There is snow on Mt Roland (at least there was during a visit in July). It has also been drizzled over the peaks beside it and the breadth of snow gives the range a fluky hint of the French Alps. The charm of this spreads to nearby Sheffield, surely one of Tasmania’s finest ‘alpine’ villages.

The cold isn’t at all threatening. Not when there are perfect shelters from it. The wood fires are burning at the Glencoe Rural Retreat, a farmhouse near Barrington and Sheffield that has its own Gallic countenance.

French-born Remi and Ginette Bancal own Glencoe and have refashioned it with themes from Provence. In the room I stay in is an antique armoire but early one evening as darkness runs speedily over the snowy peaks, thoughts are on food rather than furniture.

Dinner is an optional part of a stay at this B&B. The Bancals’ serve up their table d’ hôte, a three-course set menu, that is designed on what local produce is available from their potager and nearby suppliers.

Ginette advises dinner is ready soon after my arrival: first course, a pumpkin soup with caramalised onions and almonds, bacon and a little chilli is served magnificently and perfectly hot – smoking hot soup must be one of the pleasures of winter. I relish every drop, then scrap up the remains with a warm, crusty bread roll. Lamb Provencal with potatoes is the main. The meat comes from a butcher in Spreyton, is served up bistro-style, and could be eaten by birds and butterflies, or anyone without teeth. Dessert is a choux with caramel sauce and pistachios. The snow and cold has somehow garnished and complemented all the flavours of dinner. It is a perfect winter treat.

Phil and Amanda Smithers are from New South Wales. They are a staying at Glencoe for a week. “We like the cold,” says Phil. “It’s a guilty secret for people from New South Wales. The couple has come to explore the north-west, and to eat and drink and sit by the fire. Afterwards they’re travelling to Hobart to collect produce and cook it up in a self-contained apartment. The couple also let on they are fond of Tassie’s country pubs. “[When we] pop into a country pub the food is almost always gobsmackingly beautiful,” adds Phil.

“I don’t understand why Tassie is not a winter destination,” adds Ginette. “I look forward to winter every year. The garden looks beautiful. It becomes another garden all together and I like its magic. Winter has its own charm. It’s a pity people think of going somewhere else,” says Ginette before adding, “We are happy here because we look at the French Alps”.

It costs $175 per night to stay at Glencoe in August and the price includes a continental breakfast with home-made brioche, jams and preserved fruits. Coffee is served in Villeroy and Boch crockery; in French-style dejuner cups. The table d’ hôte costs $60 per person.

Murals at Sheffield

Striking murals at Sheffield

Glencoe rural retreat

Stunning Gardens and Homestead - Glencoe

Mt Roland

Spectacular Mt Roland

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On the first Sunday of each month the Sunday Tasmanian runs a travel section on Tasmania. Each month we’ll post you some of our favourite excerpts from the paper. Here’s the first post from yesterday’s paper:

Dr Lorne Kriwoken is an environmental scientist at UTAS. He has visited Antarctica 17 times and his fascination with the great white extends to Tasmanian’s considerable historical connections to it.

Dr Kriwoken, along with Bernard Lloyd and John Williamson, have written Polar Pathways, a brilliantly informative 60-page colour guide for self-guided tours of Tasmania’s Antarctic heritage sites. With this booklet for company, and perhaps the company of a few friends and/or family, it is possible to walk in the footsteps of famous Antarctic explorers such as Mawson, Amundsen and Bernacchi suggests Dr Kriwoken. Visits to museums with priceless Antarctic artefacts, monuments, sculptures, buildings and libraries with connections to Antarctica also feature he says.

One suggested day trip begins in Hobart and finishes on Bruny Island. A Hobart walking tour, one of the polar pathways, can be completed in an hour. The full printed booklet costs $10. It can be ordered from
A brochure can be picked up from the Hobart Visitor and Information Centre or your hotel.

pic of Polar Pathways brochure

Polar Pathways brochure

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Hobart is an excellent place for cruise ship passengers to stop and take a break, according to a spokeswoman from Tasports.
Speaking to the ABC after it was announced that the Voyager of the Seas cruise ship is planning a Tasmanian stop next year, Karen Rees commented that Hobart is the perfect destination for a stop-over.

“Everything is nearby, so you have activities such as Port Arthur, the mountain [and] the new MONA museum all within a very close distance,” she said of the city’s many appealing attractions.

Tasports estimates that between October this year and April 2012, there will be a 20 per cent increase in cruise ship arrivals in Hobart.

The Voyager of the Seas carries an estimated 5,000 passengers and crew alone. Operated by Royal Caribbean International, the ship made its maiden voyage in 1999.

Passengers on the 311-metre, 138,000-tonne vessel can enjoy the use of a range of amenities during their voyage, including a rock climbing wall and an ice-skating rink, as well as in-line skating, a 24-hour promenade, a 1950s-style diner, miniature golf course, full-size basketball court and casino.

Other Australian ports of call for the Voyager of the Seas include Adelaide, Melbourne, Cairns, Perth, Port Douglas and Sydney.

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Long growing seasons and cool climates make Tasmania an ideal place for truffles.

Since the first truffle was found in the island state in 1999, the delicacy is becoming increasingly popular. This year, according to truffle harvester Tim Terry, between 1.5 and two tonnes of truffles could be produced in Australia.

And while this pales in comparison to Europe, which usually yields between 40 and 80 tonnes of truffles a year, more than 70 per cent of Australia’s truffle harvest is exported to willing buyers based overseas.

“We have a very long growing season and that’s why our aroma and our taste is so good – a bit the same as cool-climate wines,” Terry told Tasmanian Country magazine.

Southern hemisphere winters mean that truffles can be shipped to destinations where they are currently out-of-season – such as North America and Europe, where it is the middle of summer. The best time to harvest truffles in Australia is between July and September.

But Terry is also keen to keep his truffles used locally and offers a special price to Tasmanian chefs so they can be enjoyed right at the source.

If you are planning a winter visit to Tasmania, you might want to sample one of these delicacies during your time on the island state – they are delicious when served with mashed potatoes, a King Island fillet steak and, of course, a bottle of locally-produced red wine.

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As the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery prepares for the first phase of its planned $200 million redevelopment, a temporary exhibition will be set up from next month for visitors to the island state.

The stage one redevelopment, which is scheduled to begin in September, will cost $30 million and will see up to three-quarters of the museum’s exhibits packed away until the work has been completed – likely in late 2012 or early 2013, the Mercury reports.

Visitors who still want to experience the facility while it undergoes its dramatic transformation will be able to attend a smaller, temporary display which will be open from the facility’s entrance on Argyle St. The Macquarie St visitor entrance will remain closed temporarily during the renovation work.

According to deputy director Peter West, the new facility is set to feature an “even more awesome” zoology area, which promises to “tell stories in a new way”.

Last week, the Hobart venue threw a farewell party to its existing Zoology Gallery, which is set to temporarily close from September 1, along with the Colonial and International Art Galleries.

The museum shop and Courtyard Cafe are also set to be temporarily relocated while the construction work is carried out.

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Anyone planning to come to Tasmania to take part in the annual Tassie Trails event this September has been advised to book their accommodation well in advance.

Direct Rooms head of marketing Lek Boonlert remarked that the penultimate race of the popular running event – due to take place this year on September 11 – makes Hobart a popular destination at this time.

Runners from across Australia and around the world travel to the island state to experience the tough off-road running course, which sometimes includes routes that pass through streams and rivers. Events kicked off in January with the Tasman Run and other circuits scheduled throughout the year included Freycinet last month and the Labilladiere Peninsula in May.

The final event of the season – the Tasmanian Mountain Running Championship – will be held on October 23.

“This running event seems to be hugely popular throughout the region, both with Aussie natives and with visiting runners too,” Boonlert stated, adding that his firm advises anyone planning to travel to Hobart at this time to make their hotel reservations early to secure the best rates.

To sign up for September’s 15 km event, you can register online – the entry fee is $30.

Interested in Adventure activities in Tasmania? There are heaps.

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A troupe of young Tasmanian actors is set to showcase their skills overseas with a trip to Canada as part of an exchange programme.

Members of the Second Storey Youth Theatre in Launceston are set to travel to Newfoundland as part of the Youth Theatre Island Exchange Project.

The Tasmanian actors and their Canadian counterparts from Theatre Newfoundland Labrador (TNL) have prepared performances based on life on their respective islands.

17-year-old Kieran Phillips told Canadian newspaper The Western Star that the Tasmanian presentation is titled Chasing A Sound Like Rain.

The performance has been scheduled as part of the Gros Morne Theatre Festival in Newfoundland.

“It’s about how none of us want to leave our home country, Tasmania,” he explained. “It’s like a safe haven really.”

Phillips identified that there are a number of similarities between Newfoundland and Tasmania, as both are self-contained islands off the coast of a much larger country.

“They were like me, just in a Canadian version,” he said of the Newfoundland-based troupe, who paid a visit to Tasmania in March this year as part of Ten Days on the Island. Phillips added that he is looking forward to working with the TNL performers again.

The performers at the Second Storey Youth Theatre range in age from 14 to 18 and the young actors have been participating in a huge range of fundraisers in the lead-up to their trip.

ssyt in Canada

Examiner article - all rights reserved

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Self-described as “on and off-stage chaos and a plate of sardines”, Noises Off is a play soon to begin running in Tasmania that could well be worth attending.

Directed by Ingrid Ganley and written by Michael Frayn, it follows the antics of an acting troupe as they botch everything from dress rehearsal to closing night. All of an actor’s worst fears are laid bare as the cast struggle with their lines, props and entire performances, whilst away from the stage there is even more confusion among the characters in this hilarious romp.

Chaos and door-slamming is the order of the day, along with the surprising appearance of a slippery plate of sardines.

It promises to be a laugh-out-loud insight into the behind-the-scenes – and middle-of-the-scenes – world of drama. The New York Times described Noises Off as “the funniest farce ever written!”.

Presented by Hobart Repertory Theatre Society, Noises Off will be held at the Playhouse Theatre from August 5 to 20 and tickets are selling fast. It runs from Tuesday to Saturday at 20:00, with a matinee on Saturday, August 13 at 14:00.

The duration of the play is two hours and 15 minutes, including three acts and two intervals.

Tickets are $25 for adults, $22 for concessions, $20 on Tuesdays and $20 per person for groups of ten or more. Fees apply for internet bookings. Group bookings can be made by calling Centertainment on 6234 5998.

The wonderful Playhouse Theatre is conveniently located within Hobart’s central business district, close to many popular hotels and fabulous restaurants. It provides an intimate atmosphere, ideal for up-close-and-personal laughs and entertainment.

Production quality will be high and a vibrant performance can be expected, with long-standing members and talented new blood making the company a success for many years.
Description Tag: Noises Off is a play about a bumbling drama troupe and is set to make audiences laugh for two weeks at Hobart’s Playhouse Theatre during August.

lights in the theatre

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Reports from two recently completed events, both headliners in the program making up ‘Lumina Winter of Festivals’, prove that winter is indeed not a disincentive to having a thoroughy enjoyable time in Tasmania during our cooler winter months.

The Festival of Voices (FOV2011) reports that it was 54% up on participants and ticket sales compared with last year even with the planned bonfire in Salamanca having to be cancelled, when July went decidedly ugly for a night or two. We took comfort that the rest of south east Australia joined us! NOT.

And reports from the Hobart Comedy festival included this little snippet from organiser Craig Wellington just posted to their Facebook members –

“The entire fortnight went off like a firework, culminating with The Big Finale last Saturday night. One of our guests, Denise Scott, flew direct from Hobart (after a visit to MONA) to Sydney to attend the 2011 Helpmann Awards where she picked up the gong for Best Comedy Performer for her show ‘Denise Scott Regrets’. We know how to pick ‘em!”

Anyone who attended the Comedy Festival certainly knows that the line up and the quality of mirth this year did not disappoint.

crowd scene FOV

Participants in this year's Festival of Voices

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The unique economic and environmental assets of the sub-Antarctic region are among the topics of discussion at a forum taking place in Hobart this week.

Researchers who specialise in the sub-Antarctic have travelled from all over the world for the third International Forum on the Sub-Antarctic, including Dr Dana Bergstrom of the Australian Antarctic Division.

Along with modeller Dr Ben Raymond, the terrestrial ecologist will discuss a number of positive recovery efforts currently underway in Tasmania, including habitats for burrow and surface-nesting birds.

Dr Bergstrom is also set to speak on the region as a unique environmental asset and a valuable source of knowledge.

Hobart’s connections with Antarctic explorations date back to the late 1700s and it is a popular staging post for Antarctic voyagers.

The city is uniquely positioned as the centre of Australia’s Antarctic program and there are a number of fascinating places for visitors with an interest in the continent’s rich history to explore.

During your visit to Hobart and the surrounding areas, you’ll be able to walk in the footsteps of some of the most well-known Antarctic explorers, including Roald Amundsen, who announced his December 2011 discovery of the South Pole in Hobart in early 1912.

logo for the forum

Logo for the sub-Antarctic Forum

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