Knocking on the doors of history

A photographic essay

featuring the doors of Gulgong

It’s a quaint former gold-mining town in mid-western New South Wales.

Since the region burst into life with the discovery of gold in 1870, the town of Gulgong has developed and retained a special historic feel. The streets scream ‘use me as a movie set’.

It has cobblestone gutters,  fancy facades, iron-lace balconies and has kept many signs which proclaim the story of its past.  About 130 of its buildings are heritage-listed.

There is an amazing Pioneers Museum, and a newly opened photographic display of the goldfields known as the Holtermann collection, a Henry Lawson centre, and boasts the backdrop on the original Australian 10-dollar note.

Holtermann Museum.jpg

But you can’t go past the town’s doors.

Not the many that are open for business – it is a bustling tourist centre after all and there is plenty to see.

I’m talking about the other doors, the ones that tell their own quiet story. Some are still used, some have not opened in many a year.

Rusty, dusty, cobwebby.

Unpainted but proud.

Living a second life at the Gulgong Pioneers Museum. The middle door belongs to a blacksmith, and is adorned by branding iron marks.

A little bit fancy and inviting.

Especially if you are thirsty.

Just pull the knob and come on in. Gulgong awaits.




Sydney swamps the senses

Sydney. Labour Day long weekend. NRL Grand Final weekend. What were we thinking?

Well, we knew crowds were on the cards. And we weren’t disappointed.

It had been 30-ish years since I’d spent one rushed day in the NSW capital on my 17th birthday.

So although I had some hazy memories, I was not prepared for the swamping of senses and personal space that came with three days based around Circular Quay.

The sights

The Opera House – I’ve seen it before, it’s just a bit of fancy architecture. But it impressed. Not only me, but also the other million people milling around. I’d love to know how many selfies get snapped in front of it in a typical second.  But the highlight of the Opera House was definitely the light show projected onto the sails at night. To see them  become a blaze of changing colour for a mesmerising seven minutes, continuing the culture of storytelling at Bennelong Point by the Gadigal people, was amazing. The Badu Gili show is also online, and I’ve revisited it since to try to recapture the feeling it wrought, but it was definitely more amazing in real life (and without a director’s commentary laid over the top )


Above clockwise: A momentarily deserted Opera House steps – thanks to some drizzly rain and patience; Opera House from the Manly Ferry; one of the bedazzling images projected onto the sails each night; at dusk at the crowds gather; and late at night with all sails unfurled.

The dominance of the Sydney Harbour bridge could also not be ignored.


Above clockwise: the bridge from the North Shore; finally working out why there were steep ramps between the stairs as we came off the bridge; rust-ic bridge architecture; the bridge by night; see the climbers on the bridge in the background?; more climbers; cycling across the bridge.

The numbers

While I was pondering how many selfies get taken in front of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, and how many Chinese tourists get married in front of the bridge, my husband was obsessing about finding the oldest pub in the city centre.

We spotted the Fortune of War, which apparently has a valid claim to longevity,  but it was the Lord Nelson which kept catching our eye. It is the oldest continually licensed hotel and the oldest pub brewery in the city. Old enough, we reckoned, so on our way to a show we had a quiet early evening beer on the pavement, drinking in the hops and history.


Another pub to throw itself into our path  – and a victory for our “don’t plan anything before you go’ style of touristing on this particular weekend –  was the Hero of Waterloo. Great, another history lesson I had to have before earning a beer. But it was funky, and historic, and at 10am the Asian barkeeper/proprietor was in her dressing gown, proclaiming ‘oh, you early birds!’ And now I know all about the Duke of Wellington, including what a beer named after him tastes like.

Our hotel, the Russel Boutique Hotel, also reeked of history, and was quirkily fun. It seemed to have more sets of stairs than floors, and was easy to get lost in. But the rooftop garden gave out onto gorgeous views of The Rocks, and if we opened our room window we could hear waterfront music and bustle. Speaking of which…


Two sounds  haunted me in Sydney. One was the crunch, crunk, clunk of my camera rolling down the Opera House Steps.  The lens is now NOT OK. The other was the sound of Jaffas hitting the concrete floor of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Apparently it is a very distinctive sound, as it took an attendant three seconds flat to find me and scold me for eating in the building.

Looking forward, looking back

It’s easy to miss the Writers Walk at Circular Quay. Plaques set into the footpath are trodden underfoot as the masses rush by. As we stopped to read each plaque, we were jostled by pedestrians in a hurry to have their long weekend.

But taking the time to read short snippets from about 50 Australian writers and famous writers who had visited, opened a window into our historical cultural identity.

The words painted a picture of Sydney through the years just as surely as the surrounding sandstone architecture, the sparkle of the Harbour and the monuments to history.


The Sydney Observatory, Pancakes on the Rocks, The Rock markets, a stage show, a trip on the Manly Ferry, a bike ride over the bridge and alongside the screams of Luna Park, the secret gardens developed by Brett Whiteley’s wife – there was something around every corner. We packed so much into three short days. It was a great get-a-way to celebrate five years of marriage, but it’s going to take a while before I’m ready to tackle a capital city again.



Imag(in)ing Melbourne

After three months working in country Dubbo, I headed to Melbourne for a four-day ultrasound conference.

It had been at least 20 years since I’d been to Melbourne, and I’ve certainly never spent four entire days in the city centre.

And while I spent eight hours a day in the expansive walls of the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition centre, the walk to and from my motel and to find food offered plenty of chances to experience Melbourne’s famously changeable weather.


There was more culture than you could poke a stick at, with Chinese lanterns at dusk, the plethora of ethnic eatery stalls on Southbank, and a general multicultural milieu.


IMG_2583I ran into these two characters pictured right on a dark rainy night.  The posters are part of a campaign by an Adelaide-based artist, Peter Drew, to challenge views on immigration. I was impressed by the message. However, I was more confused by the message from the character below in front of Flinders Street Station the next morning.  I get the concept of immaculate conception, but not the need to stand in front of a railway station hiding your head behind a famous painting of the Virgin Mary.


I was glad to unexpectedly find other sonography friends at the conference,  somewhat diluting the need to make endless small talk with people I don’t know. And after a hard day of looking at images like this….


it was great to get back out onto the streets to images like this…


The iconic Flinders Street Station, with a dramatic moody sky

It was a flurry-some four days, but I am looking forward to getting back to Melbourne, hopefully well before another 20 years have passed.



Too many flavours in Taste-mania

THIS island needs a rename (as above).

There are so many opportunities to try new foods and drinks here that my taste buds are overwhelmed.

We have been based in Launceston for almost two months now, and are in full culinary overload.

Right now I am picking the tail end of free-range pork and fennel sausage  out of my teeth. We bought them from the local farmers market this morning, as I breakfasted on a potato rosti burger with cabbage, apple and a walnut sauce, accompanied by caffeine from the 50th coffee establishment we have tried so far. Other farmer’s market delights have been mead,  freeze-dried blueberries, delicious  sourdough and Tassie honey.

IMG_8282Buying the best coffee in the world at the farmers market didn’t go down so well though. It was a bit runny… very bad joke – but I wasn’t joking about it being the 50th coffee shop we had visited.  Several times a week Chris walks to walk with me, and we stop at a different cafe each time for a morning cappucino. Add weekend coffees in, and we are heading to 50, with the majority in the 2.5km between our beautiful heritage cottage Air b’n’b and work at Launceston General Hospital. When we starting having to go to coffee shops a second time, we shall know it’s time to move on.

Great food and drink have been so easy to find. Our first Tassie tipple was on a boat as we cruised up the Tamar River. Wine tasting was part of the experience, and it was rounded off with some Boag beer (the Boag brewery is almost in our back yard).

The trip took us up the Tamar as far as the Batman Bridge (Batman being a historical Tasmanian, not a superhero), and into Cataract Gorge as far as is possible. It was a lovely introduction to areas we could later explore by car and foot.

Then there was the great gourmet bike ride, starting at nearby Deloraine. It followed a trail described by the internet as a country ride – apart from the long stretch on the Bass Highway with speeding trucks. We stopped by a raspberry farm, but the queue was too long to even think about getting inside, so we continued to Ashford Cheese Factory, where I made friends with cows, we sampled cheese and coffee, and bought some produce (loved the wasabi cheese).


We continued on to a salmon farm, where hot-smoked salmon was the lunch order of the day, and it was taste-bud bliss. We passed up a winery tasting – not needing the challenge of riding bikes after wine tasting, and cycled our way back along quiet country roads.

IMG_8240Off the bike, I’ve discovered the allure of scotch on the rocks, after a visit to a Launceston bar called The Grumpy Piper, which features about 200 different whiskies and a bagpipe museum.  My Scottish heritage has kicked in, and we have made it our Friday after-work spot, for a wee tipple under the stuffed deer head.

A weekend trip to Burnie reinforced the whisky addiction, this time at the Hellyer Road Distillery. Those three half nips meant I slept all the way to the next attraction – puffing our way up The Nut at Stanley.


The next most delicious part was a stop at the Anvers Chocolate factory on the way home. A divine chilli hot chocolate warmed me up, and I’m sure they didn’t notice I ducked into the sample room three times for more dark chocolate buds.

IMG_8233The drive to a bike ride along the Tasmanian north-east rail trail took us past Bridestowe lavender farm. Although not in flower at the moment, the scent was obvious. Lavender hot chocolate accompanied lavender fudge on this occasion. I had already sampled lavender ice cream earlier in the trip.

We went to a five-course seafood degustation event at nearby Westbury, which has only whet our appetite for when we take some time off and explore the east coast.

But before then, we have seven days of tramping through the wilderness on the Overland Track, eating dehydrated food and scroggin.  Dried camping food may usually be boring, but there is a good chance there will be some very special choc chips and gourmet cheese samples hidden away in my bag.


The source of some of our yummiest fromage moments.