Saturday, May 17, 2008

Launceston: Why are the pretty ones always so dumb?

When Inky and I planed this trip, we knew we wanted to come to Tasmania. If one in a 10,000 Americans come to Australia, then about 1 out of 10,000 of them come here. We have the tendency to do things percicly because they are not popular, hence our choice to spend the weekend, not in bustling Sydney or Melbourne, but in sleepy Tassie. Furthermore, those who do make it to Australia's Apple island tend to chose Hobart over the river city, so we are in the minority of the minority of the minority of the minority. Get it?

This is a staggeringly beautiful place to be sure. As I said before, the far south in Oz corresponds to the far north of the US and UK. That makes Tassie like the northern UK islands, and a bit like the remote parts of Northern New England. There are vast tracts of pasture, endless waves of rolling hills, and huge amounts of forest land. Launceston is blessed with three small but lovely rivers: The the North and South Esk which, when they run togeter form the Tamar.

In the Australian fashion the city is dotted with beautiful parks and public lands. While walking in City Park before our brekfast we spotted the Port Adelaide Power working out, and doing kicking drills. It seamed odd to just happen upon a professional sports team in the park, which was still damp with due. I guess the Hawks had York Park wrapped up for workouts, and so the Power had to find another patch of grass to use. In the end, I was lucky to keep Inky from running and jumping one of the footy players.

Then there is the resplendent beauty of Cataract Gorge and the trails that run along it. The travel gods bestowed us with some unseasonably good weather, and got to walk along the gorge in bright sunshine and mild temperatures. Walking has been the real theme of this trip, and it has been no different here than it was in Sydney. Thank god that the hotel has the big whirlpool tub so we can treat our aching feet at the end of the day.

Once we were done at the gorge, we headed to York Park to watch the footy. It was great to see a sporting event in another country, but even better to make our first one a small town affair. The drawback, both to the footy and the visit in general, is that Launceston is indeed a sleepy town. The game wrapped up at just about 5, and by the time Inky and I had walked back to the hotel (about 4 blocks) and got ready for dinner, almost everything was closed.

Launceston has a great downtown mall along Brisbane Street, and we were quite impressed as we walked along it toward the gorge earlier in the day. But now, at 6 at night, everything was shuttered and dark. I'm not one to trash small town folk for keeping things quaint and at their own pace, but I think someone needs to talk to their chamber of commerce about maximising opportunity's. There were 10,000 people here to see the footy and there was hardly any place for them to go and eat, drink and celebrate after the win.

All that said, I'm very happy we were able to make it to Launceston, and I've found the city to be a great place to relax and unwind from the fast pace of Sydney. If you get to Oz, come on down to Tassie, just be sure to bring some snacks with you.

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