Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

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? 

 

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.

 

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.

 

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. 

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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 ‘dangerousroads.org’

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 ‘craftypint.com’ 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.

Side trips within Berlin. (September 2019)

Friday, December 20th, 2019

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September 2, 2019. Berlin, Germany. 

Having made two side trips out of Berlin we decided to see a bit more of the city itself. Parts that we had never been to in our numerous trips there.

Our first excursion was to visit the Berlin Television Tower or Fernsehturm in German. Surprisingly we had never visited this iconic building in all the times we had been to Berlin, going right back to our first time in 1972.

The tower is situated near Alexanderplatz, in the district of Mitte, an easy stroll from our hotel. This area was in the heart of the the old East German side. The tower was completed in 1969 and is visible from just about anywhere in the city.

Standing 368 metres high, it was a giant middle finger salute to the West. 

These days the main attraction is the viewing tower, with a revolving restaurant, which draws over 1,000,000 visitors per year. The viewing level is 203 metres above Berlin and from there you can get a great view of the city and most of the landmarks.

On the eastern side we could even see the Hotel Ibis, our temporary home for the last six weeks. The tower is such a landmark that the Ibis has a graphic silhouette etched into the glass doors throughout the hotel.

Ironically the tower has now become the most prominent symbol of the united Berlin.

 

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September 6, 2019. Berlin, Germany. 

It was the centenary of the creation of the modernist Bauhaus school of design in 1919. What better time to visit some of the architecture that became a legacy of their principles.

Siemens City or Siemensstadt was founded in 1913 by Siemens and Halske, the forerunner to today’s Siemens AG. The primary reason for its creation was to provide low-cost housing for the nearby Siemens factory.

The construction took place over many years and is regarded as a model of urban design. So much so that in 2008, together with four other modernist settlements in Berlin, it was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Many architects were involved in the design of Siemensstadt, including Walter Gropius (1883-1969) who designed a very contemporary addition in the 1930s.

Walter Gropius was a founder of the Bauhaus and is regarded as a pioneer of Modernist Architecture.

Gropius studied architecture in Munich and then Berlin, where he joined the office of Peter Behrens, a founding member of the Utilitarian School. Other employees within the practice were Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier both influential in developing Modernist Architecture.

With the rise of Fascism in the 1930s Gropius was forced to leave Nazi Germany. He first went to Britain in 1934 and then the United States in 1937.

He died in Boston, Massachusetts in 1969 aged 86.

 

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September 7, 2019. Berlin, Germany. 

As part of the Bauhaus Centenary, the Berlin Gallery of Modern Art had staged an exhibition celebrating the milestone. 

The ‘Original Bauhaus’ Exhibition (1919-2019) covered the students, teachers and philosophy of arguably the most influential design school of the 20th Century.

The school was only open for 14 years in Germany but its influence has lasted for a century. It is regarded a the pinnacle of thinking in graphic design, architecture, industrial design and teaching.

As Deutsche Welle wrote on September 8, 2019:

“The original Bauhaus design school was opened in Weimar in 1919 by the legendary architect Walter Gropius.

The school moved to Dessau in 1925, and then Berlin in 1932, before being closed by the Nazi regime. The communist East German government was also initially critical of Bauhaus, before embracing its legacy in 1976 and having the original building reconstructed.”

Luck was with us yet again, being in Germany for this historic exhibition.

 

A side trip to Lindau, Germany. (August 2019)

Sunday, December 8th, 2019

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August 26, 2019. Berlin to Lindau Island, Germany. 

It was time for another side trip from Berlin, this time to Lindau Island on Lake Constance.

We caught the ICE (InterCity Express) from Berlin HBH to Lindau HBH. This took up most of the day but the ride was very comfortable and the train had good internet, so I could work.

Once we were on the island we met up with our Swiss/Australian friends Denis and Martine.

We were staying at the Hotel Garni Viktoria, which was on the edge of town but still very close to the centre. The hotel wasn’t open when we arrived, so much to Denis’s delight, there was time for a late lunch.

Lindau township is very close to the Austrian and Swiss borders and is on the 0.68 square kilometre (0.26 square mile) island of the same name. It is joined to the mainland by a road bridge and railway dam.

A feature of Lindau is the harbour entrance to the port, with its lighthouse and Bavarian Lion statue, both built in 1856.

Once we had checked into the hotel we went for a walk around the town. We then came across the Hundertwasser exhibition Dreamcatcher For A More Beautiful World at the recently opened Kunstmuseum at the Inselbahnhof.

Friedrich Hundertwasser (1928-2000) was an Austrian born New Zealand artist, architect, environmental activist and opponent of ‘a straight line’ in architecture. This use of biomorphic forms  has led to him being compared to Antonio Gaudi (1852-1926) the famous Modernist architect from Catalonia, Spain and designer of Sagrada Família in Barcelona.

This was an exhibition of his painting and print making and his avoidance of the geometric was evident in the work on display.

 

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August 27, 2019. Lindau and the Bodensee, Germany. 

Lindau Island is connected to Lake Constance and the surrounding area by a network of ferries.

We decided that a day trip to Mainau would be a great way of seeing some of the lake and one of the most significant other islands.

We took the fast ferry to there so we would have enough time to explore. Even though the ferry was described as fast it still took nearly two hours to get there.

On the way we kept on seeing blimps in the sky over the lake. These came from town of  Friedrichshafen, home of the famous Zeppelin. 

A visit there was planned there for another day.

Mainau is described as a Garden Island and once you reach it you can see why. It’s geographical location gives the island a more Mediterranean climate than the surrounding country. This allows semi tropical plants to thrive in the more temperate conditions.

There are a number of historic buildings on the island but the main attractions are the gardens and the Arboretum. This garden of trees was created in 1856 by Grand Duke Frederich 1 and contains over 500 rare trees.

Mainau is administered by the Lennart Bernadotte Foundation and there are only about 200 people permanently living on the island.

To add to the tropical feel there is a greenhouse which also doubles a butterfly enclosure. 

Wherever you walk on the island there are also great views of Lake Constance. It is certainly a big tourist attraction and we found ourselves jostling for vantage points to get good shots of the attractions.

One of the architectural highlights of Mainau is the Castle Church of St Marien. This Roman Catholic church was built in the Baroque style between 1732 and 1739. It is richly decorated with ceiling frescos and alter paintings by Franz Joseph Spiegler (1691-1757). There is also rich stucco work by Francesco Pozzi (1704-1789).

We took the slow ferry back to Lindau which added another half hour to the journey. A relaxing beer and wine in the salon of the ferry Konstanz and the time seemed to go past very quickly.

 

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August 28, 2019. Lindau to Friedrichshafen, Germany. 

It was the start of the new school year for the refugees in Arnex. This meant Martine had to return home to supervise the enrolments for her French classes. This left Denis, Thea and I to go to Friedrichshafen to visit the Zeppelin Museum.

This time we were on a train, which was a much faster journey than the previous day’s ferry. Admittedly Friedrichshafen is much closer to Lindau than Mainau.

The centrepiece of the Zeppelin Museum, the world’s largest aviation collection, is the reconstruction and history of the Hindenburg.

The partial reconstruction of the Hindenburg measures 33 metres in length and gives a good idea how this monster airship might have looked back in 1937. It is complete with a recreated lounge, that surprisingly features Modernist furniture. 

The Hindenburg became a propaganda tool of the Third Reich, who totally rejected the work of the Bauhaus, a Modernist Design School that started in 1919.

The Hindenburg was designed and built by the Zeppelin Company in Friedrichshafen and operated by the German Zeppelin Airline Company. The commercial, passenger carrying, rigid airship flew from March 1936 until it was destroyed by fire, while attempting to land in New Jersey, USA, 14 months later in 1937.

Thirty six lives were lost in the fiery crash, with conspiracy theories abounding as to the cause. As there was a huge media presence at the landing site in Manchester Township, it became one of the most reported airship disasters. However the loss of life was considerably smaller than some of the preceding crashes. In 1923 the French Dixmude lost 52 lives. In 1930 the British R101 lost 48 and in 1933 the American Akron lost 73 lives.

Not the safest form of transport in the day.

Another feature of the exhibition was a beautifully restored Maybach Zeppelin. The Maybach Car Company was formed in 1909 by Wilhelm Maybach and his son and was a subsidiary of the Zeppelin Airship Company. 

Apart from the airship museum there is a side gallery containing an important collection of art from South West Germany. Within that exhibition there was a special section that related to the ‘Nazi plunder’ of German art.

During World War II the agents of the Third Reich plundered art from all over Europe, much of it was taken from the Jewish population that either left Nazi Germany or were sent to the concentration camps.

This art is now being gradually recovered and the exhibition detailed the forensic analysis that is required to trace this art back the original owners. Many of the paintings were exhibited so you could see both sides, the art itself and the side that usually goes against the wall. This was done because the frames, canvas and shipping notes are a vital link to tracing the art’s origins and returning it to the original owners or their relatives.

After lunch by the lake in Friedrichshafen we returned to Lindau and spent the remainder of the afternoon wandering around the streets. 

That was until the rain came.

There was an interesting portrait collection by Brigitta Loch in St Stephan Church. It was unusual to see art, other than the religious sort, featured in a church.

That night the three of us had dinner at a very German restaurant in a Bavarian pub. This was slightly out of the centre of town and we had to scramble back to the hotel, dodging the persistent rain.

August 29, 2019. Lindau to Berlin, Germany. 

After breakfast at the hotel, which we all decided was excellent value, we wandered into town for a coffee and then parted ways.

Denis was on the ferry, heading back to Switzerland to join Martine and we were on the train returning to Berlin.

It was a long train ride, interspersed with torrential rain.

A soggy end to our second side-trip from Berlin.

 

A side trip to Dresden, Germany. (July 2019)

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

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July 23, 2019. Berlin to Dresden, Germany. 

We had been staying in the Ibis Hotel in Berlin for about 9 days and decide it was time for our first side trip.

After picking up the rental car, a Ford Fiesta from Europcar, we drove to Dresden. 

We did have a couple of stops along the way. 

The first was a coffee stop in Bestensee and then for a walk around Neuendorfer See. 

The Lake, which is both an inflow and outflow of the Spree, is a popular camping spot for Berliners with many permanent sites. The shoreline is flat with many bays and the surrounding area is covered in pine forests.

And apparently the fishing is also good.

We then drove into Dresden and found the B&B Hotel. This was out of the city centre and had two great features. Firstly it had free parking and secondly it was half the price of the inner city hotels and still within walking distance of the sights. 

After a stroll around the city we had dinner at a restaurant on the River Elbe. 

It was a rather quiet spot and we wondered where the action was in Dresden. After dinner we continued our city walk and discovered the Neumarkt Square. 

It was crammed with restaurants, serving a variety of cuisines – we will return there again. 

 

Dresden, zerstˆrtes Stadtzentrum

July 24, 2019. Dresden, Germany. 

It was a slow start to the day with breakfast at a local café before we headed out to do some sightseeing.

It’s lucky that there is any of Dresden left to see, considering the pounding it took in February 1945. 

Primarily a city of art and culture Dresden, unlike many other cities in Germany, wasn’t the home to vast industries. On the night of February 14 the RAAF deliberately bombed the Dresden city centre. The destruction of the city and the resultant civilian casualties, many of whom were refugees, was hotly debated, even before the war ended later that year.

Even now, 74 years after the war, Dresden is suffering again, this time from the tyranny of the far right. The growing concern about the rise of extremists in Dresden has led to the city council declaring a ‘Nazi crisis’ in the city.

Porcelain from Dresden is famous, so we headed to the museum to experience it first hand. 

Between 1602 and 1657 more than 3,000,000 porcelain pieces were imported into Europe.

In 1715 Augustus the Strong introducing porcelain to Germany. Much of the Oriental works that he imported came via the East India Company and is housed in the museum.

It’s a huge collection of 20,000 pieces but with limited display area available in the Zwinger only about 2,000 artefacts are viewable at any one time. 

Meissen Porcelain, which was derived from the Oriental version, was first developed in 1708. Again Augustus the Strong was involved, as he was instrumental in financing the construction of the royal factory in Meissen, near Dresden.

To protect the authenticity of Meissen Porcelain a logo was developed in 1720. The ‘crossed swords’ is thought to be one of the earliest forms of trademark.

The Zwinger is not only home to the Dresden Porcelain Collection but the Old Masters Picture Gallery and the Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments. This Baroque palace was completed in 1728 and designed by the court architect, Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann.

August the Strong, on returning from a grand tour through France and Italy, decided that he needed something like Versailles for his own court. This ultimately resulted in the building of the Zwinger.

The buildings were destroyed by the carpet bombing raids of February 1945, however the collections had been moved by this stage and were saved.

Just around the corner, in the historic centre of Dresden, is the Semperoper or Opera House.

In order to see inside we had to wait for an escorted tour.

The building was originally designed by Gottfried Semper and built in 1845. Following a fire it was then rebuilt by the same architect in 1868. It was destroyed again in 1945 and then rebuilt to the pre-war design in 1985. 

The interior is a combination of Italian Neo Classical, Baroque and Corinthian styles.

When we reached the main body of the theatre there was a rehearsal underway. This was for an Australian production of Westside Story. We were told that, due to the rehearsal, we couldn’t take snaps in the auditorium. I pointer out to our guide that we had paid €6 to take photos and that we weren’t photographing the actors but the architecture. 

I don’t think she was impressed but we carried on regardless.

Outside it was over 32°C, so we continued our touring with a slow walk around the city. 

On our travels we explored the interiors of two of the largest churches in Dresden. 

Dresden Cathedral or Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (1739 and restored in 1962) and the Dresden Frauenkirche, the Lutheran Church (1726 and rebuilt in 1993). 

We expected the Lutheran church to be more austere than the Catholic. In fact it was just the opposite. 

The Lutheran church had a rather Baroque alter surrounded by a very spacious interior that was decorated in pastel colours. 

Naturally that night dinner was in the Neumarkt Square, at a Spanish restaurant, Bodega Madrid. 

With the evening temperature so balmy it seemed only natural to eat Spanish Tapas – outside.

 

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July 25, 2019. Dresden and a side trip to Bastei, Germany. 

This was our day to explore ‘The nature’ around Dresden, so after breakfast, this time in the hotel, it was into the Ford Fiesta for our drive to the south east.

Another heatwave was forecast for Europe, with temperatures into the high thirties. The car was a good refuge from the heat. 

I was about an hours drive to Rathen South. We then caught a ferry over the Elbe River to Rathen North, which is on the edge of the Saxon Switzerland National Park, a protected area of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. 

From there we had an easy walk around the Amselsee, an artificial lake or reservoir that’s only 55 metres long and quite narrow. There is boating as well as fishing, as the reservoir is stocked with trout. 

Then it was a very hard walk up to Bastei, a lookout over the Elbe River. 

The degree of difficulty was raised by the temperature, which was now into the mid thirties. 

Today little remains of Neurathen Castle, which you get to by crossing over the Bastei Bridge. This rock castle was first built between 1100 and 1200.

Bastei has been a tourist attraction for over 200 years. In 1824 a timber bridge was built to connect some of the stone formations. This was replaced in 1851 by the current stone one.

Bastei means bastion and relates to the towering rocks that formed a defensive ring around Neurathen Castle.

It was a tiring afternoon climbing around the Bastei rocks in the  37°C heat. We were therefore very glad of the air conditioning in the car on the return drive to Dresden. 

 

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July 26, 2019. Dresden to Berlin, Germany. 

After checking out of the B&B Hotel, which is more a walk-out than a check-out, as everything was paid up-front, we drove into Dresden. We then parked in one of the numerous underground car parks near the centre. 

Coffee was at the Solino Café and Bar Italiano, which is in the Glockenspielpavillon of the Zwinger Palace Museum. 

This is probably the best coffee in Dresden, well at least that we found. 

We arrived just in time for a performance of the glockenspiel. The bells were made in the famous Meissen porcelain factory and have only been part of the Zwinger since 1933. The carillon plays a short melody every 15 minutes and a longer one at various times during the day. The more extensive tunes are from Vivaldi, Mozart and Bach.

I have no idea what was playing but it was certainly a wonderful sound as we sat inside sipping our espressos.

This time we were in the Zwinger to visit the Mathematical Museum or to use its full name the Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments.

Elector August of Saxony started the collection around 1569. In Saxony Elector Augustus was to mathematics as Augustus the Strong was to porcelain.

It was an important role of rulers to sponsor both the arts and sciences during this period

The understanding of mathematics and the associated equipment was a measure of power in the Renaissance period, so it was very important to have those instruments on display.

Today the museum is divided into four sections. The Cosmos of the Prince. (Instruments from around 1600). The Universe of Globes. (Terrestrial and celestial globes covering seven centuries). Instruments of Enlightenment. (Large telescopes and burning mirrors, which use the concentration of sunlight through a convex lens to generate great heat). The Course of Time. (Clocks, watches and automata from the Renaissance).

Animated graphics were used to augment the displays and add explanation. There was also a number of hands-on displays. 

An astronomical Clock, made in 1568 was a feature. It stood nearly a meter tall and not only told the time but indicated where the planets and constellations were at any given point. 

It took five years to build. 

After retrieving the car from subterranean Dresden we drove to Kunsthofpassage. This is in the Bohemian part of Dresden and features wacky architecture and funky cafes.

The complex consists of five courtyards where the buildings are decorated with various themes. 

There is the Yard of the Elements with the bizarre architecture that used downpipes. Courtyard of Light that used reflective surfaces. The Yard of the Animals with a number of animal reliefs on the building exterior. Courtyard of Mythical Creatures that are displayed in mosaic tiles from Portugal, Italy and Meissen. The Yard of Metamorphoses, which has two steles or freestanding monolithic pillars. In the evening they are illuminated and become lamps.

After this very contemporary interlude, from what was primarily a Renaissance experience, it was back into the Ford for the two hour return trip to Berlin.

Our first side-trip was complete.

 

Hawaii, USA. (May 2019)

Tuesday, November 19th, 2019

May 6, Waikiki Beach

May 6, 2019. Los Angeles, California to Honolulu,
Hawaii, USA.

Today we were leaving the continental United States and flying to Hawaii. 

This was the final stage of our three months adventure. 

Our trip to Honolulu took us via Kahalui. This was just a flight change for the very short journey to Honolulu, on the island of O’Ahu. 

As we came into land I could make out surfers on the waves – well we were in Honolulu. 

When we arrived I got the shock of my life to discover that there was an espresso bar and a craft brewery within the hotel complex. The coffee shop served coffee from locally roasted beans while the brewpub  had a range of beers from Maui.

The Waikiki Beachcomber was right on the entertainment strip and just over the road from the famous surf beach. It was certainly in the thick of it, so there was no excuse for not enjoying our six nights there. 

It had been a long day, as we were up at 5:30 in LA and had lost three hours along the way.  

Once we had settled into the hotel we went for a walk around the area.

The first point of interest was a statue of Duke Paoa Kahanamoku (1890-1968).

Duke Kahanamoku was native Hawaiian, five-time Olympic medalist in swimming, who popularised the ancient Hawaiian sport of surfing.

Duke was his given name, he was also known as ‘The Big Kahuna’

In 1914 he put on an exhibition of surfing at Sydney’s Freshwater Beach. He did this on a board made from timber purchased at a local hardware store.

That was the introduction of surfing to Australia.

In 1925, while living in Newport Beach California, he rescued 8 men from a capsized fishing boat. He did this with the help of his surfboard, which then led to surfboards being used in off-the-beach rescues.

He was not only an athlete but also an actor and a law enforcement officer, serving 13 consecutive terms as the sheriff of Honolulu from 1932 to 1961.

A striking, more  colonial, addition to the Waikiki beachfront is the Moama Surfrider Hotel. Built in 1901 it was the first hotel on Waikiki.

Naturally that night we ate at the Maui Brewing Co. They had an excellent selection of beers, as well as good wine and an extensive menu.

 

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May 7, 2019. Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.

We had breakfast in the brew pub, yes they were open from 7am. There was fresh tropical juice plus Avocado on Toast. 

The pub didn’t serve espresso coffee, we had to walk across the hotel foyer for that. 

We then popped into Avis, which was next door, and arranged a rental for later in the week. 

Part of our package with the hotel included free trolly bus rides, with unlimited use for the duration of our stay. The trolly takes two different routes around the Waikiki area and, depending on the driver, you get a guided tour as well.

There are a number of these trolleys, all provided by the hotel groups and even the airlines like JAL.

It seems to be a huge waste of resources as many of the busses passed by empty. I think that they could pool their resources and have one trolly system that ran more often and took everyone who had the passes.

We did one circuit to get a feeling of the city area then, on the next, hopped off at Diamond Head. 

Diamond Head is a volcanic cone and it dominates the skyline behind Waikiki. The name was given to the volcano by the British, who believed that the calcite crystals found in the caldera were diamonds. The Hawaiian name, Lēahi, is far more fitting as it relates to the dorsal fin of a tuna. Which is exactly what the silhouette of the rim looks like.

Although the walk to the summit looked hard there were numerous switchbacks that made it relatively easy. 

That evening, before dinner, we went to the free Kuhlo Beach Hula Show. 

This was a narrated history, with dancers, of the hula in Hawaii. The hula was originally developed by the Polynesians who first settled in the Hawaiian Islands.

These dancers on Kuhlo Beach were much more conservatively dress than you see in the movies. I think that this had something to do with the strangle hold the missionaries had and still have on much of Hawaiian society. They saw the dance as heathen and pagan. 

The show was an hour long and certainly worth it. The golden light of a fading sunset, the rumble of pounding surf, all set to the lilting tones of Hawaiian music.

Western cultures promote horse racing as the ‘Sport of Kings’. In Hawaii it’s surfing. The history of surfing in Hawaii goes back to the 4th century. When Polynesians migrated to the Hawaiian Islands they brought with them the art of board riding. It was belly boards to begin with then the long hardwood boards were used. The first sighting of a board rider by westerners was in 1779.

Surfing was a religious act and the Hawaiians would pray to their gods to find the good waves and seek inspiration on how to fashion the best boards.

The society was divided between noble people and the commoners. The nobles surfed on better breaks than the commoners and also had the superior and longer boards. Chiefs such as Kauai and Kamehameha were known for their ability and counted their surfboards amongst their most prized possessions.

These boards were enormous measuring over 7 metres (24 foot) in length.

When Captain James Cook arrived in 1778 he was closely followed by missionaries. Their strict religious piety, regarding clothing and their rules of only believing in their god, resulted in surfing almost dying out – just like hula dancing.

In 1905 things began to change when Duke Paoa Kahanamoku started a native surf club and revived the sport. Then in 1907 the author Jack London (1876-1916) and friends formed the Waikiki Swimming Club and opened up surfing to Westerners.

London was an atheist and social activist so it’s no wonder that he wasn’t concerned about offending the ‘faithful’.

It was London who coined the phrase ‘Sport of Kings’.

 

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May 8, 2019. Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.

In Hawaii, or at least in Waikiki, we paid a Tourist Tax of US$30 per day, per room. 

This gave us a number of benefits. 

As well as free rides on the Trolly Bus, we also got discounts at certain restaurants. This encouraged us to share our patronage around a number of places. 

For breakfast we went to the Hula Grill, just over the road. 

The breakfast was good but their espresso machine had ‘broken down’ so it was back to the hotel cafe for coffee – again. 

We then went for a long walk along the Waikiki beachfront, towards the base of Diamond Head. 

The weather was rather overcast and threatened rain for most of the day. 

Right along the beach there were surfers enjoying the small but consistent swell.

There are very few short board riders here, most tend to prefer the long boards. I guess this is partly due to the conditions but more to do with tradition. 

Duke’s Waikiki is right on the water and across the road from our hotel. We tried to book there for dinner, on two occasions, but couldn’t get a decent time. 

It’s a very popular restaurant. 

Waikiki is a hybrid, something between a tourist town and a surf coast. 

The streets are packed with tourists, of all shapes and sizes, many grossly overweight. There are three distinct groups, the mainland Americans are the largest, followed by the Japanese and finally the Australians, who are a substantial part of the mix. 

They are obvious by their accents. 

Then in the midst of this you get the surfers, male and female, young and old. All dressed in board shorts or bikinis, meandering along the main street, with their boards tucked under their arm and still soaking wet from their last wave. 

Wherever we looked around Waikiki there were Hawaiian flags fluttering over the rooftops. They look more British Colonial than American, with the Union Jack sitting proudly in the top left corner.

This is a constant reminder of Hawaii’s past.

Hawaii was settled by Polynesians somewhere between 124 and 1120 AD: similar to New Zealand.

Captain Cook arrived in 1778 but there is a belief that the first European to set foot in Hawaii was the Spanish captain Ruy López de Villalobos in 1542.

American immigration quickly followed Cook, led by Protestant missionaries. The Americans were there to set up sugar plantations, much as they did in the Southern US.

Sugar was the prized crop, with markets spread around the world, and Hawaii had the ideal climate to cultivate it.

Unlike the US, slaves weren’t used as labor, instead immigrants were brought in from Japan, China and the Philippines.

The Americans, wanting more control, rewrote the constitution, limiting the power of the King ‘David’ Kalãkaua and weakening the native Hawaiian’s rights. In 1898 the islands were annexed by the US and became the Territory of Hawaii, then in 1959 they became the 50th state.

It’s little wonder that the Hawaiians prefer to have the Union Jack on their flag – that must really piss of the ‘patriots’.

 

Banzai Pipeline

May 9, 2019. Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.

We opted to drive around O’Ahu in a Nissan Versa. All the travel guides suggested that the best experience is in a Jeep Wrangler or Ford Mustang, both convertibles of course. 

The Nissan was half the price and it was rather hot to have the roof down. 

Besides soft top motoring is not that much of a novelty to us. 

We stopped at the famous Banzai Pipeline. The surf was better in Waikiki, as there was only a small shore break at Banzai and nothing like the huge waves that are a hallmark of this well known break. 

We didn’t get a lot of snaps on our trip as there is a shortage of good pull-offs and viewing points along the way. 

On our return we tried to get a closer look at Pearl Harbour but found ourselves on a bridge heading towards the naval base. We were stopped, turned around and escorted off by a very pleasant security guard.

We were then sent on our way, but not before he checked my driver’s licence. 

On the way back to Waikiki we drove through the downtown area of Honolulu, which isn’t very big, and stopped at the Iolani Palace.

Construction commenced in 1879. It was designed by Thomas Baker, in what became known as the American Florentine style. It was the home to Hawaiian royalty from its completion until 1893 and boasted electricity and a telephone, even before the White House.

After the overthrow of the monarch, in 1893, the palace became the capital building for the provisional government until 1969. It was restored in 1978 and then became a museum.

It still remains the only royal palace on US soil.

On our island excursion we drove 215.6 kilometres (134 miles) around O’Ahu. This isn’t much but then it’s not a large island. 

 

The flag of Hawaii

May 10, 2019. Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.

We used the trolly bus again, this time to get down to Ala Moana Centre. 

Built in 1959, It is regarded as the largest open-air shopping centre in the world. 

It’s also the most valuable shopping mall in the US and one of the most valuable in the world

It is very large and I wonder if its world class status comes from the huge car park that is attached. There are 350 stores, restaurants and services spread over 220,000 square metres (2,400,000 square feet)

That night there were fireworks down on the beach. They were over in a flash and a bang and by the time we got there they were finished.

 

Duke’s Waikiki

May 11, 2019. Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.

It was Saturday and our last full day in Honolulu. It was also the one day in the week that the KCC Farmers Market is operating.

Again we caught the trolly bus, which has a special market stop on Saturdays. 

The market was primarily made up of food stalls but there was some fresh produce and flowers as well. It was also a place where there seemed to be more locals than tourists.

Wherever we went in Waikiki we seemed to come across ABC Stores. These aren’t operated by the Australian Broadcasting Commission but a chain of convenience stores that are based in Honolulu. They were opened in 1964 by the son of Japanese immigrant, Sidney Kosasa and sell a combination of groceries and tourist related items.

It’s not surprising that there are 178 hotels in Waikiki, what is a shock is that there are also 42 ABC stores.

There was a red carpet gala event being set up on Queen’s Beach, which is south of the main area, heading towards Diamond Head. 

This was part of the premier of the 10th season of the new Hawaii Five-0 series. 

The original police drama ran from 1968 till 1980. It was created by Leonard Freeman and stared Jack Lord (1920-1998) as Captain Steve McGarrett. Born in Brooklyn New York City he moved to Hawaii with the show. When Leonard Freeman died in 1974 Lord took over as executive producer.

McGarrett’s famous words, “Book ‘em Danno!” have become part of popular culture.

After the market we decided to go for a long Saturday lunch at Duke’s. This was our third attempt to get into this iconic beach side restaurant.

The chain of restaurants was named after the surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku and operates in Hawaii as well as California and Florida.

The food was just ok, however the location was stunning and worth the wait to get in. It’s practically on Waikiki Beach and you can watch the surfers catching the waves in front of you.

We had only a two minute wait when we arrived for lunch at 2pm, at 4pm the wait was twenty minutes and building.

Now large family groups were starting to pile through the doors. 

Come 6pm and there would be no chance of getting a table at all. 

The temperature has consistently been around 30°C, so it’s going to be a bit of a shock retuning to a Melbourne winter. 

After being on the go for three months it was a great decision to have six, very relaxing, days in Honolulu. 

 

May 12-13, 2019. Honolulu, Hawaii, USA to Melbourne via Sydney, Australia.

We were returning home and almost got caught out at the last turn. 

It was very fortunate that we had one last coffee at our hotel in Waikiki, as the only one available at the airport, was at Starbucks. 

We had travelled over 6,000 kilometres across America and not had to endure a Starbucks – I wasn’t going to start then. 

Part 2: East to west across the USA – New Orleans to Los Angeles. (April/May 2019)

Tuesday, November 5th, 2019

April 23, 2019. New Orleans, Louisiana to Houston, Texas, USA.

We returned to Merchant one more time for breakfast, as they served fresh orange juice, fruit, cereal and a great coffee. 

Hard to find all that in the one place in the US. 

It was a long drive to Houston, the start of the second stage of our drive across the Southern US, so we stopped at Rêve Coffee Roasters in Lafayette on the way. 

I had an espresso made from locally roasted Java Taman Dadar beans. 

Again it was full of single people, on their computers. 

Then it was back onto the road to Houston. 

In Houston we were staying at the Microtel Inn and Suites by Wyndham Houston. This was opposite the Houston Space Centre, the official visitor centre of NASA Johnson Space Centre.  This was our main reason for being in the city.

 

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April 24, 2019. Houston, Texas, USA.

It was 50 years since man walked on the moon and the Space Centre at Houston was a pivotal part of that historical event.

We had visited Kennedy Space Centre, Florida in November 2017. This is where the rockets took off but the control centre was in Houston.

No rockets were every launched from Houston. 

The facility was built as a political gesture, to win Democratic votes in Texas and to support Lyndon Baynes Johnston.

The “We choose to go to the moon.” address was delivered by President Kennedy, in Houston, to mark the start of the space centre’s construction in 1962.

There were many exhibits from the ‘Space Race’ including Mercury and Gemini spacecrafts, a Saturn V rocket as well as a replica of the Space Shuttle Independence. This was strapped to a Boeing 747 and you could actually walk around inside the shuttle and view the cargo hold and flight deck. The Saturn V rocket was in fact three rockets, from various programs, that were put together for the display.

It was massive, measuring 110 m (363 ft) in hight (or length as it was lying down) 10.1 m (33 ft) in diameter and weighing in at 2,970 kg (6,540 lb).

The only disappointment was that the control room, used in the moon landing, was closed for renovations. This was in preparation for the 50th anniversary later in the year.

Dinner was a 10 minute Uber ride away to BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse. It was just down the road from la Madeleine, where we had breakfast that morning. 

This was a huge complex with a wide selection of craft beers and an extensive menu. 

In 1978 they started off in Santa Ana, California, as BJ’s Chicago Pizzeria and then moved on to become a craft brewery and restaurant chain. Currently they have 204 outlets in 15 states across the USA.

 

Forever Bicycles (2014 Ai Weiwei)

April 25, 2019. Houston to Austin, Texas, USA.

After looking at a couple of options, we returned to la Madeleine, the French bakery, for breakfast. 

It was a huge cafe with a wide variety of options.

However there was something strange about the place and it was only on our second visit that I realised what it was. 

There was no tipping and they had staff who cleaned the table for you. 

Service without a charge. 

It was a relatively short, three hour, drive to Austin but we stopped in Columbus for a break. 

The terrain was flat and green with the Colorado River meandering through. 

This  is not the same Colorado that created the Grand Canyon but a different one. This Colorado is the largest river in Texas with both its source and its mouth in that state.

It was right on 3pm when we arrived at the Best Weston Plus Austin City. 

Our room wasn’t ready and we had to wait. 

After we finally checked in we went for a wander around the city.

Rainey Street is the entertainment centre of Austin. It was originally residential but now the historic, pre 1934 bungalows that line the street have been turned into bars and restaurants. There are some vacant lots and these are full of food trucks.

We then walked down to the Colorado River and got a view of the city from another perspective.

It was then back to Rainey Street for a drink at Craft Pride and then dinner.

Again we saw the American service industry at work. 

The only restaurant on Rainey Street that didn’t serve their meals off polystyrene was Anthem. As it turned out they were eco friendly and sustainable, so that was a plus. 

When we arrived the place was busy but certainly not full. We still had to put our name on a list and wait. 

I don’t fully know why but suspect that they were understaffed and couldn’t accommodate a full house. 

Yet again they were maximising the return for the owners, by minimising the experience for the customers and employment for the staff. 

 

Wild Seed Farms

April 26, 2019. Austin to San Antonio, Texas, USA.

We were both surprised and delighted that our hotel in Austin didn’t use disposables in the room. 

There were real, washable glasses and coffee cups. 

We headed off to breakfast, thinking it might be the same there. 

Unfortunately it wasn’t, everything was destined for the bin. 

Luckily we had our ‘Save the World’ kit with us. 

Before the drive to San Antonio we explored a small area of Downtown Austin, especially the area around the Texas Capitol Building.

Not surprisingly, there was a ‘Remember the Alamo’ monument within the Capital Building gardens.

It was then back on the road, but with one more stop, this time to visit Wild Seed Farms. This is a wildflower farm, the largest in the US, just near Fredericksburg. It was literally acres and acres of flowers.

We tried to get an espresso at Wild Seen Farms but they specialise in flowers not beans, so we moved on.

We did find a good coffee in Fredericksburg and had a walk up and down the main street afterwards.

When we finally arrived in San Antonio, and checked into our AirBnB, we discovered that we had done it again.

We had arrived just in time for the last few days of the Fiesta and our apartment was right in the middle of it. 

The ‘Fiesta San Antonio’ is an annual event that originally started in 1891 to honour the memory of the battles of the Alamo and San Jacinto. Local women decorated carriages, baby buggies and bicycles with flowers. They then met in front of the Alamo and threw the flowers at each other.

This inspired the name, ‘Battle of the Flowers.’

Today it’s a money spinner for the city, with over three million people taking part, and flowers are still part of the celebration.

On arrival we quickly realised that everything we wanted to see in San Antonia was within walking distance of our apartment, so we parked the car and left it there.

The Riverwalk in San Antonio is unique to the city and I would think, the US.

This is a pedestrian only walkway that’s below street level and runs along the winding banks of the San Antonia River. The walkways are on both sides of the river and full of shops, bars and restaurants.

We had dinner at The River’s Edge, a restaurant right on the Riverwalk. 

We then continued around the circuit and were glad we had chosen River’s Edge. 

The other areas were over commercialised, a bit like Southbank on heat. 

 

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April 27, 2019. San Antonio, Texas, USA.

As we we staying in an apartment we took the opportunity to self cater our breakfasts. We had purchased fruit and cereal the night before, so it was a leisurely start to the day. 

We were told that there was a street parade due to pass by our apartment during the morning. People were already lining up and many had brought their own seats.

They were there for the long haul. 

It was Hayden’s birthday and we had arranged to give him a call. 

Just as we were calling the parade started. 

To get a closer look at the parade and the fiesta we went wandering around the area near our apartment. The streets were full of happy people and there were a number of private street parties in progress. These were held under canvas gazebos that had been erected in the front gardens of large timber Southern mansions. There were decorations on the houses and the fences were also festooned with streamers.

Then we went in search of some history.

The Alamo is a very important event for Texans and the people of San Antonio. In 1836 about 100 Texans defended the Alamo Mission from about 1,500 Mexicans. The siege lasted 13 days and eventually the overwhelming force of the Mexicans prevailed and most of the Texans were killed.

The siege of the Alamo involved a number of famous Texan frontiersmen. 

Colonel James Bowie (Bowie knife), Davie Crocket (King of the Wild Frontier) and General Sam Houston (the city of Houston)

Both Bowie and Crocket died at the Alamo. 

Late in the afternoon we wandered back to the Riverwalk. There we met Hershey and Tim, a couple of old friends who had got together for the fiesta. They were fascinated by our accents and wanted to chat.

I got the feeling that there are very few Australian tourists in San Antonio.

In the Evening we avoided down town and went to Rosario’s, which was just around the corner. 

It was a loud, but enjoyable, Tex Mex restaurant, buzzing with people intent on getting the last out of the Fiesta. 

 

The fort at Fort Stockton

April 28, 2019. San Antonio to Fort Stockton, Texas, USA.

It was overcast and the good weather from the last few days was gone. 

Which was lucky for the Fiesta goers and for us as well. 

This was the start of our long drive to the Pacific coast. Today was over 500 kilometres and 4.5 hours driving – the next day a little shorter. 

The longest day will be Tucson to San Diego. 

The geography had changed dramatically. We were now out of the lush hills with wide flowing rivers and into a more desert environment. 

There were even less wildflowers along the roadside. 

National Highway 10 was an excellent drive with far fewer trucks, but it was a Sunday and could be a very different story the next day. 

Up until this section of the drive we had always been able to find a good coffee, but as we moved further west it became harder. 

We arrived in Fort Stockton at 3 pm and then made the short drive to the other end of town, the site of the historic fort.

There’s wasn’t much left of the fort, just a few out houses scattered over a very open expanse of grass.

To my mind the best attraction was a sculpture of Paisano Pete, the world’s second largest Roadrunner.  “Beep, beep.”

The fort was known as Camp Stockton until 1860 and was built around Comanche Springs, one of the largest sources of spring water in Texas.

Since the 1920s Fort Stockton has benefited from another underground source of wealth – oil.

Fort Stockton is a one steer town and that night we had dinner the at Kbob, where we both had steaks.

The portions were so huge that I think we probably ate that one steer between us.

 

Cactus flowers

April 29, 2019. Fort Stockton, Texas to El Paso, New Mexico/Texas, USA.

The Garage Coffee, Music and More coffee shop was the only coffee in Fort Stockton that looked reasonable, but was closed on Mondays. 

So we found one in Van Horn, that was on the Interstate 10, about half way between Fort Stockton and El Paso. 

Aslan’s Coffee Shop was one of the strangest coffee experiences I have ever had. 

When we arrived we weren’t even sure if they actually served espresso, so Thea stuck her head in the door an asked. 

By the time I had parked the Jeep and got inside, Aslan was already making our coffees. 

Once inside we were greeted with “Good day and God bless you.“

There were two very rotund people already in the cafe and the male of the couple was holding court. 

It turned out that their RV had broken down and they had sought refuge in the town. 

Being good Christians they had asked the local church if they could park there while their van was repaired. 

It just so happens that the cafe was on the same land as the church.

So there they were saving everyone who popped in for a Cup of Joe.

It was a bit like having coffee with Jesus. 

When we arrived in El Paso was 30°C.

This was the fourth day of warmer weather – the warmest spell we had experienced since leaving home. 

We were too early to check into our hotel at Sunland Park Casino so, at the suggestion of the receptionist, we went sightseeing. 

This was along the Scenic Drive, a short stretch of road that overlooks the city of El Paso. 

It was created in the 1920s’ and has been a popular destination even since. 

Before our drive we popped into Sunland Park Mall, which was just around the corner, for lunch. 

The mall had just undergone a refurbishment and was almost empty. Most of the shops were still vacant and very little of what was already there was open. 

Thea had run out of knitting so the next stop, after the Scenic Drive, was a wool shop.

This gave us an opportunity to see some of the surrounding suburbs. 

We chose to stay in the casino area as it was out of the sprawling downtown area of El Paso, which isn’t regarded as a great tourist destination. 

The hotel was in New Mexico, practically on the border with Texas and Mexico. 

On one side we had the Sunland Park Racetrack, on the other, the Western Playland and right next door was the casino. 

It was Vegas in Texas but more down market, if that’s possible. 

We could even see part of the US/Mexico border wall from our hotel window. 

This is the wall that already exists between the two countries and has nothing to do with the Donald’s grand plan. 

The wall was started by George H. W. Bush in 1990 and continued by Bill Clinton in 1993. Any further expansion was halted by Barack Obama in 2011. And this is more than likely the real reason why Trump wants to continue it now.

Dinner at the casino was a strange affair. 

We were told that there were three restaurants within the casino, however there really was only one. The main, full service restaurant, is only open during the racing season, which started the next day and the third one was just a snack bar.

So we were forced to eat at their exceptionally mediocre café. In fact describing it as mediocre probably gives it too much credit. 

The service was poor and the food, masquerading as Italian, was worse than that. 

Whatever did the Italians do to the Americans to cause them to massacre their cuisine the way they do?

 

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April 30. El Paso, New Mexico/Texas, to Tucson, Arizona, USA.

The food was so bad at the casino cafe the night before, we didn’t want to risk having breakfast there. 

Fortunately, just down the road was 2Ten Coffee Roasters. 

Great food, including a variation of Avocado on Toast and excellent coffee. There seems to be more and more of these boutique roasters popping up across the US. Maybe the tide is eventually turning against the likes of Starbucks – let’s hope so.

We had been told about Old Mesilla, a well preserved western frontier town, while we were having our religious coffee experience the previous day. 

During the American Civil War Old Mesilla was briefly the capital of the Confederate Territory of Arizona from 1861 to 1862.

The Wild West era saw the like of Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett and Pancho Villa visit the town. In fact Billy the Kid was tried and sentenced to hang in the Old Mesilla court house in April 1881. He never did hang in the town but died of a gunshot wound in Fort Sumner in September of the same year.

The area around Old Mesilla is surrounded by pecan orchards. I am sure Pecan Pie is a favourite in the town.

Our next stop was Tombstone, another place of Wild West legend. Tombstone’s city seal boasts that it’s: ‘The Town too tough to die’

The most famous event in Tombstone is the ‘Gunfight at the O.K. Coral’ This involved the Earp brothers, Wyatt, Morgan and Virgil  in a shootout against Doc Holliday, Tom and Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton. 

The irony is that the gunfight didn’t actually take place in the O.K. Coral but in a nearby vacant block of land owned by the famous photographer C.S. Fly (1849-1901). Camillus ‘Buck’ Sydney Fly is regarded as one of the first photojournalists in the US. He chronicled the lives of Native Americans, while they were still at war with the United States. And was an eyewitness at the O.K. Corral gunfight.

Unlike Old Mesilla, Tombstone is a Hollywood set, with fake cowboys at every corner, all with their Six Shooters at the ready.

In Tucson we were staying at the Hotel McCoy – Art, Coffee, Beer, Wine. This was a retro 60s Motel with a bar serving local wine and craft beer. They had 6 craft beers in cans and 4 on tap. 

It was a very funky motel in a great location, just off the freeway.

Downtown Tucson was an easy Uber ride away.

 

Mount Lemmon Scenic Highway in the Coronado National Park

May 1. Tucson, Arizona, USA.

We had breakfast at the hotel but it was a strange affair with Oatmeal, Pop Tarts and boxed drinks, all of this was out of disposable paper cups, plates and containers. This was really at odds with their Hipster image.

Our Save the World Kit got yet another outing.

Also, they didn’t have an espresso machine, so coffee would have to wait.

Therefore our first stop for the day was to Hermosa Coffee Roasters. This was just a short drive from our hotel and in, what is known as, the Old Market Area. 

The area wasn’t old at all but a totally new development, of small trendy businesses, all housed in shipping containers.

The cost of keeping these metal ovens cool in the Arizona heat must have been horrendous.

The days outing was a drive up to the summit of Mount Lemmon, on the Scenic Highway. It was a beautiful winding mountain road, with an abundance of lookout points and pull-offs. 

As we climbed to 2,400 metres (8,000 feet), the change in scenery was dramatic.

At the start of our ascent cacti dominated, then as we climbed, conifers took over. 

The temperature also plunged from 28°C (82°F) to 14.5° (58°F)

At the top we stopped for a break at Sawmill Run. Thea had of all things, Pecan Pie and, to my surprise, I got a very reasonable espresso. 

The staff at the Sawmill had T-shirts with a graphic of a hand, that was missing two fingers – funny but a bit sick. 

After our scenic adventure we returned to Tucson to get a better look at the city.

A map that was provided by our hotel suggested that we do the Aqua Tourist Trail around Tucson. It was a bit of a waste. 

Most of the area that was suggested in the tour was under construction. In fact Tucson seems to be undergoing a transformation, with new buildings popping up all over the city.

It was now 31°C (88°F) and getting a bit hot to do much walking so we returned to the hotel.

We needed an early nigh as it would be a long drive to San Diego in the morning. So it was another Uber into town for an early dinner at Hotel Congress.

 

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May 2. Tucson, Arizona, to San Diego, California, USA.

Before leaving Tucson we returned to the Mercardo District and Hermosa Coffee Roasters for breakfast.

We had to drive 661 kilometres to San Diego. This would take us over 6 hours so, after a few hours on the road, we stopped in Yuma for a break and yet again found a cafe serving an espresso – of sorts. 

It was at the Coffee Bean Espresso Bar and Cafe that we decided that the ‘hickness’ of a place is measured by hats. The more guys you see wearing baseball hats, the ‘hicker’ it is. 

We were staying out of the main area in San Diego at the weirdly named, Days Inn by Wyndham San Diego/Downtown/Convention Centre.

It certainly wasn’t in Downtown, so we had a bit of a hike to get to the Gaslamp Quarter. Which is where the action is in San Diego.

Also known as the Gaslamp District, it is an historical area of sixteen and a half blocks and full of restaurants and bars as well as a number of strip clubs.

Historically gas lamps weren’t actually used in the area but have since been installed to add a touch of authenticity.

After dinner we got an Uber back to the hotel as the route back was rather hilly.

 

Del Mar (The Pacific Coast just north of San Diego)

May 3. San Diego to Los Angeles, California, USA.

It was only 210 kilometres, about 2 hours driving from San Diego to LA. 

However we took much longer as we used the coastal route and were then confronted with 29 kilometres of traffic jams as soon as we hit the outskirts of the LA.

It turned out to be more like three and a half hours.

In LA we were staying at Cathie and Earl’s apartment, which was over the road from Universal Studios, in an area known as Studio City. They weren’t there but had very kindly offered us their place while they were in New York. This meant that we had the rare opportunity to cater for ourselves again and needed to get supplies.

In much of the US the culture is irrevocably bolted to the past. 

So much of the attitudes, architecture, politics, transport and even food is all from a bygone era. 

It’s as though the New World has now become the Old World. 

There is always exceptions and the Whole Foods chain is one of those. Much of their fresh food is organic and they are now introducing bulk products, to save on packaging waste. 

They sell reusable, bamboo based, cups plates and straws. 

In their Burbank store they have a cafe serving healthy food, coffee, wine and a range of craft beers. 

We had used Whole Foods on a previous stay in LA and had also visited their new store in NYC. 

It was therefore the logical place to go again for our breakfast supplies.

Founded in 1980 they now have over 500 stores worldwide and growing.

 

Grand Central Market (1917)

May 4. Los Angeles, California, USA.

Just up the road from the apartment was a Metro station. We took the Red Line to Union Station and then wandered back, one stop, to Pershing Square. 

Union Station was celebrating its 80th Anniversary, being built in 1939. It was designed by John and Donald Parkinson and combines Art Deco, Mission Revival and Streamline Modern styles.

It’s a beautifully spacious example of transport architecture.

Next was the Grand Central Market, which is on the ground floor of the Homer Laughlin Building. In 1917 the market replaced the Ville de Paris department store. The location for the market was chosen because of its proximity to the Angels Flight Railway. This funicular services the well-to-do residents of Bunker Hill.

It was yet another festival weekend. The Cinco de Mayo was due to be celebrated the next day. 

This time we missed out by a day.

Cinco de Mayo or Fifth of May celebrated the Mexican Army’s victory over the French Empire  at the Battle of Puebla on May 5th 1862. Nowadays in LA it’s more a celebration of Mexican-American culture.

We had a coffee at Demitasse, well it was better than Starbucks. 

This thought was reinforced by a board out the front which read: ‘Friends don’t let friends drink Starbucks’

Ironically there was a Starbucks just opposite and many passers-by stopped to take a snap of the sign. 

On the train ride back to Studio City there were people selling a wide variety of products. Incense and socks were two popular items on offer.

That night we had dinner at Cafe del Ray with Ian and Peta Beavis and Evan, who was in LA on business. 

This involved a long drive and a number of Uber rides, as it was on the coast at Marina del Ray.

LA is a very big city.

 

Universal City Walk

May 5. Los Angeles, California, USA.

After spending a quiet morning in the apartment, we cleaned and walked up to Universal studios to do the City Walk. 

This was a strange combination of designer brands and American fast food outlets. 

There was an Italian restaurant just inside the entrance and we managed to get an espresso. 

We were lucky it was there, as it was the only place that looked like it served coffee – of any variety. 

We returned to Cathie and Earl’s and did the final bit of packing, before embarking on the ‘loooong’ drive to the airport. 

It was only a 30 minute drive but it felt like an eternity. 

Even on a Sunday many of the freeways were car parks. 

After checking into the Sheraton Gateway at LAX, we dropped the car back to Avis. 

We had been going for 23 days, on a variety of roads, covering 5,903 kilometres (3,668 miles) and averaging about 257km per day.

In that time we met some interesting people, stayed in both good and bad accomodation, dined in a wide variety of restaurants, all while travelling through some amazing parts of the Southern US.