The Museum of New and Old Art, or MONA, as it is affectionately known, is a weird and wonderful place, where ancient Egyptian mummies are placed next to an overweight Lamborghini and intrigue lingers with you, long after you’ve left the gallery.
I flew down to Hobart hot on the tails of their Lonely Planet accolade (the city was crowned number 7 in the guide book’s top destinations for 2013) with no doubt in my mind that the newest museum in the country had something to do with this.
The first thing I noticed as I walked into the hillside monolithic museum was the smell. Everybody around me could smell it. They looked at each other perplexed. It was worse than any zoo I'd visited. People in museums are inherently polite, but you could hear whispers of disbelief as they furiously checked their guidebooks for clarification. I checked the walls for plaques, but nothing could define this smell.
I decided I had to question an official-looking woman. With nostrils of steel, she answered, without even flinching: "Oh, it's the excrement machine, it mimics the human intestinal system." I had heard that MONA is famous for its shock-factor. But I was expecting a few phallic shaped sculptures and some wild pubic hair brush-strokes - not this.
"We feed it twice a day and it poos daily. You've just missed the 2pm release of faeces, but you can see it over there on the conveyor belt." And there it was - a prize dump, fresh and still steaming before my very eyes. There was a row of machines representing the digestive system, breaking down the food, churning it around like soiled washing machines. "You never know what you're going to get. Yesterday it was runny," I overheard the guide.
We were lucky to see this solid, chorizo-shaped poo. The Mona Lisa of shits. My guidebook, which is actually an iPhone-like device, tells me this is ‘Cloaca Professional’, by Belgian artist Wim Delvoye, part of the museum’s Monanism exhibition. The closer you got, the more horrid the smell. And yet, now that my brain has registered this healthy looking shit, the smell was kind of intriguing. Just one more whiff before I go. If this was the ground level, what else was I in for?
MONA is the brainchild of Hobart-born David Walsh, a self-made millionaire, professional gambler, university drop-out and all-round eccentric. He owns the museum and everything in it, therefore he has this I-can-do-whatever-the-fuck-I-want attitude, which is exactly what I love about this museum. This subterranean collection of art could inspire even the most terrified of art-phobics. In fact, the first exhibition is a bar, which we all know helps you digest the experience. (Pun intentional.)
Walsh is also fascinated with death, from the suicide machine, to the collection of funeral songs on a jukebox to the cinerarium where, for $75,000, you can put your ashes on display. I was enamored with the anal lipstick kisses that are prettily pressed on hotel paper. Don't ask. They are exactly as they sound, and perhaps a great idea for a Valentine's Day card, for those who have exhausted every other avenue. That didn't come out right. MONA has certainly perverted me.
Then there's the simple - the white library where the books and bookcases are all painted white. This is the calm before the storm. Outside you are met with 200 porcelain vagina moulds, like the anal kisses, each one tells a different story. Walsh doesn't call it the "subversive adult Disneyland" for nothing. It might not be for everyone but I can tell you there's nothing cheap about it. For a gallery full of shit and genitals it's surprisingly tasteful. Seriously, MONA makes the sex museum in Amsterdam look like a tacky hen's night.
There’s a rich history embedded in the old timber walls of the Royal Mail pub in Goodna, just outside of Brisbane – and a lot of music! 26 years of live music in fact!
It’s seems only fitting that ‘The Mail’s’ began as a stopping off point for travellers, a history that is still continuing today, as this Grand Old Pub is an essential stopping off point for touring Blues n Roots musicians from across the country! Andrew Café, the hotels owner for the last 26 years, together with his loyal patrons and staff, have now established themselves around the nation as one of the best live Blues n Roots venues in Australia.
The old building is essentially unchanged from it's original rustic heritage. The walls are adorned with a random selection of old posters and farm paraphanalia and dusty musical instruments, an old red phone booth out the front, and a great beer garden out the back. You'll find a colourful cross section of local personalities always ready for a yarn - bikers, road workers, hippies, Aussie's of all shapes and sizes. It's a set from an Australian road movie. The pub serves traditional pub food, steaks , burgers, simple with all the trimmings. There's old style pub accommodation upstairs - clean and simple. It's music that brings everyone together at the Royal Mail and there's live music on all weekend and a jam night during the week. This pub just goes off!
Buenos Aires is a vibrant and lively city, full of passionate people, classical architecutre, gastronimical delights, stylish shopping, group dogwalkers, and plenty of history. If you haven’t yet booked accommodation, head to the Palermo Soho or Palermo Hollywood district. With similar character to New York's Soho, or London's Cambden, all you need to experience this stylish city is within close walking distance.
Palermo Soho & Palermo Hollywood are exceptionally reliable for gastronomie dining and night drinks, and of course shopping. Wandering the streets you might walk an entire block without seeing a single restaurant, only to discover the perfect eatery for your evening, hidden out of the way. This is the Palermo area charm. Great walking streets are Thames, Costa Rica, El Salvador or anything leading to or stemming off Plaza Serrano. A good idea is to get a taxi to drop you there - then just wander around, as it will be the best introduction to the area. Locals hang in Palermo Soho & Palermo Hollywood, as opposed to tourists, meaning a charming BA atmosphere exists. Definitely visit by day as well - for cute shops are scattered throughout the area and mostly only open in daylight.
Palermo Soho is hands down one of the best places to shop in Buenos Aires. Plenty of local designers in boutique stores are situated along almost every street, definitely wear your comfy walking shoes! On the weekends all around Plaza Serrano is a design fair for up-and-coming designers who can’t afford to display wares in real shops - and so you find amazing hand-made designs for a great price.
Nearby on Sunday go to Feria de San Telmo, a touristy antiques market that fills the Plaza Dorrego with stalls of costume jewellery, vintage movie posters and all sorts. Browse mini-stalls and watch street performers as you shop. This is pretty close to La Boca, the touristy place with the colourful houses and tango dancers, so worth having a look at both places in one hit.
The artisan markets in San Telmo are absolutely wonderful but only on weekends. Stick around to watch the tango dancers.
An interesting day activity which involves absorbing and understanding the city's politival background, is a trip to the Evita Museum. The amazing wardrobe of Eva peron has been preserved at the Evita Museum, aka Museo Evita, along with detailed documentation of her rise to fame, and Argentina’s love/hate affair with Evita.
Recoleta is a wonderful suburb, very safe and very wealthy. Make sure to visit the famous Recoleta cemetery. Here you'll visit Evita Peron’s tomb and have a guide tell you the history of her life with her presidential husband Juan Peron. There are also fun markets in the park on the weekends in Recoleta.
A great evening is spent Salsa dancing into the early hours of the morning at La Catedral, a charming oversized salsa-only dance floor converted from an 1880’s cathedral hall with live band and art pieces covering wall to ceiling. Best kept secret, no website just an address. La Catedral, Sarmiento 4006, Almagro, Buenos Aires.
Jardin Escondido in Buenos Aire's trendy Palermo Soho district is a divine seven bedroom villa where a young Sofia Coppola and father Francis Ford Coppola’s spent time with family and which is now open as a hotel style villa, kept almost exactly as they had. Home hotel Located in Palermo Hollywood, Home hotel is a modern and peaceful escape from the city's hustle a bustle, with agreat outdoor pool garden bar downstairs open on weekends.
Everything happens at night in the boho-cool cosmopolitan city that is Buenos Aires. You'll find most people sleep in the day, then go for dinner at 11pm and party into the night with tango and drinking til wee-hours. Take note, if you turn up to a restaurant at 8.30-9pm it will probably still be empty. This can be a good or bad thing, depending on your state of mind!
Try these eateries..
Bar 6 – Armenia 1676, Palermo Soho Café-cum-bar-cum-restaurant that fearlessly mixes styles. Very cool for lunch or dinner.
Mott – El Salvador 4685, Palermo Soho Breaks the cosy mould of Palermo’s eating establishments and introduces an industrial aesthetic to the area. Great for lunch or dinner – doesn’t start dinner menu until after 8:30pm, but you can grab a gormet burger or salad before that.
Las Cabras - Locals line the streets waiting for the mouth watering Argentinean BBQ’s served al fresco. Think thick juicy steak, melting BBQ camembert, Parilla of Chorizo with a fine glass of Malbec.
Freddo icecream - Or any gelati venue really. Try the Dulce de Leche flavour, or banana split. There's no going back!
The metro is a great way to get around quickly by day, and taxis are super cheap by night.