New Zealand Travelogue – Tuesday, 13th October 2015

Soundtrack: Call and Answer, by Barenaked Ladies. The call to ‘Rebuild… Rebuild…’ at the end of the song went through my head as I was walking around Christchurch city centre.

Google Fit stats on Monday:

  • Activity: 3 hours 6 minutes
  • Distance: 10.7 km
  • Calories: 1,683
  • Steps: 16,709

All the travel started taking its toll today. Even so, the Google Fit stats have picked up from their usual torpor level. I think the time difference has confused it so some of Monday’s activities appear to have bled into Tuesday’s stats.

The flight was uneventful (yay!) and it was a short taxi ride to the hotel. We stayed in Chateau On The Park because, well, that was where we stayed 10 years ago. It’s a nice hotel a little bit out from the centre of Christchurch. You have to cross Hagley Park to get to the CBD, but the park is nice so it’s a pleasant enough 20-30 minute walk. Also, they had a cat when we were here last time - Sebastian - who helped when SWMBO was missing her own wee furballs. Sebastian has passed on, so those duties have now passed to the current Hotel Cat, Gary. I think hotels having cats is a nice idea, even if part of me wonders if it’s just to keep the vermin count down.

We got to Chateau On The Park, dumped our bags and got ready to go out. Then SWMBO took a bit of a pre-migraine turn and needed to sit down. I think it was just tiredness and jetlag finally catching up with her - she had been on the go a lot. I went to the bar to try to find some crisis-worthy coke and crisps (salt and sugar sometimes help) and had to wait for the nice folks to get the keys to the bar because it wasn’t open yet. Finally succeeded and brought the ‘medicine’ back for SWMBO.

Medicinal snacking seemed to do the trick so we headed out soon after, just a little later than planned.

Christchurch suffered a lot in the 2010 earthquake, and was then devastated in the 2011 earthquake just a few months later. We loved Christchurch when we were here in 2005, before all the quakes, and were shocked by some of the scenes we saw on the news. My heart really went out to the people we’d met here.

It’s a lot flatter now than I remember

Even though we’d seen pictures and videos of Christchurch now, we still weren’t really sure what to expect. I’d heard that there was a lot of work going on in the city centre still, and it was still mostly demolition rather than construction. And I’d heard of the shopping mall made from shipping containers. And the cardboard cathedral. But even so, seeing the city so changed was a shock.

How the cathedral square looked 10 years ago

How the cathedral looked 10 years ago

We headed straight to the centre by the cathedral, since that was a lovely spot to congregate when we were here last time. Bits of it looked a little familiar but so much has changed. The tram lines are still there, the square is still open, and the cathedral is in the same place but… broken.

We both had lumps in our throats as we sat there looking at the cathedral square.

They haven’t decided yet whether to knock this down or fix it

When we were here 10 years ago we were surprised by the earthquake warning notice in the basement of the cathedral. Looking back now it seems like good advice.

Good advice from the cathedral basement 10 years ago

It’s clear that they want to rebuild the city, but that it’s taking time. I think what I was told about there being mostly demolition at the minute was a little out of date - folks say that things have improved lately and that the centre has come a long way in the last six months. I hope they’ve turned that corner. They do appear to have wanted to rebuild the city the right way, rather than the fastest way.

It was lovely to see small pieces of art work scattered throughout the city. When a lot of buildings have been removed, there’s a lot of space for temporary art installations. Frequently you’d come across something small and remarkable, often with a story behind it.

I thought this was a nice way of symbolising growth

By this stage we were getting a bit hungry and although the cathedral area was nice to see, there really wasn’t much happening. It used to be a hive of activity.

We decided to head to the Re:Start container mall for some food. I was a little worried that SWMBO was getting exhausted, and this wasn’t helped by much of the Re:Start mall being shut by the time we got there.

SWMBO and cats

I guess the lack of activity and the lack of restaurants was deliberate, to try to keep people out of the centre while so much work was ongoing. I should have thought of that. But I didn’t, so we were left walking around the Re:Start mall trying and failing to find somewhere to eat.

We gave up on finding somewhere serendipitously and opened Google Maps to try to find somewhere - anywhere - near us that would serve us. (By this stage I was tired and thirsty and SWMBO was very drained.) The mighty Google pointed us at Orleans which turned out to be a pretty excellent place for us. Just what we needed. Yay for free data roaming!

Then we walked back to Chateau On The Park and had an early night.

Soundtrack: Young At Heart, by The Bluebells. (SWMBO spotted some bluebells in the park.)

Google Fit stats on Tuesday:

  • Activity: 4 hours 27 minutes
  • Distance: 22.1 km
  • Calories: 3,020
  • Steps: 14,303

Up out and relatively early the next morning, across the park to the Re:Start container mall again. This time it’s open! It’s a really nice idea - all the shops and stalls really are modified shipping containers. I suppose it’s a quick way to put something together but it has an interesting, practical vibe. New Zealanders always come across to me as eminently practical, and Re:Start is just one example of this practicality.

There’s a genuine vibrancy about this place

Even though it’s quite early in our holiday this is probably the last good opportunity we’ll have for souvenir shopping. Other places will be smaller and probably much more touristy - selling the kind of tourist stuff we’re not really interested in.

Sometimes I like the idea that by buying stuff in Christchurch rather than elsewhere we’re more directly helping those folks who have stayed in Christchurch. Then I think that’s just me being up myself. Ah well. Still, we bought some wee things there, and we didn’t buy things we didn’t want just because we were there. And I resisted the urge to buy anything in the All Blacks’ store - I’m still hoping Ireland can surprise us all.

Then it was time for the Rebuild bike tour.

Our guide Clare, describing how things were and how things will be

Yeah, another New Zealand city, another bike tour. My bum still hasn’t recovered from the last one.

We met our guide Clare at 1pm at the Antigua Boat Sheds. And the bikes this time have gears. The gears proved troublesome for me and I don’t think it was just down to my inexperience.

An art popup

Clare had lots of tales of the earthquakes and the ongoing rebuilding. It was a more hopeful day than yesterday, hearing about the growth and the people rather than just seeing the devastation. Definitely worth doing, even if you can’t get the hang of the gears.

SWMBO and Clare at the cardboard cathedral

Late lunch was Lebanese souvlaki, once again at the Re:Start mall. It’s a nice place and, in truth, there’s little else around compared to 10 years ago.

The tram tours still run though, so we hopped on the tram to get a different view of the city.

I was too tired and zoned out to try taking a picture of anything outside the tram

By this stage exhaustion was catching up with me again and I zoned out a bit on the tram. Still, it was nice to see some more normal looking streets.

Nice to see a street that mostly survived the earthquakes

Then the very-long-feeling walk back to the hotel. It would’ve been a shorter, more normal walk if I hadn’t taken us in entirely the wrong direction for a bit.

The very tolerant SWMBO on our elongated walk back to the hotel

10 years ago SWMBO asked me if I wanted to eat at Dux de Lux. Of course I said yes - I like duck and ‘Ducks Delux’ sounded lovely.

Dux de Lux was a vegetarian and seafood restaurant. They didn’t, needless to say, serve duck.

How was I to know it was ‘Dux de Lux’ (something to do with the Duke of Luxembourg) and not ‘Ducks Delux’ (an awesome way of preparing a duck-based meal)? It’s not like I could hear that in the pronunciation!

Failing to learn from my mistake (kidding - it was lovely), dinner tonight was in Dux Dine. The original Dux de Lux was in an area that was closed to the public for a long time so the owner opened Dux Dine further out. This was very convenient for us because it was quite near our hotel. The food was once again delicious, and the beer and wine also really hit the spot.

Tomorrow we’re up early for the train to Arthur’s Pass. That’s the bit I really think of as the holiday - Arthur’s Pass. All the places we go before it are just preludes to the main event, all the places after it are nice additions. It was such a fantastic place 10 years ago, and I really want it to be just as good this time. I hope we haven’t built it up too high in our expectations.

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