Hobart

Day 0 – Friday, 22nd July

One lesson from this trip to Tasmania; a good holiday starts one day before it starts.

In the past I’ve taken taxis or trains to the airport on the day of my flight all the way from Western Sydney. This adds about an hour and a half to my trip. When the flight itself takes less than two hours, that is a pretty significant amount of time spent between places I actually want to be.

This trip included my first experiment with an overnight in the city. For reasons that will become clear in Day 1, we were booked on a 7:30am flight to Hobart. Add arriving an hour before take-off, and I’d have had to wake up around 4:00.

Waking up at 6:00 instead feels like luxury by comparison, and the early Uber (another first!) through the city was a pleasure as well. Sydney actually looks very nice in the morning sun before it gets cluttered up with cars and people.

Salamanca Place
Salamanca Place – every Saturday off-limits to cars, and filled with markets

Day 1 – Saturday, 23rd July

The reason for the unholy early departure? Salamanca Markets. Held once a week on Saturday morning in the prettiest street, in the friendliest city, on the most beautiful island in the world.

The markets run from early morning till about three in the afternoon. There are exactly two direct flights from Sydney to Hobart. The one at 4pm misses the market, so 7:30am was the only choice that avoided a stop-over in Melbourne and a relatively late arrival to the markets.

Our flight landed a bit earlier than expected. Hobart airport is small. No, no, really small. We exited the plane from the front, only to find a disturbing lack of air-bridge to meet us. One step past the doorway onto the metal stairs to the tarmac the first blast of antarctic air greeted us. I had joked about this scenario during the flight, but it wasn’t nearly as funny when it was real. I prepared with three layers that proved less adequate to the task than I had hoped.

Shadows on a wall in Battery PointLuckily it didn’t take long to get through the terminal, through the heated shack of the car rental, and into little i20 companion for the following 6 days. A zippy little demon in an orange colour I could only describe as Burnt Tamarind*. The drive from the airport to Hobart is very straightforward… except for the part where Salamanca Markets block of a significant number of streets around Salamanca Place. This would not have been a problem if not for the fact that my chosen hotel was in a side-street off Salamanca. Luckily road-side parking is not particularly hard to come by.

The markets were well-worth the hassle of working around an early flight. The stalls hawk a lot of the typical market wares; jams, sauces, candy, arts and crafts. But overall the calibre is above your average market. There is also a remarkable general lack of repetition between stalls. Granted; knives with wooden handles could be found in several places, and there were several stalls of woollen clothing and leather bags. But they were not the same clothes or bags. It’s sad that is remarkable, but there it is.

 

Salamanca Place, at night after wet snow has molten.

The markets also provided an immediate introduction to Australian snow. Wet snow, almost rain, but when it flurries in that unmistakable way it most definitely isn’t rain anymore. The breeze through the markets was very reminiscent of Winter Magic in Katoomba. Specifically: freezingly unpleasant to the hands and face. Sadly it wasn’t quite cold enough for snow to gather in Hobart itself to add some further magic to the scene.

Most delightfully (to me), at the end of the market, when time came to rush back for a final purchases before the freezing vendors were ready to pack up early, we encountered an Oliebollen stand. Four fruit ones with powdered sugar and four raisin ones with cinnamon sugar disappeared faster than I would have believed possible. I blame the weather.

(* in-joke in case anyone from work wanders past… basically: a dark orange Hyundai)

The Huon River, about 45 minutes south of Hobart
The Huon River – blustery and freezing, but also very peaceful and beautiful

Day 2 – Sunday, 24th July

Time for our first road-trip. There are roughly three directions out of Hobart; south, north-west and east. Our first choice was south towards the Huon Valley where they grow beautiful pale yellow pine wood.

Before setting off, Abbey and I had breakfast at the Retro Cafe on Salamanca Place. Coffee and Eggs Benedict. On two further mornings I broke the “no repeat visits” rule to grab a quick coffee from the cafe. I could blame it on the horrible convenience of its position, but it really was also just good coffee.

Salamanca Place at night with fairy lights

The great thing about Hobart is how far you can get in just 30 minutes. Let me explain. In Sydney, you cannot really get anywhere near to escaping the city in anything less than an hour. From Hobart, within 10 minutes you’ll be wondering where the city went. I’m pretty certain nothing is more than 30 minutes away. This weird scale distortion holds within Hobart itself as well. On more than one occasion I over-estimated distances, because looking at Google Maps counting blocks usually gives me a pretty good sense of distance. Hobart blocks are smaller. Much smaller. You can probably Tetris 4 Hobart blocks into the space of a single Sydney block.

Metal art outline of a man at Salamanca Square

This makes a road-trip out of Hobart a very convenient adventure. We spent the day not much further than 45 minutes away from home-base, but it felt like touring far into the wilderness.

It also quickly became clear that on Tasmania you’re never very far away from water. It’s baffling to consider how high prices get bid in Sydney for the tiniest bit of water frontage, when on the island it comes by the kilometre. We must’ve spent a good two-thirds of the 120km we drove right on the waters’ edge with no house in sight.

We had a brief stop along the way at Willie Smith’s Apple Shed. Sadly we were out of coins at the time, or we’d have had a wander through the “Apple Museum”, if for no other reason than to find out what it might be.

We stopped in Huonville to have a quick look around. Small Tasmanian towns on Sunday are not as open as we were used to. We managed to get a look at some rickety antiques, but otherwise were quickly back on our way. It was peaceful out there though, I would have liked to sit down somewhere with a hot beverage and just enjoy the crisp smell and the silence.

A little further on our tour we could not resist the stop at Pagan Cider for some cellar-door tasting. I’ve had quite a lot of cider, but nothing quite as authentically flavoured as Pagan. The Cerise has a deliciously tart cherry flavour – not that of a sweet additive (I’m not looking at you, Rekorderlig), but of actual cherries. And the Apricot cider was mouth-watering on first scent. Four bottles of Cerise and a half litre of Apricot formed the first part of our serious return-flight over-weight.

We also stopped at Peppermint Bay, where I had been before when my parents were over for their first Australian trip. That time we took a boat-trip out, which turned us in a captive audience for spending at this restaurant. It was much more pleasant to have a quick quiet coffee and a delicious brownie looking out over the Salmon farms in the bay.

And then to be able to leave again at our own timing.

Too tired to go out for dinner, I hunted down some Thai on Menulog and went for a wander down to Battery Point to retrieve the Honey Pork Ribs and Rocky Road Chicken … Thai Fusion you see. Also, spectacularly tasty. Hampden Road looks like the place to be in Hobart; next time I may need to pick accommodation somewhere up there.

Salamanca Square; a statue of a dog papparazzi taking a picture of a bunny Marilyn Munroe
Salamanca Square – hiding place of metal art and delicious food

Day 3 – Monday, 25th July

Monday was to be a slower day with a lunch-time trip into the CBD to grab coffee at Cultura.A mediterranean looking building on Hampden Road As it turns out, besides serving the most delicious coffee with a vague hint of forest and sunshine, they also serve a fantastic Italian lunch menu. Not knowing what to expect I ordered a beef and veal gnocci which sounded somewhat unremarkable on paper. I could happily re-visit Cultura on a daily lunch basis (if lunch didn’t come catered at work); it is most definitely “just” a pasta dish, but it was prepared most flawlessly. Not a bite was the slightest bit chewy, or too hot, or too bland.

It would have made for a perfect lunch if but for one glitch. While detoured into a pet shop on our way back to the car, a parking inspector decided to check on our car that must have been all of 5 minutes out of funding. We saw him stick something to the windscreen, wander back to the parking meter and then disappear as we were walking up to the car.

It is annoying to have a fine overshadowing an otherwise fantastic lunch. What made up for it somewhat was the amusement over the hefty $40 cost of the fine. Hobart is most definitely a different world altogether.

Shiver Me Timbers on Salamanca Place

I spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening exploring around on foot by myself. I couldn’t resist stopping by Normann & Dann on Salamanca Place for some chocolates. Spoiler: also better than their looks betray. Followed by a slow meandering wander through Battery Point with my 6D at the ready for anything worth shooting.

Everything is so much more picturesque than I can afford to show off in this single blog post for fear it’d take forever to load. I think the latitude affords the city a somewhat stretched golden hour in the evening. Probably also in the morning, but I didn’t have occasion to find out on account of sleeping like a log.

What also amused me was the prevalence of piratey-themed everything around the place; from candy and books to shop signs. Not excessively so, but most definitely more prevalent than in a city like Sydney. I suppose leaning off the mountain into a cozy little harbour with quite so many coves and hideaways about has a way of playing with the imagination.

Bottom of Pinnacle Road with snow against a rockface
Bottom of Pinnacle Road – start of the climb to the summit of mt. Wellington

Day 4 – Tuesday, 26th July

My birthday. The intent was to drive to the summit of mt. Wellington overlooking Hobart for the dual purpose of getting some more pictures of the sights, and to stand in some proper full-blown snow in Australia for only the second time.

Badly done sign for the Fern Tree Inn at the bottom of mt. Wellington

Alas, it was not meant to be. I should have looked ahead on the internets to look for road closures. It turns out that Pinnacle road leading to the summit is kinda prone to snowing in over winter. There were several “guards” at the turn making sure only local traffic was allowed onto the road. Quite a few people were in the same predicament and making the most of it at the foot of the mountain. There was just about enough snow for atmosphere, and someone had jokingly created the tiniest snowman on the corner of the street.
Six-inch snowman at the bottom of mt. Wellington

We would have had a stop at the Fern Tree Inn at the foot of the summit, but for two impediments; Google recommended against it with a dismal 3-out-of-5 score, and the place was closed. I think both factors saved us from what would likely have been an exceedingly disappointing coffee experience.

I took a few more shots around the inn, including their horrendous sign. Full metal, a good meter-and-a-half across, with a poorly pixelated image of the ridge of the summit (see above). If there is a more succinct way to capture not caring, I do not know of it.

We ended up heading back into Hobart itself for some nice sushi at “Sush Track” (not a typo), with the most twee electronic menu including all sorts of train-themed animations when placing orders or calling for waitstaff. This, followed by a wander uphill to Daci & Daci Bakers to just have a coffee… but alas, their impressive display of cakes suckered both me and Abbey into eating more than we should have. The Hazelnut Dacquoise was fantastic.

I spent the afternoon digesting and reading back in the hotel.

For dinner I chose pizza at Hearth; a very homely little restaurant inside what looks to be just an ordinary home. There’s nothing quite like a meal next to a wood fire. And for dessert (exploding already on the way in), I had to finally try what delights The Honey Badger had on offer. Although my Belgian Waffles with Fruit, crumbled Tim Tams and salted caramel ice cream wasn’t as Belgian as I had hoped, the ice cream was spectacular enough to more than make up for it. I wish I had had longer to sample the rest of their menu. Alas.

Monument to Abel Tasman
Monument to Abel Tasman – on Salamanca Place, a monument to the Dutch explorer

Day 5 – Wednesday, 27th July

Wednesday was reserved for MONA.
Boats in the harbour reflected in the water

I somehow feel like I should not say too much about the Museum of Old and New Art. It is a peculiar place. The logo consists of a “+” and an “x”, which prominently feature in the guidance app on the iPhones that everyone is handed at the start of the exhibit.

 

Close-up detail of the Abel Tasman monument

“+” is for Love.
“x” is for Hate.

For those are the two emotions supposed to capture your feelings about the exhibits. They are all intended to elicit only the most extreme feelings.

I found myself at a loss to choose a few times, but it is remarkable how well it works for the most part.

Love: the duelling whiteboard marker and brush on mechanical arms trying to fight over who controls the m mounted whiteboard.

Hate: the artificial digestive tract that had just prior to our arrival used “the toilet”, leaving a perfectly formed (and smelly) stool on a plate.

Love: the furry couch that whimpers when you walk past it without paying attention, purrs when you pet it, and barks when you sit down.

Hate: the 30 synchronised screens showing different singers doing simultaneous renditions of Madonna songs.

For a mere $75,000 you can become an Eternity member of the museum and have your ashes post-mortem made part of the display of Faberge-like eggs that are actually urns. Three spaces already occupied.

Tractor statue outside Coal River Farm
Coal River Farm – metal tractor art out front the farm shop

Day 6 – Thursday, 28th July

The final day was meant to be a completely stress-free road-trip out west.

Southern aspect of mt. Wellington across the river

I recognised many of the places I had been with my parents as well. I had completely forgotten our side-trip into Richmond stopping at Puddle Duck, and the Wicked Cheese Company. I even think I recognised the woodwork shop we went through together. I think we had really great scones as well, but I could not recognise which of the many old houses along the road might have been the one we stopped at. None of them jumped out from my memory.

What rushed the afternoon along was the sudden realisation when Abbey tried to check into the flight back to Sydney, that her ticket was for September 28th, not July. A most curious mishap, but enough reason to cut the road-trip short and head for the airport instead.

Within 30 minutes the ticket was changed with a minimum of drama.

The only remaining fright was our 12kg post box of souvenirs, including Sloe Gin, Sheeps-Whey-Vodka and various other odds and ends. At the other end of our flight, the box appeared to be… leaking.

We both tried to detect the smell to guess at the victim.
Nothing cheesey.
Nothing volatile enough for alcohol.
A puzzle.

In the end it turned out the MacGuyvered ice brick (a lunch container with ice cubes in it) had started leaking after melting, and was leeching through the box.

I had a great 6 days. I wish I’d had time for 6 more, if for no other reason than to work my way systematically though Daci & Daci’s cakes.

Letterboxes in a bend of the road.