The Time Has Come (the Walrus said) Archives

Changes…

As part of the family photo-preserving effort, we’ve been gradually scanning the negatives of all the photo’s we have ever taken. As you can imagine, this is a fairly large undertaking… It goes in fits and starts depending on energy and enthusiasm.

One of the interesting things, though, was the comparison of some of the sights in Lucerne between our visit in 1989, and last year.

These two illustrate the point rather dramatically.

1989: This building just by the river and the wooden bridge, is looking rather grotty, tired, dirty. The tacked-on extension has seen better days.

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2008: Different angle, same building. Clean, and rather tarted up. A trendy eatery where there was previously some stonework in serious need of a cleanup. It seems impossible at first that these are the same place. Check the details carefully… they are.

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Looking back through the older photos of Lucerne, one other thing really struck me: In 1989, all of the beautiful squares and the narrow roads of the old town were filled with a jumble of cars and trucks, making it chaotic and rather untidy.

In 2008, the cars and trucks are gone, the buildings are painted and much cleaner (see above), and only pedestrians have access.

Looking back now, on the basis of the older photos alone I never would have gone back. It was prettier then than the photos showed, but now… quite outstanding.

Not good enough

Oh yawn. That time again. Yep, it’s Wednesday, which means its not-enough-day. You get the drill by now. No? Well, go read the link then, and then wallow in 6 months worth of Wednesday displays of what’s allowed in other cities around the world, but is not acceptable in little prudish Adelaide. Well, specifically, Tea Tree Gully council.

So, today, right outside the local Catholic Church round the corner from where we stayed in Paris comes this:

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And what liddle Catholic Church might that have been, you might ask? Why, only this one:

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That’s right – just down from Sacré Coeur. And OK, it was not right next door, it was a couple of stops on the Metro.

But nevertheless, can you ever see this being allowed anywhere in Australia? Let alone Adelaide?!

Piddling Kiddies. Good enough for Paris. Not good enough for Tea Tree Gully.

Not good enuf

After a break of a couple of weeks, it’s time for the naughty bits to make a come-back. Pun! Geddit! Oops. Bad. Bad pun. Must not have fun about naughty bits in the not-good-enough segment.

So, why are we here? To recap: The prudes in the local council – The City of Tea Tree Gully, banned a couple of nudes from the 2008 council art exhibition. Can’t have Tits in Tea Tree Gully. Wonder about the little birdies. They’re called tits, aren’t they? Must be called something else hereabouts. Can’t use names that might incite the natives to naughtiness and depravity, can we?

So each Wednesday, we’ve had a photo of (shudder) Naughty Bits from somewhere in Europe, and today I’ve got back into the swing. Plenty more pics to come yet!

So, todays nasty, depraved, naughty picture comes from the seat of European deravity: Paris. Worse, worse!!! From a place visited by millions!!!

Horrors  - the Arc De Triomphe, slap bang in the middle of Paris – a grand monument, right at the end of the Champs-Élysées, contains pornography! On public display!! Oh shock. Cover your eyes!  How could they do this:

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Dangly bits. Good enough for Paris. Not good enough for Tea Tree Gully.

Not good enuf

To recall why this series is here, go to this original post. Or I”ll just summarise it yet again – The City of Tea Tree Gully banned a few naked images from their 2008 community art exhibition. One was a naked bust.

So, to show their petty narrow-mindedness, today we bring you images from the tomb of the great emperor Napolean, a big chap in France, did a bunch of very important things – like law, justice, and fighting a few wars.

And when you celebrate an emperor, what better way then in a huge big building, with a thumping great casket, and of course, naughty bits:

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This chap seems to be standing at the feet of the great emperor – but seriously, do we really need the willy? It seems it’s fine for the French. But this would NEVER be good enough for Tea Tree Gully.

Not good enough

To recall why this series is here, go to this original post. Or look at any of the others in this series – you’ll find them each Wednesday.

We’ve leapt back to Germany for todays Pole Dancer.

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You wondered where Pole Dancing came from – well, we can reveal (geddit?) that todays version is simply a natural evolution of the habit of a couple of hundred years ago of putting women on a pedestal. Naturally, the more money you had, the bigger and more ornate the pedestal. This was a mere 20 metres high, so not only do we have a Pole Dancer on a Pedestal, she has her head in the clouds as well.

Of course, the terrible consequence is that being outdoors and up high, means the Lady in Question is visible to the masses. This leads to Corruption, and their Inevitable Moral Decline. We’d not tolerate this kind of thing here, today.

Pole Dancers. Good enough for Germany. Not good enough for Tea Tree Gully.

Not good enough

To recall why this series is here, go to this original post. Or I”ll just summarise it – The City of Tea Tree Gully banned a few naked images from their 2008 community art exhibition. One was a naked bust. The sort of thing that’s been done and exhibited in public for hundreds of years.

So each Wednesday until I run out of material, we’re getting a picture from somewhere in the world, of something that would be banned in The City of Tea Tree Gully.

Today’s exciting installment comes courtesy of the Tuillerie Gardens, in Paris. That’s in France.

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You’ll notice that the Lady In Question here is not just a bust – Full Frontal Nudity Including All The Rude Bits are on display here.

Worse – there are families present kicking a ball around ! Surely they must be offended. They don’t LOOK offended, but perhaps they hide it well. Following the Bill Henson photo scandal, I’m sure somebody could ask Kevin Rudd what he thinks. His response would, of course, be predictable. Sickened, he’d be, sickened.

This sort of disgusting stuff should not be allowed. Clearly the citizens of Paris are hardened to this kind of depravity, either that or they have become corrupted by the loose morals that such terrible displays of public nudity will inevitably lead to.

Naked Ladies in Public Parks. Good enough for Paris. Not good enough for Tea Tree Gully.

Not good enough

To recall why this series is here, go to this original post.

It’s pretty tough being the ruler of a fine empire. So tough that the only way to handle it is to surround yourself with gold, fine gardens, mighty vistas, and of course a bunch of flunkies.

Such was the life of the rulers of old – who then further depraved themselves by decorating the wee iddle biddle tiny summer house and retreat with a few boobs, just to add to the excitement.

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Things like this really do LOWER the tone of the neighbourhood. Whatever would the newspapers say if such things were done today? The horrors! The shame of it!

We can’t have things like this. It must be time to bring back coverings for chair legs, in the City of Tea Tree Gully! Modesty is required, and most becoming it is too!

Gold and boobs. Good enough for Germany. Not good enough for Tea Tree Gully.

Not Good Enough

To recall why this series is here, go to this original post.

Today’s disgusting, deranged, and disturbingly immoral public art work comes to you courtesy of the Sanssouci Park, surrounding the Sanssouci Palace at Potsdam in Germany.

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Whilst under the care and protection of the East German Democratic Republic (cough, splutter), not many of the great unwashed could get in to be corrupted by the immoral and degrading statues and images on display. The City of Tea Tree Gully and the elected members would have been proud!

Perhaps they aspire to the Tea Tree Gully Democratic Republic. Will we soon have paid spies and informers? Perhaps dobbing in the neighbours for unseemly landscapes glimpsed hanging on lounge-room walls. And god forbid the consequences if you should have a still-life. Don’t even dream of the exile to the gulags if you have a clandestine nude.

Today anybody can go to Sanssouci and wander through the park (nearly) free of charge, to be corrupted by the evil works of art on display.

Today’s Strumpet With Trumpet – good enough for Germany – not good enough for Tea Tree Gully.

Not good enough

To recall why this series is here, go to this original post.

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Who says those Germans are a boring stodgy lot? Not I, when you can have a NAKED WOMAN EXPOSING HERSELF right next to the Emporers grave. Yep, that’s right next to Alexander The Great, and right on top of where his wife is buried. The fact that they didn’t get on is by the by.

Wicked, salacious stuff. Good enough for a German Emporer. Not good enough for Tea Tree Gully.

Not good enough

To recall why this series is here, go to this original post.

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Strewth! if last weeks smut was not bad enough, another evil smutty NAKED PERSON IN A FOUNTAIN. This one was also good enough for Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt. And today it’s good enough for paying guests in the hotel that is now in the Cecilienhof Palace. But not good enough for Tea Tree Gully.

Not good enough

To recall why this series is here, go to this original post.

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Eaw, ergghhh! There’s a naked form in my fountain!

Good enough for the leaders of the World War 2 Allies at the Cecilienhof Palace, but best off protecting those innocent Australians from smut like this. Not Good Enough for Tea Tree Gully.

Not good enough

To recall why this series is here, go to this original post.

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Whoa! Male genitalia! Call Kevin Rudd and scream about this causing child abuse!

Oops. Good enough for Berlin. Not Good Enough for Tea Tree Gully.

Not good enough

To recall why this series is here, go to this original post.

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This is in the garden, inside the fence, around a large building occupied by a prominent German company.

Good enough for Berlin. Not good enough for Tea Tree Gully.

Not good enough…

Some of you may be aware (but I bet most of you are not) that in our local council district where I live there is an annual council-sponsored and run art exhibition.

During 2008, there were 2 works of art banned because they were deemed to be “too lewd”. That’s right folks, they showed a NAKED FEMALE BREAST.

Never mind that art and artists have been showing boobs for the last 2000 years, its not been good enough for the City of Tea Tree Gully.

So folks, while away in Europe during 2008, we found a few public works of art, or sculpture, or just plain ole stuff, that is NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR TEA TREE GULLY.

Here is episode 1, and I plan on a new photo each week, for quite a long time to come yet.

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Look carefully on the top right hand side. The Shipwrights Arms pub – near London Bridge.

Good Enough for London. Not Good Enough for Tea Tree Gully.

London – but where? (take 2)

Man in Moon Passage. Why? What man? Which moon?

I can’t find any historical reference as to how the name came about.

By the way, it’s off Regent Street.

London – but where?

Wandering around London, this scene leapt out and grabbed me. It looks like something out of a fairy-tale, or a kids picture book. This is in the middle of central London. Who woulda’ thought it?

The small version loses a bit in the crunching down, so click to enlarge.

Given up guessing where?

The view is through St James’s Park, looking from Buckingham Palace toward the government offices in Whitehall!

BIG!

Through the big European cities there are lots and lots of Smart Cars.

Here they might be derided as liddle toys for the kiddies to play with, but in a big city they make a lot of sense for just getting around.

Not sure though if the owners of this one in Berlin really understand what lady-luck delivered with their number plate.

Paris and Poo

The French and their dogs are inseperable, and especially in Paris.

Which is fine, but there are a few things you notice that are different to home.

Firstly, the poo. People in central Paris live in apartments, and their dogs live with them. Whilst there are parks where doggies can be taken, the dogs are taken any and everywhere, and on the roads and footpaths they can crap where and when they like. When walking around in Paris, watch where you stick your feet (aaaarrrgghhhh – that’s a pun!!). Generally the day-old turds are not a problem, but this is simply because somebody else has already done the honour of spreading the shite around. Thin layers tend not to be picked up so easily. And it rains so much that after a few days it’s all gone anyway. But watch the hell out for the fresh ones!

And secondly, the dogs go into restaurants, cafes, supermarkets. You stop noticing it after a while. One of notable times though, was in Grenoble. We didn’t eat out a great deal, perhaps that helped to make it the more noticable. That and being the table next to us. A couple came in with their dog and were seated. The owner / waiter came and fussed around, handed out menus and such like. He then enquired of the dog – was it a male or female? Would it like water? Shortly after he was back bearing a large bowl of appropriate colour which was placed formally in front of the dog, who was addressed as “Monsieur”. The dog was extremely well behaved throughout, through obviously hungry. Never mind, the owners fed him bits from the table.

Hygene Laws!?! Pfft!

Ve Germans like our chokolade, ja!

Not the sweets-and-candy-crap aisle.

This is the bar-of-chocolate aisle in the local supermarket in Berlin, under the Zoo S-Bahn station. Choice!? Ve Haf Plenty off choice, ja !

Internet TV

When staying in Paris, the apartment we were in had over 200 TV channels.

The whole lot were delivered using ADSL internet TV with a router and set-top box plugged into a standard TV.

Response time on some channel changes was typically 10 to 20 seconds – a bit slow but acceptable.

We saw advertisements in the Paris Metro for the deal:

- 39 Euro / month

- 28 MBit/sec ADSL

- at least 200 TV channels delivered through the ADSL

- and your mobile phone bundled as well

Which all goes to show how we are ripped off in Australia for broadband (and the lousy crap uses to which it can be put when you have it). Also a reflection of what you can offer with the scale that comes from a high population density.

The deal was also not quite as good as it first seemed. Where we were staying, at least 50% of the channels were pay-extra-to-watch-me. There was a simple system of authorising the extra charge to your account, and fees for a movie and some channels were typically 3 to 5 euro (about A$5 to 8).

Most of what was on was utter crap. Even foreign sourced shows, movies, documentaries or series were all dubbed into French. No leaving the soundtrack as-is and using subtitles like SBS do here. A classic case “47 channels and nothing on”.

Awstraya – centre of the universe

Australians like to think they are important.

Why else would Australians call the country Godzone? This is  - for aussies – short for Gods Own, a contraction of Gods Own Earth. Every aussie knows that God came from Australia. And speaks with a nasal strine accent.

Except…

I’ve been travelling overseas for a month. When away from the big brown land down under, it’s apparent just how full of their own shit Australians are. I suppose Americans are worse, but Australians need to get a serious grip.

Important? Nope. 

Understood? Nope.

Recognised? Nope.

Leading the world, in a position to be seen and known for (name todays cause)? Forget it.

Leaders creating a special relationship with the USA / UK / Europe. Don’t make me laugh.

During our month away, we stayed in apartments for fair stretches. We had the chance, and watched a bit of TV in various languages and places. We included the news channels like CNN, CNBC, Sky News and BBC World News. We looked at newspapers now and again. Watched for advertisements, signs, placards, news headlines.

During the entire period, there were precisely 2 (two) mentions of Australia:

- An advertisement in the London Underground promoting “Aus Tours”, where the featured location was Milford Sound in New Zealand!!!!!

- A scrolling banner on CNN TV during the financial shennanigans announcing that the Australian Reserve Bank had cut interest rates by 1%.

Drum roll. That’s it folks. Tish-boom!

Nobody in the UK or Europe knows or gives a toss about Australia.

Next time some pillock opines with “The eyes of the world are on <insert cause or scandal of the week here>”, tune out. It’s bullshit.

And next time some f-wit politician says “We have a special relationship with <insert country here>”, tune out. It’s also bullshit.

Folks – Australia does not exist.

Let’s strive to keep it that way!

Barbarella’s

I had a couple of comments about this post, saying to the effect of “Whats the big deal about Barbarellas Sandwich shop. Just a building. Whoopy-doo.”

“Barbarella” was a film made in 1968, starring Jane Fonda.

With taglines like:

Who seduces an angel? Who strips in space? Who conveys love by hand? Who gives up the pill? Who takes sex to outer space? Who’s the girl of the 21st century? Who nearly dies of pleasure?

See Barbarella do her thing!

The space age adventuress whose sex-ploits are among the most bizarre ever seen.

Who can save the universe?

And Jane Fonda looking like this

And this:
Barbarella Desktop Wallpaper 1024 x 768

NOW PERHAPS WHY YOU SEE HOW IT IS THAT THE PHOTO TOOK MY FANCY – for being a teeny weeny bit off the mark!

PICS

A short selection from the thousands…

Chosen only for being a bit off-beat, and limited only to London and surrounds.

More cities and themed pic-posts coming…

For those who ever saw the movie with Jane Fonda in… this just does not have the same impact or appeal:

FECK – Irish connection:

Near Slough – when on the train station platform, the advertising placard speaks for itself, really:

Ah haz yore freaky chikkin and ah is makin mah escape:

ATTACK OF THE GIANT PIGEONS!!! AHHH – run away!!

We like our funny hats:

The name makes all the difference (The sign reads “I went to see Major General Harrison Hung, Drawn and Quartered. He was looking as cheerful as any man could in that condition” – Samuel Pepys, 13th October 1660.):

One wonders what King William thinks of all this:

Weary travellers are returned

We’re home. Arrived back on Thursday, about lunch-time and something like 38 hours after walking out the door of the apartment we rented in Paris.

The trip home was long and somewhat eventful. Long because it was Paris -> London -> Singapore -> Sydney -> Adelaide. Eventful… well…

The fun started with a suggestion to take a shorter, faster way to the airport: “Don’t take the metro and RER. Go to Porte Maillot and there is a shuttle bus.” We did this, and after much wandering around eventually found the bus stop, and then found it was an Air-France shuttle bus. We were flying British Airways. But for 14 Euro each, it would take us. Trouble was, the buses were not running because the drivers were on strike. A taxi sorted that problem, costing 39 Euro for the 4 of us – meaning that the taxi was CHEAPER than the shuttle bus – by a long way. The delay was not a problem, we had plenty of time.

But on arrival at the airport in Paris – the stupid self-check machines so loved by BA would not work until 3 hours before flight departure, meaning we had to mooch around the shitty draughty departures hall. Fine… but until we could do this step we could not get through departing customs and into baggage check in. And the flight to Heathrow was running late, jeodardising the connection on to Australia. The check in supervisor was a very nice chap, who was able to fight the booking system and shift the Paris -> Heathrow portion to an earlier flight.

London to Singapore was uneventful, but Singapore to Sydney had its moments. The first was #2 son deciding he felt sick – something which happens everytime he travels anywhere and misses food and sleep. A big upchuck in the transit lounge helped. As did the plastic bag to catch it in.

Later, during the flight, somebody in deep economy must have gone ga-ga or had hysterics or something. About an hour after leaving Singapore, the plane was filled with screaming. The sort of scream you get in cheap Hollywood movies. The screams were repeated, with gaps between of about 10 to 20 seconds, and this went on for at least 2 1/2 hours. The flight crew came and fetched a stretcher-like thing (which I’m pretty sure has straps for restraint), and as far as I can gather from other conversation, the person was tied down and (most likely) sedated. An hour or so in, there were people being relocated from economy up into first / business class – presumably those closest to and suffering most from the noise. During this episode, the pilot announced what was going on and told everybdy that we would be pressing on to Sydney. But from the moving map display it looks like the flight path was changed in preparation for an emergency landing in Alice Springs – which was not needed in the end. The final couple of hours were mercifully silent. Strangely enough, there was a large welcoming party in the airbridge on arrival in Sydney. Police, medical people, etc.

We have about 1800 photos, and 6 to 12 months of blog fodder :)

Some general comments on airports and airlines

  • London Heathrow Terminal 5 had a lot of bad press on opening, with lost bags and so on. We went through it twice with no trouble. It’s bright and shiny new, and seems fine.
  • London Heathrow Terminal 4 must be about 18 or 19 years old now (I’m pretty sure it was new when last we were in London). Now, it’s looking tired and dirty. The lighting is lousy, there are bad smells. It’s a shitty dump.
  • Paris Charles de Gaulle airport is poxy dump.
  • Singapore, Zurich and Adelaide airports are nice.
  • The new terminal in Bangkok is space-age and BIZARRE.
  • The shittiest, horriblest airport terminal we went through has to be Sydney – especially the domestic / international transfer. It is old, tired, dirty, badly organised, has smells. (From other travel, Melbourne international comes close to Sydney in the poxy stakes)
  • The most unpleasant, officious airport security turds have to be the British. Until now, I’d found the Australians to be the worst pains. But now the British take the prize for sheer f#@$wittery.
  • Everywhere you go, the stupid liquids ban is in place. We all know the “common household liquids” explosive has been shown to be a scientific nonsense, but they all persist with this rubbish.
  • Every time you are treated like a criminal by the security morons, there is a sign proclaiming that the nonsense is “for our safety”. Yeah right. Singapore goes one step further, by proclaiming that not only is the security screening and liquids ban for our safety, but also that if there is any comment or criticism then shut up – because anything heard to question the procedures or threaten the aircraft safety will result in arrest.
  • BA was Ok to fly with, but the best airline we flew on was Air Berlin – the low cost carrier. Their aircraft fitout was good, the legroom was acceptable, the staff were courteous, and the service exceeded expectations. VIRGIN BLUE and JET STAR could learn a lot from Air Berlin.
  • We paid extra and travelled on the long legs (Sydney / London) in Premium Economy. It is nowhere near as good as business class, but you do get quite a lot of extra leg room and this makes a huge difference to comfort. It’s worth the extra money.

And Finally

The chocolate hunt yielded all sorts of strange goodies:

The best hunting ground seems to be Germany – the range everywhere was extensive, and particularly in some more obscure Lindt varieties. The most peculiar has to be the Dark Chocolate with sesame seeds that we found in France. I was specially taken with one from Germany: “Schwartze Herren” (”Pour Messieurs”). [Black man... for men]. Why they mix German and French is beyond me. Didn’t see it in France, it seems to be a german brand: “Fein-herber Edelkakao macht Scharze Herren Schokolade zu einem besonderen erlebnis fur den anspruchsvollen geniesser”. Indeed!

As you can see from the above, we have yet to try them all!

And no, your eyes do not mislead you, there really is a 99% cocoa product readily available. Just not here.

Hier ist ze view!

Ze hotel ve are stayink at in Lucerne has internet access and a PC (because I never again want to lug a laptop thru airport security).

Here is the view from our vindow in Luzern… (click for full size…. not pre-processed so big)

Und hier is vere ve vere yezterday: up mount Titlis: 10,000 feet, and in bright sunshine above the cloud layer. We all got sunburned. I felt lousy – the effects of oxygen deprivation are very wierd… slight headache, tiredness, and getting out of breath walking around. You have to REMEMBER to breathe more often and harder than normal…. Wierd.

No dumping for a while

Folks – the one or two readers left out there – things will be on hold for a while.

The dump family are on a long holiday, without computers and grudgingly taking mobile phones.

By the time this post appears, we’ll be somewhere in the big silver bird, heading off to spend a week and a bit in London doing the tourist thing and especially heading out to Bletchley Park, where the Enigma codes where broken during World War 2. And the chaps are taking us for a day in Legoland. Bliss!

From London we go to Berlin for a few days with my sister and her husband, and see the wee kiddie who must be about 2 or something now. For various reasons this will turn into something of a family gathering, with others of the family also being there at the same time.

From Berlin we head off into Switzerland – ending up in Lucerne (Luzern), with a possible side trip from Zurich out to Kilchberg, the home of Lindt Chocolate. Apparently factory tours are not available, which takes the gloss off this aspect a bit, but there is supposed to be a pretty flash Lindt shop where you can buy all the things they don’t sell in the various markets around the world. #2 son has declared this to be a chocolate trip – he wants to buy chocolate in every country we visit. This could be good or bad!

Lucerne is the base for a trip out to Engelberg, and then by cable car up Mount Titlis – at the top it’s about 3000 m above sea level and has permanent snow. We’ll hurl a few snowballs, peer into the glacier, and ride a rack railway.

From Lucerne, there is a long train journey to Grenoble in France for a work-related meeting, then TGV (high speed train) to Paris.

In Paris there are list of touristy things as long as your arm to do – my plan is to include a tour of the sewers. Sounds odd but why the heck not? I think t’other ‘alf has other ideas…

And eventually, from Paris, back home.

Normal service will resume sometime in October.

Bower Birds

We found the records of our spending and petrol consumption during our 1989 trip around England, Scotland and Wales. Bower birds! Who keeps this kind of thing for that long? A mere 19 years.

It makes interesting reading, though.

Petrol consumption over a period of 5 weeks, driving Gertie-the-van, was 663.38 litres, at a cost of UK£270.75. This means the average price per litre of petrol in England (Scotland and Wales) in 1989 was £0.408. That was about A$0.90. We whine that we now pay about A$1.50 / litre, but 2 years ago we were only paying A$0.90 – the same as they were paying that in the UK nearly 15 years before.

That 663.38 litres took us 3375 miles (5431 kilometres). Which highlights something else interesting. In those days the UK was using litres and miles. Metric and imperial units at the same time! Take note in the USA – a conversion of units can be done!

That also means we were travelling about 1000 kilometres a week.

We made it to Lands End in the very South, but had to give up – there was just not enough time to get to John O’Groats in the very North. The top end of Scotland is (was) many, many kilometres of single lane roads with periodic passing places. One of the most stressful types of road to drive, and the average speed drops rapidly when you are forever stopping and pulling over.

Seeing as we were driving and living in Gertie-the-van, and remember the cost of food in England as expensive, it’s interesting to look at the records there as well.

Food: £11.

Food: £14.

Meal in restaurant: £25 (oh the horrors – such spendthrifts!)

Perhaps it was not so expensive after all. Perhaps we were just skint and doing it all on a very tight budget.

The wanderers returneth

We’re back from the Apple Isle. For non-Australians, that means Tasmania.

We spent 6 days in Hobart, and a week driving the length and breadth. A result of this rather hurried holiday was clocking up 1840 km in the rental car, and taking over 1400 photographs.

Some impressions:

Hills. Tasmania is full of them. Some big, some small. Every city of any size (all three of them) seems to be built in hills, and you are forever going up and down. most Australian cities are built on a plain, and it’s only the nobs who live in the hilly bits. In Tasmania, everybody is a mountain-goat.

dscn2267.JPGCascade. The brewery tour was interesting, the tasting at the end was enlightening. It’s not often you get a chance to try a few different beers alongside each other with somebody there who can tell you about them. This is saying something, coming from a non-beer drinker. Well, from somebody who goes through about a dozen a year. Best discovery though: “Mercury draught alcoholic cider” – made by Cascade. Until now, the ciders I’ve tried have been crap. Sweet, or strong, or just plain yuk. English Scrumpy, and a well-known Australian brand have been enough to put me off for life. Until now. That Mercury stuff is very nice indeed, and I can’t recommend it enough. Even better, the local BWS store sells it! The remains of a 6-pack are now in the fridge and we’d only been home 2 hours when I found it!

Gourmet Food. This is a warning sign. It means the place might, just might, have some pies in a pie-warmer. Be prepared to pay for them using your first-born, or perhaps an arm or a leg.

dscn2391.JPGTrees. By crikey has Tasmania ever got trees. More trees than you can poke a stick at. So many damn trees I’d end up saying “Yawn, another forest with tall trees in. Boring. Show me something interesting”. On the mainland we get a lot of selective news coverage about how much Tasmanian wilderness is being destroyed for logging. It’s bullshit. Something like 30% of the island is national park, and about 25% is forest managed by the government. The rest is split with about 25% agricultural land and the remainder seems to be privately owned, but still forest! Everywhere you go there are trees, and timber specialists.

Expensive. Everything is expensive. Food is expensive, out of the major cities petrol is expensive, the crappiest flea-pit motel was expensive. Even the pies at the places with the signs proclaiming them as purveyors of “Gourmet Food” were expensive.

dscn2242.JPGWeather. They say the weather in Tasmania can change, and it sure can. In most places the weather forecast for the following day is reasonably good (and we accept that the 4-day forecast is getting pretty iffy by that 4th day looking out). In Tasmania, the following days weather forecast should come with an error tolerance of +/- 10 degrees. Many days we saw a forecast for a top of 22 degrees C. Why then were we sweltering in 33 degrees C? Not that this explains the first week, which was so damn cold we were running a wood heater every night! And at the top of Mt Wellington we got snowed on.

Wine. They really do make some good white wines in Tasmania. We picked a couple of small places with signs by the road, and went in. No prior knowledge. Excellent Rieslings, damn good Chardonnay (and yes many Chardies these days are clichéd and rather awful. These were some of the best ever). And they can make a pretty mean Pinot Noir as a red, which is no mean feat. Many Australian Pinot’s are pretty ordinary, these though were miiiiighty fine. Except the price tags. See “Expensive”.

Toyota Aurion. Gee Toyota make a mean car these days. We had an Aurion for the fortnight – a free upgrade from what we’d booked (you have to get a win now and again). Good fuel economy, roomy, comfortable, plenty of power for passing. The only downside is the stupid foot operated parking brake. Ours had 402 km on the clock, we were only the second people to rent it. It had done quite a lot more by the time we returned it. And no, we didn’t thrash it.

Raspberries and Cherries. They grow loads of these, as well as the apples for which they are known. Everywhere we went there were roadside stalls selling raspberries. Yum. And we had 1/2 kg of the best cherries ever ever ever - sold to us out the back of a car boot somewhere outside Hobart.

dscn1702.JPGTahune Air Walk. If you only have a short time in Tasmania, go on this. Then do the walk on the swinging bridges. By the time you have done these, over a period of 2 or 3 hours you will have been able to read up on all the significant Tasmania trees, and what their timber is used for. You will have seen some fantastic forest. And everything is presented clearly and factually – unlike the national parks which use more emotive language and present less information. The air walk takes you through the tree tops, in places about 30 metres up. The cantilever section at the end got the better of me though, one look at the swaying as the various elephants bounced around on it and I could go no further.

Overweight. The number of obese or seriously overweight people. Are they tourists or locals? Who knows. I’ve never seen so many in a week, before, though. Serious heart trouble coming, folks.

Population. I’d not realised until now that the population of Tasmania is a touch under 500,000; and the population of Hobart is under 210,000. Burnie, Devonport and Launceston total about another 200,000. No wonder towns seem small.

Finding Shops. Is difficult, even in Hobart. There just are not many large shopping centres. It’s even difficult to find fast food, unless you want Fish-n-Chips or Pizza. Also see the warning about Gourmet, though :) Perhaps this is not surprising, the population being as low as it is.

dscn2260.JPGPoor Cousin. Sorry Hobartians, you won’t like this. Hobart has a poor-cousin feel. There might be some respectable suburbs, but we really didn’t find them – and we spent quite a bit of time there. It seems like a majority of the houses are not well cared for, there are few where the owners take pride in where they live, there are not a lot of carefully tended gardens. Launceston is a smaller city, but the contrast is stark. People there seem to take more pride in how they live and how they present themselves and their city. Hobart just seems run-down. This little house was kinda cool, though.

All for now, there’s be more after we cull the zillion photos down to something a bit more manageable.

F*&^ing Low Cost F*^%ing Airlines… Merry Christmas

Tomorrow we hop in the silver bird and go away for a coupla days over Christmas.

Lets run a tally so far on what’s gone wrong.

The accommodation. More on this later. The place where we and the extended family are staying has been sold. We found out just recently that not everything we booked AND PAID for will be available. The new owners say they were not paid for our booking, and in fact had no knowledge at all of it! The former owner doesn’t want to be contacted. Looks like we (collectively, amongst the 8 of us going) have done some of our dough. The place is still available, we are just not getting what we paid for.

Airlines. From the original booking, Qantas have changed one of our flights, now Jetstar have changed the other one. At least they informed us.

But today I’m trying to do the on-line checkin thing, reserve seats early and often, that sort of thing. Because the flights have been changed, the online checkin is not available. After half an hour on the phone, online checkin is now available but it does not work for me! I still can’t reserve the damn seats or print a boarding pass from home.

In the normal course of events this might not be a big deal, but She Who Must Be Obeyed gets travel sick at even the thought of stepping over a skate-board. It looks, from the comments of one of the call centre folks, like we are allocated to steerage – the very back row next to the chemical loos. The worst seats in a plane for those who barf at even the thought of a bumpy ride. NOBODY on the phone can change the seat allocation – but if I could get into online checkin I could do it! What is wrong with these people?

And as for F*&%ing Jetstar. The booking references I put all come up and tell me they have system errors, or maintenance, or other bullshit. There is no information in their system about the flights at all. And their call centre can’t or won’t help either: “Sorry, we can’t do anything.” web site useless. Call centre completely f*&^ing hopeless.

Thanks Mr Branson, by lowering the cost of travel you have also forced all the other carriers to join the race to the bottom. Low prices, crap service.

Here’s hoping the car company actually have the car we’ve booked.

At this rate, I CAN’T WAIT.

The Wine and Pizza Tour down South

Being twenny years and all that since getting hitched, t’other ‘alf and I decided to do something special – as in go away for a couple of days without the little gentlemens.

Living close to the Barossa means it was out of the question. When you are only 40 minutes from a really good wine region, there is only so much before it’s time to go somewhere else.

So we booked a B&B at McLaren Vale, took Friday off on leave, made arrangements with Grandma for the care and feeding of the chaps, and took off for a weekend of food and wine.

First stop, seeing as we had to go pretty much via Adelaide anyhow, was the central market to load up on cheese, bread, a bit of fruit and so on. Somebody had beautiful Roma tomatoes for about $1.50 / kg. A screaming bargain. Shame we were going away or I would have bought a whole lot to do the Italian tomato sauce thing.

We got a very nice mild goats cheese, a strong sticky squashy cheese, salami, sun-dried olives (mmmmmm), and a few other goodies.

Then off through the horrors of the drive South. I’m pretty disgusted at the road system to the South of Adelaide. It’s an unplanned, slow-moving shambles – and this was at midday!

Made it finally to McLaren Vale and just had to try a few wee drinkies here or there. Some very nice wines come from this region and there were no disappointments.

After checking in to the place we were staying at, and mooching around a bit, come sunset we decided to head to Willunga and try out Russell Jeavons pizza’s. This place is a legend. They used to only open Friday nights – but now they do Saturday as well if things are busy. The only sign is a battered bit of metal with something that looks written on in texta. It took 4 drives past to find the place, not helped by the large sign outside saying “Minko Wines”! The vast number of parked cars was a bit of a giveaway, though. Trouble was, without a booking, we had no chance.

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Sun setting over the vines…

Back instead to McLaren Vale, where Oscars diner came to the rescue. They do pizza too! Oscars sorted us out with a small pizza each. Now how is this for a pizza:

  • Mediterranean: roast pumpkin, roast capsicum, eggplant, caramelised onion, rocket and fetta. Gee was this good!
  • Moroccan: braised lamb, roasted eggplant, Spanish onion, tzatziki and citrus zest. Again, very nice.

All this accompanied by a couple of glasses of sparkling Shiraz from the Settlement Wine Company, which went down very well indeed.

She Who Must Be Obeyed was sucked in by sticky date pudding for desert and had to be restrained from licking the plate clean.

And so to Saturday. We’ve been told many times to go to the Willunga farmers market, held every Saturday morning.

I was skeptical but came away surprised and with the wallet a lot lighter. Good olive oil, delicious lemon tarts, and many, many more things for sale. If we had been going straight home we could have filled the car several times over. Perhaps it’s a good thing we had another night to stay. How about beautiful peaches for $1.10 / kg? Freshly made cheeses, freshly baked bread, vegetables… And more.

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(Click to make ‘em bigger)

And then, more wine tasting. After all, it is wine region! Stand-outs:

  • Fox Creek. We tried the entire list from top to bottom. Sascha and her offsider were very patient with us, and also wouldn’t let us skip anything. We got the story of the dog who spends all day running up and down the rows of grapes when one of the wires is plucked, chasing the sound – and then has to be carried home because his paws hurt! And they did great imitations of American customers :) And they have all this cool stuff made from old barrels and bits of wood and things. Wine not cheap, but very, very good.

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(And click these to embiggerate as well)

  • Foggo Road Wines. Small, chosen on whim. Again, very good. Sandi the winemaker was behind the counter. She and Bruce the Kiwi Grape Picker spent an hour chatting, suggesting things to try, talking about what the season was like, how terrible the yields are this year because of drought (now) and frost (spring last year), and how the whole region is suffering. I don’t know if Bruce was his real name, but it made an entertaining afternoon.
  • The Settlement Wine Company. Had to go after the wine with pizza the night before. These folks have a smaller range, all good, and I was blown away by the prices. The standout bargain highlight of the trip. EVERYTHING was about 1/2 the price of everywhere else. These people are crazy – they were underselling themselves.
  • And finally, Beresford, who just happen to run the B&B we were staying in. The local chocolatier is also the barista, so after trying and buying some wine, it was time for coffee and hot chocolate. REAL hot chocolate made with lumps of chocolate, and milk, and steam. SWMBO was in heaven.

So… that brings us to try #2 at Russells Pizza. Our booking was in the courtyard – inside being very very very small, and chock-full. The courtyard was a little breezy, and verging on cold. But so what!

Russells is real wood oven pizza, in a “restaurant” with charm and a LOT of character. Tables have been scavenged from all over, so have the chairs.

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You want a candle outside? No worries, it’s in an old jam tin. The menu is salad, pizza, and a cake of some kind for desert. The cake changes each day, thats about all that does. No cutlery – if you really want that, take it yourself. We were told some people take their own chairs! The place is justly famous though, the pizza was fabulous. We managed a 1/2 and 1/2:

  • Chili Chicken: chicken, garlic, yogurt, pickled lime, tomato and coriander.
  • Lamb: Slow cooked lamb, yogurt, pickled lime, tomato, dukkah and mint.

I’ve never had anything like this, really good flavours on a pizza without cheese (!), and with a crust that was thin, very crisp, and perfectly cooked. And so much we could barely make it through a single large one.

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And that brings us to home day, today. Wine tasting was out of the question. I was beginning to feel like it was oozing out of my pores. Instead, a jolly good healthy walk was in order.

Followed by an ice-cream, of course.

Finally, we decided not to keep going with the ham / cheese / olives lunches of the last two days, but instead stopped in at the Woodstock Coterie, where who should be waiting tables but our host of the previous day from Fox Creek. Her suggestion was the soup – Sweet Potato and Pear (with a bit of ginger and chilli) which was outstanding. The Roo, the Smoked Salman Tart, and the Jazz Trio all made for a very good lunch and a nice way to finish the day before heading off to rescue grandma and head back to normality.

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That be a Smoked Salmon Tart!

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And that be 3 blokes playin’ Jazz

Only one thing about Woodstock was unusual. We must have been close on the youngest people there. Excluding the staff, the average age of the customers must have been about 60. Made us feel young and sprightly!

Tomorrow, unfortunately, is back to normal.

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