Snapshot of Japan

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Here I am in Japan however with little time to write a blog post so thought I would share a few photos of my trip so far.

9 course Japanese dinner

Gardens in Kanazawa

Kanazawa Unesco Town

Shirokawago Village

They love to dress up their doggies and over spoil them

And even their meerkats

Till next time

Sayanara from Japan

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Carnival of Flowers – Toowoomba

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It was only about an hour and a half drive to Toowoomba from Brisbane.  Toowoomba (nicknamed The Garden City) is a city in the Darling Downs region of Queensland about 125 k’s west from Brisbane by road. The Darling Downs is a farming region on the western slopes of the Great Dividing Mountain range.

Annually this garden city puts on a spectacular garden show called the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers.  Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers is a cultural party featuring a floral parade, local food and produce, regional wine, entertainment and all things spring.  Toowoomba is a beautiful city all year round but especially during Carnival of Flowers.

 

Our first stop was at the top of the range at picnic point where we stopped for morning tea. The views from picnic point looking east are outstanding.

Laurel bank park

From Picnic point we drove to Laurel Bank park. All the gardens around Toowoomba are beautiful in September for Carnival of Flowers, but Laurel Bank Park is one of my favourites, and is a must see. We always make sure that we go up the viewing platform for the best photos and to really see the theme of the gardens each year.

 

 

We wandered throughout the magnificent gardens taking in the diverse array of flowers, colour and design.

 

The beds were covered with mixtures of flowers that provided colour, levels and designs with each being unique in their own way.
The wisteria arch was covered with flowers and the scent within the tunnel was amazing.

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The gardens are offset by the range of topiary items scattered throughout the park.

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All the parks and gardens around the area are spectacular and the resident’s gardens are just as good. We visited 3 of the private winning gardens which were fabulous. It was just astounding to  see  the amount of effort put into these gardens and an absolute pleasure to meet some of their creators.

 

 

 

Toowoomba shines in September. The generosity of the home gardeners to open their gates and share their gardening secrets to the world is wonderful. The impressive public parks and gardens make for a complete picture of spring. The colours of spring bring the city to life with a sense of community seeing visitors from all nations share picnics and fun in the parks and gardens. A Big thank you to the gardeners of the Garden City in Spring.

Elegant Arcade Dressed up for Spring.

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This was such a lovely way to catch up with a friend who was visiting Brisbane from Perth, WA. We met in the city at the Queen St entrance to the arcade. Brisbane Arcade is a heritage-listed shopping arcade located in the Queen Street Mall in Brisbane city.

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Brisbane’s oldest and grandest shopping Arcade has been wowing crowds with its annual Spring Flower Show since 2014 and this year’s theme is a whimsical Spring Fair wonderland of carousel horses, cake displays, vintage bicycles overloaded in colourful blooms and sweet surprises.

This beautiful old building which was built in 1923, is one of the city’s oldest shopping destinations. A stroll through Brisbane Arcade is a romantic step back in time. The arcade retains wonderfully preserved woodwork, leadlight windows and Terazzo floors and balustrades. The petite stores are mainly stocked with locally produced goods and unique artisan items.

After admiring the elegant floral displays we stopped for a Devonshire tea at the Room for Roses cafe. This beautifully presented cafe on the first floor of the Arcade offers a mixed menu with many French style delicacies and of course the very popular Devonshire teas with pots of Real tea. The cafe appeared to be very popular, tastefully decorated and offering a unique experience but be prepared to pay for it.

If you like the finer things in life the Brisbane Arcade is the place to shop; just looking around will make you feel special.

This cool and graceful arcade is well worth a visit anytime of the year.

Stunningly Beautiful on a Perfect Winters Day

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I have been coming here to these gardens for a number of years. When I lived closer to the city we would ride our bikes in to the Botanical gardens and stop for Devonshire tea at the garden cafe.

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This time, with my friends visiting, we took the bus to Southbank where we hopped on to a city cat to go across the Brisbane river to these lovely gardens, arriving via QUT.

The City Botanic Gardens, which is Brisbane Citys oldest park, was originally planted by convicts in 1825 with food crops to feed the prison colony. These gardens include ancient trees, rainforest glades and exotic species. They run the full length of Alice Street, bordered by Parliament House on the one side and the Brisbane River’s northern banks on the other. Where the park borders the Brisbane river there is a wide tree lined path, which offers a pleasant walk by day or evening, and from here there are views of the many yachts at anchor and in the distance the iconic Story Bridge.

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In the park there is so much space that even when the park is busy you don’t feel overcrowded. There are many walkways which are wide enough to allow for both bicycle and foot traffic to share.

The gardens are an absolutely wonderful display of the most beautiful delights anyone could wish for. A large expansive area is set out beautifully with lots of grassy areas to relax in. The flower displays are truly delightful. The gardens are beautifully maintained and you really can get amongst the shrubs and giant trees. There are several large camphor laurel trees which are fantastic for climbing. The pond serves as a brilliant focal point that is teaming with wildlife including many species of birds, lizards (water dragons) and turtles.

There are several options of cafes to stop for coffee or lunch. We chose to have lunch in The Pantry located at QUT at Gardens point and within the grounds of the Iconic Old Government House. This small cafe offers a great selection of simple morning tea and lunch items, wonderful coffee and an interesting atmosphere.

There are free guided walks available from Monday to Saturdays from approximately 11.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. (excluding public holidays). These walks which last approximately one hour are led by experienced, friendly Volunteer Guides. Just meet at the Rotunda near the Alice Street Main Entrance.

This is a brilliant place to visit with the family. You can wander through the gardens or walk along the river bank all the way to the bridge over to Southbank.

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One of the many beautiful camphor laurel trees

Swimmer’s Haven – Park Beach, Coffs Harbour

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Park Beach is one of the many stunning beaches that you will pass as you walk the coastal walk on the Coffs Coast of NSW. The coastal walk is a 60km stretch between Sawtell in the south to Red Rock in the northern beaches, linking a string of long golden beaches, rocky headlands and lush rainforest along the Coffs Coast. It is certainly one of the most beautiful walks on the east coast of Australia.

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Park Beach is actually a suburb of Coffs Harbour, located in the north eastern part of the town. This calm and relaxed, water wonderland accommodates all comers. It is a great family beach close to town and amenities. A really lovely clean and tidy beach for both walking along and swimming. The beach is relatively well protected and suits family swimming. It is dog friendly and very popular. We always see many dogs there including my Buddy.

 

This ideal location is perfect for pool swimmers to get accustomed to open water swimming. If in doubt, ask a local for advice on swimming conditions (for that day). The large sandy beach awaits families wanting to build sand castles and play in the sand.
A renovated parkland is beachside and is an ideal place for picnics and family gatherings. There is enough grass space for ball games. New bench seats allow places to relax and watch the yachts out to sea, people running with their dogs or just take in the lovely views.
There are beachside showers on the boardwalk which allows folks to rinse off sand and salt before heading to the park or the many nearby eateries / cafes.

 

Adjacent to the beach park is the Coffs Harbour surf life saving club which is a community organisation run by volunteers protecting members of the public who surf and swim at the beach. Surf club patrols are conducted on weekends and public holidays during the surfing season from September to April each year.

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On the 2nd floor of this surf club is the restaurant and bar which is open for breakfast and lunch, and offers amazing views of the ocean and beach looking towards the north and down to the south. It also offers pretty fantastic food. I know I have eaten there many times.

 

There is a very popular Holiday park directly across the street which means visitors staying there can just easily walk across the road to the park and beach.

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As are all the beaches in Coffs Harbour, Park Beach is stunning. There is plenty of easy parking close to the beach with many amenities close by, including showers, toilets, picnic tables and benches and free bbqs and also cafes nearby.

Fantastic for Nature Lovers – Karawatha Forest.

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This place is truly at my back yard. Karawatha forest was here a long time before I arrived but it is only in recent months that I have started exploring and enjoying this wonderful bushland. Initially it was a great area to walk my dog Buddy and for us to enjoy the natural area while both of us enjoying fresh air and great exercise.

Recently, while my friends were visiting, we went to the forest a couple of times to explore plus we joined a 2 hour guided walk through the bush one Sunday morning. These guided walks are conducted regularly. You can find the information on the website. When I was growing up on the northern beaches of Sydney this type of area was “my back yard” and although I had spent many hours there I realised there was just so much more that I learned on this guided walk. Karawatha Forest contains mainly open eucalypt forest with areas of heath, wetland and woodlands.

There are plenty of bushwalking paths which are well-signed making it very easy to explore and design your own walks.

Karawatha Forest Park is about 18 kilometres south of Brisbane’s CBD, is approximately 900 hectares in size and is one of the largest areas of remnant bushland within the city. Karawatha Forest Park has a range of walking tracks and trails and you can download maps from the site of the Karawatha Protection Society to see the wetlands, track locations, grading and length of the tracks.

We were delighted when we arrived at the area known as Poet’s Rock with its sandstone ridges and scenic outlook over the forest and in the distance we could see Brisbane city.

Due to the large size of Karawatha Forest Park, and the variety of habitats it contains,this forest is a very important refuge for over 200 species of wildlife, including a number of threatened or endangered species such as the greater glider, squirrel glider and rare frogs. The forest also supports rednecked wallabies, swamp wallabies and eastern grey kangaroos, possums, bats, parrots and owls. The birdlife is the most visible in the forest – over 100 bird species have been found.

Inside the Karawatha Forest, just off the Acacia Street entrance there is ample parking, which is a few meters from the Discovery Centre which is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9am – 4pm. The Forest Discovery Centre is so well thought-out. Interactive exhibits teach you about the local wildlife – from frog calls, to invasive weeds and a bird’s eye view of the forest. There are books and craft activities for children to engage with, plenty of buttons to press and lots for the older visitor too. They have packed a lot of information into a small space and delivered it in a fantastically accessible way.

Adjacent to the discovery centre there are large picnic areas with free bbq’s, picnic tables and benches, lots of grassy places to relax or play. There are plenty of public toilets and there is an amazing nature play area for the kids.

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Karawatha Forest Discovery Centre has been really well planned and there’s something there for people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds so whether you’re a young family, backpacker or seasoned bushwalker there’s plenty to enjoy. You could easily bring a picnic and spend all day or just pop in for a quick walk.

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Grass Tree

An Oasis in a Busy City – Roma Street Parklands

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In Brisbane we are blessed with so many beautiful gardens and Roma Street Parklands is no exception.

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This oasis in the heart of Brisbane with spectacular subtropical plant displays, sweeping vistas and unique artwork, Roma Street Parkland is the perfect place to go exploring – and it is only a short walk from Brisbane’s CBD.

The Parklands which is set on old Queensland railway land has been carefully developed into a very attractive and well manicured parkland that would scarcely betray its former use.

The Parkland is extensive with lovely gardens, a lake and a rainforest area. There are also excellent children’s play areas.

Join one of the leisurely and informative guided walks leaving from The Hub twice daily to experience these beautifully designed and meticulously kept grounds. There are many different sections and themes, fantastic waterways and features, flowers, native and imported, rainforest, water dragons in abundance. The walks are undulating so be prepared for short uphill sections. I could roam and enjoy this parkland for hours, And… It is free!

Or maybe for a Gold coin donation, hop onto the Parkland Explorer, the trackless train for an exciting journey through the parkland’s misty fern groves, past rocky peninsulas and the Lakeside Meadow. This little train operates between 10 and 12.30 each day with its drivers and conductors who are regular volunteers of the Parklands.

The parkland provides well-maintained picnic spots and free electric barbecues so you can prepare your own food. There is also a casual restaurant which you will find between the parking area and park.

There are two playgrounds designed for children of all ages, one at the Children’s Garden and the other along Weeping Fig Avenue.

We drove in to the Parklands as there is plenty of on street pay parking however it is easy enough to walk from the city or the Roma Street train station.

The ground staff and volunteers at Roma Street Parklands are to be congratulated for putting such a wonderful space together. It brings happiness and joy to all who visit. Well Done. Roma Street Parkland is open seven days a week.

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Devonshire Tea in the mountains at the Winery

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Only about an hour and a half drive from my place in Brisbane and less time from the Gold Coast is the lovely area Cedar Creek, Mt Tamborine.

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There are a few wineries in the area but we chose Cedar Creek Winery. We were initially drawn to this place to see the area and of course sample the wine. When I told my friends that the winery serves Devonshire tea, they said, they had never had one. In fact, they had never heard of Devonshire Tea and thought it may be High Tea. However, it is not. Devonshire teas have been around for as long I can remember. While growing up, a special treat with my family on a Sunday afternoon, was to take a drive in the “country” and stop at a country home with tea rooms for Devonshire tea. In those good ole days, Devonshire tea was served with a pot of tea however now days coffee is also very popular.

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A Devonshire tea is a form of a morning or afternoon light meal, consisting of tea and scones, clotted cream and jam. Traditionally a speciality of Devon and Cornwall, Devonshire teas are offered in tea rooms in those two counties, as well as in other parts of England, and elsewhere in the Commonwealth, which includes here in Australia.

The restaurant with its peaceful and relaxing surroundings is set in a lovely woodland area overlooking the lake with its abundant birdlife.

It was a cool wintry day and being as we were up in the mountains there was the winter “look” all around including the beautiful coloured leaves and the bare trees.

We followed our Devonshire teas with a wine tasting at the Cellar door which is right next door in the same building. We tried several whites, reds and bubble. All were quite nice.

From the cellar door, we ventured upstairs to the Arthur Hamblin Gallery to see a good selection of paintings of diverse Australian scenery.

Then our next stop was the Frogs Hollow which is home to a diverse range of wildlife, with over 23 species of frogs and many species of rainforest insects. We loved the experience, but you need to be patient and look for the frogs. The more effort you put into looking for the frogs and observing them, the more you will get out of the experience. There are a lot more frogs there than you first realise.

Here at the winery also, they have purpose built Glow Worm caves with guided tours throughout the day. We chose not to take the tour this time and spent extra time exploring this very charming and picturesque setting.

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Breathtaking Views from Elephant Rock

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Whenever I have friends visiting, especially when they are from overseas, I not only get to be tour guide but also a tourist in my own town. And this is exactly what has been happening here in Brisbane over the past couple of weeks. My friends are visiting from Hawaii and I am enjoying exploring with them.

On this particular day we drove to the Gold Coast to have lunch at the Currumbin Beach Surf Life saving club. It is always a great place for locals and visitors. It was a glorious winter’s day of about 24C, with beautiful clear blue sky, stunning beach and great surf.

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Looking South towards Coolangatta

After only about an hour’s drive from my home in Brisbane, we arrived at Currumbin beach. We arrived early enough to climb up the iconic Elephant rock which is adjacent to the Currumbin surf club. The stairs up to the top are extremely narrow and quite steep but certainly worth taking the time to climb up to see the spectacular views along the beaches, both north to Surfers Paradise & south to Coolangatta.

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Currumbin Surf Club and Elephant Rock

In the surf club restaurant, we chose to sit out on the balcony overlooking the beach and surf where the views are spectacular and the atmosphere surreal. It is the only place on the entire Gold Coast that actually extends out over the high tide mark. There is no other club literally sitting in the ocean to give you an experience like this.

 

Although the menu is simple it is extensive and we all chose delicious well presented meals.

 

After lunch we drove a little way up the beach to where there were many surfers and lots of activity.

 

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Currumbin is a great place to learn to surf. It is also great for the locals and experienced surfers. The signs at the beach tell people not to swim as there are so many people learning to surf. The beach is safe but is not to be underestimated as it is at the mouth of a very large river/creek and at times can have very strong currents/sweeps and rips. This is why there are permanent life guards stationed there.

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This beautiful beach is immaculately clean and unspoilt and close to good parking plus has showers and toilets.

Currumbin Beach has its own unique cafe culture, with all the cafes facing the ocean offering a wide variety of coffee and cuisine. The village atmosphere is evident here, locals and tourists mingling for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

 

We walked over to the rocks where the surfers were jumping into the surf with their boards. It was super. This is known as the Alley, the famous Alley, where most days the water can be filled with surfers looking for that perfect ride. Linda and I could have stayed there for hours watching. Our phone cameras worked overtime taking many great shots of the guys diving in to the quite aggressive waves.

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It was the most perfect winter’s day, and surprisingly not too many people there considering it was school holidays. 

 

Scenic and Relaxing – McLaren Falls Park

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Not far off the highway and only a short 10 minute drive from Taraunga is McLaren Falls Park which is 190 hectares of parkland set alongside Lake McLaren.

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We drove up early enough to enjoy coffee at the café before our bush walk however the café was closed when we arrived. My friends did say that the food is great at the café and very reasonably priced.

 

Right by the café is the information kiosk where we parked our car and walked to the falls through the rainforest. We grabbed a map here at the information centre however we soon noticed that the roads through the park were well signed so we did not really need the map. There is plenty of parking by the information centre and around the park areas.

We set off for our walk up to the falls, which in fact was only a very short but pleasant walk with gorgeous ferns, tree ferns, vegetation and abundance of bird life along the way. The falls are not high and are really a small waterfall.

 

After taking many photos we did some more exploring. From the falls we then walked to the picturesque lake with its magnificent reflections coming from the colourful trees by the waters edge.

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It was autumn and the park was particularly stunning with the leaves changing colour. The serene setting with its resident ducks and black swans was breathtaking.

 

McLaren Falls park is a certainly a great place to spend a few hours or in fact a few days. On a sunny day it would be a great spot to clamber over some rocks and go for a refreshing swim. McLaren Falls park is also home to one of the best botanical collections of trees in New Zealand.

This park is vast. Not only beautiful, but so much to do, you can kayak, walk, BBQ, swim, check out the Falls, camp, see glow worms, enjoy the lake or take a picnic for a very relaxing few hours.

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There are some great walking tracks with interesting bushes and trees surrounding the area. If you are a camper you have the opportunity to book a spot to stay a night or 2. There is also a hostel in the park however I did not see it.