Archive for July, 2008

A visit to Cairns Agricultural Show

Saturday, July 19th, 2008

My first agricultural show in Australia (yes, we’re telling the truth when we say how difficult is to have some free time when you run a business). But the day was promising and neither of us felt like sitting in front of the computer much, so we decided to take a few hours off and go to Cairns Agricultural Show.

One of the roller coasters at Cairns Agricultural Show

My first impression was extremely disappointing, only for one reason: all we could see from the entrance was endless rides, roaller coasters, fast food stand and those stands where you have to hit a bottle with a ball or a duck with a fake rifle and you win some little prize. We hadn’t come to an agricultural show for this. So we spent about half an hour looking around, seeing people enjoy themselves (and others not so much after having been in one of those awful rides). We managed to take a photo and although not very good, it will give you an idea of what I’m talking about. And this ride wasn’t even the worst one (yes, I must admit I hate rides if they make me sick, I guess I have inherited this from my mum).

Steve and Jim, manager of The Hub Chillagoe, in the Atherton Tablelands

So we kept on walking around and finally managed to leave behind all the mayhem of this funfair. We stumbled upon a shed that looked like it had something happening inside and of course, we went to have a look. At last we had found where we had come to see: the Agricultural Show. Lots of stands from the region, showcasing the Atherton Tablelands, Tropical North Queensland’s Outback and a good number of small local businesses introducing or letting people know about their products and services. The first stand we came across was the Atherton Tablelands and Outback, where we met Jim, from The Hub Chillagoe. We had a good chat with him about the region and how, little by little, more and more car rental companies in the region let their cars be driven to Chillagoe. Which is great for tourists, as the Chillagoe Caves, the main attraction of Chillagoe, are absolutely breathtaking and such a world away from the beaches and the reefs of the coast.

Next was the Chinese clinic, where I had acupuncture without needles, only a machine somehow glued to my back. After ten minutes receiving electric discharges, my back muscles felt much more relaxed and loose. Exactly what I needed to keep on wondering around. I had a funny sense of deja vu, attending shows is what I used to do during my last months of working for Nortel in Spain. One show in Barcelona, one show in Granada, etc. Definetely it was nice to be wondering from stand to stand instead of being behind a stand for endless hours. Although I must admit that it was fun, mostly when the show closed for the day and we knew we had a few hours to spare. Because, who sleeps during those shows, mostly if you are in another city with lots of people who don’t want to sleep either? Well, I had some colleagues who had small kids and it was their opportunity to catch up on sleep. If we let them…

We also visited the stand where all the Tropical North Queensland fruit wineries were present, showcasing their delicious tropical fruit wines. Even though I haven’t tried them all, so far I can say that the lychee one is one of my favourites. Another one I love, even though is not wine but liqueur, is the coffee one De Brueys produces. Absolutely delicious. We finally met Tony, from Shannonvale Tropical Fruit Winery, in Mossman, and it’s always good to catch up with Elaine, from De Brueys, near Mareeba.

Another interesting side of the show was the artisans building their products, as well as the agricultural competitions that took place during the day. One competition we made it on time to watch was the woodchopping one. Remember I’m a city girl, so all these things are a bit out of my league and I find them fascinating. Five guys, some young, some not so young, but all of them fairly muscly. The first one started chopping a thick log and after a few seconds, the second one started ans so on, until it was time for the last guy, a young big bloke, to start chopping his log. Can you imagine who won the competition? This last guy, after a few second he had cut his log in two.

And then it was the snakes show, where a speaker was presenting some of the most venomous snakes of Australia and giving a few hints to avoid being bitten by snakes. Do you want to know a bit more about it? Visit our travelling safe page.

The first snake is the most venomous one in the world. He also said that it was one of the fastest to bite. As soon as he said that none of us had their arms over the fence where he was enclosed with the snakes. The second one, even though it doesn’t look like a big snake, is called Death Adder. Do I need to add anything else to its description? I’ve always been fascinated by snakes, I find them very intriguing. But I don’t know if I’d have the nerve to get so close to them…

Tapas style dining: 2 Tone Tapas Bar, Cairns

Saturday, July 19th, 2008

Tapas dining is a rich cultural pastime of Spain. Its origins date back to the 16th century under King Felipe the 3rd. Tapas meaning ‘lid’ was introduced in an attempt to curb the increasing levels of alcohol related offences. The law then stated, when a customer purchases a drink the bartender was to provide a small portion of food, which was then placed on a ‘lid’ on top of the glass. Today Tapas is a time honoured tradition in Spain, and has been adopted around the world.   2Tone Tapas Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge in central Cairns has based their Tapas menu on healthy Mediterranean cuisine with modern Australian influences. Maria and I have been looking forward to dining at 2Tone, and last week we finally had the opportunity.

It was a drizzly Tuesday evening, but 2Tone had a few tables full just the same. The atmosphere was comfortable and relaxed, with soft ambient lighting. Maria recognized some of the Spanish music playing in the background.

Service was professional and efficient, and it wasn’t long before we were gazing at a large plate of flatbread and dips. Now, I always say you can tell a lot about a restaurant by the ‘little things’; their attention to detail, and the effort they put into aspects that some may not deem very important. It reminded me of a function Maria and I attended some time ago - the lunch buffet included chicken, ham, and a variety of salads but the only comments that I heard from other guests over the course of the afternoon were that the bread was stale. Well, not at 2Tone…

I made a mental note to ask 2Tone’s owner/manager at the end of the night where in the world he sourced such magnificent bread. This was not the packaged supermarket pita that you may be served in some eateries; this was authentic flatbread the likes of which I have only ever found in the Middle East or North Africa. For the record, he did share his source with us, but we are bound to secrecy.

The dips were a selection of a cream cheese-based tomato dip, an unusual tangy capsicum dip and a 2Tone version of babaganouche; eggplant dip with roasted garlic. The serving was extremely generous, so to ensure Maria didn’t ruin her appetitie for main course, I ate the lion’s share.

For main course, we choose four Tapas dishes to share; Tortilla (Spanish Omelette), Albondigas (Spanish meatballs), Chorizo (Spanish sausage), and Barramundi Fish Goujons (not Spanish in any way!) We both selected the Cabernet Sauvignon to accompany.

The Tortilla and Albondigas were a bit dry compared to the authentic Spanish product (Maria’s mother’s home cooking!) but the Chorizo was delicious, glazed in sherry and topped with finely sliced red, green and yellow capsicum.

But it was the Barramundi fish fingers (I shudder to call them f’ish fingers’) that left a lasting memory on me. Maria thinks I don’t like fish, on account of I almost never order it. That’s not because I don’t like it, but because I am very particular with my fish. Barramundi has always been one of my favourite fish, but this was the most I have enjoyed fish in recent memory. The ‘fingers’ were too big to deserve such a diminutive name, and were moist, juicy flavoursome portions of white Barramundi flesh, coated in a crispy coconut crumbing, with a lime tartare on the side. I could have sat and eaten nothing but  Barramundi Fish Goujons till I fell off the chair, but that would not be Maria’s ideal night out… and besides, she was already eyeing off the dessert menu.

I wanted to order the ‘Death By Chocolate’, but Maria beat me to it. It didn’t make sense to order the same, so I chose the Citrus Tart. Mine was delicious, although the waiter did pass on the chef’s apologies for my tart not being set, and for the filling spreading onto the plate. Maria’s ’Death By Chocolate’ was nothing short of divine, a thick chocolate mousse in its own chocolate bowl, topped with mango icrecream… the perfect end to a great dinner!

Cape Tribulation, what a treat!!!

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

It’s always so nice to get away from the office, and Cape Tribulation was one of the places on our “places to visit” list. We hadn’t been there since we came to Tropical North Queensland for holidays, back in 2005, when we were still living in Madrid. My memories of the area were fantastic and I must confess that I wasn’t let down by the scenery this time either. Sometimes it’s a bit tricky because no matter how good photos of Cape Tribulation are, what you see around you is always 100% better and it’s very difficult to capture it in a picture.

Everytime someone has been asking me if they would be likely to see wildlife outside the zoo in Australia I’ve always told them that it would be pretty unlikely if they were expecting to see any other animal apart from kangaroos. However, I will have to eat my words from now on. I never thought you could actually see cassowaries in the wild, but I was actually proven wrong three times, although the first encounter we had with one of this magnificent birds was the best one, since the cassowary got very close to us, as you can see in the photo. It was nearly as tall as us (sorry, nothing or nobody is ever as tall as Steve, let me correct my mistake) and they look really mean. But it was very special to see such a wild, beautiful and rare animal so close.

And then, what can I say about Cape Tribulation beach????? It’s one of the most fabulous beaches I’ve ever seen. I can only think of Captain Cook and his crew when they came to this beautiful side of the world and were confronted with such an amazing nature. Remember that at that time, in the late 1700’s, there were no buildings or roads in sight. Probably just a few Aborigines who were curious about the steel fish and the weird looking people coming out of it. All the way from Cairns to Cape Tribulation is breathtaking and if you are lucky enough to venture north of Cape Tribulation on the Bloomfield Track, the beauty of this nature is just as, or even more, mindblowing.

Ocean Safari is one of the companies offering scuba diving and snorkelling trips from Cape Tribulation

At Cape Tribulation beach we saw one of the few diving companies that operate from here, Ocean Safari. They are a small company that only takes 25 guests on board, making the half day trip very enjoyable and personalised. Besides, and since the scuba diving and snorkelling companies that operate from Cape Tribulation are just a handfull, the reefs they visit are usually deserted. Another add on for your Great Barrier Reef experience.

And another exciting experience about Cape Tribulation is the fact that there’s no bridge to cross the river but a ferry that carries car from one side of the Daintree River to the other. All day long, from 6am to 12am, back and forth, non stop. The fact that there’s no bridge to cross the river acentuates the feeling of being somewhere isolated and “away from it all”. Here you will find hardly any development, it’s nature at its best. But as I said before, photos are not even close to the real thing, so you have to come and see Cape Tribulation and the Daintree Rainforest for yourself.