Thursday, 7 January 2010

New beginnings

I may not sound very coherent on this one - I've just finished The Children's Book, A S Byatt's epic saga of the Edwardian age, and three families torn apart by the First World War, and it's devastatingly good. But having blown my nose and generally mopped myself up, I wanted to write about my first days in New Zealand, before I head off to Hanmer hot springs tomorrow!

So far it's all been very gentle and dreamy. Christchurch is amazingly pretty, with faux Gothic greystone buildings at every corner, and a crystal clear river trickling through the centre of town, populated by ducks and men in boaters punting the tourists about. I've pottered through the Botanic Gardens in the blazing sunshine taking photos (apologies to those of you also following on Flickr - there will be a heap of flower pictures sometime soon!), and sampled the Arts Centre (once Canterbury College, built to look like an Oxford college, quadrangle and all, and now full of bijoux little art shops and a cinema in the cloisters; I went, of course, and saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a violently bloody Swedish thriller based on a bestselling novel - not the most appropriate to the setting, and it appeared to surprise the elderly couple sitting behind me too, but there you go!).

I've also checked out the art gallery, which is a fantastic modern building amid the stone, all wavy lines and glass frontage, and with a great collection of New Zealand artists. Plus there's Canterbury Museum, which is a little provincial - lots of kitsch dioramas of
big-breasted Maori ladies weaving cloaks and plucking moa - but very endearing, and some of the exhibits are stunning, including the wood carvings from various whare (meeting houses). And just to make me feel really at home, the hostel is lovely, very cosy and friendly, with a herb garden we're free to plunder, spotless rooms, and its own house cat and two guinea pigs, who run around the lawn during the day, squeaking at each other. Adorable. (I should perhaps mention that this is a women-only hostel; I'm not sure the blokes would be so bowled over by guinea-pigs!)

So tomorrow is Hanmer Springs, before a few days back here, and then off again. I'll keep you posted, and in the meantime, good night and sleep tight...

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