Category: Uncategorized

Sydney, Australia

The concierge at the Mercure booked a driver to take me to the Melbourne airport.  It was a much better price and the driver was very professional.  He arranged for the same company to pick me up at the Sydney airport.  The driver in Sydney was waiting for me in his new Lexus.  What a treat… and much less hassle than standing in the taxi line.  My hotel, the Megaboom, was in the middle of the business district.  My friend, Patti, stayed there several years ago and gave it a great recommendation.  It was small but updated, and the location couldn’t be beat.  After checking in, I walked to the end of the block and went into the Queen Victoria Building on George Street in search of dinner.  The building took up an entire city block and housed lots of sophisticated shops and cafes.  I chose Vanto, an Italian café on the top level of the arcade.  I had a pizza, and wouldn’t recommend it.  It was soupy and probably one of the worst pizzas I’ve ever had.  I walked the top level of the arcade and explored a few shops that were about to close on the lower level before heading back to the Megaboom.  The young man at the front desk helped me book a tour with AATKings for the day before I was leaving to return to the U.S.

The next day, I decided to walk around Sydney and take photos.  I followed George Street, which was under construction for a new tram line, and set off in the direction of the harbor.  I wandered along taking photos and stopped for a tea and scone at a small café in the Rocks, the historical district near the harbor.  A short walk took me to the harbor and I spent an hour or so walking around taking photos of the Opera House and the wharf area.  I had a great lunch, a hamburger with chopped shrimp, and a glass of Pinot Grigio at the Searock Grill.  As I sat watching the tourists and the ferries leaving from the wharf, I enjoyed the sight of the huge QEII docked across from the restaurant area.  I spent another hour walking around taking photos before heading back up the hill to the central business district and the Hotel Megaboom.

I had to walk to the Hilton Hotel, a couple of blocks from the Megaboom, to meet my AATKings tour the next morning.  The tour took us to several locations to take photos of the Opera House and the harbor before crossing the Harbor Bridge for our first stop at Manly Beach.  We had plenty of time to explore the shopping area, get a tea and scone, and take photos of the surfers before going back across the bridge to Darling Harbor.  At Darling Harbor, I boarded the Captain Cook excursion boat where I had a nice seafood buffet lunch and went up on the top deck to take photos as we cruised the Sydney Harbor area.  It was a beautiful, breezy day and I got lots of photos of the skyline, Opera House, Harbor Bridge, etc.  After the lunch cruise, it was back on the bus and off to Bondi Beach.  Bondi Beach is one of Australia’s most iconic beaches and a mecca for surfers.  I had an ice cream, bought some T-shirts, and took lots of photos of the beautiful, busy beach and the surfers challenging the waves.  Sydney Mardi Gras was coming up on the weekend, a gay pride celebration with lots of tourists and a huge entertainment line up headed by Cher.  I was glad my timing was taking me home before the onslaught of tourists arrived.

As I boarded my Quantas flight for Dallas the next morning, I was glad to be heading home and looking forward to seeing my friends and family.  While I was a little disappointed that my Year in the World had only been Six Months in the World, I realized that I needed to be home to take care of some health issues.  I can take a river cruise and travel to most of the other places on my itinerary over the next few years.  It has been a great adventure and I’ve enjoyed every moment of it.  Thank you to all my friends and family who have read this blog and shared my journey.

Sydney Opera House and Skyline
Sydney Opera House and Harbor Bridge
Sydney Waterfront
Sydney Harbor Tour
Sydney Skyline and Sail Boats

 

Manly Beach Surfers
Bondi Beach Sea Kayakers
Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach
Didgeridoo Player

Melbourne, Australia

The Golden Princess docked in Melbourne at 6 AM and I was scheduled to disembark at 8:15 since I was staying in Melbourne a few days.  The disembarkation process worked well until we were stuck on the pier for an extended wait in a queue for a taxi.  It seems the taxis were having a problem getting to the ship because of a traffic tie up.  I finally managed to get a ride on a taxi van and was the first to be dropped at my hotel.  I was staying at the Mercure Welcome again since I had booked a tour through the concierge for the next day.   I spent an hour waiting for my room visiting with a retired nurse from Brisbane, who was in town to visit her daughter.

I unpacked and went in search of lunch since I hadn’t eaten on the ship.  The Emporium, an upscale shopping center across the street offered a good selection of restaurants.   The Unabara Lobster Bar caught my eye with their photo of a lobster roll in the window.  I waited a few minutes for a seat in the small restaurant, but the service was good and I enjoyed the lobster roll even though it wasn’t as good as the one I had at the bar on the beach in Waikiki.  I decided to shop around and ended up buying two pair of shoes.  My luggage would need to be repacked to make room for them, but they were light weight and wouldn’t add any cost to my baggage fees. Rain was forecast for the afternoon and I quickly made my way back to the hotel just as the first sprinkles began to fall.

The next morning, I was in the lobby early and was picked up by AATKings for my Puffing Billy and Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary tour.  It was a beautiful sunny morning as we drove toward the Dandenong range.  We made a brief stop for tea and scones at a local restaurant where we fed and photographed the macaws before heading to Belgrave Station for our short trip on the narrow-gauge heritage railway called “Puffing Billy”.  The train trip was a hoot!  Unlike in the U.S., where we’re told to keep our hands and feet inside, passengers were encouraged to sit in the windows and hang their feet over the edge during the trip.  After our ride on Puffing Billy, we boarded the bus and continued our journey through the Yarra Valley to Healesville.  Several members of the tour had opted for the Winery Tour, and we dropped them off on our way to the Wildlife Sanctuary.

The Sanctuary has over 200 species of wildlife and our guide, Glenyse, was excellent.  We saw the hospital, where she explained the work being done to protect the species and to treat injured animals brought in by the public.  The Sanctuary provides an up close and personal opportunity to view indigenous Australian animals, such as kangaroos, dingoes, Tasmanian devils, platypuses, kookaburras, wallabys, and koalas.  The Spirit of the Sky demonstration featured performances by trained parrots, eagles, cockatoos, and an owl.  Very impressive!  A great way to spend an afternoon in Australia!  We took the scenic route back to Melbourne and were rewarded with beautiful views of the Valley.

On the Way to the Dandenong Range
Macaw
Macaw
Puffing Billy Tour

 

Puffing Billy
Puffing Billy

 

Wallaby
Glenyse, Our Sanctuary Guide
Wallaby
Kookaburra

 

Koala
Koala

 

Hedgehog
Kangaroo
Kangaroo
Pelican
Dingo

 

Spirit of the Sky Show
Spirit of the Sky Show
Spirit of the Sky Show
Winery Helicopter

Tauranga, New Zealand

After being awake for several hours during the night coughing, I wasn’t in any shape to go on the excursion I had booked in Tauranga.  I went to the doctor, who diagnosed me with an acute upper respiratory infection and gave me a Z-pack and some cough medicine.  Carol was packed and ready to leave the ship that morning.  She had planned to fly home early from Auckland, but since Princess had cancelled our Auckland port, she was flying from Tauranga to Auckland, where she would spend the night before taking her flight to the U.S.  I spent most of the day catching up on the sleep I missed the night before.  I stood on the balcony and took photos as we departed Tauranga.  I didn’t want to subject our tablemates to my coughing spells, so I just got a piece of pizza from the Pizzeria on the upper deck near the pool and brought it back to my room.  I read for a while and decided to turn in early.

The next two days were sea days and we had some rough weather since we were going around behind a tropical cyclone that was traveling toward New Zealand through the Tasman Sea.  Good days to stay in and watch movies and work on the computer.  I didn’t try to post any new blogs because the internet was so slow and expensive.

I finally felt better and was able to join my fellow tablemates for the formal evening.  The next day would be our last day on the ship and we had a good time discussing our excursions and plans for travel after the ship docked.  I was returning to Melbourne for a few more nights to see more of the area and take another tour with AATKings.  Morris and Margaret’s daughter was meeting them at the dock, and Ray, Vanessa, and Tillie were flying back to Miami.  A text from Carol confirmed her safe, but delayed, arrival in San Antonio.

 

Tauranga Harbor
Diamond Princess Docked in Tauranga

 

Leaving Tauranga
Leaving Tauranga
Tauranga Sunset

Gisborne, New Zealand

A spectacular sunrise greeted us as we entered Poverty Bay, the anchorage for Gisborne Harbor.  Gisborne claims the honor of being the first city in the world to greet the sun each morning.   Along with 120 of our fellow passengers, we boarded the tender that would take us to Gisborne.  We boarded the beautifully restored vintage steam engine for the 45-minute journey each way to view a performance of the local Maori school children.  As an avid train enthusiast, I enjoyed every minute of the noisy, smoke belching trip across the Gisborne runway, through the country side to the middle of nowhere.

The young children and their teachers treated us to an interesting performance of their native songs and dances.  We had time to interact with them and our fellow passengers before re-boarding the train for our return trip.  The train was staffed by volunteers, who obviously loved their work and went out of their way to make sure we enjoyed the experience.

On the return trip, we exchanged seats and had an opportunity to view the country side from the other side of the train.  I took a photo of the white chalk cliffs of Young Nick’s Head, the first point of land spotted by Captain Cook’s cabin boy, Nicholas Young.  An unusual photo of our ship from the train looks like our ship is sitting in the middle of a field.

 

Gisborne Sunrise
Gisborne Sunrise

 

Tender to Gisborne
Kayakers in Poverty Bay
Native School Performance
Native School Performance
Native School Performance
Waving Goodbye
Young Nick’s Head
Strange Photo of Our Ship from the Train

Wellington, New Zealand

Carol was finally feeling better and we departed the Golden Princess for our excursion in Wellington.  Most of our first choices for excursions were full by the time we booked, so we chose an excursion to the WETA workshop and manufacturing facility for a behind the scenes look at the special effects used during 20 years of film making that included Peter Jackson’s movies such as Lord of the Rings, Avatar, etc.  Our host for the tour gave us a brief history of Peter Jackson’s career, explained the technology used, and circulated several props such as guns and swords for us to examine.

Our second stop on the tour was a walking tour on Mount Victoria to view some of the locales used in the Lord of the Rings movies.  It was a steep trek and we opted to wait, along with several others, at the bus.  Our driver took us to the summit for our final stop where were took photos of the area while battling gale force winds.  It was a bright sunny day so despite having to brace ourselves against the wind, we were able to get some great shots!

Wellington Tour
Wellington Sign

 

WETA Workshop
WETA Workshop
Tour Bus
Mount Victoria Sign
View from the Summit
View from the Summit
View from the Summit
Cricket Match
Roxy Theater
Wellington Tour

Akaroa and Christchurch, New Zealand

Akaroa is a tender port, so I was relieved as I watched the beautiful sunrise.  We had signed up for an excursion that morning, but Carol was too sick to go, and she decided to visit the ship’s doctor since she didn’t seem to be getting better.  His diagnosis was acute respiratory issues (in other words, bronchitis).  He gave her cough medicine and an antibiotic and signed her excursion ticket so she could get a refund.  I wished her a good rest and went to meet my tour group and make our way to the tender.

Our first stop was Manderly, a 750-acre sheep farm located on the shore of Lake Forsyth.  Ross, the owner, gave an interesting demonstration with the sheep dogs and his wife, Mary, served homemade lamb sausage rolls and shortbread cookies with tea and coffee from stoneware (no Styrofoam from this classy pair) in their lovely garden.  After a leisurely break, we boarded our bus for the trip to Christchurch.

Our driver, Joe, was a “jolly curmudgeon” who entertained us with lively commentary during the long drive over the mountains.  He drove us around Christchurch pointing out the areas damaged by the earthquake.  He pointed out the cathedral walls being held up by shipping containers until repair work could begin.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit the botanical gardens, museums, etc…we barely had time for a brief stop at the art museum for a short break before we had to return to Akaroa.  We were all disappointed that the tour had so little time in Christchurch.  We made it back to the tender and boarded the ship with minutes to spare.  Other tours were delayed and our tablemates, Ray, Vanessa, and Tillie, missed dinner.  Carol’s medicine was working and she didn’t feel up to going to dinner.

Akaroa Sunrise
Akaroa Sunrise

 

Akaroa Harbor and Tenders
Sheep Dog Demo
Lake Forsyth
Tea and Sausage at Manderly Farm
Joe, the Jolly Curmudgeon

 

Manderly Farm

 

Akaroa Tour
Akaroa Tour

 

Christchurch Cardboard Cathedral
Shipping Containers Holding Wall

 

Christchurch Art Museum
Christchurch Art Museum

 

House Across from Art Museum
Christchurch
Akaroa Sunset

Dunedin, New Zealand

Dunedin was our first port in the “land of the long white cloud”, but a pretty “pink” cloud greeted us as we approached the harbor that morning.  Carol wasn’t feeling well so she decided to cancel her excursion and rest.

The excursion included a visit to Olveston House, built in 1904-06 for a wealthy importer, David Theomin.  The magnificent 35-room Jacobean-style mansion was designed by London architect, Sir Ernest George.  The eclectic furnishings and personal items were lovingly preserved and provided an interesting perspective of the gracious lifestyle of the owners.

After a brief tour of the city, where we saw the long line of passengers waiting to return to the ship, we went to the Botanical Garden.  The Garden, established in 1863, boasted a large display of roses, camellias, and other native plants.  Floral photography is one of my favorites, so I was happy to take lots of photos, several with bees!

Back on board the ship, Carol wasn’t feeling any better and seemed to be getting worse.  I encouraged her to visit the ship’s doctor.

Dunedin Harbor Entrance
Pink Cloud over Dunedin

 

Lumber Stacked at the Port
Pink Cloud over Dunedin

 

Queue to Return to Ship

 

Dunedin Harbor
Dunedin Botanic Garden Sign
Dunedin Botanic Garden

 

Dunedin Botanic Garden
Dunedin Botanic Garden

 

Dunedin Botanic Garden
Dunedin Botanic Garden

 

Dunedin Botanic Garden
Dunedin Botanic Garden

 

Dunedin Botanic Garden
Dunedin Botanic Garden

 

Dunedin Botanic Garden
Dunedin Botanic Garden
Olveston House Tour

 

 

 

New Zealand Cruise

It was a beautiful Saturday morning and I enjoyed the taxi ride to the pier where I boarded the Golden Princess for our cruise to New Zealand.  Carol had flown from Christchurch, New Zealand, where she had been visiting her granddaughter’s family, that morning and was already aboard when I finally made my way to our balcony cabin.  Carol wasn’t feeling well and was coughing so she didn’t join me on deck for the sail away event held by the ship as we departed Melbourne harbor.  I took lots of photos of the picturesque Melbourne skyline before returning to our cabin to change for dinner.

We met the other passengers who would be sharing our table at dinner throughout the cruise:  Margaret and Morris, a lovely couple from the Melbourne area; and Ray, Vanessa, and Ray’s aunt, Tillie, an interesting, pleasant, threesome from Miami, Florida. Dinner was spent getting acquainted and we were pleased with the service and our friendly tablemates.  We decided to go to the ship’s theater for the welcome aboard show before adjourning to our cabin for an early evening.

The next two days were sea days as we sailed toward New Zealand and Fiordland National Park.  We spent the morning cruising in Milford Sound observing the breathtaking waterfalls surrounding us.  Carol was feeling feverish and coughing and spent most of the day in bed.  We left the Sound and within an hour the ship had to turn around and return to evacuate a crew member with a medical emergency.  Consequently, we missed Thompson Sound.  Much to our delight, a group of dolphins surprised us, coming up right under the ship and putting on a show for us, as we sailed through Doubtul Sound on our way to Akaroa.

 

Melbourne Skyline
Melbourne Pier

 

Melbourne Sail Boats
Melbourne Sail Boat
Golden Princess Atrium
Melbourne Sunset

 

Milford Sound Waterfall and Azmara Ship
Milford Sound Waterfall
Milford Sound Waterfall
Milford Sound Waterfall

 

Dolphins
Dolphin
Dolphin
Dolphin

Melbourne, Australia

My flight out of Honolulu was delayed so I missed my connection in Sydney.  I finally arrived in Melbourne at 10pm and after a lengthy taxi ride with a Pakistani driver, who was bemoaning the fact that he had spent two years in a detention center and had been waiting six years for an interview with immigration officials, I was glad to be at my hotel, the Mercure Welcome, in the center of Melbourne.  I was exhausted from the long flight and quickly unpacked and fell into bed.

The next morning, I started walking toward the Botanical Gardens stopping along the way to take a few photos of the National Gallery.  It wasn’t open yet, so I went on my way taking photos at the bridge over the Ybarra River (it was a little eerie realizing I was standing on the bridge where a terrorist had struck down and killed several pedestrians a few months earlier), capturing the red hat ladies at Flinders Street Station, and spending a couple of hours wandering through the Botanical Gardens.  I hopped on one of the free trams and got off at the National Gallery, where I viewed some interesting exhibits, before making my way back to the hotel.

The concierge at the hotel, Chris Pappas, was great.  I made reservations for an AATKings Tour of the Great Ocean Road the next day.   I also booked a tour with the same company for another all-day tour when I returned from my New Zealand cruise.  Chris recommended several restaurants a few blocks away on Hardware Lane.  I chose Max’s Bar and had some delicious cannelloni and a glass of Pinot Gris.  I decided to check out the huge shopping mecca, The Emporium, across from my hotel.  I found a place to get my nails done before heading back to the hotel.  My body was confused from all the time changes and I decided to put my feet up and relax for the rest of the day.

The tour of the Great Ocean Road was even better than I had hoped.  AATKings picked me up at the hotel at 7:30 and took me to their central distribution point where I boarded the bus for my tour.   Our driver, Steve, announced that we were going to do the tour in reverse to avoid some of the long delays and parking problems experienced the day before.  The weather was perfect, and I was able to take lots of photos while we were at the area called “the twelve apostles”.  We made several stops at “London Bridge” and other attractions before returning to Melbourne via the twisting, turning road that followed the coast line.

 

Ybarra River and Melbourne Skyline
Ybarra River

 

Melbourne
Red Hat Ladies at Flinders Street Station
Outside National Gallery
National Gallery of Victoria
National Gallery of Victoria

 

National Gallery Exhibit
National Gallery of Victoria
National Gallery Exhibit
National Gallery Exhibit
National Gallery Exhibit

 

Melbourne
Queen Victoria Gardens

 

Shrine of Remembrance
Shrine of Remembrance

 

Royal Botanic Gardens
Royal Botanic Gardens

 

 

Royal Botanic Gardens
National Herbarium of Victoria

 

Great Ocean Road Twelve Apostles
Great Ocean Road Twelve Apostles

 

Great Ocean Road London Arch
Great Ocean Road Tour

 

Great Ocean Road Tour

 

Great Ocean Road Tour Driver, Steve
Chris Pappas, Hotel Concierge

 

 

 

 

Hawaii

The bus transfer from the Coral Princess took me to LAX where I had several hours before my flight.  The flight left on time and arrived in Honolulu at 7:30PM local time.  After a long walk to baggage claim, I found a taxi and was on my way to my hotel, the Outrigger Waikiki Beach located across from the International Market Place on busy Kalakaua Avenue.

The next morning, I was up early since my body clock had no idea what time it was.  I had time to take a few photos of a rainbow peeking out from between the buildings in the view offered by my partial ocean view room.  My high school friend, Judy, who moved to Hawaii after she graduated from college, picked me up and treated me to a great breakfast at a local restaurant.  We had time for a lengthy chat during which we discovered we were born two months apart in the same hospital in the small town of Pauls Valley, Oklahoma.  Talk about a small world!  We never have time for a private conversation when we attend our class reunions, so it was great having time to talk about our lives during and since high school.

Shortly after I returned to the hotel, my friend, Glenn, texted me that he was at the airport and would see me soon.  He was ready to eat so we strolled next door to the Royal Hawaiian where we took a table at the bar on the beach and enjoyed a view of Diamond Head.  This was his first time in Hawaii, so we had lots to see and do.  We ordered “Lobstah” rolls and sat watching the surfers and passing showers.  Just as we finished our lunch, a shower was approaching so we quickly made our way back to the cover of the nearby shops.  It came quiet a downpour and we watched the local shopkeepers squeegee the sidewalks to prevent the geysers coming out of the drains from getting in their shops.  As it often does in Hawaii, the shower soon stopped, and we continued our exploration of the area.  Our friend, Tom, texted that he was at the airport and would see us as soon as he picked up the rental car and made his way to the hotel.

That evening, we walked around for a while and decided to have dinner at Herringbone in the International Market Place.  Tom and I decided to try the friend Octopus and Glenn had the Shrimp Curry.  We finished our meal and took Tom to the bar on the beach at the Royal Hawaiian for after dinner drinks.

The next morning, we decided to drive around the island and headed toward Diamond Head.  I was disappointed when we discovered that Hanauma Bay was closed on Tuesday.  We made our way to the Blow Hole for photos and continued our drive stopping occasionally for photo ops.  We decided to visit the Byodo-In Temple since Tom is interested in Buddhism and I had never stopped to explore the site on my previous visits to the island.  We found the site interesting and I got some great photos during our stop.  We continued our drive experiencing occasional showers along the way.  We stopped at a food truck billed as the Shrimp Shack and enjoyed our lunch while sitting under the overhang of a local store along with other food truck customers.  The weather wasn’t co-operating so we didn’t get to visit the Waimea waterfall.  We stopped to watch the surfers at Sunset Beach and managed to get a few photos before the rain sent us back to the car.  By the time we neared Pearl Harbor, the sun was out.  Such is the weather in Hawaii!

That evening we ate appetizers sitting at the bar under the huge banyan tree at the Surfrider, the oldest hotel on the strip.  The food was good, but a patron who had too much to drink kept interrupting our conversation, so we finished our drinks and I headed back to pack for my early flight to Melbourne.  Tom and Glenn decided to explore the area before turning in.  It was a short but fun time in Hawaii.

 

Waikiki Rainbow
Waikiki Rainbow
Diamond Head from Royal Hawaiian Bar
Waikiki Sunset
Blowhole
Glenn and Tom Looking at Blowhole

 

Glenn at Byodo In Temple
Byodo In Temple

 

Buddha at Byodo In Temple
Koi at Byodo In Temple
Dove at Byodo In Temple
Cat Watching the Koi
Black Swan

 

Waterfall with Koi
Toad in Pond
Turtle
Byodo In Temple
Maka Pu Point

 

Sunset Beach Surfers
Sunset Beach Surfers

 

Surfrider Banyan Tree
Waikiki Sunset
Waikiki Sunset