Insider's guide to... Wellington
Sunday 14 November 1999
At the moment, spring is here so it's breezy but warm - until you get the BBQ out. At that point it always turns a lot cooler. We're expecting a repeat of last year's wonderful summer - lots of blue sky and sun but with enough of a breeze to keep things from hotting up too much.
What are locals complaining about?
Lack of a good (enough) rugby, cricket, Rugby League, netball or soccer team. The lack of any real vision or new ideas from the politicians, and the fact that there are still three weeks to go in the interminable run-up to the election.
Who's the talk of the town?
The All Blacks team and its failure to capture the Rugby World Cup. And, this being the capital city, the minor matter of an impending election. Will the National (Tory) Government hang in there after nine years in power or will Labour pip them at the post? And which of the many minority parties will they need to work with to form a majority government?
But in the main, rugby is still taking priority over any minor political matters.
What's the cool drink to order?
Wellington is trying to hold on to its reputation as the Latte capital of New Zealand, if not the world, so coffee is still the main one. Juice bars and champagne bars are also springing up.
Otherwise, there are so many great New Zealand wines to choose from and nowhere better to drink them in than a Wellington cafe or restaurant overlooking the harbour. Boutique organic beer is predicted to be the next Big Thing.
What are people eating?
"Pacific Rim" is still big, particularly any recipe devised by Peter Gordon, the Kiwi owner of the Sugar Club in London. At the moment it is asparagus season, so we are guzzling while it lasts. The lucky few also get to sample whitebait, a minuscule fish, much smaller than its British equivalent, and incredibly expensive.
What's the latest outrageous stuff on TV?
New Zealand was never best known for a dynamic media. Like the UK and Australia, we have tried not to be shocked by Sex in the City. The most outrageous thing is that the few watchable programmes are either all on at the same time or are given an 11pm time-slot.
Where won't the locals dream of going?
At the moment, probably Australia. New Zealanders have difficulty dealing with the fact that Australia is now world champion not only in rugby but also cricket, Rugby League and netball. Not that people here feel that sport has any real importance of course (hah).
Where are locals going that tourists don't know about?
Makara Beach on Wellington's wild west coast, with its great views to the South Island and sheltered, if stony, beach when a southerly wind is blowing. The Chocolate Fish cafe at Scorching Bay for a coffee after a swim. Tinakori Road, Cuba Street or up-and-coming Newtown for shopping and cafes.
Where are the chic doing their shopping?
Auckland, Sydney or Melbourne would be the usual answer, although Wellington recently hosted a fashion show which focused on some of its excellent (honest!) local designers. Willis Street and Customhouse Quay are the places to look for interesting, wearable and reasonably priced designer clothes. For a more alternative shopping experience, locals head for Cuba Street just round the corner.
What's the trendy place to escape for the weekend?
The Wairarapa, an hour's drive from Wellington, is the place to escape the city grind and sample wine, local crafts, scenery and a sense of being away from it all. Alternatively, a trip on the fast ferry to the Marlborough Sounds for water sports, amazing scenery and more wine.
Emma Doherty lives and works in Wellington.
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