Friday, November 9, 2018

Now is the Winter of Our Discontent.

Our lessons continued this morning with 3 intensive workshops. Embedded stage directions are found within the dialogue, ie, "I will strike you with my sword" indicates the need for a sword prop, and "thou must arise now" indicating movement.  There were no directors or stage directions given by Shakespeare.  Actors (and today's directors) must find all movement, props, proximity within the dialogue.  

Direct Address examined how and/or when the actor engaged the audience.  Blackfriars Theater uses a thrust stage, which is one that projects into the audience.  They also leave the lights on throughout the production.  All of this acts to engage the audience with the players, the players with the audience, and the audience with each other.  At the discretion of the actor, he/she may directly address the audience with dialogue, gesture or touching.  

The final, and best, workshop was a study and discussion of Richard III, the play we saw this evening.  We've seen this play several times so have a somewhat basic grasp of the plot and characters.  What benefited me from the discussion was the final take away of, "don't try to figure constantly how one character is related to another.  Just enjoy the scene, the drama happening between and among the characters.  

For the most part I have enjoyed the workshops, the people in our group and the performances.  The knowledge and experience within the group is wildly varied and that makes for a tough workshop that can satisfy all people at all times.  So, truly, we weren't that discontented.

This afternoon was free, and we went to the Woodrow Wilson birth home and the Presidential Museum. At the Wilson house where we were negatively impressed with his enhancement of legalized segregation in the Federal Offices. He was initially opposed to women's voting rights.  Not a stellar man. 

Richard III was a bit of a surprise in that it was played with comedic relief, which we thought was overdone at times particularly the murder of Clarence scene.  The audience was involved in several scenes (Direct Address).  All in all a delightful night and week.   No additional pictures today.  It was raining, and I was negligent. 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Verse and Rhetoric, Protest and Play

Staunton, VA MoveOn Rally

I feel like I'm back in Mrs. Netabel Rice's Senior English class.  Two workshops today focused first on verse and next on rhetoric.  Verse is fairly easy to grasp and to find in Will's plays.  It's either prose which uses rhetoric or verse with meter.  Our task was to see how actors decide to perform the lines by examining the meter and with regard to stress on words.  We're all very familiar with today's political and proselytizing rhetoric.   As a playwright, Will used rhetoric to help the audience to understand the character, and used it to provide the actor with cues on how to behave physically or vocally when delivering the lines.

This afternoon our workshop was on tonight's play, The Man of Mode, a restoration comedy..  The teacher, Aubrey, is a former English teacher, and it shows.  She's very dramatic, very organized and very good at engaging us all.  We got the general plot and character list of the play as well as an overview of the comedic structure.  

At 5pm we walked to the Courthouse to participate in a national event organized by MoveOn to protest Trump's firing of Sessions.  I have no respect for nor like of Sessions.  His over reach into states' rights is the worst of any AG ever.  However, I more than my opposition to Sessions is my opposition to Trump's move to begin the first steps toward firing Mueller.  Remember the Saturday Night Massacre.  There was a group of about 60-80 people there with appropriate signs, the best of which was "lock him up".  Although the crowd was not huge, the woman who organized it has vision, determination, and persistence in protecting and maintaining our Democracy.  Channel 3 appeared for a quick filming.  We had more positive honking from passing cars than I anticipated.  One of the participants said it was difficult in the area to oppose Trump.  She cries often.  

We got word that tonight's performance had been cancelled.  We can't remember ever having a theatrical performance cancelled.  It's bazaar.  Perhaps tomorrow will tell why.  Tacos at The Bistro were excellent.

Pictures at flickr.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Much Ado About Everything

Wayne Musing in the Blackfriars Theater
We have begun our immersion into all things Shakespeare.  We had two classroom sessions today.  The morning session dealt with the way in which Shakespeare's (from now on to be referred to as Will) plays moved from his hand, the foul, to a scribe who would neatly recopy, the fair copy, to the quarto, a printed edition. This illustrates all the opportunities available to somewhat change a word or intent of Will's. Our presenter, Sarah, spent time explaining how the actors of Will's time would often perform 3 or 4 different plays a week.  They had to have all that language and its intent in their heads. She illustrated how the actors listened for the cues to know when to speak. We learned how each actor was given small scroll ROLLS to hold and refer to as they acted.  Hence, roll became the actor's role. Each roll only contained an individual actor's lines with the cue above each of their lines.  The cue was the last 2 or three words of another actor.  We also had a tour of back stage, which is very tiny.  The theater is built on the same footage and design as the theaters of Will's era.  

Afternoon's class was on As You Like It, the play we saw this evening.  The teacher, Aubrey, did a great job of breaking down the plot and all the characters.  We each took a character role and spoke a short line. Aubrey explained that characters relationship to the other characters.  Yes, the play is that complicated and even silly.

We took advantage of some free time this afternoon to visit the Trinity Episcopal Church, which has 12 Tiffany Windows.  Everything is so beautiful with the fall leaves both to walk through and observe on the trees.  Inside the church we were fortunate to hear someone practicing on the organ.  

Tonight's performance of As You Like It was delightful and easily followed thanks to our workshops.  All the actors also play a variety of musical instruments.  They gave a 20 minute concert prior to the show.  This play has the most musical interludes of any of the Shakespeare plays. 
Pictures available at fickr

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Staunton? No, Stanton

Well, it's spelled Staunton...but you better pronounce it Stanton.  Named for Lady Rebecca Staunton, the pronunciation follows her lead.  We are here to join with the Road Scholar Shakespeare program.  We had another beautiful drive today through the Shenandoah Valley.  Staunton is the birthplace of Woodrow Wilson and home to the American Shakespeare Company.  Founded in 1747, there are 6 adjacent historic districts in Staunton. Architectural styles are mixed, much of it attributed to TJ Collins who designed or remodeled some 200 buildings.  

Our hotel, Stonewall Jackson, is adjacent to the Blackfriars Playhouse, where we will see two Shakespeare plays and one restoration play. Tonight we met all the participants over dinner.  As usual, the Road Scholar crew is interesting and interested, very well traveled, and older than normal. Tomorrow the day begins early with a lecture on Shakespeare's Globe and a tour of the playhouse. 

Stonewall Jackson Hotel

Monday, November 5, 2018

We Meet With the Obamas


The National Portrait Gallery with the Obama Portraits

This morning we walked down to the National Portrait Gallery with the main objective of seeing the Obama portraits and meet up with Adam.  Michelle (yes, I call her Michelle) has been moved to the 3rd floor because her popularity overwhelmed the space with new acquisitions.  She has her own special guard of whom I asked, "what are the best comments you remember?"  She said that more than comments what touched her were people who came in and immediately began to cry.  She doesn't know how to comfort them. My photos do not capture the colors.   The President's portrait is much more chromatic than the reproductions show.  Perhaps his aura is simply too strong to be contained.  Wayne said it looked almost back lit.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture, (a far, far too long name that can't even become an acronym) was our next visit.  We had lunch there.  They have regional cafeteria style choices.  We all went for creole with gumbo and shrimp and grits. It was very good.  The museum is packed with artifacts and information more than one could ever absorb in one visit.  It is 3 stories with each floor covering a period from slavery's beginnings to Civil Rights.  Oprah has her own special exhibition area.  Do you think she gave some money? Adam was surprised at how much I remembered and lived through in the Jim Crow era.  We enjoyed spending time with him, a too seldom activity

Tonight was dinner at the Founding Farmers, the latest hot spot in town with farm to table cuisine.  Our waiter, Curtis, was tres beau.  And the food was tres delicieux.  Atmosphere was conducive to good times.  Pictures at Flickr.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

From Barnes to the Bottom Line

The Barnes Foundation
Before leaving Philadelphia we made a stop at the Barnes Foundation.  The collection there is world renowned and well deserved.  It was first Sunday free admission.  The place was packed with families.  In the past when we visited the Foundation in the suburban location the visitors were limited to about 20 a day.  This is so much better for all except for us today.  We skipped the permanent collection where the entrance line was dozens deep.  We went to the temporary exhibit of Berthe Morisot's work.  You could see the influence of Manet in her blacks and Corot in her use of light.  Her works don't really move me other than the evidence of her hand.  I'm simply not a huge fan of the Impressionists except for their influence on the approach to painting. The architecture of the Barnes including the reflection pools is sublime.  One enters the Barnes by passing the low reflecting pools.  They were particularly effective today with the fall leaves and the fallen leaves.  

On our way to DC we sharpened our perspective on Richard III through an audio tape.  He indeed was the rascal Shakespeare portrayed.  But the tape did help us understand Trump so much better.  Also, we learned that Clarence was not the innocent Shakepeare wrote him as.  Once in DC we went to the Bottom Line for a very late lunch.  A subterranean bar filled with televisions broadcasting the Redskins and Falcons, the Bottom Line was my kinda joint.  Following that beer and corned beef lunch and a quick nap, we met Adam, Maura and Vanessa for dinner at the Cafe Mozart.  We caught up on their lives and departed with plans for tomorrow with Adam. We still appreciate German cuisine as much as we always have, ranking up with Irish and English.
A couple of pictures at Flickr

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Brotherly Love

Philadelphia from the Benjamin Franklin Bridge

We have ahead of us a 10 day vacation that includes stops in Philadelphia and DC and four days in Staunton, VA for a Shakespeare workshop with Road Scholar.  It was a beautiful ride down.  The wind was fierce, snatching the fall leaves from the trees, tossing and swirling them all around us.  The colors are still vibrant and grew more so as we progressed south leaving the mostly pine covered Massachusetts behind and traveling into the hard woods of the mid-Atlantic.

Our first stop was Philly where we attended a concert at the Kimmel Center.  By the time we reached Philly, the sun was out and the wind had died.  We are in the Reading Terminal Market area, which is teaming with people.  Once outdoor street markets, the city bowed to public pressure and moved all markets to the indoor facility.  Today one can find a more dynamic selection that just produce.  

The Kimmel Center is a large performing arts venue and home to the Philadelphia Orchestra.  Upon entering the Center one finds one's self in a vast space soaring 3 stories with walkways on each floor.  Rich red wood covers most surfaces.  The Verizon Hall is the main performance auditorium, and where we heard our concert.  The pipe organ is the largest in an American concert hall.  We did not hear it this evening, though. Instead we had 3 beautiful and moving pieces by Beethoven, Mozart and Brahms.  I enjoyed the Brahms most, but was also deeply impressed by pianist solo, Seong-Jin Cho, for the Mozart piece.  Specifically we heard Beethoven's Coriolan Overture, Op. 62, Mozart's Piano concerto No. 20, and Brahms' Symphony No 1.  Dinner prior to the concert was at Illegal Tacos, a most inviting little space close to the Kimmel Center.

A few photos are at Flickr. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Au Revoir Antipodes

Yesterday, our final day in the Southern Hemisphere was spent checking out of 57 York St and checking into 67 Sussex St where the Hilton Hotel is.  Sussex St holds fond memories for me.  It is where I got too much hair cut off with Road Scholar friends, Jennifer and Betty.  It was further down the road in Chinatown, though, so I wasn’t too traumatized by the reminder.  The hotel was very nice, new and located just off Darling Harbor.  We walked to the Central area and had a great pizza.  Today we are flying home.  See you in 20 hours.  Ha.  Some things I noted along the way to remember about our trip.

1.  The wine in Australia and New Zealand is very good.  I especially was fond of the Pinot Gris.
2. Affogato: a desert of ice ream, espresso and Fra Angelico that I WILL make. We had this in Fortune of War, Sydney’s oldest pub.
3.  Rug Up phrase means to  put on a coat.
4.  In Christchurch there is a piece of the 9/11 building that was brought by US fire fighters to commemorate the earthquake.
5.  There are no screens on windows in New Zealand.
6.  In New Zealand there are few places with air conditioning, including restaurants and supermarkets
7.  In both NA and Aus you never get a check at your restaurant table.  You just go to the cashier and they miraculously know what you ate and how much you owe.  It eliminates prolonged waiting and the tipping dilemma. However, we did once walk out without paying.  Fortunately we realized it, and returned to pay.
8.  Bugs are everywhere in New Zealand.  Locals claim the unusual prolonged rains are to blame.  We were inundated with an influx of flying crickets one night, cicadas last night.  See #5
9.  Major construction for a light rail is in Sydney.  It has been prolonged and disruptive.
10. There is a free light rail in Melbourne that traverses the downtown.

New Zealand Sounds

Monday, April 2, 2018

In Search of Flinders’ Cat, etc.

Flinder’s Cat, Trim

Today we went in search of Sydney’s public art.  It’s easy to find; it’s everywhere.  Near our apartment is a small enclosed street, Angel Place, where a multitude of various styled and sized bird cages hang about 30-40 feet above the pavement.  From each cage a bird song plays.  The cages and the songs represent birds that once lived in Sydney, but have disappeared due to human encroachment.  The area is only a pedestrian pass through, which adds to the isolation and loss.  

Forgotten Songs at Alice Place

From Alice Place we walked through Martin Place past the Lloyd Rees Fountain.  Rees was an Australian artist who was very civic minded.  He partially funded the fountain in this pedestrian mall.  There is beautiful architecture here in this rather civic space that cuts north to south through the CBD. The fountain was featured in the film The Matrix.  

Lloyd Rees Fountain, Martin Place

Our next destination was the Public Library.  But we had to stop and rub il Porcelinno’s nose again before arriving at the spot where the sculpture to the memory of Trim stands.  Trim was Captain Matthew Flinders’ cat who traveled the world with him.  They circumnavigated Australia and even went to prison together when Flinders was arrested for espionage.  Trim sits on a library window sill behind a sculpture of Flinders.  A more detailed accounting of Trim’s adventures can be read at

The State Library of NSW is a large reference and research library.  It is the oldest library in Australia, established in 1826.  An addition, The Mitchell Building, has an ornate vestibule and a marble mosaic map.  It was here we entered and began to explore.  There is a very modern addition that houses large computer labs filled with people.  (Not all were pursuing high minded goals on those machines either.). We wandered through, took a look at the closed Shakespeare room, and exited at Shakespeare Place to find the Memorial to Shakespeare. 

Memorial to Shakespeare

On the way home we found Frank Stella art in a Harry Seidler building, an Alexander Calder stabile sitting on a corner, and a small child hanging at another corner.  The most interesting find was the Tank Stream Fountain which paid homage to the stream that once provided water to the European settlers.  It was this stream that caused Admiral Phillips to choose Jackson Port rather than Botany Bay as the area to settle. Other than a culvert, the fountain is the only remaining evidence of the stream. 
Pictures at flickr.

Tank Stream Fountain

Saturday, March 31, 2018

A Day of Rest

Royal Botanical Gardens

Our days here are short now.  We’ve pretty much hit all the top attractions and are now just enjoying the nice weather and walking in the city.  We spent most of today in the Botanical Gardens.  When we first walked in there was a large wedding party having photos taken.  Other areas were filled with kids hunting Easter eggs, families hanging out and solo yoga practitioners.  We ate our Subway sandwiches (yes, everything is still closed) and then Wayne read under a giant tree while I drew.  The wedding reception was nearby and provided some nice 60’s music.  Every now and then a flock of cockatoos would fly overhead competing with the music with their loud squawks.  Pictures at flickr.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Good Good Friday

Empty Street on Darling Harbor

The Aussies take Good Friday very seriously.  Everything was closed today.  We had nothing planned anyway so we walked to Darling Harbor for lunch.  A couple of funny things did happened today, though.   Last night at the Opera I had to revive my school teacher persona and ask a man and woman next to me to stop talking.  I actually had to say it 3 times because he loudly said, “what?”  “I’m not really into this.”  Finally his mother? consort? cougar? shushed him.  Well, suddenly today 12 hours later and in front of us (and only us) on the very empty boardwalk was the very same couple.  And, he was still yakking away and she was still telling him to shut up.  

UGG Girl

The next funny thing.  After lunch we walked back our neighborhood Coles Supermarket to shop for dinner.  For the past 7 days there has been a girl outside of Coles holding a sign for the UGG store.  When we see her we know we are on the right corner.  No matter the time of day, she is there.  No matter the time of day, she is staring at her phone.  We have never seen her raise her head, look away from her phone, wave her sign.  Her fingers spin around that keyboard in a blaze.  Today.  Today she was not there. Our first hopeful thought was we were on the wrong corner. Not so. Just no UGG girl.  And, no Coles either.  It too was closed on Good Friday.  Circling the blocks we finally found Pie Face open.  A little hole in the wall, it provided sandwiches for Good Friday dinner.  Maybe about 3 other photos of our non-eventful day are at flickr.

PS We also stopped in a 7 Eleven for ice cream and discovered that cigarettes are $29 a pack.  Yikes!  No, we weren’t buying.  Just observing a purchase.  

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Mimi! Mimi!

View of Sydney Harbor from Royal Botanical Gardens

I’ll just mention very briefly that we went to the Museum of Sydney today hoping to see and learn a lot about the settlement.  What we got was one room of photographs depicting persons from the mafia and high crime era, a small room with video showing Aboriginies explaining some cultural and an area showing Australians of European ancestry who were accomplished.  The most interesting (but unexplained) thing is that the museum was built over and around the remains of Australia’s first Government House built by Admiral Arthur Phillip.  He was the Royal Navy officer who founded the penal colony.

Handa Opera

What made today wonderful was la Boheme performed at the Handa Opera.  We packed a picnic and ate on a bench in the RBG facing the harbor.  It was a beautiful setting and primed us for the most uplifting of evenings.  The Handa Opera is an open-air and all-weather event. (Thankfully it was perfect weather!)  Opera Australia is the principal opera company in Australia and the performers for tonight.  Their voices were magnificent.  The setting was Paris 1968 during the student protests.  Mimi (My name is Lucia, but they call me Mimi.  I don’t know why.) is probably dying of lung cancer because she chain smokes rather than consumption.  When Musetta appeared the man next to Wayne exclaimed and bumped him pointing to the stage.  Turns out it was his daughter.  We became acquainted with the people behind us because all of us could not restrain the oooos and ahs.  Fireworks, snow falling, beautiful acting and singing put it all together for an absolutely perfect evening. Pictures at flickr.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Convicts and Other Tragedies

Hyde Parks Barracks

When the British began transporting convicts to Australia, the convicts had been allowed to find their own accommodations.  But by the early 1800s it was decided to house them in a barracks to increase their productivity and improve moral character.  The Hyde Park Barracks were built for that purpose.  Ironically it was designed by convict architect Francis Greenway.  And, it was also of course built by convict labor.  Touring the facility was a moving and sad experience.  At times as many as 1400 men lived here in a space built for 600.  In 1840 convicts were no longer transported, but over the next four years over 2000 orphan girls were transported and housed here.  They were brought from the work houses of famine-plagued Ireland.  The upper class, landed Brits were a cruel bunch.  The museum has been extensively restored and conserved using innovative methods to show the history of the building.  Relics found during the excavations are on display with panoramas that explain life here.  Most moving was the room the girls slept in with trinkets they had hidden under floor boards.

Opera House

We returned to the Opera House tonight for Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra.  It was in the smaller Playhouse. As sometimes happens with Shakespeare, the production was set in modern times with modern dress.  Cleopatra was portrayed as a wicked, sharped tongued spoiled bully.  I prefer Elizabeth Taylor’s refrained and aloft regal version.  Plus her make up was more better. The set was very inventive with sheer curtains opening and closing to indicate scene changes. Digital script was projected onto the curtains to indicate time and place prior to each scene change. Great fun! It was interesting how they portrayed Marc Antony as a spoiled child besotted by Cleopatra. Two of the minor characters, Ptolemy (played by a woman) and Enobarbus were the best actors in the play. Pictures at flickr.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Art Gallery

Art Gallery of NSW

Today was dedicated just to art at the Art Gallery of NSW. My kind of a day. The Gallery is of early Greek style with a most beautiful oval lobby that has an inlaid mosaic floor.  The collection is quite lovely with significant number of Australian works illustrating places we have visited on this trip.  There is an extensive collection of British Victorian works which includes the Pre-Raphaelites, Wayne’s favorites.  He was happy to spend time with them while I sketched.  The current temporary exhibit was The Lady and the Unicorn tapestry which we saw last year in situ at the Musee de Cluny in Paris.

The Australian Monument to the Great Irish Famine

On our walk home we came upon the Hyde Park Barracks, where male convicts and female migrants were housed in the 1800’s.  We will need to return here.  We’ve been reading and listening to books about the settlement of Australia by the British.  This will be living history.  Pictures of my favorite art/artists at flickr.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Green Spaces

Manbuynga by Barayuwa Mununggur at Sydney MCA

We walked to The Rocks where the Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art is located.  They were having the Sydney Biennial.  I enjoyed the pieces by and about the Aboriginal culture.  The piece above tells the story of the can salt-water Country, Yarrinya.  It is a song story of Manbuyunga which depicts the Yarrinya Ocean in which Manyku spirit men hunt their own brother, a whale called Mirinyungu. After the dead whale washed up on shore, the spirit men cut the body and realized they had eaten their brother.  They fling the knives into the ocean where they become a dangerous hidden sharp reef.  I just love all these stories and how they are connected to the earth instilling conservation in the people. 

Cockatoo in Royal Botanical Gardens

The Sydney Royal Botanical Gardens is 74 acres that sits along the water and reaches into the city.  It, along with The Domain, an open space of 34 acres which is adjacent to the RBG, occupy all the land between The Rocks, most of the CBD and the area known as Woolloomooloo Bay.  The Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Handa Opera are contained within it.  Besides a garden it is a research center.  Today, we saw research about pollination in a beautiful glass enclosure with a wall of succulents and raised beds of gorgeous color.  The gardens have areas that represent Australia’s geography: tropical, desert, coastal.  There were dozens of cockatoos that flew overhead making a raucous racket.  Pools and cafes sit throughout and were busy with people.  The Opera House is visible from one point.  We found the most interesting tree that grew its fruit from the large branches of the tree, not the end points where most trees flower. The Coolamon is rare and rarely found these days. We walked around to where the Handa Opera is performed to check out where we will see la Boheme this week.  The stage is set against the water with the Sydney Opera and Harbor Bridge in the background.  Lots of art pictures, etc at flickr.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Woo Pig!

Il Porcellino

We often set some sort of goal for our travel days both to amuse ourselves and to offset the tendency to linger too long over morning coffee.  Today, our goal was to meet up with Il Porcellino in Sydney and say hello. Since our first visit with him in Florence, we have encountered him traveling around the world.  First, in Kansas City, then in Aix en Provence.  After leaving Victoria, CA and London, UK when found he was there.  We were sorry to have missed those visits.

Sydney from St. Mary’s Cathedral

The remainder of the day was spent visiting St. Mary’s Cathedral and lunching at Blue Fish on Darling Harbor.  Earlier, we had eaten at Blue Fish with Road Scholar and really liked it.  This lunch was just as good: lemon sole, yum.  We walked 4 miles today, a beginning to get ourselves in shape after a month of catering by RS.  A few more pictures are at flickr.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Sydney Settle In

Sydney from 57 York St Balcony

We will be spending the next 10 days in Sydney without any guidance.  I only hope we can reawaken the ability to find our way around, elect good restaurants and manage our time once again. Our apartment is in the Central Business District (CBD) of Sydney.  Check in was at 2pm, but we were able to drop our luggage at noon and explore the neighbor.  It appears to be a great area with many restaurants, high-end shopping and easy 20-25 minute walks to Darling Harbor, The Rocks and the Royal Botanical Gardens.  The first exciting thing that happened here was when the Uber dropped us at the apartment building.  Sirens began sounding, and an entourage of police cars and motorcycles
surrounding several black suvs approached and drove past.  OBAMA in the house.  We gave him the positive fist pump and felt elated.  He’s been in New Zealand where he received the Silver Fern and was at a private dinner in Sydney last night where he spoke.  I think his next stop is Japan?.? We so miss his class, decorum and sound family life that he brought to the office. Sigh.

Queen Victoria Building

One block over from the apartment is the Queen Victoria Building built in the 1890s, and which occupies an entire block. It is architecturally splendid; is full of boutiques, jewelry shops, restaurants, you name it and they have it.  We walked through it, had lunch, then shopped for food and returned to the apartment to settle in.  A very few photos are at flickr.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Au Revoir Road Scholar. Bon Jour Sydney

Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort

We had the morning free in Cairns before flying to Sydney.  I spent the time sitting by the pool.  It was a most interesting pool with one end sloped and full of sand like a beach.  Temperature and toleration have been interesting in the different regions we’ve stayed.  The sun was always very hot, but in the shade the winds were pleasant and you feel comfortable, even in the Northern Territory. It is Fall here, and that may account for the moderate winds. At the pool, I was in the shade under a canopy and very happy with the 80+ temps.

Our tour is coming to an end.  We all flew to Sydney this afternoon and had a last dinner together.  We were all at a long table toasting Heather and she us.  There are people with whom we would remain friends except for the great distances we live apart.  They will all fly off tomorrow to resume their respective lives.  W and I will sleep late, and take an Uber into Sydney proper.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Up, Up in the Sky

Wayne in the Kuranda Bird World

From the sea to the forest. Our day was spent in the rain forest that grows above Cairns.  We traveled high into the mountains to Kuranda, a small village comprised almost totally of oodles of tourist shops and near the rain forest interpretive station.  Brian Clarke, our lecturer this morning and our guide through the forest is a most interesting man.  All his knowledge comes from personal observations, experience living in the forest and interaction. He dropped out of high school at age 16 and moved to the forest where he built and has lived in a cabin for the past 40 years.  He is one of the last professional crocodile hunters.  A short walk through the forest with him provided us with looks at the wet tropical trees and preceded a sky rail ride over the tops of the trees and back into Cairns.  On our walk we briefly experienced what rain is like in a rain forest...buckets worth of it that drowned out our voices.  Wayne and I used some free time in Kuranda to visit a bird Sanctuary where I couldn’t stop taking pictures.  

Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park Performance

Our final adventure on this full day was a visit to the Tjapkai Aboriginal Cultural Park.  Like previous visits to indigenous centers, this felt a bit like being at Epcot.  There is an educational aspect to it, but...  There was a Sesame level performance of Aboriginal hunting dances, singing and didgeridoo.  We did get to try our skills at throwing a boomerang and a spear.  More training is necessary to pursue that activity.  

Time was taken with our dinner tonight to share our memories and highlights.  It’s been a great group.  No jerks, no smokers, only one childish woman who mostly provided laughs with her antics. Only one couple was late for the bus once (harumph, excuse us but we thought boarding time was 5:30 NOT 5:15). Everyone was retired and pursuing personal growth and interests. No one complained or groused.  90 percent were progressive Democrats. Many were outstanding in their professions (discovered through questions and deduction. No one bragged or made a point of their professional achievements) I loved learning so much about the earth’s formation, the flora and fauna and seeing the land.  My suggestion was to have Aboriginal lecturers that balanced the information.  Pictures of beautiful birds and other things at flickr.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Where’s Nemo?

Leaving Port in Cairns

A brief observation about touring.  It seems that when people travel in a tour group they loose all sense of their abilities.  Even though everyone in our group has traveled extensively and all over the world, there are still those who ask questions about the simplest procedures in upcoming adventures.  Dave, our guide to the Great Barrier Reef, did his best in last night’s lecture to cover all the bases. He had pictures of the boat; he demonstrated the use of a snorkel; he showed pictures of the island, of the boat, of the Reef.  Still, the questions came: how do you clean the snorkel?, how many steps to the boat?,  how long is the boat?, how wide is the boat?, where will we change?, will the sharks attack?  No, really, some of those are exaggerations.  But it is as if a tour sneaks into a person’s brain and destroys the adult cells.  Brian finally said,”I’ll take further questions one on one.”  

Michaelmas Island 

The Great Barrier Reef is not exactly on the edge of the coast.  It was a 2.5 hour ride out to Michaelmas Island.  Brian refers to it as his office.  The island was formed when the coral grew up to the level of the water.  Then, sand and plants began to accumulate on it.  It is now a protected area for hundreds of sea birds.  They (the birds) allow humans a landing zone.  We were tendered over, where we put on our flippers and immediately were swamped by the surf.  This is the first time I have had to wear flippers and maneuver into deep water.  It is a butt-on-sand move.  In the past, a boat has just dropped me at the snorkel site.  Here, we had to swim out about 75 yards to reach the first reefs.  But what a treat the swim presented!  One guy on the boat got a ride with a turtle.  Wayne saw the best of the fish and reef as he swam out farther than me.  In fact, the life guard motored out to him and suggested he turn back.  


We also had a ride on a semi-submersible boat.  We sat below water while the boat toured among the reefs and Dave describe the different corals and fish. The water was a bit cloudy due to recent storms.  Pictures of the day at flickr

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Many Heads

Ghost Gum Trees

The resort we have stayed in is surrounded by the Ghost Gum tree, one of the many eucalyptus trees that grown here.  It has a smooth bark that is strikingly white.  Out in the park area are blonde grasses that the green desert oak sit in.  The blonde grass, the green trees, the red rock and the blue sky help me understand why Georgia O’Keefe left NYC for Arizona. 

Kata Tjuta

Before leaving the Red Center for Cairns, we first traveled out to Kata Tjuta, Many Heads in English.  It is a spectacular formation of 36 rounded domes.  At the look out platform where one can get a good look at the entirety of Kata Tjuta, a glance around also reveals the nearby Uluru.  I appreciated this formation more than Uluru.  It was made up of well rounded boulders that form deep narrow valleys among them.  We hiked up a long the sloping area to Walpa Gorge and a water hole.  As we climbed up we had wonderful views of the Outback.  There were conglomerate boulders along the way that looked like they had been tossed to the ground by Giants.  Once again at the waterhole the temperature was cool and refreshing as opposed to the 100+ degrees we walked through.  All the guides insist that we drink a pint of water an hour and apply sun block every two hours.  Most of them wear long pants and long sleeved shirts.  

Flying Foxes

Back at the resort we had lunch and prepared for our flight to Cairns, on the east coast.  It was quite a change in one day from the desert to the tropical area of Cairns.  We are so delighted to have trees full of hanging flying fox bats outside our hotel room balcony.  The locals have little use for the squawking and pooping the bats provide.  But they are endangered and left alone...yea!  Tonight we had a lecture from a marine biologist, Dave O’Brien, on the Great Barrier Reef.  He gave insights into what we might see tomorrow on our cruise and snorkeling adventure at this World Heritage site.  Hundreds maybe even thought of pictures of Kata Tjuta are at flickr.

Monday, March 19, 2018

I Rode to the Desert on a Bus with No Name....

Wayne and Christy at Uluru

We left Alice springs today for the Uluru and Kata Tjuta National Park where we will spend a day and a half.  The drive there was 6.5 hours but the scenery so interesting it was fun.  We also took a break at Stuart’s Well Camel Farm where I took a ride on a camel.  It was a very short ride with a very bumpy run at the end.  I feel my camel riding desires are satisfied.  

Upon arriving at Uluru, we took two long walks led by Martin who gave an explanation of the Aboriginal significance, the flora and fauna and geology. Uluru is 1100 feet high, 2.3 miles long and 1.5 miles wide.  The monolith is truly a gray sandstone. But the iron in the stone has weathered and turned the rock red due to oxidation.  During the many years of geological time and earth movement, the sediment beds of Uluru were forced up and out at an 85 degree angle.  It is unknown how much more of Uluru remains deep in the earth.  It was on these walks that we saw the desert art mentioned in a past posting.  

After dinner we returned to Uluru for a sunset viewing.  Road Scholar had a reserved area with stools and champagne for us to see the icon in its purple sunset robing.  It is during the sunset that the Aboriginal women sit along the edge of the road selling their Papunya paintings.  I was looking at one woman’s work having decided to buy.  Because I was holding my iPhone, she accused me of video taping her and continued to accuse and lecture me even after I denied it.  I left at that point for the sunset viewing area.  Suddenly, she was behind me asking to look at the phone.  I eventually convinced her I did not video her or take her picture.  The odd thing was she had been allowing videos once someone bought a painting and posed with her.  Shrewd business woman?  Or maybe not.  She lost my business.  Hundreds of camel and Uluru pictures at flickr.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Yes, Deserts Have Parks

Alice Springs Desert Park

We left early this morning for the Alice Springs Desert Park.  When in the desert, go early.  Martin, our site-coordinator led us along the marked areas and pointed out indigenous flora and fauna.  What has surprised me here is how green it is, how many large trees there are and how much water there is. It is a land of droughts and flooding rains with a yearly average rain fall of 10 inches. There was a great aviary and nocturnal house where we saw marsupials and reptiles that only come out at night and got our first sighting of an Australian bat. I was constantly seeking shade as we stopped to talk about species.  I’m really still amazed that trees can live here. The majority of trees are eucalyptus and desert oak (which is not an oak at all but named by settlers).   I learned about the witchetty grub that lives among and eats the roots of the acacia shrub.  The aboriginals eat them.  I was inspired later to buy a piece of aboriginal designed cloth with witchetty grubs on it.  This was the first day we needed to wear our bug nets.  The little black flies were after us. 

Simpson’s Gap

After lunch we traveled to Simpson’s Gap which is in the MacDonnell mountain range that surrounds Alice Springs.  We hiked into the Gap where a permanent waterhole sits under the towering cliffs. Black-footed wallabies live here. This place was the Aboriginal mythological home of a group of giant goanna ancestors and remains a spiritual site to them. Aboriginals have Dreaming stories that explain how they and the world came to be.  These stories are tied to the land.  At Simpson’s Gap, Martin pointed out specific marks, ridges, holes in the cliff that told the story of the giant goannas.  It’s a fascinating culture.  

We left Simpson’s Gap for the Royal Flying Doctor Service to see how they accommodate people/patients who are so very far from medical services.  This stop was likely one of Road Scholar’s attempt to support a local endeavor.

Tonight we had the most interesting of dinners at Kongkas Can Cook.  We learned about and ate Aboriginal traditional bush foods. No witchetty grubs, but we did have kangaroo. Many of the berries and seed are so potently savory.  Ray Lee Brown of Aboriginal decent owns the restaurant and is determined to make a go of this industry through employing Aboriginal women to gather and protect the plants. Pictures at flickr.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

You Say It’s Your Birthday

The walk into Alice Springs (102*)

We took a 2 hour flight from Melbourne today to Alice Springs which is just about in the smack dab middle of Australia.  Most blokes around here call it the Red Center.  We know it better as the Outback.  It is a very ancient land.  The hills surrounding Alice are made of rock formed about 1800 million years ago.  It’s bloody hot here, too.  They may say it’s fall but it was 99 degrees when we landed.  This area has been home for Aborigines for 30,000 years.  The physical characteristics of the land have cultural significance to the Aborigines, which is the main reason they will not live elsewhere.  Because they will not leave the land their economic situation remains pretty dire.

Martin Ludgate, the Perfect Aussie

Our site coordinator here is Martin Ludgate, and like all previous site coordinators he has a passion for and a deep knowledge of the area.  On the bus from the airport, Martin gave us some information about the area.  Before the Aboriginals arrived there are no other signs of a people such s Neanderthals living here.  It is believed now through DNA that the Aboriginals came down through India.  First White contact came around 1870 when the telegraph lines were being laid.  Some of the tribes in the Outland areas did not have contact until 1950-60.

School of Air

After lunch we went to the Alice Springs School of the Air.  Had I realized (in other words paid attention) the coach would return to the hotel for a lecture, I would have skipped this trip.  It was just to show us how long-distance learning was developed and used for kids that lived hundreds of miles from Alice on the cattle ranches.  Road Scholar generally tries to support cultural and civic organizations through visits and gift shops.  I think this was one of those supports.

Paunch art with Witchetty Grub

Our lecture was on Aboriginal Culture and Art in Central Australia.  The majority of the art consists of hand stencils in caves with ochre to depict ancestors and to claim land.  There are rock carvings on sandstone and paintings with white clay.  The best know Aboriginal artist to paint in a western style is  Albert Namatjira  The region is noted for its Papunya art, dot painting.  The Papunya Tula Artists is a cooperative formed in 1972 that is owned and operated by Aboriginal people of the Western Desert.  These paintings tell the Dreamtime creation stories.

The Alice Springs Trio

Tonight we had dinner and entertainment at the Olive Pink Botanical Gardens Cafe.  It was perfect timing to celebrate Wayne’s birthday.  We had a traditional steak on the barbie and song from Barry Skipsey.  Wayne had to perform with Barry on the Lagerphone.  I laughed until tears came.  Have fun with this at flickr.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Arts Longa, Vita Brevis

Dr. Pullin with The Sheep Shearers

Our lecturer this morning was Dr. Ruth Pullin, an expert on colonial artist Eugene von Gerard.  She provided insight on the development of art in Australia as a documentation of the fauna and flora by convicts and settlers for the British comparing it to the Hudson River School.  Some of the art was greatly romanticized in order to encourage settlers from Britain.  After the lecture we walked to the National Gallery of Victoria where Dr. Pullin acted as docent.  Two current exhibits rounded out the learning. 1) 600 early works illustrating the history of the settlement. 2) current works by Aboriginals depicting the horrors inflicted upon them by the settlers.  

We had dinner this evening with Nancy and Jerry Cutler, Road Scholars from Florida and Connecticut.  We all love Greek food and what better place than Athens than Melbourne.  The dips were delicious as was the octopus.  To my disappointment there was no spanakopita, but the fried feta with honey made up for it.  Pictures of our day at flickr.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

March of the Penguins

Melbourne Laneway

We had the most marvelous walk this morning through Melbourne’s famously funky laneways.  I would call them galleries as they are covered pedestrian streets. We walked through about 4 or 5 of them before we ended back at our start.  They have a very British feel with tea rooms and hat shops.  After the walk we hopped on a tram for a ride to the Queen Victoria Market, or Vicki’s as the locals call it.  The Central Business District (CBD) has a free tram system.  Cool!  Oh yeah, back to Vicki’s place.  It spreads over two city blocks and has what you would expect: fish of every variety, meat of every variety, cheese, sausage, fruits, vegetables.  We loaded up on, you guessed it, cheese and sausage.  

Phillip Island

This afternoon we rode to Phillip Island, a sanctuary island that was once a community of holiday homes.  At one point, the government realized the unique and fragile quality of the island and began to buy out the homeowners.  Eventually all the homes were purchased  torn down.  The coast line is beautiful: rocky and wild.  We took a board walk along the coast line where there were penguin box nests.  When the houses here were torn down, penguins were found to be nesting under them.  The park service built little ground boxes for them in place. They continued the practice along the coast.  As night fell we gathered at the beach and watched hundreds of the Little Blue Penguins come ashore and walk past us to their burrows.  What a sight!  Pictures of everything but penguins at flickr. They are not allowed.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Melbourne, Or Milburn As They Say


We left New South Wales this morning on a flight to Melbourne in Victoria.  Larger than Sydney in the past, today Melbourne is a bit smaller but growing daily.  Physically it appears different with extensive parks and gardens set among the city streets and buildings that were built during the gold rush era. It is reputed to have the largest Greek population outside Athens.  

Shrine of Remembrance

Our first stop was the Royal Botanical Gardens for lunch, a stroll through the Gardens, and then a visit to the Shrine of Remembrance, a National War Memorial.  The Aussies are big on big memorials for WWI, WWII and Gallipoli.  

Our site coordinator here is Richard De Gille.  He is a practicing lawyer and about as far to the left as one can be.  Wayne loves him.  He regaled us with information about Melbourne and Victoria peppered with his opinions about what could be better.  I thought he was a bit critical, but then began to appreciate what he was critical of.  

Photo Bombed in Eureka Skydeck

Our final stop was at the Eureka Tower where we headed up to the Eureka Skydeck 88 on the 88th floor.  It offered a 360 degree viewpoint of the city including the river Yarra winding throughout.  It didn’t beat the Sears/Willis tower, our highest experience.  On the way to the hotel we spotted the Rod Laver stadium where the Australian Open is played. Pictures are at flickr.