Canberra Day 95

[Thursday 15th December]

Today I have to bite the bullet and start packing! I thought we’d be here a bit longer because hubby’s work isn’t finished but our rental apartment ends this weekend so I guess we going home! I’ve got to sort out our mail redirection too, it’s been an utter mess since we moved out of our family’s place into our own apartment – to date we still haven’t received a piece of correctly addressed mail despite many phone calls. Anyway, I guess it doesn’t matter now cos all the redirection will be cancelled. But its been a bit hopeless.

I didn’t put too much on my ticket today because of all the packing, but I am doing a tour of the Old Parliament House rose garden in the drizzle. Myself and another lady were booked earlier in the week but the guide never showed; some administration issue apparently. So there are gardens on each side of House and they were designed with the politicians in mind for their rest and recuperation when they weren’t sitting. There aren’t many things more relaxing than strolling through a rose garden so I think it was well intended. There are some themes that run through the garden including sections dedicated to a particular politician or wife, and different varieties and pedigrees of roses, plus bowls and paths and arch ways. It’s beautiful really, just wish I could fit in another visit. The photo doesn’t do it justice; it was raining.

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Then I picked up a free National Gallery of Australia highlights tour, which looked through the sky space , went through various collections, overlooked the fern garden and some of the sculpture garden and was a terrific glance over everything. I went back over a few collections, but time being of the essence it was time to keep moving.

Later in the day I went back around the embassies to get some photos. When we did the driving tour earlier in our time here I just enjoyed it without taking photos. So I had fun taking some photos until I got near the USA embassy then I got emphatically shooed off! They are very touchy!

So, I’ve just about fitted in as much as I can here, and tomorrow is the last day for me! Hubby has to fly back up on Monday morning for another week but he’s not getting any free time at the moment, so I doubt he’ll be getting any tourist attractions. Til tomorrow!

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Canberra Day 89

[Friday 9th December]

Time is getting short here, and a weekend trip back down to Melbourne is going to make it shorter, but we wouldn’t miss it for anything. Hubby’s grandmother passed away at the start of the week and the funeral is this coming Monday so tonight we’re piling into our brother and sister-in-laws dual cab for the 7.5 hour trip south. It’s the least we can do to pay our final public love and respect. And we’re looking forward to being with hubby’s family, we miss them so much more at a time like this. It’s not sad that she is gone, in that we wouldn’t wish her back in her age, health, memory state but we’ll always miss her. I realise at this time that I’ve failed in my essential duty of letting many of my good people know that she has gone…I’m sorry! It’s mostly because it never occurred to me until the funeral; brain fade!

Since we’re going home for a bit anyway, and I have so much stuff (his words, not mine), I’m packing a few bags to take with me. You know, pharmacy reading I was going to get through, a cross stitch I was going to start, a sketch pad I never opened, a photo album I was going to go through and caption, books, clothes I won’t need, most of my shoes etc. Plus a few little purchases; I tried to keep it few and small. And its that time already, time to make a few coffee/lunch dates to say goodbye to my new friends! Nooo! Not already.

On today’s ticket? The amazing Versailles exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia. It’s only showing in Canberra, so lucky me! I know NOTHING about Versailles, except from the ads: gold, gold, more gold, marble, flowers and I hear there’s a special perfume! So what better way to take it in than a guided tour? This is opening day, probably not an ideal day to see it but I haven’t got that many days left so gotta go for it. I realise as I arrive at the National Gallery that I should have come here ages ago! There’s so much else to see apart from this exhibition; I’ll have to try and get back here. The tour was an audio one with the guide speaking quietly into a mic and the followers listening through headphones; good idea since there were multiple tours running and lots of people everywhere. The guide was amazing, she knew so much and spouted off all the dates and history like she’d done it a hundred times before even though it was day one. And the exhibition was magnificent!! There WAS a special perfume designed specifically for this exhibition! It was constantly sprayed through the entrance hall of the exhibition to give the impression of the massive gardens surrounding the palace of Versailles and the gazillion orange trees that lined the 100 something metre hall leading into the main palace. Some people smelled orange blossom, I smelled roses. Either way, what a cool device for an exhibition, engaging your sense of smell as well as sight!

So what did we see? So many beautiful paintings, either from the palace, or of the time and people from Versailles and France, all in such massive, elaborate, golden, carved frames that would do my grandma’s decorating style proud. Then the real things: enormous floor rugs, gorgeous gold and glass vases, furniture, clothing, a room immersing you in a 3D experience of the elaborate irrigation system in place for the Versailles garden which was demanded by one of the Louis’ despite the palace being basically in the desert. The history of the 3 Louis’ of the Versailles palace was also fascinating to me, having never heard any of it before. A brilliant exhibition; highly recommended! I did manage to sneak back another time and it was worth; so much detail to take in!

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An amazing photograph of the main hall of the palace of Versailles giving a glimpse into the decadent era that began with the reign of the Louis’ – the 2 foreground statues are replicas of the original. There were something like 373 mirrors along this hallway paired with windows on the other side

Then another little experience: a 2.5 km walking tour of Lake Burley Griffin with a guide talking about the history of Canberra and the lake. It’s a free thing that the tourist board do, so of course I have to do it! Never pass a freebie, me. We looked at the globe of the world inscribed with all the consulates in Canberra, the Menzies statue which is REALLY tall, the armed forces monument, the dead police  persons, the island, the musical tower. To be honest, I’ve done that many laps of the lake on my bike, plus the boat cruise, plus other tours that this one was a bit superfluous! Oh well. It’s done. But in a bit of a weird format, the tour is one way. It ends 2.5km from the start. And then you have to walk back again under your own steam! Bummer! Oh well, get trudging.

New Zealand trip Day Four

(Sunday 30th October, 2016)

Well I’m trying to catch up on this blog bit by bit, sorry for the delays. I’m sitting in Wellington airport with brilliant wifi on Tuesday 1st November so let’s go! Okay well it’s 3rd November, but let’s get this done.

We had a really nice room at the Colonial Lodge Motel for last (Saturday 29th October) night. A lovely place with well kept gardens of roses and friendly staff. Breakfast was room service continental but if you wanted a hot breakfast you just paid the difference. It’s quite nice really, having breakfast brought to you! So eggs in bed 🙂 We planned to get going at 9.30am and today we were ready in time, not 10 minutes late like yesterday! Getting packed up everyday isn’t the most fun but its all to a good purpose. After riding for 10 minutes yesterday with rain falling on and running off my bare arms, the lovely tour guide Jenny brought me paniers for my bike so I could stow my vest and jacket for possible future use; just as well, cos we got caught in rain again! My jacket isn’t waterproof but at least it takes the worst of the rain so it isn’t landing directly on you. And I can tuck my camera into it. Theoretically. I ended up tucking it back in every few seconds! Turns out my comfort level for exposure of my camera to drizzle is a lot higher than to rain; when it’s “tipping down” as Jenny says, having it half covered isn’t really good enough so I was fidgeting with it for the last couple of kilometres! Should have stowed it in the paniers like hubby said as soon as it started spitting but spitting doesn’t always turn into raining and I’m loving taking pictures of our trip. In another life I think I’ll be a photojournalist. If anyone would actually pay me for it! The other thing Jenny brought me this morning was gloves. I never wear gloves. I dunno why, just never started. Nearly everyone else at Wheel Women wear gloves, but I’ve just got the one pair of fleece gloves in case of freezing weather, and I forget to wear them half the time! On a multi day tour the heels of your hands can get a bit sore from vibrating on the handle grips but I’ve never been bothered enough by it to do anything about it. However yesterday was different. The rain was tipping down, my arms were soaked and water was running off my arms and hands, and I lost my grip on the handle bars! They were proper rubber handles and super grippy to start with, but the water made them as slippery as anything and I was battling to hold on! So lucky that Jenny had some in lost property! And that she’s such a generous soul. So I was better prepared today, and off we go. It’s nice to just ride out from where we’re staying, and not need to be bused about.

Today was only 4km longer than yesterday, we ended up doing 41km compared to 37km but it felt longer and more difficult! For starters I was a bit stiff and sore today from yesterday. I’m wishing I stuck to that training plan now, and that riding 40kms was a bit more of a routine thing. Anyway, let bygones etc. Most of the difficulty was due to the windy conditions that we were battling through but also to the fact that we rode almost the whole distance before stopping for anything. Yesterday we had several stops: the old bridge, the estuary, Mission estate, Church Road winery etc, every few kilometres. Today we stopped for coffee after 17km, and that was only at a coffee cart, then we rode through to lunch, the full distance done. It was a bit tough ploughing through the wind but still lovely and sunny in the morning. Up on that elevated bank, originally a flood levee, and you’re just so exposed. So we were glad to get off it onto flat roads through the orchards and vineyards and heritage listed avenue of trees around Havelock North. Except that no sooner had we gotten into that bumpy patchy path than the it started spitting! But spitting doesn’t always turn to raining right? Wrong. Argh. The last couple of kilometres were going to be tough anyway for me especially with a cross wind but now rain is pelting down and unlike yesterday, it isn’t warm! It snowed overnight!! Within sight of where we stayed! You could definitely feel the chill so I’d been wearing my jacket all day, me, and now cold rain and wind to make it colder! Not a lot of fun. We’d had a shower earlier too, apparently there was hail in it but I didn’t notice. That was kind of fascinating because it was clearly a front. It came from behind, gave us a short sharp blast then with a swirl of wind it had passed through, over and done with in seconds. Not this rain, it was settling in to go all day! Thankfully we got to the winery for lunch and didn’t have to contemplate getting back on our bikes again that day! I don’t think we could have!

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So we’re at the winery. 1.30pm on a Sunday and we come in like drenched rats! Everyone else is dressed up and out for lunch and we’re in wet runners and sports clothes! Well I’m in my cleats actually cos I’m so used to them now, even if I’m not used to the pedals on my hire bike; so far no mishaps! Even those with waterproof coats had wet hair from the helmet vents, and some had wet necks and backs, and all had wet pants. Not really fun. My hair was satched so I thought I’d use my neck scarf to cover it, but it was wet. Sitting down was kind of cold. I did change out of my wet jacket and scarf and into my dry vest but it wasn’t really cutting it so we asked the maitre d to turn on the heaters. Apparently my lips were purple! Those who know me or read this blog will know that I’m almost never cold, and certainly not this cold! But wet cold is very different to dry cold. We had an AMAZING lunch! THE best lamb I’ve ever had, just ahead of my grandma’s. 12 hour slow cooked lamb shoulder with a subtle glaze that just fell off the bone it was served on! We all absolutely LOVED the lamb and I think most of us are going home to try to replicate it. We also had a lovely antipasto platter of prosciutto, mustard, pickled veg, terrine, a couple of salami types and a gorgeous fresh salad which gave new meaning to green salad by being literally all green! Uber finely sliced cabbage, fennel, mint with barely any dressing if any and such a fresh taste. A yummy fish dish with calamari, tasty dressing, so kinds of tasty its and bits and some kind of black pappadum.

Not so many photos today, I was too busy turning one leg over the other and battling with myself, the wind and then the rain! It was beautiful scenery again, and lots to remember, just not so much recorded. Is that okay? Probably its all I could physically manage at the time, but I do love having my photos to remind me as my memories rapidly fade!! “Home” to Havelock North to crank up the heater and warm up and dry out our clothes for packing. It’s free night tonight, no group activity, so we head to the recommended Mamasita Mexican and love it! Delicious tacos and Mexican drinks, ahh ready for bed!