This is a guest post from reader Isabella
I’ve been with Wellington for a while. We’ve had our ups and downs, but it’s over 30 years together. Notwithstanding some flings with other cities, I’ve been faithful to you. But I can’t pretend I’ve not yearned for a few things you don’t have (like decent PT, some real bike infrastructure), and some things you’ll never have (better weather, lots of little tree-lined beaches).
But after that night, Wellington….
Wellington, I’ve fallen for you again – better and more than ever!
That night… I went on a progressive dinner party, traversing the city by hired e-bike between Wellington on a Plate restaurants and bars.
À La Carless – the progressive dinner by e-bike – took 14 of us from Switched On Bikes on the waterfront, to entrées at Nam-D’s fairy-lit “hawker stall” on Tory St, up to mains, wine and desserts at Salty Pidgin in Brooklyn, back to sea level and Charley Noble on Post Office Square for cocktails. It was cold, drizzly, and a light southerly; from start to finish, we progressive diners had the time of our lives.
The Wellingtonista has a great full-spectrum review, but here’s what made one woman glow on her date with Wellington
The “progressive” part of “progressive dinner”
Oh, those hills. They’re so… Wellington.
Without them (and the Town Belt) we’d not have our compact CBD, so… thankyou hills. But dammit, getting up them on foot or on a bike is just hard – especially dressed for dinner, and drinking some nice wines. And especially if it’s windy.
So it’s bus (timetable, ugh), or taxi / Uber (expense, carbon, ugh), or make a few people sober-drive everyone else (carbon, parking, feeling obliged – triple ugh).
But the progressive diners of À La Carless could have our progressive cake and eat it all. Our progressive progress around the city was on e-bikes. And it was a complete revelation.
From cruising at jogging pace along the waterfront, bells dinging cheerily and passers-by waving, we progressive diners hit the road. Keeping up easily with the traffic through town, we headed up to Salty Pidgin in Brooklyn. Brooklyn Road, known as a never-ending gut-buster for all but the Fittest Cyclists, was a total breeze.
We zoomed up at a comfortable 20km, this diner cackling with delight as we passed walkers and Proper Cyclists slogging their way up, and as steamed-up buses and cars passed us.
Dear Wellington, after 20 years of getting around in you, and stifling my groans at your hills… now I can wholeheartedly say I love your contours.
All it takes is an e-bike and a destination.
Wining and dining and riding, oh my!
The e-bike made a true progressive dinner possible. We spent at most ten minutes door to door between restaurants or bars, and parked right outside every one. Our courteous-parking challenge was more than your average, because of our large posse of steeds, yet it felt easy and seamless finding a park anywhere.
On bowling up at each restaurant we were welcomed and our dish and drink selections arrived with perfect timing, thanks to seamless organisation by Frocks On Bikes.
And credit goes to Frocks’ ride-leading. Light-handed, informative and reassuring, the Frocks women enabled even the most nervous and unaccustomed riders to feel comfortable and enjoy the “progressions” between eateries. Even the most nervous were exclaiming “I had no idea Wellington could be so easy to ride around!”
You surprised me, you charmed me
The evening’s destinations were kept secret until we were ready to hit the road, but several of us were extra startled to hear we’d be heading back down to the city and Charley Noble via Central Park. Central Park is in the middle of town but feels like a wilderness – steep, densely bushed, and somewhere you avoid at night (especially if you’re female).
But with a bike gang of dining buddies, it was just exciting! “Ooo this is such an adventure!” people said as we rolled through the dark trees, with ruru calling our passing and headlamps illuminating the tree-trunks and ferns. The cherry on our dining adventure cake was a stop-off in the middle of the Park – for a zoom on the flying fox. Every progressive dinner should have such an interlude!
Wellingtonians, it seems, can wear all manner of outfits (high heels, dresses, capes, trench-coats) on bikes and on flying-foxes with equal aplomb. (Though despite our narrow streets and traffic there was only screaming in Central Park; flying foxes are a tad more thrilling than riding a bike).
I lived within walking distance of Central Park for years, and never realised how great it’s become. Wellington, I love how you surprise me!
Now, for a threesome…
My partner said “Hell no I’m not A Cyclist” and turned down the offer of a ticket to A La Carless. He’s now regretting it, but he needn’t fear.
The next free weekend we have, I’m hiring us some Switched On Bikes and doing a progressive dining date with Wellington!