Tea and Devonport Peaks

The Victorian houses looked down on us from their lofty, tropical perches as we trudged up the hill towards our professor’s house. The sun, which had been hiding when we had gotten up that morning, was now peering between the voluminous clouds, warming our backs and necks. Butterflies were in the air and flowers were beginning to bloom. I took a deep breath and wondered, not for the first time, what it would be like to live here.

I was back in Devonport, this time with my roommate Kirsten, to see more of the neighborhood and to visit our New Zealand culture and history professor, Vivienne (like many New Zealand instructors, she goes by her first name). She extended an invitation to tea to everyone at the beginning of our BU sponsored, program-wide class. She mentioned her dog and proximity to Lorde as incentives to go. Since then, Kirsten and I knew that was wanted to take her up on her offer when we got the chance.

The beginnings of spring can be see in the gardens of Devonport. | photo credit: Kirsten Johnson
The beginnings of spring can be seen in the gardens of Devonport. | photo credit: Kirsten Johnson

Her home, tucked away in a little dip off the road, was a comfortably small cottage, complete with a modest, well-tended garden in the back. Vivienne greeted us with her English bull terrier at her heels. The dog nuzzled our hands as she presented her house. Every wall was covered with books and art: shelves of social texts, collections of photographs, rows of masks. The place was full but not cluttered, an artful achievement in such a small space. Clearly, she was heavily influenced by her varied and well-traveled life. Before she made Auckland her home and teaching her profession, she had worked in fashion and music, living in Melbourne, Los Angeles, and London, the latter of which two of her children now reside in.

She eventually showed us to her kitchen, which was also eclectically decorated and offered us a cup of tea and some cookies. It was there we sat, in the increasingly warming sun, speaking about politics and urban population growth and Boston verses Auckland before our stomachs reminded us that we hadn’t eaten lunch yet. Vivienne recommended a French café a few blocks down the road as she collected our cups.

She bid us adieu, and we walked back into the sun in the direction of her recommendation. The café was crowded with locals when we got there, so we sat outside and ate our croissant croque monsieurs and watched as children ran barefoot across the street to the milk bar across. I wondered if Lorde ever did that and tried to imagine what it was like to grow up here.

Strolling down Cheltenham Beach towards North Head.
Strolling down Cheltenham Beach towards North Head.

Once satisfied, we strolled down to the beach, intending to make our way to North Head. The shells crunched beneath our feet as the water lapped the shoreline. We ambled in silence as we took in the sun and sounds.

North Head was just as breathtaking as I remembered it. More people were there of course, it being Saturday instead of the middle of the week, but they were still few and the beauty of the day and the view made up increased crowds.

After Kirsten took the appropriate pictures, we wondered down the volcanic hill and back into town, pleasantly tired. We refreshed ourselves with sweet treats from the famous Devonport Chocolates and made a couple of souvenir stops before looking up at Mt. Victoria and deciding, yes, we had to scale that height too.

The more popular and well-known of the two Devonport volcanos, the hillside was littered with many more people and cars. Partially up the side of the summit was a primary school. I had a hard time picturing the children in their uniforms laughing and playing as the tourists huffed up the slope. The place of normalcy didn’t seem plausible amongst the greenery.

Naturally, we collapsed on the grass once atop the mount. Those Victorian houses that had gazed down at us from their elevated positions now stretched below us in a patchwork of roofs and greenery. North Head stood before us, slightly shorter, as the sea glimmered in the waning sunlight. We sighed and watched the other tourists gap and pose for pictures.

“Two volcanos in one day. We can’t say we didn’t accomplish something,” Kirsten said, with a laugh.

I agreed and laid back on the cool grass, ready for a contended rest.

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