Our 5 faves from our #adventuredownunder

As my beloved and I conducted our holiday port-mortem, it inevitably threw up our vacation highlights. We then attempted to whittle these down to five – easier said than done on such a great trip. So here we go!

1. Getting up close and personal with the wildlife

As confirmed urbanites, we’re just not used to seeing wild animals, just domestic ones. At Wolgan Valley we loved coming out of our bungalow and finding roos and wallabies enjoying the surrounding grassy areas. These were regularly watered and, from the animals’ perspective, had lots of nice juicy green shoots. When they saw us approach, the wallabies tended to freeze and were therefore easier to photograph while the wombats and kangaroos scuttled or hopped away. However, we got some great shots of the kangaroos when we rode around the estate on mountain bikes.

We also love all the noisy birdlife though they proved even more difficult to photograph. Long range my iPad photos are too fuzzy or by the time my beloved had focused his camera the bird had literally flown the coop. Easiest of all to photograph were the animals at EKKA or at The Farm who were visibly constrained.

I didn’t mind the large lizards who enjoyed basking in the sunshine. The ones on Whitehaven were larger than those we spotted elsewhere but that might have been on account of them snaffling the BBQ left overs!

Plus, my beloved much enjoyed snorkeling in both the Whitsundays and on the Great Barrier Reef and seeing the amazingly colourful sea life.

I’m pleased to report that we did not at any time get up close and personal with sharks, orcas, crocs, snakes or poisonous spiders.

2. The wonderful sub-tropical and tropical flora

We absolutely loved the scenery, everything was just so lush and green. Of course, most of the time we had no idea about the names of the trees or flowers though many of you have since kindly identified much of what I’ve photographed and it’s much appreciated.

3. The night skies in Wolgan Valley

Because of the absence of any nearby lights, the skies were jet black and the stars did indeed twinkle like diamonds. It was quite magical and I’m only sorry that our attempts at photographing such magnificence came to nought. But we’ll never forget. The sunrises and sunsets were pretty spectacular too!

4.  Clear bright day-light beloved of artists

Living on the Cote d’Azur we’re used to the bright light beloved of artists but this was even brighter. Consequently, we rarely ventured out without Factor 50+, hats and sunglasses. Although we photographed loads of fabulous views, from time to time I wished I painted so as to better capture the light and the way it fell on the magnificent Aussie scenery.

5. People we met along the way

Aussies are by their very nature a friendly bunch and we met many who were escaping the winter conditions where they lived or who were enjoying holidays with their youngsters, before being tied down to school holidays. We also met a very entertaining family from India, a family of Chinese from Shanghai, all 20 clad in a team trip t-shirt and a delightful couple from Spain. Staff where we stayed were also unfailingly helpful with their much appreciated recommendations. Plus, I was most fortunate to catch up with fellow blogger Lyn in Brisbane in between her travels.  A big thanks to all of them for enriching our vacation.

One or two of you may be muttering what about the Great Barrier Reef? Well, that’s deserving of it’s own special post!

 

Post-mortem #adventuredownunder

I always conduct a post-mortem once we’re back on home soil. However much time you spend planning and preparing for a trip, there will be stuff that you learn along the way. As I mentioned in my road trip summaries, there are always more places to visit or to tarry longer than you have time available – that’s life! Friends often ask if there’s anything I would have done differently and my reply is pretty much always: “Stay longer!”

This time however I needed to be more objective as dear friends were planning to visit similar territory but with only two weeks to spare, and with two young boys in tow, it rather focussed the mind. I advised basing themselves in Byron Bay and Noosa where I thought they’d enjoy the laid-back beach lifestyles while also providing sufficient attractions. They followed my advice and look (from Instagram and Facebook) to be having plenty of fun.

In conducting my post-mortem, I like to examine every aspect of the trip looking where I could have made different or maybe better choices. Tongue-in-cheek I said we should’ve taken a helicopter ride to Wolgan Valley but that’s largely because my beloved disrupted my carefully made plans. Short of leaving him at home, there’s not much I can do about that.

There were a couple of disappointments. For example, I didn’t see a koala bear in the wild. Lots of signs, lots of statues but no actual bear. But that was offset by meeting a load of woolly, shy wombats in Wolgan Valley. I never managed to get a great photo of one as they tended to scamper off whenever I got too close, though I did visit one of their burrows, but there was no one home!

I scored my usual number of room upgrades – always pleasing – but never got to the bottom of why it tended to involve a spa bath. What is it with Australians and spa baths? Answers below please. We never made use of any of them, much prefering the ease and speed of a shower.

Despite not making any advance bookings, we ate at all the restaurants we’d wanted to visit though I suspect that might have not been so easy in high season. That said I don’t like to pre-book too many things, after all you don’t always know what you’re going to feel like eating. I like some scope for spontaneity and sniffing out places that aren’t already on tourist maps.

Some of the drives took longer than anticipated, largely due to roadworks. Aside from Wolgan Valley, we never got lost though we did wander off grid at times to better investigate some of the smaller, charming towns close by where we were staying.

Gratifyingly our holiday post-mortem contained many more highs than lows and threw up plenty more places we’d be happy to visit again.

 

 

Sunshine’s Macro Monday #18

These photos were captured on my iPad mini while wandering around the flat and terrace. As you can see from the photos, I’m still focussing on inanimate objects. I did try to photograph one of our small lizards and one of our Hitchcockian large black birds but both refused to stay still. I’m just not fast enough!

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.

Mystery Blogger Award III

I have accepted the very kind nomination from Betul Erbasi who writes short stories in English and Turkish over at a blog of the same name. Betul’s a PhD student at the University of Southern California and the blog provides her with an outlet for her creative talent. Head on over there, check out her blog and give her a follow.

Mystery Blogger Award” is for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are some of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging; and they do it with so much love and passion – I definitely fall into the latter category!

Okoto Enigma: https://www.okotoenigmasblog.com/my-greatest-creation-yet/

Three Things About Me

It’s getting more and more difficult to come up with stuff I’ve not already talked about!

1. My boss at my last employer decided to commission an assessment of his executive team. I came out as “The Board Rebel,” a title I much relished. My boss less so!

2. As a child I tried many times to get rid of my kid sister. I was unsuccessful!

3. Dogs love me! I’ve no idea why but they always make a bee-line for me.

Favourite Posts

I love all the posts about my beloved husband, such as:-

https://viewfromtheback.com/2017/12/31/things-my-beloved-has-lost-hire-car-keys/

https://viewfromtheback.com/2017/12/08/things-my-beloved-doesnt-do-put-things-back-where-they-belong/

https://viewfromtheback.com/2017/08/19/things-my-beloved-does-leaves-everything-until-the-very-last-moment/

Betul’s Questions

1. What was the last thing you challenged yourself with?

This https://viewfromtheback.com/2019/04/21/a-moment-of-madness/

2. What is your favorite food?

Probably lobster

3. What is your dream city like? What kind of city?

My dream city is where I live in France. I’m an unashamed urbanite.

4. Can you describe yourself in a sentence?

Don’t need a sentence. I can do it in 5 words – Remainer, happy, fun-loving, healthy and long-time married.

5. (Weird/Funny, repeated from above) What was your most embarrassing moment (or most disgusting habit – if you can’t think of one) ever?

I’m going to have to give this some thought. Oh, I know, when I accidentally stole a car. You know, I should write a post about that incident!

Award Rules

Is it my imagination or are these pesky rules multiplying?

1. Put the award logo/image on your blog.

2. List the rules.

3. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.

4. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well.

5. Answer the 5 questions you were asked.

6. Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.

7. You have to nominate 10-20 people.

8. Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog.

9. Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify).

10. Share a link to your best post(s).

My Nominees

Anyone can join in with the fun. Feel free to answer Betul’s 5 questions either in the comments below or in a stand-alone post on your own blog.

Above all, have lots of fun this weekend

Best wishes

Sheree x

The Musette: muffins

This is my trusty go-to recipe whenever I need to whip up a few (or more) muffins. It’s an incredibly forgiving recipe as the batter will last for 30 days in the fridge. Trust me, I’ve tried it and the last muffin is just as good as the first which is great if you only want to bake a few each time. It’s based on a recipe from Rachel Allen.These make both a great breakfast or a mid-ride refuel.

Ingredients (makes 18 muffins)

  • 3 large organic eggs (approx 45g [1⅔oz], without shells)
  • 225g (2½ cups) soft brown, raw or coconut sugar
  • 500ml (2 cups) buttermilk or plantmilk with a dash of cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 125ml (½ cup) vegetable oil
  • 485g (5 cups) wholemeal spelt flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

Your starter for delicious muffins

Your starter for delicious muffins

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan/gas mark 4 (350ºF/320ºF fan).

2. Take a pastry brush, dip it in vegetable oil and gently paint it all over the muffin tin. This will stop the muffins sticking to the tin if you’re not using muffin cases. If you are, place the cases in the tin(s). I make my own muffin cases from squares of greaseproof paper. (I explain how in my ‘handy hints’ section.)

3. Put the sugar and eggs into a large bowl and whisk to combine until air bubbles appear on the surface of the mixture.

4. Add the buttermilk, oil and vanilla and whisk again.

5. Sift and mix together the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda adding back the bran from the flour which will collect in the sieve.

6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and lightly combine. I find using a rubber spatula in a figure-of-eight movement works best. Ensure that no pockets of flour remain but don’t worry if the batter’s a bit lumpy. Lumpy batter makes light muffins. You now have your basic batter mix to which all manner of yummy ingredients can be added. See Sheree’s Handy Hints below.

7. Pour the mixture into a jug and fill the muffin cases ⅔ full, ensuring that you have equal amounts of batter in each case. Bake in the oven for 15-25 minutes (depending on the size of your muffin tin) or until soft and springy to the touch. Cool on a wire rack and then enjoy!

8. The muffins will keep in an air-tight container for 3-4 days, but they never seem to hang around that long.

9. Leave any unused batter in a jug in the fridge. Place clingfilm (plastic wrap) directly onto the surface of the batter to prevent a skin from forming.

A selection of muffins: here one minute, gone the next!

A selection of muffins: here one minute, gone the next!

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the muffins in the oven, put the timer on for five minutes less than they should take to cook and then check regularly.

3. You can slightly under-bake small cakes as they’ll continue cooking for a few minutes after they come out of the oven.

4. Variations: Take 400ml (14fl oz), approx ⅓ of the basic batter – enough for six muffins – and add the following ingredients:

Fruit and nut

  • 100g (3½oz) raisins
  • 75g (3oz) apple puree
  • 75g (3oz) finely chopped, cored and peeled eating apple
  • 50g (2oz) chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1 tsp cinnamon or mixed spice (optional)
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest (optional)

Blueberry

  • 100g (3½oz) fresh blueberries
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest

Carrot, apple and ginger

  • 75g (3oz) apple puree
  • 75g (3oz) finely chopped, cored and peeled eating apple
  • 100g (3½oz/1 cup) grated carrot
  • 1 tsp of ginger juice squeezed from a piece of fresh ginger

Banana and chocolate

  • 100g (3½oz) peeled and mashed very ripe banana
  • 100g white chocolate pellets, but you could also use either dark or milk chocolate
  • 75ml (2½fl oz) maple syrup

Strawberry and white chocolate

  • 100g (3½oz) firm strawberries, hulled and chopped into small pieces
  • 100g white chocolate pellets
  • 1 tsp of grated orange zest

Let your imagination run riot! Combine tastes and textures which you know go well together and, if necessary, add additional liquid in the form of dairy, fruit juice or maple syrup to maintain a soft pouring consistency.

5. Make your own muffin cases by cutting 15cm (6 inches) square pieces of greaseproof paper and put four into each muffin moulds. Push well down, pleating the sides and leave overnight to set.

Friday Photo Challenge – dramatic

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.

Well, you can’t get much more dramatic than the Great Barrier Reef!

 

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 #44

Today I’m featuring doors photographed on my last visit to Alassio, in Italy, which are 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).

Road trippin’ Down Under Part II

Driving around Australia has often turned into much more than driving from A to B as quickly as possible. It’s given us a fine appreciation of the varied and beautiful landscapes, land use and crop cultivation, the rigours of life in the Outback, distances, and how difficult it must have been for those early settlers – convicts or otherwise.

I spend hours researching where to stay and for how long and it was satisfying that as the trip unfolded I’d largely been proved correct. I say largely because there’s always places where we could have tarried longer or towns en route where I would have happily stopped and further investigated their charms.

In Airlie Beach we met a couple of retirees from Tasmania who were spending four months touring NSW and Queensland – now, that’s a holiday! I was suitably envious. What a great way to escape the rigours of a Tasmanian winter. In fact we met so many holiday makers from Tasmania that I suspected the island was closed for winter!

After two weeks in Brisbane, we were heading for possibly the most famous stretch of Australia, the north-eastern coast between Brisbane and Cairns, a must-see corner in the Land Down Under. From Brisbane in the South of Queensland right up to Cairns in the tropical North, we were advised that this mega road trip is a feast for beach lovers, sun worshippers, adrenaline seekers and adventurists. Mmmm, not sure we fit into any of those descriptions. We’ll just have to see!

This narrative covers our road trip spent partly on the M1 Motorway and thereafter on the A1, often referred to as the Bruce Highway, 1679 km (1,043 miles) via Cairns to Port Douglas. The highway was named after a popular former Queensland and federal politician, Harry Bruce who was the state Minister for Works, in the mid-1930s.

In some ways, the second half of our journey was more interesting as it wasn’t spent on a motorway with service stations. Instead we relied upon small restaurants, some little more than shacks beside the road, for snacks, lunches and comfort breaks. We’ve learned not to judge a book by its cover. On the drive to Rockhampton, we stopped at a particularly unprepossessing establishment which was run by an elderly couple. Inside was spotless and my beloved ate his best scone ever! Sadly, I couldn’t get her to part with the recipe which she said was a closely guarded family secret. I knew I should’ve gotten the pliers out – only joking!

As the map above shows, there’s plenty to see and do along the way and we’d certainly have liked to spend more time visiting and exploring this part of the coast – maybe next time!

Our first stop was just a couple of hours up the road from Brisbane in Mooloolaba though we probably spent more time in Noosa, another spot famous for surfing. We enjoyed its beaches, lunched there, wandered around its national park and perused its shops and open-air markets.

Two hours further on from Noosa is Hervey Bay, famous for whale watching and an ideal jumping off point for Fraser Island. An exceptional UNESCO-listed island formed by great wind and oceanic currents which carried a vast amount of sand from Antarctica. It’s now home to diverse natural vegetation and wildlife which we didn’t have time to see.

Next up is Bundaberg home for over 100 years of the legendary Bundaberg Rum – gotta find another use for all that sugar cane! It’s only an hour’s drive from Hervey Bay and is the southernmost gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. The town is flanked by captivating lagoons, coral cays and white beaches. Close by is Mon Repos Park, the largest home for nesting sea turtles on the Australian mainland.

En route to our overnight stop in the cattle town of Rockhampton, we swept through the beautiful historic town of Childers. Then we swooshed past Yeppoon, another coastal town known for its peaceful tropical vibe, near to Great Keppel Island renowned for its wildlife and magical sunsets. It’s nearby Cooberrie Park Wildlife Sanctuary takes care of orphaned, injured and sick wildlife. Sadly, most of the wildlife we saw on the side of the road was beyond caring for. It was roadkill.

As we drove further south, the vivid green sub-tropical became lush, dense totally tropical countryside. This included substantial tracts of cattle country with plenty of verdant green pastures though the earth frequently changed colour from a rich red to a sandy yellow-ochre.

We were heading for a few days in Airlie Beach, the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands, and the Great Barrier Reef. No road trip from Brisbane would be complete if you didn’t stop in this picture perfect spot.

 

We saw plenty of sugar cane fields being burnt prior to harvest and massive long trains carrying the harvested cane to the refineries as the railway often runs alongside and criss-crosses the Highway. The scenery was now totally tropical with avocados, mangoes, peanuts, afore-mentioned sugar cane, sweet corn and still more cattle as we headed to Townsville, an army town and the largest city in north Queensland. Townsville has always been a military town due to its strategic coastal position but it has a delightful old town to walk around, particularly along the Strand.

All too soon we were onto our last port of call, Port Douglas, an hour’s drive from Cairns. We hit the coast at Caldwell, famed for its crabs and lunched at the charming Art Deco town of Innisfail before turning off the highway and driving the last stretch alongside the ocean.

Port Douglas offers plenty of fun-filled activities and opportunities to relax thanks to its bustling beach life and the Great Barrier Reef. The nearby Daintree rainforest is arguably the oldest and one of the most scenic rainforests on earth where you can swim in mint green waters. Just watch out for the crocs – only kidding!

Hard to imagine that our six week #adventuredownunder was over. The time had just flown past but I now had time to reflect on all that we’d seen and done. Plenty of fodder for further posts!

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.