Love letter to Maria.

I mentioned in my last post that thanks to my sister visiting, I’ve recently gotten to see some parts of Tasmania that hadn’t yet been ticked off my to-do list. Maria Island was one of those on our itinerary, and I’m glad we left it for last because it was spectacular and I didn’t stop singing its praises for at least a fortnight after our trip. If someone even vaguely mentions short walks or day trips, I get started again. This post will no doubt send me on another spiral. It’s for good reason!

Maria (pronounced like Ms Carey, not Mrs Von Trapp, and yes I know it doesn’t have an H on the end but trust me, just get into the habit, blame the British) Island, despite being a little island off the east coast of a little island, actually has a fairly detailed white history. Two convict settlement eras, an Italian entrepreneur’s silk and wine productions and a cement factory, even a couple of hotels in the 1800s and early 1900s before the great depression ended that enterprise and the island became mostly farming land until the 1960s.

In the early 1970s, Maria Island, the entire island, became a national park. Ghosts of Maria’s history lurk all over the island, mostly in building form, with those buildings in various stages of ruin and repair. Exploring the island is a heady mix of crawling over ruins (ok, don’t literally crawl over them, respect the past mate) and traversing the natural beauty. You’ve got beaches, bush, cliffs, meadows, rivulets, and wildlife to encounter on foot or by bike (BYO or hire one). You can day trip it or camp overnight, either in tents or in the old Penitentiary building.

The Assistant Superintendent’s Quarters at Darlington.

My sister and I did a day trip, heading over on the ferry at 9am and returning at 4:30pm. Our backpacks were packed with lunch and full water bottles, and our walking shoes were on our feet. Ready. To. Go. I would heartily recommend anyone heading on a day trip hit the two short walks that Katie and I did, first to the Painted Cliffs (via the Oast House) and then back through Darlington to the Fossil Cliffs. Both of these walks are part of Tasmania’s 60 Great Short Walks, and they’ve made me want to tick more off the list…

Spot the wombat!

Time your visit to the Painted Cliffs for low tide, as even then there’s a bit of scrabbling over the rocks to get to the other side. But it’s worth it. Just look at them.

Take me back.

We had a little sit down at Hopground Beach after cliff-crawling and had some lunch, then stopped in at Darlington for a gander at the Coffee Palace before hitting the trail for the Fossil Cliffs.

*praise hands*

Despite heading over on a full-to-the-brim ferry and visiting in the middle of the summer holidays, our day at Maria Island didn’t feel overwhelmed by other people at all. The busiest spots were the Penitentiary at Darlington (bustling with campers) and the Painted Cliffs, because we were all there for the low tide that morning. Apart from that we crossed paths with a few other pairs of walkers on our journeys, either walking in the opposite direction, or passing us when we stopped to take in the view or sit and eat (or both at the same time).

Fossil Cliffs.

We rounded the bend from the airstrip back to the Commissariat Store with maybe forty-five minutes before the ferry was due, so it seemed only right that we should take our shoes off and play on the beach until then.

Commissariat Store. Beach is opposite.

We did not encounter much wildlife (Katie was slightly brokenhearted over seeing only one very shy wombat all day) but dawn and dusk are the best times of day for those sightings, as well as the Reservoir Circuit, which was the other short walk we didn’t get time for on our trip. It will definitely be at the top of my to-do list for my next visit, and I’m even thinking of overnighting in the Penitentiary… but we’ll see about that. Maybe a bit creepy, and I’m certainly no camper.

In any case, I fell a bit in love with Maria Island on our visit, and I’m surprised more people don’t talk about visiting. I think a lot of locals went to Maria on a school camp when they were younger and so it’s got that precedent for them, but honestly, I enjoyed our day there a lot more than the peak season visit a week before to Freycinet’s Wineglass Bay lookout. I’m still very glad that I did both, but Maria Island wins for me, hands down.

A+ dumdums.

2015 in summary: the best.

Every year for the past few years now I’ve watched the end of the year roll around and everyone bemoan it as the worst year ever. I’ve joined in a couple of times, but my life has always been more swings and roundabouts. The last couple of years in particular have been strongly to that theme (2012 hit a crazy high peak when I partied my way out of Brisbane and moved to Hobart, the following couple of years were mixed with good pals and fun times vs broken ankles and call centres) but this year? This year’s come up trumps for me.

I had no idea what this year had in store for me as I came around the bend. I mean, I knew some things. Every year starts with the alcoholic celebration of Ginuary, so I can always confidently lock that away (it makes for a very busy January for me, actually) but 2015 started with friends and fireworks, flings and fancy foods. And then it got even better.

One of the things on my to-do list when I moved to Tasmania was to find a job I was passionate about and excited to do. I did struggle, when I first got here. It remained the only thing I hadn’t been able to tick off in my first two years here—it turns out that in Hobart, who you know will often get you places, and I moved here not knowing anybody. But then in January of this year, a little boutique budget hotel I’d been making heart eyes over since it opened advertised for a new staff member. I had style. I had flair. I was there. That’s how I became a member of Team Alabama. (But really, I submitted a cover letter intended to charm the socks off the manager and then I had an interview with her and then I was there.) February was chaotic as I saw out my notice at the call centre and started training at the Alabama in time to be flying solo behind the counter in March.

My favourite seat.

The view from reception.

I dropped back from full-time call centre work to my permanent part-time role at the Alabama quite happily, as it coincided with my friend Liv moving in for a few months. Seriously, the stars aligned and said, “Mem, you can survive switching from FT to PT for a couple of months because someone else is going to pay half the rent and utilities you’ve been paying on your own!” Honestly, without Liv moving in, I wouldn’t have felt confident doing that. And without Helen and my mum and a few other friends who demanded that I go for it, I wouldn’t have felt confident even applying for the job. Bless my invaluable support network.

After a couple of golden months of part time work and part time chill, I knew I wasn’t quite going to survive the rest of the time, and Liv wasn’t staying permanently, so the goal of obtaining a second job that I’d also enjoy was quickly becoming a priority (and a challenge). I applied for a few things here and there. I went to a couple of interviews where my heart clearly wasn’t in it and it showed. I’ve never been good at interviewing. But then MONA advertised roles for Dark Mofo, my favourite festival. I told Kel, my boss at the Alabama (and very quickly one of my new favourite people) that she should hopefully expect to have a reference check or two coming her way. She worked her special brand of magic, I interviewed for a Dark Mofo front of house role, and got not only that but the offer of some potential hours in MONA’s front of house team ongoing (and the potential quickly became actual).

Honestly, 2015—you’ve been infused with some kind of juju that I can’t just put down to timing, or luck, or effort.

Working Dark Mofo was a real treat. I fell hard for the festival the first year it was on, so hard that a group of friends from Brisbane came down to enjoy the second year of the festival with me. They came down this year as well (much to my absolute delight) but balancing working at the festival with spending time with pals meant that I was pretty exhausted. That’s actually been the biggest challenge of the second half of the year for me—balancing my work life, my social life and downtime has been a struggle that I think I’m only just now getting the hang of, and allocating enough time for friends and family who visit from interstate is probably my biggest challenge. I keep forgetting how crucial that time with those folks is, and then I feel awful about not spending as much time with them as I possibly can. To Jordan, the feast team, mama, the Perringtons and Fatboy: I’m sorry. I love you. I’ll do better. Welcome to the new years resolution I literally just worked out as I was typing!

Feast Team 2015.

Feast Team 2015.

Back to Dark Mofo. The festival was full of running around, stuffing our faces with winter feast food, resetting a hundred mice numerous times only to watch them explode all over the stage to a rapt and awed audience response (and establishing working relationships with my first MONA staff pals through the mice), playing in light beams and holding precious Piccinini babies. Once the festival was over, I stayed in the front of house team, working casually and fitting my availability around my regular Alabama shifts. For a couple of months after Dark Mofo, I kept working at Detached’s The Shadows Calling exhibition featuring Patricia Piccinini and Peter Hennessey works, growing more attached to the weird furry baby (officially known as the Offering) and the other staff working at the exhibition. Most of us started with Dark Mofo so we had our own little Detached crew, nice to have when you start working in a team of over a hundred people!

MY BABY / The Offering, part of The Shadows Calling.

MY BABY / The Offering, part of The Shadows Calling.

I’ve gotten to know a lot of my MONA teammates over the last six months and so my circle of friends in Hobart (and my Facebook friends list) is steadily expanding. Being an extrovert, this is such a good thing for me, and has certainly added to 2015’s list of many, many positives! From regular pizza dates (holla Local Pizza you my soul pizza) to gallery openings (plug for Visual Bulk) to staff parties (let’s not talk about that one) to serving MONA coworkers drinks at the Alabama, I’m feeling nothing but good vibes.

I had a couple of enforced breaks during the year, the first to Melbourne in April (driven by tickets to see Noel Fielding, enhanced by catching up with mobs of pals, getting my nails did all fancy at Blonde Tiger, eating amazing foods at places like the Town Mouse and Bomba (just to name a couple), and riding trams). In August, I booked a lil solo holiday up at Cradle Mountain, which happened to fall the day after a huge amount of snow did. The break was perfectly timed, as I’d been working myself a little too hard prior to it. I finally ticked the Dove Lake circuit off my to-do list (distressingly beautiful in the snow), and I finally got to properly walk in some big ol’ fresh snow (after missing out on that experience while in Quebec for Christmas 2013 with a broken ankle). White winter holiday of my heart!

May have cried driving through this.

May have cried driving through this.

I did some other fun things this year, too. I went to Panama festival with Helen and Kelsey. I spoke on stage, accompanied by other wonderful people telling their own amazing stories, in front of a bunch of people at the Tasmanian Writers and Readers Festival, and my story was broadcast on the radio. I was on the radio a bunch, actually—I’ve learnt that this is just part and parcel of having friends who are radio presenters, but still fun. On the radio I’ve talked about Ginuary, my broken ankle, helping my friend make a music video in beautiful Tassie. I’ve enjoyed Tassie. One night in the middle of winter I went and played in the sea sparkles down at South Arm with Holly, and I won’t forget that hour of giggling any time soon.

My year’s ended exceptionally, too. My sister came down from Sydney to spend her holidays with me (despite me working through most of them, see a couple of paragraphs up for my apology) and thanks to her to-do list I’ve done a couple of things myself in Tasmania I hadn’t yet done. I guess this included hosting my first orphan Christmas (I sent a text message to my mum saying WHY DID YOU NEVER TELL US HOW MUCH CHRISTMAS FOOD COSTS but it was worth it for fond memories, happy faces and leftovers). On the Sunday after Christmas, I drove my sister and I up the east coast to Freycinet National Park, where we did the hike up the mountain/stairs to Wineglass Bay’s lookout. I wouldn’t actually recommend doing this trip in one day, it’s a lot of driving… we were knackered but we survived! Just yesterday we started the day with some zebra feeding at ZooDoo, another place I hadn’t been before. The day prior to that I missed out on what appeared to be an absolutely brilliant day of adventuring around the Tasman Peninsula and swimming with seals, but I didn’t put my hand up for it (I regret this!) and so my sister went on a day I was working. See again my new years resolution for 2016, but at the same time, I gotta earn da moneys in order to do da things…

Tonight, as per Hobart tradition, we are headed up to the Eyrie for drinking, board games and a stellar view of the fireworks. I’ll be surrounded by some of my favourite people, reflecting on the year that was and smiling the whole time. To everyone who has helped this year be my best year ever—whether you know it or not! If we spent time together this year, you absolutely did—thank you. See you real soon, or a little later, but definitely sometime.

Peace out, 2015. You’ll be a very hard one to beat. <3

Hobart Hype: Breakfast.

I was going to write this post almost a year ago. What’s up with procrastinating from doing something you actually enjoy doing? ANYWAY, here’s part two of the Hobart Hype post series I tried to light a fire under myself with last year. I really love having opinions on things. (I said this in passing to my boss the other day and she casually replied with, “Yes, you do.”)

Just Right: Machine Laundry Cafe.

Known as “Machine” to the locals, it may be stuck in a corner of Salamanca AKA Tourist Central but dang, these guys have got it going on. The coffee is solid (it won’t blow your mind but it won’t break your heart), the breakfast menu goes all day (perfect for the afternoon risers, guilty as charged), and the menu items are a decent mix of classics and more interesting options.

I like to drop into Machine at least once every six months—I’m not a rabid regular. The menu doesn’t change. It just doesn’t. There are a couple of specials every day but I don’t think I’ve ever ordered one. I’ve had the fat boy, the pulled pork sanga, the new old egg dish… they’re probably my top three picks, actually. If you’re a fan of bowls of coffee, they’re on the menu here.

The morning sun can tend to blind half the table if you’re sitting outside, but then again, sitting outside in the morning sun in the middle of winter can be delightful. Because Machine’s in the square, it’s shielded from most of the winds that can rip through town. And you’re right next to a giant chess board if you fancy a round or two before or after your meal.

Thom's Thing @ Machine Laundry Cafe.

Thom’s Thing @ Machine Laundry Cafe.

Overhyped: Pigeon Hole.

This might be the sole reason I decided to start doing these posts. If I see one more mainlander recommend this place to their mainland friends planning a trip to Hobart, I might scream. No, I’ll most likely scream. Who am I kidding? I’ve already screamed over this. I’m screaming right now. Why? Pigeon Hole is fine. It’s fine. I was never overwhelmed with it, myself. The meals are too small and dainty and expensive for what they are, but it’s not bad. It’s just not worth raving over, and the business has changed hands since people first decided to start raving about it, too.

Do you know what’s worth raving over about Pigeon Hole? The bread. Do you know where you can get the bread and many other delicious baked goods now? Pigeon Whole Bakery. Please choose to rave over them instead. Go crazy over their sweet baked goods. Push an entire Pigeon Whole brioche bun into your face, even if it’s got nothing on it. If you’re around Hobart at Easter, do whatever you can to secure yourself some Pigeon Whole Bakery hot cross buns. I don’t even like hot cross buns but I will religiously (ahaha) get a half-dozen of these for the long weekend and I love them. Plus, just the other day my boss told me that they’re now doing banh mi for lunches. SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY.

Underhyped: Raspberry Fool.

Ah, this is awkward. The cafe I was determinedly going to write about in this space almost a year ago has lost my interest. I loved them fiercely, quite honestly, but then they had a kitchen fire and were closed for a few weeks and when they reopened it was with a new menu that was less breakfast-flavoured and somehow undefinably less Mem-flavoured and I went right off them.

Is my finger on the pulse enough to say that there should be more hype for Straight Up? What about Ginger Brown? Or Room for a Pony? I feel like locals, at least, will scoff at my saying Ginger Brown deserves more hype, because the place is consistently busy and most tables will have little reserved signs on any given day of the week—but interstate visitors ain’t got a clue. Ok, maybe we want to keep it that way. I’ll move on.

WAIT, I’VE GOT IT! EVERYBODY HOLD YOUR HORSES! EVERYBODY REDIRECT YOUR HORSES TO RASPBERRY FOOL! This place is so underhyped that I regularly forget about it, which is a travesty, because every time I have been there I have had the most delicious meal, served by the friendliest staff. I’m not even kidding. The first time I went there I had a baked egg dish that blew me away. I don’t even really like egg dishes or tend to go for them if there are appealing enough non-egg dishes, but this was just… it was heaven in a dish. I believe in a Yelp review I went so far as to call it my Hobart Breakfast dish, as up until that morning I hadn’t really found a brekky joint that truly rocked my boat.

Baked eggs @ Raspberry Fool.

Baked eggs @ Raspberry Fool.

There are a couple of cons (mothers always say your flaws are what make you beautiful though, right?), which really just concern the space: it’s a weeny place with not a lot of seating and the floors always make me think “bathroom”. But the pros list is a lot longer. I’ve already covered a lot, but let’s add to that good coffee, open seven days a week (!!!), and a good Facebook presence with lots of tempting photos. I love that Raspberry Fool’s description on FB opens with “A cuddle from mum – yep we serve comfort food”. <3 Comfort food is just what this is, and more people should know it.

So, what do you reckon? As with all reviews, these opinions are subjective, so your mileage may vary. I just really like talking about food.

I did it all for the BBQ.

Any excuse to take a couple of days off and head up to the north west corner of Tasmania is a good excuse, as far as I’m concerned, and when my friend in Burnie offered up her little Weber BBQ to the first taker, I put my hand up. Excuse given, I roped in my partner in crime and we hit the road… first stop being the Texas Pantry in Moonah, maybe fifteen minutes down the road, because sustenance was required for our big day.


Sustenance and sandwiches. (Reuben not bad, but I prefer Montreal style aka TOO MUCH MEAT.)

The next detour was for beautiful Ross (no, not a dude, not a beautiful dude but a beautiful little town) to visit the bakery. We’d recently seen this article from the local paper that claimed Ross Village Bakery was the inspiration for a Miyazaki film, so we had to go and see with our own eyes.

But first, look at Ross.

But first, look at Ross.

I’m not inclined to believe it was the inspiration, and even the resemblance is a little fuzzy, but sure. Whatever gets you excited. I’m all for excitement about things, and if the wooden-walled bakery in Ross is going to draw tourists out there and they’re going to be excited and stay excited and spend their tourist dollars, then that’s wonderful for all involved. I was a little more cynical about the bakery, but what I wasn’t cynical about was Ross in autumn.

Look at it.

Look at it.

From Ross we were going to make a beeline for Burnie, but as we were turning off for the north west, I spotted something with my eagle eye. Something else I’d recently read about. The new Tasmanian Food & Wine Conservatory! Who knew Sassafras was so close to the north west? Not me. Probably lots of other people, but not me.

Revoltingly picturesque.

Revoltingly picturesque.

We were close to closing time, but the lovely ladies were still happy to make us coffees (and sell me my beloved Henrys ginger beer, still only available up north at this time) before we carried on our merry way to Burnie and the BBQ.

Our delightful friend Jenny was willing to host us at her place, despite us only knowing each other On The Internet until we pulled up in her driveway. Such is the joy of online friendships these days! Who am I kidding, I’ve been showing up at online friends’ doors for ten years or so now, and I will frown at anyone who says online friendships don’t count as real friendships.

Moving on.

Jenny and her partner Jeremy took us down to a classy establishment on the Burnie waterfront to drink cocktails with little fluoro animals perched on the rims, and then we all went wandering to try to spy the penguins that live under the boardwalk. Based on our utter lack of success this evening, to this day I refuse to believe that these penguins exist, possibly even doubting that any penguins exist anywhere in the wild. I’ve been lied to and I won’t stand for it. I did, however, get a fun shadow shot of the four of us, right around the moment we gave up hope.

Four people, zero penguins.

Four people, zero penguins.

I did at least get treated to a cat on the trip. Travel cats are very important to me, as a person very fond of cats (we’re not saying crazy cat lady, it’s not necessary). This one wasn’t overly friendly but did have the benefit of a white C mark on her black face. No, her name was not Ceefa. She didn’t particularly want to snuggle but she was still a cat, and that was good enough.

Sunny girl.

Sunny girl.

So we drank our drinks in Burnie, we had our sleepover, we DID remember to load the weber BBQ into the car and then we bundled back in to start the journey back home again. Now, I can’t do a journey without stopping at a few places on the to-do list, and for us that morning Ulverstone was the place to be, so I could finally eat at Thirty Three Cups.

It helped that Jenny couldn’t hold back from raving about their smoked chicken and corn fritters dish.

Three fritters, please.

Three fritters, please.

Correct. She raved so much that nobody wanted to be left out. And that was despite everything else on the menu looking super appealing, too! The specials board almost tempted me away but in the end, I had to be a part of it. And hot DIGGITY, nobody was even mildly disappointed! In fact, I’m going to be very hard pressed to order anything but the fritters on future visits—and oh yes, there will be future visits. Thirty Three Cups is now a must-visit.

We also traipsed through a few stores full of homewares and knick-knacks, jewellery and antiques, and my biggest regret is that I didn’t purchase this.

Totes grouse.

Totes grouse.

Never mind. Maybe it’ll be there waiting for me on my return…

And thus our spontaneous BBQ adventure did endeth, travelling back down the highway to Hobart, marvelling at the beautiful autumnal scenes and trying to remember to stay focused on the road enough to not crash and die so that one day soon we can do it all again.

Eyes on the road, please.

Eyes on the road, please.

A weekend in Panama.

I don’t like camping.

I just find it really in tents. (This joke works better out loud.)

I just find it really in tents. (This joke works better out loud.)

I’m not one of those sorts—and there seem to be a great many of you, to be honest—who get excited about camping and bush walking and the Great Outdoors. I’m just not into it. I’m a child of the internet, of screens and amenities and microwaves. The Easy Indoors, if you will.

And yet, every so often, I think, “what the heck”. These whims are generally linked with music festivals, and I get tricked into thinking that my love of music overrides my dislike of camping. If I leave it long enough, I also get tricked into thinking that my love of music overrides my dislike of music festivals.

This, dear readers, is how I ended up at a festival called Panama.


To its credit, Panama had a heckload of pluses. Only in its second year this year, Panama limited tickets to 1000 punters only, was located on a property in the middle of nowhere (aka Golconda, roughly north east Tasmania), boasted a small but neat line-up for its two days of music, and was certainly on the more affordable end of Australian music festivals. I roped a couple of friends into joining me, we bought Friday passes to get up there early and get settled the day before the festival rush, and we road tripped our way to the great land of no phone reception, narrowly avoiding a speeding ticket for 16km/h over the limit (great north eastern magic) as we rushed to make it in the gates on time.


Friday night went better than expected, I won’t lie. While I’m not a fan of camping, I am a fan of assembling tents. I’m not sure why. The great satisfaction that comes with completion, perhaps? Let’s go with that. We scored a lovely posse just under a tree and got our two tents up without fuss as the sun was setting before a brief exploration of our surrounds. The festival grounds were a stone’s throw away, as were the drop toilets. Ah, camping. Ah, yes.

This makes camping look WAY better than it actually is (though this moment was A+).

This makes camping look WAY better than it actually is (though this moment was A+).

Saturday morning was slightly more eventful. Saturday morning was a harsh reinforcement of my dislike for camping, and Saturday morning was the one lingering memory of a festival called Panama 2015 I will take to my grave. Saturday morning I found a leech in my hair. It was big, it was fat, it was thoroughly sated after gorging itself on my scalp, and it fell into my hand as I ran said hand through my hair. It wasn’t the best way to encounter a leech for the first time, I’ll say that much. Do you know what’s generally tough to come by when festival camping? A hot shower. I spent an hour and a half sitting in my car, focused on the rear-vision mirror and desperately trying to clean my bleeding scalp and hair with baby wipes. It went as well as it could have gone while my scalp was still bleeding thanks to the leech’s anti-coagulant bite.

I got out of the car for the first time in an hour and a half, convincing myself to leave it be and try to enjoy the rest of the festival, when a bee stung me on the neck.

Look, the rest of the festival was fine. The drinks were good, the food was (mostly) good, the rest of the insects on the property left me alone. The crowd was lovely, chilled and not obnoxious at all (I won’t miss you one bit, Splendour in the Grass punters!), and even contained a number of faces I knew from down in Hobart. The property was beautiful (that dam!). The music was great—there wasn’t one performer or band that played that left me thinking, “I could do with not hearing this”.

Ben Salter and Friends.

Ben Salter and Friends.

But I’m never, ever going again.

Despite the festival looking like this at peak times.

Despite the festival looking like this at peak times.

And these excellent companions.

And these excellent companions.

And beautiful drizzly mornings like this.

And beautiful drizzly mornings like this.

And this zero waste policy that was actually 99.9% effective all weekend.

And this zero waste policy that was actually 99.9% effective all weekend.

And this picturesque crap just hanging out in the middle of the festival ground.

And this picturesque crap just hanging out in the middle of the festival ground.

I’m actually serious. WITNESS.

Distilled my own gin, nbd.

Today I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Turns out my very, very good friend Helen had decided to take me along as her guest on Bespoke Tasmania’s Gin Workshop tour at McHenry Distillery. In a nutshell, I can’t recommend this workshop more highly, because I love Tasmania and I love gin.

The perfect day.

The perfect day.

I’m going to run you through the whole adventure, because it was one of the best days of my life and I want to remember it well. The day began with a 9:15am pickup, and I piled into the back seat of Kim Dudson’s car for the drive from Hobart down to Port Arthur. This was really where the whole treat began, because while I love road trips down to the Tasman peninsula, I’m usually the driver. Being able to gaze out the windows while I drank my coffee was wonderful, because the views are spectacular no matter what the season or the weather. We had gloomy clouds and smatterings of rain on the morning trip out and I was spellbound.

Once the beautiful 1.5 hour drive was complete, we pulled up at Bill McHenry’s place and piled out of the car to begin our day in the bond store, next to the row of ten barrels of aging gin. We chatted about gin while drinking coffee, but once coffee was done we assumed tasting gin would be acceptable. It was twelve o’clock somewhere. Continue reading »

How to ten year bestiversary.

Ten years ago, I met the love of my life.

I remember the date, and will always be able to remember it, because it was the same day that Muse played at the Brisbane Riverstage, back when Muse were still cool (it was the Absolution tour). A small gang of us gathered together to go see it, and this gang kind of remains bonded by heart forever, and it all started at that Muse gig. I think I’d met Emma through the boys before that night, but it was only then that we actually got to talking and found out we both worked administration desk jobs when most of our friends had cool, fun, interesting lives that we lived through vicariously. We swapped work email addresses and the rest, as they say, is tucked away in a nutshell, or something like that.

So, September 2014 marked ten years of cool times with my best gal: the Ann to my Leslie, the Bey to my Nicki, the Wayne to my Garth, the Emma to my Mem. This was a good excuse for her to come visit me for a week of lady dates and minor splurges in the name of hetero-lifemateship.

I'm not so secretly twelve years old.

I’m not so secretly twelve years old.

Emma visited in my first year of Tasmanian life, accompanied by her husband Phil. We didn’t explore much beyond Hobart then (apart from a fun afternoon down the Huon at a Willie Smiths open day—before the Apple Shed was renovated), so for Em’s next visit we decided to go a little all out on a tour of a couple of my favourite places.

Day one involved a big drive, talking literally non-stop the whole way up the highway to Launceston and finally stopping for lunch before Em had a car nap as we wound up the north west. I always seem to drive that road in the late afternoon, prime time for the setting sun to stab me in the eyeballs. Maybe one day I’ll be sensible enough to spend a night in Launceston and then get up early to drive the coastline? This was not that day.

A big drive with a nutty finish.

A big drive with a nutty finish.

Stanley, little town of my heart! I make no secret of loving this corner of the north west the most… it’s probably my favourite place on the whole island, for sentimental reasons and volcanic plug reasons and just look at that green grass. The north west is always so beautifully green. We settled into our sweet accommodation at Stanley Seaview Inn, then headed down to the Stanley Hotel for dinner. The seafood chowder wasn’t as amazing as my memory of it, but after dinner we bought a bottle of wine from the little bottleshop space and (after we got back to the Inn, realised the wine had a cork and there was no corkscrew at the Inn, got back in the car and drove back to the hotel and got them to open the bottle for us and then drove back to the Inn again) we grabbed some blankets from our room, sat out on the bench looking out at the township and the glorious Nut, and drank the bottle.

The next morning it was time to conquer THE NUT! And by conquer I do not mean walk up it. No. Chairlifts all the way, but then the 2km circuit around the top of the volcanic plug. It was just as magical as I remembered.

lifeys04 lifeys05 Lovin' that nut.lifeys06lifeys07lifeys09 lifeys10 lifeys11

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Hobart Hype: Burgers.

As the second Dark Mofo raged through town earlier this month, I saw plenty of people passing on travel tips to others.

“Oh, you’re going to Hobart? Don’t miss X! Make sure you get along to Y! And bring me back something from Z!”

Some of the recommendations I heartily agreed with, others I shook my head over. And furthermore, I wondered how more continued to fly under the radar. It’s true that sometimes I like having favourite spots to myself, but for business’ sake I wish more for them.

Plus I needed something to blog about.

So I present Hypebart: each month I’ll (try to) throw light on stuff around town from a local’s perspective (and subjective opinion, of course). Throw light and maybe throw a little shade, depending on how I’m feeling. Sound like fun? Let’s go.

This month I’m in a burger mood.

Just Right: The Standard.

This little alleyway burger nook in the middle of the CBD has only been open for six months but has already won the hearts and stomachs of locals and tourists alike (the ones that are cluey enough to go looking for it, that is).

It’s true that there could be more seating (and warmer seating, in winter) and the fries have been causing some local polarisation (I LOVE them, I know others HATE them) but dang, those burgers. I wouldn’t use the phrase “Huxtaburger of Hobart” lightly, but that’s exactly how I feel. Great size, great fillings, exciting combos, a secret menu, and A+ price. I’m hooked and so should you be, too.


Overhyped: Jack Greene / Burger Got Soul / Burger Haus

This is cheating a little bit, for me to make this claim. I’ve eaten more than one burger at both BGS and BH but I have to admit that I’ve yet to get my burg on at JG. And yet… a “gourmet burger” is a “gourmet burger” is a “gourmet burger” and while there may not be a Grill’d in Tasmania, we don’t need one, because we’ve got all these guys who do exactly the same thing. Big burgers with funny names full of ample ingredients that explode everywhere, big thick-cut chips on the side which are delicious but you can barely fit them in if you want to finish the burger too.

I was excited about these types of burgers seven years ago or so when Grill’d first opened in Melbourne but it’s a far too oversaturated market these days and hard to stand out. Which is part of the reason I’ve lumped all three of the above venues together. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the same place but just in Salamanca, Sandy Bay and North Hobart.

Underhyped: The Winston.

It’s true that the beer list at the Winston is legendary. But not nearly enough people are talking about the Winston’s cheeseburger, which in my mind is equally legendary.


It’s true they went off the rails a little with those dusty buns (don’t get me started on how much I hate flour-dusted buns, WHAT PURPOSE DO THEY SERVE? EXCEPT TO COVER ME IN FLOUR? WHY WOULD I EVER WANT THAT? Sorry I guess I got myself started) but things have been back on track lately. Straight down the line: a meat patty, cheese, sweet sliced pickles and sauce. Done. Welcome to a perfect dirty burger, in my opinion.

Occasionally the meat patty is cooked right the way through, and sure that’s good and all and what we’re used to as Strayans but as a recent convert to the “slightly rare burger patty” party, I’ve gotta say, my favourite Winston cheeseburgers are the ones that have that slight streak of pink in the middle of the patty.

I can’t tell you much about the rest of the menu here as it’s rare for me to sway from my regular order of a cheeseburger and a pint. I’ll admit that the couple of times I’ve ordered other burgers here, I’ve been disappointed. But it’s also true that the most recent time I ate at the Winston, I had a clam chowder and it was SENSATIONAL. Which is actually a bit upsetting for me because my heart tells me all I should ever eat there are cheeseburgers.


So, what do you reckon? As I’ve already said, these opinions are subjective, so your mileage may vary. I just really like talking about food.

12 October 2013, or Twelve:

Happy Tasmemianniversary to me! I made it, I really made it! And I couldn’t be happier. Today is a day for celebration.

I wake up in Stanley, on the north west coast of Tasmania. When I did the ol’ campervan trip around the state with Fran back in July 2011, Stanley was a favourite corner for me. Ever since moving down here, I’d resolved to getting back up to Stanley again for a visit… and while this weekend wasn’t entirely planned this way (I’m a lot less regularly spontaneous than you may think), it turns out it’s the perfect way to celebrate one year on the island.


Just as magical as I remembered.

How crazy beautiful is this? Welcome to Stanley. That’s the Nut. It’s not a mountain but a volcanic plug, which means that a LONG time ago (see: 20 to 75 MILLION YEARS AGO) it was an active volcano—A FREAKING VOLCANO—but then the plug was created when magma hardened within a vent on the volcano. From wikipedia: If a plug is preserved, erosion may remove the surrounding rock while the erosion-resistant plug remains, producing a distinctive upstanding landform. Which is what happened to the Nut.

Which you can find out for yourself if you a) trek up the path or b) catch the chairlift to the top.


So many options. (Two options.)

Of course today I catch the chairlift. I have a collection of reasons for this:

  • I love chairlifts
  • the chairlift wasn’t operating when I first visited in the campervan with Fran in the dead of winter and I was heartbroken
  • I haven’t had any coffee and I didn’t sleep particularly well last night

Hide your childish grin, you are almost thirty.

The ride up in the chairlift also gives me time to contemplate exactly what I’m going to do up the top. The full circuit of the Nut is around 2km and takes around half an hour. I have a long drive ahead of me, so I decide to just walk to the first lookout (around 500m) and then back.


From around Trig Point Marker. Facing north, looking west.

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Aurora hunting.

Before I moved to Tasmania, I knew about the northern lights. Everybody knows about the aurora borealis (heck, I even know how to spell it). If you’re close enough to the top of the world, sometimes you get a spectacular natural light show. It’s on most people’s bucket lists. Heck, it’s definitely on mine.

What I didn’t really know before I got here is that the southern lights are a thing, too. I don’t know how we Aussies ended up putting our stamp on the name, but down at the south pole it’s called the aurora australis (despite NZ, Chile and Argentina all reaching further south than Australia). Most people haven’t heard of it (compared to the borealis) and I expect that’s because southern land masses don’t get as close to the australis as northern land masses get to the borealis, so unless it’s an almost off-the-charts geomagnetic storm, the best we get is a beautifully coloured southern horizon.

A few weeks ago, some friends and I started talking about going on a stargazing adventure, which led to wondering if we could throw an aurora hunt in the mix. We didn’t take the conversation any further, but we should have, because only a couple of weeks after, I caught a glimpse of a bit of an aurora buzz on twitter. But we were unprepared! I hadn’t even looked at my camera! I had no idea how to take decent night photos! And of course, we missed out on the most spectacular aurora display there’s been since I moved here.

We rallied forces and tried the following evening, but of course two in a row would be too easy and it was not to be. It did give me the chance to trial my night photography skills, with thanks to a couple of patient friends, and I’ll admit I was still fairly blown away by the sky. I think that night was the first time I’ve looked up into the stars and thought, “Oh yeah, there’s the Milky Way, it’s freaking bright as all get-out and impossible to miss”. My friend also pointed out the Magellanic Clouds, or: two other galaxies that are identifiable by the naked eye. Two other galaxies. Oh, hey, there are a couple of galaxies. No big deal.

Learning about stars is amazing and I was pretty happy with at least a couple of the shots that I brought home.


Straight off the camera.

That weekend was only a couple of weeks ago, and so since then we’ve been keeping our eyes peeled and staying alert for any aurora warnings. I got out of a movie on Friday night (on the State Cinema rooftop) to a text from my friend, Liz. “Aurora alert! Caaaaaall meeeeeeeeee“. We jumped in my car and headed back down to Clifton Beach, where we’d been taking night photos (and wishing for an aurora) a fortnight ago.


Beautiful, yes. Aurora? No.

This is a thirty second exposure; it wasn’t actually that bright out, but it was still freaking bright! It was only two nights after the full moon so that slowly waning bad boy was still lighting up the night. We took a few night shots, jumped on the internet to see what locations other people were shooting from, and jumped back in the car to see if we couldn’t find somewhere a little more proper south-facing.

We ended up struggling our way up some dunes at Hope Beach and setting the tripods up. Liz was the first to get her hopes up, while I remained skeptical.

“I’m pretty sure you’re just seeing what you want to see.”

We both kept snapping away anyway (though I guess it’s not really snappy when you’re running 15-30sec exposures) because, from my point of view, at least it was more night photo practise.


12:30am. Green? Pfft.

I played around with some more night photography. I’ve since learnt that island is called Betsey Island. I think that island is my new favourite island. BETSEY. Afjahldkjakafddkad I literally just read more about it and Betsey Island is accompanied by Little Betsey Island and Betsey Reef, and they’re an Important Bird Area because Little Penguins breed there. I’m out. I’m out. I’m done.


12:54am. Betsey Island. Giggle.

Over the next half hour, I slowly started to change my mind about the green horizon.

At first I thought that maybe I just wanted to see something so badly that I started seeing it. Liz and I even got to the point where we were discussing clinical trials of placebos and mind tricks but finally I gave in and just accepted it. I think it did actually grow stronger during that half hour we stood there, but it’s still amusing how long it took me to accept the fact that the horizon did have a faint green halo.


1:05am. Erm, okay. Perhaps you’re right.


1:13am. Omgaurora.


1:28am. The littlest aurora halo that could!


Partner in crime, hard at work.

By then it was almost 2am and the aurora appeared to be fading a little, and we’d taken all the photographs we could. It was time to head back down the sand dunes and home, via McDonald’s for sustenance and 3am snacks.


Nobody fell, hurrah! (Seriously, the moonlight filling the exposure is ridiculous.)

I can’t wait to go hunting again.

(P.S. Happy Easter! No egg hunt for me this year, boo.)