Monday, October 22, 2018

How I Spent My Weekends in Wellington

Even though June means cold, wet weather for Wellington, the city is still packed with things to do and see!
Wellington is an expensive city and it was hard to stay on the budget I set for myself before my program. However, my friends and I found lots to do for very little money. Here are some examples of ways we got creative and found adventure in the little things. On a nice day, it was easy to spend hours just getting lost and exploring the city by trying to find our way back to our apartment building!  


On Fridays, we would meet with our residence director, Fred, for a cultural activity since our service-learning placements only met four days a week. This Friday we met up at the Havana Coffee factory for a tour.
People in Wellington take their coffee seriously! Seeking out cheap(ish) coffee was definitely a reoccurring theme in the weeks I lived in the city. If you find yourself in Wellington, I recommend trying Havana coffee at the Midnight Espresso cafe, so you can fully enjoy the ridiculously good coffee and relax while listening to the Cure and watching tourists and teenagers alike browse the op-shops that line Cuba street. But if you too spent way too much money on fancy cafe coffee, the New World down the road also sells a big bag of the stuff for about the same price.
A pricey but necessary pick-me-up on a cold afternoon

Before going out, the Wellington night market off of Cuba Street was the place to be on Friday nights. It was the perfect place to see great local musicians play and snag a really cheap, delicious dinner eating hastily-prepared soup and pasta marinara for dinner after a long day at placement all week long. 


Saturday mornings started late with the group grabbing a quick breakfast at the restaurant next to our apartment building or grabbing a bagel on our way to explore a new part of the city. The Best Ugly Bagel shop was always warm and inviting with their brick oven churning out dozens of Montreal-style bagels. 

After breakfast, we would wander the city while trying to find Wellington landmarks and secluded parks without GPS, mostly because trying to find a wifi hotspot without buying a five dollar coffee proved to be difficult. We would usually find a trail or walking path and follow it for hours, taking us behind neighborhoods and through small parks that only locals knew about. We would eventually get cold and a little hungry as the winter sun would begin to set and realize that we were on the complete opposite side of the city from where we lived! We would then start our journey home, walking quickly on tired legs to make it back before dark. It was great to get off the beaten tourist path and explore parts of the city that only locals and university students inhabit, away from the bustle and high-rises of the CBD and the tourists on Cuba Street. 

Wellington is one of the hilliest places I have ever been. It seemed like every journey around the city had to have at least one ridiculously steep hill like this one leading up to Mount Victoria. This photo was not even taken at the top of the hill! After three weeks of climbing hills, they became easier, and even now I feel like my legs can handle almost any hill. 
Continuing the trek to the top of Mt.Victoria

The hills are always worth it because they lead to the most breathtaking views! One of my favorite parts of Wellington, and New Zealand in general, was the beauty that seemed to be everywhere. It may have just been the rose-colored lens that being in a new place casts on your surroundings, but I never got tired of the view of the city and was awestruck from the first time I saw Wellington as my plane descended through the clouds. 
The obligatory photo with the city in the background featuring wind gusts strong enough to knock me off the cliff

On one of the walks, we also found the cable car that takes you to the top of the botanic gardens. It was nice not to have to trudge up a hill for once!

Usually, we would hobble back to our apartments around dinner time more than a little exhausted to take a rest before heading out to Courtenay Street for the night.


Sunday mornings always came earlier than expected, but the early rising was necessary to make it to the Wellington farmer's market on the waterfront to buy our fruits and vegetables for the week. The farmer's market was always a treasure hunt to find the best looking produce for the cheapest while struggling through the crowd of what seemed to be half the city's residents, walking the narrow stall paths doing their own weekly grocery trip. The best score of the trip were two gigantic ripe mangoes for only 80 cents NZD. 
Besides grocery shopping, the waterfront was also a beautiful place to walk and be close to the ocean. The water was so clear and blue, it was tempting to jump right in, but even wading in up to my ankles resulted in stinging numbness.  
One of the many amazing local sculptures dotting the waterfront

Another fun part of the waterfront was the extreme sports style playground equipment supposedly built for children.   

A Sunday tradition was stopping at St. Pierre's Sushi on the way back to the apartments from the beach and eating it on the building's rooftop.


As well as being the capital of New Zealand, Wellington is also the home to the most vibrant art scene in the country. Every other building had a massive mural painted on the side and you are never very far from a gallery or art museum. 

The best thing about this scene is that the majority of the museums were free to visit! My favorite museum to visit on Sundays was Te Papa because it was like a huge maze full of new and interactive exhibits to uncover, with ranging from modern art, seen below, to giant replicas of World War II soldiers.
An art exhibit at Te Papa exploring the connection between color and emotion
After another full day of walking on Sunday, we were usually more than ready to call it an early night. When Monday morning came, I always felt a sense of anticipation for experiences the week would bring.