Welcome to Launceston on Day 12 of the Blogging A-Z April Challenge, where we’ve almost made it to the halfway mark.
I must admit that I almost fell off the wagon after exploring Jail Journal. My husband’s family, the Burkes, helped John Mitchel escaped from Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) and rated quite a few mentions throughout. Unfortunately, he didn’t always clarify which of the two Burke brothers he was referring to. Consequently, I had to do quite a bit of family history trawling to get my facts straight. Don’t you love how it takes a day or two’s research just to tick a box…grr!
Anyway, while I’ve been writing about the Irish Nationalists exiled to Tasmania, Jail Journal and also introducing you to the Forester Kangaroo, we’ve taken a leaf out of John Mitchel’s book. We’ve been hiding out with friends in Launceston, feasting on pizza.
Launceston is the business centre, or hub, of Northern Tasmania. By the way, if you want to fit in around here and not be classed “a Mainlander”, you’d better get the pronunciation right. It’s pronounced “Lonceston” NOT “Lawnceston”.
Historically speaking, Launceston didn’t have as many convicts as Hobart and was mostly settled by free settlers, which has quite an impact on the social makeup. In Jail Journal, John Mitchel said: “she took an early occasion of informing me `she came out free’; which, in fact, is the patent of nobility in Van Dieman’s Land.1” (While John Mitchel was an Irish Nationalist seeking Irish Independence, he clearly believed in the class structure and was also overtly racist. Defending his support for slavery, he cited Benjamin Franklin, who helped draft the American Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution, yet owned slaves himself. Obviously, I do not support these views!!)
Probably my favourite place to visit in Launceston is Cataract Gorge. Launceston’s Cataract Gorge and Basin are renowned for their rugged, natural beauty and it’s hard to believe you’re only 10 minutes drive from the CBD. Indeed, you could almost believe you’ve wandered into a lost wilderness…another dimension…not unlike wandering through a wardrobe into mythical Narnia. I was spellbound photographing the rapids and trying to harness their almighty power within the impossible bounds of 6 x 4. While absolutely unachievable, I know I “see” so much better through my camera lens, almost seeing through things to their essence. So, it is always more than worth the effort.
Meanwhile, probably the most touristy attraction in Launceston has to be Penny Royal Adventures. Geoff and his sister fondly remember going to Penny Royal as kids where they had an actual functioning cannon foundry where they made the actual cannons and the tram was operational, “instead of being a museum piece”. Unfortunately, by the time we’d finished our walk through Cataract Gorge, Penny Royal was shut and we were lucky to grab some Gourley’s sweets from hotel reception. This of course reminds me of one of my pet gripes about travelling round Tasmania that virtually entire State shuts down on the dot of 5.00 PM, which was difficult for us to get our heads around when the sun didn’t set until something like 8.00PM and we were trying to carpe diem “seize the day”. (That said, we admittedly often started the day a bit late but for us having a precious sleep-in is synonymous with being on holidays.
While I know there is so much more to see in Launceston, we were only really passing through, catching up with friends. Indeed, on this trip we spent more time by-passing the place. Not because we don’t love the place, but we are trying to see more of the island and every time we come here, we’re juggling family, friends and our destinations are somewhat determined by who we’re staying with. Usually, we’re based over in the North-East around Bridport and see more of Launceston. However, being based in Devonport this time, we have spent much more time around Penguin, Ashgrove Farm, Deloraine and headed out to Stanley. As small as Tasmania might appear on the map, it’s a lot, lot bigger in real life, especially when you keep stopping all the time because there really is so much excellence to see, taste and explore.
Have you ever been to Launceston and what did you enjoy most?
I’m looking forward to catching up with you. I only need to polish one more post and I’ll be up-to-date.
Meanwhile, I wish you all a Merry and Blessed Easter.
- John Mitchel, Jail Journal, p. 211.