It was still overcast when we got up the next morning so we decided to head off to Napier. By the time we had packed and were ready to set off, the sun had come out so we took a quick spin along the shore of Lake Rototua and around the very pleasant town centre where the original baths were located. They were set in pretty parkland on the lakeside. Rotorua is really quite a nice place if you can get used to the smell of sulphur - know what we mean?We had to retrace our steps to Taupo to pick up the road to Napier. That road was uninteresting at first as it passed miles and miles of forestry land, some covered in trees and some denuded and quite ugly - but logging is a big part of NZ's economy and there's no escaping it. However, after a few miles we moved into the mountainous fringes of Te Urewera National Park which made for very pleasant driving. But this area really sparsely populated and we thought we'd never find anywhere for a cup of coffee. However at Eskbank, a few miles before we hit the coast, we came across a coffee oasis where we had a welcome break. We hadn't booked anything in Napier and luckily bypassed the first stretch of motels and headed for the I-Site where we found information on things to do and places to stay. Just down the road on the front was a new place - Nautilus (www.nautilusnapier.co.nz) - where we managed to negotiate a good value deal for a really upmarket room with a huge spa bath (see Napier photo album). Settled in, we continued to work on arrangements for our two months or so in Auckland and were really pleased to hear from Bruce & Susan and Steven & Sarah both of whom contacted us on Skype. With Julie & Rob also newly on Skype we nearly have a full set of relatives hooked up. Should just say that we'll need to take care when we answer Skype video calls because Steven & Sarah were answered by a very naked E with M running around in the background clad only in a towel! Anybody contemplating contacting us on Skype should have their dark glasses at the ready!!On 3 February 1931 Napier was hit by a massive that killed nearly 300 people (a lot for a town of its size) and devastated the city centre, which was then engulfed in fire. The rebuilding programme is a remarkable story, too long for this blog, but essentially all the architects got together and went for an Art Deco Style. Within two years most of the town had been rebuilt and the majority of the buildings still exist today. Napier, with its fine climate and situation in the Hawke's Bay wine area, has developed into a resort town and a top destination for those who want to experience a really well laid out and architecturally interesting city. We took an absolutely excellent Art Deco walking tour of the town with Robin which starts from The Art Deco Shop at 2pm. Robin is a very enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide who clearly loves the city (she, like all guides, is a volunteer) - her many stories and anecdotes about the buildings and there history made a fascinating two hours whizz by. Wandering around the shops afterwards we popped into an outdoors shop we'd noticed earlier looking for a rucksack rain cover. Well we didn't find one but we (M really) found plenty other things of interest (sporks and a compression bag so we can squeeze more of the following......). As always, however, M focused on footwear and came away with a new pair of walking shoes to replace,(a) the Brashers she set off with in 2006 and (b) the Merrell walking shoes she bought in Queenstown only three months ago (seriously they are hurting despite lots of attempts to break them in). She now has nine pairs of footwear with her at the moment but some will have to be sent back to the UK.We're eating out less and less and it was great to get back to our comfortable spa apartment for some great home cooked food, followed by bubbles and bubbles and bubbles..... We liked Napier so much we decided to stay another day. With the sun shining we headed down to Cape Kidnappers, a place of long limestone cliffs heading out to sea and which is an area with a character of its own. We spent a very pleasant hour of so wandering along the beach discussing plans for Auckland before enjoying a coffee in the sun then visiting a couple of vineyards where M tasted and we bought a few bottles to save for later. On our way to Cape Kidnappers we'd passed a sign for the British Car Museum (www.britishcarmuseum.co.nz) which we hadn't heard of or seen any brochures for. On our way back we thought we could spend a few minutes here. But what a surprising gem it was and we spent ages wandering around the 300 plus British made cars (in various conditions) exchanging stories of first driving tests, first cars etc. What a great nostalgia trip. We got talking to Ian the owner who has collecting and restoring the cars for the last 20 years. He'd recently bought a 1938 Ford 8 which was similar to his first car and we took a few photos which we emailed to him later that day. Anyone who has an interest in Singers, Humbers, Commers, Morrises, Austins, Rileys, Wolseleys, Hillmans, Fords, Standards, Triumphs, Jowetts, Jaguars, Bentleys, RRs etc etc would love it. As we would be heading north the following day we drove the short distance into Hastings, a nearby thriving large town/small city which was also affected by the earthquake. It looked a pleasant enough place with some lovely Art Deco/Spanish Mission buildings but the highlight for us was the New World Supermarket which had a wonderful selection of goodies.
E & M xxx