On Friday night my mum, sister and I donned high heels, dresses and our best jewellery, and headed into Wellington City to see the Broadway classic, 42nd Street. We parked and stepped out of Courtenay Central into the busy street and I instantly felt at home amongst the people and the cars and the buskers and the slightly polluted air.
The country is, as they say, a breath of fresh air, and I have come to love it. But, there's nothing quite like the salty breeze that whips you as you walk along the Wellington harbour; the sound of cars and buses and high heels speeding around the busy city (oh how I miss the sound of high heels that aren’t my own); the courageous fashion, odd couples, hole-in-the-wall cafe's that make the most amazing burgers (yes, Offbeat, I'm talking about you), and the vintage fashion as opposed to second hand "fashion".
Driving around the Wairarapa is also a different experience – for those people with no sense of direction, the Wairarapa is the place to be. Long, straight roads that you get to know in no time at all. Only problem is, if you go too far out into the country – like to, say, Alfredton, it’s the scariest feeling if you have got the wrong road because you can be driving for half an hour and not see another street to turn off into that lets you know where you are.
So, Wellingtonians, when you take a drive to work or to the town centre, what do you see? Houses, office buildings, shops, parks, sports fields, bus stops, schools, people.
What do I see? Sheep, sheep, sheep, ooh lambie cute! Cows, cows, cows, sheep, sheep, oh look, a person!... well, it’s a farmer… sheep, sheep, sheep, cows.
Okay, maybe I exaggerate a teeny bit. There are plenty of houses and schools and parks and stuff, but seriously, there are a lot of sheep. And cows. And farmers.
BUT, the thing I love about this place is just how natural it is. You drive past those farms and see the meat you buy for dinner. In summer time, stalls and shops full of fruit and vegetables straight from Wairarapa vines, trees and soil are everywhere. Schools grow their own vegetables, keep chickens, and have worm farms and greenhouses.
It’s also full of surprises. I know I may have led you astray with my “sheep, cows and farmers” comments, but rest assured, the Wairarapa is not all country and western. Little gems are hidden in nooks and crannies all over the place.
In Martinborough a new bar called Cool Change has just opened up, and if you’ve just got the Little River Band song in your head, that’s exactly what the owners Karina and Jimmy want. It’s all about good music, good beer, local wine, and kiwi food, all encased in the beautiful old post office building.
On the road to Mount Holdsworth you will find a little cabin with a wood fire oven, which churns out amazing pizzas on Friday nights, or so I’m told – I haven’t been there yet.
On the way to Stonehenge Aotearoa, just out of Carterton, a beautiful abandoned house sits atop a hill slowly falling to pieces.
On the way to Riversdale/Castlepoint, there is a small town called Tinui, which houses about 25 families and was the first place in the world to hold an Anzac Day service.
Way at the back of the Cobblestones Museum in Greytown sits a man named Tony King, who has a great passion for printing, and runs a working print shop equipped with vintage printing presses as a live exhibit at the museum, where buildings of Greytown’s past have been preserved.
Oh, and you must visit Schoc Chocolate in Greytown, which sits right next to the museum, and try a piece of kiwifruit and vodka chocolate.
So, the people of the Wairarapa may not wear high heels to work or to bars – or anywhere really, and Masterton’s town centre may be bereft of good clothing and music stores. The internet may suck, and there may be a lot of sheep and cows and farmers, but during my time here, I have met a lot of people who have escaped the “hustle and bustle” of the city and come over here to have a lifestyle, rather than a job.
It took me a long time to get used to the quiet of the country, but now I feel at home. Although, I still feel that hustle and bustle calling me back.