The art deco capital of the world

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Created by me with help from Midjourney

We had breakfast in that award-winning restaurant at the Regent the morning after our long day in Rotorua. Most hotels offered buffet breakfasts but this one was a la carte. Which is fine if management and staff have some plan for delivering meals to patrons; that is, the person seated in that place at table x ordered fried eggs etc. We’d noticed service wasn’t exactly smooth when we had our excellent dinner there the night before last. The system seemed to be that the waiter remembered what everyone ordered. It doesn’t always work.

The menu said ‘eggs any way’ so Peter asked for an omelette. They didn’t do omelettes, so Peter ordered scrambled eggs with bacon. I’d already finished my poached eggs and Peter’s breakfast hadn’t turned up. When we noticed a waiter wandering around with two plates of what appeared to be scrambled eggs, Pete called her over. Scrambled eggs, but no bacon. He reminded her and she took the plate away. After a lot more waiting, Peter went around to ask what had happened to his breakfast – scrambled eggs with bacon. He’d interrupted a staff conversation. The three girls looked at each other, then one said, “We’ve run out of bacon”. No apology or alternative was offered. It was too late to argue. Peter ate his by now cold eggs and we learned that Lynn, who had also ordered scrambled eggs but without bacon, had also missed out.

I’ve been in plenty of places where a waiter would approach a table and ask, “who ordered the scrambled egg, no bacon?” No one minds that. We got the distinct impression that ‘out of bacon’ wasn’t true, just a cop out. And what about offering something else? “We’re out of bacon but would you like some ham?” Or something.

We’d all encountered inconveniences in several of the hotels we stayed in – the buffet ran out of coffee, or milk, or tea bags, the wake-up calls didn’t happen, the staff didn’t know the bar had Guinness, or that it had to be served in a glass. Given the post-covid blues, we shrugged and moved on. But ‘out of bacon’ and poor customer service wasn’t in that category. We marked the hotel down on our assessment forms.

Rant over.

Anyway, we boarded the bus and hit the road for Napier.

We hadn’t travelled far when Linda hung a left onto a little-used side road. “You thought the mud pools at Te Puia were good? Folks, that wasn’t a mud pool. THIS is a mud pool.” (In a Crocodile Dundee voice)

Waiotapu thermal pools

Here’s how it works
Growing beside the pool was a sequoia, right at home in New Zealand.
The mighty Waikato River changes course

The road reached Lake Taupo, the largest lake by area in New Zealand. We made another stop at Huka Falls, where the mighty Waikato River, leaving Lake Taupo, is forced through a narrow ravine. The location is used to generate hydro power and jet boat rides are offered. They could also use it as a washing machine.

Huka Falls

On our way we passed through the town of Taupo, set on the shores of the lake. Apart from the beautiful lake and the scenery, the town has another attraction – a Macca’s set in a DC3.

You can actually eat inside the plane. Check it out
Green and misty

The Thermal Highway crosses two ranges of picturesque hills before it reaches the plains on the east coast. We drove along twisting roads passing mist-covered hills, many contented sheep and cattle, and several signs showing what the locals think of the current government. As in Australia, there’s a tendency to govern for the major cities and ignore the feelings of the bush.

She did it!

As we travelled towards Napier, Linda played a DVD about the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that devastated Napier in Feb 1931, killing 256 people, and injuring thousands more. We drove beside what used to be a lagoon, popular with families for swimming and boating. The whole area around Hawke’s Bay was uplifted several metres, changing the landscape. What used to be the lagoon is now the site of the town’s airport. Most of the stone buildings were demolished while the wooden houses, being more flexible, survived. They were destroyed in the fires that broke out. By good fortune the NZ naval ship HMS Veronica was in the harbour. The sailors were immediately deployed to help and the ship contacted other naval vessels to provide assistance. This is an excellent account of HMS Veronica‘s experience when the earthquake happened.

This video runs for fifteen minutes. It is a record of the earthquake and its aftermath.

I’d had the naïve idea that Napier had decided to turn itself into a hip art deco town to attract tourists. That’s a big NO. The town is art deco because it was rebuilt in the 1930s when the art deco architectural style was at its height. One hundred and eleven buildings were built in the town centre between 1931-33. Today, there’s a trust to protect the existing buildings and there’s an art deco festival every year held on the anniversary of the earthquake – 3rd February. Learn more about how an earthquake turned Napier into the art deco capital of the world.

Just two of the many well-preserved art deco buildings

Pete and I visited the town’s museum which has an entire floor dedicated to the earthquake. There are many stories of heroism from the time. They have videoed recollections from a number of survivors and these can be viewed. There is also a large collection of photographs taken at the time, as well as artifacts and a geological explanation of what happened.

We also walked through the city centre, admiring the buildings as we looked for a shoe shop. Peter’s runners were falling apart. Taking advantage of a Black Friday sale, we got a good price on replacements. We found an aptly named sandwich shop where we had lunch.

In the central mall

That night we stayed at a curved hotel overlooking the beach. It had a lift. We’d been secretly notified that it was Linda’s birthday, so someone had bought a card which we all signed. I think she was chuffed. As it happened, it was my birthday, too. Peter had a word with the kitchen. They couldn’t manage cup cakes, but we each got a special scoop of ice cream with a candle.

The Scenic at Te Pania

Tomorrow we’ll be off to Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city.

By the way, if you’ve happened upon this page by accident and you’d like to read more about the tour, go to the tour page where you’ll find the rest of our adventures.

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