Napier. Art deco capital of the world.
I have to say, Napier has grown on me. At first I felt that it was a rundown tourist trap on it's last financial legs. But after having spent 2 afternoons there, I've realized the town has more to offer than pastel buildings and opportunity shops.
First, a crash course on art deco. Think 1930's, geometric, symmetrical patterns, stucco, starbursts and columns.
It's not just an architectural style, it's also a visual art and "expressed all the vigor and optimism of the roaring twenties plus the idealism and escapism of the grim thirties." (Details)
In 1931, the original town of Napier was leveled by an earthquake and then what little remained was burnt to the ground. Many died.
Some obviously charismatic and optimistic chap convinced the city to rebuild almost entirely in the popular style of the time. And now, some 80 years later, the town tries to milk it for all it's worth.
I hear the walking tour is very good, but I didn't take it, so you'll get my own version instead.
Though the entire city has the art deco feel, they can't seem to fend off the incessant requirements of modern capitalism.
Below - nothing says 1930's like stationary.
Or better yet, how about a strip mall?
Though time has taken it's toll, the town does have a nice pedestrianized main street with a few statues that will make you think "well now, isn't that nice."
Sadly, the town doesn't seem to have a lot of economic opportunities, so shops really get into the 1930's thing. Even the down town backpackers used an appropriate font.
But there was also a lot of empty retail space, and not a lot of real estate was selling. Generally, you wonder how they are getting by. The correct answer to that question is cruise ships. But my answer is Opportunity Shops.
An opportunity shop is a thrift shop, second hand store, or the sally ann. And Napier has more than it's fair share. I quite like them, so I thought it was quite cool. And even the thrift stores get in on the 1930's thing.
And where else can you sell tourists on an appropriate hat with which to beat the heat and look a little like a 1930's movie star?