Upon arrival in Wellington yesterday morning, I had less than 24 hours to re-immerse myself in this beautiful little city I used to call home.
Flying over the familiar rolling green hills and turquoise oceans was exhilarating. My heart was going to jump out of its chest. I was transported back to my 23-yr. old self, so prideful about the fact that I lived in possibly the most beautiful city on earth.
It was a bit different to be driving a car this time around (Wellington is roundabout hell, by the way), but it allowed me to really maximise my day here. As soon as I picked up my rental car, I drove to Weta Cave, Shelly Bay, Lyall Bay, Breaker Bay, Mt. Victoria lookout, Evans Bay Parade (my old flat), Oriental Bay, and spent almost six hours in CBD, walking up and down the streets and reminiscing.
I recognised all the bus stops I used to wait at, all my favourite restaurants, the tattoo shop I got my very first ink in, the bars we used to frequent, and my beautiful coastal walk to and from work. I went back to my old flat and was a bit sad to realise that it may be the most beautiful place I’ll ever live.
I wish I was exaggerating in that last sentence, but I’m kinda not. Look at the views I used to have…
The majority of people I knew out here have all moved away, sadly – but I was able to reunite with my old boss, which was really neat. It’s always cool to catch up with people you haven’t seen in years to share stories and laugh about old memories.
Everything was the same, with subtle differences (like this inclusive rainbow crosswalk – super cool addition).
I shouldn’t have felt so sad to come back here, but I’m pretty emotional (with anything) and it made me so, so nostalgic. All the parties, dogs, good food, enthralling conversations, nature, everything. I was pretty impressed by the whopping distances I used to walk as well – driving around the bays took me about 10 min, but I remember it taking a good 8 hours to do a loop of the same route. I used to spend my weekends from dawn until dusk walking and/or hiking, immersing myself in nature and enjoying every second. I’m not sure if I still have the stamina to walk all those giant hills (I cheated and drove up to the famous Mt. Victoria lookout this time).
I sat on a bench along Oriental Bay and watched as the grayish sky became a shade of midnight blue as nighttime took over. I observed everything and just let myself enjoy the moment – the whooshing of the cars in the background, the waves crashing, the soft glimmer of microscopic headlights across the bay, the fluffy cotton ball-like dog who ran up to me, seagulls flying overhead. I smiled as I remembered exactly how my 23-yr. old self had sat in that same bench. Time may pass by, but at the core, I’m still the same person with the same heart. And my love for this city will never disappear.
Wellington has everything you need, except it amplifies it and makes it 100 times more beautiful. Its national museum (Te Papa Tongarewa) is a leader in innovative, interactive technology and exhibits that educate visitors through the most creative outlets. It’s stunning. And also free. Its botanic gardens are 26 hectares of sprawling forestry, trails, and native conifers – also free to just have a meander or spend the whole day being mesmerised in its beauty. I could write a whole essay dedicated to the things you can do in here, but Google already does that, so I’ll stop rambling. Basically, you get my drift. This city is the best.
Doing a night stroll along the bay also brought back so many memories. I passed the same lawn where we took a swordfighting class and watched a film under the stars. I don’t even remember what film we watched, but I recall my friend Alexa telling us about how she was going to marry Jono (a Kiwi) when she got back to California, and how he was planning to move for her. It’s been almost 5 years since they’ve been happily married (I think?! Has it been that long now?). We’ve both set out to do what we both said we always wanted – she’s an incredible doctor now – and it’s crazy to think that Wellington was the little place we met, thanks to our blogs.
Sometimes I’m not sure if locals realise just how lucky they are to live here. Everyone I meet is absolutely lovely, so nothing has changed from 2013. It’s really cute when you walk into the shops beaming with happiness and the owners always reply with something along the lines of, “Yeah it’s pretty great, ay? We’re pretty lucky,” when I tell them how much I love Wellington. I, for one, know I wouldn’t boast my pride about my home city (lol, there’s nothing to do in Whittier). But Wellington?! It’s been voted the world’s most liveable city countless times for a REASON.
Going back to Weta Cave and seeing the gift shop again was amazing yet also humorous to me. Yes, I’m still the same fangirl, but I remember 2013 Debbi walking up and down every street in Miramar, eagerly wide-eyed and in love with anything Lord of the Rings-related that I had only seen in the extended edition DVD interviews before. My flatmates (who worked in the digital animation industry there) probably thought I was pretty weird. I learned to tone down my enthusiasm for Lord of the Rings while living out there because it was such a normal part of life for many (especially since it seemed like 80% of Wellington’s population was associated with the film production in some way or form). Still really cool, but after travelling for so long, I’ve learned that there’s more to a place than just its ties to a film trilogy or two.
While my visit back here was far too short, I know I’ll be back – I’m intending to come back for the summers, when I probably can’t handle the heat of Sydney. And I’m prepared to fall more and more in love with this place every time I’m back.