Cheryll's Writing Journal

Musings, rants and ravings, plus gems of insight nobody wants to hear now that I've finally got them. Also neat stuff I found on the 'Net when I should have been updating this blog....

Monday, January 03, 2011

Christchurch, New Zealand

Jet lag is a funny thing: it's not being sleepy at inappropriate times so much as it is a general fuzziness in mental and physical functioning.  Woke up bright eyed and ready to 3 am. Went back to sleep and then was groggy all day, even with a nap later. Here's the view from our bedroom window...

None of that sleep confusion dampened our enthusiasm for the city, however. We arrived on Labor Day, October 24 and planned to leave on the 27 via the alpine tourist train over to the west coast, so had time to deal with jet lag and see as many of the sights as time and body would allow.

Easy to do, too, as Christchurch has a very nice bus system, which is automated, computerized and staffed by genial people.  At least it was so all the days we were there.
See? At all the bus stops, there is this little blue box. Press the button for your bus number and a little light on the left tells you how long before your bus will arrive at that stop. How cool is that?! A bus pass offers all sorts of discounts and saves time figuring out and finding change, as the 'cash' box next to the driver simply reads the pass when you set it on top.  Makes loading a lot of passengers a snap.

And there were often a lot of passengers, since one of the campuses of Canterbury University was down Deans Avenue from us, and three high schools (called colleges, there) were a few blocks the other way.
Typical walking downtown. That is one of the golden trees, not Fall, LOL.  There are also Pink trees and yellow trees.  And I'm not talking subtle pink; they are hot pink! The leaves gradually darken to maroon tinged green, I'm told.  But the bright butter yellow trees stay that color.

You may remember that a few days after we made our reservations, Christchurch suffered a huge earthquake, which pretty well trashed the older section of downtown. The area is full of century old unreinforced masonry buildings, mostly only 1-3 stories tall. We were expecting to see extensive evidence of the damage, and we did see some buildings with the inspection tags on shop windows. All in all, if we hadn't known about the quake, we might simply have thought these historical buildings were just being repaired or updated.
For example, the steeple of an historic church in the middle of downtown looks good as new.  You may remember that this toppled steeple was an iconic photo of the damage, but upon closer inspection, we couldn't even see any cracks or dents in the ground.

At least, that is what it looked like from the buses. After we had a chance to walk around a bit, we did find some areas where things were not so good, nearly 2 months after the quake. Chinatown was still more than half empty, as buildings were too unsafe for shops to reopen, although most of the severely damaged buildings we saw pictures of on the Internet were nowhere to be found. Only a few vacant lots suggested that maybe cleanup had been quick and thorough.

Manchester Road (another iconic photo) is not downtown, per se, but had the oldest pub (also much photoed) on one corner.  Still trashed beyond repair, but not torn down, just cleaned up around the street.  Interestingly, kitty corner across the street was a two story auto parts store, all glass and steel, ala 1950s, which didn't appear to have a mark on it.  Nobody took pictures of that to post on the 'Net!

We visited a shopping mall about three quarters of a mile down Riccarton Road from our motel, and went grocery shopping in the Pac-n-Save.
Noticed that many of the fruits and veggies came from California! Prices were a bit shocking, even when allowing for NZ$1 being about US$.75. Gas prices were also breath taking:
The prices are in cents, and by the liter, so that was about US$6/gallon.  One interesting thing was that the price never changed the whole 17 days we were in country.  Here in Ann Arbor they change every day, sometimes more than once!

Next: Hagley Park!



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