I’ve returned a wee bit early from Oamaru. Frankly, it reminded me of the Distillery District more than Black Creek – lots of galleries in a small, twisty section of town. Not quite what I expected, but very nice nonetheless. My early return doesn’t mean I wasn’t having a good time. It just means that I misjudged how long it would take me to do everything.
Yesterday, I had a very long, but very, very good day.
It started with what I intend to make a routine while travelling: a trip to the café for my daily caffeine fix and word count. The owner brought my Long Black just as my netbook flared to life.
“Doing a bit of catch-up, are we?” he asked, nodding at the screen.
“Um, no, actually. I’m writing.”
“I’m a writer.”
“A writer!” He beamed. “We had a writer used to come round. Turned out three books sitting here.” He broke off suddenly, and gave me a stern look. “Well,” he said. “Get at it!”
So I did.
My next stop was the Steampunk HQ, located in a former grain storage building on the edge of the Victorian Precinct. Like most of Oamaru, it was smaller than I expected, and the steampunk a shade darker than I’m used to, but certainly worth the look. Even better, I made friends with the curator, who told me that if I came to the North Otago Museum after lunch, she’d unearth some photos of nineteenth-century Oamaru, along with some more recent photos of its past steampunk exhibits.
I hit the public gardens next, but a sudden downpour hit me, so it was a rather bedraggled Canadian that darkened the doorstep of Annie’s Victorian Tearoom. A woman in period maid’s costume met me with a smile, and an eye on my soaked hair and jacket. “Would you be wanting a hot drink then, dear?”
“Go on and sit anywhere you like…” She paused, and looked me over again. “But may I suggest by the fire?”
Yes, they had a real, wood fire. In a real fireplace. A Victorian tea set and gas-lamp graced the shelf behind my head, and a little old man played piano in the corner. My server had muttonchops. I sighed. I was home.
Now, I eat very quickly. It’s embarrassing, but I can’t help it. Turns out that fancy china is an excellent cure. And believe me, the food was delicious: flaky scones with dollops of cream perfect for cooling the mouth after a sip of hot coffee. As I paid, the server asked, “Was everything to your liking?”
“Oh, yes, you have no idea how much I needed this.”
He nodded. “You looked a bit rain-soaked, I’m glad you were able to warm up.”
“It’s not just that…”
We then got into a conversation about history and historical sites – apparently, he worked at a heritage site in Christchurch until the earthquake, and then moved down here to keep some of his period lifestyle. “I’m kind of a history geek,” he confided. (Males – there is no faster way to make me fall in love a little bit.)
Later, I went to the museum, where the steampunk curator works afternoons. As promised, she had a collection of photos to show me, and we talked for a while about Oamaru’s history, steampunk, and speculative fiction in general. The longer I stay here, the more I realize how rich New Zealand’s tradition of spec-fic is – and it’s not just Lord of the Rings. There’s something about the people, and the country, that works very well with this kind of literature.
And to finish the day, I went for a wander in the reserve just outside of town. Lots of huge, creaking trees, a few sheep, and a seacoast trail with breathtaking, ruggedly beautiful cliffs.
All in all, a thoroughly excellent experience… though I’m quite content to have left it at just the one day.
Posted on April 11, 2012, in Travel, Writing and tagged coffee, fantasy, geek, History, New Zealand, Otago, science fiction, steampunk, Student life, Study Abroad, The Next One, Travel, Writing, Writing life. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.