Weekend in Christchurch

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I swear, it’s not a green screen backdrop.

At the beginning of the month, I finally got to visit my friends Chelsea and Tom in Christchurch, who I met on the TopDeck tour in Europe. From the moment my plane landed until they dropped me back at the airport at the end of the weekend, these two made sure our time was packed with fun, interesting activities, awesome food, and great company. With the added bonus of the weather cooperating quite well for Fall, I couldn’t have asked for a better visit.

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Not your average landing view from the plane…!

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The Port Hills.

After picking my jaw up from my window seat on the plane after that view, my new (used) phone went black. To make a long story short, when it didn’t come back to life the rest of the day, I was trying not to let another incident of phone drama (after months of drama with various phones) ruin my weekend. So, like a tourist with first world problems, I pulled out my iPad to capture shots like the one above as Chelsea drove us through the stunning Port Hills, past brave mountain bikers riding the steep, narrow paths, and past remaining damage from the disastrous fires a couple months ago.

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The old cathedral, destroyed in the earthquakes.

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New, temporary cathedral.

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Building under construction, with water on the site?

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Regent Street

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Mural in the CBD.

The devastating earthquakes in Christchurch in 2011 tragically took nearly 200 lives and destroyed much of the city as it was known. Driving through the CBD, Chelsea weaved through blocks, pointing out where high rises used to be, where restaurants and bars no longer were, explaining why the roads were uneven and filled with potholes, and I coudn’t fathom it. I kept trying to envision Milwaukee, the city I grew up near, as if it suddenly didn’t have the same familiar buildings, the same landmarks, the same establishments where high school stories took place–and I couldn’t.

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Botanical Gardens

But as I heard over and over throughout the weekend, and observed in Christchurch, the city’s efforts to rebuild have been constant and positive.

. . .

Before lunch, Chelsea and I roamed through the Botanical Gardens and enjoyed the beautiful, sunny autumn day.

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The sweet view from my friends’ yard. Check out the snow-capped mountains!

After some fun on the farm where Chelsea and Tom live, slinging on gumboots and helping fence in the horses and herd the sheep (and checking on the chickens), we did the Washpen Falls hike–phone-less, so the ancient brochures below will have to suffice. 🙂 Grabbing walking sticks available at the start of the trail, I was so grateful to have them as we trekked through some seriously muddy (and steep) spots, but the scenery was out of this world. Stunning plant life, tall trees, waterfalls, streams, lookout points…the works. I wish I had photos, but at the same time, I don’t, because the pictures in my mind are much better.

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The next day, we hopped in the car and headed to the Peninsula, stopping at Pigeon Bay to crash with Tom’s grandparents. Once again, the views did not let me down.

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Grandparents’ ‘front yard.’ No joke.

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Christmas tree. 🙂

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I slept as snug as a bug in a rug. 🙂

Our last day together, Tom and Chelsea took me to Akaroa, the popular destination on the Peninsula. After a coffee, we strolled around the harbor.

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Next up was a wee hike called Children’s Walkway, with a sculpture garden, followed  by an outside lunch (while it was still warm enough to do so).

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Safari! Just kidding. Those giraffes are sculptures.

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Super intricately put-together rhino.

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The feijoa is a gem of a fruit I’d never had before New Zealand. It’s South American and takes like sorbet…and tastes even better as cider.

Last but not least, we toured the Giant’s House, a mosaic garden made by the artist who lives there, Josie Martin. This place is UNREAL. The mosaic creations are intricate, clever, and fill the entire yard, which is multi-level on the hilled property. And it’s not just sculptures–everything is made from mosaics, from the footpaths to the stairs to the outside furniture.

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Self-portrait (er, self-sculpture?) of the artist.

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The front of the Giant’s House. And an egg.

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I could hardly wrap my brain around this place. All this detailed work, over so many years–and she’s still adding on to her creations. It was truly impressive to see in person.

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Spot the cat? One of many cat creations on the property. 😺

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The kiwi bird. 🙂

By the end of the weekend, I was so glad my phone had come back to life so I could capture all of the amazing things I got to see around the Canterbury region. Aside from taking pictures, it was so nice to be in good company, with friends and their families, not glued to our phones, chatting in front of fireplaces–off the grid.

A million thanks to Chelsea and Tom for making my time in Christchurch so spectacular!

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