Ephesus to Canakkale for the Hellespont swim

We shared a taksi to İzmir dropping Betty at the Airport and then onto the bus station for our Pamulkkale bus north.

It was going to be a 6 hr drive but the buses here are great.

Off we went on time and after a ticket check our ‘steward‘ – a young man neatly dressed – brought around the free ice cream. What a treat.

The free wifi was good if somewhat slow and the ride was comfortable. After another hour our host came along with a cart and provided tea, coffee, cola or water with a selection of snacks. All free. This was better than some airlines!

We had a comfort stop at the next town and then a few more pick ups in towns. We were a little late arriving as we got stuck behind a truck.

I’ve been to Canakkale before many years ago. We visited Gallipoli, a very moving experience. We had stayed at Canakkale. I think it’s grown since then. There’s some very modern buildings and lots more bars and restaurants.

Steve is here to do the iconic Hellespont swim. It’s the Lord Byron swim from Eceabat across the straight to Canakkale. It attracts a huge number of swimmers: many Turkish and the foreigners who book through Swim Trek.

Tomorrow we head to Bozcaada an island nearby.

Sight & Sounds of NYC.

Finally made it to The Whitney Museum. It’s at the start of the High Line walk in West Village.

Unfortunately 3 floors were closed due to installation of the Biennial due to open on May 16. Get there if you can.

Having limited floors to cover actually allowed us to take our time and really enjoy the exhibitions.

So what we saw were 2 great exhibitions:

I love the work of Edward Hopper and Georgie O’Keeffe and they both featured in the ‘Where We Are’ Exhibition.

Leaving the Gallery we headed uptown to Mykonos Blue in 29Street. We met friends Lynn Sherr and Lois Dubin from our Galapagos swim trek two years ago.

Such great ladies who have become great friends. Both still involved in their professions – Journalism and Landscaping. Lois did the landscaping on Roosevelt Island several years ago. It’s worth a visit.

Walking down 29 street we noticed many trees and flower shops. Turn out it’s one of the main wholesale place for larger trees and planets. The hydrangeas the lillies and the orchids were fantastic. There was also every accessory imaginable for arrangements. Ribbons, vases, coloured sands. Etc etc.

NYC is great for walking if you have the stamina. It’s set out in a grid system so easy to follow and you just count how many blocks you have to walk. We decided to walk back along to the High Line. It’s like a spine running along the east side of the city for about 20 blocks. The sun was out and so were the walkers. It was crowded.

We started at the Hudson Yards. It’s newly finished with it’s new sculpture feature. The Vessel.

It an amazing honeycomb type gold copper type material. It has steps going up and down like a maze. It reflects what is going on around it.

We didn’t climb it. 2.500 steps if completed it. That would be too many! So we viewed it from the new shopping centre. It’s all shiny and filled with big brand names.

We enjoyed the walk in the sunshine and couldn’t help but comment on the building projects and street works going on.

We are staying right near Chelsea Market so got off there and explored the markets. Lots of great eating places and great little shops. It’s an interesting area to stay if you’re wondering where to base yourself in NY. It adjoins West Village another terrific area to stay. If you watched the TV series Friends then this is where the apartment is set. And Magnolia Bakery is here. It’s smells delicious!

In the evening we made our way to Time Square. We all had tickets for the The Temptations. We collected the tickets and had a drink nearby. We got back to the theatre and found like all the theatres here, there is no real foyer area so the line forms outside on the footpath. Somehow everyone gets into their seat on time.

We had great seats in the balcony but so close there was no room for legs!

The show told the story of how the Temptations formed with all their ups and downs. There were something like 42 guys making up the Temptations over a 25 year period!

Interval came and we decided on a quick trip to the restroom and boy did we get a laugh out of that. The queue went zig zagging up and down stairs with at least 100 in it.

Elizabeth and I decided we were chatting anyone so we’d try our luck. The lady who we christened the ‘toilet monitor ‘ was directing with all the energy and authority of a NY Police officer. Perhaps more because you wouldn’t want to cross her!

Sure enough they managed to get everyone through when the bells rang. Perhaps it works the other way round. They don’t ring the bell to return to your seat until all the ladies have been through the restroom!

The night finished with us all dancing and singing all the way home.

The Sari Six head to India: follow along.

Tomorrow I head off to India. I wonder if my idea of India and the reality of India are one and the same.

I’m going with the HoiAn group of 4 ladies I travelled with two years ago. Only this time we are 6! In a van !

Our chief organiser, Linda, is a wonderful traveller. She has an amazing interest in history and a curiosity about other cultures that brings together an itinerary that is unique, cost effective and fun.

We’ve been labelled the Sari Six and tomorrow we begin our journey on platform 4 at Roma St station on our way to Gold Coast Airport for our cheap and cheerful Air Asia flight to Chennai via Kuala Lumpur. No business class lounge for me!

Packing has been interesting. Four of the 6 travellers have opted for 7kg of luggage! I splurged and bought the baggage allowance. I packed today. Mostly floaty soft pants, covered tops, sarong and my trusty silver FRANKie 4 walking shoes.


These shoes have been everywhere. Italy, USA, Galapagos, Machu Picchu, Spain, Cambodia, France and now India.

Come on FRANKie 4 send me a new pair!

My bag weighs only 9.5kg so I added in 2 bottles of tonic (large) for the Gin I’ll purchase in duty free on the way. Medicinal use only 😘

I’m hoping for a big sleep tonight as tomorrow night will be upright in economy with my attractive dvt avoiding stockings glued to my legs.

Keep reading……. I’ll post the itinerary tomorrow.

Goodnight and if you’ve been to India please post some hints in the Comments box.

Adelaide Markets:

All visitors to Adelaide should visit the Adelaide markets.

They are accessible in the city centre but there is parking which always seems to have a spare parking spot.

We arrived with a plan. Lunch first.

We usually would go to the stalls selling such good Asian food you could be in Asia. Today we opted for Jamface. It’s owned and run by Poh, made famous by Masterchef years ago.

She has built a lovely little cafe/ restaurant in the middle of the markets. I thought it might have an Asian influence but it fresh modern food. Sandwiches, salads etc. all delicious.

From lunch we went to the ‘Shroom’. Yes the mushroom shop. We got a kilo for $6. A bargain.

Then the Smelly Cheese Shop. The owners have built quite a profile having cheese tastings and events such as ‘Le Salon’. An event for the Adelaide Festival where you sit eating cheese , drinking champagne and listening to a French composers. Voila!

We tasted a few delicious cheeses but alas no champagne.

Then it was the sea food market for tonight’s dinner.

Finally the fruit and veggies. So many stalls, great prices and beautiful colours.

When in Adelaide you must go there.

A quick trip home to drop off our goodies then off to the lovely King William Street village.

Lots of lovely shops, boutiques, cafes, beauty salons, bookshops, wine bars, flower shops and healthy food shops!

We spent the afternoon browsing and didn’t need to spend a cent to have a few hours fun.

Goondiwindi a Great Art Deco Country Town.

We’re off again. Cruising the countryside. This time in bigger cars! The roads to Lightening Ridge are rough and rocky.

Once again we met at the Wilsons this time with Mike & Helen Grace and Peter Harrison. Sadly, Carmel can’t make it due to an infected leg.

We wound our way out of town and went via Warwick on a more minor road. You see so much more when you get off the main roads.

First stop for coffee at Aratula. The Bakery there is always a winner. A bit of car shuffling and we headed onto Inglewood. Steve isn’t driving due to his carpal tunnel operation. Both wrists! So I’m sharing the driving with Chris & Jill. It was warming up so we sat on the deck and enjoyed the country-style salad sandwiches and the odd sausage roll.

I just love these country towns. Mike disappeared for a while. He had wandered down to the general store on the Main Street and met up with a lady who had worked with him in catering in Brisbane. They had a bit of a yak (talk) and caught up on a few years.

Back on the road for the short hop to Goondiwindi.

There was a spit of rain then a rainbow appeared. A good omen.

We saw others hopping along as well. The kangaroo is a menace on the road. They hop blindly into the path of a car and get startled. Next thing they are road kill. There were bodies littered along the highway. Little kangaroo paws sticking up in the air.

You need to be off the road by 4pm to avoid hitting one. Quite scary.

We arrived safely and checked into our motel. It’s the same one we stayed at this time last year when we were down for Lauren’s wedding.

We visited Lauren in her house nearby in time for a George cuddle. He is about 6 months old and a real cutie. Lauren’s husband Nick is a farmer and they are doing it tough at the moment. Little rain equals poor crops and decisions on when to sow and spray. Nick was off working so we sat on their screened deck and enjoyed baby George.

We planned a drink at the pub. The Victoria. A lovely Art Deco style. It’s interesting to see quite a few Art Deco style buildings in town. If you’re visiting country towns this is a good one!

We sat in front of the fire and enjoyed a drink before walking a block to the Chinese restaurant – one of two in town and, apart from the pub, the best eating in town. It didn’t disappoint. And George was the perfect Bub.

As we walked to the Chinese we passed a few lovely looking shops. Homewares and clothes shops particularly caught our eye. So the ladies made an executive decision to stay behind in the morning and do our best to boost the economy. I spied some very cute deck chairs which would look great in the new area we are creating under the house.

We swapped a few tall tales before heading off to bed ready to tackle Lightening Ridge in the morning.

We also found out there is a “Gourmet in Gundi” festival on Sunday. So we have penciled it in on our return to Gundi.

Cruising the Countryside

On a fine winter’s Sunday we assembled at our friends house and planned our route to Inverell in NSW. Why Inverell I hear you ask? As it turns out Inverell is home to a rather large car museum. We’ve been wanting to go there for a while and we finally got some time to get away.

After map reading it was ‘Gentlemen, start your engines’ and away we went.

We prefer the more minor roads to avoid trucks and to be able to enjoy some scenery along the way, so we headed to Rathdowney and onto Woodenbong for our first coffee stop.

The breeze had sprung up and it was quite cool in the open topped car. Lucky the sun was shining to provide some warmth.

The coffee was good and hot, so refreshed we headed off along the back road to Bonalbo then the Bruxner Highway to Tenterfield.

It was getting late for lunch and our favourite Willow Tree Cafe was closed on Sundays so we went into the hotel with its warm fires and tasty soups.

Mt Barney

The countryside had fires through here just a day ago.

Back in the car it was definitely getting cooler, so another layer of clothes was added before an unscheduled stop. Chris pulled over to check something. We pulled in behind, turned off the motor, then when we wanted to head off the engine wouldn’t start. Not good being two small green cars on the side of a busy stretch of road for we were now on the New England Highway. Eventually we all push-started the MG and off we headed -grateful not to have to call for help.

We arrived in Glen Innes and turned west towards Inverell and now it was very chilly and we were driving into the western sun. I had two hats , gloves, a rug on my knees and two scarves. And I was still cold.

After a beautiful day’s drive the last half hour wasn’t quite so great. We were pleased to arrive at Inverell and get into our warm rooms at Top of the Town Motel with its covered car spaces and and warm rooms.

I love country towns. Having grown up with a father who loved driving and many relatives scattered throughout the NSW countryside we had lots of holidays driving and visiting relatives.

Warmed up, we headed to the restaurant recommended by Margaret from the motel. We asked her about the club in town. “No, don’t go” there she answered, quickly followed by “or to the Chinese”. We settled on the Thai and it was good.

Monday morning Steve was up and ready to sort out the starter problem with his car. He called the NRMA, the motoring body who comes to your rescue when there are car problems. I was comfortably still in my warm bed and I could hear voices outside. Men and their cars! Steve along with Chris and Andrew were huddled under the raised hood discussing things until the NRMA man joined them. Then there were lengthy discussions and laughter and advice given until half an hour later Steve appeared quite thrilled to report it was a minor problem, and the car was across the road from the motel at the conviently located auto electrician!

A morning to inspect a small country town is very revealing. Inverell, I’m pleased to say, is a great little centre. After a super breakfast at the Bridge Cafe we parted with the boys. They headed off to the car museum and we decided to walk the heritage trail of the town’s main streets.

There are some beautiful old buildings lining the streets which have undergone some restoration work and are quite lovely.

The Inverell Art Gallery located in Street has a beautiful mosaic walkway leading to it. The Gallery is well used and was setting up for a local Kindergarten art show.

We called into Berlinger’s Art Gallery a most attractive place with some really good art on the walls and some beautiful craft works including lovely quilts and cushions. It looked prosperous which is a good sign for a country town. As we walked along the main streets we went into several gift homewares shops , one with a coffee shop inside. Another one was a combination of gifts, knit wear and art supplies. The owner Melissa Simmons was lovely to chat to and said things were doing well in Inverell despite the drought.

Along from there we went into Magnolias, a very large gift, clothes and furniture shop. There is lots of money tied up in this really lovely shop. I bought a jacket so will feel I’ve contributed to the local economy.

In fact we all bought an assortment of gifts, clothes, craft items and Jann topped the purchases with a lovely cream wool throw.

The road to Goondiwindi where we will be going in another two weeks

Back with the boys we enjoyed coffee at yet another cafe and then back into the cars for the next run. The weather was warm and much more comfortable. We stopped in Texas – no, not Texas USA but a small country town in Queensland. We chatted to a lovely lady at the CWA – the Country Women’s Association (though sometimes its known as the Cranky Women’s Association) before heading off to try and beat the dangerous driving time. Kangaroos hop with no fear or sense across the road. There are lots of dead bodies littered along the highways and roads. Little furry legs in the air. It’s quite scary driving along thinking they’ll run out in front of you. I’d hate to hit one.

We drove into Stanthorpe around 4.30 and found the Apple and Grape Motel in the Main Street. For those overseas readers a motel is a type of hotel. They are usually one or two stories high with parking outside the rooms.

Our motel was conveniently located next to a pub! Or hotel to be more correct. And we were ready for a drink. Surprisingly though located in the wine area we didn’t have much choice of bubbles or wine. But we managed to find something wet and bubbly and in front of the warm crackling fire settled in.

We followed up with dinner – nothing special. Just the usual steak and chips! Lamb shanks, lasagne , chicken parmigiana. As I said nothing too exciting. But it filled us and warmed us and we had some fun.

Jann our champagne queen didn’t drink the rather inferior bubbles. So after dinner she sent Andrew to a bottle shop and he came back with a lovely bottle of Tattinger. Such posh friends I have. And aren’t I lucky!

So to sleep

Wandering in Vinales

We’re staying in a casa particular. A house owned by a local. We are in a little row of rooms at the back of Maria and her husband very modest house.

It’s a way the locals can make a little money. They set up a little bnb type of thing. Sometimes in their house or as in this case behind it. The owners pay the Government about 100CUC a month and can rent it for around 20-40CUC a night.

So the better ones would rent well.

Vinales is a small town in the Tobacco growing area a few hours from Havana. It’s in a Valley with Jurassic Park style mountains around. It’s popular with young people ( as Cuba is generally) who travel and who like to climb.

Our hosts gave us breakfast on their terrace and were so accommodating. Fruit, omelette & toast.

Then we set off to the Main Street with Alex to meet our local guide.Pero turned out to be a lovely, earnest former English teacher. We set out down one of the side street with Pero stopping every few minutes to point out the fruit trees or the plants growing in the gardens. Pero loves all things botanical.

We continued down the path passing colourful houses , oxen carts and locals riding horses.

We walked along the shaded country road until we reached the tobacco farm.

Pero explained the growing system, the type of leaves , the government control 90% of the crop goes to the Gov for a fairly low price. The farmer keeps the rest which he can the use to produce his own cigars but he can’t label them. So he can’t make too much money no matter how hard he works.

We heard about the drying, stripping, bundling and rolling. We moved into the barn to see leave hanging- for a year.

then into the house to meet Clara

and her husband who rolled us a cigar. What fun.

Then we were taught how to inhale and away we went.

I enjoyed the process as you can see here!

Now I’m recovering before our salsa class this afternoon.

After Salsa it was dinner at an eco restaurant. More later.

Internet hard!

Colourful Cuba

Waking up in a new place is always exciting especially when you didn’t get a chance to explore on the night of your arrival.

This morning Alex took us on a walking tour of old Havana. He managed to bring old Havana alive through the stories of the Spanish who came here in the late 1400’s, the people who influenced Cuban life, the beautiful buildings that are in such a state of decline, Ernest Hemingway and his Cuban years.

As we walked along the shaded streets he talked about the Americans, the Russians and those who have either occupied or tried to.

The buildings are beautiful- decorative and decaying but Alex explained that money is being put into restoration and in years to come they will be back to their former glory.

Obviously tourism is important here and although the tourism dollars are vital hopefully the numbers especially from cruise ships don’t ruin it.

We stopped for lunch and a mojito on a great roof top with a salsa band playing before making our way back to the bus for our trip to Vinales via the gardens at Soroa.

There are some colourful sights around the streets. I need a pocketful of 1 paeso CUC to pay for all the photos!

We saw a very soulful looking lady smoking a big cigar, a dapper gentleman with roses for the ladies, a band or two, a group of fun people on stilts and some lovely older locals selling fans.

Back on the bus we drove out from Havana along the waterfront before getting onto a road heading to the beautiful thick green forests. We also started to doze off as the afternoon rain came and the lunchtime mohito kicked in.

Next stop, in the rain were the gardens of Villa Soroa. Orchids, begonias, palms, so many plants familiar to us in Australia.

Back on the 24 seat bus for the 5 of us plus Alex and Victor our driver. So spoilt!

We watched a video on the making of the infamous cigars. Such a labour intensive process. I want to try one tomorrow when we visit the cigar making house near Vinales.

One last stop. A pina colada / pee stop! Yes. One of each.

Now listening to the Buena Vista Social Club with stars: the Albums called Buena rhythms del Mundi Vuba Sting, Jack Johnson, Vania Borges, Coldplay – its fun and getting us ready for some salsa dancing.

Our night was spent sipping Mojito and walking up and down the Main Street.

Such a quiet lovely place.

Tomorrow a visit to a tobacco plantation.

Can I smoke a cigar?

Jazz Fest Time

I’ve always wanted to ride on a Yellow school bus. Every since I was a little girl and saw them in tv series and movies. Today it happened. And it took me to Jazz fest.

Come along for the ride.

We pulled up just as music got started around 11. The breeze was blowing, the sun was out and the local jazz lovers were out in force with their chairs, umbrellas, hats, rugs, and coloured beads.

I feel like I did the first time I went to Woodford. Slightly too mainstream!

First stop Gentilly stage with the Alex McMurray big band. Good foot tapping music and a few solo dancers warmed up for the day ahead with a variety of dance moves.

Next stop a change of pace with The Tangiers Combo. A very sexy looking violinist, double bass, clarinet & guitar.

Then on to the biggest arena for the bad boys the Stooges big band. Big attitude. Big sound.

Then it was the Jazz tent and

Jeremy Davenport. A cool dude with a hot trumpet.

Smoking time at the jazz club. Economy’s tent girl singing “Take your time in the sun”

The crowd are mostly over 30. Well actually probably more like over 40. Depends which tent you’re in.

It warm – so the skin is on show and there’s lots of tats and lots hats, sunburn skin, umbrellas and iced drinks and ponytails ( men! )

I’ll try and capture some of the better outfits – some are a treat.

The food stalls are southern style. Plenty of Po boy, catfish, crawfish, gumbo, iced tea, beer, frozen alcoholic cocktails like pina colada’s and Bloody Mary’s. The crowd were getting into it – though I don’t think the Americans drink quite as much as the Aussies.

Lunch for me was a huge bbq turkey wing with….. beans! Steve had a shrimp Po boy.

Next up the kids street band

and back into the tent for the Preservation Band. With a warm up Congo line. I had to resist the temptation to dance along along. Though I did ambush one of the ‘dancers’ –  though he was very sad looking and unimpressed by my request for a photo.

Then back to the Jazz tent for Banu Gibson and her band with special guest Vince Giordano from NY. Apparently they are all really well known trad jazz players. They actually looked more like Doctors! They played a favourite song ‘Baby won’t you please come home.’

Steve got distracted between shows and ended up with a Jazz fest Tshirt before sliding into the Gospel tent for some meaningful music.

Then in the Blues tent the well received ‘The Blind Men of Alabama’.

They may be blind but they can sing and even had someone signing the words to their songs. That was interesting to watch!

But our final two concerts were Lyle Lovett the more country style jazz man ………

Then the big name – Lionel Ritchie. Yes I came all the way to NOLA to see him when he came to the Byron Blues fest.

But there he was singing up a storm with everyone on their feet dancing. It was great.

So that was my day at Jazz Fest. It was so much fun. They love their music here. The crowds were so well behaved and the people here are so friendly.

We made it back to the yellow bus line before Lionel hit the last note.

So it was back to Magazine St to Mahoney’s for a beer and hot dog for Steve and something lighter for me!

Tomorrow’s our last day 😩. But it will be a big one. Lots planned.