Friday, April 30, 2010

Lovely Launceston

The next exciting instalment of our road trip to Tasmania in January 2010.  From Cradle Mountain, we made late start for Launceston in the Tamer Valley. It would have been ideal to have taken longer to explore the little towns along the B12 highway. It's a terrific drive through Mole Creek, Chudleigh and Deloraine, and plenty to see and do. But alas, we were on a tight schedule and could only wave from the car.

Launceston is the second largest city in Tasmania and like many places in Australia, is named after a town in the United Kingdom, in this case, Launceston, Cornwall.  It was first Australian city to have underground sewers, the first Australian city to be lit by hydroelectricity, so they announce proudly, and is the birthplace of Australian cricket captain, Ricky Ponting.  Launceston serves as the commercial hub for the north of Tasmania, and like many parts of the state, is becoming a major tourist centre. I would visit there again in a flash for some peace and quiet.

We stayed at the absolutely di-vine Lido Apartments on Elphin Road, Launceston.  The Lido is a pleasant ten minute walk to the centre of town, past sprawling city parks and streets of Georgian and Victorian architecture. The well-appointed, art deco interior was a sight for sore eyes - space, clean facilities, views, comfort, privacy and a washing machine! 

We strolled down to the City Park which has the cutest playground and a large enclosure for Japanese Macaque monkeys, a gift from sister city Ikeda, Japan.  It also has the most adorable rotunda and a spectacular conservatory.  When I move to my Country House, I am going to install one each of these.

We explored the city centre, including the footwear department of Myer Department Store looking for replacement runners for two children who declared emphatically, then and there, that theirs were too tight for all the walking we were doing (spare me!).  Thus, appropriately shod, and replenished with hot chocolate, we took off for Cataract Gorge, home to the longest single span chairlift in the world and the Alexandra Suspension Bridge. 

I was hanging onto my hat, my heart and my handbag on this chairlift ride.  Yikes, so high and such a ridiculously flimsy contraption to be bobbing along in, over rocks and rushing water, and my little ones were in the chair in front (with Dad).  "Hang on, my loves, be still, don't wriggle, don't lean, don't drop anything.", I'm thinking.  I could hardly take in the scenery, but what I did see, through squinted eyes, was quite spectcular. 

We also visited the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery at the Inveresk Cultural Precinct, on the grounds of the former railway station and rail yards in buildings largely converted from the former Railway Workshops. The children loved the Phenomena Factory science centre where you can fire your own EX-1 Rocket, challenge yourself in the Perception Tunnel, or test your reactions while you touch, switch, pull and crank your way around.

As is the way with children, however, the most memorable outing was to the Launceston Aquatic Centre.  What a find on a hot Summer's day.  It has it all - Indoor and Outdoor Beach Entry Leisure Pool; Interactive Water Play Are; Indoor 50m Competition Pool; Learn to Swim Pool; Remedial Pool and Spa; Family Friendly Change Facilities; Outdoor 25m Lap Pool with Diving Boards; 65m Waterslide and Barbeque Facilities.   Quite unexpectedly, a huge red bucket in the water play area will tip over and splash its contents over squealing children.  No matter how prepared you think you are for the crash, it always seems to sneak upon you.  The surprise element is exhilarating.  It's a wicked invention.  All credit to the designers.  I love quirky playgrounds.

We were in kiddy heaven and stayed 'til closing time. It is a stunning venue and highly recommended.

That was our action-packed day in Lonny. An impressive place with a very lucky population of only 70,000. 

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