After spending time getting over jet lag in Auckland, we headed down to Christchurch. This is where I’m from, and where all of my immediate family live. We used it as a base when we went on our other two trips (which will be in another blog entry) – my parents got laden with our suitcases and we just travelled around with backpacks. This blog is a bit all over the place because it covers several periods of time.
Nick and I actually met in Christchurch, back on New Years Eve 2011. I didn’t have to show Nick Christchurch from a tourist perspective because that was his second trip with work when I met him. This time I got to show him places and people that were special to me.
Day One in Christchurch
We flew in at midday and my mum and dad were waiting for us. It was so good to see them! It felt like an eternity since I had seen them, in reality it was only 14 months. The Christchurch Airport has been completely renovated and was actually really lovely now.
Since it was lunchtime, we headed off to find something to eat. We ended up at one of my favourite restaurants (Spagalimi’s pizza) but they were closed! I was worried mum wouldn’t like my favourite Indian food, so I didn’t want to force them into going to Tandoori Palace, but hurrah, we did! Besides my family, one of the biggest things I miss about Christchurch is my old faithful – Tandoori Palace.
One of my best friends, Liv and I used to go to Tandoori Palace at least once a week when we were at university. It’s just across the street from uni, and we got to know the manager pretty well. Every Wednesday in our company law class we would sit there watching the clock count down to 1250 so that we could head over for our fix. Their butter chicken is hands down the best that I have ever had. I’ve been around the world trying to find a replacement, but no luck!
Mum found the butter chicken a bit spicy, but all in all it was as good as I remembered. That first bite is always the best after a long absence. Haha.
After lunch we headed to our hotel that we would be staying in for a few nights. It was the Towers on the Park that is just opposite Hagley Park. It had been recently renovated, but not to the standard that the photos showed, and we were a bit disappointed in it for the price! If you are visiting Christchurch, I would recommend staying elsewhere. The second hotel we stayed at – Hotel Athena, was much, much more comfortable. We handed out lots of American and German treats and then headed to the Botanical Gardens.
The Botanical Gardens in Christchurch is 21 hectares of beautiful flowers, lawns and established trees. The Avon River runs through it and it has always been a relaxing place for me. I actually used to live near the hotel we stayed at, when I was studying at university. I used to walk over to the gardens to relax and de-stress. My friend Grace and I used to bike through the gardens to go for a cookie in the Cathedral Square. I also sprinted back to safety through the Gardens and the attached Hagley Park on February 22, 2011 – the day of the deadly earthquake that struck my city. It is also the day I dropped my brand new Italian business shoe somewhere in the park, never to return again L I thought it was going to be like a fairytale, but alas it was not. It was weird to see it with huge fault lines running through it, and pools and pools of bubbling liquefaction. I’m happy to say that there’s no sign of that anymore.
Musings over a broken city
Over the next couple of days we spent time with family (I finally got to meet my second niece, born in December!) and also exploring the city. A lot has changed since I left December 2012. While a lot of the destroyed buildings still stood standing then, now they have been demolished and either bare building sites sit in their place – or temporary buildings. Some have been replaced already, but there was a lot of deconstruction going on still. We watched an apartment building get pulled down floor by floor, which was interesting. It was just so odd. I used to get around the city by building landmarks, but then what do you do when there are no buildings to use as landmarks anymore? We walked along a street and I was like ‘well, I think we’re a fair way from City Mall’ – but we weren’t. We were actually walking along one of the previously most busy streets. A street that I had spent many years walking up and down, and many late nights out with friends. Now, there was nothing.
I have to say, it affected me much more than I thought. At first thought, it’s exciting that the city can reestablish itself, allow for more greenery in the centre city and be known as ‘The city of the 2010’s’. On the other hand, I have so many memories that I feel are ‘attached’ to the buildings that are gone. Then, again on the flip side, some of those buildings killed people, and if the rest weren’t pulled down, then what would happen when the next comes along? (Hopefully there isn’t one, but everyone thought that after our 7.1). I walked through the plot of land where a hotel once stood that my friends and I used to go to for Happy Hour canapés and wine. I walked through the site of our favourite restaurant that we went to for our birthday parties and celebrations. I saw the plot where my old workplace once stood. I walked through plots of land that used to be carpark buildings that my mum and dad would park in when we would go into ‘town’ when we were little. I think maybe not being around for all the deconstruction only made it harder to deal with.
On a brighter note, we were in Christchurch for Valentines Day. We ended up going to Tandoori Palace for their V-Day special. It was great! It was a three- course meal with included alcoholic beverages. We got to try some things that I hadn’t tried before, which was lovely. They set rose petals out on the tables and had burning candles. It was the perfect setting!
When we got back to the hotel, a man had his curtains open. We could see he was setting up the room with a dozen roses, a huge teddy, wine and was preparing lots of delicious treats. I guess I said a bit too loudly ‘aww look at that!!!!!!!’ because the curtains were swiftly drawn for the rest of the night. I tried to keep an eye out to see when the partner arrived, but no luck. Darn.
Nick also got to meet some of my friends. I’m really glad that I could finally introduce him to everyone. It was hard to explain to people why I was willing to disappear across the world to a man they had never met, so I’m glad many people got to meet him.
My friend Danielle (who I met on my first day of university in 2006 standing outside my first ever lecture) and her boyfriend Pat bought a house last year. He’s quite the handyman and had built a gorgeous deck on their house. I hadn’t met him yet either, so it was great to meet him! We went out for lunch to catch up and I’m so glad she is happy and with a great person. Please don’t forget to come and visit us guys!
Linda, who is now a barrister, took time out of her day to meet up with us for lunch at a Thai restaurant down from the court. She is one of the hardest working people that I know, and things are finally coming together for her career. I’m in awe of people with as much drive as her, and I hope to visit her when she comes to London to visit her sister. Lunch was delicious, even if in a little weird of a setting. (The windows were boarded up haha).
I’ve known my friend Prunella since before I can even remember. She’s a twin, and my family and her family would spend many days and nights together. We got to meet up with her for a coffee. She’s just graduated as a nurse and I am so proud of her! (Plus, she is stunningly beautiful – what a catch!) We don’t talk as often as we should, but I know she’s a friend who will always be there for me, and vice versa.
We also got to visit my old boss, Clayton. He and his partner cooked a wonderful dinner for us and we had a great time catching up with them. It’s hard being so far away from people who care about you. I’ve known him since I was 14, when I interviewed him for a school project. I then volunteered with him, until I ended up working for him while I was at uni. He has seen me grow up, and I see him as a mentor. I feel like I’m stuck in a rut career-wise while we are here, as well as education-wise, but catching up with people like him makes me want to succeed even more due to their support. I really don’t want to disappoint people who have invested so much in my growth. Fingers crossed in a few weeks I should know whether I am able to get studying again.
We got to have some family days that were really lovely. As well as puppy days. Nick actually ended up really liking Tommy. He’s been my mum’s favourite dog forever. Such the sap!
One day mum and dad took us for a drive out to Amberley – a place we would usually go for Sunday drives just to get out of the house when I was little. We had a famous Amberley ice cream – these things are huge! I tried to teach Nick the art of eating one of those monsters, but he just didn’t understand the urgency until half of his third scoop was running down his arm. Amateur!
My little niece Pearl is growing up so fast. It’s amazing to thing she is talking and so active – last time I saw her she was only six weeks old. Missing the milestones is hard, but it’s the price you pay being far from home. We all got to go out to Sumner Beach as a family one day that was lots of fun. We got to relive our childhood on the kids’ playground. (Entertaining the children, of course…) The fog had set in over Christchurch, it was pretty eerie but lifted in time for us to get out.
Our last few days were spent our near my parents at Woodend Beach. We stayed at a lovely motel and spent most of our time with family, including a great barbecue that my brother put on (thanks bro!). The morning we were due to leave Christchurch, I told Nick that since we were staying right next to the beach that we really should go and visit. He was so surprised that there was such a lovely beach so near to where I grew up. It was bittersweet walking along the beach on such a lovely day, knowing that we would be half way around the world in a couple of days.
It’s always hard saying goodbye. I never used to have an issue. I could just suck it up and say goodbye with no problems. Now I end up this blubbering mess. I’m obviously turning soft as I get older. We flew back up to Auckland and spent the night in the most amazing hotel ever. I knew I would be severely depressed, so I booked a really wonderful hotel right at the international terminal. It helped a little. If you’re ever passing through Auckland, I highly recommend the Novotel at the terminal for a good nights’ sleep!
There’s two blogs left in the New Zealand series – they will follow hopefully over the next couple of weeks.