New Zealand Woman’s Weekly - - THIS WEEK IN... -

Showing English vis­i­tors around Christchurch, my home town, I got hope­lessly lost. Okay, I hadn’t lived there for 30 years, and there was the small mat­ter of those earth­quakes re­ar­rang­ing the streetscapes – but still, it was em­bar­rass­ing. I gave up at once and turned the job over to the pro­fes­sion­als. Smart move.

The city’s Christchurch Pass makes for a great be­gin­ning – four at­trac­tions, one price, no time limit. We took the gon­dola for the big view of the city from the Port Hills. Just a 10-minute trip took us up to the rim of the crater, Lyt­tel­ton tucked around its harbour on the in­side, Christchurch spread­ing across the Can­ter­bury Plains on the out­side. Sea, sky, moun­tains… grandeur in every di­rec­tion.

So of course we turned our backs on it all and went into a dark room. A slow trun­dle through the Time Tun­nel gives a quick flit through 12 mil­lion years of Can­ter­bury his­tory, end­ing with a roll call of high-achiev­ers, from war hero Charles Upham to Richie McCaw.

Back down in the city, though, we’d just learned that the jet boat was a Can­ter­bury in­ven­tion, so we went retro and took a punt. It was a su­per- re­lax­ing way to spend a sunny af­ter­noon, glid­ing along the Avon River un­der­neath the wil­low trees, past laid-back ducks and with our ex­pert punter be­hind us wear­ing his striped tie and straw boater, giv­ing us a com­men­tary.

Plus it was in­ter­est­ing – who knew that Christchurch’s iconic wil­lows are de­scended from the one grow­ing over Napoleon’s grave on Elba?

“Are you en­joy­ing our city?” called the friendly ladies on a bench on the bank. Yes, we were, and hum­ming around the Botanic Gar­dens in an elec­tric ve­hi­cle was an equally pain­less way to ex­plore 20 hectares of trees and flow­ers, foun­tains and con­ser­va­to­ries. We stopped off to smell the roses, ad­mire

‘ The Quake City ex­hi­bi­tion was con­fronting but full of per­sonal sto­ries and hope’

150-year-old gi­ant se­quoias, and envy the colourful herba­ceous bor­ders.

The last Pass tour was in one of the city’s trams, rat­tling through the streets, hear­ing from the en­thu­si­as­tic driver

about the past and fu­ture, and be­ing both saddened and ex­cited by the tran­si­tion from one to the other. The Quake City ex­hi­bi­tion in Cashel Street was es­sen­tial view­ing: con­fronting and hor­ri­fy­ing, but full, too, of heart-warm­ing per­sonal sto­ries and hope for the new Christchurch.

The Mar­garet Mahy Play­ground is one def­i­nite post-earth­quake plus: big, colourful and, above all, fun. Slides, swings, tram­po­lines, ropes, tun­nels, bridges, zi­plines, sand, wa­ter, grass – it has ev­ery­thing a child could want. The laugh­ter con­tin­ues after dark, when teens and even adults get their chance to in­dulge their in­ner kid.

On our way to the air­port, we had cool fun at the Antarc­tic Centre, where it snows every six min­utes, there’s a storm once an hour, huskies to pet and lit­tle blue pen­guins to coo over.

The bucking ride in the all-ter­rain Häg­glund ve­hi­cle was per­fect for get­ting real with the Antarc­tic, and the 4D movies put us right there on the snow. We re­ally didn’t want to leave.

A gon­dola ride from the Port Hills of­fers jaw-drop­ping views of the harbour and beyond.

Take a punt and hope for fine weather! Glid­ing down

the Avon is a re­lax­ing way to spend an af­ter­noon.

The Mar­garet Mahy Play­ground, the Botanic Gar­dens (above right) and the Me­mo­rial Wall (main pic­ture) are must-sees.

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