Sometimes, you just need a solo self-care weekend in your favourite city. For me, that will always be Wellington, New Zealand – the city of vibrant culture, friendly people, and delicious food. I timed my weekend away with the opening of the Wonderland exhibition at Te Papa Museum, and tried to fit in as much of my favourite pastime as possible: reading and brunch!
A little insight as to why I took this trip: when I booked it, I wasn’t in a great mental space. I was stressed and overwhelmed, and whenever this happens, I think it’s important to take some time out for yourself and work out what isn’t working; what isn’t aligned in your life. A lot of the time, remembering who you are; coming home to yourself is key.
When people ask you, ‘Who are you?’ or ‘Describe yourself’, you’d typically list things related to your job title, where you live, and your roles in life, whatever those may be. For example, I am a fiancée, an employee, a friend, a colleague, a daughter, a sister. For others, it may also be: mother, father, teacher. When you spend your time and energy in a way that eventually drains them all on fulfilling your roles in relation to others, but not on fulfilling your own goals, dreams and aspirations, you lose sight of what you want. You’re not living your life; you’re living a life chosen for you by others. You’re living from obligation and expectation rather than authenticity and alignment.
This weekend away was meant to be my way of ‘troubleshooting’ what felt wrong. At home in Auckland, I rarely have any real alone time. It’s rare at work as it is at home, living with two others (my fiancé and his best friend) – more often than not, I can hear noises from video games, my cat whining (though it is cute!), or simply traffic from the busy road we live off.
Just as quiet and solitary time is essential for meditation, it’s essential for going within. It’s simply good for the soul.
Fortunately, it was early November when this was booked; by the time I went to take this trip away, I was in a much better, lighter mental space so got to dedicate this trip more to enjoying being back in my favourite city than self-reflection (which I still did – see end of this blog). I hope that no matter where you are in life, you always feel like you’re in control of your destiny; that you’re living a life you’ve consciously chosen for yourself.
Here’s what I got up to when I flew back to my second home for a short & sweet getaway… ❤
I arrived on a cloudy Friday night at Wellington domestic airport and took a shuttle to my hotel, Travelodge. While I didn’t book a Harbour View Room as my partner and I did last time, my room was wonderfully cosy and comfortable as always. I lit the lavender & sandwalwood soy candle I’d made myself and brought along to make it feel like home, and ordered room service. The sugar & maple glazed salmon fillet with pea risotto and New York baked cheesecake were absolutely divine! I settled in for the night with a warm shower and dived into a book while enjoying a glass of sparkling rosé. The next day, I’d venture out to Lower Hutt to discover an exciting new café I’d read about…
I got up early on Saturday morning and took a scenic bus ride to Petone, Lower Hutt. Those who travel on this bus route everyday may not find it scenic, and I even took this several times when I lived in Wellington, but I just love the serenity of a half hour journey looking over the ocean!
Comes & Goes is tucked between the many shops on Jackson Street; a popular new spot known for its unique and aesthetic dishes. I treated myself to the Truffle Oil Mushroom – roasted portabello mushrooms with balsamic vinegar and red wine, cream, Spanish chorizo, cooked egg, parmigiano-reggiano, sliced mushroom, and truffle oil mushroom puree on brioche toast. My favourite brunch dish – creamy mushrooms – with a twist! I couldn’t resist also trying the Khi Chicken Scotch Egg, a Thai style marinated free range chicken scotch egg, pickled red cabbage, carrot puree, chilli flakes, feta cheese and coriander pesto on rye bread. They were both delightful, and as I couldn’t finish it all, I took them away to snack on later in my hotel room.
I took a short bus ride to Queensgate Shopping Centre for some Christmas gift inspiration, and after seeing that most of the shops were like the ones in Auckland, hopped on a bus back to the city shortly after. In the evening, I popped over to Cha on Courtenay Place, who make incredible, affordable Chinese food. I got myself an old favourite – cheese grilled black pepper beef on rice, along with rose bubble milk tea, and blissfully read my book under the dim lighting. Wellington was hit with a thunderstorm that same evening, and I spent it in my hotel room watching a movie on TV, doing a hair mask, and of course, indulging in more reading from the comfort of my cosy hotel bed.
On Sunday, I simply had to visit my favourite cafe in Wellington: Olive on Cuba St! During my last visit with my partner, we’d enjoyed brunch in their courtyard, including some very memorable poached pear, salted caramel, and chantilly cream on waffles. This time, the waffles of the day were banana and hazelnut cream – a decadent treat following a light and nourishing tomato salad with bread & hummus.
I absolutely loved my private little spot at the front corner of the cafe, reading my morning away with a good book, good food, and very importantly, good tea. Nothing complements an early Sunday morning like a warm, fragrant Earl Grey tea, when the first pour leaves notes of floral bergamot lingering in the air.
After breakfast, I hopped on one of Wellington’s best known attractions: the cable car! The ride was shorter than expected, but the tunnel lights were a nice surprise as was the tranquil view at the summit. I captured a few photos and explored the planetarium, Space Place, before riding back down to Lambton Quay and heading to Neo!
Neo is a friendly little eatery located on Willis St, where I met up with a dear friend and her husband. We first met 6 years ago, not long after I’d moved to Wellington for my first full-time job in 2013. We met at a mutual friend’s birthday high tea, and our friendship blossomed from there, involving a lot of fine dining & cocktails and a trip to Melbourne together. Ah, memories!
I enjoyed Neo’s pumpkin buttermilk pancakes with maple roasted bacon, chilli cinnamon butter, cocoa roasted nuts, crumbled feta and maple syrup. The pancakes were phenomenal. Warm, fluffy, wholesome, and as it turns out, pumpkin flavour + pancakes works. A perfect dish balancing sweet and savoury, and comes with as much maple syrup as you please!
After lunch, we headed to Te Papa for Wonderland! We spent the next two hours or so exploring the timeless tale of Alice in Wonderland and the films, plays and pop culture it’s inspired. From old photographs of the real Alice, to watching all the different Alice in Wonderland films on TVs scattered throughout (at one point we sat in a room re-watching the 1903 version a dozen times as we got distracted chatting away), it was an intriguing experience. We got given our own maps and our own character, and the exhibition features interactive stations where putting down your map will play different scenes based on who you are – so very clever and creative!
I was most fascinated by the fact that the Mad Hatter was based on people in lunatic asylums who held therapeutic tea parties, and also by the ‘Mad Hatter’s Tea Party’ experience – 5 minutes or so of colourful, moving art on the walls surrounding us. Even the teapots, teacups and plates ‘moved’ due to the projectors above us!
With an hour to spare before my shuttle pickup, I revisited my favourite cocktail bar, The Library. With private booths perfect for reading, I put on my headphones, tuned out with my favourite indie music, and read my book while enjoying dessert and one of their seasonal Christmas cocktails. My warm chocolate fondant was luxuriously rich and creamy, and the salted beetroot & brownie ice cream was subtly sweet and super refreshing; complemented by Block Party – raspberry gin & tonic ice block dunked in a glass of prosecco. Bliss!
This weekend away in Wellington was an introvert’s dream and a lovely early Christmas present to myself. As well as reading, one of my highlights was spending an afternoon in my hotel room, tea brewed, candle lit, while I journaled, reflected and wrote some goals for 2020; a new year as well as a new decade. To me, it is important to make time for your soul; to regularly check in with yourself if you are still in alignment with your true intentions for the direction of your life.
I try to visit my favourite city at least once every year ever since I moved back to Auckland, so I’m super grateful to have gone twice this year – our first visit in April to see the incredible Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality exhibition at Te Papa. I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog post and perhaps found some inspiration if you’re heading to the capital some time soon!