16 May 2007
Christchurch, New Zealand
This is one of the places that I had always wanted to visit. Somewhere in the back of my mind, a seed was planted about the south island of New Zealand . Here I am!
The flight from Melbourne was uneventful and jumped into a shuttle bus to get me downtown. This is another city where the airport is relatively close to downtown and in a matter of minutes I was looking at this huge Cathedral that centers the town. My Quest Apartment is right next to the Cathedral and while the apartment is on the small side, it works!
After my obligatory work on my online courses, is et out to take in the town. Right next to the hotel is Cathedral Junction, the first stop on some beautifully restored wooden frame trams that circle the city. The trams date back to the 19202 and there are three different ones, all restored to a beauty that is better now than probably was when they were new. These things are gorgeous! The trams take a circular route around the city and only take about ten minutes to circle the entire town.
One tram was being used as a garden shed until it was restored and the woodwork, brass fittings, the handrails, seats have been beautifully restored. At this point I have journeyed on two of the them, one is a triple car, two enclosed sections with heat! One open section. The other is a double enclosed version and the third is a single enclosed tram.
What has happened to me, that I am a tram chaser? The ones in Melbourne are ugly metal versions while these thing ooze charm! Today, I hope to ride the third one-the single model! Three times around the city for the same money and the ticket throws in a Gondola ride up over the city. That journey comes today as it is bright, yet chilly and the views should be quite good. More later on that trip.
The town centers around the Anglican Church that dominates the Cathedral Square, a large open space in the center of town. Aside from the NZ tourist souvenir shops that ring the square, there are tons of Japanese and Korean tourist in town. The usual pack mobs with cameras all waiting for the Vuitton store to open each day! Therre are several English language schools around town so there are young Asians around as well.
The tram leaves from right next to the hotel and the first stop is the Cathedral Square, a minute walk away, but soon after leaving the cental business district, the tram travels to a section of town with art museums and galleries. Then to Christ College, dating back to the 1850s. If I didnt know better, I would swear this place was the setting for Chariots of Fire. Beautiful stone buildings that are so representative of schools in the U.K. The tram traverses parks, playing field, gardens, a Regent Street and the conductor and engineer are chatting away with patrons and the conductor rings a leather bell cord to signal to the driver (usually ten feet away) that the coast is clear to move ahead.
The town has many parks, gardens is has been called the closest thing to England, well I can believe that. The rest of the day was spent on walking the town and taking in the sights.
Last night, I had a Belgian treat, mussels with fries and Belgian beer. The mussels were those NZ green mussels that were quite good and one of the few meals of worth so far down under. I usually end up dining in ethnic restaurants-Chinese-Japanese as there is not, in my opinion a lot to be said for NZ cuisine? Oxymoron there?
I have piles of literature on the South Island that I have been pouring through to create a road map of my next twelve days. Thursday, I pick up another car and begin that journey! More later and in the meantime-journey well!
posted Tuesday May 2007