Darwin dream baby

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The sea, the sky!

 

 July 2018: a wonderful time of year in Darwin when the days were endlessly sunny and it wasn’t too hot and humid. When there was nothing much nicer than floating around beside the Arafura Sea in one of Australia’s most scenic swimming pools or savouring fresh barramundi and chips on an evening picnic,  as you watched the sun sink in a fiery ball into the sea.

July 2018: and we could finally go to the famous or ‘infamous’ Beer Can Regatta which is held each year on Mindil Beach. We discovered that there was a special protocol which needed to be followed for building and propelling your hand made, beer can vessel.

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Gives a whole new perspective to recycling !

And as well as the main race, the Battle of Mindil,  there were lots of other events to keep those camera phones busy: people watching,  kayak races, tug of war,  an Iron Person competition, Thong Throwing (only in Australia!) and the  Henley on Mindil.

 

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So entertaining!
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Despite the heat, unlike the swimmers behind me, this was as far as my toes went into the water.  I wasn’t convinced that the irukandji jellyfish knew that they were supposed to be taking a holiday away from Mindil Beach

As well as the formal programme, there were lots of entertainment for young and old alike and fabulous stalls to explore at the market.

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Didj players
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and a really cute puppet show among many other acts.

 

July 2018: when we were able to witness a  fabulous star gazing event, a blood red moon caused by the longest, total eclipse this century and accompanied by Mars, which was at it’s brightest and closest for 15 years.

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Obviously, the moon didn’t appear this big to the naked eye, but it was still very impressive. Did you, like me get up early to watch it in the early dawn?

And  most importantly at  11 pm  on the 26th July, 2018, our Darwin Dream baby arrived.

After a delay of a week or two, Ilyssia Claire Black finally made her way into the world following an emergency Caesaraen section and she was just so beautiful!

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That was all a bit much, Mum. Think I’ll just  rest for a bit!

It has been one of the joys in life for Kenn and I to witness each of our children welcoming their own little miracles into the world. Words and images can’t really capture that extraordinary depth of feeling as you experience so many firsts.

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That first sleep on Mummy’s tummy

 

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That first sleep with daddy
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That first meeting with her canine protector, Hannibal.

 

And even though I can see Reece, her father looking out at me, gazing at her asleep takes me back to when Lyndsay was a wee little baby.

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Lyndsay was a little older, perhaps three months old.

Alas, all too soon it was time to share her with other members of the family and we had to fly home to Byron to prepare for our trip to China. But I wasn’t too sad as I had already booked my return ticket to Darwin for a catch up visit.

Early September, and it was feeling a little like deja vu, as I traveled to Brisbane to catch a flight to Darwin. Lys was now 6 weeks old and Lyndsay was finally able to get out and about.

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This is the life, a cruise along the Foreshore and a nap while Mum and Nanna enjoy dinner at the Pop-up Pizza restaurant. Looks yum!
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did we really eat all that by ourselves?

Ilyssia has already become a cafe aficionado. She enjoys acai berries and matcha tea lattes! She is such a good baby: just feeds, sleeps and gurgles. Lyndsay  looked quite rested for a new mum as well. Lys has obviously decided that she’s not a party animal yet. Sleeping for 5 to 6 hours at a stretch through the night, she is being very considerate of her parents.

Luckily for us, four weeks later, Lyndsay had to attend a conference of the Gold Coast and present a paper as part of her PHD and she asked if Kenn and I would like to babysit Ilyssia between sessions. Of course we jumped at the opportunity to spend more time with our Darwin baby. We were staying at Broadbeach, within 5 mins walk from the Crown Casino where the conference was being held. There we went for long walks with Lys along the beachfront.

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Even though it was a little cloudy, the weather agreed with this beach babe.
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And made for very atmospheric skies

A couple of times, Lyndsay was able to join us and we would explore further afield. One such place was the Cascade Gardens. Snuggled close to Mum, Lys  took in the sights.

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I’m just a wee bit squished
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The gardens back onto the canals and are a lovely picnic spot
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And we noticed that there was a Vietnam memorial there .

 

Following the conference, Lyndsay and Lys were able to spend a couple of days in Byron and meet her cousin Hudson. Huddy didn’t really want to share his mummy with Ilyssia but did think Lys was very special, especially when she came on a beach walk with him.

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This is such fun! Soon you’ll be running like me, Ilyssia!
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Even when it’s windy, Byron doesn’t disappoint.

Far too soon, it was time for Lyndsay and Ilyssia to fly home but not before Lys had filled our home with smiles.

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I wonder what she’s thinking?

 

As with our other wonderfully unique and special grandchildren: Genevieve, Francesca and Hudson, little Ilyssia fills our lives with love and hope, such precious gifts.

 

 

 

 

 

Darwin Delights

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Darwin harbour overlooks the Arafura Sea, a symphony in blue.

It’s been over a decade since Lyndsay headed north, not north to Alaska but north to Darwin!  Taking  a position as a choral teacher with the Northern Territory Music School turned out to be her perfect job and so she stayed.  Over the years, we’ve traveled to Darwin many times to visit her, discovering and savoring much of what the Northern Territory has to offer along the way. We’ve marveled at waterfalls,  gorges, billabongs and ages old rock art. We’ve been up close and personal with way too many crocodiles and luxuriated in hot springs at Mataranka under the dappled light of paperbark and palm trees. We’ve visited museums, learning more about Darwin’s wartime experiences and the horror of Cyclone Tracy, pretended to surf in the wave pool at the Waterfront and so much more.

Quite simply, Darwin is a delightful place to visit especially in July.  It is always wonderfully sunny and warm, perfect for outdoor pursuits. On our latest trip, we focused on simple pleasures. Admiring Lyndsay and Reece’s new home in the Northern Suburbs and becoming acquainted with  Hannibal, their Siberian husky was paramount. As you know, I love a good beach walk, but it’s always so much more fun with a puppy, especially a big puppy.

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We loved the dog exercise area of the Casuarina Coastal Reserve. The beach just seemed to go for ever and we could see Lee Point in the distance. At the right time of year, turtles hatch here too.

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Reece and Hannibal were having a ball.  Hannibal was very careful in the water. He only wanted to get his feet wet and avoided getting his body fur wet.

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Of course, Hannibal enjoys his creature comforts. The front seat is his domain. Lyndsay, Kenn and I were quite content to be out of the slobber zone in the back seat.

Having bought an older home, Lyndsay and Reece have lots of renovation plans and have begun with the landscaping. This involved serious wilderness clearing and fun with a bobcat or two. The result, a stylish productive garden overlooking the park.  As I savored my morning coffee on the back deck shaded by the gum trees, I noticed that a cricket match was in progress on the oval in the distance. Not the Australian team in training for its upcoming tour to Bangladesh unfortunately but a local team trying to escape the heat of the day by starting early.

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The cricket match is in progress on the other side of the park.

As we were based in the Northern Suburbs, we reacquainted ourselves with the foreshore at Nightcliff. Since our last visit, a new cafe has been built next to the Swimming Pool and has proved  very popular with locals and visitors alike.

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The pool has large sails which keep the water temperature at a pleasant temperature all year round.  Not only is the pool pristine, but what a view! We enjoyed a leisurely swim before adjourning to the cafe for refreshment

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Such a lovely view from the cafe as well. The bean bags looked comfy and I noticed that mums and bubs tended to cluster there.

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Breakfast was delicious. Loved my smashed avocado with poached eggs while Kenn’s breakfast tart almost gave me menu envy. The coffee was very good as well.
We walked along the cycle path to the Nightcliff Jetty and all around were vistas of the sea and the foreshore shaped by big tides.

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Can you believe that we are in a capital city?
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view from the jetty

Lyndsay and Reece were also keen to show us one of their favourite wilderness/camping spots, Tjuwaliyn or the Douglas-Daley Hot Springs Park. This proved to be a great 4WD adventure. The park is located about two hours drive south of Darwin and of course our first stop was the Douglas River.   Here, fringed by sandy beaches, the river splits into two branches for a couple of hundred metres, forming a series of quiet, crystal clear pools.

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Even though it was a public holiday and there were lots of visitors at the Springs, you still felt that you had the place to yourself

In one branch, hot springs heat the water while the water in the other branch is cold. Where the branches come together, the waters mingle. So with a bit of exploration, you can find your perfect temperature.

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The hot spring side of the river is very shallow so wallowing is the order of the day

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The water on the other side is cold but wonderfully refreshing after soaking in the hot water and I was content to float in the shady coolness.
We loved our hot and cold spa treatment. And relaxing under the tall shady trees for a shade bake.

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Perfect positioning: a few steps either side for hot and cold running water. What more could you ask for?

But the park has more to offer than the hot springs. We also visited Butterfly Gorge, further upstream from the Springs. We initially walked alongside the river to where the it widens into a big pool.

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It looked heavenly but ….you never know where a croc may lurk!

According to Lyndsay and Reece, you can usually walk around a big rocky outcrop to explore deeper into the gorge but alas we couldn’t. We didn’t think that this part of the river was absolutely, 100% crocodile free so  were reluctant to wade around to the beach. We retraced our steps and completed the much harder climb to the lookout instead.

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This walk was not what I would describe as picturesque! I was watching for snakes as I negotiated my way between the rocks.

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But the view from the top was worth it!

Back in the Ranger and the home comforts of Darwin beckoned but Lyndsay and Reece had another experience for us to savour: dinner at the Adelaide River Pub. The annual Rosella festival was on; bush food not birds. Having never tasted rosellas, I ate a few while an oldtimer at the bar shared his mother’s recipe for rosella jelly which he maintained was better than cranberry sauce! It might well be, but it would have been a labour of love. You would have to pick an awful lot of rosellas to have enough petals with which to make sauce.

Only in the territory do you come across unique memorabilia. Taking pride of place in the bar was the buffalo who had such a memorable role in ‘Crocodile Dundee”. It was stuffed of course!

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Apparently he had lived to a ripe old age at the back of the pub!

And the meal brought another surprise. The chef was obviously keen to ensure that no-one left his establishment hungry. For example,  Kenn’s chicken schnitzel was shaped like a map of Australia and covered his whole plate burying a massive mound of vegetables. While he made some valiant inroads, Kenn had to admit defeat at the Western Australian/ Territory border. Yep, everything’s big in the outback.

Back in Darwin, we continued to reacquaint ourselves with the city centre. The walk along the Esplanade is not to be missed. The gardens and lookout near the war memorial are especially lovely.

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the War Memorial

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Looking out to sea
But there is always something new! This time we spotted two young men setting up a stall selling french crepes.

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Just the thing for brunch
And we visited Lameroo Beach accessed via a track which branches from the main Esplanade path.

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The path is shaded by some coastal rainforest

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Loved the colours of the rocks which fringed the beach. There was no-one else there and this was in the middle of Darwin City!

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Can never get enough of these colours! 

A visit to Darwin has always included fabulous dinners out. On this trip, our culinary highlight was dinner at the Exotic North Indian Restaurant at Cullen Bay. Seated at a table overlooking the pier, we enjoyed some of the best Indian food I have tasted anywhere. Service was really excellent and the prices reasonable.

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There’s something magical about dining outdoors with good company and listening to the sound of waves lapping at your feet and looking at yachts silhouetted against the city lights

All too soon, it was time to catch the dreaded ‘red-eye’ back to Brisbane. This time, following a family dinner at home, we all went to the 8pm session of the Deck Chair Cinema. Luckily, ‘Monsieur Chocolat’ was showing, a powerful yet moving French film. It finished with more than enough time to make our farewells and get to the airport. It was a great way to fill in time before a 12.30 flight!

It was wonderful catching up with Lyndsay and Reece and we’re already planning for our next Darwin adventure. Familiar places can be so rewarding to visit.

 

 

Summer daze in Byron Bay

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Sunset beach walks along Main Beach

Despite traffic gridlock, long supermarket queues, tourists occupying all the best spots at my favourite cafes and an inability to snag a rock star park at the beach,  I have to admit that this summertime, the livin’ has been easy  in Byron Bay and we have enjoyed that  ‘peaceful, easy beach holiday feeling.’

Looking back, 2016 was a big year for us: travel to distant destinations both abroad and here in Australia, the arrival of our first grandson, beautiful Hudson, ‘ Huddie’  James  and our daughter Lyndsay’s picture perfect wedding at Cradle Mountain in Tasmania among the many highlights. By mid November we were ready to relax and  get into the holiday groove. The Christmas tree went up and channeling that ‘peaceful, easy feeling’, I shopped early. I found I had time to wander, consider and unearth! My former self; a demented banshee rushing around in a blind panic trying to find the perfect present at the last minute and failing miserably, was banished … hopefully forever.

So with gifts nestled beneath the tree, we threw ourselves into the revelries of the silly season: parties and drinks with friends and of course, Carols at the ‘Byron at Byron.’ one of the premier resorts in Byron Bay.  Nestled in coastal rainforest, the staff welcomed us with a glass or two of champagne on the deck (helps to lubricate the vocal cords) and offered delicious bites both traditional and local.  Who could resist a delicious mince tart or a Bangalow Pork roll or a nibble of this or a nibble of that?  Certainly not us! Our group  was soon in a very festive mood.

 

And so we sang, mostly in tune, as the dusk closed in. Luckily the choir was loud enough to make us all sound ‘joyful and triumphant’.

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Our singing mingled with the ‘songs’ of the black cockatoos who, according to the Bundjalung people, herald in the New Year!

The peaceful, easy feeling just grew and grew.  Melissa and Ben hosted Christmas Dinner on the deck of their home in beachside Byron. Everything was just perfect. And I didn’t have to stress about a thing.

All I had to do was cook a turkey and make a couple of salads to contribute to the festive fare. So easy. So delightful. So restful.

 Even Ninja got into the holiday spirit as we exchanged gifts.

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What’s Santa bringing me ?

All of Ben’s family had traveled from Adelaide to share Huddie’s first Christmas. Who would have thought that a roomful of adults could be spellbound as a 7 month old baby opened his first Christmas presents! And there were a lot of presents to open.

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Eventually, it was time to return home. Christian, Kelly and little Genevieve were arriving the next day for a week. The cousins would meet for the first time!

And Genevieve traveled to Coomera to play with her great grandfather and mother and enjoy a swim with Nemo and Dad in their pool. It’s a special moment to see four generations all together these days.

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Come on Dad, can’t this fish swim any faster?

And I  got to play sandcastles with Genevieve and Huddie at Lake Ainsworth, located next to the surf club at Lennox Head and take them both for a swim. Watching their expressions as little waves washed over their feet and their toes dug into cool soft sand was everything I thought it would be. That  beach holiday feeling had arrived.

Even though the days were hot, they were perfect for long evening walks along the beach.

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misty magic

Even one of the locals joined us entranced by the sunset.

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And when the clouds rolled in,  the sky seemed to say, ‘look at me, look at me

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Mirror heaven

Despite the traffic and the arrival of bluebottles on a couple of occasions, we lolled around in the surf and  when the waves permitted, caught a few in to shore. It’s reassuring to know that you haven’t lost the knack.

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That rush when the wave takes you …so good!

We have enjoyed leisurely breakfasts  and evening barbecues on the patio while the cat has played with his holiday treat, a cardboard castle.

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Will I fit?

And there’s something about watching the cricket and tennis  in the heat of the day. that is deeply relaxing, I find.

And so our summer continues:  early morning games of golf, lighthouse walks, swimming and kayaking  in the lake and in the bay and a new arrival to welcome  and a special birthday celebration in March to look forward to.    Yep, that ‘peaceful, easy beach holiday feeling’  is definitely here. Hope your summer has been as enjoyable.

Swimming in the Bay

The weather is perfect for swimming at the moment. Sunny, humid and hot. The crystal blue water  of the bay  beckons swimmers into its cool embrace. There,  in waist deep water, I float and splash about. Occasionally, very occasionally I catch a wave and ride it to shore.  Heat disappears as my body chills down. It’s lovely, really lovely.

Relaxing under the umbrella, soaking up the smell of salt, sunscreen and hot chips,  I watch as some intrepid souls swim across the bay. Out where you can’t stand up. Out where things, with fins, swim. I can’t make myself do it. Not when I can swim without being nibbled, in what has to be one of the most scenic public swimming pools in Australia,  the Byron Bay Memorial Pool.

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Looking across the 50 meter pool to the ocean

The pool is located at the top of Johnson St, adjacent to Main Beach and overlooks the bay. Like me, there are many who come to the pool to swim laps. There are always three or four lanes set out for this purpose.

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There are designated lanes to suit all swimming abilities

Usually you’ll have to share a lane with others. When this happens, I don my flippers, content to complete my session with a freestyle workout. But sometimes you can be lucky and have a lane all to yourself.

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Doesn’t this look inviting?

Then,  I can attempt a  backstroke lap or two without inflicting a concussion on some poor, unsuspecting soul or if you swim breaststroke in a manner and at a speed  resembling a galapagos  tortoise, as I do, then you won’t hold others up. You can take as long as you like swimming a lap or resting between laps or indeed in the middle of a lap. No one will know!

As well as a 50 meter pool there is a babies pool and a beginner’s pool. Consequently, the pool is very popular with families of younger children. I notice lots of young mums, relaxing with a coffee from Fishheads, watching on as their children play or have swimming lessons.

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Entry to the pool is on the left hand side of the cafe.

 

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The beginner’s pool has a wonderful view of the Bay
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Little ones love splashing about in the shade.

After your swim, you might like to relax for a while.

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Have you left that sun lounger for me?

Perhaps meet friends at the Top Pub for lunch. But wait, you tell me,  you’re wearing eau de chlorine!  Nothing to worry about. The change rooms are more than adequate for a quick transformation and for an extra 50 cents you can even have a hot shower!  Or perhaps like me, you might just like to double dip: into the pool and then the ocean. It’s right there, waiting!

Our local pool is a great resource. Greg and his team do a wonderful job maintaining it for all of us. This season, entry is $4.00 for adults, less for children and pensioners.

Hope to see you there.