Lunch, a culinary adventure at qualia

“the qualia experience would not be complete without a culinary adventure through the finest produce our region and country has to offer”.

The view from qualia's Long Pavilion
The view from qualia’s Long Pavilion

We begin our culinary adventure with lunch at the Pebble Beach Restaurant which sits just on the edge of the beach below our pavilion. Our table on the deck looks out over the sea to bushy bays on a distant shore and the waves lap softly at the stones below.

The menu is a great read and it’s sensibly short. Those seeking awakenings of the sensory imaginations, especially in three days, don’t really have time to linger.  Still we dither. Beside us a gentleman is tackling a large colourful burger while his partner tucks into a work of art in fruits de mer which the waitress confides in a whisper is the black kingfish and salmon nori tempura with green apple, cucumber, wasabi, sweet ginger dressing.

We decide finally to divide and conquer,  mounting a united assault on the entree of  ribboned foie gras, chocolate paper and pear purée served with toasted brioche. We divide for the main. He takes the lead from his neighbour and orders the char grilled beef burger with fries, bacon, gruyere, caramelised onions, lettuce, and tomato while I wade into unknown waters for the alt ‘n’ pepper bugs with bean sprouts, Asian herbs and hot ‘n’ sour sauce. Together we conquer dessert – vanilla panna cotta with espresso jelly and hazelnut biscotti.

A wonderful beginning to our culinary adventures at qualia! After only half a day, my jaded sensory imagination is already beginning to revive!

Paradise at qualia

Our qualia pavilion is tucked away at the end of one of those mysterious paths, suspended among the trees, above a quiet pebbly beach. You can hear the sea sucking at the stones.

The balcony of our qualia pavilion
The balcony of our qualia pavilion

Qualia pavilions are simple, spacious and like the Long Pavilion, in perfect harmony with the world outside. Its colours are the colours of wood, stone, earth, forests and sky from the Dennis Nona artworks on the walls to the fabrics selected by interior designer Freedman Rembel for the furnishings.  Every space leads to another, each room flows to the next. On one side the living room opens onto a wooden deck with an infinity pool and a king-sized cane bed, on the other is the bedroom with a giant central bed. Beyond the bedroom is an enormous bathroom dominated by a tub of warm cream stone.  Every room looks down, through the front glass wall, on trees, gardens and the sea.

There 60 pavilions at qualia but each one is hidden in its own corner of the 33 hectare garden.  We feel that we have the island all to ourselves. Fans tick slowly overhead. I press a button and a glass wall rolls down.  A gentle breeze blows in through the open space, bringing the smell of the sea and eucalyptus trees. There’s a flutter of wings and a sulphur-crested cockatoo lands on the rail of the deck. I am indeed in the Garden of Eden.

It would be easy to stay here forever, living on the complementary champagne, the Phillppa’s fine bagel crisps and garlic nuts, the mini-bar chocolates, the pretty little packs of herbal tea, luxuriating in the Aesops toiletries, the cloud-like towels, and the soft cocoon-like bathrobes, drinking in the views from the infinity pool, the king sized bed and the wrap around couches in the lounge or even ordering in from the sumptuous room service menu.  But another zephyr ushers a faint hint of grilled seafood with a tang of je ne sais quoi through the open window. I am reminded that “the qualia experience would not be complete without a culinary adventure through the finest produce our region and country has to offer”.

qualia, Hamilton Island

Hamilton Island’s qualia, which modestly (or is it defiantly?) eschews the initial capital, is queen of Australia’s luxury retreats. It was here that Oprah Winfrey and her inner sanctum took respite from their hectic Australian tour and from the hordes that followed them. Qualia, which takes its name from the Latin for “a deeper sensory experience”, offers a ‘uniquely Australian experience … which inspires the sensory imagination”.  Inspiration of the sensory imagination is apparently reserved for those over 16, as nobody under that age is admitted to qualia. Right now, this suits us perfectly.  We’re besieged by under 16s, both on the home and the work front and our sensory imaginations have suffered as a comsequence.

The view from qualia's Long Pavilion
The view from qualia’s Long Pavilion

Our qualia experience begins at the airport arrivals door. It’s immediately clear that we’re destined for quite a different place from our fellow travellers.  A tanned, smiling young man, with the distinct stamp of a Greek deity, greets us and shepherds us into the purring qualia coach. In our wake others grapple with trolleys and taxis. These things no longer concern us. We’re no longer of their world. We cruise past the township, past the marina, past dozens of puttering golf carts, past sauntering holiday makers, past swish beachside resorts, past grand hillside houses, but we’re not of that world either. Up and down hills, around corners we roll.

Then almost at land’s end, at the northern tip of the island, we reach a tall, arched wooden door.  It opens, as if by magic, then closes quickly behind us. On the other side, the road narrows and rolls on through a lush tropical garden of eucalyptus, palms, hibiscus, azaleas and bright green lawn. Mysterious little pathways lead away on either side. Words like Eden and paradise spring to mind. We come to a halt in front of a low, plain building of dark wood – Qualia’s Long Pavilion. When he designed qualia, Australian architect Chris Beckingham aimed to create “a luxurious Australian retreat that stimulates the senses and draws the outside in”. Qualia’s Long Pavilion epitomises that aim. We stand on the threshold, drinking it all in – gleaming wood, table tops that reflect the sky, broad inviting couches. My eye follows a path of light across the polished floor, over an impossibly blue infinity pool, through a screen of leaves, over a stretch of turquoise sea to a fringe of white beach on a steep, bush-clad island. There’s the smell of wood, eucalyptus and the ocean.

The deity installs us on a couch. Glasses of champagne materialise before us, while somewhere in the background, the business of the check-in goes on without us.  Although the longhouse is Qualia’s H.Q and home to reception, the business centre, a bar, a library and a restaurant, it is restful and quiet. There is no discordant clatter of plates, no hiss of a coffee machine, no shrilling phone, no impatient click of heels. Here in the Long Pavilion, there’s only the sound of the water, the breeze in the trees, the call of an occasional bird and the soft ticking of cicadas. Time has already lost all meaning and we are lost in the view. Our glasses inch slowly down to empty.  The deity re-appears. Would we like to retire to our pavilion?

Hamilton Island

The plane tilts and slants through the clouds. Suddenly, there below, is an expanse of sunlit sea, a crowded launch trailed by threads of wake, a yacht in full sail, a rough circle of land with a sprinkling of buildings half-hidden in dark green bush, a forest of tall masts at a marina, a stretch of sandy beach and way out in the distant blue, the broad white line of the reef.  From up here, Hamilton Island looks like Paradise. Down on the ground, the sun is warm, the air is soft and it feels like Paradise.

Hamilton Island
Hamilton Island

Hamilton Island was formed eons ago, when sea levels rose, creating a chain of drowned mountains just off the Queensland coast. Nowadays the island is a popular tourist destination, which plays host not only to travelers from all over the world but also to numerous festivals, including the famous Hamilton Island Race Week Yachting Festival as well as cultural events like the annual performance of the Australian Ballet

Until  1975, when it was purchased by “men with vision” Keith Williams and Bryan Byrt, Hamilton Island remained just a bush covered dot in the ocean. In 1978 Keith Williams commenced construction of Hamilton Island Harbour.  Work on the Hamilton Island Resort began shortly after and in 1982, it welcomed its first guests.  In 1986 the Whitsunday Holiday Apartments opened, followed by the Reefview Hotel in 1990 and the five star Beach Club in 1999.

In 2003 the Oatley family acquired the resort. Among the Oatley developments are the Yacht Club with its fabulous restaurant. Then, there’s qualia.

What are you wearing on the plane?, a travel story

What are you wearing on the plane?  was first published in The Australian in August 2008.

Once upon a time, before mass travel made us all blasé, before rising fuel costs stole space and comfort from our aircraft and before terrorism ushered in tiresome security measures, plane travel was synonymous with elegance, glamour and sophistication.

The Tower of Big Ben
The Tower of Big Ben

The first to take flight from our street was an elegant fowl named Doreen. She was heading “home” to England. Doreen wasn’t English, so in fact, England wasn’t her home but that was what glamorous sophisticates called the place back then. The day before she left, neighbourhood aprons, slippers, hairnets and rollers gathered at her house, to bask one last time in her reflected glamour.

“What are you wearing on the plane, Doreen?” asked an eager hairnet.

“Go on, Dor, model it for us!” urged a floral apron.

Doreen didn’t need much persuasion and while she readied herself in her bedroom, aprons, hairnets, rollers and slippers closed in around the tea trolley. The kitchen seethed with whispered sour-grapes.

“Lucky thing” sighed some tartan slippers “I’d love to fly”

“New feathers would do me!” cackled a head full of rollers.

The door opened slowly. There was a collective screech as Doreen, a vision in a pale blue linen coat and pill-box hat, with immaculate white shoes, gloves and handbag stepped into the kitchen. She paused, flashed a smile, rocked from one pointy-toed, stilettoed foot to another, then, to chorus of squawks, sashayed across the lino. At the stove she turned, paused, preened, tossed her head and slowly peeled back the coat to uncover a coordinated, blue and white floral polished cotton sheath frock.

“Ta da!” she trilled, throwing her arms in the air, clouting a hairnet with the handbag and swiping an apron with the coat.

“Oh, Dor, you look gorgeous!” cooed the admiring apron “Where did you get it?”

“Marlene Modes!”

“You’ll need a girdle with that tummy, though” sniped the hair net.

“When are you having your hair set?’ inquired the rollers, scrutinising Doreen’s collapsing beehive though narrowed eyes.

“Tomorrow morning!”

“That pilot better look out, eh girls?” clucked the slippers.

Next afternoon, the whole street came out to wave Doreen off. Covetous eyes followed a quartet of nicotine-coloured bags into the boot of her dad’s Holden. There was a streamlined suitcase with piped leather edges and expandable catches, an elegant weekender, a sophisticated briefcase and a glamourous heart-shaped, quilted make-up case with a chic gold handle on top. Everyone stared in silence as the car carried Dor’s reconstructed beehive and regally waving glove away out of sight.

Whether it was the spell of Doreen’s ensemble, or the charm of her smile, she did bewitch a pilot somewhere en route. She never returned. From time to time, little red and blue edged envelopes would land in our letterboxes, addressed in Doreen’s elegant hand, with a deliciously foreign stamp in one corner and a mysterious “par avion” in the other. Then, tales of her glamorous life, at “home’, with her pilot, would speed along the street, over the teacups, from rollers to hairnet and from slippers to apron. For some years, Avion enjoyed great popularity as a name for neighbourhood newborns.

Times have changed.

Glamorous sophisticates, like Doreen, have all but disappeared from modern aircraft. The pre-flight coiffure has gone the way of the beehive, the hairnet and the roller. The hat and the glove have vanished like the girdle and the apron. Even in First and Business Class where some elegance survives, the frock/ coat ensemble has dropped out of sight. And “What are you wearing on the plane?” is pretty much an archaism.

Most 21st century travellers don’t dress to impress. They dress for convenience; wise to departure hall x-rays, metal detectors, strips and frisks, they’ve abandoned belts, buckles and stilettos for elastic waistbands and Velcro tab shoes. They dress for comfort; once bitten and now forever shy of the cramped, long-haul flight nightmare in constricting clothes, they’ve given up skirts, tights and even jeans for trackies and cargoes in soft, stretchy cloth. They dress for camouflage; survivors of meal-time turbulence spills, they’ve tossed out the whites and the pastels for black, wine reds and browns in tones of satay or stroganoff.

The odd streamlined suitcase still lands on the baggage carousel but most are a long way from Doreen’s tobacco tinted classic. More often than not, they’re reduced by security concerns to sinister shrink-wrapped hulks or by weight limits to bulging shapeless sacks. The technological age has bumped the brief-case for the computer bag and the back pack has usurped most weekenders. If any still linger, they’re speedsters on wheels, transformed for marathons through interminable terminal corridors. And in the interests of counter terrorism, the glamorous make-up case has given way to the miserable little plastic zip-lock bag.

These days the runway romance goes largely unnoticed. The cabin blind is raised only for some sensational celebrity scandal. Today we all call Australia home, yet we’re at home in England and most of the world. We all dash off emails and texts now, so the red and blue edged letter is rare. And now, since we all know that it’s just French for plane,  Avion, as a name, has fallen from favour.

Copyright Patricia Moore

 

Hampton Court Palace Gardens

If hours are easily lost in Hampton Court Palace’s halls and apartments, days are easily lost in the 60 acres of Hampton Palace Gardens.

Hampton Court Palace Gardens
Hampton Court Palace Gardens

Over the centuries, many people added their own touch of beauty to the Hampton Court Palace gardens.

The Wilderness garden began as orchard in Henry VIII’s time. In the 17th century it became a series of intertwining paths with a maze of tall hedges. Today, only the maze remains. The Knot garden, although laid down in modern times, replicates the Henry VIII’s original.

The 13 fountains and the parterre of the Great Fountain garden were the work of William III and Mary II. The Privy, established in 1702, was King William’s private garden. The Orangery was built to nurture Mary II’s exotic collection which included cacti, orange and lemon trees.

The Yew trees were planted by Queen Anne.

The grapevine, which still yields delicious grapes, was planted in 1768 by the renowned landscape gardener, Capability Brown. The sunken Pond gardens which once held freshwater fish are now planted with flowers.

The flower beds are Victorian and the herbaceous borders were added in 1920.

The 20th century garden was converted from a horse paddock in the 1970s to train apprentice gardeners.

Last but not least, the snippet of sky on the header of this Travelstripe Blog was snapped above the Rose Garden at Hampton Court Palace.

 

Hampton Court Palace

Just 30 minutes by train from London Waterloo, on a picturesque tree-bordered bend in the Thames and set in 60 acres of rambling gardens, is magnificent Hampton Court Palace.

Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace was the home of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon. When Catherine was ousted after failing to give Henry a son, his second wife Anne Boleyn moved in. Henry’s third wife, Anne of Cleves, was banished to Hampton Court when their marriage was annulled and lived here, in exile, until her death.

Hampton Court was also the home of Cardinal Wolsey in the 1520s, until he fell from favour with the King and was beheaded for treason.

Despite the many subsequent occupants and renovations to the palace, it still has the stamp of the court of Henry VIII. The kitchens which, when the King was in residence, fed up to 800 people on the most exotic fare, are the largest surviving 16th century kitchens. The Chapel Royal was the scene of Henry’s son Edward’s baptism and of his marriage to his last wife, Catherine Parr. In the Tiltyard, which now houses a café, Henry displayed his skill with the jousting stick or watched tournaments from the towers. He showed off his athletic prowess playing Real Tennis on the Royal tennis courts which are still in current use. It was Henry who enclosed the 250 acre Home Park for hunting. Today, it is home to 350 fallow deer, as well as a golf course and the annual Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. And somewhere among the ancient spears, shields, pistols and muskets displayed in extraordinarily complex and really beautiful formations in the guard room of the King’s Apartments, there must surely be one that was grasped in the hand of the hot-blooded warrior King.

Most of the rest of the Palace and gardens speaks of later reigns. The King’s and Queen’s apartments were built for the monarchs’ ceremonial and state lives. Those of King William III, completed in 1700 and furnished with magnificent period tapestries and works of art, are said to be the best baroque apartments in the world. The Queen’s apartments were originally intended for his wife, Mary II, who unfortunately died of smallpox in 1694, before they were completed. The Banqueting House, overlooking the Thames, where William held small private parties, was built in 1700. In 1837, George II decorated and furnished the private informal apartments now known as the Georgian Rooms. The Queen’s apartments were furnished and decorated for his Queen, Caroline.

Hours are easily lost in the splendid rambling halls and apartments of Hampton Court Palace.

 

Urbis, of the city of Manchester

Urbis
Urbis

In 1996 an IRA bomb hit the area of Manchester around the old Print Works and Arngate. Fortunately, although 300 hundred people were injured, there were no fatalities and happily, the destruction was limited, in the main, to a car park. As it rebuilt in the aftermath of the bombing, Manchester became an international model of city centre development, with innovative buildings, malls, monuments, and spaces. But the star of this showpiece of urban development must surely be Urbis, Manchester’s state of the art exhibition centre.

Urbis, which is Latin for of the city, was the result of a design competition. The winner was local architect Ian Simpson.

Urbis shares one edge of a triangular garden space with Chetham’s Music School and the old Corn Exchange, which now houses the trendy Triangle Shopping Complex. It is a tall cylindrical concrete building coated in 200,000 panels of glass with emerald lights at their centre. There is a 3 foot insulation clearance between the concrete of the building and its glass exterior. At one end an external spire stretches like a bird towards the old city, while below it, the inside is like the prow of a ship.

The core focus at Urbis is Manchester – what makes up this fantastic city and how its citizens and visitors interact with it. The local television station, Channel M is housed here, promoting performers, producing shows and broadcasting uniquely Manchester events.

Urbis is a centre for workshops and tours, like the City Sights Regeneration Tour, exploring Manchester after the bomb, the Faith Tour, exploring city churches, or the Behind the Scenes at Urbis Tour, which looks at the history, the architecture and the organization of Urbis.

The Urbis  foyer is marketplace for local artists and craftspeople as well as an information centre on city life and history. Its shop offers a great range of books on Manchester and its people as well calendars, posters, prints, crafts and souvenirs of the city and the region. Urbis café is a meeting place, a place for Mancunians and visitors to socialize. Urbis’ three floors of show space house exhibitions about city life.

Urbis is a fascinating place to visit, not just as an introduction to the city of Manchester, or as an exploration of its story, or of its latest productions but for its own sake as a unique example of architecture and as a unique centre of city life and art.

 

The Making of modern Manchester

With the sweeping progress of the Industrial Revolution, Manchester became the world’s first modern city.

Urbis and the Printworks
Urbis and the Printworks

Soft water from the nearby Pennine Ranges made it the perfect place for cotton manufacture and by 1830, 80% of the world’s cotton was processed here. The city mushroomed as factories sprang up and eager workers flooded to them.

The wealth and prosperity of 19th century Manchester have left a legacy of great monuments, streets, squares and buildings, like Picadilly Gardens with its statues Robert Peel and the Duke of Wellington, the grand old Corn Exchange, the stunning Midland Hotel, the Majestic Town Hall and lovely Albert Square with its Thomas Worthington statue.

The first modern industrial city gave birth to many other world firsts. The Manchester Guardian was the world’s first workers’ newspaper, produced in the largest print works in the world. The world’s first passenger rail trip ran between Manchester and Liverpool. The Manchester ship canal was the first to link ocean-going ships to a British city. Finally, at this time, the church at the end of Deansgate became Manchester Cathedral under the name of the Cathedral Church of St Mary, St Denys and St George and the Victoria Porch, with a figure of the Queen sculpted by her daughter, Princess Louise was added. Sadly but inevitably, slums, social problems and pollution followed in the wake of the great industrial growth of the period.

After the Blitz of World War II, much of the heart of Manchester was rebuilt, including the beautiful circular library and St Peter’s Square with its Cenotaph. At this time too the stained glass of the Cathedral replaced the windows shattered in the Blitz.

The last fifty years in Manchester have seen great development and growth, with such greats as the giant 1960s Arndale Shopping Centre, one of Europe’s largest. Work continues to reverse the environmental damage of the Industrial Revolution and its aftermath. Run-down areas, such as the Salford Docks have been re-developed and the city has adjusted to accommodate new kind of urban dweller and to cater to their 21st century life-style.

However the catalyst for the most important changes of the last fifty years was the 1996 IRA bombing which destroyed much of the area surrounding Arndale and the Print Works. From the ashes of the destruction has come Manchester’s most exciting development yet.  The old print works is now a buzzing neon entertainment centre, facing a square where the Manchester eye turns against a background of little mediaeval buildings. Behind them, the spire of Manchester Cathedral stands against the sky. It faces onto a small square of green bounded by Chetham’s Music School and the Corn Exchange, now home to a complex of smart shops. Last but not least, there’s the sensational Urbis exhibition Centre, which points like a giant glass and steel phoenix back towards the old city.

Manchester is a great city with great vibe. It is an exciting place to pass through, to pause for a some time and, I should imagine, to live in. It is vibrant, dynamic and alive with promise.

A brief history of Manchester, from Roman to Mediaeval times

The Roman invasion, the Danish marauders, the Saxon settlers, the Norman Conquest, the Industrial Revolution, the World War 2 blitz and the IRA bombing, Manchester has endured and survived them all, rebuilding and reinventing itself for over almost two thousand years, to become the vibrant modern metropolis that it is today. Its streets and its architecture tell its long and fascinating story.

Manchester Cathedral
Manchester Cathedral

Manchester’s first century AD Roman past can be mainly seen in the reconstructions of walls, stables, barracks, granary and gardens at North Gate, although excavations have uncovered defensive ditches and Salford’s Camp Street marks the site where the first tents were pitched.

The only relic of Saxon times is the Angel Stone, which is mentioned in the Doomesday Book and was the foundation stone for the Church of St Mary, built at the end of Deansgate in the 8th century. The Danes 9th century legacy is found only fragments of language like “gat”, Danish for “street” found in today’s Millsgate and busy, commercial Deansgate.

The Norman Conquest and settlement of 1066 has left more behind it. The historic area of Castlefield, where the Norman town was established, still remains as a vibrant and picturesque part of the new city.

In the lands surrounding Manchester, Norman manors and castles still stand. The names of those early Norman settlers are prominent in the establishment of early Manchester, like Thomas de Gresley, whose son was granted the Great Manchester Charter, in 1301. It was De Gresley’s medieval successors who built the 15th century Hanging Bridge, founded the Chetham’s Music School library and established the Collegiate Church, in 1421. The Arch and the west wall of the Mediaeval Collegiate Church still stand within the tower of the present Manchester Cathedral.