Wednesday, September 10, 2008

“Weekend” in Wellington (Part 1)

One of the hardest things to reconcile on a working holiday visa is how to fit your holidays in around work. I rounded up three friends- Hannah, Tony Salmon (who everyone knows as “Salmon”), and Tim- who had never been to Wellington and we put in requests to our respective departments to get the time off. One of the things I had to get used to in this country is that our work roster runs from Wednesday to Tuesday, so technically we called this a weekend road trip.

After breakfast, we made it through a roughly four hour drive with minimal stops, entertaining ourselves by arguing over music choices and attempting to pronounce the Mauri names on street signs as we passed. We arrived at Base Backpackers in the afternoon where we dropped the car, checked in, and marveled at the size of our private suite and cleaner-than-we’re-used-to, non-communal shower for a fairly decent price.

Visually, Wellington reminds me a lot of San Francisco. The city sits right on the waterfront with ships lining the harbor, a few cobblestone streets, trendy dining and shopping districts and it’s very own cable car. My Lonely Planet boasted that, “Wellington is undisputed king of NZ’s nightlife with copious clubs, bars and other insomniac refuges,” so we couldn’t wait to hit the town.

We dropped our bags and began by scouring the neighborhood for lunch options, settling for the $15 lunch special at Coyote. Our stomachs quickly turned from rumbles to satisfied purrs and I rediscovered my love for a good draft beer with a Montieth’s Radler. From there we split into gender-friendly pairs so the girls could shop and the boys could hit up TAB gambling spots, but it wasn’t long before Hannah and I were ready for a nap so we dragged ourselves back to the room and collapsed onto our bottom bunks.

After the boys returned to rouse us out of bed, we showered, dressed up for the night and headed just down the street to a pub quiz at The Speights Ale House at The Shepherds Arms Hotel. It turns out that two Americans, an Aussie and a Swedish girl make a pretty good team because we won two pitchers of beer and a $100 bar tab to split between us! To be fair, we won both on lucky guesses of how many times the Earth could fit inside the sun (somewhere over 900,000) and by changing our answers to three questions in the bonus round three times. Our bar tab came a weeklong expiration date so we finished our beers and went to explore the rest of the town.

We started on Courtney Place, which everyone had told us was the heart of 

the city when the sun goes down, and bounced from place to place. We fell in love with El Horno, a cute little Spanish bar that played classic American music and served yummy sangria. We popped into Shooters, a multi-level club, to find four people on the dance floor and promptly turned on our heels to leave. Hannah and I spent a few minutes dancing at The Establishment where they had champagne drink specials for ladies night, but we took one look at the boys’ bored faces and agreed to move on. 

After stopping for one more drink at El Horno we ended up back at Basement, the bar in the bottom of our hostel, where everything behind the bar was $5. We plopped onto the couches and people-watched as couples who had far more to drink than we had paired off and danced around the subject of blatantly asking whose room was likely to have an empty bed. Before long, we called it a night, happy to have a double-bunk bed suite sorted out for ourselves, and geared up for a full day of sightseeing.

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