Friday, 3 February 2012

The New Zealand Diaries: No.2 - The Good Life

One thing that we British take for granted is our villages. Quaint, thatched houses surrounded by fields and woodland, with a traditional free house nestled in the centre. The local shop provides you with all the essentials, the local butcher fills you up with a succulent joint every Sunday, and the historic church with its staple ivy-covered tombstones keeps the cogs of village life ticking. As British as the union jack.
Or is it? Because, even on the other side of the world, similarities can start to be drawn. In the South Island of New Zealand – home to a population of just 1 million – family-orientated villages are all the range. Quirky styled cottages alongside neatly pruned wisteria. A friendly, welcoming atmosphere that makes you feel more of a ‘regular’ than a ‘tourist’, as you settle down outside the blazing sun for a pint of the local bitter.
On my travels, I was fortunate enough to go and visit some of these ‘midsummer-esque’ villages. If you work in the city, it is often cheaper – and a lot calmer – to live in a house outside the city. With plenty of land and views to die for, you would be mad not to want the village way of life. Chilling outside, with sheep as your neighbours, you can see why many of the locals, and even foreigners, envy the laid-back lifestyle of the NZ village scene.

where my father lives, is your standard New Zealand village. A mix of modern and traditional buildings, with its very own High Street, featuring; two coffee shops, one convenience store, three gift shops, a garden centre, two garages, a bar and a butcher. Elsewhere in the village, the various churches and halls suggest a friendly, active community is at the heart of this picture-perfect village.

Elsewhere, other villages provide a glimpse into the rich heritage of New Zealand’s culture. The village of Lawrence is a favourite for tourists, with its various coffee shops and emporiums adding a cosmopolitan feel to a place full of history. It also boasts its own museum, which is a must-see for any sightseer. On the other hand, Tapanui, resting by the side of the Blue Mountains, offered a completely different atmosphere. A quiet, peaceful place where everybody knows one another. If you do get the chance to visit, make sure you try the world-famous Hokey-Pokey ice cream from the local shop. I guarantee you have never tried anything like it before!

In an ever-changing world that we live in, one dominated by technology and mass culture, it was more than a welcoming change to go back to basics and settle for the harmonious lifestyle of yesterday’s world. Which is something we take for granted in UK, and makes me wonder if the UK village scene is all a bit superficial, clinging on for dear life. Because, with the various villages dotted all over the South Island, and across New Zealand, you will find the one that is just right for you - and they will all have their own story to tell!

Pictures taken from Outram.

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