accomodation, Ballantynes, Christchurch, destinations, disaster zone, Earthquake, Fiddlesticks, Heritage hotel, New Zealand, Re:START mall, Rebuild Tour, Red Zone Tour, Travel, vacation, weekend get-away
Recently, Mr. Boomerlifetoday and I travelled to Christchurch, New Zealand for a weekend away. You may think it odd to visit an earthquake-ravaged city for a get-a-way, but we lived there in the late 80s and wanted to see what it looked like post-quake, before the re-building begins. Three years ago, we had watched the news reports showing the destruction, but nothing prepared us for what we saw recently. The CBD is now populated by one vacant, weedy lot after another where hotels, shops, restaurants and homes once flourished. Desolate and largely deserted it’s hard to imagine it ever recovering to its former glory. Gone are the 60,000 office workers, tourists and residents, who made this such a vibrant downtown core.
We stayed right on Cathedral Square in the only remaining intact heritage building there (its owners spent millions reinforcing it pre-quake, so it survived), aptly named the Heritage Hotel. We chose it deliberately because we wanted to support businesses, which remained in the CBD. It’s a beautiful old building and our 2 storey room was spacious, bright and very comfortable. We shopped at the iconic Ballantynes department store because they too, opted to stay. We visited the innovative Re:START Mall of shops, cafes, banks and a post office made from shipping containers. We ate at Fiddlesticks just a few blocks away because they moved to a central city location after the quake and the food is fantastic! Our table next to the fireplace was particularly cosy on the damp and cool night we were there.
There is still lots to do in the city – we took the 90 minute Re-build Tour, which was very interesting! There is also a 3 hour Red Zone Tour and a one hour interactive program, Quake City, where you can re-build Christchurch using Lego, experience what an earthquake feels like, etc. We made extensive use of the bus system to cover much of Christchurch so we could see firsthand some of the more badly affected residential neighbourhoods like Sumner. While the red-zoned houses (those deemed uninhabitable) have been largely removed, there are still spots where containers are stacked up along the roadside to prevent any earth, rock or God forbid! houses from falling on to the road.
Talking to locals we realized how battle-weary and frustrated many of them are after 3 years of wrangling with property assessors, insurance companies and the local, regional and federal governments. Everyone was just so completely unprepared for a disaster of this magnitude because apparently no one knew that Christchurch was on a fault line!
There is not a lot many of us can do to help Christchurch, except to visit and spend tourist dollars and we urge you to do just that. Cantabrians need you to bring their much loved city back to life – it isn’t fixed! We’d highly recommend a visit – eat, drink, shop and enjoy this, the second largest city in New Zealand.
Until next time,
Your Boomer Life Partners
Disclosure: Mention of accommodation, restaurants and shops in this Boomer Life Today blog post were not solicited or paid for by companies in New Zealand or abroad.