wellington eats: cicio cacio, newtown

As the old saying goes, if I had a penny for every time I've been recommended Cicio Cacio I'd be a rich girl. This Newtown establishment, tucked away behind MOON bar (accessed by a laneway off of Owen St), has certainly made a name for itself with its traditional Italian cooking and warm inviting interiors. Stumbling into an upmarket European eaterie isn't something you'd usually expect from Wellington's bohemian suburb packed with punks, shoeless students, and characters carrying cats, but it works.

We arrive on a Sunday evening at 5:30pm to friendly waitresses welcoming us in. There are no physical menus at Cicio Cacio, mainly because they change their menu daily and so it makes more sense for them to rely on their specials board and their staff relaying the speciality treats. Because the dishes in each category can be counted on one hand, it gives the feeling of a streamlined selection - a curation of the best of the best. We opt for the bruschetta with goats cheese, tomatoes, and aubergine, along with the antipasti platter of meats, cheeses and breads. For mains we split the seafood risotto (a little too reminiscent of paella), and the pappardelle with ricotta and sausage. The starters definitely were more awe-inspiring than the secondary course, but perhaps that's because we were already filled up on carbs and conversation.

The cuisine was perfect for a Sunday night, rounding off the week with the most indulgent of ingredients assembled deliciously.  I can really see why people are so enamoured with this place.

Cicio Cacio, 167 Riddiford St, Wellington


a sunday kind of love #18

a round-up of my week & cultural eats: twentysix, cats, and an indie-rock rendition of dolly

a few weeks ago i went with a friend to watch short films as part of a film festival. there was one in particular that i found absolutely joyous, which was an ode to feline friendships in animated wonder. if you get a chance give catherine by britt raes a watch, it's hilarious and vibrant while intriguing and beautifully drawn.

because we all need introspection sometimes: lessons in stillness from one of the quietest places on earth
because i just finished the butterfly effect: jon ronson on bespoke porn
because you can't beat the ultimate fringed songstress: lessons in life, style and selfhood from joni mitchell

last week i turned twentysix, which felt like a landmark for reasons i couldn't tell you because i don't really know. maybe it's because twentyfive felt like a pretty momentous year, of highs and lows, adventures and standing still, so i'm interested to see what wisdom this new age will bring. i was blessed with a lovely birthday weekend, of gigs, beach days, and bbqs with sweet friends in the sunshine! i'm also feeling super excited for a christmas break of travelling new zealand. any recommendations would be greatly welcomed.

greta gerwig on marc maron's wtf
louis theroux's firey falsetto on adam buxton's podcast


tramping the tongariro alpine crossing

The bus and car journeys going North were long after a full day of work and Friday evening drinks (with a two drink restriction), but we drove on through the night talking with energy that slowly waned and music that coincidentally softened. It was 1am when we reached Pipers Lodge, tucked away behind trees. 1am when we unpacked our stuff, clambered through the wooden panelling of ski chalet chic, and into our bunk beds. 

It’s funny now how any stay in sleeping surroundings like this harp me back to our three months in Asia, sleeping on mattresses ranging from marshmallow to rock-hard. Rooms of tens of people snoring or whispering. The clanks of lockers opened at silly o’clock and niceties shared by sinks. Thankfully, we had this room to ourselves. 

It reminded me of what I’d imagine a summer camp to be like, too, with checkered bedding and the view of terraced outside blocks, people smoking cigarettes on their porches. 

A summer camp for tramping grown-ups, I’d say.

Tramping (‘hiking’ if you’re not familiar with Kiwi lingo) was why we were here. The Tongariro Crossing was our destination, to make like Frodo and co and nervously edge our way up Mount Doom, otherwise known as Mt. Ngauruhoe - an active stratovolcano in the middle of the Tongariro National Park. 

It had been on our New Zealand bucket list since the beginning, but as Christmas had loomed and wallets had tightened due to big festive travelling plans, we’d almost let it slip, until we realised that it’d be ridiculous to skip this once in a lifetime opportunity to walk one of the best routes in the world.

Saturday morning we woke up early, bleary-eyed and in need of fuel which we found in porridge consumed within the kitchen cabin alongside other thrill-seeking Europeans. The shuttle bus picked us up at 8:30am and drove us 30 minutes to the beginning of the trail. As our feet followed the marked out path, we remarked at how Yorkshire-esque the scenery seemed, how it felt as if we’d tumbled back onto the Moors. This thought quickly evaporated as we entered hour three and got our first peek of the Mountain. 

The landscape seemed almost Martian, with craters peppering the ground, and red glowing peaks rising into the sky. The track had been steep to get to this point, the steps carved into the rock that climbed you into the clouds. It was hard not to feel overcome by the rugged beauty around us.

We ascended and ascended and stopped, on top of the world and looking into the mouth of the Middle of the Earth. Painted with deep strokes of red, grey and snow. We ate lunch sat on a rock looking out at real-life Mordor, and I couldn’t help but feel the rawest sense of elation, elevation, electricity. And a deep love for the crisps I'd packed in my bag. 

Over the crest of the highest point, it was time to go down. The ground was unsteady, and we all lost our balance many times, resulting in much hilarity as we sat a little shellshocked covered in dust post-tumble. The view was spectacular though, with greens and blues of sulphuric lakes glistening in the distance and the crossing stretching out as far as the eye could see. 

The hours passed as we walked and walked further. Ups, downs, ups, downs, we left Mars behind and travelled on to velvety moors. Lake Taupo could be seen beyond the bright colours of the heather, as we descended down to the sleeping hut. 

The last two hours of the almost eight were the hardest, with the ground constantly veering downwards meaning our feet began to burn from impact. But we soldiered on, and soon found woodland - a green canopy overhead like a luscious ceiling. 

We saw babbling brooks, waterfalls, ferns and more as we walked the path. We saw the same people we’d caught up with along the way that we encouraged and they us. There was a feeling of camaderie in the air, bolstered by the beautiful weather that turned everything and everyone golden (/sunburnt). 

It was the longest trek I’ve ever done, and definitely a challenge, but undoubtedly one of the best experiences of my life. 

On our return to the Lodge, we retired into the hot tub (thank god for forward-planning and privilege!) and the talk turned to upcoming birthdays and then on to bucket lists. We reeled off things we hoped to achieve in the next few years, knowing that a big tick had already been made. 

Advice if you're planning on tramping the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
- Take all the food and water you'll need (lots of snacks!)
- Wear durable, comfortable hiking boots
- Take layers - the weather can change in the blink of an eye up there
- Rewatch the LOTR films beforehand and find your mind blown as you see the sights 


8 photos to inspire you to visit cuba street

Cuba Street's alive with colour - it's Wellington's coolest street bustling with bars, cafes, and vintage shops where you can find sartorial heaven at a knock-off price. I'd even go as far as to call this road Wellington's heart, the pulsating middle of what makes this city for the twenty-somethings, or those looking for that special slice of cultural character. 

Here you'll find Fidel's Cafe for brunch, Midnight Espresso for nachos and coffee, Espressoholic for ...yup, the cutesy Lighthouse Cuba cinema tucked away nearby, Iko Iko for cute gifts, buskers, street art, and a whole host of other Kiwi institutions. You'll even find a water sculpture that periodically likes to dump water on people's heads, that one devoted Wellingtonian dressed up as for Halloween.

Do you have a favourite spot on Cuba Street?   


a sunday kind of love #17

Sunny weather, planning trips, working hard, slowing down. Fireworks on the beachside watching a seagull struggling in the breeze. Beers in the only spot in Wellington sheltered from the wind. Hearing people's passions. Being more mindful. Feeling excited for Christmas travels, but not festive in the slightest. That's how my November's looking.

The season just ain't the same without the long nights and bright lights. But everything's an experience, and I'm revelling in the moments.

How's your Sunday?


the seigneur-terraces

When I first moved to Wellington, I spent a few weeks dipping into freelancing while remaining untethered to the working world. Aimless and far from home in a place that felt so familiar with its weather, humour, and fauna, it took some getting used to.

Seigneur-Terraces: (French) Coffee shop dwellers who sit at tables a long time but spend little money.

I love that this word has no English equivalent. During those weeks, I sat for hours in different coffee shops soaking in the city and sipping flat whites that had long gone lukewarm. Nestled into a nook of a cafe, procrastinating by people-watching, feeling ensconced in those around me's lives. Seeing the residents to-ing and fro-ing from the comfort of an armchair. 

Often the best way to independently immerse yourself into a new city is to become a seigneur-terrace. It's especially apt in a country that has coffee flowing through its veins. It's a way to explore, a way to see different sights, a way to fill your time, a way to give yourself some sort of purpose (albeit a wanky Millennial one). And when you're done, you'll find that there's probably a place you always come back to - your local, if you will. Somewhere that makes you feel right at home as you drink tea with a friend, sit reading your book at the weekend, or finally do the work you've been putting off. Somewhere you can absorb the city's buzz, life, and conversation. Somewhere that warmly and tastily anchors you to the here-and-now.


up in the clouds at mount victoria

Wherever you look in Wellington, there's hills, hills, hills as far as the eye can see. It's funny, I remember growing up in Brighton and thinking the incline on my streets was intense back then, back in the day when I would drag my little scooter around with me while out playing with friends. The banks seemed impossibly steep. But now after experiencing the heights of New Zealand's hills, I know that was nothing.

The hills here are occasionally a little overwhelming, but they're where you'll find the best, most rewarding views. Looking for something to do on a weekend, we headed up Mount Victoria to enjoy being on higher ground. The weather was as fluctuating as usual, swinging from sunshine into a dull, grey glaze, which if anything added to the romance of the visual treat. We watched as the clouds rolled over the hills, as planes landed into the airport, as the sun glittered on the water, and as others arrived out of breath to where we stood, on top of the city.


a sunday kind of love #16

This week I started a new job! I'm super happy with it - everything's swell. The days are getting lighter, the sun is getting stronger; New Zealand's heading into Spring and it's larvely. 

This weekend I went to see the beautifully brutal God's Own Country. My interest was piqued when  I heard it referred to as the 'Yorkshire Brokeback Mountain,' and while it definitely has similarities with the wildness of Wuthering Heights, it's very much a piece of cinema that must be celebrated in its own right. Smartly and sensually unpicking the frailties of masculinity, God's Own navigates love, intimacy, vulnerability and growing up in a way that sincerely tugs at the heartstrings.

In one scene Gheorghe (the Romanian farm-hand) is followed closely by Johnny (the Yorkshire lad) as he bounds over a dry-stone wall to gaze upon the woolly horizon. Johnny looks at this old familiar view, looks back at Gheorghe who stands mouth agape transfixed by the otherworldly nature of the scenery, then looks back at the view, and in that moment everything changes. Their relationship is both tender and brutish, flawed and beautiful.

Hearing the Yorkshire lingo brought joy to my soul - I miss it so, but apparently at Sundance Film Festival they were asked to supply subtitles for bewildered watchers. Turns out Utah folk aren't so clued up on what a bap is.

I finished Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked which was pretty sombre I have to say. Definitely worth a read if you're interested in gamification, behavioural addiction and/ or what sitting scrolling on your iPhone for hours is doing to you...
Ta-Nehisi Coates weighs in on Trump: The First White president
David Hockney at 80


The Girlfriend Experience has been an interesting view so far! Sexy, sultry and suspenseful 
Nick Broomfield's Whitney, Can I Be Me 



a trip to makara beach

A few weeks ago we took a trip to Makara Beach, a cove roughly a 45 minute drive from Wellington through the hills, the depths of Karori, and past gorges gorging with trees. It was a bright blue, gorgeously warm day (the first one in a while) on which we could discard our coats and walk along the shore clad simply in high spirits & jumpers. 

We sat for a while catching up, shielding our eyes from the blazing sun, and watching as children threw rocks into the sea and dogs swam alongside divers. 

After our wander, we headed back along the coastline to the Makara Beach Cafe where we treated ourselves to ice creams before getting back in the car. I couldn't help but think that if we were at a place like this back in the U.K., on one of the warmest days of Winter, it would be uncomfortably bustling with bodies. A joyful thing about New Zealand is the sweeping sense of calm, of peace, of quiet wherever you go.

If you fancy more of a walk you can follow a track from Makara Beach up past an ancient Ngāti Ira pā site to the Fort Opau gun emplacements, and see all the way to the South Island. 


a sunday kind of love #15

This week I've been thinking about my old beloved city of Houston, where I lived from 2008-2010, and the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. I've watched as old friends and their families have shared photos and videos of the ever-growing flood, and called out for help to leave behind their homes. My heart royally and totally goes out to Houston. 

(📸  @MattCrump)

Other things I've been reading:

The Princess Myth by Hilary Mantel - an extraordinary read
I'd like to live in this tiny house in California


six of the best things about wellington: new zealand's coolest cultural capital

I've officially lived in Wellington for six weeks! Time has just ticked right on by, hasn't it. I'm still settling on in, which has been helped by some friends from home arriving and meeting lots of new lovely people. Sincerely, I feel like I've already fallen for this city -- it blends together what I love about Brighton with what makes my heart happy about Yorkshire. As you walk up and down the hills,  there's always a sweeping view of the bay to be beheld, colour pops from every corner, and it's got a bohemian, artsy, seaside vibe. 

Here's six of the best things about Wellington:

Street Art
On Cuba Street, in Newtown (where I live) and all around you'll find vibrant street art. It really gives the city that dose of independent character. 

Brunch & Coffee Spots
My favourite place so far for brunch would have to be Maranui Surf Club Cafe in Lyall Bay and its sister restaurant Seaside Cabaret in Petone. Both do a mean eggs benedict and coffee combo, and I mean look at the view from the latter. Fact of the day? Wellington has more cafes and restaurants per capita than New York City...

Bright Blue Skies
I'm still mesmerised by the bright blue skies of New Zealand! Even on a Winter's day, the hue can be otherworldly in its vibrancy. I've written loads about this on here, and on Instagram, but you just don't seem to get the same intensity of grey dark dull days that you do in the U.K. And when the sun does make an appearance, the temperature becomes boiling (probably due to the lack of O-Zone, eep)

The Hills
Tiny, thin meandering streets leading up into the hills. Wooden slatted colourful houses as far as the eye can see. Here it's like San Francisco meets the Old West meets nothing I've ever seen before. You get amazing views from the steep slopes, but you certainly have your work cut out for you if you live at the top of one of them! I think it's fair to say that's why most people in Wellington drive or have exceptionally toned legs.

Where Water Meets Land
The waterfront is absolutely gorgeous here, in part because the water is crystal clear. It's also where you can find Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand. Wander along East and you'll find Oriental Parade; wander West and you'll find Thorndon and the Westpac Stadium. A few weekends back we drove out to Eastbourne, through Petone, following the water as it curves around - it was beautiful!

Welly on a Plate, New Zealand International Film Festival, gigs at great venues - these are just two of hundreds of cultural happenings in Wellington! I'm still discovering what else there is here, so I'll keep you posted, but so far it seems this little cultural capital is living up to the hype.