Classic Villa – elegance in Christchurch

The Classic Villa has five stars, is eco-friendly and this historic, beautiful, bright pink villa has lived many lives!

Starting in 1897 – just 4 years after all New Zealand women won the right to vote – it was first owned by Christchurch boys high school as the chaplain’s house and, after many incarnations, including an old-folks home (that I always saw myself as being eventually  spending my final years in) through to its current reincarnation as a superb Italian style luxury B&B boutique accommodation – where I do stay!  Erected on land during Christchurch’s early European settlement days and known as Ravens Paddock, it’s opposite the old Christchurch Boys High School and Canterbury College where Lord Rutherford studied.

Table set for breakfast at The Classic Villa

With 5 Stars, it’s friendly, laid-back, efficient, and comfortable with the hosts serving sumptuous Mediterranean, /continental or traditional breakfasts.  The kitchen island is almost overloaded with cold meats, avocado, tomato, cheeses fruits, cereals, and juices, it’s a magnificent spread, all enjoyed a communal table with Peter, the consummate host, making sure teas and coffees flow -and of course, answering questions about where to go and what to do.

Step outside 17 Worcester Boulevard – a quiet one way pedestrian boulevard – and tram – and you’re in the centre of Christchurch’s cultural precinct including the Art Centre, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu  Museum, Botanic Gardens,  Cathedral Square, historic tram, punting on the Avon River, Hagley Golf Course, and of course, excellent restaurants, cafes & inner-city shopping: see more on their website The Classic Villa

I’ve always stayed in the ground floor rooms which have traditionally polished timber floors, kauri doors, ornate plaster ceiling roses, wood fire effect heater, luxury bedding, and mirrored wardrobes. The walls have art by Rhonda Campbell – which former President Bill Clinton took a fancy too. Good taste!

Evenings are great with a complimentary glass of something and nibbles in the lounge or garden and barbecue area.

Christchurch is the South Island’s largest city. It’s a vibrant, cosmopolitan place with exciting festivals, theatre, modern art galleries, great shopping and award-winning attractions.

Known internationally for award-winning gardens, Christchurch is also a great place for events, festivals and its street art.

Promenade along the Avon River
Street art beside the Piano
New Regent Street — a must visit.
Worchestor Street bridge
A shag/cormorant in the botanic gardens
The ‘cabbage’ tree – tekouka
Christchurch Art gallery 2 mins walk from the Classic Villa
street art in progress
public art
punting on the Avon .. other boats available for hire too

 

Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu

Christchurch Art Gallery is a must-visit in Christchurch!

Of course, I could be accused of being prejudiced – I lived opposite the gallery as it was built, so heard and felt every pile being driving into the stoney Canterbury soil, so agree, I do have a feeling of ownership.

Here are a few photos I took in December.

A few other photos from over the years:

Christchurch Art Gallery —

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gap filler in post-quake Christchurch

Gap Filler have been active in Christchurch since the 2010/11 quakes and have fostered the arts in many ways and have helped keep Cantabrians entertained and involved in many many ways. A big shout-out to all the volunteers who have given us all so much pleasure.

Here are some photos I took of the Pallet Pavillion  (2013)  on the site of the ‘once was’ Crowne Plaza – now to relocate about a block away.

Simo, who had a  fabulous restaurant in the Crowne now has other fabulous places to eat out despite being quake-shaken from two other places.

From the plains to mountains: Arthur’s Pass National Park. New Zealand

This is great place to spend some time. Either drive or catch the scenic train.

Arthur’s Pass has always been special for me. As a child our family would have day trips to the area for tobogganing. We also would do an annual steam train trip, and then at high school, (Linwood High, Christchurch) had a holiday house where we would have week-long trips for skiing. (unsuccessful lessons in my case )

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And now I travel there again. It takes less than three hours to travel from plains to mountains; ocean to snow-fed rivers; city to village; from the current time to the ancient forests of Gondwanaland. (The Jurassic period super-continent from which New Zealand separated some 85 million years ago.)

Unlike the pre-European Māori who walked, or the settlers in Cobb and Co. coaches, I travelled by the TranzAlpine train to Arthur’s Pass. (Leaves Christchurch daily for Greymouth on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island.)

Sharing the carriage were tourists from many parts of the world. It seems some were ready to test their stamina and muscles in the Arthur’s Pass National Park, while a family group was day-tripping, with five hours to explore the village, and me? I was just looking for some rest and recreation including revisiting the popular walks near the village – The Devil’s Punchbowl and the Bridal Veil Falls.

The Devil’s Punchbowl waterfall with its impressive 131-metre drop is an easy one-hour return journey through stands of majestic white-limbed mountain beech trees. As you approach the waterfall, clouds of spray rise like mist, just as one might imagine the devil’s steaming cauldron does.

The other easy, yet even more beautiful walk, takes you to the Bridal Veil Falls. Although the falls are viewed from a distance, the walk itself is wonderful. Colours abound; crisp greys to soft emerald, or lime greens nestle alongside bright reds and orange. Numerous native ferns, lichens, trees, and shrubs seem to invite one to stop, admire, and record their beauty, while the piwakawaka (fantail) that go with me are an absolute joy.

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All through the village, population 55, and surrounding areas, are the sounds of birds. Bellbirds with their dulcet tones are so different to the cheeky, intelligent kea with its loud calls as it glides loftily above all, displaying its orange under-wing plumage to us. The occasional gull calls from overhead too, reminding me what a narrow land New Zealand is.

Walking beside beech trees it is easy to believe that the forests of Gondwanaland looked just like these South Island beech forests. Fossils of beech found in Antarctica and descendants that survive in Chile, Australia and Papua New Guinea support this theory.

I love our beech trees!

Brothers Arthur and Edward Dobson rediscovered the pass in 1864. Māori had used it as an east-west route to collect or trade Pounamu, the greenstone from which the south island is named, Te Wai Pounamu. The brothers named it Bealey Flat and finding the route made it easier to travel from coast to coast.

Some sixty years later travel became even easier with the railway and Otira tunnel, signalling the end of the coach era. Tunnellers huts, from early 1900’s, remain in the village linking past to the present. Originally unlined, austere dwellings, they were sold on the tunnel’s completion in 1923.

Some of the pioneering characters of Arthur’s Pass who bought these cottages includes the family of Guy and Grace Butler. One of New Zealand’s foremost landscape artists, Grace has works hanging in many places including the Robert McDougall Art Gallery in Christchurch. Along with Guy who, according to his granddaughter Jennifer Barrer “gave up his legal practice to carry his wife’s easel,” Grace ran what was the first hostel in the village. Now called the Outdoor Education Centre, its front lawn was the site of the first skiing in the area!

Arthur’s Pass National Park, created 1901, has 114,357 hectares within its boundaries and both tourists and locals appreciate its variety of tramps and some 28 public huts. If you plan to stay in some of the remote huts, tickets, or an annual hut pass, must be purchased from the Department of Conservation before your trip.

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NOTE: on any walk in New Zealand mountains or bush: fill out an Intentions Card. Leave it at the local DOC office; don’t travel alone, take extra food and everything you need to make sure you’re safe . . . our NZ weather has dramatic changes extremely quickly. This is because we are a little country in the middle of a huge ocean and most travellers are not used to such conditions and this results in deaths . . . don’t let the next one be you!

Other activities in Arthur’s Pass include skiing at Temple Basin, while the village itself is a good base for exploring Cave Stream Scenic Reserve with its 362-metre cave and interesting limestone outcrops.

Accommodation ranges from backpacker hostels to motels, holiday homes, or bed and breakfast. Food covers the same budget to moderate price range. (See your local visitors’ information centre for details)

the endangered red mistletoes bloom whenever the possums have been culled
the endangered red mistletoe blooms when the possums have been culled

If you want ski-fields and terrific tramps (the kiwi word for hiking!) or just a place to chill with your holiday reading, Arthur’s Pass needs to be added to your holiday destination list – make sure you post a letter form here!

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Earthquake Photos Chch NZ Sat 4th Sept 2010

Re-posting these photos on the 3rd anniversary of the 7.1 quake in my city …  I’m happy to report that although much of our city centre (80%) was consequently demolished because of damage it is well on its way to recovery with inner city shops and hotels open and more on the way.  See more about Christchurch on this blog.

Note, these photos were first published in under 3 hours of the quake.

Earthquake Photos Chch NZ Sat 4th Sept 2010.

Good to see Christchurch reviving .. more and more open

Pre quake New regent Street
Pre quake New Regent Street

It’s great to see Christchurch, New Zealand,  reviving with more and more of the post-quake city open.

1932 was a big year in Christchurch – Captain Cook’s statue was unveiled; there was a bitter train strike; the McDougal Art Gallery was opened; and New Regent Street opened – a double row of Spanish Mission style shops that were a huge change from the usual Gothic Revival and Queen Anne styles that most of the earlier inner city buildings had been built in.

Now, post quakes,(2010/11) Captain Cook’s statue is still standing in Victoria Square, the McDougal is still open in the Botanic Gardens, there are no strikes , and fabulously, New Regent Street has re-opened.

As New Zealand’s only street built at one time, in one style, it was considered a theatrical oddity among the staid buildings that surrounded it. Now, those buildings are mostly gone but this colourful street is once again open and although not all shops are open, yet, this is once again a tourist, and locals, destination hotspot.

One shop that opens this Saturday (27th April) is also a quake survivor – BEADZ UNLIMITED – formerly at the Arts Centre which is closed for quake strengthening and  repairs and, appropriately, one of their many products are the commemorative series which includes the original, the “broken cathedral,” and now also features the Basilica, the Arts Centre and other Christchurch favourites.

Rowena Watson started Beadz many years ago and it has grown from a market stall to being New Zealand’s first bead shop. A talented designer, she also designs many of her original beads and creates beautiful jewellery. So whether you want to make your own souvenir of Christchurch, New Zealand, or buy a gift, tourists and locals will always find something here.

BEADZ upstairs windows are original 1931
BEADZ upstairs windows are original 1931

See here for other shops open (or opening) in colourful New Regent Street and use this map to find out what’s open  in Christchurch.

Paver repairs nearly completed early April
Paver repairs nearly completed early April
Rendezvous Hotel at the md of New Regent Street open too.
Rendezvous Hotel at the end of New Regent Street opens too.
Captain Cook shares Victoria Square with Queen Vic ... of course:  2 min's walk from New Regent St
Captain Cook shares Victoria Square with Queen Vic … of course. Only  2 min’s walk from New Regent St
Site of Beadz in the Arts Centre
Site of the old Beadz in Christchurch’s  Arts Centre
Meet you for a coffee?
Meet you for a coffee?

Christchurch Bike Tours in quake re-build zone

Now is the time  to visit post-quake Christchurch, New Zealand,  and take a Christchurch Bike Tour in the Rebuild Zone,  This  two-hour, personalised tour of the cordoned-off Rebuild Zone allows you to see the Christchurch CBD rebuild in a safe, personalised and interactive way. It is the first opportunity the public have had to go into the Rebuild Zone on bikes.

You  will enjoy a sensory experience within the cordon as Christchurch Bike Tours guides’ offer information on the new city vision, including the new precincts, community projects and local business stories incorporating the strength and resilience of the people from Christchurch.
Christchurch Bike Tours owner Stephanie Fitts says the tour is designed to give locals and visitors the opportunity to understand the changed nature of the Christchurch CBD and the future of Christchurch as a 21st century city.
Tours are  limited to six people to allow for a personalised and safe experience and you will be required to stay on the bikes throughout the tour and wear closed-in footwear. Of course the route may vary depending on safety conditions.
Tour departures are at 10am and 2pm. Tours are two-hours long, and cost $40 per person, which includes the bike, helmet, hi-visibility safety vest and a local guide.
Bookings are essential by phoning 0800 733 257 or online at www.chchbiketours.co.nz
Christchurch Bike Tours was awarded the contract by CERA to run the tours in the Christchurch Rebuild Zone.

Note: this is New Zealand’s only guided city bike tour.

web bikes mona vale

Pied Stilt, Travis Wetlands, Christchurch, NZ

The Travel wetlands are well worth visiting in Christchurch
The Travis  Wetlands are well worth visiting in Christchurch

Great new accommodation in Christchurch, New Zealand

Recently I was invited to my old city to check out a new concept in home stays:  Christchurch, New Zealand is short of beds after the series of quakes that meant many hotels have had to been demolished.

Now a new concept and a great group of women have ensured that you need not worry – you will be able to find a bed and accommodation there that suits you.

I took this picture off their website as it so wonderfully portrays the concept – a virtual hotel with lots of rooms, in diverse styles and in different parts of the city. Smart idea.

Look After Me  founder Julia Charity told me her website means mature travellers (particularly women) can find safe places to stay, and with authentic kiwi hosts and making genuine connections.

With homes from north of Whangarei down to Queenstown  to choose from, there is bound to be a host with shared interests (gardens, recipes, wine, literature, education, walking, fishing, grandkids) near to where to are going – whether its six of you travelling for a work conference, or an person who likes her home comforts and not an inner-city hotel.

Some hosts offer pick-ups and home-cooked meals, all of which are fairly priced and below standard commercial rates. The two I stayed at in Christchurch were different both in accommodation and hosts interests.

My first night was in a modern Merivale apartment  where host Yvonne Preece  told me her suggestions to visitors there on holiday would be to check out the Court Theatre and the  Fo Guang Shan galley, tea-house and Buddhist temple, and of course at the end of her street, her favourite shopping centre, the Merivale Mall.

Yvonne is interviewed for a TV1 Breakfast show
A great looking meal is ready for us

The next night was a perfect example of “the same hotel –Look After Me – different rooms” as my room was now, off the flat plains of Canterbury and up on the Port Hills overlooking the city, plains and the Southern Alps. Country in the city sums it up perfectly – from miniature highland cattle and ducks, dog and wonderful views and where Sandy offers real kiwi hospitality.  Despite being ‘country’, it’s also only moments from Princess Margaret Hospital where many people who will need to come to Christchurch to visit sick friends or family and only a short bus or taxi trip into the city centre to visit the new container mall.

Great views – even in the kitchen

While this virtual hotel has rooms spread the length and breadth of New Zealand, it’s particularly welcome in Christchurch with the scarcity of beds there and some people’s fear of staying in the city or in high-rise buildings, this is a perfect solution.

So, if you are travelling on your own, or ten of you are in a city for work or play, you can all stay in the one widely spread venue and just meet-up at the conference, sport or music event!

Check out the Look After Me website to see details of each home, and check this site for more stories about my home-stay visit to Christchurch.

And, thanks for introducing this to me Julia, and my hosts and their family!