Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Great Trips – New Zealand Part I

Laurie and I have always been thankful that wherever I worked, I was allowed to accumulate airline travel miles.  I may have worked long hours, most of the time 6 days a week, but we were able to take some terrific trips at a reasonable cost!

One of our all-time favorite trips occurred in February of 2000 when we visited the South Island of New Zealand.  We were on the ground for 13 nights but we think that 20 days are necessary to really ‘see’ the whole island.
We flew ‘free’ first class from Chicago to Los Angeles, then from Los Angeles to Auckland on the North Island and then onto Christchurch on the South Island.  The flights were great, the food and service was very nice…but in Los Angeles they did put our luggage on the plane heading for Melbourne Australia!
This was one of the first photos that we took upon our arrival in Christchurch.  From my research, Streetcar or Tram #11 was probably built in Philadelphia PA in 1903.  A local New Zealand manufacturer did build some trams using Brill’s design.  Streetcar service in Christchurch ceased in 1955 but a 2.5 mile city center route was reopened in 1995.  Sadly enough, the 2011 earthquake in the city damaged the tracks and closed off the center city so operations are currently suspended.    

Back to our luggage issue… When we arrived in Auckland, we went to pick up our luggage to go through customs so we could catch our Air New Zealand flight on to Christchurch.  No luggage!  However, we were stunned when an airline service person ran us down and gave us $300 NZ to tide us over until our luggage could be returned… In actuality, after checking in at our Bed and Breakfast, we explored the city center, had lunch, and explored a little more.  Upon our return to our Bed and Breakfast, we were amazed to find our luggage waiting for us!
This was one of the things that we loved about cities on the South Island!  Their downtowns actually were the center of activity.  Someone told us that (in 2000) there was only one ‘actual mall’ on the South Island.  Walking around the city center was fun…retro if you will…to these Yankees from Chicago!  As the 2011 earthquake was centered in downtown Christchurch, I suspect that this street scene has changed quite a bit!

One really lucky factor impacted our enjoyment of this trip.  The NZ dollar was valued at 49 cents to the US dollar!  In other words, a $90 bed and breakfast bill turned into a $45 charge when the credit card statement was delivered back home!  Today’s conversion rate is about 84 cents vs. the US dollar.
This is the Former Chief Post Office which is located in Christchurch’s Cathedral Square.  This Italianate style structure with Venetian Gothic elements was completed in 1878.  It also housed New Zealand’s first telephone exchange.  The structure was partially demolished in order to construct the rather unattractive Telecom building in the left rear of the photo.  Recent uses for this structure include offices on the second floor, a Starbucks and the main Christchurch Visitor’s Center. 
Although this building only suffered minor damage during the 2011 earthquake, Cathedral Square itself suffered major damage and repairs to other nearby high rise structures have closed this building…probably for years. 
Laurie took this photo of Christchurch Cathedral…located of course in Cathedral Square in Christchurch’s city center.  This imposing gothic revival style Anglican cathedral was partially completed and in use back in 1881.  However, the structure wasn’t completed until 1904.  The spire was 207 ft. tall…

But…city center and Cathedral Square was the focal point of 2011’s massive earthquake!   Note: the Cathedral had suffered previous damage in earthquakes back in 1881, 1888, 1901, 1922 and 2010… It had been repaired each time.
However, in February 2011 this beautiful cathedral suffered significant destruction.  The spire collapsed, causing major structural damage to the rest of the structure.  Then follow-on earthquakes in June and December of 2011 caused even more destruction.  In November of 2011, the cathedral was deconsecrated…

Demolition has started and stopped as various groups have tried to save significant parts of the structure.  Court action was threatened and I’m not exactly sure what the status of the demolition is currently.  The Anglican Church is building a ‘temporary’ $5 million cathedral a few blocks from this location.  It’s being constructed with steel, timber and cardboard tubes…
This is a fountain in the Botanical Gardens in Christchurch.  This 52 acre site contains plants from around the world as well as a collection of plants that are native to New Zealand.  There are some lovely greenhouses which contain the more exotic plants.  The Gardens were founded back in 1863 with the planting of an English Oak Tree to commemorate the marriage of England’s Prince Albert to Denmark’s Princess Alexandria.

Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island and it’s the 3rd largest city in New Zealand.  Christchurch became a city via Royal Charter in July of 1856.  It was the first city to be so designated in New Zealand.  The Christchurch Urban area has a population of 380,900…just slightly less than the population of Anchorage Alaska’s metropolitan area.  (Anchorage is the 125th largest urban area in the USA)
Following the most recent earthquakes, the Christchurch City Council has announced that the town will be rebuilt as a “city in a garden”.  The size of the city’s business district will be reduced, giving over a lot more space to parkland.  Also, building height will be limited to 7 stories in the city center.

Christchurch is one of only 4 cities in the world to have been carefully planned following the same layout of a central city square, 4 complementing city squares surrounding it and a parklands area that embraces the city center.  The first city to adopt this design was Philadelphia PA…followed by Savannah GA and Adelaide Australia.  
This is the Turret House Bed and Breakfast in Christchurch.  It’s where we stayed and it was within walking distance of the City Centre and Cathedral Square.  We spent 2 pleasant nights here… I noted that the Turret House closed down after the 2011 earthquakes and I’m not sure if it has ever reopened.

We really liked Christchurch!  It was a very laid back city with decent food, friendly people and lots of green space.  Should you decide to visit, keep in mind that Christchurch is located in a southern temperate zone which does experience all 4 seasons’ weather wise.  Snowfall occurs a couple of times each winter, (June – August), and there are an average of 99 days of ground frost each year.  In mid-January, the mean daily maximum air temperature is 72 degrees Fahrenheit. 
We would very much love to fly back into Christchurch to revisit the South Island and explore the 25% of the island that we just didn’t have time for on our first trip.
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by to view our photo travelogue!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 


  1. What wonderful photos, Dave. It sounds like you had a special holiday. I'm glad you got to see the city before the most recent rounds of earthquakes. It is such a shame to see some of these old structures crumble. I hope your week is off to a great start. Have a good day. Blessings...Mary

  2. Great post, I didn't remember all of these details about your trip, looking forward to the next post!

  3. It sounds like you had a fantastic trip! What a shame with the cathedral. I bet it is magnificent and impressive to see in its day. We loved those airline miles earned with Bill's job also, it provided for many great trips!

  4. I am all caught up with your posts. My husband has to have after cancer treatments once a week and I have to bring him there at the crack of dawn – it’s hard to get there so early. Your hospital food did not look that appetizing!
    I really enjoyed your post about your school DeVeaux – what an historic place.
    The burger you showed looks good but I felt my arteries snapped ….
    I also enjoyed your trip to Christchurch. New Zealand has always been a country I’d like to visit, and I may go still someday, but I am afraid of earthquakes, which is one reason I left San Francisco.
    By the way I noticed you said your wife bought the book on Valley Forge co-written by Newt Gingrich – tell her “beware.” I enjoy history, but real history and get upset with historical inaccuracies. A friend of mine who has a PhD in history and read the book told me to forget it – that it was written with drama in mind and a bit of dogma and that it strained credibility with no historical value. For example Gingrich said in the book that Von Steuben is supposed to be talking with Lafayette in Valley Forge, when in fact Von Steuben arrived there at the end of February 1778 and Lafayette headed north in early February and so forth. I live in Newt Gingrich’s county here in Georgia, so we know of him well. My husband was taking a course at Kennesaw State with Newt Gingrich years ago and had to quit because there was little history taught, it was mostly politics, Gingrich style!

  5. What nice trip and pictures David