Julia Evans explores the central city with her grandmother Chris Evans.
It had been at least two years since Chris Evans, or as I like to call her Granny, ventured into the central city.
She hadn’t been into the restored Arts Centre, or through Cathedral Square, nor seen the development on The Terrace.
“A lot of the time there’s a perception the central city is hard to get into, hard to find a park and there’s not a lot happening,” she said.
She, nor her friends, don’t think to come into the city. They have all they need in the suburbs.
But this year marks 50 years since my Granny moved from Oamaru to the big smoke of Christchurch and she’s never been on the tram. Blasphemy, I hear you say.
On Friday, that changed. We spent the afternoon being tourists in our own city.
I’ve never heard the word “wow” used more often in my life.
We boarded a tram from Cathedral Junction, going through the Square and down Worcester St to the Avon River.
“I used to work there when I sold insurance. I wasn’t very good at that job,” Granny said, pointing out the Old Government Building.
“And that’s where I used to park my car,” signalling one of the many fenced off empty lots on Worcester St.
“You have to focus on the positives though, I think. Look at all the exciting new things going on,” Granny said.
After a history lesson, we got off at the Bridge of Remembrance. But even at 94-years-old, this bridge has something new to see.
In front of it is one of the 13 new Nga Whariki Manaaki, Maori woven mats, that follow the Avon.
“That’s really special,” Granny said. She said the detail of the rebuild, down to literally the ground, is something you can’t see from the comfort of your living room.
We marvelled a little longer, looking down to the Melbourne-esqe lanes of The Terrace.
Lunch was at Amazonita a tropically inspired restaurant in Antony Gough’s $140 million development that harks back to the The Strip.
“I feel like a kid in a candy shop,” Granny said, tucking into the groper on her plate.
Fortunately, Friday was the nicest day we’d had all winter, so instead of hopping back on the tram, we finished lunch and headed along Cashel Mall to Plymouth Lane.
“There’s no place like home,” the street art on the wall said. “I couldn’t have said it better myself,” Granny replied.
Down the other end of Cashel Mall, we discovered The Crossing and walked back to Cathedral Square.
“It’s a shame, isn’t it.”
The Christ Church Cathedral looming over a bustling Friday Food Truck day in the Square.
But on the other side of the derelict icon was the not-quite-complete library, Turanga.
“When that opens, we’re coming back,” Granny said. “It’s seeing things like that, which really are exciting. It’s got the wow factor.”
We could have spent hours exploring the city, we didn’t scratch the surface. But there was one place Granny wouldn’t leave without seeing.
The Arts Centre is one of the few places in the city that still feels the same, a stark contrast with the new “city of glass” nickname Christchurch has earned.
“That’s just amazing. That has to be the highlight of the whole day,” Granny said.
She was talking about the stained glass window of the Great Hall, saved and stored after the quake before being re-installed in 2016. It was there that our tour finished.
“Ending on an absolute high, you saved the best for last,” she said.
While Granny won’t be rushing back into the central city every day. She said having an afternoon there had reignited curiosity and passion for her own city.
“I’ll be back before two more years. That’s for sure, maybe even sooner than I think.”