Travel theme: Details

This week’s batch of photos brought to you courtesy of Where’s my backpack Travel theme: details.

Federation Square Melbourne
Considered an eyesore by many, Federation Square’s architecture is unique in Melbourne and still draws the crowds.
Stained glass ceiling
Look up to see the stunning stained glass ceiling in the Great Hall of the National Gallery of Victoria
San Rufino Cathedral, Assisi
Close up of the carving on the San Rufino Cathedral, Assisi
artwork on tiles, Siena
Part of an piece of art decorating the walls of the series of escalators that take you from carpark to the old town of Siena.
sarcophagus carvings
Intricate carving on a sarcophagus housed in the Palazzo Massimo, Rome
Roman mosaic
Mosaics close up in the Palazzo Massimo, Rome

Morning walk in Melbourne

A series of photos taken on a morning walk in the city of Melbourne earlier this year. I love Melbourne for walking, lovely parks, amazing artworks and great coffee šŸ™‚

Melbourne, from the other side of the river

The two times that I have been to Melbourne were spent close to the CBD in Bourke Street and I never ventured across the river to the home of Crown Casino and the Southbank precinct. This week I have been in Melbourne for a conference and have had the opportunity to spend time wandering around the Southbank precinct, admiring the sculptures, drooling over extravagant menus and almost getting run over by numerous cyclists who speed along the esplanade.

Wifi in the hotel is ridiculously expensive, almost $10 for one hour or $20 per day and their weekly rate is $99! Thank goodness for the fantastic wireless access at the conference. I’ve been able to keep up with my email and participate freely in the twitter frenzy that always seem to occur during a conference, not to mention facebook and writing the post.

Outside the convention centre is a timber sailing ship, it is quite amazing to look out and see this sort of history and it provides a dramatic contrast to the steel and glass architecture. Near my hotel is a huge glass high-rise building with golden bees perched on its walls, as I walk to and from the conference venue I pass funky, colourful sculptures and paintings similar in style to some of those I posted towards the end of last year. All of this provides a wonderful break from the talk of digital repositories, data management and research support that is the focus of the conference.Ā 

The photos I’m sharing today are taking using the Hipstamatic app on my iPhone, it is one of my favourite photography apps even though it has been crashing a bit lately when using a particular ‘lens’. The other photos I’ll share another time.

Melbourne by iPhone

Artwork by RMIT students
Artwork by RMIT students

With only a couple of days in Melbourne and very little free time to explore I focused on a couple of activities that could be squeezed in around attending a conference and the associated functions. Being in Melbourne makes my heart happy, here I can experience the true four seasons and make good use of my black coats, the quality and variety of wonderful places to eat makes dining out an experience and the shopping offers up products quite different to what is available on the coast. This was only my second visit to Melbourne, and I was travelling with two food focused colleagues so you can pretty much guess that we ate well when not provided with meals at the conference, lunching at Guy Grossi’s Grossi Florentino Cellar Bar and dining at the French restaurant Bistro Vue one evening.

The conference provided us with the opportunity to explore the lane ways of Melbourne though a guided walking tour of the city’s street art, the guide from Melbourne Walks was extremely knowledgeable and I would happily sign up for another walking tour. The conference dinner was held at Zinc in Federation Square, a finger food affair with plenty of alcohol flowing and the ambience created by RMIT’s (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) talented art students. When not at conference sessions and events I was making the most of my time to visit Queen Victoria Markets where the taste testing and purchasing of Koko Black chocolates was conducted, these tiny little chocolates in the form of champagne truffles, salted caramel and Raspberry Ganache were absolutely delicious, one small chocolate enough to satisfy any cravings but to ensure that later cravings were catered for, I bought half a dozen different flavours. The nearby Christmas shop is a must for visitors at this time of year, elves of all shapes and sizes plus the shop in set up so that each room has a particular colour and/or theme, for a white Christmas the room filled with silver and white decorations is perfect and the traditional red, green and gold room is filled to the brim with delightful ornaments and nativity scenes.

Architecture in Melbourne is quite different to the coast, here buildings are knocked down without alot of thought for their heritage and iconic value because our council loves the look of a skyline filled with highrise buildings towering over the beach and if a house stands still long enough, eventually it will be rendered with concrete and made to look like so many other homes – apologies for the rant, I’ll stop now. Melbourne is a mix of the old and the new, beautiful old buildings such as Flinders Street Station stand opposite the funky and modern Federation Square. RMIT buildings also throw modern architecture into the mix, several of their buildings being quite unusual and whether you love them or hate them, they definitely capture your attention. Walking along busy streets and through narrow lane ways leads to some delightful finds, paper shops and English style pubs, a book shop where everything is $10, the Hopetoun Tea Rooms and Chokolait among my favourite finds.

Next year I’ll be heading back to Melbourne, with a little bit more time on my hands I plan on exploring other parts of Melbourne however I will return to a couple of my favourite places even if it is only to browse the menu or purchase a chocolate (or two).

Gingerbread Friends, the Melbourne Myer Christmas window display

On Ā a recent trip to Melbourne I experienced the joy of seeing the Myer Christmas window display, we have nothing like this on the Gold Coast so it is a real pleasure to see the effort that some will make to bring delight to children and the young at heart during the festive season. The tradition started 58 years ago and the display is on show from November through to early January, to see the display costs nothing but a little time, the queue can be quite long but you will be entertained by the story and a few street buskers as you wait.

This year the animated window display has been created around the themeĀ ā€˜Gingerbread Friendsā€™ by the American childrenā€™s author, Jan Brett. Gingerbread Friends tells the story of a little Gingerbread child as he goes on an somewhat perilous adventure to find a friend only to discover that he already has plenty of friends at home. Taking photographs with my phone wasn’t easy thanks to the presence of so many reflections, with any luck you’ll get the chance to see them for yourselves or hopefully you have wonderful Christmas window displays in your home town.

Melbourne Walks: Street Art

Melbourne Walks provides walking tours around Melbourne and recently I was lucky to be part of a walking tour exploring the lane ways to discover fantastic street art. The tour guide, whose name escapes me, have us a fascinating insight into the history of the movement and the different styles used by artists, from stencils to found objects, paint and mosaics. The weather wasn’t the best for being outdoors however the rain did make the artwork shine.

If ever you go to Melbourne I highly recommend going on one of these walking tours and if you need a break after all the walking there are plenty of cafƩs and bars where you can find nourishment.













My top 10 Australian experiences

Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge

Today onĀ I read an article listing Australia’s top 10 landmarks named by TripAdvisorĀ based on the millions of reviews posted by travellers over the past year. There were a couple of places that surprised me and a couple that I have never visited so I’m not in a position to judge whether they’re worthy of being in a top 10 list. The article attracted some scathing commentary from readers with some labelling Sydney as boring, claiming that the Opera House looks better from a distance, and that Australia is too ‘young’ as a country to offer any thing interesting to see. The most negative comment stated that there was really nothing to see in Australia apart from a couple of the landmarks listed, our beaches and the barrier reef so it wasn’t worth spending 3 weeks in Australia especially with inland travel being so expensive, customer service so poor and our restaurant scene lacking.

In response to this article I’ve come up with two top 10 lists, one is my top 10 based on the Australia I’ve experienced and the other is the Australia I wish to experience.

My top 10 Australian experiences


I don’t have any particular suburb or landmark in mind, the long weekend I spent in this Victorian city was purely about food and shopping and I loved every minute. Melbourne is a very cosmopolitan city, I love the variety of restaurants and cafes, we explored China town and had Yum Cha for lunch, our hotel was not far from Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar and one evening was spent dining on Moussaka. Street art lines alleyways and boutiques filled with retro clothing, designer handbags, handmade chocolates and beautiful paper products called to us and the only thing stopping me spending a small fortune was the fact that I didn’t have a small fortune to spend.

National War Memorial, Canberra

It has been many years since I last visited the National War Memorial however it is a place I have been to several times and would go again if given the chance. The National War Memorial is both inspiring and sombre, you walk away feeling proud of the Australians who fought for us yet sad, so many lives lost on all sides.

The Australian National War Memorial, Canberra
The Australian National War Memorial, Canberra. Source:

O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat

Hiding in the Lamington National Park is O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, accommodation and spa for those who want to spend some time connecting with nature. You can go for the day, take a picnic lunch and feed the birds, there are several tracks through the bush and if you’re lucky you will see more than bush turkeys and goannas. If you stay overnight there is the option of getting up at sunrise, wishing the wallabies a good morning and taking a free guided walk through the rainforest to see and hear about the native birds, they are quite active at that time of day. See a sunset from the bluff is also a spectacular moment, especially when combined with a glass or two of bubbles.


Circular Quay, Sydney

When ever I’m in Sydney a walk around Circular Quay is always in order, going between the Rocks and the Botanic Gardens. Exploring the Rocks is always a joy for me especially if the markets are on, I have memories of choc coated coffee beans and fudge, not to mention a glass of wine or two at pubs such as the Orient Hotel or The Mercantile. Circular Quay is home to the Museum of Contemporary Art as well as multiple buskers, you can sit at the edge of the park and the passers by or admire the numerous ferries and boats that move in and out of the wharf. The Opera House is a spectacular piece of architecture, as a child I performed there with hundreds of other school children, playing a number of pieces on the recorder and listening to talented singers and school bands. Seeing the Opera House of a night time is a must, walk around the building to see the city from a different perspective and if you get the chance, buy a ticket to a play or musical performance because it is an amazing experience. Nearby is the Botanic Gardens, providing a peaceful and beautiful respite from the hustle and bustle of the city, here you can have a nap or spend the time admiring the specimens on display in the gardens.

Swell Sculpture Festival

I’ve written about the Swell Sculpture Festival before, held at Currumbin Beach in September it is worth putting on your ‘must see’ list if ever you are in Queensland at that time of year.


Cruise Sydney Harbour on a Tall Ship

This is something I did almost twenty years ago and I have discovered that the experience is still available albeit it on different ships. My boyfriend and I did a twilight cruise of Sydney Harbour on a tall ship and it was magical, we watched the sun set from the deck of a replica of The Endeavour, it was very relaxing and romantic.

The Hunter Valley

The Hunter Valley in New South Wales is a well known region for wine, only a couple of hours from Sydney it is easy to do in a day trip (don’t forget a designated driver) or you can stay in one of the many B&Bs in the region. Tyrells, McGuigans and the Piggs Peake Winery are just some of the wineries you can visit, Piggs Peake Winery is a small, boutique vineyard whereas the other two produce large quantities of wine for the mass market.

The Great Barrier Reef

Definitely a must see for anyone who loves marine life, scuba diving, snorkelling and island hopping. You can take a day trip out on to the reef or charter a boat and cruise between islands: Hamilton, Lindeman, Brampton and Lizard just to name a few. The seafood is fresh and at the right time of year the days are calm and perfect for soaking up sun, sitting on the deck of a boat drinking a refreshing cocktail or having a picnic on Whitehaven beach. Although I didn’t go snorkelling I did enjoy swimming over coral, seeing turtles in their natural environment and watching dolphins swim and play around the bow of the boat.

Great Barrier Reef. Source:

Vivid Festival, Sydney

The Vivid Festival in Sydney is held in June, it is a festival of light, art and music and an amazing way to see Sydney at its best. I’ve always loved the city at night especially around the harbour, the lights reflect on the water and the city really does sparkle. At the night markets in the Rocks you can choose from a variety of international cuisines and beverages, stalls selling pastries, paella, Thai food, German sausages and gelati will make your mouth water and you can wash it down with a beer or wine from the numerous pubs and bars. Photographers, amateur and professional line the quay with their tripods and snap photos of the light show happening at the Opera House, Museum of Contemporary Art and surrounds. For a city that is too often in a hurry and the people too often cool and indifferent, the festival is a a fantastic opportunity to slow down and revel in all that is happening.

Rural Australia

This one is not about any place in particular, I grew up in rural Australia and I still find joy in returning to my hometown, a small town in New South Wales where the nights are so dark that you can see all the stars. Staying in the cities is great if all you want to do is shop, go to galleries and museums or dine in a la carte restaurants before heading to the theatre, but there is more to Australia than cities and the Barrier Reef. The experience of riding a horse through the bush, watching the sunrise from a mountain top or floating down a river on the inner tube of a truck tyre is something different for most visitors and from a country girl, I think its an experience not to be missed. As kids we camped by the river, toasted marshmallows under the stars and went bushwalking during the day, as an adult I love sitting on my parents deck and watching the sunset, in the morning I take the dog for a walk down to the river stopping to say hello to the cows and horses standing in their paddocks.

Sunset in the country

My top 10 Australian Experience wishlist

  1. Drive the Great Ocean Road and see the twelve apostles.
  2. Visit Western Australia when the desert flowers are blooming.
  3. Visit the Barossa Valley and its vineyards.
  4. Drive around Tasmania, include time on King Island, staying in B&Bs and taste testing all the gourmet produce.
  5. Explore Kakadu National Park during the wet season.
  6. Spend a week in dog friendly accommodation by the beach on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland.
  7. Visit the Margaret River region in Western Australia, see Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse and dine on the fresh produce accompanied by regional wines.
  8. Stay in the Blue Mountains, visit Norman Lindsay’s former home and ride the steep, scenic railway.
  9. Cruise the Murray River on a paddlewheeler.
  10. Travel between Adelaide and Darwin on the Ghan.

You might be thinking that I haven’t really seen much of Australia and you would be correct, I’ve seen more of Europe than I have Australia. It will probably take me ten years to do everything on my wish list, possibly longer. It is easy to forget how large Australia is and how much time is needed to move between destinations, for example, a flight from Brisbane to Perth takes about five and a half hours and to drive from Sydney to Melbourne takes about 14 hours. Air travel has gotten cheaper however it is probably still more expensive traveling in Australia than it is in the US or Europe, then again our population is much smaller than many other places so providing better, faster, cheaper infrastructure isn’t always possible.Ā 

If you could visit Australia, what would be the three ‘must see or must do’ activities on your list?

Cheers and have a great weekend!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Up

As we go about our daily lives the tendency to look down rather than up is strong and it can prevent us from seeing some unusual and wonderful things. A friend and I spent a weekend in Melbourne, most of our time was spent chatting, shopping and eating so we never noticed the interesting sculptures sitting above the traffic lights until our last day in the city. There was one on all four traffic lights at the intersection (hence four pics instead of the usual one), you only had to look up.

Melbourne city sculpture: horse

Melbourne city sculpture:flying pig

Melbourne city sculpture: fish

Melbourne city sculpture: sea horse

Melbourne in pictures

The Melbourne city circle tram
The Melbourne city circle tram

I spent a fantastic weekend in Melbourne, staying in an apartment in Bourke Street with one of my dearest friends and although the weather was mostly overcast and wet we walked many city blocks in search of bargains. I love the cosmopolitan nature of Melbourne, plenty of Greek, Italian and Asian cuisine and a range of design (fashion, homewares, art) from the quirky to the trendy, plus the coffee was excellent. We didn’t make it to any of the galleries or museums, choosing to spend our time chatting over a bite to eat, exploring paper shops or admiring Chloe, a well known painting in a Melbourne pub. Being so close to Christmas, the Myer Christmas windows were a huge drawcard for families and tourists, we lined up with the rest of the to ooh and aah at Santa and listen to Guy Sebastian singing ‘Santa Claus is coming to town’.

One of the Myer Christmas windows
One of the Myer Christmas windows, loved by children and adults

Melbourne has been declared Australia’s most livable city a couple of times over the last few years as well as being quite popular with tourists that want a different experience than Sydney offers. I can understand why and with cheap flights that take only a couple of hours from Brisbane, I plan on returning someday soon.

Street art on the exterior of a cafe
Street art on the exterior of a cafe
Entry to Chinatown, Melbourne
Entry to Chinatown, Melbourne
The facade of a building currently under construction
The facade of a building currently under construction
Delicious cakes and pastries at the International Bakery
Delicious cakes and pastries at the International Bakery
Pellegrini's - great food and excellent coffee
Pellegrini's - great food and excellent coffee

Upcoming arty farty, foodie and shopping extravaganza

In a couple of weeks I’ll be heading off to Melbourne for a long weekend of shopping, eating and visiting art galleries with one of my dearest friends Jo. One of the first stops will be a chocolate shop/cafe called Chokolait which I’m told serves the most divine hot chocolate, Greek and Italian dining is apparently excellent as well and I’m really looking forward to eating Greek food again, Greek restaurants a few and far between where I live. Shopping in Melbourne is supposed to be the best, better than any other Australian city anyway and Jo has suggested hitting the factory outlets as well as checking out Chapel Street and other areas of interest.

We’ll be staying somewhere in Bourke Street, central to most of the activities that we have in mind. Federation Square, home the National Gallery of Victory and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image is not too far away, also reasonably close is the Arts Centre at Southbank on the Yarra River, another destination on the list of things to do and see. Of course I will be taking my camera, I rarely go anywhere without it and having never been to Melbourne it will be hard for me to resist snapping pictures of everything we see and eat.

It has been several years since we caught up with each other and that was in Sydney and during that visit Jo and I hopped on a ferry and crossed the harbour to visit Taronga zoo, in the afternoon we drank at a pub in Woolloomooloo and wandered around the Gallery of NSW. They are places I’ve been before, having lived in Sydney for a few years but I still took lots of photos, none of the food though which is highly unusual. Jo lives near a National Park, when you dine on her balcony it is often in the company of Rainbow Lorikeets, Cockatoos and other native birds.

Rainbow Lorikeets
Rainbow Lorikeets
Darling Harbour Fountain
Darling Harbour Fountain
Sydney Ferry with Harbour Bridge in background
Sydney Ferry with Harbour Bridge in background

I’m really excited about this upcoming trip, Jo is my arty, farty foodie friend and shopping is always on the menu, this trip we’ll both be able to do some Christmas shopping as well as buy some pretty things for ourselves šŸ™‚