Saturday, September 12, 2009

Walking the street: Along Karangahape Road

If Broadway in Newmarket is Auckland’s “premier shopping” district, and most ordinary people visit malls, then Karangahape Road (also known as “K Road”) truly is Auckland’s alternative shopping district. Sometimes the area is called “bohemian”, but I like the word alternative best because it fits on so many levels.

I visited the area and took photos yesterday when I went there to pick up something from a shop on Pitt Street (where I was served by Grumpy McGrump-Grump—their other location is the same, and I now find it funny in a tragic kind of way). I used to pass through the area every day after work when I’d walk from work to meet Nigel. But it’s been years since I was last there on foot.

The street was much cleaner and tidier than the last time I was there, and while some chain retailers have moved into the area, it’s still dominated by shops selling craft-like artwork or housewares, art, various Middle Eastern food, vegetarian and “cruelty-free” food and products, clothes not found anywhere else, and so on. There are no foreign fast food chains located on K Road, unless you count Starbucks, which is kind of refreshing.

The area’s also the home to most of Auckland’s gay nightspots. Pictured above is the Naval and Family Hotel, which has been there for decades. It’s now gay–owned, but, like the rest of K Road, it welcomes everyone. Time was that K Road and the nearby Ponsonby Road were the only areas where GLBT people felt welcome, but times—and society—have changed. Auckland’s GLBT clubs and straight clubs alike pretty much welcome anyone.

I quite like St Kevins Arcade (like most NZ signs, it’s lost its apostrophe), a 1924 version of a shopping mall (the photo below is looking in from K Road). I like old-fashioned places like that; there are a couple others on Queen Street, and Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building is among the best examples.

About halfway in, some stairs (the treads of which all slant downward) leads down and out of the building. There, some steep steps lead on down to Myers Park, a green oasis that hardly anybody uses (which is what makes it a dangerous place after dark). Just as I did years ago, I walked through Myers Park and on into the Auckland CBD before ultimately heading home.

The title for today’s post is sort of reference to the area’s past. In the days before prostitution was decriminalised, hookers would ply their trade on the streets here. Some still do, but legal brothels make that unnecessary. The Prostitute’s Collective is still located on K Road—where else would it be?

It was a dreary, rainy day yesterday, but even so I found K Road to be much more colourful and alive than Broadway, probably because it stuck me as more honest, genuine and downright real. Given a choice, I’d rather that Auckland was more like K Road and less like Broadway, nice as it is. Real counts for a lot with me.

I’m posting more photos to my Flicr Account, including a photo set I made just for various photos from the Auckland region. More photos from my excursion yesterday can be found in that set.


Unknown said...

That is one part of Auckland I miss. I always loved St Kevin's Arcade for coffee and the walk through Myers park afterwards was always good. Thanks for the photos and the memories.

Arthur Schenck said...

Be sure to check out my Flicr set because I'll be adding photos to it fairly regularly. Any requests? I might be able to go and check it out of you.

I hadn't ben in St Kevins Arcade before—no real reason, apart, maybe, from not having spent enough time walking around there (I was always on my way somewhere). I plan on going back.

I used to love my stroll through Myers Park—it was a nice, quiet and green end to a work day. It's got a crime problem after dark, because no one goes there, but in the day it's fine.