Canberra in July

2016-07-21 21.12.45Two weeks ago I was in Melbourne. This week I’m in Canberra for a couple of day!

2016-07-22 10.16.28 20160722_110630I haven’t been so lucky with the weather – it’s pretty wet and blowy down here today – but it just makes it a nice day to sit in a cafe, drink tea, and write. Something of a luxury really.

The aesthetic of cities changes with the season. Having lived in Canberra a couple of times, the thing I remember most about winter is the stark beauty of the European trees, stripped of their leaves by the cold…

Walking to the cafe this morning I saw a bus with a bike rack on the front (and two bikes attached). I have never seen this before and it struck me as a very clever idea! Especially in a city like Canberra where public transport and you intended destination may not line up well. Being able to take your bike “on” the bus seems like a splendid idea.

A black truffle

It’s truffle season here in Canberra – and while I am not traditionally a fan of truffle oil – I have been sampling some fresh truffle and found it quite delightful. If you love truffles then Canberra is a great place to be in July, not just to eat truffles, but I am told that there are people who will take you out truffle hunting in a Truffière (the French name for a truffle orchard).

Since truffles grow underground on the roots of trees (often oaks), the hunt is conducted by truffle hounds (yes dogs! What can’t they do I ask you?) – or some people I have heard off use pigs (who love truffles too). The dogs can smell the truffle from above ground and lead the hunters right too them. It’s a rather quaint kind of industry, but given the price that black truffles fetch in restaurants (up to AUD$3000 per kilogram), it also a very serious business.

So, if you were thinking of a trip away somewhere for a weekend and are happy in a cool climate then I think that a truffle tour in Canberra would be a lot of – tasty – fun.

John.

A clear Melbourne winter day

For some reason the last few months have seen lots of bookings for me in Melbourne.  It’s nice to come down here, even in winter.

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It’s been a fun weekend, with a variety of Melbourne weather as one would expect.  I came prepared though and have remained warm and dry.

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I had forgotten just how beautiful Albert Park can be!  It’s a lovely spot.  I used to cycle around Albert Park with a cycling group when I lived in Prahran once upon a time.  It’s hard to forget the crisp Melbourne mornings.

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The things you see from up high!  The office building beside my hotel was in the process of being smashed apart, very slowly.  It’s strange to see buildings that seem perfectly useful being demolished.  It’s a similar situation around Olympic Park where I live – the office buildings being slowly bought up and then knocked down to build apartment blocks.

20160709_131533If I had a dollar for every time I have peered down a tram line trying to decide if that dot is actually a tram…  I miss Melbourne trams.  They really are part of the culture.  And so much more civilised than buses.

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It was a crisp sunny morning in Melbourne, the trees bare, and a cold breeze, but the sun keeping things warm!

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An excellent chance for a trip to the National Gallery of Victoria!  I haven’t been in years.

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The water wall at the entrance of the NGV is one of my favourite pieces of architecture.  It really is compelling.
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And this is why you should never sneak up on a Volkswagen Beetle!  Needless to say it’s not good for your resale value…
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I really have to say it’s a fabulous piece of art!

Next I spent some time walking through the Asian art collection.  I love seeing functional objects that are also made beautiful.  Asian cultures seem especially adept at this.

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Then we have the…

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I found the preponderance of religious iconography, heavy guilt frames, and sheer weight of oil rather oppressive and claustrophobic.

There were some gems though, including a Turner seascape,

20160709_142331this Monet,

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And some rather handsome marble busts.  I never cease to be amazed by what a capable sculptor can do with marble and some tools.

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If you have been following the news in NSW, then you will know that grey hound racing is being banned due to the appalling training practices of some owners, and the high number of dogs who die simply because they are too slow to race.  This detail (of a much larger painting) encapsulates why I agree with the ban.  Domesticated dogs can’t help but love humans.  They do whatever they can to please us.  So that puts the responsibility on us to make sure that their loyalty and love isn’t abused.  So if you are thinking about a dog, why not adopt a grey hound?

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The NGV has some rather nice restaurants these days.  I had a lovely lunch with a view of my favourite window!

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The Yarra River may have a poor reputation, but it’s a lot cleaner these days and you can’t deny that it’s beautiful on a crisp sunny morning!

I love this stretch particularly beside the boat sheds where I used to row.

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The old…

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And the new…

And with that, I am heading home!  It’s nice to visit Melbourne, but there’s no place like home and I am ready for my own space and most of all, my own bed!  So good bye Melbourne.  I will be back in September!  If you would like to book, please contact me, or keep an eye on this site for my travel dates.

John.

Abandoned places – Helensburg No. 4 tunnel

tunnel-1I have a fascination with abandoned places. Perhaps in part because there are so few of them in Australia – and Sydney in particular – and also because they seem to be so contradictory to the economic doctrine of “growth at all cost” that our globalised economy is wed too.

Things that get old get torn down and replaced. Not left to decay.

But that isn’t always true, even here in Sydney. Case in point the Helensburg railway tunnel. It was built in 1888 as part of the Illawara line carried one track. It was abandoned in 1915, replaced by a newer double track on a different alignment altogether.

So it has been sitting there for over 100 years now, occasionally useful (for water storage), but mostly forgotten, overgrown, filled with mud and silt, and ignored as the world moved on.

Things like this never stay hidden forever though, and eventually rail enthusiasts and historians unearthed the tunnel, drained it, and cleared it of water and debris.

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Now it’s rather become a tourist attraction and even a destination for professional photographers. When I went there, I had to share the place with over a dozen people!

When I arrived though the place was deserted. The tunnel was an impenetrable blackness – with a somewhat creepy light mist flowing slowly from it! The true stuff of movie nightmares…

The shape of the tunnel is really quite beautiful, not round, but built (to allow the passage of steam trains) in a delicate oval shape. It is graceful and just a little otherworldly surrounded as it is by lush greenery.

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The end of the line. Apart from the tunnel, there’s not much left.  On the right is where the old Helensburgh station once stood

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The lush foliage that adorns the cutting walls is quite a sight

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The beautiful egg shape of the tunnel is unlike modern round tunnels. It was built this way to accommodate steam locomotives

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The tunnel is 650 meters long. There’s a lot more very dark tunnel down there…

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John.

Gordons Bay

I wasn’t aware of Gordons Bay until I stumbled across it in the paper today.  It’s a nice find with what looks to be a long hot summer on the way.

I love the ocean and snorkeling, so I think that this might be on my list of things to do this summer (perhaps more than once).

It has an underwater “nature trail” marked by chain between concrete blocks to lead you around the bay.  It really does sound like a fun experience.  You can read more about it here:

http://randwickcitytourism.com.au/sights/gordons_bay.html

If you would like to try this with me, then drop me an email or text and we can do it together.

John.

Winter is coming…

I have to say, I am really glad that I am not heading home from Sydney today!  I have had enough of riding in the rain.

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Five minutes after I took this photo, these beautiful moody clouds began dumping a torrent of rain on Sydney.

So, here’s hoping that if you are in Sydney (or anywhere else that the weather is inclement), that you are tucked up warm and dry like me.

John.

Fire and ice

I travel over the Blue Mountains regularly.  A fair amount of the bush that I ride through over toward Lithgow was burned in the fires at the end of 2013.  I have been startled by the stark beauty of the resulting landscape, and now the contrast of the regrowing foliage on the trees.

So, on a trip back around Christmas I stopped and took some photos of the charred bush and my bike which I thought I would share.

daytona_1 daytona_2I was really delighted with how true to life these images are.

John.

Triumph at last!

Well, it has taken all of four and a half months, but finally my new bike is on the road!  I picked it up from the mechanics last week (where it was getting a service, new tires, heated hand grips, and a gear rack fitted).  It is a Triumph Daytona 955i – 2002 model.  In short this means that it is … uncommon on the roads in Australia, very sexy, and very fast!  It also stops really well and handles like a dream.  Last but not least it has a very comfortable pillion seat!

The very long delay was caused by a problem acquiring some new fairing panels from a Triumph parts supplier in the UK.  International shipping is not a foolproof process.  However, the panels arrived and were fitted (to replace old panels that were damaged by the previous owner).

I found my bike languishing in an insurance assessor’s shed, only lightly damaged and with 30,000 kms on the clock.  Even with repairs it was a bargain for such a good bike.

I took the bike out today with my partner S playing photographer and we did a photo shoot down by the river.  Results below …

 

So, like to go for a ride on your date?  Fish and chips on the beach, or a spin up the Old Pacific Highway to the Mt White Cafe?  Just drop me an email.

John.

New header images

Just a quick post to mention that I have just uploaded a number of new header images to this site.  If you view another page then a new image will be displayed at random.

Storm clouds over Sydney Opera house and Harbor Bridge

I take all of the header images that I use with the camera in my Samsung Galaxy SII mobile phone.  And it continues to astound me with what it can do.

I am really starting to develop quite a neat little collection of photos of Sydney and its surrounding areas.

For a bit of fun: the first person to tell me the name of the harbor with the sea wall and the light house that features in one of the new headers gets a $100 discount on their booking!

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Update: well, it only took about six hours for two people to let me know that this is Wollongong Harbour!  Well done V and J :-) that is some fine Googling on display …

John.

New Orleans again …

I have found myself once again at the New Orleans Cafe in Crows Nest on this wet afternoon.  I had quite an enjoyable lunch and thanks to the staff generously allowing me to use a power point, I am not getting down to some work (thanks to my laptop and smartphone – have I ever told you I just love what technology allows us to do!).

Anyway, the actual point of this post was to share some grafiti and other stuff from the Mens Room here.  First up was this grafiti.  When I think of the real New Orlean (although I have never been there personally), I think of food and music … I think this really embodies it!

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I am not sure if this is going to be legible, but I will upload a high res version of the image another day if it’s not.  The message though is this: Never, ever, fuck with the person who prepares your food!  It’s a heart warming reminder for all those under appreciated cooks out there ;-)

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John.

Sun and sand

I had a couple of hours to spare today, so I rode my motorcycle to South Head and then walked down to Lady Bay beach.

Its a small clothing optional beach that, when the tide is in (like today) is not much more than a few meters of rock and sand.

Still, the day was warm and the water was beautiful, cool and clean, so I got to swim for the first time this season. I love salt water. I always feel good after spending time in it. Especially if I can then relax in the sun naked to dry off.

I don’t much go in for tanning, but after a winter of no sunshine I am ready to get just a little bit of colour back again!

Being able to strip off legally is good. There aren’t that many option around inner Sydney. So it was nice to get to Lady Bay today.

No photos to show you sadly, as it’s not really polite to be waving a camera around on a nude beach.

John.