Holidays and Other Excursions

Tag: rain

Alberobello

Trulli houses in Alberbello

Trulli houses in Alberbello

Friday 19.4.24

Our trip today is by coach and it transpires that Alberobello is the town we could see from Locotorondo with the vast number of Trulli houses on the other side of the valley and our journey is therefore similar to last Sunday.

Today the weather has really turned and whilst we do not have the strong winds experienced earlier in the week the heavens have opened and it is rain through the most of the day.  We have waterproof coats – but it is depressing if nothing else as we head towards the town.

Alberobello is a World Heritage Site and that has been taken seriously by the town who provide for coach parking quite a long way out of the town.  It is particularly annoying that we pass a completely empty car park where the coaches could be turned about 50% of the way into the town,

Trulli houses in Alberbello

Trulli houses in Alberbello

Once we reach the town centre we decide that to proceed further is not going to show us much more and I had spotted that by heading up the hill to a large group of houses we can walk through them and take photos and then return down the hill towards the coach dropping off point.

We pass one of the houses which is open for inspection – but there is already a significant crowd and we have no wish to get any wetter than we are already so we pass it by.

Trulli, Alberbello

Trulli, Alberbello

Allegedly the reason for the construction (which appears to be limited to a relatively small area) is that removal of a single keystone collapses the roof, so in the event of a tax inspection the removal of the stone would collapse the roof and it was no longer a habitable dwelling so not taxable.

At the far end of the coach station we eventually find a coffee / wine bar which is open and partake of some coffee and once we have consumed that we move onto a glass of wine each – well it fills the morning up.  It seems that many of the other travellers also visited similar establishments in the town centre – simply to stay out of the rain.

The return trip gets us back to the hotel in time for lunch.

This completes our sight seeing on this holiday and we have a relatively free afternoon and morning of the Saturday before our return to the UK.  There was one outstanding moment on the Saturday.  Jackie had reached the coach and was checking the bags to ensure they had been collected from outside our room and were loaded onto the coach.  Of all the travellers and all the bags ours were not visible.  Eventually the luggage men returned to our room, bags found and brought to the coach – probably the only time this week we have had a late departure and it was our fault.  Well not ours – but very annoying.  You would not believe how much counting and checking of bags was happening!

 

Rail to Arthur’s Pass

Thursday 24 March 2016

This is the NZ Trans Alpine train which we take from Christchurch to Arthur’s Pass.

There is an open coach in the consist – so no glass to get in the way of the cold which soon permeates through if you spend too long in there!  It is a grey day and as the hills rise it is hard going for the two locos.

Wikipedia says “The trip is considered one of the world’s great train journeys for the scenery and views.”  I hope the photographs here give some idea of the scenery – I bet it looks much better on a bright sunny day.   The rail line continues to Greymouth on the west of South Island but we are heading south from here and so join our coach for the continuing journey through South Island.

Sydney

Saturday 19 to Monday 21 March

Sydney was the first point of landing by the British and is the world’s most magnificent harbour.  It is dominated by two iconic pieces of engineering and construction – the Harbour Bridge and the more recent Opera House.  Our time here is a little limited in relation to the size of the city and throughout this part of our journey the rain feels almost incessant.  Rain at this time of year in this part of Australia we discover is not uncommon as it often interferes with some open air performances which are planned for Autumn – so this might have been predicted.

We arrive in the late afternoon and the coach rapidly manages the journey into the City Centre to a Sofitel which is just walking distance to Circular Quay, which is where we head a little later to wander along and to take in the two iconic landmarks previously mentioned.  Walking back along the Quay we note a number of people eating at Searock where we eat as well; some excellent starters – chilli prawns and crab on tostada; simpler main courses – Wagyu beef burger for me and some salmon for Jackie.  Then back up the hill to the hotel.

The following day is not too bright but we decide to risk the two bus tours to see as much of the City as possible – first to Bondi which on a coldish day does not seem quite as welcoming as I am sure it does on a bright sunny day.  There are a few people in the surf but like the similar Melbourne suburbs seen previously it does look a little run down.  The bay itself is not large; somehow I had always imagined miles of sand but in reality there is probably a bigger beach at Bournemouth.  The return journey passes through some more attractive places, Rose Bay, Double Bay and Wooloomooloo (I hope I have spelt that correctly) where the old “Finger Wharves” have undergone much work and now appear to house a great selection of restaurants.  Once back in the City Centre we switch back to the other tour to see the city itself.  (we had used it briefly to get to the Bondi service from the hotel).  Our progress is slow due to the time spent waiting for buses at one point or another and towards the end of our journey we get a little wet as the rain arrives, so we retire to the hotel.

Here are photos of the bus tour.

It brightens briefly but by the time we head out for the evening cruise with Captain Cook Tours it is not looking so good and our trip round the harbour hardly allows any sights to be seen as the rain buckets down.  A good supply of wine does enable a cheerful evening to proceed and our table seems to lead the noise generating activities.  The Harbour Bridge looks severely distorted through the windows and others go to lengths to take photos of the Bridge.

Monday comes and there is little improvement in the weather as we wander back down to the Opera House for our formal tour of the building.  Designed in the late fifties built in the sixties it opened in 1973.  In some respects therefore it is noticeably not modern with a lack of lifts.  It also took much longer and cost a lot more than originally anticipated.  We are shown into the newer area that has been developed partially underneath the two original main auditoria as part of more recent developments and also into the two main halls.  These are separate structures from the external sails but throughout there is a harmony of design and careful thought to make the buildings as sympathetic to productions and to be associated with the external harbour.  Our tour guide is clearly keen on the building and the productions and makes a great impression on all of us.  The shape of the sails are derived from sections of a sphere and they are not cleaned; rainwater does the job and channels the water into built in drains which take the water down into the harbour.

Photographs for the visit are here

Lunch in the food court area is luckily under cover as the rain pours down only easing a little towards the end of the afternoon when we head out to go and find the area known as “The Rocks” which is past the end of Circular Quay.  This area has been restored from being extremely run down to an area of restaurants and shops on a some steeply inclined hills.  Although better visited at the weekend when there are also small markets there is clearly a vibrancy no doubt achieved by being immediately adjacent to the point at which the major liners dock when visiting the port and, due to their size, are unable to pass below the Harbour Bridge.  The approach to construction is very similar to Devon and Cornwall with steps up to front doors from the street with the next house being built further up or down the slope as appropriate.  And there is a German Oompah band playing outside “Munich” where the staff are suitably attired for a German bier Keller.

This evening we are due to meet Graham and Lorna in the Bar Blu on 36th floor of the Shangrila Hotel – their suggestion and this provides an absolutely stunning view over the City and of course of the harbour area.  We then go on to dinner at the Customs House on the fifth floor, under cover but with a feeling of the open air.  Again a great view of the Bridge and the best food of the holiday – another  chance for a Moreton Bay Bugs and then some salmon in a light tandoori sauce.

Photographs from the viewing point are here.

We are so late back to the hotel that the front door is locked and gaining entrance takes a couple of minutes.  A short night ensues.

Cairns

Monday 14 March 2016 to Thursday 18 March 2016

The trip to Cairns does not require a time change and the coach trip in from the airport to the town centre does not take long as Cairns is much smaller than either Melbourne or Brisbane.  The inward trip follows the shoreline and our hotel – a Hilton – is close to the town centre.  A decent room with a view over the harbour greets us – a huge improvement after a view of two car parks!  Pronouncing the name is a challenge – almost the same as Cannes in France seems to be close enough.

Travelling seems to cause tiredness and Jackie is still looking for a burger, so we head out looking for “Grilld” which we find.  It is along one of the main drags and is noisy and lacks air conditioning and so we retreat and walk along the shoreline boardwalks from the hotel.  We eventually choose “Boat House” and have a reasonable meal enhanced by being in the open air; other choices seem to be further away.

Having had a fairly busy schedule until now we have a relatively quiet day (Tuesday) in prospect and we head to the pool to try and catch some sun.  We are outside for about three hours, although with fairly thick cloud and then some spots of rain lead to a retirement indoors.  In the evening we are taken on a cruise around Cairns inlet.  It is not the mouth of a river and then entire area is tidal.  Surrounding the inlet are significant mangrove swamps and the generally beneficial nature of the mangrove and its ability to help avoid erosion are noted.  At the far end of the trip as we turn around a crocodile is spotted under the trees.  Light is poor but some pictures are captured.  Dinner is in Crocodiles on the waterfront, for once eating as a group.  Much enjoyed.

The prime reason for coming to Cairns is of course to visit the Great Barrier Reef which entails a coach journey to Port Douglas on Wednesday morning, a speedboat out to the floating pontoon and then use of the facilities there.  Luckily the speedboat is of a decent size so no problem for Jackie this time.  We are able to use the semi-submersibles and the viewing walkway but the planned helicopter trip cannot happen as the weather between shore and pontoon is not good and helicopter operation would not be safe.  We do not participate in the snorkelling (or indeed diving) as I simply do not feel my swimming is strong enough.

In fairness the photographs do not do justice to what our eyes can see.  The colours and shapes cannot be as well caught by cameras as our eyes manage which is a great pity; different trips make different claims – we do not see a turtle but one is reported by another trip.  I can attest that sitting on the left side is better than sitting on the right – we did two trips and I made a point of sitting on the left for the second trip but by then poorer weather was descending and the light was not so good – still stunning though.  On our return trip it is clear that the helicopter would have had difficulties with the weather as the rain has set in quite badly.

Another free day is due to follow on the Thursday but we have elected to take “Skyrail” – a cable car system – up to Kuranda and return aboard the scenic railway.  A rather nice side trip and as we shall be inside in both directions for a trip which hopefully cannot be hindered by adverse weather.  The outward journey is broken at the second intermediate station to visit the Barron Gorge Falls.  These are not yet at full flow – but with the current rain will be in a few days!  Photos on the trip on Skyrail are here.

The town of Kuranda obviously exists for two purposes – obviously for the benefit of visiting tourists but it also to allow Australia to keep all of the ageing hippies and potential New Age travellers in a single locale, judging by the occupants we saw!  We walk through the town to the Butterfly sanctuary.  Here we thank the invention of digital cameras as buttons are pressed numerous times and perhaps we manage to get some decent pictures of the butterflies, especially the one which sits on Jackie for a considerable time.  The very attractive green ones never seem to stop moving to allow a photograph!  The resulting pictures (good and bad) can be found here.

The return rail trip is an obvious highlight as we travel gold class, although the rain reappears as we head downhill.  The train is headed by two Co-Co locomotives – I assume that the power is needed more for the uphill rather than the downhill journey which needs the braking power.  A good commentary tells us the history of the line – now I suspect a pale shadow of the original use in moving timber and servicing the forces in the Second World War.  We get another stop near the Barron Gorge Falls and see them from the other side of the river – so it looks very different.  Kuranda Scenic Railway photos are here.

We disembark at Freshwater station and a coach returns us to Cairns (still trying to remember to say Cannes as best I can render).  Due to a misunderstanding at Freshwater Jackie loses me and there is a moment of panic on her behalf when I do not respond to her urgent summons.  Luckily we find each other before too long.

Having had four nights in Cairns we now have a very early start for a short but stimulating visit to Uluru.

Brisbane

Saturday 12 March 2016 to Monday 14 March 2016

On arriving in Brisbane we are able to proceed to the Sofitel Hotel and book in.  Disappointing news has developed as more current weather forecasts have become available.  Apparently it is going to rain tomorrow in Brisbane (see below to see if that comes true) and we may well see rain in Cairns and Uluru as well!  Whoever heard of that much rain in Australia?  On our way into Brisbane the driver tells us as a child they spent weekends at the long, long beaches in the area – the Gold Coast to the south of the City and the Sunshine Coast to the north side.  Not this weekend it seems.  The journey into Brisbane passes through Ascot which is dominated by two racecourses – one each side of the road.  One is currently being rebuilt and the other has no meeting today – which would otherwise have slowed the trip immensely.

Once unpacked we make use of the pool area, but it is already pretty overcast and so not much browning happens.  We are not doing well for room views as this is the second hotel where the area outside is dominated by a car park – although this one is largely empty!

This evening we have a buffet dinner in the main restaurant which has a wide selection of shellfish including the local speciality of Moreton Bay Bugs – the local delicacy.  Lots of mussels, prawns and oysters alongside this as well as some lobster is a great start to any meal – so two rounds of starters for me.  For me this was followed by part of a large local fish – like we would have a roast at a carvery at home and then some cheese.  There was also some smoked salmon and meats so breakfast is likely to be a treat as well.

Some photos of Brisbane and the Koalas are here.

On Sunday morning our booked trip is to the koala sanctuary at Lone Pine which is nearly 90 years old.  Jackie gets to hold a koala and we can admire the other animals they have added to the collection – a possum, kangaroos, snakes, duck bill platypus, dingo and Tasmanian devil plus many more koalas.

The Koala excursion photos are here.  Typical Koala interest in the crowd looks like this:

img_5033

The booked trip is by boat along the river – 75 minutes each way.  Intermittent rain storms are encountered both ways (so the forecast was right) and it is lucky that Jackie decided to take her anorak with us as she had originally planned not to take it!  Although not entirely protected from the weather we only get a little wet – by contrast some of the other excursions sound as if they will have been outdoors the entire day.

On the outward journey there is a commentary as we travel up river pointing out some of the sights, including some huge river front mansions all of which have mooring points on the river as well, although few are used. Boats are kept in marinas in Brisbane as it is quicker to drive there than sail down the river.

There have been some severe floods along the river – most recently in 2011.  Back in the 20s/30s there were beaches on part of the river with all sorts of beach related activities – but these have now largely disappeared, despite the creation of a dam a long way upstream which can hold back a lot of the water.  Of course and historically the river may have flooded regularly – as with the rest of Australia the recorded history is not that long!

A wander along the South Bank area when we return leads to a further dampening and we return to the hotel and find once again that a 50Mb data limit does not go very far.  Facebook users get more for their free money than Flickr adherents.  I should explain that Australia has yet to grasp the concept of free wifi everywhere with easy logins and unlimited capacity.  Our experience of the availability of free wifi in the hotel in Melbourne was apparently unusual and here in Brisbane we can have either an hour or 50Mb.  Loading up a few pictures of Brisbane soon extinguishes my limit as they are going I suspect full size.  Jackie’s Facebook contributions get shrunk I suspect so she gets longer, although still runs out before the hour is up.

We walk through what seems to be a fairly busy shopping centre as we return to the hotel (around 4pm on a Sunday afternoon) – perhaps the Australians are not so wedded as yet to Internet shopping?  We do find another Ugg shop and Jackie is able to add a purple pair to her collection.

In the evening we are directed to the north bank by a member of the hotel staff and whilst our first choice restaurant is closed we select Jellyfish where we eat some good food (mainly fish once again – I have Mulloway, a white fish from Cairns) and watch the people and the river traffic go by.

We sleep better – I think we might finally be on Australian time.

Monday morning and time to pack as we resume our travels.  After breakfast I soon go through my two lots of Internet connection (phone and tablet) as I try to talk to the computer at home.  Team Viewer is the software of choice for this activity.  Getting the cloud to sync some audio files is not going to happen at the moment, so no Archers Omnibus or Cerys Matthews just yet.

Thailand Day 4

Saturday 12 December 2015

Another sunny day lazing around by the pool.  A lovely way to pass the time.

In the late afternoon we have arranged to join a trip to the market in Phuket.  Traffic is heavy so getting there takes a little while.

Like the other markets we have seen in south east Asia it well stocked – the main section is perhaps not as tightly packed as in Ho Chi Minh (and perhaps less varied) but there is still a lot to wander through.

At the back of the market there are food stalls either selling ingredients or a variety of cooked food.  Jackie is not feeling well initially – it is hot and she is struggling.  She chooses one of the small restaurants at the very back of the market and we are given a menu of pictures of the food and make some choices.  I go for shellfish.

All freshly cooked and as she has some water Jackie starts to feel better.  Slight dehydration – a case of getting adjusted to the temperatures and so on.

When it turns up the food is very simple and good and much enjoyed.  During the meal Jackie asserts she now wants to go and find a bag she saw earlier as it might be the right one.

Settling up is not a lot of money.

Now we wander up and down the aisles looking for the bag shops again!  We do find a couple but in general they do not seem particularly well made and decide not to invest.

We still have some time before being collected – so head for a bar just on the corner opposite the pick up point.  We sit down and order some drinks and then I feel a couple of spots of rain.  Shall we move?

Yes we do move inside.

And then it rains. and it pours and we see a real downpour.  We are under an awning – and staying dry is proving difficult.  Others from the minibus start appearing in the bar and in the one next door – and everyone is huddling away from the rain.  And it is now really RAINING.

The street is turning into a river.  And the minibus has not arrived.

We cross the street so that we are in the right place when it does arrive – which it then does – but even being in the rain for a couple of moments mean we are now wet.

All rounded up we head back to the hotel and have a shower (why when we are already so wet?  The shower is warmer).  And time for bed.

Boy did I tell you it rained and rained earlier?

More concerning is Jackie reporting that the floor on her side of the bed is damp and a towel is put down to absorb the wet.

Heading to India (or perhaps not)

Friday 4 December 2015

A long awaited holiday – a second visit to India, this time to visit the southern areas of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Goa; including a trip on the Ooty railway, a night’s cruise on a houseboat and a week on the beach (or close by) in Kerala – early morning call as we have to leave the house before 6 am.

Only we are in bed well beyond that time as a call yesterday from the travel company brought bad news.  Chennai airport is closed, there is serious flooding in the area, there have been power cuts and it is still raining.

So on Thursday evening we sat down and hammered the tablets and looked at possibilities.  Jackie got very close to booking a couple of weeks in Mexico; but we held off.

This morning we hear back from Trailfinders who have sorted flights via Abu Dhabi on Etihad to Thailand – two weeks in Phuket and Kao Lahk (one week each), leaving next Wednesday and on the final leg we come back on a Dreamliner; arriving back in the UK on December 25 (that date rings a bell).

Xmas

So if any of you wondered when notes on India would start appearing you will have to wait until 2017 as we are taking our 2017 holiday now.  Thailand updates will start appearing once we are on our way!

Sicily – Days 7 – 14

Wednesday 23 – Wednesday 30 September 2015

This morning we transfer over to the Ashby Hotel in Taormina – close to the town centre (up a small sharp hill – Taormina is up and down a lot of hills) – which is then fairly flat through the town centre.

There is a lovely view from the pool at the back of the hotel from which we can see the hotel we were in last night and also over to the mainland.  Once we are settled in we decamp to the pool area and a couple of sunbeds – hopefully we will be here getting browner for the next week.  And at one point during the week I can see a train on the railway.

We had a good couple of days by the pool and were certainly getting browner but on the Saturday afternoon the rain set in and it was then pretty wet all the way through then to our departure.  One day we chose not to even leave the hotel – it was the only way to stay dry.  The rain a few weeks earlier had knocked out the cable car service and so we were not even able to go down to the sea level and we needed to take care not to get soaked when going out to eat!

The hotel itself has a posh restaurant as well as a casual one but, perhaps like Greece, Sicily does not do “posh” that well – leave it to the French!  Out in the town we sampled a restaurant in the open air down one of the side streets – a great opener.  Elsewhere in the town we had memorable meals at Restaurant Cinque Archi – the meat here comes from a local co-operative which they work with and it was the best meat of the fortnight – and Granduca which has good seafood and wonderful views over the sea.  Also I must mention Tiramisu which served a good meal and we ended sharing the best tiramisu ever!  There was also a good bar in the town square for a drink in the open air to do some people watching – at least one session cut short by yet more rain!

One evening was a night when there was a concert at the amphitheatre – and the local population obviously dress up for their evenings out as DJs and dresses were the order of the evening – quite unlike most of the visiting population in shorts and so on.

One drawback we suffered (and this is unusual).  My wife is always well protected against insect bites and my protection is their inevitable preference for nibbling her.  On this part of the holiday we both suffered, so Taormina bugs must be attracted to different smells than much of the rest of the world.  Used up the various creams, new stocks needed for India.  We both had bites and were applying anti-histamine cream to each other in hard to reach spots!

We had planned to take the train around the foot of Etna – but decided against for two reasons – we had seen a lot of the scenery anyway and having looked at the connections for the train services I could see that missing a connection would give us an hour wait – and that would not be much fun on holiday.

Overall verdict on Sicily – lovely; food can be very good and there are some wonderful sights to see as well as a complex history.  Having seen the sights and sampled the food and wine we are not convinced there is any need to return – perhaps if we had got brown rather than rusty (well I managed to catch up on my reading as well) we might feel differently.  And if the mafia are still around we were provided with no evidence of them.