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Published: July 26th 2010
St Michael's Church
Looking at the simple white exterior, it's hard to imagine how different the inside could be!
So here I am, off on another adventure but this time I'm all by myself. Today I travelled to Wellington to apply for a new passport from the German Embassy while Glynn stayed up in Auckland and went to work as usual.
It was cloudy leaving Auckland so I didn't expect to see much out of the window. What a nice surprise it was to peer outside halfway through my flight and see the snow-capped crown of Mount Egmont poking up through the dense clouds. As we reached the bottom of North Island, the plane banked hard left. Through the window I spied wind turbines and isolated little houses dotted about the wild, rocky coastline. Not sure I would want to live there!
When the pilot announced that Farewell Spit and the Marlborough Sounds were visible from the right side of the plane (alas I was on the left side), I panicked a little. Both these locations are on South Island and I was suddenly worried I was flying to the wrong place! We banked hard again and dropped down low over the water. There was no sign of a runway and now I was really wondering where the
St Michael's Church 1
The lovely wooden and stained glass interior.
hell we were going! Invisible to me, the airstrip was dead ahead and the landing into Wellington nice and smooth - a big relief given that the city is reknowned for its blustery winds that bounce little planes around like toys in a bathtub.
It was 10.30am when I landed and the embassy closed at 12.00 noon. That left me with 1.5 hours to get off the plane, catch the Airport Flyer bus to Thorndon district and try and locate the right building. Sitting at the back of the plane meant I was one of the last off so I ran through the terminal at top speed, and made the 10.45am bus by the skin of my teeth. 35 minutes later, I disembarked and made my way towards the embassy. It was 11.40am when I arrived, handed over my paperwork and hard-earned cash and breathed a sigh of relief. At 12.15pm I left again: mission accomplished!
I had allowed myself 2 days in Wellington just in case there were any problems at the embassy. With no need to return, I now had lots of time to explore the city. I would be travelling around on foot so was
Look who it is!
pleased that it was dry with onyl a slight chill in the air. I veered towards the heart of the city passing by an old wooden church on the way. It was called St Michaels and built in 1866 which makes it pretty old by New Zealand standards. The front door was open and I stepped inside to discover a gorgeous gothic interior constructed and carved entirely of native timber. Wooden arches and columns supported the vaulted ceiling and very English looking stained glass windows lined the walls. I later discovered these were shipped ready-made to New Zealand from the UK, many over 100 years ago. The church is actually a small cathedral which was due to be demolished in favour of a more modern structure. The new cathedral is an ugly pink monstrosity a few blocks away so I'm glad the locals managed to save this charming example of a bygone age.
My next stop was the Parliament Buildings to see The Beehive, NZ's political hub. The Parliament Buildings are 3 separate edifices of completely contrasting architectural styles. Outside the Beehive, I got chatting to a security guard who told me about a free guided tour of the
St Michael's Church 3
More pretty stained lgass windows :-)
Parliament Buildings. The next one was in 30 minutes so I wandered off down Lambton Quay, the city's main thoroughfare, in search of food. Having recently discovered I need to have over $4,000 of dental work doing, I couldn't bring myself to splash out on many of the delicious looking foods on offer. I walked back up to Parliament hungry and just in time for the tour to begin.
The tour lasted over an hour and included a visit to the main debating chamber where MPs and the Prime Minister come together to discuss key political issues. The chamber was empty today but it was interesting to see the green leather seats where all the country's important people sit and to learn about the rituals and traditions followed - many of which are the same as in the UK such as the Mace and having a Speaker of the House. We were also taken into a beautifully detailed select Committee room whose walls were adorned with traditional whakairo (wooden Maori ancestral carvings) and tukutuku (woven flax panels).
In the basement of the Beehive we learned about the base isolaters, a special type of rubber shock absorber inserted into
St Michael's Church 4
Looking down the main aisle towards the front entrance.
the foundations of old stone buildings to make them flex rather than collapse if an earthquake hits. Wellington sits slap bang on a major fault line so this is pretty handy to have! Our tour also led us into the parliamentary library where I was amused to see a fiction section set amongst the serious journals and literature on the shelves.
After the tour, I headed back onto Lambton Quay and decided to text my friend Steve with whom I would be staying. He sent me back his work address and as I looked up, I was surprised to find his building right across the road from where I was standing! I made my way inside and was greeted by my old friend with a big hug. It's been 2 years since we last saw one another but it honestly felt like no time had passed. I then met up with his partner, also called Steve, and we walked home together.
I had a lovely evening chatting to my kind hosts, despite them both being influcted by a very nasty winter cold. The first Steve cooked a lush dinner of fish, stuffed mushrooms and and leek in blue
St Michael's Church 5
Nice carvings and insriptions in the rafters above the pews.
cheese, all of which tatsed divine. I've been considering trying fish again after 20 years and it tasted every bit as good as I imagined. A few beers and glasses of wine later and it was time for bed. The second Steve lent me a copy of Andre Agassi's autobiography "Open" and I couldn't resist reading a little before lights out!
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