My favourite places: Rainbow Bay

This is my second post on the issue of my favourite places.  Rainbow Bay is indeed one of those places.

For those who don’t know where Rainbow Bay is it is on the border of Queensland and New South Wales on the northern side of Point Danger between Coolangatta Beach and Duranbah Beach.  To say I have spent a lot of time in this place would be an understatement.  As a family, the Humphreys’ have spent all but five of our Christmases (if my memory serves me correctly) down at this paradise on the coast.

Initial holidays were spent in the caravan park with my grandparents Allan (who I have already written about in this blog) and Elaine.  To say I loved the times spent in the caravan park on holiday would be an understatement.  I vividly remember hitting the beach from 7am until lunch time and then playing in the park next door to the caravan until sun down.  Friendships were formed over games of cricket or kicks of the soccer ball which ended at the end of the holiday only to recommence the next time one hit the caravan park.

Even in these early years of my life down at Rainbow Bay life was about routine: breakfast, beach, chip sandwiches, play in the park, wait for granddad to return from the pub, dinner at the Club and then games of Uno around the dinner table.  Christmas days were spent in the annex of the caravan.  Our holiday routine was shattered by events out of our control when I was 11: the caravan park was shut and then my grandparents moved to the north coast.

That did not stop the family Humphreys trekking to Rainbow Bay for school holidays and most importantly Christmas however. The only difference between our caravan holidays and those spent in holiday units was the lack of mucking around in the park.  Before I could drink the routine remanded the same: beach, walk, beach, walk, cricket on TV, dinner at the club.  One of the great things about holidays at Rainbow is (well was then) that at Christmas time the place becomes “Little Ipswich” and being that Ipswich is where I am from there were always friends from school or just the next street to knock around with.

As time has moved on all that has really changed, having reached the heady age of 18, is that the routine has now become walk, breakfast, beach, cricket on the TV, chip sandwiches on fresh bread, Twin Towns RSL for a few XXXX Golds and then dinner at the Club.  This routine is repeated save for on golf days.

I have spoken a lot about routine in this post and that is one of the things I love about my yearly sojourns to Rainbow Bay: not only does the place not really change all that much but the routine does not change all that much either.  On holiday, that is often all I want: to descend back into the sameness of routine as a way to relax.

It is the sameness that keeps me coming back (now that it is a personal choice rather than by parental decree): the fact that chicken parmagiana at the Rainbow Bay Surf Life Saving Club is always of the highest quality, the beer in the Sportsman’s Bar of Twin Towns is always at genuine 1970s prices, the chips at Dee and Paul’s Cafe are always crisp and go perfectly on fresh white bread and one can walk to anywhere one wants to go.

I hope some of the traditions that have started up down at Rainbow Bay every Christmas such as the Ipswich Old Boys bowls day which was started by my grandfathers and their mates some 30 odd years ago and now attended by my dad and I in their honour and the Boxing Day punters club at the RSL never change and I know I will be there again this year to keep the traditions going.

Now that we have all gotten a bit older, Rainbow Bay has become a place that my nephews now love and look forward to going to every year.  They are experiencing the caravan holiday with their grandparents (my parents) just like I did and I envy them that they have years ahead of them to discover the delights of this haven.

“Let’s dig a hole Uncle Steve”

Rainbow Bay has played such a big part in my life, it will always be one of my favourite places.

Shumpty’s Favourite Places: Washington

The genesis of this blog, as early readers will recall was my recent trip to New Zealand.  Whilst I would not say I am a worldly traveller I have been lucky enough over the years to experience and photograph some places that have had a massive influence on my life.

On Thursday’s for the next period I will be writing a series of blogs called “Shumpty’s Favourite Places” in which I will write about places that I have loved visiting or that have been important to me (or both) over the years.  In starting this series there is not better place to start than Washington.

I wish I could visit Washington every time I travel somewhere such is the excellent time I had there some 16 months ago.

I know I am a nerd but the history of the place just screams out to be enjoyed and celebrated.  The monuments are awe inspiring and yet I found them also to be solemn places it which it was apposite to reflect on not only the effect that the parties celebrated in the monuments have had on the world that we live in but also on the awe with which our American cousins lionise their former leaders.

My favourite monument is the Lincoln Memorial.  Of course I had seen it on TV and in movies and, as is my usual style, I had done some research before I arrived there but the thing that struck me was just the size of the memorial.  It is a massive footprint and is cavernous inside whilst being imposing outside.

Any trip to Washington is not complete without a visit to the White House.  Converse to the Lincoln Memorial I was shocked a little at the lack of size of the place.  Compared again to what I had seen and my perception it struck me as a diminutive structure compared to the ornate and behemoth like buildings that surround it.

I saw a great many of wonderful things in Washington and those who know me will know that there was no way, for example, that I could resist going to the Supreme Court of the United States.  For me, this was law nerd heaven which only was heightened when I was able to watch an argument session in two cases that were before the Court on the day I was there.  I have been fortunate in my time to argue applications before the Supreme Courts of Queensland and New South Wales and the Federal Court of Australia but all of that paled into insignificance with the chill I got up my spine when I heard Chief Justice Roberts call the first case of the day.

Having waxed lyrical about my visit to the Court, you will probably be surprised that it was actually not the highlight of my trip.  That slot is reserved for the four of eleven (in Washington) Smithsonian Institute museums I visited during my stay.  Most particularly I will maintain till the day that I die that the best thing I saw in Washington was the National Air and Space Museum.  I loved it so much I went back for a second look.  From the Wright Flyer, through aviation using the World Wars into the exploration of Space it feels like the sum total of aviation history is all in one place.  It is hard to pick out any particular exhibit that I favoured over the rest: they all were just so good.  I really could have spent at least another day in just this one museum to make sure I did not miss anything.

I would happily go back to Washington again and I would love to live there some day.  As a naive traveller immensely out of his depth in the early days of my first real overseas trip, I found Washington an easy place to get around and the subway the best way to get around it. I have no doubt my next “big” overseas trip will include a Washington component, if only so I can tick a few more of the Smithsonian Institute’s museums of my list of places to see.

I leave you with an image of Washington that to this day is tattooed on my brain.  I took this photo on dusk in the National Mall: the modern day represented by the cars and the history of the Washington Memorial is just the right mix of the day to day hustle and bustle of America’s capital and its history to show the true essence this great city.  This is the image of Washington I will always remember.

Shumpty on tour: the trip review

Today dawns as the final day of my 12 day trip to the South Island of New Zealand which leaves me to reflect on this trip and to consider the good, the bad and the ugly from being on tour:

The Good

New Zealand in general

I just love this place so it is easy for me to say that as a travel experience New Zealand ticks all of the right boxes. Specifics to follow.

The food

As establish in earlier blogs, I love food but am no gourmet. That said the food I have experienced on this trip has been nothing short of excellent. From “the best meal of my life” at Saffron through to the simplest cheese toastie at the cafes of small towns like Milton and Roxborough, everything put in front of me on plate has been eaten with relish and joy.

The drives

I had never really considered New Zealand as a place to come for a driving holiday but two particular drives left me breathless and my palms more than a bit sweaty: Invercargill to Queenstown by the Southern Scenic Route and Queenstown to Wanaka over the Crown Range. The former gets the nod because of the sheer beauty of the scenery that invades your senses as you drive first through lush farming country and then along side Lake Wakapitu. The later is a windy, curving drive over the range which had me holding my breath in the mighty Yaris on more than one occasion.

The people

Aussies and Kiwis have had and will always have a love hate relationship. That point acknowledged, and this is something that also came through on my last trip to these shores, every person I met on the trip was always keen for chat, willing to help and always had a smile on their face. It is the people of New Zealand that will get me coming back again.

The bad

Camper van drivers

As regular readers will be aware a lot of time on this trip has been spent on the road. Which has meant a large amount of time has been spent behind Camper vans. Now I appreciate that the roads are narrow in points and a camper van is a heavy piece of machinery to drive but it must be said that the most worrisome moments I had whilst running the Yaris around NZ were when I encountered camper vans. Education program’s for their drivers are a must me thinks.

The ugly

Hitchhikers

The only really negative of my whole experience in New Zealand was seeing the plethora of hitchhikers waiting desperately for lifts on the side of the road. No doubt a large part of tourism in NZ is back packer based however it struck me that such a large number of young people begging for rides, particularly young ladies, is just a recipe for danger. Forgive me for getting on the pulpit on this it it was just something that bothered me every time I saw it and I was seeing it every day.

All in all though I have had one of the best holidays I have had on this trip. A measure of how good any holiday one has, I think, is how you feel on your last day of said holiday. I feel refreshed, relaxed and ready for home: which indicates for me that this has been a pretty good trip.

Thank you all for reading. I hope you have enjoyed this blog as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

Shumpty

Shumpty on tour: the road to Wanaka!

Yesterday dawned as an overcast and dreary day … A perfect day for another road trip. After breakfasting again at Eichardts Private Hotel (I have a gift voucher that still keeps on giving) and a brief pit stop to checkout the sale at Macpac (I love their gear … Would buy the store if I could), it was time for the Yaris to again do the work and get over the Crown Range to Wanaka.

Some background: the drive to Wanaka if you don’t go via the Crown Range from Queenstown is 117kms. When you go over the Range it is 59kms. So it is a hilly, curvy drive over the range and then through the valley between two of the mountains that form the range. Why Wanaka you ask? Well I retort with why not AND I wanted to see the National Transport and Toy Museum. More on that later.

The drive was an edge of your seat and sweaty palm experience! It would be in the dry but was more even more so in the wet. Forget the scenery, the glimpses of which I saw was brilliant, the actually driving experience was brilliant. The Yaris again served me well but I have to say I will be coming back here and hiring a higher powered car to do that drive again!

Wanaka is another one of these hidden gems in the Southland / Otago region that I keep finding. Set on Lake Wanaka it has some good cafes, the usual souvenir shops selling NZ paraphernalia and art and photo galleries. As I have found everywhere the people were friendly and keen for a chat.

A beef burger and a coke at the Kai Whaka Pai Cafe settled my nerves after the battling the Crown Range and after a quick walk around I headed to the Transport and Toy Museum. For the first time this tour I have to confess that this was a disappointment. So much so I declined the $12 entry fee after perusing the “free section” of the museum and return to the Yaris for the drive home.

The Queensland election and the rugby dominated the rest of my day … Both are subjects that I will canvass in blogs later today!

Today, after more of Eichardts fine food, will be a lazy day walking around town me thinks.

Till tomorrow.

Shumpty

Shumpty on tour: a slow day in Qtown

A very quiet day on tour today. Part of the idea behind this holiday was to not have too much planned and if the day dawned and I did not want to do much I simply would not. Today was an overcast and drizzly day for most of it and to be frank I did next to nothing but eat, write my preview for this weeks round of Super Rugby (viewable at pinkrugby.com) and do some shopping for gifts for family and friends.

This blog is fast becoming all about food and that is fine with me: I love good food. This morning I headed into the city centre and visited Eichardts Private Hotel right on the front. I confess, as I noted on twitter, that Eichardts is not the usual place I would breakfast but the again the food was grand and the service was good. As I was dining on account of a voucher kindly given to me by a friend, it made the nosh all the more sweet. I will be back there for lunch tomorrow to check out the main menu (there are still funds left on said voucher).

A tapas lunch in the dining room at the hotel (my usual objections to tapas and other forms of shared food dissipate on holiday) was followed by a curry takeaway. No complaints about either.

As I said today was an extremely lazy day! Tomorrow will be much more interesting as I brave the Gondola. For the uninitiated I am a little bit bothered by heights, so tomorrow mornings events could be amusing for all sharing the Gondola with me!

Sorry to all for the abridged post but I really have little to say today. Bring on tomorrow!

Shumpty

Shumpty on tour: Arrowtown

You are going to get sick of me saying this, but today was another perfect day on tour. The sky was again clear and the weather crisp. A short road trip today to Arrowtown was on the agenda. Arrowtown had been recommended to me by two different people for the food: one recommendation was for the local bakery and the other was for the restaurant Saffron. More about them later.

Arrowtown is about more than just the food. It was, in 1862, a settlement set up to take advantage of the burgeoning gold rush in the Arrow River which runs past the town. Much of the old town remains or has been restored with the main street still cobble stone in some parts and the trees which dominate the towns skyline, sycamore and oak trees, a legacy of the early settlers in the town.

One of the high lights for me was exploring the Chinese Settlement. This was a settlement just outside the town in which immigrant Chinese miners resided from 1869 to take advantage of the gold rush. The story of their segregation from the town and the fact that some original artefacts and buildings remain from the original settlement make visiting the settlement a must for anyone visiting Arrowtown and more than a bit moving to boot!

The shopping is said to be good in Arrowtown but it must be said that is true only if you are looking for Merino wool products, the art of locals or generic souvenirs of New Zealand. The wallet stayed firmly in the pocket of this traveller save for the purchase of food.

Now, back to food, first up in Arrowtown was a visit to the bakery. The pies on offer all looked good and I decided to try the mince bolognese pie which is billed as the “best hangover cure”. Whilst I was not hungover I definitely did enjoy it.

By the time lunch time rolled around I was really looking forward to sitting down at Saffron. The wraps on the place are huge and to be honest … Totally justified!!!! Service 10 out of 10, food 10 out of 10 and the price more than reasonable! I went for the green chicken curry and it was a delight. Not so overpowering as to render the eater a mute but hot enough to leave a sting in the mouth. I liked it so much I am going back on Sunday night for dinner on my last night in Queenstown.

The afternoon was again a lazy one: TV, a few work emails and more reading of Anthony Summers’ excellent book on J. Edgar Hoover. Is a brilliant read.

The weather looks like it is turning a bit nasty tomorrow which may mean another road trip is on the cards. No plans as yet but will ponder overnight.

Till tomorrow.

Shumpty