The Retirees visit Bungendore for the Meeting of Tribes

Bungendore is a dormitory village outside Canberra in the Queanbeyan district first settled by Europeans in 1837. It is now home to 4,000 plus people and has many of its earlier buildings under heritage protection. These buildings give it the charm of history and a rural past.

It is 37klms from Canberra and is surrounded by vineyards cattle and sheep. Kerry and I went there as a meeting of tribes to celebrate our second son’s wedding, welcome our new daughter in law and meet the many members of her family. They had chosen Bungendore as neutral territory and a pleasant village for the gathering of tribes.

We arrived in advance of the of the others and together with brother Greg and his partner Gillian we sought out two of the more pleasant of those vineyards with a welcoming cellar door. Well truth be told we went looking for a place for lunch and without doing any research selected Larks Hill Vineyard. We drove out into the hills surrounding Bungendore and found Larks Hill just off the highway hiding amongst the scrub. Some of the trees were in full flower and reminded me of the cherry trees in Orange  Whilst the others rushed the restaurant I scouted the cellar door. There were a number of other visitors so I went to join the others at the restaurant which is closed on Fridays. Go figure!

By the time we had reconciled our disappointment the cellar door had been evacuated, so we shuffled in. Greeted by an elderly silver haired lady, we sampled a number of wines (the dedicated driver abstaining of course) and finding a very good Sangiovese and Pinot Noir purchased one of each. The good lady of the Cellar door then guided us to one of the better “watering holes” for lunch – the Lake George Pub in Bungendore.

And very good it was. The girls enjoyed a Beetroot salad with pepitas and walnuts while the boys shared a pizza with jalapenos chilies adorning.

Now fortified we returned to the wine trail to search out Summer Hill Cellar Door. The evening was approaching and the weather was taking on the traits of springtime in Canberra – bloody chilly. We traveled the length of the Kings Highway and not a sign of the vineyard anywhere (because Greg had turned on his “maps” once we had past it) so once we hit the freeway out of Canberra we all knew we had missed it. (Kerry had forecast that it was in the other direction and there were plenty other signs that we had missed it all ignored of course) This time Google directed us to the door. The vineyard had changed name under new ownership which had confused us.

On arriving we noticed a group amongst the barren vines (just budding into life) seated with an array of wines in front of them and Mrs Winemaker spruking the virtues of their bottled produce. We joined the group for the wine tasting in the vineyard at Summer Hill. This was a first for us. In all of our wine travels we had not sat amongst the vines tasting the pleasures of the fruits. But for the cooling breezes, it was most enjoyable but sadly the wines were not as enjoyable as Larks Hill in my view.

The fading sun and chilling breezes of the late afternoon forecast our return to the motel in Bungendore. There is a twilight effect (as well as daylight saving) in Canberra at this time of year so we were able to walk through the two streets that made up the village before we chose the only café open for dinner that night – Café Woodwork. Interesting interior but my choice of meal was not the best and I suffered indigestion for the rest of the night.

Next morning – wedding day, we had a couple of hours before the wedding so we decided to take a drive to Braidwood another village about 1/2 hour away. It is a much bigger village with many more historic buildings but laid out in the traditional fashion – a main or high Street with residences behind the commercial strip. A veritable plethora of coffee shops and cafes lined “Main Street” but behind all that was the history of a rural town told in its buildings – the Literary Society building now the HQ for the area authority and library, the Courthouse with the Police station behind, the old hotels now converted to a new use and the theatre now a hall with the Saturday Farmers markets occupying it today. Across the road and down a lane is one of the earliest stone houses now accommodating a bakery and some of the old cinema chairs from across the road. Standing prominently at one end of the village is the Catholic Church. Like the cathedrals of Europe, it looks the most successful building (even though it is not adorned anywhere near the opulence of the European cathedrals).

Before leaving the village we drop into the converted CBC bank (Commercial Banking Co of Sydney). It is a bizarre collection of craft and fashion but in this jumble, I find the replacement for my credit card tool confiscated by Australian border security after surviving in my wallet throughout Europe.

Back to Bungendore to prepare for the Wedding. After a short kip we shower and dress, meet with Greg and Gill and walk to the ole Stone House. There are already guests milling around and soon the garden fills, the ceremony commences and in brilliant sunshine and a cooling spring breeze Adam and Fasheena become husband and wife. Tears of joy, photographs with family and the reception follow. A perfect start to their wedded life.

The day is concluded with dinner at Le Tres Bon and a very happy Adam is presented with the electric power saw I have carted from home so I don’t have to cart it back. I am one happy and proud dad.

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The Retirees revisit Gayndah

We were here 12 months ago and promised June we would return for her 90th birthday. Gayndah is 360+ kilometres from Brisbane and some of the road is a bit hairy when a cattle truck passes or a caravan decides to meander along in front of you. Depending on your timetable its is at least 4 to 5 hours north west of Brisbane. We had a delightful if somewhat chilly evening with June, her family and friends and we will be back for the next milestone.

When you enter from the south you are greeted by Gay Dan and the Big Orange. Noted for its citrus, Gayndah has become home to Gay Dan and it is the only breakfast spot of a Sunday morning. Gayndah claims to be the first town in Queensland having been established in 1850. Exploration of the Gayndah area began in 1847  the first European settlers arrived in 1848, and the town was established in the following year. Gayndah may be the oldest officially Gazetted town in Queensland though, it should be noted that, a convict colony of 47 people existed on the Brisbane River, CBD site in 1825.

Being the oldest gazetted town in Queensland you can expect to find some history in town. The local museum established in W Young’s General Store which opened in 1849 is well stocked with memorabilia and spreads across the street. Located in a dead end street fronting the Burnett River you get a grand view of the river and the bridge crossing it plus the flood level measure (2013 the river flooded to 17 metres).

It is one of the tidiest towns we have visited.  The town hall has a retro look of the 40’s buildings quite a contrast to the traditional houses and hotels which abound in the town. Even the public toilet is modeled on the early timber style. A place of many firsts, Gayndah even claims Queensland’s first derby over 1 and 1/2 mile, hence the statue of the horse and jockey in the main thoroughfare.

We visited the Duke and Duchess (the name given to the peak behind Gayndah) to lookout upon the Burnett and its surrounds.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that my footy club Easts Tigers had also journeyed to Gayndah for the weekend – well at least their In-Trust Super Cup Team to contest a round against Norths Devils at neighbouring Mundubbera. The town is located 405 kilometres (252 mi) north west of  Brisbane. Mundubbera is also built on the banks of the Burnett River and is the self-proclaimed “Citrus Capital of Queensland”, although this is disputed by the neighbouring (and rival) Gayndah. I am pleased to report that the Tigers had a win over the Devils. There were even some stars at the match – Darren Smith (former East’s centre,  Bulldogs and later Broncos player and State of Origin member and Australian International) as an assistant coach of the Tigers and Steve Menzies (former Manly Sea Eagles player) as an NRL ambassador. Interestingly both Smith and Menzies played in head gear. I captured a few shots of the match.


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The Retirees in the Capital – Canberra

On 12th January 2017, we received wonderful news. Adam and Fasheena have brought another grandchild and their first child into the world. We had arranged to be in Canberra shortly after the birth. Arriving on the 31st January we settled into our hotel and then went to visit number 5 grandchild Francis (after my Dad and me) John (Fasheena’s father) with a third name Nakandemb referring to Fasheena’s passed relatives that Francis will not meet. Francis is a healthy 3 week old boy. Clearly adored by his parents. Fasheena is a confident relaxed mother taking motherhood in her stride. Adam is as excited as I can recall seeing him and like Fasheena seems to take to parenting with a natural instinct. So we have spent some time bonding with Francis and spent sometime looking around Canberra.

We stayed at Olim’s Mercure Hotel near the War Memorial in Ainsley Road. Whilst this is one of the earliest hotels in Canberra and is built in the style of a 1927 country hotel parts of it have been added to provide modern accommodation. Unfortunately we had not done enough research and we were given a standard room – standard for 1927 and the maintenance on the room had not been attended to regularly. To their credit our hosts recognised our complaints and waived breakfast charges.

We spent the first day with Fasheena and Francis until Adam got home from work. Fasheena had a friend Betty visiting as well. So after they had prepared dinner (we were bonding with Francis), Adam showed us Canberra at night from Mount Ainsley.

The next morning we caught the RED bus to see the sights of the city. We did not have enough time to visit the War Memorial (next time) but the Bus went down Anzac Ave past the memorial to the seven conflicts involving Australians at War. We then left the bus at the Lake Burley Griffin boat dock to take a trip around the lake on an electrically powered boat hand painted to depict I know not what.  Some of the sights were Anzac Ave to the War Memorial, Australian National Museum, Telstra Tower at Black Mountain, Australian National Library, Old and new Parliament House, High Court, Blundell’s Cottage an early stone cottage formerley part of the original Duntroon Farm, the Carillion and Kingston shoreline from the Lake.

We disembarked at the same spot and from there went to the High Court. I did not know the court was sitting hearing an Appeal from the Court of appeal in Western Australia. It involved an interpretation of the Constitution and all Attorneys General from the States and Territory were there to intervene. Her Honour Justice Susan Kieffel QC was presiding with the full bench including Mr Justice Eidlmann the new man on the bench getting blooded. For me it was interesting particularly as I was not on the spot briefing Counsel. The Court is very impressive and free to visit. Security is not as tight as I expected. No metal scanners met you at the door. Instead we were met by a friendly member of staff who also volunteered to take some of the following photos.

From there we went to the Australian National Gallery but we were short on time as we wanted to have lunch and visit the Australian Mint. The Mint is not regularly on the RED bus itinerary. You have to ask the driver and provided it is 2.15 pm  he then dashes to the Mint before returning the bus to the scheduled route. In the Mint there is an interesting video on the Australian-born artist Stuart Devlin of the reverse side of Australia’s coins and all of the other designs he has done in precious metals and stones.

After the video we caught up with the guide taking visitors around the history cabinets of Australia’s currency. From the First Fleet until minting of gold coins following the 1850’s gold rush currency proved difficult to keep in the colony until Governor Macquarie obtained 40,000 Spanish dollars from the UK government and punched out the middle of the coin to create our first N.S.W. currency. After the gold rush and the competition between various Mints federation saw the unification of minting coinage. The Royal Australian Mint produced other pennies and shillings until decimal currency. All current coins portray Her Majesty Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia, on the obverse, with the present effigy having been designed by Ian Rank-Broadley. This is matched with designs by the Australian-born artist Stuart Devlin on the reverse.  They now comprise 50c, 20c, 10c and 5c coins – all still referred to as ‘silver’ though actually 75% copper and 25% nickel, and for many years there were also “bronze” 2c and 1c coins.

The tour then took us to the minting floors where collectable coins are produced and another floor where the standard currency is manufactured by robots with minimum human intervention.

I was so engrossed in everything that we almost missed the bus. Exiting the building we spotted the bus moving off in the car park. Fortunately the driver spotted us and waited for our late arrival. Unlike the previous day of clear skies and high temperatures this day was scattered cloud threatening rain. Our plans for an al fresco dinner at Kingston looked at risk particularly as we had brought clothes for summer evenings not wet and windy afternoon and night. So after the bus dropped us at Civic there was a spot of shopping at MYERS and we were set for dinner. Adam, Fasheena. Francis and Betty joined us on the lake at Kingston. Francis was perfectly comfortable and well mannered for a three week old. The next day was spent with Fasheena Betty and Francis before we caught the plane back to Brisbane but not before planning the next trip when Francis would visit us in our home and meet Tank the Cat who will join him in Canberra.


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The Retirees Escape to Auckland – Part 5

It is our last day to travel around the Auckland environs so after some nifty work on the internet we hired a car from “Go” for a days tripping. Stupidly I did not arrange a pickup from our apartment thinking the early morning walk would be nice. Auckland has many volcanic cones and they are all steep sided so the walk through Albert Park was more a climb and then we went the wrong way to make the walk “more enjoyable” and finally the decent to the hire company office. We agreed immediately that we would not return home that way. After picking up the car we planned a trip to the western beach of Piha and ended up in the northern village of Helensville. No GPS and the turn off was hidden by road works.

No worry we got directions and headed for Henderson the Great Scenic Drive and then Piha (where 800 Words was filmed). I guess it had to rain one of our days there and it chose today, so the dramatic views entering Piha we somewhat muted by the overcast skies. As we twisted down the narrowing road the village of Piha appeared spread like a blanket below us.

After descending to the sea level, I was reminded of Sunshine Coast probably in the 70’s. Beach shacks abound and the occasional shop. Here it is middle of the week and clearly no one in NZ has a job to go to – there are no car parks at the first beach, but as we make it to the Piha Surf Life Savers Club it is clear that some school has decided that the students all need to learn how to lounge about in the surf club. It is lunch time and the kitchen is closed so it is to Rough Eddies Fish and Chip Bar we stroll to buy the biggest load of chips and smallest piece of fish to eat on the black sand beach. Even the gulls were on holidays as they crowded us for lunch.

After a relaxing lunch, we drove through the area but it was all much the same.

So we headed for Karekare beach to the south. Karekare is a popular destination for Aucklanders in summer, but receives fewer visitors than nearby Piha, partly because the road is narrow and only recently sealed. Also the beach is a long walk from the car park with the beach sandwiched between hilly escarpments either side. This is not a road for the fainthearted. The location will also be familiar to viewers of the film The Piano, which included beach scenes shot at Karekare and Piha.

We started the trip home reaching Titirangi around 3.00pm. Titirangi is a suburb in the Waitakere Ward of Auckland 13 kilometres to the southwest of the Auckland city centre. at the southern end of the Waitakere Ranges. Just before getting to Titirangi we encountered Arataki Learning Centre a part of  the Arataki Visitor Centre the gateway to the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park. With more than 16,000 hectares of native rainforest and coastline, 250km of walking and tramping tracks providing access to beaches, breathtaking views, and spectacular rocky outcrops, including the Hillary Trail, black sand beaches, waterfalls and giant kauri trees, this is a must stop. The Learning Centre gave us an overview of the Park and it views.

.Returning home to our apartment we relaxed until catching the plane home to Brisbane the next day.

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The Retirees Escape to Auckland – Part 4

Tomorrow we meet Cilla and Bob who were our inspiration to travel to Auckland New Zealand. Cilla and Bob live in Attenborough outside Nottingham (Yes the UK). For those who followed our travels in the UK you will already know them and for those who don’t then let me put it this way – Cilla organises the local church working bee for the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Attenborough and we toiled with her amongst the gravestones and Bob well he works at the Nottingham University (not Trent Uni). Cilla and Bob were visiting Auckland for their daughter’s wedding and we thought it was a good opportunity to catch up as our visiting flight was only 3 hours not 26 hours if we went to the UK.

Arrangements had been made – we would meet outside our apartment building and go to One Tree Hill and have lunch at a cafe close by. We knew when Bob had arrived – typical English driving you park your car in the direction you want to go not the direction of the traffic.

One Tree Hill located in Cornwall Park is a 182-metre (597 ft) an important memorial place for both Maori and other New Zealanders. Cilla was certain that visitors could no longer drive to the summit so we walked (and walked and walked and then climbed to the summit past the parked cars of the other visitors). It is surrounded by the suburbs but located within Cornwall Park which is owned by a private trust established to hold the land for the use of the public.  The summit provides views across the Auckland area, and allows visitors to see both of Auckland’s harbours.

On the summit of the hill is an obelisk (not a tree surprisingly), a memorial to Maori. Before the obelisk stands a bronze statue of a Māori warrior. Beneath it is the grave of Sir John Logan Campbell who bequeathed £5,000 for the obelisk and established the trust for the creation of Cornwall Park.

Of course we then had to walk down the hill to the car for a short journey to the Cornwall Park Cafe. Whilst not as splendid as Tantalus, the ambience and the company made up for it and we reminisced about church yards gravestones and that bloody holly tree that I had to trim. It was lovely to meet them again and made us both miss the Midlands of England even more. After lunch (about 3.00pm) Bob dropped us at the Auckland City Hospital to try and recover the records of Kerry’s visit and pay any outstanding expenses. The clinical notes had not been written up and we are still waiting for the records. Australia and NZ have an agreement about emergency trips to the hospital so there was not charge for the overnight stay.

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The Retirees Escape to Auckland – Part 3

Kerry has been released from hospital and insists that we embark on our plans for Waiheke Island and the Eco Zip Lines. It is a beautiful day and we catch the ferry to Waiheke. This is an island just off Auckland and a popular tourist site with many small wineries and breweries as well as walks and beaches. We pass Devonport, North Head the other islands and other travellers and within 30 mins we are docking.

We transferred from the ferry to the bus with one other couple who turned out to be American tourists from Orange County. The bus wound its way along the smaller roads to give us scenic views of the island before arriving at Eco Zip Line HQ.

Eco Zip is a series of 3 zip lines (flying foxes) running over the top of some old original forest and modern regrowth. It appears expensive until you see the gear you have to wear and realise that there are two guides working with you all the way. The first line was very gentle to get us started then the second line faster and finally the last line rocketed us down hill about 60 kph thumping into the brake at the bottom. We were warned not to hold onto the bar to closely otherwise you can break your nose as you slam into the break.

Of course what comes down must walk back up only you get to see the forest you sailed over. After getting back to HQ we decided to join our American companions in a trip to a winery and brewery and we would have done that but I left my wallet in my zip line harness and after $35 cab fare we recovered the wallet and ended up at Tantalus Vineyard. A mistake the result of which we found the perfect place for lunch. Both a winery with surrounding vines and a brewery in a stylish building with the dining room styled like a 1950’s American house with bespoke light fittings.

By the way this place was great for its food and ambience. We ordered the wines and beers we wanted taste at our table with lunch. After lunch we strolled through the vines and down the road to our bus stop and rode the bus to the quay to catch our ferry ending a fabulous visit to Waiheke Island.

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The Retirees Escape to Auckland – Part 2

At the end of Part 1 Kerry had been told by her GP to go to the Emergency Dept at the Auckland Hospital. This is not a place that tourists frequent so we did what everyone does – we called a cab. The hospital is on the edge of the CBD near the Domain and this was 5.30 pm peak hour Friday evening traffic. So it was close to 6.00 pm when we arrived. The GP had rung the Registrar so we got through the immediate steps quickly but thereafter things dragged until the ward nurse told me that visiting hours were almost up.

So after tucking Kerry into bed I headed to catch a bus back to the CBD and our Apartment which I did successfully first go. In addition I discovered another Auckland icon in the White Lady; a very large cafe de curbside/pie van that has been an institution in Auckland for 60 + years. After passing this cafe I could see the Apartment building and trekked home.

Next day I reversed the journey and caught the bus back to the hospital. The x-rays, ct scans, blood tests had all been completed and a very weary Kerry greeted me with the news that she was unlikely to be discharged until after 2.30 pm that day. The investigation had identified her problem and they had commenced a course of treatment that she would have to continue after discharge. Kerry urged me to find something to do for the day so I ventured out into the street without any real idea of what I might do. So I walked outside and as I did so I asked at the information desk about a museum nearby. To my surprise the Auckland War Museum is in the domain next door to the hospital. So off I went.

Very quickly I found the Domain; literally 100 metres from the hospital steps. This is a large park area with a cricket oval water features the War Museum and open space. Unfortunately, the Museum is on the opposite side of the cricket oval. A brisk walk and I arrived at the back door (not that I knew that at the time). Entry for Auckland residents is free but for “International Tourists” (and that is what I am despite feeling as though I have gone to another suburb in Brisbane)it was $25. The entry was quite amazing. The exterior is a conservative museum look from the 40’s but the interior entry is modern raw and warm dressed timber a great contrast with the cold stone of the building exterior. The ground floor is made over to Maori traditions and culture and Maori/Pakea interaction following the Treaty of Waitangi and a tree house. The second floor is natural history and the third floor the war memorial. Inside is a desk made for General Baden Powell purchased by the museum from the family, a clock which has no particular history but gives the story of the creation of Greenwich Mean Time and how the introduction of railways necessitated the establishment of a unitary measure of time.

Leaving the Domain I contacted Kerry about her discharge and there was still no word so I went to subway to get lunch and as Murphy’s Law applies Kerry was discharged and waiting for me. Show I showed her what I had learned of the Auckland bus system and we went home.

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The Retirees Escape to Auckland – Part 1

Thanks to our travel in 2014 and 2015, we had earned loyalty points with EVA Air which we utilised to visit Auckland through the Star Alliance partnership with Air New Zealand. Auckland is presently 3 hours ahead of Brisbane so leaving Brisbane at 6.00 pm meant that we arrived at Auckland International Airport at midnight. We could have planned that better. Taxi fare to our apartment at Metro Apartments Courthouse Lane NZ$69.00. At 1.00 am in the morning we did not much care about anything but finding our bed.

Booking in was a bit different. Whilst I stood guard over the luggage Kerry walked around to Kitchener St and the entrance to the Metro Building where our pass key had been left for collection. We learned later that the two building are joined internally. To my surprise our apartment was on the 29th floor. Again to my surprise it was modern with great views and a big bed. After catching up on sleep we awoke to a sunny but cool day and we were greeted by this view.

Breakfast called and we had a little trouble finding a suitable cafe. Lesson 1 – cafes are in High St not Queen St. Anyway we find a place and after breakfast we walked to the Sky Tower passing some interest improvisation with containers. Everywhere we look there is some thing different done with shipping containers of all sizes. On this occasion it was street vendors.


Principally we headed to the Tower as we were told this was the closest tourist information centre. Auckland has a number of volcanic plugs within it and they are steep. The tower is atop one so after a steady climb we arrived gained the info we wanted and decided that we had better have a look at this icon of Auckland. We rode the elevator to level 51 viewing platform. the elevator has a glass panel in the floor so that you can watch the ground drop away at some speed and then as you rise there are gaps in the building where you feel as though you are going to be flung out into the air. Interesting! At the top magnificent views with glass floor panels so that you can have the feeling of insecurity looking 51 floors to the ground, but wait there is more – up in a second elevator to the 60th floor for breathtaking views and the opportunity to watch the brave souls who have chosen to take the walk on the exterior of the Tower (obviously chained to the building).

After our “walk on the high side” we returned to our Apartment loaded with the groceries for a week. In the afternoon we decided to orientate our selves for later adventures so we walked down to the harbour and followed the harbour edge to Wynyard Quarter where we experienced another opening bridge. At first we wondered who’s car alarm was going off until we realised that the bridge was closing to allow a vessel to pass under into the docks. As we waited I noticed two locals sharing a yarn after swimming. The Wynyard quarter is a redeveloped area of the old waterfront and includes modern restaurants and modern designed buildings as well as more exotic uses of shipping containers (eg) this bus shelter.

We slowly wound our way back to the Apartment where there is a Pizza Restaurant called Amore. It is reminiscent of our Pizza Restaurant in Rome – we dined there just about every night. And we were not disappointed – our waiter and one of the owners clearly was Italian born and told us he came from Milan area and spent some time in Rome sold Moretti beer and made a great pizza. Perfect.

Friday morning and we caught the ferry to Devonport, a harbour side village accessible by ferry or by road the difference being 7 mins by ferry or one and a half hour drive by road. We purchased the Devonport tour which included the return ferry ride and whilst there is not a lot to see at Devonport what is there is a laid back residential life with a maritime background and Maori heritage. We left the dock at 10.00 am and were surprised that people travelling from Devonport we just as numerous as those travelling to it. We got a great view of the harbour from the ferry. As we departed we saw the Ferry House as the early sailors would have seen it, the cruise liner at its terminal, the container terminal with the War Museum on the hill in the background and part of the NZ Navy.

As we got nearer our destination we saw a lovely home on a headland and saw the iconic view of Auckland.



Our tour started on our arrival and we were joined by two other travellers both from Wollongong. We journeyed through the street of the village with our driver a retired sailor from the Naval base telling us the Maori heritage of North Head and maritime history of Flagstaff renamed Devonport when the semaphore purposes of Flagstaff Hill (now called Mt Victoria) changed. The Maori were removed from North Head and other headlands so the British could develop fortifications to protect the colony from other nations particularly the Russians.  The forts they developed never fired a shot in anger and the land is to be returned to the Maori but presently is public open space.

Note the unique disappearing 8″ gun mounted on a pneumatic arm using the recoil to push it out of view.

We then moved on to the next Fort Takapuna. Much the same as North Head. Then onto Mount Victoria (Flagstaff Hill) which the Maori are talking about closing to the public. But not yet so we might be one of the last non Maori to go up the hill. Anyway we looked back to North Head and across to the docks at Auckland. We also looked at Rangitoto a volcanic island formed around 600 years ago and the latest addition to the NZ Navy built for them in Melbourne an urgent response ship.

After a relaxing morning we went home and Kerry visited a doctor regarding extreme stomach pain which she had been coping with for a few days. The GP was uncertain and with the weekend upon us she rang the Registrar at the Auckland Hospital and off we went to No 14 on the top ten favourite tourist spots in Auckland – Auckland Hospital




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The Retirees at GOMA (Gallery of Modern Art) Brisbane

Wake up and out of bed, clean my teeth, brush my hair and pull on my pants for today we are going to GOMA with the grandkids. For those who don’t know GOMA has great interactive projects for children as well as some serious Art. The kids love a visit as it engages their minds – well for a period any way. Today they have an interactive display with mirrors and artificial hair and a display on three sisters of Mornington Is. An Icelandic artist has the view that self image is important and that vanity can be a positive not a negative so she has created this experience for children. We arrive and much to my surprise there are two giant slides in the main foyer of GOMA – there is only a lower limit on age but it does not open till next week.

Still there is a lot to do. We go through the foyer and the hairy doorway into the Mirror room.

We then explored the world of Bennickt Island and the artist expression of 3 aboriginal sisters remembering their ancestral home. The big kids enjoyed it as much as the little kids.

In no time it is time for lunch and we go to the cafe in GOMA beside the river and observe the superb location of the building, some of its crazy art and the brazen water dragons feeding on hand outs from cafe patrons.

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The Retirees go to Melbourne – Kinky Boots

Whilst in the UK we heard or saw the story of a 3rd generation family owned boot company which was struggling and at risk of going under. So, when Kerry saw that “Kinky Boots” was coming to Melbourne we were keen to go and see the musical. Secondly the music for the story was written by Cyndi Lauper – one of Kerry’s favourite singers.

We flew down on the Thursday morning with the view of having the weekend in Melbourne to finally catch up with pseudo son Damian, Barbara and their daughter Chloe and Kerry’s niece Aimee and her partner Joel. Thursday night we went to the show at the Her Majestys Theatre in Exhibition St. The performance was great. Kerry was disappointed with the seats but that might be the result of allowing an agency to do the booking for you – lesson for next time.

We had no plans for Friday. Melbourne has a tourist circuit bus which gives you a hop on hop off facility for two days for the grand price of $10 per person. Stop 4 is in Exhibition St where we were staying at the Mantra Apartment Hotel. So, we travelled on the bus getting off at Victoria Markets to browse through the extensive offering of everything. We reboarded the bus and travelled down to Docklands for a bit of shopping and to see the changes.

Docklands has some unusual street art which is all very different. Like the squatting red figures and the “termite mounds”. You also have some dramatic views of the Melbourne CBD skyline. We walked through Docklands to the Old Woolshed Pub for a bite of lunch. Great use of former warehouses but later in the day we saw on the news that just after we left the pub and caught the bus again the Woolshed Pub was destroyed by fire. Just a coincidence! Anyway, our journey ended at the base of the Eureka Tower to visit the viewing platform on the 88 floor and Kerry saw this;

The Trike journey started in the office and then for 2 to 3 hours we travelled around Albert Park (the track, the swans and their signets, and the skyline) following the F1 track and then down to St Kilda, Brighton Beach (for an ice cream and view the beach huts and the Melbourne skyline) and Black Rock (the Melbourne skyline). Kerry loved the acceleration as Clive our driver and guide manoeuvred through Friday evening Melbourne traffic. With the ride finished we returned to our apartment to plan our Saturday.

The morning started with a visit to some of Melbourne’s famous lanes and then lunch with Damian and Chloe at a new hotel in Collingwood. Chloe very quickly lost her shyness and interacted with us as old friends. Later Damian (who owns and runs a music agency) informed Kerry that he could get tickets for us to see Goldie Hawn on Monday evening and before I knew it the deal was done (mucking up some engagements I had arranged for Tuesday but…). That evening we visited Melbourne’s Comic Lounge in Errol St North Melbourne. Dinner and show for $55 per head was good value and the show was great. Five acts with each comedian bringing a different flavour to the evening.

Sunday and we met Aimee and Joel and travelled to the Bellarine Peninsula outside of Geelong – new territory for us. It took about an hour which gave us plenty of time to catch up. As we drove towards Basil’s Farm we saw the signs to Scotchmans Hill. No question – we had to go to the cellar door.

After tasting for an hour and purchasing some for Ron (later on), we moved on to Basil’s Farm for lunch. The menu included many of the fruits and vegetables grown on the farm. The bouillabaisse included Tasmanian seafood and the cheese platter that followed was all local product. We could not miss the cellar door and spent 40 to 50 minutes there taking some samples for later. Lovely way to spend a Sunday.

Monday morning, we returned to the lanes of Melbourne. As we had to check out of the hotel, visit Suzie and move to Aimee’s place we returned to the hotel checked out and then took a cab to Middle Park. Suzie, an old friend was babysitting for her daughter and had noticed we were in Melbourne from Facebook postings. Morning tea and lunch with Suzie and both her daughters who turned up for various reasons and we arranged travelling to Aimee’s place.

Tuesday we caught the tram back to the city ending up at the National Gallery of Victoria. Located in Federation Square, the gallery displays some of the most important pieces of Australian early art – artists like Roberts, Conder McCubbin and Boyd. We spent a few hours here only able to see the early Australian collection and the collection of some of the donors to the gallery. Hours more too see. We returned to our temporary home to prepare for the show at the Regent Theatre. Damian surprised us at the theatre and we went to dinner before viewing Peter Hellier and Goldie Hawn having a chat on a couch for an hour or so. It was interesting but we had seen Billy Crystal in the same format in Brissie and I preferred that.

So, that ended our Melbourne trip. The next morning, we returned to Brisbane. Our next tour will be to Auckland in a few weeks.

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