"I wanna hang a map of the world at my house. Then I wanna stick pins in the locations that I`ve traveled to.
...But first I have to travel to the top two corners of the map so it won`t fall down."
-Mitch Hedberg

Friday, April 16, 2010

Wellington - Part Four - Cable Car & Gardens

Now that we’re on the downward slope of our Five Day (S)Wellington Extravaganza! I thought we’d travel uphill to enjoy the view.

Wellington’s hip vibe and artsy culture are widely celebrated by tourists and locals alike – and rightly so, it’s a cool place. However, it’s easy to forget the history and pockets of tranquility that exist in this little metropolis by the sea. Two of my favorites are the Cable Car and the Botanical Gardens.

The trip to the Gardens starts with the classic cable car. Situated on Lambton Quay, this centrally located treasure is a testament to the city's efforts to preserve this quaint attraction. Honestly, when Care and I bought our $2 tickets, I thought there was a mistake. I was expecting a higher price for this sweet ride up to a great view of the city, so we boarded the shiny red cable car with a weird sense of... foreboding.

Within 30 seconds – literally 30 seconds – the car made its first stop. I could still see the details of our initial destination as commuters from the first stop boarded. Why would they put the stops so close together? I wondered. Oh, well.

40 seconds later we stopped again. What? More people got on and off, and the car filled up to standing room only. School kids jostled with businessmen as we all took our short slanty ride up the steep hill past Victoria University to the next stop.

Wait…is this the last stop? I thought as everyone disembarked. Yup. Last stop. Three stops in under three minutes and we were at the end of the line – the top of the hill overlooking the city. If Care hadn’t had the camera ready when we got on we might have missed it all. I will say that while the ride wasn’t a San Francisco style tour of the town, it was something much more rare - a functioning mode of transport for students and commuters, that has managed to last over 100 years.

At the top of the rise, views of the water and city below spread out in all directions as far as Lower Hutt on the eastern edge of the bay. We lucked out and got a clear, sunny, hot day. The area up here features a small restaurant, benches, and the start of the Botanical Gardens, as well as two astronomical observatories. I love the observation domes with their classic antique look.

After a well deserved nap on a grassy slope (we have a hard life), Care and I headed down the “Rose Garden Path” enjoying flowers, trees, and plants of all sorts. Prehistoric ferns stand next to conifer trees, and dazzling lilies. I used to be a flower delivery boy in college, so I like plants. What up.

Near the end of the hour long trek we came upon one of the highlights – the Lady Norwood Rose Garden. This sprawling flower garden quartered into areas depicting hybrid and pure bred roses of varying shades that march across the full spectrum of colors, and it was a relaxing break from our relaxing hike. We sat at the fountain and just…smelled stuff for a while.

The path eventually leads back into downtown (near the Beehive) but not before taking pedestrians through several cemeteries dating back to the colonial settlements of the city. Some of the gravestones are worn smooth by rain, wind, neglect, and time, while others are overgrown by wild bush and ivy. A few crypts feature elaborate obelisks and well polished marble, while most are simple granite slabs with name and date. The cemeteries are a stark reminder – as always – that time is short. Without being too cliche, it was a somber end to a peaceful day, and I’m glad we had a few hours to ourselves to revel in the beauty, history, and past of Wellington before we plunged back into the bustle of city life.

P.S. I don’t care what you say – I think flowers rule, and Carolyn likes that about me, don’t you Care.


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