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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
Montreuil was a source of inspiration for Victor Hugo who wrote the novel ‘Les Miserables’. It’s recently been televised by the BBC and so several of our friends were asking whether this was the reason we’d chosen to stay there … it wasn’t. We thought that instead of going straight home after our mammoth shop it would be a nice idea to stay somewhere not too far away from Calais. Montreuil is only an hour down the motorway and it turned out to be a very good choice.
On the way there we came off the motorway at Le Touquet as I wanted to take a picture of the sun setting over the sea. I’m glad we did because as you can see from the shot above, it was a beautiful sight.
Having arrived at our hotel we got a bit of a shock as we tried the door to the old building which was locked and then realised the place was empty apart from a cement mixer! Major refurbishments are going on so we were relieved when a workman directed us next door to the open part of the hotel. We’d definitely recommend Les Hauts de Montreuil. We were given a nice warm welcome, the bedroom was huge and the meal in the evening was excellent and if that wasn’t enough the choice at breakfast was amazing – everything you could imagine include home-made creme- caramel!
It was late afternoon when we arrived so we just had time before it got dark to wander up to the ramparts. Apparently there’s 3km of them so Montreuil was pretty much a fortress and still is. The street, Clape-en-Bas with it’s old houses built of mud is very picturesque but as the light wasn’t good I waited until the next day to photograph it.
The following day was bitterly cold and very grey with a promise of snow later. Nevertheless we had a good walk round the town. I took a few pictures of Rue Clape-en-Bas and then we walked up to ‘The Citadel’ which was built on the site of a former royal castle. Just shows how important a place Montreuil was. Every summer the town puts on a ‘Son et lumiere’ show in the Citadel celebrating Victor Hugo’s ‘Les Miserables’
After walking round a section of the ramparts we ended our walk round by popping into the main church. I thought it was a rather austere building on the outside although the carvings around the door are interesting. The church dominates one of the town’s large squares (lots of free parking!) and dates back to the 13th century when it was a monastery. The fan-vaulted ceiling is impressive as is the altar, the stained glass windows and the medieval tombs. Definitely worth a visit.
This really had been a short trip to France but we’d packed quite a bit in and had a full boot of wine to show for it and a few other goodies too …and we beat the snow that fell on Montreuil that evening.
Our first trip to the island of Mallorca and we couldn’t miss out on going to Palma. I knew there was an impressive cathedral in the capital and an historic palace but I was surprised with the number of stunning Art Deco buildings … I love this style. I also cursed that I hadn’t brought a larger suitcase as there were lots of nice shops along the narrow streets but maybe it was just as well!
We thought the streets were pretty busy but we were told by one of the shopkeepers that it was fairly quiet as there were no large cruise ships in the harbour that day. She complained that the tourists don’t bring much trade to the city as they buy their souvenirs on board and stuff themselves so full of food they don’t eat in the local restaurants. The ice-cream sellers apparently do well though.
The Royal Palace is right by the waterfront as is the massive Cathedral which is adjacent. If you arrive by boat the Cathedral and Palace must look even more impressive as they rise above the city.
Inside the Cathedral is pretty impressive too. We had to queue about fifteen minutes to get inside in what must be the windiest street in Palma! The wait and the wind whipping round was worth it, the interior is beautiful even though jostling with lots of other tourists was a bit of a pain.
It was a great to escape from the crowds as we slowly meandered back to the bus station. The weather was changing and we were beginning to feel the cold so we stopped and had a warm drink. Just opposite the cafe was a church. Nothing elaborate from the outside although clearly very old. Ironically this little church had much more atmosphere than we’d felt in the cathedral. Maybe it was because there was just two of us in there. Sadly I don’t know the name of the church but the picture below shows the incredibly ornate altar which dominated the tiny nave.
The weather on the last two days of our holiday was definitely on the change. Bright skies one minute then showers and a very keen wind most of the time. Makes for great seascapes although walking along the seafront was quite a challenge.
Waking up on our final morning to sunshine we decided to go over to Bunyola in the foothills of the Tramuntana Mountains to visit the Jardines de Alfabia.
The entrance is impressive with an avenue of palm trees and at the top there’s an interesting ‘keyhole’ where you can look through to a still pond of crystal-clear water. The pergola further along was great too as you just have to push a button and watch small fountains of water criss-cross the path. Children would love this, particularly if any unsuspecting visitors are walking through the pergola at the time!
As I wrote in the first part of my Blog on Mallorca, we were very pleased we’d chosen Puigpunyent as our base. We ate out several times in the town and enjoyed all the meals. The Rose Restaurant run by a Dutch couple was excellent and is very popular with tourists. The Bar Ca’n Jordi is more basic with very reasonable prices, good food and friendly staff. Sitting outside by the town square is a perfect place to enjoy a beer or a glass of the local wine. It’s a popular spot for cyclists to pause and have a drink before tacking the gruelling climb up the mountains. The family-run Ca Sa Nina restaurant at the edge of the town was our favourite. As well as the excellent local wine, the fish was superb as was the steak that John had (on both visits) and the staff were great too.
I can’t finish this without mentioning the micro brewery in the town. Cas Cerveser has only been going a couple of years but has already made its mark on the island and beyond. And no wonder, the beer is great! The good news is that the brewery opens its doors every Friday evening. Beer straight from the barrels. No need to cook either …a pizza van arrives and parks opposite the brewery serving delicious wood-fire pizzas. In addition they have a live band which adds to the fantastic friendly atmosphere. This is a real family evening with children running around the square while adults enjoy a pint or two. We only had a five minute walk back up to our apartment and slept very well after three pints of the Galilea golden ale! We felt very at home in the village. It’s a peaceful place but has lots to offer and has the added bonus of being off the tourist trail.
Hoping to grab some autumn sunshine and warm weather we decided to head for Mallorca (Majorca). My man had done his usual research and found a studio apartment in the small town of Puigpunyent just twenty minutes drive from Palma. It was perfect, very quiet, newly constructed with stunning views of the Tramuntana mountains.
This is a hilly island with a great coastline. Plenty of beaches away from the popular tourist spots and lots of great walks to do. Don’t make the mistake that I did by thinking my little dinky trainers would be fine …they weren’t. I should have sacrificed some space in my case and taken my walking boots, it was a lesson learnt!
The coastal hike from from Banyalbufar to Port des Canonge is a popular one. Even in October the car park at the starting point was full but eventually we found somewhere. The hike takes you through pine forest along high rocky crags and after 6km down to the beach to the small port. I’m grateful to the cafe owner for giving me iodine and a dressing for my knee. I was much more careful about where I walked on the way back! It’s a stunning walk but make sure you wear appropriate footwear.
Most tourists visiting Mallorca go on this little train, so we did too! Good bus service from Puigpunyent to Palma and cheap too. We found the terminus with minutes to spare and sat back enjoying the 50-minute journey to Soller. No time to look round as the next stage of the trip is to take the old tram so you join the queue with the rest of the tourists. The trams wind their way through Soller before going along the coast a short distance to the port.
Even at this time of year Sollar Port was heaving. Beautiful weather as you can see. We weren’t too bothered about eating in one the many restaurants along the harbour front or tempted by the souvenir shops so after a short walk and a beer we got the tram back to Sollar. We had an inexpensive lunch in a sandwich shop away from the main square with entertainment provided by the owner who was quite a character. The Japanese tourists just couldn’t work him out!
With the weather still holding we headed the next day for the coast to the small seaside town of Saint Elm. This place is beautiful! We had been tipped off that if we walked down from the town a little way we would find a quiet little beach and we did. Five people including us, it was perfect, as indeed was the lunch we had later back in the town.
The guide book on Mallorca says that Valldemossa is the destination of thousands of visitors every year. You can see why it’s so popular. The winding roads up to this mountain village are interesting to say the least and the town is very cute. There are flowers everywhere, decorative tiles on the houses and some great shops! You have to visit the 18th century monastery which includes the pharmacy used by the monks. We didn’t pay extra to go into the rooms used by the composer Chopin. The guides want you to, but we are a bit too shrewd to fall for that. The Palace is interesting too and is included in your ticket.
I think this Blog is quite long enough! Part two on our trip to Mallorca will follow shortly …
After two very enjoyable days in Liverpool we headed off towards Howarth in Bronte country. Gosh what a busy little place and packed with tourists even on a murky day in October! There are plenty of tea shops to choose from but I won’t be putting a hyperlink to the one we chose because it was overpriced and not a good choice. The tea was OK as you’d expect in Yorkshire but the minuscule piece of cake definitely wasn’t worth the money. Still it didn’t matter, we had a train journey to look forward to!
The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway has its terminus at Oxenhope which is where we caught the train. This iconic heritage railway reopened in 1968 and is run entirely by volunteers. One of the stops along the route is Oakworth station which shot to fame in the film ‘The Railway Children’. The journey is just over 4 and a half miles long with six stations each reflecting railway architecture of the 19th century. Although the weather wasn’t brilliant we still enjoyed the views and the Victorian stations. The decline of the textile industry in this area though is very evident with several derelict woollen mills lining the tracks outside Keighley.
After our train journey we headed off to catch up with friends who live just outside Howarth. We’d not seen them for a while so there was plenty of nattering going on washed down with a few glasses of vino … (ha! ha!). Then the following morning we were off again to see more friends who live near Silverdale Cove which is on the Lancashire Coast.
We hadn’t seen these friends for a while either and this was another lovely catch-up. Their eldest daughter who is eight was a baby when we were last up there and we hadn’t of course met their youngest little girl but we hit it off with them straightaway. Having said that it wasn’t long before the girls left us to our chatting …after all adult talk is so boring!
After mugs of tea and cake around the kitchen table we noticed the sun had come out …it was time to go for a walk. A short drive and we were at the coast and what stunning views to have on your doorstep! Silverdale Cove is beautiful and a great place to explore and photograph.
We rounded off the afternoon with an excellent pint in one of the local pubs before saying goodbye to our friends and headed to our hotel for the night in Clitheroe. My man decide we’d go along the top road heading for The Trough of Bowland. It was getting dark but light enough to see some of the amazing landscape along the way, avoid sheep in the road, flooded bits and see (to our delight) a barn owl fly past us. If that wasn’t reward enough the fabulous sunset definitely was. Hope the pictures do it justice. This road is not for the faint-hearted with twists and turns and heart-stopping moments in case a car comes the other way. We made it but when we told the receptionist at the Waddington Arms how we’d got there she was pretty amazed!
We had an excellent meal that night in the hotel and a good room and were surprised at how cheap it was compared with prices around here in Gloucestershire. After a hearty breakfast we wandered around Clitheroe on a wet Monday morning before heading south down the motorway and home. It was a great four days away, the weather had been typically British but that didn’t matter and anyway we might find some sun on our next trip which will be to Majorca.