The start of the Festival Season in Edinburgh was this weekend. There are so many festivals in Edinburgh at this time of year. The main Festival, Jazz and Blues, Film, Fringe including Comedy and others. There is a great buzz around the city. These are some of the many colourful photographs I took at the first parade along the main street of Princes Street.
Leaving Brisbane via Sydney, we flew Business with Qatar Airways www.qatarairways.com to Edinburgh with a quick stop in Doha. Last year we flew to the UK First class with British Airways and we found Business Class with Qatar superior to First Class with BA.
Service and comfort were excellent and the lounge in Doha was among the best in the world. We slept most of the way which meant we arrived feeling fresh and ready to enjoy our holiday from day one. We plan to be away for seven weeks on this trip, exploring Scotland in some depth.
We have a number of home exchanges lined up for this trip which is exciting. Our first house swap hosts greeted us at Edinburgh airport and took us to their lovely comfortable apartment in the centre of Edinburgh. It is an easy walk to the main street, Princes Street. And there are local shops for everything we need.
The house itself is very comfortable and rather plush with many appliances including not only the normal fridge and freezer, but also two wine fridges, one for white and one for red and a special cheese fridge.
We spent our first day walking around exploring the local area and shopping for essentials. Edinburgh is a city on a number of levels and an old and new town. We are in the new town which is Georgian and most buildings were built in the 1800s. The old town has buildings dating back to much earlier periods.
We are lucky in that we have arrived in time for the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues festival www.edinburghjazzfestival.com . We spent Saturday afternoon in the Grassmarket area of the old town listening to lots of free Jazz and enjoying the ambience, the joy of the crowd, and the company of old friends.
This was election weekend in Australia, so we voted early and decided to get away from it all! We just spent a wonderful weekend in Northern New South Wales. Only an hour or two from Brisbane, the area is one of the prettiest in Australia, with coastal views to die for and amazing inland rain forests and rich green hinterlands.
We began by having a lunch of freshly caught and cooked fish at the Fisherman’s Co-op at Brunswick Heads www.brunswickheads.org.au. Sitting on the benches outside the Co-op shop on this beautiful sunny winter’s day, watching a boy fishing in the ocean was a relaxing pastime.
We then drove the short distance to Lennox Heads, a lesser known part of this coastline. Many people visit the well known nearby Byron Bay, yet Lennox Heads by the ocean is truly beautiful. On arrival we walked up to the lookout and saw a number of humpback whales and dolphins frolicking in the ocean. There are regular sightseeing tours available locally yet the whales are readily visible from the shore.
We dined in the evening at the Lennox Hotel Beef and Beach Restaurant where the staff were amazing and the food mouth watering. www.thelennox.com.au We were certainly not disappointed. In the morning I set out looking for some local geocaches www.geocaching.com and found a couple of tricky ones in the area. At the same time I enjoyed more whale watching as well as watching the local Surfers and Stand Up Paddlers.
We then had a lazy Sunday drive back to Brisbane, taking the inland road, stopping in Bangalow, a sleepy little nearby village, for a hearty breakfast, and later in Kyogle, for coffee. On the way we visited the Open Air Cathedral at Bexhill boac.org.au/ before winding home across many little bridges.
Today we spent an amazing day in this National Park, which is a half hour sail from Brisbane. I can highly recommend visiting it. We are in Queensland winter, the day was delightfully sunny and 28 degrees C., as you can see from the photos I took today.
Thankyou to Cat O Nine Tails Cruises for such a great day. If you want to buy a voucher for a similar day, you can do so at https://sthelenaisland.rezdy.com/2224/gift-voucher-prison-life-experience
The island was named after St Helena where Napoleon was imprisoned in the Atlantic. There is a very long, interesting and amusing story of how an aboriginal man, known as Napoleon, who “borrowed” an axe, was sent to the island, then known as Green Island 2, in isolation. They sent him, ironically with an axe, and he escaped to the mainland in three days as he made himself a canoe! All the local names are named after Napoleonic names such as the local Wellington Point.
St Helena is located in Moreton Bay 5 km from the mouth of the Brisbane River and about 8km north-east of Manly. The Island has a fascinating history. Its most significant period was when it functioned as a high-security colonial prison from 1867.
The overcrowding in Brisbanes gaols resulted in the conversion of the buildings, originally intended for a quarantine station, into accommodation for prisoners. Prison labour was used for all activities on the island, from the construction of buildings and roadways to growing, processing and cooking of food.
The first few years were devoted to construction of the two cell blocks, kitchen, bakehouse, hospital, underground tanks, stables, boathouse, storehouse, jetty and Superintendents home. This formed the base of a building program which continued until the prisons last years.
In 1869, the lime kiln and sugar mill were added. Sugar cane growing and processing kept the prisoners busy until the workshops were well enough established to take over as the main source of work on the Island. These trades included bootmaking, sail-making, tailoring, saddle making, tinsmithing, candle making, book-binding and carpentry. The long termers were occupied in these workshops inside the prison stockade and the trustees engaged in animal husbandry and agriculture.
Some of the buildings were made from beachrock quarried on the island, or from bricks made on site from clay found at the northern end of the island. Others were constructed of timber imported from the mainland. Tradesmen employed as prison warders supervised this work, maintaining a high standard of workmanship and productivity. While the prison layout and organisation was based essentially on the English penal system, the prison architecture was largely a reflection of the late 19th Century trend to a colonial style of architecture.
The limited area of St Helena Island (166 hectares) and the increasing needs of the settlement, resulted in extensive clearing of the natural vegetation for agricultural and other development. The native vegetation was regarded as having little or no financial value as timber, or aesthetic value as shade or garden trees.
The Superintendent of the prison had extensive gardens surrounding his house and, for many years these gardens were considered the best in Queensland, but they consisted almost entirely of plants introduced into Australia. Crocus and White Allysum continue to thrive on the Island to this day. The Superintendent and the warders ran the prison in a highly efficient manner. For most of the prison’s 65 years; self-sufficiency was a necessity and profit was the product of that efficiency.
The St Helena Island Penal Establishment, at one stage of its operation, was considered to be the best prison of its kind in the world. The St Helena island Penal Establishment had prize Ayreshire dairy cattle that constantly won awards at the RNA show and the island’s olive groves yielded prize-winning oil at shows in Italy, the country of their origin. The entire establishment had been kept with an eye for perfection.
The life of the island rotated around the supervision of prisoners – as seen in the constant patrols, barred windows and leg irons. This constant regulation of work, behaviour and movement was the essence of 19th Century prison life. Although few people ‘swam’ in those days and shark feeding was instigated as a deterrent, escape was a constant reality. Magistrates recognised the right of each prisoner to attempt escape and the responsibility of each warder to frustrate it. Sentries were posted, windows barred and warders were constantly on the alert.
The St. Helena tramway is considered to have been a most significant component of the prison establishment; it operated between 1885 and 1932 and provided the first passenger tramcar service in Queensland. Remaining evidence includes the tramway embankments, the distinguishable rights of way, the docking bay in the Stores building, the ‘Kangaroo’ car and the trolley wheels.
Administrative problems, the new social conscience, prison reform, the potential for a major fire in the aging timber buildings and the lonely isolation of warders from friends and family led to the prison’s closure in 1932. It had operated very successfully for 65 years.
Historical significance was not recognised and so, in 1925, demolition of the buildings began. This work was also done by prisoners and most re-usable materials were taken to the mainland for distribution to other Government institutions. The suggestion that St. Helena Island be made a national park was mooted as early as 1910 by the then Mayor of Brisbane. The island was the first historic site to be managed by the Department of Environment and Conservation for its historic values.
Today, approximately 7% only of the original structures remain and these are mostly the ones that were built from beachrock or brick. Restoration costs would be prohibitive so preservation of the remaining structures is the order of the day.
This information and much more can be found at
HISTORIC DETAIL – TIMELINE
St Helena Island – Aboriginal name: Noogoon
- 720BC to 1840 (Approx) Used by Aboriginal tribe, the Nooghies
- 1799 Island described as one of the ‘Green Isles’ by Matthew Flinders
- 1826 Named St Helena after Aboriginal exiled on Island
- 1850s Fledgling dugong industry
- 1866 Quarantine Station built
- 1867 (14th May) Declared Penal Establishment
- 1875 Construction started on stone causeway
- 1879 Electric telegraph installed (from Lytton Hill Signal Station)
- 1885 Tramway commences operation (first passenger tramcar in Qld)
- 1890 Warder’s families removed from Island
- 1891 Leaders of Great Shearer’s Strike imprisoned on Island
- 1905 Sisal Hemp growing started
- 1907 Lash last used
- 1921 Announcement of intended prison closure
- 1921 (to 1932) Became prison farm for low security prisoners
- 1922 Dismantling of buildings commenced (cont’d to 1932)
- 1925 Electric light installed
1932 (Dec) Official Prison closure
Not my usual travel post. This happened to me today in my home town of Brisbane, Australia.
I experienced something this morning that moved me greatly.
I was bustling towards the shopping centre from the car park when an elderly lady stranger stopped me. She was slim and fragile, bent over, under five feet tall, wearing dark glasses, had callipers on both her legs and was walking with the aid of a wheeled walking frame. She could not cross the car park to the footpath alone. She said she used to have a white stick but now cannot as she needs the walker. She asked me to assist her by holding down the front of her walker and accompanying her to safely walk across the car park and up the pathway through incoming people and cafe tables and chairs. I was happy to help her. We could only walk very slowly. What would normally only take me about a minute, took us about ten. As we walked she explained her situation.
She had lost the use of her legs late last year as a result of post polio syndrome, polio she had defeated in her youth and had returned last year to her body attacking both legs and her heart. Her doctor had advised she would not walk again but she kept telling herself that she can walk and every day makes herself walk and walk. She has sensations now in her legs which are moving, as she said, ‘on their own” as opposed to her having to drag them with her body. She refuses to get taxis, but gets two buses to take her to the chemist to collect her prescriptions, this also means significant walking. She is so determined to use her legs and regain her independent movement. As I walked with this amazing little lady to the chemist shop I was totally in awe of her and her resilience. It made me put my life clearly in perspective. When I left her sitting on the chair in the chemist shop awaiting her prescription, I was almost in tears, her strength of will had moved me so very much.
When I finished my shopping, after about an hour and a half, I looked for her, I even walked to the bus stop to see if I could see her, but she was gone. I hope I remember her next time I think about complaining about anything minor.
I am loving my visit to the North West of Tasmania. www.tasmaniasnorthwest.com.au Tasmania is the sometimes forgotten, apple-shaped island to the south of Australia. Travel south from Tasmania and you are in Antarctica. It’s autumn here and at least ten degrees cooler than my home in Brisbane. It’s great to see the deciduous tress shedding their leaves, a novelty in my home state.
There are spectacular views all around this area. I visited Guide Falls at Ridgely which were in full flow. The scenic drive along the Cradle Coast through the town of Penguin, where penguin colonies abound, was a delight. As was viewing the Three Sisters Rocks in the Tasman Strait. Table Cape mountain in Wynyard was beautiful with the early morning sun shining on it, as was the Nut at Stanley.
The fresh sea food and the amazing array of local cheeses have been a delight to sample. I also visited the local distillery and tasted their range of malt whiskies, as good as any of my native Scottish malts.
Macleay has an interesting history. For some time in the 1800s the island was called Tim Shea’s Island after a convict who lived on the island for more than a decade.[The current name was given by Surveyor Warner who named the island after Alexander Macleay who was the Colonial Secretary of New South Wales from 1825 to 1837.
Macleay Island has sandy beaches and mangrove foreshores.
These are spots for fishing, swimming, sailing, picnicking and barbecues. A launch spot is the Dalpura Ramp, next to our house which is located towards the north of the island. The island has a modern skate park for the youngsters. Other recreational facilities include boat, bowling and golfing clubs. The Heritage Trail is marked by signage for users.
Macleay is also home to a growing community of artists, some quite well known, and the Arts Centre is well used by painters, potters, sculptors, plus other crafts. Bird life abounds here and there are many kookaburras whose dawn laughter often awakens us and long legged curlews who sound like babies crying in the night.
Another side trip by car to San Francisco. We drove there from Los Angeles using the freeway, caught up with old friends sharing many laughs together. We ate on the pier at Scomas, an original and never disappointing fresh seafood restaurant which I can highly recommend if you are in the Bay area www.scomas.com/ . The Bay bridge is magnificent when it is lit up in the evenings, we arrived just before sunset.
We drove back to LA on the ocean road and stoped at the famous Hearst castle, built by William Randolf Hearst the media tycoon. hearstcastle.org/ It is quite an amazing place, steeped in twentieth century history and visited by many of the rich and famous from around the globe in. its heyday. Apart form the castle there are three other “small” houses which are very grand. Well worth a visit, the tour guides are terrific and there is plenty to see and do including walking on the gold leaf mosaics in one of the magnificent swimming pools, and watching a movie in the purpose built theatre Hearst installed in the castle as it was obligatory for guests to view a movie after dinner.
It’s too difficult for me to spend a month in LA without a side trip to Vegas. Normally I fly but this time we drove through the mostly desert to get there. I say we drove but Michael loves to drive so that’s great by me. Amazing few days loving to share my passion for Vegas with Michael. For those who rarely visit, I highly recommend the Fremont St Experience with zip-liners passing above as well as amazing shows. Things really buzz down there. We also took in the Penn and Tellar show up at the Strip at the Rio http://pennandteller.com/tickets/ which did not disappoint and we met both of them after the show which was a bonus. I just had to sample the Cake Boss cakes at The Venetian.
Thanks to the Stratosphere www.stratospherehotel.com/ for once again comp-ing my stay and our yummy meals, especially the Top of the World Dining.
You are the best but for some reason Michael would not ride on the X-Scream, can’t understand why… http://www.stratospherehotel.com/Activities/X-scream.
Well, here I am in USA once again. I don’t spend quite as much time here these days as I used to, but I still love it here.
I always know I am here in the States when I hit the coffee shops and receive refill after refill of coffee. I adore the old and quirky diners. They have so much more character than the more modern shops.
The home exchange house here in Los Angeles is near Pasadena. It is in the area of LaCrescenta and the house is high on a hill near the edge of the mountains which surround Los Angeles.
Montrose is our neighboring village which is full of older type shops including a very old bowling alley which is often used in films to depict that 50s Happy Days type style.