Hobart love affair

Rekindling a relationship with Australia’s most southerly city

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IT’S LIKE that first date … dinner and fine wine, music, maybe a visit to an art gallery.

There is a gentleness in the air … of caring, sharing secrets.

It’s so easy to fall in love with Hobart.

There’s a sincerity, a friendliness.

Old-fashioned sense and sensibility mixed with the flirtiness of modern times.

It’s walking through the near-deserted streets at dawn. On the flagstone pavement of Salamanca Place, around the docks and watching the sun rise over the Derwent River.

The softness of a shower of rain, the splashes of colour from flowers among the lawns.

Sandstone buildings from the convict days of the mid-1800s stand side by side with modern office blocks incorporating solar and wind power.

In this setting you add the people.

They are helpful, knowledgeable, courteous.

Standing on the docks at the harbour, the slight chill in the air reminds you that the next stop is Antarctica.

Imagine what it’s like down here on the waterfront for the finish of the Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race, between Boxing Day and New Year, what it’s like for those on an CSIRO expedition to tie up after a year on the frozen continent.

I turn and head back to the hotel to meet up with the others in our travel group.

That’s the beauty of Hobart, you can virtually walk everywhere.

So we’re off to breakfast at Battery Point.

Named after a battery of guns (long since removed) that were established on the point in 1818 to defend the city against possible French and Russian invaders, the Battery Point of today retains much of the character of 100 years ago.

During colonial times this area was home to master mariners, shipwrights, sailors and fisher folk.

The most-enjoyed features of this area are the historic houses and restaurants.

There is no better example than the houses and cottages in Arthur Circus.

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Said to be the only circus in Australia, it is a circular street with a community park in the centre. The houses are around the outer side of the roadway, much like those you find in London.

The shops and restaurants are nearly all in Hampden Rd, a curved street with views of the Derwent River to the south and Mt Wellington, which provides a dramatic backdrop to Hobart, rising majestically to the north.

That’s part of the appeal of Hobart – the intimacy of the city, the people.

They have time to say hello, to offer sincere service. From those in the hotels to those in the restaurants, they seem to completely embrace what they are about.

The restaurant staff have a thorough understanding and passion for what they are serving. The hotel staff are always keen to help, from the reception to cleaners.

They know their city and will give hints on where to go, what to see.

The quirkiness of the Machine Laundry Café at Salamanca Square, that has seen a laundromat extended to a place to meet for coffee and a bite to eat.

Wash your clothes while you eat.

Concrete floors, retro décor, good coffee and great food at affordable prices

Then there is Tom and Ben’s garage with original VW in the service shed. No glitzy fuel chain outlet on the corner with its discount coupons.

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This day we push inside the Jam Jar Lounge/Café at 45 Hampden Rd, that serves breakfast, brunch, lunch, tapas and dinner.

A lovely, cosy and intimate atmosphere with a whimsical 1950s style.

Stools in the window looking out to the rose-filled gardens of the cottages across the road, a piano in the front room that conjures up visions of warm winter nights.

There is a fireplace in the second room and a courtyard for warmer days.

Music is playing, jazz or swing. Sheet music scattered on the table tops. One Night of Love by Victor Schertzinger and Gus Kahn.

Who could resist the poached eggs on toasted sourdough, especially when it was runny enough to melt into the toast.

Others chose the eggs benedict, that can be served with salmon, or the vegetarian big breakfast.

The coffee is good; there are books, newspapers and magazines to read, board games to play. Little wonder it seemed to have a good local following.

There is time to get some photos of Hampden Rd before the limousine arrives, ready to whisk us off for a day exploring the Coal River wineries.

Wrong. Virtually on the next corner is Bahr’s Chocolate Shop and Milk Bar. It’s right out of a picture book. An old fashioned sweet shop with its delights in jars, mostly from England, filling the front window.

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A sign on the footpath announces they sell Valhalla ice cream, Tasmania’s own brand and with more than 50 flavours and their pepperberry something of a specialty.

Other places to look out for in Battery Point include Jackman & McRoss Bakeries for breakfast, brunch and lunch. Display cases filled with pastries, rolls, breads and sandwiches, smoked salmon wrapped eggs, raspberry brioche or pork and apple sausage rolls.

I had seen nothing quite like it since the streets of Paris.

Then there is Pollen Tea Room, the cutest cafe in every aspect. It’s like an old school room harking back to the Dickensian era; hand-made timber furniture and other bits and pieces, as well as an amazing collection of teapots.

It’s a small room but the feeling is great. Try a chai tea and a smashed avocado on sourdough.

Hobart … expect the unexpected, expect to be surprised, expect for your senses to be hijacked.

  • The writer was a guest of Travelodge Hobart for two days.
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