Category Archives: entertainment

Cold weather blues

Cold weather blues
Adelaide, Australia

Adelaide, Australia

Us, when planning the holiday: “Let’s go in winter. Then there won’t be too many people around.” Enter the worst storms in the region for 30 years. An excellent plan indeed.

We could hear the wind whistling down the corridor of the hotel last night, and the wild weather continued this morning. We hadn’t planned on driving anywhere after we arrived yesterday until it was time to go to the airport, but the weather was so bad we couldn’t face walking around all day. We drove out to Glenelg to have a look at the beach, and I wasn’t even prepared to get out of the car for a photo. If you know me, you will know this was hardcore weather.

Having very little idea of what might keep a nine year old amused (museums and art galleries were out), we took a trip to one of the visitor centres (after having recaffeinated), where the staff gave us a few ideas.

We had a wander through the Rundle Mall and I was quite taken with the four pigs. Apparently they’ve been there since 1999, and were the winning entry in a national sculpture competition when the mall was being upgraded. They are the work of South African-born and Sydney-based sculptor Marguerite Derricourt. The title of the work is “A Day Out”.

The weather had improved, so we took the car back to the hotel and grabbed beanies and rain coats before heading back out. The receptionist asked us if we were sure we wanted to go out. “Pfft,” we said, “We’re from Tasmania. This is nothing!” She was probably crossing Tasmania off her travel wish list as we bravely went outside, Kramstable in shorts as usual.

The Adelaide Central Market is in between Grote and Gouger Streets (I just wanted to write “Grote Street” somewhere. That is the best street name ever.) It was our first stop. I love the story of its first day: “On 23 January 1869 at 3.15am, a small but noisy procession of market gardeners found their way from the East End Market to the site between Gouger and Grote Streets. In only a few hours about 500 purchasers quickly bought out the entire stock of goods for sale, so that for those hurrying to the scene of activity after 6.00am, there was nothing left to buy. . . . Today the Adelaide Central Market is home to 80 stalls and is visited by more than 8 million people a year.”

We wandered round there for a while taking in the sights and smells, before heading back out onto the street. Gouger Street is home to Chinatown, but in a block full of Asian restaurants, who else but Kramstable would choose to have pizza for lunch in an Italian restaurant.

After lunch we made our way back to the Victoria Square/Tarntanyannga tram stop to catch the free tram a couple of stops closer to town. This is Adelaide’s only tram service and it runs out to Glenelg, with the main zone in the city being free to travel in. We’d seen some information about the Alpine Winter Village that was set up on the Torrens Parade Ground. The man at the visitor centre hadn’t known a lot about it, other than there was ice skating, so we thought we’d have a look. Really all that was missing was snow. And, you know, Alps. But it looked like it would be a fun little precinct to hang around in and imbibe winter beverages and eat winter food. A bit like Winterfeast. We wandered through the little market, which featured local craftspeople, and stopped for a drink in the Après Ski Lounge.

There were piles of woodchips being shovelled in all the time to try and keep the ground as dry as possible. None of us was game to try ice skating! On the way back to the city we stopped to have a look at the Boer War memorial.

Dinner tonight was at Nola, which is (among other things) “a New Orleans inspired dining bar with a focus on Creole and Cajun soul food, a curated selection of Independent and Craft Beer on our 16 taps”. We’d googled craft beer bars and this came up. It’s in a slightly hidden section of laneways off Rundle Street, so it was a bit of a walk from our hotel and ended up being a bit harder to find than we’d thought (but on the plus side, this made it one of only two days on the whole holiday I met my step target). But it was totally worth it!

Who would have thought Brussels Sprouts could be (a) a main dish and (b) edible? Everything about this place was fantastic and now I want to come back and spend a week in these laneways.

I’m looking forward to going home tomorrow. If we get there. Winds permitting. And I think I’m done with driving holidays for a while. I’d like to take some time to explore a place or two instead of rushing from town to town. I’ve loved everything we’ve seen – and I’ve really enjoyed it all – but I think next time I want a slow ride.

Don’t pay the ferryman

Don’t pay the ferryman
Victor Harbor, Australia

Victor Harbor, Australia

And so the predicted bad weather came upon us like torrential rain and gale-force winds, and we were safely tucked up in a cabin at the caravan park feeling not the least bit sorry for the people in campers. It really was foul weather and we were grateful that it hit after we’d done the almost 400km drive to Meningie. Because it would have sucked to have been driving in this.

We had breakfast in a cafe the town (and the carrot, turmeric and bacon soup was very nice) before we left. I was interested in the wood carving across the road, which was by sculptor Ant Martin from the nearby(ish) town of Millicent. It’s a 6.4 meter high pelican being fed a Murray cod by two children, and is said to symbolise reconciliation between Indigenous Australians and European settlers.

And then we were off on the (relatively) short drive to Victor Harbor (no u) on the Fleurieu Peninsula. We had to cross the Murray River at Wellington East. The ferry (which is operated by the SA Government free to punters) isn’t so much a boat as a motorised bit of road that floats back and forth across the river once there are enough cars to go. In our case, three. It was a strange experience. We were on a ferry but we hadn’t left the road!

We passed through some (of many) wine districts on the way but decided not to stop. Actually we did stop in Langhorne Creek, but the winery we’d wanted to visit wasn’t open, so we kept going. We had a brief stop at Middleton Arts & Crafts before finally getting to Victor Harbor.

There’s a lot of funfair rides and attractions set up for the school holidays and Slabs and Kramstable had a go on the dodgem cars. Unfortunately due to the wind, the ferris wheel wasn’t going because that would have been cool to go up above the town. The horse-drawn tram, which is a well-known attraction of the town also wasn’t running today because of the weather, which was disappointing as that’s one of the things that Slabs had seen when he was planning the trip that had made him choose here as a stop.

We had lunch at Nino’s Cafe, which seems to be a bit of a local institution, and were glad to have arrived and ordered just before a party of 14 kids and 16 adults arrived. The pizza was really good. As was the wine. What? Right, back to the story.

Kramstable had seen a brochure for the Cheeky Ratbags Play Cafe in the tourist centre and said he wanted to go. He has been great on this trip. There hasn’t been a lot of specific kid stuff for him to do and he’s put up with being dragged around to things he hasn’t necessarily been interested in himself and has had to sit in the car for very long stretches. This part of the trip was for him with the school holiday stuff happening, and the shithouse weather has put paid to a lot of that. So we took him out to the play centre and he had an absolute ball. It was great to see him enjoying himself with absolutely no constraints (even if I did have the worst headache and had forgotten how loud kids can scream when they’re having fun).

After we checked into our hotel we went for a wander over to the SA Whale Centre, where there are some fascinating displays, including a actual whale skull that is oozing whale oil and smells quite vile. There’s a interesting 3D presentation on whales, as well as an exhibit on the work of Sea Shepherd. Kramstable had fun fossicking for fossils and pretending to be eaten by a shark.

We’d missed the last Cockle Train to Golwa, so we wandered through the town before coming back to the hotel to rest up before dinner.

I did a quick walk around the harbour and had a look at the Encounter Poles, which is a monument commemorating the meeting of Matthew Flinders and Nicolas Baudin in 1802 in Ramindjeri Ngarridjeri Waters, presenting three worlds and three cultures, connected through wind and water.

And it was a very very nice dinner, topped off with some lovely local wine. I think I rather like South Australia.

Holiday Day 2 (Part 1): Tasmazia

This morning we had breakfast in Sheffield before having a last look at the murals and heading for Tasmazia and the Village of Lower Crackpot, about 15 minutes away in the wonderfully named Promised Land.

On the way I insisted we stop to take photos of Mt Roland.

Mt Roland from the lookout at Sheffield

Mt Roland from the lookout at Sheffield

It’s a stunning mountain that I just love looking at. I really want to climb to the summit one day. I can remember staying near there, at Gowrie Park, as a child, and I remember climbing the mountain, but I can’t remember if we went to the top. It’s 1233 metres and the walk to the top is 4-6 hours return, so it’s quite possible that we did.

I wasn't sure which shot I liked better so I included one with the fence and one without

I wasn’t sure which shot I liked better so I included one with the fence and one without

With the fence

With the fence

Unfortunately it wasn’t a great day for photos, so I didn’t have a lot of luck, but I loved watching it change as the light changed, the clouds move and we drove along the road.

The road at one of our photo stops

The road at one of our photo stops

Close up of Mt Roland

Close up of Mt Roland

Finally it was time to say goodbye to the mountain and go to the place Juniordwarf had been excited about for the whole week. Slabs and I had been to Tasmazia years ago and loved it, so we were happy to have the chance to go back.

The Manifesto

The Manifesto

Pretending to post a letter at the Lower Crackpot Post Office

Pretending to post a letter at the Lower Crackpot Post Office

There’s 8 mazes in the complex, including the Great Maze, the replica Hampton Court Maze, the Hexagonal Maze and the Confusion Maze. The Great Maze contains a couple of other mazes: the Irish Maze, which we found, and the Cage Maze, which we didn’t.

The Great Maze

The Great Maze

The house that isn't there

The house that isn’t there

We did, however, find the 3 Bears’ Cottage in the centre, which is the goal of the maze.

3 Bears Cottage

3 Bears Cottage

We also found Cubby Town (including the Spook House), the Balance Maze and the Crackpot Correction Centre.

Cubby Town

Cubby Town

20150117-039 Cubby Town

20150117-034 Cubby Town

20150117-040 Bodgie Bros House

Bodgie Bros Builders

20150117-044 Spook House

Spook House: No cry baby people allowed

20150117-048 Balancing Maze

Balance Maze

20150117-045 Pot of gold

Once we’d found our way out of the Great Maze, we were in the wonderfully cracked world of the Village of Lower Crackpot. It’s a 1/5 scale model village, which even has its own state Government Department of Blah and Obfuscation.

The Village of Lower Crackpot

The Village of Lower Crackpot

20150117-051 Lower Crackpot

20150117-052 Lower Crackpot

20150117-053 Lower Crackpot

20150117-054 Lower Crackpot

20150117-055 Lower Crackpot

20150117-056 Lower Crackpot


20150117-059 Lower Crackpot

20150117-065 Lower Crackpot

20150117-066 Lower Crackpot

Do I work here?

The residential area is called Upper Lower Crackpot and this has all the houses, the fairy princess castle and the Yellow Brick Road Maze.

20150117-060 Yellow Brick Maze

Neither Slabs nor Juniordwarf had any luck in unsheathing the Great Sword of Crackpot.

20150117-067 The Great Sword of Crackpot

20150117-068 The Great Sword of Crackpot

20150117-069 The Great Sword of Crackpot

We negotiated the Confusion Maze, the Hampton Court Maze and the Hexagon Maze. The Hampton Court Maze took us a long time, but we made it in the end.

Hampton Court Maze and Mt Roland - so I knew we weren't really going to get lost.

Hampton Court Maze and Mt Roland – so I knew we weren’t really going to get lost.


Lower Crackpot on the left, Confusion Maze in the middle and Embassy Gardens on the right

The complex also has a very clever section called the Embassy Gardens, which wasn’t there when Slabs and I visited last time.

20150117-084 Embassy Gardens

Embassy Garden

It has embassy buildings from over 40 countries and even an intergalactic embassy.

Embassy of Great Britain

Embassy of Great Britain

Embassy of Iceland

Embassy of Iceland

Embassy of Scotland

Embassy of Scotland

Part of the Intergalactic Embassy

Part of the Intergalactic Embassy

Topiary with eyes! I like to call it "Other Topiary" (guess which movie Juniordwarf has been watching recently)

Topiary with eyes! I like to call it “Other Topiary” (guess which movie Juniordwarf has been watching recently)

There’s also a whistleblowers monument and a memorial to boat people lost at sea, so it’s also a place to reflect and contemplate.

Memorial for boat people

Memorial for boat people

We had lunch at the Pancake Parlour, Juniordwarf posted a postcard for real, and then we hit the road for our final destination: Cradle Mountain.

20150117-094 Lower Crackpot Post Office

On the way we passed this scene:



A right royal day out

A right royal day out
London, United Kingdom

London, United Kingdom

‘When’s the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace?’ asked Lil Sis on the day we arrived in London.

It turns out this happens every second day during autumn and winter, and this matched up nicely with our ‘rest day’ Friday. So we thought we’d go and have a look.

While we were on our Hop on Hop off bus tour on Tuesday, Steve the guide mentioned that while the Queen was away on her summer holiday, Buckingham Palace was open to the public. This only happens for about 2 months a year, so we’d come at the right time.

Despite not being particularly enthusiastic about the Royal Family, we thought it would be a good opportunity to see inside the palace, which isn’t somewhere most visitors to England would see.

So Friday would be Buckingham Palace day.

There was a huge crowd outside the palace when we got there. The viewing points were directly outside the gates, across the road outside Green Park, where we’d walked through, and behind the Victoria Memorial. The Victoria Memorial position was easiest to access and there was still plenty of front row space behind the rail – we were told the main thoroughfare between that rail and the gates had to be kept clear, as this is where the Guard would be marching. There were quite a few police officers on hand to direct people to the correct places, as well as warning punters about bag security and pickpockets.

The horseback policeman was very quick to warn people to only cross the road at the lights, not at other points of the road. ‘Don’t make me get my pen out,’ he said.

Most of the action takes place behind the gates, so the people who had got there early enough to secure a position directly behind the fence would have seen it all. From where we were, we were limited to seeing the Old and New Guard as they marched past.

We decided it would probably be a bad time to try and get into the palace immediately after the ceremony, and a glance at the line confirmed this. The attendant told us it would be a lot quieter in a couple of hours, so we wandered through Green Park before heading off to get lunch.

We returned just before the entrance closed at 4.15pm. The tour of the palace takes in the State Rooms and the Gardens. There was an audio commentary, which meant we could take our time as we made our way through. It was spectacular, filled with more gilding (if that’s the correct term) than I ever imagined to see on the trip. Not really my sort of thing. It didn’t move me in the way Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral did.

As well as being the home of the Royal Family, the palace is one of only a few working palaces anywhere, and 450 people work there. It’s huge, having been significantly extended from its previous form as Buckingham House. (The first building on the site was built in 1633.) It first became a royal residence when it was purchased by George III in 1762 for his wife Queen Charlotte. The building was extended in the 1820s and became the official royal palace under George IV.

Once we’d been through the State Rooms, we were out in the Gardens, which were lovely. A cafe and official gift shop are set up for the public season, and the gifts and souvenirs are obviously a lot classier than those in the unofficial palace souvenir shops across the road.

Once we were done with the Palace, it was time to make our way to the nearby Apollo Victoria Theatre to pick up our tickets to see Wicked. I’d been looking forward to this for months and it lived up to its reputation. I loved it, and want to see it again! It was a little strange hearing the performers’ English accents, as I was used to the Broadway cast recording, but it really is a fantastic show in any accent and definitely been a highlight of the trip.

adventuring: the theatre royal

(Apologies for photo quality . . . I forgot my camera, so these were all taken on my almost three-year-old iPhone 4.)

After my excursion to Knocklofty, I walked down to Campbell Street to do the tour of the Theatre Royal. This was another one of those things I’d seen in passing and thought would be fun to do, but never had the time.

ImageThe Theatre Royal is billed as ‘Australia’s oldest continuously working theatre’. It was originally funded by a group of Hobart businessmen and was designed Peter Degraves, the founder of the Cascade Brewery, after his release from gaol. The adviser to the project was John Lee Archer, who designed the Penitentiary Chapel, which I visited on an earlier adventure. Construction commenced in 1834 and the theatre opened in 1837.

The area it is in was originally called Wapping, and it was basically a slum area around the waterfront and the Hobart Rivulet which, if you have been reading about my adventures, you might remember had gotten very polluted as the result of industry upstream. So by the time it got to the area where the Theatre is, it was pretty filthy and unhygienic.

(It might interest you to know that Hobart was only sewered in the 1910s, some 60 years after Launceston and it would seem that this was about the time that the Council started to clear out the area of residences, a process that continued until the 1960s.)

My tour guides, Judith and Elspeth, are members of the Friends of the Theatre Royal group, which operates the tours. They were both very helpful and informative and clearly shared a passion for the theatre. They told the stories of the dodgy pub called The Shades (originally the Shakespeare), which operated nearby and had its own entrance into the pit of the theatre, and the sailors, drunks and prostitutes who entered the pit from the pub. Because there were no toilets, which wasn’t a problem for the blokes, the female prostitutes would apparently bound over the seats during intervals to get to the bathrooms, which no doubt would have upset the folk sitting there. They told us that the original performances would last all night, so that while the admission prices were relatively high, even for the pit, the patrons would get their money’s worth.ImageImage

The theatre has changed quite a bit since its original construction, including the addition of the Gallery (which is where I was when I saw Paul Kelly in 2011) in the 1850s.

ImageA major fire in 1984 caused significant damage to the stage area and the dome ceiling. This had been illustrated with images from Shakespeare’s Seven Ages and are currently illustrated with portraits of nine composers and the poet Schiller. The original illustrations from 1911 were destroyed in the fire and were repainted by George Davis after the fire. According to Judith and Elspeth, the damage could have been a lot worse, but the story goes that Fred, the theatre ghost, dropped a fire curtain across the stage, preventing the fire from spreading. And since the building was empty at the time, who else could it have been?

ImageIt was a very interesting tour. We got to see parts of the theatre that the public wouldn’t normally see – the view of the auditorium from the orchestra pit was a fascinating perspective.


It’s a huge building – there is so much backstage that, unless you were involved in theatre, you’d never know existed.

We had a look at the dressing rooms, including some of the older disused ones that were used by Laurence Olivier in the 1948.

Olivier’s appeal to the authorities assisted in ensuring that the theatre wasn’t demolished at that time due to its age and poor condition, with the State Government and a national fundraising campaign funding its restoration in the 1950s. This included the installation of Royal Boxes especially for the visit of Princess Elizabeth, but due to the death of King George VI, she never made the trip and the Royal Boxes have never been used.

ImageThe tour goes for about an hour, from 11am Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  The day I was there, there was only me and one other person, so we got a very personalised tour. Fortunately there were no productions in progress, so we weren’t restricted in where we could go – so if you’re thinking about taking the tour, I’d recommend phoning ahead to find out how much access you’ll get. And some days the tours can’t run at all because of what’s going on in the theatre, so it pays to check before you turn up.

So another adventure – another place I probably wouldn’t have gone to if I hadn’t had time off in Hobart and another place I’m glad I got to see.


bushy park show

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This weekend we went to the Bushy Park Show. It’s one of the smaller shows on the Tasmanian Agricultural Show Council’s show calendar each year, and also one of the oldest, having started out as a garden show in 1865.
Bushy Park, if you aren’t familiar, is a major hop growing region in Tasmania. It’s the last hop growing area remaining in the Derwent Valley.
The showground is bordered by hop fields and the beautiful Styx River.

We go to the show most years, but this year Juniordwarf wasn’t so keen. “Do we have to go?” he asked. 
When we told him there would be this,
This looked like something from Dr Who rather than a clown

and this,

he reluctantly agreed to come with us.
He did some other things as well, like the haunted house

He came out at the end and said “what were the scary bits?”

and the old favourite, the Lions Club Chocolate Wheel.

We saw things like utes,

sheepdog trials

and wood cutting.

We had a good time, although the heat got to us all, so we didn’t stay long. It was a far cry from the same day two years ago when it was cold, raining and miserable.