Wellington has been named the coolest little capital city in the world by the Lonely Planet Guide. No big deal. It’s not that most other capitals are big anyway but Wellington is the coolest city to visit in New Zealand.
Auckland is expansive – but great to enjoy in summer if you people watch in Parnell or Ponsonby or on the water front. Christchurch will come again – it’s not there yet. But Wellington is just the best place to enjoy for a short holiday. The Lonely Planet travel guide ranks the capital as the fourth-best city in the world to visit.
This city is quite spectacular: Oriental Bay, the skyline, the embassies, restaurants, cafes, golden sandy beaches and the waterfront. It’s the most user-friendly capital city in the world. The cafes are just oozing distinctive style and class like Te Kouka and the Babylon.
It is best because it is small, has been wonderfully upgraded. Its heritage protected, has stately buildings; excellent public spaces, parks and museums; posh hotels, restaurants and shops; theatre; shows; ballet; cafes, Te Papa, superb Maori culture, the Beehive and charisma. It has what you want a city to have without sprawl, traffic and pollution. It feels like a small, walkable San Francisco, but in better shape.
We soaked in the best of Wellington spots, the Museum Art Hotel, which is a tribute to its former owner Chris Parkin. The art works in the foyer – reception area are like no other hotel in the world – including The Ritz in London. Parkin says the paintings are staying at the hotel for another three years as part of his exit arrangement with new owners who take over in August. He has been a leader in the Wellington art scene for many years having served on the board of the NZ Art Show and also set up the Parkin Art Prize.
Parkin had a vision for the hotel years ago by moving the building 120 metres closer to the waterfront. The engineering feat became a turning point for a city struggling to shake off the economic doldrums, while the man behind the bold move was named Wellingtonian of the Year.
Parkin bought the hotel for a song: Paying $140,000 upfront and 2 per cent of revenue for 10 years. He estimates the deal cost him a total of $740,000. He has recently just sold the hotel, a former Railways depot, for a reported $28.5 million.
The Museum Art Hotel has one of the best restaurants in the city with the best name – the Hippopotamus. Our meal there was out of this world. The service was outstanding. No wonder the Hippopotamus restaurant has won the Dilmah Real High Tea Global Challenge. It has also won many other accolades.
My partner loved the Cuisse de canard braisée à l’orange et au miel de Pohutakawa, magret glacé, potiron caramélisé et jus au romarin (orange and Pohutakawa honey braised duck leg, caramelised pumpkin, purée, glazed duck breast and rosemary jus) and who wouldn’t? I love snapper and slowly savoured my poisson du jour, petites carottes caramélisées, risotto aux palourdes de Cloudy Bay et crème de cresson (seared snapper, caramelised baby carrots, Cloudy Bay clam risotto and watercress cream). By my final mouthful I felt like I had been to food heaven and back.
We retired for the night and soaked in our large hot tub, contented in our stylish hotel apartment – a very romantic note to end an amazing capital stay.