Sunday, October 10, 2010

Tasmania Part 2: in which there is a market, Buddhist monks and a cellist

Salamanca Market is a big deal as far as Hobart is concerned. The market is something that is well known even on the mainland and is one of the things that all visitors to Hobart are recommended to do if they possibly can.

In many ways it’s not a lot different to Victoria Market in Melbourne. Vic Market is semi permanent and while it’s gathered various stalls and hawkers over the years it essentially began as a fish, meat, poultry, fruit and vegetable market and grew. Salamanca is different in that respect. There is some fruit and vegetables available, but that’s not what Salamanca is all about.

The market itself is set up in a large public area of Salamanca Place. Salamanca Place was a quarry years ago, but now it’s a shopping precinct in Hobart and the home of the now famous market. I’m not sure how long the market has been going, but it was a big deal the first time Kirsty and I visited Hobart in 2007 and even before that when Kirsty went there with some friends.

Some of the stalls are ones you’ll find at any of these markets around the world, offering the same sort of mass produced, cheap tatt, but a lot of them specialise in hand made goods using local materials and only available in Tasmania. In some cases you can only get some of the items on offer at Salamanca Market. Things like Huon wood products, glasswork and jewellery using minerals prevalent in Tasmania, cheap leatherwood honey (only made in Tasmania from the pollen of the indigenous leatherwood plant), the list goes on.

The market has a rather carnival feel to it. There are buskers and performers, many of the stall holders themselves are rather theatrical, there’s a lot of food on sale, shopping can be hungry and thirsty work, plenty of colour and loads of people, it just has a fun feel about it all. Where else could you see a group of Buddhist monks watching and filming two buskers; a cellist and a keyboard player?

After having been parted from far too much of our money at Salamanca we went back to Wrestpoint and had a few drinks while watching the AFL Grand Final replay on the big screens in the casino. Collingwood won. (drat!)

Dinner that night was at The Point. The Point is the restaurant located on the 17th floor of the Wrestpoint Casino tower. One thing that makes it special is that it revolves. I only know of two revolving restaurants in Australia. One is The Point and the other is on top of the Centrepoint Tower in Sydney. The movement of The Point allows wonderful views of Hobart from all angles: mountains, water and the bridge. It also serves excellent food and drink.

The waitress asked if we were celebrating anything special and we said it was our anniversary (okay it wasn’t the actual date, but it was close enough and easier to explain than tell her it was 2 days early). While Kirsty was having dessert the waitress appeared with a dish containing a small amount of dry ice and something that was wreathed in steam. She set it down in front of us and it was 2 chocolate covered ice cream balls on sticks and a chocolate plaque with the words Happy Anniversary done in white chocolate. It was such a lovely gesture, unexpected and unasked for, but definitely appreciated. Yet another example of the service that Tasmanians seem to pride themselves on.

I can’t let an experience at Wrestpoint pass without mentioning something else. Valet parking is free, at an Australian hotel, especially a high end city based one that is unheard of. They all offer valet parking, but they charge an arm and a leg for it.

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