Holiday Close to Home

The beauty of Queensland is there are so many great places to visit close to home.

It’s school holidays so eldest son Peter is home and invited us to have a day out on his boat. He keeps it at home and trailers it to boat ramps for a days outing.

Today we headed south towards Dreamland. Just behind there is a boat ramp and today, a Wednesday, it wasn’t busy.

In no time the boat was in the water and we were away.

We were heading towards South Stradbroke Island. I’ve written an earlier blog on North Stradbroke- go back and read it.

Today South Straddie. We headed into the wind so it was a little breezy !

Ollie didn’t like it much! He pulled his hat down and listened as I sang in his ear.

Happy but hiding from the breeze

We passed the lovely Intercontinental Sanctuary Cove. We’d stayed there a few times when the boys were young. It’s a lovely resort.

https://www.intercontinentalsanctuarycove.com

We headed past the resort Couran Cove. This resort has rooms, little apartments and house. All available for rent.

https://www.courancove.com.au

And arrived at Tipplers. The weather was perfect.

There’s a beach where you can pull up and jump out onto the sand. The minute you arrive it feels like a holiday.

There is a restaurant with indoor and outdoor tables. all very casual resort style.

We made ourselves comfortable in the shade, waiting for our lunch to be delivered and were entertained by a watching a large lizard roaming around.

Ollie watched from the safety of Didi’s arms.

Our lovely lunch came – nice salads, sandwiches and fish & chips. Ollie liked his kids serve contained in a pirate ship!

Good to look at!

After lunch along came a wallaby! So much entertainment.

Standing up for a better view!

Following the wallaby show we played in the sand and the shallows until time to go.

El and I walked along the path to find the camping ground. It’s really lovely. There’s a few tent structures for hire if you don’t want to bring your own. lots of bbqs , picnic table and access to the beach. We decided we’d like to come here to stay.

Back on board the breeze had dropped and we cruised back via Couran Cove. There are some great looking houses. Again we decided it would be good to rent a house when we want a family getaway.

We cruised around the canals of the Coomera area. Then back to the boat ramp.

Ollie was having a great time and loved running up and down the ramp! With me in hot pursuit.

He wore himself out and slept on the way home.

Why not consider a Queensland holiday? Right in our own backyard we have a wealth of great beaches, rivers parks. Plan a visit soon. You’ll love it.

Wednesday Day 5 at the Adelaide Festival.

I walked a different way to the bus stop today. That’s what I love about visiting a new city. Discovering.

I walked the leafy streets of Highgate towards Unley. The houses are a style so different to the timber houses of Brisbane. They are stone, solid, traditional.

The gardens are lovely though dry. The grass out front only green when lovingly tended & watered. Front fences are a mixture of brush, picket and stone. Except for my sister in law who has created a very Australian style using corrugated iron.

I walked along Unley past Waldorf College where my niece Vashti teaches instrumental work.

This is the city of churches and in a few blocks I passed several.

Some beautiful Memorial gates.

I arrived at the Writers Festival marvelling at the glorious weather. I sat under the trees listening to Sigrid Nynez.

She wrote What are You Going Through ? A book about a woman who helps her friend prepare for death after a cancer diagnosis. Not an easy topic but obviously written with feeling.

Next up was Australian Steven Conte. Author of The Zookeepers Wife – which was also made into a movie but today he spoke about The Tolstoy Estate his book set in 1941 in Russia.

I caught the bus home and got ready for a 6pm start of the Opera Midsummers Nights Dream. Shakespeare set to music by Benjamin Britten.

Directed by Neil Armfield a wonderful Australian director we knew this would be different.

The costumes were wonderful as was the staging. I thought the first two acts were way too long ! The individual singers were great but the music by Britten was not tuneful enough for me.

The theatre was great. Big foyer and everyone had to wear masks from the moment you set foot inside.

This included during the performance. You could only remove it to sip a drink.

So another great day in beautiful Adelaide.

Adelaide Writers Festival

Day 1 of the festival was off to a flying start. Early into the city by bus to the lovely Women’s Pioneer Memorial Gardens for the first talk at 9.30.

There are trees, so lots of shade and a big book tent for sales and of course lots of coffee.

The daily program is posted on a board. It changes depending on people’s travel and covid restrictions.

So much to choose from. I started with Kate Mildenhall, a lovely Melbourne author. She has had her second book The Mother Fault published and was speaking about it today. I haven’t read it – it’s described as a fast paced thriller! It’s her first one I’d like to read. Skylarking. An historical fiction novel set in 1830.

Next up was a session with Emily St John Mandel from NY and Laura McKay from NZ. So it was in the big screen. I was keen to hear Mandel. I’ve just read her book ‘The Glass House’, an unusual book about a Ponzi collapse and a missing woman! I enjoyed it. now I want to read her book Station Eleven about a Pandemic.

Laura McKays book The Animals in that Country. Both authors have written about a pandemic. Written before covid had started it provided lots of discussion. Both interesting speakers.

I took a break and walked up the hill past Government House to the State Library, Museum and the Art Gallery. Beautiful buildings.

Next up. The hugely popular Julia Gillard. Her book on Women in Leadership would be a good read. Since stepping away from politics. this former Prime Minister of Australia is making an impact in the area of Women empowerment. She spoke extremely well and had the huge crowd on their feet.

Fans stood in line for over an hour to get an autographed copy of Julia’s book.

Richard Fidler was next. I feel I know him , though I’ve never seen him live! His Conversations program in ABC radio is a favourite – he is a fantastic interviewer. Our own David Frost.

He was a band member of the Doug Anthony All Stars a very popular musical comedy band in the 80’s. He now writes books. Good books about places. His first two books , Saga Tales, is about Iceland, Ghost Empire, about Constantinople and today he talked about The Golden Maze about Prague.

Richard Fidler had the audience in the palm of his hand

As the sun moved I did too. Up closer to the stage. I’m amazed how many people are here. And with covid we are supposed to be social distancing but it’s difficult and many are left standing as seats have to be left vacant.

The last speaker – at 5pm is the energetic, enthusiastic, likeable Trent Dalton from Brisbane . What a down to earth charmer. A journalist now author, readers loved his first book Boy Swallows Universe. His new book All Our Shimmering Skies is receiving slightly mixed reviews from people I know who have read it. So I have put off reading it so far. I love his writing so much I want him to talk about it and then ………

The likeable Trent Dalton

Well, he has persuaded me to read it. He talked about the characters. How & why he shaped the story as he did.

He told some great stories Both about his book and people who have encouraged him. A great one about a mid 60’s pocket rocket at a book signing in Adelaide. During his book chat he said he was doubting his ability to write another book after Boys Swallows Universe. The lady stood and said ‘I have no questions. I just want to say get on with it. You can write. Just do it’. He later found out it was Mem Fox !

The session finished and I walked from the gardens along North Terrace to the area where the Fringe Festival takes place. Two separate park areas. One called Gluttony the other the Garden of Unearthly Delights.

Entrance to the Gluttony area
Delights! There are …..

In theses area there are lots of tents , small and large where a huge range of artists are performing. Amateur singers, comedians, burlesque dances……. you name it they are here. We needed tickets to a show to enter and most were already sold out. So Marg, my sister in law and I got the last two tickets for Evan Demarais. His show called ‘ A Canadian stuck in Australia’.

Aren’t we all stuck in Australia? He came out last year for the festival and has been here ever since! The first 29 mins were funny but after that he needed fresh material! Lots of fun poking at the audience!

Performing out of a shopping container!

After the show we sat in the garden bar / eating area and enjoyed the music and the atmosphere.

By now I was more than tired so headed home. I’ll be repeating it all tomorrow. Lucky me.

Exploring Lodi

Today we were going to explore the local area. Both near and the not so near.

It started with a walk to the coffee shop with Jordan and her lovely friend Stephanie. We got halfway there and I tripped over! Skinned my hands and knee so headed back home for first aid.

When I’d recovered and the girls had delivered my coffee, we headed to ‘the beach’ . It’s an area of the river which belongs to a community of local house owners. 160 local owners can choose to become members of the cooperative. It’s a part of the river , some sand and parkland. The co operative look after it and get to use it for daily activities or family / friends parties.

Entrance to the private park / beach.

It’s so beautiful. Lots of parkland , a bbq area, picnic tables, a volleyball court, and a sandy beach leading into the river water . What a lovely community idea.

The volleyball court
John, Jordan & Stephanie in beautiful weather

We headed back to the house to meet Lisa, who had gone to work for a few hours ( it’s a public holiday here – Presidents Day).

And so, off to explore Lodi and the surrounding wine area. First stop

Wine & Roses. This winery/restaurant/hotel/spa /wedding venue and cafe is where Jordan worked just after university. She had met Rob in Barcelona , came home to complete her degree at Santa Barbara, worked in marketing at this lovely hotel winery before leaving to head back to Barcelona to be with Rob. The rest is history!

Entrance to Wine & 🌹 Roses

We explored the hotel and restaurant and had lunch in the cafe, stopping for a chat with the resident bird.

Rudy

We continued on and headed east out of town past many vineyards with some hundred year old vines.

We stopped at Bokisch. This is influenced by Spanish wine making techniques – the owner is Spanish. The wines are very good and the Tempranillo is quite delicious.

Rolling hills of vineyards

We met Alicia, the wine maker, a really lovely woman who has been making wines for about 12 year’s – winning lots of medals for her delicious wines.

I bought a bottle or two for you Steve! And then we headed towards Lodi town and stopping in at McCays for another tasting. John is a member of their wine club – just like the last winery. It gives a number of free wine tastings each year. Lucky me!

Cheers from McCays

The weather was still unseasonably warm so we strolled down School St – the Main Street of Lodi.

Such a lovely afternoon.

The evening finished at a Mexican restaurant. Beer and tacos. A great evening.

On the road to Sigiriya

An early morning swim set me up for the day. It was quiet by the pool as the waves crashed against the the rocks below.

Breakfast on the terrace was relaxed and fun with our group coming together to plan the day ahead. Eating egg hopper with curry and dahl certainly lines the stomach.

We even had breakfast entertainment provided. A man in uniform had a slingshot and was shooting stones at the local crows. Quite a sight !

The bus with our guide Hema arrived on time at 9.45 and we headed off. Today we head to Sigiriya Rock. The ancient rock is probably the most visited site in Sri Lanka and tomorrow some of us are climbing. It has something like 12,000 to climb to reach the top where there are the remains of the palace.

The bus trip was slow, the roads fairly narrow with the usual style of driving. Cars overtaking & lots of beeping feature. We passed paddi fields, business selling all manner of things, tuk tuks not yo mention trucks! We had a short stop to buy bags of local cashews. So tasty.

We reached Karunegala and Pinnawala Elephant refuge just before the daily wash began. We had time to see the elephants where they roam, before heading down to the river to watch the elephants enjoy a little freedom.

It is a refuge for elephants injured or orphaned. It started in 1982. There are varying reports that say it’s not humane to keep the elephants like this and that they are never released back into the wild. Yes, we did see some chained. They are apparently the males who can be hard to control. But the elephants we saw in the river seemed to be really enjoying their time playing and lying in the shallows.

We had lunch on a terrace overlooking the river while the elephants were relaxed and playing. It was beautiful to watch.

It will be interesting to compare with seeing elephants in their own environment in the national park in Yala when we get there.

We continued on after lunch for the final drive past Dambula to the hotel Aliya. The bus bar opened and rum & coke and G& Ts were served. There was a little singing and the boys down the back were relaxed and having fun. We arrived at Aliya. A truely beautiful place. Our welcome was warm and our welcome drink cold and yummy. The hotel has rooms set along pebbles paths, surrounded by trees which in time should grow and disguise the resort from above.

Our room is big and comfortable with lovely leaf designs on the bed. ‘Welcome’ it said and we did feel very welcome.

Dinner was a buffet. Full of tasty curries it was hard to know where to start. But we all finished with curds and treacle a local favourite.

Tomorrow we climb Sigiriya. I hope my knee holds up. Only about 1,000 stairs.

Colombo

Our late night after a long day of travel didn’t slow us down.

After a good sleep at the Galle Face Hotel we met for breakfast in time to enjoy the beautiful offerings before our walking tour commenced.

Breakfast in India, and now here in Sri Lanka, is a treat. Very different to an American, British, European or Australian Breakfast. I love the fact different countries offer their own twist on breakfast.

Here we had egg hoppers – a rice pancake with an egg in the middle. You can add dahl curry and coconut sambal. Delicious. Then there are curries, fruit, curd, breads, freshly prepared omelette. And delicious fruit drinks.

Following breakfast we left with guide Jude on our walking tour. The architecture here is lovely. Much of the Colonial style has deteriorated but buildings are gradually being restored.

It’s so sad to think of the bombings earlier this year. This city is a lovely place. It’s clean and trying hard to to win tourists back.

We covered some distance around the port (being rebuilt by the Chinese – they have their fingers all over this place).

The markets were another eye-opener. In an abandoned building almost entirely run by men selling the most amazing looking varieties of vegetables. Apparently tropical aubergines are good for smokers. They use many plants for health purposes. Ayurvedic medicines are as popular here as in India.

I’m hoping for a good Ayurveda massage.

Tired and thirsty after 3.5 hours’ walking, some of the group headed to the Ministry of Crab. A very stylish restaurant in the restored Old Dutch Hospital shopping precinct.

We had crab – some pepper, chilli, crab salad, a prawn curry and a cold, cold beer. Delicious.

Back to the hotel in a tuk-tuk for a refreshing swim and a visit to the hotel’s museum which houses a car owned by Prince Phillip!

We finished the afternoon with a visit to Geoffrey Bawa’s house at 11, 33rd lane. It’s a quiet spot and demonstrates the famous Sri Lankan architects style. It’s minimalist, invites the outside in and the inside out. It’s natural and is all in black and white. It was a haven.

The man Laki, who I had corresponded with was a little upset that we arrived late! Our tuk-tuks were late so we arrived after the start time of the movie. https://geoffreybawa.com/number-11

It’s a beautiful place and won us over with it simple approach to design.

Leaving the house we walked for about 10 minutes to the Gallery Cafe – another Bawa design. It’s a beautiful space to enjoy a drink or dinner in a courtyard setting. Again it is inside / outside with black and white dominating.

Tonight dinner is at the hotel. A seafood buffet included in our room rate. I thought it might be a bit ordinary but it was wonderful. So much beautiful seafood cooked on a grill to order.

The hotel is right by the water and it was lovely sitting on the wide verandahs with the fans above gently turning enjoying the company of our fellow travellers.

Swimming the Pond at Hampstead Heath

Today it’s catch up day with friends made through our swim trek in Montenegro several years ago.

Somehow swimming is a social sport- something I didn’t realise until I took it up several years ago.

We’ve now been on about six Swim Trek holidays. They involve a week of swimming with like minded people. We’re there for fun, exercise a holiday.

This group from Montenegro: 6 came from England, 1 each from France, Germany, Switzerland and Australia. And us!

We’ve kept in touch and the ones from England, France and Switzerland have all caught up and swum together. So when we said we’d be visiting London we organised a catch up.

And where better than the pond / lido ( as pools are called here in England) at Hampstead Heath. You may have been there so let me know if you have. This area has featured in a few movies including one last year starting Diane Keaton. It looked great so I was keen to visit The Heath.

We caught a bus there. I prefer a bus if the traffic is flowing as you can see where you are going. We arrived at Hampstead for coffee then walked down some charming streets towards the Heath.

It’s a beautiful area to visit. Both the village and the Heath.

There were lots of people out walking, most with dogs, as we made our way along the track leading up the mixed pond. There are three bathing areas: a mixed pond, a women’s pond and a men’s. We were meeting at the mixed pond in case Steve wanted a swim. He didn’t!

I’ve heard the women’s pond is amazing and I bought a book in a book store which is a collection of women writers writing about their swimming experience st the Ladies Pond. Anyone read it?

Well the two brave girls, Lucy and Catherine jumped in ! not a problem. Water temperature was 18! Yeeks.

When they got out they had to have a cold shower !

Brrr. We must be soft Qld swimmers.

We then went to the nearby pub – the Freemasons Arms , where we were joined by Ellie, Rosie and Lexie. And that’s where we stayed all afternoon.

Steve was the only guy there – Chris couldn’t make it today so we’re seeing him tomorrow.

What a great group.

Walking London

London is a great city to walk. Not hilly and so much to look at.

I set off this morning across Hyde Park. Steve went off to the Imperial War Museum and I wanted to see the Saatchi Gallery.

The park is wonderful. So central but you feel miles from anywhere. You can only see one high rise building.

I passed the Serpentine with ducks paddling and little blue boats all lined up for people to pedal them around the lake later in the day.

I crossed out of the park to Sloane Street and followed the road down past the high end shops. Vuitton, Hermes, Tom Ford. Not for me. I took a detour to walk past the houses. There are some beautiful houses in this area.

I came to a cobbled street so pretty it could be a movie set. Motcomb St. And there was Ottolenghi deli. I’m a Yotam Ottolenghi fan. We went to Rovi his restaurant in Belgravia two weeks ago and this is a little deli. There a lot of cakes etc and most come and take away. There are two little tables outside but as it was chilly I sat at the round shared table inside. It seated 6 and had a big vase of flowers in the centre for privacy?! On the table a young couple sat sharing food from the one plate then a woman with a headscarf and dramatic eye make sat spooning cake into her mouth as she talked loudly in her mobile phone. Not good company when it’s loud and in a language other than English.

I continued on, weaving in and out of streets, then through Peter Jones , a department store I didn’t know. Rather lovely and expensive !

I passed a children clothes shop with a hairdresser in the back of the store – for kids. They got to sit and watch fish swimming around in a large tank. Very inventive.

the Saatchi Gallery has a lovely setting with a small oval in the front, tall white pillars and flags advertising Free Entry. That’s good I thought. I went in and the rather sullen lady on the desk looked at me with no smile and said ‘£10’.

I ventured a return comment ‘ I saw a sign outside saying Free Entry. ‘No she snapped. We charge now. I paid. No smile just a curt ‘ £12 for the special exhibition. ‘I declined and went through to find out that for my entry fee I got two small galleries. That’s it.

So I walked to one of the 7 galleries with the special exhibition and just walked in. No one on any of the doors to check tickets. Lucky! Also because I didn’t really love it! It was called Rave and it is…….

An immersive exhibition that celebrates the birth of dance music and the impact of rave on youth culture today. 

https://www.saatchigallery.com

So I relived a few memories and left the gallery.

I walked along Kings Rd Chelsea and window shopped or popped into some I found interesting.

I came upon The Chelsea Gardener and spent done time soaking up the garden settings both plants and furnishings.

I walked onto St Luke’s and nearly stopped for lunch in the church cafe. It was set up in the back of the church and on the portico. It looked good but the queue was long so I walked on.

The shops around Chelsea are good to look at …….

Arriving at the Brompton Oratory is always exciting. It’s wonderful. The surrounding road and building works aren’t so appealing. It seems half of London is being rebuilt or renovated.

I stumbled into a cafe. It was another great people watching place.

Delicious salads

I headed back onto the street and just had to call into Harrods. It’s iconic. It’s a pity it’s so expensive these days.

I finished by retracing my steps through Hyde Park. It was a lot more awake than this morning.

It’s a really great place to visit and walk.

Visit London.

I got back to the hotel around 4, met Steve and off we went to Kew Gardens.

I must have been mad. Walking all day then heading to the wonderful Kew Gardens which involves lots of walking.

I’ll do a seperate post on the visit to The Chihuly exhibition. It was an incredible experience. So read the next post.

Has anyone seen it? Please comment.

Sunday in London

We finally had a sleep in! We’ve been so busy – up and swimming and running around.

Today we had a slower start. We heard the Church bells from St Mary Abbots, a very old church at the back of our place. They got us going. We wanted to investigate.

Coffee at the same cafe as yesterday. When you find a good place I think you should stay with it. This place is great.

Then a wander down the street to look at the Church. We went in and chatted to a lady there about the history of the place. Steve’s sister nursed at the nearby hospital of the same name when she lived in London in the 70’s. It’s gone now – turned into luxury apartments!

Our good friend from our first swim trek, Chris invited us to lunch today. It’s nearby in Kensington. We really looked forward to going there and meeting his French wife, Cecile. She doesn’t do the swim treks, so hadn’t come to the various swims since we met Chris back in 2013.

We bought some gorgeous flowers and headed to their house. It’s a lovely 4 level house with a garden and sun terrace. Very special in this part of London. I didn’t like to whip out my camera so have very few photos.

The sun was out so we sat on the terrace and their daughter Susan was home from Paris where she works for a fashion company. She’s very sweet.

Then their eldest son Tim arrived. He’s been living in NY but is transferring back to London with his Australian girlfriend.

They are a lovely family. Cecile was a teacher Librarian like me! But works now as a careers advisor at the French Lycee.

Later in the day Steve went to the Science Museum and I went walking and window shopping in the area. It’s so nice around this part of London.

The blue spot is where we are staying. Quite close to Kensington Palace.

Later in the evening we walked to The Ivy Kensington Brasserie just down the street. We just had one simple course – but it was very nice. I had a fish curry and Steve had Shepherds Pie. Both little serves and quite delicious.

Now we are packing to leave this little Airbnb. Tomorrow we head towards Henley. Our friend Bill – yet another friend from our Galapagos swim trek – has a ‘camping’ spot on an island in the Thames! Yes. We are camping tomorrow night so that will be a change of pace. And the temperature is dropping.

Apparently we’ll be swimming in the Thames, perhaps a little rowing and hopefully a Gin & Tonic!

London

Arriving back in London was a change of pace.

Our Air BnB in Kensington is centrally located and great. It’s small but has everything.

Landing at 8.30pm it was late – so straight to bed.

The morning was clear and fine and I explored out the back of our apartment.

It backs onto a garden which is private and quiet. Really lovely.

We got ready and headed off to Covent Garden and Somerset House to explore it before lunch at Spring.

Covent Garden was alive with buskers – very good performers including an Australian opera singer. There’s so much life to the place. It’s infectious.

Then a tour of Somerset House built into 1547.

https://www.somersethouse.org.uk/plan-your-visit

In the new wing of Somerset House is Spring. It’s a restaurant owned by Skye Gyngell, an Australian.

http://springrestaurant.co.uk/about/skye-gyngell/

It’s elegant, pretty, delicious. I’d heard about from Gourmet magazine and a friend, Shelley who visited it earlier this year.

She was right. The sommelier, Monique from Cape Town, was welcoming and friendly and looked absolutely gorgeous in her ‘uniform ‘ as did the young waiter.

Everyone admired her ‘uniform’ and she demonstrated how it tied up!

If they looked so good, with attention to detail , then the food would be great.

We had the set menu at 27 pounds. It was delicious. I had a salad then octopus (yes can’t get away from it), Steve roasted beetroot with tomatoes and onglet (hanger steak) with beans. So pretty, so delicious. But light!

Passing by the restaurant we saw the latest demonstration about Brexit. They are heartily sick of it here. Boris is standing arrogantly against opposition and I think not worrying what the demonstrators are saying. They blocked the bridge near Somerset House causing disruption to Saturday traffic.

So we escaped the blocked traffic and caught the tube to the V&A where we were meeting Bill, our Galapagos swim trek friend.

The V&A is wonderful. Another tribute to Albert, husband of Queen Victoria.

We saw the exhibition on baths (pools) or Lidos in Great Britain.

Then an eye opening exhibition on Food.

We really need to wake up and get moving with sustainable food practices. It’s a wonder we could eat after we saw the way some food is produced – en masse. We should all be growing our own and never waste anything.

With that in mind we went to Royal Albert Hall, another magnificent building used for big concerts notably the BBC Proms – one we were attending tonight.

https://www.royalalberthall.com

We had a pre-concert dinner at Elgar one of the lovely restaurants.

Then into our box for the Henry Wood tribute concert. Henry Wood a former great conductor, musician and composer. He died in 1944 after a long career. He started the Promenade Concerts in 1895 now called the Proms. What a legacy.

The concert was wonderful. A real mix of music types but all told his story.

The Royal Albert Hall is a great place to visit if you come to London.