Occupation: Au Pair
Age: 30 (Fun fact: 30 is not too old to be eligible for such an arrangement.)
About Me: Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I’ve lived in New Zealand for five months working as an au pair. My background is in School Counseling, and live-in childcare work proved to be my best choice in New Zealand, a country where I wanted to afford traveling like a true local for a while. For 25 hours of work each week, I’m compensated with room and board and weekly spending money, which has allowed me to enjoy this unique, vibrant (and very windy) city. You can read about my adventures HERE!
Christchurch should be on the list of every traveler heading to New Zealand: to witness a city full of life, rebuilding after the catastrophic earthquakes of 2011, experience a reinvigorated CBD with murals and art installations everywhere you turn, meander through a grid-system of streets, reminiscent of Europe, and--time permitting--explore the surrounding beauty of the rest of the Canterbury region.
I was able to visit Christchurch on two separate weekends: first, with local friends from nearby Darfield, and later, on my own. The following is my mash-up money diary of a weekend that could be recreated by other Trulo travelers.
10:00 AM: Arriving in Christchurch after a quick 50-minute flight from Wellington, my friend picks me up for an incredible driving tour of the Port Hills. We zip around the mountain-like hills, past damage from the February 2017 fires, stopping to take breathtaking photos of the views overlooking the bays of the Banks Peninsula. (If you don’t have an awesome friend to drive you around, definitely rent a car.)
11:00 AM: We drive back to the CBD, park the car, and walk around to explore. Most notable sights include: Cathedral Square (where the original Cathedral was damaged in the earthquakes), the Cardboard Cathedral (a permanent church building that functions as the transitional cathedral), and the new Regent Street, resembling a city block in New Orleans. On that street is Rollickin’, a gelato shop opened by a teenager--which is worth the stop for a scoop of banoffee. ($4)
1:00 PM: For lunch, we dine at Bunsen, conveniently located by the i-Site (also a free wifi destination). I’m craving nachos, so I’m happy to see them on the menu, and even happier to eat them at a table outside in the fall sunshine. ($11)
2:30 PM: After lunch, we head west to Darfield, then tackle the Washburn Falls hike for amazing views of Canterbury, with a stunning waterfall along the way. ($8 donation)
6:00 PM: My friends have prepared dinner for us, so we chow down on fish sandwiches and a bottle of New Zealand Pinot Grigio ($10). After dinner, it’s time to watch the rugby on TV and call it a night.
Day 1 Total: $33
9:00 AM: After breakfast at the house, I head back into the city with a ride from my friend. (If you find yourself in Darfield, you can catch the last stretch of the TranzAlpine Train from Darfield to the CBD at 6PM daily. If you have more time on the South Island, take the train all the way to the west coast for the ride of your life through the majestic mountains.)
10:00 AM: I head to Hagley Park in the CBD to stroll through the Botanic Gardens--a free attraction not to be missed. Seeing the European trees changing colors in autumn alongside native tropical plants is the coolest juxtaposition.
11:00 AM: Cruising through more of Hagley Park, I get a kick out of the brightly colored paradise shelducks swimming around the creek. Next, I pop into the gothic-style Canterbury Museum to learn more about New Zealand’s culture, history, and wildlife. I get a bit nostalgic in an exhibit modeling the old city streets that’s almost exactly like the Streets of Old Milwaukee at the Milwaukee Public Museum. (In case any Wisconsinites are reading this.) (Cost: donation)
12:00 PM: When my stomach starts rumbling, I head to Cathedral Square to get in on some food truck action. A Polish stand with pierogis catches my eye, and I’m not disappointed with my choice of potato and onion. ($8)
12:30 PM: After lunch, I visit the Christchurch Art Gallery that’s lured me in with its artsy neon-lettered display on the building’s exterior, reading in all caps: “Everything is Going to Be Alright.” Favorite exhibits: Women in Maori Myth and Bridget Riley’s Op Art collection. (Cost: donation)
2:00 PM: Before my flight, I take a final loop around the CBD to spot more murals, and then roam through Re:START Mall, the unique container district--where shops, banks, and restaurants inhabit colorful shipping containers. Continuing on, I pause at the memorial of 185 white painted chairs to symbolize the number of people who lost their lives in the February 2011 earthquake. As an outsider, it’s hard to comprehend the degree of tragedy that Christchurch has experienced. It’s inspiring to see the city’s continued efforts to rebuild and remain true to its artistic, innovative roots, apparent in the city's permanent and pop-up art installations, as well as its citizens’ positive, welcoming attitudes.
4:00 PM: I catch the convenient city bus to the airport ($6) and while waiting for my flight, I realize it’s been months since I splurged on American fast food. Sometimes, it’s the little things (even guilty pleasures) that can remind you of home--so I shamelessly enjoy fries and a Hershey Sundae Pie from Burger King ($4) while flicking through my photos from Christchurch, hoping I’ll be back soon to check out more of Canterbury.
Day 2 Total: $18
WEEKEND TOTAL: $51
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