It’s a little strange to be travelling without the caravan, so just for a change we are staying at an apartment block not far from the city centre. Our studio room is quite nice, with everything we need, including a big TV at the foot of the bed. But there is only one chair – is that too much to expect, 2 chairs for 2 people? There is a dining room/lounge area available further down the hall, so we have commandeered the dining table from time to time to set up our laptops. After all, there’s blogs to write, and blog surfing to do to keep us in touch. And joy of joys, a laundry just a few doors away on our floor, just in case I get the urge to do a load of laundry some day soon.
We caught a bus into the heart of the city, a free trip courtesy of our Gold Cards. Things had certainly changed since our last visit a couple of years ago, when much of the CBD was in ruins and fenced off. Many buildings have been demolished, some rebuilding has started, but we still noticed lots of damaged buildings held up with steel framing. The poor old Christchurch Cathedral looks a sorry sight indeed. It seems that it’s fate is still not settled, with quite a lot of locals wanting it to be restored rather than demolished and rebuilt.
Joining the overseas tourists we jumped aboard the Christchurch Tram for a guided tour from the museum to New Regent Street. These beautifully restored trams were built by the J C Brill Company in Philadelphia, USA. Our driver gave us a running commentary of all the interesting buildings we passed, some damaged by the earthquake which wrecked such havoc in February 2011, and some still in one piece.
The Christchurch Tram
We exited the tram at the stop closest to the Cardboard Cathedral – or the Transitional Cathedral as the church likes to call it. Designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, it is constructed of cardboard tubes, timber and steel, with a polished concrete floor and polycarbonate roof, and (surprisingly, we read) can seat up to 700 people.
Although we had seen pictures of this building, I was surprised at how light and airy it was inside. With no windows, the light filters through strips of the polycarbonate roof showing between the cardboard covered steel girders. It is a very peaceful place indeed, and we were happy to finally come for a visit. We were given permission to take photos, if we gave a donation, we were quite firmly told by one of the volunteers on duty. No problem, we were happy to donate, the church has a lot of fundraising to do.
Boarding the tram again, we continued with our tour, driving down New Regent Street where we saw Spanish style architecture painted in soft pastel colours. So pretty, and we had never discovered this street before on earlier visits
While others are coming down
We had an el fresco lunch in the trendy Restart Mall, made up of small businesses trading out of colourful painted shipping containers. The food shops were doing great business, and we joined the queue to order our lunch from Fritz’s Weiners (barbequed hot dog in a bread roll), then sat outside in the sunshine while we devoured it. Very tasty indeed.
After all this walking around Robin’s sore knee was giving him real problems, so we slowly made our way back to the car. Next stop was a visit to son Michael, the reason for our trip to Christchurch. He is celebrating a BIG birthday on Saturday – he can’t be that old, surely! I told him I’d probably embarrass him at his birthday bash by relating a few family secrets. By the look on his face he wasn’t too sure if I was joking or not!