My Auckland: St Lukes

Gloria Ya Ping Gao, operations manager for the Chinese New Settlers Services Trust, and husband Alan Tao Yu chose St Lukes as their first spot to settle together. Gloria explains the appeal of the "in-between" suburb and the oldest mall in town.

Gloria Ya Ping Gao and husband Alan Tao Yu at Maten Floral Design in St Lukes. Photo / Richard Robinson
Gloria Ya Ping Gao and husband Alan Tao Yu at Maten Floral Design in St Lukes. Photo / Richard Robinson

We had been flatting and living with friends since arriving in New Zealand six years ago. The last place we shared was with very good friends out in West Auckland, but when it was time to find a place of our own we knew what we wanted - we didn't want to be too far away from the city but we didn't want to live in an apartment either. Where we come from in Dalian, China, we had to live in a very high building. The city of Dalian has 3.5 million people, almost as many people as in all of New Zealand.

In St Lukes we found a house with two bedrooms, a good outdoor space with grass and fruit trees - one is a persimmon tree and one's a feijoa tree. I hadn't eaten a feijoa before coming to New Zealand but I really like them.

Avocado was a new experience too and I love them. We've also found a new fish shop that opened a few months ago on Sainsbury Rd - beautifully fresh and not too expensive. They'll fillet the whole fish while you wait.

One of our favourite places to spend time is the St Lukes mall. I think it's great. It's got a really good mix of shops, everything is right there and it's all under cover which is perfect for Auckland.

A friend said the other day the weather forecast should always be "sunny with a bit of rain" and then it would always be accurate.

Sometimes on Tuesdays my husband and I head along to the movies at St Lukes and before we go in I'll have my favourite drink at the Starbucks there - a green tea frappuccino - east meets west.

I also love the flower shop Maten Floral Design. Flowers are something I like to always have in my home - it is a lovely way to decorate the house and it cheers me up if I'm dealing with tough things at work. My favourites are lilies, pink ones. We mostly buy the flowers together so it's not a romantic thing.

The son of Maten's owner is studying language at one of the Chinese New Settlers Services Trust's courses. We have nearly 1800 students studying on any Saturday around our Auckland centres. Lots of parents want their New Zealand-born children to know their native language and not to lose the culture.

Now that we're not living with any of our friends I like to arrange gatherings to bring us all together. Sometimes I arrange dinners at home and make the food of my hometown. Other times we meet at our house and then go to San Bao Restaurant around the corner - then I get great authentic Dalian food that reminds me of home and no dishes.

Our area has lots of smaller park spaces but if we want to go for a big walk we go to Western Springs park. I think that's what's great about living in St Lukes, you are close to everything - you're in the middle.

* The Chinese New Settlers Services Trust will launch Auckland Museum's new series River Lives: Stories from the World's Greatest Rivers with dance and stories of the Yangtze River, today from 11am-2pm.

Gloria's picks

San Bao Restaurant, 708 Dominion Rd, ph (09) 630 9633. This is the closest I have found to the food from home - authentic Dalian food - and really nice people too.

Maten Floral Design, 80 St Lukes Rd (Westfield St Lukes), ph (09) 846 2522. It's just a little shop but there's so much colour. I try to choose different flowers every time but my favourites are pink lilies.

Starbucks, 80 St Lukes Rd (Westfield St Lukes), ph (09) 845 4903. My favourite is the green tea frappuccino - east meets west. It's also right next to the movies, which makes it even better.

Western Springs Park, 731 Great North Rd. There's always so much going on there - families and couples, people exercising - but it's somehow still peaceful.

St Lukes Fish Mart, 5/55 Sainsbury Rd, ph (09) 845 3368. Beautifully fresh and not too expensive.

- NZ Herald

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