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Urban Strolling - a Little City with a Big Heart

I'm not going to lie, there have definitely been a few adjustments to make since moving to the North from the 'Coolest Little Capital'. While Whangarei is not Wellington, I'm discovering this city has a great little heart of it's own. The people are undeniably friendly and the whole place is pretty relaxed. It's been through some tough times in recent years and evidence of this is apparent with plenty of city spaces empty, waiting for their next occupants. In fact I think a lot of friends and family had just one question when we announced where we were moving to - WHY?

For us, it was about what was outside the city that was the attraction and you certainly don't have to go far to know what I mean. What we see now though is potential, it's palpable and it feels like momentum is building.

Some of the things we adored about Wellington simply don't exist here; the endless choice and continuously evolving food scene is something we treasured while living there and the void is feeling very real now. The buzz of the city centre; day or night, week or weekend - people watching was, it seemed a mandatory past-time. Whether it's the effortlessly cool, the inspired eclectics, old souls sporting new swag or the fresh faces rockin' old school vintage... wandering the city streets or strolling on the waterfront always promised visual delights. The constant flow of festivals; from film and jazz to International arts, from live performance on the fringe to a celebration of all that Wellington is, on a plate. It felt as though one would just see it's final curtain call only to be greeted by the opening party of the next line-up of festivities.

We had our fair share of city dwelling when we first met, living apartment-style with busy social calendars and all of this right on our doorstep. We have however, spent the most part of the last 10 years living with a commute to the city's centre enjoying a quieter, coastal life where we did the young family thing.

No problem, I thought when we formulated the plan to up-sticks, leave our city jobs (and salaries!) and create a life of more simple pleasures. Less of the rat race and more of the glide-time to enjoy this bountiful country and what really makes us happy.

Don't get me wrong, there is absolutely no regret. Every morning reminds me how good this move has been, the quiet beauty, the choices ahead of us with this lovely sprawling property. And now, as we start to get our first paying guests at the Orchard Cottage, there's reassurance that others enjoy this place as much as we do.

Aside from taking to the bush or enjoying the awesome coast that is everywhere here, one of my favourite things to do is head into town and 'do the loop'. The Hatea Loop is a walk around the waterfront and it's where the prettiness of this city and it's further potential becomes unquestionable.

These photos were taken on a beautiful winter day just the other week, so far, we seem to be having more of these than the murky cold ones - or is it my rose coloured glasses?
The Town Basin to the right is a great little village space with cafes, shops and galleries... it's a slice of what is set to be a more vibrant and colourful city centre. We've found ourselves swept up in the 'peoples choice' campaign to create a very unique Hundertwasser Wairau Maori Art Centre in this area which has just won a landslide public referendum to go ahead. It does appear to us to be just the kind of thing needed to bring the personality back to this little city, we look forward to watching the project unfold.
The sculpture walk along the loop throws pattern and contrast.
I love this bridge! The 'Te Matau a Pohe' is internationally award-winning, it's sleek design compliments the landscape and watching the whole thing open up to let passing boats through is never a chore.
So while this little city doesn't have the ready-made urban buzz of the capital it also doesn't have the traffic jams, the bone-chilling winds and the sometimes 'I'm just too cool for school' vibe. It does have a pretty waterfront, some very good eateries and a bucket-load of potential with a new wave of optimism that we're definitely keen to stick around for.