We are currently on the Interislander ferry crossing Cook Strait to reach the South Island, which I figure is a fine time to write about NZs capital city, Wellington, also called Wellywood for it's massive involvement in the film world. To begin our time in Wellywood, I gotta take us back to Auckland. On day 2 of our travels, or maybe it was even day 1, we met a nice dude named Matt at Brothers Brewery. He was nice enough to share a table with us while he waited for a buddy who was apparently stuck in traffic. Good thing as we three got to talking. He was visiting his wifes family in Auckland, though they live in Wellington. After chatting for a bit we exchanged emails, and he suggested we meet up in Wellington. Deal.
Fast forward almost two weeks and a couple of days and we drive into Wellington early on Easter Sunday. We decided we would stay at a Campervan spot that was on the water, and walking distance to most of the points in the city we would want to see. Really this place was a glorified parking lot with bathrooms / showers that are code locked. In the morning as you shuffle from your Camper to the toilettes, you are basically walking with daily commuters on the way to work. It's a bit odd, but not bad. Anyways, it was in a great location, and we basically walked to all points needed save for the Weta Cave (The production facility responsible for LOTR, King Kong, The Hobbit, District 9, etc). We spent a lot of Sunday in the NZ national museum Te Papa (fun to say). Te Papa is a gorgeous mostly free museum, filled with plenty knowledge on Kiwi life. The coolest thing we saw was a Weta produced exhibit on Gallipoli. Weta built large life-like sculptures of NZ soldiers, and one nurse, from Gallipoli; It was weird to enjoy such a site that was all about NZs involvement in war, but it was quite well done.
Also, while staring at one of the oversized sculptures a Te Papa worker came up to us and just started telling us about the process Weta had to go thru to make the exhibit. Right away we could hear his American accent, so we asked where he was from, which was Louisiana. His name is Bruce and he's been here for 15 years. Anyways, we told him that we were going to Weta the next day which prompted Bruce to tell us how he was a gorilla consultant on Peter Jackson's King Kong. His contribution in his words was this: "I'm responsible for King Kong's ass." Supposedly he pointed out that the crack in Kong's rear was too long, and Bruce had Weta fix the mistake. Dunno how true this is, but we are choosing to believe him. He was awesome.
After Te Papa we went to get lunch, but thanks to Jesus rising, this proved to be more difficult than expected. We had planned to take Wellington's "famous" cable car up to some gardens post lunch, but since we never found anything to eat we went straight to the cable car. The ticket people told us the cafe at the top would have some food, so we took the cable car up with a bunch of other tourists, got off and went to the cafe. Which was closed. Thanks Jebus. Now we are hungry. We looked at the views, but it all looked like burgers and fries. Supposedly there is a village up there with a proper pub, but we decided we would walk back down to Cuba st. in the city center. Which we did, and which proved to be a good decision. The walk was about 20 minutes, but it felt like the 40 year wander through the desert. Anyways, Cuba st. It's a main drag in Wellington with cafes, bars, and shops. A fine spot for a good meal. We ate at a place called Fidel's. Felt good to be sitting, and eating.
Later in the eve we met up with Matt at a place he suggested: Goldings Free Dive. A cool spot with plenty of NZ craft beers on tap, and a lot of Star Wars stuff hung on the walls. Good atmosphere, and we learn that Matt wants to brew his own beer. Rather take the beer he has been brewing and sell. After Goldings we wander to one more spot, the name slips my mind, but it's more proof the beer scene is alive and well in Wellington, which is not a surprise, but something to note. Also at this place Matt corrects the way we have been saying Dunedin, which is a city on the south island. We had been basically saying it like it was written by Tolkien: Doon-eh-dine. But it is actually Do-need-in. He laughed as he corrected us, and we totally appreciated this. Thanks Matt!
The next day was our Wellywood day. We had a 1030am tour of the Weta Cave, and we planned on seeing a movie at the Embassy Theater where LOTR premiered. First off the Weta tour was awesome. For 25 nz bucks you get a 45min to an hour tour of where a lot of the models, costumes, and sculptures that Weta makes. It's not pretty, but it is inspirational, at least to us. One work in progress we saw was a bunch if miniatures from the movie Labyrinth. I think the tour guide said they are making a game based off the movie, either way we got to look at these awesome little clay hand sculpted figures that looked spot on. I'd show you pictures, but no photographs allowed. We also got to touch the fake skin used to make people look like dwarves, wizards, goblins, orcs, etc. . After the tour we took some photos with the trolls from The Hobbit™, and headed back into Wellington.
We checked out the Te Papa one more time, exploring their exhibit on the local flora and fauna which was quite nice. Post museum we figured it was time to sit in one place for a few hours so we went to the movies. Batman v Superman was playing at the Embassy Theater, a 3 screen cinema, the main one being a large classic theater, which is the one that premiered LOTR. Honestly, I was probably more excited for this than warranted, but also it was so nice. The theater from the outside is very unassuming, but inside it has a great classic feel. Old floors, a winding staircase, and big windows that look back out on Wellywood. It is basically everything I'd want in a theater. We also got some edamame to take into the movie. High class folks. Anyways, the movie was not great, but that barely mattered. The cinema experience was worth it. The inside of the main theater was so grand, a great mix of new and old, that any complaints I have about the movie were overshadowed by the theater. Also they played old timey movie tunes before the show. Seriously, if you find yourself in Wellington, see a movie at the Embassy, it's all worth it.
After the movie we grabbed a late night dinner at a burger spot, one of many restaurants to choose from near the theater. A nice end to a Wellywood day.
The following morning we packed up the van and got ready to board the ferry for the south island. One regret was not going to Victoria park, it has great views of the city, but it's also another LOTR filming spot: The "Get off the road," where Frodo senses the Wraith is close. Ah well. Next time...