Aussie icons, red faces and fabulous Fossano

Wherever you live in the world it is quite likely that the only time you get to visit local attractions is when you have visitors (preferably from overseas).

Little Aussie icons

In our case, we were only temporary residents in Brisbane, Australia, but during our short stay we had the pleasure of showing our daughter’s partner Pieter, from the Netherlands, around some real Aussie icons.

Pieter gets to “chuck another prawn on the barbie”

We were all in Australia for our son and daughter-in-law’s wedding and while the happy couple honeymooned in our campervan in Italy and Switzerland we house and dog sat.

We were dog sitting these two beauties

One of Brisbane‘s iconic tourist attractions is the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary which happens to be only a short drive away from where we were staying.

A very laid back koala at the Lone Pine Sanctuary

Since his arrival in Australia Pieter had been staring up into trees as we drove around – hoping to see a koala in the wild. We poured cold water on his fire of hope, telling him that you rarely see koalas in the wild in suburban Brisbane as for one thing they are not found in many suburbs and for another, they are usually very well camouflaged.

This one seems more perky though

So we decided that a visit to Lone Pine would have to suffice. We had a lovely time and saw lots of koalas and wallabies, kangaroos, wombats, a platypus, caged parrots such as cockatoos and galahs and a flocks of “wild” lorikeets that loved to perch on people’s heads at feeding time.

A very sleepy wombat
Another snoozing koala
An emu with its head stuck in the lorikeets’ feeding box!
Hannah makes friends with a kangaroo
Snoozing time for the Eastern Greys
At least the rainbow lorikeets were lively
Pieter takes a photo of Hannah with two lorikeets on her head and ends up with one on his head too!
Such colourful birds
Rarely seen in the wild – a platypus – such a strange creature

“Right” we thought, “that should get seeing koalas off the agenda”. However, pride goes before a fall as they say – just a few days later Pieter and Hannah were walking the dogs in a small reserve (park) less than ten minutes from the house when suddenly, Hannah spotted not one but two koalas in a tree by the path where they were walking! Who would believe it?! Of course we had red faces after that!

Look carefully and you will see two wild koalas – one two branches up on the left and one more to the middle almost at the top of the tree

Before their return to the Netherlands Hannah had a reunion with some of her girlfriends from her musical theatre days so we took Pieter off for lunch to a very Aussie institution – a surf lifesaving club in Tugun on the Queensland Gold Coast.

Now do you see it?! No wonder they are so hard to spot!
Pieter enjoying the view of Tugun Beach

The food at clubs like these is usually plain, plentiful and good value but the beer is cheap and the lovely million dollar views of the ocean are absolutely free!

A satisfied customer!
Miles of beautiful sand
Is the surf up?

We then drove up into the glorious Gold Coast hinterland and had a walk in the spectacular rainforest in Springbrook National Park, ending up at the Natural Bridge, a picturesque rock formation formed by the force of the waterfall over a basalt cave.

The lovely Springbrook National Park
The force of the waterfall has formed the Natural Bridge
The Natural Bridge
Taken from inside the cave

We arrived in the late afternoon and entered the cave as dusk was just approaching and quite soon we could see the little golden lights of the resident colony of glow worms. After a wait of about half an hour many more of these little creatures could be seen – shining like constellations of twinkling stars in a dark sky .

After a packed few weeks Pieter and Hannah left to fly back to the Netherlands while we stayed on to dog and house sit for a couple more weeks.

We spent just over a week in Brisbane after Ben and Sarah returned from their honeymoon so we could spend a little extra time with them but “all good things come to an end” as they say and it was time to leave once again.

When we arrived back in Milan we were very surprised to see our van looking so shiny and bright after a good clean outside and in by Ben and Sarah.

Our clean and shiny van in Genola

From Milan we drove straight to the small town of Genola in the Piedmont region of Italy to finally get a few warranty issues fixed – new reversing camera, two new skylights and a few other small things.

While we were waiting for the repairs to be done we rode our bikes to the lovely medieval town of Fossano – about eight kilometres away.

The medieval town of Fossano
Santissima Trinità church in Fossano.
Dressed to impress!

We were delighted to find a maze of narrow streets and stone arcades to wander through, later discovering the ancient city walls which we walked around and marvelled at the breathtaking views of the Alps.

The stone arcades in Fossano
The view from the city walls with Mt Monviso (centre) standing at 3841 metres
Easy to identify the various mountains!

Further along we were surprised to come across a castle perched high on the city walls. We wandered into the office and asked if were were able to look around and were told to come back at 3pm to join a tour.

Acaja Castle in Fossano

On the recommendation of the guy in the office we went to a nearby restaurant and had a delicious plate of pasta and glass of local wine.

Such delicious pasta!

At 3pm we duly returned to the castle to join the tour only to find that we were the only ones on it!

The inner courtyard of Acaja Castle

Our guide closed up the ticket office took us into the beautiful inner courtyard, and explained that although the castle was built between 1314 and completed in 1332, it only became a ducal residence a hundred years later which was when the courtyard was built.

Later the castle became a jail and then served as a barracks and now the castle hosts cultural events and also houses a fantastic regional library.

The library was fantastic!

We walked up lots of spiral staircases, through passages (at one time open to the elements) that connected the four high towers and then to the top of one of the towers where we watched a film about the castle and the annual Palio dei Borghi horse race through the old streets and around the castle – similar to the one in Siena.

One of the passages between the towers which at one time was open to the elements
The view from one of the castle towers
In the castle basement

The following day we headed towards Calais through wonderful scenery first in Italy, then in the French Alps, and then down to the old port town of Honfleur where we were amazed to find literally hundreds of camper vans parked in the huge carpark on the banks of the River Seine.

We travelled through some wonderful countryside
With cute little alpine villages
And some amazing geological wonders (check out the size of this towering escarpment in contrast to the buildings below)
We could not believe the number of camper vans at Honfleur- these weren’t even a tenth of the total number

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Salty tales from Bali Hai

In 2015, after a break from cruising of almost 30 years, my husband and I sailed off into the sunset - this time to the wonderful Islands of Indonesia and beyond. Three years passed and we swapped sails for wheels driving through Scandinavia and Europe in a motor home. Now we are on the brink of another adventure - buying a Lagoon 420 Catamaran in Athens. This is our story.

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