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.