I had to renew my visa for Australia before my three months was up, so thought visiting two places in New Zealand I hadn't been before would be a great excuse to leave and re-enter Oz. After too short a time in Wellington (that's another blog, another time) I hit Napier the Art Deco centre of New Zealand, somewhere I have always wanted to visit. The centre of the town was destroyed by an earthquake in 1931, and later rebuilt in the Art Deco style so popular at that time. Now, the architecture, along with vintage costumes and cars, is a major tourist attraction that people from all over the world come to visit.
Every year, Napier throws open its doors to thousands of visitors for the world famous Tremains Art Deco Festival. I couldn't find anywhere to stay for this year's event so went the week before to catch the build up as the town got ready for its biggest annual party. It was a great time to go because I got to see the best Napier has to offer, without the crowds, and I still got to dress up!
Anyone who loves Art Deco will find the architecture just awesome, just make sure your camera battery's fully charged!
It's not just about the amazing Art Deco buildings everywhere, it's also about the vintage cars tootling around town and the fact that the locals love to dress up in vintage 20s & 30s outfits for the visitors. I was lucky to be running around town with my camera the day a cruise ship came in and the sun came out..... so the costumes and cars were out in force.
I stayed at the Art Deco Masonic Hotel, really central and handy for the museum, beach, cars & shops.....especially Charleston Chic, right next door, where I spent a lot of time!
Charleston Chic, run by Penelope, whose been in the vintage clothes and accessories business for over twenty years, became my new best friend and kindly introduced me to the perfect Hawkes Bay people for me to meet, as well as styling up my 20s dress for a High Tea! Here's a little Video glimpse inside her shop.
So then it was off to High Tea at Port O Call to meet another Brightonian, who now lives in Napier. Estelle of Brighton makes gorgeous vintage bags to sell and never misses an opportunity to dress up in vintage. Nor do I! I dragged this 20's long dress all the way from the UK to Australia and then to New Zealand for just such an event. And it was perfect!
I bought the red gloves, sunnies & feather head piece really cheaply in Napier, and Penelope very kindly lent me the gorgeous necklace and gold shoes from her shop, Charleston Chic.
As you can see, we had a ball and, hopefully, really looked the part. The tea room/shop was a pleasure to wander around and I managed to find the most gorgeous small vintage suitcase to buy......you'll have to wait for the photos, but it's going to be perfect for my 'props' box at home and so very pretty!
And that wasn't the only place I shopped. I found The Best retro boutique (very 50s, very me!) called Two Lippy Ladies, in Napier. It's run by lovely ladies Natalie (on the left) and Karla (on the right), such a pleasure to meet. As NZ was a bit chilly after Oz, and I hadn't brought any jeans from the UK, I didn't feel in the least bit guilty buying these awesome 50s style denim capris that were designed & made in England by Hell Bunny and were still super reasonable despite how far they'd travelled!
If the weather's not perfect when you visit Napier, don't worry as there are loads of really interesting shops, restaurants & cafes in town so you won't be bored for a moment..... broke but not bored! And the food's great too. You'll eat and drink so well in New Zealand that you'll need a bit of a diet, or a fast, like I did when I got home again!
And finally, thanks to Estelle, I was introduced to Matthew Bonnet (the dapper young man below), who kindly arranged for his friend Leigh Patterson to drive us around town in his gorgeous vintage car. I felt like a very important person sticking my red gloved arm out every time we needed to turn right and waving at anyone who waved at us! Thank you so much to both of you for such a fabulous end to my Napier visit.
I had a wonderful visit to Napier, despite the two days of rain that the area badly needed, and I was touched by the kindness and hospitality of everyone I met there who more than made up for the fact that I couldn't attend the world-famous Tremains Art Deco Festival. If you fancy going to the Festival one year, just remember that the hotels get booked up at least one year, or even two, in advance. Or go just before or after the Festival, like I did. Napier won't disappoint, whatever time of the year you go, it's a really gorgeous town especially for lovers of all things vintage. And the beach isn't bad either!