Newcastle – A New Perspective

Over the weekend I took part in my first Meetups activity and partook of a street photography walking tour of Newcastle City. We only covered about 2 blocks in about 1 – 1.5 hours and I must admit it, it was something of an eye-opener. I took time to really take notice what was around me; to look up as well as what was in front of me and to really see (I got so immersed in my photographing that I was nearly run over).

We started our outing in Market Street, by the new Post Office and walked east up the mall to Bolton Street and then back along Scott Street to complete the loop.

Newcastle has some amazing architecture (I’ve always known that),

The once glorious old sandstone post office building:

oldpostoffice the art deco buildings:

cityarcade artdecobuildingdetail

gloriouscolumns but there is also some great graffiti art:

morganst_graffiti honeycafewall

There is so much development going on in Newcastle at the moment – it’s a great opportunity to get out, explore the city and to document some of those changes, and to see things you perhaps have never noticed before.

Like the sandstone figures adorning the old Longworth Institute building in Scott Street:

I feel like this some days!

I feel like this some days!

I actually really enjoyed my afternoon out – I meet a couple of new people who share an interest in photography and I saw my city from a different perspective.

Here are a few of my favourite images that I thought I would share with you.

Who doesn't love an orange door!

Who doesn’t love an orange door!

 

 

A Stairway to Heaven?

A Stairway to Heaven?

 

Reflected buildings!

Reflected buildings!

 

I really do love the city in which I live, and I feel privileged to live right amongst it where it’s not too far to walk to anywhere really.

It’s been quite a while since I have posted anything on my blog (there have been a few reasons for that, which I may include in future blogs, but for now, it’s good to be back writing again). I hope you enjoy it and come visit again!

An impromptu visit to the Hunter Wetlands

Today I was feeling a bit restless; I needed to do something…., but what? Go for a walk? But where? I had pretty much decided I would head into town and walk along the Foreshore – always my “go to” for something to do. But, literally as we were walking out the door, I had an idea – what about a visit to the Wetlands? It was somewhere that had been on our list of things to do in Newcastle for some time. So today was the day we went – a walk and perhaps some photo ops as well, sounded like a good idea!

HWCThe Hunter Wetlands Centre is located on Sandgate Road, Shortland, and about a 10-minute drive from where I am currently living. The Wetlands Centre is a conservation sanctuary and covers an area of 45 hectares and reportedly is home to over 200 wildlife species. I found it to be quite peaceful. The walk was easy, although, I found there wasn’t too much wildlife around today, but I did manage to capture a few snapshots worthy of sharing.

Taking flight:

HWC_bird

Native Flora (Banksia) as well as fauna:

HWC_Banksia

The brilliant shade of green was created by the blue/green algae present:

HWC_01

HNWR_VCsign_01I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge on Lake Texoma (where we lived in Texas). Although they are 2 different wildlife sanctuaries, they are quite similar.

The Wetlands Centre was once part of an extensive wetland system between Shortland and Waratah West, which was part of the Hexham Swamp complex.  The wetland system was progressively filled as part of sanitary landfill operations, construction of a railway, development of football fields, and other works, until only remnant patches of wetlands remained. In late 1985, after much lobbying by locals and the Hunter Wetlands Group, land and buildings were acquired by the Shortland Wetlands Centre Ltd. Many years of hard work, conservation, regeneration and redevelopment have resulted in the centre earning a reputation as a centre of excellence, particularly in wetland education.

The Wetlands is family friendly and a small $5 entry fee will get you into the sanctuary, and once there (if you choose), there is plenty to do. Of course there are self-guided walking trails – we did the “Discovery walk”, which was only about an hour, and easy going. There are also guided walking tours, cycling trails (you can hire bikes on site if you don’t bring your own), canoeing in the waterways, Segway Tours and a children’s playground. Of course, you can just sit, relax and watch the birdlife. It’s also a great place for a family event or picnic – there are plenty of shelters and BBQ areas with picnic tables. The Hunter Wetlands Centre is a self-funded community owned, not for profit organisation and is also an accredited Visitor Information Centre.

Do yourself a favour and take in a visit if you are in the area, or even if you are a local and haven’t been yet!

ANZAC Day 2016 – Lest we forget!

This coming Monday is ANZAC day. In Australia and New Zealand, ANZAC day is observed every year on April 25th. It is a solemn national day of remembrance and commemoration.

ANZAC stands for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps and ANZAC day commemorates the anniversary of the landing of the ANZAC forces on the Gallipoli peninsula in 1915 during WWI, in order to capture the Dardanelles. It was the first major military conflict that the ANZACs fought in. This year marks the 101st anniversary of that terrible event.

ANZAC day starts with a dawn service to remember those thousands of brave souls who lost their life during the battles of World War I. There are Dawn Service ceremonies held at hundreds of locations across Australia. There are more than 40 held in the Newcastle and Hunter region alone. The largest in Newcastle is held at Camp Shortland at Nobby’s beach. I actually attended last year, and being the 100th anniversary, there were record crowds, but it was still quite an experience.

ANZAC Day Dawn Service - Newcastle, 2015

ANZAC Day Dawn Service – Newcastle, 2015

ANZAC Day was first celebrated in 1916 however, the first organised dawn service is generally regarded as being held in 1928 where two minutes silence was observed and wreaths were laid at the Cenotaph in Sydney. The tradition continues and now includes the honouring all Australian service men and women who have been killed in any military operation which Australia has been involved in, with commemorative services taking place at dawn (the time of the original Gallipoli landing). Services also include the laying of wreaths, reading of letters, a bugler playing of the Last Post and a period of silence.

Following the services there is a march for service men and women (in Newcastle this occurs down Hunter Street). However, Sydney hold one of the biggest services in the country which is televised, along with the service conducted at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. The day generally also includes a few beers and the playing of two-up. You’ll also see plenty of people wearing a red poppy (the Flanders Poppy is normally worn as part of the ritual of Remembrance Day (marking the Armistice of 11 November 1918), but is now becoming increasingly used as part of the ANZAC observance). It is most usual to wear a sprig of rosemary, however.

Thousands of Aussies and Kiwi’s (individuals from New Zealand) also make the trek to the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey to attend the Dawn Service at Lone Pine. I have been lucky enough to visit Gallipoli and see ANZAC cove where the troops landed and Lone Pine where many diggers are now buried.

Lone Pine - Gallipoli

Lone Pine – Gallipoli

My visit to Gallipoli was in 2006. We were there as part of a tour through Turkey, and we arrived early in the morning – the best time to get there as there was no-one else around. What an incredibly moving experience. I cannot describe how it felt to be there – it was just incredible; very solemn, awe inspiring, overwhelming, and heart-breaking. And if ever you decide to visit Gallipoli, I would recommend not going around ANZAC day; visit without the hordes of other people, take your time and really appreciate the whole experience.

ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli peninsula

ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli peninsula

Some of the trenches around Gallipoli

Some of the trenches around Gallipoli

Please take the time to observe ANZAC Day and remember those who sacrificed their lives!

“THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD, AS WE THAT ARE LEFT GROW OLD,

AGE SHALL NOT WEARY THEM NOR THE YEARS CONDEMN,

AT THE GOING DOWN OF THE SUN, AND IN THE MORNING,

WE SHALL REMEMBER THEM”!

More information about ANZAC Day can be found at the Australian War Memorial web site.

Steaming into life…

A visit to Steamfest, Maitland 2016

It’s been quite a while since I last did a blog post (3 months, in fact). I could name any number of reasons why I haven’t posted; in moving back from the US, I found my life had returned to being something like ordinary, mundane, boring even. I felt like there was nothing interesting happening, no adventure in my life and thought I had nothing worth writing about. However, when it comes down to it – I just couldn’t bring myself to do it – the fact was I was feeling a bit low and found I was struggling a little with settling back into life in my own hometown – not being able to move back into our own home didn’t help matters either. I found myself starting to move into depression despite efforts to look for all the positives in my life – I still had a job, and I wasn’t living out of my car, for instance. Anyway, moving past that I am trying to get back to the life I want to live. This weekend we did something interesting and went to take a look at “Steamfest” – I thought I might share some of the experience with you.

Steamfest signage at Maitland train station

Steamfest is a festival celebrating steam, of course. But the highlight of the festival is the return to the railway tracks of the old steam locomotives, which brings thousands of visitors to Maitland railway station and surrounds. The event brings by steam engines from the Canberra Railway MuseumPowerhouse Museum and Trainworks Railway Museum and rail motors from the Rail Motor Society.

Steamfest began in 1986 after the last coal operated steam hauled freight service in Australia on the South Maitland Railway Line closed in 1983. This year marked the event’s 30th anniversary. Steamfest is held over 2 days in April every year at Maitland in the Hunter Valley region of NSW. There are plenty of activities to keep everyone in the family entertained, but especially those who appreciate the age of steam on the railway tracks.

Steam Engine 6029 - “The Garratt”

Steam Engine 6029 – “The Garratt”

During the festival, over both days, it is possible to take a trip in one of the old steam trains. From Maitland train station you can take a trip to Branxton, Barrington, Singleton, Broadmeadow and do the Port Waratah Coal Run. Next year I would really like to do one of these trips – maybe the Port Waratah Coal run!

There are some great steam displays, featuring antique machinery, market stalls and of course, the wonderful steam engines as well as some of the old Rail Motors, including the old “red ratlers”.

RedRatler

A “Red Ratler”

You can also take a helicopter joy flight over the area. On the Sunday there was also a Show’n’Shine featuring classic cars, hot rods and motorbikes as well as live music and rock and roll dancing.

The highlight of the festival every year is the Great Train Race between one of the steam trains and a Tiger Moth; this year however, there were four steam engines involved – racing each other, as well as four Tiger Moths in the skies above.

2 of the 4 Tiger Moths taking part in the Great Race at Steamfest 2016

2 of the 4 Tiger Moths taking part in the Great Train Race 

This had never been done before on such a scale. It is possible to buy tickets and take part in the race on the trains; however, if you miss out on a ticket you can view the trains from any number of vantage points (overhead bridges, train stations and pedestrian overpasses) along the route. I didn’t get a ticket (maybe next year), so I watched them go by at a nearby train station; what a great thrill it was to be able to witness a part of it.

3 of the 4 steam engines approaching the station

Only 3 of the 4 steam engines visible as they approach the station

I can recommend a visit to Steamfest, and the best thing – it’s free. You only have to pay for tickets for a train ride if you want one, or a nominal $2 charge for entry to the Rally Ground where all things steam were on display, including:

a genuine steam roller-

SteamRoller

a steam wagon-

Steam Wagon

“Sooty”, the steam tractor-

Sooty

and miniature steam trains that the whole family can take a ride on-

So, if you ever find yourself in the Hunter Valley region of NSW in April, why not go along!

A visit to Hunter Valley Gardens!

Yesterday (Saturday), I decided it was time to take a break from the stresses and frustrations imposed upon us for the past couple of months.

HVG_sign I was keen to revisit Hunter Valley Gardens, particularly since they had a Mega Creatures exhibition of large animatronic bugs and dinosaurs, which is scheduled to close in 3 days time. I loved the “Gigantabugs” exhibit at Fort Worth Zoo (read about that in my newsletter for Fort Worth), which we visited in July of 2014, so I was interested to see how they would compare.

There were some interesting displays, particularly the dinosaurs, and we heard several squeals of delight from some of the kiddies about.

HVG_T-rex I do think that the display we saw at Fort Worth Zoo, was probably a bit of cut above what we saw at Hunter Valley Gardens (HVG), but overall the Mega Creatures display was still entertaining.

HVG_fly

The day we visited Hunter Valley Gardens (HVG), was a day following a terrible overnight storm, so the gardens were no where near their best, and a few of the feature gardens (I note the “Rose Garden” in particular) looked a bit drab (probably due to all the rain and bad weather we have experienced recently). However, there is plenty to see and there are often special events hosted by the gardens. Entry cost is $28 per adult and $17 per child (family tickets are available). Allow 2-3 hours to walk around and explore and admire what the gardens have to offer. There is also a café on site if you really need a bite to eat or a rest and a coffee, but if you are looking for more of a good meal – head to one of the innumerable restaurants around the vineyards – there are many fabulous places to eat (but if you are visiting as a family with children, then the cafe in the gardens is fine). If it’s just adults visiting, my advice would be to visit the gardens before or after lunch. Although, HVG is no Dallas Arboretum, it can hold it’s own in the garden tourist-attraction stakes in Australia.

HVG_Hibiscus

HVG is situated at Pokolbin, in the heart of wine country in the Hunter Valley of NSW. The gardens are relatively quite young, being completed in 2003 after 4 years worth of construction on land that was originally horse paddocks and vineyards. The gardens cover an area of 60 acres and are made up of 6,000 trees, 600,000 shrubs and 1,000,000 ground covering plants with around 100km (62mi) of underground irrigation piping. 8 km (5mi) of walking paths will take you through 11 different garden areas. One of the most popular areas (especially for children), is the Storybook Garden, it is delightful – with childhood stories and nursery rhymes depicted throughout the garden.

HVG_Dish&Spoon

 

Spring, would probably be the best time to visit, summer can be very hot and humid in the gardens. However, every year from early November to late January, the gardens host the Christmas Lights Spectacular, which by all accounts is indeed very spectacular, with “millions” of lights, some wonderful displays and plenty of activities to keep the kids entertained. I aim to go this year!

Finally, I couldn’t travel up to the vineyards and not visit at lest one winery; so I chose to visit one I hadn’t been to in a long time. Wombat Crossing Vineyard, is the smallest vineyard (and one of the newest) in the region, but produces wine only from its vineyard. The wines are of a high quality (and not cheap) and I would definitely recommend a visit and some tastings – there wasn’t one that I tasted that I didn’t like. I really wanted to become a member and buy an entire case, but Andrew had to reign me in, so I settled for just 3 bottles – maybe next time! 🙂

wombatCrossingVineyard

 

Cirque du Soleil – a circus experience like no other!

Have you been to see Cirque du Soleil yet? If not, do yourself a favour and go!

CdS_tixI was a Cirque du Soleil virgin; I had heard a lot of hype about this performing troupe, and although I really knew very little about their shows (except that they were supposed to be spectacular), I had always wanted to see one. I really wanted to go when we visited Las Vegas the year before last, but my husband wasn’t too keen, so when I heard they were performing in Newcastle I resolved to go. I found a willing accomplice (and fellow Cirque du Soleil virgin) in my sister-in-law. So, I booked tickets and we went yesterday – Sunday.

After a rear-end accident on the way to the event, we eventually made it and sat down about 30 seconds after the start of the show. It was absolutely fabulous!

Now, I have to admit, I was a little concerned at the beginning – there are few words spoken and the singing that occurred was in French, I think, so I didn’t understand anything. I also felt a bit lost at the start because I couldn’t really follow the story line. I only knew what I had heard, that the show was essentially the world created as result of a young girls imagination.

The concerned feelings didn’t last too long, and I was quickly absorbed by the performances; there were amazing feats of strength, balance, coordination and endurance. There is plenty to look at, sometimes I didn’t know where to look on stage, there are often other skits happening in the background; even the transition between acts was well performed. Quite a few acts take place in the air with the performers suspended from the roof over the main stage on various types of apparatus that actually move across the stage.

Here is a brief (and incomplete) list of some of the acts on show:

  • an artist who performed in a large German Wheel, doing tricks, spinning and balancing throughout,
  • aerial acrobatics on ropes and red silk fabric
  • aerial hoops, suspended from the ceiling
  • a performance of Diabolo (Chinese yo-yo) where the artist manipulates a wooden spool balancing on a string that links two wooden sticks (handles)
  • a routine involving multiple skipping ropes operating simultaneously with about 20 performers interacting to produce an amazing skipping sequence (quite different to anything you would have done in the playground as a child, I can assure you)

Before I knew it an hour had passed and it was time for intermission. The second half of the show was just as good and passed just as quickly, but I think my favourite act was the “statue” couple – a man and woman who perform an absolutely amazing act of balance and strength as the two never lose contact, but create seemingly impossible feats of balance, strength and flexibility (I was in awe – I think everyone else may have been too).

The whole show was supplemented with some great music (which I found hard to pigeon hole – sounding at times middle Eastern, and at others like Irish folk music), but was perfect for the show and all performed by the live band on stage.

Taken at the end of the show - I was too engrossed to take pictures during the performances!

Taken at the end of the show – I was too engrossed to take pictures during the performances!

This was a great spectacle and definitely worth the ticket price. We had great seats, close enough to see the performers muscles rippling with strain and effort, but if I were to give one piece of advice it would be to sit on the right side of the stage (as you are looking at it) as there were one or two performances where you would probably get a slightly better view (and don’t get the premium seats on the floor in front of the stage – you can’t see the performers feet – which I, for one, like to see).

I would also recommend a little research first – so I have provided a very quick run down about “Quidam by Cirque du Soleil” and a link to a preview video if you would like to get a taste of it.

A few quick facts:

  • Quidam was the ninth stage show produced by Cirque du Soleil and premiered in in April 1996 as a big-top show in Montreal; it was converted into an arena format beginning in 2010.
  • Quidam refers to the feature character, a man without a head who carries an umbrella and a bowler hat
  • The word Quidam in Latin refers to “a person unknown”
  • The show is the result of the imagination of a girl named Zoe who is ignored by her parents.
  • There are also several other characters that make regular appearances throughout the show

If you want to book tickets to see the show in Australia, go to Ticketek, but you will have to hurry; the Newcastle season ends on January 24th and then the show heads across the Tasman to Auckland and Christchurch in New Zealand. Prices vary from around $76 to $160 each for adults.

Summertime in Newcastle

Welcome to my first blog for 2016! I wish everyone a happy and prosperous new year and I hope that it brings all that you desire.

We have been back in Newcastle now for 6 weeks, so I thought I would post a little more about my home town. I have spent quite a bit of time in by the harbour and around by the beaches, mainly because I enjoy it so much – my heart lifts, my soul is revived and it makes me happy. But I also visit because I have been wanting to practice some photography. I have been doing the 52 week photo challenge, hosted by American artist, Ricky Tims and I have thoroughly enjoyed it – I have learnt so much along the way. He is running a similar course this year – if you are interested click here.

Anyway, I thought I would share some sights from around Newcastle:

Newcastle is home to the world’s largest coal exporting port, so you can sit and watch the ships come and go:

ShipEnteringHarbour_0781

Take a walk along”Honeysuckle“, harbourside (and maybe stop at any of the many restaurants along the way)

NewcaslteHarbour_towardNobbys

Go see the new ANZAC memorial walk where you can watch the hang-gliders above:

Hangglider_0644

or the people below:

BeachViewFromAbove_0669

A walk along the beach is always good: whether it is to watch the sun come up on New Year’s Eve:

Sunrise_0739

or watch the local bird life:

Seagulls_Sunrise_0765

and

CowrieHole_Pelicans_0641

or observe other photographers trying to capture the sunrise:

PhotographersAtSunrise_0707

You could also take a dip at the Ocean Baths:

Sunrise-Swimmers_0752

You might try your hand at surfing:

ContemplatingSurfer_0770

or try some rock fishing (wearing a life vest, of course – safety first)

CowrieHole_Fishing_0717pano

Away from the coast, you might also run into one of the locals (who came visiting one morning):

Kanga_0619

I hope you have enjoyed this visual display of Newcastle and I that I have maybe tempted you to come and visit.

Merry Christmas

Have you noticed that Christmas is upon us? Really, how could you miss it, there are reminders everywhere. As a result, I have been thinking a lot about Christmas lately and seeing all the hype and “joy” about, promoting happy families and good times it had me wondering how it affects people and how they celebrate (or not). The northern hemisphere celebrates a wintery Christmas, quite different to the summer Christmas the southern hemisphere experiences. I sort of envy the northern hemisphere where it’s chilly and white – a picture, postcard traditional Christmas. However, Christmas in the south can still be wonderful. You can sometimes even find Santa on the beach!
Xmas_noelLights

What does Christmas mean for you?
Is Christmas the season of cheer, merriment, fun, silliness with friends and family? Or is it a time of loneliness or sadness? It is easy to forget that for some, Christmas is a difficult time of year, whether they are alone, suffering illness, mourning the absence of a loved one or are missing family who are in another time zone; there are countless reasons really.

NYC_Christmas_NutcrackerI am one that finds Christmas a difficult time of year. I have not been fortunate enough to have my own children, so don’t have my own little family Christmas that most people enjoy. I have fantasized about having a full on Christmas, with a huge tree, presents all around, all the decorations, a big table beautifully set for a wonderful lunch with family. But that will never happen for me. At one point, I actually started trying to ignore Christmas; I didn’t decorate or put up a tree. However, I have come to realize, there really are no rules for Christmas; it can be whatever you want it to make it. So at Christmas, I swallow my sadness, put on a brave face and try to enjoy what I have; because even though it’s not what I would wish for, I am still grateful (honestly), for what I have. Last year we went to New York City to celebrate and the year before that we were in Cairns and spent the day snorkeling on The Great Barrier Reef. Pretty good really!

ChristmasWindowDisplay_Macy's_02

This year things are a little different.  When I was still in the US, I was looking forward to another northern hemisphere Christmas this year – I even bought decorations and was ready to decorate for the season. However, since our stay in the US was unexpectedly cut short and we returned to a hot Australian summer, Christmas seems to have lost a little of it’s sparkle this year and it just doesn’t feel like Christmas ought to. Maybe it has something to do with not being in our own home and still not having our goods with us, with them all still being in transit or in storage. Anyway, I am looking forward to a better Christmas next year, without the stresses that recent events have brought us this year. And I hope that your Christmas is everything you want it to be!

XmasBauble

I hope everyone has a wonderful, happy Christmas and that 2016 brings all that you desire! free-vintage-santa-clipart-jolly-with-holly

 

Wandering can be a great distraction!

This is a quick wrap up of our quick visit to the Mid North Coast and Northern Rivers area of NSW for a few days late last week.

While I am waiting to go back to work (administrative issues have prevented me from returning as soon as I would have liked) we thought we might take a few days away from the dramas of an international relocation, not having our own home to live in and camping with the in-laws, and waiting for our delayed and much travelled goods shipment (it went via Dubai from the USA on it’s way to Sydney) and get away from it all for a while.

We wandered up the coast of NSW, exploring some towns we haven’t been to before, as well as investigating possible job opportunities (Andrew still needs to find a job).

On our first day we drove up the coast along the much improved, but always under construction, Pacific Highway (now known as the M1 or A1, depending on where you are). After about 5 ½ hours driving, we landed in the NSW country town of Grafton; a place I had never visited before. It’s worth a look.

GraftonClocktower

Grafton Clocktower and one of the many pubs in the background

JacarandasEstablished in 1851, Grafton sits alongside the Clarence River and is home to jacaranda tree-lined streets (the jacarandas were originally planted in the 1870s by a local seed merchant). In spring the town puts on a spectacular display when the trees erupt in masses of mauve blossoms. During the last weekend in October and the first weekend in November Grafton hosts its famous Jacaranda Festival (Australia’s longest running floral festival); I’d love to check this out some time (we were too late in the season this visit, as the jacarandas, although still in bloom, were well past their best).

From Grafton we drove north through Broadwater, sweet town that it is – it’s home to a large sugar mill and is the center of the region’s sugar industry (lots of sugar cane growing in the Northern Rivers area) and then on to Ballina.

I’ve heard a lot about Ballina – it’s a coastal town and well known for its relaxed lifestyle, beaches, seafood, fishing and other water sports. Ballina is also home to the Big Prawn:

BigPrawn

Australia has a fascination with BIG things – besides the prawn, we have the Big Merino (Goulbourn, NSW), Big Pineapple (Nambour, Qld), Big Guitar (Tamworth, NSW), Big Galah (Kimba, SA), Big Lobster (Kingston, SA) and the Big Banana, which we drove past at Coffs Harbour (always a family favourite), just to name but a few!

BigBanana

Our last stop was Port Macquarie – this is a place I definitely want to return to for a stay of at least a few days, maybe a week! Established in 1821, Port Macquarie, like Newcastle, was founded as a penal settlement, replacing Newcastle as the destination for convicts who had committed secondary crimes in New South Wales.

Port Macquarie is an idyllic spot, sitting on the NSW mid north coast at the mouth of the Hastings River. It is home to some wonderful beaches and also to the Billabong Koala Park (I didn’t get to visit, but maybe next time), and the Koala Preservation Society’s Koala Hospital. There are also about 75 koala sculptures around the town – all uniquely decorated – fun!: PortMacKoala

StrawberriesGrowingJust outside of Port Macquarie is Ricardoes Tomatoes and Strawberry farm. This is definitely worth the visit (and a great family activity if you have kids in tow). There is a little café where you can grab some lunch and also pick up some of Ricardoes own produce: rich red tangy Tomato Relish (I got some of that), delectable rich tomato Pasta Sauce and unique Strawberry Conserve, and other local products including preserved olives and olive oils, and locally-grown macadamia nuts, honey and eggs.

Besides all of this, you get to pick your own fresh strawberries – yum!:

Strawberry – it was great fun!

CateStrawberries

 

 

Newcastle – my hometown!

This post has been a while in coming (and I apologise for that – settling back into life in Aus is taking some time) and this is a little longer than normal, but I encourage you to read to the end. 🙂

After being away for 19 months living in, and exploring the United States, I returned to the city of my birth and thought I would share something of my hometown for those who don’t know it (particularly my American friends).

Newcastle is generally much underrated; being relatively close to Sydney, it is often overlooked as a tourist destination. But let me assure you Newcastle has much to offer.

Newcastle Beach

Newcastle Beach

CargoShipNewcastle actually made Lonely Planets top 10 cities to visit in 2011 (the first Australian city to do so). It is a vibrant city, with a working harbour and some of the best beaches you will visit! The city is undergoing a bit of a rebirth at the moment; like many cities around the world it has had to reinvent itself in the face of economic changes.

NewcHarb_Panorama1

Newcastle is probably most famous for it’s coal. It is because of coal, that Newcastle was first settled. Whilst searching for escaped convicts, Lt John Shortland discovered the river (which he named the Hunter River), a deep harbour and an abundance of coal in the area. As a result Newcastle was established as a penal settlement – with convicts mining the coal – and gained a reputation as a “hellhole” – this was the place where the most dangerous convicts were sent, to dig in the coal mines as punishment for their crimes. Newcastle was built on the backs of convict labor and remained a penal settlement until 1822.

In later years, Newcastle’s backbone was the BHP steelworks, which operated in the area for 84 years (the steelworks closed in 1999 – marking a significant turning point in the city’s history). There is also a great interactive display at Newcastle Museum about BHP – check it out if you can. I think nearly everyone living in Newcastle either worked at BHP, or knew someone who did (both my parents and my husband worked for BHP in Newcastle). As a result Newcastle had the reputation as the Steel City – a very industrial city, and consequently, was looked down upon.

NewcaslteHarbour_towardNobbysIt has taken many years for Newcastle to emerge from the shadows of that dark reputation, but I think it is continuing to develop and reinvent itself and has emerged as a cultural, cosmopolitan place to live and visit. The historic wharf area and railroad workshops have been transformed; areas by the harbour are no longer dirty, industrial or rundown, but are vibrant and alive with new residential buildings, hotels, pubs, restaurants and public pathways and parklands. From where I lived it was a quick 2-minute walk to harbourside restaurants and a pleasant 15-20minute walk along the harbour foreshore to the beaches.

Here’s a quote from Lonely Planet that sums up Newcastle:

Newcastle may be one-tenth the size of Sydney, but Australia‘s second-oldest city is punching well above its weight. Superb surf beaches, historical architecture and a sun-drenched climate are only part of the city’s charms. There is fine dining, hip bars, quirky boutiques, and a diverse arts scene. And did we mention the laid-back attitude? Yes, Newcastle is definitely worth a day or two of your time.

With a wrap like that, why not come see for yourself and come visit me?

NewcastleMap

And just to finish up, here are some interesting facts about Newcastle:

  •  Founded in 1797, Newcastle is the second-oldest city in Australia.
  • It was a penal settlement until 1822
  • Awabakal is the name of the Aboriginal Indigenous tribe that lived on the banks of the Coquon (Hunter) River which flows past Newcastle (Muloobinba – place of the edible sea fern) on its journey to the sea.
  • Locals are referred to as Novocastrians
  • Newcastle is often colloquially referred to as “Newie” or “Newy” by locals
  • Newcastle Port is the world’s largest coal exporting port.
  • In 1989, Newcastle was rocked by a 5.5 magnitude earthquake, which became Australia’s worst natural disaster.
  • In June 2007 in the midst of a terrific storm, the bulk carrier ship, MV Pasha Bulker, ran aground at Nobby’s Beach after it failed to heed warnings to move offshore.
  • In 1911, BHP chose the city as the site for its steelworks due to the abundance of coal and opened in 1915
  • Stockton Beach is the largest moving coastal sand mass in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Sand from Stockton Sand Dunes is exported to Hawaii.
  • Newcastle’s ‘Bogey Hole’ is one of the oldest ocean baths in Australia and was built around 1820 by convicts for the personal use of Commandant Morriset. The name Bogey Hole is derived from an aboriginal term meaning ‘to bathe’.
  • There are 6 beaches within 5 minutes drive of the Newcastle CBD.Nobby's-beach
  • Merewether Baths is the largest ocean baths in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Arnott's Biscuits - A Famous Australian brand - founded in the Newcastle regionIconic Australian biscuit manufacturer Arnott’s traces its humble beginnings back to Newcastle when a small bakery was opened by William Arnott in 1865.
  • 2004 Miss Universe, Jennifer Hawkins, once a Newcastle Knights cheerleader, still calls Newcastle home.
  • Current population of the Newcastle LGA is around 555,000, with the city itself having a population of about 155,000

Some Historical firsts:

  • Australia’s First Export was a shipment of coal from Newcastle in 1799
  • In 1801 Australia’s first coal mine was established under the present site of Fort Scratchley using convict labour. The entrances were sealed in 1885 when Fort Scratchley was built.
  • The first and only time that Australian Guns have fired on an enemy vessel during war was when Fort Scratchley’s 6-inch guns fired on a Japanese submarine during World War II.
  • Newcastle was home to the first ‘lighthouse’ on the east coast – a coal-fired beacon at Colliers Point which opened in 1804. The famous Nobbys Lighthouse was turned on in January of 1858.Nobby's-Lighthouse
  • Newcastle East Public School, established in 1816, by school teacher Henry Wrensford and seventeen convict children aged 3 – 13 years, is the oldest continuously run school in Australia.
  • Joy Cummings was Australia’s first female Lord Mayor and the Lord Mayor of Newcastle from 1974 – 1984.

 

Here are some links with more information about Newcastle if you’d like to learn more:

Visit Newcastle

Wikipedia – Newcastle

Hunter Valley Wine Country

More historical facts

I would liked to have added some more/better photographs, but most are on my desktop computer which is still on it’s way to me from America; so, sorry for the ordinary (and lack of accompanying) pictures.