The Occasional Tales of Ailsa B du Bois

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Archive for January, 2011

My impressions of Hobart & past observations…

Posted by Ailsa B du Bois on January 3, 2011

When I was last in Hobart (circa Oct 08) I had dinner with some work colleagues, one of whom was a quiet mannered Scot.  We were sipping pre-dinner bevvies on the upper deck of Mures Seafood Restaurant on the waterfront, and I was waxing on about how gorgeous Hobart was, when he suddenly announced “I dooooh-n’t like it”.  The Scots can be masters at brevity.

“But what about the stunning landscape and the wealth of heritage buildings? Doesn’t it remind you at least a little of Scotland?” I asked.  “Yeeees,” he said “That’s exaaaactly… thaaaaat’s the raaaay-zonnn I doooon’t like it.  It’s too much like hoooome – except that it feels waaaarmer, safer and cleeenarrr.”  Puzzled I thought “What’s not to like?”, but he was adamant it was too similar to his homeland, and too out-of-date.

Granted, the apartment complex I stayed in that trip did appear to have been decorated by my Auntie Pat, which is fine if you’re partial to conservative touches that have not altered one bit since the very early 80s.  The thing that struck me as most odd was that all the appointments were clearly very new, less than 18 months old at a guess, yet all the choices were so plain and dated, tipping over into drab.  I found it odd to think that the owner or managers had purposefully gone out and spent a whole lot of money on making the decor look a time capsule from 1981.  Despite this proliferation of old-fashioned, conservative interiors though, it seemed to me that where pockets of new century (naughties) built and social culture existed, they were right on the money.

I’ve long felt that Tasmania doesn’t quite fit with the geo-physical genre of the rest of Australia.  It has so much more in common with New Zealand I think, and I recall being told in year 12 geology that there’s some speculation that the fragments of land, or tectonic plates to be more precise, upon which Tasmania & NZ rest may possibly have floated over from the South American sub-continent many eons ago, as apparently may have the Philippines, which resonated with me. It could be a bunch of baloney, but I’m inclined to see it as feasible.

I should mention at this juncture that I failed Year 12 geology miserably, having a far keener interest at the time in the extra-curricular pursuits while on geology camps and excursions.  I paid very little attention to the formal scientific instruction I was meant to be receiving. So grankly this little gem of unsubstantiated hear-say is the only thing I really gained from the whole year of geology studies.  I’ve always been a A grade arts & social sciences student, but suffering  a big mental block with regard to natural science and mathematics.

In any case, when I reflect on my visits to Hobart, twice on business and once on a shoe-string budget holiday, I always have it in my mind that there are some quite slick cafs and restaurants about the place, though I must admit that my business trips to Wellington & Hobart often blur in my mind, so maybe when I’m thinking about Hobart I romanticise it, and unwittingly and very generously extend the cosmopolitan merits of New Zealand’s capital city to Hobart, which is simply wrong.  It’s the landscape that does it – so similar environmentally as cities in so many ways, yet clearly Wellington offers a vastly more diverse array of shopping, cultural and employment opportunities.  I adore Wellington, and if I were a Kiwi, that is where I’d choose to live.  I’ve been there about 6 times, so I have a reasonable handle on it, and one thing I do know both cities share is the intensely ferocious winds that come of the respective harbours.

I do however get a bit weary of the predictable tourist goods that Hobart offers visitors: a dozen varieties of fudge springs immediately to mind.  And the real estate prices are so inflated… I mean it’s definitely worth the money in world terms for the stunning views, the over-all charm and character of the city, the convenience and user-friendliness of the place, and so on, however in the context of the very limited earning capacity most people would have once living there, it really makes no sense to me.

I know that a significant amount of retired academics, antique dealers, government policy administrators, gourmands and the like have shifted to Tassie from major mainland capitals in the past 10 years or more, and have been able to pay the price, thus rationalising it, but at the end of the day I can’t see how the real estate values make sense within the Tasmanian economy.  But that’s just my take on it.  Maybe there’s something I don’t know…

It will be interesting to review the place while on holiday for a change, and with my hub with me, and get his take on it.  My hunch has always been that he’ll be entirely seduced by the place, as I have been, despite its provincial shortcomings (which in turn feed into its very sweetness), so it will be interesting to see what he thinks.  We’re not about to pack up and move there, but the sheer beauty of Tasmania is tantalising.

All of that said, in just 5 more sleeps we’ll be there, and I can reappraise it all.  Knowing that January is their warmest month & its forecast to be 16 to 24 degree with rain forming, which is probably as sunny and bright as it gets… Tasmania is known to be green for a reason.  It’s a wee bit wet a lot of the time, I do suspect.

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Packing for Tassie…

Posted by Ailsa B du Bois on January 2, 2011

For my hubbie Laurie’s big 50th birthday milestone, I asked him what he wanted to do in celebration.  To my considerable surprise he chose a holiday, specifically a relaxing get-away with a handful of long-term friends to Wineglass Bay on the stunning natural coast-line of Eastern Tasmania.  (I expected him to want a big party, but clearly age has brought him to his senses at last – I’m really not sure if I should be pleased by this pragmatic approach or slightly saddened).  Anyway, as we’re DIWOOKs (Double Income With Only One Kid)… And yes, I just made this acronym up because I’m a bit of a cad…, we figured most of our single friends wouldn’t want to come on this sort of trip with us, and we don’t know any couples with kids that would either, so we decided it made most sense to invite Laurie’s two oldest pals that are in long term relationships and who we suspected might be likely to find the tranquil pleasures of the Island State appealing and furthermore might be interested in spending precious holiday money doing it: Cam (who was Laurie’s share house mate in a Redfern terrace when we first met, and Laurie’s best man at our wedding) and Ali (who actually introduced us to each other at a Darlinghurst bar in Sydney about 15 years ago).  Another consideration was how many people we could possibly fit in a hire car, and most importantly in a nicely appointed rental holiday house.  7 seemed to be the magic number.  So, as it turns out there’ll be 7 of us at Wineglass Bay: One DIWOOK couple, two DINK couples (hetro & gay respectively), our adorably chatty 7 year old daughter and a new game of Cleudo.

I guess this is what middle age is all about.  And yes, I do think it’s just possible (however ambitious) that Laurie could to live to be 100 (His father is currently 79 and globe-trotting about constantly, on all manner of indulgent cruises through Alaska, Central America, Asia and the Mediterranean, and annually spending time in LA hanging out with the family of Flea from the Red Hot Chile Peppers.  When at home, he’s still off travelling all over the state, when he’s not in Queensland of course, or shopping at organic farmers markets or playing gulf or renovating houses – In a word he is ‘fit’).  I DO hope Laurie has his genes.

So,we’ve booked 3 nights accom in Hobart at Somerset on the Pier (a posh wharf apartment style number on the waterfront), then 3 nights at Freycinet Haven (a 4 bedroom holiday home elevated above Coles Bay, in the Wineglass Bay region), then finally 2 nights accom at Somerset at salamanca (perfect for tumbling out of the front door directly into the hum of the Saturday morning Salamanca markets).  All the accom pics look gorgeous, and I eyed off Salamanca on the Pier with close range interest last time I was in Hobart on business (for a deadly dull psychology conference), and told myself this was where we should stay if we visit on a family holiday.  The Henry Jones Art Hotel looks great too, and I’ve had dinner there, but as it’s all ambient lighting & sophistication, I figured the idea of an apartment on the pier is a much brighter option for a kid.  There’s only so much art Jemima can stomach – We drag her to enough gallery launches as she can stand, so Somerset on the Pier it is.

We land in Hobart a day before one couple and two days before the others, so we’re doing our own thing in the beginning – Taking a day trip to the Huon Valley south of Hobart.  I visited Cygnet and surrounds about 13 years ago, with a Uni friend, and thought it was stunning, so at last I’m able to show it to my loved ones.  I like the fact that it’s making a profile for itself on the Australian gourmet food circuit.  My recollections of the Huon from last time are very positive, though shrouded in cool misty fog.  It seemed wet a lot of the time.  I saw fresh oysters clinging to the rocks in the estuaries there, and the old apple barns made an impression on me as well.  It should be a very nice day drive in our hire car meandering from berry farm to apple orchard to quaint country bakery – that’s the spirit of the ‘sneak peak at the Huon Valley’ plan anyway.

And now to packing…  Well that starts tomorrow, but for now I have a list scratched on the back of a torn old energy bill (paid of course), and that’s a good start. Item 1, tick… Item 2, tick…

More from me later… 🙂

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