winter

Fall!

Fall!

Here in Australia, we call it Autumn, not Fall. And where I live, there are no extreme differences between any of the seasons. Autumn is recognisable by the array of leaves on the ground, and being able to sleep comfortably at night for the first time in months. And yes, Autumn does signal colder days to come, but nothing like the cold days of the Northern Hemisphere.

An Autumn day in Brisbane

In some parts of Australia, like Central Queensland (CQ), there are seemingly only two seasons: Hot and Cold. But in Melbourne, you can have all four seasons in one day (or, so the saying goes…).

Kids Don’t Feel The Cold!

Out in Central Queensland, it would be hot one day, and then cold the next. That’s how you would know it was winter. Autumn had been by-passed – there was no in-between. Just hot, and cold. I’m not talking – Northern Hemisphere big-heavy-coat-cold, just an extra-layer-of-jumper cold.

When I was teaching in Queensland, the only sign of winter, as demonstrated by most of the students, was the addition of a jumper (sweater) early in the morning. They still wore shorts! Some of them would pass an occasional remark about how cold it was, but didn’t connect wearing shorts, to feeling cold. Long pants seemingly got in the way of running fast at recess. And by lunchtime, the jumper would either be safely stowed in their bag or lost in the playground; usually the latter.

A beautiful Autumn day in Murwillumbah NSW

Cold One Day – Hot The Next

And the reverse occurred at the other end of the season. Cold one day, and hot the next. The only sign of Spring was the emergence of new buds on trees. But temperature-wise? – hot!

Spring has sprung, here in Murwillumbah

I can’t account for other parts of Australia because my experience is limited (mostly) to Queensland and the northern end of New South Wales. However – there are places in Southern parts of our beautiful Australian landscape that apparently have distinct seasons. Trees put on seasonal colours that are seemingly spectacular, and the early morning chill creeps in and warns of colder days to come. Nice places to visit – but I wouldn’t want to live there.

The Beautiful Fall Colours of Boston

Speaking of nice places to visit, one of the most memorable journeys I have taken, was Boston US, in November. I was mesmerised by the beauty of the Fall colours. A travel-buddy that I had met while on the cruise from Southampton UK, shared my enthusiasm. On a bus from the cruise ship, to and from Salem, we must have driven the Fall-hardened passengers crazy. We (two Aussies) darted from one side of the bus to the other, cameras poised, trying to capture every golden leaf along the way. It was spectacular!

This photo doesn’t do justice to the beauty of the Fall trees in Boston 
Or this one….

Do we have spectacular Autumns (Falls) here in Australia? Yes! But not where I live. Beautiful – yes – but not Boston-type spectacular. Would I swap where I live for a place that has distinct seasons? Probably not. I love the way our seasons just ease gently into each other here in Northern New South Wales.

Oh, and yes, I did turn my heater on last winter – about three times, I think. And only for about an hour each time.

And that’s the way I like it!

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Posted by Maureen in Blogging, Travel, 14 comments
Day 10 – UBC – 10 Shades of Winter

Day 10 – UBC – 10 Shades of Winter

Bears hibernate in winter, and so do I. At the end of Autumn I snuggle under a thick blanket, and I don’t peep out from under the covers until the first signs of Spring. While the 10 shades of winter are making their presence felt outside, I stay inside, where it is snug and warm.

The 10 Shades of Winter!

  1. cold!
  2. naked trees (barely a leaf in sight)
  3. frost on the ground
  4. ice, on any flat surface that bares itself to the elements
  5. drab, dreary colours
  6. so many layers of clothing –  you feel like the Michelin man
  7. days that are too short and nights that are too long
  8. hot (healthy) soup, instead of ice-cream (just kidding)
  9. hot chocolate instead of milkshakes
  10. cold!

Luckily, I live in the northern rivers area of New South Wales, where winters aren’t too bad. Yes, they can be cold, but this year the winter has been mild. So I have ventured out, a little, but usually late in the morning, and I make sure I’m home before dark, because that’s when the cold sets in.

And as for hibernation? While the 10 shades of winter are out there, I’m in here, snuggled under a blanket – or two.

Will someone wake me up when Spring arrives?

Only when the 10 shades of winter have disappeared, and Spring is here, will I be ready to come out.

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Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 4 comments
And The Sun Came Out Today At RedWing Cafe

And The Sun Came Out Today At RedWing Cafe

The Long Way To RedWing Cafe Coffee

Because there is no rain (yet) and to prove that RedWing Cafe coffee isn’t the only thing I think about, I actually took a slightly longer way to the RedWing Cafe this morning. The comparative warmth of the sun peeking through some dark clouds in the distance, and lighter ones close by, made it an easy choice to take longer to get there. In the process, I took some photos of the beauty of this part of Seattle. We’re staying at Ranier Beach and almost every direction we take as we leave the house has a fabulous view of the water.

The view from Cooper Street

There are so many things along the way that seem unusual for this time of year, apart from the weather of course. I didn’t get a photo of it, but there is a huge Holly bush in a front garden on 61st Avenue S. When I say unusual, I mean it would be  ‘unusual’ in my part of the world, but very ordinary in this hemisphere. Trees stripped bare of their leaves; holly bushes; cloudy skies; cold weather; ivy climbing across buildings; moss and wet leaves underfoot. Nothing that we would expect to see this close to Christmas in the Land Down Under, but here, it just looks and feels like winter. Coupled with the sights and sounds of Christmas all around, the winter scenery brings to life all the Christmas Cards ever sent or received.

View from the end of 63rd Avenue

What Better Way To Spend Winter Than Reading

On long, cold winter days there is nothing better than being snuggled up somewhere warm, with coffee in one hand and good book in the other. The trend towards community libraries is something I have noted lately in Australia and it is certainly a big deal here. Conveniently close to the RedWing Cafe is a cute little library that people can borrow from or share books with.

Borrow a book or leave one to share

And Now, The Coffee…

I could have spent hours taking photos of interesting things along the way, but my first RedWing Cafe coffee of the day beckoned. The usual 15 minute walk had dragged out to almost 25 minutes and I was starting to feel the first signs of caffeine withdrawal. So, with my camera securely stowed in my bag, I soldiered on down the last hill. As I turned the corner from Water Street S into 57th Ave S, the RedWing Cafe sign stood out like a beacon on a starless night. I had arrived.

My second Seattle home: The RedWing Cafe

Yes, the sun is actually out; it just looks a bit dreary because the ground is still wet from the recent rain. First task: order the coffee and some coffee cake. Luckily, my favourite table was empty so I made my way over, taking the first layer off as I walked. With coat securely hung on the peg, I retrieved my iPad from the bag.

Coat securely hung on the peg; I’m ready to write

Once my iPad was set up, I had to decide whether to peel off another layer.

Decision made: I’ll just leave my outer jumper on. I’ll wait until the warmth of the coffee warms me from the inside before stripping back to the long-sleeved t.shirt.

With iPad set up, there is only thing left to do

Without coffee, nothing gets written. Period. (Nancy Kress)

That’s better!

And now, with coffee and cake safely delivered, I’m ready to start writing.

Life is good!

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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 0 comments
Vancouver – a trip back in time

Vancouver – a trip back in time

Having spent a year in Vancouver, a long time ago, I have had a yearning to walk along Robson Street again, ride the Seabus to North Vancouver, watch the squirrels in Stanley Park and take the Skyride to Grouse Mountain. Since the cruise I took recently from the UK was ending in Florida, I couldn’t resist the urge to extend my stay and fly to San Francisco and then up to Vancouver, even if only for a few days in each place.

Robson Street – Christmas lights just add to the magic

After the flight from San Francisco, I couldn’t wait to see Robson Street. My decision to book into the Listel Hotel, so close to my old apartment, was definitely a good choice. I wasn’t expecting much, but I was really surprised at the quality of the hotel, the friendliness of the staff and the spaciousness and decor of the room. Add to that, Happy Hour each evening and you have a recipe for the perfect holiday, although Happy Hour was wasted on me because they didn’t have milkshakes. And the location? It just doesn’t get any better than this, which was the basis for booking The Listel in the first place. Right on Robson Street, with my old Starbucks across the street, and an easy walk to everywhere, including Stanley Park at the bottom of the hill.

Day 1 – an early morning walk to Hornby Street and back, and then down the hill to Denman St, and a bus ride from half way up the hill to the Robson Gardens stop.  A coffee and wonderful chat (lots of reminiscing) with Dennis, my Landlord from all those years ago, some shopping, then ending with a very quiet day. Just being on that beautiful street again was all I needed to take me back to another time, another life. This is what travelling does to us – it creates the memories that are so powerful when revisited.

Day 2 – a bus down to the Sea Wall, a walk along the wall and then through Stanley Park. I was surprised that I had forgotten the basic direction of where we used to walk in the park,

On a cold day in December

but in the process of being a bit lost, the most amazing thing happened – I asked a lady for directions and she suggested we walk together, since she was going that way anyway. As we walked and talked, I found out she had lived in Cairns from when she was 5 until she was 16.  As an adult, her working life had included performing at schools to bring history to life for the children of Canada.  Over a coffee break on Denman Street, we swapped email addresses and websites and intend to keep in touch. You can meet Christine at christinepilgrim.com and I’m sure you’ll be as fascinated by her story as I was.

On the Seabus to North Vancouver - and then just a short trip to the mountain

On the Seabus to North Vancouver – and then just a short trip to the mountain

From Denman Street, I walked down to the Waterfront Center on W. Cordova and boarded the Seabus to North Vancouver. From there I took the bus to the Skyride Station and then up to Grouse Mountain where it was snowing – not a lot, but enough to be really beautiful.

The Skyride – the only way to travel to the top.

And you’ll never guess who I met up there (Hint: Cute, Cuddly and very Christmassy).

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas – on Grouse Mountain

Even the reindeer are ready for the big night.

Even the reindeer are ready for the big night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A hot chocolate and warm soup is a must at the Chalet

Warming up with a hot chocolate and soup at the Chalet before the journey back to Robson Street.

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 4 comments

The Places I’ve Seen

Because I’ve been a gypsy most of my life I’ve seen some pretty amazing places; from drought stricken outback towns to bustling major cities, and everything in between. I’ve lived in four countries and backpacked through Europe in the middle of winter. Some of the places I’ve seen looked best in the rear-view mirror as I was leaving, but most are high on my list of places to go back to. When I think of future travel, it’s those familiar places that call the loudest. While going back is tempting, moving forward means taking new risks, seeing the places I haven’t seen, and have no connection to. It’s about stepping out of my comfort zone, even if only to the inner circle, but always with a view to going a little further each time.

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Tumbulgum – One of the nicest spots on the Tweed

Sunrise

Sunrise – while cruising the great Pacific Ocean

Travel, in my life, isn’t usually planned  – it just happens. And that’s how a trip to China  eventuated in 2016. I didn’t  have China on my radar, but because the trip was organised by someone who knows what they’re doing, and because I would be travelling with people I have a lot in common with, I couldn’t resist. I had never travelled on a guided tour before – my modus operandi is usually an impromptu, impulsive, plan as I go method.

The trip was fantastic – and luckily I took my real camera with me, as well as my trusty iPhone camera. You can read about the trip on my Travel Blog.

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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 0 comments
Places I Almost Saw – While Being Very Lost in Europe

Places I Almost Saw – While Being Very Lost in Europe

Russia!

Right there at the top of my to-do list. I almost got there when I backpacked through Europe with my daughter, a long time ago. The truth is, it was our first day ‘on the road’ and we got very lost. I’m not talking about lost in a city here, I’m talking lost in a continent, namely northern Europe.

We’d planned as far as flying from London to Helsinki, but no further. On the flight across the Channel we actually looked at the map and worked out where we would go once we got to Helsinki, since we didn’t actually have any plans to stay there – it was just a stepping stone to somewhere else.

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While resting from our flight over the Finnish equivalent of a Big Mac, downstairs at Helsinki Train Station, the train we had planned to take was pulling out of the station upstairs, without us.

But in free-spirit style, we just got on the next train, with no idea of where it was going. Maybe we knew then, but I can’t remember now, other than a vague recollection that our skewed thinking may have tempted us to think it would be going in the direction of our previously, albeit hastily made plan. So there we were, kicked back and toasty warm (did I mention it was -24 degrees when we arrived in Helsinki at 4 pm?), and enjoying what scenery we could see as the train sped out of the city, because by now it was dark. At some stage, one of us had the sense to consult our trusty map, and it was then that we discovered we were heading in the wrong direction. Also by now, we realised the train wasn’t stopping very often, in fact, hardly ever. Around 8 pm we arrived at Tampere Station and made a quick decision to disembark and catch the next train back to Helsinki. That idea sounded reasonable, in theory, except there wasn’t going to be a train going back until the next day.

My observation skills aren’t the best, but I did notice that it was extremely cold when we walked out of Tampere Station, and I’m talking seriously cold! Since our research prior to the trip hadn’t included such trivial matters as ‘temperature in Finland’, or ‘what accessories will I need to beat the cold?’, we found we were seriously lacking in warm accessories.

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Tampere
Actually, we thought we had it in the bag when we’d bought fingerless gloves and a nice woolly scarf before leaving London. My geographical intelligence is a bit limited when it comes to Europe because I should have known that, unlike Australia, the further north you go, the colder it gets, and Finland is a bit further north than London. Needless to say, the gloves were as useful as deck-chairs on a submerged submarine. Luckily we were carrying backpacks and not dragging suitcases because we could at least put our hands in our pockets for a bit of extra warmth. But, after a few minutes, we both felt like we had frostbite on our fingertips.

My daughter had been working in London for a few months before our hike across Europe, and the old comfy, hole-in-the-sole boots she was wearing were fine – for London – but not fine for the weather we were now trying to endure on the dark, lonely streets of Tampere, at 8 o’clock on a freezing cold night.

That was another thing we’d somehow overlooked – how much local money do you need, bearing in mind there could be minor emergencies – like getting stuck in a country that you had only planned to pass through? So there we were, on the street, freezing, very little local money, and everyone with any sense tucked away inside a nice warm building, so there wasn’t even anyone to ask directions from – not that either of us spoke any Finnish. Another minor technicality in the great scheme of things.

After a quick deliberation on the consequences of standing out there in the freezing street all night, we decided the only sensible thing to do would be to go back to the railway station and sleep on a bench until morning.

By kallerna (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Tampere Station
Another good plan, in theory only. Luckily, when we arrived back at the station we found a nice young ‘gentleman’ who spoke English. He explained that the station closed at midnight, but in true gentlemanly form, offered my very attractive, blonde 18-year-old daughter a bed for the night. I quickly assured him we were a package deal, and he just as quickly retracted the offer.

So there we were, safe and warm for the moment, but feeling like Cinderella (times two) with midnight fast approaching. While we sat and pondered our upcoming night of sleeping on the street, miraculously an approaching train was announced, and just as miraculously I found an ‘older’ gentleman who spoke English. I asked him, not where the train was going (we really didn’t care), but what time it got there. His response solved our accommodation dilemma. It would arrive at 6 o’clock the next morning, and it was going to Rovaniemi. I’m writing this recount on the 24th August and the temperature in Rovaniemi at this very minute is 9 degrees Celsius, and they’re not even into winter yet. So picture the scene awaiting us in that cold December a long time ago, especially since Rovaniemi is north of Helsinki. Very north of Helsinki. I’m talking about 800km’s north of Helsinki. We were never so happy to jump on a train than at that moment. And even more grateful that we’d bought Eurail passes before leaving Australia, so we didn’t have to worry about tickets. And since no-one had asked to see our passes yet, we kind of squeezed an extra day or two out of them, which is just as well since we were in the process of wasting two whole days being lost.

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It doesn’t get much colder than this
Somewhere on that train going to Rovaniemi, we discovered the real value of the map we’d bought before heading off from the relatively warm city of London. It was going to prove its worth right there and then, because instead of having to go all the way to Rovaniemi and then turn around and go all the way back down to Helsinki, we could actually get off at Joensuu, where the temperature at this very moment, at time of writing, is a balmy 12 degrees Celsius – a whole 3 degrees warmer than Rovaniemi. You’ve got to be thankful for small mercies.

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Joensuu Station
So we disembarked at Joensuu. Luckily there was a booth on the station selling hot coffee and snacks, and more luckily, we had just enough Finnish money to buy a little of each, since it had been a long time between refreshments, given that our Finnish Big Mac, the very one that got us into this mess, had been devoured more than 12 hours earlier. It had been a very long night, and so began our journey back to Helsinki, about 500 km’s south, but with the bonus of the most spectacular scenery to enjoy along the way. And again, no Eurail Pass inspectors came our way, so even though we’d lost a day somewhere in outback Finland, it hadn’t cost us a day of our travel pass. Phew!

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Helsinki Railway Station
Now, back to Russia. While gripping the trusty map firmly in both hands for fear of losing our only hope of ever seeing civilisation again, I discovered we were so close to Russia as we journeyed north that cold night in Finland, that I could almost have touched it. But, that’s a trip I’ll have to make another day, another time, and hopefully without a backpack, and in a much more organised fashion.

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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 0 comments