Three go to Lisbon.

One of the iconic yellow trams which transport locals and tourists across the city. Cheap, clean and reliable and a great way to see this wonderful city. Take the number 28 tram for the classic Lisbon tram journey which screeches and rattles its way through the popular tourist districts. In this picture is also one of the hundreds of tuk-tuks ready to take tourists on a tour, costing rather more than the tram.

There’s no doubt that Lisbon is very hilly and our apartment was right on the top of one of the hills by the Sao Jorge Castle. We loved this area. In the day it teems with tourists rolling through the many souvenir shops or queuing to go into the castle and at night you’re transported back in time as you walk along the quiet, dimly lit cobbled streets. There was a full moon the night we arrived.

A full moon on our first night in the city.

Day one. First objective …to find a bakers for croissant and bread and a little grocers for fruit and yogurt. No problem at all. Our little apartment had a terrace which was one of the reasons we chose it. Perfect for eating breakfast al fresco or enjoying a glass of wine later. The terrace backed onto the wall of the castle which has several very noisy residents. It wasn’t unusual to see a peacock looking down on us from the wall or an adjacent tree, fortunately they couldn’t get out of the grounds! The thing about peacocks is that they are very noisy. I always thought that at night time birds go to roost and sleep. These delightful creatures sqwark all the time …morning, noon and night. No we didn’t get used to it! Our friend had the bedroom at the front of the building so she couldn’t hear them – we could!

Enough about peacocks, we had a city to explore. First stop was to walk down the hill to the the cathedral known locally as the Se de Lisboa. This Roman Catholic church is the oldest in the city and has an impressive Gothic cloister.

Not the prettiest church I’ve ever been in but the cloister is impressive.

Tour of the cathedral done, it was time for a sandwich and a beer before walking down to the waterside and the impressive Commerce Square.

Praca de Comericio (Commerce Square) by the Tagus river and the 25th of April suspension bridge.

This area is buzzing with tourists and locals. We thoroughly enjoyed just sitting by the river Tagus soaking in the atmosphere watching the boats go by and the antics of the seagulls. After half an hour or so we decided it was time for a little retail therapy …at least that’s what we girls thought.

You just walk through The Rua Augusta Arch and you’re into the main shopping centre. One of the most interesting shops was the window of a traditional bakers which was full of those delicious Portuguese custard tarts, Pasteis de Nata. More about these later. Having checked out the many shoes shops and making a mental note to come back to several we carried on walking to the ruins of the Carmo Convent.

You walk through a little door by the cash desk and suddenly there’s the impressive ruins of the convent in front of you. This ruin was one of the many victims of a devastating earthquake which hit Lisbon in 1755. As well as the ruins which in themselves are fascinating there is a museum housed in the apse and nave of the convent which still have a roof over them. The museum is full of an eclectic mix of objects, tombs and tiles. The party of school children in there found some of the objects very amusing … This ruined convent is well worth a visit and a great place to take pictures.

Carmo Convent, Lisbon
The roofless Carmo Convent and Church
Picking out the details.
To think that some of this stone work dates back to the 15th century.

After all the walking we’d done it was time to catch a tram back up the hill. Arriving at our stop we were definitely flagging and needed to re-charge our batteries. One last thing we wanted to do though before heading back to our apartment was to walk across the road to look at the view over the city. It was spectacular in the evening sunshine.

Stunning views wherever you look.

Even though we knew there was lots more to see in Lisbon we decided on our second day to catch a train to Cascais which is on the coast just west of Lisbon. It takes about forty minutes, mostly whizzing through the suburbs with almost every wall covered in graffiti. In our carriage we were serenaded by a group of students singing Queen songs – they were really good. Couldn’t help wishing that we get this at home on our trains sometimes!

Cascais (apologies for the slightly wonky middle picture)!

We expected the town to be touristy, what we hadn’t expected was all the tacky shops and oh my goodness, the buskers! A mixed lot! The tourist information website describes Cascais as … ‘an elegant fusion of decorative 19th century architecture and modern tourist facilities’. Yes there is some interesting houses especially away from the main street but overall we weren’t that impressed. We hadn’t gone to flake on the beach and we didn’t go into The Castro Guklmaraes Museum or walk far along the coast so we didn’t really do the place justice. Don’t be put off by my lack enthusiasm though.

Back on the train and this time we got off at the station nearest to the Belem Monument. An iconic structure built in 1940 celebrating the achievements of Portuguese explorers, it’s truly magnificent. There is a lift which takes you to the top for a modest price.

Bele
The work that went into these sculptures is incredible.

Just a stone throws away from the monument is the home of the iconic and delicious Pasteis de Nata. Pasteis de Belem is the place to go for Portugal’s famous custard tart. Flaky pastry and unctuous custard is a winning combination. This bakery and cafe have been making the Pasteis since 1837 and it appears the interior dates back from that time too. We may have missed out on a visit to the nearby Monastery on account of the huge numbers of tourists outside but we weren’t going to visit Belem and not buy Pasteis de Nata.

Clutching our delightfully package treats we caught a bus back into the city and then took a cable car up to the castle and our apartment.

Time to relax on the terrace with a Pasteis de Nata washed down with a glass of rose.

After all that it was time for a siesta. We needed to charge our batteries once again before before going out that evening to a famous fish restaurant down near the sea front. Should we have booked a table …yes of course we should.

Love this picture, top left of a traditional Portuguese twelve stringed guitar. It’s associated with the music genre, Fado. I took it whilst the street busker was chatting to someone. The guitar was just lying on the ground so I quickly took a picture with my phone. Fado is a form of singing which is very expressive and mournful and I would add, haunting. The music is often associated with pubs and cafes and originated in Portugal in the 1820’s. We noticed that restaurants advertising Fado singing were quite expensive which did put us off. I wish now we had tried one but as we will definitely be going back to Lisbon we’ll not miss out on this again. There’s also a whole museum devoted to Fado.

Walking the back streets of Lisbon at night is so enjoyable and feels safe. There’s lots of atmosphere, graffiti and interesting murals. It was a shame we had to wait outside Maria Catita restaurant for almost an hour for a table but we were given a drink along with all the other tourists waiting. Quite a party really except the wine was terrible! My lobster dish, pictured bottom right was delicious and well worth waiting for. This popular restaurant fully deserves its reputation but if you go, book a table!

Well we’re halfway through our week in Lisbon so I think it’s a good time to finish the first half of this Blog. Lots more pictures to come including what we got up to in Sintra and our visit to the Lisbon Oceanarium. I hope you’ll stick around to read the final part!

Hello to Singapore …again.

It’s hard to say whether we should have gone straight from Melbourne to London without a stop-over but as we love Singapore we decided to spend a couple more days there on our way home.

When it rains in Singapore it doesn’t mess about and my goodness was it raining when we arrived! Instead of getting soaked wandering around we decided to get our heads down for a while. We stayed in The Park Regis Hotel again and had a fab room looking out on the swimming pool.

Swimming pool at The Park Regis Hotel, Singapore.
Typical weather in Singapore – downpours and warm, humid days.

After a couple of hours sleep we headed to our favourite cafe bar for breakfast, Malaysian style. This place is such good value and the person who runs it is so welcoming. Cheapest place in the city for breakfast (we reckon) as long as you’re happy to have a little honey on your bread with a boiled egg and cake to follow. Interesting combination and it worked for us. I didn’t have to explain this time how I like my tea (black tea, cold milk and one sugar), our friendly owner remembered from our visits a couple of weeks earlier. If she thought that having milk in tea was odd she didn’t say!

Double U Traditional cafe in Singapore.
Chinatown (top left) and our Malaysian breakfast bar, Double U Traditional cafe.

Next stop after a bit of a wander round was to the imposing building known as Parkview Square. I’d spotted this Art Deco building when we were in the city last time and thought maybe it was a museum. Turns out it’s one of the most expensive office blocks in the city. This link will tell you all about it so I won’t go into the detail of its history here but enough to say that despite the Art Deco architecture it was built less than twenty years ago! Parkview is not all it seems!

Once my man had researched the place and discovered there was a rather excellent wine bar on the ground floor that was where we headed. Apparently amongst its patrons are members of the Divine Wine Bar Society, I can aspire to that! Sitting in the Atlas Bar surrounded by Art Deco frescos and statues everywhere, you just want to make your glass of fizz last for ever!

Atlas Bar in Parkview Square, Singapore.
Atlas Bar inside Parkview Square.
Inside the Atlas Bar in Parkview Square, Singapore.
Enjoying a glass of fizz in the Atlas Bar in Parkview Square, Singapore.

Eventually we managed to drag ourselves away and walked to the adjacent district of Kampong Glam Malay, home of Singapore’s Muslim Community. It’s a popular area for tourists as there’s lots of good value cafes but more importantly at the end of Muscat Street is the imposing Masjid Sultan mosque which is a must to visit. The massive gold domes are a magnificent landmark and inside is a huge prayer hall which can accommodate up to 5000 people. Before you enter the Mosque women are given a very fetching all-over robe and for men wearing shorts there is a sexy long skirt for covering the legs. As you’ll see from the picture below we both looked rather fetching! Our stay in the mosque was longer than planned as in true Singapore style the heavens opened and for about an hour the rain was torrential. Even a rather large scorpion came inside to shelter! We gave him a wide berth …

Visiting Masjid Sultan Mosque, Singapore.
Masjid Sultan Mosque

Back to the hotel for a swim and another snooze (this jet-lag is hard to ignore) and we were ready for the evening.

There’s so much to do in this city and one of the star attractions is to go up to the Observation Deck of the Sands Park Hotel. The lift whisks you up the 57 floors to the SkyPark Observation Deck. You can go up anytime (it’s not free!) but at night you can watch the light and water show which is spectacular. These pictures don’t do it justice but there’s only so much my Panasonic Lumix camera can do from that height! You can see the ‘Gardens by the Bay’ and the whole of the Marina Bay area and the amazing cityscape which is Singapore.

Then it was time to head for Chinatown for yet another decently priced meal at one of the many restaurants and to soak up the great atmosphere there.

Views from Sands SkyPark Observation Deck , Singapore.
Views from Sands SkyPark Observation Deck – 57 storeys up!

The last day of our trip. We were heading home but not until late evening. We’d already done lots both at the beginning of our holiday and this stop-over on the way back so what were we going to do on our last day? It was easy to decide …Singapore’s Botanic Gardens. It’s world famous and rightly so and a great way to spend a few hours. Apparently the Gardens are the most visited botanic gardens in the world with over 4 million visitors annually.

It’s easy to get there by metro and free to wander round the grounds. There are lots of themed gardens and although we didn’t have time to go round them all we managed quite a few. After lunch we headed for the National Orchid Garden within the site. I’ll never forget this experience; the most fabulous orchids you’re ever likely to see, even tops Wisley! It’s cheap to get in too, just $5 dollars for adults and $1 dollar if you’re over 60.

Singapore Botanic Gardens
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Grounds of the National Orchid Garden, Singapore.
I’m one of the 4 million tourists who visit the National Orchid Garden each year.
Orchids in The National Orchid Garden, Singapore
Just some of the fabulous orchids in The National Orchid Garden
Orchids in The National Orchid Garden, Singapore.
More of the amazing orchids in The National Orchid Garden, Singapore.
Orchid house at the National Orchid Garden. with each one dedicated to a famous visitor.
Orchid house with each one dedicated to a famous visitor.

If we go back to Singapore we’d definitely go to The Botanic Gardens again. There is so much to see and as interesting as the theme gardens are it’s the Orchids I’d head for straightaway. If you love orchids you’ll love this garden. This visit was the perfect way to end our holiday.

Farewell to Oz!

The quickest way to get back to our friends who live on the Mornington Peninsular was to go by ferry from Queenscliff to Sorrento. On this crossing, unlike the previous trip, we didn’t see any dolphins but you can’t be lucky every time.

Searoad Ferries
On the way back to Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsular

Our friends had planned two pretty full days of sightseeing for the last part of our holiday starting with a visit to see ‘Puffing Billy’. This century-old steam train railway is a major tourist attraction and runs through the mountainous Dandenong Ranges National Park. Unfortunately due to our packed schedule we didn’t have time to go on the train but at least we saw it. It’s not a million miles away from Melbourne so if you’re in the area I’m sure it’s well worth taking a trip,

Puffing Billy about to leave from Belgrave Station.

You can see why The Dandenongs is a popular tourist attraction. The landscape feels almost primeval full of verdant forests and rocky landscapes with a number of walking trails and lush pathways to choose from. If you’re not into walking there’s lots of arts and craft industries and quaint villages.

Our next stop after seeing the ‘Puffing Billy was right up my street as my friends knew it would be …William Ricketts Sanctuary. The brochure describes this place as ‘nestling into the hillside amongst cloud sweeping Mountain Ash and ferns’. It’s certainly hidden away and is literally a living gallery.

William Ricketts was apparently a quiet chap, very in tune with nature and believed all Australians should adopt Aboriginal philosophies. Within the sanctuary there are 90 different sculptures carved into rocks and tree trunks depicting Aboriginal people engaging with the pure forest setting, it felt quite magical and very peaceful.

Gardens of the Dandenong Ranges, Victoria, Australia
William Ricketts Sanctuary
One or two of the sculptures.

It was hard to drag ourselves away from this delightful setting. What fascinating sculptures …I loved them! Lunch beckoned however and we had a table booked for 1.00pm for afternoon tea. At home we’d usually have this mid to late afternoon but don’t forget this is Australia! To be fair to our friends who’d booked ‘Fortnums’ for this treat, it’s such a popular place they were fully booked for lunch.

Fortnums is famous for their Devonshire scones and I’m not surprised, they were delicious and very filling. The restaurant is on the main street in Sassafras village which is full of English style tea rooms and shops. Agatha Christie came here hence as you might spot from the picture below, the village even boasts a Miss Marples tea room!

After a splendid tea we had a wander around before returning to our friends’ house in Hastings.

Afternoon tea, Aussie style.
Afternoon tea in Sassafras Village

Our last full day in Oz and no time for slacking! Fist of all we were taken to an enormous outdoor market with hundreds of stalls selling crafts, veg. and lots of interesting goodies. Perhaps as well that we didn’t have any room left in our cases. An hour walking around was enough; the temperature had shot up and was in the mid 30’s.

Our next stop was a trip on Arthur’s Seat Eagle which the Swiss would describe as a Gondolbahn. The views are really impressive if you like heights which my man and I do. My friend’s husband however was pleased when we got to the bottom. Unfortunately for him we had the trip back up …This is a new attraction for the Mornington Peninsular and I must say the gondolas are very smart and the views across Port Philip Bay are impressive.

Flying high and loving it!

Back up at the top with everyone ready for lunch we sat in the nearby woods and had a picnic in the shade away from the searing heat.

Arthur's Seat Nat Park, Victoria
Cheers!

Our friends know how keen I am on gardening and so our next port of call was to Heronswood, Australia’s first organically-certified gardens. As well as a variety of flower borders the house is quite a landmark. Architecturally it wouldn’t look out of place in Portmeirion. I was fascinated by the ‘Dry Garden’ with its mix of cacti, succulents and grasses which never needs watering. Handy in this part of the world I should imagine.

Heronswood Gardens
This felt very English in its design.

We would have stayed longer at Heronswood but it was very hot and our friends decided that it was time for an ice cream. It seemed like the whole of Mornington Peninsular was there, the place was packed, even coach loads of people arriving!

We’d certainly done quite a lot on our last day and were thankful to go down to the bay at Hastings to walk along a little and feel the refreshing breeze.

Hastings Marina and a plate of mussels.

I can’t finish this Blog on our Australian trip without first of all thanking our friends for their wonderful kindness and hospitality. They had been waiting forty years for us to visit them and we were so pleased to be able to do that and celebrate their Ruby anniversary with them.

…And the plate of mussels? Please take note how beautifully those mussel shells are arranged! My friend at home always arranges the shells like this and we like to give it a go but what a stir we caused at the restaurant at Hastings. The waitress was amazed, so much so she took the bowl into the kitchen to show everyone! We have started a trend maybe?!

So it’s goodbye to Australia and hello again to Singapore before we arrive home. More on the last leg of our trip in the next Blog.

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

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.