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