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.

Last Day

I cannot exactly say that 8 weeks felt like the blink of an eye. They definitely felt like A-Long-Time-tm.

And I feel a little guilty about how little of consequence I have done with it, but not too much.

I have managed to re-establish a workable gym routine that had been suffering from too many interruptions last year from around August till November. I can actually do Body Attack again without dying, and my legs feel mostly okay after an hour.

I have read a half dozen fairly lengthy books from the large pile I was indirectly gifted by my former co-workers (a gift certificate well spent!)

I have watched way too many movies, way too much TV, and had a few nice do-nothing days along the way too.

And most importantly, I feel completely relaxed.
Which bodes well for tomorrow, the coming month, and the years beyond.

Campaign Monitor, here I come!
I must remember to take pictures along the way.

How to make Holidays Work

Being on “leave” between jobs has been an interesting experience. I don’t think I’m too bad at letting work go while I am on leave; I may promise myself to keep track of email or to get a report done, but that is typically wishful thinking.

By the time I am two days in, work “doesn’t exist” anymore.

Which is why I was so surprised that after finishing my last job it took less than three weeks for me to feel more relaxed than I had ever been during leave in the 11 years at the job.

I can only attribute this to the fact the little voice in the back of my head realised this time it really didn’t need to remember anything. And I realised; when I am on leave there is always that part of me that runs through a little mental list of things I need to remember because I am going to need them the day I return to work. Shutting that off makes more difference than I ever would have believed.

I’m not sure there is a concrete lesson in this. I don’t think forgetting everything about one’s job over leave is really an option, but maybe there are ways to get more mileage out of this effect in an ongoing job as well.

It occurs to me that perhaps during the transition of a promotion would be a perfect time to take a break, since that’s the closest to an opportunity to forget the job; just prior to picking up a new one. But still, I doubt I could convince the voice that I really do not need to stress about remembering everything else about the company.

Or maybe I should try the same trick that works for sleepless nights: writing down what I am worried about forgetting. When you write the thoughts milling through your head down, sleep has been shown to follow quickly. Maybe a special “holiday notebook”, note down everything to remember and then stop thinking about it? And don’t plan on doing anything work related at all of course!

Or as a last resort… maybe resigning and getting re-hired around every break is a way to get the same effect ultimately… bit of a leap of faith though.

Day 291 – Destination: US

75 – America’s 100 Best Adventures

Once upon a time I really wanted to visit America. All over. And I guess, to be fair, I still would like to but there are so many reasons holding me back from even the idea.

And no, it’s not “because that’s where the Americans live”.

In the mid-90s I was really hoping to travel there sometime. See New York in winter because of all those movies where they have the big Christmas tree up in winter. See Washington because of the West Wing. California, because… just because.

There was something in right after the turn of the millennium though that changed all that. There was an event that more so than ever before turned the country inwards and fearful. Made it do all kinds of stupid things. Made it less welcoming.

Frankly, I don’t care too much what I might look like to their scanners. Or what a single serving of whatever radiation is involved might do. And I tend to avoid doing anything suspicious that would make the border crossing more uncomfortable than it has to be. But there is something that just inherently rubs me the wrong way about the mindset that would invent the need for all this theatre.

And let’s not even start with the startling gun violence stats. I mean, I’m not actively afraid, because as high as the numbers are, the odds of being involved in something are still reasonably negligible. But it gives me pause that the usual measuring-stick of “is it as dangerous as driving a car” is about to no longer hold for gun violence in the US.

And I’m also not prejudiced against the people. I hear many good stories about their hospitality to visitors… although that might also be favoured by the fact I would be travelling-while-white. Texas, as much as it’s a red-red state and has a lot of people in it that I’d have political differences with, is also known to be one of the most hospitable places in the US.

But I don’t think anything could outweigh my discomfort at the state of the place.
There is a certain unpredictability moment-to-moment about the place.
I’d be on edge for my whole holiday.

One thing I might consider though is flying into Canada, and then crossing just far enough into America to get to New York and Washington. But time might even be running out on that option now that Canada seems to be rapidly stripping away its own common sense. Maybe I should just focus on getting that time machine, because that would solve so many additional problems.

Day 285 – Artful Procrastination

81 – 100 of the Best Street Art Photos for 2013

I’m going to be lazy tonight. Last day of my holiday, and all I want to do is scroll through a page with pictures on it… so there it is. My favourites from the 100 below, but I urge you to have a look at them all in the link above; some really clever art.

1) Street Art in Olsztyn, Poland

Art doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective.

We all just want a hug sometimes

3) Chalk Art by David Zinn

It is better when it interacts with its surroundings.

Just sweep it under the rug

53) Street Art in Berlin, Germany

It re-defines something that already existed.

Titanic ahoi

66) Street Art by Pabi A – In Lund, Sweden

It pushes “outside the box”.

Taking another path

67) Another brick in the wall – In Gorzow, Poland

It can be subtle and easily overlooked.

I’ve got my eye on you

88) Lego house, Warsaw, Poland

It combines similar-yet-contrasting to mutually clarify.

The downstairs appartment

Day 201 – End and Beginning

I feel spacey.

A little like I’m drugged.

Extrapolating from an earlier step-count, I am guessing that today involved around 70k-80k steps. My legs hurt. My ass hurts. My brain does not care. It was too much fun.

Back to work tomorrow.

I have no idea how I will go.

I’m going to crash into turbulent dreams shortly. I will wake, most definitely sore, possibly incapable of movement. If I make it out of bed, work will be interesting. If I make it to 4pm without crashing I’ll be happy.

I guess I need a day to catch up with 3 weeks of email triage.

I have no idea what awaits.

If I did, I don’t know that it’d make any difference.

Day 191 – Glorious Return

Today we returned home from a trip down the coast. I had planned to do a picture post with some of the shots from the trip, but alas, I did not find the necessary time to sort through pictures today.

Our friend Michael was making a rare visit from Malaysia, so that had to take a higher priority than the routine. This is also why Wednesday was held on a Thursday this week, which is still not as bad as getting Wednesday cancelled altogether (I shall have to write about my new-found love of Welcome to Night Vale some other time as well!).

We ate too many appetizers, and too much dinner, and finally too much dessert as well. The scales now hate me. And tomorrow we do it all over again before Michael has to disappear once more.

It’s fun though.

Day 189 – Shower Rod

This is Where One Fishes, Right?
This is Where One Fishes, Right?

I don’t fish. Not unless someone baits my hook and deals with whatever might end on it for me. I enjoy the peace and quiet of standing at the water well enough, and holding a rod is kinda relaxing at the same time… but fishing as such is just not for me.

Abbey went for a nice fishing trip today. She brought a whole bunch of gear along and trekked off while I was relaxing, reading my book and drinking a glass of wine.

Alas, no luck with the fish.

I was a little surprised by what I found in the shower later in the evening though. I have to assume that this is the usual way in which one cleans the rod after use. I have no other information to go on.

I hope it’s out of the way in the morning when I shower, because there are places I don’t want the hook to accidentally end up.

Day 178 – So Tired

… but in the good way!

I braved the biggest slides tonight to separate my last work day from my holiday. And all it took was some serious egging-on from Holly. It was… an experience.

But it was also very good.
Now my system is crashing though, and I need sleep.
I could try to fight it, but I think nature will win.

And an early gym class tomorrow, so I better get at least some sleep so that I can make it through my cardio. And then tidying; lots of tidying, because after that I’ll feel even better about doing nothing next.