Sunday, 21 February 2016

A new blog for travels in 2016

Check it out at

For this trip I am using the blog I set up when I went to New York. Enjoy - don't forget to bookmark!

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Back in Port

So, back to real time. A job application, and research for travels in France. Which way will it go?

For this month, February, I'm staying in Jan's townhouse in Port Macquarie with Sasha the poodle. I'm in a great location, not far from the beach. I can hear the surf at night. 

I'm loving walking the dog morning and evening. There's a coastal walk along to the next beach, Flynn's Beach, where there's a surf school in the mornings. Or I can walk around the headland past the local little little beach (below) to the imaginatively named Town Beach where there is usually a bunch of people surfing at least one of the two breaks. 

Road trip/s

From New Zealand, Port Macquarie on the map seemed like a good place. Not as hot as Brisbane, good rainfall, within striking distance of Sydney. Not too big, not too small. "Good fishing", everyone would say. At Margaret and Keith's in Hamilton I met Jan and Francois, who lived there. "It has a great arts and cultural centre", they told me. Yep.

So when the time came to move on from Cairns I put word out and yes, Jan did need a house sitter in December, and also in February. An opportunity to try out the town, see what it would be like to live there. Next stop, Port Macquarie.

Packed up the car again (doesn't take long), off south. This time with Jess the bear for company -- thanks, Annie Jean! 

Six and half hours from Brisbane. 
The weeks before Christmas I stayed at Jan and Francois' canal-side house. On Christmas Day there was a pod of about seven dolphins, cruising by with gentle splashes. House-sitting duties included becoming the slave of a black toy poodle called Sasha who reminded me relentlessly about walks twice a day. I set too, finding the best places to have my daily coffee; and took up reading the Sydney Morning Herald every day (failing at the cryptic crossword).

Matt rode up from Sydney just after Christmas. Yes, on his bicycle. Here he is at the lighthouse at the well-names Lighthouse Beach.

So began an epic road trip - Port to Melbourne, exploring the beaches and small places along the way, including a drive around the Hunter Valley. 

New Year's Eve we were in Sydney (local fireworks only), and we spent a couple of days at Thredbo. Matt rode up to Kosciusko. 

I stayed in an apartment in East Melbourne and pretended to be a Brunswick local, sipping soy flat whites at pop-up garage cafes. 

I revisited the lovely people at the Peter Macallum Centre, and went through the usual stuff - camera up the nose, finger down the throat, all good fun. Nothing unexpected there, and so life continues. Yay! The streets of Melbourne have never looked so good.

Back on the road again. just me and Jess-the-bear-not-a-rabbit this time. I drove back to Port via the coast, stopping off at many of the smaller country towns just a bit inland, and camping along the way, even a couple of nights of car sleeping. Yes, there are still service stations with free hot showers. 

I indulged at Readings in Hawthorn on the morning of departure and along with my coffee bought a talking book to ease the byways, The Rosie Project. 

And so, back again in the small town of Port Macquarie. And an enthusiastic welcome from Sasha. 

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Next stop - Mudgeereeba

From Buderim it is a short hop to the Gold Coast where my brother lives. I stopped in Brisbane on the way down, and paid more for parking than I usually spend in any one day.

This from Neil and Di's garden.

Before Christmas we had a girlie weekend at Woody Point, back in Brisbane. Suzie hosted Janet, Helen and I for the weekend and fed us like VIPs, which we are of course.

And I made a short trip down to Murwillumbah and met up with Felicity at the Tweed Regional Gallery. The view from the gallery cafe is delightful.

There was a special installation that was spreading around at least three rooms, all made from cardboard. This is the In-Habit Project, which
"considers the idea of ‘place’; and addresses themes of journey and diaspora; settlement and resettlement; home and land; plight and displacement. Using the process of collecting and collaborating to express ideas of migration, family and memory, the artists work with the community to construct small houses using recycled cardboard and found materials. These houses contribute to a growing community of dwellings installed on scaffolding within the gallery, resembling a sprawling construction site continuously evolving and always in transition."

But the highlight of this visit, other than seeing Felicity again, was the Margaret Olley Art Centre.

The MOAC celebrates the career, life and legacy of its namesake, Margaret Olley – Australia’s most celebrated painter of still life and interiors. 

Yellow Room

I had a Margaret Olley print on my wall in my house in Cairns, and there was the jug of cornflowers featured in that print, sitting on the kitchen windowsill just as I had so often imagined. This is an exhibition I could revisit again and again.

But a few days later it was off on the next road trip, a short one this time - a 6-hour hop down the coast to Port Macquarie, with a breakfast stop in Byron Bay.


This is a bit of a retrospective review of my travels down the east coast. From Cairns I took 3 days to reach Buderim which is on the Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane. I practised camping, and apart from realising on the first night that I had forgotten to buy a pump for the lilo (luckily the camping ground at Home Hill had very thick, springy grass and I slept comfortably without it) all went well. At Home Hill I paid $10 for a campsite, entry to the municipal pool, AND a Magnum icecream. At Noosa the campsite was $32. An expensive hot shower, that one.

So to the next house sit. Deb and John were away and I spent a week at their mansion.

Not just a pool, but a sewing room, and permission to use the machine! I made a couple of cool dresses and a skirt.

Last time I was staying at Deb's I could hardly walk around the block. This time I was able to walk much further afield. I missed the jacarandas but the flame trees were resplendent, shading the streets and making it very pleasant to walk into the town for coffee. Buderim may be small but it has four bookshops and a great selection of cafes.

I discovered a block in Buderim designated as Food Street. All the kerbs have been given over to vegetables and fruit trees. Sweet corn, bananas, limes, zucchini, sweet potatoes and more. The produce gets shared between the residents. There was a stand of sunflowers that was attracting the birds which seemed fearless.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

How to leave Cairns?

I lived in Cairns for nearly 15 years, and in so many ways it was the perfect place to live.  I remember back then when I accepted a job in Ballarat saying to friends, how can you possibly leave Cairns? John Metcalfe (who is still there, living in the same house and riding his old bike) said, it's easy to leave - you just drive to the big fish, and you keep going. And that's what I did last week.

The Big Fish is the marlin that used to be at the southern gateway. These days it marks a shopping centre that has quadrupled in size from out days of living up the road - we used to have a game when Matt was in a carseat in the back in his nappies, I'd have to look the other way and he'd shout out 'I see wish worse!' (I see the fish first).

Farewell Trinity Beach - no more moonlight swims now that stinger season has arrived. 

Off on a 2000km drive south....

Monday, 1 December 2014

Rusty's Markets in Cairns

The Friday and Saturday markets at Rusty's Bazaar are still going strong. The noise and the smells take me back to any southeast asian market, but the people and the produce are distinctly Cairns. Some of the atmosphere of old has disappeared, but its still a great experience. Just for old times I had to combine my visits with a coffee and cake at what we always called Paris Croissants, now the Swiss Cake and Coffee Shop. Not much has changed here except it is not Terry and Sally behind the counter any more.

Probably the main change in the markets is that there is a stronger PNG and Islands presence. Otherwise there are still the Italian farmers from the tablelands, Cambodian families and local organic foodie artisans.

Can't you smell the mangoes, coriander, basil, vanilla coffee and incense?