I paid $3.00 for an hour’s WiFi last night. That was long enough to check my emails and upload some of the better photos to Flickr (which I still haven’t got working properly) and then it said I was out of data.
But I haven’t used that much! I reduced the size of my photos files!
So I couldn’t upload my blog.
Thoughts on the Waterloo Hotel and Backpackers.
It’s of a higher standard than the Station Hotel. We received a towel AND a flannel each – each towel rolled up tightly with the flannel knotted around it to hold it in place. No shampoo or conditioner and soap is by the hand basin and in the shower by one of those dispensers you see in public toilets. The room was tidier, if a little hot. We opened the window and left it open all night. We actually had a clock.
The Waterloo also has its own “café”/kitchen – so backpackers can make their own meals, or if you wish to, you can purchase a ready-made meal. We’d pre-ordered breakfast last night ($7 each) and this was a small bowl of Watties fruit salad, a choice between rice bubbles, cornflakes, and Cocoa Pops, which you poured into your bowl from their own dispensers. Milk was available. We also had two slices of toast with butter, marmalade, strawberry jam, or Vegemite.
We chose a two-seater table. After finishing my cornflakes/Cocoa Pops I went to cook our toast. D.C. came over to me. “Go and sit down and see if you can feel the table shaking…” Leaving her to the toast, I did.
It was weird. We might have thought that it was an earthquake except the lights weren’t shaking and it was too rapid and regular. I still don’t know what caused it, but we were seriously considering changing tables when it stopped.
Upstairs, finish packing (my see if I can find where I’ve put my suitcase lock. I had another so I didn’t panic) and then back down to see if there was free WiFi in the eating room.
So we checked out. I got my $20 key bond back.
It was a brilliantly fine, windless (is this Wellington?) day. In fact, as we wore our warm, waterproof jackets and dragged our bags, it was too hot.
We had a break when we stopped off at the i-SITE to get directions for the next few days. They also had free WiFi so I tried to upload my blog.
But we did get to check our emails.
And see something special… I’ll have to get a photo later.
From there we carried on walking (and melting) to the Bay Plaza. This is on Oriental Parade – or just off it. There’s a major fork in the road. Oriental Bay is to the left, the Bay Plaza Hotel to the right.
Staffing: The staff at the Waterloo weren’t the most inviting. The lady at reception was pleasant enough, but wasn’t overly welcoming. The other staff, with the exception of the guy behind the counter in the kitchen, didn’t even crack a smile when we smiled at them. It was a little off-putting. But I did get my $20 key bond back.
However, at the Bay Plaza Hotel, the receptionist was more than a little helpful, finding the address of a friend of ours (somewhere in the back of beyond, I think she said – i.e. after Johnsonville), giving me vouchers for the WiFi. (Which I may have to be careful of. I think that could be $3.00/hour too. But it worked well this morning when I uploaded my blog.) The receptionist texted housekeeping to see if our room was ready, and then let us know five minutes later (this was before 10.00am) that we were free to go up. We went into room 704 and was followed by another lady who greeted us cheerfully and asked: “Would you like me to make up the single bed?” The room had a double bed and a single that was doing duty as a couch, so she removed the cushions and gave me a pillow.
We got ourselves sorted and then went out. And then I came back to get D.C.’s sunglasses.
What a beautiful day. Blue sky; warm(ish) sun; no wind. We decided to wander the Wellington waterfront. This is one thing that Wellington does better than Auckland. We like Auckland (or probably more correctly prefer it to other cities), probably because having grown up there we know it, but Wellington has got a real handle on opening up the waterfront to the public. It’s mainly pedestrian access – along with bicycles and quadcycles (They’re a four-wheeler tourist bicycle able to seat about four or five people depending on their size. It’s a tourist thing.) People were jogging in their lunchbreak. Families were out. Canoeists were out. Swimmers were out…
Swimmers were out?! In the harbour? In winter?
I know it was a nice day, but that seems a little extreme. We did wonder if they were training for a Cook Strait crossing or something as they weren’t kicking, so might have been working out way of conserving their energy.
There’s a dog barking outside.
One thing we didn’t see were people playing Pokémon Go. We saw them in Auckland, but not in Wellington. Maybe the Pokémons haven’t migrated this far south yet?
We had lunch at one of the little shops there. I had waffles with blackberries, bananas, and yoghurt. D.C. had a burger. She paid for that. I’m paying for tea.
We then continued cruising until we came in line with Bunny Street. This is the street that the Railway Station’s in. It’s the same street as parliament (if it doesn’t change name.)
One thing that we’ve never done when we’ve been in Wellington, which we’ve always meant to do, is visit the parliament buildings. This time we had the time… Except that the tour started on the hour, you had to get there 15 minutes early, and it was right on 1.00pm. We’d have to hang around for ¾ hour.
So would a German couple who turned up at the same time, disappointed that they were just too late. That was until one of the security guards on the scanning machine said that if we hurried, we might be able to catch up with the group. So the four of us hastily took of our bags, belt bags, cameras, jackets, shoved them into the trays and let our valuables go through the airport style scanners. We then handed them in to the cloakroom for safekeeping.
And we were the only four on the tour.
The tour started with a short video (which’ll need updating in three weeks as it has a photo of the Governor General Sir Jerry Matapari (I hope I spelt that right) and his term finishes in three weeks.
We were then greeted by Ben. His normal role is as education officer and was supposed to be studying statistics, so was quite pleased to be guiding us.
First stop was into the so called “Beehive”. Although it is the de facto symbol of New Zealand’s parliament and one of Wellington’s icons, it is in reality just an office building – albeit one that has the office of the Prime Minister on the ninth floor. The real parliament is in the historic building next door. Ben took us into the Beehive’s conference room, which is circular around the building’s central core. It could hold 300 people, which was more than the other conference room but, as I commented, you would know where you ranked in the hierarchy by where your seat was and what view you had of proceedings. So it rarely gets used.
The original Parliament Buildings were never finished, so when the Beehive was built in the 1970s(?) the debate was whether to complete the original design or make something new and modern. We ended up with an apiary.
Then we were escorted into parliament’s chamber. Think how big it is on screen and in photos… Now halve it. That’s how big this room is. For Thamesites I’d say it’s smaller than the Thames War Memorial Hall / Civic Centre. Possibly closer to the size of the adjoining conference room.
Now I’ve got to try to remember. As we weren’t allowed to take photos, I’ve got nothing to jog my memory and D.C.’s just put her light out (at 8.00pm). And if you’re wondering why she has at such an early hour, we set the pedometer setting on our phones today. I walked 13991 steps and she did nearly as many. It’s tiring walking the corridors of power.
Taking us into the original, proper, Parliament Building, Ben showed us what had originally been an open courtyard that was mainly used for a carpark. In the 1990s a survey had been done on the original building and the consensus was that it was too far gone – so pull it down. Fortunately, it is a category one heritage listed building (what else would you expect for a building that’s been the centre of power for over 100 years?) so they repaired and strengthened it. As part of the strengthening, they “filled in” the courtyard, so it’s covered over, and its used to display historical artefacts and gifts given by other countries.
Lining the walls are photos of each of the Prime Ministers of New Zealand, but not the present one (thank, heavens) and ones showing the members of each parliament. (Also not the present one.) The photos of the present incumbents are taken and installed at the end of their term. I did ask what happens if one died in office, which has happened three times, but I didn’t actually get an answer.
Ben took us into (I think) the Maori Affairs committee room. He told us that during the 1990s refurbishment, all the budget went towards structural/safety improvements and restoration. Nothing for artworks. So Koro Wetere (I hope I’ve spelt his name right) suggested that they get volunteers to create carvings and tokutoku (ditto) for this room. They did some fantastic work. All telling a story, and all at no cost to the tax payer. One carver did 18 months’ work for nothing.
One thing of interest that we learnt, that I remember, is that I (and most people who knew this) always thought that New Zealand had three official languages: English, Maori, and New Zealand Sign Language. A few years ago someone had to delve back into the statute books and it turns out that we only have two. Like England, English has never been declared an official language. It must be used because (I can’t remember the phrase Ben used) it’s in common usual and is the lingua franca as it were, but it’s not enshrined in New Zealand law.
The tour lasted an hour and afterwards we checked out the shop and the toilets. How many people can say they’ve used governmental loos?
After we’d gathered everything together (Kally had travelled with us, which must have looked odd as I strapped her to my arm) we decided to check out the original Government Buildings. Now it’s the law school, but originally the likes of King Dick Seddon (early Prime Minister) stalked its corridors and kept everyone on their toes. But its real claim to fame is that it’s the largest wooden building in the Southern Hemisphere and one of the largest in the world.
Like the former court house in Thames (now the headquarters of the Hauraki Supported Lifestyle Trust), it’s made out of Kauri wood shaped to look like stone slabs.
We snuck into the grounds and discovered that the public is actually encouraged, and so we had a look around.
We saw the vault where all the statutes and other legal papers had been stored (along with a few rats, judging by the scene that was on display.)
We saw the “hanging” staircase, which looks highly effective, but had to be shored up a few years after it was installed.
We saw the original committee room (is that what it was called?) It was an important room anyway.
We saw the interior of the walls showing how it had been built and what techniques had to be used when the Department of Conservation restored it.
After that I decided that I needed a notebook so I could remember everything. Especially everything I’m going to learn tomorrow. So we found Whitcoulls and I bought a small, spiral-bound one for $3.
In Noel Leeming I hunted out a card reader. The one I’ve got’s not working too well and my SD card doesn’t fit into EOS – which only takes a micro SD card. FAB2 took a full size SD card, but that’s another very long story, and one that I think I covered at the beginning of my last England blog. The problem is that the $14.99 one they sold me doesn’t work at all. We’ll have to take it back tomorrow.
Deciding that we were in need of a drink we went to a Tank juice shop and had a $7 “Healthy Tank” each.
While I was slurping through my straw, I saw something that is a rarity nowadays. A photographic shop. I’m thinking of getting a new lens (and totally confused as to which one to get), so we went over.
The literature that I’ve read recommends a 50mm prime as a good, basic, once-you’ve-got-it-you-don’t-look-back lens, and the shop had one for $199 (I think. And that’s very cheap for a lens.) But the sales reps said it was good for portraiture, which I don’t do a lot of. When I said I tend to do landscapes, she recommended a Canon EF-S 24mm F2.8 STM at $285. (She wrote it down for me, that’s how I remember.) I tried it out, and it seems fine…
I said I’d do some research and maybe come back tomorrow.
Then, following the waterfront again, we returned to the Bay Plaza Hotel. We arrived there to see a Budget rent-a-car mini bus and a car parked out front.
“Great, a bus load of teenagers.”
We went inside to discover that they were teenagers… of the recycled kind.
Dinner didn’t start until 6.00pm, so I typed up the beginning of this blog.
The restaurant’s on the first floor so we went down there and waited because we were still a couple of minutes early, which meant we were the first ones there and the first ones served. We each had a roast vegetable salad (actually a $13 entrée) and banana and raison bread pudding with custard and Hokey Pokey ice cream ($8) for dessert. D.C. pointed out to the waitress that the advertised avocado wasn’t in the vege salad – it wasn’t a complaint, just a comment – and the waitress came back, said the chef was very apologetic, and to make amends that we would only be charged for one dessert.
We weren’t worried, but we weren’t complaining.
The 14 recycled teenagers were having their dinner at 6.30 (having had a pit stop in the bar on the way), and we had finished by the time they started. We said to the waitress that we’d push off before it kicked off. I think it would be very unlikely that they would cause problems, but I do think they could have become very noisy.
So it was back to our room, lay things out for tomorrow, and to bed to type.
Tomorrow we’re going to the Weta Cave!
I wish that dog would shut up.