Since we’ve arrived in Wellington, we’re often asked what we do to fill up our time here. In other words, what do we do when we’re on “endless vacation”?
First of all, we’re not really on vacation when we’re home in Wellington, for we still have family, financial and day-to-day responsibilities to manage – just like most people do. Every day, for example, Nancy calls her father at the nursing home, her mother at her apartment and her brother to keep up on how they are all doing, plus handle the needs that constantly arise for them. Several times a week, Barry talks with his two sons back in New York City, just to update them on our activities and hear about theirs. This week they’ve been discussing what we will do during their upcoming visit to Wellington. At least an hour a day we’ve devoted to staying in touch through emailing, or via Facebook, both with old friends or – this week – with two new friends we made during our evenings out.
This week, as usual, we had to handle some bills and resolve some discrepancies, did cash flow forecasting, and a bit of tax preparation as well. We also spent a lot of time designing and implementing a new investment plan for Nancy’s parents.
Some weeks we do quite a bit of trip planning – researching options, preparing trip details and so on for future adventures. This week was relatively quiet in that respect, but we did have to review what we needed to take for our upcoming canoe/camping trip down the Whanganui River, call the outfitter and finalize the arrangements.
Once or twice a week it’s laundry time, which takes a bit longer than you’d expect since we have no dryer (which is fine with us so we don’t expend lots of money on dryer energy usage). So, we hang the clothes on a rack we bought and move them around to follow the sun during the day or – for all those many days without much sunshine – set it next to the heater in the living room.
We needed a few hours this week to get our hair cut nearby at a place that operates like the old barber shops, where the cuts are inexpensive, you wait for your turn because they take no appointments and there aren’t a lot of frills.
Then there’s cooking. One of the great pleasures of abiding in a city for a while is discovering where to buy your foods. On Sunday morning, we head to the nearby farmer’s market, with dozens of different farmer stands offering farm-fresh produce. We stock up on fruit, cooking vegetables and salad/munching extras like the sweet small carrots still in bunches, or soccer-ball sized cauliflowers and lettuces. In the past, we’ve experimented with local veggies unknown to us, such as the spinach-like silverbeet or the red, knobby yams or the potato varieties.
We shop frequently because Sunday’s purchases stay fresh just a few days. So by mid-week we headed to our other favorite spots around town, such as the local fruit and vegetable stand on Cuba Street for fresh produce. Nearby we purchased some whitefish at the Wellington Trawling Company, which provides all our favorite fillets – gurnard, blue cod, red cod, terakihi, and so on – as well as the excellent smoked mullet (as a breakfast whitefish). We visited our usual source for bread, Pandoro Panetteria, which offers dozens of different types. Nearby we stopped at Commonsense Organics for their wonderful yoghurt, some free-range organic eggs and recycled toilet paper.
Then, there’s meal-time itself, with a few hours of preparing, cooking and clean-up for each meal to keep us busy – not to mention actually taking time to enjoy the food.
Of course, we need to keep fit, just as we did at home. Nancy has a set of exercises she does every other day; Barry prefers to go to the gym about a five minute walk away. This week he had to add a couple of sessions of “physiotherapy” as they call rehab work here, in order to improve the quad muscles he injured. Virtually every day, we make the great descent and ascent on the stairs up and down the cliff on which we live, then traipse for hours around the city doing errands.
For exercise this week we also made a three hour walk that included a steep ascent from the harbor to a lookout over the city at Mt. Victoria, a spot frequently visited by loads of cruise-goers in busses. At the end of the week, we finally did the Red Rocks coastal walk south of the city. Our sunny, but wind-blown, walk followed the wave-battered, rocky coastline past bush-covered headlands for three to four hours. The anti-climax proved to be the red rocks themselves, a motley array of low-lying boulders colored mostly red, though with some green and purple seams, spanning a mere hundred feet or so.
All that’s not even counting our efforts to keep up on the world through email alerts or via a few magazines, or move ahead on two New Zealand novels we have borrowed from the library (page 44 and page 210 respectively). And then there’s the time it takes to write and edit posts for our blog. Right now, you are reading the result of a few hours work this week.
Just like at home, sometimes our evenings are pretty busy as well. This week was particularly full because of several special events.
Monday was a drizzly Guy Fawkes Night. After a delightful fireworks show at the harbor to some wild drum music, we ended up at the Matterhorn bar on Cuba Street. There singer Lisa Maree capably channeled Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald in a set of jazz standards before a placid group of drinkers. At around 11pm, though, the place filled up completely. Suddenly backing Lisa were the lead cornet and trombone of Mumford & Sons, who had been performing elsewhere. The music started to rock, and we joined the throng shaking and dancing in the tight room. We left when the band broke up past 1am, but members of The Black Keys later showed up to do a DJ set till 3.
The next afternoon, after taking in a discount movie at a new boutique filmhouse, we combined shopping and fun. We bought some meats at the well-stocked butcher at Kelburn, about a 20 minute walk uphill away from town. Across the street, a gourmet deli gave us the chance to stock up on sausages and jams. The rest of the evening, however, we spent at the charming Kelburn Pub, enjoying the company of locals dressed up for the broadcast of the Melbourne Cup horse race, a big deal akin to our Kentucky Derby. We made friends with a woman who had trekked all over New Zealand and soon invited us to dinner this month. We then closed down the bar talking with a local construction worker and his companion, a trans-sexual woman who told us all about becoming her, not him.
Finally, on U.S. election night (or Wednesday afternoon here), we kept watch on the tallies via streamed broadcasts on our computer, hearing who won just before we left for an early evening play at the harborside Circa Theatre. “The Truth Game” centered on the challenges of print journalists in telling the truth despite the pressures of profit-making, the immediacy of the internet and lowest common denominator interests from readers. Very timely. Then a quick stop at Public bar for a drink afterwards lasted several hours as we discussed the election with a few well-informed Wellington residents.
So that’s how we spent our time this week – a mix of doing work and enjoying local fun, just like you would experience at home too. Now we need a vacation.
(For more pictures from New Zealand, CLICK HERE to view the slideshow at the end of the New Zealand itinerary page.)