Walking on Straddie with Maddie

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It started out with Maddie wanting to go to Straddie….

Maddie was Swedish, in high school, and on an student exchange to experience Aussie culture, language, and the few contemporary traditions, we Australians have. She wanted to see Straddie, aka Stradbroke Island, a secluded beach paradise off the coast of north eastern Australia. This is how we came to meet Bill, but more about that later.

As Australians are oft to shorten names, Stradbroke Island is affectionately called Straddie, even though it’s name has anything but humble beginnings, being named as it was, after the British Lord of Stradbroke.

Aboriginal communities have long existed on Straddie, as has a plethora of wildlife and flora, including the much-loved koala, kangaroo and ‘Gin–gin,’ otherwise known as a Grass tree.

Add to this, miles of pristine white sandy surf beaches, and you have a swimming meccas for locals, and occasionally, sharks.

“Maddie” wanted to see “Straddie”, so we booked in at the Backpacker’s  Manta lodge, situated just a few kilometres back from the famous Point Lookout, and took an early morning ferry to Dunwich. This was actually called the ‘Flyer’ and the fare also included the bus to our lodge, which has a convenient timetable that coincides with the arrival of the ferries.

The beach from the porch of the Manta Backpackers Lodge

 Desperately hoping the name Adder Rock was not synonymous with the highly venomous snake, the Death Adder, we arrived at Manta lodge, an accredited scuba dive centre and above average Backpackers in a 4 share room. This backpacker is in an excellent location, step outside and you are on the beach, also reasonably close to Point Lookout by road, but we chose to walk along the beach for the scenic journey over the rocks and beach verges.

Stradbroke Island Adder Rock
4WD vehicles are permitted on the beach here
Gunter’s point where perhaps a German tourist was not careful enough?

If you visit Stradbroke and stay here, I would caution you that the beach trail to Point Lookout takes over an hour, and we found later that it is more direct to take the road, or catch the bus, but, of course, it was a lot less scenic. You can also find toilets along the way at Cylinders beach Caravan Park and a small shop and Post Office. We ever saw a Beach wedding taking place. High Heels in the sand… can you imagine the difficulties???

A nice diversion along the way is the Point Lookout Hotel, good for a hearty/ liquid lunch, or refreshment, or two… the view from there is simply amazing, from anywhere in the hotel. After we were suitably refreshed, we continued on, exploring the headland at Point Lookout, named by Captain Cook as he sailed along the East Coast in 1770.

The views from Point Lookout afford amazing views along Thirty Mile Beach…..or or was it Sixty MileBeach…. plenty of it anyway!   Take the Gorge walk for a long and very scenic view of this cove and the turbulent surf hitting the headland in front of the Surf club and you will see views like this….

As for amenities, Point Lookout has a number of eateries to suit a variety of palettes.  You will find a small collection of avant-garde gift and boutique fashion shops. Their opening times are various, but you could be lucky. One that caught my eye seem so ‘Straddie’…. laid back…. not always open and simple but good… the Fresh local Seafood shop called “The Prawn Shack.”

But this is where Bill comes in, our local tour guide – the quiet achiever Bill who would take us on a 4 hour 4WD tour of the Island.

As I am linking to Restless Jo’s Monday Walks,  I will talk more about Bill’s fabulous adventures in another post.

Some Walking with Restless Jo on her Monday walks – lots to Ponder About

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Hanging Around in Helsinki – Part II

So there I was, walking about in Helsinki, [read previous post here] when I discovered  what delighted me the most about this city was the many fantastic things you can see on foot, without spending much at all.

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Esplanadi park – Helsinki

Having just eaten a ‘larger than life’ Cinnamon bun, at the iconic Cafe Esplanadi, opposite the park on Pohjois-Esplanadi, followed by another – yes, another salmon lunch, at the Market Hall, (read more about Helsinki food options here), I set off through the streets to burn off some calories.

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Tuomiokirkko

My walking path through the city took me to the iconic Senate Square and the very impressive and landmark that is Tuomiokirkko. This Lutheran cathedral, built in neoclassical style, in 1830-1852, was originally a tribute to Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, who through the imperialist era, was also the Grand Duke of Finland. It is a must see!

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This church is also a very useful navigational mark for the tourist, dominating the city’s  skyline as it does from every angle, as you can see below.

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Tuomiokirkko

The cathedral is decorated in spartan Lutheran style, quite different from the next stop on my walk:

Uspenski Cathedral

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Walking easterly from the market square, I didn’t stop to buy paella, berries, reindeer meatballs or furs at the many market stalls, but continued in the direction of Katajanokka peninsula and Uspenski Cathedral, a red brick orthodox church with gilded ‘cupola’ style towers. It is a good stretch for the calf muscles getting up the steep path to the church itself, [definitely not wheelchair friendly], but the view from there does make it all worthwhile.

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If you are thinking, ho hum… another church… think again, as it is the largest orthodox church outside of Russia. Much more ornate than the Lutheran cathedral, the cupola domes were even gilded in gold for the church’s anniversary and are often illuminated at night.

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 If you are a fan of Russian style icon art, Uspenski is a great place to visit. Just don’t expect to see the famous icon of ‘St.Nicholas – the wonder maker’, which was stolen from there, in broad daylight, back in 2007, and has yet to be found. It’s free for visitors to enter the church and also handy to know that they do allow photography inside.

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I could also chat about walking past Marimekko outlets and seeing unique Finnish clothing design at Stockmans, or the fact that 60% of the world’s ice breakers are built in Helsinki, but it was the Helsinki architecture, located behind Uspenski, that really garnered my attention.

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Helsinki architecture

I saw so many wondrous examples of Art Nouveau buildings, with ‘Jugenstil’ detailing, often coloured in the soft pastels, so popular in that era.

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“Can you imagine what it is like to live in one of those buildings?” I say to my Finnish friend.  I doubt I’ll ever know, as they proceed to tell me it is very expensive real estate. Security grills and pin – codes on the doors are, no doubt, a more contemporary addition.

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Suomenlinna UNESCO World Heritage Site

My walk, continued following a short ferry ride, across the Helsinki archipelago, to Suomenlinna – (formerly known as Sveaborg): a military fortress  dating back to 1748. Due to its strategic position between three nations, this fortress served not just the Russian Military, but also the Sweden government of the day, (hence the name Sveaborg), and in later times, an independent Finland.  It was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991, and one can make their way around the cobble stoned roads, walls and tunnels on foot.

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There is no charge to visit the island, only the nominal fee for the ferry ride over there, unless you want to enter the museum, which I didn’t, as there was SO much to explore on foot.

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Another Church???

Incredibly, I must tell you about another church, I saw on my walk, in Helsinki – the very unique Tempooliaukko. The concept of a “Church in the Rock,” was  first mooted as an architecture competition,  in 1930’s, before WWII and economic challenges meant plans to build the winning design were shelved until the 1950’s. It finally opened in 1969.

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Church in the Rock

Quarried out of the natural rock that one finds in Helsinki, the church provides excellent acoustics for all kinds of concerts and visitors may enter, anytime, unless there is a wedding ceremony taking place. I was lucky enough to arrive just as a wedding was concluding. As they left, the bride and groom were congratulated by a larger group than they anticipated –  a host of tourists waiting outside! Heads up – they do ask for silence when you are inside the church but photos are welcome!

 

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However you find them, Finns do enjoy their summertime.  My walk back to the hotel took me via a summer music festival, street musicians, even impromptu flea markets along the main street.  I would like to have enjoyed a dinner at the beautiful Kappeli restaurant, but alas, it was Saturday night and the stern-faced maitre told me it was booked out!

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I guess it will just be Something I’ll Ponder About

Linking to Restless Jo’s Monday Walks

 

 

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