Fog hung over Lake Louise as we braved the chilly morning and walked the trail along the lake, hoping to see some wildlife. Nothing, not even a bird. Back at the hotel, an excited man ran past us shouting, “Grizzly.” We learned later that he had indeed seen a grizzly and the hotel staff had ushered everyone on the walking path back to the hotel grounds. We had missed the sighting by minutes.
Sunrise in Hobart, and David and I walked the Franklin Wharf, the Castray Esplanade, and the surrounding streets, ending up at the Rendezvous Lounge Cafe in Salamanca Square. The eatery’s ratings were “fair,” but it opened shortly after 7:00 a.m. and we were hungry. Our poached eggs topped with wilted spinach and a side of tomato relish was delicious. I sipped hot tea while David surfed the Net to answer his question of why the square was called Salamanca.
Named after the 1812 victory of the Duke of Wellington in the Battle of Salamanca, in the Spanish province of Salamanca, Salamanca Place was built during the whaling industry boom in the early- to mid-nineteenth century. The area consists of rows of sandstone buildings, which were formerly warehouses for the port of Hobart Town. In the mid-1990s, Salamanca Square was built, and the old warehouses now house shops, galleries, cafés, and restaurants.
Every Saturday the Salamanca Market, a community market popular with locals and tourists, is held between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. at Salamanca Place. There is also a grocery store nearby called Salamanca Fresh. They sell fresh local produce, as well as conventional items found in any grocery store.
We still had several hours before we had to catch the airport bus, so we browsed the art galleries and bought a few souvenirs for family and friends, and a stuffed animal for me—“Diego,” a Tasmanian devil. I really liked the island, but sadly, our Down Under holiday was drawing to a close. That afternoon we caught a flight to Sydney.
Sydney. We checked into the Marriott Circular Quay, grabbed our daypacks, and played tourist, wandering the streets for hours, taking in the sights and shopping. We could have walked to our restaurant that night, but we had already spent hours touring the city and our feet needed a break, so we flagged a cab to the Woolloomooloo Wharf to dine at China Doll. We sat outdoors, the balmy evening inviting, and feasted on crispy shrimp dumplings and pork san choy to start, followed by a sashimi platter and tamarind-crusted duck. Our first evening in Sydney ended with an excellent wine from Australia’s McLaren Vale region.
Day two in Sydney. Now, I could finally strike off my list the second architectural wonder I had longed to see. I had already visited the Guggenheim Bilbao, and today we had arranged for a guided tour of the Sydney Opera House.
In 1954, Eugene Goossens, conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, as well as the director of the New South Wales (NSW) Conservatorium for Music, met with NSW premier Joseph Cahill, and they agreed that Australia needed an opera house.
In December 1955, Mr. Cahill announced an international design competition for the opera house, with Sydney’s Bennelong Point the approved site. The competition required a design for two performance halls—one for opera and the other for symphony concerts.
On January 19, 1957, Danish architect Jørn Utzon was announced as the winner and awarded 5,000 British pounds. Utzon was initially rejected by three judges in the 1956 competition, but his entry was picked by a fourth, renowned Finnish American architect Eero Saarinen, who declared it outstanding. Utzon beat 232 other entrants.
Work on the opera house started in 1959, with ten thousand builders employed, and it opened in October 1973. The estimated cost was around £7 million, but the actual cost grew to £102 million. In 1966, Utzon quit the project after a new state Liberal government was elected and problems arose between him and the new works minister. Utzon left Sydney, never seeing his vision for the interior realized, and never seeing his masterpiece completed. He was not invited to the opening ceremony; nor was his name mentioned.
In 1999, the Opera House Trust and NSW government “re-engaged” Utzon as the design consultant for future work on the opera house, and he developed a set of principles as a basis for all future changes to the building. Utzon said his renewed contact with Sydney felt like a “wonderful welcome back to Australia, a hand extended in the spirit of reconciliation, a hand I shake with warmth and gratitude.”
Of the opera house he said, “I like to think the Sydney Opera House is like a musical instrument, and like any fine instrument, it needs a little maintenance and fine tuning from time to time if it is to keep on performing at the highest level.”
The architectural style is Expressionist Modernism, and the building’s site is close to 15 acres. The opera house itself is over 606 feet long and over 410 wide, and rises 220 feet above sea level, around the height of a 22-story building. The roof is made of 2,194 precast concrete sections, weighing up to 15 tons each and held together by 218 miles of tensioned steel cable. The roof is covered in more than 1 million tiles, and has over 20,000 feet of glass, made to order in France and unique to the Sydney Opera House. The largest of the seven venues, the Concert Hall, has 2,679 seats, and the total number of rooms in the opera house is 1,000.
In an earlier post, I wrote about my visit to the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain. There I discuss the Bilbao Effect. Every struggling post-industrial city has the same idea: hire a star architect (like Frank Gehry) to design a branch of a famous museum (like the Guggenheim), and watch your city blossom with culture. After all, it worked for Bilbao.
The Bilbao Effect pumped millions into the city’s economy with up to a hundred thousand visitors each month patronizing the hotels, restaurants, and shops. And Bilbao generated about $100 million in taxes in the first three years of operation. Today, over a million people visit the museum per year.
The Sydney Effect? According to a report by Deloitte, the Sydney Opera House is one of Australia’s key assets, contributing $775 million to the Australian economy every year. And it has a cultural and iconic value of $4.6 billion.
While David mapped out our plans for the day, I wandered the hotel to peruse the artwork and to fantasize about what life must have been like in Sir Henry Jones’s time. I found the following bit of history on the Hunter Street warehouses, framed and hanging on a wall next to an abstract painting, and wanted to share it with my readers. There is some overlap of information from last week’s post, but I hope you find this history as interesting as I do.
William Bunster built Numbers 33 and 31 Hunter Street in the 1820s as a residence and warehouse. He traded in sealskins from Macquarie Island, salt and sealskins from Kangaroo Island, and general merchandise between Hobart and Sydney. As his business expanded he acquired Number 35, and several country properties as well. Unlike many other merchants, he did not build his fortune on initial wealth or family connections. At a dinner given in his honor in the early 1850s he described himself as ‘a plain man . . . I have tried to steer an independent course. I owe nothing to Government nor to any man.’
For much of its life Number 31 was also a tavern. In 1827, it was the Commercial Inn, where Hobart’s first Chamber of Commerce was formed at a meeting of merchants in a room on the first floor, while sailors and wharf laborers drank up their meagre pay in the Shades Tap Room in the basement.
Between 1869 and 1882 Numbers 27–33 were bought in a dilapidated condition by George Peacock, a jam manufacturer. Peacock ran his firm on religious lines, with morning prayers, hymns, and sermons, and strict abstinence from alcohol. Despite these precautions, by 1892 his firm had fallen on hard times. Peacock’s son and two of his employees formed a partnership and bailed out the Old Wharf jam factory. One of his employees was young Henry Jones. Like Peacock before him, Jones lived in Bunster’s old house, Number 33. The other warehouses were the cornerstone of his empire, which grew far beyond Tasmania’s shores.
After the Great Fire of 1890 swept through the whole of Hunter Street from the Drunken Admiral to the site of the old gasworks, now home to the Federation Concert Hall, many of the burned homes were never rebuilt. Others were sold or demolished, and most of the area was replaced with commercial development—contributing to Wapping’s demise as a residential district.
Today, Hobart’s seediest district sports one of the town’s tallest high-rise hotels and new walk-up yuppie apartments. But not far from the modern waterfront hotel, I discovered what I hoped to find—restored historical buildings preserved for a new use: the Mantra Collins Hotel, which appears to be part old and part new, and the Old Woolstore Apartment Hotel, which sits on land originally known as Wapping and later referred to as Sullivan’s Cove. Particularly intriguing was the top floor of the Woolstore building with its sawtooth roofline. This style of roofing allowed the maximum amount of natural light into the room, which benefited the wool weavers.
After learning about Henry Jones’s IXL jam factory, my first thought was, “Where did Peacock, and then Jones, get such an abundance of fruit for his jams?” So I did some research. As surprised as I was that the sugarcane industry is one of Australia’s largest and most important industries, I was even more surprised to learn that Tasmania grows an abundance of fresh fruit. In fact, the Tasmanian fruit industry was worth over $102 million in 2010. The major fruit crops grown are apples, pears, cherries, berries, and stone fruit. Although the apple industry has been in decline over the past decade, it still accounts for 25 percent of Tasmania’s fruit production, and the cherry industry is experiencing significant growth.
As an adolescent growing up overseas, it never dawned on me that jam didn’t come in a can. I’m sure I saw jam in a glass container when I lived in Maryland, but I never made a note of that. I also don’t recall ever seeing syrup in any container but a can. Pictured is my favorite syrup—in a can.
Tasmania also has a significant history of tin production. Tin was discovered in the late 1800s and was the metal of choice. George Peacock sourced his tin from local mines to make the cans for his jams.
An hour later, David hunted me up and we set out to explore the surrounding area, starting at Battery Point, named after the battery of guns established on the point in 1818 as part of Hobart’s coastal defenses. Our goal was simply to walk, and we did—Battery Point, Sandy Bay, University of Tasmania, Cascades Female Factory, St. David’s Park, Salamanca Place and Salamanca Market, Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, and finally the Old Woolstore Apartment Hotel at 1 Macquarie Street. And along the way, we passed the Queen Alexandra Hospital where Errol Flynn was born, and we managed to find time to see Maffra, the Victorian Gothic weatherboard house designed by noted architect Henry Hunter in 1885 and once home to the Hollywood actor.
In the hotel lobby, adjacent to the IXL Long Bar, we sank into one of the cushiony leather sofas, ordered drinks, and relaxed before dinner at the Peacock and Jones. I had the duck and foie gras and bitter leaf salad with truffle vinaigrette. David chose the Huon Valley beef with horseradish, smoked tongue, and pommes dauphine.