A sample from Swell 2014

The annual Swell Sculpture Festival is currently underway at Currumbin Beach Queensland. Traffic was bumper to bumper and parks were scarce but after 20 minutes of stalking potential parking spots we were successful and joined the hordes on the esplanade at Currumbin Beach. Bundy always enjoys an evening stroll, he and the hubby spent most of their time people watching and patiently waiting for me to finish taking photographs. Here is a sample of some of my favourites from this years festival.

Enjoy!

Not an apple strudel in sight

The Apple and Grape Harvest Festival in Stanthorpe is a fabulous way to indulge in delicious fresh produce, local wines and other tasty treats. An annual event complete with a street parade, the festival attracts thousands of visitors to the area. Accompanied by good friends and Woolloomooloo the bear I drove the three hours to Stanthorpe to experience the festival and hopefully track down freshly made apple strudel, as a day trip it makes for a long day of driving but there are plenty of opportunities to stop along the way.

We stopped for a caffeine fix and a stroll in the town of Warwick, a regional town west Brisbane and known for its annual Rodeo which is in its 77th year. Some of the buildings are from the early 1900s and provide a pleasant change to the concrete and glass architecture of the Brisbane CBD (Central Business District) and the Gold Coast, I particularly liked the way the light moved across the sandstone church opposite the coffee shop. From Warwick it is only a short trip to the town of Stanthorpe, the landscape changes dramatically from coast to the country and there is livestock aplenty. It has been a dry couple of years, the cows, horses, kangaroos and a few sheep are spotted in dusty paddocks, any splashes of green are vegetable crops or an irrigated field.

Stanthorpe is a small regional town, if you want to experience good, local produce and try some Queensland wines then Stanthorpe is an ideal location. Being the designated driver I opted out of the wine tasting although I did try a little peach cider later in the day at Castle Glen and found it to be quite pleasant. Going to Stanthorpe for me was really about the sweet, crunchy Gala apples, they’re great as a healthy snack and I also enjoy cooking them up and making apple crumble for  dessert. One of my friends was desperately searching for apple strudel, you would think that it would be easy to find during the Apple and Grape Harvest festival in a town with several bakeries and cafes, but no. We settled for grape and berry strudel which was nice and could have been exceptional had they not destroyed the pasty by heating it up in a microwave.

Despite the strudel disappointment we did manage to find a tasty treat in the form of a potato swirly or slinky, a potato sliced to look like a spring, coated in a light batter and deep fried – YUM! The market stalls at the festival sold all sorts of local arts and crafts in addition to local produce, lollies, hats, childrens clothes and anything that could be deep fried or coated in sugar. With only a couple of hours to spare we decided not to find a spot near the wine and food tents and instead chose to explore the countryside and see what we could find, first stop was a local fruit shop where we bought several kilos of apples and other fruit and vegetables, the sweet aroma of the apples on a warm autumn day filled the car. Castle Glen sells wine, liqueurs, beer and ciders that are all made on the premises, the range of colours and bottles are amazing and the owner is only too happy to chat and hand over beverages to taste. They also make a very delicious caramel fudge with a hint of cinnamon that is hard to resist and as my friends try the different varieties of cider I get busy with my iPhone and snap photos of the funky looking bottles.

Not far from Castle Glen is Granite Belt Dairy, home of the Jersey Girls Cafe and producers of good cheese such as Thulimbah, Pepato and Brass Monkey Blue (for those who like blue cheese – I’m not one of them). The cafe has a wonderful menu, we are there for the trio of ice cream and I have the hugest vanilla malt milkshake, all made from rich and creamy Jersey cow milk. Being there is like being back on the farms of my childhood, the cows can only be seen in the distance and a Maremma sheepdog (I think) wanders around and halfheartedly barks at arriving visitors, we could have stayed there for the rest of the afternoon recovering from a milk coma but it was soon time to hit the road.

The drive home was uneventful, but enjoyable. We watched as the sun set over the mountains, stopping to take a few photos and feel the rush of air as a truck zoomed by on the highway. One of my friends took on the role of driver and I was able to sit back and watch the light change as well as keep an eye open for kangaroos or wallabies, they have a tendency to leap out in front of traffic causing major damage to vehicles and fatally wounding themselves. The night sky in the country is the best place for looking at stars, the absence of street lights enables you to see them in all their glory, a beautiful ending to a thoroughly enjoyable day.

The last of Swell 2013 (part 3)

The last of my images from the Swell Sculpture Festival 🙂

More culture at Swell 2013 (part 2)

Walking along such a popular and pretty part of the coast at sunset is a pleasant experience any time of year, during Swell it is made more interesting by the addition of sculptures scattered across the sand and along the esplanade. There are children, dogs and happy snappers everywhere, and even though the signs all say ‘Please don’t climb on the sculptures’, many of them are begging for interaction and it is possible to walk around and through some of the installations. Looking back, I have to wonder whether a theme for the festival could be one of interaction, encouraging children and adults to participate in the piece, firing up their imagination and expressing their creativity.

This gallery is the second of three galleries that I’ll be posting and featuring work from the Swell Sculpture Festival, I hope you enjoy the photographs as much as I enjoyed the exhibition.

A bit of culture at the Swell 2013 Sculpture Festival (part 1)

The Swell Sculpture Festival at Currumbin is an annual event, this year it was held September 13-22 and featured 50 artworks that ranged from inspiring to quirky, in an array of sizes from small enough to sit on a lamp table to artwork so large that children would need more than a couple of sheets to turn them into cubby houses. The festival has become a bit of a pilgrimage for me, introduced to the event by an artistic friend about 8 years ago, I have been back almost every year with camera in hand and I even managed to introduce a few of my friends to the event.

Last year, the hubby and I took our smallest black dog to Currumbin and watched the sunrise over the festival, it was an awesome experience and I managed to get some pretty good photos in the soft morning light. This year we decided to venture down in the afternoon and see the exhibition as the sun set, the place was packed with others like us, cameras and iPhones in hand, generating thousands of images in one evening so I can only imagine how many photos of the sculptures are now on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. As usual, I took a few hundred photos and sorting through them has been a bit of a process because some of the sculptures really captured my attention resulting in photographs from several different viewpoints, as well as photographing them in the changing light.

I hope you enjoy part 1 of my series of photographs from the Swell 2013 Sculpture Festival, stay tuned for more throughout the week.

My top 10 Australian experiences

Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge

Today on news.com.au I read an article listing Australia’s top 10 landmarks named by TripAdvisor based on the millions of reviews posted by travellers over the past year. There were a couple of places that surprised me and a couple that I have never visited so I’m not in a position to judge whether they’re worthy of being in a top 10 list. The article attracted some scathing commentary from readers with some labelling Sydney as boring, claiming that the Opera House looks better from a distance, and that Australia is too ‘young’ as a country to offer any thing interesting to see. The most negative comment stated that there was really nothing to see in Australia apart from a couple of the landmarks listed, our beaches and the barrier reef so it wasn’t worth spending 3 weeks in Australia especially with inland travel being so expensive, customer service so poor and our restaurant scene lacking.

In response to this article I’ve come up with two top 10 lists, one is my top 10 based on the Australia I’ve experienced and the other is the Australia I wish to experience.

My top 10 Australian experiences

Melbourne

I don’t have any particular suburb or landmark in mind, the long weekend I spent in this Victorian city was purely about food and shopping and I loved every minute. Melbourne is a very cosmopolitan city, I love the variety of restaurants and cafes, we explored China town and had Yum Cha for lunch, our hotel was not far from Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar and one evening was spent dining on Moussaka. Street art lines alleyways and boutiques filled with retro clothing, designer handbags, handmade chocolates and beautiful paper products called to us and the only thing stopping me spending a small fortune was the fact that I didn’t have a small fortune to spend.

National War Memorial, Canberra

It has been many years since I last visited the National War Memorial however it is a place I have been to several times and would go again if given the chance. The National War Memorial is both inspiring and sombre, you walk away feeling proud of the Australians who fought for us yet sad, so many lives lost on all sides.

The Australian National War Memorial, Canberra
The Australian National War Memorial, Canberra. Source:http://loyalty33.smugmug.com/Travel/Canberra-ACT-December-2008/i-CDJNLnK/1/L/The%20war%20memorial-IMG_3083-L.jpg

O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

Hiding in the Lamington National Park is O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, accommodation and spa for those who want to spend some time connecting with nature. You can go for the day, take a picnic lunch and feed the birds, there are several tracks through the bush and if you’re lucky you will see more than bush turkeys and goannas. If you stay overnight there is the option of getting up at sunrise, wishing the wallabies a good morning and taking a free guided walk through the rainforest to see and hear about the native birds, they are quite active at that time of day. See a sunset from the bluff is also a spectacular moment, especially when combined with a glass or two of bubbles.

 

Circular Quay, Sydney

When ever I’m in Sydney a walk around Circular Quay is always in order, going between the Rocks and the Botanic Gardens. Exploring the Rocks is always a joy for me especially if the markets are on, I have memories of choc coated coffee beans and fudge, not to mention a glass of wine or two at pubs such as the Orient Hotel or The Mercantile. Circular Quay is home to the Museum of Contemporary Art as well as multiple buskers, you can sit at the edge of the park and the passers by or admire the numerous ferries and boats that move in and out of the wharf. The Opera House is a spectacular piece of architecture, as a child I performed there with hundreds of other school children, playing a number of pieces on the recorder and listening to talented singers and school bands. Seeing the Opera House of a night time is a must, walk around the building to see the city from a different perspective and if you get the chance, buy a ticket to a play or musical performance because it is an amazing experience. Nearby is the Botanic Gardens, providing a peaceful and beautiful respite from the hustle and bustle of the city, here you can have a nap or spend the time admiring the specimens on display in the gardens.

Swell Sculpture Festival

I’ve written about the Swell Sculpture Festival before, held at Currumbin Beach in September it is worth putting on your ‘must see’ list if ever you are in Queensland at that time of year.

 

Cruise Sydney Harbour on a Tall Ship

This is something I did almost twenty years ago and I have discovered that the experience is still available albeit it on different ships. My boyfriend and I did a twilight cruise of Sydney Harbour on a tall ship and it was magical, we watched the sun set from the deck of a replica of The Endeavour, it was very relaxing and romantic.

The Hunter Valley

The Hunter Valley in New South Wales is a well known region for wine, only a couple of hours from Sydney it is easy to do in a day trip (don’t forget a designated driver) or you can stay in one of the many B&Bs in the region. Tyrells, McGuigans and the Piggs Peake Winery are just some of the wineries you can visit, Piggs Peake Winery is a small, boutique vineyard whereas the other two produce large quantities of wine for the mass market.

The Great Barrier Reef

Definitely a must see for anyone who loves marine life, scuba diving, snorkelling and island hopping. You can take a day trip out on to the reef or charter a boat and cruise between islands: Hamilton, Lindeman, Brampton and Lizard just to name a few. The seafood is fresh and at the right time of year the days are calm and perfect for soaking up sun, sitting on the deck of a boat drinking a refreshing cocktail or having a picnic on Whitehaven beach. Although I didn’t go snorkelling I did enjoy swimming over coral, seeing turtles in their natural environment and watching dolphins swim and play around the bow of the boat.

Great Barrier Reef. Source: http://grantstudios.smugmug.com/Nature/Nature/i-rsz3DJr/0/L/photo-1-L.jpg

Vivid Festival, Sydney

The Vivid Festival in Sydney is held in June, it is a festival of light, art and music and an amazing way to see Sydney at its best. I’ve always loved the city at night especially around the harbour, the lights reflect on the water and the city really does sparkle. At the night markets in the Rocks you can choose from a variety of international cuisines and beverages, stalls selling pastries, paella, Thai food, German sausages and gelati will make your mouth water and you can wash it down with a beer or wine from the numerous pubs and bars. Photographers, amateur and professional line the quay with their tripods and snap photos of the light show happening at the Opera House, Museum of Contemporary Art and surrounds. For a city that is too often in a hurry and the people too often cool and indifferent, the festival is a a fantastic opportunity to slow down and revel in all that is happening.

Rural Australia

This one is not about any place in particular, I grew up in rural Australia and I still find joy in returning to my hometown, a small town in New South Wales where the nights are so dark that you can see all the stars. Staying in the cities is great if all you want to do is shop, go to galleries and museums or dine in a la carte restaurants before heading to the theatre, but there is more to Australia than cities and the Barrier Reef. The experience of riding a horse through the bush, watching the sunrise from a mountain top or floating down a river on the inner tube of a truck tyre is something different for most visitors and from a country girl, I think its an experience not to be missed. As kids we camped by the river, toasted marshmallows under the stars and went bushwalking during the day, as an adult I love sitting on my parents deck and watching the sunset, in the morning I take the dog for a walk down to the river stopping to say hello to the cows and horses standing in their paddocks.

Sunset in the country

My top 10 Australian Experience wishlist

  1. Drive the Great Ocean Road and see the twelve apostles.
  2. Visit Western Australia when the desert flowers are blooming.
  3. Visit the Barossa Valley and its vineyards.
  4. Drive around Tasmania, include time on King Island, staying in B&Bs and taste testing all the gourmet produce.
  5. Explore Kakadu National Park during the wet season.
  6. Spend a week in dog friendly accommodation by the beach on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland.
  7. Visit the Margaret River region in Western Australia, see Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse and dine on the fresh produce accompanied by regional wines.
  8. Stay in the Blue Mountains, visit Norman Lindsay’s former home and ride the steep, scenic railway.
  9. Cruise the Murray River on a paddlewheeler.
  10. Travel between Adelaide and Darwin on the Ghan.

You might be thinking that I haven’t really seen much of Australia and you would be correct, I’ve seen more of Europe than I have Australia. It will probably take me ten years to do everything on my wish list, possibly longer. It is easy to forget how large Australia is and how much time is needed to move between destinations, for example, a flight from Brisbane to Perth takes about five and a half hours and to drive from Sydney to Melbourne takes about 14 hours. Air travel has gotten cheaper however it is probably still more expensive traveling in Australia than it is in the US or Europe, then again our population is much smaller than many other places so providing better, faster, cheaper infrastructure isn’t always possible. 

If you could visit Australia, what would be the three ‘must see or must do’ activities on your list?

Cheers and have a great weekend!

Art on the beach

Swell Flag Sculpture on the beach

The Swell Sculpture Festival is held each year in September, this year is the 9th year of the event and I always try to spend a couple of hours meandering through the art, dodging other onlookers and feeling the sand between my toes. The art is free to see, the backdrop is the blue sky and white sand of Currumbin beach on the southern end of the Gold Coast in Queensland. You can buy programmes, vote for your favourite sculpture or just sit in a cafe across the road and enjoy the view.

Shark sculpture on the sand at Swell Sculpture Festival

For the last two years we have used the event as a day out with the dogs, last year we went in the afternoon which meant it was cooler for two black dogs and the changing light as the sun set enhanced the sculptures. This year it was mid-morning, no dogs because it was much too hot and on a beautiful Sunday we knew that there would be too many people about and navigating with dogs the size of ours can be difficult in a crowd. Parking was not free, for $5 we parked in the car park of a the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, the money going to a good cause and we were guaranteed a place to park.

The range of sculptures is always fascinating and after a few years attending the event you can identify the particular style or medium used by an artist: metal, resin, timber, stone, plaster or clay. The sculptures are usually lined up along the esplanade with only a couple located on the beach however this year there were many more on the beach and I particular liked the green polar bear and reflective sculpture, they do have proper titles but I was stingy and didn’t buy a programme. The heat coming off the sand and the glare of the sun on some sculptures proved too bright in some instances, we stood in the cool water watching as the waves rolled in, the water splashing our legs cooling us instantly and the ocean breeze certainly helped as well.

Green Polar Bear at Swell Sculpture Festival

Green Polar Bear sculpture on the beach

In the end the heat was too much for us and it was getting close to lunch time, the soft serve ice-cream we bought from a lovely lady in an ice cream van was delicious but we craved real food and some air conditioned comfort. Next year I think we’ll venture down in the afternoon, being the 10th anniversary of the event I imagine that there will be some spectacular displays and celebrations.

Reflective sculpture at Swell Sculpture Festival

Totem pole sculptures featuring fish and penguins