We didn’t choose the Roma on Riccarton Luxury Motel near Christchurch‘s Hagley Park and a reasonable walk from the Central Business District. Since DH was traveling for work, his extraordinarily helpful host from a local University made our reservations.
Sometimes, collegiate sponsorship means staying in student housing that is barely adequate though students these days are getting fancier digs than I remember! Other hosts seek to thrill my illustrious spouse with “charming” accommodations in historic properties. Those are my favorite, but his nightmare. DH prefers predictable, three- to four- star chain hotels with room service offering standard American fare. If there isn’t a basic hamburger* available on the menu, he’ll come home sighing about his stay.
Getting back to the Roma on Riccarton, the most important thing a foreigner should know is that the motel designation does not carry a downmarket connotation in New Zealand like it does in America. It would be hard to take a name combining “Luxury” and “Motel” seriously back home.
In the USA, I tend to avoid motels when traveling alone or as a solo mom with children in tow. I prefer the greater security of indoor corridors and staff at a centralized front desk. It’s absolutely true that there’s a lot of convenience to unloading from the car straight through a motel room’s door. It’s also true that crime, both violent and petty, makes that same easy access doorway a risk in many places.
This time, I was staying with my husband, and the Roma on Riccarton parking lot was small, open to bustling Riccarton Road, and frequented by the cheerful owner and his wife.
I felt quite safe staying here, and we were confident enough in our surroundings to leave windows open for ventilation night and day.
The entire property presented a welcoming and cheerful aspect. The central car park wasn’t overly busy, and it didn’t create any noise† nuisance for us, either. The light colored, stucco exterior had an almost Mediterranean appearance, but was modernized by the extensive use of glass in large doors and windows.
Perhaps it was due to New Zealand’s strict building codes for seismic resilience, etc., but noise from other guests or the busy road simply was not an issue. If I hadn’t seen cars and people coming and going, I could’ve assumed I was alone in this motel based strictly on volume.
Though centrally located, rooms here are very quiet.
Motel comfort and amenities
Most vital to any lodging’s rating, in my opinion, is a comfortable bed of reasonable size. We found that at the Roma on Riccarton. Our room—of the standard, Executive Studio, not spa bath type—had a large (queen?) bed made up with crisp white linens.
We removed the quilted floral coverlet when we slept as it was a bit heavy for summer weather.
This mattered more than ever since we spent a total of six nights at this location, split between our arrival (2 nights) and our return after a weekend touring the West Coast.
An extra blanket was in the small clothes closet, but we never wanted it during our summer visit. The mini split climate control system offered both air conditioning and heating on demand. We only found this necessary during a cyclone that forced us to shut the many windows. Otherwise, natural ventilation kept us very comfortable.
I did employ the services of my trusty hot water bottle, but that had more to do with travel—and damp weather—related joint pains than the room’s temperature controls. I thought the embroidered pillow shams a nice touch.
Bedside tables on either side were the clever sort with both tabletop and lower shelf for keeping devices and necessities in order. This open storage also made it easy to remember every little item upon departure. We each had a lamp and an accessible power outlet close at hand, so there was no need to negotiate who’s phone got charged first.
Every element in the room seemed thoughtfully placed.
After quality of sleep, adequate facilities for performing one’s ablutions ranks a close second for conveniences. When sharing a room with DH, I want to know if we will both have room to set out our things without interfering with each other’s preferences.
To be clear, we can negotiate the sharing of a compact space, but we enjoy ourselves more when fewer compromises are required.
At the Roma on Riccarton, our only real disconnect was the barrier free shower and the resultant wet floor after the shower was used. I opted to reduce the water flow rate while I bathed to limit how much water reached the toilet and sink areas; DH felt no such compunction. One of my pet peeves is stepping in a puddle and getting wet socks. Ugh!
Plenty of fluffy white towels were provided.
It was entirely possible to manually dry the floor after a shower while retaining a dry one for personal use, even when a man had already run the water at full bore and at the adjustable hand nozzle’s top position, using a towel or two for himself. Setting the spray lower in both height and volume made it possible to bathe without wetting the other areas of the bathroom at all. Don’t let this sway you from staying here unless this is your own personal ultimate ruin-er of vacations.
Though the shower did employ a curtain for privacy, the material was heavy enough not to billow, and enclosed a large enough area that it never touched or clung to the body inside.
Aside from practicing our best kindergarten sharing skills when it came to the wet tile floor, we found nothing to complain about and much to appreciate in the spacious, straightforward bathroom.
In addition to a small glass wall shelf to one side, the pedestal sink was augmented with a sensible storage cupboard below. The hair dryer, if you’re looking for it, lives behind this door beneath the sink. Much to my liking were the two sets of open shelves on either side of this cabinet. Each of us could set out our toiletries in plain sight lest something be forgotten upon check-out but out of each other’s and our own way.
Separate but equal works very well for his and hers bathroom storage.
Between the heated towel rack adjacent to the sink and a compact but effective electric wall heater above the door, it was easy to warm the bathroom for comfort while bathing without making the bedroom too hot. With joints that are stiff in the morning—eased by warmth, exacerbated by cold—I found this particularly clever.
The bathroom featured grab bars around both toilet and shower. I’m not sure if we were given a handicapped equipped room or if this was a standard installation, but, aesthetically, the bars blended in with the other fittings and also offered even more handy spots to hang wet garments or tuck a cosmetics pouch for easy access from any point in the room.
The sloped toward the floor drain tile floor did become slippery when wet, so the added safety of grab bars was appreciated.
Ventilation was great with both an operable high/privacy preserving window and an overhead fan. The ceiling mounted shower curtains opened to either side of the large shower area (absolutely curbless, as I mentioned before); once open, the entire room felt spacious and airy.
There wasn’t even a hint of mildew or dampness anywhere in our ground floor room, something about which I’m always leery in a moist coastal climate.
The toilet offered water conserving dual flush options and worked as it should. I believe that every flush toilet I encountered in New Zealand was of this type, so they may be mandatory in the country, in public places if not universally.
Rounding out the major functions of a room at the Roma on Riccarton Luxury Motel was a compact but well equipped kitchenette.
This area featured a sink, microwave, toaster, electric kettle, and counter height fridge.
Dishwashing supplies—including a dish cloth and towel—were tucked away under the sink. A very reasonable array of dishes was shelved above. The inclusion of a Pyrex measuring cup, teapot, and several types of drinking glasses in addition to the usual set of plates, bowls, and coffee mugs was helpful during our longer stay.
The “sandwich maker” mentioned on the motel’s room amenity list turns out to be what I would call a “George Foreman” electric grill. Paninis must be very popular in New Zealand for this to be a standard offering in a hotel room.
Thank heavens DH’s meals were provided while he was working, because I could totally imagine him opting to cook a nice piece of fish on one of these if we were vacationing. I’ll be honest: while I love a kitchenette in a hotel room, my least favorite part is having strong smelling food in close proximity to where I sleep.
Thought not of a grand size, the space between the kitchenette and the bed was sufficient in our Executive Studio room for my comfort without husband bringing fish into the equation.
An operable window next to the kitchenette kept the space feeling fresh, and offered cross ventilation from the doorway and another window directly across the room. There was a small outdoor space that I never saw anyone use behind our room, then a fence. Closing the double layer of curtains—sheers and heavier, opaque ones—guaranteed privacy at night, but I didn’t feel compelled to shut them during the day for any reason.
An upholstered chair in the corner and a large desk/moderate sized dining table with a pair of straight chairs complete the kitchen/lounge furnishings on this side of the room.
Storage and conveniences in the room
If there’s a weak spot to the otherwise extraordinarily well thought out comfort of the Executive Studio room type at the Roma on Riccarton, it’s clothing storage.
Beneath the wall mounted television, there’s an open cubby roughly chest high on a short woman with a single drawer. Next to it stands a narrow closet of less than full height ~6 feet tall with a single shelf inside, mostly taken up by the spare blanket and iron, and with an ironing board occupying a couple of the scant 18″ or so of hanging space.
Happily, DH prefers to live out of his suitcase while traveling. He used the luggage rack to keep his rolling bag at a convenient height and I kept tucking his shoes beneath it.
Our large checked bag—a rolling duffle—was stowed in the open cubby. I hung our laundry bags—one light, one dark—off of the drawer pull.
My clothes and DH’s nicer trousers went in the closet. I appreciated my Rolo bag more than ever as it kept my smaller garments organized. The wider Red Oxx Big Bull Roll Up actually kept the little closet’s door from closing fully unless it tilted one way or another. Luckily, I’d kept my wardrobe minimal for this trip!
The front, mostly glass, wall of the room was fronted by a small, glass topped end table between the front door and the corner where a second upholstered barrel chair sat next to DH’s bedside table. These pieces could easily have been skipped by whoever furnished the motel, but they made a huge difference in the ease with which my husband and I shared space.
Each of us had somewhere to drop our stuff or sit and read without affecting the other. Rooms with a single cozy chair often find us differing in how best to make use it.
While I can usually come up with several little tweaks that I think would improve an hotel room, my one and only idea for the Executive Studio at the Roma on Riccarton Luxury Motel would be the addition of a heavy duty coat hook for outerwear. I’d put one on the bedroom side of the bathroom door if it were up to me.
Unlike most other lodgings I’ve rented, this room already had plenty of spots for everything else, including two (2!) hooks on either side of the shower as well as innumerable places to hang stuff from the bathroom grab bars. The two straight-backed “kitchen” chairs also gave us each somewhere to hang a wet jacket away from our clean clothes in the absence of that coat hook I craved.
This room would work really well for an extended stay for a single or a couple because it was so thoughtfully designed.
Shared facilities at the motel
Though there was a small lobby containing the front desk and a rack of brochures, almost all of our interactions with the owner/manager and other staff took place outside. While much of the property around the motel building is a walled parking lot, a profusion of plants and flowers, in beds and in pots, made for a cheerful outdoor environment.
There is a guest laundry room at the motel with an honor jar for payment with detergent supplied. I carry my own unscented, HE compatible detergent when I travel, and it was no problem to use that instead.
The guest laundry is accessed from an outside doorway using one’s room key. The one washer and dryer were clean and easy to use for a visitor from North America. The dryer is of the type installed above the washer, and I believe there was a step up into the room, so access could be difficult for someone with mobility challenges.
I appreciated the fact that a clothesline was available on the small patio behind the laundry room, though I couldn’t make use of it as I washed clothes during cyclone Gita. They would have ended up wetter than they were from the washer, and probably would have flown home without me in those winds.
I travel with a compact Flex-o-Line clothesline, which, combined with the grab bars in our bathroom, let me hang my lightweight items dry as I prefer. The guest laundry, airy and spacious bathroom, and the electric towel bar made hotel room laundering easier than usual at the Roma on Riccarton.
The same patio behind the laundry offered a barbecue for guest use. It’s hard for me to offer any judgement on how attractive its prospects were because the weather was so darn awful when I peeked into that corner of the lot.
In addition to the listed facilities, the staff at the motel obligingly held two of our suitcases in storage for us when we traveled to the South Island’s West Coast for the weekend. We were also assisted with finding a box to transport several bottles of local wine that DH received as a gift on his last day at the University, prompting a scramble for suitable protection against the vagaries of Air New Zealand’s and JetBlue’s baggage handlers.
Location, location, location
Location is usually my highest priority for lodgings. One could easily waste a large portion of a short vacation on commute time with an ill-chosen hotel. This part of Riccarton is a Christchurch neighborhood that teems with students, international shops, and restaurants. It’s trivial for a tourist to find an ATM, public transit, or something to eat right across the street, if not closer.
Those of us who prefer to get about on our own two feet should delight in Christchurch’s very flat geography. They’re called the Canterbury Plains for a reason…
A few city blocks east of the motel brings one to large, lush Hagley Park; crossing the park puts one at the edge of the Central Business District and most of the in town tourist sites.
My favorite cafe on that side of the park was the science themed Bunsen in the historic Art Centre.
Roma on Riccarton Luxury Motel is a good place to stay for someone who prefers not to rent a car.
Be careful crossing busy roads, however! Kiwis aren’t inclined to stop for pedestrians. My ex-pat Kiwi friend tells me the law in this case is on the motorist’s side, contrary to what many of us expect. It’s a very good idea to cross at one of the unfortunately rather infrequent crosswalks.
There’s also that pesky “driving on the wrong side of the road” issue; most visitors will need train themselves to look the opposite way to spy oncoming vehicles.
Heading west instead will quickly bring the traveler by car or on foot to a full scale shopping mall owned by an international conglomerate you might have seen closer to home, the Westfield Riccarton.
Interesting note: shopping malls in New Zealand usually include a grocery store. In this case, it’s a Pak’n’Save that DH found very intimidating. His usual grocery outlet is Whole Foods, so he’s used to a more upscale experience. Pak’n’Save feels more bare bones, like a Costco, to give American shoppers something to compare it to.
While Christchurch no doubt offers a wide variety of lodgings at every price point, the Roma on Riccarton Luxury Motel (38 Riccarton Road, Christchurch, New Zealand) offered us a better than average experience for our first visit to the city. I’d recommend it for those seeking convenient, comfortable accommodations, especially for longer stays.
*A great hamburger can be had down the street from the Roma on Riccarton motel! Try Velvet Burger. It’s not quite room service, but, if you’re eating a burger this big, you should probably get some exercise first. I opted for the Velvet Lady chicken sandwich minus the bacon. It was fantastic. There is a smaller size available, which I would elect next time.
†I can’t recall for sure whether we shut that one window at night, while we slept; I’m inclined to think we were inconsistent about that. It simply wasn’t a problem.