The USA Immigration staff could learn much from the New Zealand staff. They went out of their way to be helpful and friendly. We felt very welcomed as we were admitted into the country.
Our bags seemed to take an age to be delivered by which time Karen was starting to get anxious in case there was a repeat of our previous arrival in New Zealand when the bags were lost for 48 hours. Problem averted as they finally arrived on the carousel and we then circled several times by an amazing sniffer dog. He sat down next to my almost empty rucksack that now just contained my laptop. He had smelt the fact that I had had a banana in it on the plane. I think it is remarkable how they do that and loved how he looked at his handler so pleased with himself that he had found something and waiting his treat as a reward. His handler was so nice and apologetic about the fact that the smell from the banana lingers, but I would rather they were safe than sorry.
We then got a taxi to the Hotel which was in Downtown Christchurch. I knew from the moment we got out of the taxi that Karen was not happy even before we went through the Hotel entrance. We made our way to Reception where we able to get into our room even though it was before 11am.
As soon as we got in the room, Karen let rip at her thoughts on the choice of place to stay. We always get this every trip but extreme tiredness was not helping the situation today. I had made the booking through the Qantas website and used some of their points that would have expired otherwise. The ratings at the time were fine, but before unpacking Karen looked at them online and it did seem it had had a few negative ones since I had made the booking. The location though was really good as it was literally in the centre as opposed to the 3 miles out we had stayed previously. It was also in close walking distance of where we would pick the car up tomorrow.
To be fair, the entrance of the Hotel did seem a bit like a backpackers place. I would however liken our room though to a UK Travelodge room. It was clean, quiet and safe but with few frills and quite small. The bathroom was an interesting pod arrangement with sliding glass doors in the corner of the room. I would say we would not want to spend days in here but it was more than adequate for a single night and by the time we left I think Karen would have reluctantly agreed.
I quickly realised to defuse the situation it would be best if we went straight out for a walk to get a coffee. We found a nice cafe on the end of the main shopping street. Once we had both had a scone and a hot drink, everything calmed down somewhat. We probably overstayed our welcome in the cafe just relaxing and using their free WiFi.
Then we thought we would walk to see how the restoration on the Cathedral from the 2011 earthquake had progressed following our previous visit. It did not look much different to us, but a notice said underlying structural work had taken place.
Then we headed in the direction of the Botanical gardens. At the entrance to this stands the Christchurch museum which offers free entrance. Some of the exhibits had not changed since we had looked round before, but there were also some new one which were very good. I would have liked to stay in there longer but could tell that Karen was getting fed up and so instead we headed out to wander around the gardens.
The exit was through the gift shop. We spent a while looking around. If we had the space in our luggage then Karen would probably have filled it. She was taken with a number of things for both herself and Ellie. I did agree the wooden Kiwi kit was really good, but it was also really big and really heavy so it was sadly left on the shelf.
The flowers in the garden were quite spectacular. It is strange to think that January is the Southern Hemispheres equivalent of July back home. It will be another 6 months before we see Dahlias and the like in similar full bloom in the UK.
We then headed to the Gardens cafe as I thought that if I could keep Karen topped up with caffeine it would help with the tiredness. It was lovely sitting outside having a drink even if tiredness was really starting to overcome both of us. And so with that we headed back to the Hotel.
After sorting our bags out and chilling for a while we thought we would head out again in search of a decent hot meal. It seemed to have been days since we had last one. The centre of Christchurch though was now deserted and like a Ghost Town. It is still being rebuilt but lacks somewhat any real character. I’m not sure if it is a conscious planning decision but it seems devoid of any fast food restaurants or a choice of reasonably priced other places to eat in the Centre itself.
We eventually found the ubiquitous Irish Pub that every major City has and settled upon that. It was called the Little Fiddle and it actually was not too bad. My Steak and Guinness Pot Pie was good as was Karen’s Fish & Chips. Having devoured these we were back in our room and asleep by 10am, grateful to be able to stretch out in a proper bed.
Now I have arrived in NZ, I feel fine about being here. It is most strange and I still don’t know what causes my pre travel anxiety.
Before midnight though we were again rudely awoken by another call on Karen’s phone. This time I think it was just a cold call as the Caller ID was withheld and they rang off after 2 rings. If we could we would switch the ringer off, but need it on to get alerts from Karen’s Mum alarm.