Maine: Closed for the Season?

a closed sign on a road

On the Maine Road

In April this year, I took a trip to the USA. I took two completely different routes: the Fast Lane and the Maine Road.  Three weeks in New York, a city that’s always open and humming, book-ended a five day road trip to Maine, which I discovered, was mostly “closed-for-the-season”.

My plan for Maine was to take in few hikes in Acadia National Park,  do some serious lighthouse spotting and sample authentic lobster rolls in their natural setting. I knew it would be a bit chilly but that didn’t matter after all, spring had sprung!

It should have twigged as I was tried to book accommodation. Most of the AirBnB listings said they were unavailable for the dates I was trying to book. I naively thought they must be just be very busy. I kept scrolling until I found someone taking bookings.  I ignored the small print; “We re-open on April 14th”  I would be there from April 7 – April 11th. A few days shouldn’t make that much difference? Should it?

some peeblesin the foreground and a small lighthouse in the background
Kittery Point – Whaleback Light

Being from the mild subtropics, I didn’t understand how comprehensively closed everything in Maine would be. The larger cities of Portsmouth and Portland were business as usual, but the small beach-side towns in between, were in fact, “closed” except for the local grocers and a few cafes. In the end, this only added to the appeal of an impossibly “Pinterest” worthy coastline which I enjoyed without crowds. My loves for quiet hiking, quaint architecture and lighthouses were well served.  The iconic lobster roll, on the other hand, was well and truly off the menu as a summer only delicacy.

Day 1: New York, New York to Kittery, Maine. (454 km)

Picking up the rental car from Laguardia Airport on a Saturday morning was a good idea. I missed the weekday traffic heading out of the city and I got a better deal compared to getting it in Manhattan. I caught the M60 bus  bus from Harlem and then the free shuttle bus from the airport concourse to the rental car office.

Once on the road, it was a compromise between the scenic coastal route and getting to Kittery before dark.  I headed east through Connecticut and Rhode Island, turned North on the I395 at New London up to Worcester, Massachusetts, then through New Hampshire and finally Kittery, Maine.

Six states in less than a day! Trying doing that in Australia!

My first attempt to photograph a lighthouse was foiled by a gated estate! I could see the Old Saybrook Breakwater Lighthouse on the headland, but couldn’t figure out how to get to it as it was surrounded by private homes and a large golf course with big warning signs!

Old Saybrook
Old Saybrook

The tiny town of Kittery, on the New Hampshire-Maine border is the oldest town in Maine. Already around 5 pm by the time I arrived, I just managed to snag photos of the sun setting behind a bridge that looked just like the Sydney Harbour Bridge (the Piscataqua River Bridge).  My accommodation for the night, a  stylish AirBnB was right on the banks of the Piscataqua River.  I chose to stay on the Kittery side because it was considerably cheaper than the Portsmouth side. An easy stroll across the Memorial Bridge took me into the commercial heart of Portsmouth within a few minutes so no harm done by saving money. I wandered around the quiet streets, looking for food and settled on Fat Belly’s Bar and Grill because it looked friendly and cosy. Turns out they make a mean veggie burger and serve nice cold wheat beer!

Day 2: Kittery to Mt Desert (360 km)

The next morning I headed out for the Whaleback Lighthouse on Kittery Point and  discovered it must be the chicken’s day off!

4 turkeys crossing a road
Chickens Day off?
Slow sign
Good advice – Kittery

My first attempt at a lobster roll was at Lobster Cove, York.

“No, honey” the waitress said, “NOT at this time of year!” Eyes rolling as if I should have known better. No lobster in Lobster Cove?

Empty car parks with massive capacity and tourist shops with boarded windows made it obvious that this town was used to big crowds. I was one of the few who braved the weak spring sunshine and the stiff wind that held squawking gulls in one spot, despite their flapping wings.

Meh…I am not much into shopping and the scenery was still open, so I was happy!

The Nubble Lighthouse at Cape Neddick was resplendent and Ogunquit quaint beyond belief with adirondack chairs chained to scenic spots. The main inconvenience? Closed shops = closed public toilets!

2 blue adirondack chairs near the ocean
Nice view!
a small white cottage and lighthouse
Nubble Light -Cape Neddick

As I headed further north the piles of deep snow became more frequent and I kept my jacket-gloves-scarf-hat combo at the ready.

Old Orchard Beach reminded me of an aging, overblown gigolo with its fairground, ferris wheel and tall-legged wooden pier. The temperature reminded me of Antarctica!

Once again – no lobster roll.

“No Ma’am” pffffft… “only in the summer!”

I made good with half a sandwich and soup. I’d been in America long enough to know a ½ sandwich would be enough!

I picked up groceries for my two night stay on Mt Desert Island and settled in for a frosty night in a old colonial cabin right on the edge of the Acadia National Park.

Day 3: Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor.

Another early start had  me crunching along the snow covered carriageway, past logs dripping in icicles and the rustling of turkeys hidden somewhere in the scrub. Acadia National Park had been described to me as one of the most beautiful parks in America but it was here that my (wilful) ignorance of the seasonal closures proved to be  the most inconvenient.

The Park has a loop road, the majority of  which was closed. I was restricted to a few limited sections. This did not deter me from a long walk around Eagle Lake after jumping a low fence. I had a lingering guilt  that I had not paid the entrance fee suspecting I should have, to someone,  somewhere, even though the booths were closed. I half expected to find my wheels clamped when I got back to the car.

It was sunny and  -6ºC. I was well dressed with thermals, fleecy hiking pants, a merino wool jumper, goose down jacket, woolly socks, two pairs of gloves, scarf, balaclava and beanie.

A woman in thick winter clothing sitting on a fence surrounded by snow
Rugged up in Acadia National Park

This Aussie knew there was no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes! I picked my way through the snow like the Michelin Man,  feeling a tad overdressed when some locals walked past in three less layers than me. After three hours walking around Eagle Lake, I headed into the town of Bar Harbor for lunch. This time I was determined to find the now elusive lobster roll. Haven’t they heard of a freezer up here? Five cafes and another hour later, I settled for – you guessed it – soup and ½ a sandwich.

Day Four: Bar Harbor to Portland. (260 km)

Today was the day for “THE lighthouse”. The Bass Point Light which perches on craggy, often snow covered rocks with frozen waterfalls bedecking the plinth on which it sits. On attempt No 1 I found the carpark alright, but couldn’t find a path down to the rocks below. I figured that you could only reach it by boat. The boat tours, were of course, “closed for the season”. Never mind, I thought,  next time I’m in Maine! I headed off to a nearby town for a warming coffee at Sips Cafe. I told the cafe owner about my predicament and she kindly explained where the path was:

“From the car park, look to your left.  Find the dirt path hidden behind the toilets and follow it down as far as you can go.”

At attempt No 2, THE lighthouse mission was accomplished. Tick!  Another photography subject off the bucket list!

a small light house high up on a rocky ledge
Bass Point Lighthouse

Next, another hike took me around Wonderland followed by the Jordan Pond Shore Trail (Acadia NP) before hightailing it back to Portland for the sunset. Low clouds and a pink sky gave a perfect backdrop for the Portland Head Light at Cape Elizabeth

a white lighthouse on a stony headland with pink sky
The Portland Head Light

My night’s lodging, an AirBnB in Preble Street, was a large, rambling early 20thC  Eastlake and Stick style home, with six bedrooms, several bathrooms,  a pool room, a music room, a huge kitchen and at least three cats. The owner had texted me from Mexico, with the code to open the door and insisted I make myself at home. So I did; by having  a good (but respectful) poke around looking at all the art and artifacts which covered nearly every surface. After a busy day walking and driving I was happy to snuggle up and read a book I had found on the shelf  eating Italian take away with one of the super friendly cats on my lap.   By this time, I had abandoned the idea of lobster entirely and was extolling the virtues of AirBnB via Facebook to my friends back in Oz.

Day 5: Portland to New York.

With a late flight out, I had all day to take in Portland and started off with a self-guided architectural walking tour around the Weston Boulevard neighbourhood before heading downtown to check out the Art Gallery.

Portland, Maine is a town full of beards and while apparently not as Hipster (with a capital H) as Portland, Oregon it certainly had a small h hipster feel to it. The Sisters Gourmet Deli, a case in point. Fabulous food with modern (retro) styling.

Three more lighthouses, the Bug Lighthouse, the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse and the Ram Island Ledge Light finished things off nicely before I headed out to the airport for my flight back to New York.

You’ll be pleased to know, I finally got a lobster roll.  A mini one; as part of High Tea at the Plaza Hotel in New York. It was OK but I’m kinda glad it was only mini sized!

Over-rated; lobster, if you ask me…

As it turns out, the “season” re-opens mid-April, so perhaps it would have been better if I had gone a week later when the Park was fully open. But then I would have missed the ice and snow and the beaches which I shared with those squawking, stationary gulls.  

A large red carved wooden model of a lobster holds an ice cream
Closest I got to eating lobster – Bar Harbor

If I won the lottery.

a photo showing several lottery tickets

I have a confession to make.

I am a gambler.

I spend $AUD18 a week buying Lotto, Powerball and lottery tickets. Every week, when I go to the newsagent to check my tickets, I have that little knot of hope sitting in my belly. Maybe this time?

The $18 per week is the sum total of my gambling vice. I figure I can afford it and it’s a bit of fun so I don’t feel too guilty.  I can justify it easily. I take a packed lunch to work every day. I don’t buy coffee every day. If I did, that would be  $19 per week for the coffee alone! See! The lottery tickets are a bargain!

I have, of course, spent more than I have won. My daughter tells me I buy lottery tickets because of my working class background. Apparently, rich people don’t buy lottery tickets. They gamble in more respectable ways like the stock market or horse racing.

I don’t want to win a lot. $3 or 4 million would be plenty! I certainly don’t want to win one of those super Powerball prizes of $30 million or more! Of course, if I did, I wouldn’t be handing it back, but I don’t need it.

I don’t want to live an extravagant life. You know from my previous blog posts that I try not to be a thoughtless consumer. I just want to be able to quit the day job so I can write, travel and take photos!

I don’t want a buy a mansion with a pool or a pool room for that matter. I don’t want a Maserati. I don’t want to fly first class.  (Hang on a minute, maybe that’s one thing I do want!)

I want to win just enough to pay off my current mortgage, buy a small investment property that I could rent out as a source of reliable income and then have enough spending money leftover for a relatively comfortable and creative life. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

a handwritten note calcualtedhow much I need to win in the lottery.
How much do you need?

Let’s see: with the mortgage out of the way and keeping my living standard at its current level; with a life expectancy of 30 more years, allowing for two overseas trips per year, a new car in 10 years, and a bit of a contingency fund for new appliances and furniture when the current ones wear out or break – how much do I need? A few calculations later and not allowing for inflation or interest earned, I figure I need $2.8 million. Therefore,  $3-4 million is an appropriate goal.

I just need to win!

EASY!

 

Don’t worry, IF I did win the big one, I have it all worked out. I will buy a number of properties that I would rent to lower income families for a very moderate rate. These people would be strugglers. The people Australians call “Battlers”. Honest, hardworking folk who are being left behind in this current housing market.  There would be a catch to their lower rent, however. They would need to agree to volunteer for a community organisation for a negotiated number of hours per week. The time would be dependent on their other responsibilities but they would need to have a regular commitment to being a volunteer. They would do good. They would feel good.  I would feel good! I would need to hire some people to make this happen because I would be too busy writing, travelling and taking photos!

…. and I’d take my mum on a cruise! A long one!

A row of deck chairs. I am lying on one of them
Welcome Cruislings

Fingers crossed!

60 for 60

I like to have challenges and goals in my life. Not crazy big scary ones but challenges that contribute to my physical and mental wellbeing. Things like no (added) sugar for a month, no alcohol for 100 days.

Past challenges have included:

200 new experiences: In 2010, I worked out it was 200 days till my 50th birthday. I was in a bit of a slump and decided to set myself a 200-day challenge. My daily goal was to do something new every day. I wrote a (now private) blog about my progress. The “new” things didn’t need to be big and could be as simple as trying a new recipe. Regardless, some days it was still a struggle, but it took me from a low ebb to riding the crest of a happiness wave as I toured France. You can read a bit more about this challenge here.

I am standing on the top deck of the Eiffel Tower
Celebrating my 50th at the top of the Eiffel Tower

No new things: From June 2017 – July 2018 (the Australian financial year) I challenged myself to buy no new things. There were rules and provisos if essential items wore out or broke down. I wrote about that in this blog post.

Capsule Wardrobe: I am currently trying to do a version of Project 333 (you can read about Project 333 here). I put together a capsule of around 40 items to wear to work for a period of 10 weeks. I have managed better than I thought I would and to date have not worn every piece I selected. I intend to do it again for another ten weeks from October to December.

Run faster: Another current goal is to cut my time for a 10 km run to below 55 minutes. My best time so far is 57:05. I hope to fulfill that goal before then end of November.

IMG_2938
Ta -da 10 km in 57:05 August 2018

Not satisfied with one challenge I am toying with the idea of a 60 before 60 challenge[1]. I’ll be 60 in 2021 and that’s about 32 months away. I am working on a list of 60 things to do before I turn 60. Unfortunately,  I don’t have access to unlimited time or money, so not all the “things” can cost money or involve travel. Each “thing” cannot be an epic adventure! I did think about putting winning the lottery on the list but that’s not a SMART goal or a smart idea!

Here’s my list so far – in no particular order of priority. It’s not sequential and I don’t have to do a particular number of tasks per month. Some activities could be bundled. So for instance I have included sell some of my photos and have a photographic exhibition. This could very well happen at the same time.  I am giving myself till the end of November to tweak it. After that I will print the ideas out on nice cards and move them from a to-do pile to a done pile.

  1. Make a will
  2. Pay extra off my current mortgage
  3. Sell some of my writing
  4. Earn at least $5000 through Old Chook Enterprises
  5. Sell some of my photos
  6. Hit at least 1000 followers on WordPress (help me out here guys!!)
  7. Hit at least 500 followers on Instagram (help needed here too!!) @robynlang3
  8. At least one overseas trip (Choose from Iceland or Scotland)
  9. Go on a another cruise (6 – 10 days)
  10. Learn enough Italian to have a short conversation
  11. Make a 15-minute documentary that gets some success (define success!)
  12. Finish the Buttons story (a sci-fi themed novella I am writing 4 our of 9 chapters done)
  13. Write a screenplay
  14. Finish the Anca story (another short story/novel idea. I published chapter 1 here
  15. Finish the family history story about Sarah Anne Usher
  16. Publish a blog post every week
  17. See an active volcano (I could do this in Iceland)
  18. Go more than 6 months without alcohol
  19. Do a woodworking course
  20. Meet someone very famous.
  21. Go to Broome, Western Australia.
  22. Spend the weekend in Melbourne for my birthday again (I went in 2013)

    Photo 18-05-13 13 30 28
    Melbourne’s Skyline from Brighton.
  23. Use frequent flyer points to upgrade an entire international flight to business class.
  24. Photograph the Milky Way
  25. Buy A Dymo Labeller ( I have ALWAYS wanted one!)
  26. Visit two of the four extremities of Australia (i.e. the most northern, southern or western points of mainland Australia. I have already been to Byron Bay the most eastern point so one down one to go)
  27. Paint the interior of my home
  28. Get new carpet/floor covering
  29. Set up a saving fund for my grandson
  30. Re-read and do the steps in the Side Hustle Book.
  31. Have a photographic exhibition which people actually come to!
  32. Go six months without added sugar
  33. Tidy my garage
  34. Road trip to Broken Hill, NSW
  35. Get a new job
  36. Fly in a hot air balloon
  37. Write up the interview I did with Tracey and sue about the Bibbulmun Track
  38. Go on a really long walk like the Bibbulmun Track in Western Australia 
  39. Visit at least 15 more light houses in Australia. (I like lighthouses and want to see as many Australian ones as I can – there are more than 2000 so it might be a stretch to see them all!)

    20140803-P1350917
    The Little Lighthouse – Wollongong
  40. Day in the life photography series for at least 4 people – follow 4 people in different occupations and photograph their day
  41. Do an extraordinary man series. An environmental portrait project.
    img_1810
    I’d like to do more photography like this – environmental portraits.
  42. Make a soufflé
  43. Set up a worm farm
  44. Donate blood
  45. Do a big >2500 piece jigsaw puzzle
  46. Sell all my 2019 calendars (help me out here too!!)
  47. Publish a 2020 calendar
  48. Do another year of no new things in 2020.
  49. Stop dying my hair and embrace the grey!
  50. Get my first paid article published.
  51. Try being an AirBnB host
  52. Finish a short course in food photography
  53. Publish a cookbook of family favourites with my own photography

    26047095_10208883545160070_6954422108194420441_n
    Dabbling in food photography
  54. Do a short online graphics design course
  55. Do some more light painting (October 2018)
  56. Pitch an article to a real magazine/publication (see point 49)
  57. Do an interview on radio/TV about something to do with Old Chook Enterprises
  58. Create a passwords spreadsheet
  59. Get a new phone
  60. Modify the design and remake the running belt you made. A lycra belt to wear while running that holds my phone/keys and tissues etc. I have already made one but it needs some modifications.
  61. Write a children’s picture book
  62. Win a writing competition
  63. Win a photography competition
  64. Enter some photos in the Royal Easter Show (a big fair in Sydney, Australia)
  65. Go on a writing retreat.
  66. Do another cheese making course
  67. Design some fabric to make some cushions for my home
  68. Have a 60th birthday celebration

There are more than 60 I know. I’d really like a list of around 80 so I can pick and choose based on time and budgetary issues. I also need to decide if I can add and subtract things from the list. What happens if I come up with a really good idea? I think I may have to have a one in – one out rule.

You never know, perhaps I will win the lottery and then all the other bucket list travel destinations can be added for one massive around the world extravaganza!

[1] This is based on Gretchen Rubin’s 18 for 2018 idea. See Her Happiness podcast.cropped-p1430465-612.jpg

On further reflection, I  think I have  exceeded my actual disposable income by about 400% with this list, it’s good to be ambitious but….. 🙂

 

PS: I usually post on Fridays but I am experimenting with Tuesdays to see if it makes a difference to my stats.

Travel values

a red watercan nailed to a white fence

I read an article about how the rise of the global tourist is killing Europe. It described how locals are being isolated and alienated in their own cities as bus loads of tourists arrive with their selfie sticks and cameras. Fresh off the cruise boat they don’t spend much, but they strip the place of its ambiance like a horde of locusts.

Am I a travel locust?

It was a slap in the face that I could not ignore.

A painterly photo of vineyards set in hills.
Winter vineyards in drought

It made me sad to think I could be part of a global problem, after all I have Do Iceland on my bucket list! Am I going to make it harder for the inhabitants? Will they get kicked out of their homes so I can rent a place on AirBnB? Will I be welcome? I have always felt that my tourist dollars were welcome. But at what cost? Sure I add to the local economy, but if it means the locals are unable to enjoy the amenity of their own home to the extent described by this article; I don’t want to be a part of that!

It got me thinking about my “travel values” and my “value as a traveller”. I generally travel solo although I have joined in on small group tours run by the likes of Intrepid and Peregrine. My impact must be lower than a cruise boat which docks with 2500 passengers for a few hours. It must; mustn’t it? I try not to exploit the locals by acting like the rich tourist who barters over the equivalent of 50 cents. That makes me an ethical traveller? Doesn’t it?

A cartoon person with one eye is painted on an old abandoned building.
Abandoned house

It’s time to examine my travel values. Here is an interview with my right shoulder guy (Reggie)  and my left shoulder guy (Louie)

Why do you want to travel Louie? To experience new things and to learn about the world. To increase my knowledge of and therefore acceptance for, people different to myself. To decrease the boundaries between myself and “the other”.

Is that the only reason: Ok so there is a little bit of one-up-manship in there too. Also a bit of vanity publishing as evidenced by this blog. Listen Reggie we want to be famous! This is our fledgling side hustle here!

We don’t have to fly somewhere on a jet and add to carbon emissions to experience something new? That’s true. Perhaps we  don’t. But we have our reputation as a budding photographer to consider here Reggie.

Ahh yes maybe? But Australia is an amazing place! Can’t you take fabulous photos here too? Yes we could but to travel for two weeks around Australia would cost us as much as four weeks in Asia and….

See there you go you are a hypocrite! It’s all about money!  NO! It’s not! I want to be a mindful, thoughtful, considerate, intelligent traveller….

Yeah sure sure you do!

But I actually do.

A green oil drum sits on top of a tree stump and is used as a mailbox.
Roadside mail box on the Mudgee Road

What ARE my travel values?

  1. To do no harm
  2. To meet and talk to the people who live in a place as people not as photo opportunities.
  3. To pay a fair price, not the lowest price.
  4. To take time in one place. Quality not quantity of adventures.
  5. To be active. Walk more, fly/drive less.
  6. To add value by taking less than I give.
  7. To get to know places well.
  8. To make friends.
  9. To reciprocate.
  10. To be a good ambassador for my own culture/country.

My travel slate is clear for 2019 at this point in time. With a serious drought affecting all of my own home state, I think I might make it a year to travel local and see more of this Wide Brown Land. My dollar will do more good here than abroad.

A road sign warning of kangaroos has been altered to show the kangaroo skiing.
Road tripping!

 

Israel – A final encounter.

By now you’ll know I am a bit of an experimenter! I am trying to find the best software to turn some of my photo books into flipbooks for viewing online. This one is from Yumpu. This is the free version. It was really easy to do but the view is very small and I don’t see a way of making it bigger. At present you can’t read the text in the stories but they are in this blog.

I had trouble loading it from my phone.

Sometimes this link works and sometimes it doesn’t! Not much of an experiment was it!

Yumpu fullscreen version

https://www.yumpu.com/s/17ZbnjNa3Dy0YtVR

I’d be pleased to know if any of you have found a better solution.

These photos were taken in January 2018 and are subject to copyright.

Delayed flight leads to writing bonanza

I got an email from Korean Airlines to tell me my flight the next day was going to be delayed by two hours. It was nice that they let me know. It was late on Boxing Day – a public holiday in Australia. Even though I knew the limo company would be closed, I sent them an email “just in case”  to  try and change the time of my airport transfer pick up. Thankfully, they got back to me and we agreed on a new time. Then I got another email from KAL to say the flight was going to be another two hours late. I didn’t want to muck the limo people around with another change so I just resigned myself to the fact that I would be at the airport SUPER early! My pick up would be eight hours before the flight. The transfer company has a policy of getting you to the airport 3 hours ahead of time because of the vagaries of Sydney traffic. It normally takes an hour to get to the airport and then check in, immigration clearance and the security check might use up another hour. I was looking at 6 hours to waste airside before boarding. Sigh!

I stepped out of the minibus and sniffed the air. I love that first whiff of AvGas when you are close to the airport. Apart from the fact you have suitcases in tow, and a passport in your hand, it’s proof you are going somewhere. The heady kerosene-like odour that tells you the tarmac and turbulence are not too far away.

The second clue you are travelling is the queue. As a seasoned traveller (LOL) I sometimes get impatient in these queues and run an internal commentary. Come on people!! You know you need photo ID to get your boarding pass. Get it out of your wallet before you get to the counter.You’ve just been standing in a line for the last 30 minutes watching everyone else hand over their ID. We could be saving about 50 seconds per transaction here if people were ready. What? Repacking your bags NOW? FFS you had all morning to weigh them.

Breathe Robyn! Breathe! You are going on holidays! Just grab a coffee, sit back and watch the people go by.

People watching

The first person to catch my attention is a ¾ age man (you know – older than middle age but not yet old) in his hipster aqua shorts with pineapple print. Then a Russian (judging by the language – Baltic at least) with the close to pornographic photo of two women being ….ah…. friendly… on the front of his t-shirt. I wonder how he got through immigration with that on? The brash, very well dressed Yanks float past in their matching boat shoes, white fedoras and navy jackets.  No doubt on their way to the first class lounge. The mums with toddlers asleep on their shoulders trying to kick their bags along.  They’ve invented trolleys love… I think to myself.

All this, backgrounded by Mariah Carey singing Christmas carols.

I move on, walk around for a while and then get another coffee. I am waiting for my phone to recharge after plugging in to one of the new charging stations that are everywhere in the airport now. No need to sit on the floor and unplug the drinks machine these days. I quickly switch back into people-watching mode. A young woman in front of me is talking on her phone, wearing  earphones,  her free hands are waving wildly in their air. Whoever is on the other end is clearly keeping her amused and she laughs and giggles. So sweet to watch. The young fellow to the right of me is using his phone as a mirror and is picking his zits…Ewwwwwww.

areoplanes through a round window

My phone has 2% to full charge and I still have three more hours to wait.

I listen to the announcements and wonder what happens to those  who are called out as the last people to board? They must have checked in? Did they change their mind and decide not to go? Was there some sort of family tragedy which kept them from flying out? Where they in the car accident that had caused the traffic jam 5 km out of the airport?

More people watching!

There are two African-American guys standing in the line at McDonalds. One has a big guitar like keyboard around his neck and the other has big gold chains, short spiky dreadlocks and gold reflective sunglasses on. They look like they should be famous. Perhaps they are just wankers. A Muslim man walks past with 4 daughters – so many weddings to pay for!

At  noon I decide it’s close enough to beer o’clock and buy a glass of wine which turns into two and hallelujah – it’s time to board.

All in all, the waste of time was productive. I wrote three blog posts. Researched part of a family history I wanted to write and made up character arcs for some of the interesting people who have walked by. Who knows, perhaps I even featured in another bored traveller’s diary.

View across Sydeny airport toward the city

Canada – just like Australia but with mountains and bears

Shot from the lake looking up at a huge waterfall.

I have just finished watching Series 2 of the Handmaids’ Tale.  While the show itself is fantastic, if not a little bleak, I wonder if it was made by the Canadian Tourist Bureau. It certainly highlights some of the good political and social features of Canada! What is doesn’t show us is the beauty.

In 2016 I did a solo travel adventure to Canada. I flew into Vancouver and drove from there to Calgary and then flew over to the east coast visiting Toronto and Ottawa. As an Old Chook travelling alone, I would really recommend it as a safe and fun destination with plenty to see and do.

I have put together this short photo essay on Adobe Spark Page. It’s an experimental post to see how blending these two platforms works. Clicking on the picture will take you to an Adobe page. Then scroll through to look at the photos.

Why would any (sensible) Australian ever want to go to Canada?

Transit through Incheon

RLang4-9
The new Terminal 2 is impressive.

Over the last five years I have boarded a Korean Airlines flight  32 times. That’s 8 trips with four flights per trip. Six times to Israel, once to Canada and once to the States. Travelling via Korea is not always the most direct or fastest route but I have decided to make KAL my SkyTeam as I try to accrue enough frequent flyer points to get an upgrade for an entire trip (i.e. all four legs). I think I have only about 20000 to get!! On the forward journey, flight schedules have meant that I have scored a stopover in the 5-star Incheon Grand Hyatt courtesy of the airline. Sweet!!!!

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Songdo

Despite being in South Korea at different times of the year, I think I have seen blue sky once.  Every other time, whatever the season, there has been a grey misty, smoggy veil shrouding the sky, casting wintery hues on frostbitten grass. It’s a bit depressing. You can stare directly at the pale orange disc of the sun – an unnerving consequence of the pollution.

I wonder if it’s is ever sunny and clear as the shuttle bus to the hotel  passes under a digital sign that lets me know in Korean, there is 3.24ppm of something in the air – particulates I expect. Many people wear face masks.

Reflection of cone shaped buildings in water

I haven’t ventured beyond the airport precinct yet. However en route to Israel, I have had almost  a full day to explore before the next flight.

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Reflective walkers

This short photo essay shows some of the scenes around Incheon and Songdo (the location of another one of the transit hotels).

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One day I hope to stay in South Korea for a few days to have a better look and try some of that Girl’s Big Chicken!

Israel book edits (24 of 540)
Wrapped Trees (RAH from my previous life!)

Yoni and the smelly underpants

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Once again I was standing in a snake-y queue. This time in Sydney, waiting to board the American Express SkyTrain at Taronga Park Zoo as part of Vivid, Sydney. It would take ten to fifteen minutes to get to the front to the line. The family ahead of me was having a great time.

“Ok one… two.. three… say Yoni has smelly underpants” the young man said to the two boys in matching beanies. They giggled and smiled and the young man snapped away with his phone. I turned around and realized, too late, that I was photobombing their family moment.

“You photobombed our family photo!” the young man exclaimed in a theatrical style. He showed me the screen and there I was in the middle of everything. We bantered back and forward.

“Well since you are going to be on our fridge, what’s your name?

“Robyn – and since you are going to be in my blog – what’s yours?”

“Yoni”

“Ahhh ….the one with the smelly undies”

“Yes that’s me!”

As we twisted around another loop he asked “So what do you blog about?”

“Travel, mostly and …and stuff like this” as I waved my hand over his family.

“So you’re a writer then?”

“Mostly a photographer… but I want to write. I’m a teacher.”

“Teachers are awesome. Our mum’s a teacher” Yoni said.

So it’s Uncle Yoni I thought. Finally, we got to the top of the queue. I said goodbye and giggled to myself. Yoni and the smelly underpants.

The cable car door closed behind me and I was launched into the blackness and then the lights started.

The lights of Vivid…

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Australia, land of beaches and sunshine. Hot sun …babes in bikinis… beer in the sun.

That’s the image that comes to mind, even as locals. It’s not always beach weather and we do in fact, have a winter. Compared to the Northern Hemisphere, it’s not much of a winter, but heh… sometimes it can get as cold as 6oC in Sydney! That’s COLD! Tourists come in droves in the summer to sit on our sandy beaches, slap shrimp on the barbie and enjoy our great outdoors but their numbers drop in our winter.

This is (apparently) a marketing tragedy.

Back in 2009, the NSW government decided to try capture more of the winter tourist market. They created Vivid – a winter festival. It started small in the area round Circular Quay. It’s now a huge success. Locals and tourists flock to Vivid in the last weeks of May and early June. In 2017, over 2 million people visited Vivid!

Vivid is now an interactive collection of light, music and ideas. Over the years it has spread out to include more and more of Sydney, Darling Harbour, Walsh Bay and the Zoo. You can find more information here www.vividsydney.com/

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The highlights include the images  cast up on the Sydney Opera House and Customs House as well as the lights on Sydney Harbour Bridge. The Zoo Light Walk is amazing! The ferry ride across the Harbour gives you a great view of the skyline and all its brilliance. I might be a bit biased, but an already beautiful harbour comes to life during Vivid. Sparkling cold water, bright lights and friendly crowds all enjoying a mystical musical wonderland. While Vivid is over for another year, make sure sure you pencil it in for 2019, just pack a beanie and a scarf.

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PS: Yoni, I hope you enjoyed Vivid with your nephews! Good luck in your life. Stay fun! Stay friendly! You gave this old chook something to smile about! If you ever read this please, share my photobombing snap in the comments!

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