Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Round The World 2004

A little piece of England?

The guide books had led me to expect exactly that, but was it true? I would soon find out, for I would be spending today getting to know this "most English of cities".

I rose at about 0730 and a glance out through the curtains confirmed that it looked like being another perfect day, weather-wise. I ate breakfast in the hotel and, since it was my first full day here and I did not yet feel completely orientated, I made use of the complimentary shuttle to the city centre. It dropped me in Cathedral Square at about 1000 and I was ready to start seeing what Christchurch had to offer.

I started with the cathedral itself. While it is undeniably a point of interest, I have to say I didn't find it a major draw. I was already beginning to think that those guide book comparisons were going to prove unhelpful, for here I was comparing Christchurch Cathedral with the great English cathedrals and deciding that it didn't quite come into the same league. I would probably never have made the comparison, had I not been prompted by the guide books. Next I checked out the vintage tram service that runs a loop through the central area, but decided that it was too early to resort to being driven around again. In the event I never would sample it, for I discovered that, unlike Melbourne's City Circle, which covers a very sizeable area, the Christchurch service only covers a few blocks. And unlike Melbourne's service, this one costs a steep NZD12.50, albeit for a 2-day ticket. But how many times would you want to go round the same few blocks?

Before long, I had walked one side of the tram route to the beautiful Botanic Gardens, a wonderful asset to the city and a peaceful haven in which to find a quiet spot and settle down for a read in the sunshine. I did exactly that - twice, actually

Eventually I walked back to the central area, looking in briefly on a college green that reminded me somewhat of the colleges dotted around the centre of Cambridge and which form part of that city's famous university. Then I saw something that reminded me even more of Cambridge : punting on the river, in this case the Avon rather than the Cam. I found a place where I could have a late lunch in the sun and had a bowl of Crayfish Bisque accompanied by garlic bread. As I was having lunch, a small and very orderly demonstration of Greens moved past. The chants alternated between "Anti-Bush, Anti-Blair, And we walk Everywhere" and "1-2-3-4, We don't want this bloody war!" I double-checked that second one ... yes, it was indeed in the present tense. Had I missed out on some significant development in world events? I suspected not, and to be completely fair, I suppose many would argue that Iraq is not currently in a state of peace.

 I slowly made my way back to the hotel, which is some way out of the central business district. On getting back to my stifling room (no air-con!), I opened the window and the balcony door and promptly fell asleep on top of the bed. As sometimes happens with these daytime sleeps, I didn't feel all that great when I came to and resolved to take it easy for what remained of the day.

Going back to the "most English of cities" line, my conclusion was that Christchurch is a beautiful city that is well worth seeing, but it is a place that should be judged purely on its own merits. While there are some obvious examples of strong English influence, I feel that this angle can easily be overdone and is ultimately not that helpful.

Saturday 20 Mar

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