Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What I'm reading...............

Happening to glance across at the titles of the current stack of books on my nightstand, I realized I'm on a world tour every time I hop into bed. Yes, I read several books at one time, and I always read before I sleep. I'm already excited at thoughts of traveling to these much-loved places this year. As for Tasmania, I was just there, but I want to know much more about that mysterious distant island. I picked up Nicholas Shakespeare's book at a used book shop last week and am finding it most interesting.

How does one read a pocket guide in bed you may well ask?  One page a night to familiarize myself so next time I can spot and identify quickly.......many of those African birds are fast on the wing!

What are you reading?  Do you have more than one book going at a time? 

Monday, January 30, 2012

More from the rainforest, then heading for the Gold Coast.......................

During the evening at this beautiful place Paula and I were treated to many lovely things................a delicious Asian inspired dinner with grilled prawns prepared by Michelle and Mark, enjoyed outside on the deck, several (yes one too many for me I think - but it was so luscious!) glasses of Sauvignon Blanc, and the night sounds of the rainforest, late-calling birds, croaking frogs, flitting fireflies, whooshing lizards, slithering snakes, and the hopping pademelons. 

Prior to dinner, dusk fell quietly and were taken on a walk down through the sloping rainforest, picking our way along pathways, down rocks and wooden steps, along a trail well-worn by those who embrace nature and the wonder of being outside in the wild places.  The lizards crossed in front of us, the air became damp and cool, but down we went, through the ancient trees, homes to huge staghorn/elkhorn ferns............

.............until we reached Cave Creek a tributary of the Nerang River, and the Natural Bridge which was formed by a waterfall pouring through a pothole in the rock and eventually creating caves. 

Difficult to get pictures at night, but here is the cave which is home to a colony of glow worms, a truly wonderful sight to see. There were also a lot of bats living here!

Leaving the lodge was really heart wrenching.....so lovely was the scenery, such delightful hospitable hosts to chat with, splendid and unusual territory to explore. I was really sad to leave so quickly.

Michelle and Mark took us on a scenic route to the coast enabling us to see more of Queensland's stunning Springbrook Plateau...................

Love these place names

..............the highest mountain with the pointed summit is Mt.Warning, part of an ancient volcano and the first place on Australia's mainland to receive the sun's rays each day. 

We stopped here at the general store for morning coffee..............

....pretty gardens in back of the store....

.....mama swallow and babes nesting above our heads.....

.............and the most delicious mini-bananas for healthy snacks, very different in flavor from the monster ones we often see here in the USA.

Before too long we could smell the sea air and we arrived at the famous beaches of Australia.........

............beautiful, sometimes dangerous, with sharks and strong currents often found along this coast. In the above image, taken from the the dining deck of the famous Currumbin Surf Club on Elephant Rock where we had lunch, our final destination is just visible beyond the shore, the towers of the beachfront high rise buildings of Broad Beach.

Elephant Rock, Currumbin, Queensland

Next time........meeting more friends, enjoying the coast, and returning to the country one more time before flying home.

Postscript:  Almost forgot - what was the creepiest of the creepy crawlies?  How about a leech!!!!!!  Yes, my first ever encounter.........attached itself to my foot whilst in the rainforest and scared the heck out of me when I was sitting at breakfast and wondered what was itching. Not nice at all - glad Mark was there to help me remove it! 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Down under........it's not all surfing!

Today I'm concentrating on a very special place in Australia.

After disembarking the Orion in Tasmania, enjoying 
charming Hobart, then seeing the sights of Sydney, 
Paula and I flew to Brisbane in Queensland.  

First adventure took us inland where we were invited to stay in the country with Paula's charming and hospitable friends, Michelle and Mark. It was there I actually got to see the rainforest. I'm embarrassed to admit, I didn't recall this type of landscape even being an option on this dry continent. I was usually at the top of my class in Geography decades ago, I loved learning about other countries, and it was taught as a very important single subject in English schools back then. It's so sad that now many young students don't even know where countries are, let alone their indigenous flora and fauna.

Michelle and Mark have the most spectacular acreage tucked up against Queensland's Springbrook National Park in the sub-tropical rainforest, beneath the breathtaking rim of the Springbrook Plateau. Water is supplied by their own waterfall...........

 ............and at their pond we enjoyed visiting 
with ducks, geese, and the young Belted Galloways 
added recently to 'mow the grass'.

I awoke early morning to a distant crowing rooster and 
the most spectacular views from my window.

A light rain during the night had rinsed the grass and flowers making them sparkle clean and bright at dawn. Hydrangeas and agapanthus - my absolute favorite garden blues.

The wildlife was............well WILD! 

How about peering out the bedroom window at 5:30 AM and viewing mating Pademelons. Anyone even hear of Pademelons before? They were certainly new to me and are timid smaller members of the kangaroo family. When Mr.P noticed my camera poking through the window blinds, he was soon hopping away across the meadow while Mrs.P was left looking quite surprised.

Birds were everywhere, vocal ones such as Kookaburras 'laughing' far off in the trees.......and magpies sharing breakfast on the deck.

I love the morning visits to my own feeders at home by our colorful small red cardinals and occasional bluebirds.... 

.........but brilliantly hued wild parrots at your garden feeders are quite different. Seemingly merry birds, and quite well behaved, it was delightful to watch them as free-flying garden birds rather than caged pets.

The huge tropical tree ferns and palms were stunning.

Michelle and Mark have made beautiful gardens around their property, adding their artistic touches to stunning natural beauty which is visible everywhere.

I truly believe I could sit in this beautiful place looking across to the distant mountains forever!
Thank you Michelle and Mark for sharing your beautiful home, 
I'll never forget it. 
Isn't he gorgeous?

 Reflection in Michelle and Mark's riverbed.

Next time....caves, glow worms, creepy crawlies, before leaving for the coast.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Weekend Treat.......

Does this happen to you?

 A quick trip to Trader Joe's for a few food items for the weekend.............but there, right inside the door, are the flowers saying "please take me home". Beautiful bunches of the freshest flowers at prices we can afford. A nice bunch of alstroemeria for just $3.99, or mixed bunches of blooms from California that we here in the east haven't seen in our gardens since early Autumn. This pretty informal bouquet from the west coast, a bargain at $5.99, included many of my favorites. It jumped into my cart alongside the salad greens, veggies for a stir-fry, box of warming oatmeal, and came home with me for the weekend!

Only problem, where to place them. I love flowers in the dining room, which is also where I write my blog! So, one day on the table, another on the Welsh dresser - they get moved around and enjoyed wherever.

Hope you have something pretty for your eyes to rest upon this weekend.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sensational Sydney...................

G'day mates!  As it's Australia Day, I'm sending greetings to all the lovely new Aussie friends I made whilst on board the Orion expedition ship, and in terrific Tasmania, sensational Sydney, and brilliant Brisbane.

 Above was the view from our hotel room on Circular Key overlooking Sydney Harbour Bridge and the vibrant waterside restaurant area called The Rocks.

Views from the Concierge Lounge windows were of the iconic Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour.

Here we go, another day sightseeing from the top of the bus - this time an open top 'Hop On-Hop Off', and although very humid and hotter than h--- out there, we wanted good clear pics!  
Loved the mix of beautiful historic buildings, such as the domed Queen Victoria Building, now somewhat dwarfed by modern skyscrapers..........

......my favorite billboard image with the great actress Kate Winslet.....

........more architecture spanning years of building a great city........

....Paula snapping the lacy wrought iron balconies....

.....tall bronze Queen Victoria Monument in Queen's Square is a copy of the colossal one in Windsor, England. Her Majesty is holding the Sovereign's Orb and Royal Sceptre.

Very unusual large birds hang about the city buildings, alongside the seagulls. These are the Australian White Ibis - definitely not the usual pigeons one sees in cities. They have become a bit of a nuisance, especially when stealing from lunchtime picnickers in local parks - apparently they're partial to pastrami on rye sandwiches!

Despite enjoying city sights, nothing beats leaving the heat and getting on the water.......

....hopped off the hot bus and headed for the wharf, choosing the calm round trip ferry ride across the harbour to Manly in the northern Sydney suburbs, noted for its great beaches.........

........great 360 views of Sydney, the surrounding homes, and boating life, and again........

 .........that amazing building known the world over, the fabulous Sydney Opera House.

Later in the evening, after dodging a few showers, we were thrilled to meet up with Paula's delightful friend Fiona, who took time to drive quite a distance into the city to meet us for dinner at a great restaurant named Pony in The Rocks district......

...........then took us on a walk around the Opera House, thanks Fiona, I loved it all and was amazed to learn about, and touch, the millions of Swedish tiles covering the shells in the chevron pattern. Great nighttime views of the harbour and bridge - although hard to get good images with so many lights in the dark.

Interior foyer of the opera house building.

Yes, Sydney is a fabulous city to visit.......definitely hope to return some day and spend more time......

........but soon we were flying away over Bondi Beach and heading north to spend several wonderful days in the Brisbane area.  
I'll soon share the wonders of the Australian Gold Coast and the rainforest....think surfing and kangaroos!!!