Magnetic Island

Captain James Cook named this island in 1770 believing it caused interference with the magnets on board the Endeavour.

By the late 19th century Europeans had settled the island.

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This island has captivated us.

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Simply enchanting in mid winter.

The Caves

We have left our garden, cats and chickens for a short time to travel to Western Australia. This much awaited second trip will take us form Perth to Albany, about a six hour drive, south, staying in various locations in between. Currently, we have nestled into a beautiful bush setting overlooking Bunker Bay near Cape Naturaliste.

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After a track walk to the lighthouse with spectacular views and a fright – a little brown snake crossing our path – recovery, we reached the lighthouse with a further surprise – whales in the distance.

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Our surprises for the day, however, were only to increase.

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Who would have thought a spectacular ancient cave was just down these inconspicuous steps?
As a child I visited some caves in New Zealand but nothing like this one. Ngilgi Cave (pronounced “Nilgi) a show cave which opens up for kilometres! In a classic tale of good and evil, the aboriginal dreamtime spirit of Ngilgi now resides in the caves.

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I can tell you that it was a privilege and a rare experience to spend an hour down in these caves. The air was heavy with humidity but the main chamber was a colossal experience with stalactites from the ceiling and stalagmites as well as straws and shawls – highly recommended.

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If you ever get the opportunity to visit a limestone cave don’t pass it up.

Sydney’s Inner West

A 7:30am flight and in less than 100 minutes, I am in Sydney with Daughter Number Two for the weekend. Luckily, I packed my pink umbrella as the heavens unleashed a torrent as the plane taxied in. A short drive and we find ourselves in Sydney’s Inner West, only five kilometres from the busy city heart. Today’s humid, wet and slippery conditions did not dampen this precincts eclectic mix of fashion, novelty craft stores, tree lined streets, turn of the century cottages and alternative cafes and restaurants.

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Now here’s a question for you. Do you like buttons? If you are like us we are intrigued by their shapes, colours and applications. You would love this establishment!

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Dusty, Little Dog Number Three sat quietly out of the rain. Well actually here he is at his owners’ photographic, dark room and studio. This is their second studio and was once the Department of Civil Engineering building. It’s a great space for their photographic workshops and studio.

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Returning to Newtown in the evening, we ate dinner at a nifty Japanese restaurant where we ordered our meals on an I-pad!

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Hopefully the rain will ease tomorrow – good night – see you in the morning.

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Malta Magic

(Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you. Walt Whitman)

Despite our anticipation of Spring, it has still been freezing and we have continued to light our fire all week. In fact some news reports have shown snow on them there hills! After spending delightful days of sun and warmth in southern Italy, we had expected to return to Winter gone.

My only salvation is to dream of a warmer clime. Perhaps those photos Colin took recently in Malta will do the trick.

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Marsaxlokk and Marsascala

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Leaves of Grass

One of the most exciting things about coming back home is seeing the changes in the garden. We were both very jet lagged after twenty-nine hours in the air, however, our car had hardly come to a standstill when our older cat Sarge, came bounding from behind the camellias with his garrulous greeting! It was after copious pats that I noticed the tulips and the daffodils in full bloom and of course, the grass.

Yes, grass. As much as we loved our Italian escapade: the Medieval towns, the castles, the famous sculptures, the abundant artworks, the historic churches, after a time we found we missed greenery and indeed nature – maybe it was all that stone work. We did enjoy the Tuscan countryside via bus and some yellow roses protruding amongst the monuments, some nice potted containers, a balcony grapevine, many old persimmon trees and vine covered buildings, but we probably needed more back yards.

Now we have come back to our mountain home among the gums trees and the soon to be flowering rhododendrons. Apologies for the cliches! Perhaps the last words should go to Walt Whitman, “I believe a leaf of grass is the journey-work of stars”. I might have to look for that old John Denver CD. Can you guess which image is of our garden?

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Milano Part 2

It really is impossible to see Milano in two days! However, we did a vast amount of walking from our hotel into the centre of the shopping district. As I continue to reflect on our journey throughout Italy, I have discovered many things about traveling with others and their wonderful and varied personalities. (This needs further exploration in another post.) Journeying as a group has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantages of course are that one is in familiar and safe company and have shared similar experiences in special places. One disadvantage can be that these special places can suddenly conjure up feelings that are emotionally overwhelming and quite embarrassing. The second part of our Milan visit did exactly that for me as we entered the grand Teatro alla Scala or La Scala.

I am the daughter of northern Italian and Czech parents with some Hungarian and Swedish influences. Most of my life I grew up listening to stories about life under the Austro-Hungarian Empire – stories of art, music and history. As a child and teenager this was probably the last thing I really wanted to listen to. However, during this visit to the northern regions of Italy, I finally understood the beauty, the art, the architecture and the history. This in turn created an overwhelming link to my ancestors. As we walked in to the grand theatre, the home of opera and ballet, and entered the viewing platform where a rehearsal was underway, I became so overwhelmed by the artistic beauty that I began to cry! Quite embarrassing when one is with twenty other people! Colin was just as bemused by my antics, quickly shuffling me out of sight as I incoherently sniffled into his sleeve, “now I know what my family was on about this place”.

Dating from 1778, La Scala has been home to all the famous operatic and ballet artists. In fact, the museum, also located on the site, reveals the past performers in all their glory: Rossini, Bellini, Toscanini, Maria Callas, Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev and of course our own Dame Joan Sutherland, to name but a few.

In my last post I depicted Milan as a place of self discovery through fashion – a somewhat artificial enterprise. However, it has now become a place where I have found a connection with myself and my ancestral past. Indeed, I will never forget Milano for this gift of understanding. Have you had a similar profound experience of place?

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MI MI MILANO

As a continuation of my previous post, our visit to Milano, the last major city before we left Italy was a mixed affair. The weather was hot one day and rainy the other. The hotel we stayed in was a twenty minute walk from the Duomo and a tee shirt displayed en-route revealed to me what Milano was really about – Mi Mi, the pursuit of the self and all its adornments.

One of the major department stores which we apprehensively walked into was seven floors of glitz, gloss and glut. Called il Rinasciamento, you too could be reborn as a fashion icon, for the right price! We decided what the heck, let’s go right up to the top – the food floor. Anyone for chocolate shoes or sushi train or Moët Chandon and oysters? Wild mushrooms and truffles were readily available, though no prices to be seen.
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The magnificent Duomo was a billboard for famous brands and a perspex kiosk inside the magnificent cathedral sold expensive religious icons. Indeed, Milan is the fashion capital of the world and if one wants to be the first to see what we as Australians will be wearing next winter, then please come to Milan. However, if you want to seek out history, art and opera, then you may need to share your search with the frantic shoppers eager to be swept up by the glamour and irresistible call of the credit card.

In addition, you may like to load your purchases into a Lamborghini, Ferrari or more to our budget, The Twizy. Colin tried it out for fit.

Despite my skepticism, Milano left its mark on me. Yes, ultimately it did come down to me. There was one other very famous venue which had unexpectedly overwhelmed me. Can you guess what that was? I will leave this to the next post.

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