Day 1: Christchurch, New Zealand

2 September, 2016

We arrived in Christchurch on a Friday morning. Hubby picked up the car while I purchased the sim cards at Vodafone for the four of us. Not sure if Vodafone offered the best plan because I didn’t shop around. Hubby rented a Toyota Highlander, an AWD 7-seater from Europcar. We needed a car that offered a lot of space for 4 suitcases and 2 big bags. Rental only cost $65 a day!

If you are feeling peckish and need some snacks before you check in to your hotel, drive to¬† Countdown supermarket (bearing the same logo as Woolworths) which is just about 700 m away from the airport. To be exact, the address is 530-546A Memorial Ave, Christchurch Airport, Christchurch 8053. We spotted it enroute to the hotel. Parking is free. If you’re familiar with those big supermarkets like Coles and Woolworths in Australia (Ozland I prefer to call it), this supermarket offers the same kind of fare.

If you are a big cherry blossom fan like myself, this is a good time to visit the South Island. You would be able to spot some spring/cherry blossoms along the roads as you make your way to the hotel. Read where to view the blossoms here.

I chose to book 2 rooms at Rendezvous Hotel instead of a family room so that we didn’t have to fight for one bathroom. Hotel was also preferred to a self-catering accommodation as I didn’t have the intention to cook while staying in the city. I assumed restaurants would be aplenty and it would also not be too difficult to find a halal one. The rate for one room/night was NZ$115, very reasonable for a hotel located in a good area and the rooms have a contemporary design (which was the main selling point for me). You can get your meals easily here as there are eateries below and some across the road at the New Regent Street. Parking at the hotel costs $20 overnight. You can leave your car at the porch when you arrive and they’ll provide a valet parking for you. Alternatively, you can park at the public car park just 30 m from the hotel. That will cost you $2/hr or $8 for a 12-hr parking period.

That Friday afternoon seemed to be a good time to visit the Botanical Gardens. There was hardly any other visitors so we felt like we had the park all to ourselves. Admission to the garden is free. There are parking spaces outside and you have to buy a ticket. I think parking costs about $4/hr. The visitor centre houses a cafe and a permanent exhibition which tells the story of Christchurch and Canterbury through plants and gardening. The cafe is bright and offers quite an extensive menu. We just wanted to sit and have coffee and cakes. I would have opted for something I usually don’t make, like perhaps the citrus slice, but before I could suggest that, hubby picked the banana cake with cream cheese frosting. It was delicious, nonetheless.

A riot of spring blossoms!

Tis’ the season for daffodils!
Another Sakura tree. Yes I’m obsessed with them!

Some trees are still bare though.

You can’t expect to see here the kind of spectacle the cherry blossoms in Japan create in springime. They are not grown in clusters that would result in a dramatic display like they do in Nipponland.

We headed to Nando’s (halal) for dinner. You can park at the designated lots along the road for free but it’s limited to half an hour only. If you’re a vegan like my daughter, there’s not much choice in this restaurant. She ordered a vegetarian paella which was too spicy though we had requested for ‘mild’.

I must say it was quite tricky to drive around the city because several roads were closed for repairs and the GPS wasn’t updated. Hubby used his wit and his good sense of direction to find our way back to the hotel. The city was pretty quiet. I read that many people left after the earthquake. It did look abandoned. Many buildings were being constructed/reconstructed and in varying degrees of completion. There’s not much to do in this city but I would still encourage you to come and stay for a day or two. I guessed the support it needs to rebuild the city would be boosted if more tourists come to visit. Give them your love and tourist dollars, ok. Watch Sarah’s video of Christchurch here to get a glimpse of the city.