Alas, I had but one day in Christchurch, so I spent it walking around the city center. The weather here is positively balmy after the deep freeze of Queenstown and I stripped down from four layers of clothing to two. Even the flowers are still in bloom here – these pink roses hanging over blue rosemary blooms were so fragrant as I walked by that I just had to lean over and take a good long whiff. I had heard that Christchurch is the most British of New Zealand’s towns. After my walking tour I have to agree. City tours are conducted aboard the trolleys that run on rails down the center of the downtown streets, advertisements are posted on tall round cylinders on major street corners, and red phone booths scream England, as does the stone architecture with its crenelated towers and copper clad spires. Even the river that runs through the center of town is named the Avon.
Perhaps the most famous building here is the Christchurch Cathedral, located in the center of Cathedral Square, where musicians play, high- brows play chess with giant pieces on a side- walk board, seagulls desecrate statues with their droppings, vendors hawk their wares from booths set up in the square, and Christian fanatics try to convert the unfaithful.
Around the city center it seemed as if every third street was a pedestrian mall. People were out in droves – many of them in shirt sleeves and one hearty soul in shorts – shopping, walking, or just people watching. The Arts Center, once the home of University of Canterbury, is now a retail center with 40 shops, art galleries, restaurants, and an art-house cinema, all set among distinctive 19th century Gothic Revival architecture. Sculptures from local artisans surround the exterior of the Arts Center, like this bronze child leaning against her “love” balloon or this fanciful jester, offering up his humor to the heavens.
I wish I’d had more time here but I leave at 4 AM tomorrow morning for Sydney, Australia. Who knows, maybe I will be back some day. If I do return, I will be sure to stay again at the Windsor Hotel, which is a wonderful place with reasonable rates, located right in the city center. Two weeks is definitely (or as they say here in New Zealand, DEE-fin-it-lee) not long enough to see this amazing country.
UPDATE: Christchurch suffered sever damage from earthquakes that occurred after I visited New Zealand. Sadly, the lovely Cathedral was damaged beyond repair and Windsor Hotel was closed permanently.