3 days in Wellington

The last three days I spent in Wellington couldn’t have been better. The weather was ideal: clear skies with a few clouds, mild temps, and a low breeze blowing off the harbor — apparently kind of a rare environment for Wellington. The days were relaxed, nothing was planned, and I got to meet quite a few local webbers.

Mike Brown from Signify picked me up at the airport on Thursday and immediately took me on a quick driving tour around Wellington. The tour included the streets behind WETA‘s studios, a drive up to the top of Mount Victoria for panoramic views (warning: Java zoom viewer loads on page) of the entire harbor and city, a drive-by to see Peter Jackson’s waterfront house, and a stop at the Chocolate Fish Cafe on Scorching Bay to enjoy coffee outside in the fine weather.

(If you happened to click on the link to Signify’s site above, you may have noticed a familiar-looking logo. Mike and I both had a good laugh at how near-identical his logo is with Stopdesign’s previous version of the logo. Goes to show the popularity of similar-looking logos around the world.)

After checking into my apartment on The Terrace, thanks to a last-minute invitation from Philip, I met up with the crew from Shift at their offices for a bit of pre-celebration for the nominations of their work to be featured at the awards ceremonies later that night. They showed me some of the projects they’ve been working on, and the interesting tricks with CSS that they’re using. Cool stuff. Rumor is, they ended up taking home a few awards that night, despite their attempts at modesty to me in predicting they might walk away empty-handed.

After a couple hours at Shift, I joined back up with Mike and his wife and some of the Signify crew for drinks at The Establishment. (Note: The Establishment is the only place I’ve ever seen where a guy can go to take a whiz, and still have his own personal television screen, one above each urinal, so as not to miss a moment of Cricket or Rugby — I have photos of the [empty] urinals to prove it.) That was followed by an excellent French dinner at Cafe Bastille, and then followed by Bodega, where Terry and Greer and I conversed until early into the morning.

Friday, got to stroll through Te Papa (the Museum of New Zealand) for a few hours. A wonderfully modern museum, and one you certainly shouldn’t miss if you’re in Wellington for even a short amount of time. Friday night, met up with lots of friendly people at Matterhorn — all folks who had emailed me after the weblog entry about coming to Wellington. We were outside on the back patio from about 6:30pm until 12:45am, so it was a long night filled with lots of conversation.

Yesterday (Saturday) morning, met up with the guys from the New Zealand design portal For the Masses for brunch. They’ve got a similar thing happening to what Design is Kinky and K10k have going on. Cool guys who already have a good small design community going, and they try to meet on a semi-regular basis, usually over a weekend. I was just lucky that I was in town the same weekend they had already picked for their next meetup, and that they invited me to crash their brunch.

While we were hanging out at the Wellington Brewery Company that morning, about 1000 anti-racist protesters assembled right outside our doors in front of Te Papa, and marched to Parliament to counter a small, but supposedly dangerous group of protestors from the National Front. I walked outside to take a few pictures, and could feel the tension among the group. Things were peaceful near us on the waterfront, but understandably heated up when the two groups came into contact with each other at the end of the rally. An anonymous writer posted details and photos of the days happenings on New Zealand’s indy media outlet. Several arrests from both sides resulted, but I didn’t hear of anything else. Crazy stuff, and it certainly could have gotten more violent than it did.

Overall, an excellent time there, and mostly due to all the people I got a chance to meet and talk with. So thanks, Wellington, for the hospitality and the conversation. It was fun. Hopefully you’ll all get more chances to meet up with each other, now you know there’s more of you are there, doing the same thing.

I arrived back in Syndey last night, and got out to Bondi again for one more great dinner with John and Sara at the Beach Road Hotel. Their signature dish of angel hair pasta with raw tuna, arugula, garlic, and parmesan cheese was outstanding. Last night, the weather was warm and required nothing but short sleeves to be comfortable. Today, it’s been raining off and on, and it just started thundering loudly (impressively so) outside the cafe I’m using right now. People tell me that Sydney locals can’t stand more than a couple days of rain. It was raining all last week in Sydney while I was in New Zealand, so this continued wetness today must be adding to the city’s depression. I don’t mind the rain. Just looks like I’ll need to keep myself dry by heading to a nearby pub to catch some of today’s Tasmania/NSW cricket match, now that I understand most of the rules and game play.

Tomorrow, these travels come to an end, as I head back to San Francisco and struggle through a couple days of intense jet lag.