Make tracks to Tasmania’s Magnificent MONA (Museum of Old and New Art)

MONA ferry

I had to rewrite this opening sentence three times, as I tried (and failed) to remove the excessive hyperbole that kept coming out of my head and off my keyboard. And then I thought “bugger it, I love MONA, there’s no point trying to pretend I am impartial here”. So instead I am writing an open letter to David Walsh.

Dear David.

Thank you for MONA. It may have only been open since the start of this year, but you sure have gotten our attention – and apparently visits from about 250,000 of us so far! Let’s face it, when was the last time someone in Australia, someone who has variously been labelled “art collector, gambler, entrepreneur, and Hobart’s infamous son”, do something this breathtaking? I love your MONA, it’s a testament to the power of one person’s passion and vision. This is clearly not an idea that came from a committee.
 Entranceway @MONA

And it’s not just the art. It’s the beautiful site on the edge of the Derwent river. It’s arriving at the old white lighthouse merged into the wonderful huge sandstone and rusty iron architecture. It’s the wines of your vineyard Moorilla – I’m particularly partial to the Muse Pinot Noir by the way. It’s the crisply modern tasting room at the Cellar Door (if that’s the right term for a soaring two-storey glass pavilion with a fine dining restaurant attached.?) It’s the MooBrew artisanal beers from your own brewery. It’s the ferry service to and from the docks in central Hobart (although I must confess I was slightly disappointed you don’t have white branding on a black hulled ferry instead of the more ordinary black on white – that would’ve been the icing on the cake of the superb design aesthetics consistently applied to your brands and your websites). It’s the ability to easily go to the MONA website, book my ferry transfer times, and have my wine flight and antipasto plate booked and ready to revive me at The Wine Bar when I need them. It’s the fact that I can have a nice glass of your vino on the ferry ride too, have all the booking and organising work like clockwork, and not be overcharged for any of it.
Bit.Fall by Julius Pope @MONA

It’s all much bigger than I imagined. And the technology is great – how can I not love being issued with my own ‘iPod-like’ O on arrival, which then identifies the art closest to me, gives me a choice of reading about the artist, or reading a more gonzo view on it if I didn’t want to take it too seriously? At the press of a button it records what I stop and see, and gives me access to a permanent online tour that follows in my original footsteps. I like that I can click “love” or “hate” for any part of the exhibition. I like the rumour that any art work which gets “loved” too much gets removed from the exhibition and replaced with something more controversial. I love the idea that you may have spread that rumour just to mess with our heads and have us second guessing whether to claim to love or hate something.

I am quite delighted with the Cloaca. I hear that this is the most hated exhibit, and also the one people spend the longest time in front of. First off, the smell is not that bad at all, I think a lot of people may have been exaggerating. It’s quite a beautiful, clinical thing, this shiny machine representation of our human process from digestion to waste. Maybe people stand in front of it for so long, like I did, because it is so much fun watching other people’s reactions?
Cloaca Professional - Wim Delvoye @MONA

I really like that people who would never choose to go to an art gallery will probably enjoy  MONA , there is nothing stuffy about the place or the enthusiastic staff, and the art is a mix of fascinating old egyptian and a huge variety of modern and new. Some I loved, some I didn’t, some I even found boring, but many made me laugh – and there’s nothing better than art with a sense of humour. The bit.fall waterfall of words was beautiful, the bean bags scattered around the floors so I could plop down and watch videos on the wall or the roof were very comfortable and inviting.

And I love that I completely underestimated how long I would need to wander MONA, have refreshment breaks, do some wine tasting, maybe some beer tasting as well, definitely some eating, a browse through the museum shop, not to mention taking lots of photos. We booked ferry times to give us almost 5 hours there, and it wasn’t nearly long enough. But it does give me an additional reason to visit again soon. And we really did love the antipasti tasting plates for 2 – look what we did to them!

Antipasti for two at the Wine Bar

Remnants of Antipasti for two at the Wine Bar

So thanks David, its a wonderful thing you have done.



Garagistes, the best way to spend a Sunday in Hobart

I am talking with my travel buddy about our coming long weekend in Hobart, Tasmania: “What shall we do on the Sunday?”. “We could rent a car and catch the ferry to Bruny island”. “Or go for a wine tasting drive”. “Maybe go to Port Arthur, get some history”. “How about a long Sunday lunch with the set menu at Garagistes?”. “Perfect, what could say Tasmania better than that!” 

And so we do. Forget “sightseeing”, I firmly believe the best way to get under the skin of Tasmania is to eat and drink, and right now there is nowhere better to do that than at Garagistes. Chef Luke Burgess, who did a stint at the world’s current no 1 restaurant, Noma, a couple of years ago, and his partners, have turned an old auto garage into a cool industrial dining and bar space. All black, brick and industrial, matched with sensuous pottery plates and bowls in all shades of grey scattered over large communal tables, Garagistes have been earning praise for their food and wine ever since they opened. The wine list is mainly natural biodynamic wines, and the food philosophy is cooking seasonally with local produce. The outcome is reputedly some of the most exciting food being served in Australia, and we want to sample it. There’s also a no booking policy, except for their renowned Sunday lunch.

A quick 15 minute stroll from Salamanca Place and we are pushing open the large heavy stylish steel door and are seated at one of the communal tables, with an aircraft engine sized heater located not too far away from us, keeping the Hobart winter chill away. Over the next three and a half hours, the following six courses, plus the warmth of service, kept us delighted, amused and satiated.

  1. Tea brined quails eggs, tonnato and heirloom radishes – the tonnato was a splendid mayonnaise enriched with fatty tuna belly.
    Tea brined quails eggs, tonnato + heirloom radishes
  2. Chargrilled leek, horseradish curd, bay oil, truffled egg yolk, land cress and saltbush – I was delighted to find a dish making leeks the hero!
    Chargrilled leek, horseradish curd, bay oil, truffled egg yolk, land cress + saltbush at Garagistes
  3. Poached striped trumpeter, almond cream, toasted rice, chickweed, duck bouillon – a feast of strong creamy flavours
    Poached Striped Trumpeter, almond cream, toasted rice, chickweed, duck bouillon at Garagistes
  4. Roasted onglet, smoked beetroot puree, roast celeriac, pickled onion, bone marrow – melt in the mouth richness, except the celeriac – it had been roasted in salt and was way too salty for my liking.
    Roasted onglet, smoked beetroot puree, roast celeriac, pickled onion, bone marrow at Garagistes
  5. Garagistes washed rind cheese – perfectly ripe and runny
    Garagistes washed rind cheese
  6. Pannacotta tradizionale, whey caramel, hazelnut, puffed buckwheat – sublime cream and crunch mix.
    Pannacotta tradizionale, whey caramel, hazelnut, puffed buckwheat
  7. Accompanied by a french chardonnay, a local pinot noir, and in my case a Pedro Ximenez with dessert – thats some sightseeing I’d love to do every weekend! 

Looking Back through my Blog: My 7 Links

It’s a bit presumptuous really, I’ve only been blogging for 18 months, and I’m not exactly prolific – but when I saw people blogging under the #My7Links project I thought it was a really interesting idea put out there by @Tripbase and I really wanted to take part. So after some begging, pleading and grovelling on my part, my lovely southern-hemisphere friend @clareappleyard nominated me to join in.

And then I promptly disappeared for about 10 days on a work project. I’ve finally re-surfaced this evening, I have a nice glass (OK, bottle) of McLaren Vale Cabernet Merlot to hand, and I’ve finally put fingertips to keyboard. So here goes: my 7 links – do you agree with my choices?

My most beautiful post

Twiga, giraffe
For a while I struggle with the word beautiful – I can’t decide if it should be a blog post of  an experience that I found beautiful, where I think my words are beautiful, or where the pictures are beautiful? Then I remember that my flickr still gets more views per day than my blog, so that might suggest that my photo’s are more “beautiful” than my words, and I plump for a blog highlighting the beautiful ridiculous giraffes of Tanzania, my Tall Tales of Twiga


My most popular post.

Salsa in Cuba
How to measure popularity? I’ve scoured my traffic stats, comments and retweets and it seems my most popular post is Hot Salsa Nights in Trinidad, Cuba. Which makes me very happy, because I fell in love with Cuba when I went there a couple of years ago. Every time I am reminded of the people I travelled with, the people I met, the music, the culture, the fascinating combination that is Cuba, well I just can’t stop smiling. I hope the people who read this post get a little bit of the same feeling. Or even better, go to Cuba!

My most controversial post

Brightly coloured at Folsom St leather Fair
I am a little bit disappointed that I haven’t really attracted any great controversy. I must be playing it too safe – oh well, a new goal for the future. In the meantime, the closest thing to a controversy I can pull up is a blog post that got me my first really negative comment – as you can tell, I am perversely proud of that. So here’s to the weekly PhotoFriday topic of “street” which inspired my The Eye-Popping Folsom Street Leather Fair, San Francisco blog post.

My most helpful post

Taj Mahal, Agra
I’m not sure I have ever written anything really helpful. I aim for readable and even interesting, but helpful? So this is a bit tangential but I’m linking this to Top 10 Most Disappointing Travel Experiences. Travel is an amazingly positive experience, but occasionally something I am looking forward to does disappoint me. Maybe it’s helpful to share those experiences with others? To be honest I was hoping at least one of these ten might be controversial but it didn’t start any arguments at all – maybe this time around!

A Post Whose Success Surprised Me

A trip to Tanzania and Zanzibar gave me a nice little anecdote about the chances of my luggage arriving on my flight with a particular airline, with a little twist about who you sit next to. So I wrote what I considered to be a little throw-away post based on that anecdote. And somehow Google has picked up on that tag #luggage and has sent a ridiculous amount of traffic to that post. Judging by the bounce rate, I’m guessing most of that traffic wanted something a little bit more retail based. So although it’s successful in traffic terms, it’s really not successful in ‘customer satisfaction’ terms. If nothing else, it’s been a useful learning experience. How to travel without luggage (even if you start with some)

A Post I Feel Didn’t Get The Attention It Deserved

Felucca trip from hell
Let’s be honest – who doesn’t want their blog posts to get more attention! But the one I kept coming back to, that I think might’ve appealed to many more people if only they had seen it, is my story of my  Felucca Trip from Hell.



The Post I Am Most Proud Of

Fez leather tanning
Wow, this must be like picking your favourite child? I mean, really, I am proud of all of them. Or maybe just proud of myself for even attempting them. So I am going to go out on a limb and nominate Fez, Morrocco – how I got the travel bug. Why am I proud of it? It’s a personal tale of  the moment I realised I had been hit with the travel bug, a moment that really changed my life for the better. I hope you enjoy it.


And to get more people enjoying this fun project, I nominate these five fun & diverse bloggers to also do their 7 links:

@kezisms ;  @capitalwinescraftyclaudes; @rachelhamada; @neanster77