Last weekend, Steve and I took a day off work and headed up to Napier for a long weekend.
We drove there from Wellington, and went up the Kapiti Coast, which meant we got to drive through the stunning Manawatu Gorge. We didn’t get a chance to stop for photos (there was a big truck behind us and Steve was worried about getting stuck behind it the whole way through the gorge), so I had to content myself with photos from out of the car window, like the one above. I love the Manawatu Gorge – so pretty and green and rugged, it always makes me smile. And the wind turbines on the top just add to all of that, somehow.
We passed some army vehicles on the way as well, which was a bit random. I always forget that the army base is nearby….
Napier is gorgeous. I’d never really been there before, and I must say, I loved it there! Above is a view looking out over the CBD from Bluff Hill, right in the middle of Napier.
Napier was hit by a large (magnitude 7.8) earthquake in 1931. Which broke the water mains, and started fires in the centre of the town. Because there was no water, they couldn’t put out the fires, and a lot of the town was destroyed, either by the earthquake or the subsequent fires. They rebuilt it as fast as they could, which was helped by it being during the depression and lots of builders needing work. And since it was the early 1930’s, the new buildings were Art Deco! Outside of Bath in England, Napier apparently has one of the most well-planned, cohesive central city areas.
It’s not a large city, so the buildings are generally quite small. Which adds to the vintage cuteness, I reckon. There’s all sorts of Art Deco styles – Spanish Mission, Striped Classical, and so on. I didn’t know all that much about Art Deco before we went there (aside from being able to recognise it) and after doing the self-guided Art Deco tour around the town, I can now recognise lots of the styles. Yay! Nothing quite like learning while you’re away on holiday, eh? 😉
This was the entrance to a little park up the side of Bluff Hill. The earlier photo looking out over Napier was taken from the top of this park. The park was lovely – lots of little paths winding up the hill among old trees. Clearly it had been there for quite a long time – there were remnants of old brick paths fenced off and covered in moss.
After the earthquake, when they were rebuilding the city they did something that was very unusual for the time and buried all the power and phone lines underground. Apparently this wasn’t common until around the 1970’s. They also put the street lighting up differently – instead of having poles, they cantilevered the lights out from the sides of buildings. As a result of both of these things, there were no handy poles to put street signs up on, so they embedded them in the footpath. There are just three places in the central city where these original signs remain, although they’re recreating them on other street corners.
When they were rebuilding the city, cars were really starting to gain popularity, so they built the city with cars in mind. The roads are nice and wide, and a lot of the buildings have these shaved-off corners when they’re on street corners – this was designed to give drivers more visibility. The building above used to be owned by a former German – he designed the decorations to show New Zealand and Germany being united by the waves. I love how these touches are still on so many buildings around the town – it’s a place that keeps it’s history close to it’s heart.
We stopped for mid-afternoon tea and cake in this gorgeous little cafe. The cakes were so clearly handmade – they all had that slightly rough-around-the-edges look to them, with lopsided icing and all. There were lots of lovely art deco touches in the interior as well, but I felt a bit odd taking photos inside a cafe, so you’ll just have to imagine the edgings around the lights, the stepped doorway arches and the angular stained-glass window that was inside. 🙂
Steve switched to black-and-white on his camera for a while – imagine this fountain with a brilliant blue painted pool, and soft blue and yellow colours on the fountain itself. And then imagine it lighting up in brilliant orange and green at night, while the huge Norfolk Pine trees nearby have coloured lights strung in their branches. And the sound of the ocean right next to it. Magical.
And the last photo for this post – the National Tobacco Company warehouse. Apparently this is one of the most well-known buildings in New Zealand (which I wasn’t aware of beforehand, so I’m not too convinced by that claim. Or maybe I just don’t know enough well-known buildings). It’s stunning – lots of lovely plants, stained glass windows, and gorgeous colours. Definitely the prettiest warehouse I’ve ever seen!
Napier has an art deco weekend every February – I’m hoping to go along to it next year, to get dressed up vintage and promenade down Marine Parade listening to the jazz bands. Bliss!