Saturday, November 18, 2006
A birthday blog – since I went on a trip! Rob has planned a birthday trip for me for the last few years (Paris, Cambridge, Melbourne) and this year we flew to Christchurch. He keeps this a secret from me till the morning we are departing, so I have lots of fun trying to wheedle it out of him – and my friends, who he co-opts to care for Daisy and Sissy. Christchurch is, as everyone has told me, a bit English – lots of red brick, gothic centre of town buildings, oak, ash, beach trees and lots and lots of roses. It is a very substantial town of 400,000 people and covers an area larger than Auckland. It sits on a plain with mountains behind and large hills to the south. It has a river running through it and a huge park (HagleyPark) just off the town centre. We arrived at lunch time and after settling in our hotel (The George – you can find it in Small Luxury Hotels, or at www.slh.com; our suite was very comfortable – ask Rob about the spa bath, if you want to embarass me!!!) and then visited the Arts Centre where we had lunch (the Arts Centre has taken over the university bulidings since the Uni has moved out of town) and looked at the craft shops, then we looked at the Cathedral, the Art Gallery (very modern – glass and steel – but I liked it) and then the botanical gardens, before arriving at our hotel for a rest and then dinner. The hotel had very poor choices for a vegetarian so when we had booked for the evening I had asked them to make me a vege meal – and it was suberp.
The following morning we set of for Akaroa in the chaffeur driven mercedes that Rob had hired. Akaroa is 1.30hrs away and over some high hills and low dales. We saw lots of cows and lots and lots of sheep; we visited a cheese factory and bought some to take home; spent some time in Akaroa and bought a beautiful kouri bowl with inlaid ebony and pau shell – as well as pressies for friends. Akaroa is a French settled town although it has lost most of its French influence and you can see it in the names of the streets, some shops and the cemetary. There were three impressive little churches, a pretty harbour and again the ubiquitous idylic hills and outlook from the town. Our driver, Lyndal, was knowledgeable about the area and kept us informed of all sorts of information about the area. We went off for lunch to the French Bay Vineyard – good wine and food, wonderful views, lovely weather – the superlatives just go on and on!!! On the way back we went over the hill to Oakin Bay where there was a very quaint Maori Museum – which had not seen a duster since it began I think. However, there were lots of very interesting Maori artifacts in the main museum as well as some colonial buildings with contents – I am so glad that I live now and not then – a couple of cottage, a smithy and a chandlers as well as a couple of Maori traditioanl buildings.
Back to Christchurch for a frustrating wait at the airport, but we arrived back in time to drinks – and cheeses – with Sue, Alex, Julia, Coralie and Philip as I opened my birthday presents. We were all in an unusually good mood – perhaps the bubbles helped – and there was lots of laughter and good humour, and it was good to be with friends on my birthday, although I thought of others that were not there too. A VERY GOOD BIRTHDAY, and thank you to everyone for my cards, good wishes and presents
Fantastic to get access to your blog. Your birthday trip to Akaroa sounded marvellous – it is a lovely village in a spectacular setting. I first went there on really rough shingle roads in an old Model A Ford with tears in the fabric hood, not a Merc.
Although you mention that it can be seen that Akaroa was French from the old street names it was never very obvious in the 1940s and 50s. The streets became signposted as Rue Balgerie and Rue Jolie etc in about 1963 when it was decided to make the town look French. Until then it had been Jolie Street etc.
It was a shock to arrive in Akaroa from Europe and suddenly everything was Rue this or that, and the petrol station was L’essence or something similar – and shutters had been put on so many windows. At first it felt terribly false.
Earlier than that Akaroa had seemed just another colonial town with a notable German presence as well as French, although the French arrived first. But in the early 20th century there was a predominantly English feel to it.
One of the nearby bays, Takimatua (can’t spell that – someone can correct it) was originally called German Bay because of all the Germany families there, but it was changed to a Maori name during World WAr I.
I guess your guide will have told you much of this. But it is strange to see the old house, where I used to call with a billie early every morning to get fresh milk, transformed into a splendid French colonial home.
Welcome Margaret (Maggie?,
That is very interesting and I will sure to let Rob know about this too.
In the town I was much more aware of the ‘French’ influence than the German. But if as you say the Frenchification is recent then that is perhaps not surprising.
Now, can you be Maggie H? Another friend is also called Maggie and shall ask her to be Maggie L. The I shall know just which Maggie to talk to.
Good to see you last night and thank you for a very interesting evening.