A Day in the World’s Art Deco Capital

Our first day in Napier was a day to explore the town. We headed in to the information site, got ourselves set up with the ‘to dos,’ and then planned our afternoon of activities.

Jonah and Tim headed to a local café – Ujazi – which served superb coffee along with hot chocolate (complete with marshmallows and a chocolate – with a marshmallow interior), started on the script for a movie, and headed out to the beach to do a bit of messing around on the stones.

The rest of the family headed off for a 45-minute vintage car tour of Napier and its Art Deco architecture, in a 1939 refurbished vehicle driven by a volunteer named Brocky. They certainly enjoyed learning about the rebuilding of the City following the 1931 earthquake that leveled much of the town as a result of not only the earthquake, but also the ensuing fires. At the time, the town had a population of 20,000, losing 200 people in the earthquake. Following the disaster the town was essentially rebuilt in 22 months, with over 160 buildings being reconstructed in the art deco style of the 1930s. As a result, the town now has a beautiful downtown core that provides a great place to wander, stop in an enjoy a café, or do a bit of shopping.

Rebecca and Gen shopped and headed home, via the pop-up donut stand on the side of the road, and the rest of us took a tour of the local prison, which was closed in the early 1990s.

The prison, which is the oldest in New Zealand, was an interesting series of small wooden buildings used to house various prisoners over the years, including some notorious gang leaders. The audio tour provided a glimpse into the life of the prisoners, and to a certain extent the challenges faced by a small prison. You can see the effects of the 1930s earthquake on the wall and the changing elevations of the floor, learn about various prisoners, and understand the conditions faced by the prisoners and the wardens. There were even mentions of the ghosts that, while friendly, haunt the prison cells – though the staff member on duty has not personally encountered one. As Claire pointed out, it is not Alcatraz, but it certainly is an interesting glimpse into, what was until only 20 years ago, a working prison, where prisoners were held and in some cases executed.

Our walk home reminded us that just because it is a short distance on the map, it is not necessarily a ‘flat’ walk. We managed to cover what seemed like as much distance up and down as we did horizontally on our way home!

After dinner we popped back into town to the Irish Pub for trivia night – finishing eighth out of the 12 teams there. Nothing like pictures of fish that you have to guess, or Irish trivia (we did not too badly on that one), to keep your score low. We met a bartender from Waterloo, and another person playing trivia that had gone to Waterloo University and five years ago moved here to complete teacher’s college… and land a full-time job teaching here. IMG_0591The kids mostly enjoyed having Wifi…


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