Published: March 31st 2009February 18th 2009
Napier, on the shores of the South Pacific, invited us to come ashore on on a beautiful, sunny day in February. It is a uniquely enchanting small city with some of the finest examples of Art Deco architecture in the world, accented with palm trees and Norfolk Island pines.
Napier is much older than it looks today. Napier and Hawkes Bay, with it's well established Maori history was first sighted by Capt. James Cook in October 1769, when he sail down the East coast of the North Island as he circumnavigated New Zealand. Of course Cook named Hawkes Bay.
On Tuesday, February 3, 1931, Napier suffered a disastrous and massive Richter 7.8 earthquake. The earthquake and subsequent fires destroyed most of the city. They quickly rebuilt in the architectural fashion of the day, Art Deco. Nowhere else can you see such a large variety of buildings in the styles of the 1930's. Along with the Art Deco are Spanish Mission and Stripped Classical. But Napier's Art Deco in unique, many having Maori motifs.
We spent most of the day with Rick and Linda on a self-guided walking tour admiring the buildings, visiting the museum and sidewalk cafes where
we engaged in a favorite past-time, people watching. The city was only two days away from the annual Art Deco Festival and signs of it were already being expressed with antique cars and people dressed in vintage clothes. I was drawn into the Olive Branch Bakery that boasted a large variety of baked goods including a nice selection of brownies. Asking the counter lady which was the best, she replied "the Texas Double Fudge Nut". Of course that worked for me! It was the best brownie I'd ever eaten.
We walked along the Marine Parade, a street that runs along the ocean and is lined with gardens, fountains and sculptures. The beach is rocky, but beautiful. The Six Sisters is the name given to a group of six brightly coloured wooden two-story building, which survived the earthquake.
We visited one of the most photographed attractions in the country, a statue called Pania of the Reef. Her statue is regarded in much the same way that the Little Mermaid statue is regarded in Copenhagen, and bears some similarities. According to Maori Legend, she was a beautiful sea maiden who each evening would swim from the watery realm of Tangaroa,
the god of the ocean, to quench her thirst at a freshwater spring near the base of Bluff Hill. One evening, she was discovered by a young chief who wooed her and wanted her to remain on land. Eventually they married, but when Pania went to pay a final visit to her kin, they forcibly restrained her in the briny depths, and she turned to stone which is now known as Pania Reef. We love the love stories.
There are more photos below