SPAIN: Mad for Madrid

SPAIN: Mad for Madrid

It seems that travellers are mad for Spain at the moment, and why not, cities brimming with history, aromatic with the scents of flowers and amazing food and the time-honoured hospitality of this grand old country that is so much more than the sum of its parts.

DSC01019

Following is a short trip down memory lane from a couple of years back and a short but sweet 48 hours in Madrid.

DSC00956 (2)

Platea Madrid.

Arriving in Madrid on a pleasant end of a summer day, we drove along tree-lined streets and were delivered to the hotel Villa Magna in the elegant Salamanca barrio (precinct). This is the time when jet-lag kicks in but it’s too exciting being in a new city and it’s afternoon – lunch time, yay.

DSC01024

The fabulous Mercado de San Miguel where all sorts of divine food is at your disposal.

And this is how the eating frenzy began. First stop was a five-minute walk from the hotel to the beautifully restored and beloved Platea Madrid. The old art deco theatre has had new life breathed into it and has become a fragrant complex of tapas bars, Michelin starred restaurants and snack bars with rustic market-style décor. A cooling ale and a plate of potatas bravas (fried chunks of potato with spicy, paprika ridden tomato sauce), small bites of battered cod and some succulant slices of jamon iberico – I was hooked.

IMG_1743

Jamon Iberica.

And an early dinner eschewed. This was the funny part of the trip – our timing was not always conducive to being ‘hungry’. Breakfast isn’t a big deal here. Coffee and a little pastry maybe or two coffees. Lunch is from anywhere between 2pm and 4pm and if you are on a schedule, you’ll find yourself having dinner within a couple of hours after a banquet of a lunch.

DSC01032

Normally, a little tapas bar has one or two specialties – this one featured grilled or stuffed mushrooms and fried chillies – and of course slices of jamon . . .

So after a quick change in my room and a serious count of the threads in the cotton sheets, we were off to  nearby Tatal, a fancy restaurant owned by Rafael Nadal and Julios Ingelsias (both of then stood us up for a shared plate). The restaurant started filling up and by the time we left at 10pm (early by local standards) the place was packed with well-dressed patrons – and a week night too.

DSC01030

The following day was a series of long walks through the beautiful Buen retro Park, a visit the famous Museo Nacional Del Prado to view extraordinary paintings and sculptures by Spanish artists (Goya, Picasso, Velasquez for starters, shopping for espadrilles, finding just the right cake for afternoon tea and a final jaunt around town on a Tapas Tour – a definite must for food lovers.
Ah, Madrid, it was short, it was sweet but oh, so fine!

DSC01010With more espadrilles than you can tip toe around, they are the authentic design and made here in Madrid. Writer Bev Malzard struck it lucky when her sandals broke and she just HAD to buy three pair of espadrilles – as you do!

Advertisements

Tasmanian ancestral home beckons

Tasmanian ancestral home beckons

It was a dark and stormy night. How often do you get to say that and it’s true?

And it was a dark and stormy night as Hobart, the Tasmanian capital was lashed by one of the worst storms in decades.

We drove from Freycinet into Hobart as the weather picked up momentum – rain and wind worsening as we closed in on the city.

And then to find our accommodation. The gps took us up a winding road and we were high above the city that was starting to look like it was disappearing under a blanket of swirling mist.

And here we are. At Corinda.

Copy of BC3A1130

This glorious old home was built by Alfred Crisp, a well-to-do timber merchant who rose through the social ranks to become Lord Mayor of Hobart.  And when Julian Roberts and Chaxi Afonso Higuera recently bought Corinda in Hobart’s Glebe, they were doing much more than simply acquiring a new business. Alfred Crisp was Julian’s great, great grandfather, so when the opportunity presented itself Julian brought Corinda back into the family.

IMG_0402 (1).JPG

IMG_0403

After the Roberts bought the Victorian property, which was built on land previously used for a convict-run vegetable garden, they spent several months refurbishing and adding their personal touches. Guests stay in sumptuous heritage rooms featuring exquisite joinery crafted from fine Tasmanian timbers, such as huon pine and blackwood, as well as luxurious textiles and one of a kind antiques.

Copy of Corinda 5D 5-107

We fell in love with Corinda straight away, and not only because we were given shelter from the storm.

We carried our bags upstairs to the sound of our footsteps clashing with the well-trod stairs, just a few creaks to remind us that our feet were among hundreds that had climbed up over the years.

Copy of BC3A0948-Edit

We could hear the rain pounding the windows as the wind from the south punished the front of the house. Our bedroom was warm and cosy and the bathroom was a stylish addition to the closed-in side verandah. And that’s where the force of the weather showed itself. The wild wind had found tiny openings and was pushing the rain under the door and between the window panes.

It’s an old house and is in excellent repair but this crazy storm tried every trick in the book to disturb its equilibrium.

And the best it could do was to try to flood our bathroom, but we stopped it in its tracks with old school shoring up – towels. And that did the job.

IMG_0386

It was hard to leave our room as we had settled in but we had to head down town for a dinner. We parked in the Salamanca area and ran through mad rain til we reached our foodie destination. It wasn’t until after dinner that we realised that we were in a critical situation – the road was beginning to flood. We shot through then!

The next day as we loitered over our eggs and bacon and barista coffee we heard the news that the roads were closed, and the schools in the immediate vicinity of the city were closed too.

The storm had run its course and left a heap of damage behind. I wonder how many storms Corinda has witnessed – and survived to tell the tale.

Corinda 04-133 (Large)

Next night we decided that the house was too good to leave so we had drinks in the elegant drawing-room. Without a reservation desk and staff bustling around, it feels as if you have the grand home to yourself, we didn’t but it seemed so.

We even had a pizza delivered to Corinda rather than leave our precious comfort behind.

While Julian and Chaxi were new to Corinda, they are far from new to hospitality. Between them they have more than 20 years’ experience in hotel management, gained in establishments in the UK as well as Australia. Now settled in Tasmania, they’re using that experience to their advantage on home ground. For example, they source the finest local produce for the Corinda breakfast table. Guests can wake up to fresh free-range eggs and organic bacon, served with home-made bread and locally produced jams.

The property is famous for its lush landscaping, with many mature trees and shrubs as well as European-style parterre areas. The garden has always been maintained in the style in which Alfred Crisp created it and provides a verdant outdoor setting for weddings and other events (weather permitting). Group walking tours of the garden can be booked on request.

Copy of Corinda 04-15

Corinda is the perfect base for those wanting to explore Southern Tasmania’s world -class attractions including MONA and World Heritage-listed Port Arthur. Corinda’s sister property, boutique country house hotel Brockley, is situated on the spectacular East Coast of Tasmania, and is ideal for those wanting to extend their Tasmanian break to include Maria Island and Freycinet National Parks.

We continued the act of loitering around the breakfast table, having yet another excellent coffee. Then out for a drive to Richmond for a little more history and hopefully, a sunny day. And it was.

Writer, Bev Malzard was a guest of Corinda. And it wasn’t her who ate all the nuts at the bar in the drawing-room . . . or maybe it was.

www.corindacollection.com.au     www.brockleyestate.com.au

Note from the owners

‘We’re excited about welcoming guests to Corinda, which truly epitomises the beauty of unspoilt historic Tasmania. It’s our ancestral home, so we were thrilled to be able to buy it, bring it back into the family and refresh it.  Now that the hard work is done, we’re looking forward to sharing Corinda’s heritage and history with our guests.’

Special offer: Guests can stay for four nights in the house and only pay for three from April – October 2018. Direct bookings only and date exclusions apply. Please check www.corindacollection.com.au for more information.

Cooking School: Later in 2018 Corinda will be launching its cooking school where classic, authentic Spanish/Canary Islands cuisine including paella will be shared the way they should be. Recipes Chaxi learnt sitting on her grandmother’s knee will a part of the curriculum. Lunch will be served in the dining room at Corinda with Tassie fine wines to accompany the feast.

Copy of BC3A1136

Uluru – for light and love

Field of Light Uluru - Landscape (1)

 

About 20 years ago I caught a bus from Alice Springs, a town in the heart of Australia to see what was then called Ayers Rock, the grand monolith that sits in the centre of Australia like an anchor – tied to the ground holding the continent in place.

For some reason the area was in my head as somewhere I had been before but like many Australians who think they have seen it – I was fooled too by the mystery and pictures in my head that had been pasted into my brain for decades. I hadn’t seen it until I did see it.

Voyages_291117_246266

Shhhhhhh, Sounds of Silence dinner setting.

I had been in the bus trundling long for about three hours, nodding off along the way when I looked up and across the flat terrain, empty except for a few wan She Oak trees, a light breeze wafting through their scrappy, spiky tendrils . . . and there was the rock.

A sight for hungry eyes, the great red blister on the horizon beckons. Also known as Ayers Rock but now officially gazetted as Uluru. The monster rock is an ‘inselberg’, literally an island mountain. Uluru is sacred to the Pitjantjara Ananagu, the Aboriginal peoples of the area.

Voyages_291117_246485

The area around Uluru hosts waterholes, caves and ancient paintings.

(Uluru is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Uluru and Kata Tjuta also known as The Olgas are the major natural features of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Ntional Park.)

So if you have not visited the beating heart of Australia, or maybe long to return there’s no better time than the present.

Following are three fab reasons and experiences to head to the Outback now.

INSIDER’S GUIDE TO EXPLORING ULURU

Uluru’s ultimate dining experiences 

Silence is golden

It’s hard to believe that 25 years ago some bright spark created the unique experience of fine dining in the Australian desert, under the stars in a world of silence.

Yes, the Sounds of Silence is celebrating a quarter century anniversary and since the beginning privileged guests encountered a vast and glorious canopy of stars that look down on Uluru, the resorts, visitors, local clans, soft silent sands and a few gently chattering diners.

ARR_DIN_SOS_ASmart_Stars

It is at this ultimate dining experience, with toes in the sand, where guests are surprised by fine food and wine and then, if they are lucky, they’ll have their first sighting of the Rings of Saturn via a telescope in a cloudless black-sky night. And here be welcomed to country by the haunting sounds of the didgeridoo. And here let your heart swell as you acknowledge that you are in the centre of Australia and are immersed in an experience of a lifetime.

The Sounds of Silence dinner continues to thrill . . . and yes, the stars still twinkle, the food, wine and service shine and celestial beings murmur the quiet, spiritual surround sounds.

Visit: https://www.ayersrockresort.com.au/experiences/detail/sounds-of-silence

Dessert in the Dunes

You will pinch yourself. Just sit quietly and take it all in – all is the unusual, the wonder and the awesomeness (and that word isn’t used lightly here). You are about to tuck into a brilliant, gourmet meal beginning with canapés while the light holds, then on to a particularly amusing bouche, then an entrée of Moreton Bay Bugs (can it get any better?) followed by wagyu beef. And in anticipation of a dessert on its way of rosella & lychee petit gateaux you draw breath and take in your surrounds.

UKTNP_DIN_TW_ASmart_01 (Rosella and Lychee Petit Gateaux)

You are in the middle of the ultimate dining experience of Tali Wiru in a natural setting in the Red Centre.

Tali Wiru means ‘beautiful dune’ in the local Anangu language and that’s exactly where you are.

Under the crisp night sky this is an open-air, exclusive restaurant like no other. Uluru and the distant silhouette of the Kata Tjuta domes are your walls.

And as each course is delivered, with carefully matched wines to your table, just imagine the unseen chef – who is cooking this splendid feast by the light of a lantern . . . true.

No dining feast matches Tali Wiru and the impeccable service comes with a smile – or are they just smiling at your bewilderment at being here. Lucky you.

Visit: https://www.ayersrockresort.com.au/experiences/detail/tali-wiru

 

Let there be light

At Uluru, the lights are on. At the spiritual heart of Australia, as the sun sets at twilight the remote desert area within sight of ‘the rock’ is illuminated by 50,000 globes that have been ‘planted’ in the sand and they glow by the strength of solar-powered optic fibres.

This extraordinary installation is the brainchild of British artist Bruce Munro (pictured below), who with his team of locals installed thousands of slender stems crowned with frosted glass spheres.

Be in the light and for an unparalleled experience, ‘A Night at Field of Light’, combines the Sounds of Silence dinner experience with the once-in-a-lifetime Field of Light art installation. The soft lights spread across  the desert floor behind you, and you’ll tuck into a tasty three-course buffet menu before you’re invited to immerse yourself in the Field of Light with its pathways glistening with rhythms of coloured light inviting you to explore.

Field of Light Uluru - Orange Sky

This monumental work of art was created and produced by many. The other-worldly feeling here evokes an emotional response of joy and maybe a little melancholy – perhaps that was Munro’s aim.

Ayers Rock Resort Aerial

Ayers Rock Resort.

Visit the Red Centre to see Uluru now, and win the trifecta – these three ultimate experiences will satisfy the soul.

The Field of Light installation will be happening until December 2020.

Visit: https://www.ayersrockresort.com.au/events/detail/field-of-light-uluru

http://www.brucemunro.co.uk/installations/field-of-light/

 Writer, Bev Malzard managed to fit this terrific trio of Outback experiences over a three day trip. She also ambitiously rode a pushbike around Uluru. There was a lot of puffing and grunting. She completed the circuit – and doubts she’ll ever do this again. Once was enough,  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uluru’s ultimate dining experiences

 

Silence is golden

 

It’s hard to believe that 25 years ago some bright spark created the unique experience of fine dining in the Australian desert, under the stars in a world of silence.

Yes, the Sounds of Silence is celebrating a quarter century anniversary and since the beginning privileged guests encountered a vast and glorious canopy of stars that look down on Uluru, the resorts, visitors, local clans, soft silent sands and a few gently chattering diners.

It is at this ultimate dining experience, with toes in the sand, where guests are surprised by fine food and wine and then, if they are lucky, they’ll have their first sighting of the Rings of Saturn via a telescope in a cloudless black-sky night. And here be welcomed to country by the haunting sounds of the didgeridoo. And here let your heart swell as you acknowledge that you are in the centre of Australia and are immersed in an experience of a lifetime.

The Sounds of Silence dinner continues to thrill . . . and yes, the stars still twinkle, the food, wine and service shine and celestial beings murmur the quiet, spiritual surround sounds.

Visit: https://www.ayersrockresort.com.au/experiences/detail/sounds-of-silence

 

 

Dessert in the Dunes

 

You will pinch yourself. Just sit quietly and take it all in – all is the unusual, the wonder and the awesomeness (and that word isn’t used lightly here). You are about to tuck into a brilliant, gourmet meal beginning with canapés while the light holds, then on to a particularly amusing bouche, then an entrée of Moreton Bay Bugs (can it get any better?) followed by wagyu beef. And in anticipation of a dessert on its way of rosella & lychee petit gateaux you draw breath and take in your surrounds.

You are in the middle of the ultimate dining experience of Tali Wiru in a natural setting in the Red Centre.

Tali Wiru means ‘beautiful dune’ in the local Anangu language and that’s exactly where you are.

Under the crisp night sky this is an open-air, exclusive restaurant like no other. Uluru and the distant silhouette of the Kata Tjuta domes are your walls.

And as each course is delivered, with carefully matched wines to your table, just imagine the unseen chef – who is cooking this splendid feast by the light of a lantern . . . true.

No dining feast matches Tali Wiru and the impeccable service comes with a smile – or are they just smiling at your bewilderment at being here. Lucky you.

Visit: https://www.ayersrockresort.com.au/experiences/detail/tali-wiru

 

 

Let there be light

At Uluru, the lights are on. At the beating spiritual heart of Australia, as the sun sets at twilight the remote desert area within sight of ‘the rock’ is illuminated by 50,000 globes that have been ‘planted’ in the sand and they glow by the strength of solar-powered optic fibres.

This extraordinary, unique installation is the brainchild of British artist Bruce Munro, who with his team of locals installed thousands of slender stems crowned with frosted glass spheres.

Be in the light and for an unparalleled experience, ‘A Night at Field of Light’, combines the Sounds of Silence dinner experience with the once-in-a-lifetime Field of Light art installation. The soft lights spread across  the desert floor behind you, and you’ll tuck into a tasty three-course buffet menu before you’re invited to immerse yourself in the Field of Light with its pathways glistening with rhythms of coloured light inviting you to explore.

This monumental work of art was created and produced by many. The other-worldly feeling here evokes an emotional response of joy and maybe a little melancholy – perhaps that was Munro’s aim

If you have never visited the Red Centre to see Uluru, there is no better time than now – and to win the trifecta – these three ultimate experiences will satisfy the soul.

 

.

The Field of Light installation will be happening until December 2020.

Visit: https://www.ayersrockresort.com.au/events/detail/field-of-light-uluru

http://www.brucemunro.co.uk/installations/field-of-light/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where the art is – try a country town

Where the art is – try a country town

What was guerilla art is now great art. Walls become artworks and sleepy lanes and behind the scene walls 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.

DSC02162

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.

Melbourne art works.

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.

Melbourne outdoor art.

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 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.

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.

DSC02169

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.

The big winners for wall art are the small cities and rural towns of Australia with their untouched walls.

In previous blogs I have attended the amazing First Coat Festival in the Queensland tidy town of Toowoomba. I’ve followed wall art festivals to Wollongong south of Sydney, wandered the lanes of Melbourne and followed the fabulous Silo Art Trail in Victoria.

And once you get an interest in wall art/outdoor art there’s no turning back – you see it everywhere and become fans of certain artists. And when you see them at work and converse with them, you’ll find a group of young people who are modest, amiable and happy to share the love of this medium.

My last excursion into the rural artistic enclaves of Australia was to Benalla in Victoria for the /Wall to Wall’ Festival last March, the second one held there.

IMG_3572

Benalla is a small city located on the Broken River in the High Country north-eastern region of Victoria, Australia, about 212km north-east of the state capital Melbourne. At the 2016 census the population was 9,298.

DSC02173

We drove from Sydney and overnighted at the pretty town of Rutherglen just over the border after driving through Albury.

Benalla is a town of character with great coffee shops a bakery that boasts numerous wards for having the best Vanilla Slice in Australia, good restaurants, beautiful Botanic Gardens and a splendid regional art galley.

We hit the street running to take in as many artworks as possible. Best view was watching the artists at work. They seem so small against the large canvasses they work on.

IMG_3581

Benalla Art Gallery.

Outside of Benalla is a slip of a siding town called Goorambat where there a silo has been painted and in a wee Uniting church Matt Adnate has created the portrait Sophia’ which has become a local attraction.

‘Sophia’ by Matt Adnate.

I would encourage anyone to take the time out to get outta your city and explore our wonderful country towns as they are leading the way to colour in the bland residue of the dusty past. The towns are coming back to life and with the extraordinary support of the locals and visitors, they are more than an Aussie country town – they are performing on the world stage where art trails and maps are exposing the talent of the new breed of artists painting the town red!

IMG_3669

Writer Bev Malzard nearly expired in the heat of the Benalla Wall to Wall weekend and hopes it might be a little later than March next year. BUT find out for yourself and keep in touch with what’s going on throughout the year in the town of the great vanilla slice – and yes, of course she ate one.

Visit: http://www.enjoybenalla.com.au Wall to Wall