Category Archives: Places to see

Vivid Sydney – don’t miss it!

Every year, for about three weeks at the start of our winter (late May – early June), Sydney turns into the “City of Lights” as a festival of light , music and ideas  – known as “Vivid Sydney”  – takes place.

Buildings and walkways around the city are illuminated with various light sculptures, installations and image projections, as well as interactive stations that passer-by’s can engage with.

The historic Rocks area, Circular Quay, the Opera House, Darling Harbour, the City and surrounds host the displays and become integrated into colourful art works around the streets.  Each year the displays and images are unique creations, providing a fresh experience every time.  This year, in 2018, Sydney celebrates the 10th anniversary of the festival, which has grown annually with increasing popularity.

Using public transport is the best way to see the festival if you are travelling into the city, as major road closures occur starting at 6 pm each night as the lights are turned on, with most displays active from 6 pm to 11 pm.  The streets come alive with food stalls, and markets to accompany the light and music shows, while a steady stream of people flow through the illuminated events, sustained by exotic street food.  Infusing buoyancy into every step is the novelty of experiencing an outdoor art gallery made of light, which comes to life after dark.

The route for the light walk stretches for more than 2 km from the Royal Botanic Gardens, past the Opera House, around Circular Quay, and up into the Rocks.  There are major projections on the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Museum of Contemporary Art, and Customs House.  I think my favourite projections are on the Opera House (which is a UNESCO site!) and Customs house.  Here are some photos of Customs House projections from previous years, which transformed the tired sandstone building with new paint schemes for the evening, like Cinderella in her ball gown.

For those of you who want to stopover in Sydney for the night after seeing the displays I can highly recommend the Holiday Inn Old Sydney , as a fantastic place to stay.  Not only is it located in the Rocks, where you will find many of the featured light installations, but it also has a roof terrace and pool, where you can set up a tripod for some great photos and videos of the light show on the sails of the Sydney Opera House.   Here are my photos from a few years ago, that were taken from that roof top.

There is an iPhone app available which provides details of the installations, and the music events for the festival, as well as a map that you can follow on the Light Walk, which takes you around the major installations and projections of the festival.  For more information visit Vivid Sydney

Make sure you have a jacket, because if the wind comes up around the harbour areas it can be a bit chilly at night, and of course, take your camera!   Enjoy.

#travel  #justmeandaboardingpass  #vividsydney  #australia

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Exeter, CA – Outdoor Art Gallery

You will find this quaint town located near the foothills of the Sequoia National Park in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Downtown Exeter is the stage for an interesting outdoor art gallery which features over 30 murals painted by different artists.  The stories told in the murals, found on the external walls of the buildings, are of local history, folklore and culture.

This township grew out of agriculture and cattle ranching developments in the area, and is known for growing the sweetest oranges in the world.

The idea of the murals was born from the need for the historic town to attract attention in the middle of an economic recession.  Some locals came up with the idea of painting the blank brick walls around the town with murals representing historic scenes of life in and around the settlement.  The very first mural “Orange Harvest” was funded by the city government.  Subsequent murals have been commissioned by private companies and even individuals.

Most of the murals are located centrally, within a 6 block grid bounded by Palm and Maple streets, and between F and C streets.  The terrain is easy walking, with level streets and footpaths.

The outdoor art gallery continues to grow, partnered by many speciality boutiques, antique shops and charming cafes  –  a winning combination which attracts many visitors to the town every year.  If you are in the area to see the Sequoias, take a coffee break or enjoy lunch with a view in Exeter.

It is worth the visit to take a leisurely stroll through the streets and see the colourful gallery of murals.

Here is a link to the detail of each mural and the map of the town to help you find them:  Outdoor Art Gallery

Exeter Gateway to Sequoia

 Find out what other travellers have to say at TripAdvisor

The Netherlands – things are different!

Coming from Australia, yet having Dutch grandparents, I’m not a complete stranger to Dutch things.  Growing up, we had Poffertjes, Stamppot, and Braadvlees (– not all at once! ).  We had Krokets, and Oliebollen between Christmas and New Years.  I’ve had my fair share of chocolate sprinkles on bread for breakfast, and I even had a set of clogs to klomp around in at Oma’s house.  I thought the calendar behind her toilet door with everyone’s birthdays written down was completely normal.  I had heard Opa use various colourful language in Dutch when things weren’t going right, and heard Oma say “weet je wel?”  a hundred times on the phone to her friends.

However, when I visited The Netherlands for the first time, it was fascinatingly different.  An amazing juxtaposition of familiar sounds and things in a strange environment.

Here are a few of the things I found interesting on my first trip to Holland:

• Parking stations for bicycles – now this really makes sense, given that there are more bikes in the Netherlands than there are people, or so I am told.  ( I personally haven’t conducted a census or anything).  I know that it is practical and logical and all that, but still – unique!!

• Unbelievably steep stairs – When we arrived at our apartment, with luggage in tow,  we opened the door to go in and  –  there they were!  We just stopped dead.  How on earth do we get up there –  with luggage???  It was like looking at a ladder.  Tiny little narrow tread, steep stairs.  Well, no good standing in the street – up we go.   Mum and I went first.  About half way up, we got the giggles about the whole situation, and we just stood there balanced precariously on these amazing stairs, holding heavy suitcases and shaking with laughter.  Dad probably thought we were going to come toppling back down the stairs, luggage and all, and end up in the street like humpty dumpty.  We didn’t though,  we managed to hold it together and hoik that luggage up the ladder staircase.

Well that was just the first hour or so in the country.  After that, we found that the stairs were actually that steep everywhere you go, apparently space being a premium and all, one doesn’t waste it with luxurious stairs that you can actually place your entire foot on…..

These photos show the stairs in our apartment, and the stairs in the windmill that we went into at Zaanse Shans.  Even the trains have a narrow little step to climb in and out of the carriages with!

• Buildings that lean – Now, after making the herculean effort getting our suitcases up those stairs (mental note – now I understand the wisdom of the phrase “ travel light” ) the first thing we did was put the bags down and look around the room.  Next thing we hear, is the bag rolling across the floor towards the street.  We all looked at each other and cracked up again with laughter.  Turns out the building was leaning into the street, so you walked downhill towards the street, and uphill towards the back of the house.  It took us a while to get the hang of the house, but we thoroughly enjoyed staying in it!

• Wonky buildings that make you think your eyes are playing tricks on you – As we walked around Amsterdam, we saw some other incredibly wonky buildings.  Some leaning into the street, some leaning sideways.  Others looked like they started building and the foundation shifted and the building started to lean, so they corrected the building by continuing on at a different angle.

• Oliebollen to go! – I had been told stories of how you could buy the oliebollen – I was looking forward to finding them.   (Usually if I want to have oliebollen, I have to spend 2 hours making them first!  So this was a complete novelty!! )  Here is the place we found at Zeist on one of our day trips.

Their Krentenbollen certainly were delicious!!

• Febo – krokets in the wall!! – This was truly a ‘wow’ moment.  Again, usually to eat a kroket you have to first stand there and cook the mix, then cool it so you can roll, crumb & fry them.  So to just walk up to a wall full of different things including krokets –  awesome!

• Windmills – Molen –  as intrinsically Dutch as klompen (clogs)

I loved the fact the most of these windmills were built before Captain Cook even discovered Australia!  The Kinderdijk windmill area is a UNESCO world heritage site, and that being a special interest of mine, made it even more amazing for me to finally see them in person.

• Paddocks that have canals instead of fences – An owner of horses at the time, I found this captivating.  We could barely keep our horses in separate paddocks with wire and wood fencing – but canals of water??  What actually stops the animals from going for a swim and escaping??  As we travelled around, I saw this all the time.  Canals of water dividing paddocks, and then just a gate every now and then.  Maybe a Dutch farmer who reads this will tell me how it works!

• Zaanse Schans – aww… this village is all about showing you what it was like in the Netherlands in the 18th – 19th century.  They have houses on canals with bridges that open by hand, a clog making workshop, and cheese making.  There are also windmills that you can go inside and climb up the very steep stairs (ladder) to get to the top (see picture above, re: stairs).  We even saw some hand painted ice skates – the kind my Opa used to have to strap on his shoes and skate along the canals in winter.

The village is easy to get to by train from Amsterdam centraal, and well worth a day trip out to see it.  Here’s the link to the site for more information:  Zaanse Schans

• Bicycles are everywhere  –  no really, they are just everywhere you look.  Either with someone riding them at the time, or chained up to a nearby fence or post.  I saw bikes that had a shopping cart at the front, and many different types of child seat attachments.  I even saw ladies in skirts and high heels riding bikes around ( I don’t have a photo of this, so you’re either going to have to take my word for it, or go there and see it for yourself)

I was wondering if this was the equivalent to Dutch training wheels?

Dutch training wheels
Dutch training wheels

• McDonalds – McKroket  – My sister has this penchant for seeing what’s different in all the McDonalds restuarants around the world.  (Until I travelled with her, I didn’t even know that every country has a different, individual, menu item unique to that country)  So every visit to another country involves at least one visit to McDonalds.  (Not to mention that you can always rely on there being a toilet if not actually in McDonalds, then at the very least, close by!!).  We were so chuffed to find the Dutch menu item was McKroket!!  Yeah!!

• Houseboats  – lining the Amstel river and the canals in Amsterdam are an assortment of unusual house boats.  Originally, these houseboats were a way to deal with the Amsterdam housing shortage, however, nowadays they are in high demand.   Some started out as cargo ships and were converted into accommodation, whilst others were purpose built to be lived in.  They are many and varied, and all completely unique, including greenhouses, conservatories, and outdoor entertaining areas.  There was even a two story one, and one that was constructed with bricks!  Many of these houseboats are available to rent as accommodation for a stay in Amsterdam.

This one even comes with a grass lawn space on the roof!!

• Van der Linde Ijs – we loved this place, not just for the delicious ice cream ( de lekkerste) but also because this is our family name too!

I had a fantastic time and I can’t wait to go back!   See if you can find yourself a deal on accommodation, or even a houseboat,  for your next visit to Amsterdam: Booking.com

Ancient Mycenae & the Treasury of Atreus

Less than half an hour’s drive from the quaint seaside town of Nafplion, you will find the ancient city of Mycenae.  This city was one of the finest examples of Mycenaean culture, inspiring Homer in his epic poems.  A UNESCO world heritage site, with onsite museum displaying artefacts recovered during its excavation, the city is located in the North East  Peloponnese region in Greece.

 

As you stroll around the ruins of the city and look at the remains of walls, grave circles,  cistern, and other structures that have been in place since at least 1600BC, it is easy to connect the site to the legends in Greek mythology  –  of demigods and kings, with their tragic tales.  It is such an ancient place.   Set on the top of a hill, you can see all the way to the Aegean Sea, and for miles across the rolling countryside – a perfect place for a magnificent city.

 

Making your way up the hill towards the city you come to the main gateway:  the Lions Gate.  The massive stone gate is impressive.  I have been to this site twice (both times with my parents), with a 38 year gap in between visits.  It was really interesting to go back and see the place through the eyes of an adult, and compare these to my memories as a child.

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That gate was as remarkable as I remembered it being!

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Climbing up to the top of the citadel you can look down over the site, and across a beautiful landscape with the mountains in the distance.

Moving towards the back of the city, you will find the entry to the underground cistern.  This was built in by the city walls to allow safe access to water for the city residents.  Amazing construction for a bronze age city.

The above photos show what it is like to look down into the entrance of the cistern, and then back up from inside the entrance.  I’m not really a cave loving type of person, and I did find it just a little bit scary.  I congratulated myself on being brave enough to go into the dark cave through the tunnel of rocks made centuries ago ( did they have engineering standards to adhere to back then??….),  and snap a couple of pictures.  Then I scrambled out in a bit of hurry, tripping on the stairs in my haste.

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The second gate to the city is the Postern Gate, which you come to after taking the path that leads away from the cistern.  There are some fantastic views out over the countryside down this side of the hill as well.

The artefacts recovered from the various grave sites show the Mycenaean people to have indeed been “rich in gold”, as Homer observed in his Iliad.  There was a famous gold funeral mask uncovered at one of the grave circles, initially thought to belong to Agamemnon, however this theory was later disproved.  Even so, the artefact is still known as the Mask of Agamemnon, and is on display at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.   Below are a few of the other objects on display in the museum at Mycenae.

 

The tholos, or ‘beehive’ tomb named the “Treasury of Atreus” or the “Tomb of Agamemnon” is a short walk down the hill from the main citadel, and is said to be one of the most amazing monuments of Mycenaean architecture.

When we visited this site 38 years ago, we were on a tour, with a tour guide.  As is their way, the tour guide stops the group outside the entrance and explains the significance of what the group is about to see, and what the possible functions for this site were.  Sometimes it takes the guide a little longer to explain the story than the attention span of a 9 year old can wait.  I started standing on some stones, and oops, one was wobbling and I fell off it.  There was a joke made that the stone had been on that path for centuries, undisturbed until now…..

The use of megalithic elements in the entrance, (can you see the size of that massive stone??) and the relieving triangle above the door to distribute the weight to the posts so the lintel won’t crack,  give credit to the ingenuity of that civilisation.   As do the 33 concentric circles of corbelled stones that line the inside of the tomb ending in a single stone at the top. Once the vault was completed, the masons carved away the stone stepped interior leaving a smooth arching wall.  It is 13m high and leaves you thinking “wow”.

Allow yourself about two hours to wander around the site and the museum, to appreciate the achievements of the Mycenaean people, and to be amazed.

 

Here is the link to the site for further information on admission costs and opening hours:   Mycenae