Napier, New Zealand

We are now in Napier, “the Art Deco city”. The city was completely destroyed by a 7.8 earthquake in the 1920s and entirely rebuilt in the Art Deco style that was popular at the time. The city reminds me quite a bit of San Francisco, as many of the houses are perched precariously on cliffs overlooking the city. We are staying at a quiet, quiet, quiet bed and breakfast that is a profound change from the place where we spent the night in Taupo (the night before).

Although the Taupo YHA was highly recommended by the guidebook (and was quite clean and well-run), we discovered that it was LOUD, when we returned from the days activities. Imagine this scene: a speaker outside the door of the room, the TV/billiards lounge on one side, the women’s bathroom on the other, both public phones outside the door, the smoking lounge AND ping-pong table outside our door, and the kitchen over our head. We didn’t understand how bad it be staying over the kitchen until a busload of cheap-ass backpackers arrived en masse to cook Ramen noodles and chat over our heads. Oh, did I mention the walls and ceilings are made of a high-grade, sound-permeable cardboard?

Anyway, we decided that twice the room rate was a fair price to pay for a bed and breakfast and some peace and quiet. Boy were we right. The place in Napier holds only 2 couples at a time and is run by a very nice elderly lady. We had our own refrigerator, clean luxurious bathroom, King size bed with big comforter and a fully stocked library and TV. And it was quiet.

Oh, in Taupo I took a ride on a jet boat that skims over water as shallow as 3 inches deep and does 360 degree turns while shooting out 400 liters of water a second. It was quite a ride and everyone got socked in the cold water. Cheryl, wisely, abstained. Afterwards we went to a shrimp farm where we ate fresh giant Malaysian prawns. Delicious.

Yesterday we went on a wine tour around Hawke’s Bay (one of NZ’s largest wine growing regions). The whites we had were quite good and tasted like most fo the NZ whites (very tropical and light), while the reds were good and note too overpowering. Cheryl can go into more detail here…

Let me take a few moments to make some observations on New Zealand:
–I like to think of it as “England in the South Pacific”, English sensibility crossed with a Polynesian respect for the land and hospitality.
–New Zealanders have a very quant notion of themselves, calling themselves “Kiwis” (after a gentle, flightless bird) and generally behaving in a way that you might if you modeled yourself after a kiwi.
–New Zealand is about to re-examine its marijuana laws, which is timely since it seems that almost half of New Zealanders have or do partake. Almost 80% of young Maori men do (according to a survey).
–New Zealand has just admitted a huge number of Asian immigrants (relative to the size of the country) and now seems to be having second thoughts as they try to “digest” and assimilate this new group. Some of the debates sound like debates that the United States had 100 years ago with Italian and Irish and Russian Jewish immigrants.
–Slot machines are legal in bars, which has been a pleasant diversion and does not seem to be abused too much.
–The drinking age here is 18 and just about everyone drinks (lots).

Next time we can give some generalities on the different tourist nationalities we have met…