Sunday afternoon was one of those sparkling mild winter days here where the temperature, wind and sun conspire for good, not for discomfort. Mid 50s, zephyrs and a cloudless sky seduced, it seems, every one in Wellington to gather at the harbor.
They strolled, they pedalled four seater tricycles, they biked, they skateboarded, they jogged, they read and talked, or like us they enjoyed some food or drink on the outdoor patios that embrace the waterfront.
In the morning, the crowd centered on the two Sunday markets near the bulky Te Papa museum of their national heritage. Food stalls and dockside restaurants supplied breakfasts of all sorts, from full scale egg dishes to tapas or sausages and crepes or chowders. Nearby the large produce market brought local farmers together with those seeking the freshest and highest quality fruits and vegetables. Next door, within the Chaffers building, a
“yuppie” market according to one woman we spoke to, offered high end goods. These included artisanal breads (hand crafted by hobbits?), local and imported artisanal cheeses (three types of local blue cheese, two types of French St. Nectaire, and so on), a half dozen different fish (OMG, the blue cod we ate that night was from heaven), and various cuts of New Zealand lamb (to decrease the surplus population, no doubt).
But this afternoon was more sedate.
As we sat at Mac’s patio with about a hundred of our neighbors, sipping New Zealand beer and wine, the view of the hill-encircled harbor, the dazzle of sun on the water and the flow of people could warm up any soul that suffered from wintry conditions. But it was the appeal to senses other than sight that caught our attention.
Sound – the expected light babble of others on the patio with audible words emerging every so often, the occasional skree of a gull swooping overhead or the raucous piping of another, the plop of a glass on a table or clink, the rumble of skateboard wheels leading to skids and clatters as the boarders did their tricks before us = all against the backdrop of classic American rock sotto voce on the speakers (cue Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire”).
Smell – Later, as we passed near the market, a fishy sea salt odor was strong, whether from the bay or local fishing scows. On the patio, though, how odd, yet very Pacific Ocean, to smell no saltiness from the sea. Instead, we detected the occasional wiff of salt on potato wedges or burger fats or cigarette smoke from the dozen or so who lit up around us.
Taste – what else, the chilled beer and wine, the Mac’s dark ale somewhat bitter and creamy, the Marlborough Valley chardonnay fruited and dry.
Touch – the warm pressure of the sun and then a light wisp of cooler air ruffling a few hairs, the smooth feel of the finely sanded wood table, the sharp chill of drink held at just the right temperature, the heat of lips meeting.
It was a day to clear all the senses of winter gloom.
(For more pictures from New Zealand, CLICK HERE to view the slideshow at the end of the New Zealand itinerary page.)