Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pt 16 - Napier, Tour with Packard Promenades; Mission Estate for lunch

Sunday 28 February . Napier, Tour with Packard Promenades; Lunch at Mission Estate

We’ve decided thismorning we’ll head off to Napier. 8:45 am we are on the road, and passing rapidly through pastures and forestry. As we crest a hill and start the gentle downhill a beautiful rural scene is laid out before us. The sky is leaden but the clouds are inconsistent in density. The light is filtering through in subtle beams to the verdant land below. On the long straight we find a safe spot and pull over to soak it up. Beautiful!

Back on the road, suddenly a brown sign. Scenic Lookout ahead. Thinking as one we decide to pull over, wondering what exactly we might be looking out at. As we turn into the viewing area we are none the wiser as to what the spectacle might be. There are a number of cars and vans here and a cluster of people over by a low rock barricade chatting animatedly. The hills around are wrinkled and scrubby. We look a question at eachother and open the door.

A clue. The roar of water. We stand on rocks here and there but the shrubbery is obscuring the view. A man nearby says, gesturing to his companions “just tell them to get out of the way”. In the small gap where the group was standing is a view of a particularly lovely waterfall. It’s a bit of a distance away but it is mighty and beautifully draped in three main strands across the tumble of rocks down into the valley. It is worthy of greater notoriety than it seems to have. We are very glad we stopped… I note that the problems discussed on TripAdvisor in respect of freedom campers are evident in this parking area, notwithstanding obvious attempts to clean it up, some minor detritus remains. As we depart we take more careful note of the signage. Waipunga Falls. Beautiful.

Back on the road we sigh with relief and pleasure as we get to a patch of hilly country shrouded in native forest. This is the stuff! All too soon we are back in amongst the endless pine forests, but making steady progress down to the coast. We approach Napier from the back door. As we drive along our first stretch of waterfront our view is obscured by the railway lines that run between the road and the beach. Through an industrial docklands area we wander about. I know we’re looking for something quite different to this and we persevere, dig out the Napier road directory, and eventually we find ourselves on beautiful Marine Parade.
We cruise slowly down the parade noting the ocean baths, gardens and landscaping and excellent mini golf circuit. Oh how our kids would love this place! The ocean is shining bright blue. Everything is immaculate. The weather is idyllic. What a stunning place!

We find a park (parking space) outside the info centre and head in to check the art deco walks out thinking we’ll book one of some sort. We make a comfort stop at the public facilities. A small cost to use the services which have an attendant and are all beautifully clean.

Hubby ventures to the i-site personnel. Smart day to head to low lying beachside. Tsunami alert and the deco tours are cancelled today. The tours in a vintage vehicle might be available though.

While we procrastinate, we take a leisurely stroll down onto the beach.. Tsunami be damned… the water is very calm with an edge of nasty looking dumpers pounding on the shore. Here it is again. Black pebbles, white breakers and brilliant blue sea. Stunning. Driftwood is artistically arranged along the beach here and there. Hubby is intrigued by the pebbles. “how is it on your feet?” he asks. I slip off my thongs (aka jandals .. flip flops.. ie footwear) and walk around barefoot.
“OK” says I. “At least you wouldn’t leave the beach with pebbles stuck to your feet!” I am not a huge fan of sand!... especially with a stiff north easterly blowing… ah, does my childhood baggage show? LOL

Hubby is intrigued. “take a photo of it”…
“of the beach?”
“no the pebbles”.
Here it is… with shoes to give scale!

Hubby wanders down to the water to check out this extraordinary beach material.. he returns with a hand full of tiny pebbles. “It gets finer down near the water”. “Take a photo” he says. "I did" says I. "No take a photo" he repeats waggling his hand to clarify the instruction.

Indeed there seems to be bands of pebbles of different sizes running across the beach… I never would have noticed if it weren't for hubbys' enthusiasm. You see… there is no end to the strange things tourists find engaging! We’ve never seen a beach in Australia that wasn’t fine, usually golden, sometimes white, sand. A beach that doesn’t have sand is something of a natural wonder to us…

New Zealand has such a broad array of beach materials.. sands of various colours.. large pebbles, tiny pebbles.. never a dull moment. Here again the black, white, blue combination. I am nostalgic to see it again and I enthuse to hubby about the beautiful black sand beach at Kaikoura and the palette of Doubtful Sound all black and white and then flashes of blue sky between cloud breaks. I’m quite tickled to find it here again in the North Island and with it’s own special twist adding an extra novelty to lovely Napier.

We head up and take a leisurely stroll along the promenade. Past the sound shell, past beautiful gardens to the Tom Parker fountain and Pania of the Reef with a gentle zephyr under the Norfolk Island pines. Promenading weather and what a promenade this is!

We admire the floral clock and turn to head back down towards the i-site taking our time admiring a corrugated king kong above the cinema and making a quick detour across the road to pay respects at the war memorial.

The Bay Cities Symphonic Band are tuning up and commence playing. The finishing touch to a magnificent Sunday morning in the Deco capital of NZ. Hubby heads into the i-site to confirm that the vintage vehicle tours are indeed available. We mull over our options in the shade of a wisteria draped over a pergola in the sunken garden. We decide we’ll do the tour. $130 for up to four of us for an hour. It takes a half hour for Graham to get in to pick us up, so we amuse ourselves and stave off hunger pains by sampling the gelato from the outlet across the road. Hokey pokey and vanilla bean for me and hokey pokey and tiramisu for hubby. Seems distressingly low in fat content compared to Sydney gelato LOL but has delicious fresh and delicate waffle cones.

We’re still gobbling our gelato when Graham arrives with his beautiful old Packard, but naturally we finish before getting in the car. Our first stop is the Napier Municipal Theatre. Before alighting from the car we get a bit of a run down on Napier before and after the 1931 earthquake. We are parked with a view over the relevant landmarks relating to the devastation. A treat is in store. Graham has a key to the Municipal Theatre and we are heading on inside for a look and a run down on the art deco features and history of the building. It’s awesome! Like deco everywhere it’s had a struggle to survive the zeal of persons who appreciate a different aesthetic.

We head around the corner for a look at Louis Hay’s first building. Currently a budget accommodation option, restoration works are to be undertaken as a mandatory consequence of a heritage listing.

I don’t want to give too much of Graham’s excellent tour away, so I will simply say that for the next hour or more we get a fascinating tour around the significant sites of Napier in relation to the earthquake as well as the deco suburb of Marewa (which means gift of the ocean) and other significant deco sites. A highlight of the tour is the National Tobacco Company building of course and here we have opportunity to pose for photos with the building and the car. It being Sunday today the building isn’t open, but if you can make it during the week between 9am and 5pm you can go inside for a look. It’s been a brilliant tour. Well worth the time and the cost.

As we’ve travelled around, just as Graham reported, people wave and one guy even comes over (with an apology) to make an enquiry for his upcoming wedding. The Packard is such a hit, and it’s the perfect way to get around and see Napier’s deco heritage and ongoing deco enthusiasm. We enthusiastically recommend Packard Promenades.

We say our farewells and jump in the Aurion to head out to Mission Estate for lunch. It’s almost 2:15 when we pull up in the carpark next to a red Mitsubishi that has been parked really poorly by its driver. It’s such a woeful job, we laugh and take a photo, taking care to get the rego number… if there’s any red marks on our car when we come back we’ll know who to go after! Clearly this persons driving prowess cannot be assumed.

We are just in time to be able to lunch at this wonderful venue. There are historical tours of the building. It’s a beautiful building beautifully maintained. The restaurant today is garden seating out under a canopy of grape vines on the patio bordered by lush green lawn on which more tables are selectively placed in small numbers. Across to the right there is a beautiful and large gazebo draped in white. What a perfect wedding venue!

As we wait we are pleased to note many years of consistent awards from the lamb and beef mob. Bodes well. The service is efficient and staff seem to be plentiful. We make our selections and it isn’t long before we are enthusiastically tucking into delicious morsels from the kitchen.

I start with the Duck and Pork Rillettes, lavoush wafers, poached stone fruit and spiced wine reduction. Half way we swap and I tuck into the remains of a serve of warm garlic prawn cocktail, slow roasted paprika tomatoes, avocado , dressed leaves and sauce aioli. Both $17 and both very tasty.

We do not have to wait long before out comes Hubby’s beautifully cooked Beer Battered fish with seasonal salad, fries and tartar sauce ($24). Today the fish is gurnard. I have gone for the Char grilled fillet of beef with wild mushrooms and pancetta, sautéed kumara, potato and rosemary. $32. Not too big in portions after the entrée. I do like a restaurant that gives portions suitable to actually have the three courses without being completely ridiculously gluttonous.

We forgot to look at desserts when we were ordering so are happily anticipating what they might have in store for us. It’s a no brainer.. the two desserts I always have to work very hard to resist are on the menu. It’s a tie I announce after we eat hubbie’s selection of Butterscotch Crème Brulee, with seasonal fresh fruit and brown sugar straws and my Vanilla Panna Cotta with fresh peach sorbet, fresh peaches and summer berries. Both $13 and both truly excellent, light summery, a perfect match for this glorious summer day. It doesn’t get much better than this. What a delightful day we have had in Napier!

There’s so much more we’d like to do in Napier. We’d both like to return for a longer stay here, which was actually our original plan before being gifted a week of accommodation in Taupo. A sketchy plan of another North Island trip starts to form in my mind.. in Auckland, around via Coromandel, Bay of Plenty (pop in and say high to Zappers in Tauranga), East cape down to Hawkes bay for a few days and on to Wellington..If time available then across to Abel Tasman and the aviation museum at Blenheim… ah.. that would be awesome…

We’re both not really up for too long a day today after such a big day yesterday so we just take a quick spin down historic Oaks Ave in Hastings, then hit the road home before the sun gets too low in the west. Graham has warned us about sun strike if we leave it too late to head back. Good point!

Back in Taupo we head for Woolworths briefly then home to settle in for some journaling and watching the amazing 20/20 Cricket match between Australia and New Zealand in Christchurch. Yes. A rare rare match indeed. A knife edge victory for the kiwis in a high scoring match. The spectators at the ground and around the world on the edge of their seats, and we are no exception. An absolute treat of a game. The third in the series is in Napier on Wednesday. We’re tempted to see if seats are available, but as the Australian captain said, a game like todays game is a once in a career event in any form of the game. It’s not likely Wednesday’s match will be on the same par.. and we have a lot to do!

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