Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Italy - Orvieto's glorious cathedral

I was remembering coming up a narrow street in  the small, mediaeval hilltop town of Orvieto in Umbria: I lifted my eyes and saw the most confoundingly beautiful structure - a striped cathedal, with intricate, delicate relief carvings on the capitals with sumptuous cornerstones. It may not be the biggest and the best in the world - but this striped beauty captured my head and my heart.




The 14th century cathedral was built between 1290 and 1500 and she sines as brightly as ever. Built under papacy direction, the building is famous fr its mosaic inlay facade.
She's such a beauty and a the time of the year I envy those who go to the services during Christmas.



Lovely Orvieto,  Umbria - research the town for more information on Mr Google.
Insight Vacations

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Get Up & Go: Nugget knew how to bowl a maiden over

Get Up & Go: Nugget knew how to bowl a maiden over

Nugget knew how to bowl a maiden over

It's that time of the year in Australia - it's not all about Christmas - it's all about cricket. I have no idea about cricket except Donald Bradman is a legend - am I a bit out of touch?
Our contributor David Ellis has a little cricket something for the season . . . .

WATCHING fast bowler Mitchell Johnson rout England in the First Test in Brisbane last month took us back a lot of years to another extraordinary player with not just the ball, but the bat as well, and that was the flamboyant, larger-than-life Keith ‘Nugget’ Miller.
Arguably Australia’s greatest-ever all-rounder, Miller was a hero to those of us in the decade between the end of World War II and when he retired in 1956 – amassing 2,958 runs and taking 170 wickets at an average 23, in 55 Tests.


 
 

Keith Miller plays a classic square cut.

Standing 1.88m (6ft 2ins) he was an explosive batsman, thrilling fast bowler and an outstandingly athletic slips fielder, and with swashbuckling good looks and a totally irreverent manner, found himself the idol of many a young lady’s eye – and not averse to the attention paid to him from those as diverse as State beauty title-holders to royalty (Britain’s Princess Margaret was an unabashed admirer,) despite being married with four sons.
Broad-shouldered, with wavy dark hair, a flashing smile and at-times maverick behaviour both on and off the field, Miller was said by a British sports writer to have “lit up the dull post-war days” of England when the Australians, led by Don Bradman, visited in 1948 – the team being dubbed The Invincibles after winning 4 of the Ashes Tests and drawing the 5th.

 

THE 1948 Australian Invincibles' Ashes side, Keith Miller is second on right.   
(Australian Cricket Board)
 
 
And it was not just during that season’s Tests that Miller made headlines. In a game against an Essex side when he went in to bat with the Australians 2/364, and with Bradman after as big a sum as possible, instead of a swashbuckling performance to further demoralise the home side, Miller pulled his bat away from the first ball and was bowled for a duck.
Bradman was furious, the more so when Miller turned to the wicket-keeper and said: “Thanks God that’s over,” and strolled off the field. The Australians went on to amass 721 runs.
This somewhat devil-may-care attitude extended to almost every aspect of his life. He enjoyed a punt, mixed with the rich and famous as easily as he did with mates at his local pub, and enjoyed a good party.
On one tour he surprised captain Bradman by banging on his hotel door fully dressed at midnight and announcing: “You said we had to be in bed by curfew. I was – and now I’m going out.” He came back in time for breakfast, and with an almighty hang-over Bradman despatched him for that day’s play to the farthest point in the field. It meant Miller had to walk or jog across the field constantly after every over – until a friendly local offered him his pushbike. When Miller took up the offer, Bradman again was not amused, and ordered him off it.

 
 
 
London’s Lord’s Cricket Ground – the ‘Home of Cricket’ – which Miller initially thought was “a crummy little ground.” (England & Wales Cricket Board)

On another occasion back in Australia, Miller as captain of a NSW side turned up to play still dressed in a tuxedo from the night before, changed hurriedly and when he went to bowl his first over had it pointed out by the umpire that he was still wearing his night before’s dancing pumps.
Conversely, Keith Miller loved classical music, especially Beethoven, and having been seconded in WWII to Britain’s RAF for his prowess as a pilot, on one raid over Germany broke off from his squadron and flew up the Rhine River to Bonn. After circling the city a couple of times he caught up with his compatriots flying home to Britain, explaining when he landed: “Bonn was where Beethoven was born. I was curious to have a look at it.”
And in a radio interview with England’s Michael Parkinson, Miller was asked about “pressure on the field.”
He answered: “Pressure? Pressure is flying a Mosquito at 20,000 feet with a Messerschmitt up you’re a--e!”

 
 
What it’s all about: the little urn containing The Ashes.

Keith Miller’s name is inscribed on two Honour Boards in the Visitors’ Dressing Room at Lord’s, the “home of cricket” in London – one is for a Test century he scored there in 1953, and the other for taking 10 Test wickets three years later.
And he’s one of only four Australians whose portraits hang in the revered Long Room at Lord’s, the others being Don Bradman, Victor Trumper and Shane Warne.
Nice tributes to a cricketer whose first impression of Lord’s was “it’s a crummy little ground”.

 

                                                

 

 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tasmania's Saffire - a natural connection


 
It starts just after I land in Hobart. I am whisked into the airport’s private Saffire Lounge. Quick refresh, an espresso and pick up my snack pack and drink, then fold into a private car to take me the magical Freycinet Peninsula.
Just two and a half hours’ away and along Tasmania’s scenic east coast from Hobart (it’s two hours’ drive from Launceston) and you turn off the road, and cruise towards heaven on earth. (Purely subjective – but hey, I was there.)
Tasmania has to be one of the most beautiful natural islands on the planet, and Freycinet, one of the most stunning locations. Set back from the shores of Great Oyster Bay is the silhouette of a curving roof, like a stingray in motion. Coming under the ‘stingray’s’ eaves from the road side, Saffire Freycinet in all its glory – is an architecturally splendid building that sweeps through the bush, and as you walk into the foyer – the bay and a mountain range, The Hazards are framed by the building’s roofline. The rooms, suites below, ripple like waves to the shore.
 
 
This is an Australian luxury lodge, no doubt about it. The lodge, the mountains, the bush, the water – all connected in a seamless and natural co-habitation.


View from my room - the Hazards far off in the distance.


Walked to my amazing room, it was the ahhh moment that sealed the Saffire deal with me. The floor to ceiling glass wall was a picture of Great Oyster Bay, the Hazards and scudding clouds in the bright blue sky in a picture frame. This is where I could sit for a week and not move! But with only two days, best mosey along.  

One of the activities offered by Saffire is a visit to the Freycinet Marine Oyster Farm, and off we went.  I was expecting (being a Saffire complimentary activity), a spick’n’span operation, white overalls and all! No. This is a working farm, an authentic experience that the region offers – real people, doing real jobs. A double shed with oysters in shells at various stages of maturation and the workers there handed us wetsuit waders, and a farewell: ‘have a good time, gotta pick the kids up’, and ‘just cleaning these up and need to get some of these scallops home for tea’.



We gingerly waded out to discover the marine ecology, the oysters on the nets/baskets, the wetlands and – stopped at a table, standing waist-deep in the estuary. Here we shucked oysters, slipped a few prized Freycinet Pacific oysters down our throats followed by a glass of bubbly. Doesn’t get much better than that!
Now, I love nature, being out amongst the elements (even did a bush walk the following day to Wineglass Bay – spectacular it was too; a beach walk and identified a couple of bird species) – but.
 
 

At such a wonderful place I want to play in my room, hang out in the lounge, eat in the restaurant and visit the spa. I wanted to be in total indoor harmony with the great indoors.

Apprentice chef Corey served the amazing degustation menu. The food here at the curved Palate Restaurant is not only fresh and fabulous, but created and tailored by super executive chef Hugh Whitehouse, a down-to-earth giant, who not only gives of his best but is committed to enhancing the whole wining and dining experience.

I delicately ate my way through the superb meal and when there was not one ounce of room left – Corey made me eat dessert – well, what could I do? Silky, vanilla bean house made ice cream – mmm.

The restaurant manager and maĆ®tre de goes fishing most days and when he catches the local ‘boarfish’ is plentiful, he brings it back for the guests’ supper. How very fresh of him!

And the Spa – yes, it was time for the full facial and neck massage. Bliss, to the nth degree, with trained hands, and elegant, Tassie products – I felt like a million bucks.

Life goes on, but I wanted mine to stop for a while so I could linger at Saffire Freycinet. But planes wait for no woman. Hard to leave my elegant room with its devouring doona, hard to say goodbye to the staff and hard to tear my eyes away from The Hazards as they were shape-shifting in the afternoon light. Gleaming, beautiful Saffire, a most desirable destination indeed, where each and every moment here counts.
 
 

Bev Malzard was a guest of Saffire Freycinet. Visit: www.saffire-freycinet.com.au; www.saffiretasmania.com.auwww.saffire-freycinet.com.au;