A driving getaway to unwind …. lower Blue Mountains

As an artist & gallery operator, it’s rare to have a weekend off. So for our 10th wedding anniversary, I decided a driving holiday was a good way to celebrate. I read an magazine article where the writer travels the Old Bells Line of Road in the Hawkesbury region. I didn’t know this part of the lower blue mountains existed let alone it’s gems. While she provided lots of historical spots to visit, my husband and I were more keen on architecture, breweries and gardens. We did a blend of hers and our own driving trip, and with travel less than 3hrs from Canberra to Windsor, we found it a breeze.

Once you get off the highway to head to Windsor, the changes in scenery and housing becomes more relaxing as we pass by small to large properties from pastel coloured weatherboard to sweeping driveways with wraparound verandas and cast iron lacework. Windsor has Australia’s oldest pub, the Macquarie Arms Hotel, and my other half was keen to sit and have a drink. We felt we were in an episode of the ABC’s TV show Jack Irishas two old timers enthusiastically regaled their tales to all in listening distance!

From here we found The Doctors house, retaining its pretty colonial Terrace architecture style from 1819. A short walk along the river has a paddle steamer on show at the Bridge & retracing your steps back towards Deerubbin Park makes this all very slow paced but for good reasons.

We head to our B&B The Willows in Kurrajong via Richmond where an avenue of plane trees provide a grand entrance to this quaint town. More on this later. We head to the hills winding in & out up the valley & once we leave the main road, discover properties tucked away in the bushes far from city life. Purple wisteria falls from an original shed as we drive down the cream gravel to our B&B. It’s everything I imagined. Wide open veranda, sweeping lawns, a few lambs & quiet apart from a song or two from local birdlife. Janet greets us like we’ve known each other for years, she shows our private entrance to the house, two rooms & discreetly leaves before you’ve put down your bags. We melt into the cushioned chairs on the verandah & don’t move till we head out for dinner. We begin to unwind.

We book into Lochiel House, as recommended by the article and one of three places that host Bruce recommends in the local vicinity. We are greeted with an enthusiastic waitress Lucy who makes our night. She’s chatty and knows when to give us our space. We eat three courses – all of which we enjoy – as everything is sourced locally and made fresh. My dessert is the best pistachio and lemon cake ever! A new menu is due to come out mid October … we are tempted to go back.

After a sleep in on Sunday, we head off to The Blue Mountains botanical gardens at Mt Tomah. We fail to find the Bells Point lookout as written in the article along with a few other sights…we begin to wonder if they exist.

Luckily, we spy the Hillbilly Cider brewery sign and a sharp right (traffic on the long weekend a bit crazy) means a little gravel screeching in Bilpin. As Adam is driving, I get to taste the vintage cider and instantly sigh. It’s like champagne but much softer. Me being Miss Practical thinks we will only buy two bottles. Adam says why buy two when you can buy a box! Which we do but on our return home as we don’t want to jiggle the cider on our road trip.

Off to the gardens and the car park is nearly full. It’s the long weekend and we luck in with a spot. Coats, scarves and brolly are needed as it’s unpredictable in this cooler part of the lower mountains. Upon entering and heading to the lookout we suddenly realise this is a huge garden … at least two hours of meandering it’s many paths, different variety of gardens and endless insta moments at every turn. The gardens are simply stunning and we’ve hit the right time to see spring flowers in bloom. Give it a few weeks and we think it would be just as spectacular as so many buds were yet to bloom.

We are now starving. I had spied a cafe earlier & it turns out to be a very popular place that’s been hammered by its weekend visitors. We are told it’s a long wait for food but happy with our cider/ beer to keep us company. It’s worth the wait & we enjoy Kingfish & Sirloin on the deck covered in Cherry Blossoms. Time to hit the road, collect our cider, purchase dinner from the local deli who’s owner is chatty & friendly & head back to our retreat. We settle in for an afternoon of reading watching the sunset and a roaring fireplace as the temps drop quickly. Sleep comes easily.

A quiet morning to rest & later lunch in the town of Richmond. It’s a public holiday so not much is open but Adam spies a record shop and off he disappears into the network of little rooms themed for its style – rock, metal, country. Several bought records later, we then find some takeaway food and sit in the local park overlooking the cricket ground. Families, couples, friends enjoying the extra day off and the brief summer warmth of what’s to come. We check out some of the older buildings that have been faithfully restored. The School of Arts is my fave….well I do run a gallery!

We wake to another warm Spring day and bid farewell to our lovely hosts. Off to Oberon for our last activity before heading home to Canberra. I read about Mayfield Garden in another magazine and knew instantly we had to visit. Again, another cool climate location where the weather can change so this time it was sunscreen, hats and water. A quick bite to eat in the cafe and then off to explore the largest privately owned garden in the Southern Hemisphere. Grand. Is all we can say. Everything from the obelik to the grotto means a serious love of European gardens to turn a bare dirt landscape into a lush, blooming oasis for all to enjoy. We plan to come back late Spring as so much had yet to bloom.

Time to head home & reminisce our four day getaway. It’s amazing how an extra two days can give you that chance to fully unwind. So, if you can, stretch your next weekend for that perfect getaway.

Perth – sandstone, sunsets and very laid back

Well, it’s 5.18pm on a balmy winter’s night in Perth. While Canberra drops to -5 in temps, Perth remains in double figures till evening closes in. It’s been so relaxing and I don’t think I’ve ever visited a city where everyone seems so chilled and laid back. Well, Portland, Oregon was the closest and admittedly I’ve spotted a fair share of hipsters, bicycles, beards, barista’s and ‘forage’ dining places that Perth is not far behind becoming the next ‘cool capital’ to visit (after Canberra of course!).

“$$$ Forget New York, Tokyo or London – the highest population of self made millionaires in the world per capita hail from Perth”.

Mmm…what we have discovered that drinking or eating here is really expensive. It is a town of boom or bust and its economy clearly props the wealthy. I’ve been lucky and managed to find a few cute and affordable places for lunch but dinner proves to be very expensive. So what do I recommend? Moore & Moore located in Fremantle is housed in a historic building and a fave for Notre Dame uni students. Food is fresh and the homemade lemonade refreshing. Source Foods located on crn of Brisbane and Beaufort Street serves the best coffee and none of this little glass business! It’s a proper size Alice cup that seems never ending. Adam’s fave is The Royal and when he first came here, as part of his contract, he ate there 11 nights running!! I limited it to two nights as I like variety…

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Arthouse – one of many sandstone buildings in Fremantle, Perth

So, what have I done while Adam was working…I’ve been pounding the pavement as I always do when I visit a new city. Perth is pretty much flat with a few hills. They have free transport in the city and luckily our apartment is on the fringe so I can get on and off whenever. So, sandstone. The city is built on sand. You can see it creeping through pavers, the garden beds and at building sites. Most of the older/heritage architecture are built from sandstone and in immaculate condition.

Architecture from different decades and well preserved
Architecture from different decades and well preserved

Even the art deco style buildings look like they have just been painted. I can’t get over how clean the city is and all the public gardens are manicured within a inch of perfection.

Queens Garden, Perth
Queens Garden, Perth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sun. Sunrise and Sunsets – this city sure knows how to put on a show. We’ve seen some stunning weather and who needs TV when you can look out the window and soak up the colours of orange/pinks/golds. While we’ve had a few showers, they come and go and the sun keeps the winter feel at bay.

Shopping – oh! my! I’ve managed to do a little shopping – 3 tops (Morgan & Morgan, Method), a pair of earrings, a set of hair clips , three gifts (Beau Est Mien in Northbridge, Ware, Mt Lawley) and resisting the urge to keep on spending. It’s only been four days and I’ve been very conservative. Well, maybe not. I totally indulged yesterday and had a few treatments at Djurra Day Spa. I’ve never treated myself to something like this.

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Pampering on my tootsies!

I felt the need as I’ve been working flat out since Boxing Day and have had two weekends off. It was crazy but all for good causes – an up and coming exhibition I’ll be in (3 July 15 opening at Nishi Gallery, Canberra) and my newest venture – an online shop showcasing my porcelain earrings. I’m very excited as this will be launched 14 July on Bastille Day. Why Bastille Day? Because my earrings are chic and I’d like think my range is as fashionable as the women are in France.

It’s now Wednesday 10 June and I have a slight hangover. We caught up with friends the night before and enjoyed a drop or two..or three…I worked with Naomi in the AFP and we realised its been nearly five years since we’ve seen each other. In the meantime she studied law, got married and moved to perth. So lots to catch up on. I took it easy yesterday as the walking is taking its toll on my little toe. I spent the day working on my marketing plan, content for the website and liasing back and forth on emails.

City Farm Cafe, Perth
City Farm Cafe, Perth

It was hard work as I sat in the gardens of City Farm Cafe eating Chickpea, roasted carrot and zucchini dill salad and later a guilt free (my phrase for gluten free) coconut, pistachio lime cake! Our final night (well my last night as Adam goes back to Perth in a week’s time to continue his work) was an all out meal at Lallah Rookah – a semi-fine dining restaurant/bar in the business district where the meals were just divine.

So, if you are thinking of visiting Perth, I highly recommend it and if you get the chance go to Vasse Felix in the Margaret River as they have the best cabernet’s. Cheers, Anne

 

Villas, glamour, sunsets and a fine time in LA

Kim Huddle our darling friend – driver extraordinaire and the patience of a saint! She was fabulous as she whizzed Adam and I @ LA like we were rock stars!! Our first day and she’s already planned that we visit Malibu Pier and the Villa Getty located in Malibu. Now the Villa Getty has to be seen to believe…little do we realize that the other Getty located on the West side of LA is even bigger, architecturally astounding with artworks from @ the world collected by one man (well no doubt, he had a team doing all the hard yards) leaving you agog with “how did he do it??”

The courtyard at Villa Getty, Malibu, LA
The courtyard at Villa Getty, Malibu, LA

Gardens and mosaics at the Villa Getty, Malibu, LA
Gardens and mosaics at the Villa Getty, Malibu, LA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malibu Pier, Malibu, LA
Malibu Pier, Malibu, LA

 

Afterwards, its time for lunch and we head to Malibu Pier to Malibu Farm – a cafe specialising in farm produce. It overlooks the ocean with the sun beaming down on us as I hide under the umbrella as I have no hat. Yep, the new Panama hat I bought in New York when we had a hot spell was accidentally left behind in our accommodation in Portland. We were at the airport when I discovered my mistake. Bummer! An expensive mistake but lesson learned – count not just bags…count hats 😉

We catch up with the kids later in the afternoon after school and head off to check out the beach where they swim at and see the Ferris wheel park.

So many places to see as Kim is abound with ideas and I suggest she would make a great tour guide. We see Venice Canal which is a series of mini canals tucked away behind Venice and Muscle Beach. While the canals are cute I can’t say much for Muscle Beach. Kim lets us explore in the later afternoon and I can’t believe how many homeless people live on the beach (well parks with their shopping trolleys and worldly goods). I have to say while I’m glad we went and had a look it was pretty run-down. Certainly not what I had expected of ‘glam LA’ and even sadder as told by the locals earlier in our trip, the homeless are shuttled by bus in Winter from Washington to places like LA and San Francisco as they are warmer and less likely to die. This made me think a little harder about US politics and question why don’t they take care of their people (especially when the majority of homeless people are returned soldiers battling financial and mental health issues after serving their country).

The other Getty…I can’t even begin to explain. When we asked our friend Rolly what should we do in LA. He said ‘the Getty and that’s it!’. Well, we did a lot more than that thanks to our hostess with the mostess!

On our last day in LA, Kim has again planned a sophisticated day of activities. First, Hollywood Bowl and the Hollywood sign – we are the only people there – as a bus load of sweating tourists have dutifully followed their flag off to their bus. We take in the out-door auditorium and reminisce Bette Midler (Beaches), Barbra Streisand (movies and stage performance), and Monty Python (live on stage).

We head off to Hollywood Boulevard to check out the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The foot/hand prints of famous stars/TV/producers/whoever have to get nominated and selected by a committee. What most people don’t know is they (the lucky nominee) has to pay $50,000 to get their star on the walk! I purchase magnets for nieces and nephews and we eat salmon panini (Adam) and sweet pretezels (Anne/Kim) for lunch as we whizz off to check out Beverly Hills and drive past the beautiful people living in their sweeping driveway homes with double gates and manicured sweeping lawns. Mmm…the life (if you can afford it).

We arrive at the historic Beverly Wilshire Hills Hotel and our car is valet parked. The valets are all in smart black suits, open our doors and I have a giggle as I’ve only ever done this once before with my friend Libby in Sydney at the Casino. This time the experience is like something out of Hollywood. Actually, I am in Hollywood!

Beverly Wiltshire HIlls Hotel, LA
Beverly Wiltshire HIlls Hotel, LA

Adam at the Bradbury where his fave film was filmed on location!
Adam at the Bradbury where his fave film was filmed on location!

Gosh! we did so much in such a short time and could have stayed longer with Kim, Pete and the kids. It was a great end to our five week trip through the USA and we were lucky to share it with friends  living there or near by (Canada) as well as making new friends in Watervale, Michigan.

It’s now New Years Eve 2014 as I sneak this posting in and look forward to 2015. The next trips – Chicago for Adam and Greece/ Croatia for myself and family. We wish everyone a fabulous New Years Eve and may we all remain safe with our loved ones (including all creatures great and small).

Chicago – David Bowie, architecture, shopping and luxe cafes

97 days ago according to my notes in my iPhone…that was our first day in Chicago and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to write this posting! We were having such a good time and totally immersed in all that Chicago had to offer. We’ve both decided that we’d move there in an instant despite the cold winters. This exciting city is efficient, easy to get around on foot, and there is always something to do. We stayed in two places and can highly recommend Magnolia Studios in Andersonville and Longman & Eagle in Logan Square. The latter is only for those that can cope with noise as its above an inn but the location is fantastic for hipster style cafes, shops and only a 15 min train ride to the city.

Navy Pier, Chicago
Navy Pier, Chicago

We visited Navy Pier and couldn’t believe our luck as the Smith Museum of Stained Glass was open and permanently closed a week after we left. So we timed it well and I got some great ideas for future ceramic exhibition works.

Stained glass museum, Navy Pier, Chicago
Stained glass museum, Navy Pier, Chicago

We headed to the Magnificent Mile which was 13 blocks of beautiful shops and stunning architecture.

Adam near Magnificent Mile, Chicago
Adam near Magnificent Mile, Chicago

We were so lucky as we had blue skies which made everything look buttery soft and hence us falling in love so quickly with the city. We bought tickets to the David Bowie exhibition which came out from the V&A London. For 3 and 1/2 hours Adam and I soaked up the atmosphere of a very talented artist through his music, art notes, theater set designs, costumes and personal details which showed another side. I had no idea just how creative, intellectual and gorgeous he was. As for Bowie’s costumes…move over Kylie Minogue. While he may have been taller he rivaled you when it came to the tiniest waist I’ve ever seen in rock fashion.

Anne at David Bowie Exhibition, Chicago
Anne at David Bowie Exhibition, Chicago

Pastoral deli - artisan cheeses galore!
Pastoral deli – artisan cheeses galore!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When it came to eating, we weren’t short on choices. Chicago has everything from French cafes to Italian Deli’s and we feasted well – when you are notching up 20000 points daily on a pedometer – trust me regional cheeses, pinot noir wine from Ohio, Italian ice-creams and Lulu’s coffee made us very happie chappies!

Fabcakes cafe in River North - gorgeous and a much needed change to industrial fit-outs!
Cafe in River North – gorgeous and a change to industrial fit-outs!

So, more places to visit. We headed to Printer’s Row where I read this had been the industrial end of town of printers and publishers. It’s now home to trendy book shops, letterpress designers, cafes and all things boutique.

The Rookery and Robie House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright are worth the visit especially Robie House as we ventured into the suburbs and also got to see University of Chicago which was Hogwarts on steroids! I’ve never seen such large buildings and extensive gardens. I could write a another posting on Robie House as we went on a curated guided tour. They won’t let the public roam the house due to the significant restoration efforts on preserving it as close to the original conditions @ 1908. So, all I can say, it’s worth the 2hr train ride to go and visit both institutions.

University of Chicago
University of Chicago

Robie House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Chicago
Robie House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Chicago

 

 

 

 

 

No trip to Chicago can not involve going to Millennium Park to see the infamous bean by Indian born British artist Anish Kapoor. Adam and I had lots of fun taking ‘daggy’ shots along with everyone else!

The 'Bean' officially known as the 'Cloud Gate', Millennium Park, Chicago
The ‘Bean’ officially known as the ‘Cloud Gate’, Millennium Park, Chicago

Shopping – oh! my! I could have shopped till I dropped but had to pace myself as this was the first city in four we were visiting over five weeks. I had the chance to meet this wonderful artist Winifred Grace who had been a graphic designer 11 years ago but needed a change. Luckily she became a goldsmith jeweller and opened a gorgeous shop in May this year. I bought a beautiful pendant with birthday monies from my parents and chose what letters I wish to be imprinted. I chose AM – for Anne Masters as I use the same style lettering as my Potter’s mark in my ceramics. It now means even more as the M stands for Miami. I wear this pendant almost every day.

Inside Winifred Grace's shop which was bespoke and outfitted by an industrial designer.
Inside Winifred Grace’s shop which was bespoke and outfitted by an industrial designer.

Okay, we did travel to the USA for a reason…a very good friend of ours, Miss Amanda Small in her words ‘was getting hitched!’ to a lovely musician called Paul. We heard lots of lovely things about him and even better when we met Paul for the first time at the wedding. Adam and Paul hit it off from the word go and wise words were exchanged on the morning of the wedding. Adam: “Mate, don’t worry about anything and go on the walk (planned event for wedding goers)”. Paul: Mmmm….not sure if that’s the done thing to do, I should be setting up things…”. Adam: “Mate, trust me – escaping for a few hours will be the best thing to do!”. As it was they had a swim in freezing Lake Michigan, a fantastic walk with his family over the dunes and Paul returned one very relaxed groom ready for the day! As for Amanda she just radiated sunshine in her glittering dress.

Groom Paul with family, Lake Michigan
Groom Paul with family, Lake Michigan

Amanda and Paul, Watervale, Michigan
Amanda and Paul, Watervale, Michigan

On the boardwalk the 'hitched couple'
On the boardwalk the ‘hitched couple’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, I took so many photos that it’s hard to include them all and do a little write up. So here are a few more to look at and enjoy.

Finally, this last photo sums it all up…one day this will be Adam and I – still visiting art galleries but needing a bit more assistance 😉

Upwardly mobile at any age!
Upwardly mobile at any age!

Portland, Oregon – land of gentry – beards, beers and strip clubs!

Interiors of the strip clubl...oops! the brewery ;)
Interiors of the brewery

Yes, strip clubs. Let me explain. We see lots of plain buildings out near where we are staying. Mmm..strip clubs?? I purchase a little book on Portland by a local who says:

Portland is home to more strip clubs per capita than any other USA city…this doesn’t make sense…all I can see is coffee shops and record stores…

Anyway, luckily we are not in need of naked women. We just want to catch up with our Australian friends Fiona and Trevor who are staying with us for a week in Sellwood – a sleepy neighborhood about 15 minutes drive to the city. It’s near Antique Row which has vintage, bespoke shops and of course a bar serving beer!

Fiona and Trevor among the tall trees (one of a few in Oregon ;)
Fiona and Trevor among the tall trees (one of a few in Oregon 😉

One of many beers Adam and Trevor 'sample'!!
One of many beers Adam and Trevor ‘sample’!!

The next day we go downtown Portland to discover over a few days that in general, its one big sleepy town. It becomes apparent food, coffee, beards, beer, cupcakes, donuts, books, records, anything vintage, old neon signage, wood, iron, anything industrial are all the necessities that keep its citizens happie chappies. Oh! Did I mention how nice the people are here in Portland? They are all nice, friendly and down to earth. This is the most optimistic city I’ve ever been too.

One of the many signs @ downtown Portland, OR
One of the many signs @ downtown Portland, OR

 

 

Vintage signage in downtown Portland
Vintage signage in downtown Portland

In front of an old theater in the Arts District
In front of an old theater in the Arts District

So apart from hand-crafted beer, bourbon and velvet brioche/donuts, volcano cup-cakes, bearded baristas and “fries or salad with that?” we escape the gourmet hood/city and drive to the mountains of Oregon.

Views of Mount Hood from the winery
Views of Mount Hood from the winery

I later discover the two places we visit on our day road trip – Mt Hood and Columbian Gorge turn out to be two of the seven wonders in Oregon! For me the third wonder is the Mount Hood Winery – how many wineries can boast not one but two volcanoes as the views from the tasting room!

On the Columbia Historic Highway stopping at one of the many viewpoints of the river
On the Columbia Historic Highway stopping at one of the many viewpoints of the river

Our road trip is scenic and staggering – blue skies and still lakes stretch on forever, mountains are as high as they are wide and trees are bathed in warm sunshine lighting up yellow leaves as we zoom along the highway.

We enjoy our mini-stops to see replica steamers ready to go up the Columbia River Gorge and read about the latter

Tranquil waters as old steamer prepares to travel down Columbia Gorge
Columbia Gorge, Portland, Oregon

American history of the Gorge where the locks were installed @1895. However, the river was and continues to be a food/transportation hub for the descendents of various Native American tribes. According to http://www.columbiarivergorge.info/history.html , “…The Sahaptin word for the Columbia was “Nch’i-Wana,” the “Great River..”. We note the token Native American girl with her dog sculpture and the cultural/historical focus is lost among the Disney interpretation.

Native American sculpture
Native American sculpture

Heart attack pulled pork buns
Heart attack pulled pork buns

We continue our road trip and at Hood River pull over at the Big Horse Brewery to have ‘heart attack’ pulled pork sandwiches. Fiona and Trevor are good and stick to the salads (even though they do have their guilty moments – they sure love their cupcakes!).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mount Hood - Oregon's tallest peak and active volcano
Mount Hood – Oregon’s tallest peak and active volcano

We arrive at Timber Line Lodge and head up Mt Hood. Adam and I drop out ½ way as our hearts are beating. Well, we were 1 mile up and the oxygen does thin out….either that OR we are just old fobies!! Fiona and Trevor sped their way up with energy abounding.

We head home and as we drive through Sandy, Adam recalls how he once went out with a girl called Cindy from California. We all have a laugh about Adam and his “Californian Dreaming” girl!

After a week in Portland and having a wonderful time with Fiona and Trevor we say farewell as they drive back home to Victoria, BC and Adam and I board our silver plane to head to Los Angeles. We are very excited as we get to catch up with more Australian friends Kim, Pete and the kids who have recently moved to the USA. So, keep watching this space as one more posting to go before we head home to Australia in a few days.

New York – gourmet food, museums and divine weather!

One of my drawings from a sculpture in Madison Park, NY
One of my drawings from a sculpture in Madison Park, NY

Well, New York has turned out to be this amazing city and provided 10 days of gourmet delis/bakeries, dining in romantic restaurants/bars, exploring alleyways and finding unexpected shops of all kinds, beautiful parks to sit and people watch and draw amazing sculptures and basically keep our hearts beating an extra beat every second with all the sirens and car horns bleeping loudly. Whether you are in a cab or crossing a pedestrian it is a hair-raising experience!

Gosh! I don’t even know where to start…we’ve been pounding the pavement and walking everywhere averaging 7hrs and 20,000 steps according to my pedometer. I’m keeping slim and trim and don’t feel so bad when I eat a pastry from the french patisserie, drink my lattes and wines and nibble on gourmet cheeses from the local delis. If New York could be described as one word…it would be food! I’ve never seen so many options and the big thing over here is chop! chop! salads. It’s like theater or pulling teeth eventually when they finally hand over your salad which has been chopped to death but oh! my! tastes fantastic!

yummy salads on a warm Autumn day - 30 degrees!
yummy salads on a warm Autumn day – 30 degrees!

After our 2 hour walk through Central Park, we bought dinner and bagels from Dean & Deluca – a well known Italian deli on Madison Avenue and figured its the one thing we can afford as we walked past the beautiful shops with the beautiful people and their children dressed to the max! Even the dogs were matching the kids….mmmm…that is a worry!! There was one restaurant we would pass every night and it was like a scene out of a fashion shoot for Ralph Lauren. No joke. Only the beautiful All American chiseled and blonde could wine/dine at this ‘popular – LOOK AT ME’ spot.

This town has all sorts – tall, skinny, fat, short, joggers (some in tracky dacks and others in the latest nike flouro slim runners and matching their partners outfits of course!), dogs in prams, freshly clipped poodles on steroids and a naked old lady in Times Square – save for a few twirly stars/stripes sequined bits to cover the gravity defied components which I won’t go into! and so much more.

With lovely Laura on top of the MET drinking champagne on the rooftop garden watching the sun set over this beautiful city...(Adam behind the camera xx)
With lovely Laura on top of the MET drinking champagne on the rooftop garden watching the sun set over this beautiful city…(Adam behind the camera xx)

One of the many foyers in the MET
One of the many foyers in the MET

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went to the MET yesterday and spent 8 and 1/2 hours exploring this super huge museum along with 2000 others. It was 3 levels and covered 3 city blocks hence the reason we stayed all the day. We think the trick is to break up the day and with 2 solid breaks it made it so much easier to take it all in. We went to one floor which was a storage room and it went on and on and on – ceramics, glass, silverware, furniture, paintings and so on. There were levels where they recreated a room from a palace or villa from Europe which allowed people the chance to still experience renaissance France without having to fly out of the country. I sat and drew in part of the American Wing and for an hour listened to people’s conversations without them knowing and soaked up the atmosphere – another nice way of experiencing a museum. However, my feet started to tap and it was time to check out more galleries…ceramics, glass, American Art, photography and it just kept going. Thankfully, we took a break @ 4.30pm and headed to the Balcony Bar when a quartet (minus 1) played the most beautiful classical music with a contemporary edge while we drank our wine and chilled till just after 6pm. We did a bit more gallery looking and then finally checked out the MET shop. But it was all books…too heavy to bring home as Adam has already bought a couple of heavy catalogues…but we did manage an anniversary present for moi! A beautiful necklace which has lapis blue and gold settings based on the art deco period. A perfect end to a perfect day xx

Listening to classical music at the MET.
Listening to classical music at the MET.

Brooklyn Bridge, NY
Brooklyn Bridge, NY

We walked the Brooklyn Bridge from end to end and return and started with stormy cold weather which quickly changed to steamy, hot weather. We’ve been so lucky with the weather as we’ve had a late summer burst and only one day of rain and a drizzly day – but nothing to stop us from checking out the culture and vibe of each neighborhood.

Boys toys for Adam!
Boys toys for Adam!

While Laura and I shopped/sipped champagne and talked non-stop in Brooklyn and Williamsburg, Adam did entertain himself at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. He spent a couple of hours checking out a big great war canoe (built in WWII, which also saw action in Vietnam). On the deck, Adam was excited to see a Harrier jump jet, tomcat – a lah Tom Cruise in Top Gun, a Leggo scale model of the ship, an SR71 blackbird, an Avenger from WWII, a Seaking helicopter and many more big boy’s toys!

Murray's cheeses in West Village on Bleaker Street
Murray’s cheeses in West Village on Bleaker Street

Ooh! and I must tell this story..I bought lunch at Murray’s Cheeses – an institution of it’s own. They have communal tables and this older Italian guy sits next to me and says “Can you look after my balls?”. I double-look at him and say “Sure!”.  He disappears and I check his balls – 2 x risotto balls!! Heh! Heh! He comes back and with a quick wink and flick of my hair I say “I didn’t touch your balls but they are safe!!”. We end up having a great conversation and flirt away. He has a wedding ring and so do I and it’s all quite innocent. Gotta love New York.

Miss Liberty
Miss Liberty

Ooh! Miss Liberty…I can’t remember if I mentioned her in last blog? So here she is. On a stormy, overcast day which fits in well with the day being the same when she was opened in October 1886. Finally, we will always remember New York especially to celebrate our 6th Wedding Anniversary – may we always travel and photograph our way through the cities while still loving each other (even if we have a few tiffs along the way!!).

Traveling and photographing with each other! Gotta love this life.
Traveling and photographing with each other! Gotta love this life.

Chicago and Lake Michigan – city skyline and Watervale wedding

Hello everyone,

Well its been a jam-packed week as Adam and I have managed to squeeze so many sights in during our first part of our Chicago stay and then 3 days in Michigan for a beautiful wedding.

We are now back in Chicago for 3 more days and fly to New York this Friday. But back to the beginning. I’ve decided I want to get a job in Chicago! We’ve heard so much about this city but had no idea just how exciting and diverse the place is and it makes Melbourne and Sydney look like the younger sisters. The city sky line is an architect’s dream and we were told to do a boat tour and being me I did my research to find that the Chicago Architect Foundation are the official sponsors of Chicago’s First Lady. We worked out that the best time was 5.30pm as the night before we watched the skyline and the lights started coming on @ 6-6.30pm and we thought we get a mix of late afternoon/evening skies for our picturesque photos. I think we took more than 100 photos as at every turn the tour guide would highlight the significance of a building, the location or architect/s involved. PS – if you click on the photos they will come up larger.

 

Evening boat tour Chicago_1
Evening boat tour Chicago_1

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Evening boat tour – Chicago_2

Before the boat ride we managed to pound the pavement for 2 days non-stop and visit Millennium Park, the Magnificent Mile, the Water Towers, MCA (we’ve got tickets to see the David Bowie costume exhibition touring from the V&A and can’t wait for that!), the Rookery (a stunning art deco building designed by Lloyd Wright) as well as the Robie House located in Chicago’s outer suburbs. A contemporary home built on a prairie and costing $60,000 back in 1910 (equivalent of $3.4 million today) – the cost included the house, land and furnishings – so actually a bargain at the time! While we were there we went to the local University and it was like Hogwarts on steroids!! We couldn’t believe the size/design of the buildings and ornate landscaping in the University of Chicago. Obviously a prestigious university for those with money and connections. I wonder if they have ceramics or international relations here? We stayed at the Longman & Eagle Inn located in Logan Square – basically a trendy part of town consisting of way too many hipsters! Beards, bicycle and boutique beers are the staples for these indie style guys.

Anne on Magnificent Mile
Anne on Magnificent Mile

Navy Pier
Navy Pier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chicago Theater

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The Rookery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, we did heaps more but I won’t go into everything as we have a wedding to indulge in! Adam and I hired a car and headed north to Arcadia, Michigan – approx. a 5hr drive which ended up being close to 7hrs as we got a little confused heading out of Chicago and onto the main highway. We were thrown by being on the RHS with a LH steering wheel and then trying to figure out the signage and exits. I think I managed to blurt out a few swear words (not at Adam) but at some of the drivers and eventually we got the swing of the road and the rule is you must stay in the far RH lane if you travel slower than everyone else. No one adhered to the speed limits of 70 miles and we saw many people pulled over by the police. We found our way to Holland which turned out to be the prettiest town with beautiful shops and a Swiss cafe (surprise! surprise!) for a late lunch. By the time we got to Arcadia, the sun had well and truly set and temperatures had plummeted. With only a light jacket, bare pin legs and sandals we stood out as the “Australian’s” everyone had heard about! We wolfed down dinner with the Danes who we just pipped us at the post and then went to the bonfire next to Lake Michigan. Okay, now this is meant to be a lake but I’m talking sand dunes, reeds and washed up tree logs and a howl from the lake that made it sound and feel more like being at the beach on a stormy evening! Absolutely mind-boggling. We headed back to the house, found our room – hot pink bedspread that Adam adored 😉 and creaking springy mattress with one pillow to share…ain’t love grand.

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Watervale Inn, Arcadia, initially a logging town in 1917

 

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Inside Watervale Inn where the reception was held

The wedding – we have a magazine in Australia called ‘Frankie‘ and its one of my favourite style/design icons. I had a feeling Amanda and Paul’s wedding would be ‘Frankie’ style with lots of hand-made touches – flowers in glass bottles hanging off the aisle chairs, Turkish lanterns in various sizes, a flower arch, ceramic potted succulents on the tables and the list goes on. So, this is where I’ll end as the last two photos are pretty special and a special start to their journey and the rest of our trip.

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Amanda’s beaded dress, her hair and glowing smile says it all – stunning!

 

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Lower Herring Lake and a stunning sunset for the couple

Copenhagen – Retro Danish furniture, Gløgg and Hygee

Well, I’ve decided Copenhagen has now hit my top 5 places I want to live in when Adam and I plan to go overseas for a few years.  I thought Florence and Berlin were pretty high up but now Copenhagen is showing its stylish flair even when its -4 and snowing during the day!

Seeing the sights of the city on my one and only blue skies day...
Seeing the sights of the city on my one and only blue skies day…

Copenhagen-Central-Train-Station
Copenhagen-Central-Train-Station

Tivoli amid metro construction affecting all of Copenhagen city
Tivoli amid metro construction affecting all of Copenhagen city

I’m staying at Hotel Alexandra – a beautiful retro Danish hotel which focuses on Danish furniture designers, the environment and making guests feel like they are at home.  No chain hotels need apply when it comes to moi traveling.  I’ve become friends with April who is Acting Front Desk and she has been with the hotel for 5 years.  This says something about her and her employees.  She absolutely loves her job and she’s the sort of person you’d love to employ any day. April has helped me every step of the way, let me have a peek at the more sleeker (and expensive rooms), booked my restaurant, asked me about my day and has been so so nice that I feel like I’ve known her for ages.  Adam and I are definitely coming back to Copenhagen and staying here for a week.  Three days is not long enough as I feel I’m trying to squeeze in as much as I can.

So, what did I do?  Well, I think I’ve shopped, eaten, drunk and walked myself silly but geez what a city.  Its clearly design/architect focused and everyone knows how to dress for winter – stylish and of course practically. So here’s a brief rundown of 72 hours in Copenhagen:

Zoo Design – a mecca for artists in the visual arts to showcase ceramics, jewellery, textiles and glass.  I could have stayed here all day.  Two hours later I managed to buy 2 gifts and 1 little one for Adam and I.

Designer-Zoo-inside
Designer-Zoo-inside

A-jeweller-in-her-studio-at-Designer-Zoo
A-jeweller-in-her-studio-at-Designer-Zoo

Rosenborg – to be honest I really didn’t know what to expect and when I started to go through the Castle and read about the tapestries in the Great Hall….suddenly I sped up on Denmark’s history and its wars.  I had no idea Denmark actually owned a lot of land through Sweden, Norway and Germany and had to fight long battles, losing many soldiers, and still not regain some of its territory.  Well, one of the Kings (Christian # I can’t remember) commissioned tapestries to be made and they certainly told a very different story regarding ‘conquests’ compared to what actually happened.  So, its interesting to see how churches and royalty are similar in representing their visual version of supposed events.

Rosenberg-Castle
Rosenberg-Castle

Rosenberg-Castle-buildings
Rosenberg-Castle-buildings

Rosenberg-Castle-Guard
Rosenberg-Castle-Guard

Hviids Vinstue – I read this 300 year old tavern served Gløgg – a spicy mulled wine – and I was keen to try it out.

Gløgg served in a little glass with a spoon...
Gløgg served in a little glass with a spoon…

Well, I arrived and what appeared at first to be a Gentleman’s club became a bit more relaxed as couples, families and single people were merrily drinking away and everyone spoke Danish.  No tourists in sight…well except for moi!  As it was, a smartly dressed older waiter asked me what I’d like and I mentioned the mulled wine and he merrily disappeared and came back, plonked it on my table and disappeared again.  I sat there and eventually asked the ladies behind me how it worked in terms of paying.  They said just pay when you leave. Of course..silly me!

So, as I watched people come and go eventually I needed to go to the ladies but didn’t want to leave my gear behind.  I asked a couple would they mind watching.  No dramas.  I came back and we chatted for 1/2hr. It turns out she was an owner of an advertising agency  and we swapped notes on how clients always wanted the impossible the day before! I asked her husband about whether there was a Danish team I could get a jersey for my husband as I had no idea.  Yes, we play soccer not football.  But he loves our Aussie Rules and I joked with his wife that the men were much better looking than the stocky, ordinary looking rugby players.  We talked about the cricket, New Zealand, if Hobart was another country…I nearly fell over and explained no its part of Australia, ceramics, which galleries to go to while I was here and it was great to have a chat and not feel so obviously alone at my table drinking my 2nd drink – Danish beer.

When plans change…

For my last day I had roughly worked out what to do.  By the time I skyped the family it was well after 11am when I hit the streets.  I was going to visit the Christiansborg Palace first but realised I had to wait till 1.30pm to access some of the areas.  So, instead I decided to go to Bredgade Street where all the galleries are…well yes, the ones that showcase 1 painting by 1 artist in a massive room (I’m sorry but that is not normal), the very expensive antique shops and old women wearing fox/animal fur coats and tonnes of makeup.  I was beginning to wonder what I was doing…luckily the Marmorkirken (Marble Church) came into view and I was able to check out its cupola.  Sadly, I couldn’t get a bird’s eye view of the city as the tower was only open Sat, Sun and public holidays.

Cupola-at-Marmorkirken-Marble-Church
Cupola-at-Marmorkirken-Marble-Church

Marmorkirken-Marble-Church
Marmorkirken-Marble-Church

As I headed into the streets I realised I had dropped my faithful map at some point and then chose to go down some street and hopefully head back in the right direction.  I came across a familiar sign – Keramik! Yeah, I popped in and met 3 lovely ceramic artists sharing a very small space in the basement.  We chatted about the Center, my work, their work and when they asked my plans…they tsked tsked the Palace and said no, go to Davids Samling – a museum containing the best collection of porcelain, Islamic art and contemporary Danish works – plus its free! They also gave me the name of local artists/galleries to visit along the way.  So, I’m glad I took their advice as the Samling Museum was amazing.  It was also warm, with carpet, beautiful rooms,  incredible artwork and it made Rosenberg Castle look very ho hum! In fact, the feeling was Hygee, which roughly translates into cosy. Winter in Denmark can be cold, grey and long so most places put a lot of emphasis on their homes, their work place and where they eat – blankets, candles, cushions – anything to give you a warm, cosy feeling.

One-of-many-opulent-rooms-at-David-Samling
One-of-many-opulent-rooms-at-David-Samling

Porcelain-collection-at-David-Samling
Porcelain-collection-at-David-Samling

Sliding-door-into-the-next-room-at-David-Samling...Oh! I so want one!
Sliding-door-into-the-next-room-at-David-Samling…Oh! I so want one!

I then had to rush into town for last minute gifts before heading back to the hotel and changing for dinner.  Well, what a interesting night…after a free bus ride and entertaining the bus driver, I found myself in the dodgy end of town and panicked as the streets were dark and I was totally lost.  Reading a map in the dark isn’t fun and silly me forgot my torch in my pocket…I just got very flustered.  I finally found the place and then they sat me in the foyer entrance overlooking the kitchen.  I explained a booking was made in the restaurant and was this a temporary arrangement?  No, this is where we sit single people.  Mmmm….overlooking the dirty kitchen sink.  No, I don’t think so!  So, I summed up the courage to explain I had booked a table and according to Wallpaper City Guide the photo did not show the kitchen as a main feature.  As their English and my Danish was limited it was clear that they were not going to move me. So, I gathered my coat, gloves and hat and said I was very disappointed as I had come a long way to experience the Nordic cooking.  I left, and then had to make my way back to the bus stop in the dark and my last meal wasn’t looking crash hot.  So, back to the hotel and a Vietnamese beef and noodle dish with red wine gave me the boost I needed.

Heading home

At last, 7 weeks later I’m heading home on the big silver bird tomorrow morning.  I’m excited as this is my last night in Copenhagen.  Three days in a major city is not long enough.  I highly recommend at least 5-7 days to fully explore a city and to always be open to changing even the best of laid out plans.  Sometimes, you get to see another side of the city that is not always recommended in travel books/brochures etc.  I also recommend that you go parallel to the ‘tourist’ streets – I’m not saying don’t do them, but the next day try a street or 2 either side as you’ll be suprised as to what you will find.

Thank you for reading my virtual travel experience as an artist-in-residence and as a tourist abroad.  I’ve had a wonderful time and am already planning future trips. American historian Miriam Rita Beard sums up best what travel means to me:

Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.

Self portrait on test tile
Self portrait on test tile

Photo gallery – Roskilde and Skælskør, Denmark

Loving-the-walk-castle-crisp-air-and-all-Denmark-has-to-offer
Loving-the-walk-castle-crisp-air-and-all-Denmark-has-to-offer

A photo gallery to end my time in Zealand where the medieval towns of Skælskør and Roskilde reside. From a stunning Cathedral, glass studio and Viking Museum in Roskilde, to walking @ the Skælskør Nor and then ending with the glorious and romantic 17th Century Borreby Castle (well almost ending…Marie and I went to Kobæk Strand (beach) on Monday and I couldn’t resist showing snow at the beach!) – its all been an amazing travel and photographic experience.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A firing disaster, a few tears and lessons learned

Well, reality has certainly bitten this little petal.  After an agonizing time carefully loading my eight tiles into the bisque kiln on Saturday I finally opened the door on Monday morning to uncover a firing disaster.  I knew one of the tiles had broken, as Christina checked late Sunday night, so I braced myself as to which one I had lost.  It wasn’t until when removing the tiles one by one I realized something had gone terribly wrong.  Tile after tile – major cracks – and when I got to the shelf that’s when I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  The kiln shelf had split fair into two pieces.  Out of the eight tiles I made, only two survived and one partially – as Adam kindly pointed out “it was only a 75% failure rate”.  I laid them all out on the bench, photographed them and headed straight back to my room.  I felt so deflated and could have kicked myself – where did I do wrong?

I had read up on the Internet – reliable ceramic sites to work out how to bisque large tiles.  I found some great sites/detailed information but they all related to small bathroom tiles and nothing my size or depth.  I chatted to another artist in residence who was confident I could lay the tiles on top of each other.  I had plans to lay one on each shelf – but we didn’t have enough shelves for that option. So, I had the yellow clay tiles on 2 separate shelves and the white clay tiles stacked carefully on each other.

I didn’t know one kiln shelf had a hairline fracture and the weight of the tiles combined with the fracture may have been the cause for the break.  Our Technician Rachel hadn’t seen anything like it before and was surprised at the outcome.  We talked about what the cause was but couldn’t give a definitive answer.  She suggested next time I stack them side by side with bricks – like toast in one of those old-fashioned toast stands.

Silver-PLATED-TOAST-RACK-6-slice
Silver-PLATED-TOAST-RACK-6-slice

Someone else suggested clay coils around each of the tiles to slow down the heat so it’s not fast on the outside and a shock to the center.  So lots of ideas and if any ceramicist out there can give me tips I’d so much welcome them as I’m keen to continue making these tiles when I come home.

The good news is someone upstairs must have been looking after me as the two tiles, which survived, were in fact the most important – the main feature tiles for the old/serene body of work.  At least I can work with something and the other good news, which Adam also pointed out “you’ll save on shipping costs now!” He of course totally understood, felt bad about my firing and let me have a good sob over Skype.

So, today I woke up with a massive hangover after drinking a tad too much – probably because I knew I needed to commiserate, held my last dinner duty with the gorgeous Evelyn from Estonia, given a presentation to Project Network 2013 members on tips to improve grant applications and only had one more kiln firing to go.  Anyway,  onwards and upwards and I have to say one of the girls here made me realize  you have to embrace ceramics with all its uncontrollable elements and be prepared for breakages, kiln and/or glaze disasters.  Only the day before, another artist accidentally knocked over one of Claire’s exhibition pieces. He was mortified and she was calm as she quickly threw the piece in the bin.  She made the whole incident painless and is truly a model of graciousness and practicality.

Anyway, I spent today glazing my two tiles and I’m happy with the results.  The work, along with the pendants will be ready to put in the kiln on Wednesday and should be out some time Friday.

Post note: the works came out today….and sadly, another firing disaster.  It just seems I been given the ultimate test ‘to harden up princess’ as Adam says. Well, I opened the door to see one big gooey hard mess in front of me.

 

Glaze-firing-an-expensive-exercise
Glaze-firing-an-expensive-exercise

We had to wait till the kiln cooled down and Rachel helped me pull the shelves out. Two were joined together and when we pulled them all out we assessed the damage – to the shelves and the element.  Whatever work came out went straight to my desk with no interest.  I was worried about the damage.  We got a hammer and chisel and she showed me what I’d have to do to get rid of the glaze.  The glaze is hard as rock and when you break it, its like glass.  So, we worked carefully but struggled to avoid the actual shelf from being ruined.  So, she left me and 2hrs later I tried my best to rescue the shelves. Two of the shelves are not savable and with a damaged wire I’m going to be up for some big $$’s.  My budget for the firings has been totally blown out.  I also lost 1/2 my pendants which had been made as gifts for people here.  So, unfortunately that special project is out the window.  As for my 2 tiles, they somehow managed to be okay.  I did take a photo to put in this posting but it could have helped if I put the memory card in!  Its now too late as I’ve bubble wrapped my works in preparation for leaving. So lesson learned…don’t put a low fire clay in a high fire clay firing.  I didn’t realise I had made this mistake and now I know what happens and trust me I won’t be making this expensive mistake again…

So, this is probably my last posting related to my time here as an artist-in-residence. I’m pleased I took myself out of my comfort zone and explore new clays, glazes and forms.  This is the complete opposite to what I did at University and I’m so glad I didn’t create the same work and play it safe.  I’m looking forward to coming home as I miss Adam, Miami and of course family, friends and work colleagues.  I will also miss my new friends made here at Guldagergaard.  Its been an amazing experience and one I highly recommend any ceramic artist to consider as part of their career…just start saving now and be open to all that ceramics throws at you!

 

Anne-celebrating-at-the-exhibition
Anne-celebrating-at-the-exhibition