Sunday, December 31, 2017

Our Last House

New house - Garden will appear front left square
Two years ago we sold our house at Alice Springs. It was a lovely, comfortable house with four bedrooms, a spacious multi-purpose room and outdoor area, and a large garden. It needed painting and new carpets and some work done on the garden, but we were fortunate enough to sell it without having to do all that.

The new owners were happy to do the painting and lay carpets and also wanted a swimming pool, so we negotiated a price adjustment and placed our goods in storage while we waited for a new house to be built at Nuriootpa, South Australia.

It suited us well. We planned to do some travel overseas and in Australia while our new abode was being built. Unfortunately, the house we had in mind wasn't going to be completed until late 2018 after an earlier estimate of Christmas 2017. We were disappointed, so we decided to make alternative arrangements.

Now, we have paid a deposit on a newly completed house at Tanunda, South Australia, only six kilometres from Nuriootpa and also close to Angaston. The three towns form the centre of the Barossa Valley which many of you will know is one of Australia's largest wine producing regions.

Our new house is conjointly owned by the Barossa Village, a retirement village organisation that provides three levels of aged care; independent living, home care and residential care.

The house has three bedrooms, two bathrooms (both roomy), a one car garage, and a combined kitchen, lounge dining room. We would have liked a two car garage, but none was available. Such is life.

By Australia Day (26th January 2018) we hope to be settled in but will probably still be unpacking our personal effects as they will be delivered the day before.

We are getting excited as the days pass.


Sunday, July 09, 2017

Our European Jaunt Completed!

Which of those great poets wrote, "Much have I travelled in the realms of gold ...?" I've forgotten, but we've travelled in the realms of history, all over many of the great cities and towns of Europe and it has seemed like gold.

In the last four months we've travelled thousands of kilometres, stayed in dozens of hotels, bed and breakfasts and one or two "youth" hostels. (Nobody ever questioned our youthfulness).

Because I have this need to write - or type as the case may be, I've inundated Trip Advisor with reviews of over 58 hotels, dozens of cafes, restaurants, and events eg, Stonehenge. Now I'm going to continue to write my blog, but you'll be pleased to know that I'm not going into all the minutia, I'll write in some specific categories that may make it more interesting. You can tell me if I fail horribly or write some informative stuff.

Four Months was Enough

You can only sleep in so many different places, eat at so many different cafes and wear the same clothes for so often. A week or two before our homecoming, I had had enough. Christina, on the other hand seemed like she could go on forever.

I was really pleased when the wheels of our QANTAS jet met the runway at Alice Springs Airport.

The Highlights

For both of us, the highlights were being able to spend a few days with our friends, to make new friends, to meet new people, see many of the historically important places, and bathe ourselves in the history of Europe that makes the European history of Australia look like a weekend tour.

We revisited Mutlu and Alison Ustun and their two boys, Kerem and Onat, with whom we shared three years at Al Ain, At Burnley in England we spent time with David and Barbara whom we had met previously on one of our ship tours. Then there was a group of wonderful people who shared their lives with us on a three week bus tour. Add to that the many other people with whom we dealt and it was a very sociable experience; the nicely dressed German man in Hamburg who spent 15 minutes helping us find a hotel at short notice. The CASIO executive at the Basel 2010 Watch and Jewellery show who gave us a personal tour of the "industry personnel only" display area ending with nibbles and drinks. There are probably plenty of others whom I will remember as I write.

First on my list is the Basel 2010 Watch and Jewellery Show.

Grab a cup of your best beverage and read on.


Friday, March 10, 2017

Off peak at Costa del Sol

Costa del Sol is Spanish for the Sunshine Coast and it is a region near Malaga. Similar to our Gold and Sunshine coasts in Queensland, Australia, it's a high density region consisting of thousands of apartment buildings and hotels to accommodate a massive influx of tourists.

It doesn't have the high rise buildings we do in Queensland which tends to retain the Mediterranean architecture uninterrupted.

As it's only three hours flight from Gatwick in the UK, there are obviously scores of Brits who make this their holiday destination. There are numerous Canadians, Americans and other Europeans here too, but so far I haven't found another Australian accent.

Unlike Christina and I who purposely have avoided wearing anything that stands out as Australian, a Canadian couple we met wear Canadian labelled clothing and small flag pins because they don't want anyone to think they are Americans. Aren't we people complicated?

The Sunset Beach Club where we stayed is huge, quite a few years old and showing its age, but is very comfortable, well equipped and all anyone needs. It has a large in-house supermarket, a medical centre, dentist, and the usual play grounds, pools, restaurants, and even a child minding centre.

While I expect the summer months would attract thousands and many with children, at present most people were Baby Boomers like us; greying, many a bit heavier than perfect, balding, probably cashed up, and determined to get out and about before they take that final journey from which none of us returns.

You see them en masse at the Happy Hour all getting their Scotch and sodas, sangrias and beer all on a two for one tab. At the end of the hour most stagger off to their rooms or dinner venues and the once noisy venue dulls a little. We visited a few times but only managed the one round of drinks.

There are hundreds of food outlets here and even a Burger King. Food and alcohol is significantly cheaper than in Australia which is good for us because we already lost on the exchange rate between AUD and €.

The area, Benalmadena, and other areas we have visited within the region are immaculate - not a toothpick of rubbish anywhere. How do they manage it? Either the locals are so proud of their towns that they dont spill a thing or, every night after we are all in bed, a thousand workers come out to keep things spotless. I think the former.

The locals are friendly, helpful people obviously accustomed to tourists who dont speak Spanish. When you enter a shop or bar, it's customary to say, "Hola!" to everyone already there.

From the Club where we stayed, you can book numerous tours and activities. We took a 4WD tour of the small villages, olive, cork and almond plantations in the region, had lunch included at a quaint restaurant and attended a flamenco dancers and combined Andalucia horse show. Both were very enjoyable.

Its a lovely part of Spain and time permitting we could have stayed longer.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Hong Kong Stay

Typical street
Our flight from Perth was late getting us in at 8:30 am and landing in a small fog with limited visability.

Cathay City, as the airport region is called, is huge as the air traffic coming in and out of Hong Kong makes it one of the busiest airports there is. It's a remarkably well organised arrival process with almost split second precision. Signage in English and Chinese is plentiful and a seemingly oversupply of helpful employees directyou this way and that.

There is a train that takes you from the outer extreme of the airport to the inner immigration, baggage collection and exit buildings. Very slick!

I was surprised that there was no visa charge. It's perhaps one of a small number of countries that don't have entry fees. It was simply a matter of presenting one's passport and having it stamped by a curt individual apparently impressed by his important office and unwilling to smile, say "welcome" or engage in chatter.

At least when one official noticed my wife using a walking stick to help with a bout of bursitis, he moved us to front of queue. I wondered whether I should get a walking stick too - feigned disability could be helpful.

There are numerous things I like about Asians. Apart from my penchant for shapely, lovely brown-skinned women, the industriousness and ability to create employment from nothing has always impressed. We Australians, who have become too reliant on government as a panacea could learn from their example.

We stayed in an inexpensive hotel with the appropriate title, Minimal Hotel Culture. The hotel is minimal indeed and in the middle of the city's traditional area, Sham Shui Po.

We got to our hotel by bus after a one hour trip that cost $14 HKD, a pittance by $AUD calculations. We initially had some trouble finding it but after consulting a map and two helpful locals arrived at the front door. It's the newest, flashest building in the street. When I first saw the other buildings I was concerned I had probably booked a hotel from hell just to save a few bucks. Once I walked into the minimal foyer, my spirits lifted.
The hotel is new, modern, clean and nicely outfitted with tiny rooms. Thank goodness it had a lift, we stayed on the 17th floor. Each floor has only two rooms.

After settling in we went for a walk through the local markets where you can buy literally anything. The markets are grouped by product eg, electronics, fashion, accessories like bags, belts, and a variety of interesting odds and ends. Most of the small kiosk shops are very well stocked with heaps of inventory.

We neaded to the food area and bought some lovely nasi goreng and what we thought were tofu squares that had been fried but, in fact were egg omlettes.

Our stay was only one night as we headed out to the airport to continue our journey and will stay longer on our return.

If you want exposure to the old Hong Kong and culture, I recommend a visit.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Our Europe and UK Jaunt

Rainbow Valley near Alice Springs
Next Saturday we jet out of Central Australia for a four-month stint in Europe and United Kingdom.

We'll spend a couple of days at Perth getting some new kit items and then head initially to Hong Kong. A day or two there (we've been there three times before) and we are off to London and then Spain.

We have two tours organised, one a cruise through European cities that commences at Copenhagen and the other a bus tour that begins at Brussels. We've been to Brussels, but it will be nice to revisit and see how much it has changed since 2010.

Late March we will be at Basel in Switzerland where I will attend the Baselworld 2017 Watch and Jewellery Show. As some of you may know, I have an interest in horology. This will be my first ever watch show so I'm really excited to have been able to fit it into our travels.

In the coming week I'll place an itinerary online somewhere and advise close friends of its location. I'll also find somewhere to place our photographs and plan to do some posting to Trip Advisor.

Happy days and lovely nights.