Blog 4 New Zealand (#blog4nz), is an effort by the world travel blogging community to remind you that New Zealand is open for business, despite last month’s earthquake in Christchurch. In the final post of our series celebrating New Zealand tourism, journalist Kip Brook from Word of Mouth NZ introduces baby boomer travelers to romantic lodging near Christchurch.
We are shading ourselves from the scorching sun under the terracotta tile roof of a summer house at a stunning, plush luxury lodge — Hope Villa — 20 minutes southeast of Christchurch international airport. This has been the most relaxing, cathartic and re-energizing but surreal holiday ever, after the devastating earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.
This feels like such a romantic haven and the name Hope Villa is so apt after the terrible earthquake on February 22 killed 182 people and caused widespread damage, destroying a third of Christchurch’s inner city. But this area has seen its share of tragedy; the earth will settle down and once more millions will stay and pass through lovely Christchurch.
So our time is dream-like at Hope Villa. We are in the sanctity of the quiet countryside. Birds are chirping, bees busy among an avenue of lavender in a gorgeous manicured garden. Romantic Hope Villa lodge is beautiful — a neutral pastel palette in a warm and inviting lounge; fluffy pillows piled up in the coziest big bed ever. This place is a Mecca for honeymooners, baby boomer romantics and Aussie skiers. It is heaven on earth — but 20 minutes away in the city, we see much devastation and ruin as the February earthquake left its mark brutally shaking buildings to the ground. The rebuild is expected to cost $30billion.
Many grand older heritage-listed buildings have collapsed leaving streets in rubble, destroying the heart and soul of the city and the people who live here. But out of the silt, cracks, mortar, broken bricks and shattered wood, a new Christchurch will rise again.
For 150 years this has been the most English and most peaceful of cities. It is one of the safest and best places to visit and rest in majestic New Zealand. Christchurch has had its share of earthquakes and will soon — in a month or two — be safe and ready to attract millions of visitors once more.
Christchurch is still under a state of emergency and many businesses remain closed, but the city’s tourism industry has taken its first steps towards recovery with the removal of non-essential travel restrictions and reopening of some core services, including key local tourism attractions. The airport is busy as ever again as thousands of people flock to help in the recovery.
Our hosts Terry and Maurice tell us about the earthquake and their own experiences, but they say they are lucky to have discovered no structural damage at the Villa. Terry and Maurice slip away as we sip on chilled champagne they gifted to us. The dulcet sounds of Norah Jones floats across the room; our shoes fly off; soon we’re cuddling on the couch in a romantic lodge…this is magic.
In the morning Terry brings over a breakfast of fresh fruit and yogurt, salmon, spinach and egg, a fruit smoothie and cup of tea. We savour the yummy tastes and are now raring to seize the day.
Hopping on bikes provided by Hope Villa, we peddle down a country bike trail to the Little River village for a coffee. The untouched countryside is quiet and picturesque. We visit a Maori marae (community meeting place) known as Wairewa. It is tidy and a great place for gatherings.
In the afternoon, we stroll nine holes of golf at tranquil Tai Tapu without threatening the course record. We sip a chardonnay in the sunshine while chatting to locals about how they survived the earthquake. They are stoic; they are the lucky ones. Others didn’t make it. People here adapt to a new and eerie reality. Life will slowly return to normal. People are resilient in the rebuild and recovery. They say at least 10,000 homes need to be demolished — but it is nothing like the horror of events in Japan. A national memorial service on March 18 was held to commemorate the victims of the February 22 earthquake. Prince William from the UK Royal Family and other international leaders attended.
The name Hope Villa was so appropriate as Christchurch rebuilds for a new tomorrow. Terry and Maurice were great hosts. Their chocolate labrador Berlin was snoozing under a fruit tree as we drove quietly away to the airport, fully recharged and so happy after the best ever baby boomer romantic holiday.
Kip Brooks, an award-winning New Zealand journalist, currently owns and operates Word of Mouth Media NZ.
Have you visited Christchurch? Where did you stay? Post a comment to share your experience. Alan and I didn’t make it to Christchurch on our last visit to New Zealand. Guess we need to pan a repeat visit.
Want to read more about tourism in New Zealand? Be sure to check out Blog 4 New Zealand’s Facebook page, where the world-wide travel blogging community is sharing stories and travel tips. You’re sure to find a baby boomer adventure for your next visit to New Zealand.