Monday, January 26, 2015

2014 Snapshots

I currently subscribe to a website that lists special deals on goods and services. I'm always on the look out for potential birthday gifts, massages or house maintenance services, local restaurants and ‘escapes’. In particular, escapes ensure that we get out of the house and away from our usual routine.

Considering last year was quite busy we still managed to slip away for a couple of day and weekend trips. Mind you, the deals have an expiry date so it tends to force us to go away and there's usually a bit of a scramble to find a free weekend as the expiry date draws near.

Following are photos from our trips to:

(Note: Click on photos in this post to view larger images.)

Canberra

This was really only a getaway for me. Tony and Quila had to survive without me as Mum and I spent the weekend in Canberra.

We planned to see the Gold and the Incas exhibition at the National Gallery. Because our last trip to Canberra was such a long, tiring day, we booked a motel room in Queanbeyan for two nights.

We drove down on Friday afternoon arriving in Queanbeyan early in the evening. The motel was located next to the main highway between Canberra and Bateman Bay. All the major fast food outlets were within walking distance and, for those who overindulge, there was a gym next door.

We dined at the local Chinese restuarant on Saturday evening before taking a stroll down the main street. I love these old Royal Hotel Buildings, which are included in a city heritage walk.

Mum and I arrived at the National Gallery on Saturday just before opening time. There was already a long queue but once the doors opened people quickly moved and dispersed within the gallery. Is it my imagination or are ancient exhibits always dimly lit? Spotlights are used to highlight the information placards, so visually-poor people (like me) jostle with others to read them!

After viewing the exhibition, we perused other exhibitions including The Ned Kelly series gallery, the Asian collection, and the Sculpture garden.

In the shadow of the Angel of the North Mum met and was entranced by a little Yorkie (Yorkshire Terrier). She and the Yorkie's owner chatted while I photographed the scenes along Lake Burley Griffin. The Yorkie's owner said he was introducing the Yorkie to her heritage; Antony Gormley, the sculptor of the Angel of the North is a Yorkshire man.

I particularly liked Bert Flugelman's Cones. In the mirrored surface, Mum and I look taller than we'll ever be in real life.
On our way home we stopped at Berrima, a town we hadn't visited for years. Outside the White Horse Inn we met a long-term resident displaying photographs and talking to passersby about the history of Berrima. Did you know that the rail line was suppose to go through Berrima? Or that many were employed in nearby cement works?

Mum and I explored the craft and produce shops along the main road and enjoyed a late lunch at the Old Bakery Tearooms before heading home.

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Lake Macquarie

Our first escape for the year was to Ducks Crossing on Burton at Eleebana near Lake Macquarie. Ducks Crossing is a restaurant, function centre, and accommodation for couples. The luxury villas are arranged in a circle, like a little village, with duck-inspired names such as Plumes Salon and Eider. The path leads to The Chapel, which is situated on the side of a small dam looking out to a man-made waterfall.

Our deal included cooked breakfast each morning (yum!) and dinner on one night in Quackers Restaurant. I was only just starting out on Instagram and when Tony pointed out that it was fine dining (all the waiters wore white gloves) I got a bit nervous about photographing the courses. I think that's why the dessert in my Instagram photo is blurred.

Ducks Crossing is a peaceful place, not far from many of the attractions of Lake Macquarie. It is a place that we would have likely returned to except that we found the mattress too soft; it did not provide the support we needed for our bad backs!

We spent our weekend leisurely exploring the Swansea and Belmont shops, looking for remembered sites from Hubby's childhood (his grandmother lived at Belmont), and walking along beaches and the lake foreshore. We tried to visit Redhead (where Tony's parents, brothers and sister lived prior to moving to Sydney) but must have missed a turn-off because we somehow ended up back on the highway. Instead, we went searching for the petrified forest at Dudley Beach, a task that required us to use a smartphone and Google maps to orientate ourselves on the tourist map. There was no helpful road sign stating "Petrified Forest", just some small italic text marking the site on the tourist map.

We're not even sure we actually found the forest. We found some dark tree-like lumps in the rock platform, which we assumed were the petrified trees, but nothing like the petrified trees we saw in Calistoga.

On our way home we stopped at the historic mining village of Catherine Hill Bay. Signs of the bushfires that raged through six months earlier were still evident. The village as a tourist area was still being developed and heritage walking trails were only launched in July last year, three months after we were there. The most prominent feature is the jetty that was used to load coal from the nearby colliery into ships. It is one of the longest and oldest deep-sea jetties on the east coast of Australia, and now the most important relic remaining after the bushfires.

We did not spend much time at Catherine Hill Bay but it is a place to which I would like to return.

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Newcastle

My cousin, Wilma,spent much of last year creating treasures using tea for her exhibition, Leaves of Distinction. By the time it opened, I was intrigued. So, Tony and I decided to take a day trip to Newcastle to see her exhibition.

It's one thing to view an exhibition online, another to see it in person. I found visiting the exhibition a more sensual experience: I could see the scale of the works, view them as a collective, feel the textures of the fabrics, smell the distinctive scents of different teas. My favourites? I loved the colours, the textures and words in the Book of Leaves and Opals; how Wilma captured the spirit of the limericks in her art dolls, particularly “the man from Dumbree ... who taught little owls to drink tea”; and the staining and embellishments to the portrait of our great-grandmother.

Although Tony has previously travelled by rail to Newcastle, this was my first time travelling beyond Berowra. The trip was 2½ hours each way, about half an hour longer than if we drove, but it meant I got to enjoy the scenery instead of worrying about my speed and passing motorists.

I can't believe the size of some of the creeks in the area. For me, the word creek conjures images of a narrow ribbon of water cutting through the bush, not the wide waterways we crossed over at Dora Creek and Cockle Creek.

After viewing the exhibition and grabbing some lunch, we explored the shops along Hunter Street, wandered back along the foreshore, climbed the Queens Wharf tower for views of Newcastle Harbour and CBD, and cut back through part of Foreshore Park.

Photos from Queens Wharf tower

  • Column 1: Foreshore Park and Nobbys Head, Ferries travelling to Stockton, Queens Wharf
  • Column 2: Newcastle railway station and Customs House, Christ Church Cathedral
  • Column 3: Queens Wharf tower

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Hunter Valley

Our last escape was to Rothbury Escape at Lovedale in the Hunter Valley. Our room was one of eight situated in a block high on the property looking towards Polkolbin and Cessnock.

We spent little time wine tasting. Instead we visited markets, galleries, shops and restaurants.

The weekend we were there, the Handmade in the Hunter markets were held. All the goods are grown, made and crafted in the Hunter Valley. I seemed to be in a ‘red’ mood as reflected in my red-hued purchases.

Probably the quirkiest place we visited was the Ogishi Craft Centre. Here we could admire the beautiful glass works of Setsuko Ogishi whilst enjoying a coffee and her art chocolate. Setsuko also conducts glass blowing and kite making workshops at the centre, and there is also a cottage on the property that can be booked as holiday accommodation. Photos were not allowed in the gallery (which was also the cafe) but with her permission I took a couple of photos of my chocolate before I ate it!

Other than shopping we were eating! Almost every restaurant and cafe we visited, we found ourselves at a table with a view of a dam.

I wrote about the cafes and restaurants we visited on From Deb's Kitchen and loaded many photos of our meals on Instagram (look for photos dated 21-23 November).

It was a very enjoyable weekend, just what we needed at the end of a very busy year!

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