Saturday, April 21, 2012

Port Chalmers and Dunedin

Until last weekend, I couldn't really see myself living in the South Island. We've talked about it; starting a cinema in Kaikoura, or growing fruit in Blenheim, but I don't think I really thought I could do it. Then, last Friday, Vincent and I went to visit his family in their new digs, and I am happy to say I have found somewhere on the cold side of Cook Strait where I could happily pass my time. In fact, I've spent not a few happy hours imagining us (Vincent, me, and a baby that seems to be part of this reverie) there in a little house, and in a little shop (there were some beautiful empty shops on the main street just begging someone to take possession of them and sell vintage clothes they bought ages ago but have never worn, or maybe cakes and records). The somewhere is Port Chalmers.

I freely admit the beautiful weather (cold, so I could wear hats, but sunny so I could also wear sunglasses - I looked like a mafia wife but I felt like Jackie O), the fact we were on holiday, and with people we love may have given us a rose-tinted view of the place. But there's something special about Port Chalmers. Maybe its roots as a workers' town - it used to be called Dogtown (which we think is awesome but, understandably, some of its inhabitants do not), or the fact that the other side of the harbour is supposedly more desirable because it gets more sun. Or maybe because it's fifteen minutes from Dunedin, which is beautiful and a Labour stronghold, where people kind of just do their thing.

Anyway, I loved it. I realise now that I forgot to take any photos of the shops in Port Chalmers, which are so pretty it's a bit ridiculous. They run down towards the port; two vintage clothes shops (one of which yielded a bag and hat), a few bits and bobs stores, two or three cafes, a jeweller, a dairy, and, best of all, a secondhand bookshop crammed with finds and a strange smell of old food wafting through it.

These geese are famous in Port Chalmers. There were ten of them until recently, and they're kind of like a local gang.

I don't know what happened to the kiwi to put it in a wheelchair.

We met the puppy outside the library, waiting for his Mum or Dad. He made my heart melt, and the melted bits start singing. Now I understand the whole biological thing of loving what resembles you; this puppy looked so much like Oscar that I immediately loved him, and he could feel it.

Port Chalmers rugby. I'm not sure how good the team is, but with such lovely surroundings to distract them, you can't really blame them if they don't win.

These were taken at the train station in Dunedin. The building is amazing; I don't remember seeing detail like that anyway. We also went to the museum again, and I learnt about digestion from the back of a toilet door. Then on our last day, I shopped. And shopped and shopped and shopped. Some of the shopping was done in South Dunedin, which is full of secondhand shops, and a bit like Onehunga or Glen Innes. Vincent and I had cheese rolls at a little tea-shop called Forget-Me-Nots, and we saw a funeral procession stop outside the pub, where mourners were waiting, and people drank beer and cheersed each other on the street and in the back of a ute playing Bob Marley, and cars behind just went around. There were pitbull-looking dogs, and lots of old people, and poor people, and it felt like everyone belonged. I like South Dunedin a lot.

Anyway, we're back now, and while it's nice to be home, I can't wait to go back and see what the port looks like in a cape of snow. I'll leave you with this, something my awesome Port sister introduced us to, and which we have watched many times since coming home. Happy weekend, mi amigos.

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