New Bedford Field Trip: a journey to the untamed north (end).

22 06 2009
portugal day on the ave

portugal day on the ave

Now, I haven’t spoken about my new home yet.

I’m still getting to that. But what you do need to know is that New Bedford is home to an astounding number of  folk who identify themselves as Portuguese, Azorean and Cape Verdean –  chiefly  as a result of the region’s past as a major whaling port.

What this means for me, is indecipherable accents, amazing restaurants, a welcome sense of multiculturalism and a bunch of extra holidays.

Enter, Portugal Day.

droppin' it like it's hot

droppin' it like it's hot

June 10 marks the date of Luis De Camoes’ death – the man who penned Portugal’s national poem, then lost an eye, was shipwrecked and went on to save said poem by swimming with one arm while keeping the other (poem-holding) arm above water.

Kind of beats Australia Day, right?

What Portugal Day in New Bedford means is a big ol’ street party. Acushnet Ave at the north end of town is blocked off, streetside stalls hawk Madeiran wine and plastic cups of beer.

The smoky tang of barbecued sardines hangs thick in the air. Portuguese is spoken everywhere. And everyone has a good time.

We checked it out first on Saturday night where the streets were thronged with middle-class teenage gangsters, their hair in cornrows, looking mean and telling each other that, ‘Yo dawg, this is, in fact, whack’.

Unfortunately for them, these spotty Tupac-wannabes weren’t old enough to drink, but we were, so we enjoyed the Massachusetts rarity of a few streetside beers before calling it a night.

Caitlin and Mitch munching churros

Caitlin and Mitch munching churros

getting up to get down

getting up to get down

Now street festivals are really designed to be enjoyed in the sun. So after our traditional Sunday breakfast of cucumber bloody marys, we hit The Ave again.

Grilled sardines hot off the bbq, cold cups of summer ale, fresh rolls filled with charred chorizo, hot sugary churros. That’s what I call a lunch.

guy was AMAZING

guy was AMAZING

There was all manner of entertainment too.

Some bloke was going nuts bashing out tribal beats on an assortment of upturned tubs. Kids in traditional costumes showed their dance moves.

We even found an amazing cathedral with a church-run ‘roulette’ table out front. God smiled on me and I won.

A good day.

one man who looks like he has just been born and another who was at the wrong national day??

one man who looks like he has just been born and another who was at the wrong national day??

church window detail

church window detail

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An Irish Jig. Chapter two.

11 06 2009

Kilkenny itself is a neat little joint, small enough to walk in a hour or so, but large enough to hold, oh I don’t know, 30 or so pubs. Sweet. Laura’s job as a journo with the local paper also meant she knew nearly every resident which almost made up for not following her brother’s career advice and staying the hell away from print journalism in the first place.

awesome

awesome

But I soon found not everyone was her pal. Most of the people we passed said ‘hi’. Some stopped to chat. Some waved from their cars. Eventually I had to ask. “So who was that?”

“Oh, I’ve no idea – I’ve never met them.”

“So everyone waves at everyone else?”

“Yep”

Friendly spot, Ireland.

chaps wear tweed

chaps wear tweed

They’re also happy to chat to newcomers, heck, they’ll chat to anyone, so long as you’re not English. Sadly, this friendliness is a moot point at the bar, because after their third pint, that charming Irish brogue becomes unintelligible. God only knows that they were saying, but I nodded along and smiled politely.

The Irish also have a mean line in sports and everyone is into it. My sister’s girlfriends happily discuss player trades for hours and everyone carries a stick. I’m not kidding. For a country where every teenager is armed with a wooden club (ok, a ‘hurl’) there is a surprising lack of gang violence. Can you imagine if the kids of London carried hockey sticks on the buses? Good grief…

grown men bashing each other with sticks

grown men bashing each other with sticks

Hurling is a fantastic spectator sport that blends field hockey and lacrosse but without any of that sissy safety gear that ensures lacrosse players are the butt of jokes the world over. No, you are… Anyway, players belt baseballs at each other before smashing them into goals at each end of the field – the very same goal posts used for Gaelic football. Handy….

During my week in town I also made it west to Galway where I managed to miss the Volvo Ocean sailing race by a day and we almost saw a few local sights, the dramatic Cliffs of Moher being cloaked in fog when I showed up. Still, it was super to be able to escape the barely-bustling cities in a matter of minutes and be surrounded by rolling fields at every turn. Armed with a translator, I’ll be back.

the cliffs of moher probably look like this

the cliffs of moher probably look like this





An Irish Jig. Chapter one.

11 06 2009
ruins dotted the coutryside

ruins dotted the coutryside

My family has trouble staying in one place.

Originally from New Zealand, my parents now live at diagonally-opposite corners of Australia. My middle sister teaches school at a remote Aboriginal community, 200km north of Newman. My little sister is a journalist in Kilkenny, Ireland. Family get-togethers are rare, but what this does mean, is I have a fantastic array of spots to hang out when I find the time.

With this in mind, I decided a trip to Ireland was long overdue, so I fitted in a few days on my way to the States. Having fled the stifling heat and German hordes of Mallorca, my twilight ride south thru the middle counties of green, green Ireland was a welcome change. It was even raining, a fact that became less of a novelty as the trip went on.

remarkably similar to my mallorquian steed

remarkably similar to my mallorquian steed

Happily, my sister’s flatmate worked for a car rental agency but sadly my 7.30pm arrival was too late for the airport staff so I bussed it south to Kilkenny. Still, the car was waiting in the driveway next day and my sister guided us east to Graiguenamanagh (yeh I know..) where we ignored signs to the trail and trekked cross-country up the nearest hill.

Here, I encouraged my tall and once athletic sister to gracefully vault a barbed-wire fence standing in our way, but she got hung up and crashed to the ground with a hole in her jeans.  I may never forgive myself for not setting my camera to ‘video’.

the whole country looks like this

the whole country looks like this

The view from the top showcased the emerald green patchwork of fields that make up Ireland’s countryside. Coming from Oz, I just never get sick of looking at lush green pastures. Sometimes you forget not every farmer faces water shortages. Apparently, it actually rains more there during the summer – the winter being dry(ish) but witheringly cold. Still, as Laura and her buddies noted, it’s just not worth wasting your time whining about the rain when it’s a constant. Put on a coat and get on with it.

Luckily, my visit eventually coincided with the warmest weather Kilkenny had enjoyed all year, so I was treated to the spectacle of an Irish backyard barbecue – much like ours, but here you can actually watch the punters burn before your very eyes. Twenty minutes of ‘Oh, this is grand’ and they were done. Stick a fork in ‘em. The girls were roasted. Hilarious.





get fonted

10 06 2009
by gemma obrien

by gemma obrien

So, for the first in a series of things which I think are just really freakin’ cool, may I present “Go Font Ur Self”.

It’s an exhibition of typography-based artwork running next week in Sydney and Melbourne – basically pieces made up from and utilitising various amazing fonts.

Kind of nerdy, I know, but there’s some interesting stuff  – see for yourself.

Opens Thursday in Sydney and next week, Melbourne.

www.gofonturself.com.au

by sarah king

by sarah king

by berdene du toit

by berdene du toit

by numskull

by numskull





Dirty stinkin superyachts

10 06 2009

YEH, I know, everyone thinks yacht crew have it made — swanning from port to port in those shiny love boats, schmoozing with the like of Paris and Diddy, sunbaking on the aft deck during crossings.

Sure, we do all this and more. But occasionally we work and sometimes this gives rise to some surprising insights. So don’t hate us. Hate the yacht owners. They’re the rich jerks.

And as I learned over the winter, they’re nothing less than environmental terrorists. Simply put, owning a superyacht these days, is the equivalent of giving a middle-finger salute to the environment, the universe and everything else.

being lifted in the yard

being lifted in the yard

It’s amazing when you consider it, how selfish an act owning a giant white boat is. (For the purposes of this tale I mainly refer to powerboats, yachts at least being occasionally powered by the wind).

At its very best, all a yacht can offer is an enjoyable holiday in some exotic locale with family, friends or Eastern European hookers, depending where your tastes lie.

These yacht owners are not donating holidays to terminally-ill children. They’re not using the boat to transport starving refugees out of Sri Lanka. Their yacht is just a giant overpriced toy.

Most toys however, don’t spew millions of litres of exhaust fumes into the air when the owners’ wife decides the waters off Cannes are too choppy.

They’re not painted yearly with highly-toxic antifouling and they don’t require daily cleaning with all manner of horrible chemicals.

making sure everything is shiny

making sure everything is shiny

Consider the fuel issue alone. A large boat I know of had new gas-turbines installed this year at a huge cost so they could go faster.

And go they did, reaching speeds of nearly 40 knots (about 70kmh). This is pretty quick for a boat more than 70m long.

Shame they were using 5000L of diesel PER HOUR to achieve this. Yikes.

The same yacht also travelled from the Balearic islands to the Channel islands off England to pick up guests who do not enjoy flying. Quite a taxi fare.

tented up. It's huge! see car bottom right.

tented up. It's huge! see car bottom right.

Another yacht I was helping to re-fit over the winter required a paintjob. All 48m of boat had the old paint sanded off and this is currently blowing around the Med somewhere.

A dust-free environment was then required to complete the new spray job, so a giant plastic tent was stretched over scaffold to cover the entire yacht. A further 60-odd yachts got this same treatment in the yard. That’s a lot of plastic.

But what are you gonna do? Hundreds of new superyachts are currently in construction and now the price of diesel has lowered, very few owners are considering bio-diesel or the groovy green alternatives.

Do we boycott his horrid industry and go work for Greenpeace? They’re just going to hire some of the many eager new yachties waiting in the wings.

Beats me. But it’s worth thinking about.





S P A C I O U S N E S S

8 06 2009

I’ve shared a flat in London with six other people.
I’ve crouched down to shower in a bathroom built too close to the roof at my friend’s house in Clapham.
I was recently forced to tape rubber tubing across the five-foot doorways in our Spanish apartment after enduring repeated head wounds.
So I can only conclude there are too many people living in Europe and they are all very tiny people. (I know this isn’t true, but really, who’s designing this shit?)

 

Happily, not everyone lives like this.
My former rental in West Oz was a ramshackle federation home with 12ft ceilings, jarrah floors and fireplaces in every bedroom.
Needless to say, I loved that house, especially for the welcome sense of space when you arrived home to flop on a couch. And, yep, I thought that was an enjoyably huge place to live.

 
So nothing could prepare me for the sense of awe I felt when my buddy Nick unlocked the 3rd storey door to his New Bedford joint.
We had just passed shelves filled with antique clocks and a display of ancient cameras. “Cool foyer,” I thought. Nope, just the beginning.

 

camera porn

camera porn

 

Somehow, Nick has secured the rights to a soaring penthouse loft, the kind I imagined hip, overpaid graphic designers might frequent.
Fully furnished, the trappings include leather couches, a grand piano, four-poster beds, hardwood floors, a 15ft fireplace, antique lamps, a telescope(?!) and best of all, a wrought-iron spiral staircase to nowhere (they haven’t built the roof terrace yet…). 

An apartment I can stand tall in. About time.

new digs

new digs





Notes on Mallorca. Part II

8 06 2009

My stay in Mallorca was made especially fun due to two main factors:

A] the fantastic west coast of the island, and

B] my gang of international drunken misfits.

Valdemossa

Valdemossa

A] West Coast.

Heading north from the city, Mallorca looks fairly unremarkable until you approach the Sierra de Tramuntana mountain range running diagonally along the north-western coast.

As the road winds upwards, ploughed fields make way for crumbling terraces of olive groves and pine forests.

Further on, the road tracks through the clouds, even on summer days – not that surprising considering 10 peaks are more than 1000m high.

After dodging the multitudes of lycra-clad masochistic cyclists, and navigating numerous hairpin turns, you eventually emerge on the dramatic west coast.

FormentorSheer cliffs plunge hundreds of feet from tree-lined ledges and expensive villas line impossibly picturesque coves, blending – for the most part – quite tastefully through the use of local stone.

Highlights here include Cap de Formentor, a rugged peninsula of limestone stretching north-east toward Menorca and Sa Calobra – an ancient riverbed which has carved a towering ravine through a tiny gap to the sea.

The west coast also houses various tiny settlements such as Pollenca, Valdemossa and Deia – the latter an oasis of green perched on the side of a valley. Pretty, but also pretty expensive.

Prices for basic two-bedroom apartments in Deia start at around 500,000 euros. It does have a lovely beach though.

Pretty Deia

Pretty Deia

valdemossa panorama

valdemossa panorama

B] Yachties.

Love ‘em or hate em’, yacht crew now make up a significant number of Palma’s year-round residents.

And who could blame them for staying? The city offers world class restaurants, a multitude of late night bars, cheap accommodation, relaxed drinking laws and a climate more in line with northern Africa than the Med.

Sure they get drunk and stupid, but they also have ridiculous disposable incomes and not much else to do, except spend it.

double-exposure Lomo shot. goodtimes.

double-exposure Lomo shot. goodtimes.

I don’t know any figures, but I’m sure a huge part of the city’s wealth can be attributed to the yacht industry and crew.

The majority of Spanish pretty much ignore the yachties except the clever few who have opened bars and restaurants catering specifically to them.

The Palma gypsies arguably cause far more trouble anyway.

Placa Drassana where I lived was the epicentre for regular beatings and muggings, yet more than once I the local dealers casually leaning in the window of a police car for a chat.

another refined poolside bbq

another refined poolside bbq

The mix of young Antipodeans, English, South Africans, Scandinavians made Palma an always interesting place to live and if nothing else, I left the city with some fantastic new friends.

Like any gathering of irrepressible youngsters, most of our fun did centre around getting loaded, but we were just having a good time.

We always have a good time.

downtown

downtown