Christchurch, New Zealand

From Picton, I boarded the Tranz Scenic train to Christchurch. The train takes a different route than the road, and, although you forego the opportunity to stop at will, the five-hour train ride spoils you with views of snow-capped mountains, lush green hills dotted with livestock and expansive beaches that play home to seals and surfers alike.

When we reached Christchurch, I donned my pack and walked the 1.5 km to my incredible hostel – the Jailhouse – a converted prison that retains the look and feel of the real thing. It was spotless, comfortable and near the gorgeous Hagley Park. The hostel was a bit of a hike from the center of the city, but the fact that I got to sleep in a prison and enjoy a couple of films in the hostel’s cinema more than made up for having to walk into the city.

Apart from the hostel, I really enjoyed the intimate downtown of the city. A canal runs through the town center and many people (mostly tourists, I suspect) enjoyed punting. I strolled through the pretty Botanic gardens and visited the Christchurch Art Gallery where I saw Daniel Crooks’s fascinating exhibit (Everywhere Instantly) that explores the interrelationship between space and time. It was on the way to the gallery that I actually spotted the best building in Christchurch – and perhaps the best building in the world.

A couple of days in Christchurch was enough to see the city’s highlights, and enjoy too many cups of coffee in the many cafes. The rain bid me farewell on my final morning as the Atomic Shuttles bus stopped to whisk me away to Dunedin, where I plan to enjoy the connection to my heritage by sampling some New Zealand scotch.