Fortunate as we were, to have good Kiwi friends in Christchurch, we were offered a guided drive to Akaroa. What did this entail? Akaroa is a settlement about one hour's drive from Christchurch, on the stunning Banks peninsula, and as we discovered, decidedly French in origin.
To get there, one passes through the Lyttleton tunnel and harbour, taking if you can the scenic route via Cass and Governor's bay (where glorious views are matched with glorious houses perched on precipitous slopes). We were heading all the way around the peninsula to the other side of the mountains in this photograph. There is a hotel on the top of the mountain in the below photograph, where I believe the coffee is very good.....
Several photo stops were necessary along the way! Each one surpassing the last for quality of nature and pure aesthetic beauty. In a car, it will take you a little over an hour, to traverse the windy hairpin bends and curves to Akaroa, but the time is not felt heavily, as there is so much to enthrall the visitor outside the window.
And then finally we reach Akaroa. Stunning isn't it?
Akaroa is the South Island form of Whangaroa and the generally accepted meaning of both is the literal one, “long harbour”. And what a harbour it had, as you can see here, on a stunning sunny winter's day.
Settled initially by the French, in the 1800's, the soil in the area proved to be extremely fertile, which led to further immigrants arriving from France.
"Today, apart from a few French street names, there remains little to show Akaroa's origin as a French settlement. It is a county town within the Canterbury Provincial District and has a population of 630."
Read more here about the original French settlers who purchased land from the Maoris and the co-operation between French and English colonists in Akaroa, unheard of in the rest of the colonial world here:
Despite what the link above says, You CAN see, and almost smell the French influence here. You can taste it in the menus in the multitude of restaurants and coffee shops, and see it in the shutters and gables in the architecture. This place is wealthy, mind, with small cottages often running to 6 figure sums, so I could cherish no thoughts of one day "pulling up sticks" in Akaroa. I would have to be content to visit or an overnight stay.
Mind you, one does not feel the least bit out of place at the seafood cafe having a feed of fresh Akaroa cod and chips... it seems we were to have a few "Fush n chups" meals whilst in Kiwiland....all delicious!
Just imagine living here... with a view like.....
this at your front door.
The tide was out, when we arrived, but that certainly did not detract from the gob-smacking good views, and the sunshiny, crisp air made for a wonderful day.
Was it cold? nah! This was the sort of winter temperatures that everyone loves. One could see all the colours and contours in the mountains, and peace and tranquility and the good life, exuded from every compass point.
The consumers of our world are not forgotten in this antipodean outpost of the French empire. Quirky tins, souvenirs, the ubiquitous woollen skeins, fabulous fudge, swanky clothes, toys and books and homewares, could all be had for a tidy sum.
Hot tip: Try the fudge!If you are in Akaroa. You won't regret it.
I succumbed to temptation. In addition, I discovered some elegant but 'different' salad servers with my name on them, (not literally), at the Fudge shop and decided this was to be my Akaroa souvenir. For hand crafted items, they were in fact, very reasonably priced. And I was sorely tempted by a pretty apron, being as I am, prone to buying aprons on holidays, but I managed to resist that little treasure.
Even the Ice cream had a French twist! Orgasmic indeed. What a marketing tool!
I really was so lucky to have good friends like this, to show me around as
this hidden gem would remain unknown to me otherwise.
And I really do appreciate their kind generosity to a visitor. Thank you so very much Jan and John for a wonderful introduction to the delights of the Banks peninsula and for sitting and waiting for an hour at the train station when the slightly confused railway official gave you the wrong arrival time for the Tranz scenic train. I doubt that I would have waited so long....