In Christchurch recently to check out Look After Me, a New Zealand-wide web-based accommodation group, I stayed at two of them, the modern Merivale apartment, and Country in the city: I also had the chance to meet some of the other hosts.
With a shortage of accommodation in Christchurch these beds increase places to choose from, and as most are in the suburbs they’re idea for those who are concerned about being in the post-quake city centre now – although this need not be a concern as sadly most of the beautiful old, and many of the new buildings, have been demolished because of quake damage.
Two of the questions I had in mind as I flew south were,
- Why use this service?
- What is the difference between this concept and other homestays?
Lois Connelly, a local host and a previous a guest of some North Island hosts told me she ‘liked the feeling of being instantly comfortable and like being at home.’ She also said both she and her husband enjoyed the experience and will use Look After Me again.
The only other homestays I have used were in Malaysia and Hungary and they offered the same advantages as these Christchurch ones do – getting to know local people and having a great room with a different level of hospitality than in other accommodation. As a travel writer I like to try many places and this service is one I can recommend for international travellers as well as locals.
Many women find travelling alone daunting and this provides a great alternative … travelling alone but staying with locals, and in Christchurch right now, local knowledge of what’s open and what’s shifted is invaluable. This assurance is reflected in the name to ‘look after me.’ The costs are reasonable too – ranging across the different homestay levels which include classic and premium.
The target groups for this concept are not only women travelling alone, but small groups of women travelling to the same destination for a common purpose – they can all book a bed on the website but each will stay in a different room, in a different area, with hosts with different interests. Julia Charity tells me, during a phone call, that she “expects her idea to be really popular with mature women travelling alone who will like the safety of staying with people.”
As to my question about what’s the difference between this idea and other homestays, well, the biggest difference I noticed is that the majority of women who have signed up are people who have a spare room (often as children have left home) and are interested in others. Many enjoy walking and are happy to include their guests in their daily walks!
These Christchurch women are also keen on helping their city by providing a bed in an area that is short on accommodation: and, with this group of people assisting the city, Christchurch, like the Edmonds brand that was born there, the city is ‘sure to rise.’
Thumbnail sketches of the people I met follow:
- Yvonne and Trevor (Merivale Townhouse) – she is interested in education issues and the politics of education, and Trevor loves music.
- Sandy and Trevor (Country in the City) love family, animals, hiking, mountain biking, and boating
- Wilma (Home away from Home) loves embroidery, walking and rugby
- Annie and Bert (Oak View) are movie and art buffs with a lovely dog called Molly – they also love walking
- Sandy (Lavender Towers) Lovely cottage garden; has two cats and a dog and says many overseas guests ‘stay here so they can be with my animals’
I laughed when I saw what Te Radar said about the founder of look After Me “I thought NZ used to suffer from Tall Poppy Syndrome. Now I reckon we just suffer from lethargy. That was until I met Julia Charity. Look at her. She’s a pocket rocket with as much passion and power as I’ve ever seen. She’ll go places that one.”
An eclectic set of photos for you …