Thursday, May 31, 2012

Squashed Bus in Roseau

When we were taken through the Botanical Gardens in Roseau, Dominica, and shown the crushed school bus under a massive tree, we could not quite believe our eyes. The tree fell in the destruction of Hurricane David in 1979, and luckily there was reportedly no one on the bus, which was soon rendered near-unrecognisable.

The tree, an African baobab, has since managed to grow around and above the remnants of the bus, and seems completely undeterred by it's acquired trapped metalwork.

The bus remains essentially intact, with seats and luggage racks, as well as it's tyres and engine parts in there. It quite an eerie sight, and it's totally amazing that no one was in the bus and killed at the time. Amazing!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Canada Life Views: Doors Open Toronto

The Canada Life building is imposing on University Avenue, and Doors Open Toronto on the weekend meant you could conquer such heights for an amazing view of the city.

Going inside from street level, we were treated to the ornate and grand interior, before joining the line to go up into the elevator for a ride to the 17th floor. This building was once the tallest building in Toronto, now this observation floor, only open for Doors Open Toronto every year, still affords a pretty amazing vantage point of the city below and around.

The volunteer manning the elevator is chirpy and informative, even though he has been working in that little confined space all day. He delivers us to a surprisingly small room, complete with shiny marble floors, and windows facing East, West and South.

Despite the fast moving line downstairs, the room has just enough people to allow you to move from window to window freely and easily. Doors Open Toronto, and their volunteers, have done a really great job making each site totally accessible for the masses.

South-facing gives you the CN Tower, a glimpse of the lake and the Toronto Islands, in addition to downtown streets.

East gives you a bird's eye view of the Old and new City Halls, and the space in front of the new City Hall. The West windows show you my new neighbourhood, Queen Street West, and the urban sprawl beyond.

While we were taking in the room and the views from each side, we were also handed a little reference card giving a guide to the weather beacon on the top of the building. This spire atop signals the weather for the day, or the following day when shown at night, by coloured lights running up and down the indicator. According to my new, and very handy guide, green lights indicate clear weather, red means cloudy, and flashing red forecasts rain. Flashing white tells of snow, and the direction of the lights indicate the coming temperature changes ahead. Steady lights suggest steady temperatures for the coming hours.

How great is that!!?? I walk past this building on my way home from work, and imagine this knowledge will be very handy for planning my next day!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Beware The Red Coats!

A visit to Sovereign Hill would be remiss without gaining an understanding of the physical hardship and struggle the quest to find their fortune was for the miners who descended on Ballarat and surrounding areas during the gold rush of the 1850s.

The battles between the authorities and the miners are an important part of Australia's history, and the birth of the Eureka rebellion and flag. The tension between the Red Coat Soldiers of the British Army served with the duty of upholding order and taxes on the minefields, and the rise of miner's rights to land and objection to the steep costs of miners licenses and taxes is the deeper undercurrent of a visit - with the Eureka Stockade site and Visitor's Centre not far away from Sovereign Hill which focuses on the ensuing battle.

At 1.30pm everyday at Sovereign Hill a parade of Red Coat Soldiers do their rounds of the streets, complete with their guns and stern faces. They are strong and loud, and boom out their authority, and I dare you not to feel a rush of fear from them! Even modern day, they ooze their power, one can only imagine what this force was like for a miner out of his depth, or too poor to pay the mining license for his site.

Visitors can take tours of both the Gold Mine and also the Red Hill Mine, to gain a real sense of the conditions underground for the miners working on these sites. These tours run at regular intervals, and are additional to the entry fee for the park on the day.

The other area that brings home the conditions for the miners is a walk through the tent section of Red Hill Road of the park - particularly if you score a cold Ballarat Winter's day!

These basic calico living quarters are so small, and thin, and hardly wind and frost proof! All the wares of the 1850s living are on display in each tent, letting you imagine what life was like while trying to seek your fortune on these lands. I am surprised anyone survived these conditions, let alone the wrath of the Red Coats!

This is a post in a series to show off Ballarat's premier tourist attraction, for which I was provided a pass to enter Sovereign Hill for the day. The thoughts in this post, however, are entirely my own.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Faces On Places: Doors Open Toronto

Yesterday I started my Doors Open exploration of Toronto with the walking tour gathering at the City Hall lobby, in search of gargoyles and griffins around the CBD.

Terry Murray was our guide, and she was so interesting and keen to share her hobby of checking out these little faces and details in the city buildings. She was also able to share a lot of building history, and quirky stories about many of the buildings she pointed out, which gave me more character back story to Toronto.

Starting by getting to Old City Hall, Terry pointed out many of the details on this Roman designed impressive building. The gargoyles at the top tower are no longer gargoyles in their functional sense, nor are they the originals, being replaced as the first ones crumbled due to the water draining, and become drop hazards to people below. She also explained the architects revenge in his naming rights of the structure, of which my new friend on the tour Tanya had also just explained as we approached.

Getting to the city CBD streets itself, Terry pointed out griffins and the Furious Broker on the panels of the massive, tall buildings all around us.

This building to the left has 4 faces at the top level. There used to be an observation level here, and after inquiring after why these faces had ear piecings, Terry had been informed that these holes were actually where the hand rails used to be!

Our group managed to weave through the masses on Yonge Street to see more quirky details on the many buildings - but missed the panels down in the Queen Street subway entrance due to track works this weekend - one to keep an eye out for!

Finishing at the awning of The Elgin and Wintergarden Theatres to see these little guys, the group had shrunk a little from the large mass at the start, but everyone was so thankfully to Terry for this unique look at the city. She sold many copies of her book, right there. I totally recommend her tour, but I would imagine that you can reconstruct and find many more faces in the city buildings via her book. Or through her very sound advice at the end of the tour - look up!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Street Art Off Queen Street West

These photos are taken as I walk along Queen Street West. There are so many pieces of art that catch your eye as you walk down this street, and indeed many of the streets here in Toronto.

These actual grabs are down one of the side alleys off the main street. All around a lot of tags and those big unreadable but eye-catching scrawls, are these gems!

I wonder how often they are added to and painted over, and refreshed with new inspiration and images. I have these weeks of the Summer to find out on the daily walk home from work.

It's the faces and phrases that catch my eye. I love these displays of art, wanted or unwanted, on the city streets. Shows that a city has a vibrant life bubbling away!

Jinja Safari

Planning my move to Toronto, I was keen to get into the gig scene straight away, and the show that popped out on was an Aussie band. On my first day in the city I spotted the venue of this gig, as if it was all meant to be.

Gina and I meant on Queen Street West in time with doors opening on Thursday, and walked down to the Rivoli. We figured out where the bandroom was, and after grabbing a beer, took seats just as the locals were doing. The barman noticed our accents, and made comment that he had never come across so many Australians in Toronto before tonight.

A filled bandroom greeted the support act, Bravestation, and when they introduced themselves as a band from Toronto and seeing most of the crowd really into them, it made a bit more sense to us. This four piece band played 'quirky tribal pop tunes' (according to their webpage), and captured the room completely, and me enough to download their EP (for free here).

This band room was an intimate space, with a mirror down one side. It did empty significantly between bands, which was disappointing for the Aussies, but did nothing to dampen their enthusiasm.

Jinja Safari arrived on stage bouncing with energy and excitement to be there. They were chatty to the crowd throughout their funky fun set, and at one point asked how everyone there had even heard of them! Bless!

They were so much fun at Splendour last year, and matched this here in Toronto. Great sound and engagement, but it's the energy and the sheer fun these five lads are having on stage that pulls you in! How many bands do you see pull out a sitar for a couple of tracks!

So amazing to see these guys traveling through North America, a product of Triple J's Unearthed. A great gig to get me started within the full experience of a new city!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Let's Talk About Sex and Sick Kids

Most inappropriate blog post title ever, do you think? Hear me out!

This week, straight into things since arriving in Toronto, I have started my MSW Placement. For these next 14 weeks I am working at the Hospital for Sick Children, the main paediatric hospital in Ontario and indeed a very well renowned hospital in Canada, North America and internationally.

The hospital is still a massive labyrinthine to me, on day three, but has this amazing atrium filled with light as a central point. The architects included this feature of the newer end of the building based on the notion that natural light promotes healing. It's an amazing place just to walk around and feel the energy among the staff, oozing with the sense that great things are being done here, everyday.

There is a big group of MSW students on placement here at Sick Kids, as the hospital is referred to, from the University of Toronto and a couple of other universities around the region, and we all get to work together on some areas of learning but are also allocated an area of work based on our supervising Social Worker.

My supervisor specialises in Urology and Disorders of Sex Development. With her guidance and supervision I will be working with families, and young people, as they work through issues of genital function and aesthetics, identity and self concept, shame and humiliation, social acceptance and stigma. Working through different stages in their lives, and the issues that come up as a result of these chronic lifelong issues, in addition to the general social work work of family therapy, counselling, advocacy and support.

A completely new world to me, a totally new clinical population and focus, and definitely a completely new language! I mean, one of the first things that has shocked and stood out for me on the first day is that 1 in 150 baby boys are born with hypospadias....and I had never heard of it.

Exstrophy, and it's different types and implications. Penile reconstruction. The construction of vaginas, or the presence of multiple vaginas. Genetically male children with ambiguous genitalia being raised as, and identifying as, girls.

Whoa, this post sure is going to draw some strange and creepy searches from Google - hello freaks! Move along, this is not what you were looking for!! But also to people dealing with these terms as new diagnosis - sorry, I am just learning it all too!

This is such an amazing learning opportunity, in a clinical hospital setting, and also within a challenging a new area. I have met a couple of families with whom I will be working with, and thus I am frantically trying to get up to speed on all the terms and also the Canadian systems and resources, ready to get into it all.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Toronto and the CN Tower

When I spotted the iconic CN Tower in the Toronto skyline from the airplane window on Saturday, I must confess, I was pretty excited! I had arrived! And I was seeing that sight that said Toronto for myself.

On Sunday I met up with Kylie and Gina, who took me on a little walking tour of the city. During this, I apologised for taking so many pictures of the tower, but also knowing that unless you grab these unique sights to keep at the start of getting to know a city, they soon become so common place, you totally forget to get any!

On this walking tour we went from our shared neighbourhood area - so fortunate and totally by chance - down to the waterfront. Here, as it was a gorgeous, warm sunny day and a long weekend, it seemed that every Torontonian was out and about soaking in the weather and all the activities on the lake's edge.

The Tower is an omnipresence as you wander through the city, peeking around buildings at every turn. We walked through the Entertainment District and then the Financial District, before heading north to the outskirts of Kensington.

Up on College Street we went into the Cloak and Dagger, for an all-you-can-eat taco special, and many beers. Out in the beer garden we got to chatting with some other punters, one being an Aussie who picked our accents out pretty quickly. Trying out all the Canadian beers on tap, this evening turned into a bigger night than first thought. Surely great for jetlag!

My walk home from the pub, and then from Kylie and Gina's, the Tower was again a presence, with it's constant changing of colours at night.

Monday I walked around the city further, which included checking out the place I will be working, to be sure I knew where to go on my first morning. I also then met up with Natalie, whom I had found in the planning stage of this Summer in Toronto.

I had set out to find a blogger in Toronto, and stumbled upon one who is also doing the MSW! Then, as placements were confirmed, it turns out we are also working at the same place for these 3 months. We met up for a beer and dinner at Sin + Redemption, getting to know each other after our email contacts for the last few months.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Global Mobility

I have made it to Toronto! After years, and months of planning, heaps of bits and pieces coming together, and then a very long day of flying, I am here!

I am here for three months, to complete my MSW practicum, which is 70 days of work experience. I expressed an interest in an international placement very early, and after much work, the match through the University of Melbourne with the University of Toronto happened. This is all coordinated with the Global Mobility department at uni, as well as lots of seeking out this opportunity yourself.

Everything really just fell into place at the last minute. The details of my placement, in terms of the match, happened one night while I was in Dominica, right at the deadline of U of T's cut off point to confirm the details and enroll. Then my accommodation arrangement for the first month was confirmed during the night on my last night at home.

Mum drove me to the airport once I was all packed, pretty early on Saturday morning. My flights took me from Melbourne to LA, to Dallas, and finally to Toronto. Landing just before midnight, I had booked an airport hotel so I could just crash.

Yesterday I got the local bus from the airport, which took me to the subway, and made my way into town. Walking down Queen Street West, I found that my new neighbourhood is a very hip area of town, full of bars and galleries, shops and buskers, beggers and street art.

I am staying in an apartment with 2 other people which I found through airbnb. A great location, I can walk everywhere, although there is a streetcar line going past also.

Plus, the weather is glorious! This has been a long weekend here in Canada, and is reportedly the first real Summer hit. I have been rewarded by all my hard work, and epic day of travel with two 30C days! Perfect! Here we go!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Country Count

My trip to Dominica last month had the number of countries in my travel career (!!) to forty. 40! I am pretty impressed with that, even though there are still so many places I want to visit. I think I have made a decent start in seeing the world and experiencing all that I can.

There is always constant banter among my travel mates about our country count, and what really constitutes the ability to count a country. I think last discussions have concluded that you need to have slept in the country, spent the currency, and been to a touristy thing. Although what list of countries you base this on is a whole other discussion! All in fun, with people who love travel and experiencing new places - and challenging each other!

I have been doing this post every year since this blog started, and it usually finds me either just back from travels or about to start some - I am at the latter today! Tomorrow, in fact! Can't wait. Although these particular plans are not going to add to the map below.

So in the past 12 months I have added places that haven't made a huge red impact, due to the actual size of them, but have included New Caledonia and Vanuatu, and then Trinidad and Tobago and Dominica. I have revisited the USA, Sri Lanka and Barbados during this time too.

visited 40 states (17.7%)

I am thinking that 60 by 40 could be an achievable goal for me! How many places have you visited around The World?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sovereign Hill: Stepping Back In Time

As soon as you walk out of the ticket entrance of Ballarat's Sovereign Hill your senses are met with the sights, smells and sounds of the 1850s - the clopping of the horses drawing the coach around, the smell in the air of the steam engines and the blacksmiths at work, glimpses of men and women in full costume, the unmistakable whiff of horse manure, the repetitive chinking of metal being made into something useful somewhere close by, all contributing to the bustle of Main Street.

For me it was a trip down memory lane with all the childhood and school visits completed over the years, and I was delighted with the sight of a school group making their way through the reconstructed street, in full 1850s capes, long and full skirts, and pantaloons. During weekdays of school terms there can be a number of groups dressed in costume attending classes around the park.

The familiar stores all along Main Street were also a treat to see again, and were frequented by the many tourists visiting on this day. Clarke Brothers Grocers is always a fascinating visit, with the kitchen and homewares of yesteryear. Seeing the printing press of the Ballarat Times, you can still have your name included on a quaint sign from here. The Apothecaries Hall, with the olde medicines and remedies lining the walls.

As you wander up the Main Street, past the New York Bakery and United States Hotel where you can sit for a meal, you also pass the Criterion Store for all your 1850s fashion and lace. The Victoria Theatre hosts shows at regular intervals, and is a gorgeous example of grand Victorian design and trimmings. I had lunch at the modern Cafe by the lake, which consisted of a sausage roll from Hope Bakery, which was as I'd remembered from my school days as the best I've ever had, and still is!

Charles Spencer's is where you find the full range of infamous boiled lollies, like the amazing raspberry drops and humbugs, but around on Normanby Street you can actually watch through the windows as these confectioneries being made with all the old fashioned techniques and detail at Brown's Confectionery. I scored a taste of the still warm results, which are bound to sway your purchase choices!

Aside from the shops and places to explore of the Main Street, the other significant half of Sovereign Hill are the goldfields, which is where all the wealth was found to fund the growing population that became the Ballarat we know today. Here you can pan for gold, claiming some of the $50,000 worth of gold put in the creek every year just for that feeling of luck and fortune-making from your efforts squatting at the waters edge. There are fossickers around to show you some tricks to panning, in costume of course, and you can keep your findings.

This section of the park also contains the tents of the miners who flocked to the region once gold was first found in the area in 1851. The simple set up of these camps makes you feel for these people, placing all their hopes in finding a nugget of gold from their back-breaking toils, whilst living in the freezing conditions of a cold Winter in Ballarat in these canvas tents. Brrrr!

Each tent is set up to tell a story of the conditions or the fails and fortunes of these miners. There is also a Chinese area, where Chinese miners were clumped together in their plots to try their luck away from, but really alongside, their English settler colleagues.

There is loads to see and do here on a visit, and the beauty of your day entry is that you can have your ticket validated as a passout and return the next day to make sure you don't miss any of the features or tours.

This the first post in a series to show off Ballarat's premier tourist attraction, for which I was provided a pass to enter Sovereign Hill for the day. The thoughts in this post, however, are entirely my own.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Street Art of Port of Spain

Finishing my walk through town in Port of Spain, I started walking back to the hotel via Queens Park Savannah, and found these displays of street art along the wall of the sports ground on the grassy expanse of the city.

There actually was not much out and out graffiti that caught my eye when I was walking around the city, but these these panels along the outer wall of the ground seem to capture a voice and spirit.

Such powerful feminist images, with the use of colour and underlying gender themes. I can only assume 'Me', as the artist has signed one of the creations, is a female Trinidadian.

"I am shaped like bright freedom" - indeed! These works of art were the end of my time in Trinidad, and felt like such an uplifting and fitting message of fun, hope and empowerment.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Top 5: My Travel Illnesses

As I am still trying to figure out the mystery of the outbreak of leprosy that plagued my most recent travels, and sharing the stories with people here at home, I have been reminded that I collect some strange and full on illnesses in my travels. Maybe I am allergic to change? Of travel, itself? Hell no! And if so, there are drugs for that, right?

So here is a recap of the weird and memorable ailments I have collected, along with the stamps in my passports:

#1 - My DVT in 2008, upon returning from my first trip to the West Indies will surely (hopefully!!) be my enduring use of one of my nine lives because of travel. Given the travelling nature of the segments of clot, and the presence of that fleck on my lung, this ailment could well have signaled the end of my travel, and indeed all, days! A very scary one, but now I take every precaution, am very in tune with my blood circulation and comfort on long haul flights, and do all the things I need to to prevent a re-occurrence.

#2 - In Cambodia, I had Typhoid. Or was treated for Typhoid, which may well have been a SE Asia-specific bug. This experience has put me off the idea of getting every vaccination possible before heading out for a trip, rightly or wrongly, because I had a shot for Typhoid. But, as I was reminded again last week, the vacc only covers for a few popular strains of the bug, and can't really cover you for every germ you may come across of this variety in every corner of the world.

I know this was borne from the delicious breakfast fish curry I had on a morning market trip with one of the women I was working with. I knew it was a risk, but sharing that morning with her, going about her daily activities and interactions with all the stall owners, and then sitting and having a meal in among all that frantic market chaos, while buying the groceries for the shelter I was working in, was such an amazing and real experience. I wouldn't take it back in a minute. Even over those body-wracking cramps!

#3 - My current unknown allergy started at home, the week leading up to my last days of work, as I plan to set off on a big travel adventure for the next 12 to infinity months. It flared up again in Barbados, then worse than ever in Trinidad, where I went to the emergency room and got some much needed IV medications to calm it all down. The doctor in Port of Spain - St Clair Medical Clinic, who were all very good - started talking about this episodic skin issue as an allergy. Not having a bar of it, I took and filled his recommended treatment - and sure enough, needed it in Dominica.

Needed again in the USA and again upon getting home, this outbreak is getting less each time, and hopefully I have it under some control now as I am getting ready to head off again on the weekend. I was advised to keep a food diary, or recap all the things I have had consistently over these outbreaks - although across 5 countries, it seems a bit needle in a haystack to me!

#4 - I had the worst Flu I have ever had when I was in Nashville. I seriously willed death of this bad bout! Plus I was alone, on my first major trip away from home, in the employee accommodation of the hotel I was working for, and being in the USA, did not have access to the types of medicines I would usually use to fight off such a bug. I remember having a couple of days and nights, hell it could have been a week, all dosed up with whatever I could find that was an approximation to the familiar cold and flu remedies in Australia - but had surely, in a delusional state, overdosed, and was in and out of cohesion for some time! Awful!

#5 - It would be remiss of me not to include the self-induced Hangover on this list. And boy, have there been some rippers! Durban 2006 and Colombo 2004 come immediately to mind, both post-cricket series celebrations, both very large, both from drinking with Charles, and both resulting in all kinds of pain! A good hangover certainly reminds you that you're alive!

They all make for decent travel stories, I guess. I mean, I could certainly have done without all of these, especially the enduring DVT, but it's all part of the risk and trials and tribulations of travel. It's not really worth it if it all goes ridiculously perfectly!! Aliments in a strange place are all part of the journey.

What are yours, and where were they?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Heritage Weekend: Childhood Memories

Ballarat hosted it's Heritage Weekend this weekend again, in line with Mother's Day, with the theme being Childhood Memories. Keen to check out the displays after our Mother's Day brunch fest made by Katie, following our walk in the morning, the three of us ventured into town to have a little look.

On the Saturday I had a vantage point of the steam train making it's glorious trips, a couple each day of the weekend for excited riders, and then there was the sight of a horse-drawn tram clopping along the Wendouree Lake tracks. Plus it seemed that every vintage bus of Victoria was doing a run around town, which were pretty novel and cute! But the thing that caught my eye for the weekend, and managed to help convince Mum of the need for an outing to have a look, was the display of old childhood toys at the Mining Exchange.

The rooms, filled with people, were decked out with pedal cars and dolls from 1930s to the 1970s, including play sets and furniture and very early Barbie.

Outside there was a miniature and very cute carousel, and then a display of vintage and restored cars and caravans.

After our wander through all the displays Katie and I took Mum into the Sweet Decadence Cafe at the Art Gallery for scones, jam and cream and tea, to complete our afternoon.

The Heritage Weekend seems to be a staying feature on the Ballarat calender now, although I continue to be surprised at it's scheduling on Mother's Day weekend. I guess they are capturing people after their breakfast or brunch with Mum in town, or after a lunch gathering, although I do wonder if they would gather more people if it was a stand alone weekend. People certainly are home for this weekend, looking for additional things to do. The challenge now will be to come up with new and interesting themes and activities each year, for the same visitors.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day Classic '12

This morning Katie, Mel and I braved the cold of the Ballarat morning to complete the Mother's Day Classic. A sea of pink, Ballarat people all trekked out to the Dowling Forest Racecourse for the run/walk, in a growing community event in it's fifth year here.

Following the warm up, and the minutes silence to remember those lost to breast cancer and to make the reason for the raising of funds and awareness of the day all the more heightened, the runners were set off on their way up the hill for their 7km course - Katie among them. Mel and I set off on the 4km walk, brisk to ward off the chilly wind, around the outer edge of the race track.

The sun did it's best to peek out, and the rain held off til we had finished and left for home, which was awesome! Walking on the horse trotting track, sand in places to add to the challenge, the morning walk was lovely.

Moved out here in a quest to have more space, I know it meant many people did not actually come out for the day, planning breakfasts in town for Mother's Day in the morning. A shame not to be walking around Ballarat's iconic lake, but the new venue certainty put on many of the trimmings with a BBQ, coffee cart, face painting, a jumping castle, and stalls. Another day of really great and important community feel, all for the very important cause of breast cancer research. Well done to everyone who completed the run/walk, and everyone who cheered us all on and put the day together!

Happy Mother's Day to every Mum. And ladies - check your breasts!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Up Close to the Leatherback Turtles in Dominica

Getting up close to two very large leatherback turtles on a beach in Dominica, as they made their way to shore in an attempt to make a nest and lay their eggs, was a pretty amazing and special experience on my recent trip.

After Springer and Lynne managed to see turtles making their nests and laying eggs in Trinidad, and being so blown away by their experience, a group of us hired a driver after the cricket in Roseau, and were driving across the island country to Rosalie Bay and the eco resort there.

Getting to the Bay, were we taken down to the black sand of the volcanic beach, and trekked around in the dark for a bit, with the waves lapping, in search of some turtles. In between wandering the beach, our guide, Simon, told us how the turtles land on the beach, somehow drag themselves up to a safe place to lay their eggs. Going into a trace once they have picked the spot, they make a deep hole before delivering some 90 eggs, before filling the hole again. She will then set up a dummy laying site, to try and put any predators of her eggs off the trial.

Finding nothing on these first walks, we took the time to sit and wait while Simon scoured some more. Here, we were sitting under the stars, with the moon and palm trees aloft, in serenity with all but the waves continuing to come in. So amazing.

Just when the group was just about giving up for the night, disappointed, Simon returned from a final look down further on the beach, and reported back that there was a turtle. We followed him down, carefully, over seaweed and water, and there she was.

She was struggling, after the effort of getting up onto the beach at the waters edge. She was huge! This beautiful animal trying to complete her mission of the night.

Simon told us that she was clearly disorientated and that she was trying to get back into the water, as laying that close to the water was not safe. Plus she was too spend to make her way further up the beach at this time. We watched from a safe distance as she maneuvered herself back around, and into the water, and away.

As we walked along further, we came across another. So big! Here on the beach, and again, very close to the water. This one seemed to be trying to set up her nest right there, which Simon was very worried about. Again, we watched her for a bit, before she too decided to heave herself back towards the water, and away again, having not managed to find the right conditions for her egg laying mission.

These beautiful giants of the sea were actually fairly young turtles in the scheme of laying according to our guide and turtle-watching data recorder, one of them a new visitor to the beach, perhaps seeking to complete her first lay of eggs.

I was hoping that having a group of us watching them did not detract them from their mission, but Simon assured us that that wasn't the case. He was confident that these ladies would swim around, rest for a bit, and then return to the beach over the next few hours to try again. While we were making our way back over the mountains to Roseau, very wowed and happy that we had seen these amazing, massive creatures out there in the night on the beach.

Thanks to Kim for the use of her amazing photo from the night.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Art Deco Of Miami's South Beach

Walking along Miami's Ocean Drive in South Beach is like wandering through an art gallery, with a gorgeous art deco building at every step. The colours and the subtle differences between each structure are so pretty and captivating.

According to Wikipeadia, 'the Art Deco District is the largest collection of Art Deco architecture in the world and comprises hundreds of hotels, apartments and other structures erected between 1923 and 1943'.

This street is abuzz with activity, of people hanging out with cocktails and whatever other pleasures, al fresco. Miami's rich, hordes of wannabes, and flocks of tourists, all mingled in together.

At night the street is a blaze of neon, but in my afternoon as the sun was starting to set, it was a pretty relaxed affair. I then wandered along the beach on the other side of the road, before returning to the car to return it back after my roadtrip.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Universal's Islands of Adventure

Visiting Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure was all about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for me really, but after that I did wander around the rest of the park to take in all the other attractions. Returning from the magic of Hogsmede and Hogwarts, I walked again through Seuss Landing and back to the start of the Islands.

Starting out from the Port of Entry, I walked through the Marvel Super Hero Island, where I joined the short queue for the new 3D Amazing Adventures of Spiderman. This ride has you recruited from the Daily Bugle newspaper office, sent out in your ride capsule to get the scope of the story of the city's pending destruction (or something!!), but are then physically subjected to the mayhem going on in the city of New York City – complete with sprinkles of water from the Water Man and a burst of heat from another villain, before Superman savesw you. All while wearing funky 3D glasses, and feeling closer to the action that most rides. Was pretty good!

Back out into the real world, or the comic strip colours of Toon Lagoon, I watched the Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges for a bit before joining the line for the ride around the rapids. There is apparently a story within this ride, a quest to save Olive, but in getting totally soaked through with the water from every angle, my barge full of people were just watching for the next splash!

Walking around in the sun for a bit to dry off, I checked out all the quirky and colourful comic book references of this Island, before walking through to the next one.

Into Jurassic Park, I was checking out the Pteranodon Flyers overhead, which looked really fun. Upon getting to the start of the ride, however, I was informed that I would need a small child to be eligible to ride. Oh! I tried to borrow one from someone, cos these flying dinos looked like fun, but no luck! Ha! I guess this was the pay off for all the little ones who missed out on many of the other rides of the the enforced height restrictions.

I did ride the Jurassic Park River Adventure, which included another soaking as a massive drop on the rollercoaster was the escape from T-Rex.

This had me at the top end of the Islands, and so I walked back into Hogsmede from the other entrance, and took another turn on the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey again, because I could. A much longer line waiting through the halls of Hogwarts at this time in the afternoon, again the single rider line was a breeze.

A great day allowing myself to get caught up in the magic of much beloved books and movies, and totally feeling like a kid again.
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