Around the World 15 Australia

January 31
Off again, north up the coast trying to make some good time as we are told that the best part of the trip is up by Queensland. We stopped for lunch at a town called Grafton which looked like a town out of the America Wild West. Our lunch was at a tacky bar with indoor/outdoor plaid carpet which even ran up the side of the bar. There were 15 signs up that we counted saying no one under 18 would be served alchohol. Good lunch. I had hoped to see more of the beaches as we drove but we were mostly inland where there was mile after mile of sugar cane with banana groves also growing, then there were low rolling hills beautifully green. At some point we passed signs for Koala Bears although I never saw one in the trees. I did see a Kangaroo but it was inside a fenced in area. I imagine that the kangaroos cause as much damage to plants in yards as deer do.
We ended for the day at Byron Bay which is a funky little town put on the map by surfers who loved the long line of beaches. The beach we saw was very rough and overlooked by a hill called Byron Point named by Captain Cook after Lord Byron’s-the poet-grandfather. It is topped by a nice lighthouse which sits on the eastern most point of Australia. We we drove into the town we went, “This is more like it!” It was so much more lively and interesting than yesterday.
I am surprised at how difficult it is to understand the Australian accent. Once I had to have someone “translate” Australian for me spoken by someone on the phone. The further up the coast we go, the more trouble I have understanding the accent. Hard to believe that Australia and America both started from the same place.
It is interesting to be driving as the English do on the left side of the road with the steering wheel on the right. It takes alot of concentration for me to stay in the middle of a lane and not have my car bump along the edge of the highway. It is hard being a passenger as well and I spent so much time saying, “Get Over!” to Maurice that I finally had to look either left or right but not straight ahead. I was sure he was going to have a wreck, epsecially on some narrow roads we were on and that the tires on the left side of the car would go into a ditch. It takes some getting used to.

The view from the hill where the lighthouse sits.

The lighthouse. It was a beautiful day-look at that blue sky.

The sign saying this was the most easterly part of Australia. First place the sun rises.

It is hard to see but there was a path that went all the way down to this area.

Around the World 14 Australia

January 26th-29th
In Sydney, staying with a friend whose home is in a lovely area, very green and tropical although she says it seldom rains here. In the mornings you can hear all sorts of bird calls, including parakeets and parrots squaking.
Sydney is on the ocean with many bays and coves and she show us many little parks over-looking some of them. Her daughter and her boyfriend took us to Bondi Beach where Maurice tried surfing. It’s a great beach but very crowded and popular. We went into Sydney and wanted to climb the Harbor Bridge but balked at the price of $185 each so walked around the Opera House and took a couple of ferries out to see Sydney from the water. After walking around the area we then took a bus, ferry and another bus back to our friend’s place, feeling lucky to actually find it again. We didn’t have a cell phone or the address so I don’t know what we would have done if we had gotten lost. After talking to a friend we got some good ideas of what to see north of Sydney and decided to fly to New Zealand from Brisbane instead of driving all the way back to Sydney after going up the coast. This way we could see more of what should be really beautiful country.
January 30th
Rented a car and set off north up the coast. A friend gave us a good itinerary for 6 days, the time we have. We first drove through Hunter Valley, a wine growing region, and stopped at the Tyrrell Winery for a wine tasting. We were surprised to find that they were already harvesting the grapes due to the higher heat here. I tasted a good white wine but their Pinot Noir which has received many awards tasted too smoky to me. We had gone inland earlier on a tourist route and saw heavily forested land, mostly with eucalyptus trees but also passing banana plantations and macademia plantations. There was a very bad auto accident later and we had to go inland again which takes alot of time so decided not to see a couple of places that had been recommended but went on to Port Macquarie to our hotel. Most of the town is high above the ocean and there were beaches in beautiful setting but the town wasn’t at all lively. By 5:30 all the shops were closed. We did have a nice drink and dinner at a cafe on a harbor.

On the way to Bondi Beach to surf.

One of those pictures that you instantly know the location of.

A close-up to the tile. This building was apparantly a nightmare to build and there was so much disagreement on what to do and so many changes, that the archetect quit before it was finished.

A view of the beach below at Port Macquarie.

A sail boat reflected in the quiet waters of the harbor.

Around the World 13 Australia

January 22nd and 23rd
We took the 14 hour flight to Melbourne starting in Langkawi, flying to KL then on to Hong Kong where we only had an hour to change planes but made it and finally landed in Melbourne at 7 AM.
Taking a bus and then a van to our hotel, we arrived at the Novotel-nothing fancy but in a great location. Melbourne is a lovely city with a river running through it. There are many exquisite buildings left from colonial days but most of it seems very new. We took the free tram to the Australian Open Tennis grounds after having dropped off our luggage at the hotel and watched tennis all day, feeling a little blurry with jet lag. The main stadium has a huge retractable roof in case of rain, which happens often during this time of year, and also in case of extreme heat but it wasn’t needed. In fact, it was rather cool. What a difference in food at the Australian Open when compared to the French Open. There are only sandwiches for the most part in France but here there was everything you could think of including some Chinese food, salads, great looking beef sandwiches, just a really great variety of food. Afterwards, we walked from our hotel to the very nice river side area and had a good Italian dinner. Early to bed after such a bad night before on the plane.
January 24th and 25th
Yesterday, more tennis. It is really well organized from the people helping everyone boarding the tram with someone on a loud speaker telling you where to go as you arrive, to very helpful people everywhere at the stadium and even on the street corners wearing red vests. We had a nice dinner at an old hotel. I’ve been drinking alot of Australian white wines which are very good. We discovered a neat little alley heading back to our hotel lined with little places to eat and had breakfast at one the next day much more cheaply than we could have at our hotel. Later, as we walked around, we saw many alleys set up the same way. It is a very nice city for walking around. The weather was on the cool side but the heat is back today and I think it will be very hot in Sydney. Melbourne, while very English, has a strong American feel. It is very casual and full of friendly, talkative people. Very expensive, though.

One of the alleys lined with places to eat.

The famous tennis court, just like on TV.

The giant retractable roof which takes about 30 minutes to close and open. The summers can be really hot in Australia and players need the shade to prevent heat exhaustion.

The Melbourne train station, very colonial in style.

Spring in Paris

Spring has arrived in Paris. There are the usual showers and blustery winds but the temperature has gotten up into the 50’s which makes it all bearable. Whether it will stay warmer is, of course, the question as the weather is always up and down in the Spring in Paris. Here are a few photos I took around the Marais and the Left Bank yesterday in between showers.

Some great looking bread in the window of a patisserie on Rue du Rosiers in the Marais. I always want to go in and try their desserts. These places also have great sandwiches.

Some boxwood trimmed in an wonderful shape. This is in the garden at the Carnavelet Museum in the Marais.

This dog is a resident on the Hotel Vieux Marais. Her joy in life is to eat, as I was told by the nice man at the desk. This seems like a nice hotel on a quiet street. The people I met there said they liked it.

You can tell that Easter is coming when you see all the fabulous chocolate animals and shapes in the windows of patisseries. They usually are hollow and contain smaller chocolate pieces inside.

There isn’t much to show that it is Spring in the parks yet. This fountain in the Luxembourg Gardens usually has flowers in the urns. None of the trees have their leaves. It looks a little bleak until:

You come upon some crocuses blooming in the grass-always a nice surprise that gives you the feeling that winter and cold weather are now behind us.

Around the World 12Langkawi

The view of our resort from the beach. Great looking location.


January 18th

Off to Langkowi, an island off of the coast of Malaysia. Our flight would have been on time but one person was missing a boarding pass when they did a head count. It turned out to be a child in a large family. Those with children boarded first and one family had only one child but all eleven relatives boarded with it. Asia Air doesn’t assign seats and they charge for luggage over their very low weight limit. We’ve decided that we wouldn’t use Air Asia again. Many flights aren’t on time, we don’t like paying extra for our luggage and not getting seat assignments. Their fares are usually cheaper than everyone else but the luggage charge put it almost up to the price of other airlines.
Langkawi was very tropical and caribbean-like. The taxi fare was very low to our hotel. To say we were dissapointed in our room is an understatement. It was very tired and tacky, although I liked the hotel lobby which was open and airy. The rooms are each seperate bungaloes up a hill in a forest not on a beach as I had hoped. I got an immediate deja vu feeling of being in a camp in junior high except the bathroom was in in the room, not across a campground. Our room was very rustic to say the least and badly needed renovation. We had lunch in a cafe over looking the ocean and decided to see if we could get a better room. Indeed we could at about $40 more a night. If we had only been going to stay for only one night we would have stayed but with four nights we didn’t want to “suffer” so we moved to a much nicer, newer room. It requires a drive in a cart every time to get to our room but we have an incredible view and a modern, clean room. As the sun set we saw many boats out fishing and when it got dark they all lit lights and it looked like a reflection of stars on the water.
January 19th
Today, after a buffet breakfast, we decided to just hang out at the pool. We saved our loungers by the pool with towels before we ate just like people we hate who do thaat. From our place at the pool we can see jungle leading up to volcanic looking mountains. It’s a great pool with a ledge that the water flows over, a pool for children, boulders and large rocks all over and a jacuzzi type pool that bubbles although it wasn’t heated. There is also one of those bars with seats in the pool under a cabana.
The hotel has a real probelm with monkies and if you don’t lock windows and doors before you leave, they will enter the rooms and make a mess and perhaps take things. Monkies are trained in this part of the world to climb coconut trees and twist off the coconut and throw them to the ground.
We ordered hamburgers for for lunch and they were horrible. After being cooked they were still red and had a strange taste. I’m thinking maybe they were sort of like spam. I noticed that no place in Malaysia served pork of any kind probably due to the Muslim population. The island is 85 % Muslim.
January 20th
We rented a car today to drive around the island. After we left we noticed that the car was totally on empty and they hadn’t bothered to tell us. Luckily, we found a gas station. The island had an almost African vegetation and it looked like it origins are volcanic. I was reminded of Tahiti here and there. It doesn’t seem very prosperous on the island. I was very disappointed in the capitol, Kuah City. It is known for its duty free shopping but I didn’t see much of interest and could have kicked myself for not buying more in Thailand. I was a little disappointed in Malaysia on the whole and wish we had spent the time here in Thailand. It’s either very heavily Muslim which has no religious culture to see or ultra modern like KL. The people are very nice but I just wasn’t touched or charmed by them as in Thailand. The capitol did become more prosperous as we left the other side and we passed some much nicer homes. Then we went to a dead end road to a beach called Tanjung Rhu and it was so much nicer than our with wonderful little islands right off shore. There was a resort there which I wish we had stayed at.
January 21st.
Another day by the pool. It is amazing to me that I can spend the whole day just sitting, reading, looking at the scenery, people watching or taking an occasional dip in the pool. I walked along the beach a little and got a good view of our resort. It is in a fantastic situation despite the desparate need for renovation.

The view from my seat by the pool.

View from our room during the day.

View from our room at sunset. My favorite picture, I think.

A couple of photos on the beach there at the resort.

Around the World 11 Last day in KL

January 17th
We went to the KL Twin Towers in the morning. The tickets are free but only 26 at a time are allowed up to the bridge on the 44th floor-so we had a two hour wait during which we went into the mall and had breakfast. The towers are the tallest twin towers in the world at 88 stories. There was a great view from the bridge, built as an escape route should there be some sort of reason needed to evacuate one of the towers,when we finally got up there. The towers were designed by an American, and built by the Japanese and South Koreans. It has become a huge tourist destination. Afterwards, we stayed in the mall and saw a movie and then checked our emails. An interesting experience at the movies–when we bought our tickets they asked us where we wanted to sit and gave us tickets for a specific seat. There were some advertisements before the movie, one giving tips on smart buying ,such as buy good quality. The movie had subtitles in both Malaysian and Chinese. The movie was Pride and Predjudice something I wouldn’t think many people in Asia would be interested in, but there were Malaysians there along with us.
After we cooled down in the pool, we went down a street near our hotel that we hadn’t been down before further than our internet cafe (we used this rather shabby place as it was much cheaper than our hotel). It was very lively, packed with restaurants and shops and many foot reflexologists. I’d like to try it sometime but passed it up this time. I bought five DVDs with one free for about $5. I hope they work when we get back home. They were pirated films and openly sold. Back to the hotel for another early night. We are really frustrated that we can’t find a TV anywhere with the Australian Tennis Open showing. We did finally find a British Bar showing the highlights.

The bridge from inside. Notice how few people there are. We had a guide as well. Interesting but I’m not that into modern buildings I guess.

This is the lake area behind the mall complex. The fountains aren’t working but you can see how huge it was.