Last weekend, my dad came to visit my brother and me in Brisbane so those of us who are currently Brisbanites had a bit of a staycation in our own homeground. In an attempt to do something more inspiring than our usual trip to the sushi place underneath my house (which in fact, is always amazing) we went on a couple of excursions around the city.

After Rover (Davey’s car) was treated to a special wash and polish, we all packed in and headed up to Mount Tambourine. Google maps predicted that we would arrive in 1 hour and 11 minutes taking the route through the Gold Coast (only 2 minutes longer than the alternative route) but it was Saturday so the traffic added a little time. Luckily, we had Siri on our phones to entertain ourselves on the way.

Rover, not surprisingly, was quite capable of ascending the 16% grades with 3 more passengers than usual, but sitting in the back with the winding roads, I still felt a bit ordinary by the time we reached our destination.

One of the conditions that Davey had placed on the trip as part of agreeing to drive us was that he got to see the resident puppies at Saint Bernard’s Hotel. For some reason, every other person dining Saint Bernard’s that day had decided to eat in the bar section so we actually had quite a large dining room to ourselves, a perfect opportunity to take family photos uninterrupted.


While waiting for our lunch, Davey found Molly, who was quite partial to a pat



and I went for a walk in the “wilderness” at the back of the hotel and took some photos of the beautiful view.




As expected, lunch was abundant in both quality and quantity but while we were enjoying our meals, a storm rolled in, and already being amongst the clouds, there was a bit of fog around afterwards. You can see the difference in the quantity of fog in these before and after shots:


While Davey and Cara investigated the pokies, the Griggses, somewhat uncharacteristically, explored the gardens in the drizzle, and took photos:









Upon returning inside and discovering that Davey was, in fact, $30 up on the pokies, we decided to call it a day and quit while we were ahead. We had a more subdued ride home and ended the day with some takeaway Thai food and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs in Dad’s apartment, which trembled with bass from the schoolies next door.

The next morning, still in holiday mode, I made some new friends on my balcony.



After posting these in a facebook group for Australian Bird fans, I discovered that they are actually a teenage boy and mature lady figbird (go Mrs Robinson!). The reason it took me so long to work it out, is that the mature gentlemen usually look like this photo taken a few days later:

It appears that unlike humans, it’s not the teenagers who develop a penchant for black, but their dads…

In the afternoon on Sunday, we went to visit my Great Uncle John, a Christian Brother who is currently residing at my Dad’s old high school. Uncle John treated us to some wonderful afternoon tea and then a nostalgic tour of the school. While Dad took some photos of some depressing 70s brick monstrosities, which I think he used to live in, I had a wonder around a rose garden.







I apologise about the nature focus of this blog. I was never really bothered by outdoors things like flowers and birds until my first trip to New Zealand where I was both exposed to some incredible outside stuff that I’d never seen before and had a camera amazing enough to photograph it as I saw it. See examples of inspiring New Zealand naturey things (specifically, a Kea bird and Lupins) below:


But back to the present… I did actually take some photos of the school and even my relatives while I was there.





The school from a distance looks a little bit like the type of hotel Poriot would stay at when travelling in the mystic east with its stately grand facade punctuated with palm trees. I’m sure it would be a lovely place to be educated, if the mosquitoes weren’t large enough to be sentient… but perhaps that’s why you need this particular philosophical-sounding school official:


Our last act of staycation was to have a farewell breakfast the next day with Dad before he returned home. It won’t be farewell for long though. Dad will be back in Brissy in a few weeks so we won’t have to wait very long to have an excuse to get out and see our neighbourhood through a tourist’s eyes again.

Hometown holiday

After experiencing the sense of intrinsic closure from my blog writing experience and seeing viewing stats that reveal that at least someone is actually reading what I write, I have decided to give in to “scope creep” and allow my blog to cover not only exotic foreign destinations, but also domestic trips.

Two weekends ago, Davey and I returned to our hometown, Townsville, for an extended long weekend. The trip didn’t start promisingly as our flight from Brisbane was delayed by about two hours. The one silver lining was that the Velocity Lounge was serving hot dogs for “dinner”. I must say that the food in Virgin’s lounge seems a little more fun than Qantas’s. One night, when I was in there, they were offering party pies on silver trays. In my opinion, “Party pie, madam?”, is one of the best questions you could ever be asked while waiting for a delayed flight.

Townsville is a very humid, warm location famous for its beaches and nearby reef. As an indoors sort of person who is more comfortable wearing an overcoat than a bathing suit, I wasn’t really here to see the outdoors, I was here to see people. On this trip, I was lucky enough to be able to see all of my grandparents and most of my “out-laws”, as well as being treated to dinner out with my parents. My mother suggested that we go to Gyo, a Japanese restaurant on Gregory Street. All of the food was great but, in particular, the green tea tiramisu was amazing and, it appears, made with love:


Although I grew up in Townsville, I still managed to see some things that were new to me. Davey’s parents’ garden is a great haven for an exciting array of avian wildlife. It was incredibly relaxing just to sit and watch them. But you know me, I can’t just sit and watch something, I have to photograph it so I can blog about it. Here are some of the victims of my voyeurism:

A greater bower bird


A blue-faced honey eater


A rainbow lorikeet (which I had always thought was called a rosella until being corrected on this trip)


A finch in flight


A peaceful dove


A spotted turtle dove


Another Townsville first was having high tea with my friend Shannon, a fellow Grammar old girl and ex-colleague, at Absolute Tea in what to me will always be “the mall” despite being now open to traffic. It’s always exciting to eat food that is almost taller than yourself…


On my last morning in Townsville, Davey took me for breakfast on The Strand and we had a little wander around. As you can see, the weather was absolutely terrible and it’s just an awful, awful view:




It almost makes me wish I liked being outside…

After our overly ambitious museum day, I was exhausted and was very reluctant to get out of bed. I was eventually convinced to wake up by my lovely companion, Sarah, who bought me a very French breakfast in bed.

Soon it was time to say “Au revoir” to Sarah, who was catching a train deeper into the French countryside while I caught a cab to Charles de Gaulle airport, which still looks a little bit like something from Tatooine. The kind of building that Jabba the Hutt would commission.

My corporate travel agent concocted a convoluted scheme to get me from Paris back to Brisbane. I was to fly Paris to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Copenhagen, stay a night in Copenhagen, Copenhagen to Singapore, Singapore to Brisbane.

My flight to Frankfurt was a little bit delayed which meant that my arrival time in Frankfurt was later than my boarding call for my connecting flight. However, I did make it to the flight by running to the gate. Unfortunately, my luggage wasn’t as quick as I was and it didn’t make the flight as I discovered when I arrived in Copenhagen. I lodged all the paperwork to track down my bag and, defeated, caught the train back to Anna’s flat.

By this time I was a pretty disgruntled traveller but Anna welcomed me into the warmth and fed and clothed me (literally, because I didn’t have any clean clothes). I had a somewhat sleepless night because I was a little bit sick and more than a little bit stressed out about my lost luggage.

But as things often are, it was much better in the morning. Anna had spoken to a cheery Scottish airline rep who gave her instructions for me to collect my bag before my next flight and made me a coffee ready to face my journey home.

Picking up the luggage was a little more casual than I thought it should be. You just wait around a door and nod when they ask you if you are here to pick up some luggage, and then they let you back into the secure arrivals section of the airport. The girl at the lost luggage desk was very friendly. She reunited me with my bag very quickly and in my giddy relief (and sleep deprived state) I thanked her with the ridiculous sentiment, “It was a pleasure losing luggage with you!”

The flight from Copenhagen to Singapore was quite uneventful. The TV screen at my seat seemed to have a contrast issue so I just went on a Game of Thrones binge on my iPad, taking care to angle the screen away from the little girl sitting next to me to shield her from the naked woman giving birth to demons, numerous decapitations and other unsuitable situations featured in the show.

When I arrived in Singapore, I was really quite eager to have a lovely hot shower, but when I got to the lounge, they had a sign apologising for the hot water being broken. I tried to negotiate a discount for the lack of hot water but ended up having a full-priced icy cold shower. But it was, at least, nice to be clean again.

After refusing to relinquish my aisle seat to a bogan couple who had managed to check in so late that they couldn’t get seats together, I slept soundly during the flight, waking only for the random meals of things like charsui pork and noodles for breakfast.

When I arrived in Australia, I actually managed to get my passport to work through a smart gate. I think the key must be to look absolutely exhausted and dishevelled in order for the computer to consider me and my passport photo a match.

I cleared customs quickly and was very relieved to see Davey waiting for me on the other side of the gate.

I had a wonderful time travelling by myself, seeing geeky train stuff, more castles than I can actually count, two of my very good friends, the view atop some of the world’s most famous icons and the treasures inside quite a few museums, but it was very nice to be home again, and be sleeping in my own bed!

Louvre-ing It

Sarah’s account of the day:


By this stage of the Paris trip we were both quite tired, and more than a little sick, so we allowed ourselves a little bit of a sleep in.  Which we probably shouldn’t have done considering we had three museums to tackle.

First stop of the day was the Musee D’Orsay, which holds the world’s largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces.  I was completely unaware that the museum is in an old train station, Gare D’Orsay, and what a spectacular building it is!  Finished in time for the 1900 Exposition Universelle, similar to the Eiffel Tower, by 1939 its platforms were too short for the trains that were running on the main line by then, before becoming a mailing centre during World War Two.  It then became a set for films, and was almost demolished in 1970 before joining the list of National Historic Monuments in 1978.  By 1981…

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Belated Paris

I have been back in my country of origin for several weeks now since my European tour. In fact, I’m now having a little holiday in my home town of Townsville (the one in North Queensland, not the one from the Power Puff Girls). But I had lunch with my grandmother yesterday and she commented on how she had been enjoying my blog, but that I hadn’t finished it off properly. Feeling ashamed of my lazy re-blogging of Sarah’s posts, I thought I had better write my own account of events for our last full day in Paris.

Sarah took it upon herself to make sure that we had the best breakfast possible in metropolitan Paris. In case you haven’t realised, I live for food (rather than merely living off food) so Sarah was right to try to find me the best gosh darn boulangerie around. Unfortunately, we didn’t seem to be able to find one for breakfast (or indeed, it turned out, dessert after our evening meal) so we had to settle for a little brasserie type place.

I have not really been one to be particular about the types of food one eats at different times of the day. I am quite happy to eat pasta and chips for breakfast (as I did when I visited Japan) or Subway and sandwiches for dinner. With this in mind, I didn’t hesitate about eating Nutella Crepes for breakfast (although I did hesitate while ordering them, due to my lack of parlez vous-ing Francais). Though based on the serving proportions of the meal that arrived, what the waitress was probably asking me was, did I want crepes with my Nutella? Still an amazing breakfast though!

Bursting at the seams with Nutella, we caught the bus to our first musee of the day, the Musee d’Orsay. This was a double whammy for me, as it was an art gallery that used to be a train station! For all future trips to Paris or for any other European capitals, I am vowing to dedicate a whole day to each museum. I’m sure that Sarah would agree that the Musee d’Orsay should never share an itinerary day with any other attraction. The one thing which did allow us to get a decent go of the Musee d’Orsay was that we had museum passes that allowed up to skip queues.

Here I am, hanging out with the Oceania “continent” statue outside:


Because I’m writing this many, many days after the fact, I don’t have my usual crutch of looking at all the flyers and maps I picked up during the day to get all the names of things right and describe places in a way that is actually geographically correct. So, to cheat, I just tried to download a map of the Musee d’Orsay. And I found this revelation on the interactive map: “The location of artworks is updated every morning, before the museum opens, based on information from the pervious evening.” I can’t believe they move stuff every night! That’s just incredible! And also a little off topic… Anyway…

We prioritised our viewing and started up on the 5th floor with impressionist paintings that I love. I got to peer closely at all the dots and blobs of paint that magically come together when you take a step away. I got to see originals of prints that I grew up with – numerous Degas ballerinas which hung at Ann Robert’s school of dance and Renoir’s Bal du Moulin de la Galette, which is one of my art teacher’s favourites and was on display in her studio. Paintings like these are like Instagram of the day (minus the duckfaces), they featured ordinary people and captured moments of their ordinary lives, making art accessible and relevant to everyone.

Then Sarah struck the Art Deco jackpot – several floors of furniture design!

As compensation for dragging me past so many chairs that I wasn’t allowed to sit on, we then got to see the Van Gogh room which, although none of my special favourites where there, was fantastic to see “live” all the same.

After a quick walk through a room that was mostly decorated in gold leaf, we left the museum to find some lunch.

I’m ashamed to say that by this time of the trip, I had changed from “try new things” mode to “order things that you recognise on the menu” mode so I had another croque monsieur for lunch while Sarah had a “halloween” quiche.
We walked through some more streets to have a second attempt at the Musee Dupuytren.


We eventually found it after walking through a university campus pretending to be students and ringing a secret doorbell. The very enthusiastic non-english speaking curator?/custodian?/janitor? greeted us and I think tried to explain that this was a medical museum and not like a Ripley’s Believe It or Not. I handed over some Euros and we were shown through an ancient library into a room of display cases. I had suggested this to Sarah as an attraction idea wondering what fascinating curiosities might be there. Unfortunately, Sarah was a little overwhelmed by the number of real dead babies preserved in jars and her reaction was more desperate sorrow than macabre fascination. I didn’t take any photos but if you want to still see what we saw, have a look at this flickr set.

After not spending very long at all in the Musee Dupuytren we had enough time for another scenic bus ride. Unfortunately, we were sitting behind the most annoying people I had met on my trip (overtaking the racist american gay couple) who sung along with all the French songs on the headsets, stood up when we were told specifically to sit down and managed to get their phones and/or limbs in every one of my shots. Sarah took a great photo of them where the subject of the photo is still filming a video while posing:

They did eventually get off the bus, which meant that I was actually able to take some photos in peace:












The bus eventually took us to the Lourve.

Our museum passes came in handy once again where we got to skip the massive queue at the entrance.

Sarah and I generally have similar tastes in the things that we like, which makes us want to hang out with each other at museums. However, it became apparent very quickly upon our arrival at the Lourve that even the best museum buddies can have different priorities. Sarah loves antiquities whereas my head is turned by religious Renaissance paintings.

We began our Lourve experience with some Roman sculptures.



And then Sarah led me to some Islamic artefacts:





I had been to the Lourve previously, but haven’t ventured into the bowels before. Turns out there was a castle here before.


It was at about this point that I ran out of steam (and cold and flu medication). Unfortunately for Sarah this meant that interest in and tolerance of ancient objects was nearing zero. Conveniently, we had thousands of Egyptian relics to pass through on our way to the Mona Lisa.

We did eventually make it, after passing through some magnificent rooms and taking photos of our star signs posing together on the ceiling.









I did even get to see some Italian paintings of the Virgin Mary. And you could be sure it was Her because She was wearing the exact same outfit in all three paintings…


After leaving the Lourve, we had dinner around the Opera. I selected the very ambitious and exotic choice of steak and chips for dinner and in return received the appropriate amount of playful distain from Sarah and her rustic fish stew.

After not being able to find anywhere for dessert and feeling a little like the statue below we returned to the hotel on the metro and said “Bonne nuit” to Paris for the last time, at least for this trip.


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