Benoa, Bali – Indonesia


It’s never been easier for Australians to visit Bali, Indonesia as the visa fee of about USD35.00 has been made exempt by the government until further notice for tourists within a 30 day stay and single entry. As it’s airport specific for international travellers please check for updated information. At the time of writing this Denpasar Ngurah Rai Airport was also exempt.

So life’s a beach and I’m heading off to one of the best areas in Bali and that’s Tanjung Benoa, Nusa Dua.

A little quieter than some other areas of Bali, but that suits me these days …

If going to Tanjung Benoa it’s located 15 kilometres from (Ngurah Rai) Denpasar International Airport and about A$10-20 taxi ride.

The new Mandara Toll Road if coming in from the main areas of Bali helps significantly in easing of the traffic conditions and makes a faster trip. IDR11,000 is equivalent to AUD1.11 on today’s exchange rate.

Freeway heading to Tanjung Benoa; like so many other beachside destinations in Bali, it used to be a fishing village and an old dock. The development of the peninsula has been momentous over the years as most of the shore-side properties are now hotels, resorts and water sports operators.

Romantic entry into the Sol Beach House Benoa’s reception area, an all-inclusive property with three various packages (starting with Blue, Silver and Gold) which offer guests a rate suitable for their budget. Free WiFi is offered to all who stay with a fabulous daily buffet breakfast.

Rooms are chic and classy with a cool aqua-blue setting which conveys a sense of space and simplicity. All room types have a balcony.

Fine dining at The Amarta Italian Restaurant cannot be bypassed and a real treat – especially if you love pizza!

Beautiful grounds of the resort resemble a lush tropical paradise. Birdlife is abundant here as it’s a newish resort area with pristine white beaches.

Tanjung Beach, even on an overcast windy day, is still relatively calm and seems a safer area for families with youngsters. Fishing takes place when tides are low and it’s relaxing to watch others do some the work …

Service with a smile on Tanjung beach’s private area – for full relaxation and rest, grab a cocktail and snack while admiring the view.

Walk along the beach to see local handicrafts being made first hand.

So it’s time to say bye to Tanjung Benoa and like many others I’m ‘on my bike’ and wishing I could stay longer at the Sol House Benoa …

You can contact me for further information or directly at and look for Sol Hotels and Resorts.

Seminyak, Bali – Indonesia

Off to Bali, I’ve travelled on Garuda Indonesia on a number of occasions and Business Class has taken a new style of its own – even going back years ago there was ample room but take a look below at the new Business Class seating.

Business Class seats in the Airbus A330 can be fully reclined up to 180 degrees.

24 spacious “Super Diamond” seats, in a 1-2-1 configuration giving all guests direct aisle access
• 24.4” width seat reclining into a fully flat bed
• 16” LCD touchscreen in-flight entertainment system
• Restaurant style service with sumptuous meals and a selection of premium beverages
• Personal storage
• USB & power outlet
• 40kg checked baggage allowance
• Priority check in and lounge access

Photo courtesy of Garuda Indonesia.

Before departure at the SkyTeam Lounge, there’s the ability to relax after Immigration and duty free shopping. Here you can just sit and watch over the apron all the airlines coming and going about their routine.

Located on the Terminal 1 departure level at Pier B, the Sydney Lounge offers everything you need to unwind in comfort, do some work or grab a bite before your flight.

Surf boards are permitted, however check with the airline their policy on weight and dimensions for carriage as Bali is a mecca for surfers.

Courtyard by Marriott Bali Seminyak Resort’s double bedroom.

When was the last time you stayed at a Courtyard Marriott? Bet it wasn’t a resort … This property in Seminyak is one of two resorts in Bali and it’s just two years old (the other is located at Nusa Dua).

Incredibly impressed with the very modern, contempory and stylish rooms – mainly two types – Deluxe room (city/street view) and Deluxe Pool View room of which faces in towards the swim-up bar and inffinity pool spilling over into another lower level pool which is quieter and a little less celebratory – all within the complex.

A swim-up bar is all that Aussies want at times without having to leave the property, and just simply enjoy what’s in front of them.  It’s all here …

Breakfast at this hotel is somewhat a wowser! Anyone who orders the usual obligatory eggs and bacon are missing out. I travel to eat the local cuisine, doesn’t matter what time in the day it is …

Change money at your hotel wherever possible – even if it’s a slightly lower rate. There’s a myriad of Money Changers all over Bali, however you may think the exchange rate  given is better, but when you receive back the difference between IDR70,000 and IDR7,000 it’s about A$6.50 on today’s exchange rate. You may not pick up the difference in currency at first sight and it’s easily missed, but at least the major hotels will give you the correct amount owing to you … It’s about the cost of two bottles of beer!

Seminyak Village, not too far away from anything – it’s a modern and fashionable outlet with lots of commercial goodies for sale.

The Junction, not to be missed as it’s one of the busiest cross roads and a fabulous bar.

Before I die … Bit of street art to check out while walking around.

Shopping for signs? Bali’s a treasure trove of fine art, handicrafts, antique and semi-antique furniture, paintings, delicately carved jewellery, wood and stone carvings, masks, woven and dyed fabrics.

Self explanatory …

Can’t say I’ve seen too many black cats in Bali, but this one’s staying close to its owner.

The Library Café in Seminyak is one of my favourites and with my new drink of choice – Affogato to cool down while people watching.

A beach buggy or a short walk from my hotel to the beach area is easily accessible.

And, everyone loves having their favourite seat with a few bevvies waiting for the sun set.

End of the day having a swim and cooling off ready for the next day’s swimming, eating and shopping – generally having a good time with lots of bargains on offer. Make sure you travel over lightly with your luggage because you’ll go home with more than you hoped for, and stall holders are often open till about 11:00 pm at night.

Back 2 Cowra, NSW Australia – Part 2

Opened in 1979, the multi award-winning Cowra Japanese Garden is a ‘must see’ at any time of the year.

Bonsho Bell – found in Japanese Temples and local shrines, cast from copper and tin alloy. In times gone by they were used to assemble the villagers. Later, they were used to tell the time and became an indispensable factor in the daily lives of the people.

Beautiful gardens throughout. The rocky hillside, manicured hedges, waterfalls,  streams and the two lakes provide a serene environment for a myriad of birdlife.

Peace and calm surrounds the water landscape, take time to explore the five hectares of garden and enjoy its beauty and tranquillity.

An apple crab tree in full blossom. The Garden’s designer Ken Nakajima created the Kaiyushiki (strolling) Garden to symbolise the Japanese landscape.

Walking distance from the Gardens, a bird’s eye view of the township with the district being made up predominately of farming – particularly lambing flats, vineyards and cereal crops.

And of course, Bellevue Hill Reserve is one of Cowra’s most popular parks, here better known as Billy Goat’s Hill due to goats having been kept here some time ago – bet it’s seen more of Cowra than anyone would want to tell …

You might witness a kangaroo or two whilst there …

Understated with superb views, bring a picnic and some vino – now that’s what I call meditation … And it’s free!

Looking towards the Japanese War Cemetery, a visit to the old cemetery of Cowra is just as interesting.

And if you’re wondering about life’s journey, then don’t forget what the St Raphael’s School’s motto is! Just make sure you live your life to its fullest – never let a moment go by, even if it means dancing in the garden with your favourite herbs waving those bunches of flowers around like a microphone and singing to them.

At the Back 2 Cowra week, Saturday was Open Day for all the schools to extend their doors to past and present students. Memories soon came flooding back here undoubtedly – ouch that cane hurt!

Have to admit the Convent is looking immaculate and here’s where some of us learnt guitar, elocution, sewing and many other useful lessons of which most of us remember fondly.

The Chapel was opened in 1938 by the Bishop of Bathurst and though it was closed to all but the nuns for many years, it’s now accessible to current students.

As we remember our teachers, we really did admire them for their tenacity to teach us to be the best we could … However, if you were a footy player and did well at rugby, you might have a blind eye towards your misdemeanours on occasion …

Loved seeing some great photography works by current high school students – truly admirable work.

Walking around the streets, I’m sure these doors across from the Caravan Park could tell a few tales as well.

There’s Vicki again, letting all the Ladies know if you’re waiting for the right bloke it might take as long as the rail line to be opened up again at the Cowra Station. Let’s hope it’s soon.

For car enthusiasts during the Back 2 Cowra week, vintage cars were seen and displayed all around the township. Lots of waving and the traditional Aussie finger salute, it’s a way of saying g’day to each other without talking, usually when driving over vast distances just acknowledging each other.

Visiting my brother Ron, still playing with his cranes … Some boys just never grow up!

The street lights were on … and we did go home – eventually. Well that’s it for Back 2 Cowra 2016 and you’ll have to wait till September 2018 before it returns.

A big thank you to Marc McLeish, Vicki Anderson, Leona Wright, Julie Collins, Jamie Hibberson, Councillors Ray Walsh, Judy Smith, Charlie Thompson, Russell and Cathy Denning and Council Manager Chris Cannard who put this event together after an absence of some years.

Best time to visit Cowra and the Central West NSW is around Autumn and particularly Spring as the blossoms of all native plants such as the Golden Wattle (Australia’s national flower pictured) turns on a magnificent show and takes centre stage throughout the region. You won’t be disappointed.

Back 2 Cowra Week, Cowra NSW, Australia

20160923_093931It’s amazing what you find in your own cupboard and this glass was a reminder of what it’s like to return to your own grass roots.  This blog post is about Back 2 Cowra last week 13-18 September, 2016.

The words written on my find are indicative of Cowra’s history.
Back to Cowra Week 8th – 16th Sept. 1979
‘The Gem of the Lachlan Valley’ lies in the rich valley between the Lachlan and Belabula Rivers. The name comes from an Aboriginal word meaning ‘rocks’. The area was first explored by G.W. Evans in 1815. The first lands were taken up in the district in 1830. The town population is presently 8,200 whilst town and district number approx. 13,000. The train service arrived in 1884. Following World War 2, which gave Cowra the tragic beginnings of a deep and growing friendship with Japan, came the commercial air service with Sydney. The new hospital building was completed in 1955 and has been updated continually since that time. The beautiful Japanese Gardens should be seen by all.

Cowra – ‘A Good Way of Life’.

2016 Cowra Showgirl entrant Cody Hill reading my poem entered at the Show of which I couldn’t attend. Anyone who knows me well will tell you I’d even go to the opening of a rat trap, but on this esteemed occasion, sadly I’d have to miss it. There’s so much fun at a country show and I urge anyone to go along one day, especially if you have young children.

Cody did me proud as ‘The Street Lights are On … It’s Time to Go Home’ received Highly Commended and a big thank you to her for taking up the challenge.

Photo courtesy of Robin Dale, Cowra.

Coming home this year, we’ve been lucky enough to have some rain for sure, but it’s been raining none stop for months now … Just a bit more than out of the ordinary and it’s as green as could be.

Picture taken at Holmwood Silos.

20160328_134636Same place and yes, we’ve had our share of drought too in the past as seen here in September, 2008.  It’s one of the best lambing regions in Australia and we’d prefer to see four distinctive seasons each year regardless of the freezing cold winters and boiling hot dry summers.

You’ll probably find Cowra lamb in more select butcheries and rarely in supermarkets.

As I write this, the Lachlan River is now at dangerous levels after a week of rising waters from Wyangala Dam which is a further 30 minute drive away. As the dam is now over capacity, visitors are not able to enjoy activities such as water skiing.

Wyangala is well regarded by anglers for fishing such as silver and golden perch, catfish and murray cod are plentiful.

Now that spring has sprung, it’s just glorious and the blooms are out in full.

The district is renown for its farming with sheep and wheat being most prominent. It’s the commercial centre of a strong agricultural area in country NSW that covers horticulture, aquaculture and viticulture. The wine industry has grown to an international standard with Chardonnay taking out a number of awards, even after Aussies Cath and Kim’s belief is that ‘cardonnay is noice again’.

Canola – fields of gold can be seen from almost from every angle.

In 1944, more than 1,000 Japanese prisoners of war attempted to escape from a local internment camp. Cowra has since forged a remarkable friendship with Japan and you can see many tributes to this special relationship around town.

The hologram is a young woman who tells the story from a local perspective while interacting with original artefacts from the Camp. The presentation is aimed at raising awareness of the historical significance of Cowra in modern military history and in encouraging visitation to other local attractions and locations of historical importance. This will be found at the Visitor’s Information Centre across the bridge at the Rose Gardens.

We had the pleasure of Andy from Transport Heritage NSW give an opening talk about the importance of maintaining and restoring the collection of engines, carriages and wagons which is paramount for their preservation with the view it’s part of our history.

The magnificent locomotive #5367 taken out of the stable to show off just what a beauty she really is!

The railway lines around Cowra have been closed by the State Government, but the Lachlan Valley Railway (LVR) regularly conducts special train trips around the State, visiting many beautiful and historic towns and villages. For these trips the LVR uses restored heritage carriages with diesel and steam locomotives.

The locals are all volunteers and rely on donations and we’re here with an advocate of the Lachlan Valley Railway; from left the Mayor Mr Bill West, Vicki Anderson, Max Duffey – a staunch supporter (who worked with my Dad on the railway for many years along with Mr Jimmy Ryan) and his daughter Maryanne Duffey who drove up from Sydney for the presentation. Everyone’s working really hard at trying to have the lines opened up again in the region so everyone can enjoy what it was like to ride a steam train from a by gone era.

Lawrance Ryan from Cowra Tourism sometimes conducts tours of the Railway’s exhibits and here showing us the turntable on site.

The history of Cowra is marked by stories of the military and migrants from World War II. Between 1940 and 1945 some 80,000 Australian troops received basic training at the Cowra facility. After the war the camp became home to between 17,000 to 19,000 immigrants who left war-ravaged Europe to make their home in Australia.

Source: Cowra Tourism

Looking out from the Cowra Railway Station, on the far left was the Migrant Camp which housed many of the post WWII immigrants from Europe including my own parents.

Nearly twice the current population of Cowra lived on the outskirts of the community between 1949 and 1955 as part of Cowra’s Migrant Camp.The lesser known of our ‘camps’, it is often confused with the POW camp – the site of the famous Cowra Breakout.

Earlier this year I had the privilege of taking part in the unveiling of a new plaque in memory of those who came as ‘New Australians’ to the region and start a new life. Here with me from left are delightful friends Tina and Janina Jaworski whose parents were also at this camp.

Anyway, there’s not anything quite like going out to the club and hearing an emerging young talent such as Jamie Hibberson who is on the way up, and with Vicki showing him off… Keep an eye on this young Cowra bloke!

Stay tuned for Part Two  of Back 2 Cowra …

Freiburg to Frankfurt, Germany

Christmas Markets in Freiburg, Germany and anyone thinking of visiting Europe later in the year would have to stay for the festivities, especially in Germany where it’s almost a cult.

Hanging out at the Market with my gorgeous young cousin and her special man Tomasi who is a world-class Tattooist. One day I will have my own special little tattoo – just like actress Dame Helen Mirren decided it was time, I too will do so, but I need some more gluhwein! Maybe yext year …

Instead I’m here sporting my new gangster hat bought in Palermo, Sicily.

I wish I could say this is my backside, but obviously not. However, I do have admiration for work which is innately tribal and represents a desire to be an individual artistically.

Seeing Tomasi Suluape Tatau Samoa’s work today at his studio, he’s the only official Sua trained Sulu’ape tatau artist based in Europe, keeping the traditions and the family name alive through his tattooing. Each piece, whether machine or traditional is a completely unique customised work of art with an unmistakable style.

Onwards to Frankfurt to travel home, one of the most recognisable buildings in the city and a favourite.  Westendstraße 1 is a 53-storey, 208 m skyscraper in the Westend-Süd and close to my hotel, you can always spot it coming into the Hauptbanhof (main train station) and for me it means either arriving in Europe or departing …  Almost time to head home to Australia.

However, there’s always time to grab a bite to eat and enjoy the atmosphere before heading off to the airport for the arduous trip.

Bratwurst – yum! Today who cares? I’ll have two thanks.

Liquorice stall at the markets – so much colour and beautifully presented.

Frankfurt Christmas Markets are crowded and they’re always open till late in the evening.

Take a stroll, listen to Christmas carols and church bells, smell the aroma of roasted chestnuts and almonds, cinnamon stars, mulled wine and Feuerzangenbowle.

Everyone including families being able to enjoy the amusements.

Ebbelwei-Express stop can be found directly to the southern end of the main Hauptbanhof.

The fun costs €8.00 for adults and €3.50 for children and teenagers up to the age of 14 and includes an audio tour lasting one hour. Not only will you enjoy an extraordinary journey, the ticket price also includes your choice of a bottle of cider, apple juice or mineral water and a bag of pretzels. Other beverages can be bought additionally.

Hammering Man is a series of monumental kinetic sculptures designed by Jonathan Borofsky which have been installed in various cities around the world and this one being in Frankfurt is unmistakable.

Shopping in Germany is such a pleasure with so many delicacies and treats on offer.

Heading home on the unmanned train between the two terminals is quick and easy, just check your electronic ticket if your airline is departing from Terminal 1 or 2 as Frankfurt Airport is one of the busiest in Europe.

Well it’s bye for this European trip, but I’ll be back …

Turin, Italy

Turin with its art, history, nature, sport and tradition has an exceptional appeal.  In the province there are endless discoveries to be made, from learning about Italy’s first capital to the Alps of the Olympics and from the hills of Canavese to the summits of Gran Paradiso.

People watching people in the Piazza Castello.

Statues watching people in the Piazza.

First stop at the Tourism office whereby this lovely lady helped me find the best spots for a quick run around the city in a day. Apparently she’d spent her honeymoon at Kangaroo Island, South Australia –  I’ve not been there yet … too busy exploring one of my other favourite countries – Italy!

The royal gates of the palace have a golden Medusa symbol embossed on them in order to fend off intruders.

Interior of the Royal Palace which also houses artwork throughout and along the beautiful staircase by Filippo Juvarra.
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See what happens to metallic monuments etc when they stick their fingers (or toes) out?
Beautiful architecture to be admired, just heading off for an espresso. The first machine for making espresso was built and patented in 1884 by Angelo Moriondo of Turin. Thank you Angelo for making one of the best-loved machines the world has ever known.

National Museum of Cinema is one of the most important of its kind in the world as the vast collection has many different scientific and educational activities included within.

Black Wolves Exhibition – the installation was created for the University of Turin in collaboration with the Italian Institute of Culture in Beijing and the Confucius Institute of Turin.

However, only good canines come here and are spoilt for choices. Wolves not allowed.

You can see the Cathedral from any direction within the Piazza.

Archaeological dig in the middle of Turin.

The Palace also includes the Palazzo Chiablese and the Chapel of the Holy Shroud, the latter of which was built to house the famous Shroud of Turin. In 1946, the building became the property of the state and was turned into a museum. In 1997, it was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list along with 13 other residences of the House of Savoy.

Copy of the The Shroud of Turin or Turin Shroud, a length of linen cloth bearing the image of a man, is believed by some Christians to be the burial shroud of Jesus of Nazareth.

The original Shroud is kept in the royal chapel of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin.

End of the day ready to find a nice spot to eat a fresh crusty bread roll with some beaut Italian cheese …

Vatican City and the Papal Audience.

Fountains of St Peter’s Square,  this is one of two fountains created by Carlo Maderno (1612–1614) and Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1667–1677) to decorate the square in front of  St Peter’s Basilica.

Crowds moving in with high security in place when entering the Square.

Pope Francis arrives and moving freely around the crowd with his minders of course – it’s what everyone’s been waiting for since early morning.

People Papal Audiences: Every Wednesday morning Pope Francis (when in Rome) holds a General Audience open to the public with thousands of people from all over the World.

Not as crowded in early December and an excellent time of the year to visit. Summer is almost impossible …

Christmas tree and Nativity Scene leading up to the usual festivities at this time of year.

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Message to the Celestial heavens, even priests need to be connected …

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On the 29th of April 2013, the coffin containing the body of Pope John Paul II was disentombed  before his beatification in the Vatican. The coffin was removed from the crypt below St. Peter’s Basilica as top Vatican officials and some of the late pope’s closest aides watched and prayed. Pope John Paul II was beatified on the 1st of May 2013 at the Vatican.

On another of my previous trips and at the time of Pope John Paul II’s passing, it was time to chose a new Pope and the smoke (chimney on screen) would turn white when a decision had been made and about to be announced to the public.

The cardinals vote by secret ballot, processing one by one up to Michelangelo’s fresco of the Last Judgment, saying a prayer and dropping the twice-folded ballot in a large chalice. Four rounds of balloting are taken every day until a candidate receives two-thirds of the vote. The result of each ballot are counted aloud and recorded by three cardinals designated as recorders. If no one receives the necessary two-thirds of the vote, the ballots are burned in a stove near the chapel with a mixture of chemicals to produce black smoke.

When a cardinal receives the necessary two-thirds vote, the dean of the College of Cardinals asks him if he accepts his election. If he accepts, he chooses a papal name and is dressed in papal vestments before processing out to the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. The ballots of the final round are burned with chemicals producing white smoke to signal to the world the election of a new pope.


Stairway down to the Pope’s Tombs within the Basilica.

Inside the walkways underneath the Basilica – a must-see regardless of your faith or religious status.

On this ancient bronze statue, St. Peter has his right toes worn down by centuries of pilgrims who traditionally touch the foot.

The Baldachin is at the centre of the crossing and directly under the dome of the basilica. Designed by the Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini, it was intended to mark in a monumental way, the place of Saint Peter’s tomb underneath.

Under its canopy is the high altar of the Basilica.

Guards at the Vatican City gateway and time to say bye to Rome once again.

Vatican City Post Box to send off those prized postcards.

Buses to the airport and some information to note …

Trains to/from the airport are easy to use and a quicker option to move through a traffic-congested city. See

Next stop Turin …

Rome, Italy

Remember your first trip to Rome? How could you forget falling for one of the most romantic, sophisticated and yet historically significant cities in the world. Here at the Spanish Steps quite some time ago it was just delightful to hang about – considering it was my first European trip. However on this occasion, the area adjacent to the Steps were just being transformed and not yet complete … So I’ll have to show you around some other favourite spots of mine.

Running shoes on and about to revisit one of my most-loved cities in Continental Europe.

Undoubtedly, one of the big favourites – Trevi Fountain was designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi and completed by Pietro Bracci. Standing 26.3 metres (86 ft) high and 49.15 metres (161.3 ft) wide, it’s the largest baroque fountain in the city and in fact one of the most famous in the world. It’s appeared in several notable films, including Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita.

The Colosseum is an oval amphitheatre within the centre of Rome, built of concrete and sand it’s the largest ever built. A must see …
Just situated just east of the Roman Forum, it could hold up to 80,000 spectators in its day and used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles and dramas based on classical mythology.

Not too far away is the Vespa Museum – Free Entry! Worthy of a visit.

And you have the chance to view Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck on their Vespa from the movie Roman Holiday. The Mouth of Truth can be located at the church known as Santa Maria in Cosmedin.

The Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs, Michelangelo achieved an unexampled sequence of shaped architectural spaces with few precedents or followers. There is no true façade – the simple entrance is set within one of the coved apses of a main space of the thermae.

Additionally, this Basilica is used for many ceremonies including the funeral of soldiers killed abroad.

Dedicated to the Christian martyrs – both known and unknown.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  The National Monument of Victor Emmanuel II (Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II) is a remarkably large building made of white marble. Although not having towers in its general design, the medieval structure still attracts attention from almost all parts of Rome because its colour stands out in an array of other earth-coloured buildings. It is situated between the Capitoline Hill and Piazza Venezia and features some statues, columns and grand stairways.

Basilica of St John Lateran (San Giovanni in Laterano), the present structure of the Basilica resembles the St Peter’s Basilica and the ancient church was residence of the popes until the coming back from the exile in Avignone (1377), when it was moved to the Vatican.

The central bronze doors are Roman originals from the Curia (Senate House) in the Imperial Forum.

Well, I’m just a tiny bit short these days from 183 cm/6′ tall, so you can imagine the height and weight of this pair of metallic slammers …

It’s for real. And not being used to seeing historical artefacts on display whilst walking around the streets, I’m thinking it’s not at all like my usual neighbourhood’s street art at home … Pleasantly surprised of course.

Time for a snack, hot-roasted chestnuts this time.

Followed by a proper Italian lunch of pasta, I just have to choose my sauce.

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Not forgetting to call into the entrance of the Vatican City to check there’s still a ticket available for the Papal Audience which is held on a Wednesday morning in front of the Basilica. If you need less than 10 tickets you can normally pick them up without a reservation from the Swiss Guards at the “Bronze Doors” located just after security at St Peter’s Basilica.

For tickets and information see website

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Just checking the seating arrangements this time around as it’s been busy in the past, especially when it used to be inside the Basilica. I just happened to be lucky enough on my first visit to be in the front rows with Pope John Paul II officiating.

At the end of the day it’s time to go home and rest up. I’ve decided to stay an extra couple of nights now I’ve my ticket to the see the Papal Mass for the People.

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Happy to have my ticket on show and looking forward to attending once again.

More of Rome to follow …

Palermo, Sicily – Italy

Anyone who remembers Cannoli at school will be drooling at the sight of these … Originating in Sicily it’s a favourite doesn’t matter where you go.

Walking around the centre of Palermo, it’s a photographer’s dream, an architectural adornment having weathered the test of time. All statues proudly showing off all their bits and pieces …

For cultural, artistic and economic reasons, Palermo is one of the largest cities in the Mediterranean and is now among the top tourist destinations in both Italy and Europe – easy to see why!

Yes sculptures galore, particularly in the central area and the city has a population of more than 676,000 people. Many will be delighted to see these beauties basking in the sun on a daily basis – which incidentally would be most of the time during the year.

Interesting doorways have become ‘my thing’ of late. Wondering who had passed through these now closed doors?

The inhabitants are known as Palermitani or, poetically, panormiti. The languages spoken by its inhabitants are the Italian and Sicilian language including the Palermitano dialect.

The Cathedral and Roman Catholicism is very important in Palermitano culture with the Patron Saint of Palermo being Santa Rosalia whose Feast Day is celebrated on 15 July.

Lovely street scenes with florist shops full of colour and variety. Sicily is where you can pass through medieval villages and pristine historic centres; doesn’t matter if you’re on your way to crystal-clear waters lapping at white sandy beaches or just take a stroll through enchanting streets, stopping for an espresso or vino rosso and enjoy some people watching.

Did someone say food?

Although many traditional Sicilian dishes are termed Arab legacies, it is more accurate to say that they were born in Sicily and incorporated both Sicilian and Arab traditions as it’s renowned for its flavoursome derived ingredients.

However, I found a cute little café, which as usual full of people with a mix of traditional and notably antipasti … And here at 4.00 euro, this was one of the best I’d encountered while swanning around Europe! Yum, couldn’t wait and starting eating before taking the photo … bit naughty!
Antica Focacceria Del Massimo – Da Basile Via Bara All’Olivella, 76, 90133 Palermo.

A quick trip to the Post Office with its monolith exterior is a reminder of the power and might of what was once the communications centre. Once inside, it was quiet and echoing with silence. No lining up at all.

Back on the tourist trail to visit some of the better-known areas such as The  Chiesa di San Cataldo at the central Piazza Bellini. It’s an exceptional  example of the Arab-Norman architecture which flourished in Sicily under the Norman domination of the island.  In the 18th century the church was used as a post office, then in the 19th century it was restored and brought back to a form which was more similar to the original Mediaeval edifice.

The Regional Archaeological Museum Antonio Salinas possesses one of the richest collections of Punic and Ancient Greek art in Italy, as well as many items related to the history of Sicily.

Just out of the city centre Palazzo dei Normanni and highest point in the area. Great for shopping, eating and just taking photos.

The Palazzo dei Normanni or Royal Palace of Palermo. It was the seat of the  Kings of Sicily during the Norman domination and served afterwards as the main seat of power for the subsequent rulers of Sicily. The building is the oldest royal residence in Europe, the home of the rulers of the Kingdom of Sicily and imperial seat with Frederick II and Conrad IV.

Must be in season … The area attracts significant numbers of tourists each year and widely known for its colourful fruit, vegetable and fish markets in the heart of Palermo, known as Vucciria, Ballarò and Capo.

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Located on the western side of Palermo, popular ferry destinations include Sardinia, Naples, Genoa, Tunisia and Malta.

Bus, car and taxi are the best methods of getting to the Palermo Ferry Port which is located on Via Del Mare. It’s possible to walk from Palermo’s central train station to the port but beware of pick pockets.

Heading to Palermo’s Falcone–Borsellino Airport (IATA: PMO, ICAO: LICJ), formerly Punta Raisi Airport is located at Punta Raisi, it’s 35 kilometres (22 miles) west northwest of the city. Buses are inexpensive and taxis available and quoted around A$50.00 one way.

Next stop Rome …

My Story … Naples to Sicily, Italy.

20151124_091625Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot to report from Bari to Naples by train as the weather was inclement with very little photo opportunities and the outlook diminished somewhat. I know I could’ve flown to Sicily, but for me it’s about seeing the lay of the land and enjoying the rocking, rolling sojourn of a rail escapade.

However, this next post I’d penned mostly as a recount of my train journey last year from Naples onto Sicily.

For those who know me well, you will again read excepts from the Facebook Page ‘You Know You’re from Cowra  When…’ And, because Cowra was where my parents as ‘Displaced Persons’ had settled after arriving in Australia, I felt it was fitting to write about some of those insights. Firstly, they were at the Bonegilla Camp (like many others), and  they too had left war-ravaged Europe and mine embarked on their new life from the seaport of Napoli and the records show the Ship Nelly had arrived late November, 1949 into the Port of Melbourne, Victoria Australia.

Whilst I was standing here at Napoli Termini looking at the schedules, I’m pondering what life may have been like as post war-torn Europe tried to repatriate its peoples – most of whom would never return to their origin after leaving its shores hoping for a better life, leaving their families behind and facing an uncertain future.

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Königsberg (until 1946 officially: Königsberg in Preußen) Now Russia’s Kaliningrad it was the first opportunity we had access as part of a tour. Photo taken in 1997, and on this visit with my cousin Beine and Uncle Reinhard, we found the family farm of which the nearby township no longer exists of its old name – just like many other European places. Additionally, many country’s borders had changed after the war and of course, the division of Germany being the most evident.

This is my story, partly of my family’s early life in Australia, perhaps I’ll write more about it at a later stage … These are the excepts from my journey in November, 2015 of my thoughts and maybe one answer to Jean’s post. See below.

“On Facebook I’d read with interest Jean Eade’s post of ‘Town Revival’ with Cowra having been given as an example to the dwindling numbers of country towns.

What they seemed to have forgotten is the post-WWII immigration of the 1950s onwards – when towns such as Cowra swelled due to the then current Government’s slogan of ‘Populate or Perish’. There was an influx of new migrants who helped form the backbone and soul of this community’s psyche. In terms of multiculturalism, I believe Cowra was somewhat ahead of its time, considering the diversity, skills and cuisine offered to a small rural epicentre; of which they had to call their new homeland – for better or for worse.

After I boarded the train in Napoli (Naples, Italy) heading onto Sicily with a nine-hour trip ahead of me, it brought back a few memories of what it was like growing up with European parents who’d left their very own world from this Italian port.

20151124_093423On this sector of my trip, I was holding a Prima Class ticket and I knew that the train would eventually divide at some point, I’d then have to move to another carriage to ensure I ended up in the right destination. Once the conductor came along, he tried to explain reluctantly, but as luck would have it, I was seated next to an Italian Professor who spoke ‘good’ English and informed me when I needed to shift myself to another carriage.

20151124_134436Afterwards, we chatted and the Professor asked me, how many days would it take to sail by ship to Australia? Clearly he could see I couldn’t answer immediately as I had reflected when Mum talked about the journey from Napoli, Italy to Australia; going back then through the Suez Canal when it was still opened and then onto Melbourne, Australia. Even as of today, I don’t believe there are any passenger ships which solely cruise direct from Europe to Australia. Maybe he had me bemused – because I was awokened to the fact this was exactly what my parents and two older brothers did in the latter part of 1949; one of which who had to be ‘fattened up’ due to having rickets before being permitted the stamp of approval to travel. They embarked on a voyage to the southern hemisphere which was as foreign to them, as were they to Australians. And, not just by language or borders, but a whole new ‘she be right mate’ way of life.

20151124_122705The question of being asked how many days sailing, can only be described in my mind as, what would’ve it been like if sailing to Australia on a luxury cruise liner as opposed to a ship load of immigrants? They were about to become New Australians (as the Government then coined their status), trying to embrace their new ‘one-door opening and another closing’ ideology – not necessarily having a marvellous time for the duration of the voyage.

As many migrants with ‘Displaced Persons’ stamped in their passports, they took Australia as their new homeland and were dispersed to regional areas with no input or say as to where they might like to live. I remember asking Mum as a young teenager ‘why Cowra?’ and she’d said it was because the Government placed them where they thought relevent at the time after being processed in Bonegilla. Dad had to catch/kill rabbits in Gunnedah (due to plague proportions) for a period of time to pay for their passage and Mum stayed with the two boys at the Cowra Camp trying to learn English – along with all the others. However, Dad gained a job on the Railway and they then lived close to the Loco in a tent alongside with three other families until they’d saved enough money to buy land and build in town. (You may have noticed by now, rail is my preferred mode of travel …)

Anyway, I have given this some consideration over the years and I believe Cowra was in fact ahead of its time in regards to multiculturalism and acceptance. I feel, many of the nationalities bestowed upon Cowra made it one of the most diverse small European communities in Australia without maybe realising it at the time. Move aside Melbourne … We already knew what it took – with a population which was miniscule by comparison to this cosmopolitan city, we were entwined with a varied assortment of nationalities and a kindred neighbourhood-like spirit. Everyone seemed to ‘get on’ with life and held similar Christian values and judgements.

20151124_141915 (2)Anyway, having digressed from my travelling yarn, I eventually moved carriages earlier than I should’ve on my trip to Sicily ensuring I had plenty of time to do so. However, an older gentleman did the same as I and we ended up with our own cabins as most passengers left at Lemezia Termini, including the English-speaking Professor. This older man couldn’t speak English, nor I of Italian, but we struck a chord with a little bit of German. He’d never heard of Sydney, Australia. (It was a stark reminder that we as Australians are on a much smaller stage in this world than we think, even though we live in a big and lucky country of which others are at break-neck speeds to come and settle.)

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Our train was then prepared to be loaded onto the ferry for transportation for the 20-30 minute crossing from San Giovanni, which incidentally was a truly thought-provoking encounter. What if this was me sailing into unknown territory as a migrant? I don’t know the language for starters or customs, nor what lay ahead in terms of a home to live? How would I have been in a totally different environment trying to fit in if it had been me heading to say, this new land? Luckily I’m on holiday and just blogging along as I go.

Coleone family and mafia were still being spoken about by my new companion. My guardian, if I can call him that, looked out for me throughout the remaining five-hour journey to Palermo, even though I  understood he was alighting at Terminal 1 before me, his instructions were clear. However, once we arrived at San Giovanni, the train did indeed divide and importantly we were in our correct places at the time. He pulled out of his pocket a three-pronged key meant for carriages on different train services – not just in Europe (not unlike a wheel brace to look at) and he offered to lock my carriage door like his. I thought perhaps he was a retired train conductor with his precious spanner which would make us a little safer in a world full of materialistic people? Sometimes, you just think to yourself, maybe you’re in the lap of the Gods and you need to just trust in what’s before you. All what was in my suitcase – was it really all that important? Not at all. As long as I had my documents and something warm to wear, that’s all that really matters.

He and I meandered up to the top deck of the ferry after leaving the train’s compartment and then watched San Giovanni slowly disappear from our view. Certainly not something I’ve experienced before, but this elder had witnessed it many times and you could tell he was excited about going home to his family and something I admire greatly about the Italians – their sense of home and family.

20151124_151936It pelted down with hail as we glided past the seven metre-tall golden Madonna guarding the entrance of the port in all her glory looking out across the Strait of Messina. Once on land again at Messina and the train offloaded onto the tracks, it was again divided and separated with the rear-end carriages departing for Syracuse and the remainder of us continuing north to Palermo hugging the coastline.

20151124_155612 (2)So what’s the purpose of me writing this? I think it’s wonderful Cowra had/has a respect of its immigrants’ contributions towards the Australian way of life – be it food, culture, art and yet, its differences. I’m glad to have been a part of it, rather than as a young teenager asking Mum ‘why Cowra?’ I’m grateful my family assimilated into a country town which did embrace us and we had the opportunity of growing up there. Unfortunately I don’t have an answer for the dwindling numbers, but it’s not always easy when it comes to offering new opportunities to everyone who seek them. Hence, the reason many of us leave for the metropolis of city life and move on.”

Next stop Palermo, Sicily