All posts by kathrainbow

Aloha from Honolulu…

Aloha from Honolulu…

When I discovered that our return journey was routing us via Los Angeles, it seemed like a good opportunity to take in 3 days’ worth of R&R in Honolulu; the place I first came to way back in 1990. My children were teenagers and for many reasons it was a special holiday. In the intervening years, Waikiki Beach has changed somewhat and ‘grown up’. The hotels have obviously multiplied and grown in size and when you find all the major chains in one place you know tourism is a massive business. Our choice this time was the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort. It is a huge village, more of a town, which is still growing, and on my third day there are large parts I have yet to discover. Similarly, every brand and fashion house is present too, and judging by the number of bags people carry, the dollars are pouring in. And yet……

 

Our days had “chilled and lazy” written all over them. Our first day was spent simply getting over an overnight flight and we were happy to laze by the pool in the hot sun (or, in Ann’s case, in the hot shade). By the second day, we were ready to step outside the complex and explore. First a beach walk (sand you sink right into), breakfast and a swim. The time just slips away, but plenty of time left for more of an expedition. Thanks to an unfortunate “loss” in Auckland, I needed to replace my missing iPad and research found that the cost here was the same in dollars as in pounds at home. That took us on a pleasant walk to an Apple shop, situated in a beautiful shopping mall. Job done (as well as a drink and early evening meal), so we wandered off to walk back but found a trolley bus service which, for $2 each, took customers to the major hotels on Waikiki Beach. Therefore, for a very small amount, we got a real Cook’s tour as well as a ride back.

 

Storms were threatened for today but, although hot and overcast, there was no rain, as yet. Our trolley ride had inspired us to investigate the original Waikiki Beach where, in the early 20th century, legendary surfer, Olympic swimmer and Waikiki native, Duke Kahanamoku, introduced the sport to the world. There stands his monument, complete with fresh lei, and we filled our shoes with sand as we watched today’s surfers take to the waves.

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Just along the road is what last night’s fabulous trolley driver, Nina, described as “the concrete jungle”. Shops, galleries and everything to tempt the wealthy hedonists who come to Honolulu for things of a more materialistic kind than the mighty surf. We found the Maui Brewing Company just after marvelling at a rarely seen Tesla showroom. The beer we could afford….just!

I really believed it was heaven on earth the last time I came but now the visitors seem to swamp the lovely, smiley, warm-hearted local people. It really is the 50th State of America and the Polynesian Villages seem to be just places for the tourists. I have had a lovely time but find my memories perhaps a little flawed. Maybe I left it too long to return and missed the changes during the intervening years.

It’s been lovely to see you, Hawaii, but now we are homeward bound. 5 am departure from the hotel and then flights to Los Angeles, Heathrow and Manchester. It’s been an amazing adventure over the last month and I can’t believe it is coming to an end…..until the next time.

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

Let’s get the jokes out of the way first… Hawai’i (note the apostrophe) makes me think of a Geordie asking, “How are yi?” Similarly, #sorry, Waikiki prompts me inwardly to ask, “Why not kiki?!”

Enough, we all cry.

We are towards the end of the longest holiday I’ve ever been on. Until last year but one, my longest holiday was a fortnight. However, when Ann and Kath mulled over this trip, I went along with it. Good decision? Yes, certainly!

This is our final holiday destination as we begin our flight back early tomorrow morning. The thrill of crossing the International Date Line masked the crossing of the Equator back into the Northern Hemisphere. To be honest, I only realised this when I suddenly recovered my sense of direction walking along the beach here. The position of the Sun is more important to me than I thought. Similarly, it’s a tick-off for me in that, when we get back to Manchester, we will have circumnavigated the globe!

So, what of Hawai’i…

I don’t think I had a clear expectation. Other than Hawaii Five-0 (the original!) and Elvis’ Blue Hawaii etc., I didn’t have much idea of what the place was like.

However, it’s somewhat akin to those memories except they’ve commercialised, gone bigger, brasher and, frankly, lost some of the tropical magic. Of course, we are greeted everywhere with, “Aloha!” but I wonder whether even that is just for the tourists. Waiters and waitresses alternate, after you’ve ordered with, “You got it!” or “My pleasure!” Talking of tourists, predominantly they are from the Far East – Japan, China and South Korea – with a much larger proportion of teenage girls than would be found in most resorts. Honolulu has a strong historical connection with those countries and, certainly, this U.S. State is very different from all 49 others.

Our ‘hotel’ is, genuinely, a village. Aptly called Hilton Hawaiian Village, it has more shops than St. Anne’s, I’m sure. It runs like clockwork and covers all 24 hours on the clock. So much to see and do without going off the campus. But, we did… on campus, we fo7nd Rainbow Tower (with the tallest mosaic in the world), Rainbow Lenai and Rainbow Bazaar with our own relatively tame Rainbow!

We walked along the beach, paddled in the Pacific, swam in one of the pools and indulged in laying in the sun. As we, also, needed to visit an Apple shop down the road, we found the most impressive Mall I’ve seen. The quality of the shops, eateries etc. was cosmopolitan and upmarket, indeed. We had spotted, whilst walking in the midday sun some quirky trolley buses and we decided to get one to return to the hotel. After missing the first call for our hotel, we stayed on board and had a great trip round nighttime Waikiki. Serendipity and worthwhile.

On the beach, we spotted an outrigger, Honolulu Police (without an Hawaii Five-0 sign and more. As we return to the UK, the memories will stay fresh for many years and these blog posts and photos will help. We, also, saw Diamond Head the name of the volcano and the hotel block we stayed in. Compare Elvis’ backdrop to my own photo.

Curiosity – the smell. We couldn’t place it. Possibly vegetable, flowers? Not floral, though. But, could be something else. Not sure.

Aloha!

 

Returning to Rotorua…

Returning to Rotorua…

Time to finally catch up on our day trip to Rotorua, which was so eagerly anticipated by me. The last time I did this trip I was on my own at the start of the biggest overseas tour of my life and, almost on a whim, I booked myself onto a coach trip to catch some of the things I would not see on my forthcoming cruise. Having had the most wonderful experience on that occasion, I was excited at the prospect of doing it again and sharing my enthusiasm with Carolyn and Ann. You know what they say about never going back?!…..

We had one of those tour guides/drivers who was the silent type! As we left Tauranga she talked a bit about Kiwi fruit, how millions were produced each year from this region and if you ate one anywhere else in the world it was likely to have been grown here. After that it was radio silence apart from complaining about the sulphur smell in Rotorua and urging us to be back on the bus quickly. No introduction to the places we were seeing, no information about the area, just a quick handover at each stop to a guide from the attraction. So, 40 people trying to hear what is being said by one guide on the move…….

 

Our first stop was lunch with an excellent performance by a group of Maoris. Ann met up with friends who emigrated from the UK and we all had just an hour before it was back on the bus ready to be decanted in a few minutes at Rainbow Falls. We saw lots of huge rainbow trout, various birds, lizards, etc, but it became apparent the ‘main event’ was the kiwi house. Of course, they are nocturnal birds, so very dim lighting and lots of “Shhhhh, don’t talk, they are sleeping”. Hmmm, lots of Americans on this trip. We did get our photo taken (with kiwis)….photoshop rocks!

 

Next was the wonderful Agrodome, which I had also visited. Lady bus driver issued tickets for sheep shearing show, already packed, so we craned necks and enjoyed what we could see. No time for the great trip around the farm I had so enjoyed, just a mad dash on the bus to the geo-thermal Park.

 

Nothing can spoil the majesty of the geysers but we were not cut loose to wander and were ushered for another talk on kiwis, followed by an in depth tour of the new Maori schools of woodcarving and weaving.

 

There were no details about Rotorua being the place where the earth’s crust is at its thinnest, nothing about the potential (and reality) of mud pools springing up overnight in the midst of houses and nothing about the training they need to give to children about not going into bushes to retrieve balls (in case of shrubs concealing boiling pools). So sad for those who had not enjoyed this really interesting information.

 

Our rapid return to our last night aboard Noordam contained one more stop: a photo opportunity to capture kiwi fruit vines!!!!

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Onwards and upwards. Rotorua, for me, is still a fascinating place, but then I know more about it. Auckland next for a couple of days.

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

Rotorua – pronounced, as best as I can write, as Rut-uh-rue-ha

We chose this excursion because of the Geographer in our midst as well as trying to recreate Kath’s memories. Ann, having taught about volcanoes, earthquakes, geysers, mud pools etc., thought she’d like to see them. Well, we did. We saw them, smelt them and felt them… just the moisture as the water vapour condensed. It was worth visiting although, as Kath indicated, we were disappointed at a number of levels and have put in a complaint to the cruise company about it.

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Nevertheless, looking at the positives,… we did get to see three kiwis. They were larger than I thought they were and we were reminded of the Kiwi Shoe Polish with an old advertising sign.

The Maori ‘traditional’ show we saw was excellent and better than the one on our ship. The passion that old and young feel for their culture is palpable in so many people. No more so by our guide at geo-thermal park who is having her chin tattooed to add to her tribe’s tattoos on her arms. This is called a ‘moko kauae’, Some traditions, in my view, are worth changing, perhaps.

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The Agrodome show – the parts we saw – were very impressive. The sheep dogs stole the show from the sheep and the sheep shearer. The New Zealand shepherds have moved from collies to hounds for shepherding and the barking to order (and silence on command) was as memorable as the doors running over the sheep’s back without them apparently, even flinching. Different breeds of sheep with the Marino the crowd’s favourite. The crown, by the way, predominantly Oriental. Interesting.

The kiwis in the photoshopped commercial photo weren’t real but the ones we actually saw were… except the stuffed one our guide had named Stuffy for obvious reasons. Stuffy had been killed some time ago and had been stuffed, albeit with only one eye!

A disappointing day but still not a waste. It’s just it could have, and should have, been better.

Finally, though, the falls had to be called RAINBOW FALLS and Kath was at her best. They even ‘gave’ us (when we paid!) a calendar.

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From Sounds to Fiords

From Sounds to Fiords.

 

2CCA1700-391B-44B2-BF86-0973654AA358There is a geographical difference between a Sound and a Fiord and we experienced both, but, for the purpose of the blog, let’s just say that we sailed through narrow channels of water, overlooked by towering mountains and close enough to feel the spray of a cascading waterfall. This adventure began at 6 am as the hardy souls amongst us spilled out onto the foredeck and waited for the dawn’s light to reveal the entrance to Milford Sound.

We were forewarned that this was one of the wettest places on Earth, but rain would add to the drama, the waterfalls and the almost ethereal quality of the vistas. And so it was. Wreaths of cloud clung to the mountains and the Sounds were largely silent, apart from the cry of sea birds. Dramatic indeed. Full marks to the navigator for taking us so close to the waterfalls and swinging the ship around 360 degrees to ensure everyone was almost close enough to bathe in the spray.

From Milford Sound we sailed into Doubtful Sound. It was doubtful that the sun would shine but….there were signs. By the time we had eaten lunch, watched an excellent Maori cultural show and enjoyed a rendition of the Hakka, we were cruising into Dusky Sound under bright blue skies and warm sunshine.

 

So, the dramatic, rain spattered photos of this morning became the picture postcards of this afternoon!! At 4.30 we were back in open water and cruising towards our next stop, Port Chalmers, from where we can pick up a shuttle bus to Dunedin.

Happy days in Hobart

Happy days in Hobart

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I know I have commented before on the blog about the friendliness of the Aussie folks but it is worth saying again that the people in Tasmania have, time and again, proved this to be a fact. Our time in Hobart, especially the day trip we took, was delightful.

We felt the need to see something of the Hobart area and selected a tour which covered a variety of activities. Our coach, along with a fabulous guide (a lady of a certain age) took us to Shene, a country estate restoration project where we found a couple whose lives were now dedicated to restoring an historic country estate. This dynamic duo, originally from Queensland, have brought their skills and enthusiasm to restoring the homestead and converting barns and outbuildings into function rooms and a distillery, now producing award winning gin and whisky. I had to smile as we saw the main house, still being lovingly restored, still with evidence of damp problems and still minus a proper kitchen…and then we visited the husband’s domain, the distillery, with its state of the art, gleaming machinery and no expense being spared. I hope they go on to achieve the even greater success their passion for the project deserves. I will watch out for an opportunity to buy Poltergeist Gin in the future – it has already won awards in London and San Francisco.

If anyone is put off visiting Australia by the thought of spiders, let me introduce you to one I found near the distillery.  Now that really is a big boy (or girl!).

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Our next stop was Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, another passionate project by a guy who is caring for indigenous animals as well as some who may be native to Australia but not Tasmania (koalas, wombats, etc). He has opened an animal hospital there and collects ‘casualties’ from across the state. Although many of the animals are nocturnal, most were happy to ‘appear’ so we saw the reclusive Tasmanian Devil at close quarters, a hungry and very cute wombat, a couple of dozing koalas and then happily fed the very docile kangaroos who loved having their chests tickled. Fabulous.

From there we went to a small historic town (Richmond) which comprises a single Main Street of shops and cafes. It was well worth the stop if only for the delights of an iced coffee, rich with home made ice cream. It is one of those towns with historic buildings, including a gaol, which just cry out to be looked at and admired.

The final visit was to a local wine producer who creates a whole variety of wines under the label ‘Puddleduck’. We sampled merrily but found only one which suited our palates. This might have been our lucky break as the cost of shipping a case back to England was well over £200 and bringing wine on board ship incurs a charge of $18 US per bottle. The initial cost of a bottle was more than double the cost of a good supermarket offering at home, so we left without buying any. Sad in a way as this was a family concern – we met two of them – and, again, they had the same passion for their work we had experienced at the previous stops.

We couldn’t resist the opportunity to get off the ship again and take an evening stroll around Hobart Harbour. It’s the only place on our voyage where we have had a couple of days in port. As we leave here, our next ports of call will be in New Zealand, so new experiences and much more to enjoy.

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

It takes something special to make me feel ‘Wow!’ Having a kangaroo eat out of my hand and almost have a ‘conversation’ with me was one of those moments. The experience was symbiotic, it seemed. The kangaroo got fed and had its chest scratched – their small arms can’t reach – and I got so close to an animal which is iconic.

Well worth doing and the Animal Sanctuary does a great job. The day was another ‘scorcher’ as far as temperature was concermed and I smiled at the loos which instead of external doors, had chain curtains – albeit decorated with the ubiquitous stylised male and female figures.

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The other experiences of the day were, also, worth doing but, frankly, not as special for me.

Hobart is an interesting place and our guide was knowledgable and passionate about her town and state. In the recent history, they have had several natural problems but a significant manmade one was when a ship collided with the main bridge linking the two parts of the town. Attempting to go through the wrong span of the bridge, the ship collided and brought down the bridge. Cars plummeted into the river and multiple deaths occurred. The bridge, a five-lane highway, was out of action for a couple of years whilst engineers (and insurers) grappled with a ‘solution’. The destroyed pillar has not been replaced and the sunken wreck of the ship remains in the water where it sank. The bridge is, of course, fully repaired but now closed to all traffic when a ship is due to pass underneath as we observed last evening.

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Today began with rain but we ventured out after an early lunch as the weather cleared and meandered round the harbour and some of the town. Interesting statues illustrate the early journeys to the ‘bottom of the world’ and the Australian Antarctic Division is based here.

Two iced coffees (with cream!) made the free Wi-fi taste even sweeter to Ann and Kath.

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A final note as we eat ‘heartily’ as well as healthily… from the Bakery in Richmond…

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Sydney, 🎼🎶🎤“Don’t go changing…” Onwards to Melbourne.

 

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Our departure from Sydney felt quite sad but was clearly exciting as we were joining MS Noordam en route for Melbourne, Tasmania and New Zealand. We enjoyed the smoothest and most stress-free embarkation ever previously known and rushed to unpack, get our bearings (locate important points like food and drink) before taking part in the ubiquitous safety drill. They are quite strict on board Holland America ships. If you don’t take part, you can’t sail. Aye, aye Cap’n! But a stiff breeze blew up and off we went, under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, followed closely by the Opera House before waving to all the little bays and reaching a very strong swell; a clear indication we were turning into the ocean.

A lazy day at sea followed and I think we were all grateful to relax after our hectic few days, ease the muscles and catch up on some sleep. I still love being rocked to sleep by the motion of the ocean! Of course, we took part in ship board offerings but there was no pressure to be or to do.

Today dawned with a beautiful blue sky full of promise for a hot day in Melbourne. And, so it was. 27 degrees, hot sun and a fabulous day in one of Australia’s beautiful cities. It is very different to Sydney with much evidence through its majestic buildings of its colonial past. Museums chronicle its growth and origins whilst embracing the multiple cultures which make up its present.

Riding the free trams (complete with helpful commentary) was both informative and fun. Sights peaked out from lush foliage – how wonderful to be here in mid summer – and we were happy to soak up the information about where we could go if we were here for longer. We had to make do with a walk besides the Yarra River, the tram ride and a dive into some of the intriguing alleyways in search of a snack in the shade. An excellent day out…..Tasmania tomorrow.

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

Sydney always brings to mind – for me – the Tetley Tea men of TV advert fame. “Don’t go changing…” is one of the classics but, of course, Sydney, Australia is changing. It’s history is relatively brief in European terms but it is rich in culture both Aboriginal and, more latterly, settlers, immigrants and, as some think the derivation of ‘Pommies’, the prisoners of mother England, i.e. the sometimes minor criminals who were transported half way round the world. After penal labour, they could earn their freedom in the New World. Times have changed and are changing. Sydney is impressive. Vibrant, youthful, developing and, whilst we were there, hot!

But, we sailed away. Under the majestically impressive Sydney Harbour Bridge, watching, again, where Ann walked above, glancing for a final time, perhaps, at the Opera House, we sailed into the sunset bound for a day at sea and then to Melbourne.

Days at sea are an opportunity to catch up with chores and sleep! We sampled B.B. King’s Blues Club on our first night aboard and watched the ‘main entertainment’ show in the theatre last evening. More than reasonable quality but my preference is for live instruments as well as vocals. Also, a preference for beat, brash and bawdy.

Melbourne (remembering to shorten the final vowel to ‘…burn’) is another proud city. Proud of its past, secure in its present and confident of its future. Public sculpture celebrates the city’s eventful history and graffiti from the recent Equal Marriage referendum, together with a huge billboard reminding us of refugees and our responsibilities, bear testament to a social conscience. Its ‘gold rush’ days are celebrated with a gold topped skyscraper.

We rode one of the historic trams around the city centre which, as Kath indicated, was free. A clever way to encourage use of public transport as you are signposted to other (paid) trams crossing the city. Apparently, Melbourne is the city with the best and largest tramway system in the world. A pity we were only here for one day.

 

“We ain’t afraid of no bears……”

I said that today we were going on a bear hunt (excellent book which my grandchildren love), because Ann wanted to come face to face with a koala. And why wouldn’t she? Of course, Carolyn wouldn’t go along with the story because koalas are marsupials and not bears. Whatever!!

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So, “We’re going to the zoo, zoo, zoo”, except there are two. One required a ferry ride and the other a walk to Darling Harbour. Of course we walked…my legs are already short so why wouldn’t we go for further wear and tear? Said zoo offered a controlled walk around (just follow the path) and was simply showing Australia’s indigenous animals, birds, butterflies, reptiles and….marsupials. We ambled around, although I ran through the butterfly section as I cannot bear anything flying around me.

Various animals (in fact, most of them) completely ignored the visitors. Even the ‘Roos failed to hop over and, ever thankful for small mercies, the massive crocodile didn’t snap out of his trance-like state in his pond. Aptly named Rocky, he is a mean looking old boy. Finally, we got to the koalas and what were they doing? Sleeping in their trees. Anyway, cameras were poked in their general direction, one decided to eat his way through the leaves of his tree, whilst the others curled themselves up, oblivious to the keepers, visitors, noises, etc. Still, we had achieved our goal and Ann has seen koala bears (sorry, Carolyn).

We then happened upon the most amazing eatery in the midst of towering office blocks. Simply called ‘The Canteen’ it offered food from stall after stall, each with a particular theme. Between the three of us we chose an amazing salad, a panini with more filling than you can imagine, and roast beef on a bed of pasta. All excellent and we grabbed a small table and marvelled at the youth of our fellow diners. I suppose they are used to the tourists joining them.

We then elected to go off to do separate things. Ann wanted to explore the botanical gardens behind the Opera House, whilst Carolyn and I wanted to play hopping on and off ferries. We actually called in at Manly again for a last look at the surf and enjoyed a very exciting ride back as the ferry dipped and rolled in the large sea swell.

As tonight was our last evening in Sydney, we once again walked down to the harbour for dinner and, for me, a bottle of Dirty Granny cider. Our main aim was to see the city lights. Beautiful. Sadly for me, it is time to say goodbye as we join our cruise ship tomorrow and set forth on the next leg of our amazing tour Down Under.

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

After seeing a significant number of artefacts in local tourist shops made out of ‘Kangaroo Scrotums’, all I could wonder was whether the plural should have been ‘Scrota’. Apparently, both are acceptable according to the OED et al. Although, Henry V also came to mind with “…balls, my Liege”! Aussies, eh?!

As Kath remarked, today has involved walking – quite a bit of it – again! However, despite our hotel being uphill (and steep albeit short) from Circular Quays, we ambled and breathed.

There are, of course, different views about zoos. In the centre of a city, the one we saw wasn’t a safari park by any means but the animals appeared to be very healthy and the zoo staff knowledgeable and caring. Koalas, Kangaroos and Cassowary, I’d seen but my favourite named animal was the Quokka followed by the Spotted-tailed Quoll.

Sometimes, some people got ‘silly’!

Our afternoon trip to Manly emphasised how small our world really is. As a couple walked past, their accent indicated their likely derivation from the UK. “Whereabouts in the UK are you from?”, I ventured. It transpired they were from the next village to where Ann was born and brought up! Small world!

With its aboriginal heritage and immigrant development, names of towns and districts seem to be either copied from the UK or variants of aboriginal words. ‘Woolloomooloo’ is a district of Sydney and we were told on our guided bus tour that it means small kangaroo. Needless to say, I had to research it and, apparently, it is actually derived from the name of the first homestead in the area, Wolloomooloo House, built by the first landowner John Palmer. There is debate as to how Palmer came up with the name with different Aboriginal words being suggested. Anthropologist J.D. McCarthy wrote in ‘NSW Aboriginal Places Names’, in 1946, that Woolloomooloo could be derived from either Wallamullah, meaning place of plenty or Wallabahmullah, meaning a young black kangaroo.
In 1852, the traveller Col. G.C. Mundy wrote that the name came from Wala-mala, meaning an Aboriginal burial ground. It has also been suggested that the name means field of blood, due to the alleged Aboriginal tribal fights that took place in the area, or that it is from the pronunciation by Aborigines of windmill, from the one that existed on Darlinghurst ridge until the 1850s.

So, there!

We now set off to board the MS Noordam and look forward to many more sights, smells and sounds which will include the music in B.B. King’s Jazz Club on the ship. The music to date has comprised of buskers by the Quay – classical pianist, guitarist and Irish hatted accordionist. The guitarist was inventive and excellent with a superb rendition of Springsteen’s ‘Dancing in the Dark’. Great memories to take with us.

Ann’s additions

After a morning of Australian fauna, I followed this, to complete the picture, by an afternoon of Australian flora at the Royal Botanic Garden. It’s a refreshing walk right around the Opera House and along Farm Cove to Mrs Macquaries Point and ‘Chair’. It’s a rock formation, named after, Elizabeth, the wife of a former Governor, and an excellent photo opportunity – were it not for all those pesky tourists!

The gardens themselves are extensive and peaceful, especially the pond with, what I believe to be, lotus.
Many other garden flowers are such as you might find in England but taller and, therefore, more impressive. Most native trees are very tall, and many exceptionally old, but difficult to photograph successfully with an iPhone. This particular example of labelling had been commandeered by an avian occupant of the park! We visitors made the most of the photo opportunity!

A gentle stroll back to our hotel completed the afternoon and my Fitbit was pleased to report over 2,000 calories used! Result!

It was a Manly kind of a day….

The moment we stepped out of the hotel this morning, we just knew what sort of a day it was going to be…..a very hot one! Most certainly, I would never normally complain but we needed to do a good bit of walking, Carolyn was in some discomfort with the results of yesterday’s sun and Ann was all geared up to go and climb the Bridge. Carolyn and I played our part in Ann’s heroic walk by accompanying her to the starting point and then legging it back to the Quay to wait 3.5 hours for her return. (I will let Ann provide the details of her climb). But how good were we?

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Time was not wasted and we busied ourselves with checking ferry times and prices for an afternoon trip to Manly (as well as drinking several cold beverages). We purchased Opal cards (the equivalent of the London Oyster cards) and, by the time Ann came back, we were ready to hop aboard the ferry. Riding the ferries is one of my favourite things to do in Sydney and Manly was always, for me, a better place to watch the surf than it’s more famous cousin, Bondi.

Our luck was in and the surf was up. Surfers and kayakers braved the rolling waves (not always with success) and families and young people, along with those not quite so young, enjoyed the magnificent spectacle. Of course, the ocean cannot be tamed and seeing the spills was just as exciting as seeing a roller bring a surfer in to shore. But Ann and I could resist no more, so off with the shoes and in for a paddle. Big waves can catch out paddlers too and I was soon a bit wetter than intended!!

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The evening ferry ride back was glorious. The late sun created a hazy skyscraper backdrop, the harbour sparkled, the bridge dominated the seascape and the sails of the Opera House positively gleamed. What a fabulous trip.

Tomorrow we are going on a ‘bear’ hunt…only koalas!!!

Carolyn’s Curios & Musical Notes

Banjo Paterson’s lyrics for Waltzing Matilda have been my earworm of the day. Regrettably, it seems, they came out of my mouth a few times resulting in looks of consternation and verbal rebukes from Kath. Fortunately, Ann was Bridge walking during this period or it would have been even worse for me.

I recognise that (a) I’m not always the most sensible carer of myself; (b) excess UV rays from a bright summer sun, say in Australia, is likely, very quickly, to burn! Hmm! One day, perhaps, I will have more understanding and consideration for my body. So, today, I wore a long sleeved top which helped… a little!

Elsewhere you will read of Ann’s Bridge walking exploits but Kath and I were not totally idle and our activities included discussing (one-sidedly) food and manners with an Australian White Ibis which is one of several round the harbour at Circular Quay (which isn’t circular!)1DB96F01-B394-4EF0-85F7-6C044086FE83

After visiting Bondi at the weekend, Manly Beach seemed even better. The waves were higher but the shopping, guru Guide, Kath, assured us, had moved downmarket. It didn’t spoil the day in any way and the ferry ride using our new Opal Cards gave some great views and fresh air.

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We saw the signs, heard the megaphone warning but no music and no sighting of… SHARK!

There were, though, two suspicious looking, non-Manly paddlers,

Our hotel, named ‘Amora’, ensured that my journey back up in the lift tonight was accompanied, Dean Martin style, by a rendition of Amore. Rebuked, once more, I was – albeit, justly deserved.

A9B38B29-5817-4EEF-B9C9-DD81F04CE2E2#justathought Manly, like so many towns, has lots of shops where the type of shop is preceded in the title by the town. So, Manly Beach, Manly Burgers and Kebabs etc. But, what of Manly Fashion for a women’s clothes shop?!

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Ann’s Bridge too far? No, just far enough! 

Would you like to do the Bridge Climb whilst we’re in Sydney, asked Carolyn? After some prevarication about the challenge and the cost, I decided that this was a one-off opportunity and not to be missed. Therefore, at the appointed hour I presented myself at Bridge Climb Sydney to be given necessary instructions, breathalysed and kitted out in the most amazing selection of gear, all of which is attached to the well designed suit by clips, everything from a handkerchief to your headphones! The most important attachment is the slider which keeps climber attached to the actual bridge at all times. After practising the climb on a short flight of steps, our guide takes us out into the open for the experience of the holiday.

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The climbing doesn’t prove very difficult and, despite the hot sun, there’s quite a breeze at the top of the bridge. What is so awesome are the views of Sydney laid out beneath you. The Opera House is a stand out landmark but our guide points out many others, including the Anzac Bridge, the new cruise terminal, and Fort Denison or Pinchgut Island – so named because when the prisons were full, convicts were sent to the island and given no food or water …with inevitable results. (Not always proud to be British!) The Governor General’s residence isn’t too shabby either! We are given lots of interesting facts and figures about the construction of the bridge – most of the steel came from Middlesbrough (Proud to be British!) and the huge rivets were actually made up on the Bridge which is 134 m (440 ft) from top to water level.

The other really awesome thing about the day is not just the bridge and the view but the fact that it’s another challenge to tick off!

(Editor’s Note: One of Ann’s musical favourites, Bruce Springsteen, has climbed the bridge as has Paul McCartney a week or so ago. Many others including… an escaped kangaroo last week!!!)

Do you come from a land down under?

Had I discovered Australia soon enough, I could well have been tempted, but the thought of leaving your nearest and dearest about 11,000 miles away and taking 24 hours to get here, perhaps ought to be sufficiently off-putting. The flight via Abu Dhabi was fine. Well, as fine as sitting in economy can be, considering the delightful travel stockings still permitted your ankles to ooze out of your shoes and your bum refusing to release its muscles (what muscles?) and allow normal feeling to be resumed. However, the taxi drive from the airport was speedy and greeting Sydney felt like a homecoming as, once again, I was the kid who had all the sweets.

My friends hadn’t enjoyed the Aussie experience before and were magnificent about the joys of jet lag. It is such a bitch! Although we arrived late evening after a minimum amount of sleep on the flight, we all felt the wonders of stomachs being in a different time zone to your head and sleep being a reluctant bed fellow – even in a luxury hotel with sublime mattresses. If I am not selling it well, forgive me. I am feeling better now, ready to eat at approximately the appropriate time but still somewhat keen to kip in my cornflakes. Carolyn and Ann remain stoically determined to overcome all sleeping/sleepless issues and we are living it up in Sydney.

Yesterday, for our first day at large, we settled to sightseeing the old fashioned way – on foot. Ann is a very keen walker whereas Carolyn and I are fit enough to do it but not quite ‘enthusiasts’. But with great abandon we set off to check out Circular Quay and make sure that the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House were where I left them last. We admired the berth of a Celebrity cruise ship (presumably where ours will arrive on Thursday) and wandered off around the waterfront in search of breakfast. We first happened upon a Sunday market at The Rocks, found refreshment in an Irish hostelry and proceeded to climb heaven knows how many steps to reach the Harbour Bridge, whereupon we walked across it. This activity is not to be confused with the ‘Bridge climb’ which I did on a previous visit and which Ann has now booked to do on Tuesday, but is the free opportunity to pose on top of Sydney’s magnificent Harbour and think how wonderful life is and how lucky we are for the opportunity. Well, something like that. More walking followed, back around The Rocks, sustained by an Aussie beer, lunch, another loop around Circular Quay and at this point I gave in, let the jet lag in and went back to the hotel for a snooze. We did get to see Roger Federer win the Aussie Open in real time. Fabulous tennis.

Yesterday, I wore out my legs but today we took the easy way via a sightseeing trip on board The Big Bus. It is far too far to walk to Bondi Beach and at least we got to cover the rest of the city in relative comfort from the top of an open bus. Ah, did I mention it was hot and sunny? The last time Carolyn and I did an open topped bus tour was in New York when we got soaking wet; today, we got rather warm and a bit pink!! We hopped on and off the bus, as per recommendations, and particularly wanted to see the rollers and the surfers at Bondi. The surf was less dramatic than I had previously seen but the young and beautiful people appeared untroubled and still turned up, their surf boards being the “must have” accessory. Even without waves, the skatepark exercised balance and agility.  It’s been a truly wonderful day and, Sydney, you capture my heart every time!!

Carolyn’s Curios & Musical Notes

Disappointed… no-one has yet greeted us with “G’day” or called us “Sheilas”. We have, however, discovered that our “How are you doing?” is replaced here by “How are you going?” As Ann would say about the Aussies (and the Americans!), “We gave them English and look what they did to it?!” Part of the commentary on the bus tour today also reminded us that about 20% of Australians are direct descendants from our transported convicts. #justsaying

Kath began with Men at Work’s “Down Under” – we’re not from this land down under and not at work! The song begins…

“Traveling in a fried-out combie
On a hippie trail, head full of zombie
I met a strange lady, she made me nervous
She took me in and gave me breakfast
And she said
Do you come from a land down under?”

Visions from childhood of being upside down and falling off the planet down here are long gone. However, my usually excellent sense of direction, it seems, is merely based on the Sun as I am struggling with remembering that, at noon, the Sun is at due North rather than South. I’ll adjust, I’m sure.

As it’s my first visit to the Southern Hemisphere, I was prepared for most things. We flew from wet Manchester and landed half a world away effectively spending a day of our lives in the air. Having some inkling of how to deal best with time zone adjustment and jet lag, having failing to sleep at all on the plane, I wanted to stay up until ‘normal’ bedtime and begin the next day as if it was the usual. It has, for me, seemed to have worked. So, off we went.

Yesterday was a bit of ‘pottering’, aka walking over 10k steps and several flights of stairs, together with the Sydney Harbour Bridge (just the pavement walkway!). A beer and an ice cream helped the unaccustomed heat.

Today, we decided to do the Big Bus Tour and memories of New York’s torrential rain downpour was replaced by early gentle sunbeams which became red hot lasers by 4.30 pm as two of us ultimately began to sizzle and fry. Flaming pink is not a good look for the skin. And,… hmm, it’s tender!

The bus tour was good but the recorded commentary, although informative, was punctuated between segments with music. Regrettably, there were four tracks cycled over… and over… and over! We’ll come to Ann’s and Kath’s ‘favourite’ in a moment but Down Under (Men at Work), It’s a long way to the top (AC/DC) and Treaty (Yothu Yindi) exemplified Australian music. Kylie and Olivia Newton-John were mentioned in the commentary but not in the repetitious tape which was added to by the “unofficial national anthem” (according to Wikipedia!) of Waltzing Matilda which rapidly became for us Piggin’ Waltzing Matilda and we were resolute in resisting the singer’s “All together now..” for the repeated final verse. Nope!

I was concerned at the outset that ‘Waltzing Matilda’ wasn’t a waltz but in 4/4 time but that was the least of the issues!

Of course, this bush ballad wasn’t intended as other than about a sheep stealing itinerant who was chased, fearing capture and imprisonment, committed suicide and his ghost still haunts the area. Uplifting, eh?

The title was Australian slang for travelling on foot (waltzing, derived from the German auf der Walz) with one’s belongings in a “matilda” (swag) slung over one’s back.

A final note was a pleasant sign I spotted for the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation and simply said, “Literacy is freedom” and one of my two favourite punctuation signs (interrobang) is used as the logo for the State Library.

Sydney is a truly impressive, vibrant and laid-back city. The next few days look promising!

Ann’s absent answers

Why, if I don’t enjoy flying, do I prefer sitting in a window seat?

Why, when I try to settle down to sleep on a long flight does the Captain turn on the ‘Seatbelt’ sign and turbulence commence?

Why, does an urban area have roadworks in proportion to the size of its population?

Why, when a great photo opportunity presents itself does a large structure appear a split second later?

“New York, New York, so good we called here twice” (sorry Frank Sinatra)

“New York, New York, so good we called here twice” (sorry Frank Sinatra).

We made the most of our last morning in New Orleans to stroll the streets once more and for me to finally sample the famous beignets. We had been told they were a must and for sure these hot, sweet pastries (a cross between a donut and a light, fluffy Yorkshire pudding) arrived at the table covered in icing sugar. That was the beignets that were covered in sugar rather than the table, although eating one of those without exhaling the sugar coating is something of a challenge. How to eat 3 of them (the one portion size) was a marathon task – and that would be the daunting kind, not the now called Snickers bar. Even the Beignet Cafe gave us a morning jazz concert of a very high standard.

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We packed up rather reluctantly, sad that even though we had crammed a huge amount into our two day stopover, there was much we had missed. We hadn’t explored the ghost walks, the cemeteries or the voodoo ‘experience’. Chuckle. Actually, we caught sight of one of the cemeteries on our way to the airport. It was full of magnificent tombstones, presumably monuments to the great and the good, or maybe to the wealthy and bad. Ah well, New Orleans is yet another place on my “must return” list.

The car valet service at the hotel was excellent, even though the car park was 15 blocks away. The car was brought to the door at the appointed time, our cases loaded up, although the cheerful offer of directions was politely rejected in favour of ‘Sally the Sat Nav’. This time she didn’t play games or tease with alternative routes. We filled up the tank and rolled into the Budget car return in minutes. Even that was slick. No paperwork needed as everything was on a hand held computer with bar code readings. The car had done its job without incident this year and a mere 2065 miles added to the clock.

The timings of hotel checkouts plus the need to return the car on time, meant we had a long visit with Louis Armstrong, well, his airport at least. An internal flight with Delta to New York, a late evening arrival at our airport hotel and, apart from the small matter of an overnight flight from JFK on Sunday, that’s it! Our musical road trip is finished. We have experienced a wide range of musical genres, had a very large number of amazing times, seen, done, tasted a huge variety of memorable moments and appreciated all of it. Thanks for the fun times, Carolyn, and thanks to our families for their encouragement/indulgence of a couple of ‘girls’ of a certain age who like nothing more than an open road with places to see and people to meet at the end.

Goodbye New Orleans…..hello JFK

 

Carolyn’s Curios & Musical Notes 🎼🎶🖌

How to finish a journey which, through memories, will never end?

The final post is being written on a relative small plane doing the internal flight from New Orleans to New York. We are in Row 18 (four seats to a row) which, it transpires, is only two from the rear of the aircraft. Quite different to our transatlantic flight tomorrow back to the U.K. And, it has onboard Wifi!! (We haven’t paid for it!)

So, what of our journey? We set out to experience the music and the cities of the U.S. and we can count it as ‘mission accomplished’. It didn’t all go to the original plan when forces of nature intervened. We missed out Charleston and half of the Blue Mountain Parkway but those omissions can be rectified in the future, if we wish. We, unlike so many in that part of North America, were safe and in relative comfort. Our thoughts were with those who suffered.

The blog seems to be all-encompassing but a few quirks were missed out for brevity (and temporary amnesia – not caused by alcohol!). We added to them a few minutes ago when our pilot told us he was hoping to make “a smooth and speedy flight landing a few minutes early” and continued, “I’m hoping to make a few shortcuts!” Wot?!

Having recently accidentally emulated my mother’s admonishment, were I ever to have used bad language, “I’ll wash your mouth out with soap and water!”, what else can I add?

From the wet, rain-soaked vision of the pair of us in New York, we went to a wet, sweat-soaked vision of us in New Orleans but, in between times, the sun shone, or didn’t, and we smiled, looked, listened, and sang… whatever!

Driving:
It’s different. The “concrete arteries clogged with the cholesterol of cars” was how I described American roads last year in Los Angeles. Our roads this trip were virtually all free flowing and, for much of the time, straight and well maintained despite the overuse of concrete for roads and, especially, bridges. Traffic lights go from Red to Green without the intervening Red/Amber and you can turn Right on Red unless told otherwise. It surprised me that after a No Entry sign on the inappropriate carriageway of a Freeway (our Motorway) there was usually a second sign about 50 metres down the road saying “Wrong way!”. Which idiot would go down the wrong way, I asked myself. Well, I did. Albeit briefly. Turning left on to a multi-lane dual carriageway at night in the dark (see how I’m building the possible excuses) where the Sat. Nav. showed a sharp left turn and then sharp right, I found myself, suddenly, facing potentially oncoming traffic. Fortunately, I saw the cars a distance away and had an exit. Phew.

I was impressed, as always, by the 53 feet length and over 11 feet tall trucks who, occasionally, on this trip suddenly had a ‘skirt’ underneath. Apparently, called ‘wings’ and, I assume, useful for aerodynamics. As a former Maths’ teacher, I do like the U.S. use of Median for the central reservation.

Nomenclature:
Soubriquets included: Babe, Sweetie, Honey and, of course, the ubiquitous Guys. Being described as the most beautiful woman in the bar was tempered by his inebriation! Ah, well! I was reminded there of a song which we frequently heard on the Country Music channels on our car radio:
🎼🎶🎤 “They say I’ve got a drinking problem but it’s no problem drinking at all.
They call it a problem but I call it a solution.”

The road from Nashville to New Orleans is known as the ‘Music Highway’ and you can understand why. Musical oddities? One of the bands (hillbilly) at the Grand Ole Opry was called, ‘The Possum Touchers’ and a member of another band (cowboy), ‘Riders in the Sky’, had a green pronged item as neckwear which he called his Cac-tie! And I’m told my jokes are bad. The worst joke of that evening had to be… “We give him laxatives at night with a sleeping pill. It makes him sleep like a baby.”

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In Washington D.C., we got half of our hotel bill returned together with a bottle of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries after a complaint and ‘blagged’ our way into a museum without online booking. We Seniors don’t take any messing with! And we showed the youngsters how to ride the Segways! Right on, eh?! We Rock!

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Another wonderful Road Trip nearly over. Our ‘Thelma and Louise’ will never emulate Bing Crosby and Bob Hope in the ‘Roads to Wherever’ but we’ll try.

Bye for now.