New Zealand is known for having some of the cleanest and highest quality motels and hostels anywhere. Hostels here are often located in very good locations of a city or town and also tend to be more reasonably priced than a full fledged hotel. Many times though, they have bunk bed rooms and shared bathrooms. This could put some people off, including us, as we preferred to have our own private en suite bathrooms for this trip. However, from my research on tripadvisor and other websites, I found that the YMCA was a good fit for our criteria. Besides the usual bunk bed rooms of a hostel, they also had double, tripe and family rooms with en-suite bathrooms. Since the double rooms were all booked, we booked a triple room at the YMCA for our stay in Christchurch. And we were not disappointed.
(a west facing triple room at the YMCA across from the botanical gardens)
The best part about YMCA Christchurch is its location. A mere 10-15 min drive from the airport, it is located on Hereford Street in the Christchurch central district (CBD). Just across the street from the YMCA are the Museum and the famous Botanical Gardens. Normally, you would think that staying in central Christchurch is not a good thing, since the city center has unfortunately been damaged badly by earthquakes in the recent past. But actually, this location is great! ….not only because you can stroll in the gardens during the evenings or use the i-site to book all kinds of activities (i-site is right next to the museum), but also because most sightseeing and inter-city travel buses leave from the museum. It is a landmark location for many tourism businesses. Also, there is the added bonus of having some of Christchurch’s most famous eateries within walking distance, which I will talk about in other posts.
(the botanical gardens & museum on Rolleston Av., seen from our room)
There were some other things that we liked about YMCA too. Their staff, mostly students or young folks, were quite friendly and helpful. They were well informed about the area. Then there was also the free parking on site, which was a perfect place for our rental car over night time (Christchurch CBD has various restrictions for street parking). We also noticed a gym in the building (it is YMCA after all), a shared kitchen area on the 2nd floor, and a Robert Harris Cafe near the entrance (breakfast served from 8:30 am). The cafe does have some weird timings for closure (5pm), but then a lot of shops/restaurants in the CBD close early (apart from some exceptions). I should mention here that if you are a night-time person and enjoy going out to bars and clubs, then the YMCA may not be the best place to stay. One downside was the Wi-Fi. It is not free but costs NZ$5 for one day of usage. You get something like 25 gb in that amount, so don’t worry about exhausting the data limit.
We reached Christchurch on a Friday evening, and we had planned a whole range of trips for the following few days. Hence, we wanted to stock up on some milk/bread/yogurt (for breakfast, as our room had a fridge) and some groceries/snacks for the road trips. We figured that by making our own breakfast we could save up on some expenses (and we did save a lot by doing so). We found out that there is a New World supermarket within a 15-20 minute walking distance of the YMCA. It is in a shopping mall called the South City Center on 555 Colombo St. So after taking a shower and freshening up from our long flight journey, we decided to head there. This place has everything you need, food, drink, supplies, etc. I personally love trying out the local popular foods in any country I visit. From my previous research, I had learned that L&P (a lemon soda) and Whittaker’s chocolates are quite popular in NZ. Whittaker’s used to have this kiwi flavoured slab, which essentially is a chocolate slab with dried kiwi pieces inside. I searched a lot for this unique chocolate, but was later told that Whittaker’s stopped making it! A little disappointed, I bought the Hokey Pokey flavor instead. I have to say, after eating it later on, it was one of the best chocolates I have had. Hokey Pokey is crunchy bits of honey comb native to NZ. Its combination with chocolate is amazing. Some other local stuff that I picked up were NZ made cheese (they make some of the best cheeses in the world), kumara chips (Kumara is a native sweet potato variety of NZ), the kiwi fruit (of course!!) and Tim Tam biscuits (I saw lots of Asian tourists eat these at Sydney airport so I wanted to try them out).
(some interesting picks from the local grocery store)
After we were done with our shopping, it was almost 9pm. There were hardly any places to eat that were still open and within walking distance. So we decided to head to a Subway, which was right next to New World. A simple dinner some would say, but even the Subway was interesting because they had some sauces which I have not seen anywhere else. I love how fast food chains adapt their offerings in each country, indirectly giving us insights into local tastes. We packed up the subs as the shop was closing down and ate them at the YMCA. A low key first evening in South Island, but one that we enjoyed nonetheless.