Albany for the weekend

8 12 2016

We went to Albany (Western Australia) last weekend, as an early birthday treat for me. We stayed in a lovely fully furnished apartment near Middleton Beach, and ate well at Rustlers Steakhouse (both nights!), Hybla Tavern, and then Plantagenet Winery in Mount Barker on the way home.

I spent a couple of hours at the very sobering National Anzac Centre, on Mount Clarence overlooking the harbour where more than 40,000 troops and 13,000 horses sailed from to fight for Britain in World War One. Many of those men died at Gallipoli, with more dying in the Somme, and still others coming home ruined for life, either mentally or physically or both. Only one horse came back to Australia… It’s well worth a visit but allow yourself several hours to do it justice.

After the museum, I needed to reconnect with nature, so walked to the viewing area at the top of the hill near the Anzac Centre. Hidden in amongst the bushes are gun emplacements from earlier times (likely World War Two, when the Japanese came well down the Australian coast), which was a surprise. And of course, the King Skinks ( I’d seen them before so knew what to look for when I heard rustling in the leafy undergrowth! They’re big sods!! Speaking of lizards, we saw a couple of big guys (looked like bungarras or monitor lizards, but probably weren’t) on the drive home — we swerved to miss one on the side of the road.

Some photos from the weekend:


Spot the gun!


King Skink


From the National Anzac Centre


The names scroll by slowly under the water

More photos:


QV2016: Day 20: Heading home

11 11 2016

It’s all over. I said some goodbyes at dinner last night, expecting to see many of the group later today because we were catching the same flight from Dallas to Sydney. However, it was not to be. I had an early morning breakfast commitment with some Houston friends, so checked out of the hotel early. After breakfast, one of my companions drove me to the airport where I had a long wait for my 2:10pm flight. Except it was an even longer wait than expected.

They boarded us, then told us we’d be waiting on the tarmac for at least an hour because of weather delays at Dallas. We took off about 3:30pm, getting in around 4:30 — Dallas was shrouded in heavy rain and low cloud and visibility was very low. I had plenty of time before my flight to Sydney, due to leave at 8pm, so cooled my heels in the Qantas Premier lounge. Most of the group were scheduled to fly out of Houston around 4:30pm — the hour-long delay saw them racing to get to the gate on time (one missed the connection as she was coming in from Hobby airport in Houston). I saw them briefly at the gate, fully expecting to see them on the flight. But Qantas doesn’t encourage fraternisation between different classes on board! I had received my points upgrade to First Class, but it was impossible for anyone in Economy to join me, or for me to go to Economy. And when we arrived in Sydney, most were on the 8:30am flight to Perth, so they had another dash from one terminal to the other to make their flight. I was booked on the 10:30am flight out of Sydney, so had a leisurely transfer time, allowing me to shower and relax in the Qantas Business Lounge. Which meant I missed saying my goodbyes to a great group of ladies!

The flights home were uneventful — just as I like it! There was a bit of turbulence leaving Dallas, and some midway across the Pacific (usual), but otherwise there was nothing out of the ordinary about the flights. I even slept a few hours of the DFW to SYD flight!

Some photos taken from the plane going across Australia:

Salt lakes in the Western Australian wheatbelt

Salt lakes in the Western Australian wheatbelt

Straight line of clouds

Straight line of clouds

The Cooyong, South Australia

The Coorong, South Australia

Middle of winter, 2015

29 06 2015

Yesterday was one of those magic winter’s days we get here — clear blue skies, green grass, dry, mild temperatures (about 19C [66F]). I took a few photos through the car window (yes, naughty, I know!) while driving to and from Perth, and a few more quite close to home to show my North American friends, in particular, what winter is like in my part of the world.

(Click on a photo to view it larger)

Forrest Highway, heading south, near Myalup about 4pm

Forrest Highway, heading south, near Myalup about 4pm

Forrest Highway, heading south, near Myalup about 4pm

Forrest Highway, heading south, near Myalup about 4pm

Forrest Highway, heading south, near Myalup about 4pm

Forrest Highway, heading south, near Myalup about 4pm

Near top end of Leschenault Estuary, Western Australia, around 4pm

Near top end of Leschenault Estuary, Western Australia, around 4pm

Cathedral Ave, near top end of Leschenault Estuary, Western Australia, around 4pm

Cathedral Ave, near top end of Leschenault Estuary, Western Australia, around 4pm

Near top end of Leschenault Estuary, Western Australia, around 4pm

Near top end of Leschenault Estuary, Western Australia, around 4pm

Cathedral Ave, near top end of Leschenault Estuary, Western Australia, around 4pm

Cathedral Ave, near top end of Leschenault Estuary, Western Australia, around 4pm

Near top end of Leschenault Estuary, Western Australia, around 4pm

Near top end of Leschenault Estuary, Western Australia, around 4pm

Heading towards Perth on Forrest Highway

Heading towards Perth on Forrest Highway (if you view the photo at full size, you’ll see horses in the paddocks alongside the road)


Points upgrade to First Class

6 03 2015

I got my points upgrade to First Class on Qantas for the long leg from Sydney to Dallas.  Woohoo!! And this time I was notified early,  not at the gate on boarding,  which meant I got to experience the First Class Lounge at Sydney airport.

This is an all-day lounge,  meaning you can check in as early as you want on the day you’re flying and take advantage of the services on offer.

I checked in about 9:30am,  had breakfast of Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon,  then had a spa treatment (back massage). Later I had lunch – three tasting plates of salt and pepper squid with green chilli and aoili, buffalo mozzarella with heirloom tomatoes,  black angus minute steak,  followed by pavlova with lychees and raspberries in a glass topped with pashmak. Delicious. And table service too.

A quick shower about an hour before boarding and I’m all ready and relaxed for my 16-hour non-stop flight,  in First Class on an A380.

And we’ve just got the first boarding call…. See you on the flipside….






Sue’s visit

29 12 2014

Those who follow me on Facebook know that my good friend Sue (from San Diego) flew out to Australia to spend 8 days with me over Christmas 2014. She also spent a couple of days in Sydney and Hawaii on the way to and from Western Australia, but this post is about her summer Christmas visit to the southwest corner of Western Australia.

Here’s a summary of what we did (this is for her information as much as mine, as she didn’t keep a travel journal). I may not have all the dates/places exactly right, but they’re close enough!:

  • Friday 19 Dec – Pick up Sue from Perth airport, visit a friend of mine in Perth, travel home, visit the local kangaroos and watch the sunset over the Leschenault Estuary.
  • Saturday 20 Dec – Big day of touring today — some 400 km of driving. We started with Gnomesville, where Sue left the gnome she brought all the way from California. Next was the Donnnybrook Market and bakery and roadside cherries (to die for!), then Balingup (Tinderbox, Mystic Gems – antique section, lunch at Mushroom Cafe), followed by Bridgetown (where we called in on friends), Karri Gully where we hugged some magnificent big trees, Cambray Sheep Cheese (near Nannup), and Simmo’s Ice Creamery (near Dunsborough) for some ice cream.  Our second last stop was spending an hour or so visiting friends at Yallingup, then getting to the Busselton Jetty just on sunset.
  • Sunday 21 Dec – Bunbury Farmers’ Market, Woolies supermarket (supermarkets in other countries are always interesting — you can see new products and be amazed at how much you recognise from your home country etc.), Bunbury and its beaches.
  • Monday 22 Dec – Coles supermarket, lunch with my parents in Eaton, play some pool at a local tavern.
  • Tuesday 23 Dec – Dolphin Sea Kayak Tour (with Dekked Out Adventures), where we paddled down to where the Collie River empties into the Leschenault Estuary, across the estuary, and out through The Cut into the Indian Ocean. There were heaps of dolphins just around from The Cut (‘The Lounge’), and they swam between us, next to us, under us, and emerged close to us. Just a magical experience!
  • Wednesday 24 Dec – HaVe cheese (Harvey) and camels, shops, Buffalo Beach, and Belvidere on the Leschenault Peninsula.
  • Thursday 25 Dec – Jetty over the estuary, Buffalo Beach
  • Friday 26 Dec – Wellington Dam (near Collie), Big Rock on the Collie River below Wellington Dam, where we were very lucky to see about eight very endangered red-tailed black cockatoos. Sunset excursion to see the local kangaroos.
  • Saturday 27 Dec – Drove back to Perth via Southwest Highway, stopping in at Cohunu Koala Park in Byford, where Sue held a koala and fed and patted kangaroos and wallabies; Fremantle cappuccino strip and Fremantle Markets; Port/Leighton beaches to Cottesloe, Kings Park
  • Sunday 28 Dec – Drop Sue off at the airport for her flight back to Sydney.

When I asked Sue about some of the highlights (in addition to the stuff we did above), she said: big birds (especially the noisy galahs, cockatoos and others from the parrot family), horizons stretching forever, flat land/undulating land, plantation pine and gum trees, crystal clear blue skies (NO pollution/haze), eucalypts, countryside, farms, cattle, sheep, horses, kangaroos in the wild.

Her one word to sum up our little corner of Australia: ‘pastoral’. Her multiple words said often over the week: ‘Oh. My. Gosh.’

Here are some of the 300+ photos I took during the week — the rest are in a Flickr album: Click on a photo to view it larger.


Arriving in Perth


Standing among some of the thousands of gnomes at Gnomesville


Jerome Gnome from San Diego, left by Sue


Hugging a karri tree (Karri Gully park, between Bridgetown and Nannup)


Cambray Sheep Cheese — cutting the Manchego wheel


Busselton Jetty at sunset


Hugging ‘Mr August’


Learning about Nuytsia floribunda (Western Australian Christmas Tree)


Experiencing dolphins up close and personal near Bunbury


Marvelling at the endless sky, water, horizon, and beach near The Cut on Leschenault Peninsula


Local Pink and Grey Galahs in a neighbour’s front yard; native grass trees behind


Buffalo Beach


Endless summer at Buffalo Beach


Trying out free motion quilting for the first time! There’s a lot of concentration happening here 😉


Some of the many local kangaroos (mum and joey emulating a Qantas tailfin logo)


Emulating a lizard basking in the sun at Big Rock near Wellington Dam


Getting very up close and personal with ‘William’


Feeding a wallaby

And here’s a map of some of the places we went: map_of_sues_visit_dec_2014   While Sue thoroughly enjoyed her visit, I also thoroughly enjoyed having her here and seeing parts of my own backyard I hadn’t seen or experienced before.

Point Peron

1 12 2014

We had to go to Perth last week for an appointment in Rockingham. On the way home, we took the scenic route to Mandurah via Shoalwater and Waikiki, detouring into Point Peron.

These are some of the views from the lookout at Point Peron. The first looks back to the suburb of Shoalwater; the second looks out past the reef to the Indian Ocean.



Sydney Hilton

31 08 2014

I went to Sydney last week to speak at a conference. The conference was held at the Sydney Hilton and that’s where the organisers had booked me for three nights. I was on the 38th floor (an Executive room floor, which meant I had to their excellent ‘Executive Lounge’), and while the room was very nice and the hotel staff were great, I am glad that my usual life is spent at ground level looking out onto greenery and water in the distance. I don’t think I could live that high up, being overlooked by windows in other buildings.

As an aside, what’s with the ‘environmental’ cards asking guests to leave towels etc. hanging up that they don’t want laundered, yet when you do so for three days straight, the housekeeping staff change them every day anyway? They didn’t change my sheets, so that was something, I guess.




For more photos from my Sydney trip, see: