We always seem to be in transit when in Wellington.

In 2006 we arrived in Wellington by car on one afternoon, quickly did a promenade walk along Oriental Bay, went to the famed Te Papa museum (saw the Treaty, stood in an earthqauke simulator), had dinner at a nice seafront restaurant and went to bed. Next morning we had to leave very early (pre-dawn) in order to catch the ferry to the South Island. We didn’t really get to see much of the city.

This time we arrived by plane at midnight, got a shuttle bus to our hotel, and the next day we planned to drive to Kumeroa where we would be staying for three days over the “wedding weekend”. This time, however, I had done better research and knew that I wanted to have a ride on the cable car, walk through the botanic gardens, see the famous “beehive” parliament house (I did a project in primary school on Wellington) and maybe even have a spot of lunch. We also had the challenge of sourcing an appropriate hat for me to wear to the wedding (no, nothing with feathers – a sun hat – it was an outdoor wedding).

We left the hotel that morning and went back to the airport to pick up our rental car. Then we thought we would stop off in a shopping precinct just outside of the city to buy a hat before heading in. I was sure that any pharmacy would have hats – after all, they do in Australia – you know that rack of “Sun Smart” hats they always have? Well, let me tell you, they certainly don’t sell hats in pharmacies in New Zealand. In fact, they sort of look at you strangely as if you’re a bit mad to think that they might sell hats in a place where they dispense medications. We needed a clothing store – that’s where they might sell hats. We were sent to Farmers, which is sort of like a cut price Country Target – do you remember Venture stores? They’re a bit like that. The only hats they had were wide brimmed cloth ones – they came in white or military camouflage. Now, I had pictured a nice straw hat, perhaps with a band around it, that had some sort of class about it – I had to wear it to a wedding after all. I sighed as I handed my credit card over to the Farmers shop assistant as I purchased my floppy military cloth hat with the green tie strings.

When I am overseas I always manage to look like a loud American tourist. I have my big camera around my neck, my backpack and a bad hat. My latest purchase ensured that this trip would be no different.

We drove into the city and parked the car. We searched around and found the narrow laneway that houses the ticket office and platform for the cable car. The cable car is great. It starts in this dark laneway and actually tunnels underground as it goes up – the streets are so steep that the cable car begins underneath the tall buildings. You then emerge from the tunnel and can start to see the view as you head further up towards the university. There is a mid-stop at the university and then you continue to the very top which is at the Wellington Botanic Garden. The view is beautiful. You can really admire the people who built this city on such a hilly location.

We stopped and had a coffee at the top and had a quick look in the cable car museum. There was a rather creepy mannequin pretending to drive one of the original cable cars. We then had a nice walk down through the Botanic Garden.

On the way we stopped at a beautiful historic cemetery.

I eyeballed the Beehive and then we wandered down the streets looking for somewhere nice to eat.

Mark didn’t like the look of the faux English pub so we kept going until we spotted a bustling side street with several busy lunch spots. Then I saw something incredible. I got so excited I jumped up and down and started pointing and shouting to Mark. It looked stylish, it looked classy, it looked expensive:

Yes – a real Hatters!

I flung off my military camouflage hat as we entered the store. They had panama hats, they had bowlers, they had every sort of hat you could imagine. I settled on a rather stylish New Zealand made straw hat with a leather band. It was called the “Indiana Jones” hat – so much more befitting my ruggedly handsome adventurer image than the GI Joe American tourist hat from Farmers. The hatter even popped my new purchase on the hot head-shaped stretching machine to make sure it was a perfect fit. I loved it.

Happy with my hat purchase we decided to eat at this lovely French-inspired cafe.

Knowing that we would be having a big dinner at Otawa lodge that night, we settled on simple fare – crusty French bread with pate and duck terrine – delicious! We washed it down with a nice glass of New Zealand white. We sat outside and watched the world go by.

Happy, full, and sartorially elegant, we made our way out of Wellington. A glorious day.