Each day we found plenty of stuff to do without having to pay much, if any money. The Canterbury Museum was free and much better than I thought it was; it was great and had a lot of stuff for being free
. When I first went in I though I would spend maybe half an hour looking at things like Maori culture and early Christchurch, and while they had those exhibits as expected, they had so much more: the colonization of New Zealand, dinosaurs, meteors, geology, weather, the body, the Antartic, birds, European antiques and clothing, Asian art and more. The museum was next to the Botanical Gardens, a huge park of more than 30 hectacres that plays a large part in giving Christchurch its nickname, the Garden City. It was still beautiful even though it was winter and the flowers weren't blooming, and even though I'm not much of a "oh, look at the pretty flowers" type of guy, I was still a bit disappointed not to be able to see the more than 100 types of roses in the Central Rose Garden or the more than 1,000 daffodills planted on a hill in full bloom. There was still plenty of activity, though, with a river running through the middle of the garden full of ducks and golden leaves still covering the ground as people walked or played in them or sat on benches and walked the world pass.
The Court Theater is in the Arts Centre, a former college that is now a huge collection of different artistic things: obviously a theater, a cinema, wood, jade and painting workshops, galleries and more. It's a big complex of Gothic architecture that lends a nice aura to its contents. "The Great Gatsby" was, well, pretty great, and I was happy it was pretty faithful to the book as it is one of my favorites.
The last full day we were in Christchurch was a busy and varied one: it started typically with a visit to Cathedral Square, which was always worth a look because of all the activity it contained as the center of the Arts Festival as well as the center of the city
. There were buskers like a guy playing a weird flute, a girl with a violin and a juggler who also rode a unicycle, and there were some performance art and video art instalations around the square. They had also erected a large white dome that held an ice skating rink (which we never did) and that at night had video projected on the inside that was visible outside, sometimes some artistic something and sometimes turning it into a giant snowglobe. There were also a collection of shops and stalls that set up there every day (I'm not sure if it was a part of the Arts Festival or just normal) that I bought some souvineers from. We also visited the Christchurch Art Gallery, which had a mix of art, some I didn't care for, like modern art that is art because the artist says it is, and some I did, like a gallery of paintings by kiwi artist Seraphine Pick.
Our next activity was paintball, which was fun but not as good as I'm used to. We only had five people (myself, the three guys I'm traveling with and another German guy the others knew from their North Island travels), so the teams were uneven. We first tried to recreate World War II and split into the Axis and the Allies: the three Germans versus the Brit and the American. Sadly, the Germans won, setting the trend for the day: the team with three people always won, no matter the combination. It was fun, though, and I got my first ever paintball wound that bled: a hit to the hand made my knuckles bleed.
That evening I had my first casino experience. I went in with NZ$50 to spend, expecting to lose it, and so it wasn't so bad when I did, in fact, lose it all. I played $5 Blackjack with $40 of it. That meant I could only play eight hands if I lost every time, which I didn't, but I still didn't last terribly long
. I got down to around $20 or $25 fairly quickly and hovered there for a while before losing. I took the last $10 and played two cent slots for a while; 500 credits lasted me a good bit, but it was eventually all gone too. While I did leave as soon as I ran out of money, keeping my word to myself, I could see how people could develop gambling problems: even while losing, it was fun, and there was always the promise of that next hand. Regardless of the lost money, I enjoyed the experience.
We stayed in Christchurch three nights then headed further south on our adventure around the coast. Christchurch had been my favorite place so far, and I may end up going back for a couple of days.
Christchurch was marvelous. From the first night we were there and merely looked around a bit, we all said we thought it was a cool city and we would enjoy our time there. We immediately found things to do: after picking up a program for the Arts Festival, I saw that there was a stage version of "The Great Gatsby" playing every night for the rest of the week and had to go. Dom decided to go as well, so we picked up tickets for the next night. Along the way from Cathedral Square in the center of town to The Court Theater where the play was held there was an outdoor photograpy exhibition on fishermen that was neat, and on the way back we stopped in at an Italian cafe and bar and grabbed some pizza because it was happy hour and it was half price.