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

The Conservatory

Over the years of living here in Tasmania, we have made many trips to Launceston. About halfway along the Bass Highway, at a place called Parramatta Creek, there is a fascinating building that has always intrigued us. The conservatory was built 40 years ago by a Devonport man who designed it to house his grand piano.

1.Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory

The mother-daughter team who run the café and providore approached the owner of the building and he eventually agreed to sell. In March 2015, The Tasmanian Food & Wine Conservatory opened. The interior is reminiscent of a bygone era,

2.interior Conservatory

the furnishings are comfortable and inviting.

The beautiful grand piano has pride of place.

The shelves are stocked with 100% Tasmanian goods from the best growers and producers across the state.

I took a stroll around the gardens before lunch, the late spring rewarded with some magnificent blooms.

27.front garden

Returning through the rear entrance,

36.rear view

lunch was served. The menu changes daily to make the most of fresh, local produce. Two of us chose Okonomiyaki; Japanese savoury pancake served with Scottsdale twice cooked sticky pork belly, crushed toasted peanuts, crispy fried shallots, bean shoots, fresh chilli and Thirlstane Gardens coriander.

It was a tough decision between the pork and the Braefield pulled lamb burger on a Pigeon Whole bakery brioche bun with smoky baba ganoush, baby spinach, crispy Brandsema balsamic eggplant and house pickled red onion served with sweet potato chips and tzatziki.

39.Pulled lamb burger

There are also vegetarian options, including a selection of delicious dips.

40.dips

Of course, the local wines are superb. I don’t think we can travel to Launceston without stopping in for, at least, a coffee and cake.

41.not our car42.Tasmanian Food & Wine Conservatory

https://www.facebook.com/Tasmanianfoodandwineconservatory/

Lough Ree

With two nights accommodation booked at Edenderry, we consulted the map and decided to explore the middle of the island. Scotch whisky has been my favourite tipple for as long as I can remember, although I have never really taken to Irish whiskey. Tullamore distillery was only half an hour away so a perfect opportunity to educate my palate. We enlisted the help of Holly (the satnav) who, true to form, deposited us on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere and declared we had reached our destination. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, we returned to the main road and issued the instructions again. She performed a perfect replay of the first attempt, this time we narrowly missed being flattened by an oncoming truck and we realised Tullamore was not on our agenda after all. Back to the main road, we continued to the town of Athlone. The River Shannon was as grey as the sky

1.Athlone

and, although it is the second most populous town in the Midlands, there didn’t seem to be much happening.

2.Athlone

The 12th century castle was closed for the winter season so we reverted to the usual Plan B – a pint of Guinness and a spot of lunch. After a post prandial stroll through the park,

3.park walk

we followed the river

4.River Shannon

until it became a huge inland lake. Lough Ree (Lake of the Kings) is one of three major lakes on the River Shannon. Thirty-two kilometres long, it is the geographical centre of Ireland.

5.Lough Ree

Myths and legends abound with ghosts of high kings and fallen warriors and, of course, a rumoured lake monster lurking beneath the depths.

6.Lough Ree

Small lakeside towns were picturesque in their autumn colours,

7.Lough Ree

though the marina lay empty, perhaps awaiting some warmer weather.

8.Lough Ree

Lough Ree is dotted with small islands, many have ancient ruins of monastic sites from the middle ages.

9.Lough Ree island

It is believed that when out on the water, the eyes of ancient monks peer through the mist and linger in the air. I was pleased to be safely on land.

10.Lough Ree islands

We left Lough Ree and returned to Edenderry for another superb meal and a pint at Larkins.

11.Lough Ree