Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Australia Part 2: First Time to Tasmania

Australia is such a large country that I thought it would be crazy to stay in one city the entire time. To balance out my city experiences with Tung, I wanted to see someplace a bit more untamed. The plane ticket alone up to the airport near Ayers Rock was $500, so that Australian landmark was unfortunately off the table. I honestly didn't know a thing about Tasmania before before I began researching this trip. Looney Toons is the only reason I had previously even heard of the place.

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The island's close proximity to Melbourne made it hard to resist a quick trip. Tasmania is the name of the both the island and the Australian state. It's population is just under 500,000, and it's awesome. That sums it up.

Following the general theme of my time in Australia, I did zero planning beforehand. Sure, one could view this as a negative thing, but in this instance not having a checklist simply meant that I didn't have fret over checking everything off. I flew into Hobart, the capital, and took everything one step at a time. After a short conversation with the nice lady at the information desk, I was off on an airport shuttle to town. A charming little difference in Australian businesses is that the pubs often double as hotels. I couldn't pass up that kind of chance, so I directed the shuttle driver to a hotel/pub I picked merely by its name, the Prince of Wales Hotel, "in the heart of Hobart's historic Battery Point".

I guess it doesn't look like much from the outside, but it was perfect.

The rooms were about $75 a night for a room with a big bed and a little bed(I don't know anything about bed sizes). It was a nice cozy little place in a cozy little neighborhood. After a quick shower I went downstairs to get some information from the bartender. My first question was if they sold a toiletry I had forgotten.

"Do you guys sell toothpaste?" There were multiple other little personal items being sold behind the counter dedicated to hotel services, so I figured this would be a quick transaction.

The woman behind the bar paused, gave me a weird smile, and then turned to get it. She came back with a handful of toothpicks. We both had a good laugh. No, they didn't sell toothpaste. She and a man on a bar stool both discussed where I might be able to find such a thing. It was a very folksy conversation.

"Maybe they'll have it over at the candy shop," the customer considered.

"Or at the vegetable store," the bartender countered.

It was a very charming conversation but it wasn't full of useful information so I nodded, pretending I understood all of the conflicting directions, and walked outside to experience Hobart.

The few streets surrounding the hotel were quiet and small, with many stone shops on either side.

Having not the slightest idea where I was going, I just walked towards the water and followed the coast, which ended up being a darn good idea.

I first came to Salamanca, the happening part of town. The buildings, now assorted bars and shops, used to be warehouses for the port industry. Hobart was started as a penal colony, and I heard it mentioned more than once that convicts' chisel marks can still be seen on the stone that everything is built from. Don't know if that's true but it's a pretty good story.

I spent some time wandering around the many interesting ships in the harbor.

Here some Antarctic research ships, the Australian Aurora Australis and French Astrolabe, seem to be waiting out the winter in port.

A pier juts out of the water where lots of seafood restaurants sit. There were plenty of fancy looking places around, but I opted for the food sold out of the little boats bobbing on the water.

I stopped at this little place and grabbed a bite.

This wasn't my first Australian fish and chips encounter, but it was definitely the best. These two pieces of Blue Grenadier and chips cost me $8.70. Not cheap but very worth it. It was a good day.

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