January 31, 2018
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.
January 29, 2018
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!