Practically Speaking - Currency: Mauritius rupee; Shop: 8:30 am to noon and 1:00 pm to 4 pm; Info: Visitor office at the wharf or www.tourism-mauritius.mu ; PO: Next to Musee de la Poste; Browse: Market, duty free zone; Buy: Local handicrafts; Beach: Grand Baie, Mont Choisy, Trou aux Biches Arrival Information - The ship docked at Port Louis. Nearby Caudan Waterfront Market is filled shops and restaurants.

Pamplemousses or grapefruits were planted decades later in the plantation Bertrand Francois Mahe de la Bourdonnais started soon after he became governor. Ordinary crops were replaced with citrus and other profitable and exotic spice plants. The variety is both rare and impressive. Most visitors though are taken to Bassin aux nenuphars, a pond full of giant water lilies.

The garden was then developed to be a showcase for exotic plants whose most famous advocate was nobleman Pierre Poivre and the groundkeeper who followed him were responsible for acquiring most of the spice plants.

Officially the garden is Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden but many refer to the park as Jardin Botanique des Pamplemousses. Mahe de la Bourdonnais built his Chateau de Mon-Plaisir mansion in 1735. A 19th century replica is gone because the original is gone. It is good to mention here that the founder of modern Mauritius is its first prime minister, Sir Ramgoolam who died in 1986.

Port Louis, MauritiusAfter altering to a south easterly heading, on February 11, we approached Port Louis with the clock telling us later it‘s 12 noon here, in Toronto, it‘s only 3:00 am. Oh well, at least we’re still on the same day and we love Mauritius and its friendly and welcoming people. It is a tropical island paradise. Even the palms that surround the beaches seem so hospitable.

We had an early breakfast to get ready for our Mauritius tour. It was laid-back time, just wearing cut-offs and T-shirt. Narcis is the name of the tour guide who said that the island is 65 km from north to south and 48 km from east to west. First she said we’d go to the citadel, then to Eureka, a colonial house, then the Botanical Garden at Pamplemousses. All these at 26 degrees C (78.8 F).

On the way to the first stop, she said that the port is the most important part for Port Louis, Mauritius because her economy is dominated by it. There are the main buildings and banks as we went to the city centre. We saw anemanda (not sure of the spelling, perhaps Allamanda) flowers that last only one day.

The climate is tropical and there are two seasons, six months of hot humid and wet summer and six months of dry and warm winter. Cyclones affect Mauritius from November to April. The last two cyclones that hit the island were Dina in 2002 and Hollanda in 1994.

There are 1.2 million people with different cultures living in this island nation with Louis having over 100,000 population. The Hindus form the largest group at 50%. Creoles is the term they use for people living in the island but here they’re from continental Africa. The Chinese form 10% of the population and the minority groups form 3%.

The Roman Catholics are 30% while the Muslims make up 16% and the Hindus 52%. If you’re wondering why the figures didn’t come up to 100% it’s because there were some who did not specify their religious affiliation. Christians, Muslims and Creoles live together but in each place, there’s a church, a temple and a mosque.

Since 1968, Mauritius has progressed from a low-income economy based on agriculture to an economy that is diversified with middle income. Shops are closed at noon. Rupees are supposed to be 29-30 per dollar. The rapid growth has been equitable and there has been improvement in income equality. As for industry, it’s sugar, textile and now it’s also tourism and telecommunication. They have lots of call centers.

English is generally accepted as the official language but only in the Parliament, in business and in courts. All speak French and both languages are compulsory in school. They also speak the Lingua Franca which is Mauritian Creole and they all switch languages as the situation dictates.

During the tour, we saw ficus trees and arrived at the stone Citadel. The administrative buildings are on the left while on the right are the residential areas. The Citadel sits proudly overlooking the harbour. Around are the mountains that protect the harbour from the winds. That is why they moved the harbour to Port Louis because of the winds that’s bad for the vessels.

We bought a blue scarf at the store where the storekeeper made a mistake of charging us 4000 rupees instead of 400 which is about $13 but he corrected it. We saw the first town hall in the island done in 1850 and the supreme court. She pointed out the St. Francois d’Assise Catholic Church in the village of Pamplemousses. Then we went on the longest road built by the French government. To the left we saw Mary Queen of Peace.

The children are in school M-F from 9 to 3:30 Education is compulsory till 16 years old. The pre-education for 3-5 years is free but not compulsory but it is for 5-11 years old with exams to see if they are ready to go to secondary school. These are located in the villages but the high schools are in the centers where one can continue till 22 years old. They can choose where to go either at University of Mauritius or abroad in France, India, Australia and South Africa.

As for health, they have hospitals which are free of charge although they also have private care but dispensaries are all over and are free and transportation is free. They usually earn 4000 rupees a month which is $130. Election to vote for the prime minister is held every five years and the prime minister selects the president. It’s the same thing in Port Louis.

We arrived at the Eureka House, a colonial house built in 1830, where we had a guided tour. It is set in a magnificent garden surrounded by picture-perfect waterfalls from the Moka River and it has 109 doors and windows. It is in Pamplemousses so called because of the grapefruit raised there which is the garden district. We were served some refreshment, a kind of guava drink and some Mauritius treat which is a ball of flour and deep fried with some spices.

As we drove away, we saw a sign that says 110 km per hour. We passed by the Industrial area where there are private companies. We also saw the Post Office which was a railway station before. Behind that is the traditional market place.

Then we arrived at the Tamil Temple with its beautiful architecture. Tamil is a religion of the Indians who came as carpenters while the Hindus came as labourers. The Hindu temple is white and orange while the Tamil is colourful. We elected not to go in as we as we would have had to remove our shoes.

We also saw the church named Francois arriving at the Pamplemousses Gardens, more formally known as Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens. It is one of the most visited attractions in Mauritius and opened as a private garden by the French governor nearly 300 years ago. It served as a major horticultural center for the French and English during the colonial period.

Today it is home to a large collection of indigenous and exotic plants. We saw the giant Victoria Regia water lilies and many species of palm trees. Of particular interest is the Talipot Palm which is said to flower once every 60 years and then dies. We saw the Baobab tree from South Africa with white flowers, which grows up to nine feet. The soil is fertile here.

The tour guide said the fruit is not edible when we asked her but we saw in the label that the pulp within the fruit is used for lemonade and that the young leaves of the tree are used as vegetables. We walked down the Imperial Alley so called because of the royal palm trees from Cuba.

She also pointed to the jackfruit tree with fruits hanging in them, the silver trumpet, Bush Allamanda with yellow flowers, the Queen Palm Tree from South America, the Wedding Tree and the Camphor tree planted 500 years ago.

We looked at the label Araugaria Excelsa 8/7/1901 which was planted by the Duchess of York and Cornwall. We also saw the millennium tree that takes eight years to grow, white palm tree and the Lienard Obelisk made of marble where the names of the persons who made significant contributions to the development of agriculture are engraved.

Amongst the plants were some of the most prized species of the time namely nutmegs (Myristica fragans) and cloves from the Malacca. These species are still present in the Spice Corner of the garden. In 1767, the French Intendant, Pierre Poivre also introduced vegetables, fruits and flowers from all over the world. After Poivre’s departure, the garden was administered by Nicolas Cere (1775-1810).

Cere traced the main avenues and had several ponds built notably the Giant Water Lily Pond now filled with spectacular Victoria amazonica. The lotus pond adds to the attraction of the garden. The tour guide said something that the Hindus venerate the lotus because they believe in reincarnation.

She also showed us the ebony tree, west indies palm with spines, the medicinal garden and I got the following inscription on a bust: Pierre Poivre 1719-1786. We also saw the following ornate sign saying: SAM ADHI SSR Mauritius, officially the Republic of Mauritius is an island nation off the coast of the African continent in the southwest Indian Ocean about 900 km east of Madagascar.

In addition to the island of Mauritius, the republic includes the islands of Cargados, Carajos, Rodrigues and the Agalega Islands. Mauritius is part of the Mascarene with the French Island of Reunion, 200 km to the southwest and the island of Rodriguez, 570 km to the northeast.

The main language spoken in Mauritius are Mauritian Creole, French and English. English is the only official language but the lingua franca is Creole and the newspapers and television programs are usually in French. Ethnically, the majority of the population is Indian and there are many people of African descent as well as European and Chinese minorities.

It is the only African nation where the largest religion is Hinduism, followed by Christianity and Islam. The island of Mauritius is also renowned for being the only known home of the dodo. First sighted by the Europeans in 1600, the dodo became extinct less than eighty years later.

Mauritius was uninhabited until being permanently settled by European explorers. In the 1600s, the island was known by Arabs and Austronesian sailors as early as the 10th century. The Portuguese sailors first visited in 1507 and established a visiting base leaving the island uninhabited.

Five ships of the Dutch Second Fleet were blown off course during a cyclone while on their way to see the Spice Islands and landed on the island in 1598, naming it in honour of Prince Maurice of Nassau, the Stadholder of the Netherlands.

In 1638, the Dutch established the first permanent settlement. Because of tough climatic condition, including cyclones and the deterioration of the settlement, the Dutch abandoned the island some decades later in 1710. France which already controlled the neighbouring Ile Bourbon (now Reunion) took control of Mauritius in 1715 and later renamed it Ile de France (Ile of France). Under French rule the island developed a prosperous economy based on sugar production.

We visited a very colourful temple called Tamil. As we drove around on the tour bus, we were surprised that the travel signs are in English and yet their conversation is all carried out in French. The swaying of the trees with the wind seem to want you to stay longer than February 11 and we did want to, but we had an itinerary to follow and so we said goodbye and so long for we intend to be back.

We watched as we cleared the harbour and went on a northerly heading. Eventually we rounded the north of the island. Once cleared of the coast of Mauritius, a South Easterly great circle track was set out into the Indian Ocean. By this time, we were Australia-bound.

By February 12, we developed a routine when we’re at sea and it’s breakfast at 8:30, line dancing at 10, work on the computer, ballroom dancing at 12:30 where we were taught the cha, cha cha, lunch at 1:30 pm where we met Herb and his daughter who are Australians. Of course there were other activities as well. Then it is work again before some rest for the formal dinner at 6, the show time at 8:45, the movie called Salt starring Angelina Jolie and all the dancing before bedtime.

We went to mass before breakfast on February 13 and directly to line dancing and the slow waltz lesson. We were getting the steps now but without the practice, we would forget the whole thing so we would just wait and see, The dinner was fine and so was the show.

We were advised as to the availability of Australian dollars at the machines on board as well as the hospitality desk with Australian officials who will answer questions from the guests. We were advised to obtain Australian dollars in order to avoid long line-ups.

We were also informed of the Australian strict Quarantine controls to prevent the introduction of weeds, diseases and pests to protect Australia’s unique environment, human health and agricultural industries. That is why the passengers are to declare all plant, food and animal material on the incoming passenger card. This consists of meat, dairy products, fruits, packaged and processed foods, seeds, plant cuttings, animal material and souvenirs made of wood.

We were advised to leave all foods in the ship or to throw them away on the bins by the gangway. Baggage will be screened and x-rayed by quarantine officers and would be subject to random checks by detector dog teams. We were advised to fill out the incoming passenger cards that as it is a legal document, any false declarations will be fined or prosecuted.

We continued on the South Easterly great circle track and crossed the Central Indian Ridge where the water was shallow to a depth of about 1500 to 2000 meters compared to up to 5000 meters nearby. Sunrise was early at 5:57 am but the sunset at 6:39 was lovely.

It’s Valentine’s Day so the ship was in an uproar. Besides, we had to get clearance for the Australian immigration through the officials who boarded in Mauritius to get the immigration process go more smoothly than it did at Cape Town so we were surprised to find that it took just minutes.

As we continued on the South Easterly great circle track across the Indian Ocean, the immigration officers from Australia started the full Immigration inspection today and we must say it was done in such an efficient manner, that we could not help but marvel at how organized the Australian immigration officers were.

On February 15, we had our usual schedule where we learned more samba steps. But we had a special invitation from the captain for a cocktail party so we were late for the show. We liked the entertainment director Ray Rouse, quote of the day, “A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving”.

By February 16, we were drawing close to Australia’s west coast and rounded to a more Easterly heading as we had our usual schedule where we learned more slow fox trot steps. We tried to buy flowers for Rolyne on the occasion of her birthday but the order did not go through and the internet café on the boat kept putting us back to the login page so we talked to the internet manager about it.

The dinner was fine, it being just semi-formal and at 8, we watched the movie Extraordinary Measures starring Brandon Fraser, Keri Russell and Harrison Ford. We did not go to the Royal Court Theatre for the shows on Duck Cameron, the magician and Sinead Blanchfield, the sparkling Irish Diva because the movie turned out to be really good.

Before arriving at Freemantle the next day, we read the material QM2 provided us to familiarize ourselves with the area and as usual, we started with a quotation from one who knows the place well and this time it is from Australian Prime Minister (1864 - 1952) William Morris Hughes. “Without the empire we should be tossed like a cork in the cross current of world politics. It is at once our sword and our shield.”

Known as the “friendly city”, Perth and nearby Fremantle enjoy more sunny weather than any other places in Australia. Before, the only way to visit or leave the city is through a long ocean voyage. Freemantle served as Australian gateway for Western immigrants and visitors. The old port continued to be an important commercial harbour, but there is less passenger traffic. Here’s the information we gathered.

On 25 April 1829, the ship HMS Challenger under the guidance of Captain Fremantle had arrived on the waters off the Freemantle coast to make preparation for the Swan River Colony. On 2 May 1829, Captain Fremantle formally took possession, on behalf of King George IV, of the entire west coast of New Holland in a ceremony conducted near the south head of the Swan River.

Captain Fremantle raised the Union Jack here in 1829. A few days later, a camp was set up in a bay just south of the head and Fremantle has been occupied ever since. A month later on June 1, Captain James Stirling arrived to officially set up the Swan River Colony.

Captain Fremantle left the colony on August 25 after providing much assistance to Stirling in setting it up. It was then that Stirling decided to name the new settlement Fremantle after its founding Captain. In 1897, Irish-born engineer C. Y. O’Connor deepened Fremantle Harbour and removed the limestone bar and sand shoals across the entrance to Swan River, thus rendering Freemantle a serviceable port for commercial shipping.

Many lovely buildings were completed many years later after the convicts arrived. The new spurt of growth was seen at the end of the century but by 1900 that soon dwindled along with the large-scale growth. However, the Victorian structures were preserved.

It was declared a city in 1929 and has a current population of 26,000. The Western Australian vernacular diminutive for Fremantle is “Freo”. Within the city you will find many well-preserved 19th century buildings and other heritage features.

Fremantle lies on a chain of limestone hills known by the Noongar people as Booyeembara. Gardoo is to the east. The original vegetation of the area was mainly Xanthorrhoea and eucalyptus trees, being fired annually by the traditional owners.

Fremantle, like other seaside communities, is subject to climate and weather to the point that they call the regular sea breeze as the Fremantle Doctor. Why? It is because it has a cooling effect to provide relief from the summer heat. That said, we chose to trade the golden sands for the rolling hills.

Freemantle is still the chief general seaport of Western Australia. However, the greater tonnages are exported from Pilbara, the semi-arid region in north-western Australia. We were late getting there but it was worth it because we found the people very friendly and helpful.

The national face turned to New South Wales and the Pacific but the region was revitalized with the advent of the Trans-Australian Railway. During WWI, many brave young soldiers saw their homeland for the last time as they joined the ANZAC campaigns. In 1987, the port city became famous for winning the America’s Cup from the Americans.

Perth and Fremantle are nearly joined but the old charms remained and Freemantle has still its own commerce. The large fishing fleet has been revitalized and so as the Indian Ocean traffic grew, so did the container ships and the cruise ships.

Perth and Fremantle have done well in the 21st century as the Indian Ocean commerce and thriving port increased. The history of the Western Australia focuses on the Aboriginal culture but the natural treasures are remarkable. You will see it as you visit the 440-hectare King’s Park.

The King’s Park is sacred to the aboriginal culture. There are perfect views of the city at the higher sections. You can visit the War Memorial atop Mt. Eliza where the they honour the service men and women. Nearby is the Botanical Garden which is a preserve for some of the state’s native plants and species.

Stroll along Federation Walkway before leaving the park which is a unique trail that towers above the eucalyptus trees. Here there are informational plaques explaining the highlights as well as offering interesting historical footnotes.

The centerpiece of the government quadrangle just north of King’s Park is the Western Australia Parliament House. Every time either house is in session, the public galleries are open. There’s a rule though, a most strict one that ‘strangers’ (visitors) not interfere with the dynamic debate on the floor.

The Western Australia Museum and the Western Australia Art Gallery (reached via eastbound train at the city West Station to Perth Station) display the city’s premier collections There are several meteorites, documents on the colonization and aboriginal artifacts dating from prehistoric time.

The art gallery has a collection of Australian and international paintings, crafts, sculpture, prints, decorative arts and drawings. The Aboriginal art collection is one of the finest in the world. While here, don’t’ miss the oldest building in Perth - the courthouse near the waterfront.

Guildford, just east of Perth, is gateway to the fertile upper Swan Valley which is one of the finest wine-growing regions in the state. There are elegant vineyards and chateaux. One can tell Guildford is one of the oldest settlements in Western Australia but don’t forget to visit a wine tasting room.

Practically Speaking - Currency: Australian dollar; Hours: 9 am to 5 pm; Saturday 9am - noon; Info: Town Hall (King’s Square) www.experienceperth.com PO: St. John’s Square (Fremantle) or Murray St. Mall (Perth) Transport: Local light trains are efficient and clean. Freemantle Station is not far away from the pier; Buy: Australian gifts and garments, Aboriginal art, opals and Kalgoorlie gold Arrival Information - The ship docked at Victoria Quay, Port of Fremantle. There were taxis and facilities at the pier.

Fremantle, also known in the vernacular diminutive as Freo, is not a big city but it has character all its own apart from Perth. One can easily explore the old restored buildings on foot but you could also go via a tram line. Start at Fremantle Markets near the Oval and Town Hall where you can find high-quality handmade items.

Tired from browsing around? There are cozy cafes lining up the South Terrace known as the Cappuccino Strip. A latte or a beer may just refresh you. The Town Hall (St. John’s Square) is a few blocks away where the Visitor Center is just next door.

The Western Australian Maritime Museum reflects the relationship between the sea and the city. Here is the display of Batavia that was wrecked off the rocky west coast in 1629. There are also relics from the Dutch ships here. Fremantle Museum and Arts Center was once an asylum for the mentally disturbed women but now it houses colonial relics.

Round House (not really round but 12-sided), between the Bather’s Beach and the wharf was once a prison in 1831 and is the oldest building in the state. There are ferries to go to Rottnest Island, named for quokkas but the Dutch explorers thought they were rats.

Fremantle, AustraliaArmed with the aforementioned information, we arrived at Fremantle, Australia on February 17 after cruising more of the Indian Ocean. This city is the gate way to the capital of Western Australia, Perth, but we did not go to Perth. We found there were enough things to do in this friendly and clean city. We got ready for a walk around town seeing women shore-footed making bold statements in their fashionable flats. Not for us though; we just settled in our moccasin that we could slip on and off easily.

We arrived in Fremantle late because there was something wrong with the turbine that the crew worked overtime on. We found from the daily program the following facts and figures about Freemantle that it is a port city in Western Australia, located 19 kilometers southwest of Perth, the state capital, at the mouth of the Swan River on Australia’s western coast.

We are getting obsessed about the time for while it was only 5 am in Toronto, it’s 7 pm here, 14 hours ahead and counting. Maria Luz said we were featured dancing at the Queen\s Room and we danced once again after the dinner and watched the movie about Kung Fu featuring Jaden Wills and that Chan guy.

In the early morning hours of February 18, we rounded the most South Westerly tip of Australia after which we set on an easterly course. We had breakfast at 8 because there was no line dancing due to the scheduled fire drill for the newcomers.

We still had the Jive lesson from the masters. The formal dinner went on without a hitch after which we went to the Royal Court Theatre for the show on the four Cunard Singers. Then we called it a night because the clock would be advanced again.

Our alarm did not work but we found out that through the day on February 19, we would be on the Easterly heading across the deep waters of the Great Australian Bight. We rushed to breakfast and then to line dancing but James was late for 30 minutes. The professional dancers taught us the Viennese Waltz. Then it was dinner at 6 and showtime at 8 pm.

Here is what we gathered from the Daily Program about Adelaide we felt it essential to get ready for our stay there. Adelaide shows tradition, though it has been known as one of Australia‘s most tolerant capitals. It is not as busy as its big sisters Sydney and Melbourne but it is carefully laid out with several parks for the visitors and residents to enjoy.

Parkland surrounds the compact city centre and it is well acknowledged for its successful Annual Arts Festival. The parks are used during this time to full advantage. The wines are well known here. In fact, Barossa Valley is one of the country’s best wine areas.

The elegant North Terrace Boulevard is lined with Adelaide’s most beautiful old buildings like the Government House, Parliament House and the Old Parliament House. It is located in the northern edge of the city centre. South Australia started as a territory intended for colonization of free immigrants, unlike the country’s younger states.

Those who arrived first were mostly English but the Germans also came because they were attracted to the area‘s Bavarian-like hilly landscape. The fertile soil encouraged the formation of a farming community. Minerals were also found and so Adelaide became a business centre, with its port growing as goods were dispatched.

Adelaide is also known as the “city of churches” because the enclosed city centre has many chapels and cathedrals. The residents were scorned as wowsers which is a term used to refer to people who have no idea about living and how to enjoy life. The thinking here is that maybe the visitors who derided them were kind of jealous of the beautiful capital. The term is no longer used but the South Australians did not deserve it anyway. And we second the sentiment.

In fact, the city holds one of the most famous Arts Festivals every other year, (in some places it says this festival is held annually.) and as an outstanding example of the South Aussie resourcefulness, Coober Pedy’s opal mining town which is 800 kilometers north of Adelaide, is wholly built underground. It makes sense because the temperatures goes over 120 degrees F/50 degrees C!

Here’s what Australian Author Miles Franklin (1879 - 1954) of My Career Goes Bung said, “When all is said and done, friendship is the only trustworthy fabric of the affections. So-called love is a delirious inhuman state of mind: when hot, it substitutes indulgence for fair play; when cold it is cruel, but friendship is warmth in cold, firm ground in a bog.”

The pleasant port area is a bit north of the city. We stopped in at the official Visitor Centre on Commercial Road near the pier. The nearby Maritime Museum offers information about South Australian nautical development. The collection includes sailor’s knots, antique sailing and navigational equipment, old mastheads and a series of antique cabins from late 19th and early 20th century ships.

There’s an official light rail train that connects the Outer Harbour Station to Central Adelaide. Adelaide’s historic core is North Terrace. We wandered around and admired the grand government complex and old churches. They say the Festival Centre is like a squared-off Sydney Opera House. Every Sunday afternoon in the summer, there are free rock concerts outside the amphitheatre.

There are more than 40,000 historic items featured in the Performing Art Collection. The city is part of the larger civic complex. We stopped briefly at the casino before turning along North Terrace Street to see the Adelaide’s trio of state museums. The Art Gallery of South Australia is one of the country’s collection of fine arts. The restored building (first opened in 1881) houses a fine collection of Australian colonial art. The Gallery also has important Aboriginal and Western Works.

Nearby, the South Australian Museum looks at SA history, Aborigines, South Pacific People and South East Asians who helped fashion the state. Meteorites and minerals are shown. Natural history displays introduce local bird species, and the Migration Museum honours the rich traditions from which collective Australian culture is formed.

Adelaide is circled with parks so pretty that after visiting the city’s public gardens, many consider immigrating! We followed Pulteney Street which was named after Admiral Sir Pulteney Malcolm on May 23, 1837. (Unley Rd.) south through Adelaide Reserve to the Parkside district.

This is home of family-run Haigh’s Chocolates since 1915. Established by Prussian immigrants in 1839, Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills, was named after Captain Dirk Hahn who was master of the immigrant ship. Bavarian influence is all-encompassing.

We browsed for art, antiques, homemade soaps, and other local goods. We were surprised to find Beerenberg Farm, an original colonial home, still an operating farm. The restored Hahndorf Academy around 1839 is one of the largest art galleries in South Australia.

Practically Speaking: Currency is Australian dollar Hours: 9 am to 5 pm Saturday 9 am to noon Info: Visitor Centre (18K. William Street) or: www.southaustralia.com/Adelaide.aspx PO: Victoria Square Browse: Rundle Mall, East End Market, Central Market, Antique Market Buy: Opals, Aboriginal artwork.

Walking on the trail (that wends its way south following the Mt. Lofty Ranges considered as South Australia’s spine) at Barossa Valley, just 35 miles northeast of Adelaide, must be fun. Driving takes less than an hour to the pretty and welcoming valley. Some say it’s the best section of Australia’s finest growing district.

Just like in Adelaide, the hillsides are spotted with marvellous old churches and cottages, but more than forty wineries and cellars also settle at the valley. Some of the wineries are family-run but others are national corporations.

There are hot air balloon rides that offer visitors an exceptional way to see the lovely countryside. Here the first settlers were English and Germans. Many of the constructions they built in the mid-19th century are still standing, so the valley is somewhat a reminder of the Bavarian countryside.

Festivals associated with the industry are held once a year. The International Barossa Music Festival is held in the first half of October while the Classic Gourmet Weekend is held in August. Tasting tours are offered by most of the wineries. Among the best known estates are Wolf Blass Wines, Yalumba Winery and Seppeltsfield. You can also browse at www.barossa.com to learn more.

After looking over the aforementioned information, we felt ready for Adelaide, Australia. We knew we would feel at home here just like the other places we had visited so far, proving the truth in Ray’s Quote of the Day, “Travellers never think that they are the foreigners.”

Adelaide, AustraliaWe entered the Gulf of Saint Vincent on February 20, and embarked the pilot at the mouth who helped us go to our berth. Thus we found ourselves in this city where the Edwardian and Victorian buildings are well-preserved. We had to eat breakfast early to take the tour bus to Adelaide’s City Centre which would take 45 minutes.

We got ready loving the leather accessories we brought so terrific for travel. Everything matched and you’re ready to go: bag, dress and Birkenstock. Thus dressed appropriately, we found the people so friendly in this well-maintained and planned city. And they love Queen Mary 2 here.

We were welcome to this capital city, Adelaide, which is also the most densely inhabited city of the Australian state of South Australia. It is the fifth largest city in the country with a total population of more than 1.28 million. A coastal city, it is situated on the eastern shores of St. Vincent.

From the coast the suburbs reach around 20 kilometres to the foothills. It extends 90 kilometres from Gawler in the north to Sellicks Beach in the South. It is named after the German-born consort of King William IV. Adelaide was founded in 1836 as the capital of the British province in Australia.

Colonel William Light, one of the founding fathers, designed the city and chose the location near the river Torrens which is the most important river of the Adelaide Plains. This area was originally inhabited by the Kauma tribe who are the indigenous Australians. Light designed Adelaide in a grid layout with large public squares and wide boulevards. And he made the whole area surrounded by parkland.

Religious freedom and a commitment to civil liberties and political progressivism shaped Adelaide in the early days. This led to the first reforms in the world. A commercial centre and the government seat of South Australia, Adelaide is in the site of a lot of financial and governmental institutions.

You can find many of these institutions in the City Centre along the cultural boulevard of King William Street, North Terrace, and in different districts of the metropolitan area. Nowadays, Adelaide is known for many sporting events and festivals along with its culture, food and wine, long beach fronts and also its large manufacturing and defence sectors. It is not a surprise that Adelaide ranks highly as a liveable city, having made it to the top ten of The Economist’s World’s Most Liveable Cities index.

We met so many good people here. How true it is, the Ray’s quote of the day attributed to Mark Twain, “I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out if you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” Not that we hate anyone for there is nobody we hate in the whole world.

On February 21, we set towards the coast of Victoria and journeyed through the Bass Strait between mainland Australia and Tasmania. We’re on our way to Sydney with the boat rocking (a crew member said it is always hopping at this spot), and had a breakfast at regular time.

As usual we perused the material on Sydney to get ready for our tour there.Here’s what we learned. As a harbor city. Sydney always saves a special welcome for ships from Cunard lines and we saw the evidence with today’s Royal Rendezvous of Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth. Sydney is the New South Wales capital and it’s also the oldest, largest and most perfectly positioned city.

Established in 1788 as a penal colony, it was the end of the world for the first convicts who arrived in a few boatloads. Many of the unwilling passengers had done nothing more than steal a few loaves of bread (some of them had done nothing at all!), but colonists were needed on the new continent, and volunteers were in short supply.

Anyone who went such great distance in those days was unlikely to see England again. The small tents and huts built by the first arrivals clung precariously to the edge of an unforgiving land. The harbour was the city’s humble fireplace, and the ragged convicts, whose numbers had dwindled to 1000 after the long ocean voyage, rolled up their sleeves and began to build.

It is hard to imagine how frightening the unfamiliar land, people, and animals must have been. - the newcomers had never even seen pictures of kangaroos! A little more than 200 years later, Sydney is a monument to their perseverance.

The city sprawls beyond the harbour in all directions, and each community has assumed a distinct identity. Almost one in four Australians (4,000,000 people) lives in the metropolis and the urban mass covers 4000 square miles.

The metropolitan area extends outward from Sydney Harbour to the foothills of the blue Mountains (34 miles west), beyond the shores of Botany Bay (20 miles south) and to Broken Bay in the north (about 30 miles). Sydney is the shining gateway to Australia for most international visitors.

It is also the main port for nearly every air cargo and shipping company servicing Australia (although as commerce ships to the Indian Ocean, Fremantle and Broome are both expanding). All national highways, railroads, and domestic networks link to Sydney.

With its distinctive white “sails” and commanding harbour location, Sydney Opera House is urban Australia’s most recognizable landmark. Far more versatile than the name implies, it is an entertainment complex for a wide range of performance and activity including dance, drama, film opera, jazz, five restaurants, and six bars (to keep it lively). Many derided it when it was first built, but residents have come to be proud of their modern landmark.