Back to reality

Apologies for not posting for some time but life gets in the way. 2016 was a bad year in one way and a good one in others. We bought the family home in March. Then my hubby had a health scare which entailed numerous trips to hospital and tests but thankfully it was a misdiagnosis – still have fingers crossed on that though. Sister in law who had been given all clear from cancer was told two weeks later that it had spread to bones and brain and is now in a hospice.

The positive side is that our granddaughter was born at the end of August and we went over to Australia in November to see her. She is just gorgeous. People had always said that grandchildren were special and I hadn’t got it. One day you will understand – grandchildren are the best thing ever and it was heartbreaking to have to leave her and come back to Ireland. It makes me even more determined to try to move there but it is really hard to get into Australia – I’m nearly an expert on the different visas at this stage.

Even though I do plan to move to Australia I still couldn’t resist getting a dog from a rescue centre called Molly Moos in Limerick. It is run by a nurse and she has seven dogs of her own mainly Westies. I really don’t know how she does it but she is wonderful. My dog is a shit zu called Gismo and is an absolute doll. She just wants to follow me around and be petted. Even though she wasn’t house-trained she has only had one slip so all is good. Walking her is also helping me exercise so win win.

I joined Slimming World when I came back from Australia in Aug 2015 and at one stage I had lost over a stone and a half. I did put a few pounds back on but 2017 sees me determined to get back to it fully.

I intend to try to post regularly about different topics over the next while. gizmo

 

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Return to Oz

Sorry for not posting for so long. Life often gets in the way. Well insecurities is anyone reading this, will anyone be interested? We are now back in Australia visiting our son, partner and new born granddaughter. Yes our beautiful Cora born 29th August. All I can say is it’s magical. I definitely have to move here if ever I had any doubts they are now gone. I will post soon about this.

 

On the rest of New Zealand

Next stop was to drive to Tongariro National Park by way of Rotarua and Lake Taupo. Things didn’t quite go to plan as I left my ereader at the motel and we had to drive back for it. This meant we had very little time to see Rotarua which is one of the main tourist towns and full of thermal springs and Maori towns. We drove down by Lake Taupo and when you first reach it the scenery was just amazing. You could see the snowy mountains in the distance beside green ones. Did I mention the blue skies and sunshine which meant that the views were so amazing?

We were staying at the Grand Chateau which is in Tongariro National Park at the foot of Mount Ruapehu. This is where some of the film crew from the Lord of the Rings stayed when they were filming scenes for the films. I know we are very sad! It is also at the foot of the ski slope. The views of Mount Doom (the mountain in the films) was amazing though it was covered with snow. It is the cone shaped mountain. The Chateau was built in 1929 and it was amazing. It had it’s own cinema as well as a pool and fitness centre.

From here we travelled up to the foot of the ski slope to see where Morder was filmed. Unfortunately we were not able to go the exact area due to the snow. Then it was on to the waterfall in Ohakune where Gollum was catching the fish with Sam and Frodo. Again it was snowed over so not a lot to see. We went on to another waterfall Tawhai Falls where Gollum catches and eats the fish. It was well worth the walk to see it.

We left the Chateau on Saturday and made our way to Waitomo Caves where we did a 45 minute tour. These caves were discovered in the late 1800’s and have been a tourist attraction for 125 years. They are noted for their stalactites and stalagmites and the presence of Glow Worms. It was so dark and cold in  the caves and to look up at the ceiling and see wall these pinprick of lights from the Glow worms was amazing.

Then it was back to Auckland where we stayed near the airport. We found another nice bar called the Bar and Baa which is owned by a Greek man and had two really nice Indians working behind the bar. We had a bit of craic with some farmers who were there and then it was back to the hotel for some sleep before the final journey home. New Zealand is very like home and I could easily imagine living here.

We came back via Hong Kong this time and we had a window and an phone 1240 phone 1239 SL731562 SL731560 SL731665 SL731673 SL731638 SL731579 SL731649 SL731652 SL731679aisle seat so I didn’t have to bother anyone else to get out (unlike coming over). The leg room was great as was the food. We had a three hour stop in Hong Kong and another three and a half hours in Heathrow which was long and then it was home to Dublin and the bad weather. Give me winter in Australia and New Zealand any day!

On Hobbiton

Okay for those who don’t know about Hobbiton here is a short lesson. Hobbiton is a fictional town in the Shires created by J R R Tolkien who wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books which have recently been made into films. The films were filmed in New Zealand and the film location for Hobbiton was near Matamata – and you can do a tour there.

We stayed in the Tower Road Motel where we had a one bed unit. The owner Karen was fabulous she put on the heating at night so it was warm when we returned and we also had unlimited Wi-Fi. Matamata is a small town and it has a great visitors centre which is built a bit like the hobbit houses with round windows. It has a population of around 7,000. Karen dropped us down to the visitors centre in Matamata and a bus picked us up for the night tour of Hobbiton. We were the only people on the bus so it was really nice that they accommodated us.

So to Hobbiton – OMG. First the Shires Rest Café and souvenir shop – I wanted to buy everything but didn’t have the money and then it was on the bus to go to Hobbiton. So history lesson two – originally this was only one of 13 locations but once Peter Jackson saw it it became the main location. The New Zealand army was brought in to help construct it as well and the guide did say they also played some of the Orcs in the film. It is still a working farm and the tour is just part of it.

Hobbit houses are small houses with big round windows and doors set within the earth. Hobbits are under five feet so even I standing next to one of the doors felt tall! The guides were called Tessa and Eathan and they were fab full of stories about the filming the construction etc. For example – there is a party tree which is set atop of Bag End (Bag End is where Bilbo Baggins lived). This tree is the only fake tree on the set and when constructed they decided the leaves were the wrong colour so they spray painted them one by one. There were 39 hobbit houses built originally for Lord of the Rings and five more were added for the Hobbit movies. Also on the site is the Green Dragon pub and that is where we went for our banquet and yes there was so much food that we hadn’t a hope of finishing it. The tour took about four hours in total and we got to see everything in daylight and night and were then dropped back to our hotel.

This is a must do tour if ever you are in New Zealand. It was the best tour I have ever done and good value for money at around €280 for the two of us. The guides were just so enthusiastic and knowledgeable. I would do this tour again and again as it is so good.phone 1061 phone 1062 phone 1065 phone 1085 phone 1121 phone 1127 phone 1128 phone 1131 phone 1148 phone 1156 phone 1165 phone 1191

On Auckland – the city of sails

So it was off to Auckland for a week flying with China Airlines. Hmmh should I be worried? No they were fine. It was only a three and a half hour flight. The one thing about Australia and New Zealand that strikes me is the immigration – you have to fill a card to land and one when you are departing. Of course we are used to the free movement of Europe so it is a bit of a nuisance. They are also trying to make sure nothing gets in so they make these bio security announcements telling you that if you have been anywhere outdoors you should bin your shoes! Well that’s the way it sounds – not what they mean of course.

We stayed for a couple of nights in Auckland which is in the North Island. We had booked into Sky City hotel which was right in the centre of things, had it’s own casino and loads of bars and restaurants etc. Had a cocktail in one of the bars but didn’t attempt to gamble! Once started I might not have stopped. Discovered a great Irish bar called The Fiddler just across the road which always helps. Pricewise they are similar to Australia and the measures are as bad as well. Everyone had told me New Zealand would be cold but we got temps of about 16 and blue skies and sunshine every day. Wore a fleece but no coat.

Auckland is called the City of Sails and I was told they have 85,000 sailing boats there – wow! It is a small city, we went on a ferry to a suburb called Davenport which is one of the oldest and there were some cool views of the bay if you went to the top of the mount – hubby did. I was a bit tired of sightseeing around cities at this stage so I did a few shops and let himself roam.

Then it was time to go explore in our automatic rental car. Both of us were nervous of it as we drive manuals but it was okay once you get the hang of it. Petrol was about two dollars ten cent but diesel was only one dollar thirty – go figure! But of course all the hire cars are petrol. So we made our way out of the city and over to the Coromandel peninsula and stopped at a town called Thames. Then it was through the mountains and over to Whangamata which is pronounced Fangamataaa. It was beside the sea and really pretty. Met up with a couple of Americans who were Mormon missionaries who were really nice. They were over there for two years.

I have to say everywhere you go in New Zealand is a picture postcard. We drove on to Matamata – which is where the Hobbiton movie set is and it was a pleasure driving through such scenery.  You think Ireland is green well NZ is more so because of the ongoing forests and mountains.SL731220 SL731238 SL731245 SL731259 SL731319 SL731320

 

On Leaving Australia

So our time in Australia has come to an end and tonight is our last night. I wish I could stay and feeling teary at leaving the son. He is hoping to stay over here so we will be back if so! I could live here quite easily providing I could work or had enough money.

The last week has been very much chilling out – it has got colder here though the sun still shines and there are blue skies. Sometimes there is a chill in the wind. Still it is not like a winters day in Ireland that’s for sure and we have had no rain. However part of Queensland has had record snow so the weather is skewed all over. We went up to the West End last night and strolled through the markets – it is a lively place and definitely the place to go.

So reflecting on our time in Australia what have been the highlights? Well for me (apart from being with the son again) it was seeing the beach and Surf Club in Palm Beach/Summer Bay, seeing the monument to the Irish in Waverley Cemetery (shame on the Irish government for not having more). Then the Lone Pine Sanctuary and feeding the Kangaroos and holding a koala, visiting the Great Barrier Reef, the views from Mount Coot Tha and of course my favourite area in Brisbane the Streets Beach and South Bank Parklands.

Heading off to New Zealand tomorrow so the adventure continues for another week. I will update again when I get home with photos. Looking forward to doing the Hobbiton Tour (Lord of the Rings). Not looking forward to the cold. We are going to stay at the foot of Mount Ruapehu which is beside a ski resort so it will be cold! Maybe we might do some skiing.

 

On the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef

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So this weekend was going to see the Great Barrier Reef. Originally we were going to go up to a town called Gladstone and do a boat trip from there but it is a 5 or 6 hour drive so decided to fly tot he Whitsundays instead. The flight was only an hour and a half. We flew into Prosperpine airport which is 35 minutes from Airlie Beach where we stayed. We were picked up by a transit bus and drove through some beautiful countryside full of sugar and coffee plantations. The apartments we stayed in were called Shingley Beach Resort and although I booked a 2 bed we actually had a three bedroom apartment fully kitted out and with amazing views. The only downside was the number of steps or the hill you hard to walk up and anyone who knows me will know I don’t like steps or walking too far! The apartment was actually about a 20 minute walk from Airlie Beach – we started it after we arrived but I gave up after ten minutes as my clothes were clinging to me in the heat and we hadn’t checked in and changed. Yes I know it is winter here but if this is winter I can cope with it. It would be up there with a summer day in Lanzarote. The boats in the marina were incredible.

Saturday we were up early and on the boat to go out to the reef by 8 am. I have to give credit to Whitsunday Tours as they were so good. The crew were really nice and helpful, everything ran like clockwork. There were 300 people on the boat but by the time we arrived back at 6pm the toilets were still clean – that definitely wouldn’t happen in Ireland. As we were arriving back the crew were busy cleaning everything down!

The boat took us to Hamilton Island first which is one of the Whitsundays islands and more people came on there. Then it was another two hours out to the reef. Anyone who knows me will understand that I do not do boats so I have to feel proud that I was fine. As hubby reminded me my not doing boats has to do with being on a boat in Corfu when I was pregnant. I had to get off and get a bus through the mountains!

Anyway at the reef they have a floating pontoon where you disembark. On this you were able to snorkel or dive – all equipment provided, sunbath (which I did) and also go on a semi submersible to see the reef which I also did. I would have loved to be able to snorkel but I am not a swimmer and hate getting out of my depth or putting my face into the water so left that to the lads. Still on the submersible I got to see the reef up close which was incredible.

I would have loved to have stayed longer in the Whitsundays but we just didn’t have the time as my son had to work. If we come again I would go there for at least five days as there are so many different places to see and trips to do. Definitely one of the highlights of the trip.

Just back in Brisbane a little cooler but still nice weather. Hard to believe just down in New South Wales they have snow! Apparently Australia has a wider area with snow that Switzerland – go figure!

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On The Sunshine Coast

They call it winter here but it is 19/20 every day and most days are sunny. A bit of rain overnight one of the nights and that is all. In the shops the other day and the shop assistants are talking about it being cold. Go figure! They don’t have a clue what cold is. Give me this winter any day.

Anyway my hubby’s nephew came up for the weekend from Darwin to surprise us and yes he found it cold cos he is living in 30 degree heat all year round so he was wearing a hoodie.

On the Firday night we went to an Irish bar in Brisbane called O’Malleys (there seems to be a load of them over here, must be a franchise). Anyway the music started at 7 and ended at 12. The Queensland Pipe band did a stint and they were really good and then Gary Óg (an Irish ballad singer) and Ryan Sheridan were on. Good time was had by all!

We went up the Sunshine Coast to a place called Mooloolaba – don’t you just love their names. The apartment was lovely – very spacious, 2 bedrooms, TV, washing machine, dryer etc. In fact we should have brought our washing with us! It was in a quiet setting beside a lake and the weather was gorgeous. We went into the town that night and ended up going to an Irish pub called O’Malleys – not to be confused with the one in Brisbane because would not recommend it. They charged ten dollars in and wanted photo ID. I mean really – it’s a long time since I was asked for id. Needless to say I didn’t have it – in the end they let us in but we should have just turned and walked away as it was tatty, dirty and not nice.

On the Sunday we made our way up to Nutworks and Chocolate Factory, and the Ginger Factory. The nut and chocolate place was based around macadamia nuts which are the big Australian nuts and chocolate but it was a small place and not much to see. I was expecting something out of Willie Wonka! Still tasted some nuts and chocolate and bought some.

The Ginger Factory is a huge tourist attraction with a train ride and other activities, shops, restaurant, rainforest and garden works as well as the factory. We walked through the gardens and looked at the shops but didn’t do the tour because of the time. I saw a limited edition Steiffe bear for sale which I really wanted but talked myself out of buying as I know I can get it online. A really good place to spend a day.

Footnote – possums – being woken in the middle of the night by them thumping across the roof and screeching is something I won’t get used to. Imagine if a herd of elephants were walking across a wooden floor upstairs to you and that wouldn’t even cover it!

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On Gold Coast

So we went to the Gold Coast for the weekend – Broadbeach which is about an hour from Brisbane. We were going to go to Movieworld on the way but the queues were incredible and it was very much a rides park. We went to Seaworld which was great apart from the weather – a huge downpour of rain didn’t help but got some good photos anyway. Broadbeach is beside Surfers Paradise so we hit some bars there as well. The beach was incredible and there was a park beside it where you could barbecue. All over Australia they have public barbecues that anyone can use. I can’t imagine that working in Ireland  – they are kept so clean it is unbelievable. A good weekend.

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