(Another) Postcard from Sydney II

Our last night in Australia was, for convenience, spent at a hotel in the International Terminal of Sydney Airport. This afforded my beloved a catch up with his Australian distributor while I enjoyed a final day in Sydney in Hyde Park and at the NSW Art Gallery.

I took the train from the airport to St James station and enjoyed the short stroll in the sunshine across Hyde Park. As I neared the gallery I noticed hoards – and I do mean hoards – of school children heading in the same direction. Luckily, they were split into smaller (and quieter) groups and escorted round the gallery by guides.

On entering the gallery I headed for the lower floors displaying Aboriginal Art making my way back up to ground level. The gallery is set on a hill overlooking where we stayed when we first arrived in Sydney all those weeks ago.

I was particularly interested to see the winners and main participants in the Archbald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes for contemporary living artists. Of course, I also had a pit stop in the cafe and bookshop!

On emerging from the gallery, I confess I did stray into the main shopping area for a spot of window shopping, and further refreshments, before heading back for dinner with my beloved.

We later boarded our overnight flight to Dubai. On red-eyes I tend to follow a similar routine. A glass of champagne, followed by sleep. I cover my eyes with my own sleep mask, plug in some soothing music, wrap myself in my cashmere shawl and affix my “DO NOT DISTURB” sign to my seat. Nine hours of blissful sleep later and I’m ready for a stroll around and a spot of breakfast before landing.

Hard to believe we’d shortly be back home. Like all holidays, this one passed in a flash. Our next trip to Australia, scheduled for 2021-22 will be much longer.

 

 

 

Potterin’ in Port Douglas

Our final port of call in Queensland was Port Douglas, some five hours up the road from Townsville. The last stretch from Cairns is an hour’s drive along one of Australia’s most scenic coastal roads with the rainforest on one side and the Great Barrier Reef on the other – truly magnificent. I can say that as someone who’s driven along the Great Oceant Road (Melbourne to Adelaide) in both directions.

We arrived at our billet for the next three days, late afternoon, having eaten lunch en route in Innisfail. Actually, I just had a glass of water as the cafe where we stopped couldn’t really cope with a vegan, our first (and only) dining fail.

The town has a large retail centre with plenty of small specialty shops, many housed in a large and diverse range of Art Deco buildings. The CBD was largely rebuilt in this style following a cyclone in 1918 which destroyed much of the town. It sits on the Warrina Lakes, a 50 hectare recreational park with kilometres of walkways through open parkland, lakes, wooded areas and rainforest trails. We learned that in 2017 the town broke the record for the World’s Longest Banana Split!

Having stretched our legs and taken a few photos, we resumed our journey and were delighted as we approached our hotel, overlooking the beach. It was another one-bedroomed apartment, with yet another spa bath, great in-house dining and spectacular views.

Given that Port Douglas is the gateway to the World Heritage wonders of Tropical North Queensland, the closest mainland port to the Great Barrier Reef, and only a short drive into the heart of the Wet Tropics rainforest at Daintree and Cape Tribulation, you might be expecting we enjoyed a busy couple of days exploring. But no, we were rain-forested out and spent the time relaxing on the beach, cycling round town investigating its lovely shops and dining options. We basically chilled for our last few days in the Tropics.

Named in honour of a former Premier of Queensland, John Douglas, the peninsula was the traditional home of the Yirrganydji people until European settlement turned it into a remote port and fishing village. Port Douglas really developed in the 1980s, thanks largely to the late (now disgraced) entrepeneur Christopher Skase, becoming a sophisticated and upmarket resort town in contrast to Cairns’ tourist scene. Largely because it’s better connected: the outer Great Barrier Reef is less than an hour offshore, the Dickson Inlet and estuary is packed with fish and crocodiles – steered well clear of these – and sunset sailing from the marina is too good to pass up.

We really liked the town, it’s an intimate and relaxed place where food, wine, arts and culture are much appreciated. It also has a fabulous long sandy beach, some spectacular property porn, a large and lively Saturday market and some lovely walks around town and the headland. After three restfull days (and nights) we flew back for an overnighter in Sydney. We’d much enjoyed Port Douglas, it’s yet another place we’d be very happy to revisit.

 

Sunshine’s Macro Monday #13

These photos were captured on my iPad mini while generally wandering around. I’m still taking photos of stuff that doesn’t move though I did manage to catch a bee – purely by chance!

Thank you for all your helpful feedback and kind comments on these posts – most encouraging.

Sunshine’s Macro Monday is a challenge hosted by Irene encouraging us to scrutinise the smallest of details by getting up close and personal and bringing someone or something to life in a photograph. It’s a one day challenge without prompts.  Irene posts a Sunshine’s Macro Monday post each Monday, just after midnight Central Time (US) so don’t forget to use the tag SMM and mention Sunshine’s Macro Monday somewhere on your post, create a pingback or add a link in the comment’s section of her post.

 

 

 

 

 

Real Neat Blog Award III

I’m very grateful to be nominated again for the Real Neat Blog Award. Thank you so much to the Dragon Warrior over at Den of Dreams for nominating me. Your poems, writing and paintings are so amazing for someone of her tender years.

You may recall that I’ve decided to interpret neat as being cool!

 

Dragon Warrior’s Questions

1. Are you messy or organised?

I’m incredibly organised, my beloved is not.

2. What do you want to share through your blog?

Anything that takes my fancy

3. Do you like origami?

I admire the discipline but don’t personally indulge.

4. What was your favourite childhood game?

Gosh! It was so long ago I don’t really remember. I recall I used to have a tent in which I’d conduct tea parties for my toys. I’d close it from the inside to keep my pesky younger sister out. She was too young to appreciate that pulling out the tent pegs would’ve collapsed my tent.

5. What was your favourite food that your parents cooked?

My mother was a fantastic cook and I enjoyed everything she cooked. My father only had to learn to cook (thanks to Delia Smith) when my mother’s Alzheimers advanced to where she couldn’t remember how to cook. He used to make a cracking omelette.

6. What is your current favourite food?

Lobster

7. Something you collect?

I’m not much of a collector though I confess to having a rather large (British understatement) collection of shoes, scarves and handbags, all neatly stored.

The Rules

1. Put the award logo on your blog.

2. Answer the questions asked by the person who nominated you.

3. Thank the person who nominated you and add a link to their blog.

4. Nominate any number of people.

5. Come up with questions for the people you nominated.

Nominees

Thank you so much for reading. As usual, I’m not nominating anyone directly, instead I’m encouraging those who are interested to join in and answer The Dragon Warrior’s questions either below in the comments section or in a post of their own.

Have a great weekend!

The Musette: coconut financieres

When I make  crème anglais (custard), ice cream and lemon curd, I have a lot of leftover egg whites. But I don’t throw these away Instead I store or freeze them to use later in meringues, buttercream, angel food cake, pavlova, mousse, nougat, marshmallow and financieres. The latter were created in the late 1800s by a bakery near the Paris Bourse, currently being renovated and opening in 2020 as the Pinault Collection.

Paris Bourse (image: Wikipedia)

The cakes were named and made for the wealthy bankers who frequented the shop. They’re rich with brown butter, small and crumbless for portability, shaped like a gold bar – ideal for a busy banker or handy for a cyclist’s back pocket. Financieres are very forgiving and versatile cakes which can be made in a variety of small shapes and flavour combinations. Typically they’re made with ground blanched almonds which have little flavour so I like to play around with them and one of my favourite combinations uses coconut and coconut sugar which I think gives them a more unctuous and interesting flavour.

Defrosted egg whites to the left (image Sheree)

Ingredients (makes 72 petit four sized cakes)

  • 180g (3 cups) desiccated coconut (unsweetened)
  • 150g (1 cup) caster sugar
  • 75g (¾ cup) coconut sugar
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • 225g (8oz) egg whites (7-8 egg whites)
  • 90g (3oz) butter ‘beurre noisette’
  • 110g (4oz) clarified butter
  • 120g (1 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour

Method

1. Prepare the beurre noisette (‘hazelnut’ butter, so called for the scent of hazelnuts the browned butter produces), cut the butter into pieces, melt it in a small saucepan and bring it to a gentle boil over medium heat. Once the butter boils, keep a close eye on it — you want it to turn a golden brown. The deeper the colour, the better the flavour, but be careful not to let the butter burn and go black — something that can happen very quickly.

2. Melt the rest of the butter in another saucepan over a low heat, remove the pan from the heat and set it aside to cool and for the milk solids to settle.

3. In a large mixing bowl combine the coconut, sugars and salt and fold in the egg whites.

4. Add all the butters (but not the solids) in three steps, mixing thoroughly after each addition.

5. Sift the flour onto a piece of greaseproof (parchment) paper and add in three stages folding gently each time to incorporate.

6. Cover the batter with cling film (plastic wrap) and chill for several hours or overnight in the fridge. The batter will firm up considerably.

The batter will firm up in the fridge (image: Sheree)

7. Take the batter out of the fridge. Pre-heat oven to 190ºC/170ºC fan/gas mark 5 (375ºF/325ºF fan).

8. Generously butter  – financiere batter is notoriously sticky – and then sugar your preferred baking moulds – the smaller the better. I use mini muffin and mini financiere tins.

9. Fill mould three-quarters full – I use a very small ice cream scoop so that they’re all the same size – place tins on baking sheet, put in centre of oven and bake for about 15 minutes. The cakes should be a dark golden brown, springy to the touch and easy to pull away from the sides of the pan.

10. Unmould the cakes as soon as you remove the tins from the oven. If necessary, run the handle of a teaspoon or a blunt knife around the edges of the cakes to help ease them out. Transfer the financieres to a wire rack and allow them to cool to room temperature.

11. The cakes are best eaten they day they’re made but they’ll keep in the cake tin for 1-2 days, providing you can resist temptation, or sit in the freezer for a month.

Little bars and coins of chewy deliciousness (image: Sheree)

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the financieres in the oven, put the timer on for five minutes less than they should take to cook and then check regularly.

3. With financieres it’s all about the ratio of crisp exterior to soft chewy interior which is why they’re so often served as petit fours.

4. If you bake yours in silicone moulds, still generously butter the form as it’ll create the much-desired crispy outer crust.

5. Once you’re conversant with the recipe, experiment. I often use ground pistachios instead of coconut and add some matcha tea powder to intensify that gorgeous green colour.

6. If you make larger ones you can pop some fruit in the centre, raspberries with pistachios, pineapple with coconut, apricots or peaches with almonds – there’s no end to the possibilities.

7. You can even make savoury ones but leave out the sugar!

8. The batter will keep for a week or so in the fridge so there’s no need to bake them all at once.

Friday Photo Challenge – treat

After 10 consecutive weeks of my holiday photos, you’re probably sick of the sight of Australia though I’ve plenty more posts on the subject of my recent trip. However , for this weekly challenge,  I’ll try to dig out photos from my archives that *don’t* feature Australia!

This is of  »Kitty » the imaginatively named cat of one of my sister’s neighbours enjoying a few lot fat treats. She’s on a diet!

Thursday doors #39

Finally, here’s some doors from Australia. I don’t have a particularly large selection because most of the wooden doors on older buildings appear to have been replaced with metal ones. I guess the problem is quite possibly termites.

This pair were being used for decorative purposes in Paddington

 

This is a church door in Townsville

 

These were the doors of a music venue in Fortitude Valley

 

Another church door on the walk back to Spring Hill from CBD

 

This door was in Noosa

 

This butcher’s shop was near New Farm in Brisbane

This bright blue door was also in Fortitude Valley, along with the wrought iron gates with cocktail glasses below.

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

 

Trottin’ round Townsville

There are so many lovely places in Queensland, it’s often hard to decide where to stop and for how long. Usually our destination determines where we stay along the way, othertimes it’s the most logical place to take a break. An overnight means we have relatively little time to explore, two nights gives us a whole day to look around.

Just over three hours from Airlie Beach is Townsville, another major gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, and Magnetic Island. The name may ring a bell as earlier this year the town received its entire annual total rainfall in a week! There was over a metre (4 feet) of rain, eclipsing records set in 1998 during a flood known as the “Night of Noah.”

To make matters worse for the terrified Townsville residents fleeing their homes, there were numerous sightings of crocodiles and snakes being swept along with the floodwaters. I’m pleased to report that I had no such sightings while I was there, but I did steer clear of storm drains – just in case!
On arrival we checked into our hotel where I scored another upgrade (and another spa bath!) and having dropped off our bags we headed out for lunch. Fortunately, we didn’t have to travel far as the hotel is situated on a road positively stacked with a great selection of restaurants. We headed to the busiest and were not disappointed!
After lunch we strolled around town looking for inspiration as to how we might spend the following day. My beloved said he’d love to go snorkeling again – sold. That meant I could have a day of peace and quiet further exploring this town.
After an early night, the following day my beloved headed out before sunrise for his day in a wetsuit (pictures here).He was fortunate to find himself on a large boat with a documentary crew, a marine biologist and another lady who kindly took the photos. He had a fabulous day out – result!
I had a much more leisurely start with my usual smashed avocado on toast and coffee while I planned how to spend my day. The weather was so lovely I settled for a walk along The Strand, which  learned had to be redeveloped after being heavily damaged by the afore-mentioned “Night of Noah”.
The Strand has plenty of facilities, plus loads of those colonial buildings I adore which indicate the town has some history. Indeed it’s Australia’s largest garrison town with Australian Defence Force bases and a fascinating military history.

Townsville – named after Robert Towns –  was founded in 1864 as a port for the fledgling pastoral industry in North Queensland. Following the discovery of gold in the immediate hinterland at Ravenswood and then Charters Towers, the town developed into the principal centre and de facto capital of North Queensland.

Given the town’s strategic location and importance it was logical to make it a military base. On commencement of WWI in 1914, the town’s Kennedy Regiment was sent to Thursday Island to protect it from attack by German forces in the Pacific.

Post-war, expansion continued particularly once further minerals were discovered nearby. Its first airport opened in 1939 and the Garbutt airfield became a Royal Australian Air Force base.

Between 1942 and 1945 Townsville played an important part in the War in the Pacific, becoming a major military base, accommodating up to 90,000 Australian, American and other allied service personnel. It was bombed on three occassions by the Japanese, and was used as a major offensive launching base during the battle of the Coral Sea.

Post-WWII, the town continued to serve as a strategic military post with the opening of the Jezzine Barracks (now transformed into an Aboriginal and military commemorative heritage site) at Kissing Point in 1964 and the establishment of the Lavarack Barracks for the transfer of the Australian 3rd Task Force in 1967. This occurred alongside the town’s commercial and educational expansion. 2016 saw the town celebrate its 150th anniversary.

It’s fair to say, Townsville exceeded our expectations but all too soon we were heading for our final stop in Queensland, Port Douglas. After re-fuelling at breakfast, we resumed our place on the Bruce Highway pointing the bonnet of our hire car northwards.

 

Airborne in Airlie Beach

Facing a long drive to our next stop in Airlie Beach, we left early and breakfasted en route. As we drove away from Rockhampton, we saw fewer cattle but more and more tropical crops. There wasn’t much traffic on the road and we made good time, arriving in Airlie just after lunch at our home for the next four nights, a resort perched on a steep hill overlooking the beach. Again, we had a spacious one-bedroomed apartment, with balcony, spa bath – what is it with Aussies and spa baths? – and a well-equipped kitchen.

We dumped our luggage and headed out for a fishy lunch – what else? Airlie itself isn’t particularly large but it has a lively esplanade with plenty of shops and restaurants and an onshore beach and swimming pool. But we weren’t in Airlie to enjoy its beach, we were here because it’s an ideal jumping off point to experience the Whitsundays, discovered by Captain Cook on Whit Sunday (the seventh Sunday after Easter) in 1770, the 74 Whitsunday Islands lie between the mainland and the Great Barrier Reef and offer a sailing paradise.  Yes, Airlie Beach is also just one of many departure points for the Great Barrier Reef.

It’s highly likely that the town was named after the parish of the same name in Scotland. Throughout our drive from Sydney, there were many Scottish place names showing the influence of Scottish immigrants.

We planned our three full days in Airlie Beach with the assistance of the resort manager and opted for a flight over the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef on the Sunday with a day-long boat trip to the Whitsundays, specifically Whitehaven Beach, and snorkeling on the reef, on Tuesday. This left us with Monday to thoroughly explore the area, particularly its lovely boardwalk to Coral Beach. I’m now going to let my photos do the talking!

Sunday’s Flight

Yes, that’s me in the (fashionable) leopard skin trousers near the steps of the plane.

And, we have take-off!

The flight takes just over an hour and everyone spent that time with their noses (and cameras) pressed to the nearest window while our (female) pilot explained what we were viewing.

Some of the islands had only recently re-opened, after being laid waste in a cyclone two years ago. A large number are uninhabited, others have wonderful luxury resorts and holiday homes.

It was a truly magical experience and one I’d happily recommend.

Monday’s Meander along the Boardwalk

Tuesday’s Boat Trip

There are lots of companies with different types of boats which offer this trip. We chose a sturdy boat with facilities manned by locals which left promptly from Coral Beach with the supplies for our lunchtime BBQ, including my veggie burger! We had a short cruise out to Whitsunday island and an easy stroll up to the infamous Hill Inlet lookout to see the signature swirling sandbars of Whitehaven Beach from above (header photo).

Back in the boat it was refreshment time before we then disembarked on Whitehaven Beach using the small inflatable motor boat. This was where I famously had to dip my toes into the water to wade ashore. We had several hours here to explore, soak up the sun or swim before a very generous BBQ lunch which attracted the interest of a few locals, clearly after my veggie burger!

The sand was the softest and whitest I’ve ever walked on. It’s 98 per cent pure silica and has a texture similar to flour. It’s so fine you could polish your jewellery with it  – I didn’t try – and it squeaks as you walk on it.

Finally and reluctantly we climbed back on board for a short trip out to Mantaray Bay to snorkel the clear waters and come face to face with colourful fish. My husband much enjoyed this but, without a wetsuit, you could really only spend 30 minutes in the water. You’ll be unsurprised to learn I remained on board. After we’d met all the local underwater residents, it was time to head back bouyed by further refreshments. We’d enjoyed another fabulous day out.

As the sun set on our short stay in Airlie Beach, we reflected that it had been truly magical.

 

Sunshine’s Macro Monday #12

These photos were captured on my iPad mini while enjoying La Dolce Vita in nearby Alassio to celebrate our 42nd wedding anniversary!

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for all your helpful feedback and kind comments on these posts – most encouraging.

Sunshine’s Macro Monday is a challenge hosted by Irene encouraging us to scrutinise the smallest of details by getting up close and personal and bringing someone or something to life in a photograph. It’s a one day challenge without prompts.  Irene posts a Sunshine’s Macro Monday post each Monday, just after midnight Central Time (US) so don’t forget to use the tag SMM and mention Sunshine’s Macro Monday somewhere on your post, create a pingback or add a link in the comment’s section of her post.