South Australia 2015 – Great Ocean Road

Staying overnight in a nice motel in Grampians National Park, I made my way back to Melbourne along the coast, following the most interesting Part of the Great Ocean Road from Warrnambol to Torquay.
The scenic driving experience was complemented by a lot of stops at lookouts and walks along the way, the most exciting in the Port Campbell National Park with the “shipwreck coast” and Twelve Apostles.

South Australia 2015 – Ballarat and Grampians

From Melbourne, I took a rental car and made my way towards West. I spent the morning in Ballarat, a former gold mining city, with the main attraction Sovereign Hill, a reconstructed Victorian gold mining town. There is even an original gold mine left that I visited joining a guided tour, but the overall experience resembled more like a theme park with not too much authenticity. I also stopped by the city centre of Ballarat that still has a couple of impressive historic buildings.

After noon, I drove further West to the Grampians National Park, a mountainous area with a lot of hiking opportunities in beautiful landscape, lookouts and waterfalls. Fortunately the expected thunderstorm did hold off and I managed to see the most important spots and do one longer hike in the afternoon. The possibilities in the park are currently limited though, since parts are still closed due to a large bushfire in January 2014.

South Australia 2015 – Melbourne and Phillip Island

Inspired by a good flight offering, I decided to do a rather short 11-day trip to Australia, focussing on the most important parts in Southern Australia that I haven’t yet seen.
First destination and stop was Melbourne, the capital of Victoria known for sports and cultural events. Although the overall metropolian area of Melbourne is huge with several million residents, the city centre is only about a square mile and can be explored by foot in one day, especially since trams and a couple of museums in the inner city are free. I did that the first full day being in Australia, still catching up a bit with the 10-hour jetlag, covering the basic city centre and nearby areas like East Melbourne with the Botanic Gardens and various sports facilities.
Since a thunderstorm in the evening and early morning prevented further sightseeing, I continued in the morning of the next day with the Docklands, Victoria Harbor, and Victoria Market. In the afternoon, I joined an organized tour to Phillip Island, an island linked by a bridge about 100km Southeast of Melbourne famous for the little penguins. The tour included stops at a wildlife park with Koalas and lots of Kangaroos, as well as several spots on Phillip Island like Pyramid Rock or the Nobbies. It culminated in the evening event to watch the little penguins colony return from sea at sunset (together with a few hundred other visitors, no photography allowed).



US East Coast 2014 – Washington D.C.

The last three days of my trip were dedicated to the highlight at the end, Washington D.C. The first day, I took the MARC train from Baltimore-Washington International airport, which takes about half an hour to get to union station in Washington D.C. After dropping the luggage in the hotel, I did an exploration tour starting at the White House and “The Mall” including Washington Monument (where I got a ticket to go to the top, but visits were suspended due to heavy rain), the National Museum of American History, the National Gallery of Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Galllery.
The second day, I started at the Library of Congress, continueing with visits to the National Air and Space Museum, a guided tour of the United States Capitol, a successful second attempt to the top of Washington Monument, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Hirshhorn Museum, and the National Museum of the American Indian. I finished the day with a walking tour through Penn Quarter with a couple of interesting buildings such as the FBI building or Ford’s Theatre, where Abraham Lincoln was shot.

The third and last day was the only sunny day of my stay and I had spared the longer walks for good weather. I started in the morning with a walk from my travel guide book through Georgetown, a more historic and quiet quarter in the Western part of the city. From there I continued the toor directly to the part of the mall with all the memorials, starting with Lincoln memorial, Vietnam War memorial, World War II memorial, and Korean War memorial. From this area, I crossed the Potomac river on Arlington Memorial Bridge to Arlington national cemetery. There I went to the tomb of the unknown soldier and John F. Kennedy’s graveyard. While walking around the huge area, I witnessed several ceremonies. Before taking back the metro to the centre, I walked to the nearby US marines memorial, also known as Iwo Jima or “Flags of our fathers”. In the afternoon before my return flight, I completed the visit with short stops at the National Museum of Natural History, the Jefferson memorial, the Roosevelt memorial, and the Kennedy centre of performing arts.

US East Coast 2014 – Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Gettysburg, Baltimore

This day again involved a lot of driving, unfortunately with a couple of delays due to dense traffic. From Philadelphia I started towards West to Lancaster County, which is the main region for German-based special religious groups like the Amish or Mennonites. Besides seeing a few Amish “live” with their carriages on the road, I visited the “Amish House and Farm” museum and the Hans Herr house.
Next stop was Gettysburg, the place where the heaviest battle in the American Civil War happened. Today it is a National Historic Park, and you can drive along the old battleground on a 25 mile auto tour with stops at the most important spots. I followed the tour that provided views and explanations of the places of battle, with a lot of canons, statues and monuments on the roadside, ending at the solidier’s national cemetery.

In late afternoon, I managed to get to Baltimore catching the last 1.5 hours of sunlight, which was just enough to do a walking tour around the inner harbour and the most interesting spots around downtown to get an impression of this city as well. In the evening I returned the rental car at Baltimore Washington Airport, staying in a nearby airport hotel, and traveling to my last stop on this trip, Washington D.C., by train tomorrow.

US East Coast 2014 – Brandywine Valley, Valley Forge

Today I explored several sights West of Philadelphia. Brandywine Valley provides beautiful landscape, wineries, and historic battlefields of the war of Independence. However, since the suggested winery and battlefield state park were closed, I instead visited the Brandywine River Museum (American Art), and Longwoood Gardens, a large and impressive landscape and botanical garden.

From Brandywine Valley, I turned north to Valley Forge, a National Historic Park about the winter camp of general Washington’s revolution army in 1777/78. I finished the day doing shopping in the nearby “King of Prussia” mall (second largest in the US), and an outlet shopping centre.

US East Coast 2014 – Philadelphia

I dedicated one full day to downtown Philadelphia. I started rather early in the morning to e at the Independence National Historic Park Visitor Centre when it opened. There I got one of the tickets to the firsts tour to the Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the first version of the Constitution were elaborated and announced. The National Historic Park also hosts a couple of other historic buildings and artifacts such as the Congress Hall (which served as congress for a short time when Philadelphia was capital of the US), the Old City Hall and the Liberty Bell Center.

After exploring this historic centre for about two hours, I did a quite extensive walking tour to all the other interesting sights mentioned in my travel guide book, including Society Hill quarter, Waterfront with the Independence Seaport Museum, Old City with Elfreth’s Alley (the oldest street in the US), city centre with Reading Terminal Market and the Wanamaker Grand Court Organ in a historic department store building (today a branch of Macy’s), the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and finally Broad Street, Ritterhouse Square District and dinner in Chinatown.

US East Coast 2014 – From New Haven to Philadelphia

Today I had to spend quite some time driving again to get past New York City (which I did not include in this tour) to Philadelphia. The most interesting places on the way were two universities: Yale in New Haven at the very start of the journey, and Princeton about half way between New York City and Philadelphia. In both locations, I did a walk around the university grounds and visited the university art museums.

Late afternoon I arrived in Philadelphia, where I did a first quick Sightseeing tour already providing a basic impression of the city.

US East Coast 2014 – Newport, Providence, Mystic

Today I spent most of the time in Newport, which provides quite a lot of sights mainly in shape of mansions. I started in the morning by walking the historic centre and then the cliff walk that runs along the Eastern coast line of the city and provides beautiful views on the ocean and on backyards of mansions. On the way back, I walked along Bellevue Avenue, where most of the historic mansions that are open to the public are located. I managed to see four of them from inside, and they were fascinatingly big and pompous as imagined. After the extensive walking, I also drove the “Ten Mail Ocean Drive” providing even more views on the ocean and further mansions on the rest of the area that is better reached by car.

The rest of the day I was only able to do shorter stops: first in Providence mostly for the Rhode Island State Capitol with one of the largest domes in the world. Second in Mystic with the historic seaport theme park (closed already for the day) and the nice town centre with the historic draw bridge. Third in Foxwoods Casino, a huge mall and entertainment centre with multiple casinos, shops, restaurants, shows and cinemas located in a native american reservation.

US East Coast 2014 – Plimoth Plantation, Cape Cod

After two short morning visits in the cities Concord and Manchester (New Hampshire), I continued my journey south of Boston in Plymouth and the Plimoth Plantation. Highlights were of course the replica of the Mayflower and the open-air museum of the first settlement of the “pilgrim fathers”.nued

Next target was Cape Cod, a peninsula shaped like a mirrored
“L” that is a frequent leisure and vacation area as well as number one Cranberry producing region. After a stop at the Heritage Museum and Garden near Sandwich, I followed the route on the peninsula until the end near Provincetown. Driving took much longer than expected, so I had to quit the last third of the tour when it got dark. Besides the usual sightseeing while driving, I stopped at Pilgrims Heights, Provincetown centre, Marconi Beach and Nauset Lighthouse.