Christchurch is the largest city on the south island. That being said – we didn’t quite know what to expect when we arrived there. We were warned by multiple people that the city suffered a lot of damage from big earthquakes in 2010-2011. Driving up from Dunedin, we got to see some beautiful beaches and rolling hills before making our way in to the city.
Whenever we find ourselves in a new place – there’s always the moment where we don’t know what to expect. Will it be everything we heard about? What will the neighborhood be like? The people?
After driving over 6 hours, we pulled up to a construction filled street in dreary weather. It was cold, we were tired, and no one was around. Unloading the car, a neighbor peeked her head out of her door and told us how to use the key. We didn’t have much time, left our bags and dropped off our rental car. The three and a half mile walk back from the car rental didn’t paint Christchurch in a better light either. (then again it was the outskirts of Christchurch near the airport) In one of my undergrad classes, the professor told us about a study that showed the importance of first impressions. For one negative first impression it takes up to seven positive factors to change your initial thoughts. Walking back, we were wondering what our time in Christchurch would be like.
It’s amazing how sleep, sunshine, and a new day can give you new perspective. All the construction on the streets is due to earthquake repair. Even though the major quakes happened a few years ago, the city is still recovering. Lodging can be hard to come by as permanent residents seek temporary housing while having their houses repaired.
Our neighbor for the week, Sue, poked her head out and said hello to us. She was born and raised in Christchurch, but spent 12 years in the US living in Oklahoma. Where the wind blows sweeping down the plains? Yes. That Oklahoma. During her time there, she saw more of the states than most people living there.
Spending so much time in the car left us a bit antsy. We’d work during the day and then head out in the early evening. Hagley Park was a short walk away. We spent a few afternoons pretending we were runners. The botanic gardens is just a short walk from Hagley Park. We spent some time walking through the rose garden, hugging some Sequoia trees, and ringing the Peace Bell.
A man walked by when I was taking this photo. He glanced at my viewpoint and the shot I was taking before scowling in distaste. Everyone’s got their own point of view. Seeing the name on this house in the garden made us think of our friends. Miss you folks. Only thing that would have made it better is if it read: Jacqinghams
This fountain in the garden left us perplexed. It was beautiful and a little disturbing all in one. When the water sprays, it hits the statue in the face. Meanwhile, the masks swing in circles high in the air.
Probably the most recognizable structure in Christchurch was the cathedral and Cathedral Square. Sue said the city was built around it. But during the earthquakes, the cathedral was severely damaged. The city has done a lot of innovative art pieces around the crumbling cathedral. There’s a viewing platform covered in plants, rows of flags hang which from a distance show the pattern on the cathedral roof, there are murals on the barrier around the cathedral. The future of the cathedral is still up in the air. A lot of people want to rebuild it, but politics always come in to play.
When we walked through the square, the colors from the murals and art pieces make it feel modern and fun. But that didn’t chase away the sense of loss of seeing the crumbling cathedral. A landmark of the city – broken. Sue (our kind neighbor) told us the city still feels broken. It’s been rebuilding and they have done amazing things, but businesses had to move out of the downtown area while the city rebuilt. People had to move away. Will the city ever recover?
Part of the Re:start. Since the mall area was damaged during the earthquakes – stores moved into these shipping containers and made a Re:Start mall area. The containers are covered in bright colors and cool art. Food trucks lined the streets.
The Canterbury Museum. There’s currently a t-shirt exhibit. That’s right – showcasing the history and importance of t-shirts. There’s also a cool Antarctica exhibit (cool, get it?). There’s a snowmobile with a wind machine and video running of cruising through ice and snow (of course making us think of more friends back in Denver – Conzels). There’s nothing like being in shorts and flip flops while having the Antarctica wind blow through your hair as your zip through snow. All while someone sketched a penguin behind us. This is entertainment after roadtripping for so long. Christchurch is rebuilding. Modern glass buildings are going up. Art pieces show the adaptability of the city. And the city is trying to bring back business. This year, Christchurch is one of the cities hosting the Cricket World Cup. A park not far from where we stayed had a Fan Zone set up. It televises the daily games (wherever they are). At night, they have local musicians and then show a cult classic movie. We caught the end of the New Zealand vs England match. Although we’re not quite sure what was happening, we were exited to celebrate with everyone else when New Zealand won by 8 wickets! Apparently it was a blow out…we still don’t get it.
By the time we left, our initial impression of Christchurch had changed. How could it not? It’s a city that has fallen on hard times – working to build itself back up. It’s full of the Kiwi grace and style. A few nights before we left, our neighbor Sue volunteered to drive us to our car rental. We were going to ask to leave our bags with her as we walked, but she wouldn’t hear of it. Simply said – she would show us a little more of the neighborhoods as she drove us and wished she would have offered to drive us other places earlier. What?! Sue was incredibly sweet and told us stories of her travels and her family. Maybe Christchurch wasn’t our favorite city – but its got charm. It left us looking forward to see how it will continue to rebuild.