Nine Goals for May

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Part of the plan: Paris is always a good idea

  1. Spend time with my son and belle-fille in New Jersey.
  2. Spend time with my mom in NJ and help her celebrate her 92nd birthday.
  3. Find time to connect with friends in the U.S., if not on our short visit in May, then on our next trip in July.
  4. Resume work on my Paris memoir. Try to complete the next chapter but don’t overly stress as long as good progress is made. Write in Paris before going to New Jersey.
  5. Enjoy being out and about in Paris when we return there from New Jersey.
  6. Keep up with friends, activities and appointments in Felixstowe before we depart.
  7. Remind myself we knew the first 6-7 months of this year would involve a great deal of travel, mostly to see family. Try to be mindful of the need to pace ourselves along the way.
  8. Get over lingering jet lag and weariness I’m still feeling from a month Down Under.
  9. Be grateful we’re able to, as per our motto, ‘Travel while we can.’
Clive calls it our travel roundabout

Clive calls it our travel roundabout

Cheers and thanks for reading. Next week’s letter will be from Felixstowe.

Why I’ve Run out of Energy: 15 Reasons

Five year-old at top of climbing wall

Five year-old at top of climbing wall

  1. Watching Clive’s grandchildren at the amazing climbing centre, including miss no-fear five year-old reaching the top of high walls over and over again.
  2. Watching Clive in his jet simulator session, a birthday gift from his daughter and son.
Clive at the controls

Clive at the controls

  1. Cheering the NSW Central Coast Mariners soccer team in their final game of the season.
  2. Going to church in the morning and bushwalking in Rumbalara Reserve in the afternoon, with views over Brisbane Water.
View from an Aussie bushwalk

View from an Aussie bushwalk

  1. Going to the library, where each child selects 10 books. At home, clever mum gives each one a separate shelf for his or her stash.
  2. Walking through the Japanese Garden and art centre.
  3. Going ten-pin bowling (to be exact, watching Clive and his grandchildren ten-pin bowling).
  4. Watching the boys swim in our hotel pool.
  5. Watching ‘Inside Out’ on DVD and ‘Zootopia’ at the theatre.
  6. Watching swimming lessons.
  7. Walking (adults) and scootering (kids) on the Gosford-to-Woy Woy pathway.
Scooting around

Scooting around

  1. Dinners with the family, including snags and chicken on the barbie, meat pies and home-made nachos.
  2. Dinner at the Star Buffet at Central Coast Leagues Club. So many choices, especially Asian treats, and all so good.
  3. Playing jewellery shop, colouring-in and having my hair twisted and ornamented by little hands.

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  1. Hanging out with three blessedly happy and healthy bundles of energy and their hard-working parents, for all of whom we are very thankful.
Clive & grandchildren at Japanese Garden

Clive & grandchildren at Japanese Garden

We still have four days to go before we head to Sydney airport. Cheers and thanks for reading. Next week’s letter will be from Felixstowe.

My Sydney

Manly Beach and Shelly Beach, Sydney

Manly Beach and Shelly Beach, Sydney

Sydney, like all great cities, offers something different for everyone and infinite experiences and sensations to those who live or visit here.

Clive and I have spent the past few days in and around our former home on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. This is where we both lived for many years before meeting each other. Our first date was for coffee at Manly Beach. We left the oceanfront café and walked to Shelly Beach, one of my late husband Gary’s favourite places in the world.

This week we’ve been fortunate to take ferries past the Opera House, catch up over a long Harbourside lunch at Watson’s Bay with our wonderful next-door neighbours and walk around Georges Heights near my first Aussie home at Balmoral Beach. How priceless are friends with whom you can pick up right where you left off, no matter the time or distance since you last saw each other in person. Thanks Lesley and Ian, Julie and Phil.

with my friend Julie at Georges Heights, Mosman

with my friend Julie at Georges Heights, Mosman

So many people have told us they’d love to visit Australia. I wish I could wave a magic wand and instantly transport everyone here. The country’s natural and man-made beauty never fails to move me, nor do the friendliness of its people and the fair-mindedness of its culture.

If you’ve always wanted to visit the Lucky Country, it’s worth going the distance to experience this fascinating, peaceful and welcoming place. Sydney the Outback, the Great Barrier Reef … no worries, mate, the list is endless and you will find your own magic Down Under.

Sydney Harbour and Opera House

Sydney Harbour and Opera House

Cheers and thanks for reading. Next week’s letter will be from the NSW Central Coast.

Five Great Things about Australia Beaches

Cronulla Beach, south of Sydney

Cronulla Beach, south of Sydney

  1. Aussie beaches are beautiful.
Clive on pathway to Cronulla Beach Esplanade

Clive on pathway to Cronulla Beach Esplanade

White sand, green headlands, the water and the bush and that endless Aussie blue sky.

  1. They’re everywhere.
Lighthouse at Norah Head, New South Wales Central Coast

Lighthouse at Norah Head, New South Wales Central Coast

The vast majority of Australia’s population lives near the coast, so most people have access and experience of countless beaches during their lifetime. The city of Sydney alone has numerous Harbour and ocean beaches.

  1. They’re part of city (and non-city) life.
Older grandson (wearing his US Pentagon cap) on the beach

Older grandson (wearing his US Pentagon cap) on the beach

It took me a long time to adjust to living in Sydney, where for the first time for our family, instead of going on vacation to the beach, the beaches are a regular part of life.

  1. Kids grow up with love and respect for the ocean
Rock pools at Norah Head, NSW Central Coast

Rock pools at Norah Head, NSW Central Coast

Learning to swim at an early age, a warm climate and a culture that celebrates the experience of being near and in the water.

  1. The beaches are free and open to all.
Ocean pool at Cronulla Beach, Sydney

Ocean pool at Cronulla Beach, Sydney

No matter what town, what state or what time of year; no matter where you live are where you come from: there’s no resident permit required, no gatehouse barring entry except to an exclusive few and no expensive summer badges necessary. This was another big change from my U.S. experience.

Aussie (and UK) beaches are just free and open to all, throughout the year. So if you’re thinking of visiting Australia, make sure to plan lots of time to relax and explore the country’s magnificent beaches.

Thanks, Australia.

Thursday afternoon at North Cronulla Beach, Sydney

Thursday afternoon at North Cronulla Beach, Sydney

Cheers and thanks for reading. Next week’s letter will be from Sydney.

Family Time Down Under

G’day, Sydney. It’s nice to see you again.

G’day, Sydney. It’s nice to see you again.


G’day from the New South Wales central coast, where we arrived in time to celebrate Clive’s son’s birthday.

Clive with his son and his family

Clive with his son and his family

In between fighting off bouts of jet lag and catching up with the middle generation, we’ve been fortunate to watch various grandchildren activities: swimming, euphonium-playing, tennis, a few school runs and various projects at home.

Swimming

Swimming

Playing the euphonium

Playing the euphonium

Tennis

Tennis

This being Australia, we’re surrounded by various creatures as well as natural beauty. A lizard I thought was creepy but Clive says is friendly hung around our hotel parking lot for a day or so (or probably lives here).

Creepy/friendly lizard camouflaging himself in the grass

Creepy/friendly lizard camouflaging himself in the grass

Sydney autumn dazzles with a purple flowering tree called Tibouchina. Its blossoms are a much deeper violet than my beloved lavender jacarandas which bloom in spring but I love them nearly as much. These trees adorn many properties and streets of New South Wales during the Aussie autumn.

Tibouchina trees by our hotel

Tibouchina trees by our hotel

Cheers and thanks for reading. Next week’s letter will be from Sydney’s southern coast.

Temporarily leaving our tree by the sea

Our tree by the sea this week, Felixstowe

Our tree by the sea this week, Felixstowe

Our tree by the sea isn’t showing any significant buds yet, but we’re pretty sure by the time we return from a month in Australia, buds will have appeared.

This weekend we’re heading Down Under to spend time with Clive’s daughter and son and family. We’re also looking forward to seeing several close friends in the area where we used to live, Manly Beach.

Manly beach, Sydney, March 2015

Manly beach, Sydney, March 2015

Its autumn in Australia and we’ll go off Daylight Saving time at the end of this month, with days getting shorter there as they lengthen here. There will be lots of moving around — 31 nights total (2 in flight, then 1, 7, 6, 4, 8, 2 nights in different locations and a final 1 in flight).

As everyone who has family at a distance knows, it’s always a challenge to see everyone you want to see on this kind of a trip, and hard to avoid changing locations if you want to see loved ones. We’ve learned we can’t be everywhere at once, much as we’d like to be (as it happens, my son and belle-fille are in the midst of some significant activities in the U.S. and my mom, thankfully, remains content at her location). We do the best we can with everyone’s schedules and availability — and try to remember to pace ourselves, too.

Bags are packed, technology backups made and we can’t wait to see the Aussies and their beautiful country.

A place I adore and can't stay away from, the Harbour and Opera House, Sydney

A place I adore and can’t stay away from, the Harbour and Opera House, Sydney

Cheers and thanks for reading. Next week’s letter will be from Sydney.

Garden Glory amidst a bit of pushing and shoving at the Royal Academy

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Perhaps the combination of great artworks centred upon the subject of gardens and gardening gets people so excited they can’t help pushing and shoving other people around, in an effort to get the best viewing point and make sure they don’t miss anything on offer.

Yesterday Clive and I wound our way through Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse at London’s Royal Academy. This is an exhibit I would attend over and over and over again, if time and ticket availability allowed.

Amidst a number of well-known works by Monet, Pissarro, Bonnard, Renoir, John Singer Sargeant, Paul Klee and many others are great garden paintings on loan from private collections. What must it be like, to own a small (or large) masterpiece, I wonder? We can only dream, and buy a print or a few postcards instead.

I could have stared for hours at a small Monet from a private collection in Switzerland. However this was impossible due to the hordes passing through. The exhibition is extremely popular and getting rave reviews; perhaps too many tickets per timeslot were sold; and it became tiring and uncomfortable constantly to be dodging other people and trying to squeeze into a place to view a painting. Those who had audio guides grouped in giant masses in front of designated paintings, leaving little room for the rest of us.

I told Clive I thought the guards have the best job, as they can arrive early or stay late and wander through the rooms all by themselves.

Even in these less-than-ideal circumstances, I recommend this exhibition wholeheartedly to anyone who loves Impressionist-to-modern era art and paintings of gardens in particular.

The last room of the exhibition is dedicated to a triptych of Monet’s water lilies. The curving canvases aren’t as large as the ones at the Orangerie but to me are equally impressive in their beauty. Apparently this is the first time the three have been reunited in decades; they are on loan from museums in Cleveland, Ohio and St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri.

If you’re thinking of London before April 20, be sure to book tickets for this one. No matter a few pushes and shoves, the combination of great artwork and great garden beauty makes it worthwhile.

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Cheers and thanks for reading. Next week’s post will be from Felixstowe.