Australia 2014: Sydney

The Sydney Opera House

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 Skyline

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.

Alexandra Gardens, St. Kilda Road

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.



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Tasmania 2014: Hobart

Hunter Street, Hobart, Tasmania. Photo credit: Dee Kramer Photography/Above Down Under deekramer.com/

The next morning we strolled the Melbourne waterfront—again. Both of us had fallen for the city. David had always said he would never live in a city, but if he ever did, it would be Melbourne. Two firsts for him: ranching in New Zealand and city living in Melbourne. Sounded like he was ready to be an Aussie or a Kiwi. Seriously though, we have no plans to emigrate, but another visit? Definitely.

In the afternoon, we caught a flight from Melbourne to Hobart, Tasmania. Curious about the locale and its people, I’ve always wanted to visit the island, and I was excited that it would finally happen.

While I call myself an ultramodern minimalist, I love all periods of architecture—ancient to modern. But what fascinates me the most about old buildings is their past. How did they come to be what they are today? So when I saw The Henry Jones Art Hotel in Hobart, I couldn’t wait to delve into the history of the old brick warehouses that front the wharf. Since I was in no position to capture an aerial shot of the Hunter Street causeway, I asked photographer Dee Kramer for permission to use her photo of Hobart, which gives the reader an excellent view of the entire waterfront as it appears today. To the left of the photo is the Drunken Admiral, a restaurant, and The Henry Jones Art Hotel is to the middle right. You can just make out the lettering on the two buildings. The hotel is to the left of the pale blue building. Both establishments will be mentioned in the next few blog posts.

The Henry Jones Art Hotel

After my initial research, I became addicted to delving into the compelling convict history of the island. Why, you might ask? Because from the checkered pasts of their parents, the children of convicts went on to achieve such amazing accomplishments. Some parents’ crimes were petty, while others were quite serious, but so many of the descendants of convicts had much to be proud of. One such person was Sir Henry Jones, knighted in 1919 by King George V. Jones’s citation read, “An architect of his own fortunes and his ability and enterprise had a giant influence upon the progress of Hobart and the state of Tasmania.” The quote is from a magazine article in Tasmania 40ºSouth titled “Henry Jones rediscovered” by writer Craig Sampson, the great-grandson of Sir Henry Jones.

For Tasmanians, even as late as the 1970s, having European ancestors who were “free settlers” was something to feel smug about, as opposed to being stained by those who were convicts. During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the British sent more than 165,000 convicts to Tasmania. The first jail was built at Risdon Cove, but in 1804 the prisoners were moved to Sullivan’s Cove—soon to be called Hobart. The most hardened criminals were housed at Port Arthur.

In 1804, Lieutenant Governor David Collins stepped onto the shores of Hunter Island in a remote corner of Van Diemen’s Land, the original name for Tasmania. The Dutch explorer Abel Tasman was the first European to explore the island, and he named it after Anthony van Diemen, the governor-general of the Dutch East Indies. The name was changed to Tasmania in 1856. Collins’s arrival marked a new era of change with the settlement of Hobart. Soon Hunter Street was constructed on the old Hobart Town causeway, which once joined Hunter Island to the shores of Sullivan’s Cove. In 1820, a stone causeway wide enough to accommodate two carts passing each other was built over the original roadway, and the first warehouses were constructed to cater to the growing number of ships docking at the harbor. Photo: Front door of the hotel. Inside looking out.

Factories, storehouses, and dwellings emerged, like nearby Wapping, the unofficial name for a closely settled working-class neighborhood alongside Hobart’s first wharf. Like its London namesake by the Thames, it was a low-lying, flood-prone district dominated by the nearby docks. Two streams emptied into the flat, marshy area including the town’s water supply and drainage system, the Hobart Town Rivulet. Over the next fifteen years, the settlement grew rapidly, fed by the thriving whaling and sealing industries, and a steady supply of convict labor.

In the 1830s, a severe depression hit Hobart. The whaling industry collapsed from overexploitation, a new wharf had been constructed across the bay (at what is now Salamanca Place), and the Old Wharf and nearby Wapping were gripped by poverty. The rivulet that supplied Wapping with fresh water had become polluted from factories and slaughterhouses. Disease was rampant, slums proliferated, and the buildings of Old Wharf fell into disrepair. With its brothels, taverns, and nefarious activities, the Old Wharf developed a reputation for wickedness.

In 1869, businessman George Peacock moved his successful jam-making business to his newly acquired warehouses on the Old Wharf—the best location in Hobart for exporting produce. Peacock Jams were in high demand, and the shrewd businessman had a vision and determination to expand his flourishing business.

Jam boiler at The Henry Jones Art Hotel.

Peacock arrived at Hobart Town in 1850 and opened a grocery and fruit shop. By 1867, he had become one of the first manufacturers of canned jam in the colonies. In 1869, he moved his factory to a large stone warehouse on the Old Wharf, with copper pans and two boilers to supply the necessary steam for canning. A hard worker and disciplinarian, according to his factory hands, Peacock was also interested in their welfare. He conducted hymns and prayers at the start of each day’s work, strongly disapproved of blasphemy, and dismissed any man who drank.

Henry Jones was born in 1862 in Hobart Town, the second son of John and Emma Jones and one of eight children—three boys and five girls. Emma arrived in Tasmania in 1848 at the age of eighteen, sentenced to seven years for the theft of£300 from her former employer, and John arrived in 1850, sentenced to ten years for stealing a gold watch.

Young Henry was educated at Mr. Canaway’s school, where he excelled in commercial subjects. At the age of twelve, he went to work at Peacock’s jam factory–his first and only employer. Working ten hours a day, six days a week, he pasted labels on jam tins and within a few years became an expert jam boiler. Henry rose through the ranks of the expanding Peacock empire, and when Peacock retired, took control of the jam company in partnership with A. W. Palfreyman and Peacock’s son Ernest.

With Jones at the helm, new premises were built, the range of canned products was diversified, and the partners entered the hop production business and the overseas export trade. During the partnership period, Jones adopted the brand name IXL (a play on “I excel”) and was himself popularly dubbed “Jam Tin Jones.” He eventually took over the business that bore his name—H. Jones and Co. Pty. Ltd.

In 1902, the partnership was dissolved and a limited liability company was formed—Henry Jones Co-Operative Ltd. Jones was a shrewd investor, but his greatest profits came not from jam but from the Thailand tin-dredging industry. , followed by the Tongkah Harbour Tin Dredging Co. and Tongkah Compound. The word “Tongkah” entered the Hobart vocabulary as an adjective denoting good financial luck.

Sir Henry Jones died in 1886 and was survived by his wife Lady Alice and their twelve children—three sons and nine daughters. Lady Alice received the title “Lady” upon Henry’s knighthood in 1919. She went on to be known as “The Lady of Tasmania” and a major patron of the arts in Hobart.

In the late 1970s, Henry Jones IXL Jams, one of Australia’s most successful companies, shut down, and the properties languished until 2004 when architects Morris-Nunn & Associates (now Circa) won the right to revive the historic site, transforming the former jam factory into Australia’s first dedicated art hotel. At the Henry Jones, sleek modern decor and contemporary art complement the untouched nineteenth-century sandstone walls, and the original warehouse windows offer an unobstructed view of Hobart’s harbor, the city, and the mountains beyond.

In 2005, what remained of the IXL parent company, after mergers and sales, is now owned by Coca-Cola Amatil. And in 2008, Federal Group purchased the Henry Jones Hotel.


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New Mexico Book Settings: Taos


This post is dedicated to artist and musician George Chacón who left us too soon. His artwork is prominently displayed in downtown Taos. The piece is signed and his signature is shown at the end of this post.http://taosnews.com/stories/taos-artist-george-chacn-has-died,39640?

In early September 1540, the first European visitors to set foot in Taos were a small artillery detachment under the command of Hernando de Alvardo. As part of Vázquez de Coronado’s expedition, they had come in search of the mythical Seven Cities of Cibola. Alvarado’s meeting with the Tiwa Indians, who had inhabited the Taos Pueblo for centuries, was peaceful and they exchanged gifts. But over time the peaceful co-existence eroded and led to conflicts between the two cultures over religious beliefs and the treatment of the native people.

In August 1680, a revolt led by Pope, a San Juan Pueblo Indian, resulted in the expulsion of the Spanish from New Mexico. Twelve years later, in August 1692, Don Diego de Vargas led an expedition to conquer and covert souls, but he was probably more interested in locating the local silver mines than converting souls. After he conquered the land, he established Santa Fe as the capital, and the region again fell under the Spanish flag. In 1696, the proud Taos Pueblo Indians made their last stand before surrendering to the Spanish.

I’ve read several versions of how Taos came to be named. Some Spanish settlers say they heard the Picuris Indians pointing to the northeast where their relatives the “Tao” lived. Most likely, they were referring to the Taos Pueblo Indians. However, between 1796 and 1797 the Don Fernando de Taos Land Grant gave land to sixty-three Spanish settlers in the Taos valley; the town name may have originated from the grant name and was shortened to “Taos.”

I first set foot in Taos in December of 1975 during a road trip through the northern part of the state. I was mesmerized by the stark, vast landscape with its honey-brown grasslands that ran on one side of me to red mesas, and on the other, to grassy terrain that touched a turquoise-blue sky. But what really hooked me was the first time I laid eyes on the Taos Plateau, a sheet of white fractured by a massive black chasm, its jagged basalt escarpments dusted in powdery snow and falling to the icy blue waters of the Rio Grande River twisting its way through the canyons.

Late that afternoon I caught sight of Taos Mountain, rising majestically from the desert floor, snow-capped peaks brushing a cloudless sky. Behind me, undulating evergreen hills rose to the ridge top of the Picuris Mountains, the tips of the trees capped in white and dropping to a glowing copper-orange valley under a fiery red-and-violet sunset. I’ve visited the state often since 1975 and fall deeper in love with the land each time I visit, so it was a delight to set two thrillers in northern New Mexico—Brainwash in Taos and Los Alamos and Gadgets in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Darcy will return to New Mexico in CLON-X and will add Arroyo Seco and Abiquiú to her travel list.

Besides some history of Taos, my main purpose for this post is photographic—to give you a sense of place. In Brainwash, Darcy catches her first glimpse of the historic San Francisco de Asis Mission Church when she meets Elena in Ranchos de Taos to discuss Andrew’s mysterious disappearance.

Front of the church and the back with its massive, mud and straw buttresses.

Two breakfast hangouts of ours: Michael’s Kitchen and Bent Street Café. Bullet loves the patio.

Out and about, shopping, gallery browsing, and enjoying all the “color.”









  Photos: Russian Sage and the Taos Plaza.

Photos: Moby Dickens Bookshop (permanently closed). Now, Op. Cit. Books. Outside the bookstore there is a bulletin board. Notice my postings: Brainwash and Gadgets postcards top right.

And I will close as I opened—Rest in Peace, George. Gone, but not forgotten.


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