Category: Travel



Tassie. Short from Tasmania. Have not done enough research and planning on this trip but everything worked out well. You can say we went nearly on an impulse! Having agreed we should meet in Hobart and finally visit this island south of Mainland Australia, we promptly went to task: flight and hotel bookings ✔️, day trip bookings ✔️ to Bruny Island ✔️and Port Arthur ✔️ with sidetrips to colonial Richmond ✔️, and arranging to meet up with friends who kindly took us up Mounts Wellington ✔️ and Nelson ✔️.  Day 1 wasn’t bad at all. My friend waited for me at Hobart Airport and we took the Airport Shuttle together to our hotel. Round trip airport transfers at Au$35 per person for a nearly 1 hour ride. Taxi ride should be just half an hour but the Airporter delivers passengers to their hotels’ doorsteps, and that’s just fine. Weather forecast was good for the day we arrived and the next 2 days, so we didn’t waste time. Explored Battery Point  starting from Kelly’s Steps and walked in this lovely neighborhood past the brick warehouses in Salamanca. The walking notes I hurriedly downloaded proved to be so accurate that navigating around Hobart’s Waterfront area and neighborhood was a breeze. Just a pity that sunsets come real early this time of the year and the sea breeze can be so chilly that one easily yearns the comforts of a warm bed in the hotel room. Besides, Days 2 and 3 are early-morning calls for the Bruny Island and Port Arthur booked tours. 





Day 4. A glimpse of what’s in store at the Salamanca Market involved a quick grocery-shopping adventure for the much-talked about Tasmanian cheese, salmon pâté and Tasmanian apples, and a mid-afternoon indulgence at Daci & Daci Bakery. Prices don’t come cheap but we enjoyed everything we popped into our greedy mouths. We certainly looked forward to the Saturday Salamanca Market despite the early afternoon shower forecast that weekend.  Luckily, the rain came rather late. In fact, it came AFTER our Market visit and the drive up to Mount Wellington and Mount Nelson. But chilly, it certainly was. The lookouts gave a 360 degree view but only if you can brave the fierce winds. I took off my eyeglasses, worried they’d be blown away! Only put it back on when we reached Signal Hill in Mount Nelson where there was this lovely Brasserie where my friends Ren and Drew treated us for coffee and desserts.  (Thanks!)



​​





Day 5. For sure, a rainy Saturday and Sunday afternoon could only mean a couple of hours warming up in a pub, or walking around a Museum. Or hearing Sunday Mass in St. Mary’s. Or finding the oldest hotel in Australia. As claimed. Or yet another cafe or restaurant. Of the latter, there are many choices. You won’t run out of options here especially in the Waterfront area where one can indulge in seafood delicacies like Tassie salmon, oysters, trout, trevally, or even wallaby? I feel guilty to admit I actually enjoyed my wallaby burrito. 😱 Please don’t judge me. At night, we only ventured a block or so from our hotel to try Asian specialty restos like Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai, Indian or Chinese. Well, the lady from the Tropics needed her rice to keep her warm (?!?). Not too far away is Elizabeth Mall where you can find more dining and pub options. And shopping. 









If you ask me, it’s hard to say which is the trip highlight. The food trip in Bruny Island, the open-air museum in Port Arthur, the colonial heritage town of Richmond, the leisurely strolls around the Waterfront and Battery Point, or the lookout points up in the mountains. I’d venture to say though that the Saturday Salamanca Market underwhelmed me but for that wallaby burrito episode. If you’re willing to miss it, you can book another day trip on that Saturday. Better still, move to another hotel further north in the Launceston area to visit Wineglass Bay, Cradle Mountain and Cataract Gorge. Having missed these Northern spots, I have good reason to head back. Right?  Tasmania reminds me of Batanes Island north of Mainland Philippines. Still part of the island republic but so vastly different.  Repeat visits always justified. 😊






Spit Bridge to Manly Wharf


There are Scenic walks. And there are Scenic walks. 😀

Sydney, or for that matter, Australia, is teeming with hiking trails, coastal walks, mountain hikes, river walks, harbour side paths, etc. Blessed by Nature. Winters are mild. Spring brings forth many magnificent blooms. Autumn is awesome, and summers are well, hot. How lucky to be an OZ to enjoy these beauties.  Oi Oi Oi!








Spit Bridge was up the time we got there. A motorboat was passing and we had to wait till the lift span was down to cross it. Then we went under it and passed many yachts moored safely by the waters and “lonely benches” looking out to the northern beaches. It was tempting to stop, rest and just stare. I can only imagine how much a piece of Waterfront house fetches here. Gee, those dogs being walked by their masters are darn lucky! 









Nine kilometers sound easy. I wasn’t daunted. But there were a number of boardwalks rising to meet staircases and then downhill footpaths — some narrow and good only for lone hikers — to get back to the beach. I bet summer hikers have their swimsuits on, hiking these trails, ready in an instant to take dips in the beaches. This is ze life! 








Everything is so well-marked, so hiker-friendly. Boardwalks have these lookouts every so often where one is able to view passing ferry boats amidst a beautiful seascape. It was pleasant weather the day we hiked, and autumn leaves litter the ground we walked on. We even saw a wild turkey and many great-looking birds I cannot name.  Birdwatchers would be delighted to do this Scenic Manly Walk. 








We met many joggers and hikers and dog walkers. Nearer the Wharf, there were kids walking with moms and dads and hobby fishermen.  By hike’s end, we rewarded ourselves with a big gourmet burger and premium hot dogs,  then took the ferry back to Circular Quay where we took the train home. On the ferry, we traced the path we took. Awesomeness! 








If there’s one single thing I’d remember from my Salamanca Market experience here in Hobart, it would have to be that I ate a wallaby. Yes, one of those cute-sy animals that look like mini or baby kangaroos. Pacha Mama did it so well, I swear I’d love to have another go if only there’s another Saturday to try it.  You see, Salamanca Market happens only on Saturdays here so unless you have a big belly room, you can’t possibly try all the foodstuff available here in one morning!






Pacha Mama also sells hot chocolate with cinnamon, chili and coconut cream that’s hard to resist. Perfect with your wallaby burrito. Then there’s the veggie (leeks, mushrooms, onions, beet) and pulled beef (PINO) empanadas too from another stall .  Both pastry pockets are good, and went well with the pebre sauce. I would have wanted to also try the Tasmanian seafood paella with all those scallops, trevally, squid and mussels looking sooo fresh. Yay!






For takeaways, one may shop for Tasmanian honey, wine, chocolates. All foodstuff. The clothing and other fashion stuff i found underwhelming, though I got a pair of earrings with local gems. 😜 I fancied the hand painted scarves and handcrafted wood earrings which look really nice but quite pricey. 






Wool, anyone? I wouldn’t have need for them back home so I skipped that. But I sure found some really funny hats, and wondered who’d wear them. Kinda bohemian while a few are  outright quirky. I wouldn’t be caught wearing any. 






I did enjoy how they advertised their producé. Tasmanian apples picked 8 pm last night? Wines sold deliberately young? I love the sense of pride attached to these local products. It’s like bringing home a part of Tasmanian pride with you. 




 

And so we ended the morning trying out stuff in this market, having a good laugh over the strange head gear, listening to really good music from street buskers,  and sitting right there in the park literally watching autumn leaves fall. Swell ❤️







I’ve been advised NOT to miss Port Arthur when visiting Tasmania. In fact, you can say I was strongly advised to make this trip to Port Arthur to know Australia better. Now, I’m NOT a big fan of jailhouses, penal settlements and con history, but Australia’s convict heritage is truly one for the books. In a manner of speaking, it is AUSTRALIA. 





There are over 30 buildings, ruins and restored houses spread over land some 96 kilometers southeast of Hobart.  It is Australia’s Alcatraz. Except that the convicts who settled here were non-Australians, many shipped all the way from Great Britain. Yup, them European convicts settled here in Port Arthur and pretty much “built” this former timber camp. Some of those who came were adolescents, even as young as 9 years old. What can a 9 year old do so wrong that’s deserving of this punishment away from his home? Quite a number of these law-breakers got truly harsh punishment for what may today be regarded as trivial offenses like stealing bread. As repeat offenders, they were classed as the hardest of British criminals. Here in Port Arthur, these convicts did hard physical labor. Escape is far-fetched but not impossible. But any escape attempts were punished with lashes. That is, assuming you survived the dog line in Eaglehawk Neck which connects Tasman Peninsula with Mainland Tasmania. Yet, that is nothing compared with the “silent punishment system” where they were put in solitude within a Separate Prison, and told to keep quiet. Hooded, without light and sound, many grew insane. Spirits broken. 







The preserved buildings here include the Commandant’s Cottage in the best part of the area. Overlooking the calm waters, the cottage stands in stark contrast to the Penitentiary and the Separate Prison.  For a while, it was turned into a hotel and there are reminders of such “modernity” in some corners of the former Hotel Port Arthur.








Other cottages and buildings include the Asylum, Catholic Church, Parsonage, the Medical Officer’s Cottage, the Chaplain’s House, the Accountant’s House, the Hospital, and let’s not forget the lovely gardens and jetty. The “ruins” in my book is a top attraction more than the “preserved” buildings.  There’s something about those walls, bare, roofless  and all, begging to tell some story.  The Penitentiary’s bars and brick walls. How many convicts have touched those, remembering a life they couldn’t get back to anymore?  How many have looked out from those windows, hanging on to every memory of a past life? 






This open-air museum needs a minimum of 4 hours to explore. It’s really an easy stroll but the place being so packed with dark history begs some really serious attention. And I’m not even talking about  the not-too-long-ago  Port Arthur massacre. (I leave you to Google that other dark history). No, you can’t miss this. Tons of negative vibes, I know, which typically drive me away. But this is Australia’s convict history.  So much to learn. So much to feel sad about. So much cruelty. 







Richmond is only half an hour drive east of Hobart. Our guide Tassie Mark dropped us off along the main road to walk around this old Australian colonial town. We ticked off Australia’s oldest bridge, oldest Catholic Church, oldest jailhouse and wandered around the many charming Georgian buildings and cottages. If there was time, we would have lingered on the banks of the river cum picnic grounds. 







If you have a car, it would have been lovely to stay in the many B & B’s here, stepping out for brekkie in the neighborhood bakeries and just driving into Hobart’s CBD then back for the night. Less crowd. More nostalgic. Quiet. But that is not to say Hobart isn’t. Just a matter of preference. The historic bridge is very charming. Both under and above. We tried the river walk and actually met up with the rest of our tiny tour group near Australia’s oldest Catholic Church a tad late. Sorry. 





Richmond is a very popular destination for its colonial architecture and convict heritage. There is valid reason why the Richmond bridge is its most photographed landmark. Made of sandstone in 1823, built by convict labor, it is almost magical to walk under it along the riverbank. Fortunately or unfortunately, this historic town was “bypassed” with the construction of the Sorrell Causeway in 1827.  Frozen in time? Well, it seems it has remained so the last 100 years or so before it was rediscovered and gained prominence as a day destination out of Hobart. The serene ambiance adds to the charm and time’s not wasted just meandering around this colonial village. 





 

The Richmond Arms Hotel, the old courthouse, the oldest Gaol in the country, Saint Luke’s Church, the smell wafting from the neighborhood bakeries, the quaint antique and souvenir shops. If you have time, snap up some deli and pastries and lay out a picnic mat by the banks of the Coal River while gazing up the Richmond Bridge with the church spire peeping above the old historic bridge.







 

We passed Richmond on our way to Port Arthur. A good “aperitif” to a day well-spent. We were in luck joining this tiny group of only 10 pax with Tassie Mark behind the wheels rattling off historical trivia, opinions and Tassie jokes! We liked Richmond. And the coffee and quiche in this bakery is great. Trust me! 






Initially, I booked the Wilderness Cruise in Bruny Island. Later changed our booking for the Bruny Traveller Package with Pennicott  Journeys. It’s really a choice between a wild cruising adventure and a Tasmanian Gastronomic Experience. Care to guess why we’ve had a change of heart? I’ve seen them seals in a seal colony near Cape Town. Also, them penguins. So I’m good without those. But Tasmanian salmon, cheese, wine, malt whiskey, chocolate? Can’t miss those. All made in (why do all signs say MADE ON?)  Bruny Island. 



Nick’s Bruny Island Cheese Company



We started early with a 7:30 am hotel pick up. Just 10 of us like-minded foodies and wine and cheese enthusiasts. The brief ferry ride to Bruny Island was blessed with good weather. Temps at low 12 to a high 18C. So pleasant. Our guide and driver Tim was a talking and driving machine. His strong OZ accent was understood by all (mostly Aussies from Adelaide) but me who struggled 😭. No worries though, as Tim was such a wholesome, funny guide guy and he made sure I got more (like chocolate squares) than the others. 😊 



Meet Tim of Pennicott Wilderness Journeys

Our Travel Group

Getting Ready for the Oysters in Great Bay


We stopped for cheese and beer, then oysters (Oh, brother ), honey tasting, blueberry muffin and hot chocolate, before a proper lunch and wine tasting.  Then, more chocolates and a choice between Tasmania’s excellent single malt whiskeys and gin. Between these food stops,  we climbed up “The Neck” to view 2 bodies of water, a beach area, a Berry farm populated with wallabies, including albino wallabies. 


Get Shucked!

Blueberry Muffin With A View

Tasmanian Honey


By mid-afternoon, we nearly shied away from the gin and whiskey. Those enzymes were still busy digesting our lunch of salmon and lamb — while I’m looking at a plate of pork sausages ordered by someone next to me. Tsk Tsk. I ordered another glass of Pinot Noir to keep me from drooling over those sausages, until my travel buddy and I switched plates so each of us get to taste the salmon and the lamb. Lunch over and back to the whiskey and gin, I’m glad I didn’t refuse to try these Tasmanian goodies. By day’s end, everyone in our group looked happy. 



Salmon at Bernice and Richard’s Bruny Island Premium Wines

Lamb paired with Polenta & Tasmanian Apple Cider

Pork Sausages with Pinot Noir?

Bruny Island House of Whiskey

Till next time, Bruny Island!

OMG, I’m in Hobart! 


I certainly didn’t plan to be here. Well, at least NOT this soon. Tasmania hovers in my mind but my idea was to be here in summer to avoid the chilly breeze from the Tasman Sea. But it’s nearly winter Down Under, and I’m right here down Down Under. Took the noontime flight from Sydney to meet up with a friend from Melbourne who’s also itching to visit this island south of Mainland Australia.





First off, we decided on our hotel right in the heart of Hobart’s CBD. Just a hop and a skip from the Waterfront. A few minutes from the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Garden, Salamanca Market, Battery Point and Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. Those attractions should keep us busy for at least a day, not to mention the interesting shops and row of restaurants flanking the wharf. List in hand and checking on the weather forecast, we ticked off a couple of day tours to commence our Tasmanian Holiday. Sounds like a plan?





I must confess I have not done much research on Tassie, as Tasmania is fondly called. But I do remember how my nephew and his young family raved about their holiday here. Unfortunately, I am not confident to drive on the other side of the road so that restricts our mobility here. But there are day tours north and south of Hobart — colonial town of Richmond, breathtaking Bruny Island, historic Port Arthur — and prebooking them was a breeze. In fact, I enjoyed communicating with these tour operators. We emailed each other like we were long-lost friends! And I’m reminded of my nephew’s story about this Tassie driver of the tour bus his young family was on some years ago. You see, my nephew and niece-in-law didn’t pack extra nappies for their young son. Asking the driver if they could possibly stop at a convenience store to buy the stuff, the Tassie driver took one look at the boy and told my nephew he’d take care of it. As it turned out, this kind man had a son of same age, called his wife and asked her to put a couple of nappies in some mailbox along the road they took towards their destination. Voila, in a few minutes he stopped by the designated mailbox to retrieve the nappies and gave them to my nephew. He didn’t even charge for the nappies.  How cool is that?





Salamanca Market caught our interest. Suckers for mercados, we can’t pass up this chance to see, feel, smell and taste the soul of Hobart, Tasmania. But it’s scheduled only on Saturdays so that had to wait. We did trace Kelly’s Steps towards Battery Point and from the top of stairs, looked back to see the old warehouses of Salamanca Place. I was expecting some magnificent mountains (Tasmania is Australia’s most mountainous state), breathtaking forest parks (half of the area is protected as national parks), beautiful waterfronts and seascape (it’s an island, after all!), but I wasn’t expecting it’s packed with so much history. The historic village in Battery Point is teeming with old houses and well-restored colonial buildings. We also found St. George Anglican Church, built in 1838. Standing on the highest spot in Battery Point, it seeks attention among rows of interesting old cottages with tiny rose gardens. 






We’ve been here only a few hours and glad we wasted no time sampling their food and checking the sites. It was a very leisurely walk from our hotel and we decided to head back as soon as the sun has set. Weather was pleasant for walking, but we’ve had a long day and an early call tomorrow. Watch this page! 





Lest You Forget, Martin


I was 33 when I first visited Europe. You’re slightly less than half of that. You’re so blessed, Martin. And I know you’d never forget this wonderful adventure. Thanks to FB and IG, your souvenirs are forever stored in cyberspace. 






A pity we can be together for only a week in Madrid. But I knew you’d have a heck of an adventure with your aunts after Madrid.  Bilbao’s Guggenheim is an architectural marvel.  I bet your first Renfe train ride was, by itself, a magical journey. Dripping with excitement, you must have found that stone, glass and titanium creation of Frank Gehry a dream. Almost magical! 





I do not wish for you to remember San Sebastián simply for its food. I know. It does register as a superb food porn place. Can’t blame you. But just be reminded of its magnificent Basque architecture, breathtaking seascape, and of course, remember how you worked up a sweat climbing Mount Urgull. Thank Tita Shelly for packing a racion of La Viña cheesecake to “reward” you! And yes, Barcelona rocks, doesn’t it? Gaudi has truly weaved magic to this Catalan city. By this time, your tastebuds have become more discerning. Pulpo, Navajas, Orejas, Foie Gras, Chickpeas, Chistorra, Jabugo, Tarta de Quezo. Yum!






Zaragosa is where you found time to pray in thanksgiving for all your blessings. And more. Paris beckons. And there’s still so much of Madrid to explore. You may remember so much more. Your mind and your tastebuds will remind you. But best of all, cherish the happy memories in your heart. Memories of how much love and care you received. Snapshots of how so well-loved and blessed you are. 


It was a clear, sunny morning for walking. But a rainy afternoon. We made good. Set out early enough, had a good lunch in the area near the Museum, and got promptly back in the car, heading home, when it started raining. 





Too bad the Museum was closed when we visited. But it was quite a sight , both from a distance and from its porch. Housed in a former cable station building, you can view the La Perouse Monument and the coast from the Museum porch.  This commanding view is a fitting tribute to  the French explorer Comte de Lapérouse who allegedly arrived in Botany Bay in 1787-1788 before his expedition mysteriously vanished. The Atlas of the Voyage of La Perouse is housed in this Museum.  Right outside of this Museum area, you can spot a row of restaurants and cafe bars including Danny’s where many chose to lunch on its famous fish and chips. 




We first rounded up the tower and crossed the bridge before a piccolo break and the walk along the coast. Being ANZAC DAY, there were many who had the same idea as ours. Young families with strollers, a group of scuba divers, a pair doing their pre-nuptial pictorial in the rocky coast, some fishermen-hobbyists, a crowd of tourists, hikers and a few nudists in a quiet corner of the beach. (Oooops…. )





There is a sign that 4 people have died in this rocky coast, a prompt reminder never to turn your back against the waters. Then again, I thought of the peril of bringing young children to play among the rocks.  But this morning, the water was calm and unthreatening. Still….. I thought the water must be cold for swimming but you’d never know that watching how these folks take to water. 





These Australians are extremely lucky to be blessed with such a natural landscape and seascape.  I can only envy those with easy access to the beach, maybe sharing lunch with seagulls, playing beach ball by the shore, and to a few (nudies), having a complete and even body tan! Congwong Bay Beach, Little Congwong Beach, and the beach at Frenchman’s Bay —– these swimming areas in Botany Bay are only 14 kilometers southeast of the Sydney CBD.  






A delight to walk around this area. Lots of activities going on, fine sand, a Museum (!), a nudist corner (!!), rock formations, pockets of scuba diving and fishing spots, an old bridge, a row of cafe bars and dining options. Your day’s complete! 








You can’t leave Donostia-San Sebastián without promising to be back. No, you’d actually be swearing and checking your calendar to mark off dates for your repeat txikiteo! How I love this Basque city and its txikiteo or Pintxo bar crawl. So lively, so crowded, so full of energy and if you don’t watch it, so full of calories. 






San Sebastián’s skyline, its coast, its Basque architecture, the mountains looking like bookends to the equally lovely playas, the many Pintxo bars and restaurante. How can you not be so enthralled by its magnificent beauty? You come here to swim, surf or just bake in the sun, toes digging into the sand. At night, you get ready to do the txikiteo and enjoy the gildas and pintxos and cheesecake and txakoli! Life is good in Donostia-San Sebastián. 






Whenever I’m asked which Pintxo bars to check out here, the following come top of mind: La Cuchara de San Telmo, La Viña (cheesecake, baby!), La Cepa (Jamon Jabugo), Bar Zeruko, Casa Urola, Atari Gastroteka, Borda Berri, all in Parte Vieja. All just a few steps apart. Plus Bar Azkena in Mercado La Bretxa.  There are more. But heading back, I had this list like it’s a mission. 😉










Last time, we stayed in an Airbnb apartment.  Plus a night in Pension Larrea right in Parte Vieja — so perfect for txikiteo nights when you take pub crawls real seriously! This time, I tried a very modern and hip hostel (they have private ensuite too) which I thought is very cool. My latest discovery here is A Room In The City. It actually costs more than a room right in Parte Vieja but it is more quiet here. Plus it is very near Buen Pastor Cathedral (which runs straight into Yglesia de Santa Maria in Old Town) and has a pretty neat sun deck and spacious dining hall and lounge. Next visit, I’d likely book here again. Perhaps spend more time in the deck or lounge. 




Check this out: http://jollybelly.weebly.com/blog/a-room-in-the-city-san-sebastian