AUCKLAND, NZ. At eighteen degrees, Auckland can feel rather cool. It must be the wind, which almost snitched away my umbrella the moment I stepped out of my hotel in Aotea Square. Quite fitting, perhaps, that this was going to be the start of my journey.
ao’tea’roa – cloud; white; long. the long white cloud [origin: Maori]
Located adjacent to Town Hall, Aotea Square is a celebration of friendship and a place of unified resistance. It is that one place in every city that acts as the quintessential ‘centre,’ the meeting point, or the place of protest. It is a wonderful place to people watch, grab a bite to eat or perhaps if you’re lucky enough, listen to a live band or buy some local produce off the weekend markets.
Walking towards Queen Street, to my left, three skateboarders puffing cigarettes and drinking Coke – one with headphones in, following the rhythm of music, soaring in a jump over the stairs, his unbuttoned plaid shirt drifting into the wind. With their youthful spirit, embarking on the cloudy day, just moments before the school’s start, they too are taking a moment to create, in their own way, a chapter of adventure.
I make my way across Queen Street, as I am not particularly fond of its crowds, and choose instead to walk on Lorne and High Street. I love how contrastingly different the vibe feels, less touristy, more local, settled. Through the backdoors of the morning buzz, I make my way across the narrow alleyways and into Tank, minutes later sipping on a Green Colada as I climb the hill towards Albert Park.
This city is green all year round.
The green is like paint on an old wooden plank that won’t wash off.1
Whenever I’m in Auckland, it’s almost like a ritual that I start and end my days with a stroll through Albert Park. I find nothing captures the day better than my time there. One moment I am lying on the grass, eyes following the tips of the palm trees off Princes Street; the other minute, I find myself people watching on a bench under one of the spectacular oak trees. I can never make up my mind where in the park to sit; perhaps adjacent to the Victorian fountain located at the centre, surrounded by colourful floral beds, or maybe closer to what was once, the park-keeper’s cottage. I could sit on a bench off Princes Street, glancing at the Auckland Tower in the distance, but this spot is better left for sunset, I always think, when the sun is found fleeing behind the imposing structure and towards the Tasman Sea. I could grab a bite and sit on the steps of the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and watch the rays shine through the oversized windows, lightning up the colourful lobby art. The structure so beautifully integrated into the spirit of the park, its place like a continuation between the built and the raw, creating linkages between memory and history, integrating art with the nature around.
I’m getting hungry. It’s past ten o’clock and I’m slowly making my way towards Britomart to stop for lunch at Ortolana. Set in a beautiful glass pavilion, this restaurant uses local ingredients and fresh produce to create simple, yet flavorful dishes.
ortolana – market gardener [origin: Italian]
I was quite full from the juice earlier, so I opted for the avocado and soft egg, served on pain cereal spread with chilli, mint and feta cheese. Sipping on my hot mocha, I closed my eyes and let the cool morning sun transport me into a peaceful escape. In between short, cordial chats with the staff, I managed to record a mental photograph of the area, the quiet murmurs of the patrons in the background sometimes stealing my focus, my head lifting for brief moments, competing for attention with the sight of a lady organizing a beautiful centrepiece of fresh fruits and vegetables.
I stayed there, in the glass garden, for much longer than I can remember, maybe another hour or so, watching the morning crowds dissipate into the quietness of the working day.
To be continued.
© 1. Poet Yang, writing about Auckland in 2006