Sunday, December 30, 2012

Busy Busy Busy

Dec. 31, 2012

Our last few days have been busy – Saturday was sunny and mild (but windy, which is why sometimes Wellington is known as Windyton) so we wandered over to Cuba Street – it’s sort of a trendy shopping and foodie kind of street, part pedestrian mall with street performers, part normal street scene.  Just kind of an interesting place to hang out and people watch – though there’s also the “see and be scene” crowd, who can be amusing to watch for a while. 

The best find was Butler’s Chocolate Café, which was good – we shared a piece of chocolate mousse cake, though it wasn’t quite dark enough chocolate to make me happy.  We chatted with our waiter, and he told us about another shop known for their desserts, but that will have to wait for another day.  And then he gave me a piece of 70% chocolate – much better than the mousse cake!

We also went to Te Papa and finished seeing all the exhibits – I have to say, this is one of those museums that needs to be visited over and over again.  Not only do they have changing exhibits, but many are interactive.  So in the earth science area, I got to pump a lever and make an earthquake (though I couldn’t quite get the earthquake to happen, nor could the woman after me – she finally called her grown son over and he pumped the lever until CRASH the earth split and raised up and the car in the diorama fell over); I also played a computer game of earthquake-proofing a house (and of course all the furniture fell over and dishes broke – after a few tries, and working with a nice family of a mother and two kids, we were able to get all the mitigation devices in place and prevent much damage in our home – YAY!); I never got into the little house that shakes like an earthquake (line was too long) – nor did I jump on the plate that measures the force of the jump on a Richter scale (there were groups of little boys who coordinated their jumping so they hit 10 on the scale).  But in the gaming exhibit, I was able to add photos (including one of me) and add to the computer game wall, and get the photo collage rolling around.  All in all, it was great fun.  (And I really like the stanchions that are around Te Papa - there are some, like these photos, that look like unfurling fern fronds - others look like normal stanchions, but with little kiwis embossed on the tops.)

And educational!  I learned that NZ is right on the edge of the Pacific plate and the Australian plate, and that’s why there are so many earthquakes and volcanoes in this area.  That the city of Christchurch is sinking at the rate of 25 mm per year – in my lifetime, it has sunk more than my height!  New Zealand is actually almost it’s own mini-continent, because it has it’s own shelf around it, before dropping off into the various neighboring trenches.  Plus there are all kinds of dinosaur fossils that were collected here in NZ (by one woman in the 1950s), some more complete than those found anywhere else in the world.  Just one of the more interesting facts about NZ.

Saturday night and most of Sunday, we had gale force winds – reported to be 87 kph, which I think is something like 50-55 mph – strong winds, and fun to walk around, but it gets chilly after a while.  Not to mention tiring walking into that strong a wind!

Today I wandered around Courtney Place, another trendy shop and restaurant area.  Nothing spectacular, although I liked the sculptures and street mosaics scattered around.  I made it to the café recommended by the chocolate café dude, and the desserts looked amazing – but I wasn’t hungry, so I didn’t have anything there.  It was a lovely sunny day, although the wind has been picking up and is starting to howl again.  There’s something about the way Wellington is situated, at the bottom of the North Island, that it just catches all the wind no matter which direction it’s going in.

And tonight there are fireworks again – the last New Year’s Eve fireworks in Wellington were about ten years ago, so we’re lucky that we’re here when the fireworks are back!  There are several free concerts happening along the wharf, and we’ll head down there in the evening to hang out, party, dance, and eventually watch the fireworks. 

Then Wednesday, it’s off for new adventures on the South Island!

Oh, and here's the New Zealand center of government - I guess the Parliament Building.  (I have no idea what the architect was thinking.  People have dubbed this The Beehive - not sure if that's also political commentary on their elected officials, or only based on the visual statement.  Weird and ugly, but unique!)

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