Friday, 26 September 2008

Tasmania, Mon Ami

It’s strange revisiting a place after 23 years.

I’ve been in Australia's island state Tasmania this week on a travel writing assignment, and I realised with some surprise that I was last here in 1985.

That was way back in the "Greed is Good" era, though recent economic shocks in the USA would suggest that sentiment is always with us.

In the last few days I’ve been to the cities of Launceston and Hobart, to the wilderness of Freycinet National Park, and to various wineries and breweries across the state.

What’s struck me is how much our travel experiences nowadays are connected to food and drink. Tasmania is famous for its beautiful landscapes and convict history, but it’s also producing some exceptional consumables.

Over the last few days I’ve sampled great beer, wine, whisky, salmon, oysters and other goodies. On reflection, I suppose it makes sense that a desire for natural beauty should mesh with a desire for fine natural produce.

But what was really enjoyable was catching up with two Tasmanian friends in Hobart, at a mellow bar called The Quarry on sandstone Salamanca Place.

There’s nothing quite like catching up with friends when you’re away from home – you get the benefits of a stimulating new environment combined with stimulating conversation all at once.

Which reminded me of the first Lonely Planet job I did back in 2006. In the last week I arrived back in Kraków, to meet up with two Australian friends who were flying in from two different locations: Claire from London, Ben from Paris.

For some reason, it's immensely cool to rendezvous with friends in a country where none of you are resident; it feels like you’re all sophisticated jetsetters.

Which just goes to prove, I suppose, travel’s inherent ability to make you see everyday relationships in a new light, to refresh old friendships and add a dash of the theatrical to your daily existence.

Tim Richards travelled courtesy of Tourism Tasmania.