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Hours waiting in Melbourne airport, delayed flight, lack of food on disappointing Virgin airlines, but we are back in New Zealand – 11 years and 1 month after last being here.

A most welcoming passport control lady, customs man and taxi driver help us to get to our Christchurch Airbnb in the early hours of the morning. Weary eyes close to look forward to the next month spent in ‘Big cloud country’.

Christchurch – revisited

Earlyish the next sunny morning we set off to find a bus stop to take us into Christchurch to explore and see how the city is recovering from the devastating earthquake in 2011. A cheerful, relatively cheap bus ride dropped us off outside the museum, which we pop into for a quick explore, but stayed longer. Fabulous detail on the old streets of Christchurch, life in the trenches at war and antipodean wildlife left us wanting more (so we came back the next day!)

Heading out along Worcester Boulevard towards the city centre we started to notice the buildings that had been affected by the quake or demolished after it. This culminated in the square where the Cathedral is still boarded up to protect people from its collapsed state. This was upsetting to see as we remembered it looking so beautiful, and we tried to describe to the little bees what it used to look like.

Exploring close by streets for lunch we find that most the buildings are supported by scaffolding still 7 years on. But Dave bee found a great little cafe and the best handmade burger to show that life is thriving here, I also had my first NZ flat white for a long time! We had a quick explore to try to locate the Michael Hill jewellers where we had brought Sarah’s engagement ring all those years ago, but it had relocated after the shake, so wasn’t quite the same when we found it.

Bus ride home to our new New Zealand home for the next couple of days – with plans to return tomorrow.

Childs play

Day 2 – bus ride in, Christchurch museum, but today we pay $2 to go into the children’s exploration area, where everything is hands on. The girls loved getting to grips with the displays ranging from wildlife to skeletons and fossils. My only concern was the ram wearing what appeared to be Forest socks!

It was enlightening to see the Maori exhibitions and read more about the history of this new land. Dave bee was shocked to see the size of the now extinct Moa bird, another new creature after learning about the Thylacine in Tasmania – showing that you can still learn new things at any age.

One of the rebuilding projects in Christchurch has been the Margaret Mahy family playground which Sophie and Molly bee loved, and we even got Sarah onto the big slide! There is also increased use of street art on the buildings to bring the area back to life. Sarah bee visited the transitional church, where she talked to a volunteer about the impact of the quake and the 185 empty chair memorial.

Rollickin’Gelato… and Lego

Right, dessert time! We had seen  Rollickin’ Gelato yesterday and headed there today and were spoilt for choice on how to treat ourselves.

Finally, Sarah bee had found a free activity at Imagination Station for the girls (9 and dad), with unlimited Lego and challenges to attempt. We thought of you Jamie building our masterpieces!

Then the bus back to enjoy our last night in beds before we collected our camper van tomorrow.