Akaroa is a charming small town of only 567 residents and the harbour is small. So small the cruise liner has to anchor in the bay and we are ferried ashore in the life boats.
In 1838 a French whaler, Captain Langlois, decided that Akaroa was an ideal location for a town that could service the whaling ships. He subsequently acquired the peninsula in a dubious land deal with the local Maori. He then returned to France and arranged for a group of French and German families to sail to New Zealand, with the intention of forming a French colony.
After constantly refusing to recognise New Zealand as a British colony the Crown issued an Imperial Proclamation on 15 June 1839, which cited New Zealand as part of the British Realm.
After being informed of the French intent to colonise Akaroa and use further as a whaling port, the English ship the “Britomart” was despatched in order to proclaim sovereignty for the Crown. The “Britomart” arrived in Akaroa on 16 August (although the captain’s log shows this arrival date as 11 August 1840), Captain Stanley raised the British flag and held a court at each of the occupied settlements.
The French arrived on 11 July 1840, where they discovered that the Banks Peninsula had been claimed by the British. But they still established a settlement and many street names still bare reference to these French beginnings.
This is the closest port to Christchurch and many of the passengers took a bus tour there. We stayed to explore this fascinating town, and what a gem we found.
Benches where every where…
What a delightful place, I was entranced with its historic buildings and appealing, photogenic homes and gardens.
After wandering around the village we walked up a rather steep street to find the “Giant’s House”
What we discovered up this drive is the most amazing garden I have ever seen.
Created by Josie Martin an artist, painter and sculptor. When she began 15 years ago there was no garden so she had a blank canvas to work with. Digging the garden she found shards of pottery and lovely old china from the days when there was no rubbish collection. Saving them all, she felt it belonged to the history of the old house. That was the beginning of this magnificent, glorious garden – mosaic steps, an extraordinary sculptural wall mosaic, welded steel sculptures and other creations. Colourful gardens of roses vegetables, citrus, flowers. Very unique.
I took hundreds of photos of those captivating, quirky, mosaic sculptures. The flower beds where a riot of colour, they demanded my attention. I had a silly grin on my face all the way round and came away hoping that some day I will go back to revisit this very special place.
As we entered the tour bus from the cruise ship also pulled in. “How long will you be here” I asked. “Only 20 minutes” I was told. So we sat in the garden café with a cuppa waiting for the 40+ tourists to move on, then we could savour this amazing place in relative peace.
I hope you enjoy this walk around. I am putting more photos in this post than I have ever done before. I just found them all so fascinating…
The house was given the name of “Giant’s House” by a girl looking up at it from the valley below who said it is so big it must be the house of a giant. It was built-in 1880. It took 5 years to build using hardwoods of the local Totara and Kauri trees.
The first thing you see on the front lawn are these larger than life mosaic musicians and the grand piano. Drifting through the air and setting the scene is the soft sound of French accordion music mixing with the singing of birds and trickling of water from a fountain.
Notice the succulents growing in the piano and the mirror under the lid…
On the top of the hill the King and Queen survey their kingdom, but watch for that suspicious cat-like character lurking behind them in the bushes…
Did you see they are waving arms?
These are just a few of the beautiful flowers in the garden.
This is an amazingly life-like sculpture that Josie has done of herself.
We spent over 2 hours wandering around and could’ve stayed longer. Every where I looked I kept seeing another fascinating sculpture or more beautiful garden beds. It is a tribute to one woman’s energy and imagination.
If you are in New Zealand this is a place you must not miss. I would like to come again and next time stay in the Giant’s House as a guest and totally immerse myself in the magic.
“The house has many extraordinary features – a grand entrance hall with mahogany staircase imported from France, original open fireplaces, beautifully proportioned rooms, a conservatory with mosaic floor, a large sunny sheltered verandah, quirky bathrooms, bright yellow farmhouse kitchen, comfortable large bedrooms with unique artistic features and artwork throughout.
At The Giant’s House you will be pampered, and stimulated, in surroundings that will uplift your soul!- a very special experience, quite ‘out of this world’.” (to book a room and find out more click here)
I’d also like to join in with Restless Jo’s walking group this week…