LAIDBACK DAYS: Tourists "punting" on the Avon River while visiting Hagley Park and the Botanic Gardens in Christchurch. Detours

Perfect blend of the past

THE delicious smell of warm choc chip cookies instantly took the sting out of the Christchurch chill.

And the generous glass of Bailey's propped on my pillow warmed me to the bone, the perfect night cap.

There is something special about the Novotel Christchurch Cathedral Square Hotel.

It is not just a place to stay – more like a home away from home.

Like the city where it stands proud in Cathedral Square, the hotel is warm and inviting, steeped in history and sensitive to the art and culture Christchurch is so famous for.

The hotel opened in January, blending history with 21st century design and comfort.

It consists of two wings – the new hotel and the heritage wing, which is housed in the historic Warner's Hotel building.

Warner's, the oldest hotel building in Christchurch, was built in 1863 and was bought by Novotel in 2007.

All work on the original building was undertaken after extensive consultation and designed to restore the building's four-storey facade back to its original design.

The new 14-storey tower wing was built on a vacant block behind the original hotel, adding 154 new rooms to the 39 heritage rooms and suites in Warner's.

Richard Dalman, who designed the hotel's reception, lobby, bar and restaurant, said it was vital the new section of the hotel maintained the historical aspects of Warner's.

“Modern decor is mixed with some historic features to provide a warm and welcoming, relaxed and luxurious series of spaces that meet the functional requirement of a modern central city hotel,” Mr Dalman said.

“There is a blending of modern and heritage, rich and minimal, hard and soft.

“This provides for interesting juxtapositions that has resulted in spaces that speak of the hotel's place in the city.”

I was lucky enough to stay in the heritage wing in which, I was slightly disappointed to hear, no ghosts roam.

But no matter, my suite was simply divine.

Every heritage room boasts colour schemes, furnishings and design details in keeping with the history of the building.

The oak furniture was specially crafted in New Zealand to fit the rooms while incorporating modern comforts, communications and facilities.

My king-sized bed was so comfortable it was painful to get up (and I did manage to oversleep one morning!), and the magnificent view over bustling Cathedral Square gorgeous day and night.

Guests staying in the new wing are treated to views of the city and Canterbury Plains.

One of the best things about the hotel is its restaurant and bar, The Square.

The fabulous breakfast starts at 6.30am and is packed with healthy fare or bacon, eggs and all the trimmings for those wanting something more substantial.

Solo travellers can also dine alone without feeling self conscious in special dining nooks, equipped with personal televisions and headsets.

For evening drinks the well-stocked bar, which has fabulous service, is the perfect pit stop.

And all guests must pay a visit to the “wall of wine”, where you can hand pick your favourite drop.

The restaurant is a foodies' delight, with a focus on modern New Zealand fare sourced from the Canterbury region.

And, yes, the lamb is a menu highlight.

Other facilities of the four-star hotel include a tour desk, i-Mac stations, in-room internet, gymnasium and kids corner.

For those visiting for business, there are five meeting rooms, a conference room and a business centre.

I loved the Novotel Christchurch Cathedral Square. The facilities are fabulous, the rooms immaculate and the service impeccable.

There is no better place to rug up on a cold Christchurch day – with a Bailey's, of course.

If you go

Where to stay:

Novotel Christchurch Cathedral Square, 50 Cathedral Square

Where to eat

The Square Restaurant and Bar, Novotel Christchurch Cathedral Square

How to get there

Pacific Blue fly from Brisbane to Christchurch daily.

The author was a guest of Novotel and flew with Pacific Blue.

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