Save the Best Til Last – 3 nights in Sydney with the Tour then a Few Nights with Rosemary’s Granddaughter & Family

Well, it’s the last few days of the tour and we have come to Sydney, home of the Iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House, both of which will be on the list to visit.

First we drove over Sydney bridge from the North side, where the hotel is to the South side where the shops and park are.  We stopped at Bondi Beach, a sweeping crescent of white sandy beach located 4 miles east of Sydney, which is popular with surfers, locals and tourists.  There was a nippy wind but at least the sun was shining.

There are plenty of cafes and restaurants here and as many of you who follow my adventures, I do like tea and cake and a good view – I am a bit of a lazy old bear!

The tour company had arranged a harbour cruise, which took in the famous sights and included a delicious lunch.

Here’s a photo of us passing under Sydney Harbour Bridge, which took 8 years 5 months 22 days to build, construction completed 19 January 1932 and opened 19 March 1932.

It was tested by putting 96 steam engines end to end ! That must have been a sight!

Image may contain: sky, bridge, outdoor and water And we also took a tour round one of the most famous buildings in the world – The iconic Sydney Opera House, which took 14 years to build and was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 20th October, 1973.

I’d encourage everyone who visits to have a tour and if you’re lucky enough, like us, you might get to here someone singing on the stage.

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It was really nice to have a few days relaxing with family that we only see once in a blue moon.  We had chance to relax and had a really good catch up.  Then we went to visit Palm Beach, the famous beach where they film Home and Away (our relatives are avid watchers of that and Neighbours).  It’s funny to think we watch it sat on the other side of the world 🙂

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Well, our time in Australia has come to a close and it’s time to wend our way back to the UK.  We’ve enjoyed our Distant Journey’s tour round the country and we definitely hope to be back one day…

 

 

 

 

Cairns, the Gateway of the Great Barrier Reef

Another Qantas flight, this time to Cairns, a city in tropical Far North Queensland, considered the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.  The hotel this time was another DoubleTree by Hilton, so I knew we’d enjoy the stay.

We have four days in this wonderful city and I think it will be my favourite.  We started with a visit to Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures, renown for crocodile conservation. From a boat on the lagoon we saw lots of saltwater crocs basking in the sun.  They can be really are huge and it makes your mind boggle to think they have been on the earth for some 200 million years.  Being in close quarters to one, you really feel how menacing they are and you can see how quick their reactions are.  I don’t think I’ll get too close!

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world and is the only living thing to be seen from outer space.  Other amazing facts about it:

  • Largest coral reef system in the world
  • Consists of over 2,900 separate reefs
  • Stretches over 1,600 miles (2,600 km)
  • The 133,000 square miles (344,000 km) includes 900 islands

Most of the tour group went on a day trip to the Great Barrier Reef, reached by a boat trip of one and a half hours each way.  There they travelled on a glass bottomed boat, some went in a submersible and some went snorkelling and saw tropical marine fish such as surgeonfish, parrot fish, larger red bass and brightly coloured wrasse, to name but a few.

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Unfortunately water and teddy bears don’t mix, so I had to relax back in the hotel and hear all about it when they got back 🙁

We took a trip to the Esplanade saltwater Lagoon, which is very popular with locals and tourists alike.  We really enjoyed our time in Cairns,the weather was warm and sunny, not too humid, just right for me and we saw some wonderful sights.  The Great Barrier Reef was a tick off the bucket list for many on our tour.

Sadly the time went quickly and it was time to pack up for the Qantas flight to Sydney for the last leg of our tour before returning to the UK.  How time flies!

 

Ayers Rock Resort & Visit to Uluru

We flew with Qantas again, this time for a single night at the Desert Gardens Hotel at the Ayers Rock Resort so we could experience one of Australia’s most famous landmarks – Uluru as it is now known, which is a sacred part of Aboriginal creation mythology.

It’s certainly dominant on the landscape as it rises 348 metres above the plain, more than 860 metres above sea level and has a circumference of approx 5.8 miles (9.4km).  In 1950 Ayers Rock was declared a national park. In 1958 both Ayers Rock and Mt Olga (Kata Tjuta) were excised from an Aboriginal reserve to form the Ayers Rock Mt Olga National Park. It took more than 35 years campaigning for Anangu to be recognised as the park’s traditional owners and given the deeds back to their land.

It’s was a long day on the coach but we certainly wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Being there at sunrise or sunset is a magical experience.

Alice Springs Desert Park then a Barbecue and Sing Song

Next on our tour is a trip to Alice Springs Desert Park where we saw red kangaroos, emus, dingoes, a bustard and lots of colourful birds. These parks are vital for conservation of the native Australian species, many of which I’ve never heard of!

‘Opened in 1997, the park covers 1,300 hectares of land 7 kilometres west of the Alice Springs town centre. With a core area of 54 hectares the park presents and interprets the Australian desert environment and, its inhabitants while contributing to the conservation of Australia’s desert flora and fauna.

With the loss of habitat, ecosystems, species and the changing of climate, the Alice Springs Desert Park is positioned to empower and connect people with nature, the natural world and the environment.’

It was a fascinating place, there’s so much to learn about…

After an afternoon enjoying the lovely facilities at our hotel, the DoubleTree by Hilton, Alice Springs we were invited to a barbecue at a local quarry, accompanied by a boomerang demo, a sing song round the camp fire, and a talk on the stars, what a magical sight they are without all the light pollution we get in our towns and cities.

Well, these days have been very busy and tomorrow we take a coach to Uluru also known as Ayers Rock…

The Ghan Train & The Royal Flying Doctor Service, Alice Springs

Next we travelled in style from Adelaide, South Australia to Alice Springs, Northern Territories on The Ghan, a train which is run by Great Southern Rail (approx 774m long, consisting of 30 carriages + locomotives).  One night, two days of pure luxury which ‘takes you from the deep green pastures of the South into the rich red outback splendour’.  With waiter service and a private cabin it’s a once in a lifetime experience.  And there’s no Wi-Fi, that’s an indulgence in itself – giving you time to watch the beautiful views go by, eat delicious meals, dip your nose in to a good book with the movement lulling you to sleep at bedtime!

I won’t spoil it for you, in case you decide to treat yourself to this wonderful experience.

    

On arrival at Alice Springs we were taken on a tour of the School of the Air, the Royal Flying Doctor Service & the Old Telegraph Post. The Royal Flying Doctor Service celebrates 90 years, saving the seriously injured who lived far from cities from travelling hundreds of kilometres by horse, cart or camel to reach a doctor.  It’s hard to imagine how vital this service is when most of us are within a few miles of a doctor’s surgery/hospital.

We obviously had to visit the souvenir shop, where I made some new friends – g’day cobber! Bruno the large bear was a bit forward, too, asking me to sit on his lap!  I had a good browse round but couldn’t decide what to buy as a souvenir, there was so much to choose from.

 

10th & 11th August in Adelaide

Just a couple of nights in Adelaide, South Australia’s cosmopolitan coastal capital and Australia’s 5th most populous city.  Our delightful accommodation this time was the well situated five star Stamford Plaza Hotel.  A short drive away was the beach-side suburb of Glenelg, which lies on the shore of Holdfast Bay,. I love that name!  How nice to see some reminders of home!  We had a mooch round before retiring to the hotel for bed.

The weather has turned wet & windy, so we had a wander round the shops in Adelaide followed by a visit to nearby the Adelaide Festival Centre to see guitarist Albert Lee’s free seminar & concert. It was brilliant! (Eric Clapton described him as the greatest guitarist in the world)

On our last evening some of the tour group visited the hotel’s roof-top heated pool and jacuzzi, which wasn’t for me as I’d end up too soggy!

Tomorrow we have the excitement of the luxury Ghan train from Adelaide to Alice Springs…  This train doesn’t have Wi-Fi, so you’ll have to wait for the next update!

 

A Few Days in Melbourne

We’ve had an enjoyable few days in Melbourne, the state capital of Victoria and the second most populous city in Australia and our hotel, the Mercure Treasury Gardens, has been a real treat to stay in. I loved wandering through Treasury Gardens, such a peaceful place.

We’ve had a good nosegay of the city, as Terry Wogan would have said, and we also managed to find a The Comic’s Lounge, where we had a good laugh but forgot to take the camera and phone, so couldn’t get a photo.  Doh!

After three nights in Melboure it was time to get to Melbourne Airport for our Qantas flight to Adelaide.  Our Distant Tours rep, Sylvia, has been really helpful and the tour has got of to a great start.  Sylvia hasn’t had a bear on the tour before and wanted a photo for posterity and I was happy to oblige!  I even put on one of my best dresses and matching hat for the occasion!

Next stop Adelaide for two nights…

 

Finally reached Melbourne, Australia

After an 8 hour flight we landed in Melbourne, Australia and, after making our way through the airport, caught a taxi to our Hotel for a well deserved rest and a cup of tea.  This flying malarky takes it out of you!

I haven’t had the opportunity to send many photos through to the UK for Isabel to post so I may have to add few photos on my return.

I did  have a wander round the city, through the Botanic Gardens and past the Shrine of Remembrance, the National War Memorial of Victoria where, 0n 25th April each year, they celebrate Anzac Day to remember the Australian and New Zealand troops lost in conflicts past and present.

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I couldn’t be in Melbourne and not take the opportunity to visit to Ramsey Street, where they film one of their most famous soaps – Neighbours.  I can’t type that without the original theme tune coming to mind!  I even managed to have a chat to a homeowner who had lived there since the beginning of the show.  Some members of my family still watch it and I can even remember when Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue were in it!  It’s great to see Paul Robinson, the Kennedys and Toadie are still going.

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I have a little more time before catching a plane to Adelaide for the next stage of the journey but I’ll have to see what we can send through.   We’re not very computer or phone literate plus need access to free wifi.  Doh!

Sunday 5th August – Singapore Sightseeing

After a good night’s rest in our lovely comfy beds and a delicious breakfast, we’re up and about for a day’s sightseeing.  First on the list is the Thian Hock Keng Buddhist Temple, one of their oldest temples and a national monument.

Next on the list was a visit to the National Orchid Garden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the only tropical botanic garden on their World Heritage List.  I always love visiting beautiful gardens, they bring such tranquility and joy.  Orchids in particular are so delicate and a delightful splash of colour.

We enjoyed our wanderings round Singapore Waterfront near the hotel but found ourselves getting tired, so we retired so a sheltered spot for a reviving cocktail – just one problem, though, one gin sling cocktail and I was out for the count!

Time for bed to get some sleep before another day of sightseeing before our evening flight to Melbourne Airport for the start of our Australian adventure.

 

Stop Off at Singapore

Hi All

Just a quick update to say it’s been a long a tiring journey – we left Heathrow Terminal 3, flew to Dubai to change planes and boarded another Emirates plane that flew us to Singapore Changi Airport.  We collected our bags and made our way through the airport and caught a taxi to our Hotel for a touch of luxury and some much needed sleep as none of us are good at sleeping in economy on a plane, although we did get to watch a lot of films!  More on our adventure tomorrow…