Christchurch: a walk, a garden, a pub

28 Mar

I am often guilty of a moral or idea-centric type of writing. Sorry about that. I haven’t said much about what’s happening outside of my own head—undoubtedly a consequence of the constant activity up there. But, I think I will take a break from ideas, feelings, morals, and philosophy for today. I want to give you a plain account of Christchurch. Things see and sidewalks walked. Hands shaken and food eaten. Stuff I do and pictures on the side.

Sound good?

Cool beans.

Yesterday, a friend from Purdue, Chandler, a friend from UWisconsin-Plattville, Kim, and I went a-walkin’ to downtown Christchurch. In my month of residence here, I have walked from uni (Kiwi term for college) to the CBD (central business district) before. It’s not any more than an hour walk if you put your head down and make a mission of it. However, this Saturday we chose the bus because most of our walking was going to happen inside the CBD. Ok, onward.

We got off the bus with few plans and so we started our exploration at the Re:Start Mall near the bus station. This place is so cool, let me tell you about it. First, most of central Christchurch is a mess. Rubble, empty lots where office buildings used to stand, and lots of fencing blocking the innermost parts of the CBD. The lack of venue and activity makes the central district a rather deserted place at most hours, even on Saturday afternoons. In the case of this downtown mall, however, businesses got together after the big earthquake and took a step forward, occupying the central part of the broken city. Here’s the catch: the stores are shipping containers. There is a bar, bank, bookstore, coffee shop, Apple store, pizza kitchen, and it goes on. Imagine it, a mall of shipping containers—stacked, cut out, prepared for human occupation. Oh, wait, you don’t have to imagine it all on your own. . .  I have a picture!

 

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We left the mall and went north in hopes of finding a little shop called Canterbury Cheesemongers. Cool name, eh? We found it, but unfortunately they closed up at 4 pm. . . on a Saturday. Seems strange, eh?

So, we changed course and passed by Christ’s College, a high school rather than a college, and made for the Botanical Gardens. I had also been to the Botanical Gardens before, but never had I climbed a Sequoia planted in the late 19th century. It was tough, but a British boy named Toby helped me out. Check it.

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Tree-climbing, compliments of Toby ‘the boy wonder’

We meandered through the gardens and (ah!) the rose garden was a nice sight, fountains littered here and there. Our path was now to the road to drop off Kim at the bus stop to go back to uni, but not before we encountered another, and much bigger, tree in the gardens. I am very keen (kiwi word for interested) on trees.

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Chandler and I bid Kim goodbye and made our way a bit south of the CBD with the determination of two dudes headed for a pub; we were on a mission for a beer and a belly full of pub food. On the way we passed by European car dealers, a half-destroyed Canterbury brewery, and a few Christchurch parks. Excellent!

Quite on cue, we strolled into our destination, Pomeroy’s Old Brewer Inn, reputed to be the best pub in Christchurch. And it delivered. Once we found out how to get a table—apparently sitting yourself down at any place that doesn’t have a ‘Reserved’ sign is Kiwi pub etiquette. Not long after we got some beer tasters Chandler and I were knuckle-deep in pints and two bowls of mushroom soup. I selected the Invercargill Pitch Dark for my beverage because of my curiosity of dark beers. Let me tell you, I found my new tall and dark acquaintance to be quite pleasurable. Chandler, struggling to translate our Kiwi server’s diction, had something of a light American ale with a mid-swallow citrus taste. Then came the main course; for me that meant a Meat Pie filled with chicken and veggies and all other sorts of warm, good things plopped on top of a landscape of mashed potatoes. I predicted it would be something like American chicken pot pie. It was, sort of. The ‘pastry’ shell on top was hard, but cut-able and the softer side had been flipped to the bottom. Good choice, I say.

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Our walk back to the central bus station involved three detours. First, we encountered a fridge-turned-public-book-exchange. The content (i.e. the books) wasn’t so impressive, but the idea is ingenious. A miniscule library without librarians or library cards. People sharing and learning.

Then we saw the former site of the CTV building that had fallen in the 2011 earthquake. Now it is a flat, concrete lot that serves as a sort of gathering place for those who lost someone in the quake. Flowers, pictures, other remembrances stuck out here and there in the fencing. Caddy-corner to this lot was another memorial; this was one built rather than one destroyed.

In a grassy, rocky lot sat 185 white chairs. Lined up row after row after row, flowers at the foot of each chair. 185 people died in the 2011 earthquake and this artistic endeavor was soon after built in their honor and memory. It was a powerful sight for me and even more so at night—eerie and beautiful in the whiteness of the chairs reflecting the floodlights above. It is hard to describe. I felt humbled, educated, helpless, and drawn into a reflective mood. But words do injustice here. Take a look for yourself.

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We arrived at the central bus station after perusing a video store (our third detour) and going on about the different subgenres of anime film. Our bus gladly dropped us to our flats, and no more than 10 minutes later we called it a night. What an adventure. Ah. . .

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