We landed in Christchurch a little before noon and I found it peculiar to be setting my watch ahead twenty-one hours. For me, flying long distance is one of the most surreal experiences ever. To pass through so many time zones and to see the sun’s confusion of setting and rising is startling. I always am amazed and bewildered when I finally step foot off the airplane that transported me miles away from home, across continents and oceans and into a new, unexplored place.
As I mentioned in my last post, I was feeling like a deflated balloon when we finally stepped foot into the Christchurch airport. The gray skies and pelts of rain were effecting my mood. Thankfully our luggage had made it through three different flights and two airlines (that is always a bonus!). Yet we had a little mishap with the car rental agency that took an hour to square away. It was my first encounter with a native Kiwi, and I instantly realized that New Zealanders are perhaps the most laid-back, fun-loving people on earth.
We were finally on our way, heading in our rental car towards Christchurch while driving on the “other” side of the road and trying not to get killed by forgetting to turn into the “other” lane at the roundabouts. This proved to be a daunting challenge that would remain with us for the full two weeks of the trip. For some reason driving on the left side of the road seemed against reason. It also always proved a challenge to remember to not hit the windshield wipers as opposed to the turn signal when we were desperately trying to pass. Countless times, in the heat of the moment, my husband inadvertently hit the windshield wipers instead of the turn signal while we were frantically trying to pass some unexpected soul along the curving New Zealand roads. This should have made us panic but instead we burst out into laughing attacks which only made it worse.
Christchurch is the provincial capital of Canterbury and the largest city on New Zealand’s South Island. Often viewed as a gateway into the South Island’s magical wonders, Christchurch is a fabulous launching off point and definitely requires a few days to visit this lovely, charming town with outrageously delicious food.
The town of Christchurch was built as the capital of Canterbury in 1850 and hosts a wide variety of gorgeous buildings, parks and cathedrals that represent its English heritage. It is important to note that we were there in 2002 thus eight years before the devastating series of earthquakes struck Christchurch and destroyed a large part of this fabulous town. (To read more about the Christchurch earthquakes and their devastation, click here. My parents had traveled to Christchurch in March of 2011, not long after the third devastating earthquake hit Christchurch destroying much of the town and killing 184 people. They told me the town was in ruins and it was really a tragic loss. The hotel they were supposed to stay in had collapsed and the downtown was closed. I am not sure what it is like today, a year later, but I’m sure there is a lot of rebuilding to be done).
My husband and I had arranged to stay at a lovely B&B located in the heart of town called the Orari. I had viewed pictures of it on the internet and was instantly entranced by its eloquent beauty and charm. Located in the heart of Christchurch, this old, pale blue Victorian B&B was the perfect start to our stay in New Zealand. Built in 1893 and recently restored, the Orari had only a handful of rooms and personalized service by the owner’s young, upbeat son, a chap named Aston, who was by far one of the most enthusiastic, charming hosts we’ve ever had and whose favorite word was “Brilliant!“. We stayed in room 2, which was painted a pastel yellow and had enormous windows overlooking the english rose garden that framed the Orari. Aston informed us that breakfast was served promptly at seven, our toilet was located down the hall and there was a daily wine and cheese happy hour starting at four sharp. Brilliant! Of course a selection of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc would be served. What could be better?
Me as a younger thirdeye (not yet mom) standing outside of our lovely B&B in Christchurch, November 2002. P.S. It was not raining….at least at the moment. You will also notice that I do not have many pictures of Christchurch as the weather was so horrible most of our stay that I didn’t bother taking photos.
We enjoyed the rest of the day exploring lovely Christchurch. The dreadful rain had stopped but it was incredibly windy and cool. We visited the Botanical Gardens and walked along the Avon River which gently meanders through the town and is banked by draping willow trees and oaks. We sampled some of Christchurch’s gastronomical delights hitting a garden wine bar for lunch and a fabulous Italian restaurant at dinner. With each and every meal, we sampled local wines and I delighted in the fact that I could try as many different kinds of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc as my heart desired. It was my favorite wine at the moment and somewhat hard to find back in the States. It was also a great time for us to be in New Zealand as the US dollar was incredibly strong. Everything cost 50% less than at home making it very affordable!
Me smiling alongside the Avon River and enjoying some sunshine.
The next morning we woke up in darkness. The dreaded rain had returned meaning we would have limited options for sightseeing. Thankfully Ashton’s smile and enthusiasm brightened our day. We enjoyed a delicious english-style breakfast while he talked us into (it wasn’t hard) signing up for an all day wine tour around Canterbury. Why not, we thought. When all else fails, drink? “Brilliant” Aston said as we boarded our wine seeing bus. “Cheers and have fun! he smiled charmingly.
Sefton, our tour guide, me and my husband Paul, outside our DD (designated driver).
We had a lovely, cold and rainy afternoon touring some of the very vineyards that create my beloved Sav Blanc. I don’t have many pictures to share nor memories of it. But perhaps some things are better left unsaid!
Stay tuned…Follow us as we head south driving all the way from Christchurch to Queenstown, New Zealand, through some of New Zealand’s most awesome scenery! These are photos that take you right to the heart of a scene in Lord of the Rings which was filmed in the magical South Island of New Zealand.