Modern Melbourne. North and South of the Yarra.

Looking south across the Yarra river from the stately entrance of the old Customs House building (1875), I noticed these modern buildings shimmering in the winter sky.

In the colonial painting below, two men stand on the same spot and look north across the river, as they survey Melbourne.

The Customs House is now the site of the Immigration Museum, a great place to visit.


On the Way in Santiago di Compostela.

On the way to the cathedral of Santiago di Compostela, I noticed this guitarist. He wasn’t busking but probably was on the way somewhere himself when taken by the urge to play a tune.

The music of Santiago di Compostela, Galicia, Spain is intriguing. Unlike most Spanish music, Galician music is strongly Celtic in origin. Further along the way, I was seduced by the distant sound of bagpipes echoing from a portico below the cathedral. As I got closer, the sound amplified in the darkness, overwhelming my emotions.

Santiago di Compostela is memorable for so many reasons, not just its famous Camino!

Winter Routines and Pasta d’Inverno


I have to be honest, coming home from a long holiday in the tropics to Melbourne hasn’t been easy. It’s not just the cold weather.  The first week back home has been hectic, full of dinner catch ups, missed family birthdays involving cookathons, garlic planting, entertaining our Italian guest, visiting and cooking for Mother, a football match to attend, and more. The days just seem too short, yet a mountain of tasks towers ahead. I am looking forward to a slower pace and some space to catch up with things.

Although I don't follow football, I admire these girls who play so well for their local team, Hurstbridge.
Although I don’t follow football, I admire these girls who played so well for their local team, Hurstbridge.

Cold weather routines are slowly re-emerging. Vegetable stocks go on the stove, barley or beans are soaked as I mull over the next week’s budget meals.

On sunny days, the low-lying sun streams through the north facing windows, warming the house in the middle hours of the day, reminders of the effectiveness of passive solar energy in house design.

Mr T gathers dry kindling and wood from the shed to feed our two wood stoves. Last night’s left over hot ashes become roasting beds for Autumn eggplants.

On our second day back, a late crop of pine mushrooms popped through the deep litter of pine needles, providing a tasty topping for bruschetta. Alberto searched for more along the ridges but found none, only the toxic Fairy rings of Fly Agaric. Foraging for food is always such a pleasure.

Annual crop of Pine Mushrooms for Bruschetta.
Annual crop of Pine Mushrooms for Bruschetta.

Although a few days remain before Winter officially commences, today’s pasta, Pasta d’Inverno or winter pasta, is a nourishing dish to go with these times of low light and slow pace. Quantities suitable for two hungry people.

  • 200 gr orecchiette pasta (de Cecco brand is my current favourite)
  • 3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive oil.
  • 3 onions, sliced finely
  • 3 anchovies, roughly chopped
  • one small branch of fresh rosemary
  • 1-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • finely sliced cauliflower, around one quarter of a head.
  • grated parmesan cheese, plenty
  • pasta cooking water
  • parsley,finely chopped.


Boil a large pot of water for the pasta. Salt well and then add the orecchiette and cook according to packet instructions.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium-sized frying pan. Add onions and cook very slowly and gently until they soften and almost melt, without colouring, then add the garlic and anchovies. Stir these about for a minute or so: the anchovies will vanish into the onion mixture. Add a small amount of freshly chopped rosemary.

Add the sliced cauliflower to the onion mixture and toss about for a few minutes until it is softened. Slicing cauliflower allows it to cook faster than small florets. I like the way it disappears in the sauce.

When the pasta is nearly cooked, remove at least a cup of the pasta water. Add this to the onion mixture, turning up the temperature to reduce a little. Stir in a few tablespoons of the grated parmesan to thicken the sauce.

Drain the pasta and add to the pan to amalgamate well with the sauce. Add the finely chopped parsley.

Serve in heated bowls, adding more parmesan at the table. There should be plenty of unctuous sauce to mop up.


Tangled up in fish. Buddhist Monastery, West Java

Two well established Buddhist temples may be found in Cipanas, West Java. The one on the hill towards Gunung Gede is a beautiful place to visit in the morning, especially on Saturday when the giant candles are lit and vast metal vats filled with incense sticks spice the air. Here, a tangle of fish ( Koi Carp) greet the visitor near the entrance to the temple complex. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Travel Theme- Tangle at Where’s My Backpack this week.

Hats of Furukawa Festival, Japan

Furukawa is located in Gifu prefecture, Japan, not far from the beautiful old town of Takayama. The annual ‘naked’ festival is held on April each year. On the afternoon of the 19th, elaborately decorated festival floats are carted into Furukawa town. From 9 pm on that day, continuing until early morning of the 20th, the Okoshi Daiko, an enormous drum atop a tower, is carried through the streets by hundreds of men clad only in cotton loincloths, despite the cold. 1-Rae&Stu2 151 These shots of Japanese men in hats (and clothes) were taken as the floats went down the street, before the start of the Okoshi Daiko. 1-Rae&Stu2 142 And a modern hatted young man observes the parade from behind. I wonder if he might join in one day?1-Rae&Stu2 150 Thanks Ailsa for an appealing travel prompt.

Enveloped in Water

Learning how to master an underwater camera, Mr Tranquillo took some great shots of flowers and orchids floating on the surface of the pool.

These were his practice shots before heading over to Nusa Lembongan for some serious tropical snorkeling and underwater photography.

A response to the Daily Post’s photography theme, Enveloped. <a href=””>Enveloped</a&gt;

Lilla Pantai. Top New Restaurant by the Sea, Sanur

Lilla Pantai is the fabulous new beach front restaurant owned by the same family who run the popular Lilla Warung in Jalan Bumi. It opened quietly about four weeks ago and is now in full swing, with all decor completed, staff fully trained and glitches ironed out. The son of the owners, a Swedish- Balinese couple who own the successful Lilla Warung, trained as an architect in Sweden and returned to supervise the renovation of the new seafront property. Bali called him home. He has done an excellent job, incorporating many traditional Balinese features such as palm tree woven walls ( over concrete I imagine), curved thatching at the entrance, old Balinese black and white photos, lamps and a happy Ganesha at the entrance. The rest is sleek and modern: the interplay between old and new works remarkably well. The internal space is tiered: everyone has a sea view, with hardwood decks at the lower level and softly lit beach front tables on the sand.

During these early weeks, this hospitable young man and his father have been present to iron out teething problems. One night, the restaurant’s large gas bottle ran out at around 8.30 PM as they were in full service swing of the second sitting for the evening. Desperate calls were made, solutions were found. This is professional place with high standards, years of restaurant experience, and an eagerness to get things right.

The service is efficient and friendly. They remember you and greet you warmly, not so hard since I have visited six times. The kitchen is open planned, with modern sleek stainless steel appliances providing a full view of the chefs at work. Food presentation is impressive. Modern Suar and Jati wood boards and irregular shaped bowls are used for breads and salads. Tables are adorned with oil candles and terrarium plants.

Now let’s consider the food, since we are here to eat. Serves are generous and the food is an absolute bargain. Many dishes are priced between 25 IDR nd 59 IDR ( AU $2.50 – $5.90) . There is a great range of appetizers which are mostly Western in style.  A bowl of calamari fritti, some garlic bread and a guacamole to share with one other is an excellent evening treat. The mains are a mixture of traditional and authentic Balinese with a  few pasta dishes added.  A bottle of Two Islands Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio which, at 215,000IDR ( $21.00), is a local bargain. Large Bintang beers are the usual $3.00.

I have been slowly working my way through the menu here and have enjoyed every dish. Pasta with prawn and chilli, seafood curry, Gado- Gado (the best in Sanur), calamari fritti with garlic aioli- excellent, garlic bread, nasi campur ( served at lunchtime) and more. All sensational, cheap, authentic and generous.  My photos do not do justice to the food here: as, most of the time I have found the need to eat before even considering the camera! If you are in Sanur or Denpasar, go now! This place is the best restaurant along the beach strip.

Lilla Pantai

Jl. Duyung (Sanur Beach Street Walk), Sanur, Bali

Turn left at the end of Jalan Kesuma Sari, pass the Fairmont Sanur Hotel, then pass four shops and you’re there! Or enter from the end of Jalan Duyong and turn right: easy to find, just look for the sign.

Open for lunch and dinner. Nasi campur is included at lunchtime from 11AM to 3 PM as well as the regular alla carte menu.

I’m heading back there right now!


Bali for Beginners and the Disenchanted, Part 2

By popular demand, here’s Part 2 of my  Guide to Bali. Thanks Mick for reminding me.

  • Don’t buy package deals from the internet. These deals are often deceptive. They may seem cheap but they are cheap for a reason. It is important to actively choose where you want to stay and not be swayed by some cheap deal or package. I pay around AU $55.00 a night a double for a small quiet hotel with glorious gardens and large swimming pool. Importantly, the hotel is close to the beach, restaurants and other facilities. The room is large and air-conditioned and the included breakfast is substantial. You can pay a little less, or a lot more!
  • Don’t bring too much luggage. Everything can be purchased here. There are many supermarkets selling all the usual brands and products you would expect to find at home, modern chemists, shops to tempt you with summer clothing, and so on. If you fill your suitcase at home, there’ll be little room to add anything. If you need another bag to bring items home, soft fabric Bali bags cost around AU $6.
  • Commerce helps the Balinese people. They often make only a small cut on each item and depend on tourists buying a few trinkets from their stores. When bargaining, remain cheerful and smile.  Don’t start negotiating unless you intend to buy something. When bargaining, I usually halve the quoted price and negotiate from there ( if I don’t already have an established price in mind).

  • Fixed price shopping. There are some very cheap fixed price stores in Sanur and it is a good place to start so you can get a sense of prices. Jenny’s shop in Sindu Beach market (opposite Sarina’s designer store) is one of these. Flashy, glass fronted shops along the main street are also fixed in price, but may offer discounts for multiple purchasing. It’s always worth asking. Also be aware that some fixed price shops may be simply overpriced shops.
  • Transport. Around Sanur, a short trip in a bemo (green truck with bench seats and usually an open door) will cost 5000 rupiah (50 cents) per person. Using bemos keeps this form of transport functioning for the locals. Take taxis or private cars on day trips – usually a good price can be negotiated for a long distance trip.  A trip one way to Denpasar market is around 50,000 (AU$5.00), the trip to the airport is 125,000 – 150,000 IDR (AU $ 12-15.00) Blue Bird taxis have meters if you prefer. A car and driver may be employed to tour various parts of the island. We usually pay a driver around AU$50.00 – $75.00 a day but prices have increased in 2015.
  • When staying for a month, it is more economical to stock your own beverages. Assuming your room has a fridge, stock up on beer, lemonade or other things you may need for the duration. Cask wine (Balinese Hatten or Plaga brand) can bought at Hardy’s supermarket for around $30.00 for 2 litres. It isn’t the best wine in the world but it grows on you. Bottled wine is expensive by Australian and European standards. Beer Bintang (a big bottle)  is a tasty drop and retails at AU$2.70 in a small store. Spirits (one litre per person ) may be brought into Bali duty-free. Mixers at supermarkets cost around AU60 cents per can.
  •  Smile and talk to the locals. Learn some of the language: even though most Balinese converse well enough in English, they do appreciate you having a go. Most Balinese speak three languages or more- Balinese (their own dialect), Bahasa Indonesian, and English. Learn about local customs and culture. It is amazing what you can glean from the locals as many of them are under employed and enjoy a good chat. This makes the holiday far more interesting.

    A funeral march along Jalan Danau Tamblingan, Sanur
    A funeral march along Jalan Danau Tamblingan, Sanur
  • Some European women dress in skimpy clothing when away from the beach. This only demonstrates cultural insensitivity and ignorance. Sleeveless shirts and dresses are fine in Sanur and other tourist/beach resorts. If visiting a temple, wear a shirt which covers shoulders, cover legs at least to the knees and take a sarong along. Of course, different dress codes apply in other parts of Indonesia.
  • Speaking of sarongs, invest in a few. Male and female patterns abound. These beautifully printed fabrics become sheets, cover ups, leisure wear, scarves and skirts and cost somewhere between AU $3.00 and $7.00  Mr T has always enjoyed wearing a traditional patterned cotton number around the hotel room- and it suits him.
  • Bali is a wonderful place to wind down and relax. Indulge in a pedicure, manicure or massage, another way to support the local women. One little shop I can highly  recommend for massage is Suar, Jalan Tamblingan, near the corner of Jalan Kesuma Sari,Sanur. A one hour back, neck and shoulder massage costs AU $6.00, and a pedicure with nail polish $4.50 (nail art extra). Bliss!!!
  • Daily offerings of kanang sari, Sanur
    Daily offerings of kanang sari, Sanur

Finally, to the question that many ponder. Is Bali over-touristed, and therefore not worthy of visiting? Some comparisons are interesting. Bali’s population is 4.25 million and 3.2 million tourists visit per annum.

Cities such as Paris, with 15.6 million visitors per annum, Venice’s historic centre with 25 million (where residents number 60,000) and London, with 16.8 million yearly visitors,and even greater totals for their respective countries, tourism in Bali is relatively quiet.

The pool calls daily.
The pool calls daily.

Next episode. Top 5 restaurants in Sanur.

Forces of Nature- Gunung Agung

I am always mesmerised by Mount Agung in Bali: I can see why the Balinese revere this mountain. She rarely emerges from the clouds. Nusa Lembongan affords more opportunities to photograph her glory, especially if you walk to the high points in the centre of this small island, which lies off the south east coast of Bali. Many visitors are too busy charging around on motorbikes, seemingly oblivious to this powerful mountain.Mount Agung or Gunung Agung last erupted in 1963-1964 and is still active, with a large and very deep crater which occasionally belches smoke and ash. From a distance, the mountain appears to be perfectly conical, despite the existence of the large crater.

The eruption initially sent debris 10 km into the air and generating massive lava flows, devastated numerous villages, killing approximately 1500 people. Further flows caused by heavy rainfall after the eruption killed an additional 200, followed by a second eruption killing a further 200 inhabitants.

The lava flows missed the Mother Temple of Besakih. The saving of the temple is regarded by the Balinese people as miraculous and a signal from the gods that they wished to demonstrate their power but not destroy the monument the Balinese faithful had erected.

Gunung Agung taken from Nusa Lembongan
Gunung Agung taken from Nusa Lembongan

A response to the Daily Post’s challenge: Forces of Nature <a href=””>Forces of Nature</a>