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A Yorti Yorta Man from Sydney, Australia

I decided that I’d been posting too much from one place lately, and that this was silly, since I have thousands of photos to share that are from all over the world. So, now we’re gonna mix things up a bit :)

This is a photo of a Yorti Yorta man named Urrunda, made in Sydney, Australia in July 2008. He was sitting on the sidewalk creating and selling art, and had some beautiful work. We talked for a while and he explained several pieces, and I ultimately bought the one you see below. It’s a dotted painting of the Rainbow Serpent; the Creator of the Universe. It’s a little hard to see in this photo (the piece is in storage now so I can’t take a straight-on shot, sorry), but the serpent is wrapped around and around, and in the center you see it’s head eating it’s own tail. It symbolizes infinity, or infinite life, if I recall. This is probably my favorite “souvenir” from any trip I’ve ever made. It’s so much more meaningful than a trinket bought at the local curio shop.

I did post a very small, color version of this picture back in 2008, but I just resurrected it and created a new B&W version with Silver Efex Pro II. Love this plug-in.

Urrunda, a Yorti Yorta Man from Syndey Australia

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Urrunda, a Yorti Yorta Man from Syndey Australia.

Rainbow Serpent, the Creator

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The painted Rainbow Serpent, the Creator, that I purchased.



Wine tasting in Hunter Valley

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I spent the weekend off in Australia wine tasting in the Hunter Valley with friends. My friends wanted to prove to me how good Australian wine could be—not that I ever argued it wasn't good, mind you—but they know I love California wines and took it upon themselves to show me what happens down under. Bless 'em ;-)

Bimbadgen Estate

We spent both Saturday and Sunday out there, staying the night at an adorable 1840's convict-built "sandstone magistrate's house" B&B called Mulla Villa. And we managed to sample wines at seven wineries, including…

Bimbadgen, Scarborough, Tallavera, Undercliff, Millbrook Estate, Pooles Rock and Audrey Wilkinson. I enjoyed mostly Shirazs, as well as a few Chardonnays, and also discovered one absolutely delicious Tawny (port) wine from Tallavera.

The weekend started with a 2+ hour drive from Sydney, then lunch at "Hunter Cellars". We didn't actually taste there as it's all a bit too commercial, however they had restaurants (several of them), so it made a good first stop. The first tasting however was at Bimbadgen Estate, pictured above. Being the first stop, we were just getting our lips wet, but enjoyed it nonetheless.

Second up was Scarborough, which was a wholy different experience. At Bimbadgen, you saddled up to a bar, perused a long menu, and sampled whatever you liked. Personally, I appreciate a bit more hand-holding than that, and Scarborough delivered. We were presented with a placemat 'map' that identified everything being poured. One of the best comparisons there was between (if memory serves) a 2002, 2004 and 2007 Chardonnay. This photo shows the progression in age (and cost!).

Three vintages of Scarborough Chardonnay

Scarborough Vineyard

Third and final for Saturday was Tallavera Grove, which was actually an accident. We had a specific winery we were looking for but couldn't find (it was much farther than expected but we did find it on Sunday), so we dropped into Tallavera moments before closing—but they still took very good care of us. This was where I found the Tawny (seen being poured below), along with another Shiraz that we drank that night at dinner.

Pouring Tawny (Port) at Tallavera Grove

Tallavera Grove

From there we made our way to the Bed & Breakfast; the Mulla Villa. We were the only guests, taking two of their four rooms. It's a beautiful property, with a fantastic living and dining room, great big fireplace, and cozy sink-as-you-sit couches. It was absolutely frigid outside, so the roaring fire was a welcome treat. The hostess prepared a marvelous meal of slow-roasted beef as well as pork with cracklin' (fried and salted skin… oh my), which we washed down with the spoils of the days hunt for good wine. I couldn't imagine a better place to rest from a hard day of exploring the Hunter Valley.

The living room at Mulla Villa

The morning proved just as cold as the night before, and my friend and I braved the cold to make some photos, at least until the hot coffee was ready! Breakfast was enormous, with toast and jam and eggs and bacon and juice and coffee and fruit and cereal.

Morning mist at Mulla Villa

We headed into the nearest town, Wollombi, for a bit of exploring before heading off to the first vineyard. The commemorative plaque explains the origin of the settlement, which speaks for itself.

'Early White Settlement' sign at Wollombi

This was clearly the town for all the local bikers to come for an early morning pint, as you can clearly see here!

A biker haven at Wollombi

The first winery on Sunday was Undercliff. I kept looking for the cliff… anyway. One of their attractions is that they use their grounds as an art gallery of sort, allowing local artists to place sculptures around their gardens and even in the cellar. It made for a pretty backdrop for the tasting (look up, at the ceiling).

Undercliff Winery

Millbrook Estate was the one we were looking for the night before. It's a unique vineyard in that it's on a hill of mostly volcanic rock, enabling them to grow the grapes differently—as well as grow other items—than their competitors. We sampled a lemon liqeuor, not completley unlike the Italian Limoncello, but which I honestly didn't care for. They did a very good Chardonnay however, and the grounds were quite beautiful.

Millbrook Estate

Pooles Rock is where we stopped for a very long lunch in their very chic, modern dining room. As we dined the pouring rains came and went, so we timed that just perfectly. After lunch of course we sampled their wines as well, and came home with another Shiraz.

Pooles Rock vineyard

Audrey Wilkinson (who was a man, by the way!) was our last winery before heading back to Sydney. A larger cellar but at the top of a great hill with fantastic views, it was a perfect way to end the evening. We sampled a few wines including a very good Chardonnay, which took the honor spot of the last place in my wine carrier for the flight home.

Audrey Wilkinson vineyard

Bottles of Malbec at Audrey Wilkinson vineyard

The weekend was fabulous; a wonderful way to spend two days with friends in a new country. For anyone with a weekend around Sydney to spare and an appreciate for wine, I recommend making the trip to Hunter Valley.

Here's Wollombi, the town in the middle of it all.

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Sushi at Shiki

I was hungering for sushi my first night, and Sydney has a reputation of great fish. Being Sunday many places were closed, but the concierge at the Westin pointed me to Shiki at The Rocks, a very cool shopping area by Sydney Cove. I'd been there already in the morning exploring the shops, so was excited to go back at night.

Shiki Japanese Restaurant

Shiki Japanese Restaurant

The atmosphere in The Rocks is very cool; young and trendy, but with a lot of history packed in. A fun mix of old and new, and a lively vibe even for a Sunday night.

I found Shiki relatively easily, and while the restaurant was almost empty, it was beautiful inside, again combining a decór of classic Japanese with a modern edge. The sushi bar was clean and the chefs friendly, and the aquarium of snow crabs behind them was full. Almost too full actually; it was a bit depressing seeing all those crabs piled on top of eachother, barely moving, eyeing their bretherin getting masaccered in front of them. Hmm, on second thought, that's kinda wrong.

The sushi presentation was beautiful, and the fish looked great. However the Hamachi (yellowtail) didn't look or taste like Hamachi, and I even questioned the chef but he insisted it was. Hmm. I'm not convinced. Sake (salmon) was delicious, but he laid several pieces on top of a slice of lemon, and by the time I got to them, the lemon overpowered the fish. D'oh. Don't do that again please!

Beautiful presentation

The chef offered some fish that I'd never heard of (and never did quite get the name he repeated five times), which was tasty and unique, so that was a nice surprise. My closing selection, a salmon skin handroll, was nothing like what I'm used to and quite disappointing. The skin had almost no flavor, was overcooked, and there was no sweet sauce on it like I usually see. My sushi 'desert', wasn't.

When the bill came I had to send it back as it had $30 of food I didn't order; apparently he forgot to "clear the register". Um… seriously?

Shiki Japanese Restaurant

Clock Tower Square

Corner of Argyle & Harrington Streets

The Rocks 2000

rating: 3 feet

verdict: Good fish overall, but questionable Hamachi. The lemon slice under the Sake was just wrong. Great atmosphere, but overpriced. Some tasty chef selections. I'd be able to conditionally recommend it if it was half the cost. OK maybe 2/3; this is Sydney and the US dollar is weak.



G'day from down under!

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My first time on this island… and besides a bum foot that's seriously limiting my walkabout capabilities, I did manage to walk around (probably a bit too much) the first day and second morning to see a few sites.

Syney Opera House and a P&O cruise ship just after sunrise

Sydney Opera House

Along the way I met a Yorti Yorta man…

…an Aboriginal man making his living in the city selling artwork. I bought from him a beautiful dotted painting of the Rainbow Serpent; the Creator.

Urrunga, a Yorti Yorta man

On the second morning, thanks to a jetlag-induced 5am wake-up, I made a run for sunrise to the other side of the Opera House, and due to road closures because of World Youth Day (someone should tell them to rename it to World Youth Week-and-a-half), I had to hoof it the last mile and came over the hill just as the sun kissed the fins of the Opera House. Pretty, but with a cloudless sky, not terribly interesting. I'm hoping for some more dynamic weather before I go (it is winter after all… can't you tell?!)

Sunrise from Mrs. Macquiries Point