Up the Garden Path

I recently watched a story on ABCs Australian Story on Wendy Whiteley, which prompted me to dig into my archives and pull out my own memories of the time I met Wendy in her secret garden some 5 years ago.

WendysSecretGardenOn Sydney’s North Shore in the suburb of Lavender Bay, squeezed between Clark Park and the North Shore Railway line lays a little patch of land that resembles somewhat of a Monet canvas. Wendy’s Secret Garden is the creative work of Wendy Whiteley, best known as the wife and muse of Sydney artist Brett Whiteley.

Owned by the NSW Rail Corporation the derelict bushland site opposite the Whiteley’s home had become a dumping ground for rubbish, household appliances and train carriages and was also home to a handful of the homeless.

For the past 20 years Wendy, an artist in her own right, has moulded this landscape into a creative masterpiece. Getting her inspiration from the throngs of daily lunch goers at Clark Park soaking up the sun and the view, she took it upon herself to clean up the mess.

Exquisite pathways “I thought what a waste, all this land here, that all these people could be enjoying,” says Wendy.

Steeped into the hillside are a cluster of walkways laden with blooming fragrant flowers, ferns, palms, shrubs and Australian natives. It’s a feast for the senses.

Wendy confesses she’s not very good with the names of the plants, but it’s what it looks like that’s important to her. “I’m a visual person and go by what looks good. I didn’t have a plan for what I was going to do it just happened,” she said.

Dotted amongst the garden are several secluded nooks and crannies with tables and chairs or grassy mounds. They are so inviting you can’t help but steal a few moments to escape reality. Or pull up a pew under the great Moreton Bay Fig and enjoy the sweeping views across Lavender Bay to the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Garden ArtLocal resident Joanne is a regular to the garden and says that sometimes it feels like you have it all to yourself. “I think what Wendy has done here is amazing, it’s so peaceful and never overcrowded”.

Not only admired by the locals as a place of tranquillity but by tourists, students and families alike.

Peter and Jill are from out of town but have known about the garden for a while and make frequent visits to meet with friends at the nearby Kirribilli RSL. “We come here first and enjoy a little peace and quiet before we meet friends, it’s such a magical place”.

Wendy WhiteleyWendy herself maintains the gardens with a little help from a few gardeners she’s employed. “I just love being in the garden, I’d do this all day everyday, especially when the weather is this good”, she says bathed in sunlight sitting in a garden bed. “I’m glad I’ve been able to create something that everyone can enjoy”

She looks so happy and content it inspires me to want to create your own garden, and that’s saying something since I can’t even keep a pot plant alive!

Mount Rundall – Banff, Alberta, Canada

Australian Centre for Photography Students Exhibition

Earlier this year I did a photography course at the Australian Centre for Photography. We all had the opportunity to submit a photo we had taken during or since participating in the course. A small number of the submissions are printed whilst the rest are on display on a rotating digital screen. Little bit excited that my image above has been selected to be printed so will be hanging in the gallery at the exhibition from 22nd – 25th November 2012.  YAY!! 🙂

It’s the people that make the place

I often get asked where my favourite place is? This is almost an impossible question to answer. There can never be just one.

When you travel in a world as diverse as ours you can’t compare one destination to another and simply determine which one is ‘best’.  Kenya, Rome and the Scottish Highlands are among some of my favourite places. But trying to compare them would be like trying to compare Stilettos to Flip Flops. It just doesn’t work.

So, what is it that makes these places ‘favourites’ to me? The more I thought about it, the more I realised that it comes down to the experiences with the people that I met in these places or along the way.

It was my dream to visit the Sistine Chapel in Rome. In 2005 I did just that and to this day Rome still rates as one of my favourite places. But not just for the Sistine Chapel (don’t get me wrong it’s truly amazing) but for a very different reason – the people.

I had a dining experience with two strangers I met at a hostel, I don’t even remember what their names were (I’m terrible with names) but they were backpackers like me from across the globe. We headed out one night and found ourselves a little lost in the back streets of Rome and ended up in a restaurant where nothing was in English and no-one spoke a word of it. With only the knowledge between us to say hello, please and thank you in Italian it could have been a disastrous evening.

Instead what followed was a hysterical evening of laughter and entertainment with the restaurant staff as we fumbled our way through the evening, pointing at other patron’s meals, guessing off the menu and playing our own version of charades to communicate. Instead of looking down their noses at us clueless tourists they embraced us into their world and my two new friends and I were temporarily a part of their family.

I’m still not really sure what half the things were we ate, but it was amazing and because of the kindness of these locals I saw Rome from a different perspective.

A newbie to my list of favourites is the Canadian Rockies from which I have just recently returned. When I think of the highlights they once again revolve around people; the locals and the travellers I met along the way. The Aussie couple I bumped into whilst hiking up a mountain in Banff, or the Canadians that I met sitting around a bonfire in Lake Louise or the guys in the bar in Whistler who offered us a seat at their table. Most of these people I will never see again but the memories of the moments we shared will stay with me for years to come.

Conversely, I think of the places I’ve been that don’t spring to mind, Paris, for example. Its not that I don’t like Paris – how could you not like Paris? Heck, I’ve been there four times! But for me none of my visits were influenced by people. I’m not saying that the French or those that travel there are unfriendly or unkind or that there aren’t things that I absolutely love about Paris, there are, it’s simply that I just didn’t meet people here to entrench these experiences in my mind.

Perhaps it’s because I’m a solo traveller and these ‘people experiences’ fill the sometimes lonely void that creeps in when you travel alone. Or perhaps it’s simply a matter of being in the right place at the right time? I don’t know. All I know is that my highlights mostly involve people, so for this I believe it’s the people that make the place.

Photo of the Day 16.10.12

Tuesday 16th October 2012

Seattle Waterfront
Seattle’s waterfront piers house a host of fish restaurants and cafes with Pier 57 Miners Landing being the most commercialized of them all. Chock full of ‘tourist stuff’ you can feast at The Crab Pot, whizz around on the carousel, shop for souvenirs or take a ride on the Great Wheel. If you ask me I’d say skip it all and head to Pier 52 and take the Ferry to Bainbridge Island. Seattle, Washington, USA.

Photo of the Day 15.10.12

Monday 15th October 2012

Pike Place Markets
An impromptu side trip to Seattle to escape the Vancouver rain and I seem to have bought it with me! Lucky the Pike Place Markets are the perfect escape. Feast on on array of local delights and pick up some handmade crafts to boot. These chilli ristas sure brighten things up. Seattle, Washington, USA.

Photo of the Day 12.10.12

Friday 12th October 2012

Lost Lake – Whistler
Even on a dull day the Lost Lake still sparkles. Escape to the serenity and enjoy a day relaxing on the beach or take an easy stroll around the lake.  For the more adventurous there is an abundance of hiking and biking trails in the surrounding Lost Lake park that will keep you busy for the day. Whistler, British Columbia, Canada