Tasmania. Ten thousand miles away and about as far away from home as you can get. Tasmania — an island state off the southeastern coast of Australia and about an hour’s plane flight from Melbourne. Its capital city, Hobart, is located on the River Derwent and nestled below the rugged peak of Mt. Wellington. I was there for a brief two day visit this week. My visit to the city was short, but long enough to confirm that Tasmania is not just far away but beautiful as well.
Hobart is a relatively small, compact city that encourages exploration on foot. Unfortunately, the day I arrived, the weather was chilly. It rained off and on, which discouraged more energetic exploration. I did take a soggy walk through the Queen’s Domain, a rolling park full of woodlands and fields. Because it has belonged to the people of Hobart since 1860, the Domain retains some of its original character, and includes the last of the island’s original endemic grasslands.
Fortunately, the next day was sunny and warmer. After my morning meeting, I rented a bicycle and rode first along the river’s near shore, riding, at the suggestion of the attendant at the bike shop, to MONA, a riverside art museum, with an adjacent winery. The museum and the winery were both closed the day I visited, but I didn’t care, I didn’t want to go inside and I didn’t any wine; I just biked around through the vineyards, anyway. I then rode back toward Hobart and crossed the Tasman Bridge. On the river’s far, eastern side, I headed south along bike trails through the riverside communities of Rosny, Bellerive, and Howrah. In Howrah, the bike trail ended, and I was parched so I stopped and drank a couple of huge bottles of water. Then, I backtracked, and headed north beyond the bridge to Linisfarne. By the time I finally made it back to the bike shop six hours later, I was just about exhausted, but it was still a great way to explore the territory.
Along the bike path, there were a number of nice homes, with big windows facing toward the river, and with terrific views back to the city and to Mt. Wellington towering above.
Bicycling past the cozy, comfortable houses in their peaceful settings with their terrific views, I thought about the parlor game conversation I often have, the one involving the “if money were no object” question. The topic is usually something along the lines of, “if money were no object, where would you live?” When I was younger, I enthusiastically answered, Paris. As business later began to take me to London more frequently, I began to think that, if money were no object, maybe I would live in London rather than Paris. In more recent years, I have been fortunate to visit a number of other cities, and I have begun to think that places like Prague, Lisbon, or even Auckland, might actually be more interesting choices, for me. However, after my recent, all-too-brief visit to Tasmania, I might now have to say that if money were no object, I would want to live in one of the houses along the east side of the River Derwent, looking back toward Hobart and facing Mt. Wellington.
Tasmania has always sounded exotic and impossibly distant to me; and in truth, even after visiting the island, those impressions have not entirely gone away. But I also now know that it is a terrific place. As I was rolling along the riverside bike path, I found myself already trying to figure out how I could come back to Tasmania, and to stay longer next time.