Wellington certainly deserves its nickname as the windy capital. As the world’s southernmost capital city, it was surprisingly warm today–mid fifties–but a constant breeze made a good jacket a requirement.

The day dawned with scattered drizzles, a contrast to last night’s ultra-clear weather, but by mid morning it began to clear off.

We spent our morning touring the city by bus, with a stop for a viewpoint atop a western ridge. Along the road up was one of the spots where a forest chase scene was filmed for Lord of the Rings, and the dense trees looked familiar.

Our second stop was New Zealand’s parliament building, a complex of three radically different buildings (two and a half, really, as the middle one was never fully built out).

Then we took the cable car to the top of the eastern ridge, and the botanical garden. But rather than enter the garden here, we drove back down to the other side, where we spent our time in the warm greenhouse building and visited the peace flame, where a waterfall and pool of green algae made fascinating patterns.

In the late morning we rode to the Quay and had a beer tasting of two local brews, a pilsner that was light and lemony, and a somewhat more complex bitter. They were both okay, but I bought a glass of stout that we shared around the table, and it was better than either of the two free offerings.

Next door to the brew pub was Te Papa, the national museum of New Zealand. This is probably the best cultural museum I’ve been to. The displays were extremely sophisticated, and the place was busy with school kids who were thoroughly engaged.

We had a private tour by a Maori guide named “T.” He was excellent. My favorite display was an interactive floor with an arial photo of New zealand. When you stepped on places, a zig zag line lit up on the floor, leading to a backlit projection on the wall from that place. In addition to video, these pictures included photos emailed to them by guests, and geotagged with that location. Neat!

In the room next door was an image capture station that allowed you to snap you picture and then manipulate it–and everyone else’s–on a giant wall display using a flashlight-like wand. You could resize, tilt and move the photos, or even send them careening around the room for others to play with.

There were also extensive displays of New Zealand’s flora and fauna, both current and historic, and Maori and immigrant cultures and history. Dani’s friend Laura met her during the tour and they went off to spend the day together.

After the tour I walked up to Cuba Street and had lunch in a French Cafe name Le Metropolitain. It was quite authentic; I had pork rillet on sour dough with cornichons and a mesclun salad with chicken livers.

For dinner I dined alone right across the street at Martin Bosley, voted New Zealand’s top restaurant. I’ll put that in a separate post.