May 22, 2017

South Australia: Eyre Freshener

by Roderick Eime

As a child on family holidays in the ‘60s and ‘70s, I remember the Eyre Peninsula as a dry, dusty and windswept land covered in saltbush and red sand. More recently, I’ve had the opportunity to completely revise my childhood recollections.

Named for Edward John Eyre who nearly died several times on his crossing to Albany in 1841, he and his Aboriginal companion, Wylie, were the last of a party of five to make it alive. John Charles Darke was not so lucky, he’s buried near the foot of his namesake peak just SW of Kimba after being killed in a native attack in 1844.

From these harsh and foreboding beginnings, the Eyre Peninsula has quietly flourished. Port Lincoln has grown exponentially since the Japanese caught on to the excellent tuna caught and farmed there. Whyalla has always been an iron ore, steel and shipbuilding city and is the third most populous in the state behind Adelaide and Mount Gambier, while Ceduna and Port Augusta form the “bookends” east and west.

For an ultra close-up of the Port Lincoln tuna, jump aboard with Matt Waller of Adventure Bay Charters and you can dive into his net full of baby (20kg) Southern Blue Fin tuna and even hand feed them if you’re game. Matt can also offer relaxing day cruises on Boston Bay to visit the local sea lions.

You’ll be as surprised as I was at the culinary delights of Coffin Bay. Sit back and enjoy a feed of their famous oysters at The Oysterbeds Seafood Restaurant, grown in the ideal waters just across the road. Pour one of the excellent local wines to match. Ask for a Lincoln Estates Sauvignon Blanc or a Boston Bay Shiraz.

If adrenalin experiences are your go, then you’d be hard-pressed to find anything more exciting than a quick dip with the wild Great White Sharks. Calypso Star Charters are in high demand for their shark cruises to Neptune Island, off Port Lincoln. When you’re done with the man-eaters, take a dip with the local sea lions that delight in a game of underwater tag.

MV True North at anchor off Pearson Island

Cruise lovers can take their pick from True North Adventure Cruises’ annual Southern Safari, a luxury food, wine and fun cruise from Adelaide to Ceduna via Kangaroo Island or Classic International Cruises 3- or 4-night “sojourns at sea” aboard the Athena. True North Adventure Cruises visit the remote and uninhabited Investigator Group off the west coast, where you can wander (carefully) among the stunning rock formations and see the rare endemic rock wallaby.

Surprise yourself, rediscover the pleasures treasures of the Eyre Peninsula. I did.

Did You Know?

The coastline of the Peninsula was first mapped by rival explorers Matthew Flinders and Nicolas Baudin in 1801-02.

Coffin Bay was not named for a sea burial but after Flinders’ naval buddy, Sir Isaac Coffin.

Further research: www.southaustralia.com

May 21, 2017

Brilliant Brittany

A Week in Brittany

"Leaning out the window of our accommodations on the rural outskirts of Bordeaux we're assailed by two things: a cat which wants to come in and share our comfort, and the scent of the garden. First to hit me is the strong perfume of lavender; it is everywhere. There was a mist or a bit of rain last night and the dewy drops have settled on the willowy plants and their purple flowers growing in the garden outside and are squeezing the aroma from the leaves. Picking up the acquiescent cat to slowly wander around the acre or so that makes up the gardens of our abode, there's another scent; the "lawn" or grass meadow is scattered with mint and as we walk it assails our nostrils with the most marvellous scent. Stopping to take it all in there's yet more to tease the senses: the herby aroma of bay laurel mingles with the spice of sage growing wild; a huge fig has dropped over-ripe, purple fruits in profusion onto the ground where they've splattered and the rich heady perfume has joined the cacophony of scent. The air itself seems to celebrate the bounty, and as I type the thyme convinces us that it's time to explore a little more. There is so much more to discover in this verdant countryside".

Australian journalist Jackie Gill and photographer friend Debra Mitchell, along with a group of Aussie friends, found much to love during their recent visit to France.

Part of their five week stay included a portion organised by a Frenchwoman, Pascale Gerson, who lives in Australia and has a passion for introducing her home country to visitors through her popular "Visit My French Village" tourism venture.

The Aussie contingent enjoyed a stay in a property on the outskirts of Bordeaux – which prompted the opening paragraph of this story – and then a week in Brittany. The wonderfully rustic accommodations were once the oxen stables of a large 13th century chateaux which still looms on the landscape behind the chestnut trees.

The accommodations are a short wander to the town of La Chapelle-Caro; and a only a few more steps in other directions to other, equally delightful little towns. Most of the pathways wind through woodlands, or along the side of century-old canals. A half hour walk takes the thirsty visitor to another of the tiny enchanting French villages, with a pub which looks over the canal. It's very easy to settle in and enjoy a vin rouge in the afternoon sunlight.

"Every distant vista has a steeple. From every road there is a horizon cut by green forest and field, and brown paddocks ploughed and ready for planting and, everywhere the evidence of people. Houses – small and large and sometimes enormous – dot the countryside and everywhere there are villages; towns that are home to sometimes a handful of houses and sometimes thousands.

Throughout the country identical houses jam the road sides, dressed in shades of cream and light yellow with high sloping v-shaped roofs of slate. It's hard to go five kilometres without passing through another enclave; many appear to be un-named and unknown as towns to anyone but those who reside there. We have learnt how to tell the difference. True villages are defined by the churches around which all are built. And what churches they are. With Roman, Gothic and Medieval roots they soar above the centre of the town with arched windows and high oak doors. Located in the centre of each village, usually near the town square, and almost always, we have noticed, with a cat, their bell towers pierce the sky, and stone or slate, the steeples make their mark on the horizons of the French countryside."

From the accommodation the visitors ranged across Brittany; exploring ancient megaliths and standing stones; oyster beds at the wide, clean beach; staring awe-struck at Mont St Michel in the afternoon light; wandering through a forest called Broceliande where Merlin the Magician is said to have died.

Pascale's promise is that visitors to her "French Village" will get a taste of the real France. That was certainly the case. With its crepes and apple and its cider and corn fields; its window boxes full of geraniums it was a glorious experience. "Visit My French Village" organised the accommodations, pick-ups and drop-offs and all the little extras that ensure a brilliant, hassle free experience for the visitor.



Journalist Jackie Gill writes a blog called The Blue Hats (www.thebluehats.holiday or FB The BlueHats).

Images: as supplied.

Feature supplied by: www.wtfmedia.com.au


1 Walking along the canal at Le Roc-St-Andre

2 Small village of Montertelot

3 Montertelot drinking with the locals

4 Josselin medieval town

5 Café in a small village in Brittany

6 Local market in Malestroit