Ocean spirit at great barrier reef, Australia

Ocean Spirit

Ocean Spirit

An ocean spirit tour to great barrier reef is a must if you come to Australia, which is the worlds largest coral reef system. But be prepared, as it is a long and tiring day out with children.

Our day started very early in the morning, with the pick up of the tour company from our hotel for ocean spirit. However, we found out that, we were not the only one to be picked, and the bus that took us, would also visit another dozen of hotels and look for the other attendees of the tour. So it took us more than an hour to reach the harbor-not a nice start. Than we queued at the harbor for check-in, which meant another half hour or so waiting everyone to come. Finally, it was about 10:00 when we started our journey.

Looks like a wonderful boat

Looks like a wonderful boat

Our boat was a nice, big, white catamaran with enough space inside and outside. We preferred to settle down on the top deck, at a rather secluded corner to keep away from the wind.

Michaelmas Cay

Michaelmas Cay

It took us another 2 hours to reach our destination-Michaelmas Cay. So it was already noon and everyone was already tired when we finally got there. After listening the safety information in the most attractive and fun way, presented by the staff, we were told that we had 3 hours there, to eat, swim, snorkeling, explore the coral reef with the glass boat and enjoy the sand.

First we decided to get off on the beach, for our son to swim and for us to enjoy the birds and the sand.

Lovely beach?

Lovely beach?

No need to be jealous of me. First of all, there was a rope around a very small part of the beach, and it was forbidden to go beyond, in order to protect the wildlife, especially the birds. Secondly, when I say “the birds” I mean an Alfred Hitchcock film-like birds, zillions of them shouting all the time, but more importantly smelling really really awful.

No passing the rope

No passing the rope

You should hear them and smell them

You should hear them and smell them

So it took our son just a few minutes to swim and we returned to our boat immediately to have lunch. The lunch was not bad. Sushi for our sushi-monster-son, nice seafood and vegetables. After lunch, we took the glass boat, where about 50 people sit in a boat-let me say a semi-sub-marine, where the majority of the boat is under the sea. A bit depressive if you are claustrophobic, but you can sit at the very back of the boat and have some fresh air over there.

Coral Reef

Coral Reef

This is a really enjoyable experience for the children. You can both explore the underwater beauty and stay dry at the same time. Moreover, there is a guide, telling about the fish and the reef and you can search for Nemo, for sure you will find him.

Our return to our hotel was about another 4 hours, 2 hours on boat, 1 hour for everyone to find the right bus back and 1 hour to the hotel, with many stops on the way. So as I said, it is a nice experience, but there should be an easier or leaner way to do this tour. The main activity of the day takes just a few hours, but it takes all day, so make sure to take enough books or whatever to kill time on the way.

Feeding the fish

Feeding the fish

 

Jonah’s Whale Beach, Sydney

Jonah's restaurant

Jonah’s restaurant

Remember our seaplane adventure with Sydney Seaplanes from my previous post. Well, Jonah’s was the restaurant we arrived in 20 minutes, not on an island, but on an island-like part of Sydney, which takes about an hour, by car.

Jonah’s was more than we expected with a good variety in menu and a nice wine list. Moreover, every plate looked like a piece of art.

A taste to start

A taste to start

Wine of the day

Wine of the day

Australia has really good wines. I will be writing another post soon about Hunter Valley, a wine paradise. Today we chose a Pinot Noir of Tasmania.

Scallops, gooood

Scallops, gooood

Piece of art

Piece of art

In many day trips in Europe, if lunch is included, you come across with ordinary local dishes, sometimes really good and tasty ones but never so elegant.

The deserts...

The deserts…

...and another desert...

…and another desert…

...and another. Yummyyy

…and another. Yummyyy

So, finished with our three course meal in 3 hours, enjoyed the view of the whale beach and watched a local wedding next room, we were taken back to the beach to return with our seaplane back to Sydney.

Sure I can live here

Sure I can live here

 

A Seaplane Adventure Around Sydney, Australia

Before take off

Before take off

While getting ready for our Australia trip and working on the schedule, one dear Australian friend advised me to take a helicopter trip on Sydney harbor. So I searched for it with the help of Saint Google and my travel agent, and I came across with a good alternative of seaplane trips with Sydney Seaplanes. I’ve experienced a helicopter trip twice. One in Samara, Russia, a business trip, so beyond the limits of this blog and second at Grand Canyon, a few years ago with our son. So I thought a seaplane would be a more interesting experience for all of us.

Enjoying the view

Enjoying the view

The trip we booked was the “Fly & Dine” trip, which very well suited with our travel values. A 20 minutes fly to Whale Beach area, 3 hours-3 course fine dining for lunch and a 20 minutes fly back to Sydney, with a route over Sydney harbor. Well, let the photographs talk:

Enjoying the view

Enjoying the view

Walking to the beach

Walking to the beach

We were about 12 people on the plane, 5 our group, 3 more couples and our pilot. We started the tour with a little safety training, and took our seats, buckled up and took off. Riding on the sea and the first take off was a bit exciting, but than we enjoyed the view and the calm nature of the environment.

The beach

The beach

We got off the plane on a little pier on a very nice beach of an island. The sea we landed was not an open water but an inside area, where people were enjoying many water sports like canoeing, sailing, diving or enjoying the sun on the beach.

A walk on the beach

A walk on the beach

We were welcomed by a lady from Jonah’s restaurant, who drove us to the restaurant with a van and after lunch (which I will write in my next post) we returned to the same beach to find out that our seaplane was gone. So we spent about half an hour more to enjoy the beach and take photograph around.

Resting on a bench

Resting on a bench

Finally our seaplane arrived to the beach and we took off to return where we started.

Waiting our seaplane to arrive

Waiting our seaplane to arrive

Over Sydney Harbor

Over Sydney Harbor

Sydney Seaplanes

Sydney Seaplanes

Lovely area

Lovely area

 

Great Cruise Tour-day-6

Good morning view while approaching to Oslo

Good morning view while approaching to Oslo

The 6th day of our Great Cruise tour started with a lovely good morning view of Oslo. Unfortunately we only had a few hours to spend in Oslo, the capital of Norway. Moreover, this few hours would start even earlier than the days before. Therefore, I preferred to order my breakfast to our room, in order to avoid the hassle of 13th floor restaurant, and enjoy a superb breakfast with a splendid view of Oslo bay and islands. (Just a little tip here: order breakfast to your room, more than you think you will eat, as the plates are so small.)

No place to eat in our tiny room, so we did eat in our balcony

No place to eat in our tiny room, so we did eat in our balcony

Besides the breakfast, the early morning routines were pretty much the same. Today we took the “Introduction to Oslo” tour which I would not recommend if you are not a big group like ours. The only attraction of the tour was a superb Vigeland Park, which could be reached by a taxi, faster and easier. Other than the park, we did not have any chance to see the centre of the city, because of the traffic and not easy for the huge bus to go around, we could only pass trough the main streets and noted to come to Oslo again, sometime soon.

View from our balcony

View from our balcony

Vigeland park, is a must in Oslo, one of the best parks I have ever been. Home to some 192 sculptures by its namesake, the Vigeland sculpture park is the cynosure of Norway’s artistic landscape. The park is Gustave Vigeland’s artistic statement about the quintessential themes of life and relationships. A hundred meter long bridge bifurcates along a waterfall, each path adorned with large bronze wheels, while the bridge itself is adorned with granite depictions of humans at various stages of life, including Angry Boy, one of the most prominent sculptures in the park. Its other highlights include sculptures such as The FountainThe Monolith, and The Wheel of Life.

Angry boy

Angry boy

Wheel of life

Wheel of life

Vigeland Park

Vigeland Park

Another attraction of Oslo is the park where the winter Olympic games are held and the ski jump tower. The observation deck by the tower has a lovely view of Oslo and the Ski Jump simulator is very attractive for a child like ours.

Ski jump tower

Ski jump tower

Goodbye Oslo

Goodbye Oslo

I wish we could stay more in Oslo.

Another important thing to remember in Oslo is to redeem your invoices for tax free refunds, as Oslo is the last stop in Norway. To do this, you need to approach the tiny building by the Cruise, in which there are some souvenir shops and long queue of tax refund. Moreover, in the queue you find out that there are two different tax refund companies and if the invoices you hold comprise them both, you need to get in two different queues one by one. My advice would be either just skip it (which means  no tax refund), or ask your friend or partner to stay in the other queue (which is at the far end of the building). Other wise you spend a good half hour waiting in each of the queues. Is it worth waiting? Well, about 15% of the invoice, if you have a number of them, it may be worth it.

A chat from yesterday evening:

Our son: Mom do you remember the dance lessons you took.

Me: Sirtaki, Salsa, or Tarantelle.

Our son: Tarantelle, do you remember the dance steps?

Me: No, none.

Altough I enjoyed the Sirtaki class (yesterday), Salsa Class (The second day) and tarantelle class (today), during  the one week tour, when I try to remember any of them… No, not even one step is in my mind. What a pity.

Our day ended with long lunch, again in the Kaito sushi bar, the rescued island, far from the mass of people. And an afternoon nap, before dinner, after which we found – luckily- a place to sit in the lobby and enjoyed the live music of piano.

So Mediterenian, so France

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Monaco

A few years ago, on a very nice weekend in a spring time, we made a trip to the South of France with our son. Well, let’s say a long weekend. The sea was so Mediteranian, the food were so French, the blue was so deep, the sky was so clear, we were so happy, our son was so happy.

Actually, everything started in Italy, arriving to Milano airport late in the evening. Going to a hotel. In the morning, we went back to the airport to rent our car. Once more I have tried to rent an Alfa Romeo 159, and received a Mercedes instead.

Driving souther, passing the border, our first stop was Monaco. Unfortunately, with our son we could not get into to any Casinos, but enjoyed a drive on Formula 1 Route and a fine lunch in Cafe de Paris.

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Hop on hop of in Cannes

In mid May, a week after Monaco Grand Prix and a week before Cannes film festival, it was really crowded around but was a perfect time to do this trip.

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daddy, all time driver

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Grasse, learning how parfumes are made

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St Paul

St. Tropez, St. Paul, Eze, Nice, Cannes… Colorful people, good food, lovely scenery. Instead of spending time in center of Nice, which did not look so fascinating to us, we prefered to go to little villages around. St Paul and Eze were by far the best of all. Although parking, leaving our car behind and walking uphill is a bit tirding for our son (and for us). St Tropez was a dissappointment, probably because we did not know so well, where to eat, where to go and where the high society were.

But leaving all these places on one side, I think we all loved Menton most:-). Is our preferances strange? What we look in a tiny town is: convenient parking close to nice restaurants, preferably with a nice view, shopping street within easy walking and warm people. Menton had them all, parked our car by the sea, walked on the shopping street, bought our melon ice screams, and felt the warm people felt like more Italian than French.

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Residues of our son’s pizza, made our desperate waiter smile a bit.

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Eze. Sooo cute town, with lanes to loose yourself, tiny shops and a surprize in top of the hill, a tropic paradise letting you enjoying the view of deep blue Medditeranian sea. Of course whenever you come to such a place, someone asks you to take their photograph. Eze is not an exception.

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Photo of the photographer daddy

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Eze

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