As a Brooklyn-based, New Zealand writer, I am excited to be jumping on a plane home to Christchurch. The locals call it 'the quaky aisles.' They've had over 13,000 earthquakes since The. Big. One. which hit on February 22nd, 2010. The ground shook so hard it claimed 182 souls and took most of the inner city with it. The ground has stopped shaking and the rebuild is underway. I am keen to see it.
After landing at Christchurch's new terminal, the first order of business is breakfast. If you're a coffee lover, you'll appreciate New Zealand baristas. This small country has had a huge influence on the New York coffee culture.
I head to Black Betty's Cafe; My eggs benedict is served on toasted ciabatta with hollandaise sauce mixed with grainy mustard and crispy shards of bacon. Thoroughly delicious with the standout being the eggs. As I slice into them, they burst into flowing rivers of molten orange. Free range heaven. My flat white coffee (more espresso, less milk) has the obligatory dark crema reserved for the realms of only the most knowledgable coffee wizards.
Fat and happy, I am now ready for the grim task of checking out my ripped and torn city. Nothing prepares you for the shock of what you're about to see. Entire blocks have disappeared, and all that is left are piles and piles of rubble. Crocodile tears well up at the brutality of it all.
Despite this, Christchurch is still such a beautiful city. Lonely Planet recently named Christchurch the 6th 'Must See' destination on the planet, a hat tip surely for the beautiful, resilient Kiwi spirit and a rebuild that still caters for the numerous visitors coming to the 'Garden City.' Filming the trilogy 'Lord of the Rings' in and around these parts hasn't hurt either.
However you choose to fill in your day, the Re-start Village (check out the creative way they use shipping containers), punting down the Avon, shopping at any of the large retail Malls and of course, eating, and drinking some of the world's best wine, there is something for everyone. New restaurants and cafes seem to be opening daily, and the list is growing. Check out Restaurant Schwass in a Box, the Bodhi Tree, Pedro's Lamb Box and King of Snake, and you'll be left in no doubt as to the legitimacy of just some of Christchurch's talented resident chefs.
Picking a hotel in Christchurch is easier now too, there are a lot less of them. For me however, they don't come much better than The George, a contemporary, boutique hotel overlooking the Avon river with plenty of free parking.
Coming home this time has been very emotional but also hugely heartening to see the innovativeness and the progress going ahead. Christchurch and New Zealand should be on everyone's bucket list because the natural beauty is so spectacular, and the friendliness of its people legendary. And if you're lucky, you just might even meet a Hobbit or two.
© 2013 Jackie Maw Tolliver