City of the Month: Napier

Napier is a small city in one of the sunniest parts of New Zealand.   Its main claim to fame is having been obliterated by an earthquake in the  1930’s.  It was rebuilt in an art deco fashion and is, it claims, the only truly art deco city in the world. (Miami Beach is the other city in the conversation, but here they reckon it’s mostly decorated in the somewhat later Streamline Moderne style and in a different conversation.)

To be honest, I was expected the buildings to be grander, and more prevalent.  There are some cool buildings around town, but not really anymore than most New Zealand cities.

But Napier doesn’t need art deco.  It has, among other things, great farmer’s markets, a lovely beach, a pedestrian friendly downtown, two strip clubs (one promises to be coming soon) plenty of grocery stores (this is important to us), stupidly good sushi, two Irish pubs,  and a statue of a Maori mermaid.  And lurking above the city on a small hill are some of the flashest houses around.

There are plenty of bike paths, over seventy wineries (the Hawke’s Bay region is one of New Zealand’s most prominent), lots of walks, and in World War II a German U-boat landed and stealthily milked some cows to replenish their meager rations.

It’s hard to imagine somewhere more pleasant to live.

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