Saturday, December 16, 2000
Saturday …it must be Christchurch day. And, so it was. We drove to the airport, had a bite of breakfast and flew to Christchurch, the largest city on the South Island and the seat of Canterbury province. Although the day was hazy, we were treated to a couple of stray volcanoes poking through the clouds and a braided river, typical of the South Island, a few minutes before landing.
We found our B&B, Russeley 302, just one km from the airport, tossed our stuff in the room and drove straight to the city. It is all that is claimed … more English than England! We visited the centerpiece of downtown, Christ Church Cathedral, begun only a couple of years after the founding of the city. We then wandered a weekend sidewalk arts and crafts market and treated ourselves to a punt boat ride, complete with white uniformed puntsman, down the River Avon.
Returning to 302, we met our hosts, Sally and Brian Carpenter. Born and bred NZ folks, they sold their sheep farm and farmstay business of thirty-two years four years ago to go full time into the B&B business. Though they seem to love the B&B, it was clear that they love to talk about farming. During a long talk with Brian, our notion about the reasons for little cultivation in the North Island was confirmed … that livestock can graze all year, especially in the north.
Now, what is it they say, “Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?” It turns out that evening was the centerpiece of a week-long party to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of Canterbury. We attended the evening’s celebration, held in Cathedral Square in city center. The square was equipped with a top notch sound system and giant video screens so that everyone could see and hear very well. The live entertainment ranged from an Elvis impersonator to top-notch jazz vocalists and rock numbers. The evening’s highlight was a multi-media sound and light presentation depicting the history of Canterbury, including live performances. The show’s finale was a wonderful display of fireworks set off from atop a couple of buildings in the square. It was very well produced and executed. We had a great time!