It’s been a little over a month since I touched down for a week of wonder in Wellington, and I’m still raving about it. This post is one in a series where I tell you how bloody great it was, from the brilliant buses to the incredible individuals I met, and plenty of other stuff that was absolutely positively delightful.
If you want the full list of #NoniDoesNZ posts, this is the place to find them.
Most of the time I had in Wellington was spent sleeping, mathematically speaking. But a significant proportion of my waking hours were spent wandering up and down the streets of the city without a guidebook, seeing where the roads would take me… you know, all the clichés writers use when they’re talking about visiting a new place. I did them all.
It wasn’t really my intention to head to the usual tourist stops, but somehow I ended up doing it anyway; they’re just so delightfully accessible that I ended up running into one after the other. The list below is nowhere near exhaustive as to things you should see in Wellington, nor are they the full list of things that I saw on my trip, they’re just the first ones that spring to mind for a myriad of reasons.
WARNING: do not do what I did and try to get around this beautiful place in half a day. Unlike the National Museum of Australia, doing a quick whip around of this incredible museum is absolutely impossible. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and make sure you’re well rested before you start – there’s a lot of ground to cover, and my feet were screaming at me by the end of the day.
When I say Te Papa is incredible, I bloody well mean it. The scale of some of the exhibits is absolutely breathtaking, and the sheer amount of stuff I learned was amazing. (This includes discovering that the kakapo is adorable and being brought back from the brink of extinction by some awesome people, some of the ways you can reduce damage from earthquakes, and that New Zealand is home to Georgina Beyer, the world’s first transexual MP.) There is no doubt that when I eventually head back to Wellington, I’m jumping in for a second visit, and I’ll be far more prepared this time!
Although if this happens again, I don’t know how I’ll cope:
Hey, Te Papa. You’re pretty damn great. Keep on being awesome.
The Embassy Theatre and The Roxy Cinema
It seems Wellington has a thing for having really goddamn beautiful movie theatres.
I initially thought it was just a one-off when I went to The Embassy Theatre for the What We Do In The Shadows premiere, but then Jane recommended that I head to The Roxy Cinema in Miramar for my second viewing the Saturday before I left.
Walking into both is like wandering back into the Golden Age of film. I am very glad that both times I was wearing a nice-ish frock, because otherwise I would have felt thoroughly underdressed. Everything about them was absolutely gorgeous. The seats were comfy, the sound and vision was remarkable… I think I’ll have to travel a long way to find a city lucky enough to have one cinema this beautiful, let alone two.
It’s a bit tricky trying to remember the things about The Embassy that weren’t completely intertwined with the premiere, but I do remember the sweeping staircases in the foyer absolutely taking my breath away, and being absolutely lost for words at the detail in the bathrooms! (And sure, the chances that you’ll run into Wellington’s mayor in the loos is quite slim, but somehow that happened to me? She had a lovely dress on.) That was before we even got into the cinema itself, which is also phenomenally beautiful. Even in the closer seats, we had a fantastic view of the film.
The most notable features of The Roxy were easily the art deco statues and decor that ran through the interior, but I couldn’t help being tickled by some of the little things, like how lollies come in little paper bags just like the old days, and how cute the little ticket office is. It seemed like more of a community hub, and is easily the fanciest building in the area for a fair stroll, like a grand and glamourous matriarch looking over her little ones.
It may seem strange to spend a couple of hours of your holiday watching a movie you might have been able to see at home, but trust me, this is a Wellingtonian experience you have to have.
The Cable Car-Garden-Parliamentary Stroll
Okay, so that isn’t an official title, but it is really easy to run these different attractions into each other, because that’s exactly how I did it, mostly by accident.
If you would like to replicate my experience of this Thursday afternoon walk, follow these simple steps:
1. Take the Wellington Cable Car from Lambton Quay to the Kelburn lookout and the Cable Car Museum. If it’s winter, be a little bit grumpy that the nearby café is closed because you’re really bloody hungry and it’s quite chilly up here. Marvel at the incredible view from the lookout, and take a photo.
2. Head into the Cable Car Museum. It’s full of really interesting exhibits, like models, refurbished old cable cars, documentaries about the history of cable cars and how some Wellington residents even have their own private ones on their properties (!). Be confused as how you’re meant to respond to the mannequins scattered through the museum, as some of them are sitting quite close to the Uncanny Valley. Get freaked out by the one downstairs because the lighting and angle made you think it was a real person for a second. (Just a second.)
3. Once you’re done with the Cable Car Museum and its “inhabitants”, spot a sign that points to the Wellington Botanical Gardens and to Parliament House and decide, “Hey, that sounds like a great way to wash the image of those mannequins off my eyeballs! I think I’ll do that.”
4. Wander through the Wellington Botanical Gardens and reflect on how New Zealand is about as close as one can get to being in an actual fairytale. Take lots of photos, because you’re pretty sure nobody back home will believe you if you try to tell them how magical it was.
5. Buy a necklace with a Tui on it from the Gift Shop. You will wear this almost every day until you write this blog, and possibly beyond. Also, buy some postcards that you will keep in your bag for the rest of the trip and forget to send, and souvenirs for family members you won’t see for weeks.
6. Start to walk down Tinakori Road. Marvel at the beautiful old houses and shops that line it. Wonder what it would be like to walk this street with a handsome young man. Wonder what it would be like to kiss him in front of these houses. Giggle and smile to yourself at these silly romantic daydreams. Silently wish they weren’t just daydreams.
7. Be far too engrossed in the architecture around you and your ridiculous imaginings to take anymore than one photo of this beautiful street. (See right.)
8. When the buildings around you become more modern-looking, start looking at your phone to work out how far away you are from Parliament House. You are not that far away, but you have been going the wrong way for a number of blocks.
9. After tracking back and putting yourself on the right road with the help of a whole lot of Google Maps, find a whole lot of official looking buildings. Keep walking, past the gum tree, until you can see the roof of Parliament House between the buildings.
10. Arrive on the lawn out the front of The Beehive, and feel thoroughly underwhelmed (see image at the top of this post). Mutter to yourself that the Australian Parliament House is much prettier and try to ignore the really nice old buildings that are right next to The Beehive which are arguably nicer than anything within the Canberra city limits. Find a pile of stones at the foot of a statue and come to the conclusion that it was a delightfully weird discovery to make.
11. Sit down and rest your feet before heading for the bus home. You should have left time for a tour of Parliament House. Silly you.
Like Te Papa, I really should have allowed more time for this part of my trip, but since it took me by surprise, I didn’t really get the chance. Again, definitely going to take another look and draw it out so I can really soak it all up next time I’m in town.
I went down to the Waterfront in the last hours of the afternoon. I sat at the top of a hill and looked down across the water. The colours were clear and crisp and comforting. The water looked cleaner and clearer than any Sydney Harbour could ever provide. The winds were light, but I could smell no salt on the air. I sat and I watched the ocean, then wandered to its edge and wished I had worn something I could climb rocks in.
I found a piano and sang the lyrics to the songs I played, but only I could hear the words washing around in my head. I walked away and watched a six year old boy perform classical pieces, the notes rattling out from their prison of keys and out-of-tune strings.
I read the stories of those who had come to the city on boats, written on walls. I felt a bitter taste rising in my mouth as I remembered how the government at home was treating people like these in our own time.
I walked down to the waterfront and drank deeply, not with lips but with eyes and ears and soul. The afternoon was a tiny wave of joy lapping at my bare feet. I felt light and soft and cool as I let my mind wander with the breeze out to sea.
In the next edition of #NoniDoesNZ, it’s the post you’ve all been waiting for: What We Did At The Premiere…
Also coming soon: most notable eateries and bars, and why scrapbooks beat social media.