Noni Did NZ: Putting It Down On Paper

IMG_0567 There’s been a common theme running through the last bunch of posts: my trip to Wellington back in June. This is the final entry in that series. You can find the rest here. Be prepared for a whole bunch of madness and joy, because even though it was just a week, it was everything a girl could wish for in a holiday.

*****

It’s become customary these days to document holidays in an entirely electronic fashion. Photos on Facebook and Instagram, running commentary on Twitter, post-adventure blogging… Apart from the occasional physical souvenir, usually in the form of something bought from a dodgy street stall or a purchase from an incredibly kitschy tourist shop, most of our memories are stored solely in the cloud and in our heads.

I’m usually even worse than this. I rarely take photos at the best of times. The vast majority of photos of me from the last five or so years are highly posed, highly self-censored selfies taken on my Macbook in moments of boredom, vanity or intoxication.

This is in part due to a longing to just experience life rather than constantly stopping to remind myself to document it; I prefer to do things without the filter of a lens. I very rarely ask for photos to be taken of me, so I often don’t have images to remind me of the people I’ve met or proof of the places I’ve been. Many times I have become great friends with a person over a number of years and marvellous times, only to never have a photo with them to remind us of just how brilliant we were. This makes me quite sad; I’d love to have something a little more concrete than just memories to look back on.

Other times, my reluctance or inability to remember to take a few shots comes from the fact that I have an uncanny ability to be absolutely terrible at taking photos that aren’t underwhelming, grainy, poorly framed piles of crap. A lack of practice means it’s simply not top of mind, and when it is, I’m so underwhelmed that I tend to not bother the next time.

When I was preparing for my trip to Wellington, I knew it would be the week of a lifetime. I didn’t want to leave anything unremembered. I’ve already had a taste of how fragile memories can be: a major seizure in 2012 left me with significant short and long term memory issues for the better part of a year; I forgot what had happened at the previous Christmas, and still struggle to recall a lot of things that should be treasured personal memories from that time.

The logical progression from that was to simply post everything online as I went, but I didn’t really feel the need to fill people’s Facebook feeds with a progression of photographic updates, and reading back through old tweets is constantly being made more difficult by Twitter’s scrolling function and new profiles. On top of that, I wanted somewhere to put all the little things I inevitably pick up: bus tickets, interesting labels, flyers and the like.

So while I was waiting for a train in Sydney before heading off on my trip, I picked up an A5 size notebook and began to plan how I would document my trip. There was probably about 300 or so pages in it, but due to my tendency to forget to write in diaries, I figured I would be lucky to fill a third of that.

Instead, I got to the point where I had to pull out pages in order to avoid splitting the binding. With all my photos printed and pasted in, this is how fat my journal got:

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Almost every night of my trip, I took at least an hour to write down all the wonderful things that had happened, planning where I would paste photos, bus tickets, email screenshots and newspaper clippings. I scribbled terrible stick-figure drawings and scrawled memories across unlined pages. It was a remarkably therapeutic process, allowing me the chance to run over just how much fun I was having, and to plan what I might do the next day.

IMG_0532I documented everything I could, and tried to make everything as colourful and fun as my experiences. I bought new pens and stickers and collected all the What We Do In The Shadows related bits and pieces I could find to make sure I could do it all justice.

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IMG_0537I even grabbed a Te Papa flyer that was written in Italian just so I could stick in something with pictures of the general exhibits – all the ones in English were only for the special short-term exhibitions.

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One of the things that I really enjoyed about the free-form manner of my scrapbook was when I got to draw stupid little bits and pieces to fill in spaces that I might have put photos that I had forgotten to take, or just for the hell of it.

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Initially, I tried to keep all my bits and pieces in chronological order, but I quickly realised that there were photos and stories that I hadn’t accounted for while allocating space in the narrative. This is why there are two parts to my scrapbook: the initial narrative that I filled in while I was away, and a very sizeable appendix, which I have been working on ever since.

The appendix is a strange mish mash of written souvenirs and bits and pieces that didn’t necessarily fit into the story of my trip, but were memorable all the same. From the itinerary I wrote myself before leaving Canberra (which I left at home) to the map of Wellington my mum gave me before I left (which I kept in my suitcase the entire trip), there are a lot of quirky bits and pieces that I still needed to preserve, even if they didn’t make it into the first half.

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There were a lot of bus tickets.

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And some things that simply defied explanation.

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When I got back, working on finalising my scrapbook really helped ease the post-trip blues.It gave me an excuse to relive my trip regularly, bringing a little light to each day, and keeping the fire in my belly for a return visit. I still flick through it every couple of days now it’s almost done, just as a kind of emotional safety blanket, and it definitely in my top three things I will take with me if there is ever a fire in my house.

As of yesterday, my scrapbook is officially finished. All of the spaces I had saved in the main story section have been filled, and there’s only a handful of photos left to put into the appendix (non-essential, but they’re going in because I just happen to have some printed copies). In a book I was sure I would get nowhere near filling, there are only eight pages left blank. Maybe one day I’ll ask Taika and Jemaine to pop their signatures on the last page. Either way, this little chapter has finally closed. I’m back in the real world again.

But with my little green book, I know I can go back to that wonderful, ridiculous week whenever I like. What a wonderful comfort that is.

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Noni Did NZ: A Night With The Vampires

Today’s derpy Noni photo is care of the What We Do In The Shadows Facebook page.

From Monday June 16 to Sunday June 22, I was in Wellington, New Zealand. And despite the strange (possibly a little bit intoxicated) look on my face in the photo above, I had enough of a ball that I have managed to write a few blogs about it, which can be found here. This is the biggest and most important of all of them. This post is about the reason why I rushed into my boss’ office and begged for leave, why I booked plane tickets as soon as it was granted, why my mother made multiple sighing noises at me as she gave me my passport, and one of the reasons why I’m still crapping on about it to anyone who is still listening. This post is about What We Did At The Premiere.

*****

It was Wednesday June 18, 2014. And it was one of the most amazing/bizarre/wonderful nights of my life.

A straight, start-to-finish, by-the-numbers blog entry was never going to be possible for this evening’s proceedings. Even my scrapbook pages from the night are tangled and flustered with excitement, even though I wrote them over 24 hours later. I committed myself to burning as much of it into my brain as possible, and I think I did a pretty good job, but if I ever tried to share it as a flowing chronological stream I think I would probably melt every neuron in my cerebrum with nostalgic joy.

In order to preserve the little brain function I have left, this blog will consist of chunks, each attached to a photo or gallery. Some of these photos are mine, but most were taken by others, and I’m incredibly grateful for that. The quality of some of the photos is… questionable. That said, I maintain that the spirit of the night shines through their grainy pixels.

Hopefully, when it’s all put together, it will give you an idea of the sheer delight I experienced on that wonderful Wellington Wednesday evening.

Getting Ready

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I bought the dress especially. I love the tulle in the bottom, because it negates the need to pack a separate petticoat. It saved a lot of room in my bag.

Jane helped me put my just-that-little-bit-too-short hair into a bun and lent me her brooch. I wore bright red shoes. Somehow we had completely colour co-ordinated. She looked absolutely incredible in that dress, with her hair done up high. The dress code on the invitation had been “Dead But Delicious”. We certainly had the last bit right.

There’s no wine in the goblet I’m holding. It was purely for effect. Jane’s daughter mentioned that because it had skulls all over it, I should definitely be holding it in our “before the premiere” photo. So I did.

Arrival

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We took a cab into town. We had a few drinks at The Bangalore Polo Club. From there, we headed over to The Embassy Cinema. I was buzzing with excitement. I tried to take my time to soak it all up. My eyes must have been like saucers. No, like satellite dishes.

Every sound, every smell: I tried to drink it all in at once. A black hearse was parked out the front. We waited in line as a brass band played their way through the crowd. I yelled, “Yeah! Sousaphone!” because I am an idiot. My smile was so wide, it felt like the corners of my mouth were trying to run right off my face.

Inside, we were met by replicas of scenes from the film. The detail was impeccable. I’m sure I audibly gasped a number of times. Even the goblet on the side table still had drops of blood in it. I wondered briefly whether it had tasted like blackcurrant or fermented grape or cool metal.

Into The Cinema

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Chris spotted us in the crowd upstairs and said we should go in now if we wanted to get a good seat. In our hurry, we lost Theresa. I didn’t spot her again until the film was over.

I did see a number of familiar faces in the crowd, but of course, none knew me from a bar of soap. It was strange, but in a delightful way. It wasn’t like seeing Australian people-of-note; hell, that happens almost every time I visit Newtown. This was strange, because here I was in another country (which was strange enough), seeing these people in their home town. I don’t know. It’s hard to describe. It was strange, but nice.

We took our seats and watched the band play again. They were still incredibly wonderful. Jane and I chatted and I bopped in my seat and hooted and whistled when they were done.

There was a Māori version of Welcome To Country; at least that was how it seemed to an outsider like me. I wished that more events in Australia had an Indigenous Welcome To Country as their opening words. I felt sad that this is such a rare occurrence in my homeland.

Then Taika and Jemaine took to the stage and began to tell the story of how they came to make the film. It was like this video, which was taken by somebody at the Q&A screening a few days later, but at the premiere, they were far more snappily dressed.

They said that we had missed the opportunity to go to the toilet, as the movie was about to start. I suddenly got the urge to go to the toilet. This is not a good feeling to have before and during a film that is going to make you laugh a lot.

The Film Commences

It was just… great. Having waited two years for this movie to come out, I was afraid I would have built my expectations too high. But I didn’t. It was everything I had hoped for and more.

I’ll tell you more about it another time… Say, a little closer to the Australian release on September 4th. Or maybe next week. Don’t fret. It will be soon. I’ll let you know.

I will tell you this, though: when we got out, the first thing we did was go to the toilet. I met Wellington’s Mayor Celia Wade-Brown in the line for the ladies. She had a lovely dress on, and a magnificent pair of fangs. As I write this, I wonder if Katy Gallagher has ever worn fangs.

Vampires Come Out To Play

Photo by Jane - @powderkeig
Photo by Jane – @powderkeig

After the film, the vampires and some of the werewolves came out to answer any questions their audience/dinner might have. I wish I could have thought of something a little more clever than, “Where are the lady werewolves?” But I was high on endorphins. Getting through an entire sentence was an achievement at that stage.

Once we had taken our aforementioned loo break from the previous chapter, we began to move back out into the upstairs foyer. We had a few drinks and mingled with friends Jane had spotted in the crowd, but I had one thing on my mind: I wanted photos with the vampires.

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I always feel like a mug when I ask people for photographs, but they were all incredibly kind. The only pre-cursor was a brief introduction from Jane, which was missed by most, followed by a request for a photo, the pose, the snap, a smile and then moving on.

The exception was Viago. Jane mentioned that I was Noni, and he immediately recognised me. “Noni Doll!” he exclaimed. “You made it!” It was odd, like I was meeting up with an old friend, as opposed to a fictional 300-year old vampire. I wanted to hug him and sit down and chat, but the room was full and loud and there were others who wanted their chance to interview a vampire.

Getting the photo with Nick (or was he just Cori?) was the most awkward of the set. I tapped him on the shoulder as he swept through the crowd towards the bar, and with a mixture of sudden boldness and sheer mortification, asked if I could have a photo. For some reason, Jane couldn’t get the camera to work, so we were stuck in that terrible position of, “I don’t know you, but I have definitely had my arm around you for far too long and now it’s a bit weird.” Bless.

Deacon and Petyr were incredibly naughty. The former was being an absolute bossy-pants, and I was immediately taken aback at his lack of manners. After the photo, I mentioned to Petyr that his sire’s behaviour was thoroughly ungentlemanly. Petyr simply responded: “I don’t give a crap.” What a pair of charmers.

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More displays were set around the upstairs area, with finalists from the poster design competition scattered along the walls. Vampiric art was scattered around another coffin. I would have taken a picture of myself in it, but I feared I was too wide for it and wouldn’t be able to get out, even if I managed to squeeze in.

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Jane, Theresa and I got our photo taken in the photo booth, which was made up to look like the hall of the vampire’s abode. We all looked absolutely gorgeous. (Say otherwise and I may have to send some undead messengers to… have a discussion with you.)

The End of the Evening

Anna gave me directions to the after party. Jane went home, and Theresa came with me.

I took no photographs, because this was time for fun and nothing else. This was something to live, not document. So I did just that.

But I will tell you this:

  • Boogie Wonderland is a place that I believe should not exist. Novelty bars that play the hits of the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and 00’s are things that only exist in movies and British sit-coms, not in real life.
  • Niko Ne Zna played Balkan brass on a flashing dance floor under more mirror balls than could ever be necessary. This was more amazing than you can imagine.
  • I danced through a doorway traffic jam with Rhys Darby.
  • I spent a lot of time avoiding eye contact with Bret McKenzie, because he constantly looked like he was in the middle of a really serious conversation. Also, he wasn’t even in the movie, so he wasn’t even really worth my time, y’know?
  • I abruptly ended a chat with Taika Waititi by smashing a glass with an overzealous gesture.
  • Anna introduced me to Jemaine Clement in a barely decipherable dance floor conversation. The one thing I remember him saying was that I’d been on TV all over New Zealand, to which I responded that this was definitely a thing we were not talking about and will never speak of ever again.
  • I drank a lot of Delicious Neck beer. It was indeed delicious.
  • I went home at 3am, but the party was still kicking. Perhaps they were vampires after all…

That night, I dreamed about hanging out in dark bars with Vladislav, Viago and Deacon, drinking red wine until the early hours and talking about how Canberra is also a pretty good place for vampires to live. I dreamed that I had asked Jemaine and Taika to sign my scrapbook like I’d planned instead of just plain forgetting. I revisited the Boogie Wonderland dance floor over and over in my subconscious. It took all night for my brain to come anywhere near processing what had happened. In doing so, it prolonged just how wonderful the real thing had been.

A month later, and that night is still my ultimate happy place when things go awry. I often get out my scrapbook and thumb through the photos and remember stupid things that happened and laugh to myself at how gloriously ridiculous life can be, but only when you step out and grab every opportunity with both hands.

Speaking of opportunities, did I mention I’m going to Melbourne to see What We Do In The Shadows again next month?

Because I totally am.

Noni Did NZ: Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

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(I am running out of location-based selfies at an alarming rate.)

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.

Te Papa

Source: NZ Museums
Source: NZ Museums

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:

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https://twitter.com/NoniDoll/status/478749441910771712

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Hey, Te Papa. You’re pretty damn great. Keep on being awesome.

 

The Embassy Theatre and The Roxy Cinema

The Roxy Cinema, Miramar
The Roxy Cinema, Miramar.

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.

Inside The Embassy. Source: Specialty Cinema
Inside The Embassy. (We sat in the row before the railing and walkway.) Source: Specialty Cinema

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:

Aaaaah-mazing.
Aaaaah-mazing.

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.)

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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.

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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.

If this was where my dentist worked, I would have the best teeth in the world.
If this was where my dentist worked, I would have the best teeth in the world.

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.

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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.

The Waterfront

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.

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*****

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.

Noni Did NZ: Friendly Faces

If you haven’t heard about me harp on about it yet, I went to Wellington (this one, not this one) last month. It’s taken all that time for me to be able to take a step back and start writing about it without dissolving into fits of giggles and nostalgia. That and I’m a little bit lazy. I’m compensating for the delay with sheer quantity. Over the next few entries, I’ll be writing about all the fantastic things I got up to in an attempt to give you a glimpse of Wellington that doesn’t involve that dude from The Voice. For the rest of the posts, take a look here.

*****

Travelling on your own is a funny thing. It can be incredibly liberating, wandering the streets of a place that isn’t home, knowing that there’s no expectations as to what you’re going to do or how late you will be out. You’ve got all the room in the world to make your own way without worrying about how it might affect your reputation back home. It leaves plenty of room in your head for soaking up experiences and meditation on what you want from life. Basically, it can be pretty damn rad.

Conversely, it can be incredibly lonely, full of nights spent in and wandering between unfamiliar bars, stuck in a hotel room or a backpackers with a lottery of transients who know about as much about your destination as you do. Before you know it, you’re wishing for faraway friends, or at the very least someone with enough local knowledge that you could find a decent band to wash away your homesickness. Your days can be spent scouring the internet and whatever street press you can find for scant details on what might be happening outside of the usual tourist haunts, but even with the most accurate information, you can never tell if your experiments will fly or pull a spectacular Icarus routine.

On my trip to Wellington, I was lucky enough to have the perfect combination of solo ambling and time with new friends and acquaintances. From those I spent whole days with, to those who humoured me with fleeting chats in the bizarre space that is Boogie Wonderland, I was surrounded by ridiculously awesome people I was completely and utterly blessed to meet.

This post is dedicated to just some of the magnificent human beings who made Wellington Week so absolutely marvellous.

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Anna and Petyr being total babes. (Source: What We Do In The Shadows Facebook page)

Anna

If it wasn’t for Anna, none of this ridiculousness would have occurred in the first place. Sure, I was really damn excited to see What We Do In The Shadows to begin with, but the marketing campaign that she devised and drove was more than the icing on the cake; it was fucking ART.

When Anna first got in touch, I was still sitting in shock at my computer, having won the TradeMe auction for an WWDITS artwork only a few hours earlier. There were a few emails back and forth over the following days, flitting across a few different threads: the joy I’d derived from interacting with the vampires through social media and the auction, the possibility of a personal handover of the artwork from Jemaine and Taika, or maybe I could come to the premiere, but how outrageous is that?

Before I knew it, I’d booked my leave and flights and was just about falling over myself with glee. It seems that Anna is not only a marketing and PR wizard, she is also remarkably good at dealing with insane Australians who are high on post-purchase euphoria.

Over the following weeks, Anna sent me information about the weather (“four layers” was the prescription in terms of wardrobe), made suggestions for accommodation and somehow wrangled me in for a brief TV stint in a story about the campaign. (Did I mention it was fucking ART?)

The initiation of my trip alone would have been enough, but I also had the pleasure of hanging out with her after the premiere and then again on the following Friday at the launch of her gentleman-friend’s exhibition in a venue that was so full of beautiful, stylish and awesome people it was unbelievable. (Daif is also incredibly rad.) Then we went and had Japanese and that was also brilliant. (Although I did discover that sake and I are probably never going to be friends.) After that, we walked through the city for a little while and she and Daif pointed out various locations from the film, adding even more sparkle to the places around me.

From start to finish, Anna was an incredible guide and phenomenal pal. I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the New Zealand capital, and its community of insanely clever people, than the one she provided. I still feel so incredibly honoured to have met her.

Note: Somehow, despite all the joy and fun I had hanging with Anna over the course of the week, I forgot to get a photo with her. This is because I am an idiot.

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Pre-premiere drinks with Jane = THE BEST.

Jane

When it all suddenly became clear that I was actually going across the Tasman on this mad jaunt, Anna immediately offered to help me out with accommodation by way of sorting a couch surfing arrangement. Jane was the first name she threw at me, and she went on to be pretty much my guardian angel for the whole week.

My first connection with Jane was via Twitter. From there it was only a matter of days until I pulled up in a cab at her front door, fresh from the airport (and the cab driver charged an extra $100 on the fare by accident – OH HOW WE LAUGHED).

We got on like a house on fire, with hot topics including Dog on a Log (which I had somehow missed), the bizarre world that is Tinder, and the sharing of tunes from either side of the ditch (I offered up Citizen Kay and Brass Knuckle Brass Band, Fun Machine and Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen; she introduced me to Beastwars and The Phoenix Foundation). She gave me a room, a bed, fed me, gave me transport advice, accompanied me to the premiere, kept me company, helped me do my hair, taught me things and convinced me to do things that I might have otherwise passed up for nerves. (I can now say I my lips have touched something that was also used by Michael Palin. Pretty fuckin’ cool.)

Jane didn’t just treat me like a friend. When I was hanging out with her and her daughter and their cat and her housemate, I felt like I was part of a family. The degree of hospitality shown to me took my breath away, and I still feel like I haven’t said thank you enough. (Thank you, thank you, thank you.)

I hope that I when I have guests in my house, I’m half as good a hostess as Jane was to me. She truly is one of the kindest hearts I know, and I’ll happily call her family any day of the week.

Not a good face shot. Not a good fire shot. Honestly, who lets me use cameras?!
Not a good face shot. Not a good fire shot. Honestly, who lets me use cameras?!

Benjamin

Okay, so I didn’t exactly get to know this guy beyond throwing money at him and a quick chat, but he certainly made an impression. I spent the better part of an hour watching him entertain those ambling along Cuba St on a Friday night, before I bailed him up to thank him for the pleasure.

We got chatting: I told him how the smell of fire twirling brought back happy memories of university friends, and complimented him on his incredible live looping guitar skills; he told me that he was planning on heading to Melbourne to meet up with his girlfriend and how that seemed to be a growing trend among the young artists of Wellington.

He showed me the way to The Rogue and Vagabond, a craft beer bar a few blocks off Cuba St with a bulldog on the logo and a mad gypsy band playing in the corner. It was very much my scene.

I would have stayed and harassed him a little longer, but the bar was pretty full and he was keen to do some writing, so I took down the address of his Facebook page and told him to get in touch when he got to Australia.

Sure, I knew Benjamin for an hour and a half at most, but he reminded me of friends back home, was remarkable company and brilliant entertainment, and he introduced me to a venue I am definitely going to have to revisit when I go back to Wellington, whenever that may be. It’s not much and it didn’t last long, but you’ve got to celebrate the little things sometimes.

10376856_10152510687798656_260002323514781734_n
Thanks to the windy hills near Wellington Airport and a magnificent tumble along the way, I’m as red as a bloody beetroot.

Taika

I didn’t get to talk to this guy that long either, but man, what a champ.

Taika and I probably talked for a grand total of about 5 minutes across four or five occasions, but in each brief instance he had a big smile and was just a totally awesome dude. Even when I was babbling nonsense from excitement, a touch of post-hill-walking exhaustion and a good serve of shaken-brain-from-nearly-face-planting-onto-concrete-on-said-walk-to-the-airport, and he was keen to get back to his car and actually do stuff with his Sunday, he was kind and accommodating. I couldn’t have asked for a better end to my trip than this: receiving an artwork from someone whose work I really bloody admire, who was also really nice about me being a complete numpty.

Seriously, I would give my right arm to share a pint and a chinwag with this guy. He’s just a freakin’ top bloke.

To be perfectly honest, I’ve really just put Taika here as a figurehead for all the beautiful people I had the pleasure of meeting through the What We Do In The Shadows premiere and in the hours (and days) afterwards, mostly because he’s the only one I got a photo with. Some other names that need dropping belong to Jemaine, Chris, Jackie, Theresa, Rhys, Vanessa, Mark, Daif, Nikkie and so many other brilliant, creative, kind, clever people who took a couple of minutes or more to chat to me, dance with me, be reasonably impressed by my trip or just cover the fact that they thought I was a bit of a twat. Whether it was the briefest of pleasantries, dancing around in an attempt to circumvent blocked doorways, dissections of Inter-Tasman media environments over wine, or barely decipherable conversations on disco-themed dance floors: every moment is treasured, and is going to stay with me until I shuffle off this mortal coil. (Even if you’ve already forgotten me. It’s okay: I’m particularly unmemorable.)

Of course, it is worth mentioning that not all the friends I made were of the human variety… But that’s a story for another time.

I really was completely and utterly blessed to have met these delightful folks on my trip, and I just want to remind the aforementioned awesome people (and those I’ve neglected to mention): there’s an open invitation for drinks at Smith’s Alternative or The Phoenix should you ever be in Canberra. (You showed me your town. I’d love to show you mine!)

Part of the reason why this post has taken so long is because I want to do these marvellous folks, and all the happy feelings they gave me, justice. Hopefully I’ve come relatively close to doing that.

tl;dr: Thanks dudes. You’re the best. Let’s go get a drink some time. x N

Noni Did NZ: When in Wellington, Take the Bus.

Me at the "Vellington" sign.

This time last week, I was marvelling at the fact that I had just come off the most incredible week of my life. Tonight, I’m struck by the bizarre thought that all that magnificent stuff happened a little under a fortnight ago. I’m pretty sure that it’s going to take another week for it to sink in that it’s all flitted off into the past, so I’m dedicating the next few posts to the week I spent in Wellington earlier in the month.

Each post will look at a different aspect of my trip: the people, the places, the premiere and the picture that made it all happen. And you know, some other shit too. And it will probably be out of order. Sorry about that.

If you’re looking for the full list of entries on this topic, you can find them here.

The first entry is about something that is incredibly important to me: public transport.

Shut up. This is serious stuff. Pay attention.

*****

Not being able to drive can be an absolute pain in the arse. It can leave you in quite a spot of bother, especially if you’re in a place you don’t know and travelling alone. Unless you want to be shelling out regularly for cabs, you have to work out the buses and trains and timetables pretty quickly, and that’s if you’re lucky enough to be living in or visiting a place with any to begin with.

Luckily for me, Wellington’s all over it: their public transport system freakin’ rocks.

First and most importantly, like most major cities, they have their transport timetables integrated into Google Maps. It seems like a stupid thing to get excited about, but when you’re as navigationally challenged as I am, not to mention terrible at remembering what time things come and go, this is an absolute lifesaver. It means that even if you’re at a bus stop with no timetable, or are struggling to find a bus stop at all, you’re not stuck. Sure, you get the same thing in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, but it’s the little things that can make all the difference. Without this little bit of beautiful technology, my trip would have been a lot more difficult.

Look! Getting places is EASY. (Of course, I used it on my mobile, not the icky new desktop version. Yuck.)
Look! Getting places is EASY.
(Of course, I used it on my mobile, not the icky new desktop version. Yuck.)

The other thing that impressed me was how punctual all the buses were. Now, I’m not one to complain about services running late, as long as they don’t run early. After all, you can always catch a bus if it turns up after you do, but you’re buggered if it’s already left. I don’t think I encountered a single bus that arrived before its scheduled time or any that ran later than about 5 minutes behind schedule. As much as I love Canberra’s ACTION buses, they could learn a bit from the Go Wellington bus system.

At a number of the major stops, there were even automatically updating signs that told you how far away the next bus was, probably powered by some kind of black magic, or GPS or something, kind of like the ones at the Civic Bus Interchange except there were a lot more of them and they were all over the place.

And there were the trolley buses. I found them incredibly bewildering (“Wait, that bus has a power connector… thing?”), then comically endearing (“HA. THAT BUS THINKS IT’S A TRAM!”). Apparently they’re on the way out, so I feel incredibly privileged to have been blessed by their presence, even if I didn’t take the chance to ride one.

Seriously, Trolley Bus. Pick a side already.
Seriously, Trolley Bus. Pick a side already.

I only had a short trip around the bays to get from where I was staying to the city, but it can be pretty easy to mess up these things when you’re a tourist. Thankfully, all of the drivers were remarkably polite and incredibly helpful with directions and tips. I didn’t miss my stop once, and I didn’t have a single unpleasant trip. I was beginning to think that someone had sent out a memo saying, “There is a plump Australian woman coming from Canberra who is a bit of a bus aficionado; be sure to give her the best public transport experience she has ever had,” because it really was pretty damn good.

That said, like all public transport systems, there were areas that were less than brilliant. There were no services to the city from where I was staying on the weekend, but there was a stop about 30 minutes’ walk down the road (but holy crap, what a beautiful seaside walk it was)… The signage to find stops often wasn’t that great, and there were some really weird streets that were just for buses that were also deceptively dangerous for pedestrians. That said, it’s still a pretty damn good service, as long as you remember to look both ways, you bloody idiot.

IMG_0401
Me: “Seriously? That’s the only photo I got? Why am I even allowed to have a camera?”

But it’s not all about buses. The Wellington Cable Car initially seems to be just a gimmicky novelty for the tourists, kind of like Sydney’s Monorail (RIP), but it turns out that it’s also another cog in the public transport machine, if you’ll forgive the heavy-handed metaphor. Sure, there were a couple of families on board who were obviously out for the day to see the sights, but there were also a significant number of travellers who looked kind of jaded and were busy reading newspapers, most of whom got off at the stop for Victoria University. Whoever they are, I thank them, because they’re probably the reason why my little tourist jaunt to the top of the mountain only cost me $4! Nice.

So that’s the practical aspect of all the public transport options I sampled.

Then you get into the more ridiculous stuff that only weirdos like me care about.

https://twitter.com/NoniDoll/statuses/478653018011729920

Seriously, look! Look at the seats! They’re really pretty! Ferns! Fresh! Green! Lovely.

(Especially when you compare them with the seats of Canberra’s ACTION buses, which look like somebody murdered a Ken Done painting.)

ARGH. MY EYES. (Thanks to Ali for the photos.)
ARGH. MY EYES.
(Thanks to Ali for the photos.)

Basically, getting around Wellington was really bloody rad, from the buses to the cable car to the fact that there were effectively taxi spruikers when I got in at Wellington Airport. (Seriously, that was kind of weird.) Everyone was friendly and didn’t want to charge me through the nose and got me to where I was going with a minimum of fuss.

As a non-driver, Wellington is easily one of the most non-driver friendly places I’ve visited, at least in terms of the routes that I took. Sure, next time I head over, I’ll have to do a little more exploring outside the inner city area, but for now I just want to say well done, Wellington.

Image: Ed Jones via Getty. Click for source.
Well done.