A love letter to Wellington
This past weekend I went down to visit Andrew in Wellington. This was my second time down there after my back surgery and I think I’m falling for it.
I’m a city girl, I’ve mentioned this before. Lately, I’ve been beginning to realise just how much. As I was looking to move in with some flatmates here in Auckland, I could see how drawn I was to places that were bustling, very close to shops and easy public transit. No matter if this meant my new abode might be a tiny room, a little louder and with a longer commute. I wanted to be near the heart of the city, to feel the movement of the city around me. Andrew and I had moved into a small two-bedroom house before he moved down to Wellington and I feel so isolated in the dark and quiet place all by myself. Having to drive to get anywhere is absolutely not my cup of tea.
While I have really enjoyed Auckland during my time in New Zealand, I am by no means in love. The city doesn’t have an obvious personality. The feeling is one might have with a good acquaintance, on a good day a friend, but I’m looking for a city I can fall in love with. You can drive to all sorts of cool places outside the city, and there are a bunch of great restaurants and things to do, but I don’t miss the city when I leave. I don’t have a huge warm-fuzzy when I see the skyline. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful! But it’s so spread out and the city isn’t connected; not by a good public transit system, nor by a cohesive government or even a sense of community. House prices are rising super-fast as people flock to Auckland, though most are moving further into the suburbs to claim a little privacy and get away from their neighbours. Despite this, the houses are so close to one another, squished onto a single piece of land, but neighbours don’t talk to one another. They’re friendly, no one will shout at you to get off their lawn (usually), but it’s no community. It’s one big suburb.
Wellington on the other hand is made of up of several regions. The city is Wellington, and there are Upper and Lower Hutt, Porirua, Kapiti Coast and a number of others as well. This past year, the councils voted on whether or not to make Wellington a “Super City”, like Auckland, and join all the different communities into a large conglomerate. I’m glad the measure was voted down. The areas are able to grow and maintain their individual personalities, keeping different goals of which improvements are easier to achieved with a smaller council, giving each neighbourhood a sense of community all the while keeping the goal of making Wellington as a whole a wonderful place to live. The city feels younger and more vibrant than Auckland. The residential area spacing is suburban, similar to most neighbourhoods in Auckland, but the people appear to clash into each other intentionally. Just walking down the street feels more like a small town or huge city. Where people all coexist in a positive way with the people they pass. In Auckland, no one looks at one another, and most act as if their individual goal is the most important one. In Wellington, everyone moves around each other with the intention that everyone’s destination is equally important.
Maybe I’m just missing being in the city or with my partner, but I honestly get a warm-fuzzy when I fly into Wellington, unlike Auckland, and I’ve spent fewer than a dozen days in Wellington to date! This weekend I’m moving to right near the beach and shops, so hopefully Auckland can win me over yet! Otherwise, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens! 😉
Andrew works in Miramar, and lives in nearby Seatoun. A very suburban area, there are heaps of walking paths less than a block from his home. The walks are beautiful. Like Auckland, Wellington is right on the water. Wellington appears to have integrated the beach into the city lifestyle a lot better than Auckland. Auckland has homes up and down the coast with beaches peppering the area for the most part. Wellington has walking paths and beaches with homes peppering the coast. It’s far more inclusive. And it’s nice to feel like you belong. The downtown shops and city center are still no more than a 15 minute drive.
Wellington is ridiculously hilly and windy, but no matter. Like the extreme temperatures in Chicago, the environment means the people living in Wellington are there because they want to be. A few earthquakes keep things exciting and the threat of tsunami keeps everyone on their toes.
Andrew and I found a fantastic Mexican, Thai and Cuban restaurant, and with the exception of the Mexican place, found the prices far more reasonable than Auckland. Saturday night, after a $5 slice of New York style pizza we walked into an alley off the main street, pressed a door bell beside an unmarked door tucked into a brick building façade and the door was opened. Up a set of dark stairs, we were transported into a tiki bar with fancy-pants drinks. A city with personality and taste buds.
One of my favourite parts of the weekend was a very creatively contrived mini-golf course in Happy Valley about 10 minutes from Andrew’s flat. The course has an almost “junk yard” feel to it. Lots of twisted metal parts, with so many integrated into the course. Ball pathways, bridges, tunnels and spirals were sprinkled among the other obstacles. Boulders and trees along the hill make the course feel more intimate and private and despite the course being crowded on a beautiful day, we never had to wait for our turn. The pacing was well done. Of course, I played a superbly brilliant game and beat Andrew for the first time in a long while, so that helped as well. There was also an art walk and the course was beautiful to check out even if you aren’t much of a putt-putt player. (Carlucci Land, Happy Valley) I see on-line that the place had paint ball in the past, and is hoping to get it back up and running soon. Can’t wait to give that a go!
And I can’t wait to go back to visit Wellington!