I’m lucky enough to have family and friends all across the globe. So when my friend in New Zealand gave me an invite to her wedding in Christchurch I couldn’t turn it down. Working in a school I had to ask for extra holidays at February so I could go which my school accepted and that was it. I was on my way!
I flew out from Manchester airport one Sunday evening on an Etihad 777 ready for my 2 days, 4 continents, 5 countries and 28 hours on an aeroplane. My trip would take me to Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Brisbane and finally Christchurch.
I managed to get a flight with an 8 hour layover in Brisbane where I could visit family friends who gave me a whistle stop tour of the city before dropping me back off at the airport. I fell in love with Brisbane that day and I certainly believe I will be back to live there one day.
Another reason I chose to have that 8 hour layover was the arrival time into Christchurch. I arrived at Midnight which meant I can call family and friends tell them I have arrived and finally collapse on a bed and fall asleep already on NZ time.
My first day I was up early (my football team were playing so I needed to FaceTime my football family) and ready to go. That evening my friend had booked us tickets to watch the Foo Fighters. She was working in Christchurch city centre so I had a wonder around Riccarton for some food shopping then straight into the city to meet my friend for lunch. On my way in I grabbed some of the tourist information leaflets and began to plan my 10 days with a cup of coffee. After having planned my 10 days and a nap it was time for the Foo Fighters. It was the first time I had seen them and I couldn’t believe how INCREDIBLE they were. The only thing better than them was the amazing sunset which looked epic! It was a great night and was amazing to catch up with my friend while she tried to hide her morning sickness!
The next morning I was up early with my friend as she went to work. From there I decided to have a walk around Hagley park and it’s botanical gardens… 3 hours later and I’d made my way around the gardens alone. This park is HUGE – Botanical gardens, museum, school, 18 hole golf course, full cricket ground, many rugby and football pitches, petanc and rowing clubs, plus a river and 2 boating lakes – yeah it’s huge and incredibly beautiful, but my feet hurt so back to the hotel I went to for a nap and to rest my feet as well as plan what day I was going to do everything on.
That evening I thought I would have a wonder around the shopping mall in Riccarton and grab something to eat on Rotherham street. Being a Rotherham lass this was a must go to for me! Since most of Christchurch was destroyed during the 2011 earthquake Riccarton has become the new city centre with hip bars and restaurants. I chose the sports bar as my home so I could catch up on the football at home and learn about cricket as I was off to a cricket match later in the week.
My first full day in Christchurch I decided to get one of the furthest away places done. The Christchurch Gondola. This was a cable car that takes tourist up to the top of one of the “hills” – yeah in New Zealand this was a hill, I would call it a mountain – for the best views of the city and down into the beautiful blue sea of the Whakaraupo harbour. I would definitely put this on my list if visiting Christchurch for a few days. The view is to die for. There I had some lunch whilst enjoying the view and had a little walk along the edge of the mountains before I returned back to Christchurch to gab a bite of tea in the city centre.
Whilst back in the city centre I decided to have a look around the cardboard cathedral which is astonishingly beautiful. From there I paid my respects to the 144 chairs memorial for those that lost their life in the earthquake. This is a beautiful exhibit which is looked after by the community incredibly well. I wondered down the now derelict streets and noticed the signs on the windows which still remains from the clean up crew. I was amazed to find many different countries who had helped in the search for those missing.
It was now time for lunch and a bit of souvenirs shopping so my stop was the Container Mall which I loved and became my go to place for food. From gyros to burgers to a good old cup of Yorkshire tea it won my heart. I headed back to the hotel and decided I was shattered so it was tea in the hotel and an early night as tomorrow was going to be a long one.
On the third day I was off to watch England v Scotland in the ICC cricket World Cup. I didn’t know anyone at all when I bought the tickets but a friend of a friend was going so we decided to meet up. He on his travels around watching the cricket had met 3 UK teachers living in Vietnam and the 5 of us spent the day watching cricket and drinking far too much cider and beer. It’s fair to say I don’t remember much from the day other than England won… I think.
The day after I had planned to get up early and go to Sumner but my hangover had other ideas. So when I felt better I got up and rushed to my surfing lesson. For February the Pacific was freezing! The coldest day I had had while I was there. I was frozen to the core but the lesson from my friends friend was well worth it. Especially when it was half the price of everything else being offered. I managed to ride a wave and thought I had got it on my Go Pro only for it to have died. After my lesson I grabbed afternoon tea in the oceanfront coffee shop walked along the beach then caught the bus back home and met my friend for a little bit of last minute shopping and hen do outfit buying.
For my friends hen do we were off to The Old Vicarage Café on the outskirts of the city for afternoon tea. It was beautiful setting and very picturesque. We have a very civilised tea there before heading back to a cousins house for a civilised drink or 10 and party games. It’s fair to say from here out I again can’t remember a thing… whoops
The following day I spent most of it in bed but finally go up around 2pm and went out to see two close by attractions that would make me feel at home. It was a short walk from the hotel to Riccarton Bush where you wander around ancient New Zealand forest. It was what New Zealand was like when the first settlers arrived on the island. The Brush is within the grounds of Riccarton House where you can grab an amazing lunch! Honestly it was wonderful and not incredibly expensive. I also came back on the Saturday to have a look at their farmers market which was amazing. The colour of the veg was incredibly to what you see in a supermarket.
From the Brush I walked up to Mona Vale. Unfortunately the house and the greenhouse were shut to the public for renovations as the house had been badly damaged during the quake. The grounds themselves are incredibly beautiful and I finished my coffee sat down by the banks of the river feeding the ducks. It was an incredibly peaceful day and made me fresh and ready for the next day. A friend arrived that night who was also going to the wedding so we met for some sushi on Rotherham street and had a late night catching up and taking us through our travels so far.
My next day was an incredibly sad day for Christchurch. It was the anniversary of the quake so we decided we would pay our respects and go down to the plot of he Canterbury TV station and pay our respects. Before this we did a little bit of shopping on New Regent Street then headed to the container mall for lunch before heading off to the International Antarctic Centre to see the penguins. This place is fantastic for kids and adults alike. It is both interesting and fun and you even get to nearly freeze to death! It is $59 about £27 but it is worth it and you can save more by booking online. Included in the price is a drive on an arctic buggie. From there we went back to meet our friend and headed out with the bride to be before her family arrived from the uk.
The next day I was up bright and early to visit Akaroa. This place deserves a blog post of its own as it is astonishing. So please stay tuned for that one to come in.
The final day I had the morning to pack before heading off to the wedding of the year at Omarino Wine Park. Here we got to taste the beautiful wine of New Zealand which I wanted to do but didn’t need to. It was a fantastic last day of my holiday and made my 10 days incredible. It was such a shame I couldn’t stay too late as my 5am flight home beckoned.
I flew back the way I came back to Brisbane for a couple of hours before heading to Singapore then Abu Dhabi where the lad I had met at the cricket managed to move his seat to sit next to me on the way back to Manchester. We played games and woke people up, much to the annoyance of the flight attendants, but we were both able to compare our adventures and vow to travel solo again. It was on this flight that I decided I wanted to do this more often. From that moment I haven’t looked back. With the exception of the annoying HS2 train line going through my house. I’ve managed to save as much as I can to travel as often as I wish. For those frightened of going alone. Don’t be. I found New Zealand was an incredibly friendly place where EVERYONE is so happy to help you.
Enjoy finding your paradise here