“Christchurch is like a shit York.” Says a Welshman in the kitchen of the YHA hostel.
“Don’t listen to him.” The North Dakotan argues, “It’s fine if you’ve got a car.”
“Yeah, so you can leave.”
It’s 8pm, and I’ve just arrived, exhausted from trying to absorb nine hours of face-melting scenery on a bus from Queenstown. The bickering pair make me smile; oh how I’ve missed backpacker banter.
I’ve got 24 hours to squeeze as much out of this city as possible, whilst fitting in a tour of a NASA plane (more on that later) and a stay in a prison cell. Easy.
As soon as I step out of the hostel, I’m weaving around traffic cones and dodging the diggers reversing out of building sites. Since the earthquakes of 2010/11, where 185 people were killed and 10,000 buildings demolished, the city has slowly started to rebuild itself.
Some parts are like a dystopian movie set, with its abandoned buildings and hollowed cathedrals, and I could almost feel my old photography teacher jumping with excitement. “Look at the scaffolding there,” he’d say, “see the angles, the sparks from the builder’s grinder, and over here! The colours of the painted murals, in contrast to the bulldozed bricks…”
I love the creative undercurrent in this city, I find art sculptures and mind-blowing graffiti round every corner. Christchurch has got a bad rep for being ‘a bit of a building site’, but I was impressed with the ingenuity used to create a colourful pop-up city.
After a days’ walking and meeting locals, I can just about scramble a list together of what not to miss:
Breakfast: C1 Espresso
Start the day at C1, a quirky post office-turned cafe that sends its food shooting down the old mail tubes. C1 Espresso website
Retail therapy: ReStart Market
Well-known clothes brands are wedged inside colourful shipping containers, as well as pop-up coffee shops, juice bars and food stalls.
Lunch: Cosy Cafe
Delicious sandwiches, giant muffins and great coffee in the centre of ReStart market. There’s even a money-back guarantee on their famous Apricot Tart!
Sight-seeing: River Avon punting
Escape the sounds of the pneumatic drills and head to the historic Antigua Boat Shed (you can’t miss it!) Glide along the river through botanical gardens, guided by an Edwardian-dressed punter. Christchurch punting website
Dinner: King of Snake
Sadly I didn’t get to eat here, but I asked three different locals and was told this was the place to go. King of Snake website
Sleep: The Jailhouse
Ever spent the night in a prison cell? You can at the Jailhouse, an 1880’s Gothic prison now converted into a fun hostel. Read my review here