Saturday, 9 February 2013

You can go and see what’s left of the cathedral - a night in Christchurch

More serendipity.*

We arrived in Christchurch in the rush hour.  That meant we had to wait behind at least one car at the traffic lights and at the most – one car.  Where was everyone? 

It’s easy to forget that we are in a country that’s bigger than the UK, but the population is about half that of London.  We’d been told that visiting New Zealand is like visiting England in the 50’s and I can see why – there's hardly any traffic.

‘You must go to the open air concert tonight.'  That’s what the lad said when we picked up our hire car.  ‘It’s near your accommodation (he showed us on the map) and it ends in fireworks.  You’re lucky because they postponed it due to rain.'

‘You must go to the open air concert tonight.’  That’s what the man said when we checked into our accommodation.  ‘It’s only down the road and there will be fireworks.’  We began to get the impression there wasn't much else to do.

He also made the quote about the cathedral.  I remember the devastation of the earthquake and really feeling for the people of Christchurch.  But it happened two years ago and back in the UK, it’s pretty much forgotten.  But, here in Christchurch, you can’t walk to the end of the road our accommodation was in, because it’s in an area in the middle of town that’s pretty much blocked off while the area is under reconstruction - two years after the event.  ‘It’s going to look great in another year’s time,’ said our host.  I hope so.

So, we found a supermarket, picked up a bottle of Marlborough sav blanc and headed to the park, where 50,000 were gathered for the annual Classical Sparks Concert

Christchurch's annual Classical Sparks Concert
We laid our blanket (aka our beach towel) on the ground and sat down with our wine as the night drew in. We listened to a piece called 'Estancia' by Ginastera, which was about gauchos on an Argentinian estancia, so we drank to our future time on an Argentinian estancia.  As night closed in, Tchaikovsky's 1812 began and shortly after that, the fireworks.

So much better than a tour of the devastation of Christchurch.  I'm not kidding, there really are tours for this. I can't see the appeal.  And it's not just me.  We met a lovely couple on the Tairie Gorge Railway who'd met in Christchurch, studied in Christchurch, married in Christchurch, who couldn't bear the thought of going back now, let alone something as ghoulish as a bus tour.

They also told us about several good wineries Marlborough - while we were drinking our favourite Marlborough sav blanc, which happened to be available in the buffet. And we told them about another bit of serendipity - the shortcut we accidentally took over Dansey's Pass.

Dansey's pass 
 This was a ninety minute hair-raising drive on a gravel road that hugged the sides of the hills in a series of hairpin bends and vertiginous drops.  The scenery was breathtaking, the car got absolutely filthy, we arrived in Dunedin two hours after we thought we would and we nearly ran out of petrol.  But it was worth it for the stupendous views that it was too dangerous to stop to take a photo.  And next day, we saw similar scenery from the comfort of a train while discussing Marlborough wines with a very nice couple.  

I call that serendipity - Eddie calls it getting lost.

The sort of road that took us over Dansey's Pass - but this time  viewed  from the comfort of  a train

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