On this trip we’ve encountered two cities that completely surprised us and made us wish we had spent more time there. One of those was Taipei, Taiwan, which I’ll write about later, and the other was Christchurch, where we started our New Zealand road trip.
Christchurch was devastated five years ago by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake. Sadly, 185 individuals lost their lives that day.
We kept getting warned that there was a massive amount of construction as the city continues to rebuild, but what people didn’t talk about, and we think they should, is what a fun, positive, and interesting city Christchurch is. Yes, many, many homes and historic landmarks were destroyed or badly damaged, but everywhere you look buildings are being rebuilt, beautiful and meaningful public art has been installed, and trendy bar alleys and unique shopping areas are popping up. Christchurch is rebuilding into the city it wants to be, and that city is pretty cool.
Christchurch is one of those cities that is great for wandering – you never knew when you’d turn a corner and find an unexpected and beautiful building-wide street art mural or an interesting (in a good way) modern art sculpture. Some art was clearly meaningful to post-earthquake Christchurch, but others were simply fun and interactive. Some of the fences surrounding demolition sites were covered in planters that made beautiful living plant walls. Public squares had huge chess sets and ping pong tables that were free for anyone to use. The botanical gardens were stunning and contained the best rose garden I’ve ever visited.
The city was just as interesting to wander at night. The construction was on hold and less obvious and the art displays were lit up and looked completely different. Even though it was a bit chilly, people enjoyed their drinks and gelato outside and the cafes provided crochet blankets to cozy up with. We stumbled upon a public playground that was the nicest we’ve ever seen. Since the children were long in bed, the adults had the playground to themselves and people of all ages were enjoying a slide or a swing.
Despite all of the construction, you can tell that so much thought has gone into encouraging people to wander and enjoy the public spaces, which is part of what we loved about Christchurch.
One of my favorite street murals said “I always knew you would come back”, which I assume is directed towards the residents who had to leave their home after the earthquake. I’d like to think it could also apply to visitors like us who enjoyed it so much that we can’t wait to come back.
Love from New Zealand,
Cathleen & Christopher