Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Splendid Day In Akaroa

We've seen more astonishing NZ landscapes than I can count. And yet today, spooning a fine seafood chowder while pondering this view, I thought to myself: Akaroa might be pushing me right over the top.

We started the day in our caravan with java, plenty of vegetables, and a town map.

It's a mighty vertical walk from campsite to town (and a good workout on the return).

We spotted a tidy croquet club along the way. 

Entering town, we met a friendly stonemason from Christchurch skillfully using hammer and chisel to create new blocks for Akaroa's war memorial. He asked where we were from and when we said Chicago, he lit up and responded: The Bean! Yes, but it's actually called Cloud Gate, I responded reflexively, and the stonemason said he knew all about it because his roommate is a sculptor and had studied the work of Anish Kapoor. Connections, everywhere.

The clouds gathered while we were dallying, but nothing can throw a blanket on this beauty.

Over at the pharmacy buying CoQ10 (supplements are insanely expensive here--small market, the pharmacist told me when I asked why), this fellow walked right up to Art and said: I'm looking for a Santa apprentice. Can you say ho-ho-ho?

Akaroa history, via Fodor's: Although Akaroa was chosen as the site for a French colony in 1838, the first French settlers arrived in 1840 only to find that the Bristish had already established sovereignty over NZ by the Treaty of Waitangi. Less than ten years later, the French abandoned their attempt at colonization, but the settlers remained and gradually intermarried with the local English community. 

It's a little (OK, a lot) more complicated than that. If you're curious, read more here. Suffice to say the French influence lives on in this tiny, genuinely friendly hamlet, off-season population about 600. Our day was peppered with spontaneous exchanges with forthcoming locals.

The Old Shipping Office, now boutique accommodation.

We'll visit the museum in the coming days.

 Currently closed for earthquake strengthening...
The Gaiety Theatre was built as an Oddfellows Lodge, but for most of its life, since it opened on 3 April 1879, the hall has been the town’s main theatre and gathering place.

An imposing architectural presence on Rue Jolie, the building also has an important place in the social history of Akaroa. Deigned by a Christchurch architect, A.W. Simpson, the façade has Italianate/Classical detailing usually executed in stone but here entirely of wood. The detail includes pilasters with Corinthian capitals, bracketed window hoods and a prominent triangular pediment. Behind this façade, the building is a plain wooden shed.

CORONATION LIBRARY Since 1875, residents of Akaroa keen on reading have used this picturesque building as their library.

On the seaside walkway, we met a puppy-spirited beagle named Tom

Whale oil pot, nod to Akaroa's roots.

Bank of New Zealand.

The butcher was closed today, but we'll return tomorrow.

This gregarious soul gave us chunks of homemade fudge. Instant friend!

Seafood linguine for Art at Bully Hayes Restaurant & Bar, named for a notorious American pirate.

We'd heard about fresh fish being sold on the pier and took a stroll there.

Look at those choices. Tomorrow we'll bring back some filets to pan-cook.

Ma Maison

Heading back to camp, we passed St Patrick's Roman Catholic Church. 

We're incredibly grateful to Wayne and Rob, whose visit to Akaroa two years ago prompted us to circle it on our map.

Tomorrow we're going to ride with the mailman while he delivers the rural mail to people living on the remote eastern bays of Banks Peninsula. This is an actual thing you can do.

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