Southbank, After WordCamp Brisbane 2017

Southbank, After WordCamp Brisbane 2017

When The Doors Closed on WordCamp Brisbane 2017 –  Southbank Beckoned!

That bittersweet moment, when you are tired enough to want to go home, but inspired enough to want more. A sad farewell to old and new friends and a promise to stay in touch. Only then did our thoughts stray to dinner, and Southbank beckoned. In search of a quick and easy meal, and to ensure the early night we’d promised ourselves, three of us headed across the bridge towards Southbank, on Sunday night.

Crossing the bridge towards Southbank

Looking back at the Treasury Casino from the bridge

The lights shimmering on the river made us forget about food…

….just long enough to capture the beauty of this part of the city.

The Brisbane Wheel gives a birds-eye-view of the city, especially beautiful at night

The shimmer of lights on the Brisbane River was spectacular

Southbank, Brisbane, is a vibrant hub of activity, even on a Sunday night. In search of food, of the quick and easy variety, the splendour of this waterfront corner of the city opened up. Pop-up markets, with a vast array of Asian food, had enticed a large crowd. You would have to wonder if the crowds at the Night Noodle Market were locals having an easy night, or out-of-towners, like us? Either way, the relaxed atmosphere held us captive, for a while. But in need of a quieter atmosphere, we walked on. There are more permanent restaurants along the streets of Southbank, and we found the perfect place. Quiet, warm, peaceful, and enough choices to satisfy all our priorities – even Vegetarian options for me.

The beauty of the Brisbane city night sky

Taking the long way back to the bridge gave us another spectacular light-show

Fed, weary, and in desperate need of rest, we made our way back to our respective hotels.

If Australia WordCamp 2018 doesn’t come soon enough, we’ll look to foreign shores to get our WordCamp fix. The WordPress family comes together at WordCamp, and we can’t wait to meet again.

and
Posted by Maureen in Travel, 2 comments
On A Cold Dark Night, In Brisbane

On A Cold Dark Night, In Brisbane

Compared to its southern counterparts, Brisbane’s winters are mild. But even Brisbane’s mild winters feel cold when you’ve been north of the border for a few years. Besides, I had just walked two blocks from Edward Street to George Street.

Even Brisbane's mild winters can feel cold

Brisbane on a cold, dark night

Why was I walking around Brisbane on a cold night?

Because WordCamp starts tomorrow and the Welcome Drinks were at the Stock Exchange Hotel on Edward Street, and I’m staying at a Hotel on George Street – two blocks away. But it was on the last block, on Charlotte Street, that I realised how nice Brisbane looks at night.

How did we ever manage before we had Smart Phones with great cameras built into them? And how many ‘Kodak’ moments did we miss because we didn’t have our camera with us? In an instant I was poised, iPhone in hand, ready to capture the moments of the night.

Could a tube of superglue be holding this together?

An old facade, cleverly incorporated into the new.

It’s Only A Facade!

I’ve walked along this street many times, and I’ve never noticed that sign on the wall. A quick bit of research has revealed that John Reid & Nephews was an engineering firm. The front of the old building is the only part that’s left, and it has been cleverly glued to the front of the new Telstra Building.  Now there’s a novel use for super-glue.

Open 24 Hours a day

The Pancake Manor

One of my favourite places in Charlotte Street is the Pancake Manor, which is housed in an old Anglican Church. The food is good and it’s open 24 hours a day. Great for  early morning brekkies, and midnight snacks.

The camera is drawn to the lamps like a moth to a flame

The line of lamps illuminate the dark laneway between the buildings

Lights, on a dark night, draw a camera to them like a moth to a flame. I couldn’t resist the neat line of lamps illuminating the laneway between the buildings, that I’m guessing are part of the Treasury Casino.

How long will these old relics survive?

The new and modern, dwarf the old and historical

And who could resist this? As I turned the corner into George Street, the beauty of the old buildings summoned me to go closer. The stark contrast of the old, dwarfed by the new, leaves me wondering how long these relics of the past will survive? Will our grandchildren and great grandchildren wonder what life must have been like in the old days? Will the only link be an album of aging photographs?  I hope not; but, I will capture as many moments as I can, on a cold dark night in Brisbane, just in case.

Posted by Maureen in Travel, 0 comments
China – The Good, The Bad And The WOW!!

China – The Good, The Bad And The WOW!!

Reminiscing – The China Trip – October 2016

Let’s start with the bad

Days on the China trip were filled with great activities, and tours were not to be missed. The very clever organisers (Thanks, Julie and Suzy!) had planned alternating  ‘chill-out’, and ‘out-and-about’ days that provided just the right amount of rest, in between hectic tours. But the one thing that put a damper on our travels, whether it was an ‘in’ or ‘out’ day, was the weather.

Great Weather For Ducks…

It rained! And it rained. And it rained. Not enough to stop us from doing anything, but enough to cover a lot of the photos I took with ‘drops’. Some photos would have been fantastic – if you could have seen through the raindrops on the window of the bus, which is where I took most photos from. There wasn’t enough time to stop for photos at every bridge or building along the way, so I had to rely on my iPhone camera to capture moments as we sped by. This usually worked, but not when the windows were covered in raindrops.

The colours of Shanghai shone through the rainy night

Shanghai, through a rain misted window

But I learned a lot about umbrellas and weatherproof jackets on that trip. Did you know that Starbucks at Zhujiajiao have little bags to put your wet umbrella in? It beats the heck out of water dripping all over the floor because you don’t want to leave your favourite (or only) brolly in the container at the door.

Now That The Bad Is Out Of The Way, Let’s Move On To The Good

Our first big excursion was from Shanghai to Nanjing on the Bullet Train. Nanjing is the capital of the Jiangsu Province and is also known as the Southern Capital, with Beijing being the Northern Capital. The replica of one of Admiral Zheng He’s Treasure Ships, reportedly built in the 15th Century, was amazing. The beauty of the wooden structure conjured up images of ancient seafarers travelling the high seas, risking life and limb. I wonder what they would think of the luxury liners we travel on now?

Sailors must have been brave - back then

A replica of the 15th Century ship

Replica of the 15th Century ship

As old as it is, the design is still beautiful

Shanghai City

Another big day out turned into three big days (and two nights). Shanghai is a big city! There are more people living there than in the whole of Australia (2016).  We didn’t meet them all, but we felt like we’d seen most of them. They were driving on the highways. Nearly all of them! Well, it certainly felt that way as we made our way slowly through the traffic.

The population of Shanghai is higher than Australia in 2016

It was a slow trip through Shanghai traffic

Our accommodation for two nights, while exploring Shanghai, was at the Radisson Blu, a seriously nice hotel. The famous Bund was not far away and a coach was at our disposal to get us around the city, which is just as well because it rained!

Shopping Vs The Harbour

I’d heard the shopping was good at the Bund and was looking forward to checking it out, but we sacrificed shopping for a spectacular view of the harbour at night. The view was the better deal because the rain held off long enough for some great photos.

Window shopping in Shanghai

Shopping in Shanghai was sacrificed for a view of the Harbour by night

The colours of Shanghai Harbour light up the darkness of the night

The lights from Shanghai Harbour on an overcast night

And Now For The WOW!!

One of the highlights of the trip was a day in Suzhou, one of the most popular tourist towns in China. I thought that Zhujiajou was spectacular, but Suzhou was even more so.  A boat ride along the canals of this ancient town exceeded any expectations I had of what China had to offer. It was like looking over the back fences of the neighbourhood. Seeing locals going about their daily chores; kids waving from the pier; barges hauling their cargo. There is no better way to get up close and personal with Chinese culture than skimming past their back door on a boat. It was magic!

Water Towns of China are a must-see

We drifted slowly by the homes of local people

One of the Water Towns of China

One of the canals in Suzhou

There are eight significant Water Towns in China and my Travel Bucket List now includes visiting each one of them. But that’s another adventure, for another time.

Posted by Maureen in Travel, 3 comments
WordCamp Is Nearly Here!!!

WordCamp Is Nearly Here!!!

WordCamp Is Just Over A Week Away!!!

22-23 July 2017

QUT Gardens Point Brisbane

I’m Attending WordCamp Brisbane 2017

The Countdown Is On!

Less than 2 weeks to go and I can hardly wait to get there!!!

  • transport is sorted
  • accommodation is booked
  • iPad and iPencil are fully charged
  • spare batteries – packed
  • camera – packed

Why is WordCamp exciting? Because WordCamp is a two-day conference filled with inspiring speakers, generous sponsors and lots of like-minded people, and because the cost of this amazing event is incredibly low! In fact, you won’t believe how low it is.

WordCamp is about WordPress, and WordPress is probably the easiest website building tool on the planet! WordPress has made the process so easy that even I could do it. You start by downloading the WordPress software script from WordPress.org, and you start building. You can have anything from a simple blog site  – to a money-making online business site. The choice is yours.

When I started on the journey of building a website in 2016, I booked myself into WordCamp Sunshine Coast (Queensland – Australia) for my first WordPress live experience. I was hoping to have a lot of questions answered over the two days – only to discover that I didn’t really have the questions clearly formulated – they were kind of swimming around in my head without any specific words attached. It’s kind of hard when you don’t know – what you don’t know. The one big question of ‘How do I Blog?’ was put on the backburner during the first few sessions at WordCamp, when I found out there are a lot more important things to learn before you get to the blogging stage. First I had to overcome my fear and just start building my sites and start my blog, even though I didn’t really know what I was doing. One of the outstanding presentations at the conference was a successful web designer who admitted her initial fear of building her first website, and how WordPress had helped her gain the confidence she needed to start building sites for others. I guessed the secret was to just roll your sleeves up, get in, and get it done, regardless of the fear.

WordCamp has its own cute Logo (Photo from 2016.sunshinecoast.wordcamp.org)

Why Would You Want To Go To WordCamp?

Because these days, it seems that everyone has a blog. And thousands of people read them! When we are looking for information about a specific topic, we type a word or phrase into our favourite search engine and Oila!, more information than you can poke the proverbial stick at. And somewhere in those search results, we’re sure to come across a blog.

Popular blogs include information about:

  • Shopping
  • Reviews – products/services
  • Travel – where to go/how to get there
  • Food – including cooking information/recipes/
  • ‘How To’ Guides
  • Money Making Ideas
  • DIY ideas
  • Fashion – what to wear/where to get it
  • Self Improvement
  • Health
  • Technology
  • Sports
  • Writing – fiction/non-fiction

Whatever it is that gets you fired up, you could be sharing it with the world, on your own website.

Once you’ve downloaded the WordPress Software, you’ll need a quirky name for your new website. I found the domain name for my site from GoDaddy, one of the sponsors of WordCamp Brisbane 2017, but there are lots of sites offering domain names. You simply type in a quirky name for your site, and if it’s available, you can (usually) buy it for a really low annual fee (you certainly can with GoDaddy). Then, you need to find a hosting company, and there are plenty around at very affordable prices. The hosting company puts your site out there, on the Internet. That’s not very technical, but you know what I mean. It’s what makes your site ‘findable’ on the Internet. There’s not much sense in building a fabulous website if it just sits on your desktop and nobody ever sees it, right? Right! There are lots of hosting companies to choose from, including:

What Does Building A Website Have To Do With WordCamp?

Lots!
When you buy your ticket to WordCamp Brisbane 2017, you are buying access to two-days of top-notch speakers (professional and newbies) who are well-versed in website building and sharing their stories about how they’ve progressed through the WordPress journey – the trials, tribulations and successes. The most inspiring are the ones who had no experience before building their first website and who, through WordPress, have gone on to build a successful blog or online business. Your WordPress site can be as easy, or as customised, as you want it to be.

Over a coffee or lunch, you’ll be able to meet and mingle with the speakers and ask any of those questions you didn’t get a chance to ask in the sessions. You’ll also meet other attendees who are on the same web-building journey as you. Perhaps they have the same interests and can share tips and tricks to save you time and effort in your journey?

You just need an idea of what you want to create and the time to ‘play around’ with the site until you develop what you need. The support provided by WordPress will have you sharing your web-address with family and friends in no time. WordPress online training will help you get started, and then lead you down the road of web-development until you reach your destination – your very own website for your blog – or maybe an online business. You don’t have to know anything about Code (HTML, CSS etc.) to build a website with WordPress. There are plenty of Themes, Widgits, and Plug-Ins that are built in or easily accessible. But I guarantee it won’t be long before you are wanting to tweak your site with a few extra quirky bits. I’ve recently discovered the value of adding a little code here and there, and I’m loving it. When  you know a few basics, it makes the job a lot more fun.

When you start building a website in WordPress, you become part of an extended family. While most earthly families get together over lunch on Sundays, or the family bbq, the WordPress family gets together at WordCamp.

WordCamps are held around the world and provide support and encouragement at every level of your development, in all things ‘website’. From humble beginnings at the novice level, to the most accomplished web-design tools for professional web-designers; there really is something for everyone with WordCamp.

Speakers include:

Just Do It!
Presented by Robey Lawrence
Basically a story about how opportunities can open themselves up to you when you make the decision to overcome your fears and anxieties and ‘Just Do It!’.
Starting from the beginning of how he got into the WordPress centred career he’s in today, by punching his fears in the face and putting himself out there.

HOW TO MAKE GOOGLE LOVE YOUR WORDPRESS SITE
Presented by Kate Toon
In this presentation, Kate will tell you the tips, techniques and tactics that she uses to help make sites 100% Google lovable, including:
The impact of hosting and domain choice
Integral set up steps that boost SEO friendliness
My top 10 Plugins to improve SEO
Easy peasy content formatting
What to consider when offering on going SEO packages

Normally, a conference with such qualified and informative speakers would cost a fortune, but not at WordCamp. Value for money puts WordCamp way out in front.

The Total Cost of WordCamp is just $50!   

What you get for your $50 is:

  • access to two days of informative speakers
  • a t.shirt and lanyard
  • lunch on both days
  • lots of coffee
  • after-party (yes, that includes the Saturday night party!)
  • networking opportunities – you’ll be surprised at the people you’ll meet
  • the opportunity to ask lots of questions of both speakers and sponsors over a cuppa, or something stronger at the After Party

Getting your Swag at WordCamp

Photo from Brisbane WordCamp website

Oh, and there are usually give-aways by the sponsors who proudly put their support behind this fabulous event.

Now, There Are Only Three Things Left To Do:

      1. Download the Free WordPress Software
      2. Start building your website
      3. Get a ticket to a WordCamp near you

      At time of writing – tickets to WordCamp Brisbane 2017 have sold out, but watch the site for a possible release of more tickets – no guarantees – but you might be lucky.

      See you online and at WordCamp!

Posted by Maureen in Travel, 1 comment
The Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal

Our last day in India and what better way to spend it than at the Taj Mahal.

A very early 5am start from our accommodation in New Delhi meant that with a bit of luck, we’d beat the traffic, the heat, and the crowds and also ensure enough time to shower and change before making our way to the Airport for the flight home that night.

It worked!

Agra was a welcome sight at the end of the long bus ride that necessitated a coffee stop along the way. Not exactly Starbucks, but not bad compared to the coffees I’d had over the past two weeks. The tea drinkers loved the variety of teas in India, but sadly, good coffees were not to be found, anywhere.

Before we could get close enough to the magnificant buildings, we had to negotiate our way through the maze of vendors selling guidebooks and a range of memorabilia and souvenirs. As if by magic, a golf-buggy pulled up beside us and we were ushered in for the drive down the boulevard towards the entrance. I had spotted the horses lined up across the road when we arrived and was a little disappointed that we couldn’t be driven down the boulevard in style instead. But the golf-buggy was fine and it delivered us safely into the hands of more vendors close to the entrance. Since I hadn’t packed a hat for the excursion, some brightly coloured umbrellas caught my attention. My stray gaze towards them wasn’t wasted on the seller, who proceeded to pursue me while bartering the price, which had dropped to a mere Rs 100/-  by the time I’d caught up with the rest of our group at the entrance. Money was quickly exchanged and I was assured of a shaded walk around the Taj Mahal.

Once we were through the security formalities we were free to wander, as long as we met back at the gate at the designated time. The thought of having to be at the Airport later in the day for the flight home was forefront in my mind. I’m not the most relaxed traveller when it comes to the day of flying to or from a destination, and being a few hours from New Delhi made me nervous enough to make sure I would be where I had to be, at the right time.

The next few hours consisted of taking photos and just being in awe of actually being in and around such a famous World Heritage site. Words can’t do justice to the age and beauty of the structures.

I  think the Indian Government has it right with the entry fee. Locals pay Rs 40/- and tourists pay Rs 1000/-, although the ride to the entrance is only included in the tourist fee.

The beautifully romantic story behind the design and construction of the Taj Mahal in the 17th Century is far better explained on the Indian Government site than I could recount here. Since photos are not allowed inside the Taj Mahal, for obvious reasons, the following photos only depict the outside and surrounding buildings. And these photos can’t possibly do justice to the feeling of actually being there. If you haven’t journeyed to Agra yet, make sure you put it on your Bucket List and spend a day, or longer, soaking up the history and magnificence of this amazing place. And with incredibly low airfares to India offered by Scoot Airlines, I know I’ll return one day to stand in front of the Taj Mahal again.

And again, a huge Thank You to Mohinder Singh from the Amritsar Diocese for being there for us every step of the way. From meeting us at the New Delhi Station on our arrival from Shimla, to being our guide at the Taj Mahal, and then helping us negotiate a better price for the souvenirs that were bought along the way back to the bus.

Thank You Mohinder!

Posted by Maureen in Travel, 0 comments
Crossing The Border

Crossing The Border

Okay, we didn’t cross it, but we did get to see some European and local travellers, loaded up with backpacks and luggage, who were making their way across the border in one direction, or the other.

Let me go back to the beginning so this makes a little more sense.

One of the highlights of the trip to India was our attendance at the Wagah Flag Ceremony, between the India and Pakistan border, at sunset. Even though the ceremony takes place every day, apparently thousands of people cram into the stadium each time to witness the event.

The flags of each country are taken down simultaneously at sunset and secured for the night, but not without a theatrical performance by each army on both sides of the heavily armed, razor-wired fences that divide the two countries. To say the routine was spectacular is a gross understatement. The thousands of spectators on the Indian side shouted their national pride in chants and cheering, egged on by a white-shirted man at the front of the stadium.  The patriotic atmosphere was felt as well as heard. Behind me, a young boy spontaneously led the chant at one point; just a small single voice ringing out the cry, to be followed by thousands.

The roads were choked with traffic as we approached the border. All modes of transport ferried the crowds in: buses, pedal-power, horse-driven carts loaded with families, Indian version tuk-tuks, and tractors. If it was capable of moving, it was fully laden, with bodies packed in it, on it, or behind it.


As guests of the Bishop of the Amritsar Diocese of the Church of North India (CNI), we were very lucky to be given an escort into the parking area closest to the ceremony, and seats in the first few rows,  giving us an ideal opportunity to witness the event up close and personal.

As we sat patiently awaiting the ceremony, the awe of being on one side of the border, watching nationals on the other side just as patiently awaiting the same event, struck hard. We were in India – they were in Pakistan.  The pomp and ceremony began. The Indian soldiers marched quickly across the parade-ground towards the border gate, in pairs and/or individually, at a very fast pace, and finishing with a high-kick that brought their well-heeled boots in danger of collision with their fan-shaped headgear. This was followed by a shake of fists towards the Pakistan Army in a movement reminiscent of the Haka that we are witness to at any international sporting event involving our Kiwi neighbours from across the ditch. The process was replicated on the other side of the fence by the Pakistani’s, in similarly costumed uniforms. The Indian Army wearing red turbans or black berets, and red fan-shaped headwear – the Pakistanis wearing dark blue. The process was drawn out, to the delight of the crowd who cheered uproariously from the Indian side at each step of the way. The spectators on the other side of the fence were a little more constrained in their show of appreciation of their Army, or maybe it was just that there were fewer spectators.

When the moment came for the flags to be brought down from the top of the very tall flagpoles, on opposite sides of the narrow patch of middle ground between the gates that I assume is neutral territory, the show of pride by the Indian spectators was indescribable – you just had to be there. Caught up in the moment was every other nationality privileged enough to witness the amazing event. Something as simple as lowering a flag had flamed the national pride of a nation.

This well-trained dog joins the cast of Military Personnel in the ceremonial presentation and takes a bow towards the stadium.

The flags are finally lowered and respectfully marched into the enclosure for safe keeping until the morning, when they’ll be raised again at sunrise, albeit, without the ceremony of the previous evening.

If you ever have the opportunity to visit Amritsar, make the Flag Ceremony a priority on your itinerary, but make sure you book through a reputable tour group. Going solo isn’t a viable option for this event if you want a seat, and trust me, you want a seat. The sun was beating down, the dust was thick and the ceremony was long and drawn out. You will also need a hat and water bottle, although roving vendors provided some relief with the sale of water, soft drinks and ice-creams. A fan might also be a useful addition but there will be no shortage of fans, hats, flags and umbrellas thrust at you by hopeful entrepaneurs as you arrive at the venue in whatever means of transport you choose. There were many deals struck through open windows as our bus made its way through the traffic on the way to the gate.

The Flag Ceremony will remain etched in my memory forever and I owe a huge debt of thanks to Bishop Pradeep Kumar Samantaroy and Mohinder Singh for making it happen, and for being there with us.

Posted by Maureen in Travel, 0 comments
Singapore Stopover

Singapore Stopover

Day 2
Arrival in Singapore was as would be expected, with eleven tired bodies making their way from the aircraft to the terminal via the air bridge. Those amongst them who are driven by the need to know where they need to be in advance of getting there, stopped at the first available monitor to check the departure gate against the flight number. As luck would have it, we were very close to Gate 7, our gateway to the flight to India. Those who are happy to saunter along and find out where they need to be just in time to be there chose to use the first bathroom along the way, but I quickly caught up with the ‘need to know in advance’ group.

Having taken care of one somewhat urgent need, my attention turned to the next one: Coffee! On arrival at our designated gate, and with 2 hours between us and the next flight, the travellers flowed away in different directions like liquid mercury, finally free from the thermometer. Jan and I walked to shake off the stiffness in our bones from being cramped into the frugal confines of the economy seats for the past eight hours. The Duty-Free shops beckoned, with their wares tantalisingly displayed. For me, temptation lay in the Electronics stores while Jan found solace in the cosmetics departments, in search of her favourite mascara. In the process of meandering through the relevant stores, Jan found the ideal camera bag to solve a storage problem and I found the coffee.

Two hours disappeared at a rate not found earlier on the long flight. I can’t understand how 120 minutes spent cramped up between the seats on a plane can be so different to the same 120 minutes spent aimlessly wandering through Duty-Free shops and drinking a much-needed shot of caffeine. Perhaps that’s a PhD thesis in the making.

The Koi Garden in Changi Airport

Eleven sleep-deprived bodies anxiously awaiting the moment of arrival in Amritsar, still more than eight hours away have little thought of photography, hence no photos to show for the Singapore interlude. I will attempt to find suitable memories from my time at Changi Airport almost a year ago and supplant them into this blog. We were there, trust me.

Spectacular colour with a Dutch perspective

At the designated time of 1.30am, Singapore time, the weary eleven congregated once more at the departure gate, ready for the next leg of the trip. Again, laptops and iPads were removed, along with little plastic bags containing hand-sanitiser and any other liquid necessity from our carry-on baggage, for the security check.

Scooting off to Singapore anytime soon?

Don’t forget to check out the Sunflowers

Once on board, the weary travellers settled back and waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, there was an announcement from the Captain apologising for the delay that the thunderous electrical storm playing out on the outside of the plane was necessitating. No complaints from me. I was more than happy to be viewing the lightning from the reasonable safety of the ground. There’s no way I wanted to see what those flashes look like up close and personal. But then, seemingly seconds after making the announcement, we started the take-off process. I chose not to look in the direction of the window and was very glad I hadn’t been issued a window seat this time. It’s moments like this that the pre-flight safety presentation starts to take on a much more serious meaning. I made a mental calculation of how futile the whole process would be if we actually made contact with one of those bolts from the sky (lightning) and had to make an emergency landing over water. They might just as well hand each of us a big neon sign with a bull’s eye on it as we evacuated the aircraft, saying, ‘here I am, come and get me’. Still, futile or not, I mentally ran through the procedure so at least I’d meet my end with a full capacity of air from the mask that would strategically drop from the overhead. And the life-jacket might help a bit as well – maybe.

But to their credit, the Captain and crew got us off the ground and through the storm without any problems. I was very glad I didn’t have to put all that safety stuff into action.

When we were safely delivered to the other side of the storm, the meal was served and cleared, and everyone settled down to sleep, including me.  It didn’t seem too long before another meal was served, presumably breakfast, and we were approaching our descent into Delhi. Five hours done and dusted and just one more short flight to our final destination – Amritsar.

The Customs experience was much less impersonal than the Brisbane deal. If anything, it was a much more casual affair with some of us being processed at the counter that said ‘Crew and Media’, manned by a human Customs Officer who sent us on our way with a quick wave of the hand towards the exit barrier. On to the carousel to collect the array of luggage accompanying us, and out into the terminal where we were met by officials of the Church group we were to visit. Waiting for us outside the terminal were cars and mini-vans and local people carrying exquisite fresh flower garlands, which were ceremoniously presented to each of us, along with a very warm welcome.

We had arrived!

 

Posted by Maureen in Travel, 0 comments
Brisbane to Delhi

Brisbane to Delhi

Travel Day 1
6 am – Wide Awake and ready to start the day and the journey.
Coffee, shower, pack the bathroom items, load the car and ready to go.

Way too early to be at the airport, but plenty of time for a leisurely stroll around DFO, Brisbane Airport style. Another coffee, light lunch, then time to deliver the car to Portside Parking on Curran St Eagle Farm where it will be taken care of until our return in just over two weeks. Park the car, sign the paperwork, and into the waiting mini-van for the trip to Brisbane International Airport. The journey has begun.

Too early to check in, but plenty of time to liaise with the rest of the group who would be my travel buddies through India. Lots of photos taken, helpful travel hints shared, reminders about document requirements (too late now if you don’t have your passport), and then on to check-in. Our group of eleven managed to make it through the queue mostly intact, but somehow some of us ended up at different check-in counters. My utmost praise for Singapore Airlines staff who managed to get us all seated and next to at least one member of the group. The fact that we were scattered throughout the aircraft didn’t really matter; we each had a seat. There were a few funny anecdotes post check-in of two travellers at the same counter, mistakenly taken for ‘a couple’ with the apologetic attendant bending over backwards to try to get them seated together until they explained that they weren’t actually ‘a couple’.

Image from Wikimedia Commons: Credit: Nate Cull

The age of automation has seeped into the travel experience.

Apart from a few attendants ushering travellers to the appropriate line to be in, there is no longer a face in the Customs procedure. No-one stamps your passport with the date and name of the city you are leaving behind in search of foreign shores. Now you wait your turn in a line, proceed to a scanner and place your passport on the slide for self-scanning of the photo page, walk up to a pair of footprints strategically placed on the floor, remove hats and/or glasses, and smile for the camera. The trade-off is a much faster trek through Customs, presumably freeing up our very qualified Customs Officers for the more important task of screening incoming passengers, making sure that our country stays safe and secure. That’s it. Done and dusted. You then exit the Customs area straight into the hands of Duty-Free scalpers who think it’s fair game to ask exorbitant prices for everyday items that can be bought in your local supermarket for a fraction of the cost. Travel isn’t what it used to be.

With check-in safely behind us, the next hurdle to be overcome was Customs.

An hour’s wait – long enough to stock up on snacks for the flight – then boarding at 5 pm. The flight was reasonably full, but boarding was executed quickly and very efficiently. Groups, all six of them, were boarded one group at a time. We were in groups five and six. We seemed to be no sooner settled in our seats than the seatbelt sign illuminated and the plane started pushing back ready for take-off. For an International flight, the departure process seemed incredibly fast.

I’m not sure why, but it seemed to be a very quiet flight. The loud-talkers were missing in action, and even the babies seemed to be reasonably settled, with only the occasional murmur. Perhaps the noisy travellers all turned left on entering the plane (otherwise known as Business Class). The movie selection was reasonable and once the meal was dispensed with, most people kicked back to enjoy their choice of latest release or favourite re-run. It was then time for sleep – for those who find sleep comes naturally at 9.30pm Eastern Standard time in Australia. For the rest of us, there were more movies to watch or blogs to write. The night passed uneventfully.  We landed in the city of the Merlion a little before midnight, Singapore time.

Posted by Maureen in Travel, 4 comments
Caffeine Fix(er)

Caffeine Fix(er)

Caffeine Fix in Jeopardy

My morning routine is to put the coffee machine on first, then do all the things that mornings are for, like making the bed, working out what to wear, soaking up the steamy water in a long hot shower, etc.. Then, when all the routine things are out of the way, I make my way back to the kitchen to make the first coffee of the day, and thereby feed my caffeine addiction.  Actually, it’s the only caffeine fix for the day – most of the time.

Last Friday morning the routine was no different until I got to the part of priming the coffee machine ready to proceed to the important step of pouring a double shot of caffeine. The double shot that kick-starts my heart and de-fogs my brain, making me ready for whatever the world wants to throw at me over the next 24 hours.

But disaster struck!

The water refused to pump through the brew head, or whatever that part of the apparatus is called.

I tried it again – nothing! I waited a few minutes and tried again. Still nothing.

As I watched anxiously, awaiting the moment when the golden liquid would pour down into the cup, I kept thinking –  ‘I knew I should have had the machine serviced’. The thought had crossed my mind many times over the past few years and still, I didn’t heed the warning and find someone who could check the machine and make sure that everything was as it should be. And now I was standing before my beautiful Rocket Giotto, waiting, and waiting, and wondering if it would ever work again.

After switching everything off, I Googled: Espresso Coffee Machine Repairer Gold Coast/Murwillumbah, and was surprised to find a repairer who serviced machines from Brisbane to Ballina, 7 days a week. Given how heavy and awkward the machine is, the mental calculation of picking it up and taking it to a repair shop was daunting, which is probably why the service idea had never progressed beyond the thought process.

I phoned Luke at Universal Espresso Repairs and was surprised to find that he would pick the machine up later that day.

All too easy!

Luke Pretki:  owner of Universal Expresso Repairs

When Luke arrived I had decided that the Grinder needed a service as well (trying to be proactive and not suffer the same fate as the Rocket), so I handed over two of my favourite things in the kitchen. I have to admit that I nervously watched Luke carry the Rocket down the steps and out to his van. Every time I’ve moved house – except for the big move back from Central Queensland (CQ) at the end of 2015 – my Rocket travelled with me.  The removalist would carefully place it in the back of my Santa Fe for the journey, and then lift it out at the other end and place it in its new position in whatever kitchen it happened to be moving to. The move from CQ to the Coast was a different matter and I had to trust that the removalists would get it here in one piece – which they did.

Over the next few days, Luke kept me updated on the progress of the repairs.

Assuming there was a blockage somewhere, Luke had checked and re-checked but found nothing out of the ordinary, so he serviced the Rocket and the grinder, and had them both back to me on Wednesday evening, having had to wait for a replacement light for the Rocket. The old one died a long time ago, and while it didn’t affect the coffee making process, it did have a built-in safety feature – it blinked when the water level was low, so it was definitely a good idea to replace it.

Customer service from Universal Espresso Repairs is second-to-none.

Luke brought the equipment in, turned the Rocket on, and then spent ages making sure that everything was working perfectly and showing me how to get the best brew from the Rocket. Having owned a cafe for 6 years, Luke knows about brewing coffee. I discovered that my double shots of the past were high in caffeine but not as high in flavour as they could have been. Instead of filling the shot cups almost to the top, Luke only half filled them in the same time as it would normally have taken me to fill them. This is where knowing about the grind comes in handy. By setting the grinder to a much finer setting, the shots pulled much slower than I would have done – in the past. The shots looked and smelled divine! Before he left, Luke suggested that I call him if I had any questions about the process – from grinding to brewing – and he would talk me through it or call in to show me.

The cost of the service for both items was a lot less than I had expected

I was really surprised, considering that the Rocket even came back nice and shiny. It looked like new again.

Eager to test out the new settings, I jumped out of bed much earlier than usual the next morning to turn on the Rocket. When I made my double shot, only half filling – instead of filling the shot-cup almost to the top, the taste was amazing! It was so good I decided to make a second coffee later in the day (and did the same the next day!).

I’m glad the experts are beginning to realise that coffee is actually good for you because I really can’t start the day without a double shot of caffeine.

Oh, and a big apology to Josh at Re Cafe Nate, my local ‘best coffee on the Coast’ cafe. Now that I have my Rocket back I won’t be coming in every day for a coffee – but I will still be there at least once a week because the coffee really is the best on the coast – and anywhere in Australia for that matter. Not that I’ve tasted the coffee everywhere in Australia, but Bean Hunters have and they voted Josh’s coffee the 34th Best Coffee in the nation in 2016. Not bad for a small cafe on top of a hill, away from the (sort-of) busy streets of downtown. Watching Josh ‘free-pour’ coffee art is amazing; check out his Facebook page to see how it’s done. And even better, call in, and Josh will show you how it’s done. Oh, and watch the board on the opposite side of the road for inspiring messages. The latest one is: ‘A wise man said – “I don’t know – I’ll ask my wife’.  Very wise Josh! – that should earn you a few Brownie Points.

With the Rocket and Grinder back in their respective spots on the bench in my kitchen, and producing the best coffee ever, all is right with the world here in my little part of paradise.

Life is good!

 

Posted by Maureen in Travel, 2 comments
Travelling The World

Travelling The World

When I was very young someone made the comment that I would travel because I had a gap between my two top teeth. Back then, living out of town on almost 20 acres of land, with electricity the only modern convenience we had, I thought the 35-mile journey into Sydney was the ultimate travel experience. Oh, how my life has changed!

My journey’s since then have taken me to:

  • Europe (twice)
  • Penang – lived there for two years
  • Singapore – can’t remember how many times
  • Vancouver – spent almost a year there (2005) and visited in 2016
  • San Francisco – spent almost a year there (2006) and many visits since

  • China – 2 fabulous weeks; fell in love with the Ancient Water Towns

Zhujiajiao

  • India – 17 amazing days, including seeing the Taj Mahal

All of the journeys have been amazing and hopefully, I will be able to expand on each one through the posts on this site.

 

 

Posted by Maureen in Travel, 1 comment
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