After a lovely, homely couple of days at Sheila’s house during which I caught up on my long overdue Australia blogs and drank a literally endless supply of tea, Sheila set about showing me round this lovely part of the country.
Our first stop was Christchurch itself. I loved the city immediately, because it was instantly, gently familiar. I swear, if someone had blindfolded me and set me down in the middle of Christchurch, I’d have thought I was back in England. The river, overhung by weeping willows, meanders through the centre, occasionally punctuated by barges punted along by university students earning a bit of beer money.
Our main destination that day was the Arts Centre, a wonderful set-up with lots of stalls selling uniquely crafted, quirky products – jewellery, clothes, smellies, ornaments, all find their place amongst the stalls here. We wandered for a long time but - unusually – didn’t buy anything (I was still feeling the hangover from losing my card in Melbourne, and my new one wasn’t yet delivered). After stopping for a delicious lunch, we wandered into an artist’s shop. The rooms were full of her brightly coloured, warm paintings, including copies of one that had ended up with Bill Clinton. We spoke to her for a while – she was a friendly and interesting person – and, somehow, realised that all three of us had a shared admiration for the music of Alison Moyet. Us being us, this somehow transpired into a sing-song, where all three of us blasted out an acappella version of “Love Letters”. Not sure how it would have sounded to anyone else walking past, but to us, it was perfect harmony! Such good fun.
The next day was another shopping day, this time at the Westfield Shopping Centre in Riccarton, close to Sheila’s home. Again, nothing bought (although future purchases were eyed up by both of us), except a NZ Sim card for my phone. We rounded off the day there by going to the on-site cinema, to watch United 93, a very moving account of the plane that crashed on September 11th, in an attempt by the passengers to take control.
For our big sightseeing day, we collected Jimmy, Sheila’s dad, who’d be joining us. Our first stop was up in the hills surrounding Christchurch and the Canterbury Plains, from where we had spectacular views down over the city.
The views were nourishing and breathtaking at the same time, and we were definitely rewarded by the weather which, though cool, was sunny and clear. A perfect day for sightseeing! We then travelled on to a town on the other side of the hills, where we stopped for lunch, before continuing on to a beautiful, deserted little beach with the wonderful name of Taylor’s Mistake. Apparently, many moons ago, somebody (called, you’ve guessed it, Taylor) stopped there thinking it was somewhere else. I love that name. The beach was gorgeous, as were the surrounding hills.
At the end of the day, it was back to Jimmy and Sheila’s for yet another delicious meal, and many happy hours reminiscing and swapping stories. Wonderful.
The next day, I decided to catch the bus into Christchurch by myself, as Sheila was in work, explore a bit more, and catch up on a bit of shopping. The bus service in Christchurch is excellent and easy to navigate, so I got there with no problems at all. My first stop was a small jewellery shop, in which I’d spotted a lovely jade pendant when I’d last been in town. My heart sank at first as he had no more on display (at the sale price he’d displayed them at over the weekend), but he kindly agreed to give me another at the same price. It’s gorgeous, dark green jade, with the Maori symbol for ‘togetherness’, an everlasting twist.
I mooched around some more shops, and took in some more sights; sadly the museum was closed, but I took plenty of snaps of the rest of the city centre. And this is where things got a bit odd.
You see, that day, a meteor burst into the atmosphere just above Christchurch, causing a terrifyingly loud ‘boom’ to all those who heard it – all those in the area. It was heard for miles around. Apparently, many people thought there had been a plane crash. And me? Eyes-of-a-hawk, Ears-of-a-bat Hitchen? Heard nothing. Absolutely nothing. It happened around 3pm, when I was DEFINITELY still in town, and by my guesstimates, I would have been in the cathedral. So it’s odd, even inside the cathedral I would have heard it, and seen the windows rattle (it was that loud). The only thing I could possibly think was that it happened when I went to the loo, downstairs – no windows, you see, and underneath the solid cathedral floor.
So, where was I when this momentous event occured in a city I just happened to be in? I’ve got absolutely no idea.
Tags: New Zealand, Travel