A Trip of a Lifetime

Just over three weeks ago, my husband, Tony and I returned from one of those unforgettable holidays, one that I’d truly honour with the ‘A trip of a lifetime’ tag.

I plan to blog about the highlights over the next few weeks, or for however long it takes me, because I want to relive it, to share it, and to save the memories for me to look back on in the future.

Where did we go? 

The Arctic! 

Our particular trip was with G Adventures, who offer a variety of exciting tours to places all over the world, but I chose the Arctic Highlights trip because of the places it visited.

Our Arctic Adventure didn’t truly begin until we took a flight from Oslo to Longyearbyen, Svalbard, although I’d been excited since before we left Australia.

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The red dot marks where Longyearbyen is.

Svalbard, is a small group of islands north of Norway. 

Longyearbyen is the world’s northernmost settlement with greater than 1,000 permanent residents. It was initially established as a coal mining town in 1906, but most mining operations have now moved elsewhere and the town has seen a large increase in research and tourism since the 1990s. 

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The Main Street in town.

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A replica coal mining town, which was really a collection of bars and restaurants

We spent a day exploring the small, and largely unattractive, town surrounded by magnificent, snow-capped mountains. I’m sure it would be a far prettier place with snow covering the ground, but considering it is dark for almost half the year, who would know? 

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The obligatory Santa’s Shop looking very ordinary without snow.

At the end of our second day in Longyearbyen, we boarded the MS Expedition, our G Adventures’ ship. 

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The Expedition waiting for us to board in Longyearbyen.

It’s a small ship, but  very comfortable. We were two of  the 125 passengers aboard. 

This was the moment I’d been losing sleep over. I was more excited about this holiday than I’d been about any trip I’d taken for many years. Which is odd, because the Arctic is cold, and I hate the cold.

But snow is cold, and I love snow. And ice is cold, and although ice itself doesn’t excite me, I’ve long had the desire to see an actual iceberg. 

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When I was growing up, I thought only scientists and researchers visited the Arctic and the Antarctic. They were wild and unknown places were ordinary people didn’t go. As the years passed, opportunities for wealthy people to visit these regions occurred, but it was still out of my reach, and so I never even considered it a possibility. However, my daughter’s trip to Antarctica in 2014 alerted me to the small number of companies  now offering the opportunity at more reasonable prices.

I chose the Arctic, and not the Antarctic, because I was interested in extremely cold places where communities lived, such as Longyearbyen, but the possibility of seeing a polar bear was also a big lure. I love bears, I just want to cuddle them, especially the fluffy, white polar bears with those gorgeous big soft paws. 

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So cuddly! (Photo taken by one of my fellow travellers.)

I’d be terrified if I was confronted by a bear of any sort in the wild, but that’s reality. In my dreams, I still think they’re adorable.

Another long-time dream of mine has been to see the Northern Lights, and I’d hoped that as we were going on the last voyage of the season, there might be a tiny chance we’d get to see them.

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Northern LIghts from a rocking ship. (Photo also courtesy of another passenger.)

This trip lived up to all my expectations, and then some. On any journey like this, specific animal sightings are almost impossible to guarantee, and sometimes ice or weather conditions affect where the ship can go, but I think we were very lucky. The weather was generally very kind to us and the staff knew how to make the best of a bad situation, plus, unlike a few others, we didn’t get seasick at all.

There are a number of other companies offering similar tours, but you can check out the G Adventures Arctic options here.

Where Are You Going?

Paradise island sunrise

Paradise island sunrise

After much encouragement, I took the plunge and left Australia for the first time since my return eighteen months ago. My husband was giving a series of workshops at a college on the island of Male, the capital of The Maldives, and knowing what the island was like, I really wasn’t interested in joining him. However, images of clear turquoise tropical waters, and a free weekend on the Paradise Island resort eventually won me over and I agreed to go.

Island in the sun

Island in the sun

Where the ocean meets the coral reef.

The resort lived up to, and beyond expectations. Tourism was a late comer to The Maldives, and as a result, they’ve done it well. There are no high-rise beach front properties, and only the uninhabited islands were developed, which ensured existing island villages were not destroyed in the process.

Paradise Island

Paradise Island

The view from our beach hut

The view from our beach hut

After one night in a beach villa which was nestled among the natural tropical plants of the island, and a short stroll to the beach, we were upgraded to a water villa, situated along a boardwalk above the lagoon, with a private balcony and stairway to the pristine water below us.

Water Villas

Water Villas

Our weekend retreat was pure relaxation and indulgence. I reclined on the private outdoor cushioned lounge, napped, read, and swam or snorkeled in the warm sea. Then, I’d rinse the salt water off with a plunge in the outdoor bath, and begin the cycle all over again, interrupted only by meals and an occasional walk.

Male was very different, but unexpectedly fascinating. It’s a city of approximately 150,000 people, crammed onto a small island with a perimeter of roughly 5.7 km.

The view of Male from our hotel

A view of Male from our hotel

Another view from the hotel

Another view from the hotel

The lagoon that once surrounded the island has been filled in to make room for more buildings, roads, and people, and the reclaimed land is held in place by concrete walls and water breaks reinforced with concrete bollards.

Concrete border

Concrete border

The artificial beach on Male

The artificial beach on Male

There are two swimming areas for the locals, one a small artificial beach, created for the purpose, and the other is a protected area, the same as those provided for the boats that bring essential supplies to the island.

Boats - Male

Boats – Male

Maps - the island of Male and the island of Male's airport

Maps – the island of Male and the island of Male’s airport

The country’s airport is on a nearby island, and transfers from the airport to the city, or between any of the 1,190 other islands is by ferry or speed boat.

The airport ferry terminal

The airport ferry terminal

Airport to Male ferry

Airport to Male ferry

Male as seen from the airport

Male as seen from the airport

I spent an hour or so each day walking around the island. On my first day, all I saw was concrete and bitumen, but with each new day, I began noticing the trees growing out of nothing, providing snatches of green, shade, and occasionally flowers.

Sultan Park

Sultan Park

The city has one small park called Sultan Park, a small oasis of green, but apart from the few cemeteries, there really isn’t much room for trees.

A Male cemetary

A Male cemetary

The people, like the people in other Muslim countries we’ve visited, are lovely — hospitable, friendly, and generous.

Two times I was approached on my walks, each time by a different man, but both times they greeted me with the same line, “Where are you going?”

As a white woman walking alone, I’m wary of such approaches. I didn’t feel afraid for a moment, but I’ve been caught out before by men in strange countries coercing me into accepting help I didn’t want, which resulted in me then having to deal with the uncomfortable expectation of payment, so with both these men, I simply smiled and truthfully stated I was exploring the island, declined their offers of water, or a tour on their motorbike, and kept walking.

April was a frantically busy month for me, and that’s my excuse for failing to learn the basics of Dhivehi, the Maldivian language before I arrived in Male. However, while we were there, I learnt that Maldivians don’t have words for those we consider essential to politeness. In Dhivehi, there is no word for ‘thank  you’, or ‘please’, or ‘hello’, or ‘goodbye.’

Can you imagine living without those words?

How does a culture do without politeness?

I’ve given it some thought and come to the conclusion that it probably began because the people once lived in small communities on each of the tiny islands. In places where everyone knows everyone else, maybe appreciation and gratitude were a given.

In most cultures, a person would feel unappreciated if they were not thanked for anything he or she did for someone else. I like the notion of not having that expectation, of assuming that whatever we did was truly appreciated and acknowledged at all times.

And perhaps, just like I don’t greet my husband with a hello each time he emerges from his office, that is how it used to be for the islanders. If I leave my husband in the living room watching television, I don’t say goodbye. Maybe living in a small community on an island is similar to living in a family home, leaving no need for such words.

Still, Male is not a small community, and I struggled to see how a city of that size could manage without a hello or a goodbye, until I was told that when greeting someone, a Maldivian will ask, ‘Where are you going?’

I assume they part with phrases such as ‘I’m going home,’ or I’m going to school’ but my lessons in their language didn’t get that far.

Those men who I suspected were asking me where I was going, so they could offer to take me there and then demand payment from me, were simply saying, ‘Hello.’ I feel I owe them an apology. They did ask me where I was from, and other idle chatter, so it’s likely they were simply being friendly.

The Maldivian Flag

The Maldivian Flag

Paradise Island sunset

Paradise Island sunset

All up, I’m very glad I agreed to visit this interesting country.

Bats!

Yarra Bend Bats

Yarra Bend Bats

Recently, my walking group visited a section of the Yarra Bend Park inhabited by bats, or to give them their correct title – Grey-headed Flying-Foxes. A large section of the trees bordering the Yarra River is thick with them. I’ve never seen so many in the one place before.

Grey-headed Flying Foxes

Grey-headed Flying Foxes

It’s difficult to capture the enormity of the numbers when I could only photograph a small group of the trees at a time, but according to The Australian Bat Society webpage, the numbers have reached as high as 50,000 in recent years.

At first glimpse, it looked as if the trees were full of crows, or ravens, but the noise gave them away. Even though most of them were sleeping, those still awake didn’t worry about keeping quiet. In a large group, they sound like parrots but with a higher pitch and a distinct screechiness. They’re certainly not the most considerate of neighbours. You can hear a recording of one on the following YouTube: https://youtu.be/pc1wUKIxwSQ

Now, imagine that sound coming from a few hundred bats to get an idea of what we were hearing.

The first bat colony to take up permanent residence in Melbourne established itself in The Royal Botanic Gardens in 1986. However, by 2000, their numbers had grown so large that they were causing significant damage to the garden’s heritage listed trees. Wildlife groups rose to the occasion and helped relocate them by making loud noises at dusk and dawn. The damage to the Yarra Bend trees is also obvious, but the constant new growth compensates for it.

Bats sleeping in a dead gumtree

Bats sleeping in a dead gumtree

It really is a sight to see and hear, so if you live in Melbourne, I’d recommend you visit and take a look. We plan to return at dusk one day to watch them wake and fly off on their nightly search for fruit, nectar, and pollen.

Grey-headed Flying-Foxes sleeping/

Grey-headed Flying-Foxes sleeping

Yarra Bend Park is the largest area of natural bushland close to Melbourne’s centre, and it is easy to access the bat’s domain from The Bellbird Picnic area.

And for more interesting information about bats, go to the Australian Bat Society’s webpage.

Iphone Photos

The Night Noodle Market

Photo taken at the Melbourne Night Noodle Market in the daytime.

For some time, I’ve resisted using my iPhone for photos, choosing instead, to remain stuck in the misguided belief that I couldn’t clearly see an image on a phone screen, an opinion I believe comes from many years of using the viewfinder on my oldish digital camera.

But all that changed this week when I didn’t take my camera on a city walk with my walking group.

We began in Richmond and headed towards the city’s skyscrapers, walking alongside the Yarra. Melbourne is surrounded by green places, making the sight of the city skyline come as a surprise at times. It’s hard to believe there are so many pleasant spots close to a major city.

Some of my walking companions

The first photo I took wasn’t as successful as the ones above, but it was the one that first prompted me to pull out my phone. I nearly trod on a beautiful parrot that blended so well into the green grass that it was almost invisible. The movement as it pecked at grass seeds caught my eye and as soon as I saw it, I wanted to photograph it. At first I thought it was a budgerigar, but on closer examination, I discovered it was a Red Rumped Parrot.

I had to crop the photo because the original  looked like a photo of grass!

Red Rumped Parrot

Red Rumped Parrot

You can see a better image of a Red Rumped Parrot here.

I love that such striking and colourful birds can be found in the city’s gardens and parks. A little further down the track, there were Galahs to photograph as well, so out came the phone again.

Galahs

Galahs

The more I used the phone to take photographs, the easier it became. I did need to stand in the shade to clearly see and frame the image I wanted to take, and I often lingered so long taking photos that I fell behind my fellow walkers and had to run to catch up to them, but I didn’t mind.

My walking companions escaping!

Getting closer to the city.

In the city

And closer

We have arrived.

We have arrived.

And still the greenery continued.

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I was excited when we came upon the Federation Bells, created in 2001 by by Anton Hasell and Neil McLachlan to commemorate the centenary of Australia’s federation. I’d never seen them before.

The Federation Bells

The Federation Bells

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to wait for their scheduled ringing, but next time I go to the city, I’ll make sure I get there at the right time. They can be heard daily between 8-9 am, 12.30-1.30 pm, and 5 pm-6 pm.

We walked past the Night Noodle Market, visited the Immigration Museum – which I highly recommend – went over and under the Yarra bridges, and sat on the grass under a shady tree in Southbank to eat our lunch.

I’m impressed with the quality of the images – I generally don’t Photoshop because I’m just clicking away for memories, not art – and these are fine as far as I’m concerned.

Apparently, I CAN take iPhone photos!

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne

Unfortunately, using the iPhone to take photographs has’t resolved my tendency to sometimes produce images with muddled horizons that make them look slanted.

Sandridge Bridge

Sandridge Bridge

But I did master zooming in!

Underneath Sandridge Bridge

Underneath Sandridge Bridge

I was impressed with how clean it was everywhere we walked, especially the river, and then I saw this rubbish trap.

Yarra rubbish

Yarra rubbish

What a brilliant and effective idea!

I Love Melbourne

I Love Melbourne

I feel lucky  to have been born in this country, and that Melbourne is my home town, I love its green places, quirky buildings, art, and ambiance.

And I love my iPhone!

A SuperB Secret Event

In February, I celebrated my first birthday back in Australia after ten years away, and it was all that I hoped for.

I had a lovely dinner with my family, and presents from them all. I felt spoilt, which is how I think birthdays should be, but I have to confess, the icing on my cake was the present my two daughters gave me:

My birthday present.

My birthday present.

I was over the moon because one of my favourite things to do is to spend time with my girls.

The secret destination was an added bonus, because they know what I like and what I’m interested in, so I was sure it would be a fun day where ever we went or whatever we did.

I’ve had over a month to enjoy the delicious anticipation of this event, waiting for the time ‘that is convenient to all’ to arrive, but the anticipatory amps went up when I received this invitation on my Facebook page:

Invitation to a Super Secret Event

Invitation to a Super Secret Event

It was booked.

I spent the next couple of days fighting the urge to guess where we’d go, because I didn’t want to guess.

I wanted a pure surprise – and that’s exactly what I got!

If I had planned this day myself, I couldn’t have thought of better places to go and things to do.

It was a SUPERB day out.

We set off early for the 45 min drive to our first destination.

I couldn’t believe where they were taking me – back to the place of my earliest memories, the area I lived and played in for the best part of my first six years.

I was stoked. They permitted me to make a small diversion so I could show them the home I lived in all those years ago.

And then we went to Sherbrooke Forest.

Many a family outing was spent in this forest when I was small. I remember searching for glimpses of wildlife, finding a lyrebird performing a mating dance, and looking for fairies.

Before we set off on our walk, I was given the activity for our time in the forest:

Photography Bingo

Forest Bingo

The wondrous thing about this was that not only was I visiting this magical forest from my past, I was also going to receive photography lessons from my expert daughters.

Bonus!!

My photography teachers doubling as models.

My photography teachers doubling as models.

So, let me take you on a photographic tour of my Forest Bingo in Sherbrooke Forest:

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A cute snub nosed puppy ent.

A Fairy garden in an old fern stump. See the fairy above it on the right????

A Fairy garden in an old fern stump. See the fairy above it on the right????

My youngest daughter being a model for me.

My youngest daughter being a model for me.

Cockatoos (wildlife) in sports mode.

Cockatoos (wildlife) in sports mode.

Wildlife in sorts mode

Wildlife in sorts mode

Wildlife in sorts mode

Wildlife in sorts mode

Water in motion

Water in motion

Ghosting

Ghosting

Close up

Close up

Playing with White Balance

Playing with White Balance – orange

Playing with White Balance

Playing with White Balance – pink

Playing with white balance - green

Playing with white balance – green

Sherbrooke Forest scenic photo

Sherbrooke Forest scenic photo

I loved the forest, the photography lessons, and the company.

We had so much fun, but the day wasn’t over!

Next, my daughters prepared a yummy picnic lunch for me.

Unfortunately, at this point, the rain set in, and we eventually gave up on the next part of the day’s plan, but I still intend to do it another day – another post.

But wait! There’s more: We drove to the city to visit The Beatles in Australia exhibition at the Arts Centre:

The Beatles in Australia Exhibition

The Beatles in Australia Exhibition

It is fifty years this June, since I was lucky enough to see The Beatles perform live in a small venue.

It was a momentous event in my life, and visiting this exhibition brought all those wonderful memories rushing back.

I love the way music triggers emotions from our past.

After dinner, we all went home exhausted, but I was VERY happy.

Thank you to my lovely daughters fora fantastic birthday present.

A memorable day, filled with memories from past memorable days.

To finish, here’s a few more pics taken in the beautiful Sherbrooke Forest:

Sherbrooke Forest

Sherbrooke Forest

Sherbrooke Forest

A Crimson Rosella

Sherbrooke Forest

An Australian King Parrot

Irrational Fear

When this goes live, we will be on our return flight from a short trip to Norway, a trip which almost didn’t happen.

It’s a little embarrassing to talk about this, but let me give you some background first.

Two of the reasons I was excited about moving to Scotland relate to those two friends I mentioned in the last post, Judy and Monica. They have both died since I left Australia, but as they played such a big part in my life and my children were best friends with their children as they all grew up, I’ve tried to keep in touch with their children.

What does this have to do with moving to Scotland?

Well, one of Monica’s daughters lives here, and one of Judy’s sons lives in Norway. I knew I’d finally be able to visit them both in their homes, something which until then, had been too difficult and expensive.

It’s been great to be such a big part of their lives in the last few years. We’ve had many visits with Monica’s daughter and her family, and we’ve been able to see her children grow into beautiful teenagers.

We visited Judy’s son and his family the first year we were here, the next year they came to stay with us in Glasgow, then we saw them in Australia the third year, and in Oslo again last year. So, I really wanted to have one more visit with them in Norway, before it became that place too far away. But something was stopping me.

Irrational fear.

For some crazy reason, as the reality of living back in Australia drew closer and closer, I developed an irrational fear, a fear that I will never get to live in Australia again. Maybe my fear is there because I want to live in Australia so badly that I’ve created a type of superstition around the event. I can’t imagine why, but it’s like this, I’m scared I will die before I get there, or some enormous Icelandic eruption will prevent me from getting there before I die of old age, or something else… Insane, I know.

But here’s where the really irrational bit comes into play:

Do I stay away from the most dangerous form of transport known to mankind – the car? No, I’m happy to drive or be driven anywhere.

Do I shun full fat foods and take drugs to lower my cholesterol? No, I eat what I love and refuse the drugs.

Do I do worry about flying to other countries? Er…yes!

I haven’t developed a fear of flying, I’ve developed a fear of planning to fly!!!

So, I kept deferring making the arrangements, committing to dates, or contacting the people I hoped to visit. Basically, I avoided organising my trip to Norway.

The first time this irrational fear arose was in February this year. I really wanted to visit Iceland before we left Scotland. It seemed silly not to go while we were living so nearby, but I let the time roll on, too afraid to commit to going.

However, eventually I took a deep breath, put on my brave face and committed to the trip. That was when all my silly fears vanished. We had a fantastic few days in Iceland in April and we’ve now had a lovely holiday in Norway, but all this has prompted me to reflect a little deeper than I normally would on the subject of fear.

Biologically, fear is a basic survival mechanism to alert us to prepare for flight or fight in the face of real danger, but those types of danger are rare in our civilised society. Our dangers are far more hidden. I’d be very unlucky to meet up with a tiger and be eaten in Glasgow, but there are numerous ways I could suddenly be thrust into danger in today’s world – car accidents, plane crashes (there, I said it), and illness, but fighting or fleeing won’t help those situations. Perhaps this why we develop other things to be scared of?

Monsters under the bed, spiders, ghosts, moths, mice, birds, never getting to live in Australia again! 🙂

I don’t consider myself a fearful person, nor do I think of myself as superstitious normally, but I can remember past situations where a fear has influenced a decision I made, either I did or didn’t do or say something based on the irrational fear, and it is those occasions that bring me the greatest regrets in my life.

So, I tell myself this, I tell myself it is better to take the action I irrationally fear than to succumb to it. Hopefully, this attitude will lead to many good decisions like the trips to Iceland and Norway, and few regrets.

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Oslo May 2012 055

Is this good advice I give myself? What do you think? Has fear ever prevented you from doing something you now regret? Or maybe your fear isn’t irrational and it serves you well. Let me know.

By the way, I don’t fear planning to go home to Australia!

Give me a home among the gum trees!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLWzPQmd5sc

Home to Scotland, One Last Time

I am now back in Scotland, after a wonderful extended stay in Australia, a detour to Chile and a fleeting reunion with friends in Florida.

The time in Australia went by too fast. We had two birthdays to celebrate, a houseguest from America and a visitor from interstate, plus Christmas and all the busyness involved it that. It was fun, but I felt deprived of time. There wasn’t enough time to catch up with my friends and family. And there is never enough time to spend with my children. Still, we did our best with the time we had.

Coffee with our American guest and one son in Federation Sqaure, and who should happen by but our daughter and her boyfriend. A BIG wonderful surprise fpr is all.

Stopping for a coffee with our American guest and one son in Federation Sqaure, and who should happen by but our daughter and her boyfriend. A BIG wonderful surprise for us all. We don’t get those types of surprises in Scotland.

My gorgeous girls

My gorgeous girls

Christmas was a wonderful, drawn-out affair, beginning early – on December 15. Unfortunately, my boys were visiting on different dates from different states, and we only had one night where the whole family was together. I cooked a special Christmas dinner that night. It was pure pleasure to see my kids sitting around the table, chatting, laughing and enjoying each others company. I’d like more meals like that in the future.

Crazy fun family photos.

Crazy fun family photos.
Photo: C Townsend

On Christmas day, we enjoyed our Australian Christmas morning drinks – a tradition that goes back thirty or more years, to when our children were small. The home we lived in for twenty-eight years was blessed with wonderful neighbours. Those neighbours were our friends, and their children were my children’s friends. As our children were always keen to show each other their Christmas goodies, my friends and I decided to formalise the event, and have a bit of fun ourselves. Christmas morning drinks became the highlight of my Australian Christmases, and something I will always remember fondly. Sadly, Monica and Judy, the mothers in those families, have died since I left Australia, so it is a real treat for me that when we have an Australian Christmas, Judy’s son and his wife continue the tradition. It is made all the more special by their small children. Beautiful evidence of the cycle of life.

Two of Judy's sons, their partners and their children.

Two of Judy’s sons, their partners and their children.
Photo: C Townsend

The cousins

The cousins
Photo: C Townsend

LIttle children are so easy to please.

Little children are so easy to please.

2012-12-24 18.43.31

Next, we returned to our house-sit to have Christmas dinner with our American visitor.  He had to leave us that afternoon to fly to Sydney.

As my youngest daughter was working at that time, we had the ‘real’ family Christmas dinner at dinner time.

Merry Christmas, Ben. Wish you were with us.

Merry Christmas, Ben. Wish you were with us.
Photo: C Townsend

Our final Christmas gathering was on December 30th – yes, we made Christmas last for over two weeks! This time, it was the extended family gathering, with my siblings and their families. The group was smaller than usual because my eldest brother and his wife were in the UK, a niece and her family now live in Coffs Harbour, and one of my sons  was working in Esperance,, but it was still wonderful to see everyone.

My extended family Christmas.

My extended family Christmas.
Photo: C Townsend

I was reluctant to  leave Australia. However, once Tony dragged me onto the plane and we were on our way to Santiago, I realised that this was the last time I would be leaving Australia to go home. That was a good feeling.

Santiago, Chile was also busy. We were there for an annual conference Tony has been involved with for many years, which inevitably meant we spent a lot of time catching up with people from all over the world, as well as fitting in some sightseeing.

Chile January 2012 022

A viewpoint in Valparaiso, Chile

I adjusted to the time change only a day or so before we left for the next leg of our journey – a fleeting visit to our friends in Florida. Once again cramming as much in as possible into a small space of time.

Catching up with friends

Catching up with friends

Including furry friends.

Including furry friends – I’m referring to the dogs. My people friends aren’t furry!

When we lived in Florida, both these beautiful dogs would stay with us when their owners went away.

When we lived in Florida, both these beautiful dogs would stay with us when their owners went away.

Despite the six weeks of sun, it was good to finally get home to cold Scotland and stop rushing around.

I have unfinished business here; a house to pack up and friends to say goodbye to. I’m sure these next six months will fly by.

It will be nice to once again live in Australia, and visit other places.

Are you homesick for anywhere?

Dorothea McKellar understands. Here’s the fifth verse of her poem, My Country.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the Rainbow Gold,
For flood and fire and famine,
She pays us back threefold –
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze.

The filmy veil of greenness that thickens as we gaze.

Travel Weary

I still have much to learn about blogging, a fact which has been re-inforced this month because I failed to upload this entry automaticcally. As usual, this post was meant to coincide with the full moon, but it had also been programmed (obviously unsuccessfully) to upload when I was travelling.

Travel has become a common occurrence in my life over the last few years, particularly the years since we moved to Glasgow.

I was recently asked what the child I was would think of the life I am now living. The answer that leapt to mind was that she would be dancing with delight, laughing with excitement and  jiggling with the anticipation, eager for it all to happen. I know, because as I’ve travelled the world, there have been many times when I’ve been reminded of that child and her dreams.

Here is a list of a few of those places and what triggered my early desire to visit them:

1. Germany – it was the language I chose to learn in school.

2. The Dead Sea – I wanted to experience sitting in water. 

3.  Switzerland – thanks to Heidi.

4. Disneyland! – What child of the 50’s didn’t dream of visiting Disneyland?

5. Ireland – because of my heritage.

6. Big Ben – I’m not sure why. Maybe because it was in London, and London sounded exciting.

7. A tropical island – I had a romantic notion about sun, sea, sand and islands, it still holds.

7. Liverpool – thank you, beloved Beatles.

8. Jerusalem – a fascination with religion.

9. The Eiful Tower – doesn’t everyone need to see this?

10. The Grand Canyon – as above.

11. Uluru – not overseas, but a helluva long way from where I lived, so I think it’s fair to include it in this list.

12. Europe – history

13. Africa – elephants, zebras, giraffes, oh my!

14. Sand dunes – wide, desolate and amazing places.

15. The pyramids of Giza – Amazing structures I learnt about at school.

Thanks to Tony’s eternal desire for travel, I’ve ticked all those boxes and seen many other magnificent sights along the way.

I’ve travelled to the south, north, east and west of Australia, America and Europe. I’ve been to Africa, China, the Middle East and many small islands.

The move to Scotland opened up Europe for me. A major advantage to living here are the cheap, short flights to another country. To an Australian, where just about everywhere is a long way away, the realisation that we can board a flight in Glasgow and land in another country after an hour’s flight is mind-blowing. We’ve made good use of this opportunity, taking many small trips where we’d spend a few days or up to a week in one place. No travel fatigue of ‘not another cathedral/palace/castle/museum’ for us. We’re back in Scotland before it kicks in.

I know there are many magnificent, quaint, historical and/or incredible European cities, I’ve still to see, but guess what? I don’t care.

In September, Tony and I spent a week in Spain and Portugal. I’d visited both countries before, but in different areas. This time, we stayed in Cadiz in the south of Spain, and drove through Portugal to Sintra. A magical place. I went for the warmth. What I call summer, didn’t happen in Scotland, so I craved blue skies and heat from sunshine. It was wonderful, but it brings me to the point of this post – I still enjoy visiting new places; however, I no longer yearn to go anywhere but Australia.

I’m all travelled out, and yet… I’m planning trips for after we move back to Australia. I want to drive from Perth to Broome, and I’d like to ‘do’ the Nullabor again, see the Flinders Ranges in Wildflower season and drive up the east coast to visit friends and family. There are still places I want to go, things I want to see, but mostly, they seem to be contained in that wide brown land. And that is possibly the reason I’m very excited to be currently travelling – I’m en route to my country.

What would the child you were, think of the life you’re now living? I’d love to hear your responses to that question.

Now, for the third verse of My Country:

My Country by Dorothea McKellar

A stark white ring-barked forest
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon.
Green tangle of the brushes,
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops
And ferns the warm dark soil.

See you very soon, my lovely. 🙂