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Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Napier, New Zealand

An Art Deco gem

Napier is a town on the east coast of New Zealand, it's a tourist spot and well known for its Art Deco buildings.

Napier has a wonderful collection of Art Deco buildings as that was the style that was popular when the town was rebuilt after a major earthquake. The centre of the town was destroyed by an earthquake and fire on the 3rd of February 1931. It was rebuilt during the time when Art Deco was in vogue and along with the South Beach in Miami area, is considered the best preserved Art Deco towns in existence. It's a town very popular with architecture buffs, let's just say I wasn't the only person with a camera going around taking pictures of the buildings!!

Some Art Deco buildings were replaced with contemporary structures in the 1960s, '70s and '80s but the importance of the Art Deco building was recognised by the early 1990s and they are now protected. As well as being beautifully maintained.

Something I noted when looking at the current use of the buildings is the multicultural aspect of New Zealand. This bakery was the Angkor Wat Kiwi Bakery.
Hildebrants which had a German flag along with the New Zealand flag on the building was now an Indian Restaurant.

The Masonic Hotel by the waterfront was rebuilt after the earthquake, there's a photo showing the original hotel which was all iron lace, very Edwardian complete with beautiful rotunda.

The current Art Deco Masonic Hotel.

The tourist information office.

Some of the buildings have been restored and advertise their previous use but are now used for other purposes.

Napier no longer has its own paper, it was combined with the nearby larger town of Hastings. The Napier office was then closed.

The old firestation.

Napier was close to the top of the list of places I wanted to see in New Zealand. It went even higher when I watched the nightly weather reports and saw that it pretty much had constant days of sunshine and high 20s (Celsius) temperatures when it was overcast and cool everywhere else! Driving in, the landscape looked very much like the area around Adelaide, rolling hillsides where the grass had dried to a summer brown. (Very different from the lush and green west coast) Vineyards, the Hawkes Bay area (where Napier can be found) is a well-known wine region. It was all very familiar. I loved Napier, beautiful town and fabulous weather as well! I'd like to return for a longer visit some time in the future.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Melbourne, Australia

A very walkable city

I was in Melbourne for a conference and went for a lunchtime stroll. The conference was at the University of Melbourne and so I had a pleasant time walking around Carlton. I particularly liked the terraces houses.

Lygon St, Carlton is famous for the restaurants that line the street, in the past it was known for its Italian restaurants, but I noticed that while there still are Italian restaurants, they are interspersed with Vietnamese, Thai.

The small town that was Melbourne experienced huge growth in the mid to late 1800s as it was the main port and trading centre for the nearby goldfields. The wealth in the city can still be seen in the substantial historic buildings that are to be found in Melbourne.

Royal Exhibition Building

The City Baths, the original city baths were built in 1850 to discourage people from bathing (swimming) in the Yarra River which had started to become polluted. The original building had deteriorated so badly by 1899 that it was closed and plans for a new one was made. This is the current building which was opened in 1904, it was refurbished in the 1980s and is still used today, as well as a swimming pool it also houses a gym, sauna and squash courts.

The day after the conference I had more time so could explore more of the city.

I went south of the river to the National Gallery of Victoria. The window at the front is an art installation but I'm always reminded of a former work colleague who once referred to the gallery (rather dismissedly!)  as 'The one with the Fish and Chip show window"!! In the era before air-conditioning, Fish and Chip shops had condensation dripping down their windows, hence the comparison with the water window!

Princes Bridge, site of the first bridge built to cross the Yarra River. This substantial replacement of that first bridge was opened in 1888.

Horse and carriage crossing Princes Bridge.

Federation Square, a popular gathering place, many love the architecture, all the pattern and colours. I'm not really a fan!

The wealth of Melbourne's past can be seen in its official buildings, this was the Magistrates Court, now part of RMIT. (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology)

Little Burke Street, Melbourne's Chinatown area. It's the oldest Chinese settlement in Australia and the oldest continuous Chinese settlement in the Western world, (San Francisco's was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and later rebuilt) Chinese prospectors began passing through Melbourne to the goldfields in the 1850s. They later settled in Little Burke St and opened up shops, imported goods and established themselves as market gardeners.

Melbourne is a well known destination for the major sporting events it hosts, the Australian Open Tennis Championships, the Australian Grand Prix, the Australian Rules Football Grandfinal. It has a thriving restaurant and cafe culture, with artisan coffee shops to be found in the backstreet lanes.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Lake Rotorua Hotel

Rotorua, New Zealand


This hotel would come under the category of a budget hotel that is very good value for money.


It's on the main road leading down to Lake Rotorua, you will need a car and there's plenty of parking on site.


Good budget accomodation, the rooms have a kitchen area and there is cutlery and crockery provided as well as a tea towel, although no sink, water is in the bathroom. I was pleasantly surprised as for the price of the accomodation I had just expected a basic room with a bed, TV and a bathroom.

The accomodation had 3 separate areas with a lounge, the walkthrough kitchen area and adjacent bathroom and then a bedroom.

Small bathroom with shower and separate toilet.

Bedroom with small wardrobe space to hang up clothes, extra pillow and blankets.

Optional Extras

The hotel layout is a square shape and the rooms open to an area with a pool and spa and some outdoor seating. Lots of onsite parking.

Good value for money hotel, would recommend it. Staff at Reception were really helpful, when I mentioned I was planning to visit Hell's Gate, I was given a voucher for $5 off the entrance price. That was a nice little bonus!

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Ohinemutu Maori Village

Lake Rotorua, New Zealand

A recurring theme in my travels is how I stumble across really interesting sites since I don't overly research the new places I visit. The Ohinemutu Maori Village is another example of this occurring.

I had placed Rotorua on my 'places to visit in New Zealand' itinerary as I wanted to experience the geothermal pools. Did that, and the following morning went looking for a cafe to have breakfast. The lakeside looked enticing so I stopped at a cafe and then looked down at the lake and saw this. It all looked so fascinating and lovely that I went down to explore. I've since researched the location. It's called Ohinemutu and it's a 'living Maori' village. So a real community rather than a location that is a Maori village museum.

The location of Ohinemutu was chosen by the Ngāti Whakaue tribe for its lakeside location and the geothermal activity which provided heat for cooking, bathing and heating. In the early 1870s the settlement at Ohinemutu became a major centre for the Rotorua area for Europeans as they travelled through.

This rather stunning building is St. Faith's church, unfortunately as I was there early in the morning it was shut so I couldn't go inside. Having read up on it, the interior sounds beautiful with Maori artwork and a window etched with an image of Jesus wearing a Maori cloak. The church was built in 1914.

Behind St. Faith's church is the cemetery, the graves are raised above the ground because of the geothermal activity. They are the graves of the 28th (Maori) Battalion from the Second World War. (Research again!)

The geothermal activity is quite apparent in the village, the rocks here surround a pool. There are other places where steam rises from the ground and there's the smell of sulphur in the air.

The village is quite open and easy to walk around, there are guided tours and whilst I was there I noticed a group with a local tour guide being shown around. There's also a handicrafts centre, and opposite St. Faith's church is the beautifully adorned Tamatekapua Meeting house, but during the time I was there it was having restoration work done on the outside so most of it was behind scaffolding. (Ah the difficulties of being a tourist, always the scaffolding being around parts of some major building you want to see in all its glory!)

Ohinemutu was a great find for me, I only had a quick look around as hunger (still needed that breakfast!) and impending rain drove me to the shelter of a local cafe. Well worth adding to any itinerary for a visit to Rotorua.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Beaches around the world (part 1)

Great beaches to visit!

Napier, New Zealand
This is a black sand beach, so volcanic sand?

The boardwalk at Napier has an old English seaside feel, complete with wooden benches facing out to sea. Lovely way to pass some time gazing out over the bay.

New Plymouth, New Zealand
On the west coast of New Zealand, a popular beach for kite surfers and surfers as well.

Brighton, UK
Probably the most famous beach in the UK, Brighton beach, no sand just pebbles.

The carousels on Brighton beach, a day at the seaside.

Karon Beach, Phuket, Thailand
Gorgeous beach, but hot you really need a beach umbrella!

Karon Beach, couldn't resist doing the beach legs photo! The water is beautifully warm, and really calm. 

Australia has some of the world's best beaches so naturally have to include them!

Manly Beach, Sydney, Australia
An iconic Australian beach, popular with tourists and locals.

Palm Cove, North Queensland, Australia
Palm Cove is a lovely little holiday town just north of Cairns, beautiful beach and a cute laid back town to enjoy as well.

Trinity Beach, North Queensland, Australia
Trinity Beach, it's only 20 minutes from Cairns airport so tends to blend in with the Cairns area. Quiet, family friendly beach with children's playground at one end. Very close to Cairns tourist attractions, so good place to stay if not wanting to be right in Cairns.

Five Mile Beach, Port Douglas, Australia
Same stretch of coastline as the other two north Queensland beaches, but this is the best known of the northern beaches. Fabulous location at Port Douglas, hardpacked sand(used as a landing strip in the early years of aviation) Beautiful beach, you can even ride a bike the entire length!