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Favorite thing: Wellington has become the main city for the New Zealand film industry due to, in no small part, the Lord of the Rings trilogy and director Peter Jackson. Jackson has been making movies in the area for many years - starting with featurette The Valley in 1976 and feature film Bad Taste in 1987 (my favourite being Brain Dead) - and the area has grown in this capacity.
This has been also thanks to Weta Workshops who provide a vast amount of digital and all sorts of other functions in the making of movies.
At the end of Courtenay Place there is a large sculpture which is really an oversized movie camera on legs - looks like a sort of star wars type machine.
Updated Dec 26, 2009
Favorite thing: According to oral tradition, explorer and navigator Kupe found New Zealand and it was his wife, Kuramârôtini (behind every great man & all that!), who named it Aotearoa (long white cloud).
Kupe's journey was triggered by difficulties with fishing in Hawaiki, his homeland (thought to be Rai-atea in the Society Group). Oral tradition tells the story of the problem being a great octopus belonging to Kupe’s competitor, Muturangi. Kupe set out in his canoe with his brother in law in another to kill the octopus and such was the length of the pursuit that it brought them to New Zealand.
A monument to this great man in NZ history can be found on the waterfront not too far from Te Papa with his wife and one of his mates.
Updated Dec 4, 2009
Favorite thing: The other thing that absolutely fascinates me about Wellington is partly linked to the mass of pohutukawa around the place. Those trees are the perfect food source for honeyeaters and therefore attract the tui in the thousands.
Those big blackish birds with their fluorescent feathers and the distinctive white tufts on the throat fly around everywhere, even in the busy centre – wherever you find pohutukawa or NZ flax. I have photographed them in front of Parliament, in the Botanic Garden, at the War Memorial, just about everywhere.
The facts that we do not have tui in Christchurch surely adds to my fascination with those birds. Our main honeyeater is the bellbird. Having such exotic birds in a city centre where you would rather expect concrete buildings and traffic jams, adds to this fascination.
Photo 2 shows a tui singing in a tree next to the War Memorial.
Written Nov 26, 2009
Favorite thing: If you have not read about my love for pohutukawa – New Zealand’s Christmas Tree – on some of my other pages, let me just tell it again: Since my first visit to NZ those beautiful trees which are covered in red blossoms around Christmas time, have a place in my heart.
First thing after settling in NZ, I planted several ones in containers, so they do not lift the house with their impressive roots at some point ;-) But as inhabitants of the east coast of the South Island we do not a terrible lot of them, just in Christchurch’s seaside suburb of Sumner, and even here in Lyttelton, and the most impressive pohutukawa town on the wet and more suitable West Coast in Greymouth. The pohutukawa clearly is more wide-spread on the North Island, and Wellington is a brilliant example of that.
The drive from the airport to the city is like a parade through pohutukawa-lined streets, and somehow they are everywhere, as the absolutely dominant tree of the city and its suburbs. They are in front of Parliament, around the main War Memorial, the university grounds, parks and gardens. It is a big joy from the start until the end of a visit.
Flowering starts mid November already, starting on the sunnier north sides of the trees. It can vary, depending on the general weather conditions, like everywhere.
Written Nov 26, 2009
Favorite thing: At the bottom of the Plimmer Steps, running between Boulcott St and Lambton Quay, stands a monument to the man awarded the title 'Father of Wellington'. The statue is of Plimmer and his dog - probably out escaping from his 11 children (spread over 2 marriages) - he had 11 siblings of his own!
Plimmer came to Wellington in 1841 and settled at Te Aro. He was a bit of a businessman with his most successful early venture being the purchase of a wrecked ship the "Inconstant" which he transformed into a wharf warehouse commonly known as "Noah's Ark. A that stage the warf came up to modern day Lambton Quay! What is now the old Bank Archade sits on top of the original site of Noahs Ark.
He died at the ripe old age of 92 in 1905.
Updated May 23, 2009
Favorite thing: Courtenay Place is the centre of night life in Wellington. It has quite a few drinking spots along its length including some coffee houses. If you take a walk down Courtenay place at night you'll probably come across the large number of very young people staggering beetween pubs as they find their mojo.
Written May 23, 2009
Favorite thing: Wellington goes to great lengths to bolster its reputation as the arts and cultural capital of New Zealand. This includes to give scholarships and support to artists of different genres. One scheme is the Artist in Residence programme (which BTW is not only available in Wellington). The programmes include free accommodation, studio and a monthly honorarium. Normally such residences are for six months.
In Wellington those artists – painter, poet – live in historic places. When I was there last time I met up with Jennifer Compton, better known as VT member craic. She is an award-winning writer and poet, and was granted the Writer in Residence programme in Wellington from March to September 2008, residing in Randall Cottage in the hilly suburb of Thorndon, right behind the Botanic Garden – watching and feeding birds when she is not writing ;-)
I copied this info about Jennifer’s life from the website of the French Embassy:
Jennifer Compton was born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1949 and had two poems published in the NZ Listener when she was 15.
In 1972 she travelled to Sydney, Australia with her husband Matthew O’Sullivan and attended the Playwrights’ Studio at NIDA. The play she wrote for this course, Crossfire, jointly won the Newcastle Playwrighting Competition in 1974 and premiered at the Nimrod Theatre in Sydney and was published by Currency Press. The play was presented by Downstage Theatre in Wellington in the late 70s.
Before her two children were born, in 1983 and 1984, she flew backwards and forwards across the Tasman and worked in both countries. For instance, her radio plays (A Wigwam For A Goose’s Bridle, Morning Glories, Several Local Dandelions) were produced by the ABC and RNZ. And she won the Bank of NZ Katherine Mansfield Award in 1977 for her story The Man Who Died Twice.
Then she moved with her family to Wingello, a small town on the Southern Highlands of NSW, and concentrated on writing poetry and short prose.
In 1995 her poem Blue Leaves won the Robert Harris Poetry Prize and she was awarded the NSW Ministry For The Arts Fellowship, the first time this had been awarded for poetry.
During her Fellowship year she wrote a book of poetry, Blue, which was short listed for the NSW Premier’s Prize, and a stage play, The Big Picture, which premiered at the Griffin Theatre in Sydney and was published by Currency Press. It was performed by Circa Theatre in Wellington in the late 1990’s.
She has been a guest at many Festivals in Australia, including the Sydney Writers’ Festival, the Spring Writing Festival, the Australian Poetry Festival, the Shoalhaven Poetry Festival and the Overload Poetry Festival. In 2005 she was a guest at the International Festival Of Poetry in Genoa and in 2006 was a guest at the Sarajevo Poetry Festival.
Her book of poetry, Parker & Quink, was published by Ginninderra Press in 2005 and her next book of poetry, Barefoot, is ready to go. A book of reflections about travel and place - The Wrong Side Of The Road - is nearly complete.
In 2006 she was resident in the Whiting Library Studio in Rome from February to July. And in 2007 she spent a month as a Creative Writing Fellow at the Liguria Study Centre in Bogliasco.
In 2008 she is happily ensconsed at the Randell Cottage working on her novel which is set in the Wairarapa and is called All The Time In The World.
Fondest memory: Jennifer’s tales about the bad food in Rome. During her stay at the Whiting Library Studio in Italy’s capital she made some very bad experience and told me stories about Italian food and customs surrounding the food I had never heard nor experienced, and so she made me laugh a lot. To convince her how wonderful Italian food is I suggested we go to La Casa Pasta for dinner – which was a very bad idea as this restaurant serves all but Italian food LOL
Ah, and as we are talking Wellington… Randall House is a very cute white weatherboard cottage, a bit with not only the look but also the scent of yesteryear. Relocate it to Christchurch, and you would freeze to death. But I just love such cottages, everything so tiny and cute. While I was there in the afternoon for a cuppa and identifying birds a gardener trimmed the hydrangeas – which would not have disturbed us inside but the birds waiting impatiently to feed on the wholemeal crackers Jennifer sprinkled on the lawn for them.
Interestingly enough Jennifer once lived in another landmark cottage: in the cottage of the famous painter Rita Angus in nearby Sydney Street West. We went there at the time when they had the big Rita Angus exhibition at Te Papa - and I went back again to the exhibition to compare the real cottage with the painting of it :-) This is always nice - like visiting Monet's garden in Giverny...
And, ah, ah… On the way to the cottage we watched a dozen tuis flying, singing and creaking in the trees. A magic moment in nature.
Updated Aug 22, 2008
Favorite thing: I never stay awake long enough to see the ugly face of such places like Courtenay Place which is not a place in the meaning of: square, but a street which is the centre of Wellington’s dining and café scene. At its eastern end is the Embassy Theatre. It is just two or three blocks from the Waterfront and Te Papa, so you will always get there at some point.
There are talks to convert Courtenay Place into a square – which I think would be fantastic. Police would also praise this as a fantastic idea as it could help to solve the problem of car hoons cruising the street on weekends and endangering the thousands of people who are only out there for dinner or a drink and having fun. (Not to talk of what happens in the early morning hours when most revellers are drunken and the rate of violent encounters raises dramatically…)
There are some great Italian places at Courtenay Place, some with nice outdoor seating. Great to watch other people ;-)
Updated Jul 17, 2008
Favorite thing: -
Quite a while ago a VT member wrote in a tip about Wellington that “the cables” destroy everything.
I would not go that far – but those mysterious wires make you go to extra lenghts if you want to take perfect photos. And those, of course, do not include wires running across facades, through the centre of your photos, or as ugly black lines across a brilliant blue sky. We tend to make nature and even city scapes look more beautiful than they are – and power cables in the middle of a fantastic landscapes are pure horror, as they destroy the impression of an untouched world.
Those cables in Wellington make the electric trolley buses run in an environmentally friendly way. Last year 61 new and more reliable ones have been ordered to be added to the fleet over 2008 and 2009.
I think those overhead lines, mixed with power lines, are an eyesore if you want to take photos. If you just walk around they do not disturb your views, somehow you can blend them out. And if you think of the environmental profits those wires deliver you just have to accept and like them, as you can walk in the city centre without diesel clouds being blown right into your face and airways.
The problem is that the overhead lines can go down in heavy storms, and then a small chaos breaks out. However, the new buses carry a battery back-up, so break-downs resulting from power-outages will – hopefully – soon be a thing of the past.
Statistics show that about 8 million people used the trolley bus service per year, which is about 50 per cent of Wellington’s public transport volume. Those buses were introduced in 1924. The new ones are manufactured in Ashburton. Before the decision to modernise the fleet the service was under threat. There were big discussions about the funding, as trolley buses are more expensive to manufacture and to run because of the overhead electric system. Finally NZ Bus and the Greater Wellington Regional Council struck a deal to save the service.
Written Apr 16, 2008
Favorite thing: -
This is not an accommodation tip as I have not stayed at the Museum Hotel which sits at a fabulous location next to Te Papa. I write about it because it formerly sat at the place where you now find Te Papa, and it was relocated in 1993 to make way for the new national museum. It was the biggest structure ever moved in New Zealand.
It took four months to loosen the building from its foundations, and only two days to move it 120 metres across the road on a railway. The hotel reopened five month after the spectacular shift.
If you are interested in details, read the full story of the relocation on the hotel’s website
In the hotel they have a model of the relocation.
If you want to stay at hotel – rates start at about $ 150 (weekend; up to 325 for a two bedroom suite), and during the week from $ 185. Weekend packages including breakfast buffet and a bottle of bubbly for $239, with three-course dinner for two $ 279. (Prices as April 2008)
Address: 90 Cable Street, Wellington 6011
Phone (04) 802 8900, (0800) 994 335
Updated Apr 16, 2008
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