Sole Sister

Cruising in the single lane



Back in the 70s and 80s we lived in Tokyo, at one stage in Shibuya, just a stone’s throw from trendy Harajuku, home to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics stadium and the crazy kawaii fashion scene.  On weekends we would often stroll down Omote Sando, a treed boulevard in Harajuku known as the Champs Elysee of Tokyo, marvelling at the outlandish costumes and dances of the takenoko zoku (bamboo shoot tribe).   Part of the fun included popping into one of the many hole-in-the-wall restaurants serving scrumptious Japanese fast foods such as ramen noodles, yakitori, tonkatsu, unagi, and many more. A regular tasty dish was gyoza, little crescent-shaped dumplings filled with mixes such as pork, green onion and cabbage.

So I greeted the Brisbane eating scene’s recent arrival Harajuku Gyoza with nostalgia and mouth-watering anticipation. Lucky for me, their second Brisbane branch after Brunswick Street opened with a raft of new eateries at the newly refurbed Indooroopilly Shopping Centre – temptingly close. A visit was only a matter of time.



Setting the scene, a team of hachimaki-wearing gyoza makers sit in the restaurant window, assuring prospective diners of the freshness of the product. As a greeting chorus of irasshaimase rings across the restaurant, fond memories flood back  – the noisy, cheerful hustle and bustle of a Japanese eatery, the creative freshness of the food, the down-to-earthness of the vibe, the diversity and conviviality of izakaya-style eating.

As its name suggests Harajuku Gyoza offers a tempting array of dumplings, including duck, chicken, pork, prawn and veges. And – what must be a world first – nutella banana and apple with icecream. Other temptations include steamed edamame, cucumber and miso salad, chicken karaage, a selection of katsudon and agedashi tofu. For the complete Japanese experience there’s on-tap Kirin, or sake and umeshuGochisousamadeshita (thanks for a delicious meal)




Out of the ashes

Canberra doesn’t always get a good press, from its main “industry” – politics – or as a tourist destination. But I think it’s over maligned. Despite freezing, foggy winters and scorching summers, and a challenging road system, I enjoyed the years I lived there. I even have a native born Canberran in the family.

I love the setting of Canberra, nestling below the Brindabellas and ablaze in autumn in an array of oranges and yellows, with the Lake Burley Griffin lapping at the doorstep. I love taking in the latest offerings of the National Gallery, Portrait Gallery, or Museum and passing the many iconic buildings that feature so regularly in our news bulletins and national celebrations – Parliament House, the War Memorial, the High Court. I also love the parks, especially in autumn. So I always enjoy the opportunity to spend a few days there, to catch up with old friends and to see what new assets have been added to the national inventory.


  Ceremonial Aleppo pine grown from the Australian War Memorial’s Lone Pine. 

On my most recent trip, which coincided with “the Royals’” visit, a friend introduced me to the 250-hectare National Arboretum, taking shape on rolling hills just west of the lake and overlooking Government House and Black Mountain. Before 2003, when devastating bushfires swept through a number of Canberra suburbs and neighbouring commercial timber plantations, the site was covered in pine trees. I used to drive past nightly returning home from work at the Canberra Times. An arboretum seems a perfect choice to replace the burnt out woodlands.

When completed the parklands will comprise 100 forests planted with 48,000 rare and representative species from around the world. Some have cultural, historical and emotional significance, such as Turkish pines native to the Gallipoli Peninsula, and ceremonial Aleppo pines propagated from seeds from the Australian War Memorial’s Lone Pine. Other species include Japanese cherries, Chilean palm, American yellowwood, Persian walnut, English oak, Chinese evergreen magnolia and 16 eucalypt species. Visiting heads of government and ambassadors – and royal visitors – get to plant ceremonial specimens.


Gumnut fun with Black Mountain in the background. 


Big bad banksia men make fun playhouses.

Other features of the arboretum include the National Bonsai and Penjing Collection, barbecue and picnic areas, and self-guided walks. An imaginative playground of giant “gumnut pods”, “banksia seed” alcoves and musical bridges keeps the kids entertained. A massive “eagle” fabricated from scrap metal sits on its “nest” surveying all. A modern interpretive centre educates visitors while the Margaret Whitlam Pavilion, offering sweeping views over the arboretum and Canberra, is an impressive venue for special events for private functions. Margaret would be delighted!


Casting an eagle eye over the National Arboretum. 


Out of the ashes.


25-year-old saw banksia bonsai.


Japanese black pine with a sparkling Canberra below. 

Overlooking all standing 9.5 metres high and 35 metres in length atop a hill are Dorothea McKellar’s instantly recognisable words “wide brown land”. A prefect contribution to the telling of our national story.


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Blowin’ in the wind

Funny how you judge things by different criteria when you grow older. As a teenager my  daughter thought Bermagui, on the southern New South Wales coast, about midway between Sydney and Melbourne, and about three hours from Canberra, epitomised “uncool” because its location put the village out of mobile phone reach from friends.

But that out-of-the-wayness is exactly what makes Bermagui appealing to grown-ups, at least those like me who enjoy an Aussie seaside and hinterland escape with all the old-fashioned charms. The southern NSW coast has a particular allure with its rickety wooden bridges leading over shallow lakes which open into the ocean. Or sometimes close over after too much pounding from boisterous seas. These lakes – with wonderful names such as Cuttagee, Baragoot, Wapengo and Wallaga – are a rich breeding ground for prawns, oysters and fish.


Cuttagee Beach with the extinct volcano Mt Guluga in the background. 


The dramatic New South Wales south coastline.


Cuttagee Lake- a perfect example of  a southern NSW coastal lake.

After plentiful rain, such as now, rolling emerald green hinterland pastures support rich dairy farming lands producing famous brands like Bega, Bodalla and Tilba cheeses. The seas also offer a harvest: Bermagui is a renowned deep-sea fishing port, for both amateurs and professionals, and its harbour is crowded with fishing vessels.


The hinterland township of Cobargo celebrates its dairy heritage for tourists.

It’s all a perfect backdrop for the popular Four Winds music festival held at in a picturesque, purpose-built, open-air venue every second Easter in a forest at Barragga Bay, just south of Bermagui. Luckily for me I have family living at Barragga Bay so attending the festival is a bonus to catching up. Over the years I have seen the site transform to its now permanent sound shell, designed by renowned architect Philip Cox, with glass back panel allowing full view of a water lily-packed lagoon. The brand new Windsong Pavilion, which fits a full orchestra in rehearsal or seats 160 music lovers enjoying a recital, was unveiled at this festival.

The three-day gig kicked off with a late afternoon community jazz and popular music program in Bermagui Harbour aboard a yacht transformed to a floating stage. An evening variety show starred television personality and former Doug Anthony All Stars member Paul McDermott.The weekend gourmet music menu included acclaimed Australia Chamber Orchestra Director Richard Tognetti, flamboyant Italian cellist Giovanni Sollima, Croatian pianist Dejan Lazic and Chinese violinist Zen Hu.  Young performers from the Australian National Academy of Music featured and Indigenous poet Herb Wharton delivered his work, Tracks. Jazz signer Michelle Nicolle wrapped up the program with a tribute to Cole Porter.

How sublime to hear the words and notes of world class artists mixing with the croaking of frogs and the ping-ping-pinging of bellbirds.


Welcome to Barragga Bay.


Bermagui Harbour sets the scene to open the Four Winds festival.


Nature’s concert hall…the glass-backed purpose-built sound shell makes the most of its setting.



The sun sets on Cuttagee Lake.


Let the shopping begin


More than two years of parking pain and shopping frustration for western suburbers are drawing to a close as the lavishly refurbed Indooroopilly Shopping Centre increasingly reveals its new personality. Today a bunch of new shops opened their doors, including the very spiffy David Jones spread over two floors, joining numerous others which have taken off their wraps over the past year.

IMG_1623An upgraded Target and KMart were early starters while a section of a gourmet food precinct opened last year. For the seriously caffeine addicted a very fancy Coles with its own coffee shop, and shopping trolleys fitted for take-away coffees and smart phones,  followed last month.

My first memory of Indro, as it is affectionately known, is from 1970 when, after three years working in London and travelling in Europe and the Middle East, I returned to Brisbane and was shown from the vantage point of Mt Coot-tha the sprawling Westfield Indooroopilly Shoppingtown that had sprung up in my absence. From memory it has gone through one other facelift and a change in owners since that time. This latest iteration has increased its size by one-third and to 340 shops at a cost of around $450 million.

The precinct won’t just lure us with acres of marble, chandeliers, luxury boutiques such as Ted Baker, Mimco, Saba, Boss and Lululemon, and other favourites such as Rebel Sport and Kathmandu, it will also tempt with a selection of tantalising restaurants including Harajuku Gyoza and Nantucket.

IMG_1611IMG_1616IMG_1621With a new Aldi opening recently at Kenmore we inner Westies now don’t feel so discriminated against especially with Toowong Village also being tarted up.