Saturday, April 30, 2011

Zoo land

3rd Friday is zoo day.

The Taronga Zoo sits on a hillside facing the city. A brilliant location, as each corner one rounds offers a new spectacular view of the opera house, bridge or skyline.

Highlights for us include watching the ittle bittle elefinks play together (ittle bittle by a combination of distance and comparison to the adults); the snow leopard (Gorgeous - for Cath clearly the Hugh Jackman of the animal kingdom); and the koalas.

The koalas were sleeping when we saw them (they sleep up to twenty hours a day, a skill that quite frankly I admire) which only meant that we had them mostly to ourselves. They would wake up just enough to be incredibly adorable for the cameras.

I imagine that I look equally adorable when I wake up in the morning. Right, hon? Honey? Hmmm, she must have stepped away for a second.

Friday night is the royal wedding. Kitty holds a viewing party, but John and I (hoping to find a better viewing location) head out, and quite by accident watch a movie instead. We console ourselves for having missed the nuptials by stopping at Max Brenners for some chocolate drinks.

Pretty royal, thinks I.

Just my thoughts,


Friday, April 29, 2011

Animation, James Bondi and Books

3rd Wednesday and we head to John's work for a tour of the animation studio. Gotta say, pretty dang cool.

Then another walk. We bus to the famous Bondi Beach (insert Scottish accent - James Bondi Beach). Most famous for the start of lifeguarding. Yep, without this place there would be (shudder to think it) no Baywatch Nights.

We walk from there to Bronte Beach, where I can't help but think my book club is following me. I give up walking in case we hit a Tolstoy Bay - who has time to walk through a Russian novel?

At night, The girls drool over - Uh, I mean watch an early Hugh Jackman film while I find a tournament at a local pub. (6th out of 35 or so.)

3rd Thursday is another stormy day, so we devote our hours to discussions on writing, and then some actual writing! Add in reading and more gabbing, and we quickly fill the day.

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Manly Men

3rd Tuesday we explored Manly Beach.

That's right, I spent a day being Manly. Why is that surprising?

Cath led John, Kitty and me along a path described in her guide book, until realizing that we were way off the described path. We weren't lost, per se. Merely on an un-scheduled adventure.

The off course course took us through WW 2 bunkers, under more than a few giant spider webs, past a hidden lake on a cliffside, and through the mines of Moria.

Oh, the balrog is a lot nicer than you might think.

We eventually found our way back to civilization, caught the ferry back from Manly (that phrase just doesn't sound right) and headed to a pub for a steak dinner special.

Steak twice in one week; I'm really liking it down here.

Just my thoughts,


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Soul Food

3rd Monday and the rain that has been chasing us since Tasmania catches up in force.

Which is just an excuse to avoid walking around sight-seeing, and instead spend the day reading, gabbing and taking naps. I've opted to go back to the first book of The Auralia Thread to rework up to the series finale; Cath dove into L'Engle's Crosswicks Journals.

For the evening, we head out to experience traditional Aussie food - also called Thai food. Seriously, there are a lot of Thai restaurants here.

Then off to the Sydney Opera House to be serenaded by Mavis Staples, Aaron Neville and the Blind Boys of Alabama. Place was packed out, and the night rocked!

For those that know me well: the Boys did their own version of Amazing Grace to the tune of House of the Rising Sun, a version with personal meaning for me.

A good day/night for the soul.

Just my thoughts,


Monday, April 25, 2011

Kevin, Spielberg and Sermon Illustration

Oddities down under:

Over a week away from the States, and Cath and I decide to check out the telly. Up comes an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond featuring our friend Kevin.

Watching our LA friend on Aussie tv. Level of oddness: surreal.

We're riding the sky tram over the canopy of the rain forest, when the air is split by a shrill shriek. I've heard that sound once before - made by the freakasaurs in Jurassic Park in a forest just like the one below us.

Level of oddity: freaky scary.

Easter service includes a children's message. All the kids crowd to the front, sitting on the floor around the cheerful, young and pretty youth leader. She amuses the kidlets and adultlets alike using a fresh, cold bottle of Coca Cola as an illustration of our pre-Fall perfect selves. Then to show the corruption of sin, she takes a small clump of dog poop from her purse, breaks off a chunk and mixes it into the cola bottle.

Then asks if anyone wants a sip.

Easter pooie coke. Level of oddity: bizarre.

And a little bit disgusting.

Just my thoughts,


Pancakes, Neat. No, Wait, Make That On The Rocks

2nd Saturday and we're on the move, heading down to Sydney. Kitty and John meet us at the airport, and give us a bus tour of the town.

Steaks for dinner, and chat until way late - not much to write home about, just good for the chattees. So I'll stop writing home about it.

2nd Sunday and Easter is here - one day earlier than if I was still in the states. To show you how shallow my faith is, part of the joy of Easter this year is one day less of Lenten practices.

Ah, welcome back chocolate!

Kitty and John are in the choir, so we head off early to service. Then a trip to a place for pancakes on the rocks. I've had chicken and waffles, but never iced pancakes, so this would be a new experience for me.

Come to find out that "on the rocks" is a location here, across the way from the Opera House, and not slang for "with ice cubes." I still have ice cream with my chocolate pancakes; close enough, thinks I.

(Yes, I said chocolate pancakes. With orange slices, chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream. Worth the trip to Australia for that breakfast alone.)

More wandering the market, then home for some Doctor Who. Ah, perfect day.

Just my thoughts,


Saturday, April 23, 2011

It's the Great Reef, Charlie Brown

2nd Friday - time to explore the Great Barrier Reef.

In honor of my book club having just read Henry V, we go to the Agincourt Reef on the outer part of the Barrier. I convince five rival snorkel boats to play the French and we reenact the battle.

Everyone raves about Branagh performing the St. Crispins Day speech, but he didn't recite the sucker with a snorkel in his mouth, now did he? Just so as we have some perspective on the thing.

The barrier reef was great, just as the name says. Saw all kinds of coral, fish and giant clams. Lovely day.

Our bungalow on the beach transformed in our absence. Maybe a half dozen people in the bungalows, cabins, RV hookups and campsites when we left in the morning; virtually every site packed out by our return.

Australia is hitting a five day weekend, and the locals are taking full advantage of the perfect beach weather.

Tomorrow we leave the beach and head for Sydney.

Just my thoughts,


2nd Thursday

2nd Thursday.

Explore the beach.






Just my thoughts,


Life's a Beach

2nd Wednesday and we're on the move again, trading in our Cairns hotel room for a bungalow on Ellis Beach.

And on the beach it is. As I try to figure out how to open the front door and get our luggage inside, Cath spots a couple of dolphins playing in the surf a couple of meters straight out from our front porch.

Naturally, I shake my fists at them and yell, "Hey you kids, get off of my lawn!" But they ignore me.

The one drawback to our location is that we are in the midst of jellyfish season. Which is very different from peanut butter and jellyfish season, which is a very tasty time of year.

But without the peanut butter, jellyfish get unruly and sting people. So we can only swim by heading down the beach and frolicking in a netted area.

Yep, you heard me right - down under the dolphins swim free and it is the humans that swim in the nets. I should start a fundraiser.

The rest of the day we explore the beach and sit and read. Cath is halfway through "The Ale Boy's Feast," and I finish my sci-fi novel.

Then we sleep to the lull of the waves.


Just my thoughts,


Umbrella Woods

2nd Tuesday is another "be a tourist" day as we took the scenic train to the rain forest village of Kuranda.

"Kuranda" is Australian for "What? You still have money in your bank account? Okay, then we've got a hundred more markets for you!"

The niftiest part of the day was our time in the butterfly sanctuary. Why butterflies would need sanctuary I do not know, but I don't pretend to understand Aussie politics.

The return trip was via sky gondolas on a wire stretching over the rain forest canopy. Pretty dang spectacular.

On a side note, I just misspelled "dang" and my autocorrect fixed it. My computer knows "dang," which impresses me to no end. Let me see if it knows "golly gee willikers."

Nope. Here's the correction: goal gee while.

Not nearly as expressive of old timey wonder.

Just my thoughts,


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

North to Alaska, No, Uh, North to Florida, Uh, Forget It

2nd Monday is a travel day as we say goodbye to our Hobart hosts and travel up to Cairns (or as the locals call it, Cans. Which is confusing, because they call "cans" "tins." And we certainly aren't visiting Tins.)

We went from wear layers need a fire use an electric blanket world to hot at night wear shorts where's the air conditioning land. Good thing we brought a variety of clothing options.

Except our luggage didn't make it all the way up here, deciding to do some sight-seeing in Sydney without us. Which is silly, because we have the camera, so our luggage won't have any photos of their time without us.

Alas, alack. We are told that the luggage will arrive before tomorrow. We shall see.

The evening brings a walk along the esplanade, which is a word meaning "Lucy is in trouble," as in (insert Cuban accent here) "Lucy, you have some esplanading to do!"

Dinner at an outdoor cafe and shopping at the nightmarkets, and I'm ready to call it a day.

(Already miss the fireside evening chats with our Hobart hosts. Tried sitting on the check-in counter and reminiscing about the good ol' arts festival days with the night clerk, but it wasn't quite the same thing. He didn't even offer to make a cuppa for me!)

Just my thoughts,


Monday, April 18, 2011


Palm Sunday is focused on church- not a surprise when one is staying with the rector of Saint Georges.

The family service has live donkeys as part of the proceedings. Cath and I participate in the passion readings.

Wait, the last sentence was not intended to be an explanation of the prior sentence...

In the afternoon, John drove us to the top of Mount Wellington. Finally a clear day where we could actually see! The vistas were amazing.

We had so much fun with Ruth, Moz and their family on our first night in town, we were hoping for a repeat visit prior to leaving Hobart. Ros made arrangements to accommodate, and the four of us toddled out to their place for conversation and stew.


And the stew was good as well.

Evening was "totally informal" church in the rectory. Hymns, prayer, and a break for tea smack dab in the middle. We don't break for tea at my home service; I think I'll suggest it when we get home.

Tomorrow we head out to the second part of our Aussie trilogy of travels.

Just my thoughts,


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Street Fair

Saturday and no rain! We finally get to see Hobart in all it's unclouded glory.

The morning is all about the street market - Salamanca street is closed to traffic and crammed with booths selling food and wares. A fair number of buskers; a surprising number of child musicians.

Lunch from the many food carts - sausage for me, baked potato with the works for her; we sat in the park to eat and enjoy the sunshine.

We had been through this particular park several times, but it was a different place then: dark and gloomy, ghostly empty save for the occasional furtive shivering figure quickly passing through toward warmer climes.

This day it rang with children racing their own laughter across the grass; parties scattered throughout the lawn in loose circles of lazy community; jugglers casually dropping pins in experimental tosses.

Even those traversing the park with destinations in mind slowed, momentarily forgetting the urgency of their missions.


For the afternoon, we participated in a local custom.

It appears the natives, at certain intervals, would load their clothing into a ceremonial box they call a "washing machine." After undergoing a time soaking in their medicinal waters, the clothing is then hung on a line as an offering to their weather deities.

Although goodly Christian folk ourselves, we participated in this ritual as a sign of respect.

At least we weren't boring and didn't spend our first day of sunshine doing laundry. That would have been lame.

Just my thoughts,


ps Our new friend Moz informs me that a group of kangaroos is a " mob." I should have known when that one roo made Cath an offer she couldn't refuse.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ah, the Little Devil

Ready for action

Boat Tour

Friday was act like a tourist day. We celebrated by signing up for a full day cruise and tour. (I knew better than to get only a three hour tour - we all know how that went.)

We met up in the early morning with our tour companions. Magnus, a telecom expert from Sweden and Vidia, a doctor from Malaysia who was in town for a conference where she was advocating for a standardization of nutrition care in premature infants.

(I explained that I was promoting the standardization of crunch berries to crunch squares in a box of Captain Crunch. Can't stand it when you get to the final bowl and there is a disproportionate number of squares to berries. Hey, it's a serious cause, man!)

On the way to Port Arthur to catch our cruise we stopped for morning tea, and swapped adventure stories. Magnus shared that just a few weeks ago, he and his wife were skiing when they got caught in a blizzard. They had to dig a snow cave to wait out the storm.

Not to be out done, I regaled them with a tale about the time I endured staying at that one hotel with the lumpy pillows. I think Magnus was impressed with my fortitude and courage under such dire conditions.

We then met up with the rest of the cruisers, got into our waterproof overalls, and set out for a ride to Tasman Island.

The sun still hadn't made an appearance, and we were warned that the boat may not be able to make it all the way to the island due to the inclement weather.

But despite facing swells as tall as the boat, we did indeed make the full journey, managing to add dolphins, seals, sea eagles and albatrosses to our experience. No one shot at the albatross, so we were also able to return without having to endure bouts of epic poetry.

The scenery along the way was awe inspiring and well worth the expenditure of a half day.

After lunch in Port Arthur, we split up for afternoon adventures. Cath, Magnus and I went to a Tasmanian Devil Sanctuary, where we saw the little devils in action (and in inaction, as some were asleep).

We also got to walk among a flock (herd? Pack? A hoppit?) of kangaroos.

The highlight was the bird show, which included not only a variety of birds, but tricks as well. I was most impressed by a bird that was trained to fly into a patron's hand, take a dollar coin in his beak and fly back to deposit the coin in his trainer's pocket.

I was less pleased to learn they trained the kangaroos to pick pockets, and the wallabies to run credit card numbers. How that wallaby figured out my pin I'll never know.

After the bus returned us to Hobart, we met up with John and Ros for a traditional Tassie meal - at a Chinese restaurant. A very good time, indeed!

Just my thoughts,


Friday, April 15, 2011

Thursday and still raining.

Thursday and still raining.

Our hostess is a concert pianist; I spent the morning writing in the piano room while listening to her practice. Ideal.

For the afternoon, Cath and I explored more of Hobart, taking our time winding through the harbor, and catching some lunch at a bakery.

Evening brought on more sitting by the fire and reading/writing. It's a hard life.

Just my thoughts,



Thursday, April 14, 2011


Wednesday was touring the midlands.

John, our host, is chaplain to a swath of rural areas in addition to his charge of the historic St. George's Church in Hobart. So we set out with him for his visits to the inland areas.

Of course we didn't participate in the actual visits with his parishioners, lest I accidentally infect them with amerigopopreligiousism. ("Did you know that our Lord died so we could have over two hundred channels of viewing?" "G-d not only loves Christians, He also likes non-Americans!" "Excuse me, if this is a church, where's the gift shop?")

So while John worked, he left Cath and I to explore Bothwell and Oatlands.

Bothwell includes the oldest golf course in the Southern Hemisphere; Oatlands has a mill and fresh bread and cookies. Oatlands wins.

Our driving tour included a trip through the Lower Marshlands, which I believe is where Tom Bombadil lives. Just to be safe, I refused to nap at the base of any trees.

The sun came out just in time for our ride home - gorgeous vistas of sun dappled vales and rolling hills. Ah.

And back to rain by the time we returned to Hobart. Ah.

The treat for the night was an evening at the Royale Theater accompanied by John and Ros. Second balcony in the pews, but clear sight lines and perfect sound.

Plus we got to watch the Aussies put on their best American accents in a tour-de-force production of "Tuesdays with Morrie." Safe to say their American was better than my Aussie.

(For example, ask me where I'm staying, I'll tell you the rectory of "Saint" Georges, whereas an Aussie will say "Sin" Georges. Wait, maybe that isn't a dialect issue but rather a theological one.)

They say the sun might come out for real tomorrow.

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

In need of a Brolley

First non-travel day was marked by a hard rain. We ignored that, and explored Hobart on foot - walking along the harbor, visiting shops, choosing where to have our first exotic lunch (McDonalds or Subway - which feels more Aussie to you?)

The joy of the weather was that we weren't fighting crowds, even within the confines of the Tasmanian Museum - a blend of natural history and art museum.

It was at the museum we saw our first Tasmanian Devils. Can't understand why they are called that, as they look nothing like the Looney Tunes character; you'd think the guys that named the thing didn't bother watching cartoons before taking on the labeling task.

These devils didn't spin either; but then again they were stuffed, so who knows.

The evening was truly my idea of holiday - sitting by a warm fire reading books. I am currently working my way through a book my mom suggested, a treatise suggesting that we should be living more sacrificial lives for our G-d. Perhaps not the most conducive reading for an extravagant vacation.

My other book is less convicting - a sic-fi novel written by my niece. Of course the blend makes for awkward dreams. I'm haunted by a man who travels back in time to ask me if I really needed to eat all that chocolate.

(The answer is a resounding yes, for religious reasons. In my faith tradition, the response to "man can not live on bread alone" is "that's why chocolate was invented.")

Cath is reworking her way through the Auralia series in anticipation of her first crack at The Ale Boy's Feast. Ros (our hostess) started in on the first book of the series; I think Cath enjoyed that as much as reading herself.

Tomorrow, we venture out of Hobart.

Just my thoughts,


Cath's first audiobook - now available!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Big Trip Day One

Saturday night was the flight - 15 hours to Melbourne before a transfer to a flight to Hobart. To help pass the time, I watched "Red" and "The Next Three Days." Cath watched "How Do You Know."

Her flight took 23 hours. 

First day down under was about relaxing. 

Pick up from the airport by hosts John and Ros; driving tour of the area; and a nap (to make it an authentic Aussie experience, we napped in a counterclockwise direction).

We dined in, sharing our time and hosts with their daughter Ruth and her family. (Thank you Caleb for the thoughts on "The Hunger Games.")

In addition to food, we dined on conversation ranging from school discipline (it's hard to convince the kids that racing their wheeled chairs around the room is inappropriate after teacher spends the first day of class on a scooter...) to why Grover is much cooler than Elmo ("There is a Monster at the End of this Book" anyone?")

A delightful, delightful evening.

Tourism can wait for another day; this one is all about hanging with the natives.

Just my thoughts,