Trip Start Jan 13, 2010
26Trip End Mar 10, 2010
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Our first experience of driving in New Zealand was without incident - the roads are good, and well sign posted. There are few divided highways but there are passing lanes from time to time which mitigate the convoy feel of driving in a long line of cars. Not that this happened very often, most of the time we were the only car on the road.
We had set on Cambridge as our lunch destination, which will be described by our special correspondent, Mitzi.
On the route from Auckland, (Cosmopolitan, urban, busy and obviously Pacific rim Asiatic), to Rotorua, (touristic with hot springs, mud pools and a big Maori cultural centre), we passed
through Cambridge. It's namesake in England not withstanding, I had not expected to find such a place in 21st century NZ
It was a delight and yet also an anachronism - where else in the English speaking world would you find shops selling cricket bats, cricket pads, and white cable cricket sweaters?? Also shops where the back room doubled as a barber shop, and shops advertised that they sold
"haberdashery"? - i.e. needles, cottons, buttons, knitting wools etc - I hadn't seen these since my childhood days in the 1950's - is this a case of "being more English than the English"?
The town hall built in 1909 was in pristine condition and was set off by formal floral beds in the Jubilee gardens of gazanias, french lavender, and roses, reminiscent of public parks in the UK in the post war years. The war memorial to the fallen in 1914-18 war had a touching stone "Tell Britain ye who mark this monument, faithful to her we fell, and rest content".
We were happy to wander the traffic-free streets, called "Empire St", " Albert Place" and Victoria St", with gentle people and obliging shop keepers - and to see matrons in gingham checked dresses and navy blue cardigans - it was a reminder of ages past - an England
that has long gone, although Newmarket today, with it's racing stables has some similarity
We had excellent coffees and home made scones and orange cake for a modest price - with good humoured service - in the local cafe - even though the conveniences (bathroom), were outside in the backyard, and were accessed via the kitchen!!
Cambridge (England) in 2010 is far noisier, traffic ridden and busy - it may be part of the "high tech corridor" - sometimes called Silicon Fen - and have the dreaming spires of King's College and punting along the Backs to give it colour, and even have a branch of John Lewis, but I wonder if the original pioneers in NZ, who may well have had Cambridge (England) in mind when they settled here, realised that they had created something in many ways superior to the original?.
It was a wonderful contrast to Auckland and an unexpected gem which we were fortunate to explore.