Communion Of Dreams


Scenes from a trip: feelin’ groovy.
November 20, 2011, 1:27 pm
Filed under: Architecture, Art, Mark Twain, Music, N. Am. Welsh Choir, New Zealand, Travel

There’s the grey of spring, and then the grey of fall. Temps and clouds in Wellington were about the same as we had left back in Missouri, but somehow it felt warmer . . .

* * * * * * *

I looked out the window of our hotel room. I was not expecting Richard M. Nixon wearing an afro to look back at me. This was the horror of it:

I know one can become a bit overwhelmed when traveling to foreign climes, but for a moment I was wondering whether my sanity had “lit out for the provinces.”

* * * * * * *

Breakfast, then an optional tour through the city with Helen on our bus. First we went up to Mount Victoria, a gorgeous vantage point at which to enjoy the whole city (and location for a couple of scenes from Lord of the Rings). This was followed up with a visit to Te Papa Tongarewa – the national museum and gallery of New Zealand.

It’s a very interesting place, a mix of the traditional and the innovative. They’ve got a decent collection of modern art, and a lot of good stuff covering the history and culture of NZ, from the earliest settlements of the Maori to the present day. But what I found to be most enjoyable was the use of the built space inside the museum: it isn’t just simple layers of different floors, but rather incorporates multiple layers of open space/mezzanines so that you enjoy the exhibits from many different perspectives, creating a visual melding of the different aspects of New Zealand depending on where you are. It’s a very effective bit of architecture, and the museum staff make use of it very very well.

Martha, ML, and I spent several hours enjoying the place, including a break for some refreshments at one of the museum cafes. Then it was off for a walk back to our hotel.

* * * * * * *

Te Papa sits right on the waterfront of Wellington Harbor, and our hotel in the city center just a couple of blocks from the waterfront. So it was an enjoyable walk back to the hotel, past docks and seaside restaurants, then into the main shopping and restaurant area of downtown. We spent a good time just enjoying and doing a bit of shopping, then grabbed some lunch at a little local hole-in-the wall place.

Back to the hotel to relax a bit. Martha had a rehearsal that afternoon, I popped out to a grocery store and got some ‘picnic’ type items for a light dinner for us.

* * * * * * *

I always enjoy going to grocery stores in other countries. It is one of the best ways to get a handle on how local people live, and to see the differences between their culture and my own.

I’d mentioned previously I found NZ to be more like the US than like the UK or Europe. This was another manifestation of that. Yeah, there were clear differences between this grocery store and the ones at home – different brands, some different packaging approaches (such as cat and dog food in long tubes, similar to a sausage). But for the most part you could drop any American in the place and they’d feel right at home. The salad bar and deli areas were just like back home, though with meat pies and a couple of other such distinctions. There was more lamb than you’d find in most meat cases, but otherwise it was familiar. Baked goods on display were typical. Snacks and the beer/wine department like you’d find in a Hy-Vee store here.

All in all, perfectly normal.

* * * * * * *

ML and I again went with the choir when they went to the Opera House that evening, and we set up to sell CDs in the lobby. It was a great place, and was in pretty good shape, what you would expect of a classic Edwardian structure which has been renovated and cared for.

But the weather turned colder and wetter, and attendance at the performance that evening was fairly light. The performance itself, which included the Wellington Male Voice Choir as well, was quite good. We only sold a few CDs.

* * * * * * *

Following the performance, we were all invited to the Welsh Dragon Bar – a former public toilet which now plays off that history (and the Welsh connection) with their motto: “come in for a leek.” It’s owned by a Welsh emigre, and is generally considered the best (only?) Welsh pub in the Southern Hemisphere.

They’d made a bunch of Welsh & NZ finger food for the group, all of it welcome and quite tasty. The bar was mobbed, and we kept the place hopping with happy voices for a good while, some of the choir members staying on until closing time.

But not me, nor Martha. We went back to the hotel and crashed. We had to be traveling again early in the morning, catching a flight to the South Island.

Jim Downey

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