In a quiet part of The National Library, on a quiet Friday morning, a disgruntled female voice breaks the silence.
"It says here that in 1893, men could divorce women for being unfaithful but not the other way round," the young woman tells her boyfriend. "God, you were a**holes to women. A**holes!"
Without shouldering responsibility for the entire male sex, he nonetheless makes a wise move in the circumstances: gives a neutral "huh", before moving on to the next display panel to read more about the women's suffrage movement and the battle for equal voting rights.
Her outburst is inspired by He Tohu: A Declaration, A Treaty, A Petition, a permanent free exhibition in Wellington's National Library, first opened in April 2017. As well as the informative and interactive look at the 1893 Women's Suffrage Petition, the exhibition also explores two other founding documents from New Zealand's history – 1835's He Whakaputanga (Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand) and 1840's Te Tiriti o Waitangi (Treaty of Waitangi).
It's a great place to start any visit to the capital, for while many of us will know much of our country's impressive natural attractions, how many have spent much time since our school days studying these important parts of our history?
Traditionally my visits to Wellington have involved great beer, great food, shopping and a bit of culture. But as I discover on this trip, there are many fun and easy ways to get a broader sense of not only our history, but also what it means to be a New Zealander today.
Just under a month out from the general election, there's no escaping politics for any of us right now. And while the headlines and debates, promises and showboating might get a bit much at times, this year of uncertainty and unprecedented events mean it's more important than ever to have a clear understanding of how our political system works.
Across the road from the Library, I join a guided group tour of Parliament – also free to all visitors and operating multiple times a day under alert level one.
Our guide Sam, who bears a striking resemblance to comedian Tom Sainsbury, makes this hour-long tour endlessly entertaining. He knows his stuff, but never seems dry or as if he's reading from a script, and there doesn't seem to be a spontaneous question from our tour group that throws him.
We start in the Beehive, then visit the banquet hall, "the tiles" and the former members' lounge, a grand space with leaded stained glass windows and plush carpets.
The House of Representatives, like film sets and actors, is much smaller in real life than it appears on TV. We gather on the green carpet and Sam gives us a rundown of how the MMP system works, pointing out the seats of each of our local MPs.
We file into a room many of us have become overly familiar with in the last six months – the press briefing room where the now infamous 1pm daily news conferences are held. Today there's no Ashley or Jacinda, just an empty room – again much smaller than it looks on screen – but where such incredible history has been made this year.
We move down corridors, past open office doors where staffers look busy and purposeful, through to the grand parliamentary library where we gaze, mouths agape at the Victorian gothic revival architecture. In the hallway, Sam points out two photo portraits standing either side of the parliamentary clock – on the left, Richard Seddon pictured proudly with his all-male parliament. On the right, the 2018 portrait of the House's 40 female MPs, gathered together to celebrate the 125th anniversary of women's suffrage. In the centre of the photo, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern holds a very young baby Neve. How times have changed since Seddon's day, thanks to protest and progress.
"The most important thing is to vote," Sam says, sincerely. "I tell all my friends, 'I don't care who you vote for, just please vote'." Words to live by come October 17.
After the tour ends, and my puku is growling with hunger, I'm lucky there isn't far to go to find lunch. Fine-dining restaurant Bellamy's by Logan Brown is on the third floor of the Beehive. Once only for the exclusive use of MPs and their guests, it opened for public dining in 2018.
It's lovely and quiet on my lunchtime visit, the hushed, exclusive atmosphere making it the perfect spot to sit and reflect on my morning of history and education. A table by the window looks down to the parliament grounds, where I watch visitors and school groups come and go; TV news reporters setting up their live cross shots; and busy Wellingtonian workers on their Friday lunch breaks.
The menu by former Logan Brown sous chef Joshua Ross is packed with locally sourced produce, such as kahawai, caught long line on the Kapiti coast, and micro-nasturtiums foraged by the chefs. The sourdough is made from an eight-year-old starter – "he's called Bryan," the waiter deadpans – and leftover grains from Bond St brew bar Fork and Brewer's Golden Handshake pilsner.
After lunch, I get to taste those grains in their liquid form at the bar itself, a small but bustling set up which has been named champion small brewery at the NZ Brewers Guild awards for the last two years running. My host is Mike Henderson, owner-operator of Craft Beer Tours NZ who takes groups around the city in his brightly painted mini-van.
Mike loves nothing better than when a guest begins the tour by telling him "I'm not really into beer". He relishes the challenge and, as a long-time craft beer fan, knows it's possible to find a drink for everyone. His relationships with local brewers mean guests get VIP treatment wherever they go.
For example, at Fork and Brewer, we not only get to taste four of the 41 tap beers brewed in house, we also get a visit from head (and only) brewer Kelly Ryan, affectionately nicknamed "Brew Jesus" by his peers.
It's the same at Fortune Favours over on Leeds St – a brew pub set up in a former furniture dip-stripping factory by founding brewer Shannon Thorpe, formerly a sales and marketing manager for Good George. Shannon and head brewer Dale Cooper are both on site when we arrive, and take time to sit with our group for a quick chat while we taste.
Deciding to move to Wellington to open his own pub was a leap of faith for Shannon, hence the name ("fortune favours the brave"). It's worked out well so far; the brew pub celebrated its third birthday in August, and they've expanded across the city - their beers are also on tap at Sky Stadium, home of the Hurricanes, and Wellington airport, so you can sup until the very moment you have to fly home.
Over on Upper Cuba St, we finish the tour within the pastel-coloured confines of Heyday Beer Co, where the after-work crowd are beginning to arrive and the atmosphere is beginning to feel Friday festive. If at this point in the tour you start feeling too full of beer ("it's okay", Mike assures me, "it happens") – there's the option to try a gin instead: you'll also find Southward Distilling, founded by Canadian expat Frankie McPhail, on site.
I end my day feeling energised. I've learnt much about our nation's history, and have been impressed at the young, inspiring Kiwis I've met, stepping out on their own to create new and exciting things for the future.
Mike drops me off at my hotel and I'm surprised to learn it's only 5pm - I've packed so much into just one day. The weekend is just getting started; Wellington still has so much for me to discover.
Under alert level one, Parliament offers free tours seven days a week between 10am and 4pm. There is also now the option for a Twilight Tour on Thursday evenings between 6-7pm, which you can follow with dinner or a drink at Bellamy's – a great option for anyone unable to visit during work hours or weekends.
It's worth dedicating at least a couple of hours to The He Tohu exhibition as there is so much to take in. Each of the three sections – 1835 He Whakaputanga, 1840 Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and 1893 Women's Suffrage Petition – are filled with interactive elements to help bring these important parts of our history to life, including audio recordings, video interviews, touch screens and graphics.
As well as key historical moments, the exhibition also deals with modern issues - what is the future of te reo Māori, what does it mean to be a New Zealander, what does it mean to be a woman, a feminist?
After exploring the exhibition, enter the waka huia, a specially built, climate-controlled room where the original documents are on show in state-of-the-art display cases.
Even the most knowledgeable among us is likely to come away having learned something new, or with a new perspective to consider.
To learn more about Wellington's rich history, take a cultural walking tour with Te Wharewaka o Pōneke. Guides share the city's stories from a Te Ātiawa/Taranaki Whānui perspective.
I joined artist and kaiarahi (tour guide) Taupuruariki "Ariki" Brightwell for a Saturday afternoon Hidden Māori Treasures tour. We started at the Kupe statue on the waterfront, before moving into Te Raukura. The impressive building was officially opened on Waitangi Day 2011, located where Te Aro Pā, one of the largest Māori communities in Wellington up until the 1880s, was located. The building is home to four impressive waka, as well as a cafe and function centre.
Ariki also took us to some hidden spots many visitors and Wellingtonians likely walk past regularly, with no idea of the history contained within – archaeological remains of original pā sites found just off Taranaki St. While one site is open to everyone, tours with Te Wharewaka o Pōneke give exclusive access to a non-public excavation site, hidden beneath a private apartment building.
Without Ariki generously sharing her knowledge, I would have had no idea of the layers of history that lay beneath my feet.
The QT Hotel is ideally located to be in walking distance to many of Wellington's best attractions. qthotels.com/wellington
For more New Zealand travel ideas and inspiration, go to newzealand.com