Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.
~ Marcus Aurelius
Do you like being on stage? I used to love the stage. Not for public speaking, mind you, but I can still remember how my heart leaped with fearful exhilaration whenever I got to go on stage at school. I FEARED it and I LOVED it. You could be just you on stage, or you could throw on a cloak, pointe shoes, a paper crown and be someone else – and if everyone joined in the fun, you could all go on marvellous adventures together without leaving the room. I can’t even remember what the physical stage looked like now, but I well remember the experience of being on it… pretty crazy how transforming a stage is, considering that physically it is just a simple elevated platform with curtains, lights and stuff like that.
Relating this to travel – jumping on a plane is kind of like jumping on a stage, isn’t it? You’re still you, and you’re still on planet earth – but at the same time, you’re… not you. And earth looks different.
So this evening I thought about travelling and all the things I love about it. The way I feel when I’m travelling. Experiencing different people, a different way of life, different everything. The way priorities seem to straighten themselves out. The way I expect surprises, and get plenty of surprises (some better than others, admittedly). The way you go so far to peer into a face completely different from yours and find, to your surprise, that they smile and cry just like you do; that deep inside humanity is common to everyone. Travelling is AMAZING.
However! While it is certainly fun to tour foreign countries, and I still mean to visit more places in my lifetime – I realise that it can be just as fun to “tour” your own resident city. ‘Cos let’s face it, money doesn’t grow on trees, NZ is pretty gorgeous and NZ is also pretty far away from everywhere else. Also, what’s the point of living in one place, pining for another and missing life altogether in the process?
So today, arriving 30 minutes early for dinner, I wandered down Ponsonby Road like a tourist. I took pictures. I smiled at strangers. I peeked into shop windows. I noticed different things. I asked questions when they popped into my head.
I relished the fact that I’m not ACTUALLY a real tourist, so when I chanced upon 129 Ponsonby Road, I popped in and bought a bag of spinach and ginger zest muesli (some things don’t change :-))
I walked past some pretty cool spots – Auckland is a big tank of mud with gold nuggets hidden inside. You have to trawl through hideous traffic and buildings but then every time you find a place like Milly’s, for instance, you strike gold.
Ponsonby Road has a few gold nuggets.
So, Auckland: I’ve given up trying to stop myself from thinking this is an ugly city. It is what it is. Ugly. But above that, it’s got spunk. It’ll rise to whatever challenge you care to offer it. Over the last 11 months, it’s wrestled bravely with my will to like it. It’s been a big ugly frog, daring me to kiss it so it can show me the prince he really is. It’s charmed me with the likes of stunning weather and occasional great coffee and pretty surrounding beaches and blooming roses and all the rest of it.
Aside from the wonderful people I’ve met here, I’m still not sure that I’ll be sad to leave (if and when that day should come), but until then… I’ll agree to give you a chance, Auckland.
P.S. On dinner: we went out to celebrate my parents’ recent wedding anniversary (what a reason to celebrate!). We all enjoyed our delicious meals and the kind waiters (grazie mille, Gusto Italiano!). The last picture above is a picture of my dinner tonight: oven roasted duck marinaded with herbs, served with red cabbage cooked with orange and sultana, chestnut and potato mash, and a drizzle of balsamic. And yes, it was as good as it sounds… though I can probably attribute it at least in part to the fact that I had to wait a while for my family to arrive (that’s lovely Auckland traffic for you) ;-)
Gusto Italiano – 263 Ponsonby Road, Auckland – Phone: 09 361 1556