Napier II: In the Spanish Mission style

Yesterday I wandered around and looked at all the art deco buildings in the downtown* area. I could have paid some money and join a guided tour, but having walked past and seen a few families groups and old people being guided by a senior citizen with a drive-thru mic, I knew I’d make the right decision.

Right decisions, wrong decisions, and the House That Cancer Built

The thing is, Napier has so many art deco buildings that after a while they all start to look the same, and it’s the non-art-deco buildings that stand out and look interesting. There’s one neo-classical behemoth that survived the earthquake, and a bunch of modernist and brutalist civic and government buildings hiding on the periphery. Buildings without zig-zags or sunburst motifs are the interesting ones.

There seems to be a whole art deco dress-up industry. A couple of times a year Napier had these events where people dress up in 1930s costumes, giving the impression that Napier in the 1930s was mainly populated by middle-aged people who wore ratty evening wear and kept saying “I’m a flapper” as they drank their trim milk cappuccinos.

Last night I ventured over to the The Warehouse across the road and found “Insignificance” on DVD for $10, which was a) surprising, because I didn’t know it was available on DVD, b) delightful, because it’s one of my favourite films, and c) choice, because it was only $10.

Oh yes, my hotel (motel) room has an obscenely huge spa bath. It takes about half an hour to fill with water and I feel like I’m actually doing a bad thing for the environment by using that much water. But the cool thing is I can fold back a screen and watch TV, or in my case, drag my laptop over and watch episodes of Snuff Box, which feels very decadent indeed.

This morning I set out to do another art deco tour, this time of the suburb of Marewa. It wasn’t until I got about halfway around that I realised that I don’t really like art deco residential buildings. It’s something about those flat roofs and little windows that creeps me out. So I abandoned the walk and made my way** around to The House That Cancer Built, aka the National Tobacco Company building.

I could tell I was in the right area (bleak, industrial) because it smelt like tobacco – Port Royal, to be precise. According to the brochure, it was sales of roll-your-own tobacco that kept the NTC in business during the Great Depression, ensuring they had the funds to build a lavish new art deco headquarters after the Napier earthquake. The ill health of my ancestors paid for their cheerful rose detailing.

After that I wandered in the general direction of the city and ended going up the big hill thing that’s in the middle of the city. An old man helpfully told me, “You’re supposed to be going down, not up.” Yes, cheers, pops.

Ok, I think I shall visit the museum now.

* Is downtown the right word? Is Napier big enough to have a downtown?
** If this sounds like a little meander, it was actually a massive walk of several kilometres.

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