Monday, March 18, 2013

Day 3 - The Cedars and Strathalbyn, Dinner at the White House Hahndorf

Sunday 17th March 

I woke at about 6 am. I’ve got a headache. Is it too much sun or sinus or fatigue? Step-mum supplies Panadol and comments that allergies are notorious in Adelaide and she never suffered until she moved back here.  I journal until almost 8am feeling the pressure of the need to hit to the road. Bacon for brekky today. Better make a move.
Despite our protests that she has been ill and can’t even have any, Step-mum cooks our breakfast of bacon and rye toast for me and bacon and eggs and rye toast for Hubby.  While Step-mum is busy I pack up our gear. Glad I showered last night. That will save time this morning. We eat outside under the covered area as Step-mum tells us about the time when she set her grill on fire cooking pork crackling. The smoke alarm going bezerk all the while. Hence she now pan cooks the bacon although usually she would have grilled it.  That grill is just off limits. A tasty brekky out of the way, Hubby directs me to get the tripod and we take some group shots before we hit the road. First grouped around the table and then we move across to a position where we will capture some of Step-mums bird ornaments as part of the group.
While it would be nice to hang around, we’re also quite keen to get today’s business out of the way. High on our list of things to do is a visit to The Cedars. We head for the hills as I investigate our options. Internet access on the phone is invaluable.  Sure enough, I find that I have scheduled The Cedars today for a reason – it is not open tomorrow! Departing Paralowie at about 9:15 it’s not long before we’re passing through Walkerville and admiring the beautiful stone buildings. I particularly like the ones made of dark stone with white iron lace. Beautiful.  One of these days I must hunt down the route we took by taxi the first time I came to Adelaide for work. We drove past beautiful rows of stone cottages where the street plantings were lovely low growing mallee trees underplanted with native grasses. Unique and so special.  Somewhere along our route we pass a striking modern building. Stopped at the lights briefly Hubby snaps a super quick photo out the driver’s window.
We make a turn to the east and drive down streets mainly planted with Jacarandas that must make a lovely show when they are in flower.
As we begin our climb into the Hills we hit a long section where the left hand lane is closed and the speed is limited to 40 km per hour due to a bike event in progress today. Hubby is surprised at the name of the Heysen Tunnel. I guess it seems a little incongruous to name such a modern piece of engineering after an artist so famous for his appreciation of the natural landscape, but such is Heysen's standing here.
It feels like no time before we are being welcomed to Hahndorf and come to a sign directing us to the Cedars. I kill the Tom Tom and we find the property without any difficulty.  Just a couple of cars already in the car park at 10.15. The air is cool and crisp and I hunt out my jacket. It’s quite nippy today. Only forecast as 22C even in Adelaide.  There’s a lovely fresh bushland scent in the air.
We make our way slowly into the gift shop,  We pay our $10 each for an unlimited visit to a charismatic elderly lady on the sales desk and as we have 40 minutes to kill until the first tour of the day we head out to explore some of the walks around the property momentarily delayed by a beautiful patch of flowering bulbs.
The walks feature green pedestals that you open to see a painting that Heysen painted from that spot along with some related information. There’s 12 around the property. We skip the first we come to as we’ve been told the tour will stop at that one.
The Cedars plays host to a biennial Sculpture Symposium and installations from the 2012 event remain around the property and add interest to the landscape (The next is in April 2014).  A contemplative figure complements the Studio. 
Hubby seems particularly interested in them and gives each one a close examination.  The standard composition out of the way I try to capture some images that will give me different options for placement in the book.. move a little so that the studio has a bigger gap in the image from the sculpture.. maybe a two page spread for this shot? Who knows.  
I head on to the Shady Pool where Heysen painted cattle drinking surrounded by stands of Candlebark gums. I try to identify any remaining trees but it seems that those here now are different from those a century ago.  This detracts nothing from the grandeur of the gums. 
A couple of sculptures remain. After a long hot summer the pool is almost dry. The ground is heavily mulched with a large amount of shed bark which I presume must burn quite well!  There is abundant bird song at this spot. We head on down a flattened track where it seems plenty of others have gone before although it is narrow and not terribly official looking.  The route becomes narrower and we become less and less inclined to follow it. Turning we find a lovely angle on a stand of Candlebarks. Glorious white trunks and gnarley twisted branches. What magnificent trees, no wonder Heysen loved trees. I am sure that there is nowhere on earth with more characterful trees than Australia.  I can so understand how indigenous peoples came to believe that the spirits of their Ancestors live on in the landscape and local flora and fauna. It seems such a natural assumption.
We’ve spent quite a lot of our available time already. Hubby decides to head back for the tour and a preparatory use of the facilities. Agreeing to meet at the gift shop I am left to continue exploring. However I am delayed by the birds. There are so many.  Fairy wrens. I assume they must be Superb Fairy Wrens given some of the signage around the area. Thornbills are piping quietly in the shrubs. I test the camera’s zoom. I am quite encouraged in having a go at getting birds since I managed to get a great photograph of a Linnet in England with our old camera.  I’m busily trying to take a portrait of the tiny thornbills when a great flash of yellow captures my attention. ?? What is that? A robin or something? Black and white on the throat. A mature male golden whistler! Awesome. He perches in clear view, but he’s moving regularly making photography difficult.  He’s not calling. He would be easier to photograph when trying to attract a mate. No luck with the whistler.  Next a grey fantail makes an appearance. Fantails rarely sit still and this one is busily hunting capturing insects on the wing. Alighting briefly on an old weathered trunk of a fallen tree. The tiny thornbills are moving around me and I go back on the hunt.  A sweet little face peeks out from among a dense cluster of leaves. It’s hard to see in the screen it’s so tiny but I press the shutter quickly before the bird moves on.  
Time is really getting short now so I drag myself away. As I turn back towards the gift shop, I notice Hubby heading in the opposite direction over the crest of the hill in the distance.  “Where are you going? Hubby?”  “To find you!” Just as well I spotted him, he wasn’t going to find me down there. I head on and he turns back and when we catch up I explain that I never made it away from the Shady Pool as I was enjoying the birds. J
We browse the gift shop while we wait for our tour to commence. Our guide is Ron and we are starting as a group of twelve.  Questions are welcome. We hear about Heyson’s early life and that a group of Adelaide business men recognized his talent and gave him 400 pounds to go to Europe to study.  He was away 4 years and as he studied he painted obviously and he sent paintings back to his sponsors to sell. They recouped their investment many times over. Careful financial management enabled Heysen to stay away studying for 4 years. Moving from country to country over that period. Meanwhile his name was becoming known at home. He returned and lived in Hahndorf, A successful exhibition in Melbourne in 1912 made him 1500 pounds and he bought The Cedars along with 36 acres outright.  Over the years he bought up more land and the property grew to the current 150 acres.  The property is owned by 4 of Heysen’s grandchildren.
Outside the studio we learn that Heysen had the studio built by a local builder, bluestone base (now disguised by an ample layer of local dust) and the lighter stone above, roof tiles from Marseille brought as ballast in ships and not the luxury item one may have assumed.
In the studio there is a huge window providing the diffused light that minimizes shadow.  The building is clearly very well constructed. In a display case over to the side Heysen’s artist equipment is on display.  We admire the various art works on display including many images of the local farmer Collins who was paid a bob a day for posing. He’s a bit of a “where’s wally” in Heysen’s paintings. 
Heysen made friends in the art world, which was mainly based in Sydney and Melbourne. One friend was Lionel Lindsay brother of Norman Lindsay who is credited with having viewed a painting done in 1907 which is still in the studio and commented to Heysen that he painted like a European. He was, of course, referring the light and the colour pallet.  The following year, example another large oil on display, see the difference in Heysen’s representation of the landscape.
A portfolio is then accessed and a collection of prints is used to illustrate a talk about the artist and his work. Although well known for his landscapes, Heysen was also a master at the still life. Several examples are shown and they are magnificent.  Heysen was prolific, and produced about 10,000 art works! He was capable of churning out a magnificent still life in three days. Looking at the glorious work, it’s hard to believe. Three days!
A note chimes. This is a hurry up from the lady up in the gift shop. Ron is a fount of information and clearly passionate about the subject matter.  He’s a great guide.  We tear ourselves away and head for the house.  We enter through a lovely verandah area which although it looks like it could have been furnished just yesterday in terms of style, has been presented as it would have been at the time this extension to the house was built.  Wicker chairs and pot plants. We head inside and move from room to room admiring the original art works and hearing stories of Heysen’s life. Visits from celebrities, Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, Anna Pavlova for example. Pavlova famously wanted to buy the picture above the fireplace. A magnificent still life of zinnias and grapes.  Heysen was steadfast and would not sell this family piece despite being offered a blank cheque. He did agree to paint her another and sent it to her in London, but she did not think it as good as the one she really wanted and she sent it back. Heysen returned her cheque and the painting was sold elsewhere. It turned up when some people on a tour of the Cedars said they had bought that painting at Auction and photographs of Nora Heysen viewing it in Sydney are passed around. Some of us agree that it is not as good as the one hanging above the fireplace. The composition is not as good.
We admire various portraits of Sallie Heysen. LOL most of them she didn’t like, and they have been brought out after her death.  One of the stand out glories of the house, although it currently on display in Canberra for an exhibition of work painted in 1913 is of Sallie sewing at the window.  The place where this scene was created is in the area which became Nora Heysen’s studio in later years and the sewing machine and chair are still there by the window.  No indoor photography allowed!
One of the portraits Sallie didn’t like, but Hans did was done by E Phillips Fox. It is unsigned.  Sallie sat for the portrait around the time of the successful exhibition in Melbourne.
Perhaps the most famous of Heysen’s paintings, Droving into the Light was originally rejected when he took it and other major works to Melbourne for sale. That was during the first world war and a German ancestry wasn’t going to do a person any good, no matter how long their residence in Australia or their commitment to this country. He was devastated and puzzled by this sudden exclusion. However it turned out for the best in the end, because he later added an additional huge redgum to the landscape and sold it, like many another major work, to a West Australian magnate.
It is with great reluctance that Ron draws the tour to a close and we bid farewell, we are well over time and apparently there is room we have missed, but that means we will just need to come again.  On our way out we pause to view the original “pumpkins and onions” hanging in the kitchen. Wonderful. I didn’t realize Hans Heysen, winner of no less than 9 Wynne Prizes was such a master of the still life!
We say our thanks and farewells to Ron and head up to the gift shop and Nora’s Studio. Nora was the first woman to win the Archibald Prize and the first female official war artist. On display are some beautiful drawings of various military images. Lots of nurses, one of surgery in progress and another of a fellow with a bulldozer who cleared a path for the troops while under fire from the Japanese.  They are awesome and I would love prints of some of them, but they are not available. Apparently the Australian War Memorial has a huge collection, but it seems unlikely they have prints either as you would think that if prints were available at all, they’d have some for sale here at the Cedars.  Nora Heysen lived and worked in Hunters Hill in Sydney for decades. There’s an agreement between The Cedars and Hunters Hill council to promote this fact. I wonder if her residence is a museum. The value of property in Hunters Hill by the time of her death seems to make that rather unlikely methinks.
One truly shocking thing we learned. Although Hans Heysen was such a well known and successful artist there were some who seemed to resent him in the local area. As we walk to the car, having spent a lengthy time in the gift shop browsing, Hubby tells me a sad story he read in the book by one of Heysen’s daughters.  Heysen had a favourite red gum he loved to paint. He painted it over and over again. One local worthy got sick of the sight of Heysen sitting painting that tree and arranged to have it cut down. What an act of total bastardry. It’s almost unfathomable.
We still have plenty to see at The Cedars (named for the large Himalayan Cedars planted about 40 years before Heysen purchased the property) but we will save it for another day. It’s after 12.30 now and we need lunch and to get over to Strathalbyn for our next priority for the day.
Where to lunch? We take a spin into Hahndorf and, not surprisingly, find it is very busy. It’s only half an hour to Strathalbyn or Strath as it is known locally, so we decide to take our chances there.  The main street is full, so we park around the corner, still only a very short walk.  As we did a run down the main drag I noticed a café that seemed busy, so I lead the way there. It is the Appleseed Café.
We wander in and are provided with menus, pointed in the direction of a free table, being bang on lunch time there isn’t many and we feel lucky there is one available. We make our choices and Michael heads up to the counter to order. 
He goes for the Crab and Prawn Linguine $13.50, so I choose the Twice baked cheese soufflé with pear, walnut and rocket salad$9.50.  Drinks: Michael chocolate thickshake $6; Me: fresh apple and pear juice $6.50.  We chat as we wait, and enjoy our drinks when they arrive. Both very good. Mm. The food arrives and it too is excellent. I had noted on the way in that they have a tripadvisor sticker on the door.  I found that reassuring. TA has not yet let me down.  This is a brilliant café. Great value. The food was delicious. The service was fast and friendly.
Lunch out of the way we cheerfully agree on a systematic examination of the various antique shops around the village. We find heaps of great stuff, selectively photographing with my phone and emailing images to Daughter2 who is on standby.
London House, my favourite here in Strath, has a great selection of flying birds among other things, or there’s some great anodized kitchen canisters, a lovely (hornless gramophone)… up the street there’s a great turtle shaped cheese grater, but D2 thinks it’s head looks distressingly penis like so we’ll skip that.
They have heaps of Jelly moulds too. Glass, copper, ceramic. One ceramic one has a, no doubt British, Lion on the top. I am sorely tempted but kept in check by our luggage restrictions for the upcoming flights.  We succumb to the temptation of a beautiful green glass dessert setting. I reckon I can get that into my carry on luggage.
While we wait for that to be packed up for us Hubby goes to move the car closer while I message Daughter2. On his return he leads me round the corner to a modest looking shop.  We enquire from the man whether we has any gramophones.. with an expression that seems to say … well yeah, of COURSE! He commences a tour around his, quite cluttered, shop to the various gramophones he has at the moment. This man is clearly quite passionate about gramophones. In dialogue with Daughter2 and having played her a gramophone over the phone, we end up deciding that those currently available aren’t quite what she and her Fiance are after, so we leave our contact details with the man, Hubby finishing that while I duck back to collect the dessert set and pay at London House. We’ve had a very interesting though tiring afternoon hunting through an enormous volume of interesting bits and pieces here in Strath.  Unfortunately most things are in a moderate price range. Perhaps a result of the GFC, we don’t find anything really in the line of what we are hoping for a wedding present.  The hunt continues.
It’s after 5 oclock by the time we are on the road to check into our Hahndorf accommodation at Amble at Hahndorf. Our cottage is cosy and lots of local delicacies have been supplied. Chocolates, biscuits, orange juice, all the suppliers are identified in the information book.  Front and back there are bird feeders and I’m a bit alarmed to find a couple of sulphur crested cockatoos that look like they might have beak and feather frequenting the feeding station. This is a rampantly contagious bird disease and I am very concerned that the bird feeding may cause it to spread.  I spend quite a while photographing the birds.
Sulphur Crested Cockatoos, Galahs, Collared Lorikeets and Corellas all making an appearance.  The smallest of them all, the lorikeets play bully boy. Lorikeets are really nasty aggressive birds. Though pretty I can’t say I like their personality much. 
Sulphur Crested Cockatoos
Collared Lorikeet 
Galah and lorikeets
 On his way in with the luggage, Hubby has chatted with our host who has recommended we eat at the White House for dinner. I check on Tripadvisor and find that fellow travelers agree. The White House it is.  We ring and book a table. The sooner the better I’m tired and keen to just chill out here after dinner.
We pull up and are greeted with great friendliness our hostess hangs around to chat with us for a while before leaving us to our menu selection. Ultimately the White House is aiming to be open 7 days, but they are feeling their way as to the style and price of what they are offering across the week. Perhaps confine the fine dining approach to Friday and Saturday nights, and adopt a shared plate, tapas sort of thing on the quieter nights. Keep an eye on Facebook and Twitter to see what's happening. We are glad they are open tonight! It’s pretty quiet though.  We make our selections I find the Pan seared diver scallops, sweet corn cream, truffle oil aioli and crispy sage leaves irresistable and decide to follow that with Twice cooked crispy skinned pork belly, pan seared SA prawn cutlets with roasted pear segments, toasted walnuts and sage aioli.  Hubby lines up with Warm free range duck sausage, confit garlic croutons, Port caramelised onion jam and baby cornichons to start followed by the Spiced slow braised MSA lamb shoulder, confit garlic puree, pan fried zucchini flower and rosemary jus.
Over the course of our meal Hubby enthusiastically samples the various local brews.. Prancing Pony Pale Ale, local Pear Cider from the Hills Cider Company, and finally the Goodieson Maibock.  He enjoys them all, takes some minutes of deliberation before he nominates the pear cider as his favourite because “its different”.
Our meals are truly delicious. My pork is delectably crisp top and bottom and meat very tender. The accompanying prawn is the tastiest I’ve had in a very long time and the walnuts and pear that complement the meats are delicious. Hubby's Lamb Should is large, again the outside is deliciously crispy, the jus has a hint of heat. Sides of a huge bowl of broccoli is cooked to the perfect degree, nuts on greens is always a winning combination.  The shoestring fries with lemon aioli is on the house because the rosemary potatoes we ordered are not available.  It’s a real struggle to fit it all in (I tease Hubby and tell him I’m going to tell Son-in-law he couldn’t finish his delicious main!) but we decide we will share the Summer mango cheesecake with passionfruit jelly and sweet cream chantilly.  They must be confident about their desserts because while the main is very competitively priced, they want a lot for the desserts.  This one is $17.50
The dessert is good, we enjoy it, but I don’t think the price is justified. For that price in Sydney you’d get an even higher standard. I could have made this one myself. Perhaps a lot of people share dessert, those mains and sides were bigger than average. You certainly wouldn’t be going away hungry. Not to worry. All up including drinks our bill comes to $150 odd. Good for the quality of the food and service we think. Hubby and I agree he won the entree course and I won the main.
Back “home” sitting enjoying some down time we agree that it feels like we’ve been away for ages and yet it is only a couple of days. We vege out in front of the tele watching Midsomer Murders, observing that these days the detectives don’t do much other than swan around murder scenes. They do precious little detecting. Eventually pretty much everyone but the killer is eliminated by death.  Easy policing that. I think the writers have become unacceptably lazy, though I do enjoy seeing the actress who played Eleanor in Sense and Sensibility (the good version) in another role amply adorned by a fabulous head of golden hair which is surely a wig!
We collapse into a delightfully cosy bed. It’s cool tonight and we are glad of blankets, snuggly doona and electric blanket and plentiful pillows. This was a good choice of accommodation. I like a venue where the bedding keeps you warm and you don’t have to heat the room overnight.

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