There is a saying ‘be careful what you wish for – it might come true’.
The people of Napier, New Zealand wished for more land between the sea and town, and started to build up the land level. Nature took a hand though in 1931 in the form on an earthquake. The good news was some 4,000 hectares of today’s Napier was under the sea before the earthquake raised it above sea level, as much as 2.7 metres. The bad news was that buildings collapsed, the town caught fire and over 200 people died. There was a ‘silver lining’ though – the town was rebuilt in the Art Deco style which was popular at the time. Although some was destroyed in the name of progress in the 60s, 70s, and 80s; by the 90s it was recognised as architecturally important and was protected and restored.
We visited on a cruise ship, and had booked onto a town tour, which was excellent. It gave us information about the place and stopped at a very interesting building, the tobacco factory. This was completely at odds with the idea of tobacco – it was built in Art Deco style and was light and decorative, with carved details. The colours were mainly creams and pinks which contrasted with warm wooden doors, and stained glass windows. It was out of the centre of the town, so we were pleased we had gone on a tour, or we might have missed it.
There was time to look round the centre of the town afterward, we sat overlook a lush park and had coffee then bought souvenirs in an excellent tourist shop.It is difficult to sum up the place – Wide streets and pavements, plants and palm trees; crisp clean looking buildings, in art deco style. There was a feeling of light, space and colour. Not just the buildings, but street art followed the art deco theme, with circular plaques, a tall flower instillation and café wall art.- all very colourful and playful.
I remember sitting in a small park which had a flower border resplendent in green orange, behind which was a cream wall, with an archway, framing a vista -slender palm tree and beyond the sea, shining as bright as a jewel.
It was a short shuttle bus ride back to the ship, where, on the quay,we were treated to a display of vintage cars, with owners in vintage costume and a jazz band playing. Napier is a tourist town and proud of it! If you visit from a cruise ship, I would strongly recommend you avoid the tours which bus you elsewhere, whatever the destination, it would be a great shame to miss the town itself.
We only had a half day in the town. ‘Tide and time wait for no-one’ – which must be a cruise ships motto. They have a strict schedule to keep to, and don’t wait for latecomers – pity I would have loved more time here!
A really memorable visit!