June 17, 2008

Our first stop – Christchurch

Christchurch is often likened to England by most visitors, with tree-filled parks, meandering streams and old stone buildings. It is a city steeped in colonial heritage, just as its founders had intended. There seems to be a fine balance between metropolitan bustle and tranquility, making it a great place to live for those who appreciate the small town lifestyle despite being a relatively big city.

We started our exploration of the city from Cathedral Square, named after the building that dominates it. Built from 1864 – 1904, there are many interesting memorials inside the Cathedral and a panoramic view of Christchurch can be seen from its tower. Besides the Cathedral is the Citizens War Memorial and on the other side is the Chalice, the 18m high sculpture created to celebrate the new millennium and the 150th anniversary of the founding of Christchurch and Canterbury. The statue of John Robert Godley, the founder of Canterbury, faced the main Cathedral entrance.

The Cathedral, the Chalice and the Citizens War Memorial

Cathedral Square

Beautiful stained glass windows, Maori Tukutuku craft panel and wall tiles

Walking towards the tranquil Avon River that meanders through the city, we passed by the statue of the Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott, sculpted from Carrara marble by his wife Kathleen in 1917. A short distance away was the Bridge of Rememberance, standing at the end of City Mall, a pedestrian shopping precinct.

Statue of Robert Falcon Scott and Bridge of Rememberance

A pleasant walk along the Avon River bank, beneath wonderful old trees, took us to the Antigua Street Boatsheds, the sole survivor of several boating sheds that once stood on the banks of the river. The original Maori name for the Avon was O-Takaoro (place of play). The river was a valuable ‘mahinga kai’ (food gathering) source for local Maori ‘iwi’ (tribes).

The beautiful bank of the Avon River

Look at how humongous tree dwarfed hubby and mum!

From the boatshed, we headed to the Botanic Gardens, comprising 30 riverside hectares planted with >10,000 species of plants. Opposite were the stone Gothic Revival buildings of the former University of Canterbury, now The Arts Centre.

The colourful plants in the Botanic Gardens

Housed in one of New Zealand’s finest historic building, the main entrance of the Canterbury Museum was adjacent to the main entrance of the Botanic Gardens. A trip to the museum is a journey through the stories of New Zealand’s first people, the tangata whenua, the moa-hunters Maori and early European settlers. Other highlights included spectacular fossils, beautifully fashioned Maori treasures, decorative arts and early New Zealand European costumes, the Bird Hall and the world’s most important collection of Antarctic items from the heroic era of exploration. Christchurch Street is a replica of a Victorian Street complete with authentic shops crammed full of fantastic period items.

A short walk away was the Christ’s College, one of the city’s earliest schools, which contains school buildings dating from 1863. The city’s founders used the Eton College, a traditional boys’ college in England, as the model for Christ’s College. Durham Street Methodist was the city’s oldest stone church. Opposite the church are the city’s court buildings, which include a number of heritage buildings and are part of the site of Puari, an early Maori settlement. The Canterbury Provincial Council Building, the only purpose-built provincial buildings still in existence in New Zealand, was a fine example of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture.

The beautiful compounds of Christ's College

Clockwise from top left: The Arts Centre, Canterbury Museum, Canterbury Provincial Council Building, Durham Street Methodist

Our last stop was the beautifully designed open spaces of the Victoria Square, a trading site for early Maori and once the commercial heart of Christchurch. The square featured statues of Queen Victoria and Captain Cook, the Bowker Fountain, the oldest of the city’s iron bridges and a stone ramp leading down the river which was once used for watering horses.


KittyCat said...

You went to New Zealand for a business trip? Can I work for your organization please? ;-)

A Mom's Diary said...

Kittycat, I think being a SAHM is still better leh.