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Touched down at Gold Coast Airport, Queensland 15:30 pm after an uneventful flight from Sydney. Wow! the heat hits you as soon as one went through the aircraft doors, C37! Made it through to the taxi way after picking up luggage and waited for our son in law to pick up….and waited….and waited. Through some confusion and no phone connected, it transpired that he was waiting in the car park.

Got down into Coomera and settled in at number 1 daughters where we met our “new addition” to the family.

Amelie

Amelie

She is just exquisite.

Gold Coast, just south of Brisbane is a surfers paradise….so much so that they named it “Surfers Paradise” The town is fairly “newish” having sprung up for a holiday destination with guaranteed sunshine for the Sydney population. However, the town lacks a “centre” of any substance and it seems to be populated with large hotels, guest houses, restaurants, some shops and little else!

Gold Coast

Gold Coast

The beaches are “to die for.” Mile after mile of beautiful golden sand beaches in pristine condition with balmy water lapping at it’s edge.

Coomera is a “satelite” residential development about 40 minutes drive from Gold Coast. It is well served by great infra structure including Public Library, swimming baths, exercise areas and woodland walks. However, having a car is “de rigeur” as public transport is thin on the ground.

Will be heading out from Brisbane International airport on the 01.03.17 to LAX, Atlanta and back to “sunny” Manchester for the 03.03.17.

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Saturday

The elevator carried me up from deep levels of unconsciousness. Up and up it went, through my campaigns at the side of Wellington, the Peninsular wars,  through to Waterloo,….tricky negotiations with Napoleon,….and later, at another level, consultations with Kennedy. I pleaded with him not to go to Dallas……but hey ho, he wouldn’t listen…..Anyhow, as I reached “ground floor”, I peeked from under the sheets to see…that it was an absolutely gorgeous day. Blue skies…horizon to horizon, a crispness in the ether, birds tweeting and the smell of a bacon and egg breakfast, and coffee….excellent. It’s going to be a great day. To Bondi methinks…for some serious sunbathing among the “beautiful people.”

Bondi Beach, playground of the "beautiful people."

Bondi Beach, playground of the “beautiful people.”

Ambled back up Bondi road about four hours later…one doesn’t want to “over do it” and start peeling, that wouldn’t do at all.

Called in at Bondi Surf Seafood again for three pieces of salmon, (the one we had three days ago was delicious). Picked up more spinach, fruit and a couple more “tinnies” in the expectation of another fine meal on Sunday.

The chest infections seem to be slowly resolving themselves and now feeling a little more “chipper”.

The Fruitologist on Bondi road has fresh and crisp fruit and vegetables.

The Fruitologist on Bondi road has fresh and crisp fruit and vegetables.

Tonight looks to be a great night to catch up on “House of Cards” and the devious Frank Underwood.

I neglected to mention that the warm weather and languid daily routine, copious consumption of fresh fruits and fish, have conspired to deplete the weight that I had put on over the Christmas period, which is not entirely unwelcome.

Got back to Manchester from Malta on 11.01.17 after another “stupid o’clock” flight. Picked up a hire car and got over to Rossendale for a doctor’s appointment. Picked up some clothes and then over to the Wirral to see some friends. Having spent four days back in “Blighty” the Sunday 15.01.17 at Manchester airport again for a sleep on their very comfortable, though uncompromising steal seating for an 06:10 “check in” for a trip to Budapest for some dental work, and as it turned out some whooping cough vaccines. Budapest was freezing! Five days later we’re on for a quick hop to Berlin and transfer going to Abu Dhabi.img_3596 A two day layover there, and finally out to Brisbane and a transfer to Sydney.

Bondi Beach, the proverbial stomping ground of the "Beautiful People", Surfers & Sharks

Bondi Beach, the proverbial stomping ground of the “Beautiful People”, Surfers & Sharks

The whole point of the trip was that on the 15.01.17our first grand daughter Amelie was born into the world. Two weeks earlier than the anticipated 31.01.17 forecast date. Babies do have a habit of generating frenetic activity don’t they?

Unfortunately, we appear to have picked up a chest infection which precludes us seeing our grand daughter until it clears up and we can make it back up to Brisbane to see her.

Tuesday 24.01.17 after a stonkingly good nights sleep, lazy start, and a coffee, ambled down Bondi road to the beach and Bondi Surf Sea Food store to pick up some salmon, Bondi Fruitologist for spinach & tomatoes and a few tinnies from Kemnies. Crickey! it’s pricey though (AUD49.47 or £30). Our prospective son in law, being something of a “gourmand” employing his skills as a chef provided an exquisite salmon dinner presented in his own inimitable way. It was delicious.

Looking down on the eponymous Bridge.

Looking down on the eponymous Bridge.

Last time we were here the bridge was “alive” with fire works, colours and smoke bringing in the new year 2014.

As an aside, it seems that the new U.S. president “The Donald” has made a whirlwind start with a whole swathe of new legislation plus ridding the State Department of many Obama acolytes.

I hope that our incapacity does not make our planned trip north too protracted.



Coming to the end of this brief junket to Malta and Gozo. Will travel back to Valletta tomorrow, spend the night and catch a 07:30 to Manchester.

It’s been fairly challenging the last few days as the weather had really turned quite cold and a Mediterranean storm blew in for around three days.

Marsalforn harbour Gozo, getting a battering. Notice the sky was still blue.

As one may imagine, the houses are not well insulated as it is only for about two months of an otherwise warm year with high temperatures that any kind of heating would be needed. Under those circumstances, people dispense with the expense of heating a property and merely just wrap up in warmer clothes!
Got back to Manchester 12.01.17 at 10am, picked up a hire car and drove to town in order to attend to problems with an iPad. Drove up to Rossendale to attend to some medical stuff and to present prescriptions at the Chemists. Over to visit Doreen (a friend) who had kindly invited us to dinner. Subsequently got to Petr (our AirBnB host) quite late.
13.01.17 Friday Snowed during the night, which will not really be conducive to driving over to the Wirral to see a couple of friends (Paul & Vicki).

16.01.17 Sunday 19:45 Saw us onto the Ryanair flight from Manchester to Budapest. Minus C7 here at the moment, however learning that we had become grandparents for the first time has warmed our hearts.

Ice flows on the Danube!

Ice flows on the Danube!

img_358220.01.17 Have bundled warm clothes up into a parcel and air freighted them back to Blighty as at “stupid o’clock” tomorrow will being on a flight to Berlin and then on to Abu Dhabi and eventually Australia, where one hopes that the weather will be a tad warmer. Not looking forward to, yet another night sleeping at an airport, but Hey Ho this is the life one has picked for the near term.

Time in Budapest has been characterised by soaking up the Austro-Hungarian C19 architecture, enjoying the majesty of the Danube and its bridges, restaurants, theatres and quirky entrepreneurial businesses like a cocktail bar where one can imbibe alcohol in a beach setting, with sand parasols and heat lamps whilst looking through the “shop front’ window at people passing along the thoroughfare in sub zero temperatures! Naturally enough the establishment is called the Beach and appears to have year around adherents.

The transport infrastructure is second to none. Totally integrated trams, underground and bus network. Best of all, if one shows id to confirm one is over 65….it’s totally free!

Budapest definitely has a lot to offer. However, I would recommend that one comes here in the summertime, as it’s definitely a little too cold (temperatures at night are C-7 & barely above freezing during the day) in the winter months.

Returned the car to the hire firm at the airport and caught the bus to the port town of Comino, on the west coast Malta to catch the ferry over to the island of Gozo. It was a bright blue morning and the crossing took about fifty minutes, docking in Mgarr harbour. The bus service over to Marsalforn, where our host Alex met us, took an hour.

Mgarr harbour Gozo is a quaint & picturesque little harbour which services the ferry's over from mainland Malta.

Mgarr harbour Gozo is a quaint & picturesque little harbour which services the ferry’s over from mainland Malta.

After chatting to Alex and depositing luggage meandered down to the harbour side town centre in Marsalforn and along the sea front for a couple of miles out to an old fortification on a promontory west of town. There were numerous coastal rock formations and water sculpted tesselations of the ancient sea bed that caught ones interest. On the way back, picked up some provisions at the local store and a nice Malbec in expectation of a pleasant evening before settling for the night.

Kind of wasted Wednesday with software issues with an ipad which took an inordinate amount of time to resolve with the Apple engineers over the phone and uploading new software.

Harbourside at Marsalforn on Gozo today. A" little breezy", one could say!

Harbourside at Marsalforn on Gozo today. A” little breezy”, one could say!

Thursday 05.01.17 Took the bus from Marsalforn to Victoria and then out to the Azure Window today. The weather was pretty windy and the seas were unusually wild, which made for a few good snaps.Also took the bus out to the “Azure Window” on the west coast. Its a sea carved arch, the will in due course collapse under the precepts of coastal erosion, the depredations of which are constant.

The Azure Window, west coast Gozo.

The Azure Window, west coast Gozo.

11.12.16 Sunday 
How strange,….from the time the aircraft tyres hit the tarmac at Hal Luca international airport to arriving at our domicile, elements of a short British occupation are still in evidence. The fairly pervasive use of english, to grocery store items to driving on the left, bear witness to historic osmosis. However, Malta appears to be much, much more than that.

Down in the old town Valletta.

Down in the old town Valletta.

Valletta has three harbours. This one is dedicated to pleasure craft & Ferry Shuttles over to the citadel and the Old Town Commercial Centre.

Valletta has three harbours. This one is dedicated to pleasure craft & Ferry Shuttles over to the citadel and the Old Town Commercial Centre.

Her history bears witness to over 4000 years of changing hegemonies. Walking down the old commercial centre within the citadel, one elicits a vicarious sense of a time when Valletta was in her “Hay day”, supporting frenetic commercial activity with the Mediterranean Basin.

It would also seem a popular stopping off point for some international super yachts, as there were three or four mega-examples on display.

View from the Citadel over to one of the old harbours.

View from the Citadel over to one of the old harbours.

26.12.16 Had Christmas lunch with the family of the young lady (Sarah) that provided our accommodation here in Valletta. They were wonderfully welcoming and treated us to a traditional Maltese Christmas lunch of mushroom soup, assorted meats & vegetables followed by traditional handmade desserts.img_3425

Following the New Year the plan is to move over to Gozo a small adjacent island on the 03.12.17

Dropped the car back at Manchester airport and caught the 16:40 out to Valencia arriving at 20:25. Makes me chuckle every time Ryan Air hits the tarmac and trundles to the pier, those trumpets sound over the tannoy, announcing another early or on time arrival; so kitsch. It’s good to be back in Valencia. I do so enjoy this city. It has everything. Beautiful architecture, both traditional and modern, a medieval old centre, art galleries, theatres, a beach and wonderful bijou restaurants in abundance.img_3294

The weather is still clear blue skies and sunny. However, it is noticeably cooler now, (C21) making the wearing of a light sweater “de rigeur.”

The family that we are staying with are an absolute delight. Edu, Tania, Eduardo (junior) and Maria are originally from Nicaragua but have now made their home and life here in Valencia. I’m sure that we shall remain firm friends.

Time now draws closer to when we “de-camp” and head out to Malta, where we hope to winter (35’9376 degrees N), which lands us about the same latitude as Algiers in N.Africa, without actually being in Africa!

My only real knowledge about Malta stems from a triptych of an aeroplane called the Gloster Gladiator that I became aware of in my youth. The three aeroplanes that defended Valletta in Malta during 1940 were called “Faith,Hope, and Charity.” “Faith” is the last surviving airframe that is now in a museum on the island.

This morning started much as any other, but I woke in a different country.  There was still the mist clinging to the frozen stems of grass, and the line of black trees on the hill still framed the …

Source: Where Is Cromwell Now?

Got back into Manchester and picked up a rental car as a precursor to a trip up to the Lake District to see a friend. Drove down to Middleton where we were invited to dinner at brother and sister in laws.Had a delightful evening catching up on all the news. That evening drove up to the Lakes. Had a great nights sleep and the following day drove out to Ullswater and lunch at The Brackenrigg.

Magnificent Lake Ullswater

Magnificent Lake Ullswater

Monday morning drove south headed for Gisburn. Spent the night at Waddow Hall. During the ensuing few days went out to Harrogate, had an elegant lunch at “Betty’s” and resolved a revisit to take a Turkish Bath, something I did with brother in law years ago and enjoyed hugely.

Betty's of Harrogate, an Icon of a particularly elegant period in history that has an abiding caché.

Betty’s of Harrogate, an Icon of a period in history that has an abiding caché.The Inn at Whitewell The Inn at Whitewell

Whilst in the North West area one could not pass up a revisit to the delightful Ribble Valley and an exemplar of an old hostelry called the “Inn at Whitewell.” It lies at a bend in the river Hodder and is reputed to have been visited by the queen and her entourage on a junket up to Scotland in the dim and distant past. The atmosphere is heavy with old english country culture,crackling log fires, gun dogs, gum boots and locals with mirthful yarns at the bar.

A quintessentially english pursuit, early evening, trout fishing on the River Hodder, Whitewell...

A quintessentially english pursuit, early evening, trout fishing on the River Hodder, Whitewell…

After a brief visit to a good friend in Radcliffe, it seems that the “Gods of Travel” have ordained that one must travel back to Valencia on the 26.10.16!

12.10.16 

Following a night spent at Antalya International Airport, caught the early morning service to Budapest. An abiding memory from my youth was the Hungarian uprising of 1956 when the country decided to leave the Warsaw Pact and become neutral. Budapest saw the arrival of Russian T54 tanks and troops to quell a popular uprising. Over 3000 died, however, in 1989/90 following the fall of the “Iron Curtain” Hungary became truly independent.https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/cd/Parliament_Building%2C_Budapest%2C_outside.jpg/303px-Parliament_Building%2C_Budapest%2C_outside.jpg

Szecheniy Bridge

Szecheniy Bridge

History oozes from the fabric of the city. From early settlement by the Celts in the 1st century AD to Roman occupation until C106 AD. The Ottomans pillaged Buda in 1526 and Turkish occupation lasted until the Habsburg empire reconquered in 1718.

The city has beautiful architecture with imposing buildings evocative of its turbulent history.First impressions of the people are that they are welcoming and affable. However, I haven’t heard much laughter or “merrymaking” in the streets or on the trams and tube. Having said that, the weather is pretty cold and miserable. A lot more overcast and grey than Antalya. People are quite serious and tend to keep themselves to themselves. Perhaps this is a vestige a long time under soviet control, who can say.

A theatre on Andrassyut

The Budapest Opera House on Andrassyut

Booked a tour around the Opera House, which I’m looking forward to. It’s a neo-renaissance building opened in in 1884. Emporer Franz Joseph commissioned the structure. At the time Budapest shared the administration of the Austro Hungarian empire with Vienna.

Budapest Opera House

Budapest Opera House

Treating us to a mini "taster" of what opera can sound like in a brilliantly acoustic environment.

Treating us to a mini “taster” of what opera can sound like in a brilliantly acoustic environment.

Will be heading back to “Blighty” on the 16.10.16 for a few days before getting down to Valencia in Spain by the 26.10.16

 

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