Friday Photo Challenge – nature

This photograph was taken in January 2016 and shows part of Australia’s largest and most beautiful inland waterways, the Gippsland Lakes. A network of lakes, marshes and lagoons covering over 600 square kilometres, separated from the ocean by coastal dunes known as Ninety Mile Beach. Unsurprisingly, bird and marine life thrives here. It’s a magnificent spot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

12 days of Christmas: Day 11

It’s perhaps inevitable that after another fabulous vacation in Australia so many of the photographs are from our last trip there. My two younger sisters are dedicated sun-worshippers and couldn’t get over the number of photographs of totally empty beaches I posted on Facebook, such as this one on the Mornington Peninsula. But many of the beaches are dangerous, I’m not talking sharks but riptides which could easily sweep you out to sea. However, I just loved those miles of empty sandy beaches bordered by greenery and pounded by the waves.  I think they look wild and remote. Perfect for a spot of chilling, but nothing more.

12 days of Christmas: day 3

This is the wooden jetty at Seaford, a beach resort near to Melbourne, at dusk. We spent two weeks here earlier this year staying in a small studio apartment right opposite this glorious beach. It’s a popular resort with families largely because the water’s very shallow until you’re almost at the end of the pier which teems with fishermen. At dusk, the beach is empty apart from a few dog walkers and some seabirds. We love wandering along sandy beaches but rarely ever spend time sitting on them. I just love the play of colours between sea and sky at sunrise and sunset.

12 days of Christmas: day 2

So many of our holidays and trips are built around watching live bike racing. This photo was taken by my beloved at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, the ladies event. A race which was as equally thrilling as its men’s counterpart the following day. Unusually, my beloved had gone off on the back of a motorbike to watch the race unfold on the roads around Geelong which we first visited back in 2010 for the UCI Road World Championships. This photo showcases the verdant landscape and gives a flavour of the mounting excitement as the riders approach.

12 days of Christmas: day 1

Over the next 12 days I’ll be posting a selection of my favourite photos from 2017. It’s a tough task whittling thousands of them down to just 12, a handful of which make it on to our Christmas card. Not unnaturally, because of our trip to Australia earlier in the year, it looms large on our photographs. This year, we’re going cross-country skiing in Austria, a complete contrast. I’m sure that at some point during the vacation, which I know will be lovely, I’ll think back fondly to our two last year end trips to Australia. I’ve already got our next one planned but it’s unlikely to be before 2020 because of pressure of work.  This is one of my favourite photos simply because of the strong bold colours on the beach huts, something one inevitably associates with British south-coast holiday spots. These however are on Mornington Beach. Don’t they just gladden your hearts?

Postcard from Melbourne: Part III

I cannot believe that our Australian adventure is almost over. The time has just flown by and we’ve had such a blast.  Later today we’ll be flying back via Dubai and a four-day Dental Exhibition.

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We’ve spent the last 10 days or so, including Australia Day, close to the Mornington Peninsula. Last year we spent the national holiday in Coonawarra and everything was closed. This year we had live racing to watch. The organisers of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race put on crits around the F1 racetrack in Melbourne. There was a good turnout, despite the rather low key promotion of the event.

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We’ve been staying in a small flat, off the main drag, which is beautifully decorated and appointed. We’re within a minute’s walk of all amenities including, the station – direct line to Melbourne – and the beach, long and gloriously sandy. Even I was tempted to wander along the shoreline. It was also great for my early morning plodding and my beloved’s rides as he could easily cycle to the more undulating terrain on the Mornington Peninsula.

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Over the first week-end, we drove to Geelong for the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Races. We’d passed on this race last year because the weather had been very wet. This time around the weather was beautiful and we stationed ourselves at the yacht club – facilities, food, big screen, close to start and finish line – for two great days of racing.  

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We had planned to watch some of the stages of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour but finally settled for just stage one’s individual time-trial once we realised the latter stages were in the back of beyond, over 400kms from Melbourne! While I’m not one to pass up on the opportunity to watch live sport, I felt a few days just chillin’ before flying to Dubai would be perfect. In addition, my beloved could continue to build his base mileage for the new cycling season in Europe. 

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Our days soon fell into our usual routine of early breakfast, exercise, lunch out, followed by a spot of moseying around, largely on the Mornington Peninsula. We love Mounts Martha and Eliza, the hinterland around Red Hill and Arthur’s Seat, and the beaches on the wilder Southern Ocean coast. We took the opportunity to visit a number of farm and vineyard restaurants while the weather was warm and dry.  

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I had a potter around the shops for gifts to take back to family and friends. I also went shopping for a swimsuit. The shops here have a dizzying selection, and the sales had already started. Typically none of the ones I liked were in the sale. Instead I fell in love with what must have been the most expensive suit in the shop. Still, it fitted, made me look slimmer and was extremely flattering. You can’t put a price on that, can you? 

Wednesday afternoon, we took the train into Melbourne to watch the Jayco Herald Sun Tour team presentation and short prologue. One of my VeloVoices’ colleagues is a huge Kenny Elissonde fan so I interviewed him using her questions. I managed to pose most of them, not necessarily in the same order. It was kind of strange interviewing a rider with someone else’s questions, albeit really good questions. However, my colleague was delighted so I might find myself doing it again.

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Thursday we had lunch at an olive farm with a great menu for me and enjoyed a post-lunch stroll around the grounds admiring their veggie garden. Friday we ventured into one of the major cycling clothing shops to check out the latest Australian kit, all in the interest of research you understand! My beloved is now the proud owner of some navy blue kit. 

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Over our final week-end the weather has been spectacular and after our morning work-out we made farewell visits to some of our favourite spots before returning to lounge on the beach and reflect on our magnificent trip. We’ll definitely return to Australia but it probably won’t be until my beloved retires so that we can spend at least three months here. While it would be nice to return next year, I don’t think we’ll be able to take such a long break away from Europe while he’s still working. In fact, next year’s Christmas vacation is already organised. We’ll be spending a month cross-country skiing (weather permitting) in Seefeld (Austria) in an apartment we last stayed in many summers ago – another trip down memory lane!

Postcard from Adelaide to Melbourne

Tour Down Under over and it’s time to return to Melbourne for the last leg of our holiday. Like last year, time has just flown by. The sun was shining as we pointed our hire car in the direction of Portland, back in Victoria. Last year, we stopped here for lunch and found the place and area charming so, this year, we’re back for a second bite of the cherry. But first, we had a five hour drive to reach Portland.

The views from Adelaide as you descend to the Murray River Plain are magnificent. It’s a rich agricultural area and I remember covering it in Geography at school, many years ago. It’s odd how some things stick in the mind, isn’t it? But needless to say those rich alluvial plains are pretty fertile, the food basket of Adelaide. We stopped for lunch at a roadside tavern and enjoyed oysters four ways before driving in the direction of Mount Gambier  – which we visited last year – and Padthaway. The grazing land suddenly gave way to massive vineyards and then, five miles up the road, and we’re back to cattle country. 

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We try not to traverse roads we’ve driven before but some duplication is inevitable. However, our GPS decided to send us cross -country along  C roads. A welcome diversion where the countryside was beautiful but we only passed two cars in over 200km. Lucky that we’d already eaten lunch, had plenty of drinks and a full-tank. 

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The weather was glorious as we arrived into the coastal town of Portland whose claim to fame is that it was the first city in Victoria, established ahead of Melbourne. Where we were staying overlooked the bay and was a five minute saunter into town. Sadly, the next day it poured but not before we’d had our daily ride/run. Still, you don’t mind having to do a spot of work when it’s blowing a gale outside. The great restaurant we’d eaten in last year was closed, but there are plenty of alternatives in town along with an interesting selection of galleries and gift shops.

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From Portland, it’s just a hop skip and a jump to the wonderfully scenic Great Ocean Road, one of the great roads of the world. Yes, we drove along here last year but you can never tire of such scenery. The road undulates and, every time you crest a climb, there are magnificent sea views – turquoise sea, foaming white against the red and yellow ochre cliffs. Much of the  surrounding countryside is akin to moorlands, dotted with grazing sheep and cows, plus some arable pasture, already harvested and in bales. 

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The road skirts the Great Otway National Park which is thickly wooded and carpeted with ferns. The smell of eucalyptus is heady but I still haven’t spotted a koala in the trees. Naturally shy, they must avoid the trees fringing the roads through which you get tantalising glimpses of the bright blue southern ocean.

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I’d built into the programme lunch at the Apollo Bay fish shack where last year we’d both eaten the best fish and chips ever under the watchful gaze of loads of marauding gulls, ready to do battle for any leftovers. It didn’t disappoint. The lobster tempted me until I realised it was large enough to feed a family of four, and then some. 

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After lunch we headed through the Park and inland for an hour or so to Birregurre, home to a restaurant of some repute which sadly only serves a tasting menu.  We were staying in a delightful historic homestead which is a national heritage property built in 1865, wonderfully preserved and maintained by the current owners, and sitting in splendid gardens. Sadly, the owners are shutting up shop at the end of February, so we were just in the nick of time.

With no dining options in Birregurra, we drove 20km to Colac and dinner in the only restaurant in town with white tablecloths and napkins – delicious. Sated we returned to our cosy B&B and watched the first BBL semi-final – a bit of a whitewash for the Perth Scorchers against the Melbourne Stars. After a delightful homemade breakfast we were back on the road and heading for Seaford, the final stop on our Australian adventure, just a few hours away, and where we’d be spending Australia Day. We learnt last year when in Coonawarra that most small towns totally shut up shop on their national holiday,  we’re not going to repeat that mistake this year.

Postcard from Melbourne: Part I

Despite an early morning arrival into Melbourne, we were able to get into our rental apartment, unpack and head out for breakfast nearby. We are staying in the same apartment in Prahran that we stayed in earlier in the year, only for longer. We enjoyed the area so much and it reminds me of where we used to live in London: lots of small independent shops, great restaurants, a buzzy and lively vibe. Of course, we stick out like two sore thumbs among the tattooed, shorts and singlet wearing local population.

Part of the area’s charm is that we know where to find most things but there’s still areas and side-streets to be explored. The spacious one-bedroomed flat has everything you need: great WiFi, dishwasher, washer/dryer, free car parking, a large balcony, great security, and more. In addition, we got quite friendly with the owner, a charming lady from Vietnam, who kindly stored our bulky bike boxes for the entire duration of our trip. She’s obliging again this time.

Having downed breakfast, we went shopping at the local market – my idea of heaven – snatched a power nap and then headed into Melbourne for the first of what was going to be many sporting events, a Twenty20 Big Bash match. Just a hop, skip and a jump on the train from where we were staying, once armed with our Myki tickets (Aussie version of Oyster cards).

I have fallen in love with The Big Bash League, the Australian professional Twenty20, eight-team cricket league  sponsored by none other than Kentucky Fried Chicken. Who knew the Colonel was a cricket fan? Generally I’m not, though I can appreciate the strategy and love the stats. My Dad played cricket and taught me to catch and bowl at an early age. As a result, I played cricket for school and was a demon batsman and bowler. Last year I thrilled to the exploits of Messrs Gayle and Khawaja, neither of whom is playing this year and, aside from seeing a live match in Adelaide, watched the last series on the television.

I find five-day test matches a long slow smoulder, while Big Bash games are incendiary devices. Judicious use of players and tactics still apply but there’s so much less time to achieve one’s goals. Only 20 overs (240 balls), around 80-90 minutes aggressive play for each team, and it’s game over. Teams, which have a salary cap, can have a maximum of 18 contracted players with a minimum of two rookies and a maximum of two overseas’ players, plus their understudies. For example, the Melbourne Renegades have Dwayne Bravo and Sunil Narine, both from the West Indies.

Twenty20 is very much family based entertainment and at least half of Thursday’s 23,000 audience were kids. Audience participation is greatly encouraged with prizes for those caught on camera performing the best air guitar routine, watering (one of the team’s sponsors makes hoses), victory celebration etc etc. You get the idea. In addition, there’s plenty of competitions at half-time with prizes for spectators and the dozens of pint-sized mascots. 23,000 might not sound like much of a crowd but, don’t forget, there’s two teams in Melbourne, the Renegades and the Stars.

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Dressed appropriately in red and black, we were supporting the Renegades who were up against last year’s league winners, Sydney Thunder. The latter won the toss and elected to field. The Renegades quickly built an impressive strike rate largely off the back of the exploits of their captain and firm crowd favourite, Aaron Finch. Having scored 7-179 runs, the Renegades managed to stifle and then snuff out any threat from the Stars using the full-range of their bowlers’ skills. It was an impressive shutdown.  Our next game is on New Year’s Day and it’s the Melbourne derby. But don’t expect any shots of either of us wearing KFC buckets, minus the chicken, on our heads!

12 Days of Christmas – day 11

There’s nothing I love better than a good sunrise or sunset. Generally, the view from our apartment provides spectacular photographs at any time of the day but when I looked back over the ones we’d taken, this one from the Yarra Valley stood out.

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We spent the last 10 days or so of our Australian adventure in the very relaxing wine-producing Yarra Valley  from where we fully explored the area and watched the Herald Sun Tour. We’ll be doing the same again in 2017 but this time from the Mornington Peninsula where I’m sure the sunrises and sunsets will be equally spectacular.

12 Days of Christmas – day 1

I’ve searched through the thousands of photographs we’ve both taken this year for 12 which sum up our 2016. It hasn’t been an easy task. I could have easily picked 12 from those taken in Australia or from the many bike races we’ve seen. But I haven’t.

Shortly after this series starts, we’ll be jetting off to Dubai, en route to another winter in Australia. This year I have no excuse other than when friends asked me if I’d have done anything differently on last year’s trip, I replied “Stay longer!” So that’s what we’re doing and it’s only fitting that I start with a photograph from Australia.

 

Gippsland Lakes
Gippsland Lakes

The Gippsland Lakes are a network of lakes, marshes and lagoons covering over 600 sq kilometres, separated from the ocean by coastal dunes known as Ninety Mile Beach. Bird and marine life thrive here, with lake dolphins and pelicans frequenting many locations. We passed through here when we drove along the coast from Melbourne to Sydney. The scenery along the way was stunning but the beautifully scenic Lakes were the piece de resistance!