The fantastic Grampians National Park, Victoria.

It was almost time to leave The Great Ocean Road and head inland for The Grampians National Park but there were a couple of iconic sites along the coast we still wanted to see.

Australia’s Shipwreck Coast is part of the Great Ocean Road, not surprisingly there’s lots of history associated with this area. Probably the most famous is the loss of a clipper ship named Loch Ard. She is one of 700 ships that are believed wrecked along this treacherous coastline. The iron-hulled ship Loch Ard went down in 1878, dashed against the rocks at Mutton Bird Island, east of Port Campbell. Of the 54 people on board only two survived, a cabin boy named Tom Pearce and Eva Carmichael, an 18 year old woman.

Tom came ashore first and heard the cries of Eva and clearly being a brave soul he went back into the ocean to rescue her. They sheltered in what is now known as Loch Ard Gorge. Tom was subsequently given £1000 and a gold medal for bravery, he married but not to Eva and reached the rank of Captain. Eva married, also to a ship’s captain and with her husband returned to Ireland where they lived on another coastline prone to shipwrecks. The irony is that apparently they often went down to help seafarers who had been shipwrecked.

The Loch Ard Gorge and The Grotto

Out of the 700 or so ships lost along this coast only 240 have been discovered. It’s a fascinating area but we only had time to stop at Loch Ard Gorge, The Bay of Islands and The Grotto. If you’re in the area, ‘London Arch’ is worth a visit too. We would have gone but by then The Grampians was calling.

The Bay of Islands and a Bride.

I’m not going to get away without mentioning the picture of the bride. The joke with my man is that whenever we go on holiday we usually come across a bridal shoot. Having shot hundreds of weddings I always have to stop and see what the photographer is doing. I didn’t expect to see a shoot going on as we walked along the coastal path though. Credit to the model, no she wasn’t a ‘real’ bride, she kept on smiling despite a sheer drop in front of her and being buffeted by a strong wind coming off the sea. I had to take a picture of course!

So …on to The Grampians!

Kangaroos in the woods, emus on the Plain and our woodland lodge.

Not surprisingly The Grampians is a very popular tourist destination with it’s high mountain ranges, walking trails, scenic drives, good camp sites and a fantastic range of wildlife including kangaroos, emus and a huge variety of parrots. More on those shortly …

It was late afternoon when we arrived in Hall’s Gap where we were staying for two nights. Our woodland lodge was enormous complete with a jacuzzi in the bathroom, a massive lounge, two double bedrooms (should we have needed one each!) and a veranda complete with barbecue at the front of the house. Honestly we could have had some party in there!

Having dumped our things we went in search of a beer. The first place only had cans so that was out. We were told to drive out of town and we’d find a place selling draught beer. We eventually did! It had been quite a drive to Hall’s Gap so we thought we deserved a decent pint of beer and that’s exactly what we got. Our next thought was where to eat that night. We solved that pretty quickly as we spotted an Indian restaurant going back along the main road into town. We may be in Australia but an Indian meal is not to be turned down. If you’re in Hall’s Gap and looking for somewhere to eat go no further than ‘The Spirit of Punjab‘, it was excellent. We had such a good meal that we went back the next night!

Still on the subject of food. We’d bought everything we needed for breakfast from one of the stores in town and were all ready to eat on our veranda. Looking out of the picture window we weren’t too sure about eating outside ….how did these birds know?!

Waiting for breakfast

Now one sulphur-crested cockatoo we might have coped with but five – just too much of a challenge. Within a couple of minutes word had got round. We had enough different kinds of birds to rival any aviary – magpies, the aforementioned cockatoos, then kookaburras arrived (very cute) and last but not least the beautiful crimson rosella who clearly ruled the roost. There was a definite pecking order!

The last remnants of our croissant.

Having eaten our breakfast inside and planned our day we headed off first to see the spectacular Mackenzie Falls. It’s a short walk down to the base of the Falls from the car park; yes it’s steep with lots of steps but it’s fairly easy. At times you are right by the side of the falls but it’s only when you get down to the bottom you realise just how immense they are.

View from the car park and on the walk alongside the Falls

As the water cascades over the huge cliffs into a deep pool it sends fine sprays of rainbow mist high into the air, it was really something down there. Steep climbing back up though so we were pleased we had lots of water with us, although there was plenty all around!

Pretty impressive!

After the waterfall trip we spent the afternoon wandering around the area. There are lots of walks to choose from including short strolls and that’s what we decided to do. We were saving ourselves for a more challenging one the next day.

Lots of info at the Visitor Information Centre

The highlight of the afternoon was walking across to the playing field in Hall’s Gap and meeting lots of kangaroos. They were everywhere! I know it says on the Hall’s Gap website that every visitor will encounter a kangaroo but we didn’t expect to get this close to them. It was a wonderful experience.

Now tomorrow we were doing The Pinnacle Walk. According to the Tourist Info. this walk is one of the highlights of the entire region with stunning views of Hall’s Gap and many of the peaks in the Grampians …we were choosing the easiest route! More about our ‘walk’ in the next Blog.

Saying Hi to the 12 Apostles

We were back on The Great Ocean Road after our encounter with koalas the previous day. This time we were heading to see the 12 Apostles. These iconic limestone stacks have been pounded by the Southern Ocean so much that only seven and a little bit, of the twelve pillars remain. They’re literally just crumbling away. In 2005 one of the stacks collapsed dramatically so it’s anyone’s guess as to how long the remaining seven will last.

The picture below was taken from the main viewing platform.

The Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Drive, Victoria, Australia
Breathtaking views of these magnificent rock stacks

As you can see from this next picture there’s quite a few steps down to the beach but it was well worth going down there. Once on the beach we could really appreciate the size of these crumbling stacks. You have to laugh though …as a professional photographer shooting family celebrations I’m used to taking pictures of couples so when this guy asked me to take a picture of him standing on the beach with his girlfriend I was happy to oblige. Cheeky devil looked at the picture I’d taken and in broken English said …”Again please, no big rock behind us.” I guess he hadn’t come to admire the stacks!

The Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Drive Victoria
It’s quite a way down there.

With my pride still intact we walked up the steps to the top with the wind battering us sideways. There are quite a few designated viewing areas so we walked along to a smaller, less crowded one which gave us fantastic views of this stunning coastline.

A few pictures later and it was time to head to our B&B to get sorted before finding somewhere for a meal. We didn’t want to be too late eating as we had a date later with with some fairy penguins.

The Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Drive Victoria
Just breathtaking.

Our aptly named B&B, 12 Apostles, was only a five minute drive away. Robyn Wallis has three rooms for guests at her cosy farmhouse. The views are lovely as is her garden with lots of interesting artistic objects around the place. It was so peaceful there and we were told that in the evening we would see a stunning array of stars as there was absolutely no light pollution.

12 Apostles B&B on Princetown Road near Great Ocean Drive, Victoria, Australia
12 Apostles B&B on Princetown Road near Great Ocean Drive.

Having off-loaded our things we headed into Port Campbell to find somewhere to eat with hopefully some good Aussie beer on tap. Five minutes later we found just the place down at the Foreshore. ‘Hearty pub style food with local beer’ is what the sign outside said and it was right. 12 Rocks Beach Bar is unpretentious; the meals are reasonably priced and the local beer is good if just a little too cold for us Brits. Pleasantly full we headed back along the road to the Visitor Facility at the 12 Apostles.

Dawn for the sunrise and dusk for the sunset are the two times to view the 12 Apostles. We weren’t surprised therefore that with half an hour to go before sunset the parking plot at the Visitor Facility was pretty full. The seagulls were in force too, landing on cars and making a heck of a noise. They seemed to prefer certain vehicles, no idea why. Had to take picture of this lot on the car roofs.

Seagulls on cars at the Port Campbell Visitor Centre, Twelve Apostles
Seagulls enjoying a landing platform at the Port Campbell Visitor Centre.

With the light fading and a beautiful orange glow forming on the horizon we headed to the main viewing area. I can’t deny that there were lots of visitors there all waiting for the sunset but there was enough space for everyone.

The Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Drive, Victoria Australia
Perfect sunset.

Here is just a couple of the shots I took as this wonderful sunset slowly lit up those majestic rocks along the coastline …just magical.

Dusk at The Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Drive Victoria Australia
Dusk at The Twelve Apostles
Sunset at The Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Drive Victoria Australia
Just when you think the sunset can’t get any better …

So having this magical time enjoying the fabulous glow on the rocks you’re now given a new show ..penguins. These fairy penguins waddle their way onto the beach about ten to fifteen minutes after sunset. They play in the foam along the shoreline then go back into the water, come out again and then waddle a little way up the beach. It would have been fantastic to have had a longer lens with me but I didn’t so I had to be content with the pictures I got however these little penguins are so cute and we loved watching them. We stayed until it got dark until we couldn’t see them anymore.

Fairy Penguins at The Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Drive, Victoria, Australia
Sundown and now the Fairy Penguins arrive waddling their way to the shore.

We rounded off this amazing evening by sitting on the porch at our B&B just watching the stars and sharing a very pleasant bottle of Australian Chardonnay. This is what holidays are all about.

Flying koalas and spooky forests on our way to ‘The Twelve Apostles’.

It’s quite a heading for a Blog but it describes what we got up to after leaving our friends who live on the Mornington Peninsular.

There’s a very useful ferry going across the bay from Sorrento to Queenscliff, Searoad ferries which saves quite a lot of time if you’re heading for The Great Ocean Road. The trip across takes about forty minutes and if you’re lucky as we were you might even see some dolphins.

View from Great Ocean Drive
View from Great Ocean Road
Large stone ‘butes’ rising up out of the ocean.

The views along Great Ocean Road are spectacular. The southern ocean can be very wild and it certainly wasn’t calm when we were there. Our first stop for the night was a motel right on the coastal road but before that we had a date with a few koalas …

Kennett River has a large koala population along with King parrots and kookaburras. We didn’t have time to walk up to the Grey River reserve which we were told is a great place to picnic, my sights or that of my camera was focussed on koalas. We weren’t alone at Kennett River of course in fact there were lots of people all eager to see koalas. Suddenly the shout went up as someone spotted one. You couldn’t say this iconic animal posed for the crowd below in fact he seemed rather disdainful of us and very sleepy. I couldn’t see there was much action and anyway there were too many blinking photographers so I wandered off to another lot of eucalyptus trees to see if I could spot a little more excitement.

Koalas by Kennett River
One koala by Kennet River

Honestly I nearly dropped my camera! There he or she was …a splendid koala and I had this magnificent creature all to myself. Did I keep quiet? You bet I did. Not only was he happy to pose for me (I’m saying he was a ‘he’), but he decided to show off his acrobatic skills by leaping around. You can probably see that I did quite well to capture his antics. I might have got a few more shots but all too soon I was surrounded by keen photographers shrieking and whooping with delight …time to leave them to it. What a shame that my koala decided to give them the ‘bum’s rush’ and scamper off!

Koalas by Kennett River, Victoria, Australia
A much livlier koala by Kennet River
koalas at Kennett River, Victoria, Australia
Koala putting on a show for me!
Koalas by Kennett River, Victoria, Australia
Koala doing his flying act and finishing by hanging on for grim death!

Seeing koalas and having King parrots land on your head was quite enough excitement for one day. It had been a fairly long drive to Apollo Bay as we’d stopped several times to look at the view and so we were tired when we arrived at our motel.

Our motel room at Seafarer’s Getaway had a superb view of the beach and the ocean but unfortunately the sea was too rough to have a swim. We missed the best of the sunset that evening as we’d gone into the town to have a meal but I managed to get this picture when we got back.

Apollo Bay, Victoria, Australia
Sunset over Apollo Bay.

Day two on The Great Ocean Road and our first stop, just fifteen miles away from Apollo Bay was at Mait’s Rest Rainforest. Surprisingly there was hardly anyone else around as we walked along the board walk. Mait’s Rest doesn’t feature much as one of the attractions along Great Coast Road which in a way is a pity however we loved the solitude. If you’re anywhere near do go, it’s fabulous. Giant myrtle beeches tower through the ever-constant mist which hangs over the rainforest and the array of ferns is wonderful. Such an atmospheric place which I’ve tried to capture in these pictures.

Maits Rest primeval rainforest
Start of our walk through this primeval rainforest
Maits Rest rainforest, Victoria, Australia
Amazing ferns in this primeval forest.
Had to be done!

This had been a magical morning but now it was time to get back to the car, put the heater on to warm up and head towards the Twelve Apostles. These great stacks rise up from the Southern ocean so what with the promise of a dramatic skyline, stunning effects on the rocks at sunset I knew we were in for a treat. Here’s just one picture for starters, more to follow in my next Blog.

The Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Drive Victoria Australia
The Twelve Apostles

Melbourne, Mates & Mornington Peninsular.

It was hard to drag ourselves away from our little Miner’s Cottage in Walhalla but today we were heading to Hastings on the Mornington Peninsular to visit friends. We’d been promising to visit them for as long as I can remember, they probably thought we’d never make it … just goes to show!

We’d been guests at their wedding forty years ago and so how could we not come over to Oz to celebrate their Ruby wedding anniversary? It was also my friend’s husband’s birthday so there were two things to celebrate.

Considering neither of them drink, well my friend a little but compared to our consumption it’s a drop in the old wine glass, it was kind of them to take us to a vineyard after lunch. It was a good choice, Stumpy Gully wine is very quaffable and of course I ended up buying a bottle …for later. The setting there is delightful, no wonder the restaurant has a great reputation along with their wines and a very romantic place to celebrate a wedding too I would imagine.

Stumpy Gulley vineyard, Victoria
My man enjoying his wine tasting at Stumpy Gully vineyard
Stumpy Gully vineyard, Victoria
Part of the vineyard at Stumpy Gully

The next day we caught the train into Melbourne arriving at the bustling Flinders Street Station. We walked around a little to get our bearings and then headed to one of the aboriginal art galleries, Koorie Heritage Trust in Federation Square.

Sites of Melbourne, Victoria.
Melbourne skyline with Princes Bridge, Flinder’s Street Station & St Paul’s Cathedral.
The Koorie Heritage Trust Museum. Victoria.
Aboriginal artwork in The Koorie Heritage Trust Museum, Melbourne.

These designs are amazing and I loved the display of the rolled towers in one of the galleries at the museum. After a refreshing cup of tea for me and coffee for my man we were off to see art of a different kind.

Hosier Lane in Melbourne is a lane full of urban street art, graffiti if you like. Even the wheelie bins are painted! One thing the guide book doesn’t tell you about is the smell, presumably at night this area is a refuge for rough sleepers.

Hosier Street, Melbourne.
Graffiti everywhere even on the bins! Hosier Street, Melbourne.

After the mind-blowing effect of so much grafitti we headed back to Federation Square to The Ian Potter Centre which has a fabulous collection of art and is part of the National Gallery of Victoria. You could spend a whole day in there and it’s free admission. Here’s my favourite painting, it’s a bit ‘off-kilter’ but that’s the photographer not the hanging!

Painting of a woman holding vase in The National Gallery Victoria.
My favourite painting in The Ian Potter Centre part of the National Gallery Victoria.

We decided to do as much as possible before lunch (as you can probably tell!) so our next stop was St Paul’s Cathedral. As an ordination service was about to start we weren’t able to have a good look round. The architecture apparently is neo-Gothic, partly early English and partly decorated. It’s a fairly austere building designed by an English architect but he certainly didn’t (in my opinion) try to copy any of our classic Cathedrals.

Now it definitely was time for lunch so we walked across Princes Bridge and found an excellent cafe along the riverside just in time to escape a torrential downpour! Fortunately when we were ready to leave the weather had sorted itself out so we headed back to the centre by Flinder’s Station and caught one of the ionic free City Circle trams, route number 35. After our free tour we just had time to pop into the other part of the National Gallery of Victoria before heading for the train back to Hastings for a celebration meal cooked by our hosts. Loved the traditional Aussie pumpkin soup, delicious!

As much as we enjoyed our trip to Melbourne we’re not really city people. We enjoyed being on the coast blowing a few cobwebs away and our friends were great guides and know all the pretty harbours and walkways.

Mornington Harbour Victoria.
Mornington Harbour, Victoria.

All too soon it was time to leave although it wasn’t a final farewell as we were coming back to Hastings after the next part of our trip. So it was goodbye to Mornington Peninsular as we headed off to The Great Ocean Drive. The most direct route was by ferry first. Just forty minutes across what is known as Victory Bight from Sorrento to Queenscliff avoiding a long drive via Melbourne, and we saw dolphins, a real treat. More about the drive and our stay in The Grampians in the next blog.

Searoad Ferries Victoria.
Searoad Ferry from Sorrento to Queenscliff Victoria

Sweeping down from Sydney to Mornington Peninsular N.S.W.

Everything we’d read about the drive south from Sydney along the coastal route was true. The scenery is breathtaking! Although we’d enjoyed our stay in Sydney it was good to escape from the city. If only our roads at home were as quiet as this. Plenty of places to pull in off The Princes Highway and admire the view although we knew we had a fair few miles to cover and a couple of places to visit en route.

Sea Cliff Bridge, New South Wales
You can’t help but admire this feat of engineering – Sea Cliff Bridge.

Illawarra Fly is famous for its treetop walk and zipline adventure through the tree tops. Maybe it was because the views weren’t great as it was quite misty that we were underwhelmed by our visit there. Perhaps if we’d done the zipline we would have been more impressed? So it was on to the next tourist spot, Fitzroy Falls.

Part of the tree top walk taken from one of the lookout towers at Illawara Fly NSW.
Part of the tree top walk taken from one of the lookout towers at Illawara Fly.

Fitzroy Falls is actually the name of the village which was founded in the early 19th century. Today according to Wikipedia 218 people live there. You’ll see from the plaque below that the good old Europeans began moving the indigenous Aboriginal people out from the area in 1816. This was a very spiritual place for the Aborigines, a fact lost to those early settlers.

We enjoyed our walk through the forest and especially the views which were spectacular including the falls where the water plunges down over 80 metres. The Visitor Centre acknowledges the Aboriginal history of the region and sells locally made souvenirs. We both felt that this tourist attraction was well worth the visit.

After a short drive we arrived at Vincentia, Jervis Bay for our overnight stay. After booking into our hotel for the night, Dolphin Shores we drove into town for a beer. Fabulous evening with a golden light lighting up the Bay; it was so good sitting out on the pub veranda, that I had a second pint.

Fitzroy Falls NSW and views.
Fitzroy Falls in Morton National Park and other natural features.

Very excited about our trip today. You just have to see kangaroos if you’re visiting Australia and today was going to be the day! We were heading for Pebbly Beach. If you take a look at their website you’ll see there’s kangaroos everywhere on the beach.

First of all we drove down through this wonderful, primeval forest which is part of Murramarang National Park. Definitely something out of Jurassic Park, it even smelt ‘earthy’. Arriving at the car park we started “roo” spotting. Was that a kangaroo over there? Maybe not. The weather was fantastic as we walked to the beach. Definitely very scenic with pure white sand and secluded but where were the residents? In fairness I don’t suppose they’re on the beach all the time and it was very hot but we’d come a long way …

We sat for quite a while soaking up the sun until we felt we’d had enough. We walked slowly back to the car feeling a bit miffed but just before we got there, on the grass by the bushes were a group of kangaroos. Turned out it was our lucky day in more ways than one as we hadn’t realised you had to pay for parking until we spotted the machine. No traffic violation …this time …but that’s a story for another Blog.

Kangaroos at Pebbly Beach N.S.W.
Elusive kangaroos at Pebbly Beach.
Views of Pebbly Beach NSW
Scenic and secluded Pebbly Beach

We stayed at a place called Eden that night. Not a lot happening there on a Monday evening. We drove round looking for somewhere to have dinner without success and arrived back at our hotel. Apparently there are around 3000 or so people who live in this coastal town, they certainly don’t go far on a Monday night!

Thankfully the next place we stayed in had a lot more life even though it’s a small village. Metung is very pretty and sits by the shores of Gippsland Lakes. I loved our wooden house at McMillans of Metung and had an enjoyable swim in the pool there. We’d definitely recommend this resort and the friendly people who own it. Another place we loved was the flower and tea shop where we had the biggest, squidgiest chocolate cake ever, it was divine! Thanks you Effloresce Flowers and Cafe, the walk into town along the boardwalk by the lake in the late afternoon sun was lovely and to discover they were still open was an added bonus.

Next morning we headed off to the wonderfully sounding name, Walhalla, which was an old mining town established in 1862. In its day the Gold Mine was one of the richest in Australia and the town was booming. Not like that today but it’s history is fascinating and of course it now relies on the tourists although at the time our visit it was fairly quiet. The town nestles in a deep mountain valley, it even snows there in winter! There’s a number of quaint shops all reflecting a time long gone. Our first stop was to the Grey Horse Cafe for a sandwich and a warming cup of tea. We sat outside by the War Memorial admiring the roses and feeling quite chilly.

Historic town of Walhalla N.S.W.
The historic town of Walhalla N.S.W

Just up the road outside the General Stores was a chap feeding the King parts and Crimson Rosella, both beautiful birds, which you can see. He told us that they rely on him …I bet they do!

King Parrots & Crimson Rosella
Feeding time for the King Parrots & Crimson Rosella

I loved the Victorian-style band stand dominating the village and made a note to walk up to to it on our way back from visiting the Gold Mine.

Band stand in Walhalla
Could it be anything other than a Band Stand?

The Long Tunnel Extended Mine conducts tours every day. You don’t need to book ahead and with the concession rate my man and I paid $15 each. Our guide was great and gave us lots of information and she aimed it so that everyone, whatever age, could get a lot out of this entertaining tour. For the history of the mine have a look at their website http://www.walhallaboard.org.au/long-tunnel-extended-gold-mine

Long Tunnel Extended Mine, Walhalla NSW
Long Tunnel Extended Mine

After the tour we had just enough time to walk back through the village to the railway station to catch the Walhalla Goldfields Railway. This is a narrow gauge railway, run by volunteers. It’s a great journey (far too wobbly to take any pictures) which runs through Stringers Creek Gorge, going over six large trestle bridges. Then it passes through the delightfully named ‘Happy Creek’ before arriving at Thomson station. The star of the show for us was Gladys, the volunteer who seemed to be very much in charge even down to waving the train off as we left on the return journey.

Walhalla Goldfields Railway NSW
Walhalla Goldfields Railway

At this point we still hadn’t gone to where we were staying the night although we’d seen the cottage as its perched on top of a steep bank overlooking the railway. Stringer’s Cottage is a one-bedroom miner’s cottage tucked away and shaded by a massive mountain ash and black wood trees. It’s compact, eco friendly, solar powered and is bursting with character, we loved it there.

Miners Cottage in Walhalla and the Cemetery
Stringers Cottage and Walhalla Cemetery

I’m sure by now you’re thinking that we couldn’t cram anymore into this day but we did. I have a thing about churchyards …anywhere, anytime. I was not going to miss a visit to Walhalla Cemetery which I knew would tell the harsh reality of life here faced by the miners and their families. It’s an unusual cemetery perched high above the town with apparently 1100 graves although only 200 can now be located which seems very sad. It’s quite tricky to get around, climbing up along the terraces and stone walls but we made it to the top and it was well worth it.

By the time we got back to Stringers Cottage we only had a short time to sort ourselves out ready for our meal at the only pub in town. In fact the only place in town you can eat in the evening and you have to make sure you’ve ordered by 7.00pm. The Walhalla Lodge Hotel, better known as The Wally Pub was just what we wanted. An excellent pint of beer and a huge plate of good, hearty food. Just what we needed!

By 9.30 we were heading back to our little cottage in the woods. It was really quiet. No cars, people or any activity apart from a few Crimson Rosellas in the trees. No surprise that we slept very well that night in our miners cottage.

Sydney Rocks!

It was great to arrive in Sydney in the early morning and know we could crash for a few hours in our airbnb apartment. Once again my man had chosen well. The apartment was in a quiet part of the city, Pott’s Point and had great views of the bay and over to Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. I can’t say we did too much that day, we were still re-charging our batteries.

Sydney Harbour
Walking to a famous landmark.

This was day 2 and time to explore! We walked from Pott’s Point enjoying the fresh air and feeling excited to be in Sydney. We walked along the path by Woolloomooloo Bay (great name) up to the viewpoint at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. These Ozzies know how to name places! By then there were quite a few tourists around as it’s a popular spot to take pictures. The sky looked quite threatening but for me that kind of backdrop makes for good pictures.

We carried on through the Royal Botanic Garden which is beautiful and huge …30 hectares if you can imagine that. You can easily spend a day wandering around there but we were on a mission to do as many sights as possible!

Australian birds in the Royal Botanical Garden Sydney.
One or two of the exotic birds we spotted in the Royal Botanical Garden.
The Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney
The Royal Botanic Garden.

We came out of the garden and joined the main path up to the Opera House. You kind-of pinch yourself – it’s so iconic. You’ve seen it in pictures etc and suddenly there it is in front of you. The design is incredible and even more so when you see it from the bay, it really does look like a ship on water!

Sydney Harbour
Walking to a famous landmark.
Front of the Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We went inside but decided not to pay for a guided tour and instead treated ourselves to a glass of fizz and a sandwich on the terrace. So glad we didn’t have a meal there as the seagulls are SO agressive and dive-bomb anyone eating food. The food on the plates is covered with a metal lid but you have to take it off to get at your food. Before the unsuspecting diners know what’s happening the seagulls are swooping down and grabbing it! To us it looked like a scene from ‘The Birds.’

Having enjoyed the free entertainment and managing to eat our sandwich we walked around as much of the outside of the building as you can and went to the loo inside without having to pay admission! Refreshed and ready to go again we took the path around Circular Quay walking towards an area of the city known as The Rocks.

The Rocks is definitely our favourite area of Sydney. It’s got character, open-air markets, lots of pubs and restaurants and a great atmosphere. The streets were teeming with people but I managed to spot a French bakery shop as we walked along towards the bridge; that’ll do I thought for after we’ve climbed up the bridge. I should say that we did the Pylon Lookout and not the walk across the whole span of the bridge. I’m sure that’s great but it’s not cheap and would have taken a huge chunk of time out of our day. To go up the 200 stairs to the south-east pylon lookout is only $10 dollars (concession rate) and you still get a great view. The exhibitions are interesting too with some fabulous pictures showing the men constructing the bridge. They had some guts to do that and amazingly only sixteen men died and only two actually fell to their deaths from the bridge.

A view from the south east pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Views from the south east pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

I’ve found the name of the French cake shop …very happy to give ‘La Renaissance’ a mention, the cakes were delicious. Suitably refreshed, we walked all the way back to our apartment. We’d certainly discovered a good part of Sydney and covered a few miles that day.

Day 3 and we had a wander around the city centre. Pretty much like any other but I did like this arcade, The Strand Arcade.

Strand Arcade in Sydney city centre.
Strand Arcade in the city centre.

Gosh it was chilly walking round and there was us thinking Sydney would be steaming! Fortunately we’d planned to go on the ferry across to Manly and over there, the sun was shining. It feels like you’re going across to an island but it’s boringly described by Wikipedia as a beach-side suburb of northern Sydney.

Manly Island NSW
Manly island.

We weren’t too impressed walking down to the seafront. Lot of shops that you find anywhere at seaside places …reminded us of Mablethorpe High Street without the motorised wheelchairs! Fortunately once we’d got away from that area and started walking the coastal path things looked up, so much so I almost missed seeing this water dragon. There were signs for them but I didn’t expect to spot one. They are quite impressive especially the way they blend in with the rocks. We didn’t get too close, (I used my long lens), they have serious claws and bite!

Water dragons of Sydney
Australian water dragon

After a fantastic fish lunch at a seafood cafe washed down with an excellent glass of Aussie wine we decided to do some exploring. It was funny to see this sign in the middle of a suburban area and yes, once we were back on the wooded trail we actually saw a bandicoot. Only for a second though, nervous critters clearly.

Sign for Bandicoots. NSW Australia
We just don’t get these at home …

By the time we got back to the ferry we’d probably walked six or seven miles. Ten out of ten for wildlife, the same for the beaches we came across and the terrain inland. Heavens knows how we came to stumble across a parade ground and barracks with no-one around or walk through a suburb of Manly but these things happen sometimes on our walks. We couldn’t help noticing on our way back to Sydney that the sky was overcast and the temperature when we got off the ferry was ten degrees colder than in Manly! Apparently it had been like that all afternoon in the city.

That night I took a final picture looking across from our apartment to the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. It looked great with all the lights twinkling. Tomorrow we would be heading south in a hire car down Australia’s Pacific Coast.

Landmarks of Sydney at night
View from our apartment on our last night in Sydney.

Two days in Singapore.

Supertree Grove, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

A stop-over in Singapore (1)

We were off to Australia, our first trip to the Antipodes. We could have flown straight to Sydney but it was just too tempting to stop-over in Singapore after all, we’d arrive in Oz more alert without jet lag …wouldn’t we?

It was about ten years since we’d been in Singapore. Even at 6am and you’ve guessed it, feeling pretty zonked as we were driven from the airport, the skyline of the city looked impressive. Was it our imagination or did it seem like skyscraper city, with the ocassional area of green grass? How much would we recognise from the last time we were here we wondered, a lot can change in ten years.

We knew we wouldn’t be able to get into our room until early afternoon so after dumping our cases at our hotel, The Park Regis, we made our way into town, dragging our feet with tiredness. It was a grey old day which didn’t help to lift our spirits although it’s an interesting walk around the Boat Quay. Afterwards we looked around the very impressive National Gallery which is free to go in and huge. After a cheap and delicious Chinese lunch in one of the back streets we were able to get into our room and catch up on some sleep.

The boat quay, Singapore.
The boat quay, Singapore.
The statues along the Boat Quay, Singapore
Superb sculptures alongside the Boat Quay

A few hours later and we were ready to hit the city. We headed off to Gardens by the Bay which is a huge, futuristic park in the bay area. It’s rated one of the top three things to do in Singapore and you can see why. Great place and it’s free!

Supertree Grove, Singapore during the Light & Sound show.
Skyway and Supertree Grove. Taken during the Light and Sound show.

So much to see in the park and the Light and Sound show which takes place every evening at 7.45 and 8.45 is spectacular. How they’ve lit up the trees is something else – an amazing sight. Huge crowds started to gather to enjoy this free show; you have find to a space to sit wherever you can. If you want you can pay to watch it from the Skyway but we didn’t see the point. We did agree though that when we come back to the city in a couple of week’s time we’ll go up to the top of the Marina Bay Sands hotel and watch the display from there.

Our flight the next day wasn’t until early evening so we spent the day walking around the city, our first stop was the Asian Civilisations Museum. We love anything to do with Asian artefacts and culture. The gallery is on three levels and showcases not just Asian art and culture but also sculptures and paintings of Christian and Islamic art. As it turned out we could have spent hours in there, so much to see, it was excellent. I took a few pictures but the light in several of the galleries was very low. Their website has some good pictures on there.

Display from the Tang shipwreck
Display from the Tang shipwreck of more than 1000 pieces from the 9th century of ceramics, gold and silver.
The Gallery of ancient religions at The Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore
The Gallery of ancient religions.
Asian Museum, Singapore
The variety of exhibits in the Museum, something for everyone.

Inevitably when you’re staying in Singapore the place to go and explore and enjoy a good value meal is Chinatown. Apart from the appalling smell as you pass the stalls selling durian fruit, the area is fun, colourful and bursting with life. Night time is best to experience the buzz, the smell of street food and enjoy the entertainment. We ate there both nights

On our second night before going for a meal we visited the Hindu temple, Sri Mariamann which is just around the corner from Chinatown. I don’t know why but invariably on holiday I come across a wedding and this holiday was no exception. We didn’t expect the temple to be full of people carrying food, a procession and loud music. We weren’t sure what was going on but it turned out to be the first of several ceremonies celebrating a wedding. Don’t know whether the bride and groom were there but there was plenty going on even if they weren’t! We couldn’t stay too long as we wanted to have a meal before heading off to the airport. Only wish my pictures conveyed the huge amount of activity going on at this temple and the deafening noise!

A ceremony at Sri Mariamman Temple
The start of the ceremony at Sri Mariamman Temple
Food at the wedding ceremony at Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore
Announcements at the beginning of the wedding ceremony at Sri Mariamman Temple
Wonderful features of the Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore
Some of the wonderful features of the Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore

After another excellent meal in Chinatown washed down by a couple of bottles of Tiger beer we picked up our bags from the hotel and headed for the airport for our next part of the trip. Australia here we come!