Still in the Port…40 days and 40 nights..

40 days in Port Macquarie- it sounds like a movie title. Thank goodness I managed to find a great airbnb close to the CBD with a delightful owner who is happy to let me stay on, so I do not have to get involved with real estate and leases etc. The word is, the apartments in The Bay will not be ready until February when the final paper work and certification will be finalised, so I imagine another 40 days on top of the ‘time’ I am already doing. Port Macquarie was a penal settlement, and a brutal harsh one, so I am definitely relating to that. IMG_8560

The weather continues to be miserably cold and wet . I have been back in Australia nearly 7 weeks and it is middle of October  and I am so glad I packed winter clothes and an essential traveller’s companion-a Hot Water Bottle-how I miss my electric blanket!

The Music scene is really varied and prolific compared to where I live. Bush Gothic an original and bluesy interpretation of colonial/ convict songs played in the first Anglican church, eerily built by convict labour. I could hear their chains rattling as they filed into the upstairs pews.. in fact the concert was called ‘Rattling the Bones of our Convict Past.’The week before it was The Wildwood Blues Festival and this week we had the American tour of In The Mood- a professional and punchy show of music of the swing era. IMG_8555

Another big plus for me is the plethora of tiny boutiques and arty shops selling unique clothing hats and jewellery.  There is far more choice than the in the large shopping centres, which always sell the same brands no matter what part of the world you are in-but you do have to know where they are; they are well hidden.44085523_309870369826596_2598215941451939840_n

The Arthouse Industries runs classes in glass bead making. There are huge angel wings out the front to honour the cancer battle. It was quite relaxing making the beads and now I have my very own glass bead earrings.. it was quite an easy and  calming art form but i did need the guiding hand of Skye to complete the task.. the flame was HOT! there was a moment of panic when a large group of tourists trundled into the shop and stood around watching me take my tentative steps- making loud comments

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Visited the tiny town of Gladstone with its quaint old houses and even more of those trendy boutiques and galleries. We had a delightful lunch on the banks of the Macleay River in the renovated bank manager’s residence. I imagine it was quite a fancy posting, back in the day.

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I am able to walk everywhere living so near to the CBD of The Port- and hardly ever take the car- cafes and restaurants seem to be everywhere-some serving very average food. The top restaurant is The Stunned Mullet-called ‘The Stunned Wallet’ by the locals because of the cost, but the food is excellent.

Having arrived here knowing no-one I have been welcomed by many, and managed to get involved in various groups and dinners..most of which are female dominated. I sat next to a delightful woman who had lived in Brazil- she informed me..

“My last husband was young, black and Brazilian-and that how I like them.” I thought WOW I really like you.

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Then there was quick trip back to The Bay to check on the apartment which sadly is not progressing as well as it should be-who knows when it will be ready. So back to Port Macquarie which was quite a drive. I am feeling like a refugee and my introductory remark is.. “I am homeless” which cause some looks of horror.

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The Port feels a lot more lively than The Bay, but it was fabulous to catch up with a few old pals.

Now the weather has turned and it is HOT in the Port but there are such dazzling beaches and cafes in every nook and cranny along the beautiful coast.. who know how much longer I will be here..and will apartments ever be ready?

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Back to Port Macquarie.

It was a a quick 2 hours down the road to Forster/ Tuncurry and another timeshare at Pacific Palms. This was a very long week -as it is quite isolated and the weather continued its cold streak. It’s very attractive waterways did not compensate for the boredom.  I read lot of books.IMG_8505

The resort did organise a wine tour and thankfully the ‘not boring’ types got involved. The highlight was Vila d’Esta organic vineyards, at Nabiac run by an old Hungarian who called us all ‘DARLINK’..and the wine flowed: none of this thimble full tastings . We all got quite sozzled in the afternoon, and ended up at the Pacific Palms Sports Club for dinner.- in senior style unable to drink any more and wanting to have a nana nap.

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As you can see the gender balance worked well, as it always does in this age group.

It was with great delight that I returned to Port Macquarie , this time to an Airbnb for a month.  Stopped off at The Other Side Art Cafe near Taree by the Ghinni Ghinni Creek, which is worth a stop if you are passing that way. It had a wishing tree and yarn bombed trees, some interesting art and great homemade cakes.

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The fascinating thing for me, in these small country coastal towns-is the great shopping! There are lots of small boutiques with unusual clothing-which is sorely missing from most big shopping centres where the clothes are the same, no matter where you are in the world. Also a fair sprinkling of creative artisans selling unusual jewellery and clothing at markets and small shops.. no trash and treasure here. And.. lots of fabulous bakeries just like in the 50’s! Hmmm the cream buns!

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Back in The Port I was invited to BarCapella in the local pub, which I was more than a bit hesitant about, as choirs have that very ‘uncool’ vibe, although I know many seniors thrive on them. This was the best choir experience I have ever had- well- because it was in a pub and everyone was well lubricated and actually enjoying themselves. There was only one song, and it was not a song from my parents era , so most people were dancing and grooving along.

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I also went to the Chamber of Commerce’s lunch for Bernard Salt, of the smashed avo fame. He did not mention the importance of a large performing arts theatre in a regional town-and for me it is an essential.. The Glass House Theatre is the jewel in the crown at The Port. Apparently it nearly tore the community apart when it was built -it went WAY over budget (40 mill) and the council was sacked! Not a bad start.

Then the school holidays started with the October long weekend-and no daylight saving- another week of waking up at 5.00 am!.. and The Port was crowded. The Wildwood Blues Festival was on at the Cassegrain Winery which attracted an alternative friendly crowd with same fabulous Australian music- except for one group which must have been added to appease the mainly male, heavy metal followers. That was a long bracket.

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It was a friendly happy little event in the Cassegrain Winery-lots of families with young children and a few stoned hippies from the 60’s. It had it all.

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The weather has continued its cold streak,, thank goodness for hot water bottles..the house are not geared for winter at all.

Then today I heard the terrible news that the apartments will not be ready for ‘occupation’ until January to February-and me with nowhere to live in 2 weeks.. not sure what to do..stay here or rent in Kiama. A real dilemma.- – and no Family Christmas in the new apartment..boo hoo. I am so over living out of a suitcase..any suggestions?

 

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HOMELESS…..

After I landed at Sydney after a fabulous flight with AIRNZ I then hopped into my car and drove up the north coast of NSW to Cabarita Beach and BOGANgar…it was a long drive with jet lag and I managed to crash into the back of a stationary truck..entirely my fault.

Serendipitously, I had acquired 3 weeks in timeshare on the North coast of NSW- as even after travelling in Canada for months, my new apartment is still not ready-my house is sold and I have nowhere to live…IMG_8411

Cabarita Beach and Boganagar are just over the border in NSW and is another slice of beautiful Australian beachscape. Sadly it rained all week and it was not an ideal time to visit. My ‘Bridesmaid’ from the old days in Adelaide visited  me from the Gold Coast

Pottsville hosted a vibrant and arty market and i managed to buy even more earrings-and another tarot reading!! My weakness.

Mullumbimby the old hippy township was a tad disappointing- with some very strange vibes , and not in the interesting hippy way. The service was unfriendly and we were told there were only 2 cafes open when we counted 8 in the main street afterwards! Almost a touch inbred?

However we loved Byron Bay which we had assumed would be touristy and kitschy. The vegan food was fabulous and service snappy, but it rained solidly. Wall to wall French backpackers -and this was not high season.

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Murwillumbah had the vibrant Tweed Coast Art Gallery devoted to Margarte Olley’s work, including her dismantled house. I loved her because she never did any housework and her house made mine look anally pristine! The food at the gallery was a rip off and we were served undrinkable wine, by disinterested serving staff who implied ‘Tell someone who cares!!’ The setting is exquisite overlooking the Tweed River.

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Another week and another timeshare, this time in Port Macquarie. I was given  huge apartment with 2 bathrooms and a stunning view over ocean and Hastings River. I checked out Coolangatta with my bridesmaid, before setting off down the coast. There was a busy active vibe there-but I am not sure if I could put up with the humidity.

Wifi has been very erratic and frustrating. Bogangar and Cabarita Beach claim they do not have the NBN connection- the internet only worked between 6.00 am and 7.00 am. All of the timeshares have had 3rd World Wifi.

Port Macquarie has proven to be the most desirable place to relocate to; compared to The Bay- it is almost cosmopolitan. The Glasshouse Theatre has some world class performances, the cinema was showing all the latest art house movies and The Archibald was touring. Underneath my apartment there are restaurants galore and cafes on every corner… and SHOPPING, I have not experienced so many small independent boutiques for women of a certain age, even in capital cities. I have to stop spending.

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Discovered some delightful seaside cafes and eateries-so much to choose from compared to The Bay-

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Port Macquarie is proving to be quite enticing..more my type of town. I am now off for a week in the penal colony of Pacific Palms, which sounds a tad un-exciting and then back to an airbnb for a month at The Port again.

When will my apartment be ready??

PORTLANDIA…Can you tell us about the chicken? Well, his name was Kevin…

“The chicken is a Heritage Breed, woodland-raised chicken that’s been fed a diet of sheep’s milk, soy and hazelnuts,”  But is it local?

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Ahh Portland trendy, hipster and old hippy: and home to the original food truck movement. But it is 72.2% white which makes it one of the whitest cities in USA with some entrenched racism. Oregon had supported Trump, but Portand was fairly left leaning. that was a bit of a surprise.

We stayed at a great Airbnb near The Arts District of Alberta St which was full of wonderful restaurants and cafes. The highlight was the Proud Mary Australian owned cafe which has all the Australians drooling over their fabulous coffee- it was so popular we had to queue–their code for a hot coffee in the computer,  as the waiter told us,,is ‘Fucking Hot’- a bit of ozzie humour. American coffee tastes like burnt dish water.

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Everywhere there are beer and  cider boutique breweries. I am not a big fan but found myself enjoying a few flights.

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We stumbled across a fabulous Italian Restaurant next door to the airbnb and it was superb as well-is there any bad food in Portland? We really enjoyed Italian homestyle food, with very snappy young hipster service…OMG get them to The Bay.

The markets bought out the alternatives but I pleased to say I kept my own , with hipsters admiring my outfit and often my glasses.  ..what can I say..what superb taste. We also had great food at the food carts and managed a bit of retail therapy at one of the biggest book stores in America…POWELLS: they had everything on everything. You needed a GPS to navigate it.

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The flight back to Tech City-San Fran turned into a comedy of errors on Alaska Airlines. After I queued for at least 30 minutes at security, they made us all march out in a huge circle( do not ask questions ma’m) and march past a security dog- I felt like a medical experiment.  Finally got on the plane and the pilot came on with the same crazy story that I have heard many times  before..’We are waiting on some paper work and then the catering.”. Can’t they think of a better line…eg. I think we have really stuffed up. Finally after about an hour they asked if they could have 3 volunteers to give up their seats-and it turned out that 3 seats were broken..but it got weirder. They then made us get off the plane because San Fran was supposedly covered in fog. After another hour we were allowed back on the plane- I did feel a bit apprehensive about who was flying this aircraft, but it appeared that they had just missed their slot for landing because of their ineptitude. Glad to get off that flight.

However after night in Mountain View in Silicon Valley I was sitting in the business class lounge sipping champers-and had a superb flight back to OZ with AIRNZ. Woo Hoo and then a long drive up the NSW coast to Cabarita Beach. There was a slight incident where I crashed the front of my car into a stationary truck due to jet lag…ahhh.

 

VIAGARA FALLS.

Viagara (Viagra) Falls..for the newly wed and the nearly dead, is a favourite saying among the locals in Toronto. Yes it was crawling with tourists, and yes the town is cheap and nasty, but I am glad I saw it. Thankfully we arrived early enough to have avoided the late morning rush.. of Queue Central.IMG_8325

It was on with pink plastic poncho- and then packed onto one of the many boats that plough the waterway. It was spectacular…why people have chosen over the years to challenge the brute force of the falls by dropping over it in a barrel completely amazes me. Why would you do that?-but lots did, and many died.

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However Niagara on the Lake was delightfully cute town about 20 minutes down the road,,and million light years away from the razzle dazzle of Niagara. It was full of art galleries, trendy boutiques and great gourmet restaurants and ‘olde worlde’ bed and breakfasts and small hotels.

Toronto was just another big dirty city to me. I could not do a tour or catch public transport to see the Mennonite Community of St Jacobs and could not score a ticket for the much acclaimed musical COME FROM AWAY which was about the 9/11 flights which were diverted to Newfoundland. So I amused myself by taking the good old hop on and off bus and boat cruise out to the many islands around the city.

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The hotel was big mistake. Accommodation was hard to come by and this place looked super cool and trendy on the internet-it was in a similar location to Surry Hills or Brunswick in Australia. It was an art gallery and each floor had to be locked at night, but the noise was terrible-you could hear every footstep, every door opening and slamming, and conversation, and although the hotel had been renovated in a hipster way they had not tackled the sound insulation- and me being the oldest customer!!! And it had mould in the rooms-or the strong smell of mould-and then my alarm went off twice at 12.15 in the night and I could not turn it off…(who sets an alarm for 12.15?) so I did get an upgrade to a much nicer room with no mould, but right on the main street with the street cars clanging away all night.

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The old brewery area had been renovated nicely and was a pleasant way to kill a few hours before my flight out. Then I discovered the John  Fluevog shoe shop and I instantly knew that this was a sign that God wanted me to buy these outrageously expensive shoes..I had seen them in Vancouver but decided they were too expensive.. What is a girl supposed to do?

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I would not rush back to Toronto unless I could access the interesting surrounds and quaint old villages, and obviously prebook theatre tickets. For me it lacked charm of the other Canadian cities or maybe it was just the pink plastic poncho?IMG_8288

Final stop was Portland Oregon..home to hipsters, food vans and the whitest population in America, and supposedly some furtive Trump voters-quite a few, for such an alternative hip city…

 

 

 

Ottawa..lotta watta.

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‘The City that Fun Forgot’ is one of the many nicknames for Ottawa, being a Capital City … a bit like Canberra. However this is not the case, I really enjoyed Ottawa. This was greatly enhanced by meeting up with friends Marg and Dave whom I met on the Douro River -we were part of the Butter Club in the English ‘Seaking’ Group!!-all paid up members. They were very kind and ferried me around to various sites I had no idea about, and would not have seen on my own.

The MosaiCulture exhibition of plant culture was outstanding and is a yearly event. A huge amount of effort goes into its production and maintenance. It was a special experience and one I would not have chosen to go to on my own. I was blown away by the creative energy and uniqueness of the exhibition.

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I am now on the train heading out to Toronto and it is pouring with rain and very cold and dark..glad I bought those 2 suitcases now. The Canadian trains are very good and certainly deliver a great service in business class at a cheaper price than flying. No dry sausage rolls and tomato sauce here!  I am hoping to get tickets in Toronto to see the much acclaimed show Come From Away all about the passengers who were diverted to Newfoundland after the 9/11 attacks. It has been a sell out and it does not look hopeful for getting a last minute ticket.

We visited Perth in Ottawa a cute village on the outskirts where the local pub was owned by the daughter of my friends, and then onto the summer cottage scene by the lakes. The locals retire to their lake cottages in the warmer months to swim and bask in the brief warm days of summer. The whole area is surrounded by lakes and water, and waterfalls. we stopped off in Almonte another cute town.

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A boat trip down the Rideau Canal was not enhanced by the tour guide who commentated in a high pitched scream switching from French to English at a manic pace. Despite the guide it was an enjoyable amble down the canal. There is so much water everywhere! In winter they skate on the Rideau Canal.

Then i tried the national dish of Poutine…cheese curds served on chips with gravy..not a gourmet delight!

The Ottawa Museum of History had a fabulous selection on the First Nation with masses of totems- I think I am over totems now. Probably had my fair share.

It was delightfully relaxing sipping wine on the balcony of their apartments overlooking Lac Deschenes with spectacular sunsets-almost like being by the ocean. The View certainly rivalled my views to be , if the apartments ever get finished!!

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It was a pleasant change to be in a family home for a few days which broke the pace of solitary travel. I am now at the other end of the spectrum and staying at a super hipster Art Hotel which is noisy and expensive, in Toronto. But all so cool if you are under 30.

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RETURN TO MONTREAL.

The return cruise was NOT as enjoyable as a solo traveller. There were large family groups of assorted ages who did not feel the need to communicate with a solo Australian and so I found it isolating. Normally I am very confident in these situations, and there were very few Australians on board, but lots of Southern Trump voters, not perfect sailing conditions. These are the last group of friendly Ozzie travellers on the first cruise.

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Strangely enough there were few solo men who were widowers, but they kept crying into their beer, and were Trump voting right wing Christians, so not a lot of magic there. I also had huge computer hassles as Microsoft thought my new Macbook Air had been stolen as I kept logging in at different locations on dodgy public wifi. So I had to repeatedly change my password using phrases like’ thisgivesmetheshits etc’ until they totally denied me access!!ahhhh. It is impossible to contact Microsoft personally..there is just a computer on the phone or online..a quick visit in Halifax to the Apple store seemed to resolve some of the issues.

fullsizeoutput_173The weather had become cold and wet after we left Bar Harbor in Maine and Halifax -and me with 2 suitcases, one filled with summer clothes which I hardly wore. the other filled with evening wear- and the dress code on the boast was very casual, but it was supposed to have 2 formal nights. I could have managed with 1 suitcase, but I still have another 6 weeks of travelling!! But I dressed for dinner every night!!I showed them thar Southerners a thing or two.

In Sydney Nova Scotia, which still retains strong Scottish/Celtic culture we went to a Highland Village past the Bras d’Or Lakes on the Cabot Trail. Gaelic is still spoken. this part of Nova Scotia is very beautiful.

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Then onto the town of Baddeck where Alexander Graham Bell did his thing and rang a few bells. Hi wife was deaf (her name was ding dong) and he was also involved in inventing phonics for the deaf and building other strange machine and planes. A very interesting man who loved the Bras d’Or Lakes and the town of Baddeck, as it reminded him of Scotland. It was a bit windy by the lake.

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There was a huge POW WOW in Charlottetown. It is always fabulous when you accidentally find these happenings..the drums were beating all day. There was a sense of pride which has just resurrected after the scourge of the Residential Schools where their culture was beaten out of them.

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In Quebec I visited the Wendake First Nation Reservation our guides were blonde haired and blue eyed. I wanted my money back! What sort of Injun are ya? They lived in long houses and were allied of the French.

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Quebec was warm  and not so crowded as on my first visit. i was delighted that the cruise was over..I am definitely not a “cruise’ person. I was the first one off the ship and onto the train to Ottawa.

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