Road trip: Go West

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Forbes Town Hall.

 

Head out of Sydney to explore the central west. There are thriving towns, sleepy hollows and a wealth of innovation with a big, warm welcome when you drive into the towns. Stop by and spend a few $$$ as the towns are stretched because of the fierce drought that is affecting everyone out there. Farmers markets, gift shops, cafes all can benefit by a few dollars spent here. (Keep your showers short and your support long.)

Five Highlights of the NSW Central West:

Cowra

Stroll around the stunning, elegant Japanese Garden.

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Cowra Japanese Gardens.

This ultimate, tranquil experience is one to enjoy with a slow stroll, a picnic or view from the Japanese Tea House. Ken Nakajima designed the Cowra Japanese Garden based on the first landscape garden built by the Shogun Tokugawa during the Edo period of Japan, the 16th century.

There is the wartime legacy of Cowra with the solemn reminders of the Cowra Breakout, the POW Camp and the War Cemeteries. An uplifting sight in Cowra is the World Peace Bell set in Cowra’s Civic Square where you can listen to an audio presentation and even ring the bell.

Visit: www.visitcowra.com.auu

Cowra

 

  1. Parkes

Whole hunka love . . .

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Parkes has a host of festivals throughout the year and the big one is a celebration of Elvis Presley’s birthday in the second week of January. Thousands of visitors flock to Parkes to hear impersonators sing the King’s hits, dress up vintage-style and to dance in their blue suede shoes. If you aren’t driving, there’s the Elvis Express train that transports passengers to Parkes from Sydney and return. (There are many great packages to the festival to be had.)

Stay at Hotel Gracelands (where it all began) for great accommodation and a fab restaurant (with much better food than Elvis ever ate).

Visit: www.visitparkes.com.au

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  1. The Dish

Look to the stars – and further

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On the outskirts of Parkes is THE Dish, yes, that one. On the flat drive out to the CSIRO complex you drive on a road shaded by tall eucalypts. Paddocks spread before you, a few sheep are feeding and the scene is quiet and rather sparse. Then the Dish appears – so incongruous and so wonderfully familiar (for me, all because of the movie). Enjoy a cup of java at the Dish Café and watch and wait while it does a little turn. This sophisticated piece of scientific equipment stands in the middle of a sheep paddock just 20km from Parkes off the Newell Highway. There are many hands-on exhibits and a 3D theatre screening programs on space and astronomy (great stuff for kids and adults too).’

Visit: www.csiro.au/parkes

 

  1. Orange

With the drought you could say ‘Orange is the new Brown

Orange is a wonderful, classy country town that is not famous for oranges – in fact there are no oranges grown in Orange. There is a fine legacy of agricultural business though and cherries are the orchards of choice and of course classic cool climate wines are produced in the surrounding vineyards. This country town has been gaining a strong foodie following for a few years now and the quality of produce, menu innovation and top shelf restaurants has given Orange a formidable reputation. The town is at an altitude of 862m so it’s a little cooler in summer that the sea level towns and there’s often a snow fall in winter. Mount Canobolas at 1395m is the local mountain, for a drive and a grand view of the city and surrounding countryside. (The information centre here is informative and there’s often an exhibition that’s worth stopping an extra day for.)

Visit: www.visitnsw.com/destinatons/country-nsw/orange-area/orange

 

  1. Bathurst

History, heritage and damn fine scones

It’s about 200km west-northwest of Sydney and is the oldest inland settlement in Australia. The city has the classic wide streets and a plethora of heritage buildings from colonial to Federation to mid century modern. There’s a lot going on here and there’s a youthful feel as it’s a university town.

The food scene is innovative and I can totally recommend the jam and scone scene . . .

The Bathurst Regional Art Gallery (BRAG) is a standout among the nation’s regional art galleries. It’s smallish and has some spectacular exhibitions on display regularly.

Visit: https://www.bathurstart.com.au/

 

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This is five highlights only, among many, so next time you want to take a driving holiday in New South Wales, head west: stop off at Blackheath on your way before you cross the Blue Mountains, have a coffee and lemonade scones at Altitude; try the Servicemen’s Club at Cowra for a good club dinner; visit the Dubbo Western Plains Zoo and spend the day there, and walk around the old Dubbo Gaol for some jailhouse blues; sink your teeth into the best egg and bacon roll in Cumnock; check out pretty Molong and its blank silos waiting to be painted; the tiny town of Milthorpe between Orange and Blayney where there’s a one hat restaurant called Tonic that is the talk of the town; seek out the Bakery in Forbes for more light-as-a-feather scones; drive out of Condobolin (Condo) to view the ‘Utes in the Paddock’ outdoor exhibition of painted utes in various states – quite something to see, as is much of the Carbonne villages, roadside stalls, spectacular natural wonders, annual country events and generous and warm hospitality oozing authenticity and rustic charm.

Visit:  www.visitcentralnsw.com.au

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Art Deco capital of New Zealand (and possibly the planet)

Art Deco capital of New Zealand (and possibly the planet)

Not often you get to thank a natural disaster and community tragedy for a splendid architectural creation. In February 1931 a bastard of an earthquake rocked Napier, a town on Hawke’s Bay on the east coast of the north island of New Zealand. The ‘quake measured 7.9 on the Richter scale and rocked the Hawke’s Bay area for more than three long minutes. There were 260 lives lost and the vast majority of Napier’s town centre structures were destroyed, either by the earthquake of the following fires.

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It wasn’t long after the earthquake that the Kiwis rallied and do what they do best – got on with it! Rebuilding began and much of it was completed in two years. Architects were on the spectrum of quirky and ambitious and the new buildings reflected the architectural styles of the times – stripped classical, Spanish Mission and Art Deco.

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Local architect Louis Hay, an admirer of Frank Lloyd Wright, had his moment to shine! Maori motifs emerged to give the city an identifiable New Zealand character – just check out the ASB bank on the corner of Hastings and Emerson Streets that features Maori koru and zigzags.

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I recently visited Napier for the first time and driving into the city centre on a bright sunny day I was thrilled to be immersed in this stylish time capsule. And driving further afield around Hawke’s Bay (just out-of-town to find the cultish ice cream parlour Rush Munro’s, which has been here since 1926. And yes, I had a double scoop for research purposes, hokey pokey and vanilla, and yes, it was divine), you drive along a tree-lined boulevard waterfront. Marine Parade is where you drive slowly and capture the extent of the bay.

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Napier’s city centre displays a seamless line of 1930s architecture is quite extraordinary. Enjoy the streetscape via a self-guided walk – ask for a map at the information centre or at the Art Deco Trust. Guided walks around the city are also available every day rain or shine (except Christmas Day!).

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Every February, Napier celebrates its heritage with the Art Deco weekend – a stylish celebration of all things 1930’s, including vintage cars, fashion and music. So get your flapper on, tilt your boater at a rackish angle and do the Charleston, drink pink cocktails and throw caution to the wind.

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Napier’s other special attractions include the gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers and the many vineyards that make good use of the region’s alluvial soils. Pinot Gris and Syrah are the region’s signature drops. On Saturday mornings, the Napier farmers’ market is a chance to shop for artisan foods and fresh produce.

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Writer, Bev Malzard ate ice cream, had dinner at the Thirsty Whale Restaurant and Bar and stayed just outside of town at the Albatross Motel, Westshore Napier. She will learn to dance and hold a long cigarette holder before her next visit.

Visit: http://www.artdeconapier.com ; http://www.napiernz.com and get your art deco vibe happening n 2018!

 

How to Hobbit – it’s a shire thing!

How to Hobbit – it’s a shire thing!

Time to run this again as the BIG news is that New Zealand’s heavenly landscape will be featured again in the upcoming tv series of the Lord of the Rings. Read through and explore and discover Matamata and Hobbiton. And check out the news of the tv series at the end.

Many decades after I first read J.R.R. Tolkien’s book The Hobbit I was walking among the Hobbit homes (holes). And proving to myself that they were more than fictional little hairy-toed creatures.

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After immersing myself in the grand trilogy of New Zealander Peter Jackson’s stupendous movies effort of the Lord Of The Rings – yes – all three mighty movies (seen several times over), I had been intrigued by the art direction and the glorious locations throughout New Zealand (with a healthy LOTR geeky obsession). I had visited a few (outside Christchurch and near Wellington) and while strolling around the area acting quite ladylike – I was happily squealing on the inside.

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When I heard that Hobbiton was ‘real’ real estate I was ecstatic.

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When location scouts found the Alexanders’ spectacular 1250-acre sheep and beef farm in 1998, just outside of the town of Matamata (90 minutes drive south of Auckland), it was clear this would be the perfect setting for Sir (he is now) Peter Jackson’s adaptation of these classic works by Tolkien.

This bucolic setting for The Shire, home of the Hobbits, including Bag End, was right there, and just waiting for the magical director’s touch – and the work of hundreds in building, creating, painting, designing and bringing to life the wondrous place.

Earth moving equipment provided by the New Zealand army came in to do the heavy lifting in 1999. The army built a 1.km road into the site and undertook initial set development.

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There were 39 Hobbit Holes created with untreated timber, ply and polystyrene. The oak tree that overlooks Bag End was cut down and transported in from near Matamata.

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Artificial leaves were brought in from Taiwan and individually wired onto the tree. Thatch for the roofs of the Green Dragon Inn and The Mill were cut from rushes around Alexander farm.

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When they were rebuilt for The Hobbit Trilogy in 2009, these structures were built out of permanent materials including an artificial tree made out of steel and silicon. This entire reconstruction process took two years. Today the set is maintained to keep the magic of The Shire alive.

If you believe all that, you’ll believe anything. Hobbiton is a real place where real Hobbits live, bake bread, eat cakes and drink wine and mead and tell fantastical tales of a time gone by about elves, orcs, wizards and brave knights . . . and jewellery . . .  especially some ring.

Writer Bev Malzard met several Hobbits in New Zealand but has kept them out of this post to respect their privacy.

It cost NZ$79 for the tour of Hobbiton (worth every dollar).

Visit: http://www.hobbitontours.com

NEWS . . . NEWS . . .NEWS

When Peter Jackson first started planning The Lord Of The Rings films back in 1995, he couldn’t have imagined how it would dominate his life. And now, six movies, 21 Oscars and 23 years later, we’re heading back to Middle Earth for a brand new Lord of the Rings TV series.

Amazon Studios are the lucky lot who’ve been tasked with recreating J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary magic for the small screen, with the company signing a reported $250m rights contract in November 2017 with the author’s estate, publisher HarperCollins and New Line Cinema to produce a multi-season show for television.

While there’s been no official word yet on an expected release date, Amazon are required begin production on the show within two years – so that means that the show will be on the way by November 2019 at least.

Yes! It’s now been officially confirmed by showrunners  J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, who said that New Zealand was the perfect place to reflect the “primordial beauty of the Second Age of Middle Earth”.

“We knew we needed to find somewhere majestic, with pristine coasts, forest and mountains, that is also a home to world-class sets, studios and highly skilled and experienced craftspeople and other staff,” they wrote. “And we’re happy to officially confirm New Zealand as our home for our series.”
“We are grateful to the people and the government of New Zealand and especially Auckland for supporting us during this pre-production phrase. The abundant measure of Kiwi hospitality with which they have welcomed us has already made us feel right at home, and we are looking forward to deepening our partnership in the years to come.”

However, it’s bad news for Scotland, where it was speculated that filming could take place. According to The Guardian, “uncertainty over Brexit saw [Scotland] fall out of favour with Amazon”.Amazon has committed to producing five seasons of a Lord of the Rings TV series as part of its $250 million rights deal.

This info from: https://www.nme.com/blogs/tv-blogs/lord-of-the-rings-tv-series-release-date-plot-cast-2170413#Lim5jmz24ww

 

 

How to Luxury Cruise

Cruising in luxury is attainable. But be warned, once experienced . . . you can never go back .

DSC03176To experience a small ship, elegant surroundings, gourmet bespoke restaurants, places to visit that only small ships can snuggle into and . . . to have a butler on hand is something to save and strive for.

OK, this takes money but so do other cruises that aren’t so exclusive . . . so pick your luxury cruise and work towards it. This will be an incredible experience, and quite likely ruin you for any mega ship trips.

Silversea Cruises was, and is my company of choice for the ultimate ‘spoil yourself rotten’ experience. Our ship from the fleet is Silver Muse.

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Sliversea Cruises has itineraries that will take you to ply the waters of many countries and continents across the world.

My cruise was from Singapore to Bali. We overnighted at the elegant Shangri-La in Singapore and took off the next morning for a luxurious, soft cruisy adventure.

We were welcomed onboard warmly by white-gloved staff and promptly escorted to our suite. A large suite opened up with fresh flowers on the table, a bottle of bubbly on ice, a large balcony and two tricky TV’s that were really mirrors that were also TV’s. (I suddenly became technically challenged re the mirrored tv – one in front of the bed and one in the ‘living’ room.) Our butler smoothly fixed it all – with no judgement.

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Around the world and around the clock, every suite comes with a dedicated butler to pamper you with personalised attention and take care of every detail of the voyage

As the ship departed Singapore my sense of well-being was at an all-time high and my sense of adventure on alert!

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We explored the ship to scope out where all the restaurants were located and planned to try all of them before the cruise ended. The main restaurant, The Restaurant is where our first meal was tasted and we ate outside with new friends. From that night on whether at breakfast, lunch or dinner – the staff remembered how I like my coffee and which brand of tea I preferred. From the first meal, gastronomic excellence was on the menu – and we tried and tested every meal – and could not find fault. As if.

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Exploring

After a gentle sleep out first day was at sea. A day to be pampered at the Zagara Spa – nothing like a good massage to get the endorphins into shape.

We checked out the boutique, small with selective items, the theatre, the intimate nooks to read and relax and enjoyed lunch on the pool deck – a casual plate of curry with a cold beer set the tone for the afternoon.

Jakarta hadn’t made my ‘must visit’ travel list so the excursion on the second day was a dive into the sprawling, traffic-crazed place that was a frenetic introduction to a city swelling with 18 million inhabitants.

The city displays the richness of the new buildings, malls, business centres and fancy hotels alongside rows of shanty homes and evidence of entrenched poverty.

No apologies for anything in Jakarta and best way to enjoy is to take in the museums, central Jakarta’s towering National Monument or somewhere more my speed, Jalan Surabaya’s gaggle of shops and kiosks where there is eclectic items for sale. Retro rules here and you can pick up old Elvis records, vintage handbags or curious art pieces.

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My favourite stop in Jakarta was in the Old Town, where all of life is seen in Fatahilla Square. This is where the famous Wayang Museum (founded in 1975) houses exquisite puppets from all regions of Indonesia and neighbouring countries. The museum is built on a site that dates back to 1640.

But we almost missed the highlight of the square, Café Batavia. We had been looking for love in all the wrong places! This divine café hails from the 1830s and oozes character. Colonial style furniture in dark wood and tall slatted windows, Dutch-era food blended with the spices of Indonesia, invite you in. We missed what was coming in the evening though – live music on stage every night.

Out of the steamy heat of the spice islands and onboard the Silver Muse for the promise of a grand evening ahead in the prettiest restaurant on the ship – Indochine – for an elegant array of tastings from the Asian region reflected in the name.

Next day after breakfast in bed (ooooh the luxury of this), thank you our fave butler. And today was freewheeling on an island by ourselves. A quick tender trip to Karimunjawa, a tropical hideaway where the Silver Muse staff had set up food and drinks while us spoilt passengers swam and lazed about. A grand day indeed.

After such a big day out – it was pizzas on deck and a movie afterwards.

And the exploration continues. Next day we berth in the intriguing port of Semarang, with its network of narrow canals. The city is a mix of various times in history Chinese, Dutch, Javanese influences are seen in temples, mosques and lattice-fronted cottages. Then a drive to the mother load – Borobudur – one of the most photographed Buddhist shrines on the world.

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A UNESCO World Heritage site, this massive complex is the ultimate guide to enlightenment. Surrounded by lush scenic forests and trimmed gardens the mountainous structure sprawls and invites the hardy to climb, and climb and climb. I didn’t quite reach Nirvana (it was too hot) but got a few spiritual stamps for my effort.

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It was built around 780-850AD and wasn’t exposed to western eyes until 1814 when Thomas Stamford Raffles stumbled up it (he really got around didn’t he?).

After our architectural, spiritual and physical exertions we were lead to a covered annex, where lunch was and were entertained by a local traditional dance troupe.

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Another long day and time to try the Atlantide restaurant which is so popular that we had to book the day before.

What a gloriously luxurious cruise this has been. And not a stuffy note on any given day.

And towards the end of the journey we counted our ship experiences against the excursions – it was a tie! Well, maybe except for the trivia afternoons – it got pretty damn competitive, but fun.

Sad to leave the stunning Silver Muse to re-join the real life but as we left we gave a list of our favourite places to our butler and his mate our room attendant who were going to have a couple of days off in Sydney soon. Sharing the love. It’s all relative isn’t it.

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