All my yesterdays . . .

I heard on the grapevine that a certain bar that I used to frequent in the 1960’s, in Georgetown, Penang, was still in existence.

My wife and I and two other couples were passing through Penang, so I had to try and find my piece of yesterday. The bar was (is) called The Hong Kong Bar and it was favourite watering hole for many a service man based in Malaya and later Malaysia. My first visit would have been in 1963 when I sailed in a cargo ship.

As I turned in to the street I recognised the area and at once became the boring old guy bending my two male colleagues’ ears about life well before PC and the Nanny State of today.

The street in which the Hong Kong Bar is located.

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As I walked in a realised that someone else was on a memory trip. An Australian serviceman and his wife. He was here to do the same thing that I was about to do – lean on the bar and drink in the atmosphere over a glass of Tiger beer.

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The reason I thought the bar had closed is that I’d heard of the fire in the early 1970’s, but the owner had rescued the regimental shields, ships’ crests and air force insignia after the fire and remounted them in their old places around the refurbished bar.

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The column of paper consisted of cash notes from many countries around the world. The bar owner must have been able to rescue this part of the bar decoration from the fire, because I saw old English money that went of of circulation in the early sixties.

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Fresh memorabilia obvious donated since the fire.

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A lady, (in purple) who can just be seen in an earlier photo served me my beer, and soon afterwards the gentleman in yellow came out of the back area and I had the feeling of deja vue, because I thought I recognised him from the 60’s. After a short conversation I realised that this gentleman was the son of the man that I knew, the original owner.

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The same family had owned the bar since the mid fifties and they used to collect photographs of their customers. When I asked if they still had the photographs several large albums where placed on the bar. As I scrolled through them looking for a familiar face I realised that the pictures from the mid 50’s through my period in the 60’s had been lost in the fire.

My recent visit took place in the late morning, which was a first considering that we used to be going back to the ship around breakfast time.

But at nineteen one had stamina  :-o)




A parsimonious virgin, and a generous Arabian oryx

For the last twelve years my wife and I have hoarded our frequent flyer points by doing our best to only use airlines in the same ‘group’ as Virgin AtlanticVirgin_Atlantic_Airways_Logo
In May of 2014 Virgin Atlantic stopped flying to / from Australia. Our aim was to have enough points to ‘buy’ a business class round trip ticket from Sydney to Hong Kong, but the points would be valid on their partner airlines, which included Virgin
Earlier this year we had notice from Virgin Atlantic that our points would be void at the end of July unless we generated some activity. Between my wife and I we had just over 142,000 points, too many to ignore.
After thinking about how to use the points we decided that we would like to visit Broome in North West Australia, a place my wife has had on her ‘bucket’ list for some time.
I checked Virgin Australia frequent flyer system to find out how many points it would cost us to fly business class to Perth. The required number of points one way was 36,500 – so we would need 146,000 points in total, which would require us to buy an additional 4000 points from Virgin Atlantic.
As a member of the Virgin Atlantic frequent Flying Club this would not be difficult. I made a note of the times and flights that we would like to use, because I knew that I would have to go through Virgin Atlantic in the UK to book tickets on any partner airline, which included Virgin Australia – not a problem I thought as Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia where in the same ‘camp’.
I rang Virgin Atlantic UK and spoke to a very helpful staff member, and told him that I would like to book two business class seats from Sydney to Perth. He asked me to hold while he checked the seven pages of regulations for Virgin Australia frequent flyer seats. Eventually he came back on line and told me that Virgin Australia didn’t allow frequent flyer business class tickets for short haul flights. Sydney to Perth is about five and a half hours, which is just short of flying from London to Kuwait (six hours), or New York to Panama City (five and a half hours), so I asked what was long haul for this airline, Sydney to Abu Dhabi (thirteen hours fifty five minutes) or Brisbane to Los Angeles (thirteen hours, ten minutes), was the reply.
I ended the call to London and my wife and I discussed flying economy – which we decided to do.
A day or so later I rang Virgin Atlantic again in the UK and was asked by the computer to hold, while I listened to their adverts. I hung up after six minutes – holding on during peak phone times is not fun. In fact I spent the next three hours trying to get past a computer telling me how important I was . . . on the eighth time of trying I spoke to a real person.
I explained my request for two economy tickets to Perth and gave the flight numbers and dates – he told me that the cost in points was 40,000 each and the only available flight from Sydney was the VA 551, which departed at 7.15 am, requiring a check in around 5.15 am, which for us meant leaving home at 4.15 am (we live 45 minutes from the airport), so setting our alarm for about 3.45 am.
The only available return flight for frequent flyer points purchases from Perth for Sydney was the 5.30 am, VA 552, which would require a check-in of around 3.30 am, because we would have bags to check-in, so was it worth paying for a hotel room if we flew from Broome the previous afternoon?
At our age – 72 & 73 – the thought of very early morning starts has lost its appeal. After saving for twelve years I now wonder if it was all worthwhile being a loyal frequent flyer supporter of the Virgin group of airline companies – I don’t think so.

Now for a much more positive comment – in the last three or four years my wife and I managed to collect 60,000 points with Qatar Airways  296px-Qatar_Airways_Logo.svgand we wished to use them to fly from Dubai to Kuala Lumpur.
I rang Qatar Airways Privilege Club number in Doha (their head office) and spoke to a very helpful lady who booked our tickets over the phone for business class from Doha to Kuala Lumpur, and when I corrected her that we wanted to fly from Dubai via Doha to our destination, she apologised because they didn’t have any business class seats from Dubai to Doha, so she would book us First Class for the one hour flight to catch the Doha to Kuala Lumpur business class flight. Now that was customer service for two people who were using points and not cash – now which airline would you use again?
For the record our flight departs Dubai at 6.30 pm local time, a sixty minute flight, and our onward flight departs at 8.05 pm local time Doha – all very civilised – and the flight time is seven hours twenty five minutes (short haul?). What a pleasure to deal with a company that honours in the sprit as well as the word, of why people collect Qatar Airways frequent flyer points.
I post about our experiences to warn others that, in my opinion, collecting points for ‘free’ flights is not worth the effort with a virgin.

A war by any other name-Vietnam

225px-Flag_of_Vietnam.svgThere were eight of us (four couples) and we’d visited Malaysia & Sri Lanka so where next. Because I was responsible for arranging the two previous holidays the question was aimed at me.

Brighten RockI was reading ‘Brighton Rock’ by Graham Green, so I thought why not Vietnam to see the Continental Hotel in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh), where Graham Green wrote much of his novel The Quiet American? I’d love to sit in the hotel for a drink.

Quiet American

Fortunately none of the group had been involved with the Vietnam War, so we didn’t have any hidden memories to consider.


This is the hotel where Graham Green stayed & wrote ‘The Quiet American’, published in 1955.

I researched various hotels in Saigon for a mixture of price, standard of accommodation, as we were too old for backpacker style hotel and not wealthy enough to disregard the cost. At the same time I contacted a number of local travel agency / companies in Vietnam for ideas and quotes for various tours. I found all of the companies that I contacted cheaper than dealing with an Australian travel company, but I did not have the buyer protection of dealing with an Australian company. Having already had dealings with travel agents in Malaysia and Sri Lanka I felt confident that I would be able to smell a con. In the end I decided to deal with a company called Aurora Travel, and the person who became my main contact was a lady called Van. She couldn’t do enough for me, answering all my e-mails promptly, suggesting places to see, comment on my suggestions, some were positive and some negative, but always kind and friendly.Between Van and my group, via yours truly, we finalised a tour and our hotels in Saigon (Ho Chi minh), Hoi An, Hanoi and Halong Bay. The whole holiday was going to be two weeks from the 28th February, to arriving back in Sydney on the morning of the 15th March. Our time in Vietnam was going to be twelve days with two nights in Singapore on the way home.

After my research of the hotels I picked the Windsor Plaza Hotel in Saigon, which had a shopping arcade underneath.


Van asked if I realised that this hotel was not in the centre, but that the hotel did offer a free minibus service in to Saigon centre.
We were aware that the location was a little out of the town, but this didn’t bother us, as we knew of the free transport. The actual time to get from the hotel to the centre was about five to eight minutes (depending on traffic) and we didn’t consider it ‘out of town’ at all. The price of the Windsor Hotel fitted our budget, plus for $15 extra a night, we could have a room on the Executive Floor where they served food and cocktails from 5.00 pm to 7.00 pm. It was a ‘no brainer’ as we knew that wine was expensive in Vietnam and the Exec Floor served French wines. The best $15 purchase that I’d made for a long time. I think the club floor was a new idea for this hotel, because the range and amount of food was quite large. It was much more than cocktail nibbles, being a range of hot food from fried rice through to various meat dishes, all very tasty.
We did have one small problem; the bar staff kept the red wine in the fridge and the white wine on top of the fridge. It didn’t take long for us to get things changed.

Khao, (pronounce Quar) our guide for Saigon and surrounding area, met us at the airport. Khao is married to an English schoolteacher, and at that time he was about to become a father. He has since become the father of Rosie.
Khao’s command of English was very good, partly due to his father, who used to work for the Americans during the American War, and of course being married to Michelle, his English wife helped. Those of us in the West refer to the war between Vietnam and America as the Vietnam War, but in Vietnam it is called the American War.

The number of motorbikes is frightening, but after a while you get used to them and you are able to cross the road in safety even though the bikes are zipping past you at a rate of knots.


I used to keep an eye out for an old lady and I would follow her across the road. Age is revered in Asia and I knew that they wouldn’t hit an old lady – I was right. Eventually I ran out of old ladies and had to make the trip on my own.

We had four days in Saigon (Ho Chi minh). On the first day we had a tour of the city followed by a visit to the War Remnants Museum.




The place was full of US tanks, artillery, planes etc as well as N. Vietnamese equipment.


The museum also had a guillotine, which had last been used in the 20th century.

From this museum we moved on to the Reunification Palace. It didn’t register with me until we were inside the building and I looked out of the window and suddenly realised I was looking down on the spot where the N. Vietnamese tanks crashed through the gates and brought the war to an end.


The tanks came up the road in front of the fountain and crashed through the gates.


This is a close up of one of the tanks as a museum piece.

The viewing of the Palace, and hearing of the history of Saigon under the French, South Vietnamese, Americans and eventually the Vietnamese was very interesting.

In the afternoon we visited the tunnels, which are just outside Saigon.


You can see how small the entrance to one of the tunnels is – the hand belong to our guide. Later we were shown tunnel opening, which have been enlarged to allow well-fed westerners to experience crawling along a tunnel.

This is the enlarged opening of a tunnel entrance, just for us westerners.

The next picture is the entrance of a tunnel where you can crawl for about 60 metres underground. I tried it but being rather large I become stuck in a tunnel and had to back crawl out. The tunnels have bends in them so you, as the crawler, blocks all form of light which comes from behind. I could not see anything in front of me so wasn’t sure where the tunnel went around a corner – another reason for me to get out. Some of our group did cover the whole underground course.

A shot of the tunnel, after climbing down the ladder from ground level.


Later we had the chance of firing an AK47 for $1 a shot – two of us ‘invested’ $10 for five shots each – last of the big spenders. We were aiming at targets about 75 meters away – I managed to hit the surrounding sandbags.


We were also shown various booby traps used during the war. The afternoon was very interesting, and brought to life how frightening the war was for both sides. Carpet-bombing to booby traps.

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The following day we were picked up at 8.00 am and driven to the Mekong Delta.

This was going to be a full day. We crossed the Mekong in a small-motorised boat and once we reached the other side, we switched to a much smaller boat, paddled by one man, who guided us through muddy channels.

 We visited a bee farm – the bees do not sting – just produce honey.

From here we moved on to a small factory that made coconut sweets, followed by local dancing and then on to lunch. I’m not a big fish eater (can’t stand the bones), but we were offered ‘Elephant ear’ fish.

From memory, the white bits on the fish are rice grains – I think!


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Four fish for four couples – not much was left. We also had very large tiger prawns, spicy beef, fried rice and vegetables, so we couldn’t complain about going hungry. And beer was included, of course, because the weather was HOT!

Next stop would be Hoi An.







Beechworth, where dead men do tell tales.

Next day we repacked the car and headed to Beechworth in Victoria. The drive was just over two hours, via the outskirts of Albury. It was an easy drive, and once off the freeway a very pleasant drive along quiet country roads.
Finding our accommodation Rose Cottage was easy.


Rose cottage from the front gate.


View from the small patio outside our room, very peaceful with a glass of wine.

The decor is ornate country cottage, with a homely feel of yesteryear. The cottage has a large number of interesting pieces, which held my attention. Where ever I went there was something different and many pieces reminded me of an elderly Aunt’s home that I used to visit as a child. She lived in Caernarvon, North Wales, and her home was country-ish. Of course in Rose Cottage everywhere was rose coloured.

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Entrance hall             Our room – the teddy bear is not mine!

Our room wasn’t quite ready when we arrived, so were offered two free vouchers to try out the local pub called The Hibernian, which was a short walk (about fifty metres) from Rose Cottage, just in time for a pre-lunch drink. A very friendly pub with good food and cold beer – couldn’t fault it.


Beechworth is a piece of ‘yesterday’, quiet streets, which are very wide, friendly locals, and because we were out of season (just before Easter) it was a pleasure to just wonder in and out of shops to check out the local produce (mainly honey), and wine.


Old buildings and quiet streets



During our stay we saw much of the Ned Kelly gang era, from their last stand and gun fight, to Ned Kelly being committed for trial in Melbourne, where he was found guilty of murder, and November 1880 hanged at the age of 25.



The above is Ned Kelly’s death mask.

The old court house is as it was in the 1870’s and all of the furnishings, including the large clock, were used in that period.


This the holding cell where Ned Kelly waited to be called in to court.


The picture behind me shows Ned Kelly standing in the same dock during his committal hearing for the murders of Constables Scanlon and Lonigan.

Court house

The last time this court was used was in 1989, after 131 years of continual service.



It is believed that Harry Power, (also known as Johnson) later known as ‘the Gentleman Bushranger’, was Ned Kelly’s tutor in his life of crime. Power is virtually unknown today.

The picture below is of the original cell, under the town hall, where he (Power) was held in Beechworth before being sentenced to fifteen years for armed hold ups.









Harry Power retired from a life of crime, after finishing his fifteen years in gaol, in 1885. He was an old sick man and used to earn a living as a tour guide around ‘Success’, which was the prison ship in which he had served seven years, as a prisoner. He was known as ‘The last of the bushrangers’.

In 1891 he drowned in the Murray River at Swan Hill, so ending the era of the ‘Bushrangers’.

As we walked from historic site to historic site we were always greeted by people in traditional dress of yesteryear, including many of the men wearing long beards of the period of the 1850’s to 1870’s, all genuine. The people involved with the history of the town were, I believe, volunteers and their labour of love shows through, via their enthusiasm.

Next to the Court House is the telegraph office where one can still send a message via Morse code. It opened in 1857. As with many Beechworth places of interest there is always a volunteer in attendance. The elderly gentleman who was happy to talk to use and show us how everything worked used to be a ‘key-man’ from way back. We spoke of the differences between his day on land and a ship’s Marconi radio operator when I was at sea.

For a small fee he would send a message, via Morse, anywhere in the world. It turned out that the message went to someone in Melbourne, and after that it went by post to its destination. The Morse system is operated by volunteer hobbyists, so sending within Australia was not a problem because locale hobbyists would decode and post locally within Australia, but internationally it was a problem, but by using the snail mail postal system the message would reach its destination – eventually.

It was suggested to us that we drive to the top of Mount Stanley for views of the Victorian Alps. This sounded a good idea so we set off and drove to Stanley, the small town at the foot of the mountain. As we approached the lower part of the mountain the road became a dirt road.

The dirt road was not a problem as we climbed higher and higher until it started to get very narrow, with a cliff edge on one side and forest trees on the other. Glimpses of a very good view could be seen occasionally by Maureen, but I was not in the mood to take my eyes off the road, which was getting narrower still, and a puncture would be a major problem on the steep incline.

In addition I was concerned that if we met another vehicle coming down the mountain we would not have enough room to pass, and one of us would have to reverse a considerable way.
Eventually we came across a small area where the road was a little wider, with a small cutting in to the woods to allow cars to pass. I took advantage of this area to turn the car around and return to civilisation. The last thing I wanted was any serious damage to the car as we had only just started our road trip.

Later when we mentioned this aborted trip in our B & B we were told that the view was not very good because the trees had grown so tall that many obscured the Alps. Apparently the green brigade objected to the pruning of the trees to maintain the views.

On our list of ‘must see’ was a cemetery, which when you think about it is an unusual holiday destination. The cemetery is famous for the Chinese connection with its many graves and Chinese shrines from the gold rush days.

Chinese Burning Towers.

Chinese-Burning-TowersThe relatives and friends of the recently died would burn prayers and meals provided to help the Spirits on their way. Over 2000 Chinese are buried in this cemetery.

Picture from the cemetery’s web site.

As we respectfully checked the Chinese area, a local introduced himself as the Manager of the cemetery and asked if he good he help?

I explained that we were visiting from Sydney and that we were interested in the old graves. From then on the Manager was a fund of knowledge of the ‘old days’ and brought to life (excuse the pun) the history of the cemetery and how the Chinese section grew. The areas which we thought were ‘blank’ as if waiting for the next funeral where in fact graves of paupers or the mentally ill from the local mental institution, which no longer exist. Many of the mentally ill were abandoned by their family, and the patient was never visited. When they died relatives failed to claim the body, so they were buried in the pauper’s area. In some cases the family had left the area and the authorities were unable to trace their new address.

There were a number graves pointed out by the Manager, which were famous. I’ve listed three that I found interesting.

John Drummond; born 1791 in Scotland. He joined the 71st Regiment at 15, and served in eleven battles during the Peninsular Napoleonic war. He fought at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
He was wounded in 1811 and 1813, and discharged from the army as a sergeant in 1828 ‘worn out through length of service’.
He arrived in Australia in 1831, and perhaps the gold attracted him to Beechworth in the 1850’s. He was a caring man because in 1858 he gave up his army pension for the widows and children of those killed in the Crimea war. He died at 73 years of age in 1865. He is thought to be one of only ten men in Victoria who fought at Waterloo.

James Riley; born New Jersey in 1829. He enlisted in the American Army in 1862, and was badly wounded in the right leg at the battle of Reams Station on Weldon Railroad. He turned up in Beechworth and married in 1886, a local widow. He died in 1901.

James Storey; born in New York in 1818. He enlisted in the 2nd US Dragoons in 1840 and fought against the Indians (Seminole Indians I think), in the West. He re-enlisted in 1845 and served in the Mexican War between 1846 and 1848. He fought at the battle of Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, Monterey and Beuno Vista, where he had his horse shot from under him.
In 1850 he went gold digging in California, and in 1853 he arrived in Beechworth looking for gold. In 1858 he married an ex-convict, who had been transported from England for theft in 1839. He died in January 1913 at the age of 95, and is buried with his wife in Beechworth cemetery.

In 1932 the last Chinese person was buried in the Chinese section, he was 105 years old, having lived in Beechworth for over 70 years.

Without the Manager I doubt that we would have gained so much from our visit.

From the cemetery we decide to visit the carriage museum. It wasn’t easy to find, but we did find it in the grounds of a brewery.


We seem to have visited a number of places in Beechworth linked to death, perhaps it is our age that we can look upon the trappings of death, without being part of the main scene – yet.

I noticed that the brewery offered ‘tasting’ so after viewing the various carriages I felt in need of a few tastings, so we entered the brewery. I asked about the type of beer that they brewed and was told that they didn’t brew beer, but cordial! A ‘cold one’ was not forthcoming.

To be fair, the cordial tasted very different than the supermarket type cordials. The history of this brewery was interesting.

They had an area dedicated to the story of the brewery, which opened in 1865, brewing beer. It wasn’t until the Temperance Society became involved in the 1920’s that the brewery changed from beer to cordial. It is located over an underground spring of pure water, for both the beer and cordial. The brewery is called Murray Breweries, and it wasn’t until I left Beechworth that I found out that the local beer brewery is Bridge Road Brewers, and they offered real local ale. You win some and loose some, but Murray Brewery was enjoyable, if different.


They named them twice.

March, 2015 Road Trip
Sydney, Wagga Wagga, Beechworth, Hay, Mildura,
Broken Hill,  Tanunda, Adelaide, Robe, Ballarat, Albury, Sydney.
4305 km door to door.


My wife and I have seen quite a lot of Asia so we thought it was about time that we saw some more of Australia.
We decided to visit Adelaide, which would also give us a chance to visit my wife’s cousin.
I planned the ‘Road Trip’, as it was now being called, to be basically anticlockwise – Sydney, Wagga Wagga, Mildura, Broken Hill, Adelaide, Robe, Ballarat, Beechworth, Yass and home – nine stops.
I checked each stop for local fairs, markets or festivals, partly for us to see and expereince, and depending on the size of the festival, could we obtain accommodation at the ‘right’ price. The one that caused me some concern was the Adelaide Festival, which is extremely popular, but not with me, because I was only interested in the nightly rate, and large festivals had a tendency to increase the nightly rates.
I worked out that if we left Sydney late February by the time we reached Adelaide the festival would be reaching the end, and perhaps the accommodation costs would not be too big of a consideration.
I contacted a B & B that looked attractive and asked for a booking. I was told that they were full until the 12th March, and they knew that other B & B were also full, if I wanted a similar standard as the one I’d picked. I knew we would be able to book hotels, but the price per night was more expensive than we were used to paying in Asia at five star resorts, so I balked at paying over the odds due to a festival. I had to re-think the basic plans to be in Adelaide no earlier than the 12th March.
Back to the drawing board and I came up with a cockeyed plan for ten stops and we would zig zag our way to Adelaide, and still arrive on the 12th as planned.
Our first stop would be Wagga Wagga, (NSW) and then Beechworth in northern Victoria. This zig would take us away from the main route to S. Australia, but we did wish to see the place, which is why it was at the end of our original plan. Now that it was near the beginning I had to find the best route from Beechworth to somewhere on the way to Mildura. I could have driven right through, but it was supposed to be a holiday and driving flat out for seven or eight hours was not attractive, plus I could be over tired and make a mistake. I was happy with a four hour drive so I researched the towns on the way to Mildura, which were between three and five hours drive from Beechworth. Eventually I found Hay a small town in southern NSW, and checked this place out for a night stop.
On checking various motels and B & Bs I came across ‘Interesting things to do in Hay’ on the Hay web site, so I clicked on this link and found the Dunera Museum!

In the mid 60’s I’d sailed in the Dunera as a cadet when she was a school ship. During the war she had been a troop ship, and in 1940 she was used to ship nearly 2000 German and Austrian Jewish internees to Australia.


Many of the internees had fled Nazi Germany to the UK in the late 1930’s. Unfortunately many German & Austrian people living in Britain at that time were considered a security risk, so they were rounded up and placed in camps. The plan was to send them to Canada, but this didn’t work out and they were sent in HMT Dunera to Australia. The guards on the ship, and some of the crew, were not all that sympathetic to the internees, and the voyage became infamous, and the internees became known as the Dunera Boys.

I don’t think there were any women in the group, because wives and children were considered a lower risk, and were kept in Britain.

Knowing the history of the Dunera Boys and having sailed in her twenty five years after the fateful voyage, I just had to stop in Hay to visit the museum.

Our next stop would be three nights in Mildura, on the Murray River, followed by Broken Hill for three nights, and then Tanunda in the Barossa Valley for two nights, which was about a ninety minute drive outside Adelaide. These two nights in the Barossa would be the last two nights of the Festival, which would allow us to move in to the B & B on Saturday 14th March.

We would be in Adelaide for four nights, the longest time at any of the stops, after which it would be Robe, two nights, Ballarat for one night, and finally Albury for a single night before the last six hours drive home.


Using the freeway the drive from Sydney to Wagga Wagga went well. We left home at 8.40 am, on a Sunday; the traffic was light, so we were able to make good time. We stopped for a picnic lunch at Bookham. The place was picked at random, because we didn’t know when we would stop or where. We felt peckish, so we stopped.

Bookham was ‘advertised’ as a rest stop and I thought it would be just a lay-by, but it was a small hamlet; very quiet with a small car park, picnic tables, a toilet block and a petrol station fifty metres from the parking area. Across the road was an old church with ‘character’.



The above is the main street of Bookham . . . the traffic on the freeway could just be heard.

We arrived at the motel in Wagga Wagga at 2.00 pm. The bush areas must have something in the water when towns are given the same name twice. Just on the outskirts of Wagga Wagga we passed through Gumly Gumly, and later in our road trip we stood on a lookout point called Mundi Mundi.

For all our accommodation I used Trip Advisor as a guide to the standard of service, and cleanliness. Our first stop being Wagga Wagga, was the test factor of previous visitors’ recommendations. I’d booked us in to the The Junction Motor Inn  in Wagga Wagga, and I found that the web site was easy to use, and responses to my e-mails were fast.
Jill & Peter, the owners, were very friendly and helpful on our arrival advising us where to eat and how best to get in to the town centre and where to park.

Our accommodation was spotless and a good size, with plenty of parking right outside the door.

DSC03449rBecause it was a Sunday the motel was very quiet – on arrival we were the only car in the car park area. Later, a number of others arrived or returned from days out sightseeing.

After we’d unpacked the necessities, we drove the short distance to the town centre. Like many country towns on a Sunday afternoon, it was QUIET! The only department store closed at 3.00 pm, ten minutes before our arrival. I hate shops, so how lucky can I get?


Sunday afternoon in Wagga Wagga

We walked the length of the centre and the one thing I noticed was that they had a beautiful memorial park for those who served and died in all wars. The roses, the fountain and the eternal flame made a big impression on me, particular for such a small town.


The Eternal Flame Garden


Memorial gardens


In memory of . . . .

Running alongside the garden area was the Murrumbidgee River, which snaked and turned across the country to beyond Hay and eventually in to the Murray River. The Murrumbidge River is 1488 km long, stretching from the head waters in the ACT (Australian Capital Territories) to the Murray River, which forms the border between NSW & Victoria. If I’d have realised this I might have considered ‘boating’ instead of ‘roading’ because our plans would take us from Wagga Wagga to Hay and on to Midura, all place connected by rivers.


During the afternoon we visited the local Club to check it out for our evening meal. The Club was a sporting club, but as I am not particularly sports minded I have no idea which sport the club followed. The system in Australia is that you can visit any club for drinks and a meal (you don’t have to be a member), as long as you are more than five kilometers away from your own home.

The restaurant looked fine, so we asked if we had to book for that evening, and the young lady that we spoke to told us that all should be OK if we arrived early, and that they started serving at six.

The club offered a courtesy coach to and from the club, and as we were not all that far from the club we booked the bus for a 6.00 pm pick up, from our motel. Using the bus would allow us to have a glass of wine with the meal and not worry about driving.

A few minutes after six the bus arrived and we boarded, only to find that there were quite a few people already on board. The larger than expected number of people impressed us, and confirmed that we had made the right choice for our meal, because it was obviously a very popular club.

We headed away from the club and I thought we must be picking up more people for the evening session. How wrong was I, the bus did a large circuit of the housing area dropping off the lunchtime members. My wife and I were the only passengers going to the club that evening!

On entering the restaurant about 6.30 pm we found that there were six or seven other people already eating, so we had a seating choice of between twenty and thirty tables!


Next stop Beechworth in Victoria.

A four night Viennese whirl!

On arrival in Vienna we took a taxi from the station to our hotel– Hotel Beethoven which was about a 30 minute ride for a nine kilometer trip , due to negotiate a number of one-way streets and the traffic was heavier than expected.

On arrival at the hotel we were greeted in the reception area with cardboard and plastic sheeting all over the floor, and plastic sheeting covering the furniture because the hotel being refurbished. I couldn’t complain about the reception that we received from the staff at the reception desk, warm and friendly.
Our room was quite large with a small corridor leading from the main door to the bedroom area. The bedroom had a small bay window alcove, which contained a writing desk and chairDSC01496r. The bay windows overlooked the street.DSC01499r

Each Sunday the hotel offered a complimentary musical recital for their guests. Champaign would be served during the interlude. Our last day in Vienna would be Sunday so we thought we would take advantage of the recital to experience the music of Vienna.

DSC01539r On the Friday we were site seeing near the Opera House, when we were ‘accosted’ by young men dress in 18th century costumes who were selling discounted tickets for a concert on Saturday evening at the Palais Auersperg to hear the Wiener Resdenzorchester.
The concert would be a sample of Viennese orchestral music, opera and dance. So we booked for the Saturday evening. On returning to our hotel we were presented with a letter from the management that stated due to unforeseen circumstance the complimentary recital would be held on Saturday afternoon, not Sunday afternoon. This was the first time that this had happened since the hotel started the complimentary recitals. Of course we could not attend, due to the Saturday evening booking, for which we had just paid not an hour earlier. It was a disappointment, but we thoroughly enjoyed the ninety-minute experience of orchestral music, opera and dance. It was not too long, particularly for tourists, who have limited time, and perhaps could not afford a full evening at the Opera House. As you see from the photos we were close to the stage.

Staircase leading to the theater


DSC01547r Orchestra



DSC01560r Opera

Walking back to the hotel after an evening at the opera – the late evening sun darkening the trees against the still lit buildings.

The Beethoven Hotel was close to everything that we wanted. A five-minute walk to the Opera House, a further few minutes and you were Karntner Strass (think shops and more shops for the ladies, and side street of restaurants and cafes). A fifteen minute walk from the hotel and you would be at St Stephen’s church (Stephans Platz) or the  Hofburg.

DSC01526r   DSC01519r

View of Karntner Strass from the Skybar and street level.

DSC01528r  DSC01532r

St Stephen’s church

The hotel is located in a quite side street and it is two minutes from the Naschmarkt, which offers a wide range of restaurants (photos below) serving food from all over the world, from India through to Japanese and of course Viennese food. This market is closed on Sunday evening, but we ate in the market, at different restaurants, for the three previous evenings. It was convenient, and we had a wide choice, at reasonable prices.



Most of our time in Vienna was set aside for sightseeing. Shortly after we arrived we used the hop – on –hop – off bus to familiarise ourselves with the layout of the city. It was after this that we realised that we could walk to most places of interest, including the Hofburg Palace. Walking can make one thirsty and one of the great things about Budapest and Vienna, was that our water bottles could be refilled from many of the fountains. The water was potable and free. It was mineralised and very cold. It is a pity many other cities haven’t followed their example.

We could have taken a tram, instead of walking.


Viennese coffee house – the all sold wine & beer.


Besides sightseeing we also enjoyed people watching, from pavement cafes.



The main site that we didn’t walk to was the Summer Palace (Schoenberg Palace) – we used the metro.

Like Buckingham Place we had to book a time for us to enter and view the various exhibits.


Gardens at the rear of the Palace


Rear of the Palace.


Distant fountain taken from the rear balcony


Close up of fountain area

As I mentioned before we were in Vienna for a Sunday. Many places were closed, as was the Naschmarkt, so we had to find somewhere else to eat for our last evening meal. We walked around the area near the hotel, and checked various restaurants. None of them attracted us until we came across an Asian restaurant called Restaurant Quick Box. It didn’t look much from the outside, but we all fancied an Asian meal after a month of mainly European food so we thought we’d give it a try.
The front area was mainly for take away and the restaurant area was at the back. The menu consisted of three types of Asian food, Thai, Chinese and Japanese. The furniture was basic, but the place was spotless, as were the toilets. I ordered sushi and my wife had crispy duck and we ordered the house wine. My platter of sushi was fresh and sharp, with a wide choice of items, couldn’t fault the presentation nor the taste. My wife considered the duck dish to be one of the best that she had ever tasted. The bill at the end was the cheapest we’d had in Vienna, and it included the wine. I’m only sorry that I never took any photographs of the restaurant and the presentation. I’d definitely return if I was ever to visit Vienna again.

All good things come to an end and the following day we took a taxi to Wein Westbahnhof for our train to Frankfurt. The trip would be seven and a half hours – see other posts of our semi-enclosed compartment.


Stations of memory

Why do trains have such a fascination? After reading From Russia with Love I knew that one day I would travel by train through Eastern Europe, if not along the same line as Mr Bond, but some where in Eastern Europe.


Murder on the Orient Express – could I afford to travel with Agatha Christie as she keeps us on the straight and narrow, or should I just buy the DVD ?

Murder on Orient

Perhaps it should be, Stamboul  Train, which runs from Ostend to Istanbul with Graham Green at the controls.


It is not just trains that held my attention, via books, but also the names of the cities through which we pass.


Funeral in Berlin by Len Deighton


I wonder if the main character would recognise Berlin’s mainline station today?

If we move on from trains to cities we must use railway stations, which bring back memories of railway stations in films –


Brief Encounter had a number of station scenes.


Remember Rick in the rain on the railway station in Paris as the German entered the city?


How about Burt Lancaster in ‘The Train’, trying to save French paintings in 1944, and the number of stations that his train passed through in an effort to fool the Germans?

For me black & white has more ‘depth’ to the scene.

As our train ran from Prague to Budapest I couldn’t help but photograph ‘romantic’ stations.





Doesn’t this station reek of spies and all things connected with the 1950’s?

Brat outside

Leaving Bratislava – you can just see the front of our train.

Nove Zamky

Nove Zamky – can you hear the Russian tanks?





Unknown, does anybody recognise this station ?

A four night stay in Budapest and we were off again,


Our train arriving to take us to Vienna.

Vienna, the home of Graham Green’s, The Third Man, which is another book to bring back a reason to travel by train in Eastern Europe.

Third man

Leaving BUD

Farewell Budapest


Gyor our first stop

Each of the stations mentioned have histories that would fill a library – battles fought, ruled by the armies of Sweden, France, Turkey, Mongols, Russians, Austrians, Germans to name a few. Coming from a country that has not suffered invaders for over a thousand years it is hard to comprehend.

approaching VIEApproaching Vienna as we passed large marshaling yards.

Four nights in Vienna and we are off again to Frankfurt.


 Seven hours, but in comfort.

Cubical VIE FRA Conpartmen 01

Facing forward for the top one and facing backwards for the other.

Inside we had a four individual chairs and a table – plenty of room for four adults. We could hear what was going on, but we were still private. Not that there was a lot of noise, just quiet chatter.

Leaving Vienna

Wien Westbahnhof

Wien Westbahhof

Linz01   Linz


A town that has a history that will take generations to forget
Adolf Hitler spent his youth here before moving on to Vienna – he considered Linz to be his home town.

Adolf Eichmann also spent his youth here.

On the other side of the coin many victims of Nazism have been remembered by Linz citizen in the naming of various streets. Simon Wiesenthal founded his Jewish document centre in Linz.


  Our final station, before Frankfurt, was Nurnberg. I couldn’t help taking pictures of this city’s railways station. Growing up in the aftermath of WW2, with tales of the trials and executions of war criminals in this city, one felt as if we all knew of the city, even though none of us had visited the city.

220px-Defendants_in_the_dock_at_nuremberg_trials  The accused at the trials.


Frankfurt station, which brings to mind Elvis