WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – Clouds rolled in for our driving day to Wellington, which suited us fine. New Zealand tourism’s treacherous Travel Time and Distance Calculator had told us to expect a 3:47 drive, so we added two hours to that, and it came out just about right.
What does coffee-drinking Beth love best about traveling in New Zealand? The public toilets: They’re everywhere, and they’re clean, well-signed and easy to find. No worries, indeed.
We went through a half-dozen little towns, all with modest but flourishing main streets. In semi-chic Greytown, a weekend destination for Wellingtonians, we passed up the French Bakery and instead had toasties – grilled sandwiches – at the homey Cahoots Cafe, where all of the newspapers were opened to stories about Trump’s immigration ban.
It was only another 76 kilometers to the capital, but to our surprise, there is a mountain between Greytown and Wellington. The road got twistier and twistier, and a sign warned of “dangerous wind gusts.” Torsten, of course, loves this kind of driving; Beth, not so much.
The wind blew, rain started to pelt our windshield, and we felt far removed from the bone-dry, yellowed landscapes around Hastings. Finally, we were off the mountain and on Wellington’s harbor. Into the city and up a San Francisco-like hill, we pulled up at Mike and Mark’s Airbnb, which they share with two young Rottweiler rescue dogs.
We got a tour from Mark, met the other guests – a young couple who own a small craft brewery in Pittsburgh – then walked down Cuba Street, a modern-day Haight Street with more Malaysian restaurants. It led us to the waterfront, where two dragon-boat teams were practicing, and past the Te Papa Museum, St. James Theatre and Opera House. Young people filled cafes and spilled onto the sidewalks.
Back on Cuba Street, we went into Grill Meats Beer and settled into bar seats facing the chef station. Beth ordered a yummy Renaissance Voyager IPA – the server knew his beer, hurray! – and Torsten got a local honey-ginger-citrus tonic. We ordered four small plates, sticky Hunan lamb ribs, smoked salmon with soba-noodle salad, potstickers with paua (abalone), calamari and pork, and dumplings with duck and shiitake. It was all good, but the lamb ribs were out of this world.
We topped the meal with chocolate-coconut gelato and a brownie from Kaffee Eis, down the street. Too bad we only have one appetite to devote to Wellington.