Christmas 2017 in Australia.

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We took the City Catamaran Ferry from Southbank Parklands down the river towards the mouth of the river. It is always a great way to see our city.  Being out on this river feels like being in Fairyland, it is so enchanting.  As day turned in to evening, it was magic riding down the Brisbane River watching the city lights and bridge lights come on and the changes in the vistas.

There are many interesting stops along the way where you can get off.  We finally chose Bulimba to disembark where we stayed for dinner at a great Italian restaurant which is situated right at the pier on the river. Yes, we all enjoyed a glass of Italiano Vino with our dinner.

Riding back up the river towards the city centre was just so good as it was now dark and the Christmas lights were twinkling from both sides of the river.

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Brisbane’s iconic landmark the Story Bridge was illuminated with beautiful Christmas coloured lights which changed slowly.  Brisbane’s Story Bridge is lovely at any time of the year but especially so at Christmas.

 

Riding on a catamaran down the Brisbane River has now become one of my favourite fun things to do at Christmas time.  It was a very warm night so standing out on the front deck of the river cat in the cool breeze was such a pleasure. I am sure that no matter what your age is, you would enjoy it.

We arrived back in to the city centre and disembarked at North Quay. We walked the short distance through Queen Street Mall passing the beautiful Christmas-scene shop windows  to City Hall in King George Square.

The Christmas lights and show at City Hall were spectacular and would suit all ages. The show runs every 15 minutes from 7.30pm till Midnight. Such an amazing night out as it is so easy to get caught up in the excitement and happiness.

 

 

                I wish you and your loved ones a Happy Christmas and a safe and healthy 2018.      May your year be full of surprises and  all your wishes come true. 

Thank you all for your support this past year. 

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From Summit to the Sea – Chain of Craters Road, Kilauea.

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We drove from the summit of Kilauea to the sea.

 

Chain of Craters Road which is a 19 mile/30km winding paved road is located within Volcanoes National Park. Driving along this long well paved road just shows you the devastation that a lava flow leaves behind. It’s amazing to see the scenery and be able to stop at many places along the road to take photos that is if you don’t get blown away with the strong wind. There were times that it was almost impossible to hold my camera still enough to take a photo.

 

The road starts up at a high elevation and you drive all the way down to the ocean. It is an amazing experience to see Mother Nature (and Pele) at her best. When we departed from our cabin in Kilauea Military Camp it was about 9 degrees C and when we arrived at the end of the road it was about 25 degrees C. The change in altitude made such a difference to the temperature and the changing landscape was incredible. The following week after we were in Volcanoes National Park, it snowed.

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This road has had parts covered by lava several times due to eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano.

 

You can’t get lost; it’s a single, two-lane road from the “top” of the park to the “bottom.” The highlights are all well-signed. You decide whether you want to merely take a photo from the car, or walk to explore. There are many trails leading into many different areas. This entire area is hauntingly beautiful and different from almost anywhere else on earth.  It felt like we were driving on the moon. But then when we stopped at many lookouts along the way I started to feel that I was on top of a very large dark chocolate brownie.

 

Before heading off, we stopped at the visitors centre. There is as much information available as you could possibly need and the rangers are so helpful and passionate about the entire area. There are maps and all the information that you would need for exploring the entire national park and of course this drive.

 

At the end of the road, is where the lava flows in to the ocean. This flow of molten lava has created the Holei Sea Arch. The lava flow from the Volcano has added approximately 500 acres to the Island of Hawaii over the past 20 years. Near the arch, begins a rather long walk-able trail which takes you all the way to the place where fresh lava goes into the sea. This part I can only read about as the trail was far too long for me to try to take on. Just before we reached the Pacific Ocean the road just ends where lava covered it some years ago. It is very surreal to just see a road disappear under rock.

 

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No words and no photos can do this justice!  You have to see it to believe it.

 It is exciting, and mesmerizing and just plain fabulous.

Dukes for Coffee in Waikiki 

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We drove down to Waikiki this morning to go to Dukes for coffee and then for swims.

We parked in the car park at the Waikiki shell and then wandered along Kalakaua Avenue towards the Outrigger hotel where Dukes Restaurant is. Dukes is named after Duke Kahanamoku who was a well known Hawaiian surfing legend.

Walking along Kalakaua Avenue

At the restaurant, we were seated at a table on the lanai which is right on the beach, and we enjoyed the wonderful view. 

The coffee is so good, the location perfect and the music is the best. So good in fact that we decided to stay for lunch. A trip to Hawaii for me is not complete without at least a coffee at Dukes. 

View from Dukes. Looking towards Diamond Head

Lunch. Simple and just right

After lunch we walked back down Kalakaua Avenue towards Diamond Head where we stopped at Queens Beach for our swim. The water was crystal clear and perfect.

After our swims we relaxed on the sand, people watching and taking in the gorgeous Hawaiian sunshine. I had almost forgotten just how good this feels.

Another fabulous day in paradise.

Unforgettable Lava Glow by Night

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We came to the Volcanoes National Park  in Hilo which is on the Big Island to see the volcano erupting. We knew there was no guarantee that it would be erupting while we are here but we were hoping. It was not erupting however we were not disappointed. Seeing the lava glow at night was so exciting. 

On our first evening, we drove from our lodging at the KMC to the Jaggar museum to see the volcano. It was very windy, very cold and very wet however we managed to see the lava glow and we were thrilled. In fact regardless of the weather we were mesmerised by the spectacular light. We were so caught up in the wonder of this incredible natural phenomenon 

The lava glow is coming from the Halemaʻumaʻu Crater which is a pit crater located within the much larger summit caldera of Kīlauea.

We took many photos although none of them were great. We returned the next night a little earlier and were delighted to see a beautiful double rainbow but the weather was still a challenge. 

On the 3rd night the weather was great. No wind, no rain and very mild. We could see the crater and the glow so much clearer.  To take great photos of this spectacular sight requires a good camera and preferably a tripod to steady the camera but we made the most of what we had. 

The sky above the lava glow taken from the car park 

The lava glow in the crater 

We were reluctant to leave.  It was magic

Aloha from Hawaii

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After a short 8 and a half hour flight from Brisbane I arrived in Honolulu. I had almost forgotten how very friendly these people are but was reminded very quickly as I cleared customs and immigration at the airport

My friends picked me up from the airport and we drove to their home in Kailua.

Late in the afternoon Linda and I went for a walk along beautiful Kailua Beach. The perfect way to clear my head and recharge my batteries after the night flight and the time difference.

Kailua is very close to the Ko’olau mountains making the beach and the skies gorgeous.

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I was fascinated by the kite boarders. We counted at least 12 of them having the best time as the wind was quite strong. It is amazing how high they jump above the water. Kiteboarding is a surface water sport combining aspects of wake boarding, snowboarding, windsurfing, surfing, paragliding, skateboarding and sailing into one extreme sport.

This house is right on the beach. Imagine a Mai Tai sitting here overlooking the beach and ocean at sunset.

Kailua is a town on the east coast of the main island Oahu. This part of the island is known as the windward side of the island. Although it is only about 20 miles from Waikiki it will take about 45 minutes to an hour to drive due to the traffic. Kailua beach is the water sports hub of the area.

I left the beach feeling refreshed and recharged.

Purple Season in Brisbane

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It is purple season in SE Qld. In mid spring each year the jacaranda trees around Brisbane start to bloom. I usually think of Jacaranda trees showing off their full fabulous purple colour in November however some years they start blooming in October which was the case this year. It really depends on how cold winter was. This mass of colour in our parks and lining our streets usually lasts about 6 weeks.

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Although these trees look very much at home here in the sub tropics they were actually introduced to Australia from Brazil in the 1850’s.

Just a couple of kilometres from Brisbane city centre, situated on the Brisbane River is the leafy suburb of Yeronga. This is where we chose to go for our walk this morning and this is the spectacular sights we experienced.

Here are some of my snap shots taken this morning.  Enjoy.

 

 

Also in Yeronga, not far from the river,  is the local park called Jacaranda Park, yes that’s right, Jacaranda Park –  with its purple sun shade.

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Jacaranda Park with purple sun shade

 

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Jacaranda Trees

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Jacaranda Trees

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Jacaranda Trees

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Jacaranda Trees

There are many spots around Brisbane with Jacaranda trees. If you live here and you have the time, I recommend take a drive around the suburbs and feast your eyes on some magnificent displays. You will find the trees on the north and south sides, in the parks, lining suburban streets, and even along our bus ways.

Peaceful Location for a Long Lunch – O’Reilly’s Vineyards 

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My friends suggested going to lunch somewhere special however decided it was a surprise for me so would not say where we were going. We drove about an hour and a half south from my house in Brisbane. We drove through beautiful countryside and due to the recent rain everywhere was green, lush and healthy. As we were nearing our destination they told me we were going to O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards and winery which is located in the Gold Coast Hinterland. This area is one of Queensland’s emerging wine growing regions.

We arrived at the winery about mid morning. Our first stop was the Alpaca enclosure. There is special food available at the winery that you can purchase for $3 to feed the alpacas.

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Alpacas

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Alpacas

We then walked over to the stream, which runs through the property, to see if we could spot a platypus or one of the local turtles. This whole area is stunning. Sit by the creek and enjoy a picnic hamper which are available from the Vintage restaurant. Although we went on a weekday, we did see a few small groups of people enjoying their picnic lunch on the lawns.

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The stream on this rainy day

After looking for turtles and platypus from the viewing platform on the stream we walked over to the cellar door area to try some of the locally produced wines. Starting with a Verdelho for me, then a couple of reds including a shiraz and merlot. All really good however I decided on a glass of their bubbles to enjoy with my lunch in the Vintage Restaurant.

The restaurant is in the original old Queenslander farmhouse which is a wonderful  structure, both inside and outside retaining much of its old world charm and beauty.  The 100-year old history of the O’Reilly family in the area is fascinating.

We sat on the screened veranda with amazing views overlooking the property, vines and jacarandas. The menu for lunch offered a great selection so we were all very pleased with our individual choices. The service was excellent.

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View from the restaurant

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The grape vines

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The grape vines

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The vines with a little sun trying to peep through

What a wonderful way to spend a few hours. It is a perfect location, within a short drive of Brisbane and also the Gold Coast however well and truly away from the hustle and bustle of “life”

Amazing Piece of History – Củ Chi Tunnels

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We were picked up by small coach at 8.30 am from our hotel in Ho Chi Minh City for the short 45 minute drive to the district of Củ Chi where the tunnels are located.

On arrival to the underground tunnels we were shown a short film of the Củ Chi  Tunnels so that we had more of  an understanding of how the tunnel system actually works
Củ Chi tunnels are an underground tunnel network, stretching almost 200 km’s, constructed by the Vietnamese fighters during the struggle for independence. This underground city which took about 25 years to build was home to around 10,000 people for several years. The tunnel system was an excellent way for the Vietcong to move around the countryside undetected by the Americans.  The tunnels were used by Viet Cong soldiers as hiding spots, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous North Vietnamese fighters. The tunnel systems were of great importance to the Viet Cong in their resistance to American forces, and helped to counter the growing American military effort. It surely would not have been any easy life.

 

It was fascinating to see the tunnels. If you keep an open mind it is interesting to see the way the government portrays the war from its perspective.

 

The network includes countless trapdoors, entangled living areas, storage facilities and weapons factories, mini military hospitals, command centre and even kitchens. Many of our group chose to crawl through some of the tunnels but just keep in mind that this is quite difficult for anyone with health or physical issues.

 

Cu Chi Tunnels are a must-visit for anyone visiting Ho Chi Minh City. Being able to hear and have a firsthand look at the tunnels where the Resistance hid and fought was amazing. And then seeing their huts where they cooked, made weapons and how they dug their trenches and hideaways was a great experience and very eye opening.

 

Not only do you get an insight to the history, but for a few dollars you can take the opportunity to fire an AK-47 or M16 rifle at the nearby Cu Chi tunnels shooting range. It was incredibly loud and I found quite unnerving hearing the constant noise of the guns however there were many people who really enjoyed it. There is a souvenir shop at the shooting range where you can pick up items that may interest you.

 

Take a half day trip to the tunnels and you won’t be disappointed. Learn about the incredible ingenuity and resourcefulness of the Vietnamese and the unbelievable feats of engineering to create a safe space to live, work and fight from. The tunnels are not to be missed. It’s absolutely amazing how they were able to fight and survive in such SMALL enclosed spaces.

Picturesque Sawtell – Coastal Australia

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Situated on the mid north coast of NSW,  approximately half way between Brisbane and Sydney is the very beautiful  city of Coffs Harbour.  Coffs Harbour is where my family lives so I am lucky to visit this beautiful part of the NSW coast regularly and often. It is less than a 5 hour drive for me from my home in Brisbane.

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Safe Swimming Area for families

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Main street of Sawtell

About a 20 minute drive south of Coffs Harbour is the lovely seaside town of Sawtell.

With its idyllic beaches, chic cafes and a stunning coastal national park  Sawtell is a delightful destination for a seaside escape.  Its unspoiled beaches, rain-forest, wildlife, wetlands and estuaries, make it an ideal location for outdoor adventures.

We have stopped often for lunch at the Sawtell Surf club which is right on the beach. It not only offers great food but a gorgeous outlook.

20170926_123117Just about a few minutes drive or a 10 minute walk from the centre of  town is the Boambee Headland with its breathtaking views towards the north and down to the south.

If travelling south towards Sawtell this is an easy lookout to access. Be sure to drive to the second, higher car park where it isn’t even necessary to get out of you vehicle to enjoy expansive views to the north and also south toward Sawtell.  If you have time there are gentle paved paths down to the ocean. Also, timber stairs which offer easy access to the swimming beach.

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Looking north

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Looking north

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Looking north

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Looking north

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Looking north

Buy a picnic, take it up to the headland and just sit and relax looking out to sea. There are regular sightings of hump backed whales and dolphins.

Standing on the headland and looking towards the south the views are spectacular.

The village’s main street is adorned with enormous fig trees, which provide shade for boutiques and outdoor dining at cafes and restaurants. Stop in to one of the many restaurants and cafes for a coffee or great lunch or just stop at one of the many table and benches in the centre of the town for a picnic lunch.  The street, trees and cafes in the evening are decorated with lights giving it a fairy tale look.

River Wonderland along the Mekong Delta

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From Vĩnh Tràng Chùa My Tho, we drove the short distance to the Mekong River. We hopped on to our boat #38 and travelled across the river to Unicorn Island to spend time wandering and exploring. Unicorn Island appeared to be pretty substantial in its own right.

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We stopped at the local markets, saw sting-less bees making honey which we tasted and then stopped for the most refreshing kumquat and honey tea.

It was then a long walk to where we stopped for a short rest, enjoyed many of the local fruits and entertainment and listened to traditional Vietnamese music.

From here we walked in to the centre of the island where we took boats up the stream through the mangroves and jungle.  I have never been to the Amazon Jungle but the thought of it crossed my mind as we were making our way along this very narrow river through thick dense forest like trees.

We stopped at a coconut processing workshop. The busy ladies there will not be disturbed as we watched their fast hands get the most out of a coconut. You have no idea how much can be produced from a coconut, from oil, water, candy to cosmetics. Every part of the coconut is valuable and nothing goes to waste. We tasted the coconut candy which was really sweet and 100% natural.

After this I tried the local snake wine which reminded me of some grappa that I have had after a meal when in Italy.

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From here we headed off to a very large outdoor restaurant to enjoy a typical Vietnamese lunch which consisted of whole fish, pancakes, sticky rice balls, soup, spring rolls, green vegies and watermelon to finish off.  Wine and beer was available which many of us indulged in.

The Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam is a vast maze of rivers, swamps and islands, home to floating markets, Khmer pagodas and villages surrounded by rice paddies. Boats are the main means of transportation

My trip on the Mekong Delta was a great way to enjoy a day away from the hustle and bustle of the city.  

Travelling by boat was a wonderful way to see the sights from the water