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Explore and enjoy

Just got back from the Greek Islands, check out my Crete, Santorini, Rhodes, Mykonos and Samos pages over the coming months.
Have spent roughly a fortnight on and off in granite country to the north of N.S.W. and the south of Queensland, seeing stuff I'd done decades before and lots of new stuff, particularly the impressive Girraween National Park.
Finally saw a fireworks display in Sydney. One of those bucket list things for any Aussie. Definitely worth a look and I'm pleased I went but it is a tad crowded. See my Sydney pages for more pics.
Where Australia is concerned I urge you to check out pages like "New England Ranges", "Gloucester", "South Australia", "Western Australia" and especially "Tasmania", as there are many great things to see that you probably haven't heard about yet.
My interests are writing, photography, history, cycle racing, fishing, bushwalking, motorcycle racing, soccer and sport in general.
I have a cat's curiousity so you are certain to find things of interest in my pages that you won't see anywhere else. In fact, I've managed to stump people at no less prestigious places than the Wallace Collection, Ephesus tour, Lake Macquarie City Council and, my piece de resistance - the British Museum!
I also have a wicked sense of humour having been raised on the Goon Shows and Monty Python - you have been warned!
If you plan to come to Australia, may I urge you to look beyond the eternal triangle of Sydney, the Great Barrier Reef and Uluru, though I am not suggesting that you don't see any of those. Just remember that if you go to Uluru (Ayers Rock) or Cairns it takes a long time to get there. Time that I personally think could often be better spent elsewhere.
I suggest opening your eyes to places like Comboyne, South West Rocks, southern Highlands (N.S.W.), Tasmania, Wilsons Promontory, Eyre Peninsula, Broken Hill, Esperance, New England Range, Grand Ridge Road and others. Here you will see scenery to die for without the crowds. Australia has more of this because we have a huge area but small population so there are more places that aren't on the bus routes and remember, you'll have boasting rights when you get home.
Whatever happens, enjoy yourself and feel free to contact me if you want a cuppa or any help.

Where I've been

Inspired by other members I have decided to list 10 of the places or areas I really loved and would like to spend more time at. They are in no particular order but, bearing in mind that I have hardly travelled at all compared to most VTers, it will not include places that undoubtedly are better.
1. British Museum. It was everything I hoped for and I have had four sessions there but still want to see more.
2. Termessos. I loved this place for its fabulous setting, the general lack of tourists and the range of history it has.
3. Segesta. Again, what a picturesque location and, though at first glance there's not a lot there, it really has a varied and interesting past.
4. Tasmania. One of the great tourist destinations of the world. Unfortunately, in the last few years, some of the world is starting to find out how good it is.
5. Picos de Europa. I can understand why the Spanish want to keep this place a secret. Stunning mountain and gorge scenery of the finest kind.
6. Rhodes. I came, I saw, I loved it. Classic Mediterranean island with huge chunks of history thrown in, much of it still intact.
7. The Dolomites. Everything you've heard is true. Go there. Lago de Misurina is my favourite.
8. Italian hill towns. Orvieto, Spoleto, Todi, San Leo, Volterra, Pitigliano and Assissi were probably my favourites because, although tourists are there, in March they are small in number and you can see some wonderful things and soak up the atmosphere without being shoulder-to-shoulder.
9. Southern Western Australia. The forests (some of the world's finest), the wineries (ditto), the wild coastline (with whales) and the usual laid back friendly Aussie attitude make this a great place to relax.
10. Northern N.S.W. beaches. Frankly, now I've travelled a little and seen some of the other beaches people flock to, I can see why overseas tourists rave about our beaches that I used to take for granted. They really are matchless in my experience.
Other things I considered were National Gallery (London), Amalfi Coast, Ephesus, Cappadocia, Selinunte, Taormina, El Escorial, Ronda, Ordesa National Park, Dresden, Berchtesgaden, Bamberg, Whalers Way, Bath and Caltagirone.

Where I'd like to go

So many places in the world to see, so little time left.
My top ten of places I want to go would include the following, again in random order.
1. Libya - an uncommon destination with great Roman ruins and amazing cave paintings.
2. Macchu Picchu - yes, well, we've all seen the pictures, need I say more?
3. The Hermitage - has to be the world's greatest art museum and a palace to boot with sensational fountains.
4. Angkor Wat - one of the greatest archeological sites anywhere.
5. Canada - sensational mountains, friendly people (especially if you're an Aussie, my son cried when he was leaving after six months there working, he said it was like leaving home!) and those gardens just out of Vancouver.
6. Mexico / Guatemala- would love to see some of the Maya and Aztec ruins.
7. Egypt - my eldest son says I would love the place.
8. Italy - got to go back, the country that has everything (including pollution).
9. Bhutan - how exotic can a location get? Super scenery, super friendly people.
10. Iran - read some great reports (mainly from Americans) and I'd love to see the history there.

Update on where I'm travelling

In 2009 I've already been to Tasmania (2013/2015 as well), Floriade and Italy and have some wonderful pics. After that I visited Mount Kaputar, The Drip and did a loop around the Blue Mountains (Newnes, Glen Davis, Rylstone) and then hit the Southern Highlands (Bowral etc). After that I'm off to Gloucester again and then going skiing.
Some time in between I had to go to Bundaberg. I'd been commissioned to do an article on the place.
In 2008 I went to Germany, Paris, Strasbourg, London after I'd spent time in Tasmania.
Here's another shot from Tassie, this time one of my favourite subjects, waterfalls, this time Marriott.

Great travel books

This pic is one I shot at Knox Gorge in Karijini NP.
Obviously most of us here read travel books at some time. I thought I'd mention some of my favourites.
Route 66AD by Tony Perrot - If you like history with your travels and are heading to Italy or Greece, this is a must-read.
Rule No. 5, No Sex on the Bus by Brian Thacker - If you like irreverent Aussie humour about bus tours around Europe, you'll crack up at this one or any of Brian's subsequent works. Makes Bill Bryson staid by comparison.
Riding the Iron Rooster by Paul Theroux - I'll never forget his description of going to the open toilet on the train in subzero temperatures.
Sean and David's Long Drive by Sean Condon - another irreverent tale by an Aussie, this time travelling around Australia in a beat-up old car.
There's another one that involves a lot of travel that's also a crack-up: Don't Tell Mum I'm Working on The Rigs, She Thinks I'm a Piano Player in a Whore House. If you don't split your sides in the first two chapters consult your psychiatrist.


Inspired by Paul2001's efforts I thought I might list a few of my favourite places that I have visited.
Art Galleries (not in any order):
Broken Hill (the town -it has over 30 galleries) - Incredible colours I've never seen the like of in other galleries.
National Gallery (London) - Best eclectic gallery I've seen. So many famous artists, so little time!
Dali Museum (Figueres) - You'll never see another gallery like it anywhere.
Pitti Palace (Florence) - I preferred it to the Uffizi because, for me, it had better atmosphere and I loved the setting.
Prado (Madrid) - It promises the best of Spanish painters, it delivers.
Kunshistoriche (Vienna) - Rated one of the top five in the world but I'd go just to see the inside of the building again, it's stunning.

Favourite Archeological stuff or site:
Segesta (Sicily) - At first, it appears there's not much there, but it rewards the explorer.
Termessos (Turkey) - Unbelieveable setting, highly underrated site.
Archeological Museum (Naples) - One of the world's great museums
British Museum - Rated the best in the world and I, for one, cannot argue with that.
Ephesus (Turkey) - The reason I first went overseas. It didn't disappoint.
Pergamon Museum (Berlin) - Its large features are stunning.
Ostia Antica (Rome) - Often overlooked in favour of the more famous Pompeii, this site will take up a full day.
Sovana (Italy) - Looking for Etruscan sites? Look no further.
Rhodes - I came, I saw, I loved it.
Orvieto - My favourite Italian town. Has everything including fabulous church, walls, great piazza and an underground town to boot.

Palacio Royale: My definite favourite in Madrid. Absolutely superb.
Hampton Court (London): Has this amazing feel of walking back into history about it.
Caccamo (Sicily): Has a genuine "Boy's own adventure" feel about it. A real Norman castle.
Palazzo Pitti: Looked like a palace and had the most amazing Renaissance art inside.
Alhambra: Bits of everything, a different experience.
Topkapi Palace (Istanbul): This dimly lit edifice has mind boggling treasures within.
El Escorial (just out of Madrid): Where all the kings and queens are buried. Stunning library, rivetting mausoleum.
Crathes Castle (near Aberdeen): Had a wonderful homely feel about it
Chatsworth House: I now know why it's rated number one in Britain.
Waddesdon Manor: Best architecture I've seen.

Painters: I noticed some other people's listings and thought I'd like to add my own.
Gerrit Dou: That's all right, I'd never heard of him either until I went to a Rembrandt exhibition and thought his works the best there.
Luis Melendez: Trundling through the Prado, seeking Velasquez and finding heaps to satisfy, I came across this still life (not a form I usually go for) and was stunned by the quality. I later learned he is rated the greatest Spanish still life painter. I've also seen a couple of his works in the National Gallery in London and they were a standout there.
Dali: For sheer variety, this guy is hard to beat. His gallery in Figueres is simply amazing.
Caravaggio: Love the way he portrayed light.
Art Generally: I've never seen anything close to the stunning colours at the galleries in Broken Hill.

The Great Britain Story

For just over five weeks we toured through England and Scotland (sorry Wales, next time) and saw lots of fabulous things, some of which I managed to record with my cameras (with just over 3,000 snaps you'd hope to get a couple!) and returned to Oz wanting more but still satisfied I'd seen more than most people I spoke to before I left.
There were so many highlights but I'll list a few here:
Best Home/Garden - Chatsworth House
Best English countryside - Lakes District
Best House - Waddesdon Manor
Best Garden - Stourhead
Best Ruin - Fountains Abbey
Best Small village - Worth Matravers
Best Find - East Grinstead
Best Lookout - Suide Chuimein viewpoint
Best Autumn Leaves - Trossachs

A new chapter

Two of the things that occurred after the turn of the century were life changing. One was that I sold my house that I had owned for 20 years as an investment property. This gave me the money to buy the motorhome I had always dreamt about.
I once had a picture here that showed me in yet another comic episode during my first trip as I ran out of petrol on one of Brisbane's two major bridges (The Gateway). It's not something I normally do, it's just that the Iveco doesn't throw up any warnings beforehand and I thought I had an eighth of a tank left. Silly me. That error cost me $120 to get towed off.
At the time I was on my way to visit my brother who had just been diagnosed with cancer. He was upbeat when I finally arrived, talking about how they were going to treat him and get rid of it.
Just three weeks later I returned to find out that, far from a recovery, the cancer is terminal. To say I was shattered is to put it mildly.
On one hand I'm desperate to go out and enjoy my new found life and, not unnaturally, on the other hand I can't get Wal out of my mind.
That's the way life goes, it's how you deal with it that makes you what you are.

Wal passed away a couple of months after I wrote this, I hope he found peace, we shall miss him.

  • Intro Updated Feb 8, 2015
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Ian Smith
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