Tag Archives: Tasmania

Soggy Weekend Coffee Share

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This weekend, I recommend you find yourself a good pair of gumboots and jump in a few puddles. No one knows you around here. So, it doesn’t really matter if you embarrass yourself. Besides, you’ll probably only get a few death stares from the local duck population wanting to evict you from their “pond”. You could say, that they’ve made a “pond conversions” to the  local potholes. Just call them “duckgineers”.

Well, you’re in luck today because you can try my “Christmas Cake”. In typical fashion, I stumbled across an intriguing recipe just before Christmas but the cake needed to rest for two months. So, this Christmas Cake was never going to be ready in time for Christmas and to compound my stupidity, this recipe made enough cake to feed an entire shearing shed. It contained 3kgs of dried fruit alone. It’s called the Aussie Harvest Cake and has grated apple in it and for the dried fruit, I used included figs, dates in addition to the usual sultanas and raisins and made for an interesting, moist and dense cake.

Anyway, I thought you might like to try a slice.

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The local radio station broadcast from my daughter’s school last week.

Speaking of cooking, last Monday local radio hosts, Rabbit & Julie broadcast live from my daughter’s school. The Julie of this  combo is Julie Goodwin, Australia’s first Masterchef. Knowing JULIE was coming to the school, I was up the freeway in a flash armed with my camera and copy of her cookbook. I was so excited and gushed profusely, embarrassingly so, but I met JULIE!! You can read about it here.

 

This year, I’ve backed off from my blog for a bit to follow up on the wealth of experiences we had on our three week trip to Tasmania. This has not only involved getting the photos printed and sorted. It’s also involved capturing my husband’s personal and family history. Although you can join Ancestry, that gets expensive and I have found a free, alternative source of much of my research…the online newspapers. For better of worse, unless your ancestors were very rich or well-known, most of what you pick up is things like court cases, criminal matters or acts of sheer stupidity. So, these research escapades can be rather intriguing, entertaining…or horrific.

I have been doing this research at a rather intense and rapid pace. So, my head has become something like a story calculator or processor adding up all these details and cross-referencing individuals and being rather surprised to find some very strong trends throughout. One of the interesting ones was that quite a few branches of Geoff’s family were involved with horse breeding, racing, trotting, pacing and even journalism. That really surprised me. I’ve also come out of all this research feeling that life is very random, yet not. Or, perhaps it is your fate that’s random. There are those people who die young and others who pass in their nineties.It made me feel like God was playing around with a couple of dice up there in heaven. Yet, there were strong threads as well such as a strong scientific mind, which spread across the board. I still don’t know quite what to make of it all.

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All this ploughing through the old newspapers has certainly dug up a lot of stories involving the family and local area. There was the sighting of a flying saucer at George Town. There was the guy who had 5-10 whiskies and “no lunch” who then drove his truck home but skidded and flipped it on a turn losing his life. At the inquest, when the coroner asked if he was inebriated after drinking all that whisky, a couple of witnesses said: “no”. Anyone who can walk after that much whiskey, must have a cast iron constitution. Shame, it didn’t carry across into his driving capacity. Of course, these days you’d be taking away his keys and giving him a lift.

This coming week, is going to be very full-on.

Our son turns 13 on Wednesday…the beginning of the “Teenage Years”. I’m surprised that there hasn’t been an American sitcom by that name. Or, perhaps there has and I’ve just missed it. I don’t know whether you’d class it as humour or horror  and how you’d rate it but there’s never be a dull moment.

Thursday…Thursday 9th March…is the Selective High Schools Test. This is being held all around NSW for our selective, academic schools. Our daughter, who is currently in a selective primary school class, along with most of her class mates, will be sitting for the test. It’s been hanging over us for more than a year and as much as you’d like to pretend it’s not hovering in the shadows, it’s there.

My reasonings for her to attend the selective high school, are quite complex. Naturally, you want the best for your child and ideally every kid gets the opportunity to feel comfortable, be accepted and not be “the outcast”. This can be a real issue for bright students. Yet, I’ve really noticed how well the kids get on in my daughter’s class and a number of them have told me that they struggled to fit in at their old school but feel comfortable now. That’s really important. After all, even if you enjoy time on your own, that should be a choice. All these kids get on really well together  and it would be really great to see them stay together and also meet up with similar, like-minded people. From this perspective, selective schools aren’t just about being elitist but also allow birds of a feather to flock together.

What I have also noticed, is that many of the kids in my daughter’s class aren’t just academic high achievers, but they’re also high achievers in other fields like chess, dancing, music and sport. This means that when you get these kids together in a class, you create a fertile breeding ground for all sorts of ideas and skills and it’s not necessarily just about academics. That said, moving into high school, academics is going to become more important.

So, I would really appreciate your prayers for my daughter, her friends and our local kids to get into our local selective school. There’s a lot of talk about kids in Sydney opting for our local selective school as it has a lower entry mark. They can catch the train up from Sydney quite easily. Moreover, they’re heavily tutored when many local families can’t afford that. Local kids who are really bright, probably still make it in and I’m not too sure whether the hoards from Sydney are a fabrication but there’s definitely a contingent and they must be taking away local places.

Anyway, that’s me on my soap box for this weekend. Speaking of the weekend, it’s almost over here and Monday’s looming overhead like a bad smell. Wish it would go away!

How has your week been? I’d love to hear from you

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share  now hosted by Nerd in the Brain and you can click here for the linky.

Best wishes,

xx Rowena

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share 19th February, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share.

Usually, I’m here offering you a few rays of sunshine with your coffee. However, this weekend I’m handing out umbrellas and trying to keep us dry. We’ve had a steady flow of thunder storms, lightening and heavy rain since Friday afternoon. So, this weekend, I highly recommend a virtual coffee instead.

How has your week been?

I hope you’ve had a good one.

As you might be aware, we arrived back from Tasmania about 3 weeks ago and I’m still catching up on the holiday. You see, this was no ordinary holiday and as I’ve mentioned before, my husband is Tasmanian and we took the kids down to see and experience where Daddy came from. So, I  took a gazillion photos and I’ve also been working to put together Geoff’s family history capturing as many stories as I can of his parents and grandparents. I’m really enjoying doing it but I’ve been working flat out and ignoring the small stuff which is starting to rise up like Everest around the house. However, as much it’s important to keep on top of these things, it’s also important to know who you are, where you’re from and have a strong sense of family. So, I’m juggling a mountain of stuff and dropping it all and meandering around town half-lost with my head in the past.

Does this ever happen to you?

It’s strange to say that I don’t think I’ve taken any photos in the last week. That feels really weird after taking hundreds of photos every day on our trip. It’s almost like I’ve left part of myself behind in Tassie. Who am I now I’m back? Surely, I have to be more than the proprietor of Mum’s Taxi?!!

Well, I did manage to write a pretty challenging story in response  to quite a dark post on Friday Fictioneers…The Motivational Speaker.

I also caught up on another of our Tasmanian holiday delights…a cider tasting at Spreyton’s Cider: Tasting Tasmania…Spreyton’s Cider.

On that note, I’m going to keep it short this week and turn it over to you.

How was your week?

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share. The Weekend Coffee Share has now moved over to Nerd In the Brain  and you can click here to join in with the link-up.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Tasting Tasmania…Spreyton’s Cider.

If you are what you eat and drink, I must’ve become a Tasmanian by now what with getting stuck into all this cheese, chocolate and now cider…the Three C’s.

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The family at Spreyton’s. Photo by Michelle.

Anyway, today I’d like you to join me for a tasting at Spreyton’s. This is going to be a little difficult because I can’t quite remember exactly what we sampled, especially after I tried the Hard Ginger Beer, which I immediately appropriated as “my drink”. This is a bit of a problem because it’s a long way back to Spreyton’s to top up my glass, although I did find a somewhat local stockist online tonight.

Unfortunately, asking me about wines or ciders is a bit futile. My wine palate has been destroyed by years of serious chocolate addiction and I find most wine too bitter and even though I’d trying to be all sophistocated and refined, it is very hard for me not to screw my face up sampling most wines and ciders. Geoff really liked the Perry Cider, which is made from a blend of Tasmanian pears with a touch of gala apples thrown in. Rather than try to describe it myself, I’ve pinched the description from their web site: “Bottle fermented and conditioned, our Perry is refreshingly crisp and dry with a light carbonation and fine bead. The hints of sweetness and subtle pear flavour make Perry a wonderful accompaniment to any meal. Enjoy clear or gently roll the bottle before opening for added yeast complexity, either way Perry is a wonderfully sophisticated Pear cider experience.”

Photos Above: Walking through Spreyton’s Apple Orchard. Tasmania used to be known as the Apple Isle, so apple cider is right at home in Tassie.

We bought some of the Perry Cider, Hard and Regular Ginger Beer and enjoyed it back at our friends’ place with some Ashgrove Lavender Cheese. They were perfect companions.

By the way, I happened to notice that the family who owns Spreyton’s Cider Company goes back five generations in Tasmania and I can’t help wondering if they’re related to Geoff. Geoff scoffs when he says that I think he’s related to everyone in Northern Tasmania. However, there’s more truth to that than he’d like to admit. Those pioneers had big families and Geoff’s ancestors on a couple of sides arrived in Tasmania around 1830, which has given them plenty of time to “spread their wings”!

xx Rowena

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share…12th February, 2017.

Welcome to the Fiery Furnace Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you? How has your week been?

Let’s just say that I have been hot…stinking hot!

Just make sure you’re in the right part of the world, I live in Greater Sydney and we’ve been experiencing extreme heat waves. Indeed, while checking out the details for this post, I found out that our Bureau of Meteorology now has a  Heatwave Forecast Service. While I know it’s been furnace-hot lately (not that I’m prone to extreme fits of melodrama!!), even I’m shocked to find that the heatwave has made itself at home:

“The Heatwave Forecast is a Bureau of Meteorology product that shows the location of heatwaves, severe heatwaves and extreme heatwaves for the last two three-day periods and the next five three-day periods. It uses some analysis Numerical Weather Prediction model data, not the Official Forecast data.”

Indeed, over the last couple of days, I’ve not only sought refuge in anything air-conditioned, I’ve also been listening to my husband’s dire updates. ( I think that’s why he has an iPhone). Anyway, he’s shown me maps of Australia with huge patches shaded in red and then there’s even a darker red. Even though I love the colour and it’s almost Valentine’s Day, that amount of red on any map could only mean disaster!!

Naturally, thoughts of evacuation came to mind. After all, we’re only a long stone’s throw from the beach. However, from my air-conditioned inner sanctum, going anywhere near the beach seemed madness and anything but a refreshing dip. The ocean was boiling and my poor thongs (flip flops) would melt straight into the hot sand. No exaggeration!

Indeed, the heatwave forecast was so bad, that my son’s sailing race was cancelled yesterday.

That’s intense!

Needless to say, I haven’t exactly been functioning on all cylinders in this heat and have been leaning more towards multiple daytime siestas…as well as following up from our trip to Tasmania.

I added two new posts about our trip to Tasmania this week. I’m falling very behind. However, I’ve found myself absorbed in research and had a lot of other things to sort out this week.

Chocolate Tasting

Cheese Temptation at Ashgrove Farm.

I also produce a rather dramatic piece for Friday Fictioneers: When the Mask Cracks…

This week, you could say all my Christmases came at once when my package for the National Disability Insurance Scheme was approved. While I might have the occasional vent about my struggles to access any kind of assistance with my chronic health and disability issues, I don’t say much about it. However, despite raising two young kids with these conditions, I could only qualify for 1.5 hours domestic assistance per week. There are months at a time where I’m barely able to move or leave the house mostly due to bronchitis/pneumonia, but that’s been it. Naturally, that’s put a huge burden on my husband who works and commutes ie a heavy concrete slab. Well, the burden is easing considerably. I have been allocated a generous package and if I use it wisely, it will radically transform my life for the best. This includes free access to occupational therapy, psychology, a mentor and sufficient cleaning. It hasn’t really hit home yet and I’m also conscious that this forward movement is going to involve some uncomfortable “growth” as well. There’s some definite pruning ahead, but I do want these changes. I do. I really do!

Yet, it sitting in my chair basking in the air-conditioning is so easy…

Meanwhile, as I said, I’ve been following up from our trip to Tasmania. As you may be aware, my husband is Tasmanian and we were going down there to show the kids where Daddy came from. Not only that. We were also introducing them to family and friends and also trying to give them some idea of Geoff’s parents. Geoff’s Dad passed away when he was 16 and obviously I never met him and Geoff’s Mum passed away when we’d almost been going out a year. She didn’t live locally and I only met her twice but I did go to her funeral. Unfortunately, I never really got to know her either and have a very limited view to share with the kids. Yet, she has her place in our family. We call her “Gram-Ma”because she was a real stickler for grammar and loved playing Scrabble. Indeed, she used to play using a massive Webster’s dictionary, which was as thick as a brick and this was their authoritative text. In her younger years, she’d been a school teacher.

Anyway, I’ve been spending a fair bit of time since we arrived home, researching Geoff’s Dad. Many of our old newspapers are now available free online. This means that you can easily put someone’s name and location into Trove and get all sorts of results.

One of the things which interested me, was that Geoff’s Dad went to work over in King Island doing some labouring work and I only had a very sketchy idea of his time there. In a sense this doesn’t matter. Yet, once I realised how little I knew about someone who means so much, I had to have a go. If you know me, that means extracting the marrow out of the bone but it never starts out that way. I simply start sniffing.

Anyway, the interesting thing about this King Island, which lies between the Australian Mainland and Tasmania in Bass Strait, is that it makes superlatively fantastic cheese, especially its King Island Brie. It’s also known for it’s superlative beef and seafood. So, going to “cheese island”, even if it is vicariously through my research has appeal.

Geoff’s Dad used to fly in and out of King Island in a DC3 on trips that sounded rather hair-raising. King Island is located in the famed Roaring Forties where you need more than Superglue to keep your hair in place.

Anyway, when I set out on this journey this morning, all I knew was that he was in King Island around 1951-1952 and that’s because he played football there and that was mentioned in the newspaper. I started giving Geoff a bit of a nudge and he was pretty sure he was filling in swampland and that a local earthmover had got the contract. I went back to Trove and lo and behold, I found out that McLennan’s had a contract to build a drain on Egg Lagoon. I was thrilled to find that because I have a strong sense of place and that can make such a difference to the story. I guess I was particularly interested to know whether the ground he worked on was now part of King Island Dairy. Another aspect was that the land he was improving had been given to returned servicemen after WWI and in typical fashion, they’d given them dodgy land which would barely sustain a flea let alone a family. The land around Egg Lagoon was notorious for flooding and equally for government neglect. year after year, the lagoon flooded and year after year the government did nothing. Familiar story…

Anyway, it felt good to be able to know exactly where Geoff’s Dad was working and what he was doing. It gives us something to work on to trigger those family memories as well and I already have a title: “Building King Island”.

The other news at our place, is that the selective schools test is coming up on the 9th March. Our daughter will be sitting for the test and it’s been a bit of a cloud hanging round for the last year. Not necessarily a dark cloud, but definitely something which has been hanging around demanding some kind of “take”. This “take” ranges from having intensive tutoring and hot housing your child because “they must get in”, to “we’ll give it a go. It doesn’t matter either way” and “it’s not something you can study for.” I have been striving to travel somewhere in between these positions. She has had tutoring for a few months and I’ve bought the test books and we have used them a little but we also went away for 3 weeks in the holidays and her dance commitments are fairly intensive. I haven’t wanted to turn her into some kind of test robot with very narrow, tunnel vision. Rather, I’ve been wanting both our kids to be more rounded. See the bigger picture. This seems very logical to me and I know she’ll be better off in the long run. Yet, at the same time I know she’ll be competing with the robots and it’s very tempting to get sucked into that, especially when she’s currently in a selective class and will need to “get in” to stay with her friends.

So, as  you can see, even though I haven’t been all that physically active in the last week, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking.

I hope that you and yours have had a good week and I thank you for joining me for another weekend coffee share. You can click here for the link up. I would like to thank Diana over at https://parttimemonsterblog.com/ for launching the Weekend Coffee Share and putting so much in to build it up to what it is today. From next week, it will be hosted by Emily over at Nerd in the Brain.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

Oops! Tasting More Than A Little Chocolate.

While I was madly collecting brochures on board the Spirit of Tasmania, one really stood out and captured my attention. It was (drum roll)… The House of Anvers. Serendipitouslythis was only 5 minutes drive from the ferry terminal and also very close to where we were staying!!

Well, you might ask who Anvers was, and what was so good about this house. What was the big attraction?

Two words sold me on this place: “chocolate factory”.

It turns out that Anvers is another name for the Belgium city of Antwerp. Proprietor, Igor Van Gerwen,  studied at the Institute of Foodstuffs in Antwerp and was trained by Roger Geerts, the world renowned confectioner and author of “Belgian Pralines”. So, that’s the connection.

Ever since I first saw Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, let’s just say I’ve had my dreams, fantasies and most of them can’t be mentioned here. Just like cheese, chocolate can make you do all sort of things, which are completely out of character. Indeed, they can take you from being a law abiding citizen and throw you straight into the “criminal class” with no returns.

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Another place I’d like to call home. Does anyone have any shrinking solution?

Like Ashgrove Cheese, the House of Anvers has free tastings, although it’s much more limited. We were able to sample both dark and milk chocolate buttons and three types of fudge. The one which captured our attention in a rather ravenous wolf kind of way, was Fudge D’Anvers Butterscotch. Yummy!

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Our son swore blind this was one piece of Butterscotch Fudge.

Indeed, this Butterscotch heaven again stretched all my restraint beyond breaking point. Having already gone across to the dark side, this time I didn’t care if I got caught. I couldn’t stop eating that fudge.This time, however, I did notice a sign and I wish I’d photographed it. It clearly stated something about leaving some for someone else.

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Perhaps, I’ll need to put him in here when we open up our last packet of Butterscotch Fudge.

Absolutely smitten, we bought two boxes of it to take home. One’s already been eaten…a sad casualty of it’s own beauty. It didn’t even get the chance to leave Tasmania, before it was gobbled up by this gang of desperadoes.

We also bought a curious looking chocolate, which we still haven’t tried as yet. This is called Fortunato No 4 Peru. It’s a  68% Organic Pure Nacional and is genetically certified to be “Original Cacao”.  The pure Nacional Cacao was thought to be extinct in 1916.  Later on Criollo and Foresterra varieties were and are being sold as Nacional; they are not!!!  The Cacao beans were discovered 10 years ago by Brian Horsley and Dan Pearson in the Maranon Valley in Peru.  They have been genetically certified as the original cacao by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The beans are grown at 3250ft and produce purple and, unique to this variety, white beans.

Brian Horsley has set up farm and still works with the farmers to produce these exquisite unique cacao beans. The beans are shipped off to Switzerland and made into couverture chocolate using traditional roller conching methods. Anvers Confectionery has the exclusive rights to be able to introduce this chocolate into the Australian market.

“In my 30 years as a Chocolatier I have never experienced a more rewarding chocolate than the Fortunato No. 4 Peruvian Nacional. The complexity and balance of the flavour profiles satisfy my tastebuds. The social responsibilities and sustainable farm practices engaged in the making of this chocolate, satisfy my conscious.”

— Igor Van Gerwen

However, the House of Anvers also has a fascinating chocolate museum. They have an informative, beautifully displayed range of antique chocolate moulds, chocolate tins and advertisements from around the world and I think this was the first time I’d ever seen a cacao bean. They also tell the story of the discovery and development of modern chocolate, taking you on a journey from the Aztec Indians, to when chocolate was only consumed as a liquid in the 1700’s, on to Henry Nestle who mixed the chocolate with milk (in 1875), onto modern chocolate.

While touring the museum, I found out one of the distinctions between good and fine chocolate.

By the way, I stumbled across this comment on their website:

“Igor (Van Gerwen) has found the Tasmanian cream and butter to be the richest in flavour of any in the world, ideally suited for truffles and fudge. He believe the reason for this is that the pastures in Tasmania’s pure environment stay green almost all year round, eliminating the need to feed the dairy cows on grains.

I found that quite interesting because I have found Ashgrove Cheese particularly creamy and obviously their milk has these special qualities.

Being known for my weird sense of logic, I can somehow justify consuming vast amounts of chocolate and Butterscotch Fudge in the interests of gaining an education.

Besides, like the Ashgrove Cheese, this chocolate is so good, I’ll indulge now and repent at home. I think I’ll be sentenced to a diet of lettuce leaves by then.

Sweet Dreams!

xx Rowena

Even the garden is magic!

Weekend Coffee Share… 5th February, 2017

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you? I hope you’ve had a great week.

Tonight, I’m encouraging  you to join me for a taste of Tasmania. I’m currently savouring Ashgrove Farm’s Lavender Cheese on crackers and sipping on a bottle of Spreyton’s Hard Ginger Beer. Neither of these delicacies are available locally but given the number of locals visiting Tasmania, I can see them being trafficked back. However, if things get desperate, I can get the Lavender cheese posted up. Meanwhile, I’ll just have to feast on their Wasabi cheese. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it.

It’s great to finally catch up with you again.

Last weekend, we returned from 3 weeks’ holiday in Tasmania. While I had no intention of writing away our holiday, I was hoping to upload more to the blog. However, we had woeful Internet access. Indeed, my mobile phone was even out of action most of the time. So, I’m frantically trying to post about our holiday so I can finally make it home on the blog. We’re currently driving back from Port Arthur to Devonport in blog time although we’ve now  been back for a week.

Last Monday, was what I call the start of the real New Year. That’s when the kids go back to school after the long Summer break and when all those resolutions really come home to roost. Of course, we’re supposed to be 200% organized for the new school year with their uniforms all clean and pressed, shoes together all brand spanking new,  and pens, papers, bags, lunches all ready to roll.

You know the drill.

However, it looks like we’ll be winging the return to school. The Spirit of Tasmania pulled into Melbourne at 6.00AM Saturday. This was followed by the long drive back home and we arrived home at about 7.00PM with one day to hope and pray we’d be ready for school.

Fortunately, we passed muster.

Since getting back from Tasmania, I’ve slowly been blogging about the trip. This has involved a lot of background research, especially about the World Heritage Listed Port Arthur Convict Site. Unfortunately, we only had half a day at Port Arthur. Although I’ve been there before, it was nowhere near long enough. The research was very enlightening and it better not be another 20 years before I get back.

Port Arthur…A Family Relic.

Harbour Cruise, Port Arthur.

The Chapel, Port Arthur

The Chaplain’s Voice 1870-1876

Up The Garden Path

Government Cottage

William Smith O’Brien…An Irish Rebel At Port Arthur.

I hope you get a chance to join me on our travels around Tasmania. It really is paradise.

This has been another contribution for the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana over at  Part-Time Monster.

xx Rowena

Yet Another Paradise…Swansea, Tasmania.

When you’re travelling around Tasmania, it’s easy to sound like you’ve overdosed on superlatives. Indeed, there are even towns named: “Paradise”, “Promised Land”…and we’ll just gloss over “Lower Crackpot”.

It’s also inevitable, that you run out of time.

That with such much to see and the need to become one with it all, that the sun sets well before you do.

Indeed, trying to stuff in all these awesome, superlative sights, is like stuffing yourself with so much gourmet food, you can’t move and your poor stomach is about the throw itself into reverse.

At this point, we were driving from Port Arthur to Devonport  via Swansea on the East Coast…a bit of a scenic deviation from the most direct route home. The sun had already set and we were oozing the dregs out of those very last moments of twilight, we we drove into Swansea.

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Being after dark, I wasn’t quite sure where we were  and had to do a bit of Googling to confirm locations. It’s not a good form to stick the wrongname on a place and you might have noticed that I’ve already called Orford: “Whatsymecallit Beach”. When you’re seeing and experiencing so much, it very hard to keep up with the details. While gaps are forgivable, making glaring mistakes is another story.

Swansea is a town in the heart of Tasmania’s east coast, on the north-west shore of Great Oyster Bay and overlooking Freycinet National Park, which is home to the superlatively stunning, Wineglass Bay.

I would really like to come back and spend a couple of days here.

It truly is Paradise.