Sharing the pictures and adventures we will experience on our trip to Italy

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Monday, March 31, 2008

Queenstown - at last!

Good morning everyone,

It is Tuesday morning here and it seems that our 13th of the trip was to be a quite memorable one. We went to the airport in Christchurch and after standing in line at Qantas to check in we were told our flight had been cancelled. What a surprise and slight panic ensued. We were told we had a choice of staying overnight-at our own expense - or taking a bus to Queenstown. We chose the bus so we could get there and started on the 8+ hours of hurry up and wait. We were to leave Christchurch by plane at 3:30 but didn't leave on the bus until 4:30. While waiting around we talked to several natives who told us that Qantas does this all the time. They won't fly a 1/2 full flight. Quite interesting.

The positive of all this is that we got to see the Southern Alps and many, many sheep and cattle farms on the way. Not what we would have chosen but a plus nonetheless. There was camaraderie on the trip since we were all in the same boat.

Before we left we had called our local host in Christchurch, Frank, and he made phone calls for us to reschedule our planned activities.

Off to Milford Sound today. Details later.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Greetings from Queenstown, NZ

Hi everyone,

We have made the jump across the very big pond to New Zealand. We landed a bit late in Christchurch and were surprised to find no one waiting for us. There was a slight mistake and a phone call got us a Supershuttle ride to our hotel. We were supposed to be met by a Globus representative but there was no one to be found. Luckily the whole situation was rectified when we got back to our hotel after a walk and dinner. Frank and Ozzie were waiting for us. They had been given 5:00 as the meeting time while we had 3:00. Their charm and concern more than made up for the earlier problems.

We are really only here overnight so this will be a short time here. We did find out at the airport that Christchurch is a sister city of Seattle, WA. Alex, did you know that? Right in the center of town there is a cathedral as well as some other very interesting looking buildings. We wandered around the town and then asked some locals for dinner recommendation. We ate wonderful fish and chips at The Taproom. Very authentic, wrapped in newspaper. Then back to our hotel where we met our Globus reps.

This town is very British looking. They do have a River Avon where you can go for a punt ride. It is lovely. One area we saw had weeping willows hanging down over it. The weather here is a bit chillier, I guess because we are getting closer to Antarctica. We head to Queenstown tomorrow where we will be seeing more of the Maori culture.

One thing we forgot to mention yesterday was the Aussie observance of Earth Hour. Did anyone hear about that at home? From 8 -9 lights on Saturday night, lights dimmed across the city. We were eating dinner at the hotel and they dimmed the lights in the dining room. I think they said that Australia was where it started and then moved across the country.

One thing we will not miss in Sydney is the TV. Very few stations and one channel had someone singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow 24 hours a day, much like we have Law and Order 24 hours a day.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Saturday - last day in Sydney

Another beautiful day here in the South Pacific. We thought it might rain but once again we got lucky and it is sunny and about 75 degrees. Sorry about that.

We slept in a little this morning and then took the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly. It is a beach town across the harbor. The ferry ride was under 30 minutes but we had a great view of the bridge and the Opera House. We figured that it wouldn't be a bad way to c0mmute to work each day.

When we got to Manly it was a short walk to the beach so we walked the beach walk to the end, more great views of the ocean. At the end of the walk we saw a wedding in progress. What a fun location for that. It is the second wedding we have come upon while here in Sydney. Felicity did put her feet in the water and she said it was pretty nice. There were lots of people at the beach. It seems that they didn't have a good summer and the weather is now more like their summer weather. Lucky for us. Then we walked back to find a spot for lunch. There was also an arts and crafts fair. I bought an opal ring that I really like. Everyone told me that opals are what you buy in Australia. Hmmm. Mine was pretty reasonable.

Tonight we are going out to church, the largest Catholic church I mentioned yesterday. Then back to the hotel to pack. We leave the hotel tomorrow at 6:00 am. No hotel breakfast for us tomorrow. We are hoping we have the same kind of limo service we did when we arrived. Too bad no one will see us.

On the way to church tonight we stopped in the Queen Victoria Building again and this time Felicity bought an opal ring. We had visited that store yesterday but today she made a purchase. Now we both have our Australian opal rings. Pretty nice souvenirs, if we do say so ourselves.

Oh, and forgot to tell you that one thing we did NOT do while in Sydney was climb the Harbor Bridge. Yes, people do that. Looks pretty scary and we heard it costs $200. That much money to risk life and limb just doesn't sound like a good idea.

Hope everyone is doing well. We miss you all and look forward to seeing you when we get home.

Take care.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Friday in Sydney

Special announcement -

Due to technical difficulties there will be no more pictures posted until we get home. Translation: I'm IT challenged and this morning when I looked at my camera ALL my pictures from Ayers Rock and Alice Springs were gone. So much for any of you who were impressed that we were going to blog. I hope you can enjoy the written description until later. Ay de mi. Fortunately, there are 2 of us and we are taking pictures in tandem so.... there are duplicates in Felicity's camera too. Thank goodness for that.

Now for today. We spent the morning on a tour of the city. We saw the Opera House, Darling Harbor, Mrs. Macquarie's chair and lots of lovely neighborhoods. The driver said we were in the area where Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman have homes but they didn't invite us for tea. Oh, shucks.

At the end of the ride, we got off and wandered around Darling Harbor. This must have been the day for school trips since we saw tons of young children in uniform with their teachers. We both had big smiles on our faces since we were not responsible for them. And, can you believe it, they were eating their lunches right by the water! Yikes. Maybe they haven't yet heard of liability.

We then used the map and wandered around the city. We found the Queen Victoria Building which is a beautiful old building with lots of stained glass and architecture and now it is a high end shopping area. We also visited St. Mary's Cathedral, the oldest Catholic church in Australia and is fashioned after Notre Dame. It does remind you of the cathedral.

Now we're back at the hotel for a bit of a rest before dinner. And I wanted to get back to try and retrieve my pictures but no luck. I think there is a moral in here somewhere. Any ideas?

Have a great day everyone. We are!



Here is a little taste for you. We finally have a computer that allows us to publish pictures on this blog. The middle is Uluru or Ayers Rock. Above that is the Olgas which are near there and equally as beautiful. The third is Uluru at sunrise. You can see the crowd that had gathered.
Now that we have this mastered (sort of) we can send Sydney pictures tomorrow.
Take care.

Sydney

Hi everyone,

We arrived here in Sydney at 4:00 this afternoon. Felt a little like celebrities since we were greeted by the limo driver. Very nice car, BMW740 LI for those car lovers among you. It took us almost as long to get to the hotel because it was rush hour. We ate dinner here in the hotel because we have an early morning tour of Sydney. Then we can explore and decide our options for Friday afternoon and Saturday. We leave here on Sunday for New Zealand. Australia has been very good to us and we are looking forward to more of the same here in Sydney.

Hope all of you are well and the weather is beginning to warm up for you. We have sunny skies and 70's here in Sydney.

Ta-ta for now.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Alice Springs - Wednesday

Yes, it is Wednesday and this must be Alice Springs.

We left Ayers Rock this morning for a short flight to Alice Springs just a bit north. This town is out in the middle of the desert and even more dry than Yulara where we just came from. When we were out today for a tour the drive showed us dry river beds. They have the Henley Regatta every year with boats that have no bottom.

He drove us up to Anzac Hill which is a memorial to the Australian, New Zealand Army Corps who were killed in several different wars. They didn't have enough men for one army so they combined forces. They are also the inspiration for Anzac cookies, which we tasted and which are hard as rocks. Meant to be dunked in something.

Since this is such an isolated area we also toured the Royal Flying Doctor Base, which services the people in outlying posts. They can have a doctor to anyone in Australia in under 2 hours, even to the most remote locations.

We also visited the School of the Air which has distance learning for children in rural outposts. They used to use radios but now do everything online, paid for by the government. No discipline problems with these classes!

We went to the Overland Telegraph Station and also Mbantua Gallery which showcases Aboriginal Art. Quite interesting. Had the chance to buy a small example of this with the bio of the artist.

And who knew but this rural outpost has a little bonus for both of us. Got off the bus intown and we were right in front of a fabric store. I bought some fabric with Aboriginal designs to make my travel quilt. When do you think that will happen? And the hotel we are staying in has a casino. Maybe we can win the cost of this trip. What do you think?

We continue to meet the nicest people. Many conversations begin with - where are you from? Seems there are a lot of Americans traveling like us.

"It is good to know, even only in passing, charming human beings. It refreshes one like flowers, woods and clear brooks."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Sounds of Silence

Where do we begin? We just got back from a once in a lifetime experience. We left here before sunset and traveled to an undisclosed location where we were met with waiters passing out champagne and walking through with trays of canapes which included kangaroo and crocodile. Felicity tasted both. They were gone when they got to me. And add into that a view of Uluru and the Olgas as the sun set. Hmmmm.

As if that in itself wasn't enough we then proceeded to tables set with tablecloths and candellight where we continued to watch the sun set. Our meal started with pumpkin lemon soup - delicious. Then we proceeded to the buffet table to sample other culinary delights including kangaroo and baramundi - a native Australian fish. The kangaroo tasted like beef and the fish was very tasty.

The meal was also very pleasant due to our dinner companions. A mother and daughter from Missouri who were traveling together, 2 Aussies, 1 Brit, 1 Kiwi and a gentleman from South Africa. Quite an eclectic mix and very entertaining. After dinner they turned off all the lights and we saw a starry sky like we have never seen before. It defies description. After we enjoyed the silence of the vast sky and desert, the astronomer came and showed us the Milky Way, another galaxy, the Southern Cross, Orion, Leo, Virgo, and more stars than we have ever seen at one time in our lifetime. What an amazing sight. It is very hard to describe.

We just got back and are filled with the awe an experience like that can give you.

An aside to all that was that part of the dinner conversation was about the world opinion of W. You can imagine what that was like. Felicity and I were in total agreement.

Tomorrow it is on to Alice Springs and the Flying Doctors Complex. Bye for now.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Uluru or Ayers Rock

What a magnificent place this is. We arrived here at Ayers Rock Resort yesterday in a rainstorm. Lucky for us the rain ended because we went out to Uluru in the afternoon to watch the sunset. It was wonderful. The rock, which gives a new meaning to the word monolith, changes color as the sun is setting. I think I took over 100 pictures last night. This morning we got up very early to go and see the sunrise on Uluru and it was equally awe-inspiring. Both times we also spent time walking around the base and visiting different spots around the base. We were very lucky to have an extremely knowledgeable tour driver named Ray. He told us about the rock as well as about the Aboriginal culture, the geology of the area and the flora and fauna. Our only disappointment was not seeing any kangaroos or camels which run wild in the area. Ray lived in the Aboriginal community for 14 months and showed a great deal of respect for the people.

Tonight we will visit the rock again, it is the only game in town. Our experience tonight is called Sounds of Silence. We will be served dinner, which looks to be very elegant, and then have an astronomer tell us about the night sky. As you can imagine, it is quite remarkable here in the desert. This morning on our way out to the rock we saw Venus and Jupiter. ( I think I have the names right, there were 2 planets visible anyway.

Sorry again that I can't add some of the fabulous pictures to this blog. Rather quaint system I'm using right now. I promise to add them as soon as I can or put them in when we get back home after our excellent adventure.

Miss all of you!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Monday morning

G'day and Happy Easter to all of you. I believe it is Easter Sunday at home. We are at the airport headed to Ayers Rcok for a few days.

Yesterday was quite a busy day for us. We took the Kuranda Scenic Railway up to the Kuranda Rainforest. The train went through 15 tunnels and over 38 bridges. Quite spectacular scenery. At the top we saw Aboriginal Dancers, tried throwing boomerangs, visited the wildlife area where we saw koalas, crocodiles, kangaroos and cassawarie birds. We were so close to all of them. We also saw dingoes but no baby. Haha. It was quite an area to visit. Then, perhaps the highlight was the trip down on the Skyrail. The highest tower was 173 feet and it took us over the rainforest canopy. The highest peak was over 1700 feet. It was magnificent!

We continue to meet such nice people. We met a family from Chicago, a couple on their honeymoon who were from DC and a rep. for Australian Tourism who was from Singapore. Today on the bus we met a couple from the UK. Such lovely people.

Now it is off to the desert. Wonder what that will be like?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Saturday morning at the Great Barrier Reef


What a morning. This morning we took a boat out to the Great Barrier Reef. We were riding out looking at glorious mountains and a very rocky ride on the boat. Before boarding we had met 2 women who were traveling together, Ingrid from Sweden and Charyl from Vancouver. Their daughters are married to twin brothers and they have connected. What a hoot they were. It was a lucky meeting because it gave Felicity a buddy to snorkel with. Unfortunately, there were no fish where they snorkeled but we did see fish while on the semi-submarine. Not a ride for the claustrophobic but wonderful sights to see. I am attaching a few photos. Different internet cafe this time.
Okay, so the photo part is a lie. The one you see is a snowy mountain from the internet. Sorry about that. Operator error. Now I can't figure out how to get rid of it. Hope you can enjoy. Maybe I'll get the fish pictures on later. If anyone knows how to do that you can send me directions at my email address.


The weather here is very hot. Sorry about the cold and snow in PA.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

We'rehere!

We arrived safely at 9:30 am (Australian time).It is a beautiful day here in paradise. Cairns, Aus is very tropical and very hot. The sun is brutal. Tomorrow we are going to the Great Barrier Reef. Felicity may snorkel, I plan to watch. From our hotel room we can see the beach and the mountains. I would send pictures but alas, no way to do that at this computer.

The 25 + hours on the plane were a bit wearing but now that we are here, very worth it. At least we were well fed. When we weren't sleeping, they were feeding us.

Miss you all. See you next time in cyberspace.

Nancy and Felicity

Monday, March 17, 2008

Monday - almost time to leave

Hi everyone,

It is Monday and D (for departure) Day is fast approaching. The list is being checked off and soon I will pack. Felicity will be coming in from Pittsburgh tomorrow and then on Wednesday we will leave Philadelphia at 2:00 pm. Can't wait. 

Looking forward to the trip and all our adventures. Hope you enjoy it almost as much as we will!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

New background

Ah, technology. I just adjusted the background. Hope everyone finds it more pleasing. Can't wait to be on our way and send you travel adventures! Very soon the fun will begin. 

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Practice


Since I'm new at this  and want to be sure it works, I am practicing something new each day. I'm going to see if I can add a photo to this. Would be nice to do that while traveling.

Okay, it worked with a photo from my computer. Next time I will try from my camera. Progress and learning are happening.


March 8 - Only 11 more days to go and so much to do. I'm still testing this system so I will know how to access when traveling. One more thing on the list.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

March 6

Less than 2 weeks to go! Luggage and clothes are purchased, now some more research and then off we go.