Canberra: Lots to see lots to do.

Our last morning in Canberra was a little lazy. We enjoyed the hotel: the quiet room, the breakfast and the coffee in the sun reading the papers.

The Kurrajong Hotel is old but is an institution in Canberra. It was home to politicians over the years.

We stayed here two years ago when our nephew was married. It was good then and once again we enjoyed it.

You probably want a car if staying here as it’s not in the city. But Canberra is quite spread out and you need a car or you need to love cycling. It’s a city for cyclists.

I always get a bit lost here. Everything is spread out. The blocks are long, are tree lined and have 2 story block type buildings. All the main attractions tend to be along the lake and today we were going to visit a few.

First stop was Old Parliament House. Last time I was here it was with a group of Year 7 students on a school trip from Brisbane. This time we arrived in time to join a tour with Sergio. He was a volunteer guide but had worked for many years at Old Parliament House. He was so informative. And funny in a sage kind of way. He had opinions on Pauline Hanson and other Senators who despite having low numbers of votes were now holding the balance of power.

We toured the old building and heard some anecdotes about Whitlam, Hawke and Howard. Sergio had worked there in their days. It must have been interesting especially the stories involving Hawke!

Some of the items spotted in Old Parliament House

We continued on and decided to separate. I went to the Art Gallery and Steve to the National Museum. I’d been there a few times when on tour with my school. So I passed on that. I love the Art Gallery.

I spent a few hours in the large spaces of the Gallery. There was an exhibition on California Cool , Art Deco and Art Nouveau.

I left the Gallery and walked along to Questicon further along the lake. Steve had arrived and was having a great time interacting with the exhibits , primarily science based. It’s such a great place. Don’t miss it on a trip to Canberra.

The afternoon passed and before long we were flying to Adelaide to stay with Steve’s sister in Fullerton.

Adelaide is the city of festivals so I’m keen to see what’s on.

Beautiful Bali

Yesterday I repacked my bag after returning from Vanuatu and flew out of Brisbane into Sydney, then onto Bali!

Yes another lovely holiday coming up. This one will be a more relaxing holiday – no long distance swimming.

Coming out of the arrival hall I was greeted by a smiling Arys a lovely local man.

I’m staying at the Peppers resort in Seminyak with my niece and her family, their mothers ( my sister Catherine) and now me!

The resort at 11.30 was very quiet – unlike the streets around Seminyak which were awash with bikes , cars and groups of people wandering around.

I crept into the Villa and into the pavilion bedroom I’m sharing with my sister Catherine.

The villa is made up of 3 separate pavilions around a pool and lovely shaded cabana. And an outdoor bathroom! Bliss.

Breakfast this morning was in the central resort area by the pool and was served by the smiling Balinese. Fruits, eggs, pancakes ( not for gluten free me!) Now we are sitting by the pool chatting and playing with Jack and Zali.

I could get used to this.

From the High Line to the Beach.

This morning we allowed ourselves a little sleep in. Walking in this big city is hard work.

We had coffee and made our way to the start of the High Line. We thought we’d call into the Whitney Museum – but it was closed. So as we waited for our friends to arrive we watched the passing parade.

Even in this big city people like their dogs. All types of people were out walking and it was difficult to walk the street. There are some very big dogs living in what I’m sure are quite small apartments.

Bill and Betty arrived, the weather was perfect and we set off. Thank goodness dogs aren’t allowed on the Highline. It’s crowded enough without dodging leashes.

It’s a really pleasant walk, although our New York friends are not as embracing about its existence. They were a little against all the fundraising with locals to get something that is essentially for tourists. But I loved it.

It’s interesting to walk along above street level and see some of the great buildings in the city. New York is constantly changing  some amazing new building designs.

You may be able to see the sign behind Bill. It’s about Galapagos where we all met!

The gardens, as you walk along the curved and angled walkways are quite beautiful. We spoke to a few volunteers, including a mum with her young baby strapped to her.  Where would the world be without volunteers?

There are apartment blocks sitting next to the walk track. How could you relax with so many people nearby? Thank good it is closed at dusk!

This amazing apartment block was designed by British architect Zara Hadid. 

The High Line is a 1.45-mile-long elevated linear park, greenway and rail trail. It was created on a former New York Central Railroad spur on the west side of Manhattan in New York.

 

By now it was warm and Betty and Bill were the only keen swim trekkers ready to have a swim. So off to Brighton beach near Coney Island.

It was quite a trek, but troopers Lynn and Lois drove us out through Brooklyn to the beach.

I can only imagine how crowded it gets in summer.

We found a carpark and made it past all the Russian restaurants filled with Russians eating and drinking. You could forgiven for thinking it was St Petersburg.

The beach is wide and the sand almost white. There were a few walkers and mums and bubs. But no swimmers. Bill and Betty braved the cool water and in they went.

Coney Island in the background.

They swam for about 15 mins and the current was super strong. What champions.

By the time we left the beach storm clouds had gathered and we knew we needed to get back to Manhattan. Lois (who is over 79!) drove us back. The rain poured, the thunder rumbled , the wind blew and Lois chattered like there was no problem. It got crowded on the road and about an hour later we arrived back at our air bnb. Exhausted.

An hour or so to recover and off to dinner with Jordan and Rob to Carbone at a very up market Italian restaurant.

GuessWho!

A lovely night with the newlyweds.

Trinidad. Cuba. Let’s Salsa!

Arriving in Trinidad was a different experience. It’s a cobbled city. Quite small with lots of coloured houses which gives a festive feeling.

It was raining when we arrived. The hot days are often punctuated with a downpour that lasts an hour or so.

It gave us a chance to check in and have a little rest.

The house we are in is on a street with lots of painted houses and some have a sign outside indicating they are a casa particular. They rent rooms to tourists. It makes such a difference to the lives of the people – making an income to supplement their government wage. Salaries are so low here. The owner of our house is an engineer who was paid 28CUC (about $28 a month). Renting a room, he can make about 20-30 CUC a night.

Our owner Reginald pulled out all stops in decorating our rooms. Ours is a beautiful blue and Marg’s is pink.

When the rain stopped we headed out to the cobbled streets walking towards the main square (and wifi spot!) it’s quite a busy little town and is known for its salsa clubs. Can’t wait to visit one!

We passed a few craft markets seeing things of a Cuba style. I just had to buy a bell for my collection.

We saw the Trinidad equivalent to the Spanish Steps. It was littered with people (mostly young people) on their iPhones taking advantage of the wifi.

Alex guided us around the town pointing out the best bars and coffee places.

We ended up for dinner on a roof top in another casa particular. It was a feast with far too much food. Simple cooking but nice ingredients. So far we’ve been fortunate to have Alex point out the best places to eat. The Government run restaurants look quite ok but are not good to eat at (according to our guide).

Walking back to our casa stumbling over the cobbles, we called into few craft places and I bought some cute ceramic earrings.

It couldn’t be the end of the night without a rum drink so as our casa also had a bar (in the kitchen!) we ordered a pina colada to enjoy before bed. It came with something pink floating on the top and was heavily laced with rum. Sleep came easily.

Today we headed to the beach. White sand clean water. Mojito.

Now we’re exploring the cobbled street of Trinidad and getting ready for salsa tonight.

A great dinner in a restaurant Alec suggested then off to salsa.

Some hot moves on the dance floor. There were a couple of men there to dance with the ‘lady tourists’ for tips I take it. Everyone seemed to be having a great time.

There was one girl. Turns out she was from Sweden and she was mesmerising to watch. She swayed and swung her hips. Her hands rotated above her head and we were entranced. Another had a lesson with a big guy with white trouser who swivelled those hips! We thought we’d like to have a go but thought we needed another lesson or 6!

Sorry. Photos hard to load!

Vinales to Bay of Pigs

Vinales is a lovely quiet little town where the pace is slow, the people friendly and the food surprisingly good. We were told the food in Cuba was plain and rather ordinary and while it’s not Michelin standard so far it’s been fine.

Lots of rice yes! Last night we went to an eco restaurant on a hill on the outskirts of Vinales. All the food prepared for us was grown or raised on the farm.

We walked in the gardens – vegetable garden beds bursting with healthy plants and looked up at the house with breezy verandas.

The house faced the hills and the sun was just starting to set. It was quite beautiful.

The food started with a plantains and taro crisps & delicious vegetable soup then out came plates of roasted vegetable, chicken thighs, roast pork and shredded beef. Much more than we could eat!

We finished with creme brûlée and mint tea. No wine but we had a pina colada type drink with special herbs in it.

Today we left early, 8am and we knew it was going to be a long day as Alex planned a movie for us on the bus and Victor our driver was wearing a tie. Serious driving today.

We headed back in the direction of Havana and then in the direction of Giron and The Bay of Pigs. To give us some background Alex told us some history of the political life in Cuba including their heroes Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and what led up to the 3 day Bay of Pigs invasion by the Americans in 1961.

For a small country this is a big story. It is strategically placed only 90 miles from Miami and was wanted by Spain, America and Russia. Fidel led the revolution through the Baptista years. The country was crawling with Mafia types, communists and became a socialist country under Castro.

Then there was the ‘special period !’ In the 90’s when life for the Cubans became hard. It was anything but special. They were hard times. People were starving. Alex who is 34 said he remembers it well as there was so little food.

We arrived at the Bay of Pigs and had a swim. It was warm & tropical and lovely after sitting in the bus for several hours.

Next stop was the museum in Giron (passing Australia on the way)

to see the Cuban account of the Bay of Pigs invasion. Such a bad period of time.

We watched a short film and wondered what the American tourists would think.

There was a photo of JFKennedy who inherited the Cuba problem and didn’t seem keen to invade.

The Cubans are very pleased it wasn’t Trump in charge then!

We arrived at Cienfuegos and visited the former Palace. This small city is by the sea and in its former glory would have been lovely. The buildings are colonial style but many are in a state of disrepair.

We enjoyed our pina colada on the roof terrace before checking into the lovely old Union Hotel.

Tomorrow is Che day. All about that romantic political figure Che Guevara.

Today we have ‘Gone with the Wind’

Plantations are big here – both in size and reputation. We decided on a Plantation tour and not an alligator tour.

But which house do we visit? I read reviews and decided on Houmas House or the ‘Sugar House’ because it has a big reputation as a great example of a grand home.

I didn’t want to visit one with the slavery story. That is too sad.

We weren’t disappointed. Houmas House is grand and Southern style and the gardens were amazing.

We had an hour bus ride out along the swampy flat land in the direction of Baton Rouge. The driver was a super speedy guy – definitely the stunt driver from the movie Speed!

Arriving at the house was underwhelming at first as there is now an aluminium plant nearby with chimney stacks and smoke!

But pulling into the drive was like stepping back in time. All the attendants wear period costumes and the grounds are heavenly.

There were many sculptures in the garden both playful and decorative. So much money!

We heard the story of the building of the plantation. It’s named after the local Indian tribe. It was mainly a sugar plantation with 1,000 slaves working there. It made a fortune for its owner. It sold after the civil war for $1.5 million. That’s a lot of money for back then.

Our guide Susan took us through the house and had lots of stories. It’s a pity she spoke so fast ! Hard to follow her.

The present owner lives there in two rooms and is up and out each morning before the house opens. He’s not married but loves his dogs. Apart from close friends people don’t know who the owner of the house is or what he looks like.

Another heart thumping trip back to NOLA for a short rest before we went off to dinner. Now that’s a whole other story.

Good Morning Corfu

We woke up in Corfu today.


It was a super smooth trip. You can barely feel the movement of the ship at all.

Last night we had aperitifs in Berti and Fabios little apartment. Fabio had organised some wonderful nibbles.

Then it was off to the Crooners Bar and the Princess Show


Today we are doing the first and only organised tour. To the Achilleion Palace. Built during the 1880’s by Empress Sissie (or Elizabeth) of Austria as a summer Palace.

It has beautiful gardens with an array of statues and light airy rooms.

Once again I realised why we don’t like group tours!  They move so slowly.

But the drive in the bus out of Corfu town was a  good way to check out the countryside.

Happy New Year

The passing of one year and the beginning of another gives us the chance to look back, reflect and then begin again.

Would I change things?

Last year was wonderful in many ways but so hard in others.

We faced all kinds of challenges. A swim trek in Montenegro where I swam long distances so much more confidently and made a whole new group of friends.

The weekends away with my gorgeous friends  to Byron Bay and to Sunshine Beach –  the bonds of many years being reinforced.

Our family visits to Sydney to my beautiful sister and her fun loving  children and grandchildren. Two family weddings

Visits and a wedding with Steve’s sister and her children. So many laughs together.

Lots  of lovely weekends at the coast with Rob and Jordan.

Then the accident. A life changer.

But it made me realise how important family and friends are to our life. Without our family and friends it would have been so much harder.

Just to recall the messages- emails, texts, phone calls, received during those weeks in Cambodia and Bangkok. It makes us feel gratitude.

The hugs, the food, the offers of help – all so appreciated.

The way Peter’s friends, our friends, acquaintances and complete strangers donated money to try and make life a little easier for he and Elena. It was a little overwhelming.

The quickly organised Brisbane wedding where everyone rallied offering help  for the wedding party.

The trip to Cambodia for the wedding. It all turned out as they had planned. Such a happy momentous occasion.

So we move into 2017 recharged after our holiday at the beach: swimming , chatting on the beach and driving around in the new mini moke. This year has plenty on offer.

Travel, family occasions, fun things with friends, another family wedding in Sydney and a new leg and new life for Peter and Elena.

What do we want this year? We just want good health for all.

Where did a week go?

Its now a week since the wonderful Cambodian wedding.

Such great memories of a great occasion.


The girls spa. Great fun.

Villa Vedici. A great place for a group to stay. A pool, air con, a bar! , restaurant. A bad road in but who cares!



The morning wedding. Special


Two beautiful strong girls in our boys lives. Elena with Steve and Jordan with me. Lucky us.  
Loved having some friends  and relatives from Peters childhood join us. We are all fans of a Cambodian wedding!



The trip down the river was a wonderful way to arrive at Greenhouse.


Rob and Jordan and cousin Clare came from Australia to celebrate. 
In the afternoon the bride arrived by boat. She was radiant. A friend played a ukulele. Peter beamed.  
It was wonderful having my sister and her daughter Clare join Svetlana, Elena’s mum at the wedding.

All the ladies had a ball.

The next day was recovery day at Kep. We indulged in Pepper crab a local speciality.

Yum!

So we welcome our new daughter in law and her mother Svetlana.

Now we are at the beach. Recovery time for us. Pete and Elena are still in Cambodia for a few weeks and Rob and Jordan are in Vietnam for another two weeks.

What a month.

Non op day 


That’s a shortcut for no operation today.

So we try and get good food and drinks into Peter. El buys him wheatgrass shots, pomegranate juice, ice cream in fact anything to get him eating.

He had a big long talk to Dr Hamish Black from his insurance company. And Peter quickly said I hope you are not Hamish  Blake…… I need a Doctor!

Anyway it was up and down from there. No flights direct to Brisbane     So they would explore other options. We need a small miracle.

So waiting all day.

Finally a call from Insurance to say they can get him out on Friday night arriving Brisbane Saturday around 11am. Thai air business class which means he has to sit for take off and landing. Hope he can do it . El along with a doctor and nurse will accompany him. I’ll go back of the bus, if they can find a seat ( it’s end of school holidays. )

Steve will go through Singapore on the ticket we originally booked . All arrive same time.

Peter and Elena are very happy. One hurdle down.

Pete insisted we go out for dinner and he would rest and have his bed bath with the nurses.

So off we went in a taxi to a little place called Mellow. Back up plan was Di Vinci.

Di Vinci looked looked great, mellow didn’t, so we thought we’d bring a little Italy to our lives outside the Bangkok hospital – seeing as I was supposed to be there.

The owner,  Roberto came to greet us and we chatted – well Elena did, in Italian and before long we were friends. Seemed he remembered her from his trip to Phnom Penh and a visit to Che Culo,  the bar restaurant El managed.

As Pete calls her ‘ the most beautiful girl in Cambodia ‘  I think it’s true. Everyone loves and remembers her.

We had a wonderful though short dinner and made it back to the hospital to find Pete looking very excited and pleased with himself. He claimed ( don’t read this if you’re squeamish) he had done his biggest poo ever, and had cleaned himself and the bed and moved around rearranging the sheets!

So perhaps he is ready to fly on Friday night.

Tomorrow it is practice sitting in a wheelchair time! Leg down! Hope we all survive the pain.

So looks very much like we will be back Saturday.

Talk about change.

Can’t wait. Neither can Pete . Not sure which hospital he’ll go to. Perhaps RBH or Mater Public . Don’t mind as long as they are miracle workers . Toes need to come off. They are a nasty shade of black.

So last two nights here.

Elena looking happy to be going.