London 2017

Somewhere over northern Europe, it doesn’t look like SA in summer. 

Gabriel has been a pleasure to spend time with.  He is lively and funny and loves his sport.  Here in whites he is dressed for a cricket coaching session at Lords, no less!

Dan, Jo and Gabriel leaving their house in Archway to visit to visit friends.
Our second ay in London and Dan was off to the opera at Glybourne, all dressed up in his new Tuxedo and looking very handsome.  Glyndbourne has a tradition of picnics on the lawns between acts – with very well dressed picnicers. The venue of one of Joanna’s opera designs last year: Barber of Seville, which is going on tour soon, maintaining her involvement.

We’ve had many trips to London over the years – one or other of the boys have been living here for over 20 years – we struggle to find new places to visit.  The design museum opened in it’s new premises at the end of last year, and the restored building was quite spectactular.

I enjoyed his lunch at the Design museum. My first smashed avocado, well designed. British food is not what it used to be; much better, with good coffee quite common. JT

We booked ourselves in for a guided tour of the British library with a great professional guide.  This photo shows the library of George V who was an avid book collector.  On his death his son donated his collection to the nation on the conditional that it was on display at all times and available for use.  There are 200 million items in the collection (not all books) a copy of everything published in Britain. It goes eight stories underground.

Just some of the massive building going on in London, a lot of it in connection with the new Elizabeth Line (Cross Rail). The multi billion project being funded in part by developments in association with the new business the new like will bring and building new stations and so on. All connected to the feeling of being an ant in a busy pre-Brexit nest. JT
We made a visit to Bletchley to visit the museum showing the work of Alan Turring and others to break the Enigma code used by the Germans.  We had a demonstration of the ‘bombe’ – the computer-like sorting device developed by Turring and others – and found out that the film only told part of the story.  Below is the ‘mansion’ of the original home and farm.
 Then to a village pub – the Shoulder of Mutton – for a beer and extraordinarly good pizza lunch.
Finally a walk along the village paths where we picked apples for an apple crumble.
Sunday, the day before we are to leave.  Dan, Jo and Gabriel were off swimming in an unheated pool. The temperature today is a maximum of 21 degrees so we declined the invitation and instead had a guided tour of the Highgate Cemetery, a wild and overgrown place filled with Victorian statues and mausoleums and even catacombs, all designed to stop grave robbers.
Here we are using yesterdays ‘found’ apples to make apple crumble with Gabriel as a very capable assistant cook.
Off to Qantas tomorrow and home by Wednesday morning.

Berlin and Lubeck

A warm night in Berling so we had. drink at a traditional beer garden before a dinner with Matt to celebrate John’s birthday.  
Potsdam and Sanssouci
We took the train to Potsdam to visit a private gallery and then to the gardens at Sanssouci, the summer palace of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, built in 1745-7.  Being a Monday, the palace was closed, but we enjoyed the lovely terraced gardens and huge grounds. The kale plant growing amongst the flowers is an inspiration for my front garden. 

 Sophie and Matt had a weekend away and on the Sunday we took the boys to the Spy Museum  Cormac became an expert in the laser maze and achieved level three by moving like a caterpillar on the floor beneath the lasers.  

Sophie drove (in the rain on the crowded motor way) to Lubeck, a pretty medieval town in the north of Germany.  A highlight was a visit to the Hanseatic Museum.  
 The Hanseatic League
 The league dominated trade across northern Europe from around 1200 with Lubeck at its heart (just south of Sweden). A superb modern museum told the story. Lubeck was overtaken by nearby Hamburg on the huge river Elbe.
Hamburg, with all its canals, resembled a red brick Venice

A new concert hall and very expensive apartments, built on top of an old wharf building, resembling (to me) an enormous ship or (to John) waves.  We took the enormous curved escalators to the viewing platform over the wharves and waters of Hamburg.  

We took a boat tour around the port area and saw the huge cranes used for loading container ships  Hamburg is the third largest container port in Europe after Rotterdam and Antwerp.  

Our last morning in Hamburg.  Matt drove us to the airport and on the way we stopped at a park for one last walk.        

Berlin and London 2017

Finally, Berlin  A delayed start to our holiday meant we flew directly to Berlin.  No French visit this year!

Iran-Turkey border (take my word for it)
Palace of Dubai Airport

We are staying for three nights in a hotel in Prenzlauer Berg, in the north of the city, a fifteen minute walk from Matt and Sophie’s new apartment.  The area has many of the original apartment blocks built in the late 1800s to early 1900s.  The area has many young families and the street scene is lively with lots of children, outdoor eating and bikes everywhere.

Robert and Cormac are delightful company.  Cormac is still the budding artist, while Bob is as curious and knowledgeable as ever.

On our first day we visited the Kathe Kollwitz Museum, just off the Ku’damm, in west Berlin.  Kathe Kollwitz lived with her doctor husband in Prenzleur Berg, at that time a very poor area, from the late 1890s to her death in 1945.  Both were committed to social justice and working with the poor, and these values were reflected in her work.  Many of her art works, including sculpture, focused on mothers and children.  She is now highly esteemed in Germany.  

This morning we went with Sophie and the boys to visit the Boris Collection, a private collection of contemporary art, all on display in a converted bunker.  The building was as amazing as the art works, five stories of art works in enormous cement formed rooms with  the owners’ private penthouse on top.  We could only visit as part of a tour group that Sophie had booked some months previously.  We could see how accustomed Robert and Cormac were to visiting galleries and museums as they concentrated and were actively engaged for the whole 90 minutes.


Hobart, Bruny Island and MONA

Three days in Hobart

Flying in to Hobart, one of Tasmania’s great attractions: its natural beauty, was obvious.

Somerset on Pier Apartments, and the view from our room, above

On the ferry: a seagoing community

Tuesday. We had booked seven course gourmet tour to Bruny Island in which we visited some of the small food producers on the Island, including an oyster farm for the best and freshest oysters we have eaten, taken from the pristine waters of the D’entrecasteaux channel.

The long narrow Neck that joins north and south Bruny Island.  We climbed the 238 steps to the lookout for the view and to see the memorial to the original Nuenonne people of the island.
As well as the oyster farm we visited the Bruny Island Cheese and Beer Co founded by Nick Haddow who was the first cheesemaker in Australia to be allowed to use unpasteurised milk.  Then coffee and muffins, before a lunch and wine-tasting at a winery and finally, a highlight, a whisky tasting of 
Tasmanian whiskies.  It was the first time I have enjoyed whisky and we were tempted to buy a bottle but at $140 a bottle decided it wasn’t within our budget.  
Wednesday.  The main reason for our visit was to visit MONA the Museum of Old and New Art so we took the ferry, aptly called the Mona Roma, and travelled up the Derwent to the north of Hobart where the saw our first sight of the museum.  

After buying our tickets we descended via the spiral staircase down to the bottom level.  The museum is built into the sandstone hill and this waterfall of words was the first exhibit to visited.  The building was an exhibit in itself with the exposed rock and confronting architecture. 

The Dreamtime by Sydney Nolan consisting of hundreds of small prints put together to form the Rainbow Serpent.

The Cloaca Professional or Poo Machine.  It is fed and actually makes a smelly poo after passing through the various ‘stomachs’

One of my favourites was the bloated red car – a Porsche, I think.  Somewhere there is a message about the grossness of wealth and self-indulgence.  

Thursday.  Our last day before flying home that afternoon so we spent it in the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.  They had an exhibition of the Baudin’s exploration in 1800 and this exhibition combined with finding out about Bruni after whom Bruny Island is named, gave our visit quite a French flavour.


In Berlin March ’17

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I have been in Berlin for two weeks helping with child minding while Sophie is in Australia for Australia Council work. My job has been collecting the boys from school, cooking and minding on weekends and so on. So I have had a lot of time to wander around Berlin and to maintain my walking goals. I did 16 Km one day. Having been about 7 C for some of last week it is now very sunny and up to 16 C. 

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Young sophisticates of Berlin
I brought supplies from the south.

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Apartment living is pretty comfortable, with the lack of outdoor space the obvious disadvantage, and not as much indoor space as a typical house. Theirs has very high ceilings and there is almost no sound from other families. This shot is a waiting for school pick up, so time to read.

The döner kebab is one of the famous meals in Berlin thanks to the large Turkish population. It is excellent: perfect kebab lamb and bountiful salad.

The boys are excellent companions and chatter non-stop for the 30 minute walk from school.

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This is the famous Tempelhof Airport in its final days in mid ’90s. It is still one of the largest buildings in the world. Hitler ordered in built in the ’30 to handle 6 mill visitors a year. It closed in the mid ’90s and a referendum recently decided to keep it as open space for Berliners to enjoy. At the weekend it is packed with hang gliders, roller-bladers, and hobbyists of all kinds.
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It is well worth a booking for a tour if you are in Berlin. The National Socialist architecture is remarkable – designed to make you, the individual feel small.

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 At 4C in gentle rain out on the runway, the little kite did eventually fly.
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The German school system is very demanding of children. I have been helping a with Robert’s (year 5) science work. These made in preparation for a test on the 5 senses. If you click to enlarge you will see the detail.  I would guess that it is nearly Year 8 level from my day. He is also doing a poster project on Archimedes explaining how he changed the world. Lots of homework and lots of tests. Cormac, Year 3 is learning 7 times tables.

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The boys are both bookworms due to some consciously smart parenting. There is a bit of screen time, but no regular TV.

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Matt’s new off the bitumen bike arrived last week and I played a minor part in its assembly. Here he is off for a 65km Sunday ride with a group of friends. Pretty demanding when we forgot that daylight savings started that morning and he got home at about 1am. The clocks automatically adjusted and we did, eventually. 

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The main reason to visiting Germany

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Matt’s very fancy BMW. Cruised to Poland (see below) at around 160kmh and got to 200 just to show me. The autobahn felt very safe. As they say, it’s all relative.

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Matt borrowed the work drone to give it a try out. Here, it is hovering about a metre from the ground. They are not legal in Germany so we went for a 90min drive to Poland, and found an amazingly attractive marsh-land between a river and levy banks. I spend some time beforehand checking out the assembly of the drone but basically there were no instructions. It was remarkably simple to fly, and the boys had equal time flying it and had no trouble. It was a bit nerve-wracking because this one cost $4000 (now $1700 in Aust.) and if not careful, we could prang it 2 km away in the water.
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This is the incredible marsh grassland from about 50m up: see the two of us?

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The drone has an excellent camera and the video shots are amazing. When there are no inputs, the drone hovers perfectly still. The video looks as though taken from a tripod. We need one of these around Hawthorn. 

I had a very pleasant day on Tuesday, my last day, wandering around the Tiergarten near the Brandenburg Gate, soaking up the sun. An amazing space in the middle of a city of 4 million.

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Nearly daily chats with Deirdre on Face-time were great.

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Scotia Wildlife Sanctuary

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On Thursday 6 October we left Adelaide to travel to Mildura on our way to the Scotia Wildlife Conservancy Park, halfway between Mildura and Broken Hill on the South Australian border.  The following morning we left early to travel north in a hired four-wheel drive with two Sydney women, arriving at Scotia in time for lunch.

The vegetation at Scotia falls into three main types – Mallee with Spinifex on the top of the ridges, Mallee trees with diverse understory below that and then Casuarina forest at the base with the richer soil and more water.  The picture above  is the mallee with diverse understory.

The map below shows the location of Scotia and the satellite picture shows the buildings in the landscape.  The centre was originally developed by John Wamsley (of the cat hat fame) and was taken over by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) after his business failed.  AWC is based on the same principles and was inspired by Wamsley’s work.

The spinifex bushes in the afternoon light made it look as though a landscaper had been at work.  
We spent two nights at Scotia but it was so full of activities it felt much longer.  It included trips to examine approaches to trapping cats and foxes, examining animal tracks to see what animals are active.  The sandy track is scraped by towing tyres behind a vehicle each day so a record can be kept of the animal tracks including bilbies, bettongs, wallabies, goannas and the elusive Numbats.  The Numbats were the original small marsupials brought to the property by John Wamsley and the numbers are increasing.  They feed on termites and are active in the day but despite our best efforts we didn’t see any.  
Our first night expedition was out in the four wheel drive with our torches looking for bilbies, bettongs and the Bridled Nailtail Wallabies.  The wallabies were thought to be extinct until a small group were found in Queensland AWC and a small group were brought to Scotia.  Now there are 2,500 on Scotia but have almost disappeared from the Queensland National Parks.  
The fence is the key technology of Scotia. Only a small fraction of the property is fenced, but it is still 50 km long and so important that it is inspected every second day. It is 2m high and has an overhang, and electrified wires, and about half a metre of mesh in both directions extending out from the base to prevent burrowing.   JT
Mallee Fowl: we did see one of the pair who maintain this impressive mound but the camouflage is so good that the photos are useless. 
The photograph below shows an area in the Casuarina forest that was dug up by two hungry Bilbies in just two days after heavy rains had brought an increase in cricket numbers.  The bilbies and bettongs act as composters in the landscape turning over the ground and creating tunnels so the soil is regularly aerated and the leaf litter breaks down.  It was amazing to see the difference between the soil outside the fence where it is compacted and the rain runs off, and inside the fence where the water is able to be absorbed.  Inside the fence holes and scratchings are every few metres, not as intense as this scene, but a  sign of the what the Australian landscape used to look like.
One way goat gate

This is a very successful goat trapping gate. Goats pass this way to get into a fenced area around a damn and then can’t get out. When they have a hundred or more they call in their goat guy who takes them – mainly for airfreight live to S E Asia!  JT

After our wet winter the smaller plants were all in flower like this one above.

This is a classic small animal trap used to monitor animal traffic. The black screen interrupts animals scuttling about at night, forcing them to run along the screen. At each end of the screen is a buried plastic pipe about 20cm wide into which the animal falls. Each day they check the trap and release the animals caught after recording their details. One of these may have caught the bilby below.

This Bilby was caught in one of the traps used to monitor the health of the animals at Scotia and the staff showed it to us before very gently letting it.  The Bilby has the strangest features – long nose, large ears, and mohawk like tail fur all coming together in a very pleasing whole.

Our second night trip was to observe a small group of Mala or Rufous Hare-wallaby that is in a special enclosure in order to build up their numbers before translocated to an area near Uluru.  They are the totem of the Aboriginal community of this region.  As they are given some supplementary feed we were able to observe them while they ate.  Very cute, especially this one with a joey.  

The fox ecologist gave a fascinating presentation about tracking seven foxes with GPS collar trackers. The red rectangle is the fenced area. The foxes are obviously territorial. Greenie is probably a mother and yellow her offspring, which moved off to it’s own area in the south. Grey is probably an interloper. The collars drop off after a period and are recovered. The ACF people are very serious about having good science.  JT
Here I am ‘having a go’ at tracking a fox on our final morning.  
We left after another delicious meal (a chef from Sydney cooked all of our meals) full of admiration for the work of the young, dedicated scientists and other staff members and inspired by the important work that they are doing in saving so many species on the edge of extinction.  
Australian Wildlife Conservancy

Strike, Machines, Gardens

This is our very attractive apartment in Nantes. Airbnb has been very successful on this trip
Passage Pommeraye is a famous example of 19th Century arcade design. It is on a steep slope and has three levels. The chocolate is typical of the upmarket shops that live in the arcade.
This is the impressive botanic gardens in Nantes. Yes, that is a man walking under the bench seat. The French love this type of whimsical design. 
 Demonstrators, police and tourists
 On our last day we planned to look at a few sites and have a rest before heading off to Paris on Friday and then off to Aust and 3.45pm. But, we walked into the Nantes version of a national demonstration against a big change to labour laws, and it was an impressive piece of street theatre as the demonstrators and the police played out their roles.

The Island of Machines
Nantes is famous for its unique Island of the Machines where amazing machines rule. 

Just got the tgv (direct) to Paris and waiting for the plane, and powering up devices, looking forward to home.