Christchurch: one of the ‘worlds top 50 cities to visit 2020’ – my quake city revisited

PHOTO attribution: CathedralSquare 2402 By Gabriel Flickr Cathedral Square

It’s some eight or nine years ago that Fodor commissioned me to write about my city – back then we locals were using terms such as ‘the city that shakes’ or ‘shaken not stirred’ and ‘Christchurch rocks’.  Christchurch still rocks but in a very different way – it’s great.

In August, this year, one travel writer likened a tram ride in Christchurch to an amusement ride through a disaster zone – I totally disagree as do many others: it is the only New Zealand entry in ‘The 50 Friendliest Cities In The World’ (7th) and it’s also  the only New Zealand destination to make it into Fodor’s list of the top 52 places to visit in 2020. I suggest you put it on your bucket list.

Christchurch’s inclusion on Fodor’s Go List 2020 ‘seems to stem in large part from its response to the tragedies that have happened there over the past decade’ said one writer.

“South Island’s largest city is back – and better than ever,” the guide declares, adding that it has “wasted no time getting back on its feet after” after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes and 2019 terror attack.

“Not only is Christchurch considered the ‘friendliest city in New Zealand’, according to a 2019 poll, but the evolving metropolis rewards visitors with colonial-era British architecture, enormous parks, panoramic gondola rides, relaxing boat tours down the Avon River, and an exploding public art scene that emerged after the earthquakes.”  (Stuff)

However, for many, there is still some confusion as to why many buildings have not yet been replaced, and in particular, the Christchurch Cathedral still sits in ruins.

Every local has an opinion about the cathedral – from knock it down to, restore it totally, keep some old parts and build something new attached to it, get rid of any cathedral in the square, and many variations on those themes.

Pre quake photos:

Christchurch Cathedral and Chalice before the quake damage
Interior of the cathedral. Ever seen a pavlova in a cathedral with rugby’s Bledisloe Cup?
Christchurch cathedral … in the square

Being Christchurch born, and having lived through hundreds of quakes I too have an opinion – I believed the cathedral should be reinstated – using their insurance money – it, plus the ‘Square’ itself, had played an important role over the previous 100 years.  Because of irreparable damage to many of our Gothic buildings, I believed it was important to maintain as much heritage as we could.

The February 2011 earthquake destroyed the Cathedral‘s spire, part of the tower, and the structure of the remaining building.  On the day of the quake, much more of the tower was deliberately demolished as it was thought that people were trapped inside – luckily this wasn’t so, and the rest of the tower was demolished in March 2012.  When the church started using a wrecking ball on the cathedral, a court injunction was taken out to stop that work – many people believed it should be demolished, piece by piece, numbering the stones so it could be rebuilt.

Later in 2011, after-shocks meant a steel structure – intended to stabilise the rose window – actually destroyed it and the Anglican Church decided to demolish the building and replace it with a new structure.  The church did not consult with locals despite years and years of no, or little city rates – a subsidy paid for by locals, who also helped pay for repairs and a new roof. This made many people angry, resulting in court cases and fundraising to help save the cathedral.

Christchurch Diocesan Synod announced that Christ Church Cathedral would be reinstated after promises of extra grants and loans from local and central government.

The church also says the start of restoration will begin in 2020 and “For most people, the reinstated Cathedral will appear unchanged with its important heritage features retained.  It will be safer, more functional, more flexible and more comfortable.  It will be better equipped for future worship and civic events.”

And, as for the other gaps in the city-scape, many owners of those buildings have chosen not to build for many reasons.  Some will be land-banking them, others will be waiting for the convention centre to be finished (late 2020), while others may be waiting to see what’s missing in the city, what’s needed, and then build that.  Many people have said, this wouldn’t happen in Hong Kong, or Singapore – true, but New Zealand has a democracy, and surprisingly, everyone who owns those pieces of land, often converted to car parks right now, actually can make up their own mind as to what, and when, to redevelop.

I can tell you that one building site, on Armagh Street (beside New Regent Street) will not be started for a few months.  A large flock of our endangered black-billed gulls is nesting among the concrete and reinforcing wire – as they are protected, nothing will happen to this site until they’ve finished nesting, and if they come back in spring next year, the site will remain undeveloped.  An eyesore for many, but possibly a lifesaver for these gulls!

I nested at The Classic Villa, which some years ago was transformed from an Italian style historic home to a 5-star boutique hotel in the cultural precinct of our city centre.

[Note I relocated to Wellington, a decision made in May 2010, some 2-months after the first, and biggest, 7.4 quake on the 4th September 2010 – see photos taken in my inner-city neighbourhood then]

 

 

 

 

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

 

Six degrees of separation disproved in New Zealand

Six degrees of separation disproved in New Zealand! I have long said we kiwis have only 1½ degrees of separation and now it’s been proved. Let me set the scene for the study and outcome:

I recently dragged myself into 2011 and bought a ‘smart phone’ from my mobile provider 2Degrees

I add my Twitter, Facebook, and Gmail and think I’m pretty smart for a senior citizen and as I sail across the Cook Strait on the Kaitaki, then train from Picton to Christchurch on the CoastalPacific  I tweet about the trip. How cool is that. However, pride comes before a fall.

I arrive in Christchurch in the middle of a snow storm, and, between the train station and my accommodation –  the fabulous 5-star boutique hotel, the  Classic Villa  – my phone disappears.

I ring the taxi company, the train station and the police – by the time I leave Christchurch five days later it has not been found and I return to Wellington (NZ’s capital) to hunt for my faithful , but discarded, old Nokia. I get a blank SIM card, have it set up with my number, then go home where the answer phone is blinking.

Hi Heather” a friends voice has recorded, “have you lost your phone? I think a friend has found it. He found my name in it and rang me to see if I know whose it was! Lots of mutual friends then your daughters name, Renée, made me realise it must be yours. Give me call and let me know!”

Sure enough it’s my beautiful new Ideos smart phone – it’s been run over but the man who found it is posting it back . . . not that I have insurance cover . . . but at least I’ll be able to retrieve my friends numbers.

Could you do that with 6 degrees of separation? I think not.  Just think: one cyclist finds a phone, checks the names, recognises one and calls her. She recognises my other friends’ names!  It sounds like my theory of New Zealand’s one and half degrees of separation has been proved correct.

Now to start saving, again, for a  new smart phone. Oh well, it’s a pretty high-class problem when you think of all the problems in the world.

Placido Domingo in Christchurch for quake fundraiser

One of the world’s musical superstars, opera tenor Placido Domingo, will have a single show in New Zealand:  in Christchurch on 6th October,  to support Christchurch’s earthquake recovery. Click here to buy tickets.

The Spanish-born tenor, who lost four family members in the 1985 Mexican earthquake, has opted to make his Christchurch concert a fundraiser for two quake-hit institutions, the Court Theatre and Christchurch Symphony Orchestra.

Make it a wonderful night by staying at the beautiful Classic Villa  right opposite the Arts Centre (I’ve just stayed here and can well recommend it.)

An unusal sight - snow at the Classic Villa

Sailing across the Cook Strait then training down the Coastal Pacific

After sailing crossing the Cook Strait on the Interislander, yesterday I was on the first Picton to Christchurch train (after the February quake). The newly named CoastalPacific was great and more stories will follow.

In the meantime, here are a few photos from the trip on the Kaitaki and the TranScenic Coastal Pacific.

The Kaitaki leaves Wellington city behind
The observation carriage on the CoastalPacific is loved by photographers

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I’m staying at the wonderful boutique Classic Villa, right in the middle of the Cultural Precinct, Christchurch. (Check out the snow photos I posted too)

Snowy Christchurch – beautiful pics

Down in Christchurch to write some travel stories – however snow is the topic de jour!

Enjoy these pics: while I’m in the warmth of the beautiful  Classic Villa here in the Cultural Precinct  in the city centre – off to have lunch soon at theRobert Harris Cafe beside the YMCA .. both which are both open .. as are the Boatsheds! No matter what we MUST have coffee of course!

A different view of the Peacock Fountain today - Christchurch Botanic Gardens

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