Sunday, August 31, 2014

Napier Getaway & County Hotel Review.

Kia ora, everyone!

While I was back in NZ, my mum decided to take a couple of days off work so we could go on a road trip up the North Island. We decided to go to Napier, because my uncle and aunty live up there, so we could visit them at the same time.

A postcard design for Napier.
We drove up on Thursday morning, stopping at many sweet little towns on the way, like Otaki, Shannon, and Woodville. I've already talked about Otaki's great outlet shopping in another post, and the other towns were great too. Shannon has a lovely range of homeware and gift shops, and is definitely worth a stop on any tiki tour! My mum bought a particularly cute dress there from a retro-themed shop where two women make the clothes themselves. Woodville had a nice cafe which we stopped in for lunch.

We made it to Napier late Thursday afternoon. If you don't know much about Napier, it's a beautiful city on the east cost of the North Island of New Zealand. Napier is well-known for having suffered a terrible magnitude 7.8 earthquake on February 3rd, 1931. 256 people were killed, and most of the buildings in the city were destroyed either by the quake itself, or the many fires which broke out. The city was gradually rebuilt, and today it is home to some of the world's best examples of 1930's Art Deco architecture. Like most kiwi cities, it has an easily walkable town centre with some beautiful cafes and good shopping options, and there's a good range of tourist attractions, including the New Zealand Wine Centre, and the National Aquarium of New Zealand, and the lovely statue of Pania of the Reef. Being in the sunny Hawkes Bay region, Napier also has a great range of wineries which you can visit for great wine-tastings and delicious food!

Napier, devastated after the 1931 earthquake.

Napier today - an Art Deco capital of the world. 
The hotel my mum and I stayed in was stunning. When organising the trip, my mum looked at a few options and asked if I'd prefer a regular/modern hotel, or an old one. I thought we should try the old one, so we booked in at The County Hotel.

The County Hotel, Napier.
The hotel itself is a beautifully restored building. Built in 1909, it is one of only a few precious buildings to have survived the 1931 earthquake. The hotel's website says it was built in the Victorian-Edwardian style. For most of its life, it was home to the Hawkes Bay City Council. It features many rooms, all named after native New Zealand birds. We were in the Tieki (also known as the saddleback) room. There was a nice print of the tieki in the room, along with some information about it, which was a nice touch. The hotel had a lovely old library with large vaulted ceilings, loads of books, a harpsichord, and even a carafe of port for anyone who fancied some before bed! Mum and I were booked in for a breakfast deal, so we also got to enjoy breakfast each morning in the hotel's restaurant. It was really nicely presented in a sunny room with a faux open fire, and there was a good selection of breakfast options, including continental and various cooked options. To top it off, the waitress during breakfast was so friendly and lovely, and the hotel manager also made an effort to say good morning to everyone and ask how we slept as he passed through the restaurant. The hotel also has a separate bar, but as we ended up very busy, we didn't get a chance to try any drinks there. Overall, I'd rate the hotel a solid 10/10!

The restored lobby of the County Hotel.
The hotel restaurant, where breakfast was served each morning.
My mum and I enjoyed spending a lot of time with my uncle and aunty in Napier. On the first night, we all went to a nice restaurant together. The next day, mum and I went shopping in the morning. We visited lots of lovely and unique shops - there was an especially good range of home decor shops, which we loved. I managed to pick up a few more things, including a skirt and dress from yet another Pagani outlet, and a cosy grey shawl and cute floral photo frame from a store which, funnily enough, was being run by a Japanese woman who had recently come to NZ! With my uncle and aunty, we visited the nearby town of Havlock North, where my cousin runs a really lovely home decor shop. That evening, we went to my uncle and aunty's new house and they made us a very yummy dinner. It was really nice getting to see so many family members up there, since I don't see them very often!

More stunning Art Deco sights in Napier.
The next morning, mum and I had a last look around the shops in Napier. We stopped in a cafe our aunty had recommended for a hot drink and something to eat before we started the trip home. We decided to try out these doughnut contraptions we saw...take a look!

An interesting set up.
The doughnut comes to you as a plain ball, and you can choose a filling of either chocolate, custard, or jam. We chose custard. The filling comes in a syringe, which you then have the pleasure of stabbing the doughnut with, and injecting the filling wherever you like! It was a lot of fun, not to mention absolutely delicious. I'll definitely be going back for that interesting experience next time!

Thought I'd take a stab at it...
On the way back, we stopped off for a traditional real fresh fruit ice cream, which you can get from a lot of fruit and vege shops along the road. The ice creams we got were ridiculously huge (I don't know how we weren't sick from them!) and totally satisfied our cravings. It was pretty funny sitting in the car eating these monstrous ice creams, but they tasted great. For the rest of the trip back, we had a bit of rough weather, but we got home okay, and with many new purchases.

It was a fantastic trip, and I'm so grateful to my mum for taking the time off work to go there. It made for a lot of nice memories, and a fun break for both of us. If you're looking for a beautiful place to spend some time in the North Island, I recommend Napier by all means!

An old Rothmans cigarette factory in the Art Deco style.
- Annabelle

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I've been a high school English language teacher on the JET Programme since August 2013. Read about my experiences, advice on being accepted into the JET Programme, and travel tips around Japan on my blog:
 
 
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