vast number of public artworks that have been springing up all over the city. For two of the most recent ones (Bill Culbert's SkyBlues and Len Lye's Water Whirler), wait for nightfall to see them in their full glory.


Friday: Start with the big rugby match, Hurricanes vs Sharks at the Westpac Stadium (after checking out the preview on the Dropkicks' podcast, of course), and follow up with a waterfront pub crawl towards Courtenay Place. You'll find plenty of convivial pubs along the way and in Courtenay Place itself. How many cities have a world-class stadium within 10 minutes' walk of the CBD and half an hour of the entertainment district?

Kayak Polo by the waterfrontSaturday: Wake up in time for a hangover-relieving midday big breakfast at the Tasting Room gastropub: the sausage platter (manuka-smoked beef; wild venison chorizo; wild pork, apple and Pilsner) comes highly recommended, though not by the Heart Foundation. When you feel ready for physical activity again, try Ferg's Rock and Kayak for indoor rock climbing or a leisurely paddle along the wharves. There's no test match this week, but you you could still make a pilgrimage to the Basin Reserve to see the ancient relics in the Members' Stand New Zealand Cricket Museum. There's no shortage of pubs with big screens, but if you feel like somewhere more sedate to watch the Commonwealth Games, in a sports-mad country like this even some restaurants like Tulsi and Crazy Horse have screens that get turned on for big events.

Sunday: In Wellington, you don't have to leave the city to go mountain biking, because the city is full of mountains! Mt Victoria is right next to Courtenay Place, yet offers trails for all levels of difficulty. You're also a short bus ride from Island Bay, one of the most accessible diving locations in the city, and if you're really up for something extreme, you could always look for what's left of the frigate.


Friday: If you're in town for the Climate Change conference next week, the first thing to do is get yourself a Metlink Explorer pass, making it even easier to get around by electric train or trolley bus. A surf along to Sustainable Wellington Net should be your next stop, with a Green Map to point out ecologically interesting sites. I realise that an interest in sustainability does not necessarily make one a vegetarian, but if that's you then there are plenty of vege-friendly restaurants suitable for dinner: in particular, Aunty Mena's comes highly recommended by those in the know.

The Waimapihi Stream at the top of Holloway RdSaturday: Time for some eco-tourism. The Karori Wildlife Sanctuary is a well-known highlight, with its lakes and forested hills full of native birds. It's reasonably easy to reach via bus, but to make things even easier, the Wellington Rover tours and Capital Adventure Tours include the Sanctuary on their routes (though I'm not sure that a Unimog counts as sustainable transport). If you're still in a walking mood, you can wander back to the city via the famously bohemian Aro Street, including the lost valley of Holloway Road and the Aro Valley Fair, which from 10am to 2pm will be enlivening Aro Park with stalls, capoeira and fairy tales of the world. By now you might want a more leisurely and luxurious meal than Aunty Mena's can provide, so try Maria Pia's Trattoria for a local take on Pugliese cuisine from a noted advocate of the Slow Food movement.

Sunday: Get yourself some produce from Commonsense Organics and take a picnic across the road to the brand new Waitangi Park. Gasp at the photos in the open-air Earth from Above exhibition while tut-tutting at the accompanying stories of impending ecological doom, or admire the wetlands designed to treat stormwater while recalling the natural history of the site and providing a habitat for birds and insects. Then walk across town and take the cable car up to the Botanic Gardens, where you can enjoy the guided walks, cooking demonstrations and herb market that are part of the Festival of Herbs (note the plural).


Pitch Black at the Festival Club, WellingtonFriday: Ease your way into the weekend by sampling cocktails and live boogaloo from Twinset at Concrete bar by Cable Car Lane. Move on to seductive jazz and a pan-Asian banquet with the Hannah Griffen Quartet at Cabaret. By now you should be ready for a night of ambient-tinged drum & bass from LTJ Bukem and MC Conrad at Sandwiches.

Saturday: Start with a shopping safari, beginning with the fashionable cluster around the Old Bank (Zambesi, Workshop, Andrea Moore, Little Brother) before making your way down Willis St (Maggie Potter, Coco at The Vault) and Wakefield St (Karen Walker, Artikel) to Cuba St (Kate Sylvester, Mandatory). Stop for lunch at one of the many cafés along the way (Pravda, Masi, The Lido, Finc). For dinner, try some of the adventurous antipasto platters at Imbibe: the "Polynesia" platter is a particularly wonderful slice of the Pacific. If you're not already booked to see De La Soul at the Events Centre (with local support from Olmecha Supreme and The Wanderers), try a cocktail crawl, with Havana, Boulôt, Good Luck and Tupelo all worth a visit. Then you've got a choice: hard and fast with Concord Dawn at Sub Nine, or funky and jazzy with Welly supergroup The Eggs at Matterhorn.

Sunday: I'll presume that you won't be up at dawn, especially if you were up for it enough to visit Endup and keep dancing until noon. So, there's only one thing for it: Wellington's stylish take on Yum Cha, "Yum Chow".


Friday: Make a casual start to your exploration of New Zealand's culinary capital at Arbitrageur, boasting the best wine list in the country and exquisite delicatessa platters. For a more local flavour, try a modern version of Māori cuisine at Kai in the City, where you can not only enjoy delicacies such as miti poaka (wild pork), kina (sea eggs) and pikopiko (fern shoots), but also end up adding your voice to a waiata with the staff.

Very wild foodSaturday: You could splash out on a Zest food tour, or save some money and plan your own gourmet walk. Try wandering up Tory St, drooling at Meat on Tory, sampling cardamom and pink peppercorn chocolates at Schoc, marveling at the cornucopia that is Moore Wilson and watching the coffee roasting at Caffe L'affare). For a taste of what Wellingtonians really eat, try lunch at a cheap Malaysian cafe, preferably one with South Indian influences such as Roti or Rasa. When it comes to dinner, you're spoilt for choice, with Logan Brown, Citron and Boulcott Street Bistro all offering various forms of fine dining. But for adventurous cuisine, stunning presentation and spectacular views, you have to try Martin Bosley's Yacht Club Restaurant. Who knew that foie gras and smoked eel would go so well with caramelised apple?

Sunday: It's time for something simple, so try brunch at Floriditas, where fantastically fresh ingredients lift straightforward dishes out of the ordinary. Once refreshed, you can wander down to Chaffers' market for produce straight from the market gardens of Otaki. Just across the road, A-mart offers a bewildering array of Asian ingredients and a compact food court. But save your appetite for Festa Italia from 10am to 5pm at the Overseas Passenger Terminal.


At 2:47 pm, March 24, 2006, Blogger Kate Borrell said...

Tom - you're all linked up. This is the uber URL post. You're trying to increase your hit count eh? ;)

At 6:02 pm, March 24, 2006, Blogger the_sifter said...

mailto -> editor@wallpaper.com

At 9:59 am, March 26, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i really miss wellington. (i lived in wellington for two years)


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