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January 25

Back at last from a mad dash to a couple of Australian cities and some other places. We flew to Sydney on Virgin Blue. This is a domestic Australian line - a branch of Virgin Airlines. Sort of a budget thing where you have to buy your own drinks - they offer a biography of Richard Branson if you fancy buying a book with a drink. 

Our hotel in Sydney was at a busy corner and at first glance was unimpressive. Nevertheless it was a suite and was right across from Chinatown ensuring many yummy dinners. They delivered breakfast every morning and since we stuffed ourselves every night at Chinatown, we soon had a small tower of cereal boxes and many bottles of fruit juice filling the fridge. The suite proved to be a great idea for a family who has outgrown sharing a room together. Jonah loved the TV and took several baths a day. I should explain since we live on a yacht and only have a shower, Jonah thinks of baths as a very special event. We indulge him in hotels - it counts as an activity. We were a typical family doing all the goofy things you do with kids in a city - museums, Imax, gardens, ferry rides, tall towers and whatever else….all of this costs thru the nose despite the family price tickets. I suppose we might have done less but since we are so rarely in cities - we took the opportunity. He was a bit impatient in the Art Museums but modern art is mostly unapproachable and cerebral to a six year old. We saw a Picasso exhibit and he seemed curious but unimpressed. We went to a museum called the Powerhouse museum which is a museum on how things work - a sort of science museum but more eclectic. He was thrilled and loved all the hands on exhibits. It was very hot in the city between 95 and 101. We tended to be exhausted by 4 pm and needed naps before dinner.

We went to the French embassy to apply for Visas and discovered we were missing proof of health insurance. We had gone to apply for our extensions to our Australian visas in Brisbane before catching the plane to Sydney. They decided we needed chest x-rays to prove we don't have tuberculosis - mostly to do with their socialized medicine which takes care of anybody fully if they are in the country for more than a few months. 

We rented a car the last couple of days in Sydney and drove to the Blue Mountains which separate Sydney and the suburbs from the rest of Australia. The mountains were beautiful despite the heat - well ok we didn't leave our car much but it was well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celisus)!

After a lovely week in Sydney, we flew to Melbourne. We rented a car and drove to the country so Jonah could attend a birthday party of a friend that he met in Bundeberg. The Yacht "Juniper" is still there, in Bundy, but Peter, Joanna and children are spending several months with Peter's parents. The house is way up in the hills and is a lovely comfortable rambling country house. In fact Peter actually built the house for his father while he was building his boat in the back yard. Jonah had a blast although as always children tend to get a bit overwhelmed a parties - the food, the games, etc. We really enjoyed ourselves and it was fun meeting the extended family and friends of Peter and Joanna. 

The landscape seems even drier than Brisbane and Sydney area which surprised me simply because I assumed Victoria would be greener. 

We drove back into Melbourne and checked into our hotel. We awoke the next day smelling smoke and looked out and could barely see the next block. They are having huge forest fires and combined with the extreme heat, the smoke got trapped. The fires were dozens of miles away! It was regrettable but we drove around a bit all thought the haze made it difficult to appreciate the city. We did some museums and a big tower (for the view) and ate delicious Dim Sum in their Chinatown. The next day we drove West into a groupd of mountains called the Grampians - we took a long scenic drive and saw some pretty country. We stayed near Grampians National Park in a town called Halls Gap which reminded us a lot of Eastern Washington and Idaho. Our motel was very cute and our patio looked out over cow pastures and mountains. In the evening the kangaroos would come and graze in the pastures. Jonah came down with a cold which looked to be turning into an ear infection which put a damper on our activities. It was cool the first day we arrived and positively freezing at night but it gradually got hot again and built up to 100+ on the day we left for the airport. 

It is good to be "home". Jonah was taken to the Doctor and is on anitbiotics for an ear infection. Jordan and I had our chest xrays. I think my heart is rather nicely shaped and I do not have tuberculosis. 

Debbie, Jordan's sister, has had her little girl, Julia. We are thrilled and happy for Al and Debbie - a sweet new life is a good thing after a sorrowful year.