Communion Of Dreams


Scenes from a trip: sights, sounds, tastes.
December 8, 2011, 2:29 pm
Filed under: Music, N. Am. Welsh Choir, New Zealand, Travel, Weather

The morning clouds promised rain. And they made good the promise.

* * * * * * *

We got up, breakfasted, then climbed on the bus for a bit of a poke around the sights of Dunedin. First we made a stop at the steepest street in the world (seriously – hard to tell from the pictures, but it’s pretty damned impressive). The story goes that the city was laid out by planners in London who had never been to New Zealand and didn’t think that the reports of the topography of the area could possibly be correct. So they just laid out everything in a nice grid, and let the locals cope best they could.

True or not, makes a good story.

* * * * * * *

Then we climbed up to Signal Hill overlooking the city. It was here that the clouds turned to actual rain, forcing not only the members of our group to run for cover, but likewise a vanload of students from the University of Otago who had a bunch of seismic sensors set up around the Centennial Monument.

We wound back down into the city, to the gorgeous Dunedin Railway Station.

I’m not usually a big fan of Victorian/Edwardian ‘gingerbread’ architecture – such ornate structures are a little too self-congratulatory for my tastes (even though our house falls into this category…). But there is no doubt that this station is a wonderful example of the period, and the level of craftsmanship on display in almost every facet of the building is remarkable and something I can respect. The large booking hall has an intricate mosaic tile floor made up of some 750,000 individual tiles, and looks stunning. Likewise, the contrasting black/white of the building’s exterior stone is very striking. The whole thing underwent extensive refurbishing in the 1990s, and shows it.

* * * * * * *

Following a couple of other stops, we got back to the hotel in time for lunch. Martha and I decided to go check out the Speight’s Brewery just around the corner, where they have a nice restaurant/cafe.

The lunch was good – and there was a whole lot of it, as we had come to expect. The beer was even better, on a par with most of the decent micro-brews I’ve had at brew-pubs in the States.

After, we did a bit of walking around, then went back to the hotel to rest before the late-afternoon rehearsal.

* * * * * * *

The rain started up again, and the temperature dropped. I got a little take-away Chinese food to have in the hotel room for when Martha got back from her rehearsal. There wasn’t going to be time to get a real meal before the concert that evening.

The concert was just a couple of blocks from our hotel, at St. Paul’s Cathedral on the Octagon. It’s a beautiful old church, and certainly something to see.

But that night it mostly felt cold and almost aloof. The nasty weather kept attendance to the concert down, so it felt like the large space of the cathedral was empty. Further, there was a problem with the sound system, meaning that the usual chatter and introductions from the Choir Director couldn’t be understood through most of the space – even trying to project her voice didn’t work very well, and most people were completely befuddled as to what was going on. When the choir took a break in their performance, a lot of people thought that they were finished and just left.

My friend ML and I again tried to sell CDs. We failed dismally.

* * * * * * *

Following the concert, there was a very nice reception for everyone in the church basement meeting area. There we could actually hear what people were saying, and the whole atmosphere was warm and friendly, with tea and cookies/small cakes that were just delicious.

We stayed a while, headed out when the rest of the choir went to go. Though Helen, our guide, offered to make arrangements to have taxis on hand, Martha and I just elected to walk back to the hotel.

I decided to pop in to a little Greek place across the street from our hotel for a little something more substantial. The fellow who owned the place was friendly, but barely spoke any English. His Gyro was one of the best I’ve ever had.

Jim Downey

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