Leaving Kangaroo Island on the ferry, the weather was good, the wind light, and our bellies remained intact.

The drive from Cape Jervis to Adelaide was long and painful. The speed limit on the Adelaide highways needs revising. People of South Australia, I ask you, how can you be intelligent to have the speed limit in the country 110km/h, but dumb enough to have 60km/h on your three lane highways in the city?

I will reserve opinion about Adelaide, as we only stayed a night, and we did not leave the hotel. The humble size surprised me on arrival to the city. Adelaide seems like a large town. After visiting New York, Adelaide is dwarfed. We stayed at the Medina Grand Adelaide Treasury, ordered room service, and went to bed early. Another long drive was ahead of us. The hotel was good, food nice. The only drawback that our breakfast was not delivered.

Adelaide

Adelaide (city?) from our hotel room window.

Up early we stopped for coffee and a few V’s, and drove. And drove and drove, north, up the A1. Back on the 110km/h roads being held up by wide loads and trucks only few times, we made good time. Off the A1 we took a right before Port Augusta, and stopped in Quorn for lunch.

On the road from Adeliade to Wilpena Pound

On the road from Adeliade to Wilpena Pound

Quorn is famous for the Quorn pie. We circled the small town and found Quandong Cafe who sold the famous dish. We had assumed the pie would consist of some sort of baked meat and pastry dish. We would be wrong. It’s a dessert. We were asked if we knew as much when ordering. We may only get this chance once, so we had a dessert for lunch. I thank the gods of my belly that day, as the angels had landed on my taste buds. This piece of heaven has only been rivalled by two others, once in Sicily, and the other here in Melbourne. If you get the chance, stop by and try it.

Quandong Pie

Quandong Pie at the Quandong Cafe.

After satisfying the stomach, we headed towards our next stopover, Wilpena Pound. We stopped along the way, getting out to take photos, and to leave my sunglasses atop of the car. What happened next was straight out of a comedy movie. I noticed my glasses were missing, and that they fell off the roof as I drove off, so we drove back to find them. There they sat, in the middle of the road. I pulled over, and checked my mirror before opening the door. In the mirror, a truck, I could do nothing, but watch my sun glasses get crushed!

Wilpena Pound from the Ground

Wilpena Pound from the Ground

At Wilpena we stayed at the Wilpena Pound Resort. The resort is dated, the staff is friendly and helpful, and the restaurant was reasonably priced with food commonly found in a good pub. The location is perfect, and you can camp also if you like.

The pound is located in the Flinders Ranges National Park, and consists of massive crater which appears to be created by a meteor impact. In fact, the pound was created by moving plates. It lies on what used to be a fault line. We took a four wheel drive geological tour on our only full day in the pound.  We were shown the old fault line, fossils, and rocks that are clear evidence that that area was once under water. Rocks in clear view were up to 800 million years old. As you drive through the red, white and brown rock with minimal vegetation, that the whole area would have had fish, sharks and coral all around is hard to imagine.

Wilpena Pound Sunset

Wilpena Pound Sunset

The morning of our leaving, we took a light aircraft scenic flight. Rebecca was afraid that she would not be able to get into the plane, but with her leg removed, she was able to get into the back, and we were off.

I was invited to sit next to the pilot. It was also the first time I was able to use the D300 on such a flight. No easy feat, but I did manage to get a few nice images. If you go to the pound, you have to go up. Without the aerial view, you miss the scale of the pound.

Wilpena Pound from the sky

Wilpena Pound from the sky

After the pound it was time to head back south. We were able to get to our next port of call the Clare Valley by about 3pm.

Clare Valley is a wine region, so on arrival we looked for a place to go for a late lunch and wine tasting. It being Sunday, many were closed, but Skilogallee was open until 5pm. We were greeted by one of the rudest, most arrogant woman I have even had the displeasure of meeting. We were a little late for lunch, but there was no need for the attitude. We later found out, after speaking to Diane, our host at the Brice Hill Country Lodge, that this woman has this attitude to all, unless you obey and make a booking. It is supposedly the best restaurant in town, therefore the arrogance. I do not see a need for it, and do not recommend visiting, unless you are into being snubbed. We managed to get a good feed at the Clare’s town bakery.

On the road from Wilpena Pound to Clare Valley

On the road from Wilpena Pound to Clare Valley

In our day and a half in Clare valley, we managed five wineries. At every stop we purchased wine. We stopped going to wineries, as on every visit, our budget depleted. Sunday evening we went to Sevenhill, where I managed some good images in the church. Sevenhill has been producing wine since 1851, when it was produced as sacramental wine by the Jesuit priests. I thought to get a port while I was there, as I imagine they would drink a bit, being priests.

Sevenhills winery church

Sevenhills winery church

The next morning, we drop into Sugar Shack Soap. We spent an hour chatting to Lyn and Norm, about life, business and football. Lyn also felt so sorry for Beck that the longer we were there, the more she piled onto our tray of soaps. Lovely people and some beautiful soaps.

Reillys winery was the first for the day, just outside of Clare in Mintaro. We also had lunch after spending a fortune on wine. The food was good, the wine even better, and this time we were given a warm welcome.

We were also warmly welcomed by Alison at Paulett Wines, in which more chatter and wine tasting was had. By the time we left Polish Hill River we were a little intoxicated, and also a little wine wiser. Loaded with wine, we were a little worried that the wheelchair would get left behind, to make way for all the booze. And we still had two nights in the Barossa to come.

So lastly we dropped into the Knappstein Winery and Brewhouse to see if we could pick up some cheap beer. No chance. You can buy the beer cheaper in Dan Murphy’s. Go figure. So instead we purchased a few more bottles of wine.

After an afternoon sleep (wine nap) we had dinner at the Sevenhills local pub, because it was the only thing open! It was not a bad meal, but nothing to rave about.

Leaving the next day for the Barossa Valley, we decided to stop by the Barossa Brewing Company. It was closed as they also have 9-5 jobs and work the brewery on the weekend. The sign on the door did direct us to the pub around the corner we were able to purchase a few bottles. We ran into a guy from Dandenong who owned the pub with his wife who was an South Australian. Oh what a life that must be, and what a great change from the Nong!

On the road from Clare to Barossa Valley

On the road from Clare to Barossa Valley

In the Barossa we stayed at the Novatel just outside of Tanunda. Nice place with a nice view. It was very quiet for the amount of rooms. Arriving early, and being a little peckish we set off for Maggie Beers Farm. Maggie Beer has a cooking show on television here in Australia, and the food did not disappoint. The glass of wine was noting to rave about, but the duck terrine that was quite extraordinary. It is very touristy, but worth dropping into.

With some time before dinner we popped past Seppeltsfield. We decided that we had purchased enough wine, so as to avert any more wine purchasing; we would stay away from cellar doors, except for ones that had beer. The port on offer was too much to resist, but I purchased a Tokay for something a little different, and we left with beers and cordial also. Their bock beer is a little too gassy, and a little lacking in taste, but the blonde beer is very good.

The best thing about Tanunda and the valley was the restaurant we dined at the two nights in Barossa. Our first dinner at the 1918 bistro and grill was better than the second. I recommend getting the specials; they seem to put more love into them. We had some wonderful wine, and the first night was by far the best meal we had all holiday.

The next day we drove south, dropping by the Lobethal Bierhaus. The town is in the name. It is an award winning microbrewery. We were lucky the door was open as they were not. I wandered in and asked if we could purchase some beer. The owner and his wife were happy to accommodate us. The gent was a man of the financial world, making his money, he and a good friend decided to quit the high life, and do something they love; brewing beer. The love for the beer is evident is the tasting. We tasted all the beers and purchased a case with a pair of each type. The only thing missing was their Belgian brew, which we loved. It was only for sale over the bar.

That day we also dropped by Handorf, which we were told was a beautiful old town by many. If you have been to Europe, then don’t bother, you have seen old towns. This place is just touristy and boring (in my opinion).

When leaving the Barossa we dropped into the Barossa Valley Brewing Company located at the Yaldara Estate. They have two beers, the Bee Sting and the Organic Ale. We purchased a few Ales (you can get the Bee Sting in Dan Murphys) which is a fine beer, and left for Victoria, to the Grampians.

On the road from Barossa Valley to the Grampians

On the road from Barossa Valley to the Grampians

In the Grampians we rented a lovely little place just outside of Halls Gap. Relaxed would be how I describe this place. DULC Cabins was our home for two nights, and although we initially had no hot water, it was quickly fixed, and with the BBQ at hand, we were able to salvage a near disastrous end to a holiday.

Bathroom Dulc Cabins Halls Gap

View of the bathroom in Dulc Cabins Halls Gap

The BBQ was the only alternative to the horror dinner we had the night before. If you stay in Halls Gap, DO NOT, go to the Quarry restaurant. It was by far the worst meal I have EVER had.

It is quite odd. I have travelled the world, seen many beautiful places, but right on our doorstep all those years was the Grampians. This was the first time we had visited; it will not be the last. It’s defiantly worth the trip. It is a great place for a weekend retreat out of Melbourne.

Grampians east side sunset

Grampians east side sunset

I have tried to sum our trip up rather quickly. There was a lot undertaken in a short time, and I have tried to give a reference for those that tread the same path and need a place to stay or eat, and those to avoid.

After reflection of our holiday, and after going through my images, I can see why people live in Australia and never feel the need to leave. The diversity of the terrain coupled with the friendliness of the people (in general), and the adventure of a drive that you never care to end. You are always looking out the window, and you can always find somewhere to stop and take out the camera, even from the side of the road.

I felt this country paled in comparison to many places I have been in the world, and I do miss having Europe two hours train ride away, but Australia certainly has a character that is of its own. It has an identity and a soul that I understand. I guess we are home.

Grampians north side

Grampians north side

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For the first time after her motorcycle accident Beck was to leave the safety of our home. With the wheelchair in the back seat, all the medical supplies that were required for the two weeks and the luggage, we set off from Melbourne and headed to Port Fairy.

We decided to start our tour of the Great Ocean Road at Lorne. This route takes you through the mountains instead of around the coast. I mention this because on the mountainous, windy roads we encountered cyclists, racing. There were no signs about this race, no trailing car warning us of their presence. It seemed an unofficial race. But none the less, they like to take up the road, and not care about the traffic. As we passed them, Beck became uneasy, which resulted in a panic attack. She was having flashbacks about her accident.

Here our journey almost ended before it had started. Beck wanted to go home, NOW! She was worried about her ability to handle the lengthy drive we had embarked on. I held firm and we made it to Apollo Bay were we stopped for lunch. If you stop in Apollo Bay for lunch, and like seafood, Buff’s Bistro has great seafood chowder. I love my fishy dishes and this hit the spot.

This also gave Beck time to settle and reaffirm her confidence in my driving, and in her own ability to cope with this long journey. With a full tummy and a relaxed wife we proceeded with our journey down the Great Ocean Road.

We did the usual thing down the coastal road. Stopped a few times, took in the sights of the coast, and stopped at the Twelve Apostles with all the other tourists.

Twelve Apostles

Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia

In Port Fairy we stayed at Clonmara, in a little cottage. (Their website was down when I attached this link). Clonmara is a bargain. The owner, who I am guessing is an English ex pat, was charming and very friendly. The room was big, clean, and had a nice large bath room for Beck and her wheelchair. In addition, some port and chocolates gratis on arrival. By the end of the holiday I had acquired three bottles of port, due to this kind gesture.

For dinner, we booked what we thought was a table at The Stag, but upon arrival we were told that our booking was not taken. The gent kindly informed us that we had most probably called Saltra Brasserie, as they now posses their old phone number. Indeed we had. No drama. Saltra was not as fancy, but the food was good and there were not as many noses in the air (so to speak), so overall a good night. I had a new beer there too. A very nice Prickly Pear beer. Have a pot if find yourself in the bar. Very tasty and light.

Our next destination was Robe, in South Australia. Right away we came across what was our first lot of wind farms on the journey. I just had to take a few photos. With the cows in the field, it made a good shot.

Cows and Windfarm

Cows and Windfarm, Road to Portland, Great Ocean Road

Shortly after setting off, Beck needed to visit the little girl’s room, and we needed a decent coffee. We took a detour to Portland. Not being on the way to anywhere, Portland seems to be a place forgotten. It was Sunday, and as you might guess, nothing was open. Beck found tea rooms that were open, so we stopped in the hope of finding a decent coffee. Decent coffee we did find, and a coffee table we could not resist either.

The tea room was also a gallery, called The Tea Tree Gallery. It has some very nice artwork, jewellery, tea cups, and ornamental nick knacks, and of course coffee tables. We chatted with Belinda the owner for so long, that Vaughn the artist who made the coffee table appeared. He informed us about the creation of the tables and the significance of the materials used.

If Rebecca had not needed to tinkle, we may not have our special little table. There is no other reason to go through the main street of Portland. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s not on the way to anywhere. If you are on the way to South Australia, via the Great Ocean Road, drop into Portland, just to drop into The Tea Tree Gallery. It’s well worth it. You might find something you can not resist.

Tea Tree Art Gallery & Tea Room Portland, Victoria, Australia

Tea Tree Art Gallery & Tea Room Portland, Victoria, Australia

At the recommendation of Belinda and Vaughn we went a little further out of the way, to Cape Bridgewater. On the way to the cape, we took a dirt road and found more wind farms, and the walk that Belinda had mentioned. But Rebecca could not manage the walk so we headed to the Cape. It was a beautiful sunny day, and this little out of the way beach was perfect for surfers to exploit. We stopped, sucked in the sea air and I put my feet in the water, and quickly retreated and it was ice cold.

Cape Bridgewater

Cape Bridgewater, Victoria, Australia

We wasted much time on our detour so from the Cape we headed straight for Robe, only stopping in Mount Gambier for a fish and chip lunch. I have a question. Where is the Mount in Gambier? Ok maybe it is there, but I did not see it.

The nice thing about going from Victoria into South Australia is the speed limit. From 100 to 110kph. I do not know what it is about 110, but the car just seems to like going 110, more than it does 100. Those South Australians have got that right.

In Robe we stayed at the Patsy Ryan Cottages in cottage B. It’s a cottage on the outside but a standard house on the inside. The house was roomy and comfortable. But my one complaint is that we still do not have our bond back. Sarah our host warned us as much, but it is three weeks later and still no sign of it. I will amend this if we get the bond back, but as of now, no bond, so bad review.

We unpacked, and went for a drive. While by no means a large town, Robe was quaint and quiet. It’s a town with a little history and a lot of new boat owning residents. I would guess a lot of the houses are those of the rich, who come down when the weather is good, to go sailing and the like.

Robe Lighthouse, South Australia

Lighthouse, Robe, South Australia

As the sun went down I took a few shots, without the tripod, and then to the Caledonian Inn for dinner. For a place by the sea the Oysters Natural were very disappointing, not fresh. The Seafood Special was next, which was nice but nothing to rave about. Service was good and friendly. After dinner I had a few local ports, and we bedded down for the night.

Next morning we headed to Cape Jervis for the ferry ride to Kangaroo Island. A long 400km drive, then a ferry and another 130km to the accommodation. Needless to say it was a long drive. So, when we stopped for a break at Salt Creek, where there was the general store and that was it, I purchased one of those Mother drinks.  After consuming most of that, I was well awake, and made it in good time to Cape Jervis. We had so much time on our hands, I stopped several times to take photos.

Road to Cape Jervis

On the way to Cape Jarvis, South Australia (maybe Currency Creek)

When we arrived at Cape Jervis, the winds were so strong, that I struggled to open the car door. 75km/h average speed we later found out. You could imagine how strong the gusts were. The wind cone at the port hardly moved. It was virtually locked in the horizontal position.

Beck was not in a good mood as she knew what we were in for. I was blissfully unaware. I drove the car onto the ferry and met Beck inside. She was close to the front. She informs me this is not good for sea sickness. Oh well, come what may. I was certainly not expecting what came next.

Cape Jervis

Cape Jervis, Kangaroo Island, South Australia - 75km/h winds

While Beck was throwing up, requesting a new vomit bad every 10 minutes, I was concentrating on my breathing, trying to hold back whatever it was trying to take over my body.

As the ferry rocked and smashed against the waves, Paresthesia appeared in my feet and hands. It then proceeded to invade my body from these two points, creeping all the way through my limbs, and into my stomach, where it had no place to go. So I concentrated on breathing and focused the horizon. 50 minutes later we made it Pennenshaw. We docked, and the call went out to all drivers to go to their cars. Beck told me to go, but I could not move.

It took me at least another 5 minutes to drag myself up and go down to the car. After disembarking and picking Beck up, we sat in the car park to recover. I do not know if it was the Mother energy drink, or just me, but that was one of the most intense experiences I have ever had. The next 3 days I kept an eye on the weather, praying for light winds when for our return journey. I recovered sufficiently to drive and we headed into Kangaroo Island.

Beck once again started to have panic attacks. Once again I pulled over; let her recover for a bit, but to no avail. We had to get going as it was near dusk, and driving in the bush not knowing where I was going, was not my idea of fun.

On our way to the accommodation we had the displeasure of running over the top of a blonde echidna, and I nearly hit a kangaroo. The echidna looked to be fine; he went under the car and bounced a bit after he’d rolled up into a ball. Beck went berserk, yelling ‘you killed an echidna’ over and over; until I told her that I thought it would be fine, just a bit bruised.

Blonde Echidna

Blonde Echidna, Kangaroo Island, South Australia

Our home for the next three days was the Wilderness Valley Studio. Beck had assumed that there was more than one, but to her surprise we were all alone, 8km down a dirt road, with not another house in sight.

The studio had a great wood fire convection heater, solar and wind power, rain water tanks and the lot. All you needed was provided for. We did not want for anything. Except for some strange reason a sponge to do the dishes and a tea towel to dry them. We settled in, and were very comfortable there. So much so we could have easily spent a week in this place, relaxing in front of the fire.

Eggs

Trustworthy people? Unmanned eggs for sale on the side of the road. Just place $3 in the tin. I gave them $4. Biggest eggs I have even seen.

The next day the wind did not retreat. In fact it gained strength. Nothing stops the tourist, and tour we will.

Day one we went to the Flinders Chase National Park. First stop Admirals Arch to see the New Zealand Fur-seals. I managed to struggle against the wind, and avoid the rain, but not the sea spray. Beck made it out of the car, 10 meters, then back again. With the wind that strong, she could not make it 50m to the viewing platform.

Admirals Arch walk

Standing over Admirals Arch, Kangaroo Island, South Australia

Next we went to see the Remarkable Rocks. This time Beck was able to make it to the viewing platform which was behind a wind break. I went down to the rocks, and like many others, had to brave the wind, trying not to get blown over. Well worth it though, and had it been a better day, it would have been all the more enjoyable. Also I would have gone back with the camera at sunset, had there been one!

Remarkable Rocks

Remarkable Rocks, Kangaroo Island, South Australia

After, we dropped into Vivonne Bay general store and purchased dinner and a bottle of wine for the night. As we were leaving, we decided to drive down Vivonne Bay Road to have a look what was there. I was glad we did, as the sun had decided to show itself finally, and I found some rocks that were very unusual, and took a few good shots.

Vivonne Bay

Vivonne Bay, Kangaroo Island, South Australia

On the second day we were spared the wind, and the sun shone often. First stop Seal Bay to see the Australian Sea-lions. I was able to see the NZ fur-seals at Admirals Arch, even though I was drowned in sea spray, but Beck was yet to see a seal. We headed in without the wheelchair to see how far Beck could walk. It was a long way down, but there were no steps, so I ran back to get the wheelchair, though Beck told me not to bother. In the end she was glad I did.

You cannot see the seals from a distance. You may see a few sprawled on the beach, but when you get down you find that there is many more sunbathing amongst the vegetation.

Seal at Seal Bay

Australian Sea-lion, Seal Bay, Kangaroo Island, South Australia

It was Becks birthday, so I had booked us a late lunch at the Andermel Marron, which consists of the Two Wheeler Creek Wines and The Marron Café. We had some good seafood and very nice wine. The Marron is large freshwater crayfish, much like a yabby. They grow much larger so I was a little disappointed when the marron on the seafood platter was rather small.

I had assumed that was as large as they grew, and the images I had seen on the internet had been misleading. After lunch, we went to the holding shed come cellar door, to buy some wine. Here we discovered the marron do grow very large. These marron are sold to restaurants. Typical! If you ever come across a restaurant that has them, ask about the size, and if they are large, have one. They were delicious.

Regrettably we left the next day, and headed for Adelaide. Not before stopping in Emu bay to go for a drive on the beach. Yes, a drive on the beach.

Emu Bay

Emy Bay Beach, Kangaroo Island, South Australia

The gods were with us on the return ferry ride. The winds had died, and our ride back to the mainland was pleasant and warm. I felt so good I went up top to take photos, even if it did smell like sheep shit!

I will leave you here. The trip is so long, so much seen in a short span of time, that it deserves a break. Hope your enjoying the trip and the images so far. See you in the next instalment.

Ferry

Ferry from Kargaroo Island to Cape Jervis, South Australia

My travel writing and photography blogs soon after their creation took a long holiday of their own.

This was not by choice but rather life has taken a turn. Mother Nature decided that Rebecca and I had it too good for too long and suspended our journey to Melbourne, in Melbourne.

On the 26th of December as I was watching the Boxing Day Test at the MCG, Rebecca was with her father and family in Bendigo. There she went for a quick ride on the back of her half brothers motorbike, just around the block. They never made it back.

By NYE 09/10 Rebecca was out of ICU with her lower leg amputated, her latissimus dorsi muscle transplanted down below her knee to create a stump, and a severe glove tear behind her other lower leg and knee. She spent the next 2 months in hospital, with compilations arising from the nasty bug pseudomonas. The next 2 months were in rehab.

After an arduous and very stressful search of the Melbourne rental market we found a place to live, thanks to a property manager whose mother is in a wheelchair and understood our plight.

I have been working and Beck has been healing and going to various doctors and rehab, in which she is still in the process.

Finally this month we were able to get away from it all for two weeks.

Circumstances change, but our love for this funny old planet does not.

Our journey to see our planet continues with a drive to South Australia.

I loved Krakow. It is said to have more bars and cafes per capita than any other city in Europe, which is quite a feat.

We visited many bars, many were very good, modern and the Polish make a good coffee and cocktail.

For the beer lover there is the CK Browar bar and restaurant. This was my favorite bar in Krakow, but I am rather bias considering I am a beer lover.

It is the only pub left in Krakow where you can purchase the beer straight from the vat.

There are the four types of beer, two of which we tried. The CK Weizen was very light on the palette, and the CK Dunkel, which was my preference, had a nice smooth finish. The meals are reasonably priced as they were quite large, and pretty good. It was close to the best meal we had in Poland.

CK Browar is a must for the beer lover who visits Krakow.

On the global beer table, I would place this a close forth or fifth, level with a microbrewery in Prague.

I will reveal the best global beers from my travels thus far, in due course.

Before we left I had the strange feeling this would not be a smooth, quiet holiday experience.

It started well enough. Beck and I took the British Airways offer of £100 each upgrade to business class one way, from London to Catania. We had a nice lounge to enjoy and a good meal at the airport and plenty of room on the plane.

We land, wait unusually long for the bags, and head off to pick up rental car.

I can drive a manual, but not by instinct. My father would not pay for my license or let me drive the family cars unless I had an automatic license. Cut a long story short, I ‘need’ an automatic car. I found the cheapest car was with Europcar, and booked. So when we get the car it is a manual! No automatico in Italia, they tell me. I had to explain to the gents that if they gave me a manual car, they would get it back broken! Me driving a manual on Italian streets, hills and windy roads with my lack of experience? I do not think so. Eventually the boys found me a automatico. A more expensive luxury Volvo. I had to agree to the extra charge, what choice did I have? At nearly double the price I was not happy. If you hire a car from Europcar check your email for the CODE. That is where they indicate what type of car they have given you and the transmission type. As it says CODE, you would think would be for their purposes. No, it is for you to realise that they gave you the wrong car and there is nothing you can do about it after the fact, as it was hidden in this code. All the other car companies I have hired a car from clearly mark what transmission you will get, but not Europcar. Did I tell you I hate them? Enough about the car I think. Let us get in and drive to Noto.

On arrival to our accommodation we were tired and hungry, and were very pleased to find that the hotel restaurant is not only open, it was in the Michelin Guide. We ate there three out of eight nights and were never disappointed. I told the waiter Giuseppe that my grandmother and father would love the seafood pasta, it was that good. And the chocolate cake with pistachio gelati was to die for. So soft and creamy.

Our accommodation was an agritourismo (accommodation on a working farm) called Masseria degli ulivi. Yes we were surrounded by olive trees, and a working mine in the distance that was very quiet. It was not cheap, but nor expensive. It is just what you need to get away. No cable TV and no internet connection. No cars tearing around and no drunken people outside your window at night. Just peace and quiet with good wine available, if you catch them before they all go home at 10pm.

We had the pleasure of getting to know one of the hotel Managers, Gian. Noto born but a world breed, and now back in the place of birth. He had a strong east coast US accent, which is how we started chatting. Great person to chat to as he has lived in many places, and could tell us a lot about Sicily and its advantages, and disadvantages. Not to mention a few things about the US we did not know. We hope to see him again one day soon.

On our first full day we decided to go somewhere close to test the roads in Sicily. We drove to Sircusa and the Island of Ortigia. It was Sunday and everyone was out enjoying the sun. We parked just outside the Island and wandered over. On the bridge over to the Island, you could stop and watch a game of Canoe Polo. This was a first for me. I did not know that the game existed. We stood around and watched for a while, trying to understand the rules, which was difficult considering I do not know the rules of water Polo either.

Heading off wandering the inner streets of the island, snapping away as we walked, an old man I wandered past twice started talking to me. Between Beck and I we understood what he was saying and had a little conversation. He had some relatives in Canberra, and he told us to start making babies. Typical old Italian, as soon as you are married, your duty is to pop out puppies. Very nice bloke.

That afternoon we had the best meal during our stay in Sicily. With the exception of the last day, when we went back to Ortigia, just to eat at this place once more before we left. My grandmother would have loved it. Click here for the details. It is the first restaurant in the ‘Global Restaurants to visit’ section of my blog.

Leaving Syracuse behind we headed to the beach. The last time we were immersed in salty sea water was in Sri Lanka over a year ago. So a dip in the ocean was very much needed and refreshing to say the least.

Later that night we decided to have dinner in Noto. Dinner was a great disappointment after the great meal we had that afternoon. Not a bad meal, just not special. This place we found in the recommend Noto restaurants in the Lonely Planet guide to Sicily. Needless to say we only bothered with the guide recommendations once more after that, in Ragusa when we were famished and nothing was open!

Sunday night in Italy is always a big night and everyone is out on the town. Noto has a main street where all the locals come to meet, chat, drink, smoke and walk. It is quite a sight. The town is mostly children of school age and older people. Gian tells us that most people move out and look for work or go onto further education in the larger towns and on mainland Italy. It does make for an interesting walk down the ancient street with the buzz of the young and the passionate banter of the old.

Monday, and we planned a trip to Ragusa. There is only one main road to Ragusa. And everyone is on it. The construction of the new highway for East Sicily ends at Noto. To enter Noto you bypass what looks to be a future toll area. This to me sums up Sicily’s politics. As a result, there is every man, his dog, tractors, trucks, old men and woman in little old Fiats and new shiny cars trying to overtake them. It’s a little hazardous. I am Italian by blood though, so it did not take me long to get in stride, eventually scaring the jesus out of Beck from time to time.

On arrival to Ragusa we found a spot and just stopped once in the main part of town. We parked at the bottom of Corsa Italia, which was a stones throw from the old town, if you have a good arm, on the opposite mountain side. We had a beautiful view of the old town on our wander over to the old town which is perched up on it’s own hill.

We meandered down, snapping away, Beck stopping for the occasional smoke, you know, to help her walk. At the bottom we stopped for a espresso and chinotto at a little café opposite a church. There we chatted to some locals. A guy who loved the Beatles and a girl who used to live in Dublin. We chatted, drank, then headed off to wander up and down the windy streets. At one point, in order to get to the main square, Beck insisted we go one way, while I the other. She won, and I threw a mini tantrum as we went round in circles. Beck got lost, and I had to direct us to the square. Gloating time.

Ragusa is worth a visit. It is not overrun by tourists, although it is soon to be. There are major renovations going on everywhere. Make sure you visit on any other day than Monday. In Sicily, everything is shut on Monday. Even the hotel restaurant was shut! Lunadi. All the Sicilians are afraid of the moon. Maybe they are all descendants of werewolves. It would explain the hair. OK, enough of the bad jokes.

That night, as all the restaurants were closed, we settled for a run of the mill place. Not bad. Average by Sicilan standards. Dinner for hungry people with no other option is always welcome.

The next two days were spent in the Vindicari National Park. We went for a walk and mostly swam, and soaked in a bit of the lovely sun that we had been missing for so long. The London summer this year was a disappointment. It was also Rebecca’s birthday, and her wish was to spend it lazing about. We had wine and dinner at the hotel the night of Becks birthday, having another meal worth every penny.

On this trip there was one task I needed to fulfill.

My grandfather met my grandmother while he was stationed at a lighthouse in his days in the military. The lighthouse is in Punta Secca, so a trip down with the camera was a must. We spent the day driving down and around the south east coast, heading to Punta Secca to take some shots that I can give to Nuna and Nuno. Task achieved, so all I need to do is hope they remember the place, and that it has not changed too much over the years.

Last place on the visit list was Modica. The road to Modica was a little less stressful. A country lane with the occasional tractor and truck. Modica is split into an upper and lower town. We headed to the lower part but ended up somewhere in between, after circling around a few times, getting dizzy and just grabbing the first parking spot we found. It was not easy, and the streets were very thin. Not fun in a big Volvo.

Little did I know but Rebecca had only one thing on her mind at this point, chocolate. Modica is known for its chocolate. I was blissfully unaware, walking down the steep slopes and thin stair passageways heading down to the main street of Modica bassa (lower), snapping away as per usual. We get down and trawl the main street, which is a great place to take in the town. Everyone is out and about, eager to get home for siesta.

We stop at a beautiful church to take some more shots when Beck spots the shop where all her dreams come true. We wander in and as we were tasting chocolates and waiting for our cannoli to be made, we were locked in. We were thanking the gods we made it in time, this being the only time we will get to visit Modica and the only chance to get some of its world famous chocolates and desserts. Nothing worse than going some place and missing out on something you know you will never get the opportunity to do again. So heads up people. Remember that when you sleep in, you have to make it to where ever you want to get to before the Italians go home for lunch.

We had a light snack and an espresso, headed off to take a few more pics and headed up the hill back to the car, the long way round. With a full stomach and plenty of room on the memory card, there was plenty of time to wander up slowly and admire the town. On our way up I was admiring the old ladies, wandering up and down the sides of these hills, shopping in hand. They are most probably fitter and stronger than me!

I could go on but I think you get the drift of our Sicilian holiday. Lots of food, wine, so much espresso we had to stop drinking it after morning, some lovely gelati, some peace and quiet, all wrapped up in a crazy driving experience. And lots of photos of course.

I look forward to returning to Sicily, and visiting the north east, along with my mother and father when they make it over from Australia, which is hopefully next year.

Chin chin.

Taberna Sueva – (Via Gaetano Abela/Via delle Sirene) Ortigia, Syracuse.

The first lunch we had in Sicily was the best. So good we had to return the last day.

The seafood pasta here is a must, as well as the fried fish. It is just like my grandmother used to make. The taste of fresh fish from the sea is rarely experienced here in London. Very cool jazzy music playing in the background, and if buskers come along they tell them to clear off. Staff are friendly and there was at least one person who could speak English there both times we visited. Seems like a favourite with the locals too. The chef came out to have a smoke, and he was nice and round, the way a good chef who loves his food should always be.

And it is good value too. My wife and I had a wine, main and shared another main, and an espresso for under €50.

Italy is a place I feel strangely at home, and out of place at the same time.

My parents and their parents are all Italian, and we are all Italian as far back as I know. After my grandparents left Italy, my mother and father both spent their lives from early childhood, in Australia.

As children they were ridiculed for being ‘wogs’, and did not want the same for their children. They did their best to bring my brother, sister and I up as Australian as possible. I am, as a product of growing up in Australia, Australian.

Their first step in protecting us from ridicule was not to speak Italian at home. I do not know how to speak or understand Italian very well. I can get by when I am there, order dinner, get around, but I can not have a decent conversation. Why don’t I learn? I’m lazy. I like to learn by practical application; therefore I would benefit if I lived in Italy. Who knows, one day I may do. Do I hold a grudge against my parents for not talking Italian to me? No. Like they have always done, they did what they thought was best for me.

After my recent trip to Sicily, I have reflected long and hard and decided to write down a few thoughts pertaining to such trips to the motherland. They are in regards to peoples attitudes in the countries I have lived and loved. My place of birth Australia and my place of residence the UK. Peoples attitudes regarding something I have always struggled against, and struggled to understand. Racism.

Many white people here in England call themselves English. This is true, as are many black and coloured Englishmen. The truth behind it is that the white English are as much 100% English as the Sicilians are 100% Italian. Many times invaded and many times the invaders over the centuries, they are inevitably a massive mix of different breeds. Australians technically have no claim to the land, and are one of the most diverse cultures in the world. Even if they are Australian from generations back, they are still technically English, Irish or Scottish. Then we once again return to the story of invading forces.

Therefore, as their racism can not technically be blood related, it must run a little deeper. I guess it stems from social problems and insecurity. From a need to belong, much like one needs a religion. Even so, their attitudes towards someone like me remain negative. Much the same as back home in Australia.

So where do I belong?

This question lays deep inside me, and wells up after visits to Italy. It was especially strong this time after the trip to Sicily. My mother’s mother and father are still with us, and my grandmother still speaks very little English. She is Sicilian. The Italian I have grown up with is the Sicilian dialect. The food she cooks and I love so much is from the region. Feelings of belonging were stronger in Sicily than when I visited Rome, Venice or even Vieste, where my grandfather is from.

But Sicily is not where I belong.

I am Italian by history. I look Italian. I love her food and her coffee, and her love of the family. And as I discovered, I even drive Italian.

As far as the Italians are concerned, I am not Italian. I can not speak the language, and that is just the start of it. I do not have their attitude. I do not have their demeanour. I am not Italian.

I do not love soccer. I can appreciate it as a sport. But I love and have always played Australian Rules football and cricket. I grew up with meat pies and sausage rolls, fish and chips and steamed dim sims in soy sauce.

The Cronulla riots. They are still telling us to go home?

So where do I belong?

I have not been home for nearly five years. The last time we returned, it was a whirlwind visit for my sisters wedding. Eight days. I felt at home. I look very much forward to returning for a longer visit this December.

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

For me, that is where I am from. Therefore does that not make me an Australian?

Some people do not think so. So where am I supposed to go?

I am not Italian, so I can not go there. They will not let me stay. I only have an Australian passport. The BNP seem hell bent on kicking us all out even though the country would fall to pieces if we left, but they want us out none the less.

I love London. I have been here for six years and it has now become a part of me. Nearly half of my adult life has been here in London. I could stay or i could go right now, regardless, London, and life in the United Kingdom, is now a part of me.

So where do I belong?

I belong on planet earth. This is my globe. And it is yours.

If you do not like me being on your supposed part of this planet, then that is your problem my friend, not mine.

Disclaimer

I am not generalising. I know most people are good at heart and accepting of others. Unfortunately the bad apples always spoil the bunch.

This is a piece of me I give to you, as my love for travel grows ever more. The more people and places I visit, the wonderful friendly faces and genuine people you meet along the way always touches me. Thanks to you all for being a part of my travels and helping me accept more diverse cultures and people into my life too.

Peace out.

Once again, as we do so often being half way across the world from family, we had visitors. My father-in-law Steve had to come to Paris for business, accompanied by my mother in law who come along for the ride.

I was more than happy to go to Paris. I loved Paris the first time, and this time all the more endearing. Fabulous place, fabulous people, and the food was, well, fabulous. I tried out my palette with snails this time, for the first time. We had lunch in a little restaurant over the quieter side of the hill at Sacre Coeur. The snails were to die for. I had a half dozen, I could have had another serving without another thought, but left room for the Argentinean steak that followed, cooked to perfection, soft as cotton. Delicious! Oh what pleasure!

Paris is a place to go and immerse you self in culturally. I was more than happy to see it once again. This time with the new camera in hand. Last visit I had an instant film camera. The weather was not kind, so i concentrated more on street photography and targeted the unsuspecting public. I quite enjoyed the change of style in photography, and enjoyed the challenge.

We went home to London, worked for a few weeks, and we were off again. This time to Hungary.

When we get away we like to spend a few days in a city, and get out a small town for a few days. Traveling by train. This time in Hungary we stayed in Budapest and then into the heartland wine region, Eger.

Budapest has quite a past, mainly one of Russian domination and suppression. For these reasons I presumed: One, that not many people would speak English. Wrong! Two, a free spirit. Correct! Not a rude person among the people we met. Not a one. A bit eclectic maybe, but that is what I have come to expect of each European county I have visited.

My mother in laws main complaint about Budapest, was the graffiti. I will agree there was a lot. But in a country where freedom of speech has been suppressed for so long, graffiti, I assumed, was a sign of freedom. Messages like a symbol of free speech. As long as the graffiti is there, the right to be your self and to say as you please exists alongside. I tell a taxi driver my thoughts on the graffiti, on the way to the airport. He tells me my thoughts are interesting and most probably correct.

The Danube river flows right through Budapest separating the east (Buda), where we stayed, from the west (Pest). Buda castle was just up the road from our apartment, and the Royal Palace further along from there. Buda is the hillier of the two sides therefore it has a wonderful lookout point from the front of the palace. Pest is more the business, luxurious side of town, with plenty of shopping, if you are into that sort of thing.

To cut a long story short, so what is Budapest all about? What is every place we have been to about? The people, food and drink, with some history for good measure. I have not seen so many couples sharing intimate moments in my life. They say Paris is the city of love, but Budapest must have overtaken by a country mile. I have not seen so much heavy petting since my days at high school. We were very warmly welcomed (meaning a European welcome, not a USA or Australian type welcome) everywhere we went. The food was great, even at the cheaper pubs that we visited. The beer was good and the wine was especially nice.

It has a buzz of Paris with the steady staunchness similar to Prague. But the people are a lot more welcoming than in Prague. If you had a choice, and were to ask my opinion, out of the two towns which to visit, I would tell you Budapest with up most confidence.

After a few days wandering the city, we take a train to Eger.

Eger is a little town with a great reputation for wine. There is a wine tasting area called the Valley of the Beautiful Woman, where you will find many wine growers, selling their wares. They can be purchased in large plastic containers, or bring your own. They fill you up straight from the casks. We spent the only whole day we had in the valley. We just popped in and out to all different cellars, slowly but sweetly, getting intoxicated. We had a great day with some beautiful wine, and a great homely atmosphere.

Before we headed home, we stopped in Budapest to have lunch at Gerbeaud Ház. If you visit Budapest, this place is a must. Not cheap, but very nice beer, food and the best sweets in Budapest.

I have been quite happy with my efforts with the camera of late, although there is always room for improvement. I am making an effort to capture people as well as places, and people in places. I enjoyed the challenge and was able to capture some really nice images of people. You can view images from Paris and Hungary in my Redbubble account. Please click on the images below.

This trip was initially planned for a wedding invitation. My wife and I were invited to see my friends Melissa and Luke get married, but that fell though and instead of cancelling the trip, we decided to go.

From London we flew to New York City on the Saturday morning and were in NYC by that afternoon. Off the plane and onto the subway we went. No, no taxi or silly personal car. We dove right into the heart of NYC. Let me tell you. The NYC Subway is no Paris Metro or London Underground. It’s vast and confusing. But by the time we left I had mastered the art of reading the subway. Took me four days but I got there. Bloody cheap too at $25 for a weekly card.

We stayed in a small apartment (typical of NYC) on West 14th street between 6th and 7th Avenues, just north of Greenwich Village and smack bang around the shopping area. The room was so small we had to climb a ladder to the bed which was above the kitchen. Comfy bed and the window faced out to rear yards, not onto the noisy 24hour NYC streets, so what more can a traveller as for?

Day one. Shopping. For me, camera gear. For Beck, clothes. Well for me some clothes too. First thing first. Jeans. UK levis – £70. NYC Levis £15. Half price sale. £7.50. Supposedly the jeans grow magic powers when they are sent overseas. Thus the ridiculous mark up!

Purchases made it’s was time for a walk. So from 14th we walked north up to Central Park located at 55th street. Stopped for some take away coffee and muffins on the way and sat in Central park watching the world go by, eating my big fat tasty muffin and my rather well made latte. (Advice for the coffee drinkers. Do not ask for coffee in NYC. You have to ask for a latte or the like to get a decent coffee. Trust me.)

Went for a wander and saw the skating rink in the park then headed south a few blocks to the Rockefeller Centre to grab some tickets for the Top of the Rock observation Deck. Hung around till sunset and went up to the observatory deck, to happily snap away. My fingers that is, were snapping off it was so cold, but well worth it.

Dinner and drinks I had sorted before we left the UK. All thank to the wonders of the WWW. As many of you may know I am a big beer fan. And thankfully so are many New Yorkers. I did my research before we left and had selected, with Beck, a few places to check out. First night, and our last night in NYC was spent at Jimmy’s No.43 down Greenwich way. Beside the weirdo’s coming in and out of the back room listening to their fusion Jazz, the beer was great and the food was even better. Not to mention the service. Great bar. Highly recommended.

Day 2. Beck had researched and discovered the now trendy and slightly bohemian part of town was Williamsburg in Brookland just over the river near the Williamsburg Bridge. We trudged around there all day. We did so much walking that by 4 o’clock we were ready for bed. But a coffee and internet café later, we were off.

Williamsburg is a great place to walk. An industrial area being revived without first being wiped off the map. As a consequence, there are hidden treasures everywhere. Right amongst the garages and small factories we stopped for some shelter from the rain, in what we though was a bar, but was also a restaurant. We had a coffee. And what do you know? The BEST coffee I had in the US. By far. Beautiful coffee. Seeing as the rain was still coming down we had a special brew beer from the Brookland brewery which is located up the road. It was to die for. Italian owner sat just across from us discussing business. So the best coffee in town was no surprise there.

Wandering again we picked up a few items of clothing in the trendy but cheap shop and then off to another bar I had discovered. Spuyten Duyvil. This place had Belgium beers that I had not seen in Belgium. Talking to the manager, he tells me the owners had been on a world trip to find different beers by small brewers. What a life hey? Once again a great place and great beer.

Dinner at a Moroccan place across the road and off to the next bar and the one I most looked forward to. Barcade. They have the biggest selection of US brewed beer on tap in NYC. And on top of that, old arcade games. And yes, they had my favourite game of my youth, Galaga, was among them. Two more beers and a few games later, we were ready once again for bed.

Day 3 we wandered down town. South from 14th. This time stopping off a lot so Beck could shop – for more jeans!!! Around 6 or 7 shops later and no luck with the right size I had had enough. I put my foot down and the city tour continued. And what do you know. We stop looking and we find. Finally found a pair that fit and she liked. Woo hoo. We were off with a happy Beck.

We wandered down to the 9/11 site. Just to see for ourselves. You could not have imagined. So big. Through the holes in the hoarding you could still see the basement.  Twisted reinforcement everywhere. Quite a sight. It’s also the business area so to wander around the suits in NYC was fun. Sat down and had a sandwich from one of the carts. No not the type of sandwich OZ and here UK. I’ll let you go and find out for yourself. Went down to Battery Park at the south tip of Manhattan and then we headed north again back up to Greenwich.

There were a few more bars I wanted to check out. We dropped into BXL Café which was your typical modern bar but they had good beer and snacks, not to mention some crazy ladies behind the bar. The off to Ginger Man for a few more. Had a great beer here. But if you ever go, do not, I repeat, do not eat there. We only had a burger. I knew from researching on the net that the food was bad, but i could not have imagined. The worst meal we had in the US by far. But the beer. Ohhh very nice. Off to bed again. Jet lag was starting to kick in.

Day 4 – Last day in NYC. We headed up to the Bronx this time, to visit Little Italy in the Bronx. After being sent in the wrong direction by some idiot, we finally got there. A walk and half it was, but twice as long when someone sends you in the complete opposite direction. By the time we got there we were tired. So we stopped in an Italian sweets shop for a coffee. Coffee good, cannoli was terrible. The cream was textured and too sweet. Not creamy and smooth like ones I remember back home in Melbourne. And the pastry rock hard. Oh no. No good. I was disappointed. And tired.

We were there early so most shops were closed. Before we decided to head off we had a good look in the lonely planet and found the Italian market, which was across the street! As soon as we walk in I am greeted by guys rolling cigars. So I decide to buy some. I ask the lady (who could not speak English) and she indicates to wait and runs off. I stand around looking at pictures on the wall of some guy with Hollywood stars on the wall. Marlin Brando and Al Pacino for example. Next thing I know some Mafioso bloke is standing next to me. He scared the shit out of me. He looked like he just stepped out of Godfather the movie. He knew he scared me too. Funny stuff.

I got my cigars and we wandered around taking in all the smells and sights of great Italian food. I even got to have a traditional San Pellegrino Chinnoto in the traditional little bottles.

We headed down south again to catch the ferry to Staten Island to take some shots and get a good view of the city from afar. Headed back over to Manhattan and spent out last night in Jimmy’s getting drunk, with a tear in the eye, and a heavy head, tired and jet lagged.

Yes we were leaving NYC. And although many would not expect me to say it, I loved NYC. It rocked. It was like a bloody big Melbourne. But better. I felt at home and not judged like over here in London. A great city, built by multiple cultures. Just like back home. They know good beer, good food and a good time, with a friendly atmosphere. Bloody nice place. I can not say too much as I have not lived there, but it is a great place to visit. Let’s just say I would go again.

I’ve just realised this is getting a bit long. I will not carry on much more about the last leg of our journey.

So off to California via a 6 hour bumpy plane ride.

The wedding was supposed to be in Orange County. We were told to stay in Anaheim (the home of Disneyland) but when we discovered the wedding was cancelled we changed plans and stayed in a place called Laguna Beach. And guess what. That’s were they film that show I hate, The OC. Go figure.

I had heard everyone wants to be star in La, and we were not disappointed. We get off the plane, and after logging the forms for my lost luggage (it was still in NY. Helpful advice no 2. Do not put a laptop in your luggage, carry it on the plane), we were greeted by our helpful but nutty shuttle van rep. Oh this guy wanted to be on the set of a Hollywood movie bad, and said so. The world was his stage. Bloody hilarious. Welcome to California.

So off to Laguna Beach via a seven lane highway. I have never seen so many big cars in my life. I saw a Mini showroom before I saw a Mini driving around. They are nuts with the big cars.

Our first day in sunny California was rained out. Not that we complained. We needed a rest and we got it. The next day was nice and sunny.  We got out and trawled the beaches, taking in the area and the houses. A nice place to live. Do not ask me how much it would cost, I’m sure a lot. But what was interesting was that there were a quite a few houses empty. Houses right on the beach! Apparently the housing market is so bad that they are not selling. So people just buy another, move out and leave them. What a waste.

Next day we were off. I left my jacket at the hotel. I left it on my bag and when we left just grabbed my bag and jumped in the shuttle car. My jacket was moved by the cleaning lady so I missed it. Not cold enough to remember. Cost me £74 to have it sent back! We arrived at LAX early. Doing so, at the check in, we were given the opportunity to upgrade to premium economy. Take the bargains while you can they say, so we did. For once I had a good sleep and did not have elbow wars for arm space with the person next to me. Bit of extra leg room too, was nice.

You can see some images of my trip on my Redbubble account. Just click on the images below.

I love to get away as far as the wallet will stretch and for as long as work will allow.

For the last six years I have been travelling the world. I first left my home town of Melbourne, Australia back in 2002, after my sister told me to get my ass out of the country. Before then, I was never interested. Now, it’s an addiction.

I love the world wide web for the travel advice it has given me, about places to go, where to stay, where to have a good meal and local drink. I hope that you might find some useful information to help you on your travels.

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