Sunday, 22 September 2013

Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers

Australia's country towns are truly wonderful places, and I have a great affection for them.  I often feel a sense of not quite stepping back in time, but perhaps just finding that a good old fashioned way of life is still alive and kicking; the kind you imagine from children's books with endless summers and lashings and lashings of ginger beer. Such a delight we found in Toowoomba, QLD, earlier today at the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers.  Although delayed by the never-ending road works between Brisbane and Toowoomba (since the devastating floods in 2011), we arrived just before lunch to sample some gourmet delights at the food and wine part of the festival.  As Toowoomba is surrounded by rich agricultural lands on all sides and is not far from Queensland's only wine region of note (the Granite belt), we were not disappointed.
After eating some delicious salads from 'Claude's', washed down with some local craft beer by Ian Watson of The Spotted Cow, followed by probably the best doughnut in the world, a cinnamon sugar Byron Bay Organic Doughnut (we actually had to share it, it was that huge!), we were ready to burn off a few calories by looking at flowers.  

We started by looking at the flower arrangements: spectacular seven-foot high masterpieces and a room-size 'installation', truly works of art... 

Then it was time to explore the gardens, so we headed over to the Botanic garden where there was an astounding display of blooms planted specially for the Carnival.  We spent a while just marvelling and taking photos (pretty much what everyone was doing) - for us it equalled Canberra's Floriade, and I fell in love with the dancing Poppies.   

As if that wasn't enough, we then went to watch the main event of the day, the Grand Central Floral Parade through the city (though we actually just watched it at the end point - Godsall Street Oval).  It was nice to watch the floats arrive at the oval and we ducked under the barriers to take a closer look once the floats were parked up.  What a tremendous community spirit.  

The festival has only just begun and is on until the 29th September, although the Flower, Food and Wine arena and fairground is only there this weekend.  There are so many other things to see besides in several parks across the town, so I'm sure it will be more than worth it - visit Toowoomba!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

A lunchtime serenade from a Currawong

Last weekend we went to the Blue Mountains west of Sydney in NSW for a short break - one of our favourite places in Australia.  The spring weather was glorious, and the nights were still just cool enough to justify lighting the little wood burning stove in the cottage we stayed at near Blackheath and curling up with a glass of wine, bliss.

The spectacular 'world heritage' view at Govett's Leap (note Bridal Falls on the right), also my first attempt at a panoramic stitch with my camera!  Please click the picture and it will enlarge.

We decided to spend Saturday walking the trails around Govett's Leap, a spectacular look-out where we could see for miles across the Grose Valley wilderness and world heritage national park, with a 180 metre drop below us to the base of the sheer cliffs.  We did the cliff-top walk over to the Pulpit rock, which had the most wonderful views, as you can see above.  There was just the sound of the breeze in the trees and birdsong, and the occasional drips from the rare hanging swamps and waterfalls, with the wafts of perfume from the spring flowers filling up our senses!  We stopped for lunch, and a very friendly Pied Currawong Strepera graculina came and sat with us, first quietly watching then breaking into some beautiful calls - I captured the calls on video below, and the spectacular peaceful scene looking down the Grose Valley behind.

The friendly Currawong