A few companies offer hot ballooning over Melbourne. This is a fabulous experience. The only drawback is getting up very early (4am or so) to reach the taking-off site before dawn. The site varies every day and you get an early call to let you know where it’s going to be or if it’s going to happen at all! Because of the wind it gets often cancelled, so you have to keep trying. Having said that, it’s worth the wait and you won’t regret it. It takes a few minutes to be up in the air and from there the view over the city, the beaches, the bay and the suburbs is breathtaking. You don’t know where you’re going to land before you’re up because it depends of where the wind will take you. Quite an experience. I often get up in the morning to see a few balloons flying over our place, so I was happy to see our house from the air for once. Loved every minute of it! Certain companies follow the flight with a beautiful breakfast/brunch at one of the city’s international hotels. A real treat. Highly recommended.
Category Archives: Australia
We finally managed to make it to the Mona, the Museum of New and Old Art, in Hobart, Tasmania. There’s quite a bit of hype about this new museum Down Under, and it is certainly different from what we are used to in Australia. The museum is the baby of David Walsh, a millionaire from Tasmania who made his fortune with gambling systems and owns a private art collection. He decided to give something back to the place he is from and built a museum to his image. The museum itself is quite different – the architecture is amazing and worth the trip itself. To get to the Mona you can drive, but what I reckon is the cooler way to reach it is by using Mona’s private boat, painted camouflage-style and with cool stuff inside – you can also enjoy food and coffee and the half-hour ride is very relaxing. Upon arrival, a flight of stairs takes you up to the museum. Watch out if you are going on a weekend, it gets very busy – both the museum and the boat, so book in advance. What I liked about the museum is: the eclectic art collection; the theme is definitely sex and death, but the variety and originality in the pieces of art is quite amazing; the architecture, as I mentioned before; the fact that it is in Hobart; and how everyone gets into it. There are however a few things that didn’t gel with me: the space is quite narrow, and when it is busy, it gets really hard to walk around and the atmosphere gets stuffy (it’s all underground too, very dark and with no windows); there is no signage next to the art: what you are supposed to do is use an App or your phone or get headphones (they are available) – the problem I see with that is that if you are with someone and want to talk about what you are seeing, you can’t do that with headphones, and you don’t necessarily want to listen to a recording; when I looked around I could see many visitors reading their App instead of looking at the Art; there is no other way to know what you are looking at and this is annoying; there is also no visible logic in how the art is exhibited; and finally, because it is a maze, you end up missing some of the art. It’s still a great experience. There are also bars and restaurants and cafes to relax and enjoy a glass of wine of the nearby wineries. There’s even a brewery. If you get there early, you may get a seat!
Kenneth Cook is an Australian writer who was fascinated by the bush and died in 1987. A friend of mine gave me the French edition of The Killer Koala, published one year before Cook’s passing. I searched for the book online, but it seems to be quite a rare find these days. Amazon has got a few copies at an outrageous price. The Killer Koala is a compilation of short stories about animals from the Australian bush. Apparently they are true store which happened to Cook while travelling in the outback. Some of them are quite funny, others incredible, and they all tell something of the true Australia, this remote country at the heart of our continent. It’s an easy read, and for anyone who’s been here and enjoys the outdoor, a breath of fresh air – so to speak.
“The three mistakes of my life” is a book by Chetan Bhagat, an author from India. Bhagat is quite successful and has written many good books. In this one he tells the story of Govind and his two friends Ish and Omi, who live in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Govind wants to become a businessman, Ish loves nothing else but cricket and Omi is just happy being with his friends. Together they open a cricket shop and become somewhat successful in their business endeavours. This is the background to the story of how they discover a young Muslim boy called Ali, who has a gift for cricket. Ish trains him hard and tries to make him an elite cricket player. But things don’t come easy to any of the three friends. Govind’s business dreams are shattered by a powerful earthquake, Ali does not want to relocate to Australia to become a successful cricket player, and Omi has to face the political ambitions of some family members. The politics and religious clashes between Hindus and Muslims are part of the story, and in fact, will contribute to its tragic ending. This novel reminded me of the tensions I myself felt between Hindus and Muslims when travelling through Rajasthan. The story is okay, although a bit superficial at times – and the cricket thing can be a little tedious. It’s a nice story of love, passion, money, politics, and hate. Well written with fun characters, but it would benefit from more depth in its character depiction. A good read, and one in a different setting for once.
Wonderful weekend in Kangaroo Island! This island is in South Australia, a mere 30 minute- flight from Adelaide. It’s big, there are very few people – the odd tourist – and it’s full of animals. We didn’t see any kangaroos because we didn’t drive at night, but lots of birds, and a 1,000 seal colony that lives there permanently. Kangaroo Island is also famous for its great white sharks (they love seals), so no swimming too far from the shore! There are also wonderful sand dunes called Little Sahara. Highly recommended for a short break.
We went to the Great Otway National Park, Victoria (Australia) in the New Year for a two-day break. It’s just right by the Great Ocean Road, and is truly beautiful. Last year we nearly stepped on two brown snakes when going for a walk there (second most venomous land based snake in the world) but this year, as we were driving around, we came across a much cuter animal… Have a look at the video (Please forgive the low quality, it was taken on my iPhone). Isn’t Australia the best?
I don’t know if you get annoyed as I do sometimes with people going to the movies and buying a 2kg bag of popcorn, a few drinks and several bags of sweets during the film? It’s not the eating or drinking that I mind, but rather the noise that goes with it. It was particularly bad in Hong Kong when I was living there, but it’s not much better here in Australia – okay, at least we don’t get the smell of McDonalds food in the theatre. I wish candy companies had found a way to produce plastic bags that make no noise when opening them. Popcorn can be particularly noisy too, and when you’re engrossed in a movie, it can be quite irritating. Well, I have found the movie you can go and see without having to worry about the noise people make when eating and drinking! It’s The Impossible, by director Juan Antonio Bayona and featuring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts (I love her). The film relates the story of a family with three kids holidaying in Thailand when the 2004 Tsunami hit on Boxing Day. It’s based on the true story of a Spanish family, although they are English in the film. This is a compelling and heart-breaking story. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it, because the term is not quite right considering the topic, but it’s a very good movie. Anyway, back to my ranting about eating noises. The movie session started as usual with stacks of eaters and drinkers surrounding us, but fifteen minutes into the story, silence! You could have heard a pin drop! No one was either moving or opening their mouths to swallow anything or speak. The story is quite graphic and watching Watts’ torn calf bleeding profusely, the deaths that surround her and her son, the injuries, what she throws up at one stage, and other niceties, all this reduced the audience to silence – and later to tears. Popcorn was wasted, candies kept for later. Goodie!
Just back from a lovely weekend 3 hours southeast of Melbourne. Wilsons Promontory is a beautiful national park, with great walks, empty beaches, lots of wildlife and few people. The water is pristine and the air clean. Highly recommended!
War Horse has made it to Melbourne!
After being premiered in London in 2007 , War Horse went on to win a number of awards including two Laurence Olivier Awards and five Tony Awards. It has been played at London’s National Theatre, the West End’s New London Theatre and New York’s Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Centre. And it has just hit Melbourne.
War Horse – the show – is based on a book by Michael Morpurgo. I have not read the book, but I have seen the movie by Steven Spielberg. The story is about Joey, the horse, and Albert, the boy who raises him. A strong bond develops between the two and Albert is heart-broken when his father sells Joey to the British cavalry at the outbreak of World War I. Joey is then shipped to France where he is caught up in enemy fire and goes through a number of terrible adventures between German and British troops. Amazingly, Albert who could not forget Joey and has enlisted, manages to find the horse and bring him home. Okay, the story is a bit lame, but it does captivate the mind. It’s not a light story, the movie itself is very graphic, and so is the show. One thing that kept bothering me is how much time is spent weeping over the horse when hundreds of thousands of soldiers are being killed – often in horrible circumstances – around him. I know that this is the story, but it is at the same time a little disturbing. There are differences between the movie and the show, the story takes shortcuts in the show, but that’s to be expected, and sometimes it’s even outright different. I have not read the book, so I don’t know what the original story is like.
War Horse is quite the spectacle. I was amazed at the life-size puppets, created by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company. They are totally amazing and look eerily real. It was wonderful to see those horses on stage and you quickly forget they are puppets. The way the ears move, the shiny eyes, the tail, the limbs, it’s all wonderful, really. If anything, that’s just worth going to see. The horses even gallop on stage! It was breathtaking. I found the second part too dark for my liking, but it’s all about the war after all. The episode with the French girl is puzzling – I found it lacked clarity in the show and didn’t add much. The casting was interesting, as the French girl is black in the show, and her mother white, so you have to assume the father was black – a very common thing nowadays (Thank God) but very unusual in 1915, especially in the Somme region. I can’t help wonder what the original girl was like in the book, does anyone know? Of course, the accents are fake (I, for one, can tell!) but they help wonderfully when the French, the British and the Germans are talking to each other. All together, a great show.
Here’s the movie trailer: