Weta Watching

2016 07 July 27

Stupendous!

Amazing!

Out of this world!

More than I could have hoped for!

And of course…

F-A-B!!!

What a brilliant day!

But let’s start with the night.

Remember how beautiful yesterday was, sun, warmth, no rain, no wind…?

There was a complete reversal during the night.

The Bay Plaza Hotel is the tallest building around for quite a distance. (That was one thing we noticed, when we went for our walk yesterday.) We’re on the seventh of eleven floors. That means that when the winds pick up there’s nothing to stop them from slamming into our room.

They started slamming. And they are slamming now.

But we still managed to sleep. It was too important not to. Today was going to be a good day.

We’d paid for $20 for breakfast, which meant we could have had cooked or continental. We decided to have the porridge, which was continental – and too much of a good thing. So by the time we’d finished that we only had room for a slice of toast and marmalade.

Now we had to find the bus stop that the #2 stopped at. After we’d made our decisions about what to wear. After last night’s weather we thought we’d better take our raincoat, but leave the warmer jacket behind. (Our coats are 3in1 so it can be warm, rainproof, or warm AND rainproof.

We stepped outside into beautiful wind-free weather again.

We also found the bus stop with no issues. (I owe D.C. $5 for my fare) The bus driver wasn’t that welcoming when we said we wanted to go to Weta, but he made a point of letting us know where Weta’s stop was (I’d actually recognised it from last time… and the time before) and gave us directions how to get there.

So we got there before the Weta Cave shop/museum opened, and well before our 9.30am Weta Workshop Tour. Time to get some outside photos (especially of the 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 pathway to where the Thunderbirds are Go bus left from), wander around, and do a little shopping – Thunderbirds’ notebook and Thunderbirds are Go lanyard.

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Initially there were only four of us on the Weta Workshop Tour. Then another couple came along. And a couple more. And…

But it wasn’t too big a group.

Taylor was our guide. He was a self-confessed Weta baby. That is both his parents worked for the company and he’d practically grown up here – including taking his first steps. Now he was one of the prosthetics creators.

The beginning of the tour was much like the one we did two years ago (except that this time I took notes.) One of the first things we were told was that there could be absolutely no photographs (which was why I took notes.) This is because Weta Workshop don’t own the copyright to the characters/props on display and they didn’t fancy some hot-shot American lawyer slapping a lawsuit onto them.

Taylor started off by showing us a gun from “District 9”. It had taken 525 drawings on a computer before the director had been satisfied with the final design. Then the mould was cut out of a plastic that looks very much like MDF using a CNC cutter. (Computer numerically controlled – Or is it Controlled numerically computer? I think it’s the former). They don’t use wood because this can hold more detail. “CC60” (if I can read my writing) is poured into the mould and then heated to 70 degrees Celsius. This creates a black, plastic item that is heavy duty and able to withstand much of what’s thrown at it.

It is then sent to the Painting Department – aka “Dept. of lies” or “Panic dept.” we didn’t ask why. Once the painting’s finished the item is dirtied down by the staff taking it outside and throwing it about and hitting things with it – to make it look well used.

Because the underlying material is black plastic, they can’t just scuff or scratch the paint to make it look, well… Like a scuffed, scratched, thing. So they do some foiling. That is, they get some thin aluminium or foil and melt it on like a glue gun.

Taylor pointed out that there’s no copyright on the human anatomy, so they can reuse those creations wherever they please.

We were shown Sarin’s armour from Lord of the Rings. (At this point I’ll offer apologies to any fans. I don’t know the books or the films.) This character is supposed to be 14 foot tall. Because it’s so hard to find a 14’ actor, the actual person who filled the costume is actually a seven-foot-tall Wellington cop. And that’s not the only “cheat”. What looked to be heavy metal, was actually lightweight foam.

This same policeman was also the body double for Gandolf whenever they were filming conversations between this taller character and dwarves. They’d film the cop, in Gandolf’s costume, from the back as he looked down on the dwarf. To film the other side of the scene they’d film Ian McKellar (have I got that wrong?) looking down onto a child stand in, or a 3’5” actor.

For the fight scenes, because killing off or maiming your cast isn’t a good idea, the swords were either made of soft foam, or CGI’d in afterwards.

To make the prosthetic head pieces, the actors would have to sit still, wearing a bathing cap or skull cap, and Vaseline on their eyebrows (never a good look to over-pluck your eyebrows) and then have their entire head covered in dental alginate. After that had sat for fifteen minutes, then plaster, like a plaster cast, was applied for about an hour.

How’d you like to sit, absolutely motionless, with straws up your nose for breathing, covered in slowly hardening stuff for over one and a quarter hours? Elijah Wood, who was quite young in the first Lord of the Rings and matured over the intervening years, had to go through this process every six months.

“Statues” can be manufactured out of lightweight materials, such as fibreglass. They are then painted gold, overpainted with browns, scrubbed down to reveal the gold highlights, and then sprayed with green to simulate Verdigris. It looked genuine.

Weta Workshop have a replica skull of “Lucy” the human species, earliest known link in the evolutionary chain. They used her facial shape as a basis of the Orc’s skull.

We were shown an animatronics mask that had cost a million to build. Its eyes rolled and its mouth snarled, but the wearer couldn’t hear because of the noise of the servos, so in the end they used CGI for the thirteen second scene.

Taylor showed us a castle – used in the Narnia series of films. At 1/100th scale, it stood taller than me on its platform and was constructed out of such high-tech materials as tin cans, takeaway containers, and toilet rolls for the turrets.

But this wasn’t the largest model of this castle they’d used for this movie. They’d also made what they termed a “Bigature” – i.e. a model that’s bigger than a miniature. The tower of this castle was so tall that it couldn’t fit within the room and had to be built, and filmed, lying on its side down the length of the room. Once the filming was completed it was CGI’d onto the top of the castle.

Other points of interest:

  • Sir Richard Taylor gets excited about train scenes. I’m not surprised as we know someone though our small gauge railway membership, and he says Sir Richard has his own train and goes to conventions around the country. I wonder if he was ever at any we’d been too… Must dig out my old photos…
  • Some of the plastic that they use is APS. The same as used in Lego.
    When making prosthetics such as masks and gloves, they make the it out of silicone. It moulds to the actor’s body, so if they’re built, their character’s built too!
  • Silicone for skin is impregnated with red flock (blue for aliens) to simulate the veins etc in the skin.
  • It costs $150 for each silicone nose, which can be used only once. Some actors needed three noses a day. And we wonder why films are so expensive to make.
  • Foam latex is also used, but can be toxic to some people. So much so that an actor in Lord of the Rings was mainly filmed using a body double.
  • Another actor was such a proponent of method acting that he refused to have anything except for real chainmail and a real sword. He wouldn’t take the helicopter to the set; preferring to walk or ride a horse. He was arrested a couple of time for carrying a weapon in a public place.
  • Real, metal chainmail (not the plastic chainmaille that Weta Workshop developed) can give you frostbite in the cold.

I kind of covered this last time, but when Weta Workshop started making its own chainmaille (I’m not connected to the Internet, so I can’t check spelling etc) it used plastic tube which was sliced up. Staff members did this assembling job for two years. At the end of which they’d worn down their fingertips and fingerprints. What’s interesting is that the fingerprints do return – in a different pattern.

Since it’s 100 years since WWI, Sir Richard helped create a display at Te Papa – our national museum. (We’ll be seeing it tomorrow.) Each human figure is 2.4 scale – so chosen because that’s the maximum height Te Papa’s rooms could handle. Remember this next bit for tomorrow – It took some ladies six weeks to do the hair. That’s installing every thread of hair on the head or body individually. They went through a lot of audiobooks, including the complete Harry Potter series. I wonder if it was the English version read by Stephen Fry?

When sculpting Weta Workshop sometimes use Plasticine. This is hardened by spraying it with “CRC Freeze Spray”. To make the Plasticine malleable again, they heated it.

One of the last things we saw on this tour was a “small” scale model of King Kong. This had been covered in yak hair and had taken four women six months and a lot of audio books to complete. They used it for such things like to see how water would naturally run off Kong’s hair.

That tour took approximately an hour, and was worth the price of admission. But I was waiting for the next event at 10.45am…

We followed the path: 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1…

Actually we just stayed outside where the tour had finished until the bus turned up.

We were the only ones in the bus until right up to 10.45. Then another man came, and then a couple more, and then a group of six, and then…

And then there were more people on Thunderbirds are Go tour than on the Weta Workshop one. I was a little disappointed as I thought it would make it difficult for me to see stuff.

Not a problem.

We were transported in the bus on a short jaunt, that almost seemed to double back on itself, to a rather non-descript warehouse-type complex that only had a relatively small “Pukeko Pictures” sign to mark it out as anything special.

That and the door with the Thunderbird One badge logo on it. The first thing that we saw when we went through that door was a model of Thunderbird Two.

THE Thunderbird Two! The original, not the Thunderbirds are Go variant.

Inside we were greeted by Amy, who informed us that we were in a top secret location somewhere the South Pacific. She asked how many people knew Thunderbirds and Thunderbirds are Go and a remarkably small number put their hands up. Of course mine went skywards as quickly as Thunderbird Three.

We were taken into another room which had more models of original Thunderbirds, FAB1, Elevator Car 1 and other machines. All made by David Tremont after years of collecting bits of Trade Me and Ebay and other places for kitbashing – this is breaking down existing kits to use the parts as they weren’t designed. Except he was looking for the exact same parts that Derek Meddings and team used on the original models.

I want my camera!

But my camera had to remain in my bag and my bag was put into the first room. Which was when I told Amy that I’d sent through questions.

I’ll have to make an admission here. I’d asked the members of Fanderson if they’d like me to ask any questions on their behalf. I got 19 in total (including my own) and most were not of the type that you could expect a guide to know the answers to, so I’d sent them through to my friendly “Weta Guy” at Weta Workshop, so he could give the guide the answers.

Amy said she’d explain more about what had happened to those questions later.

We returned to the rest of the group and Amy started explaining the rationale behind making Thunderbirds are Go. Apart from the fact that it was one of the shows that had got many of Weta Workshop’s craftspeople interested in model making, they wanted to encourage young people to be creative.

I won’t mention that Amy said the series was from 1963.

After being thrilled by seeing vacuum cleaner tubes and other bits turned into the original Thunderbirds craft, we were introduced to the updated version. On a wall were various pictures of design sketches of how the various characters and craft were going to look. I want my camera! Amy told us that Gordon Tracy, with his love of beach shirts, wears one not with Hawaiian palms on, not Tracy Island palms, but New Zealand Nikau palms! She said to keep an eye out for the odd bit of Kiwiana. I asked if Virgil’s wearing a Swanndri, and she didn’t know what that was. I told her it’s an iconic woollen bush shirt, and she’d never heard of it. Judging by her accent I’m not surprised.

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Nikau Palms – I had to wait until I was in Auckland’s central business district before I could get this picture. All the others I saw were juveniles – or seen from the train.

Tin-Tin, of course, has become Tanisha Kyrano “Kayo”. They didn’t want to cause any confusion between our Tin-Tin and the Belgium(?) cartoon reporter.

Thunderbird Shadow was designed by the lead designer on Transformers. He’d heard that the show was being made and sent it in to them on the off chance that it would be of use to them.

They loved it.

On the wall was a silhouette of the original Thunderbird One with the silhouette of the new Thunderbird One superimposed over the top. The new version has “dropped wings and a tucked tail.”

We were shown some hand drawn storyboard pictures… Including a hint of what’s coming up next season…

Like the original version, the Pukeko Pictures team are using various items made unrecognisable. Like a skyscraper was made out of a CD rack. Take a plastic soap container, glue a latch to it, paint it silver and you have a safe door… One that Parker has to break into.

Coloured mattress foam is used to add texture and create bushes.

A zoomed in circuit board scales up 1000 times to be a futuristic city.

And of course, the old favourite… The lemon squeezer! Amy asked what its relevance was. I was the one who explained that it was on the hangar wall of the original Thunderbird One and it’s also on the wall of the new Thunderbird One’s hangar.

Expanding foam is used everywhere and coloured in all sorts of manners to crate all sorts of shapes. It could be lava. It could be rocks…

Talking rocks, they took casts of the rocks on the foreshore and used them as moulds for hundreds of different rocks. As they owned those rocks they could use and reuse them in different shows.

3D printing and printers are used sparingly, but they were used to make models of the characters, which are, of course CGI on screen. (We got to hold Lady Penelope.) The scene is set up and then the plastic model is seated where the CGI character will sit. This gives the camera something to focus on. (As someone who attempts to take decent photos, I can relate to that.) It also creates a shadow. Something that CGI finds it difficult to replicate easily.

Then we came to a door.

A black door…

A door with the markings of International Rescue and Thunderbird One painted on it…

This was the door to the secret base. This door had to be opened by a voice activated password.

Anyone care to guess was it was?

I was in there saying “Five, Four, Three, Two, One. Thunderbirds are Go” as soon as Amy was.

The door slid back and I was the first to be allowed to enter. I think by this stage, the rest of the group had got the idea that I was something of a fan and were quite indulgent in letting me get to the front and take more of an active role. It wasn’t that I was wearing my interest on my sleeve – more like my jumper’s front and blouse’s collar, which were both adorned by the International Rescue logo. Kally’s similarly adorned bear bag was back with my other bag. She was strapped to my arm.

I walked through the door. “I’m in heaven.”

To my left was the full sized Tracy Villa. To the right, Tracy Island. Further on… Well, we had to yet discover what was further on.

Tracy Villa:

  • 1/12th scale
  • The only things not built by hand were the chairs.
  • It’s built in segments to aid in filming scenes.
  • There’s a trapdoor behind the piano that can be opened up for a lipstick camera to pass through for a different filming angle.
  • When the first Thunderbird One launch scene was filmed, two ladies had to get underneath the set and slide the swimming pool back. It took three attempts before they could do it without splashing water everywhere.Tracy Island
  • Modelled on Bora Bora and New Zealand’s White Island. (Not learned today, but the water cave that Thunderbird Four exits out of is modelled on Cathedral Cove on the Coromandel Peninsula.)
  • The model has 3000 trees.
  • It also has some “straw huts” that I don’t know why are there.
  • The palm trees are made up of screws and palm fronds.
  • The water around the island (it had its own pool) was coloured by ten litres of blue food colouring. By the end of the shooting it wasn’t only the water that was blue – especially for those who were wearing longs.Further on was Thunderbird One’s launch bay – including the famous lemon squeezer. (“juicer”) Which actually was a fraud as they couldn’t find one the right size and had to make one.At the base of Thunderbird One’s launch platform are some round fire extinguishers. These, partly as a nod to the original show, are made from animatronic eyeballs.

    A smoke machine is used to create the smoke at launch. A leaf blower blows the deck chairs away from the swimming pool.

    The runway with the iconic palm trees were there and I was beckoned forward. Would I like to pull on that lever?

    “D.C. Hold this.” Shove notebook and pen into her hands.

    I rotated the lever up and over and the cliff face retracted and the palm trees fell back.

    I helped make International Rescue go!

    A model of FAB1 with functioning headlights and tail lights was used in a similar fashion as the 3D models. To shine realistic beams of light through the CGI car.

    On to the interior of Thunderbird Two’s hangar. One of the craftspeople, Sophie, spent three weeks preparing this model. She was the only one who fitted inside the cavern. The trolley that pulls the pods/modules along to be selected to slot into Thunderbird Two for the rescue, was at the time of the first series, the only model vehicle used. Series two is going to make a greater use of models – including at least Thunderbird Two.

    The wider scale models of Thunderbirds Three and One’s hangars used an extractor fan tube for Thunderbird Three and Kinder Surprise egg cases at the base of Thunderbird One’s storage platform.

    Standing next to this model was a rocket ship that looks similar to SunProbe in the original series’ episode of the same name. This is Jeff Tracy’s rocket.

    “Who’s Jeff Tracy?” Amy looks at me.

    “The father of the boys and the creator of International Rescue.”

    For the first series the creators wanted children to realise that it was possible for kids to go out and help others without being told – which is why Jeff has disappeared.

    However, for the next series………

    The creators also wanted to create a series with no weapons. With no violence. Showing a group of people who helped others, who were anonymous, and didn’t wait around for thanks.

    The next model was the Creighton-Ward mansion. You know how I said that parliament’s debating chamber was smaller than expected? This was much, much, bigger!

    The grounds are created by astroturf, mattress foam for the hedges, and fabric flowers. The gateposts’ figurines and the door knockers are based on one character. Lady Penelope’s dog Sherbet. Why has Lady Penelope gained a dog? (Much to Parker’s disgust.)

    Amy: “What did Lady Penelope always have that she couldn’t have now?”

    Me: “A cigarette.”

    So instead of having a puff. Lady Penelope has a pug.

    The other side of the room had the interior of the Creighton-Ward mansion. There’s a picture of Sherbet on the back wall, with a Banksie inspired mural. (Amy confided that a lot of Weta Workshop’s craftspeople were former graffiti artists. (I’m not sure if that’s the legal term for what they did.)

    It was at this point that my pen ran out of ink.

    Being a good Girl Guide, (thanks to those who offered me the use of theirs) I had a spare.

  • The furniture inside the mansion is hand sewn.
  • The tea cakes have actually been baked.
  • There is a lot of Kiwiana such as Koru and a Tiki decorating Lady Penelope’s shelves.
  • A sculpture of Sherbet inside the house has a nose that lights up blue when Lady Penelope is called.
    Amy: “Instead of what used to be used?”
    Me: “The teapot.”The Hood’s ship is made out of (appropriately) rubbish.
  • The main body is made of two washing machine drums.
  • Dyson vacuum cleaners form the side bits.
  • The tail is a rubbish bin lid.
  • And some of it is made out of car parts.
  • When the ship “flew”, it was lifted by a crane.The CGI characters have been deliberately made to move in a slightly stiff manner, as an homage to their puppet origins.We were then shown some models from future episodes. I won’t tell you about the, but will say that “Attack of the Alligators” and the Crablogger could be getting a retelling.

    I have more to say about today, MUCH more, but it’s ten to 11.00pm and I need some sleep. I’ll try to finish it tomorrow.

Tomorrow

It’s twenty past six in the morning and I’m not going to get more sleep, so I may as well continue typing. I’ll have enough to say tonight and, since we’re visiting, I won’t have so much time to type it in.

We were also told that Thunderbirds are Go has been shown in 40 countries around the world. So they are very pleased about that. Series Two is in the works and series three has been commissioned. (I knew that.)

And that was the end of the tour.

Amy asked if we’d be able to stay behind.

Do I really want to? Stupid question!

One of the other people with us, Reece, was a trainee guide. He was one of those craftsman who’d made chainmail and had lost his fingerprints. Ever since then he’d had synaptic gas build up in his finger joints and they cracked easily.

He gave me a gift from Weta. I was not expecting this. I didn’t fully look at it until we got back to the hotel, but it was a Thunderbirds are Go poster, a Thunderbird Two logo badge, and a Thunderbird Two toy.

Brilliant! (And thank you.)

I was allowed to wander around and look at anything and ask questions. By this point it was serious Thunderbirds overload and I wanted to look at everything, but was taking in nothing. But I did have another go at preparing Thunderbird Two’s runway for launch.

WoW!

Amy offered to get the Thunderbirds are Go models and miniatures supervisor, Steven Saunders to come and have a chat. As with all the rest of Weta’s staff he was very open and welcoming to talk to. Of course now is when I think of all the questions I would have loved to have asked. I’m not great at thinking on my feet. I’d be no good as a member of International Rescue! I did ask him what he liked specialising in and he said that he loved getting the casts from the rocks around the coast and using them as much as possible. I said he should go to Rangitoto Island, because the rocks are newer and more raw – and that we had a bias because we had a bach there.

He told us that so far they’ve made 200 environments over the two seasons – obviously that’s roughly 100 environments per season. These are real, 3D, you can touch them environments, onto which they can project (if that’s the word) the CGI figures and craft.

I also wish now that I’d asked to go back and look at the storyboard and design pictures. But I was just overwhelmed by these amazing, huge, detailed models.

Amy explained that the eighteen questions I’d asked (five of which were actually mine) have been sent to ITV for answers. They would be emailed to me when they got them back.

The bus was waiting for us to take us back to the Weta Cave and we asked the driver if he could recommend a good place to eat. He said that a café at the end of the street seemed popular.

We went back into the Cave, bought some more souvenirs (Weta notebook, Weta Badge, Weta mints – “Ah, was it you we got the gifts together for,” said the lady), watched the video on the various Weta productions. And listened as D.C. had a coughing fit in the middle of it. Should have got out the mints.

And then we went and had lunch at the café. We had crepes with… I can’t remember aside from almonds. There was fruit. But it was yummy. And to drink I had Laders lemon, ginger and honey and D.C. had Laders hot chocolate and chilli. Also yummy.

As we were leaving four people who’d been on the Thunderbirds are Go tour asked what we’d done after they’d left. I said treated like royalty.

It was only when we were waiting for the bus to take us back to Wellington Central that I thought that I should have given Amy and everyone else one of my Purupuss cloth badges as a thank you. If the studio had been where the Weta Cave was we would have gone back, but it was too far away (and we didn’t know exactly where.) I’ll have to post them.

It was a brilliant morning, and I want to thank everyone who went above and beyond what I expected to make this a memorable day.

 

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Walking the corridors of power

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.

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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.

There wasn’t.

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.

Fail.

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.

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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.)

 

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Directed by New Zealand’s own Buzzy Bee to the Beehive

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?

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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.

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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.

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We saw the original committee room (is that what it was called?) It was an important room anyway.

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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.

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Insert your own caption here…!

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Why it’s always wise to check out the scene behind before you take a photo.

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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.

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Test shot. Anyone would think we were in Windy Wellington – on a day with no wind.

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.

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Trip good. Photos bad. Internet terrible

25 July – I’m looking forward to this trip than I was going to England!

I couldn’t upload this until we got to the Bay Plaza Hotel. It’s 10.30 am, so I’ll add the rest of the photos this evening.
We’re sitting on a train!!! 🙂

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It wasn’t a great night’s sleep. It wasn’t that it was noisy – especially once I’d got up and turned the fridge off. Every so often its compressor, if that’s what it was, would burst into life. When D.C. got up at 11:11 pm (remember we put the lights out at 8.30), I checked it was empty, and turned it off.

There were a group of young people outside. They weren’t loud nor playing music, but we could hear their voices in the quiet of the night. They went to bed at 11:30 and we didn’t have much to worry us after that. Not a lot of traffic noise – just an occasionally train going over the Newmarket rail bridge.

I don’t know how many stars the Station Hotel has. Definitely not five. It’s good for a single night, but wouldn’t want to stay for longer. We only had two towels between us. Big towels, but that was all. They were displayed simply, but attractively on the double bed when we arrived. (D.C. had the double, I had the single.) We supplied with soap, shampoo and conditioner. And we did have the (noisy – small) fridge for you to store your milk and other things that you want to keep cool. That’s something that I’ve seen missing out of more expensive establishments.

There was an ironing board, iron (luckily), kettle, two cups, two glasses, two teaspoons and a selection of hot chocolate, tea, and coffee. The kettle you had to fill in the hand basin, which I always think is less than ideal.

The paintwork looked like it was done by the friend of a friend on the weekend, but in the main the place was tidy.

Although there were a couple of spots that were probably okay, but did have you wondering if you really wanted to know what it was.

And you know how most holiday accommodation have copies of the Gideon bible available for your spiritual being? The Station Hotel had a copy of Georges Arnaud’s El salario del miedo – which had the words Gran Premia Festival Cinematagrafico de Cannes 1953 written across the bottom.

I delved into that tome as much as I would have the bible.

For breakfast this morning we had a “One Square Meal” bar and a hot chocolate each. It meant that we had something in our stomach before we set off on our walk to the station. The Northern Explorer does provide food, but it would have been about 8.15 before we could have anything – and this was cheaper.

We walked to the “Auckland Strand” station. It’s been purpose built for the Northern Explorer, because, D.C. found out from Uncle John last night, they didn’t want diesel fumes dirtying the Britomart Railway Station (despite it having been built in the diesel era.)

The walk was only about ten minutes long, but we wouldn’t have liked to have done it if it had been raining. As the attendant explained, it’s all council, not railway land.

After standing in the check in queue for about ten minutes as a man with a bicycle paid cash for his ticket – the attendant tried to explain that next time it might be wise to buy a ticket in advance – we were given our seats – 9D and 10D. What was really brilliant was that they were either side of a table, and seats 9C and 10C are both vacant – so we’re able to stretch out in luxury.

And Kally’s got her own seat looking out the window.

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The commentary is still very good. So far we’ve learnt things like: Between the Manukau an Waitemata Harbours, there is 1600 km of coastline within Auckland City. And the narrowest part of the isthmis is 1.2 km from Manukau Harbour and Tamaki River on the east coast.

We’re now stopped at Frankton (Hamilton) Station to take on new passengers. D.C.’s just reminded me that when we arrived at the Station Hotel last night, the duty manager asked us for our passports as ID.

“We’re New Zealanders!”

It’s the one time that I’ve carried my driver’s license with me. It normally lives in my bikie jacket, but I’ve bought it with me in case I get to try out an electric scooter.

I went onto the observation deck when the scenery started getting interesting. I’m trying to use the more manual features on my camera, but I don’t know that it’s working that well. On the camera’s screen they look a little underexposed. I’ll wait till I can see it on a proper screen.

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We’ve just had lunch. Morning tea we had apricot and almond sandwiches. And a bottle of water each. $23. Lunch was Potato Gratin – $8.00 each. They heated it up for us and brought it to our table. It’s quite handy having a bear as a landmark.

I asked Christine, one of our attendants, who proofed the menu. Apparently we Kiwis are “well know for their sweat tooth”. She came and found me later and asked me to point it out. Kiwirail’s marketing manager’s on board and wanted to make sure they knew where the mistake was.

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In the past the service that travels the Main Trunk Line has been fortunate to have a platform for people to stand on and enjoy the view. The Northern Explorer has a full carriage. It’s exhilarating to stand out there and feel the rhythm of the train, and hear its clackity-clack, and feel the rush of wind and (spray of rain) on your face – and messing up your hair.

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Where the crew swapped over

I stated out by only putting my Thunderbirds jumper on, the weather’s so mild. By the time we were through National Park I was wearing my woolly hat and gloves. By the Rangiteiki viaducts I had my jacket on.

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And it’s still not really, the middle of winter, lower half of the North Island cold.

There was no snow at National Park. There was no snow at Ohakune nor Waiouru. There weren’t any mountains either.

I don’t know how good my photos are going to be. I’ve been doing an on line photography course to try to learn more about what all the numbers are and how to use them. I still don’t understand them. For instance, the depth of focus f-stop system runs in a series like 2.4, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22. The smaller the number the bigger the aperture – the bigger the hole in the lens that lets the light through. The bigger the aperture the smaller the depth of field – how much of the foreground and background behind your subject is in focus. So small number equals big hole equals small area of focus.

And then you’ve got to factor in the ISO and shutter speed.

I don’t think I’ve got the time and you’ve got the inclination to learn all about that.

Tie these three things together correctly and you’ve got a well-focused, well-exposed photograph.

Then you layer on composition. Rule of thirds; triangles; converging lines; keeping rules; breaking rules…

By the time I got to Rangiteiki I was back in my semi-auto P mode just to make sure that I was going to get something halfway decent.

And we had a Kapiti ice cream each. (Me – passionfruit and yoghurt. D.C. – boysenberry and chocolate.) I said it’s not cold – the weather, not the ice cream, that is.

By 4.30 we were getting peckish (I honestly don’t know why.) So I checked out our neighbour’s menu, since Christine took our one… And apparently Kiwis are well knowN for their sweEt tooth. I told Christine and she said they’d been checking and decided that we must have had an old one. I’m sure this will be its last journey.

We both decided on roast chicken for tea, so I went down to the café car. They were out of roast chicken. So I wound up getting D.C. a seafood chowder – she’d been considering having a soup anyway – and I had Indonesian rice with sweet current, peanuts and cashews. It was $15.50 for both dishes and would have been $15.50 for a single roast chicken, so I guess we’ve made on that deal.

If I have one complaint about where we’re sitting, it’s that the seat’s too close to the table to type on EOS easily, and the table’s too high to also type on EOS easily.

We’re in outer Wellington and it’s dusk. We had to stop to allow a commuter train through and we stopped on the coast with Kapiti Island silhouetted against one horizon and the South Island against another.

Yes. The SOUTH ISLAND! More precisely the Marlborough Sounds. That’s how clear it is today. (May that state of affairs last a week plus.)

Having already packed my camera away I got it out again to get some sunset shots. I don’t know how good they’ll be (I used my tried and true method), but I was lucky that the train had stopped and I, rather than being on the observation car proper, went into the alcove next to it and leant on the right angle shaped rail. So (fingers crossed), I may have a nice sharp photo.

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What I do have is a kink in my neck. D.C. hates travelling backwards (I’m surprised she doesn’t ask if she can ride next to the driver) so I’ve been relegated to the backwards seat, which means that I’ve been looking out of the window to my left with my neck at a more acute angle than if I were travelling forwards.

I think I’ll pack EOS away now so I can enjoy the lights for the last half hour. And twist in my seat, so I don’t have to twist my neck.

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That’s a train going past. It just looks artistic.

We arrived at the Wellington Railway station about ten minutes early, so we were able to get our bags and head straight over the road to the Waterloo Hotel and Backpackers. It took a little time to book in, mainly because someone was ahead of us, but we’ve paid for the room and breakfast.

We also had a message that Duncan had rung, so I sent him a text, but didn’t get a reply (must have the wrong number), so I texted his wife Ann. They were hoping to have dinner with us tonight, since tonight and Thursday are the only nights she has free this week. We’d already eaten on the train and were tired after travelling all day and a sleepless night, so we’ve opted (reluctantly as we want to see them) for Thursday.

It’s 8.40pm and D.C.’s put the light out about forty minutes ago.

 

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We’re off!

The first day of our holiday. Not that it felt like it.

It was a cruisy morning. Neither of us got out of our PJs until late, as we held off having our washes until it was closer to the time for leaving. So we packed our bags, repacked our bags, changed our minds, chained up the Pink Purrer so no one could pinch it… (Would anyone want to pinch a 26-year-old pink motor scooter? I suppose that if someone’s willing to pinch one with a flat battery, anything is possible.) …made sure that Hillary (next door’s cat) was outside, stopped next door’s other cat, Frankie, from pestering Hillary (he’s the reason why she’s got her nose out of joint and prefers to spend her time at our place – but I think all he was doing today was sitting next to her on the windowsill).

But the time it was lunchtime, we’d done everything and got dressed, so we watched a couple of episodes of Qi – the G series before we left home at about 2.00pm.

When we got up it was raining heavily and blowing. Then the sun came out. While we had lunch it was bucketing down. It had stopped, (but not the wind) when we finally walked down the road – going the long way via Pollen Street, so we would have shelter under the shops. Not that there are many verandahs on the western side of the street.

We got to the i-SITE dry, and in plenty of time. We had a chat to a young German lady, who’s holidaying in New Zealand. Her backpack was 20 kilograms and her “frontpack” was five kgs. We also had a chat to Brian Loveday who was waiting for an over eighty-year-old Swiss (or was she Italian?) woman who’d been cycling all around New Zealand.

We scored our front seats on the bus – taking the reserved seats because that was what we’d booked. Turns out they weren’t for us, but no one was bothered. I feel for the poor guy who was several seats behind us from Tauranga and was sick when we reached Kopu. He came and sat in one of the other front seats.

It was a smooth trip up although, because of the sick guy, I was aware of every bump in the road. And believe me there’s a lot between Thames and Auckland. Even new bits of tarseal can cause enough of a jolt to the bus to make the dodgy tummy feel even more dodgy.

But we all made it to Auckland without further incident.

When we went out to dinner the other night with Jan D. D.C. managed to leave her good angora hat behind at the Coach Inn in Puriri. They kindly brought it in and gave it to Jan at the shop where she works. This time she was in a hurry to get out of the bus (places to go, things to do), so I took my time gathering my things together and checking we hadn’t lost anything. I stood on something soft…

D.C.’s hat.

We collected our bags and started walking. We’d originally decided to take a taxi, but it was still daylight and it wasn’t raining, so we thought we’d save money. Doing this did mean that we had the interesting sight of part of Fort Street smothered in white soap foam. It looked like an ad was being filmed, and judging by the number of Asians standing around, it wasn’t for the local market.

I just hope that’s not the only “snow” we see.

The Station Hotel is on Beach Road opposite the old, grand Auckland Railway Station. (I’d so love to have a look around there again.) And just out of interest, if anyone remembers watching an ad for an insurance company that had a bloke parking his car, getting out of it, and then spikes springing up out of the ground, and a moat with sharks swimming around it suddenly appearing – that was filmed in the parking area next to the Station Hotel.

We found an entrance easy enough, but it had an arrow pointing left on one door with the words “check in”. Was check in through the door it was pointing at, or around the corner in Beach Road?

A gentleman came out and opened the door for us. He was the manager. We signed in, paid, and got the keys to room 306.

We were both hungry, so decided to get something to eat before we did much else.

Last time we stayed at the old art deco Station Hotel, was the first time we’d ever tried banana, bacon and maple syrup pancakes. They were so good that we had them for two breakfasts.

Now they don’t even have a restaurant… as we discovered when we went hunting for our dinner – it’s now a bottle store.

We asked the manager where the nearest eateries were and he said there was a pizza place a couple of doors down, or a bit further on there was a Vietnamese restaurant.

We ended up at a Subway. D.C. must have been hungry because she doesn’t like Subway because she doesn’t like the smell. We haven’t identified which smell yet.

I like Subway, but this one wasn’t one of the best. Something smelt burnt. (That’s not the smell that D.C. doesn’t like.)

D.C. had a vege delight and I had an oven roasted chicken. When then hunted out the road we’re going to have to walk tomorrow to get to the railway “station” (the photo looks more like a platform), checked out an Asian supermarket (I don’t think I understood a single word or symbol in there) and went back to the hotel.

It’s supposed to be the middle of winter, right? I only had on a thin merino jumper and a Kathmandu blouse and, although another layer would have been nice, it wasn’t majorly uncomfortable.

Back up to the room.

Back down to reception to find out how to log into the WiFi and where the phone was.

WiFi’s free (and easy) and the phone was in reception. Because there wasn’t much in the way of room or privacy D.C. went and made two quick phone calls to the Hallys and the Stills, and I stayed in the room, updated our who owes what schedule (I’m still in the red), and tried to work out why everything relating to this holiday, which I’d saved on OneDrive (Microsoft’s “Cloud” offering) wasn’t showing on my tablet “EOS” despite it being there yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that…

I still don’t know why it’s not showing, but I’ve downloaded it all so I don’t need to be connected to the Internet to see it.

We had a cup of hot chocolate each, and then went to bed. It’s only just gone 8.00pm.

Early start tomorrow. We’re going for a ride on a train!!!

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Wintery Wellington (with Weta)

So many places to see. So little time.

Where to start?

Thanks to the Internet, that question was answered for us.

You know us, we’ll go anywhere so long as we can go by train. So when TreatMe offered a deal of not one, but two trips on the Northern Explorer plus three nights’ accommodation at the Bay Plaza Hotel in Wellington for $399 each, we couldn’t really let it pass.

But we nearly did. Once we read the small print that said you could only stay the three nights we started talking ourselves out of it. What was the point of traveling to Wellington one day, spending that night there, having only two full days in the capital, and then traveling back again? We wanted to go to Zealandia and spend a whole day there, and I’m desperate to see Weta Workshop’s Thunderbirds are Go exhibition. So that’s 1.5 days shot. Top that with needing to see friends and a wish to see both Sir Peter Jackson’s and Sir Richard Taylor’s WWI exhibitions (despite loathing the glorification of war), and three days wasn’t going to cut it.

So we emailed Treat Me. So long as we traveled on train days within the 25th and 31st July, could we stay for longer than three nights…?

Yes!

Time to do some booking.

We bought the TreatMe tickets. Then I booked the Hotel Waterloo & Backpackers for the first and last nights we were in Wellington. We’ve stayed at the Waterloo before – As has her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second… in 1953. This grand old Art Deco hotel has seen better days since the Windsors stayed, but it’s literally over the road from the Wellington Railway station; which is great when the train’s arriving at 6.25pm – i.e. after dark; and leaving at 7:55am.

Now the fun began.

I’d originally booked the three nights at the Bay Plaza Hotel and attempted to book the last two nights at the Waterloo, but the Friday night was cheaper at the Bay Plaza Hotel as the Waterloo didn’t have any cheap twin rooms with private bathrooms for both nights. It was actually cheaper at the Bay Plaza for the two nights. So I booked Saturday night and then wondered if I should book Bay Plaza’s Friday night separately, since we were using the voucher for the three nights. I emailed them and they said that they’d cancelled my old booking and to rebook for the full four nights. I did that and then checked the Waterloo and it was only the $115 for the Friday night alone. Maybe the dearer rate was for if you stayed longer than one night?

The Northern Explorer used to leave from the Old CPO / Britomart Railway Station, and of course that’s where we assumed we’d be leaving on the 25th. It turns out that it now leaves from behind the old Railway Station in Parnell, or else at Pukekohe. The “new” station (which I think might be better called a platform, is known as the Parnell Strand, and doesn’t seem to have any accommodation as close as Wellington Station or Britomart. (It was good having the Mecure next to the Britomart. Nice and handy – if a little pricey.)

The following day was Saturday and we came home, having done our usual Saturday morning walk down the road, to discover an email from the Bay Plaza Hotel was telling me that we had to organise their accommodation and the train by contacting Gitaway Vacations. I’d no sooner read that when I got a phone call from the Bay Plaza Hotel to tell me the exact same thing – and to tell me to cancel my booking.com booking so I wouldn’t get charged twice – which was good of them.

So I cancelled one of the Bay Plaza Hotel bookings and then the other – only to discover that the Bay Plaza Hotel had already cancelled the first booking yesterday and that I’d just cancelled the Waterloo Hotel’s first night $105 booking. So I had to rebook. And wound up with a $115 booking.

*sigh*

But at least booking the train was easy. Gitaway Vacations did that for us.

So now our travel and accommodation’s sorted.

  • 24th July – to Auckland by InterCity. Staying at the The Station Backpackers (the old Station Hotel – directly over the road from the original Beach Road Auckland Railway Station – a much nicer building than Wellington’s in my opinion).
  • 25th – Train to Wellington before staying the night at the Hotel Waterloo.
  • 26th – 29th – staying at the Bay Plaza Hotel.
  • 30th – back at the Hotel Waterloo.
  • 31st – Train back to Auckland and staying the night at the Station Backpackers.
  • 1st August – back to Thames with InterCity.

Fingers crossed that we have good weather the entire time. And that we’ll see snow at National Park! We’ve never seen snow up close before. Only on the mountains in the distance.

And with both the Hotel Waterloo & Backpackers and Station Backpackers being old Art Deco buildings, maybe I should take my flapper outfit?

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2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 860 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 14 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Holiday? What holiday? – 18 October 2015

You will see that I’ve finally posted yesterday’s entry, but that I haven’t put any photos in anywhere yet. That’s because I spent today doing washing, trying to sort out my bag, and making a start on my emails. I’ve read 33 and I still have 322 to go through and properly consider and file. If I’m anything like last time I went to England I skipped over D.C.’s emails intending to read them properly later, and they’re still sitting in her folder marked as unread. I have read them, but only when in England.

As next weekend’s Labour Weekend and we’re not going to Rangitoto, I should be able to sort out my photos then.

Till then, then.

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