A homage to the always gorgeous Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi

Summer, sculpture and the sea

It’s hard to beat these two weeks in Bondi Beach each year. The summer sun is definitely here, the beach is full, and there’s a hundred or more sculptures scattered along the coastal path between here and Tamarama. And most of these are big sculptures, even house sized!

Love them, loath them  or just bored by some of them, the sculptures liven up our coastline beautifully for a couple of weeks. The crowds sure to love them, and they make my heart sing.

So here is my homage to this years perfect introduction to summer in Sydney.

Untold stories in rock art at Ubirr, Kakadu

Ubirr, one of the most famous sites in Kakadu, has an abundance of ancient rock art galleries, evidence of where aboriginal groups camped under Ubirr’s cool rock shelters, and amazing views of the surrounding flood planes in Kakadu.

The painting includes traditional x-ray art from the last 1500 years, naturalistic paintings of animals. and paintings recording the early contact with European people. There is even a painting of a Tasmanian tiger, which have been extinct for 2000-3000 years now.

Going in the wet season just increased the fun, as we had to catch a boat though the paperbark forests to Ubirr, the roadway being flooded for the wet season.

Get your Vivid on

Last Festival before Winter in Sydney

At times we like to pretend that it’s always summer in Sydney, but when winter is rolling around, we are lucky to get the bright colourful warm-up of the Vivid Light Festival.

For 18 days, the Opera House sails are dressed in colourful light designs, historic buildings bloom bright flowers and fantasy lands and light art and sculpture pops up in unexpected places. No matter how chilly it gets, when the lights come on at 6pm it is impossible to not smile and enjoy. Hopefully this gallery will make you smile too.

So did you get your Vivid on?

The Colours of Valparaiso, Chile

Valparaiso just oozes colour, in both housing and street art, even on a cloudy day. A collection of dozens of steep hills around a port, each cerro (hillside) is effectively a barrio (suburb) strewn with haphazard and squashed-in buildings clinging to the hillside. It was once a rich port city, but that was a long time ago and it now has a general air of dishevelment. In the absence of money, the people of Valparaiso have turned to whatever paint colours they can scrounge to paint what are often just particle board and tin dwellings.

A few Cerro still have a working ascensor (funicular) to help with the very steep hills, but the majority have now fallen into disrepair, so everyone gets to work their glutes on the stairs, usually multicoloured as well of course. Cerro Concepcion and Cerro Alegre are the two most touristy, renovated, and probably safest areas of the city, although thefts and mugging are still a risk. It’s a beautifully grungy place, which Unesco agrees with, giving it world heritage status in 2003.

And Valparaiso’s arty soul is not restricted to the buildings, the walls and stairs are alive with wonderful colourful street art as well.


Dining Solo in Santiago – fine dining at Borago

Dining solo in Santiago – Borago

Staying on in Santiago for a few days after my travelling companions depart gives me a wonderful opportunity to try out some of Chile’s finest food and drink, as well as testing Chilean service attitudes to solo diners. And Borago, rated in the top 50 South American restaurants, does not disappoint. One of the nicest touches is being seated with a clear view of the kitchen at work – combine this with the conversation with the staff around every plate (and bottle) as they were brought out and described one by one, and for once there was no need of the solo diner’s crutch, the book to read between courses.

I loved each and every plate, the great intensity of flavours plus the humour of the plating –  if I had to pick favourites from this night, they would be both the savoury and sweet mushroom dishes and the conger eel.

Starting with the snacks

The degustation is described as 10 dishes, but that doesn’t include the 6 “snacks” offered first, in two sets of three.

The first includes a potted cactus breadstick made from black lipped oysters; abalone and seaweed between crunchy papery thin crackers; and the unusual local shellfish, piure, filled with mandarine.

The second is a dish call “pig in stone” including a crackling cracker; a pate filled bricohe made to look like a popular breakfast sweet; and a take on the standard marraqueta (bread roll) and pepper paste, including a layer of ash on the paste, with the bread roll coming in a paper bag, as though I’m about to take it to work for lunch. With the snacks came Laurent Zapphire, Viognier 2013, D.O. Padre Hurtado.

Starting the main menu:

  1. Crudo of Venison from Patagonia (Deer tartare) was almost hidden under its forest of standing edible leaves – with a glass of Aquitania, Sol de Sol, Chardonnoir, 2010, D.O. Malleco.
  2. Salad of Plants from the Andes includes tiny apples and fermented quinoa, with a side of frozen snow – with Zarander Muscat, 2011, D.O. Itata.
  3. Chupe of Wild Pine Mushrooms is the most intensely rich flavoured mushroom pate, with mushroom crackers and edible wild leaves – with Polkura, G+ 1, Syrah, 2010, D.O. Marchigue, Colchagua.
  4. the Quails Nest is the most spectacular plating, with the edible nest, straw and egg nestled into a small tree, bonsai style.

    The menu then moves into the “rock sequence” with:

  5. Cremoso of rock plants, samphire/sea asparagus,  – with Koyle, Costa, Sauvignon Blanc 2012, D.O. Colchagua.
  6. Conger Eel (a saltwater eel from the ocean) in Quintay cooked with the blackened wrapping layer on the left, with a strong fishy paste covering the rock on the right – with Close Des Fous, Pucalan Arenaria, Pinot Noir, 2013 D.O. Aconcagua Costa.
  7. Veal in milk from a specific farm in Parral, – with  Re, Syragnan, Ensamblaje 2012, D.O.Casablanca

     And then the desserts

  8. Camanchaca and Rica Rica from Atacama – the coastal fog (camanchaca) inspires the egg in the atacama bush, while the the pink Rica-Rica flowers cover a sweet yoghurt dessert log among the stones.
  9. White Strawberries from Puren with sheeps milk ice-cream and an acidic herbal frozen snow – with Erasmo, Late Harvest, Torrontel 2010, Maule Leche de Alpiste-Melisa
  10. And the dessert of Pine Mushrooms – yes, a mushroom ice-cream, it is sweet, rich and delicious, with a sand of nuts and spices – with a Gonzales Bastias, Matorral, pais 2012, D.O. Maule Ulpo de Almendras – Safas.
  11. plus the surprise ‘frio glacial’, which looks like a spoon of ice-cream, and sends frozen vapour out your mouth and nose, a nice chocolately-mint to freshen at the end, you can’t help but laugh.



What (and where) has been your favourite “great food, great price” restaurant find in your travels?


Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post, I paid full price for this meal, and at $99 including matching wines it has to be the steal of the century! see here for my full disclosure policy

Winter is coming, time to brew some masala tea

Each year as winter approaches and the nights get chilly, I start craving masala tea to warm me up. I learned to make it in Afura’s house in Zanzibar, doing a cooking course in the packed earth courtyard of her home, over a charcoal brazier.

Masala tea at cooking class in Zanzibar village
Masala tea at cooking class in Zanzibar village


The refreshing taste of hot Masala tea in a hot climate.

Masala tea in Zanzibar is similar to spicy chai teas worldwide, with a few differences. It is drunk both hot and cold, and is always drunk black, no milk. Even cold, the taste of spices creates heat in the mouth and a lingering aftertaste. It’s become a winter staple for me, and is very easy to make.

Start with a litre of boiling water in a saucepan on the stove top and add:

  • half a cup of lemongrass chopped into rough lengths of 2-3 inches,
  • half a cup of roughly chopped fresh ginger,
  • 3 cinnamon sticks, and
  • half a tablespoon each of crushed cardamon seeds and cloves from the mortar and pestle.

Let the pot boil for 10 – 20 minutes and then add a quarter cup (or 2-3 teabags) of black tea leaves on top of the boiling water. Boil for another 2 minutes maximum (the tea leaves can quickly taste bitter if boiled longer ) then take off the heat and pour through a fine strainer. The tea is now ready to drink, add sugar or honey to taste. I love how the cloves give it a nice peppery, slightly numb aftertaste.

Have you discovered a new favourite tea in your travels?


Removing background crowds from photos

Taking photos in popular public locations is complicated by that very thing – popularity. There are a lot of other people there to walk into my shot, or stand right in front of my raised camera to take their selfie. Every year I look forward to the stunning Sculpture by the Sea exhibition in Bondi, it is a photographer’s paradise, beautiful art in front of beautiful views. Plus forty thousand other people on the path at the same time as me. Many of them with children who will look great in front of, or on, every sculpture for a photo.

To make it look like I’m the only person there takes a lot of patience. I line up what I want and wait for 5, 10, 15 minutes for that split second break in the crowd. I look for vantage points, get low, get close, get high, get a long telephoto, crop in, wait, wait, wait. Or I incorporate them into the photo, if it adds to the composition.

So today I am celebrating the crowds, with these photos of what the Sculpture Walk really looks like, with all these marvellous people  getting out in the sun and enjoying the very same art as me.

Stunning Sculpture by the Sea in Bondi

The annual Sculpture by the Sea exhibition is on again

This is one of my favourite times of the year, as spring is turning into summer and the Bondi to Tamarama coastal walk hosts over one hundred stunning sculptures. With a backdrop of beautiful beaches, and ocean all the way to the horizon, it’s no surprise that hundreds of thousands of people visit it over 18 days each year in late October/early November. You should too.

Gallery of the sculptures.