Christchurch (Dec. 27 - Jan. 3)
We arrived in Christchurch the evening of December 27. After checking into our hotel and showering we headed out to find some food. Apparently most places aren't open for dinner after 9PM. Standing on a corner trying to decided which direction to walk, we met a bunch of men in short, tight shorts doing a pub crawl. They were pretty funny and big time close-talkers. They invited Megan, Alex, and me to join them, promising my parents they would take good care of us. Reluctantly, we declined.
We spent the next day walking through Christchurch. We went to the free art gallery, watched a man bounce between banks as he tried to kayak down the small river that flows through the city center, had lunch at a pub with really good raspberry beer, strolled through the botanic gardens, and later got take out from a Thai restaurant and relaxed with a movie.
Alex, Megs, and I woke up the next morning and went and did Alex's soccer workout in a nearby park and then walked with my parents to the city center where every weekend booths are set up that sell locally made crafts, clothing, and food. I had a lamb gyro. It was pretty good, and since I've been in New Zealand I've eaten more lamb than I have in my entire life. I'm still not sure what I think about it. I don't like the fact that I'm eating a baby. Later in the afternoon we took a gondola up to the top of a mountain overlooking Banks Peninsula. Once at the top of the mountain we hiked around a bit, descended on the gondola and drove to the wee (people here say "wee" so much) town of Lyttleton. We first went to a bar called the Wunderbar. The decorations inside were a little quirky and included a lamp shade covered in baby doll heads; it was reminiscent of the bald baby doll head that was jammed on the stick shift of our little Toyota pickup for a few years.
During the next couple of days we went to Akaroa, a small town on the Banks Peninsula, visited the local wildlife park, and celebrated New Years in Cathedral Square in downtown Christchurch. I think one of everyone's unexpectedly favorite excursions was going to a sheep farm. We learned a ton about sheep farming (and the fact that it doesn't seem at all profitable, yet there are 10 times more sheep here than there are people), watched how effective border collies are at rounding up sheep, and even got to help shear a sheep, a big, fat sheep.