glorious garden

Three weeks ago, we attended the official opening of the flowering season at Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden. A glorious spring morning was a wonderful surprise after a number of inclement days. Enjoying delicious sandwiches and scones, we were entertained by David Turner while taking in the view from the balcony across Lakes Grebe and Pearl.

1.Lake Grebe2.Lake Grebe & Lake Pearl3.Lake Pearl

Edgar the emu dressed for the occasion.

Following a welcome and introduction from garden manager, Geoff Wood, and an entertaining speech by Bill Lawson AM, we set off in the sunshine to explore.

14.path

Though still early in the season, there were some spectacular blooms.

The main gazebo was just visible through the foliage.

19.main gazebo

We passed the colourful Chinese Pavilion

24.Chinese Pavilion25.Chinese Pavilion

and crossed the Japanese footbridge

26.Japanese foot bridge

to the ceremonial teahouse.

28.Japanese Tea House

It would be a lovely setting for a picnic,

on the edge of the tranquil Sea of Japan.

30.Sea of Japan

The path to the Japanese covered bridge

33.Japanese Covered Bridge

was edged with more floral delights.

The bridge overlooks the Sea of Japan, an island affords a peaceful haven to enjoy a spot of fishing.

44.Japanese covered bridge

41.island, Sea of Japan

Across the lawn, a stone pathway leads back to the tea house.

45.Japanese Tea House

The lawned area adjacent to the covered bridge is a popular wedding venue, it’s easy to see why.

46.Sea of Japan

A few cherry blossoms were blooming in readiness for the Cherry Blossom Celebration on 19th October.

47.Cherry blossom

The American Gazebo rests sedately on the shore of Lake Pearl.

We returned to the tea rooms

50.Tea rooms

around the edge of Lake Grebe,

52.fountain, Lake Grebe51.Tea rooms

across Olympus Bridge.

53.Olympus Bridge57.Olympus Bridge

As if the day hadn’t already been perfect, we spied a platypus cavorting in the lake. These elusive creatures are not easy to see in their natural habitat and equally difficult to photograph.

If you haven’t yet visited Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden now is the best time, until the end of November, to see these magnificent blooms.

Sharmans Wines

We were running a little early for our lunch date at Josef Chromy and took the opportunity to discover Sharmans Wines, a place we had passed many times but never visited.

1.Sharmans Wines

The vineyard was established in 1986 by Mike and Philippa Sharman and is the oldest existing vineyard in Relbia. It changed hands in 2012 when purchased by Ian and Melissa Murrell who have since redesigned and renovated the buildings. The original Sharmans residence is now a bright, welcoming Cellar Door. It is no surprise to learn that Melissa is a very talented interior designer.

2.Cellar Door3.Cellar Door

8.Cellar Door4.Cellar Door7.Cellar Door

The extensive use of timber, much of it reclaimed from the original boardwalk at the Launceston seaport, enhances the warming ambience. We sampled a few wines at the tasting bench, hosted by a very knowledgeable young woman with beautiful autumn locks. We resisted the opportunity to simultaneously work off the calories whilst quaffing.

9.Cellar Door stools

I can think of no better excuse to take time out and smell the roses.

10.roses

The colours of the flowers are echoed in the bespoke light fittings created from recycled plastic by Melbourne designer Marc Pascal.

The floor to ceiling windows make the most of the spectacular view over the vines to the North Esk River and beyond

14.view15.view

and can be opened completely to incorporate the al fresco dining area.

16.outdoor area

The attention to detail continues through the landscaped gardens and exterior design.

Tasty platters, loaded with Tasmanian produce, are available to savour while enjoying the vista, accompanied by a glass (or bottle) of your chosen tipple. We left Sharmans feeling very pleased with ourselves and our purchases.

Maroondah Dam

The day we had planned for a scenic drive from Healesville dawned wet and windy but, with limited time, we forged on regardless. Ten minutes down the road, we parked at Maroondah Dam and braved the elements to explore the beautiful gardens. Landscaped in the early English style after the completion of the dam wall in 1927, exotic and native trees cohabit. Some had shed the last remnants of their autumn apparel

1.Maroondah Reservoir Park

while evergreen stalwarts proudly displayed their verdure.

2.Maroondah Reservoir Park

The Rose Stairway, constructed in the 1940s, was so named because the stone steps were originally flanked by roses. For some reason, they were replaced around 1980 with Golden Pencil Pines.

3.Rose Stairway

We ascended the stairs to the small rotunda at the top and,

4.Rotunda, top of Rose Stairway

following a signpost to the dam wall, passed another of the five rotundas in the park, the Bell Rotunda.

5.Bell Rotunda

The path led across the dam wall to a lookout on the other side but we weren’t willing to challenge the ferocious wind.

6.dam wall

With camera in one hand and inverted umbrella in the other, I ventured far enough to catch a glimpse of Maroondah Reservoir. The 26,000 acre catchment area is entirely eucalypt forest and no human activity is allowed on the water.

7.Maroondah Reservoir

Risking life and limb, I was determined to get one shot of the temple-like outlet tower.

8.outlet tower

The impressive 41 metre high concrete dam wall is arched to withstand the pressure of the water upstream.

9.dam wall

We beat a not too hasty retreat down the Rose Steps, hoping to avoid spectacular slippage,

10.Rose Stairway

stopping to admire a very late or very early Azalea bloom.

11.Azalea

The towering dam wall is even more dramatic when viewed from below.

12.dam wall13.dam wall

The valve houses have stood the test of time and are even more beautiful wearing nature’s adornments.

14.historic valve house

Seemingly a serene lily pond, the compensation channel is the point where water released from the reservoir flows back into the Watts River.

15.pond

Spring would be the perfect time to explore the park, stroll along the walking trails and perhaps enjoy a picnic. We will just have to return one day.

Josef Chromy

A couple of weeks ago we took Cooper to Launceston for a service, swapped her for a new BMW 120i courtesy car, picked up our lovely friend Deb and wended our way to  Josef Chromy for lunch. A picturesque 15 minute drive from the city, the winery at Relbia was launched in 2007. The cellar door is set within immaculate gardens where carefully trimmed privets, fountains and flowers mingle with majestic mature trees.

1.Josef Chromy Wines

4.outdoor seating5.weeping elm

A popular venue for weddings, the lakeside pavilion is a perfect spot to exchange vows.

6.lake

The view across the lake to the vineyards beyond can be enjoyed whether eating outdoors

7.outdoor eating

or inside the restaurant.

8.restaurant

We took advantage of the week day Winter Lunch Special, two courses and a glass of wine for $45. The complimentary sourdough bread was delicious, as was the 2018 Pinot Gris.

9.sourdough

The main course for the special this day was the Baked Beef Cheek with cauliflower, rhubarb, shaved cabbage, parmesan, parsley & lemon. Coincidentally, it would have been my choice anyway.

10.baked beef cheek

Michael opted for the Wood-Grilled Lamb Rump with baby lentils, baked Elphin Grove celeriac, spring onion & yoghurt. Not being a fan of celeriac, he requested the gnarled root be omitted. Graciously, chef replaced it with baked parsnip.

11.wood-grilled lamb rump

We all chose dessert instead of entrée as our second course, White Chocolate Bavarois was Chef’s special concoction.

12.white chocolate bavarois

The menu offered Hot Chocolate Mousse with leatherwood honey parfait, honeycomb, nashi pear and nib crumb.

13.hot chocolate mousse

Finishing off with coffee, we watched the activity in the vineyard. With 61 hectares to prune and a vineyard stretching for 2km I was grateful to be merely observing.

14.vineyard

Barga

On a perfect sunny spring day, we drove to the medieval walled town of Barga, an easy 45 minute drive from Lucca. We had learned it was easier to park outside these ancient towns and walk in rather than risk inadvertently driving into a pedestrian zone or the wrong way down a one way street. Crossing the bridge, we passed Parco Fratelli Kennedy, named in honour of American President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert, both of whom were assassinated.

1.Parco Kennedy

The old stone aqueduct was built in the 15th century to supply clean water for the fountains and crosses the original moat of the old village.

1a.aqueduct Parco Kennedy

Narrow streets and steep steps hinted at what was to come once we were inside the walls.

Beautiful buildings lined the main thoroughfare

4.beautiful building

as we made our way to Porta Reale, one of the three gates in the medieval city walls. Below the observation tower, the gate still displays the ancient coat of arms of the city.

5.Porta Reale

The layout of the town has remained virtually unchanged since the 8th century, buildings at impossible angles hug narrow lanes, mysterious alleyways and stone steps.

We set off through the web of streets with no real destination in mind, happy to amble randomly in the sunshine. An interesting sculpture caught our eye

10.sculpture

outside the Teatro dei Differenti, Barga’s main theatre. Constructed in 1668 it was deemed too small at the end of the 18th century, a new structure was built on top of the old one.

11.Teatro dei Differenti

Along with the theatre, the adjacent buildings have been beautifully restored.

We decided to head to the highest point in the town once we spotted the bell tower of the Duomo di San Cristoforo.

14.Duomo di San Cristoforo

Our quest took us past the immaculate garden of the Palazzo Salvi,

15.Palazzo Salvi16.Giardino di Palazzo Salvi

less opulent but equally interesting plots

17.garden

and the myriad doorways we had come to expect.

We finally reached the cathedral, a spectacular edifice that I will need to cover in a separate post.

30.Duomo di San Cristoforo

The views across the rooftops to the Apuan Alps and the shrouded peak of Pania della Croce were stunning.

31.view

33a.view

Tearing ourselves away, we meandered back to town in search of sustenance, discovering a memorial garden in Piazza Garibaldi, adjacent to the Museum of Memory. A large sculpture entitled La Vedette (in military terms meaning the forward observer) was unveiled in 2009 on the 4th November, a day celebrated in Italy as the anniversary of the end of  World War I.

We reached Piazza Angelio at lunch time, a popular place in summer for exhibitions and entertainment. The particular shape and almost perfect acoustics of the piazza make an ideal setting for international festivals such as “Opera Barga” and “Barga Jazz”.

16th century poet Pietro Angeli, nicknamed Bargeo, watches over the piazza from the corner of Palazzo Angeli.

The offerings on the blackboard at L’Osteria enticed us in, we weren’t disappointed.

41.L'Osteria

With much of the town still to see, we continued our wanderings in a different direction.

45.narrow street

Colourful homes lined the street

48.colourful houses

and some clung precariously to the edge of the cliff.

49.fabulous homes

All had magnificent views of neighbouring hilltop towns and verdant countryside.

50.hilltop town51.views

The aqueduct and Kennedy Park were behind us

52.aqueduct

as the outskirts of town stretched in front.

53.Villa Buenos Aires

The 17th century Chiesa di San Felice, was quite small and understated when compared to others we had seen on our travels.

54.Chiesa di San Felice55.Chiesa di San Felice

Outside the church was this memorial plaque, apparently dedicated to a Scotsman with an Italian name. It seems Barga has a strong connection to Scotland, with many residents emigrating there in the 19th century in search of work when industry in Tuscany suffered a decline. They won the Scots over with their gelato making skills and, coupled with a knack for cooking fish and chips, made great success out of their cafés and restaurants. Over the generations, some returned to Barga and now sixty percent of the town’s 10,000 residents have Scottish relations. The annual Festival of Fish and Chips, Sagra del Pesce e Patate, celebrates this connection for three weeks each July/August. I can’t find any clues as to the life of Mario Moscardini but I assume he made a considerable contribution to Barga.

61.memorial

Working our way along Via di Mezzo, we found an interesting little face peering out from the wall of a restaurant. It is known as a scacciaguai, a folk magic figure that protects from trouble and harm. Hopefully, the charm has worked for the restaurant of the same name.

62.scacciaguai

Three doors along, we paid a visit to Casa Cordati, a 17th century palazzo that was once the studio of local artist Bruno Cordati.

63.Casa Cordati

It is now owned by his grandson, Giordano, and offers rather sumptuous accommodation as well as an extensive gallery on the first floor. The rooms on this floor have been preserved as they were during Bruno Cordati’s creative years, the views were nothing short of inspirational.

Our exploration of this magical town had come to an end as we reached the Piazza della Santissima Annunziata and the 16th century church of the same name. The 19th century façade was badly damaged by artillery shells in World War II and was later restored.

72.Piazza della Santissima Annunziata

There was only one thing left to do to make the day complete.

73.gelati