Thursday 30 September 2010

The Night Before

So tomorrow I'm heading to Canberra and the start of the REALLY BIG, NO SERIOUSLY, ABSOLUTELY HUGE HIKE.

Here's what I'm bringing:

The hike will consist of 240km through Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales, winding up on Australia's highest mountain.

I think blogging is probably out while I'm on the road (though if it turns out I can access internet in the bush, you'll be the first to know!) but I will be back on the 10th of October with many photos and stories.

If you'd like to donate to hike4hunger, or know more about why I'm doing this, see

A huge thank you to everyone who has donated so far. I'll start the challenges (yes, there'll be photos!) when I get back.

Wednesday 29 September 2010


There’s a long list of stuff I need to bring on the hike. Nothing frivolous, all very practical.

For example, there’s my Swiss Army Knife,

My new thermal underwear,

And many pairs of socks.

But I like frivolity and spending much hard-earned cash on hiking socks (holy cow, they’re expensive) is dampening to a lady traveller’s spirits. So I also bought myself a new camera bag that, though practical, is also very fun. (I say new – I actually didn’t have a camera bag before, so it really was a necessity.)

Crumpler is a Melbourne-based company, their mother ship being on the corner of Gertrude St and Smith St in Fitzroy. Their bags have whimsical names and even name tags.

So it’s cute, practical (it has a lifetime guarantee) AND doubles up as a Melbourne souvenir. Hooray for Crumpler!

Tuesday 28 September 2010


Mostly this week I’m preparing for my VERY BIG hike next week.
(Not too late to donate: - non-Australian credit cards accepted!) Happily, Sunday was a beautiful day so a friend and I went for a long walk to warm up my walking muscles.

We took the 96 tram out to Brunswick, all the way to the end of the line. Crossed the road to get to Ceres, an environmental co-op where you can, among other things, learn how to fix your bike, have a ginger beer and admire the range of huts and pavilions from all over the world.

From Ceres, we set off along the Merri Creek trail.

According to various people we asked, the distance to the city was anywhere from 20km to 4km (we figured it was more like 8 or 9, since it took just over two hours to walk).

It was beautiful: green and lushy and smelling of herbs and flowers.

So here’s hoping for sunshine next week.

Monday 27 September 2010

Market Lane Coffee

Picture the scene. A lovely spring morning (I know! Spring!) A saunter down Chapel St, looking at all the pretty things in the pretty shops. Cut through Prahran Market and enter Market Lane Coffee.

Order a pour over filter coffee (made in the cup using a ceramic filter), a croissant and jam.

Admire the flowers,

Admire the hot milk brought in its little bottle.

Wonder whether, in a city that prides itself on fabulous coffee experiences, you might have found the ultimate.

Market Lane Coffee, Prahran Market, South Yarra. (Go to to buy your own ceramic filter online.)

Thursday 23 September 2010

Could It Be Spring?

Exhibit A: Kids

Exhibit B: Lamb

Exhibit C: Blossom

The evidence looks promising.

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Seven Little Piggies

Collingwood Children's Farm proudly presents:








Tuesday 21 September 2010

And Then Our Eyes Met

Oh, Hugh. I knew you’d come and find me in Australia.

What’s that? Your wife’s run off to join a convent?

Let’s not worry about trivialities now. I just want to gaze into your eyes.

Sunday 19 September 2010

Happy Birthday to ...

... Hints to Lady Travellers!

A year ago today, I started this blog. Then I was in Aix-en-Provence, now I’m in Melbourne. Between France and Australia I travelled to Ireland, England, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ireland again, France again, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Wales, France again, China, Japan and Singapore. And maybe Liechtenstein.

It has been a wonderful year and a big part of it has been the fun of writing this blog and sharing my stories with you.

When I started Hints to Lady Travellers I imagined I would struggle to keep it going for year – if I managed that. But HTLT is not ready to be put away in mothballs so the blogging will continue into the second year. Adventures on the horizon include trips to New Zealand, the US and Canada.

In the meantime, I would like to invite YOU to celebrate this happy birthday by posting in the comments. Yes, you. I would love to hear your favourite hint – not just to lady travellers, but any travellers.

I’m going to eat my cupcake now and toast Lilias Campbell Davidson, who concluded her Hints to Lady Travellers at Home and Abroad with these words:

If, by my endeavours, I have in any way assisted my sisters in their wanderings, or encourage a single woman to join the path of travellers by land or sea, I shall feel that I have achieved the object of my labours, and that my task has, indeed, not been in vain.

Amen, sister!

Friday 17 September 2010

Signs and a BIG Incentive

Fridays are nominally Official Hints Day (although I’ve been a bit lax recently, sorry about that). Anyway, I’ve decided that signs are closely related to hints, so today’s post starts with a sign:

Yep, that’s a real, honest-to-goodness, watch out for kangaroos sign, taken on the highway between Melbourne and Ballarat. How much more Australian could you get?

When I first visited Australia in 2003, we played the Australia Points Game where you got points for doing typically Australian things (or things you could only do in Australia.)

For example – eating kangaroo. (Tastes like venison.)

Kissing a man called Bruce. (I didn’t do this personally, but one of our party did.)

Seeing a sign like this:

And I have decided that, as an added incentive to potential sponsors (see yesterday’s post, below) anyone who donates $25 or more to hike4hunger can request me to do the quintessentially Australian activity of their choice. I will provide photographic evidence of same and post the photo and story on this here blog.

The only proviso is that it can’t be hazardous to health or excessively expensive.

Other than that, knock yourself out!

(But not like this.)

Thursday 16 September 2010

hike4hunger 2010

Last October, I climbed Table Mountain on World Food Day as part of hike4hunger, a charity co-founded by my friend Simon Lewis.

Spending time in South Africa and Zimbabwe last year made me consider a lot of my preconceptions about the line separating the ‘haves’ from the ‘have nots’. It made me think very seriously about what I can do to help. I remember feeling very sceptical around the time of Live 8 and the Make Poverty History campaign that there was a lot of hot air being blown at the problem (hello Bono, I love you, stick to singing) – but how much was actually achieved?

The problem of tackling global food insecurity seemed then and seems still so huge as to be almost unsolvable. What can I do? I am one person, neither wealthy nor powerful (in the greater scheme of things, that is).

But, (and I never thought I’d be saying this) a poem Sister Aquinas taught us in first year Religion class comes back to me: I’m only one person. But I am one person. I can’t do everything. But I can do something. It seems to me that what I can do is on the person-to-person level. I can’t save the world, but perhaps I can reach out to one person. Or two. Or even ten.

So … in the spirit of showing solidarity with the wonderful people I met as I travelled through Southern Africa, and in an effort to help improve the life of even one of those people, I am doing another hike. This one's a little more ambitious.

From 2nd October to the 9th, I’ll be walking with a group from Canberra to Mount Kosciuszko, a total distance of 240km.

View Larger Map

I will be taking my camera with me and, if possible, will blog where I can along the way. This is by way of being a pilgrimage: both a chance to think about the personal pilgrimage I’m on as I travel the world, and to think about a project and a goal bigger than myself. It’s also an opportunity to see some beautiful Australian countryside. Kangaroos! Koalas! Snakes! (Though, honestly, my grief would be controllable if we didn't see any snakes.)

It’s a BIG hike and I would be very grateful for your support along the way. Moral support and, if it’s something you’re interested in doing, financial. Any money I raise will go towards seed projects in Malawi, a country labelled ‘alarming’ on the Global Hunger Index.

My fundraising page is here: (this site lets you sponsor using a credit card from outside Australia …)

And for more information about hike4hunger see:

[All pictures are from last year's hike up Table Mountain.]

Thank you!

Eithne xxx

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Savage Myrtle

Myrtle is one of my housemates. Here she is.


Just … here.

Tuesday 14 September 2010

Strudel by the Sea

Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration.
It was actually gugelhupf by the sea.

This is the Monarch in St Kilda, a slice of Old Vienna in Melbourne.

The gugelhupf was good, but it’s definitely not a light snack. Feeling weighed down, we went for a walk along the beach.

(Looking back towards Melbourne.)

I’ve missed the sea, so the combination of cake and salty air were a tonic to combat the winter blues.

(Looking out to sea.)

Having said that, it seems like Spring may be on its way. I don’t want to jinx anything, but there’s a lot of blossom on the trees and less of a nip in the air. [Crosses fingers and toes.]

Monday 13 September 2010

Work/Life Balance

When it comes down to it, one of the main reasons I left my job/flat/life in London was to have time to put my energies into lots of projects, not just the ones paying the bills.

Today has been a perfect illustration of what I’ve gained, represented by the pistachio cupcake you see above.

It’s true that I’m busy here in Melbourne (too busy to blog twice last week – sorry!) but mostly I have things organised so that I have a couple of half days a week to go on expeditions, or catch up on my blog, or sit in the park and read a book or try out a new café and sample its famed pistachio cupcakes.

Today I spoke to Cormac and Gillian in Toronto, went to the bank, caught up on blogging, ate a cupcake, bought a couple of presents, went to the post office (I find something deeply satisfying about putting parcels in the post, makes me feel a bit like a midwife, is that very odd?) marked assignments, made arrangements for two site visits for my students, read email and went to the library. It’s hard to say where the work stops and the fun starts and, really, I think that’s the point.

It’s not exactly a revelation (though perhaps it has been to me) but the ideas don’t come by sitting in an office, staring at my computer screen and hoping for the best. The ideas come when I’m walking through the park or window-shopping or munching on one of these. Yummy.

PS the cupcake was at Café Vue, 430 Little Collins St.

Sunday 12 September 2010

Playing (Parliament) House

I spent my morning in Canberra at Old Parliament House. This was the seat of Australian government from the 1920s to the 1980s and from the outside looks like a wedding cake.

See? Fondant icing, square tiers, two figures to sit at the top …

When parliament moved to the New Parliament House (I’ve found that Australians have a very Ronseal approach to nomenclature e.g. Great Sandy Desert) the Old Parliament House became a museum.

What I liked about it is that almost all the old fixtures and fittings have been left, so visitors can play at being politicians – or journalists, or reporters, or back-room fixers. It’s like a great big Wendy House.

You can sit in the chamber (very comfortable leather seats), or spend time collecting scurrilous rumours in the press gallery.

You can visit the Prime Minister’s office,

or hang out in one of the party rooms. (Sadly, that’s party as in political, not partay!)

You can dress up as a Roman (this links back to the building’s current incarnation as the Museum of Australian Democracy) or as the Queen of Australia … and not being a girl who often resists trying on a tiara, I didn’t hold back:

We were very amused.

The one thing you can’t do very easily is make believe you’re a female MP. They were conspicuous by their absence for most of the time Parliament sat here – even getting a Ladies’ Toilet was an uphill struggle. The sign says it all.


Thursday 9 September 2010


On my flying visit to Canberra, I was thinking about the fact that my concept of Australia is one part 90s/Noughties (Sydney Olympics, Strictly Ballroom, Neighbours, McLeod’s Daughters) and one part 1950s (A Town Like Alice, Miroslav Sasek’s This is … Australia,

the School of the Air and the Flying Doctor Service.)


My information on the last two came from a book in my school library that I encountered at a tender age (8 or 9, I think) and it described the wonders of Australia, including – and this is important – its modern, planned capital, Canberra.

So when I got to Canberra I was delighted to discover it looks exactly as you would imagine someone in 1955 would design a ‘modern’ city. All it lacked was the monorail.

Here's my portrait of Canberra - I decided the blinds were a metaphor for the planned city. (That's what we call retrospective interpretation in the trade.)