Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tea for Two


When on holiday I enjoy the luxury of an afternoon tea - not every day - but at least once and preferably somewhere with a view. There are several places in Melbourne and yesterday presented an opportunity for us to indulge in a decadent chocolate experience at the Langholm Hotel. We were greeted and seated with a magnificent view of the chandelier!
I tried three types of tea, the most different being the rose oolong. A delicate scented infusion - think Yves St Laurent Paris cologne with a touch of Earl Grey! The sandwiches and scones ticked all the right boxes but the chocolate pasties and petite fours were especially delicious and boasted a couple of dabs of edible gold leaf. The menu contained some do's and dont's - as if we needed guidance! Tips were given on.......
How to hold the tea cup and should the little finger be raised?
Milk first or tea?
How should one stir the tea?
To dunk or not to dunk?
Sandwiches with or without crusts?
We passed the test with full marks and wobbled out a couple of hours later. The sugar high lasted the rest of the day! So I can add Melbourne to my list of tea experiences. They include Egypt, Paris, London, Dubai, Cape Town, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Port Elizabeth and while sailing on the Indian Ocean.
I have another place in mind for tea here - it is served in a rooftop garden above a previously well known brothel. I should imagine that the tea will be strongly perfumed, the scones fruity and tart will be served.
I will let you know!

Not a Kindle in sight!

Its a public holiday here and of course the day was all planned but the weather intervened and we set off on a different course. We went off to the Victoria State Library in Melbourne. Some of you may think - boring - but this is a library as I have never seen one! This library has over 2 million books, employs around 300 people, has over 6 million online visits and has attracted nearly 2 million visitors over the years! It was built in 1866 as an exhibition centre and is beautiful outside - even in the rain. Even more lovely inside - it has a very grand domed reading room which is well used. It has a wonderful collection of old books and manuscripts and is the home of Ned Kelly's armour. No dusty shelves of yellowing paperbacks here - Its a space alive with activity and the perfect place to explore on a rainy day! Its hard to imagine a life before books or the printed word or a world where only the wealthy could read. They have a wonderful collection of ancient books and manuscripts but my favourite exhibit was this tiny Victorian midget library with eleven tiny volumes complete with magnifying glass. I have never seen anything like it!  

 We had been told that the best place for coffee in Melbourne was a little coffee shop down a hidden alley way opposite the library, Rue Bebelons, so we went there and enjoyed the best cappuccino in  Melbourne served by a barrister with an up style and a steady hand with latte art.

Staying with the book theme we made our way to Dymocks and browsed the great selection of books on offer - I am still looking for a must read Australian novel - so recommendations are very welcome. However I did find River of Smoke, the sequel to Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh.

Then it was another tram and trek to enjoy one of my other weaknesses while on holiday - Afternoon tea - This time with a difference here at The Langham Hotels - but that a another blog!  On our way there we encountered lots of men in uniform as it was ANZAC Day and they were all in the city to take part in the Remembrance Day events. These sailors begged to have their photo taken with me - How could I refuse?


After all - All the nice girls love a sailor!


Saturday, April 21, 2012

My Week in Melbourne

Day 2.  I felt very brave venturing out after my tram lesson - I obviously had a good teacher because I had no trouble finding my way to the tram stop and into the city.
Melbourne is a young city for young people. You walk....and walk.....and walk some more. On my first day I took myself off to the Botanical Gardens and enjoyed the tranquility of a green space in the middle of the city. Although the plants are very familiar to South Africa, the park is beautifully kept and it was so pleasing to see that it was used by yummy mummy's pushing prams, young couples on romantic picnics and joggers and cyclists on the perimeter.
Encounter of the Day: My visit was marred somewhat as I was followed around by a man who was convinced he was in love with me - obviously a nutter - and he just wouldn't go away! After an hour or so - I was ready to look for hemlock in the garden - for him that is! I wore flat shoes but obviously not designed for walking or running away from stalkers, and have been footsore since! It's a scenic walk from the gardens alongside the Yarra River so I meandered back to the tram enjoying watching river activities along the way.
Day 3. I am now a tram natural and hop on and off confidently. I made my way to SouthWharf where there is a big retail park and found a shoe shop with wall to wall Sketchers. I walked out in THE most comfy pair of takkies (and 2 other pairs).  I then found the 5$ bookstore about the size WW Walmer Park - I was in heaven but I really had to choose sensibly or I will have to abandon my new Sketchers.  I enjoyed looking around and as the name suggests it's on a waterfront so there was plenty of opportunity to sit and admire the river traffic. Shopping is expensive in Melbourne but there are bargains to be had and lots of sales on.
Encounter of the Day: The lovely friendly girl who assisted me in the shoe store was the epitome of customer service and I could have kissed her when I put on the magic slippers that will take me around Melbourne for the rest of my visit.
Day 4. I am now tram tour guide and helping other people find their way around. I hopped on the tram and made my way to the  National Gallery of Victoria. I was met by the famous wall of water at the entrance which sent me off in search of the ladies!
What an amazing collection of European Art! I spent a couple of hours wandering around and saw paitings from 15th century Dutch and Italian oils to impression -ists Manet, and Sisley, also a  Modigliani and pop artist Hockney's work.I was impressed and need to go back for a second visit as I didn't go in every room as I was drawn to the 'tea room' - a work of art in itself - by the aroma of freshly made scones. So, a delicious Devonshire cream tea it was. 
Encounter of the Day. Girl in Black painted in 1930 by Gerald Leslie Brockhurst - in my next life I will have hair like this!
From the gallery, I made my way to the  Free City Circle Tram stop and hopped on for a free tour of the city with useful commentary  to help me plan where I want to go next. In the evening Nadine and I made our way to China Town and enjoyed the lively atmosphere and some really good Chinese food.
Oh... I slept really well!
Day 5. OK so now I have really walked my legs off discovering Melbourne - today is the day we go on a 2.5 hour walking tour!
Encounter of the Day: Our edgy, politically opinionated and strangely dressed young guide, Lisa, who does this on a donations only basis.

She took us (and the rest of the group) around Melbourne - from some of the well known landmarks and into the Graffiti decorated alleyways and hidden Melbourne. As we went she told us stories of how Melbourne was founded and named and also where to get the best coffee and the 'must have' Melbourne dumplings. After the tour we headed back to China Town to enjoy the best dumplings ever at Shanghai Village. They were sumptuous little parcels of tastiness - Yum!
Then just because I hadn't had enough excitement for the week - Nadine arranged for us to go up the the 90 stories high Eureka Towers to get a 360 degree view of the city from the observation deck ......and from a glass cage where we were suspended in space, 300m above the ground!

Tomorrow's challenge is a bicycle ride - haven't done that for about 45 years so it will be interesting! Will post some of my photos soon!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My First Day Down Under

What a day! I woke up to my cell phone alarm at 6am - forgetting to switch it off is not funny! Anyway I had no problem going back to sleep for an hour or so. My bedroom looks like a teenagers with clothes, cases and toiletries scattered everywhere but the first priority was to get up and get out. Nadine very kindly took a day's leave so that she could help me get my bearings and teach me some tram rules. I have a day to learn so need to pay attention !

And off we went - on the tram to downtown Melbourne, off the tram down to the railway station, topped up the travel card, walked by the Yarra River, jumped on to the free city tram to Victoria Market to enjoy an array of deli delights, lovely cheeses, cooked meats, olives and tappas. Sushi hand rolls for lunch and then a browse around the fresh produce covered market where every vegetable and fruit that you could think of was there ready for our choosing. After squeezing several tomatoes Nadine picked the best and together with our bazil and spinach leaves, we headed back to the tram stop for our journey back to Port Melboune and a well deserved cuppa - this time chai tea! thinking about what I saw - Parliament Buildings, Art Galleries, Eureka Tower 89 stories high (apparently I am going up this and will stand on a glass platform called 'the edge' and look down to the street) eek! The beautiful gates in the photo are of the Australian mint - after all the lovely things I saw today, I may need an inside contact there.


When my feet had cooled down, we set off again to orientate myself with the Port Melbourne area where Sean and Nadine live. Its lovely - very much like Humewood but cleaner, newer and full of young, sporty professionals - Yes! I blend in naturally! The Spirit of Tasmania was sitting in the harbour - this daily ferry will take you across the Bass Straight to Tasmania in 12 hours and bring you back again. It was ablaze with lights as it swallowed up cars and passengers to ferry to the 'island of inspiration."


OK so now I know where I am and I know how to get to town, know how to ride the tram and have a pretty full tram card so I have no excuse but to go out tomorrow and explore ...after I have tidied my room! Goodnight xx

Monday, April 16, 2012

Breathtaking

I was born curious and have an insatiable appetite for discovery. For me one of the joys of travelling is having the time and the state of mind to 'live in the moment'. My day to day routine is pretty hectic - I always seem to have more to do than time to accomplish things and each day is a battle of priorities with little time to 'stop and smell the roses' - much of the pressure is self imposed and stems from habit! In holiday mode and being aware that this moment may never come again, I make an effort to take not only photographs but to embed special experiences in my being and to capture them in my soul so that years later a piece of music, a certain light or a sniff of the air can take me right back to that moment. I call these 'magic moments' and I have had many. Here I will share my top four from my travels.
Uruguay 1996. I have spent a day exploring Colonia on my own (Helen my daughter in law had visa problems so had to cancel at the last minute). I resisted the temptation of joining a tour and spent the day of wandering around churches, monuments with historical significance of which I was oblivious  to, as everything is in Spanish, and browse through the markets. I am aware that time is running out and I have to make my way back to the ferry. I am walking downhill in that direction of the harbour and hear music- "por uno cabeza" the Tango music from THAT dance in the movie Scent of a Woman. I am stopped in my tracks and make my way across the cobblestones towards its source.  Here is a street cafe and the music is being played by a group of young, Hispanic musicians and in the centre a small old man with a black fedora hat singing his heart out and holding the limelight. A not-so-young couple are dancing the tango - moving effortlessly together - a lifetime of practice. I join a table and am served thick coffee and drink in this moment - I felt as if I had my finger on the pulse of Uruguay and cared nothing if I missed my ferry. This was a moment of magic - not to be missed!
Beijing 2005. I have never been as cold in my life. We left Shanghai (Sean, Nadine and I) in a flurry of soft snowflakes to fly up to Beijing for the weekend. We book a tour to the Ming Tombs and the temperature plummet as we climb. Sean and Nadine are excited as they have never experienced 'real' snow before and jump out when we arrive to make snow balls - Nadine eats one! After enjoying the ancient treasures on display we continue higher to the Great Wall at Badaling. We are told by our guide that if we turn right the walk is easy but there are lots of people....so we turn left and start climbing. It's -19C and the Great Wall looks like a dragon winding itself across the mountain pass  over the vast, dark grey, desolate mountains. Its hard to climb because of the chill and the altitude and I can only imagine the hardship of the peasants who built it and the soldiers who stood watch on it centuries ago. I stood on top of the world and realised my own insignificance in the magnitude of the universe and time. Coffee never tasted as good when we got to the village below.
Mozambique 2007. Tony and I are in a small plane flying up the coast of Mozambique and enjoying the turquoise ocean from the air - whale and dolphin spotting and chasing the shadow of our aircraft projected on top of the ocean below us  - One of the reasons that I love this type of flying is that you are flying low enough to get a real birds eye view of wherever you are. We come in to land, which is always an adventure in a little plane, and this time is no different, the airstrip is in a field! A horse is galloping alongside us as the plane comes down and we pass an African woman carrying firewood on her head - she stops to watch our plane bump across her village green. I will never forget her calm expression - this was an everyday experience for her. For me it was a moment of magic!

Castle Howard, Yorkshire 2003. I loved Eveline Waugh's classic novel Brideshead Revisited, and wallowed in the BBC series in the 80s with Jeromy Irons playing Captain Charles Rider - I could listen to his beautiful voice all day! So when Julia announced that we were going to visit the house where most of it was filmed - I was more than excited. It was Sunday and we wondered through the rooms enjoying the history and as always I am touched by the smaller personal possessions of a family home - embroidered samplers and old books - rather than the priceless portraits and furniture on view. We are sat in the garden enjoying rare Yorkshire sunshine and strong Yorkshire tea when we hear the chapel bell announcing evensong. On the spur of the moment, Julia  and I joined the congregation and attended the service. Sitting in a place of worship - where the devout Lady Marchmain took communion - surrounded by ancient stone and carvings, listening to angelic voices and reflecting on how precious our families was a really spiritual experience. A magic moment shared with my sister!
There is a saying that life is not measured by the breaths that you take but the moments that take your breath away. Here are four of mine and writing this has brought to mind several more - para-gliding in Mauritius, the first time I stood on Van Staadens beach in front of the roaring surf, watching wales frolicking off Schoenies and sunsets on the Zambezi.  I am on holiday in Melbourne just now and have a feeling that I am not only going to have an adventure but I am going to encounter magic!

Friday, April 6, 2012

When will there be good news?

I have had a fabulous week! I have rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous, enjoyed cocktails on a yacht on a sunset cruise in the bay. Found some fabulous shoes that are stylish, comfortable and didn't cost a fortune. Made significant inroads in my career, spent time with my close, loving and highly successful family and am sitting with a new ring on my finger bought for me by my darling husband. Jealous? Is that not the purpose of putting your fabulous self out there into cyberspace through Facebook, Twitter and the like? You would think so if your read through many people's status updates and I am pretty sure that this is creating a dissatisfaction amongst us - a feeling that everyone else has a fabulous life and that we are just ordinary losers. The reality is that the law of the universe says not everyone can be at the top of the pyramid of success (it would then be a square hey!)
Actually most of the above is a much embroidered version of the truth. My real week went something like this:-
Monday - Went to work and twiddled my thumbs as most of my students were absent - Frustrating! I did pop into Greenacres on the way home though and found a pair of shoes that I know I will wear all winter! Stylish? (Perhaps); Comfortable and affordable (Green Cross - need I say more?)
Tuesday - More students - more frustrations! Also started with a sore throat so made an appointment to see the doctor on my way home. Not good news - Streptococcus pharyngitis and I have a full week of training to conduct next week! Bed and Drugs!
Wednesday - I have a hair appointment and a sore throat, a headache and fever! Its the last chance I have to get my hair done before I go overseas. My poor hairdresser agreed to sort me out - I offer her a mask! Straight back home to bed! I sleep all afternoon and in my dreams I am on a yacht in the bay with the rich and famous! I have a restless night! I awake covered in a rash - EISH!
Thursday - I work from my bed - My time is at a premium because of my impending holiday - I have deadlines to meet so have no choice! I am itchy! I have been trying to get in touch with Sean in Melbourne all week as I need to speak to him before I leave. No luck!
Friday - Good Friday! when will there be good news? My throat is better. My rash is the same and I still have work to do but I am making progress! Hooray - I get to Skype with Sean. My hubby cheers me up by giving me an early wedding anniversary gift. Scent of a Woman (one of my all time favourite movies is on TV) and this cuppa-soup tastes awesome! Some days really are better than others and success is all about looking for good news, finding something to celebrate in the small stuff and jsut being the best you can be!
That's Life!!