Glide Down the Grand Canal of Venice with WomanGoingPlaces


WomanGoingPlaces invites you to hop on our boat and glide down the Grand Canal of Venice. Click on the video below to join our journey on one of the most glorious waterways in the world.

If you have never been to Venice, our film will show you the magnificent marble palaces that line the canal, the graceful gondolas, the bustling boats   – all part of the vibrant flow of life on the water. Even if you have been to Venice, this film will bring its beauty back to you.

We head down the S-shaped curve of the canal in the direction of Arsenale and St.Mark’s Basin.


As you can see, the Grand Canal teems with traffic. Vessels of all shapes and sizes – passenger boats, small outboards, sleek speedboats, timber taxis, luxury liners, barges, and of course, gondolas – all going at different speeds and in different directions, horns honking and waves lapping. There are no traffic lights, no order and probably few rules, and yet there is a harmony and rhythm to it all – as if all the boats were choreographed into a gigantic ballet on the water.

Vaporetti, the water buses, are the public transport system. They ply their way up and down the Canal with stops all along the waterway. You can hop on or off at any of these stops. But surprisingly not all stops are on the same side of the canal and depending on the destination, the vaporetto may criss-cross the Canal cutting in front of other passing boats.

As well as passenger boats, the Canal is also full of boats servicing the daily needs of the city. There are police patrol boats, postal boats delivering mail and parcels, vessels with goods and supplies, even construction barges with cranes and excavators.


Long, elegant black gondolas row slowly by. Tourists lounge on the cushions taking selfies on sticks, and singing along in camaraderie with the accordion player.  There are still gondoliers rowing the Grand Canal as their fathers and grandfathers did before them. And the craft of making gondolas has also been handed down for generations and is still being practised in Venice today.


No city in the world has as many palaces as Venice. There are almost 100 of them along the Grand Canal. These magnificent buildings were an expression of the power and wealth of Venice as the greatest European seaport, and the centre of a trading empire, for 700 years between the 11th and 18th Centuries. Venice’s rulers, noblemen and merchants sent their fleets of ships around the world to bring back silk, spices, precious stones and fabulous riches.

Venetians sought to flaunt their family’s wealth and power by building ever more splendid palaces in the most prestigious part of Venice – the Grand Canal. These palaces were not only the family homes but also the trading headquarters for their businesses. The  uppers floors were the family residence. But the bottom floors were the warehouses for storing the goods and the offices for running the business. Because of the width and depth of the Grand Canal, ships from distant lands were able to sail right up the Canal, tie up next to the palace, and deliver goods directly to the family warehouse.

Still today, all along the canal, are small docks where gondolas and boats can tie up at the entrance of buildings. As you pass, it is easy to imagine the life in past centuries. Aristocratic ladies coming out of their palaces wearing gorgeous gowns, and the 14-inch heels they used to wear to keep their dresses above the dirty streets as they step into gondolas to be transported to a ball.

The Rialto and Accademia Bridges

We pass under two of the four famous bridges that span the Grand Canal. The 16th Century Rialto bridge is the oldest of these bridges. Designed by Swiss engineer Antonio de Ponte, the arching stone bridge allowed tall ships to pass under it. This is why the Rialto fish market was able to flourish right next to the bridge for over 1000 years.

The Accademia Bridge is in the final loop of the canal just before it enters St. Mark’s Basin. It is adjacent to the Gallerie dell’Accademia which houses the world’s greatest collection of Venetian art.

The previous Accademia bridge was a wooden structure designed by Miozzi and built in 1932 to replace the original bridge steel built in 1854. The citizens of Venice loved Miozzi’s bridge so much, that when it rotted and was in danger of collapse, it was replaced in 1985 with a precise copy of his wooden bridge.

Arsenale & Biennale

We are approaching our final stop – Arsenale. Here, at Arsenale, lay the core of Venetian power – the mightiest medieval shipyards the world had ever seen – capable of producing a new ship each day.

Now the massive structures of the shipyards with their soaring wooden ceilings that housed tall galleys, have been turned into breathtakingly beautiful art galleries.

This is now where the annual Venice Biennale is held. Every two years, Venice hosts the Venice International Art Biennale, the oldest and most prestigious contemporary art exhibition in the world. This year, the 56th Venice International Art Biennale is being held. It is open until 22nd November and is quite extraordinary. In alternate years, the Venice Biennale of Architecture takes place.

We have arrived at the last stop and it’s time to hop off the boat.

But use our video to take you down the Grand Canal whenever you wish.

Video filming and editing – Augustine Zycher





Peggy Guggenheim in Venice

Peggy Guggenheim (1898-1979) made an unparalleled contribution to the development of 20th Century modern art. But 37 years after her death, the story of Peggy Guggenheim is still bound up in misconception and prejudice. Much of the commentary about her recognises her role as the ‘midwife of modern art’, but trivialises this by describing her endlessly as a sex addict.

Even her remarkable ability to recognise and nurture great artists in their formative years, was too often attributed solely to men telling her what to do, rather than to her own judgement and innate taste.

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection museum on the Grand Canal in Venice is today one of the most visited attractions in the city. It houses the collection she acquired between 1938 and 1979. These masterpieces of 20th Century European and American art  and sculpture include the works of Picasso, Pollock, Ernst, Dali, Klee, Braque, Man Ray, Chagall, Mondrian, Calder, Giacometti, Kandinsky, Duchamp, Tanguy and Miro.

Peggy Guggenheim bought this 18th Century palace, Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, in 1948 and over the next 30 years made it her home, gallery and ‘salon’ of the avant-garde. The best and the brightest gathered there – artists, intellectuals, and writers including Beckett, Joyce, Stein, and Pound. They were her friends, her lovers and partners.

Her foremost commitment throughout her life was buying the works of emerging artists, and supporting them with patronage and commissions to create new works.  She provided them with a launching pad to international recognition through the 3 galleries she founded in London, New York and Venice.

Peggy Guggenheim first began her role as one of the pioneers in the modern art movement in 1938. She had opened her first gallery in London and even though war was looming, she went to Europe to buy works of little-known artists. Their works were very cheap, not only because the artists were desperate to sell and escape the Nazis, but also because many of these modern art works, including Picasso, Dali, Braque, Mondrian, Brancusi and Leger were not considered valuable by the art establishment at the time. When Peggy asked the Louvre to include the works she had bought with their collections that they were shipping to safety, they refused because they did not believe they were worth saving. She had to find her own way to smuggle them as household goods out of Europe. She then exhibited them in her gallery in London.

During the war she moved back to her native New York and set up a second gallery, Art of This Century, in 1942. It immediately became the most stimulating space for contemporary art in New York. Here she exposed the Americans to her collection of Cubist, Abstract and Surrealist Art.  In addition, Pollock, Motherwell, Rothko and other American artists were first exhibited in this ground-breaking gallery. Pollock was still working as a carpenter, when Peggy Guggenheim lent him money to buy a house and build a studio, and she commissioned him to paint a massive mural for her New York apartment.

Peggy Guggenheim supported these pioneers of American Abstract Expressionism and played a vital role in the development of America’s first art movement of international importance.

She was also in the vanguard of another important movement. As early as 1943 she staged 31 Women, an exhibition of female artists, at her New York gallery. And then again in 1945, she held a second show devoted to women entitled The Women of Art of This Century.

After the war, she closed her gallery, left New York and in 1948, Venice gave her an entire pavilion at the Biennale to exhibit her collection. “I felt like a whole country,” she said. Peggy Guggenheim made her home in Venice from that time onwards.

Despite the glamour and vitality of her bohemian lifestyle, Peggy Guggenheim actually led quite a tragic life. Her father Benjamin went down with the Titanic when she was 13. She was estranged from her mother, her sisters and from her uncle, Solomon Guggenheim, (who later founded the Guggenheim Museum). Peggy’s first husband, Laurence Vail was abusive and even tried drowning her in the bathtub. She had a great love for literary critic John Holms. However, during their 5-year relationship she had 7 abortions, ostensibly because an unmarried woman having children at the time was not acceptable. Holm died tragically during a minor operation.

Peggy later had an unsuccessful marriage to artist Max Ernst, who left her in order to marry one of the women artists Peggy had exhibited in her New York gallery. Her relationships with her children from her first marriage, Sinbad and Pageen, were particularly painful. And Peggy was devastated by her daughter’s suicide. Some of Pegeen’s art work is still displayed in the museum.

After her death in 1979, Peggy’s house and collection passed to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.

Peggy Guggenheim is buried in the grounds of her former home.

*  *  *  *

 There is a fascinating new documentary about her life called ‘Peggy Guggenheim – Art Addict’ directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland.

Slideshow photographer and editor – Augustine Zycher

Music – Amara Terra Mia – Friscalettu

Ragusa Ibla, Sicily

Ragusa Ibla combines magnificent architecture, celebrity glitter, and the delights of a small Italian town.

From afar, you see the limestone houses perched on a hill covered in carob, almond and olive trees. A deep valley surrounds the hill and drops into a water-filled ravine. A natural fortification that nevertheless, over 2000 years, failed to stop invasions from the Greeks, Romans, Normans, Byzantines, Moors, Spaniards, French and Turks.


The houses of Ragusa, each adjoining its neighbour, are hewn into the side of the hill and follow its slope. Inside the town, you stroll down narrow, winding lanes past beautiful palazzi, churches and houses. The streets are so narrow, that you can stand in the middle of the street, stretch out your arms and almost touch the houses on either side of the road. When I locked the front door of my room I had to flatten myself against the building otherwise I would have been in the path of cars. Only permit holders can drive into the town. Residents need to lower rubbish in a plastic bag at the end of a string down to ground level where a small garbage van collects it.

From the outside the houses look small, but inside, the rooms are often surprising spacious – white-washed walls with wood-beamed ceilings, some with stone arches. It was lovely to sit on the balcony of my hotel room with a sandwich of locally produced cheese, a glass of wine from the  region, and gaze over the green hills. Sheep, goats and cows graze on very fertile land here and the local produce of cheese, wine and cured meats is prized.


Ragusa Ibla is one of 8 towns in the southeast part of Sicily that are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This is because they are the only places in Italy with so many buildings in what has been called the Sicilian Baroque style of architecture. It is a style that grew out of a catastrophe.

In 1693, the area was devastated by a massive earthquake which destroyed Ragusa and killed 5,000 inhabitants, as well as destroying other towns in the region.  After the destruction, the impoverished people of Ragusa decided to rebuild the city on a higher plateau, and thereby founded the more modern, upper town called Ragusa Superiore.

The Ragusa aristocracy however, decided to rebuild their palazzi, churches and gardens on the ruins of old Ragusa. They were well served by a great architect, Rosario Gagliardi, who developed this Sicilian Baroque style which can be found most notably in the towns of Ragusa, Noto, Modica and Scicli.


An outstanding example of this style is the Cathedral of San Giorgio. It is the focal point of Ragusa Ibla and contains some of its best art works. In additions to religious services, it hosts many concerts. On the day of the patron saint of Ragusa, the huge statue of St. George on a white horse is taken from inside the Cathedral and carried by teams of young men through the decorated streets of the town. Hundreds of people from all over Italy join in the procession which culminates in a fireworks display that lights up the Cathedral.

The Cathedral of San Giorgio sits at the top of the town centre –  the Piazza Duomo. And it is here, that you can sit and eat delicious gelato made from surprising ingredients such as carob, olive oil, or chilli peppers, and flavoured with wine. Gelati DiVini make their own gelato and offer different flavours each day. Follow this with an espresso. This Piazza is the focal point of the passeggiata around the streets of the town.

When walking from the Piazza Duomo alongside the Cathedral – look up. You will see beautiful ironwork balconies supported by the most extraordinary limestone gargoyles. These gargoyles are UNESCO-listed and made from local limestone that has been naturally impregnated with underground oil reserves, making it both amenable to sculpting and durable.


Ragusa Ibla has unexpectedly become a desirable tourist destination for a singular reason. Inspector Montalbano is the name of a remarkably popular Italian TV series, based on a series of novels by Italian author Andrea Camilleri. Filmed principally in Ragusa Ibla, the series has been a hit in over 40 countries and exposed people to the beauty of Ragusa, as well as the attractive looks of Luca Zingaretti, the highly regarded Italian actor who plays Montalbano. The popularity of the series has produced the phenomenon of Montalbano tours to Ragusa where tourists visit sites that appear in the series.

Montalbano’s beachfront house and the expanse of beach onto which his balcony opens have become a place of pilgrimage. Fiction rarely accords with reality, and this is especially so here because the site filmed as Montalbano’s ‘home’ is in Punta Secca and his ‘beach’ that seems just beyond his balcony, is kilometres down the road, put together by the magic of the editing room.


One of the truly spectacular Montalbano sites is the Castle of Donnafugata. In the series, it is the home of the Mafia boss, but in reality it is a very grand, very beautiful castle that sits on the highest part of Ragusa.

This castle and the aristocratic family who owned it have an even earlier claim to fame. They were the inspiration for the acclaimed novel, The Leopard  by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. Baron Corrado Arezzo De Spucches, whose family owned the Castle of Donnafugata for hundreds of years, was a leader of the Sicilian aristocracy. With the unification of separate states into the new  Kingdom of Italy in the 19th Century, the Baron and his class of ruling nobles lost much of their power. Hollywood made a film  called The Leopard, based on the novel, starring Burt Lancaster as the Baron, with Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale.

Donnafugata Castle is open to the public, and although only 28 of its 122 rooms are open, they are fascinating. The gardens are gorgeous. You need to drive or get a taxi to Donnafugata as it is outside Ragusa Ibla.  Donnafugata is about 16 km from Ragusa so it can be reached in about 20 minutes by car. There is also a local train Ragusa-Donnafugata, but it runs only twice a day.


Another legacy of the nobility of Ragusa is to be found in the middle of the Piazza Duomo. It is the Circola Di Conversazione, established in the 1850’s as a club for men. It is still a bastion of local power and influence with exclusive membership and no women allowed until 1973. My guide,  Nunzia Leonardi, a woman who had lived in the area her whole life, had never before been able to set foot inside this club.

Remarkably, and with great courtesy, they responded to her request to let me, an Australian journalist, come in and photograph the plush red velvet sofas and drapes, the intricately designed ceilings and chandeliers, and the gorgeous terrazzo floor.

One of the loveliest places to escape the hot Sicilian sun is in the gardens of Ragusa. The aristocrats of Ragusa built these gardens at the end of Ibla’s rocky ridge, initially as their own private gardens. But now they are a public gardens with views overlooking the valley.

Ragusa is a town that charms you with its intimate size, its quieter pace, and above all, with its beauty.



There are many tours to Sicily and given the poor public transport there, a group tour is probably the most efficient way to cover a lot of territory. I did not know this before I went, so I travelled solo and still had a fabulous time. I felt safe wherever I went in Sicily and was treated with courtesy and helpfulness.


To get to Ragusa  from mainland Italy I flew to the nearest airport which was Catania. Since then a new airport has opened in Comiso (about 25 minutes from Ragusa) but it’s a small one and it is necessary to check what flights are available from the Italian mainland. See

If you do fly to Catania, there are no trains from Catania to Ragusa. You can take a bus which takes about an hour and a half or a taxi which takes just over an hour and cost around 120 Euro.

There are different taxi companies that you can either pre-book or call once you get to Italy. I used Sicily Airport Transfers.


In Ragusa, as in other Italian towns, I decided to hire a local qualified guide and I found that this was the best policy for touring the area, learning a great deal, and enjoying the company of a local. You can Google the various cities and find local accredited guides.

The guide I found in Ragusa, Nunzia Leonardi was outstanding. She was a very knowledgeable about the area and its history, spoke excellent English, was most pleasant to spend time with and very accommodating in helping me explore the things in which I was most interested.

She took me around Ragusa, Noto and Modica and it was wonderful tour. I recommend going to all these incredibly beautiful towns. Her email is: [email protected]


I found the Hotel Dell’orologia in Ragusa through It is one central hotel with rooms nearby in different streets. My room was lovely, with a private kitchen, and a beautiful view over the hills of Ragusa. The breakfasts were a delicious selection of freshly baked pastries, local cheese, omelettes and good coffee. The hotel was reasonably priced.


Good food is one of the joys of going to Italy. You don’t have to go to restaurants to have sensational meals. In Ragusa as elsewhere, I just went into the local delicatessen and chose from the wide selection of cheese, sausage, and olives to go with a fresh roll.

Trattoria La Bettola and Rusticana were two family restaurants that were enjoyable. The specialty of the region is anything to do with eggplant and in particular, eggplant caponata.

When this sort of good unpretentious food is readily available, I would not waste time and money going to the Duomo – which has 2 Michelin stars. The lunch special I tried there was totally tasteless and the portions were tiny. You are better off crossing the piazza to the many local restaurants offering really good local food and large helpings that reflect their generosity and hospitality.

* * * * * *


Photographs & Slideshows – all photographs and arrangement in slideshow by Augustine Zycher, Editor, WomanGoingPlaces

Music: Cusinota Mandolino





Woman In …. Paris

Two girlfriends and I were sitting outside a suburban Melbourne  café, toasting a recent birthday. The sun was shining and we had a scenic view of the Yarra River. We were surrounded by majestic trees, colourful cyclists, and energetic rowers. In a very off-hand manner my friends mentioned that they were both thinking of going to Paris and asked if I would like to join them. They couldn’t even finish the sentence without giggling and I could tell both thought the idea was great, but that it was a bit ‘pie in the sky’.

A trip away to Paris. I took their brilliant concept and ran with it ….why indeed NOT?!!!!

After a few short weeks of flurried phone calls and to and fro texting to try and find a two week period that three women (who were also busy wives and mothers of even busier nine children) could in fact, run away to Paris for a much needed getaway. Miraculously,  we found a window that seemed to please all husbands and children involved.

Tickets and accommodation were promptly booked (following some great research and leg work from my friends)…Our adventure to Paris was set to go!!!

Most of the flight was spent celebrating the fact that we had managed to escape on a whimsical adventure. I marveled at how relaxing it was to travel without my beautiful but boisterous and demanding family.  The peace and quiet was delicious. Paris, here we come. As this was my maiden trip to Paris, my eyes were wide open from the word go.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Parisians were quite tolerant of our non-existent French vocabulary. Most people were happy to try and help with our queries.

Below I have listed, in no particular order, our ‘ Top 10’ experiences.


Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Musée d’Orsay, Paris

1. Musée d’Orsay (7th arrondissement)

This ended up being my absolute favourite gallery. The art work is held in a converted railway station which makes the building a remarkabkle home to an extensive and exciting art collection. Within the museum, there are two fantastic cafes – check them both out before you decide which one to dine in. We ate in the very nice and  reasonably priced café. On our way out of the museum, we stumbled across the more spectacular and lavish café. It’s worth just peeking through the doors to see its spectacularly ornate interior, even if you decide not to dine there.


Sacre-Coeur Basilica, Montmartre, Paris

Sacre-Coeur Basilica, Montmartre, Paris

2. Montmartre (18th arrondissement)

Lots to see and do, including the Sacré-Coeur basilica,  a fantastic Dali exhibition (just happened to be on) and a zillion tourist shops – a good place to nail lots of pressies. It started to get late and as daylight slipped away the lights on the famous black lamp poles illuminated the streets with a warm glow. The high vantage point treated us to spectacular views of the city. As night drew in, parts of the city became a bit sleazy – but even that had a charm of its own.



Le Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen: Parisian flea and antiques market

Le Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen: Parisian flea and antiques market

3. Le Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen: Parisian flea and antiques market (just north of 18th arrondissement)

Slightly further out, but really just a few train trips and so worthwhile.

Imagine narrow walkways in between dozens and dozens of permanent market stalls, housing French antiques of all sorts. I wish I had an apartment in Paris that I could furnish and decorate with these French antiques. I visualised all the French antique shop owners back home buying up big here and shipping it into their expensive shops in Melbourne’s Armadale and Malvern. Beautiful light fittings, tables and small furniture, antique collectables of all sorts, silverware, antique posters. The stall owners were as charismatic and authentic as the merchandise they were selling. If it weren’t for the freezing cold conditions and the persistent rain, I felt I could have fossicked there all day. A short walk from here and you will stumble upon another market. A more conventional market selling clothes, food, bags etc.


Musée Rodin

Musée Rodin

4. Musée Rodin (7th arrondissement)

The main part of the gallery was unfortunately closed for renovations.

The garden however was open. There were numerous Rodin sculptures  tastefully displayed in a beautiful garden that I could imagine would be absolutely stunning in the warmer months, when the now bare rose bushes would sprout glorious flowers. The coffee shop (albeit in a temporary building) provided us with a very enjoyable refuge from the cold. Definitely factor in a pit stop here as the food choices were great and the prices reasonable.


Marais District, Paris

Marais District, Paris

5. The Marais District (4th arrondissement)

Often referred to as ‘the old Paris’ and located on the right bank of the river is the Marais district. Meandering around the cobblestone streets is an absolute must. It has a much more lively and playful vibe than the more conservative city centre of Paris. It is filled with boutiques (some decent damage to the credit card was achieved here). Lots of fashion and jewellery shops (or is that because they were the shops I happened to focus on?). I also recall many small galleries and hidden courtyards. The Jewish Quarter is located here. We visited the Jewish Museum and filled our bellies with the best felafel any of us had ever eaten- in L’As Du Fallafel (32-34 Rue des Rosiers). Our late arrival of  3:30 pm meant that we avoided the customary long queues and were able to be seated immediately in a their large restaurant, crowded with locals and tourists.


Laduree Patisserie, Champs Elysees, Paris

Laduree Patisserie, Champs Elysees, Paris

6.  Ladurée pâtisserie and tea rooms (3 venues in Paris)

On our very last day in Paris, we got up early, dressed in the most glamorous clothing we had and ventured out to breakfast at the famous Ladurée. A very ostentatious place to go for ‘high tea’. It has an incredibly ornate French interior – visualise lots of gilding, mirrors, totally gorgeous and over the top. Photos in this building are banned (destroys the posh ambiance). The tea/menu service is truly an experience. We admired the silver, the tea cups and crockery, even the napkins and of course the presentation of the food. Our waiter was a young opera singer (unfortunately he has been banned from performing for his customers. He used to be able to do this on request, but started to get into trouble as he was neglecting his waiting duties). Don’t forget to look up at the ceilings, and a trip to the bathrooms is also well worth a visit for its grandeur. Definitely book ahead (one or two days should be fine, leave a bit more lead time if you’re after a weekend booking or in peak tourist times) and request to be seated upstairs. There’s a lovely shop downstairs, so on your way out you can purchase some of the beautifully packaged sweets. They make great gifts.


Patisserie in Paris

Patisserie in Paris

7. Window shopping the pâtisserie shops

I don’t even eat pastries – but I couldn’t help myself. I just had to stop and admire each window display of every patisserie or chocolatier shop we passed (there were so many). They all looked wickedly delicious and sophisticated – very Parisian. My friends assured me they were every bit as good as they looked.





La Terrasse, Paris

La Terrasse, Paris

8. Our local bar

It seems as if on almost every corner there is a bar/restaurant. They seemed to be mainly filled with red lounge chairs. We found our local favourite and popped in most evenings on the way back from the train station en route to our apartment. Early on the waiters recognized us, seated us in our regular armchairs and served us our ‘usual’ for drinks and snacks. Our local was called La Terrasse (although we named it the ‘Rouge Lounge’). The service was excellent, the ambience perfect – a great place to unwind, reflect on our accomplishments that day and watch the locals and tourists passing by.


Chateau in Loire

Chateau in Loire

9. The Loire Region (outside Paris but worth a trip)

A region of vineyards, floral gardens and many chateaux (castles).

On my next trip to Paris, I plan to spend a couple of days in this region rather than squeeze it into a day trip. It took roughly three and a half hours to reach there by train, leaving only time for a half day trip to visit two chateaux (there were so many more to see). The castles were amazing and the scenery en route was beautiful countryside. I can envisage spending a few days cycling around this gorgeous town in my next visit (if I had money to burn maybe even renting a small chateau to stay in).


Jackie Pila at Eiffel Tower

10. Eiffel Tower (7th arrondissement)

We did this in the evening. The views were stunning and not at all compromised by the blanket of night. As there were no queues, the whole experience took under an hour.


Some other suggestions 

Not quite making it into the Top 10, but definitely worth a mention, and a visit, is the Père-Lachaise cemetery (20th arrondissement). It’s huge. You will find many tourists looking for the graves of famous people like Jim Morrison and Rita Hayworth.

A lesser-known destination, but one I found totally charming is the Shakespeare and Company Bookshop (5th arrondissement). This is a good place to pop into when you are visiting the Notre-Dame Cathedral (as it’s just across the bridge on the eastern half of the Île de la Cité in the 4th arrondissement.) It’s a tiny bookshop that has inherited the tradition of the original. It houses both second-hand and new books (beware, you could barely swing a cat in there) but it has a special feel – I almost felt well-read and literate by just stepping in there and taking a browse. Be cautioned though – more than a few books make for heavy weight in your suitcase.

Definitely fit in a cruise down the Seine. It provides a picturesque perspective of the city and plenty of photo opportunities.

It’s helpful to get an overview of the city on the first day. You can achieve this by going on the ‘hop–on/ hop-off bus’.


Paris Travel Tips

* The Metro was a great way to get around and very user friendly. We purchased ten single-ticket rides. (cheaper than buying individual tickets). We eventually learned not to store these tickets together with our credit cards – it deletes them.

* Here’s a very important tip – Don’t queue for the Louvre! We pre-purchased tickets from an outlet in the nearby underground shopping mall. Alternatively, you can purchase the Paris Pass or Museum Pass. In our case this saved an hour and a half of queueing (and that was in the off peak period).

* DON’T use a selfie stick – very unchic!

* It was definitely worthwhile travelling off peak in the cooler months as it meant minimal queueing (we hardly saw any waiting lines – with the exception of the Louvre). It also meant our flights and accommodation were considerably cheaper – leaves more money for shopping! Just make sure you have a very, very warm coat – it’s an absolute essential.

* Use Google maps to help orientate you and to get you to places (we found the local paper maps way too confusing)

* Always arrange a back-up place to meet if you get separated or lost (in case phones not working or if they run out of batteries). Our meeting place was usually the museum shops.

* Carry a spare phone charger with you. We found this very handy as using Google maps and taking photos both chew up the battery pretty quickly.

* Baguettes are baked so frequently and are so readily available. Get into the local mind set of buying one baguette in the morning and then another one freshly baked in the afternoon/evening. A big French no no is to eat in the evening a baguette you bought in the morning.

* Dress très chic. If you’re wearing athletic gear, you had better be running or exercising. It is unacceptable to be walking the streets in runners or tracksuits whilst you’re in the fashion capital.

* A visit to the  Galeries Lafayette (9th arrondissement) is worthwhile if you like large department stores. I personally prefer the smaller, more personal service of the unique boutiques, but Galeries Lafayette has an amazing dome roof and apparently you can get out on the top level for a great view of the city (we missed this). From time to time Galeries Lafayette holds fashion shows. You can ring ahead and check. It is possible to get a refund of the 10% VAT but you must produce your purchased goods in the airport and by the time you wait in line at  Galeries Lafayette for the paper work and then again at the airport – you may be tempted not to pursue this refund.

* Duty free shopping at Paris airport was surprisingly good – a final opportunity to buy presents for loved ones.

* I’m sure this is not news to most of you, however no matter how much your travel agent may assure you, ensure you have a minimum of an hour and a half in between connecting flights. This will greatly improve the chances of both you and your luggage arriving to the intended destination on time!

* If you luck out and your luggage misses your flight, you can request compensation (you are entitled). We did this upon arriving in Paris.

* A couple of cute stores to visit; Merci in the Marais (111 Boulevard Beaumarchais) – a cool lifestyle store, and Monoprix (3 locations in Paris) – fun, affordable homewares, food and fashion.

*Most important – start a ‘must do’ list for your next Paris trip

Some of the ideas I have written down for next trip to Paris include;

* Stay in the Marais; spend a few days in the Loire and Bordeaux areas (rather than just day trips); make it to the Pompidou Centre (closed on Tuesdays); visit Versailles and the Luxembourg Gardens (ran out of time).

* One more piece of advice, when relaxing on the aeroplane, don’t forgot to supervise your steward when he passes your neighbour their hot beverage. Make sure he passes it in front of you rather than over your head, so that if he accidentally drops the whole cup of steaming hot coffee, it won’t spill (and burn) all over your head, face, clothes and seat!

If you’re planning a trip to Paris…Bon Voyage!


Jackie Pila is a Melbourne social worker, art therapist, mother, and is passionate about travel. In her spare time, she enjoys boxing and Brazilian Jui Jitsu.  This trip was a rare opportunity to escape daily life and immerse herself in a wonderful French experience.

Donald Trump and “Crooked Hag” Hillary

Donald Trump’s lewdness towards young women has caused an uproar that looks set to end his chances of winning the presidency. By contrast, his attacks against Hillary as an older woman have barely drawn a murmur. Trump and his supporters have conducted a vicious campaign against Hillary using her age as a weapon against her. As though being an older woman is contemptible. They have played on negative stereotypes of old women and used scary, nursery rhyme images of witch-like women. “Crooked hag” is just the latest double-barrelled epithet they have hurled at her.

Instead of being inconspicuous like many older women, instead of babysitting the grandchildren and confining herself to a domestic landscape, Hillary Clinton, aged 68, is fighting for the most powerful position in the most powerful country in the world. She is not only threatening to smash the glass ceiling, but to shatter an entire system of beliefs that consigns old women to invisibility.

When Donald Trump said Hillary Clinton did not “ look like a president”, he meant that a woman did not fit the image of a president. He was referring to her gender.

But when Donald Trump in the first debate, amended his statement and said that Hillary Clinton “did not have the stamina to be president”, he meant that an older women could not handle being president. He was referring to her age. And to the stereotype of a frail, old lady.

Powerful old men, weak old women

Undeterred by the fact that he is two years older than Clinton, Trump elaborated on the caricature of an aged woman by saying that as president “she’s supposed to fight all these different things and she can’t make it 15 feet to her car.” This was accompanied by his parody of a weak woman barely able to walk.

Oddly, as a label, “old Donald” does not resonate in the same way amongst many voters.  Despite his age, he is able to present himself as sexually super-charged, vigorous, powerful and successful. Powerful old men, weak old women.

Old women in charge

We have no problem trusting older or old men to be our political leaders. We believe that their age endows them with years of accumulated experience, even wisdom. But older women? Women over 60? There are no precedents for old women being elected as leaders in democracies.

Theresa May aged 60, was parachuted into her position to replace David Cameron by the Conservative Party leadership and has not yet stood for election. Golda Meir, at age 71 was similarly parachuted into the prime ministership by Israel’s Labor party following the sudden death of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol.  Margaret Thatcher was only 54 when first elected. Indira Gandhi was 49 when first elected prime minister of India. Angela Merkel was 51 when she became Chancellor of Germany.

There are no precedents for what Hillary is doing at her age. And this may be a decisive reason why the American public has trouble accepting her as their leader.  Alive to the prejudices of his audiences, Trump is  skilfully presenting the public with a caricature of what might be unpalatable to them – an old woman in charge.

A new generation of older women

Hillary Clinton reflects a much broader phenomenon whose scale is unprecedented.

For the first time in history, there are millions of highly educated women who have professions and have spent much of their lives in the workforce. Now they are entering retirement.

Now what? Given that life expectancies for women have risen to the age of 90, it is a long time to  babysit, garden or play golf.

The last frontier of feminism

Women ageing is the last frontier of feminism in developed countries. After fighting for equality and the particular problems in the life cycles of girls and women, feminists have failed to address these same issues in the life cycle of older women. And this is because many feminists of the ‘60s are only now hitting their own 60s. Only now are they themselves facing the problems of older women and the double standard in perception and expectations.

Ageing women find themselves without roadmaps of how to live the rest of their lives.

We may not all want to follow the road that Hillary Clinton is taking, but as a role model, she inspires us to reject traditional expectations.


Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great


Exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria – until 8th November 2015


Catherine’s Bad Girl Reputation 

Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia has had very bad press for over 300 years.

She was the most renowned and the longest-ruling female leader of Russia, reigning for 34 years until her death in 1796 at the age of 67.

But ask the average Russian what he knows about her and he will smirk and say Catherine was debauched and is mostly known for having countless lovers, usually from the ranks of her young army officers.

So why has the NGV decided to mount an exhibition dedicated to her?

Catherine: Art Collector Extraordinaire

Because in fact, Catherine was one of the most enlightened and powerful leaders of Europe in the 18th Century. Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great  showcases some of the works she sourced and commissioned to create one of the world’s greatest art collections in history. Catherine is said to have wanted to have the greatest expression of man’s genius all under one roof. So she constructed palaces to house her ever-growing collections. She called these pavilions the Hermitage, and so began her great legacy of what today is the renown Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

The NGV, in conjunction with the Hermitage, is now showing the largest collection of her treasures ever to be exhibited outside Russia. It includes Rembrandt, Rubens, Velazquez and Van Dyke.  This is the finest group of Dutch and Flemish art to come to Australia. Amongst the 400 masterpieces from her personal collection are paintings, sculptures, drawings, porcelain, silver and precious gems.

From Teenage Bride To Empress

A German-born princess, Catherine at the age of 14, was married to the heir to the Russian throne. After a coup in 1762 in which her husband Tsar Peter lll was murdered, Catherine took his place on the throne. She then proceeded to drag Russia from a cultural and political backwater to an imperial power. Ably assisted by Grigory Potemkin, who was both her lover and her political partner, she pushed back the Ottoman empire, established a Russian presence on the Black Sea and extended the Russian empire to Alaska.

Empress Catherine And The Enlightenment

Largely self-educated, she oversaw a period of cultural renaissance in Russia. She was an innovative thinker and dedicated to education, the arts and culture. She sought the advice of Diderot, the most powerful art critic of the time about which art works to amass. In a period of only 10 years, she siphoned into Russia 1,800 paintings and 40,000 written volumes – including the greatest European and Asian achievements in architecture, design, art and literature and transformed the imperial capital St.Petersburg, into an international centre of enlightenment.

Catherine corresponded for 15 years with Voltaire, one of France’s pre-eminent Enlightenment philosophers, about the ideas that were re-shaping Europe. Her ideals of abolishing serfdom and ensuring the equality of all citizens under the law were ahead of her time, but she was powerless to overcome the opposition of the nobility who were determined to keep their slaves. However, she achieved numerous other reforms, including the introduction of paper money and the modernisation of Russia’s education system.

There is an excellent biography ‘Catherine the Great and Potemkin: The Imperial Love Affair’  written by Simon Sebag Montefiore. Interestingly enough, Montefiore looked into the number of lovers Catherine was supposed to have had and he concluded that she probably had around 12 lovers – hardly the debauched monarch of legend.

For information about the exhibition go to

ACCA – The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art

ACCA – the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art –  is Australia’s most significant contemporary art space and plays a pivotal role in developing contemporary art in Australia. It is the only major public gallery in Australia focused on commissioning rather than collecting, and has commissioned an unparalleled number of new works from emerging Australian contemporary artists.


The current NEW15 exhibition is part of the annual NEW series that provides young artists with the opportunity to create large-scale new works. NEW has been so successful that for some artists it has become the launching pad to local and even international recognition. Now in its 15th year, NEW is highly regarded and generates huge excitement in the local art world and annual pilgrimages to ACCA in Melbourne.


Venice Biennale 2015

In addition to NEW, through its exhibitions and commissions, ACCA promotes a range of talented Australian artists. Some of those who exhibited at ACCA have gone on to exhibit at the Venice Biennale, the world’s most prestigious art event. They include Callum Morton, Daniel von Sturmer, Susan Norrie, Patrician Piccinini, Ricky Swallow, Shaun Gladwell, Simryn Gill and now Fiona Hall. (See image slider above)

At Venice Biennale 2015, Fiona Hall’s installation, ‘Wrong Way Time’ will be the inaugural exhibition of the new Australian Pavilion.  Australia is the first nation to be granted permission to create a new building among the Biennale’s heritage-listed buildings. This is remarkably significant for Australian art and architecture as it is the first 21st century pavilion to be built in the historic Giardini.

This new $7.5million pavilion represents another link between ACCA and the Venice Biennale. John Denton, Director of Denton Corker Marshall, the Melbourne based architecture firm that designed the new pavilion, is also Chair of ACCA. The previous Chair of ACCA was Naomi Milgrom AO, businesswoman, philanthropist and distinguished patron of contemporary art and architecture.

The ACCA Building

The ACCA building itself has become a distinctive architectural icon of Melbourne.

It’s rust red steel exterior is reminiscent of the red earth in outback Australia, and like this earth, it too changes colours in response to the sun. Sometimes it is a brooding dark red, at other times a vibrant, rich burnt-orange colour. The building was designed by local architects, Wood Marsh, and completed in 2002. But ACCA’s history as Australia’s only ‘kunsthalle’  showcasing the latest and most significant artwork by living artists from around the world, goes back 30 years.

The ACCA building is located behind the National Gallery of Victoria in the arts precinct of Southbank, and in a sense was regarded as the  “new kid on the block”. The National Gallery had reigned over art in the state of Victoria for 152 years. But increasingly, ACCA became the place to see the newest and most exciting trends in contemporary art. This was in stark contrast to the NGV which largely turned its back on contemporary Australian art.  It was only last year, with the blockbuster exhibition, ‘Melbourne Now’, that the NGV finally flung open its doors to contemporary artists, many of whom had been welcome for some time at ACCA.

ACCA’s renowned Artistic Director and curator Juliana Engberg who has commissioned and overseen more than 120 of ACCA’s Australian and international exhibitions, is now leaving to join the roaming European Capital of Culture series.

ACCA Events

In addition to its exhibitions, ACCA also holds very popular events. There are drawing workshops, educational programs and lectures. Currently, there is a highly acclaimed lecture series called ‘The Grand Tour: Cities Shaped by Art’  that covers London, Venice, Berlin, Beijing and Amsterdam.

The ACCA courtyard is shared with the Malthouse Theatre and is a very attractive place to enjoy a coffee after viewing the exhibitions.





Wine, Vineyards and Kangaroos

Yabby Lake Vineyard, Mornington Peninsula

Rows of vines, draped in white netting, spread down the hill and across the valley. The sea shines in the distance. You sit on the deck overlooking the vineyard and enjoy an excellent meal. The wine you are drinking is produced from the vines below you, and it is some of the best wine in Australia. Suddenly six kangaroos come leaping past and hop between the vines down to the lake – Yabby Lake. ( Yabbies are small, freshwater crayfish)

The Trophies 

Yabby Lake Vineyard sprang into public prominence when it made history by winning the coveted Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy for Best Red Wine of the 2011 and 2012 vintages. It was the first time in its 52 year history that the Jimmy Watson Trophy was awarded to a Pinot Noir –  a Yabby Lake Block 1 Pinot Noir 2012.

This remarkable achievement was followed by accolades and awards for the Block 2 Pinot Noir 2013, which to date has already collected 11 trophies.

The Founders

And yet the vineyard is only 17 years old. When Robert and Mem Kirby bought the land in Tuerong on the Mornington Peninsula, they were not winemakers, but wine collectors who always dreamed of planting a vineyard. The land had the perfect conditions for growing high quality chardonnay and pinot noir – ‘hungry soil’ and a north-facing slope capturing both maximum sunshine and cooling sea breezes from 3 directions – Port Philip Bay, Western Port Bay and Bass Strait. It is this maritime climate that has turned the Mornington Peninsula into such a successful wine growing region.



The Viticulturist

A viticulturist with 27 years of experience, Keith Harris has been at Yabby Lake right from the beginning, carrying out research, soil surveys and preparation to ensure that the right variety of vine clone was matched to the type of soil. Then season after season, he hand-nurtures each vine.  When asked how Yabby Lake managed to achieve distinction for its pinot noir in such a short period of time, he replied,  “ It’s rigour. To grow good pinot noir you need rigour. Rigour in the vineyard, rigour in the winery, and rigour with the bank manager. We’ve had all three. It’s a very expensive way of growing grapes.”

The Winemaker

Tom Carson, joined Yabby Lake as General Manager and Chief Winemaker in 2008. Prior to that he was at Yering Station for 12 years during which time the winery won international acclaim including ‘International Winemaker of the Year’ at the 2004 International Wine and Spirit Competition in London.

He believes that  “ wine is not a competition game. It’s a respect game. It’s respecting wines, where they come from and why they taste the way they do. We don’t think that we are making wines that are better than any other particular producer or place in the world. What we can say is that we are making wines from our site and we have a site that is capable of producing exceptionally good quality.”

The Cellar Door and Restaurant

The Cellar Door and Restaurant opened only 2 years ago but is already recognised for its quality wine and food. Acclaimed chef Heston Blumenthal brought his family for lunch and Melbourne fine dining restaurant Vue de Monde held a food and wine tasting there recently.

Chef Simon West uses local suppliers extensively and the menu, which changes daily, offers casual, but refined, sophisticated food. The paintings and the sculptures combine with the natural beauty of the place to make it a lovely way to spend an afternoon in a vineyard.

It’s only a 50-minute drive from Melbourne on the M11 but the contrast with the bustling traffic is immediate. The gates of Yabby Lake open onto a silent, peaceful vista of rolling hills covered in vines – vines protected by nets in this season. The drive to the winery and restaurant is through a long avenue of tall eucalyptus trees, which give a distinctly Australian aspect to the rows of vines on either side of the road. These tall trees look as if they have been here forever, but they were planted by Mem Kirby as small saplings.

Kangaroos Between the Vines

If you are lucky, you might spot a kangaroo between the vines. Kangaroos are not usually associated in our minds with vineyards, but  apparently wine and kangaroos cohabit very comfortably. They don’t often eat the grapes as they prefer the grass that grows between the vines.

The Winery

The significant new addition to Yabby Lake this year is the opening of the winery which was constructed not far from the Cellar Door.  Now tractors are able to deliver the freshly hand-picked grapes a short distance directly from the vineyard into the winery, rather than being pressed at a distant site.

WomanGoingPlaces was the first to film the pressing of the grapes in this new winery. The grapes are dropped into a huge, highly sophisticated de-stemmer that removes the stems from the grapes by gravity. The grapes are never pumped or handled in a way that can damage them. New technology for an ancient craft.

Australia does not have the benefit of centuries of winemaking, but we are not as new to it as you might think. In fact, when the first British ships were transporting convicts to this land, they also transported grape vines. The first pinot that we know of in Australia, is called MV6  (Mother Vine). It was brought  out in 1840 and was thought to originate in France. The grapes that are grown today in Yabby Lake are clones of this original Mother Vine.

The Wines

Yabby Lake Vineyard produces single vineyard wines under the Yabby Lake label and from an additional site under the Heathcote Estate label.

Yabby Lake’s range of wines includes pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot gris, shiraz and sauvignon blanc. Their wines are exported to major wine markets overseas including to their 5 cellar doors in China.

The vineyard evokes an Australian childhood idyll – the  summer pastime of searching for yabbies in dams, creeks and lakes – for which it was named. The idyll is still present in the wide bucolic sweep of the place. But the Yabby Lake Vineyard, first under Robert and Mem Kirby and now in the hands of the second generation, Nina and Clark, has developed into an enterprise that is making its mark on Australian wine-making.


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Photographs & Video – Rosalie Zycher & Augustine Zycher

Music – Albare  CD  ‘The Road Ahead’  ‘Expectations’ track




Woman In…. Esperance, West Australia

Our Road Trip

Esperance is a seaside town on the south-eastern coast of West Australia. To get there, my daughter and I set off on a road trip from Perth, and in one day, drove 730 kilometres  through the lower belly of West Australia.

On our journey on National Route 1 and on smaller local roads, we passed through a great inland sea of wheat, salt lakes and remote towns.


My daughter has lived in Fremantle in Western Australia for the past three years and will be returning to Victoria later this year, so before leaving the west she was keen to see more of the state. I work from home as an editor and at the time I had no looming deadlines so I was free to join her.  So we decided to visit Esperance and Cape Le Grand National Park.

In spite of the air conditioning being on its last gasp, ‘Olivia’, my daughter’s trusty old  all-wheel drive Subaru was in good mechanical condition, a must for travelling the roads of West Australia. We had extra water and snacks as a precaution. Even though we weren’t going to be travelling in extremely remote areas and the roads were all sealed, it’s always wise when driving in rural West Australia, to take extra water and food in case of emergencies.

Picnic at Yilliminning Rock

Our first stop was Narrogin where we bought lunch and decided to stop along the way to have a picnic. About 20 minutes from Narrrogin we pulled onto Birdwhistle Road to follow a sign to Yilliminning Rock, where sure enough there was a concrete picnic table and an information board. Keeping an eye out for snakes and our feet up on the bench-seat away from large hungry ants, we ate our lunch in a cocoon of heat and bush silence;  I took my first long, relaxed breath since leaving my home in Melbourne five or six hours earlier.

Yilliminning Rock is a granite rock rising about 50 metres from the surrounding farmland. The 10-minute climb afforded a lovely 360 degree view of the plains through which we had travelled and were yet to venture. Tiny pins of heat stung the skin on our backs, somehow finding their way through the threads of our clothing. It was time to get back in the car, with a change of driver.

Through the Wheatbelt and a Milkshake at Lake Grace

For most of the 730 kilometres we were shoulder to shoulder with straw coloured walls of wheat, the West Australian wheatbelt. While some might find the kilometres of wheatfields tedious, I didn’t. I was fascinated by the very largeness, the weight of blue sky, and the silence, and I entertained myself imagining what life on the land would be like. I enjoyed the memories from childhood of similar journeys my father took us on into the Australian bush. We stopped for a close-up look at the wheat, and the dry, red aridness dispelled any romanticism. A kind local woman stopped to make sure we were OK, as we were pulled over on a dusty road in the middle of nowhere.

We drove on stopping for petrol and coffee and a milkshake at Lake Grace. We visited the gallery next door to the café and discovered that the town had a vibrant arts and crafts community. The locals had been busy knitting and a gush of red knitted poppies filled the median strip dividing the highway running through the town.

About nine hours after leaving Perth we arrived in Esperance, and found our accommodation, a barn-like holiday flat called Doo Drop Inn. Quaint, but it had everything we needed.

Esperance and the Whale

Esperance is a small seaside town with comfortable accommodation choices. You probably won’t find five star rooms, and certainly not five star restaurants but you will find hospitality and somewhere to fill your tummy at the end of the day.

We discovered three highlights of Esperance (there would be more but we only had a short stay). The first was the development of the waterfront, including a path winding through low indigenous planting. Even in its incomplete stage the path was interesting and relaxing to walk. It was the local jogging and exercise route.

The second highlight was a beautiful sculpture of the tail of a breaching Southern Right whale, at the centre of this redevelopment and at the entrance to the Tanker Jetty. The piece stood meters high and was made from steel and wood, inlaid with coloured glass. We later met one of the artists, Cindy Poole, at her studio, Section Glass Gallery, (a must visit) who told us the story of the sculpture. The brief was to incorporate the elements of the local area and she and another artist decided on a whale to represent beauty and the migrating whales that pass the town, steel and wood for industry and the port as well as fishing vessels, and glass to reflect the colour of the area. The sculpture is one of the most beautiful pieces of public art I have ever seen.

The third highlight was a coastal route that takes you past some stunning ocean scenery and swimming beaches. We stopped for a swim in the aqua waters of a Twilight Bay, just out of town. On our return we stopped on a cliff top to watch a storm approach over the ocean. We longed for the cool and wet of the storm, and hoped it would reach the dry fields inland.

The next day we would leave for Cape Le Grand National Park.

Cape Le Grand National Park and Frenchman’s Peak

At 50 kilometres south-east of Esperance, Cape Le Grand National Park is an ideal day trip, or if you have camping gear or a camper van you can stay as long as you like. At Lucky Bay camping ground, where we stayed for one night, there was an outdoor kitchen, BBQs, clean amenities (toilets and showers) and ample sheltered space for tents, with a separate space for camper vans. There is no power and you will need to bring your own drinking water. There is a small charge per night.

On our way into the park we stopped to climb Frenchman’s Peak (262 metres). I resorted to crawling on hands and feet for a short section early on, however the rest of the climb, while needing endurance, wasn’t difficult. The rock faces could get slippery so I wouldn’t advise this climb during or just after rain. Having said that, it rained lightly while we were at the top so we took extra care on our descent.  The 360-degree view from the summit is beautiful. On one side we watched the rain approach. From the height we could see the perimeter of the rain cloud, and it moved like a swarm across the land, over us, then out to sea. Looking in the opposite direction, the colours and formations of sea and sky mirrored each other and we could not tell where one started and the other stopped.

After setting up camp we used the clean outdoor kitchen to cook dinner. More campers arrived during the evening, many of them young people and families from overseas. There is a ranger’s cottage nearby the camping area, and even without this we felt safe and comfortable. Lucky Bay is famous for kangaroos that come down to the beach, and it was very strange seeing kangaroos lying around on the sand. We saw a group of people who had been four wheel driving along the beach to get to remote fishing spots, but most people were there to bushwalk. There is a main 15-kilometre walk (one way) that can be done in a day, or broken into smaller walks, which are around three hours one way. We kept our activity to beachcombing as we only had one night available.

Before heading the 800 kilometres back to Perth, I woke early for a walk and to watch the sun rise over this natural, unspoilt corner of Australia.


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Photographs – Jacinta Agostinelli

Jacinta Agostinelli is a Melbourne-based writer and editor. She also works pro bono on the management committee of a local community organisation, cares for her granddaughter, and grows vegetables and raises chickens using organic and sustainable methods. She enjoys spending time with her family of five daughters and husband, especially in far away places.




Bathing Boxes Brighton Beach Melbourne

WomanGoingPlaces continues to receive such an enthusiastic response to our post on the Iconic Bathing Boxes of the Mornington Peninsula, that we are following up with another post on the bathing boxes  –  those on Brighton Beach. These 90 beach boxes are located in inner Melbourne, within sight of the central business district.



 Price of a bathing box?

What would you pay for what is essentially an empty wooden box, smaller than a boat shed, without running water or electricity?

Well, at the end of 2014, two auctions were held on the hot sand at Dendy St., Brighton Beach.  One newly built beach box, No.57A, was sold for $215,000 – that is $44,791 per square metre.

Minutes later, bidders trudged across the sand to another box, No.67, that is over 100 years old, and they eagerly pushed the sale price up to $190,000.

Why are bathing boxes so valuable and why are so many people charmed by them?

Each one unique

What is most obvious is their curious, colourful beauty. The 90 bathing boxes on Brighton beach form a vibrant arc of colour that curves along the sand and stretches to meet the skyline of Melbourne. It is a beautiful vista. Each of the boxes has its own character, shape and splashes of luminous paint. No two are identical.

Then there is their history. Most of the Brighton boxes and the additional 1300 beach boxes along the Mornington Peninsula date back to the 1880’s. They were originally built so that women could modestly change into swimwear and not expose their bodies on the beach.

Bathing Box Licence 1936Brighton Historical Society has records to show that there were originally more boxes in Brighton, but some were washed away or destroyed by rough weather. The Society retains a copy of a license dated 1936, granting permission to occupy a bathing box.


Family treasures 

Those who have been fortunate enough to own a bathing box over the last century, seem to view their boxes as a family treasure. They are much more than a convenient place to store beach gear – towels, umbrellas, chairs, canoes, boards. They are places to store family memories of summer holidays – carrying the baby, for the first time, from the beach box into the sea, swimming, playing cricket; eating meals and drinking wine on the sand outside the box while watching the sun set and rise over the sea.

This repository of family celebrations by the sea is handed down from one generation to the next. For example, beach box No 67, mentioned above, which is over 100 years old, had been in the same family for 50 years.

Building investment

There is also another compelling reason for the desirability of the bathing boxes. They are an outstanding investment.

If you had purchased one 30 years ago you would have paid around $12,000.  If you waited until the 1990’s to buy one, it would have cost you around $60,000. But then you could have resold it 10 years later for $214,000.  The record for a Dendy St. beach box was set in 2011 at $260,000.

Their value is the reason last October, Bayside Council approved 10 more boxes on Dendy St beach, swelling its coffers by about $1.6 million.

Most councils along the Mornington Peninsula have strict rules forbidding the building of new boxes.

The rules and regulations governing bathing boxes date back decades and are supervised by Bathing Box Associations in each council area where the boxes are located.

In Brighton there is a caveat on availability – only a bayside ratepayer can own one. Licensees are not allowed to rent or sublet their beach boxes. Nor are they allowed to sleep in or use their boxes as accommodation. There are even strict guidelines that dictate how beach boxes can be decorated.

Therefore it is surprising to see one box that displays a huge blue wave, not on an Australian beach, but on the coast of Japan, with Mount Fuji in the background. The design on bathing box No. 66 is derived from a famous Japanese artwork, Under the Wave off Kanagawa. This work by Katsushika Hokusai, is one of the best recognised works of Japanese art in the world.

Building memories

Those who do not own a beach box are still drawn to make them part of their family memories. Each year hundreds of brides in wedding gowns traipse through the sand with their bridegrooms, bridesmaids and best men in tow, to have their wedding photos taken next to the beach boxes. This is in addition to the thousands of tourists and visitors who come to photograph and be photographed next to them.

The allure of these quirky bathing boxes has made them instantly recognisable and turned them into Australian icons.

Li Na just after winning the Australian Open Trophy as Women's Singles Champion 2014

Li Na just after winning the Australian Open Trophy as Women’s Singles Champion 2014

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Photography – David Zycher

Video editor – Augustine Zycher

To see each photo separately go to our Gallery page.

Music – Albare  CD  ‘The Road Ahead’  ‘Heart to Heart’ track