No Use of Catapults. No Sign of Lance Murdock

  We spent a big chunk of the day walking/hiking at the Launceston Gorge.  The Gorge is to Launceston what Stanley Park is to Vancouver, not just spectacularly beautiful but right in the heart of the city.  In the late 1800s the British took what was essentially a swamp and glorified it into a local park; the existing topography didn’t hurt.   The Gorge is a rocky enclave, a canyon of sorts, that runs through the north side of the city, then empties into the Tamar river.  There are walking tracks, outlooks, the usual tea rooms and so forth.  I couldn't help thinking that Portland is the only other city I've been to with a gorge and Springfield, where the gorge features repeatedly, was immortalized in 1990 when Homer, inspired by Lance Murdock, attempts a feat of skateboarding across.  With predictable results.   There is a view chairlift for those inclined.  The unsupported 308 meter span across the basin is the longest in the world (unsupported stretch of chairlift; not terribly encouraging).   At the west end of the basin is the Alexandra Suspension bridge dating to 1904; maximum load 60 people.   To deter people (teens) from swimming in the basin, the municipality built a swimming pool.  Locals call it an eyesore.  NB: Many teens still swimming in the basin.   The British placed strict regulations on the park, back in the day.  No unseemly boisterousness.  No bad language.  No discharging firearms or using catapults.  No playing games.  There is a dell to the north that was once a leisure area with swings, maypoles and see-saws.  Use of play equipment was forbidden on Sundays and swings were chained to stop their use.  So you had a six day workweek and a day of leisure without any fun.  Today there was a bagpiper playing, among other songs, Waltzing Matilda and Ave Maria.  Regulations have their place... Wallabies mate. The British introduced peacocks, but the local fauna gets on well it seems.   Midday we drove to an inner city working farm, bought some berries, then to a vineyard not far out of town but their restaurant was closed, then came back to Launceston and had lunch at the bakery/café under our room.  It was gorgeous and sunny and we putzed around town for a while then took a late matinee.  We had dinner at a local across the street from where we’re staying.   Sunset from our room.  Last night in Launceston.  Next couple of days at a remote Air BnB without WiFi.  No blog posts until Hobart.

Pelicans, Penguins & a Links Course

There is a wine route, a mere two-and-a-half-hour loop drive from Launceston, but once you factor in all the stops and deviations it’s a full day.  We started out early, in the clouds; it went 39 degrees Sunday, 31 degrees Monday, then in the teens this morning hitting a high of 24.  Needless to say it felt like we were  freezing.   The route we chose took us through farmland, mainly cattle and sheep, north to the coast.  The first stop was Jansz, which makes a number of sparklers, only one of which is available in Canada.    Then we pressed on to Bay of Fires.  At this point I was already done with vineyards: You can’t drink and drive, you can’t ship the wines home, you can’t buy them because you don’t have time to drink them and it’s all the more depressing because the wines are excellent and not that expensive.   We had a tip to take lunch at a place called Lost Farm.  It’s a restaurant in a links golf course called Barnbougle.    We just had fish and chips and a quesadilla (which the server pronounced as a kew-sah-dill-ah) and SS ordered wedgies on the side; the Aussies serve wedgies with sweet dipping sauce and sour cream.   Look at the SENSATIONAL view from the restaurant over the course.  The view from our table.  Wow.  I’d never visited a links course to which all I can say is they’re unusual, just like the British Open on TV, elegant in an austere way, and they look impossible to play.   Barnbougle with Bridport in the distance; not a typo—there is a river Brid, and a port at the mouth.   That’s some major rough.   You could access the beach at the course through a tunnel under the dunes.   The beach was gorgeous, Tofino-like.  It was sunny to the west, grey to the east.   At one point a scoop of pelicans flew by.   After lunch we hit the road and drove due west toward George Town.  If we saw one dead animal we saw 250 dead animals; no joke.  The road kill was through the roof.  Fortunately (or not?) mostly possums and wallabies.   North of George Town is the original northern outpost of the island, the Low Head lighthouse dating to 1833.   At the same point of Low Head is a rocky outcrop to a colony of penguins; they only come in at night, so there is a viewing area where you can go at dusk to watch them arrive and settle.   From Low Head we started the trek back south to Launceston.  The A route, the freeway, is the quickest way, but we decided to wend our way along the Tamar River, which took us along several rural roads east and west.    At one point you cross the Tamar on the Batman Bridge.   As we traversed the valley there was an opp to look north and south at a viewpoint.   By the time we got back to our lodging it was late in the day.  Shortly afterward we set out for the 20 minute walk to dinner at a place called Stillwater, where the Tamar runs down into town.  I guess it was our one fancy-ish dinner here.   We shared some smoked salmon and beet salad; then shared some gnocchi and braised vegetables.  I had a ridiculously curated date pudding dessert.  Good to have an uphill walk after.   We spotted an old theatre on the walk home.  Now a printer.  I guess at least it wasn’t torn down for condos.

Jetsetting on Jetstar

    Yesterday when I was at the tennis SS went to the National Gallery of Victoria which had a free evening at the current show titled Triennial Extra.  There was art, DJs, bars, food, ideas, dance, design.  He saw a lot of cool stuff.    But none of what he saw was better than RF taking his XX grand slam…   Monday morning.  Tennis is over.  The jetsetters are on the move.   We checked out of the hotel before nine and were chauffeured to the elegant and luxe Terminal 4 at Melbourne: Solely serving low-cost air carriers (Jetstar, the Qantas version of Rouge, Tiger Air, etc.).  The great thing about this, though, was there was no pretension.  You check-in yourself, you tag your luggage, you weigh your luggage, if you’ve paid for your luggage the conveyer takes your luggage, etc.  It’s like self check-out at the grocery.  Then security, then a food court and shopping mall, then to the gate.  And at the gate you cross the tarmac to your flight.  Fact: McDonald’s at Melbourne T4 was selling macarons.  Seriously.   Here are some interesting things about flying domestic in Australia: 1. You can travel with liquids.  Water, an open bottle of water, all your sundries, whatever.  No restrictions.  No Ziploc bag. 2. You don’t need ID.  They never checked.  You just need a boarding pass. 3. In security, no undressing; only laptops have to come out of your carry on.   We walked out to gate 44 for our flight; they boarded off the tarmac with a rear and a front staircase.  We were in the front row, which meant nothing really in terms of service or legroom, it was one of those A320 monsters with three and three.  Less than an hour in the air; they came through with a beverage cart for purchase then, before you knew it, we’d landed; why they took us up to 33,000 feet is anyone’s guess. Collage shows departure in Melbourne, arrival at Launceston.   Picked up the rental Toyota at Launceston airport then checked into a lovely Air BNB slash inn type of place which sits over top of a local bakery on a quiet drag in the sort of centre of town.  Kitchenette, fully stocked, sofa, bed, about 650 sq feet, nice light, great bathroom.   We had lunch at a local near our room; smashed avocado on toast and eggplant parmigiana covered in an arugula salad. We did a mosey through town.  It was hot and humid; we expected Tasmania to be cool, but it was 31 upon arrival and sticky.  It did rain, mostly lightly with locals just getting sprinkled.  A few harder downpours which suddenly let up.  Everyone seemed to be happy with a bit of precip.  It was like the rain in Hawaii, not the rain in YVR. This church, Chalmers, built in 1895, now a design studio.  So it goes.   We took dinner down the street at a place called Geronimo where we shared grilled vegetables, salad and pizza.  Smith's Original!