Australia Day 2015

This morning we stood on the foreshore of Dunsborough in Geographe Bay to celebrate Australia Day. Josh Whiteland told us the history of the Bay and how his ancestors fished in the bay and the importance of the forest and the ocean to the Wardandi people of the area. He played didgeridoo and the earthy rhythm of this instrument resonates through your body as you stand listening and looking out over the beautiful ocean with a clear bright blue sky over us.

A new Australian Claudio Tallarico told of his love of the freedom Australia has given him. Lisa Knight lead us in singing our anthem Advance Australia Fair. Local citizens were acknowledged for the commitment to our community.

For me I feel privileged to be an Australian every day and am forever grateful to my parents for choosing Australia as their new home prior to my birth. Australia for them was freedom, peace, privacy, space, opportunity, safety, beauty and a new beginning.

For me Australia is my homeland, where my heart is, a place of great natural beauty and vast open spaces. An ancient land and unique and delicate environment to be cared for and protected. A place of generous souls and welcoming communities. A place of freedom, peace, and opportunity. Our little corner of Australia has the beauty of the ocean, the sunrise and moonrise over the Bay, the sunset over the ocean in the west, pristine beaches, amazing forests and flora, unique fauna and the biggest blue skies summer, autumn, spring and some of winter! Proud and thankful to be Australian.

Train travel musings

Train travel and luggage – thought threads written as we cross from Italy to France. And a second sitting as we make our final train journey from Quimper to Paris.
The passing parade. Torino Italy to Nantes. Then Quimper to Paris.
So timely at Rennes and caught up in the great French train strike. Our train to Paris is cancelled. Hopefully we can get on one a bit later with the rest of the crowd stuck at the station!image
The anxious morning start to catch the first train on the schedule for the day. Without this start our destination may not be reached. Every station is different. Some have electronic announcements but not in English. Others have the departure and arrival boards digitised. Others just have the yellow departure notices. Check our Train, find the platform and wait. Usually having to descend stairs and ascend onto platform, right arm very strong from carrying luggage up and down these stairs. Sometimes lucky to have a lift or escalator or even a side stair elevator to pop the luggage on. But usually the quickest is just to use the stairs. TIP travel lightly if travelling by train. I am taking less luggage each time. Scarves are great, shoes are a pain to select the right ones. My $10 Target jeans have been a hit. Nightly laundry in the shower keeps things in control and lessens the need for too much. Gutted as somewhere in Switzerland I have left my Icebreaker wool jumper. Has been such a great travel companion and I miss it. Maybe a good excuse to finally do some shopping in France.

Back to trains – often narrow doors and steps to enter carriage – another reason for travelling light. Always a sigh of relief when the train rolls out. We’re on it. Then a matter off knowing our change stations, times, platforms to negotiate the next 2-7 trains for the day depending on our destination.

Trains and Italy were an interesting mix. Plan was to travel from Lugano to Milan to Alba. Oops holiday and train to Milan was full plus there was a regional train strike. I had been warned of this frequent occurrence. Our day changed from one of train riding to a totally unplanned experience. First it was catch the Milan airport express bus – that at least would get us close to Milan. Alas no trains from airport to city. Even if we got to the city by bus there was every chance our next planned train to Alba was not going to be running. We’re at the airport and the queues are building at the car hire desks. Quick change of plans and we join the Avis/budget queue. No small cars left so off we trot in a lovely Citroen C5 from Milano airport. Thank goodness for GPS. For the next 3 days we happily explored Piedmontese from our farmhouse base in Alba. I think it was meant to happen that way. The hills were way too big and the roads too rough to enjoy cycling in the area. There were so many villages to explore in this beautiful wine region we were able to move around easily. Driver G became quite the European driver, only managing one small roundabout in the wrong direction and one one way street in the wrong direction. Not trusting Trano Italia any more we returned the car to Turin allowing plenty of time to leave the next morning still being unable to reserve a seat on the TGV to shoot us through to France. We were very relieved when the train rolled out of Turino, crossed the border into France and the French guard was very helpful.

Some trains slice through the countryside smoothly, silently fast, others, sway, groan, squeal, grind their way along. Some plush and comfortable others hard and tired. See your reflection in the window as you ponder the passing landscape.
Cars and cyclists waiting for us to pass at crossings. Shoppers shopping, children playing, washing flapping from balconies.

The gentle sway of the train often lulls you into a little nap as the bright green countryside flashes by. Unknown towns, villages, cities not to be visited this time. Farmers going about their business in the fields, cutting, raking, baling hay. Construction workers and building sites. Cows calmly chewing their cud in the field of ample pastures. Canola pods filling, barley heads swaying in the breeze, poppy flowers showing their weed status in the crops. Few fences, just lines in the earth where a field has been tilled and another is nearing harvest. A patchwork of agricultural production to marvel at from any high viewpoint. Steep terraced vineyards and 3 rows squeezed between the train line and the cycle track. Forests of soft and bright greens. Rare to not see a house or barn or village in the field of view. Little waste of land here. The richness and fullness of crops is astounding. Vegetables and orchards, a food bowl in every direction.

Over mountain passes, through tunnels, winding viaducts, following river valleys. Some valleys so tight there is a river, the train track and the road and no room for more.

Trains don’t always enter a town or city by the prettiest root with the backs of buildings along the line and often the practice walls for street artists. But the upside is most stations are pretty central so when you arrive a well chosen hotel is usually a short walk or a tram ride away. Then free of the burden of luggage, exploration by foot is easy. Underground trains, buses, trams and trolley buses are always fun to use and you get to feel as if you know your way around when hopping on and off these during exploration of the new destination.

Plan ahead, buy some snacks for the journey, grab a coffee when you can.
Love the sound and movement of a train. It’s a comfortable and relaxing way to travel. Cutting through the countryside regardless of traffic congestion. No anxiety about driving or parking.

Click clack rattity tat, click clack rattity tat, faster and faster, flashing by, top speed here we come, slowing again, squeal of metal, ding, ding over the crossings. Prochain arrete digital strip.
Fields of lettuce.
People sleeping, reading, watching, old, young, locals, travellers, luggage, prams, bicycles, shopping, dogs.
The “dooooing, dooong, doong” call to attention at French stations.
Our train guard proudly telling us his cousin lives in Sydney and showing us photos of her surfing.
Random thoughts written weeks apart! We love travelling Europe by train. We’ll do it again.

Czech connections

Now Wednesday evening and the eve of our departure from Plzen and the Czech Republic. Our room here in Plzen at Pension U Salzmannu has been a great base to soak up some Czech food, beer, culture, and to be lost in a language rather beyond our Australian imagination. A few polite words of greeting and thanks are about all we can manage. Thank goodness for the helpful and friendly locals who have a ‘little’ English. Below our window is the tram stop – I love the sound of the trams as they rumble up the hill, squeal to a halt, ring their bell and roll off again. From the street our window can be seen as the one that is open with washing hanging off window handles to catch the sun and the breeze. Despite the chill in the evenings we love to leave the windows open. Partly to air our clothes of the ever present smoke from the bars and restaurants. Always a shock to non smoking Australians!

A day trip to Prague was a definite highlight. Our third visit to this beautiful city. A great feeling to be familiar with this place and be able to navigate directly to some of our favourite spots and to discover some new places. The old city is just beyond description. Wonders around every corner and if you can stay off the main tourist drag and avoid the tour groups with good timing it is so rewarding. David Cerny’s emotive, political statements through sculpture are treasures to be found and discovered. My first visit to Prague 4 years ago overwhelmed me when I entered Vaclavske nam and relised this was the place where my father was committed to hang in the mock trials of the early 1950’s. Fortunately the regime had to suffice with ‘in absentia’ and he lived to see Australia as his new home. This visit the emotion hit me at the John Lennon wall as we left our message for peace and acknowledged those who took a stand for freedom.

Today in Plzen a mixed day of riding the trams to their limits to explore all corners, discovering hot chocolate to die for at Andel cafe (needed a spoon to eat it), being front row at the town hall as the Czech President Milos Zeman emerged to greet the public, discovering the size of Skoda and what they make, viewing a strange collection of modern art, eating goulash, pork, duck and apple strudel with a bottle of Bohemian Sekt.

Ahhhh Czech you are in my blood!

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Plzen, Czech beer capital!

Sunday afternoon in a bar (where else would I be in plzen?) enjoying a glass of Habanske red wine (yes I’m having a short break from Pilsener beer!) The day has ended in Australia where my 3 sons have all sent heartfelt greetings to me for Mother’s Day. They have already moved into their new week. The time difference creates odd moments like this. Friends on Facebook have read their greetings before I have seen it! Thankyou boys and love you all heaps.

Back to Pilzen – why are we here? Hadn’t been here before and wanted to explore more of Czech ( the land of my father). It’s also pretty renowned for it’s beer.

Travelling in by train from Germany caused the usual flutter of my heart as we crossed into Czech. Now the border is not noticeable, no stopping, no sign. Very different from my father’s last years spent in his homeland. A time of turmoil and oppression. I am drawn to this land as it forms one deep root of the family tree and yet most of it is still a mystery. The history, the culture, the land, the people, the language – I learn a little more with each visit.

Staggering production figures, huge copper kettles, 5 week brew, triple heat, massive influence on the world beer market. Local restaurants serve unpasteurised tank beer.

Staggering production figures, huge copper kettles, 5 week brew, triple heat, massive influence on the world beer market. Local restaurants serve unpasteurised tank beer.



Cobbles and Schnitzel

Cobbled streets, uneven, the noise made by car tyres rolling over the cobbles always reminds me of some cloak and dagger spy movie. Narrow streets in old towns, roads meeting in a … Platz sometimes confusing to decide on a path to follow. Arnulfsplatz today had 8 choices of streets to exit by! The upper reaches of the Danube meeting the Regen. A long river cruiser docking in the lock. A ‘bowl’ of coffee this morning and by afternoon I’ve changed my order to a macchiato. A challenge with ordering food from a menu not understood but helpful wait staff try to find the English words to explain. Traditional Bavarian beer garden serving Schnitzel large enough to feed 2 and have some left to take home for the neighbours dog. Icecream shops a popular stop as are the small cafés and bars. People walking and riding bikes, very few cars in the old town. Beautiful Regensburg.Image

Bavarian Sausage und beer


Bavarian Sausage und beer

Guten Tag. Sitting on the banks of the Danube in Regensburg after way too many hours sitting in a plane. Taking in the sites and immersing ourselves back into Europe. The best sausage und beer at Historische Wurstkuchl – the oldest sausage inn in the world – been serving them up for over 500 years! This isn’t the inn just the building we’re looking up at! Soft greens of European trees, bird life, history, architecture, languages not spoken, happy hash house harriers running along the banks of the river trying to follow their maps. Oops then the same ones running past again, lost? Kayakers trialling the Strudel (whirlpools) under the Old Stone Bridge. Beer tavern, more good food and finally a great sleep. Points to me for the first accom booking – a 5 star private apartment in old town 50 m to river. Success on this one. Regensburg, Germany a beautiful old city UNESCO world heritage site listed in 2006.

Home – the place to come back to


On the eve of our trip a lovely walk along the foreshore to Curtis Bay, through the bush up to the Country Club along the fairways. Soaking up home before we leave. Constant noise of the gentle waves on the beach. The seaweed brought in by recent swells, the smell of the salt water, quiet streets as the town heads into winter, eucalypt leaves plucked to use as a bookmark on our travels. A quiet pensive moment sitting on the rocks at Curtis Bay watching the ocean perform its never ending dance. The bush, the beautiful bush of Meelup Park, the kangaroos quietly picking at green shoots on the bare fairways of the golf club – heads up for a casual look at us as we walk past. The kids having their tennis lesson at the courts, coach calling out ‘next week we’re doing a backhand slice’. Grab some change from home to pop into the bar for a quick drink with the locals. Talk of travels been and travels to come. So many head off at this time – to the warmer north, to Europe, hiding from winter rains and enjoying the freedom of being able to explore the world. Back home to empty the fridge, sort the final technology bits, make final phone calls to family and friends. Stay tuned we fly tomorrow.

Major Jaroslav Stuchlý


Major Jaroslav Stuchlý

In memory on this day – ANZAC day and the birthday of my dad Bill Stukely AKA Major Jaroslav Stuchlý. Born in 1913. Caught in European conflict and served in the Czechoslovak army, Intelligence section of Ministry of National Defense, Graduate of the War University and teacher at the Military Academy in Hranice, participated in the Western resistance during WWII. After the war Joined CIO in London and later headed the CIO branch in Frankfurt and Klagenfurt. Left the turmoil for good in 1954 and found peace in rural Western Australia. A story to be told. RIP dearest dad xxx.




A drive around the backroads always reveals some treasures. See my Water and Land page for more mailboxes. Usually standing crooked, all shapes and sizes, recycled and rough. A collection sometimes gathered at a junction in the roads showing a point at which the mailman does not go past. The still vital link despite technology, and the excitement of the walk or drive to ‘check the mailbox’.

Twilight delight


Dunsborough autumn evening. Tonight after a hard day in the winery it was time for a walk to the waterfront and a quiet glass of rosé . The dappled clouds in the west created a blazing red sunset whilst the pink and mauve colours and the calm waters in Geographe Bay created this beautiful twilight. Swimmers still enjoying the water, a dolphin cruising past outside the shark net, late boats returning from their fishing trips, children chasing crabs in the rocks below. A pretty special place to end the day.