In Australia, the phrase “map of Tasmania” is used to refer to female pubic hair, although in these days of “the Brazilian” it may be on the verge of falling out of favour. One of the funniest things about visiting Tasmania was the common use of the phrase “map of Tasmania” without even the slightest wry grin. Oh yes, and the local commercial radio station is HO-FM which the locals call H.O.F.M. but which I thought should be called HO-F.M. That made me laugh too. And I couldn’t stop saying “Ho-ho-bart”, as in Prue and Trude from Kath and Kim who used to refer to jojoba as “ho-ho-ba”. Okay, all of the siliness out of the way, Hobart is fan-bloody-tastic!

Hobart’s best known attraction is the Salamanca Place Markets, held each Saturday. I’m not a great one for markets at the best of times – how many wooden chopping boards or hand-painted plates do you need – but I can see the attraction for these. Thankfully there’s no crap: everything is home made, home crafted and home grown which makes them truly genuine. The music – whether it be teenagers on violins or “ethnic drummers” is also honest and genuine. I guess the reason I don’t like markets generally is the crowds… I hate getting caught into the vortex of thousands of people looking at home made pottery and tubs of local honey… and so even at these markets I had to take some time out.

And so from there I headed up Kelly’s Steps to Battery Point which is an old port and maritime village and one of the swishest places to live in Hobart. It’s kind of like The Rocks, though far less seedy. Thank goodness for the long-term impoverishment of Hobart which, I’m told, is the reason why so many of the historic buildings remain standing, unlike a city such as Perth, which is very modern, thanks to that city’s reliance on the wealth of the mining industry. Thank goodness for poverty! The buildings of Battery Poin are gorgeous and every one has a view, either of the Derwent River or of Mount Wellington, the large imposing mountain which becomes snow-capped in winter and which gives Hobart a slightly Alpine, European feel to it.

In many respects, I thought the landscape around Hobart was a little like the landscape around Canberra. Although I’m not exactly sure, I’d imagine both towns/cities are at a similar elevation. The rolling hillside around Hobart also reminded me of the landscape around Canberra, towards Goulburn and towards Braidwood.

I had a good chance to see the landscape when, on Saturday, a friend from work, Jen and I drove to Peppermint Bay, located about thirty minutes south of Hobart. We had a coffee and scone at a terrific venue overlooking the bay, wandered around an art gallery with too many overpriced watercolours and then paid a visit to the Sheep Cheesery. We were there just before the sheep were to be milked for the day, but on taking a look at the photographs of what was about to occur, thought the better of it.

By and large, I ate really well in Hobart and on most occasions it was around the waterfront. T42 is one of the hottest places in Hobart at the moment. The bar is good, the prices are okay and the food is also good. On Friday night I ate a a very yummy duck dish which was very nice and reasonably priced. And then on Saturday night I ate next door at, “Athena’s On The Pier”. Jen and I shared a delicious mezze plate which consisted of a selection of dips, spinach pie, char-grilled baby octopus, marinated chicken fillets, mixed olives and feta cheese, Greek style meatballs and dolmathes. I also had the Oktapodi psito or “island style char-grilled octopus” which was locally caught octopus, marinated then char-grilled, finely sliced and served with lemon and tzatziki. Unfortunately, the restaurant has been sold and will close next weekend. I also ate Maldini, a terrific Italian restaurant – we started with the Antipasto Misto and then I had a mussell-based risotto – located in a gorgeous convict-built building. Highly recommended.

But there were a couple of downsides… minor ones. At all the places I ate, vegetarian meals weren’t high on the agenda. And Hobart’s culinary oddity is the flat white. At a number of places in Hobart when you ask for a flat white, the coffee and the milk arrive separately. The rationale, I’m told is that you can choose yourself just how much milk you want. Although it may work for some people, it resulted in me burning the roof of my mouth. Shall I grind the beans for you as well?

The only other negative was a case of sunburn on Saturday. I guess it was the combination of the alpine vista and the ozone layer hole which is located above Tasmania that left me slightly pink.

But other than that, I really loved Hobart.

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