Road trippin’ Down Under Part I

You didn’t honestly think I’d finished writing about our #adventuredownunder did you? Here’s the start of plenty more thoughts on that fabulous vacation. At the same time, my thoughts (and prayers) go out to all those affected by the terrible fires currently sweeping NSW and Queensland, many of which are close to some of the wonderful places we visited.

On two of our previous trips to Australia, we’ve greatly enjoyed the drives between the major towns, particulary those along the Great Ocean Road (Melbourne to Adelaide and vice versa), plus Melbourne to Sydney. Though I have to admit, Sydney to Adelaide was rather less interesting but the scenery was still spectacular.

This time we drove from Sydney, via the Blue Mountains, to Port Douglas. A pretty long drive which was broken down into manageable bite-sized chunks either side of two weeks in Brisbane. If at all possible, I keep the drives to around 4-5 hours max. for my beloved. Otherwise, it becomes too taxing. I also like to schedule frequent stops for coffee and comfort breaks (and taking photos).

A road trip from Sydney to Brisbane (900kms) is one of the classic east coast driving routes in Australia. In my opinion, the best sights are to be found along its exceptional coastline, which is as long as it is stunning, but there are countless detours well worth making inland.

Sydney is a fantastic place to start our east coast Australian adventure as it’s jam-packed full of iconic attractions which we’ve visited on previous trips in 2010 and in 2016. This time we stayed near our distributor in the wonderfully named Woolloomooloo  – don’t you just love that name? – before heading for three days in the Blue Mountains, a World Heritage site and a breathtaking, and unmissable natural attraction.

After a delightful and relaxing stay, it was time  to start the long journey north to Brisbane. The city of Newcastle is just a two-hour drive away, and it’s one of Australia’s most under-visited cities, ideal for a quick coffee stop and a quick look around its endless beaches, with that beautiful white sand which contrasts so starkly with the blue sea – a very familiar sight in Australia.

Two hours up the road is the Myall Lakes National Park, with its spectacular freshwater lakes, surrounded by walking trails and beautiful vistas. Not unnaturally, the area is also a haven for local wildlife. It too has beaches, with huge sand dunes and dramatic lighthouses perched on rising cliffs – time for lunch.

Two-hours further north and we reach the destination for our first overnight stop in the charming town of Port Macquarrie. It’s laid back and in beautiful surroundings, and we could easily have spent a few days exploring the long beaches, looking out for whales passing by on their way out to sea, or visiting the Koala Hospital to learn more about these lovable Aussie animals, their lifestyles and habits, but also about the dangers they face from modern life and their ever-shrinking habitats.

Our next short pit-stop was in Coffs Harbour, home to  the Big Banana, an enormous replica of a yellow banana that started the craze of ‘Big Things’ along the east coast. The town is surrounded by national parks and marine reserves, making it a great base to explore and enjoy the great Australian outdoors. We settled for lunch.

Our destination for the next few days was Byron Bay, one of the most famous – and popular – destinations along the east coast of Australia and the last major destination before we crossed the state border from New South Wales into Queensland. The town is known for its laid back vibes, surfing culture and classic Aussie lifestyle. Set around the beautiful sands and sea of a wide bay, this is a great place to soak up the sun and hit the waves. Watch the sunset over Byron Bay’s famous lighthouse, explore its rugged coastline and nearby towns of historic interest.

Over an hour’s drive from Byron Bay, Queensland’s Gold Coast is famous for its glitzy high rise buildings that tower above its sweeping beaches. This area is classic Australia, cities built by golden sands and perpetually shrouded in sunlight.The Gold Coast is an incredibly popular vacation destination, particularly for Australians, though the area can feel a wee bit touristy.

After covering over 900 kms (563 miles) of road, we at last arrived in Brisbane, the state capital of the Sunshine State of Queensland. Here the wide Brisbane River cuts through the city and along its banks are boardwalks, plenty of bars and restaurants, Southbank and the Brisbane Lagoon – a public, outdoor swimming pool and artificial beach. I really don’t need to say anymore about Brisbane which was the subject of a number of earlier posts. Here they are again if you missed them first time around.

Brisbane: Part I

Brisbane: Part II

Brisbane: Part III

Brisbane: Part IV

Brisbane: Part V

 

Sunshine’s Macro Monday #17

These photos were captured on my iPad mini while enjoying a walk in our neighbouring forest. There are some signs of winter’s approach but most of the trees still have their green leaves.

 

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for all your helpful feedback and kind comments on these posts – most encouraging.

Sunshine’s Macro Monday is a challenge hosted by Irene encouraging us to scrutinise the smallest of details by getting up close and personal and bringing someone or something to life in a photograph. It’s a one day challenge without prompts.  Irene posts a Sunshine’s Macro Monday post each Monday, just after midnight Central Time (US) so don’t forget to use the tag SMM and mention Sunshine’s Macro Monday somewhere on your post, create a pingback or add a link in the comment’s section of her post.

Special Blogger Award II

I was gifted this award by Steve and his feline companion Muffin who write about their lives and friends in the country over at Steve’s Country. If you don’t already follow this lovely duo, head on over to their blog and press the “Follow” button.

 

Award Rules

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  • Answer the questions you are asked ( if you’re comfortable doing so!)
  • Create 10 questions for the bloggers you’ve nominated.
  • Nominate at least 3 bloggers for the Special Blogger Award.
  • Comment on your nominees most recent blog post to let them know you’ve nominated.
  • Have a fun.

Steve’s Questions

1. How long have you been blogging?

Too long! I started back in 2009 but had a bit of a hiatus between 2012 – 2015 while blogging about cycling over on VeloVoices.

2. Did you like writing before blogging?

I’ve always enjoyed writing.

3. What did you like to write before blogging?

Mainly work-related stuff and newsy letters to friends

4. Do you think you will still be blogging a year from now?

Yes, unless you know something I don’t?

5. What is your favorite part of blogging?

Planning and preparation.

6. Have you ever had any nasty comments from people?

Not that I’m aware of……

7. Have you ever had to block someone?

No!

8. If no to #6, what would you do if you did get a nasty comment?

Ignore it! Life’s too short to worry about nasty comments. Sticks and stones and all that………………….

9. Do you enjoy flying?

Yes, I enjoy being airborne!

10. Would you prefer to fly across the ocean or go by boat?

Fly, every time. Please don’t tell Greta, she’ll cross me off of her Xmas card list.

My Nominees

You’re all Special Bloggers and equally deserving of this award so why don’t you join in and answer Steve’s questions? Either in a stand-alone post on your blog or in the comments below.

I hope you’re enjoying the weekend?

Best wishes

Sheree x

The Musette: easy, peasy, chocolate pudding

I think I may have mentioned that my beloved doesn’t believe a meal is complete without dessert! If I do make one it will generally just be for him, or for guests. Furthermore, he’s none too keen on eating the same dessert several days running. This means I either have to make a small amount or something that’ll easily freeze in portions.

This chocolate dessert falls into the former category and, what’s more, tastes quite different depending on whether it’s hot or cold – a result! It’s also rather indulgent and you can easily serve a smaller portion after several courses, either cooking it before dinner or while guests enjoy the cheese course. Furthermore, it’s made with ingredients that most cooks will have in their fridge and cupboards.

Ingredients (serves 4 large or 8 small portions)

  • 100g (31/2oz) dark (semi-sweet) chocolate
  • 2 tbsp dulce de leche
  • 2 medium organic eggs (approx. 55-60g shell on)
  • 100g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp espresso coffee powder
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 160ºC/140ºC fan/gas mark 3 (320ºF/275ºF fan).

2. Chop or break the chocolate into small pieces and leave to melt, without stirring, in a heatproof bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water (or on a low heat in the microwave). As the chocolate melts, gently stir in the dulce de leche and turn off the heat.

3. Break the eggs into a large bowl, add the sugar, salt and coffee powder and beat until thick and fluffy.

4. Stir the chocolate and dulce de leche into the mixture. You need only two three or three stirs to incorporate it. Do not over-mix it.

5. Transfer to containers using a rubber spatula.

6. Put the containers into a roasting tin or baking dish. Pour enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of them, then bake for 20 minutes until the surface is lightly crisp  – like a macaron – and the inside rich, thick and creamy.

7. Serve with a teaspoon and, if you wish, some cantucci or brutti ma buoni (hazelnut) biscuits.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. As they bake, a soft crust appears on these puddings, while the inside stays rich and fondant-like. They will stay like that for an hour or two, should you wish to make them a little ahead of time.

2. Heatproof china ramekins are ideal for these, but you can also bake them in ovenproof cups. I’ll use espresso cups if I’m making them as a dessert at a dinner party.

3. The recipe is scaleable should you wish to make more (or less).

4. I have baked these chocolate puddings hot for dessert at lunchtime and then my beloved has enjoyed another one cold in the evening, when it is like a thick, fudgy chocolate mousse.

5. I think you could also play around with the flavour by adding a tbsp organic orange zest (chocolate-orange) rather than the 1/2tsp coffee powder which just enhances the chocolate flavour.

6. You might be wondering what to do with the rest of the jar of dulce de leche? Never fear, I have some ideas

  1. A dollop of dulce de leche in your coffee will add sweetness and creaminess. Try it in your morning cup of joe and you will never want to start your day any other way. This also works nicely in iced coffee or hot chocolate, especially when topped with whipped cream.
  2. Next time you make porridge, pancakes, french toast or waffles trade maple syrup for dulce de leche. Warm it in the microwave or on the stove and drizzle over breakfast for a morning delight.
  3. Instead of using buttercream to ice cupcakes try using dulce de leche as a topping. I’ve also used it in Caramel Banana Cake.
  4. Dulce de leche makes a fun dip or sauce for fruit and it’s delicious drizzled over ice cream
  5. If you adore sweet and savory combinations try pairing dulce de leche with cheese (after all, they are both made from milk). Sounds yummy?

This recipe recently featured as a guest post over at A Jeanne in the Kitchen

Friday Photo Challenge – fruits

I love these weekly challenges because it forces me to think about what’s in my photo archives and how I might re-purpose them. I admit I didn’t realise I had so many photos that fit this challenge. Here’s the best ones (IMHO):-

If you’ve enjoyed this post, why not join in the fun?

Friendly Friday

How to join the Friendly Friday Photo Challenge

Post a comment below and include a ‘Friendly Friday’ ping-back in your post, so others can find your entry.

  • Publish a new ‘Friendly Friday, post including a URL link to the host’s post, tagging the post, ‘Friendly Friday’ Add the Photo Challenge logo, too, if you wish.
  • Copy the published url into the comments of the host’s post, so other readers can visit your blog.
  • Visit other Friendly Friday entries by following the links. It’s fun!
  • Follow the host blogs to see future prompts.

Please note there are no deadlines for any Friendly Friday Photo challenges.

Thursday doors #43

The next couple of weeks will feature doors photographed on my last visit to Alassio, in Italy, all from the same street!






Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

Postcard from Bordeaux

Easyjet has been selling tickets at ridiculously low prices, tempting me to book a few days away in Bordeaux, where we spent a couple of glorious days last summer. Leaving Wednesday morning and arriving at midday enabled us to spend some time that afternoon in Bordeaux. Sadly the weather was most inclement but being British means we never go anywhere without a raincoat and brolly.  Even so, we were glad to pop into one of the city’s major hotels for a late lunch and sanctuary from the rain.

Thursday we drove to Saint Emilion which we’d not had time to visit last summer. The clouds were still emptying their contents on us below and the sky looked positively menacing. However, the inclement conditions couldn’t hide Saint Emilion’s many charms. A small, well-preserved, medieval, honey-hued town, famous for its prestigious red wine, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

saint emilion map, tourism map st emilion france

Located on a limestone plateau, the medieval city has lots of small winding, steep streets called « Tertres », cobbled squares and ramparts. Unsurprisingly the streets are lined with restaurants and shops selling Saint Emilion wines and other local gastronomic specialties.

Saint Emilion was built around a cave dug by a monk of the same name. The cave still retains the Saint’s furniture carved into the rock. Along with a source of water, which Emilion would have used as a baptismal font and which still flows today.

Undergrounds tour and visit in Saint Emilion, France

The town’s flagship building is its monolithic church, the largest underground church in Europe which was dug into one single block of stone at the end of 11th century by the Benedictines.

Monolithic Church Saint Emilion France

Nearby, the Holy Trinity Chapel, built in 3th century, is also a designated historical monument. Inside, the building is decorated with particularly well-preserved frescoes and medieval paintings. Reshaped at different times, the chapel shows and represents the evolution of Gothic construction techniques.

Trinity Chapel Saint Emilion France

There’s also the imposing Collegiate church, largely Gothic, which was built in the early 12th century. It has some splendid murals from different periods and a remarkable organ. It’s also the town’s parish church.

Collegiate church saint emilion

Surrounded by those famous Bordeaux vineyards, Saint Emilion possesses all the ideal conditions for wine production. The omnipresent limestone offers exceptional soil for Saint Emilion’s vines plus its terroirs offer a great geological diversity and a microclimate perfectly adapted to viticulture.

Wineries close to Saint Emilion, vineyard saint emilion, visit saint emilion, map saint emilion wineries, map saint emilion vineyard

After a potter around the town, we nipped into one of its many delightful restaurants for a restorative, warming cup of coffee and discussed Brexit with the bemused owner. I imagine he’s had many such discussions with the large number of British living and holidaying in the area. Thereafter we headed to our lunch date at another restaurant, a scant 50 metres away.

My beloved much approved of my choice and we opted to place ourselves in the capable hands of the Head Chef who, knowing my dietary constraints, blew us away. Frankly, none of our plates needed to the services of a dishwasher, they’d been licked (not literally) clean. This was a chef who much merited his two Michelin stars, along with a capable and delightful front of house staff. We were most reluctant to leave and, as it’s attached to a hotel, it could feature on future visits.

The plan for Friday was to return to the restaurant Lalique which, since our visit last year, has recently garnered a Michelin star. Yesterday’s chef was a Breton, this one hails from Strasbourg, both areas with strong culinary traditions reflected in their stunning menus.

Unfortunately as Friday morning dawned my beloved said he felt unwell, too unwell to go out! Though not too unwell he couldn’t eat breakfast. I reluctantly cancelled lunch, left him with several bottles of mineral water and caught the tram into a very sunny Bordeaux to better explore its splendours.

Aside from wandering around the shops, I visited the Musée Beaux Arts and Musee des Arts Decoratifs both of which were relatively quiet. Neither was particularly large, the first one was just behind the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), with two small wings arranged around a lovely garden. While the second was built around a courtyard containing a restaurant which was the perfect spot for lunch.

I arrived back at our hotel late afternoon to discover my beloved was much recovered and looking forward to dinner! We ate at a small Italian restaurant recommended by the hotel which was extremely good. Saturday morning we rose ridiculously early to catch our flight back home. Trip over all too soon, but we’ll be back.

A visit to Cimetière du Père-Lachaise

Ordinarily I wouldn’t have chosen to visit a cemetery but in this case, I’d have missed a gem! Ostensibly heading to the Marais – totally in the opposite direction –  from lunch in 11th, my beloved made it sound as if this impromtu visit was his intention all along!

The cemetery takes its name from King Louis XIV’s confessor, Father François d’Aix de La Chaise. It’s the most prestigious and most visited necropolis in Paris. Situated in the 20th arrondissement, it extends to 44 hectares (110 acres) and contains 70,000 burial plots. It was the first garden cemetery, as well as the first municipal one in Paris. It is also the site of three WWI memorials.

The cemetery is a mix between an English park and a shrine. All funerary art styles are represented: Gothic graves, Haussmanian burial chambers, ancient mausoleums, a columbarium and crematorium etc. etc. A number of famous people are buried here but I confess to not spotting the graves of Honoré de Balzac, Guillaume Apollinaire, Frédéric Chopin, Colette, Jean-François Champollion, Jean de La Fontaine, Molière, Yves Montand, Simone Signoret, Jim Morrison, Alfred de Musset, Edith Piaf, Camille Pissarro or Oscar Wilde, to name just a few.

Père Lachaise is still accepting new burials however it’s not an easy place to secure a plot. I overheard a guide explaining to a group of tourists that you can only be buried there if you die in the French capital or if you lived there. Allegedly few plots are available but I spotted one or two. The grave sites range from a simple, unadorned headstone to towering monuments and even elaborate mini family chapels about the size and shape of a telephone booth, with just enough space for a mourner to step inside, kneel to say a prayer, and leave some flowers.

The cemetery manages to squeeze an increasing number of bodies into a finite and already crowded space. It does this by combining the remains of multiple family members in the same grave. At Père Lachaise, it is not uncommon to reopen a grave and inter another coffin. Some family mausoleums or multi-family tombs contain dozens of bodies, often in several separate but contiguous graves. Shelves are usually installed to accommodate their remains.

During relatively recent times, the cemetary has adopted the standard practice of issuing 30-year leases on grave sites, so that if a lease is not renewed by a family, the remains can be removed, space made for a new one, and the overall deterioration of the cemetery minimised. Abandoned remains are boxed, tagged and moved to Aux Morts Ossuary, in the cemetery.

Although some sources incorrectly estimate the number interred at around 300,000 in Père Lachaise, according to the official website of the city of Paris, over one million people have been buried there. Along with the stored remains in the Aux Morts Ossuary, the number of human remains exceeds 2–3 million – that’s a lot of bones! In addition, there are many more in the Columbarium, which holds the remains of those who opted for cremation.

We only strolled around a very small part of the cemetery but it was surprisingly peaceful and rather serene. I’d happily return for a more expansive tour. Who knows I might even find the resting place of one of those famous names above!

Sunshine’s Macro Monday #16

These photos were captured on my iPad mini while enjoying a visit to Bordeaux.



I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for all your helpful feedback and kind comments on these posts – most encouraging.

Sunshine’s Macro Monday is a challenge hosted by Irene encouraging us to scrutinise the smallest of details by getting up close and personal and bringing someone or something to life in a photograph. It’s a one day challenge without prompts.  Irene posts a Sunshine’s Macro Monday post each Monday, just after midnight Central Time (US) so don’t forget to use the tag SMM and mention Sunshine’s Macro Monday somewhere on your post, create a pingback or add a link in the comment’s section of her post.

Liebster Awards XI, XII and XIII

Again, a spot of amalgamation! I was honoured to be nominated by these three lovely bloggers:

  • Nico, a day-dreamer and servant of God, who blogs over at the little alchemist
  • Smiley Subi who expresses her thoughts and feelings over at Act out
  • Steve (and Muffin) who express their love of the countryside and its inhabitants over at Steve’s Country

These are all great blogs, so don’t forget to pay them a visit and give them a follow.

Now, I hope you’re sitting comfortably and have refreshments to hand because this is going to be another looooooooooooong post.

The Rules

1. Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you.

2. Share 11 facts about yourself.

3. Answer the questions the blogger(s) asked you.

4. Nominate some bloggers and make them happy!!

5. Ask your nominees some questions and notify them about the Liebster Award 🥇.

Nico’s questions

1. Are you a pessimist or an optimist

Incurable optimist!

2. Bookworm or gamer

3. Do you want to be a kid or an adult

An adult who’s young at heart.

4. Are you a sadist or an empath.

Empath

5. Introvert or extrovert

Introvert though most people think I’m an extrovert.

6. Singing or dancing

Neither!

7. Favourite writer

Nobel Prize-winning British author Kazuo Ishiguro.

8. Your passion

My beloved husband of 42 years.

9. Have life pause button or have life rewind button

Neither, I’m on fast-forward

10. Favourite sports

MotoGP, cycling and football.

11. Favourite quote

Anything by Dorothy Parker

Smiley Subi’s Questions

1. What is the best thing about you?

My positivity and energy

2. Why did you start blogging?

The short answer: “Because I could!” The long answer

3. According to you your best post.

This one about #EKKA has been my most popular recent post but my favourite one is about my father.

4. Would you like to donate your organs?

Absolutely!

5. The most beautiful gift you’ve ever given to your parents?

A large photo potrait of their three gorgeous daughters for their 50th wedding anniversary

6. Have you ever thought that there is another world beyond this world?

Why not?

7. Suppose you are a police officer and what will you do if a family member of yours commited a crime?

Encourage them to hand themselves in before I report them.

8. According to you, How can control corruption?

I’m not sure you can, because you need to eliminate all human greed.

9. What according to you is the best punishment to a Rapist?

It’s not up to me to decide on punishments, that’s for the justice system.

10. Which work ever you did that made you very happy?

I liked managing multi-disciplinary teams.

11. Best Memory of Life?

I’ve lots of great memories  – see my series of posts on them – and, I hope, I have more to come.

Steve’s Questions

What 11 things do you dislike and why?

Oooh, Steve, this is a tricky one but here goes:-

1. Discrimination for any reason, it’s just unjust!

2. Jaffa cakes! I cannot abide chocolate and orange together. The only think I like with chocolate, is more chocolate.

3. Disorganisation  – I like everything to be neat and orderly.

4. Dirty car – I like Tom (my SMART car) to be kept clean and tidy, and in tip-top condition. Remember those adverts about Toyota Yaris?

5. People who take credit for the work or efforts of others. I don’t think I need to explain why that’s not right.

6. Whiny, whinging kids. It’s not that I like them to be seen but not heard. I’m happy for them to be noisy – I certainly was – but I want joyous, energetic noise.

7. Anything that wastes my time. When you get to my age, the clock is definitely ticking. I don’t want to waste a moment.

8. I dislike it when my football teams (Aston Villa and OGC Nice) lose, but then so does every single supporter. We always want our teams to win, sadly it’s not always possible.

9. I dislike having to change the tyre on my bike after a puncture though, luckily for me, Frenchmen are so chivalrous that I very rarely have to. Someone will inevitably come to my rescue.

10. BREXIT, I’m a Remainer – obviously.

11. The causes of homelessness and poverty. The world needs to become a fairer place. I’m happy for my taxes to help those who are less well off, and so should everyone who’s as fortunate or more fortunate.

Nominees

As usual, I’m throwing this open to anyone who wants to join in. Feel free to pick up the challenge, run with it and answer all or just a few of the questions above but, above all, have a great weekend.