Queenstown

Queenstown has always been one of those places we passed through on our way to somewhere else. The first time was on holiday in 1998, the barren terrain and torrential deluge didn’t entice us to linger. The largest town on Tasmania’s west coast has changed considerably since then. The early 1900s saw mass logging as the mining town boomed and the expansion of the copper mines left an eerie, lunar landscape bereft of vegetation. The main street is reminiscent of a wild west movie set with Mount Owen towering above re-forested hillsides.

1.Orr Street

We made our way to Spion Kopf Lookout for a different perspective of the town. Tasmania was one of the first British colonies to send volunteers when the second Boer War broke out in 1899. The British suffered a humiliating defeat on a hill in Natal called Spion Kopf, meaning ‘Spy Hill’, and on returning home, the British survivors named stands at their local football grounds ‘the Kop’ to commemorate the fallen. I don’t know if Queenstown had a football ground, but this hill was named for the same reason. There is a poppet head made from materials from the old mine

2.poppet head

as well as a restored cannon, one of two cast at the Queenstown smelters in 1898.

3.cannon

The second cannon was transported to Victoria in 1910 where it was used to fire the royal salute on the coronation of King George V. It was used again in 1918 to celebrate the end of World War I but, unfortunately, it was overloaded with powder and exploded when it was fired.

4.lookout

From our perch, we had a fabulous view of the rather impressive Penghana, built in 1898 for Mr. Robert Sticht, the General Manager of the Mount Lyell Mining & Railway Company. The home certainly reflects the power of a man in his position  and the wealth in the town at the time. Robert Sticht died in 1922 and ten more general managers and their families lived at Penghana until 1995 when the title was transferred to the National Trust. The house is now run as a unique bed & breakfast, I think we need to find an excuse to stay at Penghana.

5.Penghana Bed & Breakfast

The hills surrounding the town still have some regenerating to do and the isolation is evident from this outlook.

6.lookout view7.lookout view8.Mt. Owen

We returned to ground level for lunch at the Empire Hotel, a beautiful, heritage listed building dating back to 1901.

The lobby is dominated by a stunning hand-carved Tasmanian Blackwood staircase. The raw timber was shipped to England, carved and shipped back to Queenstown.

13.Empire Hotel lobby

The tasteful furnishings echoed the era

15.Empire Hotel lobby

and the traditional dining room had a cosy ambience

16.Dining Room

with a beautifully restored ceiling rose.

17.ceiling rose

The menu was extensive but who can go past fish ‘n’ chips on a Friday?

18.fish & chips

Fortified, we were ready to tackle the ’99 bends’, the infamous road between Queenstown and Gormanston that makes us appreciate the innovation of power steering. As the road straightened, we turned off to Iron Blow Lookout, an extended viewing platform over the former open-cut mine.

19.Iron Blow Lookout

Miners flocked to the area when gold was discovered in 1883 but they found the plentiful copper deposits more profitable. The colours were striking on this sunny day.

20.Iron Blow Lookout

The view across the Linda Valley to Lake Burbury was spectacular,

21.Iron Blow Lookout22.Lake Burbury

while the denuded landscape remains as a legacy from the past.

23.Iron Blow Lookout24.Iron Blow Lookout25.Iron Blow Lookout

The nearby settlements of Gormanston and Linda were built for workers of the Iron Blow but both are now ghost towns. The only evidence of former lives in Linda is the haunting remnants of the Royal Hotel. The original structure burnt down in January 1910 and T Kelly rebuilt using concrete to avert any future disasters. The hotel finally closed in the 1950s and the shell still stands despite more recent flames.

26.Royal Hotel, Linda27.Royal Hotel, Linda

We left the west coast behind as we crossed the bridge over Lake Burbury, uplifted by the afternoon sun glistening on the pristine water.

28.Lake Burbury

TarraWarra

I recently spent a wonderful week in Victoria with my very special friend who I met many years ago in high school (she now lives too far away in Darwin). We arrived on flights within an hour of each other (quite a feat from opposite ends of the continent), collected a hire car and drove a circuitous route to our destination, Healesville. After a short visit to a couple of wineries (a little too early in the day for tasting, even for me), we stopped by for a look at TarraWarra Museum of Art. Philanthropists Eva and Marc Besen began collecting works of art in the 1950s and realised their vision of establishing their privately funded museum with the opening of TarraWarra in 2003. The elegant building is the result of a competition between five of Melbourne’s outstanding architects. Allan Powell’s winning design hugs the contours, complementing rather than imposing on the landscape.

1.Tarrawarra Museum of Art2.TarraWarra Museum of Art3.TarraWarra Museum of Art

The scenery is sublime, adjacent to the TarraWarra Estate vineyards

4.TarraWarra Museum of Art5.TarraWarra Museum of Art6.estate

and further afield to the ranges.

7.view

We wandered into the current exhibition, The Tangible Trace, immediately awestruck by the light and magnitude of the gallery. There were numerous glass display cabinets (I now know they are called vitrines) containing stones, tiles, bits of brick and cubes of termite clay.

8.Domino Theory, Simryn Gill

The materials have been collected by artist Simryn Gill from around her studio in Port Dickson, Malaysia, near one of the world’s busiest trade routes, the Strait of Malacca. The pieces are traces of the movement of capital and power and the title, Domino Theory, refers to the Cold War concept that if one country fell to communism, others in the region would follow like dominoes, a policy used by the U.S. to justify its involvement in the Vietnam War.

An abandoned seaside motel in Port Dickson was Simryn Gills inspiration for Passing Through. The series of monotypes were created by placing coloured inks on the small white tiles of the former dance floor and imprinting onto paper.

14.Passing Through, Simryn Gill

The distorted, partially collapsed outline of Australia, Shilpa Guptas Map Tracing #7 – AU, was somewhat disturbing. The copper pipe has been manipulated to change the shape of the border, inviting us to consider the, “porous relationship between inside and out”.

16.Map Tracing #7 - AU, Shilpa Gupta

The large concrete slab covering the floor nearby, another of Shilpa Guptas creations, is engraved with the phrase, “The markings we have made on this land have increased the distance so much” in English, Hindi, Arabic and Chinese. The slab was smashed into fragments on site with the intention that the audience will each take away a piece and at the end of the exhibition, only a trace will remain.

17.engraving on concrete, Shilpa Gupta

The huge paintings of Carlos Capeláns Implosions series filled the walls of the next gallery.

21.Implosion series, Carlos Capelán

Upon entering the gallery, we were asked not to touch the curtains in the hallway as they were, in fact, an art installation. Sangeeta Sandrasegar has created five panels of Indian khadi cotton over-hung with silk organza, hand-dyed with indigo and Australian native cherry. What falls from view covers the windows in the Vista Walk gallery, changing the Yarra Valley landscape outside as the material wafted gently in the breeze.

22.What falls from view, Sangeeta Sandrasegar

The picture framed at the end of the hallway showed nature at her best.

23.view

What could be more beautiful than autumn hues in the morning sunlight?

24.autumn colours

Tramonte Trails

On an overcast morning, we set off to explore the walking trails around the Villa Boccella estate. The Old Tramonte walk follows part of the old road from Ponte a Moriano to the village of Tramonte.

We passed the main villa

3.Villa Boccella

and as we continued up the hill, the views would have been spectacular on a clear day.

4.Old Tramonte walk

I don’t know what was in the cute stone shed but it looked as though the firewood was well seasoned.

We stayed on the main path with an Acacia forest to our right

7.Acacia forest

and pine walk to our left.

8.Pine walk

Sporadic wildflowers added colour to the verdant setting.

The last thing we expected to find in the Tuscan countryside was bamboo.

15.Bamboo walk

We followed Bamboo Walk until, eventually, the woodland changed as we descended along Valley Walk.

16.Bamboo walk

20.Valley walk

Beautiful irises bloomed sporadically in the sheltered lowland.

The track led to the road, Via Tramonte, at the edge of the estate

and we could see the main villa

25.Villa Boccella

and Limonaia Piccola through the gates.

26.Limonaia Piccola

We followed the stone walled boundary of the grounds,

27.stone wall

past a patch of magnificent wild poppies,

28.poppies

to the entrance that would return us to the limonaie.

31.Via Tramonte

There was another walk that would have taken us across the river

32.River walk33.bridge34.river35.bridge

but lunch time was approaching, it would have to wait for another day.

Dublin

It was a very good decision of ours to return to Dublin and revise our initial  impression from our previous visit. Although the sky wasn’t exactly clear, the Liffey River offered stunning reflections of the Ha’penny Bridge

1.Ha'penny Bridge

and O’Connell Bridge.

2.O'Connell Bridge

We opted for a Hop On Hop Off bus experience to make the most of our limited time.

3.Hop On Hop Off bus

We hopped off at Phoenix Park, the largest enclosed public park in any European capital city. The 11 km perimeter wall encloses 1,752 acres, twice the size of Central Park in New York and bigger than all the parks in London put together.

4.Phoenix Park entrance

The name of the park is not related to the mythical bird but the Gaelic expression Fionn Uisce, meaning clear water. The park was originally formed in the 1660s for royal hunting and was opened to the public in 1747.

5.Phoenix Park

We had intended visiting Dublin Zoo which is also within the grounds but we didn’t really have the time to do it justice. We did discover the Wellington Monument, commemorating the victories of the Duke of Wellington. The 62 metre tall obelisk is the largest in Europe and would have been even higher if funding hadn’t run out. The four bronze plaques around the base were cast from cannons captured at the Battle of Waterloo.

6.Wellington Monument

Instead of hopping back on the bus, we walked in the direction of the city centre, stumbling across Old Jameson Distillery on the way. Founded in 1780 as the Bow Street Distillery, the building is now a Heritage Centre displaying the various steps that produce Jameson Irish Whiskey.

7.Old Jameson Distillery

We ventured far enough to admire the magnificent derelict still in the entrance courtyard.

10.derelict still

Continuing on foot, we reached the northern end of O’Connell Street, Dublin’s main thoroughfare. A bronze statue of Charles Stewart Parnell stands at the base of an imposing granite obelisk, a memorial to the founder and leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party in the late 1800s.

11.Charles Stewart Parnell memorial

Having worked up a bit of a thirst, we couldn’t possibly pass Brannigan’s without closer inspection. The pub was named in the late nineties after local policeman James Brannigan, otherwise known as ‘Lugs’. As well as serving in the force for over forty years, he was a distinguished boxer and was known for dispensing his own form of justice.

12.Brannigans

The Nescafé jar was an absurdly incongruous adjunct to the commercial coffee machine.

13.Irish Coffee Machine

We hopped back on the bus to appreciate O’Connell Street from the top deck. The huge Christmas tree was a new addition but apparently Dubliners weren’t too happy about it. The 18 metre structure cost the city €300,000 and would supposedly remain for ten years, thereby saving money that was usually spent each year on multiple trees around the city. Designed by the French firm that created the lighting for the Eiffel Tower, the 100,000 bulbs would look spectacular at night.

14.O'Connell St

With winter upon us, the leafless trees allowed an uninterrupted view of the gorgeous façades along the street. Many of the original buildings were destroyed during the Easter rising of May 1916 but have been beautifully resurrected.

15.O'Connell St

As we made our way back to our hotel, we detoured through Merrion Square where a new memorial had just been unveiled. The pyramid-shaped granite structure is dedicated to the members of the Irish Defence Forces who died while serving with the United Nations. Four bronze figures, representing the Army, Navy, Air Corps and Reserve, stand guard over an eternal flame that emanates from the Defence Forces badge.

16.Merrion Square

The manicured gardens are at the centre of the square and the lovely Georgian houses that surround it have been home to many famous folk including literary notables Oscar Wilde and W.B.Yeats.

17.Merrion Square

I know the Irish are often, unfairly, the subject of ridicule but I can’t help sharing this. I have to question the logic of the placement of the toilet roll holder.

18.Irish toilet roll holder

Illume

Last Saturday brought the first day of winter, a perfect sunny day to drop the top on Cooper and take her for a drive to Boat Harbour for lunch. The restaurant at Killynaught Cottages has borne a few incarnations over the years and we hadn’t yet experienced the latest – Illume.

1.Illume Restaurant

The open fire was welcoming as we stepped through the doorway,

2.fireplace

it wasn’t the only cosy niche to relax with something tasty.

There are two large dining areas indoors,

5.dining area

one with an elegant leadlight window and quirky workstation.

The sun-filled patios are well protected from the elements

8.patio9.patio

and there are outdoor options for the warmer days.

10.outdoor seating

The views are absolutely stunning across rolling green farmland and the pristine waters of Bass Strait.

11.vista12.vista

For those wishing to stay, there are five heritage themed cottages to choose from, all furnished with authentic antiques and memorabilia of the Victorian and Federation eras.

13.Annie's Cottage & Victoria's Cottage

There is a variety of Tasmanian wines on the list, we chose a favourite, Ghost Rock Pinot Gris. Michael ordered the Salt & Pepper Calamari with apple slaw and aioli, a little disappointed at the lack of accompanying fries. We remedied this with a side order. I couldn’t resist the Wood-Fired Braised Lamb with potato mash, sautéed vegetables and honey & ginger dressing. I expected something along the lines of ‘pulled lamb’ and was surprised to see a lamb cutlet centre stage. There were, however, shards of succulent lamb under the solitary chop and the dressing was delicious.

The dessert menu offered the traditional treasures, resistance is futile. The Flourless Chocolate Brownie and Sticky Date Pudding received high praise.

In the name of research (if Crème Brûlée is on the menu, I am obliged to appraise), I ordered Honey Crème Brûlée, not suspecting there was a salty element to the crust. I don’t know if there was a mix up between the salt and sugar shaker in the kitchen but, despite the perfect consistency, I was not enamoured.

19.honey crème brûlée

The presentation of the Lemon Meringue Pie was quite spectacular.

20.lemon meringue pie

Next time, we will try the wood-fired pizzas, they looked amazing.