Christchurch: Flowers, Lambs, Art, and Charm

posted in: Down Under 2024 | 1

We only spent two nights in Christchurch, just enough to get a small flavor of this charming city. We’re now on the bus heading out of Christchurch, on our way to Dunedin. 

Christchurch is very walkable, so I walked a lot. I spent a lot of time in the beautiful Botanic Gardens and I visited the impressive Art Gallery. We also drove about an hour each way to a farm show where we saw dogs herd sheep and some lamb shearing.

Here are the photos:

About Christchurch

Christchurch is the oldest city in New Zealand and the second largest. It is also considered the most English of New Zealand’s cities. It has been described as the most English city outside England and even as the prettiest of all English cities.

In 2011 an earthquake devastated the city. The quake nearly destroyed the central business district. Of the 185 deaths, 115 occurred in the collapse of the Canterbury Television Building, which housed a TV station, a medical clinic, and an English language school. Three thousand buildings in the CBD were inspected after the quake, and more that 1,200 were demolished over the next few years.

Now, thirteen years later, reconstruction is still ongoing, and there are still many signs of the damage. But the city is taking this opportunity to redefine itself. Many new residential properties have been and continue to be constructed in the downtown area. Height restrictions on new buildings are giving Christchurch a more intimate character. I found it to be a joy to explore, and I wish I’d had more time there.

New Regent Street, a new development of shops and restaurants with apartments above.
The Chief Post Office opened in the 1880s. It suffered only minor damage in the earthquake, but it closed from 2011 and is soon to reopen as The Grand, with “an artisan French bakery, people-focused food court experience, visitor information centre, iconic restaurants and bars, and one of New Zealand’s largest outdoor plazas.”
The Avon River meanders through the city.

Farm Show

The best part of the Rubicon Valley Farm Show was the drive to get there. We rode from the Canterbury Plains to the foothills of the Southern Alps, through scenic farm and pasture lands.

The farm show was just that. Chris, our host, demonstrated having his dogs bring five sheep into a paddock. He showed us his three alpacas. And then he demonstrated sheep shearing. 

Chris and his dogs

After the show we had lunch which was quite good. Then we had to clear out because he had another tour group coming. And we rode the bus back to Christchurch.

We stopped at a town called Springfield for a bathroom break. It won some sort of contest for towns named Springfield, and the prize was a donut. Seeing this was another highlight of the excursion. (Not really.)

In retrospect, I wish I’d skipped the outing and used the time to explore more of Christchurch.

The Botanic Gardens

After we got back from the Farm Show, I spent two hours wandering through the Botanic Gardens, and I only saw a small section of it. It’s early fall in New Zealand, yet this felt like a place at the peak of floral exuberance.

Rose garden

Enjoy the rest of my photos from the Botanic Gardens.

Art Gallery

After the Botanic Gardens, I had an hour to visit the Art Gallery before closing. That turned out to be enough time. There were a few interesting and provocative works, and the building itself was impressive inside and out.

Bebop (Bill Culbert, 2013)
The Rupture (Ayesha Green, 2022)
These large panels depict the Maori creation story — the shift from Te Kore (the great void of potential) into Te Ao Märama (the natural world of light and life) through the separation of Ranginui and Papatūānuku, sky and earth, allowing the world to be bathed in light between them. In The Rupture, Ayesha Green challenges the familiar binary narrative and instead reimagines this powerful moment in Maori mythology through two feminine entities.
Rangi Takere Hau (Maungarongo Te Kawa, 2022)
The artist created this work in memory of all the men, including many of his friends, who died as the result of HIV/AIDS in the years before treatment was known or widely available. Maungarongo made a glittering, impossible-to-ignore vessel to carry away mamae (pain) or any sense of shame.

Other favorite works from the Art Gallery are in my album.

Christchurch has been my favorite of the three New Zealand cities I’ve visited so far. I’m getting the impression this country gets better as you head farther south. We’ll see if that impression hold up in Dunedin and Queenstown.

  1. Joy Sherman

    Dear Lane, I love reading about your adventures and your pics are fabulous. I loved the one in you and your friends with the giant gorilla statue. So fun!

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