Archives for the month of: April, 2014

Good Morning, Sunshine!

The World’s First Sunrise. Tokamaru Bay, New Zealand. 6:41am. 04.22.14.

Gatsby's City

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Katharina met up with me and Emily in Palmerston North Thursday night for a girl’s night out, and after Emily split for a trip back to Wellington, Kat and I set off for Napier in the heart of the East Coast of the North Island. For Easter Sunday, the weather was finally warm and sunny again. This was the first time in 13 solid days we haven’t gotten any rain!

This morning, Kat and I partook in a one hour walking tour of the city which I found thoroughly fascinating. In 1931, a catastrophic 7.9 earthquake violently shook Hawke’s Bay for two and a half minutes, completely devastating the cities of Napier and Hastings. The quake destroyed every last building, and what wasn’t damaged from the earthquake was ruined from a fire that started soon after. To put it into perspective of how utterly cataclysmic this disaster was, the land rose 2 meters as a result. In light of positive outcomes, this left Napier with 40 sq km more of land.

Since the 1930s were at the height of the Great Depression, the city was already struggling financially. The population at the time was only 16,000 residents, and the city council contemplated if it would even be worthwhile to spend so much time and money rebuilding. Only two small insurance companies paid out, all others claiming it was an “Act of God,” but the people borrowed money from the New Zealand government at low interest rates and eventually reconstructed the town in an astonishing 2 years.

Today in Napier, art deco is present around the city and characterizes a “snapshot in time,” but back then it was a cheap way to build and a dramatic change from the previous Victorian style architecture. When you walk around Napier, it makes you feel reminiscent of the “Great Gatsby,” but I think I secretly love it so much because it reminds me of the style often used around Disney’s MGM Studios.

Architecturally, art deco is based on symmetry, pastels, shallow building of only two or three stories, second story balconies and rounded building corners. Zig zag designs represent a bolt of power, and parallel lines symbolize fast and forward movements of progression, even though that wasn’t directly indicative of that present time. It was interesting to see how some small intricate building details around the city even included allusions of the indigenous Maori designs.

The city council nowadays still encourages the weaving of modern businesses with such a dated architectural style. They offer subsidizing for things like pastel paints and hold an annual contest for the best vintage signage. The local Subway got permission from their corporation, and the only art deco Subway sign in the world can be found in town here. This is a picture of the Criterion Art Deco Backpackers where we got to stay. What once was an old hotel has now been transformed into a funky hostel with an exciting atmosphere.

I've Got Sunshine

Sunday, April 13, 2014

So far, our North Island road trip has been completely defeated by the weather. Since last Monday, it has rained nonstop throughout the country, leaving all of our outdoor plans of hiking, biking, canoeing, fishing and beaching in complete shambles. When it rains in New Zealand, there are very few rainy day activities to find. This country was not built for such constant dreariness. However, we did get to soak up about 2 hours of sunshine today, and we wisely spent our precious time picnicking by the coast. I very much enjoyed the view we found slightly south of New Plymouth.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Yeah, right. Tui beer has some witty advertising, just like their billboards that say “I came [on the brewery tour] to see how beer is made. Yeah, right.” We did learn a couple interesting facts about the brewery though when we visited the Tui HQ just outside Palmerston North. Like how when the building was first constructed, they forgot to install any stairs, which provoked the slogan, “we’re brewers, not architects.” Or how completely unappetizing hops is. Our guide offered us a piece of hops each, and said if you can chew and swallow a piece, I’ll give you a free beer. It looked like a pellet of horse food, but we all gave it a taste test anyway. How bad could it be? And if it is that bad, at least I’ll have something free and tasty to wash it down with. I think the best way to describe the taste would be like chewing a solid capsule of rotten cabbage with the consistency of tree bark, and every time you went to swallow, a bitter dry sensation would very unpleasantly fill your mouth. It was pretty awful, but I would do it again for another free pint. Because as my dad taught me, free is the best price!

Red, White & Booze

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Emily traveled up to meet me for an adventure on a massive North Island road trip together, and for my last night in Wellington, we met up with some friends for a night out on the town. We stumbled upon a bar called Electric Avenue that was hosting an American party, so of course we had to check it out. I couldn’t tell you what the occasion was, but they were celebrating with $6 bottles of Budweiser and the most classic American music you can think of. The DJ kicked off the night spinning tunes from 50s, and progressively made his way up to the present decade. He even threw in a song from the Spice Girls. Yes, because when I think of the United States of America, I think of the Spice Girls. Nevertheless, we had a blast, and enjoyed Emily’s awesome dance moves.

Capital City

Friday, April 4, 2014

After everyone caught their flights and busses out, Amy and I were left back on our own. We toured the Parliament building in the afternoon, and while politics have always been over my head, I did learn a couple of things. I do appreciate that New Zealand was the first country to grant women the right to vote, but the reason behind doing so was really unique. Apparently the Kiwis have always enjoyed overindulging on the booze, and when they were trying to pass prohibition, the government allowed women to vote in hopes that they would support this decision.

Ever wondered how Wellington became the capital city? If I followed the story correctly, this is how it goes. Way back in the day, Auckland use to be the capital. The representatives from the South Island had a very long commute to meet, something like taking a boat from the South Island to Sydney, then Sydney to Auckland. They got tired of it, and wanted a compromise. When they voted to move the capital to more centrally located Wellington, those from Auckland voted against it. Everyone from the South Island resigned because of it, and since they comprised such a large number of politicians, in essence, the New Zealand government ceased to exist. In order to fix this massive dilemma, the Kiwis offered the Aussies $4,000 to make a decision for them. Australia chose Wellington. Pretty neat story, aye?

Parliament Picnic

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The six of us spent the sunny afternoon picnicking in the Parliament gardens with homemade sandwiches as big as our face. I am a huge picnic fan to begin with, but there is just some allure about picnicking in a foreign city. For some reason, it seems far more exotic to me. We played card games on our oversized blanket and chit chatted the day away. After we happy hour-ed, we headed back to the hostel for another community dinner, and tonight our fellow Parisian fixed us crepes! How often does a guy from Paris cook you an authentic French dish? While we chowed down on ham and cheese crepes with banana and nutella crepes for dessert, we enjoyed a few beers and played more than one absurd round of charades. During our battle of the sexes, my favorite scene had to have been when Simba almost immediately guessed that Vince and Andrew were flirting. It was a great group of friends to spend a few chill days with, and I look forward to hopefully seeing them all again in the future!

Stopped to Smell the Roses

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

During my over-extended stay in Wellington essentially hanging out trying to decide when and where I wanted my travels to take me next, Amy and I met a fun group of backpackers, and we made a name for ourselves in the short time we all had together. Our new friends included Andrew from Kentucky, Vincent from Paris, Andrew’s sister Sarah and Simba from Norway pictured left to right. One bright sun shining day, the six of us visited the Otari-Wilton’s Bush, a beauty of a park only 3km outside the city. It is the only botanic gardens in New Zealand that exclusively showcases native flora, and boasts a number of walking trails. I am normally not one for bush walks, I think that if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, but the canopy walk was actually pretty cool. I probably enjoyed it so much because we had discovered such unsuspecting nature so close to the CBD. It is definitely worth an afternoon visit. Just don’t forget a BBQ like we did!