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Dear Christchurch, I love you (but I hate you)

It has been two years since I have made you my new home. Two years of adventure, excitement, beauty, disappointment,  frustration and challenge.

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We’ve developed a  tug-of-war relationship with each other, but neither of us seem to be budging. I’ve got to the point where I seem to say “gosh I just love you so much” and “oh my god I hate you!” within the same hour, on a daily basis.

Christchurch, I love you because you’re naturally beautiful. Your combination of coastlines and mountains is a defining quality of yours. I love starting my day at sunrise along the waterfront and watching the sun glisten on the waves and the clouds transform to radiant pink and orange hues.  I love walking through the Port Hills and seeing your unique blue waters contrast against the rolling green hills with a layer of snow-capped mountains in the distance.

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But I hate how you make me fight through the elements to enjoy you. Your howling southerly winds make me freeze from the inside out, even on the sunniest of days. And when you do allow the sun to come out without the southerly, you provide minimal protection from the intense rays that cause me heat stroke in under ten minutes. You often make those romantic walks on the beach near impossible!

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Christchurch, I love you because you are a foodie’s dream. There aren’t enough weekends in the year to test out all of your one-of-a-kind cafes. You have perfected the art of eggs benny and your coffee scene is pretty darn perfect.  And the fusion restaurant selection is one that could give NYC a run for it’s money.  Plus, speaking on behalf of the smaller group of vegetarians, your countless farmer’s markets with weekly fresh and organic produce absolutely warms my heart.

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But I hate you because you are so damn expensive. You tempt me with extra large and plump avocado’s but want me to pay a fortune to enjoy one. You get me addicted to your delicious barista services and have made me a coffee snob for life. Before I met you I had never craved a cuppa in my life and now I fear leaving you because I know that no one else does it like you!

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Christchurch, I love you because you are so resilient. You have been through enough hardships to last a lifetime but you don’t give up. You are on a mission to be the most modern city in the world (despite Mother Nature continually trying to stop you), and I admire you for that. You have a vision and you’re sticking to it!

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But I hate you because you are testing my patience! I know good things take time, but it is agonizing driving through your CBD and still dodging orange cones left and right, driving past earthquake damaged buildings that are still in ruins and having to park in  what feels like ground zero.

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Christchurch, I love you because you offer big city opportunities and small town living. You make countless career dreams come true and offer the support we all need to succeed.  And you also make it possible to own your own slice of this paradise and not have to be wealthy to be in your property game.

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But I hate you because you are so unpredictable! I am not a fan of your earthquakes. They always happen out of no where and take my breath away. And then just when I get used to them, they go away. So I’m forced to live on edge and try to anticipate your next big shake. And it’s a never ending cycle that I don’t think you’re going to break anytime soon.

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Sometimes I just want to give up on you. Those blasted southerlies, overpriced avocados, inconveniently placed orange road cones and unnecessary quakes can send me into a state of rage. I want you to change and to make my life easier.

But then again, nothing that is great is ever easy. Those seconds of rage are quickly replaced with an overwhelming and lasting feeling of loyalty and love.

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I will be the first to come to your protection when outsiders bad mouth you. Only I am allowed to say I hate you! Because those outsiders don’t really understands just how great you are.

You are one of a kind, and even though I don’t admit it nearly enough, I do appreciate everything about you–the good, the bad, the inconvenient and the scary.

Christchurch, I love you.  Cheers to two years with you. And cheers to many more to come.

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A COZY CABIN IN LITTLE RIVER

Sometimes you just need a detox from life.

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This year has started off with a roaring bang in all aspects of my life and after one month into 2017 I felt a little R&R would be good for my soul. I knew I wanted to retreat to a place where there would be no interruptions from modern technology, no guilt in doing absolutely nothing and no aspect of time.

So you can imagine my delight when I found the most adorable little cottage on AirBNB–perfect for one and checked all my requirements for my escape.

Little River is one of the small towns where there is only one pub, one gas station and one convenience store–which conveniently closes at 5:30PM.  But that was okay because I didn’t go there for the 5 star dining or lively night life.

I had my own entertainment at my little cottage instead!

Named the Oakston Cabin by it’s owners, this renovated 1870 saw miller’s cabin is a little slice of heaven. Completely solar powered, this rustic home is inviting from the instant you open the cobble-webbed red gate.

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With pink roses sprouting over the wooden red door, you can’t help but take in the smells as you go to open it to go inside.

And inside it gets even cuter!

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An old Victorian bed that is practically begging to be slept in, a steel fireplace to provide warmth on those cold Canterbury evenings and plaid blankets galore to cuddle up under and read your book.

But the best part of all is once you go to the backyard.

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There is a rustic couch on the back porch, bushes of lavender that surround the cottage and a bench table to enjoy a very scenic dinner!

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But the most special part of the Oakston Cabin is the outdoor bath tub.

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Now, this isn’t your ordinary bath-tub. It’s a wood-fire heated tub. Meaning that underneath the tub you have to light the fire before the water is warm enough to enjoy. For a normal person this probably would take an hour for the whole process to have been complete. But for me, in which I have a track-record of losing the battle of setting fires, the process took more like 4 hours as I kept having to re-start it.

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But perseverance paid off and at sun down I was able to hop in my lavender filled and candle lit bath. For the next two hours I enjoyed pure bliss–with the sounds of the nearby stream as my soundtrack and the twinkling sky full of stars as my entertainment.

Needless to say, it was a very good night sleep in the cabin. And it was topped off by a short bike ride down to the Little River Cafe for a cup of the best coffee in New Zealand the next morning.  24 hours well-spent.

Five iconic spots in Christchurch (that happen to be free!)

Queenstown has the Remarkables, Auckland has the Sky Tower and Wellington has the Cable Car; but when it comes to Christchurch, many tend to overlook the city for having an iconic landmark.

Displaying FullSizeRender.jpgEver since the February 2011 earthquake that completely destroyed Christchurch, the city has been in a constant “re-build” mode. This means that there is an overabundance of orange cones, detour signs, and construction cranes. But that does not mean that Christchurch is without its iconic “must-do” features.

Here are the top five iconic spots in Christchurch (all of which are free—bonus!):

5. Brighton Pier

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The pier offers a stunning coastline view of Christchurch. Destroyed during the earthquake, the Brighton Pier was one of the first structures rebuilt as it is a hub for fishermen, tourists, couples on a romantic stroll or the keen runners. It is extra special to watch the sun set and rise on the pier and chances are during those hours you will get the whole thing to yourself. And on a rainy day, the pier can be enjoyed from inside the public library that sits behind it.

4. The Gondola

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Placed at the top of the Bridle Trek, the Gondola is the highest viewing point in Christchurch. Whether you pay the twenty dollars for the gondola ride up or opt for the forty-five minute (free) hike to the top, the views are always priceless. Whether you are keen to watch the clouds vaporize from the afternoon sun or see the city twinkling at night, the Gondola offers a magical viewing point at all hours of the day.

3. Hagley Park

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Comparable to what Central Park is to Manhattan, Hagley Park is a safe-haven in the middle of a construction driven city center. Whether it is a peaceful pontoon down the Avon river,a leisurely stroll through the botanical gardens or afternoon tea (kiwi lingo for lunch) among the daisies, Hagley Park is the perfect escape. The flower arrangements are a more modest version to what you might find in the Amsterdam tulip farms, but the quality of plants in Hagley Park leave no question as to why Christchurch is often referred to as the Garden City.

2. Sumner Beach

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Whether it is to surf or just to watch the surfers, make sure to head down to Sumner Beach. From rain to shine, summer to winter or dawn to dusk, a surfer can always be found on Sumner Beach. With Scarbourough hill and the Southern Alps as the backdrop, this is truly a unique location to experience the world of surfing from in the water or on the sand.

1.The Sky

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The most iconic part of Christchurch is the sky. No matter where you are—driving home from work, lounging in the backyard or out exploring another part of the city—the beautiful color splashed skies never cease to amaze. And best of all, they are absolutely free for everyone to enjoy.

The 5 Best Walks in Christchurch:

One of the first miscommunications I had when arriving in New Zealand was what the definition of a “walk” consisted of. To me, this term implied a leisurely stroll through a relatively flat area. But in New Zealand English, a “walk” is equivalent to what Americans refer to as a “hike”.  And it is a good thing I discovered this early, as Christchurch has some of the most scenic and diverse “walks” available to anyone eager to explore the rolling hills surrounding the flat-landed city center.

#5: Riccarton Bush

Difficulty: Easy

Return Time: 45 minutes

Okay, I lied. Not all of these walks are through the many surrounding hills of Christchurch. But this flat-landed walk is too awesome to leave out of the list. Located in the heart of Christchurch is a 1.4 hectares section of native bush. Inside are some of the oldest and tallest trees in New Zealand.  It is hard not to feel as if you are in the Avatar movie while being surrounded by the winding branches and lime green moss growing in all directions.

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Along the walk are strategically placed benches to rest and reflect upon the last remaining bush in all of Canterbury.

#4: The Port Hills— Victoria Park and Sign of the Bellbird

Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Return Time: 2-3 hours

The Port Hills offer some of the best views of Christchurch Central. To make for an easy start, the walk begins at the Victoria Park car park halfway up the hill. But to the more extreme (especially the cyclists), this walk can begin at the very bottom of the hill.  Once past the dog park, the first scenic viewpoint comes at the 19th War Memorial—a WW1 Memorial with trees planted from each of the countries that the New Zealand military fought in.  The walk continues upwards to the Sugar Loaf hill, which has a radio tower at the top. The walking path up to this point is shared with mountain bikers, so beware of close encounters with them as they soar down the hill! When approaching Sugar Loaf, there are two options: to continue up the hill for the highest point in Christchurch, or turn right and continue walking down the paved path to reach the Sign of the Bellbird.

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Both of these spots are ideal for sunset-chasers.

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#3: Huntsbury Reserve

Difficulty: Moderate

Return Time: 1.5-2 hours

Huntsbury Reserve offers a Lord of the Rings type experience (in regards to the type of nature, not the type of people you will encounter).

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While the film series did not film any scenes in this area, it is easy to imagine multiple scenes taking place by the creeks, waterfalls, and mystical forests.  Starting at the end of Huntsbury avenue, the walk first starts out through the forest. But after climbing over a few small creeks, a scenic view of Christchurch is revealed. At the top of the hill is a scenic viewing point and reflective lake.

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There is then the option to return back, or connect to what will then turn into the Rapiki Trek, which will lead to the other side of the hill and the Harbor Bays.

#2: Bridle Trek

Difficulty: Moderately Hard

Return Time: 1-3 hours (depending on how many breaks you need!)

The Bridle Trek is a walk that I routinely return to. This trek originated during the migration of English settlers in the late 1800s. Arriving in Lyttelton, families trekked up Bridal with all of their personal belongings and children to settle in Christchurch.

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Starting on the Christchurch-side, the walk immediately turns into a constant uphill assent, in which it does not get any easier. But don’t worry, there are multiple benches to stop and rest at. Once at the top of Bridle, a beautiful 360 degree view of Christchurch and Lyttelton comes into sight.

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After taking in the breathtaking scenery, the descent to Lyttelton begins. This side of the trek is equally as steep, but is a nice relief for the calf muscles! After finally arriving into the town of Lyttelton, you can reward yourself with the best fish and chips shop in all the land (even though every shop claims this, this one is seriously the best).  Located in a small container near the port, a beetroot burger, kumra chips, and a fried donut can be enjoyed while being cooled off with the cool ocean breeze. And then, it is back up that very steep hill you had just come down. Just remember, if the first settlers could climb these hills in suits, dresses, and children on their backs, then you can make it too!

#1 Godley Heads

Difficulty: Moderate

Return Time: 2-4 hours (depending on where you start)

This is my absolute favorite walk in Christchurch.  Depending on how long you want the walk to be, it can start at the top of Scarborough Hill or at the bottom of Taylor’s Mistake beach.

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I prefer starting at the top of the hill because there are more hidden treasures to find along the way! Following the signs pointing to Taylor’s Mistake, you will instantly be treated to a scenic view of Godley Heads Reserve Park in the distance. Once at the beach, it is just a straight walk across the beach before starting the trek in the Godley Heads National Park.

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This area was originally an important military look out during World War II. At the top of the hill are multiple bunkers which men were stationed in when under threat from Japan.

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Today, in a more peaceful time, this part of the trek offers a coastal walk unlike any other. The sparkling teal water contrasts with the dry yellow grass of the hills.

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As you make your way along the trek, there are multiple opportunities to get close to the water and constant opportunities for photos.

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Actually, it is impossible to take a bad photo on this trek—everything is picture perfect. After reaching the first set of bunkers, the trek continues up to the next hill, where around the corner several more bunkers can be found. This time, they overlook the Lyttelton Harbour. If you time this walk right, the return journey will be to one of the most stunning sunsets you will ever witness!

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Happy Walking!