Tuesday, 10 October 2017

In Wellington, New Zealand, for a visit? Here's a hotel worth staying in.

Sometimes you book a hotel because you know it and love it and other times you book a hotel for it's location or because all other accommodation is full.  Location was the reason I booked the QT Museum Hotel for our overnight stay in Wellington.  Right on the waterfront, opposite the National Museum and a short walk to the stadium where my daughter-in-law and I were going to see WOW (World of Wearable Art- WOW, a New Zealand Icon, the previous post on this blog) it's location was perfect and, boy, were we in for a surprise.  This hotel is stunning, what a stroke of luck, truly another wow!

Room key
The Museum has a fascinating history.  Originally located on the opposite side of the road it was set for demolition in order to make way for New Zealand's National Museum, Te Papa.  Fortunately Chris Parkin, an art collector, Wellington City Councillor and business man could see the potential in the hotel and embarked on the plan to employ an amazing feat of engineering to move it from one side of the road to the other. Over a period of 5 months preparations were made for the move which entailed laying  8 sets of rails alongside a main road, hoisting the museum up onto the tracks and taking it 100 metres along the road, turning it 90 degrees and then crossing the road to rest it in place on its new foundations.  The actual move took only two days and amazingly the only thing removed from the hotel  was bed linen, everything else stayed in place, even the bottles in the bar and, even more amazingly, nothing was damaged. Once rested on its new foundations it was business as usual for the Hotel which rejoiced in its new name of Museum Hotel de Wheels, later renamed the Museum Art Hotel and, more recently, after a sale to the Australian QT Group, the QT Museum Hotel.
Hotel Public area with art works on walls and in cabinets
Although Chris Parkin no longer owns the hotel he lives on site in one of the Hotel apartments and is  curator of the art.  The hotel has an agreement with him to keep the art for at least three years but this could be extended by agreement of both parties.
The Hotel Lobby with works by prominent New Zealand artists
From the moment we checked in we were gob smacked.  This is a hotel like no other, it is more like an art gallery with accommodation attached than a hotel. Dark walls enhance the many beautiful original art works lining them. Lush furniture and unusual lighting work in harmony with the works by prominent New Zealand artists. Chris Parkin collected the art over many years and with his enthusiasm for beauty and artistry, in many different forms, has included paintings, sculpture and even motor cycles for display. I have always had a feeling of peace and contentment when I walk into an art gallery and entering this hotel was no exception.
View from our room of the inter island ferry entering Wellington Harbour 
Our room was spacious and elegant with a good sized covered balcony and views out across Wellington Harbour.  It also had the funkiest mini bar I have ever seen with strip neon lighting and such wet weather delights as Domino sets, cards, Pick up Sticks and a shopping bag for purchase.
Funky and well stocked mini bar
Early evening drinks in the Hippopotamus bar under sparkling chandeliers while watching the inter island ferry arrive from the South Island was a great start to our night.  Then it was straight across the road  to the superb Field and Green restaurant for dinner before a pleasant walk along the waterfront to WOW.
The Hippopotamus Bar overlooking Wellington Harbour
We slept well and the next morning got up early to prowl the museum looking at the art on every level. We were reluctant to leave but, sadly, a flight awaited.
My daughter-in-law admiring a state of the art motor cycle on display.
I loved this hotel and can't wait to go back.  It is packed with character and style and is now my 'first choice' hotel in Wellington.  Apart from the ambiance and art it is perfectly located for most of Wellington's attractions.  The rooms are lovely with the bathrooms offering a choice of a standard or monsoon shower. The bar has an extensive list of  'by the glass' wines and the restaurant has an excellent reputation. It is higher end price wise but for the occasional splurge or a special occasion, why not?  It is well worth it, in my opinion.


Sunday, 1 October 2017

World of Wearable Art- WOW, a New Zealand Icon

Back in 1987 Nelson sculptor and artist, Suzie Moncrieff, wanted to promote a small art gallery in rural Nelson at the top of the South Island New Zealand.  She came up with an original concept of taking art out from galleries and displaying it on the human body. In doing so she created the entirely new genre of wearable art, an art which combines design, art, movement and drama, performed as a show supported by state of the art stage lighting and technology. World of Wearable Art was born.

A bit of Street Art outside the venue

The first performance, held at a small rural venue in Nelson, attracted around 200 people and was an instant success. Over the years its fame grew, becoming more and more popular, to the point that Nelson could no longer cater for the crowds wanting to attend.  In 2005 the show was moved to Wellington to take advantage of a larger venue, a bigger population and to be more accessible for the people who fly in from all over New Zealand and the world to attend. It now attracts an audience of around 50,000. In 1999 WOW won New Zealand's Supreme Tourism Award. Suzie Moncrieff was awarded the honour of Officer of the New Zealand order of Merit in 1998 and made a Dame Companion in 2012.

Today World of Wearable Art attracts work from designers all over the world.  From around 300 entries the best 170 make it to the stage with 400 people involved in the show's production. This year categories included Aotearoa, Avante-garde, Science Fiction, Red and Illumination. Winners from these and other categories shared a prize pool of $170,000  and offers of scholarships with companies such as Cirque du Soleil and Weta Workshops, founded by Peter Jackson and Richard Taylor of Lord of the Rings fame.

And the stage is set
I had been to WOW about 4 years ago and was gobsmacked by it.  I had never seen anything like it before. It is spectacular, awe inspiring, fun, mind blowing, colourful and intriguing. The imagination of the designers, and their precision in creating the garments, takes your breath away. If you have never been, I suggest it is a 'must do'. 

Last week my daughter-in-law and I flew to Wellington especially to see this year's WOW.   It was Jane's first time at WOW, and she had the same reactions as I'd had and I was no less amazed this second time round.   As we walked back to our hotel, along a calm and star lit waterfront, my daughter-in-law was very quiet then, after a while, she said she was simply stunned at the spectacle and creativity of it all.

This short clip, made a few years ago, is well worth watching. It gives you a small glimpse at the wonder of WOW and describes it so much better than I could.