This is the first place I sat and people-watched in Sydney.  
It's the El Alamein fountain just up the street from my hotel in King's Cross. 
 It looks lovely at night - and the cafe on the right makes a very good cup of coffee
for tired travellers

This journey is starting to pass much quicker than I thought.  It's already Day 15 - I'm a third of the way through my adventure and there's so much I haven't told you...

As usual, I'm afraid, a sprinkling of photographs will have to serve as an update of my Grandest Tour Of All.
 Next morning I looked around King's Cross.  It has a reputation for being seedy, sleazy and disreputable - a reputation which, from my observations, it entirely deserves.
These lovely colonial houses are the other side of the story, though.  I loved King's Cross for its liveliness and honesty - it's what modern travel writers call 'cosmopolitan and bohemian'.
 These exotic-looking birds are Australian White Ibises - and they're as common as pigeons in Sydney.  The size of large gulls, they fuss around anyone who's eating or drinking on a park bench.
Strangely, not much is known about their lifestyle; the Botanic Garden Trust is carrying out research as I type.
 Speaking of the Botanic Garden...
My first view of Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House was from the air - the plane from Perth flew in over the city.  But that doesn't really count.  This was where I first caught sight of one of the world's most photographed structures.  It's inside the Royal Botanic Garden and the profusion of palms reminds you of how sub-tropical Sydney's climate is.
 15 different types of grass...
 A lunchtime office-worker doing some tai-chi in the Garden.  
I joined him for 10 minutes or so but felt far too self-conscious to stay...
 When you first see the Opera House in all its glory, you have no choice but to stand and stare.  That's how heart-stopping it is.  And then you stare some more.
The little jetty below the Opera House is Man O'War Quay...
 ...which is where I met the amazing Mark.
Every lunchtime, he runs across the Botanic Garden to the Quay, strips down to his trunks and jumps into Sydney Harbour for 10 minutes or so.  And then he runs back through the Garden to his office.
Everyone under about 35 seems to be involved in some sort of strenuous exercise for most of the time in Sydney - a truly pleasurable thing to observe, specially as short shorts are still worn by Sydney's menfolk...
 It's impossible to be anywhere near the Opera House without needing to look at it again and again, from every angle...
 If you look very, very carefully at this picture, you may be able to see - on the upper arch of the bridge, about centre-photo - what look like tiny bits of fluff sticking up.  They are people; and they're doing the Bridge Climb - 'the climb of your life'.  It takes a whole morning to climb all the way to the top and back again.  My nephew's done it and says it's awesome and I've decided to take his word for it.
 The Opera House roof shimmers and sparkles and glitters in the afternoon sunshine.
 This is where I rounded off my first day in Sydney - at the Circular Quay Oyster Bar.  I had a barramundiburger...

Oh dear.  I'll have to go now.  My flight to New Zealand has just been called....

Watch this space...


It's the evening of the 13th day of my Great Adventure - and already I'm suffering from serious sensory overload.  Too many things seen and done.  Too many places visited and people met.  Too much to tell and not nearly enough time to give it all the justice it deserves.

Before I left Perth on Tuesday, I asked Janice to write down as much as possible about everything we'd done during our three wonderful days together....

Breakfast cooked by Kate.  (It was lovely, too - and included the nicest poached eggs I've ever tasted.)

Caversham Wildlife Centre (in Whiteman Park).  (That's where I met the kangaroos, as well as some snazzy 'agile wallabies', my beloved quokkas, two or three wombats and echidnas, innumerable exotically coloured parrots, parakeets, kookaburras and an emu or two.)

Swan Valley Wine Region - Lancaster Winery.  (The wine was lovely but I was surprised how expensive wine is in Australia - specially as it's locally made.)

Margaret River Chocolate Factory - over the road from the winery.  (This was lethal - the chocolate was scrummy and they gave you as much as you wanted to eat for free as long as you cheated and just queued up again.  They made the nicest sugar-free chocolate I've ever had.)

The Tap for pizzas and tapas ( - this was housed in a converted farm that used dozens of redundant wheelbarrows as flowerbeds - ) and then a change of clothes (in the toilets) for....

The ballet!

(A splendid Saturday night out in downtown Perth to see Onegin, danced by the Western Australian Ballet Company.  It was lovely - performed in His Majesty's Theatre - just about the oldest in Perth.  Sumptuous - and sooo nice of Janice to cater to my predilections.)

The drive home afterwards was via Northbridge  (the offbeat partying quarter of the city centre.  It was very lively indeed - and I even noticed a berainbowed gay pub called The Court, although - inexplicably - we didn't call in).

Needless to say, I was once again led astray by my hosts; we stayed up late, courtesy of good company and excellent wine.  Janice says we were up till 0300 but I have no recollection even of going to bed....

Brian drove us to the ferry jetties in the city.  They're located by a monumental belltower but what catches your eye is the name of the pub nearby - The Lucky Shag.  Janice told me the innocent derivation of the name but I didn't believe a word of it.

We boarded the ferry to Fremantle here - the James Stirling.  (Note:  From now on, I'll be referring to the town as Freo, as the locals do.)

It was a wildly windy and squally day - which made the trip down the Swan River to Freo even more dramatic.  I say 'river'.  It's much more like a very large inlet of the sea.  It's enormous...

The bloke swabbing the decks of the James Stirling was from Bristol....

Freo is the port of Perth.  Unlike Perth, though, it's late Victorian and Edwardian town centre is almost perfectly preserved.  It's really lovely - and compact enough to walk around.  So that's what we did.

We passed the celebrations of National Talk Like A Pirate Day on the esplanade - complete with a saucy troop of Morris dancers called the Mad Tatters - to the main street, part of which is nicknamed the Cappuccino Strip.  That's the sort of upmarket place Freo has become.

Blue and white balloons and bunting were everywhere.  The Dockers - the local Aussie Rules Football team - had reached the national final for the first time in 17 years.  The whole town was talking about little else and Let's Go Freo was adorning shop windows, Tshirts, and the exteriors of large buildings - even back in Perth. The final is this upcoming weekend.

Let's Go Freo....

I liked Freo a lot.  I liked the 60s, flower-power feel of its indoor market.  I liked Cheryl, who served up my first taste of 'silverside' - boiled Australian corned beef - with sweet mustard pickle.  I liked silverside, too.  I even liked the vegemite sandwich she suddenly appeared with.  Thanks, Cheryl.

(Note:  When you get back, start up a new business in Grainger Market selling Bubble Tea.  It's very, very good...)

So it was back to Perth.  To Phoebes the dog and Cat the cat.  To pasta and salad - and talk talk talk - and wine.  Always lovely local West Australian wine...

But time is running out now.  It's getting late here in Sydney.  Once again, so much that I have to tell will have to wait.  The overnight cyclone, the Monday morning seafront breakfast, the train trip to Perth, the wonderful and surprising art gallery, the garden of the mystic number 7, wandering at dusk in King's Park - up a-height and looking down over this astonishing and vigorous city from the memorial at the hill's edge - with its eternal flame - as the lights came on below us.

Full days.  Happy days.  And they ended with champagne and strawberries - and a live video chat with my brother and his wife back home in England.  How very lucky we are to live in an age when such things are possible.

We were all together on that final night.  The way it should be.  I had travelled across the world to see my cousin and her family and had soaked up every single second of their company.

Now I really know what 'unforgettable' means.

* * *
Here's my problem...

I've already been in Sydney for two days.  I haven't told you about my flight from Perth or my hotel here.  I haven't told you about where I've been or what I've done.  I have loads of photos to show you.

But when?  I'm just so busy doing my journey that I'm finding it difficult to find the time to write it all down!

* * *
Distance travelled so far...
12,364m / 19,898km

Watch this space... 

 Leaving Singapore wasn't easy.  The dense, intoxicating bustle of Chinatown - senses, noise, aromas of a hundred varieties of food, the babble of dozens of languages from all over the world....I don't think I've ever been inside such a melting pot of cultures and traditions.
The first four pictures here are of the Thian Hock Keng Temple at the foot of Chinatown - I visited it on my last morning in Singapore and was mesmerised by it.  How can something so flamboyant and florid exude such auras of calm and tranquillity?  And how can it subsist like this surrounded - as it is - by the high-rise wealth of one of the most powerful economies in Asia?

 These lanterns adorned the Temple of the Buddha Tooth Relic - their gentle waving in the wind 
was almost the last thing I saw in Chinatown before I trundled myself and my suitcase off to the airport...
 ...where this World War II propeller has been mounted as a rotating sculpture.  I drank my last Singaporean cuppa looking at it (sweating profusely in the equatorial humidity) - 
and then it was time for flight number three - to Perth
 My Mam had a brother - my Uncle Deryck - and his daughter - my cousin Janice - emigrated to Perth almost ten years ago with her husband Brian and their children Kate (on the left) and Jon.
As you can imagine, the reunion at Perth airport was emotional, highly-charged - and utterly wonderful.
Janice and her family are now Australian citizens and, I'm glad to say, have acquired the splendid national enthusiasm for good wine - which they produce themselves in vast vineyards and drink happily into the night with their long-lost cousins.  My first night there was the same as my second, third and fourth - remarkable for the fact that I can't remember much of what happened after about 0200.
(Except for the Grade 2 Cyclone that swept in off the Indian Ocean on Sunday night.)
The lass on the left, above, is Kate, who painted the left-hand picture.  
And painting is only one of her many talents.  She'll go far, that girl.
 The street where they live.  Extravagant spaciousness like this is far from uncommon.
As we drove from the airport, a kangaroo appeared from between the houses in a street just like this.  Needless to say, I squealed with childish excitement
 The Australian reputation for open friendliness is well-deserved; I chatted happily to these two in the local post office ( - the bloke is an emigre from Preston).
 And this is Brian with Cheryl at the local wildlife centre.  She was an absolute jewel.
 One of the kangaroos in the wildlife park.  As you can see, she has a joey in her pouch.  I'm not kidding - I was absolutely THRILLED to see this - and to walk about freely amongst the kangaroos.  Utterly and completely captivating - unforgettable...words fail me (for once).
 These two splendid animals cuddled up together are quokkas.  They're a highly endangered species almost entirely limited to Rottnest Island, just off the coast near Perth.
And they're LOVELY.  
 Once again, words fail me.  This was one of those rare experiences that are almost designed to stay in your mind and in your heart for the rest of your life.  This is what my journey is all about.
Box ticked.

Me and Janice.
Isn't she GORGEOUS?

Distance travelled so far...10,317 m / 16,604 km

Watch this space...


I've been trying to think of a name for my great adventure, along the lines of Robinson's Grand Tour and Robinson's German Journey - the names of my first two long-distance trips.  Robinson Round The World sounds too portentous; Brace Yourself, Sydney sounds too flippant for a trip involving 10 flights, 3 train journeys and 2 ferries.

And then it occurred to me...

There's a book called The Place Beyond The Pines.  It's recently been made into a film - which Virgin Atlantic chose to show on my flight from London to Hong Kong.  And outside my hotel when I got there, there was a poster advertising the selfsame film.  Someone, I decided, was trying to tell me something.

All the places I'm visiting will follow on from my viewing of that film, so I'm calling my 'journey of a lifetime' The Places Beyond The Place Beyond The Pines - TPBTPBTP.

I love it.

While you digest that priceless piece of trivia, take a look at this lot...

 This utterly exhausted family was sitting next to me on the flight from Hong Kong to Singapore; this is what happens when you bring a boisterous toddler on holiday, I suppose...
 The baggage hall at Singapore Airport.  
It made me realise that I was only about 80 miles north of the equator.  I was in the tropics!  
Most building interiors here are air-conditioned, 
so Singapore is where your glasses steam up when you step outside...
 My hotel - the Lai Chun Yuen - is a converted Chinese Opera House built in 1887.  The atrium used to be the auditorium; all the rooms run off this area on four galleried levels.  It's quite something...
 Scenes from Chinatown's street-life - completely captivating and irresistible, 
like the Chinatowns you imagine in books or see in films - only real and here and now.
 Erich - serving up a bratwurst on the right - has been in Singapore for 17 years.  
As his stand proudly says - his is 'the last sausage kiosk before the equator'.
 Men playing Singaporean draughts - there were many groups like this.  
The game is taken very seriously and the onlookers are highly, and very vocally, partisan.
A coconut man.  You pay two dollars (£1); he hacks off the top and gives you a straw and a fork.
 A Thai pomelo stall.  Don't ask because I don't know. 
 Two stalls selling lanterns, blow-up fish and birds and weird netted bags of treats (below).

The Temple of the Buddha's Tooth Relic - it's just behind my hotel
A full moon above the Temple on my first night in tropical Singapore
 It seems to be a legal requirement for high-rises to be 
adorned with hanging and rooftop gardens like this; they're everywhere - and very pretty
 The entrance tower of the Sri Mariamman Temple at the bottom of the street.  
As you can tell from the next photos, I was transfixed by the decorations there

 Singapore - ancient and modern
 There are mosques and churches in Singapore, too - and everyone seems to get along just fine.
In fact, harmonious co-existence is government policy.  
There are severe penalties for being unkind or disrespectful of other cultures.
As I was writing postcards this afternoon, this old man sat down opposite me, 
folded his legs up under himself and fell asleep...

And sleep is beckoning me, too.  Tomorrow afternoon I'll be flying off to Australia - to a rendezvous with my cousin...

Distance travelled so far:  7,882m / 12,685km

Watch this space...
 In Wan Chai - my favourite part of 'downtown' Hong Kong.  Streets teeming with workers and shoppers, buses and trams and taxis - and huge numbers of very expensive cars.  All those Mercs and BMWs and Bentleys mean that there must be a lot of very wealthy people here.
Street-traders like these are everywhere.  The one nearest to you is a locksmith; next door to him is the only street-trading estate agency I've ever seen.
 Across thr road...Ada (!), a favourite street-food outlet for locals
 Not forgetting good old Marks and Sparks, directly opposite Ada.  I was so surprised to see this 
that I went inside and bought a sandwich.
It genuinely amazes me that M&S finds it profitable to ship a big range of their food 6,000m 
to a solitary outpost like this.
(The sandwich was cheaper than it would have been at home.)
Hong Kong is relatively cheap, although I didn't think so when the taxi driver charged me 60 dollars to get me to the hotel.  It sounded like a lot - but the Hong Kong dollar is worth about 8p so the ride cost me less than a fiver... 
 Everywhere - the Lion of Hong Kong
 The old British colonial offices overshadowed by the brash - even shameless - modern Hong Kong.
 This 'International Fireworks Display Contest' looks like great fun but it's taking place on dates when I'm not here.  The list of participating countries includes Portugal, Spain and France - 
but not Great Britain.
 The Lippo Building.  It's meant to look as if there are koala bears climbing up the outside - the architect was Australian.  There are large numbers of Australians here - Hong Kong is one of their key markets.
 The other side of Hong Kong wealth.  Thousands of Filipinos and Malays live here, working as maids, cleaners, hotel domestics - the jobs that Hong Kong people won't do.  They gather here in Statue Square every day - specially on Sundays ( - their only day off).
 The only loitering allowed is, presumably, authorised loitering.
 The cenotaph behind the sign above.  I think it's an exact copy of the one in London.
 Pok Fu Lam - the ancient village over the road - is preparing for the Autumn Festival of Lights this coming weekend.  Everyone says it's great fun - specially the dragon dance - 
but I will have left by then.
 The use of cum to mean 'with' is unsettling - and potentially confusing, don't you think?
The animated video floor outside the hotel's 'guest lounge'.
The T Hotel is actually part of Training Centre for 'Hospitality' Trades - receptionists, assistants, cooks, wine waiters, hotel electricians, security staff, cleaners.  So I'm being VERY attentitively looked after...

Watch this space...