Wednesday, December 27, 2006

2006 City to Surf

Left: A winter's day at Bondi, Right: Alison and I at the start line

2006 City to Surf was held on a beautiful winter's day. The City to Surf is held every year in Sydney, and consists of a 14km run or walk from Hyde Park in the City to Bondi Beach. I've taken part on a number of occasions, usually it's the work sponsored marquee at the end that keeps me going. The course goes through some of the prettiest parts of Sydney, and includes a landmark, the aptly named 'Heartbreak Hill'. It's quite a famous race really, and attracts many professional runners, as well as the cartoon characters and gorillas amongst families and corporate groups making up the 'Back of the Pack'.

Left: Gorillas on course for Bondi, and Right: A sea of red at the start line

This year, Alison and Cameron, some friends of mine were also doing the course so we ran (read 'walked') all the way to Bondi together. As usual, the marquee put up a good performance by supplying us with a decent barbecue and a few drinks at the end.

Band playing on the roof of Double Bay's Golden Sheaf Hotel, and Alison and Cam enjoying the barbecue at Bondi

Stunning sunsets

While we were driving home from our trip to Barwon Heads on the Bellarine Peninsula, we came across this stunning sunset, and just had to stop off and take a photograph.
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Lena Juliet Holmes

Meet my lovely niece Lena Juliet. This is one of many photos of the newest member of the family. For more, see Greg and Andrea's website. Lena was born on 23 December in England.

A day for a Seachange - Barwon Heads

Views around the point at Barwon Heads

Not long after arriving home from my trip, I spent a weekend in Melbourne with Rachelle and Tom. Over the weekend we took a drive down to Barwon Heads, a little past Geelong on the Bellarine Peninsula. For those not in the know, Barwon Heads is one of the main sites for the filming of one of my favourite television series, Seachange.

Under the bridge that caused so much drama
in the Pearl Bay of Seachange

Barwon Heads is a small village to the south west of Melbourne on the Bass Strait. We enjoyed a great meal of fish and chips in the boat shed, and then took a walk around the point. It was a beautiful winter's day, and a great day out.

The Boat Shed - Diver Dan's place

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Greetings from Aunty Claire

Hot off the press - I am now an aunt. My brother Greg and his wife Andrea gave birth to a baby girl, Lena, yesterday (Dec 23) in the UK. As yet there are currently no photos available, however we are all very excited about the new birth. Check Greg's website for further details, and I'll post some photos as soon as they are available.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

There's no place like home...

Whew! As most of you know, I've been back in Sydney since July. Given it's now November, that means it's taken me about 4 months to get the trip posts all up here...

I'll have lots of Sydney adventures posted soon too - I've still been having heaps of fun since I got back here. There's also parts of my trip which may not have made it to the blog... So those will be coming up too from time to time!

"Aloha" - Surfers Crossing

Crossing near Sunset Beach

Hawaii. The perfect place to finish an around the world trip. Also conveniently located as the natural last stop on my itinerary therefore it made perfect sense to stopover rather than doing the long flight from Canada direct. We got into Honolulu at about 11pm on the 4th of July, pity we seem to have missed most of the festivities though.

Another thing I loved about Hawaii was all of the beautiful flowers

From the moment the airport bus guy threw our bags onto the bus, we could tell that Hawaii was going to be a bit more laid back than most of the places we'd been. You could see families on their relaxing holiday wandering around Waikiki with matching Hawaiian shirts for father and son, wondering whether they would ever wear them again when they got home... Everything just seemed to happen on "Hawaii time", a far cry from the hustle and bustle of cities like New York, London, Istanbul or Moscow. But perhaps that was just what I needed.

Left: Here I am on Sunset Beach, Right: Surfboards on Waikiki Beach

We had a great couple of days in Hawaii... I was at the stage of the trip where I was happy just to relax, do a bit of sightseeing but nothing too adventurous. Hawaii is a fantastic place for that kind of holiday... Some nice hot weather before hitting the cold winter in Australia, a chance to relax on the beach (after to getting to a place with the best beaches since leaving Australia) with a good book, and having a nice swim, enjoying the sunset and the first time I've been on an island out in the middle of the Pacific.

Left: Sunset Beach, Right: Waikiki Beach

As is often the case with me, someone who doesn't relax well, we did do a little adventuring. One day we caught the bus all the way around the island of Oahu, stopping off for a break at Sunset Beach on the northern side of the island (I will say the hamburger and chips we got there felt more like a takeaway on the beach in Australia than any of the places in Honolulu or Waikiki) . Another day we took a trip to the beautiful Hanauma Bay near Honolulu - a protected bay famous for its snorkelling. I hired a snorkel and had a go myself, and got to see some beautiful coloured fish. That afternoon, we also visited Diamond Head, a volcanic crater overlooking Waikiki. I did the climb to the top, which included climbing stairs through claustrophobic tunnels, and the view at the top rewarded me with views all over the area. It was fantastic.

Inside the crater on Diamond Head (Left) and the view from the top over Waikiki

The other day? Relaxing down at Waikiki with a good book!

Above: Waikiki beach
Below: Hanauma Bay

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Vegging in Vancouver

Our last Canadian port of call was Vancouver, when after 7 months of travelling around, I finally saw the Pacific Ocean again.

Left: A spectacular flight over the Rockies, Right: Vancouver Skyline from Stanley Park
After a spectacular flight from Calgary over the Rockies, we landed in Vancouver, a city of about 2 million people in the Canadian province of British Columbia. Vancouver lies on a short width of land between the mountains and the ocean - it's fairly spectacularly located. I really loved the city, a great mix of outdoors, cosmopolitan shopping and dining, and culture.

Above: Canada Place
Below: Fish market at Lonsdale Quay and some beautiful flowers in Stanley Park

While in Vancouver, we spent some time wandering around the fantastic Stanley Park. There is a bus that during summer travels around the full circuit of the park (it's a fairly large park!) It was a beautiful day, and we really enjoyed the sights, from the raccoons to the flowers to the great skyline views of Vancouver city.

Left: A raccoon out in Stanley Park, Right: The Lion's Head Bridge

I also managed to fit in a spot of shopping on Robson Street, wandered around Canada Place, and got to ride the funky Skytrain. We also wandered down through Gastown, and watched one of the World Cup matches from one of the Gastown breweries. I really enjoyed Vancouver - it had such a great atmosphere, a really great place to be.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Bavarian Wedding in Canada

Table decorations, and Right: Greg and Andrea cut the cake
My brother Greg got married last December in Bavaria - complete with Lederhosen, and his wife Andrea in a Dirndl. Because Greg is Australian, Andrea is Canadian, and they were living in Germany, they had three wedding celebrations. Firstly in Munich, secondly in Sydney (unfortunately I was away in London at the time) and then lastly in Canada, in Andrea's hometown of Edmonton. Mum and I stopped into Edmonton for some time and got to meet many of the McLeods.

Left: Greg with Mum, and Right: Andrea's sister Shirley makes a speech for the couple
It was a beautiful sunny day, and was much enjoyed by all. We felt very welcome and it was great to meet so many new people, including all of Andrea's immediate family.

The McLeods also have a beautiful puppy, Koda, a black Labrador. A mischievous and friendly puppy, Koda liked to be part of the action.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Road trip through the Rockies

Following our relaxing stay in Edmonton (post to come where I track down where I've saved those photos...)

Following the festivities in Edmonton, we rented a car (a "Malibu") and drove down the highway into Canada's beautiful Rocky Mountains. We had some stunning weather along the way, this is a truly beautiful part of the world.

Our first day consisted of the drive from Edmonton to Jasper. Along the way we visited the Maligne Canyon and did a lovely walk alongside the canyon.

View along the Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park

We ended the day at the town of Jasper, a small mountain community, and had a bite to eat for dinner... I tried the Bison Burger. The next day was probably the most spectacular of our trip through the Rockies. We started up with a drive to Mt Edith Cavell, just outside Jasper where we did a walk with some great views of the not one, but three glaciers on the mountain. Firstly, the spectular hanging Angel Glacier, then the Cavell Glacier and the Ghost Glacier. We really enjoyed the walk, even getting up close to glacial pond and hunks of ice lying on the edge.

Left: The Angel Glacier, Right: the magnificent Athabasca Falls
After leaving Mt Edith Cavell, we following the Icefields Parkway further until we got to the Athabasca Falls. These are the most powerfull falls in this part of the Rockies, and in summer they were in full glory. On a fine day like we had, you will see rainbows because of the mist rising from them. A truly impressive sight!
Continuing down the Icefields Parkway, we headed through some spectacular mountain scenery until we got to the Columbia Icefield - glaciers everywhere you look. This is one of the largest accumulations of ice and snow south of the Artic Circle feeding a number of major glaciers, including the Athabasca and Dome, and also serves as a tricontinental divide - feeding the major river systems - the Athabasca (feeding into the Artic Ocean), Saskatchewan (feeding into Hudson Bay and the Atlantic Ocean) and Columbia (which feeds into the Pacific Ocean). While there, we took the 'Snocoach' onto the glacier surface where we had some brilliant views, up close of this magnificent place. We spent that night, after driving through some more breathtaking scenery along the Saskatchewan River Valley, by staying at Saskatchewan River Crossing.

Left: The AA Glacier, taken whilst standing on the Athabasca Glacier - arms of the Icefield
Right: The Snocoach which we took onto the Glacier.

The next day we travelled further south into the Banff National Park. Banff is probably a bit more touristy, and feels a little less remote than the Jasper National Park. This is where many of the big tourist sites are - Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Peyto Lake, and yet more mountains. The weather was not quite as nice this day, a little overcast, and I remember it as the day I first noticed how many mosquitos there were in the mountains...
Left: Peyto Lake, Right: Johnston Canyon

Peyto Lake is one of those spectacular sites on the way to Banff. The lake is an extraordinary colour blue and set in amongst the trees and mountains makes it one of the most beautiful lakes I've seen. Must be why the mozzies like it too - I felt like I was on the menu while I was up at the lookout. We also got to see some pretty alpine flowers on the way up. The rest of the day was spent at the other big lakes - first Lake Louise and then Moraine Lake, both of which were pretty outstanding despite the less than perfect weather you can see in the photos. I particularly liked Moraine lake, and the famous 'Ten dollar note view' which was printed on the old Canadian $10 notes. We rounded out the afternoon with a visit Johnston Canyon, another impressive canyon with water rushing through at magnificent speed. That night we stayed at Canmore, a little further on the Banff.

Left: Moraine Lake - the "Ten dollar note view", Right: The Three Sisters at Canmore

Canmore was a great place to stay, and we had a really comfortable room there, with great breakfasts!! Canmore is about 20mins from Banff, and outside the national park. Near Sydney in the Blue Mountains National Park, there is a formation called the Three Sisters. Canmore has it's own version which towers over the town, as you can see above. It was also in Canmore that we first got into the Canadian trend that is Tim Hortons - donuts and all kinds of goodies.

Breakfast at the Lady MacDonald Country Inn

The next day was July 1 - a good time to be in Canada, as it was Canada Day! One thing we found out about the Canadians - they are extremely patriotic people, to the extent that even all of the foreigners in Banff were getting into the spirit. I myself was sporting a couple of Canadian Flags. We spent the morning on the Banff Gondola, followed by a dip in the Banff Springs - one of the reasons this place became so famous in the first place! Unfortunately our budget didn't quite stretch to the Fairmont Banff Springs. The afternoon was spent wandering the shops on Main Street and watching the parade of marching bands, flag twirlers, baton twirlers, clowns and other exhibits, including a few dedicated to the upcoming Calgary Stampede. We rounded out the day with a visit to Lake Minnewanka, a large picturesque lake.

Left: Picturesque Lake Minnewanka, Right: Parading down Main Street, Banff on Canada Day

Canadian for the Day: Celebrating Canada Day in Banff
And so we came to the last day of our Rockies Road Trip... We left Canmore, and after a recommendation from our hosts, we visited the Bow Valley Provincial Park in Kananaskis County, enroute to Calgary. We both really enjoyed the park - lots of beautiful flowers, and some beautiful reflections of the foothills to the Rockies. While the livestock was pretty active (a few nice mozzie bites) we got some great photos, and then continued on to Calgary. We had some time to kill before our flight to Vancouver... and from reading the book "What's so funny about Alberta" we knew that there was a giant cowboy in the town of Airdrie, just north of Calgary... So when in the great west of North America... what better to do than pay homage to the Cowboy. After driving round in circles we finally found him... Hiding out in a car sales yard.

Left: View at Bow Valley Provincial Park, Right: the Giant Cowboy of Airdrie