Friday, 28 October 2016

A Ghost Tour at Q Station, Manly

Do you believe in ghosts? I do - now! A ghost tour at Q Station,  the old quarantine station at Manly in Sydney's north, will shake the scepticism out of the most ardent non-believer.

It is well after dark. We have had a long, enjoyable dinner at the Boilerhouse Restaurant where, under the guidance of chef Matt Kemp, the food is nothing short of spectacular. Bob, our ghost hunting guide, meets us below the giant stairway which leads to the upper levels of Q Station. Earlier today we were told contestants on The Biggest Loser run up and down these stairs as part of their weight-loss regimes. I wonder how many don't make it - no wonder they say the place is haunted.

Friday, 21 October 2016

7 things to do in Amazing Albany!

Is Albany on your bucket list? It should be. Even Charles Darwin couldn't resist a brief visit, although by all accounts he wasn't impressed. I put that down to Albany being one of his last stops aboard the Beagle's almost five year journey. He also came by ship across the notoriously rough Great Australian Bight. Like Darwin I suffer from perpetual seasickness. Note to self: Never come to Western Australia by boat.

By the time he arrived in Albany in Australia's far south-western corner Darwin was home sick and fed up - not a great way to get the most out of any destination. If he were to arrive today -  on one of the new 787 Dreamliners, Business Class of course, and know he could be home again in 18 hours he wouldn't want to leave.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Self-contained accommodation in Albany: Albany Harbourside Apartments and Houses.

Albany Harbourside Apartments
David and I came to Albany in Western Australia for the whales. In September 1998, when our boys were little, we arrived to discover two of these magnificent creatures had taken up temporary residence in King George Sound. The weather was warm, the sun was shining and the whales were making the most of a temporary respite from their long journey south. They stayed in the sound for three or four days, putting on a great show of frolicking, slapping their tales and generally, dare I say it, having a 'whale of a time'. One afternoon as I walked along the boardwalk at Middleton Beach, I saw them directly below me, no more than a few metres away - their massive, sleek bodies gliding effortlessly through the water. It was an experience I will never forget.

Friday, 7 October 2016

The National ANZAC Centre, Albany, Western Australia

National ANZAC Centre Albany
Perched on a cliff, high above Albany, the National ANZAC Centre looks out across King George Sound toward the Great Southern Ocean. In 1914 in response to the outbreak of World War I, Australia raised a new army -  the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). At the time Australia as a nation was little more than a decade old. The AIF was joined by a force from New Zealand and together they became known as the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs). For the 41,265 men of the First and Second ANZAC Convoys, the coast of Albany was their last sight of Australia. 60,000 Australians and 18,000 New Zealanders perished in the war at a time when the two countries had a combined population of just 6 million people - every Australian soldier was a volunteer. The National ANZAC Centre is dedicated to telling the stories of the men and women of the First and Second convoys and the stories of the ANZACS who followed them. David's great uncle was among the Australian dead.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Fraser Suites, Perth - a review.

Fraser Suites Perth
Check out the kangaroos in the foreground!
David says I am an easy wife to please - 'give me a five-star hotel and I am happy anywhere!' Personally, I think that's a bit harsh, although I do confess to being partial to a comfortable bed, crisp sheets, fluffy towels, and a nice, modern bathroom - add in a flat screen TV, complimentary wifi (I am a blogger after all) and a separate living room, and I am in seventh heaven. At Fraser Suites Perth, we had all that and then some. Our particular suite had the ultimate of all active traveller extravagances - a washing machine and dryer!

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.