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Our retirement adventures

Morocco October 2014

18 October

Although we were awake, a fire alarm at about 8am and a stand outside the Gatwick North terminal Premier Inn hotel for about 10 minutes wasn’t on the agenda but all in all, the hotel seemed to cope very well with the disruption even handing out towels to visitors to protect themselves from the wind.  Manage to locate Elizabeth during the fire alarm evacuation.

On our return (only one fire engine sent and it appears to have been something in the hotel’s store room that caused the problem) a walk, for Richard, up to floor 7 managed to find muscles not used in vain for many a year. A Costa Coffee croissant and coffee for breakfast and then off to check in and a couple of hours in the BA Club Lounge pre our flight – after one phone left in security had been retrieved. A school party of (probably) 16 year olds had occupied many World Traveller Seats which is why we had to have Club Class on our outward journey.

The full plane was probably half occupied with children, including several in the Club class seats; obviously some parents have too much money so quiet it was not.

Hotel Le Caspien

Hotel Le Caspien

One family in particular with four noisy and disruptive children all, probably, under 13 accompanied by a nanny and a cook were particularly bad, sat opposite us, lived in Chelsea and had parents who totally ignored their children’s disruptive behaviour. All credit to the stewardess who coped admirably.

The food served was far superior to that served on our two previous BA journeys, here’s hoping our return is as good albeit not in Club Class.

Our dinner table by the pool

Our dinner table by the pool

Transfer to Le Caspien hotel worked well and we were soon settled in to our rooms, basic(ish) but we have been in worse. Dinner by the pool followed by a catch up on Internet and bed.

 

19 October

Meet the Ahmed, the BA rep, after a breakfast which I had been a bit dubious about pre arrival bearing in mind certain comments previously made on Trip Advisor but personally I had no issue with what was on offer.

Jardin Majorelle near entrance

Jardin Majorelle near entrance

Three tours organised for the next few days but we start with a walk to the Jardin Majorelle Gardens about a km away from the hotel and maybe because it was a Sunday but there were a lot of tourists around and also a lot of locals so getting pictures without people in was virtually impossible.  Perhaps another visit should be during the week.

Coloured pots at Jardine Majorelle

Coloured pots at Jardine Majorelle

Vibrant coloured pots everywhere with exotic plants from around the world.

Grab a coffee in a peaceful area followed by an attempt to get a taxi to “the big square”.

Along the way we were told by the taxi driver that the main souk was closed on Sunday so instead he would take us to a different area – El Badii (an area we wanted to go to anyway) and dropped us outside what was probably a relative’s emporium and charged us 100 dhms which on reflection was too much.

We didn’t go in relative’s emporium, instead wandered around until we found the area where the storks had their nests near the Palais Badii.

Stork nest

Stork nest

Drinks and food upstairs on a verandah at stork nest height with a table next to us occupied by a French family of four with two very well behaved children, so well behaved we had to complement them.

Moroccan tagine

Moroccan tagine

More wanderings in the mini souk area and found an Emporium with fixed prices and we now have a Tagine, let us hope we can get it back in one piece but as it only cost about 8 Euro, it doesn’t matter. (we did get it back.)

Rugs in a Marrakech Emporium

Rugs in a Marrakech Emporium

A fascinating emporium with carpets, metalwork, pottery and all sorts of other things on sale.  Not sure about the stock control on the thousands and thousands of rugs and carpets.

20 October

Take a Taxi to the main square after breakfast for a walk around main souk area, arriving quite early so it is not at all crowded. Lots of locals all trying to sell virtually everything you could think of.

Marrakesh souk

Marrakesh souk

Fascinating watching the workers in the little shacks making shoes, engineering ironwork, bread making and sewing just to name a few.

Dyed cloth

Dyed cloth

It would be quite easy to get lost here but keeping an eye on where the sun is helps and we manage to come out at virtually the same place as we went in after about a two hour wander.

The souk was so vibrant with so many cloth colours in evidence and by the time we came out, quite crowded.

Lunch downstairs in square as upstairs were not selling food until 12:30.

Vegetation in the Ourika Valley

Vegetation in the Ourika Valley

Back to hotel then off on the first of our booked tours – a half day tour to Ourika Valley in the lower Atlas mountains with a few stop offs on the way for photos.

We pass so much greenery it is difficult to imagine we are in Africa in a place where, just a few miles behind us, the temperature is in the mid 30s and the land is quite barren.

We stop at a Berber house and are shown how mint tea is prepared. It was fascinating why the first cup is kept, the 2nd poured away and then the first re-added to the pot.

Berber living room

Berber living room

The Berber house we stopped at houses 9 people in 2 generations, a donkey and a camel although we did not see around all the house, what we did see was very basic.

Onwards up the valley to an outdoors restaurant where settee are used by townies to eat dinner by the fast flowing river.

River-side dining

River-side dining

Soon it is over and we are back to our hotel and dinner.

 

21 October

Early start today for a trip to the coastal fishing village of Essaouira, about a 3 hour drive away.

We are so early, only cool water available for a shower, but surprisingly a few others at breakfast.

Collecting tourist paperwork on the way there are just the three of us and Mohammed, our guide/ driver for the day.

Soon we leave the suburbs with a main straight road ahead passing clumps of people waiting for overcrowded buses into Marrakech, half finished housing, old and modern transport.

modern apartment, unfinished apartment, traditional mode of transport

modern apartment, unfinished apartment, traditional mode of transport

Travelling by bus is cheap here, only a few Dihrams, as is fuel – about 9Dhm a litre ( about 60p ) but they are crowded.

The first town we get to before 9 and it is thronged with men just waiting to be selected for work, picking grapes. This must be quite humiliating for them as not all will be selected but it is probably all they know. The work, if they get any, is poorly paid as well but they do have to feed themselves somehow.

Many road checks by police and we get stopped early on and we understand it is a daily occurence. My name is on the tourist sheet collected earlier and the police mention me by name during the process but all is in order and we are soon on our way.

Apparently they are looking for foreigners who have crossed the country’s borders illegally and without proper “papers”. Now there is an idea for the UK with all it’s illegal immigrants but think of the traffic jams on the main roads if this was adopted.

As we progress away from the townships, the countryside becomes more barren and almost desert like with stones rather than sand in evidence.

Shepherd and his flock

Shepherd and his flock

Goats in trees

Goats in trees

Shepherds with small flocks of sheep are everywhere although what the sheep find to eat is anyone’s guess.

We are now reaching undulating terrain and, as we heard yesterday, the area is rich in Argan trees that, we are told, are only grown in Morocco and Mexico although it is possible they are alive in Australia.

Goats often climb the Argan trees but it appears these are a bit touristy as they were gone when we returned the same way later that day.

Fishing boat sir?  Any colour as long as it is blue.

Fishing boat sir? Any colour as long as it is blue.

Essaouira walled city

Essaouira walled city

Essaouira, a bustling seaside fishing town is reached soon afterwards and we stop near fish market where lots of boats are moored, fish caught and displayed and men bustle around trying to catch the eye of a potential buyer of their fish.

Mohammed is not allowed to be seen escorting us around the town so we have to sort of follow him or him follow us and in the walled city, we must not communicate with him.

Untidy fish seller

Untidy fish seller

Tidy fish seller

Tidy fish seller

Fisherman and his net

Fisherman and his net

First stop in our walk is the actual fish market which is sort of everywhere on the quay with some fish not evident in the UK on show.

One local has his fish bag inspected by an official who takes one piece to put behind a local stall – bribery or what!

A very hot (35C) day and shortly after I had taken the picture of the fisherman mending his net, an umbrella was put up to shield him from the sun.

Outside the walled city

Outside the walled city

Into the walled city and we follow a french tour party for a little way, stopping to buy a couple of items on the way.

Vendors in the walled city

Vendors in the walled city

Locate Mohammed after a while and we wend our way through more shopping streets selling more or less the same items.

Not only are there tourists but locals are shopping as well which probably brings the prices down a bit.

Anyone want a Fez?

Anyone want a Fez?

It has been suggested that we have lunch in a fish market restaurant but it is decided an alternative is preferred and opt for a non fish one nearby.

The only travellers in the desert

The only travellers in the desert

Back on the mini-bus towards Marrakech but not many fellow travelers, sheep, shepherds or people in evidence now – too hot.

Marrakech Mosque

Marrakech Mosque

Dinner poolside at the hotel again and then a horse drawn coach ride into town to look at the big square thronged with people, both locals and tourists.

Sadly not enough time to get out and wander but we get a feel for the atmosphere in our drive around the Palais Badii area, the Jewish quarter, (where the houses have balconies) and through the big square back towards our hotel.

22 October

Our last day and we opt for a brief look around the modern shopping centre prior to lunch and our return to hotel for pick up and our flight home.

Are satellites the new Mecca?

Are satellites the new Mecca?

Shopping Centre no different to anything in Europe and prices not too dissimilar to most of Europe.

Marrakech rooftops

Marrakech rooftops

Cafe Lobo was good for a drink but lunch was expensive.

Ahmed meets us at airport to advise that the Bank had rejected a €20 note I had given him for the tours as it was torn – how petty.

Still, the hotel had rejected a £10 note when I changed currency as it had been written on.

A much better flight back, no noisy kids, and a decent meal, for Economy class. Not long to wait at Gatwick for our car and we arrive back at Elizabeth’s at 2am the next day for a sleep before a drive to Heysham and our ferry home.

Morocco was just a different experience to what we are used to and it brought back so many memories of my visit some 45 years ago. Let us hope it is not another 45 years before a return visit!

Does this end our travels for 2014?

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Friends

Friends

13 October

Sorry to leave home with such wonderful weather we have been having but we set sail towards the clouds and the rain covering the UK.

Charingworth Manor, Chipping Campden

Charingworth Manor, Chipping Campden

First stop after navigating the heavy rain is Charingworth Manor, a delightful retreat in the Cotswolds near Chipping Campden and a driveway with a sense of humour.

now there's a challenge

now there’s a challenge

Phillip and Sylvia share a wedding anniversary with us tomorrow and this hotel very much “fitted the bill” for a chill out near the end of a very busy year.

Bedrooms, all very warm, are named rather than numbered and relate to previous owners and local dignatories although some of the rooms are somewhat of a walk from the main hotel’s lounge area.

Room name at Charingworth Manor

Room name at Charingworth Manor

Dinner in the hotel was part of the package and the hotel did us proud with a well presented spread, especially welcome as we hadn’t really had much lunch.

 

14 October

Anne Hathaway's House

Anne Hathaway’s House

A wet day for our anniversary and a look around Anne Hathaway’s house and gardens (she of Shakespeare wife fame) along with a large party of French students.

Sally standing on the IoM in Anne Hathaway's House gardens

Sally standing on the IoM in Anne Hathaway’s House gardens

Grounds obviously now past their best but you can see the potential for a summer flower display so perhaps a return visit at a different time is called for.

A walk around the grounds and gardens whilst the rain held off before heading into the house which contains many original items.

Old birthing chair

Old birthing chair

Some of the furniture is old and unique including what the guides seem to think is a birthing chair from the 18th C, rather similar to one my mother had.

Onwards into Stratford-on-Avon for a brief walk around avoiding the school parties, the Japanese and the rain drops.  We finished our honeymoon at the White Swan there back in 1972 so the walk past the Hotel

89 years of married life today

89 years of married life today

How did we find out where to stay back then, no trip advisor, no internet just an AA or RAC hotel guide.

Back to hotel for our welcome tea postponed from yesterday due to our late arrival followed by another lovely meal.

89 collective years of marriage to the day celebrated.

15 October

Still wet but not quite as bad as yesterday. Check out and off towards Snowshill, a Country pile previously owned by a Mr Webb who died in 1956 without children and bequeathed it to the National Trust.

Mr Webb was a hoarder and a kleptomaniac so the whole house is stuffed with toys and gadgets of all ages, including various ancient suits of armour.

Because of the delicate nature of the items, the lighting was subdued, curtains drawn so photographs not good. Not enough time to take in all the 20,000 items on show and although no school parties there, it was still crowded.

Model ship at Snowshill

Model ship at Snowshill

Snowshill

Snowshill

My advice, don’t go in just as the doors open, leave it 15 minutes or so as hopefully the queue to get round will be less.

Before Snowshill a visit to Gift shop is an interesting diversion although you may need deep pockets for many of the items.

Say our goodbyes and drive almost due Eastwards to Bromham and an overnight with John & Dierdre to catch up and finalise some Australia organisation.

Also managed to catch up with daughter Jill and granddaughter, Lizzie.

16 October

Head south down A1 towards Woodford Green and a meet up with our third set of friends in 24 hours, Pete and Lorraine. Although Lorraine is an excellent cook, better be careful here is Sally is an excellent cook as well, we dine out at a local Italian restaurant, Pizeria Bel Sit. Pete and Lorraine’s son Tyran recently married in Cyprus so the many photos they had were interesting as that is one country we have not yet been to.

All too soon, we head off for an overnight in Holiday Inn Express at North Woolwich somewhat exhausted.

17 October

Park up at the O2 car park for the day and try the skyline cable car over the Thames.

The Dome from the Cable Car

The Dome from the Cable Car

Jet-lev flyer in London docks.

Jet-lev flyer in London docks.

Not overly crowded and we manage a gondola to ourselves although the going rate for exclusive use in crowded times is £88.00.

Olympic Park

Olympic Park

Some Jetlev-Flyers on the water and lovely views over the O2, Thames barrier, Olympic village and greater East London before dropping down and then walking to the DLR for a ride into Tower Gateway.

A fantastic show of all the poppies at the Tower of London installed as an art installation.

Poppies, Richard and the Tower of London

Poppies, Richard and the Tower of London

Some have questioned whether this is correct to commercialised the sale of the poppies but personally, they are both an appropriate method to commemorate those who gave their lives in what we now know as the 1st World War which started 100 years ago this year.

Two thirds of the poppies at the Tower of London

Two thirds of the poppies at the Tower of London

Loads of people viewing the art installation of the poppies at the Tower of London created for the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the 1st World War.

Sit by the Thames and contemplate the crowds of people milling around, both British and of course all nationalities. Interspersed are the faithful lunchtime runners and joggers from the nearby offices as well as a few in wheelchairs trying to negotiate both the cobbles and the crowds.

Return on DLR to Canary Wharf for a late lunch / early dinner at Pizza Express which by now is not so crowded, most office workers filtering back to their mundane desk jobs. A book purchase later and the tube back to the O2 for a long wait pre a Caro Emerald concert.

Seats at the back were a good choice although a bit draughty and only a few trying to get past us. The support act, Kris Berry, was good but of course everyone wanted to see Caro Emerald in her first O2 concert. She was obviously excited about it as were we and she treated us to many of her songs in a show that personally I thought was better than the one we saw in Oxford 13 months ago.

We were even photographed, along with possibly 8000 other people by Caro with the picture being immediately put on Facebook. Can’t tag myself on it but we are towards the back on the right hand side. My only regret was not bringing with me a CD of hers to listen to on the drive away from the O2.

The Highways Agency on the roadworks website had shown the slip roads from the M25 to the M23 as being closed overnight so we thought that a long diversion via Dorking was in store; however, the website was totally inaccurate and we sailed down to Gatwick for our overnight at the Premier Inn, North Terminal. Meet and Greet worked well and we stopped outside the hotel, so not many steps to take to reach the hotel for  a good night’s sleep.

Off to Morocco tomorrow.

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Jersey and London

23 September

Wet and chilly, a surprise to our systems after such a long and lovely summer. Ferry to Liverpool on time – so it should be as it hadn’t left it’s berth earlier in the day – and arrived in Liverpool in the rush hour. Slight detour to a toy shop for a skate board, dinner in Frankie & Bennys and a quick drive to Hoylake for our night’s stay.

Never been to Hoylake before, quite impressed so will explore more later. Hotel modern but bed comfort not brilliant. Nevertheless a good night’s sleep.

24 September

Drive to Gatley for a long overdue visit to Cousin Bernard and his wife Caryl who were in good form and looking well. Hadn’t seen them since my 60th.

M6 and M42 relatively clear but slow on M42 and A34 so arrival at Frankie & Bennys in Reading for evening meal a little late and we only had about an hour with Flic, Gary and his mum, Barbara. Flic is much better following her operation which is good.

Overnight in Southampton near the Ageas Cricket stadium, not as modern as Hoylake but much bigger and with a more comfortable bed.

25 September

St Peter Port, Guernsey

St Peter Port, Guernsey

Drive to Weymouth for a ferry departure in warm and sunny weather.

Somehow we get put in wrong lane at Weymouth but it works to our advantage as we end up downstairs rather than up in the front of the boat, hopefully we will be off early.  Seating on Condor ferries is not as good as Isle of Man Steam Packet seating but we do have internet access which is something.

Reclining seats are so near the one in front, we move to alternative seats.

Lovely views of St Peter Port as we call in on Guernsey before arriving in St Helier on time and, yes, we are off early.

Coronation Park

Coronation Park

 

26 September

Ali takes Harry to Nursery and we are off for Breakfast at Colleens at Greve de Lecq  ( http://www.jersey.com/english/eatingout/restaurants/Pages/ColleensCafe.aspx )  followed by a town visit to get Sal’s iPad working.

Take Harry to Coronation park and back for dinner with Ali dressing up for a fancy dress evening.

Inspector Ali

Inspector Ali

27 September

Sarah out at life saving, Harry helped with the mannequins as he can sort of do the resuscitation on the dolls.

Take Harry to Gorey beach for a play in the sea, on the swings and in the sand.

Harry has not had a love of the sea although does like swimming in pools.

Harry at Gorey beach

Harry at Gorey beach

This time however he did manage about 15 minutes paddling, mostly, but not always, holding onto Grandpa’s hand.

Dinner with Jim, Laura and Kevin at Cafe Poste in Gorey.

We hadn’t been there before, usual good Jersey standard and very popular.

28 September

Mont Orgueil (Gorey)

Mont Orgueil (Gorey)

Ali off tonight to France for a week’s climbing and as Sarah out lifesaving, we have Harry on our own for a bit after another Gorey visit with some nice cloud formations.

29 September

Early start to take Harry to nursery and then into town for a few things, collect Harry and take him to Ransome’s to see the animals.  He loved the snakes.

30 September

Breakfast at Colleens again after dropping Harry off.

Quick visit to Corbiere, lovely sight of high tide and a cloudless sky. Collect Harry from Nursery, lovely when he says “I missed  you Nana” and take him to Laura & Jim’s for a play with Alby and Evie, Morag’s children.  Alby walking now but still not really talking too much yet.

Corbiere Lighthouse

Corbiere Lighthouse

1 October

Rain!!  We haven’t seen this for some time. Cleared up later in time to watch Harry swimming at Les Quennavais after lunch with Sue Thorne at Goose on the Green.

B & Q visit for tiles for Sarah & Ali’s kitchen floor using my over 60 card, apparently I have some uses! Curry night @ Laura & Jim’s but somehow Sal manages to get some sort of virus which will lay her low for a day or so.

2 October

Sarah drops me off at airport for a day trip to Bristol, car hire and drive to Cinderford for Carole’s funeral. Well attended at the Crematorium with over 80 people. Both Rob and Jamie were not good, Jamie more so in the service, Rob afterwards. Enough locals and a good supporting Catholic Father but we must keep our eye on him for Clearwell’s sake. Only 10 on flight back but told it was full on way out of Bristol in the morning.

3 October

Leave Harry at Nursery for last time, not sure he understands that we won’t be there when he gets home tonight. Coffee at St Peter’s Garden Centre with Pam who lost her husband, Stuart, last March. Back to pack final things and down to ferry which was heaving, all seats full, apparently, over 700 passengers.

A McDonald’s for dinner and a drive to Apsley for a couple of nights.

4 October

Plan:  Meet Mel in London about lunchtime, get tickets for a Matinee, dinner, go to Forbidden Broadway (tickets already bought).

Actual:  Mel’s plane is 5 hours late, so just as well no Matinee tickets bought.  Take late train in from Apsley, have lunch, meet Mel at Victoria just before 6, dinner followed by Forbidden Broadway and crowded (standing room only) 12 coach train back to Apsley.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Forbidden Broadway, it is a musical with a difference as it features, and makes fun of, some of the best productions from both Broadway and the West End including The Book of Mormon, Once, Matilda, Wicked, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, Les Miserables, Miss Saigon and many more.  Well worth going to see if you have a chance (on at the Vaudeville Theatre until late November).

5 October

Surprisingly smooth crossing back home from Liverpool on the fast ferry, even more surprising as the conventional ferry that evening to Heysham was cancelled because of bad weather.

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Switzerland 2014

21 August

Up early for the first flight off the island since the end of January (Andorra), an alarm at 5:30 in the morning doesn’t feel right, and to think I used to do this on a regular basis when visiting clients in London. Thanks Mel for the lift!

BA flight to London City and a cooked breakfast included being most welcome and not expected. Bags checked all the way through was a bonus as at London City we could go through security and back air side immediately upon arrival rather than having to sit land-side for a couple of hours.

A four-hour wait, so catch up with emails and Lexulous before boarding for our flight to Zürich – strange lunch on board, Cous Cous salad and chocolate mouse. Arrival procedures good as usual and we are soon on train en route to Morges. A first for travel, going upstairs in a two deck train and despite being lunchtime, midweek and travelling 1st class, the train was exceptionally crowded.

Lots of line side graffiti to start with but we soon reach the countryside and then the mountains. The nearly three-hour journey passes quickly and at Morges, Martin, Nellie and two of their children, Stefan and Marlies meet us, take us on the Regional Train to Morges St Jean for the short walk to the Hotel Fleur du Lac http://www.fleur-du-lac.ch for our first 4 nights.

Hotel Fleur du Lac, Morges

Hotel Fleur du Lac, Morges

We have a balcony room overlooking Lake Geneva and Mont Blanc so hopefully good views await us.

Morges, Lake side

Morges, Lake side

Morges could perhaps be best described as a commuter town for either Geneva or Lausanne but has some fine waterside properties and public buildings including the two waterside towers.

After some drinks with Martin & family we dine in-house and hit the bed totally zonked.

Double bed but two single duvets, what’s this all about?

22 August

After breakfast, catch the paddle steamer to Geneva.

Lake Geneva, paddle steamer

Lake Geneva, paddle steamer

Don’t really realise how much sun we are catching at the front of the boat as it chugs its way down the Swiss side and finally over to the French side for a couple of stops. Lots of people get off at the French stop of Yvoire but we carry on to Geneva, a 3.5 hour journey.

Cross the bridge for a coffee and cake before a visit to C & A (still selling Yessica, Clockhouse and the CANDA range nearly 15 years after they pulled out of the UK).

More viewing of the city, visit to co-op for some food for tonight and saunter to Station for journey back to Morges, it only takes 30 minutes by train! Walk back to hotel along lake front as next train to Morges St Jean would involve a 45 minutes wait.

Dinner on balcony with some Swiss wine bought at the nearby Aldi before drinks with Martin at the hotel.

23 August

A cloudier day although with no wind at first, but boy did it pick up later. Martin has arranged a BBQ at a nearby park and had originally invited a good crowd. However, as the weather was by now very blustery and cold, only one other person turned up, so disappointing for him.

Morges BBQ

Morges BBQ

Nevertheless, a good spread of Sausages, burgers, salad and fruit as well as some local beer (Boxer) with time to chat to Martin, Nellie, Stefan and Marlies.

Lunch over we retire to the hotel for a rest but get interrupted by several text messages from Flic and Mel re Flic’s wedding dress.

Dinner tonight booked with Martin, Nellie and Marlies but Sal never gets a chance to look at the photo Mel has sent of the wedding dress, the Internet is down – probably the Arab family whose elder children never left the hotel preferring to use the internet on their phones in the lounge area all the time!

Dinner is at a lakeside restaurant – http://www.aux-delices-du-lac.ch – that appears to only have 5 tables so the booking Martin made was essential especially as the amount of fish available matches exactly the number of covers.

This is fish & chips Swiss style with the fish being caught earlier in the day on the lake by the chef. In fact we understand that all the fish for the town is caught by him. There was nothing wrong with the food (if you like fish with lots of bones that is) but it was a bit disconcerting that there are a number of cats running around the tables – no EEC Health & Safety rules here).

Still no Internet on return to hotel.

24 August

Hooray, croissants for breakfast before the other guests get there, and we have Internet access. Martin and Nellie pick us up and we are driven to the Cailler Chocolate Factory at Broc – http://www.cailler.ch -. The ticket issuing process is typical Swiss efficiency and our ticket is timed to ensure we  get on the tour in the right language.  Do Disney do different languages?  I don’t think so – one up to Cailler.

The whole story of how chocolate first came to Europe was told well along with the history of the company and why it was set up in the middle of nowhere.

FREE samples of chocolates!!!

FREE samples of chocolates!!!

Bringing the processes up to date we see the turning into bars of the chocolate, the wrapping process and then, the most important part of the day, the tasting.

Several trays were set up and were regularly restocked by the staff.

As soon as they had been restocked, us humans gobbled them all up.

No lunch needed especially as we had found time for a hot chocolate before the tour.

A few bars of chocolate had, of course, to be purchased before we left on our next adventure to the Gruyere factory. http://www.lamaisondugruyere.ch.

Probably not as popular as the chocolate factory so no waiting to go in.

Gruyere cheese tour

Gruyere cheese tour

Handsets gave us a running commentary based first of all as if you were a cow eating the grass, right through to watching a vat of milk being turned into whey and the creation of a number of large cheeses that are then pressed and date,

Maturing Gruyere

Maturing Gruyere

company stamped before being left to mature.

A very efficient process including the smells of the flowers the cows eat.

Back to Morges via a traditional Swiss cafe (Restaurant de la Croix d’Or Catherine Tissot),

Jameson's Bar, Morges with the Bowen family

Jameson’s Bar, Morges with the Bowen family

Jameson’s pub where Marlies works, followed by a meal at the Bowen apartment and a Taxi back to hotel, a very enjoyable day but exhausting.

25 August

Taxi to station and catch train to Montreux and a change for our onward journey on the Golden Pass route to Lucerne through Gstaad, Speitz and Interlaken.

Third time I have been through Montreux but still haven’t seen any of the city.

Vineyards above Montreaux

Vineyards above Montreux

I had travelled the Golden Pass route to Speitz (and then on to Bern) after a business course some 20 years ago and as far as I can remember it was just as picturesque now as it was then, first of all climbing past the rows and rows of vineyards taking up every conceivable space on the south-facing cliffs above Montreux.

Swiss wine is wonderful but sadly they do not appear to export much of it to the UK.

Will just have to take the car next time!

En route, Interlaken to Lucerne

En route, Interlaken to Lucerne

Continually climbing we pass through pastures that are as green as imaginable but with only a few cows grazing. Levelling out around Speitz, we have to change trains – cross platform – for our onward journey.

Swiss village en route to Lucerne

Swiss village en route to Lucerne

Double glazing on the trains means we sadly can’t hear the cow bells but the full height windows mean we do see a lot of the countryside.

Another change of train, in Interlaken (where we had holidayed 12 years ago) and off to Lucerne along the valley of Lake Brienz to Meiringen (of Sherlock Holmes fame).

Now reversing, we take a different route and climb steeply through the mountains past little villages nestling in the hillside many with fantastically tall church spires before we drop down to arrive in Lucerne right in the middle of “rush hour”.

Everywhere is so green, they have had a “bad” summer with lots of rain we are continually told.

Not exactly sure where hotel is and with two cases, we opt for a taxi to the hotel – expensive as a result of length of time taken in the traffic.

Hotel des Balances

Hotel des Balances http://www.balances.ch

Hotel des Balances ( http://www.balances.ch ) is right on the river (Reuss) front and we are on the top floor with a balcony overlooking the Jesuit church.

Lucerne festival street act outside Jesuit church

Lucerne festival street act outside Jesuit church

We are in the middle of the Lucerne festival with various street acts performing all day and up to 11pm at night.

Very lively atmosphere but sadly, weather not warm enough to sit out – somewhat different to that in Morges. Dinner in adjacent restaurant, good Italian food.

The hotel room does have a TV but nothing in English which actually is quite a nice change and although internet is free, it never manages to stay in our room long enough – something to do with our room being furtherest away from the router I guess.

26 August

Left window open overnight as room hot and weather now hotter – woken by a church bell at 6:45 which was chimed over 200 times!  A call to prayer too far?

Breakfast is almost certainly the best hotel breakfast we have ever had with tea, coffee, meat, fish, eggs, cereal, orange, bread, yoghurts, croissants, champagne and all types of fruit juices.  Yes, you read it right, Champagne!!!

Sadly today is very rainy so only a stroll around town for most of the day.

Shop building painting

Shop building painting

Quirky buildings

Quirky buildings

Lucerne (or Luzern as some spell it) is bustling with character with ancient buildings still in use, lots of painted walls, quirky buildings and of course the two diagonal covered wooden bridges where despite notices banning smoking, people still smoked!

The oldest is the Chapel Bridge built in 1333 but almost totally destroyed in 1993 by a fire.

Restoration has been well done as there hardly looks as though there was any damage.

Chapel Bridge

Chapel Bridge

27 August.

Flic’s wedding date set so phone hotel to book some rooms for family members before breakfast on the terrace in the sun.

Breakfast time

Breakfast time

Breakfast time

Breakfast time

Better weather today so try a boat, rail, cable car and trolley bus circular ride to Rigi mountain.

First class (6SFr more expensive than 2nd class!) in the boat is virtually deserted and 2nd class mobbed with some dyslexic people unable to see the wording of 1st class, ejected by the ticket inspector and forced to stand downstairs with no seats available.

Disembark at Alpnachstad after about an hour’s cruise and cross path to Pilatus cog railway said to be the steepest in the world although they said that about Mount Washington’s cog railway in New Hampshire USA.

Certainly at 48%, bits of it were very steep and it would have been difficult to walk up so all credit to the builders all those years ago.

Pilatus cog railway - just to think we were at lake level about 10 minutes earlier

Pilatus cog railway – just to think we were at lake level about 10 minutes earlier

Meandering up the side of the mountain, the four trains in convoy were all full, something to do with a couple of coaches at the bottom.

Mt Pilatus church.  (High Church!)

Mt Pilatus church. (High Church!)

Lovely views on the way up but in the clouds at the summit station (nearly 7000ft above sea level) so we head for the descent in the cable car down the other side of the mountain exiting through the mist reasonably quickly only to find a church perched  probably 6000ft above sea level between two summits.

Another change, this time into 4 person gondolas and we had stayed at the back of the crowd thus allowing ourselves to get in a gondola all to ourselves which was better for viewing the wonderful passing scenery.

At our destination in the outskirts of Lucerne at Kriens we walk further down and as if by magic, without any waiting, along comes our final mode of transport for the day, an old-fashioned trolley bus with supporting trailer.

Trolley Bus and trailer

Trolley Bus and trailer

Buy a salad from the station’s Coop to eat in our room tonight.

28 August

A better day and we set off on the lake on the paddle steamer this time to Vitznau prior to an ascent up Mt Rigi. This time, the boat is crowded in both 1st and 2nd class, probably because it forms part of the Wilhelm Tell Express to Fluelen where they board a train for Locarno or Lugano, I digress.

Lake Zurich from journey up Mt Rigi

Lake Lucerne from journey up Mt Rigi

At Vitznau, we transfer from boat to rack railway for a packed train with every man and woman for themselves as other tourists were just barging by to get a good seat. We got our own back later!

Lineside house, Mt Rigi

Lineside house, Mt Rigi

Through meadows with the ubiquitous cow horns jingling we rise up past isolated line side cottages with, again, spectacular views of Lake Luzern and the surrounding hills.

Mt Rigi station summit

Mt Rigi station summit

At the summit station, watch hang gliders start their descent before we take our seat on our way down to Rigi Kaltbag and our change for the gondola to Weggis and the boat back.

For some reason, Rigi Kaltbag is very popular with lots of people but not exactly a lot to do so puzzled as to why there would be lots of people here.

Just miss a gondola with next one in 30 minutes time and it already looks as though it will be full but as Swiss tend to think transport, an extra descent is scheduled, so a wait of only 15 minutes but a very crowded gondola.

Chapel Bridge artwork

Chapel Bridge artwork

Short walk downhill at the bottom of the cable car (glad we didn’t do this the other way round) to the boat which is more modern than the one this morning  but still crowded.

Free beer

Free beer

Free beer from a local brewery’s horse-drawn advertising cart was very welcome before a walk over the Chapel Bridge with its restored artwork well in evidence, a view in some of the waterside shops

Does Her Majesty endorse these?

Does Her Majesty endorse these?

(including one showing models of HM the Queen with a waving hand – very naff), and dinner at a nearby restaurant.

A walk in the evening to cross the Spreuerbruke Bridge also known as the Mill Bridge, which also has some fantastic paintings inside although these are original, the Chapel Bridge being restored after the devastating fire in 1993.

29 August

Showers forecast today but tops of mountains appear clear so opt for ride up Mt Stanserhome, travelling this time by rail rather than by boat. As we have half price 1st class travel available, opt to go 1st class on the train, although 2nd class might have been less crowded (14 of the 18 available 1st class seats are occupied, mostly it seems by railway staff).

Open air cable car

Open air cable car

Stans cable railway & very green land

Stans cable railway & very green land

Off the train at Stans and walk back, trackside to the cable railway which is also crowded, this time with a group. The exciting bit however is still to come as we exit the cable railway and await our turn on the double-deck cable car with the top deck open to the sky.

A bit like wing walking perhaps without the aerobatics. Hardly any wind but could imagine it to be interesting if there were.

Lucerne from Mt Stanershom

Lucerne from Mt Stanershome

At top, have our free coffees (courtesy of the 1st class ticket) and a piece of delicious alcoholic chocolate gateaux – only SFr 4.50! it would probably have cost more than £4.50 at home.

We were too full from breakfast and the chocolate gateaux to have lunch in the revolving restaurant which stays open on Friday and Saturday evenings for meals – worth considering next time perhaps – with the last cable car down after 11pm.

Fantastic views from the top in all directions with occasional mist swirling around and in some places, away from the other people, absolute quiet.

Return to Luzern the way we came, buy salad from coop for dinner (much cheaper than a meal out of course!) and a quick rest before Richard goes out with camera for some photos of the wall – big mistake!

Lucerne Tower

Lucerne Tower

One tower seen from below followed by a lightning flash, one huge clap of thunder and the heavens open for a good 20 minutes. Sheltering was not easy and I retraced my steps after the rain had stopped thoroughly soaked but fortunately with a dryish camera.

By now you couldn’t see any mountains from our window, good job we had already bought the salad for dinner as we wouldn’t have stayed dry going out, it poured for most of the rest of the evening, even most of the street entertainers abandoned their performances.

Another casualty of G&S, Janine is treated the same way as I was last year and kicked out with only a few weeks to go before the show.

30 August

Another nice day with breakfast on the terrace albeit the service a bit slow.

Yesterday’s rain was obviously so intense that the local authorities have widened the river’s sluice gates, a not infrequent process by the looks of the infrastructure around the river, to allow more water to exit the lake and make its way to the North Sea at Rotterdam.

It is getting some attention though from a good crowd.

I am guessing that if they didn’t do this, the city would soon be flooded with the build up of water from the lake.

A farmer’s market and 2nd hand stalls area was set up on the banks of the river and seemed to be popular with locals – some of whom were breakfasting on the Terrace at the hotel with their veg and other produce in the bags waiting to go home. What a way to start a day.

Lots of bread, cheese, fruit and veg alongside plants and meat with typical items on sale in the 2nd hand stall area. Some reasonably priced new Brio caught our eye but Harry doesn’t need anymore.

Lucerne railway station arch.  Shame about Euston's doric arch!

Lucerne railway station arch. Shame about Euston’s doric arch!

Make our way across Chapel Bridge to the start of the Road Train town tour which we only just manage to get on, it was pretty full, but does have an English commentary and all for SFr 12.00 each, bargain.

A bit disconcerting to start with as a lot of music played before we get on to the descriptions of buildings and areas but don’t think we missed anything.

Lucerne catholic cathedral behind Swiss house

Lucerne church behind Swiss house

Lucerne's dying lion carving

Lucerne’s dying lion carving

Tour took us to the dying lion and a couple of older buildings in an area we hadn’t been to before so after tour we returned on foot for better photos.

A memorial to an earlier battle covered by a modern building - shame

Stiftung Bourbaki Panorama Luzern

The modern building around the outside of an older circular building (Stiftung Bourbaki Panorama Luzern) is somewhat uncharacteristic for Lucerne – shame.

Probably should have done the tour earlier in the week but weather better for tours up mountains earlier in the week.

Sal picks up a nasty splinter in her foot which requires my medical skills to extract it – the things we do!

Manage to get up to city walls without it raining for views of the towers and city from the towers.

Lucerne clock tower on the wall (The clock is set one minute fast and chimes accordingly!)

Lucerne clock tower on the wall (The clock is set one minute fast and chimes accordingly!)

It is staggering to think when these were built and the equipment they had at the time, and they still stand today.

Wonderfully preserved buildings that it would be difficult for anyone to replicate today.

Even England doesn’t have buildings like this anymore.

5 of the towers from our hotel bathroom window

5 of the towers from our hotel bathroom window

The festival ends in a day’s time but included in the entertainment tonight are a number of shop window models who are dancing in the windows.

Not a lot of attention from the passing public but fun to watch all the same.

Dinner tonight in adjacent Italian, our third visit, and this time manage an outdoor seat as weather warmer.

The last day of the festival and lots of street entertainment on the other side of the river keeping us entertained.

31 August

Still warm enough for breakfast in the balcony but service slow again today – maybe it’s the weekend staff!. Duly filled up with breakfast goodies, make our way to boat terminal for final boat trip, this time to the transport museum on the outskirts of Lucerne.

Old train at transport museum

Old train at transport museum

Martin & Nellie had recommended we go there and their recommendation was spot on, a delightful place housing, rail, road, air and water transport history. Lots of interactive activities for kids of all ages but perhaps the best were:

These are full size vehicles.  you select which one the transporter collects and then a story is told about the vehicle when it is at your ground floor level

These are full size vehicles. you select which one the transporter collects and then a story is told about the vehicle when it is at your ground floor level

1.  The vehicle display where you chose a vehicle (real size) to get down from a display up to 6 shelves high and about 20 long and hear some history about it. Vehicles included ancient ones, a F1 car from 1999, a Lamborghini and a supermarket trolley.

Movement of the transporter to get the vehicles down to ground level was all done automatically once you had selected what you want to see.

Model of a canal lock

Model of a canal lock

2.  A model of the operation of a lock gate showing two container ships moving from one level to another.

3.  A display that can be best described as a cross between a pinball machine and Mousetrap. Kids were enthralled with this as were adults.

Pin ball machine?

Pin ball machine?

4.  An area outside where kids could build roads using real mini diggers, conveyor belts and other tools or sail a reasonably sized dinghy.

Full size yachting pool, children's road digging area

Full size yachting pool, children’s road digging area

I did have a go at an ancient type of hang glider.  It was much harder than I had expected, especially on the leg muscles as your legs needed to be kept together and moved from side to side, I need considerably more practice.

Picture of early double decker train - yes they are all standing up on the top deck.

Picture of early double decker train – yes they are all standing up on the top deck.

Just get on boat for return to Lucerne and hotel before the rains come down.

Air section - early type hang glider

Air section – early type hang glider

A bit soaked on walk back to hotel from wharf but not as bad as the other day.

Dinner in hotel tonight, good food and service – to be recommended although pricey.

Our last full day in Lucerne, sad to go, but, another Swiss City beckons.

1 September

No terrace for breakfast, too overcast, but still the same good breakfast and good service – will be very sad to leave this hotel, especially the breakfast.

Check out and walk to station for train to Zürich which of course is on time as usual, sitting downstairs this time as the countryside flies by.

More undulating than before and on the outside of Zürich, more graffiti.

Taxi to hotel where room is already ready for us even though it is not yet 1pm and, bonus, we get an upgrade. Short rest before setting out to explore the immediate area, check out lake cruise centre and back for a cheap(ish) meal at McDonald’s (SFr 22.90 isn’t cheap for UK standards but cheaper than a local restaurant).

Possibly our first McDonald’s meal for about 10 years. We have British TV so get a bit up to date with a couple of programmes but still two single quilts on a double bed.

2 September

Lake Zurich lakeside properties

Lake Zurich lakeside properties

Off on a lake cruise to Rapperswill, passing from one side of the lake to the other with some great lakeside properties on view.

Rapperswill

Rapperswill

Rapperswill is a lovely little village with a clock on the church tower, some narrow streets, quirky shops and a fantastic patisserie http://www.burg-cafe.ch with two large cakes for just under Sfr10.

Catch train back to Zürich and try to find shopping street back towards hotel but get lost so head back to Zürich station for train back to hotel.

Rapperswill

Rapperswill

A lovely Skype with Sarah, Ali and Harry although Harry won’t sit still for long of course. He is growing up fast.

Dinner in hotel’s restaurant, quirky as it is over the road from the hotel, using the supplied (by the hotel) discount voucher and good food although even with the discount voucher the meal was expensive by UK standards.

 

3 September

M’aitre d’ talks to us at breakfast and provides a better map of Zürich with a suggested route for walking so tackle this after breakfast.

Risque statues

Risque statues

Some great old buildings in side streets, lots of cafés, a few statues – some more risque than others – and lots of students.

Zurich architecture

Zürich architecture

Up to station to a bite to eat and hen back on the other side of the river to hotel. Great leisurely walk that takes up a good few hours.

Dinner tonight at a very lively Italian restaurant and for what we paid at the hotel the previous night we had a 50cl bottle of wine instead of fizzy water and a desert.

Santa Lucia Corsa Restaurant, Theaterstrasse 10 Zürich 8001 did well. http://www.bindella.ch

 

4 September

Our last day in Switzerland and a leisurely walk to the station to meet up with Marlies who was coming to Zürich anyway to meet friends but did bring my misplaced sunglasses – thank you.

A very pleasant hour over lunch followed by a tram ride back to hotel, collect bags and train from local station to Airport.

Train at Zurich Stadelhofen

Train at Zürich Stadelhofen

All flights on time and we are indoors just before 10pm – 5 hours from setting off at Zürich airport.

Another adventure over, no new countries visited but more of Switzerland visited and still more to see next time we come back.

12 September

As a postscript to this we, just by chance, shared a carriage on an Isle of Man Steam Train back to Douglas from Port Erin with a couple from Lucerne whose family  just happen to own a baker’s shop in Lucerne where we had bought lunch some 10 days earlier and who live in Weggis.

They were on a cruise on MS Bremen from Reykjavik to Lisbon and “doing their own thing” on the island – fortunately on a beautifully sunny day. Small world.

 

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Engaging graduations. Graduated engagements

Engaging graduations. Graduated engagements 

York is a wonderful city full of lovely ancient buildings, including its Minster, cobbled streets, boutique shops, lots of traffic, lots of tourists and many other sights. Our purpose in visiting was not for one of these but to go to York University, created and built in the early 1960s so by no means containing ancient buildings. 

Flic had used some of the money she had inherited from her Nana to further her Education by enrolling in a distance Master of Arts degree learning course at York over 3 years whilst, of course, holding down her full time job. We do not dwell on the other issues she has contended with during this time but leave it that what she has achieved is quite remarkable. I digress.

 

Streamlining Steam engines 1930's style

Streamlining Steam engines 1930’s style

Having arrived a couple of days earlier we managed to get a chance on the day before the graduation, to visit one of York’s museums, the National Railway Museum.

For me a 2nd visit in as many years but for others, a first. Now even if you are not a train follower you surely must marvel at the work and effort, not to mention the skill, of our ancestors in building steam engines that would travel at speeds of over 125 mph back in the 1930s, a record that still stands today!  

Harry of course loved the miniature railway.

York University has a three day period for Graduations but virtually no on site parking facilities for visitors of the scales involved nowadays so they have enlisted the help of a field at The Yorkshire Auctioneers, as well as a coach company to set up a “private” Park & Ride so coach ride in to the University it was.

Gown and hat obtained, spare ticket obtained, official paid for photograph taken, coffee consumed and then out for informal photo shoot.  A nice spot chosen with willow trees overhanging the lake.

Flic, MA

Flic, MA

 

Flic on her own first then Gary with her, but what’s this: Harry running up to Flic with a photo and whilst Flic is looking at Harry, Gary is down on one knee with a ring in hand by the time Flic turns around.

 

 

The proposal 1

The proposal

The shock

The shock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The joy

The joy

The look on Flic’s face – priceless. Being forewarned, I had camera ready in sports mode to capture several moments of her different facial expressions.

Of course she said yes!! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And now for the graduation.

As a student who undertook all her studies remotely, she knew no other students the majority of whom had been at the university for the previous three years and noticeably, predominately female. Perhaps it was the subject matters. 

Graduates galore

Graduates galore


Speeches and awards of doctorates and honorary degrees over with the procession of students began followed by words of encouragement by the vice chancellor and the ceremony was over.

For the students, lots of challenges and life experiences to go through, for the vice chancellor and others, several more award ceremonies before they can relax prior to the start of the next academic year. 

Us, well by the time we were back at the hotel and changed and rested we aimed in the car for a Supermarket in town which took ages to reach-did I say the traffic was bad in York? and a meal at Mamma Mia’s.

I can thoroughly recommend the white chocolate profiteroles! 

Surprisingly early to bed – an emotional day. 

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Jet lag to Jersey and model Steam engines

4 April

9 days after returning from Australia and still probably jet lagged, we are up early after an evening of song and dance performed by our daughter, Mel, at the Centenerary Centre in Peel. This time, she didn’t make the costumes but she choreographed the show and sung a couple of solos. What a talent, but of course we are biased!

Isn’t it nice to have the Mannannan back in service and we speed in fog towards Liverpool arriving just before 10 in the morning and head off to Ross on Wye via the A49.  Although this is near Clearwell, we can’t use our house for Ali P’s wedding as a guest booked it about 10 months ago, so Premier Inn it is.

Sarah, Ali and Harry have arrived a few minutes before us and we head out to Ross Labels for a coffee after unpacking.

Dinner was supposed to be a Chinese in Hereford but we are all tired, so opt for a Beefeater in the attached restaurant which isn’t a bad choice.

So many of Ali and Craig’s friends are staying there.

5 April

Drop a car load at Dingle Rise and return to take Sarah, Ali and Harry to the wedding which is at Wilton Castle, a derelict castle just off the A40 SW of Ross.

Sarah, Ali & Harry on way to Craig and Ali P's wedding

Sarah, Ali & Harry on way to Craig and Ali P’s wedding

We have a late lunch in the Beefeater which is just as well as by the time we get to the wedding for the evening function, the food is nowhere to be seen and we have to leave to get Harry to bed.

Somehow miss Ali calling and sending texts re leaving the wedding early but do get there eventually, hopefully no harm done.

Harry had a good time and was absolutely worn out, going to sleep pretty quickly after getting to the hotel. 

6 April

A wet day and we all relocate to Dingle Rise although Ali is taken to Bristol Airport for his return as he has limited time off work available.

7 April

Sal’s cousin, Alan and his wife, Debbie visit with their two dogs but the rain is incessant so a walk is out if the question until about 5pm when we go over the back of the village of Clearwell much to the fascination of the sheep.  Although the dogs were on leads, the sheep were bleating like nobody’s business.  Harry walked probably close on 2 miles so hopefully a good night’ sleep is in store.

Lunch in the Wyndham Arms as Butcher’s arms closed.  Waitress might be interested in hiring Dingle Rise for a week or so but never gets back to me.  However, phone now has Wyndham Arms free wi-fi on it so a late night walk to the pub is called for – just for the wi-fi you understand!

Children's playground, Clearwell

Children’s playground, Clearwell


8 April

We are both exhausted but as it is a nice day, Sarah and Richard take Harry to park, another mile long walk – he just loves the outdoors.

Sliding Harry

Sliding Harry

Sarah off to Hereford to collect some kitchen furniture stored at Ali and Craig’s house whilst we try to entertain Harry with our now fast developing colds and keep him up until just before Sarah returns with a full van load of kitchen furniture.

Harry at Dingle Rise

Harry at Dingle Rise

 

9 April


Sarah & Harry off very early for a 9am ferry from Weymouth – they make it in good time and crossing not bad.

 

 

 

Neighbour Ken arrives early to adjust the back porch to allow cars to pass and park up the drive – something I should have done years ago!

New Porch @ Dingle Rise

New Porch @ Dingle Rise

Generally a lazy day but time spent sorting out bedding for Mick and Brenda’s visit and some house cleaning envisaged but Sal really not well so off to nearby doctor as a visitor patient, collect antibiotics, buy lunch and fall asleep for the afternoon!

Have to ring Mick and Brenda to cancel their visit, it is the first time we can recall we have had to cancel a visit because of illness.  Hopefully they will understand.

10 April

Off to Monmouth for some Internet access, Ken finishes off most of the porch but nothing else achieved as we both still have bad colds and cannot really concentrate on anything for too long.

Cottages4You ring to say they have a guest for next week which means we need a hotel for two nights.  By the time this is arranged and we ensure Sarah has not booked her ASDA delivery for anytime after Saturday morning, the person has cancelled but Cottages4you never let me know! They are a shower.

Just as well we cancelled Mick & Brenda in view of the hours we have spent asleep today.

11 April

Drive in lovely warm weather to Cheltenham to get more bedding and some more food. Start touching up the living room paint but the paint tin does not contain the right colour – might have to have a feature wall of a slightly different colour –  eventually manage to find the right paint tin which resolves the problem and we now have paintwork that looks better.

John & Deirdre ring to say they have exchanged contracts on their Bedford house and will be moving on 25 April, the day after we get back from Jersey. This has been a long and tortuous road for them as they had interest and a prospective buyer last February when we were in NZ.

Colds beginning to feel a bit better.

12 April

Not such an inspiring day and we head off to Monmouth for a late breakfast and a quick shop for dinner tonight.  Even at just after 10, Monmouth is busy with only a few parking spaces left. 

Cafe Nero are warming up their croissants so mine will be ready in 5 minutes and she would bring it over to us.  Ten minutes later it hasn’t arrived so a visit to the counter results in a profound apology, the aforementioned croissant and a voucher for a free coffee for our next visit – result.

Back for a few more jobs, an afternoon of watching the footy scores / results and guess what, Watford concede in the last minute to salvage a draw from a winning position.  How many times has that happened?

Discuss water with next door neighbour who thinks it is from the gutter rather than their heating.

13 April

Off to dump with a whole load of unwanted items from the house and get talking to the new opposite neighbour who bought the house about 8 months ago, comes from Sheffield and also lets it out through Cottages4you and was “complaining” it was so successful they couldn’t get into it because of the lettings – I know the feeling!

Just before we go off to see Rob get taking to anotherr neighbour who has just bought a house in Sling for her, her husband and two children, intend doing it up, moving to it in May time and then do up the present house to rent out on a permanent basis.  She is interested in visiting the IoM to see the MGP so discussed Homestay with her.

Rob in good spirits although Carol is with her cousin, Brenda, on a holiday somewhere in the UK, Rob doesn’t know where or for how long!

 

Gary with engine for finishing

Gary with engine for finishing

Now off to Flic & Gary’s before going down to Andover to see Jose.  Jose’s husband, Dennis, was in the middle of making a model steam engine before he died and Gary is going to finish it for Emma, David’s daughter.  A tour of Dennis’ sheds had Gary in awe looking at all the items Dennis had.  Gary was after a particular tool for painting but although he couldn’t find it took the engine away to complete as well as a few items to help.

 

One steam engine half built

One steam engine half built

David and his partner were also there and it is possible that Gary will return to look at the tools and make an offer for some of the many tools in the sheds. A lovely duet recital on the piano by Jose and David. 

Return to Clearwell but get held up just short of the air balloon roundabout so have to back track via Cirencester and Stroud. Sat Nav tries to take us down a cyclists and buses only route in Gloucester – about time I got an upgrade or a new one!

Half pack car, watch MotD and down to get e-mails at Wyndham Arms – the local nosy parkers will miss me going down there at around Midnight each evening for the past week.

14 April

Off to Weymouth with a journey time of about 2.5 hours which actually takes over 3 with at least a 15 minute wait for re surfacing a few miles short of Dorchester. Ferry crowded and end up sitting opposite an old couple with legs cramped under our seats.  Worse than Economy flights!

Lots of traffic in St Helier on arrival and it takes us about 45 minutes to get to Sarah & Ali’s from docking, a journey that really should take about 10 minutes max.

Indian take-away from New Raj, now that brings back memories, as Sarah and Ali off out for Sarah’s birthday meal.

15 April

Greve de Lecq

Greve de Lecq


Breakfast at Corrine’s, Greve de Lecq followed by some food shopping.

16 April

Use B & Q discount card for boarding for kitchen roof which just about gets into Sarah’s van.  

She has ordered a new garden table and chairs which somehow, I managed to have to pay for!

 

 

17 April

Ali off to France with some climbing friends, staying at Fontenbleu, so I pick up car seat from his garage and off to pick up Harry, take him to Millbrook park for a play.

Harry @ Milbrook Park

Harry @ Milbrook Park

As it is holiday time, park very crowded but Harry manages a few slides, which are his favourite along with sitting in the stagecoach.

La Rocco Tower, St Ouen's Bay, Jersey

La Rocco Tower, St Ouen’s Bay, Jersey

A walk on some of our favourite beaches follows including St Ouen.

Tide out and we nearly get to La Rocco Tower which is being refurbished to provide holiday accommodation.

That sounds a good idea, especially as the tower is surrounded by water for 70% of the time if not more.

 



18 April

Gorey castle, Jersey

Gorey castle, Jersey

Keep Harry occupied today with a visit to Gorey beach as Sarah has jobs to do and out for a meal with Laura & Jim at the restaurant overlooking Corbiere, so see sun set, nice meal and reasonably popular.

Jersey has so many decent restaurants it is difficult to choose from so it is perhaps not surprising it is not full.  A fair number of tables taken though.

19 April

Sarah has already taken down most of the ceiling in the kitchen so as to re-wire for lights, sound speaker and fire alarm. Still some more to take down and we take Harry out to allow her space and time to finish the job and start putting up new boards.

Kitchen minus ceiling.

Kitchen minus ceiling.



Ice plants bought from Ransome’s which hopefully will survive the journey and the more northern weather of the Isle of Man.

20 April

Lunch with Sue Thorne at Five Oaks. Sarah booked and it was just as well as the place was crowded. Good traditional pub food and attentive staff who warmed up Harry’s food without fuss.

A bit of an indifferent day though today, weather wise.

21 April

More shopping, this time a small hand held Dyson as an impulse buy and some more food and a play with his brio by Harry despite him still insisting on wearing his cycle helmet.IMG_0627

We were supposed to be going to Laura & Jim’s for a Jim cooked curry but they have “guests” who arrived. Morag and Greg and their two children have had to move out of their flat in St Peter’s after a mains water burst flooded their flat. As it is Easter, no insurance company open. It is likely to be three months out of their flat, we understand later.  

Laura and Jim now have their grandchildren 24/7!

Instead, a meal out at an Indian near Patriotic Street car park, the Madras Balti being very hot although I had ordered the medium version. Jim’s hotter curry was disappointingly mild though.

22 April

Sarah off to work early so Harry wakes up in his own time, about 8:30 but is initially upset at his Mum not being around.  This is surprisingly compounded by the arrival of the cleaner but by the time we get him to Nursery, he is more than happy.

More shopping but this time in St Helier with a coffee in de Gruchy where the manageress is the same as was when we were regularly visiting 20 years ago!

Out for a late lunch of a crab sandwich, well you just have to have one when in Jersey, don’t you, at the Prince of Wales at Greve de Lecq.  Not nice enough to be on the beach so area not crowded at all.

Some French families including children, eating a late lunch of Moules were the only other occupants. Collect Harry from nursery and take him to garden centre to see fish and animals. However, a bigger attraction are the sheds and greenhouses which he spends at least 15 minutes shutting and opening the doors with us being pushed and pulled into the greenhouses before Harry shuts the doors. IMG_4574

Back home, Harry out on his trainer bike again, he loves this and will I’m sure be riding properly soon.

Ali back from France at about 6 full of tales from the camp fire and climbing.  

23 April

Sarah off at 7 but brings Harry in with Sally’s birthday presents before she goes. Harry taken to nursery 45 minutes later by Ali and after breakfast and loading car up, head for St Ouen for some Jersey Royals to take home and then down to harbour for return to UK. Ferry not quite as crowded and uncomfortable as coming over but on time.

Dinner at Weymouth Beefeater using some points for a bottle of wine and drive onwards to Taunton for overnight.

An outrageously stupid lorry driver tries to push me off the road on the way to Taunton but he has no “How is my driving?” telephone number to complain to – he was probably foreign anyway.

At hotel, room lights not working so we have to be moved to another room and as a bonus get a free night’s accommodation.  We have never been to Taunton before so this is another pin in the map of places been to.

Our destination today is Mr Miles Tea Room in the centre of Taunton where a farmer’s market is in full flow.  We are meeting Brenda & Mick who we had to postpone earlier in the month because of our colds. A lovely lunch which had to be curtailed somewhat as we needed to get to Liverpool for 6:30 fort the ferry home.

Despite leaving plenty of time for the journey we still managed to be late by about 10 minutes, were the last onto the ferry which sailed virtually as soon as we were aboard.  Back home for a rest for a few days.  

 

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Picture Perfect

It is time to downsize when you have to rid a cupboard of old fashioned shelving and find that you have too much to go back into the space provided. Add this to still having boxes of pictures, photographs and many other items belonging to our late parents the last of whom died nearly 5 years ago and the situation could be described as desperate. 

One item that really didn’t warrant much attention was an 800yds swimming certificate awarded to my father in the 1930s that had been in an old but damaged dark oak wood frame. Being inquisitive, I carefully remove the backing paper, pull out the pins to allow the removal of the wooden backing only to find yet another swimming certificate (completely unfaded) and a picture of an elderly gentleman sitting at a table. This picture had probably been put there merely as backing to give support to the two certificates. 

Written underneath the picture (about the size of an I-pad) was the name of, presumably, the seated gentleman, a Rev R W Loveridge, stating that he was the vicar of St. Phillip’s, Mount Street, Bethnal Green, London. More wording merely said “35 years”.  Sadly there was no date on the picture but because my family once lived in Mount Street the picture was intriguing. 
Rev Loveridge
Now, Google is a wonderful tool and it was not long before I was able to establish that St Phillip’s church was demolished in the 1960s and the congregation merged with St Matthew’s. Contact with the church revealed that a historian by the name of Sarah Wise has written a book and a blog about the deprivation of the area and describes the vicar as being “heroic” in view of his kindness to the poor of the area.

The blog had quotes from a family member, stated that no known picture survived of him and that he left St Phillip’s church in 1896 to move to Yorkshire where he died the following year. 

So, I had in my possession, a picture probably taken no later than 1896 (itself somewhat amazing bearing in mind the good quality of the picture), of an individual described as heroic and one that his family did not know existed. 

Contact with the blog writer, Sarah Wise, through her publicist, resulted in an exchange of e-mails with the relative, who by chance lived only a few miles away from our daughter in SE England.

Living on an island, as we do, trips across to see our daughter have to be planned some time in advance and by co-incidence we were visiting her 10 days later so agreed to visit the relative whilst in the area and hand over the photograph in person rather than trust the postal services. 

Understandably, the relative was thrilled to have the photograph and I like to think that it will also be useful for the church’s records as well. 

Now all we have to establish is how the picture came to be in my family’s possession back in the late 1890s bearing in mind that it must have cost a substantial amount of money to produce and the type of area my ancestors lived in at the end of the 19th Century. 

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Brisbane to Sydney

Friday 14 March 

Southbank walkways

Southbank walkways

A quick breakfast run to Public 41 (in Adelaide) for croissants and pack up for taxi ride to airport. Flight to Brisbane on time and full with taxi ride into town on arrival over A$50.

Hotel Mantra (with the orange)

Hotel Mantra (with the orange)

Hotel Mantra Southbank is a modern building that the Kiwi taxi driver was not overly familiar with but which was quite easy to find. Lunch on the great area that is Southbank with it’s cafes, walking passages and general liveliness. View Brisbane from across the river, what a shame the low skyline has been ruined by the motorways though. 

Quinten and his wife Angela had invited us out for a meal at their house and Q picks us up spot on the agreed time. A lovely meal followed by coffee on the terrace and lots of chats about our time in Jersey. Q and Angela have led a varied life with work in London, Jersey, Solomon Islands and now Brisbane. Their son, Sebastian, is a member of “The Ten Tenors” presently touring in the USA. His daughter is also a musician, signing jazz in Melbourne. 

It was absolutely lovely sitting outside in the evening watching a few possums in the garden, one of which was pregnant. Driven back to hotel just after midnight with the sound of a few trains still evident outside our window. 

15 March 

After breakfast, Q and Angela picked us up and took us to the Three monkeys Coffee House and restaurant for morning coffee. Deserted when we arrive, it was absolutely packed by the time we leave and head for a Saturday market at West End. Stalls set out around a sports pitch meant that you just had to walk round to view everything. Produce, jewellery, wooden plates etc. A drive around some of the centre of Brisbane before being taken to the Westfield shopping centre at Carindale (near Morningside which is where Q & Angela live) where we are left for a bit of retail therapy as Q and Angela had a prior engagement. 

Catch bus back to Hotel Mantra, rest and evening meal at The Sangria Bar at Ole Restaurant opposite from the hotel.

Brisbane by night

Brisbane by night

Very noisy and vibrant and a good meal next to a couple of girls going to see Bill Bryson later – should have tried to get tickets, he is a good writer. Walk down to riverside for some night photos with a lot of people waiting for the ferries across to the other side of town.   

16 March 

Wander over to local market after a good breakfast (why can’t all hotels serve poached eggs that keep runny?) and then Richard goes accross river to collect car. A bit of a wait whilst others are served and back over river to collect Sal and luggage.   

Take roads south to join crowded M1 which turns into M3 and four lanes of slow moving traffic in 35C heat.

Stop for an iced coffee at The Coffee Club @ Homeworld Helensvale, QLD – probably the best iced coffee I have had and a meal in itself. Back on motorway, slow to about 20km/h for about 10k before it thins out and the scenery turns from industrial to bush and trees before we reach the turn off for Byron Bay.

Poor instructions and lack of evidence of street names again and we go into town before retracing our steps to find Motel. A A$100 deposit is required which is not really appreciated but they do have complimentary washing and tumble drying but no free Internet access. We could have bought internet access but hope we can find some in town.

Dinner in Fishheads on the sea front in Byron Bay, the most Easterly town in Australia.

Byron Beach pre storm

Byron Beach pre storm

 

Hope she got a good photo with a newly cleaned lens

Hope she got a good photo with a newly cleaned lens

Excellent steak washed down with local Stone Wood beer followed by a walk on the beach and some photo taking as the sky and sea were both pretty angry pre storm.

What a storm we later had, thunder lightening and torrential rain, it was surprising we didn’t have a black out.

Charm offensive by a young girl in asking me if I had a lens cloth for her camera – she had to do with my polo shirt instead, still the views were lovely. 

Usual Sunday night helping of Rake and Wallander on TV, probably the only decent night TV is on but winds high with noise from sea quite loud in our apartment. 

17 March

No meals provided here as it is a really basic Motel type accommodation where you even have to make your own bed!

 

Mullolimby

Mullumbimby

Off to breakfast at Balcony and some Internet access and a chance to get up to date with the world, the first time since Adelaide last Friday morning.

Byron Lighthouse

Byron Lighthouse

Try to get to the lighthouse but despite the parking being $7 (we didn’t pay) there was nowhere to park so we left – the views would be stunning though. Headed off instead to Bangalow and stopping for lunch at Mullumbimby, a sleepy town.

Kingfisher down the Brunswick river

Kingfisher down the Brunswick river

All the area around here is “hippy” type country so the styles of clothing and are outrageous but the views from the route are quite stunning, some like English countryside.

Boat tour tonight up the nearby Brunswick River. At Brunswick harbour head for River after picking up 4 other people. Ride out to see the “most dangerous” harbour entrance in Australia with no protection and a sand bar.

Head up stream, passing wildlife, trees clinging to the water’s edge whilst sipping XXXX and wine and eating nibbles, all for $30 each.  Highlight was a kingfisher and a sting-ray. Fish and chips by the Pacific Ocean listening to the waves and watching the full moon rise. Not so much wind today so sea not so loud from our apartment as last night. 

18 March

Parrot at Byron Bay Lighthouse

Parrot at Byron Bay Lighthouse

Drive up to lighthouse for panoramic view of bays both north and south watching the Rosellas (parrotts) and butterflys nibbling at the tree blossom before buying breakfast on the go.

Ring Lilly Pilly as requested for tonight’s accommodation and say we will be there at about 5pm, about 6 hours time for a four hour journey.

Lennox Head

Lennox Head

The next township South, Lennox Head, is much more civilised than Byron Bay and spot what could be a nice appartment for a longer stay.

So many nice beaches along this coast and virtually all for surfers but not crowded. 

At Belina, spot a shoe warehouse open to the public attracts our attention and we come out A$150 lighter for a pair of UGG boots for Mel and sandals for Sal. Onwards to Grafton, but not knowing where the antique type shops were find a shopping centre for lunch but no time to look around as we have to get to Lily Pily by about 5pm – we were eventually about 25 minutes late. 

Sad news from looking at emails, Tony Fulford, G & S member, has died after a 7 week illness (cancer). Such a sad loss and has cast a shadow over today. 

There are so many roadworks on the way reducing our speed from 110 to 80 or 60 and even 40 at one stage. Scenery varied but mostly wooded and weather very hot so once again, the travel time taken was. 

Lily Pily is a lovely place and we are the only guests.

Lily Pily bedroom balcony

Lily Pily bedroom balcony

In fact, Jeanneatte and Bruce have already asked Audley to only book guests for a minimum of two nights so it is a shame we are only staying one night. Fantastic view from the cabin overlooking the valley full of trees and the river at the bottom of the valley. Nearest neighbours about 500 yds away and next ones probably about 2 miles away. 

Back down to town and at Bruce’s suggestion, go to 5 Church Street for an evening meal followed by a viewing of the Fruit bats circling around before going into the trees at dusk.

We have the sitting room to ourselves of course and have some Port, courtesy of Lily Pily although decline Bruce’s offer of a hot drink before we are off to bed. 

19 March

River boardwalk at Urunga

River boardwalk at Urunga

Breakfast on the verandah and a Skype with Flic, doing wellish after her operation.

We say our goodbye’s to a lovely room and guest house after a very good breakfast and on Bruce’s suggestion, head for Urunga and walk the boardwalk for 1k each way – a good suggestion but not on Audley’s suggestion list.

Drive on, only stopping at Port Macquarie for lunch, again through loads of roadworks which considerably slow us down.

Our instructions were to turn left off the Pacific Highway at Morpeth but as we found, Morpeth is not on the PH so we missed the turn and had to do 2 sides of a triangle.

Port Stephens - view from bedroom

The Anchorage, Port Stephens – view from bedroom

Very tatty bath, not First class hotel standard

Very tatty bath, not First class hotel standard

The Anchorage looked on paper a first class hotel but the room we get is far from First Class with a peeling non slip film in the bath and dirty grouting in a room that has certainly seen better days.

Even our replacement room has some antiquated 1970s furniture, carpets not fitting properly and no room guide. Internet costs A$30 for a couple of days, extortionate and therefore not used.

This hotel has a great view over the harbour but the refurbishment can’t come quick enough.

A hotel that provides powdered coffee, no coffee percolator and hard toilet paper in no way can be classified as “First Class”.

Mind you, the food in the restaurant was generally good, albeit the service slow. Nuts were mentioned on the menu as being in all but one of the deserts but the one that did not mention nuts came with, yes, nuts on top. Do they not have nut allergies in Australia? The Anchorage certainly needs to get it’s act together.

20 March 

Slept well last night after a long drive in the heat. A lazy day is called for especially as the kayaking tour mentioned as an option is not going to happen (it only happens at the weekends at this time of year) so we opt for a coffee and an email catch up at a local coffee shop and a paddle in the sea before the heavens open for about an hour.

Port Stephens pelicans

Port Stephens pelicans

modern architecture in Port Stephens area

modern architecture in Port Stephens area

More bays, more beaches, some Pelicans following fishermen, some different style houses to see and back to the hotel for a chill out and swim followed by dinner in the sleepy nearby town of Port Nelson as another meal in the slow service hotel is not really required. 

Back to our room only to find a cockroach lingering in the sink area.

No chance to catch or get a photo of it as it scurries under the sink area and away.

Hopefully it won’t return overnight. I do not like this hotel at all.

21 March 

Brown deposits in the bath this morning which were similar to something Richard found the morning before but which had been dismissed as just poor cleaning.

Seaside relaxation near Newcastle

Seaside relaxation near Newcastle

This is certainly not poor cleaning but could either be from the ceiling or animal created. On check-out cockroach is described to the staff who dismiss it with a comment “they are supposed to spray”. It is highly probable then that the brown liquid deposits were from the cockroaches.

It is such a shame as this is in is lovely location, the public areas including the pool are fine, the staff friendly and the food is what you would expect from a hotel. The room decor etc. let’s it down badly.  As I said, the refurbishment can’t come quick enough.

Having sampled a wine tour in the Napa Valley (California) a few years ago we knew what to expect in the Hunter Valley but of course with only three more nights in Australia would be very restricted in what we bought as we would not be able to take any back on the plane so had opted for a stay in Newcastle rather than (as Audley suggested) the Hunter Valley.

Newcastle is only a short journey down the Pacific Highway so meander in the direction of Australia’s East coast port which Lonely Planet named in 2011 as one of the top 10 cities to visit.

Stop at lots of bays on the way for photos but also some of the grand design houses that have sprung up.

Crowne Plaza, Newcastle, NSW

Crowne Plaza, Newcastle, NSW

Reach Crowne Plaza Newcastle at about 1pm and are able to check in which is good as it then gives us time to explore the area.

Newcastle river front

Newcastle river front

Lunch in The Dockyard on the boardwalk, an area converted from old dock workings and now a lively mini South Bank Brisbane type area. The area is now called Honeysuckle and is worth a visit. 

Walk towards Nobby’s head but only get to ferry crossing point and Richard explores town whilst Sally waits and watches the world go by and the ferry crossing to the other side. Clothes shops are typically quirky and there are more than there fair share of book shops. 

Dinner in hotel was memorable for the supply of Bubble Gum Ice Cream in a desert; weird.

What was good though was a live musician playing Jack Johnson type music. 

22 March 

Good night’s sleep, no cockroaches but awake at 7am by fog horns; it is foggy on the Tyne, sorry Hunter river. Breakfast in nearby McGourty’s though two of the four items requested were delivered wrong! Nothing wrong with the food we had though and considerably cheaper than a breakfast at the Crowne Plaza.

Nobby's

Nobby’s Head

Check out and drive towards Nobby’s Head. Walk partway along the breakwater watching all the surfers and head off on the Pacific Highway and Motorway towards Leura, passing the outskirts of Sydney and then heading for Windsor and Penrith before the mountains start slowing our journey with the winding road.

The heavens open with an almighty hail and thunder storm shortly before Leura so we turn off and park up for 5 minutes or so before it subsides. 

Find Buttercup cottage which was somewhat of a surprising establishment, especially after the Crowne Plaza last night.

Corrugated iron bedroom walls!

Corrugated iron bedroom walls!

A very rustic cottage built using recycled materials but probably could have done with coats of paint to brighten up the decor. It appears to be “shabby chic” with an emphasis on “shabby” rather than “chic”. 

Out to Leura village centre, drive around to Toy Museum, it was already closed for the night, and a brief drive up road to Katoomba which looks bigger.

Back in Leura, buy bread and yoghurts for the two days and then dinner in Bon Ton. 

We are supposed to have Internet access but it does not appear to work! 

23 March 

Not sure I’ve ever slept in a room with corrugated iron as a wall but a good night’s sleep was had and no dawn chorus, surprising. Breakfast on the patio with the sun streaming down on us after a misty start.

Trip advisor comments suggest that Scenic World gets crowded pretty quickly so go early to avoid the crowds. Entrance fee of $64 between us doesn’t seem too bad and we are supplied with arm bands to gain access, or exit, from the three “rides”. The main “attraction” is the three sisters although for a good photo opportunity the morning is not the best of times to go as the sun is directly in front of you.

Three sisters

Three sisters

Firstly, a very steep train ride, reputedly the steepest in the world, followed by a walk around the boardwalk at the bottom and a cable car ride to the top.

Orphan rock

Orphan rock

Fill up on a few souvenirs and then take the Skyway across in from of the Katoomba waterfalls.

The lookout point wasn’t as mobbed as it probably will be later as we have to wait over 10 minutes to get the Skyway back by which time the queue was probably another 50 or so strong behind us.

This is a tourist attraction taking advantage of nature. As one reviewer on tripadvisor put it, “go for a hike”, you see more. 

Back to the thriving town that is Leura for lunch, drop food for dinner at lodge, try to get on Internet at lodge and head for a drive around the area to Lithgow, the fire damaged Zig-Zag railway and a viewpoint before heading back to pack the bags ready for tomorrow’s last journey back to Sydney. 

Last Sunday in Australia, so it must be time for Rake, Waking the Dead and Wallender! 

24 March 

Our last full day in Australia and no dawn chorus to wake us up in the Blue Mountains, just rain. It certainly knows how to rain here, not surprising I suppose as we are over 3000ft high and the temperature is now down to 13C. 

Buttercup Barn

Buttercup Barn

There was no one on reception throughout the weekend so it was the first chance we had to talk to the manager / owner just before we left. Whilst there was nothing wrong with the chalet / hut / barn, it just was not to our taste with a few black creepies around but we could see it would appeal to others.   

Leave around 10 still in pouring rain, goodness knows what we would have done if it had rained like this yesterday, and headed along the M4 motorway for Sydney.

Quite heavy traffic and lots of it exceeding the speed limit. We were good but at least two drivers weren’t and probably suffered a heavy fine. Get complemented in a service station for reading a map rather relying on a sat nav, especially as instructions to get into Sydney a bit vague but fortunately, signposts were, for once, able to direct me to the centre.

The itinerary instructions we had been provided with suggested we turn up Essex Street in Central Sydney, the trouble was Essex Street was not marked on the map so anyone arriving in Sydney for the first time might be confused. 

Leave Sal with bags in Hotel, much better one than the previous Sydney experience although still up a bit of a hill and return car to Hertz, walking back through the city for a quick rest before venturing out for final souvenirs. 

Massive rainstorm hits the city dropping the city temperatures from a muggy 24 to about 17. It is later understood that one person died by being washed into a storm drain and drowning.

last night in Sydney

last night in Sydney

Back out for dinner at Opera House watching the cruise boat depart before settling down to watch The Magic Flute in the Opera House as our last night treat. Had been told it was sold out but far from it and our side two seats were adjacent to about 5 empty seats so we moved up into the more expensive seats, bargain. 

Wonderfully silly story, almost G & S like but with outstanding costumes and a cast of probably over 40.

We were not supposed to take photos but being so near to the exit, we found it difficult to attempt unlike some others in the middle of the theatre. 

SOH was built in an age when it was assumed that everyone had full mobility so lifts are scarce but we do find one, followed by some escalators so only a few stairs to climb, fortunately.

Years ago, people would dress up for theatre, be it Opera, plays or Musicals. Not now and all sorts of wearing apparel were present although thankfully not too many in Jeans and T shirts.

Sydney Opera House by night

Sydney Opera House by night

Walk back to hotel along harbour front which by night does look impressive before settling in for the night, a quiet room although it is understood Friday to Sunday nights are noisy.

March 25 

Our last day.

Sal has a lovely call in the hotel from Barbara wishing us a safe journey and thanking us for the gift we sent, whilst Richard is collecting the takeaway coffee and croissants for breakfast.

Pack up and off to airport courtesy of the Qantas chauffeur. Flight on time and we leave Sydney for the short hop to Melbourne.

Have to change terminals in Melbourne and boy is that a long walk so we only get about 20 minutes in the lounge before our flight to Dubai and London in the A380 is called and we are whisked away for the 20+ hour flights. 

Sorry to go!!  Must come back as I have 2 A$50 notes unspent!

26 March

One of the advantages of flying business class is the shower on arrival evan at 5:30am.  Showered and fed (again) we locate car and join the slow moving M25 traffic heading up country to Heysham and the ferry.  Surprisingly not all that tired at the moment (no doubt that will come later) and relax for a smooth crossing back home to the mountain of paperwork, bills etc. Just as welll home has more than one toilet – the main bathroom toilet breaks about three hours after we get back!

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Melbourne to Adelaide, March 2014

4 March

George and Richard are, we work out, 3rd cousins through Richard’s Paternal Grandmother and this is the first time we have met, George having “found” us on Genes Reunited a few years ago, ironically just after their return from a visit to his home town of Liverpool and which included a visit to the Isle of Man.  

Lovely clear day and after breakfast we are taken off to the nearby Dandenong hills to the William Ricketts Sanctury.

William Ricketts carvings

William Ricketts carvings

I would never have even contemplated coming here had we been staying in Melbourne itself as it is over 40km from the centre. However, it is a delightful enclave of woods in which clay has been carved by the late William Ricketts onto some of the rock in the area to reflect his love of the original settlers, the Aborigines.

William Ricketts carvings

William Ricketts carvings

A commentary was provided on little iPod like devices which included some words  recorded by him. The carvings were varied, mostly of faces but unique and very quiet, good for reflection, which is what he wanted it to be.

Running water in little streams is in evidence as well which adds to the ambience. 

IMG_3771Back out and off to the cafe on the hilltop, the Skyhigh Restaurant for views towards Melbourne, a quick bite to eat, grabbing some Internet access and a walk around the gardens and back down to Sassafras where a lovely afternoon tea is served in the Miss Marple Tea Room.

The Japanese obviously love it here but it was some locals who ordered the Ice Cream!

Ice cream at Miss Marple's

Ice cream at Miss Marple’s

TT Teapot

TT Teapot at “tealeaves” shop


Returning to Seaford for an hour or so before we venture out again for more food, this time to the Seaford RSL (Returning Servicemen’s League).  Supposedly like a British Legion club, this place holds about 200 people at any one time all eating a very large meal, reasonably priced and excellent value for money.

The place was packed! 

George has prepared a brief but comprehensive account of the Barklem family and has given me a copy, Barklem was my Grandmother’s maiden name on my father’s side so it fills in a couple of holes in my knowledge.

 

5 March

Puffing Billy day although the weather forecast is not so good.

Rosellas at George & Barbara's

Rosellas at George & Barbara’s

We start by watching some Rosella birds next door with their colourful plumage, just like a parrot. All four of us then set off by car to a local Motel a few blocks away, park up and get on the coach, we are the last ones on. Roll call complete, we set off towards the Dandenong hills again only this time towards Belgrave. Marree’s tours is on it’s way.

A stop by Lysterfield Park for morning coffee was very welcome only by now we had cloud cover and drizzle. Some school children are on a school outing there and are setting off for mountain biking and a party of handicapped young adults are going out on the lake in, supervised, sailing boats. 

With the drizzle continuing, we continue to make our slow way to Belgrave, via one of Melbourne’s drinking water reservoirs. The coach is able to drive around some of the roads around it which enables us to see three kangaroos and a few birds. By the time we reach Belgrave and the Puffing Billy train we have turned the coach around near a cockatoo feeding area.

Sally driving Puffing Billy

Sally driving Puffing Billy

Puffing Billy is a narrow gauge railway originally built in the early 1900’s to convey fruit to the docks. The fruit no longer goes by train, a landslide put paid to that in the 1950s and is now run as a wholly volunteer tourist railway. See http://www.puffingbilly.com.au for details. 

Our party of 40 virtually swamps the dining cars and after a brief wait, we are served a delicious 3 course meal with coffee as we chug along the 8.25 miles to Lakeside through mostly wooded areas full of gum trees and Mountain Ash, stopping at Menzies Creek to let a train pass and Emarald, briefly.

A Health & Safety nightmare?

A Health & Safety nightmare?

The other carriages have seats facing outwards but the custom is to sit with legs dangling out of the side of the carriage, most un Health and Safety like!

Feeding the Rosellas

Feeding the Rosellas

At Lakeside, we cross the tracks, Sally nearly got crushed by the gate, and mill around explaining to various people where the Isle of Man is, feeding the Rosella birds and being asked if we want to volunteer before we return to our coach for our return.

We have already eaten an entree and a big lunch and now we have desert and coffee to look forward to on the way back. Sadly for George, the model railway cabin is not open which seems strange bearing in mind the numbers of people on the train. 

Pictures taken on the train do not really do the journey justice as the weather closed in and cloud turned to mist and drizzle.  Can’t complain though as the area needs rain. 

Back in the coach at Belgrave we head back to the Motel stop, get in George’s car and off to Phillip Island for a dusk penguin watch. 

Quite a long drive for poor George but we get there in plenty of time to enable us to eat more food, drink more drinks and venture off to the viewing area. Whilst we wait, download the Phillip Island App for more info on the little things as we are not allowed to take photos. So folks, if you want to see the penguins, I suggest you go to the Phillip Island penguin island website: http://www.penguins.org.au  

The sun sets and the penguins start their walk up the beach in clumps of about 7-10, avoiding the pesky seagulls which have congregated to pick up scraps of food dropped by tourists who don’t know any better. As it gets darker, the floodlights are turned on but the wind gets up which seems to annoy the seagulls. Several people obviously do not feel the cold, including a few college girls in their skimpy shorts. Some however shell out money for a wrap which at least keeps the cold off them. 

As soon as a few groups of penguins have started up the dunes, many of the tourists go but we stay a bit, following the penguins up the dunes. They “run” up for about 20m or so then stop, setting off shortly afterwards but not showing any sign of fatigue despite their long journey feeding in the sea. There were just under 700 on site but we probably only saw about 100 this evening.  A coffee followed to keep us, especially George, awake on the journey home and we collapsed into bed exhausted. 

6 March 

A day visit to Melbourne by train. You have to have a Miki card to travel on the trains, buses and trams in Melbourne and today we are venturing into the big city with a Miki card that works like a London Oyster card borrowed from a friend of George and Barbara.

Flinders Street Station

Flinders Street Station

A short walk to a local bus stop and we alight at Kananook station, and after fighting with machine to top up card, all four of us travel the 25 stations stopping train to Flinders Street which is an impressive building.

Melbourne Exhibition Centre

Melbourne Exhibition Centre

 

We opt for a river cruise to see some of the sights including some wonderfully situated new apartments and then opt for Federation Square for lunch with it’s array of deck chairs for people to sit on.

The 3 graces of the 21st Century?  (possibly not but you decide)

The 3 graces of the 21st Century? (possibly not but you decide)

Deckchairs adorn the Square

Deckchairs adorn the Square

We have to have a ride on the vintage circular tram, No. 35 and this takes us to Central station, now a shopping centre, with the shot tower chimney in the middle.

Shot was dropped down the chimney into sand and it made a circular hole in the sand. Another fine clock chimes 3 for us whilst we are there. 

Walk back towards Flinders street Station via the Library, Town Hall and Cathedral. There is a local debate as to whether to knock Flinders Street Station building down and start again.

Melbourne's Tram 35

Melbourne’s Tram 35

Personally, I think it is a lovely old colonial building which should be preserved as much as possible. Look what can be done just by going to St Pancras in London.

Shot tower, Melbourne

Shot tower, Melbourne

All in all, 4 – 5 hours in Melbourne really cannot do justice to what there is to see but needs must and we head back to George and Barbara’s house and pack up for the early start tomorrow.

More photos of Melbourne on my Facebook page as this blog cannot do justice to the city.

George has suggested we pick up our car tomorrow earlier than the booked time of 10am and has arranged this through Hertz locally for us to pick it up at about 8:30.

7 March

George’s reasoning was sound and we followed him to Sorrento to catch the 10am ferry. How Audley thought we would get up to Arthur’s seat, watch the penguins at Portrush ( a dusk type activity anyway ) and get over to Cape Otway for afternoon tea is anyone’s guess – it would just not be possible in the time allowed.

Ferry crossing smooth although the 1km suggested in our directions after we leave the ferry is actually 10 which really confused us. 

Stop in Apollo Bay to grab something to eat for lunch and arrive at Otway Lodge at about 2:30 by which time it is raining quite heavily and as usual we have the smallest room although it is a light room. Directions to get here are spot on, we had just left the trees and the drive was a few hundred feet in front of us.

Kangaroos from our bedroom window, Cape Otway Lodge

Kangaroos from our bedroom window, Cape Otway Lodge

Views out to fields and woods with no wildlife in sight, but wait, what’s this – loads of kangaroo come bounding into sight, another animal in the wild we have seen.

Tiger Quoll

Tiger Quoll

 

Afternoon tea is simply a drink and a small piece of cake albeit very welcome. We are told that the visit to the Tiger Quolls is at about 4:30 but by the time we set off it is nearer 5:15 although by now the rain has stopped, well almost! 

The Tiger Quoll is a spotted animal whose numbers in the wild are declining rapidly. The centre has a male, a female and two youngsters. Me enter the youngster’s enclosure to watch them hunt down the lumps of meet put out for them. They have no fear of us and scurry around quite happily. These will never be released into the wild and the male and female will only be put in the same enclosure for mating purposes. Spot a Koala chomping away high up in a tree nearby. 

On the way back to lodge, see Yellow tailed black cookaburrow and another Koala is spotted. We stop by an enclosure where two Koalas who have been rejected by their mothers are being nurtured but only one seen and it had it’s head in leaves for most of the time.

Bad hair day for this Koala

Bad hair day for this Koala

 

The rain does not exactly leave the Koala justice in the hair looks though.    

Dinner is around a big table with 2 Germans, only one of whom speaks English, two French who speak virtually no English, ourselves and two American girls who are hiking the Great Ocean Road. One of them is from Texas and is employed in the gas extraction industry, fracking, which is a hot topic in the NW of England right now. 

Dinner was cooked with produce grown, caught very locally and was well cooked. Out at 9 and into the Potteroo and flying squirrels cage. There are a few flying squirrels whose diet at this time of night is honey.

Feeding the squirrels

Feeding the squirrels

Most of us take it in turns to dip our fingers in the honey pot the guide (actually also our Cook) has brought with us and let the squirrel lick it clean whilst the Potteroo scurries around the floor. The only time it kept still was when one of us humans managed to massage it’s neck.

Fascinating – and a wonderful day. 

8 March 

Set off at about 10 for the lighthouse at Cape Otway although don’t go in due to the possible steps. Instead head for a 1km walk which is described as Easy, back on the main road.  In fact the track is up and down quite a bit but there are no steps with lots of interesting tree roots and we even see a Cape Otway black snail, another endangered species.

Black snail

Black snail



Now head for 12 Apostles which is arrived at via the gateway which tells some of the history of building of the road.

Great Ocean Road entrance

Great Ocean Road entrance

Lots of twisting roads that undulate and often have overhangs of the ubiquitous Mountain Ash tree which is unique in shedding bark regularly, grows to enormous heights and widths. 

Lots of people at all the stops on the sea side of the road to try to get a glimpse of the stacks but it is not the best of weather, at least it is not raining though.

 

The 12 Apostles (in bad weather)

The 12 Apostles (in bad weather)

At main car park make an impulse purchase of a helicopter ride over the stacks and down to London Bridge.

12 Apostles

12 Apostles

The journey is over too quickly but we do get a fair number of pictures despite the poor weather.  So many people in the area and a very small gift shop which consequently is much too crowded.

Try to get lunch in nearby Peterborough village but this really does not have anything going for it at all, despite the Audley brochure telling us otherwise. An historic pub a couple of km is signposted but the chef has gone home due to lack of custom! On towards Port Fairy our next overnight and stop by the Cheese factory for a very good ploughman’s lunch.

Drive through Warrnambool and arrive at Port Fairy.

We had been told at Cape Otway lodge on check out that the music festival was on in Port Fairy and whilst our brochure had said it took place in March, it did not say exactly when so it was somewhat annoying to say the least that the road to the hotel was shut and that market stalls were outside the hotel, itself in the middle of town. Have to abandon car and walk to hotel to check in, walk back to car armed with a permit before police will lift barrier to let us in to the restricted area that surrounds the hotel. What’s more, there is no parking at the hotel until we move a bollard. Manager helpful but we have to move car to outside someone else’s cottage. Manager also says he has lots of trouble with the agent Audley use, ATS, and that they shouldn’t have booked us in there as non festival goers. Manager reckons he could get A$500 a night over festival time – I hope we didn’t pay that. A somewhat rude comment I thought especially as he said there was no available accommodation for 100km when I suggested he found us alternative accommodation.  No lift to first floor room which doesn’t help the situation. 

We will not be able to get out by car and guarantee getting back so are trapped in the hotel and town which itself is populated mainly by teenagers. It is like sending us to Glastonbury when the festival is on when we don’t want to go to the music. 

Room however is quite comfortable and we manage to do the washing (free service) whilst Sal has a rest. Wander out at about 6:30 and have a meal in a Chinese Restaurant without any difficulties by not booking. Not sure what Audley meant when they said the eating facilities were limited. 

Back to hotel via supermarket for yogurts and a general catch up on paperwork.

Port Fairy river moorings

Port Fairy river moorings



9 March 

A remarkably good night in the circumstances and after trying to buy croissants from the local bakers without success.  Leave hotel and get Police to open barrier for our exit and drive to river park for a few photos of river.  Loads of people heading for nearby stage which slows all progress so we head for our next night’s stay in the Grampians.


On way, fill up with fuel in Hamilton and Cafe 109 in Dunkeld before heading up to Hall’s Gap. Road signage not good so check route prior to ascent on a twisting road up and up into the mountains but still manage to take the back road rather than the direct route. Close to top, evidence is first noticed of the devastating fire that occurred 7 weeks ago.  

Regrowth in the Grampians

Regrowth in the Grampians

We now drive for probably 15k with no noticeable intact tree in sight although some are now re sprouting which is a good sign.

Meringa Springs bedroom

Meringa Springs bedroom

At Meringa Springs we check-in once we have found the owner; we have arrive at 2:15 and check-in is supposed to be at 3.

This a fantastic hotel, only saved from the fire by Australian Fire Service’s helicopters dousing the property with water with the hotel only re opening a week ago.

It has got to be the best hotel we have stayed in on this trip.

Infiniti pool

Infiniti pool

 

Temperatures too hot (31C) to go outside and with everywhere burnt in the vicinity, not a lot to see and little shade, so after an hour relaxing in the cool bedroom overlooking the Grampian mountains, head for the Infiniti pool for a good swim followed by a good meal and a weekly dose of Rake on the TV.

 

10 March 

No noise outside when we stepped out just after midnight, absolutely lovely.

We awoke to kangaroos in the field around us this morning and after breakfast head for Horsham, the A8 and Adelaide.

Horsham is about 40k away and is where the local children go to school. Some journey!

By the time we get to Horsham, it is cloudy, muggy and very hot, up to 36C. This is now a long slog on an uninteresting road a bit like the roads around Ely in Cambridgeshire.

 

coloured animals at Kaniva

coloured animals at Kaniva

The road follows the main railway line for most of the way but no trains seen and very few places to stop for lunch as today is a public holiday.

Stop at the Windmill cafe at Kaniva for lunch which seems to be the only place open on our journey, even the recommended cafe at Keith is closed for the holiday.

A few interesting pieces of artwork in Kaniva adorn the walkways.

Drive into Adelaide, at first a steep drop from the M1 and Adelaide Hills but flat in the city with Rendezvous hotel easy to find.

Check in with our room on the 15th floor, now why couldn’t we have been put in something like this in Sydney albeit it is in the business district and not the shopping area.

Out for a wander for something to eat, but everything closed, presumably for the Public Holiday so eat in bar in hotel. 

 

Tuesday 11 March 

A R&R day, so up late and get breakfast at nearby Public 41 cafe.

Glenelg

Glenelg

We have the car today but weather forecast is not good so we head for the seaside at Glenelg for a walk around. We could have taken the tram had we known as it is the terminus and it stops not far from the Rendezvous hotel.

Not a lot going on by the beach as it is windy so head into town for coffee. A lot of shops but not a lot to buy.   

Take car back to airport and catch bus back into town just before it starts raining hard and opt for an evening meal from an Italian in the shopping centre. Again, not a lot of choice as most things catering for office workers. 

Wednesday 12 March 

Early start with a taxi to the airport for a flight to Kangaroo island.  A 36 seater for a 20 minute flight that is probably 2/3 full.

Met by Gaynor and Mary at Kingscote airport which is a one hut, two person airfield and along with 6 others, get on board an off roader which takes us to the Sea Lion beach on the South of the Island. Kangaroo island is bigger than we thought with the longest distance between two points being over 100 miles, miles and miles of sheep country with Euclyptus trees bordering most roads. So far, all tarmacademed roads for the 4500 population.   

Both Gaynor and Mary tell us about their lives on the island and how they both got into farming. Both have family ties to farms but tourism on the island is now as important as farming for the island’s economy. 

Penguin island

Penguin island sea lions

The sea lion beach is our first stop and a bit of a tourist attraction with several parties viewing the animals at the same time.

Sea Lion beach on Kangaroo Island

Sea Lion beach on Kangaroo Island

 

Some of the sea lions had pups with them which were following their mums around all the time.  A few big males lazing in the sun. 

Back up from beach, Gaynor stays with Sally which is nice to help her up the hill and we head off for a stop for light refreshment including some biscuits made without eggs! 

 

Lunchtime on Kangaroo island

Lunchtime on Kangaroo island

Onwards to the north of the island and a stop for lunch in a field: we just drove off the road, through a field of sheep on no visible track and down to a clearing in the field where a friendly farmer has laid out an awning with seating.

Food, brought by Gaynor and Mary is cooked; fish, lamb’s cheese washed down with some local wine.  Fantastic.

Back on the van we go in search of kangaroos, wallaby and other wildlife listening to more tales from the countryside according to Gaynor, how her in-laws started the farm that is now run by her eldest and youngest sons, how they had built the houses of the farm without having any building experience at all.

Stopping at Stokes Bay Area, we see a Koala in a tree; this one had a young one with her but wasn’t going to co-operate in allowing us to photograph the baby.

Stokes Bay, Kangaroo Island

Stokes Bay, Kangaroo Island

More refreshments, coffee, tea, biscuits and cake before a walk down to Stokes Bay which is through a very narrow gorge cut in the rock in places but mostly a natural passage which could be claustrophobic for some people. 

Wonderful safe beach with school children playing in the sheltered part and others enjoying the surf. Sadly we now have to return towards the airport but do stop at a look out where it is possible to see the black silky cockatoo. Again, not very co-operative birds so no photos of any note. 

All too soon we are back at the airport, saying goodbye to some of the other passengers, including some Audley customers from Woodley near Reading who had started their travels a month before us but who have been out up in a different hotel in Adelaide but who were equally not overly happy with certain aspects of the service from ATS / Audley. 

A wonderful experience. Flight back to mainland is virtually full and on arrival catch bus back into town rather than a taxi. Dinner in hotel again and Skype Mel who had lost her voice.

Thursday 13 March 

Clear warm day so set out for breakfast and then the Central Market.

Immigration Museum, Adelaide

Immigration Museum, Adelaide

Others we have met along the we have said it isn’t a particularly good market but we saw nothing wrong, Sally buying a book and some strawberries for desert tonight.

Head off into town and find the shopping arcades before going to the Immigration Museum.

A couple of school classes are being taught what it was like in the 1950s using borrowed smocks and from what we heard, the teachers were making it fun for them.

 

 

Adelaide river

Adelaide river

Certainly it was not always a bed of roses when they got to Australia, mainly from Britain, and there was a lot of hardship along the way. South Australia is a multi cultural city although the Governments of the early 20th Century and before were promoting a British, whites only policy. The state still needs more skilled labour. 

Lunch in a food court, a brief look around a shopping mall and back for a rest. Later, Richard ventures out to have his hair cut and (about a 2 mile) walk to the river by the Adelaide Oval, along the river and back through the shopping street. 

Out for dinner and choose a rooftop restaurant, Gallery, opposite the modern newspaper office near the hotel before Skyping Sarah. Tomorrow, a flight to Brisbane, so watch this space.   

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Tasmania, February 2014

18 February 

Off to Tasmania after breakfast in Starbucks. Travelodge absolutely mobbed pre check out with a group in and a group out.  Hotel happy to offer a refund of phone call and transport to airport in view of complaint about smelly and damp room on arrival but pre-booked (by hotel) transport never materialises so hotel persuade a taxi to get us to airport free of charge (to us). Not a place I would wish to go back to.

Virgin Australia efficient at airport and we arrive in a cloudy and cooler Tasmania on time, collect luggage and off to hotel in taxi.  Tasmania only has a population of .5m with probably half of these in Hobart, or as one local shopkeeper told us, “Slowbart”! 

Our somewhat dark room appears to be one of the smaller of the rooms in the Old Woolhouse and certainly is not a self catering room as envisaged by Audley as there is no cooking facilities other than a kettle. Nevertheless, it is dry and doesn’t smell of damp, unlike the Sydney one.

Hobart waterfront

Hobart waterfront

Wander down to Harbour, not a lot to see but have dinner in a fish restaurant which was probably on the site of an old warehouse and find Woolworths for some fresh milk and a few other goodies.

Woolworths in the UK ceased trading about 5 or so years ago and never was a supermarket, concentrating on cheap everyday items – perhaps it would have stayed with us if it had branched out?

19 February 

Late up so do washing after breakfast then down to the Salamanca area with some fascinating boutique shops and up to Battery Point.

Salamanca, Hobart

Salamanca, Hobart

The Salamanca buildings are made of local sandstone and used to form the seafront years ago before land reclamation pushed the sea back so that it is now on one side of a broad tree lined avenue which is used on Saturdays for a market. 

Take a Trike ride as our introduction to the rest of Hobart as we don’t have a car.

Trike Tour in Hobart

Trike Tour in Hobart

Dave Glazebrook’s trike mania adventure tours takes us into parts of old Hobart we would never have seen, up into the hills where some houses change hands for figures in excess of A$3 and all have a view across the bay.

Dave’s late father competed in the TT some many years ago and Dave still has his father’s silver model trophy for completing the course which he is very proud of.

Dave takes us down a few hairy steep hills and around a few steep bends but we do eventually arrive safely back at the quayside. 

20 February 

Kettering harbour

Kettering harbour

Day trip to Bruny Island involves an early start, a coach ride to Kettering, a sleepy little port with some nice boats moored, and a somewhat antiquated slow ferry that doesn’t necessarily stick to the timetable.

Coach takes us on to Adventure Bay, a chance for a coffee and on to the jet boat for our journey around Bruny Island’s spectacular coast.  First there is the Dolerite rocks and then the sandstone rocks, all of them magnificent in their own way.  Loads of caves and coves with one in particular, a blow hole, throwing up water like a geyser as the air gets replaced by water and then blows the water out when the water level drops (a brief video is on Facebook).

Quite a calm day to start with but winds pick up and as we get to the point of land that marks the boundary of the Tasman Sea and the Great South Ocean, the waves are by now somewhat nearer 15ft so it is a bit choppy!  

Many Australian fur seals basking on various outcrops of rock and even more spectacular scenery including a small passageway between two stacks that we navigate three times (just for effect you understand!) at high speed.

Australian Fur Seals

Australian Fur Seals

Bruny Island Blow hole

Bruny Island blow hole

Bruny Island rock stack

Bruny Island rock stack

Dead trees are evident on the cliffs, a legacy from the 1967 bush fire that crossed the sound from Tasmania to Bruny Island.

The whole bush fire killed 62 people and the dead trees still stand as there are no termites on the island to eat the bark.

Bruny Island trees

Bruny Island trees

Returning to Adventure Bay is exhilarating as the wind is now in front of us and we are going at speed looking for dolphins. Sadly none spotted so return to cafe at Adventure Bay for a lunch that included hot soup which was very welcome. 

Back to hotel via chocolate factory shop, Oyster shop and the ferry at Kettering. The whole area used to be an Oyster centre but many of the beds were exhausted a few years ago and only now coming back to life.

Dinner in hotel although they seem to have under catered as a couple of items were sold out. 

21 February 

A breezy but dry and sunny day so ensure we have some headgear as previous day’s wind has caused considerable peeling of face on both of us. Audley suggests a visit to MONA! A museum of art which is a fast ferry ride away and we get chatting to a couple of Australians from the cruise ship in today – the Carnival Pearl which had stayed an extra night because of inclement weather overnight. Wasn’t it a bit early for beer though, Vanessa. 

MONA museum entrance

MONA museum entrance

Contrary to our literature provided, it is not free entrance but nevertheless we still go in. The museum is basically all underground so the 99 steps to the top from the ferry jetty are matched by three floors of exhibits back down into the land from the top.

As I said about the Tate Modern in London last June, modern Art is not my thing so our stay there was not as long as others suggested it might be although the buggy ride from the vessel to the museum to avoid the steps was a thoughtful touch.

Fat Porche at Museum of modern Art, Hobart

Fat Porsche at Museum of modern Art, Hobart

 

There are many items that to me are not really art but what I did like was the red Porsche car, the quirky table tennis table, the water fountain which “drops” words from jets to the floor – ingenious and “insects” positioned away from the wall as if flying.

Water display

Water display

Descriptions are provided by hand held devices, similar to Woburn Abbey.

Locate Hertz car rental building for tomorrow, guess what, it’s up a hill! 

Back to Mures for more fish and chips and then pack – we have a car from tomorrow! 

22 February 

Check out after breakfast, leave luggage and off to Salamanca Market. Many rows of stalls set out in front of the lovely sandstone shops and absolutely crowded with both locals and visitors. A couple of presents bought along with lunch and whilst Sal walks back to hotel, Richard collects car and drives back to hotel to collect her and luggage.   

Our Hyundai car loaded we find the A1 out of Hobart towards Strahan (300 miles) which is quite crowded although by the time we get to junction with A10, traffic thins out and we soon loose the two lane carriageway so speed slows. Uninspiring countryside looking parched from a lack of rain and very under-utilised from a livestock farming point of view. 

Queenstown TAS, not to be confused with Queenstown NZ - as if you would!

Queenstown TAS, not to be confused with Queenstown NZ – as if you would!

Pass settlements with names such as Tynwald, Linda and Gretna until we reach the hills above Queenstown. Now Queenstown in NZ is delightful but this is a mining town, say no more.

Strahan is reached a further 41km further on and we check-in to Ormiston unpack into a very quaint old fashioned style room (Jessie) which again is very dark.

Ormiston House, Strahan bedroom

Ormiston House, Strahan bedroom

Our room has a side room before you reach our bathroom which is huge but cold underfoot.  Dinner was reserved for us in Risby by the owner of Ormiston, thoughtful, but she probably has a financial interest in it.  Food OK, wrong choice by Richard and an upset Englishman on the table next to us. 

23 February 

Mystical Gordon River

Mystical Gordon River


Up early for a boat trip up the Gordon River where some of the first Western settlers arrived.

Boat probably only half full but an absolutely gorgeous day for a cruise, not a cloud in the sky and virtually no wind. We are told that this part of Tassie has over 300 days of rain a year so we are very lucky. 

Out into the bay and head out to the channel before entering the Great Southern Ocean – next stop Argentina if we go due West!

Lighthouse at entrance to Gordon River

Lighthouse at entrance to Gordon River

The channel is not very wide in places, reducing to 200m at the entrance which is guarded by a lighthouse on a small rock outcrop so you can see why the port of Strahan has lost it’s use as a port for big ships.

Sandbanks galore on the other side so it is no wonder that so many ships came to grief here.  Strahan was a thriving port until the vessels got bigger and thus too big for the port.   

Heading up river we go past Atlantic Salmon fish farms which have some containers holding in excess of 20,000 fish. There must be over 30 of these containers so you do the maths – it is big business here! 

Slow down for the Gordon River entrance and cruise gently down viewing, as someone described it as, “fifty shades of greed” in the trees.

Hermitage island jetty

Heritage point jetty

Very little in the way of water birds here as the river is too deep and most birds like a shallow river. At one point the river is at least 35 meters deep.

Stop off at Heritage point for a walk around a wooden walkway just inland. See many types of trees including the Huon Pine which only grows in Tasmania, is very slow growing but very, very resilient and was used in the past for ship building as it does not rot easily. A tree about 80 years old is shown to us that is not much smaller than my wrist. Back on board and although it is yet midday, lunchtime, and a fantastic one at that,  salmon to die for as well as salads and cold meats.

All packed away by the time we exit from the river as we now head for Sarah Island. Fancy that, sailing down the Gordon River and landing on Sarah Island!

Sarah Island talk near the oven

Sarah Island talk near the oven

Sarah Island is where many of the 2nd offenders landed and we are given a fantastic tour by, what we learn later, is a travelling actor who occasionally picks on people to play the part of some of the characters.

Some parts of some of the buildings are still visible, such as the oven, but many you have to use your imagination.   

Back to Strahan and we head to the saw mill and information centre.  As I thought, the Wilderness Railway only runs once a day, at 9am and from Queenstown which would mean leaving Strahan by road at 7:30 in the morning. We were up early today, another early start would not be appreciated so have to give that one a miss. It is a little strange that they only run from Queenstown, only have one train a day and start so early in the morning.

Richard on a deserted beach

Richard on a deserted beach

Drive on unmade road to Ocean beach a wonderful sandy beach which was virtually deserted and had lovely big breakers crashing into it and an abundance of shells one of which is now back home.

Dinner tonight in Bushman’s bar and cafe. We arrive just before opening time which is just as well as by 6:15 all tables are taken. Good meal (lamb curry and lamb roast followed by a delicious cheesecake) although the Carpenters CD on continuous loop is not something I took to. 

Fellow guests, Anne & Colin from Hove join us on the look out at the top of the hotel. Anne worked as a teacher at Steyning Grammar School, small world.

24 February 

A less sunny day, it rained overnight, so we walk into People’s park after breakfast along a well kept path for 1.2km until we reach Hogarth falls. Then onto Cemetary point (some graves are of youngsters, some locals with the name Abel or Tasman) but mostly well tended despite some being very old.

Tried to find Lettes Bay but instead found lots of very dilapidated tin shacks – do people really still live here?  Lunch in town and book up for a jet boat ride tomorrow up the King River. 

The boat that never was play.

The boat that never was play.

Explore the area around Macquarie Head which is 11km along another gravel road, and back for a rest before venturing out to watch the play, “the boat that never was”. 

This is a play performed by 2 actors that explores the adventures of the last ship ever to be built on Sarah Island. It was supposed to be sailed to Port Arthur but to cut a long and hilarious story short, it ended up in Chile with no papers so actually was only a bundle of wood held together by rope as it was never registered.

Strahan sunset

Strahan sunset

The two actors supplement the story with audience participation, some on stage, some not and the whole show was a scream from beginning to end and well worth the entrance fee. 

Dinner again in Bushman’s, he recognised us from last night, chatted and knew of the Isle of Man, followed by watching the sun set on the beach outside Ormiston House.

25 February

Drive to Cradle Mountain today is scheduled but before that a jet boat ride on Strahan harbour and up the King River. Not as spectacular a jet boat ride as Queenstown NZ but more informative and interesting in history.

Jet boat

Jet boat

Follow Wilderness West Coast Railway line for most of the way but the reason it is not working fully from Strahan is due to some unsafe bridges and other structures at the Strahan end.

More Huon pine trees pointed out and information given about the silting and pollution of the river by the early miners and more recently form the Queenstown mines. 

Back into Strahan, buy lunch and coffee, get Huan off cuts and Huon honey server, fill up with petrol and off to Zeehan which is another mining town.

Zeehan Museum exhibt

Zeehan Museum exhibt

We are told that it has an interesting museum and they are not wrong. A good 90 minutes spent around there and we barely scratched the surface. Old railway engines, lots of old rusting mining equipment but also loads of old photos and a visit to the Gaiety Theatre, old Police station and surprisingly, a Masonic Room.

Judge Sally

Judge Sally

I don’t think this would have meant so much to us had we been here first and not first spent time in Strahan, sailed up the Gordon and King Rivers and had the talk on Sarah Island. 

Purchase a piece of jade from local store and head off for Tulloh. Unfortunately, it is about 20k into the journey that I realise we have taken the long way around and added probably an hour to the journey.

The road we took was virtually deserted although at one point there was a gathering of probably 50 bikers.

Eventually we reach the A10 although at the junction, we had to negotiate a complete re surfacing of the road and had to wait for a digger to move some rocks from our intended path!  Not one house was passed by the side of the road which probably explains the lack of traffic. A dam for a lake is reached and crossed, the drop on one side being staggeringly deep. 

Drinks break at Tulloh although it did not have much going for it. Back past roadworks and onto Cradle Mountain and our stop at the lodge for the night.

Wildlife at Cradle Mountain

Wildlife at Cradle Mountain

Loads of wildlife as we expected but so near to us and not afraid of us humans. After dinner in the restaurant, we opt for the hour long evening minibus tour to see animals and we were lucky to get on as spaces are limited, we took the last two places, so booking early is advised.

This was preceded by a slide show on what to expect in the way of wildlife in Tasmania which was very well worth going to although I am not sure I remembered all the animals shown!

Not expecting much we were inundated with sightings of Bennets Wallabies, Possums and Wombats. Then on the return, a Tassie Devil.

John, our guide told us that he had only seen about five in a year and you could tell by his voice he was really excited about seeing this one as a cancerous disease has wiped out 90% of the wild stock. 

Wow, what a day! 

No Internet access here but a lovely light room with a decent view for a change and a gas wood effect fire although we don’t need it tonight, it is still quite warm. 

26 February 

Isn’t it nice to wake up to a view and be able to lie in bed and watch the clouds roll by. The last three hotels were not as inviting, this one is and we are only here for one night! 

Our morning view from bed at Cradle Mountain

Our morning view from bed at Cradle Mountain

The added bonus is of course the five wallabies grazing outside our window, we don’t even have to get out of bed to see them. 

Checkout by 10am is a bit early and of course many of the breakfast goodies have gone early as well. Nevertheless, the breakfast is good and we also get a window seat and watch a Platypus swim in the lake.   

Check out and walk around the 20 minute short walk but no animals around, probably sheltering from the by now heavy drizzle. Think about going into the park and to Dove lake but as the rain and mist was with us, decided to save our money. Also missed was the Tasmanian Devil sanctuary, having seen a Devil last night. 

Definitely a place where you could spend more than one day at.

Drive northwards then Eastwards towards Sheffield (population probably under 800) and Launceston. On way, as clouds cleared, we came across an Enchidna by the side of the road and three impressive looking birds but not sure of their names.

Enchida looking for food

Enchidna looking for food

Dr Who?

Dr Who?

Stopped for lunch at a lovely cafe en route, Round Hill coffee at Cethana after seeing an old fashioned Police Box – has Dr Who been here?

Difficulty finding Ashton House as road name had disappeared. High Street is not what you would think – it is the highest street in town and up a very formidable hill about 1.2km from the town centre. So much for Audley saying it was a short stroll to the shopping centre.   

A light and airy room with fresh milk provided, bonus. Today is a public holiday in Launceston, ladies day at the races, but finding food was not an issue, eating out at Cateracts where Richard opted for stone cooked steak similar to that encountered in Nelson about a year ago.  Some very colourful ladies dresses worn by race goers. 

News from home: Flic’s injection procedure seems to have gone well albeit she was in pain a bit due to the needle not getting in the right place. Agree to Skype her tomorrow. 

27 February 

A clear and sunny day, shorts weather again after a week or so being not so warm.

Launceston chairlift

Launceston chairlift

A lovely freshly cooked breakfast for a change and we set off for the gorge, “flying” over on the longest span in the world for a chairlift at a very graceful speed no quicker than walking pace high above the ground. A peacock family awaits us at the other side before we walk to the suspension bridge and then back to walk part of the way down the gorge.   

Drive off northwards out of Launceston along the Tamar valley and stop at Grindelwald where houses in a small area are constructed in the Swiss Chalet style after the wife of a wealthy land owner liked what she saw in Switzerland.

Grindelwald, Tassie version

Grindelwald, Tassie version

Other housing in the area was of a modern and opulent style. Onwards to Beauty Point which didn’t really attract although for lovers of Sea horses and Platypus it would have been ideal as there are two “museums” dedicated to the preservation of the species. 

Sal takes over driving and we head back South but this time crossing the Batman bridge and on towards Low Head where the Tamar flows out to the Bass Sea.

Launceston river front

Launceston river front

A nice set of buildings at the head that were a maritime museum but some are now self catering units. It gets very windy here we are told.

Back to Launceston and dinner in Levee watching the world go by. 

28 February 

Leave at our check out time of 10am and head for Freycinet following the Midland Highway (A1) south. Only trouble was we must have missed a signpost and ended up on a side road through little villages such as Nile, being slowed whilst a farmer moves his sheep along the road from one field to another and then the sight of a flock of birds resting on the backs of sheep.

Feeding time on dirty sheep

Feeding time on dirty sheep

Yet another non tarmacademed road for about 5k until we eventually reach the A1 and our intended journey. Stop at Campbell Town which although not much more than a one street town does possess an interestingly inexpensive antiques shop. Stop also for an ice cream just before the Coles Road, good value at $4 then onto the Freycinet national Park where entrance fee is A$48 for two days. 

Lodge room well equipped with a balcony but unfortunately not a sunset or sea view and no Internet connection. Laundry done though and we head off for a stroll along Muirs Beach in and out of the shallow warm water.

Another sandy deserted beach walk

Another sandy deserted beach walk

Fish and chips for dinner at a local take-away and a yogurt from the local supermarket – we do know how to eat well!

Evening drive out underneath The Hazards and then up to Cape Tourville lighthouse and a look South West to Wineglass Bay – our destination tomorrow – and Lemon Rock. 

Room not exactly as clean as it could be, dust behind bedside cabinet, on bedside clock radio on mirror which was not appreciated from a top class establishment, reported the following morning. 

1 March 

Officially, summer is over but the weather takes no notice and we have yet more sunny weather. After a breakfast in the hotel which whilst being OK, is not as good as the freshly cooked one at Launceston, we head off for the jetty for our boat ride to Wineglass Bay, voted by a US magazine as one of the best beaches in the world. Boat only holds 45 or so, we are supposed to arrive at 09:45 and there is a party of probably over 30 when we get there at 09:30 so wonder if we will get seats together. 

Pink Granite on way to Wineglass Bay

Pink Granite on way to Wineglass Bay

We do manage it but soon get up and spend rest of outward journey on deck at the front, viewing the pink granite, the old mine workings, the wildlife, including dolphins, fur seals and the odd Gannet or two but no penguins.

Wineglass Bay

Wineglass Bay

Sumptuous lunch with local cheese, quince spread, apple juice and sparkling wine whilst we viewed the magnificance that is Wineglass Bay.  

You can only reach Wineglass Bay by boat or a 5 hour trek over the hills from the Freycinet lodge area and that was just not going to happen for us. It is indeed a magnificent bay with a couple of small inlets off the main bay that are even more sheltered.

The vessel, soon to be replaced with a larger one, has it’s resident dog that barks and scampers around at the sight of dolphins which in some respects was annoying.  Back to hotel and a rest before venturing out again to Bicheno for a pizza and then a penguin tour.

Room still dirty (reported on leaving the following way). No cameras allowed on the tour and unfortunately not too many penguins and those that we saw were not minded to move too much although the babies were more mobile. Sadly no penguins moving up the beach but we did see one in a garden opposite the drive down to the sanctuary.  

Drive home slowly and manage to avoid at least three animals on the 40k drive back to Freycinet lodge including possibly a Tassie Devil slough it could have been a small ferel cat. 

2 March 

Vintage Rolls Royce at Freycinet

Vintage Rolls Royce at Freycinet

Hotel is hosting a vintage Rolls Royce rally with, what we learnt was about 15 of them in attendance, wonderful machines one from as far away as Florida.

A cloudy day to start and after breakfast and a further look at the Rolls Royce cars, drive off to Port Arthur which is not 110 km as advised, more like 110 miles which delays us along with the vast numbers of road works including one where the road has been completely demolished and we travel for about a km on gravel. Along the way we pass over “Break me Neck” hill and “Bust me gall” hill.  Where do they think up these names? 

Clouds now gone and temperatures have risen, so the new sunglasses come in very useful.

Buy food from a supermarket for lunch and stop for a late lunch in Lewisham, most unlike the inner city one in the UK that we went to regularly some 28 years ago as this one overlooks the sea! 

Check-in at the Port Arthur accommodation at about 4pm and go off to explore area. Start by looking at entrance to Port Arthur but as it is now half four decide it is not worthwhile just for half an hour as they close at 5pm (although our ticket would have allowed us to visit tomorrow, we have to get back to the airport at least an hour before Audley advised us) so head south towards Remarkable Cave and Moingon Bay – some wonderful sights with waves crashing down into the caves.

Remarkables cave area

Cape Raoul

It would of course have been better at high tide but another day here would have allowed this. Stop at sandy beach for a walk on the squeaky sand then on to Maingon Bay and Remarkable Cave. Some stunning views out to Cape Raoul over the breakers from the top and a view under the cave from below where some girls were obviously enjoying themselves jumping down from the walkway to the sand below. 

Dinner in Stewart’s Bay Lodge restaurant after buying Internet access for A$5 for an hour and then find out that we did have a ticket for Port Arthur, a historical site although this was not really made clear to us in the literature so we didn’t have an opportunity to take advantage of it, there being not enough time left in the day when we arrived. 

Cabin comfortable and warmed up quickly with the electric heaters but settee is a bed settee so not overly comfortable at all. Watch TV for the first time in a week and find Rake which is better than we had first experienced when in Sydney.

3 March 

A cloudy day to start with again and we head out before 10 to go to see the natural sights around Eaglehawk Neck but first the Blowhole and lookout. Not as good as the blowhole at Bruny Island but you do have to be tide dependent to see it in it’s majesty.

Doo what?

Doo what?

It is likely that storms will cut a hole all the way though the lookout in years to come making part of it an island. 

Port Arthur area arch

Tasman Arch

Now on to the Tasman Arch and Devil’s kitchen, both fashioned out of the rock by the weather.

The Arch is a fantastic sight, possibly some 100 ft high and 80 feet wide. Not so impressed by the views of the Devil’s kitchen but maybe it would have been better had we walked up to the higher observation point.

We pass through the settlement of DOO. Many of the houses have house names reflecting the name, it is just Aussie humour.

More rolls for lunch, eat on an old road adjacent to the new road bridge to the airport, quick view of Cambridge, not worth it, drop car off and back for flight to Melbourne.

Audley had advised 20 minutes between dropping off the car and taking off for Melbourne – totally unrealistic so drop car off about an hour earlier thus not being able to go to Richmond or the Port Arthur complex.

You can take water through security here which is annoying as Sally just threw her water away.

Flight not full but there are 6 more flights today to Melbourne and a JetStar flight left at the same time. 

George meets us at the airport, unusually airside and we collect luggage and catch bus to Frankston which takes us through the southern suburbs of Melbourne, along the long coast of Melbourne harbour, passing a few local trams and mingling with the city’s exiting rush hour traffic before we get off an hour and a half later, locate George’s car in the underground shopping car park and back to Seaford where we meet Barbara who has made a lovely Roast Beef dinner, very English. 

Retire late just before midnight.

Tasmania was a wonderful experience and there are several parts that we need to return to at some stage, a bit like parts of New Zealand, a bit like parts of the Isle of Man but definitely Australian.

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