Monday, October 03, 2005

From Thailand

Hi again,

On the final leg of our trip now. One more sleep and we fly home to Sydney.

Since my last email we have travelled through Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands and finished the tour in France. We stopped in some lovely places along the way. Among the most memorable was the historic fishing village of Enkhuizen in the Netherlands. Wonderful history, top shopping and delicious bakeries! (as if we needed more food!) The harbour is the life centre of this friendly village and fishing fleets still exist. Many tradirtional sailing ships which have been well preserved or restored can be hired to sail the Shallowsea or the Northsea even up to the Baltic. Some of our group took the one hour train trip into Amsterdam. Others, including yours truly hired bikes and cycled around the canals, through wonderful parklands out into the countryside.

Our first stay in France was in Peronne (Somme) - about 196km north of Paris. Close by at Villiers Bretonnaux we visited the Australian National Memorial park of war graves. This memorial is to the Australian men and women of WW1 who after the ill fated Dardonelles campaign in Turkey 1915 took part in the operations along the Western Front - the Somme, the Hindenburg Line and Flanders. The most significent contribution they made was in 1918 to the end of the war by halting the Germans break-through at Villiers Bretonneux on 15 April and liberating substancial terrain in Aug-Sept. A moving and beautifully maintained memorial set in what is now very peaceful and beautiful countryside.

Also we visited the local primary school which was a gift to the children of Peronne from the
children of Victoria (Aust) as proof of their good will towards France. Twelve hundred Aust soldiers, the fathers and brothers of these children gave their lives to the capture of the town from the invaders on 24 April 1918 and are buried near this spot. Attached to the school is a truly wonderful museum set up in the memory of these and other brave Australian men and women who died to forever bond France and Aust in friendship and mutual esteem. In the schoolyard is a very large grren and yellow sign which reads in English 'Never Forget Australia". All very moving.

Right now I email from Chiang Mai. This city is set in a valley surrounded by beautiful mountains which are part of the Himalayan foothills. It is a much more relaxed city than Bangkok. You may have seen recent news report of Chiang Mai being flooded. Although we were moved to a different hotel than we had booked because of flooded roads, there is little evidence remaining of the flood which has closed businesses and markets etc. However about 20 minutes ago the sun disappeared and heavens opened up and now heavy rain is teeming down. Somewhere in the city John is still cruising around on our rented motor scooter. We have had fun riding around the city and to do that without accident is somewhat a miracle. Mind you, we could have caused a few!!

Yesterday we visited the Elephant farm. Gosh they are gorgeous gentle big animals and so well cared for. We all had the elephant ride which was very bumpy and watched the elephants work and have their bath in the river. We were to go river rafting however the river was moving too swiftly. Later we women visited the Thai beauty parlour to be pampered. Couldn't see much difference after an hour or so but we felt relaxed! Of course a visit to Thailand for me would never be complete without the traditional Thai massage. Two hours of heaven - for $18! Last evening John and I took the motor scooter to the Sunday street markets. We ate there and had yet another foot massage. The food here is absolutely delicious if one enjoys Thai cruisine as we do. It seems different to the Thai food we get in Australia - much hotter even though they decrease the amount of chillies for us.

We were awfully saddened to hear about the latest Bali bombings. Savage Communications represents Bali's only international airline - Air Paradise. One of the airline's top men was critically injured by one of the bombs. John of course is in close touch with his client and senior office staff. A very sad situation for everyone concerned but especially for the gentle Balinese people.

Tomorrow we fly via Bangkok to arrive in Sydney early Wednesday. I am looking forward to seeing friends and neighbours again and expecially my gorgeous cat Minkie and Myles' dog Zac. I miss them very much when I am away.
Thanks everyone for your emails. Love hearing all your news.
God willing will see you soon.


Friday, September 23, 2005

From Denmark

Hi again,

Last evening we said goodbye to the gracious Norwegians and their magnificent country when we took the overnight ferry from Larvik to Frederikshaven. The 'ferry' turned out to be equal in every way to the five star Pearl of Scandinavia on which we cruised from Copenhagen to Oslo. In fact our cabins were larger and the duty free shop excellent. Our group anxiously replenished there liquor supplies on board so everyone is very happy tonight!

Since last I emailed we have travelled more stunning countryside over thrilling and sometimes quite hairy mountainous roads. Twice we went through the world's longest tunnel - 24.5kms. One road in particular is very memorable, the trollstigen. Diffinitely not to be missed if you are visiting Norway. On this road one feels they have entered another galaxy - very moon-scapy (if that is a word). The road is a dramatic and exciting experience making eleven swings down the steep mountain from 858 metres above sea level. It crossed the wonderful Stigfossen waterfall and a very impressive old stone bridge which often features in travel broachures. Our drivers
John and Wal are really doing a fabulous job and handling these tricky roads without effort.
We took the famous Flam railway which is the highest in the world. 866 metres of zig zags through valleys; sheer mountain peaks and passing spectacular waterfalls and 20 tunnels in all and of course panoramic views.

Everyone loved the beautifl and unique fishing town of Alusund which was almost totally destroyed by fire in 1904 and rebuilt in Art Nouveau style.

Beautiful Bergen almost lived up to its tag 'it never stops raining in Bergen'! We were very lucky and did have one almost full day of sunshine which was wonderful and allowed us to amble through the famous open markets and take the funicular cbale train up the mountain for a clear panorama of this world heritage listed city. I loved the old tall wooden colourful structures of Bryggen . These too have frequently burnt down and were rebuilt in the traditional style. They now house fascinating small galleries , craft shops, restaurants and museams. Bergen is also known for its music. We visited Edward Griegs beautiful fjoid side home where the composed many of his best known pieces. One of the best things we had in Bergen was a steak dinner at the Big Horn Steak House, being almost fished-out it was terrific!
The weather continues to be kind to us. Yesterday we had a day which alternative between sunshine and light rain. We travelled through some rugged countryside with tremendous waterfalls and swollen waterways. Our farmers would cry if they could see all this water and the sheep and cattle grazing on very lush green fields.

Thanks to everyone who has emailed, it is great to hear from you. I am absolutely thrilled that Sydney Swans are in the Grand final and very envious of those of you who are going to Melbourne to watch the game. Barrack for me too please. With fingers crossed, I will anxiously await the text scores next weekend.

We are going to do this tour again in 2006 and the itinerary is on our website. So it you want to follow our progress on this tour, just visit the website.

We are now in Ribe the oldest town in Denmark and our hotel here was built in 1541 and is of course heritage listed. It has been renovated with all the modern cons which has not spoilt the ambience and old world charm.

Will go now and enjoy some duty free gin before our splash up dinner which I happen to know is wild mushroom soup, roast lamb followed by chocolate cake with three creams. We say everyday we need another feed like a hole in the head but then turn up for every meal!

Until my next missive, take care.

Monday, September 12, 2005

From Norway

Hello Everyone,

Well here we are in Norway which has to be the country with the most majestic scenery in the world.

Nine days ago we flew into wonderful wonderful Copenhagen, Denmarks capitol and the home of Hans Christian Anderson. It is a colourful walking city and so small and intimate it only takes a day to get to know it. On our second day there some of us hired bikes and cycled throughout the city - even through the Royal Palace courtyard past our Mary's house! Of cource we visited the Little Mermaid (and she is very little) and the Tivoli Gardens. We lunched in one of the famous restaurants along the very colourful Nyhavn Canal - a top tourist attraction with prices to match.

We cruised to Oslo on the five star Pearl of Scandinavia - a very regal ocean liner. Oslo is an instant indicator of how the Norwegians enjoy life. The world cup qualifier between Scotland and Norway was played the second night we were there. You can imagine the city was brimming with kilt wearing Scots carrying huge soccar banners who later celebrated their ultimate victory with much merriment. Thank goodness for hotel couble glazed windows. I can also tell you that Scots definitely do not wear anything under their kilts.
There is plenty to do in this city. The nations Vikings history is well recorded in a dedicated Viking Museum which houses the world's best preserved Viking ships. We also visited the Norsk Folkemusuem which is on one the most comprehensive and best presented museum compounds I have ever seen. Another unforgettable highlight of this city is the Vigeland sculpture park. This park features a series of human figures in white granite depicting very stage of human life cycle. Gustav Vigeland was the sculptor - a Norwegian with his own very colourful past.We sipped on hot chocolate as we wondered at the scale of the famous Holmankollen Ski jump. Truly frightening.

From Oslo we ventured to the country side and mountains to travel through the most beautiful unspoilt scenery in the world. We have stayed in lovely hotels in stunning small villages surrounded with snow capped mountains and glistening fiords and waterfalls. We took the famous Hellesylt ferry to Geiranger via the Geiranger fiord - postcard panoramas of breathtaking dimentions.

We have eated the freshest salmon and Norway is heaven on a stick for those who enjoy herrings. Fruit tastes like fruit did when we were kids. Alcolhol is expensive. 60 dollars for a bottle of house wine. 12 dollars for a glass of beer.

It is a fun group who enjoy life and pack everything into their day. We have played cards and danced evenings away. Our Irsih lady has taught us how to 'play the spoons'. Can't wait to play them for you!!

So far we have been blessed with perfect weather but expect to experience a colder climate as we meander north. Tomorrow we move onto Alesund.

I wish you could all be here to share this wonderful journey. I can't tell you how breathtaking it is.

Until my next update - stay well,