This Is Only The First Day!

Trip Start Jan 15, 2011
Trip End Mar 19, 2011

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ten hours of sleep later, we awoke in room of pink. We'd booked our first two nights stay at Hotel So in the town center of Christchurch. A week before our departure, however, we got an email telling us Hotel So was no more - it was now the All Seasons Hotel. Fine with us. Nothing had changed about our accommodations except for the name. Well, not exactly. The front door had been changed, yes, but the hotel information booklet and free tea and sugar bags – all labeled Hotel So. Oops. I guess the re-branding hadn’t been fully rolled out yet.

This hotel was unique. It was the cheapest one we could find, yet it didn’t look cheap. On the contrary, it was rather sleek and hip, with curved walls and styled décor. Each floor even had its own assigned shape and florescent color. However, it was easy to see the telltale signs of cutting corners wherever you looked. We had to pay for parking, get our own replacement linens and supplies, and there was always a strange stench that greeted us whenever we arrived on our floor (which happened to be the pink triangle floor – appropriate, no?). Our room was a studio, essentially, as the bathroom was nothing more than a glass enclosed egg in the corner. You want to take a shower? You want to go the bathroom? Well I hope you know your roommate intimately, because it certainly won’t be a private experience.

Yes, it wasn’t the Ritz Carlton, but Katie and I didn’t care. For one, we’ve never cared about such things and are always happy to simply have clean sheets and a pillow. For two, we were in New Zealand! Our room was awesome as far as we were concerned. We loved it and all its quirks.

We headed out into Christchurch for the first time around 7 A.M. It was slightly overcast, but pleasant outside. The air was clean and clear and the streets were very quiet. We were indescribably happy.

Just a couple blocks away was the Christchurch Cathedral towering within the town square. Before we ventured inside we ate some breakfast - a plain bagel with an egg, bacon, and tomato relish (FYI – bacon here means ham, and tomato relish isn’t half bad). The interior of the cathedral was breathtaking, and despite the recent earthquakes plaguing Christchurch there wasn’t visible damage. There was some scaffolding at the front interior, but that looked more for restoration than repair. We strolled through the church admiring some art exhibits and the tiles along the. Then I became enamored with a beautiful green pounamu cabinet that sat at the very front of the church behind the altar. Pounamu is a unique New Zealand stone; their version of jade. It's used in Maori art and weapons frequently, and a local artist designed and carved this cabinet specifically for the church. It was back lit, giving off a stunning glow.

We then paid to go up, up, up the church spire to take in a view of the city. We caught a view of the church bells resting motionless until their next ring. From above we could see the entire square below and all the way down the road to the Christchurch Botanic Garden: Our next stop.

One of the first things we saw once we reached the gardens was a charming vegetable, herb, and fruit garden growing to the side of a restaurant. It was truly lovely, with massive flowers alongside apple and pear trees manipulated to grow in the form of a fence and arbor. Then we followed the path along the river where we encountered many-a-duck, including an adorable baby duck with one shriveled little leg. I chatted with it before it hobbled away. We wished it well in life. The rain started drizzling at this point, forcing us to get our our raincoats (always be prepared). At first we withstood the meager drops, but once it started pouring we hastened our way into the Christchurch Art Gallery.

At the Gallery we walked around with our coats on our shoulders so they could dry out. Meanwhile we were treated to some modern art, Maori art, and classical pieces as well. My personal favorite was a painting by George Dunlop Leslie created in 1904 called "In The Wizard's Garden." A beautiful woman in red, a shadowy figure at the garden wall, and cutting shears by the water - could the symbolism be any clearer? Hmmm? You don't get it? Well I'm not going to explain it to you...

We stopped by the cathedral again to catch a few minutes of a free organ recital and then carried on back to our hotel room where we…wait for it…RE-packed our bags! That’s right, my friends. We packed one way for our flight to New Zealand but had to pack another way for our trip through the country. What? Don’t look at me that way! It makes sense. Trust me.

After unpacking/packing we did some grocery shopping for our upcoming camping and stays at hostels. One thing we were stoked to find were apricot/chocolate Bumper Bars!!! We had bought one earlier in the day at a convenience store and instantly fell in love. Perfect for hiking and oh-so-delicious. Once the shopping was over we headed over to a restaurant we’d read about called Dux De Lux. They have their own brewery, and we were determined to try their acclaimed ginger beer. We weren’t disappointed. As many of you probably know, I’m not much of a drinker, and I’m even less enthusiastic about beer specifically. But my God… It was the best beer I’ve ever had. Delicious! Along side the ginger beer we split a meal of seafood chowder and Akaroa salmon cooked in a ginger soy glaze. Be still my beating heart! It was hands down one of the best meals I’ve ever had. The salmon melted in your mouth and the chowder was chalk full of fresh chunks of fish and clams. I’m getting hungry just writing about it.

On the way back through the heart of the city, the sun finally began its descent around 9 P.M., just as the Christchurch Cathedral Society of Bell Ringers practiced their synchronicity. I’m not joking! They rang the tower bells in descending order, starting out slow and building to a fevered pitch where they often lost their flow. Then they’d start all over again. We were quite enjoying their song.

We stole a few more photos as the light bloomed and wilted against the cathedral spire, and then we headed home. A lovely end to a lovely day.

UPDATE! Alice and Katie are now embarking on a Round the World trip!
Visit to follow along on their continuing

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sawah on

oooo church bells sounds beyond epic, and obvs i want to now follow in your eating footsteps. <3

marco3x on

Sign me up. I've been trying to figure out a way to escape this wacko country, and leave it to the slugs. When I checked with the NZ authorities, they said 'no way' unless I was going to invest in NZ, or had a family member who was citizen. Do me a favor? If you run into any American expats and they're tossing back some ginger beers, ask them I how they did it. Thanks.

Gregs on

I'm glad the experience with those ducks was less traumatic than your last one...
Loving your entries!!

James on

Don't forget to try those meat pies and fish n chips!!

Daniel on

Love following your adventure girlz! Thanks for sharing the wonderful photos!

DJ on

Love the blog. You crack me up! Some great photos, too...the cathedral,, the Stunning Buns.

Lesia on

OMG, I want to try this ginger beer you speak of. That sounds delicious!

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