Friday 29 May 2009

Fishing trip

Today we took Nancy and Robert's boat to a place called Guilderton, about 100km North of Perth city for a fishing trip on the Moore River.  The drive took about 90 minutes, including a stop to pick up fishing supplies.  The scenery we drove through on the way up was very unexciting.  The highlightof the journey was when we pulled up alongside Nancy and Robert's car and Peter noticed for the first time that Joseph wasn't in our car.  We all had a good laugh at him - he had been so engrossed in his book and hadn't noticed when Joseph and his booster seat had been removed from our car so he could ride with Nancy and Robert.

By the time we arrived at the riverside we were all hungry, so we tucked straight into the picnic we had brought with us while Robert sorted the fishing gear.  
It wasn't long before we were backing the boat into the water by which time Joseph and Luke were getting very excited about the prospect of going in the boat on the water (since we first arrived in Perth their favourite game has been playing in the boat - parked in the garden).  Peter agreed to let the little two have first shot (partly bribed with an ice-cream).  We took a quick spin around the lagoon before heading upstream and dropping anchor for our first attempt at fishing.  Robert gave us all a quick lesson with the fishing rods and it wasn't long before I had managed to put a knot in one of the lines, reducing our rod count to two.  Luke managed a very basic fishing method, while Joseph worked on casting the line properly.  

After a short lesson we headed back to port where Nicola and Luke disembarked and Peter joined the crew.  Peter had his lesson on casting and we headed further upstream, trying several different spots.  Both Joseph and Peter were soon fishing like little pro's, while Robert watched on (probably wishing I hadn't wrecked his chance of a catch!).  

Despite improving technique and a host of spots, we failed to see a single fish.  We did, however, have great fun and saw loads of birdlife (black swans, pelicans, parakeets etc).  On the way back Joseph helped Robert skipper the boat back - mainly making sure he didn't go too slow.

The boat was easily winched back onto its trailer as the sun gave up the last of its heat for the day and a tired group headed for the long drive home and some well earned bangers and mash.

Full set of photos can be found by clicking here.


Thursday 28 May 2009

Cycling around Rottnest

On Tuesday we caught the ferry over to Rottnest, a peaceful little island off the coast of Western Australia, leaving Nancy and Robert to rest for a day or so!  Rottnest has a laid back atmosphere with lovely beaches, beautiful views and the added attraction that the main way to get around is on bike.  We stayed overnight and while the accommodation was a bit grubby we had a fantastic two days.  

We hired bikes for David, Peter, Joe and I and a trailer for Luke.  Joe and Peter were delighted to have bikes again and while Luke was devastated that he didn’t get his own bike he soon began enjoying travelling in the bike trailer.  After a quick lunch stop (where a peacock tried to steal Joe’s pie…much to his distress!) we headed out for a cycle.  The maps of the island were fairly poor…not all the roads seemed to be marked, but at least the kids didn’t mind doing a couple of circles before hitting the road properly!  

Joe was in his element the whole time we had the bikes.  The highlight of the two days for him was ’riding fast’ and he was fairly quick, he embarrassed some struggling teenage girls as he sped past them with ease!  Joe was so happy as he cycled along, chatting away while his little legs worked overtime - he seemed to have endless energy.  David and I just enjoyed watching him and were so proud of how well he did, as we cycled over 30km over the two days.  

Peter also enjoyed being on the bike and he spent a lot of the time riding out front leading the way.  He got a bit of a shock on the first day when he cycled over a snake!  This was a bit too close an encounter, even for  Peter, who loves animals and nature!  

Rottnest is home to a marsupial called a Quokka, which looks a bit like a large rat.  Most of the quokkas living on the island are fairly tame and they always have their eye out for food, one of them had a good look into the bike trailer as Luke was sitting munching his crisps!  As well as quokkas we also saw pelicans (which I thought were amazing), peacockAdd Images (which Luke was very impressed with) and Peter spotted some jellyfish in the water while waiting for the ferry.  

We were all tired out by the time we got back on the ferry on Wednesday, but we had a fantastic time on Rotto!


Monday 25 May 2009

Was there a ghost in San Diego?

We just found this photo when looking through some of the older pictures from the trip.  It was taken on our first evening at La Jolla (just North of San Diego) along with a number of pictures taken at sunset that evening.  

In the preceding picture the man fishing looks solid enough (he appears as a silhouette), but in the picture shown here it appears that you can see right through the man (particularly the edge of the rock seen through his legs).  The photo has not been edited or manipulated in any way.  I have uploaded a copy of the picture file (unreduced in size and unaltered) in which you can zoom in on the man to see the full effect - click on the picture here to open the full file.

Is it a ghost or is there another explanation?


Sunday 24 May 2009

Thomas Day

Nancy and Robert had planned a bit of a surprise for the boys while we were over as there was a “Friends of Thomas” day on at a local park during our visit.  David and I thought it would be just the sort of thing Joe and Luke would love and we decided to keep it as a surprise until the day.  Nancy and Robert picked up a few Thomas things during the week and I set up a Thomas themed breakfast table for Sunday morning.  The boys got a surprise when they got up and were very excited to hear they were going to see some trains.

We headed down to the park first thing and followed the crowds of small kids and parents down to the station.  We did three train rides before lunch and stopped off to see model aeroplane flying and remote control car racing (very popular with Peter and Luke respectively).  When we arrived back at the station before lunch it was chaos…there were hundreds of people waiting for trains.  We made a quick exit through the crowds and found a shady spot for 
our picnic.  

After lunch we decided to walk to the last train stop, rather than face the crowds on the platform.  It was a nice walk through the bush and alongside a pond.  When we found the station we had a look at some old buses and fire-engines which were on display and then watched the train in the station before heading back (on foot).

Luke loved the day, he is mad about Thomas and really enjoyed seeing and riding on the trains (although was not too keen on their whistles!).  Joe also had a really good day as he is fairly train mad too.  Peter was being our ‘bored teenager’ this morning, appropriately dressed in black and moping about complaining and muttering something about trains being boring…however he seemed to cheer up after lunch (maybe because we didn’t go on any more trains) and overall I think he enjoyed the day.  


Keeping busy in Perth

After spending a few sunny days on the beach we decided to head into the city for a day in case the forecasted rain arrived at the end of the week.  We spent a day wandering around Perth and relaxing in Kings Park.  Perth city did not seem to have changed too much since our last visit ten years ago and the driving in and out was certainly far easier than in Melbourne!

The weather forecast for Thursday was a storm, but we decided to head down the coast to Rockingham where you can often see marine life like sea lions and dolphins.  It seemed a good idea until we stepped out of the car into howling winds, although it was not cold it was pretty blowy andafter a quick walk we retreated to the car to re-think our strategy for the day!   

We decided to head into Subiaco, a trendy suburb of Perth with lots of nice shops.  When we arrived the weather had picked up and we parked up at Hungry Jacks (aka Burger King) and had a quick lunch in the car, with the windows open and the sun streaming in.  After lunch we were about to head into the shops when the storm hit…luckily only I had got out the car to get the parking ticket before we decided to abandon.   The wind and rain were ferocious and we could  hardly see the road, there were tree branches down on the roads…then ten minutes later the rain stopped, winds eased off and the sky started brightening….the storm had passed!   If we had known how quickly it would pass then  we could have sat it out, but instead we headed back to Nancy and Roberts and lucky old Peter had some extra homework time!

We headed into Fremantle on Friday with Nancy and Robert as we wanted to see the weekly markets.  The weather was still a bit cold, wet and blowy, which was an extreme contrast to our previous visits to Fremantle where we had to rest in cafes due to extreme heat!!  We wandered around the markets and Nancy and Robert bought the boys a boomerang.  Then we went a walk to build up an appetite for a fish and chip lunch (which was delicious).  

On Saturday the weather was still looking a bit dodgy so we got up early and headed into Scitech, an interactive science museum (much like Scienceworks which we went to in Melbourne).  We arrived for opening at 10am and spent the whole day trying out the exhibits and going to the various shows, we had to literally drag the kids out as they shrieked “just one more go” at 4.30pm to take them home for tea.  The kids were tired and after their tea they settled down to watch Ice Age 2 while David and I went out for an Indian meal then went to see Angels and Demons (which was excellent!!).


Tuesday 19 May 2009

First few days in Perth

We arrived in Perth last Thursday and stepped off the plane into the bright sunshine and heat of Western Australia.  Nancy and Robert had come to meet us at the airport and it was lovely to have familiar faces waiting for us when we emerged into the arrivals hall.  Peter, Joseph and Luke were instantly won over as Nancy and Robert had got them a helium balloon each!

Our luggage quickly appeared and I was packing it onto the luggage trolley when the “food-smuggling sniffer dog” took an interest in my bag.  We had already put the food we were carrying into the quarantine bins so I knew we were okay, but the dog was not taking no for an answer, so they did a quick search of my bag to make sure there was not a rogue apple in

The weather has been warm and sunny every day so far and we have spent a lot of time on the beach.  The boys have really enjoyed the beach, they have been building sandcastles and playing endlessly in the water.  

We had a quieter day on Sunday, we went to see the kangaroos at a nearby cemetery then went to the park for half an hour of Aussie Rules football, badminton and boomerang throwing.  

Nancy and Robert had bought a paddling pool for the boys so Luke and Joseph had a great time playing in the water and trying to surf!  In the afternoon we headed to the nearby historical “Cockman House” which had a family fun afternoon on, so as well as having a look round the house there was also lots of old fashioned games such as skipping, stilts and the hula-hoop which we could try out and some tasty scones and tea.  

Yesterday after a day at the beach we headed out for dinner to the nearby “Hog's Breath CafĂ©” where most of us enjoyed steak and chips (Joe and I had chicken) before squeezing in some chocolate cake then taking three very tired boys home to bed!

David has even managed some training as he headed out to a 6.30am swimming session with an ex-England team triathlete who now lives in Perth and coaches triathlon and swimming for a living.

Tomorrow we are off into the city for the day, so we are hoping the good weather holds for another day.  We are having a great time here in Perth…our main concern is how quickly the days are flying past!!


Thursday 14 May 2009

A quick visit to Melbourne

After a bit of a disasterous first day in Melbourne (see the day that turned to custard) we had a restful second day - in the morning we took our boys and Aaron to the swimming pool and then spent the afternoon chillaxing back at the house (except Peter who caught up on some school work).  The kids all woke early again the next day (waking us too).  We drove into the city early and did a walking tour around the Botanic Gardens (4 miles) which was somewhat spoiled by an attack of the Grumps from Luke and an unusual navigational error from me (as a result of this rare occurrence, getting lost in the Botanics was a regular topic of discussion over the next few days). 

Although Dan and Fiona's house is quite big, the downstairs sleeping quarters (which we shared with the four boys) are quite small.  Aaron’s excitement at having his cousins visit never really wore off and we were regularly woken by roaring well before 6am!  Luke suffered the most from the early rise, but slept a bit better when we moved him in to sleep with us after a few days.

In the afternoon I dropped Nicola and Joseph off at a nearby shopping mall for a couple of hours birthday present shopping and took Luke home for a sleep while Peter did more homework.

On Saturday we drove down to visit  the Formula 1 Grand Prix circuit at Albert park - which for the rest of the year is a fairly regular park and lake, with the pit complex used as a sports centre. We then took a quick drive down to the nearby St Kildas, the famous beach area close to the city. The afternoon turned slightly custardy when we got stuck in traffic trying to drive to the shopping centre to meet Sarah(Holmes) and Sarah (Southpaw) who had taken Aaron out for the day.

Highlight of the week: on Sunday Sarah and I went on the Neighbours tour  which included Ramsay Street, the external sets and a surprise meeting with……..(drum roll)…….Dr Karl Kennedy, who kindly wrote some nice messages for fellow doctors Chris and Dan.  Nicola had also wanted to come, but since we would have had to then bring the boys (the tour lasted almost 4 hours) and because I had some birthday money which I wanted to put towards the tour, she spent the day making birthday cards with the boys and took the 5 kids to the park with Dan.  

Over the next few days we spent a lot more of the daytime with Dan, Fiona, Aaron and Maria. We visited a great museum in Melbourne called Scienceworks which was full of excellent interactive activities for the kids.  We also took a drive out to an animal sanctuary at a place called Healsville - the kids liked getting up close to the kangaroos and seeing a display of the birds of prey.   (Although it was a fun day for the kids, we wouldn’t normally visit a zoo or animal park because of the confined space the animals are kept in and sadly this was no different at Healsville.)  Healsville is located at the start of the Yarra valley, one of the areas devastated by this year’s bushfires.  We took a drive to one of the worst affected places, a small town called Marysville which was almost wiped out.  The scene was amazing - most of the rubble and mess has been cleared away but there is very little left standing.  In some cases a charred sign was the only evidence of businesses and other buildings which once stood there.

On my birthday Sarah and I went down to the pool for a short training session while the kids played at the park outside.  In the afternoon we took a drive out to Ramsay Street so that Nicola and the boys could have a look (no Karl Kennedy though).  We got back early to prepare for the traditional birthday tea (sandwiches, crisps, cakes, biscuits etc) and had everything ready to eat when the others arrived back from their drive (Dan was still refusing to go to Ramsay Street!).

Our overall impression of Melbourne?  Initially we weren’t impressed having come straight from Sydney, but by the end of our stay we found that there is quite a lot to do around there.  There were several city walks which we would like to have done but didn’t have time - and due to our tram crash we didn’t get to see as much of the city as we would have liked.  If you could only visit one city then we would recommend Sydney, but if you have more time Melbourne is worth a visit.

The complete Melbourne photo collection is here.


Wednesday 6 May 2009

The day that turned to custard

From the moment our plane touched down in Melbourne Peter, Joseph and Luke's excitement levels started rising...they were going to see Aaron again!  We arrived at Dan and Fiona's house before the kids were home from nursery, giving our boys time to inspect Aaron’s toy collection before he got home.  From the moment that a very excited Aaron burst in the front door and raced upstairs the house descended into a few hours of ‘little boy chaos’…toys, games and books were compared and inspected and four little voices babbled away to each other until bedtime!  Maria looked on and tried chewing on a few of the boys toys and she looked like she was very keen to be joining in!

The kids woke early this morning and had a few hours of playing before we decided to head into the city.  We headed in first, with Dan, Aaron and Maria coming in later to meet us for lunch.  Our first stop was the tourist information, where we learned about the free tourist trams…as the boys had been asking to go on the trams everywhere we went for weeks we decided to do this before lunch.

We headed to the nearest tram stop and were lucky to just make it in time to get onto a tram.  We sat up the back and the boys looked out the windows and enjoyed the ride.  The tram does a circle, so we were planning to do a loop then meet Dan and the kids for lunch.  

We were about halfway round when disaster struck…while the tram was stopped at lights there was a huge bang and a jolt.  Luke fell over and started screaming…we had been hit from behind (at some speed) by another tram!  Once we worked out what had happened and had ascertained that we were all fine (and everyone else on the tram had been reassured that a screaming Luke was okay…he just got a fright) we had to get off the tram and watch a huge ‘tram-traffic jam’ build up behind us.

From this point on our day “turned to custard” (to borrow a phrase from Dean).  As  no-one had been injured and it was clearly the fault of the tram driver behind us we decided to head off on foot, but we were now quite far away from where we were meeting Dan and needed to calm Luke down before we could re-board another tram! 

After half walking, half tram-ing it back to meet Dan, we then got lost (due to confusion on our location when we were talking to Dan), had lunch late, then decided to walk round the centre…however after a tedious stroll at dawdling child pace Joe was exhausted and Luke and Aaron wanted to go home.  So we decided to call it a day and headed back to the car and after negotiating the rather scary and manic Melbourne traffic we made it back home, where the boys enjoyed another few hours of ‘hyper-powered’ excitement before bed.

Let’s hope tomorrow is less eventful…we might even try the free bus!


We love Sydney

We walked through Hyde Park on our first morning and met Sven outside his hostel on the way into the city centre. It was then a short walk through the Botanic Gardens before we reached the harbour and our first views of the world famous bridge and opera house. Both were stunning to see in real life and with a warm sun sparkling off the water made it a really wonderful view. We walked round to the opera house and the boys played at running up and down the steps for a while before we headed over towards the bridge. The Southern end of the bridge is a place called “The Rocks” which is the original European settlement in Sydney. Many of the original brick buildings remain and it is very English in style. We wandered around the markets at The Rocks before ascending several flights of stairs to reach the bridge. Out on the bridge we had more good views of the opera house so Nicola took another couple of million snaps before we headed back . By this time the boys were getting tired so we picked up some snacks and drinks and headed back to the steps of the opera house for a break. After their snacks Peter, Joseph and Luke counted the steps up to the opera house (50). On the way down Luke tried to find out how many steps he could jump down face first before Nicola could catch him (3) - and came out of it with interesting bruises. We finished the day going back through Hyde Park and fell exhausted into an early bed.

We were up early on our second day after a long sleep. I headed out for a run down near the gardens on the Olympic triathlon course (2000). After I got back we looked at the map and measured how far we had walked yesterday and were surprised to see it was almost 9 miles (we think Joseph’s longest walk prior to that was about 5 miles) - no wonder we were so tired!

We met Sven at our hotel and headed over towards Chinatown where we bought tickets for the monorail. We took a ride right round the monorail loop before disembarking at Darling Harbour on our second lap. We had a good look around the maritime museum where the main exhibits were a Darwin exhibition and “trash or treasure,, souvenirs of travel” - something we have accumulated plenty of. We had a picnic lunch at the harbour while a military jazz band played in one of the waterside amphitheatres. The harbour area was really busy and there was an excellent atmosphere. After lunch we wandered around the harbour and saw a few street performers - my favourite was a three piece band in which the drummer and trombone player were on stilts and the saxophonist rode a Segway. We rode the monorail back round to Chinatown and after a quick visit to Paddy’s Market (selling the usual junk found in any UK market but ten times the size) we finished off with dinner in Chinatown.

By day 3 we were fairly exhausted, so after walking into the main harbour for breakfast (via the Botanic Gardens where we stopped to watch fruit-bats coming home to roost) we caught a ferry over to a place called Manly, North East of the city. We spent most of the day on the beach (but couldn’t help doing a little two mile walk along the esplanade because it looked like such a nice walk). The shops and cafes in Manly also looked lovely (but the only shopping we did was picking up some sun-cream, we have got out of the habit of taking it everywhere we go since we got to New Zealand!). After a relaxing ferry ride back to the city we stopped off at Peter’s favourite eating joint “Pie Face” for dinner. Once the kids were in bed Nicola and I started the epic re-pack, which surprisingly went ok.

Day 4 - our first day of rain in Australia, but after a quick swim in the hotel pool with the boys, we left by taxi for Sydney airport to say goodbye already. After being under whelmed by New Zealand it has been great to visit somewhere which really blew us away again - the first place we've been to for a while that we think we would like to live.


New Zealand to Sydney

Our journey from New Zealand to Sydney went really well.  As we had stayed near the airport the night before we were able to walk over with our luggage in the morning once we had checked out.  Our flight was not until 14.30, so we had  some time to spend in the airport before we left.  It was just as well really as we had five “Departing New Zealand” forms to fill out, as well as five Australian arrival cards…so those kept us busy!

Our flight was about 3 hours and by the time we got on board Joseph was exhausted by all the excitement of the day and he promptly fell asleep for an hour (until the food arrived!).  Peter was disappointed not to find a ‘back of the seat entertainment centre’ and had to make do with listening to the Rock Radio station.  

Luke was very excited about going on a plane (but only if it was green…which ours was not, but we had to pretend it was).  However, as the flight wore on he became increasingly tired and therefore increasingly mischievous.  He twice pressed the cabin crew call button without us noticing…much to our embarrassment as a member of the Qantas team came each time to check we were okay!  Luke found this game amazingly funny and therefore spent the rest of the flight trying to prise my hand away from the armrest where I was covering the buttons to stop him touching them.  I resorted to threatening him with time out if he misbehaved (in the van we used to sit him on the passenger seat if he had been really naughty).  When I told him he would be going in time out if he didn’t stop trying to press the buttons he looked at me a bit puzzled, then said “Will the man who flies the plane come and sit in my seat then?”….he thought I was going to make him sit in the cockpit…I had to laugh!!

On our way out of the plane the boys got to have a look at the flight deck and sit in the pilot and co-pilots’ seats.  Luke seemed rather bewildered that he was allowed to touch the speed control for the plane when he had got into so much trouble for touching the button on his armrest!

Once we got off the plane, got through immigration, got our bags and got through the bio-hazard screening we had to work out how to get to our hotel (as we have not hired a car).  We decided that first stop should be the cash machine and as we were withdrawing cash Sven appeared!  We knew he flew in the same day as us, but he had decided to hang around and travel into the city with us.  We were debating how we would get our luggage mountain into town when a minibus taxi driver came over and offered us a great deal to get us all into town…we were sorted!

We arrived at our hotel, got checked in and then wandered down with Sven to his hostel.  Sven kindly let David carry his pink surfboard through the gay district!  As we walked down we got our first impressions of Sydney and it seems lively and interesting and we can’t wait to go sightseeing tomorrow!

Pictures from our last day in New Zealand are here