Visiting the Art Deco capital of New Zealand

I achieved two bucket list items this weekend – visiting Napier and seeing one of my favourite bands live. 

I've wanted to visit Napier for the longest time, but have just never managed to get there – so many places, so little time! Years ago, I read about Napier's distinctive Art Deco buildings and wanted to go see their magnificence in person. After the Canterbury earthquakes, my interest was renewed – how does a city that's been flattened by an earthquake look after it rebuilds? 

The majority of Napier city buildings were destroyed by an earthquake and subsequent fire in 1931. The rebuild started almost immediately, and took place at the height of the Art Deco period. And 85 years later, it still contains 140 of the original 165 buildings built during this period. That's a remarkable achievement in itself – the city has ensured that the buildings have been carefully preserved – they are so colourful and interesting! 

We took a great walking tour of the city – we purchased a pamphlet from the Art Deco centre and meandered our way around, reading about the buildings' history as we walked. It was a very well-done tour that would benefit from becoming more digital – an audio tour, or even QR codes on buildings would be fun. 

One aspect of the building decoration that I found really interesting is the prevalence of Egyptian motifs. In the pamphelt, this is explained by the fact that Tutankhamen's tomb had been discovered in 1922, and interest in ancient Egypt was high.  If you look at some of the patterns on buildings, you can certainly see the influence. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Napier – it absolutely lived up to my expectations. 

11. The best trip of my life

It’s hard to pick one, they have all been so good! My two top all time favourite would have to be the Capitals Tour I did in 2007-8 with Megan and Jo – we went to England, Scotland, Italy, France, Belgium, Holland and LA. It was epic and fun!

Then in 2011 for our honeymoon, Stephen and I went to England and Scotland. We spent three weeks wandering around castles, churches and abbeys. It was a year after the big quake and life at home was hard work, so it was amazing just to be out of Christchurch and the daily grind of post-quake life.

For both trips the thing that stands out is that we had not made specific plans for where we were going before we left. We booked the first couple of nights accommodation only, and then just wandered where we fancied. In 2007 this was a big leap of faith, but once I’d done it once, I don’t think I’d want to do it differently. It’s such a great way to travel – going where you want, when you want. If you get tired you can set down for a few days, and if you get bored, just move on.

Stephen and I have started planning the next big one – probably for 2018. It will be better than ever!

Day 25: Singapore – home

The first leg was very uneventful – I was very much focused on my Game of Thrones marathon, and was pleased to get through seven episodes in between snacking and napping.

We had a three-hour stop over in Singapore which was really only enough time to look at some shops, have a snack and then get back on the plane.

The second leg was a bit harder – it was an older plane with NO Game of Thrones!! So I amused myself with a couple of movies.

We arrived home around 10.30am and I pretty much went straight to bed. And then (of course!) we went to the ice rink that evening – it was the Women’s League final and Bronwen’s team was playing. They lost, but it was a great game!

Now to recover from the jetlag…

 

It’s the little things…

Jeez, it’s been ages. Two months. I think about blogging all the time, in fact just yesterday. I think of something to say, or about something that just happened, and then I post it on Facebook and Twitter and move on. Social media is easy and blogging takes time and effort. Sad but true.

Anyway, I did something momentous (for me) today – my first lone roadie. I drove from Palmerston North to Wellington. In a rental car. In the dark. And the rain. It took just over two hours. It might not seem like a big deal if you drive all the time, but it is huge for me. The idea of that much speed for that much time scares me. There were bridges! There was one bridge with a curve, and up hill, and a BUS coming the other way. That one made me sweat a bit. And I drove all the way through Wellington city and out the other side to drop off the car.

When I got my driver licence in 2011 (on my 39th birthday), it gave me this amazing sense of freedom. It made so many things possible that were just difficult to do before … imagine going to hockey on the bus, argh. A couple of weeks ago I thought about driving to Timaru. I’d need to bring Stephen along, I thought to myself. I can’t drive myself, I thought. There are bridges. And it’s a long way! So now I know I can. That’s really cool.

Cruisin’

Bucket list item, ticked off.

We went on a cruise March 31st – April 11. It was … interesting.

The wedding was lovely, and such a good idea – it was low-key and just right for Kim and Shelley. I love the idea of being able to avoid all the palaver of the wedding organisation. Though, organising everyone onto the ship must have been a mission!

It took me a few days to unwind once we set sail – work had been really busy and stressful. It felt weird to go from 100% busy to 0%. Nothing to do, no schedule, no appointments. So of course, once I got over the shock of that, I began structuring things around me – breakfast, gym, yoga, Downtown Abbey. Lunch, lounging, trivia, ballroom dancing, Downtown Abbey. Dinner, Downtown Abbey. We watched a lot of Downtown Abbey – all four seasons in fact.

I coped with the seasickness much better than I expected, thanks to Scopoderm patches. I put one on as soon as I felt queasy and then hardly thought about it again. The side effects were a bit interesting, but blurry vision and a rash were much better than the alternative.

After three very looooong days at sea, we arrived in Vanuatu and stopped for two nights at Santo and Champagne Bay. It was great to get off the ship, but I was surprised to find that it made me feel sick. Once back on board (or in the water) I felt fine. Weird!

Next stop was Port Vila – not really a swimming island, so we had a quick look around, went for a boat-taxi ride and then spent the day in the pool on board.

Next was Mystery Island (stunning!) for swimming, and then the last shore day was Isle of Pines (also gorgeous!).

I was happy to see land again after the last three sea days. I was ready for something different! I missed skating! We had a nice relaxing last day in Sydney before flying home for a long weekend.

All in all, it was an interesting experience. I’m not sure I’d want to do another cruise but I enjoyed the enforced relaxation part (I need that). I did start to feel a little cooped-up with nowhere to go – I think if I did another I would prefer to cruise to somewhere and then get off the ship for a few days. And since I’m not really that into beaches and such, preferably the somewhere would involve cities. It was fun hanging out with my family, and to meet Shelley’s family. The food was awesome. The weather was amazing. And of course I am always happy sharing adventures with my best friend.

Enjoying some sun and sand at the Isle of Pines
Enjoying some sun and sand at the Isle of Pines

 

Day 21: Hampton Court Palace, and home

We decided to use our last day in London exploring Hampton Court Palace, 30 minutes from London central by train. This was the palace Henry VIII and his various wives, and the Edward VI (the boy king), William III of Orange and Mary II (England’s only co-regents), and Charles I and II. After this, Hampton Court fell out of favor as a royal palace and they lived elsewhere.

It’s a big place and very well preserved, but so different from the other royal dwellings we’ve seen – they’ve all been huge castles. The palace is quite dainty by comparison.
It was a lovely spring day in London today, so nice to just wander around and soak it all in before we went to Heathrow for the long journey home. We’ve had a great time, but we are definitely ready for home – family, familiarity and a comfy bed!

Inspired

After work last night, I met up with Gerard in Auckland city and we went for a walk around Britomart. I’d only heard of Britomart as a transport centre. And until recently, Gerard explained, the area was an urban ghetto – lots of empty and derelict buildings, a place nobody would want to go. Not so now. The area has recently undergone an amazing transformation.

Pop-up shops

I am truly impressed with this newly built shopping spot – it’s funky and attractive and makes really good use of space. It’s right in the middle of sky-scraper city, and yet the main square was roomy and light with grass and trees and warm sun and lots of people. The buildings are a mix of high-, mid- and low-rise and of old and new. The newest are a set of temporary shops that are described on the website as ‘pop-up shops’.

It inspired me. I imagine that the rubble that is Christchurch could grow into something like this.  It was vibrant and alive, full of people, but still functional – a transport centre flowing with traffic.

We need this. We need to rebuild a functioning, functional inner city that people want to work and live in. Until now I really only had a vague picture of what was possible. Now I’ve seen the reality of what we can have. I cross my fingers that those who are rebuilding my place have seen what I saw.

Because standing amongst the glass and brick and cobbles and people, I felt real hope for the first time in almost a year.

Honeymoon update

We’ve done most of the planning and organising for our honeymoon now – as much as we are going to.

We have:

  • Booked, paid for and picked up our tickets. Actually, there is no tickets. In this modern digital age, we’ve been issued an itinerary and we don’t need a ticket to travel. So much easier, since it’s one less thing to worry about forgetting to bring!
  • Booked and paid for our rental car – we are picking up a car at Heathrow when we arrive and using it for 3 weeks.
  • Booked a transit hotel in Singapore for our 6-hour stop over. This hotel is such a great idea! We can have a shower, a lie-down, grab something to eat and even work out in their gym if we want.
  • Booked our first night’s accommodation in Brighton. We are staying at the grand-looking Royal Albion Hotel on the beach front.
  • Been buying GBP while the going is good. I have a OneSmart card that gives a good rate and means that when we are in the UK we are spending in the local currency (so no conversion charges for every purchase). We’ve set aside all the money we need for the trip – now we just need to save for the luxuries.

Now all we have to do is wait for February 29th to roll around!

The Wellington Trip Rules

Stephen found these yesterday. They are the rules that were carefully crafted by me, him, Miss B and Meagle over the course of our trip to Armageddon in Wellington last April (read about Armageddon-it).
All road trips have their special memories, and this is the artifact of ours. Enjoy our randomness.

Rules for the Wellington Trip

  1. Megan may not eat Doritos before 7:30am.
  2. Bronwen can only be annoying between 10-10:15pm daily.
  3. Stephen can only play Bejewelled Blitz for 5 hours per day.
  4. Bebe must eat every two hours.
  5. Bebe is not allowed to say stupid shit….. Oh wait… SHE CAN’T HELP IT!!!!!
  6. Nos mo king.
  7. The first rule of the Wellington Trip is DON’T MENTION THE WELLINGTON TRIP.
  8. Megan is aloud to coulor in Bronwen’s coulering book  bitween 7.30 to 8.00am.
  9. What happens on the trip stays on Facebook.
  10. No hanky panky at any time on the train, ferry, at the hotel and on the plane.
  11. Bronwen must buy Megan, Stephen and Bebe breakfast and lunch.
  12. Rule 11 is not hapning and is not a rule.
  13. No crying what so ever, if this occurs the person crying must go on the viewing platform until further notice.
  14. It is not ‘four house’, it is ‘four houses’ or ‘the fourth house’. This rule applies to the other houses too.
  15. Complainers get sent to the naughty corner.
  16. The naughty corner is defined by those not sitting in the naughty corner. It is an area designated by said non-naughties.
  17. Puking must be contained within sickbags. No throwing up in Bronwen’s handbag.
  18. Having a tantrum and crying will not get you what you want, therefore you must remain calm if you feel sick or if you don’t get your way.
  19. If someone has been jinxed, then calling them Bebe to unjinx is PERFECTLY FINE because it is a name even if it’s not the one on the birth certificate.
  20. Rule 19 is invalid as from now. Brigid can only be un-jinxed by someone who says her full name (the name on her birth certificate) ‘Brigid Susan Thompson’.
  21. There shalt be no frivolous rules.
  22. People who make rules that invalidate other rules will get a spanking and sent to bed with no dinner. The exceptions to this rule are rule 12 and rule 20 which were passed before rule 22 came into effect and therefore pre-date it.
  23. The person that gives the spanking is evil and will receive one back.
  24. The three Frompson girls are allowed to look and wink at cute boys, even if they have a boyfriend. However, the Frompson male is not allowed to look at other girls as that would just be wrong.
  25. Bronwen will NOT move around heaps when she is in bed as Megan gets annoyed.
  26. Bronwen is alould 2 go on bb and daddys bed bitween 9.2.6.
  27. No stating the obvious, NO MATTER WHAT!

I love hotels

There is some profoundly luxurious about the crisp white sheets, the fluffy white towels, movies on demand, room service. To me, the money I spend on a good hotel when traveling is totally worth it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve stayed in my share of bad hotels. Baaad hotels. One in Inglewood, CA, I chose not to leave unless it was in a taxi – I was a bit scared of my less-than-salubrious neighbours hanging around on the street outside. So now I stay at the Marriott when visiting LA.
Sometimes it can be fun to stay in low-cost places. Staying at backpacker hostels is fun. You can meet interesting people and they tend to have better cooking facilities and free Internet.
But in general, I’m over sharing bathrooms and small dank rooms. Part of the pleasure of traveling for me is the sense of anticipation I feel sliding the keycard in the door, eager to see what’s behind it. After a long day of adventuring there is nothing better than kicking my shoes off and collapsing on a huge comfy bed.
And for a day or two I get to live another kind of life in that room, where I have a maid and cook on call and I never have to do the dishes. It’s the best, and I’m experiencing it right now. Bliss.