Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Summer of 2022.
Part 4: Barcelona.

Tuesday, April 30th, 2024

July 4, 2022. Granada to Barcelona Spain.

Granada’s airport was very efficient, as was the disembarkation from our Vueling flight in Barcelona. 

It was done five rows at a time, which stopped the mad panic that you usually get. 

Why don’t more airlines adopt this approach?


El Gato de Botero in Rambla del Raval

July 5, 2022. Barcelona Spain.

We were staying in Rambla del Raval, at the Abba Rambla Hotel, where we have stayed before.

It’s a great area just off the Rambla, the iconic walking street in Barcelona.

Thea’s health wasn’t improving, so we decided to get a doctor to assess her.

The hotel was fantastic and had an English speaking doctor come to visit us in just under two hours.

The doctor suggested that Thea go straight to the hospital for tests.

She was admitted into the Hospital HM Nou Delfos and after an initial consultation, told she would be there for a few days while more tests were carried out.

This particular hospital had an English speaking ward, with both doctors and nurses being able to communicate with Thea.

This was certainly a help.

The hospital was in Gràcia and about 25 minutes by taxi from our hotel in Rambla del Raval.

This was a real change in our plans and meant that, unfortunately, we would no longer be going to Rome for the wedding.

July 6, 2022. Barcelona Spain.

As we had the Abba Rambla Hotel booked and paid for two nights, we decided that I would stay there and get a taxi to be with Thea during the day.

Then I would find a hotel that was close to the hospital and move there.

So it was another day in the hospital again, while we tried to rearrange our plans.

In the evening, after returning to my hotel from the hospital, I had a guilty pint at OLDGOD. This is  a craft beer bar, just near the Rambla del Raval and has 20 beers on tap.

I had a Freddy Fox West Coast IPA, it was excellent and brewed, right there, in Barcelona. 

What a strange name for a Spanish beer.

At €7 (A$11.50) for 500ml it wasn’t cheap but then good craft beer never is. 

While having dinner, which was in Parc Infantil, the square in front of the restaurant, I was warned by a local not to leave my bag on the ground, as it might get stolen. 

Luckily we have learned to strap them to the chair, and the table, so it was pretty safe.

We think we have a diverse culture in Australia. However looking around at the faces in Raval, we have nothing like that at home. 

Obviously there are Europeans, from all countries, but also African, Asians, Indians, Pakistanis, Central Asians, North and South Americans, and of course the odd Australian. 

July 7, 2022. Barcelona Spain.

Thea was still in the Hospital HM Nou Delfos and undergoing numerous tests.

I moved to a new hotel, Catalonia Park Güell, near the Gràcia area, that was walking distance from the hospital.

It was a very quiet area with not a lot of eating options.

That night I finished up dining at Lascaleta, a restaurant that was just over the road from the hospital. 

I got a feeling that they might get to know me there. 


Tibidabo at sunset

July 8, 2022. Barcelona Spain.

Thea was still in the Hospital HM Nou Delfos and waiting to get the full analysis of all the tests she had undergone.

These should come though on Saturday. 

As expected I returned to Lascaleta, the restaurant over the road, for breakfast. The service was excruciatingly slow and I missed seeing Thea’s doctor. 

Today is Brianna’s third birthday and it’s such a shame that we can’t celebrate the event with the rest of the family in Italy. 

Now was the time we were meant to be in Lake Bracciano, north of Rome, for Cam and Fran’s wedding. 

An event that we started to plan for in 2019. 

Then due to COVID it was cancelled in 2020 and here we are, missing it again. 

July 9, 2022. Barcelona Spain.

Thea was discharged from hospital, now it’s a matter of what we do next and how do we recover the expenses. 

This hasn’t been a cheap experience and we have had to move money around in order to pay the hospital bills. 

This was made more difficult by the 8 hour time difference between Barcelona and Melbourne.

And, to make it all the more complicated, Thea was discharged on a weekend, so everything was shut, both in Spain and Australia. 

My afternoon task was to find a pharmacy that was open and get Thea’s medication. 

Apart from the anxiety and worry of Thea’s hospitalisation, significant world events happened over the time of her stay. 

In Britain, Boris Johnston resigned as Prime Minister and in Japan, former Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe was assassinated. 

What an eventful time this is.


Hospital HM Nou Delfos from the roof of the hotel

July 10, 2022. Barcelona Spain.

We are in the Catalonia Park Güell Hotel now and, fortunately, back together again. 

Thea is still taking it slow and will be for some time.

I think the rest of our trip will be done as ‘Slow Travel’ which is the way I like it anyway. 

But not under these circumstances. 

We did a bit of a casual meander around the Gràcia area and enjoyed some of the local architecture.

Especially the Art deco buildings.

Afterwards we had an ‘accidental lunch’ at Askadinya a Mediterranean, Palestinian, fusion restaurant in Gràcia.

These accidental meals pop up from time to time and are mainly due to circumstances changing.

This one, like so many we have had, turn out to be a pleasant surprise.


The beach at Badalona

July 11, 2022. Barcelona Spain.

After breakfast, again at Lascaleta, we crossed the road to the hospital and settled the bill. 

Hopefully this is the last time we have to go there. 

This has been a very expensive exercise and now we have to go through the laborious task of claiming it all on the travel insurance. 

This won’t be easy, as most insurance companies are very reluctant to honour their commitments. 

We then caught the underground to Badalona, one of our favourite spots from the time we lived there in 2012.

Lunch was on the waterfront, next to the train line.

We then walked up and down Carrer de La Mar, the main shopping strip in Badalona and eventually caught the overground back to our hotel.

That night we discovered the fresh fruit platter at the hotel, was a great dish to end the day, especially after a long Spanish lunch.

Interestingly the medication Thea was on meant that she had developed a voracious appetite.

There was no way I could keep up with her.

July 12, 2022. Barcelona Spain.

It was a slow and quiet day in the city, then another long Spanish lunch.

Unfortunately there was no siesta to follow. 

After a drink and nibbles back at the hotel, we returned to our room to pack. 

Tomorrow was going to be an early start and a long day.

We had talked my mate Denis into letting us stay at his place in Arnex-Sur-Orb in Switzerland.

After everything we had been through, a few restful days in the Swiss countryside would do us all good.

Denis was due to be in Rome for the wedding as well but unfortunately he also had to miss out, as he can no longer tolerate the heat.

Summer of 2022.
Part 3: Granada with the family.

Monday, April 29th, 2024

June 29, 2022. Lisbon, Portugal to Granada, Spain. 

We arrived into Granada late in the day and got settled into our apartment.

Then we all went out for dinner with the family.

It was great to get everyone together, especially our two young granddaughters.

The plan was to get the cousins, Aida and Brianna, together, before the wedding in Rome, so they could get to know each other.

June 30, 2022. Granada, Spain. 

We were in another Airbnb, which was yet another example of how poor the system has become. 

I believe that these places are never tested, by real people, to see if they are usable. 

There was one huge pot to boil water, no dishwasher and no tea towels, a washing machine but no pegs.

Also there was nowhere to hang bath towels to dry and there was a bathroom door that couldn’t be shut, let alone locked.

And this was a three bedroomed apartment, so more than likely the facilities would need to be shared.

After breakfast and discovering all the foibles of our Airbnb, we went off in search of a playground.

An essential activity when there are kids travelling with you.

It was then was back to our rooms to tend to washing and a bit of ‘housekeeping’ like onward bookings and reconciling the last week’s family expenses in Portugal with Ev and Steph.

That night it was another dinner with the family.

This time it was at Capitán Amargo (Captain Bitter) a craft brewery. This wasn’t Hayden and Andrea’s first choice, as that was booked out.

It certainly would have been mine. 

The local craft beer was excellent, as was the food. 


Capitán Amargo (Captain Bitter) Craft Brewery

July 1, 2022. Granada, Spain. 

As the big event on the upcoming calendar was the wedding in Rome the ‘girls’ needed haircuts.

Granada is Andrea’s home town, so it was left to her to select and book the salon.

That night it was another dinner with the family. We were sitting outside the restaurant and looking up at the Alhambra.

What a unique Granada experience to have while eating.

After dinner we all had an ice cream at a Heladeria los Italianos. This Italian gelateria has become an institution in Granada.

It certainly pays to have local knowledge.

Everything operates on a different time zone in this part of Spain. 

At 2pm, sharp, the city shuts down for lunch and then siesta. Dinner doesn’t really get going until at least 9pm, however 10pm seems to be a very popular time to start.

At 11:30 the streets are still full of people.


Alhambra in the background

July 2, 2022. Granada, Spain.

Another consequence of the upcoming wedding was that we needed to get congratulatory cards for Cam and Fran.

It wasn’t that easy, however, as usual, El Corte Inglés came to the rescue.

In Spain we have always found this department store to have ‘whatever’ we needed.

We then found more playgrounds, to entertain the little girls, and afterwards spent more time just wandering the streets of Granada.

That night it was Brianna’s early third birthday celebrations at Sonia and Toni’s. It was a warm night and the little girls and their dads all went for a dip in the pool.

Brianna’s birthday celebration was about a week early as she was going to be in Rome for the wedding on her actual birthday.

July 3, 2022. Granada, Spain.

This was our last day in Granada, as we were headed to Barcelona tomorrow.

Our flight was at midday, so there wouldn’t be much time to do anything more than pack and get the to airport.

I have always enjoyed Spanish coffee but after the last few weeks I feel that it isn’t as good as what we had in Portugal.

It was the size of serve and the strength that made the Portuguese coffee more enjoyable.

Summer of 2022.
Part 2: Portugal with Ev, Steph and Aida.

Monday, March 25th, 2024

June 13, 2022. Berlin, Germany to Porto, Portugal. 

Today we are off to Porto in Portugal. Getting to the airport in Berlin was easy, as we again used our €9 monthly ticket. 

However once we got there things started to go downhill. 

We had to check in via a machine, as Ryanair wanted €50 each to have their staff do it. 

It was going to be late by the time we arrived in Porto, so we felt we needed to get something substantial to eat.

There were plenty of places advertised in the airport but nothing was open. 

So it was a salami baguette for dinner. 

Then finding out what lounge the aircraft was leaving from took a long time. When we finally got there, there were nowhere near enough seats for a plane load. 

Half the passengers ended up standing, or sprawled on the floor. 

Then the flight was 20 minutes late. 

I have never had much time for Ryanair and this just confirmed my dislike of this airline.

They are not only a low cost airline they are ‘cheap’ as well.

It was an evening flight to Porto, so on arrival we went straight to an airport hotel, The Park Hotel Porto Aeroporto.

June 14, 2022. Porto, Portugal. 

Today was rather an inactive one, as we were just getting settled into Portugal and our first big adventure. We were also waiting for the arrival of Ev, Steph and their young daughter Aida, who were going to be travelling with us.

Late in the morning we moved from the airport hotel to our Airbnb in Porto.

Later that afternoon E, S and A arrived and then we all settled into our accommodation.

We were going to spend just over two weeks exploring this beautiful country. 

It would mainly be by car, travelling from Porto in the north, to Lisbon, the capital, in the south.


Dom Louis 1 Bridge over the Douro River

June 15, 2022. Porto, Portugal. 

It was 1974 when we were last in Portugal – this time was very different.

Back then, we were a young couple, living in Manchester, England and had brought our VW Kombi Van across the channel to tour Portugal and then travel down to Morocco.

Forty eight years later we were with our son, his wife and their young daughter, travelling together and staying in Airbnbs, not living out of our van and cooking for ourselves.

Fortunately we had a Metro station close by, so it was easy to get into Porto city centre to rediscover city. 

Tiles were the architectural feature I had forgotten about and now they struck me the most.

Igreja de Santo Ildefonso, an 18th Century church, was our first tile encounter.

This was followed by many more examples of architectural tiling. This ornamental art form is highly decorative and a symbol of Portugal to the world.

Tiling was first developed in Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt, almost 3,000 years BC, but it was the the Muslims that introduced the art form to Europe in the 7th Century.

In the Iberian Peninsula, it was the Moors who introduced tiling to Portugal and Spain.

The colours of blue and white seem to dominate Portuguese tiles and that, according to history, comes from the influence of Chinese porcelain.

Porto is regarded as the tile capital of Portugal. However they can be found all over the country, from small villages to major cities.

We wandered the streets and everywhere we went we encounter Portuguese Tarts, either being sold or consumed.

Needless to say we had to try them.

The Dom Louis 1 Bridge and the Douro River dominates the city, as do the steep, narrow streets.

On our walk we came across the monument to Prince (The Navigator) Henry of Portugal (1394–1460).

The Prince was a central figure in the maritime discoveries of the Portuguese Empire in the 15th Century.

We finally got to the river late in the day but rain and lack of time stopped us from crossing it.

This would have to wait for another day.


Train trip across the Dom Louis 1 Bridge over the Douro River

June 16, 2022. Porto, Portugal. 

Today was spent doing what we didn’t finish yesterday, mainly crossing the Douro River on the Dom Louis 1 Bridge. 

On the other side of the river we found a park for Aida to play in – they seem to be in short supply.

Then it was down to the river to have lunch, followed by a port – naturally.

We were in the Port Wine District, on the Douro River, and there was a huge sign, atop a building, for Sandeman, a very popular Portuguese port. 

Sandeman was established in 1790 and is world famous, especially the logo. This features a man known as the ‘The Don’ who is wearing a Portuguese student cape and broad brimmed Iberian hat.

It was still overcast and rain threatened.

After lunch we took a trip on the Funicular Teleféyico de Gaia. This gave us a great view of the river and the city.

Then, after a bit more city walking, we headed back over the river and visited the São Bento Railway Station, which is a UNESCO listed site in the Old City Centre. 

Built in 1905 the station is regarded as one of the jewels in the crown of Portage tiling.

It certainly is impressive and had to be seen.

It was then back on to the underground for a return trip to our Airbnb for dinner.


Casa da Música (Concert Hall)

June 17, 2022. Porto, Portugal. 

We stayed close to our accommodation in the morning, as we had to return to the airport to pick up a rental car in the afternoon. 

We felt that the best way to travel to Lisbon from Porto was to get a rental, that way we were in control.

Firstly it was a coffee at Ponto 2, which was right next to our Metro station.

It became our go-to in Porto, as it was a short walk from our accommodation and had a large indoor and outdoor space and the coffee wasn’t that bad. Aida loved the Portuguese style croissants there.

Then Monumento aos Heróis da Guerra Peninsular, for a photo opportunity before continuing on to the Opera House (Casa da Musica).

This is the home of the National Orchestra of Porto and an amazing piece of architecture.

Completed in 2005 and designed by Rem Koolhaas, it was the result of an international architectural tender that was motivated by Porto becoming the European Capital of Culture in 2001.

The interior is just as impressive as the outside and it even boasts it’s own original typeface for the signage.

It was built on the site of an old tram terminus.

It was then off to the Mercado Bom Sucesso for lunch with lots of aggressive and hungry pigeons.

Back to the house and then the Metro to the airport with Evan, and Aida, just to make sure we got the child seat that had been pre ordered. We felt we might need some living proof that we really did need the seat.

The seat wasn’t an issue but we were faced with a very aggressive sales woman who made sure that I took every ‘On Sell’ on offer.

I took what I needed as I did have my own insurance and felt that would cover all contingencies.

We did get a rather nice Renault 6 speed, manual Kadjar Diesel, Black Edition.

As I was going to be the designated driver, my task then was to get my brain around driving on the right, with a left hand drive vehicle again.

Once we got back from picking up the car, it was off to the local supermarket to get food for the next few days. 

We had real fun driving out from the supermarket site, as it didn’t seem to have a clear exit plan.


The House of Sandeman at Quinta do Seixo

June 18, 2022. Porto, Portugal. 

Fortunately our accommodation had good parking underneath, so we could do day trips and always be able to return to a free spot.

After finally getting one of the SatNavs to work properly, we drove to Amarante. The Renault had one, I had one and of course we all had phones but we did have trouble getting the one in the car to work properly.

Our first photo opportunity was the Church and Monastery of St. Gonçalo. Built in the Italian Renaissance style, both were established in 1543, by João II and completed in 1620. 

We then wandered around Amarante for a while before driving east to Pinahão.

This charming little town, is in the heart of the Port Wine country and sits on the banks of the Douro River.

We had lunch overlooking the river and then walked from there to the Pinahão Railway Station.

This is on the main train line from Porto and attracts many tourists. Again the blue tile work at the station was stunning.

It was then off to the House of Sandeman, at Quinta do Seixo, for a Port Wine experience.

As I was the ‘designated driver’ it was only a sip for me, however we did buy a bottle for Ron – ‘Later on’. 

This is the main outlet of the famous Sandeman brand and sits in the heart of the Douro Region overlooking the Douro River valley and river.

Out the front, with the best views, is the iconic Sandeman Don, complete with his Portuguese student cape and Jerez sombrero.

We had seen him atop a building in Porto and now here he was again.

Sandeman Wine was founded in 1790 by Scotsman David Sandeman. It wasn’t until 1928 that the iconic logo came into existence. It was designed, also by a Scot, George Massiot Brown.

The company was sold to Seagram in 1979 and is currently owned by the Portuguese company Sogrape. However a descendant, George Thomas David Sandeman, is a member of the board of Sogrape Vinhos.


World Famous Sardines of Portugal

June 19, 2022. Porto, Portugal. 

A delicious morning coffee in Porto, then off for another day of touring.

This time we headed north, for about an hour, to the historically significant city of Braga.

It hosts Portugal’s oldest Catholic archdiocese, the Archdiocese of Braga.

We were in the midst of Catholic celebrations, as the Festival of John the Baptist was in full swing when we arrived.

The actual festival wasn’t for a few days yet, on June 23, but there was still a lot of celebration and preparation happening when we arrived.

We enjoyed the atmosphere in the town centre then went for a wander around.

Portugal is famous for its sardines and they were certainly being celebrated in one particular shop.

The walls were lined with hundreds of cans of the salty treat.

We visited the Gardens of Santa Barbara, the Archbishops Palace (16th, 17th and 18th Centuries), the Town Hall (1754-1865), the Arch of the New Gate (1770) and Braga Cathedral (1089).

All the time the sky’s were darkening – rain was certainly on the way again.

We drove to the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte, which is high on a hill overlooking Braga.

And by the time we got there the rain had found us.

This sanctuary, was first developed in 1373, however the present structure was started in 1722.

The Baroque church, at the top of the stairway, was built around 1725 by architect Manuel Pinto Vilalobost.

After dodging the storm and trying to stay dry, Ev, Steph and Aida took the funicular back down. Thea and I then drove down to meet them and headed back to Porto.


Views of Nazaré

June 20, 2022. Porto to Nazaré, Portugal. 

Today we left Porto and drove to south to Nazaré. It was a relatively easy 2 hour drive, mainly on the freeways. 

Even though our Renault Kadjar seemed spacious, it did take a bit of an effort to get everything in for the move to Nazaré.

But then we were travelling with a small child and this therefore included extras like a cot and portable pusher.

Nazaré is a very popular seaside resort on the Costa de Prata, or Silver Coast. This is understandable, given the size and length of the sandy beach.

This  beach area is known as Praia, which is one of three neighbourhoods that go to make up the town.

The other two are Sitio and Pedermeira, which are elevated.

The earliest settlements were in these two towns, as they were high up and a refuge from the invading Vikings.

The Nazaré Funicular, from Praia, is an easy way to get to Sitio, which sits on a clifftop overlooking the beach.

Once we got settled into our apartment we went for a stroll around town. We were staying very close to the beach and an easy walking distance into the main town centre.

We also had good on-site parking again, so we didn’t need to worry about the car.

Now the weather was more pleasant with blue sky and moderate temperatures. However nothing like the heat wave that other parts of Europe were experiencing.

It wasn’t the ‘Tourist Season’ yet in Nazaré and the streets and beach were rather quiet.

Our accommodation was very spacious, with a large kitchen area as well as an equally large dining and living space.

That night’s dinner was a home cooked affair.


Forte de São Miguel Arcanjo

June 21, 2022. Nazaré, Portugal. 

It was a late start to the morning, then off for another great Portuguese coffee. 

We found the coffees in Portugal to be very much to our liking. They are full of flavour, strong and never too large and drowned in water.

Fortunately the ‘Americano’ style hasn’t reached here yet.

We then explored the Nazaré Municipal Market, which wasn’t exactly buzzing. 

In the afternoon we took the Nazaré Funicular or Elevador da Nazaré to Sitio, which sits on the cliff overlooking the main beach.

From the top of the funicular it was a good walk to Forte de São Miguel Arcanjo but unfortunately it started to rain so out came the coats and umbrellas.

Before reaching the fort we stopped to look at Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Nazaré.

This is an ancient and imposing Marian shrine, that was founded in the 14th Century and is in memory of a miracle that occurred under the intercession of the Virgin Mary. 

Praia do Norte is the beach below the Forte de São Miguel Arcanjo and home to some of the world’s largest waves.

Within the fort there is a tourist centre and memorial to these huge swells with many photos and stories of the feats that have occurred here.

Currently the record for the biggest wave surfed at Praia do Norte is held by the Brazilian, Rodrigo Kota, and stands at 24.4 metres or 80 feet high from trough to crest.

Also near the entrance to the fort stands the Escultura Veado Surfista. This is a 6.30 metre, steel and marble sculpture of a surfer with a deers head and antlers.

Created by the Portuguese sculptor Adália Alberto and installed in 2016, it honours the legend of Nazaré.

‘When in Rome’ or in this case ‘When in Portugal’ do as the locals do. So tonight we had sardines for dinner at Taberna d’ Adélia.


Around Ōbidos

June 22, 2022. Nazaré, Portugal. 

The weather was still unusually cool for Summer. In fact it had been warmer in Berlin and that was so much further north. 

After our day in town yesterday we were off to explore some of the surrounding areas today. 

At the price of a rental you can’t leave the car in the garage for too long. 

We headed for Ōbidos, a UNESCO City of Literature. 

This was about an hours drive south of Nazaré, on the more scenic route, as we didn’t need to take the toll roads.

Just before we reached Ōbidos we discovered a Roman Aqueduct just outside of the town. Apparently there are about three kilometres of aqueduct, which connects to a further three kilometres of tunnels, which all begin at a natural spring near Usseira.

One of the city gates in Ōbidos was decorated with Azulejo. This is a form of Spanish and Portuguese painted tin-glazed ceramic tile work.

Yet again more beautiful Portuguese tiles.

St. Mary’s Square was a big tourist draw and surrounded by many cafes and restaurants.

Naturally this became our spot for lunch.

On our walk and just on the edge of the main township is the Castle of Ōbidos. This is a well preserved Medieval building.

It was a relaxing day of touring and that night we ate at home again while preparing to move again tomorrow.


Sardines are very popular in Portugal

June 23, 2022. Nazaré to Sintra,Portugal. 

Again we were heading south, this time to Sintra.

It was a easy two hour drive to Sintra but once we got there it was hell finding a parking spot. 

We did get a spot, that was about 100 metres from our room. However it was on a corner and possibly not legal. 

I’ll wait and see if I get caught. 

Our accommodation was yet another Airbnb and on the top floor of the apartment block. To get to the top, with all our gear, they were steep steps to climb.

This was a sign of things to come.

The village was set in the mountains outside of Lisbon and had some of the windiest streets I have ever driven around. 

It was a labyrinth of hairpin bends, some required a three point turn to negotiate. Plus there were a multitude of one way streets and very steep hills. 

There was very little available, or easily accessible parking anywhere in the city and not just near or room. 

We walked into the town centre and had some lunch. I wasn’t about to give up our precious parking spot, legal or not.

This was mostly down hill and it was only on the return journey that we realised just how steep the streets were. 

I’m glad we are only here for two nights.

Lunch was at Cafe da Vila and at €65 for all of us not to bad. They were really pushing their lower prices, which was evident by the €8 MENU signs all over the cafe walls.

We needed to get food for breakfast and provisions for Aida, so our next task was to search for a supermarket. We found a small one, near the centre of town, so had to lug around our purchases for the rest of the day.

We continued our walk around the town, fortunately most sights weren’t too far apart.

Near the centre was the National Palace of Sintra. Unfortunately it was getting late in the day and there was no time to explore the whole site, so we just settled on visiting the garden.

This is said to be the oldest palace in Portugal, with a royal structure on this site for as long as Portugal has been existence.

The palace is dominated by two, giant conical chimneys, hovering over the palace kitchen.

For dinner we found a craft brewery, Villa Craft Beer and Bread. It was not in the main tourist area so not crowded. 

The food was good and the local craft beer was excellent.

Then it was a very steep walk back to our accommodation.

Thea was starting to suffer from the climbing and we became a little suspicious about her health.


King Ferdinand II (1816-1885)

June 24, 2022. Sintra, Portugal. 

Raining again – where has summer gone. 

Today was one of visiting palaces – the first was the Palace of Pena.

It was a nightmare getting their by bus, as we didn’t want to drive and then try and find parking spots.

In Sintra you are more a mountain goat than a tourist – everywhere is a climb. 

I have never been in a tourist attraction that was so crowded. It was one continuous line right through the Palace interior. 

The Pena Palace was a former monastery that has suffered over the centuries.

It’s history started in the Middle Ages, when it was a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Pena.

A small monastery, that only housed 18 monks was built on the site in the 15th Century. Then in the 18th Century it was severely damaged by lightning. However it was the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 that left it in ruins.

In 1838 King Ferdinand II transformed the remains and turned it into his summer palace.

The current structure was built in the Romantic style and constructed between 1842 and 1854. Over time the dominant colours of red and yellow faded and it was only in the 20th Century that the colour was restored. 

In 1995 the palace and the Cultural Landscape of Sintra became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Over one of the entrances to the Palace was a relief of Triton. Was it male or female, animal, vegetable, fish or even human?

The creature is perched on a giant shell that’s surrounded by many nautical symbols. It is holding a tree trunk that is combined with vines and other flora and fauna.

In the afternoon we trekked over the valley to the 12th Century Moorish Castle. 

Again this was an exercise in mountaineering. 

The Castle of the Moors, as it is sometimes called, was built in the 8th and 9th Centuries and is included in Sintra’s UNESCO World Heritage listing.

Only the walls, some parts of the entrance gate and one tower remain of the castle. The rest was also destroyed in the Great Earthquake of 1755.

The return bus ride was even a bigger stuff up than the one going out. 

Sintra is a huge tourist destination but it’s transport system fails at every level. 


The view from our window in Lisbon (R. Cap. Renato Baptista 32)

June 25, 2022. Sintra to Lisbon, Portugal. 

We moved from Sintra to Lisbon, with a good break in Cabo da Roca. This is the most western point of Continental Europe. 

Once we arrived in Lisbon, the main task was to drop the car off at the airport. 

However our climbing wasn’t over yet. The apartment in Lisbon was on the second floor, the third for us, and there wasn’t a lift.

However the view of parts of Lisbon from the top floor was spectacular.

This was another Airbnb and like so many of them these days the owners or managers never check to see if everything is operational.

The electricity supply had serious issues and the power points seemed to go out when we put the oven on.


Old Lisbon trams

June 26, 2022. Lisbon, Portugal. 

Today was our day to explore Lisbon but before that we discovered Depozito. This was a very eclectic store that had many old posters, collectibles and packaging.

We had a shortish walk to the tram and then a ride into the centre. Lisbon, like Melbourne, is a city of trams and also like Melbourne they proudly show off their antique ones.

Travelling with Ev, Steph and Aida is very different to the way we normally do things. For one, they insist on having lunch.

Now it’s not that I deny Thea lunch when we travel alone, it’s just not that important and I usually only have a coffee and that’s it.

Lunch today was in Rua Augusta, a beautiful walking street in the heart of Lisbon, which ends at the stunning Rua Augusta Arch.

The arch and accompanying buildings were built between 1755 and 1873 to commemorate the devastating earthquake of 1755.

There was a lot of construction happening around the arch and I had my time cut out trying to crop out the cranes that were constantly in my shot.

Not far from the arch was Commerce Square and within the square was the Dom José I Statue. Then, just a little further on, was the Tagus River river front with great views of the April 25 Bridge.

Walking on even further, we then came across the Rossio Train Station. This beautiful station overlooks Rossio Square and was completed in 1890.

A feature is the two intertwined horseshoe portals at the entrance this is done in the Neo-Manueline style. This was first used during the 16th Century in Portugal.

To save our legs and to get on the right path for home we took a funicular. The ride lasted less than five minutes and cost €15.20 for the four of us. Not great value, but it did save us having to climb yet another hill.

Before reaching our apartment we came across a weird park, with all sorts of birds, including roosters and hens. 

Just near the ‘Bird Park’ was a monument to Dr. Sousa Martins.

Because of his work with the poor in Lisbon, he was certainly well liked. Testament to that was the number of notes, memorials and flowers around his statue.

That night we ate in again and battled with the electricity.


The view from Miradouro de Santa

June 27, 2022. Lisbon, Portugal. 

View points was the the theme of today’s tour around Lisbon .

This was partly driven by our desire to see more of the city sights from high up. The view from our apartment was rather good and we felt it could only get better.

We bought a day ticket on the public transport system. This gave us 24 hours travel on the trams, trains, buses and funiculars

The view of Lisbon from Miradouro da Senhora Monte was voted the best after we visited Miradouro da Graça and Miradouro de Santa Luzia.

However we did see some more beautiful Portuguese tile work at Miradouro de Santa Luzia.

We went up to the Castle of St. Jorge but the queue was too long and the guide books suggested that it wasn’t worth the effort to go inside.

Then we tried, for a second time, to get the Santa Justa Lift, but again the line was long and we were running out of time.

That night Ev and Steph were going out for a delayed wedding anniversary dinner and we were on baby sitting duty.

Then the power went out again just as we were preparing dinner

This AirBnB has serious problems.


The Refectory

June 28, 2022. Lisbon, Portugal. 

We caught the train to Belēm, which sits on the Tagus River.

The main reason was to visit the Jerónimos Monastery, however we did stop by the river for a bit of a stroll before putting our tourist hats on.

It was here that we got another view of the April 25 Bridge, this time from the west.

Surrounding the Monastery were lots of green space and parks. In one of them was a very imposing monument to Afonso de Albuquerque (1453-1515).

Alfonso served as the Portuguese viceroy to India from 1509 to 1515. He became known as a strong military leader who helped Portugal to expand its territory across the Indian Ocean.

I wonder how long it will be before the anti colonial movement will push to have his name wiped from the history books and the statue pulled down?

The Jerónimos Monastery was erected in the 1500s, near the departure point of Vasco da Gama’s first journey. It was built in the Portuguese Gothic Manueline style and funded by a tax on the profits taken from the Portuguese India Armadas.

In 1880 Vasco da Gama’s remains were moved there and in 1983 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

There was a very long line waiting to enter and we took it in turns to hold our position in the queue.

It has been very well maintained and restored and we did take some time to wander around its vast interior, visiting the Refectory and the Church.

It did take 100 years to build and with the funding coming from the Portuguese Empire no money was spared.

After the Monastery, we returned back to the river and visited the Padrão dos Descobrimentos Monument.

This Monument to the Discoveries was opened in 1940 and designed by Portuguese architect José Ângelo Cottinelli Telmo, and sculptor Leopoldo de Almeida.

It was only meant to be a temporary beacon during the Portuguese World Exhibition of 1940 and was demolished in 1943. However there was so much resistance to the loss that this new and permanent monument was erected in 1960.

A constant sight, over the Tagus River, is aircraft coming in from the south west to land at Lisbon Airport. They were arriving at a rate of about one every two minutes. 

I guess they are all full of tourists. 

Over the course of the last few weeks I have been playing the ‘Kelpie’ and spending a fair bit of my time rounding up Aida.  

It’s been a lot of fun.

Tonight we gave up on battling with the apartment’s electrical issues and went out for dinner at Ortónimo, a restaurant that was just down the street.

This was our last night in Portugal, it was off to Spain tomorrow.

Look what was staring at me.

Monday, February 26th, 2024

On our trip north last year, we were having dinner in our apartment near Torquey, Queensland and I got rather a shock. 

I went to serve myself some salad and this little feller was staring at me from the bowl. 

I doubt a really good food stylist could create this, even if they tried.

It was just a freak of nature.

Another great idea.

Wednesday, September 21st, 2022


Food delivery vans can be boring, however this one is designed around a great idea. 

And it’s selling the product in a very appetising way.

I found this one in Haverfordwest, Wales.

Let’s try again.

Sunday, January 23rd, 2022

November 22, 2021. Melbourne to Warrnambool. 

Yet again we were heading to Adelaide in an attempt to redeem our paid for accommodation there. 

This was the third time, so hopefully the old adage: ‘Third time lucky’ would be right. 

In Warrnambool we had dinner at the Whalers Hotel, which was the only meal we had out, on our last trip, before lockdown forced us to eat in the room.

That trip we wanted to go to the Warrnambool Hotel, but we missed out as it was full. This night we missed out again, as it was a Monday and they weren’t open.

Would we ever get there? 


Lava Tongue Boardwalk

November 23, 2021. Warrnambool. 

South Australia was opening up after months of closed borders. However there was a plethora of online paperwork and then a COVID test to gain entry.

In the morning we went to get our required Covid tests. The public testing station was at capacity for the day and we were directed to go around the corner to a private laboratory. This was only testing for asymptomatic people or those wanting to travel interstate.

There was little wait time and we were in and out in about 20 minutes and, like the public one, it was free.

This trip we weren’t limited to a 5 kilometre travel zone, so decided to visit Tower Hill, which is 15 kilometres out of Warrnambool.

Tower Hill is an inactive volcano with a 3 kilometre wide and 80 metre deep crater. The last eruption was believed to have been about 35,000 years ago. Aboriginal artefacts have been excavated from the volcanic ash, indicating that the area was settled by indigenous people at the time.

There are some interesting walks around the area but the signage is very poor. We did parts of the ‘Last Volcano Walk’ and the ‘Lava Tongue Boardwalk’ and then drove to the caldera viewing point.

This scene was made famous in 1855 by Eugene von Guerard, one of the foremost landscape artists of the Colonial era.

That evening rain came pelting down, just as we were about to head out to dinner. Would we ever get to the Hotel Warrnambool?

Finally we did make it and remained relatively dry.


Caledonian Hotel (Oldest licensed hotel in Victoria) 1844

November 24, 2021. Warrnambool.

Continuing our plan to travel further than 5 kilometres from our motel, we made a side trip to Port Fairy, which is about 30 kilometres away.

Port Fairy sits at the entrance of the The Moyne River and is a town of historical significance. It was originally established as a whaling station in 1835 by John Griffiths and in 1843 it was developed as a town by James Atkinson. Atkinson drained the swamps, subdivided and leased the land and built the harbour.

There are many significant historic buildings in Port Fairy. Attached to each one is a blue plaque with their original names, uses and date of build.

I spent most of our time in the town photographing these wonderful of examples of colonial architecture.

We then had a walk around the Moyne River entrance and Battery Hill.

On the way back to Warrnambool we stopped at Hopkins Falls. At 90 metres wide and 11 meters high, this one of the widest waterfalls in Australia.

Thea got her COVID ‘all clear’ Text at 11:30am, however I had heard nothing by 4pm, so we returned to the testing station in Warrnambool to try and find out why.

They suggested that I phone their notification centre and after 57 minutes on hold I finally got through.

Fortunately I was also negative.

That night we went to the Whalers Hotel again for a drink, then had dinner at Images, a restaurant where we got takeaway from on our last trip. The takeaway had been excellent, so we decided to try the sit down menu – it was also very good.


Blue Lake Mount Gambia

November 25, 2021. Warrnambool to Robe SA. 

After three nights in Warrnambool we were heading to South Australia, which wasn’t an easy place to get into.

Apart from all the apps and online paperwork, there was a border check at Nelson, just outside Mount Gambia. Things went relatively smoothly there, even though one of the App passwords still had not been texted to us.

The chap at the border check wasn’t surprised – I don’t think they have that part of the process working yet. 

As I said to many people on our return to Melbourne: It was easier getting into East Berlin in 1972 than it was getting into South Australia in 2021.

South Australia has a maximum speed limit of 110 kph. on most country roads. It works where the roads can sustain that speed but it’s a bit hairy when they can’t.

We stopped at Mount Gambia for lunch and then visited the Blue Lake, which isn’t far from the city.

The Blue Lake is a large monomictic crater lake located in a dormant volcano. There are conflicting dates to when the volcano last erupted, from 4,300 to 28,000 years ago.

If the most recent date is to be believed, this would make it the most recent volcanic eruption on the Australian mainland.

The lake gets its name from the fact that it turns a vibrant cobalt blue during the summer months.

The Blue Lake supplies Mount Gambia with drinking water and there is a very attractive pumping station on the rim that was built in 1900.

After the Blue Lake we travelled a short distance to see the Valley Lake, another crater lake similar to the Blue Lake and one of the lakes that is part of the Mount Gambia maar.

We arrived at Robe in the late afternoon. 

It was very quiet, compared to Warrnambool. 


Robe Obelisk 1855

November 26, 2021. Robe SA. 

In the morning the temperature had dropped, the sky was grey and there was a gale blowing, which apparently isn’t uncommon for Robe.

Breakfast was at the Robe Store, which is in the Robe Industrial Estate. We went there as they featured Mahalia Coffee, which is locally roasted. 

It was a very funky store with an eclectic range of gifts and a strange, old fashioned, style of interior decor.

Robe has two very contrasting districts.

There’s the main town area, with its colonial building and traditional shops, pubs, and restaurants. Then on the outskirts of the town is the industrial estate, with the Robe Craft Brewery, Robe Store and Transmutation.

Transmutation is a plastic recycling workshop and retail outlet, with a deep concern for the environment.

It fits in perfectly to the industrial estate’s alternative approach.

Robe was named after the fourth Governor of South Australia, Major Fredrick Robe, who chose the site as a port in 1845.

Around 1857 over 16,000 Chinese immigrates landed in Robe. They were heading overland to the Victorian goldfields, as the Victorian Government had introduces a £10 landing tax to discourage Chinese migrants.

This tax was more than they had paid for their voyage to Australia.

We did the historic walk around Robe to the Obelisk, covering such sites at the Pai Fang Welcoming Gate, the Chinese Memorial and another to Captain Mathew Flinders and Sub Lieutenant Nicolas Baudin and the Robe Customs House, that operated between 1863 and 1888. 

The Obelisk is the symbol of Robe.

It can be seen from many parts of the area surrounding the town and its image adorns all sorts of businesses and tourist attractions.

The Robe Obelisk was built in 1855 and was used as a landmark to guide ships entering Guichen Bay. It was also used to store rocket fired lifesaving equipment for stricken ships. 

It is 12 metres tall and can be seen for 20 kilometres out at sea.

Near the obelisk are the ruins to the old Robe Gaol. There isn’t much to see as everything is in ruins.

Late in the afternoon we visited the Robe Town Brewery for a taste of craft beer. 

Like all good brew pubs it was in a warehouse, so dogs were allowed and being a Friday night, there was live music and lots of families.

Dinner that night was at the Caledonian Inn, which we were told, was the best of the local pubs.

It was ok.


1976. No engine in the Coorong

November 27, 2021. Robe to Wellington SA. 

In the morning the sun was out but the wind still strong, so we decided to revisit a couple of the places we had seen the day before, hoping that the light was better for our snaps.

On the way to Wellington we made a side trip to Kingston SE.

This was where we spent a few days after the engine of our VW Campervan blew up on November 2nd, 1976. 

So it was with a little trepidation that I agreed to make the return trip to Kingston SE.

When our VW blew up on the Coorong, a stretch of windblown coast that starts at the mouth of the Murray and finishes at Kingston SE, we had to be towed into Kingston SE. There we waited to find out that the engine was unrepairable and would need to be replaced.

While we waited for the bad news we stayed at the local caravan park and slept in the engineless van.

This was both strange and uncomfortable.

The engine of the VW was in the back and without it the van stuck up into the air, causing us to slide out of bed during the night on a number of occasions.

The new engine had to come from Adelaide and wouldn’t be available for at least a week.

Due to work commitments we returned to Melbourne by public transport, then came back to Kingston SE a week later to retrieve the van.

As the engine was new and needed running in, it was rather a slow drive back to Melbourne.

All in all it wasn’t an enjoyable time in Kingston SE.

It was a longish drive to Wellington, through the Coorong and I was rather glad when we had left the area without any further drama.

As we were too early to check into our hotel in Wellington we stopped at Wellington East and visited the Pangarinda Botanical Gardens.

These gardens are designed to preserve and propagate Australia’s threatened flora, especially from dryer regions.

It was a sunny afternoon and the gardens were a blaze of colour.

We had to get a punt across the Murray River to our hotel, the Wellington, which is right on the river bank.

The Wellington Punt was established in 1839 and was the first and most important Murray River crossing at the time. It was a vital link between South Australia and Victoria and ultimately the Victorian gold fields.

These days the ferry is free and runs 24/7, so throughout the night it was making the 12 minute crossing.

Dinner was at ‘The Welly’ as there was nowhere else to go, unless we wanted to get the punt back over the river.


Newland Memorial Church 1939

November 28, 2021. Wellington to Victor Harbor SA. 

As the Welly didn’t serve breakfast we were on the punt and back over the river, to Wellington East, for breakfast at ‘The Hall’. 

This seemed to be the trendy place to go for the locals and tourists.

The building was originally a church, built by a local indigenous man, who was prohibited from attending the ‘White’ congregation.

Not very Christian of them.

After breakfast, which was fantastic, it was a bit of a drive and then another punt, this one at Talem Bend, to get us on the road to Victor Harbor.

Then a drive through the Langhorne Creek wine region to Milang.

There we took The Milang Flyer, for the shortest rail trip ever – 300 metres and that was there and back. The train driver was young and very enthusiastic and we got all the info about the train line and the engine.

There is a museum associated with the train and everything is run by volunteers and it’s free.

Afternoon coffee was at the mouth of the Murray at the Coorong Cafe. It was a takeaway van but they did accept our KeepCups and the coffee wasn’t that bad.

The Murray’s mouth is constantly being dredged, as there is a massive build up of silt. This is funded jointly by the South Australian, New South Wales and Victorian Governments.

Once we reached Victor Harbor we had quick walk around town, as it isn’t very big. However one of the most impressive businesses appeared to be the Tattoo Parlour.

And it’s not surprising, considering the number of locals with ‘ink’. 

Our accommodation was at the Hotel Victor, where our Covid screening was the most intense we have encountered so far. 

As an aside, the spelling of Victor Harbor, with the lack of a ‘u’ is not an American influence but a return to archaic English.


The old and new pier leading to Granite Island

November 29, 2021. Victor Harbor SA. 

Breakfast was a short walk down the beach to Qahwa, a cafe in a pavilion, between the tennis and beach volleyball courts. 

There was no one playing either sport but the young kids were enjoying the sand on the volleyball side.

Granite Island is one of the main attractions of Victor Harbor, as well as the horse drawn tram that ferries people to it.

However the tram wasn’t running, as there is a new pier under construction and there was the associated kaleidoscope of ‘high-vis’ working on the job.

We did an anti clockwise walk around Granite Island with amazing rock formations and wildflowers along the route.

After circumnavigating the island we retuned to walk back over the bridge, there I found a mobile phone just sitting on a rock and looking very lonely.

I took it to the Causeway Cafe, that’s at the start of the bridge, and left it with the the staff there.

The teamwork involved in getting it back to its owner, who was a student, was amazing.

When I found the phone I mentioned to one of the ‘hi-vis’ there that I had it and would take it to the cafe. A teacher came looking for it, spoke to the worker and then phoned the lost phone’s number. A cafe staff member answered the phone and told the teacher that It was there.

Both the student of the lost phone and their parents would have been very relieved that night – that’s if the student ever fessed up to loosing it.

In the afternoon we drove to The Bluff, Fleurieu Peninsula and then back to Victor Harbor. It was a relaxing drive with iconic Australian rural views along the route.

That night we dined in at the Hotel Victor.

It had been a long day and we didn’t feel like venturing too far from our room.


Truffles, Horatio, Oliver and Augusta in Rundle Mal

November 30, 2021. Victor Harbor to Adelaide SA. 

Breakfast was back at Qahwa, as the temperature started to rise.

It seems to be a popular spot, with many of the same people having breakfast as were there the previous morning.

It was a relatively short drive to Adelaide, however we did make a diversion to Hahndorf. 

This iconic town, with its strong German influence, was setting up for Christmas and the evidence of the European celebrations could be seen everywhere.

We checked into the Frome Street Apartments in the middle of the afternoon.

Using the credit from an earlier trip, that was abandoned due to a lockdown, was the reason for coming to South Australia in the first place.

It was great to be able to finally get a return for the money spent.

It was very hot in Adelaide when we arrived, with the temperature up around 39°C. 

We had a brief walk along Rundle Mall before buying some provisions for breakfast. 

We figured that the money we saved on getting our own breakfasts for the next three mornings, might go towards paying for the parking, which was in a multi-story carpark just down the road.

After trying to get into a number of restaurants that were booked out (well it was a Tuesday and most places were closed) we settled on ‘The Original Coopers Ale house’. This was situated in  The Earl Aberdeen Hotel. 

Originally built in 1879, it was a part of a network of Adelaide’s corner pubs. An addition was made in 1924 and in 1987 it was refurbished and officially opened by Dame Edna Everage, AKA Barry Humphries, as the ‘Coopers Alehouse’ the home to South Australia’s last remaining major brewery.


Skyline Wheel

December 1, 2021. Adelaide SA. 

It wasn’t a good start to the day when we discovered that the hot tap in the shower was caput. 

After a few phone calls a plumber turned up and changed a washer. 

So it was a late morning shower and a late start to the day. 

As we self catered for breakfast we weren’t forced to go onto the streets ‘unwashed’

The temperatures were high again as we went for coffee at Roxie’s Garden Cafe. It was a pleasant environment but the coffee was very disappointing, even after we gave specific instructions on how we wanted it. 

We caught the Tram to Glenelg, which is on the beach and if you have a Seniors Card, it’s a free ride.

Another benefit of getting old. 

At the beach it was much cooler and we enjoyed a walk around the area and also along the pier.

The vast majority of people in the water and on the sand were school leavers and university students – all on holiday now. 

On the pier there were lots of these young people, both boys and girls. These I divided into ‘jumpers’ and ‘non-jumpers’, as there was a group who just jumped off the pier and another lot that talked about it but never committed.

It was a coffee for me and lunch for Thea in Moseley Square at Cibo Espresso. 

The coffee this time was excellent. 

Then it was another free tram ride back into Adelaide.

There were parts of the track running in a fenced off area, here the tram went flat out. 

It was the Glenelg ‘Bullet Train’

When you are on foot, waiting for traffic lights in Adelaide takes up half your journey.

This is a city for drivers, not pedestrians and the traffic light cycle takes forever as cars from all directions get right of way ahead of the poor old peds.

We walked, all be it slowly, to Soi 38 for Dinner.

This was a Thai restaurant with great food but there was a winging old fart at the table next to us who complained about everything. 

He left well before us, greatly improving the atmosphere and the night’s experience.


Grand Lodge of Freemasons 1925

December 2, 2021. Adelaide SA. 

It was a better start to the day, with everything working. 

The temperature was still warm but not as hot as the previous two days. 

Morning coffee was at Cibo Espresso on Pirie Street. This was one in a group of cafes that we found at the beach in Glenelg. 

Again the coffee was great. 

We walked to the Himeji Japanese-style gardens, built to celebrate the Sister City relationship of Adelaide with the Japanese city of Himeji. 

We then continued our tour through a number of Adelaide’s beautiful parks back into the city.

In King Rodney Park / Ityamai-Itpina we met a chap practicing Frisbee or Disc Golf. This, as the name suggests, uses frisbees, not golf clubs and ball to play a round.

The interesting thing was that he was practicing with a range of different frisbees. As he explained you choose the frisbee that best suits the ‘shot’ you want to make.

Much like choosing the right golf club I guess.

In walking through the parks we discovered that each one has an anglicised name as well as an indigenous one. This is a great way to recognise the original inhabitants of the area.

Lunch and coffee at The Rose East End. Then it was a short walk up the bottom end of Rundle Street. Here we discovered all the interesting places to eat in the old market area close to our apartment – pity we hadn’t known about this earlier.

We then walked down to and around the main train station and back to our apartment.

Late in the afternoon we did return to the old market area and had a quick drink before dinner. 

At least we can now say, we didn’t miss it. 

Dinner was at Nazz, a Persian restaurant we discovered on our first night, while walking to the pub. 

The food was good and much more ‘fancy’ than we had experienced in Iran. Plus there was alcohol, which we never got on that trip.


Coonalpyn Silos (Built in 1965 painted by Guido in 2017)

December 3, 2021. Adelaide SA to Horsham Vic. 

After breakfast in the room we went and picked up the car from the car park. 

The cost was about equivalent to staying another night. We are certainly glad that we decided to save some money and self cater our breakfasts.

The joys of staying in the city. 

The Frome Street Apartments were in a great location and walking distance from most of the attractions in Adelaide, apart from Glenelg Beach.

We had coffee on the road in Murray Bridge and then it was back on the road to Horsham, with a sightseeing stop to see the Coonalpyn Silos. These were built in 1965 and painted by Guido in 2017.

Then it was lunch and a coffee in the Morning Loaf Bakery in Bordertown. 

It was a barn if a place where the staff were more interested in chatting among themselves, rather than serving their customers. 

We then visited the Kaniva Silos for another photo opportunity. These were painted by David Lee Pereira in 2020 and pay tribute to the nearby Little Desert and its diverse flora and fauna.

We were staying at the Horsham Country City Motor Inn and had dinner at the nearby Exchange Hotel.

December 4, 2021. Horsham Vic. to Sorrento. 

Breakfast was again in the room, as we wanted to give ourselves enough time to catch an early afternoon ferry from Queenscliff to Sorrento. 

Our coffee stop was in Ararat. 

The drive from Horsham to Queenscliff was a pleasant cross country event as the Subaru’s GPS, ‘Sue’ we call her, decided that this rather round-about route was the way to go. 

We managed to arrive in time to get the 2pm boat, which was perfect, giving us enough time to shop in Sorrento for our weekend stay. 

The trip was complete and it had been a case of ‘Third time lucky’

Plan Z.

Thursday, September 30th, 2021

August 5, 2021. Melbourne to Warrnambool. 

This trip was yet another attempt to escape the city and do a bit of travelling.

Just prior to the last lockdown, number five, we had planned, and booked to go to South Australia. It was called off at the last moment, leaving us with paid-for accommodation in Adelaide.

This was going to be an opportunity to try and redeem that expense.

Rain started on the way from Melbourne. Well we were driving, so it didn’t matter that much

Rumours of another lockdown started coming through Thea’s grapevine.

We met Jenny and Neil, Steph’s parents, in Inverleigh for a coffee. They had the same idea; to escape for a few days.

After checking into our motel, Eight Spence, we went for a walk around Warrnambool. It was still wet but we managed to dodge the heavier showers.

We found what looked like a good pub for dinner and decided to book a table. Unfortunately they were full. I then went back in again to try and book for the next night and discovered that there was to be another lockdown, number six for the state.

It was starting at 8pm that night, which meant we needed to organise an early dinner quickly.

We desperately searched for a new venue and found The Whaler, another of Warrnambool’s iconic pubs. After making a booking we hurriedly returned to our room so Thea could quickly charge her phone. 

It was then back to the pub.

I think the the last time I had dinner at 5.30pm, I was still living at home with my parents.

By now the pub was filling up and we noticed that one of the other tables was occupied by a couple we had seen at our motel. 

Word about the new lockdown had spread quickly.

After dinner, which ended at 7.45, we popped into the local supermarket to get supplies for breakfast.

The motel room was going to be our home and restaurant for the next few days.


August 6, 2021. Warrnambool. 

It rained overnight and there was more rain in the morning.

We had been told that the coffee was good at the Foreshore Pavilion, so after breakfast we headed there.

I met, what turned out to be the owner of the cafe, on the way to get our coffees. John showed me where to go and ordered our coffees from his barista.

I think John appreciated that we had brought our reusable ‘ThinkCups’ and he was also glad to see tourists back in town.

It was then back to the car to drink our brews, which weren’t too bad. The front seats of the Subaru was to be our new morning coffee spot for the foreseeable future.

At least we could move around in the car and the front console does have good cup holders.

Unfortunately the rain was blowing in and the view from the ‘cafe’ wasn’t much.

The walk along the breakwater looked good, but it was far too wet to attempt it today.

It would have to wait.

We wanted to get a feeling for Warrnambool, so went for a drive around town. It’s not a big place and we discovered that we were very close to the centre of any action – not that there was any now.

It was then a drive to the Logan’s Beach Whale Nursery, sadly no whales but lots of orange foam. We were told that this was caused by storm water flowing from the mouth of the Hopkins River,  which is very sandy and close by.

In the afternoon we had a strange walk around Lake Pertobe.

The area was once part of the sea and then became a swamp. Ever since Warrnambool was first settled in 1847, there have been plans to turn it into something useful.

In 1974 a project was started by the City Engineer, Edward ‘Johnny’ Johnson to preserve the bird-life and turn the area it into recreational lake and parkland.

It was largely completed by 1980.

However, with all the rain that had fallen over the last few days we found it hard to negotiate some of the grassy paths around the lake and we had to turn back.

It had reverted to the swamp. 

Takeaway food isn’t something we are used to buying, so we were on a steep learning curve. Especially considering that this was how things were going to be over the next few days.

Images Restaurant, was another place we had been told about, apparently their takeaway was good.

We figured that a pasta meal would be the easiest to reheat and consume, especially with the limited equipment and utensils we had in the room. Fortunately we did have some extra bowls, cutlery and condiments in the car.

Outside it was still raining.


August 7,, 2021. Warrnambool. 

We were back to the Pavilion Cafe to get our morning coffee. The weather was a bit clearer, so we could actually see the breakwater from the car. Then afterwards we walked along it, desperately trying to avoid the waves crashing over the sea wall.

Adjacent to the pavilion, is the Merri Marine Sanctuary, with Merri and Middle Island.

Warrnambool has been made famous by the Middle Island Maremma Project. The operation was started in 2006 when foxes invaded the island during the breeding season, and decimated the Little Penguin population. 

Allan ‘Swampy’ Marsh, a local chicken farmer, suggested that Maremma guardian dogs be used to protect the penguins. Swampy had successfully used the dogs to protect his chickens. This was a world first and became known as ‘The Warrnambool Method’.

Maremma is an Italian breed of livestock guardian dogs, indigenous to the central part of Italy.

In the afternoon we went for a walk along Granny’s Grave Track. Granny was actually Agnes Ruttleton, the first European woman buried in the area in 1848.

There was some confusion over her name, as she was originally thought to be Mrs James Raddlestone, the wife of a local crayfish farmer. In 2014 the Warrnambool City Council corrected the mistake.

That evening we had a dusk walk around the Warrnambool Botanical Gardens, which were only about a ten minute stroll from the motel.

The gardens were designed in 1877 by William Guilfoyle, who was at the time the Director of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens. 

The gardens are set on a gently sloping area of land, encircled by pathways. Visitors to the park were far outnumbered by the birds and bats in the surrounding trees.

This is certainly the upmarket area of Warrnambool, as the streets around the gardens are lined with  well maintained Victorian and Edwardian mansions.

It was then time to organise another takeaway dinner.

We had planned to have Thai from Cattleya, but ended up getting Mexican from Cactus Jam. This was just next door, and also on Timor Street, which was very easy to get to and park when we picked up or meal.

The reason we didn’t have Thai was that when we phoned to order our meal we were told the wait would be an hour and a half – well it was a Saturday night in lockdown.

After dinner and before we settled in to watching TV from the comfort of our king size bed, we went for a walk around town.

The hoons in Warrnambool are a lot more upmarket than in many Victorian country towns. Here they drive hotted up BMWs, as well as the customary Commodores and Ford or Holden Utes.

There was yet more rain overnight, which did add to the gloominess of our forced retreat.


August 8, 2021. Warrnambool.

We were told that the weather was going to improve, so we decided to stay an extra night, putting off the inevitability of returning home.

And sure enough, in the morning, the rain had finally cleared.

Our first adventure for the day, after breakfast in the room that is, was to get a coffee. 

Today it was coffee from The Beach Kiosk Cafe, near Lake Pertobe, and then a short drive to drink it overlooking Thunder Point. 

The clientele at Beach Kiosk were very different to the those at the Pavilion Cafe. It was a younger group with lots of teenagers, children and dogs.

However the coffee wasn’t as good.

The sun was shining, so after coffee in the car we did the walk from Thunder Point to Breakwater Point. This was another wonderful walk, mainly on a raised boardwalk. We ended up at the Merri River, overlooking Merri and Middle Islands. 

Later on Thea got some lunch and I an espresso from 2 Tarts Baking. Again we were sitting in the car. 

‘2 Tarts Baking’ are they two local ladies with dubious morals, or just country humour?

We then returned to Logan’s Beach Whale Nursery, still no sightings.

Before dinner we went for a brief walk around James Swan Reserve, which was just over the road from the motel.

The reserve is a dedicated native garden that was established in 1970. Unfortunately it’s a picnicking spot for the locals, who clearly don’t understand the concept of a rubbish bin.

There were at least two huge piles of rubbish, from the nearby Maccas and KFC.

We did do our civic duty and cleaned up.

Dinner was in the room again, this time we had the Thai we were going to get the previous night.

Then another evening in front of the box – at least the Olympics have given us something interesting to watch.


August 9, 2021. Warrnambool to Sorrento, oh no, Ballarat now. 

Time to return back to Melbourne, well we were planning on going back to Sorrento and had booked the ferry from Queenscliff.

First we drove to Cobden for coffee and then on to Lorne for lunch. In Lorne we found out that regional Victoria would be coming out of lockdown at midnight.

We figured that as we were in regional Victoria already and had been since before the Melbourne lockdown started, we could continue to travel in the country.

We briefly considered staying put in Lorne, but it was so quiet and half the places were shut, so we decided to move on.

The most lively part of the town was the cockatoos squawking on the beach.

So another change of plan and we were now off to Ballarat for two nights.

There were a number of restaurants that looked promising for our evening ‘takeaway’ However the best looking ones were shut, so we had to settle for Nandos. The other choice was Maccas and that really wasn’t an option.

On our after dinner walk, we discovered that the Ballarat hoons were out. They were not nearly as well off as the ones from Warrnambool, as they were driving the more common hotted up Commodores and Utes

The nightly Ballarat news was asking the local shop and cafe owners to check everyone’s ID, especially if they didn’t recognise them. This was to make sure that there were no people sneaking in from locked-down Melbourne.

This was cause for concern.

August 10, 2021. Ballarat to Melbourne. 

Yet another change of plan.

That morning, after careful consideration, we decided to do the right thing and return to Melbourne. An added incentive for us to return home, was that if we were breaking the law we could incur a $5,000 fine – each.

However, before we left, we did have an excellent breakfast from Yellow Espresso, on Sturt Street.

We actually got to sit down and our Avocado on Toast and a great coffee was served on proper crockery and cutlery – the simple joys travelling.

Interestingly no one in the cafe asked where we were from, they were just happy that people were out again and spending.

Then it was into the car and back to Melbourne.

Over the last few months we have had so many plans to escape, that the alphabet isn’t long enough to label them.

I am now going designate our plans numerically, as it is infinite. 

Back to Yack.

Friday, April 30th, 2021

April 22, 2021. Melbourne to Milawa. 

This short break was very much a family affair and built around another return trip to Yackandandah or Yack, as it is affectionately known.

Yack holds a very special place in the hearts of Thea’s family.

Her father, although born in Melbourne, spent much of his early childhood in Yack after his mother died when he was only 8 months old. He was then raised by his grandparents in this quaint country town.

Yackandandah was a former gold mining centre and has its origins in the 1850s. Immigrants from around the world flocked to this area when gold was discovered.

We had visited Yack at this time of year in the past and were taken by the spectacular display of Autumn colours.

We were certainly not disappointed this time as well.

Our first night’s stop on the way to Yack, was at Milawa, an area is known for its wineries and food. 

We had booked into the Gamze Smokehouse and Restaurant for dinner, which was just 200 metres from our motel. 

As the restaurant name suggests, there were lots of local cured meat on offer. We therefore started with the Charcuterie board. 

We should have stopped there, as it was huge. 

They even had Bridge Road Brewery Pale Ale, from Beechworth, on tap as well as many local wines.


Brown Brothers of Milawa (1889)

April 23, 2021. Milawa to Yackandandah.

It was only a short 50km drive to Yack, so we decided to visit some of the famous gourmet food manufacturers that are in the region.

After breakfast at the motel we went looking for a coffee and popped into Brown Brothers.

This celebrated winery, dating back to 1896, was at the forefront in the creation of the Milawa Gourmet Region.

Established in 1994, this food and wine area was the first to be developed in Australia.

As well as wine there are many other culinary delights manufactured in the region, such as mustards, cheeses, breads, olives and, as we discovered, smoked meats.

We did manage to do a bit of shopping before continuing our journey.

Another side trip on the road to Yack, was a stop in Myrtleford. There we walked through the Rotary Park, where we discovered the historic Log Tobacco Kiln that was built in 1957. 

From the 1930s to the 1960s tobacco growing and curing was a major industry in this region. Much of the land was owned and worked by Italian immigrants.

It was then time for a walk and along the Ovens River.

We were accompanied by a group of young adults with disabilities. They were having a great outing and delighted in discovering a series of mosaics that had been created along the river walk.

In the heart of Myrtleford, we discovered Coffee Chakra. It was officially closed but they still managed to serve us. 

It was both a coffee roaster and cafe so the brew was excellent. 

Myrtleford seems to have become a haven for Australians of Indian heritage, as we saw many around the town. They were not just visiting but active in local business as well. In fact the barista, owner and coffee roaster at Coffee Chakra was of Indian origin but with a broad Aussie accent.

On the way out of town we visited The Big Tree. This giant Red River Gum is one of the largest of its kind in Victoria and over 200 years old.

That night there was a large group of 12 for dinner, which was at the Star Hotel.

The Star is also known as the Top Pub, being at the top of Yackandandah’s High Street. It was also very close to the motel where most of us were staying.


Yackandandah Creek

April 24, 2021. Yackandandah. 

We all had a quiet day in Yack, punctuated by a group walk to Yackandandah Creek.

The main purpose was to visit the spot where the ashes of Thea’s father, mother and brother have been scattered.

That night it was dinner at the Yackandandah Hotel, or the Bottom Pub, which, understandably, is at the bottom of the High Street hill.


Lake Hume

April 25, 2021. Yackandandah. 

It was Anzac Day and Yackandandah, like many country towns, had a parade.

High Street was blocked off and the local returned service men and women, as well as others wearing their relative’s medals marched up the hill. After them came the children of the town’s sporting groups, clubs and school.

All this was accompanied by a marching band. 

It was a very short parade that lasted less than 10 minutes. There was then a wreath laying ceremony in the Memorial Park.

In the afternoon we drove to the Huon Reserve car park and did a return walk, along the Lake Hume and High Country Rail Trail to the Sandy Creek Rail Bridge. 

Lake Hume, formerly Hume Reservoir, was constructed between 1919 and 1936 by damming the Murray River downstream of its junction with the Mitta River.

The dam has many purposes, such as flood mitigation, hydro-power, irrigation, water supply and conservation.

There are hundreds of dead trees partly submerged in the lake, giving it the eerie feeling of a tree graveyard. 

That night dinner was back at the Top Pub and being a Sunday night it was much quieter than it had been on Friday.

Friday seems to be the night that country people hit the town.


The grave of George Henry Backhaus (50 years) and John Henry Backhaus (42 years) Who died September 23, 1915

April 26, 2021. Yackandandah to Corryong. 

This was our last morning in Yack, before the shortish drive to Corryong, where we would stay for two nights.

It was a day of ghost hunting for Thea as we meandered towards Corryong.

We stopped at Yabba Cemetery where George and John  Backhaus are buried. Tragically these two brothers, great uncles of Thea, died in a house fire on September 23, 1915.

It was the strangest cemetery I have ever visited. Out in the middle of nowhere, we had to go through a farm gate then walk across paddock to get the cemetery entrance.

Once we reached Corryong I had some work to do and the best place was in the bar of the Corryong Hotel, which is where we were staying.

Well it did have good internet and a bench to put my computer on.

In town the Corryong Hotel/Motel is also known as the Bottom Pub. What is it with this top and bottom thing?

The food was ok and they did have Blowhard Pale Ale from Bright Brewery on tap.

As the kitchen closed at 8:30 so it was an early night, made even more interesting by the size of the room we were in.

You could barely swing a possum in there.

We found the best place to get out of each others way was to sit on the bed and watch TV.


Blue-tongue lizard on the dam wall

 April 27, 2021. Corryong.

Breakfast at the motel wasn’t great but it was included in the cost of the room.

We then had a coffee at the Cafe Corryong Brew, which is next door to White Owl Coffee Roasters.

The coffee was great, that’s after giving the barista a few instructions as to the size and strength of what we wanted.

Today we were searching for the source of the mighty Murray River and not looking for ghosts. 

That was until we discovered that the spring, which is the source, is in an inaccessible wilderness area 

The weather was beautiful with a high of 23°C+ – time to drag out the shorts from the bottom of the bag. 

We did stop at Bringenbrong, which crosses over the Murray River on the border between NSW and Victoria.

From there we drove into NSW and on to Khancoban Dam, where we walked across the dam wall. Halfway across we found a rather large blue-tongue lizard, sunning itself on the side of the road.

The views from the spillway of the Khancoban Pondage and the Swampy Plain River valley were spectacular.

Being in the heart of the Snowy Mountain Scheme we then drove the short distance to the Murray 1 Power Station.

This is just one of seven power stations, sixteen major dams, 145km of interconnected tunnels and 80 km of aqueducts in the Snowy Scheme.

Completed in 1974, it took 25 years to build and today is regarded as one of the seven engineering wonders of the modern world.

It was then back to Corryong where we did a bit of local sightseeing.

The Man from Snowy River, a poem by Banjo Peterson, (1864-1941) is immortalised in a statue by the artist Brett Garling. The statue sits proudly next to the Corryong tourist information office.

The poem was first published in the Bulletin magazine on April 26, 1890 and is one of Australia’s most famous pieces.

It is believed that the The Man, is the legendary local stockman, Jack Riley, who migrated form Ireland to Australia, as a 13-year-old, in 1850.

Another local hero, this one of the canine variety, is Horrie the Wog Dog. His statue is in the memorial gardens, which is next to our favourite coffee shop, Cafe Corryong Brew. 

It’s no coincidence that Horrie’s statue sits near the war memorial celebrating those locals who lost their lives in times of conflict.

Horrie, an Egyptian Terrier, was the unofficial mascot of the 2/1st Machine Gun Battalion of the Second Australian Imperial Force. He was befriended by an Australian soldier, Private Jim Moody, while they were fighting in Egypt during the Second World War.

He served as an air sentry and was promoted to rank of corporal.

Horrie moved around with the Battalion and was finally smuggled back to Australia when Jim Moody was repatriated in 1942.

Due to Australia’s strict quarantine laws it’s believed that Horrie was put down in 1945. However there is an alternative story, that has become local legend, that Moody substituted another dog for Horrie and he lived on in Corryong.

Dinner was at the Corryong Hotel again as there wasn’t much else open. 

That night it was a Super Moon or Pink Moon as it’s described in the northern hemisphere. This has nothing to do with the moon’s hue but the colour of the spring flowers that are found during this Spring moon event. 


Murray Grey cattle in their original habitat

April 28, 2021. Corryong to Melbourne. 

After another good coffee at the Cafe Corryong Brew, we set off on what was to be a long day’s drive home.

The first part was an exploration of the newly named Great River Road. This took us from Corryong through Towong, Walway and Jingellic to Lake Hume.

The scenery was spectacular as we drove west, with the Murray River coming and going on the right hand side.

We even came across the birthplace of the Murray Grey at Thologolong, as well as a small herd grazing on the roadside.

This iconic breed of cattle was discovered by accident in 1905 by the Sutherland family. It can now be found throughout Australia, New Zealand, Asia, North America and Europe.

After the meandering drive along the Murray to Lake Hume it was then onto the Hume Highway and back to Melbourne

Bushfire relief drive: Take 2.

Wednesday, March 31st, 2021

After the devastating bushfires in south eastern Australia last summer, we decided to visit some of the worst effected areas.

Not to gawk but to spend some money and give back something to these communities that had been so badly hit.

That was not to be.

Once the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic became obvious and we went into lockdown, no travel, even so close to home, was possible.

Now, twelve months on, we decided to deliver on our promise and make our bushfire relief drive.

March 16, 2021. Melbourne to Lakes Entrance. 

Our first day away consisted of a rather longish drive to Lakes Entrance. This was broken with a coffee and lunch stop in Yarragon. This is a cute little ‘Coffee break town’ that’s just off the Princes Highway and set up for passing tourists, truckies and also the Gippsland Railway.

On the first night of our break, at the suggestion of the motel owner, we ate at the Kalimna Hotel. 

We needed to get a taxi there as it was a long walk, up a steep road, heading out of town.

This was a basic pub with a stunning view over the lakes.

Having become used to getting craft beer in many pubs these days, it was rather disappointing to discover that Great Northern Bitter was the most exciting brew they had on offer.

Believe me, this is certainly not a beer to write home about.


Stony Creek Trestle Bridge (1916)

March 17, 2021. Lakes Entrance. 

As we had two nights in Lakes Entrance, and the weather was fine, we decided to make this a day of walking.

Our adventure took us from the Log Crossing Picnic Area in Colquhuon State Forest to the Limestone Box Forest Track, then Armstrongs Track to the Gippsland Lakes Discovery Trail and Tramway Walk.

The aftermath of the bushfires was evident, but the regrowth had done a wonderful job of restoring the bush tracks.

The original Mississippi Creek Tramway was developed in the 1900s and used until the 1930s. It transported granite from a quarry in the area to the developing Lakes Entrance township, fishing port and tourist area.

In 1870 the town was originally called Cunninghame but became Lakes Entrance in 1915.

After the walk we then drove along the Uncles and Old Colquhoun Roads to the Stony Creek Trestle Bridge.

Built in 1916, when the rail line from Melbourne to Bairnsdale was extended to Orbost, it is the largest bridge of its type in Victoria and listed as an historic site.

Built from ironbark and grey box timber, it is 247 metres long and 20 metres high and was in service for over 60 years. Badly damaged by bushfires in 1980 it was finally closed in 1987.

That night we had dinner at Sodafish, a floating seafood restaurant right in the middle of the harbour’s fishing fleet.

Again, this restaurant was booked at the suggestion of the owner’s of the Sandbar Motel.


Suburu on Wheelers Hill (699m) McKillops Road

March 18, 2021. Lakes Entrance to Marlo via McKillops Road (C611).

Today we decided to drive one of the; ‘Most hazardous and dangerous roads in Australia’ as it has been described by the website ‘’

The McKillops Road drive is 80km along a gravel road, in the Snowy River National Park. Yes there are many narrow sections, with blind corners but it certainly isn’t the hairiest drive I have ever encountered.

We would have thought twice about taking the road if it had been wet, as there are many tight corners with steep drop-offs to the side.

The AWD capabilities of the Subaru were very useful and at no time did I feel as though we were in any danger.

In fact our drive from Beacon, in New York State, back to Harlem, in New York City in November 2017 was the the worst drive I have ever done – and that was on a sealed road in the rain.

A man made feature of the McKillop’s Road drive, is McKillop’s Bridge. This is situated about half way along the C611, near the confluence of the Snowy and Deddick Rivers.

The bridge is made of welded-steel trusses with reinforced-concrete piers and was built over the Snowy River between 1931 and 1936.

It is 255 metres in length and originally constructed as a stock bridge.

From there we drove to Marlo where we were booked into the Marlo Hotel.

There isn’t much in Marlo and the hotel seems to be the go-to destination, as that night the restaurant was full.


Kookaburra at the Mallacoota Coastal Reserve Caravan Park

March 19, 2021. Marlo to Mallacoota via Cape Conran.

The clouds have increased and the skies are much darker. This is all part of a large weather front that is developing over NSW.

Today we were driving the rather short distance from Marlo to Mallacoota, with a diversion to Cape Conran.

We had a good breakfast and excellent coffee in Marlo at the Snowy River Tackle and Cafe complex. There you can get live worms for your bait and Avo on Toast for your breakfast.

Just out of Marlo we could see, what is described on the map as, the mouth of the Snowy River.

This now appears to be blocked by a sand bar, as no exit was visible.

Steph, Ev’s partner, has spent many holidays camping at Cape Conran with her family, so we decided to visit it ourselves. 

The bushfires have certainly left their mark here and blackened trees can be seen almost reaching down to the water’s edge.

We then drove on to Mallacoota and, by total coincidence, checked into Bruce’s Waterside Units.

We were staying in the Captain’s Cabin, which was in fact an old school house.

The rain was threatening and we decided to go for an afternoon walk to discover the area before it got any worse.

Mallacoota is a haven for campers and fishermen, with much of the town taken up with caravan parks. Many of the campsites had boats parked next to the tents, vans and motorhomes.

It was in the Mallacoota Coastal Reserve Caravan Park that we discovers some wonderful Australian wildlife, in the form of two Kookaburras and a Koala.

They were every cooperative and I managed to get some good snaps.

That night we ate at the Mallacoota Hotel, which was just around the corner from the Captain’s Cabin.

The food was typically pub fair with a huge variety and well presented. I managed to find Balter XPA on tap. This was also available at Lakes Entrance and Marlo and a great improvement on the Great Northern Bitter that I had to endure on the first night. 


Bushfire aftermath at Genoa Creek Falls

March 20, 2021. Mallacoota.

The rain has come.

The severe weather warnings for NSW have now moved south over the border into Victoria. 

With the intermittent showers we decided that the best thing was to go for a drive around the Mallacoota area.

We discovered the Genoa River at Gipsy point on the Mallacoota Inlet.

This is an area for kayaks, fishermen and bird watchers.

No sooner had we arrived than a flock of swallows swooped down to where we were standing.

I believe that the swallow is one of the hardest birds to photograph. No sooner do they land than they take off again.

Here it was different, they seemed to want to be photographed. Maybe they had missed the tourists over the last twelve months or they were just tired and needed a break.

Anyway, they did settle long enough for me to change to a telephoto lens and get some shots.

It was then off to Genoa Creek Falls, an area that seems to have been particularly hard hit by the fires.

The falls are just off the Princes Highway, on a small, easy to miss track. After you park the car, there is a short walk and a flight of timber stairs leading down to the falls.

As a result of the bushfires, the stairs have been rebuilt and are now brand new. The bush around the falls is dotted with blackened tree trunks, fallen logs and singed bark hanging from the branches. 

I imagine during the winter, or after heavy rain the falls might be rather spectacular, but the day we visited there was barely a trickle running over the large red boulders.

After our drive we returned to the Captain’s Cabin and then it started to pour down.

That night we returned to the Mallacoota Hotel for dinner, as we hadn’t managed to find anywhere better and the beer, wine and food was ok.

March 21, 2021. Mallacoota to Mirboo North.

There was more heavy rain overnight and now it has spread to Melbourne. It looks like a wet drive to Mirboo North. 

The main reason we were visiting Mirboo North was to break the long return trip to Melbourne. It was a bonus that within this very small community is situated the Grand Ridge Brewery.

Being established in 1989, Grand Ridge is one of the oldest craft breweries in Australia.

As the website ‘’ puts it:

“The elder statesman of the Victorian microbrewery scene, Grand Ridge began offering full-flavoured ales to a nation of lager drinkers more than 20 years ago.”

This was an old article in Craftypint and in fact the brewery has been in operation since 1989. They therefore have been challenging beer drinker’s taste buds for over 30 years.

I had booked at the restaurant, not knowing how busy it might be on a Sunday night.

I shouldn’t have bothered.

There were only about six tables in a space that could hold far more. We went to the bar for a pre-dinner drink and that was even less crowded, with only on other person drinking there.

We had been told that the restaurant had recently been taken over by new owners. It had previously been run by the management of Grand Ridge. I think that the loss of trade during the pandemic and the lack of available staff since, had forced them to rationalise their business model.

The food was excellent as was the service and the beer that I started with. This was a West City Neipa 7.5%. The ‘Neipa’ stands for New England IPA and it is now made in the Grand Ridge Brewery.

Like so many good brew pubs, Grand Ridge provides their drinkers with a wide range beer styles. There were three sets of taps, each serving six brews.

We were staying at the aptly named 1st T Motel, which was right next to the Mirboo North Golf Club.

According to Google Maps it was meant to be a 20 minute walk from our motel to the brewery, but we took a short cut through the golf course, and did it in ten.

March 22, 2021. Mirboo North to Melbourne.

The motel provided us with breakfast, of sorts. This consisted of four slices of plain white bread with sachets of Vegemite, jam, honey and peanut butter. There was also a choice of Cornflakes, Rice Bubbles or Special K. Which meant that our entire breakfast was totally lacking in any nutritional value.

After a breakfast like that we needed a strong coffee, before the relatively short drive back to Melbourne.

We found that at Lamezleighs Cafe and Bar, which was on the main street of Mirboo North. The coffee was good but they did charge us for a mug when we had only ordered, and been served, a cup.

In a way I guess we were still putting money back into the community, but not the way we had intended.

The weather was still threatening but the rain did hold off.

It was a strange adventure, initiated by the devastating bushfires of 2020, postponed by the world wide COVID-19 pandemic and then interrupted by the ‘One-in-100-years’ floods in NSW.

It does seem that we are lurching from one disaster to another. 

Hagia Sophia – what’s good and bad about Turkey.

Sunday, July 12th, 2020

After 85 years the conversion of Hagia Sofia, from a museum back to a mosque, marks a turning point for modern Turkey. 

The basilica of Hagia Sophia, built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian 1, was inaugurated in 537 and apart from a few changes, especially to the dome, is largely intact.

The emperor had building material brought from all over the empire, including Hellenistic columns from the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus.

It held the title for being the world’s largest cathedral for nearly 1,000 years and was a marvel of architecture and engineering.

Following the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople (now Istanbul) in 1453, four minarets were added to the exterior.

As part of the secularising of Turkey by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1935, the basilica was tuned into a museum. 

This UNESCO World Heritage site is the most popular tourist destination in Istanbul. In 2014 over 3.5 million people visited the museum. Since then numbers had dropped off, due to terrorist concerns, but have steadily risen again with 3 million visitors in 2019.

It has been a wonderful example of how Turkey spans both the east and west, faiths and cultures.

This retrograde step is yet another move by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his conservative, popularist government to turn back the clock on history. It’s a rejection of the secularism that has made Turkey such a diverse and interesting country.