Thursday, May 28, 2015

Where The Great War Began....

Looking down the Miljacka River to the point on the opposite bank that played such a significant part in the Great War. Here, at the Latin Bridge was were Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914, which triggered the beginning of World War I.

Sarajevo is full of history, war, sadness, memories, and resilience. So interesting!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Glimpsing The Santorini Windmill At Sunset

Sunsets on Santorini continued to impress, with the view from the edge of the land jut into the Mediterranean at the Oia end of the island.

The image of the iconic windmill at the sea's edge here at Oia was the symbol of the sunset we were about to enjoy, and gave the view a focal point.

After walking from Fira, I made my way through the small, cobbled laneways of Oia to the peak of the island - with everyone else on Santorini, it seemed!

After having the Fira sunset practically all to myself, here at Oia I was battling on my tiptoes to get the view I wanted, with swarms of tourists, all vying for the chance to get their sunset photos.

Every available vantage point was taken, as the sun started to make it's progress towards the water. Rooftops, balconies and terraces were filled, and it seemed like many people had been there at their spot for some time, to secure the view. Being a solo traveler, though, I could work my way through the crowd, and find a good spot on my own.

The colour hue show that nature put on for us all to take in was spectacular, leaving no doubt that these sunsets are the most beautiful in the world. You just can't beat the sun dipping into the ocean.

The overwhelming crowd ooed and ahhed as the colours changed, and the sun disappeared. We were lucky on this evening too for some random clouds across the sky, which I think always makes a sunset more impressive, catching and enhancing the colour show.

Once the actual sun had disappeared from view, much of the crowd headed back into the streets of Oia to the restaurants and market stalls. This gave me a slightly better view of the terraces below, and the hive of activity all around this section of the little town.

So very pretty, this sunset is one not to miss on a visit to the Greek Islands.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Gushing River Neretva

Having walked through the cobbled market street of Mostar from the iconic Stari Most, I crossed another bridge over the Neretva River and caught this view.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Doors Of Oia: Santorini Photo Essay

As I made my walk down the hill from my walk from Fira to Oia, more of the iconic white buildings signature to the Island, appeared with each step. Claiming their space on the caldera edge towards the sea and the volcanic island in the bay, each was so pretty and unique.

As the light began to fade, the hues were made even more beautiful, combining with the pathways, the sea and the sky.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Fifty, Plus Four: Country Counting

As I crossed the border from Montenegro to Croatia last year, I reached my 50th country.

According to the map program above, I have now visited 24% of the world, being 54 countries.

In the past 12 months, I have added the Solomon Islands, Greece, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, the United Arab Emirates, and Taiwan.

The challenge now will be to keep the momentum of visiting new places each year, as I face the prospect of getting a job in one place, without so much time to travel!

You can check out the progress of this map this the beginning of this blog, 10 years ago now, here through my Visited Countries tag.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Caldera Walk From Fira To Oia, Santorini

Walking along the track on top of the volcanic caldera in Santorini provides contantly changing, spectacular views!

That top photo is the view looking towards Oia from the edge of the buildings and resorts in Fia. This one to the left is looking back to Fia. So dreamy!

Inspired by a post I read about the walk over on World Wandering Kiwi when I was researching the Greek Islands, I was determined to do this on my visit to Santorini.

The walk is about 9.6kms, and starts within the white restaurants and hotels of Fira. In my research I read one tourist saying it was hard to find the path, and whilst it wasn't marked, it was pretty easy to just walk in the direction of Oia, the peek of land you could see across the bay. The worst that could happen in this built-up area is that you wander through a pretty laneway, for yet another amazing view of the water!

The path is very defined once you are through the bulk of Fira buildings, and climbs up and down until you have a clear view of Oia town. At just one point it leaves you, making you veer onto the shoulder of the road connecting the two towns, but it is clear where it starts again, and you are once again walking along the edge of the volcanic cauldron.

I planned my walk to reach Oia around sunset, which also meant that I had avoided the heat of the day.

There were endless photo opportunities along the way, with a couple of iconic Santorini churches providing perfect white-and-blue contrasts, and the sun was obliging with great light. It's also hard to beat the view of the sun heading towards the water, and the reflections that that gives.

As the sun started it's seemingly faster dip into the blue Mediterranean, I reached the highest peek, and could see the white dotted town of Oia below. The path got easier as the destination was in sight, and was mostly downhill.

Weaving my way through the tiny streets as the building density thickened, the volume of tourists also increased. Whilst on the walk there were about 4 other people doing it around the same time as me, but as I walked through Oia, everyone in Santorini must have been there!

The beautiful sunset at the end of the jut of land was the reward for the walk, and worth every step!

jouljet notes
Serious Tip: There is only one spot along the way to buy water, so carry some with you.
Cost: Free!
Time Spent: I took just over 3 hours to complete this walk, but stopped to take LOADS of photos.
Quirky Tip: The little church right at the top has some random props for photos, like a standing bell tower, and an old upturned wheelbarrow, both with the most incredible views as backdrops.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Dome In Mostar

Walking around the streets of Mostar, I was enchanted by the mosques. I was invited in to see the inside of the Karadozbeg Mosque, including the chance to climb the tiny, winding staircase to the top of the minaret. From here I got a good grasp of the town in Herzegovina, and also got a gorgeous view of the domes of the madrassa annexe below.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Chilled, easy to get around, great music discoveries across each of the days, good food - Bluesfest in Byron Bay this year was everything you want in a music festival.

We bought tickets on a bit of a whim, really, months ago, and then several of the bands we had been swayed to see pulled out. Yet when the Easter long weekend approached, and Jess and I met at Brisbane airport for a roadtrip down to Byron, we were petty excited about the musical experience ahead.

After settling in to our digs for the weekend, we navigated the bus transport to get us into Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm, and made our way straight to see the second half of Wagons' set in the Jambalaya tent. Always fun, the band played many of the punchy live tracks that win over new listeners, and thus, our music feast began.

We switched to the big Mojo tent, and took in the sounds and moves of Jurassic 5's hip hop tunes, along with a decent crowd.

I then ducked back to the Jambalaya tent for one of my much loved Aussie bands, Boy & Bear. Tracks from both their albums, they impressed as always live, with Lordy May, Feeding Line, and rhythmic Milk & Sticks.
Part Time Believer was in there, with Three-Headed Women, plus the emotionally charged Back Down The Black shone. A little return to their EP days with Rabbit Song, before big tracks of Golden Jubilee and Southern Sun rounding out their big and popular set. Always amazing live.

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue brought big band blues jazz funk to Mojo, which was seriously fun to a very dancy crowded tent.

Still on Mojo, I finally got to see Counting Crows, who I have never seen live, despite having their album on high play back at college. Opening with Round Here, the crowd took over the signing straight away, which set the scene for the set. Crowd favourites like Omaha and Mr Jones created mass tent sized singalongs, which were incredible. Lead singer Adam was engaging, but didn't really need to exert his voice too much with such eager crowd participation.

Color Blind was a stand out, and the set ended with an encore of Rain King.

Checking out some of the live RocKwiz music and quiz session first on the next day, I then jumped across to the Delta tent for Declan Kelly presents Diesel 'n Dub.
Alex Lloyd featured, with Emma Donovan and Frank Yamma doing a collection of Midnight Oil songs - each a strong political voice, for the rights of our indigenous brothers and sisters across Australia. The set opened with our PM's recent grab of hideousness, talking about his idea that living in remote communities are about 'lifestyle choices', which set the scene for the set, speaking out against the proposed closure of these communities. Thus, Beds Are Burning, especially resonated.

A sudden and heavy rain shower had us seeking shelter up at the Juke Joint tent after this - where in the process, we discovered the country blues storytelling tunes of Matt Anderson - one of our finds of the festival, and the most by chance. Engaging and witty lyrics, he had the whole pretty-full crowd, hanging on every word.

After catching up with a friend over dinner between sets, I then rejoined Jess for a bit of Gray Clark Jr funk, before we called it a night just before music's end.

Day three we arrived for the start of the music of the day, and took in Luluc and their sweet melodies in the Juke Joint. A packed RocKwiz was next on the bill for us, as we watched them get the quiz started, before I then ducked over to Crossroads tent for Nikki Hill. I had read good reviews of her first set for the festival, and enjoyed her energy and girl power of this set.

Mariachi El Bronx delivered some fun Mexicana funk in Mojo next for us, before I returned to Juke Joint to see the full Wagons set. Beer Barrell Bar was a stand out, as was Drive All Night Till Dawn, with crowd favourite Willie Nelson featuring the usual encouraged participation to end the set.

I got back to Mojo and worked my way into the crammed tent for Hozier - who killed it! We had seperated for this because of which act we had each seen before, and when we met back up for Alabama Shakes just after we wowed that we had just seen a packed tent full of people singing song we had never heard before. Turned out they were Someone New and Take Me To Church. We know who he is now!

Alabama Shakes was another amazing musical discovery for me, who rocked that full tent also. Then we changed to Crossroads for a slightly more mellow David Gray, who played loads of favourites like Babylon, Sail Away, and This Year's Love, mingled with new tracks from his new album, and ended with Say Hello Wave Goodbye.

Wanting to cut off both my feet by this bus ride home that night, we rested up ready to do it all again for the next day.

Easter Sunday at Bluesfest was marked with organic chocolate-filled doughnuts and coffee to start our festival going, whilst admiring the mud patches around most of the bigger tents. Our gumboots were a welcome fashion piece, with so many versions seen across the weekend.

The Beautiful Girls is what got us out of bed to get there for their set on this day, and watching them play their chilled tunes was well worth it. Their set also featured Matt's son on stage, who played along on his mini-guitar and showered the front crowd with Easter eggs on cue. Cute!

I watched a little of Ash Grunwald next, and then a little more of Gary Clark Jr, before talking a walk around and catching a couple of Diesel's songs in a packed Delta tent.

But the set of the festival for me was next, and we both made our way into the big tent for Xavier Rudd And The United Nations. Such great multicultural tunes, with a message, and such stage presence. Xavier was powerful in delivery and politics, and they showcased their new album across the set, and really impressed. Again, another act I have not seen live before, and was so blown away by here at Bluesfest.

We sat at sidestage seating for some dinner and Rodrigo y Gabriela instrumental brilliance. Wow!

The eventual headliner of the Festival was next on Mojo, and we got into position expecting a massive crowd and set from Ben Harper And The Innocent Criminals. Opening with Glory & Consequence, and adding Amen Omen, the two hour set started very low key and flat, before Burn One Down got some crowd attention again.

Excuse Me Mr brought some energy back, but he had lost a bit of the crowd by then. Several new tracks were sprinkled in, with Steal My Kisses a standout of the set. A shame that the final act for my festival lacked the punch we had anticipated, but it only highlighted how very good local Rudd was just two sets prior.

An incredible long weekend away, with epic music hours, catching up with friends, some great food, and some very sore, tired and muddy feet! Worth every leg ache, for sure!

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Be Free Art Trail In Preston

Last weekend, I woke to the post on Facebook from Melbourne street artist Be Free, that he had put in place ready for people to find and enjoy. I happened to be housesitting in the area, and so I was perfectly placed for a street art hunt.

Most of these pieces are Be Free's playful girl, and include actual playing cards as part of the paste up. These are new older pieces, which are all ones I have seen pictures of, but never found live before.

The map can be found here, and all of these pieces are within easy strolling distance. A couple of them are in small back laneways behind residential terrace houses, or the Right Of Way (ROW). But all are really easy to get to - except the one in the abandoned building, which you can only see through the high windows.

Tucked away enough to pass the test of time, before the weather may take them away before anything else, these five girls will surely still be in place long enough to enjoy for any future would-be street art hunters. Just look for the trail of playing cards!

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Drinking In The Sunset At Fira

I had expected the terraces of white dwellings, restaurants and bars, fancy hotels, and walkways and laneways along the sea edge of Santorini's Fira to be overloaded with people trying to take in the sight of the sun setting over the volcanic island in the bay and sinking into the water.

But after wandering through the cute little white lanes, taking a peek at the view across the bay at every possible vantage point I could find, I found a cafe bar with a terrace, ordered a beer, took a table, and settled in for the show. During my walk around I rarely saw anyone else, and for quite some time, I had this terrace with the most spectacular views all to myself.

I wondered at one point whether there was somewhere else I was supposed to be, that perhaps I was missing out on something else. Where was everyone?

But looking further across the sprawl of white buildings, I could see the more central bars crammed full of people, and hear the usual bar-noise din floating across from these places. I figured I had scored the better option, just purely by chance.

The colour changes were breathtaking. As the sun made it's gradual path towards the horizon, the sky hues changed so many times. But also, the light reflecting across the Fira white buildings also gave a beautiful warm glow. 

The peace of my vantage point certainly enhanced the beauty of the nature show in front of me, with nothing but the sunset and stillness of the bay to focus on. The sunset show took the time of a handful of beers, ordered from the tiny cafe, with the setting certainly encouraging more.

There really is nothing quite like seeing the sun sink into the sea. But then the colour show that was put on just after gave the whole experience a new level of incredible.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Placa Dubrovnik Before Sunset

The view down the 300 metre Strandun in the Old Town in Dubrovnik is gorgeous at any time in the day, but as the sun starts to dip and hits the limestone-paved pedestrian street it is even more so. The main street in the walled city is the heart of the village-like life, and seems to never sleep.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

The Magic Of Fat Duck In Melbourne

When it was announced that Heston Blumenthal was going to bring his restaurant to Melbourne for just six short months, my sisters and I clammered for the ballot - and all missed out on a table in the draw. I promptly forget all about it, until one of my sisters messaged out of the blue and said we had a call up for a dinner seating, due to a cancellation. Hello! We were in!

A short video was emailed around from the restaurant, to give hints and create some mystery and excitement about our dining date - as if that was needed!

Fat Duck Melbourne is situated in a small room on Level 3 of Crown Casino, at the classy end, and whilst set intimately with just 14 tables, was full of sleak and simple elegance.

The view along, across the Yarra River, from the high windows along one wall of the room, allowed the occasional glimpse out to the dusk approaching, and darkness falling on the city outside. In between the 16 courses served to us across the 5 hours of dining.

First was the ridiculously pretty and delicate Aerated Beetroot. A little morsel packed full of flavour, balanced on the most beautiful plate. The plating of each dish was a feature of the night, in addition to the food and presentation of each.

Next our waiter steered across a trolley to our table, and commenced with creating each of our chosen flavours of the Nitro Poached Aperitifs. A puff of flavour, made in front of our eyes with dry ice panache.
Each dish arrived to our table with a flurry of activity, with plates landing on the table together for all four of us. Dramatic and exciting, the wait staff were also really happy to be there, and enjoying there work. And were happy to answer questions, and marvel in the awe they were creating.

Next was the Red Cabbage Gazpacho, with Pommery Grain Mustard Ice Cream - such unusual textures, and mustard ice cream! Where do these ideas come from!?

The Savoury Lollies were next, which looked like mini-ice creams from childhood, but again in the twist of flavours, were Waldorf salad, sushi-style salmon and rich liver pate as the unmistakable Gaytime.

Placed in the centre of our table for Fifth Course, was a bed of Oak Moss with tabs for each of us to take and place on our tongues. Next, a china white dome was placed at each setting, with a wood block upon which sat the Truffle Toast. Inside the dome was the Jelly Of Quail, with layered parts including Marron Cream and Caviar Sorbet. The waitress then poured dry ice from a teapot onto the moss in the centre of the table, covering the table with fog which filled the air with the moss smell, to create the full effect of this course.

The Snail Porridge landed next, bringing a bright green soup with Shaved Fennel and bits of Joselito Ham. Things we don't usually eat, these tastes and the presentation delivering such delight and surprise!

On another gorgeous plate, the Roast Marron arrived, on a bed of Shiitake, frills of crunchy Sea Lettuce and Confit Kombu smeared on the plate. This dish was delicious, with little dots of sauce adding extra punch.

Eight was a palate cleanser, and was an enchanting Mad Hatter's Tea Party. A fob watch of gold, melted into a turtle soup, swirled as instructed by our waitstaff. In the middle of the table for this was placed a tier of tiny toast sandwiches, which were delicious. I seriously never need to eat another sandwich again, as nothing will beat these little morsels of delight!

The "Sounds Of The Sea" experience started with a shell each, with headphones. Placing these on, we each had some quite time as we were transported through our ears to the seaside. Once the tray of glass-covered sand arrived, we were relaxed and far away in our minds from where we actually were. After tasting each of the components on the plate, we were challenged by our waiter to guess what we had tasted. Anchovy sand was correct, and the delicious seafood morsels we were hit and miss with the guesses. Foam and seaweed added to the themed dish.

Course number 10 was my favourite of the night, being the Salmon Poached in a Liquorice Gel. The salmon fell away, and the liquorice was a surprise flavour. Endive and Vanilla Mayonnaise, these tastes were incredible, the cooking so clever.

Lamb medallions, served with Cucumber was the last of the "main" dishes, and was plated on beautiful plates. A work of art on it's own.

Breaking up the meal to sweets was the Hot & Iced Tea - which was just that. As you drank, half your mouth felt the warmth, the other the cold of this tea. We discussed as we drank and marveled at what science was going on here, in sheer delight.
Another very pretty, and a favourite dish of mine from the night, was the Botrytis Cinerea. I have no idea what that means, but essentially the plate had a bunch of grapes-like collection of balls of flavour. Our waiter suggested leaving the bigger green one to last, which was a great tip, with the tastes building to this final one. Such an array of textures, temperatures, and tastes. Another magical delight!

Next was the weirdest course of the night, the Not-So-English Breakfast. First, we were each given a cereal box, and a little jar of white milk...which turned out to be parsley flavoured. The box contained a cereal of sorts, with a puzzle piece. This puzzle peice was each individually placed on a board, which was completed by each of the people dining for the sitting. This would then be added to the huge puzzle forming along the wall of the restaurant.

Breakfast not yet complete, the next part was very weird indeed. Scrambled eggs ice cream, made before our eyes, candied pancetta, and french toast. A marmalade was added, which had a white chocolate edible lid. So many details!

The big fanfare dishes done, we were each presented with a board with a map and four Whiskey Wine Gums from Australia and Ireland. These were to be peeled off, and tasted in order.

Finally, we were presented with our "Like A Kid In A Sweet Store" bag of treats as a finale. Four handmade lollies, including Aerated Chocolate, and amazing Apple Pie Caramel. These were hinted at in the video we watched before our night, and ended the night with added delight.

A once in a lifetime dining experience, with a price tag to make you know you are getting someone extrodinary. Worth it as a treat for anyone who loves food, magic, experimentation and mystery, with science and the enchantment of wonderland. All five senses were tickled with the food, for full delight.

The wait staff really added to the experience, as well as the setting, and all four of us emerged from the experience in awe and wonder, and totally food sated.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

A Summer Of Music In Melbourne

I am always in awe as to how very lucky we are to live in Melbourne, and have so much music available to us, virutally all the time. Even between my past work schedule, I have managed to fit in a range of amazing gigs for this half of the year already.

St Kilda Festival's last day of music featured The Basics and San Cisco. I got to the beachside stage ready for our favourite local trio, and took a patch of grass in the sun to listen to their new tracks, sprinkled with some old ones.

The set opened so strongly, with new Time Poor and Lucky Country delivered with punch, political comment, and musical gusto.

Older favourites like Just Hold On, Have Love, Will Travel, and Rattle My Chain featured, as well as live regulars like Three Cool Cats and Rain. The set by the water ended with a cover of Neil Young's Old Man.

Nicole joined me on the hill, and we stood in the mass of crowd for San Cisco. Not knowing many of their tracks, Nicole dutifully informed me that many of those they played were new, about to be released on an album. All the kids around did go crazy for Fred Astaire toward the end, though.

The next gig was a warm up show for Something For Kate, before some festival sets. Announced pretty quietly, Carlos managed to grab up tickets for the small Howler bandroom. Missing Stephanie from the stage line up, the "boy band" as Paul referred to them at one point, played many of the Leave Your Soul To Science album. One of the last songs of the night was Paul giving us his own version of Michael Jackson's Billie Jean - wowser, that man can make any song sound incredible!

My next gig of a pretty amazing run of live music was First Aid Kit, at the Palais. Introduced to them whilst over in Nauru, I was keen to hear these two Swedish sisters voices sour in this venue. And that they did! They also introduced me to many of their tracks from previous releases, which I am very keen to hear more of.

Songs like Stay Gold, Silver Lining, and Shattered & Hollow were as incredible live as they are on the album. The girls chatted throughout the set, which added character and charm to their already impressive act. Introducing their Triple J Like A Version cover, they mentioned that after this challenge they now play Jack Black's Love Interruption all the time. So they should, it's awesome!

Back to the Palais in St Kilda the following night, Nicole and I saw Chet Faker. These shows were an extra run, after his win with song of the year in Triple Js Hottest 100.

Again, an artist that I was keen on because of his album release last year, this gig opened me up to many of his past releases and sounds. Chet made comment at one point, saying that maybe many people had come along to hear their favourite track that night, but he hoped rather that they would discover their new favourite song. It certainly made me seek out further albums of his.

From out seats on the balcony level, we could see as he set up layer upon layer for many of the tracks - a serious artist at work.

Opening with Melt and then Release Your Problems, he then played the song he said started it all, a cover of Blackstreet's No Diggity, which was very impressive.
At one point he confessed that this venue was not his choice for these shows, which matched my thoughts as the reverb of his bass tracks seemed to hum through the historic theatre - it would have been better played in the old Palace in the city (now closed down to make way for apartments) where the crowd could have stood and danced throughout.

Another cover of the night he dedicated to his father in the audience, which was a near-unrecognisable, but yet amazing Moondance by Van Morrison.

He rounded out with more from his latest release, with Gold and 1998, with the older Cigarettes And Chocolates tossed in.

Chet took the stage solo and at the piano for the finale, the song everyone had been waiting for, Talk Is Cheap. In a pretty stripped back, and understanded version, it seemed like a hat tip to those who had indeed discovered more about him and his music than this one release.

Next, in March, I joined a group to see the Buena Vista Social Club, in their final world tour, at Hamer Hall. A musical teleporting to Cuba was delivered, with brass jazz and funk for several hours. Dancing, and pure musical joy, was dished out!

As a farewell tour, they included many ributes to past and present members of the band, with old footage and photos, which added to the charm of the evening.

84 year old Omara's presence on the stage for her numbers were easily the highlight of the show, and he singing alongside her husband in the band, was just gorgeous. This was such a fun night!

Finally, in this incredible run of music in Melbourne, Nicole and I went along to Hamer Hall again, for Paul Kelly and the Merri Soul Sessions. Apart from Sound Relief, I actually haven't seen Australia's greatest songwriter live before. The Merri Soul Sessions was an album release with a collaboration from a number of Aussie artists, such as Vika and Linda Bull, Dan Sultan, Clairy Brown and Kira Pura.

Kelly curated the set with each and every artist combination for tracks. Many of the songs of the first hour were from this new album, and the second hour featured the classic Paul Kelly songs such as How To Make Gravy, Songs From The Sixteenth Floor, Look So Fine, Feel So Low, and Give In To My Love.

The encore included Dumb Things, and ended with all six artists, with Emma Donovan from the support act behindhand, singing Meet Me In The Middle Of The Air, a capella. So beautiful.
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