The lobby of The Henry Jones Hotel, Hobart, Tasmania.
27 April, 2015 - Note to Self: Never board an early morning flight with a hangover.
Our former neighbors, Kate and Sally, led us astray again by brightly suggesting a nice, long lunch at The Apollo Restaurant, Potts Point, together with mates Rob and Judi next door. As luck would have it, it was the day before our early morning flight to Tasmania. And what a lunch it was! With the lethal combination of sensational Greek food, enough wine to sink the Titanic, and lively conversation with great mates in a chic and convivial atmosphere, our 2 pm lunch stretched out to 6:30, after which a visit to the Metropole across the road was in order. After all, it was the cocktail hour. Finally pouring ourselves into a taxi at 7:30, Peter and I, along with Rob and Judi, made it back home in one piece. Saying our farewells at the front gate, we stumbled across the threshold of our respective front doors. Making a half hearted attempt to complete the packing for our Tasmania trip, we descended into a deep and dreamless sleep before waking again at 5 am.
Nothing much registered at the start of our day except for the fact that we’d managed to kill off a few brain cells and that our taxi was arriving in an hour to take us to the domestic airport. Thanks to a packing checklist that I’d refined over the years and printed off, I ticked off the essentials in record time and zipped up my suitcase minutes before our taxi’s arrival.
Mercifully, the flight from Sydney to Hobart was an easy 2 hours, giving us a good opportunity to catch up on some sleep. With Hobart’s fresh air hitting our faces like a splash of ice cold water the moment we stepped off the aircraft, collecting our luggage and rental car at Hertz was surprisingly quick and seamless. Noting the catch phrase on every car plate “Tasmania, explore the possibilities,” I decided to put the stresses of the week aside and do just that.
Unsure of what to expect of Hobart, the word that came to mind as we made the 18 minute drive from the airport to the city was “compact.” Sitting proudly beneath Kunanyi/ Mt Wellington and seemingly hugging the wide expanse of the Derwent Estuary, this charming mini-city sits in perfect harmony with its beautiful surrounds. As a city that has escaped much of the modern boom periods of Australia’s other capital cities, Hobart has proudly kept much of its history and heritage.
Our home for the next couple of nights in Hobart is the Henry Jones Hotel, a destination in its own right. Australia’s first and only dedicated art hotel, it houses a unique collection of approximately 500 original art works, most of them sourced locally. With close links to other galleries around Hobart, the hotel encourages its guests to explore the works throughout the corridors of this historic building, a converted warehouse. And explore we did. As for our exquisite Deluxe Spa room overlooking Hobart’s Waterfront, a bathroom large enough to throw a party in, and free valet parking, we were going to find this hotel very hard to leave. As our room at The Henry Jones Hotel wasn’t ready for us yet, we left our luggage with the Concierge and went in search of some “possibilities.”
Skirting Hobart’s Waterfront, called Sullivan’s Cove, we followed our noses to Salamanca Place, a character filled precinct of Hobart consisting of rows of sandstone buildings, formerly warehouses for the port of Hobart Town that have since been converted into restaurants, galleries, craft shops and offices. Each Saturday, Salamanca Place is the site for the Salamanca Market, which is extremely popular with tourists and locals. Unfortunately, it was a Monday.
The wonderful scenery, crisp Hobart air, and much needed leg stretch cleared the cobwebs in our heads. By 11:30, our rumbling stomachs clamored to be fed. Asking one of the locals for dining advice, we headed to one of Hobart’s oldest and most historic areas, Battery Point, where buildings made of sandstone have stood nearly since the community’s founding. Famed as one of the more exclusive areas, the suburb has a number of large, exquisite homes and historical cottages that were framed by lovingly attended gardens. Connected to Salamanca by Kelly’s Steps, constructed back in the 1830’s out of massive sandstone blocks, Battery Point is on of those places that needs to be taken in on foot to get a feel for the place. Visiting Battery Point would not be complete without seeing Arthur’s Circus, which represents the “village” green that the entire suburb is built around. Dining on some delectable seafood papardelle at one of Battery Point’s pubs, the Shipwright’s Arms Hotel - known as “Shippie’s” by the locals - we took a leisurely stroll back to our hotel for a well earned rest before dinner time.
Joining us for dinner at Smolt Restaurant, in the elegant locale of Salamanca Place, was friend and artist, Stella Pearse, who we’d met in Cappadocia (Turkey) last October. Dining on flavorsome, exquisitely presented, and locally sourced Italian and Spanish food, amidst the restaurant’s Scandinavian-chic decor, life was looking pretty darned good.