Category: Christchurch

Christchurch – shaken not stirred

Christchurch – shaken not stirred

Christchurch Otautahi was shaken, not stirred by its quakes and New Zealand’s ‘Garden City’ earned itself a hipper nickname after the earthquake’s devastation and there were T-shirts proclaiming ‘Christchurch – The City That Rocks!’ – I wonder if they are still around?

Christchurch thrives not just on pretty gardens and quake humour, but on sport too. Locals are often described as ‘one-eyed’ by fellow Kiwis, due to the unshakeable belief that the Crusaders rugby team is the best in the land if not the world!

It also has a great theatre scene including  – but not only – the Isaac Theatre Royal

New Regent Street
Isaac Theatre Royal
New buildings continue to grow

Canterbury considers its lamb the best in New Zealand and so, the world. Make up your own mind about the food on your Christchurch holiday and join local foodies at the many places that showcase local, seasonal food and well as all the ethnic food restaurants in the city.

Christchurch also has a great coffee scene and an interesting history too  … see my recent coffee blog here.

You could also head over-the-hill to sample fruity wines in the vineyards of the volcanic Banks Peninsula. While there, try the crumbly cheddar, Havarti and Gouda from 19th-century Barry’s Bay Cheese Factory which I’ve frequented since I was a child – many of my ancestors settled on the peninsula in the mid-1800s.

Sweet-toothed people can head to She Chocolat restaurant in Governors Bay where even the main courses are laced with the lovely brown stuff.

Enterprising Māori traded produce with early English settlers in Christchurch and their culture continues to make its mark on the city. Check out vibrant poi and haka performance and feast on a traditional hangi dinner at Ko Tane, a ‘living Maori village’ at Willowbank.

You don’t have to be a super-sleuth to find the old timber home of our local whodunit writer Dame Ngaio Marsh it’s nestled in the lower Cashmere Hills and is well signposted for those wanting a tour.

I’m in my hometown for the next ten days so follow me on Instagram (kiwitravelwriter) for photos and, of course, more blogs will follow soon.

My first few days I will be staying at the fabulous Classic Villa – opposite the Arts Centre.

 

This is where I’m staying next week: Classic Villa Christchurch

This is where I’m staying next week: Classic Villa Christchurch

The Classic Villa has five stars, is eco-friendly – and this beautiful bright pink villa has lived many lives! it’s also been awarded many awards.

From the home of an early minister of religion through to an old-folks home: its’ current reincarnation is a superb Italian style luxury B&B boutique accommodation. With 5 Stars, it’s also friendly, laid-back, efficient, and comfortable with the hosts serving sumptuous Mediterranean, or traditional breakfasts.

I once stayed here during a snowy spell!

Step outside and you’re in the centre of Christchurch’s cultural precinct including the Arts Centre, Art Gallery, Museum, Botanic Gardens, the Cathedral Square, historic tram, punting on the Avon River, the Hagley Golf Course, and of course, restaurants, cafes & inner-city shopping: see more on their website The Classic Villa

As you can imagine I’m looking forward to staying here again 🙂

Breakfast is set at the fabulous Classic VillaC
Coffee coffee coffee

Coffee coffee coffee

Coffee is apparently the most legally traded commodity in the world: The World Bank estimates there are some 500 million people who are involved with the coffee trade and I help support that trade!

New Zealand, until about 1940, was largely a tea drinking nation.  However, the first coffee shop in Christchurch was called the Coffee Palace and was in Market Square (now Victoria Square) in the mid-1800s.  Sadly, I can’t find the photo I once saw of it, beside the animal pound and a women’s prison in the early city beginings.

I knew I was going to have a long affair with coffee by the time I was 8 years old.  Staying with an auntie, while my father was in hospital, I was impressed with not only her shiny pink and black tile bathroom, but the smell of the liquid coffee and chicory that she brewed. That’s when I fell in love – and have remained in love-with fabulous coffee. And, like most New Zealanders (kiwis) I only drink in locally owned cafes with our regular double-shot drinks – not international or chain shops.

Chicory was grown for coffee in the Christchurch area from about the 1870s.  I was surprised to find instant coffee – which many Kiwi still drink -was started in Invercargill, New Zealand, when David Strang applied for a patent for his soluble coffee powder in 1889.

In the early 1960s, I frequented places such as the Swiss Chalet which was downstairs in Tramway Lane off Cathedral Square and also a coffee shop in Chancery Arcade, which was rumoured to serve, not only coffee but Irish coffee too!  In those days I drank espresso with a little hot milk and cinnamon sprinkled on top.  I not only thought but also knew, I was so sophisticated 😊  😊

With my first pay from Christchurch hospital – I worked in the pharmacy – I bought a coffee grinder. Until then our family had bought ground coffee every week.  Now I knew we would have even better coffee as it would be ground as we needed it for our percolator.  We bought our coffee on Cashel Street and I loved browsing and smelling, the bean bins every week to choose the coffee beans to take home.  Trevor Smith, the owner started roasting beans in the 1940s and I believe his son Bernard Smith still roasts coffee beans for cafés under the name Vivace Espresso.

the Cashel Street shop I bought my grinder and beans from

Some coffee history

In the early 1500s, Yemen created or found a new drink – made from the fruit of an Ethiopian plant.  It was quickly popular and by the 17th century in England, France and Holland the citizens loved it. The first English coffee houses opened in Oxford in 1651 and London in 1652

Interestingly Charles 2nd thought the coffee houses were dangerous to his reign and he sent spies to hear what was being said and, in 1675 he proclaimed coffee houses to have evil and dangerous effects and tried to suppress them.

In Paris (1689) the new Café de Procope made drinking coffee more popular there and in London, the Lloyds Coffee House became the powerful, international, insurance underwriter.

Apparently, over 800 different chemical ingredients have been identified, however, the basic principal of roasting raw green beans in a rotating drum over heat has remained consistent for a couple of hundred years.

green beans

Green coffee can be stored for ages, but roasted, it immediately begins to lose its flavour – the sooner after roasting and grinding it’s drunk the better -that’s why I drink an espresso.  Black coffee delivers the kick I like and the satisfying after-taste – the result of the crema – the mixture of gas oils, waters and fine grounds that sits on the top of an espresso. There is nowhere for a barista to hide any lack of skills with my ‘long black’.

The top coffee producers are Brazil, Vietnam, Columbia, Mexico, Indonesia, and the Ivory Coast while the top consumers (by tonnes) are USA, Brazil, Germany, Japan, France, and Italy. I think per capita New Zealand would rank highly!

Sadly, Charles 2nd was right, as poverty, violence, exploitation, environmental devastation, political oppression, and corruption have all been linked to coffee – and still are.  Thinking about my time in cafés, I guess they still can be hotbeds of gossip and intrigue.

 

Is ‘black’ or ‘dark’ tourism ethical?

Woman carrying firewood – Agra

Some people chase fire trucks, others follow typhoons to get the best photos, while war journalists or photographers, because of their job, are often in the most dangerous parts of the world, but what about tourists?

As soon as trouble breaks out (dengue fever, earthquake, tsunami, or civil unrest) it’s tourists, often with group travel arrangements, who cancel their bookings, while solo travellers, looking for the differences, the culture and the food of another place, who usually continue with their travel plans. Is it ethical to go to places who have had an earthquake or other disaster? What about places with chronic poverty?

Do you indulge in dark tourism? Defined as travelling to places historically associated with death, has been around for ages.  Concentration camps in Europe; the killing fields in Cambodia; the site of the twin towers in New York; and Pompeii in Italy, just to name a few.  I’ve been to many places that could be considered ‘dark’. The Anne Frank house in Amsterdam; the Colosseum in Rome; John Lennon’s garden in New York, the motel where Martin Luther King was assassinated.  I’ve also been to the 1692 site of my ancestors’ notoriety, Glen Coe in Scotland.

Of course, more recently I’ve been a constant visitor to my home city, Christchurch New Zealand, where 80% of the inner-city was lost due to quake damage.  (See more that I’ve about Christchurch – as it was two years ago  2016)

Black or dark tourism is nothing new but when it’s recent many people think it is insensitive to go – or for novelists to write about it, comedians to joke about it, or films to be made.   I believe it depends on the traveller’s attitude – are they chasing fire trucks or cyclones?

Think of slum tours in India, do they help the locals or not? It’s all about ethical travel – are you taking from a place, or are you adding something?  Are in locals involved?  Did they set up the tours with community involvement, or is it someone making money out of another person’s misery or are they interested and supportive?

As a travel writer I am often conflicted about taking photos – sadly, poverty and misery often produce fantastic photos.

In Christchurch tourism dried up just as if tap was turned off and the water stopped flowing.  I heard and read many articles and blogs and sadly, advice given by uniformed travel writers, tourist companies or information centres, advising people not to go, there is ‘nothing there’ or ‘you will only be in the way’.  In the beginning I know locals thought some other locals did ‘get in the way’ of clean-up work and considered  them ‘rubber-neckers’ by other locals who felt their privacy, and misery, were being invaded.

However, ethical travel may just another word for green travel which is about leaving money behind in a community so can dark tourism be ethical too?

Perhaps travel agents and guide books sell us too narrow a view of places to visit. Along with our tickets they, (and guide books, blogs or articles) often give us a list of sites we ‘must see’, activities ‘we must do’, or places we ‘must’ stay. It’s not for nothing the popular Lonely Planet books have been nicknamed the ‘travellers’ bible’ as many won’t eat, visit, stay or see anything or anywhere until the guide book is consulted.  Sadly examples of unintended consequences can be the six accommodation places are mentioned are full – while three, not in the book, and maybe better, are empty.

This is not a new problem. Read books written years ago and the same complaints are made by travellers and owners – some places over booked others empty. Tell friends you are going to Bali or Timbuktu, Christchurch or Botswana and immediately you will be told that you should have gone there two, five, ten, fifty years ago, ‘before it was discovered’, or in Christchurch, New Zealand’s case, ‘before the earthquakes’.

So, what can we travellers do? Well, I don’t know what you will do, but what I do is travel slowly, travel cheaply, support local businesses and use their home-grown products whenever I can – and this is even more needed after a disaster whether it’s man-made or a so-called act of God.

I asked on Facebook for people’s opinion about disaster, or dark tourism. One person sent me a link to a blog she’d recently listened to and believe its well worth giving you the link too – BBC World Service: The Why Factor.  In it the reporter visited Auschwitz and the site of the Grenfell Towers disastrous fire in London.  I’ve not been to either – and chose while I was in Poland not to visit Auschwitz.  If I was in London I would also not visit the Grenfell Towers – I don’t need to be at either site to know how appalling the events were.  Others of course will disagree with me.

My father was a fireman in Christchurch New Zealand when they had the worst fire disaster in our history – Ballantynes, 1947.  He was so distressed about attending the fire and having to recover bodies, that our family were forbidden to give the store any patronage – I have broken this rule two or maybe three times.

The Christchurch earthquakes 20101/11 have produced things that also could be considered dark tourism.  The Memorial Gardens at the site of the highest number of deaths, a memorial wall on the banks of the River Avon, and a museum exhibition – which for me triggered the smells of dust that hung in the air – and up my nose – for ages.

Tram outside Arts Centre

The owner of Beadz Unlimited (one of the many shops damaged inside the Christchurch Art Centre – and now in the historic New Regent Street) posted on my Facebook page  where I was asking about dark tourism said ‘actually we desperately needed people to come and put money into the community because we were all hunkered down just trying to survive.  It was a necessary evil.’  She did not clarify what was ‘evil ‘.

In the UK there is an Institute for dark tourism research and they have studied many facets of this topic if you want to delve into it! Wikipedia says “Scholars in this interdisciplinary field have examined many aspects. Lennon and Foley expanded their original idea [1] in their first book, deploring that “tact and taste do not prevail over economic considerations” and that the “blame for transgressions cannot lie solely on the shoulders of the proprietors, but also upon those of the tourists, for without their demand there would be no need to supply”.

New Zealand heritage has website and touring map  for some war sites in the Waikato region and its hoping to eventually have one for all NZ land wars and other fighting – perhaps some will consider this ‘black tourism’ too

What are your thoughts. Do you believe you are an ethical traveller – and why? And, do you indulge in dark tourism?  What black tourism spots have you been to –  after all it seems we all do that at some level.

I’d really love to start a conversation about all this in the topics – so before you board your next flight, or bus or train, will you please join in and add your opinion ?

 

The Godwits have landed!

The very first feathered signs of spring arriving have landed in my old home city. Along with the daffodils, the godwits have landed in Christchurch (New Zealand) – arriving from the Alaskan Arctic Tundra where they raise their young.

Christchurch (and a few other places in New Zealand) is where they escape the Alaskan winter and have a summer holiday while feeding up large, building up their weight and strength before heading north again to reproduce.

godwits coming into land on the beach side the Avon-Heathcote estuary

So, in a few months, this annual, epic journey by some 80-thousand Eastern Bar-tailed godwits will migrate back to their breeding grounds.

the sand dunes are alive with bird watchers saying farewell

Their journey – of 11,500 kilometres – usually takes about six days! Its nonstop when they head south while heading north they have a few stopovers in Asia

Christchurch locals farewell them from our shores and when they return the bells peal out to welcome them back to their summer feeding grounds here on the Ihutai/Avon-Heathcote estuary such a short distance the centre of our city.

Rutherford – local boy celebrated in Christchurch’s Arts Centre

Rutherford – local boy celebrated in Christchurch’s Arts Centre

As a pioneer of his time, it’s only fitting that cutting-edge technology is used to tell his story, said Christchurch Arts Centre CEO, André Lovatt. “We’ve carefully kept the beautiful heritage features but have injected the space with new energy by using state-of-the-art storytelling techniques that will appeal to people of all ages.

webuse rutherfords den chch 2016 (26)

The original Lecture Theatre is exactly as it was – graffiti and all – which adults will love as this was how the ‘den’ was until the quake shook Christchurch (2010) and many buildings have had to be strengthened. The Arts Centre has had major work done too. It was great to sit in the old lecture theatre just as I, and my kids, have done for years. Well, it’s the same . . .  until the digital screen at the front starts playing a movie commissioned by the Arts Centre. A great example of the saying ‘same same but different.’

I spot the host of the 5 star Classic Villa checking out the den too
I spot the host – from the across the road, 5 star, Classic Villa checking out the den too

webuse rutherfords den chch 2016 (12)

Much of what Rutherford discovered all this years ago, in what was really an old cloakroom, led to the technology of today and now visitors can learn about the old with the new, in fun and exciting ways.

For more than a century, the Arts Centre site was home to Canterbury College and from 1890 one of its students was Rutherford. He was a regular Kiwi who became known as the father of nuclear physics and in 1908 was awarded the Nobel Prize in ChemistrySee more about the Den here

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the kiwitravelwriter and Sam Mahon's FOOL
The kiwitravelwriter with Sam Mahon’s FOOL Feb 2016

See more I’ve written about the Den here http://wp.me/pc3Zw-382

 

 

 

Hot air ballooning makes me fall in love

hot air balloon over villageI’m reposting this as this is a great way to see the Canterbury Plains and Southern Alps. It was originally printed in the Christchurch Press – I hope you enjoy it.

Kiwi Travel Writer talks food, travel, and tips

“When the wind blows in your face, something different is about to happen,” we’re told.It’s true and when the wind blows on our faces we change direction during the best morning I’ve had for ages. Infact it is so good I’m in love – in love with hot air ballooning. It is such fun even clichés fail me.

At 4 30am I was woken with a phone call. “It’s on, the weather is perfect, and your transport will be at your door in 20 minutes.It takes an hour to reach Methven, (1025 ft above sea level) home of Aoraki Balloon Safaris and close to Mt Hutt ski fields – and also on the Lord of the Rings route, a nearly a New Zealand-long-trail.Meeting with others who have driven from Christchurch or stayed overnight, we’re given overshoes, have our names and weights recorded and divided into two…

View original post 1,013 more words

Lord Rutherford: father of nuclear physics

Scientific discovery and hands-on experimentation takes centre stage at the state-of-the-art Rutherford’s Den in the Arts Centre, Christchurch, where New Zealand scientist Ernest, Lord Rutherford started his scientific career in these very rooms.

A million dollars in $NZ100 bills
A million dollars in $NZ100 bills

Rutherford, the moustached man on the $NZ100 note, discovered what the inside of an atom looks like, found out about radioactivity, discovered and named alpha and beta particles, and was the first scientist to change one element into another. As a pioneer of his time, it’s only fitting that cutting-edge technology is being used to tell his story, says Arts Centre CEO André Lovatt.

“We’ve carefully kept the beautiful heritage features but have injected the space with new energy by using state-of-the-art storytelling techniques that will appeal to people of all ages.

“You can literally step inside an exhibition that illustrates what atoms are, or use your own movements to learn about renewable energy sources. In the actual space where Rutherford conducted his research on radio waves, there’s a projection of him that includes original voice recordings – making you feel as though you’re in the same room as him.”

A bad selfie of me with Andre Lovat
A bad selfie of me with Andre Lovat

The original Lecture Theatre is exactly as it was – graffiti and all – until the digital screen at the front starts playing a movie that was commissioned by the Arts Centre.

“So much of what Rutherford discovered led to the technology we enjoy today and we want visitors to learn about this in fun and exciting ways. We want it to be a place where people of all backgrounds are inspired to believe that everyone has the potential to achieve greatness.”

Before the earthquakes, Rutherford’s Den was popular with locals, tourists and schools that participated in its curriculum-linked education programme and the popular education sessions are now once again being offered on-site at the Arts Centre. Bookings, and further information can be found on www.rutherfordsden.org.nz

Rutherford’s Den is located in the Arts Centre’s historic Clock Tower building at 2 Worcester Boulevard, adjacent to the Great Hall that re-opened in June.

For more than a century, the Arts Centre site was home to Canterbury College and from 1890 one of its students was Rutherford. He was a regular Kiwi who became known as the father of nuclear physics and in 1908 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

The reopening of Rutherford’s Den is a significant milestone in the staged re-opening of the Arts Centre and I will post more about the new-look den next week.

In spring the adjacent North Quadrangle and Library will be accessible once again, along with a number of new cafés and food outlets. By the end of 2016, almost half the site will again be open to the public.

Passing The Arts Centre
Tram passing the Arts Centre

A Sunday afternoon in Christchurch

A few images from a lovely afternoon in Christchurch, New Zealand. (taken on my phone)

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Christchurch Art Gallery reflects me and old villas
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Hard to see, but a few godwits feed after recently arriving for their summer feed fest (from Alaska)
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Yellow wattle and blue skies at The Columbo shopping centre
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the award-winning cafe Hello Sunday in an old church. Beside The Columbo

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Entrance to Rutherford’s Den. Christchurch Arts Centre

 

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Christchurch Art Gallery – a must visit

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Breakfree, WORD, and a Piano!

20160130_104623Staying in this ever-changing, emerging city is, for me, best done by having accommodation in the city centre, so thought I’d tell you about the hotel I was hosted in earlier this year. Breakfree on Cashel (Street) impressed me as soon as I arrived as, the electric jug was easily able to be inserted under a tap for filling: why is this simple thing so rare around the world!20160130_100324

See more I wrote about this hotel which I can recommend … and not because they hosted me for two or three days!

More and more is opening in post-quake-five-years-on Christchurch and I’m excited to be going down again in a couple of weeks – this time for the WORD Writers and Readers Festival in the newly opened The Piano Centre for Music and the Arts( official opening in Sept) at the end of New Regent St and directly behind The Isaac Theatre Royal

Isaac Theatre Royal
Isaac Theatre Royal
The Piano as it was in February 2016
The Piano as it was in February 2016