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|Touring New Zealand 2015 - part 5|
Next morning was a gentle start for the drive to Napier for Art Deco Festival. We stopped at Esk Valley vineyard and chatted to Sue as well as buying a bottle of this years Rose before checking in at the Westshore Holiday Park which is about 5 kms from the centre of Napier. We had booked three nights in a cabin when we were there last year and then added a couple of extra days on the front in the autumn. Everyone makes their booking one year ahead for the Art Deco weekend. They are a member of Family Parks so we get a10% discount although we hit the limit per stay of the cost of the card this year. We had our favourite kitchen cabin booked which has a bit more space for all the Art Deco kit Pauline has collected. The cabin had been recently done up and now has nice new single beds but we could drag them together so no problem. They also have free wifi (150 Mbytes) and the cabin had a good strong signal so we could preserve our Vodafone data. Before continuing it is worth giving a little background on Napier - if you have read this before then skip the next couple of paragraphs.
Napier now known as The Art Deco Capital of the World started life as a copy of an English seaside resort. It is renowned for its warm sunny climate, location in Hawke's Bay and its Marine Parade is lined with tall pines. It had fine hotels, botanical gardens and bands playing in a rotunda in the square. All that was to change at 1045 on Tuesday, 3rd of February 1931 when a violent earthquake struck - in less than three minutes Napier crumpled to ruins. Both Chemist shops caught fire and a brisk easterly wind spread the flames. The earthquake destroyed almost every water pipe and the fire brigade could do little and only a small area was saved from the flames. The earthquake registered 7.9 on the Richter scale and 258 people were killed mostly by falling masonry from highly decorated buildings with overhanging structures.
Napier the Victorian town was gone and England offered no inspiration to the re-builders with their clean slate in 1931 but the architectural journals of America were full of interesting ideas in particular Modernism which we now know as Art Deco. Nowhere else do we find so many similar style buildings built over a period of only a couple of years to a common plan. Many of the buildings remain and even in the time we have been going to Napier the restoration and painting has further enhanced the city. It is well worth staying in Napier for a day or two to savour the atmosphere. It is also an excellent centre for the Hawke's Bay area, famous for its wines. There are references to an excellent book on Art Deco Napier and links to web sites on our site - search for Napier or Art Deco.
The first evening we went into town and had a look round and decided to eat at Indigo, an Indian Restaurant. They were due to give one of the special dinners latter in the week so we guessed they would be good and eating separately of the function was much quieter (and cheaper!) It turned out to be even better than we had anticipated and the helpings were enormous - we can thoroughly recommend them. We had a Mixed Tandori Platter for two (Chicken Tikka, Malai Tikka, Drum stick, Seek Kebab and Boti Kastoori Kebab). Pauline had the Lamb Shank specialty and Pete had the Goat Saag (spinach, garlic and ginger sauce). We spent some time talking to one of the owners, including a discussion on affordability of web sites. They had just got a new firm in to do the site and there were a few oddities on the mobile site if not the main web site. We found that they have won the Award for best Ethnic Restaurant in Hawkes bay for two years running. We walked round again and the following pictures that evening and the next morning should be self explanatory.
We got to Elephant Hill quite early and had plenty of time to have a wine tasting before sitting down for lunch. The 2012 Elephant Hill Gewürztraminer from hand-picking and hand-sorted grapes was available and on looking back at our notes we found we had enjoyed it last year. 2012 was a challenging year but it was possible to select excellent fruit from vines that only produced 1.4kg/vine. The grapes were whole-bunch pressed in a basket press which is a delicate process to keep all the aromatic characters of the variety. 5% of the juice was barrel-fermented in Acacia wood which I had never heard of but apparently gives excellent texture but no dominant oak character. 30% was fermented with wild yeast in old French oak barrels and the rest in stainless steel, temperature-controlled tanks. It was then blended and put back to one-year-old oak for four months with minimum lees stirring. The care all paid off with an intense, concentrated wine with more spicy than floral Gewürztraminer character - full-bodied and well balanced with a long off-dry finish quite unlike many of the New Zealand ones and very pleasant. Jumping ahead we bought a bottle and tried it against the Stonecroft Gewürztraminer a few evening latter.
The reds were the highlight and both the trophy winning 2012 Elephant Hill Syrah we had last year was exceptional but, as was made very clear to us, still needed another 5 years before drinking. This year the 2012 Reserve Syrah had been released and again is made from Elephant Hills own Gimblett and Te Awanga Vineyards. It is not realised by many people how important the clones used are and Elephant Hill typically used 80% Mass Selection, 15% Chave and 5% clone 470. The bunches ware gently de-stemmed and fermented in traditional open-top oak cuves. After pressing the wine is put to French oak barriques (~30% new) and allowed to age for 12 months or more before bottling. They have a beautiful bouquet and displays typical Syrah characters of spice and blackberry. The reserve will also be glorious and although we bought a bottle it is almost a crime to drink it so young.
Elephant hill also make a couple of blends which seem to have different names each year. Last year it was Hieronymus, a red with an unusual blend of primarily Malbec with Merlot from their Gimblett and Triangle vineyards which again needed time to be at its best.This year they had a White and Red under the Phant Label, Pauline was very taken with the white which is a blend of Pinot Gris, Viognier and Gewürztraminer and we bought two bottles as well as a 2012 Gewürztraminer and the 2012 Syrah
Lunch was memorable. The location is super with views out across the mirror pool to the vineyard. We normally sit outside. The service was excellent with stiffly starched napkins - a detail missing from so many restaurants. The breads came with an excellent olive oil and a small granite dish of sea salt. This year we missed the starters so we could get to the sweets. Pete's Smoked Venison was some of the best venison we have ever had, red but so tender. The sweets were not only excellent tasting but were beautifully presented - the only problem was the sorbets were melting whilst Pete was getting the pictures!
We staggered out and decided to go up to Te Mata Peak and admire the views whilst recovering. It looks out over all the vineyards and the whole of Hawkes Bay. Right below is the distinctive Cragge Range Winery and Vineyard, a close competitor with Elephant Hill and an exporter to the UK. The Club has some of their wines.
In the morning we went round to the local charity shop which makes a point of selling Art deco clothing and Pauline made a gift of some of the Art Deco clothing which belonged to her mother and some of the early bathing costumes and other children's clothing. Whilst that was going on Pete looked round and found an almost new pair of cotton trousers which were a much better match to his jacket than anything we had brought from the UK. They were priced at $5 so he could not resist especially as the next day was the steam train with all its associated risks of black smuts! When he came to settle up he found they had a red label which meant they were on special at 50 cents. (~25p). It was not the first bargain we have had from Op shops.
Steam Train Trip to Otane: The next day was an early start and out with the Art Deco Clothing and furs for the Steam Train to Otane. Pauline had her favourite fox, quite normal in NZ if somewhat non PC in the UK. The trip took a total of 5 hours including an hour in Otane with a much faster outward journey at 70 Kph and a slow return at 30-40kph as there was no opportunity to turn the engine so it had to run tender first. The engine was 1271 which was built in NZ at the Hillside Workshops for the Main Line in 1956 - a massive and powerful piece of engineering with a huge tender for coal and with a large integral water tank. The carriages are all vintage, the from ones were metal sided from the 1930s and the rear ones were from 109 and 1912 and built of wood. They have all been lovingly restored and each has a history and pictures of the original layout. Most started with dual toilets in the centre and two compartments but were latter modified to an open plan with a single toilet at the end. Despite the changes many still have the pressed steel ceilings and they all have the swing seats which can face in either direction so you can face the direction of travel or even sit in groups of 4. Otane is a small town but made great efforts to welcome us with sausage sizzles and local produce. We were also greeted by the fire tender, a common way to refill with water these days as many of all the water points have gone and hydrants are never where required. Overall an excellent morning out with a journey including some lovely countryside.
Air Display and walk round town: We got back in time for the Air Display which was a real disappointment this year. There were distant views of 7 Tiger Moths - one might have been a rare Fox Moth but they were too high to be sure. The Warbirds Harvards put on their usual excellent display well presented for the crowd but were still having difficulties with smoke from one aircraft. The Dakota which made up the display was too high to see any details - at one point we were discussing if it was doing a run with the undercarriage down but could not be sure without binoculars. We had a walk round and admired a number of classic motor bikes including several Indians of various ages. We wrote at length about Burt Munro and the Fastest Indian which held some world records for half a century after he modified a 30 year old Indian motorbike - a true story of Kiwi ingenuity which became a famous film. There was a Welsh Church Choir in the Soundshell providing background.
The Vintage car parade through the centre of town which is an absolute must on ones first visit. However one needs to be queuing early to get to be standing at one of the good best corners for taking pictures. The parade starts at 1230. We have seen it all many times, and each year there are different cars as more vintage vehicles are rescued and restored. We have hours of video and hundreds of pictures already so we did not take many more this year. The number of cars in the procession is now limited but we saw numbers over 300. They are mostly from the 1920s and 1930s, many restored to showroom condition as well as being in full on-the-road condition. Recently there have been a few cars which are deliberately unrestored. There were also many other vintage cars from a later period, many brought from England, which did not qualify for the parade but still added character to the town - everywhere one walks there were old cars gleaming in the sun. The parades are usually led by the Royal New Zealand Navy band. The Navy takes their relationship with Hawke's Bay very seriously because of the presence of HMS Veronica in the port when the earthquake struck and the important and courageous work done by the Navy in the days that followed. The selection of pictures following mostly come from years when we had really good positions for photographs
Waiapu Anglican Cathedral: We spent some time in the Waiapu Anglican Cathedral of St John the Evangelist (hereafter just called the Cathedral) which we seem to have missed previous years. A temporary wooden Cathedral was quickly put up after the earthquake and the current Cathedral came in the 1960s. It is an interesting modernist architectural design with some arresting modern stained glass and Maori designed panels behind the altar. Despite being built completed in the 1965 we noticed warnings about the integrity of the tower in earthquakes
We walked up to the old Firestation Building which used to house the Art Deco Trust and noticed that they were serving coffee inside and there were three motor bikes on display including an old BSA Bantam 125 cc bike just like Pete's first motor bike.Many people learnt on Bantams and the like because you were only allowed bikes up to 250cc with a provisional licence. Sp pete went into o have a look and we got into conversation with the owner and also found that the coffee, biscuits seats etc were all free. Rod Earnshaw now owns the building and plans to strengthen it further, it satisfies the current regulations but it would be much easier to bring it up ta a higher standard whilst empty. It is one of the most recognisable Art Deco buildings in Napier so any work must be entirely inside of course. He is a collector of BSA bikes and has most models from the 60s and onwards and decided to open the building and provide facilities for tired visitors to Art Deco to relax as his contribution. Where else in the world would that occur!
Barbeque at Hawkes Bay Club (Discussion of reciprocal memberships with Peter - Secretary/Manager - Flying/boating group on table)
Dusk Pictures and novel 'Bike'
Brunch with the Navy at The Thirsty Whale. Music by part of Naval band. Good talk by an Army man on the history of the Naval Involvement at Napier during the earthquake with a lot more info on Naval situation in early part of 20th century and about the work by crew of Veronica. Veronica Bell rung by one of sole survivors (Shirley 91) who caught Pauline after brunch to look at her fur.
Stonecroft Vineyard: In the morning we went to airfield to check if Red Checkers were coming and as we suspected they would not be attending so we went to Stonecroft Vineyard to see what changes had taken place since Alan left. We had a long talk and tastings with the new winemaker. Stonecroft is owned by Dermot McCollum and Andria Monin. The couple purchased Stonecroft in June 2010 and live on site. Dermot McCollum is originally from Ireland and has a background in chemical engineering. He gained a Certificate in Viticulture and Winemaking at Tairāwhiti Polytechnic in Gisborne, after undertaking WSET wines and spirits courses in London. Dermot has since completed vintages in Burgundy and Hawke’s Bay and has also worked at vineyards on Waiheke Island. He is both viticulturists and winemaker at Stonecroft. Andria Monin is a New Zealander who recently returned to the country after spending a number of years in London. Andria holds a WSET Diploma in Wines and Spirits and is a qualified lawyer in New Zealand and England. Andria co-ordinates Stonecroft’s marketing and business development activities. Stonecroft was the first winery to be established in the Gimblett Gravels Wine Growing District and it has the oldest Syrah vines in New Zealand. Stonecroft is well known for its Syrah, Zinfandel, Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay wines. Only organic practices are used and both the two original vineyards and the winery are fully certified organic. The new vineyard is in conversion to organic status. we were told the the new vineyard has much closer spaced vines than usual which makes the weed clearing more difficult amongst other challenges. (Editorial note: Addition material in 09-p4 and 09-p6 to be integrated and added to NZ Wines page)
We got back to Napier in time to park and walk down to the marine Parade for the Air display, we picked up a couple of brochures in the information office and used them as an excuse to sit on their balcony to watch in comfort. It was still a bit of a non-event without the Red Chequers as there was only the formation of Tiger Moths with the single Fox Moth at high altitude plus the good display by the Warbirds Harvards. The Dakota flew past again but not at display altitudes, too high to even see if he put the undercarriage up and down as he usually does.
Gatsby Picnic much more spread out now they allow gazebos on the lower level so it gave less of an impression although the standard of the best displays was still high. ANZ trolley dollies in original costumes including the Cristian Dior original (from their Te Papa exhibition) giving out the prizes. We walked round looking at all the perfectly laid out teas then continued to a final look at the cars as several had only arrived for the procession and came upon perfection.
Highlight of the cars - The V12 Rolls Royce Phantom III. We spent a lot of our time looking round the old cars but by far the highlight was the 1937 Rolls-Royce V12 whose engine was developed in parallel with the Merlin. We got to talk to the owner who opened the bonnet and showed us the dual ignition system with 24 spark plugs and twin distributor and fuel pumps which could be switched on/off individually just like an aircraft engine. Interesting he told us that the two ignition systems originally had two degrees difference in timing but recent research has shown the performance is improved with modern fuels by using the same setting but further advanced by 6 degrees. This particular car is completely original - even paint chips can not be touched up to maintain the 'original' status. He is only the fourth owner. One of the two spare tyre is original and rotated it to show the 'sticker' which is still in place from the tyre manufacturer. Another interesting snippet is that RR developed a special non rusting alloy Staybright for the radiator for this car - we now know it as Stainless Steel! Designed and claimed to be the first car to be able to cruise continuously for a whole day at 100 mph although high temperatures on autobahns needed an overdrive to be fitted retrospectively. Radiator fin system has 500 moving parts driven by a wax type thermostat and the 'Spirit of Ecstasy on the radiator cap is unique to this model as it is kneeling unlike all the others - Rolls-Royce thought it was inappropriate to stand at those speeds! The owner also showed us the central lubrication system - 56 individual points are oiled by a single stroke of a lever, one stroke at the start of the day and half a stroke every 100 miles. Only 727 cars were built (including the prototypes most of which were upgraded) and Rolls-Royce did not use a v12 again until 1998. Many are still in existence but only three are are know in an unrestored state like "V12 RR" making it extremely valuable but challenging to keep up. The Coachwork is by H.J. Mulliner.
We did a bit of further research when we got back to our room and began to realise how unique a car it had been when it was brought out. When the Phantom III was unveiled at the 1935 Olympia Motor Show it was the most technically advanced car in the world and to many the best car ever made. The 7340 cc. V12 overhead valve engine had a one-piece aluminium alloy crankcase and cylinder blocks and cast-iron wet cylinder liners and aluminium head. It was was a pushrod engine with overhead valves, hydraulic lifters and a single camshaft in the V between the cylinder blocks. It had a single huge carburetor again designed by Rolls-Royce. A four-speed manual transmission with synchromesh on gears 2,3, and 4 was used with an overdrive which was retrofitted to earlier models to allow continuous high speed cruising. A 4-wheel servo-assisted brake system was used with a central actuator and cables to each brake. Depending on where you read the engine produced between 160 and 200 bhp at 3000 rpm and the models with overdrive could do 101 mph and 0-60 mph in 16 seconds although both would be very dependent on the coachwork which was always custom and from a number of different coachbuilders.
The chassis had independent front suspension, a first for Rolls-Royce This wishbone and coil spring-based suspension was complemented by a carryover semi-elliptical spring unit in the rear. It had hydraulically adjustable shock absorbers, and an on-board leveling system providing and provided an adjustable ride controlled by a single small lever on the steering wheel boss. The combination of engine and chassis weighed in at 4,050 pounds and was priced at £1,850. The coachwork could almost double that weight and more than double the cost!
Rolls-Royce drove one of the 7.6-litre Phantom IIIs from London to Nairobi and back to demonstrate its capabilities. The car covered 12,500 miles in 34 days, averaging 370 miles a day including a Sahara crossing and the undeveloped roads of Central and East Africa. Apart from tyres, the car was trouble-free and they didn't even need to add any water to the radiator. That said it was fundamentally an aircraft engine and without aircraft standard maintenance it could be easily damaged. For those who really want to see the details of these magnificent engines go to http://www.boddice.co.uk/index1.htm where there is a diary of an engine rebuild with hundreds of pictures!
| Copyright © Peter and Pauline Curtis
Spelling corrections: 8th January, 2016