Sunday 26 June 2011

Thoughts In/On Transit

Hello from Abu Dhabi.  It's Sunday morning here, which means it's tomorrow in Australia and the day before yesterday in my ultimate destination.  No?  That's what it feels like anyway.

Somewhere during the 14 hour flight from Melbourne as I dozed and woke and dozed and woke, I had a Very Important Thought.  I know that planes are being designed that can fly further and further without needing to refuel (from Singapore to New York say), but let me tell you, you'd have to be mad to fly nonstop from Australia to Europe.  24 hours in narrow seat, with malodorous neighbours (people!  wash before you go on the plane!) and distressed babies around you and not so much as a break to stretch your legs ... madness.

What?  You were hoping for something more profound?

Oh, all right.  The transit stopover is also a useful opportunity, it seems to me, to pause and reflect.  Especially if one is in transit (as HTLT) between one existence and another.  It's a time out of time, a place out of place.  And with Duty Free thrown into the bargain!

I've learned that in Aboriginal culture, there's a belief that when you travel, your soul takes a little while to catch up with you.  Updated to take modern methods of transportation into account, this is used to explain jet lag.  So I'll just wait here for my soul to catch up and for Eithne-in-Australia to become Eithne-in-Europe.

Friday 24 June 2011

Lygon St

If you asked my father what his top tips for Melbourne were he would tell you (or at least he told me): Sovereign Hill and Lygon St.

A couple of weekends ago, I took the time to have a proper meander along Lygon St - or, in consideration of the street's heritage, it might have been more of a passeggiata.

I started off at the top end, with a coffee in Sugardough, a chic, sweet, fragrant bakery café.

This end (the Brunswick end) is a bit quieter, though it has some good vintage shops and second hand bookshops.

Heading south, the business end of Lygon St starts at the end of Melbourne Cemetery.  An excellent place to get your bearings is Readings bookshop, a Melbourne institution.
For more information on Melbourne's Italian heritage and stories of the community, the Museo Italiano is well worth a visit.  Small, perfectly formed, with a fabulous collection of vintage espresso machines.

That's likely to give you an appetite and you could do much worse than step into Brunetti's across the way for a cappuccino and a delectable Italian pastry.
Pizza, pasta, vino, gelato?  More choices than you can shake a stick at.

I finished my walk with a spin through the Carlton Gardens.

On a crisp winter's day, there's nothing like the dolce far niente on Lygon St.

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Talking Strain

Yesterday, I had avocado on sourdough for a late breakfast, accompanied by a flat white.  Am I becoming Aussiefied?

Let's see.  I do like avo on toast, though usually I prefer it in the arvo, not for brekkie.  I have my flat whites for morning tea, which is always morning tea, even if it's morning coffee.  In the evening, I like the occasional stubby, Cooper's Pale for preference.  Pot or a pint?  Look, I think it has to be a pint.

I've been to Tassy and the footy and know that, as a general rule, if you can shorten a word and add 'y' on the end you should.  Speaking of footy - I go for the Saints and understand that people who barrack for the Pies are usually mongrels.

I can spot a bogan, a cashed up bogan and other feral types from fifty paces.  I know what it means if someone is spruiking, though I'm still not confident about how to pronounce it.

I've learned the difference between shit hot (good) and shit house (bad), though I was confused for a while. Shit house not to be confused with dunny - the former is an adjective meaning terrible, of poor quality, the latter meaning toilet.

I have had people say g'day to me, not being ironic, but I have never heard anyone call anyone a flaming galah.

When particularly exasperated, I did suggest someone would be unable to secure a root in a brothel.  But eventually I calmed down and realised that she'll be right.  Somehow, she'll always be right.

In summary, my vocabulary is richer, my swearing capacity enlivened and my experience broadened.  And I finally understand what Waltzing Matilda is actually about.  Fair dinkum.

Thursday 16 June 2011

The Antipodes

I just took part in a conversation about how warm it was right now in various locations around the world*.  When checked, it appeared that today the weather in Dublin is actually colder than the weather in Melbourne.  'But it's summer there!' one of my colleagues exclaimed, shocked.

I thought this was the perfect moment to introduce one of my current obsessions,

With thanks to this handy dandy site, you can explain to the locals why Dublin (whose antipode is somewhere between New Zealand and Antarctica),

might in fact be colder than Melbourne (whose antipode is somewhere west of the Azores).

Hours of fun!

*Thursday afternoon tedium: any distraction welcome

Tuesday 14 June 2011

Canberra Sci-Fi

I continue to find Canberra fascinating, in a science experiment kind of way.  It's all so planned, so neat, so very much a mid-century vision of a city.  In fact, it looks like the set of a 1950s B-Grade sci fi movie.

See? (View from the National Museum of Australia.)

Monday 13 June 2011

The Road to Wagga Wagga

For some reason, Wagga Wagga has special place in my imagination.  In my head, it is the archetypal Australian town. A place where men are men, beer is cold, sheilas and roos gambol through the streets.

So I was pretty excited to see this:

We didn't make it all the way to Wagga, and maybe that's just as well since I've been warned it's not actually the most picturesque of places.

But I enjoyed the road.

Friday 10 June 2011

In Praise of Post/Thoughts on Distance

I just spoke to my mama who told me that the big box I had shipped home from Australia had arrived.

I would like, therefore, to take the opportunity to salute the postal workers of the world.  To send 10kg 17,000km took six working days and cost much less than any courier company quoted me.

The only thing is, that, knowing the box is at home, but I'm still here, is making me a little bit homesick.  Still, not much longer before I'm shipping myself (weighing in at slightly more than 10kg) in the same direction.  You really have to look at the map to appreciate what a long way it is: all the way from the bottom right corner to the top left.

In fact, it's so far that Google doesn't know what to do about it.

Thursday 9 June 2011

The Back of Beyond

(image via Australian Screen

This week I went to hear the writer Peter Temple share his thoughts on becoming an Australian writer (he was brought up in South Africa but now best known for his crime novels set in and around Melbourne.)

During his amusing and thought-provoking talk, Temple mentioned a documentary called The Back of Beyond which, he averred, every Australian baby-boomer had seen and formed part of Australia's collective memory.  His description of the film sounded fascinating ... he described scenes of desert strewn with (somewhat improbable) dinosaur bones, a laconic everyman postman hero and two iconic 'lost children'.

Today I went searching for the film and found some clips here, courtesy of Australian Screen.  As an insight into the place of the Outback in the Australian psyche (particularly at a certain time) it takes some beating.

Wednesday 8 June 2011


Hints to Lady Travellers has been a) fighting a cold and b) organising her tax return.  But she really wants to tell you about her trip to MONA so has taken this break from a) and b) to c) post some pictures and talk about herself in the third person.

MONA is the Museum of Old and New Art, located just outside Hobart.  The owner, David Walsh, made his money from gambling (the story goes he came up with a very clever system for beating the casinos) and spent a lot of it on art.  MONA is not your typical, hushed-voices art institution.  It's idiosyncratic, playful, lavishly appointed and all-in-all, pretty jaw-dropping.

My co-conspirators and I were lucky enough to be staying onsite in one of the MONA pavilions (this is not where I add that our trip was kindly sponsored - we paid ourselves, but I have to say that the accommodation is very reasonably priced for the level of service.)

The best way to get to MONA is by taking the ferry from Hobart.  We left at dusk, and were treated to this first view of the museum, looking like the lair of a Bond villain:

You climb these steep steps to get there,

but chairs are thoughtfully provided for rests.

The pavilion had amazing views, Aesop products in the bathroom, original art on the walls, a good selection of food and wine ... though we provided our own picnic.

The next morning after a lavish breakfast, we went to explore the museum.  Here's the queue outside - not bad for a Monday morning.

I have many pictures of the artworks, but am not allowed to post them here.  I thought I might get away with this picture of one of the seating areas, though, as an example of the crazy excellent attention to detail:

The art is a personal selection - and it shows.  The pieces are wildly varied, some I really liked, some not.  It includes some of the most famous Australian artists (there's a wonderful Sidney Nolan piece called 'Snake' which consists of hundreds of individual panels and has never before been displayed in its entirety) and big names from the contemporary art scene like Damien Hirst.

There is no text on the walls: an iTouch given to you as you enter helps you locate works by GPS and includes various reflections on the different pieces.  

What struck me most about this place is that it's really fun - and reminded me that art, is, at its core, about play.  This is borne out by the installation housed in its own little shed near the ferry dock.  It contains a live feed from the French artist Christian Boltanski's studio.  The feed is pretty boring - I'd say like watching paint dry, except that would be more eventful.  I am a big Boltanski fan but this installation feels less like art and more like a joke ... and maybe that's the point.

(View down to the Boltanski shed.)

MONA is well worth the detour - in fact well worth visiting Tasmania for this alone.  That said, the local scenery is also stunning and I wish we had more time to explore further afield.

That wraps up my Tasmanian adventures - except to add that there is a prize for the first person to correctly identify the source of today's post title.  

Friday 3 June 2011

Mr Tulk

I have written of my love for the State Library of Victoria on a previous occasion.  But I thought the café, Mr Tulk, deserved some special love of its own.  Named after Augustus Tulk, the first librarian, this is my favourite place to go for a coffee or lunch in Melbourne's CBD.

It's good for breakfast, good for coffee, good for lunch, good for cake, good for after-work drinks on Friday.  Their flat whites are impeccable and the chocolate blueberry muffins worth a detour. The décor is appropriately bookish and the place is always full of people reading.  Naturally.

I went there recently with Georgie and Sunny and had the excellent chicken coleslaw salad (kind of an Asian take on traditional coleslaw - no mayonnaise).

Perfect for when you need a break from sight-seeing or studying.

"They call me MISTER Tu-".  Actually they don't, they call it Tulk's.

Wednesday 1 June 2011


(To go with Can-can-Canberra.)  So I finally made it to Tasmania (leaving only the Northern Territory and Western Australia to go.  'Only' - they're only ginormous and very expensive to get to from Melbourne, but that's another story.)

Tasmania is the size of Ireland, for those of you who like to know these things.  It is regarded with some suspicion by Australians from the rest of Australia who believe that Tasmanians are a little bit odd.  Errol Flynn was from Tasmania.  It used to be called Van Diemen's Land.  It is now known as Tassie.    Here endeth the facts.

Hobart is a beautiful, small port town with lots of evidence of its colonial past.  We spent a sunny Sunday there, mostly going from one eating establishment to another.  I highly recommend the degustation lunch at Garagistes.  Below, my photo tour of the day:

The last few were taken from the ferry on the way to MONA - but that's a story for another day.