Thursday, November 2, 2017

Everything old is new again

Our new boat
We started our retirement journey taking out our cruiser for a week of total relaxation and to be out and about on the beautiful waterways of Moreton Bay, it was a perfect way to start our new life.   

Over time we found that the cost of running our beautiful boat was a bit prohibitive in long journeys so about 4 years ago we sold the boat as we went through our "what do we want to do next stage", this included selling our beautiful waterfront home as well and deciding to move to Vision where we had access to boats as a part of the community, it helped to put a lot of bucks back into the bank and we felt that was a great win win situation, we had access to boats, still lived on the water but we didn't have to maintain them, and often not even pay for petrol.  Then of course we joined VMR so here we where out and about on the water 2 days a week so we seemed to be out on the water enjoying our beautiful Broadwater both in a learning/volunteering capacity and in a leisurely environment several days a week.  

The first year was fine, all worked well for us, as there where few in the community who wanted to take the boats out, so we could wake up and go this is a lovely day and get a boat and go, that changed over time as we got more residents in and the boats where booked out more in advance - which is fine in concept but who really knows what the weather is going to be like a week in advance, so we stopped using them.  

Our old boat
So just about exactly 4 years to the day that we sold our big boat, we bought a new boat - yes much smaller and perfect for the 2 of us and Teddy.  Now we have Teddy back full time, we needed something we could do regularly that included him and at the same time give us something we love to do as well.  We had anticipated a bit more travel next year - off road holidays and a NZ driving trip, but now that D1 has moved into a unit, we have Teddy full time and to be honest just don't know what to do with him if we want to go away - the problem with pets.  This however made us stop and think about what would accommodate us all.  We do love the waterways, we love going out on beautiful days stopping on deserted beaches going for walks, having a swim and of course Derek loves his metal detecting.

We started at first looking at jetski's and then small fishing type tinnies (even though we don't fish), but then we saw a perfect little half cabin - the interior was a bit worse for wear, but the hull was perfect for us and it was the right price for us.  We had a full interior refit and now we have a lovely near new boat for day to day enjoyment.  It means while generally it will be a day boat, we can do overnighters (probably in the cooler months) if we want to.

Dereks finds this week - paid for the petrol
We are keeping it in a trailer storage facility at Horizon Shores Marina - their slogan is boating made easy, and it sure does.  Ring up in the morning within half an hour to an hour your boat is in the water on the marina ready for use, come back tie up and they wash and flush the motor and put it away ... so civilised.  They also have a great work area with power, water etc so we can do maintenance, big cleans etc.  Derek of course is now fully accredited to keep boats and engines maintained himself as a part of his Skipper licensing so that saves a lot of money.  He also enjoyed doing all his own splicing of the ropes - saved heaps of money to be honest but also gave him a good sense of achievement.

There is nothing like being out on the water to make you feel alive, those negative ions certainly do invigorate you, sun on the body, fresh sea air and beach walks - love it.  Must admit though we have been coming back a little sore and sorry for ourselves, using muscles that haven't been used in a while even Teddy comes back exhausted and sleeps for about 24 hours after his big beach runs, rolls in the sand, swimming etc, but this is what we wanted something to occupy us mentally and physically while we also got out and enjoyed life.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Isuzu - I-Venture Club: Giving you the confidence to Go Your Own Way

Isuzu certainly deliver on their brand promise of "Go Your Own Way" via their I-Venture Club. Yesterday we joined one of their adventures over to Moreton Island to learn how the Isuzu performs and how to use the vehicle properly via theory and practice, which certainly has now given us the confidence to go out on beaches and go our own way.

I think we all know people who buy 4x4's or AWD's and they never go off road even though the vehicle has the capability, it is often our own confidence which stops us from utilising the vehicle to its fullest potential.  I must admit I have always been a little apprehensive in exploring too far from the main roads and while Derek had in his early life done a lot of 4x4 adventures with his Dad and Brothers in the outback and of course I trust him no end, it has been a long time, and of course we don't have a clapped out old manual Land Rover that he was use to but a new Isuzu MU-X auto so there is a bit of learning to do.

Going on a Friday, most of the people where in the 50's/60's and all wanting to be a part of a group, learn in a controlled environment so they could get the best value for money from their new purchase, there was probably $1M worth of vehicles in a convoy yesterday and made for a wonderful experience.

I liked the fact that we all had the same vehicle type - yes there where D-Max's, MU-X, LU-X types with all different sorts of accessories but, essentially everyone was on the same page, there was no "my vehicle is better" type thing.  It also made the theory part of the day easier as everyone is looking at the same dash board, the same controls etc.

So how did the day unfold?  I will say after many years of going on tours etc this one was certainly very well organised and the day ran on time, had a great flow of learning, doing and demo's and it seemed to just fly past.

As usual we where there an hour early and I was surprised that the crew from Isuzu where already there, handing out goodie bags (full of good stuff like hats, stubbie coolers etc), ensuring everyone had deflated their tyres (as well as equipment to do this), and installing 2 way radios into each vehicle so that right on time the convoy could drive on to MICAT.  How many times have we all gotten to an event and the organisers are unorganised, running late and using every excuse in the book for that - but not the Isuzu Crew well done guys, you all did an amazing job throughout the entire day in keeping everyone on time and entertained.

After boarding the ferry, we didn't even need to worry about getting coffees etc as our orders where taken and then delivered directly to us along with a lovely plate of hot croissants as we settled in for the journey over to Moreton. 

Enter David Wilson, our Chief Instructor for the day!  WOW full of energy, full of knowledge and able to deliver this in an entertaining manner, but for me this was an important part of the day - not knowing anything about cars in general and more especially 4WDs he explained all the bits and pieces our Isuzu have and explained in an understandable manner their importance, what to do in on-road and off-road situations, how to set the vehicle  into 4WD, tyre pressures etc.  A small part of his presentation with yours truly assisting Entertaining Presentation . I know I now know far more about our vehicle and more importantly it helped solidify our purchase decision. David also has his own website as well as Adventure 4WD

Before we knew it we where heading off MICAT and on to the beach in an impressive Isuzu Convoy in 4WD mode.  It was an absolutely glorious day as well which made the entire trip just that much better, it is hard to believe that this is winter in Queensland, and of course every time I go over to Moreton I think why do we all go off overseas when this is right on our doorstep. You can read my previous blog on Moreton

We stopped several times throughout the day for demo's, talks, food &drinks - all very delicious and just perfect for the type of day we where doing, like nice cold watermelon on the beach it was superbly catered for and while having lunch we where entertained by whales frolicking just off from the beach - does life really get better than that.

The Isuzu crew really provided a fabulous day for us, entertainment, commentary, food, training, photographer and support vehicles and people and I thank them for their hard work to make this day so enjoyable.  Obviously Isuzu do subsidise the day because it only cost us $300 which included everything from breakfast to cheese platters on the journey home and we know at this time of year MICAT cost $200 per car with 2 people just to get over there and back so it's great to know that Isuzu are investing back into those who support them and ensuring the brand lives up to its name.  I know 2 of our other crew members at Marine Rescue have bought an Isuzu since we purchased ours and through I-Venture Club I am sure others on the trip will be recommending Isuzu to their friends, and of course what a statement it made on the beach 15 Isuzus lined up - no doubt had the Prado and Land Cruiser owners on the beach yesterday rethinking their purchase.  What a great way to promote your product, keep  your customer satisfied and providing a very positive message to the 4WD community.

The day finished with cheese platters a few wines and beers and we even got a Certificate, just lovely touches.

There will be copies of the official photos over time so this blog will be updated with these when they arrive.

Thank You I-Venture Club - a fabulous day and more importantly authentic - not enough can be said about Authenticity in a brand and I am looking forward to doing more with you.

Highlight Photos of the Day

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Last Piece of the Puzzle

Since we put our house on the market late last year, it feels like we have been putting together a jigsaw puzzle.  So many things to do like packing, storing, going to the dump, finding a new house and then unpacking etc then of course there are so many dates to remember, every week since 1st Feb I have had a long list of things to achieve each week, dates to remember and today sees the end of that as we put the final piece of our puzzle together.

We had a lot of things to do once we moved in, including decorating 4 extra rooms so that meant going out and finding the right furniture, as with all furniture these days, waiting for them to be delivered and then needing to put everything together, adding those funny little things that where missing like a clothes up, buying tools etc that we had given away when we moved into Vision - lawn mowers, wheel barrows etc all of these things take time to see, decide on what is the best value for us. Buying a new car, getting solar on the house finishing off the interior decorating with blinds etc and then of course the task of landscaping, something we had not expected to do ourselves, but given we really couldn't get anyone to give us a quote and if they did it was ludicrous, we ended up biting that bullet and just getting in and doing it ourselves.  It saved us over $10K so we are happy with that result.

While I will be please not to need to go to Bunnings in the next few weeks, I will say they have certainly made our job much easier with the wide range of products they have - we really don't have the strength these days to be lugging heavy items and the new composite sleepers made for easy retaining and they where easily handled by us both.  While digging up grass, digging holes, moving stones, filling up garden beds with copious amounts of soil, dragging large pot plants and putting them in was dirty work and we used muscles that hadn't been utilized for many years, it was yesterday removing the concrete slab where the air conditioning unit was (as we had this moved so the noise levels where reduced on our patio area) that was the worst, grinders, jack hammers and then picking up each piece of that concrete and putting it in the car was exhausting and the concrete dust atrocious, but it's over now. 

Today though we put the last touch on the landscaping by laying the turf, YAY!  We have been blessed with the beautiful weather but I will say I am sick of being dirty and digging holes but now we have the little oasis we where wanting, a nice space, with nice gardens and plenty of entertaining room, so exactly 3 months to the day since we moved in the long list of things that needed to be done have been completed.

Its been a fun journey though even though it has taken up all of this year so far, and I am now really looking forward to just being.  Anything else we want now is vanity not essential, so they are nice things to look for and buy when just out and about.  It will also be nice not to see the money pouring out of the bank account at such a great rate of knots, as doing all of these things is not cheap.

One of the main reasons we wanted to move excluding just needing more space, was to reduce our cost of living on a day to day basis which with the Solar being turned on this week completes that side of the list of needs, the new car also has provided a great saving as well, we where filling up every week, but now its every 3 weeks and the fuel cost per tank is about the same and of course the biggest expense we where able to rid ourselves of was the $200 a week fees for Vision, and yes the facilities where great but we just where not getting our value out of that spend.

It will be nice next week not to think about what needs to be achieved this week, and possibly just getting out for a few days, possibly even going away, although with D1's wedding now just 10 weeks away I feel this quickly fill any idle moments, after all I am the MOTB and as yet have not even found a dress to wear and my nails are in desperate need of major attention after all the digging, barrowing, planting, etc.  This of course was another reason for needing the landscaping finished so we can get some beautiful shots at home prior to the main events.

Everything except a major clean after all the dirt and dust is gone 1 week in advance - I had said right at the beginning I want to be fully settled by 1st August and tick that has also been accomplished so we are feeling very happy!  Although a bit like finishing a jigsaw I am a bit sad as this little adventure has been fun, it let us know we still could do these things and while it's great to have the last piece in place it has been a great project to complete but that journey is now finished.

Our Impressive bunch of tools for landscaping

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Grass Between My Toes and The Joys of a Bath

OOOH the joy, bath goodies for Mothers Day
Will we ever stay in a home forever?  It is a question we ask ourselves often, however we have for over 20 years seen our home as our Superannuation.  I was never convinced that making additional contributions to Super would provide us with the flexibility we may want and of course it is all regulated by Government rules and laws, which unfortunately continue to change.  It's my money and I should be able to do with it what I want, when I want and when I retire.  So we chose instead to build houses, and move on taking the capital gains with us over the years.

We have been retired now for nearly 5 years and our ability to continue to enjoy our retirement has been all about the money we where able to pocket selling our homes in this time, because I still cannot touch my Super.

You may have read my blogs about moving a few years ago, about moving out and then moving in - so I won't bore you with the messy details of this move, moving is moving but in case you didn't read my last blogs see:

Lets just say while we enjoyed our time in the Over 50's environment it wasn't for us now, I did miss the grass between my toes and the space to still have the entire family over as well as friends.  Also we were lucky enough to be able to sell at Vision buy a newer and larger home on a standard residential block and put a good sum of money back into the bank account, which was another primary reason for the move.

We left Vision with more friends than when we arrived and that was nice - you can never have too many friends, and we thank those people (you know who you are), we had some lovely times in those 2 years with you all.  However the important things we discovered about ourselves in those 2 years really helped us understand what we where looking for, and without those years there we may not have felt as contented as we do just after a few weeks. Some of my more favorite photos with mates from Vision.

We knew 3 years ago we had to move, our beautiful waterfront home was just too large for 2 of us, too costly to maintain and had too much of our hard earned capital in it, but we didn't know what we really wanted, and moving to Vision gave us a safe environment in which to go through that

process, we would never have ended up where we are today without that.  

After selling our beautiful waterfront property and then travelling around Australia for 6 months while we awaited our home at Vision to be built, we where still in that phase of retirement where you are not 100% sure of what you want to achieve.  After a lifetime of setting goals and working towards milestones - you know getting married, having kids, watching them grow etc for a while you just want to chill, not really have to think of too much except enjoy life, which is OK but .... at some point you need or at least we needed to have something more in our lives, something we where committed to and something that gave us a sense of achievement as well as camaraderie.  

Derek has pushed himself and is now Senior Crew - 2 Stripes and a Gold Anchor

We originally thought that moving to Vision might help us in that process and it did and as I said above, we made some lovely friends whom I am sure we will continue to be friends with.  Moving to Vision however made us look closely at what we wanted and we discovered our wonderful past time of Volunteer Marine Rescue where we are constantly learning and being challenged to go above and beyond what we may have thought of as our limits, it provides us with a regular activity which helps to define the week/month etc and of course we found a great crew and some more wonderful friends who we get to have the pleasure of every week.

So in the 2 odd years we learnt a lot about ourselves and we learnt what it was we wanted to do and where we wanted to be. At first finding the right house seemed the impossible dream, but eventually we found it.  I knew I wanted to feel that grass between my toes again - have a bigger yard as well as a bigger home. While over the years we have had up to 3 baths in our home of which most where rarely used, I didn't know how much I had missed having a bath from time to time so I have been enjoying the luxury of a bath again.  Of course it is just lovely to be able to have everyone stay over in their own separated area and to be cooking up a storm because I have the space to cook, the space to store my stuff and access them easily and a pantry for all those wonderful cooking items.  It is those funny little things that we missed. 

It is nice to be in a safe environment with like people, but I now enjoy hearing the little girl at the back of us saying "I Love You Mummy", kids voices, the sound of lawn mowers going on a Saturday morning, families enjoying life - these are things I had not realized I missed, they where not things I had on my list of things I wanted in a new home, but in the last 4 weeks found I had missed.  We love our new home and all it gives to us.

Of course extra dollars in the bank account also help because they seem to depart so quickly when there is nothing else coming in, but that is the additional bonus over and above feeling the grass between my toes and the joys of a bath.  Fingers crossed we get at least 5 years in before we get an itchy bum again lol.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Cooking up Christmas

Many years ago, we would all start thinking about our Christmas baking very early - around November, then our Supermarkets decided to start providing us with all the trimmings - not just Christmas cakes and puds, but everything - Rum Balls, Coconut Ice, White Christmas, Rocky Road etc.  So like everyone with too little time to spend days baking and making I joined in the easy Christmas.  That was about 9 years ago now, and of course what happens is we simply forget to plan, we simply forget  how to make our favorite things as the years go by.

At first I was proud of Coles because they didn't have all these things out in October and I thought YAY they have finally worked out to wait until it is actually Christmas time - so image my surprise this year when in the first week of December I asked "when are your Christmas Yummies coming out" not just cakes, puds and fruit mince pies (after all not too many of today's generation eat these things), and they said - not getting any this year.  BOO Coles, (but to be honest I also tried Woolies and Aldi and they didn't have these things either) not really good enough after all these things would walk off the shelves quickly and if you didn't get in early often there was nothing left even the week prior to Christmas.

Samples of Julies Yummy Corner

However in hindsight, I have had a lovely Christmas making things I haven't made forever.  Yes at first it seemed daunting, but I quickly got on line, found all those recipes I haven't needed forever, plus a few more - and low and behold Christmas was served.  To my amazement it didn't take days it just took some thought.  It was actually fun - if not a bit sticky, but I really enjoyed my day of Christmas Yummy Making, so maybe I should thank Coles for being baa-humbugs and putting me out of my comfort zone, for making me create shopping lists and troll through recipes and then have to find all the ingredients - yes that part was mildly annoying, but the end result was fun and it made me think of all those Christmas's with the kids making, baking and faking (for those things that didn't quite work out - we would rename them into something that seemed credible) in anticipation of a Julie's Yummy Christmas Corner.

If you want good recipes that take you back in time - google Nanna's eg Rum Balls - using the word Nanna in front seems to bring up the good old fashioned recipes - however I tried to do a bit of combining of the old and the new.  How?  Well back in the days Weet-Bix where primarily used - of course today its more upmarket biscuits or cakes - so I chose to use Weet-Bix.  Weet-Bix where used primarily because they where in easy supply as well as back then no one had blenders etc - it was crush by fingers or rolling pin - usually however there were lumps - now days well blenders do the hard work - but Weet-Bix are healthier, cheaper and still easier to use in my books, although the use of a blender helps to make the mixture more in keeping with the textures of today.  Also I found most of the older fashioned recipes used milk powder/coco and copha (something I have not had in the fridge for years), but the new ones tend to use melted chocolate so I decided to use a bit of both to give a smoother more luxurious taste (by using melted choc), but making the mixture go further and easier to handle by using copha and powders.

I must say I enjoyed the journey back and the fun of creating Christmas rather than buying Christmas in a packet.  I love my Christmas and love to get my Yummy Corner out early Christmas Eve (see my photos of my various Yummy Corners of the years) when everyone arrives.  We make guts out of ourselves as we hoe into all those incredible sweet Christmas treats, and I think we will enjoy them even just a little more this year given we haven't had any all month - yes Christmas Eve will be the first time we will have any of these out.  Well ..... except for my pudding nights.

Whats a pudding night you ask - well a few years ago after Christmas we had a lot of puddings left over (generally while I buy puddings for our Christmas Eve dinner we are generally too stuffed to eat them) and then the same goes on Christmas Day - so we 

invited some friends around to help us eat the remaining Christmas puddings (primarily this was to stop Derek from eating them all), it was most enjoyable.  I was looking for a way  to have some pre-Christmas fun with friends this year and so we decided to have some pudding nights, as they generally are a bit easier to prepare, they are a bit different and it's a nice way to share Christmas with everyone.  It helps to get you into the spirit, it's a night time event so generally a bit cooler and there isn't lots of prep and mess so a good way to entertain.  Take my advice if you are looking for something different to do next year try the pudding night.  I started off with Egg Nog (spiced with espresso and Tia Maria - very nice), we crank the air to about 20 and then put on the video of the log fire just add to the atmosphere, then some nice bits and pieces and then to the table to enjoy warm puds with all the trimmings.  Very yum, very special.

If you haven't started on your Christmas treat shopping don't be surprised if your favorite supermarket doesn't have much, but prepare to make a few things and enjoy the making of Christmas once again.

Merry Christmas Everyone!


Friday, September 23, 2016

The Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers .... flowers yes but a lot more

In keeping with our short breaks to areas having an event theme we headed off to The Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers this week and let me say it was fabulous, well done Toowoomba what a great place to be for a few days of pure beauty, color, food, wine,music,art and generally appreciating a thriving country town center that hasn't lost its country feel.

It has to be a must do town at this time of year - so put it in your calendars - but pre-plan as well, as there are a lot of great events and things to do outside of viewing all the lovely gardens (some free and some for a fee).  They have a great website - so you can pick and choose bus trips, food trips, music events, beer festivals (commonly call brewoomba), street festivals etc - don't wait until you hit town the website is easy to use and shows you a good calendar of events, prices etc.  The tourist center is packed and not sure if you would get the best out of the offerings.  Also by pre-planning and booking you can ensure you don't miss something that you might have wanted to see, do or hear as this event is over 2 whole weeks.  Also by pre-booking we where able to choose our accommodation close to where buses would pick up from so we didn't need to take the car and park. 

We found enough here to do and keep us busy for a 3 night stay.  Usually Toowoomba would just be a day trip for us and over the years yes we have been up for the festival, but generally came and went the same day, probably spent little money but these days they have  full festival events and calendar to just about please everyone.  After all Brisbane and Gold Coast dwellers are only a short 1 to 1 1/2 hour trip away, but again get online and book some accommodation for a few days and also book for some of the great tours available.

We stayed at The Bourke & Wills - it's a bit tired to be honest and really they could have taken the time I feel to have planted a few punnets of flowers 6 weeks ago to pretty it up for the carnival, but the service was good even offering a free drink at the bistro which was attached to it, offered room service and served up a lovely brekky in their conservatory room which was nice and it was right in the middle of the town center making it easy to walk to a lot of places and while they didn't take the time to plant a few pretty plants in what could only be called the worst garden in Toowoomba at this time of year the street it self had flowers a plenty. For us it was pure luxury given we did choose the spa suite which offered great space, comfy bed and a room service each day (remember we have been caravaning, camping, and cabining for the last 2 years so this seemed like a major luxury).

I had booked into 2 events prior to even booking our accommodation being "Talking Pubs Tour" and "Progessive Food & Wine Tour" through the website about 6 weeks prior to leaving.  As I said earlier there where heaps of great offerings especially if you are a music buff, but these where the ones I really wanted to try.  Both where really great nights out, but I must say I did prefer the Talking Pubs Tour most.  Booking was easy and everything ran smoothly throughout the night all organised by Evenbright so well done!

It was raining when we arrived - too much to go out looking at flowers so we headed for the bistro in the B&W - cashed in our free drink and had a nice warm soup for me and chicken & vegie pie for Derek - it was nice in the cold misty weather and preceded to go and have a snooze - so we would be full of beans for the Pub Tour.  

The bus was picking us up at the railway station at 5:30 (a few blocks away) and with the weather cleared we headed off for a lovely walk around the city, looking through the shops on the way, all of which where lovely and it is just so nice to see independent shops - no one wants to go and walk through a mall full of the same old same old - however I think this may well soon disappear now they are building their new large, undercover shopping mall, sad really because we have been to towns like Rocky where the building of these types of shopping areas creates a main street devoid of personality, shops and unique shopping experiences, but for now it is still thriving and looking great.

We finally arrived at the Railway Station which has been so beautifully restored after the 2011 floods and waited for our bus.  I must say it would have been nice for Eventbright to have had some sort of signage to say bus tour meets here or something - there was no one around in the station at the time and we were the first there so hoped we were in the right place.

The Talking Pubs Tour was much more than we had anticipated as we all got out at Fitzy's a beautifully restored pub, which is very upmarket while keeping the charm and character of the building.  We were taken on a tour and told all the stories of the building that is in the 100 year old bracket, this was the really nice thing about this tour - the stories, the interaction with the staff as they gave  you the history of the building, of the business, of the people.  If you are in Toowoomba would highly recommend a meal, or even just a drink in this historical pub.  If you are into craft beer this would also be a must visit place, we had a lovely platter of Mini Angus Beef Mignons, Pork & Veg Spring Rolls (which were absolutely delish probably the nicest I have ever had) and Crumbed Prawns - along of course with your choice of beer, wine or bubbles - very nice start.  So good food, drink, ghost stories the night was off to a great start.

Next stop was the equally impressive Mort Estate - another historical building, with a great story and beautifully restored and as I watch the platters of food coming out to the other guests my mouth was salivating - impressive presentation.  Again we had a great presentation about the history of the pub, area, people whilst being served cheese, breads, prawn aranchini balls and bruschetta and yes you guessed it our choice of drink.  I probably enjoyed Mort more than Fitzy's but both where great and maybe Mort felt better because we had all loosened up a little and had started to enjoy the company of our bus friends.

Now onto the Spotted Cow - another boutique brewery but a bit more of a standard pub arrangement, the owner again gave us a great run down of the pub and its past as we ordered our main meal.  This was more pubgrub, but yum nevertheless and as you can see we were all feeling happy and having a great time.

Last stop was desert of course and let me tell you, if you like a Sticky Date Pudding, then you will not be disappointed with the offering at the Irish Club, which once was a hospital - again the stories of its past and choice of drink, we were served up what could only be described as the biggest bowl of SDP I have ever had and it really was to die for.  The 4 hour pub crawl went all too fast, but we left full, happy and had a terrific time - Hammond our bus driver was terrific and gave us a good understanding of Toowoomba, its history etc while we drove from one place to the next - Thank You Hammond you did a great job. This tour had it all, great personalities who where passionate about their establishments, their foods, their grogs and the buildings they where in, the 4 hours just flew by, it was so much fun - Thank you Toowoomba and thank you Eventbright for a fabulous night and thank you to our hosts.

Next day the rain had cleared, but the winds had set in, so it was freezing, of course the one time I decided not to pack everything we own, let me tell you it was cold so don't forget to pack your winter woollies, but it didn't stop us from going and seeing the gardens.  Now we didn't go to any of the gardens where you had to pay to get in, and we didn't do a bus tour. Toowoomba isn't the largest city in the world, it's not hard to find your way around and parking is pretty good.  I won't bore you with all the details, but between Picnic Point, Spring Bluff (not only a lovely country drive away, but a beautiful destination - some choose to take the train), Queens Park and Laurel Banks you really don't need to spend a cent on touring beautiful gardens.  The rain and wind had taken their toll a little, but generally the stood up really well.  This along with more street walks, galleries etc and general sight seeing took up 2 days.  All of the gardens where beautiful, colorful, had some great themes and had everyone happy, smiling and of course taking photos (flowers seem to be a great equaliser people from every race and religion had the same smile on their face - maybe flowers should be introduced into the UN), because there was always just another more beautiful bed of flowers awaiting.  Click here to see my entire album of beauty be warned over 300 photos!

We finished off our great 3 day adventure with the Progressive Food and Wine Tour - there where a lot more on this tour than the Pub Tour, but that was probably because it was a Friday night.  We started off at The Cobb & Co Museum - this was probably the best part of the night - seeing the museum under lantern light - yes we walked through all the exhibits with our little lanterns and where told the stories of bush rangers, ghosts and life in the 1800's.  It was such a unique experience - I suppose we have been to so many of these types of museums over the last few years travelling around Australia, that it wasn't really a place I would have gone to, but this unique way of seeing it was lovely.  The curator was again passionate about the place and told the stories with such gusto, that you just couldn't help get involved and feel the history.  We walked through the museum and finally we where treated to drinks and canapes and of course a few more stories.  Lovely!  I suppose my only criticism if I had one, is it probably would have been nice to have been able to sit down to listen to the stories and eat rather than stand, but the food was lovely and generally it was the highlight of the night.

I suppose we had become accustomed to from the 5 places we had been to on the 2 tours so far of not only food and wine, but learning about the establishments we were visiting, hearing about their passion to restore the buildings etc and for food - this was a great part of these tours so we where a little disappointed when we got to Gip's Restaurant our next stop for dinner that this didn't form part of the event and while the food here was probably the best of all the food on the 2 tours, and the ambiance here was fantastic, it all felt a little cold - sit, drink, slap a plate of food in front of you and we felt a little disappointed - it also meant the time spent here didn't go as fast and we where left to our own devices to converse with the others rather than be entertained - as I said the food was superb, but there was no personality here unfortunately even though since writing this blog I have found out it is set in a 1800's mansion and hearing about what they want to achieve from their food style etc would have been fantastic, and also made the time we had there go a little faster. 

In saying that it was still a better experience than our desert stop, which was at The Rex Theatre, where we were originally picked up from, I was really looking forward to perhaps a tour of the Theatre, or being told about its history, who had acted here etc but this was even colder than Gip's, at least it had great food and great ambiance (and I suppose that in itself should be enough), at the Rex, we were lead up to what looked like a standard conference room with 3 large round tables - nothing in the room to represent you where in a historic theatre, and plates being shoveled at you - also while the menu had said desert wine will be served it would have been nice to have had a choice, but the wait staff came and went and that was the end of it.  My other issue with this stop was - if you are in Toowoomba on a cold night who wants a fresh fruit mile feuille over a pecan and maple syrup pudding - at our table no one so there wasn't a choice (Gip's was the same and yet at The Spotted Cow the night before we got a choice of which main we wanted but at least at Gip's both where beautiful and appropriate to the weather etc), so that also was a bit disappointing.  While none of the 7 establishments we visited put on the worlds best wines let me tell you cheap desert wine is hard to shallow and in fact at our table everyone took 1 sip and sort of went grrrr, there were a lot left half full.  Our bus picked us up 1/4 of an hour late to start with, and the tour was meant to finish at 9pm, we arrived at The Rex about 8pm and we were back at our room by 8:30, whereas the Pub Tour was 41/2 hours in total so half an hour longer but the night just seemed to roll along better.  The food generally on this tour wasn't any better, the wine definitely wasn't better and the night didn't roll quite as well, but still a lovely night.

Overall Toowoomba was a fantastic getaway and the tours a great experience - talking to others who had done other tours it seems like they where all good and where providing everyone with a lot of different experiences. The town walks are nice - street art, trendy shops, nice cafes etc. The free city gardens where blooming beautiful and Toowoomba itself seems to have recovered well since the 2011 floods which is great.  With hop on hop off buses as well you don't have to drive or walk to see the beauty. So don't forget to put September into your diary for next year and take a trip to The Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers you won't regret it. For those who do not want to scroll through my 300 odd photos in the link above, here is a small example of the beautiful color you will see if you go to Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers