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Friday, April 11, 2008

I just got an email from my uncle Barry and his wife Brenda. They came through Wellington over Easter weekend and were gracious enough to base their stay in this area around visiting with me. Not only did they treat me to dinner and dessert twice, but they also did me the courtesy of discovering a very cool spot for breakfast - right here in Upper Hutt! (They shouted for my breakfast there as well.)

Barry is a motorcycle enthusiast, especially regarding Harleys, and in the lounge where they were staying at the Totara Lodge he spied a brochure for a cafe that also rented out Harleys. Yes, any member of the public who fancies an afternoon spent atop a Hog (and who also has NZ$340 burning a hole in their pocket) can take one of these beauties out for a spin. Barry and Brenda were tempted, but given they had forked out over twice what they intended on spending on lodging in Upper Hutt, they had to decline.

Rather, we enjoyed an expertly-cooked full breakfast consisting of streaky bacon, eggs on toast, kumara wedges, and red potatoes with kiwi mint jelly. The weather was in the low 20s (Celsius, natch!) with no clouds and a brilliant blue sky. The cafe owners also have a cute but tiny garden through which you can stroll, and the hosts were all quite engaging. This cafe sits at the southern end of Upper Hutt atop a low range of hills that overlook the city. You access it via a winding, steep road and this, along with the fact that the cafe's owners do very little to advertise, made me feel a little better for not having discovered this place on my own after living here for a year and a half. I’ll certainly be heading back to the Blue Mountains Harley Cafe again someday soon.

Wanting to take full advantage of the weather and show off some of the highlights of Wellington, I took Barry and Brenda (B&B, here on in) on the Red Rocks Walk. While the weather was certainly obliging, making for a really nice walk, the seals sadly were not to be seen on that day. B&B didn't seem to mind, enjoying the views along the walk as well as our proximity to the sea (it was, like, right there dude).

It was also good to see the city council's plans for the Red Rocks Walk taking physical form, as the concrete has been poured and construction has begun on overhauling the old quarry headquarters situated at the beginning of the walk. Soon it will contain its own iSite, cafe, and souvenir shop, thus finally giving Red Rocks the showcase it deserves.

While I'm always a little leery of my favourite spots getting over-exposed and over-populated, I think this will do nothing but serve Red Rocks and make it a better experience - not least because there'll finally be a public lav right there! Up until now, it has been all-too tempting to take the phrase 'nature break' quite literally out there, as the round-trip walk most people take is 5 kilometres long. If you are anything like me, you often indulge in just such a walk after a morning coffee so, sooner rather than later, your bladder demands release.

Anyways, B&B and I (that would make up the 'B³' title of this post - clever, no?) returned to town for dinner. I took them to Monsoon Poon, an Indian restaurant where my classmates and I dined upon the completion of our Improvised Comedy class last year. Once again, the food and service were excellent, and we shared three different dishes which proved to be just filling enough for us. We had curried lamb, prawns, and chicken along with three different kinds of Indian bread, including roti and - my personal favourite - naan.

I made sure we all had room for dessert so I could take them to Strawberry Faire, a great spot for coffee, dessert and casual conversation right on Kent Terrace. We got there right as the proverbial bus let out, as it disgorged about thirty tween-age kids, all of them as excited as we were about our upcoming dessert. Busy as the Faire had suddenly become, the staff seated us and took care of us with ease in spite of the mad crush of patrons. It was my third time at Strawberry and each time I am left wanting for more, even though I am usually stuffed to the gills with coffee and either ice cream, chocolate, pastry or cheese and fruit. In my opinion, no trip to the city of Wellington could be complete without a stopover at Strawberry Faire!

I cannot remember the specific order of things in terms of restaurants where we ate or the things we did, so it may be that the above events happened on their last day here or first. It doesn't matter the order, though, as it was just great to catch up with Barry and Brenda. I had not seen them in almost exactly five years, since they visited my corner of the States for a small family reunion we held in Williamsburg in April 2003.

In fact it was during this very visit that I first began to seriously entertain the notion of one day visiting New Zealand. I had long harboured the desire to let my wanderlust expand to another country for I had only ever toured the States. As lovely as that was, I didn't want to just leave the country for a trip - say to Mexico or Canada or even Europe. I really wanted to leave and go somewhere very far away. When at dinner one night I saw Barry wearing a purple polo shirt with "New Zealand" in yellow script on the left breast pocket, I asked him the fateful (for me) question of how he liked New Zealand.

Instantly, Barry became animated with excitement and he began to regale me with tales of this faraway land. He and Brenda had gone for their honeymoon and it had been his second trip there overall - and he intended to go again as soon as he could. I heard all about the gorgeous countryside, the extreme fun one could have in it, and most of all about the New Zealanders themselves. Barry had nothing but nice things to say about them and he made it a point to tell me how much he thought I would like it there.

At this time I had just started dating the woman who would soon become my wife (and then soon after that, my ex-wife - but “that's a topic for another day and another cup of coffee,” as my boy Niles Crane would say), so the prospect of touring New Zealand held little appeal for me at the time.

It also wasn’t like ever since that moment I was gripped in a passionate, all-consuming obsession with plotting my trip - and eventual wholehearted relocation - to New Zealand. No, it wasn't anything like that. It was more like... now it was in the back of my mind. Somewhere, down one of the cobwebby dark corridors of my brain and inside the as-yet unopened room called ‘Foreign Travel,' an indicator light came to life on the instrumentation panel, right under the heading: ‘Destination'.*

No longer was I musing about Monaco, jonesing for Japan, barmy for Britain or pining for Paraguay. The 'Where to?' portion of my future international trip itinerary had been settled upon, and it would be New Zealand, mate.

The 'How in the hell...?' and 'Good lord, when?!' portions of said itinerary would come much later and be settled after much concerted effort, but let's not trifle ourselves on the details, eh?

So, in a very long and roundabout way (as is my style, don’t cha know), I have my uncle Barry - my dad's younger brother - to thank for being a significant part of a trip that has lead me to my new home: New Zealand.

Barry, if you hadn't worn that particular purple shirt to dinner that night, or - heaven forbid - if it had been a shirt from Arkansas, I may well not be here now!

Thanks for that, Barry, and thanks to you and Brenda both for coming down here and spending some time with me. It was great to catch up with you guys, and I'm glad the trip to Castlepoint proved worthwhile!

Please, enjoy the rest of your stay here in the Godzone. And come back soon, ay?


*I'm not really a robot or a computer, by the way, I just liked this analogy.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

"pining for Paragu(a)y"...loved it!

as I did the Arkansas shirt

glad you had a good time and got some good meals out of them



4:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, I am the YOUNGER brother to your dad....


10:54 AM  
Blogger Brooksie said...

>>"pining for Paragu(a)y"<<


>>I am the YOUNGER brother<<

Fixed, with apologies!

1:39 PM  

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