Australia – Part 6

Wednesday 21st September

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, at 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 fond a restaurant suitable for our last night in Australia, it’s strange thst over here most resturants do their business at lunch time 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 are 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, there were a few advetures and surprises along the way but we certainly enjoyed them all.

Roll on Singapore.

Australia – Part 5

Monday 12th September

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 returned to the hotel, after a bit of shopping in town, to get ourselves ready for our evening outing. Yesterday we booked tickets for the musical “Girl from the North Country” featuring songs from Bob Dylan, the show, held in the impressive Lyric Theatre, a part of the Queensland Performing Arts Centrehttps://qpac.com.au/, the show was very entertaining and certainly a different way to listen to Dylan’s music.

Friday 16th September

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.

Hot Wheels Holmes

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.

Lewars Hamilton burnin’ rubber

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.

Australia – Part 4

Sunday 4th September

For our first full day in day in Sydney, we wandered down George Street intending to get a train to North Sydney, however, due to repair work we ended up going to Circular Quay to catch a ferry to Milsons Point near Luna Park, this took us to Kirribilli, where Graeme stayed when he lived in Sydney many years ago. After a nice coffee and pastry there, we then walked back to the city via the iconic Harbour Bridge, despite it being a little windy on the bridge, it provided great views of the harbour and the city.

The city side of the bridge took us back to The Rocks where we stopped for lunch in the busy market being held there. The morning’s weather was wonderful and we eventually got to a ’taps aff’ situation before it started raining, the only shelter we could find was in a pub, this time the Mercantile Hotel, this was an Irish bar and there were 2 guys, Martin and Shaun, playing some great tunes, so good in fact that we spend the afternoon in the company of a bunch of nice people before heading back to the hotel for a wee rest. I was pleased to see that a piece by Vhils was still in place in the Rocks.

We had a choice of places to go for dinner, but ended up heading north to Surry Hills to visit Hotel Harry which is an old haunts of mine, as expected the food, beer and ambiance was just right for us, a nice leisurely stroll back downtown finished off another great day.

Monday 5th September

I got up early this morning to catch a ferry up river to meet my cousin Betty and her daughter Fiona. Jim stayed behind to go on a tour of the Opera House, intending to join us later. The trip up river on one of the fast river catch ferries was a pleasant way to spend a morning. After lunch at my cousins house we went down to the famous Sydney Rowing Club at Abbotsford, where we met up with Jim after his Opera House tour, later in the evening the rest of the family arrived and we had a lovely family meal. After dinner we returned to the ferry wharf, there were a bunch of guys fishing off the wharf, it was fun to see one of then land a whopper. The trip back down the river was quick and easy, it was great to see the city ablaze with lights.

Jim told us that his tour of the Opera House was very interesting and informative, especially since they have just completed the renovation of the concert halls, this was due to the 50th year celebrations and to provide better acoustics and accessibility. After a stop for lunch, Jim caught a ferry from Circular Quay to join at Abbotsford.

Tuesday 6th September

Another early start for us this morning as we went to catch the bus for our Blue Mountain Tour, unfortunately we had selected the last pickup point and the time we boarded it was pretty full. We then quickly made our way out of the city to our first stop at the Featherdale Wildlife Park, this park was interesting but very similar to the one we stopped at in Melbourne, this gave us the chance to have a quick morning cuppa.

We then headed up into the mountain region stopping at Scenic World where we experienced 3 different cable cars and funicular railways, Jim bottled out on riding on the cable car roof, but he did take a good photograph, all of this is situated around an old mining region which afforded us some spectacular views of the rainforest and the 3 sisters rock formations, we then stopped of at the Echo Falls Viewpoint for even more views.

We returned towards the city sropping at the Olympic Park area to catch a ferry back to Darling Harbour. We returned to the hotel for a chance to recharge (ourselves and phones) before heading out to a Japanese Ramen restaurant on Liverpool Street, for a nice meal, a pint in a pub across the road finished it all off. As Wallace and Grommet would say, we had ‘a grand day out’.

Wednesday 7th September

After a fun morning trying to get the microwave working in our apartment we made our way to Town Hall station to catch one of the double decker trains to Bondi Junction where we hoped to meet Dan’s Challenge to find a Starbucks and Lego Store everywhere we go, we were successful in both. Jim thought it was unusual to sit upstairs on on one of Sydney’s double decker trains. We found the Lego Store easily but were a wee bit disappointed that there was nothing specific to Sydney or Australia in store, after taking a few photographs and having a look around we boarded a bus to Bondi Beach.

It was wonderful at the beach, the sun shone and the water was warm, we both took off our shoes and socks, rolled up our trousers and went for a paddle, the only thing missing was the knotted hankie hat, we strolled along the shore watching all the surfers, settled on the beach for a bit of sun bathing before heading along to the North Bondi RSL for a well earned beer and lunch. Another stroll along the promenade with a brilliant ice cream before heading back to the city on the bus, it was another great way to spend a day.

Once back in the city we went over the Pyrmont bridge to find a laundry for us to visit in the morning, later in the evening we visited the nearby Lal Qila Indian restaurant for a really good meal, then returned to the hotel weary but happy to have had a good day.

Thursday 8th September

An early start for me as I delivered our bag of laundry, (to be collected later), while Jim had his breakfast, we then decided that as it was much warmer, that it was time to break out the shorts. Bags packed we then went down to catch the ferry to Manly Beach for another day of sun, sand and surf. We caught a ferry to Manly and after crossing over to the beach side we quickly discovered the it was much windier than expected, so it wasn’t a day for lounging on the sands, spotting a little sheltered looking bay in the distance, off we went to find Shelly Beach, a nice little spot with a convenient bistro where we sat for a coffee and cake break. There was some interesting wildlife in the area, there loads of Gulls, Australian Brush-turkeys, and we even came across a 6 foot Diamond Python sunning itself on the rocks at the side of the path and we even saw 2 water dragons having a territorial battle on the path side.

We decided to make better use of our time, so after a quick lunch, we headed back on the ferry to pay a visit to the Sydney Tower Eye observation deck, this gave us some stunning 360 degree views over the city rooftops. It was soon time to collect our laundry so we crossed the Pyrmont Bridge to do so, while there we came across a good looking Chinese restaurant and decided to call back later for our evening meal, which did live up to expectations. Another good and interesting day.

Friday 9th September

For our last full day in Sydney we ventured out in a rainy morning and travelled by train to Newtown to find Enmore Street, listed as the 24th coolest street in the world, as Dan had informed us. I had visited there in 2018 and the Enmore Theatre was a regular place for Graeme to see bands when he lived in Sydney.

Newtown is indeed a pretty cool place with many independent shops, restaurants and cafés plus the street art scene is very active with plenty of murals by The likes of Fintan Magee, one of my favourite Australian artists. Surprisingly one of the largest murals was painted by AsOne, a Glasgow artist, on the side wall of a house currently owned by a fellow Scot who we met outside, he told us that it may have to be removed later due to cracks in the building. We had a nice lunch on one of the cafés on King Street before heading back into town to visit Chinatown and Paddy’s Market.

In the evening we went to see the Opera House illuminated specially in tribute to Queen Elizabeth, which was very appropriate and impressive. To use up our remaining travel card credit, we took a ferry ride back to Darling Harbour where we stopped off for a nice Italian meal to finish off our stay in Sydney.

Sydney Opera House Tribute to Elizabeth II

Saturday 10th September

An other early start for our flight to Cairns, fully packed and ready to travel, we waited outside the hotel for our car to the airport where we quickly checked in, passed through security then relaxed in the departure lounge for boarding. The flight left a little late but we arrived in time for pickup to Port Douglas around 1 hour further north. The countryside here certainly is much different from our other stops, with sea and beaches on one side of the road, with rainforest and hills on the other, some sections of the road was like driving on the A82 in the west coast of Scotland but with glorious sunshine. Once checked in to the hotel and having unpacked our cases we went for a stroll around the resort before having dinner in the bistro then having a fairly early night

Sunday 11th September

In the morning before breakfast we took a stroll down to the nearby beach, it was as spectacular as you would expect for North Queensland with miles and miles of pristine sand. A quick shuttle bus service took us into Port Douglas town where there was a local market running, we had a nice breakfast with some local food in the market before exploring the town. We eventually ended up at the marina where we were spoiled for choice on Great Barrier Reef tours, we eventually choose one for tomorrow then went for lunch in Paddy’s, a local bar, only to be served by a young couple from Glasgow. Back at the hotel we lounged by the pool, had a swim and relaxed with our books in the sunshine. Whilst in town earlier we did some shopping, which meant that we could have a nice relaxing dinner on the terrace outside our room with a glass of chilled wine to end this phase of our holiday.

Australia – Part 3

Sunday 28th August

While Saturdays highlight was for Jim driving on the race track, I had one today too, Briony booked a slot for us all on a street art walking tour in her home town of Frankston, we wandered the streets, led by our guide Steve, to discover more than 50 mammoth murals around the city centre from renown street art artists such as Smug, PichiAvo, DVATE, Vesod, Peata Ead, Phat1 and Lady Diva, it was good to hear all of the stories behind the pieces. It is refreshing to see a community embracing street art the way Frankston has, the tourist information website is full of information about it.

After the tour we all went to General Public, a funky restaurant and venue in Frankston for lunch, there was something for all ages under one place, ten pin bowling lanes, digital arcade games, table tennis, and pool tables. Pat was happy to go back there as he was the manager when the building was a timber merchants.

After lunch Jim and I went with Pat and Kay for a drive down the Mornington Peninsular, stopping off at Arthur’s Seat Eagle. This chair lift had us soaring from 315 metres above sea level to take in the spectacular views across Port Phillip Bay, towards the Melbourne city skyline and beyond.

The Eagle Cable Car at Arthurs Seat

On our return home we ran up the coast road to see just how much Australians love living near the beach, this was another special day for us.

Monday 29th August

As heavy rain and thunderstorms had been predicted, we decided to have a day indoors to rest and recharge our batteries. Jim made the most of this by sitting and watching the Belgian Grand Prix on TV for most of the morning. This continued into the afternoon where we caught up with a coiple of episodes of a series we have been watching. It was indeed a great way to chill out for a bit and to recharge. The turned out to be not as bad as predicted and we also had a nice relaxing lounge about in the yard with Joffrey.

Tuesday 30th August

We were picked up by Pat & Kay this morning and after a stop in their local town of Beaumaris to see the new community mural, before heading to the Bayside Men’s Shed to meet Pat’s mates and have a nice brew and blether, this turned out to be a great place to visit and very interesting.

After lunch in Pat and Kay’s house we paid a visit to Shannon’s, a classic car auction house to see some pretty spectacular vehicles, stopping off at the town of Black Rock to see more new murals. We finished off the day at the Naked Racer Cafe, a cross between a bar and a motorcycle museum, again this was a really great way to spend some time chatting over a couple of beers, we then returned home stopping off at Half Moon Bay to see the wreck of the HMAS Cerberus on the way. Again this was another great day giving us the chance to see parts of Melbourne that most tourists would never see.

Wednesday 31st August

Today we went into the city to follow the city street art walking tour, this self guided tour took us to a number of good locations where quality street art could be found, I had seen many of them when I visited in 2018, but it was good to see all the new additions. After we had finished the tour we found the HER rooftop bar where we had a nice lunch, with really good views across the city

After receiving a text from Dan stating that Gertrude Street in Fitzroy was voted the 2nd coolest Street in the world, Glasgow’s Great Western Road was 3rd, we decided to see how good it really was, we did think that it had a bit of a cool vibe with loads of independent stores, coffee houses and bars. As Fitzroy was near Collingwood we took the opertunity to go and see the tallest mural in the southern hemisphere painted by Matt Adnate, plus one by the American Keith Haring, it certainly was worth the visit.

Once back in the city we went back up to the Night Market to meet Graeme for a bite to eat before returning to Mordialloc, Graeme then took us to his favourite local pub, Mates, where we met Briony for a beer before returning home.

Thursday 1st September

Today we spend most of our time in Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens, this was a great place to spend some time, we enjoyed seeing the exotic plants, giant trees and unusual looking birds. Our visit was made more exciting by following an Augmented Reality exhibition called “Seeing the Invisible“, 3 art installations by national and international artists, it made the walk in the park more fun and interactive. We enjoyed our time in the park so much we stopped to have lunch there.

After leaving the park we walked along the St Kilda Road to try and find the elusive tram 35, the city tour one, to no avail. After a pint we decided to wander along Flinders Street to find some very good street art around the Southern Cross Station, some I had seen before but there was plenty of new ones on display.

We returned to the city centre via the south bank, where we had a bit of fun trying to see the Crown Hotel’s rooftop bar and restaurant, I don’t think we were wearing the right clothes to enter. We decided then to go back to a new/old favourite, The Duke for our dinner, however a message from Graeme directed us towards Curtin House and their rooftop bar, this was a good choice as the food and beverages met our needs and the city with the skyscrapers all lit up look really spectacular. The train journey back to Mordialloc gave us a chance to rest our weary legs after so much walking. Another great day.

Friday 2nd September

For our last full day in Melbourne we stayed local to Graeme’s taking a walk into and around Mordialloc stopping off for lunch on Main Street. A bracing walk on the beach and a pint in the Bridge Hotel topped off a nice day.

In the evening we went for dinner in True South in Black Rock, the venue where Graeme and Briony had their Australian wedding 11 years ago, Graeme and Briony looked so happy to see us all there again, thankfully this time we weren’t wearing our kilts. It was a great way to say goodbye to them and Pat and Kay, we then returned home in time to watch Melbourne play Sydney in the AFL, a game Jim has come to enjoy.

Saturday 3rd September

An early start this morning to get ready for our departure to Sydney, after breakfast and a check around the house to see if we had left anything, we drove to Melbourne Airport and quickly checked in and went through security before settling down to wait for our flight.

On arrival we were met by Russell our driver and taken to the Adina Hotel, in Darling Harbour, the hotel and room is perfectly adequate for our needs and is well within walking distance of all the sights.

After checking in we went for a wander heading for the Circular Quay and the Opera House, we stopped at the Munich Brauhaus in an area known as The Rocks for some dinner in a German styled beer hall, the food and ambiance was very good. The harbour area looks very good at night with the area sparkling with lights, we even had a fireworks display in Darling Harbour on our return to the hotel. This was a nice way to end our second week in Australia.

Australia – Part 2

Sunday 21st August

For our our first day in Australia we headed out for a walk along the beach to G&B’s local town of Mordialloc where we stopped off for a nice lunch in the Bridge Hotel before having a stroll around town and picking up some shopping in their local Woolworths.

In the afternoon, Briony’s parents Pat and Kay came over to visit with Briony’s nephews Jensen and Ollie, it was good to catch up with them again.

In the evening, after a nice meal we sat and watched one of the Aussie Rules Football games on TV, and enjoyed learning all about the rules etc, it was great fun. At this point jetlag started to hit us, so we opted for an early night. This was a good first day in Australia.

MONDAY 22nd August

This morning we took the train from Mordialloc to Flinders Street station in the city centre, we intended taking the city circle tourist tram to see the sights, there seemed to be a problem with it so instead of waiting for it to arrive, we took another one down to the Docklands area, it certainly was interesting to see all the pleasure boats instead of the large cargo ships that I visited on in the 1970’s.

Back at Flinders Street we gave up waiting for the tourist tram and went over to the Timeout cafe in Federation Square for lunch instead. The meal was made all the more memorable by the waiter spilling a whole pint of beer over Jim, soaking his trousers, they then had the nerve to try and charge us for the beer. We visited an Optus store to get our phones to connect to the internet correctly before setting out on Jim’s quest of finding the Lego Store and a Starbucks, we were successful in this and managed to track them both down. After a nice refreshment break (tea and coffee) we caught the train back to Mordialloc.

We had another nice night at home with G&B chatting and watching some Aussie TV, Jim is certainly getting hooked on some of the shows over here.

Tuesday 23rd August

Another trip into town after breakfast saw us heading down through St Kilda Road where we stopped at the National Gallery of Victoria to see an augmented reality exhibition, the technology was a wee bit flakey and it was difficult to find all the installations, perhaps it was a case of first day bugs and it will be set out soon.

After visiting the NGV we carried on down the St Kilda Road to the Shrine of Rememberance, an impressive memorial to Australian Armed Forces lost in the many and varied conflicts over the years, the memorial and surrounding gardens were a fitting tribute and a nice place to visit, we then went on further down the road to Gentlemans George’s where we met Graeme for lunch, it being close to his place of work. After lunch Jim had us make a pilgrimage to the nearby Albert Park, the home of the Australian grand prix, it was fun to walk on part of the circuit.

Once back in the city we had to visit a station to sort out Jim’s travel card, unfortunately the station was inside one of the giant malls and we found getting back out onto the street a wee bit difficult, by the time we reached the street and arrived at the Queen Victoria Market where we want to go, it was closed. We opted instead to pay a visit to Melbourne’s St Paul’s cathedral, which was very impressive with some spectacular stained glass windows. To finish off our day in the city we stopped off for a pint in the Duke of Wellington pub on Flinders Street before catching the train home, this was another interesting and fun day.

Wednesday 24th August

After our train ride this morning we went to the north of the city to get to our hotel, Brady’s on Jones Lane, which we had booked into for a couple of nights, fortunately our room was ready so we were able to check in and leave our bags before going back downtown to visit the Eureka Skydeck 88 floors above the city, although there was a bit of rain, we were still presented with some spectacular views of the city and the surrounding area.

We experienced what they call ‘The Edge‘ a glass box which moves out of the building leaving you suspended above the streets, it wasn’t as terrifying as they described it but good fun nonetheless, we were not brave enough though to try the ‘Plank Walk’, a virtual reality zip line over the city.

After lunch on the Skydeck we went uptown again to visit the Old Melbourne Gaol, unfortunately due to some flooding part of the tour was cancelled but what we saw was very good and gave us an insight into life in times gone past, we were amazed at the things people, children included, were imprisoned for, apparently you could get 6 months for swearing in public, if that happened today the prisons would be crammed.

Having missed the Queen Victoria Market yesterday, we were lucky that there was a Winter Night Market every Wednesday. This was ideal for us with a wide and diverse selection of stalls and food from all over the world, after wandering around we both decided to try the devilled chicken and rice from a Sri Lankan outlet, this was a great choice. A bottle of wine purchased on the way back to the hotel finished off the day perfectly.

Thursday 25th August

Our hotel was a great place to spend the night prior to our tours, the first of which was the Philip Island Eco Tour, after being picked up by our Go West (formerly Bunyip) guide and driver, Hilda, we headed of to our first stop at the Brighton Beach Huts, a row of colourful iconic huts, before heading to the Moonlit Sanctuary where we came face to face with kangaroos, wallabies, wombats and various other wildlife, it was great fun feeding the kangaroos and wallabies.

Next stop was at the Nobbies, overlooking the Bass Strait, the Nobbies boasts spectacular clifftop views., which we explored on the winding boardwalks, looking out to Seal Rocks, the home of Australia’s largest fur seal colony.

Philip Island Penguin Parade

It was then on to the largest Little Penguin colony in the world. We experienced the magic of watching these amazing little seabirds waddle home from the ocean to their burrows from the viewing platforms and boardwalks. Unfortunately you are forbidden to use your camera after sunset, but this video from Bunyip Travel lets you see some of what we experienced. A 2 hour journey back into the city meant thst we were a bit late for most of the restaurants, so a Chinese takeaway and a glass of wine in our hotel room finished the day off perfectly, It was certainly an interesting and fun day.

Friday 26th August

An early start today for our trip down the Great Ocean Road, we were picked up outside the Marriot, this time by Sheridyn from Go West and once all the other hotel pickups had been made off we set.our first stop was in the coastal town of Torquay, the traditional home of surfing in Australia, it was nice have some cake and coffee at this stop. Our next stop was at the memorial arch, commemorating the returned WWI servicemen who built the Great Ocean Road, we made a quick stop at the Kennett River where we were able to see Koalas and many colourful birds in their natural habitat.

After stopping off for a welcome lunch of a pie and a pot of beer, in the nice town of Apollo Bay before heading to Maits Rest for a walk through the rainforest to see the magnificent trees and ferns.

Next on our trip was the 12 Apostles, Gibson Steps and The Loch Ard Gorge, all equally impressive. We topped it all off with a stop at a noodle bar in Colac for dinner before returning to Melbourne. A quick well earned pint in a pub near the station were we were to catch the train to Graeme’s topped off a great couple of days.

Saturday 27th August

This afternoon we met the rest of Briony’s family when we went to the nearby Chelsea. RSL, a club for returned servicemen similar to our British Legion, we were there to celebrate Kay’s, Briony’s mothers, Birthday, it was nice to meet her brothers Sean his wife Moni and their children, her brother Andrew was there with his children but unfortunately his wife Sheree was unable to attend. The club was quite a special place and the food was very good, some of the portions were enormous, especially Andrews’s lamb shank.

After lunch came what must rank as one of the highlights of the trip for Jim, Briony took us for a drive around Melbourne’s Grand Prix circuit and he was stunned when she gave him the chance to drive around a section of it himself, his face was a picture to behold.

After the excitement of the afternoon we returned home, picked up Joffrey the dog then went to a local food court in a venue called Urban Ground, the pizzas there were pretty spectacular. After dinner we went round the corner with Graeme to a local brewery, Braeside Brewing for a couple of ales, this was a great way to finish off a very special first week in Australia

Australia – Part 1

I’m back on the road well travelled again, this time I’m revisiting Australia for 6 weeks, finishing off with a week in Singapore, this time I’m travelling with my mate, Jim Lewars, who has never been to OZ before.

We had originally planned to make this trip earlier in the year when Australia reopened its borders, but when we went to make enquiries we were hit with a wall of negativity so decided to delay it until now.

When booking a trip of this size we normally organised it with help from the team at STA, but unfortunately, they went under during the first COVID lockdown, so the search was on to find a replacement, luckily I came across one close to home, Kenneth Macleod Travel just down the road in Giffnock fitted the bill, their agent, Michelle Gemmell, could not have done more for us, she took our preliminary plan and quickly came back to us with 3 options, one of which suited us perfectly, we certainly will be back to see her in the future.

The journey to, and passage through Glasgow airport went fairly well and we had some time to kill until our first flight to Dubai. Our flight on a Boeing 777 boarded on time but we were about 20 minutes late in taking off. The 7hour/4000 mile flight went by seamlessly, with a good selection of on board entertainment and some reasonable food, Jim was pleased that we had ‘real cutlery’. We arrived in Dubai in good time to get to the boarding gate for the next leg of our journey to Melbourne, with only an hour or so to wait.

The next leg was by far the longest, a 12 hour journey of 8000 miles, this time on an Airbus A380 double decker, which was spacious and the upper deck looked to be quite luxurious. this flight was mainly over the Indian ocean with a good part at night, I don’t think we slept much, it was more a case of sitting around uncomfortably with our eyes closed trying to sleep. The cabin crew were, as usual, very attentive keeping us going with a plentiful supply of food and drinks. I don’t know if Covid had much to do with it, but there wasn’t that many newly released movies this time so our books and iPads certainly came in handy.

Once safely through Immigration and customs we were met by Graeme & Briony and after a short drive at their home in Aspendale, we then spent the next couple of hours chatting and catching up before hitting the sack. All in all the whole of of our journey was pleasurable and trouble free.

DZIA

Whilst in Glasgow at the weekend for the Merchant City Festival, I popped into the Tontine Lane, off Bell Street, to see if anything new had been added to the little collection of street art there. Nothing new had been added but I was pleased to see that the pieces created by Dzia were still there to be seen.

Dzia, originating from Belgium, is a multi-disciplinary artist who creates drawings, sculptures, and murals. A common theme in his work is animals, usually made up of complex graphic lines in which he establishes a recognisable style that evolves in his species.

The three pieces in Tontine Lane were created in one day in 2015 when he was invited by the Heverlee brewery invited him over when they were setting up a pop-up Belgian beer bar.

The giant Sea Eagle created by him I found in The Norwegian town of Bodø, just north of the Arctic Circle, it was created in 2016 for the Up North street art festival

Bodø – 2016

Storytellers

I paid a visit to the inaugural Storytellers exhibition at The Glue Factory in Farnell Street on Saturday 23rd June.

This exhibition showcases Glasgow’s street culture and creatives, providing a space and a platform for artists to present their work.

There was a wide range of mediums on show, with something for everyone across the entire ground floor of the Glue Factory, from graffiti and paintings to sculptures and videos, there even was a wall where kids, of all ages, could express themselves.

I will admit that I took the wrong camera with me to the event, however, I still managed to get some good shots of works from Mack Colours, Ejek, Priest!, Chelsea Frew, Barry the Cat, Micheal Corr, and Ross MacRae. I loved the area Conzo & Glöbel had set up, this displayed their typical sense of humour, and I was mightily impressed by Mark Worst’s display wall. Saving the best to last, up high on the back wall of the space is a tremendous piece by GazMac, which highlights his status in Glasgow’s Street Art community.