Southern Swan

Strolling around The Rocks in Sydney one morning, we noticed a magnificent tall ship sailing in the harbour.

1.James Craig

The James Craig, a 19th century barque, was rescued in 1972 from Recherche Bay in Tasmania where she had been purposely sunk in 1932. Restoration began in Hobart before she was towed to Sydney in 1981 where the work was completed and she returned to the sea in 2001.

2.James Craig

Watching her gracefully glide across the water, we knew we wanted the experience and promptly signed up for a twilight dinner cruise on the Southern Swan, berthed at Campbell’s Cove, The Rocks.

3.Southern Swan

Originally named Our Svanen, the three-masted barquentine was built in Denmark in 1922 and traded as a grain carrier through the cold waters of the North Atlantic. She then sailed Baltic trade routes as a cargo vessel for Tuborg brewery until she was purchased as a private vessel in 1969. Since then, she has served as a training ship with the Canadian Sea Cadets, travelled to Vancouver for the 1986 World Expo, sailed to England for the First Fleet Re-enactment and returned to Australia for the Bicentennial First Fleet Re-enactment. She now has a lovely home with stunning harbour views.

4.Southern Swan

For two hours, we sipped champagne and enjoyed a delicious three course meal surrounded by the most beautiful harbour in the world (in my humble opinion). I was fascinated by the ropes and pulleys, works of art with a purpose.

As we neared the magnificent Sydney Heads, Bradleys Head lighthouse, built in 1905, warned of treacherous waters. The mast mounted on the point is from HMAS Sydney, renowned for her battle with the German cruiser Emden in 1914.

15.toward the heads

The tall ships cruise offers the chance of a mast climb challenge. There were no takers this time, possibly because alcohol is not to be consumed prior to a climb and, after all, it was a dinner cruise. Looking up at the mast was enough of a thrill for me.

16.mast17.mast

Our time on the water went by too soon and, as the sun sank in the west, we returned to Campbell’s Cove, another wonderful experience tucked away as memories.

18.mast

the humble bumble

One of the things we noticed on our earlier visits to Tasmania was the presence of the bumblebee, something we had only seen in Britain. I was distracted from my gardening recently by the frenzied activity around the Grevillea.

1.Grevillea

I sat with my camera, trying to capture these gorgeous little creatures at work. Bombus terrestris have round, furry bodies with a yellow band across the thorax and abdomen and a buff coloured tail end.

2.bumble bee3.bumble bee

They were first found in Tasmania in 1992, presumably introduced from New Zealand. Like their honey bee relatives, the bumbles feed on nectar. They lap up the liquid with their long, hairy tongues, sometimes making a hole in the base of the flower to access the nectar.

4.bumble bee5.bumble bee

Our cooler climate doesn’t bother these bees, they can absorb heat from even weak sunshine and are well insulated under their thick coats.

6.bumble bee

Bumblebees are very social insects and, apparently, very smart. There have been many studies on the behaviour of bumbles, I like the idea that they can play football

https://www.nature.com/news/bees-learn-football-from-their-buddies-1.21540

7.bumble bee

Unfortunately, in Australia the bumblebees are considered feral, with some concern that, being such efficient pollinators, they will increase the spread of environmental weeds. However, their decline in Europe, North America and Asia is causing concern as they are important agricultural pollinators. Tomato growers in Tasmanian have fought for years to change the laws to allow them to use bumblebees as pollinators but their applications have been rejected on environmental grounds.

8.bumble bee

Newcastle, Eire

We left Edenderry early morning and headed for the east coast to embark on our counter-clockwise crusade of Eire. We had no accommodation booked, no firm destination. November in Ireland is not a popular time for tourists. We arrived at Warrenpoint around Guinness time and related our previous days escapades to the very friendly barman. He advised us to stick to the coast as, “there is nothing in the middle worth seeing.” Warrenpoint is in Northern Ireland, separated from the Republic by the Newry River. It was the scene of the deadliest attack on the British Army during the 30 year conflict between north and south. Eighteen British soldiers were killed and six seriously injured by two roadside bombs, aimed at their army convoy. The Warrenpoint ambush occurred on the same day, 27 August 1979, that Lord Louis Mountbatten was killed by an IRA bomb aboard his boat at Mullaghmore. The pervasive tranquility belies the violent history, the views across Carlingford Lough were stunning.

1.Warrenpoint looking west2.Warrenpoint Beach looking east

I wouldn’t mind living in one of these apartments.

3.Warrenpoint

The barman suggested staying the night at Newcastle, only twenty miles further up the coast. We called in at the tourist information office for some advice on accommodation. Most of it was quite pricey but there was one hotel that was awaiting star status so, for now, could only be considered one star. We were happy to have a look and found the Avoca Hotel, though not terribly attractive from the outside, was clean and comfortable and they served an amazing breakfast the next morning.

4.The Avoca Hotel

Overlooking Dundrum Bay and the Irish Sea, there were no complaints about the scenery, either.

5.Dundrum Bay

Newcastle became a popular seaside resort in the Victorian era following the arrival of the railway in 1869. The gorgeous buildings along Central Promenade are testament to that time.

6.Central Promenade

They all seemed well cared for, apart from one ‘renovators delight’ in the middle of the row.

7.Central Promenade

The Mourne mountain range, home to Northern Ireland’s highest mountain, Slieve Donard, lends an impressive backdrop to the town.

8.Newcastle, Eire9.Newcastle, Eire10.Newcastle, Eire

As the sun was descending in the western sky,

11.Dundrum Bay

our thoughts turned to refreshments. We had passed a place on the promenade and returned to ponder the menu. O’Hares had a welcoming, rustic atmosphere

and after a Guinness, we advanced upstairs to enjoy a superb meal. On second thought, there may have been more than one Guinness.

15.O'Hare's Guinness

Chillout Bali

I love Asian food. Actually, I love any food. With the exception of offal and brussels sprouts. Consequently, I jumped at the chance to learn more at a Chillout Bali cooking class held at a nearby villa complex. Three of us attended while our fellow travellers did their own thing. Michael enjoyed (or should I say endured?) a massage. If you’ve ever had a Balinese massage, you will know what I mean. The outdoor kitchen was well equipped, with plenty of working space

1.cooking class

and the table was set in readiness for us to savour our concoctions.

2.lunch setting3.lunch setting

Chef Putu had prepared our workstations,

4.Chef Putu

the fresh produce was beautifully presented.

5.fresh produce

Trying to ignore the heat, we set about creating a feast.

6.Chef Kathy

Our competitive streak came to the fore with the art of folding and securing our pepes.

After a morning in the kitchen, we reaped our reward, starting with lumpia semarang, delicious spring rolls.

9.lumpia semarang

Next came soto ayam Madura, a chicken soup from the Indonesian island of Madura. It is more of a complete meal with broth, chicken and vegetables.

10.soto ayam madura

The main event was a work of art. Rendang sapi is one of my favourite Asian dishes, beef braised in spices, herbs and coconut cream. Our offering didn’t disappoint. The banana leaf package had been filled with a shrimp and mushroom mixture, folded and secured with toothpicks, then steamed to perfection. We couldn’t decide who had created the best pepes udang jamur. Accompanied by a tasty helping of sayur urab, rice and some vegetable art, we were most impressed.

11.rendang sapi, pepes udang jamur & urab sayur12.rendang sapi, pepes udang jamur & urab sayur

Fortunately, the finale wasn’t too heavy. The lovely shade of green is from the aromatic pandanus leaves, used widely for desserts, cakes and drinks. Dadar gulung is filled with coconut and palm sugar, a perfectly sweet way to finish a fabulous meal.

13.dadar gulung

Sandridge Bridge

I have never really taken an interest in the unattractive steel footbridge with the unusual sculptures that crosses the Yarra River, until our last visit to Melbourne.

1.Sandridge Bridge

Enjoying a late afternoon beverage at Southbank, I was captivated by the light and reflections on the water and started to appreciate the obscure beauty of the structure.

2.Sandridge Bridge p.m.

I have since delved further. The original bridge and railway line was built in 1853 when Port Melbourne, then known as Sandridge, became a thriving hub thanks to the Victorian gold rush. It was also the first passenger rail service in Australia. The bridge was replaced in 1857 with a timber trestle bridge, built at the oblique angle to redress the issue of the existing tight curve. The current bridge opened in 1888, one of the first in Melbourne to use steel girders rather than iron. The support columns are hollow iron filled with concrete, set parallel to the flow of the river, in groups of three. On closer inspection, each rivet seemed a work of art.

3.Sandridge Bridge p.m.

Even the ornamental pediments are made from cast iron.

The morning light of the new day offered fresh reflective images.

6.Sandridge Bridge a.m.7.Sandridge Bridge

The railway bridge was last used in 1987 and remained, as something of an eyesore, until Melbourne City Council committed $15.5 million for its restoration in 2003. Sandridge Bridge was relaunched in 2006 as a celebration of the indigenous and immigrant history of Victoria, a tribute to those who made the journey by train from Station Pier to Flinders Street Station. Artist Nadim Karam created ten abstract sculptures, representing the different periods of immigration, using more than 3.7km of stainless steel. The artwork is titled The Travellers and the figures move slowly across the bridge in a 15 minute sequence. I must admit, I have never noticed them moving.

8.Sandridge Bridge sculptures

A series of 128 glass panels line the walkway, each one offering information about the origin of the immigrants, in alphabetical order, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. It can take quite a while to cross the bridge, a rest along the way is sometimes in order.

9.welcome swallow

From the north side, nature’s reflections resemble graffiti

10.Sandridge Bridge

and the intricate angles are more evident.

11.Sandridge Bridge

Unlike nature’s graffiti, that of lesser mortals is unsightly and unwelcome.

12.painting over graffiti

Sandridge Bridge may not be the most appealing landmark in Melbourne but it is certainly a great memorial to those who contributed so much, not only to the state of Victoria, but to the nation of Australia.

13.Sandridge Bridge