I’m always struck (and pleased) to learn that a town I’m visiting has a “sister city” somewhere in the world. For example, my current town of residence, Santa Rosa, CA has, as its “sister,” Jeju Island in South Korea. How cool that there’s a connection between two very-different cities, way across the world! I do wonder, though, what these two sisters actually do when they’re hanging out together. I mean, do they help each other with their make up? Do they braid each other’s hair? Do they talk about boys? Inquiring minds want to know!

Long-distance connections are fascinating, aren’t they? For example, I’m still in contact with friends whom I met while traveling in Asia, 30+ years ago. What a miracle! There’s an equally unlikely connection between South Beach Miami (Wow Place #203) here in the States and far-off Napier, New Zealand, all the way in the Southern Hemisphere. Both cities, as it turns out, are havens for art deco enthusiasts! For South Beach, art deco was just the building style of the time. For Napier, though, it was more of a reaction to tragedy. Following a massive earthquake (7.9 on the Richter scale) on February 3rd, 1931, fires destroyed most of Napier’s commercial district. Rebuilding quickly, architects employed the prevailing style of that era and hence, a glittering art deco city was born.

There are more differences, of course. South Beach being South Beach, neon lights are prevalent, transforming the evenings into a technicolor, all-night dance party. By contrast, Napier is devoid of neon and hence a more muted place. Maori motifs are incorporated into many of the art deco designs. Palms and Norfolk Island pines form a natural landscape here, framing the lovely, wind-swept Hawkes Bay. A walk through Napier is a laid-back affair, drifting from shop to shop with nary a roller blader in sight, sampling the many eateries or simply wandering casually along the nearby beach. A bit shout out as well to the town’s aquarium, featuring penguins and manta ray feedings several times a day. Napier is also the jumping off point for the fantastic Mt. Te Mata hike (Wow Place #191) and the cool gannet tour (Wow Place #193). What can I say? – go see Napier, an art deco dream town.

(When you meet someone new, do you look for connections and commonalities, or do you focus on the differences? While standing in line or sitting at a café, I overhear a lot of conversations. Inevitably there’s someone nearby, loudly sitting in judgment of all passerbys. “Oh, look at her hair! My gawd, her shoes are awful? I wouldn’t be caught dead looking like that in public!” It’s kind of awful, isn’t it? Now, I’m not going to fall into the trap of judging such people. We all act out on our traumas, our inner demons. Let me just make a plea for more kindness, more tolerance, and more connection.)