I know that I have returned home and back to feeling cold again, but I thought it would cheer me up, and make sense to finish off the blog for this trip, so here is the last instalment.
Wednesday 22nd February
Today was Briony’s birthday and as we were meeting the family for a meal in the evening, I decided to stay quite local. I took the train a couple of stations up the line for a bit of exploring, again mainly to see some murals, I certainly have visited many places in the Melbourne area this trip. On my return to Mordialloc, I happened to bump into Graeme and Briony, who had popped out for lunch at Main Street, so we all had lunch together. I then went for some shopping and a coffee before returning home.
In the evening, we went to Beaumaris, where we went to Oshima, a local Japanese restaurant, where we were joined by Sean, Moni, and the boys for a lovely buffet meal, when we got back to Pat & Kay’s we all had fun looking at photographs of the many cakes Kay had made for her children over the years using instructions from a Good Housekeeping book of children’s cakes. Graeme surprised us when we returned home by producing his production of another cake from the book for Briony, spectacular and tasty it was too.
Thursday 23rd February
Today I went into the city to do some shopping and to get my phone contract sorted out, I visited Queen Victoria Market, which was a busy vibrant place displaying none of the shortages I had been reading about in the UK papers, lunch at the market was a really good Turkish lamb sandwich and a coffee sitting outside watching the world go by. I then went to an Optus phone shop and sorted out my phone setup before wandering down to visit the Stella Maris, the Seafarers Centre on Little Collins Street, there I had a nice chat with Lee-Anne, the manager who kindly gave me a tour of the centre, which is very impressive. Lee-Anne expressed a keenness to open links with our Glasgow branch of the Merchant Navy Association, saying that she would be happy to keep in touch with us and pass on our details to some of the regular visitors to the centre.
Shopping and phone sorted, it was time to head for home, stopping off in Mates in Mordialloc, to wait for Graeme before we both hit the trail back home.
Friday 24th February
It was a scorcher today, much too warm to do much, it was even too warm to be outdoors, so it was a chance to sit with my book in the lounge with the AC turned on. However, boredom got the better of me and I got the lawn mower out and cut the grass and tidied away some weeds, then it was back indoors to cool off. I eventually went into the shed and designed and made a coaster for Briony’s brother Andrew, he is a bit of a petrolhead with a liking for Holden Commodores, which was his first car, both Graeme and I are sure he will like the finished result. The high temperatures continued into the evening so we all gathered around the AC with some cold beers to keep us happy.
Saturday 25th February
Today we went into Melbourne’s CBD to go on a Chocoholics tour, we met up with P&K at St Paul’s Cathedral, where we met with Tonya, our tour guide, and the rest of the group. Off we went initially to Degraves street to visit Clementine’s to sample the first of the day’s chocolates from Chocamama, from there we went to the fabulous Block Arcade to sample the wares from Coal River Farm, a Tasmanian Chocolate and cheese producer.
The Royal arcade was our next stop and we dropped into the original Koko Black shop to choose our sample selection, we were all spoiled for choice here. (Check out the video tour when you scroll down on the linked page) After a stroll through the city, we arrived at Guildford Lane and the Scoopy Milk bar, where were treated to a serving of Bingsu, a bowl full of snowy shaved chocolate ice, condensed milk, raspberry boba, and fresh salted fruit to tempt our taste buds. This was a great way to spend a couple of hours, getting a chance to visit some different spots of the city.
As Briony had to return home Graeme and I stayed in the city for a beer in the Duke, (a favourite of Jim & mine while in Melbourne last year), before we got a train back to Mordialloc, where we walked to the Braeside Brewery for a couple of pints and a nice pizza, I had a rather spectacular Chicken Parma one which topped of yet another great day.
Sunday 26th February
Today we drove down to Mount Eliza to visit Andrew and Sheree and the children Isla and Leo, after a stop at their home, we all went to the Ranelagh Club, their local tennis club for lunch, it was a good place to sit in the sunshine, enjoying the food and the company.
On our return home, we all had an afternoon siesta before watching that night’s episode of Australian Survivor, which has become a little bit addictive, I will need to find a way to keep updated when I get home.
Monday 27th February
Today, for part of my birthday, Graeme and Briony got me, Pat & Kay tickets to see an exhibition called Time, by the artist Rone, in a long-neglected part of Flinders Street Station. Rone, an international street artist from Geelong, whose works can be seen in and around Melbourne has created a unique space that takes you back to a part of the world where time has stood still for 70 years or so. Each of the 11 rooms tells its own story of a world that used to be – from deserted switchboards to the ghostly library, lined with hundreds of fictitious novels marked with the exhibition and its artist on their spines, the room with the sewing machines almost looked like the staff had just walked out after a day’s work and the room left neglected for 70 years.
Watching over every room is a portrait of Rone’s long-time muse, Teresa Oman, and the scene is made more memorable with the clever use of lighting and an original score by local songwriter, composer, and multi-instrumentalist, Nick Batterham. A YouTube video tour of the exhibition can be seen here:
We all thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition, especially P&K, who were enthralled by the 1950’s newspapers covering the windows, they certainly brought back memories to them.
After the exhibition, we walked to the National Gallery of Victoria where we went to the member’s room for a coffee before making our way home. I met Graeme in Mordialloc and we got home to find Sean, Moni, and the boys had called round to say goodbye and we all enjoyed the Afghan meal that Moni brought over, it was so nice of them, as they all made me feel so welcomed and a part of the whole family.
Today Pat and I paid another visit to the Beaumaris Men’s Shed where Bob, one of the members gave an interesting and informative presentation on a drawing package called Sketchup, although designed mainly for creating drawings of buildings, as Bob demonstrated, it is ideal for producing drawings of pieces to be made in the Shed. We then returned to P&K’s where I helped Pat with a word processor for the production of his latest book on recycling.
We then all returned to Aspendale to celebrate Graeme’s birthday, we were joined in the garden by Sean, Moni, and the boys for a BBQ in the evening sunshine. The celebrations were topped off with another of Briony’s cake creations, this time the theme was an Aussie Rules football pitch. We agreed that it was a great day and I felt it was so good to be here to celebrate it with him.
Wednesday 15th February
As today was predicted to be rather warm, I decided to stay home and sort out some of my photographs and blog posts, plus I thought that if I had any spare time that I would help tidy up the garden a bit. As usual, time drifted away from me and I never got near the garden, however, I did manage to get my blog updated and it was good to just relax a bit in the sunshine.
Thursday 16th February
Today I decided to get my walking shoes on again and head out, firstly to the suburb of Richmond to see if the 50-metre Dimmeys mural, by Hayden Dewar, was still there and what condition it was in, I was very pleased to see that it was indeed still there and, apart from a couple of little tags, in good condition, (Click on this link to read about it and see the images from when I visited in 2018). As the day was starting to heat up, (it eventually got to be over 35 degrees), I picked up lunch from the supermarket in the Dimmeys building and had an enjoyable lunch just watching the world go by. After lunch, I thought that I would visit some of the murals shown on my app, this took me initially to the Clifton Hill area to find that a very good-looking mural had been painted over, which was a bit disappointing, rather than continuing through Clifton Hill, I went back to the Fitzroy and Collingwood area to photograph some more from the app, it was a mixed bag sort of afternoon, I found some good murals, some not so good and plenty that had been spoiled by loads of tagging.
It turned out to be really sunny and hot, which took me into a nice little Collinwood bar called the Gem, where I had a nice pot of ale and a blether with some regulars, this is one of the things I like about Melbourne, the people are so friendly and just like Glasgow, like nothing better than chatting.
As the afternoon wore on and I was beginning to weary in the heat, I took a tram to South Yarra to meet Graeme for a pint in the Arcadia Hotel near his work before catching the train to Mordialloc where we stopped for a meal in one of the local hostelries. On our return home, we were greeted by Briony and her friend Simon, who was the best man at their Australian wedding, it was good to catch up with him.
Friday 17th February
It was a scorcher today with temperatures reaching the high 30’s so it was a stay-at-home day, although we walked to Aspendeli, a nice new deli/cafe just around the corner from the house, we had to leave Joffrey at home though as the pavements were too hot for his paws. By the late afternoon I was getting a bit bored so decided to chance the weather, covered myself in sunscreen and with my wide-brimmed hat on I ventured out to find a mural by Hayden Dewar which I had read was nearby, after a long walk into an industrial estate, I gave up as it was just too exhausting in the heat to go too far. I think I turned back at the right time as the weather suddenly changed, the wind got up and it started to rain, I managed to get some shelter in a petrol station forecourt until the rain stopped, and the sun came back out. I then headed home, stopping only to sit for a while to watch a local cricket match ( really it was an excuse to just sit for a while). The only consolation for this trip was a schooner of ale in the nearby Braeside Brewery on my travels.
Saturday 18th February
This morning whilst Briony took Joffrey to his Rally exercise class, Graeme and I caught up with the papers, on Bri & Joffrey’s return we went to a community market in the special needs school around the corner, it was a nice place to see how the school integrates with the community, and we all had a nice lunch into the bargain.
In the afternoon Graand I had a lazering masterclass, before going out to the garage to make some things for the family, Graeme is a quick learner so I don’t think I will get too many calls for help in the future.
Sunday 19th February
Today we all had a quiet morning, reading papers, catching up with emails and puzzles etc., before heading over to Urban Ground for Briony’s birthday bash, this bar/food court, which is only a 10-minute walk away was an ideal place to hold it, they had arranged a private area for our group which was next to the bar and adjacent food stalls. All of the Cullin clan and plenty of Briony’s friends turned up, it was so good to see them all there with their expanding families, Briony’s popularity meant that some of her friends had travelled quite some distance to be there, one guy even altered his journey from New York to be there. The party went on into the evening and I can honestly say the walk back across the park seemed much longer, perhaps the open bar they had laid on made the difference.
Monday 20th February
Today I went out mural hunting again, I started off in the suburb of Brunswick to see a mural on a silo near the railway station showing the outgoing New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Arden, showing her embracing a Muslim woman, this was painted by Melbourne artist Loretta Lizzie, after the devastating Christchurch mosque attacks in 2019.
Brunswick was I felt a nice place so I hung around, wandering its streets and lanes and taking photographs of murals before catching a tram to Collingwood to visit Easey’s for lunch, this place, in a converted Melbourne train, on the rooftop, still with its retro seats and decor, heavily graffitied though, is a nod the origins of hip hip and graffiti, it really was pretty cool to eat your lunch on a 1970’s train on top of a building looking out over the city. I stayed in the Collingwood area snapping away until it was time to catch the bus down to South Yarra to meet Graeme for our journey home.
Tuesday 21st February
Tuesday being Tuesday it was men’s shed day as they were having an induction day for new members at Pat’s shed in Beaumaris, he took me first to the local one in Mordialloc, this shed is limited for workshop space suits its members very well as they consider it to be more of a social space where the meet mainly to chat and play games etc.
Following that we travelled to a shed Pat had wanted to visit for some time, the Dingley Village Men’s Shed, situated in the nearby Braeside Park, we were both very impressed with the shed, they had a large well equipped workshop, covering woodwork, metalwork, welding and car servicing, with a large well-used cycle repair and refurbishment section. In addition to the workshops, there are well-equipped art, photographic, and computing sections, they even have a large flight simulator setup with some licensed pilots who are willing to assist. They, like all of the sheds I have visited, do great work for the local community, however, the Dingley one is the only one I have seen with a small injection moulding setup where they recycle plastic milk bottles, turning them into picnic tables and benches, very innovative. I must admit that all this talk of men’s sheds may seem boring to some but I have really enjoyed visiting them and hearing about how it benefits men’s health.
We then returned to Aspendale to meet up with Briony and Kay for a nice lunch in the Aspendeli, Pat and I then travelled to Beaumaris to see a very good mural by Julian Clavijo on a beach hut near the Sailing club boathouse before going home. As it was sunny I sat reading my book before boredom set in causing me to get out the trimmer (they call them whipper snippers here) and do a bit of tidying up in the garden.
Due to all the exciting things we have planned for the remainder of my stay, I think this will be the last blog post from Australia, I will however finish off the blog when I get home, (jet lag permitting). There will also be some pages full of the wide and varied range of street and silo art I found during my time here, so watch this space.
Following on from the previous weeks I decided to make Monday a day of rest, so I chilled out catching up with the UK paper, doing my regular puzzles and reading my book. By lunchtime I had had enough so decided to dig out Graeme’s mower and set about cutting the grass, this was followed by me attacking the weeds on the paths, boy is the ‘onion grass’ here one tough weed. Job done, I felt that I had earned the right to sit in the sun with a beer with Joffrey beside me.
Tuesday 7th February
Today was the day to visit one of Pat’s favourite haunts, the Bayside Men’s Shed. I got picked up by Pat & Kay, Kay left us there and went off to join her walking group , leaving Pat and me to play with all the big boy toys. It was nice to meet up again with some of Pat’s friends that I had met on a previous visit, and it was interesting to see all of the various projects taking shape. At 11:00 everything stopped and we all gathered to see a presentation by one of the members on model aviation, it was quite interesting with some practical demonstrations using model planes of all sizes and types. The presentation was followed by a BBQ lunch where all the members had a chance to socialise and have a blether. We then were collected by Kay and we returned to their home in Beaumaris for a coffee, Pat then decided to bring out his collection of RC helicopters and drones to try to put into practice what we had been shown. We had a short stroll around Beaumaris before returning for dinner when Graeme and Briony joined us. Another good day.
Wednesday 8th February
Today I decided to hit one of Melbourne’s suburbs to take some photographs of street art as shown on one of my apps. I chose to visit Fitzroy as it was fairly easy to reach, a train to Flinders Street then a tram to Gertrude Street (2nd coolest street in the world according to Time Out magazine) before a long walk up Brunswick Street and its associated lanes and side streets. I was not disappointed with what I found, there were some decent quality murals, especially the Fitzroy Faces on Cecil Street, this 50-metre wall has 7 large portraits by the artists; Rone, Adnate, Sofles, Heesco, Dvate, Cam Scale and Jason Parker. I did find, however, that there was the usual amount of tagging in the area which had wiped out some good work I had seen on previous visits. Back in the city, I had a wee wander before stopping for a late lunch before heading back to Aspendale where after dinner I started to get some order into my street art photographs of Frankston.
Thursday 9th February
Today I decided to try out Graeme’s bicycle, I pumped up the tyres and figured out how to reset the lock before going down the track alongside the creek for a bit, to say that I didn’t enjoy it was an understatement, I found the bike heavy and a bit difficult, I tried to change gear and the chain came off, so after I put it back on I returned home and spent the rest of the morning sitting in the sun reading my book. After lunch I walked to Mordialloc to pick up some shopping and a bottle of cough syrup before meeting Graeme off the train, rather than waiting in the pub, I took a stroll down to the beach and spent some time enjoying watching the local surf club training for beach rescues, much too energetic for me. Before heading home, Graeme and I had a lovely curry in Saffron, the local curry shop.
Friday 10th February
Today I decided to revisit the Richmond suburb to see if the street art scene had changed and to find some new pieces as shown on my Street Art Cities app. I was a little disappointed to find many good pieces painted over and not too many new works. I wandered quite a bit trying to find some from the app to no avail. In fact, the only thing I found of interest was the Ikea store where I stopped for a lunch of some traditional meatballs. I returned to a traditional Aussie BBQ out on the deck, we were joined by P&K and we finalised details for our Silo Art tour.
Saturday 11th February
Today P&K and I set off on our Silo Art tour, it took us around 6 hours, with a break in Ballarat for lunch, to reach our Grampians destination of Halls Gap, where we checked into our rooms in the Gariwerd Motel (Gariwerd is the aboriginal name for the Grampians). Once settled in and unpacked we went for a wander around town, stopping off for a coffee where we planned our next few days. We returned to the Motel for an afternoon siesta, before heading out for dinner in the Halls Gap Tavern, it was interesting watching the local wildlife such as, wallabies, cockatiels and Kookaburras in their natural habitat. As we had an early start in the morning we decided to have an early night and returned to the Motel.
Sunday 12th February
After a nice breakfast, provided by Kay, we were picked up by Justin from Grampians Tours for the start of our trip, our first stop was the Stick Shed at Murtoa this was an interesting place to visit, created during WWII, to store surplus grain, it is built using 560 unmilled Ash trees and corrugated iron, at 270 metres long, it certainly is a sight to see, We then stopped at the Woods’ Farming and Heritage Museum in Rupanyuip for a coffee and chickpea flour brownies, which were very nice, the museum was a fabulous place to visit, jammed full of interesting articles collected by 5 generations of the Woods family.
From the museum we made our way to the Sheep Hill silo painted by Matt Adnate, the bright colourful mural, featuring 4 local Indigenous people, certainly takes your breath away when you first see it.
Our next stop was at a town called Brim to see a silo painted by one of my favourite artists, Guido Van Helten, this mural in his familiar monochromatic style, features 4 local farmers and was actually the first silo to be painted on the mural trail in 2016, over the years the colours have faded until the artwork look as if it was almost a part of the original concrete of the silo.
We returned to Rupanyup to view a silo painted by Russian artist Julia Volchkova in 2017, this artwork, again in a monochromatic style, features 2 of the youngsters of the town wearing their sports attire (netball and Australian Rules football), on a pair of squat steel silos. The evolving rust spots on them add to their appeal in my opinion. Whilst staying in the town Julia forged friendships with many of the locals, and after a fire nearby painted a tribute to the volunteer firefighters of the community.
Unfortunately, this was the final silo on our tour, when we found out that we would only visit 3 on the tour, we were a bit disappointed, however, once we had seen the distances between the silos and the conditions of the rural roads, we could understand why the tour was limited, however, this was more than made up by the additional elements of the tour and the friendliness and generosity of the people we met on the way. On our return to Halls Gap, we oldies had a well earned nap before visiting the Paper Rock Scissors brewery for dinner, and very good it was too.
Monday 13th February
To compensate for missing many of the silos yesterday, we planned to visit a couple within driving distance of the motel and that wouldn’t add too much travel time to our journey home, so after another excellent breakfast, we headed to the town of Horsham to see a silo painted by Smug, this stunning full figure mural is a tribute to Yanggendyinanyuk, an Aboriginal warrior, sitting alongside it is his painting of a Black Cockatoo, which was the characters totem. Whilst at the silo we met a lad flying his drone, it turned out that he was the photographer for the Melbourne artist Jimmy Dvate, who was painting a mural next to Horsham Town Hall, so off we went to see him in action, it was great to see just how he approaches his work and to see the piece develop.
Our next stop was the sleepy little town of Dimboola, a stop on the way to Arkona, see another silo pained by Smug, this was a great place to have a coffee break and a chat with some of the locals in Oma’s Cafe, it transpired that Smug stayed in the town whilst painting the silo and while he was there he also painted a mural on a building next to the local library, this mural, a study of some local birds, was magnificent indeed. After our coffee, we went up the road to Arkona to see another stunning and interesting mural by Smug on the silo. The mural depicts Roley Klinge, an Arkona local who championed tennis for the local community. Being unable to meet Roley, who had passed away in 1991, Smug decided to paint him in an innovative way, showing only his clothing and tennis gear, however, he did manage to fit in a small portrait of him at the base of the silo. This truly is a spectacular mural that finished off our trail to perfection.
As we liked it so much, we returned to Dimboola for lunch before starting our return trip, after chatting to the cafe staff about the town’s up-and-coming Steampunk Festival, we paid a visit to the Dimboola Imaginarium, a quirky gift shop, housed in an old bank building. Run by 2 guys who are currently converting the former managers accommodation into guest bedrooms which are decorated in a unique way, we were invited in to see all the rooms and we even visited the old vault to see a pictorial history of the area, the place and the people certainly were interesting.
We then hit the Western Highway for an uneventful journey home from a fun, interesting and enjoyable trip, which will stay in our memories I’m sure.
After a busy first week, I decided to have a quiet Monday catching up with my blog, sorting out my photographs and just sitting in the sun reading my book, at times I forget that holidays are supposed to be relaxing.
Tuesday 31st January
This morning I felt like a walk to shake off the cobwebs from lazing around yesterday. Instead of turning left at the end of G&B’s street and going to Mordialloc, I turned right and headed down the Longbeach Trail towards Chelsea, it was a nice sunny day so the walk was very pleasant with some nice things to see on the way, such as the Edithvale Wetlands, a large natural wetland which supports 190 bird species. It was good to stand on the lookout watching many different birds in their natural habitat. Eventually, I reached the Thames Promenade which took me into the centre of Chelsea where I had a wee wander around, before visiting the beach to get some sand between my toes. After a quick lunch I caught a metro train back to Mordialloc, as it was still nice and sunny I decided to stroll along the pier to watch the many fishermen fishing along its length, although I must admit that I didn’t see too many fish being landed. Eventually, it was time to head home, tired but happy with around 20,000 steps under my belt to compensate for the lazy day yesterday.
Wednesday 1st February
My birthday! Following on from yesterday’s walk, I decided to venture a bit further today, I went to Mordialloc and caught a train down to Frankston, the seaside town where Briony grew up. Jim and I visited last year with Graeme, Briony, Pat & Kay to take part in a street art walking tour, which was excellent, so I thought it would be good to do it again on my own. After visiting the library and the civic information centre, I eventually found the tourist information centre down near the beach, where I picked up a map showing the locations of all of the major pieces. (watch out for a page showing them all later)
Off I went in search of them all and during the course of the day managed to find all 49 of them, only stopping for a bite of lunch in the Cheeky Squire down at the beach. I caught the train back home in time to get changed to go out for a nice birthday celebration meal in the Bridge Hotel in Mordialoc. The day was topped off with a special 3D boat-shaped birthday cake made by Briony. This was another great day.
Thursday 2nd February
Thinking about travelling to some other places in Victoria around Melbourne, I took the train into Southern Cross Station to pick up some timetables for Ballarat and Geelong, I plan to visit both of them later. From the station I jumped onto a tram to take me down to the riverfront where I went in search of the Polly Woodside Maritime Museum only to find when I got there that it was only open on the 1st & 3rd Sunday of each month, feeling slightly disappointed, I then visited the nearby Docklands Mission to Seafarers Victoria its lovely heritage listed building, when I entered, I was very surprised to find it full of people, it turned out that the venue was hosting the AGM of PROBUS, a club for retired people, they kindly invited me in to join them, thankfully the meeting had finished and they were busy selling raffle tickets and holding an Antiques Roadshow type event, fun though it was, it still didn’t encourage me to join such a club. The Mission building intrigued me though so I will add it to my list of places to visit for a future time.
On leaving Docklands I took a number 35 tourist tram around the city, getting off in Flinders Street where I popped into the Duke of Wellington for lunch and a beer. After lunch I paid a visit to ACMI (formerly Australian Centre for the Moving Image), in Federation Square, this is a fabby place to visit with tons to see and do, I spent all of the afternoon wandering round watching movies and interacting with the numerous displays. When it came time to go home, I was very surprised to find that it was pouring down outside, as it was a lovely morning when I left home wearing only a tee shirt and shorts, I realised that I was in for a soaking and made a mad dash for the station to get the train home. Once in Mordialloc, I waited in Mates, the local pup, for Graeme returning from work, to share his umbrella, but fortunately, Briony took pity on us both and came to pick up 2 cold, wet and bedraggled souls. Another interesting day in Melbourne where they frequently boast of having 4 seasons in one day.
Friday 3rd February
It looked like it was going to be a wee bit chilly today, so I decide it was time to set up my laser machine in Graeme’s garage, after finding a suitable spot, downloading and installing the required software, I set about getting the machine operational and tried out some test pieces.
Saturday 4th February
Following on from yesterdays work in the garage Graeme and I tidied up a bit and re-configured the space to provide a better and safer working surface, complete with the Big Jim directors chair obtained by Pat, once that was completed I ran a training session to teach Graeme the fundamentals of the laser software, he is a quick learner and was able to design some Super Mario themed coasters for his niece and nephews, he liked the finished results so much he created one each for him and Briony. In the evening, as Briony was out for the night, Graeme and I visited a local eatery called Urban Ground for dinner before heading to the local brewhouse, Braeside Brewing for a few beers, it was a real boys day out for us and great fun to spend time with Graeme.
Sunday 5th February
After a lazy morning catching up on the papers back home we went out to the RSL in Chelsea for lunch, where we met up with the Cullin family to celebrate my birthday, is was so nice to see them all together in what seems to becoming a regular lunch meeting when I visit Melbourne. Briony’s brother Andrew and his family returned home with us and it was good to spend some time with them all. As I have picked up a wee bit of a cold, (the result of Thursdays soaking I think), a quiet night in front of the telly finished of another great week.
After being picked up and dropped off at Glasgow Airport I didn’t have too long to wait until my flight boarded. Everything seemed to be going well until we had to wait for a wee while for them to de-ice the plane, more about this later. The flight was up there with the usual Emirates standards and passed smoothly, I eventually got to see the end of the Elvis movie I had started watching last year.
Due to the delay in leaving Glasgow, we arrived in Dubai around 30 minutes late which only left me with around 20-30 minutes to get to the gate for my flight to Melbourne, as it turned out there were a few of us in the same situation so they held the flight back, so the mad rush through the airport wasn’t really necessary. That flight also went well and after arriving on Sunday night, and going through the usual custom and immigration checks, I was met by Graeme and Briony and returned to their home in Aspendale to be met by a very excited Joffrey.
Monday 23rd January
A bit of a chill-out day to allow me to recover from my flight, as it was a nice and sunny day I sat out on the decked area and read my book and did nothing much else.
Tuesday 24th January
Up with the lark this morning to travel into the city with Graeme, he went off to work while I only had to stroll around getting to know Melbourne again. I had a wander up Swanston Street towards Queen Victoria Market before heading to the Optus phone shop to get my Sim card sorted out, once back online I went for lunch before heading to the Southern Cross Station to make enquires about the journey I was planning to make on Wednesday. My next stop was an Officeworks store to get some materials to allow Graeme to try out the laser engraver I had brought out with me. Back in the city centre I then visited an exhibition in the Town Hall by the French artist Invader, although interesting it was a little small with only one piece by him, the remainder of the exhibition was made up of photographs of similar work in the city, The weather in the city was very good for most of the day, however, just as I boarded the number 35 tourist tram, it started to rain so I was glad that I was undercover, the tram ride was very interesting and fun, something that Jim and I were unable to do during our visit, there always seemed to be problems whilst we were here.
After my day in the city, it was soon time to meet up with Graeme for a beer before catching the train home again. Unfortunately, he had chosen a hotel I was unaware of and my phone ran out of battery on the way which meant that I got slightly lost on the way, but due to the kindness of strangers, I was able to meet up although a bit later than expected. After a couple of well-earned beers, we headed home after a great day out in a city that I am beginning to get to know quite well.
Wednesday 25th January
An early start again as I headed back into the city to begin a journey from Southern Cross station to Rutherglen, a small town 190 miles northeast of Melbourne, near the Murray River border with New South Wales. The journey was very good, the first part by one of the regional trains took me to a town called Wangaratta where I changed to a small bus onwards to Rutherglen.
After leaving the bus, I quickly checked into my accommodation in the Poachers Paradise motel, where my room was very nice and comfortable and suited my needs perfectly. I then went for a look around town, a former gold mining town, today Rutherglen, recognised as one of the premier wine-growing regions in Victoria with around 20 wineries in the area, approximately 1 per 100 of the 2000 or so population. I found the town and its residents very friendly, they were all really interested to learn that I was born and raised in Rutherglen Scotland and many were quick to tell me how it came by its name, apparently in 1860 gold was found in the area and in the newly formed Star Hotel, the publican, Ruglonian John Wallace, was told: “Shout the whole bar and you can call this town whatever you like.” So he bought a beer for everyone in the pub and called the town Rutherglen.
After a walk around town, I ended up in the same Star Hotel for dinner and a beer and enjoyed watching some of the Australian Open tennis on TV before hitting the sack.
Thursday 26th January
Today being Australia Day meant that it was a little quieter in town and there were no winery tours available so I settled for a long leisurely breakfast in Caffeine N Machine, a bakery café with a vintage bike museum display situated at the roundabout at the entrance to the town, I then discovered that the towns tourist information office across the road was open, and it was there that I was directed to the towns old school museum which became my next stop. The museum was interesting with many exhibits showing life in the old town, it was also good to chat with the 2 volunteers in attendance, they were very keen to find out the differences between the 2 towns and they were quite surprised by the size of Rutherglen in Scotland. After a nice afternoon sitting in the sun reading, I finished off the day with another nice meal in the Star Hotel before retiring for the night.
Friday 27th January
Today I arranged a tour of some of the wineries with one of the locals, Alister Chisholm, an ex-pat Scot who has lived in Rutherglen for a number of years and runs a B&B in addition to running tours. After brunch again in Caffeine N Machine, I was picked up by Alister and off we went to visit ……. for some tasting sessions. Back in town, it was time to visit the local supermarket for some bits for the return journey before catching the bus back to Wangaratta for my return to Melbourne, by the time I got back to Morialloc to be collected by Graeme I was pretty jiggered to say the least however, I really enjoyed my adventure into a part of Victoria I had never seen before and the town of Rutherglen was a great place to visit.
Saturday 28th January
Today we were all rather busy, Graeme and Briony headed off to one of her friend’s baby shower while I went out with Pat & Kay firstly to visit Shannons, a specialist vehicle auctioneers to see their current display of vehicles, we certainly saw some spectacular cars and bikes of all ages and standards, one that really stood out was the gorgeous red 1935 Swallow (Jaguar) SS1 ‘Airline’ Coupe thought to be the only one of its kind in Australia. Our next stop was the Moorabbin Air Museum where we were able to see, clamber aboard and climb into the cockpit of a vast collection of aircraft of all sorts, it was great fun and certainly a wonderful way to pass an afternoon, from there we then visited an old haunt, the Naked Racer Café for a refreshing brew or two before head back to G&B’s at the end of another great day.
Sunday 29th January
For today Moni had booked tickets for us all to visit the Royal Exhibition Building Dome Promenade, this guided tour allowed us to experience spectacular views across the city along with an exhibition that explored the building’s significant history and varied uses over time, the Royal Exhibition Building is beautiful inside and out and sitting alongside the Melbourne Museum certainly made it an interesting place to visit. It was really nice to be able to catch up with Sean, Moni, Jensen, and Ollie again.
Once back home we chilled out watching the final of the men’s competition of the Australian Open championships with Novak Djokovic capturing his 10th title.
Another early morning rise to get ready for our pickup for the airport, once we had checked out of the hotel we took off with what seemed like a new driver to the route, she mistakenly took and left us in Terminal 1 when apparently we should have been taken to terminal 4, fortunately, there was an airport bus just outside that was able to take us on the 30-minute journey over to the other side of the airport. Once in terminal 4, the confusion continued, our flight turned out to be with Qantas and not Emirates as expected. Once airborne everything went well and we both had a pleasant flight into Changi.
When we arrived it took us well over an hour to clear immigration and customs before being picked up by our driver and driven to the Furama Riverfront hotel, our home for the next week. After checking in and exploring our room, which we found to be perfectly adequate for our stay, we went out for a walk around to try and get our bearings. I had stayed in this hotel 4 years ago and had some idea where things were, so we went along the road towards Clarke Quay where we found a nice Thai restaurant to have some dinner before returning to the hotel ready for bed after a long and tiring day.
Thursday 29th September
After our breakfast in the hotel, we went along the main road into town heading for Chinatown. This is one of the city’s bright, colourful and vibrant areas and we were happy to wander the streets soaking in the sights.
Our main reason for visiting Chinatown was to go to the visitor centre, next to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, to buy some phone SIM cards and to scope out tickets for some of the attractions of the city, on reaching the riverbank on Raffles Place, where we sat for a while watching the world go by, we decided to head towards theMerlion Park at Marina Bay, we got there easily and stopped for lunch, Jim loved the large Merlion and Unicorn Elephant statues we found there.
In the Marina. Bay, we could see the grandstand for the F1 GP we have tickets for Sunday’s race and decided to see how and where we could get there, we found the entry point easily, so we thought it would be a good time to visit the Gardens by the Bay and the Marina Sands Hotel. This is where all our problems began, almost all the streets in the area were closed off and no matter how many ways we tried, we just couldn’t get to them. Feeling a bit frustrated we returned to Chinatown to the Maxwell Food Centre, a typical Hawker food court, after passing through the colourful night market, to see what was on offer, and after a couple of most refreshing Tiger beers, we had a lovely meal from the Michelan rated Tian Tian Chicken Rice stall, we both agreed that it deserved the plaudits, afterwards, I just couldn’t resist sampling one of the delicious Fuzhou Oyster cakes again it was worthy of the praise. From Chinatown, we slowly made our way home after yet another warm and tiring day, the heat and humidity really sap your energy so it was nice to return to our air-conditioned room.
Friday 30th September
We had a bit of a lie-in this morning after yesterday’s long walks, but we were still in time for a good breakfast before heading out to find the Fort Canning MRT (metro) Station to take us up to Little India, this area of Singapore is where it’s mainly Indian population lives, when wandering the streets there you could be forgiven for thinking that you really were in a part of India. This week sees the festival of Deepavali being celebrated so the streets were decorated with colourful banners and lights and there were many flower sellers on the streets selling colourful garlands.
After a refreshing sugarcane juice drink to cool us down, we took the metro to Bayfront, intending to go up the Marina Bay Sands Hotel observation deck, but due to the F1 race, it was closed. We took a stroll around the shoppes in the arcades in the hotel in search of a coffee and to say that the place was a world apart from Little India would be an understatement, despite them only being 15 minutes apart by metro, there is even a mock canal with gondolas running through it.
Now that we were in the Bay Area, we crossed over to the Gardens by the Bay, where we decided to see it all if possible, this included the Double Conservatories of the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest with its 35-meter waterfall and the aerial Cloud Walk. We were stunned by both of them, but especially the Flower Dome, with plant species from the Mediterranean, the African Savannah, and Australia, all in a massive structure. From there we had a stroll through the gardens to the Supertree Grove, the Supertrees are 18 tree-like structures 25 metres to 50 metres tall, they are vertical gardens that are home to enclaves of unique and exotic ferns, vines, orchids and also a vast collection of bromeliads.
We then went up to the elevated walkway, the OCBC Skyway, a viewing platform between two of the larger Supertrees to enjoy a panoramic aerial view of the Gardens, we had also purchased a ticket for the Supertree Observatory, an observation platform at the top of the tallest of the Supertrees, which provided an even more spectacular view of the city and the bay.
We stayed in the park for dinner in Satay by the Bay, a hawker-type outlet before going back to Supertree Grove to see the evening’s light and music show known as the Garden Rhapsody. The music played tonight had a retro pop theme and was well coordinated and it was great fun lying on our backs watching it all.
We made use of public transport a lot today, using both the MRT and buses in getting about the city, mainly to avoid the restrictions due to the Grand Prix, but we still managed to put on a few thousand steps on the way. Again we returned to the hotel very tired but happy after yet another great day.
Saturday 1st October
This morning we jumped a bus down to the harbour front to get the Singapore Cable Car, a cable car ride north to Mount Faber, one of Singapore’s highest points, when we got there we were slightly disappointed as, apart from a walk through yet another rain forest, there didn’t seem to be much to do or see, perhaps. Perhaps we have just become a bit rain forest jaded.
We went back on the cable car which then carried us south to Sentosa Island, an island resort off Singapore’s southern coast, from what we could read about it, it looked like a super place to visit, with beautiful beaches, plenty of bars and restaurants and loads of activities such as zip wires, bungee jumping and what we fancied doing was a few runs on the Skyline Luge, a thrilling gravity fuelled ride downhill that I had first tried in New Zealand. We booked 3 runs intending to create our own Singapore Grand Prix, the first 2 runs went well, with each of us gaining a victory as we rode down the purpose-built tracks with their hairpin corners, tunnels and downhill slopes through the forest, however, it all changed on the last run, it had started with light rain as we took off, but by the time we reached the bottom we were in the middle of a tropical monsoon and thunderstorm, soaked to the skin, we shared the victory, the championship was drawn.
After waiting for the storm to abate, we returned to the cable car to take us back to the mainland where we eventually made our way to Chinatown for a late lunch/early dinner and a well-earned beer in the Maxwell Food Court, which is becoming one of Jim’s favourite places where he likes to sample something different every time we visit.
While we were there the rain started again so we agreed to return to the hotel to dry off a bit, before going out for a snack and a beer in nearby Tiong Bahru, one of my favourite areas in Singapore, this area has a really cool vibe with its 1930’s Art Deco styled housing complexes, the suburb has become famous for its trendy cafes and independent shops. There’s also a local park and a traditional food market. There is also plenty of high-quality street art by a local resident, Yip Yew Chong, I first saw them when I visited in 2018 and they remain among my favourite murals. A 5-minute walk took us back to the hotel tired after yet another interesting day. (Expect to a page devoted to Yip Yew Chong’s work coming soon to my Street Art section)
Sunday 2nd October
A big day today, we have tickets for the Singapore GP, which is undoubtedly the potential highlight of the trip for Jim (and me too). We thought that although the gates open at 10:00 we would wait until later to go to the track.
We started off after breakfast by going back out to Tiong Bahru to capture an image of a mural by Yip Yew Chong that I had missed during my earlier travels, we stopped off at the food court there and had some Kopi, (also known as Nanyang coffee) and a Singaporean version of a Portuguese custard tart, they were both very good. In order to see another of his wonderful murals we then went to the Amoy Street area to see his wall, describing some of Singaporean history on the wall of the Thian Hock Keng temple, since it was quite close we returned to the Maxwell Food Court for lunch before heading to the Bay Grandstand and our seats for the race.
Our seats facing the Sands Marina Hotel are very good with a great view of the track with one of the giant screens directly in front of us. The preamble to the race proper was very good, we had a W Series race, which is a fairly new series designed to encourage women into the sport, and then we saw the Formula 1 drivers parade where the drivers were taken around the track in a collection of historic vintage cars, this was when things changed a little.
At this point, the heavens opened and we had a massive rainstorm, despite cagoules and ponchos, we couldn’t stay dry and, in addition to almost everyone there, we retreated to the area under the grandstand to shelter from the rain in the hope that it would eventually stop and the race be allowed to start. After a nail-biting hour, the rain stopped and the decision was made to start the race, so following the Singaporean National Anthem, it all got underway.
It was brilliant, the sound of the cars, the vibration in our seats as they passed and the additional visuals provided by the giant screen opposite all added to the once-in-a-lifetime event, after a fabulous fireworks display, we left the area on a high and made our way back to the hotel after a fAntastic day, the potential of the day was fully realised, it was a highlight.
Monday 3rd October
This morning, now that the road closures and the restrictions placed due to the F1 were lifted, we made our way to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and its observation platform on the 57th floor, the views over the city were spectacular, it was good to see many of the places we had visited and the F1 track from above, however, being up so high it felt extremely warm so we were glad to return to ground level and the air-conditioned comfort of one of the malls in the hotel.
Our afternoon trip was one we had always planned, a river cruise on one of the city’s Bumboats from Clarke Quay, this trip around the river was very relaxing and enjoyable, providing yet a different viewpoint of the sights seen earlier.
With time to spare after our cruise we thought we would visit Kampong Gelam, a neighbourhood known as Arab street, to see some murals by Yip Yew Chong, one of my favourite ever artists, again, nature took over with yet another rainstorm, this time, unfortunately, we were in a predominantly Muslim area so we couldn’t take solace in lunch or a beer in one of the malls, we sat it out as long as we could before trying a sprint to the nearest MRT station, we thought we had done well staying reasonably dry until a passing motorist going through a puddle completely drenched us. The murals did make the trip worthwhile though, and I did find a quirky camera shaped building that turned out to be a camera museum, unfortunately it was closed, which was a shame as it would have been a great place to shelter from the rain.
We made our way back to Clarke Quay to have an enjoyable dinner in a Hawker Centre we had seen earlier before returning to the hotel to pack our cases ready for our departure tomorrow night, stopping off in Boomerang, an Australian bar across the river from us for one last round of drinks.
Tuesday 4th October
For our last day in Singapore, we decided to visit Everton Road, #33 on the Time Out list of the coolest streets in the world at the end of our trip, it was a pretty cool area, but we couldn’t see what made it stand out over other places, perhaps we needed to see it at night. The area did have some pretty cool murals by Yip Yew Chong so the journey wasn’t wasted.
On my last visit to Singapore, Raffles Hotel was closed and undergoing refurbishment and was covered in scaffolding, so I couldn’t see much, this time, however, we saw it in all its glory. We thought that it would be very exclusive and that we wouldn’t be allowed in, how wrong were we, the staff couldn’t have been more helpful, offering to take photographs and guiding us to the best spots, it really was a special place to visit.
With loads of time to kill, we visited the Newton Food Court for lunch, this Hawker centre is a bit further out of town, and although it had been recommended to us we much preferred the Maxwell Food Court which we visited frequently.
An MRT ride back into Chinatown’s Mohamed Ali Lane led us on a hunt for more murals by Yip, which was a great way to revisit some of the places we had visited earlier and to see them with fresher eyes, it is strange how all of our walks in the area takes us back towards the Maxwell, where we had to stop for a refreshing beer before returning to the hotel to rest for a while before being collected for our travel to Changi Airport.
Unlike Perth and Western Australia, we managed to meet Dan’s Challenge by finding A Starbucks (it wasn’t hard, there are 130 of them in Singapore) and a Certified Lego Store (there were only 7 of them).
We both fully enjoyed Singapore and its many attractions, especially the F1 Grand Prix, which was very special, amongst our highlights were the Gardens by the Bay, the view from the Marina Sands hotel’s observation deck, Sentosa Island with its cable car and Luge run, plus of course the hawker food courts, especially the Maxwell. I enjoyed seeing as many of Yip Yew Chong’s murals as possible, they really tell the story of his Singaporean life in vivid colour. The photographs shown above are only a sample of the many hundreds taken by both Jim and I, but I’m sure you will agree that they show just how wonderful a time we had there. I certainly would like to come back again.
As we are leaving Singapore in the early hours of the morning and will be travelling for quite some time, I will be unable to post the final instalment of our travel blog until I get home, so watch this space.
Another day another city, this time Perth in Western Australia. We were lucky to be able to get up at our normal time, have breakfast and finalise our packing before checking out of the Grand Chancellor and making our way to the airport for our flight west. We enjoyed our time in Brisbane immensely, it was a much more relaxed city than we expected, but having seen and experienced enough of it, it is time to move on.
On arrival at the airport, after being picked up by our driver, we got through check in and security with ease then spent the time waiting for our flight with our books. The flight went very well, although it was a 6 hour flight and not 4 hour as we had thought, we had forgotten about the 2 hour time difference in Western Australia.
We were picked up at the airport and made our way to the Pan Pacific hotel in the city centre to check in for our stay here, once in our room we unpacked and had a quick call with Graeme and my cousin Betty who lives nearby, we then went out for a look around our surroundings. Unfortunately it had started raining on our arrival but we still managed to see a bit of the city before choosing somewhere in Globe Lane for dinner and a beer, before returning to the hotel.
Thursday 22nd September
As it was the Australian national day of mourning for Queen Elizabeth II, a lot of shops were closed or only opened on Sunday hours, despite this we had a super day.
We went to visit the Visitor Centre in town to pick up a city map to find that we were just in time to join a guided orientation walking tour of the city, off we set with our knowledgeable guide Patricia, to visit all the main point and locations, with her explaining how to travel about using the excellent public transport system, which is totally free within the city, this was a wonderful way to spend a morning. Coincidentally the tour ended near the Little Island Brewery where we had to stop and try one of their ales, which were very nice indeed, whilst there, we bumped into and had a chat to a couple who were visiting Australia from Hamilton.
Once the tour had ended we decided to buy some picnic food and visit Kings Park and the Botanic Gardens for lunch, we really enjoyed an afternoon lazing away for a couple of hour in such beautiful surroundings, as it is spring here all the wildflowers are coming into bloom providing a colourful display. In it’s elevated position the park also gave us some great views of Perth and the Swan River, again this was a wise choice of a way to spend an afternoon.
In the evening we went into town to meet with my cousin Betty, her daughter Adrienne and her family, Cameron, Katie and their partners Georgia, Kaylum and Katie’s toddler Noah, unfortunately, Adrienne’s husband Craig was feeling ill and couldn’t make it. Adrienne had booked us all into a really good Chinese restaurant called Uncle Billy’s and we had a great time catching up on each others news and just having a good old blether. We then dropped them off at the station for their return home to Mandurah and we used a free bus back to the hotel. Despite the reason for the public holiday, we had an other wonderful day.
Friday 23rd September
Following yesterday’s orientation tour, we returned to the visitor centre in town to take up their street art walking tour, although I had done this 4 years ago, I thought it would be good to do it again, this time Joan, our guide, approached it differently, with slightly more emphasis on the sculptures. It was good to see that almost all of the good murals in Wolf Lane and Globe Lane still remained.
For our afternoon adventure we bought a train ticket and headed out to Cottesloe Beach where we had heard that there was a display of sculptures created for a Sculptures by the Sea project, we did see some of them but the main attraction was having a lazy day on the beach and one of our picnic lunches. On our return to the city we went over to the Art Gallery of Western Australia to the roof top terrace to see the sculptures there, coincidentally there happened to be a bar there so we had our first beer of the day there.
We returned to the hotel and decided that we would just stay there for the evening to have dinner and to prepare for Saturdays trip.
Saturday 24th September
Up and at ’em this morning ro get to the ferry terminal in time to catch the Rottnest Express over to the island, the boat, a large catamaran, gave us nice cruise down the Swan River to the port of Fremantle, where we stopped to pick up more passengers. Once out in open water, the sea got choppier, which caused problems for some on board.
On arrival on the island we took advantage of the hop on hop off island explorer bus before heading to a local bistro for lunch. After lunch we strolled through the main town, called Settlement, watching the little Quokkas wandering about. We then went for a run on the islands little railway to visit a wartime gun emplacement, it certainly was a feat of engineering in getting all the parts there and building it in the first place, by the time we returned to the Settlement it was time to board the ferry back to Perth.
On our orientation tour we heard of an Illumination display at the ….. library after sunset, we went to see it only to find that it didn’t start until next week, whilst in the Northbridge area we went to Mr Ming’s BBQ place for a very good Chinese meal, one highlight of the Northbridge area on Williams Street we found was Cafe Pastels a place selling genuine Portuguese custard tarts, we had no option but to test them , they were very good indeed, just gooey enough with crisp pastry, this finished off another great day in Australia.
Sunday 25th September
This morning we took the train to Fremantle, the train was mobbed due to the Perth Royal Show being on nearby. Once in Fremantle, or Freo as it’s called locally, we had a great time wandering around this pretty cool town, covered in very good street art. Dan had sent us the names of some of the coolest streets in the world that we could visit, which we did, however we both felt that the whole town of Freo could be added to that list, it’s a pretty cool place.
For lunch we eventually managed to get some Aussie pies from the Fremantle Market before continuing our wanders. We than took one of the free CAT buses to South Fremantle to visit the spectacular murals on the East-West Designs warehouse, a place where they sell quirky furniture and decor items, both the frontages on South Terrace and South terrace are covered in fun humorous murals created by Graeme Miles Richards in 2013, it was so good to see that they were still there, it’s worth watching the linked YouTube video to see how it was created Finally, no visit to Freo is complete without a visit to the Little Creatures Brewery, producer of one of Graeme’s favourite beers, so we had to make a pilgrimage there to test the product, it was very good indeed
Later in the day we met up again with Betty, Adrienne and Craig for a farewell dinner, we were booked into Benny’s, a restaurant near Craig’s Camera House shop, the mea,l and especially the company, was very good, it was a pleasure to meet with them again. Craig wes still a bit ill and receiving intravenous antibiotics which left him a bit groggy, so we finished off early leaving us plenty of time to catch the train back to Perth.
Monday 26th September
Yet another public holiday here in Australia, this time for the King’s Birthday, so once again we had closed shops and 10-15% surcharges on purchases. We had planned to do a Swan Valley wine tour today or tomorrow and after checking online we went to the booking office only to be told that they only run them on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and that they do not run them during the week, we were extremely disappointed as this was not mentioned anywhere on the brochure or on their website.
Feeling adventurous, we researched how to get out to the area on our own and quickly headed for the train station to take us out to Guildford where the Swan Valley visitor centre is located. The staff in the centre were very friendly and helpful providing us with maps and suggested walking routes which we followed to take us up into the valley to visit vineyards in Benara region and the Funk Cider farm where we stopped for lunch, again, as it was a public holiday many of the places were closed but we enjoyed the walk in the nice sunshine.
We returned to the city getting off the train in the Northbridge area where we saw some remarkable street art, which will be appearing in the street art section of the site shortly, unfortunately the Portuguese Tart cafe, the other reason we wanted to revisit the are was closed for the public holiday. A free CAT bus took us back to the hotel a bit weary but happy to have had a fun day.
Tuesday 27th September
A morning trip to a nearby laundrette started the day for us, this meant that we were due to depart Perth quite soon, this time Lava, the laundrette was a ultra modern facility that is fully automated and very speedy and we both enjoyed a bit of quiet time with our books whilst waiting.
To try and satisfy Jim’s search for the perfect Aussie pie, we visited the renowned Mary Street Bakery outlet near our hotel for lunch, Jim’s verdict was that it was one of the best pies he has had whilst here, nice crisp flakey pastry, loads of chicken and veg filling with a nice little sauce on the side, he said he much preferred Aussie pies to the UK versions.
We then jumped onto one of the CAT buses to take us to the Matagarup Bridge where we had looked at the zip wire running from the top of it, we found that we were unable to do it as, over 70’s, we were too old.
Fortunately for us, situated next the spectacular Optus Stadium and inside The Camfield, reputed to be Australia’s largest pub, was the Bevy Brewery, and to keep Fiona back in Hamilton happy, we had to try out a schooner of their fine ale.
Once back in the city centre we went exploring to find a restaurant suitable for our last night in Australia, it’s strange that over here most restaurants do their business at lunchtime and shut very early in the evening, this made our choice difficult, eventually, we chose the Grand Lane Fish House, a traditional fish restaurant, since we would be eating mainly Asian food in Singapore.
One of the biggest surprises we found in Western Australia, we couldn’t meet Dan’s Challenge, there is no Starbucks in WA and we couldn’t find a Lego Store either. But that was one of the few problems we encountered in Australia.
We returned to the hotel to finish our packing and to reflect on our time in Australia, we’ve had a great time, each city, state and region provided us with new and exciting things to see and do, and there were a few adventures and surprises along the way but we certainly enjoyed them all.
As this is our last day in Brisbane and we are starting the next and final phase of our trip to Australia in Perth tomorrow, we thought it best to start a new blog post then. To enable us to do this I have added the last 3 days to Post #5, which can be read below.
Today was an exciting one, we had an early start with a scratch breakfast then on to a shuttle bus to the Port Douglas marina to board Quicksilver VIII, a fast wavepiercing catamaran, out to the the Agincourt reef located 75 nautical miles off the coast of Port Douglas. This reef which is reputed to be one of the best diving and snorkeling sites in the world, is located at the very edge of the Great Barrier Reef and provided us with some of the spectacular vibrant aquatic animal and plant life unique to Australia’s coast.
On boarding we had tea/coffee and biscuits before departure then a nice relaxing 1 1/2 hour cruise out to the reef listening to all relevant safety briefings, on arrival at Quicksilver’s activity platform we enjoyed all of it’s facilities, we loved watching the marine life from the underwater observatory, took a cruise in one of the semi-submersibles, Jim liked that so much he did another while I got suited up and went for a snorkelling session from one of the platforms, we didn’t feel brave enough to try the ‘oceanwalker’ helmet or scuba diving.
We had the opportunity to watch the crew feeding some of the many types of fish, Jim even spotted a great view of a Green Backed turtle while out in the semi, quite a rare experience he was told, all of this kept us busy and once we had seen and done everything we realised how hungry we were so we availed ourself’s of an excellent buffet lunch. Later in the afternoon we had a beer from the onboard bar before we headed beck to port. It was great fun sitting on the foredeck being buffeted by the wind and spray at 35 knots.
Once back in Port Douglas we did a bit of shopping before returning to the hotel tired but happy to have had another smashing day out.
Tuesday 13th September
A fairly lazy day today, we first went to the Four Mile Beach next to our hotel and paddled and frolicked in the lovely warm Coral Sea. On our return to the hotel, we put on our laundry then lounged by the pool reading our books catching up on some relaxation time. In the evening, after packing our cases, we took the shuttle into town for a last look around and a lovely Thai meal in the extremely popular Star of Siam restaurant, a final beer in town before returning to the hotel for an early night.
Wednesday 14th September
An other early start for us this morning, as we had a 3:40 am pickup arranged to take us down to Cairns sirport. We got to the airport in good time, the road was deserted at that time in the morning, and everything went well with our flight etc.
We arrived in Brisbane and were met by our driver who quickly got us to the Grand Chancellor Hotel, our home for our week here. After dropping off our luggage we headed into town for a look around and to get our bearings followed by a nice lunch from one of the vendors in the local Wednesday city market. During our tour of the city we managed to meet what we call “Dan’s Challenge”, although we couldn’t quite find a certified Lego store, we did, however find Jimmys On The Mall, a great place to get our bearings when in the city.
We then popped over to the south bank to the Queensland Performing Arts Centre to book tickets for a show on Thursday before returning to the hotel on one of the free City Hopper buses to check in. Our room, although smaller than we have been used too, suited us fine, and we then spent some time on the Internet researching Brisbane and surrounding areas before heading out for dinner. This proved the only disappointment of the trip so far, we had chosen a local Mexican restaurant where the meal and especially the service was dreadful so much so thst I sent in an email, to the company, complaining, a first for me. After our early morning start we were quite pleased to return to the hotel for an early bed. Another good day in Australia.
Thursday 15th September
The sun was shining so off we went after breakfast for a trip down the river. Using the local free bus service to get into town we crossed over to the south bank where we found many activities and installations as part of the currently running Brisbane Festival, which for us is quite fortunate. The area was extremely busy with families enjoying themselves in the sun, and it was really good to see how much the city utilises the river, with pleasure craft and ferries plying their trade, there are many new interesting building projects going up and the installation of a new bridge, the Neville Bonner Bridge which looks like it will be pretty funky.
On finding the ferry terminal we went for a trip, on one of the City Hopper Kitty Cats, down to Howard Smith Wharves, the last stop, to find that was at a large riverside complex that included Felons Brewery, we enjoyed our time here, the large Barrel Hall, crammed full of barrels painted by local artists, had tons of room for diners and lots of seating on huge bean bags outside facing the river. After an obligatory beer we returned back upriver where we had lunch, a wander round the festival installation of giant spheres before relaxing in the sun on some more of Felons bean bags, when I touched the spheres my hair stood on end, it didn’t have quite the. Same effect on Jim.
We decided to search for some Brisbane street art today, we had asked earlier in the tourist information office and they couldn’t help, so armed with a couple of maps and a phone app off we set, it was extremely frustrating as we couldn’t find anything mentioned in the app. By the time we reached the Howard Smith Wharf we had given up. After stopping there for lunch, we caught a Kitty Cat back to the south bank, where, with a lovely ice cream, we lounged near the bandstand listening to a good set by Felicity Kircher, a local singer/songwriter.
As usual we did a bit of shopping on the way back up to the hotel, in the evening we had a takeaway meal in our room whilst Jim watched his new favourite of AFL, he is becoming hooked on it, it’s finals season and always supports the winning team, he is really forward to the Grand Final next Saturday. During this time I reached out to a local street art blogger who provided some hints of where to look, holding out more hope for tomorrow, despite the frustrations of the morning we still had a great day.
Saturday 17th September
With the information provided by @dkjstreetartphotography we set out again to find some of Brisbane’s street art, this time much more successfully, our walk took us through Fortitude Valley back again to the Howard Smith wharf next to Felons Brewery where we intended to take the ferry back to the south bank, however due to the lovely weather, we chose to walk the 800 metres across the impressive Story Bridge towards Kangaroo Point, once we had reached the Queensland Maritime Museum on the riverside walkway and had a look around, we stopped for a coffee at this point we thought it was now a good time to try out a Neuton e-scooter, once we got the hang of them we scooted along the remainder of the riverside drive towards the Merivale Railway Bridge to look at the Pillars Project, a series of murals painted by leading artists on the pillars supporting the bridge, they certainly were impressive. Whilst in the South Brisbane area it was easy to visit Fish Lane for more street art and a beer, the scooter ride was great fun and something we will do again,
The sunshine then took us back to the Brisbane Festival site on the South Bank for another of the nice ice creams, and a bit of relaxation listening to some live music, before returning to our hotel for dinner, despite wanting to do it by scooter we thought it better to go by bus to avoid the city traffic.
Sunday 18th September
Whilst Jim went to scope out a local laundrette I met with Mike and Donna Holmes, distant relatives of mine in our hotel, although I had never met them previously, I have been in contact with Donna over a great many years in connection with our respective family history research, it was nice to finally meet with both of them and to put faces to the names, since they had both lived in Singapore for a while it was also good to get some tip for our visit there.
After our meeting Jim & I made our way into town where we topped up our phone cards then purchased a Go Card for the very good Brisbane transport system, and to buy some things for lunch. We then revisited the South Bank to take one of the larger City Cat ferries further down the Brisbane river. This was a great way to spend an afternoon seeing how the city is built around the river. We stopped off at one point to have our picnic lunch before travelling further down river visiting places such as Hawthorne, Tenerife and Bulimba before getting off at Northshore Hamilton, our last stop, after a walk around the area and some chill out time in the park, I love how the council provides plenty of picnic tables & benches, they even provide free electric BBQ’s for families to use, all of which are spotlessly clean.
We returned back up river getting off at the Eagle Street Pier where the are developing a new riverside complex, after a look around and the capture of some good street art we walked back to Queen Street to catch a bus back up to the hotel.
In the evening we walked into town for a meal in Hot Star Large Chicken, a place we had wanted to visit since we spotted it in Sydney, the food was very good and worth a visit, it certainly lived up to it’s name, the chicken pieces were huge. A pint in Brew Cafe & Wine Bar in Lower Burnett Lane, with it’s great murals by Drapl, before our walk up the hill to the hotel finished off the day nicely.
Monday 19th September
What would seem to becoming a regular for us, was a bus into town, buy something for lunch then walk over to the South Bank. This time we took a ferry upriver, there were limited stops on this route due to wharves closed due to damage caused by flooding earlier this year. We stayed on the ferry for the return trip, stopping at New Farm Park to visit the Brisbane Powerhouse, an old power station converted into studios for Brisbane’s creative, we managed to photograph a couple of good murals in the space.
The nearby park was a lovely place to have our picnic lunch and for Jim to have a post lunch snooze.
Once back on the South Bank we decided we would try riding an e-bike and eventually could find only one nearby, Jim had a trial ride and found that he didn’t like it too much, so I took the bike and he picked up an e-scooter, which we then used to go along the river bank for a while. Back in the CBD we pick up some things for dinner then returned to watch the Queen’s funeral on TV.
Tuesday 20th September
Our last full day in Brisbane started quietly with us sitting in the sun reading the papers with a coffee whilst our laundry was being done using facilities in the hotel.
We then went for a walk downtown via the nearby Roma Street Parkland and spent some time in the beautiful gardens, stopping off for an hour or so to read our books, it was so pleasant to just sit and relax without any hustle & bustle. Once in town we visited the Brew cafe again for a refreshment, and after chatting to the barman there, he directed us to Urban Climb, a climbing centre, where we could view some good murals by local artist Sofles. Fully refreshed, off we set by bus to find it, it certainly was worth our while as the place was fabby and murals were very good too.
We then used up the last of our travel credit returning to one of our favourite spots on the South Bank where we had lunch and another relaxing time watching the world go by and doing a bit of reading before returning to the hotel to pack our bags ready for our morning departure.
In the evening as the sun set we went for our last meal in Brisbane and visited Bishamon Japanese Restaurant just around the corner from the hotel, for a wonderful meal, we were lucky to get a table as the place is so popular, it would have been a shame to have missed it. This topped off a great time in Brisbane, Perth here we come.