USA: What’s bolder than Boulder

USA: What’s bolder than Boulder

I had five hours to spend in Boulder, a city in the grand state of Colorado in the USA. What to do? I couldn’t give you a full-on review of a city I had not explored, nor had been there before. What I did know: it’s a city of just 103,000 residents (almost a third of whom are students at the University of Colorado at Boulder), it has a reputation for packing  punch.

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At 5,430 feet (1657 metres) and generally sunny, it’s a spectacularly beautiful destination that’s been smart (and pioneering) about growth and preserving open space, so it’s a magnet for athletes, bohemians, hipsters, scientists and outdoor enthusiasts of every ilk.

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With a progressive dining and brewing scene, it’s a breeze to eat healthily and drink locally. Even outdoor music is better in the Front Range: you won’t regret splurging for a concert ticket at Red Rocks, just to the south.

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I won’t go into the hiking, biking, climbing and all outdoorsy activities that are everyday jaunts for the Boulderites (Bouldonians?) as I don’t do outdoors very well. (See link at end of story for more local info.) As I was coming into town I had a total moment of excitement and knew what this Boulder post was to be about – TEA.

My preferred tea late at night cosied up in my bed in Sydney is a brew called Sleepytime Tea by Celestial Seasonings (this is not a sponsored post). We drove past a sign saying Celestial Seasoning – yippee.

Oh joy, the building/factory was open for tours – yes! And it was free. This is the home of my tea!

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Celestial Seasonings is in the northeast of Boulder and looks like any other productive, immaculately clean factory – BUT – it smells so good. Just like a freshly opened box of Sleepytime Tea.

Our devoted tour group donned fetching blue hairnets and began the walk. We watched our fave teas being mixed, packed and boxed. (Apparently, and I concur, it takes three seconds for a machine to wrap a box and 10 minutes to get it off.) And when we walked into the Peppermint room, our eyes began to sting and our lungs began to sing with the sharp, pungent aroma of the precious peppermint oils exuding from the herbs. This room is mostly locked down as the oil could permeate the flavours of the other herbal and fruit teas produced here.

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The company tries to be as sustainable as it can be and the tea bags no longer have strings and the actual bags that contain the tea are biodegradable and one of our guides said she packs her used bags around her garden plants to hold water and dissolve ethically.

A few tasting sips and a major purchase of boxes and away we went most happily. On the driveway out of the complex I saw my first Groundhogs . . . too cute.

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There was a foodies market on in town so we meandered among the food and produce stalls. And in keeping with the tea theme we visited two tea shops (what is it Boulder, craft beer in competition with the humble cuppa?).

We saw the large tea/cafe emporium, Boulder Dushanbe Tea house that is most exotic but packed to the teapot brim on market day.

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So into the main mall here for an elegant tea experience at Ku Cha House of Tea. We settled on an ethereal white tea that was delicate and totally tea-zen.

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So, this busy bee little city with its outdoorsy attitude and athletic ambience can turn on the tea charm, and sit quietly and contemplate the Colorado big sky and the art of sipping a cheery brew.

Writer Bev Malzard has just finished her tea that she purchased in June. Damn! Best head back to Boulder, sooner than later.

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Visit: http://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/lifestyle/vacation-ideas/things-to-do-in-boulder/

Visit: www.celestialseasonings.com/visit-us/

Visit: www.boulderteahouse.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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Get outta town – or slow travel on weekends

Get outta town – or slow travel on weekends

SLOW TRAVEL #1

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. 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

 

USA: get your kicks on Route 66

USA: get your kicks on Route 66

A pilgrimage is what a drive along Route 66 is today. The fabled road lives in songs and literature and just won’t fade away. This is America’s Main Street.

In the earliest days of television in Australia, the black and white screen flickered with many (mostly) American series to entertain the young minds of the babyboomers: Mickey Mouse Club (remember Annette Funnicello?); CheyenneSugarfoot and Rawhide (cowboy cool dudes) and family entertainment – The Nelsons (oh Ricky!);The Donna Reed Show and Father Knows Best. But for us growing, restless teenagers of the time this was ‘too square’, no grunt at all. Bandstand was a constant and we got our rock’n’roll edge with Six O’Clock Rock but drama to get our motor running? No.


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Then in the early 60s along came Route 66, edgy, and supremely cool; two guys in a sleek convertible Corvette heading from Chicago to LA . . . with incidents and episodes along the way.  Tod and Buzz slicked back their hair, got moody, threw on their duffle coats and jumped in the car – to drive.

We may not have heard the early song by Nat King Cole – well, it was a recorded in 1946 but Get Your Kicks on Route 66 is embedded in everyone’s musical memory. And our generation may not have that restless seed of youth blossoming as it did in the 60s but the Mother Road waits for the adventurous!

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The romanticised highway represents a transition from dirt road to super-highway. Route 66 was the shining beacon as to the importance of the automobile as a new world achievement – and to the American people it symbolised the new freedom and mobility for every person who owned and drove their car. Route 66 was born in 1926, pieced together from a network of existing trails and anonymous roads. It’s the Mother Road that carried life along the highway from Chicago to Los Angeles. The Interstate Highways System took it over in the 1950s and much of old Route 66 was decertified and became a secondary road, a highway of broken dreams and a mythical place that stranded small towns and businesses with cruel bypasses.

Today it’s the road to a new adventure – a link to the past with an air of freedom. In the past decade the idea of Route 66 has been reinvigorated and has made a rock’n’roll kind of comeback – warts and all.

Driving to find the glory days you don’t have to go far out from Los Angeles and for a couple of hundred miles discover what’s happening along the way.

Route 66 and beyond can work nicely if you:

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Head out of LA and visit Big Bear Lake, Yucca Valley. Set in the heart of the San Bernadino Mountains, Big Bear Lake and surrounds is startlingly beautiful country with much to do for fun: off-road adventure in a Pinzgauer 4WD – hot to trot and loads of fun; Big Bear Village has a rustic charm with a sophisticated edge – the coffee in town is damn good too!

 Yucca Valley is reached after a drive that descends through a layered spread of heavily grassed land to almost paint-by-numbers clarity in the tapestry effect of the landscape. And in the distance a tiny sliver of snow is glimpsed on the top of the San Bernadino Mountains.

There’s a hometown atmosphere and this ‘High Desert’ region is welcoming and eye opening for its nature and cultural heritage. And if you want to meet the locals – they are the friendliest people around, just drop by Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneering Palace for mesquite barbecue chow and you’ll enter an establishment  plonked on the side of the road that looks deserted except for a few utes parked out front. Walk through the doors and it’s packed, there are waitresses zooming around the tables and the beer is flowing and the music is about to start – hip and happening! Step out the backdoor and you are in the old west.

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Pioneertown was founded by a group of Hollywood investors in 1946 with dreams of creating a living movie set. The 1870s ‘frontier town’ with authentic facades never did take off but folk had fun there and several of the properties are working sets with art and craft people doing their thing.

Hit the highway and drive through the empty, lonely landscape until you come to the sublime (if you love a desert park) Joshua Tree National Park.

 In the park is the Desert Queen Ranch, a crumbling reminder of the toughness of this country and the remains here tell the life story of Bill Keys’ family – the  trials, triumphs and tribulations. Keys lived there from 1910 until his death in 1969.

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Bill Keys was a resourceful man who was the Desert Donald Trump of his day – pursuing mining and ranching and taking every opportunity to make a killing – which he actually did. He lived on the isolated ranch with his wife and seven children, three of whom are buried there.

During a property dispute Keys shot and killed a man and was convicted of murder and spent a few years in the big house educating himself. (He was paroled in 1950 and was pardoned in 1956 through the efforts of Earle Stanley Garner, author of the Perry Mason novels.)

The original homestead is still there plus outbuildings, a schoolhouse, farm and mining equipment and old truck chassis. The elements are rusting and corroding the debris from Bill Keys’ empire – to restore it or let it crumble back to the earth – that’s still being debated.

Even though it’s a remote and strange desert park, Joshua Tree has drawn some pretty interesting characters – including lots of alien/spaceship sightings. Oddly, the Andreas Fault Line is visible in parts of the park and juts out of the earth like a dragon’s spine. Cattle rustlers are legendary and Keith Richards and Graham Harrison sat out here and took copious amounts of drugs while waiting to have a close encounter with a UFO . . .

In keeping with the mystical/hippy/left-over60s vibe of the area much of the interesting stuff of the area has survived and thrived.

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The ‘Integratron’ is an acoustically perfect tabernacle dome and energy machine sited on a powerful geometric vortex in the magical Mojave Desert. (This was created by George Van Tassle, and is based on the design of Moses’ Tabernacle drawings and the writings of Nikola Tesla and telepathic directions of extraterrestrials – that’s the speil anyway.) Whatever floats your boat out here but climbing up to the platform to lie down while someone rims ceramic bowls is quite something – a resonating sound bath indeed.

The historic route continues to evolve as states repair and redirect the road. Entering Amboy, there’s the classic Route 66 stamped on the road in front of a Roy’s Motel sign – classic 60s and a poor old motel that is crying in the shadows for someone to bring back its retro coolness. Faded and atmospheric, the location is not as neglected at is seems. It’s used for commercials and movies – the no-longer-a- town Amboy, Roy’s Motel and Cafe has a certain staying power. A buyer paid cash (lots) for the site in 2005 and has promised to preserve the town and reopen Roy’s.

 (The writer cruised into Amboy and was excited to see about a dozen gleaming, shiny black and silver clad Harley Davidson’s – this is where it’s happening she thinks. Just the backdrop for the ‘Wild Ones’; as she drew closer to the bikies – she noticed as they were decked out in denim and leather, chains, bandanas and snake-hipped girls by their sides – they were all drinking Coca-Cola. This was a meeting for the Christian Motorcyclists Association, riding Route 66 to Chicago – it was big, but these boys weren’t going to be bad!)

Away from the bustling metropolis of ‘town’ we started to see the beauty and drama of the Mojave National Preserve – sand dunes lead to volcanic cones, craters became mirage-like salt pans and sand was accumulated in vast amounts everywhere the eye could see – where does it come from?

We cruise past the Whiting Brothers Gas Station, a relic that has been preserved and then stop for a milkshake (it had to be a milkshake) at the Bagdad Cafe (remember the film?). It is still basking in the glory of movie fame – albeit needing a bit of nip and tuck. The love this cafe draws is evidenced by notes stuck on the windows – the clientele is universal; all stopping by to take a peek at the defunct motel from the film and to order a chocolate malt!

We stop for some big town buzz and Barstow fits the bill. Amazing outlet malls here and for some real local hospitality we eat at Idle Spurs Steakhouse – a favourite in the High Desert region of Southern California. Built around the original house – these folk have been slinging steaks since 1950.

After a lazy sleep-in we keep moving west as we’ve backtracked. We stop at the extremely charming and colourful Victorville Route 66 Museum – and we’re greeted by the local lady volunteers – they are the ants pants! There is so much going on in the museum, take an hour or so to let it seep in – from The Grapes of Wrathto the Mother Road’s heyday as one of the greatest ways to experience America on driving holidays.

We wrap up our short Route 66 driving trip with a stop at the original Wigwam Motel. This motel is one of just a couple remaining of a great chain. The wigwams are neat as pins and there’s the place beside them to park your car. This is one of two only (the other is in Holbrook, Arizona)  Wigwam Motels still in business to offer hospitality to drivers on Route 66.

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Now stationary, I ponder America’s amazing history – this small part of the vast continent. Roads criss-crossing the country, frenzied drivers taking the freeways, highways and byways, toll roads, side lanes and flyovers – is the romance still there for them, behind the wheel does it still feel that it’s the way to claim the ground under their feet or is it like Route 66, a fabled Main Street where driving trip from A to B is the ribbon that unites more than an idea?
 www.eaglerider.com (to hire Motorcycles ); www.wigwammotel.com