Category: Australia

Travel is my high and I need another shot of it

Travel

When you travel you will possibly be all of these things.

Exhausted, happy, sad, frustrated, angry, in pain, relaxed, tired, excited, snappy, hungry, hangry, worried, stressed, restless and contented. You will never be bored.

I have endured long flights, watched movies I cannot remember, read books, walked dogs on beaches, slept in a swag and scrambled barefoot over rocks to swim in a pool with crocodiles.

I have learned to paddle board, considered divorcing my husband when kayaking in the Katherine Gorge, snorkeled over the Great Barrier Reef, hiked the Kings Canyon Rim, slept for hours on a bus where the landscape never changed, travelled in a 4WD on Fraser Island, seen a kangaroo whose best friend is a pig and visited a city devastated by an earthquake.

In NSW I ate some of the best food I have ever tasted and eaten endless ham sandwiches with tour groups in the NT, breakfasted at Macca’s, brunched on the best poached eggs in Melbourne (nowhere has matched that city for brunch) drank the best coffee made with freshly roasted beans (again in Melbourne) and sulked over lack of beetroot.

But I have never been bored.

How can you get bored when travelling?

When I was planning this four month trip to Australia and New Zealand, someone said to me “don’t you get bored being on holiday for so long?”

What?

I waited a moment and answered with one word. “No.”

What I wanted to say was how could you possibly get bored when you travel? When you are seeing so much, meeting so many new people, doing things that will challenge you and change you?

I didn’t. I just knew that they would not get it. Because what they mean by a holiday and what that is to them is not what it is to me.

This is not a vacation, this is travel

In their map of the world a holiday is seven days escape from work, be it to a caravan in Bognor or a villa in Majorca, eating ice-cream and sitting on the beach. And after seven days of not doing much they think that is it time to go back to the 9 to 5. Because that is what you do. Hate Monday, live for the weekend and if you are lucky get a week away in the sun.

And there is nothing wrong with that. Been there, done that and probably will again. I like holidays. Long ones, short ones, package holiday and round the world travelling ones and weekends in sumptuous B&B’s and camping. I like to go travelling, while I still can.

I don’t get bored when travelling – because every holiday, every weekend away, being down under for four months or a package holiday to Skiathos for a week, a day out to Weston Super Mare, I see as an adventure. That is my map of the world.

I do get bored restless sometimes. When it rained for a week in Melbourne and I had watched every episode of Stranger Things I was ready to climb walls. Cabin fever did set in. Previous to this house-sit I had been on a ten day adventure in the Northern Territory. And while I had a love/hate relationship with that trip, with hindsight it was one of the most amazing journeys I have ever been on.

I was a broken woman

I ached and I wanted a bed and a shower and not to worry in case a dingo stole my shoes. After seven days of rain and when the bites had healed and I had eaten brunch and cakes and Greek food and done all the washing I was restless. Eager to get back on the road again. Travel is my ‘high’ and I needed another shot of it.

Yes I loved the comfy beds the hot showers, the food, did I mention the food in Oakleigh? Yet I was eager for more. New people, old friends, trying new food, seeing new places, getting on a plane (despite pre travel jitters that hit me before every flight) I crave the change. I feel that I may be addicted to change. Once healed I needed adventure again.

I could have wallowed. I didn’t. There was a road trip from Sydney to Brisbane to plan and book. New Zealand was a blank page. Flights in, flights out and no plan to get from A to B. So while it poured with rain, in between dog walking, kamikaze magpie dodging and eating souvlaki I stopped procrastinating and got on with transport and itinerary planning.

And yes I had procrastinated. Most of the trip had been planned in March. Flights had been booked, trips to Fraser and Lady Musgrave Island planned to fit in with flights. The NT trip to Kakadu, Alice Springs and Uluru was sandwiched between two house sits in Melbourne. An unexpected three day window filled with a visit to Tasmania.

Yet this bit of the trip was blank. And while I like to think of myself as free spirited Phoebe, Monica is stronger in me. I need a plan. Yes I do like to have room for some spontaneity, I am not that rigid, yet I have learned that I do need to know some basic whens and hows and so does my husband. I don’t want to arrive in a strange city without a bed for a night. That said we arrived in a new city with a room pre booked and hated it so much we found another room in 5 minutes thanks to free wifi and Booking.com. This needing to know where I will be sleeping is possibly a symptom of my anxiety. I didn’t know that till now (see this writing malarkey really is my therapy). Perhaps realising that I can turn on a sixpence will reduce this anxiety and  the need to be in constant control?

And when you have a month in New Zealand, a country that has so much to thrill, excite and amaze you, a plan is good. When a third person who has different interests to you is joining you for a couple of weeks and would rather put needles in his eyes than go on a tour of wineries, you need a plan.

In 2011 Phil and I travelled in a campervan from Auckland to Christchurch. When it was good it was awesome when it was bad it was not so awesome. We had no itinerary, booked as we went along and it worked out OK but we missed so much and ran out of time.

This time, after wasting hours getting jaw dropping quotes from Camper Van and Motorhome hire companies, trying to work out how to fit in almost everything we wanted to do I and failing, I used a travel agency, New Zealand Self Drive Tours. I found them via Facebook (sometimes those annoying ads are useful) gave them a list of what me, my husband and my son wanted to do, flights details and they planned and booked it for me. Yes I worked with them to tweak it and there is some spontaneity as the last 8 days there is no plan. No accommodation, no activities just the car and us and I like that we have no idea where we will be or what we are doing. I also like that for most of the time we just turn up and the hotel is booked and the car is waiting for us and we know how many km’s we will be driving each day.

Road trip New Zealand

I am currently in New Zealand, have been for a week and so far the plan is working. The car is easier to drive than a camper. Not for one moment have we wished we had got one.

The rooms have been warm and clean and the Coastal Pacific Rail journey was breathtakingly brilliant. Phil and I have travelled to Christchurch to Picton on the Pacific Coast Railway, driven from Picton to Christchurch via Blenheim and Hanmer Springs. In Blenheim we had a lovely day touring the wineries with Highlight Wine Tours and were guided around the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre Air by Bunty, a 96 year old World War 2 Spitfire pilot. We have bathed in thermal pools in Hanmer Springs, driven past snow capped mountains and followed a steam train through Weka Pass. Yesterday we rode on a vintage tram around Christchurch and walked around the city at sunset. Tomorrow we travel the Tranz Alpine Railway.

Yes I am worried how I am going to cope when I get back to the small house in November. Being in one place and shopping and cooking and the grey skies. I am sure that the Farsickness will kick in and know that I need to come up with a strategy to manage that.

I am confident that I will.

In the meantime – New Zealand awaits, with mountains and geysers and hot beaches and Hobbits and planes and trains and automobiles to transport us.

#notboredyet

 

New Zealand by Train -The Pacific Coast Railway with KiwiRail

  • Long White Cloud

The KiwiRail Pacific Coast Railway

Travelling on the KiwiRail Pacific Coast Railway had been on the someday list for far too long.

Boarding KiwiRail in Christchurch

Someday became today

For five years I have dreamt of it. It became reality due to saving and planning. And a real desire to make it happen.

This was Day One of a four week trip, by plane, train and automobile with New Zealand Self Drive Tours. What a way to start. Travelling along the Pacific coast from Christchurch to Picton. In 2011 I drove along part of this route in a camper van with my husband and it was breath taking. We were staying in Blenheim and while at the station this train was there, with its open air viewing carriage, dining car and carriages with huge windows to maximise the view from your seat. I said then that I would be back and I would travel on this train. And five years later, here I am.

Aotearoa, land of the long white cloud, did not disappoint.

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I should be so lucky

So many people when they heard of my travel plans tell me that I am lucky.  If lucky means working and planning for this trip since 2011. If lucky means focussing on what I needed to do and I De-cluttered and downsized for this. If lucky means assessing what was important to me and knowing that it wasn’t stuff it was travel, then I am lucky.

I wish I could travel

And oh the people saying that they wished they could travel. The ones that say ‘I’d love to go to Australia/Canada/Rome/Paris but… I can’t because’ …

How many times have I heard these words ? Hundreds of times.

Just do it

Well I just did it. One of many things that had been on that someday list for far too long. I made them happen this year. Put a date on it.

Don’t tell me you wish you could. If you really want to, you will find a way.

Uluru dawn

Uluru – Adventures in the Northern Territory and sleeping under the stars

Travelling to Uluru is not an easy journey. It is a hours from everywhere. But is it worth it?

This is week 10 of a 4 month trip down under. There have been highs and there have been lows.

Double Rainbow during sunrise at Uluru

My best and worst moments were on a trip of a lifetime to the Northern Territory – visiting Kakadu, Lichfield, Alice Springs and Uluru.

Sunrise at Uluru

The worst because I so frequently felt old.

Despite being a 25/39 year old hipster in my head. Not that I was ever a hipster. Nor a hippy, although I did have embroidered flared Levis, purple t shirts, a cowbell and long hair in the 60/70s.

Travelling Coral in the 1970s

I hung out with hippy types in the mid 70s, was a student in the late 70s, went on demos and then in the 80’s fell for the lie.

Clifton, Bristol - a balcony party 1979

What my brain thinks (I am young, I can keep up) is completely opposite to how my body reacted to keeping up with a bunch of 20 and 30 somethings on a 10 day Darwin to Alice road trip.

You need a certain level of fitness

Yes I knew there would be walking and some swimming and camping. I reckoned I could cope physically with all of those.

And I did mostly. Phil and I had ‘trained’ for this insomuch we walked up Vesuvius when in Sorrento and clambered to Kastro on Skiathos. We walked every day in Melbourne, averaging 10,000 steps a day. I must have been fitter – or so I thought.

Then I got The Rash. In the middle of nowhere with no pharmacy for 1500 kms. Or at least one that was open when we were in anything vaguely recognisable as a town.

The skin at the back of my knees was inflamed with a heat rash. My skin was sore and weeping and the pain made walking difficult, sitting painful.

It was hot and sticky on the minibus, the only trousers that made it bearable were linen. The sun was strong, so I needed to avoid that and we were sleeping in swags under the stars.

The nights were cold so I needed thermals to keep warm. Which were not good for The Rash. This trip involved travelling long distances and sitting for hours on a bus where I could not stretch out my sore legs. My ankles started to swell.

Losing it and wanting to go home

One evening, while the rest of the group walked up a hill to see the sunset and the stars, I stood in the shower drenching my legs in cold water and sobbed.

Miles from anywhere - NT Darwin to Alice Road Trip

At that point I wanted to go home. Back to England.

I was homesick, missed my bed, my friends and my children. I was tired. The pace was relentless. A lie in was 6.30am. Frequently up and out of the sleeping bag at 5am.

I hated the swags, the manky sleeping bags, the breakfasts, the stars, the young people who had more energy and were so effing cheerful.

I was in pain and wanted a bed and not to eat bloody stir fried chicken and pasta and rice and ham and cheese. I hated the greedy ones on the tour who took all the food. I wanted to be sipping latte not drinking shit tea.

I wanted brunch.

You can’t call me Mum

The bright young things called me ‘mum’. They genuinely thought it endearing and affectionate. At the time I found it derogatory. Sorry guys. I did. I love being a mom to my own kids, but I don’t want to be seen as mumsy.

Let’s be honest here. It made me feel f***ing old. After all I was only disinfecting the camp kitchen. And putting all the pans in size order.

So I did what I had to do. Gave myself a talking to. Because, if we didn’t already have the ‘difficult one’ on the trip (who alienated almost everyone) I was in danger of being the other ‘difficult one’.

Don’t be the ‘one’

A friend once told me that if you don’t know who the ‘one’ is, it is probably you.

I did not want to be the ‘one’. And yes I am old enough to be their mom so get over yourself Coral.

As well as giving myself a good talking to, I also took wine. It helped with the pain, the lack of sleep on a creepy campsite in swags. I recall we played the ‘I don’t like (insert household chore) game. (Look it up). I started to lighten up. The others went to see the haunted rooms and I climbed into my swag. Anyone who was there feel free to fill in the gaps between the game and the haunted rooms bit.

Fast forward to next day with hangover. Slept on the bus a lot. In the Never Never there is only so much nothing to see.

Once we got to the dirty and weird Barrow Creek Hotel – in an area that is renowned for the kidnapping and murdering of backpackers, I engaged in my new strategy to deal with the difficult ones.

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No, not murder or kidnap.

It was to prevent the greedy ones stealing all the food by making sure I got hands on with lunch prep.

The guide makes or breaks a tour

On this 10 day tour we had three very different tour leaders.

Guide Rowdy would not let us slice a tomato but thought it ok to throw food waste over my rucksack. I always seemed to be last to get lunch behind the greedy ones. And because I was polite and didn’t push to the front of the queue unlike the greedy ones, I was fed up of getting only one slice of tomato with my ham.

Guide number two, Simon (the best one on this 10 day trip) let us get on with making lunch. How I enjoyed telling the greedy boy to go away as I wasn’t ready to serve lunch as he hovered, greedily. This was the greediest one who never lifted a finger to help – People who are kinder than me thought me brusque. Simon (who is not kinder than me) made him pot wash the night before because while he was first to eat yet was last to clean his dish. And he still did not get it. Yeah -he was now officially the other ‘one’ on the tour.

I also made sure I got my plate of food first. I actually got to eat some beetroot. Hoo blooming ray. Being hangry is not a good thing for me at anytime, being hangry and ill was turning me into a monster.

Guide three. Can’t remember his name. This was his last trip, he had stopped loving being a tour guide and it is a good time to go. He trusted me with the keys to the truck and let me eat all his biscuits. Not so bad.

A town like Alice

A Town Like Alice

I got respite in Alice Springs. The nearest thing to civilisation since Darwin. And Darwin is not so civilised.

A rainy day in Alice revived me. I had clean clothes. Visited The Flying Doctors. Slept in a proper bed. I got medication for The Rash.

Royal Flying Doctor museum, Alice Springs

And oh joy, proper food in Alice Springs.

Breakfast in Alice Springs

I was ready for Uluru

But I was still lacking in confidence.

The greedy ones were no longer on tour with us.

The “strong 10’s” were also absent. I missed them as when they were with us my hair looked decent as one was a gifted braider. I also missed their energy, their positive outlook on life and their confidence in themselves.

Travelling Coral in the NT

What I do realise now was that they had, and it is what I used to have, supreme confidence in their ability to do anything.

They were also happy with the way they looked.

Thermal springs in the NT

Travelling Coral, Knossos, Crete 1979

 

While I hate to look in a mirror and have a confidence rating of zero.

Even when I was young I never considered myself as a ‘ten’. Never. I was too skinny and too tall.

A squiggly wiggly with a bony bum. I was so jealous of their confidence, their looks and their outlook on life. I may have become a tiny bit bitter.

 

What I also got from the group was to learn to be less uptight and let my hair down, (metaphorically only as I preferred it braided). I went clubbing (hated it) in Darwin and sang karaoke (loved it) in Alice. Can’t beat them, join them.

Now I can’t work out if being grown up and sensible is what I am or being carefree is irresponsible but what I want to be

*At 25 I was not a young, chill hipster who dreams of Portland and free cold brew coffee

I was married with a mortgage and a mom to a young baby. I had a proper job. I paid my taxes, read the Sunday papers and only drank wine at dinner parties. I had bought the lie.

Travelling Coral gets married 1983

And now? I am not 25 or 39 I am 57. And while a couple in the group said that they wished their mothers were out clambering over rocks and swimming in croc infested pools, like me, I still think that I was old and slow and held people back.

Yes, many were kind and helped me over difficulties, but all most of the time I thought ‘who the hell am I kidding?’
Foil hats so the Aliens won't get us - NT road trip - with my adopted for the trip kids

I may have redeemed myself when making tinfoil hats to protect us from the aliens. For my adopted children. Full on mom mode and it made me happy to help.

Yes, I know how crazy this sounds. The making hats to protect us from the aliens bit. Not the mom bit, but actually it was crazy and they are crazy and I needed to learn how to be a big kid again.

And after all, this is the Northern Territory.

Where a pig and a kangaroo are ‘companions’. How crazy is that?

The kangaroo who loves a pig

Focus on the good stuff

I was too busy feeling sorry for myself, feeling old I failed to notice what I could and did contribute.  I hope that at least one of the group benefited from our chats. My empathy was remarked upon. Age and experience were respected.

Little did they know that I have not got my life sorted by a long shot.

I was so busy beating myself up, comparing myself with those younger, prettier, healthier and fitter than I, that I didn’t acknowledge them. The remarks made that their moms would never dream of sleeping in a swag or scaling the rim of Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park fell on ears that did not want to hear it.

All I could think was that my knees hurt and I have friends my age who run marathons and here I am struggling to walk up a hill. And yet no one thought I was a wimp for deciding not to tackle the Valley of the Winds walk in pouring rain. (Opted for a nap on the bus).

But then this is what road trips are about. The journey. Literally and metaphorically. We are all travelling through life.

There is no denying, The Northern Territory  was bloody brilliant. Like Child Birth – the rewards outweighed the blood, sweat and tears.

Uluru was totally worth all those kilometres on a bumpy bus, endless ham sandwiches and being trampled on by a wallaby. Even The Rash could not spoil it for me.

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Would I do it again?

In a heartbeat. Oh yes. Even the swags.

Sleeping in swags in the Northern Territory

Let me tell you, I would rather be a 56 year old with a bunch of 20/30/40 somethings who are living life than be with a bunch of saga louts who see it all through a window of a luxury coach and live with regret.

And on the last night, as we checked into the posh hotel and not a hostel I was happy. Hot shower, fluffy towels, luxury toiletries and fresh bed linen on Queen Sized comfortable mattresses. Oh how I was tempted to get room service and watch a movie.

Luxury in Alice Springs at Doubletree by Hilton

But something was wrong. I could not stand the noise of the telly. Hotel food was bland and hey the A Team were in Alice at Uncles.

Karaoke at Uncles in Alice Springs

So Phil and I joined them all for beer, burgers and karaoke. And it was good. We were a group who bonded well. I learned a lot from them all. Even the greedy ones.

And next?

Phil and I are now into week 3 of the second house sitting in Oakleigh. Week one was spent resting our tired bodies. Much needed R&R.

Soon we will be on the road again, to Sydney and driving to Brisbane. I am so looking forward to being on the move again. The wanderlust is strong in this one.

I have booked another group tour to Fraser Island and Lady Musgrave Island. I will not to be the ‘one’ on this trip. I have reflected and regrouped. I have cream in case the rash comes back.

And then we go to New Zealand for a month where Phil and I will catch up with our son. Who can call me Mom.

Not one to wish my life away, but I am counting down the days to seeing my son.

Meanwhile, Australia here I come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On not being a hipster

I am currently residing in Melbourne, most liveable city, hipster central and coffee capital of the world. I have a latte daily as I cannot take the flat white nor the espresso (although I let the barista choose the beans).

In my head I am 25*. And this silly quiz agrees.

It has been raining rather a lot. I have had to find something to occupy my mind while grounded by the weather. Cabin fever has set in.

We Know Your Age Based On Your Hipster Choices

You got: 25

You’re a young, chill hipster who dreams of Portland and free cold brew coffee. Just remember to water your succulent, because you have a lot of hipster years ahead of you!

My body keeps telling me otherwise and it is bloody shit.

Anyways – I did the quiz again today and got this:

We Know Your Age Based On Your Hipster Choices

You got: 39

You’re 39, so you’re not a baby hipster anymore. You know how to make all the right hipster decisions when it comes to food and travel (WHEN IN DOUBT TAKE A LYFT), so you should be proud!

Probably a more accurate picture of what I would like to be. I thought I had answered the questions the same but I think what swung it was I chose beer not coffee. I thought I chose beer the first time. I definitely chose Portland as my city despite not having been there because Melbourne wasn’t a choice. Sydney was. Sorry not sorry. Indeed the only questions I understood were the ones about the cities and the refreshments. I have no idea who or what Warby Parkers are and the quiz is clearly an ad for a designer soda drink I have also never heard of and am unlikely to purchace.

Intellectually challenged/trying to find something to fill the endless days of rain….

I had to look up what ‘lyft‘ is. This is the second word this week I have had to look up aka Google – the other one was ‘plebiscite‘. This is because, despite not watching the news, you would have to live in a hole in the ground to not know that there will be a plebiscite for Australians to decide on legalising same sex marriage.

Whether being old/not Australian or just plain thick – anyway hands up I didn’t know what these words were – so I did some research.

What I am sure of is that more Australians seem to know about plebiscite than they did the Census. There is certainly more media cover about it.

Let us talk about Brexit – if the UK had called for a plebiscite and not a referendum over membership of the EU maybe the UK would not be in such a mess as it is now.

It is worth me mentioning here that I know very little about politics and political processes but I voted Remain because I did my research. That research convinced me that the UK is stronger in the EU. I also want to live in Greece. Which may have swayed my decision somewhat, but at least I know what I want. Unlike the Brexiteers.

The census

I also took part in the Australian Census because, having done my research on that too, I was legally obliged to. As one who thinks voting in the UK ought to be compulsory, I was happy to comply with a country that has compulsory voting. The fact that is was shambolic is beside the point. To ask a tourist how many children they had given birth to was absolutely pointless. No, still haven’t worked that one out.

Anyway, as ever this ageing hipster has meandered off topic. As I do. Attention span of a flea.

Brunch in Australia – the good the bad and the ugly

Brunch figures a lot in my eating out in Australia. I have written before about my love affair with brunch – a meal that Brits, IMHO, still haven’t got right.*

In the UK, a cooked breakfast is usually a fry up be it the English, Welsh, Scottish, Irish or even regional breakfast. You will see all day breakfasts on some menus, often dressed up as brunch. My local pub in the UK, The Dog, has recently added brunch to the menu – yet finishes serving it at 12 noon and only offers it on a weekend. That is not brunch. Brunch needs perfectly poached eggs, sourdough, good bacon and excellent coffee. And served at least till 3pm if not all day. A full English and bacon sandwiches is not brunch. That is breakfast. I like breakfast, I do, but I like brunch better.

In Australia they know brunch. Smashed avo, corn fritters, beetroot and spinach with free range poached eggs. This is one of my favourite brunches offered at Coin Laundry only a few minutes walk away from where we are currently housesitting in Melbourne. Available from 7am to 3pm. For two of us, with a latte each, the bill is Aus$42.

Seven Seeds. A Good Morning Breakfast Burger and Eggs and Waffle Benedict, two items from their current, all day menu. Proper Brunch. With speciality coffee. Aus$45. Great atmosphere, great staff, excellent food, awesome coffee. We have got to go back as our table companions had the Brioche French Toast and it looked, and they said it tasted, amazing.

And then there is Triim.

Phil and I were hungry, we had just been in a hot, dusty substation, looking at ACDC things. (It was Open House Weekend). We needed brunch. Seven Seeds seemed too far to walk to. It was Sunday and would probably be a line. Instead we wandered up Little Bourke street, looking for its sister cafe, couldn’t find it and then saw Triim on Hardware Lane, a studenty/backpacker district of the city and chose to brunch there.

Oh dear. At first it seemed ok, it was busy, all ages, shoppers and students, backpackers and families. Efficient staff. But. You knew there would be a but.

We ordered a Big Breakfast and a Morning Glory. Yes they can poach eggs. However the mushrooms were slimy and the sausage, I can only assume it was a chicken sausage, was horrible. The bread was poor quality. Butter is served in plastic pouches. We left feeling bloated and later felt quite headachey as if we had eaten poor quality food. Bill came to Aus$42.40. Hardware Lane is an interesting place to people watch. Go watch them from someplace else.

Was this the worst breakfast we had in Melbourne?

No. Because we went to McDonald’s. I know, I know. Phil and I had an early start, we were off out on a tour and had to be at Fed Square for 8.55am. Macca’s is nearby the pick up point. We had not had a Macca breakfast for over a year. Indeed it was at this Macca’s and for the very same reason. We do not learn.

Aus$18 for two sausage and egg muffins, with a hash brown and a latte. Not half a good as Triim, but nearly as good people watching as commuters dash from Flinders Street Station. Not anyway near the quality, ambiance or service levels of either Seven Seeds or Coin Laundry.

I know, it is McDonalds, I don’t expect silver service. Yet, at just under half the price of the other brunches Phil and I have had in Melbourne, this is an expensive and insubstantial breakfast. The only good thing I can say is that they have baristas in McDonalds in Australia (at least at this branch) so the coffee is not awful. It is not awesome, better than coffee in an English McDonalds. Not hard to beat that. Oh and surprisingly I didn’t get headaches like I did with the breakfast from Triim.

What really concerns me that this is the everyday breakfast for many commuters and school students. Melbourne has the best coffee in the world and Melburnians are now buying coffee here. And adding a McMuffin to their order. I don’t see any struggling indie coffee shops in Melbourne, somehow there are enough coffee addicts to keep the good ones going. I do see more coffee shop chains in Melbourne though. And that is not a good thing.

So, if you are in Melbourne, find a good brunch spot. It is not hard.

To help you, here is a list to help you out.

*There are exceptions. Birmingham Breakfast Club occasionally arranges special breakfast events in the city. Only I would call them brunch because there is usually alcohol involved and they don’t start at the crack of dawn.

If you want to know more about these wonderful Breakfasts in Birmingham here are some links. I include these only because I am fed up of people Bashing Birmingham. We have good food in Birmingham. We have good other things too. Such as the two towers that inspired Tolkien.

Full to the Brum  – an award winning Brummie Blogger

Eat with Ellen  – one of my dining companions at Nomad now re born as The Wilderness

Breakfast at Simpsons

Waiter there’s a bug in my brunch

Birmingham Breakfast Club 

 

Don’t rain on my (penguin) parade – Phillip Island and The Mornington Peninsula

Phillip Island and The Mornington Peninsular

Last year Phil and I were lucky and had glorious weather when we visited The Mornington Peninsula with Melbourne Coastal Touring. This year, let us say, the weather was varied.  We are pretty much used to the unpredictability of Melbourne weather – after all this is the city that has four seasons in one day. We had booked again with Melbourne Coastal Touring, this time to extend the trip to Phillip Island, to see The Penguin Parade.

Penguin Parade on Phillip Island

The forecast was not good. Maximum of 12 degrees and lots of rain. Rug up we were told.

 

We looked like this before….                and like this afterwards.

We took a rug. Did not/could not use it. Sitting down was not an option. It was cold, windy, dark and raining stair rods. What use would a rug be?

Most people wisely bought these plastic rain covers, they still got soaked.

However penguin parade was worth getting drenched for.

OK. These are not real penguins. You are not allowed to take photos of the penguins. But you are allowed to take photos of toy penguins. So we did.

While the penguins were a joy to observe, I would recommend you do the trip in the summer or spring. Or choose a clear, dry autumn or winter day (and rug up). Check that weather forecast folks. It was cold and wet and the maximum anyone held out was fifteen minutes. A long way to go to see penguins in a squall.

Phillip Island

Before we went to the Penguin Parade, Campbell took us to see a few other highlights of Phillip Island, including a blustery walk at The Nobbies to see some nest boxes and Woolamai Beach.

English visitors may find some of the place names familiar on this island. Many places are named after towns on the Isle of Wight.

We visited the restricted area of Phillip Island Nature Park next to where you visit Penguins Parade. This area is closed at dusk to protect the wildlife. Once a residential area, eventually the beachfront residences were demolished in order to restore a habitat where the penguins and other wildlife would thrive.

More than penguins

The Penguin Parade is the last visit you make on this full day tour. I started with it at the top of this post as it is the highlight of the tour and the main reason people take this trip. However, before the penguins, there is a lot more to do and see on the way to Phillip Island.

Moonlit Sanctuary

The highlight of the day, for me, was the visit to the Moonlit Sanctuary. Sorry penguins. You are cute. I have wanted to see you ever since I watched a documentary about you but not in Force Ten weather conditions. I enjoyed the visit to the sanctuary more. Sorry not sorry.

Happily, the sun was shining when we arrived at Moonlit Sanctuary. Phil and I have visited similar places before, the first one while traveling along The Great Ocean Road. The owner of this private sanctuary shoved a  scruffy teddy bear with a koala perched upon it in front of us for photo opportunities. The wallabies and kangaroos were in pens. It was all a bit scruffy and run down. Not so Moonlit Sanctuary.

At Moonlit Sanctuary, the visit to the koalas are strictly monitored and limited.

The wallabies and kangaroos are free to roam.

Only the dangerous and endangered are restricted.

Except the geese. They roam free. They were scary – they had chicks – and daddy goose was not letting anyone near his family. One even took a chunk out of a wallaby.

It is in a beautiful setting, there is a cafe and rest room there and it would make a good family day out in the summer. Everyone on our tour thoroughly enjoyed their time here. Including the tour leader, Campbell. I think he loves his job.

Lunch and wine tasting at Montalto

On this tour lunch was a shared selection of three stone baked pizzas.  Broccolini, quattro formaggi pizza;Napoli, buffalo mozzarella & basil pizza;Roast pork, garlic, stracciatella, pickled chilli, chives pizza served with Chargrilled kale and broccolini with miso and sunflower at the Piazza Cafe at Montalto.

Lunch was preceded by a wine tasting and a stroll around the sculpture garden. The weather was still on our side.

I am assuming that Melbourne Coastal Touring are trying out various eateries for their tours. For a lunch this was a beautiful location. The wines we tasted were all very good. While I prefered the food I had last year at Red Hill Epicurean I can see why Montalto, with the sculpture garden, is a good location to stop off at on this tour. It offers the opportunity for a much needed stroll in the sunshine after being on a bus for over an hour.

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And as this tour naturally appeals to families with young children (cute penguins, koalas and kangaroos) it is a perfect place for a good quality pizza lunch for families, offering a relaxed environment for parents and children to explore the sculptures. Yet it is grown up enough for adults who enjoy wine tasting and a good lunch in pleasant surroundings.

It is worth noting that Montalto also has a fine dining option (12 Chefs Hats in The Age Good Food Guide since 2002). Pizza in the Piazza cafe offers good food for tour groups or those who want a more relaxed dining experience in a stunning location.

Beach Huts and Arthur’s seat

No visit to The Mornington Peninsula would be complete without the obligatory stops at the beach huts and Arthur’s Seat.

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Even on a cold day, as it was clear (for now) the views are stunning. The beach has been eroded considerably since our last visit in 2015.

Flinders and Chocolate

As we had made good time on the journey to Mornington, we were offered an optional visit to the chocolate shop at Flinders.

Phil and I had been before and so decided to wander around Flinders instead of taste chocolate. Delicious and quirky as it is, we are not big chocolate fans.

Flinders is a small town with some charming shops selling designer kitchenware, clothes and art with a General Store and Post Office. And interesting birds.

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Why use a tour company?

One of the reasons Phil and I choose to go on tours is to meet new people. On this tour there was a family from Jakarta and a young couple from Singapore. Interesting conversations over the dining table (every one asks us about Brexit) learning about other cultures, exchanging stories of travel and tours.

Expert knowledge

Another reason to use a tour is that you get the knowledge of your tour guide. If you use a really good company (check them out on TripAdvisor and Viator) the guides can make the day. Jason, who owns Melbourne Coastal Touring, was brought up and still lives in Mornington. It is a small family run company. Repeat business and recommendations are important to them. Quality matters. This is not always the case with all operators, so do your research.

Why not drive yourself?

I like to be driven. By a competent driver who knows the roads. I can vouch for both Jason and Campbell. If you did this trip yourself, it is almost a two hour drive to Melbourne from Phillip Island. And in wind and rain and the dark, not a drive I would want to do. Also the driver doesn’t get to appreciate the views so much along the way and there would be no tipples at the vineyard. Another reason to use a good tour operator.

Addendum

Melbourne Coastal Touring are now under new management and trading as Melbourne Boutique Tours. I am sure they are just as good as they were and would continue to recommend them. I will try them out next time I go Down Under.

 

 

 

 

Go travelling while you can – don’t wait for someday

I have to go travelling while I still can.

Travel is in my DNA.

“When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age… perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked. Four hoarse blasts of a ships’s whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet to tapping… I fear this disease incurable.” – John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley

My aunt, the day before she died, said to me ‘I wish I had seen more of the world instead of looking after everyone else, and doing what I thought was the right thing’. My mother, the traveller, had no such regrets.

And while we had the concerns over the health of the his mom, my mother in law, Phil and I knew that we will continue travelling.

She died while we were away in Sorrento. Phil had spent two days and nights at her bedside in hospital before we went away. The nurses said that he must still go on the planned holiday.

Phil has a brother. My local minister and former work colleague reminded me of this when I expressed my concerns about our forthcoming extended travel plans, before Val passed. At the time she had just gone to a nursing home and we hoped her health would improve. As the minister said, Chris, the brother,  will be there while you are away. Phil discussed this with his brother. What they will do if this happens while we are away, hence the aforementioned family commitments.

My 84 year old friend, who travelled extensively after her retirement said much the same. ‘You cannot put your life on hold, the outcome will be the same whatever you do. Travelling was the best thing I did, it enriched my life so much’.

And so before the extended travel commences in July we booked some time away as Phil was exhausted with driving 3 hours to visit his mom every other week. With hospital visits and worries about finding a nursing home that didn’t smell. He was anxious about her and needed a break.

Val had had a lovely day with her family the weekend before she passed away.  She went home, gave her granddaughter a beautiful ring  and went to her local pub for dinner. She did seem to be in better health. The timing seemed right to go away for a few days.

But Sepsis had different plans and by the following Tuesday the nursing home had to admit her to hospital.

We had been in Sorrento one night and she passed away, with her son Chris by her side. Yes we felt sad and guilty but we knew it was going to happen but not when.

We stayed in Sorrento and filled the days with extensive sight seeing and walking. It helped. Chris did all the necessary and immediate things that needed to be done, and on our return we joined him and supported him to do everything else we had to do.

Now, a few weeks later, we have had the funeral in Winchester and the remembrance service in Yorkshire. We have spent more time with family than we usually do. Caught up with people we haven’t seen for many years. This happens when people die. We have cried and we have laughed. Shared happy memories. Discovered interesting things when sorting through possessions including some amazing photos on old slides.

These pictures were the turning point in their grief, for Phil and Chris. They rediscovered their childhood. Saw their parents at happier times, as they remembered them. The mom and dad they grew up with. Having spent months seeing their mom getting older and unrecognisable at times, took its toll on both of them. Discovering these photos and sharing them with people in Yorkshire who went to school with their parents evoked so many happy memories. Talking about the old days, the happy times, it healed them.

I met the minister again yesterday and told him about this. Thanked him for his wise words. They had helped us to remember that we have support from family. We don’t have to do everything, we can ask for help. And remember to laugh. Death is sad, of course it is. As the minister told me yesterday, it is good to recall happy memories and laugh. That is what we did, I told him, dinner with the family, we cherished our times together and laughed.

There is still a lot to do. Paperwork, mountains of it. A house to clear, major decluttering (so far 30 bags to charity and the same to the tip) some more legal stuff, a house to sell. We had made a start when she was in hospital. It is a big job. 80 plus years of memories in dusty boxes.

Phil was making lists of lists and worrying  about all we had to do. He got stressed again so I booked another, more relaxing, holiday to Skiathos after the funeral.

We cannot tick all the things off before we go to Australia in July. We can’t. So we won’t. We will do what we can. Prioritise the legal things. Trying to fit everything in  a tight schedule will exhaust all of us. And will make use feel failures because we won’t succeed. Our health and well being, and that of the family, has to come first.

We will carry on when get home in November. We can put some things on hold. Just not life.

 

 

 

Packing it all in – in defence of package holidays

Travelling Coral.

Package Holiday Coral.

Are you a traveller who plans their own itinerary or a package holiday fan?

I ask because I want to know what defines a traveller.

I started my blog, Travelling Coral, to document my first round the world trip in 2011. It turns out I like this blogging malarkey, so I carried on. I like travelling, eating and I like package holidays. I love to have the sun on my back and writing about where I have been, what I have eaten and I like writing about other stuff too. It is my therapy.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with a package holiday.

The beach bums

When I was on a tour in SE Asia, we stopped a few nights at Langkawi. The resort I stayed in was full of long-term travellers and beach bums, who were just like my brother. Because he had lived on a remote island in Thailand for a few years he had a travellers superiority complex. Like the people at Langkawi he viewed tour groups as fake travellers, unlike themselves, the true travellers.

The digital nomads

We are all digital nomads. I can text on the bus and read my email in a cafe. I can work from home or someone else’s home. I can write my blog in Birmingham and Brisbane.

The travellers that describe themselves as digital nomads mostly work in Chang Mai. The package tourist is everything they wish not to be associated with and don’t we know it.

Travellers sleep on the floor/dorms

When I reluctantly let my brother stay in my home for a couple of nights he refused the bed. He slept on the floor and made a big thing about it (saved me washing sheets). He moaned about how unhygienic western toilets were preferring to squat and wash rather than to sit and wipe.

He sneered at every aspect of my life. My kids (too much of a drag, man) my house (still wanted to stay there) and like those languishing in Langkawi, thought westerners who chose to go to work and pay taxes were somehow inferior to him. My package holidays were nothing like what he did (drug dealing and cadging cash off the mothership) he was cool and I was not because he travelled and I did not.

The Carry On Brigade

Then there are the travellers who have lived on the road for six years with backpacks that they carry on to planes. Like carry on is the only way to travel. Self proclaimed digital nomads that never check their bags. They boast that they only carry seven days of clothes, yet manage to pack in the ipad/applewatch/macbook air and a mirror camera whatever that is. They write e-books about it and feign disdain at people who for whatever reason book a package holiday.

Sexy travellers

You will see this same group of bloggers featured in the top 10 sexy travellers lists (no one likes an old frumpy traveller do they?) selling online courses to enable you to have a six figure income on the road. If I were making a six figure income on the road I would upgrade to first class travel and check in my luggage and not work out of a café in Chiang Mai.

Not all of us can carry on

The type of people who respond with ‘oh we never go on packages’ when I mention on their Facebook Page that there is no way I could travel from Birmingham airport with carry on only.  It always gets weighed and the limit is 5kg, so no I can’t, package holiday or otherwise.

I have travelled with carry on only. Twice from the UK, both times with Easyjet out of Gatwick. Once they insisted that a tiny sling purse counted as a second item of hand luggage and I had to put that in my bag. Crazy, but rules are rules. #jobsworth .

*update

In Australia last year (August and September 2016) we travelled carry only on domestic flights to Tasmania/Darwin/Alice. Checked in online and hoped we were not stopped at the gate. I am more pro carry on now. Also had to dump 11kg of clothes in Melbourne as I overpacked for the 4 month trip.

Not a travelling snob 

While I go on package holidays I rarely have anything in common with most of the passengers on my plane. Particularly those with names on their t-shirts who clink on all the duty-free they can and buy perfume and makeup in the sky, I don’t really get them at all.

I genuinely hope that they are not in my hotel. I do. That is not me being a snob, it is me being me. I would not want to spend a week with a bunch of saga louts nor a bunch of toffs who snort coke. It is not who I am. I do like meeting new like minded people and as such have made friends with ambulance drivers, tube drivers and someone big at Weta on my travels. I am interested in people but not ready to fill my life with buckets of booze and karaoke. Except for that one time in Krabi. We don’t talk about that.

When I go to Turkey the ‘I have my name on my t shirt in case I forget who I am in Bar Street’ brigade get on the big packed bus to Marmaris, while I and my family are the only ones on the minibus to Dalyan. Phew. Dickhead Dave, Saucy Sue and Peter the Plonker who had beer for breakfast at the airport pub may visit Dalyan to wallow in the mud for the day at some point, usually as part of a transfer deal with the tour company, but that is it.

I get my Dalyan with the locals and the Dutch who have made it their second home. I watch the sleeping Dalyan Dogs and live like a local.

Husky on Ice

I go have a beer with Fatih, say hi to his mom Rose (one of the best cooks in Dalyan) and Aycut and his jeep, that frequently breaks down, gets our business every time. When he gives lift to random strangers and pops to see his mom when taking us on a trip, that is a bonus. The rep for my hotel invited us to his family home. The owners of Metin, the family run hotel we stay at, entrusted me with their daughters passport renewal forms. That is how we do package.

What we don’t do is lie on a sunbed, work on our tan, eat English breakfasts, drink Carlsberg and stay in the hotel complex. We catch buses and go for long walks. We get lost in thunderstorms, narrowly avoid being struck by lightning, get woken by earthquakes and run the bar for Fatih when he joins in the water polo match. And yes some days we may swim and sleep because we can. Because we are on holiday.

In Malta we got the cheapest hotel and were out all day exploring by bus. We went there to sus out whether we would want to live there. We don’t. Another package because it suited us at the time.

Our first All Inclusive was in Marrakech, which we loved. Our second in Tunisia, we hated. Before that it was usually self catered to keep the costs down and meant that I didn’t have to dress for dinner.

And that is the point. We do what we want to do. If Carlsberg and chips is your thing, good for you, enjoy. Just don’t call me a snob for choosing not to.

If sitting in a cafe as a nomadic blogger in Chiang Mai is your thing, great. Go write that book about how you travel with only one pair of knickers and flip flops. I won’t buy it.

None of us are superior to anyone, tourist or traveller or staycation lover. No, not at all. It was a digital nomad, What’s Dave Doing,  who gave me the best advice when I was planning my first big trip. Supportive and informative. He is still travelling (slowly now) and I am pretty sure he checks his bags. Dave goes home and sees his family and likes western toilets and comfortable beds, but will sleep on the floor if he has to.

Sorrento here we come

Next week Phil and I are off to Sorrento for a week. I went to Thomson Holidays, after some research on the interwebs, and booked a package holiday.

Yes I could have booked it online. I didn’t because there is only one travel agent on my high street now. Use it or lose it, be it butcher, baker or holiday maker. The staff there are lovely, remember my holiday disasters and know why I don’t do cruises.

Sorrento is a holiday. A much needed holiday after a downsizing house move, a bereavement and every other weekend visits to a hospitalised terminally ill mom/mother in law.

And I will not be taking carry on only. I am packing a posh frock, and some real shoes. I will take sandals and linen tops and trousers and jeans and shoes and as the weather is warm in the day and cool at night, some scarves and a cardie. I may even pack my trusty kagool.

Housesitting in Melbourne

In a few months we are off to Melbourne to house sit, travel in Australia a bit and then after three months there, we go to New Zealand for a month. I sketched out a plan on the back on an envelope, went to STA, and now flights are booked and not much else. I have no idea how we get from Sydney to Brisbane yet. We will work it out. That to me is travelling, a mix of part planning and part seeing what happens.

Packing light

This was my packing for Greece in 2014. A seven day unpackaged holiday, where we flew to Crete,  took a night ferry to Piraeus,  had a day in Athens and then cruised to Santorini for a couple of nights. All the others dragged their huge suitcases to their hotel and stayed in one place. At the airport on the way home I asked some of them if they had been to Knossos. They asked me what Knossos was. #sigh

I pack light. This wheeled backpack from Ikea is just over the measurements for hand luggage on most domestic flights from the UK. And while we travelled light, it was over 5kg.

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Package versus DIY

Before booking the Sorrento package, as an experiment, I checked out skyscanner and various booking websites to see if I could organise a break cheaper than the package. I couldn’t. I could get cheap flights and if I had wanted to backpack in hostels, I probably could have just beaten the prices. Room only in modest hotels were around £80 per night. I could have got a 7 night all inclusive package for £600 if we had been able to go this week. We couldn’t due to work and family commitments. For less than that we have 7 nights half board and, as Sorrento is renowned for being expensive, that is good enough for me.

Spend my tourist dollar in the community

When we go to Sorrento are we going to lounge around the pool? Probably not. We will catch the train to Naples and find the pizza James Martin raves about. We may take a water taxi to Capri and explore the island. Visit Pompeii and Herculaneum at the very least. We will use public transport where we can and maybe take a trip to a farm and make pizza. The food walking tour looks fun too. I like tours, I like meeting like minded people and sharing the experience. Phil and I also like going off on our own and exploring.

What is important to me is making sure some of my tourist dollar is spent locally. Booking a package and eating only in the hotel, it isn’t. If I am AI and never leave the complex, only RIU and TUI make any cash. In most cases Thomson and Thomas Cook have bed blocked the hotel for a knock down price and the staff are paid the minimum wage.

In Malta we ate in a family run pizzeria and bought pastizzi from the pie shop. We used local buses and put our money into the economy.

This was almost impossible to do in Tunisia and boy did it need the tourist buck. Even our taxi driver worried for us when he took us to Sousse. It was a country in crisis. So sad now that those hotels, the main source of employment, lie empty.

An ex work colleague once moaned to me about her holiday in Kenya, how dirty everything was outside her hotel. She was horrified at how the locals lived and she didn’t want to see that. I explained to her that while tourism may offer the locals employment, the big hotel chains offering AI deals are in effect, stealing the business from the local small traders. And it doesn’t make any difference what the business is, holiday, retail or the coffee shop. Ask yourself why McDonald’s pop up in almost every resort and city now? Why, when in Melbourne, would you choose a Big Mac over the many wonderful burgers this city offers? Think where you spend you money, please. If you spend it with a local independent, the money stays in the community.

I do sometimes steal McDonald’s wifi though. When a bed bug ridden Maltese hotel charges for it.

Find the family business

This is why I seek family run businesses when I can when travelling. At home I choose indies over Costa and the corner shop over Tesco, Meatshack over Maccie Dees. If I stay in an AI or half board I make sure I get out to the local businesses be they cafes or tour companies and use them. For my forthcoming Australia trip I am using Aussie based tour companies and where I can, family run companies such as Melbourne Coastal Touring and West Oz Active.

Travelling with grannies and children

When the children were young, we almost always booked package holidays. It was easy, my children learned to swim in the sun, made holiday friends, and I had peace of mind. Both Phil and I had stressful jobs and all we wanted to do then was flop. We did once take our then 3-year-old daughter island hopping in Greece, with 50 something granny aka Travelling Sylvia leading the way.

Santorini post card

We found accommodation as we got off the boat. The owners held photos of their rooms for rent and took us there on the back of mopeds. Of course now we use booking apps but I still see rooms for rent signs in Greece.

Holidays at home can cost more than a package

I also have unpackaged holidays in the UK, using small independent Bed and Breakfast accommodation. When our Nile trip was cancelled in 2011 we took a tour around Wales and stayed in some excellent rooms. It cost nearly as much as the Nile cruise though, with food and petrol on top of the £80 or so a night accommodation.

And that is why package holidays are popular, they are mostly affordable. That is what many people want. If they have busy lives and only two weeks off to have a break, most people will probably choose what is generally a safe and predictable option for a holiday. Eat, drink, relax. And so do I, sometimes.

Yet now I have travelled more I choose packages that will offer me the adventure and independence I prefer.

We chose Sorrento because we have never been before, it offers a variety of things to see and do and because we needed a break. It was cheaper than 7 nights B&B or hiring a camper in England and I am saving my dosh for our Antipodean adventures.

The point of this post is not to praise package holidays, nor denigrate people who take them. I have friends who for environmental reasons won’t fly. My carbon footprint with three long haul flights in the past 5 years is huge. I do my best to balance this with using public transport and walking as much as possible. I don’t waste food. I turn off lights and use environmentally friendly products. I am not perfect nor strive to be.

Love them or hate them

Package holidays are like Marmite, love or hate them I suppose. But don’t think you are superior if you call yourself a traveller not a tourist. Because I will see you at Pompeii and at Knossos, at Hadrian’s Wall and on a beach in Krabi. That is what people who are interested in the world do, tourists and travellers.

I am a traveller, a tourist, a holiday maker who wants to see the world, feel the sun on her skin, taste new food, discover new places and people and return to places I love. Package holidays have made the world accessible to people who would never had left the comfort of their own back yard otherwise. Who knows, one day they may push past their comfort zone and go further, go independently and go travel. Or they may just sit by the pool and work on their tan, because that is what makes them happy. Who am I to judge?

So don’t judge me. I like package holidays. Sometimes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unclutter my life – letting go of the vinyl Part 2

It is Record Store Day on April 16th. While others will be clamouring over special releases on vinyl, we will be hoping people may want to take ours off our hands.

As part of the downsizing and reducing clutter, we are letting go of the vinyl. We have bought a Sonos sound system and Phil is currently downloading his CD collection on to his laptop. Personally I think he needs to cherry pick them and upload them on an external hard drive or invest in Spotify. It is his choice.

However, I think it is his way of saying goodbye. When he let go of the tapes he did this.

And listed them all so that he could cross reference them with his CD collection and see where the gaps were. Not sure where the list is now, post move.

Most of the singles went a while ago.

Before we decided to downsize we were reorganizing the music. While this worked in the big house, it doesn’t work in the small house.

The thing he said he will miss the most is the physical connection, holding the sleeve, looking at the art work and the reading of the sleevenotes. Apparently this is a thing and Phil seems to know who produced what album and who played the bass on every record that has ever been made.

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I have suggested he keeps a few using the Marie Kondo method. If it sparks joy, it will stay.

Ikea make picture frames for record sleeves, so we can enjoy the artwork while listening to the album digitally.

The other solution is make visiting record stores part of our travels. This way he can touch the sleeves and read the notes, and even listen to them.

Indeed this is what we already do. Our Melbourne friend for whom we house sit for, runs the media marketing for Record Store Day Australia. On her recommendation we visited a few stores in Melbourne last year.

Doing this combines three of our favourite things to do in Melbourne. Ride the trams, visit record stores, eat good food and drink great coffee at quirky cafes and burger joints.

Every suburb has a plethora of cafes, many have record stores,  and are all on a tram route.

There is also usually some great vintage shops to visit too. And graffiti.

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Back to the vinyl.

Northside Records in Fitzroy

Rathbone Records in Northcote

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Basement Discs 2 Block Place, Melbourne

They seem to have a no photo policy, but I took these anyway. While we were there there were some students making a film there. This is tucked away in one of the arcades, in a basement as the name suggests, so you have to keep a look out for it as it is easy to miss. Nearby there are lots of cafes and a great arcade to explore with mainly up market shops and a visually amazing cake shop, Hopetoun Tea Rooms, that there is almost always a queue for.

Rediscovery in Ballarat

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This one was not on the list we were given, we discovered it all by ourselves. It was up for sale on our last visit, so it may no longer be there.

Next door to it is a café selling vinyl. Perfect.

Of course we don’t just browse record stores in Melbourne.

One of my favourite in the UK is Carnival Records in Malvern.

The excuses that I, Phil and other people give, when struggling to let go of stuff,  are numerous.

We will miss it when it has gone

It may come in useful someday

I need to keep it just incase

It cost a lot of money it seems a shame to get rid of them

It may be valuable

I hoarded everything. I had hundreds of dust gathering books, thousands of photos, and duplicate kitchen gadgets. Because I had the space.

Add to those dozens of duvets, pillows, towels and sets of bed linen. All neatly organised and labelled in storage bags. And never used.

The vinyl and the CD’s are taking too much space in this small house. The sound system, amps, decks and speakers, overwhelm the small rooms. To find a CD would involve me going through 8 storage units. To find an album on vinyl would take forever. With Sonos I can click and play.

And Phil can get his touchy feely time with album sleeves at record stores around the world.

Because we cannot lose sight of why we did all this. Declutter, downsize, to pursue a life of more travel and less cleaning.

Update December 2016

Around 500 LP’s are boxed up, together with hi fi and speakers, to go to Carnival Records tomorrow. A couple of friends have been around and cherry picked 30 each. They have gone to where they will be loved and played. We have kept about 20 that we love (well 5 I quite like and 15 I have no interest in At All) to play and or adorn our walls of the small house.

 

 

 

 

 

Housesitting in Melbourne and other travel plans

Housesitting is the lifestyle plan for me and Phil, my husband, going forward

Eventually we will sign up with an agency, probably Trusted Housesitters. We have not needed to as yet as we were fortunate enough to land our first housesitting assignment through a uni friend.

I hadn’t seen my old uni friend for over 20 years and as part of the round the world trip Phil and I  did in 2011/2 the plan was to go visit her in Melbourne. Our dates clashed with her planned visit to England, which was disappointing as I was looking forward to seeing her again. Then she mentioned that all they needed to organise was a house and dog sitter and I proposed that we could be those sitters. Surprisingly she said yes, having only met my husband at our wedding. I had never met hers. However they entrusted us to look after Mac and Poppy while they were away.

And so it was in November 2011 we got to Melbourne and panicked when questioned by passport control about where we were staying in Melbourne.

‘I don’t know.’

Having since watched Border Control I now realise this was not a good answer to give.

‘My friend is meeting us’

I had realised by then to say ‘a friend I have not seen in over 25 years and just recently got back in touch with through Facebook’ would not have been a good idea.

‘Do you have a phone number for her?’

‘No, I don’t and I don’t have a phone that will work in this country yet.’

‘What if she doesn’t meet you?’

‘She will.’

I don’t think they checked if we were met, but I guess they could see that we had a flight booked out of the country so we reckoned they did not consider there was a big risk of us overstaying our visa. We were let into Australia. Also as it was incredibly busy in the arrivals hall, I think they just needed to get us out of there.

My friend was there at the gate.

And I got to spend two weeks with her as she had to change her dates due to some big music awards thing (Aria is pretty big) she had to attend. It was great because it gave us the opportunity to reconnect, and she and her husband got to show off their city. And we got to see Dolly Parton in concert, for free.

The next time we went in 2015 I had the addresses, emails, phone numbers all ready if I got questioned. Although we had no idea where we were staying in Sydney.  As one of our hosts was a barrister I reckoned she would get us out of the airport if detained.

‘Don’t mention housesitting, I have heard they have a dim view on housesitting.’

I must have said this to Phil a dozen times.

The arrivals hall was empty and we were made to use the retina recognition machines (always a challenge to those of us who wear specs) and sailed through border control in a matter of minutes.

Up until that moment I was convinced we would get the same questions, especially as I had a different visa than I had in 2011. But that is another story. I really must stop watching Border Control.

And now Phil and I are going back for the third housesit at the same house with the same dogs and I am getting all panicky about the visas again. This time it is because we will be in Australia for just under 3 months, the maximum time the e visa allows us to stay.

The reason for the longer stay is that we have two house sits booked now, both in Melbourne, with a gap between them.

Travel plans

The plan was to zoom in, get over jet lag, dump excess luggage in Melbourne and then fly to Darwin, travel over land to Alice and see Uluru. In 2 days, since beginning to write this post, plans have changed. We will now be arriving in Melbourne the day before the sit begins.

This is because Carole King is playing in Hyde Park, London. To make the most of the three-month visa restriction I have had to change our plans. Do you see how complicated and random my life is? Fortunately nothing was booked.

I have three itineraries in front of me and numerous tabs open on the desktop.  Australian Border Control, Viator, Tripadvisor,  tour companies to help decide on tours we can make in-between and after sits. I want to use an Australian based company to tour with, not some big multinational company based in Canada. It is hard to tell with some of them and if you book via Viator I have yet to find out if you can see who the tour operator is.

There are other things to consider.

Do we drive from Sydney to Brisbane? Wait, didn’t I just say we were going to Darwin, Uluru and Alice? Yes I did. That is still the plan between house sits.

We have to go to Sydney as Yum Cha is a must with our friends there.  I wanted to go to Tassie to but no time to fit it in and it will be cold in August. Darwin and Brisbane will be warmer, although the tour operators warn that temperatures drop at night in the NT. I am taking thermals.

So far the itinerary looks like this

10 July Birmingham to Melbourne via Dubai

13 July arrive Melbourne

14 July house sit until  22 August

23 August fly to Darwin

24 August 10 day Kakadu to Uluru tour

3 September fly from Alice Springs to Melbourne

4 to 21 September house sit in Melbourne

22 September fly to Sydney

22 to 25 stay at Rocks YHA Sydney – may do a Bridge climb, will go for Yum Cha

26 September drive to Brisbane using this itinerary

1 or 5 October  Five day Fraser and Lady Musgrave Island tour (dates to be confirmed by operator) the trip gets great reviews although it is expensive

11 October fly Brisbane to New Zealand (tbk) or home or……..

With just two days left on the visa.

I am panicking that something will go wrong and we will overstay the visa and be banned from entering Australia for 3 years (Border Control again).

The other issue I have is packing. What to pack and what in? I still have my back pack but my back is not good. On tours you need to take minimum, yet in Melbourne we will be city slickers and need at least one good outfit. My Dubarry boots with a dress sufficed for Melbourne casual dining but those boots will not be suitable for hiking around Uluru and scuba diving at Lady Musgrave Island. They will not fit in a back pack.

And if we go to New Zealand, do we get a camper van again? We had a love hate relationship with our camper in 2011. Do we fly into Christchurch and see more of the South Island? Will it be too cold? It is often cheaper to hire cars and campers in Christchurch if going to Auckland as the companies want the main stock on the North Island.

After New Zealand I would quite like to visit The Cook Islands. Those Dubarry boots will be of no use there either. Men don’t have these problems.

Oh, did I mention we have a friend working in LA ? We would like to go see him too, and maybe drive to Las Vegas, maybe San Francisco and we always said we wished we had spent more time in Pismo Beach.

Maybe one big road trip across America?

Decisions, decisions.

And then there is the insurance to sort out….. our annual policy will not suffice. The to do list is getting longer.

Where do you think we could go?