New Zealand with Kids - Day Ten, Christchurch

Saturday, 12 February 2011

OMG - we love Christchurch. Warning: this post is long! This morning we walked through Victoria Square park where the 18th World Buskers Festival was busily setting up, past a beautiful statue of Captain Cook (on whom I have a terrible crush, I know - I'm such a dag)... the city centre for a coffee at Christchurch Cathedral café… a must-sip pitstop.

Christchurch, the Garden City, is a relatively small city with only around 360,000 occupants. The streets are quaint and tree-lined, and the shops and cafés are majorly plentiful, with the best coffee ever. The city is small and flat, meaning walking around is easy - and all the major attractions are very close together. Trams do run through the city if little legs get tired.

Heading west towards the enormous Botanic Gardens, we wandered past the Avon River (yes, I felt I was in the Cotswolds!) where boaters in boaters glide punters down the calm waters, through the willow trees. It looked glorious, but not at $25 an adult (and the kids ain't free).

We then walked past the Arts Centre district, which is sizable and includes many little galleries and courtyards packed with all things artistic. Many of the buildings are beautiful, traditional 19th century grey stone – just stunning.

This particular area featured a sweet little farmer's market (on Fridays), with delicious things to eat and indulge in.

The kids enjoyed gamboling along the roadside, past the theatre and through an impressive line up of busts of famous New Zealanders, including acclaimed children's author Margaret Mahy.

It was then onto the Canterbury Museum, right next to the Botanic Gardens. When we got to the museum, we were distracted by the World Busking Festival (free!). It was a joy to wander around town and run into some fabulous Scot or Canadian or Texan laying on cut glass, throwing each other in the air, swallowing balloons, lighting bullwhips or throwing knives. Here in the gardens, the kids enjoyed some acrobatics.

Walking through the beautiful Botanic Gardens...

...the kids and I revelled in the central rose garden... which just happened to be surrounded by magnificent, plush dahlias...

Then it was indoors for another breathtaking begonia display (my new favourite flower) as well as cacti and orchids, among other treasures...  Please excuse yet another floral slideshow!

All cultured out, Husband took the kids for a walk to an internet café while I visited the Christchurch Museum (free!) which is so impressive, I don't even know where to start.

Firstly, there's an incredible section on Maori history and treasure, including life-size displays of how the Maori used to live...

Then there's a superb and fascinating display on early explorers, including my hero Mr Cook (sigh)...

Then there's one of my absolutely favourite things I've seen in NZ so far - the Paua Shell House. An astonishing recreation of the living room of Fred and Myrtle Flutey's house in Bluff on the southern most tip of NZ, this illustrious display starts with the most charming, retro film explaining the history of this gorgeous couple. The film also explains the other pop culture icons of NZ, like jandals (thongs) and chocolate fish.

You see, Fred started collecting paua shells (and incidentally, the paua or abalone shell is an endearing NZ icon) and when he ran out of space to display them, he started pinning them to the walls. The collection became a phenomenon, and hordes of visitors from all over the world came to visit the Shell House.

The rest of the museum contains an astonishing array of collections that had my heart racing. This incredible (and really beautiful) hall was filled with precious, collectible treasure from silverware to hand-painted vases.

Upstairs was a costume collection including pieces hundreds of years old, along with modern interpretations that were truly fascinating.

The Antarctic exhibition was a sight to behold, with lifesize animal and human displays and even real life vehicles that have traversed the Antarctic landscape. There is also a superb Discovery section for children. But more on both of these tomorrow.

Walking back towards town, I meandered through the Arts Centre buildings for a peek and loved what I saw, including yet another busking performance - an enormous Scotsman flinging himself onto shards of glass and eating fire.

Next stop was a visit to the Art Gallery - Te Puna O Waiwhetu – an imposing modern building of glass and steel, hosting a really impressive collection of artwork, most particularly work from young artists (in their 20s and 30s). The bottom floor of the gallery was closed due to exhibition construction - such a shame because I just wanted more more more more more. The gift shop is superb.

After a quick coffee pitstop at Starbucks, I wandered back towards the apartments via Victoria Square and yet another fabulous busking performance, this time two southerners with flaming bullwhips.

Husband had taken the kids to the local swimming pool – an enormous indoor heated pool with river-like channels of water for the kids to swim against. At only $9 for all three of them, this is a great way to pass some time in this wonderful capital.

New Zealand with Kids - Day Three, Auckland
New Zealand with Kids - Day Four, Rotorua
New Zealand with Kids - Day Five, Rotorua
New Zealand with Kids - Day Six, Lake Taupo, Palmerston North, Wellington
New Zealand with Kids - Day Seven, Wellington
New Zealand with Kids - Day Eight, Wellington
New Zealand with Kids - Day Nine, Inter Island ferry, Picton, Blenheim, Christchurch
New Zealand with Kids - Day Eleven, Christchurch
New Zealand with Kids - Day Twelve, Queenstown
New Zealand with Kids - Day Thirteen, Queenstown
New Zealand with Kids - Day Fourteen, Queenstown, Glenorchy, Arrowtown, Wanaka


Jackie@My Little Bookcase said...

long post? maybe. but definitely a beautiful one. Some of the photos you have captured are simply amazing.

Tania McCartney said...

Thanks Jackie! If you haven't been, you simply MUST go!! x

Anonymous said...

looks like such a beautiful little country! TB

Toushka Lee said...

Christchurch is my home, but your post made me want to go back there so much!

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