A Fabulous fashion find at Moochi

With its rugged terrain and ferocious weather, you might assume that the Wellington uniform would be serious warm, water and windproof wear, right? Not entirely. While parkas, trackies, beanies and boots are de riguer for hilltop tracks and coastal paths, downtown it’s a different story.

Moochi at 111 Customhouse Quay
Moochi at 111 Customhouse Quay

To serve all the needs of the serious Wellington fashionista, not to mention the shopaholic, as well the browser, there’s a cluster of brilliant boutiques in a short strip along Customhouse Quay in the CBD. Among them is the fabulous Moochi, 111 Customhouse Quay.

The Moochi brand was born in a small design workshop in the Bay of Plenty beach town of Mount Maunganui. Since then, although its boutiques have hit most NZ cities, Moochi has continued to create in house, to keep its production runs small and to manufacture almost entirely in New Zealand. Moochi has remained faithful to its original aim “to arm women with a cohesive, adaptable wardrobe of pieces that work effortlessly together for work or play. Moochi pieces are of premium quality, ensuring longevity not only in fabrication but also in style” 2015 NZ Fashion Week website.

It was autumn, when I last dropped into Wellington. I had  come to town with a winter wardrobe, built for warmth and protection.  Wellington, however, was basking in an Indian summer. My clothes were heavy, my clothes were hot. I needed something for today’s heat, but I also needed something for the possibility of tomorrow’s cold. I needed something comfortable. I also needed something smart. I needed something for Wellington. I also needed something for Melbourne. I needed all this in one outfit.

I found it at moochi, 111 Customhouse Quay, in the Wellington CBD. It was the Rule dress from the Moochi Faithfuls collection, an “easy fit tee dress shape is treated with horizontal pleats at the front. this is a machine washable chiffon dress that will look good anywhere anytime, worn to work, a party or in the weekend” (moochi website)

I wore the Moochi Rule dress to lunch that day in the Aro Valley. I wore it to drinks that evening on the waterfront. I wore it to dinner that night, at Fusion Virtuoso in Manners Mall. When the weather turned cold for the 80th birthday at Pipitea Marae the next day, I teamed it with a Scanlon and Theodore suit jacket – perfect! I wear it frequently in Melbourne, sometimes with a coat, sometimes with a jacket, sometimes even with a cardy . Like all moochi fashion it is a dress that is “all about a style,  not an age. Whether racing around town, meeting friends at night or chilling at your local on a Saturday morning, it is all about looking and feeling amazing”. moochi website

Zambesi – cool fashion from the coolest little capital

Clinging to the rugged terrain at the very end of the North Island, straddling a web of irritable geological fault lines and buffeted by ferocious winds, Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand’s capital city, is a place like no other. Different, edgy, arty, bold, they call it the coolest little capital in the world. It’s a city with a style of its own – also different, edgy, arty, bold and incredibly cool. That style is epitomised by the fashion house Zambesi.

Zambesi's Wellington Store in Customhouse
Zambesi’s Wellington Store in Customhouse

A few months ago I called into Zambesi’s Wellington store at 103 Customhouse Quay to browse their racks of fabulously cut garments in delicious fabrics.  I’ve been a Zambesi devotee since I lived in Wellington in the 80s and 90s, so a visit to the Customhouse Quay store is something of a pilgrimage whenever I return. I fell into conversation with the woman in charge. She was wearing Zambesi, of course, from the winter collection – wide-legged crop pants and a belted, wide-sleeved tunic top in a heavy purple wool. It was fabulous – different, edgy, arty, bold, incredibly cool, uniquely Zambesi and absolutely, positively Wellington!

“Founded by Elisabeth and Neville Findlay in 1979, Zambesi possesses a consistent and unique signature and is proudly made in New Zealand.

Zambesi epitomizes individual spirit, redefining convention with an ironic practicality, confirming its reputation in the global market of strength, beauty and independence.

Designer Elizabeth Findlay is inspired by fabrics and for Zambesi womenswear, she works instinctively, taking carefully chosen cloth in unexpected directions. History and memory contribute strongly to Elisabeth’s attitude toward design. The clothes reflect both realism and imagination.

Designer Dayne Johnston takes a disciplined hand to Zambesi menswear. His work results in extremely well cut, wearable garments that capture attention with their clever detailing. Those unique details sit alongside precisely tailored nods to traditional and utilitarian menswear, resulting in a refined masculine style” Zambesi website, Profile                                       http://www.zambesi.co.nz

 

Wellington walks – The Eastern Walkway

Wellington’s Eastern walkway meanders up and down the windswept cliff tops and through the bush along the edge of Cook Strait. Needless to say it offers spectacular views out across the sea. It also takes in historical landmarks and glimpses of local wildlife.

A glimpse of the  Attaturk Memorial from the Rangitautau Reserve, Tarakena Bay
A glimpse of the Attaturk Memorial from the Rangitautau Reserve, Tarakena Bay

The Eastern Walkway begins at Tarakena Bay, at Rangitautau Reserve, site of the ancient Rangitautau and Toitu Pa. Established by the Ngai Tara people, Rangitautau was the first settlement in the region. On the bush-clad rise, close to and overlooking the ocean, it enjoyed a prime position with easy access to kai whenua (food from the land) and kai moana (seafood) Equally importantly, it allowed clear views of approaching tribes and it was easily defensible against attack. Today’s visitors can enjoy views out across Cook Strait, often, on a clear day, all the way to the Kaikoura Ranges in the South Island.

Just across the road from the Rangitautau reserve, a colony of little blue penguins makes its home. Although you may not spot these shy little birds, you will see their pictures the quaint bi-lingual signs along the roadside.

A caution to commuters on Wellington's southern coast road.
A caution to commuters on Wellington’s southern coast road.

A steep, but invigorating upward climb from Tarakena Bay, with the bush on one side and increasingly fabulous sea views on the other, will take you past the local Tsunami Assembly Point, to the Attaturk Memorial.

The Attaturk Memorial resulted from a 1984 agreement between the Turkish, Australian and New Zealand Governments. Turkey agreed to change the name of Ari Baru, where many Australians and New Zealanders  perished in the Gallipoli catastrophe of 1915, to Anzac Cove. A monument in memory of the fallen was raised on the site. In return Australia and New Zealand agreed to build monuments in Canberra and Wellington to Mustafa Kemil Attaturk, Turkish Commander at Gallipoli and first President of modern Turkey.

The Tarakena Bay site was chosen for its remarkable resemblance to the terrain on the Gallipoli Peninsula.  Designed by Ian Bowman, the Attaturk  Memorial was unveiled by the Turkish Minister of Agriculture in 1990. Inscribed on it are the words written by Mustafa Kemil Attaturk in 1934 and read at Anzac services every year since.

Those heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives, you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side in this country of ours. You, the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears, your sons are now lying in our bosoms and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they become our sons as well.

The Eastern Walkway ends in a steep drop down to the road at the Pass of Branda. Heading south along Breaker Bay Road back to Tarakena Bay, you’ll pass the Wahine Memorial Park, which commemorates the fifty lives lost when the Interisland ferry Wahine struck Barrett’s reef in a violent storm in1968.

The Eastern Walkway is 4.2 kilometres long. It takes about 1.5 to 2 hours walk. I walked it last a few years ago with a long-lost friend and although parts of it left me speechless and breathless, we managed to fill the walk a mutual (detailed) recount of five years separation.

Wellington Walks – City to Sea

Wellington’s City to Sea Walkway takes you from Parliament, in the central city, to Island Bay, on the coast 12 kilometres away.

Almost the end of Wellington's City to Sea Walk
Almost the end of Wellington’s City to Sea Walk

Once again, the City to Sea walk offers all the things that we love about Wellington – the rugged hills, the bracing wind, the sweeping views of the city, bush and sea, with glimpses of historic places and famous local landmarks.

The first stage of the City to Sea Walkway takes you through the Botanic Gardens. Slow down and smell the roses, especially in the famous Lady Norwood Rose Garden. You’ll pass by two historic graveyards where many Wellington founding fathers lie at rest. High on the hill you’ll find the Carter Observatory, one of several on the route. You can watch the legendary Wellington Cable Cable arrive and depart. From here, you can see Wellington University tucked into the fold of the hills and far below, the city wrapped around the harbour.

Now it’s all downhill to the Aro Valley with its hundred year old wooden cottages strung along the steep, narrow streets. Take a break in Aro Park, where, during the Cold War era, historian Bill Sutch was sprung passing national secrets to a Russian spy. If pass through this park in early March, you’ll catch one of the most spectacular festivals on the Wellington Calendar.

Leaving the Aro Valley in your wake, you’ll head up into the bushy Town Belt through stands of pines and native bush onto wind swept ridge tops. The views from here are spectacular. Behind you there’s central Wellington spreading around the harbour. Turn your gaze to the south and you’ll see Newtown, where stately Government house stands in its lush gardens, an oasis among the crowded streets. Beyond Newtown, Berhampore sprawls across the hill. Further on the Gothic towers of Erskine college mark the beginning of Island Bay. Look up and you’ll see the Brooklyn wind turbine turning against the sky. On one side there’s , Mount Victoria, on the other Mount Kaukau. Ahead, in the v of the hills, there’s Cook Strait and on a clear day, you can see the peaks of the South Island’s Kaikoura Ranges standing white against the blue.

The walk down over the hills of Brooklyn, through the last glades of bush is beautiful, especially when the broom and the gorse are blooming on the hills of happy valley. From here, the coast, with surging waves dashing against the rocks, is magnificent

Like the Southern Walkway, this is a walk that can be done in stages. Again, it is well sign-posted, so it is easy to leave or join the track at any time.

The experts recommend a good level of fitness to complete the City to Sea walk in a single day.

 

Wellington Walks, the Southern Walkway

Vertiginous hills, narrow tortuous roads, zigzagging vertical steps, stands of native bush in impossible places, lush patches of parkland in unexpected places, rickety old wooden houses, quirky quake-defying modern buildings, scenes from Lord of the Rings, ferocious winds and million dollar sea views – that’s Wellington. If you want to experience all this in a day, take a walk, or rather a hike, along Wellington’s Southern Walkway.

Taputeranga Marine Reserve, the end of the Southern Walkway
Taputeranga Marine Reserve, the end of the Southern Walkway

The Southern Walkway (Te Ranga a Hiwi) begins at the eastern end of Oriental Parade, with a steep climb up a series of paths and steps (vertical naturally!) to the Mount Victoria lookout. The view from here is sensational and it’s worth pausing for a while to drink it all in – the city buildings, the harbour and the hills on the other side, the Interislander ferry gliding slowly out to sea. This is also a great spot to feel the force of a good Wellington wind – bracing!

Halfway along Mount Victoria there’s spot where a scene from Lord of the Rings was set. You’ll understand why when you see it!

The hour-long walk down the rolling grassy slopes on the other side of Mount Victoria, through stands of trees and past suburban back gardens is a leisurely and lovely one. Beyond Mount Victoria you cross the road near the tunnel and head through Kilbirnie and Newtown then past Truby King Park (named for the man who instituted NZ’s wonderful infant welfare system) Now you’ll find yourself at the back of Wellington Zoo. This is a good place to stop, especially if you’re walking with kids. Sush them to silence and stillness, to hear the monkeys chattering, the lions roaring and maybe to spot exotic animals lurking behind the trees (you never know!)

Leaving the Zoo behind the track leads through Melrose Park and up to the top of Mount Albert. Now you’re looking ahead, out to Cook Strait and back over streets of little wooden houses to the city. Amazing views, more tearing winds and worth a pause for both!

The end is in sight. Once you’ve crossed Houghton Bay road, you drop down through Sinclair Park and onto The Esplanade. Follow the road left along the coast past Taputeranga marine reserve to Island Bay and the end of the great Southern Walkway.

The Southern Walkway takes about five hours. It is fairly easy walking for adults and kids of reasonable fitness. It is well signposted and it is easy to pick up the track or leave it at any point. I did the trek with five 8 and 9 year old boys a few years ago.  lt was a great adventure!

The Lion King

As a story, the Lion King is one of the all-time greats. It has all the elements of a truly satisfying plot – a bright beginning, an unjust reversal, exile, vindication and happily ever after. It has unforgettable characters – the wise old Mufasa, the reckless young Simba, the sadder and wiser older Simba, the feisty Nala, the evil Scar and his retinue of sly hyenas, the flapping loudmouth Zazu and the wisecracking comics Timon and Pumbaa. It has a spectacular African jungle setting. Then, there are the unforgettable Elton John/Tim Rice music and lyrics.

The Lion King at London's Lyceum Theatre
The Lion King at London’s Lyceum Theatre

As I headed off to the stage version of the lion King, I was having difficulty clearing my mind of dominating Disney images of cuddly lion cubs and dark canyons with hordes of buffalo stampeding through clouds of dust. I couldn’t imagine how African dawns, elephants and giraffes would translate convincingly to the stage.

It is carried off, and brilliantly, by sets, props, costumes, masks and puppets and by a cast of wonderful actors, singers and dancers. The opening scene is a parade of colour, sound and movement that are almost overwhelming. From the back of the theatre comes a train of giant elephants worked from within by actors. There are giraffes, formed from stilt walkers. Hyenas are half actor-half puppet. The lions are robed in rich, African cloth in kingly reds and gold. Their leonine character is portrayed through masks and head-dresses. A huge feathered head and beak represents Zazu. Dancers dance out fleet footed gazelles, others in coolie hats whirl a background of birds, butterflies and insects across the stage on poles. Wildebeasts are formed from bicycles. Stampedes play out as shadows on a dramatic jungle backdrop. The music, live, is amazing.

The great story works, without all the technical wizardry of film, just with that subtle magic of suggestion and imagination that is the theatre. The proof? – the group of kids across the aisle, hardened and critical veterans of You Tube TV and DVD. They were on the edge of their seats, spellbound, open-mouthed and shiny-eyed from beginning to end.

The Lion king is in its last days in Melbourne. Catch it if you can!

The Shearers’ Quarters

Hidden away on a quiet back road in the tiny hamlet of Seadown, just north of Timaru, the Shearers’ Quarters country gift shop and cafe, is a slice of retro rustic heaven which offers a great outing for visitors of all ages and tastes.

The Shearer's Quarters
The Shearer’s Quarters

Coffee aficionados can sip their brew of choice on a comfy armchair beside the log fire in the old silo, at a chunky table in the disused shearing shed, on the wide, shady verandah or in a secluded spot in the sunny garden. The Shearers’ Quarters has a tranquil, uncrowded space with a nostalgic country flavour for every season. The coffee is superb and a good range of teas is available too. The food is rich and generous; it took two kids and three adults to conquer a slice of chocolate mud cake and a further two adults and two kids to dispense with a caramel oat slice.

Housed in the abandoned shearers’ quarters which give the business its name, the gift shop provides happy hunting and foraging for lovers of arts and crafts.

Just off the shearing shed section of the cafe, there’s a playroom to keep the little kids occupied. Out front the garden is perfect for hide and seek.

The Shearers’ Quarters is also available for functions and on that beautiful, sunny autumn day when I sat sipping my cafe latte and doing my bit with that slice of chocolate mud cake, I couldn’t help thinking wistfully of a romantic wedding ceremony in the garden and a banquet at a long tables on the verandah of the old shearing shed.

In an age when barns, sheds, stables, churches, banks and even post offices have been born again as gift shops and cafes and in a region rich with crafts, coffee and great food, the Shearers’ Quarters country gift shop and cafe is a stand out.

The Shearers Quarters is located at 932 Seadown Road just north of Timaru in South Canterbury, the South Island of New Zealand

Island Bay, a great place for kids

Where in Wellington do you find a hermit’s island, fishing boats, rockpools, a pirate ship, a haunted house, a treasure trove of books, dolphins, seals and penguins, fish and chips and ice-cream? In Island Bay of course. That’s why it’s such a great place for kids.

Tapu Te Ranga
Tapu Te Ranga

With flocks of seabirds wheeling above its rocky peaks, waves pounding its seaboard side and cut from the mainland by a narrow but treacherous looking channel, Tapu Te Ranga, Island Bay’s island, smacks of adventure. It was here, long ago, that the mysterious hermit of Island Bay lived with his goats. Long before that, the Tangata Whenua, or people of the area, took refuge here in times of war. Long, long before that, the legendary Kupe climbed its highest rock, to search for the octopus Te Wheke. Adventurers unable to resist the urge to explore Tapu Te Ranga are advised to be judicious in their choice of transport (reliable) weather (fine) and tide (definitely not outgoing) and to take water!

There are plenty of adventures to be had within sight of Tapu Te Ranga, on Island Bay beach – swimming, of course, sand construction projects, diving and bombing off the jetty, leaping around rocks and exploring rock pools. There’s also plenty to see, especially if you happen to be there when the fishing boats, followed by screeching seagulls, chug in from Cook Strait.

The story of commercial fishing in Island Bay dates back to the late 1800s when fishermen from the Shetland Islands and from Southern Italy migrated here to fish the rich waters around here. Many of the descendants of those fishermen still live in Island Bay today and many of them are still in the fishing business. Island is often called little Italy and an important feature on the local calendar is the annual blessing of the fishing boats.

Just over the road from Island Bay beach, Shorland Park’s pirate ship has fulfilled countless young adventurers’ Treasure Island and sea-faring fantasies for almost half a century. There’s a hillside slide, a paddling pool, a sandpit, a roundabout a band rotunda and lots of lawn to race around on when the pirate games have played out. When they have, it’s probably time for a little ghost spotting.

The former Convent of the Sacred Heart, Erskine College, stands against the hills at the city end of Island Bay. It’s grim-faced grey, neo-gothic building. A creaking gate opens onto a shadowed garden of overgrown trees and thick shrubs. The air seems chilly. Rows of blank windows reflect the clouds. It’s the kind of place that fires the imagination with stories of ghosts. This probably why Peter Jackson chose to set his film The Frighteners here!

Island Bay Bookshop
Island Bay Bookshop

Back down in Island Bay’s main street,  Island Bay Stationers,  with its incredible collection of children’s literature, has been feeding young imaginations for over 40 years. Generations of children, including my own, remember hours happily browsing and choosing books with the kind and gentle assistance of Mrs Fay Far who established the collection. This Island Bay institution is still full of reading treasures – for kids and parents alike.

Not strictly speaking, in Island Bay, but a bracing march over the hill and along the coast road, or a short drive of the same, you’ll find the Island Bay Marine Education Centre with a small aquarium and a touch tank – interesting stuff for budding marine biologists!

Beyond this, you enter a marine reserve where all kinds of interesting sea creatures make their homes. It’s beautiful walk, with stunning views out to sea, where often, you’ll see the inter-island ferries sail past and if you’re lucky, dolphins cavorting in the waves, or, if you’re even luckier, you might catch a glimpse of a penguin.

Further on still, on the windswept, sea-battered point where land ends, you’ll come to Red Rocks, home to a large colony of seals. Grandpas, grandmas, mums, dads, kids and baby seals lounge and play, chattering among themselves. It‘s fascinating to watch. The seals are quite untroubled by tourists and sightseers, until, of course, they get too close!

To end a day at Island Bay, there’s nothing better than fish and chips on the beach, or in Shorland Park, with an ice-block for dessert. The best place to find those fish and chips is Island Bay Fish and Chips at 137 The Parade Island Bay. Right next door, there’s a dairy for the ice-blocks!

Soldes! saldi! sales!

If not the realization of the ultimate dream, then it’s certainly a happy circumstance when the fashion-following traveler lands in Paris, Rome or London in the season of the Soldes, the Saldi or the Sales.

Harrod', London, Travelstripe
Harrod’, London, Travelstripe

Some years ago, I found myself in London for the last week of the winter sales, so one morning, when the weather was fine, the sky clear and the air mild enough for a pleasant walk but chilly enough to make little forays into warm shops a pleasant prospect, I trotted up to Oxford Street to hunt down some bargains. “50%, 60%, 75% off!” screamed the giant red letters on shop window after shop window. “Final days!” urged others. It was compelling, irresistible.

 Soon I was part of a shopaholic sisterhood dashing from store to store and floor to floor. Side by side we rummaged with grim intent through mountains of tangled t shirts, and twisted cardigans with missing buttons. We scrabbled through shelves of low-rise, skinny, stretch jeans with 12 inch waists and six foot legs. We flipped through racks jammed with dresses, jackets and shirts in dreadful colours and impossible sizes. I was beginning to lose heart. Clearly, London women were either 7 feet and 7 stone or 7 feet and 20 stone with a penchant for synthetics in purple, silver and mustard. There was nothing here for me.

 I shifted the search to menswear where the target market was evidently the super-sized chap with flamboyant taste. There were racks of XXL shirts in lurid stripes and tables piled with loud checkered caps. I gave up and headed to children’s wear and a room a-wash with steals in frilly hot pink. It was here, finally, that I scored the day’s great bargain hunting triumph. Beyond the racks of pink and frills, in dim and all but deserted boy’s wear, I fossicked patiently through shelves of jeans until I found one, the last, I think, in size 7-8.

 As I marched home through the now dark streets I found myself pondering two fundamental sale-shopping truths. Firstly it pays to hit the sales early, before all the real bargains are snapped up (those dedicated shoppers who camp on the pavement the night before the sale starts certainly know a thing or two) and secondly sale-shopping is not for the faint-hearted, it takes determination and lots of it.

 

 

Conquering Christchurch’s Port Hills in a Gondola

There are several routes through the rugged Port Hills; zigzag up the Bridle Path tramped into the tussock by the early settlers; cut straight through the centre via the Lyttleton tunnel; zoom around hairpin bends on the spectacular summit road; or like us, take the Gondola and swing straight up a sheer cliff face in a glass bubble on slim wire cable.

View of the Port hills from the Gondola
View of the Port hills from the Gondola

Accustomed to leaping virtual tall buildings, if not mountains on their Nintendo DS and their PSP, the kids laugh madly as a rocky hillside hurtles towards us, but we adults clutch each other’s sweaty hands in panic while, beyond a sign which tells us not to be alarmed if our capsule stops, the flat ground drops swiftly away.

As we dock at the summit a couple of school teachers lead a troupe of miniature mountaineers, all in high-visibility gear, over the skyline. We are indeed in the land that nurtured the Sir Edmund Hillary.

We picnic on a vertiginous slope. In front are the modest towers of Christchurch and beyond them, the Canterbury Plains stretch away to the Southern Alps. On one side the Pacific Ocean vanishes into the horizon. On another there are folds of dun coloured hills, Lake Ellesmere and a roll of surf on the Tasman Sea. Behind us Lyttleton Harbour lies like an opal in its volcanic crater bed. Impervious to the view but not the dizzying height and space the kids dance madly on the edge of the land and make wild leaps at the sky.

As we lurch off one side of the summit for the return trip in our glass bubble, the tiny hikers set off through the tussock on the other. We watch the line fluoro yellow hats until they vanish behind a ridge. Just in front of us a red sail drops from a cliff. We follow it as it circles the fading evening sky.

“Can we do that tomorrow?” ask the kids.

Travel stories, anecdotes and observations