We started the day with a huge, enormous breakfast. It was really good. While eating I saw a man walking his dog across the river (just outside the window) in Hagley Park; however, this was a bit odd. The guy’s jacket was the exact color of his dog. He was just ahead of his dog enough that the two appeared as one thing moving through the park: the mythical half horse, half man creature—a Centaur. Very striking, to say the least! We are in Hobbit land, after all.
I really like The George. They gave us a stuffed, fury little bear named George. I, of course, renamed him, “The George.” He prefers it that way.
From the spacious, well-lit, walk-in closet to the palatial bathroom with shower heads I wanted to rip off the shower wall and stuff in my baggage1, to the amazingly helpful concierge, this hotel gets service and luxurious accommodates right! I highly recommend The George if you plan a visit to Christchurch!
After the car was delivered to us for our south island pilgrimage, we walked into the city center to take pictures. I don’t know the actual percentage of city center that was destroyed by the earthquakes, but I would guess it is well over 50%. Much of what is still standing is unsafe/unused/fenced off and will be demolished in time.
I was curious about how quickly and cleverly one of shopping areas is recovering: Re:Start Mall. They brought in a bunch of shipping containers, modified 1 or 2 sides with glass so you can see inside, painted the containers bright colors, stacked them two high in places (generally for inventory on the second level), dropped in electricity and water, paved neatly around them, and combined them in groups of 2, 3, and 4 containers to create stores. Clever and cute.
And While I’m Thinking about It…
I saw my first, full-size, solar panel, outdoor “table top” that had weather-proof USB plugs all around it for charging your portable devices from the sun. Additionally, we all know that the pay phone booth is a thing of the past, an anachronism of a by gone era. Not so in New Zealand. Today I saw a pay phone booth with a pay phone that also provided users with 1GB of WiFi bandwidth inside the phone booth. Now, is that clever or what?!
Back to the Day Itself…
I came upon a blind man who was standing in front of the destroyed, and “deconsecrated” Christchurch Cathedral. He was singing (more like belting) old songs at the top of his voice. I asked him if I could record a movie of him singing Bonnie and Clyde and gave him a donation. He was very friendly and just sang his heart out! I found something intangibly special in that moment of the day. He was just such a happy, friendly fellow.
The Road Trip
After walking around city center, we headed out: bound for Akaroa. This was a short trip. The weather was very windy with dramatic, fast moving, low hanging clouds. The short trip (79km) often reminded me of the fjords of Norway. Beautiful… Expansive… Views…
Akaroa was first settled by the French. They wanted to claim New Zealand as French territory and were unaware that the British had already beaten them to it with a settlement elsewhere in New Zealand. In the end, the British won out, but Akaroa has deep ties to its French past.
Akaroa was an old volcano that blew its top, causing one of the walls of the caldera to collapse, and French Bay was born. When you look at the area from Google Maps, you can easily make this out.
Upon arrival, we checked in the hotel, which is right on the water—lovely views. This hotel is an historic site. Captain James Bruce bought the land in October, 1843, and built the Bruce Hotel here. On this site, in 1848, Kemps Deed was signed for the purchase of 8.1 million hectares of land from Ngai Tahu. I wonder how much it cost?! Our room is actually 6 rooms in what appears to be an old cottage on the beach. Radiant heat in the floors!
We strolled the small town along Beach Road from the south lighthouse (completed in 1879) to the tiny north library, had a late lunch (Remember, that breakfast was huge!), stopped for some snacks and a chat with the owner of Akaroa Supply Store, and called it a day. The waitress was very chatty. She worked a Princess cruise ship out of San Francisco before coming to work here in Akaroa. (I wonder what made that connection for her. Probably a boy…) She seemed frustrated by her lack of success at finding a husband. (What does our culture do to women in this world?!)
I’ve spent the evening downloading my photos onto my computer and a spare SSD drive. (I’m into redundancy.) I’ve tagged all 500+ of them, though I will not start post processing the photos themselves until I’m on my main machine at home. While I completely love my 11″ Air, these old eyes just need that large monitor.
Regrettably, as I mentioned earlier, this hotel doesn’t have WiFi at all. It doesn’t even have ethernet connected to the www. Yes, I am disconnected from the whole world. But, I hear the waves lapping on the beach–not a bad trade off.
I’m talking about the exactly perfect water pressure and ample, even water spread! ↩