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. 

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

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. 

Our Canadian round trip by train

Up bright and early on the 30th September and off to the Vancouver Airport to catch our 8:50am flight to Prince Rupert Air Canada AC8278. It was a good flight, I think I slept most of the way but we did fly over some beautiful but rugged country.

Getting to Prince Rupert

 

The Prince Rupert airport is on another island so once we landed everyone piled onto the shuttle bus for the ride into town. It took about an hour to get to the drop off point in town. We decided we could manage to walk to our hotel and it wasn’t too bad but probably having some second thoughts halfway there. Check-in was uneventful and after a bit of a rest we set of in search of food, which happened to back near our drop off point but the walk was much easier without bags to drag us down. After food, we wandered for awhile around town, not a lot to see but we did visit the museum before heading back to the room for rest and reorganise bags ready for the train tomorrow.
Booked the corner table in the hotel restaurant for a lovely dinner, a wine and view of the harbour and cruise shipping leaving port. It was an early night as our cab was booked for 6am to make sure we were at the train in plenty of time, we were first there but it is good to know you aren’t running late.

 

 

The next morning was the beginning of an amazing two-day cross-country train ride. The was only a few people on the train which meant although we just had regular seats we had one row each and as much access to the dome car as we wanted. We had xxx looking after us for all food beverages and pointing out the places of interest or making sure we were in the dome car as the most beautiful sights were coming up. He had been doing this job for over 40 years and knew every no and cranny of the train and every single farmhouse or place of interest along the way. He made the trip so informative and interesting.

 

Not having to stop and wait too many times in the siding for the goods trains to pass(they have right of way and were often more than 200 cars long) Nearly always carrying timber, I have never seen so much timber either standing as trees or milled into dressed timber in my whole life.

After some 12 hours onboard we finally came to a stop at our overnight in Prince George (halfway) Arrived in the dark and leaving early am so no time to look around. As the next few days of the trip were on this train and then transferring to the 5 star Rocky Mountaineer complete with its heated seat and 5 star dining the rest of this post will be a photo pictorial of the sights and sounds of our journey.  The next and final post for this trip will cover out two nights in Whistler and our few days on Victoria Island and Butchart Gardens.

 

Some details of our train journey

Our Stopover hotel
RAMADA HOTEL DOWNTOWN
444 George Street Prince George BC V2L 1R6 CANADA
PRINCE GEORGE (YXS)
STANDARD ROOM

ROCKY MOUNTAINEER HIGHLIGHTS
3 DAY RAIL JASPER TO VANCOUVER

RAINFOREST TO GOLDRUSH WESTBOUND JASPER TO VANCOUVER
SERVICE LEVEL GoldLeaf
Day 1: Jasper to Quesnel Oct 3
Travel onboard the Rocky Mountaineer to Quesnel. Highlights include the Rocky Mountain Trench, Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, Yellowhead Pass, Moose Lake and the Fraser River. Overnight in Quesnel.

Day 2: Quesnel to Whistler Oct 4
Your journey continues south to Whistler. Highlights include sweeping views of the Fraser Canyon, the crossing of Deep Creek Bridge, one of the highest railway bridges in the world, and the shorelines of glacial‐fed Seton Lake and Anderson Lake. Overnight in Whistler.

HOTEL
Whistler Accommodation, Hotel Room
Day 3: Whistler to Vancouver Oct 5

This afternoon returned to Vancouver on the Rocky Mountaineer. Highlights include the Cheakamus Canyon, Mount Garibaldi, Howe Sound and the Coast Mountains. An afternoon snack will be served onboard. On arrival, you will be transferred to your accommodation in downtown Vancouver.

Our Hotel on arriving in Vancouver for our first 2 days and 1 night after returning to Vancouver on the rocky mountaineer – Would recommend this hotel for its location and service, the harbour views were spectacular room our room
PAN PACIFIC VANCOUVER HOTEL
300‐999 Canada Place Vancouver BC V6C3B5 Canada
VANCOUVER (YVR)
DELUXE HARBOUR ROOM

Slideshow of just some of the highlights from our train journeys

 

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Day 4 12th April – Ghent and Brugges

We awoke to lightly clouded morning, with a few more clouds coming in by the afternoon. Overall again a pleasant day for sight seeing  as today we visited Ghent in the morning and Brugges in the afternoon. 


Again breakfast was welcome and every day we say we are coming down earlier to enjoy it at a leisurely pace rather rising to make the first onshore excursion. We left the ship and boarded the coaches waiting on the dock and were welcomes by local experts to show us the city of Ghent, partly by coach and partly  on foot…. Cobblestones! 


For those who stayed on board (not us) they sailed through Erneuzen Ghent Canal and Westerschelde which is an inlet of the North Sea. The Terneuzen Ghent Canal is a man-made connection between the Westerschelde and Ghent. 

In the afternoon we visited one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. This well-preserved medieval city is a delight for the eye. A canal boat cruise is part of the experience! 












Some of the sights we took in…

  • Markt square best viewed from the exquisite 285-foot-high tower (366 steps!) (we DID NOT do this) of the late-Gothic Belfort above the medieval trading halls, this large square is flanked by the 19th.century home of the West Flanders parliament and many street cafes.
  • Burg the smaller but finer, this square includes the  Holy  Blood Basilica, a two-story church going back to the 12th century containing a reliquary purporting to hold a phial of Christ’s blood. No less impressive, the Stadhuis is Belgium’s oldest City Hall (1376, with 15th.century facade).
  • Groening Museum.Home to one of the world’s finest collections of Dutch art, this has wonderful works by Flemish Primitives’ like van Eyck, Memling and Bruegel.
  • Memling Museum located in a medieval hospital, this presents six masterpieces by Hans Memling,as well as changing exhibitions. Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk the Gothic Church of Our Lady is notable for containing a small sculpture (Madonna and Child) by Michelangelo as well as the magnificent 15″‘-century gilded tombs of Charles the Bold and his daughter, Mary. 
  • Begijnhof  which is close to the many pleasant cafes of Wijngaard­ plein, the Beguinage is a charming convent founded in 1245 that is now occupied by Benedictine nuns.

Flanders emerged as an important producer of lace(kant) during the 16th century. Made from threads of linen produced from locally grow n flax or silk, such filigree yet surprisingly tough patterned textiles were produced exclusively by hand until the 19th century, when machine made products using cheaper cotton swamped the market. In cities like Bruges, though. many shops have exquisite lace made in the traditional manner which is a highly skilled procedure involving braiding and crossing bobbins around pins stuck into a pattern. 
Such a pretty place that I am keen to visit again with more time to explore and enjoy it’ character and charm. With more time it would be a shoppers paradise only to be followed by great food to satisfy the appetite built up exploring the wonderful little stores. Belgian beer is an inexhaustible subject, apparently one can quickly get a good grounding by taking a guided tour of the small brewery so this is a must do for next time for me.

We almost crawled back on the ship for a very short break before getting ready for yet another three course dinner which was out of this world. 

One thing is to be sure, this cruise is not going to be as relaxing as I imagined.  

What do the ballet and a trip to San Antonio have in common?



Answer: Things we are going to do while staying in Abilene

Just had a call from Leonie she is going to try and get tickets to the ballet in Abilene and organise a trip to San Antonio.

Ian has dipped out on the ballet but is looking forward to visiting San Antonio again. He says he and Scott will go to the pub while the ballet is on.

Things we will enjoying seeing in San Antonio are visiting the Alamo again and also seeing the riverwalk decorated in Christmas spirit.

I am still wearing some shoes (which I love and wear almost every day) that I purchased in the Rivercenter, hope I can get some more.

Bring it on less than three weeks to go before we fly out