Saturday was the ideal day to reacquaint with our half-day Grand Tour. It was a stunning day with a hint of autumn in the air and patches of autumn colour already scattered amongst trees bordering the Avon. Six passengers included a middle-aged couple from London (retired teachers and presently tour operators) Another middle aged couple from Perth and a younger duo from Brisbane. Driver Dave Street was up to his usual interesting patter, reminiscing about growing up in Christchurch, explaining the science of fault lines along with the science of many other things such as the 5000 shades of green the human eye can detect. Thinking of how much green there is to look at in our city is a reminder that many things about Christchurch tourists have traditionally come to experience are still here, despite almost two years of rocking ‘n rolling beneath us.
Punting from the wonderful old Antigua Boat Sheds was an obvious hit. “It was so quiet and peaceful on the river.” I was impressed by Dave’s relaxed tour guiding. No-one was hassled to get on to the next thing while wandering through the beautiful grounds of Mona Vale or taking in the views from near the Sign of the Takahe on the Port Hills. People were, as expected, curious about earthquakes and asked numerous questions. There was no real effort to highlight our recent disasters but much is apparent on the bumpy road to Sumner where we had welcome time out for coffee. And, later, we drove past the ruins of the once proud Catholic Basilica in Barbadoes Street. (That was appreciated with cameras hurriedly brought close to the bus windows.) When I asked if they thought Christchurch had been worth including in their New Zealand itinerary, their replies were a resounding “YES…” Nicky, from Brisbane said everyone had been very friendly. The London tour operators, Andy and Sue Thompson, also gave our city the thumbs up, and particularly Welcome Aboard’s half-day tour.
“We did a tour in Hong Kong on the way to New Zealand,” Andy told me. “It was so disappointing because we were just taken from one place to the next to spend money. Our Christchurch tour was everything the Hong Kong tour was not.” Good praise indeed from someone in the tourism business I thought….