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The Voyage of Spectacle Wine

The Voyage

Spectacles

Andy and Melissa are sailing around the world on their 48-foot sailboat, Spectacle.

The Position

Bali, Indonesia

The Pictures

The Voyage of Spectacle

Archive for the ‘Wine’ Category

Fort de France, Martinique, French West Indies

Posted by: melissa

After Mont Pele destroyed the thriving and fabulous St. Pierre, Fort de France emerged as more than just a backwater town with the title of official administrative capital.  Fort de France is strategically located (as are all pretty much all the capital cities of the Caribbean) on the island’s leeward side with a naturally protected harbor and the ominous and historically busy Fort St. Louis, established in 1639.

After parking the car, we opted against visiting Fort St. Louis as the walk to get there reminded us both of Frogger.  Across from the Fort, the Savane is Fort de France’s central park, and unfortunately, the whole area was cordoned off with chained-link fence during our tour day.  This park houses the statue of Josephine, who, as I mentioned previously, is Martinique’s famous, but not-so-favorite, Josephine's Monument in the Savane (Central Park), Fort de France, Martiniquedaughter.  Under normal circumstances, the statue would face her beloved home of Trois-Ilets, located across the Fort de France bay to the south.  However, in 1992, the statue of Josephine was beheaded, her trunk splashed in red paint, and the accompanying signage either covered in angry Creole graffiti or all-out destroyed, in an obvious political statement.  Josephine’s head has Vandals Protest Josephine's Posted Biography at the Monumentnever been recovered and, more relevant to one’s understanding of Fort de France’s vibe, the monument has never been repaired nor removed.  There she stands, Empress Josephine, wife of Napoleon Bonaparte the Great, cousin of Aimee Dubuc de Rivery (also known as Sultana Valide and adoptive mother of Emperor Mahmoud II), headless and symbolically bleeding and desecrated for more than a decade, and nobody seems to care.  More Pictures

Near the Savane lies the Schoelcher library, which was built in Paris in 1889 for the World’s Fair.   After the exhibition, the entire building, a baroque The Schoelcher Libraryassortment of iron arches and fretwork, was dismantled, sent to Martinique, and reassembled to house Victor Schoelcher’s personal book collection.  The old part of this working library is quite beautiful with its floor-to-ceiling stacks of antique books, stained glass domed ceiling, and exhibits of local artists.  More Pictures

We then headed to the Palais de Justice, which is the Palais de Ugly, and Hotel de Ville, which is mildly interesting.  Rounding a corner to find the beginning of the famous, and supposedly haute couture, Rue Victor Hugo, we also stumbled onto a nice square with a nice statue of Schoelcher … and a port-a-potty.

The guidebook says:

Fort de France, the capital of Martinique, is the largest and liveliest city in the Windwards.  It is a great place for people-watching, and shops and restaurants abound.  The central Rue de la Republique has been turned into a delightful pedestrian street.

How much time do I get for rebuttal?

Andy and I stood in Martinique’s “center of the universe,” the intersection of Rue de la Republique and Rue Victor Hugo (just the names of the streets alone insinuate their importance), blinking and confused.  No bars anywhere.  No street musicians.  No sidewalk cafes.  No pushcarts selling baguettes and espresso shots.  Indeed no restaurants of any kind, except one … KFC.  Of the very few open shops at 3:30 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon, not one interested us.

Fort de France's Charm-Free Urban Sprawl  What the intersection does have is loiterers … locals, by the hundreds, doing nothing … many staring in an unfriendly way.

    As such, we got in the car and left … even though we knew it meant another crappy meal at Mango’s, the marina restaurant.  Not only was there nothing to do, Fort de France felt threatening, and I didn’t want to see it at night.  More Pictures

Spectacle in Sydney — Day 1

Posted by: melissa

 The alarm went off and we were all really dragging.  That little tease of sleep wasn’t totally satisfying, but after a caffeinated beverage, a slightly less intense adrenalin-high kicked in to assist us through this day.  We moved the boat over to Rushcutters Bay to the D’Albora Marina.  Once we arrived and tied to the dock, I suddenly became obsessed with bathing … a hot shower was my mission in life.  So we packed up the shower bag and headed up to the office to get the key to the facilities when the quarantine guy showed up.  He delivered a minor admonishment for leaving the boat without clearing quarantine, and I didn’t care.  I said something to the effect of:  “I haven’t showered in over 9 days so I need you to clear me and my person immediately because I am going to the shower right now.” 

Andy stayed with the quarantine guy as he looked for potential dangers, organic material, and introduced species.  His services cost AUS $416 making this the most expensive check-in process we’ve ever experienced.  He indicated that a good chunk of the charge was overtime to come on a Sunday.  We could’ve avoided overtime rates by staying on the boat until Monday morning, but that just wasn’t in the cards.  And he did take out all of the garbage in a fancy trash bag with official “Danger” and “Quarantine” stencils on it.  Whatever.  I didn’t care as I was luxuriating in a hot shower! 

Icebergs at Bondi Beach

Icebergs at Bondi Beach

As it turns out, Andy’s close friend from Mizzou was visiting Sydney on business travel from Bangkok, where he now lives and works.  As we pulled into the marina, Jason was waiting for us with hot flat whites and wow that was the most delicious coffee I’ve ever had!  After we cleaned up a little, we jumped in a cab and headed over to Icebergs, the famous restaurant with sweeping views of Bondi Beach.  We had a fabulous lunch with plenty of wine, and experienced the same “land sickness” episodes that we usually experience at our first onshore meal.  I started to relax a little, but I still felt like I was running pretty high on adrenalin.

After lunch, the boys went to check out the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia which is right next door to our marina.  The CYCA sponsors the annual Sydney to Hobart race which is both famous and infamous.  Since we had just crossed the Tasman, we were feeling a special affinity towards those brave enough to take on sailing in those latitudes!  Additionally, tenants at D’Albora Rushcutters are welcome to the private bar and restaurant so I’m sure we’ll be taking advantage of that in the future!  I, on the other hand, went for a relaxing lay down with my book.

Soon it was time to get up and eat again!  There’s so much great stuff to do in Sydney, and with Ryan on his last day, and Jason in town to visit, we were eager to get to it! 

We hopped in a taxi and went to an area called The Rocks which is right on the Bay and across from the Opera House and Harbor Bridge.  It’s a very cool part of town with all sorts of outdoor bars and restaurants and people milling around, so we decided to sit down and have an adult beverage.  We happened to be there during the Luminous Festival, and Sydneysiders were treated to huge, high-powered light shows with the Opera House as the canvas.  It was absolutely stunning and mesmerizing. 

Finished with cocktail hour, we headed to dinner at Quay, which is considered one of the very best restaurants in Australia.  It’s perfectly located also across from the Opera House so our viewing of the light show continued all evening.  The food was amazing, the wine was exquisite, and the company was fabulous … a truly magical night and a far cry from fighting the elements in the Tasman Sea!

Off to Hunter Valley

Posted by: melissa

I woke up fairly early and headed out to get a flat white takeaway and rent a car.  Unfortunately, the Europcar office conveniently located about a block away from the marina is closed on Sundays.  I returned to the boat, jumped on the internet, and found a reasonably priced car available at the airport. 

I failed to note the location of the airport, however, and after a taxi ride where I wondered if the driver was actually taking us out to a deserted pasture to rob us and kill us, we finally arrived to the tune of a $60 fare.  We got the rental car, started driving, and while looking at the map and the road signs, we were overcome by suspicion of a taxi scam.  Oh well, live and learn.  At the very least, Europcar is letting us return at the local rental office so we don’t have to endure another cab ride to oblivion.

Hunter Valley is the wine producing area of New South Wales.

Hunter Valley is the wine producing area of New South Wales.

The road to Cessnock, the jumping off point for the Hunter Valley wine country, is rural.  We got lost several times, and the signage is pretty bad … none of those huge and reflecting traffic signs with bunches of grapes to show you the way.  Most importantly, we were really hungry having skipped breakfast and then stuck in the taxi. 

After passing several Macca’s (the Australian nickname for McDonald’s) and Hungry Jack’s (the Australian Burger King), we came across a couple of small take-out cafes that were just too sketchy to venture into.  I’m not being stuck up, but I just can’t eat a sausage roll from an establishment called Smelly’s, and the thought of out-station Australian Chinese food was just too much to bear.  We finally happened upon a hotel pub and restaurant, and ordered soup and chicken fingers thinking it to be fairly safe.  Unfortunately, the chicken wasn’t cooked all the way through – seriously, how can you screw up chicken fingers?  We left still hungry but armed with plenty of jokes about our upcoming bout with salmonella.

We drove into, and promptly out of, the rather charm-free Cessnock within a few minutes and missed the tourist office all together.  After a rough day so far, wine-tasting was exactly what we needed!  So Andy directed us to the nearest cellar door…

Back from Hunter Valley

Posted by: melissa
Spectacle at the Dock in Newcastle

Spectacle at the Dock in Newcastle

We spent Sunday night at a nice and pretty famous inn called Peppers in Pokolbin, where we had a surprisingly good degustation menu for dinner … scallops, quail, and veal, all very nice.  We also enjoyed delicious dessert called “Night at the Movies” with savory popcorn-flavored sorbet, Coca-Cola jello, malted milk balls, sweet Sprite sorbet with pistachios, and a couple of other chocolate items with creative twists on candy treats.  Very yummy!  We then passed out watching an Australian 60 Minutes special on the American Amish. 

On Monday, we had breakfast, did some wine-tasting, and met three guys, all Ph.D. candidates in math, in the area after a convention in Sydney … one from South Africa, one from Colombia, and one from Switzerland.  All three were wickedly smart and super interesting.  We had a lovely late lunch together, and then Andy and I drove home to Newcastle.   

Back in Newcastle, we took advantage of having the car, drove around a little just sight-seeing in general, and ended up at the local brewery at Queen’s Wharf for some televised rugby league, beer, and burgers.

Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

Posted by: melissa
Canned Lambs Tongues -- YUCK!

Canned Lambs Tongues -- YUCK!

The car was due at 12:30 so we decided to make a trip to the grocery store for a few assorted goodies, including drinking water which you can never have enough of.  One thing I can do without is canned lambs tongues, even for the low, low price of AUS$4.05.  And of course, tongues are conveniently shelved between the corned beef and Stag beef chili.  Gross!

After depositing the groceries and returning the car, we noticed that it was a warm and sunny day which was quite a novelty for us after chilly and rainy Sydney and New Zealand.  So we put on our running shoes and set out for a long walk. 

Newcastle‘s population of almost 250,000 is an eclectic combination of university students, surfers, and people associated with the current thriving coal industry and the rapidly dying, if not dead, steel industry.  At the mouth of the Hunter River, Newcastle is the world’s largest coal exporting port which has been a fundamental component of Australia’s overall economic growth.  Coal industry of that size brings blue-collar workers as well as highly compensated upper level management, and the town reflects this dichotomy. 

Newcastle was established in 1804 as a penal colony for those convicts too hardened for the original penal colony in Sydney.  In 1846, the nearby island of Nobbys Head was joined to the mainland.  The long and picturesque sand spit, complete with a scenic lighthouse, is now a favorite spot for runners and strollers.  Fort Scratchley housed a gun installation which fended off an attacking Japanese submarine in 1942.  In 1989, Newcastle suffered Australia’s biggest recorded earthquake which killed a dozen people and destroyed many buildings.  Subsequent rebuilding included strategic moves to increase tourism, foster real estate development, and shake off the seedy reputation of an industrial past.

Our walk through the central business district and the waterfront wharf was quite lovely.  We returned to the boat to find that our local restaurant was closed, so we were back online to research a place to eat.  

We ended up at a relatively new restaurant located in a recently renovated historical building that has been, at different times, a church, a theater, a community center, and a homeless shelter during the Depression.  We met some fellow diners who were also, ahem, historical.  One woman said that her father went to church there as a child. 

The menu was thoughtful, and the food was delicious and well executed.  But the best part of the evening was the signature cocktail menu.  I had a fantastic modified Cosmopolitan in a frosted glass, but Andy ordered probably the single best cocktail we’ve ever had – top shelf gin, Cointreau, fresh lemon juice, honey syrup, peach bitters, and lemon twist.  It was absolutely delicious, and so well balanced that the liquor was almost completely disguised.  All in all, a very lovely day!


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