Searching for locations: Toowoomba Flower Festival, Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia

The Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers is held in September, and this year ran from the 20th September through to the 30th.

We visited the Laurel Bank Park, where there are beds of many colorful flowers,

open spaces,

statues,

an area set aside for not only tulips but a model windmill

and quite a number of hedge sculptures

There was also the opportunity to go on a morning or afternoon garden tour which visited a number of private gardens of residences in Toowoomba.

Searching for locations: Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, Australia, and resorts Wyndham style

We have stayed in two different types of accommodation in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, Australia, as a timeshare owner who can trade their week for a week anywhere in the world.

Both are resorts, but different sorts of resorts.  The first was a typical RCI resort, where everything is laid back and relaxing, with all the amenities one can expect from a resort.

The other, this one, the Wyndham in Coffs Harbour, is very different, and you notice it when you walk in the front door.  You are virtually assaulted by hard-nosed timeshare sales staff who really don’t take no for an answer, and then when you finally escape, ring you every day to make an appointment.

I left the phone off the hook.

Aside from that, the place is excellent, the accommodation very good, and the situation one of the best with what could be called a private beach.  There are also a number of bushwalks that cater to old people like me.

As you can see, lakes and greenery, and even a putting green.

20161030_141653

And in places, they try very hard to hide the ugly multi-story buildings in amongst the trees

20161030_141706

It is only a short walk to the ‘private beach’ and it is sufficiently long enough for a morning walk before breakfast.  You could even try to catch some fish for breakfast, though I’m not sure if anyone actually caught anything

20161030_142237

Or you can just stare out to sea

20161030_142225

And, back in the room, this is the view we had from our verandah

20161030_134910 - Copy

Searching for locations: Flinders Street Station, Melbourne, Australia

This is the famous clock tower of the Flinders Street Station (the main train station for suburban trains) in Melbourne.

We were staying in a hotel (The Doubletree) directly opposite to the station and our room overlooked the station and the clock tower.  I took photos of it during the day:

and this one, at night.  It came out better than I thought it would.

20160302_215639

Searching for locations: Smith Street, Fitzroy (Once part of what was known as Marvellous Melbourne)

Of course, it could easily be Collingwood depending on who you barrack for in the local football competition, as it is Fitzroy, but the map and my GPS tells me the street is, for all intents and purposes, in Fitzroy.

Not that there is a football team for Fitzroy any more, that moved north to Queensland a long, long time ago.

But…

Going for a wander up and down the street shows two or three very different sides to inner suburban living, and the effect that comes from a diverse range of cultures, the city has acquired over the past few decades.

Once viewed as almost the slums of Melbourne, these inner suburban areas have moved upscale to become havens for the more wealthy middle classes and a home for many diverse outlets, not the least of which are eateries.

And. In just this small section of Smith Street, there are a lot of eating establishments, from the Old Kingdom Peking duck restaurant to a small place selling Falafel, and then everything in between. It says a lot about how Australian eating habits have changed in a single generation, where back in those infamous old days you would be lucky to have a fish and chips/ hamburger shop and one or two Chinese restaurants.

Now, intermingled with gourmet bakeries and cozy coffee shops, there are a plethora of other eating establishments that cater to any cuisine you can imagine.  In fact, it’s possible to dine out on a different cuisine every night for a fortnight and only traverse about half a kilometre up and down the street.  It could be ideal if you lived in one of the small fronted houses just off the main carriageway in a leafy narrow side street or laneway.

And, as you would expect in an inner-city suburb,  the streets are narrow and made more hazardous for traffic because of the trams, a familiar sight in many of the streets in this area, and a much-used form of transport for workers making the short trip into the city.  It’s almost possible to take the extra half hour, and walk.

The street is lined with old buildings, some dating back to about 1868, there’s around the turn of the century, but most are not inhabited except for the street level where there is an eclectic mixture of furniture, haberdashery, and clothing stores catering to a particular group of people, what some call yuppies or upwardly mobile men and women who are between 25-35, with high paying jobs, and preferably no children.

Then there a subgroup walking there streets, homosexual men, some wheeling adopted children in pushers, others walking hand in hand out for a Saturday afternoon stroll where they can feel safe among many others.  It’s very different from other places I’ve been, but one can imagine there are places like this in every city all over the world.

But as a backdrop to the appearance of wealth, the shopfronts that cater to those upwardly mobile upper middle classes, there’s that exact opposite in full view, the homeless, and beggars, sitting on the ground outside the more run down shops soliciting alms, asking for a spare dollar, and even one asking for a cigarette.

Everyone walks past them, imagining no doubt there are not there, or that if they ignore them, they will go away.  I think not.  And, I suspect, more will come out of their daytime hiding places and take up residence in Smith Street itself.

The only surprise is that the local council has not asked the police to move them on. It’s an interesting juxtaposition of inhabitants in an area that no doubt can only attract the upper middle classes, as anything and everything is relatively expensive, particularly real estate, and permit driven parking spaces.

Would I live here?  No.

Would I come here to wine and dine?

Maybe, if I could get parking, which there appear to be very few spots or any other form of parking such as under the local supermarket which can be very expensive.  And if you are lucky enough to find a spot, who has the time or the memory if continually feeding a parking meter every two hours, particularly if you’re having a good time.

Equally, it’s a place I would not feel comfortable, even if it was once a safe haven, which up to a few years ago, I’d probably think it not.  In fact, at times I was not sure what to make of some of the people on the street, but I guess if I lived here, it would no doubt be the norm.

Would I recommend people to come here?

Of course.  One of the more interesting places in Melbourne to experience grassroots cuisine that is incredibly diverse in it range and price, and even from a place with tables and chairs that may have seen better days, but you haven’t come to see the furniture.

And to my mind, the dining is definitely better, here than perhaps Carlton, which in itself is Mecca to a plethora of university types, both teachers and students alike, and the coffee culture that pervade that area of Melbourne.

I have no doubt you will come and leave with a very good opinion of the place.

As for me, I came here for an engagement party held at the Hotelito de Jesus, a Mexican restaurant, serving a variety of Mexican dishes.  As I’m no expert of that particular cuisine, everything was going to be new.

It was.  It’s spicy but not too spicy, the pork belly excellent, the canapés delicious, and both the mushroom-based and shredded beef based mini tacos were equally scrumptious.

All of this was washed down with two particular Mexican beers, two of several available in bottles, cans, or by the glass.

Oh, and you can get sangria by the jug too if you like.  I would have, but my passion for trying different beers won out.

Searching for locations: The Mary Valley Rattler, Gympie, Queensland, Australia

I have a passion for visiting transport museums, to see old trains, planes, buses, cars, even ships if it’s possible.

This has led to taking a number of voyages on the TSS Earnslaw in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Many, many, many years ago on Puffing Billy, a steam train in the Dandenongs, Victoria, Australia.

The steam train in Kingston, New Zealand, before it was closed down, but hopefully it will reopen sometime in the future.

The London Transport Museum in London England, which had a lot of buses.

The Workshops Railway Museum in Ipswich, Queensland, where once the many steam engines were built and maintained, and now had only a handful of engines remaining.

However, in the quest for finding and experiencing old transportation methods, we came across the Mary Valley Rattler, which runs out of Gympie, Queensland, Australia.

The ride begins in Gympie at the old Gympie Railway station, and as can be seen below, is one of the relics of the past, and, nothing like the new more modern stations.  Thankfully.

If you’re going to have a vintage train, then you have to have a vintage station.

The Class of engine, seen below, is the C17, a superheated upgrade to the C16 it was based on, and first run in 1903.  This particular engine was built in 1951, although the first of its type was seen in  1920 and the last of 227 made in 1953.  It was the most popular of the steam engines used by Queensland Railways.

The C designation meant it had four driving axels and 17 was the diameter of the cylinder, 17 inches.  It is also known as a 4-8-0 steam locomotive
 and nicknamed one of the “Brown Bombers” because of its livery, brown with green and red trimming.

Also, this engine was built in Maryborough, not far from Gympie by Walkers Limited, one of 138.

This photo was taken as the train returned from Amamoor, a trip that takes up to an hour.

The locomotive is detached from the carriages, then driven to the huge turntable to turn around for the return journey to Amamoor.

This is the locomotive heading down to the water station, and then taking on water.  After that, it will switch lines, and reverse back to reconnect the carriages for the trip to Amamoor.

The carriages are completely restored and are extremely comfortable.  It brings back, for me, many memories of riding in older trains in Melbourne when I was a child.

The trains, then, were called Red Rattlers.

This is the locomotive climbing one of the hilly parts of the line before crossing over the Mary River on a trestle bridge.

This is the engine at Amamoor near the picnic area where young children and excited parents and grandparents can get on the locomotive itself and look inside where the driver sits.

And, no, I didn’t volunteer to shovel coal.

This particular locomotive spent most of its working life between Townsville and Mount Isa and was based in Cloncurry, Charters Towers, and Townsville, before being sent, at the end of its useful days in the late 1960s, to the Ipswich Railway Workshops.

What will happen in the future?

I don’t think anyone can predict the future, not any more, and definitely now it is a distinct possibility that someone can create a virus that will in essence shut down the whole world, and quite possibly destroy it

This is patenetly clear after the recent troubles with COVID 19 and although a remedy has been found, it is not a perfect solution, or a means or eradicating it. It has shown that while we might be able to combat one version of it, it’s the mutations that will throw up questions about ever getting back to some sort of normal.

And that begs the question, what is, or was, normal?

It’s been a year, or more, and I think we’ve forgotten. What we have discovered, though, is the disparate states of the various nations and ethnic groups, and how they have fared in the wake of the pandemic.

It has highlighted systemic problems the world over, problems that have always been there but simmering below the surface. Problems that could be resolved, but perhaps will not.

But as a first world nation, we have not been immune to external forces, forces that have tried to break us while reeling from the ravaging of a virus that was brought here, and through no fault of our own.

But from the outset, we seem have been in a different bubble here.

I will admit that I live in a country with about 26 million people whereas the United States has about 330 million, there is a significant difference in numbers, whereas the US is only 1.3 times larger in size.

All this means that the US has a much larger problem in containing the COVID 19 virus, and probably why, down here, we are having a lot more success in getting the infection rates under control.

One thing we have all learned in the last month or so, is that lock downs, such as those hated by, and rallied against in the US, do actually work when you have much less population to deal with. This is why the actions taken by smaller populated countries such as Australia and New Zealand have been so successful.

Yes, we have had outbreaks, but it has been proved these can be contained. We have rigidly been adhering to the science, and the advice of our medical specialists without political interference, to keep the infection rates down.

Yes, we have limited freedom, but nearly everyone, except those from overseas who came here as immigrants and refuse to accept any form of ‘control’, have adhered to the medical based requests. Those that don’t, those that have railed against the rules, they are predominantly people who have come here from other countries.

I’m happy for anyone to come here, and get away from whatever horrors they leave behind, but only on the condition they leave those horrors behind, and try in some small way to assimilate with us, without having to give up there cultural and religious beliefs. When they use that as an excuse for their bad behaviour, they should be sent home. Obviously, this country isn’t good enough for them.

We are an island, so it is much easier to guard our borders. No one can get into this country without going through quarantine, and that try to lie their way in are promptly returned on the next plane out. We cannot leave without a valid reason, and if we do, when we come back, we have to spend a fortnight in quarantine, guarded by the defence force personnel.

For countries like the US, it is so much harder to maintain borders. There will be problems in the future with travellers coming from overseas, especially if the science behind the vaccines being touted doesn’t stand up to a very high standard. I suspect that anyone claiming to have a vaccine and using it as an excuse to re-enable overseas travel will find their pleas falling on deaf ears.

That’s because, as we are learning, vaccines are not infallible, there will be transmission, and not eveyone will be willing to have a vaccine, so even here, as anywhere else, we will not be rid of the scourge for a long time. Travel might be possible, but who will want to take a risk going to anothwr country where it’s not completely under control?

I guess, at this time of our lives, our chance to see the rest of the world is over, and that it’s time to tour our own country.

Whether we live long and prosper, well, that’s a story for another day.

The past creeps back when you least expect it

Over the last few weeks I’ve been lamenting the loss of many things that once existed, once upon a time.

All children have memories of their childhood, but some dissipate over time and become forgotten, almost to the point where it is as if they never existed.

Like my grandmothers house in the country, bulldozed to widen a main highway. I have a lot of difficulty in remembering it even though we had spent many Christmas holidays there.

Other, more insignificant items just simply disappeared into the mists of time, as the manufacturers were slowly bought out by overseas companies and in their desire for globalisation, parochial items made for what seems, to them, to be too small for their economies of scale were no longer made.

No thought is ever given to the consumer. Nor does it matter that the item, made in this country for a hundred years, is especially attuned to the tastes of the people of this country, and therefore have a continuous core market.

Of course, as a child over 60 years ago, most of thise items were confectionary. Names of brands such as Hoadleys and Rowntree have long since disappeared. Products like licorice squares, polly waffles, toscas and crispins have gone too.

Some products like Kit Kats still exist, but are made by new manufacturers like Nestle but with the change no longer taste anything like they used to.

But what started of this lament for the old days was triggered by seeing an old, old favourite called Life Savers, which came in friut flavours, peppermint, and musk. My all time favourite was musk and walking through the supermarket I saw the words Life Savers on a box almost hidden on the bottom shelf and lo and behold they had musk.

The packaging had changed, the manufacturer had changed, but that timeless confectionary had reappeared. Given its shelf location, I don’t think it will be for long.

Now, if only they could bring back Toscas, and Tarax soft drinks in small bottles. Raspberry and cola were my all time favourites.

Searching for locations: Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, Australia, and resorts Wyndham style

We have stayed in two different types of accommodation in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, Australia, as a timeshare owner who can trade their week for a week anywhere in the world.

Both are resorts, but different sorts of resorts.  The first was a typical RCI resort, where everything is laid back and relaxing, with all the amenities one can expect from a resort.

The other, this one, the Wyndham in Coffs Harbour, is very different, and you notice it when you walk in the front door.  You are virtually assaulted by hard-nosed timeshare sales staff who really don’t take no for an answer, and then when you finally escape, ring you every day to make an appointment.

I left the phone off the hook.

Aside from that, the place is excellent, the accommodation very good, and the situation one of the best with what could be called a private beach.  There are also a number of bushwalks that cater to old people like me.

As you can see, lakes and greenery, and even a putting green.

20161030_141653

And in places, they try very hard to hide the ugly multi-story buildings in amongst the trees

20161030_141706

It is only a short walk to the ‘private beach’ and it is sufficiently long enough for a morning walk before breakfast.  You could even try to catch some fish for breakfast, though I’m not sure if anyone actually caught anything

20161030_142237

Or you can just stare out to sea

20161030_142225

And, back in the room, this is the view we had from our verandah

20161030_134910 - Copy

Searching for locations: Smith Street, Fitzroy (Once part of what was known as Marvellous Melbourne)

Of course, it could easily be Collingwood depending on who you barrack for in the local football competition, as it is Fitzroy, but the map and my GPS tells me the street is, for all intents and purposes, in Fitzroy.

Not that there is a football team for Fitzroy any more, that moved north to Queensland a long, long time ago.

But…

Going for a wander up and down the street shows two or three very different sides to inner suburban living, and the effect that comes from a diverse range of cultures, the city has acquired over the past few decades.

Once viewed as almost the slums of Melbourne, these inner suburban areas have moved upscale to become havens for the more wealthy middle classes and a home for many diverse outlets, not the least of which are eateries.

And. In just this small section of Smith Street, there are a lot of eating establishments, from the Old Kingdom Peking duck restaurant to a small place selling Falafel, and then everything in between. It says a lot about how Australian eating habits have changed in a single generation, where back in those infamous old days you would be lucky to have a fish and chips/ hamburger shop and one or two Chinese restaurants.

Now, intermingled with gourmet bakeries and cozy coffee shops, there are a plethora of other eating establishments that cater to any cuisine you can imagine.  In fact, it’s possible to dine out on a different cuisine every night for a fortnight and only traverse about half a kilometre up and down the street.  It could be ideal if you lived in one of the small fronted houses just off the main carriageway in a leafy narrow side street or laneway.

And, as you would expect in an inner-city suburb,  the streets are narrow and made more hazardous for traffic because of the trams, a familiar sight in many of the streets in this area, and a much-used form of transport for workers making the short trip into the city.  It’s almost possible to take the extra half hour, and walk.

The street is lined with old buildings, some dating back to about 1868, there’s around the turn of the century, but most are not inhabited except for the street level where there is an eclectic mixture of furniture, haberdashery, and clothing stores catering to a particular group of people, what some call yuppies or upwardly mobile men and women who are between 25-35, with high paying jobs, and preferably no children.

Then there a subgroup walking there streets, homosexual men, some wheeling adopted children in pushers, others walking hand in hand out for a Saturday afternoon stroll where they can feel safe among many others.  It’s very different from other places I’ve been, but one can imagine there are places like this in every city all over the world.

But as a backdrop to the appearance of wealth, the shopfronts that cater to those upwardly mobile upper middle classes, there’s that exact opposite in full view, the homeless, and beggars, sitting on the ground outside the more run down shops soliciting alms, asking for a spare dollar, and even one asking for a cigarette.

Everyone walks past them, imagining no doubt there are not there, or that if they ignore them, they will go away.  I think not.  And, I suspect, more will come out of their daytime hiding places and take up residence in Smith Street itself.

The only surprise is that the local council has not asked the police to move them on. It’s an interesting juxtaposition of inhabitants in an area that no doubt can only attract the upper middle classes, as anything and everything is relatively expensive, particularly real estate, and permit driven parking spaces.

Would I live here?  No.

Would I come here to wine and dine?

Maybe, if I could get parking, which there appear to be very few spots or any other form of parking such as under the local supermarket which can be very expensive.  And if you are lucky enough to find a spot, who has the time or the memory if continually feeding a parking meter every two hours, particularly if you’re having a good time.

Equally, it’s a place I would not feel comfortable, even if it was once a safe haven, which up to a few years ago, I’d probably think it not.  In fact, at times I was not sure what to make of some of the people on the street, but I guess if I lived here, it would no doubt be the norm.

Would I recommend people to come here?

Of course.  One of the more interesting places in Melbourne to experience grassroots cuisine that is incredibly diverse in it range and price, and even from a place with tables and chairs that may have seen better days, but you haven’t come to see the furniture.

And to my mind, the dining is definitely better, here than perhaps Carlton, which in itself is Mecca to a plethora of university types, both teachers and students alike, and the coffee culture that pervade that area of Melbourne.

I have no doubt you will come and leave with a very good opinion of the place.

As for me, I came here for an engagement party held at the Hotelito de Jesus, a Mexican restaurant, serving a variety of Mexican dishes.  As I’m no expert of that particular cuisine, everything was going to be new.

It was.  It’s spicy but not too spicy, the pork belly excellent, the canapés delicious, and both the mushroom-based and shredded beef based mini tacos were equally scrumptious.

All of this was washed down with two particular Mexican beers, two of several available in bottles, cans, or by the glass.

Oh, and you can get sangria by the jug too if you like.  I would have, but my passion for trying different beers won out.

Searching for locations: The Mary Valley Rattler, Gympie, Queensland, Australia

I have a passion for visiting transport museums, to see old trains, planes, buses, cars, even ships if it’s possible.

This has led to taking a number of voyages on the TSS Earnslaw in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Many, many, many years ago on Puffing Billy, a steam train in the Dandenongs, Victoria, Australia.

The steam train in Kingston, New Zealand, before it was closed down, but hopefully it will reopen sometime in the future.

The London Transport Museum in London England, which had a lot of buses.

The Workshops Railway Museum in Ipswich, Queensland, where once the many steam engines were built and maintained, and now had only a handful of engines remaining.

However, in the quest for finding and experiencing old transportation methods, we came across the Mary Valley Rattler, which runs out of Gympie, Queensland, Australia.

The ride begins in Gympie at the old Gympie Railway station, and as can be seen below, is one of the relics of the past, and, nothing like the new more modern stations.  Thankfully.

If you’re going to have a vintage train, then you have to have a vintage station.

The Class of engine, seen below, is the C17, a superheated upgrade to the C16 it was based on, and first run in 1903.  This particular engine was built in 1951, although the first of its type was seen in  1920 and the last of 227 made in 1953.  It was the most popular of the steam engines used by Queensland Railways.

The C designation meant it had four driving axels and 17 was the diameter of the cylinder, 17 inches.  It is also known as a 4-8-0 steam locomotive
 and nicknamed one of the “Brown Bombers” because of its livery, brown with green and red trimming.

Also, this engine was built in Maryborough, not far from Gympie by Walkers Limited, one of 138.

This photo was taken as the train returned from Amamoor, a trip that takes up to an hour.

The locomotive is detached from the carriages, then driven to the huge turntable to turn around for the return journey to Amamoor.

This is the locomotive heading down to the water station, and then taking on water.  After that, it will switch lines, and reverse back to reconnect the carriages for the trip to Amamoor.

The carriages are completely restored and are extremely comfortable.  It brings back, for me, many memories of riding in older trains in Melbourne when I was a child.

The trains, then, were called Red Rattlers.

This is the locomotive climbing one of the hilly parts of the line before crossing over the Mary River on a trestle bridge.

This is the engine at Amamoor near the picnic area where young children and excited parents and grandparents can get on the locomotive itself and look inside where the driver sits.

And, no, I didn’t volunteer to shovel coal.

This particular locomotive spent most of its working life between Townsville and Mount Isa and was based in Cloncurry, Charters Towers, and Townsville, before being sent, at the end of its useful days in the late 1960s, to the Ipswich Railway Workshops.