We said farewell to the north island this morning. We had a flight out of the Rotorua airport, which surprised us by having the gate almost right inside the front door without any security checks to wait through.
We landed in Christchurch and made our way to our hotel. Signs of earthquake damage were everywhere, from the road construction to the plentiful scaffolds and fences around crumbling buildings. Five detours later, we were at The Heritage.
This hotel is perfect for us! Originally built and used as a government building, it was nearly demolished in the 90s, but people banded together and saved the building. They transformed it into apartments and hotel rooms, but kept many of the original details in the building. Our two-bedroom suite is way more spacious than we need, but feels like total luxury.
The concierge made dinner reservations for us at one of the top-rated restaurants in Christchurch, and we left the hotel to explore the area.
The Heritage is pretty centrally located, so we were able to walk to several landmarks. Our first stop was Cathedral Square, just a block from our hotel. Christchurch Cathedral was once one of the biggest tourist spots in the city, but the earthquake in 2011 left the church severely damaged. It’s amazing that so much damage happened to the church while it appears our hotel across the street was relatively unscathed. It’s such a sad loss.
Cathedral Square still sees activity, however, thanks to art installations, chess boards, and food vendors.
After Cathedral Square, we walked over to Re:START City Mall. After the earthquake, a developer started bringing in shipping containers as temporary buildings for retail, and a unique shopping area was born.
The Bridge of Remembrance nearby was a notable stop as well.
Next, we walked back toward Cathedral Square and strolled through Victoria Square where we admired the statues and enjoyed the fragrant flowers.
A short walk from Victoria Square, and we were on New Regent Street, a sweet little lane with shops and restaurants. We loved the architecture and the vibe.
Our dinner on Regent Street at Twenty Seven Steps was one of our favorites of the trip so far. Much of the menu is locally-sourced and organic, making the food fresh and original. Warm herb stuffed olives were a surprise hit, and my lamb rack with potato fondant cooked in duck fat was delish! The beef and venison dishes were also tasty. Dessert was a chocolate ganache with a citrus sauce and homemade creme fraiche ice cream. Soooo good.
Tomorrow is the third of our road trippin’ days, but our first on the South Island! The original plan was that we would take the TransAlpine rail to our next destination, but a fire on the track meant service was canceled, and our choice was either a bus ride or early pick-up of our rental car. Tim is loving the driving, so he’ll be our driver tomorrow. He’s been consulting maps and trying to pinpoint possible stops along the way to Franz Josef. It’s anyone’s guess what we’ll see tomorrow!