Girls-only weekend getaway
Are you and your girlfriends always complaining that you never get to spend any time together? Have you been dreaming about a weekend getaway, just you and the girls, but it never seems to eventuate? Vicki Febery escapes for a girls-only weekend in Wellington, and tells how you can do it, too.
At my son's first birthday party, a group of my girlfriends and I got to talking. We were all mums, and we were all sorely in need of some me-time, so we decided, then and there, that we deserved a girls' weekend away.
From the moment the decision was made, ideas about where we should go poured out of us faster than the stream of fizz out of a shaken champagne bottle. We made a list of all the destinations and activities we had in mind, and boy, did we want to achieve a lot in just a couple of days. Pampering, wine trails, physical pursuits, reading, shopping... If we were going to go through with this weekend of girl time, we were going to pack as much into it as we could! We wrote all of our destinations down on slips of paper, and I shut my eyes, and drew an idea of the box.
"A girls' weekend in Nelson", I read on the scrap of paper - but it was a bit broader than that. We were going to kayak and walk in the Abel Tasman National Park, tour the artsy stores and galleries in Nelson, and (because it would be rude to be in that part of the country and neglect it) hit the vineyards of Marlborough. Basically, we were going to fit as much into our break as possible, and try to get a lie-in one morning, too (bliss!).
I'm proud to report that we went through with all of our plans. We flew into Nelson, went out on the town that evening, then got up at the crack of dawn the following morning to drive to Kaiteriteri and complete a walk and a kayaking trip in the Abel Tasman, just as we planned. We then returned to Nelson for another night out on the town, slept in the next morning, enjoyed a hearty breakfast, and headed to Marlborough. We joined in a wine tour and managed to fit eight wineries into one very enjoyable day. We ended the evening with another dinner out, then headed back to Nelson the following day to fly home.
Rather than returning exhausted, our weekend away had revitalised us - so much so, that we decided to make our girls' weekend an annual event. So this year, we returned to the box of short-break dreams and drew another slip of paper out. This time, we were off on a city break full of dedicated me-time, shopping, pampering, and other girly interests.
We can't confess to being die-hard The Lord of the Rings fans (Wellington's tourist numbers have risen more than 700% since it came out), we were merely looking for a city that wasn't one of our hometowns, and that we could explore as tourists and get a fix of shopping, pampering, culture, sight-seeing, and a bit of partying. No need to hop overseas for this short break - Wellington fit the bill nicely.
Three days, two nights, no kids. The prospect of that much dedicated 'me time' might lull some people in to believing they had all the time in the world at their disposal. Not me - last year's Nelson experience proved that time would fly by if I wasn't careful, so I did some pre-trip planning to ensure I would quickly orientate myself around the city and make the most of my shopping time.
We flew into Wellington at midday on a drizzly Friday. After checking into our fabulous rooms at the InterContinental and sneaking a peek at the pool and spa on the third floor, we met up with local personality Jennifer Looman of Wild About Wellington. Jennifer was the expert I chose to help with the task of shopping. Her "City of Style" tour on foot and public transport is a great way to see the shops.
I found Jennifer on the internet, and loved the fact that her booking form prompts you to outline your own interests so she can tailor her tours to suit you. She made sure to point out baby and toddler boutiques, including one with a fantastic 50% off sale! Her tour enabled us to meet talented Wellington fashion designers and a noted jeweller (who insisted we try on his limited edition rings worth tens of thousands of dollars), as well as giving us advice for our unguided shopping time following the tour. Wellington is fantastically compact and our unguided shopping was a breeze following Jennifer's introduction to the area.
The staff at InterContinental Wellington had a number of recommendations for our night out. Armed with the names of some good bars and restaurants, we set out for Cuba Street, Courtenay Place, and thereabouts to explore the night life. Along the way, we uncovered some great urban myths, like Good Luck Bar, which one local told us was a 19th century opium den that was built over and forgotten about, then rediscovered in 1955 during construction in the area. Its neighbour, Matterhorn, was apparently popular with The Lord of the Rings stars, and another place we went to, Motel (off Tory Street), was reputed to have refused entry to Liv Tyler when she was in town. Locals and bar staff were very forthcoming with their stories, and we enjoyed our night out, despite bar-hopping being something of a foreign experience to us these days.
On Saturday morning we were off at 8.55am on another pre-arranged tour to view the natural beauty of the city with Wellington Rover. Much of its business is The Lord of the Rings-related, but their itineraries (and hop-on, hop-off flexibility) offer much for non-LOTR fans too. And there's something pretty cool about taking the time to be a tourist in your own country.
The "Explore Wellington" tour started with a drive up Mt Victoria for a panoramic view of the city. Everywhere we looked, there were runners and cyclists, making the most of their surroundings despite the overcast sky.
Our tour took us out around the coast. Unfortunately, the rain put a stop to our walk out to the Seal Colony at Owhiro Bay. We continued past Houghton Bay, where whales and dolphins can sometimes be seen, and around the coast where "Mind the penguin" signs started appearing on the side of the road.
Wellington has such a rugged and moody coastline, stunning in the blustery winter conditions, and so likely to be unbelievably beautiful with sunlight and clear visibility far out to sea. Interislander ferry was a haze in the distance and as a deinite landlubber, I didn't envy the passengers. I found it easy to imagine the distress the Wahine passengers must have felt that fateful night in 1968, when 13m waves and 200km winds forced the ship against the rocks, which were just visible as we continued our drive.
Locals are proud (and sometimes outright boastful) about their The Lord of the Rings experiences, but when it comes to respecting the privacy of Peter Jackson, they are vigilant. We knew when we were near his home, but our guide kept the precise location of Peter's house, and those that Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom, and pals lived in during filming, a discreet secret.
The Wellington Rover tour ended at the Botanic gardens, where we caught the cable car back down to Lambton Quay in time for lunch. The Museum of City and Sea came so highly recommended by our Wellington Rover guide that we had to pop in after we ate. Some 100 glass boxes and accompanying short stories took us on a journey celebrating the diversity of 20th century Wellington life. It was fascinating viewing - from the taxidermy of King Dick, the Lion whose donation started Wellington Zoo, through the decades to modern-day Wellington. We wanted to spend more time there, but had some pampering to get to. The exhibition will be there for another five years, so plenty of time to get back and explore it properly.
Our Saturday late afternoon consisted of a leisurely swim and spa at the hotel, which revitalised us in time for some DIY pampering back in our rooms. We'd had the foresight to pack plenty of nail polish, some bubbly, and face masks, and we lazed the late-afternoon away sipping bubbles and catching up on all our girly chat, uninterrupted. A movie night was the next thing on our agenda. We had missed out on seats at Wellington's Embassy Theatre, where The Lord of the Rings premiered. I had hoped to rest my cheeks in the same spot as Orlando Bloom and check out the women's toilets, which (again, according to local legend) are said to be the best women's toilets in the Southern hemisphere. Instead, we booked the lazy boy chairs at Reading Cinema. We enjoyed Toblerone cocktails delivered to us throughout our movie and when our rich chocolate cake dessert arrived at our seats at 10pm, I really thought I'd died and gone to heaven.
Sunday morning was another drizzly day in Wellington, but after Saturday night's cocktail and chocolate-cake feast, a run was essential. It takes me around 40 minutes of preparation to go for a run from home, but without the dog and young child to entertain, I was out the door only 10 minutes after waking up. Despite the light rain (and solid "breeze"), the run along Wellington's waterfront was superb.
We'd wanted to pack in a visit to the central Wellington Farmer's Market, a look at Te Papa and a visit to Schoc Chocolaterie, who produce the most divine thick, creamy hot chocolates. We only managed to fit in a visit to Te Papa's fabulous Toi te Papa exhibition before we realised it was time to get to the airport! Te Papa seems to have that effect - we were so engrossed, we hadn't realised the day was slipping away.
We saw and did a lot during our weekend in Wellington, but, most importantly, we had the opportunity to bond with our girlfriends and share some quality me-time. Many of our conversations over the weekend were littered with "Hubby would enjoy this!" and "I'd love to take Harry/Ella/Eva to this," so our families certainly weren't forgotten.
We packed a lot into that weekend away, and couldn't wait to see our families and get those adoring hugs and kisses from the small people. In a few months' time, we'll begin plans for our 2009 girls' getaway weekend - I'm excited to think where the box of short-break dreams will take us next.
Where to Stay:
Vicki Febery is mum to two boys.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 2 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW