Tag Archives: Darwin

365 Places: Ode to a Cappuccino, Charlie’s 1978

Day 177: Charlie’s Italian Restaurant, Darwin 1978

This post is about my love of coffee, in particular a cappuccino, from where it all began – celebrating my 12th birthday at an Italian restaurant in Darwin – Charlie’s.

Now I may have shared with you my penchant for a good coffee, particularly a cappuccino, but I am by no means a purist. I understand that an authentic cappuccino does not have chocolate on the top, and if this is the case, it is not the cappuccino I love.

What I love, is a strong coffee, topped with foaming frothy milk and drowning with chocolate powder. Around the outside of the rim is a crust of coffee, making the foam a taste sensation of bitter and sweet. It is the coffee of my childhood, of Italian cafes in Darwin and Brisbane in the 1970s and the 1980s. Moreover, it was not the coffee we had at home, which was flavourless in comparison (though my Dad still swears by International Roast).

Bit Strip - about reusable cups
Bit Strip – about reusable cups

My moment of truth happened when I was 12 at Charlie’s: my parents asked me after dinner if I would like a coffee and that is what I ordered – a cappuccino. It was nothing short of a sublime sensory experience – its aroma and flavour sang and I loved mixing the frothy milk into the rich dark coffee. From that first meeting, I know I had found something very special and delicious.

Charlie’s also had a reputation for his Cordon Bleu and Spaghetti, but my mum excels with these dishes – but a cappuccino was a new experience and one that I have loved now for over 30 years. Ironically I drink black coffee at home but I still love a cappuccino when I buy coffee – it just seems special.

Who else loves this kind of cappuccino? Would love your coffee stories 🙂

365 Places: Nightcliff Markets

Day 53: Nightcliff Markets, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia

When I first moved to Nightcliff in 1977, there was only one market – at Rapid Creek on a Sunday. Over the years, many other markets have popped up: Mindil Beach, Parap and then one opened in my home suburb of Nightcliff about ten years ago. The Nightcliff Market is situated at the Progress Road shops, nestled under the trees, making it a cool respite from the midday heat.

It is a slightly smaller market than Parap, with more emphasis on craft, as well as a few food stalls and some plants and fresh fruit and vegetables. While we were there, we had another lovely juice from the same stall as the one from Parap Market (a lot of stallholders do Parap Markets on Saturday and Nightcliff on Sunday). We also bought a gorgeous painting, from an artist from Utopia, whose work I had admired last time I went to Darwin. I will write about her work in a later post. I also bought some beautiful Frangipani Oil perfume from Viva la Body, a local skincare and fashion house. They make beautiful things and also do wonderful gift packs, which they will send on your behalf.

Here are some random pics from the market on Sunday. I just love seeing so many different varieties of orchids, they are so beautiful and a feast for my eyes as they do not grow very well in the cold Canberra climate.

365 Places: Christ Church Cathedral

Day 51: Christ Church Cathedral, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia

Today, my post is about a place that had a significant impact on me as a young person: my family’s church in Darwin, Christ Church Cathedral.

Every Sunday (or sometimes even more) we would attend services here, with many others, who over the years become our friends and a significant part of our community. It was a place of worship, fun and friendship, a place that impacted on my spiritual life and understandings of the teachings of Jesus Christ. Through this community, I learnt compassion, acceptance and the belief that everyone deserves to be treated equally. Lessons of the spirit that are not bound by religion per se.

As a matter of interest, I was one of the first girls to be a ‘server’, assisting the clergy with the communion.

Christ Church was devastated in Cyclone Tracy, and all that remained of the original church was the sandstone facade. What was rebuilt was a beautiful modernist building that is still striking, particularly the stained glass window.

To find out more about the history of the Cathedral, check out the Christ Church Cathedral website.

365 Places: Parap Markets

Day 50: Parap Markets, Northern Territory, Australia

Today and for the next few posts, I will be writing about a place I love dearly, Darwin. Our family moved to Darwin in 1977, as my Dad worked in the building industry and was employed to work in the rebuilding efforts after Cyclone Tracy devastated Darwin on Christmas day 1974. Many of my school friends lived through this catastrophic event, which literally wiped Darwin out. I will write in detail about Cyclone Tracy later.

For today though, my focus will be the fabulous Parap Markets, which has been a Saturday morning tradition for many years. The markets started in 1982, with some humble offering of some Asian foods (fantastic Laksa), juices and some fresh fruit and vegetables from some of the market gardens. Of course the market was extremely popular with locals at the time, because good quality fresh food was hard to come by. Anyone who lived here in those days will speak of the horrible, old fruit and veg from the larger supermarkets, shipped from down south which cost a bomb. In contrast, the fruit and veg from the markets is locally grown, fresh and mostly organic.

Over the years, and with the expansion of tourism in the dry season, the markets has grown enormously, now with many jewellery and craft stalls, boutique sauces and condiments and lots more great spicy food to enjoy from Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia.

After grabbing delicious (and huge) icy fruit drinks we wandered around and checked out all the stalls. Along the way we met Photographer Louise Denton, who creates some beautiful images of the Top End. I couldn’t resist buying her book – mainly as I couldn’t choose a photograph for the wall at home.

Louise Denton @ Parap Markets, © Tracey Benson 2014
Louise Denton @ Parap Markets, © Tracey Benson 2014

It was great to spend some time wandering around the markets with some friends, enjoying the offerings and doing some people watching. It was also quite nostalgic for me as well, as going to the Parap Market was one of my favourite things to do on the weekend when I lived in Darwin. The Asian food, tropical fruit and seeing people wandering around with big sun hats remind me of how much I treasure Darwin and how it seems so different from any other Australian city, more like South-East Asia because of the climate and relaxed lifestyle.

365 Places: Mandorah

Day 11: Mandorah, Northern Territory, Australia

Today we will be travelling to Mandorah, a seaside village located across Darwin Harbour, about 20 minutes (8 nautical miles) from Cullen Bay.

Map of Mandorah
Map of Mandorah, Image credit: Mandorah Beach Hotel

Mandorah holds many happy memories for me, as I often would escape there for the weekend when I was living in Darwin as an art student. Darwin and the Top End of Australia is very remote and it is difficult to find places close by for weekends: unless you go down the track (Stuart Highway) for camping at Litchfield Park or Kakadu.

When I was living in Darwin in the 1990s, the ferry would leave from Darwin Wharf, not from Cullen Bay. Cullen Bay in those days was only just being established as an affluent bay side community.

On the peninsula there is one hotel – the Mandorah Beach Hotel. It’s website states that it is “Darwin’s own Sea-side Beach-side Hotel Resort”. These images come from the website.

What I love about Mandorah, is that when you sit outside at night, you can see the twinkling lights of Darwin from across the harbour – a very pretty sight indeed.

Sadly the pub closed in September 2013 and it is uncertain if anything else will open in its place.

Mandorah Beach Hotel http://www.mandorahbeachhotel.bigpondhosting.com/location.htm (accessed 30 April 2014)

Era ends as Mandorah pub calls last drinks http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-09-27/mandorah-hotel-closes-katherine-gregory-feature/4984960 (accessed 30 April 2014)