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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From lazy day to prison day!

From lazy day to prison day!

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Sea days are enjoyed in a variety of ways; for some there is a host of activities to be sampled (see what Ann did!), whilst others enjoy the gentle breezes on deck reading books they have been promising for months to pick up. For Carolyn and I came the temptation of Super Bowl being shown on the cinema screen in the theatre. I have to say that Carolyn is more of a devotee than I, but frequent visits to the USA have spiked my interest and I did get additional commentary and explanation of the rules from my neighbour! The audience were hugely in favour of the ultimate winners (The Eagles), whereas I happily cheered each touchdown no matter which side scored!

But today was our stop in Port Arthur and we went to prison. Actually, we were looking around the former penal colony which, in the mid 1800s, housed nearly 2000 prisoners of the more serious variety (2+ offences) deported from the UK. When I first arrived at this beautiful spot I did think, well, if you have to be a prisoner what better place, but hard labour was hard and not all survived. A guide from the World Heritage Centre, was keen to point out that they built a hospital, employed doctors and a surgeon and taught skills and crafts so the prisoners could eventually leave with a trade. I was amazed to learn they had a library the prisoners could use with 13,000 books. The Australians wanted to provide an education so the men could leave better off than when they arrived.

Today, the prison is largely a ruin (in a glorious spot overlooking a truly beautiful bay). Some of the buildings (the Commandant’s house and the junior doctor’s house) have been maintained just as they were and are open for the visitors. The asylum (a later addition to the prison) has cells which can be viewed, again, as they were. Prisoners were often sent here for punishment and they were in solitary and silent confinement, often for a year.

The weather is just perfect today and I sit here in quiet contemplation of our Tasmanian experiences to date….quite wonderful. The tenders are busily ferrying passengers back to the ship across the sparkling water. In less than an hour we shall be on our way to Hobart, where we have a couple of days in port before heading to New Zealand.

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Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

Little things intrigue me. I like to know why. So, when I spotted an upside down keyhole in a restored house in Port Arthur, I asked why? Foolishly, I asked out loud of Kath whose flippant (I hope!) response was, “Because we’re Down Under?” I momentarily paused for thought – quick riposte or further query – but then espied one the correct way round so concluded it was a mistake.

The next wry smile was engendered when I spotted that the Town Hall doubled as an Asylum albeit used erstwhile as a church as well.

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Finally, why does the tender (aka lifeboat) have an open window at the top to let a significant swell and spray come in?! Especially onto me?!

Yesterday’s sea day coincided, as Kath mentioned, with Super Bowl. I last watched it live in the ‘80s when ‘my’ team was Walter Payton’s Chicago Bears. I don’t have a particular favourite team these days but have great admiration for the playing of Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. He didn’t win this time and Kath and I were reassured that we had visited Philadelphia, home of the Eagles, last fall. I’d noticed a number of banners there advertising The Eagles with the clever play on the Autumn season with “We rise again every fall!” A superb game which, despite two controversial decisions, was played in seemingly good spirit.

Today at Port Arthur, for me, was affected by the thoughts of what those prisoners (and staff!) went through all those years ago. Extrapolate to today where we still allow physical and mental punishment for crimes. Of course, people do not need to commit crime. And, “If you don’t want to do the time, don’t commit the crime” is accurate but trite. However, there are cases of men being transported half way round the world not that long ago from their families for stealing food for their children. We have moved on and our excellent guide today was at pains to point out that the inmates here were serial offenders and the ‘worst of the bunch’. Even then, she explained, some form of education and training was provided. And now, it’s a World Heritage Site. Progress, indeed. I was moved by thoughts of my own childhood when I read the raison d’être of the prison, “To tame the most mutinous spirit”.

And, yet, in the mid-1990s, an Australian, Martin Bryant, committed a massacre of several dozen people here. Strict gun laws were almost immediately introduced. Too late for those killed but, hopefully, will save the lives of others. America, please take note.

Ann’s Additions

Should you ever think that a ‘sea day’ on a cruise would be dull, please allow me to change your mind. Today we’ve been sailing between Burnie and Port Arthur at quite a gentle speed, to ensure that we arrive tomorrow morning at the appointed hour. My day began with 5,000 steps on the Promenade Deck before breakfast. The staff had, obviously, been up much earlier ‘swabbing’ the deck in preparation for we early morning walkers and joggers.

Resisting the temptation of watching the Super Bowl, I set off for the Crow’s Nest to learn a little about the flowers on the ship and to watch her two florists as they created some beautiful arrangements. Apparently, flowers only come on board at the start of a cruise and last at least two weeks. Orchids, for example, are ‘fed’ two ice cubes a week and, in the controlled environment of the ship, it certainly does the trick.

Almost immediately after this learning experience, I join some more American ladies to learn how to make a Maori poi. We all had fun with foam, scissors and wool, instructed carefully by the Maori group who are on board with us. The poi is used in Maori rhythmical dances.

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So, having enjoyed the morning session, I return after lunch to learn about Maori designs and their meaning. Carving in, for example, wood, stone and jade and even on human skin i.e. tattoos and paintings. Their meanings become clear when explained by the Maoris themselves – whether it’s good fortune, good fishing or handing down culture and family traditions. Hopefully, we shall see some of these designs as we travel New Zealand.

And finally, before dinner, there is a very informative talk about what will be our first glimpses of New Zealand – Milford Sound and the fiords. (Geography rules ok!) This will be followed, for us, by visits to Dunedin, Christchurch, Picton and Wellington. Hearing about ports of call from someone whose job – lucky Kelly! – it is to explore these places on our behalf, makes it possible for us to gain even more from a comparatively short visit.

To conclude the day – dinner, a magic show and blues at BBKings.

All that and a total of 13,000 steps! At this rate I shall need a holiday to recover from the holiday!

Burnie – a small town with a big welcome!

Burnie

Another brilliant day dawned and the sun was already cracking the flagstones when we docked at Burnie, our first Tasmanian port of call, at about 07.30. I had zero expectations (a) because it was Sunday in a small town and (b) because the total population was only 20,000. How wrong could I be? As we walked down the gangway there were the Mayor and Mayoress, he in his civic regalia and she beautifully dressed, waiting to offer a warm welcome. We went on to meet a large number of equally warm and friendly people, who drove the shuttle buses from the port to the town, and proudly stood by to answer questions, direct us to attractions and generally engage with these wonderful tourists who had graciously come to visit. They couldn’t do enough to please and it was a truly humbling experience. I am not sure that either the visiting Brits (a few of us) or the Americans (a lot of them) are known for their quiet appreciation of such generosity of spirit, but I saw a lot of smiles and chat being returned to our hosts for the day and felt glad that perhaps, for once, we represented our nations kindly.

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We were taken to a ‘Makers’ Workshop’ where local craftspeople created and sold their wares. It was all beautifully made and not outrageously priced, as in similar outlets. There was hand crafted paper, woollen items, exquisitely carved wood, hand crafted jewellery, paintings of all kinds, as well as a truly excellent coffee shop.

There was a stop at an Arts Centre, which exhibits local artists and photographers and doubles as a Town Hall and Performing Arts Centre. I think they opened up on Sunday especially for us.

Ann and I engaged in paddling and shell foraging along the beach, although I suspect we were not seeing the best of the beaches which would have been well clear of those surrounding the very industrial port area where our ship had docked. We took a stroll around the neat and clean town centre (mainly not open for Sunday trading) but the townsfolk were keen that we should see everything, including a rhododendron Park, supposedly in full bloom.

It may not have been the most stunningly beautiful port of call, but in terms of the people and their wonderful welcome, Burnie must begin to feature as a ‘must visit’ for more cruise lines and I am delighted to have had an opportunity to see this particular corner of Tasmania.

Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

Well, what can I add… ?

Such lovely people. What Kath didn’t mention was that the town was hit by an employment catastrophe only a few years ago. The town of about 20000 had a wood mill which employed over 4000 directly. It closed and one can only imagine the thoughts of those people and their community. Memories of Welsh and Yorkshire villages destroyed when their mines closed came to my mind. It’s easier, I suppose, in an almost idyllic island to reinvent itself as a tourist destination than in the valleys of Wales or the ‘dark satanic mill’ infested Northern coalfields. Nevertheless, rebuilding communities destroyed by a corporate quirk takes courage and vision. Burnie has both. It also has many people who are committed to contribute voluntarily and cheerfully to welcoming each and every visitor with a generous smile and helpful guidance. They deserve success and we were happy to spend some money in the few shops open on Sunday.

I posted elsewhere that their Information Centre was probably the best I’d seen with certainly the best views and possibly the best coffee cups. Well worth a visit and a return someday

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Entertainment on board ship is varied and includes activities and evening entertainments. This afternoon, Ann and I went to watch the film ‘The Dressmaker’ starring Kate Winslet. A well-crafted piece. Stylised in part and the story developed at pace despite the flashbacks. Death, sadness, infirmity and illness strangely produced laughter from a number of the audience… including Ann! Hmm! The ending was theatre at its best with the mentally scarred heroine walking toward the camera with the backdrop of the devastated town aflame which she identified as the curse she had carried for her lifetime and had returned to exorcise. She seemed content… as were we..

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.

 

 

“Down at the levee waiting for the Robert E Lee”

“Down at the levee waiting for the Robert E Lee”.

It may be slightly silly but I was positively excited to see the sea again as we drove towards New Orleans. It was our first glimpse since New York. It was also fascinating to experience the freeway crossing the Louisiana swamps, the bayou, and the unusual looking trees which rise up through the water. Because we are staying in the heart of the French Quarter, the final part of our journey was through cramped streets, teeming with colour with the sounds of jazz everywhere, and manoeuvring our way amongst the horse drawn tour carriages which moved at their own slow pace. We were happy to hand the car over to the parking valet and step into the beautiful hotel, which definitely reflects a ‘grand age’ with every possible modern amenity.

 

We ‘hot footed’ it out and enjoyed a ramble. We seemed to be close to all the places I wanted to see and quickly happened upon the Mississippi River Boat cruise. Oh yes! A two hour cruise down the Mississippi in high temperatures and humidity offered at least some relief with the odd breeze crossing the decks. This is apparently the only steamboat on the river – we know that it is steam driven as we saw the boilers “Thelma and Louise” and even braved the engine room. Some way downstream the guide pointed out a monument to the Battle of New Orleans. Ear worm once more of Lonnie Donegan’s song

Well in 1814, we took a little trip,
Along with Colonel Packenham down the mighty Mississipp’.
We took a little bacon and we took a little beans,
And we fought the bloomin British in the town of New Orleans

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In this case, the clouds began a-coming, lightning flashed in the distance but nothing reached us. The boat’s hooter sounded impressively as we hailed a cruise ship setting out for sea, following the path we had taken alongside the levee. Instructions for our docking were done the old fashioned way – by megaphone. Fascinating.

 

We had explored some of the lively streets along the way, so made it a quick dash back to the blissfully air conditioned hotel. I think the last time I perspired at such a rate was in Mumbai.

We went to claim a complementary drink from the bar and found there was a different jazz group playing each evening. What a fabulous band it turned out to be. This was real New Orleans jazz with trumpet lead, amazing saxophonist, drummer, bass and keyboard. Quite outstanding and we enjoyed cocktails (thankfully normal strength) whilst simply loving the entertainment.

 

A short stroll around the local streets finished off the evening. This is the vibrant ‘happening’ place I had expected in Memphis and we just love it.

Day 2 – and as a start to the day we enjoy a real Louisiana breakfast of poached eggs on top of crabmeat with a crayfish sauce over the top and three colours of fried potato. I may never eat again. As we leave, the day is hot and sunny. Here I am totally understating the case. The heat rises up to say hello, but instead of moving on, it sticks to you until satisfied every pore is working. This really is something else. However, we have walked! Around the French Quarter, around the French Market, into St Louis Cathedral (blissfully cool, light and airy), and on to a drinks stop. We (sorry, I), wanted to take a photograph of the Mississippi Steamboat setting off. Of course, the darned thing was late setting off by a good 10 minutes. But we stood under the relentless sun, waited and dripped a bit more. Finally….!

 

Back for a circuit around the already heaving streets with the pulsing sounds of the street bands. I presume these are the guys who can’t get a gig in the bars but make a living from this type of busking. I stood besides the Rib Room whilst Carolyn took a video of a street band. Inside were groups of the gentry – southern gentlemen in their cream suits, sitting at pristine tables with silver cutlery and linen napkins, eating huge plates of hot food. Groan!

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It is late afternoon and definitely time for some air conditioning or even a swim before contemplating a tour of the bars for a selection of music when the sun goes down over the grand old Mississippi. Later tomorrow we begin our homeward journey with a flight back to New York. What an amazing trip – again, another slight understatement!

Carolyn’s Curios & Musical Notes 🎼🎶🖌

Well , what can I add?

It’s been a wonderful trip – not yet over – and the past two days have added so much colour and texture to it!

Kath had had New Orleans on her to-do list since we started planning this musical journey. We both have eclectic tastes in music but Kath will tell you that I have a fascination for difference and quality. If it’s good, it’s good – and I may enjoy it!

The stop-off point from Memphis to the Big Easy wasn’t a planned music stop but we researched and found some. New Orleans’ music scene doesn’t require any research. Walk out of the door or, even, down the lobby and you hear it and then see it. Blues? Yes. Jazz? Yes, of almost all types. When we walked past bars in Las Vegas last year, we commented how each bar had different music. But those bars were, sometimes, a block long and the music was piped. Here, every bar is the width of a house and the music is live. Not just the bars. They play in the streets and we saw the archetypal New Orleans Jazz Band walking by – surprisingly followed by a State Trooper motorbike and SUV as well as the traditional crowds of ‘followers’.

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My anticipation of New Orleans was fed by James Bond’s ‘Live and Let Die’ with McCartney’s theme tune. Our hotel was only a block away from the site of the film’s funeral procession. Did it match the film? Yes – as picturesque and more vibrantly beautiful. But, we were warned to be careful, especially at night. We were and, frankly, felt safe but we didn’t stay out very late.

 

Our musical experiences were so many. The map shows only some of the bars – we listened at all of them! However, we had more formal traditional jazz last night from The Luneta Jazz Band and New Orleans Jazz tonight from The Doyle Cooper Jazz Band. It was Thomas Beecham who said, “There are two golden rules for an orchestra: start together and finish together. The public doesn’t give a damn what goes on in between.” With jazz, that rule still mainly applies but it does matter what goes on in between, of course. We’ve seen three quite different types of jazz on our Musical Road Trip but all played with expertise and passion. From a core melody, the players extemporise each as individuals although, somehow, in time, tune and passion with each other. Tonight, J.W.Pepper’s creation, the sousaphone, replaced last night’s double bass, a guitar replaced a keyboard, a trombone replaced the tenor and soprano sax whilst the trumpet (‘horn’) and drums were common. All playing separately and yet totally together. I have to make special comment about the trombonist tonight. He seemed autistic as he sat uncommunicatively until he began playing and then… the trombone sang as did he! What a player!

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We caught several street bands and a band on the Steamboat Natchez as well. Joy!

 

Talking of the steamboat… there are only two on the Mississippi. The others are riverboats but not steam. The Natchez is the ninth boat wth that name and an earlier one lost the famous race with the Robert E. Lee in 1870. Despite the Mississippi being 200 feet deep in the centre, Natchez only has a draft of five feet. The river is mind boggling in its size. It’s the third largest river in the world by the area it drains. Where we are, sees 1 million cubic feet of water per second pass by. Because of this flow, there are no tides here and no salt water. The Natchez was only built 42 years ago but its steam engines are 92 years old and its style is even older. Great addition to our musical journey with a New Orleans Jazz Band playing on board. (Being able to spell Mississippi has been a buzz for me since Primary School: M – I – double S – I – double S – I – double P – I )

Musical nudges? Kath has mention ‘Down at the levee’ but, what about ‘Proud Mary’:
“Cleaned a lot of plates in Memphis
Pumped a lot of tane down in New Orleans
But I never saw the good side of the city
Until I hitched a ride on a riverboat queen
You know that big wheel keep on turning
Proud Mary keep on burning
And we’re rolling, rolling, rolling yeah (rolling)
Rolling on the river.”

(“tane”, by the way, is an abbreviation of “octane” and is slang for gasoline – I looked it up!)

I also remember ‘Way down yonder in New Orleans”, of course.

A final note about the size of this country. As we left Jackson for New Orleans, the next largest big town, our Sat. Nav. blithely announced, ‘Continue on the I55 for 185 miles”. Cruise control set, we drove here and it was worth it, indeed.

And, then, we spotted two tee shirts – sums it up!

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“We fired our guns and the British kept a-coming”

“We fired our guns and the British kept a-coming“.

I was reminded of this Lonnie Donegan song for two reasons today. We are on our way to New Orleans where the British lost a war in 1815. Somehow that linked to our final stop in Memphis – The Civil Rights Museum.

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How could we leave without visiting the Lorraine Hotel (now housing the museum) where Dr Martin Luther King Jnr was murdered as he stepped out onto his hotel balcony? What an amazing place has been created. It uses powerful media to tell the story of the country’s reliance on slavery, to the election of Abraham Lincoln (who began its formal abolition), the States who freed their slaves but sent back escapees from other states to their masters, the struggles for universal suffrage, through the years of so-called ‘equality’ with segregation, to the freedom rides and marches and on to the very recent past – when acceptance of equality was finally achieved? The two hour visit had the same effect on me as my visit to Nagasaki a year or two ago. No matter what difficulties I may have experienced at any point in my life, it was nothing to the struggles of people who had almost nothing, who lost everything and yet still emerged with smiles and kindness for their persecutors.

The sounds, film footage, black and white photographs, and drawings, created a powerful story of extreme suffering and hardship. You would not want this for anyone – and yet…! We have talked with Americans all along our journey. Some have expressed views that black Americans have been given too much self belief as a result of President Obama. It is not yet over.

On a lighter, albeit wetter, note, we were about an hour into our journey south to Jackson in the very hot sun when Carolyn commented how lucky we had been to avoid the forecast storms. Half an hour later I pointed out the ominous clouds ahead. In no time, the same clouds had enveloped us along with a total deluge. I pulled off the freeway because we needed petrol but also because I couldn’t see road markings or further than the rear lights in front. Our attempt to fill up the tank, ostensibly under cover but with the rain driving horizontally at us, with the lightning flashing and the thunder crashing, was worthy of a comedy sketch. We both had quite a soaking and drove the remaining few miles still peering through the storm with the acquired raindrops dripping where they shouldn’t.

However, we soon sorted ourselves out and went in search of food and live music. We found both. The food was good – monstrous American portions – and the music had been advertised as everything from the 60s to present day. Three guitars (or two guitars and a mandolin), the same rhythm and beat throughout and the harmonies a bit hit and miss…but we knew the tunes and enjoyed old favourites like the symbolic “Take it easy” from our Route 66 trip.

Onwards to New Orleans tomorrow!

Carolyn’s Curios & Musical Notes 🎼🎶🖌

We sacrificed one of our music targets – Delta Blues Museum – to go to the Civil Rights Museum. We weren’t directly involved in the struggles against slavery and for human rights because it was before our time; we weren’t directly involved in the civil rights movement in the U.S. but supported it from afar. I’m frequently embarrassed when I talk with African Americans when I’m reminded of how they were treated within my lifetime. Why did their struggle need to happen? The museum went through the history. There could never be any moral defence of slavery but there was a strong economic case. At the time, that was sufficient. There could never be a sound logical argument to avoid the seeming imperative of the American Constitution which asserted boldly, “All men are created equal”. However, they tried. How about… “Negroes are so obviously inferior to a white man that the founding fathers didn’t feel any need to mention it!” Plausible? I think not!

And then, try this one which was used to justify segregation. “Negroes are equal but different. They should be educated separately. They should sit separately on buses. They should eat, sleep, live in different places.” Segregation (or Apartheid in S.A) was a sham. Schools were not equal. African Americans were disadvantaged from birth to grave merely because of the colour of the skin. Dr Martin Luther King Jnr in his ‘I have a dream’ speech said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.” How can anyone gainsay that? But, yet, they did… and some still do. In the UK as well as the US.

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Successive Presidents succumbed to electoral pressure by denying basic human and civil rights. And, the fight is not over as Kath remarked.

As we began the museum visit, we went into a room of photographs showing some of the struggles for basic rights. For me, it was ironic that the photos were in black and white. Those photos weren’t really in black and white. They were in various shades of grey. In light, it is worth noting that between black and white is not grey but every colour of the spectrum rainbow! At the end of the final film we saw, there was reference to modern day slavery, modern day lack of quality education and mention of various civil right movements including the original Stonewall and Prides.

Musically, buzzing round my head were songs like, “We shall overcome” along with other protest songs. Usually, these songs were gentle and peaceful. But then, Dr King’s passive resistance was ended by violence. However, his legacy is that change has taken place successfully through the law – and the changing of it – and through the ballot box. People like Mandela, King, Rosa Parks etc. deserve our utmost respect and thanks. As Blue Mink sang, “What we need is a great big melting pot.”

On our journey towards Jackson (Johnny Cash song with the name chosen for sound not destination), we passed over a Tallahatchie Bridge and remembered Bobbie Gentry’s ‘Ode to Billie Joe’. The original was demolished some time ago but the song endures.

And, tonight, we had a range of country rock songs from Twisted Grass at a local restaurant. Enthusiastic and talented in presenting a wide range of genres somehow delivered in a similar laid back style with an almost identical tempo. We sang along to more than a few but the band needs to be tighter if they are to secure a bigger audience. Nice people though and ‘Copperhead Road’ was very well delivered.

Tomorrow… New Orleans… the British kept a-coming!