Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Hobart: A love affair

Regular readers of this blog, and if you aren’t one of them, why not?, will recall I wrote a piece about my goals for 2013.

Amongst these was the objective of continuing to travel to new places.  I’ve started achieving this already with my recent trip to Hobart.

This was my first visit to Tasmania and now means that I have been to all the Australian states.  Hobart itself is the southernmost and second oldest capital in Australia.  Once a place teeming with convicts, Hobart has transformed itself since the 1970s into a thriving, dynamic, bustling cosmopolitan city.

Like train travel, which I adore, flying domestic in Australia is a breeze.  Just turn up, board, and go.  But one thing I can’t quite understand is why there are no restrictions on liquids on the plane.  There I was, like a good little, well travelled passenger, and had all my liquids, in little 100ml bottles, in a see through bag.  And I get to security.  Nothing.  Bag goes straight through the scanner.  It transpires that the only restrictions are on aerosols and laptops.  Who knew.

My carriage awaits
Security cleared, obligatory airport drink drunk, it was time to make my way to the plane.  I was flying Jetstar, one of Australia’s budget carriers.  This is like a posh Easyjet.  Or like flying business class if compared to a Ryanair flight.  This was my second time flying with Jetstar this year, and despite slight delays both times, the experience was a very pleasant one.  I even had my own seat, with a number assigned and everything.

After a short flight, under an hour and half, I was touching down and on my way to town via the airport shuttle.  I was at the Pickled Frog backpackers some 30 mins later.  The Pickled Frog is a large, rambling backpackers converted from an old pub.  Upon checking in I soon found out that the friendliness I had experienced so far in my very short time here was genuine.  Everybody talks to you like an old friend you haven’t seen for a while.  A theme that continued throughout my whole stay.

I had a very fluid plan whilst in Hobart, which entailed eating, drinking and aimlessly wandering the old colonial streets.  A plan that I carried off with aplomb

I ate well.  Contrary to popular belief, more than just fish and chips as well.  And I drank well.  Hobart is renowned for it’s beers.  And tasty they are too.

Tasmania's finest food and drink
Hobart is a great place to just wander about.  I strolled the historic streets of Battery Point, having coffee at Jackman & Ross.  If you are ever there, check out the cake selection.  I wandered along the shore to Wrest Point, home of Australia’s first (legal) casino.  It looked like Australia’s emptiest casino the day I was there.  And reminiscent of what I imagine Las Vegas casinos to have looked like in the 50s.  My walk then brought me back, along Salamanca Place and into Salamanca Square where an old quarry has been transformed into plush bars, restaurants and cafes.

Sandy Bay
But the best was saved til last.  MONA.  The Museum of Old and New out at Moorilla Estate, 12 kms north of Hobart's city centre by the dedicated MONA ferry.  Recommended to me by a couple of colleagues who were somewhat taken by the knowledge of the soap you could buy there.  "You will see", was all they would offer.  And I did see.  But not before having my mind blown by perhaps the best gallery I have ever visited.  Described by the estate owner David Walsh as a "subversive adult Disneyland", I did wonder what was in store at the $75 million museum.  Let me tell you, it is spectacular.  A feast for the senses, visually demanding.  Stunning.  

And the soaps?  Judge for yourself.

Apparently, belongs to Veronique
You can also buy Bianca's, just in case you were in any doubt!
Hobart, a beautiful place.  Refreshing antidote to the pretensions of Sydney trying a little too hard to be all grown up, a big city on the world's stage. 

Hobart reminds me of an Australia I once knew as a backpacker, many years ago.  You can’t halt progress, but it is nice spending time with a city comfortable in its own skin, knows its beauty, and showcases it perfectly.

Hobart, hasta la vista.

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