Impressions of Australia

The Blue Mountains

Australia has always been on my bucket list but it had made it to the top. In the end, it was family ties that took us there. And I’m glad they did because it turned out to be a treat and my expectations were routinely exceeded. Australia has its problems, as every country does, but it […]

East Melbourne – I’d live there

The houses of East Melbourne

Our last full day in wonderful Australia and we found somewhere I’d be happy to call home – East Melbourne. But sadly I can’t see our budget stretching that far… Just a short walk from the central business district and the Laneways, East Melbourne is overflowing with the most glorious houses and cottages, perfectly manicured […]

Melbourne’s gardens and memorials

Melbourne from the Shrine of Remembrance

The Melbourne we’d been exploring was all concrete and steel, roads and traffic, but the city has its fair share of parks and gardens too. So on yet another boiling day we visited the Botanic Gardens and an impressive war memorial. The green spaces extend from the banks of the Yarra River in the heart […]

Melbourne, a new year and St Kilda

Central Melbourne

Melbourne doesn’t have the drama of Sydney’s Port Jackson but as a city I’d plump for it over the capital of New South Wales. But it’s a close-run thing. We arrived on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve, fresh from the Yarra Valley, and parked ourselves in our funky hotel, the Ovolo. It’s situated in […]

Wine country in the Yarra Valley

The Yarra Valley

The Yarra Valley was going to be our one and only stop for relaxation on our three-week Australian holiday. The idea was that we’d chill out in the heart of Victoria’s wine country, take a dip in the outdoor pool, drink cocktails and read. There was a slight flaw to this plan – the estate […]

The Blue Mountains, New South Wales

The Blue Mountains from Govetts Leap

Driving into the Blue Mountains an hour west of Sydney is child’s play compared to the Alps. Much of the journey is on a dual carriageway, nothing like the narrow and winding rounds of the European Alps. And that made this nervous driver a happy man as we left the city behind and drove into […]

Tasmania: The penal colony of Port Arthur

Port Arthur's laundry

Tasmania, like the rest of Australia, once tried to forget that many of its founding mothers and fathers were convicts, transported from the overcrowded gaols of Britain. These days it embraces it.  Many of the key convict sites across Australia are banded together as a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most important […]

Heritage and history in Hobart

Hobart's waterfront

Planning our Australian holiday, friends raised their eyebrows at our decision to go to Hobart in Tasmania rather than the Great Barrier Reef or Uluru. But while Hobart may once have been a backwater, we were drawn by its foodie scene, craft beers and the notorious penal colony further down the coast at Port Arthur. […]

Sydney: Hyde Park Barracks and Watsons Bay

Hyde Park Barracks

Ahead of our Australian holiday I began reading A Commonwealth of Thieves, the excellent Thomas Keneally book that describes the arrival of the First Fleet of convicts in New South Wales in 1788 and its consequences. On our second day in Sydney, we visited two places that feature in the early years of the colony […]

Exploring The Rocks in Sydney

Sydney Harbour Bridge

It’s difficult to picture what Sydney would’ve been like when convicts first arrived in 1788 but remnants of the city they helped to create can still be seen in the district called The Rocks. And it would be the first stop on our exploration of the capital of New South Wales, and the first stop […]

A wintry day in Helsinki

Senate Square and a Christmas market

Spending a day in the Finnish capital Helsinki could be considered a strange way to start a Christmas holiday in Australia.  But there was logic to it as we’d secured business class flights on Qatar Airways for half the price of ones out of London, representing a massive saving on the cost of our three-week […]

Jerez and its sherry

Mr Gonzalez, with the cathedral in the background

Jerez is a city built on the riches of sherry. And ‘sherry’ is a corruption of Jerez. This delicious fortified wine was our main reason for visiting and throughout our short stay we’d taken the chance to enjoy a tipple. Back in Britain it may be regarded as the drink of grannies and Christmas but […]