My Auckland: Avondale

By Elisabeth Easther

Artist Janet Lilo tells Elisabeth Easther what she loves about living in the colourful suburb of Avondale.

Janet Lilo having a coffee at her local, Salvation Kitchen Cafe, Photo / Brett Phibbs
Janet Lilo having a coffee at her local, Salvation Kitchen Cafe, Photo / Brett Phibbs

I pretty much grew up in Avondale; I did move away to go flatting in town when I was studying but I came back and now I live here with my family and children, and we just bought our first house here.

My favourite thing about the area is the multicultural nature of the place. You get a really good mix of Polynesian, Maori, Indian, Asian, everything you can think of. I also like that's it's smallish and by the water - for many people it's just a place to get through when you're heading west, but there are so many reasons to stop.

Riversdale Rd Park is a bit of a hub with the skatepark and basketball courts, the big fields and playgrounds, and there's also Eastdale and Avondale Park. We've just bought a house across the road from Riversdale Rd Park, so it'll be a big part of the kids growing up, they'll spend lots of time down there, with me yelling out the window for them to come in for dinner.

Where we are now, we live on the mangroves right by the water where we have an entourage of pukeko.

I've been at this house five years and I have a love/hate relationship with the birds, who behave like shifty teenagers. You get home and they're hanging out on the lawn and they see you and all disperse in different directions. They're quite annoying, and have a most unattractive call, which they do all through the night.

I agree, they are attractive, but I won't miss them in the new place. There are also a few hawks here, lots of herons, where I live the mangroves look towards Waterview and Heron Park, so we get kingfishers, and lots of ducks, there's quite a bit of wildlife in Avondale. You can row all the way to Pt Chev from here.

Another thing I love is the Avondale Community Garden Trust. They have a plot in Orchard St and anyone can join. Their aim is to get people getting together with gardening as the glue, to create a community.

The Hollywood Cinema's fantastic, it's been around since the 20s I think. They still have a Wurlitzer organ that get played now and again for silent films.

They also do Bollywood films and blockbusters too. And the Paradice Ice Skating Rink - I used to go there a lot as a youngster.

You can't talk about Avondale and not mention the markets. They're infamous, people come from everywhere, and historically they're a big part of the backbone of Avondale. I've been going there since I was really little with my parents and grandparents, now I take my own kids along. You can buy everything from antiques to fruit, from healthy food to really unhealthy stuff. No one bats an eyelid if you're eating hot chips at 9am.

The Salvation Kitchen is a new cafe that's been going since the end of last year, they're great. They're in the old petrol station across the road from the police station. They have the best cabinet food, our friend John is the chef and he's amazing, he does burritos and quesadillas, delicious slices and cakes, and great coffee. The peanut caramel chocolate slice is amazing and Metro says their doughnuts are one of the 10 things you must try before you die.

The decor is funky with old Vogue magazines and a lot of memorabilia, like the newspaper from when Prince Charles and Lady Di got married,.

All my friends rave about Wing Wah, the Chinese place, and I've tried their takeaways which are delicious, specially the wontons.

Another thing I use a lot is the Community Centre. Every Thursday there's a Plunket group I go to, and if I can't make it, my partner takes our son there. There's a good mix of mums and dads, and nationalities - the united nations of parents. There's a toy library there where you don't have to pay to borrow, Bernie, the woman who runs it, is awesome.

I used to go to Wriggle and Rhyme at the library which is a lovely lively place, with librarians reminding the youngsters they can't eat pies at the computers. But the things I like best about Avondale are the character images. People wearing pyjamas to the dairy, and no one cares. A kid rollerblading down the road in a karate outfit eating an ice cream, an elderly Asian man riding a girl's pink bike with tassels fluttering from the handlebars, his basket full of fruit and veges. It's quirky with great pockets and the perfect amount of everything. It's close to the water, to town, it's still affordable. I know there are people who would prefer to live somewhere else but not me, I love it.

Janet's Picks

* Salvation Kitchen. 1843 Great North Rd. 828 1844. Great food and atmosphere.

* Wing Wah Chinese Restaurant. 2023 Great North Rd. 820 8638. Eat in or takeaway, fantastic.

* Avondale Community Centre. 99 Rosebank Rd. 828 3302. A hub for locals and visitors.

* Hollywood Cinema. 20 St Georges Rd. 828 8393. The local old-time movie house, adults just $10, seniors and children a mere $7.

* Janet Lilo, of Maori (Nga Puhi), Samoan and Niuean descent, is a visual artist, social commentator, and mother.

- NZ Herald

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