July 03, 2007

Old Queen criticises New Zealand

A rather amusing peek-behind-the-scenes of royal tours in New Zealand, with the acquisition by the Alexander Turnbull Library of a cache of private letters from the 1920 tour by the then Prince of Wales, the later King Edward VIII (him of Wallis Simpson and exile in Paris fame). It was a gruelling schedule, before air travel: 42 places in 29 days, and reading his private account would dispirit any soul.
Some of his remarks are a hoot:
(in Wellington): It is a rotten way of seeing a fine country. Returned soldiers & shrieking crowds & school children are all I shall remember from my visit my beloved though I might add drunkinos[sic] as half the men are overflowing with scotch at most of the places I’ve been to
(in Wanganui's Imperial Hotel): Such a pompous address my beloved but its really a miserable hole; no electric light & the hotel boilers elected to burst before dinner so no baths & a very nasty dinner!! But we are all rather peeved tonight as we have had a desperately twying[sic] day…. I’m frozen as there’s no heating in my room & I’m sitting huddled up in an overcoat!
Wanganui hasn't changed much. But I must say the worst meal I have ever had in New Zealand was in 1991 in Tauranga. The establishment's name (a chain restaurant) will remain secret because they're still trading, but reading Prince Eddie's letter I could sympathise.
A lot has changed since then, though, and you're now never far from a decent dinner now - and the coffee in New Zealand is damn better than anything in Britain or Northwestern Europe.

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