Posted by: travelrat | November 24, 2015

Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road tour is now complete, and we’re settled in Adelaide, recovering from the effects of two hearty lunches with relatives. We saw all the usual sights, about which I shall write more when I get home, plus a few extras like a cheese factory and a winery.

I’d heartily recommend this tour, and I think maybe the only way it can be bested is if it’s tackled the other way around.

Posted by: travelrat | November 18, 2015


That's our couple of days in Melbourne done, we've been to/seen/did:

Fitzroy Park: James Cook's Cottage and the Miniature Village
St Patrick's Cathedral
Phillip Island to see koalas and penguins
The Yarra River Cruise
and, of course, ridden the trams and had the first meat pies of the trip.

Tomorrow, we start the Great Ocean Road tour.

Posted by: travelrat | November 16, 2015

Arrived in Melbourne

First day in Melbourne. Much to do today, but first … shower, shave, shampoo then breakfast. More later

Posted by: travelrat | November 10, 2015

Video: The Apes of Gibraltar

Barbary Apes, Gibraltar

Gibraltar: 2nd April 2015

 We’ve cruised the Caribbean, sailed across the Atlantic, and finally set foot in mainland Europe. So, this is a good time to take a short break from our ‘cruise diary’, before we continue our cruise into the Mediterranean.

After the break, we’ll continue around the Mediterranean, alternating with a new ‘dish’ from Australia.

We’ll leave you with a short video of Gibraltar’s most famous inhabitants. Everybody say ’Aaawww!’

Posted by: travelrat | November 8, 2015

Travel Theme: Luminous

Lum 1

I nearly didn’t do a post for ‘Travel Theme’ this week. The theme is ‘Luminous’ … which I thought would be a difficult thing to write about, or picture. But, I really should do something anyway, for I’ll be away for the next month, and won’t be able to contribute anything.

I had a look in my dictionary, and realised that ‘luminous’ is not always a synonym of ‘phosphorescent’. It can just mean ‘of light’, taken from the Latin word lumen … light. The Greek word for light is photos, from which we get many words, like photography.

So, this post is going to be more in the nature of a photo essay. All these pictures were taken after dark.

Now, I often see a spectacle where the light is the thing, with flashes popping off on every quarter. Usually, the flash is useless in such conditions; the tool of choice is a tripod, But, all is not lost if you didn’t bring one. You can usually find a wall or a rail or something to steady your camera as you shoot.

And maybe, you might have a steady enough hand to hand-hold the camera long enough to produce a satisfactory result. Enough of the talk, though; let’s make with the pictures.

To see more takes on the ‘Luminous’ theme, visit

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Posted by: travelrat | November 5, 2015

Cook’s Cottage

Diorama at the 'Captain Cook Birthplace Museum'

Diorama at the ‘Captain Cook Birthplace Museum’

One of the places I shall most probably go and see in Melbourne is the cottage in which the explorer James Cook grew up. Yes, I know he was from the north-east of England, but the cottage stands in Fitzroy Gardens, just outside the CBD,

Some years ago, I visited ‘Cook Country’, doing research for an article in a now sadly defunct history magazine. I went to the ‘Captain Cook Birthplace Museum’, which stands on the site of the place he was born, in Marton, now a suburb of Middlesbrough; I called at the house of John Walker, where he lodged and worked, now the ‘Captain Cook Museum’ in Whitby. I visited the steel replica of Endeavour  at Stockton on Tees, and caught a glimpse of the working replica at Darling Harbour.

The only place I didn’t go was the shop where he worked in Staithes. That was lost to erosion some time ago, although they did build a replica.

There’s also stuff at the village of Great Ayton, in Yorkshire. Just outside the village is Airy Holme Farm, where Cook’s father worked as manager, and in the village is the school which the young James Cook attended … although a school no more. It’s now … you’ve guessed it! … the ‘Captain Cook Schoolroom Museum’.

The 'Captain Cook Schoolroom Museum', Great Ayton

The ‘Captain Cook Schoolroom Museum’, Great Ayton

In the centre of the village, there’s a statue of the young James setting out for Staithes, then Whitby, then the rest of the world, and there’s a tall obelisk commemorating his achievements atop the nearby Great Ayton Moor.

But, of the cottage in which the family lived, there’s no trace. Not at Great Ayton, anyway. It was one of a row of houses which was demolished in the 1930s. But, a concerned body in Australia raised the money to transport it ‘down under’ brick by brick, and re-assemble it in Fitzroy Gardens.

While I was in Great Ayton, though, I met an old lady, who told me that nobody really knew which of the houses the Cooks lived in … and it’s possible the Aussies may have got the wrong one!

PICT0002Sorry about the quality of the pictures; they’re scans of slides I took in the Predigital Age’ 

Posted by: travelrat | November 3, 2015


Gib 1

Gibraltar: 2nd April 2015

We arrived in Gibraltar about midday, so we only had an afternoon here. But, it’s such a small place that’s easily enough time to see the highlights.

Europa Point is the southernmost point. and here is the Trinity lighthouse, the only one outside the British Isles administered by Trinity House. Here, also, is a picturesque mosque endowed by the King of Saudi Arabia.

Gib 2

The guide, Andy, took us up the Rock to ‘meet his family’ … the famous apes; folklore has it that the Rock will remain in British possession as long as the apes stay. So, they’re cared for and pampered … there was even a wing of the Military Hospital devoted to their care. Generally, they just sit around being apes, and pose shamelessly for the camera.

Another attraction is the tunnels. They were first suggested  by Sergeant Major Henry Ince of the Soldier Artificer Company (forerunner of the Royal Engineers) in the 18th Century, as a means of expeditiously getting guns from one side of the Rock to the other … and the site where the resultant rubble was dumped in the bay eventually became the airport runway.

Gib 3

And, that’s no ordinary runway. It used to be that the road had to be closed to allow aircraft to take off and land, but now, there’s a tunnel under it.

A cable car took us up to the very top of the Rock, where there wasn’t really much except a souvenir shop and more apes. But, they say on a clear day, there are excellent views of Spain and Morocco. Closer to hand, there’s a superb view of the harbour, and its many ships. Not one single Royal Navy ship, though; a far cry from bygone days. In fact, during the visit, we didn’t see a single soldier although there was plenty of evidence of their former presence.

The British are just the latest in a long line of occupants of the Rock. It was captured by Admiral Sir George Rooke in 1704. He immediately saw its important strategic position, and Britain has held on to it ever since. But, before that, it changed hands many times: indeed, some archaeologists think it was the last foothold of Neanderthal Man in Europe.

At one time, it was thought by Mediterranean people the Rock marked the end of the world, but Phoenicians and Greeks found that this was not the case; they called it one of the Pillars of Hercules. The came the Carthaginians, then the Romans, who called it Mons Calpe.

 In the 8th Century, it received its present name when it was captured by the Moors, led by one Tariq ibn Zeyad. He called it Jebel Tariq (Tariq’s Hill) … which eventually became Gibraltar.

Back at the cruise terminal, Lorraine went to the gift shop to spend a Gibraltarian £5 note we’d acquired, rather than carry it home and change it. I got talking to the friendly Port Chaplain, from the Seamen’s Mission. He told me that there was no wifi here … but explained the many crewmen sitting on the pavement that we’d seen on the way in. They were outside the Mission … using his!

Gib 4

Posted by: travelrat | November 1, 2015

Travel Theme: Frame

Aqueduct 1

Long before the camera was invented, an artist called Claude Loraine invented the Claude glass. This was a framed mirror, with which the viewer could see his surroundings, without his gaze falling on their ‘awesome grandeur’, and also fitting them neatly into a frame, with which the people of the Regency age felt more comfortable. Even people weren’t immune; in certain circles, they might find themselves scrutinised through a ‘quizzing glass’. Which shows how manners have changed, too. If anyone subjected me to such a scrutiny, I’d probably toss him through the nearest window.

But … let’s not mock just yet. How often are people accused of ‘seeing the world through a camera viewfinder’? I try not to, but I can’t emphatically say ‘I don’t!’.

S3-JerashApart from that, we aren’t that worried these days about seeing that ‘awesome grandeur’ at first hand. We sometimes see actors who play photographers on television ‘making frames’ with their fingers … although I don’t do it, and I don’t think I know any photographers who do.

We do, however, use frames in photography, whether an actual one around the finished product or within the photograph itself … that is, a peep through a window, a doorway or an arch or something, even a glimpse through the trees. But, it has to be remembered that too ornate a frame can draw attention from the main subject.

In this case … why not disregard the subject, and concentrate on the frame itself?

This week’s contribution to the ‘Travel Theme. See more at 

Domaine St Raymond ... interior

Posted by: travelrat | October 29, 2015


Penguin 1

I was reading a blog post from someone who recently visited South Africa, telling about some of the wildlife he’d seen. Someone had left a comment:

‘Penguins in Africa? Surely not!’

But, of course, there are; in fact, there are more outside Antarctica than there are on it. Although they’re confined to the Southern Hemisphere, the northernmost extent of their range is the Galapagos Islands, just south of the Equator.

So, they’re found in Africa, South America, New Zealand and … Australia.

One of the items on our list is, while we’re in Melbourne, to take a tour down to Phillip Island to see the nightly Penguin Parade. I say ‘nightly’, because the kind of penguin we’re dealing with here in the Little Blue Penguin (we’re told they’re not called ‘Fairy Penguins’ any more) … the smallest penguins of all. By day, they’re out at sea, feeding, and only return to their burrows at dusk.

We’ve visited penguin burrows by daylight, on Kangaroo Island and on Granite Island, mainly on the off-chance of spotting the odd penguin who doesn’t read Wikipedia, but only saw holes in the ground.

I’m not hoping for great things in the way of photography or video, for the tours happen at dusk, always led by a Ranger, and use of flash is sternly forbidden. But, I shall try.

I have photographs, though … taken by daylight, at various zoos and aquaria. However, they’re not the same as pictures taken in the wild.

Penguin 2

Posted by: travelrat | October 27, 2015

Santa Cruz Slide Show


Tenerife: 31st March 2015

I hope I haven’t given the impression there’s nothing to see or do in Santa Cruz. We didn’t book an excursion, but here’s a slide show of some of the things we saw on the open-top bus tour, and on the short wander around on foot.

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