Sunday, January 31, 2010


It's a ritual really - Sunday morning I get home from my ride and we wander off for brunch somewhere in Melbourne. This week it was Williamstown.

From the Williamstown website.
"In November, 1835 Captain Robson Coltish, master of barque NORVAL sailed from Launceston, then ventured over the waters of Bass Strait with a cargo of 500 sheep and 50 Hereford cattle which had been consigned to these virgin shores by Dr. Alexander Thomas. After reaching the coastline of Port Phillip, Captain Robson chose the area we now know as Port Gellibrand, as a suitable place to unload his cargo. Within weeks of the first consignment, a stream of vessels began making their way across Bass Strait. "

Before the Westgate bridge was built, Williamstown wasn't as accessible from the eastern suburbs where we live. The bridge was being built in 1970 but was delayed by a disaster when a span of the bridge collapsed into the murky waters below. The link below is from the ABC news.
I remember the day as a young lad of 20 and my future brother inlaw John worked at BP and was located in Newport just up from Williamstown. He heard the sound of the bridge span collapsing.
The suburb today is still a little bit of a backwater due to its location to us easterners, but definately worth the visit.
After a short walk up Nelson Place we decided to have brunch at Breizoz, a French Creperie. It's located in an old bank building. It brought some memories back on our trips to France as we have always enjoyed our crepes and galettes.

I think the best that we have ever had was in the small village of Mirabeau, up the road from Poitier on our way to Chinon in the Loire. We went to a local bar inquiring if a meal was available as it was around 1.00 pm but were told that there was a creperie around the corner. We were asked where we were from and saying Australia, one of the patrons said he had spent time in Brisbane. Anyway, I digress. The Madam behind the bar said,"follow me." Who are we to argue? I love a dominant woman.
She took us behind a small church and around a winding street to this small entrance and said this was where we could have an enjoyable lunch.
After stepping across a sleeping female boxer, dog that is, we entered the establishment and were ushered to the most peaceful courtyard where we had the never to be equalled to date galettes.
The guard dog of our Mirabeau Creperie on the way to Chinon. Doesn't she look vicious?????

Ooops. I'm digressing again, this is about Williamstown isn't it?

Anyway, the chef is from Brittany, Jean-Marie Blanchot and his partner Catherine Ryan create a lovely ambience within the building. I had a cider with my Mushroom Galette and Sue had a miguez sausage and tomato Galette. Read more on their website.
The old bank building that is now the Creperie.

Being a bit of a backwater, many of the buildings have been preserved and several hotels, and there were many in it's heyday, have been transformed into eating houses. After our brunch we took a quiet drive around the backstreets of Williamstown and were rewarded with sights of the old ship building yards and some grand homes of the ship captains of the past.

Part of the street scene of Nelson Place

This weekend starting from Friday night has been a bit of cooking frenzy for Sue, so I expect we will have a few mid-week blogs for you. I am a lucky man.
You might like to check out Williamstown further by following the link below.

Looking across from Williamstown, Melbourne glimmers through the morning heat of 30+ degrees

This fountain was erected by a local tee-totaller Reverend for the weary seafearing traveller, although I suspect that most went to the many hotels that were in abundance during these times.

Hope your weekend was as enjoyable as ours.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Yep! Its FUNKY FRIDAY again

Why does time pass so quickly - Funky Friday arrives without warning to put me under stress for a post.
This week's Funky Friday is as much about the people who produced this creative mosaic within their timber decking. Denise and Darren are friends who are more than a decade younger than us and I class them as Funky.
These mosaics say something about Denise's amazing talents - she designed this and then has cut and adhered the tiles to give this amazing effect.

Oh well, I have another seven days to find a Funky Friday.

Adelaide Photos

Just a few more photos from my week in Adelaide.
Some architecture and a little bit of whimsy..................

I just love windows, verandas and walls.

These scenes are from the city centre where many of the early buildings have been preserved or restored.

I Just had to have a photo in the jaws of the shark. This house was littered with many weird items from the sea.

The Cooper's Pub where each ride finished here with a pint or two before dinner - note the unusual cooling fan at the top of the picture.

Not sure what this really means but the poor fellow didn't have much of a view.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Adelaide & the Tour Down Under

Primarily I we went to Adelaide to enjoy the atmosphere of the “Tour Down Under”. Its like a mini Tour de France but held over only one week. Many of the international cycling professionals come to the TdU in Adelaide as the beginning of their season. This year Lance Armstrong from the US returned. Our own World Road Champion, Cadel Evans joined the list of stars. Adelaide is 750 km from Melbourne and an easy shared drive of approximately ten hours.

Below: Adelaide, like Melbourne has its markets - This is the facade of the fruit and veggie market.

This stall specialises in the lean kangaroo meat.

But Adelaide is more than a one week bike race. For me it was an excuse to return to one of my favorite Australian cities. With a population of approximately 1.1 million, it is listed in the top 10 of most livable cities and I can’t help but agree. Set out on a grid pattern, Adelaide was founded in 1836 and one of the few cities colonized by free settlers. Other cities such as Hobart and Sydney were colonized by mostly a population of convicts from the UK.

Architecture in Adelaide varies with examples of modern within the city yet it retains its heritage with an enormous amount of buildings from the 1800s.
The fountain above recognises the indiginous tribes that walked the hills, plains and beaches of Adelaide before white settlement in 1836. They were known as the Kaurna tribe.

The city is surrounded by the Adelaide Hills on one side which contain some beautiful villages and vineyards that produce some of Australia’s best wines. While following the TdU, we cycled through the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and the Clare Valley. The hills offered some tough climbing but also some exhilarating downhill experiences. Each ride took us to a morning coffee stop and a lunch time stop while viewing the professional cyclists at different points of their route. Racing in temperatures from high 20s to high 30s, they were assured of some tough conditions in the hills. Many of the Europeans will go home with a suntan for their spring racing season.

Tanundra is a normally a sleepy villages and home to many of the Barossa wines of Australia - that is until the Tour Down Under comes to town. The locals dress up and show off their village to the many spectators from all corners of the world.

Adelaide has a calm and relaxed feeling about it that many say is a little slow. Their peak hour traffic is probably only 30 minutes and both the beach and the hills are no more than a half hour drive from most points from the city centre.

Three times green jersey Tour de France winner, Robbie McEwan leans across to World Champion Cadel Evans to share a laugh - we were so close that you could hear the conversations between the riders.

The beaches are situated on the shores of the St Vincent’s Gulf and as one looks out across the waters, it’s possible to see dolphins frolicking and the occasional whale passing by. One of our rides took us down to Glenelg and Henley, then along the coast to Semaphore for an eggs and bacon breakfast. These coastal suburbs were originally the beachside holiday resorts of the wealthy of Adelaide and consequently there are many grand homes overlooking the Gulf. Many have now been turned into apartments or guest houses.

Glenelg was one of our favorite riding destinations for a morning coffee. The monument above marks the landing place of the first white settlers to Adelaide.

Adelaide has a small population of German and Italian settlers from the early years and this is partly where the wine growing industry grew from. After our rides we would congregate at our favorite eating spots in the city. Bocelli’s and Alphonso’s, both originating from the Italian heritage of Adelaide.

Under the shade of this spreading tree, we enjoyed a breakfast before moving on to the start of another TdU stage. The owner had travelled to France several times and had created an atmosphere of a rural village cafe. The garden even had sunflowers and lavender, a touch of Provence.

Up in the hills we climbed to the villages of Tanundra in the Barossa and Handorf on the entry to Adelaide from Melbourne. Handorf is an early German settlement which hosted one of the tour stages and they made the most of their heritage with the locals being dressed in the clothes of the ancestor’s period.

Tanundra also hosted a stage finish. While on our ride to see the this stage, we passed many of the well known Australian vineyards including, Wolf Blass, Grant Burge and the TdU’s past sponsor, Jacob’s Creek are all in the area. Last year Sue and I travelled through Burgundy and the village of Chablis. Other than the Gum trees, the ride brought back many pleasant memories.

As much as I enjoyed the cycling and the TdU, Adelaide deserves more of my time as a tourist as it has so much to offer. Maybe later in the year we will return to do just that.

Having said that, Sue and I have only eight weeks before we find ourselves back in France.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Still in Adelaide

Unfortunately I have had limited internet access but more to the point, having a great time in Adelaide. It's a beautiful city with a lifestyle pace to my liking.
Great architecture, marvelous eating places and the best bike riding scenery apart from home.
More news and pictures when I return Monday.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Funky Friday is back with this really grotesque morphed pic of my son Mitch who is 22 today and yours truly who is not!!!!
I promise I won't do this again. Well, not till next time.

It may sound strange but next week's blogs will come to you from Adelaide. The Tour Down Under starts next Sunday to the following Sunday. I'll pass on news on the delightful city of Adelaide and promise it won't be all about cycling. Adelaide is known as the city of churches and I hope to mix this with some sight seeing and cafe culture while I'm there.

Ooooops, sorry - here's another one.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A summer weekend

Its been a glorious weekend culminating with Sue and I enjoying a chilled rose on the back deck in the shade of the big brollie. I see pictures of fellow bloggers in France and Belgium with beautiful scenes of snow on rooftops of villages and think how picturesque it is. During winter we have to travel to the mountains to experience snow.
Anyway, back to Melbourne - our home!!!
The weekend started from Funky Friday, a pic I stole from a recent birthday card, well not that recent!!!!!!
I just liked the mood of the person on the bike - fun loving and a feeling of freedom and that's how I feel on my weekend rides - sometimes after a good Saturday night I might find it difficult to rise from a deep sleep but on returning home I always feel pleased I made the effort.
Yes, this Sunday was one of those as we had our very good friends Barry and Gloria join us for dinner on Saturday night.
I've known them both since our teenage years and much water has passed under the bridge. It's always delightful and relaxed to sit around the dinner table together with good food and good wine.
For the wine I ambled down to "Uncle Dan's" my favorite wine cellar and purchased a bottle of Burgundy from the Vienne region. It brings back memories of our stay there last year and the intimate restaurant where we enjoyed a bottle of 2005 E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone vin rouge, so I bought another. Our friends, Baz and Gloria have enjoyed travelling and we always have heaps to waffle on about.
OK, Sue is hanging over my shoulder and wants some keyboard time, bye.....for a moment.

Our entree was a simple salad of fresh mozzarella cheese, slices of nectarine, proscuitto on mixed leaves with lots of watercress and mint.

Next was paella. Still in the experimental stage as I got my paella pan at Christmas time. Pretty nice, but will get better as I experiment more. I find it hard to get the rice to cook as evenly as I would like. Any tips?
Dessert was strawberries that I had macerated in a home made cumquat liqueur that is several years old now and very tasty, with vanilla icecream. It was partnered with a very nice flourless orange and almond cake that Gloria made.

Coffee and chocs on the deck. A still night and it had cooled down, thank goodness. I think I need to take up bike riding too.....ha ha not.

Sunday morning started off with a high teens temp rising into the thirties by midday - I decided that a short early morning ride was in order before we we popped off to Bay Street Port Melbourne for brunch.
I'm glad I did have a morning ride coz my brunch was high in calories - field mushrooms cooked in white wine, rosemary and garlic, with poached eggs, spinach and bacon on sour dough toasted bread.
I needed the energy though. I had a "Sue list" of jobs to complete around the garden before my first cold beer for the afternoon.

You have to feel sorry for the lad...please put the Christmas tree and the tree prunings on the nature strip for the council to pick up. Close to slave labour really. No wonder he's exhausted now.

And that was our weekend - how was yours?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Readings books Port Melbourne

Yesterday I had an appointment with a cycle shop wanting embroidered caps as a promotional give away. That's what I do to fill in my working week. Its a job I enjoy because of the people I meet and the places I go. How good is that?

Well after this appointment, I was strolling back to my car, enjoying the sunshine and the views of Bay Street, Port Melbourne when I came across a branch of my favourite book shop, Readings. I remember buying books and records from them during the 70s.

In I went and before I had a chance to start wandering, I spied four books to do with Julia Childs. Now if you have seen the Meryl Streep movie, Julie and Julia, you'll know who Julia Childs is.
I'm not going to delve any further other than to say Sue & I loved the movie and also have enjoyed some of the utube segments of her. What a character she was.

After leaving Readings with these two books under my arm for Sue, I thought "nice area for a future blog". Port Melbourne has some wonderful early architecture combined with luxury apartments. It's become rather trendy these days where in the past it was very seedy with hotels almost on every corner. Maybe next weekend I'll take another stroll down Bay Street with Sue.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Amy Gillett Foundation Ride

On Sunday I rode with friends in a charity event for the Amy Gillett Foundation. Amy was a member of the Australian Women's cycling squad and while they were training in Germany, a young lady who had not long had her licence, drove into the training group.

All sorts of riders participated from serious racing cyclists to five riders on this pink extended bike.

Most of the squad were hurt in some way. Amy was killed. This was the same year that our World Champion, Cadel Evans was prominant in the Tour deFrance a few years back. Since then, he has been a staunch advocate of the Foundation. He was on the ride Sunday in his World Championship Jersey.
Amy's husband, family and many friends organise this annual ride to promote road safety awareness to both cyclists and motorists.

It was a good day with over 3000 cyclists contributing more than $300,000 to the foundation. Some were lucky enough to ride the 120 km course with some of Australia's top cyclists including Cadel.

After the ride we enjoyed calamari and chips washed down with a cool beer, Peroni of course, and the view, well there it is below.

The ride starts and finishes at Geelongs Eastern Beach, a great spot with a great view across Corio bay within Port Phillip bay. The weather was sunny in the mid 20s. I must do a story on Geelong as it has a rich history with some interesting architecture.


After the ride we were entertained by "real" racing cyclists in the Bay Criterium Series. Several of them use this as an early training program for their European campaign for 2010. Two of today's riders, Robbie McEwan and Baden Cook are past Green Jersey winners in LeTour.

I'm back at work now so I'll revert back to my weekly installments unless I get inspired mid-week.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Art or Vandalism - You tell me!!!

Art or Vandalism, I'm not quite sure. 

In specific places I'm sure it adds to the color of the city. 
I've posted six photographs from my morning rides - the first three come from a recent ride in the Melbourne suburb of Balaclava. It's a predominent Jewish area with some wonderful pastry/bakery shops. I attend a weekly gym session here and enjoy a cup of the best coffee I've tasted anywhere before rushing off to work.

I'm not sure whether I should label these as graffiti or murals. 
The colors are intense and the graphics are very well executed. My initial thoughts are that these were probably comissioned.

What really gets up my nose though is the "tagging" on public property. I've seen tagging on someone's picket fence or brick wall. How does this property owner feel when they get up to go to work and there it is, some vandal's spray canned name across their private property.

Two years ago we were in Provence and there on the Pont de Gard was someone's name carved into the stone (from the 1700s).

Rome was worse!!!!!!!

I must say though, I love the intensity of color in these first three "murals".

The following three come from again my early morning rides, but this time, during 2007 in the streets of Paris. 
What is significant about these shots are that they contain my name. 

The tagging wasn't done by me (although Sue was suspicious, even after my denials) but I kept coming across "Leon" tagged in various steets on these rides.

I remember back in 1979 when I spent a summer in San Francisco, I noticed some grafitti that was AC/DC which I presumed was done by someone that admired our great Aussie band. Then again????

I'd be interested in the thoughts you might have on Graffiti.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Storms over Port Phillip Bay on New Year's Eve

The previous night we were sailing in calm conditions on Port Phillip Bay (see previous post) and last night being New Year's Eve we watched our own natural fireworks display as a storm rolled in from the west over the Bay. How different it was within 24 hours.

Our host's house was in an elevated position with an almost perfect view of the entire Bay. The sky became darker as the clouds, rain and the wind came our way.

One of the guests was able to monitor the progress of the storm via his iPhone and we all started guessing how long before it reached the house where a group of us were preparing to welcome in the New Year.

You can see the dark blue band on the iPhone coming in from the west and to give a better view of Port Phillip Bay I've added a map. The iPhone shows the storm coming in over Geelong and Port Arlington. It would have been no more than 10 minutes when the wind preceeded the rain and the temperture dropped from the mid-30s to mid-20s. It made for a more comfortable night.

A video of the storm as it approached us.

Regardless of the storm, we bid farewell to 2009 with good food, drink and company. Roll on 2010.

Melbourne's fireworks display wasn't televised however Sydney's was.