#14 - chrismukah in wellington

Wellington Travel Blog

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Belinda & me on Mt. Victoria in Wellington.

*****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.

Wellington.
  I was feeling like the buses were going to limit where I could go & I really wanted the independence of the car - but I was definitely nervous about the whole proces....the renting of the car (not really sure why, but I was, you know - the whole "what kind of insurance do I buy?", etc.) AND the driving on the left side of the road!   After some discussion, I really felt like I wanted to rent a car!  So, I'm renting a car.  Full stop.  (As Belinda likes to say...she would say that when I'd start to go on & on about all the what if's, etc....just full stop - it's what I'm doing & I will figure it out!)  Belinda will be heading back up to Auckland after Wellington - by way of New Pymouth (to do some surfing) and Hamilton (to pick up her car that will be fixed by the 30th) - so she was set with her immediate plans.
Me & Belinda in the Cable 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.
Yes, I went on the Wellington Cable Car.
  It was so obvious he loves Wellington so much because he was very excited to share it with us.

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.
Pohutukawas in full bloom!
  I would DEFINITELY go back there.  It's making me hungry writing about it!! 

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.
Merry Christmas!
  We helped cut veggies in preparation for a meal at the church.  It was great to get to participate in something like that!  There were a lot of nice women at the church helping to prepare the meal.  I was the major potato peeler!  We didn't get to come back the next day to see the meal served - but it felt really good to know that the work we did helped make the meal possible!

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.
Leigh, Rex, Trish & me at the Christmas show.
  It was interesting to be 1) at a Christmas mass (I haven't been to one since 1992 with Neil on Long Island) and 2) at a Christmas mass in New Zealand!  Who would have ever thought that's where I would be?!?  There was a ton of singing & my girl scout's Christmas caroling experience came in handy as we sang Silent Night and Little Drummer Boy.  There were 2 songs that were my favorite....1)  They have a "Christmas time in Aoeteroa" (I'm sure I'm spelling that wrong!) but it was very catchy & I'm sure it will now be stuck in my head!  and 2) they did a song to the Neil Diamond song "Holy Holy!" - they kind of changed the words, but it was hilarious to hear that tune & recognize it at a 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.
Christmas breakfast - croissants, strawberries, cream & champagne!
  :) 
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.
Santa coming through the neighborhood - being pulled by an SUV!
  He has helpers called Black Pete - they have black faces because of the soot in the chimneys - they are the ones that go down & distribute the presents.  If the kids are bad, Black Pete, will whack the kids on the butt with a broom-thingy & then put them in the bag & take them to Spain!  Dutch kids put carrots in their shoes for St. Nicholas' horse.  Anyway, not sure if it sounds funny here - but to us we were cracking up.  I think she was telling us one night when she was tired and she was getting more tired translating.
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.
YUM! Xmas appies.
  And some yummy chocolates as well. 
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.
My make-shift menorah for the 6th night (we did it with breakfast!). Love that we made it out of Christmas trees!
  She was heading up to New Plymouth.  I was definitely sad to say goodbye to her - but I didn't feel like we were saying bye forever.  I have a feeling we'll see each other again -- whether it's on the South Island of New Zealand, or in San Francisco or in Holland.  I definitely feel like I made a friend for life so it was really more "see you later" than "goodbye".
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.
Me & Trish on our walk!
  Next thing I knew, Trish & Rex were back and I was heading into Wellington.  Originally, I was going to head to the South Island that day, but I decided to extend my stay in Wellington.  I just loved the city & I wanted to spend a little more time there.  So, they dropped me off and my hotel and we said goodbye!  I was so sad to say goodbye to them!  They really were so wonderful and I can't wait to see them again some day!
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.
Temple Sinai in Wellington.
  They said that is usually the amount of people they get on a Friday night.  The service was SO awesome.  It was amazing to come around the world - so far away from home & then to have something so familiar.  The tunes were familiar and even as I looked around the room at the faces, even they just seemed familiar.  I loved it.  I actually got all choked up a couple times in the service because it was so special.  They even asked me to get up and light the menorah.  So cool.  The other part of the service that was very touching was when they did the mourner's kaddish.  They asked if anyone had a loved one who recently passed away....so as they went around the room, I said "Alice Sternin, my camp director from growing up & close family friend".
Raoul & Ruth drove me home from temple!
  It brought tears to my eyes as we said the kaddish. 
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.
Te Papa - Wellington's awesome museum.
  We got a bit more to eat (the potluck at the temple wasn't that filling) and we just hung out and chatted.  Then, there was a belly dancing show on one of the t.v's & Carol was totally obsessed with it.  It was great - apparently, she just started taking belly dancing lessons so she was checking out their moves.
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.

More shots of Wellington - doesn't it look like San Francisco?
...so, yay, my first Wellington earthquake!

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.

Carol & Kelvin, my wonderful hosts!
  They had some errands to do, so they just said they'd come back & get me in a couple hours.  I have to admit that it felt a bit funny that I had put all of my luggage in some couple's car who I had just met & then drove off!  I know there wasn't going to be an issue, it was just a random thought I had.

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.

Kelvin & I went for a bike ride!
  I really was amazed at how much it reminded me of San Francisco!  The streets felt familiar & even the architecture looked like something you would see in Alamo Square or something.  Kelvin and I decided to go on a bike ride!  It was so much fun!  He took me down to the water and it was a SPECTACULAR day!  I think this was the first time I didn't have my camera attached to my side...I was so bummed that I didn't get pictures.  It was really SO stunningly gorgeous....bright blue waters, gorgeous coastline, beautiful hills.  And it was so much fun riding the mountain bike!  It was my first time biking on the "wrong" side of the road....no problem at all, it actually made it a bit more fun....like there was an added challenge or something.
Dinner at Linda's with a bunch of people from the temple on the 7th night of Hannukah.
 

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.

I got to light the candles! :)
  I really loved meeting her.  Carol said that she doesn't talk much at all about what happened - but she talks more of the positive things in life.  It was really amazing to hear...I mean, she lost all of her family and experienced things that we can not really even fathom experiencing....even though I've seen so much about the Holocaust, it's just so striking when you meet someone who was actually there and lived through that unbelievably horrible experience. 

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.

A shot of the group assembled at Linda's. Roas, the woman in purple is Carol's mom - she's a Holocaust survivor - one of 3 in New Zealand.
...she said, "I go to a temple or a synagogue (meaning - temple is for reform jews & synangogue is for orthodox).  I figure Hitler didnt' care, why should I - if you are Jewish, you are Jewish."

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!

nanie05 says:
Lovely!
I stayed in Wellington for 2 years in the 1970's (yes I'm ancient!) and your blog really brings back memories!
Furthermore I'm a Muslim and its very interesting to read about Judaism festivals!
Posted on: May 23, 2009
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Belinda & me on Mt. Victoria in We…
Belinda & me on Mt. Victoria in W…
Wellington.
Wellington.
Me & Belinda in the Cable Car!
Me & Belinda in the Cable Car!
Yes, I went on the Wellington Cabl…
Yes, I went on the Wellington Cab…
Pohutukawas in full bloom!
Pohutukawas in full bloom!
Merry Christmas!
Merry Christmas!
Leigh, Rex, Trish & me at the Chri…
Leigh, Rex, Trish & me at the Chr…
Christmas breakfast - croissants, …
Christmas breakfast - croissants,…
Santa coming through the neighborh…
Santa coming through the neighbor…
YUM!  Xmas appies.
YUM! Xmas appies.
My make-shift menorah for the 6th …
My make-shift menorah for the 6th…
Me & Trish on our walk!
Me & Trish on our walk!
Temple Sinai in Wellington.
Temple Sinai in Wellington.
Raoul & Ruth drove me home from te…
Raoul & Ruth drove me home from t…
Te Papa - Wellingtons awesome mus…
Te Papa - Wellington's awesome mu…
More shots of Wellington - doesnt…
More shots of Wellington - doesn'…
Carol & Kelvin, my wonderful hosts!
Carol & Kelvin, my wonderful hosts!
Kelvin & I went for a bike ride!
Kelvin & I went for a bike ride!
Dinner at Lindas with a bunch of …
Dinner at Linda's with a bunch of…
I got to light the candles!  :)
I got to light the candles! :)
A shot of the group assembled at L…
A shot of the group assembled at …
At the Backbencher - political car…
At the Backbencher - political ca…
My wonderful room in Trish & Rexs…
My wonderful room in Trish & Rex'…
Such luxury!
Such luxury!
The view from my room.
The view from my room.
Wow!
Wow!
Trish & Rex!
Trish & Rex!
Trish & Belinda at Inner Bay (is t…
Trish & Belinda at Inner Bay (is …
Belinda at the Dutch Shop!  She wa…
Belinda at the Dutch Shop! She w…
Belinda & Ella at the Christmas sh…
Belinda & Ella at the Christmas s…
The cheerleading shepards.
The cheerleading shepards.
The cast of the Xmas show.
The cast of the Xmas show.
P & Ps for Christmas Mass.
P & P's for Christmas Mass.
Ho ho ho.
Ho ho ho.
Trish & Rexs in the Hutt.
Trish & Rex's in the Hutt.
Table decorated by me & Belinda.
Table decorated by me & Belinda.
I made latkes!
I made latkes!
My makeshift menorah for the 5th n…
My makeshift menorah for the 5th …
Ella, Trish & Leigh.
Ella, Trish & Leigh.
Belinda leaving for New Plymouth! …
Belinda leaving for New Plymouth!…
The fabulous InterCity bus!
The fabulous InterCity bus!
THE DUTCH SHOP!  I took this for B…
THE DUTCH SHOP! I took this for …
Looking back at Hutt Valley on our…
Looking back at Hutt Valley on ou…
Trish & Rex.
Trish & Rex.
My first successful Skype with my …
My first successful Skype with my…
Temple Sinai for Friday night serv…
Temple Sinai for Friday night ser…
The Colossal Squid at Te Papa.
The Colossal Squid at Te Papa.
Outside of Te Papa.
Outside of Te Papa.
Walking around Wellington.
Walking around Wellington.
Te Papa, from afar.
Te Papa, from afar.
Cuba Street!
Cuba Street!
The Good Luck Bar - Scott told me …
The Good Luck Bar - Scott told me…
Kelvin & Carols house.
Kelvin & Carol's house.
Doesnt it look like this could be…
Doesn't it look like this could b…
Christmas pudding for Hannukah!  I…
Christmas pudding for Hannukah! …
Wellington
photo by: Ils1976