At the end of our North Island tour, we arrived back in Wellington on Tuesday afternoon, February 25th. After checking in at the Southern Cross Apartments for the third and final time, we returned Sunny Jim to the rental company. They were based midway between Wellington and Petone, so after leaving the car it was easy to get a bus the rest of the way, and revisit our favourite cinema and pub. This time we saw Saving Mr Banks at the Lighthouse, before having pizzas at the Fireman’s Arms.
Around the bays
We had just two full days left in Wellington. Wednesday dawned bright and sunny, so we decided to go for a walk. We did many walks while living in Wellington, and had repeated a couple earlier in this trip. Should we do another, and if so, which? After some debate, we decided to walk around the bays, and see how far we could get.
To those unfamiliar with Wellington geography, the land to the west of the capital forms a kind of double peninsula, almost like a squashed sideways figure 8. The coastline is rugged and beautiful, with steep hills around picturesque bays. The scenic drive ‘around the bays’ was our introduction to Wellington, so we decided it would make an appropriate farewell excursion – but this time we would do it on foot.
For those who are familiar with Wellington, we started at Oriental Parade and ended at Breakers Bay. Not quite the whole circuit, but a fair distance, and we walked all day, with just three brief refreshment stops. We really enjoyed it, and Sandie somehow found enough energy that evening to join her International Folk Dance Group for the last time.
A Tempest on Somes Island
On Thursday we closed down the New Zealand bank account which we opened prior to our arrival in 2008. We also met up with Lynn who first offered Ian a job at the Ministry of Education. And we visited the Wellington: City and Sea museum, surprisingly for the first time.
The evening was a treat. Each February, Bard Productions put on an open-air play in unusual but appropriate surroundings. Five years ago, we saw The Frogs under the Waterfront, and have remained on their mailing list ever since. We liked the sound of A Tempest on Somes Island, and when we knew we were definitely going to be in Wellington, we booked tickets online. By that time, very few were left, and we could only get tickets for our very last night in New Zealand.
Somes Island is in Wellington Harbour, so the entertainment started with a ferry ride (exclusively for those going to see the performance). Some of the actors were on board, in character, and engaged the audience in conversation. The ‘storm’ was fake, but very well done. Arriving on the island, we walked uphill, watched by Ariel in the trees. The rest of the play took place in two different locations. As will by now be obvious, it was basically Shakespeare, although topical references were inserted at various points, and the whole production was very enjoyable.
A day in Dubai
Very early on Friday 28th, we said farewell to New Zealand, and began our journey home. This required three flights: Wellington to Sydney, Sydney to Dubai and Dubai to London. Once again we were flying standby, on Claire’s staff travel, and the flights were busy, so there was no guarantee that we would get seats. We were lucky twice, and landed in Dubai in the early hours of Saturday 1st March.
At about that time, Claire took off from Heathrow on one of her regular working trips to Dubai. We had decided to aim for 24 hours in Dubai, so we could return to London on her flight, and watch our daughter at work for the first time! So after a few hours’ sleep, we set off to explore the town. We took a taxi to the Atlantis hotel at the far end of the famous Palm (an artificially created set of sandbanks, in the shape of a palm tree), returned along the ‘trunk’ of the palm tree by monorail, and then walked to the Medinat Jumeirah, a modern complex where we had lunch at an outdoor restaurant with great views, and took a short boat trip on the artificial lake.
We went by taxi to the Dubai Mall (biggest in the world). After a brief exploration, we watched the fountain display on the lake, and then met Claire for dinner (at an outdoor restaurant, with great views of the lake and subsequent half-hourly fountain displays). We next went to Claire’s hotel to have a drink (generally allowed in hotels but not elsewhere) and see how the other half live. Then we went by taxi to our hotel, collected our luggage and took the shuttle to the airport.
What did we think of Dubai? To be honest, it was never on our list of ‘must see’ places; nevertheless, we were somewhat disappointed. One of the attractions (according to our guidebook) is meant to be looking round the ultra modern, ultra luxurious hotels there, but we were constantly turned away – if we were not residents, we could not go in. Obviously policies have changed since the guidebook was written! Beaches we saw were also identified as private, for use by residents only (to be fair, there are public beaches which Claire has visited – we just did not see any of those). And despite the massive building over recent years, there is much more going on – in fact the whole city seemed like a building site, and walking from one place to another was a challenging and unattractive task.
We were at the airport late on Saturday night, in the hope of boarding the 2.25 am flight to London, along with Claire and the rest of the crew. Sadly, this did not happen. The flight which should have departed an hour earlier was delayed by several hours, which meant that some people were transferred to Claire’s flight, making it busier than usual. We were told it was not hopeful, but had to wait just in case there were spare seats. At 2am, to our surprise, we were given boarding cards and rushed through immigration and security. But our joy was short-lived – at the gate we were told that the spare seats probably did not exist. After a lot more waiting around, the flight departed without us.
We waited another five hours, and then flew back on the delayed plane. Claire, after a short sleep, had collected the boys and then returned to Heathrow to pick us up. We were disappointed to miss the opportunity to see her in action, but otherwise all was well. We arrived home in the middle of the afternoon, and went straight to bed for some much-needed sleep!