Day 6: LOTR
I’m a massive Lord of the Rings fan, and New Zealand is sort of a Mecca for such fans, so I couldn’t not take part in one such activity this week. I was also pretty lucky, I found this website which was selling this tour for $114 (NZ) instead of $190 (NZ) for the full day (plus lunch).
The tour was with a company called ‘Rover Tours’, and as soon as my guide collected me from the city centre, I knew instantly that it was going to be a good day, and it was.
The tour began on Courtenay Place, near to The Embassy theatre which hosted the world premiere of The Return of the King and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. This was a big deal in Wellington, we saw photos of 120,000 people queuing up outside of the red carpet. A 600 m long red carpet (a world record for The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey, which overtook the record previously set by one of the Harry Potter films).
We saw how the theatre was decorated and learnt that the models used are now at the airport (note to self: check them out when at the airport). They also told us that the main screen at The Embassy can hold 850 people, making it one of the largest screens in Australasia and, ahead of the premier, they renovated the theatre and supporters, including actors and actresses paid to have a plaque of their name in the seat they sat in for the premiere.
From here, we learnt a little more about Wellington more generally as we drove up to Mount Victoria (far quicker than walking) and learnt that may of the homes on the mountain have mini cable cars at the side of them – take a look, once you find one you’ll see loads more! Apparently there are around 400 in Wellington, which is a world record. From the viewing area (the one further along, the original one), we looked over towards the Westpac Stadium. Doesn’t sound too significant right?
Well, it was there, at that very stadium, during a cricket match that they recorded some of the chanting for LOTR! And when you look the other way, towards Miramar, the woodland used for the refugee scenes is right in front of you. After this, we headed into the woods to see some of the filming locations, including this: ‘Get off the road!’ We
We learnt the town belt of Mount Victoria is a reserve, but the woodland itself isn’t that healthy as the trees were planted very close together. We heard many a funny tale about the filming of LOTR, and as much as I want to write literally everything, if I do that, it might spoil the tour for other people, so I’m just going to share snippets.
After the woods, we headed to the Weta studio where we went for a tour, yep, for anyone who has spent some time in New Zealand (or has visited Zealandia), that’s Weta as in the bug. Something I didn’t learn before, ‘Weta’ actually means ‘god of all things ugly’ in Maori, which is why the studio is so aptly named. On the way to the studio, we drove past The Roxy cinema, (which is still on my list of places to go before I leave Wellington). It was reopened in 2011 after a make over by Weta and is a 1920’s style art deco cinema.
We also drove past the ‘Wellington’ sign on the hills. Although the area is known as Wellywood, it was decided to keep it as ‘Wellington’, however, you’ll notice that the ‘ton’ is seemingly blowing away. That’s because Wellington has approximately 167 days a year when the wind is above 70kph, and apparently people say ‘have you been blown away by Wellington today’.
The studio tour was amazing! You can only see the studio by going on a tour, you can’t just turn up, so I think it’s worth it, if only for this (although everything else is pretty great too).
From the studio, we headed to Miramar to the Scorch-O-Rama cafe (formerly the Chocolate Fish Cafe), for ‘The fellowship of food’, I ordered Frodo’s Frittata and it was great. There’s also a super cute cat at the cafe, s/he came and sat on my lap and fell asleep, it was purrrfect until s/he tried to eat my lunch. It was kind of like how I imagine the cat cafe experience (that I’ve yet to try).
From here, we drove to more filming locations including Rivendell (yes, actual Rivendell!) while learning more facts about Wellington: Miramar used to be a giant lake that disappeared after an earthquake in the late 1800s, a few years ago the Beehive got voted the 3rd ugliest building in the world and roughly 82% of New Zealand’s native bush has been destroyed.
Overall, I’d definitely recommend the tour for any LOTR fans. It was so informative, not only about the films and what they mean to Wellington, and why they’re so important to New Zealand generally, but also about Wellington itself. We drove around many areas that I have not yet had chance to explore, the guides were really friendly, as was everyone on my tour. I’d highly recommend it.
After the tour finished at around 6 pm, I met my roomie for dinner. On the recommendation of the guides, we headed to Aunty Mena’s on Cuba Street. It’s a mix of Chinese and Malaysian cuisine that specialises in vegetarian and vegan dishes. We ordered vegetarian spring rolls and fried veggie balls to start. My roomie described the latter as the taste of spring rolls but the consistency of a doughnut.
For our mains, we ordered dumpling soup and nasi goreng with vegetables, peas and curry paste. Overall, the food was great and it was really well priced. I’d definitely recommend a visit!
We decided to make an night of it and headed to The Library as there was a live band called Double Trouble playing, plus we’d heard good things about the dessert, (we ordered Eton Mess and a Creme Brulee).
The library is a really neat bar in Wellington, it’s tucked away next to the waffle place. Only the sign and the bouncer actually hint at its existence, but if you look up from the street, you can see that the walls are lined with books. Inside it’s just as atmospheric. It’s a great venue, they have live music once or twice a week, the cocktails are good but a little expensive. I don’t think it’s a place you’d spend all night as the prices are similar to drinking in London. Although I would note that drinking in NZ generally is fairly pricey.
*Please note: I haven’t been asked to promote any of the businesses mentioned in this post. I’m just sharing my week of experiences in Wellington*