Have you ever felt this excitement when you set off to discover a new place? When the adventurer and the curious in you seeks something new? When you want to get to know the place a little bit more than just as described in the guides? To walk around and check out the locals? When you can't wait to peek into the next street and get around the next corner to see where the road will take you? When the little voice deep inside you shouts: "Feel the city!!! Observe!!!" And with every step you take, you get a shot of adrenalin in your body? No exact destination, just wandering around without really getting lost? Let me show you what I discovered in Auckland city today :)
The starting point of my stroll was Queen Street - the main road, the commercial hub, the heartbeat of the city. Kind of a Champs Elysées or a Rodeo Drive, Auckland style. Also featured in the New Zealand version of the Monopoly as one of the most expensive spots. It was named after Queen Victoria - Auckland used to be called the Queen City, too. It is pretty long, it extends from the Marina and the harbour and reaches all the way in until it soars up to the hillside, all together some 3 kms.
The closer it is to the waterfront, the more attractive it is, with some hot top shops, banks and palm trees lined up along the walkways. And some diverse restos in the area to challenge your taste buds. You would find here trendy cafés, and towards the upper end of Queen Street where I was touring this time, mostly Asian cuisine, like Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Korean or Thai, but the Turkish have some cool falafel spots, with Burger King, McDonald's, Starbucks also present. I have spotted some French crêperies in the neighbourhood, as well as a Belgian Waffle and a Hungarian Lángos (Elephant Ears) stand, too. Really international!
Exclusive branded shops, and one of New Zealand's oldest department stores, Smith & Caughey's, live side by side with some second hand and vintage boutiques showcasing used but still wearable clothes, shoes, bags. There are no major basic clothing stores like H&M, Mango, Zara, C&A present here, but you can find Louis Vuitton, Topshop or Lacoste, just to mention a few. And you will definitely bump into many local, proudly Kiwi made brands. This is a cool website to browse the shopping scenery here.
Another interesting find: several little Asian stores, similar to a dollar shop, with most of the items a household needs, featuring stationary or basically anything. Once you enter the shop, you feel like in a different continent :)
My favourite part of the stroll is the pedestrian crossing. I remember I was totally surprised the very first time I saw this here in Auckland. Once the lights turn green, people just start crossing the street in practically every direction. I found that pretty strange, amazing and unusual with a European eye. Totally makes sense though, why to cross two crossings on the edges of an imaginary square or rectangle if you can just cut it across with one along the longest side of the triangle if you need to get to the opposite side. This means also that all the cars are on standby during that time.
This is how it looked like in reality:
Auckland is a very multicultural city with a strong European, Maori, Pacific and Asian influence. You can specially feel the diversity in downtown. With its almost 1.5 million inhabitants that spread over a large territory, it accounts for approximately 30% of the New Zealand's total population!
If you continue the walk, you will reach one of the iconic landmarks along Queen Street - the Aotea Square, with its multicolour facade arch made of wood and decorated by vivid elements of nature - a piece of Maori art. I really liked the turquoise blue bird on one side. The square itself got its name after the biggest island along Auckland's shores, the Great Barrier Island, Motu Aotea.
The bronze statue of Sir Dove-Myer Robinson, a former mayor of Auckland welcomes the visitors for public events. In summer, the square fills up with life, with people enjoying a concert while having a break, eating lunch or just chilling in the afternoon sun in the comfy colourful chairs. :)
The view of the street differs with every step you take in so many ways. The Central Business District or CBD is just round the corner, with the Skytower and several bluish, glass skyscrapers marking the skyline of Auckland.
Then there are some other older and modern square blocks, classical buildings, or some with a touch of the last century.
At the end of the day, Auckland is a relatively young city, established only in 1841 as the capital of New Zealand - till 1865, when it was shifted to Wellington. Until today, it is not only the biggest city in New Zealand, but also the world's largest Polynesian city. I didn't notice any particular planning on how the outlook of the buildings would fit with each other consistently, like in many European cities - probably no one has really thought of it much at the initial phase. On the other hand, you could sometimes feel like you are cruising the streets of either LA (a sister city of Auckland), London, Paris or even East Europe, as far as some of the blocks are concerned. The totally different styles mixing and right next to each other hence give the city its kind of unique atmosphere.
So it was a foggy, rain day today. Usually not the best for walking, but as I wrote in this earlier post, I am starting to like the rain here. Maybe it is a question of a good raincoat? :) Here is an umbrella view over the city from one of the main and busiest highways of Auckland, the Southern Motorway.
How did I end up on the motorway, you might wonder. Well, I kept wandering around, just walking, enjoying, feeling the vibes of the hilly neighbourhood and following my feet to the unknown, off the track. Watching, gazing, observing... People, the construction workers on the street, the little bit run down and hipster surroundings of the famous K' road, the op-shops and the many hairdressers. Capturing every piece of new information of this area. I spotted a bridge with high school girls in uniform - yes, most of the schools have uniforms here - walking over it. I felt like walking over it, too.
This is the view I found, actually probably one of the most amazing photo spots at night with the lights of the city shining through that I read about on different forums and didn't know its exact location. And now I just stumbled upon it by chance.
But this time it was daytime. And not the best view. Gloomy, foggy, chilly and wet - it somehow still fitted the mood. A city, like many of us, too, have many faces. I tried to capture the most out of it. See the little beauties wherever I could. The amazing green bush right next to the highway growing with such a power of nature. The Auckland Harbour Bridge far away dressed up in mysterious mist. And finally a city captured in black & white. Hope you enjoyed the tour just as I did! :)
What's your favourite way to discover a new city? Have you ever played a tourist in your own?
Would love to hear!
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