A filthy cup of Joe, a spiky bridge and wallabies……..

During our days wandering the beautiful apple isle which is Tasmania, we gathered memories, photographs and small trinkets all while constantly marveling at the breathtaking scenery.

Although there is much to explore in Hobart itself – where around almost every corner is a piece of history or a sleek little wine bar – the desire for us was to often head beyond the city’s skyline.

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We found THE best coffee stop in Tasmania while road tripping.  Located at Eaglehawk Neck, Cubed Espresso Bar is not only passionate about producing and serving beautiful handcrafted espresso, it is also quietly dedicated to protecting the environment through recycling and repurposing, the use of solar power and composing.  They also offer up one of the best views of Pirates Bay along with your Filthy Chai.

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Now I have always loved my Chai ‘dirty’ but I found this little espresso bar didn’t do a Dirty Chai.  They have however, kicked it up a notch to offer up a Filthy Chai (and pretty magnificently too might I add).  See what happens when you leave a city behind.

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Pirates Bay…….

Early morning with the sun still low on the horizon, we set out to Freycinet National Park.

This is a long yet enjoyable drive which takes just on 3 hours if you don’t stop.  Naturally, we stopped.  Firstly at a little community market in Triabunna then at Swansea.  We also stopped at The Spiky Bridge, part of the old convict built coach road which connected Swansea and Little Swanport in the early 1800’s.

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Tis’ indeed a spiky bridge……

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Directly opposite the bridge is Great Oyster Bay, offering stunning views to the mountains in the national park.

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We spent just over half an hour here before stopping in at the Meredith River Estuary.

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With its surrounding tea tree, banksia and the beach driftwood, this lovely sheltered estuary is a protected area for nesting shorebirds such as the Pied Oystercatcher, the Hooded Plover, Red-capped Plovers and the Red-necked Stints.

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After that it was Dolphin Sands – there were no dolphins – then Coles Bay before finally hitting the National Park.

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I love this east coast area with its beautiful scrubby bush, heathlands, sheltered rocky coves, hiking tracks, stunning beaches, wildflowers and crystal clear waters.

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Although it can be busy with tourists, there is a serenity to be found in the overwhelming presence of those dramatic soaring granite peaks which overlook the Tasman Sea.

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The park is also home to shy and elusive Tasmanian Devils, quolls, possums, echidnas, wombats and the sweetest of wallabies.

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Look at those lovely lashes……..

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An avid twitcher? Then this is also the place for you as there is an abundance of bird life including tiny fairy wrens to sea eagles, hawks and falcons to flame robins, wading shore birds, wetland and migratory bird life.

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Cape Tourville Lighthouse is on the northern edge of the park and offers beautiful views over Freycinet Peninsula.

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We hit Hobart’s outer limits late into the evening.  The dark roads were slick with rain, the lights of the city sparkled and we wanted for nothing more.  It had been a lovely day spent in an extraordinary place in an extraordinary part of the world which radiates an extraordinary freedom to let you just be…….

We came back from the Isle of the Dead…….

Heading to Port Arthur is always with mixed emotion.  I love the incredibly rich history so dark and sinister, the ghost stories, the gardens and those beautiful decaying ruins of crumbling stone yet it is a place which holds fast to unimaginable hardship and suffering.

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This beautifully preserved open-air museum is one of Australia’s most historic UNESCO World Heritage listed convict sites.  Originally established in 1830 as a timber station, Port Arthur soon became a penal colony where convicted criminals endured unimagined conditions of brutality and torment.

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To walk through the grounds is a humbling experience for this is a terribly human place, the foundations of which bare witness to grief, sadness and a brokenness of spirit made even more so by the terrible events of 1996.

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Formerly the Broad Arrow Café, this area is now a memorial site with gardens and a peace pool. 

April 1996.  A lone gunman entered the grounds and murdered 35 people and wounded another 25.  Known as the Port Arthur Massacre, this horrific mass shooting, the worst in Australia’s modern history, led to fundamental changes of our gun laws and altered Australia’s innocence forever.

I am unsure of the oppressive curses Port Arthur labours under but for all its death and suffering, it is a mortal place to be.

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The lovely gardens of Port Arthur are true to their era and the orchards, old homes and vegetable patches are tranquil places for reflection.

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Accessible only by boat, The Isle of the Dead is a tiny island cemetery adjacent to Port Arthur.  The site holds 1,646 recorded graves of those buried between 1833 and 1877 although it is estimated 2,000 plus lost souls are interned there.

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There are two separate burial sections on the isle.  One for convicts, most laid to rest in unmarked graves, while on the higher point of the island are the graves of officials, military and civilian officers and women and children.

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Since I last visited, a walk-way has been erected on the island so as not to ‘walk’ upon the resting souls………

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In the early 70’s, my grandparents took a trip to Tasmania.  They were on a coach tour of the entire island and part of their tour included a day trip to Port Arthur.   When they returned they bought back some really great photographs of their trip – I didn’t even know they owned a camera.  They also returned with lovely gifts which included a  necklace made from strands of apple seed, a silver apple charm and a tee-shirt which I wore to death the print of which read ‘I came back from the Isle of the Dead’.  I remember I missed them being away and they sent me post-cards which I still have but I wish I still had my old tee as they no longer print these for sale in the Port Arthur gift shop.

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The Isle of the Dead is a deeply moving site and guided walking tours can be taken of this diminutive islet.  Without question do a tour as the guides are extremely knowledgeable and the stories they share are captivating.  I highly recommend you pay the small extra with your ticketed price for entry to Port Arthur and head over.

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Of course I would put my own mother in leg irons for a photo…….

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Port Arthur is profoundly beautiful but sometimes, that beauty can be very ugly………..

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