Le Chic En Rose

Diaries of an independent traveller

A quick detour from my Hong Kong posts this week as wanted to share some photos from our recent trip out to Araluen Botanic Park. I have blogged about this beautiful spot before (see here and here for previous posts) but never managed to visit during the autumn months.

IMG_0368(1)

The day was perfect – gorgeous sunshine, hardly a cloud in the sky and a wonderful backdrop for the greens, russets and gold tones of the foliage. We had our younger granddaughter with us who thoroughly enjoyed running around and exploring the pathways and being midweek we more or less had the place to ourselves.

 

The cafe, Chalet Healy, is open every day from 10am to 4.00pm (the kitchen closes at 3pm) and we stopped off for lunch and refreshments before continuing our walk.

We found a little island to explore and watched the waters of the stream meandering under the bridge. Although only half an hour or so from the metro area we always feel very away from it all up in the Perth hills and the fresh air does us all good – our little granddaughter was sound asleep almost as soon as we drove out of the car park!

IMG_0378(1)

IMG_0379(1)

 

For more wonderful and interesting walks round the world join Restless Jo for her regular Monday Walk!

 

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

The iconic Star Ferry has plied its way backwards and forwards across Victoria Harbour, connecting Hong Kong with the mainland and other islands, for over a hundred years. Whilst there are now road and rail connections using the under harbour tunnels, there is nothing like viewing the surrounds from the water.

The ferries are so charming and evoke a bygone age. They first began operating in 1888, initially known as the Kowloon Ferry Company, before adopting the present name, Star Ferry Company in 1898.

The main route shuttles from Central Pier on the Hong Kong side to Tsim Sha Tsui on the Kowloon side though there are other options too. We used our Hong Kong Travel card, the Octopus, to get around on all forms of transport including the ferries (similar concept to the London Oyster card). You can find all the information you need about the Octopus card here.

 

We loved the old fashioned feel of the boats from the old metal gangways used to board and disembark, down to the wooden bench seats, which you can swivel round in either direction depending on what view takes your fancy. We saw tourists, locals carrying their shopping bags and smartly dressed business people alike all using the shuttle service. I was amazed to read afterwards that the ferries take 70,000 passengers per day (over 26 million every year!).

 

It’s a lovely feel being on the water – even on warm humid days we enjoyed a pleasant breeze. You get a wonderful perspective of the buildings and distant glimpses of the hills overlooking Hong Kong. Naturally there are numerous photo opportunities so I’m only including a small selection! If we go back to Hong Kong, a night  cruise on the harbour would be top of the wish list as we ran out of time on our short trip in April.

 

IMG_7330

 

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

 

Having explored the attractions of the Peak Tower and viewing platform (see last week’s post here), we decided to escape the commercialism of the shops and boutiques and head off to explore the nature trails that criss-cross the Peak (at 552 metres above sea level, the highest point on Hong Kong Island).

Monsieur remembered doing the circular walk around the summit a few years back. At the start of the trails we found a helpful map and some information about the history. The elevated hillside above the city has long been popular with locals as a way to escape the humidity and often stifling air of the city streets along with the pungent smell of the markets, particularly in the hot summer months. Wealthy citizens began to build their residences up the hillside where they could enjoy the superb views (Governor Richard MacDonnell started this trend when he had his summer residence built there in 1868). In the days before air conditioning the breeze must have been especially  welcome!

 

It was interesting to see photos of the quaint cafes and early trams of a bygone era. However originally the only means of getting up and down, apart from walking, was by sedan chair! Fortunately for the porters the trams started running in the later 19th century and continue to this day. I was astonished to read that the Peak was reserved exclusively for ex pats until 1947 – an insight into the spirit of the times.

So we set off along Lugard Road (named after Sir Frederick Lugard, governor from 1907 to 1912) enjoying the relative peace and tranquillity away from the crowds of the Peak Tower. We were surprised how few people there were – a few tourists ambling along, a couple of joggers and a family out with their dog. Another couple passed us by with their white terrier beautifully shod in a small set of black leather shoes (I’m not kidding just wish we could have taken a photo!). We could catch glimpses of the city skyline through the dense vegetation but we felt far removed from a bustling metropolis.

 

The idea was to do the relatively short Peak Circle Walk  that hugs the hillside and takes you back via Harlech Road to the Peak Tower and tram terminus. We passed the Lugard Falls and came to a clearing where work was going on, apparently to develop a picnic and pavilion area.

 

Here we came to a signpost……

IMG_7223

 

Now clearly I should have realised that we ought to be heading back to the Peak Tram Station as obviously it is signposted in both directions so should have been a clue that this was in fact the circular trail. For some reason we had kept seeing signs for the Morning Trail as we walked along so, thinking this was our correct route, I overruled Monsieur and we headed down left instead of right (I should add it was a bit confusing as the main signpost here had no mention of the Morning Trail but there was a smaller one at the side of the pathway).  Suffice to say it became obvious that we had moved away from the previously flat trail and were heading steeply downwards. It was pounding on the knees to say the least! Anyway by this stage we didn’t particularly want to turn round and go uphill again so we carried on wondering where we were going to land up. Past a gentleman loudly doing some sort of martial art ritual, we came to a spectacular lookout point.

 

We asked a walker coming up the path where the trail led but he turned out to be a Swiss tourist visiting his daughter, had only just arrived and was none too sure of his bearings either! However we had an interesting chat about the relative merits of Switzerland and Western Australia and I was able to practice my German so that was an unexpected bonus. So we kept walking downhill! Near Hatton Road the path wended down past the original city boundary marker from 1903. Apparently there are a whole series of these small obelisks round Hong Kong Island (see here for more details)

 

Eventually we came to small rest area and met a jogger who turned out to be local out on his daily run. He explained the Morning Trail was a longer one that took you up from the residential area called the Mid Levels towards the Peak. We could see why he was so enthusiastic about the area – such a beautiful resource on his doorstep and a chance to get out into nature and escape the urbanisation and pollution that affects the air quality in the city.

A few hundred metres further on we were back in residential streets and were able to hop on one of the many minibuses for the last leg into the city. We’d been able to experience a different side to Hong Kong – the Morning Trail had turned out to be a serendipitous discovery!

 

IMG_7245

 

For more fascinating walks round the world join Restless Jo every week for her Monday Walks!

 

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

 

 

 

 

The Peak is one of the highlights of any trip to Hong Kong.  The highest point of Hong Kong Island, it has long been popular as a place of retreat when the residents need a break from the densely populated city. Being at a higher altitude it is also a bit cooler than down below in the city streets.  No doubt that was part of the attraction in the colonial era when residences were built up the hill – no surprise that the area round the Peak is one of the more exclusive residential addresses on the island.

There is a famous tram that takes you up to the top but the queues are huge – apparently you can wait over an hour on some days. We did check the tram station out but decided it was better to take one of the many buses or mini buses that ply the route instead. For some reason the bus route round the corner from the tram was not operational when we were there last month, so we retraced our steps back down to the city and caught bus number 15c from Central Pier 8. The number 15 bus from Exchange Square also works as well.

 

 

Initial impressions at the top were that it was rather touristy. The Peak Tower looks a bit like a space station and houses a huge mall over several levels, a Madame Tussauds, numerous cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops.

 

 

However the viewing platform, the Sky Terrace 428, affords superb views on a clear day across Victoria Harbour and over to the Chinese mainland. We were very lucky though on the day of our visit – often the landscape is obscured by haze and smog and you can’t see much at all!

 

 

There were the usual touristy gimmicks – people trying to sell us photo shoots for example. Whilst the area overlooking Victoria Harbour was crowded with people taking photos, the far side of the platform was relatively quiet by comparison. I don’t think people realised there were more great views from this point towards the sea and other islands – it was actually quite peaceful!

 

 

After a quick bite to eat we headed off to explore the nature trails round the Peak. Monsieur had done the circular trail round the summit before and we planned a reasonably quick walk on this pathway before heading back down to town on the bus. In fact we ended up doing the longer Morning Trail down the hillside (quite by accident).  More about that next week!

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

We arrived in Hong Kong around lunchtime on our first day but by the time we’d got the train from the airport to Hong Kong Central and negotiated the shuttle bus to our hotel, the Novotel Century in Wan Chai, it was late afternoon. Having been plied with food on our flight from London we weren’t particularly hungry. Rather than having a large dinner we simply took advantage of the hotel executive lounge facilities for aperitifs and a light snack before heading out to absorb some of the Hong Kong street atmosphere at night.

 

IMG_7137

 

Wan Chai is like much of central Hong Kong – busy, bustling, people everywhere, shops, markets and an incredible contrast between the old and new, east and west, rich and poor. Monsieur had visited before for work reasons, which was just as well as it did take a little while to get our bearings.

 

The street markets were starting to pack up for the day – we strolled through taking it all in. There was something of a pungent smell but the food choices were incredible – all manner of exotic fruits, fish stalls (may explain the smell!), meat dishes and quite a few ingredients that I hadn’t come across before. The beautiful oriental flower stalls especially caught my eye.

 

About 10 minutes down the road eastwards of Wan Chai you come to the Causeway Bay area, noted for its high end shopping facilities – luxury malls, department stores and boutiques. All in all a huge contrast to the shops we found in Wan Chai!

 

IMG_7165(1)

 

We weren’t there to shop as such but it was intriguing to peak inside the enormous Times Square Complex, probably the showpiece of Causeway Bay. A sky-high tower block, it houses many famous fashion brands – Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Jimmy Choo and the list goes on. I did a bit of window shopping and picked up a couple of things at Zara – just about in my price bracket! It was rather surreal having been wandering round the street markets a bit earlier and epitomises the many contrasts we found throughout our time in Hong Kong.

 

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

We got back from our travels just over a week ago and have been in post-holiday sorting out mode – correspondence, piles of washing, adjusting to the new time zone and climate etc. etc.!

We had a very enjoyable sojourn in Hong Kong to break up the journey – my first time there though Monsieur has been a couple of times on work trips. I found it a fascinating place of many contrasts, a real mix of east and west. It can be a bit overwhelming with the volume of people in such a small area but there are plenty of opportunities to find some peace and tranquillity.

Here are a few photos taken mainly in Hong Kong but also in Kowloon, across the harbour on the Chinese mainland.  More to follow along with some more posts about our UK travels. Our trip was certainly a contrast of seasons and culture!

In the meantime wishing everyone a very happy Easter and relaxing holiday.

IMG_7330

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Just back in London for the weekend before flying back to Perth via Hong Kong. Since my last post we have been visiting family in the West Country and Yorkshire and there hasn’t been much time for blogging. Have many photos though to translate into blog posts back home.

It’s snowing again and bitterly cold so a weekend for finding a nice warm pub and staying well rugged up! It’s been a long time since we’ve seen so much snow here in the U.K. especially in March. Funnily enough last night was quite mild and Mlle took us to an amazing Thai restaurant, Som Saa, in Commercial Street just south of the iconic Christ Church Spitalfields. I love the vibe of this fascinating area with a rich history of refugees, artisans and colourful characters each making their contribution to its unique charm. A bientot!

Finally arrived in London after a slightly fraught journey with delayed travel plans resulting from the unseasonal spring freeze, which has caused havoc across the U.K. Haven’t landed on a snow-covered runway at Heathrow before!

We have had a whirlwind weekend catching up with our younger daughter, Mlle, in London. Seeing the canal at Little Venice frozen over was an amazing sight and even the Regents Park lake was still frozen over when we walked round there yesterday.

The best thing to do – head off in search of warmth, food and drink! I have a lot of posts to write up in due course but here is a glimpse of a little discovery at Temple opposite the Royal Courts of Justice. The Temple Brew House is housed in a basement in Essex Street very close to St Clement Danes Church. Unpretentious and welcoming it was just what we needed on a bitterly cold “spring” day – huge homemade chicken and mustard pies, craft beer for Mlle and Monsieur and white wine for me went down a treat!

More about our London travels to follow – a bientot!

The weather turned somewhat inclement to say the least for our last couple of days in Switzerland – just as well we had been lucky enough to visit Lucerne before as we couldn’t see too much of it on this occasion!

 

IMG_5125(1)

 

Despite the almost constant heavy rain and gloomy fog, the town and lake were as beautiful as ever. We were determined to make the most of our couple of days and although heading to a museum might have been a better option, we took the ferry across the lake to Vitznau and headed up to the summit of the majestic Mount Rigi on the little railway.  The train staff were cheery despite the awful weather and kindly handed out chocolates to make up for the absence of views. A good hearty lunch at the Rigi Kulm cafe followed by hot chocolates in a lakefront cafe at Brunnen, whilst we waited for the return ferry to Lucerne, thawed us out!

 

 

To get an idea of what Lake Lucerne and Mount Rigi look like in brighter conditions see here and here for previous posts (though we have experienced all weathers on top of Mount Rigi before!).  I should also point out that the Post Hotel in Weggis has undergone a couple of changes of management since we last stayed there in 2014 – reviews have not always been favourable since then. Weggis does seem to be a fair bit busier than we remembered from previous visits though as I said in last week’s post (see here) we were there in May a bit later in the season than previous visits.

On last year’s trip, however, we stayed in Lucerne itself – an Airbnb apartment in the Altstadt, part of the Hotel Krone. A light and spacious airy loft apartment gave us good views over the cobbled square below and far more space to spread out in than a conventional hotel room. We took breakfast each morning (as part of the deal) in the hotel restaurant and we found booking via Airbnb a more affordable way to stay in Switzerland rather than booking direct with the hotel. The only downside (perhaps because of building regulations in old historic buildings) was the absence of lifts up to our apartment on the top floor. Great if you’re travelling light, not so good if you’re on the road from Australia for a month!

 

 

Our last day dawned brighter. We had enough time after breakfast to walk round the Altstadt, take in the Saturday morning markets along the River Reuss and meander across the old wooden bridges, the Kapellbruecke and the slightly less well known Spreuerbruecke, before collecting our luggage from the hotel and heading for Zurich Airport.

 

 

Au revoir Lucerne!

 

IMG_7180

 

Le Chic En Rose and Monsieur will be on the road for the next 3 weeks travelling to the Arctic Circle (aka as the UK) and returning to Australia via Hong Kong (a 3 night stopover).  I may do some quick posts whilst I’m away, though more regular posting will resume when I’m back Down Under again!

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

I’m finally getting round to finishing off the series of posts about last year’s Swiss trip (see here for posts about that trip and some archived ones from earlier travels).

I left off in Spiez, the delightful little town on the shores of Thunersee, where we based ourselves for 3 nights (see here, here and here). Our last couple of days in Switzerland were spent in Lucerne and we set off to catch the early morning train from Spiez station (Mlle was en route back to London, Monsieur and I were having a couple of nights in Lucerne before heading back Down Under).

 

IMG_4963(1)

 

The Golden Pass Line is the name given to the rail line that links Montreux via Interlaken to Lucerne. It is, in fact, three different trains, however, being Switzerland, the next one is waiting at the arrival station to connect you seamlessly onto the next part of your journey.

Going north east from Montreux you wend your way up through the mountains to the little town of Zweisimmen near Gstaad (see here), part two takes you onto Interlaken Ost and the final leg takes you over the Bruenig Hasliberg Pass to Lucerne itself skirting past the shores of the eponymous lake.

The train ride is all part of the regular Swiss rail schedule – no extra costs are incurred for riding in the panoramic tourist carriage or the old Pullman cars. You just have to check the timetable and plan your journey accordingly. It is one of our favourite train rides and we have taken quite a few over the years!

The weather for our last couple of days in Switzerland turned grey and wet, though we had been very lucky with gorgeous warm spring weather up until then. The photos I was able to take are therefore rather moody and misty but give you an idea of the scenery round Lake Brienz and the journey up across the pass. Taking photos from a moving train is also a little tricky so please excuse the quality of some of them!

 

 

The first glimpses of Lake Lucerne are always special even on a dreary wet day.

 

IMG_7166

 

Dropping down into the valley alongside the beautiful shores of Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstaettersee), the train glides along on its approach to Lucerne passing meadows, little farms and plenty of Swiss cows on the way.

 

 

Before seeing Mlle off on the fast train to Geneva Airport, we had time to enjoy a little stroll along the River Reuss to our favourite restaurant in Lucerne, Nix in Der Laterne. Occupying a charming medieval building near the old Spreuerbruecke, it serves wonderful local produce, superb wines and is still under the same ownership as our first visit in 2009. Inside is warm and cosy but if the weather permits a table by the fast flowing river on the cobbled streets is a real treat (we were in luck the rain stopped for enough time to enjoy lunch).

 

 

I’ll write more about Lucerne next week. It was as charming as we remembered but we were there a little later than on previous visits (in May) and there is no escaping the fact that it is a major stopping off point for large tourist groups. It did quieten down considerably at night and we wondered if many of the buses pass through and simply drop the groups off for a couple of hours or if they all prefer to eat in the hotels at night. However the lake remains as serene as ever and after seeing Mlle off we took a late afternoon cruise, soaking in the scenery and enjoying a pre dinner drink!

 

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

%d bloggers like this: