Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island is part of the Great Barrier Reef.  Just outside our unit is a marked underwater reef that one can follow, either with a snorkel or by renting a  flat board, to view the coral. The island is shaped like an equilateral triangle. Each side of the triangle is 11 kilometres in length. The edges are scalloped by numerous inlets or bays, with sandy beaches where you can swim during the "safe" season. Magnetic Island is a suburb of Townsville, which is only a 20 minute, 8 kilometre ferry ride away.  A very independent and environmentally aware population of 2,000, resides on the island.  The council has erected a large solar panel, which enables the island to supply 40% of their electricity needs, given that they are blessed with over 300 days of fine weather. It's part of the "dry tropics" with rain falling only in summer.  The guide who drove a group of us around the island has brought up his young family here and is passionate about it.

En Route to Croatia

We just flew over the mountains of Eastern Europe en route to Frankfurt from Dubai. Qantas have teamed up with the United Arab Emirates airline, so we did the first leg from Sydney to Dubai with Qantas, and the second one from Dubai to Frankfurt with Emirates. I really enjoyed stopping over at Dubai this time, as we were able to marvel at all the strange dress codes in the shopping arcade corridors, and then relax in the Emirates flight lounge until our flight was called. They’re much better than Qantas in terms of service at the moment. Looking down on the snow-tipped mountains just now. I think of student days travelling by deux chevaux from Paris to Ukraine during the Cold War, when Russian troops marched into Prague and stopped us from going there.  (See “My Travel Journal” posts on this blog).

Italy: Fast Cars

Driving on the autostrada is a relief after Rome. Watch on the right, my partner says repeatedly, having been traumatised when the mirror on our rented manual Fiat Punta was flattened against a truck in Rome’s crowded streets. I'm the driver, having learnt to conduire à la droite in France, as a student there. Mark will prepare lots of fresh dishes, based on heavenly tomatoes, plucked straight from the fields. When we get to the outskirts of Siena, we ask for directions to our destination.

Tonni: an Etruscan Village

A rusty sign on a hedge, after winding roads and an unsealed gravelly stretch, marks the hamlet. First settled during the Etruscan era. Dogs, cats, a few children and a smiling woman with false teeth greet us. Several small cars are parked on the narrow gravel street, mediaeval buildings, the lot set in field and forest—oak, laurel, elms, conifers, and the ever-present cypress pines.

aanne-entrance-giles-baths

We live at the northern end of the beach in Coogee. This was once the "poor cousin" side of Coogee Bay, with dilapidated buildings and a rusting dome on top of the Coogee Palace. It's now a favorite place to dip and swim for young and old alike. At high tide on these early summer mornings, the smell and taste of salty sea and brine is as invigorating as the fresh feel of the 21 degree waters on the skin. For a long while these baths were privately owned as part of a men's only baths. We downsized from a house to an apartment in 2011, after our children had grown up and left home. Moving into a smaller space without storage was difficult, but we'd found a flat in walking distance to the sands of Coogee Beach. My husband likes pointing out the little bit of our building that he can see through the trees, when he is in the ocean. He has decided that this will be where he has his ashes scattered—in the sea—after his passing. I find it hard to think forward to the next cup of tea. But I love this place too.   The Gateway to Giles Baths giles-baths-entrance The arch by which you once entered the original baths building has been retained by the council. On the wall inside this arced structure is a sombre list of the names of Coogee residents who were killed in the Bali Bombings of 2002. Eighty-eight Australians were killed, out of a total of 200, including twenty from Sydney's Eastern suburbs. Five of them belonged to an amateur rugby league team called "The Dolphins", who were celebrating the end of the footy season. The young women in the photo at Giles Baths (above) are reading the names of those killed in the Bali Bombings. Giles is now  unenclosed and open to all today. Surprisingly, there are "women only" baths on the southern side of Coogee Bay, next to the larger "Wylies" public baths.

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