Last week I was in Christchurch for the Telecom New Zealand Annual General Meeting. It was great to see how the city and the people had got on with life following the recent earthquake. Cantabrians are resilient, community-minded and take no nonsense. They reminded me very much of New York City post September 11 (without the attitude!).
I stayed at a beautiful small hotel, The George, which I last visited seven or eight years ago when I flew with Princess Anne to Antarctica. The George is staffed by Kiwis and Europeans enjoying a break in New Zealand. The service is intimate, anticipatory, relaxed and friendly.
The hotel itself is on Hagley Park, which is one of the wonders of the world. With 165 hectares of trees and broad green fields, Hagley Park is the largest urban open space in all of Christchurch. Thankfully, when the government created it in 1855, they ordered that it be “reserved forever as a public park.”
I took a bike from the hotel each morning at around 7am and put in a few miles for an hour or so around the park. It’s incredible. The daffodils are out, the cherry-blossoms are out, and the people were still indoors. The park is an amazing thing to find in the middle of a city. It has lakes, woodlands, rugby pitches (it is New Zealand after all), a golf course!, tennis courts including half a dozen beautiful grass courts, mountain-bike paths and terrific areas for walking and exploring. There’s no better way to start the day.