Roma on Riccarton Luxury Motel in Christchurch, New Zealand: everything you need, with a smile

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.

NZ Motel Roma on Riccarton - street viewIn 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.

NZ Motel Roma on Riccarton - doorNZ Motel Roma on Riccarton - parking lotThe 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

Bed

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.

Continue reading

Christchurch Botanical Gardens and Ilex Cafe: a bevy of birds and 1 bad barista

A walk in the park…

It’s 54ºF, with winds gusting lustily and constant rain—the aftermath of cyclone Gita. So naturally I’m touring the Christchurch Botanic Gardens today.

NZ trip Hagley Park sign - 1I meant to endure the walk through Hagley park—a virtual ghost town compared to our first stroll here on the sunny afternoon of our arrival—before ducking into the adjacent Canterbury Museum and out of the rain. That’s what all the other tourists seem to be doing.

NZ Hagley Park empty in rain - 1I pass only one other pedestrian as I cross the the park from west to east on my way from our lodging at the Roma on Riccarton Motel.

…and in the Christchurch Botanic Garden

In spite of the rain, or perhaps because of it, the patinaed garden gates beckon.

I’m grateful that I took to heart the most common piece of packing advice I heard for New Zealand: bring a rain coat in any season. My 20 year old REI Gore-Tex jacket continues to serve me very well.NZ Hagley Park gate

The Armstrong Lawn opens out near the entrance to the museum. Dripping flowers and hopping birds catch my eye.

NZ trip statue man - 1

Statesman William Sefton Moorehouse appears unperturbed in spite of the foul weather

I wander over to snap a photo of the dolphin fountain before being tempted along by a glimpse of the Curator’s House. It’s operated as a cafe now, but a charming structure put to any use.

NZ Botanic Garden Peacock Fountain - 1Next to this is a beguiling kitchen garden, leading to a peek at the Avon river, and even more avian species. I realize that I can’t resist walking through an arbor. I pass through each as I encounter it, letting them dictate my path through the Botanic Garden.

NZ trip fruit arbor irresistable

Fruit tree arbor

NZ trip arbor beckoning

NZ trip landing under water - 1

Avon River flooded landing

The river is taking up more than its fair share of the park today, but the ducks enjoy that fact.

So does a small, blue heron. He appears to be waiting for something as he stands in a protected patch of grass behind a fence; it might be brunch, or the departure of the men preparing a stage for some upcoming event.

NZ Botanic Garden birds Ducks

Ducks on Avon River in Hagley Park, Christchurch, NZ

NZ Botanic Garden birds Heron

Heron in flooded park

I know very little about birds, plus have poor eyesight and limited patience. In spite of this, New Zealand makes me seriously consider taking up bird watching as a hobby. It’s simply teeming with interesting winged creatures.

Birds in the rain keep busy nabbing worms on the run crawl from flooded soil, bathing in the puddles, and napping with heads tucked neatly under wings.

I can’t give you the names of any more of these feathered friends, but it is often the tiny “city birds” dining. Two of them would fit in my hand if I could coax them out of the bush. I call them Two-in-the-hand birds for the rest of my time in Christchurch.

Continue reading

My husband buys me flowers, even when he doesn’t: a reflection on generosity within a marriage

Spring struggled to arrive in New England this year. We’d had only about half the usual inches of snowfall until mid-February, then caught up over a matter of days and had snow on the ground into April. The late burst of wintry weather left me yearning for signs of spring late in a gloomy March.

On my way into Trader Joe’s to do the grocery shopping, I paused by the cheerful floral display and gave in to temptation. I bought a small bouquet. Arranging them in a vase at home, I caught the thought flitting through my mind:

“I wish DH had bought these flowers for me.”

And then I stopped, took stock, and realized that he had.

My husband makes this kind of little effort all the time. He’s not a born romantic, but a self-made one. He knows that romantic flourishes make me feel loved, so he adds them to his agenda and perhaps ticks them off a to do list. But he does them. He makes the gestures. He prioritizes my happiness. He shows his love for me in this and other ways all the time.

I have friends who sigh that their husbands consider cut flowers a waste of money; they would complain if they came home and saw these sunflowers on the table. My husband says, “Ah, good, here’s something to make you happy, and I didn’t even have to stop by a store.”

So when my husband made his way home that evening, the first thing I said to him was:

“Thank you for the flowers!”

His face read froze into half-pleased puzzlement. I’m guessing his thoughts were something like, “Did I do something I’ve forgotten?” or “Is this some kind of trick I can’t yet figure out?”

He works too hard and he comes home tired, but more often than not his welcome is a list of complaints, demands, and urgent declarations. I’m as guilty of this as the kids are. The boys want their dad’s approval; I want an adult ear and the support of my partner. We all clamor for his attention because his time at home is too scarce and so precious.

“I bought myself flowers,” I explained to him, “and then I realized that they’re from you. I know that you would have bought me flowers if you’d been at the store. I know that you would buy me flowers every day if you could. You make it so obvious that you love me, I couldn’t miss it if I tried. So you bought me these flowers. Thank you.”

Generous love means meeting the needs of your partner in the way your partner requires. I ask for occasional flowers, a hand with the dishes, validation for my work in the home; he wants to be fed something he likes, to be appreciated for his hard work, to be given some time and space to unfurl his public stresses before fully engaging with the family in the evening.

This was my turn to be generous. Here was a loving gesture from me that DH could happily receive. His efforts are appreciated. His gestures have been noticed. His love has been accepted, and reciprocated.