A short blog on our short stay in an Australian caravan park

Welcome to Bays Holiday Park in Salamander Bay, NSW., where, as you can see, even the koalas have a good time! img_20170108_154450533

We have two more days to spend here before moving in to Robyn and Brian’s home with enclosed patio, and golf course views.

How did we end up here, you ask? Well, Robyn and Brian needed their home for a month over the December holidays for family visits and the suchlike. So they very graciously kicked us out of their home where we’d been staying for two weeks, and set up their caravan for us. This is the same caravan they will soon travel in for several months, while we move back into their home and just take over! Actually, before moving in to their abode, we will stay a week in Max and Fran’s home, as they will be away and offered us accommodation in exchange for watering their garden. Yes, it’s like musical chairs…. and everyone needs friends like this.

SONY DSCWe are going to enjoy this view from Fran and Max’s living room…

The caravan is quite amazing (well, since we’ve never lived in one before, we are astounded).

Running water. A four burner gas stove with a broiler. An electric convection oven with rotisserie (if you’re feeling inclined to roast a chicken on a spit). A Rolls Royce of a coffee machine. Microwave. Fridge. Deep sink (so the dishwasher (!!!) can wash up after meals). Toilet and shower. Washing machine. Television. Solar panels. Dining area. Queen size bed. We are almost, but not quite, convinced we could actually do a camping vacation one day (a short one). This idea will be revisited at a future date.

The Bays is a pretty neat camp site/holiday village. Including the impromptu visit from the local koalas (wild, not tame), there is a really nice pool, kitchen (for those who live in tents and don’t have the same facilities as us privileged people in caravans do, a Mini Golf, a large outdoor chess set, a play area for kids and a 10 pm curfew on noise which everyone seems to obey, so falling asleep is no problem.

It’s a popular campground. Over the December holidays it was packed to the gills. Not a centimeter of free space to be camped on. Quite an experience.

Oh yes. I almost forgot. When we arrived, we bought an inexpensive (i.e. cheap!) second-hand car, with the agreement the garage will buy it back from us when we leave. img_20170108_125720240_hdrSo, our entire home for the past three weeks, including our clothes line, our car and the view of someone else’s tent and portable shower, has looked like this. We even have an awning to sit under when it rains!

A quick update on some of our activities…. We celebrated my 60th birthday at Tess and Fred’s lakeside party which fell on the same day. They live on the golf course, and so do all the guests, as you can see from the parking lot!

We had a Golf Club members’ Christmas dinner. In the past month we’ve had dinners with Di and Rod, Lesley and Gerald, Jane and John, Fran and Max, Jo and Tom, Val and Laurie, and Bernice and Kevin (and have deliberately avoided using the bathroom scale). More dinners are planned. We’ve played golf (some games have been worse than others!!!). We have yet to go to the beach (just can’t find the time) and go fishing. When we do, and if we catch something edible, you’ll be updated!

Like the title said, this is a short blog, especially as we are off to dinner. Yet again!

For those in the northern hemisphere, keep warm. The rest of us will just crank up our air conditioners!!!

Keep Austin Weird

“Keep Austin Weird”. That, dear readers, is the “unofficial” city motto. However, you see it everywhere. On T-shirts; signs in store windows; on bumper stickers, and it really is what Austin, Texas is all about.

There’s even a  small museum down town, open till midnight no less, dedicated to weirdness. Russ thinks this is dedicated to him and he’s waiting for the call to be offered the key to the city!!!!IMG_20160127_131623481_HDR

 

 

 

This is the funkiest town we’ve ever stayed in and we’re loving it. And the creativity extends right into the residential areas. Just around the corner from where we’re staying, a small, duplex apartment complex proves my point.

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The garage door

 

 

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The front entrance

The decorations on the fence and trees give us quite a chuckle too!

The weather, since we arrived, has been generally in the mid to high 20s (Celcius) and sunny. If fact, most of the time it’s been blue skies, with not a cloud to be seen. Perfect for golf and sightseeing. Last night was the first time we’ve had rain since we’ve been here, and that’s been 54 days!

Here are some of the things we’ve done since we arrived. We’ve been to San Antonio (an hour’s drive from Austin) and visited The Alamo.

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The church at The Alamo

It’s right slap bang in the middle of historic San Antonio, which surprised us. We expected it to be in the middle of nowhere. A large portion of the site (which is surprisingly small)  has been re-constructed, although the church building featured here is mostly original.

 

 

And while in San Antonio, you cannot leave without eating somewhere along the River Walk. A two minute stroll from The Alamo,  it’s “The Happening Place” to be, be seen and be cool!

And we’ve also been sightseeing in the Hill Country around Austin. Lockhart, Blanco, Dripping Springs – small towns  which really remind me of the towns featured in Westerns.

And Austin funkiness extends out that way too – in Wimberley they get a kick out of displaying cowboy boots as street decor!

Did you know there are a number of wineries in the Hill Country? And the number of local brewers in this part of Texas is astounding. Their beer is the best beer we’ve ever tasted in the USA (and possibly anywhere else) by far! Well, when a beer called Devil’s Backbone has 8.1% alcohol by volume, compared to, say,  Yuengling (USA)  or Heineken (Dutch) which have 5.4%, that would explain quite a bit!

We have been to the movies (saw Tarantino’s  The Hateful Eight, which is violent to the extreme (not surprising), but not very good!). We’ve been to the theatre (saw The Improvised Shakespeare Company – absolutely hilarious), and, yes, we’ve been to Austin City Limits to an awards show inducting Texas songwriters in to the Hall of Fame. Great music, great fun.

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And here’s Russ, with Willie Nelson.    wp-1456249395030.jpg

Now, of course, we can’t wait till March and the South by Southwest Music Festival. Over 2,000 bands from all over the world play here over a two week period. There is music in every bar, restaurant, and on the street corners. Here, the city really lives up to its official motto which is the “Live Music Capital of the World”.

However, we prefer KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD! And on that note, I’ll leave you, as I have to have lunch!!

What the Dickens?

Howdy!

Let’s get right to it. Here’s something I bet you don’t know. Jane Dickens Monk, great-great-granddaughter of the author Charles Dickens, and Lucinda Dickens Hawksley, great-great-great granddaughter of the same, both live in Galveston. Yes, they do!

This is probably the reason that every year in December, and for the past 42 years, there is a weekend Victorian parade on The Strand in the historic part of the town. And the Galvestonians really get into the spirit of things. You don’t believe me? Here’s proof!

The parade also covers the history of the area. The Sons of the American Revolution are there, the Daughters too. Cowboys on horses trot by, and even the area’s pirate history is celebrated. I met one!

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Here’s a Jolly fellow! Wonder if his name is Roger?

Oh, here’s another interesting thing to see in the city. After Hurricane Ike struck Galveston in September 2008, the combination of the powerful winds and tidal surge uprooted thousands of city trees. Three enterprising local sculptors decided to do something about the remains of the tree trunks, and created carvings  that are now displayed in many residents’ gardens.

And here’s yet another fact that will amaze and astound you. King Vidor, one of the directors of “The Wizard of Oz”, was born in Galveston.

IMG_20151217_151747000What a fitting tribute to him on the front lawn of the home he was born in: Tin Man and Toto (dressed for Christmas!), also carved from tree remains.

The stately homes in the old part of the city are also something to see. Here’s a photo or two to give you the picture (no pun intended). Apparently a lot of these homes are owned by people (obviously wealthy!), who live in Houston and use them at weekends. Nice life!

I have to report that we had a car accident in Houston. A rather distracted elderly man went straight through a red light at 60 km an hour, and slammed into the passenger side of our car as we pulled into the intersection. A split second later and the impact would have been right into the passenger door. I shudder to think of the consequences had that been the case.IMG_20151223_112236031_HDRThere are no injuries to report, but we were bruised and are still pretty shaken up. The car has been inspected and is a write off, as the damage is too great. There was a slight hiccup dealing with our insurance company which resulted in quite a bit of stress for us, and to redeem themselves, they gave us $3000 more than the car was worth. Almost worth the hassle!!!!

Russ is flying back to Canada to buy another car, and will drive it back to Galveston so we can get to Austin and continue our Texas vacation there (with the cat!). This means we need to stay in Galveston for an extra week. And here I have to mention the kindness of the Texans. The owner of the condo we are renting has offered to let us stay at no extra charge. He told me we’d gone through enough and this was his Christmas present to us!

There certainly are good people out there! And that is a good end to this blog.

Merry Christmas to all from Galveston! And have a wonderful New Year!!!!

 

Galveston, oh Galveston….

 

After a month in Florida, we finally arrived in Galveston, Texas, at 7 pm on December 1, after a very tiring nine hours drive. The cat had meowed most of the way. It rained on and off. Russell could not drive as he was not feeling well. The highway drive around Houston in the dark at rush hour was horrendous. I was cranky, to say the least! And then, to top it all, the lock box code to get the condo key did not work! Thank heavens the owner answered his phone, and drove 40 minutes to get here at 8 pm to help us out. It seems that I’d been trying to get into the wrong condo. What was the most embarrassing moment in your life? This was mine!

The apartment is great. Right on the ocean, and we are lucky enough to have a fabulous ocean view. In the far distance is an oil rig, and at night the lights from all the tankers passing by is almost fairylike.

We’ve just done one day’s exploring at the moment. Russ is feeling better so life is good. Galveston is a great little city with a really cool historic district, a fabulous ocean walk, and a historic pleasure pier that resembles the one in Brighton, England! Much more exploring to be done, that’s for sure, so there’ll be plenty to write about in a next update.IMG_20151203_140105271

Did you know the first known European settler here was a pirate? The privateer Jean Lafitte established the colony of Campeche on Galveston Island in 1817.

The city is probably better known for the tragic Great Storm that struck in September 1900. At the time, Galveston had a population of 37,000 and was the fourth largest city in Texas after Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. One-third of the city was completely destroyed, more than 3,600 buildings. More than 6,000 people were killed. In fact, there were too many bodies for conventional burials. At first, they were weighted and buried at sea, but later washed ashore. They were then burned on funeral pyres all over the city. The city was rebuilt, but not before the ground level was raised by eight feet, 17 feet at the Seawall, slanting the ground so water would run off into the bay. The grade raising was so successful that when another hurricane as severe as the 1900 storm hit Galveston in 1915, the city was safe and just eight people killed.

It is , of course, a busy port city, and on the Gulf of Mexico. This means there’s also lots of local fishing! IMG_20151203_120832211Snapper, flounder, shrimp, you name it! We bought a pound of Gulf shrimp at one of the local markets.IMG_20151203_133838

Here is Arthur, with shrimp caught just 20 minutes before we bought some!IMG_20151203_141709781_HDR

We had lunch at the Black Pearl. A very popular local restaurant. We both had Po Boys. Russ had oysters, I had shrimp. Talk about the portion size! Well, we are in the U.S of A, so should not be surprised. We had enough food to take home for dinner too!

We sat next to Trinidade and Sonia at the bar. They gave us loads of tips for the best places to eat, the best Happy Hour deals, and even bought us a round of drinks to welcome us to Texas! Trinidade works at the port as a longshoreman (stevedore).  He says it’s been busy, and will get even busier once the widening of the Panama canal is completed.

Let me leave you with a puzzle. A lot of the streets in Galveston going east-west are a letter of the alphabet. Like Avenue “A”.  Now, we haven’t counted how many streets there are, but when you see Avenue N, then Avenue N 1/2, you have to wonder…..

We have an unusual weekend event planned, so stay tuned to this page for the next update. I have to sign off now. It’s wine time.

We prepare to head south, and other stories

It’s been six months since we got back from Australia, and have had a very busy Canadian summer.

Most importantly, we finally got the whole condo painted (well, I painted while Russ was out playing golf and visiting friends. It’s better that way. And… if you remember last year, he did all the hard work renovating the bathrooms, changing all our doors, hanging ceiling fans etc., so he thoroughly deserved a break). I had fallen in love with the grey colour of the walls in the home we stayed in while in Australia, so decided to paint our condo Fifty Shades of Grey. Well, five different shades, but who’s counting? It looks stunning, and my hair colour is starting to blend in!!!!!

We also had a new kitchen counter installed (professionally), Russ installed our new sink and faucet and we shared the work doing the back splash. Oh, I painted all the cabinetry and Russ installed the handles. Looks pretty cool, huh?

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We’re now getting ready to head south next weekend for the winter. We are very fortunate indeed to be able to stay for November in our friends’ condo just outside Fort Lauderdale in Florida. Karen and Dan are unable to leave Canada till mid January, so have graciously let us move in. You should all have friends like that! Then, in December we go to Galveston, Texas for a month, then for three months to Austin, Texas. By the time we head home again in April the snow should have melted.

Did I mention my cat, Chocolat, is imagecoming with us on the road trip? When I told her, her reaction left me perplexed. Does she look excited or horrified? Difficult to say….

In the meantime, Russ was roped in to participate in a pool tournament in the condo building (men only, go figure). He was overjoyed when he won his first round, and is just getting over his loss in round two. He’ll be ok in a day or two, don’t worry. That’s him, about to strike the ball, while his opponent Dave looks on.

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We continue to play a lot of golf. I won a grand total of $55 (!!!!!) this summer in the ladies’ league. And we continue to enjoy our new life in Kingston, Ontario, and the view from our living room. The sunsets never cease to amaze us.
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I know I’ve not posted for a while. This was just so you could catch up with what’s been happening. I will be posting more from the US, especially from Texas, where I expect to become proficient in dancing the Texas Two Step. Must remember to take my jeans, cowboy boots and cowboy hat! I’m off to pack!!!!!

We go Native, and we visit Tin City

There are no sports fans in the world more fanatical and noisy than Australian Football League fans. The game, also known as Aussie Rules, is a mix of rugby and soccer (I think). Whatever. What I like about it is that the players wear really nice tight shorts and have great bodies.

The opening game of the season was about two weeks ago. We were invited to Di’s and Rod’s place, together with Helen and George. They are all rabid fans of the Sydney Swans. We were there for our initiation. The house is decorated in red and white (yes, you got it, the team colors). The food is red and white. Everyone wears red and white.IMG_20150404_161616221

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Even the teddy bear sports the right colors!

We had a grand time, came away quite deaf from all the cheering, and have been converted to (not quite rabid) fans of the Sydney Swans!!!! We even watched the second game of the season last week. We’ve gone native! Feral! IMG_20150411_195938261Gee, those tight shorts are really something!

Then, a few days ago, Max and Fran took us along the beach in their four-wheel drive to visit Tin City. SONY DSC

We stopped off in Anna Bay to get some meat pies for lunch on the beach, let out air from the tires so the car would have enough traction in the sand, and off we went. This beach, just 10 minutes drive from here, is about 40 kilometers long, with almost no one on it. SONY DSC

And behind the beach are miles and miles of sand dunes. It really is spectacular. SONY DSCThe softest sand in the world. Would you believe it’s even exported to Hawaii to keep their beaches looking good? It is, I kid you not.

And, somewhere, right along the beach, is a small community of fishermen, who’ve built shacks from corrugated iron and who seem to live there permanently. They call this place Tin City.SONY DSC

SONY DSC SONY DSCSONY DSCThey’ve got satellite TV antennae, water storage drums and whatever else is needed for their “comfort”. It must be a constant fight, though, to ensure their shacks don’t get buried in the blowing sand! I think they have permission from the Worimi aborigines who own the land, to live there.

Apart from this, we play golf (some days better than others), and are making the most of our last two weeks in Australia before heading back home. Dinner parties, lunches, you name it. I will be playing in a golf tournament in Scone on the weekend, one of three women players representing our golf club (Horizons Golf Resort) in Australia at the Country Cup. It’s a district event in New South Wales, not a real national competition! The name is misleading. There are about 10 clubs competing. May the best team win!!!!

And, to close this update, here’s a photo of an Australian turtle who happened to cross the lawn yesterday. If he looks startled, you should have seen me! Kangaroos I’m used to. Turtles…???SONY DSC

A Barbie. Karaoke. And a bird or two.

Well. Russ had a birthday. On March 4. Since we’d been to Sunset Beach for the same occasion two years ago with friends, we decided to make this a tradition. The weather cooperated and off we all went! After a drink or two the men took charge, congregated around the barbie and cooked.  SONY DSCIn case you’re wondering, a barbie is not a doll. It’s the Australian term for a BBQ. We all had great fun, good food and, as usual, loads of laughs.And, what an aptly named beach. Just look at the sunset.SONY DSC

Then, a day later, My Friend Di (MFD) coerced me into going to a karaoke bar for dinner and, well, karaoke! Dinner was good. I danced. I did not sing. I was not dressed appropriately. IMG_20150305_215345085You see, you need to be really casual. Baggy shorts and flip flops! I insert a photo to prove my point!

But MFD sang (although I forget what). She opened the evening with Robyn (who is meant to be on a road trip because we are house-sitting for her!!!!). Go girls!!! IMG_20150305_201553862-001

We had a terrific storm here about a week ago. Very heavy rain and incredible wind. A lot of branches came down, and a number of animals found themselves in trouble. I found two little mynah birds who’d been blown out of their nest. image They were strong enough to hop and flutter their wings to get into a small bush, where they perched for five days and nights, while mother mynah fed them. They’ve since flown the coop; left the nest, so to speak; spread their wings.

And, since the last blog, Russ and I have won yet another social golf competition. Our combined earnings from our golf wins to date is $85.00. Does this make us professional golfers now that we are making money from the game? We also won another meat tray in the club raffle! This time I took the pork, since the last time I chose the beef. I really should buy a lottery ticket, now that I think of it. With my lucky streak I could well be the next millionaire!

Enough for now. It’s 4:15pm. Time for my glass of wine. The closing note of this blog is from our resident rosella who visits every evening as the sun goes down. Cheep cheep!SONY DSC