London – a day out …

2014-10-25 13.54.26Saturday 25th October

For some time now I have been seeing pictures of the “Poppies at the Tower“. This is an art installation entitled Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red which is made up of 888,246 ceramic poppies, one for each British military fatality during World War I.

With the poppies due to be removed soon after Remembrance Day, Lauren and I decided that we needed to so see them before they were gone.

2014-10-25 13.23.46A tube trip into the center of London and then a short walk to Tower Hill. We knew we were in the right place as there were hundreds, if not thousands, of other people all keen to see this amazing spectacle. I don’t think anybody could have been disappointed. Even though the weather was overcast, the colour swept round the Tower flowing through the mote between the inner and outer walls. Each of the poppies have now been sold for charity.

While walking round by the Thames side of the Tower, I noticed there appeared to be a Thames Sailing Barge waiting up stream of Tower Bridge; could it be waiting for the bridge to open? Thanks to a quick Google search I confirmed that the bridge had a scheduled lift in just 10 minutes, and so for possibly only the third time in my life I watched Tower Bridge open.

2014-10-25 14.27.41 - Copy

If you find yourself in this part of London it is always worth checking the Bridge Lift Time.

2014-10-25 14.59.28Having watched the bridge both lift and close, we took a stroll around Saint Katherine’s Dock where we saw Gloriana, the Queens Rowbarge, which had been built for the Jubilee celebrations.

These docks have always held an interest to me as for many years they were owned and developed by my previous employer. To one corner of the docks, facing the river, is a large hotel. When I was a child my father was involved with the hotels construction. It was during a trip to London with my mum to meet him from work that I first saw Tower Bridge lift.

Our next destination was Borough Market. A walk along the north bank from Tower Bridge to London Bridge and then across the river to the south bank. Now London’s foremost food market it has existed since at least 1276. Crammed into a relatively small space underneath the railway tracks, this market is crammed with all things food and drink, from fast food ready to eat, to every kind of ingredient needed to make the perfect meal.


Finally we headed to Carnaby Street as Lauren wanted to visit Johnny Cupcakes, she had seen a T-shirt she wanted, as well as a few other shops around the area. Before heading for the tube and home, we needed to eat. A small restaurant off the main street caught my eye, the Carnaby Burger Company. The food was very good although the tables were a little too close together and the service a little erratic.

A great day all in all, with a number of items planned and several unexpected bonuses.



Australia, Trip 3 – Part 6

A lazy weekend was in order! That was my thought and that is exactly how it panned out.

On Saturday I needed to go into Chatswood to do a little shopping and get my hair cut; regardless of where you are and what you are up to in the world the routine chores of life continue on. That sorted back to the hotel, drop everything off and then out in the car.

So far this trip I haven’t been up the north coast and so I decided a drive, perhaps a walk and some time just relaxing on one of the beaches north of Sydney would be the way to go. From North Ryde I headed out towards Manly Beach. From there I continued heading north enjoying the amazing views out across the golden beaches which are so typical of this part of the country. Not being in any particular hurry there were various detours when something caught my eye or a sign pointed off to a beach that I hadn’t been to previously.

It was a glorious day weather wise and so generally the beaches were busy with surfers enjoying the waves and families having fun in the water or the sand.

Australians are known for enjoying the outdoor life style and clearly the weather plays a part in this, but it still surprised me how many families had taken their lunch or dinner outside and as a complete group were enjoying the day and their time together. Sadly not something you see too much at back home.

2014-10-11 16.13.42At one point, I didn’t note exactly where, I saw a number of people para-gliding off the cliffs. As I pulled up to look one guy was about to launch himself right from the edge of the road! After several false starts he was off, but I am not sure the thermals were as good as he hoped because after I got back from a short walk he was back where he started but this time packing all his gear away.

Continuing north I headed through Dee Why, North Narrabeen, Mona Vale, Newport, Avalon, Whale Beach and finally into Palm Beach the home of the television series Home and Away.

At Palm Beach I parked the car, took a stroll and then just sat and read my book as the sun slowly set over paradise.

2014-10-11 18.46.15-2Sunday was to be another easy day, but this time in Sydney. I needed to get back into the city just to remind myself how wonderful it actually is – not that I really need to be reminded!

No car today, train from North Ryde to Milsons Point.

During my last trip over I walked the bridge from Sydney to MIlsons Point and grabbed some food from a small take away under the approach ramp. Today I intended to do the reverse walk and so decided to have lunch at the same place I had been before. Definitely a good choice, The Seafood and Burger Cafe, well worth a visit!

A small market was taking place in the arches and greens surrounding the bridge and station. I had a stroll and then headed for the bridge itself.

Everybody knows Sydney Harbour Bridge. It’s famous the world over not least for the iconic pictures of the fireworks at new year and to celebrate the Olympics in 2000. It is one of those destinations in the world that is instantly recognised. Although not brave, or perhaps stupid, enough to walk over the highest parts of the bridge, simply walking across at road/rail level offers some amazing views of the harbour, the city and the structure itself. What continues to amaze me is the overall size of the bridge. Not only the height and the length, which are clear to all, but it is wide enough to carry trains in both directions as well as six lanes of vehicles and two walkways – pedestrians one side and cyclists the other.

2014-10-12 13.48.38

From the bridge I walked down through The Rocks, round Circular Quay, past the Opera House and up in to the park. More time sitting, reading and people watching was in order.

While in the park one of the cruise ships which moor up at the international terminal in Circular Quay edged out from the dock and headed through the harbour towards the open sea. These ships are huge, it is difficult to image how they float without tipping over. There seems to be so little actually in the water.

A great, lazy weekend enjoying the good weather and the amazing views.


After such a wonderful weekend out in the glorious warm spring sunshine the beginning of the following week came as such a shock. It was just under 30 degrees C on Sunday but on Monday the temperature had dropped as a major storm approached New South Wales. In my hotel Monday evening I watched the storm roll in. The rain, thunder and lightening were so intense, it was if the gates of hell themselves had opened.

On Tuesday morning heading into the office it was noticeably colder but it still came as a shock to find that roads within the Blue Mountains had been closed due to snow! Pictures were circulating round the office of the maintenance crews making snowmen while out on the night shift.

SnowAs appears to be the way in Sydney no sooner had the storm arrived, it was gone and the last couple of days of my visit the weather was back to its glorious best.

Australia, Trip 3 – Part 5, Canberra

2014-10-05 16.16.10Sunday 5th October, Australian War Memorial

A memorial, a museum and a commemoration of the Australian armed forces from their very early days as a colonial force, part of the British empire forces, through both world wars and on into the modern conflicts and peace keeping roles.

As with so much in Canberra, the war memorial has been given the space to fulfill its role completely. Space to properly commemorate those that have paid the ultimate price as well as to provide an explanation of the work the armed forces undertake and the role they play, and have played, in the defense of both Australia and the world.

2014-10-05 16.16.49

Constructed in an elevated position across the lake from Parliament House, the great dome topped building, housing the tomb of the unknown soldier, can be seen from far and wide.

On entering the monument you go up some steps and out into the sunshine where all the lost are named and then on into the great high building which houses the tomb. Below is the museum. The display halls are so large that one has a complete Lancaster bomber on display as well as 5 or 6 other complete aircraft. In another there is a complete mini submarine, made up of parts from the three Japanese craft which attacked Sydney harbour during World War II.

There were a number of elements which stuck in my mind. A centrally positioned display listing all of the Australian personnel to have been awarded the Victoria Cross and Victoria Cross of Australia, complete with their picture and story. As you would expect a number are very moving; it never ceases to amaze me what some people are able to do in order to protect their comrades.

Another was throughout the museum there were the stories of ordinary service men and women set out in a way that made the displays around you so real.

2014-10-05 16.16.33

My visit ended with the memorials Last Post Ceremony. A very moving reminder of what the whole place was all about.

I had been told by a number of people that the Australian War Memorial would take up the entire day. It did and some. An amazing place to visit; another Canberra “must see”!

Australia, Trip 3 – Part 4, Canberra

Friday 3rd October

It has certainly been a busy week switching between two locations in the Sydney area, Lane Cove and Silverwater, and the system going live on this new project. I have also been suffering from a cold which has been playing havoc with my sleep just as I got over jet lag!

But enough of that boring stuff its nearly the weekend, and better still its a long weekend; Monday is a public holiday – Labour Day – what a bonus!

If you have read my previous posts you will know that I had planned to see either Brisbane or Hobart during this trip. Unfortunately lack of planning on my part and the long weekend meant that there were only limited and extremely expensive flights available; a rethink was necessary.

And so, my destination for this weekend is Canberra – capital city of this great nation, seat of the government and home to the world’s embassies.

It is safe to say Canberra was never on my list of places to see. Everything I have read suggests that it is a bland, functional place with clean lines and square buildings. Not having any of the character or history of the other major Australian cities. As the story goes it was built because the leaders of Melbourne and Sydney couldn’t agree which should be the capital and therefore a purpose built city was constructed.

Having decided on my destination I planned to sort out a hotel and then drive across on Saturday morning. But as Canberra is not actually in New South Wales I thought I should check to ensure I was allowed to drive the Ute I have borrowed into another state. No was the answer! Company vehicles are only insured in NSW.

So now I had another choice to make – hire a car or go by train. Train it is. Booked online I now just need to get to Central Station for 6pm and find the right platform. Its a four and a half hour journey so I am hoping to be in my bed by midnight – if all goes well. That then gives me two full days exploring before heading back to Sydney at a more respectable time in the late afternoon Monday.

Well I found the train in the end. Central station is enormous and so it took a little while, but now I am settled in my seat ready to go. As you get off the Sydney trains you are faced with corridors leading to numerous other platforms and destinations; what you don’t get is very much information. As I had loads of time I thought I would get out of the station, find a bank as I needed some cash and get a coffee. After that, attack the station again!

Now a little refreshed I noticed that amongst all the listed destinations and route maps, a small notice that said something about “Ticket only trains platforms 1 – 5”. Could this be what I am looking for?

Up the escalator and then in through what must have been the original station entrance, I find the platforms I am looking for and even better a sign telling me that the 6:14 to Canberra is waiting on Platform 2. Perfect! Quick Hungry Jacks and find my seat.

Strangely there is no barrier stopping you getting on the train. No ticket inspector, nothing. So I got on, carriage D, found my seat, number 27 and made myself comfortable. I had a window seat which, had it been daylight would have been great. Never mind, this was always about getting to the hotel for a full days exploring tomorrow.

The train arrived in Canberra a few minutes late but certainly nothing to worry about. Only two taxis were waiting at the station, I was third in the queue, but the first driver put a call out and more arrived within a few minutes. I was in my room with a nice cup of tea before 11pm. Perfect.

Saturday 4th October

Unfortunately I woke feeling decidedly unwell. The cold I thought I was shaking off was back with a vengeance. Although it did slow me down a little it certainly wasn’t going to stop me getting out and seeing a few places. On my list, but in no particular order are ….

Finally getting everything I needed for my day together I headed out for the, longer than expected, walk to Parliament House.

2014-10-04 09.50.59Just a few minutes from the hotel I came across something completely out of place – a section of the Berlin Wall!! It was erected outside the German Club as a permanent reminder of the countries divided past.

The Parliament building is enormous. Situated on the top of a hill commanding incredible views out over the city in all directions. Having visited the Houses of Parliament in London, having booked weeks in advance, and experienced the queues and the security, it was difficult to believe that in Canberra you can just walk in. Yes there was security at the entrance, body scanners and x-ray machines, but it was so easy. Through in a matter of minutes I found myself wandering around the near empty corridors and galleries. Both the Senate and House of Representatives were open to view. Although there isn’t the sense of history that you get when you walk around the building in London, particularly Westminster Hall which dates back almost a thousand years and has seen such historic events as the trial of King Charles I, you do get a sense of freedom, space and relaxation which is incredible considering you are walking through the very centre of Australian Government.

2014-10-04 12.00.43

For the second time today I came across something quite unexpected. On display is an original copy of the Magna Carta. The original was signed by King John at Runnymede in 1215, following which a number of official copies were made and distributed around the kingdom. From memory I believe that four still exist of which only two are outside the United Kingdom. Next year being the 800th anniversary of the signing there are a number of exhibitions being organised bringing together the remaining copies for the first time since they were produced. Never having seen this incredibly important document before I had promised myself that I would go to one of the events. Little did I know that I would see one of the few remaining documents on the other side of the world.

2014-10-04 12.01.36The New Parliament building is  an amazing piece of architecture build right into the hill so that when you access the roof you are walking on the grass that stretches right down to ground level at the entrance. I was very impressed. As a statement of confidence in a nation, and the future of that nation, I couldn’t think of anything better.

Interestingly it took a while for the nation to actually feel confident enough to commit to the permanent construction of a Parliament building. The old, or interim, Parliament building which is at the foot of the hill was first opened on 9th May 1927 and continued in use until 9th May 1988 when the new building was opened by the Queen.

The Interim Parliament Building is now home to the Museum of Democracy. It offers a fascinating insight in to the running of Government as you get to walk through all of the main offices from the Chief Whip to the Prime Minister. You are even able to sit at the cabinet table and imagine yourself taking part it a discussion on some key part of the counties business.

2014-10-04 15.20.34On the lawn outside the building is the Aboriginal Embassy. This hut has been in place, in various forms, since the early 1970’s and is now considered to be the official embassy for the indigenous population.


King Billy outside Parliament House

Jimmy Clements, King Billy, a member of the Wiradjuri people, walked for over a week to attend the opening of Parliament House on 9th May 1927. He went there to protest that the building was on the land of his ancestors. A policeman asked Clements to leave, saying he was dressed inappropriately for the occasion. A crowd came to his aid and he remained.

The following day prominent citizens were paraded before the Duke and Duchess of York, including Clements although at the time he wasn’t considered a citizen in his own land! 

Australia, Trip 3 – Part 3, Burragorang

Saturday 27th September

I wasn’t too sure what to do today. It’s been a long busy week and with the addition of some very unconventional sleep partners, it is safe to say I am a little on the tired side. But time spent on this continent is rare so should not be wasted.

This evening I am meeting some of the guys from the office in Sydney for a few drinks and to watch, heaven forbid, a football match! Liverpool v Everton apparently. We will see how long I stay for that.

And so, having looked at the map last night, I chose Burragorang Valley as my destination for a drive out into the glorious countryside.

As with so many of the destinations that I have been to in the Blue Mountains National Park, the sheer scale and beauty only become visible at the last moment. This was very much the case at the Burragorang lookout.

You approach the lookout on tarmac roads through open countryside and it is only in the last mile or so do you become surrounded by the eucalyptus trees which give the region its blue haze and therefore name. As the road ends there is a car park and a short walk to the railings from which the view is truly magnificence. No words that I can write, or the photographs I have included here, can do justice to what you can see from this vantage point high up over the flooded valley and forests beyond.

2014-09-27 12.04.15

2014-09-27 12.24.522014-09-27 12.04.33 2014-09-27 12.03.31

As part of the water purification control regulations access to the entire valley is strictly controlled creating an almost total wilderness, an area from which all but the very lucky few are excluded.

The valley was flooded in the 1950’s in order to create a more secure water supply for Sydney. Although it had been planned almost since the first settlers drifted through the region, it was not until the great drought of 1934 – 1942, when Sydney very nearly suffered a total failure of its water supply, did the orders finally get put in place to dam the river and flood the valley.

2014-09-27 13.44.56

The Warragamba Dam was completed in 1960 just in time to capture the near record floods of 1961. A re-evaluation of potential rainfall and flood risks was carried out between 1987 and 1989 which resulted in the dam being raised by 5 metres and an new auxiliary spillway constructed to the east bank.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post my evening was spent in Sydney watching a football match! Actually the evening was great, first meeting the guys from the office at a bar in Darling Harbour we initially went to Cheers bar on George Street but it was so busy we moved onto the casino which also had a sports bar. A few drinks and lots of laughs, a great time was had. Final score 1 – 1. I left just before midnight which was very opportune as it allowed me to get the last train back to North Ryde.

Sunday – chores! Shopping, washing, recovering from the night before.