Sydney

We finally arrived in Sydney. My goodness it is built up and has building work going on. Still, I’ve parked the car and we are using the brilliant public transportation system.

Bought an Opal travel card, which covers you for trains and buses. This is a successful way of travelling around the city. You obtain the card in the newsagents, pay to put credit on ($35) and off you go. Wish we had this option at home, as it is much better than struggling with money as you embark on a journey. Ok, I know you have Oyster cards in London, but not where I live.

We arrived in the city and decided to do a walk, as mentioned in the free official Sidney Guide. Starting at the harbour we stopped to admire the bridge, which is huge, then walked towards the Opera House. Felt quite emotional when I first spotted the Opera House. It is so iconic and it’s something I’ve known about since I was tiny, and never thought I’d see it in real life.

Yes, of course copeous photography was undertaken. Wouldn’t you? I recently watched a documentary about the construction of the Opera House and it was designed by Jorn Utzon in 1957 but not completed until 1973. He won an international design competition and the work was authorised in 1958. Unfortunately, the design proved challenging with costs and scheduling overrunning and Utzon resigned from the project.

However, eventually Utzon received the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2003 in recognition for his masterpiece and being one of the most iconic buildings of the 20th century. As I viewed the building and looked at the ‘shells’ which house multiple performance venues, I couldn’t help but realise, this prize was richly deserved.

Eventually, we walked to the alluring Botanic Gardens. Love wandering around these enticing parks, this part of the world enjoys, and immersing oneself in the astounding gardens. The array of colour and curious plants and trees are fascinating and disparate. Quite extraordinary to observe and admire.

Continuing on to Mrs Macuarie’s Chair, we took more photos of the harbour and continued. Rather embarrassed to admit to taking some ‘selfies’ here! Even I’ve succumbed but the views are quintessential and I couldn’t resist.

Onwards to the Art Gallery of NSW. Love going around these places and enjoyed some work by Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud. Bacon argued the only way to portray fact or truth, is through a form of distortion.

Freud is interested about not who but how the person is. How they sprawl, sag, stare and so on. This painting seems to convey reality and soul. Personally, I like the weird, abstract and surreal stuff but it has to be artistic and not frames with a splash of paint. Paintings that contain the reality of a situation, their passion, exhaustion, happiness or distress, etc. It definitely should convey imagery and not be like a photo either. What do you like to see?

We walked past the historic Library, Parliament House, Mint and Hyde Park Barracks and walked into St Mary’s Cathedral. The cathedral looks like one you’d see in England and reminded me of home. Inside the place has an ethereal, peaceful atmosphere.

Finally, we arrived at the Hyde Park & Anzac War Memorial. The public space of the J.F. Archibald Memorial Fountain is moving and impressive.

During the evening we frequented a couple of super pubs. The first one was called Taprooms and I enjoyed a glass of Endeavour Pale Ale (4.5%).

Also, enjoyed the oldest pub in Sydney, Lord Nelson Brewery which had some English style ales available! Hubby was rather pleased.

Jolly splendid end to our day of walking and seeing lots of amazing sights.

Road Trip

After the Great Barrier Reef experience, we’ve been making our way towards Sydney. This is going to take a few days with stops along the way.

First though, we had a few hours on the beach at Alex Head. It will come as no surprise the beaches are superb in Australia. They seem to fill up early and then the crowds dissipate as the day goes on.

Southport (Gold Coast)

We stopped on the Gold Coast at Southport in the terribly glamourous hotel called Meriton Suites and it was pretty sumptuous, I can tell you. We acquired a really cheap deal and thought it might be a dump haha. Think it’s the poshest place I’ve ever stayed in. Like a penthouse suite and with a most spectacular view from our balcony..

Unfortunately, the surrounding area was a little bland so it shows you need to check the location too. However, we enjoyed getting out and about to a local craft beer bar on the tram. The place is called House of Brews and had the most beer taps, I’ve seen for a long time.

Tamborine Mountain

We also ventured out in the car, during the day to Tamborine Mountain. This is a beautiful area, with a picturesque road full of individual houses as unique shops, galleries, cafes and restaurants. We wandered around and my husband bought a shirt, then went back and purchased two more.

The Tamborine Skywalk followed this shopping expedition. Oh wow, what an eco adventure offering a thrilling exploration through the rain forest. You walk 300 metres up on steel bridges and it is a bit scary when it wobbles! A magnificent walk seeing tumbling creeks, rock pools, various plants/trees, butterflies, birds and such a great way to explore the rainforest canopies.

Just before we headed home, we went for a stroll towards Curtis Falls. The trail goes off into a woodland and I was worried we might become lost or disoriented. It had good directions though and was a great walk through the Aussie natural environment. We also met a chap with family at the falls and he took our photo. This was well worth doing as the falls are stunning and gave us some much needed exercise too.

Byron Bay (Gold Coast)

Onwards towards Sydney, and we stopped at the famous Byron Bay. Oh my goodness me, another Utopian feeling came over me. So we clamoured out of the car, we looked towards the sea and saw a bloke singing and strumming a guitar, as you do, in the middle of a parkland area, over looking the most glorious coastline. The sea is so blue. We chilled out and enjoyed the ambience then wandered around the bohemian type shops. I purchased a couple of summer dresses and chatted to the friendly Aussie who was born in Spain but raised in Melbourne and gave us a glowing account of New Zealand.

So off we went again. This time we stayed in a hotel at Cotts Harbour which was ghastly. Tiny, faded, dirty, no plug for the sink although the bed was ok. After, the last place, it was dreadful. The same company’s hotels in Europe, are always basic, but the decor is good and has everything you need. Not here and never again, but we’ve learnt from it. You do need something more than a bed when travelling hundreds of miles.

At least the pub was fine and we had a decent curry in the local town. Looking forward to some home cooked meals again though. Hopefully, we can acquire a unit in Sydney for a few days. (Units are small flats/apartments with kitchen facilities.)

Oh, and we sat in the pub wondering why they shut at 9pm, and suddenly realised New South Wales are on a different time zone to Queensland. Oh, the fun of travelling.

 

 

The Great Barrier Reef (Never again…!)

So we rocked up half an hour before sailing and waited to be summoned to the relevant vessel. Eventually, a steward appeared and we went on the boat leaving most of the customers behind. She had to bellow again and they woke up, and moved. Well it was 7am in the morning, so you can’t expect people to be sharp.

We settled in our nice seats ready for our cruise to the Great Barrier Reef. Kindle ready, and looking forward to morning tea and a cake. This should be a good day.

As soon as the boat started we started to rock fiercely. It’s a fast catamaran that goes at about 22 knots, riding the tips of some big waves. We sat there while they went through the obligatory safety procedures and already I was feeling rough. A steward came round and advised me to go to the top deck and sit in the front of the boat, in the fresh air which I endeavoured to do.

Walking, legs wide, pouncing from hand rail to hand rail, I somehow got to the relevant place with all the other sickies. Sat in the middle of the bench, wind howling, waves rolling, clutching fiercely wondering how I was going to survive for two, long hours. Couldn’t move because of the violent rocking of the boat. Lots of young chaps were joking around about how ill they were feeling and whether they could stand or not and the steward explained how ‘you get used to it’ and demonstrated his skill of ‘sea legs’ by walking round without looking paralytically drunk (like the rest of us).

Of course, eventually one man went down and we all followed suit. Mr ‘Sea Legs’ promptly got the hose out and I went down stairs and sat at the back of the boat desperately wondering if we were ever going to get there.

We did. It was a wonderful day.

The water became calm, vivid blue and we went over to the Lady Musgrave Island for a walk. The sand is almost white with the most beautiful shells, faurna and trees. Lady Musgrave Island is the only coral cay navigable lagoon on the entire Grea Barrier Reef.

The Island is a 35 acres coral cay with surrounding reef and named after the wife of Anthony Musgrave, a Governor of Queensland. Apparently, Lady Musgrave held tea parties on the island.

We explored the island with our guide and learnt about how the female birds, noddy-terns, sit on a branch whilst waiting for the male bird to bring them yellow leaves, to build a nest. They sit, like princesses, only accepting one in ten leaves. When the leaf is accepted, they poop on it, to build the nest and the male bird goes off to look for more suitable leaves.

On the way back to our vessel, we had a glass bottom boat tour and observed sea creatures including fish, turtles and stingrays, with educational and informal commentary. Back to the boat for lunch and snorkelling.

The lunch was superb. Lots of salads with cold cuts, bread rolls and all the food was fresh and yummy. The most amazing aspect of the day is the snorkelling. I was a little unsure about this as you snorkel off the vessel but put the gear on and just went for it. Can’t tell you how stunningly beautiful the Reef is. Having all the colourful fish, float past you is a most surreal and special experience. I swam around looking at the Reef for a long time. The vibrant colours are extraordinary and I’m so pleased I experienced this part of the day because it is magical.

So after this we dried off, took photos and enjoyed the views and then eventually set off home. I grabbed an afternoon tea and cake because I’d missed out on the morning refreshments. The trip back started off calmer.

It didn’t last. I sat still this time, drifting in and out of sleep. Then the banging started, the waves rolled violently and I kept my eyes shut, trying to ignore the rolling waves.

“Are you ok?”The concerned steward asked.

Staggered to the facilities…

This time, I returned to my seat, helped by Miss Concerned Steward, and hubby is still there, sitting, reading his Kindle.

I would like to mention the staff on this vessel were extremely helpful, concerned and very aware of your personal safety. As I came out of the facilities, I think I could have easily had an accident, if it wasn’t for the support of the staff. The boat was rolling up and down and it was difficult to hang on!

For all that, I wouldn’t have missed this trip for the world. Never thought I’d go snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef and it was certainly one of life’s great experiences.

No more boat trips though. Never again. NEVER. By the way, hubby wants to go whale watching.

Bundaberg, birds and beer stories….

We arrived at Kelly’s Villas and thought I’m on the set of the Aussie soap Home and Away. The place has an old world Aussie charm about it. Staff are cheerful, hard working folk and we immediately felt at home.

An evening dinner was booked in Kelly’s Restaurant and beforehand we had a quick exploration drive around the surrounding area. The beach is pretty and very Home and Away plus the surrounding area has neat, tidy attractive houses with colourful immaculate garden areas. Aussies definitely seem to take pride in their surroundings.

Back at the residence, the dinner was amazing. I enjoyed barramundi and quickly realised this quaint place had secured a superb chef. Also, a good range of beers was supplied by a well stocked bar. The beer comes from a local brewery, the Bargara Brewing Company and the beer Drunk Fish, has an interesting story attached to it.

During the night, we kept the windows open because they are covered in mesh. Trouble is, the wind banged the blinds, the birds woke up early and I said to hubby:

”It’s like trying to sleep in a zoo.”

He laughed out loud and replied, “Or an Avery.”

I kid you not, the noise of the birds are incredible in Australia. Swear I thought there was a bloke standing out of our bedroom window whistling. Nope, it was one of the birds. Squawking, whistling and believe it or not, tapping.  Sure they are all in competition with each other. Then they come into a crescendo, go quiet for 5 seconds and start again.

Hubby’s phone went and we washed, dressed then I shouted out to hubby, it is only 3.45 to which he told me he wouldn’t be long and I bellowed out the time again. He heard me properly this time, and shouted out that he understood my point. We were meant to be getting up at 5 am for a trip. The ‘alarm’ was a spam phone call. We dozed until about 5am, but the Avery became too much, so we got up ready for our trip to the Great Barrier Reef.

Next post is all about our jaunt to the Great Barrier Reef. What could possibly go wrong? 🙄

Why I missed the plane and benefits of travel…

The unexpected dramatic situation…
Before we left Dubai, we experienced a situation which although dramatic, wasnt the end of mankind, so all fine. Just inconvenient.

After a sleepless night worrying whether the alarm would work in the right time zone, we rushed down for breakfast and then collected our luggage. A nice man took us on the hotel buggy and informed us he had phoned our taxi and it was on the way. Very efficient.

Well, we waited…and waited.

The helpful man made an agitated phone call.

Apparenty, the Dubai Tourist Board, in their joyful wisdom, had shut the road for a bike race.

“We will miss our plane.”

We declared growing anxious.
The helpful man consulted the hotel Manager, who contacted various officials, including the police. My hubby was taken into the hotel office and came out to inform me, we are now on tonight’s flight at 9.15pm instead of the 9.35am.

Off we went to our room, for our extended stay, to download new boarding passes and consult family about the drama.

In my wisdom, during this unexpected extra time, I decided to write a blog post about the benefits of travel and how to overcome small disasters, such as the above.

Benefits of Travel

One of the benefits of travel is realising these things happen. A lot. Certainly in my world. What is important is communication, not to panic (which is challenging) and find ways to resolve the problem (which can also be challenging). Thankfully, the hotel staff seemed genuinely concerned and very helpful. Also, when we emailed our forwarding hotel, they responded sympathetically too.

Travelling helps you become independent and motivates you to speak to people of various countries, cultures and even folks from your own country. Organising yourself is also a prerequisite. All the accommodation, car hire, flights, etc and deciding what to see and visit, when you do finally arrive.

I’ve wanted to travel since I was young. Life just gets in the way. Now I’m older, I can take the time and go where I fancy.

To be honest, I like going out to explore my local vicinity too and enjoy the fresh air. You really don’t have to go far. In my humble opinion, just go out and explore, even if it is your local area where you live. It is a great way to gain unforgettable experiences and become tolerant of others.
 Something I struggle with especially when people talk loudly and endlessly on their phones.

Yes, it teaches you about yourself as well and makes you analyse your behaviour. Why do I moan when I’ve walked miles and miles at the end of the day? Pointless and unnecessary. Especially, when you consider all those special moments, local food, history and culture. If you are home and/or abroad it teaches you about the cultural differences and what makes your area and culture unique.
Different situations arise and you really do have to keep calm and carry on.

Onwards and upwards…and don’t forget all those mementos and memories you are collecting.

Main benefits of travel to help you on your way (hopefully)…

– Communicate and convey any challenging problems, with a smile

– Travel encourages you to become independent and motivates you to speak to people, doesn’t it?

– Organising yourself (accommodation, car hire, flights)

– If you want to explore just do it even if it’s your local surroundings

– It is a great way to gain unforgettable experiences and become tolerant of others

– Teaches you about yourself
- Keep calm and carry on (try anyway)
- You acquire some great memories and stories

Visiting South Bank, Brisbane and musings…

Botanic Gardens in Mount Coot-tha and musings

Yesterday, we visited the Botanic Gardens in Mount Coot-tha and it was very hot. Lots of water was drunk as we wandered around the woodlands, lakes and Japanese garden. For some reason, probably because of the heat, couldn’t really enjoy the area as much as the gardens in Brisbane (centre). However, did appreciate the picnic areas by the lake which are truly beautiful.

After this, we went home to our flat and enjoyed some relaxation by the pool. Felt very tired, which annoys me because one shouldn’t be tired on holiday or ‘travelling’, as I’ve labelled it. Travel and sightseeing can make you weary with all the planning, walking and seeing stuff. Wonderful though, and I am thoroughly enjoying the whole experience.

Back to the City…

We decided to visit the city centre as we needed some advice about travelling north and the Great Barrier Reef. One thing that we realised is it is as quick to walk, rather than catch a train for one stop.

Brisbane has become very hot, which apparently is unexpected. Usually the temperatures soar in January and February. The walk towards the river is hot and luckily, quite breezy. We booked our visit up North with accommodation after taking advice in the very ornate Brisbane Tourist Office on Queen’s Street.

After this visit, we walked across the bridge towards South Bank and went in the Queensland Art Gallery. This is an innovative facility full of ancient and modern art of Australia, Asia and the Pacific. The focus is on indigenous art and an extraordinary light and airy WaterMall. Yes, it is water (above)! This fosters a historical impression with paintings, sculpture, film, photography and obscure installations using materials of Australian fibre art to indicate old and new stories, themes and traditions.

Then we visited the Gallery of Modern Art which has a contemporary take relating to current themes and some colourful art on a larger scale. This isn’t as prolific as the Queensland Art Gallery and couldn’t help wondering if the best things about this gallery, are the spectacular views out of the window.

We strolled along and consumed an over large ice cream, admired views of the parkland, Brisbane Wheel and city vistas. Then, for me, surprise, surprise we turn a corner and there is the most beautifully landscaped pool with beach. Flipping heck, is this the Utopian City or what? Absolutely, unprecedented sight and quite phenomenal. The area is well used by the community and even the childrens’ pool is beautifully landscaped with a pebble type stream with crane/wheel-like toys in. The sparkling lagoon is surrounded by tropical plants, sandy beaches and picnic areas. Truly wonderful.

Final thoughts on Brisbane…

We loved Brisbane. Well designed and presented, clean, tidy, attractive, vibrant and lots to do. Also, it is worth making a point that a lot of the things are FREE, including the galleries, live music venues and the wide variety of cultural activities on offer.

The CityHopper is a great way to discover the city, parks and outdoor areas whilst observing the city metropolis, skyscrapers and busy workers. You can also enjoy a variety of performing arts, internationally acclaimed cultural exhilbitions and events. The bars are friendly with a wide variety of craft beers, gins, whiskies and wines. Queen Street is fabulous for shopping and basically you have everything you need here. I can highly recommend it as a place to visit and discover all that it has to offer.

 

 

Outdoor living…

I’d been hankering after a visit to the beach since arriving in Australia. Yes, after visiting Dubai and then Singapore, we finally arrived. Hooray.

As mentioned in my previous blog post, we’ve extensively explored Brisbane and now wish to see some coastal places. The nearest seaside spots, are Manly and Wynnum.

We arrived after about a 20 minute drive and parked. Walked along the Waterloo Esplanade, around the bay, to Manly Yacht Club, wandered around the bay area then went on the hunt for a supermarket so we could precure some sort of lunch. We eventually found a supermarket, after much searching (we walked past it) and had a delicious veggie pasty and crisps. Not a health day then.

Back around the bay, to the car and then onwards to Wynnum. The seaside views are lovely and although the beach is only a small one, there are many facilities to keep you busy. Outdoor sea water pools, fountain play showers, recreational parks, wind surfing, and the bbqs open bbq/picnic huts. It was like looking at one of those 1960s architecture plans/drawings for family outside spaces, we had to examine during geography, at school. I quickly realised that this is what the whole space reminds me of. The ultimate outdoor living for family life and thoroughly used by the community.

Australia has the best facilities for outdoor living. We’ve all heard this, but it isn’t until you see it, you realise how true this is. The facilities are truly splendid. Australians have built in bbqs and they are abundant along this coast. Families congregate, bbq, have picnics, go in the pool and generally have fun. There are water sports (fishing, wind surfing, kayaking), a fishing pier, shops, sailing or you can just hang out on the small beach. The place is vibrant and packed with families and this is great to see. Oh, and you can arrive and park. There’s a novelty. No stupid yellow lines or resident parking only signs everywhere.

Oddly enough, it probably isn’t the greatest area because it only has a small beach called Pandanus Beach. The shoreline is covered with mangroves and aromatic mudflats which makes it unsuitable for sunbathing or swimming. However, the views and family facilities are marvellous and the bay path is great for a stroll to see all the yachts sailing around the bay.

What impressed me, was how everything is set out for the purpose of encouraging families to relax and have fun. The area started to be popular in the 1930s and still has the old fashioned charm about it. Lucky Australians having this wonderful outdoor life.