This weekend, the wonderful The Lady and the Unicorn Tapestry exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSWfinishes. Kenn and I were lucky enough to be able to visit while we were in Sydney for the Vivid Festival a week or so ago. These tapestries are revered as a national treasure in France and it is only the third time the tapestries has left France in 500 years, thanks to a fabulous loan from the collection of the Musée de Cluny – Musée national du Moyen Âge in Paris.
We chose to visit in the early afternoon which allowed us time for a leisurely walk to the ferry along the Middle Harbour and Fairlight foreshores. It’s a short walk from Circular Quay to the Art Gallery and before we knew it, we had purchased tickets and were making our way through the exhibition.
I love how galleries make exhibitions so interactive. There were weaving workshopswhere visitors could begin to understand the incredible skill and complexity of these medieval works of art by trying their hand at weaving as well as an audio visual presentation providing a deeper insight into the history, preservation and interpretations of the tapestries.
But it was of course the tapestries themselves which were so wonderful. Each one was the size of a room and the detail was mind blowing when one considers that these works of art were created by medieval human hands. Not on a computerised industrial loom!
It was possible to sit and view the tapestries from a distance and also get up quite close. They allowed personal photography as well so Kenn and I had fun with our phones. I found the details within the tapestries themselves captivating, from the animals and flowers to the different dresses and jewelry the Lady wears in each tapestry. And who doesn’t love a unicorn?
Having looked our fill, it was time for a late lunch. As we exited, beautiful scents wafted over from somewhere over in the corner and we decided that this would be our lunch destination. No wonder it smelt so good, we found ourselves seated at harbour view table for two in a Matt Moran restaurant!
We finished our visit to the Art Gallery with a quick runaround the free exhibits. I enjoyed this exhibition just as much but in a different way to the exhibition I attended when the Book of Kells came to Australia. Thanks to ‘Game of Thrones’, many now associate medieval times with political intrigue, violence, superstition and fantastical, fire breathing dragons but artistic masterpieces like these tapestries, tell us there was something more, something more poetic and gentle.
I heard on the news the other day, that the travelling King Tut exhibition is coming to Sydney before returning to Egypt. Another world treasure to look forward to! Maybe I’ll see you there.
Sometimes the best holidays are those that happen unexpectedly. Kenn and I had no plans to visit Japan until Melissa and Ben asked us to join them on a family skiing holiday to Nosawa Onsen, a delightful mountain village a couple of hundred kilometres north of Tokyo.
While I love being in the snow, I wouldn’t say that I have a natural affinity for snow sports. I am the only person I know who when they first attempted to ski, fell off a poma. Like a beached whale, I couldn’t move out of the way. I watched as fellow beginners bumped over my legs, some actually managing air time! I was on my way to becoming a human ski jump when Kenn took pity on me, leapt off the poma and dragged me out of the way! Despite this inauspicious start and muscles I never knew I had protesting loudly, I eventually managed to gain some basic skills but that was a very, very long time ago. Would I even be able to don ski boots again? I could see a few lumps and bumps on my feet that mightn’t like being squished and squashed. And would I be able to slide down a mountain without killing anyone? Should I even try?
But even if I didn’t ski, toboggan or snowshoe, a holiday in the snow appealed. Kenn and I have never experienced a White Christmas so this was our big chance. And I knew that Chris, Steve Kenn and I would have a lot of fun in the snow with Hudson, our adorable 18 month old grandson. His idea of a comfortable pace on a sled built for two was likely to coincide with mine. We like keeping pace with snails. And I was sure a wonderful, cultural experience awaited us in the land of the rising sun. So I knitted some beanies, bought some thermals and threw them together with some snow gear and my trusty Scarpa hiking boots and before you could say ‘konnichiwa’ I was on my way.
It is only an eight hour flight from the Gold Coast to Narita airport but we all wondered how 18 month old Huddy would cope. With Hudson on board, the time passed swiftly. He introduced himself to his fellow passengers as he stretched his legs every now and then and without any fuss settled down for long naps on Mummy’s lap.
At Narita, we met up with Ben’s parents, Steve and Chris and after a good night’s sleep made our way to Tokyo station where we caught the bullet train north to Ilyama.
Relaxing in our seats, we watched as slowly the urban landscape gave way to countryside … snowy countryside. We were a little concerned when messages flashed across the screen at the front of the train carriage warning of cancelled services due to recent heavy snow but luckily for us, we didn’t have to build an igloo for the night for the trusty Nosawa Onsen bus was waiting for us in Ilyama.
Driving into Nosawa, we realised that when they said a lot of snow had fallen, a lot of snow had fallen.
Melissa had booked us into ‘Address Nosawa’, delightful one bedroom studios. These were very well appointed and centrally located. As well as having its own onsen, the complex had a well equipped children’s playroom and helpful, English speaking staff.
We couldn’t wait to get up close and personal with all that snow! Lissa and Ben grabbed their snowboards and disappeared up the mountain while Kenn and I took Huddy out to explore the village. The powder was so powdery! Huddy nearly disappeared into a drift when his hand disappeared and he stuck his head in to see where it had gone. He soon had snow flying everywhere, creating his own Huddy snow storm. And Poppy didn’t help him at all!
And the village was so pretty.
Even the actual cobbled streets were attractive, shiny black speckles edged with snow.
And there was a dumpling man on the corner of our street!
But there was more. Nosawa has a great children’s snow park at the base of the mountain. All of us couldn’t wait to see Huddy have fun. Granddad Steve introduced him to a travelator which took them to the top of a small slope. Perched on Granddad’s lap, Huddy took to sledding like a pro. We took it in turns to slide with Huddy, rediscovering that inner child that lives within. Then we branched out and tried the tubes which skidded down the slope with more speed and less control than the sleds! Luckily, there was a safety fence!
Huddy also enjoyed being pulled around the park on a crocodile
and didn’t say no to a ride on a blue horse.
He posed dutifully when asked.
With Mummy’s help, he climbed into the castle and onto the big slippery dip.
And so much more. Needless to say Hudson really enjoyed his first visit to the snow. But for us, there was also so much more.
We delighted in the food, trying different restaurants and little eateries for lunch and dinner each day. We found an quirky cafe tucked away towards the top of the village which served delicious soup and made a great cappuccino and orange chocolate cake.
A Byron friend had recommended going to Daimon Soba for a nabeyaki udon. After a couple of tries, we managed to get a table at this very popular eatery and indeed, the udon was very filling. The tempura prawns also looked and smelt amazing!
And never to be forgotten was our wonderful teppanyaki experience on New Year’s Eve where every mouthful was exquisite and memorable. While dumplings are the street food of choice in Nosawa, we found some other offerings to sample.
Sharing wonderful meals with family … a highlight. There were also lots of quirky and interesting shops to peruse in search of that perfect souvenir.
But the mountain beckoned. Steve and I decided to take the plunge and give skiing a go. I was still worried about losing control on the mountain, so after I hired some boots and skis and on the recommendation of the Address Nosawa staff, I booked a private lesson with Remy, a french ski instructor. He was confident that our unused skills would magically reappear under his guidance! So filled with visions of ourselves gliding blissfully down the slopes, We caught the gondola up to the top and a new world opened up.
It looked so pretty. Soon Steve and I were snowplowing here and there and Remy announced that we were ready for a run. While I knew what my feet were supposed to be doing in order to turn correctly, I found that they were very disobedient. Suddenly, to my dismay, I found myself hurtling down the slope about to take Remy out! Just in time, I snowplowed to a halt, caught my breath and under Remy’s watchful eye, pushed off again! More snow plowing! My thighs were on fire! It was a tortuous, slow descent. I felt really bad, having dashed Remy’s hopes but fortified with green tea, I completed another run with Melissa. It felt so exhilarating to be there on the powder, in the silence surrounded by silent, snowy trees.
I loved being up on the mountain, and persuaded Kenn to catch the gondola with me the following morning.
The village disappeared as we soared towards the summit. We had a lovely time with our cameras
In the snowy landscape, I could spot Kenn easily.
After so much exercise, a soak in the onsen was a luxury I’ll never forget. Nosawa is blessed with mineral rich hot springs and the village is dotted with free public onsens or hot baths which are maintained by local families.
Now bathing, Japanese style is not for the prudish. While there are separate male and female baths, the baths are communal and you are expected to soak in them in your birthday suit.
As I mentioned earlier, Address Nosawa has its own private onsen. So I thought that I would take the plunge there first. Grabbing my onsen towel ( which is about the size of a small teatowel) I undressed and entered the washing area. Luckily, I had the onsen all to myself! Address Nosawasupplied beautiful Shiseido products for guests to use and so I scrubbed, shampooed and conditioned till I gleamed and then gingerly made my way to the hot bath. While hot, I found it not too hot and soaked all the stresses of the day away. Kenn and I were hooked. An onsen or two a day kept the aches away!
There is so much more that I would like to share: our amazing tour to see the Snow Monkeys and our brief stay in Tokyo, but it will have to wait for another post. If you have managed to read this post to the end, thank you for sharing a little Japanese snow magic with me.
Last Wednesday, I joined my friends Annie and Grace for morning coffee at Elements at Byron, our newest 5 star resort. I love going out for coffee. Savouring that first spoonful of chocolate-sprinkled foamy deliciousness atop a cappuccino, endeavouring to avoid a hitler-resque moustache and perhaps sharing a slab of Middle Eastern orange cake or a lemon tart or a white chocolate, raspberry muffin are some of life’s simple pleasures. But while the coffee is important, for me and I’m sure for many others, going out for coffee is more about catching up with friends. And if this catch-up can take place in beautiful surroundings, so much the better.
We had our coffee on the back terrace, overlooking the infinity pool.
Soon we were catching up on each other’s news: Grace regaled us with fascinating snippets about her trip to Portugal where she spent time at an ashram and retreat centre in Monte Sahaja and the shenanigans of her very astute pre-schooler grand-daughter. This little one asked her mother, ‘Mum can you carry me home from the park?’ to which her mother replied. ‘No, you’re a big girl now.’ The little one promptly sat down where she stood, a mutinous look on her face. Mum exasperated, cajoled,’ Tell you what, if you walk home by yourself, you can have an ice-cream when we get home!’ The little one considered, pondered, thought long and hard. Her eyes lit up. ‘How about this, Mum. If you carry me home, I’ll share the ice-cream with you!’ Such consideration! A lawyer in the making?
All too soon, coffee was finished. Grace hadn’t been to Elements before so we showed her around some of the resort. We pointed out where the Writer’s Festival had been held and then followed the path to Belongil Beach. Here you can recline on sun loungers while you take in the beautiful sweep of beach before you.
Nearby, the resort has a sunset lookout. It too was lovely. This is a resort which has really spacious grounds. If you wanted to get away from it all, in 5 star luxury this might be the place for you.
All too soon, it was time to go. Another catch-up, this time, a coffee afternoon was organised. In keeping with the 5 star theme, this catch-up will be at the Byron at Byron. I do love going out for coffee! Hope you do too.
Have you noticed how popular bike riding has become? And how seriously many take a recreational ride on the ‘treadly’? Not content to just ‘get back on the bike’, some are even willing to don padded lycra which enhance their posterior curves! While such dedication is not for us, Kenn and I have got back into riding in a low key, purely recreational manner. We have uncovered a series of short, easy yet scenic bike rides, in and around Byron that we, very much tongue in check, like to think of as the ‘Tour de Byron.’
We were inspired to buy new bikes and hit the bike trails following a visit to Rottnest Island in Western Australia, where bikes are the transportation of choice. The island is only 11km long and 4.5km wide, making it easy to explore with a number of great trails to follow.
Soon, we were zooming up and down car-free, paved tracks exploring beautiful bays, jetties, beaches and a beautiful Lighthouse. Even the pelicans said ‘hello’!
I had forgotten how exhilarating it is to roll along with the wind in your hair, putting in a bit of effort here, gliding along there. We even spotted a couple of quokkas and a great pub. Perfect for a well earned refreshment after such strenuous activity.
Back on the east coast, we set about getting ourselves some bikes. This was not an easy task as there are ‘bikes’ and then there are ‘real bikes’. Not wishing to remortgage the house, we decided on fairly basic, comfortable models. Mine is a lovely grey and white number with a retro feel, complete with basket. It also has a lovely padded seat; no need for lycra! I will admit to finding the gears a trifle challenging … a work in progress.
With bikes sorted, Kenn and I explored the bikes paths and rides in and around Byron. We thought that like the famous tours, we would allocate a stage to each ride, beginning with the easiest.
Stage I of the Tour de Byron: the Suffolk Park Bike Track
This is a great track for beginners and one of my favourites. I can roll down the hill from my place to the Soccer Grounds.
A little bit of cross country riding and I am at the roundabout in front of the BP service station on Broken Head Rd. Here I have to dismount and walk my bike across the road, but it’s no hardship because I have time to admire the waterlilies beside the path.
Having crossed the road, I remount and ride around the Pub and past the Suffolk shops. I resist the urge to stop at the Bakery for a coffee and cake. I tell myself, I haven’t burnt enough calories yet. I weave through Suffolk Park until at the far end of Alcorn Street, I reach the official beginning of the bike path. There are various exit points on this part of the path which lead directly onto the beach as well.
It is a lovely feeling riding along the path with the scents of the bush and the sounds of the surf and birdsong all around.
Occasionally, I encounter someone walking along the path, usually with their dog. I haven’t run anyone over … yet. I’ve noticed that people tend to move very quickly when I call out as I ring my bell, ‘ Beginner bike rider coming through!’
My favourite part of the track is crossing Tallow Creek. The light on the water is always changing, always beautiful.
It’s also a test of my riding. A certain amount of speed is necessary to stay steady and not wobble on the wooden bridge.
Over the bridge, I leave the beach behind, following the track back to Broken Head Road. Here I could turn right and ride into town or turn left and ride home. I choose to ride home. A 6km ride is just perfect for this beginner!
There are various bike rental shops in Byron if you don’t have your own or you’re visiting offering reasonable rates. It’s a great way to see more of the Bay than the main street.
I hope that you will join me on the next installment of my Tour de Byron, as I discover more easy rides, putting pedals to the test in and around this beautiful town.
After we completed the Queen Charlotte Walk in early December, Kenn and I visited Akaroa near Christchurch, before catching our flight home. Friends had said it was a ‘must see’ and they were so right. Cruising along in our little Yaris hire car, our first surprise unfolded as we drove down, and I mean down and down some more. Akaroa is situated on the edge of a beautiful harbour, a harbour which was once the centre of a volcano. We realised we were driving down the sides of a caldera and the views were magnificent.
Akaroa is charming. Originally settled by the French, it is so ooh la la! The french influences are everywhere: from names, french blue lamp posts and public seating, to the tricolour flying in the breeze. A word or two of my schoolgirl french returned to assist in translation.
There are flowers everywhere. From beautiful cottage gardens surrounding delightful BnB’s
to fences and shop fronts garlanded with hanging baskets.
We took leisurely walks along the foreshore to the little lighthouse and various points of interest sampling the coffee and friands in one establishment and the coffee and croissants in another. We indulged ourselves over breakfast, lunch and dinner. A highlight for me besides the Sunday morning chocolate crepes served by our motel, was the fish. It was superb. There must be something in the water in New Zealand that we don’t have because fish always seems to taste better there than here. I noticed a Cooking School but alas no classes were running while we were there. I would have loved to take a unique recipe home and know how it should taste and be cooked.
All however was not lost. I found something lovely to take home while souvenir shopping. I was on a bit of a mission. Before departure, Melissa and Ben had shared the happy news that they were expecting a honeymoon baby. Our second grand child was on the way! What special something could I buy the baby? It was while I was buying a cute woolly sheep for the nursery that I spied some special baby wool. It was relatively expensive at nearly $14.00 NZ but felt so soft. It was DMC’s 100% Baby, extra fine pure merino wool. Made in Italy, it looks like a 3 ply yarn but knits as a 4 ply. I have never seen it in Australia, so bought two balls of white. Enough to knit a little something. Then Kenn spotted some great buttons and my purchases were complete.
But as every knitter knows, it is one thing to buy wool, another to knit it up. What would I knit with this special wool? A jumper? Maybe booties? Perhaps a little hat? The hat I had knitted Genevieve had been a hit.
In the end, I decided to knit a cardigan in the newborn to three month size. Luckily vintage is in, for I decided to use a pattern from the ’70s that my mother-in-law, Betty had given me. It comes from PatonsPattern book 792, 10 Baby Knits which, to my amazement is still available on ebay. It was easy to knit and the buttons give it a unisex, contemporary finishing touch, don’t you think? By the way, the cardigan took just one ball of wool! I think a hat and maybe some booties will be making an appearance.
So what have I been doing since I finished this project? I’ve started a baby blanket which hopefully will be finished by June. It’s definitely not heritage in any way. An interesting project, it’s something to do after I’ve been for my swim and beach walk or perhaps shared a coffee with friends. It’s a wonderful world out there.
The weather is perfect for swimming at the moment. Sunny, humid and hot. The crystal blue water of the bay beckons swimmers into its cool embrace. There, in waist deep water, I float and splash about. Occasionally, very occasionally I catch a wave and ride it to shore. Heat disappears as my body chills down. It’s lovely, really lovely.
Relaxing under the umbrella, soaking up the smell of salt, sunscreen and hot chips, I watch as some intrepid souls swim across the bay. Out where you can’t stand up. Out where things, with fins, swim. I can’t make myself do it. Not when I can swim without being nibbled, in what has to be one of the most scenic public swimming pools in Australia, the Byron Bay Memorial Pool.
The pool is located at the top of Johnson St, adjacent to Main Beach and overlooks the bay. Like me, there are many who come to the pool to swim laps. There are always three or four lanes set out for this purpose.
Usually you’ll have to share a lane with others. When this happens, I don my flippers, content to complete my session with a freestyle workout. But sometimes you can be lucky and have a lane all to yourself.
Then, I can attempt a backstroke lap or two without inflicting a concussion on some poor, unsuspecting soul or if you swim breaststroke in a manner and at a speed resembling a galapagos tortoise, as I do, then you won’t hold others up. You can take as long as you like swimming a lap or resting between laps or indeed in the middle of a lap. No one will know!
As well as a 50 meter pool there is a babies pool and a beginner’s pool. Consequently, the pool is very popular with families of younger children. I notice lots of young mums, relaxing with a coffee from Fishheads, watching on as their children play or have swimming lessons.
After your swim, you might like to relax for a while.
Perhaps meet friends at the Top Pub for lunch. But wait, you tell me, you’re wearing eau de chlorine! Nothing to worry about. The change rooms are more than adequate for a quick transformation and for an extra 50 cents you can even have a hot shower! Or perhaps like me, you might just like to double dip: into the pool and then the ocean. It’s right there, waiting!
Our local pool is a great resource. Greg and his team do a wonderful job maintaining it for all of us. This season, entry is $4.00 for adults, less for children and pensioners.
My Tuesday was not behaving itself! I had intended to have of a lovely morning catching up with my fellow golf enthusiasts for a coaching session with Nicky Rickon, a leisurely coffee and perhaps, a few holes of golf at Mullumbimby Golf Club. But sadly, it was not to be. I found myself crawling along Broken Head Road. This was not good. I was going to be very, very late. But my golf clubs were nestled between the odd towel and beach chair in the boot and my feet were wearing socks and sneakers for the first time in months, ready to traverse beckoning fairways, so I detoured. A few holes at Byron would surely satisfy my golfing itch.
Although it was a very warm morning, there was a breeze so it was with some enthusiasm that I paid my money and made my way to the back nine as directed. I hadn’t played for a couple of months and as expected it took me one or two more shots than usual to complete the my first hole. But to compensate for a less than celebratory fairway performance, I did sink a long putt! I hit off the second and missed the water. All good. Then disaster. The Ladies Comp caught up to me. They suggested, nicely, that I hightail it over to the 14th, hit down to the clubhouse and play a few holes on the front nine so that I didn’t get in their way. There was only one problem. I got a trifle lost and ended up on the 13th. Where was the 14th? Obviously, my map reading skills need a little fine tuning. Feeling decidedly hot and bothered, I decided to tee off. Then I heard the sound. The sound of an approaching golf cart. I looked up. The lady golfers had me in their sights. There was nothing for it but to pick up my ball and drag my buggy and myself back to the clubhouse.
I felt that I had already walked nine holes but wasn’t ready to give up just yet. “The front nine might be more challenging but is more scenic,” I’d been reliably informed. As I dragged myself down and up, across and back, I got hotter and hotter. For once, my ball didn’t seek the trees like a ballistic missile. I was stuck in the middle of the fairway. Repeatedly. Melting. In the tropical oasis that is Byron, I felt as if I was trekking across the Sahara … without a camel! Three holes later, I called it a day. I didn’t want the R.I.P sign at the side of the Golf Club driveway to commemorate me.
Lying on the couch under a fan with an ice pack on my neck, Kenn took pity on me. “How about I take you and Annie out for coffee and maybe lunch?” My day suddenly brightened. Taking advantage of our new National Parks parking sticker, we decided that lunch on the newly completed deck at the Lighthouse Cafewould be perfect.
The cafe offers simple pleasures. Coffee, milkshakes, rolls, quiches, gourmet pies and sausage rolls to mention a few and the best ice cream in Byron Bay.
Lunch finished, we lingered a little. Rested a little.
For newcomers to the bay, information about Lighthouse Tours and the National Park can be found in the Lighthouse Keepers House directly behind the cafe.
Refreshed, Annie and I meandered down the track, past the most easterly point of Australia to Wategoes where Kenn kindly picked us up.
Lunch at the Lighthouse Cafe was a lovely and unexpected way to end the morning.