Friday, April 30, 2010

More time at Te Papa

A slow day today enjoying Wellington and some more of Te Papa with so much NZ history. This city is contained within a crescent of land bordered by the sea and hills –its easy to get from one side to the other especially when the wind blows you along. The forbidding clouds stayed away from the city centre today apart from a 5 min shower –not what was forecast but I’m not complaining.

I’m now relaxing in the P1010448 B&B –time to catch up with some work emails and enjoy the William Boyd novel on my e-reader. Its surprisingly good to read that way –and great not to carry ‘real’ books in my luggage. Jeff and Dean have a generous larder and some good wine  -and they did say help yourself. I need to pack again tonight … what will the weather in the Cook Straights be like tomorrow?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Almost blown away in Wellington

Spent the day in this compact city, buffered by the wind from west to east as I exercised up and down its wide streets. The quayside walk has reminders of the first people to land in this harbour and Queens Wharf must have been where we disembarked last time I was here (aged 9).



First job was to book my ferry ticket on Saturday and then it was uphill all the way to the house where Katherine Mansfield was born –now a museum honouring this famous Wellingtonian short story writer. The restoration is impressive given the changes succeeding owners made to the house –it shows how KM and her family would have lived and how much she used the family home in her short stories. It was great to rest my feet and watch a documentary on her life –knowing about her bisexuality and bohemian life as part of the Bloomsbury group gives a new context for a re-read of her stories  


On my way I passed Parliament whilst a demonstration against the war was in full swing –the only thing missing seemed to be any security.

P1010470 My return journey was the opportunity to  visit the beautiful wooden church of Old St Paul’s with its lily and wood polish fragrance. P1010477

Then I needed somewhere to rest (again) and eat. Restaurants here serve dinner early so I headed for one recommended by my Lonely Planet guidebook in Cuba Street. Floriditis’s freshly prepared artichoke chips, pasta and pavlova gave me the energy to climb Majoribanks Street once again. I’m now enjoying the comfort of Jeff and Dean’s sitting room. They’re out to dinner and are leaving for a weekend away tomorrow afternoon so its like having my own apartment -wonderful.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Weds 28 April –Napier to Wellington

Don and Joy saw me safely onto the Wellington bound coach this morning. Joy picked two Nelson College roses for the breakfast table -we are both ‘old girls’ although I was not there very long –thank you Joy for such thoughtfulness.  My time with Don and Joy was very special and has given me some wonderful memories –thank you both very much.  We had great chats about the past and the present. I’m so glad to have a copy of Don’s book to read when I get home and the inspiration of all Joy’s quilts.

The 5 hour journey from Napier to Wellington was very good. We soon left the East Pacific Highway, turning southwest past farmland –at last flocks and flocks of sheep –and finally on a road bordered by the rocky Tasman Sea shoreline. I easily found the B&B I’d booked so many months ago and then headed for Te Papa for another NZ history immersion.


Being Wellington it was very windy so indoors was appealing and this is a museum that could absorb days of my time. Its full of Maori art and there’s lots about the arrival of people in NZ from the very first Polynesians to today’s migrants who are often fleeing their homeland. 


Back at the B&B I met my hosts, Jeff and Dean, who’ve given me lots of tips about what to see in the city and my crossing to Picton on Saturday. Their house is very elegant and its very quiet except for the wind!!! Well worth the climb up the hill to get here.

Tuesday (27th) –last day in Napier

This is my last day with Don and Joy –its been wonderful talking about the time they and my family lived in Golden Bay. Don’s photos and their memories of that time have helped me to remember lots more about those 3 years of my life. We had a gourmet lunch today at the Mission Winery –again some great views and an excellent Sauvignon Blanc. P1010382

Later Joy showed me many of her quilting projects … its great to meet another quilter although Joy’s work is streets ahead of anything I’ll ever achieve.  What I do have now though are ideas and inspiration for small projects to keep me going for a very long time.

P1010404 P1010417

Sunday (25th) and Monday (26th) in Napier


Sunday 25th,April is ANZAC day –nationwide there are lots of ceremonies to recognise the contribution of NZ service women and men both at dawn and, as in Don and Joy’s small town of Taradale just outside Napier, mid morning at the town’s memorial.

The hour long service was very well attended with school children, local volunteer organisations and the MP amongst those laying a wreath. The NZ national anthem was sung in Maori and English. I’ve learnt a lot from Don about NZ’s early history  (he probably taught me some of it many years ago and I’ve forgotten) and about the role that Maori language and culture has here today.  Maori is taught in schools, there is a Maori political party and everywhere I go there are signs in both languages,

On Monday morning I joined several other visitors on a walking tour of Napier’s art deco architecture. Rebuilt after the 1931 earthquake (and subsequent fires which started in local pharmacies) there are lots of sunbursts, zigzags and ziggurats as you would expect but also Maori symbols, some Spanish Mission buildings and a few classical structures.

P1010332 P1010316







The street names are all in the pavements, and the only square cornered building is one that was left standing after the ‘quake being built of reinforced concrete. The city has just been designated a World Heritage site.

Monday afternoon I had a very special visit to the ethnographic store at Napier's museum where Don was volunteer curator for 20 years.


It was a privilege to get close to many Maori artefacts –and to hold one or two of them!!! Like almost all museum collections most of what Don curated is stored due to lack of display space.Thanks to his enthusiasm many private collections are now in the public domain and certain artefacts have been returned to their original locations. I saw greenstone and bone weapons and ornaments and finely woven cloaks hooked with bird feathers and some stunning carving –a truly unique experience and understandably, no photos allowed.

Don is also interested in the history of pharmacy in Napier –it was fascinating listening to how he discovered the pharmacists who’s who through their medicine bottles. His book details that history and the ‘collection’ is displayed at home.


A concert of chamber music completed a wonderful Monday –Mozart and contemporary works by NZ composers played by the very energetic NZTrio.

Returning to NZ

Thank you, Mel, for my safe delivery to Brisbane airport on Friday morning  –I was soon eating breakfast in the Qantas lounge and then taking off for NZ. During lunch I learnt more about the people who are presently migrating to Australia. My fellow passenger was a recent South African immigrant on a business trip to Chile for the mine he works for in Queensland. He wanted his family to grow up in a safer country and with transferable skills from his gold mining experience had no difficulty finding a job in Australia.   

My last visit to Auckland was probably as swift as this one –as a passenger in transit but 50 years apart! I enjoyed the walk between the international and domestic terminals  -perfectly signposted and with a view of the working side of the airport. Friday evening is a busy travelling time so there was some great people watching while I waited for my flight to Napier. It seems from that small glimpse that NZ is a culturally integrated society.

Don and Joy were waiting with a sign as I stepped off the plane –a very sensible idea after such a long time gap. Now I’ve been in their company for a while I can see them as they were when I was a child but I’m not sure I would have recognised them immediately and I’ve certainly changed since we last met!! Don was the teacher in the small school my sister & I went to in Golden Bay and its just wonderful to be with him and Joy again.


Today its sunny in Napier and I’ve already seen glimpses of the town’s art deco and its busy port -lots of container ships and a sign that says Golden Bay Cement, the company my Dad worked for from 1946-49 although nowadays the cement is made somewhere else.


Te Mata Peak is the best way to see Hawkes Bay –the wineries, newly planted olive groves and a wonderful display of autumnal colour. 




There are 360 views of the land positioned above where the Australian Plate meets the Pacific Plate causing the regular pattern of thankfully very small earthquakes (perhaps more earthshakes than quakes) and others of huge significance. The 1931 quake destroyed the small town of Napier and extended the land mass as the sea floor rose by 2 metres. The airport sits on land that was once underwater and only now is it free enough from salt for the plants to grow well. The town was rebuilt in the art deco style as my next entry will show …

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Brisbane city tourist

Wonderful to wake up and see the sun today, I caught the local train to Central Station to explore some of Brisbane. First stop an Aveda salon to get my hair cut –their neck and shoulders massage features wherever you are in the world and felt very good today. Then I explored the South Bank arts complex –museums, galleries and a Hat exhibition that was at the V&A in London some time ago. The displays were set alongside a typical milliner's atelier and some 1940’s and 50’s Pathe newsreels about the latest headwear for the fashionable woman in those days when wearing a hat was much more ‘routine’. In a small side room children were making hats in a variety of designs, colours and materials that matched many of the designer ones on show!


I stopped for lunch at the Gallery cafe only to be joined by an Ibis strutting his/her stuff amongst the tables. Will someone please tell me why I always choose the spot that the hungry birds (and this was a big one) make for … do they know how I feel about them?


The river dominates this city, winding through in sweeping bends with ancient and modern bridge architecture and lighting effects associated with the play of water, clouds and skyscrapers. I stopped in Graceville on my home to buy salad for supper tonight –Mel’s friend is joining us and its nearly time to get cooking. I’m almost packed (again) and ready to travel to NZ tomorrow. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Another movie …

Watched another very good movie, Le Concert, tonight in the Graceville cinema, just a ten minute walk from Mel’s house. Great direction by Radu Mihaileanu and wonderful music. It is the comic and often sad story of a Russian conductor fired for hiring Jewish musicians. Now a cleaner at the Bolshoi, he learns accidently of an invitation to the Bolshoi orchestra to play in Paris, gets together his former musicians to impersonate the real Bolshoi orchestra. He wants a young woman virtuoso to play with them -there’s a back story linking her to him and after lots of obstacles the concert is a great success. If it shows near you do go … My movie watch rate has risen considerably since I started travelling. I’ve resolved to find somewhere that shows foreign films when I get home … there are so many good ones around.

I’ve just caught up with the news that planes are flying to and from Europe once again … so glad for all those stranded people.

More rain in Melbourne

Woke up to heavy, straight rain -just what everyone here wants.  I’m just hoping for a dry day tomorrow when I plan to see some of the city. My lunchtime meeting with IPE colleagues meant I visited another UQ campus –this one is St Lucia. The suburbs here have a wonderful mix of names that tell the story of the origins of present day Australians. Aboriginal mixed in with English, Scottish and all those many other places like Italy and Greece that people came here from. So many people arrived here (and this continues) from somewhere else and if not them, their grandparents or further back.

Its now very humid in the late afternoon sunshine  -the locals are feeling the cold but I’m just fine. I’ve enjoyed a walk around this small suburban town of Graceville with its upmarket shops  including a tea shop -many varieties of teas and coffees on offer and scones and jam. Cakes seem to be a big feature here –there’s a cupcake phenomenon happening at present.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday in Brisbane

08 30: Some great bird sounds as I woke this morning and then a birthday breakfast for Imogen who is 17 today. The humidity is rising and rain is forecast so this will be a good day to be inside giving my lecture at UQ’s medical school. I’ve now downloaded the photos I took on my phone during my tour of the Melbourne gardens where Captain Cook’s cottage now rests after its transportation from Yorkshire. Image048
A bronze of Mary Gilbert, the first women white settler to give birth in Australia, sits amongst the tropical plants in the neighbouring Conservatory. Mary was one of the original settlers travelling on the Enterprise and her son was born in Port Phillip in 1785.
10 15: My lecture at the Medical School went well: a participative audience with interesting questions and a very unobtrusive technician operating the recording equipment. It rained today heavy and straight in middle day warmth -the ground in the local park felt very soggy underfoot when Melanie and I went for a brisk walk . Then we left for a lovely evening with the three girls and their boyfriends at a city restaurant –middle eastern food and Imogen’s lemon drizzle birthday cake for desert.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Melbourne to Brisbane

The start of another week and I saw Captain Cook’s cottage this morning before going to the airport. Qantas are top of my airline list at present –cheerful cabin staff, wide seats and, so far, punctual flights. But I’m one of the lucky ones not travelling to Europe this week! I’m keeping track of the volcano ash cloud and wondering just how long it can last.

From seat 2F I have an aerial view of the land inside the Eastern Seaboard. A patchwork of browns and greens with the occasional town –there should be a name for the colour of those spots of settlements that interrupt the vegetation. Last night’s tv programme about the early settlers of NSW and their relationship with the aborigines has helped me to understand some aspects of present day Australian culture like the Welcome to Country at the conference last week. Now as I look out of my window over Queensland, with the shoreline just in view, I wonder what happened in these mountains when the British marched in and claimed the land? It seems the land was unstitched and parcelled up into a patchwork of ownership by the newcomers.

6 30 pm

We came into land over a patch of  sea with shades that reminded me of pistachio ice cream  -greens, pinks all twisted together. Melanie found me as I walked off the plane and I’m now enjoying her company and that of Hannah, Jessica and Imogen in their home. Its warm and sultry here and I've just passed a frog on the stairs …

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday around Melbourne

Jersey Boys was just what I needed to keep me awake after 2 conference days in Mildura. It was great to be reminded of so many sounds of the sixties -I hadn't realised how many hits Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons had! This morning I headed for St Kilda’s on the 96 tram  -a warm and sunny day so a busy beach and crowds at the Arts Market. 

St Kilda’s is a typical seaside town with one unique feature –a street full of cake shops! The pier was recently damaged, there’s a big effort to raise funds for restoration but you can still walk to the end. Sleeping black swans, starfish and seagulls diving for their supper were all on view.P1010226 P1010233
Back in Melbourne I joined the crowds strolling along the Southbank, another Art Market and lots of entertainers. The cool of  Victoria Gardens was very welcome –a chance for some reading. Books are expensive here but keeping to my travel habit of reading something by a local author I am now well into a Tim Winton novel.
A visit to the State National Gallery on my way back to the hotel finished my day. The highlights for me were the entry water wall, a film of the Japanese tea ceremony and Drape, an exhibition of 20C haute couture. Many of the galleries were empty and the shop and cafes very busy!
I’ve just had a meal in a Greek restaurant –local fish and lager in the third largest Greek city!!!  Tomorrow its Brisbane, and if I can pack quickly, a look at Captain Cook’s cottage.


Two days in Mildura, a Victoria/NSW border town, for a local conference at the Rural Clinical School. I learnt lots about the arrangements for health science undergraduates to gain clinical experience in rural and remote communities and the interprofessional education initiatives in many sites outside Victoria’s metropolitan areas. Dinner on Friday evening was at a art gallery restaurant with an exhibition on The Road.
Mildura is an hour’s flying time from Melbourne, it produces pink salt and once had lots of orange groves. Many of these have been replaced by vineyards -oranges are now imported. The weather was kind, sunny days and warm evenings: it reaches 40C during the summer months so autumn is the time to be there.
P1010217 P1010218
The Mildura Hotel has very spacious rooms, mine included a sitting room with a jacuzzi bath in the corner! The lift was an interesting feature, encased in a wooden box you pressed button 3 for floor 2 and incomplete doors. We decided it was best avoided.
I’m now back at the Marriot in Melbourne for two nights & looking forward to seeing more of the city: meanwhile I'm off to see Jersey Boys.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Exploring Melbourne

A quick and comfortable flight from Sydney to Melbourne this morning and an afternoon getting to know the geography of this bustling city. The free hop on and hop off city tour bus offers the best way to see what there is to see. I stayed on the bus until the Immigration Museum which occupies the old, very grand Customs House building. 


History, the politics of Australian immigration past and present and a personal discovery made this a very special visit for me. My paternal grandmother would have been one of the many who emigrated from the UK in 1928 or thereabouts. She left my Father with his grandparents to start a new (married) life in Sydney as did so many others who came here to Victoria. Reading the stories of people who arrived at the same time as she did was very moving but imagine my surprise when I went on to read about people who arrived in the 1950’s and early 60’s on a ship called the Castel Felice. That was the ship that my Mum & Dad, Beverley, Graham and I travelled home from New Zealand on in 1960! The Castel Felice has a long history, it was refitted many times and in 1956 gained a UK government contract to carry assisted migrants. It took passengers on its return journey to the UK and we were amongst them. I remember my Mum saying that it was not as good as the ship that took us to NZ, the Corinthic, and that we were five of only a few passengers. The museum librarian kindly photocopied some pages about the Castel Felice for me so now I know the history of a ship that I travelled on for six weeks all those years ago … amazing.

P1010211I left the Museum rather overwhelmed –a quiet few moments in St Pauls Cathedral in view of a stunning stained glass window and a long walk back to my hotel past some of the city’s old and new buildings was just what I needed.


Thanks to my Rough Guide  I had a meal tonight in Truck, a local restaurant in a building that was originally a synagogue, at one time housed a Salvation Army centre for the homeless and has also served as a crèche for children of the poor. Tonight it was full of multi ethnic young people reflecting the spectrum of people from other nations who came to live here in the past and others who continue to arrive nowadays. It feels rather wonderful to be in a city that has given me the chance to connect with some important points in my history.

Gershwin at the Opera House -a retrospective!!!

We joined the early evening gathering at the Opera Bar, soaking up the sights and lights around the harbour. Its clearly the place to be on a Friday evening in Sydney –very buzzy, international and great for fashion watching.

The performance was a multi media production of modern dance, tap & ballet with voice synchronised with film … plus Gershwin’s music: so much to watch and listen to. The inside of the building is as good as the outside, comfy seats and perfect sound.P1010092 P1010093

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Goodbye Sydney

Another warm blue sky day and my last trip on the Many Ferry to the city. 

P1010016I've spent most of the day in the Museum of Contemporary Art enjoying the many aboriginal pieces on show and their current exhibition of video installations by a French artist who travels the world collecting live art commentaries from ordinary people. 

Sydney is full of national and international tourists. Stopping for a coffee gave me the pleasure of sharing a table with two women from Melbourne who had some great advice on what to see in their home city and a woman from Rochester. My visit to that city seems a while ago now but it was good to tell her how much I had enjoyed her home city.

I now need to buy some of this hotel’s expensive internet access to publish the last few days of this blog. Then I'm going out to sample some more of the very good fish in a restaurant in the Corso – Manly’s pedestrianised main street where good people watching is also on offer.

Another week begins …

A suburban train ride this morning to the newest campus of the University of Western Sydney for a meeting with colleagues doing a best evidence medical education systematic review. Back in the city after lunch I explored some of the shopping malls; very quickly I felt I could have been anywhere in the world so headed for the more individual nature of Circular Quay where once again I boarded the Manly Ferry. Our 4 pm departure was delayed while the cruise ship that has been berthed all weekend at the Overseas Terminal headed for the Pacific and its next destination. Its been another very warm and sunny day .. fingers crossed it stays that way tomorrow for my last day of sightseeing in Sydney. P1010207

Meeting the Aussie family

A wonderful day meeting my Australian family –Auntie Peggy, half cousins Pam and Barry, and several once removed cousins. 


After a train & replacement bus trip that introduced me to another part of NSW I quickly spotted Pam, Ken and Carley at Sutherland Station with their Welcome Cousin sign. We continued by car along a stunning stretch of coastline; the route includes a road bridge that’s an iconic structure in car advertising.


First stop was Bald Hill where Lawrence Hargrave, an Australian pioneer of flying, is remembered, then I had a tour of Bulli  –the beach is long and sandy and, like some of my family, many of the people who live there work in the nearby coal mines and coke works. At a barbeque lunch I got to know three generations of cousins including 10 month old Aaron and chatted to Auntie Peggy about how much we remembered of our last meeting when I was 12. 

P1010179Pam and I put more pieces in the family tree she is working on, we took lots of photos and then it was south to Woolongong (more great beaches) and finally a return journey to my bus/train via the mountain road. The NSW coastline is certainly one of the most beautiful in the world. Thank you Pam and Ken for being my tour guides, it was so good to meet so many family members –let’s not leave it so long between meetings next time. P1010198

Saturday in Sydney

Sightseeing around Sydney via several ferries: a wander around The Rocks market, then the zoo and finally Watson Bay for a meal at Doyles Fish Restaurant. I have countless photos of the Opera House but every angle is worth another click … and almost as many of Australia’s native animals.

Jill was our guide to The Rocks with its Saturday market full of temptation and numerous cafes. P1010105

Liz and I concentrated on Australia’s wildlife at Taronga; koala's sleeping off their supper,P1010128 kangaroos that allowed us to walk about their enclosure


and a very lazy wombat.


The harbour never fails to provide something to look at from the very small to a cruise ship occupying more than its fair share of space …


P1010154 Our day ended with one of the best fish dishes I’ve ever eaten. Our beachside table meant we could watch the sailing boats dock for the night as the sun finally left the sky.