Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Midlands

My final Tassie blog is to suggest to anyone driving through Tassie to stop at Oatlands, Ross and Campbelltown. All are considered 'midland' towns on the highway between Hobart and Launceston or Devonport in the north. Ross has long been famous for an historic bridge but all three towns are very up and coming with little homeware stores, antique stores and cafes. Here pictured is the antique store in Campbelltown. It's one of many such shops that you'll find if you take the time to get out of the car and stretch your legs a little. And I did get the chance to look in Coco Blue in Campbelltown too. It's featured in the January Country Style magazine, which is how I knew about it, and it's a gorgeous homewares' store with four or five rooms filled to the brim with funky toys, French Provinical jugs, ceramics and plenty of pretty things to give the credit card a workout!

A charming bookshop and travelogue

I almost forgot to mention a bookshop discovery that I made in historic Battery Point, Hobart. Situated on the corner of Hampden Road and Sandy Bay Road is Kookaburra Books, which houses one of the best second-hand book collections I've seen in terms of interesting titles. Of particular interest was a large selection of vintage children's books with the most richly illustrated spines - perfect for decoration and fun to read too of course! The shop also stocks vintage clothing and has a good collection of teacup trios - of which I'm always on the lookout for pretty English ones. 
The highlight for me was stumbling upon an old volume called 'A Beachcomber in the Orient' - a travelogue from the 1920s chronicling a rather fascinating and madcap journey through South-East Asia. The author, an American, is en route to Singapore when he disembarks in Saigon and then his ship sails without him. He's robbed in an opium den so has to find his way across land (and through a lot of jungle at that) with very little money to be reunited with his traveller's cheques. His adventures are comical and unique. Upon arrival in Thailand (then called Siam) from Cambodia, he's greeted by a party of immigration officials who give him a twenty minute welcome speech that he does not understand. The author reciprocates with his own twenty minute speech, including a recitation of the multiplication tables - for the immigration officials do not understand English. It's certainly an insightful and vivid travelogue! 

Retail therapy in Hobart

As well as fantastic food, Hobart also has some gems of shops for those of us who love a shopping fix. Friends of ours who are locals in Hobart gave us a list of their favourite retail haunts and although the list was only a dozen places long the shops were all lovely. Thanks, Ali and James!
Photographed here are two of my favourites - Store & Co and Ruby's Room, conveniently situated more or less opposite each other. 
Store & Co stocks a wide variety of homewares and bric-a-brac. My friend Sue bought a gorgeous vintage dress there and the shop had wrapping paper, handcreams, furniture, old photos, decorations, mirrors and bags. Somewhere I'd like to visit regularly. 130 Macquarie St.
Ruby's Room (top photo) is the perfect destination for getting presents for the kids in your life. An explosion of colour greets you when you step in the door and I was overwhelmed by the endless range of toys, nursery items, and books. It's got a little of everything that a small child could want and seems to stock the pick of what's available. 127 Macquarie St.

A foodie odyssey continues

As well as berry farms and roadside fruit stalls, Tassie has plenty of great restaurants and cafes. By no means do I profess to know many of them (although I would like to sample them all), but you don't need to look far to see that magazines are constantly featuring them of late - and for good reason. 
Here I just mention a few. In Hobart itself there's a gorgeous little cafe at the back of Salamanca Place whose name escapes me but it's something about a scooter. The cafe is decorated with vintage photos of scooters, gold opulent wallpaper and old scooters themselves. I'm not a coffee connoisseur but friends I travelled with are and we all agreed that the coffee was delicious - as were the muffins (see photo attached). I especially liked their use of old souvenir teaspoons. Turning something a bit tacky into functional and fun.
Second-to-none on the sweet treat rating is the Jackman and McRoss bakery in Battery Point just a short stroll from Salamanca Place. Every time we walked past it it was packed with patrons and they sell the most delicious breads and pastries. I couldn't try them all but the ones I did were mouth-watering. See the middle photo of their cabinet display. I'd live in Hobart for that alone!
And finally, we embarked on a drive around the foodies paradise of the Huon Valley. Every local we mentioned our trip to told us to eat at the Red Velvet Lounge in Cygnet. Four of us and three kids packed in for coffee and cake on their couches. We couldn't get a table because they were all reserved for lunch on a Wednesday. Speaks for itself, doesn't it? And I think their chef was recently a Country Style award winner too. See top photo.

Berry farm delights

Not far from the port of Devonport where you disembark in Tasmania from the Spirit of Tasmania ship is a beautiful berry farm called Christmas Hills. We had breakfast there after an unsettled night at sea and it was the perfect antidote to feeling a bit queasy. It's situated overlooking a pond and trees and there's a great play area for little ones. The menu is indulgent and the food delectable. Who wouldn't want chocolate and raspberry crepes at 7.30 in the morning?!
Thankfully it's not the only berry farm in Tassie. Further away on our travels we visited another. On the east coast near the town of Swansea and the famed Freycinet Peninsula, Kate's Berry Farm has beautiful vistas over the sea and food to match. Photos attached to whet your appetite for this charming place. 

Wanderings and food delights in Tassie

I was lucky enough to have a holiday on the east coast of Tassie and in Hobart over the Christmas period. Hobart is where I spent most of my childhood so it has lots of happy and wonderful memories and invokes nostalgia whenever I visit it. Having visited many cities since I was a child, I return to Hobart as an adult and realise how spectacular and beautiful it is. It easily compares with the Scandinavian cities that I've visited - Copenhagen and Stockholm - for its beauty and position. Some would say it surpasses. Its harbour is full of yachts and a few old sailing ships and bobbing fish and chip boats selling their produce direct. Mount Wellington dominates the skyline and looks down on the city. Hobart has a certain isolation and a feeling of being at the end of the world. While we were there the Aurora Australis left for Antarctica and Hobart really is the last port of call before the great unknown. For some this is disconcerting but I love that it's at the end of the world.
Houses are still comparatively cheap when comparing against other Australian capitals, distances are short, and you can be at great surf spots, in the wilderness or surrounded by mountains or lakes within just an hour or two.
Increasingly Hobart is a trendy place for both foodies and those wanting a calmer, less frenetic lifestyle. While we were there, the amazing Taste of Tasmania Food Festival was on. It's housed in a huge wharf shed and the produce is second to none. Huge punnets of raspberries, grilled lemon chicken and kofta, crepes, game hamburgers, fresh and creamy ice-cream and cuisine from all over. If you want fresh food straight from the producer it's there. 
Tassie takes its food very seriously and wherever you go there are roadside stalls selling the freshest cherries or raspberries or apples or home-made chutneys and jams. Even the water bottles celebrate the Tasmanian love for food (see photo attached).
So, the next few blogs are all about Tassie. Go for a weekend or a month and you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Scent of a house

We all know that flowers bring colour and freshness into a house and a scent that can't be replicated even with the most beautiful candles. Last week I was privileged to have a magazine come to photograph my house and between flowers that I'd bought, flowers I picked from the garden, and flowers they brought with them, the house looked like a mini-florist! We had lillies and roses and berries and gladioli and liseanthus on tables and mantlepieces. They weren't all used in the photographs (and the ones that were were certainly styled better than in my happy snaps above!) but they provided a lovely feel to the house and have lasted throughout the week. If only they lasted indefinitely but I guess that's the charm of them - temporal beauty and new types always in season!

Gorgeous and girly

Away from the main shopping streets of Ballarat is a little gem packed with frilly and feminine treasures. The Vintage China Company sits on the corner of a busy roundabout and is a labyrinth of little rooms filled with dainty aprons, beautiful English teacup trios, French Provincial jugs, Robert Gordon pottery and pretty ornaments. I bought some little Christmas presents and they did the most sublime girly gift wrapping. The shop also houses a beautiful little tearoom, perfect for a girly get together and high tea for any occasion. I haven't sampled their cakes but they look delectable with a great range of tarts and cupcakes and slices. Oh, and there's a newly opened spa on the corner opposite so you could easily combine high tea with beauty treatment indulgence. The Vintage China Company is on the corner of Doveton and Macarthur Streets at 451 Doveton St North, Ballarat. And no, I didn't get paid for this little advert - nor do I know anyone who works there! For all my girlfriends, this could be the place for my next birthday celebration! See

Monday, December 13, 2010

A feast for foodies

We went to the Ballarat Lakeside Farmer's Market on Saturday and there was a palpable feeling of festivity in the air. Not only that but there were so many beautiful berries and summer fruits for sale. Who can resist two large containers of strawberries freshly picked by the berry farmer and then sold to you by the same person? Or locally made fetta cheese or huge bunches of mint and coriander that you can smell metres before you get to the stall? Farmer's markets are all over the place now. We lived in Middle Park in Melbourne in 2008-2009 and used to love the Gasworks Market in Port Melbourne. Now we're a bit closer to the land and the people selling the goods have often only driven a short distance from the farm. Inspired by the fresh produce and seasonal delights, we cooked a lovely meal for friends on Saturday night. It was meant to be a BBQ but the weather just wasn't reliable so instead we made lemon chicken and cous cous, kofta with a yoghurt and mint sauce, fetta, tomato and bean salad, potatos roasted in sundried tomato oil; and then we had oversized fresh strawberries and lemon delicious pudding for dessert. Yum Yum! Dinner was made all the more special because we were eating off plates that used to belong to my Nanna and other old English ones that I'd sourced from a local market.  
The festive season is upon us! If you're local to Ballarat, the farmer's market is on again next Saturday morning. And elsewhere I'm sure there's a plethora of other markets showcasing Christmas and summer treats!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A message for the festive season

Can you believe it's the 1st of December? I thought as we enter the silly season, the season of spending too much money and eating too much, that we should remember to keep calm. Of course the original 'Keep Calm and Carry On' posters were intended to raise optimism and a sense of solidarity and normality for those stoic Brits during WW2. An inspiring message for any occasion really. And don't forget to enjoy yourselves as you rush around and battle crowds in the Christmas rush, as you bake, as you decorate the tree, as you go on holiday. Take a few hours, if you can, to make some gifts or decorations and you'll feel all the merrier for having been creative. I for one am making Christmas cards this year.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hidden treasures

One of the joys of moving to a new town or city is discovering new places. Of course you miss the old and are often nostalgic for places that you romanticise in your mind. When you first move to a new place or even visit a new place, you are only seeing a few layers. It takes time to really understand and appreciate the hidden places and nuances of culture and attitudes in a new place.
I remember when I moved to London that I loved its pulse and energy from the start, I loved its history and its grandeur and its feeling of being at the centre of the world. However, it was a good six months before I felt like I really knew how the transport systems worked, which newspapers were the most informative or interesting, and the reputation of areas. And probably a few years before I really had some insight into the subtle cultural differences between Central London, Greater London and then England. Layer upon layer, you discover a new place. 
Some people say you're not a local to Ballarat until you've lived here for over thirty years! Having been here one year, I'm making a concerted effort to discover how the city works, how the people think, how country living is different to big-city living, and most of all where the best places are to sit, eat and read or relax. As a city with a significant history of the gold-rush era, many visitors to Ballarat would only ever see Sovereign Hill or the Art Gallery. Just like many visitors to London never get past the major galleries, Westminster Abbey, Soho, Kensington or Covent Garden. 
So, pictured is a little bit of hidden Ballarat. A secret spot to sit and sip tea surrounded by beauty. Sssh, don't tell but it's in the Botanical Gardens in the greenhouse.

To market, To market

This morning I visited a beautiful market showcasing young designers and their flare for creating innovative, colourful, beautiful children's clothing and toys. The market was held in a local school hall and was one of the best collections of consistently gorgeous products across all stalls that I've ever seen. I could have easily bought goods from everyone there! From clothing to hair accessories to toys and decorative items, talented young things showcased their hand-made goods. With business names like Little Puddles, Giggles, Cute Little Sparrow, Myrtle and Grace, Little Ray and Birdie Jane, how could they not promote gorgeous goods?
For those of you in the market for gifts for nieces and nephews or your own little ones, the next Sugar and Spice Market will be held on the morning of Sunday 27th February in Ballarat (or the 13th as per the Sugar and Spice blog? TBC). They also pop up at different times in Woodend and Mornington.
Well worth a visit! 

There is a big park in Ballarat, Victoria Park, that reminds me greatly of the untamed, wild and beautiful parks in London such as Richmond Park. Although the Ballarat one has no deer!
Victoria Park isn't a typical Australian park in that it's massive, it's overgrown and there's nothing kept or pristine about it. It's the sort of place where you could drive or ride through and not see another person. Of course this raises a safety issue but for now let's focus on the beauty of it. Here is a photo of an avenue of trees within the park.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Following from my previous blog post . . .

This restaurant menu saddened me a little when I saw it!

Festive fun

It's now November and the year has flown by. All of a sudden I'm seeing displays of Christmas cards in homeware stores and supermarket aisles, bigger crowds in the shops, restaurants advertising for Christmas dinner bookings, and even a few streets decorated. At this time of year there's always a big list of things to do: presents to buy, decorations to make or buy, decisions about where Christmas festivities will be held and summer holiday planning. 
For me, having the opportunity to celebrate Christmas in Europe for four years was amazing as it gave a whole new meaning to the traditions. Firstly, Christmas lights make more sense in the Northern Hemisphere where it gets dark early, and large hot meals are actually needed to warm the tummy and the soul in the Winter cold. I love the pageantry of the celebrations in the places where they originated. Present shopping on Kings Rd or Regent St in London and elbowing through the crowds and escaping the cold in shops, eating strudel and chestnuts in Vienna for Christmas dinner, the Christmas markets in Vienna with their strudel for sale and gingerbread houses, the snow on the Dolomites in Northern Italy. These are just a few of the experiences I was privileged to have.
Now I'm looking forward to donning flip flops, paddling in the sea, BBQs on the beach, long summer evenings and the smell of Aerogaurd in the air to dissaude the mossies! Christmas is a breakfast BBQ with my husband's family and a noisy household full of over-excited kids and piles of Christmas presents which quickly turns into piles of paper and ribbon; Christmas with my family is usually a quieter affair with an informal lunch of salads and cold meats but this year there's three little kids so it'll turn into something more lively. 
I love Christmas afternoons when everyone is full of turkey and pudding and we laze on the couch reading our new books or the blurbs on new DVDs, kids try out their new bikes and we walk along the beach. There's a feeling of wonderful togetherness and relaxation - the calm after the storm of organising it all! Now let the festivities begin . . .

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A book to behold

En route to the beach recently I spotted a sign for a collectables fair in Geelong. Collectables are not really my thing but I thought I'd stop and have a look nonetheless just in case I could get my hands on some treasure - preferably a gramophone which I've wanted for a few years now. My husband obliged and stayed in the car with our sleeping baby. I entered a big hall full of trestle tables with all manner of goods from swap cards to old postcards to vintage toys to books. Ever the bookish type, I made sure to cast my eye over the old tomes hoping to find an old travelogue or history book. I was thrilled to spot a large green title called 'Countries of the World, sixth volume: Siberia to Zanzibar'. I opened it with great anticipation and the opening line caught my attention and told me that I had to buy it: 'Siberia is the land of the future'! OK, so the book was published in the 1920s when there was a very different geopolitical feel to today! When I flicked through its musty brown pages I was very excited to see old black and white photos and to my delight - some coloured photochromes. Even better was at the start of each country or city entry, there is a map. I'm a big fan of looking at maps and seeing how country borders and names have changed over time. It comes from my love of history and examining maps before and after the world wars to see how lines were re-drawn. Of course the dissolution of empires in the twentieth century wreaked havoc on cartographer's lives too as countries changed names and border posts were moved. One of my history lecturers at uni would place overhead projections over each other to see how geography had changed.  I was pulsing with excitement as I looked through the pages and holding my breath that I could afford it. Thankfully the vendor didn't know what a find it was and sold it to me for $5! I'm not an advocate of ripping up books but for that price I thought I could tear out a page or two and not lose sleep over it. Here's a photo of the world map and a picture of Venice that I extracted from its pages. Perfect ornaments for my mantlepiece and wonderful examples of eras long gone. Plus there's even a section on old Hobart, which to me is fascinating as it's where I spent much of my childhood.

A carpet caper

Since buying a small but beautiful rug in Istanbul a few years ago, I have been on the lookout for other Persian-style rugs to adorn my floor. I've seen some beautiful ones but of course the price tag is often hefty - the finer the knots, the greater the wool or silk quality always up the dollars. I thought that maybe I could become one of those people who have an eye for such treasures and snap them up at garage sales, but alas I haven't spotted any carpets for sale - Persian or otherwise. 
As is always the case, it's when you're not looking that you find what you're looking for. I recently went to the farmer's market in Talbot (which I'm sure I've waxed lyrical about on this blog before) and spotted a bric-a-brac shop I hadn't seen previously. There out the front was a rolled up carpet! I was hesitant as I unrolled it as I've unrolled hundreds of carpets while sipping mint tea in Marrakech and Istanbul only to discover that the pattern or colours on the back differ quite a lot from those on the upside. So, I was delighted to discover that this carpet was to my taste and even better cost only $40 (even Ikea sells 'Persian' carpets now for hundreds of dollars!) I don't think it's a particularly fine quality one or even necessarily Persian but I like it and it looks similar to the real ones! Here it is in my lounge room. 
Keep your eyes out for such finds as they are out there if you look long and hard enough!

What's your ideal home?

My friend Olivia has been asking me to write more blogs and reminding me that I've been slack in not doing so. So, I'm going to make a concerted effort to write weekly! I have a photo of a beautiful English manor as my screensaver and it got me thinking about where I'd live if I had the choice of anywhere in the world and unlimited money of course! A palazzo on the Grand Canal in Venice, a villa on Lake Como, a house overlooking the ocean anywhere really, an English countryside manor, a designer apartment in Copenhagen, a pied-a-terre on Paris's Left Bank? These are all places that hold great appeal to me. 
What does your ideal home look like?

Friday, September 10, 2010

A picturesque place

While I'm talking about Turkey, I wanted to share with you these photos of a place called Alacati on the Cesme Peninsula near the city of Izmir on the Aegean Coast. From memory, Alacati is a bit of a drive from other places that would attract tourists, but for me it was worth a stop for its provincial looking stone houses, winding laneways, flower-filed windowsills and trendy cafes. The kind of place where you can just meander and unwind for a few days.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Turkish tiles

Blue and white ceramics, whether they be from China, England, Vietnam, Turkey, Morocco, or Thailand, always catch my eye and usually burn a hole in whatever currency I'm carrying! I have many treasured ceramics from my travels, all of which tell a story and enable me to gaze upon them! I've visited many a palace in various countries where wall tiles adorn and decorate. Bangkok's Grand Palace has some stunning tiles. These photos were taken at Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, namely in the legendary and fabled harem. So, without going into detail about design or history, here they are simply as objects of beauty for you to enjoy.