Apparently named ‘Eliza’s’ after Eliza Doolittle, played by Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, this boutique B&B Hotel is a very grand lady – and like Audrey – elegant
Like many buildings in the new settlement of 1800s Christchurch, it just grew. The land was bought in 1856 and the building started in 1861, predating the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral by some twenty years. This ‘growing’ means it can’t be easily classified as Victorian or any other architectural style: Eliza’s personal style includes gables, bay windows, projecting dormers and door and window hoods.
On the morning of the September (2010) quake, while photographically documenting the quake damage, I had walked past this beautiful building, just a couple of streets away from my apartment. I was relieved to see it too had apparently survived the 7.1 shake. Of course inside it was a different story.
Pleased they had no guests to evacuate at 4:30am, they quickly got to work demolishing the damaged chimneys and multiple fireplaces – involving some 60 tonnes of bricks – then repairing the destruction they had produced. On the day of the quake they had Russian guests arrive and a week later they were hosting a wedding. Just like the movie, the show must go on!
Nearly six months later it was a different story and during the February 6.3 quake, with all the rooms occupied, nature ripped walls apart, cracked skirting boards, buckled window frames and toppled wardrobes. Luckily the chimneys had gone; there were no injuries to staff or guests; and the foundations and structure were sound. Add another eight months, 1.5 million dollars, heaps of hard work and Eliza’s doors were open once again.
When I arrived Harold and Ann were hosting their staff Christmas party and everyone was busy making jewellery under the guidance of Beadz Unlimited. (Christchurch’s first bead shop and now in historic New Regent Street after being quake-shaken out of the wonderful Gothic Art’s Centre)
When the front door opens, I’m immediately impressed with the ornate staircase that’s in front of me –it was built in Scotland with New Zealand’s native kauri. Over the years many distinct groups of people have climbed these stairs. As well as guests from around the world Eliza’s previous inhabitants have included mothers and nurses during its maternity home persona; it’s also been a private home, accommodation for ‘genteel ladies’ and a boarding house for St. Margaret’s Girls High.
Ann and Harold bought the building in 2004, and all the rooms have local heritage names – I’m in The Masters which has wonderful leadlight and stained glass windows. (With a hotel of this standing of course the bed, bathroom, fittings, and linen, were all wonderful and spotless – so take that as read!)
Along with the history of the building in each room, they also have a guest-book: I like this as it gives us guests’ time to write a considered response to our stay. From Spain to Switzerland, UK to the USA, France to Australia (and of course us Kiwi), it seems the world has not only stayed here but loved to too! I read many comments on the great hospitality, the friendly hosts, the homemade ANZAC biscuits, and the fabulous breakfasts. Seems Ann is a great believer in the old adage of eating breakfast like a king: it certainly provides enough tasty fuel for the day.
I notice, alongside other framed accolades, a certificate showing they won a 2013 community garden award; the garden is very colourful with wisteria and white daphne providing fragrance alongside the 130 plus roses.
The World Travel Guide says this of Eliza’s – ‘With beautiful period features, Eliza’s history spans three centuries. This grade II historic, wooden house was built during 1861 by one of the city’s founding fathers, was restored in 1981 and has been turned into wonderful accommodation ever since. It’s within easy walking distance of the gardens, museum, and New Regent Street while just around the corner is Victoria Street which has many tasty restaurants and bars. The hotel’s delicious cooked breakfast sets you up for your day of exploring the city.’
I have a vehicle from my favourite rental car company to explore the region, and my first task when I arrived was to feed the lions at Orana Wildlife Park – and, with all the walking I did there I should have had an Eliza’s breakfast first!
I can well recommend Eliza’s Boutique Hotel for a wonderful few nights in Christchurch; New Zealand’s 2nd largest city. With so few buildings of this age, Eliza’s is a real asset in the city – tell them I sent you 🙂