Friday, 23 September 2016

Rottnest Island: A guide to quokkas, cycling and beaches.

Rottnest Island
It has only taken me 38 years to get back to Rottnest Island ('Rotto' - as the locals call it). I first went there in my early twenties and loved this tiny spec of land off the coast of Western Australia. We hired bikes and spent the day cycling from beach to beach in blissful car-free freedom. Automobiles are banned on Rottnest and, in the days before cycle paths, it was one of the few places in Australia you could cycle without sharing the road.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Wildflowers in Western Australia: Kings Park, Perth.

Kangaroo Paw, Kings Park Festival, Perth
The days might be getting colder in the northern hemisphere - but - it is spring in Australia, and spring means flowers! David and I have flown for five and a half hours across the continent from our home in Sydney to Perth to see one of the best displays of wildflowers on the planet. Western Australia has 12,000 species of wildflowers, over 60 percent of which are found nowhere else on earth.  When you think of the vast expanse of Australia's largest state (2,600,000 sq kms) don't just think red desert and endless open expanses, think magnificent floral tapestries in every colour of the rainbow.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Springtime tulips at Araluen Botanic Park, Western Australia

Araluen Botanic Park
It's spring in the southern hemisphere, and David and I are in Western Australia - famous for its spring wildflowers. Western Australia conjures up images of red desert, barren gorges and rugged wilderness, but half an hour's drive from Perth we found Araluen Botanic Park.  Araluen is one of the state's best kept secrets. In a hidden valley, sheltered from the harsh West Australian sun, the park has a micro-climate perfect for tulips, camellias, rhododendrons, magnolias and roses.

Friday, 26 August 2016

The Island Line Trail: Cycling across Lake Champlain, Vermont.

The Island Line Trail: Colchester Causeway
Trail - The Island Line Trail  - consisting of the Burlington Bike Path and the Colchester Causeway.
Location - Burlington to South Hero Island, Vermont, USA.
Distance - 45 kms (28 miles) return.
Terrain -  Asphalt for about half the distance and then compacted gravel.
Difficulty - Easy, this is a ride /walk you can take the family on.
Highlights - Cycling the Colchester Causeway and hopping on the Bike Ferry across the Cut to link up with South Hero Island
Website and map - Click here for a link to download a PDF map and here for detailed trail notes.

Friday, 19 August 2016

The Mount: Edith Wharton's House, Lenox, Massachusetts

The Mount, Edith Wharton's home
Have you noticed how historic houses always showcase the achievements of men?  Women barely get a mention, and when they do it is often only in supporting roles. The grand houses we visited on our road and cycling trip through America's north-east were almost all built by men and, with few exceptions, the history of the houses highlighted the achievements of the men who lived in them. Visiting estates such as George Washington's Mount Vernon, Henry Francis Du Pont's Winterthur and even Edward Berwind's The Elms, you could sometimes be forgiven for wondering what roles their wives played in life. Edward Berwind's wife was so tucked away in the minutia of his life history I had to dig deep even to discover her name. How refreshing then, on our last historic house tour, to visit The Mount; planned, built and made famous by a woman.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Street Art in Sydney, Australia

Street art in Sydney
Each year Sydney's Inner West Council hosts a celebration of street art called Perfect Match. The council matches up owners of walls in need of beautifying with artists who express themselves through the use of spray paint and brushes.

 As well as brightening up the neighbourhood, Perfect Match hosts free walking, bicycle and bus tours allowing onlookers to view the art as it is being created, meet the artists while they work and see some of the finished works. David and I were due to join a bicycle tour to do just that last weekend. However living in a city with one of the world's best climates we tend to be very fickle about the weather. If  the temperature drops a few degrees lower than perfect, or there are a couple of clouds on the horizon, David declares the day ruined. With wind and rain forecast on the day of our street art cycling tour, we abandoned the idea and stayed home. As it turned out, the sun came out around midday and the afternoon weather was lovely but how we were to know that.

Friday, 5 August 2016

The Servant Life Tour at The Elms - a Newport Mansion

The Elms
Are you a fan of Downton Abbey? I am! If you lived at Downton, who would you be? Lady Mary perhaps or Cora, the Countess of Grantham? For my male readers - His Lordship or Carson the butler. Sadly, I don't think I would spend much time upstairs at all. With my luck I would be the laundry maid (I don't think she even gets a walk-on part, but she must have existed) or had I worked very hard and been very lucky I might have reached the giddy career heights of Mrs Hughes, the housekeeper.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Chanticleer: a pleasure garden.

Chanticleer Garden
"We were once a private estate, and we like to keep the feeling of a private garden ... a place of beauty, pleasure, escape  ....  ultimately, we want our guests to leave in a better mood than when they arrived." 
R. William Thomas, head gardener and executive director at Chanticleer.*

These words perfectly sum up the mood of Chanticleer. Tucked away in a quiet suburban street, 30 miles north-west of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Chanticleer with its slow-paced, welcoming atmosphere was the loveliest garden we visited.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

The Kettering Incident and Australia's most enduring UFO mystery - the disappearance of Frederick Valentich.

Frederick Valentich plaque at Cape Otway

"That strange aircraft is hovering on top of me again .. it is hovering and it's not an aircraft". 

These were the last words ever spoken by 20 year old Frederick Valentich, the young pilot at the centre of Australia's most enduring UFO mystery.

In the early evening on October 21, 1978, Valentich left Melbourne's Moorabbin airport for a flight to King Island in Bass

Friday, 15 July 2016

Longwood Gardens and why you shouldn't go back to places!

The world is divided in two types of people - 'gardening people' who love nothing more than spending their time mucking about with dirt and 'non-gardening people'  who don't! Can you tell which one I am? 

David is a 'gardening-person'. He loves gardens. He spends hours and hours at home coaxing exotic plants to grow in our harsh Australian soil. In spring, when our quiet little patch of the planet lights up with colour it makes all the work worthwhile - or so he thinks.  I like gardens too - just not working in them!