Gadget by The Blog Doctor.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Christmas Letter 2008

Hi all,
This has been the first year of our full retirement, and we have been very busy.

As reported in last year's Christmas Letter we have moved into a Retirement Village. You can find the reasons for this move here. In February we moved into our house (see post here.)

There are plenty of activities in the Village - Margaret with the Craft Group and choir;

Stephen in the Gym and assisting in the setting up of the Computer Centre; and both of us participating in the Tai Chi classes, and the regular "Happy Hours". Soon the pool will be operational as well as the bowling rink. The photo below shows the front entrance of the village Community Centre.

We have also made lots of new friends. And then there are the day trips. You might have noticed buses filled with older people driving around the city. It is great to go to interesting venues and not have to worry about how to get there and negotiating city traffic. It is even better to have lunch and not worry about drinks as we will be driven home. We have gone on about four such trips this year from the Village, the latest involving a tour of Flemington Race Course.

Our most exciting activities this year have been the travelling. All up we have been away, travelling, for 10 weeks. We hope to continue this in the forseable future.

Our first holiday this year was in February to one of our timeshare resorts at Philip Island. We took Margaret's mum, Joyce to give her a holiday. We stayed there for a week. I have reported on it at this post . The highlight was a boat cruise to Seal Rocks. Neither of us had seen the coast around Inverloch before and were blown away by its beauty. A return visit to Inverloch for a longer stay is one of the many items on our travel list.

Our main trip this year was in June when we travelled from Paris to Istanbul. The map below shows the route we took. Click on the map for a larger view.

The slide show below shows some of the photos we took.

Click on the photo below to the pics on our internet photos site.
Hayley and Margaret on the Tower

We both love Paris, and there were many highlights of our trip, but the best was meeting Philip (Margaret's son) Beverley, and the kids. For us getting to Paris involved a trip to the other side of the world, for them it was just a short hop over the Channel. We spent a great day with them, visiting the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Champs Elysee and Arc de Triumph.

Paris, with its low rise, clean, white buildings, fascinating back streets, majestic boulevards, monuments and great historic buildings, is a magic place. I am something of a history buff, so it was fantastic to stand in the centre of the huge public square, Place de la Concorde, and remember that in 1793 it was called Place de la Revolution, and was the location where many people met their deaths at the Guillotine. My favourite part of Paris, though, was Monmatre with the magnificent Sacre Coeur basillica. I was surprised how clearly Sacre Coeur stood out on its hill from the Eiffel Tower, as you can see in the photo below,

but up close it is breathtaking.

For posts on our stay in Paris see, here, here and here .

Three weeks of our tour were spent on a boat cruising five rivers. For those interested in geography, we sailed east along the Moselle, south on the Rhine, east on the Main, south on the Main-Danube canal and generally south east on the Danube. The ship left from Trier in western Germany (which we reached after a five hour bus trip from Paris, here.

The ship (pictured below) was very luxurious, with a magnificent, five star restaurant. Cruising the rivers is easily the most relaxing way to travel Europe.

Often we would go to bed and wake up at our next destination. Guides were organised to walk us around most of the towns and sometimes we travelled away from the river, generally by bus but on one occasion by fast train.

We visited 10 counties: France, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. Our choice of favourite city was a surprise: Istanbul. In the end I decided that it was Eastern enough to be interesting but Western enough to feel familiar and safe. The photo below shows Margaret browsing in the Grand Bazaar.

We came home for a rest in July and August then we were off to New Zealand. Our main motivation for visiting New Zealand this year was to visit Probus Rendezvous - the annual gathering of Probians - which was held this year in Christchurch. To make it more interesting we took a tour before Rendezvous. We travelled both Islands for 18 days. I was particularly taken by Rotorua, which I had expected to be a tourist trap, instead I found it fascinating - particularly the Maori Culture and geothermal activity. The photo shows members of our tour party sitting on hot steps in steam from a geyser.

The south island is renowned for its spectacular scenery. I had never been to Milford Sound, so I particularly enjoyed the ride into Milford through rugged, snow capped mountains

as well as the cruise on the Sound, with the summit of Mitre Peak shrouded in cloud.

Bus travel is tiring, so by the time we arrived at Queenstown - the extreme sports capital of the world - we were so tired that we spent the free day rambling around town in the morning and snoozing through the afternoon.

Probus Rendezvous, in Christchurch, was a great success, with a few interesting meetings, then touring, dining and the theatre. We met an number of friends there, including:
* Bob Russel who we first met at Rendezvous 2007 - Bob was also on the tour with us,
* Elaine and Ken who accompanied us down the rivers in Europe,
* Val and Mick who are members at our Probus Club.

Christchurch is a special town, large enough to have all the amenities you would require, but small enough so that it does not feel crowded. In the centre is the Cathedral in a large square, pictured below:

To view our New Zealand photos click on the photo below:

New Zealand 08

After another six week rest at home, in November, we set off for my Niece Fiona's wedding in Port Stephens. Unlike most other people who attended we could make it an extended holiday. We booked a weeks accommodation at Pacific Palms, 20 kms south of Forster on the NSW central coast. We took our time getting there, spending two nights in each of Canberra, Bathurst and Newcastle. Photos of the trip can be found by clicking on the table below.

NSW 08

Fiona's wedding was held on a surf beach and was very pleasant.

My brother Phillip walking Fiona, "down the aisle".

Fiona and Warren after the wedding.

Warren, Fiona and her grand parents (my mum and dad)

To see photos of the wedding click on the photo below:


We returned to the never ending round of Christmas Parties.

The photo below shows part of one of the parties - the one at our village.

It is a tough life being retired!

Happy Christmas,

from Stephen and Margaret

PS This post has been very selves absorbed, and there has been a lot happening in the world beyond Margaret and me. For my take on some of the larger issues see my blog (where this post is from). It can be found here . At the moment this post is the first there, but scroll beyond it to see other stuff. If you read any of my posts leave a comment so I will know that you have been there. Earlier posts can be found by clicking the Older Posts link once you have scrolled to the end of the screen.



Revbill said...

Hi Steve and Marg,

It was a delight to read your Christmas letter. This media opens up new possibilities.

It was great to see photo's of Fiona's and Warren's wedding. The choice of venue must have added significantly to the occasion.

As regards your other travels, your letter brought back pleasant memories of reading your travel emails earlier in the year,

With reference to Inverlock, Joan and I would certainly encourage you to visit again. We have a photo somewhere of Joan, your Aunty Betty, Stephen Charles, Elizabeth and Julianne and our Cocker Spaniel "Red" all playing on the sands of Inverlock in the 60's. This was one of many visits when we were living at Korumburra.

Wishing you both a very joyful and inspiring Christmas. God Bless.

Revbill said...

Hi Steve and Marg.

I"ve just shown Joan the comment I sent, and she said that the above photo I comment upon was in actual fact taken at Marlo just south of Orbost at the mouth of the Snowy River,

The photo we have taken at Inverlock is actually more significant to the both of you.

The photo we have of Inverloch above the beach is of Sue,Ross,Ruth,(Joan's sister)) yourself Steve,your Mum, Philip and your Dad. all standing in front of the blue panel van we had and your dad;s car, with the hills north of Inverlock in the background. It must have been taken about 1963/64.


Anonymous said...

I have loved hearing about all of your adventures throughout the year...you forget how many you ahve had, and how many are coming next year. Love the photo's. I am going to rip some off for power point if you don't mind!
All my love...Catherine Jane