Friday, May 26, 2017

A busy, busy few days

So.  Back to last week.

I went on Tuesday morning, from Ballarat to the airport to pick up a young cousin and his companion who have been visiting Far North Queensland for a few weeks and had come to Melbourne to spend a few days with the Aussie Rellies.  Most fortunately, I had checked the flight status before I set off at the crack of dawn.  The plane was delayed by three hours on account of bad weather in Melbourne.  I gazed out at the glorious weather in Ballarat while I drank my morning cup of coffee and pondered the vagaries of the Weather Dogs.

It was foggy in Melbourne when I got there!

I took the visitors on the tram into Melbourne for a wander around and then left them to it and took the train and bus back to Mount Helen.

Wednesday I spent mostly making roasted tomato soup, slow cooked steak and ale stew, suet pastry to sit on top of the stew and sorting out vegetables.  For on Thursday Irene, Gillie, Chris and John came for lunch.  I thought it would be a good plan actually to have food for them.  I'm not sure that vegemite sandwiches would have cut it!

On Friday I actually managed to get to work for a few hours, then I went and picked up the youngsters and they, Lindsey and I all went back to Ballarat, where we were greeted by Jim, Sam and Ian, and an absolutely magnificent seafood paella made by Ian.

Walking around the Lake

On Saturday, Lindsey, the visitors and I walked around the lake.  Ian, Sam and Jim walked around a bit of the lake.  In the afternoon, all of us except Ian and Sam went to Sovereign Hill for a bit of a look around.  Sovereign Hill consistently wins awards as a tourist attraction - and I haven't been for decades.  I suppose it's the sort of place that locals don't go to unless they have visitors.  And I possibly should go more often than once every 30 years or so.  There's a lot to see and we only had a couple of hours.  If you wish to volunteer to come and visit so we can go again, please feel free!

On Sunday Lindsey, Ian and the visitors took themselves off to drive along part of the coast and then took the ferry across the bay and went to visit Stella and Tony, briefly.  Jim and I did very little.  I suppose I could have done an update here on Sunday - but I didn't!

On Monday, Jim and I pottered down to Melbourne and met Lindsey in the flat.  We wandered into town, did a bit of shopping, wandered around a bit more, pottered back to the flat - and in the evening everyone went out to celebrate Ian's 60th birthday.

On Tuesday and Wednesday I actually managed to get into work.  The scanning mountain is growing!!!!!

On Thursday I was in Ballarat pondering whether to buy the rather nice dressing gown I was looking at which was at half price.  My phone rang.  It was Lindsey with a very complicated proposal involving car swaps, travel plans, dog feeding plans and various other things because someone needed to be in Mount Martha on Friday morning to take Tony for some hospital tests.  I abandoned my plans for the next couple of days and hastily packed for a week or so, grabbed Jim and we embarked on the car swap.  This was slightly complicated by the fact that we arrived to swap the cars when parents were picking their children up from school. No parking spaces to be had for love nor money.  Eventually we got it all sorted hopped in Emily's car to set off on our mercy mission - and Stella rang to say that the hospital visit had been postponed to next week :-(

We decided to come down anyway.  We were coming on Saturday in any case and it seemed silly to re-swap the cars, cancel the dog sitter and go back and unpack, especially given that we were sitting in the car ready to go.  So down we came.  I could have wished not to have hit the Burnley Tunnel and the Monash Freeway at just after 5 on a weekday, but in fact the traffic wasn't as bad as it sometimes is and we arrived in Mount Martha nicely in time for dinner.

So here we are.  The sun is shining.  We have no real plans until Sunday late morning.  It might not be quite so busy (although  the irony then is that there may be time to write the blog, but there is nothing to say :-S )

This feels  very much like a What I Did on my Holidays school essay!  So here are some pictures from our visit to Sovereign Hill:

Monday, May 15, 2017


It was Lindsey's 60th birthday last Thursday.  It was the Practice Manager's 50th birthday, also on Thursday.  It was decided to have a lunchtime celebration at the surgery on Wednesday, since neither of the birthday girls would be in on Thursday.

They got food in from the various eateries in the shopping centre that the surgery sits in.  We had pizza and sushi and calamari and chips and cold platters and all sorts.

And the Practice Nurse made a cake.  Except there wasn't actually any cake.  It was all made of various kinds of fruit.  It was amazing!

Thursday lunch time found Lindsey, Ian, Jim and me in a wine bar in Ballarat, eating Japanese style food.  I was the designated driver so no wine for me, which had the unexpected benefit of introducing me to a bitter grapefruit drink.  It was absolutely delicious.  I may have had two!

Ian took himself off to Brisbane via the airport bus and a plane after lunch.

Lindsey, Jim and I went home and prepared our stomachs for dinner, which we had with Emily, Ant and Jess in a Japanese Teppanyaki restaurant in Ballarat.  We had the tasting menu and it was amazing.

Yesterday was Mother's Day and the family (apart from Ian and Jess, but including Wendy's former mother in law Margaret) gathered at Mount Martha in celebration of all our mothers - and Lindsey's birthday.  I took a vegan shepherd's pie topped with sweet potato, and a meaty one topped with traditional potato.  Susie brought delicious sausage rolls and kofta.  Lindsey came with salads and a fruit platter. Stella had also bought salads, green beans and a cherry pie.  Belinda brought a rhubarb crumble. There was lots of wine. It was a very mighty feast indeed .

And now we have a celebratory pause.  No more birthdays until next week!

Monday, May 08, 2017


We started the day at the Farm Gate Market, which happens on Sundays a short stroll from our house. It's not anywhere near as big as the Salamanca Market, but it is definitely a food market.  We were a bit sad that we only had one more main meal to buy for!

Then we made our way up Mount Wellington, whose top was covered in cloud.  It turned out that the route to the top was also covered in snow.  The road to the summit was closed 6 km before you got there.

Cloud capped. We went up anyway

It was very picturesque driving up the mountain

View from the lookout

It's me!!

The road is closed up ahead.  We can go no  further

Thwarted in our ambition to reach the top we drove back down and then turned away from Hobart and headed out to Huonville in the Huon Valley, just for a look see.  The Huon Valley is apple country.  There were lots of cider making places.  We didn't visit them :-D  Instead we turned around and made our way to the historic township of Richmond where we had a rather nice lunch in the Richmond Arms, visited the model village of Colonial Hobart, collected the very pretty bridge and pottered around in the shops.

Richmond Arms

Model village

Model Village

Richmond Bridge

And so home where we spent out last evening watching Masterchef while eating the magnificent potatoes, veg and lamb fillets that we had bought in the market in the morning.

I could definitely live in or around Hobart.  It's a nice pace of life.  And the fresh food is amazing.  I might need a slightly better paying job to fund all the eating, though!

We're off back to Victoria shortly.  And then we have three or four weeks of birthdays and other excitements to look forward to.

Sunday, May 07, 2017


What do you do if you should find yourself in Hobart on a Saturday morning? Well, of course you go to the Salamanca Market.

I have been once before but it was over twenty years ago.  It's grown quite a lot since then!  There were hundreds of stalls and lots of people wandering around.  It was an excellent way of spending an hour or so on a Saturday morning - and perhaps one or two dollars as well :-)

Lindsey entering the Salamanca Market

We went for a wander around the Hobart City Centre.  It's a pretty little city.  Apart from its size, it reminds me a bit of Edinburgh.

It has a beautiful bridge which connects the two sides of the city in an easy drive. We've been over it several times. It got knocked down by a rogue ship in the 1970s.  This was a serious inconvenience to the people who lived on one side of the harbour but who worked in the city centre!

You would think that we might have thought to check the ferry time to Maria Island before we embarked on the day's activities.  But we didn't.  We just hopped in the car when we had finished the things we wanted to do in the morning and took ourselves off on the rather beautiful drive to Orford and Triabunna - only to find that we had missed the lunchtime ferry by about 20 minutes.  The next ferry wasn't until mid-afternoon and would only give you about half an hour on the island before the last ferry came back.  There's no late afternoon ferry in the off season.  So we abandoned the idea of Maria Island and went here for lunch instead, attracted by the chalk board out the front which advised us that the combination of a wood fire and shepherd's pie was not to to be missed

And it was a mighty fine shepherd's pie indeed. Country cooking at its best!

We liked Triabunna.  It's a small settlement, but it has cafes, a small supermarket, a gift shop, a butcher, a ferry port and marina, a pub and various other things.  You could almost live there even without a car to take you to Sorrel or Swansea.  I'm not so sure you could live in Orford without a car. It has many, many more houses but seems to have far fewer facilities. It does have a nice beach, though.

However, we aren't planning to move to either of these places and made our way back to Hobart, via the veg shop we were in on Friday, and an oyster shop where Lindsey bought oysters and prawns as an entree for our dinner.  We followed them with fish poached in lemon and olive oil, roast potatoes and lots of lovely veg

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Port Arthur

Lindsey and I thought it would be a good thing to take Jim to Port Arthur while we were here.  As you may know, he has a passing interest in Things Penitential and Port Arthur is extremely interesting as far as prisons go.  We had thought we might go today or even tomorrow but yesterday's weather forecast looked the best of the three days so we hopped in the car and went after breakfast.

We were not in any hurry and were definitely in exploring mode, so we stopped a few times on the way, including here at Pirate Bay (well, you almost have to take a detour if you are offered pirates en route to your destination!!)

Looking over Pirate Bay

Inspecting the Tesselated Pavement

The cobbles have been made by the sea, not by humans
Then on we drove to Port Arthur.  It is a truly beautiful place with a truly ugly history. I have once, many years ago, done a night walk around the site.  I would never do that again! Yesterday, however, with the sun shining and in daylight you could admire the beauty and appreciate some of the good things that happened there,  as well as pondering how even well intentioned people can also do truly appalling things.  The Separate prison was meant to be a model of prison reform!

We didn't go on a guided walk and just wandered around looking at the buildings. We did go on the ferry trip around the harbour.

The chapel, in the Separate Prison, which is set up so the prisoners couldn't see one another

The cells are tiny, and were very, very dark

The Separate prison was not just dark, but also entirely silent. No talking by the convicts

Guard tower

Outside the main penitentiary

The Isle of the Dead

Port Arthur  penitentiary looking for all the world like a stately house from the water

Friday, May 05, 2017


I wouldn't normally arrange to be in Christchurch, followed by Hobart in quite such a rush, but that was the way the discount flights fell.  It's not so much that there wasn't time to turn around.  There was plenty of time to do the washing, pack a bag for Hobart, pack another bag for town, head to Melbourne, go to work for a couple of days, head back to Ballarat, go to bed late, get up very early and make our way to Avalon Airport. Plenty of time, I tell you. (But it was all a bit of a rush :-P )

Anyway.  Here we are.  I bought the flights to Hobart back in November when Jetstar had them on offer.  It's Lindsey's 60th birthday next week and it seemed like a good plan to kickstart the birthday celebrations with a long weekend pottering around and exploring around Hobart.  Jim hasn't been to this bit of Tasmania before and it's years and years since I've been. Last time I was in Tasmania was when we came with Lindsey and Ian and we stayed in the north of the island.

The flights were out of Avalon which is a tiny airport near to Geelong.  I've never been to it before and it's very cute.  I'm not sure which would win the prize for the smallest airport I've ever been to. Avalon is definitely smaller than Sandakan, but it would be a close run thing in the race between Avalon and the little airport in Orkney.  But whichever were to win, they get a joint first prize for the ease of checkin in and going through security.  No immigration to worry about.  Flights to Orkney from Edinburgh and Hobart from Avalon are domestic flights.

We arrived in time for an early lunch.  Please note that if you decide to go into Mures Lower Deck for your early lunch that the portion sizes are ENORMOUS. Humungous.  I think that if Lindsey and I had shared her fisherman's basket we would still have struggled to eat it.  As it happened we didn't share it.  I had a gigantic seafood pizza to tackle. Even Jim was surprised to get two large pieces of fish with his fish and chips.  The couple who came to the table next to us had obviously been there before. They had a single plate of fish and chips with two sets of cutlery!  Oh- and Mures also has sparkling water as a complementary water offering, along with still water, both on tap for you to help yourself.

Lunchtime view
We are staying in an older part of Hobart, within easy walking distance of the centre of town.  If you head up our road, there is an amazing butcher 5 minutes walk away.  If you turn around the corner from our place there is a magnificent whole food and organic shop. Go the other way and there is a cheese and wine store.  Hop in the car and go in almost any direction and there are farm shops, little fish shops, fruit shops, all selling local produce together, in the case of some of the farm shops, supermarket staples.  It is a great great pity that Ian couldn't join us.  It's definitely his kind of place!

It pays to look up when you are wandering around in Hobart:

Sunday, April 30, 2017

And we did go for a final wander along the beach and round the headland into the estuary.  Then we packed up, tidied up our little apartment, packed everything in the car and drove off around the estuary, over the bridge, through Ferrymead to Sumner, which is a beach we could see across the water from Southshore.

It's much more vibrant in Sumner than it is in New Brighton.  I suspect that it can't have been as affected by the earthquakes in 2011. Southshore lost its shops, pub, takeaway food shops in the quakes, along with houses and other facilities.  Not surprisingly, people drifted away. There are lots of shops, eateries, facilities in Sumner, along with lots of activities.  While we were there there were surfing classes happening,  a group of scouts having a picnic on the esplanade, lots of groups of people doing things.

Friday's lunchtime view

And Friday's fish and chips
Clock tower on the esplanade
We had a wander along the esplanade, then headed along the beach towards the estuary to look at "our" spit of land from the Other Side

It was much too early to head to the airport, so we decided to go for a drive.  We headed up a steep road out of town.  The road I had intended to head along at the top was closed to traffic, so I swung left.  This almost immediately appeared to be a mistake.  There was a car ahead of us, which disappeared from view.  The road, then, was obviously used.  However, it was a narrow road, single lane only, winding, hugging the cliffside - and with no barrier between us and the steep, deep drop on our left.  I am sure it was perfectly safe but we didn't know where the road was going and we didn't quite see what we would do if another car came towards us.  There didn't seem to be many passing places.  At a larger than usual passing place, I turned around and headed back.  We then had a beautiful drive along a slightly wider mountain road with glorious views.

We had no dramas getting back to Melbourne. The flight was uneventful.  The Aussies let Jim back in. Lindsey was waiting for us and drove us back to Mount Helen.  Jim and I have had a lovely, quiet weekend which has been almost entirely uneventful.  Lindsey and Ian went on a day flight to King Island today. I don't think that counts as uneventful :-D

Friday, April 28, 2017

What a Difference a Day Makes

The weather yesterday was absolutely glorious. The sun shone. The sky shimmered.  The ocean glistened. It was just beautiful.

We started the day with a walk along the beach towards New Brighton.  We didn't go that far, mind.  It's a little over 6 km by road from here to New Brighton. Not sure how far it is along the beach but it's definitely too far for a leisurely morning stroll.  Plus, of course, we would have to get back!

If you click on the photos, you can see them full size.

Morning walk:

We decided after the walk to head towards Mount Cavendish, about a 20 minute drive, and to go up to the summit in the gondola. We really enjoyed it.  The gondola ride is lots of fun. They have a brief history of the Canterbury District at the top. It's much like to ride in Jorvik, only considerably shorter. We enjoyed that too. We had magnificent plates of fish and chips in the restaurant and thoroughly enjoyed looking at the views over Lyttelton Harbour, the whole of Christchurch - and our little peninsula.  We could even see the New Brighton pier (though it was too small for me to get a photo of with my phone)

Gondola Experience:

It's a long way up!

Inside the Time Tunnel

Lunch time

All gone - Even ate the batter!!!

We are staying to the right of that far spit of land.

Looking down on the gondola ride

Lyttelton Harbour

The afternoon continued to be glorious. So after a cup of tea, we took an afternoon stroll around the Southshore Spit:

All in all very good day.

My frustration with the kitchen was resolved today too.  We were talking to the owners, who were away when we got here, and mentioned the single, small saucepan. Within moments another, larger one had been delivered - I suspect from their kitchen!  I bought a pair of oven gloves. I was tempted to leave them here, but they are packed ready to head back to Ballarat.  And I decided I could live without a dish rack. The dishes have been draining on a tea towel.  And, most unusually for holiday accommodation - the sharp knives are actually sharp!!

It's not as sunny today, and it is our last day here.  Our flight isn't until mid-evening and checkout isn't until quite late.  I think we might go for a final stroll along the beach and then head out for the afternoon.