We have now left behind us the dramatic mountain landscape of Glacier Country and travelled back up the West Coast to Greymouth and retraced our steps over Arthurs Pass to reach our final destination on our trip, the city of Christchurch. Arriving into a city again with its cars, rush hour Friday night traffic, noise and hustle and bustle seemed a far cry from the quiet and tranquil places that we have been exploring for the last weeks. We had pre-booked our accommodation in advance, from a recommendation in our Lonely Planet guide book, at Stonehurst which is located centrally within the city so we didn´t have to spend time driving around trying to find somewhere after the long drive. So this morning, we were able to start exploring on foot.
Christchurch is dubbed ´The Garden City´and is known as being the most English of New Zealand´s cities with reminders of colonial feel including school children dressed in blazers and straw hats attending prep-schools and river named Avon where you can go punting. We decided to buy day tickets to the cities tram which runs around its centre allowing you to ´hop on and off´as you like. All the trams have been beautifully restored and are driven by uniform wearing drivers who provide entertaining and informative information on the area as the trams rumble on their tracks around the city. We decided to stay on board for the whole circuit to start with to find out where everything was but in the end the journey turned out only to take thirty minutes and all in Christchurch is within walking distance. Our first stop was Cathedral Square which is dominated by the Gothic-revival Anglican Christchurch Cathedral. This morning there was a small craft market here and a group of young women and men dressed in traditional Maori costume performing traditional songs and dance, it still gives me goosebumps when I hear them. We then wandered down Columbo Street, which is where the majority of shops are picking up a few last minute bits before jumping back on the tram to head to the Arts centre which was once the site of the original University of Canterbury. Here, there was another weekend craft market selling local jewelry including Jade, clothing and wooden carved items to name but some. The old Gothic revival buildings now house an excellent and dynamic array of arts and crafts, restaurants and bars. We headed off then to have some lunch, opting for the New York Deli sandwich shop which had been recommended on passing by our tram driver and offers ´the best sandwich in town´. Good recommendation too! Yummy.
We did go into the Christchurch Art Gallery which has over 5500 permanent works on display but with neither of us really understanding, for example, ten pairs of Y-front underpants with individual pieces of fruit coming out of their openings laid out in a circle, we only moseyed around for a short time Outside the doors is the River Avon, so we stood on the bridge and watched tourists drape their knees with blankets and be punted off downstream.
A stroll around the Botanical Gardens followed which I am sure are beautiful when in full bloom in the summer, but were lacking in colour today so we stopped and watched the local college rugby team play their Saturday afternoon match, which seemed to have attracted a huge number of supporters. With the temperature beginning to drop, we decided to head on back with the distant tram bell echoing around the city, stopping at a local Irish pub en-route for a glass of warm mulled wine