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Naples Italy

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Naples Italy

  When to Go July and August are hot, with temperatures of 30C and above. If  that’s too steamy, plan for spring and autumn when the days are lovely and warm, and there are fewer tourists.
  Ask a local what they do in Naples and you would be forgiven for thinking all they do is party They’ll direct you with plenty of the gesticulating that is a local trait to the best restaurant, the best pizzeria, suggest a fun bar or lively club.  
  You’ll find them refuelling in street markets and seeking out places to escape all the people,  motorbikes and cars that vie for space on the city’s small streets and narrow pavements. The  botanic garden is a little oasis of calm in the centre of town head to Lungomare, a 1.5 mile  pedestrianised promenade along the seafront for great views and green spaces.

Bourbon Tunnel

  Helmets on because you’re going into vast underground tunnels dug in the mid 1850s that take you through a 17th century aqueduct, into a World War Two air raid shelter and past statues, cars and motorbikes dumped here after the war. Open Friday to Sunday, guided tours only.


  You cannot come to Naples and miss the Roman city destroyed when Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD79. There are frescoes and mosaics, the casts of people who died, the remains of villas, bath houses, shops and temples. Hire a guide to help make sense of it all. Many say Herculaneum, destroyed by the same eruption, is better preserved. Do both if time allows.


  No trip to Naples is complete without a walk along this street, often called the soul of the city,  which runs a mile through town past churches, grand palaces, pizzerias, pastry shops and narrow alleyways, and is packed with tourists and locals alike.

Cooking classes

  A must for foodies. Take your pick from  hands on lessons in how to make an authentic Neapolitan  pizza or a market tour to buy ingredients before cooking up some local specialities and eating them of course. Classes last three to four hours.


  The town sits on a cliff across the bay of Naples and is a must visit just for the views (although the free Limoncello tastings in the shops is another plus). There are trains and ferries from Naples.


  Once the home of Roman Emperor Tiberius, the island today attracts celebrities, artists, writers and ferryloads of tourists seeking out the Blue Grotto and the views from the top of Monte Solare. Crossing time from Naples  is 45 minutes by fast ferry.

Hotel Principe Napolit’amo

  A good three star hotel in a former 16th century palace a short walk from the historic city centre and the ferries to Capri or Sorrento.

Grand Hotel Vesuvio

  One of the best hotels in Naples, Vesuvio combines tradition, luxury, five star service and a grand location, in a pedestrianised part of the waterfront with views over the Bay of

Hotel San Francesco al Monte 

  The hotel is set in a 16th century convent and accessed via a funicular from the centre of town. The seventh floor has a pool, garden and views of Naples and Mount Vesuvius.

Food & Drink  

  Food is never far from a Neapolitan’s thoughts, and no wonder. Not only did they give the world the tomato based Neapolitan ragu that we all know and love but the city was also the birthplace of the pizza.
 Back in the day it was a cheap food for poor fishermen. The original marinara pizzas (after the Italian word for sailors, marinaio) were just a dough base, tomato sauce, olive oil, and garlic. Over the years, folk started adding cheese and the rest, as they say, is history. Typical Neapolitan pizzas  these days have anchovies and olives. Check out Pizzeria Port’Alba (Via Port’Alba 18), which claims to be is the oldest pizzeria in the world.
  Naples’ culinary favourites typically uses cheap ingredients to create good, affordable food. Pasta and Neapolitan sauce, of course, but also beans and black olives. Calamari, octopus and squid are also popular. Classic dishes include spaghetti alle vongole (clams) and  pasta fazool, the local version of pasta and  bean soup made with hot pepper and crushed pasta.
  Naples is also said to be the birthplace of espresso coffee. Lacryma Christi wine is produced from grapes grown on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius. Limoncello is made with lemons from Sorrento. Beware. It’s stronger than it tastes!

North east of Scotland has the Royal seal of approval

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North east of Scotland has the Royal seal of approval

  The British Royal family has been visiting Aberdeenshire for over 100 years as their summer  holiday destination of choice. Located within the Cairngorm National Park, the largest of its kind in  the UK, the beautiful Royal Deeside area of Aberdeenshire is where the Queen is said to be her happiest. It is little surprise that in a list of 20 of the most relaxing holiday destinations in the world by travel publication Rough Guides, the Cairngorm National Park ranks as one of the best.
  The Royal Deeside area is a place that  the Royal family hold dear to their  hearts, and in 2015 when storms damaged Ballater, a local village located just six miles from Balmoral Castle, Prince Charles wanted to support the local community and opened a new restaurant and luxury gift shop to help rejuvenate the community. The result is a restaurant, Rothesay Rooms, which in just a few years has been recognised as the North East of Scotland Restaurant of the Year and gained entry into the Michelin Guide.
  Ballater, a place where you’ll find more Royal Warrants per square mile than anywhere else in the world, is also home to Ballater Station, the former train station where the Royal family would disembark at en route to Balmoral. Last year the station underwent a multi million pound  refurbishment after a fire destroyed the building, and now hosts a visitor information centre, restaurant and tea room. The Carriage has been designed with replica hand crafted booth seats, and features a replica dining room, royal train carriage and Victorian toilet.
 The Highland Games have long provided a spectacle for visitors in Scotland, and now thanks to the Duke of  Rothesay Highland Games Pavilion, visitors can learn more about the spectacle of the  sport all year round. The £2.5 million heritage centre is set in the grounds of  the Princess Royal and Duke of Fife Memorial Park in Braemar and was partly funded by The Prince of Wales’  Charitable Foundation.
  The visitor centre opens its doors for the first time this year and includes a restaurant and an exhibition of medals, trophies and memorabilia from the Highland Games and Gatherings. A must  try while you’re there is the afternoon tea created by Daniel Pearse, who also designed the afternoon tea menu at London’s Savoy Hotel.
  The region offers visitors a wide variety of accommodation options, featuring over 7,000 quality hotel rooms with a further 1500 coming online in the next three years. To find out more, and for support in arranging a group visit to the region, contact VisitAberdeenshire. The complimentary  service can assist you in all aspects of planning, from introducing you to suppliers, to on the ground local  knowledge and full itinerary planning and development including quotes for accommodation.

Bountiful Bedfordshire

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Bountiful Bedfordshire

  Located in the East of England, Bedfordshire or Beds, is home to lush countryside as well as a host of historical and cultural attractions. Featuring the Dunstable Downs, Chilterns Hills, Greensand Ridge and Forest of  Marston Vale, there are an abundance of areas to explore.
  The town of Bedford dates back to Saxon times, but its links to 17th century author John Bunyan, have helped its firm position on the map. His most famous work, The Pilgrim’s Progress is considered the second most widely read book of all times, after the bible. To learn more about Bunyan and his ties with the town, the John Bunyan Museum is a great place to start and offers special packages for groups. 
  After this, take a walk along the delightful River Great Ouse, where Bedford River Festival takes place every other year in July and includes raft races, parades, fireworks and more. The next event will be 2020.

Did you know?  

  Bedfordshire is home to an unusual food delight called the Bedfordshire Clanger, a dumpling esque food which is savoury at one end and sweet at the other.
Michael Morpurgo, author of War Horse, was born in St Albans, Hertfordshire.
  Woburn Abbey & Gardens will close for a renovation project this September set to last around 18 months, but there’s still time for groups to plan for this year and be immersed in nearly 500 years of history, 28 acres of gardens and the extensive deer park. If you’re after a full day itinerary, why not tie a visit in with Woburn Safari Park, for close encounters with lions, giraffes and  elephants. If your group is into wildlife you may also be interested in visiting the UK’s biggest zoo, ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, located near Dunstable and home to thousands of creatures, great and small.
  Biggleswade, another Bedfordshire town, is home to the Shuttleworth Collection, a selection of vintage aircrafts including World War Two vehicles. If you’re in Biggleswade for the day and need a bite to eat, head to  Jordans Mill, a food heritage centre you’ll find next to the River Ivel, which  has been in the Jordan family for 150 years. While you’re there, take a guided tour of the Victorian Mill, explore the  vegetable gardens, and tuck into freshly prepared food.

Hearty Hertfordshire  

  Just a 20-minute train ride from London, Hertfordshire is perfect  for a day trip and a longer break for groups.
  Let’s start with the historic St Albans, which last year saw the  opening of a new St Albans Museum & Gallery in the Grade II listed Town Hall. With 2,000 years of heritage, you’re sure to learn a  thing or two. And the 11th century St Albans Cathedral is said to be the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in the whole of  England and boasts wonderful architecture, inside and out.
  Travelling over to Tring, and housing the collections of zoologist, Walter Rothschild, the Natural History Museum Tring invites all to discover animal artefacts from around the globe, view galleries and enjoy a calendar of events and exhibitions. If you’re more into fiction than fact, you may want to visit the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London The Making of Harry Potter in Watford. The eight film franchise based on the books by J.K. Rowling were and still are much loved amongst many. Enticing all generations, a visit can immerse  you in the wizarding world, from the Forbidden Forest, to hopping onboard the Hogwarts Express.
  Opening for the season in April, Hatfield House in the town of Hatfield is home to the 7th  Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury and has been in the Cecil family for around 400 years. Pre booked groups can enjoy guided tours which last roughly an hour and on Wednesdays the Private Garden is open for visitors to explore.
  Art loving groups will want Henry Moore Studios & Gardens in Much Hadham on their list. Open during the summer, tours are available for groups of ten or more including the chance to step foot inside the artist’s former family home. During your visit, expect to see Moore’s art works and sculptures displayed across the studios and gardens.

Brilliant Buckinghamshire  

Incorporating the Chiltern Hills as well as attractive towns such as Henley on Thames, Slough and larger towns like Milton Keynes and High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire has plenty to appeal to group travellers.
  Bletchley Park, just outside Milton Keynes, was home to the code breakers during World War Two. During a visit step back in time to experience the stories of the extraordinary achievements of the men and women who worked here. Plus, visit the exhibition D Day Interception, Intelligence, Invasion which opens 11th April 2019. Located on site is the National Museum of Computing where your group will discover more about the code breaking machines and developments in technology.
  Known for a ghostly tale, Hellfire Caves in High Wycombe takes you a quarter of a mile underground through twisting tunnels. Brave groups can experience paranormal investigations or for a leisurely visit, head to the Tea Rooms. Founded in the 1970s, Chiltern Open Air Museum, features 30 rescued historic buildings including an Iron Age roundhouse. Pre booked groups can enjoy special rates and demonstrations.  
  If you’re after a stately home visit, Stonor Park, close to Henley on Thames and home to the Stonor family for 850 years, offers rich history and art as well as horticulture and wildlife. Meanwhile Waddesdon Manor, near Aylesbury, built in the 1870s welcomes groups to explore the house and gardens as well as numerous events and packages. Groups can also visit the private Rothschild walled garden at Eythrope within the Waddesdon estate, which will intrigue, inform and inspire.

exhibition Alexandra Palace in London

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exhibition Alexandra Palace in London  

  The annual Excursions exhibition, organised by Tourism South East, took place at the end of January at Alexandra  Palace in London.
  Now in its 43rd year, Excursions 2019 brought together the group travel trade, including  attractions, hotels, resorts and destinations from across the UK and Europe, with GTOs and tour operators.  
  Highlights of the day included an opening performance from Only Fools The (cushty) Dining Experience, organised by Groups Direct, a new ‘Street Market’ themed  area, featuring 20 producers of local and regional artisan products, and the custom designed Hambledon Wine Bus offering the chance to taste some of England’s finest wines.  
  A number of visitors arriving by coach took advantage of a special invitation from coach tour operators and were given access to the VIP area and a wine tasting reception courtesy of Surrey’s Denbies Vineyard.
  Celebrating important anniversaries and milestones in 2019 was definitely a theme across many stands, including Tower Bridge which is marking its 125th year in June, and the  Royal Collection Trust which  shared information about its new tours with group travel organisers at the show.
  Visit Chichester, the organisation responsible for promoting tourism and supporting the visitor  economy in the region, launched its Visitor Guide at Excursions and were giving GTOs a range of  suggested itineraries for the area. Meanwhile, Backwaters Tours introduced its classic car tours, as well as telling visitors about its new electrichybrid day boat available for tours on France’s hidden canals.
  Hugo, the popular St Bernard, made a special appearance on Switzerland Travel Centre’s stand throughout the day with visitors enquiring about the variety of tours on offer. Adrian Millan from  STC said that walking holidays were proving to be particularly popular for 2019. He added: “We can make them really easy for groups and they can be offered at different times of the year, depending on  what they want.” 
  Other mascots and furry friends to make an appearance at Excursions included Henry VIII from Portsmouth’s Mary Rose Museum (pictured bottom left) and a White Faced Cops Owl from Leeds  Castle’s Falconry team. Sales and booking manager at the castle, Stef Harlow said: “Our gin, mead and owls have definitely brought a lot of people to our stand but we have a big year ahead (celebrating the  castle’s 900th anniversary) and everyone is very interested in hearing about it.”
  Exhibitors showcasing their group travel offers to visitors included Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, Travelsphere, Woburn Abbey, Hever Castle and the Belgian Tourism Office Wallonia. Helen Buckham, groups coordinator at Windsor’s Savill Gardens said “It is lovely to see and speak to people who have been, or are coming, to visit the Savill Gardens.”
  As the event’s official 2019 media partner, the team from Group Leisure & Travel magazine (GLT) were on hand to showcase the latest editions of the magazine, register readers and talk to visitors and exhibitors.
  Group travel organiser John Flynn of Role On, told the GLT  team “The magazine is a real pleasure to read, I have been getting it for a while now and it is always full of plenty of  really great ideas.”
Marian Durbidge, the 2017 Group Travel Organiser of the Year, added “It’s great to see the team from GLT Magazine Excursions has been a good chance for us to meet up with everyone. I’ve picked up some good ideas for day trips including a place I first visited eight years ago Leonardslee Gardens in Sussex. I bought some rhododendrons from there and they’re still going strong.”
  Fran Downton, senior marketing manager at Tourism South East, said: “As Excursions continues  to evolve, we were really pleased to welcome such a high quality of GTOs and coach and tour  operators to the show. With such a large variety of exhibitors to research and talk to face to face, we know that bookings were conducted on the day and will continue to do so throughout the coming year. Tourism South East is proud to continue to support the groups industry with such a successful show. We look forward to welcoming back both visitors and exhibitors in 2020.”

Outback fishing Australia

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Outback fishing Queensland 

  A tranquil spot in the queensland outback is one of the best places in the country to fish for cod.And getting there is half the fun.
“IT’S FISHING,” SAYS DAVE Downie, pushing back his weathered Akubra.“Sometimes you catch one, sometimes you don’t.” Dave should know. As a fishing journalist for more than 40 years, he’s fished all over Australia and is acutely aware that the sport is as much about serendipity as it is about skill. Which is just as well because as a complete novice, my early casting attempts are laughably inept. However, thanks to Dave’s patient tuition, I finally succeed in getting the fly to land in the river. Eventually, it almost goes in the direction I’m aiming.  
  We’re in ‘cod country’,an outback region of southern Queensland famous for Murray cod that can grow to a startling 45 kilograms. Dave tells us he recently pulled a 22 kilogram fish from this very  spot on the banks of the Dumaresq River. Dave assures us the river is “full of fish”, but it’s reluctant to share its spoils today. Part of the problem is that it’s nearing noon; as Dave explains,“fish tend to shut their mouths in the middle of the day.” Today’s adventure started with a limousine pick up from the Star Gold Coast at the rather un holiday like hour of 5.30am. The early start is necessary because it’s more than 300 kilometres from the coast to this outback fishing spot. 
  To make the journey by car would  take almost five hours, so the only way to get there and back in a day is by helicopter. Oh well, if you insist. Leaving from Gold Coast airport in a plush six seater Airbus H125, we head inland toward Springbrook National Park. Flying at under 200 metres, we skim over sprawling homesteads, eucalypt covered ridgelines and exposed rock escarpments. At this hour, the undulating valleys are filled with early morning fog, like vast forested cauldrons. 
  To our left, just over the border in New South Wales, is the distinctive silhouette of Mount Warning. An hour into the flight, the scenery suddenly changes. The trees get shorter and sparser and the landscape lightens from a deep green to a montage of parched yellows and browns. We’ve hit the outback, and it’s been more than two years since the last proper rain We land on the lawn of Dumaresq Homestead, a  365 hectare cattle farm with a spacious six bedroom luxury farm stay. Over morning tea on the property’s shaded verandah, we meet Angela Esdaile, who, together with Dave, runs Go Fish Australia, a company that specialises in bespoke fishing adventures. Thanks to  Dave’s encyclopaedic fishing knowledge and Angela’s extensive tourism experience, they can organise everything from luxury day trips like this one to more rustic multi day adventures all over the country. The reason they use this property is because it has exclusive access to 11 kilometres of the Dumaresq River.
  From beneath the dappled shade of ghost gums and stringybarks, we spend the next two hours idly casting into the river’s tannin stained waters, letting the fly drift downstream on the current before reeling it in and trying again. The process takes on an almost meditative quality and I find myself worrying less about catching a fish and more about enjoying the scenery. 
  A selection of beers by Great Northern Brewing Company and a bottle of Starward single malt whisky certainly helps. While none of us catch any fish, one of the group manages to snare something even more elusive.  
  A photographer is using a drone to take some aerial shots and the enthusiastic angler manages to accidentally snare it with an errant cast.“Let’s call that a catch,” says Dave, winking. We retire to the homestead for a gourmet lunch of  Queensland produce.
  After a sumptuous selection of crabs, prawns and Moreton Bay bugs, we tuck into seasoned chicken and thick slabs of steak cooked on the barbecue. Queensland might not be as renowned as other states for its wine, but the accompanying drops from Sirromet Wines in Mount Cotton are all excellent particularly the 2010 sparkling pinot. “Of course, the idea is that we cook whatever you catch for lunch,” says Dave, his blue eyes twinkling from beneath his Akubra. “But it’s a bit difficult to grill a drone. We still have the helicopter flight back to look forward to an exhilarating journey that will see us cross the Granite Belt and follow the Currumbin Valley toward the coast but for now we settle back in our chairs, top up our glasses and speculate on the ones that got away.

A Trip Down Memoy Lane

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A Trip Down Memoy Lane

  Memories of road trips past are a strong motivator when it comes to planning a family holiday. but can you ever go back.
  memories of long car trips are the stuff of family folklore. As the daughter of a country school teacher, international travel was never an affordable option for my family. Instead, come holiday time my parents would pack me and my four siblings into the car and hit the road, heading to some faraway tourist destination with countless other holidaymakers.  
  The way I remember it, the journeys were always long and hot, but nostalgia is a powerful driver. Which is why, 30 years later, I decide to set off with my own three children to recreate a road trip from my own childhood to Dubbo, with its fabled zoo (in those days known as Western Plains Zoo, now officially Taronga Western Plains Zoo) and Parkes, home to the mammoth radio telescope.  
In the 1980s, Dubbo which sits some 400 kilometres west of Sydney in central west New South Wales, in the heart of the Great Western Plains was still something of an outpost. 
  The Great Western Highway from Penrith was largely single lane, as was the Hume Highway. Today it is a regional super city, servicing a population across the region of some 120,000 people.


  Determined to recreate the feel of road trips past, I decide that the journey will be spent looking up, not down, which means no screens.  
  This proves a challenge at first, but by the time we are heading past Goulburn and into the vast Southern Tablelands, I almost have my kids believing that the landscape outside the car window is worth paying attention to, presenting as it does a whole new world to city kids used to the urban sprawl of lights  and people and constant movement.  
  Sun bleached paddocks stretch as far as the eye can see. This is sheep country, and the drought is biting hard here. At Yass we turn off the motorway and the land quickly reasserts itself.
  We stop in Boorowa, a town of around 2000 people renowned for its Merino wool. It is a charming combination of historic pubs, welcoming cafes and wide Victorian streets. We buy homemade pies and brownies at The Pantry on Pudman, with its eclectic range of antiques and collectables, and eat them down by the Boorowa River. Suitably refuelled, both literally and figuratively, our next stop is 80 kilometres down the road in the town of Cowra. One of the top heritage sites in New South Wales, the prisoner of war camp here is the stuff of legend: my kids hear the story of how 1000  Japanese POWs staged a mass breakout in 1944, with 235 of them dying in the process.
  It is a solemn place, offset by the Cowra Japanese Gardens nearby, planted to foster relations between the local people and Japan. Its painstakingly maintained bonsai, panoramic local views, and slow moving Japanese koi are a tonic to this ugly time in the town’s history. We forge on across the wide country, through Canowindra, famous for its International Balloon Challenge held every April, and Cudal, the former stamping ground of bushrangers Ben Hall and Frank Gardiner. We pass through Molong, eventually arriving in Wellington in the late afternoon. Here we drink ice chocolates in the cool of the Cactus Cafe and Gallery’s courtyard, before setting off again on the final push to Dubbo.


  Arriving into town, we make camp at The Aberdeen Motel. The kids are stir crazy after the car journey so they head for a riotous swim in the hotel pool, and I settle in. Conveniently located near Dubbo’s main thoroughfare of Macquarie Street, The Aberdeen has been recently refurbished, and our stylish family room has a double bed and two singles with a kitchenette and living area. 
  We sleep soundly after enjoying a good meal in town. The next day it’s time for the zoo. Taronga  Western Plains Zoo is the largest tourist attraction in inland New South Wales, with 250,000 people  or 78 per cent of tourists to the region visiting each year. 
  It’s a lot different to how I remember it from the ’80s, but somehow familiar; progress and  nostalgia often make strange bedfellows. We arrive early eager to see the Lions Pride Lands, a 3.5 hectare area that recreates an African savannah for the zoo’s resident pride of lions, led by 14 year old Lazarus, who weighs in at an  impressive 180 kilograms.  
  Upon boarding the purpose built, wire meshcovered safari truck for our Pride Lands Patrol  experience, my 11 year old gets the jitters. “Can the lions get in here ” he asks as we arrive at the  enclosure. 
  The triple airlock gates we pass through add to the anticipation, and his anxiety. For the next 30 minutes we drive through the Pride Lands eyeballed by the lively great cats, the younger ones following after the truck, before emerging  unscathed and exhilarated.  
  An electric golf buggy is our transport for the rest of our visit. It proves a perfect way to travel  some of the 445 hectares on a six kilometre circuit many bike it but it’s a hot day so we decide against it. As famous today as it was when I was a kid for its ‘no fences’ policy, Taronga Western Plains Zoo doesn’t disappoint. My kids rate the hippos and the excellent ranger’s talk the meerkats, elephants, giraffes and lions are also favourites. Satisfied we’ve seen it all and visited the gift shop we hit the road again.


  We arrive into Parkes, 130 kilometres from Dubbo, in the early evening. A blossoming country  town, it is accustomed to a huge influx of colourful visitors for the annual Elvis Festival held over five days in January ( With its drive up rooms and rattling air conditioner, the Parkview Motor Inn, our home for the night, definitely takes me back. At first light, we head 20 kilometres out of town along the Newell Highway to visit ‘the Dish’ the CSIRO’s giant radio telescope that dominates the surrounding farmlands. 
  Its place in the history of the 20th century was assured, having been a prime receiving station for the July 1969 Moon landing by Apollo 11, and the turn of events memorialised in the hit movie starring Sam Neill.  
  As luck would have it the Friends of the Dish are in attendance when we arrive. Several men  show my kids how to see Mars through their telescopes and we visit the Visitor Discovery Centre.  
As I watch them I wonder if perhaps they’re seeing a glimpse into their futures at the same time.  
Perhaps imagining a time when they too will be engulfed with nostalgia for the trip they have just  taken and determine to recreate it for the next generation to come.

Kimberley Dreaming

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Kimberley Dreaming 

From a staircase to the moon to 130 million year old dinosaur tracks, welcome to another world.
  The dream starts years before, in photos you see randomly, posted by your more adventurous friends. You know the shots pindan red earth, impossibly azure ocean and perpetually cloudless sky surreally gather together Surely, it cannot be like this. Yet, from the first fleeting glimpse of the  Kimberley as your plane banks into Broome or Kununurra, it is no less dreamlike. Broome is a laid back town, an easy toget to know place with a vibrant, diverse food and social scene that reflects the faces in town, the way they live. Its people appreciate the importance of spoiling a traveller, making them exhale, but also preparing them for what comes next, the likes of the majesty of east Kimberley and beyond. Broome is equally a destination and a gateway to the one of the globe’s last  untainted wilderness areas.
  Must see natural wonders there is no more dreamlike introduction to Broome than riding a camel into its sunset along Cable Beach, 22 kilometres of gleaming white welcome mat. Attune to Broome time by swaying softly in a sun silhouetted train of personality filled camels, while the Indian Ocean blows you a first gentle kiss to greet you.  
  Try to align your Kimberley initiation with the full moon because, when it shimmers across Roebuck Bay’s tidal flats, it is daring you to wander straight into the night sky. The Staircase to the Moon hypnotises the town locals and travellers congregate on  picnic blankets at Town Beach or at perennial faves such as Mangrove Hotel, Matso’s mango beer in hand, to marvel at its magnificence.  
  Venturing into east Kimberley, the infinite splendour of the West Australian outback is most evident at the Bungle Bungle Range, where 300 metre high sandstone ‘beehives’ stand tall over a landscape where tropical and arid mingle like nowhere else.  
  South of Kununurra, the World Heritagelisted Purnululu National Park geology is 350 million years in the making, yet miraculously it was almost secret until the 1980s. There is no wrong way to witness this remarkable panorama gape at it from an open door helicopter traverse its neckcraning sheerness on a self drive or organised 4WD tour and, especially, walk deep inside it, along exceptional Echidna Chasm or via stupendous Cathedral Gorge.


  A single glance at one hidden piece of preIce Age Gwion Gwion rock art tells you that the Kimberley has been a cradle for a vibrant Indigenous culture since time immemorial. There are plenty of locals keen to give you a  personal, real taste of this ancient lore, too.  
  On Narlijia Cultural Tours passionate Yawuru man Bart Pigram shares his saltwater people perspective on Broome Dreaming stories ancient shell midden the life that flourishes amongst its teeming mangroves. And you’ll wander by 130 millionyear old dinosaur tracks along the way.  
  At Kooljaman at Cape Leveque, on the Dampier Peninsula, Bardi man Brian Lee invites you into the turquoise waters of Hunters Creek for a hands and feet on hunting and gathering lesson (Brian Lee Tagalong Tours own 4WD needed). 
  You’ll learn classic crabbing methods, and then cook your spoils over an open fire Further explore Cape Leveque’s culinary possibilities on Bundy’s Cultural Tours bush tucker and medicine walk or sharpen your skills on a spear making tour.


  The Kimberley wilderness offers a lifetime of options for both the serious 4WDer and those who just want to give it a go. There are few better tasters than the Broome to Cape Leveque road trip. In one glorious day you can tackle a sandy red dirt road, see a cross section of outback wildlife and visit remote Aboriginal communities, such as Beagle Bay, where the ‘Mother of Pearl (Sacred Heart) Church’ awaits.  
  Take it to the next level on the Gibb River Road, 660 kilometres of rugged Kimberley highlights, all the way to Kununurra. This 4WD mecca funnels you past gorge after gorgeous gorge like the wonderful Windjana Gorge into shaded freshwater swimming holes, and through Boab treepeppered country sized cattle stations such as El Questro Wilderness Park and Home Valley Station. You’ll need a couple of weeks to explore and appreciate these open spaces and a 4WD, which you can rent in Broome or Kununurra.


  Feel free to camp out under the clear, dry season night sky every night, but also know that, in some fantastically remote nooks across the Kimberley, you can find a breathtaking variety of luxury stays. 
  The question is, which one suits your personality Few outback digs surpass the supreme luxury of El Questro Homestead. Home Valley Station’s creek side Grass Castles  merge nature and intimacy perfectly. Prefer a spectacular slice of Kimberley coastline Well, you are spoiled for choice, from the exclusive Berkeley River Lodge and the ultra relaxed Kimberley Coastal Camp to wilderness embracing Faraway Bay and Eco Beach Resort.


  One tiny thing that has shaped Broome more than anything else is the pearl. Follow  the trajectory of a cultured pearl from ‘shell to showroom’ at Willie Creek Pearl Farm in Broome, and Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm in Dampier Peninsula, then you’re in a state of readiness to browse the glitzy showrooms in town, credit card primed.  
  Along the way, dive into Broome’s fascinating modern history. The town once spawned more millionaires than anywhere else in Australia. In the 1800s, droves of Japanese, Filipino and Malay divers moved to this northern outpost on the Indian Ocean to seek their fortunes, subsequently creating a melting pot of cultures that has made Broome the multicultural town it is today.


  Ord Valley Muster (17 to 26 May, 2019) the east Kimberley’s week of weeks is one of Australia’s must see regional festivals. Set in the greatest of great outdoors, it is impossible to pigeonhole this diverse festival, with no less than 30 distinctive events ranging from a rodeo to live music and dining  under the stars, reflecting the characters and flavours that make the east Kimberley one of the world’s most well known and recognised destinations.  
Shinju Matsuri (7 to 15 September, 2019) The ‘Festival of the Pearl’ encapsulates everything that is Broome.  
Shinju Matsuri is a great opportunity to sample Broome’s multicultural lifestyle during events such as Pearl Harvest Yum Cha, the famed Floating Lantern Festival and the Sunset Long Table Dinner of Cable Beach.


  Halfway between Broome and Perth, Ningaloo Reef is an unhurried, uncrowded oceanic oasis, which means one thing you get more time with them… Who do we mean by ‘them’? None other  than the world’s largest fish, the whale shark, who calmly cruises the crystal clear waters of this 300 kilometre long World Heritagelisted reef from March to August every year.  
  You get plenty of time to appreciate the greatness of these gentle giants as you languidly swim alongside them or is it they who swim alongside you on tours departing the Ningaloo Reef bookends of  Exmouth and Coral Bay. 
  There’s no more reliable and ethical place to see whale sharks on the planet they are not baited, only spotted from planes, just doing what they do.  
The setting is breathtaking as vivid outback hues make it all the way to shore. 
  Beginning a few flipper kicks from the beach and continuing 20 kilometres into the ocean, Ningaloo is the closest barrier reef on Earth to a shoreline.  
  The beaches lining Cape Range National Park and Coral Bay are snorkelling nirvanas, where besides about 500 species of tropical reef fish and pristine coral gardens (no less than 220 species), you might also encounter dugongs, manta rays, humpback whales, and come face to mask with one of the prolific population of cute sea turtles.  
  There are plenty of gems to draw you ashore at the end of the day, too.Catch an Indian Ocean sunset at Vlaming Head Lighthouse or spend a few nights at one of the world’s most impressive glamping sites, Sal Salis. 
  Its luxurious safari tents nestle in the reefside sand dunes.How does sunset canap├ęs followed by a dinner served under the stars sound to you?

South Fremantle

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South Fremantle

   Locals have been keeping  this eclectic coastal hamlet all to themselves. fleur bainger lifts the lid on South Fremantle.
   South Fremantle Is The kind of place where you’ll find a book exchange on one street, and spot locals raiding a mulberry tree on another. The urban village, 25 kilometres from Perth’s city centre, also loves dressing itself up with street art but equally, adores the raw simplicity of a stroll on the beach. People smile as they walk their dogs and teens skateboard home while 20 somethings get  about in bare feet. There’s a feeling of friendly nonchalance as you move through the mix of  workers cottages, townhouses and modern architecture, often topped with solar panels and shaded by Norfolk pines and plane trees.
   This local’s secret, which stretches for two square kilometres along Perth’s southern coast, was settled in 1831. It wasn’t always as pretty as it is now though the area’s attachment to industrial scale sheds, marine operators, fish processors and a freight train line provides an ongoing link to its history With seas out front calmed by nearby islands, it became a natural shipping harbour.  
   By the turn of the century, an abattoir was built to service the livestock arriving on ships from the state’s far north, and surrounding grounds were used as holding pastures. As the population grew, market gardens sprung up and a railway leading to Fremantle was constructed. Commercial lime kilns provided work, and a coal fired power station was added to the heavy industry cluster.
   Immigration waves in the 1950s and ’60s further boosted residential numbers. In  recent years, the industrial waterfront and its two traditional pubs have been introduced to a growing number of characterful cafes, boutiques, galleries and casual restaurants.  
   Phil Thompson, co owner of The Local Hotel, says postcode 6162 is typified by its sense of community: “It is a neighbourhood full of interesting, creative and progressively minded individuals.” He sees every kind lean  on his historic bar. “White collar, blue collar, no collar. Artists, professionals, tradesmen, students, singles, families, retirees. It’s a great mix across a broad demographic spectrum.”

Explore the heart of Australia without camping gear

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Explore the heart of Australia without camping gear

Explore the heart of Australia without camping gear, a 4WD, or getting a second mortgage with our perfectly comfy and affordable guide to the Northern Territory.



   Head to Darwin Waterfront for a free, safe dip in the lagoon for $7 entry you could also chill out at the wave pool across the park. Expand your historical knowledge on a self guided Darwin Audio Tour all you need is an app ($2.99) and headphones. On Thursdays or Sundays between April and October, spend dusk at Mindil Beach Sunset Market, a Darwin institution and a top spot to enjoy an easy, cheap dinner and prime sunset views.
   Berry Springs Nature Park, 50 minutes from Darwin CBD, has no entry fee to access its brilliant blue creek, where it’s de rigueur to chill out afloat with a pool noodle. Litchfield National Park, 120 kilometres south east of Darwin, offers stunning waterholes you can swim in during winter and thundering waterfalls in summer.


 One of Australia’s most famous national parks is open year round and is actually quite accessible for non campers and non 4WDers in fact, about 95 per cent of the Territory’s top attractions overall can be reached by sealed roads. Moreover, most attractions in Kakadu won’t cost a cent. Hire a car from Darwin’s airport and you can arrive in Kakadu in under three hours.  
   Wake early before the heat and drive to Ubirr, for its well preserved Aboriginal rock art and the never ending views of the floodplains, then hike the easy rainforest trail to Maguk waterfall, with a stunning waterhole to swim in at the end.


   Nitmiluk National Park is around three hours’ drive south of Darwin and features 13 beautiful gorges to explore via canoe, speedboat or on a cultural cruise.  
   A budget friendly highlight is swimming at the shady plunge pool at Leliyn (Edith Falls).


   As of 26 October, you’ll no longer be able to climb Uluru, finally, to respect the spiritual  connection the Anangu people have with this iconic landmark however tourists will still be able to visit and tour around the base.  
   One of our favourite Uluru experiences, a sunrise plod atop a camel is about $80 but is a lot cheaper than a heli flight. Cheaper still is a visit to Uluru Camel Tours’farm, located at Ayers Rock Resort, which is entirely free as is the great daily ranger guided Mala Walk along the base of Uluru.  
   If you’re staying at one of the Ayers Rock Resort properties, you can join unlimited free activities, such as guided walks through the native gardens at Desert Gardens Hotel, Aboriginal storytelling sessions, and learning  about local native bush foods.


   These 36 spectacular rock domes are only 30 minutes drive from Ayers Rock Resort and explored by either the stunning 7.4 kilometre Valley of the Winds walk or just the first part of the track to Karu Lookout (2.2 kilometres return). Stop by the Uluru Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre to learn about the Anangu culture entry is free and there are gas barbecues for a picnic lunch on the cheap.


The breathtaking chasm of Kings Canyon is a highlight for people travelling between Uluru and Alice Springs, and is viewed via either the six kilometre Rim Walk or the much easier 2.6 kilometre Kings Creek Hike.


Time your visit for mid July and you can join cameleers at one of the quirkiest events in Australia the Alice Springs Camel Cup. It’s a hoot for the whole family and not only can you watch the pros race their favourite camels, but afterwards you can bite into a camel burger from one of the food vans. How’s that for a budget friendly day out?

Daydream Island

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Daydream Island

   A new look Daydream Island is bursting back onto the whitsundays scene this April, and it’s looking dreamier than ever.
   Since The 1930S, there has been an island so perfectly situated at just 30 minutes from the mainland, so wonderfully balanced between beaches and rainforest, that it’s little wonder it earned the moniker ‘Daydream’ Its mermaid statues beckoning the waves, famously teeming reefs for snorkelling, and scenic rainforest walks have made it somewhat of an icon in the Whitsundays over the years, but now an unprecedented, thorough makeover of the entire island has brought the island front  and centre as the region’s most talked about reopening.
   The premium resort, nestled among the island’s rather gorgeous natural attributes, sports architecture that fully reflects the island's beauty its design and even new direction in dining do the  same. Three brand new signature restaurants and the same number of fresh new bars each have a  distinct feel, with an overarching credo to showcase the best seasonal, locally sourced produce throughout their offerings.
   Regional specialty produce is combined with australian native flavours at the more casual inkstone kitchen and bar for premium dining infinity is set to serve lunch and dinner 
accompanied by its incredible vista across the islands. Diners can choose from an Asian fusion  menu, and there is even a private teppanyaki suite for maximum event dining.
   The third eatery, Graze Interactive Dining, is promising a great outdoors in experience with draping plant life and floor to ceiling windows. Inside, an interactive foodie marketplace of live  cooking stations and hugely varied cuisines and specialties levels up the simpler resort dining  experiences, and it overlooks Daydream Island’s pride and joy, the Living Reef.
   Always an integral part of the ‘old’ Daydream, the freeform coral lagoon of the Living Reef is  bigger and better than before, wrapping 200 metres around the resort’s main building and offering an unbeatable and rather lovely chance to really feel a part of the Great Barrier Reef.  
   A resident team of marine biologists uphold the  island’s strong and committed ecological and  educational focus, offering guests the chance to  join them to feed baby stingrays, and view more than 100 species of fish, coral and underwater fauna from four metres below the surface in a new underwater observatory. Even the island’s Kids’ Club offers its smaller guests the opportunity to interact with and learn about the creatures within the Living Reef.
  Also set among the tropical gardens is a winding, lagoon like swimming pool landscape, punctuated by the Barefoot Bar that serves anything from gourmet sliders to fresh smoothies and almost compulsory tropical cocktails. Add to that its famed coral beaches, outdoor cinema and adults only sanctuary, and unlimited non motorised on water activities. For those who want to take their explorations further, activities such as heli tours, snorkelling safaris and sailboat or jetski hire are on the cards.
To book, visit

The Family Outback Holiday Nightmare

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The Family Outback Holiday Nightmare

  It’s the family outback holiday nightmare you run out of fuel in the middle of nowhere, without phone signal, 4 adventure on ten, on how to keep your family safe with some simple tips.
With its unparalleled beauty and endless reaches, the Aussie outback holds its own beauty. And, while the bush certainly brings its own charm it also brings its dangers.
   School holidays are the time to get away with the whole family and to take a break from the mundane everyday and the familiar. And, while luxurious overseas trips and resort style family stays can be an amazing experience, staying right here and exploring our very own backyard is second to none.
It’s cost effective, good for the soul and it gets the kids off their damned screens.
   We live in an amazing country, full of sights and sounds that people from all over the world travel to witness and we’re lucky enough to have it all right here, on our own doorstep. With its unparalleled beauty and endless reaches, the Aussie outback holds its own beauty. And, while the bush certainly brings its own charm it also brings its dangers.
   But what would you do if the 4x4 broke down, got stuck in mud or sand, or ran out of fuel in the middle of nowhere There are too many spots where mobile reception is not a  given, which makes the possibility of being stranded for longer than your supplies will last extremely likely and a real threat. So, in the unfortunate event of something going wrong, the key is to keep calm and know what to do. Here are a few quintessential tips for staying alive if you are stranded in the outback.


   Of course, wandering a few hundred metres away to find a bit of tucker or looking for water during the day is totally fine, but when search and rescue rock up, you better believe they’ll be looking for a car. They’re far easier to spot than people wandering about, and offer an extra level of  comfort at night and shade during the day.


   Depending on where you get stuck or break down you might be faced with different dangers; a dried up riverbed might seem safe, but flash floods or crocs in remnant water or dingos seeking a drink (and food) could pose an unforeseen risk. Likewise, if you are by a water’s edge, it is good to seek higher ground while remaining close enough to the vehicle to be found. Safety and visibility are top priorities together with supplies mainly water.


   Australia is bloody hot especially out bush and in summer. Now, keeping hydrated is the key. The kids, especially, will need periodic hydrating on the hour (supplies permitting). Avoid more  frequent small sips, opting for less regular but more hearty gulps to ensure there’s enough H2 0 being absorbed. Make sure you look after yourself too though, as it’s you who’s in charge of keeping everyone safe.


   Depending on what’s in your vehicle, you’ll either be setting up your own shade or seeking the best of what nature has to offer. Be it an awning, tarp or tree, staying in the shade is the best way to  keep the body temp down and keep a cool head. Avoid unnecessary strenuous exercise when you can preserve your energy for important jobs like searching for food or water.


A person of good health can go for up to three weeks without food. Without water, however, it’s four days at best, so it’s pretty important you get this side of things sorted for your involuntarily extended stay in the bush. What you’ll want to do is set up a rain trap. A tarp is best, however any non absorbent material could work too. Use cable ties or rope to sling it up and make sure there’s a bucket or receptacle underneath to collect the rainwater. Setting up a condensation water trap is  another great way to collect water just in  case it does not rain.


   Assuming you’ve done the smart thing and let people know when and where you’re going, soon enough people will start searching for you let’s hope. Once they figure out that you haven’t  returned on time, the search party will head out. To help them find you put reflective surfaces such as aluminium foil, mirrors and even CDs up, all around where the sun can catch, sparkle and reflect.
   Place these items strategically around your campsite and vehicle to increase your chance of being spotted, making sure you’re covering a 360 degree radius. Depending on appropriate weather conditions a burning campfire is another great way to catch the attention of helicopters however, you don’t want to start a bushfire either.


   While you can’t pick the spot you break down at, you can minimise the risk once you have. If you are near a clearing or open view from above, use branches and rocks to mark out a visual marker ‘HELP’ in large letters is the safest bet. This will help rescuers spot you from above should your vehicle be hidden.


   The best way to stay alive in the outback is to be prepared and prevent where possible. Invest in a satellite phone, purchase yourself a solar powered water purifying device and solar powered lights for night time visibility. Bring plenty of long life food, a jerry can or two of extra fuel (and always keep these full) and, of course, ample water. If you are prepared properly, and are well stocked, your emergency situation will almost feel like a special camp-spot for quality family time.

Come on Downs

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Come on Downs

   The Tara Festival of Culture & Camel Races is an eclectic mix drawing thousands of travellers to the town Watermelon skiing is a crowd favourite at the Chinchilla Melon Festival; Silver toned songstress Emily Burke wows at Opera at Jimbour; The majestic Jimbour House serves as a backdrop for the Western  Downs’ spectacular events.
   Awash with country charm, Queensland’s Western Downs is well worth a visit. A calendar packed with colourful festivals simply sweetens the deal.
   With a history steeped in agriculture and energy production, the Western Downs is an integral part of Australia’s landscape. Yet this picturesque region, three hours west of  Brisbane, offers much more than solar and  sorghum. From opera to watermelon skiing, the Western Downs has a reputation for hosting fantastic, not to mention unique, events. In fact, with so many scheduled in  2019, it has been dubbed The Year of Festivals.
   In its second year, Big Skies will celebrate the region’s sights, sounds, tastes and experiences from Saturday 27 April to Sunday 5 May. Kicking off with the Dalby Picnic Races,  events include tours of majestic Jimbour House; the Dalby Saleyards Tour; the Outdoor Cinema, complete with incredible starscapes; the popular, and delicious, Long Lunches; and open air rock concert Day on the Plain.
   Delivering the best Aussie rock west of  the Great Divide, the concert will feature stars such as Jon Stevens, John Paul Young, Ross Wilson, Pseudo Echo and Deni Hines. They’ll be joined by thousands of music lovers in the shadow of Jimbour House, one of Australia’s grandest colonial mansions.
   For something sweeter, the 25th biennial Chinchilla Melon Festival is a fruity mix of parties, parades and pip spitting competitions from Thursday 14 to Sunday 17 February. A visit to the Big Melon is a must.
   The iconic Opera at Jimbour on Saturday 27 July, with its breathtaking backdrop, is the perfect excuse for a picnic in the winter sun. Similarly colour and cuisine make for a long weekend to remember from Friday 2 to Sunday 4 August, both on and off the Awash with country charm, Queensland’s Western Downs is well worth a visit. A calendar packed with colourful festivals simply sweetens the deal. Clockwise from top left: The Tara Festival of Culture & Camel Races is an eclectic mix drawing thousands of travellers to the town; Watermelon skiing is a crowd favourite at the Chinchilla Melon Festival; Silver toned songstress Emily Burke wows at Opera at Jimbour; The majestic Jimbour House serves as a backdrop for the Western Downs’ spectacular events. Come on  DOWNS track, at the Tara Festival of Culture & Camel Races, while Dalby’s Delicious and DeLIGHTful festival on Saturday 17 August is just as it sounds throw in a spectacular lantern parade, markets and family friendly entertainment for good measure.
   Why not take the time to discover  why the Western Downs is the place to live, work and play?.