Sunday, May 9, 2010

Travel Tips: Tas-Mania! (Part 3: Ronnie and The Chocolate Factory)

Well readers, here it is: the final installment of my epic Travel Tips: Tasmania Edition. In this final post, I will guide you through the lower portions of this fine state.  
If you'd like to catch up, I suggest you read parts one and two first.

So, on to the Tips.
After the loitering miscreants of The Spirit of Tasmania, the speeding bogans of Davonport and the various other human flotsam and jetsam we had encountered in the north of Tasmania, its capital city, Hobart, seemed as glamorous as Monte Carlo.

See what I mean? There were shops, cafes and people wearing pants! I would suggest packing your fancy flip flops... just in case.

To add to the general feeling of hateur, my brother and I immediately decided to pronounce Hobart in our own ways, as a sort of homage to this fair city. I decided to capitalize on the fact that everyone was already greeting me with the respect and adoration universally shown to Americans abroad and pronounce it Hoeburrt, really taking care to draw out my adopted Brooklyn accent. My brother felt that a town as elegant as this needed to be pronounced 'Oberre, with a silent H and T. Either way, people seemed to embrace our interpretations; they would contort their faces in enchantment and make peculiar gestures to their companions. This is just the way 'Obertians are: delightful.

We stayed at a local "hotel" which was promisingly named The Pickled Frog.

 The barefoot patchouli-scented woman at the front desk took our money and, sizing us up as high rollers, signed us up for one of their "concept rooms". Charmingly, the hallway to our room looked as though it may have been considered as an alternate filming location for "The Shining".

But even that couldn't dampen our enthusiasm for our Concept Room. What would it be? A safari theme perhaps? Or maybe an ancient Egyptian affair with ornate sarcophogi in which to sleep? No, imagine my joy when I discovered that the "concept" was, in fact, that I would have to share a bunk bed with my parents.

* My intrepid step-father poses with the "concept bed".

A delightful, and not-at-all awkward, night ensued in which I was treated to a thrilling nasal symphony from my parental units. Seriously readers, does anyone amongst you have it so good? People would have gladly shelled out good money for this once-in-a-lifetime performance, but there I was soaking it all in for nada.

By morning, after tackling the unisex communal showers, we were more than ready to set off for our next "must-see": the Port Arthur penal colony.

As everyone knows, many Australians are the descendants of criminals. My own family were a ragtag bunch of sheep thieves who were rapidly shipped out of Scotland for the safety of the United Kingdom and its residents. Much like how the bard, Michael Gerard Tyson, is "on Zoloft to keep [him] from killing y'all", their "Zoloft" was a psychologically torturous, 6 month long, forced boat ride to an unexplored land where they were thrown into a backwater penitentiary.  That's why I'm such badass.

In one of the buildings, you can log onto a computer which will tell you if any of your own family was as depraved as the Montebellucci clan. This is probably going to be the highlight of the tour, so save it until the end so you can leave on a "high".

From 1833 to 1850, Port Arthur was where they would send only the hardest of criminals. As a plaque in one of its buildings says, Port Arthur was known as a "mill to grind rogues honest, and idle men industrious"(funny, I think that this is also the motto of my workplace). Much like "The Rock", it is surrounded by water except for one scraggly piece of land which was manned by half-starved guards and dogs. This was bad news for would-be escapees, especially one George "Billy" Hunt who apparently had the bright idea of dressing up as a kangaroo and hopping his ass out of there. Unfortunately, the hungry guards on duty tried to shoot him to get something to eat.

One arrives at Port Arthur to find a well appointed gift shop full of Chamber-of-Wonders-worthy memorabilia. Try to avoid buying stuffed convicts and olde time games like the cup and ball, and proceed directly to the boat. At the admissions desk they will give you some weird playing card; hold on to it for later, rather than picking your teeth with it like I did. Pretend you're a Kennedy as you look out on to a vast expanse of water.

* An aside, Dr. Poobelle would kill me if I did not feature his photo above. After thirty or so botched attempts, he declared this was the consummate "flag blowing in the breeze" photo ever recorded on film. As I said, Port Arthur is a haven of entertainment. Also, my brother is a special man.

The good-natured guides will tell you that you can see Antarctica through this gap in the heads.

After much excited neck craning they'll confess that they lied to you, and laugh in your face. Good times! Move on to the buildings; they are old and falling down. Really the only thing to do is take inappropriate catalogue shots like this one.

Or this one. Look at Poobelle tearing it up; his sunglasses obscure the fact that he is smizing like nobody's business:

There is also something else famous that happened in Port Arthur. However, there is a policy of not speaking about it at the site, so I will not talk about it here. All I shall say is that considering the lack of excitement at Port Arthur, and my failed excursion to Waco, I seem to have poor luck in wackjob sites.

Once you've been "scared" by the "ghost tour" (I'm sorry, but since when does a creaky old house with poor lighting constitute a ghost tour? I see that crap everyday; it's called my apartment) the only thing left to do is hit up the exit tour.

Remember that sucky playing card you got? Now's the time to use it.
Said playing card actually corresponds to some cardboard cutout of a real life convict from Port Arthur times. See!

There are all kinds of deviant cutouts through which you must wander, desperately preying that your card won't match someone convicted for "buggery" or some other such embarrassment. I think I ended up getting a petty thief which I felt seemed somewhat below my station.

Although the exhibit is fascinating, you may want to make it more interactive like myself and the good Doctor did:

*Not pictured: My mother running to the car, gunning the engine and speeding away in embarrassment.

Now that we had experienced the wonder of Port Arthur, it was time to visit the jewel in our vacation crown, my raison d'etre, a place whose image I would often conjure up to propel me through the Concept Room and the darkest hours of our turbulent ferry crossing to Van Diemen's Land. I speak, of course, of the Cadbury Chocolate Factory.

Part II: Cadbury.

For those of you unfamiliar with Cadbury (ie: Americans), it is the producer of many of this blogger's favorite treats. For example: 

* Freddos and Cherry Ripes and Snack, Oh My!
And BUTTONS! I would kill a man for some sweet, sweet buttons.
So, as you can imagine, I was in a state of frenzy by the time we loaded up the car and drove out to the factory. I fantasized about drinking from the chocolate river, and swimming, Scrooge McDuck-style, through an ocean of milk chocolate buttons.

It started off promisingly, as a red faced old woman pressed free boxes of "favorites" (an assortment of "fancy" chocolates) into our grubby paws.

* note to Cadbury, the worthless excuse for chocolate that you dub "Turkish Delight" is nobody's "favorite".

We were led into the gift shop and told to wander around until the tour started. When the tour actually began, I was confused. Where was my hairnet and lab coat? Surely, the oompa loompas would be arriving any moment so we could enter a world of pure imagination. We had to be ready!

It turns out that the Cadbury factory is less like this:

and more like this:

They stopped giving tours in 2008 citing "health and safety concerns". What?! I don't care if I contaminate every living person in Australia, dammit! I want my chance to drink the Fizzy Lifting Drink and to steal the Everlasting Gobstopper for Mr. Slugworth. I had even worn a hoodie (on the advice of my friend TimTam) in order to steal as many samples as possible. Health concerns?? Oh, so I suppose all of those Cadbury workers I saw picking their noses and smoking butts outside are held to your high standards too? Please.

* An aside: Readers, did anyone else hate Grandpa Joe with the fire of a thousand burning suns? I mean, this is a man who insists on staying in bed while his daughter goes to work stirring laundry with a giant fork and his grandkid has to do a paper round, in the snow, after school every day. But all of a sudden, when Charlie wins the golden ticket he can suddenly jump out of bed and do a jig? Screw you, old man. 

"Oh, hello. I'm an asshole."

Anyhoo, after watching a 12-minute video about machines (during which my step-father managed to finish his entire box of free chocolates), we were hustled over to the Cadbury store where we had the honor of purchasing discontinued, "leaking" and otherwise Not Quite Right chocolates at a discount. For example, one could purchase a kilogram of cumin-flavored fondant for $1.50. I settled with a bag of cat's-bum flavored goodies and got the hell out of there.

If you care, or are some kind of masochist, you can try the raw cocoa proffered by these two charmers. They'll walk you through the process of making chocolate while dourly noting that white chocolate has the most calories and silently judging you as you eat whatever they put in front of you. Zip it, bitches. I'm clearly at a freaking chocolate factory! That's like telling me that smoking is bad while I'm at the Annual Cigar Expo. To be fair though, this is how my face looked too after a day at the Claremont Cadbury Factory.

At least Tasmania astutely scatters some kangaroos around in their parking lots to distract you from the "tourist attractions" you have just endured.

* Squeeeeeee!

After all this excitement, there was nothing else to do except make the long drive back to the ferry, where, after a thorough cavity search, we sank our weary bodies into the Naugahyde chairs and bade farewell to the Apple Isle.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post! this is very useful. Thank you for the informations.

    Travel Tips