Monthly Archives: August 2017

Australia, Melbourne- something to smile about – could Spring have finally sprung?

After days of hibernation in a chilly and wet Melbourne (but with the advantage of being able to watch The Handmaid’s Tale – how creepy yet mesmerising is that dystopian world?) I ventured out today for a walk. I like to consider Treasury Gardens and Fitzroy Gardens as my personal parks as they are right on my doorstep (lucky me – convenient and no gardening required) and both gorgeous. Very excited to see definite signs of Spring.

Australia, Melbourne – back home – cold and wet but nil desperandum – NGV comes good again

Bit of a shock to leave mid summer and return to mid winter (although Melbourne winters are really very mild) but I have got wimpier about the cold after 10 years in Australia. Anyway, obviously a good time to consider indoor activities and so I trotted off to the Hokusai Exhibit at the NGV. It was magnificent – many many pieces including the Great Wave, waterfalls and other Japanese scenes. I am amazed how he can create such lovely images with so few brush strokes and of course it has set off my wanderlust to visit Japan again – now that I have visited Tokyo and Kyoto I would love to explore other parts of the country – maybe an Autumn trip would be nice and then I can chase golden leaves instead of cherry blossoms.

Hope you like them as much as I did and if you live here – GO!

Canada, Whistler – the last stop on this trip:(

Many of you will know Whistler as one of the best ski resorts in the world. Well if you know me you will also know that ski-ing isn’t really my things (although the aprés bit is quite fun). So I convinced my friend Karen to go up for a couple of days and enjoy what has also become a great summer destination. The downside was the constant haze caused by the forest fires in Kamloops which are impacting much of Western Canada and the US – you could have believed there were no mountains surrounding Whistler at all – but luckily I have been before so know better. Real shame for first time visitors though. Poor air quality score of 10 – so memories of my time in China. 

Never daunted we walked around the town and also took gondolas and chairlifts up Whistler and Blackcomb mountains and the Peak to Peak gondola built for the Winter Olympics – it is the single longest unsupported structure in the world and the highest – so essentially you sit very high up and cross from one peak to the next in about 12 minutes. It is pretty impressive engineering and a must for visitors. We also took a hike (yes me) and you will see that even in Summer there is snow about and some cool ice walls too.

So sad to leave Canada as have had a fantastic time – not just seeing the country but catching up with many of my old ex HSBC pals – we spent a lot of time reminiscing about the “good old days” as you do! 

Until my next trip – I’m signing off as just back in Melbourne ready to enjoy all the fun things going on here – especially two next exhibits at the NGV – Hokusai and Dior. Can’t wait.

With Karen hiking and trying out the many chairlifts in Whistler

Whistler in summer – well worth a visit.

Canada – Banff, Alberta – the designer town – everything is manicured and well maintained – including a perfect blue sky

After the Rocky Mountaineer for two days it was good to get onto solid ground and start my two night stay at the magnificent Banff Springs Hotel – a hotel originally built by the Canadian Pacific Railway company in the days of elegant and lengthy travel done by the wealthy folk from all over the colonies (maybe that’s what I’ve been doing over the past few months?). It is now owned by the Fairmont Group which is now owned by the Accor hotel group – it is a dog eat dog world. Nevertheless it retains its grandeur and sits in massive grounds with views from every corner.

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel – the way hotels used to be

The walk into Banff from the hotel takes about 10 minutes and the views along the way make it worthwhile including the impressive Bow Falls which are literally at the bottom of the hotel grounds leading to a river path that takes you into town.

The walk from Banff Springs hotel to downtown

And finally I got to Banff Springs (by the way the whole of the town of Banff sits in the Banff National Park which is unusual). Yes it is a bit touristy but they do it very nicely and tackiness is reduced to a minimum. I enjoyed mooching around the gardens and the shops – of course!

Downtown Banff

Canada, BC and Alberta – Great railway journeys of the world – I ride the Rocky Mountaineer

I am definitely getting a thing for train travel. When I lived in Vancouver I was always waving people off as they took this journey but I never found the time to do it then so this time I finally got to ride the Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver to Banff. 

This is a full two day journey with an overnight stay in Kamloops BC. The train is a double decker if you travel gold leaf with an oval glass roof so visibility is excellent but it is cleverly tinted to ensure easy viewing but no roasting under the sun. Seats are large and comfortable and even have heating should you need it. The train does not stop along the way but does slow down around the most scenic areas and each carriage has an open air vestibule you can stand on to get an outdoors perspective. Food is excellent and plentiful with a separate dining car on the lower level of the carriage you are in and drinks are in plentiful supply. Each carriage has two hosts who point out what to look at and historical info. 

These photos will give a flavour of what you see from your window – the train itself and then bridges, scenery, trees, rivers and lakes. A good experience although slightly marred by the impact of smoke haze from the bush fires in BC.

The world famous Rocky Mountaineer

Below include Doris whose dog always barks when the RM engine goes by (But not when the freight trains go by – and there are loads of them. This brings Doris out to wave and we all waved back. Actually a lot of people wave at the train – Canadians are very friendly:)

Rivers and Lakes are on the “doorstep” of your train carriage.

Rivers and lakes along the the Rocky Mountaineer route

Canada, BC- I love Chemainus. Where is it? On Vancouver Island

I have finished a wonderful week with my great friend and fab host Marjory in Chemainus, Vancouver Island BC. The island which houses the capital of British Columbia (Victoria is situated there) is,  contrary to what a lot of people think, is a big island – slightly larger than Ireland I’m assured – but with a population of about half a million. So loads of room for everyone. 

A while back Chemainus decided to reinvent itself and one of the things they did was to create a town of murals – they are wonderful and it is a great way to spend an hour following the yellow footsteps through the older and new parts of town checking them out. See below for some samples.

Murals in Chemainus

The town itself is also cute and like many places in BC has its own marijuana shop on the High Street – all legal of course:). It is also home to a burgeoning wine industry in the Cowichan Valley.

The Cowichan valley and cannabis for sale in the corner shop

And not very far away in Cathedral Grove are some of the loveliest giant trees I’ve ever seen  – some are 800 years old – and fairy-like glades created when the sun filters through the tree.

Trees in Cathedral Grove, Vancouver Island

I will be back for sure……