|The Winter Gardens, Auckland Domain|
I never have to go far from home if I want to have a wander. Auckland is blessed with lots of parks and beaches in every direction. In fact right opposite my home is a 50 hectare farm park where I enjoy a walk amongst the cows, it's a slice of country in the city. Sometimes, though, when I feel the need for a change of scenery I head to the Auckland Domain. Yes, New York may have its Central Park, London, its Hyde Park, but Auckland has it's Domain. At 75 hectares not quite on the same scale as the other two, I grant you, but like them it is a lush, rolling green oasis in the heart of the city and a popular place to hang out and relax. The impressive, classically designed, Auckland Museum stands proudly overlooking the park
where pathways wind between massive trees, through flower beds and sculpture gardens. It's a perfect place to people watch and there's always something to see. Last time I visited an Indian family was holding a gathering in the picturesque Victorian band rotunda, the women dressed in saris so beautiful that I sat for some time admiring them as they fluttered about like a flock of exotic birds. For generations children have swarmed to the duck pond to feed the ducks although this practice is now frowned on. Apparently the over generosity of the children was making the ducks ill. If people watching is not your thing you will often find a cricket or football match or a free music concert and once a year the Domain hosts a Teddy Bears Picnic for children, big and small. When you feel the need for refreshment you can have coffee or tea or buy a luscious ice cream from the quaint Kiosk, built in 1913 for an exhibition as "the ideal New Zealand home". For tourists, strolling the Domain is a refreshing break from sightseeing.
One of my favourite spots is the Winter Gardens. I love them. Opened in 1913 the two Victorian style glass houses face each other across a fishpond and this old world charm is part of the attraction for me. It is like stepping back to a simpler, less hurried time, a chance to just stop and smell the roses. One glass house is heated and contains permanent tropical plants, palms and exotic species, the other is temperate and provides an ever changing kaleidoscope of glorious flowers which change with the seasons. It is a tranquil place and you would be hard pressed to find anyone there without a smile on their face. Pausing to admire the foliage or sitting on a park bench to marvel at nature's artistry is pure balm for the soul. It is a photographers delight, where even an amateur like me can get some pretty shots. Here are a few I took on my last visit.