The Visitors’ Centre at Parliament House opens at 9:00 am. Individual tours cannot be booked ahead and as they are limited to forty and offered on a first come first serve basis, I felt I needed to be there no later than 8:30.
Helped by Ingrid who took me right into the underground public carpark (free) I made my way up to the entrance to be confronted with some hundreds of Asian tourists. I seemed to be on my lonesome and wondered how I could possibly compete with this lot. The doors opened on the dot of nine and I was almost first through for the airline type screening before being able to make my way to the Visitors’ Centre.
I must have looked concerned as an elderly gentleman with the look of a helper asked could he help. I said yes, I was hoping to join the 9:30 am tour but felt that I might be outnumbered. He said you are the first one to register for it as the groups have their own separate tours, and that the best thing I could do was to go up to the Café and enjoy a nice cup of coffee until 9:25.
And I did just that – and a beautiful large caramel latté went down a treat.
By 9:25 am there were no more than twelve of us, all properly badged, to be guided by Eric, the kindly gentleman who allayed my fears of missing out.
It was an excellent tour and Eric was an excellent guide. It is a magnificent building both inside and out and the Australian timbers used so extensively fit the décor of the building beautifully.
Eric gave us a sort of potted history of the House and its predecessor as well as a briefing on the workings and rituals adopted from the Westminster system but in a thoughtfully un-patronising way.
I enjoyed it thoroughly and am glad I postponed my departure so I could do it.
Although, as a non-sitting day, photography was not restricted in any way at all, I limited myself to only one. And here it is, a portion of the huge tapestry that hangs in the Great Hall, based on a painting by Arthur Boyd. I found it very appealing perhaps because I’ve become more Australian bush conscious. Certainly, it is very like some of what I have seen on my trek.
The tour itself lasted a little over an hour and I wandered about for perhaps another half, some of which was taken up waiting for a group to leave the Great Hall so that I could take my tapestry photo.
In much the same way as Ingrid had helped me through and out of Melbourne, she did so again out of Canberra. For whatever reason, there are no signs pointing to Sydney, or at least I saw none, but she got us out and onto the Hume Highway again, in what seemed like no time at all.
I complained about Hume Highway yesterday, but I believe the Canberra Sydney bit is about as boring as it gets.
I made a comfort stop, coffee break at the Service Centre at Marulan just north of Goulburn but couldn’t get back on the road fast enough. The traffic was heavy but being a Sunday there were, thank goodness, few if any trucks.
I checked into MGSM just after 3:00 pm and, thanks to Susanne, this time scored my old balcony room overlooking the lake. It was 30° on my arrival and I’m sure the closed-up room was closer to 35°. Thank goodness for air-conditioning. The restaurant here is closed on Sundays, as are two of my other favourites the Mediterranean and Basil’s in nearby Trafalgar Place.
So, on the recommendation of the young fellow at Reception I drove down to Macquarie Centre and tried one of “Grill’d’s” purportedly to die for hamburgers.
It may have been for him but not for me. The patty had the truly char-grilled look and flavour and was nice enough, but the bun had a soggy bottom and the lettuce and tomato were past their best. But it was what I wanted in the sense of fast-food and at $30.00 for the burger, chips and a glass of shiraz, it wasn’t bad value.
I have had much better at Mcdonalds and heaps much better at the Tuncurry Rock Pool Cafe. So I’m unlikely to be a return customer.
To mark this the final update of my Tasmanian Trek chronicles, I’ll finish what’s left in the bottle of McGuigan Red and “hit the hay”.
It’s been a wonderful journey, and I may do something similar again next year, perhaps Drake Village way.
A foggy morning though not particularly cold – which I guess is why it is foggy.
After another good filling breakfast to set me up for the day, I was all checked-out and off.
The first 40 km or so from the Lodge was on, perhaps not too surprisingly, Cradle Mountain Road. Of the roads I’ve travelled thus far this was by far the best maintained, thanks I guess to its being the route to one of Tasmania’s top tourist destinations. It was however not particularly scenic.
But after the turnoff onto C133, just north of Wilmot, suggested – or perhaps I should say directed – by Ingrid the next 30 km was better. As she has done on previous occasions, Ingrid took me on a convoluted country road but on this occasion instead of dense bushland, it was through the richly fertile agricultural land of an area called Castra.
Preston Falls, which I understand is on private land is reached by a series of steep but not impossible steps down, and through a lovely small pocket of rainforest. The Falls themselves were clearly suffering from the lack of rain in the area but were still worth the visit.
As was the case with all the Falls I’ve visited in Tassie, they must all be spectacular after rain.
A couple of locals who descended on the Falls as I was leaving, recommended I have a look at Penguin. I had originally thought I might get as far as Stanley but, although I didn’t have enough time to do that, I did have enough to have a look at the Penguin they were so enthusiastic about.
While an attractive village right on the beach, access is only over the freight-only railway line that runs from Burnie to Devonport. Having been spoilt with the ease of our access to Main Beach and others in Forster it was not a beach setting that could live in.
I moseyed further East, but the coastline and its sea/rail-side properties became increasingly less desirable. Still with time on my hands, I turned west again to the couple’s other recommendation, Burnie.
I knew there was a Bendigo Bank branch there and I hoped to make use of its ATM. I found Burnie easily enough though I had to resort to a shopping centre multi-storey car park in the absence of any available street parking. But, even with Ingrid’s help in walking mode, the Bendigo Branch bank eluded us. You’ll recall she did this to me before in Launceston when I was looking for the Museum.
I did, however, find a desperately needed public toilet and a Woolies where I could top up Eksy5’s tank and my dwindled banana and apple supplies.
I did not find the city of Burnie in the least bit attractive and not only because its inhabitants could easily have been shipped in from Taree about which I have similar feelings – or that’s how they looked.
One of the places on my list of “sees if you can” was “Home Hill” the former home of Joseph Lyons, his wife, Dame Enid and their twelve children.
The home is owned by the Devonport City Council but is managed by the National Trust.
It is only open for one-hour guided tours at 2:00 pm from Wednesday to Sunday so I thought if I stirred my stumps, I might make it in time. I didn’t, underestimating my driving time from Burnie because I wanted to have a look at what might be on the coast road between Burnie and Penguin. And despite the rail-line, that portion of the coast was more attractive.
But back to my Home Hill visit. I got there at 2:30 pm to be told by one of the volunteers that the tour had already started but that he would ask if I was too late. The guide, Penny, came to the door and said, yes, I was, but if I would like to join the Queensland couple for the second half of the tour, she would be happy to redo the first part for me. How nice was that?
It was a lovely home, large and surprisingly light for its time and full of family memorabilia. That it needed to be large became clearer when Penny explained that the couple had twelve children. Penny was an excellent guide, being as familiar with the house’s and the family’s history as if she had been a Lyons. Not knowing very much about Joseph or Enid for that matter, I learnt a lot in a short time and found it of real interest. An hour well spent.
And, yes, as you may have guessed if you hadn’t already known, Joe was a devout Catholic and Enid (although brought up a Methodist) converted to marry him. And according to Penny became even more devout than her husband. As you might expect, there were religious statues, paintings and crucifixes in almost every room.
This pleasant diversion meant that I arrived at the Ferry Terminal only 30 minutes before the gates opened for our 5:00 pm loading. As a result, I was in my cabin on Deck 7 again right at 5:15.
Although I had been able to access the Internet in my cabin on the trip down (and paid $20.00 for the privilege) I was unable to do so on the northward journey only to discover that access was only supposed to be available in the public areas. My first cabin, being quite close to the public areas, must have been in just the right place. I am not unhappy about internetting in public areas but to find a quiet spot where I could do my thing was just not possible on the Spirit of Tasmania. All of which may explain my doleful message that transmission would be interrupted.
Following Mortein’s good advice “when you are on a good thing stick to it”, I indulged again in the delicious roast pork with the requisite amount of crackling, roast potato, beans and broccoli. It was delicious, as were the tiny pavlovas.
And, before you ask, the trip was an even smoother one than last time – so sleep I did!!
22 March 2019
As anticipated the FILO rule applied and Eksy5 and I would have been amongst the last dozen or so cars to disembark, if that’s what cars do too.
Thank goodness for Ingrid. In the 7:00 am Melbourne darkness, I could never have found my way to the motorway I was meant to use to get out of the city without her. And she does it all with such aplomb. And, unlike another living navigator of recent memory, is infinitely patient with me when I either ignore her or turn earlier than she has directed!
Once out of the city and on to Sydney Road (aka Hume Highway) I soon became disenchanted both with the amount of traffic and a road surface that was very ordinary for an arterial route of this importance. So, after a couple of hours I detoured to Seymour for a comfort stop, a walk around the centre and a visit to Woolies to get my Coffee Milk Morning tea break.
From there I plotted a course avoiding the Hume Highway and enjoyed some good roads still – the Goulburn Valley and Midland Highways in particular. Ingrid however is “time-driven” and four or five times she tried to persuade me to return to Hume Highway and save xx minutes. But she also found me some interesting country roads on which there was little or no traffic.
I have to say, however, that someone should put the “climate change sceptics” in an un-air-conditioned bus and take them on a tour of the countryside. Today would have been a good day to do so not only because of the burnt fields but also the quite strong wind-blown dust clouds across the roads. It would too have been a day that farmers and “firies” both would hate.
At some point we had no option but to re-join the Hume Highway, but it had been good while it lasted. In the end the drive became a five hour rather than a three hour one but was none the worse for that.
At the Best Western Plus Albury Hovell Tree Inn (now there’s a mouthful) I have a large second-floor room with a balcony overlooking what is striving to be a green treed lawn. Parking is under the building and thanks to a lift I could bring my big wardrobe suitcase up to change my Tasmanian cool climate wear for that more appropriate to the summer-like days forecast for the rest of my trek.
Free and good internet access has also meant I was able to get my trek journal up-to-date and the delayed updates away. A good afternoon’s work.
The restaurant was serving only a Sunday Dinner Menu tonight because of a Public Holiday here. I could find nothing in the calendar so perhaps it’s an Albury-only one. The limited menu was fine and even this far from the coast I was still able to enjoy a fishy meal. In this case it comprised an entrée of Crumbed Calamari with Aioli and a main of Baked Salmon, grilled asparagus, new potatoes and myrtle thyme blanc. Both very good indeed.
Tomorrow I am Canberra bound and looking forward to re-visiting the National Gallery. And the reason for my visit is the Pre-Raphaelite Masterpieces from the Tate exhibition “Love & Desire”.
And wot? No photos. Not today I’m afraid. And there may none tomorrow either.
23 March 2019
I got away soon after 8:30 am and took advantage of the quite good diesel discount price here in Albury before hitting the road proper. As I wanted to get to Canberra in plenty of time for my Gallery visit, I had little choice but to brave the Hume Highway. I took a break at Yass, an almost quintessential Australian country town and one I hadn’t visited before, to get my morning coffee from Woolies and my McGuigan Red from BWS.
From there I headed straight for the gallery so that I could have the maximum amount of time there. Although I got to the Gallery at about 12:30 I then had to find parking. The National Gallery carparks were full but, on the off chance that the Portrait Gallery might have a spot in its underground one, we made the gentle descent to find we had a choice of twenty or more. The relief was palpable!!
Fortunately, it is only a short walk past the High Court to the National Gallery. “Love & Desire” was a terrific exhibition and one of the best I have seen.
The audio-visual guide had images and quite detailed descriptions of 20 of what I presume the curator’s thought were the best representatives of the 90 or so that made up the exhibition.
For me, there were some works that were included for I know not what reason but others that I thought should have been that were omitted. I guess that’s why I’m not a Gallery Director.
Standouts were, of course, “Ophelia” and “The Lady of Shallot” but one entitled “Work’ by Ford Maddox Brown that I had not seen or heard of was so full of characters as to be appealing. Depicting a group of labourers digging up the road for a new sewerage and drainage system it was as full of characters from the human and animal world as a Breughel.
Another that took caught my eye, perhaps because of the kilted figure was Millais’ “The Order of Release”. It depicts the wife of a rebel Scottish soldier, who has been imprisoned, arriving with an order securing his release. She holds her child, showing the order to the guard, while her husband embraces her, and his dog jumps up to welcome him back too.
I spent nearly three hours there and only gave in in the end because my legs and back were saying “enough, enough”.
But, having said that I didn’t think there would be any photos today, here’s one:
The four-metre high wax ‘candle’ sculpture, Francesco 2017, by Swiss artist Urs Fischer is continuously melting from the constant heat of a candle flame. The wick was only lit a week ago and will, over the next six months, according to the blurb, gradually melt into a mottled puddle all over the “refrigerator” plinth. You can just see the first drips close to his right foot.
At $1,000,000, which is what the NGA paid for it, it must be the most expensive candle in the universe.
The Best Western Garden City Hotel has seen better times. Having said that I was “upgraded” to a suite – but which scarcely qualified for such a grand description. However, it is very clean – just “tired plus”.
But the surprise of the evening was the in-house dinner. In a rush of blood to the head, and after having had more than a little seafood, I decided to try the ribeye. It was huge and beautifully cooked – as were the accompanying carrot, broccoli and truly buttery mash. I even braved the looks of other diners by gnawing on the bone. It was a Neanderthal’s delight.
As I have a little time in the morning, I am going to try and get on the first tour of Parliament House which longtime friend, Faye Heggie, for one, had recommended. It all depends on my waking and breakfasting in time and being early in the queue for the 9:30 am tour. We’ll see how we go…
An earlier start to the day than usual because I needed to check-in at Gordon River Cruises when they opened at 7:30 am and find out also what the parking arrangements were. Bushman’s doesn’t offer breakfast, so I restricted myself to my usual on-the-run one of maple syrup oat bars and, here, Moccona instant coffee.
The 6-hour cruise was scheduled to depart at 8:30 am – and the return by 3:00 pm left me with me ample time for the two-hour run to Cradle Mountain. Boarding was from 8:00 am.
As it turned out I beat even my own time target but, while waiting for Gordon River Cruises’ doors to open I was able to view the “Spirit of the Wild”. It is a big catamaran but with its dark battleship grey exterior not particularly attractive. It has two passenger decks and an open viewing deck as its third.
I checked in, got my boarding pass and a voucher for the “Council Pay and Display” car park around the corner 100 metres away. Soon after I got back from parking Eksy5 it was time to board.
It may have looked warship-like from the outside, but the interior is all swish comfort with on the premier upper deck angled leather reclining seats beside floor to ceiling windows. I have the window seat from which this photo was taken looking toward the bow.
As we were being shown to our seats we got to choose from a selection of Danish pastries and juices, which proved to be the first of a number of food offerings well-spaced throughout the cruise. This is a copy of the menu beside each seat:
The seat itself was beautifully comfortable and had an airline-like fold out table for dining. We sailed on the dot of 8:00 am and once out into Macquarie Harbour we were soon speeding our way to Hells Gates the 120-metre-wide entrance to the harbour. When I say speeding, she really was, at about 22 knots. Only launched in June last year the very powerful diesel engines with which she was fitted enable her to do so, as do the electric motors fitted for her quiet running mode on the Gordon River.
The impression that you are on an international flight is reinforced by large “follow your flight” type screens like this:
The passage to Hells Gates was as scenic as one could wish for – as this shot shows:
Hells Gates is apparently one of the more hazardous entrances on the Australian coastline and boasts two lighthouses one of which, the “Entrance” is shown here:
We ventured briefly into the Tasman Sea and were informed that if we kept going the next landfall would be in South America. Although warned about the possibility that the boat might roll a little, she scarcely did so in the very calm seas.
From there it was a non-stop and speedy passage of the Harbour to the mouth of the river. We did slow briefly as we passed the very extensive group of fish farms and a brief explanation of their importance to the Tasmanian economy and of the farming process itself. A less appealing aspect of this was the revelation, at least to me, that the fish feed contains Astaxanthin – a chemical that mimics the pigment salmon would normally attain from crustaceans in the wild. It appears that different markets around the world prefer their salmon a particular colour and to decide how much Astaxanthin should be added to the feed, there is such a thing as a “salmofan”, which looks like a paint chart. It shows a scale of different “degrees” of the salmon colour preferred from grey to dark pink. There was a copy of it on the boat.
During this passage we were served our mid-morning canapes – both were very good but the baby cup of potato and leek soup with parmesan crumbs was the standout.
On our entry to the Gordon River, the engines were switched to quiet mode – and they were. Our slower speed also made it possible to make good use of the expansive upper deck – and most of the passengers on what must have been a full boat seemed able to do so without crowding. It is a magnificent waterway and on such a fine, almost cloudless and windless day it could not have looked better. I along with so many others just took it all in in almost church-like silence.
We stopped and dismounted for a half-hour “Heritage Landing Nature Walk” with two guides from the boat pointing out the different tree, fern, and fungi varieties. It was interesting but not enthralling, or at least that’s how I found it.
On our return to the boat, lunch was ready and the buffet looked as inviting as the menu suggested. In an unusual fit of self-restraint, I limited myself to double portions of the ocean trout and the smoked salmon with a crusty bread roll. A gourmet feast deserving of a nice chardonnay but as the designated driver I limited myself to a Boags Premium Light. We kept being asked if we had had sufficient to eat but like most others near me at least, we had done very well.
After the briefest of open-eyed siestas, we were landing at Sarah Island for the second of our guided tours. This hour-long one was led by guides from the Round Earth Company. A penal settlement in the early 1820s it was another “hell hole” like Port Arthur – only worse.
As we moved around the ruins, for that’s all that’s left, our guide related the story of the island and some of those, military, administrative or convict, involving members of the group as some of the characters. In so doing he wove a fascinating if horrifying tale of the settlement.
I had been tempted to stay on the boat and extend my siesta. I’m glad I resisted the temptation.
On our return, we were welcomed with our desserts which, again, were “tops”. With no persuasion at all I chose the blue cheese, crackers and pear paste – twice!
It was a first-rate cruise in every way, and I could not recommend Gordon River Cruises more highly.
It was with some reluctance that I re-joined Eksy5 for the home run to Cradle Mountain. The quality of the road was excellent, though we gave our climbing, descending and wheel-turning a real work-out on the stretch between Zeehan and Rosebery.
On arrival at Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge, I was told my accommodation had been upgraded to a spa cabin which was much bigger than the standard one I had booked. I’m not sure whether they thought I needed the exercise because it is quite a distance from the Lodge and although I walked to and from it last night for dinner if it rains tomorrow as forecast, I’ll drive there. The cabin has everything I need and although not as fully equipped is cosier and warmer than Lake St Clair.
I was unable to get a booking at the restaurant which was no bad thing, given my extended cruise lunch, so I had a quite good Caesar Salad in the Tavern bistro. Lots of bacon but despite getting a mention in the menu, not an anchovy to be seen.
It was not a peaceful experience as that’s where families camping here eat – and last night they were out in marauding and noisy force. I’ll try and get into the restaurant for tomorrow night.
And after my climb back up the boardwalk to my cabin I had no difficulty in that most important of in-activities, sleep.
Wednesday 20 March 2019
A foggy then drizzly then showery morning providing the only excuse I needed to drive down for my included breakfast. A more than adequate hot and cold buffet from which I chose sufficient to get me through until banana time which, of course, it did.
The first really un-touristy type weather I have experienced was well-timed because I was able to complete yesterday’s update and do some washing, drying and ironing to see me through until I get home.
I had last night booked a one-and-a-half-hour tour of the nearest parts of the National Park. It was scheduled to leave at 1:30 pm by which time there was a hint of the sun of which I had high hopes would continue.
When Steve, our driver/guide picked me and one other passenger up from the Lodge it started to shower again and got heavier as we proceeded.
A long-time guide for Peppers, he was informative about the geology, flora and fauna and we were happy to join him at selected stops where he had examples of one or other to show us.
Cradle Mountain itself was almost completely shrouded in cloud and Lake Dove was looking dismally drearier than I remember it.
The lead-up to the highlight of our short tour was, however, our visit to Waldheim Chalet built in the early 1900s by Gustav and Kate Weindorfer, early proponents of the establishment of a National Park. The Chalet was built both as their home and a guest house but after their deaths fell into ruin and was demolished.
In 1976, the National Parks and Wildlife Service contracted a local builder to reconstruct it as it had been at the time of Gustav’s death in 1932 using the same materials. We walked through it and although the rooms had brief explanatory descriptions, it appears to be in need of a refurbishment and improved signage.
Steve then led us through the garden and across the creek up into as good a living example of rainforest I’ve ever visited. That it was now raining heavily and all three of us were soaked, dampened our spirits not at all. It was a short walk but one I won’t forget.
By some good fortune the cabin has a wood-burning heater already laid with kindling and plenty of wood. So even before my warming shower I had it lit and as many of my wet clothes as I could find something on which to hang them out to dry. It looked like the original Chinese Laundry – and still does.
With the heater seriously stoked up, they can continue to dry while I venture down to the Lounge so that I can get yesterday’s update away before dinner.
With continued good luck and the likelihood that the fire will last the night, everything will be dry enough for me to pack for the next leg of the trek.
At this stage, I have planned my route to Devonport and the ferry via Preston Falls and whatever else on the North Coast I have time for.
Dinner was a bit hit and miss – the entrée of scallops sitting on a slice of black pudding would have been better if the scallops were not so small – which may again have been the result of overcooking.
The main course described only as steamed “white fish” (which the waitress could not identify nor made any attempt to find out), was only orright!
How steamed fish fillets could end up tough is beyond me. The bok choy and buttered Dutch carrots were however delicious.
EOM – End of moaning!
Another gorgeously fine day to start me off on the North Western leg of my trek. By some miracle of organisation for which I am happy to take credit, I was awake, shaved, showered, breakfasted, packed and checked out by 8:30.
My first stop was New Norfolk just half an hour out and which would be the last place where I could get my Woolies Rewards discounted (?) diesel – $1.56 /L.
There was also an associated Woolies supermarket on a different site where I was able to top up my banana, apple, water and maple syrup oat bar supplies for the next two or three days.
I timed my arrival at Russell Falls well because I had no trouble finding a spot in the very small main carpark close to the visitor’s centre. Armed with my free “Seniors” Tasmanian National Parks pass, nor did I have any trouble checking in to do the walk, there being only a short queue at the registration desk.
Access to the falls was by a relatively level, quite wide, sealed and thus wheelchair and pram friendly path.
The estimated time of the walk was just 25 mins return but that must have been for a non-stop version. With a number of “wow” and photo stops it took me all of an hour. Ferns line the edges of the path and tall trees abound. These I understood from the pocket guide were giant eucalypts and myrtles though if the crepe myrtle is truly a myrtle, the only similarity would be the name.
Even without the falls, the walk would have been worth the drive on its own. It was beautiful and very photogenic. The falls themselves were blessed with a little more water than Lilydale but with their two-tier formation much more impressive. They must be magnificent after good rain or snow.
There were two other walks, but both involved steep and slippery steps, so I forwent the lung and leg testing challenge. By the time of my return, even with three Park staff manning it, the queue at the registration desk was out through the front door. And there was a grateful driver waiting to nab my parking spot rather than have to drive down the road to the overflow one.
According to the blurb, the Mount Field Park in which the Russell Falls is sited is one of the most popular of Tasmania’s Parks. Being so close to Hobart and very accessible I can understand why. And on as beautiful a day as today, I’m sure the Hobartians saw this a perfect day-trip destination.
To avoid another rutted gravel road experience, I opted to back-track to rejoin the Lyell Highway for my drive to Lake St Clair. This made it a relatively longer drive but an interesting one. I was again able to drive at my pleasurably leisurely 70 or 80 kph making it so much easier to take in what I was passing through. Today included a mix of agricultural properties, old-growth forests, commercial pine forests, vineyards, scrub-covered and obscenely bare logged areas. The road itself was of variable quality but eighty per cent of it would have been at least 100 km/h safe.
Thanks to Tasmanian Hydro I found a good if not particularly scenic lunch stop spot at Tungatinah Power Station next to the Nive River. It boasted covered and open picnic seating, good toilet facilities and coin-operated barbecues. The perfect place to enjoy my bananas, apple and sparkling spring water with a hint of lemon!
The drive weaves its way through the Lakes none of which I detoured to explore but doubtless will sometime in the future. I did stop briefly however beside the Bronte Lagoon where there is a memorial to Surveyors of old. The location was chosen because it is the geographical centre of Tasmania.
And so, to Lake St Clair. I have a so-called “wilderness cabin” at the “Lake St Clair Lodge” and it is. They all, including the waterside ones, look very much like the cabins in a down-market motor camp. But inside it’s a different story, tiny balcony, compact kitchen with fridge and microwave, gowns and slipper scuffs, a fully-tiled bathroom with very modern fittings including a huge shower AND a heated towel rail.
Perhaps intentionally emphasising the wilderness claim the drive to the cabin was something of a challenge as was parking nearby in unmarked and only notionally formed spaces. Having backed and filled I finally got Eksy5 tucked up, but she can stay there until I leave after breakfast in the morning.
Fortunately, the Visitors’ Centre and Restaurant are within walking distance, so dinner and breakfast do not pose a problem – even if the bees or wasps do. Luckily, the Parks Information Office sells a pocket-sized insect repellent spray called “Ouch” and it worked a treat both on the path to the Visitors’ Centre and, necessarily, the restaurant.
There is a café but the offerings there are basic.
The only appealing alternative was the restaurant which, as you will read has a limited menu and is seriously overpriced, but if I wanted a proper meal it would have to do.
From this I chose the Cape Grim Eye fillet which was as good a one as I’ve had in a long time with new potatoes, grilled asparagus and broccoli. Despite its ludicrous $52.00 cost, I savoured every bit of it.
Tomorrow, I hope to detour again to visit Nelson Falls, another purportedly accessible, attraction. I’ll let you know with or without accompanying promotional photographs.
The huge king-sized bed looks inviting, so that’s where I’ll head now….
Monday 18 March 2019
A bracing walk in the 12° cool of the morning to a forgettable breakfast which is probably why it was included in the tariff. An urn with sachets of Nescafe was the coffee offering, for which I substituted what tasted like watered down apple juice.
The 65 km run to Nelson Falls was another scenic but a surprisingly easy one. I was able to stop on one occasion to get a shot of what I thought was an attractive “cloudy mountains” landscape – and while not as attractive as I remember it, it will do:
The walk into Nelson Falls was said to be 20 minutes return – which, for me, was about half of what it actually took. While the pathway was not quite as attractive as yesterday’s, the falls themselves were stunning.
The early part of the road from there to Queenstown was easy and I was even able to saunter along at a really relaxing 60 kph. But the closer I got to Queenstown, even that was too fast to negotiate some of the bends. And the really steep bit down into the town gave Eksy5 and me quite a workout.
I had thought of stopping there but a circuit of the town centre confirmed that little had changed since I last visited possibly in the 70s and it is no more attractive now than we found it then.
Being surrounded by the stripped earth and quarry scarred hillsides, a legacy of the early gold and copper mining days, it has no appeal for me.
After the pre-Queenstown bends, those between there and Strahan were a breeze but even so I took a welcome break from them at the Rinadeena Access Road Lookout. I am glad I pulled in because the view was just beautiful and more than made up for the lack of them around Queenstown.
Despite this diversion, I still arrived far too early to check in to my deceptively-named accommodation site in Strahan, the Bushman’s Cafe. However, in my search for a quiet shady place for my lunch, I discovered the Peoples Park less than a km away. Here I was able to wind down and enjoy my bananas and royal gala apple at one of the many available picnic tables.
But there’s more to the People’s Park than “tables and shade” which sounds like one of those upmarket brand names. It is the home to the Hogarth Falls. The helpful Notice at the entrance to the path advised me that the walk was timed at 40 minutes return. Knowing my pace and that I had already done one shorter “walk” today I took some convincing that I could do it.
But do it I did, even if quite slowly at times. Again, it was worth the effort.
I was able to book in a little after 3:00 pm to one of three first floor “suites”. In reality, it is a most attractive split-level room which I guess could qualify for being described as a suite.
Dinner was on-site. The restaurant has quite a reputation and although heavily booked a couple of tables are kept for house guests. The offerings are quite pricy but as you will see, a bit different.
From this, I chose the “Salmon & Blue Eye”. Chargrilled, it was beautifully cooked and presented but on the night myrtle butter sauce had been substituted for the lime – and that suited me just fine. It comprised six quite large pieces of each fish all of which were moist and plain yummy.
As the distance to Cradle Mountain is relatively short, I thought I would have time to fit in a cruise tomorrow morning. Of the two companies offering cruises, I chose Gordon River Cruise more because their six-hour cruise left half an hour earlier and I thought that extra margin might be good to have to get to Cradle Mountain before dark. Even better was that I was able to get a booking on their new vessel, the “Spirit of the Wild” which, from the website, looked larger and, perhaps, more stable.
Indulging myself, I chose sight-unseen the “Premier Upper Deck” option. The fare was almost as expensive as that for the Bass Strait crossing but it did include two guided tours, lunch, morning and afternoon refreshments and an open bar. So I thought, why shouldn’t I?
I have no recollection of what the bed was like but I slept like the proverbial log which I put down more to my Falls’ expeditions than the glasses of wine at and after dinner.
Another slow start to the day, but this time because I was feeling the effects of all the exercise I indulged in yesterday. No, that’s not true. I just slept in.
But soon after my less leisurely breakfast than yesterday, I was off again. It was a cool but not cold start and a beautiful cloudless day for my return north. The drive from Dover as far north as Geeveston was just beautiful and thanks to some rain that they must have had that others hadn’t it was really quite green. I have got to like driving here on the quieter roads at my own pace and without too much hassle.
I enjoyed too the run around on the Channel Highway but found it less well endowed with spots where I could pull over and get any photos. It was a pity because there were plenty of attractive views but no easy way of capturing them. I can’t recall if you have trodden that path, for lack of a more apposite phrase, but it was well worth the marginally extra time it took and the lighter traffic. It might be more photographically accessible driving south, something I’ll try next time.
The upshot of my faster than planned trip was that I was going to get to Hobart too early to book in. But soon after joining the A6 about 8 km south of Hobart I spotted the sign for Mount Nelson. The Signal Station there was one of the places I planned to visit tomorrow, but asks he, what’s wrong with doing it today? So, I did and ended up not only with some great views but also a scrumptious seafood chowder with mussels, prawns, scallops, fish and Turkish bread at the “Signal Station Brasserie”. And as if that wasn’t enough, my partaking of it was from this window table on the veranda overlooking Hobart and beyond…
I have more photos taken from the Signal Station itself, but they turned out to be better in a panoramic format like this:
Still with some free time, I decided to cross off another destination on my Hobart list, albeit not a tourist attraction as such, the Lady Clark Retirement Village at Claremont. In my earlier searches, it was one of the rental-based ones that looked to me to be attractive. It is 15 minutes North of the city but even with Ingrid, just the drive through city traffic to get there was almost enough for me to turn around. But I hung in there and found it eventually after a couple of uncalled for early turn-offs of my not her choosing.
It is quite attractive but does not have the appeal that I thought it might from the brochure. One thing I think I’ve established is that I don’t want to live in a city anymore, so I’ve now crossed Hobart off my list. That is apart perhaps from Sydney-like cultural or entertainment visits to Hobart from wherever I am down south.
My accommodation in Hobart is at the RACV/RACT Hobart Apartment Hotel. Very swish and priced accordingly but with included under-cover parking and, best of all, within walking distance of the Spiegeltent which you’ll hear about in the fullness of time, it was a good choice.
Dinner tonight only required a walk to and from the lift, so it was very convenient. Called “Charcoal” for whatever reason, the dominating colour of the restaurant and hotel décor is black. I had booked for 6:00 pm but probably didn’t need to because until 7:00 I was the only one in the restaurant.
I again had a window seat, but the view now was of Collin Street from one floor up. Not quite up to the scenic attraction of the Brasserie.
In almost a resumption of “foodie news” from earlier Travel Journal posts I took advantage of the two course special and indulged in an entrée of “Marion Bay chicken terrine, preserved lemon, rye, and pepita” and a main of “Cape Grim short rib, caramelised and charred onion, black garlic, and kale”. The chicken terrine was just beautiful helped not a little by being topped with a crispy piece of chicken skin a là pork crackling. The beef was truly beefy in both texture and flavour though I was less enamoured with the wilted kale and black garlic.
Tomorrow night I’ve booked at a seafood restaurant, the “Blue Eye”, close to the Spiegeltent, of which more later, and I’m looking forward to another Tassie fish meal – of which I seem to have had too few.
With tomorrow now relatively free I thought I might take myself north to Ross and thereabouts which featured in some of Carolyn and Tony’s earlier real estate searches. The towns/villages sounded attractive and it seems a good opportunity to take a look-see seeing I’m here. See?
Saturday 16 March 2019
An encouraging start to the day with an included cooked breakfast – even if there was no black pudding. But the Apple Juice was as fresh and good as it should be on its own island, and the light flakiness of the very large croissant would have gladdened any Francophile.
At 12° it was another coolish morning but, contrary to the forecast, not a cloud to be seen.
When I left at 8:00 for my “Midlands” sweep, I had the streets of Hobart pretty much to myself and it was a pleasant change from having to battle the traffic as I did yesterday.
While the Midland Highway is almost motorway standard for the first 40 or 50 km my good early and relaxed run was challenged by literally km of road works. All I now understand part of the 10 year and $500 million investment being made to bring it up to the National standard, whatever that is.
So, for the next 60 or 70 km there were at least four long sections with reduced carriageway widths and a fluctuating mix of 40, 60 and 80 kph limits.
None of this made for the relaxed sightseeing style of driving I have become used to – and had hoped for. A style of driving not shared by more than a few drivers whose tailgating was all the evidence I needed of their urge to overtake.
With the possible exception of the area around Colebrook, between Jericho and Richmond, the countryside is not nearly as appealing as I remember it. But perhaps that is more a result of the ongoing drought conditions than my suspect memory. Although not as dusty bone dry as parts of Victoria it certainly was browner than anything I had seen south of Hobart.
It was a relief to be able to get off the highway to visit Ross. With its lovely heritage buildings and tree-shaded streets, it was a welcome break. As a means of stretching my legs, I walked down one side of Church Street and back the other – as were a number of other tourists so inclined.
The busiest place was the Ross Village Bakery whose wares I might have sampled had I not had such a good breakfast. From the number emerging clutching brown paper bags with pies peeking out suggested that they may be worth trying on another visit.
On the return leg, I drove through rather than walked the main streets of Tunbridge and Oatlands but found neither as attractive as Ross. Then it was back to negotiating the road works until the turnoff to Richmond at Jericho. Needless to say, the road was not as wide or as good, but I was able again to slip into my more relaxed and sedate progression. A nice drive helped by more green spots thanks to those enormous lateral move irrigation systems and to vineyards around Campania closer to Richmond.
Richmond was alive and well and crowded and it was only with difficulty that I found a park so the I could take the photo I had promised myself I would of the “Bridge”. To do so without including pairs and groups of mainly Asian tourists was not easy and the results are such that I may have to try again at a less crowded time.
It may be a beautiful and historic town but with my increasing aversion to crowds, of the two historic towns, Ross is more my sort of place.
Despite my moans about the road works and those drivers, I am glad I did do my “Midlands” sweep. And why? Because it confirms for me, that as a place to live the Midlands just cannot hold a candle to the Huon Valley.
The choice of the “Blue Eye” Seafood Restaurant for tonight turned out to be a good one, and not just by reason of its nearness to the Spiegeltent.
I had and enjoyed one of the day’s specials which just happened to be a dozen mussels in white wine, cream, butter, and parsley with crusty garlic bread. Harvested near Triabunna they were every bit as big and good as many of the New Zealand green-lipped ones that I’ve had.
And at only $19.50 I was able to add a Leatherwood Honey Panna Cotta with raspberry sorbet without breaking the bank.
It was a beautiful meal in, given the number of regular diners, a clearly very popular restaurant.
Then to the Spiegeltent for “Deluxe, Deluxe”. It was billed as a “Cheeky, Vaudeville-Inspired Variety Spectacular”, and it certainly lived up to that.
Playing to a packed house it was far and away the best and most professional of any show I have seen at a Spiegeltent and for which my ring-side seat was a real bonus. The acrobatics were truly spectacular as were some of the skits, but the key to its success for me was its seamless, now there’s an overused word, continuity. It really was non-stop fun.
I thoroughly enjoyed it and continued to do so even after the “gentle” climb home.
I plan to make a detour to the Russell Falls off my route to Lake St Clair tomorrow and can only hope that it has more water than did Lilydale.
But, if not, I can always take a photo of what’s behind the water when there is any.
I may be off the air for a day or two. There is no internet, nor I suspect mobile coverage at Lake St Clair but there is at Strahan. I’ll just have to see how I go.
The scenery improved as I got closer to Port Arthur and, for me, is much more appealing than the likes of Scamander or Bicheno. My cottage is a water-view one. And to be able to sit in the sun on the balcony with a well-earned cup of coffee and take it all in was as good an after-drive recovery as I could wish for.
Once myself again I toddled down the path to the beach so that I could get photos not only of the beach but my own little “log cabin” as well.
I opted for seafood again for dinner tonight at the on-site restaurant “Gabriel’s on the Bay”. The fish of the day was Trevalla again, so I chose the scallops, described as follows, “Panko Crumbed Tasmanian Scallops served with Chips, Salad, Pickled Ginger & Wasabi Mayo”.
Lamentably, neither the meal or the service lived up to what I had experienced in St Helen’s. The scallops were tiny possibly as a result of shrivelling with fear in the deep fryer. But did I eat them? You bet. Because, after all, it was a long time since breakfast.
Tuesday 12 March 2019
As forecast, it rained overnight, and I woke with the need to turn on the heating before returning to bed until things warmed up. It looked cold and miserable outside, so I took the advantage of having a washer and dryer to keep up-to-date with the laundry.
With washing all dry, the sun came out and I was off exploring. First stop was the Tessellated Pavement, where I got a few photos, but I have to admit that what I saw didn’t appear as attractive as the promotional photos depicted it. But for what it’s worth, here’s one:
Next stop was Maingon Bay Lookout and Blowhole. From the number of cars, and campers in the carpark it looked as if I was going to have to battle the crowds to see anything. I didn’t have to because most of them were there to partake of the offerings of “Doo-lishus”, donating what they didn’t eat to a flock of waiting seagulls.
It did mean however that I did get good views of both bay and blowhole – even if I am bound to say as so many amateur photographers do, the photos don’t do either justice.
Probably because the tide was low, the blowhole was not at what I would presume would be it’s geyser-like best.
The final port of call for the day was the Port Arthur Historic site. The Visitors’ Centre is new since I was last there and really quite impressive. I was able to book for the 3:00 pm 30-minute ferry ride from Mason Cove so had a good hour and a half to wander about on my own. The whole site is a credit to the PAHS management Authority both for its evident care of the grounds and buildings and the friendly welcomes of the reception staff and ferry crew.
The manicured lawns were looking a little drought affected. But the gardens were flourishing, helped I know by the lashings of odorous manure being applied as I trod the path between the gardeners dispensing it.
The ruined Church was as I remembered it and no less moving than it had been on both my previous visits.
The ferry was much larger than I had expected and very modern – and, again, well maintained. We voyaged past the Dockyard, and two islands, the first the location of the “Point Puer Boys’ Prison”, the second where the cemetery was located, the “Isle of the Dead”. Although the many Asian visitors on board probably didn’t understand a word, the commentary was excellent. And as if that wasn’t enough, the fare was included in the cost of entry.
I am so glad I returned even if it meant I missed out on going to the Coal Mines Historic site recommended by the receptionist here. I tried not to make it too obvious what I thought about coal mines and mining.
It was seafood night again at “Gabriel’s”. The fish of the day, I’m not sure what, was nothing to write home about with a too heavy batter and dryish fish. While I would recommend the Stewart’s Bay Lodge as a lovely place to “chill out” I would not recommend eating there.
Wednesday 13 March 2019
A nice early start after my maple syrup muesli bars and coffee breakfast. It was a bracing 9° when I left Stewarts Bay and had only got to 17° when I pulled into the Shopping Centre in Kingston called, I know not what, but where there is a Supermarket and a BIG W. And, almost as importantly, a BWS so I could replenish my McGuigan Red supply. The two I bought with me lasted until last night, so I’ve been doing well.
The drive over from Eaglehawk Neck is a really lovely one and the traffic was reasonable until I got close to Hobart. It was a slow slog through Hobart but once through Eksy5 got the bit between her teeth to attack steep climbs and descents that she must have been built for. Although I must have driven this way before, I have no recollection of how hilly it really was – but we both enjoyed the challenge.
While in Kingston I also took the opportunity to take a peek at the Wellington Vista Retirement Village, one of the few villages that offer rental units. The village itself is quite modern and looks to be well maintained.
It is run by, wait for it, Christian Homes Tasmania, who are Kingston based. They have a number of other villages but of the rental ones, this looked the likeliest if I took that path.
I’ll also take a similar peek at the Dover Cottages across the road from the RSL and run by the Huon Valley Council. I have no doubt that both will have waiting lists, but I wanted to take a gander at them before I add myself to any list. Obviously, the Dover ones have more than a little appeal because of their propinquity to Surveyors Bay, where Carolyn and Tony’s property is located.
I turned off the Huon Highway and took the Esperance Coast Road to get my first look at their block of land. Again, with so little traffic, it was easy to take it slowly and take in the views. What a gorgeous part of the world.
I didn’t time my arrival at 49 Dunn Drive very well though, as no sooner I got there, the heavens opened up on me. I did take a couple of photos but with the Lot Numbers not showing on the “Sold” ones I’m not sure I got the right one.
I’ll do some more Google aerial searches before I return tomorrow. However, whichever lot it is, what a wonderful site for their “rooms with a view”.
I arrived at the Driftwood Cottages in Dover at about 2:30 pm to a warm welcome from Laura – much warmer than the 13° despite the sun having come out again. Each of the waterfront studios is named after one of the Tasmanian woods that feature in their construction. Mine was, appropriately enough seeing I’m in the Huon Valey, “Huon”. And what a view?
Although I was told that the underfloor heating was on, I’ve had to lift it a notch or two to warm things up a bit. I’ll certainly be turning on the electric blanket.
I drove up to the RSL at about 5:50 for dinner only to find that they were fully booked. I must have looked truly forlorn because they kindly found me a spot between the gaming room and the smoking chamber where I was able to enjoy my seafood basket.
As Carolyn had said and Laura had confirmed, the Club serves good honest and good value pub food. Half the price of “Gabriel’s” offering and at least twice as good. I’ve booked for tomorrow night.
Thursday 14 March 2019
A slow start to the day, more because the blackout curtains worked as well as they should have than I was in need of a sleep-in. A leisurely breakfast of my crunchy maple syrup rolled oat bars washed down with a Nespresso coffee was a good start again, however.
Then it was off to Dunn Drive and Big Roaring Beach. While it started cool and cloudy by mid-morning it had turned into a very pleasant and almost warm day. I scrambled through the elasticised gate entry and tackled the slope. I do believe it is steeper in parts than Kamali’s drive on Carolyn and Tony’s property in Berrico, NSW that challenges me every day. But in three stages I did make it to the back fence, from where this panoramic photo is taken:
Up there it was difficult to determine where the side boundaries were and look as I might I was unable to find any surveyor’s peg that might have helped. It really is a magnificent block of land and, if I got the house site location about right, the next view would be the one they should get from their front veranda or balcony or whatever:
It was then time for my walk on the beach. I parked at what I assume was a proper spot at the northwestern end and off I went. I turned left so that, if I was going to walk from end to end there was to be no shirking.
At that end, I found a pair of what I thought was a pair of sculpted sea eagles but there was no signage to confirm my thought or why they were there, so I had to settle just for a photo or two or more, only one of which appears here:
I have just learned from Laura, who came to replace a blown light globe in the dining area, that they are a memorial to a twenty-year-old who was killed in an accident at the Huon Aquaculture plant just up the road.
At the start of my westerly leg I came across this bit of artwork, unlabelled also, but I took a photo of it anyway. It seems to have an aboriginal art feel, but who knows?
I thought it was a good walk and it was – not least because I found out after I got back to Driftwood that the beach is 1.4 km long. On the easterly return leg there was another photo opportunity, but this time of the sky which I thought worth capturing:
By now it was well past my lunchtime. But the beef pie I had at the “Coffee Tree” in the Southgate Shopping Centre had the richest and meatiest filling I’ve had in a pie in many a long year – including Ridgy Didge. Here I also checked out the IGA Express which has a much broader range than I had expected and not just of typically supermarket items.
My last excursion for the day was to hire a launch to explore Port Esperance but as you will see, it was not a success:
At the RSL I was treated to a reserved table by the window tonight – Table No 1, no less.
Here I thoroughly enjoyed the view as well as my ginormous pork loin fillet with apple/walnut/blue cheese topping, salad and chips. It was really very good, even if it was more a Tony-sized serve than mine. And the schooner of light ensured I drove home safely and rounded out my Dover visit with a glass or two of McGuigan’s Red.
I’ll be sorry to leave Dover in the morning. It really is a lovely little place and suitably wind-chill or just plain chill-prepared, a place I’d be happy to live in.
As it is not that far to Hobart, my next stop, I plan to go via Cygnet and around the coastal road through Verona Sands, Kettering and Margate before hitting Kingston again. The forecast is for cloud rather than rain so I might get a few more photos for the collection on the way.
We all got our “tannoy” call at 5:15 am just as the Spirit of Tasmania was docking and were told that the first to disembark would be called to do so at 5:50 am. I had one of the fastest showers on record, something I have no liking for at all, but it did at least give me time for a cup of coffee from the Cafeteria – the Tasmanian Market Kitchen.
Knowing that once disembarked anywhere open for breakfast would be crowded with arriving passengers I decided that I’d hold off until my first stop, George Town, 100 km to the East. On disembarking driving in the dark and misty rain through the streets of Devonport – a city I have not visited before was a considerable challenge. But it would have been a bigger one without the help of my cool, calm and collected “Ingrid”‘s directions, courtesy Google Maps.
It did become easier with daylight and the cessation of rain, but after an hour and a half on the road, by the time I made it to George Town I was truly ready for a break and brekkie. As luck would have it I found a nice café where I was able to sit outside in the “sun”, which had clearly come out both to welcome and warm me. And it was a nice breakfast, if not quite up to the standard set in Sale.
Driving through the centre of town, you could be forgiven for thinking it was small, but with a population approaching 6500 it is bigger than my hometown of Gloucester.
Apart from tourism – and it is a pretty spot – it seems to be dependent on the Pacific Aluminium Smelter for employment and community support.
Next stop was Bridport, 50 km further East, which I remembered only because it was the town with the closest Medical Centre to some of the properties in the NE that were on Carolyn and Tony’s list of “possibles”.
Like many other towns in NE Tasmania, it depends heavily on summer holidaymakers but is also the departure point for travel to Flinders Island by ferry or small plane although I saw no sign of one when I drove past the airport – a plane that is.
Then to Scottsdale, 20 km South. Perhaps I was getting tired of small towns many of which looked one like another, even to the well-preserved weatherboard houses of earlier times. I almost got the feeling that I may have been driving around in a never-ending circle and viewing the same town over and over again.
I have read since passing through Scottsdale (Ingrid would not have permitted more) that it is at the heart of North-east Bible Belt mainly because a number of prominent local citizens are members of the Exclusive Brethren sect.
It must have been that vibe that put me off it.
This area is also home to the Bridestowe Lavender Estate, 15 km west of Scottsdale, but I was not sufficiently tempted to undertake the 30 km round trip to see it out of the flowering season. Well, that’s my excuse anyway.
I had been looking forward to visiting Lilydale Falls, 40 km West, and from the number of backpackers and small tents, it was clearly a popular spot. Perhaps the fact that the campsite is “free” has something to do with that popularity. Anyway, all fired up for Lilydale Falls I started on the 10-minute walk only to find that the first and lower fall had barely a trickle. I might have been tempted to try for the higher second one if a returning walker had not commented in disgusted tones that it had only a trickle too. That comment, the prospect of a steep climb, a sign advising that it was suitable for hikers only and that the track had no handrails decided me. So I took a photo or two of the”trickle” and just retired in good breath and good order.
In the absence of any further planned attractions, I headed for Launceston, 30 km South. I was delighted to find that even at 1:30 pm I could get into my tiny but quite well-equipped apartment at the Leisure Inn’s Penny Royal Complex just up the road from the Inn itself.
And, bless them, within 100 metres was the fully equipped guest laundry where I was able to get up-to-date with all my washing and ironing for a whole $12.00.
I was also able to get up-to-date with my journal some of which I sent but without the photos, because I had used all my allowable Wi-Fi hours for the day. Much muttering under breath and gnashing of teeth followed.
I dined at the unimaginatively named Penny Royal Restaurant attached to the Complex. The menu was more imaginative, however:
From this, I chose the Pork & Chorizo Croquettes and the Slow-cooked Pork Belly “Saltimbocca” (with celeriac remoulade, apple puree and black pudding bon bons). And as you might surmise, I was not in the least swayed in my choice by the “bon bons”! Both were really excellent.
And only because it was included in the cost of my three courses, my choice of the crème brûlée would surprise no one who knows me.
Saturday 9 March 2019
A leisurely start this morning after yesterday morning’s early-call shock to the system. After a healthy breakfast of shredded wheatmeal biscuits and awful instant coffee, I headed for the National Automobile Museum where I spent an enjoyable but not a “wow” couple of hours. The range of vehicles on display was quite small but appeared to be greater by the cunning use of fully mirrored walls.
The star of the show for me was the beautifully refurbished Morris Minor of the same vintage as the one I rented within weeks of getting my first driver’s licence to take Pat to Kamo for her first meeting with my parents. She was not the only one nervous. My driving experience at that time was limited to the instructor’s teaching circuit and that of the testing officer. As a result, my “long” 150 km drive north from Auckland was tentatively slow – taking all of four hours!!
I then set off on foot to visit the Queen Victoria Museum but somehow or other mucked up my entry into the phone and ended up an hour later at the Launceston Public Library. I have a feeling Ingrid is “above” any of this walking stuff and prefers the comfort of Eksy5.
Fortunately, the Library had a small café. Here I was able to properly but, with only one “barista” on, very slowly re-caffeinate and re-enter the correct details for another 45-minute perambulation to the right address.
The Queen Victoria Museum is a small but excellent one. One exhibit of local importance is of material from the “Sydney Cove”. She was wrecked off the NE Coast of Tasmania in February 1797 on her voyage from Calcutta to Sydney. Although the story of a few of the crew that survived is tellingly told, the main part of the exhibit comprises ceramics, pottery, bottles, parts of the ship, leather hides and footwear. The bottles, 22 of which were intact and still sealed, contained what is believed to be some of the world’s oldest beer, wine and spirits recovered from a shipwreck.
With the correct address of the Automobile Museum’s Car Par in the phone, the return walk took all of 10 minutes – but would do me for the day.
I made a quick visit to Woolies at Kings Meadow to get my bananas and water lunch before returning here to complete my update and think about which way I’ll go to St Helens tomorrow.
One thing I had forgotten about Launceston, if I ever knew it, was how hilly it is. Some of the streets are really steep enough to require some heavy braking to keep within the speed limit. Not for that alone, but I’m not now sure I would be happy living here as I once thought I might. The vibe is just not me!!
Before I left Berrico I had an email from my brother Peter that one of his and Sue’s boys, David and his partner Lyndall would be in Tasmania while I was there and it would be good if we could catch up. I have just heard from David that we are not going to be able to do so. A pity as I haven’t seen him in years. They are in Cradle Mountain today, Stanley tomorrow and Devonport on Monday to get the ferry, by which time I’ll be in St Helens.
But they did get far enough south to be able to say, “we drove past Carolyn and Tony’s block at Surveyors Bay last week – a lovely area.”
I planned to return to the restaurant for tonight’s dinner, but it had been booked for a wedding. Next door, however, was “Brady’s Tavern” an unlikely name for a wood-fired pizza place but that’s what it was. My “meat-lovers” version was fine if a little too meaty even for me!! It went down well nonetheless accompanied by a cold Cascade Light Ale.
And, Pepys-wise, “…and so to bed”.
Sunday 10 March 2019
Fortified by my shredded Wheatmeal biscuit breakfast my first stop was at Woolies in the heart of Launceston, a first-floor supermarket with parking underneath. A beautiful store where I was able to get my lunch bananas and water. It wasn’t busy but nor was any of Launceston at that hour of a Sunday morning, 7:30 am. Then a quick stop at the Bendigo ATM to top up my wallet and I was on my way.
My planned destination was the Little Blue Lake 120 km NE of Launceston. Google Maps had found me a route different from yesterday’s which, thankfully passed through only one of yesterday’s towns, Scottsdale.
The early part of the drive was through farmland which although dry was not as badly so as further north. Then Eksy5 and I faced the winding hilly forest country. Plenty of arm exercise but none the worse for that.
The forests were a mix of old-growth and managed ones of more recent planting but all beautiful. The traffic was amazingly light and being a Sunday not a logging truck to be seen, which meant I could amble comfortably along at about 70 or 80 and not bother anyone. And when an interloper did appear finding a space to pull over to let him pass was not too difficult.
I did pull over for my own benefit at the Sideling Lookout. It had a well-maintained toilet, you know. Apart from providing a timely comfort stop, here I was able to get a shot of the sunny farmland in the valley ahead of me – greener than anything I’d seen thus far. It also gives an idea of how high Eksy5 and I were.
The car park for the Little Blue Lake would not have been more than 200 metres off the highway from which it was a relatively easy walk around the rim. There is a 4WD drive type road that goes in further, but it had sufficient ruts and washouts to deter me from venturing on to it.
At one point there was what looked like the protective panel from the underside of some “cowboy’s” 4WD that had been ripped off and just discarded.
The colour of the lake is blue but of different intensities depending on the light, and I suppose, the colour of the lake bottom. The blues in the photos, therefore, range from a gorgeous true blue to milky blue to green. It was well worth the drive to see it.
I arrived at St Helens at around 1:00 pm after another pleasing passage through a mix of forest and pasture. The Bayside Inn is much as described by more than a few TripAdvisor reviewers, tired but friendly. My room is on the first floor and does have a narrow balcony overlooking the waterfront and here’s a view proving it.
After lunch, I drove up to have a look at the southern portion of the Bay of Fires Conservation area. It was an easier drive than I had been led to expect but I now know where the “cowboy’s” cobbers drive, and at speed.
I was able to get a photo or two of the lichen-covered rocks and a distant one of the white sand for which the area is famed but I ran out of puff in the end and headed back to St Helens. Probably worth a more extensive exploration at another time.
I have booked for dinner tonight at a newish restaurant, “The Wharf Bar & Kitchen” recommended by the hotel’s receptionist. She said that with the “Eight-hour Day” holiday tomorrow, the bistro was likely to be very crowded and loud and may not be too relaxing after a long day’s drive. Very thoughtful of her, I thought!! Or perhaps she’s on commission. Anyway, that’s where I’m dining – and hoping there is some SH seafood on the menu.
And there was. I had six natural local oysters that would make Forster’s Graham Barclay envious. Plump, moist and beautifully flavoured. This was followed by poached and then pan-fried Blue Trevalla served on a bed of Soba Noodles with bamboo shoots and two slim carrots. The oysters were gorgeous, the trevalla was just beautiful and the service excellent. I have no difficulty at all in recommending the restaurant highly.
Monday 11 March 2019 (Tasmanian Eight-hour Day Holiday)
A proper breakfast this morning in the Bistro, on my lonesome. I guess last night’s revellers were still abed. Having said that, with my room furthest away from the bar and bistro, they hadn’t kept me awake.
My drive took me through Scamander, Bicheno, Swansea, Triabunna to Orford. None of them leapt out me as if to say, this would be a great place to live. The countryside continued dry except for some irrigated properties and vineyards. Someone must have decided that the soil, climate or both suited grape-growing because there is some serious money being invested. One property had what must have been 10 or more acres of newly erected trellises (?) waiting for the vines to be planted.
Taking Ingrid at her word, I turned off at Orford onto a C road by name Wielangta on which, although gravel, was the fastest way for me. The road itself was well formed and well graded for the first 10 km where I was tempted to deviate to visit the Three Thumbs Reserve lookout just 2km off my path. It proved to be a good decision as there were some spectacular views from Triabunna around to the south.
All on my own, I made good use of the picnic table for my banana and water lunch fix. But no sooner onto my second banana than three cars arrived, and the exclusivity of my dining area was lost. They, two couples and three young men, were all friendly enough but while they didn’t know it, they broke the spell of peaceful solitude. Nothing for it then but to escape.
The condition of the road deteriorated from then on and for the next 25 or so km, Eksy5 and I suffered as good a shake, rattle and roll outing as we have had since we first tried her out on 4WD tracks in the St Albans area North of Sydney, in 2007 or thereabouts.
Next time I’ll check the roads being recommended so that I can avoid the C roads or long stretches of them.
Faced with the horrendous cost of overseas travel for singles of any age and, in my case, the even more horrendous cost of travel insurance, my horizons have become a little more limited than in days of yore.
Apart from visits there while I was with Woolies, the only other trip to Tasmania was a self-drive one with Pat in the early to mid-1970s. So it seemed to me to be high time to revisit it. But there was another reason.
When Carolyn and Tony originally offered to “take me in”, they had in mind building a “granny flat” on the Berrico property. In the end, neither of us were in a position to fund that, so they generously gave up a bedroom and study and more that I could make my own.
They have long planned to retire to Tasmania and made their first exploratory visit there in September last year. They had hoped that they might be able to find a property that already had a granny flat but, in the end, being unable to find a home (with or without granny-flat) that suited them, they opted to buy a block of land to build on at Surveyors Bay in the Huon Valley. As and when they do so, I will either rent nearby or, if lucky, obtain a place in one of the few retirement villages that offer rental accommodation.
So, apart from being my overseas trip for 2019, the opportunity to view their property and suss out the retirement village housing options was reason enough for me to undertake a self-drive trek to and through in Tasmania.
And here’s where I planned to go:
Saturday 2 March 2019
With surprisingly little traffic the drive down was pleasant and easy. I arrived soon after 3:30 and was able to have a “foots-up” before dinner at MGSM. I chose to stay here partly because it’s a nostalgic favourite but more because it is so conveniently located near the motorway for both my entry into and exit from Sydney.
I was, as always, welcomed as an old friend – and as I had not stayed there for a while really appreciated that.
Being an early diner I was the only one in the restaurant and was persuaded to try the breast of duck. It was not the best of choices being somewhat chewy. The accompanying roast pumpkin and grilled asparagus however made up for it, being beautifully cooked.
Sunday 3 March 2019
I was away by 8:00 this morning for my run to Mollymook. The traffic out of the city and as far as the Bulli Pass was again very easy. Perhaps everybody was at church.
But they must have realised that it was a fine sunny day and accordingly the perfect day to go to the south coast. Caravans, boats and camping trailers almost outnumbered cars and 4WDs at least until Kiama.
I stopped at Kiama to have a coffee but the crowd beat me to it, as they did at Berry.
So I settled on coming straight here to the Mollymook Surfbeach Motel & Apartments, arriving at midday.
As the room wasn’t ready it was suggested I might like to stroll down to the Mollymook Golf Club which has a Bistro overlooking the beach.
After a cleansing ale, I partook of a humungous serving of lamb’s fry and bacon which not only went down a treat but will do me for lunch and dinner.
I might manage a glass of red though.
And, this is the view I had to put up with during lunch.
Regrettably, while I did not have a view from the Motel I did have a nice big room with plenty of space to spread myself about – even if it was only to unpack my shorts for the much warmer weather immediately ahead. And, as always, free Wi-fi is always welcome.
With no sign of any relief in the major bushfires in Southern Victoria, I had been keeping a watchful eye on the road closures. They were unlikely to affect me on my next leg to Gipsy Point, but I may have to make detours for the runs to Sale and then to Port Melbourne if they are still current when I have to go. I’ve been able to download a VicRoads App to the phone into which I can put my routes and which I understand will offer alternative ones if needed.
And, as forewarned, I did restrict myself to just a glass or two of my favourite McGuigan’s Red.
Monday 4 March 2019
A wonderful day.
It is a lovely drive from Mollymook to Gipsy Point. Mostly through State Forest on the Princes Highway which for the most part is in excellent condition. It is a lot hillier than I remember and wigglier too, with some really good corners. There was a deal of traffic from Mollymook to Batemans Bay but after that, I had the road pretty much to myself.
I arrived at Bega a little before twelve and had a wander around the shopping centre where Woolies and BIG W are the anchor tenants. The supermarket is quite new and very spacious, but it seemed to be a bit light on customers. I guess the busy season’s over until next summer!! I didn’t bother with BIG W.
I also filled up Eksy5’s tank, though despite the distance (over 700 km) since the last fill she only needed 67 litres. She’s really economical on long runs.
I arrived here at about 2:00 and was escorted to the same room that Carol and I had shared 12 years ago. The outlook is as good as I remember it, as is its peacefulness.
The property borders a National Park, so I ventured into it in the hope of getting another view of the Genoa river from further down. A large and very smelly mud puddle across the full width of the path would only have been navigable with wellies, so I went into reverse. I could hear plenty of birds but saw none.
But I did come close to meeting what I have since learned was a Lowland Copperhead. He was sunning himself – all metre and a half of him, or thereabouts – and paid me no notice. So, I followed his good example and gave him as wide a berth as the path would allow.
On my return trip twenty minutes or so later he had gone.
Dinner was a quite large Lamb Rack suitably garlicky and beautifully cooked with green beans and enough buttery potato mash to mop up the gravy. Yum, it was.
Tuesday 5 March 2019
This morning I made the short run down to Mallacoota mainly to visit the World War II Bunker that once housed the RAAF Air Navigation and Wireless operations. I had thought it was a radar station, but it was more for the surveillance of all radio traffic in the area transmitted by any ship or plane within listening range. The sources of the signals, decoded when necessary, were then plotted in a Melbourne facility in much the same if more primitive way than the radar ones were plotted during the Battle of Britain.
The museum is in the care of the local Historical Society which, with minimal resources and volunteer staff, have done a remarkably good job. The twenty-minute film on the history of the bunker was very well done and went some way to making up for the relative sparsity of exhibits.
When I arrived at 9:30 there would have been only fifteen or so visitors there. But by the time I left the fifty or so seats were insufficient to accommodate those who wanted to watch the film.
I understood from the lady in the Tourist Information office that despite the Bunker’s popularity, the Society’s inability to recruit volunteers has meant that it now opens only two mornings a week. Not a good omen for its long-term survival unless it can get some grants or sponsors other than the local branch of the Bendigo Bank.
This afternoon I had hopes of joining the Wilderness cruise on the river but there were not enough bookings for the good Captain to justify going out. And, perhaps in support of his decision, the storm clouds rolled in, the thunder thundered, the rain tumbled, so I scurried “home” to my ‘puter.
I had been intrigued by the name Genoa on the road sign to Mallacoota, so after the rain eased I thought I would see if I could find this Genoa and why it justified its name on a road. I found it with no difficulty at all just across the Princes Highway at the intersection that I had turned off to reach Gipsy Point. But after the briefest viewing of what seemed an eyesore of a mix of abandoned and in some cases derelict buildings, I “chucked a u-ey” and headed back. There was a camping ground on the opposite side of the Geroa River so perhaps that’s the attraction nowadays.
Dinner tonight was right up there with last night: Local Eden Mussels in a Laksa style sauce with rice noodles. Quite spicy, but yum.
A couple from Melbourne, Lynn and Fred (I know not whom) invited me to join them for dinner. Both only marginally younger than me, they are also on a self-drive exploration trip albeit somewhat shorter and in the opposite direction from mine.
As Fred has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s I gathered that it may be their last expedition. It was a pleasant and quite extended evening as we shared our interests in travel, genealogy and Sibelius.
Wednesday 6 March 2019
A day of contrasts.
When I left Gipsy Point, it was fine and an acceptable 19° with a top of 24° promised. No sooner had I turned onto the Princes Highway before the heaven’s opened and dumped heavily enough for me to pull over and wait for the storm to pass. The temperature dropped to 16° but the rain cleared enough to move on.
I had originally planned to go to Sale via Lakes Entrance, but with what looked like clearer weather, I was tempted to follow one of the sealed Tourist Drives with a mouthful of a name: Cabbage Tree-Conran Road. By the time I got to the coast about two and a half hours later, the rain had started again, the wind had got up and the temperature had dropped to 12°.
All of which goes part way to explaining why the seaside photo at Cape Conran Coastal Park looks both damp and cold and shot very quickly from Eksy5’s window.
The next one was from a stopping bay overlooking a section of the Snowy River (a different one I suspect from the Hydro-powering one) from the Marlo Coastal Reserve.
I then headed for Lakes Entrance, but it was so wet and windy I gave it no more than a passing glance on the way through.
On the stretch between there and Bairnsdale, the rain was replaced by dust. The countryside on either side of the Highway is bone dry and what soil was left was being picked up to form huge “smoke-screen” like clouds and blown across the road in gusts strong enough to wobble Eksy5.
Both unpleasant to view and drive through.
I was not at all unhappy to arrive in Sale and brew myself a well-earned Lavazza Capsule coffee. It was a fringe benefit that I had not expected in a traditional “country” hotel as the Criterion Hotel markets itself. But while all “olde worlde” outside it is very modern inside.
Having missed lunch, I’m looking forward to seeing what the Bistro has on offer.
And, the Gippsland Rib Eye with “Fondant Potato, Local Beans, Heirloom Carrots, Red Wine Jus”, though at $44.00 pricey by my standards, was as big and as good a steak as I’ve had anywhere.
Thursday 7 March 2019
For whatever reason, no breakfast of any sort is available at the Criterion Hotel. They did, however, recommend the “Red Caff” around the corner – a corner I only found on my second circumnavigation of adjacent blocks.
It was worth finding as I demolished one of the biggest breakfasts imaginable featuring six rashers of bacon, two poached eggs on toasted sourdough AND, sliced chorizo and grilled field mushrooms. And to add to my satisfaction economic rather than culinary, all that cost a mere $17.00
I didn’t try their coffee as the capsule one at the hotel was just fine – and free.
Although the Princes Highway was clear and would have been the shortest route to Melbourne, I opted for the semi-coastal route via Port Albert. If I was ever in any doubt of how dry the country is, the run down to Port Albert proved it. Dry dusty fields, few if any livestock and more than a few properties that looked abandoned.
Port Albert was a very neat and tidy little place where a lot of the early buildings have been well-preserved. Once a very busy port shipping livestock and later gold, it is now more a holiday destination for fisherfolk and surfers. While I understand a few commercial fishermen operate from it still, the boats I saw would grace a marina anywhere.
I found a welcome seat in the sun on the well-kept foreshore welcoming the warmth after the 12° start in Sale. There’s even a photo of “my” seat in the sun:
From there it was a less interesting run than I had hoped for being further inland than I’d imagined but would have known, had I checked the map more closely. But I don’t doubt that it was a whole lot better than The Princes Highway, open or not.
I made a comfort stop at Leongatha and lunched on two perfectly firm bananas from Woolies washed down with a bottle of water. Not for economic reasons so much as to balance the magnitude of my “Red Caff” feast.
My diesel replenishment stop was at the oddly named Woolies petrol canopy at Koo Wee Rup, standing on its lonesome next to the highway kilometres away from the township and the associated Woolies supermarket.
From there it was almost all motorway and horrendously busy and a more than a little daunting. But I made it to the dock by 3:00 pm and was able to get a park near the check-in gate. There were two cruise ships in at the same dock, so the area was almost wall-to-wall people, taxis and shore excursion coaches. Being so close I thought I’d be one of the first to be loaded and so it proved, even if it meant next morning that I was with my other early-bird colleagues, last off.
The cabin is small and more sparsely furnished than I’ve experienced anywhere. Being a twin-bedded one there were, apart from the sheets and light doonas, just two pillows and two towels but that was it. No bath mat, no hand towels or face washers.
So confident was I of the Bass Strait forecast that I gave in to the temptation of a Roast Pork Dinner with new potatoes, broccoli, crisp crackling and gravy followed by two tiny pavlovas. Having read that the food was not good it was a very pleasant and enjoyable surprise.
But the bed was comfortable and the inter-cabin noise was minimal and having taken my Stemetil tablet at 4:00 pm as recommended, sleep was not a problem.
After our not quite as early start at Manchester airport as Roger and Denise’s, we made our Air France hops to Paris – and then to Rennes. There we were met and warmly welcomed by our barge skipper and co-host, Ian Slade. The hour-long drive to Redon, where “Libje” was moored was leisurely and enjoyable – passing as it did through at least one of the villages, La Gacilly, that we would be visiting later in the week.
We were equally warmly welcomed by Ian’s wife, Jane, and shown to our well-equipped and spacious cabin. We loved the light and airiness of our cabin – adjoined as it was by as minute but practical an en-suite as you are ever likely to find.
Regrettably the weather on arrival, and later, prevented us making as much use of the comfy outdoor seating on the foredeck. That it would have been just wonderful in more clement weather was emphasised by the hour or so we did once spend there one evening enjoying the view – and the wine and nibbles served to us by Ian and Jane. That’s not to say that we didn’t make good use of the comfort and warmth of the Wheelhouse both to view the stunning scenery or Ian and Jane’s lock-working skills.
Over the next five days we enjoyed the warmth of Ian and Jane’s hospitality and relished the fresh croissants and fruits at breakfasts, those just too tempting salads at lunch, and just scrumptious dinners – whether prepared by Jane or partaken with Ian and Jane at some of their favourite local restaurants along the canal. And, how could we forget to mention the just great wines that enhanced our repasts.
To complement Jane’s culinary and canal lock-working skills, Ian was not only our expert skipper but our driver/guide on excursions ashore. His knowledge of and love for the region showed wherever he took us – be it to the more than just picturesque villages of Rochefort-en-Terre or La Gacilly, the just wonderful 11th century church in St Gobrien or the standing stones at Monteneuf.
We know the expression “the devil’s in the detail”, but devilish or not here it is:
On our arrival on the barge, we were greeted, too, by two canine supernumerary crew-members, Millie and Pippa – welcoming greetings they repeated each time we returned from an excursion.
While we were settling in, Ian “skippered” us to Malestroit, about 30 kms away, where we were to moor for the next couple of nights. On the following morning, while Ian was motor-cycling back to recover the mini-bus, we had our first walk through the village. On his return, Ian chauffeured us to Rochefort- en-Terre. Rochefort won the village with best flower displays in France so many times that it was eventually banned from entering again to give the others a chance! Although too early for the spring flower displays, we could see why it is so regarded.
After one of Jane’s light but beautiful lunches with accompanying wine – something we became quite readily used to – Ian took us on a guided tour of the Malestroit. Founded in 978, this medieval town with its winding streets has many half-timbered houses with overhanging gables liberally decorated with wood carvings. And what a beautiful village it is – not only because of the things we saw, but also the friendly people. In fact, in every village we visited, one of the real attractions was the friendliness of people whether it was in shops or just on the street. The cheery “Bon Jour” greetings, accompanied as they were by eye contact, were something we’re just not used to – but love.
Next morning we were off to view the standing stones at Montneuf which, unlike the more famous ones at Carnac, are accessible and “touchable” – something that always has appeal for us whether it be a ruined abbey or a piece of sculpture. This smaller version of Carnac was discovered only 30 years ago after a forest fire revealed the alignments. Extensive searches have now revealed over 200 menhirs (upright stones) and several burial sites.
We later lunched at Creperie Mael Trech in Malestroit (a nice enough restaurant – and a favourite of Ian and Jane’s – but we have to say that neither galettes nor crepes are altogether favourites of ours).
After lunch we were barging again, stopping on the way to visit the 11th century church in St Gobrien – which has a just wonderful array of wooden statues. Ian tried to convince us that the village had been founded by a Celt from Ireland named G. O’Brien – and the village was named after him!!
On approaching Josselin, where we would be based for the next couple of nights, we were told that just around the next bend in the river Ouse was one of the best and most famous canal views in France. And there it was – the magnificent chateau of the Rohan family towering above the river.
The next day was something of a walking day, but with our mooring just below the chateau walls, nothing was too far distant – even for Norm.
Regrettably, as the only tour of Josselin Castle (as the Chateau seems to be called) was in French, we really did quite well matching the Guide’s French commentary with the English in our guide booklet. If we missed some of the highlights within the castle itself, this wasn’t the case with the garden which was just beautiful as was the view from the ramparts down over the river.
Flushed with this success, we then made our way up the main street to the heights of Josselin where we found, very appropriately, the “Bois d’Amour”. We had no trouble at all meandering our way – for what must have been an hour or so – along the well-kept paths through both woodland and open areas coming out almost at our mooring. But we still had not visited the Basilica “Notre Dame du Roncier”, built on the spot where, in the ninth century, a peasant is said to have found a wooden statue of the Virgin under a bramble bush.
On the following day, after a walk through the western side of the river, Ian took us on an excursion to the artisan village of La Gacilly. The old main street of this town has been converted over the years into a haven for artists and craftsmen. Each shop now houses a different skill with its own workshop. From glassblowing to wood carvers to artists, La Gacilly has it all. In addition, the village hosts each year one of France’s major outdoor photography exhibitions with large and spectacular photographs decorating the town as well as several galleries – sponsored, we understand by Yves Rocher, who are based here.
Although the exhibition does not open until the summer, there was still a sizeable display from last year – an attraction which we found it difficult to leave to head “home”. We had dinner with Ian and Jane that evening at a fine local restaurant “La Table D’O” and, without remembering what we had; know that we enjoyed it thoroughly.
On Friday morning, the weather was at last kind enough, to allow Carol to enjoy her early-morning cycle on the canal path – Norm meanwhile rested up!! After breakfast, we set sail once more passing beneath the walls of Josselin Chateau and past the old artisan quarter of St.Croix. After several locks and increasingly quieter and more rural scenery, we arrive at the little village of Pomeleuc, where Ian and Jane moor for the winter. After lunch we continued upstream, passing the Abbaye de Timadeuc where monks to this day offer a retreat in peaceful surroundings, before reaching our final mooring place at the market town of Rohan that gave its name to the Rohan dynasty that still owns the Chateau at Josselin.
It was with regret that we recovered our suitcases from the spare cabin to pack for our return home, before heading off with Ian and Jane to a local restaurant for our last dinner with them. And, although the name of the restaurant escapes me, the flavour of the escargot that Ian and I had will not!! Whether garlicky or not, it was a fittingly relaxing finale to what had been one of our best holidays ever.
All of which deserves a sampling or two of what we saw and enjoyed:
If we are leaving the impression we rather liked Llangollen, you’d be right. For, on the next day, we were there again. We had booked a Sunday Lunch cruise with “Jones the Boats” to cross the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct but spent the morning at “Plas Newydd”, the home of the “Ladies of Llangollen” – and what a find that was. The house and garden were an attraction in their own right, but it was the history of the “Ladies” that made it such a fascinating place. Courtesy Wikipedia, this is part of their story and, given the surname of one of the ladies, perhaps our interest will come as no surprise!!
Eleanor Charlotte Butler was a member of one of the dynastic families of Ireland, the Butlers, the Earls (and later Dukes) of Ormond. Eleanor was considered an over-educated bookworm by her family, who resided at the Butler family seat, Kilkenny Castle. Sarah Ponsonby lived with relatives in Woodstock, Ireland. Their families lived only two miles from each other. They met in 1768 and quickly became friends. Over the years they formulated a plan for a private rural retreat. Rather than face the possibility of being forced into unwanted marriages, they left their hometown together in April 1778. Their families hunted them down and forcefully tried to make them give up their plans – in vain. They decided to move to England but ended up in Wales, and set up home at Plas Newydd, in 1780. They proceeded to live according to their self-devised system though they could rely on only a modest income from intolerant relatives. Still, they restructured Plas Newydd to the Gothic style with draperies, arches and glass windows. They devoted their time to seclusion, private studies of literature and languages and improving their estate. They did not actively socialise and were uninterested in fashion. Llangollen people simply referred to them as “the ladies”. After a couple of years, their life attracted the interest of the outside world. Their house became a haven for all manner of visitors, mostly writers, but also the military leader Duke of Wellington, who came to visit, too. The ladies were known throughout Britain, but have been said to have led “a rather unexciting life”. They lived together for the rest of their lives, over 50 years, Eleanor Butler dying in 1829 and Sarah Ponsonby two years later.
It was with some reluctance that we dragged ourselves away to go cruising. And, anyway it was getting close to lunchtime. We found our embarkation point with some difficulty but were welcomed warmly aboard our brightly coloured narrowboat “Eirlys”. Carrying as it does 50 passengers, it was something of a comfortable squeeze, but neither the number of passengers nor the minute galley seemed to faze our chef and his waitresses at all as they served us a very good Sunday roast lunch. This was accompanied by a very non-intrusive commentary about the history of the canal and the aqueduct we were to cross and, of course, the obligatory glass or two of red wine. Again being the chilly sort of day we were becoming used to, we remained in the warmth of the cabin rather than brave the elements – and the height of the path across the aqueduct – as quite a number of passengers did. We did get a couple of photos though, one of which survived the lunch, the wine and the height:
But what about the aqueduct itself, you ask?
Well, here we go, again courtesy Wikipedia:
The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is a navigable aqueduct that carries the Llangollen Canal over the valley of the River Dee in Wrexham County Borough in north-east Wales. Built by Thomas Telford and William Jessop, the aqueduct is 1,007 ft. (307 m) long, 11 ft. (3.4 m) wide and 5.25 ft. (1.60 m) deep. It consists of a cast iron trough supported 126 ft. (38 m) above the river on iron arched ribs carried on nineteen hollow masonry piers (pillars). Each span is 53 ft. (16 m) wide. Completed in 1805, it is the longest and highest aqueduct in Britain, a Grade I Listed Building and a World Heritage Site.
And, on the next day, guess what? Rain again. Still full of steadfastness, however, we were off, again, first to Shrewsbury, where we walked to the Castle before realising we’d been there before – in 2006. Duh!
So, only slightly deterred by Norm’s amnesia and the weather, we headed off to Powys Castle & Garden, another National Trust treasure. It was too wet and cold to view the garden, but we spent an informative hour or two touring the house, and later, I suspect to our surprise the really fascinating collection exhibited in the “Clive of India” Museum. That the collection is here arises from the fact that in 1784, Lord Clive, son and heir of Clive of India, married into the Powys Herbert family, whose family seat is this very castle, bringing the Clives’ vast fortune and art collections with him.
On our last day in the Shropshire area, we went all industrial, visiting the Blists Hill Victorian Town at Ironbridge.
This too was a memorable place and not only because Norm tried to leave the little café where we had had a couple of cups of unremarkable coffee without paying. He was chased down, successfully, by an irate waitress who really was convinced he was doing a “runner”!!
But I digress; we will remember our visits to the Bank where we bought a set of old coins and the Pharmacy with its amazing array of wicked-looking instruments and medicines. One of the items on display was a tin of Zam-Buck that cure-all ointment, which Norm remembered from his youth both as a salve and as a name to describe ambulance-men and first-aid officers in NZ. Doubtless, Derek will also recall the name being used in that way.
Another part of the pharmacy was set up as a Dentist’s surgery of yesteryear, a photo of which Carol sent to our dentist in Sydney!! It was, as you’ll see, equipped with a treadle drill – an instrument of torture that some of you may remember. We also watched what we assumed were enthusiastic volunteers put an old working steam engine through its paces – if that’s the right term.
We enjoyed the visit thoroughly. Proof of Norm’s on-going amnesia was further evidenced by an attempt to visit Chirk Castle for the second time. Neither of us can remember when the first one was but it would have been some time in the last five days!!! Needless to say, we didn’t stay.
As was the case at so many of the places we had stayed, it was with reluctance that we left the “White House” and the warmth of the hospitality Ross and Isobel had shown us – to say nothing of the food, glorious food we had enjoyed!
Today was our last touring day but we managed, as planned, to call into Speke Hall on our way “home’ to Didsbury. Speke Hall is a rare Tudor timber-framed manor house in a most unusual setting on the banks of the River Mersey, not far from the centre of Liverpool. Restored and brought back to life in the 19th century, it is a unique and beautiful mixture of Tudor simplicity and Victorian Arts and Crafts’ aesthetics. We first had a costumed guide for a sneak preview and, later tour of the whole house on our own. This would have been fine but for the unsolicited offers of information by a literal swarm of guides who clearly felt we needed their help! We later escaped to the gardens to wander through and get photos of the first real swathes of bluebells we had seen anywhere on our travels.
We were, fortunately, able to beat the Manchester “rush hour” and arrive back at our Didsbury “home” to find that we had scored a just delightful light and airy loft-style room with skylight windows. Perhaps not surprisingly we spent the next couple of days regrouping and preparing ourselves for the pleasures of barging in Brittany. We walked into Didsbury village each day both to stretch our legs, do any necessary shopping and indulge in a coffee at our favourite coffee shop, Costas.
We usually walked through Didsbury Park as being a more peaceful alternative than busy Wilmslow Road and on the Friday discovered there the chain-saw sculpture entitled “The Owl and her babies”.
And here they are:
On the Saturday evening before our flight to Brittany on the next morning, we enjoyed a convivial and “Yummy” dinner with Roger and Denise at one of our joint favourite eating places “Café Rouge”. It was all you would expect of a dinner with old and dear friends – and provided us with the opportunity to bid them “bon voyage” for their trip to Sicily which left the following morning.
…and what was to follow was just a great way to end what had already been a wonderful tour.