Emeryville Amy

This blog will be a combination of my favorite places in the Bay Area and abroad, memoirs, recipes, restaurant reviews and travel experiences.

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Location: Emeryville, San Francisco Bay Area, CA, United States

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tranzscenic Railway

Tranzscenic Railway and Christchurch

Our journey continued from Wellington to Christchurch via the Inter-Island Ferry to Picton and then on the Tranzscenic Railway. Check-in was required by 7:40 am for the 8:25 am crossing. We checked our bags, got coffee and made our way to the ferry. The immense ferry took us by surprise. It was enormous. Ten decks high. We went to the top of the ship on the sun deck. It should have been named the WIND deck. The views leaving Wellington were lovely. Homes nestled in the hillsides above bay harbors. The ship wound around the point and then went out to sea. The cold drove us inside for the next hour until we approached the South Island and we made our way through the inner passage ways to the little seaside town of Picton.
As instructed, we followed the blue line on the sidewalk over to the tiny train station where everyone gathering was told that there was a problem on the first part of the line and that a bus would take us to Blenheim where the train would meet us. I haven’t been on a tour bus since my tour directing days and it made me a bit queasy just thinking about that time. I was glad that I wasn’t sitting up front talking into the microphone and counting the guests to make sure no one was left behind. The bus wound its way through rolling hills and vineyards, past sheep and cattle grazing in the green pastures for about 30 minutes until we reached Blenheim.
With relief, we saw that our baggage made it onto the platform and was loaded onto the train. Our seats were a four-top across from a Canadian couple who looked as if they had been on the road for way too long. The car behind us was the observation car. Unlike our other train ride which had a 3x5 foot open viewing platform between cars, this was an entire car with the sides open where windows would normally be. There was plenty of room to move around even with quite a few people present.
After just a little while we went through a tunnel ( one of 50 or more) and popped out by the ocean. It was some of the most beautiful coastline I have ever seen. The light aquamarine water that lined the shore and went to 100 yards or so turned into a deep aqua and then to cobalt blue. The dark, almost black, sand contrasted brilliantly with the water. Sea lions and elephant seals and seagulls were abundant at times. The yellow lupin that covered the hillsides came down to the sand and mixed with the driftwood. And as if that wasn’t enough you could turn around and look out the other side of the railcar and see snowy peaks and verdant green hills and flocks of sheep and yellow lupin and scotch bloom and grouse. This view went on for hours as we flew through tunnels carved through the hills by the ocean.
When we arrived in Christchurch we took a shuttle to our bed and breakfast. The gardens surrounding the place were filled with lush pink rhododendron and roses in bloom. We checked in, dropped our bags and went for a walk through the center part of town. Christchurch is lovely. The city center itself is by far the prettiest town we have been in. An enormous park is in the center. We just went to one corner of it where they had seasonal flowers planted around a fountain. The smell of roses and jasmine filled the air. We followed the path by the river to the cathedral square. The restaurants nearby had lots of outdoor seating with fireplaces and heatlamps. We selected on that specialized in heating squar pieces of stone in a very hot oven or hours and then your meat was brought out on it and you cooked it on the stone to your liking. Very interactive meal. They really mean it when they say it is hot and to not touch it. I survived without any burns and enjoyed the local lamb and beef and seasonal vegetables. Our waiter was very nice even though he was struggling to stay awake. He had been to Wellington too the night before for the All Whites soccer game and hadn’t slept for a couple of days. He talked to us about our trip down to Queensland the next day and gave us a few tips. We finished our meal with chocolate and white chocolate filled beignets with a berry sauce and vanilla ice cream. Yes, we like Christchurch very much.


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