Christchurch

IT ALL MEANS THE SAME

Bonjour mon amour! Je pense a toi et j’espere que tout va bien. Je t’embrasse. Bonne journee.

 

Mon amour’, that’s French for “my little love” and the rest means, “I’m thinking of you, and hoping that everything is going well.” It has a similar version in Pilipino which for some, is a bit harder to translate into English because of its much deeper expression of feelings but means all the same for Filipino families whose immediate members are separated by long distances.

 

So why have some 45,000-odd Filipinos to-date dispersed to settle themselves in this new home called New Zealand? Why not the United States, Canada or Australia as hundreds of thousands of other kababayans (countrymen) have done already? And why Auckland, for that particular matter?

 

GOD’S OWN COUNTRY

 

New Zealand is situated in the South Pacific Ocean, between latitude 34’S and 47’S and runs roughly north-south with mountain ranges down much of its length. There are two main islands, the North Island (where the population centres of Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington are situated) and the South Is-land (where Christchurch sits), with a third smaller one called Stewart Island be-yond its tip.

 

The country’s position atop the grinding plates of the Pacific Ring of Fire has resulted in a unique landscape with an unrivalled variety of landforms. A couple of day’s drive by car or train will allow you to see everything from snow-topped mountain ranges to sandy beaches, lush rainforests, glaciers and fiords, and active volcanoes.

 

It is an uncrowded country consisting of a diverse multi-cultural population of just over 4-million people each with a rich ethnic history. The Maori, a Poly-nesian sea-faring people, were New Zealand’s first settlers, arriving about 1,000 years ago. Then, the Europeans discovered it in 1642 but not until 1769 was it claimed and then gradually colonized by Britain. By 1840, after some armed conflicts between these two cultures, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, es-tablishing the country as a nation which later on was popularized as ‘God’s Own Country’ by New Zealand’s longest-service prime minister, Richard John Seddon (1845-1906). It is has since become a phrase that has been used for more than 100-years by New Zealanders to describe their homeland.

 

ATTRACTIONS OF CHRISTCHURCH

 

Canterbury is a large region in the South Island that stretches from ocean to the Alps. It is a land of plains and peaks made famous by Peter Jackson’s pictu-resque Lord of the Rings movie Trilogy.

 

It is a place of variety and innumerable attractions in New Zealand. A must-see is the country’s highest peak, Aoraki Mount Cook with many visitors going hiking in Arthur’s Pass National Park or just wandering around picture perfect bays and villages of Banks Peninsula. And then there’s New Zealand’s second-largest city, Christchurch.

 

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It is also one of the most historic. Known as New Zealand’s garden city, Christ-church is the most English of all New Zealand cities. Staring from its grand architecture to the winding Avon River, Christchurch has – from the start of New Zealand’s history as a nation, skipped to its own unique tune. What’s more, within two hours of an airport from most other parts of the country, you can ski, play golf, bungee jump, go whitewater rafting, mountain biking, wind surfing, whale watching, visit world-class vineyards or just relax in the surrounds of Mona Vale Gardens. Where else in the world can you do that?

 

From Christchurch, you can take a short drive from the city centre to the beaches at Brighton or just enjoy a fine selection of local fare on “The Strip”, Christchurch’s nightlife precinct. Christchurch is the perfect base for a skiing trip to nearby Mt Hutt, catch the Trans-alpine express for the train journey of a lifetime to the west coast or drive to the historic French settlement of Akaroa.

 

Then, just 90-minutes from Christchurch, Hanmer Springs beckons you – as it has others for more than a century, for its restorative attributes and relaxed setting. Nestled at the foothills of the majestic Southern Alps, Hanmer Springs is a combination of old world romanticism and contemporary living. This is the perfect place to take a few days off and get back to the things that make life special in New Zealand.

 

In February 2011, Christchurch was hit by a huge earthquake. Much of the central city with its classic neo-gothic architecture was either damaged or des-troyed. But it remains a beautiful city, a city where you can cycle alongside the river, stay in good hotels and indulge in fine sophisticated dining, and a city where, just 15-minutes from the centre you can scramble up mountain bike tracks or ride a wave at a surf beach. The buildings may have been damaged but the soul of the city and the welcoming spirit of its people remains very much intact.

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