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Historic Churches And The Dinner Tram

Mama always said I’d go to hell if I didn’t change my ways.

Our next big adventure in Christchurch was to hit downtown and see some of the sights there. You may or may not be aware but Christchurch endured two earthquakes about 8 years ago. The first was a 7.1 magnitude quake that hit in early September 2010 and the second, a 6.2, hit a couple of months later in February 2011. They did massive damage to this historic town and 185 lives were lost. These days they call Christchurch “A City In Mourning” because it still hasn’t quite recovered from the damage. This is rather evident as you travel about the city. Of all of the places we’ve visited so far this city had more homeless people and lots of gang tagging everywhere. It’s quite sad to see and hear how these quakes affected this once vibrant, historical city.

With all of this damage many of their most beautiful and historic buildings were lost. One of the most significant is the ChristChurch Cathedral. Apparently there was a lot of debate about whether or not to restore it and finally they have agreed to do so. During our stay here we had an opportunity to view the dilapidated church. It is really a somber sight but the fact that it’s being restored brings hope that the city will someday recover from these disasters.

As you can see, the old cathedral experienced a lot of damage. We’re thrilled to see they are working to restore it.

With one of the city’s main churches out of commission the city needed to do something to help people to heal so they built a transitional cathedral called the Cardboard Cathedral. A Japanese architect, Shigeru Ban, designed this cathedral and it’s really quite something to see. It’s an A-frame that rises 79 feet to the peak. The beams are made of 86 cardboard tubes reinforced with wood beams. The ceiling is polycarbonate and the walls are made from eight shipping containers. Even the cross at the alter is made of cardboard. No, it’s not meant to last forever, rather to last for 50 years. The point it to show that post disaster buildings can be built quickly and last long enough to allow a city to transition back into some sort of normalcy. It is definitely something interesting to see.

We also visited a quaint little street with shops and restaurants. We stopped and had an ice cream cone and even ran into a statue of Grape Ape. Who knew they were aware of him down here in Kiwi Country?

For dinner we had a very special evening planned. We had reservations on the Christchurch Tramway Restaurant. At $109 NZD per person it could be considered a bit pricey but this was a fabulous experience. I mean, what could be more fun that having a four star dinner aboard a streetcar while riding around the city? Yes, this was pretty cool and the food was absolutely brilliant. They started us off with the chef’s appetizer of the day then followed that with our choice of salad or ahi tuna. After that you had a choice of one of their amazing main courses and then there was dessert. OH MY! I had the chocolate mousse cake and it was literally to die for! And the city at night was so awesome. It was like having dinner with an ever changing view. The driver offered historical information as we passed through town and the waiters and waitresses were spot on! Yes, this was definitely one of the best things we’ve done so far. This was a treat we will never forget.

We’ve sure enjoyed our stay here but they say, “All good things must sometime end” and for us this is it. Tomorrow we head north to Aogatete where we have an other amazing evening planned….a night at Hobbiton! From there it’s back to Whangarei and then Auckland where alas, our wonderful three week journey will end. It certainly has been a once in a lifetime adventure with amazing friends.

Cheers,

Captain Dan & Jilly

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Gondolas, Sky Bars and Steamships!

Once you’ve explored the lakefront village and walked the streets checking out the shops, it’s time to take to the sky to see more of this charming town. Today we headed out to the Skyline Gondola to gives a bird’s eye view of Queenstown from the top of Bob’s Peak. It’s a gorgeous, sunny day and it’s even a bit warm outside. Now THIS is an awesome day!

Queenstown is very busy right now. It’s summertime here and the tourists are everywhere. We have a hard time even finding a parking spot at the gondola so the guys drop Mary and I off and they keep searching. There’s an old cemetery right near the entrance to the ride. Both of us love old cemeteries so we decide to take a walk through it while we waited. There are really, really old graves here. Some go back to the 1600s and reading thee tombstones will give you a glimpse into the history of Queenstown.

Notice that it say’s Tom was “killed” . Sort of makes you wonder what ol’ Tom did to get killed doesn’t it? And it asks you to have mercy on Pat’s soul. Hmmm…very curious about him too. I did find out that both men were miners but couldn’t find out anymore about them.

The guys finally arrived and we went inside to purchase our gondola tickets. The tickets cost $59 NZD per person just to ride up and down on the gondola but we’re only going to be here once and it’s a perfect day to view the city from the top so we pay up and get in line. Before we know it we are quietly ascending the mountain in the gently swinging car.

The ride is just about five minutes long and when we arrive at the top we head into the large building that houses two restaurants, shops, a movie theater and some interesting artwork. There’s even a Jelly Belly store where we just had to stop and pick up some tasty treats and, of course, get our photos taken. Yes, we really are just four big kids out here.

Our first plan of action is to head out to the balcony to get a look at Queenstown from this beautiful spot. We make our way outside and WOW! Just WOW! Boy is this ever a spectacular view! It is well worth the price of admission to be sure. And even though it’s pretty crowded here, everyone seems to be pretty respectful of each other. Well, not exactly everyone but for the most part the people take in the view for a moment, snap a few pics and move on to make way for the next person.

Here at the top of Bob’s Peak they have lots of activities where they will be happy to take your money to allow you to participate. The two biggies are bungy jumping and the luge. They also rent mountain bikes where you don’t have to worry about going up the mountain, you just get to ride down it. That’s my kind of mountain riding there. And, there’s plenty of interesting hikes and places to explore as well. We, however, chose to leave the dangerous sports to others and we explored the Stratosfare Bar where we enjoyed the view with a couple of ice cold beers.

Look what we found!

After a couple of hours on the mountain we took the gondola down and decided it was time to head back into town to see what’s happening. It is super crowded with people everywhere! I guess everyone wants to enjoy the beautiful day here and you can’t really blame them.

Mary wanted to do a bit of shopping so we roamed the streets and moseyed in and out of the little stores as she sought the perfect gifts for family and friends back home.

And, of course, all that shopping made us a bit on the thirsty side so we decided to stop back at Póg Mahone’s Irish Pub to wet our whistles with a few pints.

Uncle Jack has been eyeing this large steamship that comes in and out of the dock here. He seems rather fascinated by it so he and Dan take off to see what it’s all about. They come back and tada! We have tickets to take a ride on the TSS Earnslaw. Ticket price: $70 NZD per person for a 1½ hour cruise around Lake Wakatipu.

Her maiden voyage took place in October of 1912 and due to a painstaking restoration process she looks exactly as she did over 100 years ago. The Earnslaw is the only hand fired steamship in operation in the southern hemisphere. And she’s beautiful! There are observation areas over the engine where you can watch the hands below deck shoveling coal into the massive furnaces. It was pretty awesome to see even if it was a bit hot! There are other observation areas where you can watch the men working on other parts of the ship as well as a museum of sorts that has lots of photos and interesting artifacts. The Earnslaw has even been in several movies, including a cameo appearance in Indiana Jones. I thought she looked familiar!

There’s a cafe on board where you can pick up light sandwiches, tasty sweets, sodas, wine and beer. And if you’re up for the full monty you can purchase a ticket that allows you to get off at the Walter Peak Farm, take a farm tour and enjoy a meal there as well. We chose to just do the cruise but if we went back this is something we’d definitely consider. It’s quite lovely there.

Walter Peak Farm…Note the amazing color of the water here. It was absolutely crystal clear too!

The cruise on the Earnslaw was truly wonderful. We got a chance to see Lake Wakatipu from a whole different side and we learned a lot about the history of this amazing steamship. As we departed Dan and I couldn’t help but stop to have a quick chat with Captain Laurie. He’s been operating her for quite sometime. He was even kind enough to stop for a photo with us.

From here it was on to find food. Seems we’re always looking for beer and food on this trip. We found a cute little Mexican joint called the Coyote Grill and stopped in for some very tasty dinners. It was the first Mexican food we’ve had in this country that actually tastes like real Mexican food. Most of it here is not even the slightest bit spicy and they use coriander instead of cilantro which gives everything a much sweeter taste. This place, however, was wonderful and pretty authentic and very yummy!

With our bellies full we went back to the house to pack and prepare for the next leg of our journey. Tomorrow it’s off to Christchurch!

Cheers,

Captain Dan & Jilly


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Chillin’ In Queenstown

After a good night’s sleep it’s time to explore Queenstown. We got up, had some breakfast snacks and headed out. Town is just down the mountain about a five minute drive away. I suppose we could have walked it. Going down would have been a piece of cake but the return trip the steep mountain would have been murder so we opted to drive.

The town center was bustling with people walking everywhere. It was a beautiful sunny day and we were finally enjoying a bit of warmth (in the sun anyway) in spite of the cool breeze drifting across the water. One of the first things we noticed as we began walking around is how pristine the streets and are here. There isn’t a single spec of garbage to be found anywhere….not even a cigarette butt or scrap of paper. It’s like the city is a perfect gift that has just been unwrapped. It’s absolutely astounding and it really is something that is hard to imagine if you haven’t seen it with your own eyes. We couldn’t stop talking about it.

We meandered though the shops and enjoyed a stroll through the craft market where the locals had their wares on display along side of Lake Wakatipu. Mary picked up a warm hat that suited her just perfectly and after a bit it was time to grab a bite to eat and enjoy a few beers in the Irish pub, Póg Mahone’s. We were the first people to enter as they opened on this bright sunny afternoon and because of our promptness we were able to secure the most amazing table right in front of the fireplace! The sun was shining that day but there was a cool breeze coming across the lake so the cozy, warm fire was a welcome treat.

The food here is exceptional. Mary and I had the Beef and Guinness Pie and the boys had hamburgers. We truly enjoyed this little lakefront gem; so much so that we came back the following day. After all, when you find something good you stick with it right?

We learned that this place is owned by a Kiwi and an Irishman. They opened it in the late 90’s and they wanted it to be so authentic that they had the entire place built in Ireland and then shipped to New Zealand and assembled. That’s some dedication to authenticity there now.

Later that afternoon we had reservations at the Minus 5° Ice Bar. If you’ve never been to an ice bar we highly recommend it. No, it’s not a place where you go to spend an afternoon but an hour in one of these places is pretty cool. No pun intended. We’re sure our friends who live in the northern part of the U.S. this year are laughing at us for even considering this fun but for us, it was a great little treat and of course it yielded some really fun photos as well.

The first thing they do when you arrive is outfit you with super warm and cozy coats and gloves. And, if you don’t have proper shoes they will even give you socks to keep your feet warm. Then at our appointed time they escorted us into the frozen bar. Yes, everything inside is made of ice…the tables, chairs, sculptures, bar and even the cups that your cocktails are served in…it’s all ice! And it’s beautiful!

As you can see Dan is really getting into the spirit…or maybe the spirits are getting into him!

They have changing colored lights that slowly fade from red to blue to green which makes the whole place look different every few seconds. The sculptures are absolute works of art. There’s a bear, an alligator, a cowboy and more. We take turns having photos taken with every object in the place. The bartender even lets me go behind the bar to get a photo with the frozen sign in the background. The drinks? All are variations of cocktails made with vodka. Our admission fee of $27 NZD/person included two drinks and we paid for an extra one. About twenty minutes before our time was up Mary and Dan decided it was too cold so they took their leave. Jack and I decided we had paid for the ride and we were going to see it through to the end. So, we ordered an extra cocktail to help us keep warm and kept taking pics. When our time was up we headed out into the warmth of the outdoors. It wasn’t really warm outside but it’s was a darn sight warmer than the bar. 

From here we took a walk back down by the water where there is a boat that’s a floating bar. Well, why not? The sun was out and the water was beautiful so what better place to spend an hour or two? We hopped aboard, ordered a few beers and headed to the upper deck to enjoy the lake views.

After a wonderful afternoon in town we went back to the house to relax for a bit before heading out to dinner. Tonight we decided to head down to V’Know. It’s a really cool restaurant and wine bar just down the hill from our house. The owner, Danny Carson, is a really great guy and the food here is top notch. We highly recommend stopping in if you are ever in the area.

Us with Danny Carson….Check out the cork walls in the background. Here’s a great way to use old corks to decorate!

By the time we had dinner and made it back to the house we were all exhausted from the day. One thing is for sure, we certainly love Queenstown and we made the most of every moment here today. Tomorrow we have more amazing adventures ahead including a ride on the Skyline Gondola to the top of Bob’s Peak and a trip on a true steamship, the TSS Earnslaw. It’s the only hand fired steamship in operation in the Southern Hemisphere! Check back because you won’t want to miss this!

Cheers,

Jilly & Dan

P.S. Just a couple more entries before Team Dazzler sets sail again! This year we’re off to Tonga and Fiji and maybe a couple of other places. Subscribe to our blog to be sure you don’t miss a single adventure.