Monday 18 November 2019

The right sort of drama

With thanks to Experience Oz for this famil
The morning got off to a messy start, organisation-wise - this famil is a first for the PR person, and there have been some hiccups - but once we were eventually settled in the little pink bus of Hammonds Sightsee Wellington and driver Lorraine was back in her groove, everything went splendidly. The weather was messy too, but this is Wellington, it could have been much, much worse, so we were grateful for that, at least.
The tour took us through the city to the cable car, which I skipped, having done it so recently, instead being driven in solitary splendour up through the pretty suburb of Kelburn with its cute little century-old wooden bungalows to the top of the hill to meet the others, and take the obligatory city-lookout-with-cable-car-foreground photo.
Then we wound back down to the bottom entrance of the Botanic Gardens and stopped to have a look at the Lady Norwood Rose Gardens, which were in glorious, and sweetly-scented, full bloom; and at the Begonia House which was warm and steamy and full of ferns and orchids and water lilies. Oh, and begonias, too. Lovely.
We gave a salute to Parliament, St Paul's old and new, The Fortress (aka US Embassy) and then stopped at the Wellington Museum for a shamefully quick once-over. The tour idea was to show what people could do by themselves, but it seemed unlikely that the others on the bus, debarked from the gigantic Ovation of the Seas, would return for a proper dose of culture. Their loss.
We drove along the waterfront past all the landmarks - so many! Not London, but nothing to be ashamed of... - and the Ovation people were excited by all the private (and astonishingly steep) cable cars as we headed out towards Miramar. Quirky Seatoun came next, and the dramatic story of the Wahine sinking back in 1968. The next bit of the south coast was new to me: spiky rocks leading out to Barrett's Reef, wild and hostile even in a northerly with no waves breaking. It was easy to imagine how violent and scary it must be there in a roaring southerly like the one that sank the ferry.
Back past Moa Point (complete with moa), under the airport runway, around Lyall Bay and through Kilbirnie, along the green Town Belt, up to the Mt Victoria lookout (again), and finally we wound back down into the city, past houses teetering on the precipitous rock, and Mackenzie Avenue which is just a flight of very steep steps disappearing uphill.
That evening we went to Atlas, a new restaurant on Customhouse Quay which is done out in pale woods, gold and teal, and staffed by intimidatingly serious and dedicated people. The head waiter had us feeling as though we were failing an exam with his interrogation as to what sort of wine we wanted from the 300 on offer.
We got through that, knowing that we hadn't acquitted ourselves well, and then struggled with the menu, full of new and unusual combinations of foods, and finally got that too sorted. But the drama was not over! One of us had ordered the lamb saddle, which turned out to be a couple of thick slices of quite rare meat - too rare for this diner. She asked the (American) waitress if it could be cooked a bit more. Well! 

The waitress gasped, staggered backwards with her hand to her heart, and stuttered breathlessly for a minute before, after hesitating, taking the plate away to "see what I can do". The drama was hilarious, and we had no idea what occasioned it - scary chef, the novelty of such a bourgeois request - and it was quite the highlight of the evening.

The food, incidentally (and by now it did seem incidental) was excellent and interesting, and we all enjoyed it, from the malt butter with the bread at the start, to the black garlic with the bitter chocolate at the end. But the incidental floor show was the best part, by far.
UPDATE: And in today's coincidence, which I am glad to have had no part in, the cruise ship passengers on today's city tour heard all about the Wahine disaster, when the interislander ferry got pushed around by a storm and ended up on a reef with one propeller knocked off, one engine conked out, and 51 people getting drowned. So what happened this evening? As the Ovation left the harbour with its 4000+ passengers, it got as far as Seatoun where its engines mysteriously stopped and it sat there near the reef, held in place by tugs, for an hour and a half before the problem was fixed.


the queen said...

Here’s a coincidence - the much-loved highly-liberal Late Show with Stephen Colbert showed something pre-filmed sequences on last night’s show, all about eating regional food and entertaining themselves in Wellington. I kept an eye out for you. There’s a link in this NZ article.

TravelSkite said...

And another coincidence right back at you - I just watched that on YouTube about half an hour ago. Yes, funny and likeable (did you see the previous one where our Prime Minister picked him up from the airport?) - though I'm already bristling slightly at the thought that his viewers will now all believe that white bread reigns supreme in NZ cuisine.


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