Right, so it’s been over a week, so the whole thing is rapidly losing coherence in my mind, but yeah we took a nice long weekend down in Christchurch, and good times were had.
In fact, even George had a good time, though he didn’t come with us, he went and vacationed at his villa in the city – with my mum – where got such luxuries as two walks a day, even walks on the beach, and such. Eddie faired pretty well, in a luxurious apartment in Ponsonby (ok, the cattery at the Ponsonby Vet, sort of the same thing as a kitty condo).
Right out of the gate, in the shuttle from Christchurch Airport, I was guns blazing trying to start fights, thanking the driver and one of the other passengers for kindly paying for Auckland’s roads, and commiserating that they’d been shit listed by transit (their southern motorway loop has been put on the backburner, sorry chch).
The shuttle was bloody good though, I must say, dropping us right at our door in central Christchurch – in a place we took a bit of a punt with, LivingSpace. It paid off, too. Bloody good, as it turned out. It seems to be set up more as a student long term accommodation type thing, but they have great rates for short term rentals, and a very high standard of fit out. The shower very nearly flayed the flesh from my quivering jafa body. Just how I like it. (And unlike the hotel room we had when we last stayed in Wellington, we didn’t manage to flood the entire bathroom, and soak the carpet in the hallway, which is always a good thing, from the hotel’s perspective.)
We spent the afternoon (our flight out was about noon, and with such a short journey, we had plenty of afternoon to play with once we’d arrived) wandering around the square, eating (really, really good kebabs from a slightly crappy looking mobile kebabbery – the guy took a great deal of care with our food, and we were super happy with our choice) and drinking and watching people make spectacles of themselves, then wandered past the art centre (which is amazing) down to the botanic gardens where we walked around and enjoyed the nicely laid out, well sign posted grounds.
We got a text just as we arrived back at our hotel room, inviting us out for an evening of fun, so we enjoyed a quick flaying, and then headed up to the Dux de Lux to meet up with our friends.
Now, let me tell you about this place… It’s pretty much in the art centre, it has huge courtyards, which were completely packed with small tables, and masses of people having a good old time, and they even have their own microbrewery – which to be honest isn’t quite as good as Shakespeare Tavern’s, but is pretty bloody good. And what they do have that Shakespeare didn’t is the crazy, indulgent gimmick that is the Lager Lamp. Let me describe it to you, imagine if you can a glass tube about a meter tall, with a diameter of perhaps 12cm, and a large turned wood base on the bottom and a spigot on the side. Now fill the tube with three liters of carefully brewed beer, and put it in the middle of your table. Now get drunk, all the while remembering that there’s a $350 security deposit on this thing, and that it tips over alarmingly whenever you fill up someone’s glass. (For some reason I was elected official pourer, which is fine, I like a nice pour – and there was a lot of pouring to be had, so that’s a lucky thing.) (Also, I did the maths on the dimensions I guesstimated, and no way do I get 3 liters in that cylinder, so take my measurements with a grain of salt. I don’t think it was less than 60cm high, and certainly not less than 10cm diameter, but that’s something like 4.7 liters. Never mind.)
Christ it was fun, so we had a couple of those, and a few plates of buffalo chips and nachos, and there we went. Basically we just got pissed and rowdy, I had a pissing competition with a stranger in the toilets (he didn’t know we were playing, but I beat him, and would have beaten him anyway, by at least 20 seconds).
Two thirds of our party needed to be up bright and early for, you know, the wedding we’d flown down for (one of them being the actual groom, the other the best man) so we packed it in fairly early, I’m not sure what the time was anymore, maybe only 11pm, but it was okay, it had been a really fun evening.
Up at the crack of who knows what, maybe 9am, and in for another flaying in the shower, and a good ol’ head shaving, then I joined the groom and his man at the aptly titled Grooms Room, where I proceeded to photograph them getting cut in a variety of sensitive places by a bevy of lovely young ladies with open blade razors and bad attitudes (well, one of them had a bad attitude, the other was just lovely and charming).
I joined up with Claire for brunch in the art centre, then we went back to the hotel to suit up for the wedding, she looked lovely, I looked like a hit man with a superior tie.
The wedding was taking place out at the bride’s parent’s home, which is a small (hobby size, I’d say, about 25 acres) farm out on the dusty, brown, and pretty much dead looking Canterbury plains. They’d had the foresight to provide all the out of towners with a charter coach, so that was nice.
We arrived, stood around in the hot sun for a while (the weather the whole time we were in Christchurch was excellent. Hot and dry.) sat down, got bullied a bit by a member of the bride-to-be’s extended family, so moved to somewhere further away from her, and then enjoyed a lovely, understated and beautiful ceremony.
Then the drinking began. Oh, and hors d’ouveres, especially what seemed to be bits of brie which had been battered or crumbed and deep fried. Very, very nice. If there are two things I like, they’re frying and cheese, so combining the two was genius.
A few speeches, and a few nice toasts, some more fried cheese (yes, there were other lovely healthy things too, but who wants to hear about the divine tapenade when I can talk about FRIED CHEESE?!) and it was time to make our way into the very large marquee where our hosts would be sharing their first meals as husband and wife with us.
We sat with some of the other folks from Auckland, mostly the bride’s workmates and their spouses, and I think we had a good time. I certainly had a good meal. So much beef. (I’m mad for beef, and living with a non-meat-eater means I have to take full advantage of the few beef eating opportunities that come my way.) As well as all the beef, there was a lot of wine, so of course I told everyone that I want to have a foursome with Bill & Hillary Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. I’m pretty sure I won that game. It was a great evening, and as the evening wore on, other tables slowly shrank, while ours seemed to accrete more revelers. Good fun, and obviously not just for me this time.
Oh, the cake. It was really nice. Not only did it look good, it tasted moist and delicious. I’m still quite keen to do the whole Tower o’ Twinkies wedding cake thing on my own wedding day, but this was probably better looking and more palatable for, you know, ‘normal’ people.
The bus ride back into the city was even better than the ride out, but to be honest I don’t want to hear about Dutch ovens or hot lunches. Or tubgirl. So.
The next morning, we were thinking about renting a car and driving around to… look… you know… at things. But it turns out that it’s more fun to just rent a boat and futter around on the Avon. Man that was fun. Especially for Claire who got to just lounge around while I did all the work. And also especially for me, ‘cos I got to play the big manly man and row the fuck out of the boat. Navigating the shallows was a bit tricky sometimes – especially as one of the oarlocks was less well maintained than it could have been, but it was a real blast all the same.
After that we went to the art gallery and had a great time looking at a few of their exhibitions. It’s a great gallery, very large, very "architecturally designed" very shiny. My favorite exhibit was a bunch of modern Korean stuff, really really cool. If you’re in the chch you should check it out. I don’t remember what it was called, unfortunately, and the gallery didn’t have any handouts for that exhibition, and banned cameras, and so on, so just take my word for it.
We had dinner a The Mexican Cafe, our waiter guy was very good, and the cheese dip was bloody brilliant, but they didn’t know what a michelada was, and to be honest I was kind of left wishing there’d been a magical doorway to The Flying Burrito Brothers in Wellington.
After that we walked up to Victoria Square, where the Chinese Lantern Festival had finally made its merry way to Christchurch. Most of the lanterns where exactly the same as we had in Auckland. But their karaoke stage was much more prominent, and they had far more young Chinese guys wearing frocks and singing American Pie. So it was fun, but not as good as the Auckland one – and no fireworks! How can you have Chinese people, and night time, and no fireworks? Crazy.
The next day, Monday, was our last day in the city, so we decided to spend our day… not in the city. And arranged for a tour bus to take us over Banks Peninsula to the small French village of Akaroa. It has quite a history, which I’m not going to go into. But let’s just say that the English were bastards, so we speak the language we speak, have the whole rest of the country, and the French have a single village to call their own.
On the way over we stopped in a couple of places, including the ridiculously rugged, secluded, exposed, harsh, and bare "beach" on the Kaitorete Spit, this place was weird, crazy, and a little bit unsettling. Any beach you’re not allowed to swim at ‘cos it’s so damn dangerous, and which doesn’t have so much as a spot of sand – only millions upon millions of smooth flat stones – is what? Useless as a beach, that’s right.
One thing it turned out to be useful for, however, was gathering fossils, interesting rocks, and other various detritus. And it just so happens that the purpose of our stop was actually to visit the small museum of ‘things found on the beach’ situated, strangely enough, just off the beach. Interesting little place, it’s just a shame the guy didn’t understand a single one of my questions. I might not be an archaeologist, but my father is a PhD, so a few things must have rubbed off, and I got the hunch this guy was an enthusiastic amateur, so after a look around, we went down to the aforementioned beach, where we very carefully didn’t go in the water, and just sort of stood around saying things like "man this is weird".
After that we stopped briefly in… I’m going to say Little River, but I’m not sure that was the place, just for a quick break, to grab a drink or whatever (and as it turned out some gifts for my mother to thank her for taking care of the ever delightful, but eternally demanding, George) then on up to the hilltop cafe where we had… Well, a drink. I don’t know why we stopped there really. I guess the tour company got some sort of kickback. 10 minutes between stops is kind of silly, especially when the next stop was only another 5 minutes down the road – but this one a little more interesting. The last remaining small cheese makers on the peninsula, Barry’s Cheese. They had a broad selection, but to be honest their stuff just wasn’t as good as Mercer cheese. They didn’t even have a slightly aged Gouda. Claire is a cheese monster, so we left with a few things, some Cheshire, a red (pretty sure it’s Red Leicester under a pseudonym) and some Masdam which was too sweet for my liking, but which Claire really took to something fierce.
That was the last real stop before Akaroa proper, thankfully, and once we got there we had a nice mosey around, looked in a few shops, stopped for lunch in the bakery and had a fine time doing not too much. I also took the best photos of our holiday there. Staged, thanks
to a few bits of pie I wrapped up in my napkin, but so what – you try taking such cool photos of such ordinary birds. I bet you can’t.
The coach back to Christchurch was a nonstop affair, and we made pretty good time, we got off at the art centre and walked to the gallery to check out the exhibits we hadn’t managed to get to the day before – mostly New Zealand stuff. Their collection is pretty good. They had a lot of nice stuff, including some by that over rated paint pusher McCahon, and some terrible shit from Hotere, and lots of great other stuff from lesser known New Zealanders. They also had a couple of ridiculously shitty little exhibitions, one awful thing allegedly about Antarctica which was a joke, another one for children that was a ridiculous excuse to get some of their less impressive collection out of the vaults and onto the walls, and that was that.
I do enjoy visiting art galleries. It’s a little known fact that I’m a cultured son of a bitch, what is well read, and knows a thing or two about a thing or two. My liking for galleries and museums is a symptom of this. Thank you.
After that we had some sushi, then got the fuck out of the dodge, hit the airport, and flew back to Auckland, thank you very much.
My conclusion on Christchurch: the central city is really good fun, it’s very visitor friendly during the day, full of drunken fuckwits being rowdy at night, and a great place the visit. However, the suburbs around Christchurch are utterly shit. If you wanted to live there I think you’d have to live either way the hell out of the city, or right in the heart of it. There are lots of the great old buildings that were shamefully smashed down in our other major cities during the crazy days of the 80s and 90s but survived in Christchurch through a double-measure of good luck and developer disinterest; a reasonable selection of nice cafes and restaurants (though not on the scale of an Auckland or Wellington) and a lot of fun to be had.
But I sure was glad to be back in my big bad city.