A City of Hope
I am so sorry it has been so long since I last posted, things have been pretty busy here with would you believe it or not..school. I just finished my first lab report while abroad and its nice to know that I still am not a fan of writing reports even in New Zealand. Sad day. Anyway this post is actually going to be recounting a Saturday a few weekends ago where I explored downtown Christchurch with a few of my study abroad friends!
So this day excursion happened on March 2nd and it was a pretty neutral day, it was cloudy when I woke up and fairly chilly outside but all in all I was ready for an adventure and looking around the city I would be in for the next few months. My friends and I took a bus into city center which is the main bus stop in Christchurch where you can literally get any bus in the city. We were headed to the Botanic Gardens, one of the main sight seeing places in the city. Unfortunately we timed our stop wrong and had to walk a fair distance but its good we did because we saw a lot of cool things along the way! For instance we passed the Bridge of Remembrance and in the park next to it there was an outdoor yoga class taking place which was really cool. We also saw one of the city tour trolleys which looked like a lot of fun to go on someday. We finally found the road to the Botanic Gardens and strolled down that way. We passed by one of the many art museum’s and a few historic buildings that were being remodeled post earthquake. It was really intersting to see how much damage was still left even after three years but it was heartening to see how many places were open and how much construction was going on.
There was a cafe we passed called Fiddlesticks that looked really cute but we passed on it because we had heard that there was a place called Cheesemongers further along and we wanted to check it out. Cheesemongers was absolutely one of the best things we ran into that day because its a bakery and a cheese place all in one. To clarify there’s a room full of cheese that you go in a pick out and then they make you a sandwich on their freshly made ciabatta bread with lettuce and chutney…um YUM! Seriously it was one of the best sandwiches I have ever had. I think I had some brie cheese, I’m not sure, but it was amazing all the same and I would highly recommend anyone who travels to Christchurch to go and get a sandwich!
After our food pitstop we stopped by a cute outdoor market place with some cool souvenirs, including a paua shell stand. For anyone who doesn’t know these shells are native to New Zealand when they are polished they turn beautiful shades of blue, purple, and green. I’m definitely going to try and come home with one or maybe some jewelry with paua in it because it is gorgeous! Once we had perused the market we headed on down the road and ran into the Canterbury Museum! This place is a whole mash up of New Zealand and Christchurch history as well as other attractions. We spent a good hour in there walking through the various exhibits which included one one the Maori, a street art exhibit and of course dinosaurs. I don’t think we had planned on going here but it was a nice pit stop and also it kept us warm for a bit!
From there we headed into the Botanic Gardens which are huge! I think we only saw maybe one third of the entire place. Anyway it is a really pretty park with a river running through it and of course a lot of flowers. There is also a Peace Bell which was made out of melted down currency from multiple countries and signifies a move for world peace. It was a really cool thing to see. In the center of the gardens was the rose garden which was stunning and I got a lot of good flower pictures! From there we headed out and went to our next destination!
We hit up the Pallet Pavilion next which is basically what is sounds like. A lot of shipping crates have been used in Christchurch as buildings and also to protect roads from rock falls and the pallets that they get shipped on formed the walls of this pavilion. Inside they were doing a fundraiser for cancer where people shaved off some parts of their hair in their stand against cancer which was pretty cool. There were also some cool arch ways that I can’t remember what they stood for but it was some neat modern street art none the less. From there we continued on our way and stopped at a cafe for some coffee and lunch!
We then tried to find a bus that would take us back to city center so that we could either head on home or find somewhere else to go. The thing about busses though and a city under going massive construction is that you never know if the bus is actually going to come and it took us quite a while to find a bus. When we finally did get back to city center station we decided we wanted to go to the Restart Mall which is basically an outdoor/indoor mall where all the stores are made out of those large shipping containers I mentioned before. Its kind of the city backbone because there are always a lot of people there and there’s also a lot to see there. It’s definitely one of my favorite places to go in Christchurch even if I don’t buy anything. So we wandered around in there for a bit and then we headed out to see the Cardboard Cathedral. To clarify, no its not actually made out of cardboard, its basically an A-frame building that is supported on the inside by massive cardboard posts. In any case it is a really cool place to go and I definitely want to check out a church service there before I leave. It was built as a temporary cathedral for the main one that got destroyed in the earthquake.
Right behind the Cardboard Cathedral is the 185 white chairs display. What this is is 185 different chairs that represent the people who lost their lives in the earthquake. All of the chairs are handpainted white by local artists. There were all types of chairs including a bean bag chair and a baby carrier and a rocking chair. This hit me way harder than I expected it to when I saw it. You could just feel the emotion rolling off of the scene and I had to try really hard to not lose it, which sounds weird because I’m not even from Christchurch, or New Zealand, but it was one of the most poignant art displays I have seen. I can’t even imagine how the families of those lost feel but I think that that display shows tremendous respect for those who are now gone and is something that will always be in the city.
From there we traveled on and saw some cool street art and a very small art exhibit and from there caught the bus back to uni! All in all it was really great to not only get off campus but to really see the city where I live for now. It was eye opening to see the sustained damage and also to see what has popped up during this transistional period. I definitely think of Christchurch as a city of hope even though from what I’ve seen, this place has all of the hope and more because they’re moving in an incredible direction. I can’t wait to come back a few years from now and see what’s different and what has stayed the same. One thing is for sure though, Christchurch will always be a city of innovation and wonder to me.