Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Going Potty in England

A few years ago I was on a writers' familiarisation in England - the theme of the trip was Britain Home of Sport - and, it was a good year for Aussies, we had won the rugby and we visited the town of Rugby and two of my fellow (real fellows) ran around the original rugby field like kids. Next up was Trentbridge and we had just won the Ashes, so good times standing on the pitch there too. Then to the Manchester United Stadium, no joy for us here and I spent the morning talking to the man who devised the perfect 'grass' for the stadium grounds . . . All interesting, but I knew we were driving through Stoke-on-Trent and I had just finished reading an Arnold Bennett book . . Bennett (below)was a great realist writer of the 19th century. He lived in Hanley and wrote about day-to-day events in the
five towns. 

Stoke-on-Trent (often abbreviated to Stoke), also called The Potteries, is a city in Staffordshire, England.
The Potteries was formed by a federation of six separate towns and numerous villages in the early-20th century. The settlement from which the federated town (it was not a city until 1925) took its name was Stoke-upon-Trent, where the administration and chief railway station were located. After the union, Hanley emerged as the primary commercial centre in the city, despite the efforts of its rival, Burslem. The three other component towns are Tunstall, Longton and Fenton.
Stoke-on-Trent is considered to be the home of the pottery industry in England and is commonly known as The Potteries. Formerly a primarily industrial conurbation, it is now a centre for service industries and distribution centres.

That's the nuts and bolts of The Potteries. I was there for an hour and had become obsessed with the place. The home of the commercial ceramic industry of England and through its industry, a history of the development of table settings from gold china for royalty all over the world in the 'Empire'; items such as the everyday cups and saucers on table!  With the industry came a large number of notable ceramic artists including Clarice Cliff, Susie Cooper, Charlotte Rhead, Frederick Hurten Rhead and Jabez Vodrey.

Since the 17th century, the area has been almost exclusively known for its industrial-scale pottery manufacturing. Companies such as Royal Doulton, Dudson Ltd, Spode (founded by Josiah Spode), Wedgwood (founded by Josiah Wedgwood) and Minton (founded by Thomas Minton) were established and based there. The local abundance of coal and clay suitable for earthenware production led to the early (initially limited) development of the local pottery industry. The construction of the Trent and Mersey Canal enabled the import of china clay from Cornwall together with other materials and facilitated the production of creamware and bone china.

Stoke-on-Trent is situated about half-way between Manchester and Birmingham (two cities that have had a face lift in the past decade and do display a beautiful array of industrial architecture) and adjoins the town and borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme.To the east is the magnificent Peak District which includes part of the Staffordshire Moorlands District, as well as parts of Derbyshire, Greater Manchester and West and South Yorkshire.
I have borrowed some material (above) from Wikipedia.)
So if you're driving around England and want a bit more history - head for Stoke, you'll be stoked.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Get Up & Go: Snapshots of Greece

Get Up & Go: Snapshots of Greece

Snapshots of Greece

I'm writing about one of my favourite towns/cities in Greece, Nafplio. Getting a few words together for the spring issue of Get Up & Go, and I'm feeling especially nostalgic for my spiritual home. I went to Greece for three months once and stayed three years. I was young, fancy free and crazy for Greece. I travelled around the islands, all through the Peloponnese and fell ill for a few days and ended up in Nafplio to recover. It was winter and the old town was looking a but frayed at the edges; the neo-classical buildings had long lost their lustre and the locals were very grumpy because they were tired after the summer season of tourists and were not liking the cold.
Nafplio is about two hours' drive across Corinth to the Argolic Gulf.

 Palamidi Fortress
Restored neo-classical house.

I was in a hotel room for three days and got cabin fever. Went out and decided to catch the first bus - to go anywhere for the day. Twelve km along the road and the bus turned the corner and I gasped at the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. It was a magnificent bay with a tiny island in the middle with a small monastery (Coronis) and a big island of two pointed peaks (locally known as Aphrodite's titties - true, the pronunciation in Greek is Aphroditty).

 They flock to the old town
Back streets


I made up my mind to come back here - the village is called Tolo, and I did. Stayed for a week, got to know a few locals to line up work for the summer - left for England and returned four months later.
Then my real romance with Tolo and Nafplio began.
I won't relate my adventures over a three year period in Tolo - it would take up several blogs and much of it is almost x-rated - I was a hippie!- but I will say that my break from Tolo was down the road at Naffers. A couple of friends and I would go to a tiny hole in the wall café for mezze and much vino. We sometimes hitched a ride on the local tour boat going elsewhere and it would drop us off at night to cruise the tavernas.
I went back to Nafplio a couple of years ago and spent a few days there on my own before meeting up with my sister to go cruising from Greece to Turkey.
 Bourtzi in the distance

The days were perfect, I walked the old town streets and saw how beautiful the buildings had been spruced up - I'm kinda getting an idea where Greece went wrong with the budget!
I ate there, found a cheapo cute hotel and sat at the waterfront and reminisced on how my previous time was spent there.
All in all, pretty happy all things considered.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

North Queensland - perfect locations

Colonial ambience
Last weekend I went to north Queensland; I flew into Cairns from Sydney, and walking across the airport tarmac was swathed in the beautiful balmy, winter breeze of the tropics. I was with a few friends and we had work to do for one day only - and let me tell you, being locked up in a dim room and Palm Cove and the sea outside calling, made for a discontented me.
We stayed at Reef House, an institution at the 'Cove'. The Reef House was officially opened by the erstwhile Joh Bjelke-Petersen in 1985, and even though she's a classic tropical beauty, she's looking a little bit last century. Accor have taken over The Reef House now so expect some elegant makeover tactics.
The rooms are big and airy and with a large balcony overlooking one of the pools - is great for a relaxing afternoon snooze.
We had our meeting there and we were plied with morning tea of pastries, fruit and juice. Dinner that night in the lovely open-air restaurant with view to the sea was a splendid degustation of five dishes - mmmm, brilliant.
The establishment is now called Reef House Boutique Resort and Spa.

Pick a pack'o'Peppers
The first night in Palm Cove the group was treated to dinner at Peppers Beach Club & Spa, a lovely property set in the heart of Palm Cove village, not far from The Reef House. Stately melaleuca trees shade the resort's porte cochere, and they are a highlight of a walk along the promenade at Palm Cove - one of the magnificent trees is more than 600 years old.
Chef  cooked up a storm at Peppers and we experienced his innovative take on some of the Local bush tucker herbs ad spices - particularly good tucker too.
All in all a beautiful time had by s all in Palm Cove - so envious of the holidaymakers there!

Thala Beach Lodge
I hadn't visited the wonderful Thala Beach Lodge for 5 years, just after it opened. The entire place is like a giant adults tree house with cubbies in stilts in the rain forest. The concept is something very different from anywhere else and over the past 15 years it has mellowed and the trees around the main 'house' have grown. It is built atop a private peninsula jutting into the coral sea, surrounded by World Heritage coastline and the Great Barrier reef Marine Park on the seaward side. My vast room overlooked the Coral Sea and was built (sustainably) on stilts so I felt like I was in the trees - come to think of it, I was.

Other than eating, lazing around the pool and wandering to the beach for a swim or snooze there are lots of interesting activities:

Coconut Odyssey Tour

On Australia’s only coconut tour, not only do you get to drink & eat from the very young green coconut to the little known ‘Coconut Apple’ – you will also learn the truth about the health benefits of coconuts. The ‘Tree Of Life’ has astonishing advantages from helping to reducing body fat and lowering cholesterol, to building the immune system. A tour that helps you lose weight without exercising?! (free for houseguests, day of operation varies week-to-week)

Star Gazing

The Thala night sky is free from light pollution and filled with millions of stars. Surrounded by sounds of the rainforest & ocean – enjoy an introduction to the beautiful Southern Constellations from an experienced & passionate guide. View many fascinating stars & planets using telescopes and binoculars at the unique outdoor observatory. (free for houseguests, nights of operation varies week-to-week)

Turtle spotting from Sea Kayaks along Thala’s secluded coast

To glide low on the water in a kayak is a magical experience. Keeping watch for marine life unperturbed by your silent passage. As you gaze at the lushness of rainforest clad mountains, life becomes timeless and takes on a whole new perspective. Our expert guide will take you in kayaks to his secret places to look for marine turtles, stingrays, dolphins and dugongs. (advance bookings required, charges apply)
Maintain the balance of your body, mind and spirit by taking a sunrise Yoga class: Always under the supervision of our qualified instructor. (advance bookings required, charges apply)
Picnic Baskets
Picnic on our fabulous beach, on your balcony, or in a romantic cove. Take time out from adventure for a romantic picnic in a secluded spot just for two. Tune your moment to the lap of luminescent waves or the call of cicadas at sunset.