My Favorite Things About Christchurch
Fiiiiiiiinnnnnaaaaallllyyy. This post got put on the back burner since life got a bit intense with all my other projects! And since this blog is also a source of enjoyment for me, I'm not gonna beat myself up about it - things happen when they happen, and sometimes blogging has to just go on hold. Anyway! A while ago I got to play some kick-ass derby in the wonderful southern Christchurch. The Christchurch girls may have kicked our asses (sigh, but at least I won MVP!) but I'm not going to hold it against this beautiful city! Spending a week here in the middle of winter was great - it's not 'bustling' like neighboring Queenstown and Wanaka, but it's got great character, a lot of heart and lovely people. Here's a list of my favorite things about Christchurch (plus, lots of things to do!).
The Street Art
Everywhere you look, somebody has put something for you to find. From multistory pieces to small creatures in the corner of a doorway, the Christchurch street art was by far one of the stand out things I remember from my time here. If you have a car, just meander around the city and see what you find. If the weather is nice, hire a bike! With all the rerouting in the CBD, it will be easier to get around on foot or bike. Although the city is reasonably big, the best pieces were in the CBD or seen on the tram route.
I hadn't been to Christchurch before the earthquake, so I can't compare what it was like to how it is now. Even years after the earthquake, the rebuild is the most prominent feature of the city. It is a sea of orange cones and construction. Yellow vested men outnumber everybody else, and cranes fill the skyline. But the scurrying activity of the workers add a sense of community and determination to the situation, with everyone pitching in to get the city whole again. We sat in the container mall eating our lunch and listened to the humming and banging that was going on around us - it was like being in a beehive. The Christchurch Cathedral was a sorry sight to behold - we had only seen the 'before' pictures on the news, and it really was sad to see such a beautiful icon destroyed. The fate of the cathedral is an ongoing debate, with efforts to approve full restoration slowly gaining momentum. However, it's not a done deal - if you want to keep up to date with the progress of the Cathedral, check out this site :)
The people and the prettiness
Take the tram around the city to check everything out - at only $20 for an adult it's the cheapest and easiest way of hearing about the city's history and getting around. You can hop on and off, and explore wherever you like. We hopped off at New Regent Street which was absolutely gorgeous, and had great boutique stores (plus one dedicated to cookies, we spent a bit of moolah here...). Another popular stop is the Re:Start Container Mall which is becoming quite an icon in itself. There's a heap of great little shops and food trucks (I highly recommend Dimitri's Greek Food Truck and Scorpio books).
As much as I loved my time in Christchurch, I equally as much loved our time out of it! We hired a car for the first couple of days, and it was brilliant being able to explore the towns around Christchurch. A highlight was Porters Ski Area, which is on the same road as Arthurs Pass. If we had had more time I would have loved to drive all the way there, but we spent too long at the snow! I highly recommend getting a four wheel drive as the road to Porters was steep gravel, and we almost got stranded at the top of the pass to Akaroa - a wee bit scary! (We had borrowed my Uncles 70's left hand drive Mercedes for the second half of the week, and hadn't planned on getting stuck in the snow. We were holding our breath a few times!).
Porters Ski Area was a great day out. The beginners slopes were great for our beginner friend, and I was stoked to find the higher slopes had all sorts of challenges! It's a stunning basin overlooking the nearby ranges and you have a nearly 360 degree view at the top. I would recommend to dress warm as the ski slopes are overshadowed, and set off early as it is a wee drive from Christchurch. Plus, you will want to stop and take photos of the beautiful scenery! (Oh, and the cheeky Kea's).
It was recommended to us to go for a drive to Akaroa and Lyttleton, and I could see the appeal. Unfortunately, the weather packed up and tried to snow us in! So most of the shops in Akaroa were shut and we had some lunch and headed home again. But if you have some sunny days forecast, definitely head out to the little french settlers' town (make sure you stop in at Pot Pourri, the fudge and gift shop. You know how in Harry Potter there's Bertie Botts' Every Flavour Beans? This is the fudge equivalent). I could have given Lyttleton a miss, but that's purely because it was so similar to my home town of Napier with it's small hilly streets and busy port. It did have a few cute boutique stores and bars to snoop through however, and if you are going to the Gondola its only a short trip from here.
Hanmer Springs were another highlight, which we did as a day trip. It's what I imagine mountain villages in the states look like - wooden lodges surrounded by pines with stunning snowy ranges as the backdrop, and everybody wearing ski gear. We couldn't get up the mountain in our beast of a car and we hadn't wanted to risk driving on black ice so we missed the last shuttle to the ski field, but we had a great time shopping and relaxing in the hot pools. They were pretty busy, but I still enjoyed it. Hot pools, surrounded by snow, mountains and trees... What could be better? (My advice - take Jandals. The pools are deliciously warm, but the walkways between are covered in snow which will ruin the warmth).Take a good set of tunes too - it's a bit of a drive! We took a wrong turn in Hanmer and ended up on a dead end road covered in snow which we had a lovely time playing in - 'off the beaten track' wins again!
Overall, it was a great holiday and I highly enjoyed this part of New Zealand. I can't wait to spend more time in the South Island! Have you been to Christchurch? What do you think of this beautiful part of NZ...?