Lately, I’ve been thinking about happiness. What makes me happy and when I’ve been happiest in the past. My life has been pretty up and down, but there are a few memories that have stuck in my mind as glorious shining moments of true happiness. The first one to spring to mind was an evening in Wellington, New Zealand.
|Excellent photograph by my long-suffering travelling companion|
I had arrived in Auckland a few days ago with an old uni friend, excited for a whirlwind tour of this incredible country. I already knew that I loved the people and culture, but it was that night that I fell for Wellington. There was another day, later in the trip that cemented my love for the country as a whole, but that’s a story for another day.
We landed in Wellington at about 5pm; I had the window seat and watched nervously as the ‘plane dropped lower and lower without any sign of land. About ten seconds before the wheels hit the tarmac I caught my first glimpse of Wellington. It was a relief to know that there actually was something to land on; the airport is on the Rongotai isthmus so you really don’t see where you’re going to land until you’re pretty much on it. We were quickly off to our hotel, which didn’t have a record of our booking, made almost a year ago. It caused a great deal of stress and worry, afraid we’d be stranded in Wellington, out of pocket and on the street for several days before we flew to Nelson. We were eventually upgraded to better rooms in a sister hotel, but it was almost 8pm by the time we had our rooms and were unpacked. At this point, I was feeling irritated, hungry and pretty unimpressed by Wellington.
Deciding some food was in order, we headed out to Mt Vic Chippery, which was an excellent decision. There’s a choice of fish, batters and chips, and as we went back several times I can confirm that they are all excellent. With full tummies and feeling decidedly more generous towards the city, we set off to explore before turning in for the night.
The sky was gradually turning darker, but the air was warm and the breeze cooling. We wandered through streets that reminded us of home yet were somehow brighter, more open and greener. I got a sense for the layout of the city as a modern metropolis in a bay, surrounded by dense bush. Wellington is a city of forest and sea, and neither can be avoided for long. Greenery is everywhere, and the sea breeze (or gales, depending on your outlook) is omnipresent. Wandering wide streets lined by independent bars and restaurants, wending our way through street food stalls, eventually we found ourselves at the harbour.
I’ve always had a strong connection with the sea. I was a proper water baby as a child, and my family’s love of cruising only deepened my love for the open waves. My other great love is wind. This is perhaps less relatable than the sea, but I’ve always adored windy days. The days when you almost can’t walk without being blown backwards, when your hair streams back from your face and you have to close your eyes to stop them streaming, when you come inside with a rat’s nest for hair and pink cheeks and shining eyes: that’s my kind of weather. Wellington definitely provides.
It’s called the Windy City for a reason, and perhaps more than anywhere else it felt like my city. It reminded me of Manchester with its laid back, anything-goes vibe, but was greener and smelled of the sea. I fell in love there and then, on a spit of land between city and sea. I watched the sun set over the ocean, running like I was five again up and down the piers. I leapt into the wind to feel it push me forwards and I span and span until I was dizzy. I laughed the entire time no doubt looked like a lunatic. The harbour was empty save for us; the bars that are usually packed were quiet that night because of the wind, the locals preferring the more sheltered city centre. My friend focused on achieving the perfect night time city panorama and I focused on absolutely nothing. It was one of those moments where I couldn’t stop grinning, completely and utterly in the moment.
That night was without a doubt one of my happiest moments as an adult. I let myself be a child again, enjoying that hour or so on the sea front with absolutely every aspect of my being. I have a deep desire to return to Wellington, but I’m terrified that it won’t be as it was that night, that it won’t be the city I remember. It hasn’t been long, but what if I go back and it isn’t the wonderland of that night? I don’t want to tarnish this memory.
I hope I’ve managed to convey some of the wonder and child-like joy I experienced that night; I’ve let my mind and fingers run away with me as I type this post, and I’m only going to edit very minimally, for fear of ruining the feeling I’m trying to express. I think it’s good to write like this sometimes. I’ve been stuck in a rut with my content for a few weeks but right now all I want to do is write more and more. I think I’ll do more posts like this when I need some inspiration.