Cecile: City full of hidden treasures

CECILE MEIER
Last updated 07:00 04/04/2014

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Chez Cecile

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OPINION: Christchurch is not a place for lazy people. If you want to enjoy this city, you have to make an effort.

Going to Wellington for a workshop last week reminded me what regular city life was like - people rushing to work coffee cup in hand, bikes, buses, numerous bars and cafes on every block.

I had forgotten shops existed in streets outside of malls, and that footpaths had peak hours too.

In Christchurch, with most of the CBD still in ruins, it is easy to give up going out, and have drinks at home. It is easy to focus on what has been lost and forget the new places that have been mushrooming here and there.

Waking up on Saturday morning, I can see from my balcony the empty buildings that now form Christchurch's skyline. They don't beckon. But I can hop on my bike and glide through quiet streets to Hagley Park and go for a jog.

Then pop home for a quick shower before breakfast at Cafe Lumes, whose uninviting location on the edge of Fitzgerald Ave belies its cosy interior and amazing waffles.

Then I could take a tour of the new street-art all around the city, or go mountain biking to the Port Hills or Bottle Lake Park.

On a weekday, I could go straight home after work through torn-up streets, flop on the couch and watch old episodes of Girls. Or I could look past the roadworks and meet friends for a drink, and one of the best burgers in town, at Smash Palace. Temporary installations like this give me a sense of being somewhere special.

At lunchtime, I am spoiled for options as I work near New Regent St - a tiny island of normality at the heart of the city. At Sushi Sachi, you can have a rice ball and a friendly chat. The smell coming out of Mrs Higgins Cookies is irresistible and Shop Eight offers good coffee to go with your cookie.

Even then, it's easy to stick with what you know rather than to put in the effort to explore new places. I talked about this with my colleague Georgie as we walked through Cathedral Square and over the bridge on our way to lunch. Our destination: Cheesemongers at the Arts Centre, where you can enter a cheese cave, choose one of 100 cheeses from all over the world and they will craft a delicious sandwich with it for around $6. This place has been there for a while and we'd never so much as stuck our heads in the door before.

Georgie said she had given up on Christchurch after the quakes.

"There was nowhere to go so I stopped going out for a while."

I had the same impulse when I arrived, a bit more than a year ago - but now that I live in the centre of the city, I want to make more of an effort.

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Christchurch has plenty of great spots. Sometimes they are hidden behind tarpaulin or between empty buildings.

Getting the most out of them means taking time to search and try new places, and to appreciate what is there rather than lament what is not.

What are your favourite spots in Christchurch? Comment below, email me at cecile.meier@press.co.nz or follow me on Twitter.

- The Press

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