Exploring our backyard – Sydney Australia

During these unprecedented times where all international travel is not just out of the question it is not even allowed. After putting myself on an international travel ban in 2019 to recharge the travel batteries COVID-19 dealt an unexpected blow to my significant international travel plans for 2020. What does one do? Wallow in disappointment and feel sorry for ourselves or think of other ways to build on our adventures just more of the ‘near’ and less of the ‘far’ adventures. Being a positive ‘make the most of it’ person it was straight into planning what travel this year could look like for us.

Sydney city was always just there and a place we slipped in to have dinner or a days shopping but never had the time to explore at a tourists pace. So out with Calgary Canada and in with Sydney Australia.

Not quite our Canada trip but looking forward to a few days in the city of Sydney. Time to explore the places we never have time to…and visit all our favourite eateries and add some new favourites. Booked in to the centrally located Hilton Hotel and charged up the opal cards and we were away for a few days of exploring our own backyard.

Our first morning was spent wandering around the botanical gardens before an amazing leisurely lunch at Bistecca all complimented with great wine chosen for us by the resident sommelier. This lunch from beginning when phones were locked in the pigeon hole to end with the most delicious house brewed coffee the whole experience was first class and brought back memories of our wonderful steak at Benjamin’s in New York City all those years ago.

Our second day was another fantastic day exploring our place. After quick train ride from Town Hall station to Milsons Point Station. Our day really got the day started with breakfast at Ripples at Milsons Point followed by a leisurely walk across the coat hanger (Harbour Bridge) before exploring the The Rocks area and all the QBV has to offer. Then ending our day with what could be the best Chinese food at China Doll at finger wharf Woolloomooloo. No wonder this is considered one of best city’s in the world.

Day three we managed to walk further than any other day while explored Darling Harbour and Barangaroo before a long lunch at one of our favourite places on the quay at Oyster Cove Bar . Nothing like oysters, beer and a couple of bloody marys for good measure. We were pleased that we didn’t have far to walk after lunch to catch the tram the three stops from Circular Quay to Queen Victoria Building (QVB) stop which was located in front of our hotel. It was afternoon off with a late coffee run and no dinner required.

Our last day in downtown Sydney just had to include a ferry ride to Watson Bay for a delicious seafood chowder and time for reflection on our ‘near adventure’ over lunch. Doyle’s on the Beach closed out our eat fest and we may spend next few weeks balancing out the scales again but boy oh boy it will be worth it.

Let hope the ‘far adventures’ can resume again next year in a safer world – in the mean time Australia has so much to offer if you can take the time to slow down and enjoy it. Tomorrow we farewell the centrally located Hilton Hotel (QVB tram stop out the front) I am sure we can sneak in one more baguette for breakfast at Metrople cafe in QBV building on way home. It might not have been the travel adventure I had planned for our Canadian trip to the Calgary Stampede but it sure was an adequate replacement. #canada2021 #adventuresnearandfar #wheretonext #northorsouthorwest #backtoreality #worktotravel

Cahors and onto Carcassonne

The 7th and 8th of October saw us hit the road from our night in Rocomodour after a walk around town which was interesting and still boggles the mind as to how hard it would have been to build such solid and long lasting buildings on a cliff.

Our drive through Cahors didn’t reveal much I am sure there is plenty to see there but I will have to find it next time as we want to get to Carcassonne before it was too late.

Our Mercure hotel was a very short walk from the castle and walled city.  It was all we could do was check in decide on dinner in the hotel before flopping into bed.

We had a good night, feeling quite refreshed, and after hearty breakfast we headed up the hill to explore the castle and walled city for a few hours before heading off towards Pont Du Gard and Uzès which is where our next night was planned. 

The Cité de Carcassonne is a medieval citadel located in the French city of Carcassonne, in the department of Aude, Occitanie region. It is located on a hill on the right bank of the River Aude, in the south-east part of the city proper. It was worth seeing even if somewhat touristy feel to it. We spent several hours wandering around and even walked all the way around the rampart despite having to climb more stairs to access. 

The drive from Carcassonne to Uzès was uneventful and we only stopped to get fuel once buying a snack at the same time before getting back in the road.

We stayed at Best Western at Uzès and dinner in the restaurant was good even if we had a booking due to a bus load staying in hotel.  We are both starting to look forward to getting back to Paris where we can stay under one roof for more than a night or two.

Our hotel in Uzés

Rocamadour – a cliff top village

After goodbyes from Seb and family our Air BnB host for the past three days. They are a busy lovely family that made us feel very welcome. Au revoir   

We set off on the 4-hour drive south from Amboise to Rocamadour. The drive was uneventful and the weather is amazing it just couldn’t be more perfect.

After some confusion finding the hotel as it was through a very narrow archway and down a mostly pedestrian street. Mum walked in and checked about bringing in the car. The parking was located directly in front of the hotel

Rocamadour…the vertical village Overlooking the Alzou canyon, the medieval village of Rocamadour is a marvellous balancing act. The first shock is the place itself – in reality, a tiny village with a world-wide reputation – Built into the cliffside on successive levels, 120 metres in length, it clings high above a canyon through which flows the Alzou. Its houses, roofs and churches seem to be part of the rock itself. 

What genius conceived Rocamadour and built it? As early as the Middle Ages, Rocamadour excited people’s admiration. In the 12th C., pilgrims crossed the whole of Europe to come and pray here. The village housed the relics of Saint-Amadour (a famous hermit who sought solitude in Rocamadour). It was also the much-venerated sanctuary of the Black Virgin.

We checked in and rested for a while before dinner. Dinner was in the hotel restaurant our first restaurant dinner for this trip and it was very good I had ‘the duck’ mum settled on the lamb.

Hors d’ oeuvres, soup, main and cheese plate/dessert was too much but was all delicious. Tomorrow we will explore Rocamadour and then drive on to Carcassonne via Cahors which is an hour and half away. 

Loving our 19th Century Gitê (Airbnb)

We made a steady start as it was so comfortable in our little 19th century Gité. Even made time for a cooked breakfast of sausages eggs and a number of cups of tea. We decide about 11am after finishing a couple loads of washing we should make a move. Leaving the gité with wet washing hanging from every hook or curtain rod and looking more like a laundry we set off for Amboise to visit the old town and our first Château.

The Château d Amboise was right in the centre of town overlooking the river. Leonardo d Vinci is buried in the chapel although I think he was moved here at some point in time. I need to read up on this. The views over the river were spectacular as are all the views in France. 

After a perfect cappuccino (water for me) out of a machine, we hit the road to Boise and visit the Château Chambord.

Breathtaking views in every direction

 If I thought the last one was spectacular well this one was magnificent (someone tell Sharpy I put down payment on it). The Château Chambord is set on huge grounds outside of Boise and the gardens were perfect. The symmetry and simplicity suited me just fine. Oh yes, we climbed the 300 plus stairs to the balcony we DID NOT continue up the several more flights to the tower.

The tapestries, paintings and the rooms that contained them were enormous. Sparsely furnished and would have been very cold in winter hence the fireplaces in each room that an average family could take shelter in. The amount of wood to keep every room warm would have been a small forest every year. After a bite of lunch at the cafe in grounds, we headed back to Amboise via the supermarket to collect a few supplies.

Lamb chops for dinner tomorrow night €8 or A$13 for 6 chops A$2:15 per chop. It was fresh baguettes with ham and tomato for dinner tonight. Tomorrow we are off to another Château this could even be better than the first two. Not sure how to describe if it is. After Château we will explore the old town of Amboise. 

Note to self must come back and explore this area more

Heading to Amboise in the Loire Valley

After another steady start we had breakfast, packed up and locked the door on our little airBnB. This little place was perfect for our needs and provided us with a very affordable option for accommodation while visiting the ST Mont Michel area. It was about 20 minute drive from the Mont area but it served it’s purpose perfectly.

Today was a driving day, we were stuck to the back roads so we could see some of the smaller villages and more of the countryside. Lunch and a grocery stop was in Angers . On looking back we should have explored this city a little more, we missed so much without knowing what was really there. Lesson learned google all towns along route (this is what I do when i am the navigator, this time I was the driver) so if a pit stop is required we then know if there are sights worth seeing. It is so easy to just see a small part of a town without knowing the amazing things that are so close.

We arrived about mid afternoon at our next airbnb, an amazingly little Gité (cottage) on a small farm just outside Amboise. Seb, Fredricka and family were very welcoming and lived in the main how at the rear of the property. The children loved practicing their english with mum and took every opportunity to do so, which she enjoyed. The family had very busy live Seb is an architect that works from home and Fredricka traveled a lot as marketing director of a large company. they supplemented their income by letting out the Gité. Located only a few miles from main part of Aboise it was a perfect location to explore all the chateaüs in the area. We settled in to home cooked meal of lamb loin chops and veggies and caught up on phone calls and emails etc.

A sneak peak of the amazing sights over next few days

We were happy to be spending three nights in this perfect little place which allows us to wash and take things a little slower. Although I really focussed on making this trip s slower pace with so much too see at every turn it is hard to build in enough time in to planning. I am determined next time in Europe I get this right. I am thinking 3 days in all areas while visiting the countryside. Allows for small day trips via car or train from a central point. It seems that when driving from place to place we miss too much stuff. Need to be able to absorb each region allowing time to see some of the most lesser known sights and restaurants etc

Mont Saint Michel and a glimpse of the Normandy Region

One of the most breath-taking places in the world

After getting some work done- horse reports, invoices sent, spreadsheets updated and bills paid along with all other little jobs that I just do as part of my everyday. We were ready to hit the road to Normandy just to have a look we wouldn’t have time to explore the area but thought we could drive around. We headed for Bayeux and then onto Omaha Beach again all the while in the back roads through quaint little villages and beautiful scenery.

We stopped at Patisserie in Percy and purchased baguette for home and a couple filled baguettes for our lunch. This place smelt amazing and I could have taken everything home. It is the real France. We made it to Bayeux and I found Macdonald’s to pick up coffees to go with our baguettes. The baguettes were out of this world so yummy and I could have eaten another one. It didn’t realise until I was writing this post that Bayeux is the home of the Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England. It is also known as the first major town secured by the Allies during Operation Overlord

Back on the road to drive across to coast to Omaha Beach. Omaha, commonly known as Omaha Beach, was the code name for one of the five sectors of the Allied invasion of German-occupied France in the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944. There are many places to visit but we just chose this one so we have look before heading back in time to visit Mont Saint Michel in the afternoon.

The day was a little cold at the beginning but the closer we got back to the Mont the clearer the skies for and warmer it was. By the time we arrived back at the Mont parking area, the skies were blue and it wasn’t cold at all. After parking the car we made our way onto the shuttle bus to take the 15 minutes to ride out to the mont. It was a pretty steady pace navigating through the horse-drawn vehicular, walkers and cyclists, although the main crowds have left for the day there were still plenty of people around. 

What can I say this place is one of the most mind-blowing places I have ever visited that includes Iguazu and Niagara Falls both natural wonders but this being man-made all with limited access due to tides. (Today there is a raised bridge to allow access at all times) was even more impressive. The sheer height of the structure makes you wonder how they ever built it. We spent a little time exploring it is very steep to walk around but we did what we could. It was great to be there with no crowds. I believe in the season it can be very very crowded especially in the middle of the day. 

We decided it was time to head for home we paid the 6€ (49.50aud) for a ride back in the horse-drawn vehicle it was starting to cool off but it was almost 6:30pm. Back at the car, we headed for home via the supermarket in Pontorson to pick up BBQ chook and some bread for dinner. After a welcome cuppa and sandwich, we fell into bed after a good day of exploring.

Tomorrow we set off to Amboise in the Loire Valley for a 3-day stay and looking at a Château or two or five

Château d’Amboise In the Loire Valley

The road trip around France begins…

After restful night and dining in the room on Subway rolls (located near the hotel). The day dawned it was car pick up day and our first Air BnB stay in Aucey-la-Plaine a small village about a 15-minute drive from Mont Saint Michel. A 20-minute taxi ride to collect the hire car. The airport is the only hire car location open on a Sunday it is also easier to start driving from somewhere on outskirts to allow time to adjust the car and being on the wrong side of the road. I have now driven a few thousand kilometres on the opposite side of the road in the USA and France previously so it comes pretty easily these days.   It didn’t take long and the only couple missed turns getting used to navigation system commands. GPS systems are not as exact as google maps which warns you ahead and then says turn here at the street name when you at the exact spot. The GPS says in 400-metre turn right and if there are two streets really close together never sure without looking at the screen if the first or second street. Or at least mine does it is a couple year old now so probably outdated. 

It wasn’t long before we were on our way to Aucey-la-Plaine, we avoided the highways so took our time to travel the 64 km to locate our 1st Air BnB. Once located we headed off to explore the area a bit and find something for lunch and some supplies for dinner before checking in. The nearest larger place was Pontorson which is about 10 minutes from Aucey-la-Plaine they had a market day on and after a quick look we had lunch and went for a drive out past the Mont Saint Michel. The first glimpse is ‘wow’ it just so large and stands out from everything. Just like the pictures, it is impressive from all angles. We decided to visit tomorrow afternoon and hoped the weather would be nice as our first day in the area. 

Check-in at our first Air BnB was uneventful and was self-check-in using the details provided by the host, we settle down for the night in our very suitable little cottage.

Pick up rental cars from airports, often easier to navigate away from town until you are used to driving on the left-hand side of the road. Getting out of city areas can be a bit tricky when adjusting to the car and finding your way.

Allow plenty of time before your train leaves to familiarise yourself station and platform your train will leave and where to stand on the platform for your carriage (usually marked on overhead boards on the platform)

Check if you need to validate your ticket (yellow machine or by completing trip details (Before you board) on train pass. Usually, tickets with allocated seats/reservations do not require validation

Rennes Mercure (short taxi ride from the station) Close to a few food options
Air BnB Aucey-la-Plaine
Easy to access using self-check-in/out instructions provided. Good communication with the host via email and text. Well-appointed and perfect for our needs …Steep stairs to bathroom and bedrooms

Map and Travel:

Paris in Earnest

After a leisurely breakfast in the hotel, we wandered over to catch the Open Bus Tours at stop 17 on the blue line. Which was only across the way from the hotel. Along with the subway which we will put to good use later in the trip. 

With the sun doing it’s best to peek through we set off to explore Paris. It was a little chilly when bus moving but otherwise the weather is fine and definitely not too cold. 

After couple hours on the blue line going around all the main sites we headed back to the room (stop 17) right near the hotel for a lunch of ham, tomato and cheese we purchased yesterday with a welcome cup tea me and coffee for mum. 

We added another layer and headed back out to do the red loop on the bus which takes in Moulin Rouge, Sacrae Cur Gard De Nord (main station, and where Eurostar leaves for London) again we stayed on board and listened to the commentary. Arrived back at the room again at 3:30pm decided too early for dinner so decided on a rest before dinner. Both slept again until too late for dinner so it was a non event but we were not hungry and had plenty of fruit etc. 

Paris and cruising the Siene

Next day dawned as check out day and we were due to catch a train to Rennes where we will pick up a car for the next week. After checking out and a very leisurely breakfast we set off to do a cruise on the Siene and visit Notre Dame. The cruise was great glad we started early on Paris terms as it got very busy later in the day. We did the full loop and gain a different perspective of many of the major sites from the river such as Louvre, Notre Dame and Eiffel Tower.

We left the boat at Notre Dame stop and wandered around the grounds. Decided against lining up in a very long line to go inside opted for a steak lunch instead of in a little place where we had eaten on a previous trip to Paris. It was good and the staff very friendly and helpful. After lunch it time to find the bus again and complete the green line and return to the hotel for the bags.

Our train was scheduled for 16:52 and we got a taxi to Montpasse station in plenty of time to allow for working out what we needed to do. Just as well, the whole place under renovation so took a bit to sort out where we needed to be. When the platform was announced we walked the length of the train (I swear we walked halfway to Rennes to find our carriage and seats.) managed to get the bags stored away and collapsed in the seat to enjoy/sleep 1h 30m trip. 

Looking forward to hitting the road and slowing down the pace for next week. Stayed the Mercure hotel near the station in Rennes. 

France it is then…

Didn’t make the hotel for the wifi for Japhite’s race but certainly had the taxi driver giving me peculiar looks when I started to cheer her on as she finished second which was fantastic. I didn’t mention I had my earpiece in so all of a sudden he had a mad woman urging on something or someone called Japhite without being able to hear the race lol. 

Our bags deposited at the hotel for out again for an activity to get us through to check in time. Walked to the Galleria Lafayette for coffee before visiting a supermarket for the makings of rolls and some fruit and cheese as we decided once we hit the room we didn’t want to leave again until tomorrow.

A rest before we truely begin our France trip 2018..

We slept most of the afternoon and night. I got some work done and watched the replay of the race again. We ate our sandwiches and we were all the better for the long rest. 

Singapore on the way to France

Trip dates 24th September to 15th October

Flight to Singapore 222 departed 3pm And right on time. The food was good lunch was served about an hour after taking off. Flew directly out over Alice Springs and Derby in WA. We were ahead of the setting sun for most of the flight.

In flight wifi available but quite expensive but lasts long enough to send a few messages and etc. Due to land in Singapore 8:50pm and have a transfer organised our hotel Jen Orchard


Not planning on any activities too early tomorrow. But hop on hop off booked for the 2 days.

Arrived a bit early and only two people ahead of us in customs. That is always a welcome sight and not always the case in customs anywhere.

Waited short awhile for our transfer. It was very good apart from the slight hiccup of the driver not taking us to the right Jen Hotel, apparently, the confusion happens all the time. A quick $7 10 minute taxi ride we were quickly checked in.  The hotel gave free access to executive lounge for the duration of our stay. Free breakfast, afternoon tea and evening drinks on the 19th floor.

Our room is 1202 and very well appointed, the bed will never be my Adjusta bed by it came very close.

A room service tea and coffee quick showers and be both slept like the proverbial logs



Our first day in Singapore off to a great start with a complimentary breakfast at the hotel. We stepped outside and after a short walk decide taxi to the main

Hop On Hop Off stop to redeem our vouchers was the order of the day. Very humid and a 20-minute walk wasn’t going to enhance our day.

The sunset city mall is enormous. They hand out guidebooks lol.


It didn’t take long to locate the Hippo Hop On Hop Off tour office. We board the yellow loop bus. This city is filled with greenery and green spaces like no other I have seen. The buildings are so interesting from the old to the new, they really take pride in designing them in such a way that each building has its ‘own thing’. Conveniently stop 17 was near our hotel time to recharge both our devices and ourselves. The 7 eleven next for a couple sandwiches and then nap time. Feeling somewhat refreshed it was back to stop 17 to continue on the yellow route back to Suntec city to swap to the red route for a look at little India and China town as well as my hotel the next time I come to visit the Marina Bay Hotel. Both Little India and Chinatown as beautifully maintained with the original buildings very well maintained and interesting


  • Singapore is very clean and organised
  • People aren’t rushing around, a sense of time to get things done.
  • Service is very friendly.
  • Cabs are spotless
  • Doesn’t have the loud noise of a big city
  • Heard one siren during whole stay – fire response vehicle
  • Shops – a shoppers paradise not sure if the prices stack up but the choices are beyond belief.
  • You would never starve- choices and good food everywhere
  • No powerlines above ground
  • Greenery everywhere you look and almost on every building

Day 2 Our last in Singapore – 26th September

Eased into the day with a sleep in and slowly start today due to the fact we don’t fly to Paris until a bit after midnight tonight.

Our breakfast was a very leisurely one before leaving the hotel we checked out the amazing rooftop pool and bar. I could have easily spent the rest of day right here. We had decided that today we would revisit the stops of interest on the yellow bus line, the Casino which was worth a look just to see so many people playing the tables so early in the day. The access to the casino from the hotel side of the road was via a sky bridge. It was six stories high and lined with trees and provided amazing views. The Casino was big and built in a circle with two public gaming floors and several private gaming rooms and classy looking restaurants on the floors above. The Marina Bay Sands hotel across the road was equally mind blowing up close. The price per night might have the same effect.


Back on the bus I did knock over a few emails, posted a couple horse reports and by then we were pulling into the Botanical gardens stop. It was all you could imagine from a rainforest garden. (One of only two Rainforest Botanical gardens in the world located in a city, Rio De Janeiro is the other). We visited the orchid garden which was a bit spectacular, how they maintain such a beautiful place all year round is beyond me. I can’t keep parsley and basil alive lately.


We were just about walked out by now so it was time to climb/crawl back on the bus for the final leg back to the hotel. We stopped off to have late lunch somewhere is bowels of the biggest shopping mall I have even been in with its two subway stops right in the mall along with 335 food and retail outlets. ION Orchard is recognised as one of the top shopping malls in Singapore.

We raised one last effort to walk back along Orchard Road to our hotel. The hotel on arrival Monday had gifted us with 3 days access to the club lounge where we will spend the next few hours before our car picks us up for the 13hr flight to Paris. We take off at 15 minutes after midnight (no curfew here) and land in Paris at 7:30am on the same day. Looking forward to a few 💤 on the flight.

Oh Singapore I will be back to explore some more. Still, have to get to races and have Chilli 🦀. Au revoir


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