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Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Palm Cove, Queensland

Palm Cove

Let's holiday in north Queensland

Having a few days break, originally booked this short break at the height of a cold wet week! That was 2 months ago, it warmed up, but I still was looking forward to revisiting north Queensland. It's been a few years since I was last up here. I flew into Cairns and organised to stay in Port Douglas, some prior knowledge came into play here. Cairns is the major regional centre but it doesn't have beaches! They're north of the city and the towns up the coast are the destinations for a beach holiday. I had been to Port Douglas before and liked it and decided that was going to be my destination. That meant a drive up the coast. On recommendation from a work colleague I stopped off at Palm Cove, which was a new place for me. 

Palm Cove was only about 20 minutes from Cairns airport, it's small and totally set up for holiday makers, apparently it's the spa capital of north Queensland! Don't know if that was true but it looked as though a lot of the resorts had spas in them!

Palm Cove, as seen from the jetty. Really impressed how well the town blends into the environment, nothing juts out from the trees, despite the fact that the road that runs along the coast is full of resorts.

Looking south. The water is flat even though this is the east coast of Australia, which is known for its surf beaches. The Great Barrier Reef acts like a breakwater to the beaches on the land side of the reef.

Looking north, with the 'flags'. First lesson of beach safety any Australian child learns is 'swim between the flags'. This is the area patrolled by the Surf Lifesavers.

Path along beach.

Palm Cove is very small these brightly coloured buildings are the shopping area, complete with post office to the side. Rather sweet I thought and very much saying 'holiday village'.

 Just near the jetty was the camping and caravan park, to me nothing says Australian summer holiday more than a caravan park. It's the quintessential Australian holiday experience. I have fond memories of these holidays from my early teens, I loved them, years later my mother admitted she hated the whole camping holiday thing!

Fishing on the jetty looking back to the rainforest.

More fishing, other end of the jetty.

During the wet season (October through to April) the water warms up and jellyfish appear. The locals know to stay out of the water, tourist however still swim and can be stung by jellyfish, basic first aid is to pour vinegar over the stings. These little posts are spaced out along the beach.

This sign was just near the jetty, naturally interested in anything remotely historical, so interesting to see that the area I was wandering around had been a training ground during World War II.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Trieste, Salone dei incanti

Salone degli incanti


Right on the waterfront is a beautiful old building which had been the original Trieste fishmarket. The fishermen would bring their boats to the dockside of the fishmarket and then set up inside to sell their fish. My father says he can remember the market in action, there were these huge marble tables where they fish were displayed for sale. The building was built in a time when there wasn’t any airconditioning and yet it stayed cool due to its construction.

It was open to the sea breezes, now it’s enclosed (and has airconditioning!), but previously it was open. Where now there are green frames and glass before these openings were completely open to let the air circulate. At ground level the gates are all that enclosed the fish market. (These images are from my memory of what it was like before it was restored) Inside the height and shape of the ceiling had the hot air circulating out the upper arches.

With the amount of detail in the building, it can be seen that it was built during the Austro-Hungarian era. (Some research and I found out it was built in 1913 in At Nouveau style. As Trieste was then a prosperous port city, it was an era where new buildings were constructed in that style. There are many beautiful buildings in Trieste dating back to the early 20th century) There are ships’ bows, fish decorations as well as the ceiling motifs.

The bow of a fishing boat, splashing through the water.

Fish motifs on the outside of the building.

The building has been restored and is now used as exhibition space, unfortunately there wasn’t anything on during the time I was in Trieste but I have been in previous years to various temporary exhibitions. Just as I was leaving I saw that they were setting up for the next exhibition which was a jewellery one.  The old fishmarket is now called Salone degli Incanti, Salon of enchantments which I think is a delightful name! It’s an excellent recycling of a beautiful old building when it no longer is suitable for the current time.

There were no exhibitions on when I visited so this was the best I could do to photograph the really lovely and beautifully restored interior. Keeping in mind that it was a fish market, beautiful aesthetics were important, regardless of the use of the building during those well off times of the Austro-Hungarian era.

Over the years I’ve seen some interesting exhibits, I’m disappointed that I missed out on one earlier this year which was Austrian Trieste. My favourite exhibition was one called “Liberty Trieste” which, when I saw the signs I thought it was about the liberation of Trieste after World War II. Huge surprise when I entered and saw it was an architectural exhibition on the Art Nouveau buildings in Trieste! I learnt that in Italian, that particular art style is called “Liberty”, I loved the exhibition and learnt an enormous amount about that building style and how well off Trieste was during the period of 1905 to 1910 when most of those buildings were constructed. (And can still be seen today, the city council encourages, with tax credits, the restoration of those facades.) The current exhibition (according to their website) is on Trieste and coffee, looking at the importance of the coffee trade. Illy caffe was established (and still has its head office) in Trieste.

Here's a link to their website, with some nice pictures of the interior and previous as well as current exhibition.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Dubrovnik, Nishta Restaurant

Nishta Restaurant

Eating vegetarian, vegan and gluten free in Dubrovnik

After my fail at attempting to eat vegan in London (see my Mildred's restaurant review I made another attempt in Dubrovnik. Walking down the main street that bisects the 2 parts of Dubrovnik, I saw a sign advertising a vegetarian restaurant. The sign had an arrow pointing down a small side street with stairs, two days into my stay I decided to follow the sign.

Nishta Restaurant, the green tabletops are the outdoor eating area. This restaurant street runs parallel to the Stradun.

The restaurant I ended up having lunch was called Nishta, I was interested in eating food that was different, made by chefs who could use a creative combination of ingredients. That's just what I found at Nishta, for lunch that day I ordered a pasta dish. The pasta was made from hemp seed flour, the sauce was made from dried tomatoes, olives, capers and a local mediterranean herb.

 It was delicious, and I wished I had decided to look for this restaurant on my first day in Dubrovnik! I planned on eating my way through the menu. Unfortunately for me, this particular day was Saturday and when I arrived the next day, I discovered that they didn't open on Sunday! I was very disappointed!

This restaurant has a high recommendation from me, in a tourist town it offers food that is different from the norm. It's creative and delicious, I even like the way they presented the bill to you, in a little box!

The English version of their website for anyone wanting to see their menu.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Sinti and Roma Memorial, Berlin

Sinti and Roma Memorial, Berlin

'Lest we forget'

I like the words used at memorial services for those who have died in wars. 'Lest we forget' are very apt words when reflecting on the past. 

When visiting a new city, there are endless possibilities for discovering unknown (to you at least) areas and sites. That’s exactly what happened on my first day in Berlin. I had headed off to see the Brandenberg Gate (which I had preplanned that I wanted to see), then crossed into a small part of the Tiergarten to walk to the Reichstag (the Parliament building). Just off the path was this memorial, to the Sinti and Roma people (known as gypsies to some) who were all sent to Nazi death camps in large numbers during World War II. As well as Jews, the Nazis had a deliberate policy of exterminating people they termed gypsies.

I really liked this memorial as I think that, while most people are well aware of the deaths of large numbers of Jews, the other minority groups such as the Sinti and Roma have been overlooked. Perhaps because in Europe at least these people still face an enormous amount of discrimination and isolation.

The memorial is surrounded by frosted glass walls which has information in the form of a timeline of the discrimination, beginning in 1933 of those termed ‘gypsies’, through to them being forced into ghettos, camps and then exterminated. One side (facing the Tiergarten path) is in English and this is what first had me notice it, I just automatically began reading the English I saw.
The inside panels have the same information in German.

Inside the memorial, there is a pool of water to reflect the sky and paving stones with the names of the camps where those labeled ‘gypsies’ were killed. 

The location of the memorial is deliberate, it is supposed to be a quiet spot away from the bustle of the city. And that’s exactly what it has achieved.

The artist who designed it is Dani Karavan, and he did a beautiful job.

It’s estimated that by the end of the war in May 1945 over 500, 000 men, women and children of Sinti and Roma background were killed, but the exact number is impossible to know.

It’s a lovely memorial, I really liked it and it’s important to remember and reflect on the past and hopefully learn from it. To paraphrase another well known quote, 'those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it'.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Bloc Hotel, Gatwick Airport

Bloc Hotel, Gatwick Airport a review

Super convenient location


I booked this hotel through and it was quite cheap, the room I booked had no window. (Reason why it was so cheap!) I was then offered an upgrade to a room with a window which I took as I thought I was more likely to sleep through alarms if there was no natural light!


I chose to stay at this hotel purely for its location. I had a 7am flight from Gatwick and was delighted to see that the airport had an internal hotel in the South Terminal (which is where my flight left from and was a short walk from the car rental returns, as I was dropping off a car) Once in the terminal the hotel is easy to find as there as signs to the registration counter.


The room is what you would expect for a transit hotel. Compact with TV, alarm, wifi and a small bathroom or more of a wet room with shower. With the hotel being in the terminal you had access to all the various shops and places to eat. My electrical adapter didn't work in the room sockets so I had to borrow one from the front desk. I paid a deposit and then had it refunded when I returned the adapter. Everything was really new and streamlined so it made for a brief but pleasant stay of less than 12 hours.


Nothing really but I can highly recommend staying at this hotel if you have an early flight, it was incredibly convenient just to go downstairs to checkin for the flight. A late arrival into Gatwick would also be another reason to stay at this hotel, rather than trying to navigate your way either to central London or another destination late at night.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Lewes, UK

Lewes, UK.

A brief stop and will need to return.

Not far from Brighton is a small town called Lewes, I had read that it was quite a popular destination for people who lived in Brighton to visit as a day trip. It's quite close, about 10 minutes by car.

I thought I would squeeze in a quick side trip before I returned my hire car at Gatwick. It was a very brief stop, enough to register with me that I needed to come back and spend a day (rather than 2 hours!) in Lewes.

The town slopes down to the river Ouse, I parked behind the High Street so it was downhill to the scenic part of town and a steep uphill back to the car!

The river and the brewery.

The main pedestrian area with various restaurants around the river. The street has a collection of antique shops, for local day trippers this seems to be major attraction. As it was a bright day I had a very late lunch or early dinner down by the river. (Forgot to take food pictures, still learning!)

Picture postcard scene from the pedestrian street!

The town slopes down to the river from both banks.

There is more to the town than just the pedestrian area, it boasts a castle, Lewes Castle and the 'Anne of Cleaves' house. Now it turns out that she never actually lived there, the house was just part of her divorce settlement from Henry VIII and she received the rental income. (Anne of Cleaves was one of his wives who left the marriage with her head still attached! She was a German princess whose very flattering portrait was shown to Henry VIII and he agreed to marry her. When she arrived and he saw that she didn't really bear that much of a resemblance to her portrait, he divorced her!)

Lewes is a scenic small town and worth visiting if staying in the Brighton area for an extended visit.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

The Lanes and Brighton Pavillion

The Lanes and Brighton Pavillion

Wandering around away from the sea.

The Brighton seafront is lovely but there are other places to see in Brighton. Walking from Regency Square to the Brighton Pier area you come across the area called "The Lanes". It's a series of small lane ways with little shops amongst them, a lot of jewellery shops it appeared to me. It was nice to walk around and check out the shops.

An amazing confectionary store!

The Brighton Pavillion is probably the best known landmark in Brighton (apart from the pier perhaps). It was originally built by King George IV as a holiday home (palace!) for him by the seaside. After he died it passed to his brother, the new King William IV who also used it as a summer retreat, and then Queen Victoria. She did use it for a short time but didn't like it as she felt on display and wanted somewhere more private and eventually bought land on the Isle of Wight and built Osborne House. (Her son sold that as he didn't like it!) Queen Victoria sold the Pavillion to the Brighton city council and then proceeded to remove all the furniture and furnishings, the council had bought a shell of a palace. They wanted to open it up to the people of Brighton and eventually Queen Victoria returned various items to the Pavillion.

It's open to tourists, the garden is free to enter and was very popular with people the day I was there.

Great excitement for me, a squirrel! We don't have them in Australia so I'm always thrilled to see them!

The Pavillion seen through the garden, it's been restored to what it was during George IV's time.

The Pavillion was originally a house and then extended in the early 19th century by architect John Nash in Indo-Islamic style which was very fashionable then.

Grand entrance gate from London side of Brighton, the look is very 'Indian palace'.

View of the Pavillion from the main road.

Unfortunately there were signs inside the Pavillion that photography was not allowed. The rooms have been restored and in particular I liked the music room with its grand decorations. The banqueting room was quite spectacular as well.

By the time I had finished looking inside, the clouds had disappeared and blue sky appeared. Thought it was worth taking a photograph from the main road again as I liked the contrast of the white building against a bright blue sky.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Regency Hotel Brighton, UK

Regency Hotel, Brighton UK

A review

The bay window on the ground floor is the breakfast room, so you have a nice view of the square and sea. The red bedroom window is the one to the left on the 2nd floor.


Brighton during the summer months is a popular destination and the price of accommodation reflects that. This particular hotel was a lower/middle of the range cost for a hotel, a B & B would have been cheaper but I was only staying one night and the location was convenient.


Terrific location in Regency Square, the beach was at the opposite end of the square, there was parking (for a fee) directly opposite the hotel. (The entrance to the public carpark under the square.) A side street from the hotel took you to a road that had a variety of restaurants and some convenience stores for snacks. Going up that road away from the sea, you reached a main road with a supermarket and a Subway.

In the other direction, the hotel was a 5 minute walk from the main tourist parts of Brighton, the Pavillion, The Lanes and the Pier. I had a car and the hotel was easy to find (and I don't have a GPS!) from others I heard it's about a 15 minute walk from Brighton train station. Brighton itself is about 20 minutes away from Gatwick airport if you're driving. (Longer in heavier traffic!)


It's an old hotel with individual rooms decorated in individual styles. I loved the room I was in and deliberately chose it when booking. It was a small double room but fine when only staying one night.

As soon as I saw a picture of it I fell in love with the 'over the top' nature of this red bordello style room!

 It had a 'compact' bathroom, in which one had to make various accommodations according to the signs. Old plumbing meant before stepping into the shower, you had to run the hot water in the basin to draw hot water into the room from basement boiler. Once hot water in basin, turn off tap, turn on shower taps! It all appealed to me in the quirky nature of the hotel. 

The whole hotel was furnished in an eclectic style, there was a guest lounge in overstuffed Victorian decor. The hotels offers family rooms so had triples and quadruples and I noticed at breakfast there were a few family groups staying.

Breakfast was included in the price and there was ample variety. The wifi was free and worked well.

It's an old historic building so there was no elevator, important to know if you're on the 3rd or 4th floor having to haul luggage up narrow staircases. The red bedroom is on the 2nd floor but with arriving in the evening and leaving the next morning after breakfast, I just brought a day bag in and left the rest of the luggage in the car.

Optional Extras

It fitted my desire to stay in old buildings, this one dated back to 1807. The room had an honesty goodies basket, pay as you left. One of the rooms you could stay in a 4 poster bed and the front rooms had a view of the square and the sea beyond.

View from the room window, Regency Square to the sea. Sadly they were redeveloping West Pier so I had the 'construction site' view!

For a short stay in Brighton this hotel was terrific, ticked all the boxes from convenient location to interesting place to stay.