Hard to believe that just a short 1 hour flight and a view of some snow on the mountains and you are in the South Island and landing at the newly refurbished Christchurch airport. We picked up a rental car but you wouldn’t really need one if you were staying in the heart of Christchurch. We drove in from the airport to the Rydges Latimer hotel which is just a little on the outskirts of the city. This had just opened about a week or two before we arrived. They were putting the finishing touches to a lot of the public areas and in fact the room opposite ours was still in its bare shape with no bed or facilities. Our room had that new carpet smell about it and when we looked out the window we looked onto another building site. The room had everything we needed included a balcony for those who like fresh air. I could not believe it was 31 degrees!!! Well that is until I started walking! phew it was hot. No humidity just hot sun!. The central city is easy to get around and the locals were very friendly and helped us with directions.
We wandered into the city to get a coffee. It was very eerie as there seemed to be no one in the city. It WAS a Saturday though. We wandered past buildings that had the ceiling fallen in. It was so strange to see a bathroom shop with beautiful baths, showers and taps all as they were on the day of the big earthquake. People told us of restaurants where coffees and meals where still on the table. There were containers seemingly holding up buildings and evidence of destruction everywhere. We had coffee and some brunch at a gorgeous spot called C1 where Staff were friendly and efficient and the food was great!! We noticed lots of great coffee shops everywhere. We had lunch on Sunday at Bridget’s in Merivale too which was just lovely.
The saddest thing I saw was the group of white chairs. A chair for each of the 185 people who lost their lives in the Earthquake. Each chair different and it made you wonder about the choice made for each person and what part of their lives or personalities it represented. The little white baby capsule and children’s chairs were just so very hard to look at. I shed a tear over that.
As we got closer into the city we came upon the new “pop up” mall, made with containers stacked on one another. It was packed full of people shopping and enjoying the hot weather. This was the “new” and full of hope Christchurch. Everyone very upbeat and some fabulous little coffee shops and restaurants with entertainers keeping everyone amused.
We walked on and came up on the side of the cathedral. Its not until you get close to the front of the cathedral that you see the terrible devastation. the whole front of it has come apart. pigeons were nesting in the open spaces and flying and out. It was held up by scaffolding in the front. I can quite understand the controversy of rebuilding or destroying.
We had a look at the new “cardboard cathedral. The fact that this is made out of Cardboard is truly amazing. We spent a good half hour just wandering around feeling the cardboard rolls and oohing and aahing.. they have a lovely stained glass window too but to be really truthful it didn’t feel like a church. It is a very stark place and I guess for me it was just too modern and soulless. I was still blown away by the structure though. We enjoyed a lovely family function on the Saturday night which was in the suburbs. Patricks sister has completely rebuilt her house after it suffered damage. A beautiful old villa which has retained its heritage look. I think Christchurch will be a beautiful city when its rebuilt again. Its taking its time and I am sure there will be more controversy as the locals make decisions about their future.
I found it both sad and uplifting and whilst it was hard to get your bearings as so many buildings had gone or were deserted it was still a fabulous experience. I urge you to go back and re-visit this lovely city as it rises from its ashes.