Napier, New Zealand – December 16, 2016
Almost exactly one year ago, Leslie and I came to Napier. It was our first trip in New Zealand. We returned in 2016 with Leslie’s mom, Lorraine.
We also returned to our favorite Napier accommodation, The Pebble Beach Motor Inn. We got a room on the third floor with a view of Hawke’s Bay. That was a beautiful place for afternoon cocktails.
Directly across from the motel is the beach. Unfortunately, it is not a friendly beach; it is deadly. The rip currents are treacherous there. Many have met their end when trying to swim at that beach. Even though one cannot go into the water, it is still relaxing to stroll along or sit upon the shore.
About one block away from the motel is the National Aquarium of New Zealand. On the exterior of the building are several murals. I found the one with the octopus to be particularly mesmerizing. Maybe that is because of the octopus escape from that very aquarium in April 2016.
Adjacent to the National Aquarium is a water fountain. One of the three sections has three nozzles spraying water. During the night the spray is lit. Leslie and I walked over one evening and watched as the lights changed colors.
The following day, Lorraine was not feeling well. She stayed at the motel while Leslie and I drove about 20 minutes to Havelock North. A colleague at work told me about the town; but, most importantly, he told me about Te Mata Peak.
Back at the motel, we were glad to find Lorraine feeling much better. That was a good thing. We planned to go out that evening to celebrate Leslie’s birthday.
As a starter, we shared the Baked Pull-Apart Loaf. That came with garlic butter, dukkha, basil pesto, and olive oil with balsamic vinegar. We also shared Paua Wontons. The wontons contained New Zealand paua (abalone) and came with lemon wedges and soy sauce.
The birthday girl selected Garlic and Maple Pork for her main. The menu description was pork loin marinated with maple, garlic, and sesame and served on a rustic chunky potato and cream cheese base with apple sauce. She did like it, but she said it was not quite what she was expecting.
For her main dish, Lorraine selected the Chicken Parmigiana. The menu description was crumbed chicken breast topped with cheese, bacon, and Pomodoro sauce. It also came with baby gourmet potatoes and a seasonal salad. She said it was delicious.
I selected the house specialty, Seafood Lasagna. The menu description was prawns, scallops, salmon, and mussels in a béchamel sauce, served with a tomato and feta green salad. That was one of the most delicious meals I have had in a long time. It was very rich, but very tasty. In the end, I believe Leslie wished she would have ordered the same.
Following our meal, I drove up to Bluff Hill Lookout. The lookout provides a commanding view of the Port of Napier. We happened to show up just as a large container ship was coming into port. From our vantage point, it seemed the required turns to get to the dock were very tight. Regardless, with assistance from two tugboats, the ship was soon securely moored. That was the first time I have ever seen a ship dock.
Also visible in the port were the thousands and thousands of logs awaiting export. One of New Zealand’s main exports is timber. From our distant vantage point, it is hard to get an idea of the size of the logs. However, when one is closer, it is interesting just how big the logs are. Most of the logs are about four meters (13 feet) in length and about one meter (three feet) in diameter. The stacks seem endless. Logs, wood, and wood articles are the third largest export from New Zealand, following the number one dairy products, and the number two meat products.
The next day we took an art deco tour of Napier. The town was rebuilt almost entirely as a result of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake on February 1, 1931. That timing was smack in the middle of the architectural art deco movement. Because of that, most of the buildings in town date from the early 1930s. Having lived through a 7.8 magnitude earthquake ourselves, I can only imagine how destructive the quake was. The subsequent fire consumed those structures that were not destroyed by the earthquake. The fire lasted for a day and one-half.
Since there is so much art deco history in Napier, the city has held an annual art deco festival for many years. It occurs each year in February. Because of that, many of the local stores sell clothing and accessories that look like they came directly out of the 1920s and 1930s. Leslie and I even found one store that sold authentic period clothing, not remakes.
Our driver and tour guide was Phil. He works for the tour service, Hooters. The vehicle he brought for our tour was a turquoise 1924 Hupmobile. I was shocked when he told us the vehicle parts were manufactured in Detroit. I have never heard of that make of automobile. Phil said the parts were shipped to Australia for assembly.
As with tours of this nature, one always finds out interesting tidbits. One of the things we stopped to view is the millennium disc. It is a sculpture that was made to line up with the position of the sun as it rose on January 1, 2000. New Zealand was the first country to see the sun of the new millennium.
We also stopped at the fountain known as the Spirit of Napier. It is intended to commemorate the rising of Napier from the ashes after the earthquake.
The Six Sisters are a row of six Victorian double-story villas. They somehow survived the earthquake and the fire. They were built by a man who wanted to provide a house to each of his six daughters. They are in various states of repair, but they are nice to see.
One other very attractive building is the National Tobacco Company building. Apart from its art deco design, I was surprised by the adornment. On either side of the door are horizontal green lines. Phil asked us to guess what was the green material. We all thought it was a green tile. He said nope. It is greenstone! Greenstone is a type of jade found in New Zealand. I was stunned that some enterprising criminal had not chipped them out by now. Hopefully, that will never happen.
Phil pointed out one home to us that had what looked like a boat in the front yard. It is a deck. The owner had asked the council for permission to build a deck in his front yard. That was denied. Council said decks are not allowed. The owner did some research and found that decorative structures are permitted. So, he built a “boat” that functions as a deck. While we were there, he had it decorated for Christmas.
A few blocks from that home is the first house that was built in Napier. It is definitely a tiny house.
After our tour, while we were still in the central business district, we went to the MTG Hawke’s Bay Museum. There was a fascinating exhibit about the 1931 earthquake. However, the most notable thing was running into Lorraine’s “twin.” The two ladies happened to notice each other in the lobby of the museum. They were both wearing the same top! What are the odds that two women would buy the same top in the United States and then meet in New Zealand? We should have used that luck and bought a lottery ticket instead!
Following the museum visit, we were hungry. We stopped at The Rose Irish Pub. While we were sitting waiting for our lunch, I noticed an antique pitcher on a shelf near our table. The pitcher was an uncanny likeness to our 45th President…
In the central business district, there are some large specimens of the pohutukawa tree. The trees are found throughout New Zealand. They flower with distinctive red blossoms around Christmas time. That is why they are known as the New Zealand Christmas tree.
On our return trip to Wellington, we stopped at the Tui Brewery in Mangatainoka. Since I was driving, we did not take a tour of the brewery. Instead, we visited the gift shop, bought some Tui memorabilia, and then got back on the road.
A little more than two hours late,r we were back home.