Our love of wine took us to several fantastic wine regions in both Australia and New Zealand. It’s always exciting and fun to see the vineyards and taste some of the wines we’ve been drinking for years back home. Just being there to see the gorgeous environments the grapes grow in is quite special, too.
The next stop on our New Zealand Wine Trail (yes, there really is one!) was Hawkes Bay. The long, hot summers and cool winters make the region a great place to grow some tasty grapes. Hawkes Bay is becoming known world-wide for its full-bodied red wines. Erik likes red wines, but I tend to stick to white wines. I was willing to give the local specialty a try, though.
We wound up finding a cabin in Napier at one of the holiday parks for just around $37USD. This cabin was huge – it had a double bed, six single beds, a fridge, a toaster, and a tea kettle – it was a great deal for New Zealand!
Oh! Before I forget again, I have to tell you about Tourism Radio! This was incredibly valuable and entertaining on our 7 week roadtrip through New Zealand. When we picked up our Jucy, we asked if we could also grab a Tourism Radio contraption. Erik had read about it online when researching Jucy’s perks. This radio system hooks into the cigarette lighter, and sticks onto the windshield with a suction cup. Once your location is sensed by the GPS, the radio will give you a friendly welcome to the beautiful country of New Zealand, instruct you on how the system works and then – THE BEST PART, as you travel it will tell you interesting sites you are passing, towns you might want to stop in, where to stay and even recommends places to eat! While we are fairly certain many of the suggestions are recommended simply because they get a kickback for the advertising, this Tourism Radio was a life saver! It definitely gave us tips on places (some really bizarre and interesting places) we wouldn’t have known about otherwise, and the best bonus, it played cool driving tunes to keep us entertained for our long hours in the car! (NOTE: If you rent a Jucy vehicle in New Zealand, be sure to request Tourism Radio – they even gave it to us for free)!
Back to Hawkes Bay, we went on a wine tour of the region with Vince’s Wine Tours – sadly the famous Vince, who usually runs the tours and is said to be a ridiculously fun and informative host, was sick that day, so his wife took us out to the vineyards. We sampled some nice reds and a few decent whites, but the focus here is clearly on red wines. My tasting notes indicate that we only tasted one Sauvignon Blanc, a couple of Chardonnays, a couple of Pinot Gris, and a few white blends. We stopped at 5 vineyards – Mission Estate, Ngatarawa, Salvare, Alpha Domus and Moana Park.
Mission is a huge wine-producer, so the tastings there were professional, but pretty serious and not as fun as some of the others. The grounds at Mission are beautiful and there is a small chapel on-site. The others were good, but nothing struck me as overly memorable. Our last tasting was my favorite – Moana Park, that produces bioorganic wines. Our tasting host was fantastic, very informative and friendly and the wines were wonderful. I’m not sure if it was just because it was the end of a long day of wine tasting, but we really had a blast there sitting outside of the benches talking about wine and having a few good laughs. And the wines really were nice.
While in Napier, we also got to check out some of the fantastic Art Deco architecture that beautifully dominates the town. In February of 1931, a huge 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated the town. 157 people were killed and all but a handful of buildings were completely destroyed. What hadn’t been toppled in the quake, was obliterated by the subsequent fires, which were no match for the wooden buildings of the day. By 1933, just two years later, the entire town had been rebuilt. There is hardly another town on earth that was built so quickly and entirely in the style of the 1930’s. Since this was the Great Depression and many people were desperate for work, the gargantuan effort of rebuilding an entire town quickly was exactly what Napier and nearby Hastings needed to provide a great amount of work for the otherwise out-of-work locals. Sir Neil Cossons, Chair of English Heritage, has said “Napier represents the most complete and significant group of Art Deco buildings in the world…Napier is without doubt unique.”
Throughout the town, 140 beautiful examples of Art Deco buildings still stand today, and serve to form an architectural time capsule of sorts. We were lucky enough to have a private tour of the town with a guide from the Art Deco Trust. We booked the tour at the tourist information center in the middle of town and since one of the morning tours had just left, our guide said it was no problem to give us a tour of our own. She was very informative and sweet and took us to several important, striking buildings throughout town.
Some highlights were the Daily Telegraph building with its classic zigzags, fountain shapes, sunbursts and ziggurats.
The building’s interior has been completely restored to its original Art Deco style and now houses business offices.
It was neat to step inside such beautiful pieces of architecture. The former Criterion Hotel is now Criterion Art Deco Backpackers Hostel. As we passed it by, we sort of wished we had stayed there just for the novelty factor.
The old Napier firehouse is now the classic Art Deco Trust office and museum; it houses the group which ran our tour and treated us to a nice cup of coffee and a movie about Napier’s Art Deco history.
We also had a look at the old National Tobacco Company building outside of town, which is often considered the region’s Art Deco masterpiece with its starburst pattern over the main entrance framed by trademark roses and grapevines.
Next time, our last stop in Napier, the Old Prison…