This post is Day #2 of a series of blog posts documenting my road trip to New Zealand from 12/23 – 1/2. For deets on the actual trip itself, click here.
For all you travel junkies like myself, you’ve probably seen the New York Times’ “52 Places to Go in 2014“. If you haven’t, the article itself is well worth a read for the travel inspo alone, despite the fact that I can’t get over Indianapolis being on that list. As a former Naptown resident, the idea of anybody — let alone a travel writer for the New York Times of all things — finding my old stomping grounds a place worth visiting is probably laughable at best. 18 years of Midwestern living have left me jaded and turned into the 80-year-old cranky guy who barks at people to get off their lawn. Anyway, throwing shade at my old hometown aside, perched at #2 is Christchurch, New Zealand, which is being heralded for its revival since the 2011 earthquake.
Many of the iconic establishments that made Christchurch Christchurch had been destroyed in the earthquake, like the Timeball in Lyttelton and the church. The damage still lingers even to this day — as we walked around the Central Business District, we saw rubble where there had been tram lines and sectioned-off empty lots where they had once been hotels. Of all the restaurants and businesses I looked up, many of them had since relocated from their original locales and still had moving notices up on their websites and voicemails. Much of the central city feels like a concrete ghost town of sorts, with the damaged church serving as a solemn testament to the past — which isn’t even that long ago in the grand scheme of things. I was still a senior in college when it happened! Of all the cities I had been to, this one was easily the quietest, with hardly any cars or pedestrians or the background noise that often comes as a prerequisite for any city.
This is, of course, not to say that Christchurch was a big ol’ snoozefest by any means. Quite the contrary — from the moment we landed from our flight in Auckland that morning to the next day, there was hardly a shortage of things to do.
We first stopped by the Botanic Gardens located in Hagley Park (Christchurch’s version of Central Park) for a stroll through the flowers and a chance to tinker with the macro function on my lens. When 3 out of 4 members of the family are avid photogs, it goes without saying that we’ll leave with 3 memory cards worth of amateur flower macros. You’d think that I had just gotten a DSLR for the silly season.
A late lunch was had at Addington Coffee Co-op, a super hip cafe stocked to the brim with coffee (duh) and sandwiches.
Now that we had a car to our name, we decided to take it out for a spin and go driving along the Cantabrian coast.
It was within the first few minutes of driving down the scenic route towards the Banks Peninsula where I knew that yep, the beauty of South Island was a natural-born killer. Actually, scratch that — every single road in South Island is a scenic route. Look at all that green. As we drove to Governors Bay and along the edge of Lyttelton, we were treated to gorgeous waterfront views and massive green hills dotted with rocks poking through the grass.
Um, water should not be that shade of robin’s egg blue.
Afterwards, we headed back to the central city of Christchurch, the business district and the area that had (symbolically) taken the brunt of the damage in the earthquake. Almost three years after the fact, the cathedral that had served as Christchurch’s namesake remains destroyed and sectioned off to all signs of life, save for the birds that occasionally hawk through the stone debris. It’s strange and rather disconcerting to see something that had long stood for something iconic stand in ruin, like a relic of the past.
Here’s another shot of the central area of Christchurch — for a downtown area, it felt like a ghost town. Little to no traffic, cars parked in makeshift parking lots that once belonged to hotels and towers, buildings that had been deemed unusable and thus boarded up, etc. There’s something humbling about being in the midst of all this quietude and knowing that you’re witnessing a new period of history.
As we walked some more along the business district and passed by a lone caroler in the park, we headed over to Strawberry Fare for a Christmas Eve dinner, to cap off a long — but fulfilling! — day.