Saturday, 19 May 2018

Hirosaki Park and Castle, Japan

I studied Japanese for 2 years in high school.
I loved it.
For 35 yrs I have been promising myself I would go to Japan & see the things I’ve only ever dreamt about & experience their amazing culture first hand.
I’m finally living the dream!

Part of the dream was to join in the cherry blossom fever that sweeps Japan every spring.
We thought our timing may have been off as the blossoms bloomed early this year.
But on the northern tip of Honshu we found the last of the blossoms.
Hirosaki Park and Castle is near the port town of Aomori.
It was a long train trek from Tokyo, but worth every mile.

Hirosaki Park has over 2500 cherry trees. The park consists of blossom-covered ponds (yes, we hired a boat for an hour to row through the petals), red bridges, tunnels of trees, a three-storey castle keep and night-time illuminations.

Thousands of people joined us in wandering around the cherry trees, enjoying picnics underneath them and taking many, many photos. The blossoms were outstanding & thanks to a lazy breeze, I regularly experienced blossom bathing as the petals fluttered all around us.
It was magic!

This post is part of Saturday Snapshot.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Kirribilli Walk

I recently did the walk from the brand new Milsons Point Ferry Wharf to the Kirribilli Ferry.

Last year, whenever I caught the ferry into the city, we bypassed the stop at Milsons Point whilst it was under reconstruction. The NSW Government has been gradually updating all the ferry stops around the harbour with new and improved jetties and shelters.

These jetties have some of the best views in the whole wide world!

Milsons Point, underneath the north-western side of the Harbour Bridge, is no exception.

Although if you turn around, it's this other view that is actually the main draw card to Milsons Point.

Luna Park has been smiling over Sydney Harbour since 1935.

It has had a checkered history beginning with it's closure after Ghost Train fire in 1979. It's reopening in 1982 only lasted until 1988 when engineers discovered that several of the rides were in need of major repair. Lots of to-ing and fro-ing kept the park closed until 1995.

It only lasted a year as some of the neighbours complained about the noise.

Luna Park finally reopened in 2004 after a major revamp and much community pressure, including a petition by local high school students.

It is possible to walk through the main concourse of Luna Park and to have your photo taken underneath the big smile. It only costs money to go on the rides.

Milsons Point was named after the settler James Milson (1783 - 1872).

He had a 50 acre grant around Lavender Bay as well as leasing another 120 acres around the Kirribilli side. The last of his family landholdings were resumed by the State government in the 1920's to make way for the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Luna Park is not the only attraction on this site.

North Sydney Olympic Pool is one of the most picturesque spots to do your laps in Sydney.

Built after the completion of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, it opened in 1936 featuring art deco style trimmings. Heating was added in 2000 and a 25m indoor pool in 2001.

There are a number of eating and drinking options here too:

Aqua Dining is where we tend to take overseas visitors when we want to WOW them with our spectacular harbour #showingoff

The walk begins as you head underneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge to Bradfield Park on the other side. Don't forget to look up as you go under. The geometry of the bridge is beautiful.

Bradfield Park is a hotspot on New Years Eve to watch the fireworks, but the rest of the time, it's a pretty quiet area to enjoy a peaceful walk.

Take the time to explore the upper reaches of the park to get some amazing photos of the bridge pylons and girders at various angles.

There is a fenced playground area if you're walking with little ones.

Underneath the bridge is a memorial to the HMAS Sydney.

It's bow has been set into the sea wall.

Standing guard on the eastern side of the bridge is the Australian Angel sculpture.

It was presented to the people of NSW by the Swiss Government and the Swiss Australian community in honour of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

You can also find the sculptures, Harbour Cycles and Foxie around the park as well as the old art deco sign (brought back to its former glory although in a new spot) welcoming visitors to the park and pool.

The path around the foreshore will take you through a couple of these old stone shelters.

There are plaques dotted around the area detailing the history of the place.

The Aboriginal Cammeraygal people lived along the Kirribilli and Milsons Point foreshores prior to white settlement. Kiarabilli means 'good fishing spot', which is how the name Kirribilli came to be. 

As you head out of the park, follow the path around the foreshore, past the Jeffery St Wharf, to bring you into Kirribilli proper.

Dr Mary Booth Reserve Foreshore Walkway has been recently rejuvenated although there are still steps and paths made uneven by tree roots to negotiate.

There are sections where you can wander off closer to the water's edge as well, so keep an eye on the little ones and have your camera ready for all the stunning views of the harbour.

The final climb up the steps brings you to Dr Mary Booth Lookout and Warunda St.

Turn right and wander along this quiet street, remembering to glimpse the harbour views between each apartment block.

Towards the end of this street is the Beulah St wharf. You can walk onto it to get some fabulous views of the Opera House directly opposite.

When you finally come to the end of Warunda St, you will spot a steep stairway on the right.

The Mirradong Place sign was partially hidden by foliage and shadows the day I was there, but since these steps are the only way out, I figured I had found the right spot!

At the top of the steps is Kirribilli Avenue, home to Admiralty House and Kirribilli House - the official Sydney residences of the Governor-General and the Prime Minister respectively.

Security is discreet but ever present as you wander down this leafy avenue.

The Royal Family, the Pope and various Presidents have been entertained at Admiralty House over the years. It's not easy to see from the street, but the ferry ride back to Circular Quay at the end of this walk, affords better views of both these buildings. They are open to the public once a year, usually in the spring, although there have been a few years recently with no open days at all due to security concerns.

At the end of Kirribilli Avenue is Lady Gowrie Lookout, a terraced, park that leads right down to the harbour. Locals often fish off here.

I enjoyed a cool drink, a snack and some time with my book in this lovely shady, quiet park.

Double back along Kirribilli Avenue until you come to Carrabella St, turn right.

Halfway down you will spot Glenferrie Lodge with its rather startling statue at the entrance.

A right turn down Holbrook Avenue will lead you to Kirribilli Ferry Wharf and cafe (although judging by the Saturday I was there, the chances of getting a table or a cheap coffee is questionable), but if you have time to still wander, continue along Carrabella St until you reach the Peel St intersection. Turn right. One of the old stone street markers is on this corner.

Continue down Peel St past the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron grounds to Colindia Reserve for a glimpse of Neutral Bay.

Double back to Holbrook St to catch the ferry back to Circular Quay.

The entrance to the ferry is down a rather narrow, gloomy pathway. I assume this wharf is slated to be renovated at some point as well as it is not wheelchair friendly, and thanks to the cafe, very squishy.

The F5 Neutral Bay Ferry service stops twice at Kirribilli on the loop around Neutral Bay so that you can enjoy a trip around the Bay or simply hop on when it loops back to continue onto the Quay. Check times on your Sydney transport app or at the ferry wharf.

I did the loop around Neutral Bay which gave me a better view of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron grounds...

...then Kirribilli House...

...Admiralty House...

...and finally the Opera House and Circular Quay.

This post is part of Saturday Snapshot.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Rembrandt & the Dutch Golden Age

Recently The Art Gallery NSW hosted Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age: Masterpieces from the Rijksmuseum. It was a VERY popular exhibition as you can see by the crowds milling in front of every picture below. I managed to finally see it during it's last weekend in Sydney.
I enjoyed it, learnt a lot about that particular era of painting, but it's not really my cup of tea.

I also felt it was a tad deceptive as well, cause by my count there was only the one Rembrandt on display.

One of the pleasures of this visit, despite the crush, was the audio.
Each room had it's own song from a Baroque album that it was suggested you listen to whilst browsing. It helped me feel like I was 'there' in the pictures and it also helped to keep the sounds of the crowd at bay.

My favourite picture of the day - I like the light and shade, the classic form and structure that reveals a more casual past-time. It gives me a strong sense of time and place.

The Rembrandt that everyone came to see.

This post is part of Saturday Snapshot.