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New Zealand Part 5: Earthquake, Culinary Experiences & New Beginnings in Christchurch, South Island

By Conor Delaney

This was my favourite city in New Zealand (more on the city of Auckland to come later) as it was the city that was most British and therefore most familiar to me. On the flight up I spoke to really educated 20-year-old student who was a hoot. Full of local stories to share with me, he reminded me of myself at that age. Full of knowledge, enthusiasm and ideas about the future. He was studying at the University of Canterbury and so it made sense that he was a mind of wisdom. He told me all about daily life in the country, buying a second-hand car to get from A to B and all the websites for buying second-hand goods. New Zealand is not an affordable country without a good income and so it made sense to shave off some dollars on some purchases he was making. Amongst the many details he shared with me were just how many celebrities own properties on the South Island of New Zealand: Peter Jackson, Shania Twain, James Cameron and a lot more.

In 2011 a massive earthquake struck Christchurch and demolished much of the city. Being the most British place in NZ, this means that many of the people impacted were wealthy and well educated. Some of the most beautiful properties I saw in New Zealand were in Christchurch and some of the most interesting people I spoke to were also from here. One evening I walked back to my accommodation, the five star Mayfair Hotel:

and I encountered a "Polo Bar and Restaurant." I sat at the bar, let the young, but life-experienced people educate me and told them about life in Europe. I spent two or three hours enjoying a craft beer or two and a new cocktail they were trying out and listened to incredible life stories of people ten to fifteen years younger than me. New Zealanders may be distant from the rest of the world but let me tell you this, they've made up for it with travel and studies. It's a great place, go here for a few drinks and a chat with the staff:

If Polo Bar doesn't scream aristocracy and Royal Family, I don't know what does. Although once something you'd scream from the rooftop about, being linked to the Royal Family these days is something not many marketeers would want maybe. With the Queen gone and Harry tearing lumps out of everyone not feeling sorry for him and his plight of being the "Spare," New Zealand still holds on to its European connections. They play rugby (an English game) better than anyone else, they play cricket better than most (an English game) and they've got the Union Flag on their flag, so be under no illusion that links here to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth are strong. The head of state is King Charles III and may royals have undertaken tours to the Southern Hemisphere encompassing both Australia and New Zealand. On that note, I had an Anzac biscuit in a delightful cafe on my walk to the airport and it was delicious. It's rolled oats, flour, butter, sugar, golden syrup, baking soda, boiling water and desiccated coconut. The proof is in the pudding, try making it yourself or just go New Zealand or Australia where they know a thing or two about great food! Read more about the meaning of Anzac here:

So I loved Christchurch because I studied at Trinity College in Dublin and all the old buildings and Britishness reminded me of the splendid architecture of home. I loved the people for their civilised conversation. I loved the market with all the great foodie options. I loved meeting French guys preparing food as chefs and who in their spare time go surfing. Europe is slow and stagnating, young Europeans want to be out here enjoying the opportunities associated with the USA and Canada, with Australia and now, New Zealand. This is the land of opportunity for any European, South American or anyone else with a strong passport. Surprisingly, even the rich and privileged in Japan and China come here too. We are all in the same boat. Everyone with good taste buds and a love for education, nature and calm living wants to live in New Zealand. Friends of mine from college in Dublin helped re-engineer the city of Christchurch as structural and civil engineers and that really made the city special for me. Not to mention this amazing market in the heart of the city:

I walked 15km in one day to a place called New Brighton (struck most strongly) by the quake and it was for no other reasons than the need for exercise, the nice walking path, nature and a look at the sea that I was intrigued. The place was run-down and still recovering 12 years later. Chinese entrepreneurs were buying up real estate and the pharmacy was owned by an Indian pharmacist and businessman. Smart people, they know the former glory of this favourite seaside spot is coming back into vogue and the boarded-up shops will be out of reach in the couple of years. Having worked in real estate myself, I knew the deal. New Brighton, whilst rough around the edges with cheap plastic-item shops and some run down take aways, will be back in trend in a couple of years. The River Avon has so many black swans, weeping willows and stunning views that it felt like I was in Oxfordshire or Warwickshire. I've never been to a more British place in my life. On the walk out to New Brighton I met some young entrepreneurs who are the key to the recovery outside the centre. Fancy barbershops with funky art, great music, retro seats, the best shaving equipment and decor money can buy. People here are not lazy, they want to bring Christchurch back and to my eyes, they are doing a great job.

Of course, you can't talk about Christchurch without mentioning Maori culture and I had the opportunity to chat with some people of Maori ancestry. Basically, the Maori are a Polynesian people who feel comfortable by the sea or at sea, in the same way that the original inhabitants of Hawaii were excellent mariners. The relationship with the colonial power was always strained but these days, there's so much focus on bringing up the economic status of the Maori (amazing tattoo culture by the way) in education, art, public sculpture, poetry, writing and entertainment. Here's where you can learn more:

Maori people's probably feel more included in New Zealand culture and the economy than the Aboriginal people of Australia, but I could be wrong, I haven't been to Australia since 2014 and the government there at the time was making some headway. There's so much I could say about Christchurch. It's so cultural, so happening and so exciting I'm going to let the photos do the talking. The hotels, the renovation, the new Hipster areas springing up, the craft brewing, the awesome cinema I went to, Christchurch has it all. Plus I liked the airport, which always makes a place better in my opinion. Go to Alice cinema if you want to watch a movie with Egyptian decor and who knows what else they have chosen as themes:

When you're travelling, sometimes it's just nice to be a local, crack open a beer and enjoy daily life like they do. Next, we head to the Big Smoke for New Year's Eve 2022/3 in Auckland! ...

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