Melbourne, Part Two

Okay, I’ll admit it, I felt really, really guilty, when I learned that while I was having a grand old time on the Great Ocean Road, my beloved husband was suffering in a Melbourne hospital, as I confessed in my last blog post.

After seven days in a town that is hotter than hell ( well, maybe not hell, but definitely purgatory), I feel my penance has been completed and I am free to share the rest of the photos from our glorious time in Melbourne.

Originally called The Sow and the Piglets, these rock formations were wisely renamed The Twelve Apostles, despite their originally being only nine of them. One has since crumbled, so now there are only eight. I spent most of my career in marketing, so hey, I get it. Nine was close enough, if you just round up.

Not surprisingly, the gambit worked, and the rest is history. The Apostles are definitely a beloved Australian tourist attraction.

The beach is lovely too, and if you are willing to walk down (and climb back up) eighty steps, you too can get your picture taken on this gorgeous beach.


I was definitely game. My favorite photographer was otherwise occupied, but one of our fellow travelers offered to take my picture. Foolishly, I neglected to check my phone until I got all the way back to the top, only to discover a technical glitch. No photo. Andy, who you will soon meet, wearing a bird for a hat, offered to go back down with me, so he and I got to climb down (and UP) 160 steps!


Given that I’m looking a bit chunky, that extra exercise was probably a GOOD thing!

Our stop at the bird hangout was great fun, although I will admit it’s a bit of a jolt when one of these guys unexpectedly lands on you, but Andy took it all in stride.

Paul, our tour guide, (shown instructing Jenny, a member of our OAT group) , kept us enlightened and entertained during our entire day together.

He told us The Great Ocean Road was built to employ returning war veterans. (Sorta like FDR’s CCC during the Great Depression).

About 3,000 former soldiers labored to build the road for almost thirteen years. Because of what we now call PTSD, dynamite couldn’t be used to break through rock; construction was done with pick and shovel.

This war memorial was built to honor the thousands who never came back from the war.

Other highlights from our time in Melbourne included a visit to the Mornington Peninsula, where we visited the Moonlit Sanctuary.

Unlike the Tasmanian Koala, this guy was awake. These animals sleep twenty hours per day, so somehow we managed to time it just right.

We didn’t have as much luck with the wallabies and kangaroos. They clearly were used to being fed frequently, and weren’t motivated to hop over for a snack. But the ducks and birds were quite happy to take a handout.

And this wombat? All we could see were his feet and hands! I think he had a “Do Not Disturb” tag hanging on his barrel!


Another notable visit was to the Abbotsford Convent. Now art studios and an educational center, it was once a “Magdalen Asylum” where up to 400 women and girls were sheltered. They were either orphans,”fallen women” or had no where else to go. They were also a source of free labor.

For “three hots and a cot”, they worked doing laundry for hotels and the weathy of Melbourne. As you might expect of a Catholic institution, prayer and chapel attendance were mandatory, as was penitence. This went on until 1975.

Today, the convent is beautified by art. I was particularly intrigued by these hand painted fabrics, which were very creatively displayed. I leave it to your imagination as to what this artwork symbolizes. It certainly has meaning for ME.

Here’s a close up of one of the fabrics. They were all different and were all exquisite.

Tomorrow we head for Sydney, our final destination on this slightly modified tour of our seventh continent, so I’ll leave you with one last example of what my new iPhone 11 camera can do.

Alice Springs, Australia

In the early ’80s I was captivated by a Masterpiece Theater Miniseries, “A Town Like Alice”, so much so that I read the book upon which the series was based. Who knew that about 35 years later we’d be spending two nights in this “bonza” town in the Northern Territory, right after our stay in Melbourne.

There is still so much more to say about Melbourne, and I will eventually get to that, but first, I bring you Alice Springs with a summary of why this is a town we will never forget.

Our hotel, the Doubletree, is located right across from the Todd River. Both the river and the mall (among other things) are named after Sir Charles Todd, who brought communications to the area by constructing telegraph wires or stations or something along those lines. (Clearly I wasn’t all that interested). His wife’s name was Alice, and I’m guessing that at one time the area had a lot of natural springs?

Check out the Todd River.

What, you’re having trouble finding it? That may be because the “river” is bone dry. You see, this area can go for YEARS without rain. It actually looks a whole lot better on Google maps, portrayed as a blue ribbon surrounded by green borders. But no. It is all brown and dry. But the walkway is nice.

So, why did Mike and I decide to skip Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef to spend an additional five nights ( count ’em, FIVE nights !!!) in Alice Springs?

It was a nose bleed. Yes, you read that right. But WHAT a nosebleed! Enough to warrant a 3AM ambulance ride, a hospital stay of three nights, with a trip to the operating room thrown in for good measure. Thanks to the wonderful doctors and nurses in Alice Springs, our hero is out of the hospital and on the mend. But he needs to rest up, so we are hanging out in Alice Springs for those extra days, then flying to Sydney, where, if all goes well, we will be able to rendezvous one last time with our wonderful group before we all fly home.

Exactly HOW did Mike get that geyser of a nosebleed?

No, his boomerang did NOT circle back and whomp him in the nose!

It all started in Melbourne. He awoke very, very early with what he thought was strep throat. (It wasn’t). Being the considerate, resourceful guy that he is, he didn’t want to wake me or our tour guide, so he surfed the net to find St Vincent’s Hospital was close by. (Bad idea). I woke as he was headed out the door, unfortunately not alert enough to shout “NOOO. Don’t do it.” But then I figured he knew what he was doing, he’d get his antibiotics, then return to the hotel to spend the rest of the day sleeping off his illness.

While I was enjoying the magnificence of the Great Ocean Road, Mike was having his nasal passage assaulted. A nurse decided to ram a swab up his nose to do a flu test. That caused his FIRST nosebleed. (The afore mentioned nosebleed in Alice Springs was the SECOND one). The doctor cauterized the wound, (but not well enough) kept him in the hospital overnight and discharged him early Saturday morning, clearing him to fly to Alice Springs.

Although if we’d had our druthers, Mike would have skipped learning about another country’s health care system, however there WERE a few positives.

  • We felt lucky we weren’t in a remote area devoid of medical facilities AND grateful we both understood the local language (sort of).
  • We HAD purchased trip insurance plus we have high spending limits on our credit card, so we were okay paying (charging) up front.
  • We learned more than we ever wanted to know about travel insurance, electronic devices (phones, SIM cards, hot spots) which provides me with lots of material for future blog posts.
  • The hospital was only a mile away, so I got plenty of exercise walking along the “river”, from hotel to hospital and back, a couple of times a day.
  • I was able to download “A Town Like Alice” to my phone and reread it while waiting for Mike to get out of surgery. I had forgotten that I had liked the miniseries so much more than the book. Still it was a good distraction and it reintroduced me to the word “bonza”. What do YOU think it means?
  • We discovered how tuned in Australians are to what is happening in America, and how well informed they are about Trump, Pence, even Mike Pompeo! Some of them probably know more than many Americans. The nurses were curious about what Americans think of Trump, so we gave them our views and others’ views. Being liberals, that’s what we try to do. Present the facts. We had no idea how much other countries are counting on us to vote him out, something we heard frequently on our trip.
  • The hotel has a pool, so I could imagine I was taking a “sit in the sun and do nothing” kind of vacation. It didn’t take long for me to remember why I never go on that kind of vacation any more!
  • So, that’s why I haven’t been posting much these past few days. I know. A blog is an unusual way to inform friends and family of a somewhat traumatic event. (Mike’s nose was traumatized, as was my psyche).
  • Thankfully, all is well now. Happier posts will follow with better photos!
  • The Land of Oz

    As a kid, I was always fascinated by the Wizard of Oz. In addition to watching the movie multiple times, I read every single Oz book our library carried. So, I was quite excited when I stumbled upon the PBS series entitled The Magical Land of Oz . To my surprise, it wasn’t about Dorothy or the wizard at all, but was instead three wonderful shows about Australia, where we will be heading shortly. (No tornado required, and, I hope, none expected).

    Why is Australia called the Land of Oz? I didn’t know, so I asked Mr. Google, the source of much of my wisdom. Turns out, it has to do with the way it sounds when you say the first three letters of the continent’s name. Give it a try. Anyway, the shows are visually spectacular, much better than anything I can hope to capture with my photos.

    Speaking of photos, this is the first trip I will make without bringing a camera. Yes, I will still take photos, but I will be using my new iPhone 11 pro. After our son sent us photos he had taken with the wide angle, telephoto and regular lenses, and showed us what the camera can do with night shots, I was intrigued. It was definitely worth a trip to the nearby Apple store to just take a look. Silly me. I really thought I would be able to leave the store without making a purchase!

    Another purchase for the trip was a “lipstick” charger from Amazon. My friend Sally had been using one on our recent bike trip and I was quite taken with the little gadget. Even though the iPhone 11 is supposed to have a robust battery, I didn’t want to take a chance of running out of juice should I encounter a once in a lifetime photo op.

    Of course, that wasn’t the only gadget that captured my attention. I also HAD to have the Lencent adaptor I stumbled upon when purchasing the lipstick charger. They both come with cute little storage sacks and don’t take up much room in my gadget bag.

    Because my replaced iPhone is few generations old, I decided not to turn it in, but instead plan to purchase a prepaid sim card for use in Australia. (Yes, my buying frenzy continues). After learning that, like New Zealand, free, unlimited WiFi isn’t widely available in Australia, I figured it was worthwhile to give a foreign sim card a try, using THAT older phone for accessing the internet. (An idea I picked up from one of the travel forums I follow).

    Here’s what my research uncovered: you need to pay attention to “credit validity”, which was a new term for me. I have since learned that it refers to the number of days the prepayment option has purchased, starting from the day you first use it. So, if you purchase a card with a credit validity of 7 days, and you use it on the 1st of the month, regardless of the gigabytes purchased, you are done on the 8th, and need to “recharge” (pay more).

    Why not go with Verizon’s travel pass? Well, if you use the internet ONCE during a 24 hour period, you get charged $10 for that day. It seemed like a better deal to get a prepaid sim card for 28 days for $30 Australian dollars (about $20 US, or two days worth of Verizon Travel Pass.

    Why wouldn’t I just use the Australian sim card, in my new iPhone, you ask? Good question. Here’s why: I know myself well enough to recognize that it is entirely possible for me to lose my original sim card, a significant concern.

    There are three mobile phone networks in Australia. Telestra, Optus and Vodaphone all offer coverage in the most traveled parts of Australia. Of the three, Optus is the only network that has a store in Melbourne Airport. So, given that this is a new experience for me, I decided that I wanted to interact with a human rather than purchase a card in advance from the internet (Amazon)and hope for the best. That way, I can have someone exchange the cards for me, and make sure that the phone is functioning correctly before we leave the airport.

    Thanks to the internet, I was able to check the coverage map for Optus, where I learned that coverage varies by type of device, something I never would have considered. It appears that the iPhone 7 may not have great coverage throughout Tasmania and parts of the interior where we will be visiting. Big decision: will I decide to be without WiFi when in those uncovered areas? Or will I trust myself not to lose my original sim card and just use my new iPhone? Bet you can’t wait for this cliff hanger to be resolved in a future post.

    Another cliff hanger: Will we get off the wait list for an upgrade to United’s business class? Here’s the deal. A free round trip ticket would have cost 240,000 miles each, whereas an upgrade is only 60,000 miles each, plus the price of an economy ticket and an additional cash payment. Given that we had nowhere near the miles needed for a free ticket, we opted for the upgrade, resulting in our waiting to see whether United can sell those seats for more than what we paid in cash and miles. It’s a gamble–one that does not make me a happy, loyal United customer. BUT, the other option would have been paying almost $8,000 each for business class. Of course, we could always stuff ourselves into economy for 6 hours to LA and 16 more hours to Melbourne. Yeah, we sure HOPE that’s not happening.

    Finally, we learned from our trip leader that during our tour, we can expect temperatures to vary from a potential low of 30 F to highs in the 90’s, with varying degrees of humidity. Hey, its a big continent, and we are covering a lot of ground. That makes packing even more of a challenge. This time, I’m using different packing cubes for cold, temperate and hot areas.

    Theoretically, the blue cubes can be compressed. Realistically, the plastic compression bags do a much better job so that’s what I used for my jacket. It is great for travel because the lining zips out, transforming the shell into a light weight rain jacket. Plus, the lining can be worn alone for cool days and shell plus lining will keep me toasty during those 30 F days and nights. Yes, it all fit into my duffel, was under 50 pounds, PLUS my backpack (carry on) had plenty of room to spare.

    Here’s the route we, and 10 other travelers, will be taking on our Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) tour. Six of us have opted for the pre trip to Tasmania.

    See you in Oz!

    Western Pennsylvania’s Surprises – Part 2

    I know, I know–there has been a bit of a gap between Western Pennsylvania’s Part 1 and Part 2. That’s what happens when you follow a lazy blogger.

    So, to review: my last post pointed out our mistaken belief that Fallingwater would be the only attraction the Ohiopyle area had to offer. Were WE ever wrong. Instead, we discovered multiple highlights, many of them located at the Nemacolin Resort.

    If you have never heard of the Nemacolin resort, join the club. Neither had we. The Fallingwater website listed several area hotels, beds & breakfasts and inns. Because this trip was an anniversary celebration, a Ramada, Holiday Inn Express or Days Inn was not what we had in mind. Okay, the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort was a splurge, but was it ever worth it!

    First some background information: The resort is privately owned by 96 year old Joseph Hardy III, who still has a home somewhere on its 2,000 acres. He leaves its day to day operation to his daughter Maggie, who also is the CEO of 84 Lumber, the source of Joe’s wealth. You can read all about Joe’s history in the lobby of the Lodge.

    We stayed in The Lodge, one of several hotels on the property.

    Well, not exactly ALL. You need to go to Wikipedia to learn that he had FIVE wives instead of the three the display fessed up to. His first marriage to Dorothy lasted more than 50 years, which means that from his 70’s until now, he made up for lost time by wedding 4 more lovely ladies. Three of his brides were in their 20’s, which made the 50 something woman he wed (wife #4) appear age appropriate. Unfortunately, THAT marriage went the way of the three before, and Joe’s last (possibly current?) Mrs. Hardy was under 30 when he married her. The display tells about his founding of 84 Lumber and its financial success, but somehow I find his marital history far more intriguing. Admit it, you probably do too.

    Joe’s interest was not confined to women. He also was fond of classic cars, which are displayed in a “museum” on the property. Here are just a few of Joe’s toys. Notice the motorcycle? That is a replica of Peter Fonda’s wheels, built from parts of the motorcycles used in the movie “Easy Rider”. The Captain America helmet is perched on the back.

    Right by the private airstrip is a hangar containing classic planes, including Steve McQueen’s, from a movie I didn’t see and don’t recall. Sorry. THAT museum was locked up, but if you have a burning desire to get up close and personal with those babies, you can call security from the phone helpfully placed by the entrance and they will let you in. We weren’t that curious, so the photo was shot through the window. I’m confident you get the idea.

    Although there are many diversions to thrill children and teens, we didn’t partake in any of those.

    Instead, we rode the “free” shuttle to the Frank Lloyd Wright “tribute” restaurant located in another hotel (each room at THIS hotel comes with your personal butler. If you are anything like me, you probably are wondering “what does the butler DO??? Hand you your slippers, floss your teeth? ). Lunch outside was lovely, but probably not worth the price.

    The view from the outdoor restaurant

    The walk back to our hotel, however was pretty delightful. In addition to stopping to visit the two museums, we enjoyed looking at the extensive sculpture collection scattered along the walkways.

    My favorite thing, however, was our anniversary dinner. Pricy, yes, but very delicious and quite an elegant experience. Can you tell from the photos below which was the main course?

    I chose the Wagu Beef, which is shown in the upper right hand corner. Makes one recall that commercial “where’s the beef”? Yes, I am old enough to remember both the original commercial and the political ad that used the phrase.

    Enough about Nemacolin. I’m sure you’ve gotten the idea by now. ANOTHER big area attraction is Fort Necessity. I’m married to a man who never saw a fort that he didn’t love. Although this Fort Necessity isn’t very big, and is a replica of the original, the visitor’s center is fantastic.

    I probably was taught this in either elementary or high school, but I had forgotten this fort was where George Washington started the French and Indian War. Here’s what happened: either the French or the British fired the first shot at Fort Necessity. The well done video makes it clear that each side claimed the other was the aggressor. What is important was the way the battle ended. The British had to surrender, and the terms were written in French, a language Washington didn’t understand. his translator wasn’t all that fluent either, and to make matters worse, it had been raining and the ink had run.

    What Washington didn’t realize was that he had admitted to assassinating the French commander, and the rest is history.

    One final note: if you are visiting the area, The Bittersweet Cafe is a great choice for breakfast. Don’t miss it!

    Western Pennsylvania’s Surprises

    Do you know where you find a section of the Berlin Wall, Peter Fonda’s motorcycle with Captain America helmet, Steve McQueen’s airplane, the Fort where the French and Indian War started, several Frank Lloyd Wright masterpieces, and a five diamond restaurant? Hint: check out the map above, specifically the Ohiopyle area. It doesn’t look like there is much in the area, does it? At least that’s what I thought till I got there.

    Did you ever plan a trip, thinking that it would be all about a particular site, then discover that the area had a whole lot more to offer? Enough for two posts, even?

    We were drawn to the area by a newspaper article I had clipped about Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater decades ago. It sat in my “Fun Things To Do” folder until earlier this year, when I figured we either needed to visit the damn place or throw out the clipping. If I had done the latter, you wouldn’t be reading this post.

    A quick internet search uncovered a special Fallingwater experience–a sunset tour, lasting three hours, ending with appetizers on one of the decks. The tours are only offered on Friday and Saturday nights, are limited to 10 participants, allow interior photography, and include parts of the house not shown on the other tours. For $150 per person, you can pretend that you are a guest of the owners. Just our kind of gig.

    The newspaper article included a photo similar to this one

    So how was it, you ask? Well, the house was quite fascinating, especially given that it was completed in 1937. As you can see from the photo above, the house was built over a waterfall. When the windows are open, you can definitely HEAR that water falling! Closing the windows successfully shuts out most of the noise…and also the cooling breezes. Fallingwater, you see, is not air conditioned. Did they even HAVE AC back in the late ’30s?

    You’re probably thinking “What’s the point of living over a waterfall if you can’t stick your 10 little piggies into it”? Right? Well, Frank was also thinking just that, so here’s what he did.

    The stairway leading down to the water is pretty cool, but what is even more impressive is the way the glass panels slide away.

    Do you think he accomplished his goal, which was to bring the outside in?

    Here’s another example. You are out in the middle of nowhere, so window coverings are not needed, but in the bathroom, why not have planters built into the window to form a natural curtain?†

    When we first entered the living room, it looked like the corner was completely open. It took a while to see what is obvious from the reflection on the window–that two panes of glass are joined in the corner.

    Wright not only designed the building, he also created all the furniture throughout the house. I was surprised to see a king sized bed in the master bedroom. Our guide explained that it was actually two twins pushed together and united by a single headboard and bedspread, something TV in the 1950’s would never have shown. (It isn’t that visually interesting, so I didn’t bother posting a photo of it–everyone knows what a king sized bed looks like.) How surprising that it took about three decades for that great concept to catch on!

    The kitchen, bedrooms and bathrooms are all very small. The focus is on the large living/dining room and the outside balconies. Check out the banquettes in the living room. Not what I consider the most comfortable seating, but maybe if you imbibe enough from those nearby bottles, you won’t notice.

    At the other end of the living room is the dining area. Are you expecting the tour to turn left or right into the kitchen? Well, it doesn’t. The kitchen is a tiny space down a flight of stairs and through a very narrow hallway. The owners clearly didn’t spend much time there. That was the domain of the servants. There are no photos, because the kitchen was so tiny, I couldn’t figure out how to frame it.

    I was quite happy that our appetizers were not served in the dining room; instead, we enjoyed our hummus, crackers, cheese and veggies on one of the decks.

    A staff member was getting everything ready for us. You can see from that blue pole in the foreground of this photo that necessary repairs are being made on the building.

    While enjoying our appetizers, one of the other guests strongly recommended that we visit another of Wright’s nearby buildings. Kentuck Knob was built about 20 years later, for friends who were frequent guests of the Kaufmann family, the owners of Fallingwater.

    Okay, so I know this is heresy, but I actually liked Kentuck Knob BETTER than Fallingwater. It has all of the usual Wright features, but it just seems more LIVEABLE. Interestingly enough, it is considered “usonian” (Frank’s term for his “middle income” houses.) This “middle income’ house was built for the Hagans, the owners of the ice cream company in Uniontown PA, and was sold to its current owner, Lord Peter Palumbo, who, since 1996, when not using it as his vacation home, opens it to the public.

    A photo of the Lord and Diana (wearing her “screw you, Charles” dress) appears in the house. I grabbed this from the internet

    Take a look at the cutouts under the eaves. They are a source of light into the living room and supposedly repeat design elements found in the building. (I’m taking that on the guide’s word. I couldn’t spot any of those elements.)

    Notice how the carports–Wright’s invention — are nestled into the landscape. The hill behind forms a partial roof.

    Although we weren’t allowed to take photos INSIDE the house, there was no rule against shooting through the windows into the interior, which is what I did.

    Now take a look at the role the cutouts play in the interior space.

    The wall opposite the banquettes is all windows and glass doors, offering access to a walkway and a spectacular view of the valley below.

    The price of your admission allows you to wander through Lord Palumbo’s spectacular sculpture meadow. I was particularly taken with the part of the Berlin Wall. His collection also includes three red British phone booths at the visitors center.

    I’m tired of writing and you are probably tired of reading so the rest of the area attractions I promised in the first paragraph will have to wait until the next time I post.