Europe Trip 2018

Belgium – France

We crossed the border into Belgium on the train from Amsterdam to Brussels. It was pretty uneventful. A couple of officials checked our passports. That was it!

It wasn’t a long walk from the train station to our hotel but it was a bit tricky – cobblestones and luggage wheels do not make a good combination! But it was worth the effort, Hotel Mozart was just amazing!

DSC08538DSC08577DSC08578DSC08579DSC08580DSC08581DSC08582

Getting to breakfast was an adventure in itself. It was served in the basement, which was accessed via spiral staircases from the ground floor. Our room was on the third floor and the lift only went down as far as Reception, but then only if Brian kicked the door in the right spot. Other times he would have to go down the stairs and send the lift up to me.

Brussels surprised me. It was vibrant with a holiday atmosphere. Not what I expected. It has a great selection of grand buildings, cathedrals, parks, Manneken Pis – the Peeing Boy – and a magnificent plaza with gilded buildings that shone in the sunlight and at night were illuminated with coloured lights. There’s a wide variety of eateries in the square, the streets and the laneways, all offering alfresco dining with entertainment provided by a band of street musicians. We enjoyed Lebanese at La Perle du Liban and Greek at Makonos in our street and at El Greco on the plaza; and sampled various beers along the way!

DSC08526DSC08527DSC08528DSC08535DSC08536DSC08537DSC08539DSC08543DSC08550DSC08555DSC08556DSC08557DSC08558DSC08563DSC08564DSC08567DSC08570DSC08572DSC08573DSC08574

DSC08587DSC08586DSC08588DSC08589

DSC08600

 

Bruge

We had a day trip to Bruge by train.

The highlight was visiting Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child at the Church of Our Lady, Saint Salvadore’s Cathedral.

DSC08624DSC08625

 

DSC08626 (3)

It was Market Day so the square was quite crowded. We had lunch at Sintamandje on a quaint cobblestoned laneway before exploring the rest of the canal town including a statue of Jan Van Eyck, ‘Skyscraper’ the Bruges Whale made from plastic waste from the seas and oceans of the world and Beaterio with its swans and a nuns’ priory.

DSC08650

DSC08677DSC08682DSC08687DSC08694DSC08698DSC08666DSC08709DSC08713

Next morning we reluctantly handed in the key and trudged back up the cobblestones to catch the train to Ypres.

dsc08733.jpg

 

Ypres

Ypres is also spelt Ieper and pronounced by our tour guide like the sound of a whisper ‘i-pe’ – the  i as in ‘it’ and the pe as in ‘pet’ .

It is the home of the Menin Gate which used to be guarded by two lion statues, since presented to Australia and relocated to the Australian War Memorial Canberra. The Last Post ceremony is held there nightly at 8.00 pm and on our first night there the Australian cricket team participated in the wreath laying.

DSC08748DSC08752DSC08757DSC08772DSC08773

DSC08747

On our second day we visited In Flanders Fields Museum, an excellent interactive experience providing an insight to the realities of war and the people impacted by it.

 

We followed this with an Ypres Salient guided tour of nearby battlefields, cemeteries and places of interest such as Hill 60, Caterpillar Crater, Pool of Peace, Bayernwald German trenches, 1914 Christmas Truce Memorials and Hyde Park Memorial. André, our guide and driver from Over the Top Tours, provided insightful, knowledgeable commentary.

 

The drenching rain lent itself to the sombre nature of the day.

DSC08811

DSC08827DSC08820 - CopyDSC08821 - CopyDSC08824 - CopyDSC08825 - CopyDSC08826 - CopyDSC08832 - CopyDSC08833 - CopyDSC08834 - CopyDSC08843 - CopyDSC08845 - CopyDSC08851DSC08854

As we walked back to the bus at one of the sites, our guide André picked up the shell of a bomb from the edge of a field we were passing, just by the side of the road. Farmers continue to find such items when they plough their fields. They just place them by the road and the authorities collect them. Its all part of their normal routine.

DSC08828

We finished off our stay with a meal and a beer  in a local café before taking in the Last Post again.

DSC08861DSC08863

Farewell Flanders Fields, farewell Ieper!

Lille

We has a two-night weekend stay in Citadines Apart’ Hotel Lille.

We explored the old town on the Saturday. It was bustling – people everywhere!

 

The next day it was the complete opposite. No Sunday trading here! No crowds of  people! It made it easy for us to continue exploring though: Saint Maurice Church, Porte de Paris, Hotel de Ville, an Ola Cuba exhibition in an old railway station and the Citadel.

 

 

 

 

It was a lovely couple of days, especially considering it was a mistake. I was supposed to book us into Amiens, so that’s where were heading next.

DSC08801

Advertisements

Europe Trip 2018

Holland

Whenever we go back to Ireland we take advantage of being on that side of the world to make a side-trip to Europe. This time we visited Holland, Belgium and France.

Amsterdam: bicycles, crooked buildings, canals, flower market, cheese, Ann Frank’s house

DSC08479

DSC08365DSC08367DSC08348DSC08322DSC08340DSC08338DSC08335

We tried to visit the Van Gogh Museum but after a bus, train, then tram-ride to get there, we found that the only way to get tickets was online and I had left my iPad at the hotel so had no means of accessing the Internet and the museum didn’t provide any. Seems to be a very strange form of crowd control!

We had the same sort of luck with the tulips. Family in Liverpool had shown us their photos of field after field of tulips, each a different vibrant colour. But when we asked at the tourist office for directions to the tulip fields and windmills, we were told the tulip  season was over and the farmers had pulled any remaining tulips out of the ground.

Fortunately in the Zaan Region there’s a dedicated windmill village that can’t go out of season so we went there instead!

DSC08372DSC08390DSC08393DSC08399DSC08389DSC08413DSC08403

We used 1-day Amsterdam and Region travel tickets to get a bus to the windmills at Zaanse Schans Village; trains to Zaandam where we ate lunch and to Edam where we had a beer across from a cheese shop; then a bus via Volendam and Julianaweg – one of my middle names is Julianna – back to Amsterdam Central.

DSC08434

Zaandam

DSC08446DSC08454DSC08470

DSC08472

Edam

We had dinner at the waterfront before taking the free ferry over to Buiksloterweg, then back again after a short walk. Its a very popular ferry with pedestrians and cyclists.

DSC08480DSC08482

Den Haag and Delft day trip

We caught the Sprinter train from Schipol to Den Haag.

DSC08487DSC08488DSC08492DSC08496DSC08499

After exploring  Den Haag also known as Le Haag, The Hague and Le Hague, we caught  a tram to Delft.

DSC08509DSC08512DSC08513DSC08514DSC08516DSC08517

 

Next stop Belgium!

 

Back to Ireland – 5 April 18 June 2018 cont – England and Scotland

 

Scotland

Wallace statue

Wallace statue, Stirling Castle

After a Full English Breakfast we got back on the road and drove to Stirling Castle.

DSC08031

Wallace Monument

We could see the Wallace Monument in the distance but drove around in circles for ages trying unsuccessfully to find the turn-off to it. We gave up and continued on to the Falkirk Wheel, an enormous structure that moves boats between the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Union Canal.

DSC08039

Here’s a slideshow of the wheel in motion:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

From the Wheel we drove to Falkirk town and negotiated our way through a very complex one-way system to our hotel, probably the worst place we stayed in throughout our overseas trip. The website had warned that the lift didn’t service all floors, in fact it didn’t service any. It was out of order due to a brawl the night before! That will give you some insight as to the class of hotel I’d booked us into. Our room was up several flights of stairs, interspersed with long corridors, badly lit with sensor lights not all of which worked. The white towels were grey and threadbare, the heating was temperamental and the bathroom flooded in the middle of the night. When reception wasn’t staffed you had to go into the bar for service. It stank! Fortunately we only had to spend one night there.

We had a walk around the town and found somewhere to have dinner, the Orchard Hotel, where the food was tasty and the staff were friendly and renewed our faith in Scottish hospitality.

After that we went to Helix Park to see the Kelpies. These are amazing, giant, metal horse-head structures that are illuminated at night. Normally you can do a tour to see the structures from the inside, but there was a crew recording a TV show when we were there so the tours weren’t operating.

DSC08056DSC08057DSC08059DSC08061DSC08064DSC08071DSC08073DSC08078DSC08080DSC08081

Helix Park is a vast community-use space incorporating wetlands, canals, the Kelpies and the Wheel.

dsc080742.jpg

DSC08045DSC08055DSC08054DSC08062DSC08070DSC08063DSC08079DSC08076DSC08084

We drove to Edinburgh the next day. We parked in the city and walked up to the castle, then down through the gardens. I looked for the floral clock I’d seen there about 40 years ago but it was too early in the season so it hadn’t been planted yet.

DSC08088DSC08091DSC08092

Next, back to England.

Sydney to Darwin – The big drive home

Sydney – Tamworth

On Monday, the first day of our 4200-kilometre drive home, we left Sydney just after 11.00 am and drove through the Hunter Valley passed vineyards, coalmining, horse breeding and sheep and cattle rearing country to Tamworth, stopping only at Wilberforce for fuel and Bulga to eat lunch.

We got to Tamworth around 6.00 pm.The information centre was closed but we managed to find the tourist park we’d stayed at before.

Tamworth – St George

We did a bit of shopping before leaving Tamworth next day, then stopped for fuel at Barraba and had a pitstop at Warialda Apex Park. After getting an hour back when we crossed the Queensland border, we stopped for lunch in Goondiwindi and visited the information centre and the statue of Gunsyng.


We got to St George just after 4.00 pm, checked into our cabin and went for a walk along the Balonne River.



St George – Barcaldine

On Wednesday we left St George for Barcaldine. On the way we saw an echidna, a very special privilege, scurrying into the undergrowth by the side of the road; and, a couple of herds of cattle being driven along the ‘Long Paddock’; again, not  something you get to see every day..

We stopped for lunch at Meat Ant Park in Augathella, then fuelled up and drove on to Barcaldine through Tambo and Blackall.

Barcaldine – Mt Isa

Before leaving Barcaldine on Thursday morning, we visited the Shearers Memorial and the remains of the Tree of Knowledge. 



Longreach
was our first top for fuel then Winton where we watched the reconstruction of the Waltzing Matilda Centre while we ate lunch. The original was destroyed by fire in 2015.

We had a pitstop at McKinley and fuelled up again at Cloncurry before arriving at Mt Isa around 6.00 pm..

Next day we intended doing a tour of the Hard Times Mine but it was closed for maintenance so instead we just had a walk around town, drove to the lookout, went back to the cabin for lunch, then drove out to Moondarra Dam.



Mt Isa – Renner Springs
We left Mt Isa at 9.15 am and drove to Camooweal where we stopped for fuel before crossing the border back into the Northern Territory and getting back another half an hour, so it was now 10.55 am not 11.25 am as it was in Queensland. 

We stopped at the Barclay Homestead around 1.oo pm and ate lunch, then at the Threeways for fuel at 3.10 pm before getting to Renner Springs at 4.15 pm, where we stopped for the night.

The walking tracks were shortened by the recent rain but we saw plenty of birdlife around the motel and dam.

Found this pair on our way to dinner.



Sitting outside our room after watching our last outback sunset, I suddenly had a green tree frog land in my lap! 
Renner Springs –  Darwin

Between the resident cockerel and the ‘ventilated’ curtains, we didn’t need a wake-up call the next morning.

So we started the last leg of our journey and left Renner Springs at 8.40 Sunday morning. We stopped for fuel at Elliot and Mataranka and had a pitstop at the explorer Alexander Forrest memorial cairn. We were going to eat lunch at Bitter Springs but it was closed due to a crocodile sighting so we continued on to a roadside stop just before King River.

After lunch it was less than an hour’s drive to Katherine where we fuelled up, then on to Adelaide River for our last pitstop before the final drive home, arriving in Darwin at 5.30 pm.


It rained for a week after we got home!

Well that’s it, the end of another journey. Thanks for joining us. Hope you enjoyed it. Bye for now!

Sydney break before the big drive home

It was lovely to be back with family, even if it was just for the weekend.


We had a domestic day on the Saturday, going to Chattswood shopping and unsuccessfully trying to get my iPad problem sorted. By this stage the battery was so swollen I was advised not to use it all because it was in danger of exploding and killing us with the lethal gas it would emit. This is one of the reasons my blog is so far behind.

Sunday the weather was unpredictable and windy. We ended up going to Manly Dam in the afternoon where we were treated to a black swan courtship performance.


Adelaide to Sydney highlights continued

Broken Hill to Mildura

Before leaving Broken Hill we did a quick tour of the Pro Hart Gallery which was fascinating and we wished we had more time to spend there but we had to press on. We were going to lose half an hour when we crossed into Victoria later that day.

DSC07287DSC07289DSC07292

We stopped by the river in Pooncarie for lunch.

Then it was on to Mildura where we appreciated the airconditioning of the Information Centre while they found us accommodation – it was 44ºC outside. The only cabin was a fair bit out of town, expensive and we had to make the bed ourselves. Not impressed!

It was too hot for us to even go for our walk so we just drove back into town, had a drive down by the river, then shopped for dinner before heading back to the airconditioning.

Mildura to Echuca

We drove to Swan Hill on the Murray River and ate lunch there before heading to Echuca where the only available accommodation was even more expensive but it was a beautiful fully equipped apartment with a spa and laundry.

DSC07297DSC07299DSC07300DSC07301

We had a look at the waterfront area where we were going to go on a river cruise the next morning and did the usual drive around town before shopping for dinner then heading home.

The lamb chops with baked potatoes and green beans went down a treat.

After dinner I decided to take advantage of having a laundry and did a load of washing, but when I went to get the clothes out of the dryer before going to bed I realised that the dryer had just been turning but not drying! I rang the host first thing the next morning and she offered me the use of the dryer nextdoor as there was nobody staying there that day. Needless to say, I took her up on that offer but it put our departure back by about an hour. We would have missed the river cruise but, as it turned out, the cruise wasn’t running that day and in any case it was raining  so we just got back on the road.

Echuca to Bairnsdale

Our first stop was Glenrowan, the site of Ned Kelly’s last stand.

DSC07302

Myrtleford was our lunch stop when there was a break in the drizzling rain.

DSC07303

Then we headed to Bairnsdale via the Great Alpine Way, a long twisting climb through the mountains and some astounding scenery.

DSC07309DSC07310DSC07315DSC07316

When we checked in at the tourist park in Bairnsdale,  I thought Brian had found religion because he asked if the local Catholic church was open. Then he reminded me that it was no ordinary church and we had visited it with our girls and my mother years earlier.

We visited St Mary’s the next morning. Its reason for fame is its frescoes painted by an Italian artist with a sense of humour, for example he painted some cherubs with their heads on back to front and modelled some of his subjects on locals.

DSC07324DSC07325DSC07326DSC07327

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adelaide to Sydney highlights

Yorke Peninsula was our first destination. The landscape on the way was vast, beige and pretty barren, with only stubble left where the crops had already been harvested.

However Coobowie, where we spent our first night, is a bird haven especially popular with pelicans and quite pretty.

Next day, not far from Coobowie, we passed through Wattle Point Wind Farm, the largest one we’ve ever come across.

At Innes National Park we walked to the lighthouse at Stenhouse Bay and around Inneston Historic Township.


That night we stayed in Wallaroo at a lovely heritage-style motel, the Sonbern Lodge, opposite the old train station.

Next day we stopped to eat lunch by the river at Jamestown.


Later we got to Broken Hill, checked into a tourist park, then did enough shopping for three days before having a drive around town. It was too hot to do anything outside, with the temperature around 40 degrees and forecast to get even hotter. Back at the cabin, trying to deal with a black ant invasion, we got a text message informing us the power company was cutting off supply from 8.00 am to 4.00 pm the next day. Not good.

True to their word, the power went off at 8.08 am before we had time to cook the big breakfast we’d bought the ingredients for. Brian had to put them and the rest of the food that had to be kept refrigerated into the car fridge and take them all with us for the day.

First we went to Silverton, another historic town, and had a look around the remaining buildings, the John Dynon Gallery and the Mad Max Museum before having a refreshing beer at the Silverton Hotel.

The power was still out when we got back to Broken Hill so we went to see the Broken Hill Sculptures and the Miners Memorial lookout.

DSC07279 DSC07280 DSC07271 DSC07262 DSC07261 DSC07282

 

 

DSC07245

DSC07246 DSC07248 DSC07250

Darwin to Adelaide Roadtrip – December 2017

Left Darwin around 11.45 am, off on our first roadtrip with our 9-year-old grandson Joshua.

The last time we did this trip was in 1994 with his mother Tara and her sister Aisling, then aged 7 and 10-and-a-half respectively, and my mother Phyllis, who was visiting from Ireland. We were on our way to Tasmania for Christmas.


After fuelling up we stopped at Tara’s workplace to say our goodbyes. It wasn’t long before we were on the open road and passing a herd of Brahman being loaded onto a roadtrain at Coomalie Creek cattleyards.

Our first pitstop was Adelaide River where we ate a hurried lunch of chicken rolls. Besides the heat and the flies, it’s hard to relax when roadtrains you know you’re going to get stuck behind are constantly rolling past.

It was 1.40 pm before the radio reception ran out. Yay! Time for Bob Seger, always the first CD on our roadtrips. Radio reception has improved – we used to be halfway through the CD by Adelaide River.

Not long after passing the Pine Creek turnoff we spotted a goods-train travelling alongside us. This was a first for us. We haven’t even seen the Ghan yet and I think that’s been running north of Alice Springs for over twenty years.

We got to Katherine at 2.55 pm and fuelled up at the first petrol station over the bridge, United. It wasn’t there last time we went through and that really threw us out – it was being rebuilt! 

Then it was on to Mataranka Homestead for our first overnight stop.


We really appreciated the airconditioning having been turned on before our arrival and the jug of cold water and chilled glasses in the fridge, but it didn’t take long before we were soaking in the thermal springs.

Preparing dinner proved to be a bit tricky between having to wash the cutlery and use our own bowl in the microwave, which doesn’t seem like much but when you’ve paid $124.50 you expect a bit better.

Watching TV was another challenge without a remote control. I tried looking for it in one of the drawers:

These cabins have seen better days!

Should have been time to get a good night’s sleep, but the insects that had managed to get inside had other ideas, they even got under the topsheet! But while we tossed and turned and fought off insects, Joshua slept like a log. He said it was because he had to sleep in complete darkness instead of having a night light. 

Mary River Weekend

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Just had a three-night stay at Mary River Wilderness Retreat courtesy of daughter’s Christmas present. She and grandson joined us for the Friday and Saturday nights but then had to return home for work and school, leaving us to our own devices for the Sunday night.

The Retreat is about 120 km from our house in Darwin. It took us an hour and thirty-five minutes to get there, a bit longer than normal due to a huge thunderstorm that reduced visibility and speed to a minimum.

Activities were severely curtailed because of the weather and the presence of crocs. It’s the Wet Season, so all of the walks and points of interest were inaccessible because: they were under water; the resident saltwater crocodile was on the move; and, a decent-sized freshwater croc had been spotted close by. We still managed to enjoy ourselves though.

At night we played board games and watched movies on a DVD player hooked up to a TV screen we brought with us – there was no TV in the room – and on the last night the clouds cleared for long enough to allow us to sit on the verandah under the stars and even make a wish on a shooting one.

In the daytime we went for a 100 km-plus drive around nearby locations, all of which were inaccessible due to flooding. The pool was a welcome relief from the heat when there was a break in the storms and no lightening. Otherwise we just walked around the grounds and enjoyed the wildlife.

While we self-catered on Friday, we dined at the Gecko Restaurant on the other two nights. The food was delicious, reasonably priced and beautifully presented, the service was excellent, the staff  friendly and informative and we appreciated the complimentary glass of wine with each main meal. The menu included vegetarian options and the children’s menu included dessert.

Alternatively, there was a camp kitchen equipped with microwave, toaster, jug, cooking rings, bbq, washing-up gear including a sink with a plug, but no utensils, crockery, cutlery or pans.
We enjoyed seeing the wallabies, kangaroos and kingfishers. The massive thunderstorm we drove through on the way down was an experience! We loved the variety of birds we saw at Fogg Dam on the way home. All in all it was a great weekend!

About this site

 

My daughter set up this site so I could write about the road trips my husband and I were going to do in our retirement. For one reason or another we haven’t done a lot of trips so I haven’t written anything for more than a year.

Rather than let the site go to waste, I’m going to use it to post photos of birds in my garden, the Darwin foreshore and surrounds; the orchids and other things I grow or grow by themselves; and anything else I think people might be interested in.

I also hope to use this site to help me get into the habit of writing, although I have no idea what I’ll write about yet.

About me

I’m Joyce, retired, in my sixties, born in Ireland, lived in England for five years before coming to Australia, married with two daughters and two grandchildren.