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Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Copenhagen, Denmark

I like palaces!

Denmark is a monarchy and has a collection of palaces, some are still inhabited and others have been turned into museums.

The major inhabited palaces in Copenhagen that are occupied by members of the Danish royal family is the complex around Amalienborg square. There are 4 palaces, one is the residence of the Queen and her husband, another is the residence of the Crown Prince and Princess. One palace has a series of apartments which are used by the Queen's sisters when they are in town and her second son. There's also a museum that is open to the public in one of the palaces and another is used to house official guests and for official functions.

This is the official residence in Copenhagen of the Crown Prince and Princess, called Frederik VIII's palace. It was extensively renovated after they were married and it took a few years before they occupied it.

Whilst in Amalienborg square I saw this rather cute sight. These bikes are common in Denmark to ferry young children around, these I think were going to a nearby kindergarten, there's one just behind the palaces.

About 45 minutes from Copenhagen is Fredensborg Palace, it's used by the Queen in autumn and spring. It wasn't open to the public when I visited in June, but it does open for guided tours in July and August when the royals aren't around. The palace is also used to entertain foreign guests, there's a tradition that the important guest carves their name into a glass window pane. (It's done with a diamond tip pencil, in the old days the diamond came from a lady's jewellery!)

Fredensborg palace is made up of a series of buildings, you can wander around to a certain point before you arrive at no-go zones.

The palace is surrounded by beautiful parks which are open all year round, I loved this avenue of trees!

To get to the palace you walk through the small town (village? It's not very big!) of Fredensborg, which is very pretty.

Further away from Copenhagen is Frederiksborg Castle, it's in the town of Hillerod. This isn't used by the royals anyone and is a museum, well worth making the trip out to Hillerod to see it as it has the most wonderful baroque garden. I also visited Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen, it's also a museum, and interesting as that's where the Danish royal jewels are kept. But I preferred Frederiksborg Castle for its location and gardens.

To travel to Fredensborg and Frederiksborg I just used public transport, I caught the train. I had bought a Copenhagen card, and the entrance fee to Frederiksborg was included, but more importantly the cost of public transport was also included. Very useful in Copenhagen where I hopped on and off buses without worrying about how to pay!

Not a palace, something I just stumbled across and really liked.

A flower map of Europe! I particularly liked that Iceland was included, generally maps of Europe don't have Iceland. Denmark has a strong connection to Iceland as they were in a personal union until 1944, when Iceland declared its independence and became a republic. Many Icelandic students come to Denmark to do their university study.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Mannum, South Australia

Life on the river

The town of Mannum owes its creation to the paddle steamer, the son of a farmer who had the pastoral lease on the Murray river nearby built the first paddle steamer that went up and down the river. The Murray river is Australia's main waterway, the Darling river which rises in Queensland flows into the Murray making the Murray-Darling river system the longest in Australia.

The river is shallow so the paddle steamer was the most appropriate water craft to ply the river trade. Eventually it was all replaced by road transport, but Mannum continued to have a ship building industry well into the 20th century.

Mannum, being about 90 minutes from Adelaide (depending on what suburb you live in!) is a popular holiday town for those who enjoy water sports. 

It's the home port for the paddle steamer the Murray Princess, it takes tourists on week long cruises up and down the river.

A smaller paddle steamer that takes people along the river, the Proud Mary. It just happened to be leaving the dock when I was there.

The Proud Mary going up the river.

The river has had some major floods, this post shows the level of the water at various floods. The worst floods were the 1956 ones, and the top of the post shows the height of the water.

Pelicans can be found along the river, these ones were quite used to humans and didn't even move when people came up to take photos of them!

As Mannum in a popular holiday area for those who enjoy the river, the nearby banks have 'shacks', which are holidays homes used on weekends and in the warmer months. They are called 'shacks' because when these holiday retreats first went up in the 1950s or '60s, they were indeed 'shacks' temporary, cheaply built structures where you could camp out and rough it for a few days. Now they're still called 'shacks' but are well appointed, often luxurious houses!

There is no bridge at Mannum to get across the river, there is a cable ferry. These cable ferries were my total experience of ferries before I spent time in Europe backpacking and I went to catch a ferry to Ireland, I was very shocked to see a huge boat that was the 'ferry' I was expecting a larger version of the above ferry!

Besides the shacks, another hugely popular way to spend time on the river is on a houseboat, many of them are based in Mannum. This one just happened to be passing by while I was taking pictures.

Mannum has a small museum showcasing its past as a major paddle steamer port. The paddle steamer Marion is docked there, the Marion was launched in 1897 and worked on the river, it was eventually brought to Mannum. It was docked on the river and was a static display, you could visit and climb aboard but it didn't go anywhere. Eventually it was restored and now does do trips along the river at certain during the year or else it can be visited as part of a visit to the Mannum Dock Museum of River History.

This is a dry dock that was built by William Randell, who established Mannum as a major river port. It was constructed in 1873 of river red gums (eucalyptus) and was the only facility of its type on the river for ships to come in for repairs and refitting. (Now part of the museum)

The main street of Mannum, called Randell Street after the founder of the town.

I love these old country pubs (the second one is called the Pretoria Hotel), often they are the largest building in the town and there's more than one! Lots of iron lace on the balconies and being South Australian, they're constructed in stone, (not much wood around as in the other states, where colonial buildings are often wooden) There's coffee table books you can find in Australian bookstores where photographers go around and photograph old pubs and then publish the results in book form.

The Mannum War Memorial, adding to my collection of small town war memorials!

Mannum is a lovely, relaxing town to spend time in. These pictures were all taken during the winter so there was a lot less activity on the river (and much quieter!) During the summer, there are jet skies, and speedboats with people water skiing and a lot more houseboat traffic.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016


Little India

In the 19th century the 'Raffles Plan' divided up what was the trading post of Singapore into various ethnic groups. These areas still exist today and make visiting Singapore quite diverse as you move from one area to another.

Little India was an area that I hadn't seen in a long time and decided to go there during my last stopover in Singapore. I caught the MRT (the subway) to the Little India station and then walked along Serangoon Road, which is the main commercial centre of Little India.

Just next to the MRT station were these colourful buildings.

Serangoon Road.

The Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple

Little India has a quite distinct feel and smell to it, the smell of spices. The buildings are brightly coloured, in contrast to the more pastel shades of the Chinatown area. 

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Morialta Conservation Park, South Australia

Waterfalls, but only after it rains!

Morialta Conservation Park is only 10 km north-east of the city centre of Adelaide so it's a very popular walking and hiking area. There are some nice waterfalls to walk to but only if you visit during late autumn and winter! The creek that feeds the waterfalls dries up in the warmer weather. I can quite clearly remember in high school a friend complaining about being forced into going for a family outing to Morialta and walking to the falls and there was no water! (Life is tough when you're a stroppy teenager!)

There are a number of trails you can follow, the easiest is called the Valley walk and it leads to the First Falls. The paths are wide, and can easily accomodate prams, it's a 15 to 20 minute stroll to the falls.

The Valley Walk passes by a cave in the rock face and you can climb up into it.

First Falls.

The Valley Walk path seen from up on the hillside.

The water that feeds the falls is from what is called Fourth Creek, the small creeks that feed the Torrens river from the Adelaide hills are all numbered. Nowadays you can only see parts of the creeks if they run through a park, generally they were covered, large concrete pipes are placed for the water to run through and then the area around them is covered over. Roads etc are built over the top.

This picture is of Fourth Creek after it has dropped from the falls and on its way down the Adelaide plain to the river. Not a lot of water, these Morialta pictures were taken on different weeks so there's a variation depending on whether there was a lot of rain or not!

A koala napping in a tree, there was another one too but hidden behind a branch so harder to photograph. Unlike some parts of Australia where koala numbers are low, the Adelaide Hills has an abundance of koalas. So many that some make their way into the suburban areas, it's not that unusual if you have large eucalyptus trees in your yard to find a wayward koala in them.

Taking a different trail you can climb up into the gorge and then see through the trees to the Adelaide plain beyond. This view is of the northern part of the urban sprawl that is Adelaide, looking down to the sea.

Second Falls from the path below Second Falls, that leads to the top of First Falls. There's a contrast in what the falls look like after several days of heavy rain. 

This was a few weeks later.

Photo taken from path that leads to the bridge above the falls.

Fourth Creek again flowing out of the park, very green surrounds as it's winter, dry and brown in summer!

On my way back to the car, this huge tree was just off the path, was impressed at its width and could only guess at how old it could be. Amazing to see.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Astor House Hotel, Shanghai

The hotel for those who want to stay somewhere with character.

I chose to stay at this hotel due to its historic past, and I wasn't disappointed!

The hotel dates back on this location to 1858, and boasts that it's the oldest western style hotel in Shanghai. It positively oozes history! Einstein had been a guest! The hotel did go through a period of decline, but it was renovated in the early 2000s.

 The lobby, there was an art exhibition being held at the far end during my stay.


It's what I would call a mid price range hotel, good value when you consider its location, and breakfast was included in the price of the stay. The other historic hotel on The Bund called the Peace Hotel is in the luxury hotel price range. With the Astor Hotel you get history without the 'breaking the bank' price tag!


View from the Garden Bridge, the large white building infront is the Russian consulate.

Fantastic location at the northern end of The Bund, just walk over the historic Garden Bridge (with its great views of Pudong) and you were at the Bund. Convenient location for the tourist office, a subway station was only a 10 minute walk away, and it was a direct line from Hongqiao railway station and airport.


As with many old hotels the rooms were a generous size!

The room had tea/coffee making facilities and a basket of snacks with some fruit was also included. There was even a fax machine!

A large bathroom with a bath and shower, nowadays the trend seems to be for one, generally a shower as the bathtub is removed to make for a walkin shower.

Breakfast is served in the Peacock Room, which is also where the Shanghai Stock exchange was relaunched in the early 2000s.

It was just gorgeous, a fantastic restoration!

When the Peacock Room is booked for a function, breakfast is then served in the ballroom, also beautiful.

In the centre of the room was a slightly raised circular dance floor (I kept stumbling on the rise!) I could just imagine how fabulous the room would have looked in the old days with the balls held there. There was a stage at the front for an orchestra or band.

Optional extras

There is a cafe in the lobby but no separate restaurant or bar.

With this old style hotel, there was a reading room with historic photos on the wall.

There were separate conference rooms for private functions.

The hallway to the rooms.

I loved this hotel, it was everything I adore in a place to stay. Historic with character and would definitely stay here again. If you like ultra modern, lots of glass, chrome, clean lines this is not the hotel for you, the modern Pudong area has plenty of those types of hotels. This is more for those who like a 'character' hotel, it is looking a little scuffed around the edges (all that wood!) but still has beautiful areas that make a stay special and different from the many hotels you would stay in. This one is memorable!