MistyNites

My Life in Motion

Archive for the tag “Garden City”

The New Christchurch

In September 2010 and February 2011 a couple of large earthquakes ripped through the city of Christchurch resulting in mass devastation and loss of life. I moved to the city just shy of the 1 year anniversary of the February earthquake, and was shocked to find a city locked down, shut off and covered in dust. Those first few months I thought I’d made such a huge mistake living there. But fast forward all these years later and I love the place. The regeneration has been incredible to watch, and whilst I don’t like everything that has been done with the place, the vast majority of the changes have returned this devastated city to a place of vibrancy and life. Whilst I’d been in Japan during October 2019, a much anticipated new spot in the city had opened up and on my return I was eager to get out and experience it for myself.

At one end of Cashel Mall, replacing the colourful and popular Container Mall is Riverside Market. It opened in sections, some of the external eateries opening sooner and on that first visit, the place was still filling up, but on walking into the large space filled with food stalls, I was quickly in love and eager to try out the new bites. From baked goods, to cheeses, to meats, it wasn’t quite what I’d expected but that didn’t matter. I sussed out some places to try as I wandered around, moving upstairs to take in the view from the rafters. Outside a plethora of eateries were ready to serve. The following weekend I was back, determined to try a few other places. Over a year later, it is still a firm favourite to eat out in the city.

Divali celebrations came and went in Cathedral Square. Aside from the sad spectacle of the abandoned Cathedral, the square itself is open as an entertainment space, so there was a decent crowd as the musicians and dancers performed on the stage, culminating in bhangra music which is my favourite style of Indian dance. Along the road, a giant bright red container had been set up as a form of statement art. Impressively, it had been cut out into giant letters stating ‘MADE IN CHINA’ and it was possible to climb through the letters which I duly did as a big kid that I am.

I’d already experienced the delights of spring in the gardens the month previous, but a return to the gardens in October still provided lots of colour and fresh blooms to ogle at. The cherry blossoms were past their peak but inside the Botanic Gardens there was a mass of pinks and yellows and reds and oranges. Semi-secluded at the back of the gardens is a series of small ponds, and aside from the usual ducks that are in attendance here, I was surprised to happen upon a little shag. It was merrily swimming around the shallow water and when it turned head on to face me, the natural curve of the beak made it look comically grumpy.

 

To my delight there were also ducklings everywhere. I especially love Paradise Shelduck ducklings as they are particularly cute and fluffy, but even the hybrid grey ducks that are the usual fare around there were fun to watch. The biggest of the lakes in the gardens, with its stone arch bridge across it, is my favourite part to visit and hang out as there’s always some form of bird activity going on here. At one point a mother duck led her ducklings along the path and I watched the family go about their stroll.

 

I gradually worked my way round the river Avon that encircles the Botanic Gardens, and was stoked to spot a few eels in the water. I had heard that the eel population was slowly improving after some remedial works had taken place to improve the water quality and here was the evidence that it was working. As I watched the couple of eels weaving around under the water, a punt and a few kayaks lazily passed by. These sunny spring and summer weekend days when people are making the most of the warmth, and the excitement of the change in season is tangible in the air, are my favourite kind of days. As much as I usually prefer my own company, I love to breathe in the shared joy of these kind of days.

 

It was good enough to take a walk around the city and watch the place go through its motions. The red tram trundled towards me as I walked along Worcester Street and on a whim I decided to jump on board. I usually get an annual pass which covers the tram and the gondola outside of the city for unlimited rides, so it was easy to make use of the card when I felt like playing tourist. That, and the tram drivers tend to be a font of knowledge for what is happening in the city, including the gossip among the developers, so it is a good way to find out what’s coming and when. At the margin of the city centre, the large form of the new Convention Centre was starting to take shape as we passed and before long we were turning into the colourful New Regent Street. This part of the city was a regular hangout in the earlier stages of the rebuild when it was one of the earlier parts of the city to reopen, but while it still has some great eateries, I now hardly come here at all.

 

When we finally circled round to Cashel Street, the mall was alive with people. Again, my memories of this street years ago was of desolation and quietness, but now it is the heart of the city once more. From businesses on weekdays spilling their workers out for local eats and coffee, to weekend shoppers and people looking for a bite to eat or drink, this end of the city is a delight with the Riverside Market, the bubbling river Avon and the Terrace eateries and bars located within a short distance of each other. After completing a circuit on the tram, I jumped off to get back on my feet, finding myself at the MADE IN CHINA container before crossing the river to admire the glorious Terraces from the far side of the river, culminating in a bite to eat at the market.

 

A few days later on another glorious spring day, I again made use of my tram and gondola pass to take the gondola up Mount Cavendish for another favourite viewpoint of mine. Looking north, the span of Pegasus Bay sweeps away into the distance and the city itself is nestled just a little away from the Port Hills, sandwiched between the hills and the distant hulk of the Southern Alps, viewed on the horizon. On the other side of the building, the glorious turquoise water of Lyttelton Harbour sits within an old volcanic caldera, dividing the Port Hills from Banks Peninsula, the mountainous remnants of 2 extinct volcanoes. All these glorious days spent wandering around my city remind me how much I love here, and how wrong I was to be put off by first impressions. Even now in 2021, with the rebuild still ongoing, I have nothing but excitement for the new things still to come. The New Christchurch is an exciting place to live, and I can’t wait to see where it’s going.

The Garden City in Bloom

September is one of my favourite months of the year in either Hemisphere. In my native Scotland, it often involved some lovely spells of weather as the leaves started to loosen, whereas in New Zealand, it signals increasing daylight, new life and the promise of adventures ahead. My home city of Christchurch is known as the Garden City and the arrival of spring means it really gets to shine. As the seasons turned from winter to spring in 2019, I had been keeping a half eye on the cherry blossoms around the city and park, awaiting the spell when they were in their full glory, and finally in the second half of the month, a sunny day corresponded with the peak bloom and a day off work. There were plenty of other people making the most of it too, and the path that hugged Harper Avenue was full of throngs of people admiring and posing with the pretty pink flowers. It was impossible to resist doing the same.

 

The Avon river snakes down the side of Hagley Park, and tearing myself away from the blossoms, I followed the river towards the Botanical Gardens, passing a pair of Paradise Shelducks with their fluffy offspring. Of all the ducklings that I have seen, I think theirs are the cutest. What I love about this stretch of the river is the giant weeping willows that gently sway in the breeze, and sometimes I like to run the strands through my fingers as I pass them by. I had lunch at one of my favourite cafes, Bunsen, which is nestled in the historic Arts Centre Precinct, and with the weather so nice, I sat outside where even there I was accompanied by wildlife as a sparrow joined me on the neighbouring chair. Once satiated, it was time to enjoy the Botanical Gardens in all its spring glory.

 

Immediately on entering the gardens, I was assaulted with the striking colours of the tulip beds that hugged the lawn borders near the peacock fountain. Returning to the Avon river bank once more, it was bustling with life with punting and kayakers moving lazily across the water. It’s one of those things I’ve never done because I’m a local and I always think of it as a tourist activity, but maybe one day I’ll take a paddle myself. About halfway up the gardens, an arched bridge crosses over to a meadow nestled between the river and the Christchurch Hospital. Here, a carpet of yellow and white daffodils spread across the area below the trees and I once more found myself ogling the flora that was blooming everywhere. I was not alone here either, with nearly as many people photographing the daffodils as there had been at the cherry blossoms. With the sunshine sparkling on the gently babbling river, it was hard not to lap it all up.

 

Back in the botanical gardens, there were flowers in bloom at every turn. This is my favourite time to visit, and there was so much colour everywhere. More cherry blossoms could be found lining some of the more private nooks and there were bees buzzing everywhere. For years following the earthquakes that rocked the city in 2010 and 2011, the conservatories in the centre of the gardens had been closed. Even when they reopened, it took me some time to visit them, and finally on this day, I stepped inside and was greeted by a hot house of tropical plants. It was lush with zaps of colour, and out the back there was a cactus room full of succulents. I took my time inside, continuing my meander through the gardens on exiting, and following the river past yet more cherry blossoms and returning to Hagley Park. Strolling in the sunshine through the park back to my car, I was happy and energised for the exciting weeks to come.

 

Life at Home

The day I arrived home from Tanzania, my partner went into hospital to have surgery. I managed to get a decent sleep and get out to stretch my legs, and I even felt energised enough to get to an exercise class before visiting him that evening as he recovered. I had the next day off work, and was tasked with picking him up that morning, as well as being his nursing aide as he was rendered limited by an unusable arm for the weeks ahead. He had torn his rotator cuff in his shoulder and he wouldn’t be able to lift his arm or take weight for some time. Picking him up should have been a straight forward task, but as I bent down to put my shoes on, I was suddenly hit like a brick with excruciating pain and I immediately fell to my knees, crying out and swearing as the pain repetitively shot from my lower back. The tears immediately started rolling down my face and with every attempted movement, more pain kept coming. I was stuck on the floor, writhing and swearing. I tried to get up but that was the worst pain of all. I had to get to my feet, there was no getting round that fact, so through screams, I forced myself upright, reeling as I made it to my feet, rushing as well as I could to the first aid kit to grab some painkillers. I took all that I safely could from what I had, and found myself unsure what to do next.

With my partner relying on me and a very stubborn streak to contend with, I grabbed my keys, and went out to my car. Opening the door was the easy part, but as I tried to sit down, the incessant throbbing became a crescendo once more and I got into the drivers seat with more tears running down my face. I spent the entire drive to the hospital groaning, tears continuing to fall out. I panted incessantly, trying to use my breathing to ease the pain. I’ve put my back out before, but the circumstances surrounding this time made this ten times worse. When I arrived, the nurse asked me to help dress my partner and it suddenly became clear that my role as his nurse was going to be a bit of problem. He had a working back and one arm, and I had two working arms but a bad back. In hindsight, it was the most comical thing that a stranger could have witnessed.

As a contractor with no sick pay, I had to go back to work the next day. What followed were days of physio strapping, pain with sitting and driving and a restricted ability to lift things. My only relief was walking. It had been the same the last time I’d put my back out in 2013, so whilst my sports were completely out of the question, I made a point of walking on my days off work, the gentle movement giving me some relief from the constant ache that came with sitting and standing still. Thankfully, it was still summer, so there were some beautiful days of sunshine to enjoy, and being last year before any concept of coronavirus could ever have been fathomable, there were still events going on in my home city of Christchurch.

The Garden City, made famous by a devastating and destructive earthquake in 2011, has changed so much in the years that I have lived there. There is still so much to complete, but the city is a hive of activity once more, and parts of it have been completely revitalised. That first weekend, my partner and I headed into the city, him with his arm in a sling, and me eager to get mobile. It was the opening day for the Christchurch Town Hall which had had a massive renovation inside. This was my first chance to get inside the building, and there was a good crowd of locals reminiscing and marvelling as the tour went round. Outside the streets were busy and we wandered down to the Avon River where the Terraces and Cashel Mall make up one of the completed parts of the city. The Terraces are a mish-mash of building styles, and whilst not aesthetically to my taste, it has become a popular spot for drinks and a bite. The iconic Christchurch trams trundled below the balconies and the city felt alive.

 

The dominating structure of the Bridge of Remembrance marked one end of the Christchurch Lantern Festival’s displays for Chinese New Year. Whereas they had been pulling them down in Sydney the weekend before, they were still in full swing in my home town, and although we wandered round some of them during the day, it was at night that they really came to life. Needing no excuse to go for a walk, we headed back into the city in the dark, to experience them in all their glory. Lining both sides of the Avon River as well as within the river itself, there were plenty of lanterns to look at, and there was a good crowd of people enjoying it all.

 

After my initial reservations about moving to Christchurch in 2012, back when it was still sealed off and desolate, reeling from the grief and loss of that earthquake, I’ve come to love the city and been proud of its progress and what it has to offer. So on 15th March 2019, when news reached my work of a terrorist attack in the city, I was dumbfounded. In the days and weeks that followed, I proudly watched as my city rallied and came together, united in shock and defiance, publicly rejecting the ideology that had led to that heinous act. We spent weekends joining the crowds of people reading messages among the flowers, and joining vigils. We remained unafraid to go out and move around, and we continued to make the most of the city that was open around us.

 

In April, Evans Pass road, the final link between Sumner and Lyttelton, reopened after eight years. We took a drive through the tunnel to Lyttelton on a gorgeous sunny autumn day, and drove up and over to Summit Road, looping round and stopping at the various lookout points. It gave a whole new view of the harbour, including a direct view down onto Lyttelton Port, where the wharf was covered in colourful containers. We watched the port in action for a while before heading round to the Lyttelton Timeball, another place to reopen after extensive earthquake repairs. Originally completed in 1876, the historic structure was created to allow sailors of the time to check the accuracy of their chronometers, the ball set to drop at a predetermined time every day. Although you can’t go into the building, its elevated position gives yet another differing viewpoint of the blue harbour below.

 

A few weeks later we took a trip up the Christchurch Gondola, a favourite activity to do in the winter months when I don’t tend to hike much. An annual pass means I can go up as often as I like, and another sunny autumn day was the perfect excuse to go up. The views along the Port Hills are incredible, but the top of Mt Cavendish where the gondola top station is, is particularly special. Looking north, Pegasus Bay sweeps away from the city in a beautiful arc, the distant views of the Southern Alps snaking off to meet it. On the other side of the building, Banks Peninsula and Lyttelton Harbour make up the view and whether the tide is in or out, the colour of the water is always stunning. I will never tire of this view, no matter how many times I head up to the summit, and it is one of many reasons why I love living here.

 

And to prove how much I’ve made a home for myself here, I finally got round to planting my citizenship tree in late April 2019. In New Zealand, newly appointed citizens are gifted a native tree that you can plant as a symbol of laying roots. I’d gotten my citizenship in December 2018, and my plant had sat on the dining room table for months. Finally, my partner and I headed down to the community garden to plant it. I wandered around for a while, trying to find the perfect spot when suddenly a New Zealand fantail flitted excitedly around us as we stood in one particular spot. This was to be where I was to plant it. I’m not religious or spiritual, but this was as good a sign as any, and the bird chirped in the nearby branches around us as we dug a hole and laid my roots. Despite missing my family and aspects of my life back in Scotland, I’ve never doubted for a minute that New Zealand is where I was meant to be. Christchurch is my home, and I continue to be very proud of its progress and happy to enjoy all that it offers me.

Botanic D’Lights

Just two months after fulfilling a dream of attending the light spectacular of Vivid Sydney, my home town of Christchurch had its own little winter light festival in August. Set within the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and the nearby Arts Centre, this exceedingly popular event was never going to reach the dizzy heights of its Aussie neighbour but it was a great event to make the most of the long winter nights. I’d attended Botanic D’Lights a couple of years prior and this bigger event pulled in large crowds each night.

Winter Wanderings

Despite all my years in Scotland, where winter is synonymous with coldness and darkness, I really struggle with the winter months in New Zealand even though the days aren’t quite so short, and the temperature where I live rarely gets cold enough for snow. I think having Christmas and New Year to break up the Northern Hemisphere’s winter months helped, and where I used to live in Aberdeen, there was plenty of snow every year. But in Christchurch where I live now, we rarely get snow, although I certainly see it coating the distant mountains, and the Port Hills behind the city gets the odd light dusting. But with no Christmas and New Year to break up the monotony of the winter months, I find that when daylight savings ends in April, and I find myself leaving work in darkness, I have to grit my teeth and bare the winter months here, spending my days dreaming of September when daylight savings return and the spring flowers start to bloom.

So last June, I decided to take a week off work to try and lighten my winter blues. I had an exciting few days planned abroad at the end of the week, but at the beginning of the week I stayed closer to home. My partner’s friend came down from Auckland and we got to show him around the city, showing him what had changed since the last time he’d visited. I’ve really loved watching Christchurch evolve over the years since it suffered incredible destruction in the February 2011 earthquake. I don’t like everything about the new layout (the city centre cycle lanes and speed limit is a bit of a bugbear), but for the most part we are getting an incredible new city and bit by bit the city is returning to full functionality.

There were some pockets of Canterbury that my partner’s friend hadn’t explored so we took a drive west to head into the Southern Alps. As is often the case, the weather to the east of the Divide can be very different from that within the mountain ranges and the clouds were low over the mountain tops as we wound our way through the Southern Alps to reach Arthur’s Pass village. We stopped for lunch in the cafe-come-village store, hugging our hot drinks for warmth. The three of us had spent a winter weekend away in Methven some years prior and whilst we didn’t visit any ski centres on this trip, it reminded me of then: sitting in a cafe in a little mountain village.

 

To the west of Arthur’s Pass are a couple of viewpoints where there is a reasonably good chance of spotting kea, the delightfully cheeky and intelligent alpine parrot. True to form, when we pulled in at the first of the lookouts, where the road spans the valley in the form of a bridge, we found some. The low cloud swirled around the bridge, and whilst we couldn’t see much of the mountains, it was actually a pretty dramatic view. Despite the cold and the threat of drizzle, we were entertained enough by a pair of kea that posed in front of the bridge, preening each other and just generally being photogenic. I’ve stopped here many times and only once not seen kea (sadly this happened to be when my brother was visiting from Scotland).

 

Just a little further along the road is another scenic lookout and excitedly there was the biggest group of kea I’d ever seen. They were merrily hopping around on the road sign and the fence nearby and as usual were completely unfazed by the attention they were receiving. As fewer people tend to stop at this lookout, and probably also because the weather wasn’t very clear, we had this lookout to ourselves for quite some time before another car pulled in. This meant we had plenty of time to just watch these parrots play, and I went snap happy, even although they rarely sat still long enough for me to get them in focus. Unfortunately the weather didn’t really permit stops anywhere on route back to Christchurch, but it was still a fun mini road trip out of the city.

 

The poor weather the next day made me head to the Christchurch Art Gallery. I’d been before shortly after its opening, and I have to admit that this place is rather lost on me. It’s personal taste, but whilst I love photography and the work of a few specific artists, I’m not really much of an art lover, so art galleries don’t tend to wow me. Thankfully, entry is free, and after wandering round rooms with different styles of art, I finally came across the yellow room, where everything within it was related to yellow. A large bull sculpture caught my eye, made out of old food tins, and it took centre stage. There is a nice viewpoint onto the street below from the opposite side of the building and having had enough of the exhibitions, I watched one of the city trams meander past before leaving.

 

With more poor weather, I ended up doing a bit of cafe hopping, just to get out of the house. I had delicious belgian hot chocolate at Theobroma, the chocolate shop, on one day, and visited Miro, a recently opened posh cafe another day for their breakfast tray. A few days later, I enjoyed brunch at Unknown Chapter, my favourite cafe in the city. But besides all of this, I was excited to have a few days across the Tasman Sea, in my favourite city in the World, for an event that I had been dreaming about attending for a very long time…

Family Time

A couple of weeks after returning from an epic 35 days in Australia, I was overcome with the worst bout of anxiety I’ve ever had. This wasn’t the same as the post-holiday blues, although the addition of that certainly wouldn’t have helped, but rather a condition I’ve been living with for a couple of years now. I struggled through week after week, but I was particularly glad to have something in the future to look forward to. A couple of months after my return home I found myself back at Christchurch International Airport, this time to pick someone up, rather than to head off abroad myself. After over 5.5 years living in New Zealand, I was excited to have one of my brothers fly over to visit. He is the first of my family to come and see the place I now call home. It was a gorgeous warm, sunny November Saturday when he touched down and I was eager to whisk him out the airport and get him out and about.

I know well the importance of adjusting to the local time zone, so being mid-afternoon, I was keen to keep him active for a good few hours before letting him wind down for the night, so we headed on a drive out to the eastern suburb of Sumner for a walk along the promenade. It is one of my favourite low intensity walks to do on a nice day and it was nice and easy to let my brother stretch his legs after being cramped up in a plane for hours on end. At the far end of the promenade under the hillside that leads to Taylors Mistake, he was able to partake in his first experience of Tip Top ice cream from the hole in the wall whilst I enjoyed an iced coffee from the cafe next door. After walking the length of the promenade we found ourselves at Cave Rock. The tide was too far in to let us walk through the cave so instead my brother and I climbed up the steps to the top of the rock. For all my visits to Sumner, I’d never actually been up here. It had been fenced off for some time following the earthquakes and I hadn’t really paid attention to the fact that the fencing had gone. It was a great view along both aspects of the beach.

 

We drove home via Evans Pass Road, snaking up the Port Hills out the back of Sumner, detouring to the car park at Godley Head. This is the end of the Taylors Mistake walk, another great walk to do in the area, and even from the car park itself, there was a great view across the blue shimmering waters of the mouth of Lyttelton harbour. The grass of the surrounding hillsides was still green ahead of the browning that occurs every year in the dry summer months. Following Summit Road we followed the contours of the hillside before cutting down Mount Pleasant Road and heading back home. I made home-made pizzas which were cooked on the bbq and enjoyed outside with a cold drink in the lowering sunshine, something that was not the norm for my brother, and by 9pm he’d dozed off on the couch.

 

The next day was another sunny day, and my brother decided to spend the day exploring the city that I call home. My partner and I took him first up to the Cashmere Hills suburb where he could get an overview of the city below him. As usual, the distant Southern Alps were shrouded by haze on the horizon, but the city below was very clear and we could point out various places to him. From there, we headed into the city centre to go exploring. I’ve very much taken the city to heart. Although I moved here in the year following the destructive earthquakes and therefore did not know what it was like before, I’ve seen it change and adapt over the years and I’ve watched it push through the hardship and start to rebuild again. When I first moved to Christchurch, the city centre was fenced off and guarded by the army just 1 street away from where I lived at the time. As the months and years passed, bit by bit the fences went down, buildings were felled and new ones have sprouted up in their place. Whilst it’s still not fully functional, the city has really come on so far, and I feel that you can only really appreciate the progress and gains if you’ve lived through all that. I continue to hear and read about fly-in, fly-out tourists that just don’t rate the place and I can appreciate that a single snapshot of the city in time might not sell it that well. But I for one wouldn’t be anywhere else right now, and I was determined to show the place off to my brother.

 

My partner and I have annual passes for the trams and it seemed only right to take a tram at least for some of the route, so cutting through the colourful New Regent Street, we jumped on at Cathedral Junction and looped past the Cathedral, round the river bank and along Cashel Street to High Street. We got off here and wandered down past some street art to the junction where there is a video arcade game on the side of the Vodafone building. There’s always somebody playing it whenever I pass so I was a little excited to discover it vacant when we got there and duly jumped on to have a go. After my partner had a go, I was a little saddened to see they had removed the retro tennis game from the nearby pedestrian crossing which had been another quirky thing in the city. Heading back towards Cashel Street we cut up to Cathedral Square, where my brother could witness the sad state of the abandoned cathedral. Even now in 2018, the cathedral remains in ongoing limbo, a sad eye-sore that blots the regenerating landscape around it.

 

We jumped back on the tram to head along Worcester Boulevard, jumping off outside the Art Gallery. The nearby cafes were brimming with people sitting out enjoying the sunshine and we too were getting a little hungry. We grabbed lunch at Bunsen, one of so many great cafes in the city and wandered round the quadrangles of the historic Arts Centre before moving on to the Botanic Gardens. My partner headed home but my brother and I continued our wanderings, following the river and cutting in and out of the various garden zones where the flowers were blooming well in the spring weather. I love the gardens in spring time when everything looks at its best and there were plenty of people punting or kayaking along the river.

 

After admiring the plant life for a while and watching the ducks by the river bank, we followed the river downstream past the memorial wall that lists the names of all who perished in the 2011 earthquake. Beyond there, we wandered along Cashel Street via the Re:Start container mall which has since been removed to make way for an indoor market. The containers were one of the first retail stores to open in the city post-earthquake and they became a symbol of the defiance of the city as well as a quirky tourist attraction and retail zone. They moved twice across differing parts of Cashel Street before ending up by the Bridge of Remembrance. It was sad to see them go some months after my brother’s visit, but I can’t wait for their replacement.

 

Cutting up past New Regent Street again we stopped for a refreshment then headed past the Margaret Mahy playground and down to the Transitional (Cardboard) Cathedral and beyond to the white chairs that represent everyone who died in the 2011 earthquake. There had been some strong winds recently and several of the chairs had been blown over which I set about fixing whilst my brother looked around. Then, with aching feet from walking all day, we cut back to the bus exchange which is very similar to the one in our home city of Glasgow, before walking out of the city and meandering home. With the sun still out in force, it was another chance to enjoy sitting out in the garden for the evening. Ahead of us was a few more days in Canterbury before setting off on a South Island road trip.

Christchurch Short Walks

It’s been a while since I’ve written about my home city, Christchurch in the South Island of New Zealand. Following the destructive earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, so much has changed, and whilst slow at first, the transformation of the Garden City feels like it has accelerated of late. When I first moved to Christchurch in February 2012, the city centre was fenced off and guarded by the army, just 1 street away from where I ended up living. Fast forward 6 years, and the city centre is once again open for business with an overwhelming number of eateries and bars opening up at a regular rate. The retail heart of the city is well on its way to being complete, and following shortly are entertainment zones, and further in the future, the new sports facilities. But there’s more to see here than just the city itself, with a plethora of short walks in the region.

 

 

CHRISTCHURCH CITY CENTRE

Ease of access: Pick your city car park or bus in to the central bus terminal

Time: As little or as long as you want, with plenty of places to eat and drink to break up the walk

The city centre walk can be tailored to what you want to focus on – street art, shopping, city highlights, or city parks are a few examples. The city centre is demarcated by the four avenues: Deans Avenue to the west, Bealey Avenue to the north, Fitzgerald Avenue to the east, and Moorhouse Avenue to the south. From the Bus Interchange, cross Litchfield Street and cut through the Crossings to reach Cashel Street and follow this west through the retail zone to the Bridge of Remembrance on the Avon river. Follow the river south past the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial, and continue along the river bank to the Punting on the Avon huts and into the beautiful Botanic Gardens. Wander here to your heart’s content, exploring North Hagley Park too if desired, then exiting the Botanic Gardens via the Canterbury Museum entrance and following Worcester Boulevard past the Arts Centre and Christchurch Art Gallery before crossing back over the Avon River and arriving at Cathedral Square. From here, cut up through Cathedral Junction to the colourful New Regent Street then turn east to reach the Margaret Mahy Family Playground. Past here at the City Mini Golf, head south to Latimer Square, and beyond to the Transitional Cardboard Cathedral, and south past here the collection of white chairs that represents everyone who died in the 2011 earthquake. Then either cut down to Tuam Street to explore the popular Little High Eatery or C1 cafe, or cut along Litchfield Street to Dux Central before returning to the Bus Interchange.

 

HAGLEY PARK & THE BOTANICAL GARDENS

Ease of access: Walk from the city centre car parks or the central bus terminal; Catch the city tram and alight at stop 12; take bus 17 and alight at Christ’s College

Time: As little or as long as you want, especially on a sunny day when a bit of sunbathing in the gardens is a great way to pass some time

Enter North Hagley Park at the corner of Rolleston Avenue and Armagh Street and follow the river bank path north to Harper Avenue where the path turns west through the tall trees at the park margin. In spring, this avenue is lined with beautiful blooming cherry blossoms. At Deans Avenue, continue through the trees heading south until the park ends at Riccarton Avenue. Rather than sticking to the road, take the path cutting diagonally back through the park, past the rugby pitches and croquet lawns to Victoria Lake. From here, cut round the lake in either direction to the bridge across the Avon river next to the car park. Now in the Botanical Gardens, wander around as much or as little of the paths as desired before returning to Rolleston Avenue via any of the exits.

 

TRAVIS WETLAND NATURE HERITAGE PARK

Ease of access: The main car park is on the eastern side, accessed from the junction of Mairehau Road and Beach Road, although there is off-street parking also available on the northern aspect; Catch bus 60 and alight on Travis Road then walk the Clarevale Loop walkway to reach the wetlands from the south; Catch bus O and alight on Mairehau Road on the northern aspect of the wetlands

Time: The circuit walk takes about an hour without stopping, but with plenty of birdlife to spot, it’s worth meandering at a slow pace

From the main car park, follow the track south and stop in at the bird hide to watch the comings and goings of the birds. As you head south, the main water course will remain on your right and soon the wetland pastures open up on the left with a view across to the Port Hills beyond. At the southern end of the path, go through the gate and take the Clarevale Loop walkway west past the houses until a gate returns you to the wetlands where the path turns north, following a boardwalk. At the northern limit, the path continues to loop clockwise back towards the car park.

 

NEW BRIGHTON BEACH

Ease of access: There are plenty of parking options along the length of Marine Parade with beach access at staggered intervals; New Brighton is served by buses 60, 135, and Y

Time: Walk as much or as little of this 18km stretch of beach as desired

My favourite route is to head out first on New Brighton pier, the 300 metre long structure that gives a good view point along the beach to the north and the south. Then from the car park just south of the library, a dune walk heads south towards the South Brighton Surf Life Saving Club where it cuts down to the beach. The dune walk restarts beyond the nearby reserve, reaching almost all the way to the spit, or the beach can be followed instead. Depending on the tide, the Shag Pile rocks across the estuary mouth can look deceptively within reach, but the current is strong here and is too dangerous to cross. Return to the pier by the beach.

 

CHRISTCHURCH COASTAL PATHWAY

Ease of access: Drive east towards Sumner and either park at Ferrymead before the road bridge, or park at Sumner. Bus P also heads out this way and can drop you anywhere along the route

Time: The full length in one direction takes about an hour or so depending on your speed.

A flat gradient walk that skirts the estuary from Ferrymead, through Mount Pleasant, Redcliffs and Moncks Bay to Sumner. Incorporate it with Sumner promenade (see below). Plenty of eateries to reward yourself at Sumner.

 

SUMNER PROMENADE

Ease of access: The drive east through Redcliffs and Moncks Bay and round the coast can occasionally be a bit of a bottleneck on sunny summer’s days, and parking by the waterfront in Sumner can also be at a premium on the weekends; Sumner is served by bus P

Time: Walk as much or as little of the beach as you want

The beach is divided into the Sumner sand bar which has the Shag Pile rocks and estuary mouth to the west and Cave Rock to the east; and Scarborough beach which is backed by the promenade and Scarborough Park. Scarborough beach is completely under water at high tide, as is the cave, but at low tide, the cave can be walked through from one side to the other, and a path up to the summit of Cave Rock offers a great panorama along the beach in both directions.

 

TAYLORS MISTAKE/GODLEY HEAD

Ease of access: Drive through Sumner to the east, then wind up and over the hill to Taylors Mistake on the other side. The road ends at the car park behind the beach which can be packed to the seams on weekends. There is no public transport to Taylors Mistake

Time: The full circuit takes about 3 hours and is fully exposed to the elements. Water and sun cream is strongly advised.

From the car park, enter the field to the east or cut down to the beach and head towards the copse of trees where the walkway begins. It follows the contours of the coast, gaining and losing altitude as it goes. Eventually it snakes up towards an old World War II battery and from here it passes the entrance of a Department of Conservation campsite before cutting back to the coast at the mouth of Lyttelton Harbour, where it passes more WWII war relics. Finally it ends at a car park on Summit Road. Returning to Taylors Mistake can be by retracing your steps, or cross Summit Road and take the track directly opposite the car park or follow the Anaconda track, a shared walking/biking track that cuts across the headland taking a slightly more direct route back to Taylors Mistake.

 

BRIDLE PATH

Ease of access: Can be walked from Ferrymead to Lyttelton or vice versa – a small car park is close to the base of the Christchurch Gondola, or park in Lyttelton; A shuttle bus to the Christchurch Gondola leaves from outside the Canterbury Museum in the city centre; Bus 28 serves both the Christchurch Gondola car park as well as Lyttelton

Time: A reasonably fit person can walk from one side of the hill to another in about 60 – 90 minutes. The route is steep and uneven under foot.

It’s a steep and winding slog up the hill regardless of the direction that you walk it. The view north is over the estuary and the eastern suburbs of the city with the Southern Alps on the horizon. The view south is over Lyttelton and across the harbour to the Banks Peninsula. At the top of the Port Hills, the track reaches Summit Road which is closed to traffic at this section. A side trip from here is to head up to the building at the top of the Gondola where there is a cafe and viewing deck. Return the same way or catch the bus back.

 

RAPAKI TRACK

Ease of access: In the suburb of Huntsbury, Rapaki Road is reached from Centaurus Road. Parking is up this narrow dead-end road which can get quite crowded; Bus 145 passes by the bottom of Rapaki Road

Time: Depending on fitness and time spent admiring the summit view, expect to take about 90 minutes return

From the top end of Rapaki Road, the track cuts through a small copse of trees before breaking out into Mount Vernon Park, where for the rest of the walk it is completely exposed to the elements as it winds its way up the side of a valley. This is a very popular walk and is shared use between walkers and bikers which can actually make it feel a little crowded at times. With an initial incline, the middle section is flat before the final push up the hill takes you to summit road where the view on the far side is down over Quail Island in Lyttelton Harbour. Return via the same route.

 

QUAIL ISLAND

Ease of access: Reached by Black Cats ferry from Lyttelton (seasonal). Lyttelton is reached by car via the tunnel through the Port Hills from the city or via the Governor’s Bay road; Lyttelton is served by bus 28

Time: The circuit walk is listed by the Department of Conservation as 2.5hrs but there is a shorter loop or it’s just a short walk from the ferry jetty to a swimming bay and picnic spot

The circuit walk provides an overview of the island’s former uses with old stables, abandoned machinery and old quarries in evidence. There are the shells of scuppered ships by the coast and a stunning view of the surrounding harbour and hillsides of the Port Hills to the south and Banks Peninsula to the north. There are swimming beaches on the northern side and a family-friendly picnic spot close to the ferry jetty.

 

CRATER RIM WALKWAY

Ease of access: Depending on section to be walked, access to Summit Road is via Evans Pass Road or Dyers Pass Road from the city side, Dyers Pass Road from the Lyttelton side or Gebbies Pass Road. There are a variety of pull-ins or basic car parks along the road. Various walking trails from the suburbs lead up to Summit Road. There is no direct public transport access, although it can be reached via the Christchurch Gondola which is serviced by a shuttle bus and bus 28

Time: To walk the full length of the crater rim (about 20km one-way) would take all day, but it is easily divided into a multitude of short sections of varying lengths

The views from the Crater Rim Walkway are stunning on a clear day. To the north are the Southern Alps which stand tall behind the city of Christchurch. On the other side is Lyttelton harbour and Banks Peninsula and towards Gebbies Pass it is possible to see Lake Ellesmere. The Bridle Path, Godley Head track and Rapaki track all lead up to the Crater Rim walkway. A favourite section to consider is between the Sign of the Kiwi and the Sign of the Bellbird, two resthouses that sit by Summit Road. Another good spot is around Gibraltar rock.

Guide to Christchurch

The more you travel, the more people you meet. The more people you meet, the more you learn about different people’s home towns. I’m always intrigued by the opinion of those people that have been to Christchurch, and I can’t help but get a little bit defensive when people don’t like it. Usually, when I press them on it, they skipped round the damaged city centre and then left again. They didn’t find out enough about what the city is all about, and where are the best places to go. If my previous posts don’t give enough information on where to go and what to see, I enjoy giving recommendations on where to eat and drink in the city. The following are very much my own personal recommendations, and I encourage others to give their own favourites. I’m still discovering new places to go, and regularly there’s an opening or a re-opening going on somewhere in the city, so I’m always eager to find new gems. Discovering all the gastric delights of this city is a work in progress.

Edit: Updated Jan 2019.

CAFES (Map View):

C1 Espresso185 High Street, Central.

GO FOR: location; atmosphere; the biggest range of teas I’ve ever seen; food flying through pneumatic tubes; the best ice coffee in town

 

Vic’s Cafe132 Victoria Street, Central.

GO FOR: freshly baked bread for sale

Cafe Procope, 165 Victoria Street, Central.

GO FOR: cheerful staff; amazing food

Beat Street Cafe324 Barbadoes Street, Central.

GO FOR: quirkiness; great food

WHEN NOT TO GO: Sunday brunch/lunch when the queue for cooked food on a busy day is >1hr

Black Betty165 Madras Street, Central.

GO FOR: location; atmosphere; Shakshuka

WHEN NOT TO GO: Sunday brunch/lunch when the queue for cooked food on a busy day is about 1hr

Coffee CultureVarious: Addington, Beckenham, Bush Inn, Airport, Durham Street, Kaiapoi, Lincoln, Lyttelton, Merivale, The Palms, Rangiora, Redwood, Riccarton, Rolleston, Sumner – although a chain, I love these coffee shops

GO FOR: great coffee and consistency across the various branches; join their loyalty card for 20% off hot drinks

 

Salt on the Pier195-213 Marine Parade, New Brighton.

GO FOR: yummy food within reach of the beach

Ocean Cafe & BarEsplanade Clock Tower, Sumner.

GO FOR: great coffee by the beach

Red Rock CafeGondola Summit Station, Mount Pleasant.

GO FOR: delicious food and coffee overlooking the city and Lyttleton harbour; red velvet cake

 

Coffee Lovers25 New Regent Street, Central.

GO FOR: location; the best hot chocolate in the city

Oddfellows Cafe, 5 Disraeli Street, Addington.

GO FOR: great menu; fantastic coffee and it is attached to a local coffee roasters

WHEN NOT TO GO: on a Sunday when it is closed

Underground Cafe, 359 Colombo Street, Sydenham.

GO FOR: Fantastic selection of very tasty food

Antigua Boat Shed Cafe, 2 Cambridge Terrace, Central.

GO FOR: fantastic location next to the Avon River and near the Botanical Gardens; friendly, smiling & helpful staff

Hello Sunday Cafe, 6 Elgin Street, Sydenham.

GO FOR: the choice of indoor or outdoor dining, healthy food choices

 

Pure Cafe Co., 31 Birmingham Drive, Middleton

GO FOR: pure and healthy (but still very tasty) food and drinks with gluten and paleo options

Coffee Therapy, 77 Hereford Street, Central

GO FOR: Central location, and next to a tram stop; great spot for people watching; tasty food

Addington Coffee Co-op, 297 Lincoln Road, Addington

GO FOR: tasty food; on-site roastery; great location

WHEN NOT TO GO: they are always closed on public holidays

Luciano Expresso Bar, 76 Moorhouse Avenue, Central

GO FOR: chocolate drinks made with real liquid chocolate; award-winning barista

Allpress Espresso, 110 Montreal Street, Sydenham

GO FOR: handy little cafe in the south side

WHEN NOT TO GO: at the weekend when it is closed

Black & White Coffee Cartel, Various: 83 Victoria Street, Central; Winston Avenue, Papanui; Litchfield Street, Central; Plymouth Lane, Central; Oxford Terrace, Central; High Street, Central; Bush Inn, Riccarton; 71 The Crossing, Central

GO FOR: tasty food options & great coffee

 

Lemon Tree Cafe, 234 St Asaph St, Central

GO FOR: scrumptious food, lovely coffee and a curiously mishmash but strangely interesting decor style

Laneway Espresso, 329 Durham Street North, Central

GO FOR: great food, great coffee, and a view across to the Commons

WHEN NOT TO GO: at the weekend when they are closed

Ris’tretto Cafe, 670 Barbadoes Street, St Albans

GO FOR: Indoor/outdoor seating, own-blend coffee

 

Dose Diner, 295 Blenheim Road, Upper Riccarton

GO FOR: delicious menu options, great food, decor by Jacob ‘Yikes’ Ryan

The Stolen Bagel, 263 Lincoln Road, Addington

GO FOR: range of sweet and savoury bagel fillings with smoothies, coffees and sweet treats to complement

Emperor’s New Clothes, 95B Dyer’s Pass Road, Cashmere

GO FOR: quaint little cafe with good food and coffee, al fresco option, and a neighbourhood cat that likes to drop by

Lyttelton Coffee Company, 29 London Street, Lyttelton

GO FOR: delicious food options, great coffee, DJ playing music

Little Merchants, 18 Bernard Street, Addington

GO FOR: the best toast options in the city

Mrs Hucks, 12 Show Place, Addington

GO FOR: Business lunches, small functions, tasty food

Gentle Giant, 158 Ferry Road, Waltham

GO FOR: Good selection of food for breakfast and lunch

Vivace Espresso, 474 Tuam Street, Phillipstown

GO FOR: flavoursome coffee and delicious food, on-site coffee bean sales by the bag

Supreme Supreme, 10 Welles Street, Central

GO FOR: Great coffee, great food, great service

Town Tonic, 335 Lincoln Road, Addington

GO FOR: Cafe by day, restaurant and bar by night, this place serves delicious food around the clock

The Cup, 127 Hackthorne Road, Cashmere

GO FOR: Great coffee and food with an equally great view overlooking Christchurch

The Naked Baker, 142 Beach Road, North New Brighton

GO FOR: Good food, coffee and bakery within walking distance of the beach

Mediterranean Food Company, 322 Tuam Street, Central

GO FOR: Mediterranean food store selling European foods and wine; on-site cafe serving delicious food showcasing the produce on sale

C4 Coffee, 278 Tuam Street, Central

GO FOR: On-site roastery; brewing and coffee equipment for sale; cafe selling their own brand coffee

Unknown Chapter, 254 St Asaph Street, Central

GO FOR: industrial chic decor with plants hanging from the roof; tasty cabinet food with good coffee

 

Table at Monks, 282 Madras Street, Central

GO FOR: location near the popular Margaret Mahy playground; delicious food and coffee

Bunsen, 2 Worcester Boulevard, Central

GO FOR: a bit of Christchurch history – the name may have changed but this is a pre-Earthquake gem in the Arts Centre; delicious food and coffee

ten27, 1027 Ferry Road, Ferrymead

GO FOR: A handy coffee stop on route to the eastern suburbs, as well as right next door to a furniture shop

Castle Rock Cafe, 21 Mary Muller Drive, Hillsborough

GO FOR: coffee, food and drinks if you’re working in the area – hidden amongst an industrial area you wouldn’t know it was there

Kadett, 371 St Asaph Street, Central

GO FOR: An absolute gem of a cafe just a little away from the central hub of the city

Uncommon, 262 Tuam Street, Central

GO FOR: Good menu and cabinet food; good coffee; unique bottled juice options

Curious Palate, 287 Durham Street North, Central

GO FOR: Delicious food across the river

WHEN NOT TO GO: At the weekend when it’s closed

Grain Coffee & Eatery, 19 Southwark Street, Central

GO FOR: Delicious food and coffee in a small industrial-chic space within an office block

West End Stories, 93 Cambridge Terrace, Central

GO FOR: Yummy food across the river

Apartment Coffee, 77 Tuam Street, Central

GO FOR: Kiwi-Asian fusion food

Coffee Embassy Espresso, 107 Fitzgerald Avenue, Central

GO FOR: Coffee and lunch at the east end of the central city

Theobroma, Riccarton Mall, Riccarton

GO FOR: All your chocolate desires

 

Miro, 176 Oxford Terrace, Central

GO FOR: Business brunch or posh nosh

 

Fava Cafe, 236 Centaurus Road, St Martins

GO FOR: A post-Port Hills walk/bike ride stop-off for coffee/brunch

 

RESTAURANTS (Map View):

Tutto Bene192 Papanui Road, Merivale.

GO FOR: Italian restaurant run by Italians, and the owner is always full of smiles; the best Italian in town

WHEN NOT TO GO: if you haven’t booked a table in advance – it books out!

Strawberry Fare19 Bealey Avenue, Central.

GO FOR: divine and delicious foods and a huge dessert menu

WHEN NOT TO GO: if you haven’t booked a table – it’s very popular; or if you’re looking for a cheap eat as it’s far from the cheapest place in town

 

Pomeroy’s Old Brewery Inn, 292 Kilmore Street, Central.

GO FOR: delicious food (my favourite is the pulled pork) in a cozy, welcoming pub-style restaurant; extensive and changing range of craft beers

WHEN NOT TO GO: on a Monday when it’s closed!

Himalayas, 830a Colombo Street, Central.

GO FOR: delicious and extensive range of Indian fare

Spagalimis, Various: 32 Salisbury Street, Central; Church Corner, Riccarton; New Brighton

GO FOR: a wide selection of pizzas which are also available to takeaway

Speight’s Alehouse Ferrymead, 2a Waterman Place, Woolston.

GO FOR: sharing platters; pub grub

Curator’s House, 7 Rolleston Avenue, Central.

GO FOR: location – snuggled at the corner of the Botanical Gardens next to the Avon river; private dining rooms available for bookings and functions

Passengers & Co, 92 Russley Road, Russley.

GO FOR: delicious food and coffee, friendly staff

Venuti, 791 Colombo Street, Central.

GO FOR: scrumptious Italian fare; friendly & helpful staff

WHEN NOT TO GO: on Sundays when it is closed

Tramway Restaurant, Cathedral Junction, Central.

GO FOR: a unique experience of dining on a tram as it trundles through the city; scrumptious food; eating with a view

Madame Kwong’s, 155 Blenheim Road, Riccarton.

GO FOR: huge range of Chinese food to suit all tastes

Mama Hooch, 817 Colombo Street, Central.

GO FOR: the ‘dirty’ burger is the best cajun chicken burger outside of Fergburger

WHEN NOT TO GO: closed on Sundays

City Social, 151 Cambridge Terrace, Central

GO FOR: Delicious pizza, and large selection of bagels – perfect for lunch or dinner

Mumbaiwala, 120 Hereford Street, Central

GO FOR: Street food style Indian food – a delicious alternative to the staple curry house

Pot Sticker Dumpling Bar, 144 Lichfield Street (Poplar Lane), Central

GO FOR: Awesome dumplings and Asian inspired food within the popular Poplar Lane eateries

Buddha Stix, 74 Riccarton Road, Riccarton

GO FOR: Delicious and generous servings of Asian fusion food

The Bicycle Thief, 136 Old Tai Tapu Road, Kennedy’s Bush

GO FOR: Lovely setting just outside the city, extensive home-style pizza menu

Madam Woo, 255 St Asaph Street, Central

GO FOR: One of many delicious food options in this area; Malaysian dining

The Brickworks, 69 Centaurus Road, Cashmere

GO FOR: Delicious pub-style food; great dining option away from the city

Little High Eatery, 181 High Street, Central

GO FOR: A breath of fresh air on the Christchurch food scene: multiple food options under one roof – pizza, dumplings, grill, burgers, thai, sushi and Caribbean; a great brunch, lunch or dinner spot

WHEN NOT TO GO: If you are claustrophobic – it can get very cramped at busy times; If you are in a rush – at peak times the queues are long and the wait for food is equally so.

EntX, Colombo Street, Central

GO FOR: Food court style eating in the central city, downstairs from the Hoyts Cinema

 

DRINKING HOLES (Map View):

Pomeroy’s Old Brewery Inn, 292 Kilmore Street, Central.

GO FOR: an extensive, and ever-changing, range of craft beers

Curator’s House, 7 Rolleston Avenue, Central.

GO FOR: a few drinks in the beautiful Hagley Park

WHEN NOT TO GO: when the wasps are out!

No. 4 Bar & Restaurant, 4 Mansfield Avenue, Merivale.

GO FOR: a great location for a few drinks after work

WHEN NOT TO GO: it can get quite packed on Friday nights once the offices have shut

Protocol, 2 Colombo Street, Cashmere.

GO FOR: great place for holding functions; a nice place to go that’s away from the CBD

The Bog Irish Bar, 50 Victoria Street, Central.

GO FOR: All your Irish desires – Irish staff, Irish music, Irish-style fare, Guinness; scrumptious bar snack menu; live music venue; the decor is fantastic

Sugarhorse Bar & Eatery, 100 Moorhouse Avenue, Addington.

GO FOR: After work drinks and food, large drinks selection

Valley Inn Tavern, 2 Flavell Street, Heathcote Valley.

GO FOR: Compact but welcoming bar away from the CBD. Also do pub food

The Cuban, 236 St. Asaph Street, Central

GO FOR: Cuban-inspired drinking venue with plenty of drink choices and plenty of space. Food also served.

Dux Central (Dux Brew Bar, The Emerald Room, The Upper Dux, The Courtyard, The Poplar Social Club), 10 Poplar Street, Central

GO FOR: Options! With 5 zones to chose from, each with a slightly different vibe, there is plenty of choice depending on your mood. An impressive drinks menu is available. Food Available. Indoor & outdoor seating options.

 

The Twisted Hop Pub, 616A Ferry Road, Woolston

GO FOR: Craft beer and pub food. Live music on some nights and drinking events throughout the year

The Brickworks, 69 Centaurus Road, Cashmere

GO FOR: Great drinking option away from the city. Large screens for sports

 

TAKEAWAYS (Map View):

Himalayas, 830a Colombo Street, Central.

Food: Indian

Order in the restaurant, online or over the phone, but be aware that online orders are slower to process

Spagalimis, Various: Riccarton, New Brighton, Central.

Food: Pizza

Beats the likes of Pizza Hut and Hell’s hands down, but it comes at a price

Dimitris Greek Food, Cashel Street Re:Start Mall, Central; 86 Riccarton Road, Riccarton

Food: Greek souvlaki

The best, and one of the most popular, souvlakis in the city. Sold out of a food truck in the Re:Start mall there is always a queue, so be prepared to wait

Burger Wisconsin, Various: Cashmere, Papanui.

Food: Burgers

It’s no Fergburger, but although I know some people that would disagree with me, this is my favourite burger joint in the city

Fritz’s Wieners, Check website for locations

Food: Wieners

Quick and tasty sausage fare. They often have a mobile unit at lots of events.

Muffin Break, Various: Spitfire Square, Airport; Northlands Mall, Papanui; The Palms, Shirley; Hornby; The Landing, Wigram; Bush Inn, Riccarton; Westfield Mall, Riccarton; Bus Interchange, Central; South City Mall, Central; Eastgate Mall, Linwood; Barrington Mall, Spreydon

Food: Muffins, Toasties, Hot & Cold drinks

A chain of food-court style coffee shops, the coffee is good, and if you sign up to their loyalty card, every 5th one is free

Mrs Higgin’s Cookies, 10 New Regent Street, Central.

Food: Fresh baked cookies

Very more-ish and yummy cookies baked fresh

The Sausage Sisters, Unit 5, 456 Colombo Street, Sydenham.

Food: sausage rolls

Listed as a courtyard cafe, it’s little more than a kiosk with a table and chairs outside but the sausage rolls are delicious, especially the moroccan lamb. Only open till lunchtime.

New York Deli, Various: Addington, BNZ Centre & Bush Inn.

Food: New York Deli-style sandwiches

Made to order sandwiches. Choose the bread, the meat filling and the salad, and enjoy. Not as cheap as Subway but worth the extra dollars.

Friday Food Trucks, Cathedral Square, Central. Fridays from 11am – 9pm

Food: Various

During summer months on Friday evenings, Cathedral Square becomes an open air eatery with various offerings from local food trucks. From Nepalese to American, Hungarian to Mexican with some regulars and some changing faces, there is plenty of choice.

Pot Sticker Dumplings, 363 Colombo Street (Colombo Mall), Sydenham

Food: Dumplings

Changing fillings of delicious dumplings made authentically. You can watch your dumplings being steamed whilst you wait.

Base Woodfired Pizza, 181 High Street (Little High), Central

Food: Pizza

Handy central location for some delicious pizza and some incredible milkshakes. Often found at events too. There’s a bit of a wait for food, but it’s always worth it.

Sal’s Pizzeria, 146 Lichfield Street, Central; The Terrace, Central; 111 Riccarton Road, Riccarton

Food: American-style pizza

Order by the slice or go big and order one of their massive sharing pizzas. Slice flavours vary by the day, and meal deals are available. Probably one of the best pizza joints in the city. Dine in or takeaway.

 

MARKETS (Map View):

Riccarton Market, Riccarton Racecourse. Sundays 9am – 2pm

Stalls: fresh produce, bric-a-brac, private sellers, crafts, and a myriad of food carts

The market is on every week of the year regardless of the weather. As an ex-pat Scot, this is my go-to place to get some much loved British foods

Christchurch Farmers Market, Riccarton House (16 Kahu Road), Riccarton. Saturdays 9am – 1pm

Stalls: fresh produce and ready-to-eat produce

A great place to visit for foodies

Summer in the City

The trams are back! Anyone who ever visited Christchurch before the destructive powers of the earthquakes hit, knows that the tram system that snaked through the central city was an iconic part of the city. They ceased service following the Feb 22nd earthquake in 2011, but 1000 days later, after the trams themselves received an overhaul, and the tracks got repaired and partly replaced, the trams returned to (an albeit limited) service in November 2013. The route is short and concise, starting at New Regent Street, passing through the newly renovated Cathedral Junction, turning into Cathedral Square, past the remnants of the city’s other big icon, the now battered Cathedral, and along Worcester Street past the Art Gallery and stopping just shy of the Canterbury Museum. It then returns along the exact same route. There are 3 trams in service: the red cars numbers 11 and 178, and an old Invercargill brown tram, number 15. As an annual pass holder for the Christchurch Gondola, riding the trams is free, so happening to have a day off work the first day the trams were running, I took great enjoyment in going for a spin. There seemed to be some teething problems, and the return route took an hour, considering I could have walked the route in a quarter of that time, but things seem to be going a bit more smoothly now, and the trams appear to be proving quite popular with the visiting tourists. With so much ongoing construction and deconstruction continuing within the CBD, it is refreshing to see a sense of ‘normality’ return to the place.

 

Cathedral Square is now a hive of constant activity. Whilst the Cathedral itself remains untouched still, the square is a regular site for markets and social events. When it first reopened to the public, it felt sombre to wander through, and the people walked around with an air of sadness, and in sparse numbers. Now, there are crowds of locals and tourists using the space, and the mood is much more upbeat. A few more buildings have gone down in the general vicinity, and still more are to go. Notably, on the square itself, the BNZ building has been abandoned at half the height due to running out of money with the demolition, and the Government Life building with the clock on the roof is still undergoing asbestos removal at the time of writing. This large building will leave another noticeable hole in the cityscape when it is eventually lost.

 

Cashel Re:Start Mall is buzzing. It hosts a regular market, and has buskers performing in the centre every weekend. It has proven so popular that it will be relocated to remain in the newly designed city. Already, there is a building frame up to replace a section of the containers at the northern edge. At its end, Antony Gough’s project, the Terrace, is getting well under way with the first stage due to be open by the end of this year. It is a retail and hospitality project that will bring night life back to the central city and overlook the Avon river which is also continuing to be upgraded in sections. In the streets around here, the Central Library has gone, and work starts on the Justice Precinct here, the area where the emergency services headquarters will reside. Along Tuam Street, the old City Council building is under wraps literally, being demolished slowly from the inside out. In the proposed green belt of the East Frame, grass has been seeded to create an increase in parkland in the empty plots around Latimer Square.

 

One of the more noticeable buildings to progress is the Isaacs Theatre Royal on Gloucester Street. It has spent a large portion of post-earthquake time spent with the facade attached to a wall of shipping containers. Behind it, the building was split in two, brought down and rebuilt. Just a few weeks ago, the shipping containers were finally removed as the facade has now been reattached for the most part to the new structure behind it, and a new roof is now clearly visible. This is due for completion by the end of this year. Also making good progress is Victoria Street, which promises to be a great social area, and already has multiple bars and restaurants, including the relatively new Mexicana and Tequila Mockingbird.

 

Art is continuing to spring up around the city. Murals adorn multiple walls at every turn in an effort to bring colour back to a city that is at times overshadowed by greyness and dust. Temporary sculptures appear both in the city and in the suburbs. Sydenham has a series of sculptures depicting people in various poses, and in Latimer Square, a new piece of sculpture art has been erected to depict the lost spire of the original Cathedral. There is unfortunately a lot of graffiti adorning some of the abandoned buildings, but I love the painted artwork that many artists have shared with the people of Christchurch.

 

I continue to make use of walking tracks around the area, and have this year discovered the Rapaki Track. At the turn off from Centaurus Road, the track heads up the Port Hills on a well trodden gravel road through Mount Vernon Park to Summit Road. It is an exceedingly popular track with cyclists and walkers, and takes less than an hour to reach the top. From Summit Road, you can see the beautiful turquoise water of Lyttelton Harbour and on the way back down the hill, Pegasus Bay is visible as well as the city of Christchurch itself. It is my favourite ‘short’ hike to do in the area. A couple of moderate grade walks near Christchurch that I have done this summer are Mt Herbert and Mt Richardson.

 

One of the many things I love about New Zealand in general is the importance of outdoor living, especially throughout the summer months. The past few months I have attended a variety of events in and around the city. In November 2013, I got to dress up as a zombie for the inaugural Zombie Run, a 5km run where runners have to evade a zombie invasion. It took place in Orton Bradley Park on Banks Peninsula, and I had great fun getting a make-over to look like the undead. A few weeks later was the Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park, an annual outdoor concert which is held in Hagley Park. Hundreds of people take picnics and head to the park with friends and family to enjoy a few hours of live music, both festive and pop, and wait for Santa to appear. In December, there was a fantastic craft market in Cathedral Square which was perfect timing for some pre-Christmas shopping. It was fantastic to see the Square so buzzing. Another highlight of December was visiting a rather famous house to the west of the city. Not normally a fan of over-the-top festivities, I loved visiting this famous property with all its lights, and displays and festive music. It was immensely popular, with the state highway running past it becoming a temporary car park. We spent an hour or so just wandering round gawping at it all. I still struggle to feel festive in the summer time, but this helped just a little bit.

 

In February, Classical Sparks in the Park was another outdoor event in Hagley Park. This time, the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra played famous songs whilst we enjoyed another picnic with some friends. A hot air balloon flew very low over the concert, and when the sun set, an amazing fireworks display took place to the theme of Star Wars. It was incredible. The Chinese Lantern Festival followed a few weeks later. Unfortunately, I missed the best night for weather and it was cancelled on the second night, but I still got to have a wander round Hagley Park and see most of the lanterns in situ. It was unfortunate to miss out on them being lit up in all their glory, but it was still possible to see how amazing they all were. The end of February saw the 5km Color Run come to the city. A charity run or walk where you get absolutely covered in paint dust whilst completing the course. It was torrential rain whilst the run was going ahead but then the sun broke through for the paint party at the end which was immense fun. Again in Hagley Park, at the start of March, was the Ellerslie Flower Show. I remembered a similar event in Glasgow when I was a child, but had never really been fussed about going to this event in Christchurch before. However on the last evening, we headed down to take a look. There were some impressive gardens and structures on display, and a few times a day there was a floral fashion show which was amazing. Lots of models dressed up as different flowers and insects didn’t immediately jump out at me as being of interest, but it was actually immensely clever, and really well done, and I was glad that I had gotten to see it.

 

Hagley Park continues to be the centre of outdoor fun in the city, but the summer events are starting to wind down as autumn takes its grip. Regardless of the time of year though, there will always be changes happening in the Garden City.

An Update on the Garden City

Everywhere looks beautiful in the spring sunshine, even a city that is essentially a construction site. Every few days my commute to and from work takes me on a different route as the road works continue to spread round the city like a parasite. A route that I could follow one day is blocked the next, and as the weeks pass, detours to the detours pop up, taking me down side-streets and residential roads in the midst of repair. In some places where the roads have returned to a flatness not seen for three years, locals have developed a sense of humour and put warning signs up to drivers not accustomed to driving without avoiding potholes. The street outside my flat has been restricted to 1 lane for as long as I can remember now. First it was dug up for the water pipes, then the sewage pipes, and now the storm water pipes. They dig it up, do the work, close it up, re-open the road, then 2 weeks later dig it all back up again for the next lot of pipes. At the time of writing, we have received notification of the roadworks outside our property continuing into 2014, as they have still to replace the lateral storm pipes to the individual properties. To me, the roadworks are like scars on the landscape, and I almost look forward to showing them off to visitors, as if to say ‘look what this city has gone through, and this is how we heal’.

 

As the cold and short days diminish into a memory, the cherry blossoms that line Hagley Park bloomed in a mass of pink glory before falling, and with the sunshine and warming days, the city has a spring buzz about it. The Botanical Gardens are blooming, and packed on the weekends, and the Avon river is busy with people punting, and paddling leisurely as it winds through the park. Ducklings and goslings join their parents on the banks of the river to the delight of those strolling through the gardens. The Port Hills have returned to a green colour after last summer’s drought, and the budding trees and bird song can’t fail to make me feel happy and hopeful for the summer ahead.

 

In the city there is continued progress. The first section of the Avon River Precinct has been completed and opened, and I look forward to this being extended along the banks of the river as it winds through the city. Buildings are popping up all over the place, and I’m excited at the buzz that is developing around Victoria Street where multiple rebuild projects are pushing ahead at once. This precinct will become a haven of bars and cafes, and the latest one to reopen is the Carlton Bar at the junction of Bealey Avenue and Papanui Road. More art work is covering the bare walls and empty spaces created as the last of the buildings come down in the city centre. Cathedral Square has re-opened to the public, and whilst the fate of the Cathedral itself is no further forward, the square itself is buzzing with people again, and colourful focal points of art line the fences around those buildings still closed to the public.

 

With the fate of the Christchurch Cathedral still in debate, a few months ago saw the official opening of the temporary and controversial replacement, the Transitional (Cardboard) Cathedral. Made out of large tubular pillars of reinforced cardboard amongst a steel structure, it has a life expectancy of 50 years. Designed by a renowned Japanese architect, it was and indeed is still a talking point with relation to the amount of money spent on it. I myself was initially a skeptic, but now that it is complete, I think that it is a pretty structure (well at least from the front it is!) and it has been exceedingly well used since its opening, proving a popular venue for talks and art exhibits aside from the regular church use, and there is always people around it and in it when I drive past it on my way home from work. Whilst not religious myself, I think it stands well as a religious meeting place but also gives the city a distinctive and unusual tourist attraction.

 

A few big changes in the city centre include the demolition of the Heritage hotel and BNZ buildings on Cathedral Square and the Copthorne hotel on Victoria Square. This latter demolition caused a bit of a news scandal when it partly collapsed during the process, resulting in a week’s halt whilst safety was evaluated to pull down the 2 walls which were left standing. The tramlines have been getting re-laid in sections and Cathedral Junction is not far away from re-opening. Within the complex, a new boutique hotel has opened as well as some apartments on the other side. It is still hoped to get the tram running on part of the network by the end of the year. Work has also started on ‘the Strip’, investor Antony Gough’s pet project to redevelop the social area between Cashel Street and Hereford Street. With work only advanced as far as digging down to lay foundations on one plot, it is going to be a long awaited opening.

 

In the surrounding blocks, it is a mixture of untouched buildings waiting decisions regarding their fate, empty plots of land awaiting consent or sale, and other buildings which are being demolished. There is little building work occurring in the immediate vicinity to Cathedral Square.

 

For a brief period between Peterborough Street and Kilmore Street was an art installation representing the earthquakes which encouraged people to write their feelings and thoughts on it for it then to be burned in a form of cathartic release. Whilst there are many people like myself that are full of hope for this city, it was clear judging by many of the comments, that there is still a lot of despair, helplessness and anger amongst the people of Christchurch. But with the impending summer comes the festivals and activities around the city, and especially centred around Hagley Park, where people can come together in the sunshine and relax for a few hours, and hopefully forget for a while all those other problems.

 

Outwith the city centre, the popular Bridle Path walk has reopened. Starting at the gondola centre next to the entrance to the Lyttelton tunnel, it snakes up to summit road, and down the other side to Lyttelton. It also meets the Crater Rim walk which connects to the upper gondola building and the walk itself is open in sections. Also reopened is the Godley Head walk, a fantastic coastal walk from Taylor’s Mistake round to the old World War II batteries that protected the entrance to Lyttelton Harbour. The views along the coast and over to the Banks Peninsula are amazing. Whilst several walking tracks in the Port Hills remain closed (and for some, may never reopen) there are many open and ready to be explored. I saw my first wild (live) possum whilst hiking through Kennedy Bush (they are a common sight squashed on the road), and this area is an amazing place to walk to be completely surrounded by birdsong. It isn’t far to go to find a view of Governor’s Bay from here either.

 

The more I explore this city, the more places I find to while away a few hours. Travis Wetlands sits north east of the city centre in the suburb of Burwood. It is surrounded on all sides by developments, but within the wetland boundary is a large lake with surrounding wetlands that is a haven for both aquatic birds but a host of wetland birds too. I have a soft spot for Pukekos and they are in abundance here. The wetlands also has a fantastic view south towards the Port Hills.

 

A few months ago, I went to Orana Park on the outskirts of Christchurch on a whim. I’m not a big fan of zoos and wildlife parks because a lot of them fall short with the standard of enclosures, but Orana is New Zealand’s only open-range zoo, and it was a nice day so I thought I’d give it the benefit of the doubt. It’s not huge by any means, but it was a nice size to walk round and I paid a little extra for a drive through the lion enclosure. Crammed into a large cage on the back of a truck, we trundled into the lion enclosure during feeding time, and I have to admit I was quite thrilled to have a fully grown lion jump on the roof and drool through the bars above our heads. It was the closest I had ever, and probably will ever, get to a lion and it was amazing to see their claws and teeth in such proximity as they snarled at each other over small bites of meat. I also fell in love with the meerkats and otters, both of which I could have just watched at play all day.

 

This city is constantly evolving, and it with a projected outlook of 10-20 years before a sense of ‘normality’ and completion is achieved, there’s going to be plenty of updates to report!

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