Success is getting what you want; happiness is liking what you get

Friday, September 30, 2016

Parnell – and more Sightseeing Buses

We went a bit “New Orleans” in Parnell last night, looking for somewhere to eat.  And stumbled across Hog Heaven Louisiana Smokehouse.  Hog Heaven resides in the historic 1885 Kemp’s General Store.  Kemps were  merchants, tailors, drapers, mercers and milliners back in the day, and said to be the best all round store in Auckland.  With tangy Pulled Pork for her, and a plate of smoky ribs for him, it certainly was a tasty dining experience, which lefts the lips feeling a little tingly!

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Dining at Hog Heaven

Our motel is just across the road from the Parnell Village shops.  This unique shopping centre is set in lovely old vintage homes, all merging together along cobbled pathways and pretty gardens, with businesses ranging from restaurants, coffee bars, jewellers, and other assorted posh shops.  The brainchild of Les Harvey, who created the village “to share his love of people, plants, simplicity and the sun”.  Parnell is one of New Zealand's most affluent suburbs, and is often billed as Auckland's "oldest suburb" since it dates from the earliest days of the European settlement of Auckland in 1841.

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Parnell Village

Then we left Parnell behind and decided to fill in part of the day travelling around on the Auckland Explorer Bus.  And here it comes.  We had to do a bit of haggling to get our senior discount – wonder if we had picked up an Aussie twang after being away the last few weeks.  Once we mentioned the magic words Gold Card, the driver was happy to discount our fare, and we took  off on the Red Circle Tour.

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Double Decker Explorer Bus

Driving into the city, we got good views of the Sky Tower.  The Sky Tower stands 328 meters tall and has been a feature of the sky line for almost 20 years. The brave and foolhardy do all sorts of adrenaline activities, while others go for dining, breath taking views and to play the pokies.

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Auckland’s iconic Sky Tower

We drove past the lovely old Civic Theatre, recently refurbished, we were told.  And famous for featuring in the King Kong movie.  Can you remember the scene when King Kong snapped his chains while on stage?  This is where he did it – and no, we never knew that!

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Civic Theatre

Our tour took us past Prices Wharf, and the Viaduct Basin – the basin was developed in the year 2000 when the  America's Cup was  hosted by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.  Up Bastion Point we drove, the site of longstanding occupation by Maori protestors (507 days) in the late 70s. The occupation became a major landmark in the history of Māori protest.  In the 1980s New Zealand Government returned the land to Ngāti Whātua, with compensation, as part of a Treaty of Waitangi settlement process.

With school holidays in full swing, the car park of Kelly Tartlon’s was full to overflowing.    Kelly Tarlton's Sea Life Aquarium is a public aquarium in Auckland, and was opened in 1985 , the brainchild of New Zealand marine archaeologist and diver Kelly Tarlton.  It doesn’t look much from the top – all the action is underneath.  Built in disused sewage storage tanks, the aquarium used a new form of acrylic shaping, which allowed curved tunnels.   The project was also one of the first to use conveyor belts to slowly move people through the viewing areas. 

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Entrance to Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium

We swapped buses at the Auckland Museum, and continued on our way, on the Blue Circle Tour.  No double decker bus this time.  And look what we saw driving back into the city – a big boxer dog enjoying his drive with his head and leg hanging out!

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Bus number 2, and a dog out on the motorway

Robin got a sporty fix as we drove past Eden Park, and the statue of All Black Michael Jones out front.  Eden Park was used in the inaugural 1987 Rugby World Cup and the 2011 Rugby World Cup, the first ground to host two Rugby World Cup finals.

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Eden Park

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Past Auckland Zoo, and Motat, both popular places to visit

Then it was a matter of driving under the notorious Spaghetti Junction, so called because all the intertwined road traffic interchanges resemble a plate of spaghetti.  We arrived back at the Museum, changed buses once more, and travelled back down to Parnell.  It had been a fun couple of hours, and we had driven past places new to us, all in all two interesting tours. 

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On the Buses

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Worrying Pays Off

It’s just as well that I’m a worrier, I have decided.  On our last night in Brisbane, we packed up our cases, and set the alarm clock on Robin’s magic (smart) phone to go off at 4.30am.  I was awake off and on during the night, checking on the clock on my beside cabinet to see how things were coming along.  By 4.00am I was fully awake, and lay there, keeping my beady eye on the numbers as they slowly counted down.  By 4.35am Robin’s smart phone had not rung so I had to switch on the beside light and tell him it was time to get up.  And – that he had me to thank that we hadn’t slept in and missed our flight.  This is the second time that it had failed us as an alarm clock – so much for high tech wizardry, I say.

We drove through the gloomy morning light to the drop off place for our hire car, jumped in the shuttle which deposited some passengers to the domestic terminal, and then took us to the overseas terminal.  My goodness, Brisbane airport is a big place, lots of passengers everywhere, going about their business.  And the school holidays add to the chaos, with family groups, toddlers, and babies everywhere.

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Checking in at Brisbane

Going through Security is always a bit stressful – especially as I had placed my passport the wrong way around on the scanner and had to be shown how to do it correctly.  Then we had to stand on top of the yellow pair of feet painted on the floor, and look at the camera as it took our photo.  No wonder people get nervous.  Once safely through we walked until we found gate 77, and sat and waited, and waited some more, till it was boarding time.  There’s our plane, waiting patiently, looking quite small compared to the extra large Emirates plane parked up close to ours.

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QF 123

Our flight over to Auckland took 2.45 hours and was fairly uneventful.  The same old story – squashed in to cattle class where it is so difficult to get comfy, or move around.  I did my usual job of watching my tiny little TV screen on the back of the seat in front, checking that the pilot was keeping the plane on track, and keeping an eye out the window to make sure that the wing didn’t fall off.  I take my navigational duties very seriously, I can tell you!

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Over sea and finally over land

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2330kms later, arriving in Auckland

Being honest Kiwis, we took particular care filling in the arrival cards.  After watching various episodes of Border Control on TV, we knew to declare all foodstuffs.  Such as the sealed packet of chocolate which I wouldn’t let Robin open, in case we never ate it all in time.  And the remaining tea bags, which we never managed to use up – that got two ticks, one for food, and one for plant matter, just to be sure.  Then we acknowledged that we had walked over the great outdoors where wild animals lived on our various trips, and got soil on our shoes.  All this was noted, and we were waved on.  I didn’t take it personally when my bag was swabbed (for drugs) and I had to hold my arms out for the wand to be waved over me, as I know they pick random people out of the queue to check.

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We never did find out why

Changing some of our Aussie dollars into NZ cash, we boarded a shuttle to take us to our motel in Parnell, where we are staying the next two nights.  We have another little train ride booked – more later…….

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Our room at Parnell Inn

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Last Day in Brisbane

It’s hot and sunny again in Brisbane, not that we are complaining, you understand.  With the school holidays in full swing, the CBD is chock full of family groups, and sultry looking teenage girls. 

We have been very interested in all the bike stands we have found around the city, such as this one, just outside our apartment building.  There are 150 CityCycle bike stations with up to 2000 bikes available across the inner city.  CityCycle, Brisbane's public bike share scheme, is an active and sustainable type of public transport that encourages more people to cycle around the inner city, a quick, affordable and easy alternative to short trips by car, public transport or walking.

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Row of CityCycle bikes outside our apartment building

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Front door to our apartment building

We had a little shopping spree today – never a good thing to do when the weather is hot and sticky.  Found some new shorts for Robin, and a couple of items for me.  We had never been in a Myer’s store before, not too sure if this company has shops in New Zealand. 

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Been shopping

We lunched at one of the many Food Halls dotted around close by.  Robin went for an old favourite, burger and chips, while I decided to try something different, and ordered ginger pork and rice from the hard working Japanese cooks.

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Cooking up my lunch

Our Aussie adventure is almost over.  Tomorrow will be an early morning as we have to return the hire car and get to the airport by 5.30am.  There could well be a go slow with staff taking industrial action, we will have to wait and see how it all works out.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Redcliffe – home to Big Brother and the Bee Gees

My big brother lives in Redcliffe, Brisbane, and it had been quite some years since we had met up.  So we made contact on our arrival, and arranged to meet up today, Tuesday.  The trusty Garmin was programmed, and took us out of the city and on our way, through one suburb after another, along a motorway or two,  until we reached Redcliffe Peninsular, a trip of about 30km.  Brian and Noeleen welcomed us into their home, put the coffee pot on, and we caught up with all the family news.

We lunched at the rather swish Mon Komo restaurant opposite the beach,  and then it was the usual story, what to choose from the menu.  The meals were delicious, lamb for the blokes, fish and prawns for the girls.

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Lunch at Mon Komo – Robin, Brian, Noeleen, Jenny

The view from the beach front looked out over Moreton Island, 25kms off shore, and is the third largest sand island in the world.  The island covers an area of about 17700ha, and extends for 38 km from north to south, and at its widest it is 8 km across.  Known as an unspoilt paradise, it would be a lovely place to visit.  But not this trip, sadly.

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Looking over to Moreton Island

The Redcliffe Jetty has been considered the heart of the Peninsula ever since ships carrying holiday makers started arriving in the late 1800s.  This is the third jetty, and features heritage lights, seats and drinking fountains in recognition of the two previous structures.

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Redcliffe Jetty

What we didn’t know was that the brothers Gibb, the Bee Gees, were brought up in Redcliffe, and their lives are celebrated in the Bee Gees Way.

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The Bee Gees Way was full of photos, statues, films, and their music was playing continuously.  My son Michael was a real fan of the Bee Gees as a teenager, and played their records over and over, so I was exposed to their music too, and really enjoyed it.

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Bee Gees as young boys

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Sadly, only one of the brothers is still alive, the eldest, Barry.  With his long flowing locks, Barry was always my favourite.  There was a plaque written by Barry Gibb,  telling of the boys early times in Redcliffe.

“Swimming with tigers and breaking the rules, living on friendship and acting like fools
But the dream was always there within us, around us, whispering in our ears
Pushing us forward, to places unknown, always together and always alone
The dream was relentless and fame was the spur, asleep here in Redcliffe and waiting to stir
Unforgettable Redcliffe, you stand where we were
Barry”

Many thanks to Brian and Noeleen for taking us to this special place – it certainly brought back memories of all those fabulous Bee Gees songs.

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Monday, September 26, 2016

From the Mountain to the Coast

Robin set up his Garmin GPS system and it took us (and our rental car) to the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk.  Tamborine Mountain is the northern slope of the great Tweed Volcano.  The car park was full, no doubt because it just happens to be the school holidays.  The 1.5km walk is a combination of forest floor trails, 300m of high tech steel bridges taking visitors through the highest points of the upper canopy, and a 40m cantilevered bridge above the rocky creek.

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Platypus can be found in the streams of of these 30 pristine acres, and koalas live in the eucalypt trees surrounding the rainforest.  Of course, we saw neither of these species during our visit. We saw all sorts of interesting trees and shrubs, such as Strangler Figs climbing up a tree.

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Strangler Fig

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On the cantilevered bridge

We found a memorial plaque on the walkway, dedicated to the memory of Sir Jack Brabham, who was a great friend and frequent visitor to the Skywalk.  At his request, his wife scattered his ashes at this special place in his life on September 2014.

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Memorial plaque, and the creek on the forest floor

After enjoying lunch in the café, Robin set the Garmin to take us for a trip  to the Gold Coast – just because we had never been there.  We stopped at a lookout on Tamborine Mountain to take a few snaps, passing by all sorts of trendy arty places, cafes, and wineries.

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View from Tamborine Mountain

Soon we arrived at Nobby Beach, to see bikini clad sun worshippers watched over by a couple of life savers - the sandy beach looked lovely and inviting.

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Nobby Beach

High rise buildings could be seen away in the distance at both ends of the beach.  Hotels and apartments buildings, we presumed.

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High rise buildings in the distance

The GPS took us back to Brisbane, and right through the middle of the Gold Coast (town or city, we are not sure).  But at least we can now say we have been to the Gold Coast at long last!

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Unfortunately, we almost had an accident going around a round-about on the trip home, but Robin swerved away in the nick of time.  That really shook us up, but luckily the rest of the trip went perfectly, and we made our way into the CBD, found our car parking building, and breathed a sigh of relief.  It had been a great day, and we made a round trip of 200km along busy motorways, all new to us. 

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Our rental car

Sunday, September 25, 2016

River Fire – and On the Buses

No, let us assure you that Brisbane has not burnt to the ground.  River Fire was the name of the fireworks spectacular, set up on pontoons on the Brisbane River, which we watched from our 22nd floor dining room last night.  Thousands of people had staked their claims to a good spot on the river bank during the day, taking the families, supplies, seats and blankets along to watch this annual event.  It started off with four rather noisy Army helicopters,  making their distinctive sound as they flew along the river and over the heads of the crowds.  Not to be outdone, two jets then streaked up and down the river, putting on a great show.  Much too fast to get caught on our cameras, of course.  Then the sun started to sink in the west, and the countdown to 7.00pm began.  Then over the course of 30 minutes, 11,000kgs of fireworks went up in smoke.

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View from our window, with a glimpse of the Wheel of Brisbane

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It went off with a bang

The next morning we purchased tickets for the Brisbane Explorer bus.  And yes, they had concession prices for a couple of oldies like us – at a saving of $10 each it was well worth asking the question.  To make things even better, our tickets took us on two different  tours around the city.  We love this sort of tour, the commentary points out all sorts of interesting sights and buildings, and gives us a good overview of the city.

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The Brisbane Explorer

We did the Brisbane City Tour first, and drove past little old buildings, churches and government buildings from the early days, side by side with big brassy sky-scrapers – with plenty more under construction, we noticed.  We drove down a narrow street covered over in canopies.  Not as sun protection, we were informed, but because the glass windows keep falling out from the tall building at an alarming rate.  Talk about putting an ambulance at the bottom of a cliff – why don’t the powers-that-be do something about the defective building?  And do those people sitting below sipping their coffees know of the danger ready to rain down on them?

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Canopies to protect the public from falling windows

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Giant Morton Bay Fig Trees in the city centre

The Windmill Tower was built of sandstone by convicts in 1828, and was the first industrial building in Brisbane.  The windmill blades have long gone, but in their day they were not moved by wind, but by the hard labour of the convicts.

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The Windmill Tower

We just loved the elegant Regatta Hotel with it’s beautiful iron lace verandas.  This heritage listed building now houses cafes, restaurants and bars, and gives rest to back packers.  And Koala House is one of the few two story buildings left in the city.

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Regatta Hotel and Koala House

We stopped at the lookout stop above the Kangaroo Point cliffs which had amazing views over the river and city buildings.

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View from Kangaroo Point cliffs

Our first tour finished and we had a quick lunch at one of the many Food Halls scattered around the CBD.  Robin chose Kentucky Fried and a Coke, and I very bravely tried something different, Saigon Lemongrass Chicken and Noodles, washed down with a glass of Lychee juice.  Very tasty, and we finished in time to board the next bus tour, this one took us up the 800ft Mount Coot-tha.  It used to be known as One Tree Hill, but reverted to the original name of Coot-tha, which means “place of the honey bees”.

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There was a stop of 10 minutes here, which gave us just enough time to scurry up to the lookout which was packed with visitors, take a few photos, and get back to the bus before it departed.  A helpful young tourist took our photo for us.

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View from Mount Coot-tha lookout

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On Mount Coot-tha, with Brisbane in the background.

It was another lovely day out sight seeing – wonder what we will get up to tomorrow?