Christchurch…On The Mend

Let's Travel - - CHRISTCHURCH - By Gayle Dick­son

Not only is the city of Christchurch on the mend, the re­build is in full flight and will see this gem of the south com­pletely re­vamped and re­vived.

It was with some trep­i­da­tion that I made plans to visit Christchurch. My last visit was just a few days be­fore the big quake that de­mol­ished much of the out­stand­ing ar­chi­tec­ture, de­mor­alised the lo­cals and dev­as­tated fam­i­lies, friends and col­leagues with its death toll. The Christchurch I’d last vis­ited was a vi­brant and colour­ful city, filled to the brim with in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ters. I was, in some ways, dread­ing this trip. I re­called my last night there, stay­ing at the Novo­tel on Cathe­dral Square, over­look­ing the then only slightly dam­aged tur­ret. I re­call think­ing to my­self that I wouldn’t want to be up there tak­ing photos if an­other shake oc­curred! Since then, I’d only seen me­dia cov­er­age of the quake and the dam­age.

As I drove from the air­port back to Cathe­dral Square, it wasn’t hard to be im­pressed by the amount of con­struc­tion work be­ing un­der­taken. Cranes dot­ted the sky­line at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals and hard hats were in plain view no mat­ter which road you fol­lowed. The re­build had def­i­nitely com­menced.

I spent my first af­ter­noon just walk­ing, cov­er­ing over six kilo­me­tres. It was a sober­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, con­fronted as I was by va­cant blocks of land where ar­chi­tec­tural gems had once stood, see­ing the nu­mer­ous hoard­ings that shielded sites still be­ing cleared, notic­ing the shift of pedes­trian traf­fic from once bustling streets to new ar­eas. The cre­ative tal­ents that have al­ways called Christchurch home have placed art­works where none stood be­fore and there’s now an art trail that is worth check­ing out.

One of the most mov­ing was near the Card­board Cathe­dral, sim­ply en­ti­tled “185 chairs”. Favourite chairs, gath­ered from fam­ily mem­bers, paid homage to the lives lost in the big one. From a soli­tary bean­bag to of­fice chairs and re­clin­ers, they’ve all been painted stark white. It was heart­break­ing to see, es­pe­cially the baby’s car seat and a tiny feed­ing chair.

Over the next few days I spoke with many busi­ness own­ers, shop­pers and din­ers.

There is a dis­tinct air of op­ti­mism that per­vades. There’s an ex­cite­ment about what this new city will of­fer its res­i­dents… and it will be new and it will be ex­cit­ing. Of­fi­cial­dom have taken the wise road of com­pletely re­think­ing the lay­out and de­sign of Christchurch city cen­tre; ar­chi­tects are be­ing urged to get cre­ative and in­ven­tive; lessons have been learned re­gards what con­struc­tion best suits the to­pog­ra­phy. It was an ex­pen­sive les­son, but a les­son well heeded.

Ac­com­mo­da­tion:

The Novo­tel on Cathe­dral Square thank­fully only suf­fered mi­nor dam­age. Noth­ing much seemed changed on this re­cent visit, although there were a few small changes be­hind the scenes. The lo­ca­tion is ex­tremely cen­tral, and will be in de­mand once the planned con­ven­tion cen­tre is com­pleted. The rooms are spa­cious and the staff were friendly and knowl­edge­able. Due to my hec­tic sched­ule, the only meal I par­took was break­fast, and that was of a fab­u­lous stan­dard. En­joy­ing good oc­cu­pancy, I wasn’t able to up­grade to or even view an ex­ec­u­tive room or suite. I loved that the ho­tel was so handy to New Re­gent Street where eat­ing es­tab­lish­ments abound.

I en­joyed two nights in a suite at the Dou­ble­tree by Hil­ton Chateau on the Park. This iconic prop­erty nes­tles in award-win­ning gar­dens

op­po­site Ha­gley Park. While much of the char­ac­ter of the Tu­dor styling has been re­tained, there’s a def­i­nite Dou­ble­tree edge now.

The Novo­tel Christchurch Air­port is due to be up and run­ning by De­cem­ber 2017. Lo­cated within me­tres of the ter­mi­nal, it will of­fer 4-star com­fort that in­cludes full-length sound­proof win­dows, tons of nat­u­ral light and meal ser­vices that will be timed to match flight times. The artist im­pres­sions of the 200 rooms and ex­te­rior look ex­cit­ing.

Still in the air­port vicin­ity, Jucy have just opened Jucy Snooze. More fa­mous for their car and van hire, this ac­com­mo­da­tion model is both new and ex­cit­ing, in true Jucy fash­ion. The snooze pods of­fer ex­cep­tion­ally stylish ac­com­mo­da­tion for back­pack­ers or those who don’t want to spend money on a ho­tel. Dressed in great qual­ity linens, the pods are equipped with charg­ing units for your phones and other elec­tron­ics, a per­sonal light and a fan. There’s an in­ter­nal locker as well as a larger stor­age locker. If you’re not into small spa­ces or shared bath­room fa­cil­i­ties, there are also ho­tel style rooms (twin, queen, fam­ily), com­plete with en­suite bath­rooms and tele­vi­sions. The com­mon area has an enor­mous kitchen, comfy seat­ing and ham­mocks to chill out in. There’s free Wi-Fi, 24-hour re­cep­tion, snack and drink vend­ing ma­chines on site, and there are shops and restau­rants in the nearby Spit­fire Precinct.

I popped in to see the new Ry­dges La­timer Christchurch and fell in love with their Pent­house Suite, the con­tem­po­rary Kiwi dé­cor and the fact that ev­ery room has a bal­cony. Po­si­tioned op­po­site La­timer Square and a short walk to the Card­board Cathe­dral, this 4.5 star prop­erty un­der­went a com­plete re­build.

Dining:

All I can stay to Welling­ton and Auck­land is…watch out, Christchurch’s eat­ing es­tab­lish­ments are set to give you a good run for your money!

The Tram Res­tau­rant ex­pe­ri­ence is some­thing ev­ery vis­i­tor should en­joy. The colo­nial trams are beau­ti­fully main­tained and hark back to an era of stately el­e­gance. The staff were pro­fes­sional, had great wine knowl­edge and of­fered ex­cep­tional ser­vice. As for the meal…WOW… fine dining at its best! What’s truly ex­cep­tional is that the tram’s gal­ley is about the size of a linen cup­board, yet Chef Flo was able to churn out up­wards of 20 three-course meals on time, per­fectly pre­sented and per­fectly pre­pared!

King of Snake in Vic­to­ria Street pro­vided a ca­sual yet so­phis­ti­cated set­ting, tucked back off the road, for a very con­tem­po­rary blend of Asian and New Zealand dishes. Want­ing to taste as much as I could, I or­dered a mix of hot en­trée plat­ters in­stead of one large main. Fried rice balls, crispy pork belly in a plum sauce, Marl­bor­ough salmon with white miso, and sticky beef won­tons. Ser­vice was friendly and prompt, the food was fan­tas­tic and the prices very rea­son­able given the stan­dard of fare. I had no ca­pac­ity for dessert given the de­cent por­tion sizes, but I am told the choco­late fon­dant with roasted rhubarb and a pas­sion­fruit gel is a winner!

Twenty Seven Steps in New Re­gent Street was bustling and, while ta­bles were reg­u­larly turned around, it never felt as though you were be­ing rushed. I to­tally adored their unique way of serv­ing the soup of the day as an en­trée…the per­fect size, served in a quaint teacup. As busy as it was, the chef was quite happy to ac­com­mo­date my re­quest for smaller than usual por­tions, given that I was de­ter­mined to work my way through the cour­ses. There was an as­tound­ing ar­ray of dishes that were gluten free, dairy free or ve­gan. I sam­pled the pork belly, risotto and fin­ished with a de­li­cious ap­ple and cin­na­mon crème brûlée.

The Mon­day Room on Moor­house Av­enue isn’t that easy to find, but it is worth look­ing for. Even early on a Mon­day night, there were a good

num­ber of din­ers.

Voted this year’s best res­tau­rant at the Christchurch Hos­pi­tal­ity Awards, the em­pha­sis is on so­cial dining. My com­pan­ion and I opted for the Trust the Chef menu – two cour­ses of the chef’s favourites. The goats’ cheese chur­ros with truf­fle honey were my favourite!

Make sure you pop into C1 Es­presso for a truly unique ex­pe­ri­ence – your slid­ers are de­liv­ered through pneu­matic tubes at 100kph! But, while that’s a fun ex­pe­ri­ence, it’s not all they do – there’s great cof­fee and a fab deli menu and their all day break­fast is leg­endary.

See & Do:

One of the best ways to get a han­dle on the “new” Christchurch is to hop on a Hassle Free Dis­cover Christchurch Tour. The red Lon­don dou­ble-decker bus (open top in sum­mer) tour was in­for­ma­tive and en­ter­tain­ing. The drivers are pas­sion­ate about their city and im­part a wide range of facts you’d oth­er­wise be hard pressed to find out. The one-hour tour takes in the CBD area and all the ma­jor at­trac­tions. There are two daily de­par­tures in win­ter, and hourly trips in sum­mer. I took the 3-hour trip that in­cludes all of the CBD high­lights, as well as head­ing out to the Port Hills and the sea­side vil­lage of Sum­ner.

An ex­cit­ing new devel­op­ment for the re­gion is the Christchurch Ad­ven­ture Park. The first stage is due for com­ple­tion at the end of this year. Once com­pleted, it is slated to be the largest moun­tain bike park in the South­ern Hemi­sphere! Fea­tur­ing over 120km of bike tracks, graded for difficulty from be­gin­ner to very ex­pe­ri­enced, the park will also boast the first high-speed chair lift cus­tom built to carry bikes. Plans also in­clude a moun­tain coaster, zi­pline, bike rental, in­struc­tors and, in due course, lodg­ing. The lodges and cab­ins will even­tu­ally ac­com­mo­date over 500 peo­ple, mak­ing this a go-to desti­na­tion for moun­tain bik­ers from around the world. The zi­pline will be a high­light, too – in four stages, two around a kilo­me­tre in length, speeds of around 100kph will be reached!

The Tan­nery is well worth a visit for an af­ter­noon of shop­ping, dining and en­ter­tain­ment. Sit­u­ated on the banks of the Heath­cote River in Wool­ston, this once in­dus­trial com­plex has been given a new lease on life with spe­cial­ity shops you won’t find else­where and, as their own web­site states, not a chain store in sight! From fash­ion and jew­ellery to florists and home­wares, it’s hard not to hand over the credit card due to the unique of­fer­ings.

When you’re in Christchurch, you sim­ply can’t miss the op­por­tu­nity to go punt­ing on the Avon River – it’s the best way to spend a lazy af­ter­noon, glid­ing along the river tak­ing in the Botanic Gar­dens and city build­ings from a com­pletely dif­fer­ent an­gle. The punts hold up to ten peo­ple, but pri­vate tours are of­fered. Don’t get put off by damp or chilly weather – they pro­vide blan­kets and um­brel­las and even hot wa­ter bot­tles, if nec­es­sary.

Heard of Ernest, Lord Ruther­ford? It’s thanks to him and his peers that we can to­day watch tele­vi­sion, lis­ten to the ra­dio and make tele­phone calls! Ruther­ford’s Den and The Great Hall at the Arts Cen­tre are open to the pub­lic al­ready, with a steady stream of ar­eas be­ing opened over the next cou­ple of years.

Parks & Walks:

Two ob­vi­ous in­clu­sions are Ha­gley Park and The Botanic Gar­dens, and I per­son­ally loved walk­ing through Mona Vale. Ed­monds Fac­tory Gar­den, Mill­brook Re­serve and Ab­ber­ley Park were oth­ers I en­joyed strolling through. Fam­i­lies will en­joy Bot­tle Lake For­est Park with its recre­ational fa­cil­i­ties or Spencer Park with its animal park and play­ground.

Other Ac­tiv­i­ties:

Ride the gon­dola for ex­cep­tional views, visit the In­ter­na­tional Antarc­tic Cen­tre, see the Big Five at the Wil­low­bank Wildlife Re­serve, see NZ’s only go­ril­las at Orana Wildlife Park, take the Tran­sAlpine train to Grey­mouth and see the West Coast, en­joy one of the many guided walk­ing or bike tours of Christchurch city, or head to the casino for a few thrills.

One thing’s for sure, Christchurch should once again be put on your travel radar. It’s back, it’s ex­cit­ing and it’s grow­ing fast! This was con­firmed to me af­ter chat­ting to the team at Christchurch In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

A record num­ber (over 6 mil­lion) of pas­sen­gers trav­elled through the air­port in 2016, with long-haul pas­sen­ger num­bers grow­ing by a whop­ping 18%. Sin­ga­pore Air­lines have just cel­e­brated their 20th year of fly­ing into Christchurch, Emi­rates have added the A380 to it’s Christchurch-Syd­ney-Dubai route, Qan­tas have in­creased their trans-Tas­man ca­pac­ity, Asiana Air­lines have added a weekly char­ter flight to and from Seoul and there are three di­rect weekly flights to Nadi with Fiji Air­lines. Other air­lines see­ing the value in Christchurch flights are Vir­gin Aus­tralia, Jet­star, China South­ern and China Air­lines, and of course our very own Air New Zealand.

A very ex­cit­ing ini­tia­tive by the air­port is the Navya trial that be­gins early in 2017. The 15-per­son shut­tle is fully au­ton­o­mous, has no steer­ing wheel and is elec­tri­cally pow­ered. This trial is a first for New Zealand, prov­ing yet again that Christchurch is lead­ing the way!

Mona Vale

New Re­gent St

185 Chairs

Jucy Pods

The Christchurch Tram Res­tau­rant

Clas­sic Ar­chi­tec­ture

Restart Shop­ping

Punt­ing on The Avon

In­side Card­board Cathe­dral

Navya ve­hi­cle for Christchurch tri­als

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