Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Kelburn (A Local's Guide to Wellington)

Now that I've finished posting about my trip to Europe, I thought I would post about my home: Wellington. Hopefully next year I'll be travelling again and will be able to have more interesting posts, but for now enjoy some insights into the windy capital. Think of this as a local's favourite places to visit.
Cable car in Kelburn, Wellington, New Zealand

Catching the cable car up to the top of the Botanic Gardens (or as we call them, the Botans) provides one of the best views of Wellington. Throughout 2012 I caught the cable car up to work every morning. This mode of transport is popular among those who work in Kelburn, as well as students based at the main Victoria University campus. Yet because of the view, tourists flock to the iconic red cable car. 

When a cruise ship docks, the line extends well down Cable Car lane and out into Lambton Quay. I have seen an assortment, but my favourite are the fanny-pack-wearing, reading-signs-aloud tourists, who without fail exclaim how windy it is and even though they had heard it was windy, they didn't think it would be this windy. It's a strange feeling when you get accustomed to the stunning view and instead turn to observe those who are observing the view. 

At the top, there's a big round tree that is such fun to climb, because there are so many branches and you can sit at the top. You could even have a little picnic up there, if you could avoid the drug addicts that I've been told frequent its ladderlike limbs. 

Kelburn, Wellington, New Zealand
The walk from the cable car to Kelburn shops is quaint to say the least. There are little paths leading off the street to hidden homes.

Graffiti in Kelburn, Wellington, New Zealand
And dense foliage. An unsightly building has been decoratively graffitied. 

Kelburn, Wellington, New Zealand
Kelburn calls itself a 'village' and has the quaint speed limit of 30 kilometers per hour. 

Caffe Mode in Kelburn, Wellington, New Zealand
Located in the heart of the village is a Mediterranean Food Warehouse and a German Bakery (Brezelmania). These are chains, but they are well tested and proven to be good chains (see the upcoming Newtown and Kilbirnie posts for more detailed reviews). Setting these aside, the Kelburn cafes are nothing to write home about. Caffe Mode, pictured above, provided coffee which didn't have enough actual coffee in it, but the setting was nice and I sat next to a window which luckily had sun streaming through it enough to make my stay a thoroughly pleasant one.

Being atop a decent sized hill, Kelburn can be a nice place to walk if you're feeling energetic and the wind isn't so strong as to blow you right off. 

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Cheesy Cities, Meals and Literature

Lecce, Italy

Lecce sounds like a dairy product. And that's fitting as this post is mostly about cheese.

I'll start with how we got to this milky city: we had bought ferry tickets to Greece but we didn't want to wait in Brindisi all evening (Brindisi being a lame port town) so we went off to explore the heel of the boot that is Italy.
Street in Lecce, Italy
Lecce's duomo (cathedral) was interesting but we couldn't get a good photograph as the sun was behind it, and we couldn't go inside as it was closed. Off the main piazza, we found a dessert cafe and settled in with various chocolate mousse-shaped tasties. Wanting to enjoy the sun, we rested on a bench in a park we found, listening to a Dresden Files audiobook. Don't even get me started on the Dresden Files. The first one is good, but after that they get extremely repetitive and become filled with cheesy jokes. I believe I got to the seventh book because I had nothing else to listen to, and rage quit halfway through. Never again.
Street in Lecce, Italy
There was a path that led directly through the park, into an old building and out into the historic centre. We wandered through the Piazza del Duomo, and towards the ancient Roman ampitheatre that had been excavated. Just to reinforce Emperor Hadrian's greatness, he once up and moved the city two kilometers...with his bare hands (okay I made that last part up, but it's plausible).
Street in Lecce, Italy
As night fell, we approached a Lonely Planet recommended restaurant. A server informed us that they wouldn't be opening for a while, so they asked Yannick for a name to take a reservation. Not knowing how to spell out Italian letters, he mimed writing himself. Confused at first, she handed over the pad and he wrote it down for them.

We wandered the streets to kill time, the light stone buildings fading in the dusk. When we returned, the menu was unfamiliar, being all in Italian and laid out in many different parts. Not knowing if we had to order vegetables separately or not, we just ordered bruschetta to start followed by meat.

The bruschetta was the best we had ever had: one with cheese and tomato and another with cheese and pancetta. For mains, I had two sausages and Yannick had one sausage covered in cheese. Strange, but delicious.

We rounded off the evening by exploring the night market that had sprung up, before preparing ourselves for the long ferry journey ahead.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Italian Wifi is Total Erg

Genoa, Italy

Basilica della Santissima Annunziata del Vastato, Genoa, Italy
The many different buildings of Genoa. In the very back of this photo you can see one of the towers of the Basilica della Santissima Annunziata del Vastato. (Yes, I copied and pasted that. I wouldn't even attempt to spell it, as I know I'd go wrong somewhere.) 

We went looking for the Palazzo Reale which we had heard was filled with excellent art and architecture, and ended up walking back and forth along the river and then back and forth along the street until we found it. Enjoyable though it was, no photographs were had. 

Coloured buildings in Genoa, Italy
A beautiful melange of shuttered buildings. Tamarillo, apricot, peach. 

Graffiti in Genoa, Italy
Some interesting graffiti. Is it one work of art (a skull drooling foamily), or was it defaced by a less talented vandal?

San Lorenzo Cathedral in Genoa, Italy
In need of accommodation for the night, we rampaged around the city to find wifi. On the way (following signs that promised the elusive connection), we stopped by the San Lorenzo Cathedral - stripy in true Romanesque style. 

Piazza de Ferrari in Genoa, Italy
The Piazza de Ferrari was another stop on our wifi quest. We laughed at the green sign boasting 'ERG' and proceeded to our tried and trusted Macdonalds. However, the trust was broken when we discovered that Italian Macdonalds required an Italian mobile phone number to connect to their free wifi. 

Genoa, Italy
So instead of looking for places to stay for that night, we took photos of some businessmen discussing business (probably).