My favorite Aunty died last Thursday. There were an awful lot of 'Aunties and Uncles' where I came from in Queensland. It is a term of respect and endearment used for an elder whether you be related to them by blood or not. Some I have loved dearly and some have barely received a second thought. I had been thinking of her the day before she died. I thought of her often. I had a trip to Queensland planned during June (de-railed by Covid 19) and I had arranged to spend time with her. She turned 93 in April and she was still bright and JOYful and beautiful. Beautiful in the way some who age with spirit and grace are. I have felt intense sadness in her passing and the aftermath of that sadness lingers. Some profess the passing of time to be the greatest of healers and that eventually, some form of closure will come but I really don't follow that line. I believe death just as grief (and grief shows itself in many ways) is never finite and nor do we ever fully recover from it. It stays on with us simply because we adjust our lives to slowly become accustom to bearing its weight. I know people have said she had a good life but that is not entirely true. Just because your life is long, that does not equate to it being good. She had a bloody harsh life yet she of all people deserved so very much more. Her husband was a violent, snake mean drunk. One night, after many years of abuse, he beat her so badly she was barely able to flee. She did however, manage to put a few good miles on foot between her and her abuser. Unable to go any further, she collapsed and hid in a patch of pumpkins. So badly beaten, the farmer who owned the patch did not realise she was human, let alone a small woman when he found her huddled there the next morning. And so good and kind was this man, he refused to let her return to her home. Instead, she lived on at the farm with her remaining children in possibly the greatest happiness and gentleness she had ever known with this dear man and his equally dear brother right up until their deaths. This happened in the 70's. A time when domestic violence was a more neglected, silent and hidden pandemic. We would go to the farm for holidays and often on long weekends. I remember the farm house was a big old Queenslander sitting on thick wood poles. It was white and it always looked as though it needed a coat of paint but it was a home and it felt really, really good to be there. In the middle of the kitchen, which always smelt of sunlight soap and lamb fat, was a huge scrubbed wood table. A big enamel tea pot and china cups and saucers permanently placed there in its centre. From the wood beams underneath the house, small calico bags filled with a wad of what I do not know and the colour of deep violet hung. These small magical bags somehow eased the sting and itch on our feet and legs from the wild stinging nettles which grew in lush profusion around the farm. My Aunts husband had taken to living in a small shed of sorts made of corrugated iron. We would pass by it to go to the river and my eldest cousin would always make us stop there. She would go in and clean up, make him tea and oftentimes leave food. We would always wait outside, probably whining and impatiently shifting from foot to foot because all we, my other two cousins and my elder sister wanted to do during summer was to get to the river. I went inside only once. It was dark but there were tiny beams of light coming through from the rust holes in the tin. I remember the floor was dirt and the place smelt of stale piss and that the sheets on the metal bed were stained a light amber. I could never understand why she swept the floor just as I could not back then, understand why she wanted to care for him. When I last saw him he was sitting on a chair in the mottled dark, his head in his hand while hawking up phlegm. After a while he looked up at me and I saw that the whites of his eyes had yellowed. I think he died not long after. When 'the boys', as they were affectionately known sadly died, my Aunty moved to a little low-set weatherboard house on the outskirts of the town. Surrounded by scrubby bush, she lived there with her beloved fox terrier named Lady. She always had a black and white foxie. The house was located along the road from a place called Goodluck Farm. My Nan had pointed out the direction of the farm many times as this was the place she and her only beloved brother and another sister were sent to live and work when they were very, very young. When Nana had too much to drink, which was often, she would sometimes speak of Goodluck and of the events that happened there. On one occasion, my beautiful Great Uncle was bullwhipped by the owner of the farm and my Nana and her sister witnessed the horror of it all. Huddled together crying they tore up rags to make bandages for him. Once I said that my Great Grandmother must have been a terrible person to have sent them away especially when they were so young but my Nan defended her saying her mother was a wonderful woman and she had loved her children very much. My Aunty also dearly loved my Great Grandmother. When my Aunty moved out of town, and although she was deeply loved and respected by most in the town, a hateful and vindictive gossip of her previous 'living arrangements' followed her. And I think we all know it only takes one but usually two miserable and very nasty calumniators to destroy another! I haven't been on my laptop for a good while and by 'a good while', I mean since my last post about Bali well over a month ago. I've just been a bit overwhelmed by things. Things which are designed to wound which you have no control over and nor are you able to change. Matters such as these will often consume me and sit like a stone weight upon my chest. Injustice, inequality, racism, animal cruelty, bullying and that ill perceived belief of entitlement and privilege some have which is bred through sheer stupidity and ignorance. But hate speech fuelled by malicious gossip, well that one always has me buggered. For some reason, the voice of maligned hate has the ability to travel far too well. Over land and sea from one big mouth to bigger ears and from there, more mouths to ears and so on and so on. With each discreditable telling, gossipy hate speech gathers speed as fast as a fart all while growing with poisonous ferocity. As our world folds in upon itself, I cannot help but wonder why some do not have the mindfulness to be kinder. Why compassion, tolerance and basic human decency is always such a hard fought commodity. In spite of all this, or perhaps simply because of it, I remain eternally optimistic that the alarm bells, which should ring so shrilly to some, will finally awake them from their blissfully ignorant slumber. I have been thinking a lot lately. Thinking of those no longer with me, of those still living who I care about and miss because I have lost touch and thinking of so very much of that which has come to pass. It's okay to say you are not okay. It's okay to say you are hurting and it is perfectly okay to be solitary when hermited by grief just as it is okay not to bake homemade sourdough. To love someone be they human or animal and to pick your battles well is one of the small joys of humanity and for the moment, that may well be enough. Story Time....... Once, there was a small hateful group. So unhappy and unfulfilled with their lives they did nothing but complain, cause trouble, criticise and gossip. They found no happiness and no beauty in the world and they lived their lives in a thankless and ungrateful manner. One day, the group received the gift of a beautiful horse. This horse was the most magnificent animal ever imaginable but the women complained and complained and complained of the gift. Another woman, ostracised by the group but who lived by believing in kindness, grace and optimism received the gift of horse shit! There was enough horse shit to fill a football field twice over. But instead of whinging and complaining this woman grabbed herself a shovel and she began to dig. She dug and dug and dug. She dug because she knew beneath all that horse shit there had to be a beautiful majestic horse in there somewhere......x
Bali was heat, tropical forests, lotus flowers and the most expensive coffee on earth. It was eating Bebek Bengil, char-smoked satays and Mangosteens with skins coloured a deep royal purple. It was dive boat rides, every shade of green imaginable, volcanoes, muddy roads, offerings and gods.
There were days where my hair knotted and curled with salt because I didn’t leave the ocean from sun up to sun set. On these days, I just let things go. Things which can suffocate or fell your soul slowly begin their unfurling in the way they should when you give way to it. Late afternoons were made for uncomplicated cocktails and watching thunderheads build then explode leaving rain puddles big enough to swim in.
When out on my wanderings, I photographed temples and tiny street cats. There are always cats to be photographed. I visited markets, labyrinths of small shop spaces crammed into dark narrow lane-ways, all strangely quiet. Most of the goods were out-dated and dust covered. On one occasion, I came away with a kite and two beautiful hand-printed batik sarongs. Another day, natural soaps scented with fragrant champaka.
I walked along the beaches of Nusa Dua, finding shells and tiny pieces of broken coral and watched local fishermen cast their nets. All of these days were good and they were enough. They were more than enough. They were everything………
Not everything I experienced in Bali was of beauty. Kuta for example, Bali’s most notorious hotspot, will eat you alive if you let it. It is not a pretty place but it is by no means dull with its noise, grime and endless strips of cheap bars and nightclubs. Kuta’s often congested streets are filled with a frenetic joyless tide of aggressive hawkers, touts and the ‘very ugly tourist’. Here it seems, the gentle Balinese culture barely hangs on by a thread.
We headed to Kuta one afternoon. My husband had wanted to return to see how much change there was in the absence of 26 years. He also likes Kuta where I do not but it is a fascinating place to ‘people watch’. While there, a young backpacking Brit said to me ‘man, Kuta has the best beach ever‘ (huge emphasis on ever). He was drunk or stoned or possibly both. I fear he was living the last gasp of all that had been promised him by his travel agent for this is Kuta Surf Beach…….
2020 and people still boast this is the best beach in Bali! What despicable things as humans we have done to this planet!
We had beers at a bar on Legian Street. Weary from the constant harassment of touts, I happily watched a fearless mouse expertly navigate his way around the bar before I took a walk across the road to the Bali Memorial.
This deeply moving site, an intricately carved stone monument, is built on the site of the destroyed Paddy’s Pub and is across from the site where the once famous Sari Club sat. In 2002, terrorists detonated three bombs in the heart of Kuta killing 202 people, including 88 Australians, with a further 209 people being seriously injured.
This very graceful memorial site, with its huge marble plaque bearing the names and nationalities of those killed and its delicate water feature, is clean and well maintained. Flood-lit at night, I found it to be a simple yet beautiful dedication.
Kuta is what it is and that will never change. It slowly recovered from the bombings not wiser but definitely a little stronger so I cannot help but wonder where it is headed. No doubt it has a sense of belonging which is significant and necessary to the economy of Bali, suffering so badly in this pandemic, and it certainly would not be the place it is had it not lived the very big and colourful life it has……..
Blog title: Lyrics from Bali Ha’i – South Pacific – by Rodgers and Hammerstein.
More Bali to come…….
Before the world shut down, we travelled to Bali. Time had flown quicker than a whisper, as we had not been back to Bali in just over 26 years! Luckily, we spent eight days there and by grace of circumstance, we left a week or so before the pandemic took hold.
Most of my time spent in Bali was in, on, under or near the ocean. For the most part, it was a beautiful blue. Blue in the way one hopes the sea will always be.
please don’t hate me, we had a private beach……..
Almost every day was spent diving, swimming, snorkeling and beachcombing. Being in places I could not have dreamt to be more perfect and eating the local food……. but more on that later.
I suffer varying degrees of confidence – mostly lacking – and find navigating some tasks more difficult than others but I have always found great certitude in the ability to go it alone. Happy in quiet solitude, I took a few solo trips and wanderings during our time in Bali and one was to the Sacred Monkey Forest.
We based ourselves at the southern end of the island of Bali. At the quieter and more secluded Nusa Dua. The Monkey Forest is located in Ubud, just over an hour and a half’s drive away.
Ubud is a lovely destination. Surrounded by lush green rice fields, temples, small farms and steep rocky ravines it is a place you can easily spend a day, a week or longer. Its streets and markets are gloriously colourful and it is not only home to the Monkey Forest, it is also the epicenter of arts and culture in Bali.
Home to around 1,050 Balinese long-tailed Monkeys, this flourishing and secluded forest is protected and owned by the village of Padangtegal.
monkey considers career as official taster……..nails it!
I am forever charmed by this dense, beautifully green space of natural forest and its endearing yet often obstreperous inhabitants. Along with its huge moss covered statues, shrines and temples, soft foliaged plants, walking tracks and trails it is an enchanting way to while away a few hours.
I have been to the Monkey Forest before. The last time being 26 years ago and it was during that visit, I had an unnerving encounter with a large alpha male. The memories of that experience remain but it certainly did not deter me from returning.
monkey comfort food – sweet potato, bananas, corn, local tropical fruit, coconuts, leaves and flowers which are bought in by the local villagers
Although I prefer a life well lived I am, to a fault, a perfectionist. And trust me. I can torture myself with the fixation of that perfection and that can be especially true of photos I take. I often want to capture a perfect moment but to the credit of these delightful rascals, so quick and lithe and cheekily charming, they do not much care for the prosaic. They will scamper and climb and they will not sit still so although I had many blurred and fuzzy photos, I did not care a dot. I was just happily grateful to be lost in their world.
The not so blurred…….
Tips while you are there…….
- Do not take any food or water bottles into the sanctuary and secure all other items
- Respect their natural behavior – they are wild animals not pets
- Do not attempt to feed the monkeys
- Do not make eye contact
- Do not attempt to touch the monkeys especially the babies – the monkeys are very protective and will attack
- Allow yourself plenty of time
- Wear respectful clothing
I loved revisiting the sanctuary which is open daily from 8:30am till 6pm and costs 80,000 Rupiah (Indonesian), which is equivalent to a little over $8 Australian……best investment ever!
Truly human in my imperfections and in spite of my many flaws, I am still ever grateful. We are all living in a world which is currently hurting and although not able to stem the flow of that hurt or end the suffering for some, the very least any of us can do is not take what we have or have experienced for granted.
No doubt we have all had moments where we have come undone, taken a brutal fall or found ourselves just trying to hang on yet somehow, even as physical distancing prevails and we await the world to return to some semblance of normality, everything still feels strangely alright……..x
What odd times we live in at present. Everything has slowed to almost a stop and life as we knew it has come to pass. Although I miss some things, volunteer work, travel and just the ability to sit in my favorite espresso bar, I am relishing these quiet moments of isolation. Time now is occupied star gazing, perfecting jenga moves, letting herbs go to seed and drying the tiny pods ready for re-planting next year, mixing gin for late evenings of Miles Davis, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams and just simply being.
My home has never been cleaner which always makes me feel good. Fire places scrubbed, furniture moved and re-arranged and small projects completed with new ones begun.
I am also preparing for the eventual renovation of the house. There is an endless list and much work ahead but most of all, I am looking forward to the verandah being re-attached. In anticipation, I have scoured the rust and flaking paint from lovely pieces of vintage cast iron furniture I have collected over the years, am in the process of repainting them and plants have been repotted.
The weather this time of year in South Australia is glorious. After a summer of over exposed heat and raging bush fires, the cooler weather and bluer skies make for perfect gardening. More beds have been added in the vegie patch, the soil enriched with compost and manure and seeds and seedlings sown for a winter crop.
A different variety of garlic this year
They may not be my beloved surf boards but shit is getting done
To the yard the bees, the bugs and birds have all returned along with the possums, micro bats, lizards and the occasional echidna. That alone fills my heart.
For me, the garden and yard are a source of absolute bliss. I love watching it change and grow and find it more self indulgent than self isolating when out there which brings me to this post on the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens.
Endeavoring to write of these gardens, established in 1818 on the banks of the River Derwent, gives way to much hesitation. I know I will find it difficult to put into words the graceful beauty I found amongst the almost 14 hectares of gardens. Of how it was to sit on garden benches under perfectly blue Tasmanian skies. Of how the scent of early spring blossom hung in the air and of how lovely the paths and grass were carpeted in the spent petals of Camellia and Magnolia. Most problematic of all however, would be how to describe to you the utter joy and winsomeness I found whilst skulking around the affectionately named Pete’s Patch.
The grounds are sectioned off and hold just over 6,500 species of native and exotic plants. We strolled around and through most.
The Resilient Garden
The Herb Garden
The Tasmanian Community Food Garden – Pete’s Patch
It is unfortunate, but I cannot write kindly of our experience of Succulent, the gardens’ restaurant. On the day we were there, it was disappointing to a fault and we were not the only ones dispirited! It was really poor yet I understand since our visit, the restaurant closed and re-opened under new management. To be fair, when I return to the gardens I will give them another try.
Enjoying more of the gardens……..
Farewell Tasmania………..thanks for coming Mum x
Would I like my little patch to be like that of a Royal Botanical Garden. The answer simply is no. It will never be royal but I like how my garden is evolving with the leniency of secateurs and pruning sheers.
Change, whether it be the garden or these very odd times is forever upon us. It is all just a matter of time and patience. Enjoy these days of living a slower pace, don’t complicate things, don’t complain, don’t hoard and be kind. Its really not that hard……x
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.
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 composting. They also offer up one of the best views of Pirates Bay along with your Filthy Chai.
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.
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.
Tis’ indeed a spiky bridge……
Directly opposite the bridge is Great Oyster Bay, offering stunning views to the mountains in the national park.
We spent just over half an hour here before stopping in at the Meredith River Estuary.
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.
After that it was Dolphin Sands – there were no dolphins – then Coles Bay before finally hitting the National Park.
I love this east coast area with its beautiful scrubby bush, heathlands, sheltered rocky coves, hiking tracks, stunning beaches, wildflowers and crystal clear waters.
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.
The park is also home to shy and elusive Tasmanian Devils, quolls, possums, echidnas, wombats and the sweetest of wallabies.
Look at those lovely lashes……..
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.
Cape Tourville Lighthouse is on the northern edge of the park and offers beautiful views over Freycinet Peninsula.
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…….
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.
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.
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.
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.
The lovely gardens of Port Arthur are true to their era and the orchards, old homes and vegetable patches are tranquil places for reflection.
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.
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.
Since I last visited, a walk-way has been erected on the island so as not to ‘walk’ upon the resting souls………
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.
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.
Of course I would put my own mother in leg irons for a photo…….
Port Arthur is profoundly beautiful but sometimes, that beauty can be very ugly………..
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.
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……
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Part II coming soon……..
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.
Although the heat was at times exhausting, walks through the city were a continual reward.
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.
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…….
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.
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
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.
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.
My one wish while in Beijing was to walk upon the Great Wall.
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.
After the walk I was ravenous, and how better complete the day than enjoy plates of steaming dumplings with my big ol’ dumpling.
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.
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.
When you colour co-ordinate your outfit to match your favorite food vendor…….
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.
I think I will be forgiven for not ordering this dish…….
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.
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.
More glimpses into the magic that was Beijing to follow…….x
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
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.