Auckland had self proclaimed itself as the “City of Sails” and conveniently was surrounded by harbors. The weather was mildly warm for winter and tropical breezes drifted inward from the seafront and the corners of streets — a lulling effect that already had the other tourists closing their eyes and inhaling deeply in the “foreign” air. Auckland resembled a miniature version of Chicago itself — streets were wide and cars followed after another like schools of fish. Even the streets signs seemed familiar whether they were aluminum blue like Beach Street or dated like the signs in western films.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
Queen Street in particular was the shopping district of Auckland; the "Downtown Complex" was the sprawling sector that lied before us with a multitude of people placed amidst the urban oasis. Intimidating black stone-walled buildings housing jewels were conveniently positioned hand-in-hand with neon shoe boutiques — one never had to walk far for the perfect outfit. The district had buildings range from square cut styles to skyscrapers that resembled eroded pyramids of metal and steel. As we emerged into Auckland Central, an abstract design began to emanate from the surrounding scenery. Simplistic abstract forms such as the Orbit Revolving Restaurant held a balance of grays and strong lines of black ran in square cuts vertically up its side. The bauble of glass perched atop the long scepter of the restaurant at an ascetic pace. None of the locals seemed to be phased at the constitution in which the buildings were framed but one could only assume that the abstract style was just scenery for them — that everything here was "normal". Soon whole blocks resembled distinct abstract pieces, conglomerated into an amalgam of vivid fluorescent colors against muted grays. The patchworks of disarrayed buildings were loud in color but bold in shape and form, transitioning before our eyes. Generations of change were transitioning in the shapes and styles of the buildings much like how generations of styles in the Art Institute of Chicago’s hallowed wings.
After we rounded several more districts we arrived in the newer half of Auckland, to appear into a more modern and functionalism style all across the restaurants. Strong spices made eyes water as we passed a Maori restaurant with lattice-cut wooden awnings. A Maori man with robust laughter took most of the group by surprise as he handed out samples while expressing eating motions and saying "kai". Our tour guide would respond with what sounded to be "she'll be right" to the locals around us which must have meant "don't worry about it".
English was the official language here in New Zealand (which is actually pronounced as "En Zed" in terms of the initials NZ) but their diction was odd and almost resembled Aussie accents. Several times people would smile as we passed by — their hospitality was admirable and even though we were foreigners we felt accepted into such a lively society.
The greatest thing about Auckland was its artistic respect. Whether it was abstract or functional, it was one of the most inspiring aspects. Artistic styles of such degrees are hardly ever seen in Chicago except for the art museums. The locals were hospitable and open to the idea of sharing the beautiful "City of Sails" with us. The country was a foreign experience indeed but it was difficult to argue that the foreign feeling we felt was nothing more than a nostalgic bliss that we wished we could experience at home. Only here, in a foreign country, thousands of miles from U.S.A, were we able to indulge in the greatest escape: New Zealand.
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