(I’m writing this on a bright and crisp morning sitting outside of a cafe. I’ve quite enjoyed being able to pick up Telecom NZ hotspots all throughout NZ for free. It’s probably the first and only positive thing I’ll say out their internet service.)
It was a nice lazy drive of less than two hours from Taupo to Napier. Along the way I crossed the Aramahima(?) range which offered some stunning views and a fun windy road for my little Mitsubishi Lancer. By noon I was in Napier.
Napier, like Taupo, is a tourist-heavy town along the waterfront (although Napier’s waterfront is the Pacific ocean). Whereas Taupo felt like just a collection of businesses to cater to the holiday crowd, Napier is a proper city with an interesting history. It is a small (55,000 population), compact city chock full of cafes, galleries, posh restaurants and hotels. But the dominant trait that the town will not let you forget is Art Deco.
The town has been called “Deco City” for the large number of original buildings representing the style. I took the two-hour Art Deco walking tour which was extremely interesting. The city was basically destroyed by a huge earthquake in 1931, and from that the town was rebuilt into what it is today. A few young architects from Auckland were in charge of most designs, and they were keen to use the style of the time. When you walk through parts of the town, especially at night, it’s like being in the movie “Metropolis”. Add to that some clothing stores that actually sell fashions from the 20s-30s, and it becomes a tad creepy. One building I took note of was once called the “Kalafat Service Station”, whose parent company was supposedly a US petroleum firm. Maybe I have an unexpected windfall in my future? In addition to lots of architecture tidbits, the tour provided a plenty of earthquake related stories and examples of how the city is now nearly earthquake proof. I took a ton of pictures which I’ll upload to Flickr when I get back to Christchurch.
For dinner I had a very spicy Nasi Goreng at a Dutch-owned Indonesian restaurant that has been in Napier for 20 years. (Sorry Angela, no picture. I took one without flash and it makes the meal look quite disgusting.)
In the evening I saw a movie. I was a bit disappointed when my travels away from Christchurch exactly coincided with the NZ Film Festival that was playing at the time. Fortunately the venue moves around and I caught up with the festival in Napier. I watched an Aussie film called “Romulus, My Father” (Eric Bana & Franke Potenta) which was quite good (4/5). When I left the theater at about 10pm the town was dead so I called it a night.
Next/last stop, Wellington…