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To That Special Place: A Holiday in New Zealand, Sydney, and Hawaii

To That Special Place: A Holiday in New Zealand, Sydney, and Hawaii

Old Dec 14th, 2019, 10:16 AM
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Asimm, I understand your dilemma of having so many places to visit and so little time. I hope that my report will offer some useful information to you as you consider your planning. If any of what I share sparks questions, please do not hesitate to ask.

ToniaPanteli, thank you.

Ann, I'm so happy to hear. Looking forward to possibly spending time with you again.

Crellston, many thanks. I really enjoyed your report on South Africa and look forward to what you have to offer on Japan.
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Old Dec 14th, 2019, 10:31 AM
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On Terra Firma

After a combined 34 hours on airplanes and in airports in between layovers, we've arrived in New Zealand last night. We left Washington, DC, on Thursday afternoon and traveled to Los Angeles that evening on American Airlines. We had three hours at the airport before boarding our Qantas flight to Brisbane. The flight from Los Angeles to Brisbane took 13.5 hours, on one of its Dreamliners. We enjoyed the typically reliable Qantas service, although the narrow seat pitch on this plane made the journey uncomfortable. The seat pitch is probably the worse of all the Qantas flights we've taken. We had six hours in Brisbane before our flight to Christchurch, also on Qantas. Instead of staying in the airport, we headed into the city center to stretch our legs and have a look around. Given that there were four of us, taking a taxi was the fastest and most economical option - about 20 minutes on a Saturday morning. We walked around Queen Street Mall and a little bit of the South Bank - oh, how we love Australia. The flight to New Zealand was smooth. As we crossed South Island from the west to the east, we were treated to spectacular birds-eye views of the landscape. Flying over the coast, the majestic Southern Alps, the Canterbury Plain, braided rivers, and other features, we couldn't help but admire how remarkably beautiful South Island is. We have a feeling this will be yet another memorable trip.

Our home base in Christchurch is the Heritage Hotel, behind the earthquake-damaged Christchurch Cathedral. The building formerly housed government offices, so we're talking about English architecture, high ceilings, and beautiful woodwork in the interior. We booked a 2-bedroom suite, which is very large and comprised of living space, a kitchen, and a bathroom on one level and two bedrooms on the upper level. On the ground floor is a hopping bar - O.G.B. - from where we grabbed a few quick but tasty bites to eat before hitting the sack.
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Old Dec 14th, 2019, 11:08 AM
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Glad you arrived safely. Flights a killer, isn't it? Hope the weather has cleared up. Enjoy!
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Old Dec 14th, 2019, 01:46 PM
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Ann, I'm so happy to hear. Looking forward to possibly spending time with you again.>>

Oh, me too. I have made such wonderful friends through Fodors.

Great to read that you have arrived safely. When we were in Christchurch some years ago you couldn't really get anywhere near to the Cathedral. Sounds as if quite a a lot of progress has been made which is terrific. looking forward to reading more.
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Old Dec 14th, 2019, 03:25 PM
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Sounds like a great trip so far. Glad you're enjoying Christchurch. I'm looking forward to reading more. I hope the remainder of your trip is just as enjoyable.
If you have time while in Honolulu try to visit the Bishop Museum as you're interested in history.

Wishing you the very best of luck with the weather, and hope the fires of NSW subside in time for the New Year.
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Old Dec 14th, 2019, 06:50 PM
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Glad you arrived safely. Those long flights are horrible, my husband and I both dread them. Do you mind me asking why you didn't fly directly from America to NZ? Going via Brisbane seems to have added a lot of time on to your journey. You must have been so tired wandering around Brisbane but glad you could get out of the airport and get some fresh air and sunshine.

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Old Dec 15th, 2019, 02:00 AM
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Yestravel, the flights are definitely long. After a while, it usually isn't too bad. What made this trip less comfortable was the seat configuration on the Qantas Dreamliner.

Ann, progress is definitely being made in Christchurch although there is so much more to do. Gone are the days when parts of the city were off-limits to residents and tourists alike. Our hotel is situated directly across the street from the Cathedral. There are, however, fenced off buildings scattered throughout the central part of the city.

Diamantina, if today is any indication, this trip will be extraordinary. Appreciate your suggestion of the Bishop Museum for Honolulu.

KayF, we usually try to fly an Oneworld airline when possible given that our status with the alliance, which results in advanced seat selection, lounge access, etc. In this case, we looked at flights on United and Air New Zealand, but the times on the leg from Sydney to Honolulu were significantly worse than the options offered by Qantas. We could have booked separate tickets among the different legs, but the cost was significantly higher if we did that.
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Old Dec 15th, 2019, 09:17 AM
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Christchurch: A City Reborn

Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island of New Zealand and the third largest overall, surpassed in population by Auckland and by Wellington. Christchurch sits near the central portion of the east coast of South Island. The city center is flat, compact, and very walkable, although the city becomes hillier as you move out into the surrounding suburbs. Christchurch was settled by the English in the 1800s; it still retains aspects of English character today.

In recent years, Christchurch is more commonly associated with tragedy. In 2010 and again in 2011, two devastating earthquakes rocked the city and its surrounding region – events which manage to bring havoc and destruction, particularly to its city center. And just earlier this year, Christchurch made international headlines when an extremist took to a mosque and gunned down several dozen of its residents.

To be honest, we weren’t expecting much from Christchurch. We chose to begin our trip here as it is home to the largest airport on the South Island and was the most logical gateway for us. But boy, were we wrong. On our first and only full day in the city, we were able to explore much of its center. What we discovered was a city picking itself up from the rubble and rebuilding. And no, I’m not just speaking about physical structures. The city center is alive, and there’s a certain cool vibe that permeates throughout its cafes, markets, and outdoor spaces. Wandering through the city, I experienced feelings of sadness from evidence of all that was lost and the marks it seems to still leave upon the city but much of those feelings were overcome by the energy and vitality of a people that seems to say we are moving on – moving forward. The positive spirit is definitely dominant.

We explored central Christchurch all on foot. We began at Cathedral Square, across from our hotel, catching glimpses of what seemed to be an icon of the city but now laying in ruins without much by way of repair. From Cathedral Square, we walked over to New Regent Street and enjoyed breakfast at the Caffeine Laboratory. A small but bustling cafť on a Sunday morning, the lamb shoulder benedict coupled with a strong cup of coffee was the perfect start to the day ahead. The one-block pedestrian mall is lined with colorful Art Deco-style buildings now occupied by cafes and shops. From here, we made our way to the Avon River for a gentle stroll along its tree-lined banks. The river is narrow and shallow and has the look and feel of its cousin in England. Along the way, we noticed the number of vacant lots all around central Christchurch as well as fenced-off buildings, evidence of the destruction that the recent earthquakes wrought upon its mostly Gothic Revival brick and stone structures.

Near Victoria Square, we visited Quake City, a museum that told the story of Christchurch during the two recent earthquakes and its subsequent recovery and rebuilding. The exhibits do a fantastic job of explaining the chronology of events and how it impacted – and still impacts – the city. The exhibits help bring alive the events of the fateful day. It was here that I appreciated the full extend of the damage – more than half of the city’s basic infrastructure had to be rebuilt following the earthquake. What I most enjoyed was the telling of the natural events through Maori stories and how the native people made sense of such events.

From Quake City we walked a few blocks over to the Christchurch Art Gallery. The Art Gallery is home to a worthwhile collection of New Zealand art. There is also some European art on display as well as more contemporary pieces. The gallery is housed in a new space, near the Arts Center. The Gothic Revival buildings of what was formerly a college and high school for boys and for girls are now filled with museums, shops, cafes, and creative spaces. On the ground on the day we visited was also an outdoor market selling food and crafts. It was easy to wander around, browse, and enjoy some ice cream on what was mostly a warm, sunny day.

The extensive Canterbury Museum was our next stop on this early afternoon. We spent a little more than an hour at the museum visiting the exhibit about the Maori people – the early native inhabitants of New Zealand – as well as a recreated Christchurch street scene from the 1800s. There were also exhibits about life in the area post-World War II, decorative arts, geology, dinosaurs, and journeys to the Antarctic, but we didn’t spend much time in these exhibits. There’s a cafť on the top floor of the museum overlooking the Botanic Gardens next door. We grabbed a few quick bites to eat and rested our feet a bit before moving on.

The warmth and sun provided the perfect conditions for a stroll in the city’s Botanic Gardens. We wandered through the gardens, and admired all that was in bloom. There was much to see, smell, and to enjoy. We spent about an hour here before continuing on our journey. Near to one of the entrances to the gardens is a launch dock for punt cruises on the gentle Avon River. We were interested in taking a short cruise, but unfortunately tickets were all sold out for the rest of the day. They seemed to have been all taken by the Chinese tour groups that were in the city on this day, as well as the cruisegoers from a megaship that was in port today.

We made our way east by way of Riverside Market and Cashel Street Mall. We did some browsing but were not really looking to buy anything. Our destination for the evening was the Cardboard Cathedral, a temporary structure a few blocks away from Cathedral Square built to serve the local community while decisions are made to the Gothic Revival structure. The temporary cathedral is open, light, and airy. It’s simple but also beautiful. As we were lucky enough to be here on an Advent Sunday, the church hosted an evensong service which we attended.

We returned to our hotel following the service to put away our purchases, freshen up, and head out to dinner. We selected the Craft Embassy, in a newer building on the river just a few blocks from the hotel. Known for its selection of local beers, we enjoyed a few burgers and appetizers on its inviting outdoor space overlooking the scene below. This completed our one full day in Christchurch.

Cathedral Square

Closeup View of Christchurch Cathedral

New Regent Street

Christchurch Provincial Buildings Rebuilt After the Earthquake

Cardboard Cathedral

Inside the Cardboard Cathedral
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Old Dec 15th, 2019, 01:45 PM
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Wow! What a loooong way to being your trip. That must have been tiring to say the least.

Our first long journey on a dreamliner is coming up in Feb. Supposedly its design help you feel more refreshed. Did you notice any difference?

Thank you for the pictures.


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Old Dec 15th, 2019, 05:08 PM
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Loved the pictures, thanks! You make Christchurch sound more interesting than anything i read.

jacketwatch, I've flown the dreamliner and never felt it helped to feel more refreshed. Nice plane though.

Last edited by yestravel; Dec 15th, 2019 at 05:34 PM.
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Old Dec 16th, 2019, 12:35 AM
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Larry, yes, the plane rides were tiring but fortunately it didn't take us long to recover. As yestravel said, I didn't notice much difference in comfort on the Dreamliners although the ceilings have cleaner lines and the overhead bins are more user-friendly. The relative comfort varies from airline to airline. The Dreamliners operated by American Airlines, British Airways, and LATAM were all fine; for some reason, the Qantas version felt uncharacteristically uncomfortable.

Yestravel, you're welcome. Christchurch is definitely more interesting than what I read in the guidebooks. I would not go as far as suggesting it is on the top 10 most interesting cities though.

Un Autre Jour Magnifique

Our travel plans for today took us to the small but picturesque village of Akaroa located on the shores of a harbor by the same name on the Banks Peninsula southeast of Christchurch. We arranged our visit through Discovery Travel, a local outfit that offers day tours out of Christchurch.

Our day began with breakfast at a cafe a couple of blocks from our hotel - Robert Harris. We went simple this morning with sausage rolls and cheese scones with the obligatory coffee. There was a wide selection of pastries and hot food on offer as well, but we felt like going simple.

Our driver John arrived a few minutes ahead of 8:30 and we were on our way. The agency checked in to make sure the driver picked us up - good service. We drove through a few pretty suburbs lined with beautiful homes nestled in the hills. It helped that we were once again treated to warmish, sunny weather. It wasn’t long before we left the city and made our way around Lyttleton Harbor and onto the peninsula. We were treated to gorgeous views all along the way. After about an hour on the road we stopped at a roadside cafe for quick pick-me-ups before carrying on to a small cheese factory in Barrys Bay to view its production and make a couple of purchases. We continued via the scenic tourist route to Akaroa and arrived there at around 10:45.

Akaroa is a small village. There is a main street along the water lined with shops and cafes. The settlement was settled by the French, who attempted to claim this part of the island for France until it soon realized that Great Britain had already seized all of New Zealand from the Maori during the Treaty of Waitangi. We had about 2.5 hours in town to wander around, do some shopping, and enjoy lunch. There is a small, free museum on the Main Street that retells the history of Akaroa and well worth a visit. Nearby is a small Anglican Church that we popped into. We took lunch of fish and chips in a restaurant that specializes. The food is straightforward but good. The portion is large. We burned our lunch calories with a bit more browsing and shopping before taking a 2-hour cruise of Akaroa Harbor in which we searched for dolphins and admired the interesting geology of the land surrounding the harbor. We spotted a few dolphins in the first 30 minutes or so of sailing. We saw Hector’s dolphins, which is believed to be the smallest species in the world. There were about 5 or 6 that we enjoyed. In addition to dolphins, we saw New Zealand fur seals, a little blue penguin, and a few species of birds. Equally as interesting is the land formations around the harbor, formed by a volcano that erupted long, long ago. Along the coast are sea caves, waterfalls, and small islands. The boat ride was a bit chilly with the overcast cover but we focused on the wildlife and the geology much more so than the water. The two hours went by so quickly.

There was a cruise ship in the harbor today but it didn’t really impact our visit. There were cruise ship passengers on our cruise but the company running the harbor cruise managing the number of guests as to make the experience enjoyable to everyone. We did share the streets of Akaroa with folks from the cruise ship but it wasn’t overwhelming and added to the atmosphere. Even our driver remarked at the relatively small number of cruise ship passengers in the village; it seems most decided to head into Christchurch today rather than stay in the port.

It was back to our vehicle after the cruise for the trip back to Christchurch. Instead of the scenic route from this morning, we took the main road linking Christchurch and Akaroa, which still offered nice views of Akaroa Harbor. We arrived back at our hotel at about 5:15.

After a nice warm shower back at the hotel, we headed back out to do some shopping near our hotel followed by a casual but delicious dinner of pizzas and salads at Francesca's Italian Kitchen.

Tomorrow we head south to Aoraki Mt. Cook.

Akaroa Harbor From Above

Hector's Dolphin in Akaroa Harbor

New Zealand Fur Seal in Akaroa Harbor

Sea Cave in Akaroa Harbor

Akaroa Harbor Cliffside Landscape

Akaroa Lighthouse

Last edited by tripplanner001; Dec 16th, 2019 at 12:38 AM.
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Old Dec 16th, 2019, 01:08 AM
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Very enjoyable reports, thank you. I'm glad to see you enjoyed fine weather.
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Old Dec 16th, 2019, 01:09 AM
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Lovely trip report, with day by day activities and photos. Am keeping a close eye to it to plan my trip for June 2020
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Old Dec 16th, 2019, 04:23 AM
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Thank you both for the 787 info. We have a 14.5 hr. flight in Feb. coming so lets see what happens.

Nice TR, reads well, easy to follow!

Last edited by jacketwatch; Dec 16th, 2019 at 05:03 AM.
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Old Dec 16th, 2019, 06:01 AM
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I think you're proving to be better info & reading than the guidebooks I've read. Loving the preview views of what we will be seeing. Glad you're having such nice weather. It's miserable here.
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Old Dec 16th, 2019, 11:04 AM
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lovely photos of Akaroa, which sadly we never managed to visit.

Looking forward to the next instalment.
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Old Dec 16th, 2019, 11:28 AM
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Great photos of Akaroa! I have fond memories of that town which was the first stop on our first ever trip to NZ . Good to hear you are having a great trip . Excellent detail, keep it coming.
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Old Dec 17th, 2019, 01:51 AM
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Diamantina, thank you. Hope it is nice down where you are as well.

Asimm, thank you. Hope the planning is coming along.

Larry, thank you.

Yestravel, thank you. It seems like we are experiencing similar weather today with all the rain.

Ann and Crellston, thank you. Hereís more from today.

Into the Mountains

We awoke today to a rainy Christchurch. The rain increased in intensity as we made our way from our hotel on Cathedral Square to C1 Espresso, todayís chosen breakfast spot. C1 offered a wide variety of coffees, teas, and other drinks as well as sweet and savory breakfast items. The portions were enormous but oh so good. We ordered a selection and were pleased with every item. The drinks were equally good. And several of the items were interactive and fun. We were given a syringe filled with jam to pump into the lamington cake we ordered. Iced tea was served in a chemistry flask that I hadnít seen since high school, with a dropper to add a fluid that changed the flavor and color of the tea. We very much enjoyed the experience and highly recommend it to anyone visiting Christchurch.

After breakfast we walked back to our hotel to gather our belongings and checked out. Waiting in the lobby were David and Cathy, husband and wife and owners of Luxury Touring. David and Cathy would take us from Christchurch to Aoraki Mt. Cook today and from Mt. Cook to Queenstown in two days.

We left Christchurch at 9:00 and headed west to Darfield, where we stopped for coffee and treats and the obligatory rest stop. There would be almost no place for a bathroom break for an hour and a half between Darfield and Geraldine, where we would be stopping for lunch. From Darfield we traveled on the inland scenic route - except today the drive did not live up to its description. Along the way we passed many farms and stations raising cows and sheep but none of the mountains which are supposedly visible on a clear day. About 30 minutes or so before Geraldine we passed by the Rakaia Gorge and the Rangitata River. We had planned to make stops here but those were aborted due to rain and the lack of views. We crossed the bridge and the section of road that experienced severe flooding and damage from the violent rain storms of a week ago and could clearly see the damage done. We continued on to Geraldine, where we enjoyed a nice lunch at Cafe Verde. There is a wide selection of food options and everything was delicious. I ordered salmon and it was one of the best Iíve ever had. There is a nice garden out front with good seating although today was not the day for it with the alternation between steady and heavy rain.

From Geraldine we made our way towards Lake Tekapo. Before Lake Tekapo we stopped at the roadside Garage Gallery for a quick look at the beautiful landscape paintings of Southwest New Zealand by local artist Nathanael Provis. If it werenít for the steep price tag, we would have parted ways with a couple. We soon arrived at Lake Tekapo and the famed Church of the Good Shepherd. For some unknown reason the church was closed so we couldnít go inside. A walk along the lakeshore, which would normally be lined with lupines, was also scuttled. The water level on the lake is the highest our guide Cathy has seen in the 10 years coming here; consequently much of the lupines are under water. We did see a few patches of lupines along the roadside although the persistent rain made it difficult to stop and photograph it.

We headed to Mount John Observatory next. By now the rain had briefly stopped although the low clouds meant we were unable to see any of the surrounding mountains. We were nonetheless able to appreciate the vastness of the Mackenzie Basin. From here it was back in the car headed towards Aoraki Mt. Cook Village and the Hermitage Hotel. We drove along Lake Pukaki and into the national park. The returning rainfall and extreme low clouds meant we could see none of the mountains that we understand are there.

We arrived at the Hermitage Hotel at around 5:30 and checked into our rooms facing New Zealandís highest mountain - or at least thatís whatís advertised. We visited the museum on the property, which focuses on Aoraki Mt. Cook, the hotel; and Sir Edmund Hillaryís hikes in this area before moving onward to Mt. Everest. Dinner was taken at the Alpine Restaurant within the hotel. While an extensive menu buffet was available, we opted for a la carte dining; we enjoyed another delicious meal tonight.
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Old Dec 17th, 2019, 07:23 AM
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Too bad about the rainy weather but you made the best of it.
The meals sound amazing and that C1 place seems so unique. Places like that you don’t forget!
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Old Dec 17th, 2019, 09:29 AM
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Bummer about the rain but it seems all vacations must have some rain now and then. You seemed to have done ok. I wasn't expecting such good food in NZ. I'm pleasantly surprised to hear your comments.
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