Tasmania……..

Part I

Tasmania you beautiful Apple Isle.  With your devils, your city at the foot of a snow capped mountain, your stunning world heritage wilderness, your Jack Jumpers, your ruggedly spectacular coastline and your rich dark history you are a wish come true.

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I always find as soon as I set foot on Tassie soil, I have an unwavering belief I will be living there one day.  I have been to Tasmania many many times, more times than I can count and I know, even on the bitterly coldest and greyest of mornings I could wake up every day in this pure raw landscape.  In the meantime however, I will continue to skim across its lovely surface, never staying too long in just one place……

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This trip was a little different for me as my travel companion for seven days was my Mum.  It was her first trip to Tasmania and I was not only honoured to share this uniquely wonderful place with her but we also had the opportunity to spend some quality time together.

We haven’t had a trip together since both Mum and lovely Grasshopper came to stay with us in America during 2014.  On that occasion, the three of us did a great road trip to Savannah and for the remainder of their time there, we skulked around the smooth southern state of Georgia.

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For our Tassie adventure, we based ourselves in Battery Point.  With its winding streets, swanky real estate in beautiful historic homes, clever little cafes and positioned close to the city and the harbour and Salamanca Place, Battery Point was perfect.

The weather was faultless during our time there.  Low clouds chased themselves across the big cornflower blue skies and although at times the cold goose-pimpled our skin, it was all very doable.

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We packed an awful lot into this trip so I will touch gently on each destination because from the moment we landed until the moment we flew out, we did little other than road trip and explore.  And first stop straight off the plane was Richmond.

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Home to the famous Richmond Bridge which was built in 1823, this pretty picture-postcard village is filled with lavender ice-cream, glorious magnolia blossom, tea shops and galleries.  Built by convict labor and situated about 25k north-east of Hobart, Richmond is a good starting point for all things Tasmanian.

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The ‘keeper of the bridge’ cat.  A lovely, friendly and superbly handsome snowball of fluff. 

Next stop en route to our accommodation was the harbour.

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Surrounded by historic waterfront warehouses, ghost signs, cray pots and smelling of the deep sea, the iconic Constitution Dock is a must.  With its moored fishing and sail boats, tall ships and floating seafood vendors there is no better place to sample the famous Tassie scallop and chips.

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Mt Wellington, the foothills of which hold much of the Hobart township, presented itself snow capped and magnificent.  This imposing mountain is continually buffeted by gale force winds yet the stunning views are always well worth a bad hair day.

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It was so blustery Mum was blown back onto the bonnet of the car ……..where she stayed to take her photos from, not that she had much choice in the matter!   At this stage, the winds had become so strong I could not open the car door and walking was made near impossible.

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Needing to thaw out, we stopped half way down the mountain at a recycled shipping container café called Lost Freight.  At this lovely eco- conscience spot, we wrapped our frozen fingers around flat whites and fueled up on lush chocolate brownies.

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 Tasmania is made for self-drive road trips and although this state doesn’t look that big on a map, it is very deceiving.  We did a couple of good longs trips.  One where we spent almost an entire day traversing from Hobart through Margate, Kettering, Woodbridge, Gordon, Eggs and Bacon Bay and Cygnet.  The other was in the opposite direction as we headed out toward Freycinet National Park.

There are little to no roads which have long, clear straight runs as most wind about mountain ranges or hug the magnificent coast line so the drives are often slow paced yet oh so enjoyable.

We stopped in at historic townships of Devonshire teas, stone churches, produce stores, second hand book shops, markets and galleries.  Tiny places big on community spirit but long forgotten in the main stream of leading tourist destinations.  In Cygnet I purchased a lovely cat shaped brooch which looks like tortoise shell but is not, an old book and some locally grown fruit.

We passed fruit orchards, vineyards and sun yellowed wheat fields.  We saw huge paddocks of lavender and watched as cattle and sheep grazed upon the fertile farmland.  We hugged the craggy coastline, passed through dense forestry and drove on roads pressed hard up between mountains and rivers

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With over 300 stalls and always busy, the Salamanca Markets are an absolute haven for talented designers, artists, collaborators, collectors, bakers, cooks, flower growers, wood workers, grinders and roasters, fresh produce growers and eccentrics.  Open every Saturday from 8am.

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From Sauvignon Blanc to scallops, whisky to winsome gins, Pinots to pork, coffee to Cabernet and throw in a thriving craft brew scene, a gastronome will do no better than head to Tasmania.

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Part II coming soon……..

Beijing cont………

Although Beijing allowed a revisit to gratitude, I never take any of this for granted.  More often than not, the places I travel to defy my ability to describe them yet they have offered me such a rich, soul-felt experience by providing far more sustenance than food (or gin) could ever offer.

I never want to lose the wonder and curiosity I find in travelling.  Arriving somewhere new without expectation or being in the very place I saw so many many years ago as a child flipping through a National Geographic magazine.

An eternal optimist, I know 2020 will be no different and I fully intend to continue to lift my camera lens, my eyes and my heart to every single moment this quite magical world has to offer……

Beijing Part II

There is a richness to this city in both the old and the new.

We saw the most stunning of ancient architecture, history, culture and markets and equally witnessed a progressive megacity boasting the world’s biggest airport which runs like a well oiled machine.

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Although the heat was at times exhausting, walks through the city were a continual reward.

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I took hundreds and hundreds of photos but can only use so many yet the memories of standing in long slow lines, sardined alongside locals and tourists to view the Forbidden City and to set foot upon the hallowed slabs of concrete which pave Tieanamen Square, the walks around the bygone era’d Hutong districts with its decaying beauty and those frantic, busy and noisy markets remain.

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Favorites while in Beijing

Stay:  A blissful refuge to lay your head is the luxurious NUO Hotel. Unsurpassed in service and elegance together with its location in the arts district, this beautiful hotel surpasses 5 star excellence.

Culinary delight of the journey  It would be so easy to say everything but perhaps one of my favorites was Jian Bing.  A cheap little crepe which cost under $1USD and purchased at unassuming hole-in-the-walls.  One of China’s most popular early morning dishes and straight off a hot grill filled with egg, fresh coriander and spring onion, hoisin sauce and mustard pickles this little snack is crunchy yet soft and fluffy and very, very delish.  Sometimes, it really is just the simple things in life…….

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Trip highlight:  Holy cats!  So very difficult to pinpoint one particular moment as they were all equally memorable but a highlight for me was the quiet book section at the Panjiayuan flea market.

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The Forbidden City, the Great Wall, train travel with the locals – this is a great way to get around as it is very clean, safe and cheap – crisp crab-apples coated in liquid sugar and skulking around old market places. Beijing has left an indelible mark upon my internal travel mapped heart…….x

Beijing…….

Part I

I only wish I were a better story teller in order to share how magnificently wondrous, bold and truly profound Beijing is.

Our days there were all worthy of the title once in a lifetime moment and even under the often present blanket of smog, this ancient city held an earnest charm not easily forgotten.

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Every morning I threw open the gauze curtains and lifted the block-out shades to watch the city wake.   It was during these quiet mornings I embraced a new breakfast ritual of delicate tea and sweet, gently fuzzed local peaches.

By nature I’m a bit of a coffee fiend but drinking these lovely teas, made from the finest of leaf from plantations across China, was a signature highlight of our trip.  There really was no better way to start the day.

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My one wish while in Beijing was to walk upon the Great Wall.

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I won’t sugar coat this as it was a challenging climb yet for all its difficulty, it was the most rewarding hike I have ever done.  I took breaths of paper thin air, often succumbed to the early morning heat and struggled with the steep steps and inclines yet I soaked up everything I possibly could in an effort to carry a tiny piece of that incredible day back home with me.

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327315339285283307After the walk I was ravenous, and how better complete the day than enjoy plates of steaming dumplings with my big ol’ dumpling.

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Eat Beijing

The golden thread which holds this amazing city together is food.  We tried anything and everything, rolled succulent Peking duck pancakes one after the other, tried classic Imperial dishes to humble local bowls and indulged in golden egg tarts.

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Add to that the famous Beijing boiled lamb tripe, hand-pulled noodles, street food in the Hutong district, boiled mutton and exquisite cakes and pastries and our holiday food hit list was complete.

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When you colour co-ordinate your outfit to match your favorite food vendor…….

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We also had the best pizza ever in a tiny corner of the city. The Great Leap Brewing Company not only serves up fantastic craft beers but the pizza was A-mazing!!……and you will not often hear me say that of pizza.

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I think I will be forgiven for not ordering this dish…….

Drink Beijing

Tea.  Tea.  Tea.

Tsingtao – pure delight when combating the heat of Beijing.

Craft Beer –  treacley stouts, porters, pilsners, IPA’s, pale ales, lagers, saisons…….. the craft beer scene in China has taken off.  While in Beijing, the Great Leap Brewing Company became our ‘local’ and rightly so due to the world class beers they have on tap.  Using local ingredients such as Sichuan peppercorns, silver needle tea and locally grown hops these guys know the market and they know how to brew.  For beer and food they get a 10/10.

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Cocktails – we stayed at the luxurious NUO Hotel and enjoyed cocktail hour at the O’Bar.  With its huge outdoor terrace encompassing stunning views of the city together with its oriental glamour this bar is a true city gem.

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More glimpses into the magic that was Beijing to follow…….x

 

Where is our Southern Cross…….

There were no stars last night.

There were no stars the night before, nor the night before that and so on.

Our vast skies of majestic blue to inky black and sparkling at nightfall, now hover between a coverlet of smoke and ash or apocalyptic red.  As with everyone else, I am heartbroken and I fear this summer has changed Australia forever.

Despairingly, I watch the images and listen to the stories unable to comprehend all that has been truly lost.  How did our beautiful country, the place we are so very privileged to call our home come to this…….

My eyes are dry, I cannot cry,

I’ve got no heart for breaking.

But where it was, in days gone by

A dull and empty aching

                                                                        Henry Lawson



 

Footnote:  The ‘Southern Cross’ is a small but beautiful constellation of the southern sky.  It can be seen all year round from anywhere in Australia and it also features on the Australian flag.

Dropping the curtain on 2019 with some wise words……..

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.  As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; as they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.  If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.  Keep interested in your own career however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs for the world is full of trickery but let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.  Especially do not feign affection.  Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune but do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.  Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.  You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars and you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should therefore be at peace.  And whatever  labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul.  With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams it is still a beautiful world.  Be cheerful.  Strive to be happy.

………….Desiderata by Max Ehrmann 1927

 

 

 

 

CROCS!!…..and I don’t mean those unattractive items of footwear!

I began this post a couple of days ago.  It was a time when the state of South Australia had been plunged into a catastrophic fire danger rating with no part of the state rated lower than severe.   By 10am on Wednesday, the temperatures in the area where I live had already hit 41 degrees (106 Fahrenheit) with the hot north wind reaching speeds of over 50 km/h.  It was long day with record temperatures broken across South Australia and by evening, the sky appeared to have been bleached of all colour.  There was no sunset that night.  Just an eerie sky which almost looked like a faded black and white print.

I was up early on that day.  Threw a little water around, looked hopefully at the 100 year old pines, gums and peppermints which surround and dug up some of the garlic I planted during winter.   Its my first crop of garlic, an Australian variety known for their small, sweet pungent cloves.  I’ve tied them with jute and they are hanging to dry.  The rest of the garlic will be harvested over the coming weeks.

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After that, there was little more to do other than close up the house, draw the blinds, hunker down with the cats and wait it out.

The following days, and the temperatures have dropped by around 20 degrees.  Drops like that are so welcome during summer in Australia.  There was no big cornflower blue sky on Thursday though.  Just a canvas of smoky pale grey and the unmistakable smell of scorched earth.

My heart and thoughts are with those who battled Wednesdays fires and to those in Queensland and New South Wales who have endured such heartache and loss over the past few weeks.  We are indeed a country of extremes and it is during these times you realise what is most important to you.

Crocs of the top end……

The sun was still rising as we left Darwin and headed out along the Arnhem Highway to Wak Wak, a tiny dot of a place located near the Adelaide River.

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Home to one of the largest concentrations of saltwater crocs and a haven for birdlife, the Adelaide River really is a beautiful part of the world.

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You know life is truly grand when you get to watch these great birds soar above and swoop down along the surface of the Adelaide River……..

Mornings in the territory bring such serenity especially when out on water in a flat-based tinny with a knowledgeable, passionate and funny as hell top end character who doubles as a croc guide.  His love and incredible respect for these huge apex predators so apparent.

The hum of the outboard, the prolific birdlife, the sun warming your back while skimming across the top of the chocolate milkshake coloured water as it unfurls like a silky ribbon is pure bliss.

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You think it can’t get any better than this.

But it does.

Because within moments of being out on the river.

You encounter your first croc.

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And they keep coming…….

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Some of the crocs we saw were absolutely massive!  Majestic powerhouses of strength and might.  Up close, they reminded me of weary, battle-scared warships yet I found these reptiles to be incredibly beautiful.

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During the morning, we happened upon a very plucky little juvenile croc.  The guide called him ‘Little Man’ but I like to think of him as ‘Lion Heart’ solely for his incredible courage, resilience and determination.   According to our guide, Lion Hearts’ chances of surviving to reach the maturity of the big crocs we had already seen were slim at best.  I often think of Lion Heart and hope he is still out swimming, out witting and out charming his bigger rivals.

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Lion Heart, cute as a darn button…….

Being on the water with those great birds swooping down and those enormous, profoundly fascinating apex predators stalking the boat was so good for my heart and my soul.

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And stalk the boat he did………

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The top end is absolute beauty and wonder.   I returned home to South Australia with a grateful and very happy heart so thank you for the stunning sunrises, the best laksa ever, the crocs, the humble no-bullshit people, the gin-clear swimming holes, the crocs, the sunshine, the markets, the amazing street art and the crocs.

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Go see the top.  If you never, never go you will never, never know…….x

Street Art Darwin Style…….

Fernweh is a lovely German word which literally translates to far sickness.   Perhaps it is akin to an ache for distance lands and I think I may have suffered a bout of fernweh after I returned from the Northern Territory…….

If you never, never go – Part III

I am rather prone to a little solitude from time to time and while in Darwin, it was no different.  Early mornings, before the tropical heat really set in, I walked the quite streets.  Its a good time to be out and about in Darwin as there is very little in the way of foot traffic or tourists.

It was also a good time to get a double shot espresso iced coffee, a chocolate croissant, to get a little lost and to find some amazing top end street art…….

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I have a fascination for street art and there is a self-guided art walk available in Darwin.  I however, prefer to just skulk the streets and happen upon these wonderful images for myself.

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I love the artistic expression in street and graffiti art.  The animated, the creative and the very colourful.  I love how interactive it is in that you can touch it and photograph it.  I love that it changes with the weather or an artist’s whim.  That it spills into the world from dark alleyways and underpasses, reinvigorates tired buildings and wall and I love how it is so vibrantly beautiful to those of us who appreciate it.

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Some of the works I saw were massive in that they encompassed several stories of a building or the entire wall of a car park.  These enormous pieces are impossible to miss yet others were found whilst skulking around the winding back lanes and alleyways, on smaller walls and door and although some were simply a stencil, they were all equally impressive.

A snapshot of some I found.  Enjoy………

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The cover of the book says – ‘A child who reads is an adult who thinks’ and ‘The world belongs to those who read’…….

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How could you not love these amazing outdoor galleries…….

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Brightening up public housing…….

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No doubt about it, I am catching this blog up.  The longest surviving inhabitants of the top end coming soon……..x