Melbourne – Arriving and Exploring…

Arriving

After many hours of driving our arrival at Melbourne city centre, got off to an inauspicious start. We decided to return our car and use public transportation whilst in Melbourne. Thus started the real life nightmare. We’ve had a few instances with this car and frankly, was keen to see the back of it. Also, personally prefer to get about by bus, tram and train in cities. Can’t really understand why everyone doesn’t feel that way but by the amount of traffic in Melbourne, this clearly isn’t everyone’s opinion.

I located the office and car park on Google maps and we drove there. Simple. Unfortunately, we forgot to fill the stupid car up with petrol so I located a petrol station on G maps. Except it wasn’t one. It was a shop selling lots of lovely food. Also, during this time, I’d taken over driving, had a meltdown because of the trams, and was on navigation duties again. The mobile signal and or g maps continued to also have a meltdown so I attempted to evaluate the situation, and turn off the phone. Ho hum.

Another go at finding petrol failed miserably and we realised we would have to drive until we find one. Are you feeling panicked yet? Because I was giving up hope.

Two hours later we still hadn’t found one and the gauge was dropping. Eventually, we stopped outside the city and asked someone. Something my father used to do. Yes, it has been confirmed, google maps seems to go haywire in Melbourne. The man informed hubby of directions and we found a petrol station. Hooray.

The panic had set in and it was like one of those reaccuring nightmares where you can’t quite get to where you want to be. Except it is real life. On the way back to the car park we saw many petrol stations. Of course we did. When we took the car to the drop off rental place, the official asked if we’d filled up, started the car and said we could go. This meant that we didn’t have to visit the car rental office. The relief was profound. Hooray.

Not a great start to the wonders of Melbourne but onwards and upwards…

 

First day exploring – Arcades and Lanes

A good way of becoming accustomed to an area is to do a walk. We decided on Arcades and Lanes Walk to integrate ourselves with Melbourne.

The Tourist Office in Melbourne, similar to others in Australia, appropriates useful information in a friendly way. You can pick up all sorts of useful information including leaflets, walks, transport, maps and tips about the area. Think most of the staff are volunteers and they are incredibly good at what they do.

We set off with our leaflet on this particular walk through cobbled streets, arcades and lanes. It is fascinating to view the old buildings juxtaposed with new.

Degraves Street and along to Centre Place are known to be meccas for café society, juice bars, healthy foods, fresh coffee and the like. Some of the cafes are tiny, chic hotspots with recycled cinema seats and even benches from a former court of law. Very quaint, cool and fun.

Then to the famous Block Arcade which is named after the fashionable Collins Street where people flocked to ‘do The Block’. This area was built between 1891 and 1893 and retains the heritage shopping experience with mosaic-tile flooring and carved stone decorative interior. This is said to be one of the finest examples of a 19th century shopping arcade.

Continuing through the trendy areas of Melbourne and elegant, old shopping arcades we could see why people like Melbourne so much.

Unique expressions of art and music appear throughout the city and make the walking experience exciting. The independent shops, cosy cafes and laneways threading through the city are wonderful to behold.

One of the most distinctive places, for me, on this walk is the Capitol Arcade which opened in 1924. Was this one of the first shopping malls? It is beautiful and designed by Walter Burley Griffin (architect of Canberra) and Marion Mahony Griffin. It is a truly magnificent area with a great book shop to peruse in the basement.

The historical buildings, warehouses are also full of charm. In fact, this walk is charming as you see the shabby chic and quirky places mingling with glamourous, historical architecture. The graceful arches of Cathedral Arcade are extraordinarily exquisite, retaining original features and linking Swanston Street and Flinders Lane in the Central Business District of Melbourne. The arcade is covered with stained glass and lead lights which creates an amazing dome. The shop fronts feature wooden panels and the building is listed on the Victorian heritage Register.

How do you think we ended this walk? Yes, a pub. Well, the walk instructed us to. We had a quick drink in Young and Jackson where beer has flowed for over a hundred years. Drinking our beers, we sat in the bar pondering the nude portrait Cloe which shocked conservative Melbourne and made the hotel famous. The place is devine with photographs of old Melbourne adorning the walls. The public house is beautifully restored and blends a boutique bar and classic pub perfectly. A perfect end to our first day.

 

Cornwall – Castles, beaches, art, pubs, walking and opinions…

Before this blog dissipates completely, I thought I’d better write a post. This week I am holidaying in Falmouth, Cornwall and have been very busy.

On Sunday, I visited the magnificent Pendennis Castle, one of Henry VIII’s coastal forts. Really enjoyed wandering around the castle and surrounding area. The castle itself transports you back to 16th century invasions and the tensions of World War 2 defences. The grounds are equally impressive with beautiful coastline views and various exhibitions of canons and artillery.

On Monday, I drove to the Eden Project which has certainly grown up since I last visited it with rather unimpressed children 👶. Nestled in a crater are Biomes housing a rainforest, Mediterranean gardens, art installations and other events such as an over loud story teller for the bored children. Entrance fees, which are extortionate, support environmental projects. You can also enjoy or endure a zip wire which is England’s longest and fastest zip wire experience if you wish too. I was quite keen, but put off when I saw some chap get stuck half way. He just stopped. The zip wire chaps left him dangling embarrassingly for several minutes before they arrived and dragged him back with rope and poles. No to that zip wire fun then!

On Tuesday, I drove to St Ives for a day of wandering around galleries, craft shops and stuffing myself with ice cream with clotted cream on top. Some contemporary art, which I love, is very inspirational and ingenious but some pieces are ridiculous and vastly overpriced. However, this is part of the experience to formulate an overinflated opinion and be judgemental whilst looking for that piece of art you just have to have. The beach views, as a backdrop to the aimless wandering, are quite glorious too.

Today, I went on a 6 mile walk around Falmouth through farmland and ending up walking along the coast. Beautiful Cornish views helped keep up my energy as did the humongous crab sandwich and just when I thought I was full, I stuffed myself stupid with another clotted cream ice cream 🍦in the wonderful beach cafe.

So that is how the week has gone so far. Of course I have frequented a few pubs too. Beerwolf Books is my idea of heaven. A pub with a book shop. Browse the books and have a pint. Pennycomequick is a great place too for both food and drink. The staff are ‘millennials’ and extremely helpful, cheerful, efficient and enthusiastic. Having encountered many experienced but curmudgeonly  landlords during my time, can’t help thinking this is the approach to stop so many pubs closing. Be pleasant and sell a good variety of what people want in a clean and inviting ambience.

The pubs, cafes and restaurants in Falmouth are splendid and everyone seems friendly too which helps the beer go down.

Ok, I’ve walked a long way so just out for a quick drink. Thanks for reading.

Scotland

Riding around the Loch Ness area…

Recently, I’ve returned from a trip to Scotland and Northumberland. What surprised me about the North of England and Scotland is just how much empty space there is. Fields upon fields of land and yet everybody seems obsessed with building copious schemes in the south of England. Ridiculous. Ok, I knew this just by looking on the map, but was still shocked how quiet and empty the area is in real life.

Having made this controversial statement, I must admit to being grateful that I live in the south without the interminable grey, cold weather. However, many people enjoy the wilderness of this area and it is great if you want to ingratiate yourself in a calm, quiet region, away from it all. Of course, there is a lot to see and do in Scotland too…

This post concentrates on the main places I visited but I enjoyed many walks, road trips and curious cafes too that are not all mentioned here. One of these was walking to see the Falls of Foyers which was quite exquisite. Burns and Wordsworth wrote fondly about the falls and beautiful scenery. I suspect the walk was more precarious in their time. People were friendly and welcoming during my tour of Scotland and it was an excellent trip. The start of a long list of places to visit, across the world!

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Firstly, I visited Edinburgh and enjoyed the bustle of the city with a great array of pubs, eateries and atmosphere. I stayed in a Bed and Breakfast near the city which wasn’t extortionately expensive, although the room was circa 1970s and the hardest bed I’ve ever attempted to sleep in. On the plus side, the breakfast was delicious and after a twenty minute stroll, I was in the centre of Edinburgh.

One of the first things I did, was go on the open top bus, hop on and off facility. You have a great view of the city and go at the pace you want hopping off, as necessary. Many historical places are on the tour and as you listen to the tour guide, you obtain snippets of local information, that you may not hear otherwise. Palace of Holyroodhouse is an impressive building and founded as a monastery in the 12th century which is now used for state and official entertaining. The Royal Mile is famous because it goes up towards the Edinburgh Castle. This castle has seen many sieges and battles with royalty having died within the walls. The guide also points out famous pubs and restaurants which are worth visiting. I can recommend the Dome which is a magnificent, grand building with a beautiful glass domed ceiling, pillared arches and has a great selection of food, including afternoon teas and cocktails. A real treat.

One of the humorous tales, as told by a lively and loud tour guide, is often it took so long to travel from Edinburgh to London, with the poor people precariously perched on top of the horse and carriage, that the proprietors of the coaching company insisted you had to have a valid Will before travelling! This is where the “Where there’s a will, there’s a way…” famous quote comes from. I’d wrongly assumed the “will” meant tenacity or similar.

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After Edinburgh, I drove north to Perth and then Inverness. This is known to be the cultural capital of the Scottish highlands and has an impressive castle overlooking the the River Ness. The red sandstone castle was built in 1836 by architect William Burn and on the site of an 11th-century defensive structure. This is a lively and interesting town and of course, a great base for sightseeing the local area and the infamous Loch Ness.

I drove around the Loch Ness and took the boat trip on the loch itself. The views are heavenly and this was my favourite landscape in Scotland. Exploring the area is fun and the scenery is spectacular.
Plenty of places to eat and drink, although I find the pubs up north rather male orientated but a special mention must go to the fabulous Black Isle Bar which sells a great selection of craft beers, ales and yummy pizzas. I’m not a fan of pizza, but even I enjoyed it.

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After this I decided it woul
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After this I decided it would be a clever idea to reach John O’Groats because, well, I’d got this far. All the driving during this adventure was exhausting but it is great to reach to top of the UK. Something you look at on the map and never expect to reach there. It is great to say you’ve been!

However, contrary to popular belief, it is not the UK’s most northern point, Dunnet Head is, and this is much more inspiring. The rugged peninsula in Caithness has a wild landscape with spectacular vistas, coastal grasslands and a long list of birds including puffins, razorbills, guillemots and kittiwakes. Now, this is worth a visit.

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Next back towards the Ben Nevis area, Fort William. Unfortunately, I didn’t really realise how far it was and managed to find a place to stay in Fort Augustus for the night. This was a last minute find. I drove up a drive expecting a room and over chatty landlady, and was shown a large caravan with instructions to drop the key in the letter box by 10am the next day. Brilliant. I was exhausted and could chill out in the caravan. What luck! I don’t mind being sociable but not after driving forever and a day haha.

Fort William is a pleasant town, but the heavens opened for the three days I was there and so the scenery did dissipate into a foggy mass. Never mind, onwards to Glasgow.

9303519.jpg”> Broad St. is used for American movies because of its likeness! Source: Google

This was a great city. Yes, I was surprised to

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This was a great city. Yes, I was surprised too. My favourite experience on this trip around Scotland. Full of vibrancy and interest although still cold and miserable. I was able to enjoy the glorious architecture, and immerse myself in the culture too. The city has so much to offer.

The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is a must do. I was lucky enough to be there when the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Exhibition was on and was incredibly fascinating. Before I left, the following morning I visited the Mackintosh House. A great way to finish my visit to Scotland.

During the above visit to Scotland I did a few detours to such sights as the Forth Bridge/s and the Falkirk Wheel.

Thank you very much for reading my blog and don’t forget to subscribe. Cheers,

Andy

Cap d’Antibes – Coastal Walk

This walk captures the beauty of the Cote d’Azur and is a superb way of ingratiating yourself into the natural environment of this area. Plus the simple fact that your can park for free at the Plage de la Garoupe beach and then feed your soul with the magnificent 5k walk. It only takes about a couple of hours and is well worth doing. The walk can be rocky in places so do wear trainers or sensible footwear.

Cote d’Azur is known for magnificent properties, manicured gardens and superfluous wealth but this walk is surprisingly simple and enjoys a wild natural landscape. Also, you have the Mercantour National Park and the Estérel mountains to savour as you scramble carefully over the rocks.

On one occasion, I nearly fell because I was so busy looking at the clear blue sea, mountains, flowers and resplendent landscape. Parts of the path are properly built pathways but then dissipate into rocks, beach, and steep steps so can be precarious.

The limestone cliffs are very pretty because they are covered in glorious vivid flora, olive trees, exotic cacti and the cumbersome agaves. The blend of crystal clear blue water, rocky coves and mother nature is spectacular.

The final part of the walk is along a road called Avenue de Beaumont and then along Avenue de la Tour Gandolphe. Make time to enjoy the gardens and general serene landscape of this gorgeous vicinity, and then when you locate the beach, you can then enjoy some refreshment at the beach café and languish some more. Great fun.

Chilham, Bluebells and Whitstable

Chilham Castle in the distance…

 

We decided to venture out for a day in Chilham for a bluebell walk which was organised by the RSC (Royal Society of Chemistry). Luckily, we were blessed with a warm, sunny day and arrived an hour early due to my husband’s keenness for punctuality! The village is small with a medieval square overlooked by the impressive and imposing Chilham Castle. We wandered around hoping to find a tea shop open for a quick cuppa, but nothing opened until ten o’clock. They maybe missing a business trick here. It didn’t matter, it is wonderful to stroll around and take photos including the Tudor houses and St. Mary’s Church.

Chilham

Everyone arrived and met at Shelly’s tea shop, which was also irritatingly shut, and we introduced ourselves and ventured forth towards King’s Wood. The landscape and woodland around Chilham is truly exquisite and the bluebells just seem to become more impressive as the walk continued.

The walking folks were very friendly and I discussed my interest in health and fitness with a lady called Kate who was into fitness and yoga, and a possible hope to do a charity 10k run in the Autumn. Everyone, was very encouraging, but I’m still considering the challenge because trust me, it will be a massive task for me.

Some scientific conversations did ensue and we heard an interesting story about how nerve gas doesn’t dissipate into the atmosphere and could be doing the rounds on our currency! Then we were told a tale about when currency is scientifically examined, all sorts of drug traces are found…

The walk was fun and it is always interesting to chat to new people and hear their take on life. The views are incredible around Chilham and I’m sure the castle is well worth a visit too.

Whitstable…

 

After we had our lunch, we drove to Whitstable and after eventually parking the car, we wandered along the sea front. My goodness, it was busy. Apparently, this is where London people go to at the weekend. In other words, it has become the trendy place to visit. It shows too. All the old huts and houses have been painted and refurbished and of course, the property prices have, no doubt, shot up.

To be fair, it is a great place to visit with the selection of arty galleries, shops, (micro) pubs, restaurants, etc. We have decided to come back on a week day to explore properly and hopefully it won’t be quite so busy.

All in all a fabulous day out and I can’t wait to go back to Chilham and Whitstable.

Oyster stall..

 

 

Films, Gravesend, Community Pub and Snow!

So after the flu nonsense, things are slowly getting back to normal. Because of this, I thought I’d do a chatty blog post about my recent favourites.

  • Films

I went to see the Darkest Hour with my friend which, as I’m sure you know, is a British war film directed by Joe Wright, written by Anthony McCarten and stars Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill. Yes, I liked it and found the drama, atmosphere and historical ambience, extremely authentic. Obviously, some of the plot is fictional but lets face it, we all got the drift! Excellent film and well worth seeing. Films/dramas are good for reminding people, particularly the very young, of what went on in the past.

The other film I saw was The Post, an American political thriller, directed by Steven Spielberg, written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer. This film stars Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. Both Streep and Hanks performed well and you couldn’t help thinking about the film’s allusions to Nixon and Trump. The plot relates to leaked papers about the Vietnam war, being surreptitiously leaked to The New York Times and after a court injunction ending up being published by The Washington Post during the early 70s. The Post is owned by heiress Katharine Graham, who is often overruled by overbearing male colleagues. That is until she decides to publish the papers and sticks to her brave decision despite frenetic opposition. This is another good film which, enamored from a feminist viewpoint and reminded me how times have changed in the workplace. Most bosses, in this film, were portrayed as male and well over 40. The youngsters were used as message carriers, etc. However, dare I say, I sat thinking older people have enormous value in the workplace because of wisdom, knowledge and experience. Not always sure if giving an inexperienced youngster a senior position (as nowadays) unless a brilliant incumbent, is a good idea. The film shows how feminism has changed times over the last 40 years, but I must confess, found the age issue as above, more prevalent and captivating.

  • Gravesend, Photography and a Community Owned Pub!

A few weeks ago, we decided to drive towards north Kent. Having suffered flu, I was desperate to go out for the day. We drove to Dartford, and found it a bit run down and uninteresting so drove to Gravesend which was quite curious, in a strange sort of way.

We wandered about the ancient town and found a vintage market and some independent shops. We stopped for a cup of tea in a vintage cafe and then strolled towards the Gravesend Town Pier. This is the world’s oldest surviving cast iron pier, built in 1834 and refurbished in 2004 as a restaurant.

The view, which included the Gravesend – Tilbury Ferry, was splendidly gritty with the grey, glowing sky and wind turbines. Out came the Nikon camera.

The views were dull and spectacular at the same time. Grey clouds, distant industry, moving turbines and a red vessel. Many minutes were spent fiddling with the white balance and appropriate camera settings to get the gritty photo. It was exciting because I knew I could capture something different from the usual landscape photography.

The LV21 lightship is moored here and a spectacular sight. It was built in 1963 and a unique 40m steel-hulled lightship which saw most service, off the Kent coast. She has now undergone a transformation into a floating cultural facility designed to host artists of various disciplines.

  • The Community Pub!

Eventually we left Gravesend and drove towards Stockbury to visit a community owned pub, the Harrow. During 2016, a public meeting attracted 150 folks to dig deep into their pockets and raise £300,000 to save the pub. Well, what an amazing place. A beautiful bar area, friendly staff serving a wonderful selection of ales, craft beer, gin, whisky and wine. Oh, and the food looked good as well. The landlady was trying to eat a roast dinner whilst serving the thirsty community. Up and down like a yo-yo, poor women. She kept smiling and seemed to enjoy her role. Wonderful place, just wish I had a jolly, well kept local like this one, near me.

  • We’ve finally had some snow!

A few days ago we had a couple of inches of snow so I grabbed my Nikon, and went off traipsing over fields to shoot the snow filled landscape, which is something I hadn’t done before because the UK snow doesn’t reach Kent very often. It was quite awkward trying to take photos and keep the camera dry. Somehow managed to take some shots whilst the snow was falling and even managed to crawl on the freezing grass for one photo. Great fun though, and I liked one or two of the results. It is true what the experts say, you have to take about 50 photos to find one you like.

  • Musings about Blogging

Recently, because of the time of year, found it tricky to find enough to write about, but as I’ve sat down this sunny, spring like afternoon, I’ve managed to find a few snippets to blog about. So the moral of the story is, if you’ve run out of content ideas, just sit down and write!

Thank you for reading my blog and don’t forget to follow.

Will this be the year of walking and photography?

Unfortunately, I’ve been poorly for much of January and only just getting back to normal. To be honest, it has made me feel low and lethargic. Hence, the lack of posts lately! However, one thing I have enjoyed is copious amounts of walking, as I’m recuperating.

This year seems to be the year for walking, as a form of exercise. The weather can be cold and grey, but it has also been sunny, cold with some beautiful sunsets. Walking is a great way to explore places and become fitter.

If you mix it up a bit, it becomes fun too. For example, you can go to local parks, countryside walks, town or city walks or go around a National Trust place.

Haysden Country Park, Tonbridge

 

London walks are enormous fun. You can discover squares, alleys, lanes, parks, heaths, gardens, palaces, rivers and so on. The variety of terrain is fantastic for the urban investigator and as well as historic areas you can view the visually spectacular as well. Certainly a different way of exercising and seeing the capital!

Another way of making walking even more interesting is to do them in conjunction with another hobby. I’ve recently participated in a photography course which although basic, provided a wonderful insight into the world of photography. So sometimes the camera 🎥 comes with me and I stop and take photos.

Yesterday, I went to Haysden Park and snapped away. The blue sky and sunshine was very uplifting and I was impressed with the improvements made to the paths and area. When we arrived, I was furious to see you had to pay to park which is ludicrous. Yes, I know it may go towards the upkeep, but can’t help feeling it’s a bit ‘brave new world’ when one day, we will only have a few green places left to go to, and will have to pay to enter and enjoy them. Sorry, 😐 got a little creative there, but paying to enter green spaces is the beginning of the end, isn’t it?

The park was busy, probably because of the glorious weather. The lake is beautiful and we loved seeing all the birds, particularly the graceful swans. Two swans had a noisy fight, literally a few feet away, which was captured with the Nikon (just).

The benefits of walking are tantamount to other exercise, especially if you do 10,000 steps per day. Rather a tall order to achieve daily, but a worthwhile challenge. If you are not used to exercise, it is the safest form of exercise, a way to lose weight and radically improve your health. 150 minutes per week of exercise, is the recommended amount we should all be doing and walking is something fairly easy to slot into life.

For me, I’ve been enjoying local parks, group countryside walks and solitary dog walks through local woodland and orchards. What I do fancy is some more city walks because it is great to explore new areas. Sometimes I just snap away on my phone rather than take a camera, but I’ve enjoyed wandering around the countryside and recommend to all. Take a good map so you don’t get lost and walk at a brisk pace. The speed you should be walking is 3 mph and be able to talk but not sing.

A great source of ideas is the internet because you can find some simple circular routes near where you live. To pass the time, I sometimes listen to a podcast or music, but this is rare, as I like to enjoy the surroundings in peace. All very tranquil and relaxing, particularly if you are having a stressful time.

My latest passion is putting a few of my photos on Instagram and a great way to learn from other professionals and decide what makes a good photo. Plus, it is somewhere to file your photos and receive opinions/comments from others.

 

Source: https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/getting-started-guides/Pages/getting-started-walking.aspx