Cool Tasmania – with a Very Warm Welcome

Our plane was on time and as we walked down the stairs onto the tarmac we were reminded that Tasmania is much further south than Queensland. So much cooler.

The walk into the terminal seemed rather long for such a small airport. The security guards were ready for us with questions about covid. Have we been in high alert sites? No. Do we have any symptoms? No. Were we carrying any fruit or vegetables? 😅No. They are just as aware of passing germs to their fruit as much as covid to their people.

We were cleared and stepped outside to a warm welcome from Ginetta & Stephen. We haven’t seen them since before their 2020 year spent in France & Italy. We were meant to catch up in Edinburgh last year but no such luck.

We had a little tour of the docks and things are looking beautiful down by the water. Through Battery Point and along the waterfront to Sandy Bay.

Their house is beautiful. Newly renovated since I was last here. After the downstairs flooded they had to replace floors and carpets and have rearranged rooms. It’s lovely. Ginetta is a collector and has lovely pieces from her travels. They also have a library! With a bar and a sunny corner. We might not want to leave here.

After a delicious Italian style lunch the boys went into Hobart to visit the Mawson Hut and the Lark Whiskey Distillery. Ginetta & I had coffee with a friend from ADFAS. The arts society we are members of.

When the two Stephens arrived home it was Aperol time.

Sitting with a beautiful view we are very happy to be in Hobart

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.

Up, up and not away to New York

As everyone, everywhere, knows covid19 has put a stop to all travel.

We must all be careful to stay safe by ‘Staying at Home’. In Australia we’ve been very good at staying at home and helping to ‘flatten the curve’ or as some are now saying ‘fatten the curve!’

There’s been lots of Instagram memes!

Today we should be flying out of Brisbane bound for New York. Off to see our precious new grandson, Leo. He was born in the midst of a pandemic that has devastated NY and many other places around the world. But out of the chaos came Leo. Born on April 11 – Easter Saturday in NYU Hospital. He’s beautiful.

Leo enjoying a walk
I can’t wait for a cuddle

We planned to spend 2 weeks in NY getting to know Leo. We’d booked an Airbnb in West Village, an area we were getting to know as we have spent the last two April’s visiting our son & his wife in NY.

One of the many little gardens in West Village

I’m imagining the spring flowers coming out as they do after the cold of winter.

What does their life look like now ? They have spent the past two years doing everything they could possible fit in, to really enjoy their life in this busy city. Restaurants, concerts, exercise, galleries, riding bikes, swimming, walking. Enjoying their jobs and getting out of the city on weekends & holidays to visit places like Boston, Charleston, Portland, Pittsburg, Austin, New Orleans, Salt Lake City, Miami, California, Mexico. ….now they are lucky to visit the nearby park. Photos of Leo on his daily walk show very happy new parents, not letting the Coronavirus stop them.

Going to the park on a Sunday is a must. Families out enjoying the open spaces – essential in big cities. Walking, listening to the buskers, or watching the tennis players or those rowing on the lake.

What would we be doing if we’d gone across to NY today? Walking with the pram along the village type streets of West Village and visiting the parks. Washington Square Park is nearby and so lovely. Of course Central Park is something I do on every visit.

Visiting the art galleries is another must do. Each visit I try to visit different galleries. This time it was to be back to the Met. And the Museum of Modern Art – MOMA which I haven’t been to in quite a few years.

We would be catching up with our swim trek friends from our Galapagos trip. Lynn and Lois live in New York, others were flying in to meet us. Betty from California, Lexie from Mexico, Barry from Canada and Bill from London. Our plan for a catch up ……gone. We had a great reunion in 2018. Maybe next year.

A concert at Carnegie Hall and we were to see La Boheme at the Metropolitan Opera. We had great seats and on returning them recently, actually made money as the value of our dollar has dropped – as we’d paid in US $!

We also got a full refund on our Airbnb which was great.

This time last year we were there visiting and playing with our friends Peter & Elizabeth McGregor. We had a lots of fun and the photos bring back so many happy memories.

Instead of preparing for our trip we have been in isolation at our beach place. Right on the beach we have been able to swim each day and go for long walks. Lots of reading. Some tv series, cooking, collecting shells, sketching,yoga. So not all bad!

Look back at my posts from last year in NY and see the things we did then. In my mind I’m travelling there again. That’s all we do at the moment.

Stay safe everyone. Especially as things start to reopen. Don’t forget the simple things like washing those hands well and social distance always. This virus hasn’t gone yet.

What have you been doing in isolation? Wherever you are in the world, let me know ( in comments) how you are and what you’ve been doing.

Last day : Lodi to San Francisco

Poppy has a sleep over last night so Jordan took her for a walk to get our coffee ! Great start to the last day.

Lisa went to work a little bit later to make the most of Poppy time and to farewell me.

Right on 10am John , Jordan and I set off for San Francisco. It’s a beautiful warm, blue day and they are taking me all the way to San Francisco. About 1.5 hrs with some great signs along the way.

It was an interesting drive past vineyards and into the delta area where we sang the song ‘ drove my chevi to the levy but the levy was dry ‘

There are a number of levy here which cater for the farms in the area. Many crops are grown here.

I could sing my way around America!

‘Are you going to San Francisco….’

‘Do you know the way to San Jose….’

Visiting any area of America produces the opportunity to sing about it!

We arrived via the rather beautiful Bay Bridge. It was replaced after an earthquake brought down part of the old bridge.

It has a great approach and is a rather lovely structure.

We arrived into SF and drove along the Embarcadero………

past all the rejuvenated piers until we reached pier 39.

We parked the car and walked out on pier to Scomos. It’s an old restaurant – like bring on a ship. I had a great shrimp salad. And a glass of Rose!

Last time I’ll see Jordan before baby M arrives!

The day was perfect so we walked along the water. I admired the people swimming! It would be just a little chilly!

Then John took me on a tour. Of course the famous zig zag Lombard St featured.

The views down Lombard St.

We arrived at Grove St at a rather small hotel, one block from the painted ladies of Alamo Park. John and Jordan helped me in and then it was goodbye. Next time I see my daughter in law will be with a baby in her arms.

As the weather was so lovely I headed straight out. Up the hill to Alamo Park and the infamous Painted Ladies. SF style houses painted different colours.

My hotel is just down the street to the left.

I then walked …… and walked……. past some great houses.

Past public buildings

City Hall
Love the circular rooms
Mosaics
Opera & Ballet Theatre
Great street art.

Until I had passed numerous homeless people to reach Union Square where I had stayed years ago.

By now I was quite exhausted so had a cup of tea! Watched the passing parade and caught an Uber back to the Grove Inn.

I refreshed in my little room and went to the Alamo Square Seafood Grill. What a find. It was a little FRENCH ! place and I had the best fish fish! Grilled blackened snapper with delicious veg. And a glass of Chardonnay.

In & Out in Lodi.

I’ve been told by many people to experience the taste sensations of the local burger place. Or is that palace?

Recently, Qantas, our Australian airline, wrote that when in LA one shouldn’t miss out on visiting an In & Out Burger.
Started in 1948 it is basically the same today. Read about it here :

https://www.in-n-out.com/mobile/history.aspx


I was told it was better than McDonalds!So today John , his mother Ann and I visited an In & Out. Jordan was working from home so passed. Perhaps avoiding a burger !

My first impressions. Bright, clean, with the feel of an American diner – what I think is a diner!

I went for the basic cheeseburger. And we shared the ‘animal fries’ what are these! No not fries in the shape of an animal. They are fries topped – or loaded with cheese and a chopped onion.

We helped ourselves to the drinks while waiting for our number to be called.

I checked out the kitchen where the staff, all looking very neat and tidy we busy freshly chopping potatoes for the fries and serving at the take away windows.

John collecting our order

We settled into booth. And checked out the food. Neatly wrapped burgers.

Well presented cheeseburger!

It wasn’t too big so I really enjoyed it.

We cruised around the big streets of Lodi past other drive in shopping areas and made another stop at My Yoghurt. Yum!

The owners are neighbours of John & Lisa. In fact they seem to know someone every time we go out. Lodi isn’t that big.

I stopped in at Ann’s place to look at her garden. She a keen potter- taking cuttings and successfully nurturing them ! She’s a loving grandma to Jordan as was reflected in the present from her grandchildren on her 80 birthday. Take a read of this ….

We picked up Poppy, John & Lisa’s 2 year old granddaughter, and went for a walk to the beach. I really love this community private park and river beach.

Poppy is gorgeous and much loved by all the Donati family. My grandson will be born into a loving family, so I couldn’t be happier.

Lisa cooked a lovely family meal for my last night. Thank you John & Lisa for making me part of your family.

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.

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.

The Wonderful Wallace Collection

When I asked visiting ADFAS lecturer Viv Lawes “which London Gallery I should not miss?”, she had no hesitation in answering “The Wallace Collection”.

So today was the day.

I also wanted to check out Marylebone High Street. So off I went and Steve went to the National Army Museum (which he thought better than the Imperial War Museum).

The High Street is lovely. Lots of beautiful shops including The White Company – which just happens to make the pyjamas handed out on Qatar Air – for business class passengers.

I witnessed a rather posh baby christening where the guests looked dressed for a wedding. It was in St James’ church.

Then at 11.30am I joined the tour for an overview of the Wallace Collection. Our guide was a very little, very posh lady dressed in a lovely suit. She was a good age, so probably had been volunteering for ages. She led us around the house at a snails pace which suited me as I wasn’t in a hurry.

When it finished right on 1pm I made my way to the cafe to meet Steve for lunch.

Museums and Galleries generally have great cafes and gift shops and this was no exception. I had a lovely light quiche and salad. Just right!

The next hours were spent wandering the large house separated into rooms of various colour with an amazing art collection. Canelettos everywhere. And at the moment in each room are shoes.

Not just any shoes but Manolo Blahník works of art. They have been arranged to match the colours and the themes of art in each room. It’s extraordinary.

Steve was rather taken with the armour room and there was a ‘try it on session ‘ so naturally I tried on a glove!

Leaving the gallery we walked back to our hotel through the streets of Marylebone. I saw a little chair on the pavement! Needed some care and a new home! A lovely area of London.

The evening held another adventure. We met up with Chris, a swim friend from our very first trek in Sardinia back in 2013. We met in a pub near St Martyn’s in the Field – a church near Trafalgar Square and the wonderful National Gallery.

Again we caught the bus there as I love looking at the famous landmarks from the front seat on the top deck!

Following a pub meal and a goodbye selfie with Chris we went to the church for a performance of some “oldies but goodies”. Vivaldi & Bach just for starters. Very enjoyable.

Then the evening ride back to Marble Arch by bus.

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.