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Te Aro

TA intro

 

Having spent our first week in Auckland, I decided to check out the nation’s capital, Wellington, for this week’s post before finishing up our NZ stint back in Auckland next week.

Huh? Wouldn’t it have been more logical to do the other Auckland suburb before heading south? Well yes, but one look at the weather convinced me to leave pronto or suffer through the week of lousy weather that was forecast for Welly – because lousy weather, I was told, was something Wellington excelled at.

So, from a city with a population of 1.4 million to one with less than 400,000. Accordingly we only spent three days there – surely such a small city would only need a small amount of time to digest. But the “coolest little capital in the world” (according to Lonely Planet) punches above its weight – I left feeling like I needed at least another week there.

I chose a suburb close to the city centre because, like Auckland, most of Wellington was on holiday; if I had any chance of finding people to photograph, it would be in a ‘busy’ area like Te Aro.

No such luck. Te Aro was approaching busy for one of the days I was there but the rest of the time, deserted.

Super quick history… Used to be dodgy in certain bits, now the city’s alternative end, filled with vintage shops, cafes and apartment buildings.

Okay, hold on to your hat and let’s go Te Aro!

 

Part 1: Windy Welly

The adventure started before we even set foot in the place. Well known for being one of the windiest cities on the planet, the morning our Airbus A320 curved around on its final approach to Wellington Airport it was bright and sunny but blowing one hell of a gale. So bad the captain aborted his first attempt at a landing – not far from the ground, he hit the throttle and we felt the plane suddenly lurch heavenwards once more.

Looking down from the plane’s window at choppy Cook Strait was initially exciting – but after the aborted landing, all I could think was, I really don’t want Coco and I to end up in the drink. Normally one to enjoy the cheap thrill of air turbulence, I found myself desperately trying to tune out – but failing, as the plane shuddered and shook, fighting to stay level and making the eeriest noises imaginable.

On his second attempt, Captain Wonderful went for it – and this time managed to beat the notorious cross-winds, avoid the hills and bring the Airbus safely back to earth on the unbelievably short landing strip.

It was like nothing I’d ever experienced – which was exactly what another passenger told the local TV news crew who gathered around us as we disembarked, there to capture the dramatic landings of the day.

Welcome to windy Welly. Very bloody windy Welly.

 

 

white horses gallop through Cook Strait

white horses gallop through Cook Strait

 

 

 

 

sea dwellers

sea dwellers

 

 

 

 

The reason for the super windy city? Wellington sits in a major wind tunnel, created by the mountains on either side of Cook Strait – as the winds pass through the gap they pick up speed and strength.

 

 

mountainous terrain

mountainous terrain

 

 

 

 

windy Welly

windy Welly

 

 

 

 

chur bro, this place is windy eh? :: 1

chur bro, this place is windy eh? :: 1

 

 

 

 

chur bro, this place is windy eh? :: 2

chur bro, this place is windy eh? :: 2

 

 

 

 

chur bro, this place is windy eh? :: 4

chur bro, this place is windy eh? :: 3

 

 

 

 

Part 2: Vintage

The main heart of Te Aro is Cuba Street, where every second shop seems to be about one of two things – vintage clothes or caffeine.

Beginning with the vintage…

 

 

plenty of vintage, including the buildings

plenty of vintage, including the buildings

 

 

 

 

retro and recycled rules

retro and recycled rules

 

 

 

The first person I met on Cuba Street was Cian, a “fashion designer in the making” with a Boy George inspired look. While Cian reckoned Wellington was the most liberal city in New Zealand, he still felt “tolerated but not accepted” – “Yeah, I get called a faggot sometimes.”

 

 

"I feel tolerated not accepted" - Cian

“I feel tolerated not accepted” – Cian

 

 

 

 

black and white

black and white

 

 

 

 

Next was Grace, with her skater boyfriend, Fuzz. For them, Wellington was the only place to be in NZ – “If there wasn’t a Wellington in New Zealand, we’d move to Melbourne”. Why the Wellington love? “It’s artsy, cosy, fun. You’re free here, to be yourself”. And why Melbourne? “We’ve heard it’s like a giant Wellington.”

 

 

freedom - Grace

freedom – Grace

 

 

 

While there were a fair amount of black-clad bods wandering around, Te Aro also struck me as particularly colourful.

 

 

orange

orange

 

 

 

 

sea green

sea green

 

 

 

 

violet

violet

 

 

 

 

blue

blue

 

 

 

 

pink

pink

 

 

 

 

Part 3: Coffee culture

Apparently Wellington has ‘more bars, cafes and restaurants per capita than New York’. For once, I believe them. Whoever they are.

It also appeared to have less Starbucks per capita than any other city I’ve visited – these cafes are independently owned, by people who are passionate about beans and brews.

 

 

coffee culture on Cuba

coffee culture on Cuba

 

 

 

 

coffee everything

coffee everything

 

 

 

 

neighbours - coffee and books

neighbours – coffee and books

 

 

 

 

blown away - barista Drew

blown away – barista Drew from Milk Crate

 

 

 

 

coffee, past and present- barista Chris from Flight Coffee Hangar

coffee, past and present – barista Chris from Flight Coffee Hangar

 

 

 

 

eat and drink street

eat and drink street

 

 

 

 

Part 4: Wild Wellington

If I’d stayed another week, I would’ve shot a suburb that showed off Wellington’s wonderfully wild side – but as it is, here’s a few pics of a beautiful Bengal cat I met lurking around the place and the painted calves of a local called Steve.

 

 

wild Wellington

wild Wellington

 

 

 

 

watching the birdies

watching the birdies

 

 

 

 

"They're Day of the Dead tattoos with a NZ twist, representing me and my wife" - Steve

“They’re Day of the Dead tattoos with a NZ twist, representing me and my wife” – Steve

 

 

 

 

The Wrap

I would love to have seen Wellington in full swing, rather than half deserted. But even so, I loved it. In the way you can get your fix of alternative-urban in Te Aro and then head for the hills – and leave the city behind in no time at all. And as much as it might annoy, I found the wild wind incredibly invigorating. Except of course when you’re in a flying tin can, attempting to land. Then it’s just slightly terrifying. 

 

 

 

 

flying back to her adopted home, Auckland - Elizabeth, originally from Samoa

flying back to her adopted home, Auckland – Elizabeth, originally from Samoa

 

 

 

 

On the ‘home front’

Once again Coco was largely taken off my hands this week by our Auckland friend, Gay, who travelled down to Wellington with us, and whose family we stayed with while we were there (many thanks to all the Miers’). So while I was nosing around Te Aro, Coco was off playing tourist – and loving it.

We’re back in Auckland for one more week before flying off to our very last city on 52 Suburbs Around the World – Melbourne, Australia. With only four more posts to go now, I’m starting to feel sad and excited in equal measure. This has been a constant for so long now, I can’t imagine what it’s going to feel like without it.

 —

This suburb has been brought to you by Linda Ottery

See you next week.

 

  1. Sarah says:

    Welcome back to you – this post was amazing, and reminds me of some of the great skills you have (that I haven’t seen as much of in the most recent few posts) – spectacular colour matching, amazingly alternative people… Just wow. I’m going to Wellington too now (thanks to you)!

  2. Sarah says:

    I too would like to go to Wellington now! Barista Drew has amazing eyes! Cant wait to see your perspective of Melbourne!

  3. Red Peony says:

    WOW!!! Apart from the very exciting landing, I found this post so invigorating; might have something to do with all the wind!

    I think you’ve summed up your visit vividly. Totally unexpected. BEAUTIFUL shots

  4. Lucy says:

    Ah – the ones of Elizabeth flying back to her adopted home and the hydrangeas are my favourites. Beautiful!

  5. JENNY says:

    Just fabulous pictures and I too loved the contrasting colours. My only visit to Wellington was in 1971 whilst on board a ship heading to England. Wellington was windy & deserted – not a coffee shop within cooee it left me with a very negative impression of a very backward country which took me 34 years to change! As a Melburnian I look forward to your next post.

  6. melina says:

    Just beautiful!!! I lived in Te Aro, Cuba st for 6 months and I loved to see such beautiful images from the place I felt home for some time. I miss it so much… and I am so far away now. But there are plenty of suburbs here in Buenos Aires! you should come to do some of your wonderful work here!

  7. Robert Catto says:

    Reading this in Sydney, having just moved after fifteen years in Wellington, it’s the first time I’ve (almost) been homesick. Such a lovely town, Wellington!

  8. Rae says:

    Great Pics and blog – Check out the Provincial Hotel and surrounds in Brunswick St, 7 Seeds Coffee Roasters, St Ali – plenty of great shots await you in Melbourne

  9. Louise says:

    Sarah – Glad I converted you to Welly!
    Sarah – Drew has the same hooded eyes that so many Kiwis seem to have. Very swoony aren’t they?
    Red Peony – It’s a vital, energising place and yes, I think the wind has a lot to do with that.
    Lucy – I know hydrangeas aren’t indigenous but they are so pretty and old world. And I love the shot of Elizabeth too. The light was perfect and like me, she was glued to the window, watching the sky.
    Jenny – What, no coffee! Probably like much of the world aside from Europe all those years ago. Now it’s a global obsession isn’t it? Well, in the privileged First World anyway.
    Melina – Glad I could show you your old street. And I almost included BA in this project – hope to make it there one day.
    Robert – I can imagine a place like Wellington would really get under your skin. Ah well, at least it’s close if the heartache ever gets bad.
    Rae – Thanks for the tip!

  10. Denise says:

    Te Aro is my home, and I love how you’ve captured its character in these shots. As for the wind, well it is a nuisance but as we sometimes say, if the weather was any better, everyone would want to live here.

    • Louise says:

      Great to hear from a Te Aro local – very happy you think I captured its character.

  11. BOYSIE says:

    Beautiful work Louise and a great little insight into a city I never knew much about. If I ever get to en zid I’ll be sure to visit.
    Love
    Guy

    • Louise says:

      Many thanks Bro! x

  12. ellen says:

    omg u sure ur nearly done cant believe it WOW so what next r u gonan rite a book like with the sydney one all i know is that ill miss you and your wonderful posts i feel like we r friends now through like two or three years of reading your grat posts and commenting XXXXOOOO hope to see you ound huh who knows might spot ya down at wylies one day or clovelly LOL loved this bit on wellington my aunty lived there for a bit to donno what part tho and i love melbourne to ive heard great things about it XXXOOO

    • Louise says:

      Don’t worry, I won’t disappear! I love that you’ve been following so long. You’ll have to come to the exhibition opening mid-year so we can meet finally. x

  13. Caroline says:

    Where in Melbourne will you be shooting? I’ve a biz proposal I’d like to run past you…

    • Louise says:

      Not sure yet – but please shoot me an email about it. 52suburbs@gmail.com

  14. Phil Wollerman says:

    Spectacular post Louise, from landing to ending. You captured Te Aro, and the attitude, beautifully.

    • Louise says:

      Thanks Phil!

  15. Sarah-Jane says:

    This has made me miss Wellington so much!! I’ve just recently moved to the UK after living in Welly for a good five years… It’s such a beautiful, amazing, crazy city (Cuba Street is the awesome! People watching there is even better than in London!). You’ve captured it well, (despite making me super homesick and craving Wellington coffee)… Great job! x

    • Louise says:

      Better people watching than London? That’s saying something. Sorry about the homesick bit but glad you enjoyed the virtual trip back.

  16. Amanda says:

    Having grown up in both Melbourne and Wellington, this post made near extremely happy as I didn’t expect it! This post was beautiful – I love those hydrangeas! Would LOVE to meet up with you in Melbourne as I’d love to see your process in person but understand of course if not :) so excited to see which suburb you pick!

    • Louise says:

      Very glad you enjoyed it so much. If I have some spare time it’d be great to meet you too – but I usually don’t have time to scratch myself!

  17. Amy says:

    Hooray! Can’t wait to see what you do with Melbourne. Have loved my armchair travel with you.
    Welcome back to Australia!

    • Louise says:

      Thank you! So good to be back.

  18. Olivia says:

    I live in Te Aro and you’ve captured it perfectly! It is very true that during high summer most Wellingtonians flee somewhere warmer. I flew back to Welly on the 2nd (one of the windiest days) in a tiny ATR – it was the scariest landing I’ve ever had in Wellington, and I fly in and out a lot!

    I think I need to take my camera and explore my suburb much more than I normally do! You take much of it for granted, but I wouldn’t live anywhere else!

    :) Olivia

    http://www.theblackpeony.com

  19. Kim says:

    Thanks so much for a completely different perspective on the notorious Wellington winds. We’ve had some big winds over the summer break, but your pictures show how they can be celebrated (and tolerated!). Especially love the photo of the comic-like wind blowing the tall ship through the straight alongside the photo of the gorgeous woman with her hair being blown by the wind. Magic. Look forward to reading more of your articles.

    • Louise says:

      So happy you enjoyed my take on the wind! As I said, I found it enlivening.

  20. CLAIRE LLOYD says:

    Louise this is a corker of a post perhaps your best yet.
    I do love Instanbul though. You clever girl! Thanks Claire

  21. Kevin says:

    Born and bred Welly boy here, I am soo proud Welly has been part of your fantastic expedition. Yes you have experienced a lot of what we have to offer, from natures forces! to our awesome culture and tranquility. ‘Smiles’ are contagious and Wellington certainly has a fever when it comes to walking down the street! hehe. Well done and hopefully one day you will get to see her in full swing.

  22. Kate C. says:

    Love it Louise. What a journey…what a woman! Can’t wait to welcome you back in Clovelly. xx

    • Louise says:

      Thanks Kate! So looking forward to being home.

  23. Sarah H says:

    Beautiful work Louise! I’m a proud Wellingtonian and wow, you have captured our city perfectly. Isn’t it a beautiful place?! xo

  24. Shar Young says:

    Thanks for your beautiful images of my home town. You have given me a fresh and invigorating look at what is so familiar to me.

  25. Darryn says:

    You just captured and made visible the way I see Wellington.
    The first place I walked into after getting off the fish truck that picked me hitchiking was Frutti. I was speechless and had to comment to the Girl. I said that I felt like I fit in. She said No you don’t! I asked what she meant by that. She said Everyone is so different and unique there’s nothing to fit in to. That comment has kept me here almost 15 years and I’m proud to confirm she was right.
    I’ve just been to Melbourne and New York (because people told me they’re the Wellington’s of their respective countries) and even though I agree and felt right at home in both places, I was still happy and excited to come back here. There’s nowhere else in NZ I’d rather be.
    Thanks for representing us so well Louise.

    • Louise says:

      I love that idea, that everyone is different so no one fits in! Wonderful. Wellington is a special place so I’m not surprised you were happy to be home, despite all that Melbourne and New York offer. I’m very happy I got it right in what was really just a flying visit – thanks for stopping by and saying!

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