Gumeracha Medieval Fair

6 05 2012

I finally made it to the Gumeracha Medieval Fair, after having seen advertisements for many years. Set in scenic Federation Park in Gumeracha in the Adelaide Hills, the themed marquees, the central town square for entertainments and the large number of costumed participants and attendees made this an interesting variation on the town fair. Seeing a monk or a damsel in medieval costume texting on their i-phone made for an interesting look!

Federation Park features some amazingly large gum trees set around a creek. The fair covered both sides of the creek with a wooden foot-bridge to cross from one side to another. The food stalls were themed (sausage rolls became rat in a roll), a central “tavern” tent served spiced Mead and old-fashioned soft drinks, and in addition to the many stalls offering things for sale, there were also displays of wood-carving, knife-sharpening, blacksmithing and spinning. Displays of medieval warcraft including archery, catapults, and knights battling it out in sword-fights to win the hand of a “not-so-fair” maiden (turned out to be a man in drag) were complimented by displays where the exhibitors talked about how various weapons and household implements were made and used. Helmets and chain mail were available to try on – and to buy.

So all in all quite a fun day (it actually ran all weekend), although late afternoon light rain seemed to call the end of the fair slightly before the advertised time.

Want some more photographs of Australia?
St Nicholas comes to Hahndorf
Prehistoric Australia
Prehistoric Australia

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Prehistoric Australia

21 04 2012

at the entrance to the Naracoorte Caves National Park - perhaps fossils from the iron age????

Naracoorte is a small town in the south-east of the state of South Australia. It is about four hours drive from Adelaide, so more of an overnight stay than a day-trip, if being attempted with children.

Naracoorte was one of my favourite holiday places as a child – and more specifically, the Naracoorte Caves. These massive caves are naturally formed from the actions of water on limestone, and as well as featuring spectacular stalagmites (from the ground up), stalactites (from the ceiling down) helicotites (sideways!), columns and curtains (as they sound), they also feature fossils from prehistoric animals.

While there are no massive dinosaurs here, there are a large number of smaller fossils ranging from lizards and small rodents up to megafauna – giant prehistoric kangaroos and wombats, and my favourite, thylacaleo carnifex – the marsupial lion. The caves are still under excavation by archeologists so who knows what other animals will be found in the tonnes and tonnes of material yet to be sifted through.

The underground caves have guided tours while a few caves which have larger openings to the surface are self-guide. One of the caves is now home to a large colony of bats.

The rate of petrification in these caves is much (much) slower than the caves we visited in France, where the rate of water flow and the calcium load in the water was such that they could use it to petrify objects for the tourist trade. Here the stalactites, stalagmites etc grow at a miniscule rate.

another "iron age" fossil!

a banksia outside the caves

fairytale castles.....stalactites reflected in a perfectly still pond underground

these stagmites look like a nativity scene

stalactites formed along a crack in the ceiling

stalactites formed along a crack in the cave ceiling

a "curtain" stalactite feature

sink hole to the surface (looking upwards). These sorts of holes were how the animals fell into the caves and then were unable to get out again. Underneath these holes would be large piles of silt and rubble, unless a flood event had washed the rubble further into the cave.

Thylacaleo carnifex (marsupial lion)

Thylacaleo Carnifex (marsupial lion)

archeological dig

"Stanley" - megafauna kangaroo

thylacaleo carnifex - "Leo"

the archeological dig

Wet Cave

thylacaleo carnifex battling a giant snake

megafauna

megafauna kangaroo (model)

columns in White Cave - look like architectural columns

Flinders University archeology digs in White Cave - each stripe in the soil indicates a different period of time

leaving White Cave

Want more pictures of Australian sites? Try….
Adelaide Botanic Gardens
In the red hot centre
Old Melbourne Jail and the Melbourne Aquarium





Bicentiennial Conservatory

9 04 2012

At the north-eastern end of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens is the Bicentennial Conservatory – a nautilus-shell-shaped glass and steel structure which is visible from certain western facing points of the Adelaide hills. Designed by South Australian architect Guy Maron, it was opened to celebrate the Australian bicentenary in 1988. It is the largest single span glasshouse in the southern hemisphere, and one of the largest in the world.

I remember visiting it shortly after it opened, when most of the plants were not much more than seedlings. Twenty-four years later and I have to ask….what are they going to do with the trees that are now touching the roof?

No pictures of the outside of the shell – but some of the detail of the rainforest within.


The (rather civilised) way into the jungle…


More pictures from Australia? Try
Melbourne Jail and the Melbourne Aquarium
In the red hot centre
South Australian Museum





Adelaide Botanic Gardens

9 04 2012


In the parklands across the road from the northern entrance.

The Adelaide Botanic Gardens sit on the eastern end of North Terrace adjacent to the Royal Adelaide Hospital and forming part of the Parklands which ring the city. A wide variety of mature trees, native and exotic as well as formal and informal plantings form a number of different “chambers” within the park, so that you can picnic or play within the park without being aware of everybody. A number of truly novel plants, including the Amazonian Waterlily – Amazonian in proportions – make this an interesting day out, particularly if you are accompanied by children who need to be exercised!

There are also a number of public arts dotted throughout the gardens – some in the classic style, others more modern. A formal rose garden is popular for weddings, as is the Botanic Gardens restaurant, set in the centre of the gardens near the lake. The Santos Museum of Economic Botany also boasts a cafe and decking which can be used for functions – but I have never been there when the museum was open so I have no idea what it is like inside! Presumably economic botany is about using plants for profit – medicines, agriculture and the like?

On the north-eastern corner of the gardens is a giant glass dome – the Bicentennial Conservatory, featuring an indoor rain-forest.

Enjoy

Money-tree

Amazonian Waterlily

emblem of the Amazonian Waterlily, etched onto the conservatory glass


More pictures from Australia? Try
Melbourne Jail and the Melbourne Aquarium
In the red hot centre
South Australian Museum





Old Melbourne Jail and the Melbourne Aquarium

31 03 2012

gardens outside Melbourne Museum

In May of 2010 we visited Melbourne to see the Titanic Exhibition at the Melbourne Museum. While we were impressed to be in the same room as some of the artefacts that had been brought up from the wreck on the ocean floor, it is fair to say the children, not being so well-acquiainted with the story and history, were underwhelmed. No photos of this I am afraid, photography was forbidden to the entire exhibition.

The children were more impressed with the Old Melbourne Jail and the connection to Ned Kelly – his armour, a bust of his head – and the flogging and scaffold. They are still somewhat amazed and shocked that human beings would do such things to each other. We followed this up with a visit to the Melbourne Aquarium (not really my thing, but I do love penguins and I love photographing jellyfish, even though they come out blurry because of their indeterminate borders. The othr big hit was the hop on hop off trams that loop around the city. Despite being packed, they were very impressed with them!

Enjoy!

wool bombing in the gardens by the Melbourne Museum

whipping frame

exterior of the Old Melbourne Jail

exercise yards

Ned Kelly's death mask

Ned Kelly's home-made and ultimately ineffective armour

Love penguins!

There is a fish in this photo, well hidden. Can you see it? It is slightly more sparkly than the sand.

Leafy Sea Dragon

Nemo!

a mass of stars

a mass of stars

lunch?


Want more photos of Australia? Try…
At the edge of the Ocean
Life is a beach

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Saumer

18 03 2012

Chateau Saumer

Chateau Saumer was another accidental find. Built on the high ground in the town of Saumer overlooking the Loire Valley, the remnants of the original castle walls can be spotted in the town below. When we visited the castle was under renovations and hence large sections were off-limits, but it was interesting to see the walls undergoing a “before and after” process. As with many of these castles, the initial approach is up a staircase that was originally a drawbridge. Saumer is built on a square, and there is a spacious courtyard in the centre of the building. The large underground kitchens / dungeons were open for inspection.

What appears to be an Orangerie (a building into which fruit trees such as oranges were moved to protect them from frosts and snows in winter) has been transformed into a restaurant and gift shop.

More information on the castle and the town can be found here.

a fairy-tale castle

overlooking the town of Saumer and the River Loire, in the Loire Valley

overlooking the town of Saumer and the River Loire, in the Loire Valley

the church next to chateau Saumer

from under the drawbridge


Want more photos of France? Here are a few more….
Arrival in Paris
Caves of Lascaux
Notre Dame
French menus
Standing Stones of Carnac
Les Grottos en France
The Louvre
Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel)
Streets of Paris
Arc de Triomphe
The troglodytes of Maison Fort de Reignac
Fontainebleau – Versailles without the queues
An unknown Chateau
Chartres
La Seine
Theme Parks, French Style
Where Da Vinci lived
Pretty pictures en France





Château Langeais

18 03 2012

We happened upon this castle – and it really is more a castle than a château – by happy accident. It is situated in the midst of the town of Langeais on the River Loire. Built of a dark grey stone it has sheer walls and high towers – truly a medieval-looking castle to keep invaders at bay.

The castle is now restored for tourists and features life-size tableaux made up of mannequins depicting important scenes in history that occurred on the site, such as the marriage of Anne of Brittany to King Charles VIII. Like many of the restored châteaux, the original elaborate tiles are on the floor, the patterned wallpapers are exquisite and the original furniture and tapestries are gorgeous. Unlike some of the royal châteaux, there is less gilding, marble and ostentation and more beautifully carved wood, stone and generally the detail is in the fixtures such as the furniture and tapestries rather than in the actual structure. Having said that, there is also detail carved into the stone door frames, the edges of the roof and around the windows.

If you happen to visit it, of note is an excellent chocolatier across the road from the entrance.

one of the many original paintings

feasting table set in front of a stone fireplace

gothic furniture and elaborate tapestries - the tapestries kept the rooms slightly warmer through blocking drafts and providing a level of insulation to the stone walls

elaborate patterned tiles on the floor

view of the town from the castle courtyard (presumably the original castle walls would have blocked this view)

the only remaining part of original "keep"

my continuing obsession with the geometry of spiral staircases

view over the town from the top

view over the town from the top

view over the town from the top

view over the town from the top - the chocolatier is under one of the red striped awnings

view over the town from the top

view over the town from the top

view over the town from the top

door into the internal courtyard

Across the road from the castle - not the chocolatier, but a boucherie (butchery)


Want more photos of France? Here are a few more….
Arrival in Paris
Caves of Lascaux
Notre Dame
French menus
Standing Stones of Carnac
Les Grottos en France
The Louvre
Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel)
Streets of Paris
Arc de Triomphe
The troglodytes of Maison Fort de Reignac
Fontainebleau – Versailles without the queues
An unknown Chateau
Chartres
La Seine
Theme Parks, French Style
Where Da Vinci lived
Pretty pictures en France