Fish Out of Water

Musings and observations about life from an East Coast native now living on the Left Coast in the California State Capitol since 2004. This fish has made her home in Madison, WI (7 years); Portland, OR (2 years); Las Vegas, NV (7 months); Middlebury, VT (3 summers); Marne-la-Vallee, a small town east of Paris, France (6 months); Middletown, CT (3 years); and Marshfield, MA, the fish's coastal hometown 40 miles south of Boston (17 years).

Location: Sacramento, California, United States


Travel Journal: Wellington

Jan. 4:  Auckland > Wellington
When I went down to the pool for my swim this morning, I met a woman from Hamden, CT, who was doing some aqua aerobics.  Small world!

Our stay in Auckland was capped off by a visit to Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium.  We caught the free shuttle down by the harbor and spent a very enjoyable hour or so exploring the exhibits, including the walk-through penguin habitat, which features the largest group of Antarctic penguins on display, and the amazing walk-through glass tunnels with sharks and fish swimming overhead.  These tunnels were the first of their kind and were extremely innovative when they were constructed.  The entire aquarium is an adaptive reuse of old sewage tanks by the waterfront, so everything is actually underground, and there’s a window near the manta rays tank that looks out on the ocean with the water directly at eye level.  We had just enough time to watch a stingray encounter show that consisted of stingray feeding and lots of information about the animals, which are basically “flat sharks.”  The 3 rays in the tank are all female and were loving on their handler throughout the demonstration.  The oldest ray, Phoebe, is likely close to 35 years old, which is a very long lifespan for a ray.  The handler also explained about their anatomy, their sting, and how/why a sting might occur (usually the fault of the person who gets stung, due to inappropriate behavior towards the ray).

Turtles & Fish at Kelly Tarlton's

Penguin Contortionist at Kelly Tarlton's

Walk-Through Tube at Kelly Tarlton's

We caught the public bus back to the Ferry Building and then walked back to our hotel.  Our taxi driver on the way to the airport provided a fascinating conversation.  Originally from South Africa (another part of the British Commonwealth), he has been living in Auckland for about 10 years.  He described the city as a lovely place to “grow” a family but as a challenging place for educated young people (and others) to find a job.  He was very interested in hearing our impressions of the US as a country for potential employment and opportunities.  Mr. E suggested the option of Canada as well, since residents of South Africa can more easily relocate to another part of the British Commonwealth, which includes Canada, as compared to the US.

Our flight to Wellington was on Jetstar, a low-cost, no-frills airline that still provided prompt and friendly service.  We had another lovely taxi experience on the way to our hotel, as we were fortunate enough to have a native Wellingtonian as our driver, so he provided lots of information about the area and pointed out many of the sights around the city.  This is definitely a place we’d like to revisit, as we both immediately felt a strong attraction to the lovely capitol city, ringed by mountains and set right on the water.  We could easily have spent more time here, but we didn’t know in advance how much we’d love the city, so this is a top priority for a return trip.

Golom Sculpture in Wellington Airport 

After we checked into the West Plaza Hotel, right across from the City Hall building complex, we headed out to explore and find the cable car, which took us up to the top of the Botanic Gardens.  The overlook provided an amazing view out over the city and the water, and we had a beautiful stroll down through the Gardens, admiring the all of the different areas and plantings.  One of my favorites was the pohutukawa, also known as the “New Zealand Christmas Tree” thanks to its tufted spiky red blossoms.  We ended up walking along the waterfront, which had some great restaurant offerings along with interesting public art installations, and stopped for dinner at Mac’s Brewpub, which our taxi driver had recommended.  One of the bartenders was a young man from Seattle who has been traveling around to several countries on a “working holiday visa” that allows him to be employed while in a foreign country.  Too bad this option is only available to US citizens under the age of 30 – drat!

Pohutukawa in Botanic Gardens

Wellington Waterfront Promenade
Sphere Sculpture over Civic Plaza
(design is fern leaves of several different types)

We had planned to do laundry back at the hotel, but another guest had taken off with the key to the laundry room, so we were stuck hand-washing some stuff in the sink.  We made the best of the situation by spending the rest of the evening drinking some local wine and watching “Super 8” in the hotel lounge.


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