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 […]