It’s a fact that while Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city, Wellington is New Zealand’s coolest. It’s something to do with the geography – the compact city centre – and that it’s the capital city. Somehow this all adds up to a being lovely place to live.
When the day came, I almost missed my flight after the airport bus didn’t show up, but thankfully the flight was delayed due to bad weather in Wellington. Yay for bad weather in Wellington!
As soon as I arrived at my hotel (top floor, corner, wall-to-ceiling views – hey, cool) I got ready and headed down Cuba Street to Mighty Mighty, where the bar was full of cool Wellington people.
First on the line-up was “It Doesn’t Give My Opponents Much Time Either” – a quiz about the politics and culture of the Muldoon years. While the proper teams answered on stage, I showed off my awesomeness to my tablemates by knowing that the 1480 Kroozers were skateboarders.
Next the Annual Wellingtonista Awards were presented, honouring the best of Wellington. (During my Wellington weekend, I got to experience a few of the winners and nominees, and I’m confident that the best things did win.)And then – yee-yah – Blam Blam Blam played. I reckon it was even better than their gig at the King’s Arms back in September. Even their less known songs got a good audience reaction, and there was much jumping around. “Don’t fight it Martha it’s bigger than both of us” was a full-on emotional experience, while “There is no depression in New Zealand” took on an extra special dimension being played in the nation’s capital.
Over the evening I met lots of cool people I’d only previously known online, as well as a few nervous fanboys who were lovely to meet.
Eventually Joanna, the wonderful hostess, rounded up the remainders and we headed off to the Hawthorn Lounge, a superb cocktail bar disguised as a gentlemanlady’s club. Um, I can’t remember what we drank, other than that it was good.
Finally for the evening a late-night food mission, but this is where Wellington lets itself down. There was a kebab shop on Courtenay Place. They would sell us inadequate felafels, but they didn’t want us to eat there, so we had to resort to trickery to get a table. They ended up booting us out. Man, all I wanted was a kebab.
I decided to take it (relatively) easy on Friday. I went to Te Papa and saw the Toi Te Papa exhibition of the history of New Zealand art. I’m glad they’re taking their responsibility as the national gallery seriously now. It seemed like the one part of Te Papa that wasn’t all geared up to be fun and educational 4 kidz. It’s just a whole lot of good paintings.
I went for a walk along the waterfront (it was windy) and came across the new Meridian building, as recommended by Tom.
Later I went along to the Thistle Hall, which was having a fund-raising event, selling a number of artworks for $100 each. I found a watercolour that tickled my fancy so I bought it. (But now I feel like I need something… darker to balance things out. Hm.)
After an unpleasant experience being crammed into the hotel lift with a bunch of office workers dressed in 1920s gangster costumes, I came across Tom and Kowhai going to the Madame Fancy Pants VIP evening. MFP is a shop that sells clothing and accessories, and I bought a cool badge that says “Reading is sexy”, which, as you know, is true because you are reading this and you are sexy.
We finished the evening by having a polite, well-behaved drink at Superfino. I had a poached-pear punch, which was just right for an early summer night. Are there even bars like this in Auckland?
I met up with Mike. I’ve known him now for 11 years. Crikey! We walked around and he showed me where Wellington’s finest graffiti and sticker art could be found. We wandered up Aro Street, then all the way down to the waterfront, where we had fried crap from Viggo Mortensen’s favourite fish and chip shop.
We were meeting Mike’s friend Shannon in Civic Square, which was also the setting for a climate change festival, so we were entertained by a hippy choir singing those sorts of songs that only hippies sing (the kind that involves self-congratulatory rhythmic clapping).
When Shannon showed up we wandered off, pausing only to put a Green Party sticker on a campervan (lolz!!! irony!!!!), then having a coffee at Fidel’s. That seems like a lot of walking, but I think it’s much easier to walk around central Wellington because it’s so flat. You can’t go far in central Auckland without hitting a steep, demanding hill.
Then I met up with Jo and Tom. We had a drink at Floriditas (srsly, Wgtn is all about the booze), then dinner at a Thai restaurant and coffee and Ernesto’s. Jo went off to see the Gossip (which, from all accounts, was brilliant), and Tom and I were joined by Stephen, and we had more good cocktails at the Hawthorn Lounge.
I had a few hours to spare before my flight, so I visited the Wellington City Gallery, which had a Bill Hammond exhibition – his epic paintings of unusual animals – and a couple of montage films by Tracey Moffatt. I only saw one – “Love” – a montage of clips from romantic films showing the different ways women are treated in films. It’s really unnerving to hear a succession of leading men shouting “Whore!” (Hollywood is still male-centric.)
Finally I left Wellington, a hot and sunny day, and flew back to Auckland, which was being all grey and rainy and moody.
I figured out why Wellington is so good – it’s not just the geography, it’s the people.