Instagram’s most popular KIWI destination

This was first published in 2016 – do you think the locations for Best Instagram taking are still as popular – or have new places stepped up to be ‘social’ stars?

Waiheke Island is Instagram’s most popular Kiwi destination 

Instagram has named New Zealand’s top ten visitor attractions for 2015, based on the number of images geo-tagged to specific locations. Kiwis and international visitors shared the most pictures fromWaiheke Island. Worldwide, some 80 million images are posted to Instagram every day, making the platform a huge canvas for New Zealand.
Tourism New Zealand General Manager, Australia Tony Saunders said New Zealand scenery is unparalleled so travellers love to capture the spectacular surroundings and share it with their friends and family on social media.
“Thousands of Australians head over to Waiheke Island each year to view beautiful vineyards, olive groves and beaches so we weren’t surprised to see it named the most Instagrammed spot in New Zealand.

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“We get a huge amount of people sharing their photos of Waiheke Island and the rest of the country via @purenewzealand and the hashtag #NZMustDo.  We love that travellers want to share their journey and the stunning landscapes.”

Instagram’s top ten are:

  1. Waiheke Island
  1. Mount Maunganui (@infarawayland)

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  1. Hobbiton Movie Set

 

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  1. Sky Tower
  2.      Lake Tekapo (@danielmurray.nz)
  3.     Piha Beach
  4.  Wanaka Lake Front
  5.  Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa 
  6. Skyline Queenstown

Writer, Bev Malzard visited Hobbiton in August 2017 – and soooooo loved the whole concept of this magical place and she actually did see and meet a couple of Hobbits there – true – cross my heart.

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The pioneer of Aussie outdoor clothes – or looking good while bushwalking

The pioneer of Aussie outdoor clothes – or looking good while bushwalking

Paddy Pallin – the pioneer

“In my early 20s, I purchased my first oilskin jacket, sleeping bag, ground sheet and backpack from the Paddy Pallin store in Sydney – what great gear it was for us young bushwalkers. Paddy was a legend even then, and his exploits were told around campfires in the bush. it’s nice to read this (below) and remember those wonderful days trudging through remote areas of Australia and having a good tent, oilskin and groundsheet that I could trust.” – Travelgaltravels author

From ground sheets made out of his mother’s oilskin tablecloth to establishing one of Australia’s first and number one adventure wear stores, Frank ‘Paddy’ Pallin pioneered the way for outdoor exploring within the country.

Moving from the UK to Australia in the late 1920s, Frank Pallin – affectionately known to friends as ‘Paddy’ – used every spare moment out of his insurance job to head outdoors and explore New South Wales. It was only fitting, then, a series of events and interests following his redundancy in 1930 led to him sewing water buckets and ground sheets, which he later sold to bushwalkers. These were the first steps toward the 13 current Paddy Pallin Outdoor Camping, Equipment and Clothing Stores.
Immersed in the outdoor adventure culture, Paddy Pallin would spend every opportunity right up to his old age exploring the country. In the early years of business, Paddy, his business associate Oliver and son Rob were making their own products under the Paddy Pallin name. As new technologies such as Gore-Tex came into production, the equipment reached new capabilities, which excited Paddy who was fascinated with the thrill of making materials and adventure wear items more durable, reliable and lightweight so the overall experience of the adventurist was improved.
“Paddy (the man) always wanted to get people out walking and that included people who had never tried it before and wanted to give it a go,” says Tim Pallin, managing director of Paddy Pallin stores. “He was very supportive of people right at the beginning of their bushwalking careers and I hope Paddy Pallin, the company, still inspires that today in encouraging more people to get out and appreciate the Australian wilderness and explore.”
Paddy Pallin started in a one-floor building in George Street in Sydney before opening in Katoomba, Jindabyne, Canberra, Melbourne and later, Launceston, which became the first franchised location. Currently there are 13 Paddy Pallin stores throughout the country.
Paddy Smiling

In the 1930s and 1940s, Paddy’s personal expeditions led the way to discoveries of popular walking tracks that are still used today, such as Point Possibility in Morton National Park.

When Paddy’s interest in skiing grew in 1955, so did the Paddy Pallin business. Equipment stocked in Paddy Pallin stores began to showcase some of the newest and best materials for skiing alongside their rapidly growing adventure wear ranges. Initiatives such as the Paddy Pallin Cross-Country Ski Classic and the Paddy Pallin Rogaine orientation program further showcase Paddy’s love for outdoor adventure and youth education.
At the heart of everything Paddy Pallin does is the ethos that the environment and its ecosystems are there to be enjoyed as well as protected. Throughout its 83-year history, Paddy Pallin has sponsored or initiated a large range of protection and education programs in Australia, such as the Paddy Pallin Science Grants, Private Lands Conservation Grants, Humane Society International Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife, and more.
Most of the funds for those initiatives come from the Paddy Pallin Foundation, says Tim: “One of our favourite initiatives is the ‘Don’t Bag The Environment’ program where if a customer doesn’t take a bag for their purchases in store, we put some money aside, which builds up and then we put that into the Paddy Pallin Foundation to go toward all of our activities.”
Today, the Paddy Pallin business continues to be family run with grandson Tim Pallin as Managing Director, son Rob Pallin sitting in the Chairman seat and daughter-in-law Nancy Pallin as director of the company.

Writer, Bev Malzard has wonderful memories of her early bushwalking days; flooded creeks late at night; bivouac experiences in remote bush areas; a snake or two to step over; great food cooked over an open fire; icy cold sips at a fresh mountain stream; gourmet cook-offs with mates when they all carried the surprise ingredients on their back to caves, riverbanks and lonely bush patches . . .lots of fun, plus the odd hangover (she stoically carried a flagon of port in her backpack once). And as you can see by these old pics, we were often a ragged bunch, often -but always at one with nature!

0You always need a good, soft vessel to carry your wine in while trudging through the bush. The smoke in my right hand shows how fit and strong we were then (don’t judge me!). That was a big walk down the Nattai River in NSW.  

 

ART – seeking silos

ART – seeking silos

Silo, so high, so far

Outdoor art is the art of the 21st century. Graffiti has graduated!

The Silo Art Trail that snakes through the wheat belt of Victoria is an inspired outdoor gallery. A couple of hours outside Ballarat and you are on your way.

The concept of having the towering (up to 27m), cylindrical concrete towers as the canvas for murals started with Guido van Helten’s stupendous ‘Farmer Quartet’ in the tiny town of Brim. Wheat silos define the landscape here and honouring the farmers and the history of the silos engaged the entire community – and it was lift off.

Shaun Hossach of Juddy Roller Studios proclaims himself as a ‘one-man unionist’ and does the leg work, negotiating and planning for the casual collective of Australian artists. He originally worked with GrainCorp (major sponsor), Taubmans Paints (the paint supplier), Creative Victoria and got the Government Drought Communities involved in the silo project.

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Silo mural by Julia Volchkova on the Silo Art Trail in Rupanyup, Victoria

GrainCorp’s Luke O’Donnell says that the company is proud to sponsor the Silo Art Trail and more. “GrainCorp supply the decommissioned silos as the canvas, and regard the whole process as a perfect way to hold on to the important legacy that the structures represent and reinvigorate these towns”, he says.

First stop heading north on the 200km trail is at Rupanyup with a double modern silo decorated by Russian artist Julia Volchkova. Seeing the scope of breadth of the art works it’s obvious that this type of work is not for sissies. Cherry pickers have to be ‘driven’. The artists work in all weather, alone, and at a great height at the top of the canvas.

Next stop at Sheep Hills is a four-silo effort by Adnate of children of the local indigenous clan. To be dwarfed by the four lifelike faces is a privilege.

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Mural portraits by Adnate in Sheep Hills, Victoria, on the Silo Art Trail.

And next at Brim is the extraordinary Farmers Quartet. The vision is almost overwhelming with the subtle hues of the landscape blossoming into four characters of the region humbly portrayed. Real people modelled for this and are the modest celebrities of the shire.

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Silo mural of four locals by Guido van Helten in Brim, Victoria. Used as backdrop for episodes of 2017 Masterchef.

Further into The Mallee, in Lascelles is the two-silo artwork by Rone. Here is a man and a woman, fourth generation farmers curving around the soaring towers and as part of the landscape as the mallee root tree.

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Top of the trail is at Patchewollock – a town to dwindling prominence that is the most isolated on the trail. Fintan Magee chose a subject from the only pub in town on his first night in Patchewollock: farmer Nick Hulland who is a reluctant pinup. But he says if it helps the town – he’s happy.

Other work is in preparation for the Silo Art Trail and silos in other states have put their hand up for attention.

We wonder what Norman Mailer (see reference below) would say if he had the good fortune to witness this original and exciting art.

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Now, here’s a silo that could do with a good lashing of paint!

Visit: http://www.siloartrail.com

ART seeking silos

 

THE NEW, OLD ART

Guerilla art is now great art. Walls become artworks and silos the grand canvasses of rural towns. Once was graffiti, is now urban engagement and licence to paint the town red.

It probably began 45,000 years ago in Australia; community minded fellas worked their magic art on to the walls of caves to let passing nomads see what food was available, attractions in the region and objects to be found or maybe just to show off their talent. Rock art galleries started it all.

For thousands of years, human beings have made their mark upon plain surfaces, from stick men to tag-style graffiti.

And when someone criticized the wall vandals of the 80s with the sentence “Punks can’t spell Cappuccino”, that phrase became official graffiti and the wall expression medium had arrived, evolved and gained acceptance by the less-than-art- critical-public.

Pre ‘acceptable’ wall art in New York City, of the 70s gave birth to excessive public graffiti – think subway trains. In one of his essays back in the day, Norman Mailer said New York subway graffiti is “the great art of the 70s”. And it burned brightly until Mayor Ed Koch. elected on a clean-up-the-city every which way platform, scrubbed clean the city. By the mid-80s NYC graffiti had faded quietly and what was left or came later became the acceptable norm.

Across the Atlantic, enigmatic artist Banksy launched his wall art career in his home town, Bristol. Stencils became his medium as his art gained notoriety on a big scale in the late 1990s.

Banksy’s work (below) sneaks up on you. Characteristic of the works are the obvious digs at hypocrisy, violence, greed and authoritarianism but pathos and whimsy are in the creative makeup too.

There have been plaintiff cries of outrage that some of Banksy’s work has been painted over by other artists. No worries. His works and the art of most wall art specialists are not forever, just a fleeting expression from the artists and the topic de jeur.

And at home wall art has changed the urban ‘artscape’ and rural regions. Australia is engaged with a stunning variety of wall/outdoor art that crept in stealthily during the late 90s too. Melbourne had the wall art advantage first up because of the surviving laneways in the inner city. And some of the most creative artists have emerged from the southern capital.

Sydney was a slow starter but every week another piece of excellent art appears on the walls in and around the inner west and on the edge of the CBD. Without a lot of laneways remaining due to concentrated development, the older suburbs snatched the prize.

                      Melbourne.

The big winners for wall art are the small cities and rural towns of Australia with their untouched walls. Professional wall artists including Matt Adnate, Guido van Helten, Kaff-eine, Resio, Rone, Cam Scale and Makatron are working on walls way out of the city and enriching the life of country towns.

The south east Queensland ‘garden city’ of Toowoomba has held the First Coat festival for four consecutive years and through the laneways and backstreets, artists from near and far and embellished blank spaces. Toowoomba has created a home for beautiful works and the weekend festival is now on the party calendar.

       Toowoomba.

Victoria’s Benalla (Rural Street Art Capital) has had monumental success with its Wall to Wall festival since inception in 2015. See blog post from July 3 on the report on the Benalla Wall to Wall festival.

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Writer, Bev Malzard hanging about in Melbourne, the Chrissie Amphlett Lane.

Copyright Bev Malzard (Sections of this article have been published previously in the Financial Review Weekend and Travellers Choice Discover magazine.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vienna – can I have this dance?

Vienna – can I have this dance?

A museum of the waltz king

Johann Strauss-Denkmal, Stadtpark

Only Vienna could do a museum like this justice. The Johann Strauss Dynasty Museum in the ninth district is the first museum in the world to focus on the history and artistic output of the entire Strauss clan: from Johann Strauss the Elder and the waltz king Johann Strauss the Younger to his two brothers Josef and Eduard. Visitors can also look forward to an impressive range of pictures and documents that bring Biedermeier-era Vienna to life. Audio stations dotted throughout the museum give fans a chance to listen to popular and less well known pieces from the family canon as often as they like, without interruption.

Tanzszene in Dommayers Casino

Johann Strauss (1825-1899), known to family and friends as Schani, his father Johann and his brothers Josef and Eduard took the world by storm with their music. With 1,500 works between them, from Die Fledermaus and The Radetzky March to the Blue Danube Waltz,  they embody Viennese music like no others. Their waltz and operetta melodies can be heard in the capital’s concert halls throughout the year as well as at the traditional New Year’s Concert which is broadcast all over the world from the Golden Hall of the Musikverein.

Strauss, Karikatur Josef und seine Brüder

It goes without saying that there is a Johann Strauss monument in Vienna. This golden statue of the waltz king playing his violin can be found in the Stadtpark, a short distance from the Kursalon. The Vienna Philharmonic played at its unveiling in 1921 and today it is one of the most photographed sights in the city. Johann Strauss II composed Vienna’s unofficial anthem The Blue Danube in an apartment at Praterstrasse 54 in the second district in 1867 where he lived with his first wife Jetty from 1863-1870. In addition to original furnishings and period instruments, exhibits include everyday objects from the great musician’s estate as well as portraits, photos, and documents on his life and work. The waltz king was laid to rest at Vienna’s legendary Central Cemetery, near the graves of Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms and Johann Strauss the Elder.

Hofball-Musikdirektor Johann Strauss mit seiner Kapelle

Visit: www.austria.info

 

First steps

The waltz began as a dance of rebellion, embraced by teens and sneered at by conservative parents. When the dance first whirled through the ballrooms of Vienna, it caused an outrage and marked a decisive shift in European social customs.

The dance’s origins are probably humble. Its name comes from walzen— “to turn” in German—and may have developed out of the folk music of Austria’s western Tyrol region (although some authors associate its choreography with the volta, a 16th-century couples dance). Whatever its exact origin, by the late 1700s the waltz spread throughout Europe. The dance craze was particularly popular among young people from the wealthy middle classes, the perfect expression of a new, confident bourgeoisie, who were discarding the aristocratic customs of their elders.

A scene from 1774 novel The Sorrows of Young Werther, by J. W. von Goethe, describes a ball that begins with stuffy minuets until a new tune is struck: “When the waltz commenced, and the dancers whirled around each other in the giddy maze . . . Never did I dance more lightly. I felt myself more than mortal, holding this loveliest of creatures in my arms, flying, with her as rapidly as the wind, till I lost sight of every other object.”

In 1833 a British manual of good manners recommended only married women should dance it, as it was too immoral for the unwed.

Nevada USA – vintage all the way

Nevada USA – vintage all the way
It couldn’t be further from Las Vegas than from here to the moon. But hey! this hotel is looking very Nevada-ish old-school neon with extra curricular enticement. Before walking through the doors of the historic Hotel Nevada & Gambling Hall I’m stepping on the stars in the footpath. Wayne Newton, Ingrid Bergman, Gary Cooper and other Hollywood and Las Vegas notables. This was surprising as Ely is a bit off the beaten track and certainly not in the grand five-star food chain.

The hotel was built in 1926 (six storeys too) and was the first building in the state to be fire-proofing.
Rooms were rented for $1.50 and up – touted as all with private toilet, ’85 per cent private baths’.
Prohibition was still in effect and the hotel entertained with bootlegged refreshments and you could have a punt all day.

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Ah, the heady days of ‘Bathtub Gin’ made from raw alcohol, water and flavourings and the gentle tipple of  ‘White Lightning’ supplied by the locals made for an interesting aperitif or two!
The hotel is as she was all that time ago. OK modern appliances and all that comes with the 21st century but is hasn’t been tricked up at all – in fact it’s a classic, historic, atmospheric mess.
Walk in the door and the pokies (slot machines) are winking and blinking, paraphernalia of the past Wild West and Wild Rocker days adorn the walls and lots of wonderful nostalgic black and white images crowd the walls.

I enter a small lift and am deposited on the third floor for my room – damn, I don’t get the Jimmy Stewart room.
Small room (as they were built almost 90 years ago); get my WiFi mojo happening and cosy up on my bed with a few chains hanging over it – more rustic décor than S&M.

A great sleep and down to a full-on Nevada breakfast – I’ll have the lot’. Gotta love American breakfasts – this meal would take me out rustling cattle, fighting a range war, starting a gold rush and back home again for a barn dance – yeeha!
Many of the rooms have nameplates including John Wayne – this hotel was a stopping overnight place as the starts from the 30s onwards would be motoring to Sun Valley and other holiday resorts.
If you are ever in this neck of the woods – check out Ely, as it’s got a wide-street, quiet nights kind of appeal – it’s High Desert country and most of the downtown buildings have quaint painted murals  depicting the city’s colourful history of pioneers, miners and the Pont Express AND . . .

the rich railroad history is classic here. You can even have a holiday and pay about $800-900 for the privilege of working on a classic loco – for train buffs this is holiday Nirvana.

The Nevada Northern Railway National Historic Landmark is the last of its kind – the sole survivor of the grand era of railroading in the Silver State. But there’s no death throes here – it’s a living, breathing, operating railroad. No pretty glass cases here holding polished remnants of machinery – this is get down and dirty, gritty equipment in the vast complex of buildings.
There are four original steam locomotives, six original diesel locos, and more than 60 pieces of original rolling stock – the oldest piece dates to 1872 when President Ulysses S. Grant sat in the White House (and not on a $50 bill).
Climb aboard and travel back in time – the train’s waiting for you.

You can have Railway Reality Week – to work on the Railroad, for a hands-on experience for around $US999; a Winter Photo Shoots special – witness railroading as it was last century and photograph century-old original steam locos pulling vintage freight and passenger cars, around $US500.
Ely is in White Pine County, in the heart of Nevada’s scenic heartland – founded in 1970 as a trading post called Murry Station, and eventually grew to be one of the country’s major copper mining regions.

It’s located at the crossroads of US Highways 50, 93 and 6.

www.nnry.com and the facebook page for the railway is www.facebook.com/nnry1 and on check out www.youtube.com/nnry1Happy trails and Rails . . .

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Track for the Nevada Northern Railway was laid over a century ago, connecting one of the largest copper mines in North America to the Transcontinental routes to the North. Today, several of the original coal-fired standard-gauge steam locomotives that were ordered and delivered new to the railroad over a century ago are still in operation!   The Nevada Northern Railway is the best-preserved example of a standard-gauge short-line left in North America.

Come to Ely, NV and immerse yourself in historic railroad experiences:

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HAWAII FIVE – UH OH! DO I HAVE ENOUGH SPACE IN MY LUGGAGE?

HAWAII FIVE – UH OH! DO I HAVE ENOUGH SPACE IN MY LUGGAGE?

Flying. I always wonder when people complain about their flights. We might sometimes experience late flights, cancelled flights, service not up to par, inedible food, terrible co-passengers . . .but.

If you are travelling up the back of the plane you have to suck it up. Just remember, you are contained in a metal tube, that is flying you, often, across the other side of the planet. It’s amazing. And it’s cheap.

I judge my flight fares to a flight I did from Sydney to Athens in 1980. There were three stops along the way, it took what felt like a week to get there and it cost me $680 (one-way ticket).

So these days flying economy is pretty damn good for the price and the comfort has been amped up since my first flight o/s.

I fly a lot. And I fly lots of different airlines.

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HAWAIIAN AIRLINES

My latest excursion into the wide blue yonder was a flight from Sydney to Los Angeles with a stopover in Honolulu for 48 hours, flying with Hawaiian Airlines. My first time with Hawaiian Airlines and first time visit to Hawaii. ’Aloha’.

I had a smooth and courteous check in at Sydney airport and the plane departed on time.

Now, for an extra $165 (and also check seasonal special deals) I am sitting in the premium product Extra Comfort. Now, 165 bucks is not much in the scheme of things in the travelling life, and for the almost 10-hour flight – I choose comfort.

And I’m not talking a ‘Princess’ moment, I’m talking extra comfort.

‘Extra Comfort’ is a section of seats in the smooth Airbus A330s and A321s that offers more legroom and those few extra centimetres makes the difference between cramped and comfy.

I lucked out and scored a window seat and nobody sat in the seat next to me. So I could spread out with my arms and knees not colliding with a fellow passenger. (I had a passenger sitting next to me on the Honolulu to LAX leg and still felt at one with space!)

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In Extra Comfort we were given a comfort kit, with toothbrush and paste; lip balm; eyeshade; earplugs and earphones for the inflight entertainment which was pretty good. A decent selection of new, recent and classic films and a few good tv shows.

Within an hour of take-off, we were served dinner – pretty average but because I didn’t have any special dietary requests, my little salad, chicken, rice and vegetables did the job.

It was a long time between meals and towards the end of the trip we were served a sandwich and cookie. I visited the galley a few times to grab a coffee or a tea and the crew brought water around regularly.

The crew was proficient, friendly and great with the kids onboard.

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I recharged my devices on the usb port, and despite trying to catch a few movies I caught a few zzzzzs.

My only discomfort was that I found the air-con too cold and had to use two blankets for the entire trip.

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And the best news on this flight is the luggage allowance. YAY! It’s 64kg (2 x 32kg).

Travellers love shopping in Honolulu. There is a wonderful variety of goods to gather and the amazing Ala Moana Shopping Center (below) and outlet malls have quality goods, clothes, accessories, sports shoes, kids clothes and so much more.

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So, to take only a few things with you and fill up those lonely luggage spaces on holidays without the worry of paying excess at the airport is inspiring for the expert shopper.

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Hawaiian Airlines is a total destination carrier that exudes the culture of the islands and a fine way to get to mainland USA. But for me it will be a one stop holiday next time. Honolulu and the other islands, here I come.

All announcements on the flight ended with the word ‘mahalo’ which is an expression of thanks or respect and an acknowledgment that we were flying Hawaiian airlines. (Hawaiians are conservative and polite so they’d never dream of not saying Mahalo when it is appropriate. If you want to be extremely formal and show that are feeling extremely grateful you would say: “Mahalo Nui Loa.”)

So I’ll say “Mahalo Nui Loa”.
Always check the local Hawaiian Airlines home page because there are almost always short term specials and deals posted on it – see now under “Limited-Time Flight Deals” and “What’s New at Hawaiian Airlines” at https://www.hawaiianairlines.com.au/ 
AND access the .com.au site to get the Aussie content in Aussie dollars… https://www.hawaiianairlines.com.au/

DSC02374.JPGView from on high – no, not from your Hawaiian Airline aircraft silly – from a fab hotel. Read all about it in a future blog.

 

Get outta town – or slow travel on weekends

Get outta town – or slow travel on weekends

Winter in Australia – all over Australia – is not a hardship. Maybe down south there’s snow and drizzle but rarely does it lock residents in their homes for too long.

Now I can only speak from my base that is Sydney, Yeah, Sydney people are pretty much big sissies in the winter from June through to August.

And even though I like to get out and about for walks I admit to taking the easy way out on a chilly day – fire on, tv on, locked in.

My partner and I decided last year to get out of town on the odd weekend the rediscover regions within a couple of hours drive time or even a cheap flight away.

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And we even ventured further than an urban adventure close to home.

Last year we flew to Melbourne and hired a car to take us the Ballarat for two nights so we could do the Silo Art Trail drive out through the western district and the Mallee. What a trip. Silo Art Trail couldn’t have been a better day – crisp cold, sunny and low flying clouds on a forever horizon.

And the experience of the illustrated silos fed our addiction to wall/outdoor art (see blog ‘Where the art is’, June 5, 2018 and ‘Painting the Town Red, June 10. 2017).

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The following day in Ballarat was crap weather, so we visited the Art Gallery (regional galleries in Australia are inspirational and impressive), grabbed lunch and went to the local movie house – a classic cinema built in the 1930s and renovated with love. After watching a blockbuster film we headed to a splendid restaurant (yes, in Ballarat) Catfish, a lauded foodie haven. And owners and chef Damien and Danielle Jones have just closed Catfish and will reopen as ‘Mr Jones’ – serving refined rustic!

A drive to Melbourne airport next day, a flight back to Sydney and we’d had an amazing weekend.

Ballarat movie theatre, a local cafe and black swans on Lake Wendouree.

Another getaway was a drive to Wisemans Ferry, a gentle area of the historic and beautiful Hawkesbury River. A day was spent walking the old convict road, reading up on the past, and taking the three-minute ferry across the river. We drove on to St Albans, a remote settlement with a pub that has tales to tell of convicts and early farmers’ trials and tribulations.

(Read Kate Grenville’s book The Secret River about a 19th century story of the region.)

Our weekends are sometimes ’half weekends’, such as a trip out west of Sydney to eat classic Vietnamese food for lunch in Cabramatta and another day in Windsor, a town that has fascinating convict buildings and a bustling brunch and lunch society.

Recently we did a three-day escape from the big smoke. A drive out of town to the Blue Mountains and across the Great Dividing Range and landed at Jenolan Caves, the old Caves House continues to have repairs done and the canteen is now a groovy café and offers up good coffee and tasty lunchtime fare. But the sight of Caves House makes one delirious with speculation and imagination – wondering how the heck this came to be. The little settlement is remote from every big town with one road in and one road out – and if the weather is bad – there’s no way out for a few days.

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We took a tour though the cold caves and it was marvellous. The stunning caverns that have seen tourists and Victorian adventurers scrabble through, then walk planned paths gaze in awe at the natural architecture of millions of years’ worth of evolution and grand design wrought by time and water.

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There are some wonderful nostalgic photographs of guests here from way back where we see woman in long skirts, blouses with leg-o-mutton sleeves and wide brimmed hats, men in coats and ties and hats – all ready to clamber over rocks and indoor ‘climbing walls’.

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The following day we drove to Kanangra Boyd National Park. This has to be one of my fave natural views in the world.

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The long plateau of sandstone juts out into Kanangra Valley that has undulating, and wonderful folding green valleys below where in a long gone past indigenous tribes trod the nomadic trading route.

We sat looking over the splendour of this vast park – unsullied by crowds, roads and development. Please let it stay that way.

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Kanangra Plateau.

A drive on to Bathurst, a university town and under a big blue sky, typically really cold during winter. A dinner at a great surprise of a restaurant – Dogwood – an Aussie take on the best of American classic food, I went for the gumbo and the ‘dog’.

So, how about making a plan? Get outta town for a couple of days, change your routine and rediscover the geography of your youth or discover an urban treasure or country town within a few hours’ drive from your front door.

As we grow older time seems to be moving faster – let’s halt its progress and advocate for ‘slow travel’ close to home.

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Happy weekend travels (or sneaky weekday getaways.)

Where do you like to ‘get away’ to on weekends not too far from home?

Writer Bev Malzard is in search of the Best Pie, or Vanilla Slice in country towns. Every town or village has a window sign at the local bakery shouting its winning achievements. She keeps taste tasting along the way and quite frankly still hasn’t had the ‘best’ yet. She continues her quest.

Copyright: All rights reserved.