The beautiful Loire Valley, with its romantic chateaus, the flowing river and the picturesque countryside.
Vintage cars and flapper dresses, candy coloured sunburst embellishments on Art Deco buildings, and a beautiful beachfront promenade greeted us as we drove into Napier, New Zealand, on a balmy February evening. We checked into the beautiful Art Deco Masonic hotel right on the sea front, which in the past has hosted foreign dignitaries such as Queen Elizabeth, or so we were told.
We kicked off the evening with a cold beer on the outdoor patio bar at the Masonic hotel – the perfect place for vintage car and people watching as the city was getting ready for the annual Art Deco Festival weekend, held every February, with owners of vintage cars from all over New Zealand streaming into the city.
Napier was completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1931 and rebuilt in Art Deco style, and this is what gives it its unique character. The city has since expanded but the heart of Napier is one of the best examples of Art Deco architecture with some beautifully preserved and restored buildings. The next day we walked around the Central Business District with an Art Deco Trail volunteer, which was a fantastic introduction to the city as she gave us a lowdown on the architectural features as well as the urban legends associated with the iconic buildings in the Art Deco district.
The annual Napier Art Deco Festival, for which we happened to be in Napier, is held every February, and the 4 day festival is packed with events – vintage car rally, dance and music shows (in fact, we chanced upon a Charleston dance troupe practicing for the main event on the plaza by the beach), Art Deco walks and talks, and outdoor garden parties reminiscent of the Great Gatsby. Everybody was dressed in 1930s chic, and there were real steam engines hooting on the roads! I had a field day taking pictures.
The events over the four days are listed in an Art Deco festival booklet and there is a Festival office, which offers help and information on where to go and what to do, which, luckily for us, was right opposite the Masonic Hotel.
Napier and its surrounds in the Hawkes Bay region is also home to some of New Zealand’s finest wineries. Some of the well-known wineries are Mission Estate and Church Road Winery. We visited Mission Estate Winery, one of the oldest wineries in the region, which is famous for its fine dining restaurant. The restaurant is beautifully appointed and the outdoor seating area overlooks the vineyards, affording a nice view.
The coastline south of Napier up to Cape Kidnappers is stunning. The area has many cycling trails and so my daughter and I hired bicycles and explored a short trail along the beach- with a welcome beer at the end of it!
Napier is a blast from the past- classy and charming with some great food and wine. The locals are friendly and obliging. And the best coffee in New Zealand that I’ve had is at a cafe called Adora in Napier. It is a hidden gem, off the beaten track from all the adventure sports and geysers usually associated with New Zealand.
If you find yourself in Napier next February, definitely stop by. And don’t forget to wear vintage!
I have found time to travel to many countries and live in 2 countries (3 if Scotland ever does becomes one!) and 6 cities during my career in finance. I was a diplomat first and started in the Indian Foreign Service with my first posting being Paris – The City of Light. And began my lifelong love of travel and coffee there! An MBA followed and I’ve been in finance since.