Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Garden City

The Anglican Christchurch Cathedral

The Christchurch Tram

Punting on the Avon
I wonder how many cities and towns of the world have nicknamed themselves the Garden City? Christchurch is another of those who have adopted that moniker. They do have the advantage of the Avon River circling through the downtown and one of the largest urban parks and botanical gardens in an inner city that I have every seen. The city is a little unusual in that, although portions of the city front on the ocean, the downtown and central business district is nowhere near the ocean.

The heart of the city is Cathedral Square, which not surprisingly is a huge pedestrian only square with the Anglican Cathedral at one end. Cutting along the edge of the square is the restored tram system which circles the downtown and most of the tourist highlights. The tram is very nice for viewing, but is a bit disappointing as to its length, and is very expensive for what you seem to get. It costs $14 for an all day ticket. I personally think they ought to encourage the ticket with a more modest price, like the cable cars in San Francisco.

Christchurch has done a very good job with their downtown. There are several large squares and pedestrian only streets with the large shopping venues. Along the Avon they have a lot of very attractive restaurants, one of which (the Viaduct) we enjoyed last night. In Cathedral Square they have restored several of the oldest buildings, not the least of which is the I Site which has a Starbucks as a part of it. Walking from the square towards the parks of Worcester Street, you can enjoy the views of the Avon, and go punting if you wish for a modest $20.

Along the street are Christchurch Art Gallery and then the Art Centre. This is quite a unique use of the former site of the University of Canterbury which has been converted into arts and crafts shops, theatres, and food stops. It is quite lively on the weekend with all of the open spaces filled with arts and crafts booths. Mary Ann was very frugal, only spending about $20. She must be reading about the dismal downward movement of the U.S. dollar! At the end of the street, which dead-ends at the park, is the Canterbury Museum, which I am sure we will visit later this week.

As today was our first full day in Christchurch, we had to get to a supermarket to stock up. We generally fix all of our breakfasts in the apartment, and some of our dinners. Mary Ann thinks the fewer the better. As a part of the Westfield Mall (they are everywhere in the world) there is a Pak’nSave which supplied our needs, but…couldn’t find any lemon, lime and bitters. We will conduct a full search tomorrow, hitting the liquor stores and mini-marts. The other large supermarket chain in New Zealand is the New World, which has received our custom up to now.

Our apartment here is only about 3 blocks from Cathedral Square in the heart of the entertainment area called SOL Square (south of Lichfield). This can also translate into some loud music. This ought to make St. Patrick’s Day, with the nearby Irish Pub, an interesting night. The apartment is a little smaller than our accommodations in Auckland and Wellington. We miss our second bathroom!

Quirky Living Note: Figuring out the carpark for our apartment is always an interesting exercise. Here the parking garage is closed on Sunday, so you get to learn all sorts of codes to get in and out and to open the doors. The classic however, was finding the elevator for the parking garage in a furniture store named the Nood (New Objects of Desire), fortunately open on Sunday. We were certainly surprised when the elevator opened and we were in the middle of the store. Their signs encourage you to become a Noodist.

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