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I like Napier, NZ

Rothmans of Pall Mall offices, NapierI've had a bit of a thing about New Zealand for as long as I can remember. Not really sure why. Maybe something to do with the Scottish connections, the good bands that came out of there when I was growing up, and the fact that it was very far away. I had a particular thing about two places: Napier and Dunedin.

Napier was flattened by an earthquake in 1931 and completely rebuilt in a "modern" stylee, making it one of the best collections of Art Deco and Spanish Mission architecture anywhere in the world. Before the 1930s Napier had been a prosperous seaside resort, modelled on English seaside towns like Torquay or Brighton. The 1931 earthquake devastated the town and Louis Hay, the architect charged with its redesign took his influences from Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. The buildings are small scale and relatively mundane: banks, shops, newspaper offices, but it's the number of them and the lovely Hawke's Bay seaside location that really does it all justice.

What to see

Ellison & Duncan, NapierIt's a small town, but you can spend a while there because there is so much to see, and it's the sort of place where it's easy to relax and do nothing. For me, the highlights were The Daily Telegraph building, the Public Trust Office, the sea front with the Kiwi House (probably now long gone), fabulous Soundshell with its Art Deco sunburst, and charming Spirit of Napier statue, which sums up the flavour of the place; it still retains that 1930s air of triumph over adversity. There are also a couple of great Art Deco buildings - The Rothman's building and Ellison & Duncan (pictured) further out as well as a good viewpoint towards the north of the city near the coast - plenty of maps and guides at the tourist office.

The weather was pretty terrible when I was there (it was spring but you'd never know from these photos) but I still loved it to bits. More on why I like the rest of New Zealand at a later date.

Getting there

Lonely Planet can tell you how to get to NZ. Once you're there it's all aboard the Magic Bus. Obviously there are other ways to get there but this is the only one I can personally vouch for.

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