Saturday, 29 September 2012

A Pictorial Summary of Springtime in the Mountains

A week spent in the Blue Mountains would take more than one blog post to describe, so instead, I will use the adage 'a picture is worth a thousand words' and sum up the glorious beauty of springtime in the mountains in pictures.

1. Jenolan Caves
Although I chickened out and did not go inside a cave, I thoroughly enjoyed the spectacular views as we walked the track above the caves.

2. Local Wildlife
Along with these beautiful parrots, I saw wild rabbits, echidnas, kangaroos, kookaburras, emus, iguanas (and other lizards), other vibrantly coloured birds and a huntsman spider!

3. Mount Wilson
Gardens in full springtime bloom, I have not the words to describe the utter beauty of the flowers

4. The Waterfalls
Family traditions abounded as we explored the familiar waterfalls. Many memories were laughed over and relived as we relished the beauty of the rainforest.

5. Grandma's Garden
Her garden was something that Grandma loved spending time in and it was special to be able to enjoy the beauty of the flowers she had planted and tended, albeit bittersweet to not have her there to share it with.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Meandering through Melbourne #4

Day 2 in Melbourne started off with coffee and a bookshop...where I indulged in my one weakness...books! (I may have purchased just one or two...) we then went walking, and walking, and walking. We walked to the Royal Botanical Gardens, across the Yarra River and through three other gardens. The flowers were beautiful, with many of them just beginning to bloom. I think I took more photos of flowers than anything else!

We found a glorious tearoom in the garden by the lake where we enjoyed lunch and rested our very weary feet after walking down many paths in the gardens. Our adventures continued through the gardens, past Government House and to the Shrine of Remembrance (the war memorial). As a history teacher, I appreciated the opportunity to pay homage to the men and women who have served our country in war. I also picked up a few teaching resources in the shop at the memorial, before we climbed to the top. We found a good vantage point with clear views over the gardens and the city.

By then it was afternoon tea time (yes, we did do a lot of eating on our trip!) and found a lovely cafe within the gardens to have a coffee and piece of cake. By this time we were quite tired, so mounted the free tourist bus to the art gallery, where we wandered around being 'cultured'. There truly have been some talented artists over time! The detail and depth in some of the works was incredible to look at.

Sore-footed, we limped back into the centre of the city, mounted the tram and got back to our hotel to pick up our bags and then it was time to end our adventures and head back to the airport after quite a whirlwind visit!

The adventures were not quite over though. Upon arriving at the airport, we discovered that our flight had been delayed, so, we, being the seasoned travelers we are, calmly sat on the terminal floor and awaited our flight! Eventually our plane arrived and it was off to another city....Sydney for a week next!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Meandering through Melbourne #3

After lunch, we boarded the highly convenient, free tram service and went to the Melbourne Gaol, a somewhat grim place to visit, considering its past purposes, however, still a very interesting place to go. We also added to our pressed pennies collection again and raised our eyebrows at some rather obscure art exhibits within the cells. Thankfully we were not locked up in the gaol and were able to go free to further explore. We did a bit of shopping, made a few purchases and then discovered a heavenly coffee and chocolate shop where we had the most divine cinnamon hot chocolate and mocha with incredible cakes on the side. It was indeed an experience that we will not soon forget. 

It was then time to go and dress up, ready for the main event of the trip. In our pretty dresses, with bows in our hair, we set off for the theatre, adrenalin running high with pent up excitement....this was the moment we had been counting down to, Agatha Christie's 'The Mousetrap'. We were not disappointed by the performance and I was quite pleased with myself in that I guessed 'who dunnit' by the intermission! However, as we are sworn to secrecy I shall not say any more. You will just have to see it for your self someday. 

Melbourne truly is a city that comes to life at night-when we had arrived in the city at 9 in the morning, the city was quiet, however, walking back to our hotel at 10:30 at night, the streets were a hive of activity. For us though, it was time for bed, to dream of gardens, fountains, chocolate and three blind mice. 

Still to come: the adventures of day 2 in Melbourne. 

Meandering through Melbourne #2

Melbourne is a city designed for people like me with no sense of direction-the city is in clearly defined blocks, so if you keep turning the same direction, you will end up back where you started. 

With my trusty little tourist map in hand, we set off from St. Paul's  Cathedral and Flinders Street Station to find the Museum. However, being the highly focused people that we are, we got just a little bit distracted on the way! First we spotted another Cathedral and had to go and see it, so, dodging the Asian tourist camera flashes and trying to avoid being in their photos, we wove our way up to St Patrick's Cathedral. After duly admiring the intricate wood work and stained glass windows, and agreeing that we both appreciate the grandeur of St Paul's more, we again set off for the museum.... Only to be distracted again...this time, by gardens. Who can turn down wandering through gardens that are just coming into bloom! 

The Fitzroy Gardens were beautiful, the trees that had lost their leaves for winter had soft green regrowth on then, flowers were blooming and the grass was a brilliant green. The Conservatory was an absolutely gorgeous burst of vibrant color with brilliant flowers in bloom in every direction.

Just outside was Captain Cook's Cottage, which of course, we had to visit and wander through (we won't be complaining about the size of our bedrooms any time soon!). 

After wandering around the gardens, we again set off for the Museum. Without too much trouble, we found the Carlton Gardens (more pretty flowers to admire and take photos of, and another picturesque little bridge). Of course, located within the Carlton Gardens is the Royal Exhibition Building which made a good backdrop for some photos (we didn't go inside as some sort of car and boat show was being held within this great, historic building). 

Finally, we reached the museum and spent hours revelling in history and nature. My traveling buddy was most excited to see Phar Lap (the famous Australian racing horse) and I enjoyed the exhibits displaying how early Australians lived. I then got attacked by a stuffed flying squirrel (don't ask) and charged at by a live bower bird. On a high note, we saw a beautiful fairy wren in the rainforest gallery (which, unlike the rest of the museum, displays things that are alive!). We then added to our collection of pressed pennies before setting off to find lunch.

Food, glorious food....we were indeed anxious to find some, and so I introduced my traveling buddy to Sushi, yum! We bought our sushi and then did what Melbournians seem to do best, sat in a park and ate our food while resting our poor little feet before setting off for more sightseeing and adventure.

To be continued.....

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Meandering through Melbourne #1

It's school holidays and I'm off for an adventure. I have itchy feet and an unused sense of adventure, making it high time for a trip somewhere! Plus, I need to practice using my oh so accurate sense of (mis)direction. 

I made my escape from everyday life early on the first day of school holidays (as a student you don't realize that the teachers are counting down to the holidays with even more anticipation than you are!). My exclusive personal assistant has now become my traveling buddy and together we set off to explore the great historic and cultured city of Melbourne for a weekend. Day one started well and ended even better :-)

We arrived in Melbourne before the city was properly awake and found our hotel without getting lost once(quite a feat for me). We then set off to firstly find a good cup of coffee, and secondly to see the city. Coffee was quickly procured and then the walking began. St Paul's Cathedral was first, and I wax pleasantly reminded of my time in Europe as I wandered through this city and gazed up at awe-inspiring stained glass windows and marveled at the contrast between the old and new buildings that make up the skyline.

Much to my delight, spring flowers greeted us at every turn, nodding their bright heads as we stopped to admire them

To be continued...

Sunday, 16 September 2012

'The List' (until I read something else!)

As an English teacher, people often ask me what my favourite literary work is, and over this year I have compiled a list of books that rank highly on my list (however, I don't think I can choose just one favourite, as they are each unique and loved for their own qualities). These are the books that I go back to again and again ( I have read most of them more than half a dozen times each, some of them more!). Here is my current (but forever adapting) list, in no particular order:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
A beautiful, sweet story that tugs on your heartstrings whilst being mentally stimulating due to its unconventional structure that adds to its charm

Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I'm cheating with this one and putting in a collection of stories that are all brilliantly mystifying

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
An original take on a story that's been told many times before, the fate of humanity during World War II, but in a simple and beautiful way. (A bonus for this one is that one of its driving themes is the power of words and language, the tune to which my English-teacher heart sings!)

To Kill a Mockinbird by Harper Lee
You simply cannot go past this classic tale of childhood against the racist backdrop of a court case in 1930's Alabama (I would also include Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry by Mildred Taylor and Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton here)

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
So much wit and literary prowess in such a short novel written by one of the greatest female writers of all time (and with characters like Lizzie and Mr Darcy, you can't go wrong!)

Persuasion by Jane Austen
My personal favourite Austen work, with deep character development, flawed and realistic characters and a love story that keeps me in suspense every time I read it!

Stasiland by Anna Funder
A non-fiction work about East Germany post-WWII, a society in which 'Big Brother' was no laughing matter. (In a similar vein, The Bone Woman by Clea Koff is an anthropological study into some of the worst recent human tragedies)

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Approach this classic work with great expectations and you will not be dissappointed!

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
A beautiful 'period drama romance' woven against the backdrop of social reform and the industrial revolution, painting a picture of interwoven nature of the harshness and beauty of life

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
A tale of intrigue and suspense set during the French Revolution. Once you get past the first chapter, you won't want to put it down!

There you have it, my pending top ten novels. Anyone have any recommendations for me to add to my list?

(I think I may have just compiled my holiday reading list!)

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Koala Spotting

On my way out of school one day this week (yes, we teachers do, on occasion, escape from the school grounds) I spotted this beautiful Australian animal, who compliantly posed for some photos!