Bon appetit

Last night the sky moved rather than the earth, as the hostel’s metal roof was pounded by heavy rain. However, it had almost cleared up by the time I woke this morning – the weather fairies are still being kind. The hostel dropped me off at the very quaint seaside town of Akaroa around lunchtime, to await my bus back to Christchurch. The town has some kind of association with France, seen in the ornate architecture, the street names (e.g. Rue Lavaud, Rue Jolie) and lots of French flags and bunting everywhere. It felt slightly contrived (e.g. it was hard to find an eaterie that didn’t have some kind of Franco-pun for a name), but was a charming and relaxed place to kick back in for a few hours. The only aggro thing about the place was the audacity of the greedy gulls and scavenger sparrows. However, they met their match with me – there was no way I was giving up even one crumb of my gorgeous Akaroa salmon and spinach pie.

After some top nosh, I pottered amongst the pottery shops and pressed my nose wistfully up against shop windows, gazing at all the beautiful paua jewelry like a Victorian street urchin. I also had a serendipitous meeting with an owner of an art gallery. We hit it off immediately and, when I happened to mention I was seeking inspiration for a fern tattoo, she showed me a necklace, of which the pendant was perfect, and she also gave me the name of a recommended artist in Auckland. As she said – our meeting was clearly meant to be, so this could actually be happening, eek! Incidentally, I had the strange experience of googling for images of ‘unfurling ferns’ yesterday, and one of the images on the first page was mine from my blog. It seems crazy to me that I have actually become part of the internet.

The bus back to Christchurch was highly entertaining. The driver was incredibly friendly and helpful, even dropping me off at my hostel door back at Christchurch and waiting for me to check in, then driving me into the city centre, giving me my own personal guided tour on the way. Every reply I gave to his questions was countered with, ‘Good on ya’. There was only one other passenger, who the driver introduced to me as ‘Magda’s mum’, as if that should mean something to me, and the two of us passed a good hour chinwagging about NZ life. She emigrated here from Poland 30 years ago, and has never looked back. Something she said struck a chord with me, so I’ll share:

“When you have time you don’t have money. When you have money you don’t have time.” Very true, Magda’s mum.

So I am now back in Christchurch and have had the chance to see the ‘Restart Mall’ this evening, thanks to my lovely bus driver. Despite my intense dislike of the term ‘mall’ (an onomatopoeiac reflection of the morose ennui that pervades such places), I was very impressed with what has been done to create a vibrant new shopping centre in the shadow of the CBD’s wreckage. Colourful shipping crates have been transformed into retail outlets, with lighthearted, fun landscaping surrounding them. I also have to admit an error in my previous Christchurch entry: I found out that the bridge of remembrance is actually a pre-existing edifice, rather than something constructed since the quake, oops.

There are many travellers at the hostel who have ended up staying in Christchurch and working for the construction industry, for which there is plenty of available work, as you can imagine. So the atmosphere here is a strange one. Flourescent jackets, worker boots and hard hats outnumber the anoraks, flip flops and straw hats, and it is very male dominated. I am the only girl in my six-bed dorm tonight – I am already bracing myself for a discordant quintet of snores…

Akaroa – c’est tres jolie, n’est-pas?

The resolutely cheerful Restart Mall, Christchurch.

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