I love London…


…and when I visit London I like to pretend I live there. In my imagination I don’t have to go to work; I have the freedom to wander day after day, taking in the sights and sounds of the city. If the weather isn’t great, I can stay in because there will always be another day, and my inner city apartment is modern and spacious with a glorious view of the river.


In reality, we never have enough time in London to do everything we want. We like to stay in Bloomsbury, an area we’ve come to know well. Each time we arrive in Cartwright Gardens, it feels as if we’re home.


The studio apartment we always book is the size of a matchbox and it’s on the third floor, so we get our daily exercise going down the staircase in the morning and up again that evening. Instead of the Thames, we can see the pretty garden between the buildings if we lean far enough out the window.


But the location is marvellous. It’s just around the corner off Euston Road, yet the traffic noise can hardly be heard. From Kings Cross tube station in one direction or Russell Square in the other we can go anywhere in the city. We buy our fresh fruit and vegetables from the friendly man at the little stall on Marchmont Street. There are several grocery stores nearby and even more pubs. Our favourite is Mabels Tavern on Mabledon Place, and in the evening we walk around the corner to join the after-work crowd for dinner and a drink.


I will probably never live in London, but when I visit I like to imagine I’m a local!

Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Local

On The River

Fondly known as the River City, Brisbane is defined by the broad stretches and tight bends of the Brisbane River. The 76 year old Story Bridge is one of 15 crossings connecting both sides of the city. Many watercraft use the river each day, including the paddle boat Kookaburra Queen: the view from her deck is perfect.


Weekly Photo Challenge ~ H2O

Going Up?

Close to home #8 Q1 Tower, Gold Coast

It’s always lovely to go on a long holiday to a far flung destination. There are times, however, when it’s not convenient or cost effective and a staycation closer to home is the way to go. The destinations in this series of posts are all within a couple of hours’ drive of our home. They’re easy to get to, there’s plenty to see and do and at the end of the holiday we’re home again in no time.

The Gold Coast consists of more than 70 kilometres of beautiful sandy beaches on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. From laid back Coolangatta in the south to the luxury of Sanctuary Cove in the north, there are plenty of places where you can sit and enjoy beautiful views of this iconic Australian surf-side city.


To see the wonders of the Gold Coast from a different perspective, you can also go up – to the SkyPoint Observation Deck at the top of Q1.



From the top of the Southern Hemisphere’s tallest building there is a 360° view of the Gold Coast and the mountain ranges of the hinterland.









On levels 76 and 77 of Q1, SkyPoint is 230 metres above the broad stretch of beach at Surfers Paradise and at that elevation, you can see up to a distance of 60 km. Even Mt Warning in northern New South Wales, the first part of mainland Australia to see the sun each morning, is visible on the horizon.



Whether you’re relaxing on the fine white sand or enjoying a coffee high above the beach at Skypoint, the views of the Gold Coast are always superb!

Beautiful Begonias

September: Flower Portrait

There’s no doubt about it – in summer, England does potted plants better than anywhere else I’ve been. Beautiful baskets hang on every building, overflowing with geraniums, fuschias and lobelia.


Colourful pots and boxes adorn every spare corner and line every street.


Of all the spectacular blooms I’ve seen, the vibrant begonias are my favourite.


The richness and ruffles of the supersize blooms surprise me each time, and I have to stop and take one more photo.



See more flower portraits at Jude’s Garden challenge

Go Nude With Food? Yes, You Can!

Close to home #8 Stanthorpe

It’s always lovely to go on a long holiday to a far flung destination. There are times, however, when it’s not convenient or cost effective and a staycation, closer to home, is the way to go. The destinations in this series of posts are all within a couple of hours’ drive of our home. They’re easy to get to, there’s plenty to see and do and at the end of the holiday we’re home again in no time.

The small town of Stanthorpe, at the centre of south-east Queensland’s Granite Belt, is a popular tourist destination all year round. More than 12 000 people visit the area during “Brass Monkey Season” over the winter months; cosy chalets and blazing log fires keep the below zero chill of frosty nights at bay. When it comes to summer escapes, Stanthorpe is equally attractive because of the mild temperatures – usually 5 to 7 degrees cooler than the coast with clear blue skies and no humidity. At any time of the year, Stanthorpe’s main attraction is wine; there are more than 50 wineries on the Granite Belt and cellar doors offer tastings all year round. But what do visitors to Stanthorpe do if they’re not into wineries, or they’ve already tasted the wines the region has to offer?

The alternative is to go nude! The Granite Belt Nude Food Trail is a self-drive route that will satisfy the most demanding foodie; nude food is regional and seasonal, with low food miles. There are seven themed routes on the trail, covering 23 local outlets ranging from breweries to butcheries. Whether you have a sweet tooth or a hankering for cheese and chutney, there’s something for everyone.

Sutton’s Juice Factory, Cidery and Distillery, 13 km north of Stanthorpe, is a good starting point for a day of nude food exploration. The factory is surrounded by apple orchards; from February to June the trees are loaded with fruit.


The apples are processed onsite and made into cider, brandy, juice and cider vinegar which can be sampled and purchased in the farm shop. At the Shed Café, the menu focuses on home-style cooking with a range of seasonal dishes including their signature dish, homemade apple pie with spiced apple cider ice cream. The waitress takes orders and gives advice at the same time. Her suggestion is to share a slice of pie and she’s right. It’s a generous serve, warm and cinnamon-scented.



At Granite Belt Dairy Farmhouse Cheese, just a few minutes away from Sutton’s, there are seven artisan cheeses to taste. The cheeses are made from the milk of the farm’s herd of Jersey cows and sold in the dairy shop billed as Queensland’s highest and coldest, with an elevation of 925 metres and winter minimums of -15°C. Even in mid-summer, day time temperatures can be mild. What’s not mild is the flavour of the cheeses, which varies according to the weather and the seasons. Cold weather gives the cows’ milk a more intense flavour while lush pasture after rain enhances the colour of the cheese.


Next door to the cheese shop is Jersey Girls Café, serving homemade meals with cheese as the main ingredient. The food miles here are negligible. Cheese maker Karen tells visitors: “If the food in the café isn’t grown on our farm, it comes from the next door neighbours.”


One of those neighbours is Castle Glen Distillery, home of Cedric Millar, Queensland’s only whiskey distiller. His whiskey, aged for a minimum of two years and made without additives, is just one of Castle Glen’s beverages. He also produces beer, wine and award winning liqueurs.


The showroom glows with a kaleidoscope of jewelled colours when the sun shines through stained glass windows onto the specially handcrafted bottles of liqueur. Cedric’s wife Carol-Anne encourages visitors to taste his products. When asked which drink is her favourite, she ponders before answering. “I do like a splash of soda water with some musk stick liqueur on a warm summer evening. It’s light and refreshing. In winter, I can’t go past the coffee and whiskey crème liqueur.”


If beer is the beverage of choice, Granite Belt Brewery, five minutes south of Stanthorpe, is a must on the itinerary. Guests can see one of six handcrafted beers being created in the microbrewery. The craft beers complement the fresh country menu of the Homestead Restaurant where the waitress recommends the Brewers Platter, a four course degustation meal. “Each course is matched with a different beer; even the dessert, chocolate truffle cake with a strawberry and basil salsa, comes with a glass of Pozieres Porter!”

The strawberries in the salsa are grown at Strawberry Fields, five km further south on the New England Highway. From October to May, when it’s pick-your-own season, plump red berries glisten between the leaves of hundreds of strawberry plants. Visitors can fill a basket as they wander, or for those who don’t want to go to the effort of harvesting, the café sells tubs of freshly picked berries and strawberry flavoured treats. Guests can relax on the terrace next to the strawberry field watching others do the work, while enjoying traditionally made strawberry ice cream, parfaits or pancakes.

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If there’s time, stay in Stanthorpe for a few days. There are many more places on the Nude Food Trail but it’s neither possible nor practical to try to see them all in one day. Take the opportunity to sample the offerings of a few outlets each day and buy some supplies for later. Then leave with a carload of gourmet treats and your clothes still on – the food is the only thing nude in Stanthorpe.


*This story originally appeared in Queensland Smart Farmer Magazine, February/March 2016.

Hidden Talent Revealed

Close to home #7 Painting at Cork & Chroma

That old saying “I can’t draw to save myself” definitely applies to me. My artistic flair is meagre and even my stick figures don’t look good. But after an evening spent at Cork & Chroma in South Brisbane, I might need to re-evaluate my opinion of my abilities.

Cork & Chroma is a paint and sip studio. BYO your favourite drinks, put on an apron and be prepared to reveal hidden talents, guided by one of the studio’s resident artists. You don’t need any prior knowledge to join in. The artist leads everyone step by step through the painting process, demonstrating each technique and offering individual advice when it’s needed.


On the Saturday night we visit there are several groups: a hen’s night, a girls’ night out, a few couples and our family gathering of three generations. Blank canvases, full of promise, are set up on our easels. We fill our palettes with acrylic paints, some colours required and others we add as we like. Our glasses are also filled and we’re ready to paint and sip.


Our instructor begins by showing us three techniques for using our paint brushes. We start, mixing colours to create the background of our paintings. At first we’re tentative, but as we begin to fill our canvases with layers of paint we relax and by the time it comes to adding highlights we’re much more free with our brushes.


My rustic scene takes shape. The window comes to life, there’s light and shade on my pot of gardenias and the bicycle leaning against the wall even looks like it’s ready to be ridden.

As our confidence increases so does our willingness to add our own touches to our paintings. There might be more than 30 paintings of the same scene, but not one is identical to another. In one painting a cat suns itself by the wall and a mouse scampers across the ground in another. In my painting, a window box full of pansies takes centre stage.


When our lesson is over, we all gather for a group photo, our paintings proudly displayed as we admire each other’s work. Renoir I’m not, but tonight I’ve created my own masterpiece.


*This story originally appeared in Queensland Smart Farmer Magazine, August/September 2016.

Cork & Chroma