Next Stop – Juneau, Alaska

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After a tremendous stop in Ketchikan our next port of call was Juneau. Juneau which is sandwiched between the mountain ranges and the Pacific Ocean and with no road access to,  is the only state capital in the United States that can only be reached by airplane or boat. Alaska’s state capital is also one of its most beautiful cities and one of the most visited communities in the state. With so much to see and do, and just the one full day in port we chose to take one of the whale watching tours and also to visit the Mendenhall Glacier.20200630_091730

As the capital of the US State of Alsaka, you may expect Juneau to be a metropolis of a city. However, this historic town has much to offer in terms of history. A mix of old and new, the main hub is the waterfront where there were cruise ships, fishing boats and the occasional sea plane. The city centre has a variety of different things to see and do, however the main reason people choose to visit Juneau, is for the amazing natural scenery and abundant wildlife.

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Juneau is rated one of the best whale watching spots in the world which made my decision very easy to sign up for a whale watching experience. I have been fortunate enough to partake in whale watching in several areas in Australia but Juneau offered another level of excitement. The nutritionally rich food that comes from the glaciers offers a smorgasbord of foods for the whales. Over 500 humpback whales make their way to Southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage which is their home during the summer months. The whales breaching not far from our boat was truly magical.  We watched them flipping and breaching.  As I was standing on the deck of the boat beside a guy with a very colourful camera, a hummingbird appeared and hovered for several seconds at the guy’s camera. This was my  first and only time of seeing a hummingbird in real life and it was memorable.

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Less than half an hour from the centre of Juneau is Alaska’s most accessible glacier, The Mendenhall Glacier is fed by an ice field high above Juneau. We caught the shuttle from the whale watching to the glacier. Mendenhall Glacier is immense; photos do not give its majestic size a description worthy of its enormity. There is a visitor centre with a theater showing a 15-minute film on Mendenhall Glacier, a bookstore operated by nonprofit organization Discovery Southeast, and exhibits on wildlife, history, and glacial and geological changes. Rangers provide talks at various indoor and outdoor sites in summer.

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After taking the shuttle from the glacier back to town, I had time for a couple of vinos and email catch up using wi fi at the Triangle Club bar before returning to the ship.

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More than just seeing a new city, a trip for me to Juneau meant doing things that would seem unfathomable back home.

 

 

Ketchikan – the Salmon Capital of the World

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Ketchikan, a town like no other, dates back to the 1880’s when a man named Snow built a salmon saltery here and a fishing village was born.

Set at the southernmost entrance to Alaska’s famed Inside Passage—a network of waterways that snake through some of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful wilderness in the world—Ketchikan is best known for three things: feisty salmon, idyllic scenery, and an incredibly rich Alaska Native culture.

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Ketchikan is known as Alaska’s “first city” due to its location at the southern tip of the Inside Passage – it is the first city we reached on our cruise north from Vancouver, and our first introduction to the beauty and magnificence of Alaska.

 

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Once on land, we had so many activities to choose from including a visit to the Totem Heritage Center, fishing for salmon, exploring the many eclectic mix of stores, and a stroll along the Creek Street boardwalk plus many more.  There is a certain charm to Ketchikan, due to its wealth of native culture, colourfully displayed in an amazing collection of totem poles, and its diverse attractions and activities.

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Totem Heritage Centre

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We wandered along its famous Creek Street where we discovered its local wildlife including the swarms of salmon that make their way up stream through the summer.  This area around Creek Street is now a heritage zone but once it was the town’s infamous red light district.

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For 5 months of the year, Ketchikan goes crazy with the many cruise ships docking every day. The number one thing to do in the Salmon capital of the world is fish for Salmon where there are all 5 different types of Pacific Ocean salmon.

We wandered around many of the great local shops which were once wonderful houses in the area. Here I purchased several great Alaskan gifts that were surprisingly very reasonably priced.

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It was interesting to read the history of the area and about the characters who lived and worked there. Dolly’s House is particularly interesting as was Dolly.  A well maintained house of a prostitute, named “DOLLY” who lived many years ago. It has many interesting tales connected to Dolly who lived their till she was 72 years. This place is on Creek Street. I was intrigued by the diverse history of Creek Street

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After a very full and fun day which included a bus trip to the Totem Heritage Centre, shopping in many of the interesting stores on the waterfront and a visit to Creek Street, we boarded our ship to continue our cruise north and on to Juneau.

 

 

 

Brisbane’s Fairy Tale Bridge

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From the time I arrived in Brisbane over 30 years ago, I have had a fascination with the Story Bridge, or what I call it, The Fairy Tale Bridge.

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The Story Bridge is a heritage listed steel cantilever bridge  spanning the Brisbane River, that carries vehicles, bicycles and pedestrian traffic between the northern and the southern suburbs of Brisbane.

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This week the Story Bridge celebrates its 80th birthday. The premier iconic bridge opened in 1940 after 5 years of construction making it the 2nd largest cantilever bridge in Australia after the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  The bridge was named after Brisbane’s longest serving public servant – John Douglas Story. The road across the bridge is named Bradfield Highway. The bridge connects Fortitude Valley and Kangaroo Point.

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Each week, I drive across this fabulous bridge at least 4 times.  I need to cross it on Sundays when I attend church in New Farm and then again on Tuesdays when I volunteer at the RSPCA OP shop in New Farm.

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Other times, when I am heading in to the city, I will take the local bus from my home to Southbank where I will hop on a city cat to cross the river to the city. This is always my choice of travel as I get to see this great bridge from the river.

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Whenever I have International visitors or even visitors from Australia, I love to take them on a cruise down the Brisbane River on a city cat so they can see the Story Bridge. This fairy tale bridge delights me every time and especially at night when it is all lit up. Typically each lighting display on the bridge is to commemorate a special day in history, raise awareness for charities and showcase upcoming events. Some past displays have been in support of Christmas, Cancer Council Queensland’s Daffodil Day, Braveheart’s White Balloon Day and New Year’s Eve. At the weekend, the bridge wass lit up in red, white and blue lights in honour of American Independence Day.

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One of the must do’s for many locals and visitors to Brisbane is the Story Bridge climb. Apparently, climbing this iconic structure is the best way to see Brisbane. This exceptional experience offers a unique perspective of the city and its surrounds, from the Glass House Mountains in the north to Moreton Bay in the east and stretching towards the Scenic Rim Mountains in the south, along with the best views of the Brisbane skyline and its surrounds.

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For locals and visitors, a drive over the Story bridge is a special experience however if you have the time to walk over it, the views up and down the river are spectacular.  For me, the best way to see it, is from the river; you will not be disappointed. I usually take the river cat down the river, under the bridge, I hop off at one of the many wharves for coffee, or lunch or dinner and then I cruise back up the river where I get to see it all again.

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My Home – Brisbane

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Here is one from my archives.  Although this was written a while back it is still current, weather wise, beauty wise and time of year.

Sometimes we forget what we have in our own backyards.  I am always reminded of what a beautiful place I live in whenever I have visitors as I am “showing off” my home city.

However, on Sunday morning while I was driving to church which is in New Farm, I decided to stop and take a walk along the River Terrace overlooking the river.  It was a perfect winter’s morning.  It was about 8C degrees which then warmed up to about 26C.  Yes perfect, but probably too warm for winter.

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Brisbane, which is the capital of the state of Queensland, has a population of 2.4 million and is in north east Australia.   It is the gateway to the famous Gold Coast which is only an hour drive south and also to the Sunshine coast which is north.  Brisbane has a humid subtropical climate with hot, humid summers and dry moderately warm winters. A typical winter’s day would rarely fall below 20C, however our nights can be very cold.

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Brisbane River

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Brisbane River

Brisbane River

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As I wondered on the walkway along the top of the cliffs in an area known as Kangaroo Point I took these photos.  Kangaroo Point is on the south side of the Brisbane River looking towards the city and central business district.

This is a beautiful location with so many things you can do.  You can walk or ride a bike from Southbank across the river, you can go up and down the steep stairs for exercise, you can have a picnic or BBQ next to the river or on top of the cliffs, using the free gas bbq’s and picnic tables and chairs, you can rock-climb outdoors, kayak, abseil, roller-blade and more. Daytime or nighttime are both beautiful here with the city lights or sun.

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After your walk, if you feel like stopping for a coffee or refreshments, there is a great Café  with these stunning views overlooking the river and Brisbane city.

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Probably the best view of  Brisbane city is from Kangaroo Point.  

It is so easy to access, by bus, river cat, ferry or car.

Beautiful Jewel in the City – Stanley Park

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While staying in Vancouver, I was fortunate enough to visit Stanley Park – several times.

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In the heart of downtown Vancouver, this lovely park is big and beautiful. The scenery is fantastic, the park is well maintained and there are plenty to see and do. You can go to the aquarium, see the totem poles, walk the sea wall, run/walk/cycle, catch a horse carriage or have a picnic. Positively, it is the perfect spot to spend a few hours in Vancouver to recharge the batteries and catch your breath after a long international flight. And the park is the perfect spot to feel the breeze, to reconnect with the trees, and to see many smiling faces.

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Created in 1888 Stanley Park is almost an island and covers many acres. It has a lake and beaches. There are trails all over where you can experience the birds, flowers, trees and the views. You can drive through, or take a long walk, or bike through it. While walking along the seawall, you can see North Vancouver and the Lionsgate Bridge. Stanley Park is one of Vancouver’s jewels. It is a 400-hectare park located on a peninsula near the downtown area of Vancouver.

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Lost Lagoon at the entrance is the favourite watering hole for the thousands of birds that grace the park. The old growth forest is circumvented by Park Drive and the sea wall where  you can take in the many beaches and lookouts.

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On my first visit we spent almost an entire day in the park exploring and then, for lunch we enjoyed a wonderful picnic in the park with a group of First Nations folks. After our fabulous picnic in the park, I chose to take an old fashioned horse drawn carriage ride which meandered for about an hour  through this thousand acre wonderland. This fully guided and narrated tour, stopping at many of the parks highlights was the perfect way for this weary traveller to explore and cover many kilometres of magnificence.

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Our tour lady was very informative not only on the history and sights in Stanley Park, but of our beautiful horses, who are very well care for. The tour was leisurely and we saw numerous major sites of the park. The 9 O’Clock Gun, Totem Poles, Seawall, beaches, Beaver Lake and Lost Lagoon, are just some of the highlights on this tour.

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The park is very well maintained and there was plenty of space wherever we went, The Totem Pole area and the various sculptures and buildings kept us entertained and educated, and the scenery is amazing, especially by the waters edge. The fact it is an island makes it even more special as it feels isolated, somewhere  nature can thrive, which I certainly felt when we walked around Beaver Lake. Yet when you walk to the water’s edge and look out across the water you realise you are right in the middle of Vancouver.

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Attractions in the open areas of the park include; a lovely rose garden, stunning cultivated garden beds, a miniature train ride, an outdoor theatre, and a display of First Nations totem poles. The park also contains sculptures, restaurants, magnificent views, and the Vancouver Aquarium.

I so enjoyed this wonderful park which is regarded as the “lungs of the city” for all its greenery and gardens, And it is free.

 

Spectacular Views from Eagle Bluff, Coral Coast, Western Australia

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One of the many places that we visited while staying on the Coral Coast of Western Australia was Eagle Bluff. This is a spectacularly high cliff that overlooks the Denham Sound and is located about 20 km south from where we were staying in Denham. This area is named after the osprey or sea eagles which nest on the rock island just offshore

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From the car park, we walked along the boardwalk to see the breathtaking views out across the water which was crystal clear and clean.  The boardwalk lies over the ocean where we could see osprey and sea eagles flying around, and dugongs feeding on massive seagrass meadows. Here is the largest sea grass mass in the world supplying food for the dugongs that eat about 70kgs each per day.  From this raised boardwalk there were views of two small limestone islands once mined for guano and now important breeding bird colonies. The larger island is called Eagle Island.

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We were stunned by the abundance of fish and coral in this stretch of water and we were lucky to see dolphins and dugongs.

What a look out  with amazing views of the ocean and cliff faces. The board walk on top of the cliff looking down into the crystal clear unruffled waters of Shark Bay is undoubtedly a wonderful, wheel chair friendly 400 metre boardwalk. This excellent boardwalk along the cliff tops has guidance photos and information relative to the areas below and in the distance.  This is yet another wonderful part of this World Heritage Area.

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This was a well worth trip from Denham to take in this remarkable site where bird life can be viewed in abundance along the craggy shoreline of the islands offshore

This photo-spot is perfect to get a feel for the coastline of this area, in particular the cliffs and the beaches

Exploring Brisbane on foot

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This is another post from my archives. Exploring Brisbane on foot was such a wonderful experience I am sharing it again.

After over 20 years of living in Brisbane I thought it was time that I learned some more about my city. Although I have been in to the city many times I have never actually taken the time to explore it.

So, I booked a tour with Brisbane Greeters.  It was by accident that I recently learnt of this wonderful program here in Brisbane.  I contacted them and organized to do a walking tour of Brisbane precinct. I met with my guide Bruce, at King George Square outside Brisbane city hall.  I was excited to do this tour however I was not prepared for how good it was.

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Lucky me, I was the only “tourist” for this guided tour of our city. We started our tour in the square discussing Bruce’s plans for the tour. He made some suggestions and then with my input he customised the tour to fully suit me. Bruce gave me a brief overview of the history of Brisbane before we headed off.

We started our tour in the City Hall.  City Hall is considered to be one of Brisbane’s finest buildings. The building has been used for royal receptions, pageants, orchestral concerts, civic greetings, flower shows, school graduations and political meetings.

City Hall does offer its own guided tours of this lovely building so my visit with Bruce was certainly enough to whet my appetite to return one day for a tour.  In the meantime, from Bruce, I learned that the white marble staircase in the entrance is made using marble from Carrara in Italy, the bell tower was inspired by St Mark’s in Venice and the dome was inspired by the Pantheon in Rome.

From the city hall we walked over to the Brisbane Arcade which is a heritage listed shopping arcade and was built in 1923. Definitely one of if not the nicest shopping arcade in Brisbane consisting of beautifully designed shops offering high-end jewellery, clothing, antiques and much more.

Our tour continued up Queen St to North Quay to the heritage listed Treasury building, which now houses Brisbane’s Casino.

The tour included many of Brisbane’s original buildings – the commissary which is home to the Royal Historical Society of Brisbane, and  Old Government house which is located on the grounds of Queensland University of Technology at Gardens Point.

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The QUT campus is home to public arts venues, museums, top fitness facilities, and our state-of-the-art Science and Engineering Centre.

We stopped at the Pantry café on campus for our well-earned lunch and coffee.  After our small rest we headed off through the botanical gardens which is on the river and which Qut is attached to.

We had many stops along the way to our destination of St Stephens Cathedral the heritage listed cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of the city of Brisbane.

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I learned from Bruce that part of the stone used in the construction of this magnificent building was taken from Kangaroo point just across the river.

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Kangaroo Point

Bruce’s wealth of information was fantastic. He is very passionate about Brisbane and was so informative the entire time.

I have been on many walking tours around the world but this would definitely be the best guided walking tour I have ever done, and, it was free. Bruce informed me that there are many cities around the world offering this personalized free service.

I later googled Greeters Organisation and discovered there are in excess of 90 cities world-wide offering this fabulous service including several cities in Italy.

Fascinating – Stromatolites, Hamlin Pool, WA

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On our way from Denham to Geraldton we stopped off at  The Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve. This reserve is about 40 km off the highway from the Shark Bay turn off. Hamlin Pool nature reserve  is a protected marine nature reserve located in the UNESCO World Heritage listed, Shark Bay, in Western Australia. Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve is one of only two places in the world with living marine stromatolites, or ‘living fossils’.

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The 127,000-hectare nature reserve boasts the most diverse and abundant examples of living marine stromatolites in the world, monuments to life on Earth over 3,500 million years BP

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After arriving at the free car park, we started at the Hamelin Pool and took an hour to go along the boardwalk and take a look at the stromatolites, which are thought to be the earliest form of life on this planet, expiring oxygen into the air, for everything else that followed. There are tiny fish living in the extremely salty water which can be seen from the boardwalk, together with some pretty birds which seem to live under the boardwalk.

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This visit gave me a small insight into some of the history of the development of life form(s) on the planet. It was definitely a ‘wow’ experience viewing the stromatolites formations. The interpretive signage was very informative and there were many trails to explore.

A boardwalk which has been constructed out into the water to give a good view of the area is fantastic with information boards placed around the walk. While we were there, we were lucky as it was a low tide and the formations were visible above and below water.

The microbial mats and stromatolites are prehistoric life forms. To me, the stromatolites look like something out of an alien movie. The stomatolites and cockles thrive in the hyper saline waters of the bay.

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The stromatolites are all over Hamlin Pool, so the raised boardwalk protects the stromatolites from damage caused by walking on them.

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It was really interesting to read and understand about the formations that looks like you are in another world.  Seeing and learning about stromatolites was a very new experience for me, but reading the information boards helped me to understand what I was actually looking at.

It became very apparent that I was observing something astonishing.

 

The Day the Giro d’Italia came to town

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My blog posts “jar” is getting very empty so I decided to re post this story about a tremendously fun day I had while I was staying in Arezzo.

 

Not long after I arrived in Arezzo I could feel that something special was happening.  While wandering around exploring, I saw the barricades being installed and of course all the signs and banners. The Giro d’Italia was coming to town.

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I have never really been a big fan of bike racing, although I do enjoy watching it on tv but mostly for the scenery. But, it did not take me long to be caught up in the excitement of the town.

While enjoying my morning coffee in the Piazza Grande, about 6 middle-aged men in lycra arrived. They were all from Australia and New Zealand. Listening to them, I learned that they were all ex Olympians or Commonwealth games winners.  They were here to watch the race. This just added to the excitement of being in Arezzo on such a special occasion.

Everywhere I went there were flags and banners and barricades for the race and many hours before the cyclists were due, people were already beginning to line the streets. The atmosphere was electric with a party feel.

There was a big van decorated in the official Giro d’Italia colours in the Piazza Monaco Guido which was just near my accommodation.  In fact my window overlooked it all. There was a loud speaker with the constant recording announcing the race and offering Giro packs for sale.

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I bought a pack for 10 € which consisted of a pink cap, a pink t-shirt and  a pink plastic “clapper”.  It was official; I was caught up in the moment.

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There were several marquees and media booths set up, truck after truck of equipment and lots of police around.

The crowds were already jockeying for positions behind the temporary barricades. I managed to find myself a great spot near the beginning of the cyclists entrance in to Arezzo.  I felt as though I was probably the only Aussie, in fact, non speaking Italian standing there, but I was totally caught up in the overwhelming excitement of it all.

Suddenly a motorcade of Italian police cars and bikes appeared around the bend with sirens blaring and blue lights flashing.

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Then a flash goes by, then another, then they are gone.  I had my camera poised to take the photos but they went by so quickly I was lucky to get any photos.

Apart from the slower cyclist and support vehicles it was all over.  The biggest surprise for me was the amount of team cars carrying spare bikes and parts.

I wandered off feeling so very fortunate that I experienced such a wonderful event.

 

 

 

 

2 months further on, here in Brisbane, Australia.

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Things here in Australia are changing every day, sometimes, hourly.  2 months ago, when I first wrote about the beginning of lock down for me, I really had no idea what to expect, how long it would last and in fact how well we would all cope.

I can honestly say with relief, that it really has not been too bad. Yes, there have been some blah days where I had no motivation but after giving myself a little pep talk I was able to move on and start making the most of every day. My days have been filled with many different activities including gardening, baking, crafting, many long phone calls, netflix, Youtube and of course internet/emails.

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We have been very blessed in Australia with our government acting quickly in the beginning of this situation and consequently we have lost less than 100 folks.

Recently, there has been a gentle easing of some of our restrictions here in Queensland which is very welcome, including the opening of parks and beaches and, allowing us to venture out from our homes.

During this past week, I went for my first social outing in about 8 weeks. It was great. We went out to Moreton Bay to the delightful suburb of Manly which is on the water. We sat at a picnic table setting protected by an awning that was long enough to cover about 10 of these picnic settings. We bought fish and chips from the local fish and chip shop and enjoyed it along with a nice pinot grigio. While keeping our social distancing we chatted with many other folks who were doing the same.

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As I enjoyed this simple but lovely day out I reflected on the here and now and thought that this outing was a little trip down memory lane for me. I remembered that while growing up, for us, a picnic enjoying fish and chips in the park was a lovely day out and a special treat.

For me, this lock down has reminded me of how happy we were with the simple things in life. Like a picnic in the park, or a walk along the beach, catching up with friends for a simple meal at home or just an evening walk around the neighourhood. It made me think, how did life become so complicated? Why is everyone “so busy”all the time?

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I am delighted to have been reminded in many ways and many times over the past 8 weeks or so, what really does matter and how easy it is to enjoy life without all the stress and expense.

My fish and chips in the park, was in fact, a special treat.