#14 - chrismukah in wellington
Wellington Travel Blog› entry 14 of 113 › view all entries
*****DAY TWENTY-ONE (Tuesday, December 23rd) - WARM WELCOME IN WELLINGTON!*****
Belinda and I spent most of the day on the bus from Taupo to Wellington. It was a seven-hour trip with several stops along the way. The bus rides actually aren't that bad. I really haven't minded them & it's a nice way to sit back, relax, and look at the countryside. It's all really so beautiful! Belinda and I did a little strategizing for me for what I was going to do after Wellington. I was debating doing the Stray Bus or the Magic Bus (both are backpacker buses that do a loop around the island & you can hop on/hop off where you want & spend however long you want in places) OR renting a car.
When we got to the bus station, it was hilarious. We were looking for Rex and he was looking for us. I went up to some man and said, "Hi, are you Rex?" - because he just looked like he could be a Rex - well, he wasn't. And it turns out, we were standing very close to Rex the whole time - when I started texting him we both realized that we were there. Very funny.
Anyway, Rex should have a second job as a tour guide because he immediately drove us up to Mt. Victoria to get a beautiful view of the city. We drove by Oriental Bay & up these windy little roads & I definitely felt like I could have been in Twin Peaks in San Francisco! He then drove us around the city - we saw Parliment (the Beehive) and he took us to the Backbencher (a bar near Parliment!) where we had a drink as he told us more about the city's history.
We drove out to "The Hutt" - that's Hutt Valley - about 15 minutes outside Wellington, where they live to pick up Trish. Their house is SOOOO nice and we both had our own individual gorgeous rooms!! And the views were incredible. It was wonderful to meet Trish and she greeted us like she had known us forever!
We went into the city and had the BEST dinner! We ate at Osterio de Toro - right next to the Wellywood Backpackers. OMG. We ate SO much! Both Belinda and I were so hungry so it really was so perfect. We all split some appies, a pizza, a lamb dish, this awesome pasta dish called the Priest Strangler's Brother (I swear), chicken w/40 garlic cloves, and a greek salad.
Anyway, we had such a LOVELY evening! We went back to their house & chatted until about midnight or so & until our eyes were literally closing as we were talking.
I was so excited to get into my nice cozy bed that night!! :)
*****DAY TWENTY-TWO (Wednesday, December 24th) - PRE-CHRISTMAS FESTIVITIES*****
Trish took us on a great tour of the Hutt Valley and some of the surrounding areas this morning. We got a little "tea" - which basically means food & a drink (even if it's coffee) at this delicious Italian restaurant. Bella's - or something like that - I forget! And then it was off to do some volunteering.
That evening was full of Christmas activities galore! We went to see the Christmas lights at this famous house in the neighborhood (every year apparently she has more & more Xmas decorations), then we went to see a Christmas show at Leigh's church (it was HILARIOUS actually - they had all these quotes from movies in it, they used current music, & they made it really fun! I really enjoyed it!), and then onto Christmas mass.
It was a lovely Christmas-eve day & I really enjoyed my time with Trish, Rex, Leigh, Ella & Belinda!
*****DAY TWENTY-THREE (Thursday, December 25th) - CHRISMUKAH IN THE HUTT*****
WOW! What a day! We woke up and had a DELICIOUS breakfast of croissants, strawberries, cream and champagne! What a fun way to start the day.
After that, we got ready for everyone who was coming over for Christmas. I actually made latkes for the meal as well! We had a very mixed cultural Christmas....Belinda brought some of her Dutch traditions (we had cookies that Black Pete throws out for the children & we even had some Dutch cheese) & then we had my latkes & we even made a menorah for me to light!
Oh - did I talk about the Dutch Christmas tradition yet? It was so funny! Belinda was trying to explain it to us and for some reason it was coming out funny. So, basically Saint Nicolas (who is NOT Santa - someone different), comes on a steamboat from Spain. And he rides a white horse on the steamboat. St. Nicolas has a red robe & a big tall pointy red hat with a cross on it.
ANYWAY - so bascially, all day we ATE and ATE some more. It really was like our Thanksgiving. We were all so exhausted by the afternoon!
Trish & Rex were so sweet - they gave Belinda & I a DVD of the Great Walks of New Zealand! SO awesome.
And Ella - what a sweetheart - she made us ornaments & gave those to us. She also gave us some chocolates!
We had such a great Christmas!!! It was really fun getting to know everyone (oh- they had some others over for Christmas as well - Christine, her mom Carol & Doug - so there was a whole crew) and it was so nice to feel so welcomed! :)
*****DAY TWENTY-FOUR (Friday, December 26th) - BACK IN WELLINGTON*****
Ella & Leigh came over for breakfast this morning. Ella loved doing the menorah so much, we did another one. This time we made it out of candles shaped like Christmas trees. So perfect! :)
After brekkie, we saw Belinda off.
Rex and Trish had some parties they had to go to that day, so after we took a much-needed beautfiul walk, I had a few hours to myself in their house. I had my first successful skype with video with my parents. Very fun to see them & my grandmother & Sasha! I did some e-mailing, packing, etc and the time actually flew.
That evening I decided to go to services in Wellington. I found a temple on the web that said they were doing Friday night services - so off I went. It was Temple Sinai. Wow - what a special evening I ended up having. I walked into the temple and there were chairs in a semi-circle for about 20 people.
After the service, they have a pot luck dinner for everyone. So, I sat around and chatted with everyone. I ended up befriending Kelvin and Carol and they asked me if I wanted to stay at their place for the weekend! I already had my hotel for that night, so they had agreed to come pick me up the next day & I canceled the second night at my hotel. Then, Raoul & Ruth offered to drive me home. It was all so warm and wonderful!
THEN, Kelvin and Carol were insistent about picking me up later that night to walk around Courteney Place - a cool street downtown. So cute. So, they picked me up & we walked around to check out the scene. It was definitely pretty dead because it was the day after Christmas - but we eventually ended up in a Turkish restaurant.
They drove me back to my hotel & agreed to pick me up the next day.
What an unexpectedly special evening!
*****DAY TWENTY-FIVE (Saturday, December 27th) - HANGING IN WELLINGTON*****
Today started with a bit of a shock....literally! At 8:50am there was an earthquake! I was laying in bed & just thought that someone very loud walked by my room. I found out later that it was an earthquake! It was the kind of earthquake that you think is actually fun because nothing major happened.
Kelvin & Carol picked me up at my hotel and we had breakfast at Sweet Mothers Kitchen. It was highly recommended by Lonely Planet & it was AWESOME! I got a breakfast burrito....yum! (Lizzie, I know how much you love it when I describe my meals - so that one was for you!). At breakfast it was so funny, I ran into Zach, who I had met in Taupo. He's the guy who is biking around New Zealand with a red mohawk on his helmet (I can't remember if I mentioned that before). Anyway, so classic to run into him! I have a feeling I'll see him biking somewhere else in New Zealand because we are following a similar path.
Anyway, Kelvin & Carol then dropped me off at Te Papa - a very cool museum about New Zealand.
So I was at Te Papa for about 2 hours....definitely lots to see. There is an exhibit there right now of a "Colassal Squid"...very interesting, but honestly a bit gross since it's starting to deteriote. Ick. But fascinating at the same time. After wandering around the museuem, I walked a bit more around downtown Wellington - down around the water and then to Cuba Street. The city has *such* a cool feel about it. I would DEFINITELY come back and spend more time in Wellington!
After my little jaunt downtown, we went back to Kelvin & Carol's house.
Anyway, after that - Kelvin & Carol were going over to dinner at Linda's house. She was at temple the night before as well. She had been on a trip to Prague with Temple Sinai to go visit the temple where they got their torah from & she was going to be showing everyone the pictures. I thought it would be really interesting to see! So, next thing you know, there I was in this house with about 10 other people having a Hannukah dinner, saying the prayers over the candles, helping to light the menorah, & hearing about this amazing trip to Prague. Another thing that made the evening very special for me was that Carol's mother, Rosa, was there. She was at Auschewitz and survived the concentration camps. She was 14 when she was there & she said she is 1 of 3 survivors left in New Zealand.
After dinner when we drove her home and I said goodbye to her she said, "Be happy. Enjoy your life." It was really so powerful coming from her & I got a bit choked up. One other thing I will never forget that she said was about some of the differences between Orthodox and Reform & basically some internal disagreements within Judaism.
I really can't describe how happy I am I stayed in Wellington. I ended up having such a meaningful experience. A huge thank you to Kelvin & Carol for taking me under their wing & hosting me for the weekend!