After quickly bonding at Sydney airport over a glass of champagne and duty free shopping, my four new girlfriends and I decide we would name each other after the Brady Bunch girls; Marcia, Jan and Cindy. It was bound to be a weekend full of gourmet goodness and girly adventures in beautiful Christchurch, New Zealand’s south island.
Cindy was quick to point out she was looking for a husband, Jan was looking for adventure, whilst Marcia was keen to try some of New Zealand’s famous gourmet treats and wineries. Christchurch is rebuilding itself after two devasting earthquakes. The first in 2010 and the more lethal earthquake which killed 185 people, in 2011. So the city is heaving with builders, workmen and revitalised businessmen looking to create new opportunities – and, Cindy was spoilt for choice.
A super fast three hour flight across the Tasman sees us tucked up in our Novotel beds at 1am. Ever responsible Marcia forgets her toothbrush, but the Novotel are able to deliver one promptly to her room at 1.30am. The 200 room hotel is everything you expect from a Novotel, clean, comfortable, friendly and efficient.
Christchurch is a city rebuilding, reinventing, recycling and rejuvenating, so parts of the city centre are still rubble, making it easy to park amongst the empty sites which are dotted with amazing pop-up artworks, murals, and mini gardens.
Wherever you look, Christchurch is recycling. From shopping centres made out of shipping containers to the Anglican Cardboard Cathedral. Made from cardboard, an amazing architectural design feat and well worth visiting.
Cardboard cathedral and one of the many murals in the city
Christchurch restaurants and bars:
C1 Espresso Cafe serves up fabulous cafe style food and a signature blend coffee amongst the modern, recycled, industrial style interiors, which used to be the old post office. Owner, Sam Crofskey, tells how he has come back from the devastation of losing his cafe and home, to creating a welcoming cafe for everyone of all ages to come and connect. At night they serve burgers and curly fries delivered to your table through an uber cool tube system. On the top level there is a beehive and vineyard, and Sam has plans for a boutique eight bedroom hotel above the cafe. For Marcia, Sam embodies the true spirit of the new Christchurch.
The new Christchurch is slowly creating interesting, innovative pubs and restaurants. Revival Bar is a great place to have a drink and socialise with the friendly locals who warm themselves by outdoor fires under the counters. The interiors are filled with recycled finds and furniture made of old televisions and train seats. After a quick gin and tonic we step next door for some Latin American flavours at Tequila Mockingbird. We all order the most thirst quenching margaritas, Marcia and Jan take a chance, and spice it up with the salt and chilli rimmed version – the perfect combination of sweetness and heat. Our slow cooked pork shoulder arrives and it is truly melt-in-the-mouth, whilst the Wakanui beef cheeks in red wine and chocolate silence the table – a difficult thing to achieve with a table full of women.
The fresh produce markets are a real treat and are reminiscent of our Brady childhoods. Lolly stalls, fresh cakes, pastries, fresh coffee and a wonderful warm village atmosphere complete with bicycle riding mintsrells. Be warned the donut stand is highly addictive.
Friendly market stallholders
Shopping! The Tannery, Food & Brewery, Beauty & Fashion:
What’s a girls’ weekend without some shopping and pampering? We stop in at The Tannery in Woolston and meet owner, Alasdair Cassels, who describes the old Christchurch as a “shrinking dinosaur”. After 20 years of council rejecting his development plans, the earthquake has breathed new life into town, allowing him to build a wonderful shopping and eating destination. “High St labels now have a home outside of the city centre” and he has modelled the 60 shop development on Sydney’s Victorian Strand arcade. We discover new and established fashion labels such as Trelise Cooper and Karen Walker, a cool second hand shop, gifts, as well as fabulous food providores. There is even a tattoo shop, should Jan really want to cut loose.
The Tannery has its’ own brewery and the world’s only wood-fired kiln, made of zinc. The restaurant serves up a delicious selection of pub food, which goes well with a few glasses of the KariKari Estate Calypso Chardonnay. In true girls weekend style, we indulge in some beauty treatments at the purpose built, Beauty at The Tannery. The Brady girls are so relaxed and charmed with Kiwi hospitality, that Cindy performs a few animal yoga poses in between pedicures. Lucky for Cindy, there is no photo evidence.
For more shopping visit ReSTART and Rekindle
Wine tasting and Gourmet Platters abound:
Our journey to the alpine village of Hanmer Springs is (conveniently) delayed by a some wine tasting and lunch at Pegasus Bay winery. Our pitstop at one of the best wineries in New Zealand involves tasting beautiful whites and reds and then enjoying a typical ladies lunch of share platters in picturesque scenery. Our prevailing thought? It’s going to be hard to go home.
Pegasus Bay winery, lunch is served!
Black Estate winery, just outside of Hanmer Springs, is the perfect place for the modern wine buff. We are greeted by a naughty little cat called Bluey, who leads us into a contemporary black, barn-like cellar door and restaurant. The Black Estate label started in 2007, but their wine is produced from 20 year-old vines. They are known for their dry riesling, which gets drier every year, and they only produce wine from the grapes they grow. The 60 seat restaurant boasts spectacular views of Hanmer Springs, and they not only deliver on wonderful wine, but the food and service is also brilliant.
If all this modern wine and food sounds indulgent and expensive, never fear, Black Estate can create generous platters with local produce for $32.50pp. A two-pack bottle of riesling for under $50 makes a perfect gift for those back at home. Be warned though, this restaurant gets booked quickly and people are turned away, as we take our seat.
If you wish to book ahead, email: Rita [email protected]
Ragu pasta at Black Estate
For the Thrillseekers, Christchurch and surrounds offer many different adventures from quad bike riding, rafting, jet boating and of course bungy jumping. We headed down the gorge on a Jet boat and everyone was keen for this adventure, except for Cindy, who enjoys a quite coffee whilst enjoying New Zealand’s natural mountains. Each to their own!
Picturesque New Zealand
Hanmer Springs – A Perfect Alpine village:
The Brady Bunch would be right at home in the alpine village of Hanmer Springs. Just an hour and a half out of Christchurch, this is the perfect place for a winter family holiday. Affordable accommodation at the Heritage makes this easy for families to eat, sleep, ski and indulge in the thermal pools and spas across the road. Carol and Alice can have a kiwi style beauty treament or massage, while the kids pool hop from the various waterslides to the 38degree spa. If this all seems too cold for you, try warming up with a modern style Indian meal at Malabar.
Hanmer Springs thermal pools
Anne Marie Cummins travelled to Christchurch as a guest of Christchurch Tourism.
For more information: http://www.christchurchnz.com/destinations/