About Colin Spain

The Official Blogger for Grey Nomads Travel and Cruise and GR8L1F

160319 Seymour Weekend

We had a great time with friends on the weekend at Seymour. Years ago, we used to ride bicycles around Melbourne for recreation but have grown ‘older’ and have now resorted to having ‘relaxing by the river’ as a very active part of our weekends. Haha! Its been almost 5 years since we have all become motor home nomads and this was the first time we have spent together. Time flies and we just haven’t organised ourselves to include in a get-to-together in our calendars. I hope you enjoy the short video I put together on the iPhone.

Mediterranean Collection 2016

We have two Group Tours planned for 2016. The first one is a Cruise on the Mediterranean with Princess Cruises sailing on their mega ship, “Royal Princess”. “Royal Princess” was only launched in June 2013, so she is very new. After a 3 day stopover in Venice on our way to Spain, we will be sailing out of Barcelona on May 7 visiting 14 ports before returning to Barcelona on May 28 and arriving in Melbourne on May 30.

Give Lyn a call today on 03 5967 1858 and make a booking on this cruise which you could include in your European vacation during 2016.

Menieres Update August 1, 2014

Well here goes. Since I returned from Scandinavia late June, I have had a Buggah of a time with many days of attacks and dizzy feelings. So, we have done a few things and put back in place a couple of regimes to help reduce the severity and frequency of the attacks.

I was having problems with my eyes. My eyes have both had cataracts and the right eye has had a detached retina. My vision was showing the left eye as ok but the right eye saw the vision down and tilted down to the centre. I was giving the optometrist a headache in getting this sorted out, so he put my hands on the ‘steering wheel’ to get the vision I saw, level and clear. What a difference I was able to make to my own vision by just tweaking a few dials to a point that the eyes almost see the vision at the level and the angle vision has now been corrected. We hope that the extra prism the optometrist was able to include in my prescription has been able to help reduce my Menieres dizzy attacks. I also drive with orange tinted sunglasses to reduce glare even at night.

The best audiologist anyone can have is their spouse. Mine has been at me for quite a few years to get hearing aids. Well, today, I purchased a pair of hearing aids. I now can hear things that had left my hearing ‘vocabulary’. The crackling of paper is very predominate and the sound of running water into a tub of water is quite loud. Hopefully, this will assist in my keeping the balance mechanisms stable, thus reducing the Menieres attacks. This was done through
http://www.blameysaunders.com.au who were involved with Professor Clarke in the discovery of the cochlear implant. Their hearing aid is able to be controlled by me from a program on the computer and so if I want to tweek them a little, I can at will. These are as good as what’s in the market for over $10,000 for less than $4000 including the program and twelve months supply of batteries.

Before we went to Scandinavia, I was having a green drink each morning (silver beet, nuts, apricot juice, and whatever else Lyn wants to disguise from me, whized up in the Thermomix) and going for a 40-60 minute walk before or after breakfast each day. I have started that again and also taking life a lot more easy with a sleep or two during the day.

One of the drugs I have been prescribed by my ENT is serc. These are produced in France. However, the pharmacist and doctor suggested a cheaper version which is produced in Pakistan or India – you know, the non branded drugs that are on the market as “cheaper, but with the same ingredients”. Maybe, but what about the quality of those cheaper ingredients? So I have gone back to the original serc from France. Some Meniere’s Disease sufferers on Facebook had reported an increase of attacks when on the cheaper Sinieres brand of serc.

For the last 4 months, I have been taking a new product called “Meniers Balance” made in Boise, Idaho. The researcher who worked on this project saw her mother with Ménière’s disease and decided to do something about it. The product is designed to reduce tinnitus and vertigo. I have spoken directly to the researcher and am one of the test cases for the product.

This all seems to be working well and tomorrow will make it two weeks since I have had an attack or any sign of being seriously dizzy. A bit of an investment but we are hoping that my quality of life is back on the mend again and I can be back helping others, with the same disease, a little more.

I have a project I have started in order to raise some money to get together more resources for those who have Meniere’s Disease. We all have ‘brain fog moments’ and Menieres sufferers are at the top of the list for such experiences. If you send your, or anyone else’s, brain fog moment (you may be fortunate to have more than one – they will all be accepted) to the following email address – brainfogmoments@yahoo.com.au we will include it/them in an iBook to be published just when we have enough stories. They can be embarrassing, silly, humorous, or just ‘very interesting’. I have a couple of illustrators who will be doing drawings or paintings, especially for the book, on a voluntary basis. All contributors will be kept anonymous or with just the initials. The contributors are already coming from all over the world and so this has become an international effort indeed.

So send in your story and get published and at the same time, help raise funds for Menieres Resource Centre, Melbourne, Australia.

A story of a lost iPad

I am just a little fellow, silver in colour with a black leather protection case wrapped around me. It seems that my owner is very proud of me. He uses me for lots of things that I don’t know much about, as I just ‘do’ what he asks me to do. He takes the leather shroud away from my face regularly to perform browses of the internet, which I so efficiently provide responses to. I reveal to him his requests without charge, and without even passing that information to others because so much of the information I have is password protected.

On Friday, after he was doing further tasks on my face, he decided to go to have breakfast. He put me on the bench and then placed me in a little dark room, shut the door, and input the secret code to secure me in the box known as a safe. It was cold and dark in there and I didn’t like it at all.

While he was away, it must have been the cleaners that came and made a lot of noise in the room and the bathroom, getting the room tidy.

When he came back from breakfast, he looked for me on the bench but he could not see me – he must have forgotten that he put me in the little dark room with the security number ‘thingo’. After searching the room and getting frustrated, he left to go and report that I was missing.

And I was very scared. He was very upset and disappointed with himself. I was so wishing that he could have found me, as i do like him massaging my face whenever he takes off my leather cover.

I could hear him getting frustrated and he and his wife left, I presume to go to the security man to help with locating me. You see, I think he thought that the cleaner had taken me for his own personal use. I heard the security guy and the cleaner come into the room without my owner and they were looking everywhere for me. The cleaner told the security guy that he had noticed two iPhones on the bench being charged. (I wish I was in their place as I was running out of power too).

He and his wife came back into the room while the cleaner and security guy were in the room. The feeling in the air, came through the safe door and I knew that it was not good that these guys were doing a room search without my owner and his wife in the room too. Anyway, they did the extensive search including opening the safe and pulling all that other stuff out of the little dark box while i waited to be noticed. The cleaner and security guy left and further searches of the room and the safe were made, but still I was not noticed. “God give me legs so i can walk out to announce me ‘found'”.

My wishes were that he would remember that if he used one of the apps on his iPhone or computer, he would be able to send a message to me to start screaming. It took him a long time to remember this, and I had to remain in this little dark secure room with wallets and cameras and money and other useless stuff around me.

They left with my father, the Apple laptop, which I had heard him say he could not get into the internet with, because they were only allowed 4 devices to use the Wifi at the same time. He returned with the computer display open. He had used the App that allows him to send an instruction to ‘scream’. However, Mr Apple did not send the message straight away and so the ‘find my iPad’ did not work – at that time.

He went back to the Hotel Manager to show him what had been found on the ‘find my iPad App’ – that I had been used 2 hours ago. I heard that the Manager went back to the CCTV records and did further searches.

My owner came back to the room a couple of hours later after using the Hotel Business Centre to write a letter of complaint about the situation of the cleaner and this other guy doing a room search without my owner being in the room too.

He tried the ‘find my iPad’ App again and sent another message to me to scream. I received it and, did I scream? You bet. I was beside myself waiting for this ‘brain-fogged’ owner to wake up and send the ‘scream now’ message to me, because I just did not like being in this little dark box. He heard me screaming and opened the safe door, pulled all those other things out of the box, but not me. I kept screaming at the top of my voice. I could see him but he could not see me. I screamed louder.  He felt all around the safe box for me but no, he could not find me. Then he took the carpet out of the safe and eventually rubbed his hands around the wall of the safe and when he touched me, I fell over onto his hand and he was able to open my cover, key in the password, and stop my screaming. How relieved I was because my voice was getting hoarse. It was a great feeling to have him massage my face again as he keyed in the password. I then stopped screaming at the top of my lungs. He had finally worked out how to use the app that found me.

My owner was so happy! He went to the hotel manager and the cleaner and told them of his great find and apologised for all the turmoil he had put the hotel staff through. He was also happy that I am an Apple product which has the ‘Find my iPad’ app – a great way to find me.

“Please Mr, give me a real bright coloured leather case to live in so I can be noticed easily when I get lost.”


140327 Parkroyal Penang Resort

For those who have ‘been to Bali”, done Fiji or tried Phuket, Penang is an interesting alternative. This is an island connected by a long bridge to mainland Malaysia. To travel to Penang, take a flight to the now famous Kuala Lumpur, with a short flight to Penang or, fly to Singapore and change aircraft for the one-hour flight to Penang International Airport.

My transfer met me at the airport and made sure I was comfortable for the one-hour drive, the length of the island, to my hotel in the northern district of Batu Feringgi. One investment the Malaysian Government may like to take up, is a freeway from the airport to the holiday resorts in the north – it would be a great asset to have, especially for the fly-in tourists.

The traffic is busy but I am told that during the week, traffic is less chaotic than on weekends. Arriving anywhere during school holidays always means that many locals are on the road too.

I stayed at the Parkroyal Penang Resort situated on the edge of the bay. There are a number of other resorts close by, but the established surrounds of Parkroyal are more inviting. Palms offer plenty of shade beside the pools and the grounds are well kept. You can enjoy the tropical breezes near the shore while watching the water activities from your basket cacoon or lay back lounge.

The hotel was built in the early nineties with a furnishings upgrade in 2002. Hallway carpet was replaced in 2013. The rooms, although ample in size, need an upgrade of sorts, really.  The bed is huge. It’s interesting to still see designated smoking areas around the hotel, but I am sure that will change. Breakfast is in the very busy Tamarind Brasserie (a notice at the exit from the lifts tell you how busy breakfast is – much like city link in Melbourne – and daytime snacks can be purchased from the Cool Bananas Cafe.

There is a bar between the adult pool and the beach and all the staff are friendly, efficient and helpful. The dedicated children’s pool, has a couple of water slides to keep the active ones away from the adult pool. The children’s day care, the koko-nut klub, is attended by carers with many activities available for the toddler age group.

Water activities are busy during the day especially the para-sailing option. You can water ski, or ride the biscuit behind a speed boat, or zoom away on the jet skis.  I spent most of my day, just lazing on a deck chair soaking up the sun and watching the parasailers take off and return on an eventful, and often high, ‘look around the bay’ venture.  There are “interruptions” to the day when the muslim temple broadcasts the regular prayers on the ‘efficient’ loud speaker system.  The locals seem to not take any notice of them.

For evening meals the Dinner by the Beach is a popular Barbecue.  However, I found that the food was a bit down on quality.  Very close to the hotel is a couple of good restaurants which visitors quickly get to know about; the Ferrenghi Garden, which has won The Cleanest and Most Pleasant Restaurant Award; and The Happy Place.  Both of these eating places have very good and less expensive meals.

There are many day tours which can be taken from the hotel; Round Island Discovery, George Town City Explorer, Hill and Temple Sightseeing, Botanic Gardens and Butterfly Farm and Orang Utan and Mangrove Forest.  Some of these are full day tours and include lunch along the way.  I took an hour or so at the Butterfly Farm and was impressed with the amount of colourful species they have there.

Penang?  I would return just to enjoy the foot massages on the beach or at the massage places.  Yes, the food is enjoyable and there are some very quaint things to see.


140321 Hotel Fort Canning

Whenever I come to Singapore, I notice the many parks and gardens.  The boulevard from the airport to the busy business centre is well kept and attractive. Years ago, the government brought in a rule to have residents and visitors refrain from littering.  This has helped to make Singapore one of the most popular hub cities in Asia, if not the world.  The place always looks tidy and, you feel safe.

I had never really experienced the parks of the centre of Singapore so I decided to book my accommodation at the Hotel Fort Canning en route to Penang.  This award winning boutique hotel has just 86 stylised rooms and suites. Mine is just a ‘basic’ room, but is well supplied with modern fixtures and fittings.  Controlling the blinds and light from the TV remote, I enjoy a comfortable sleep to awaken to the idea of a hot bath. The bathroom is on what was the balcony in a previous version. Not many bathrooms have such great views to be enjoyed but, from the large tub-bath overlooking the surrounding parks and gardens, this one has that uniqueness.

The staff in The Glasshouse Restaurant were very helpful and encouraged me to enjoy both the delicious breakfast and the day ahead.  The chef makes great omelettes, too.

The hotel was once used as a base for the British during World War II.  For many years, while the military were in residence, the area was known as the “The Forbidden Hill”.  But today, the wise developers have turned the “hill” into a parkland. Walkways extend throughout the parkland of well established tropical vegetation. Atop the hill, is a water reservoir, which is used in the metro water system. One section of the garden is dedicated to ASEAN sculpture, with some interesting forms indeed; another section contains a large variety of spices. On display are a 9-pound gun, a battle box, a time ball and a lighthouse – all remnants from war days. There is an archeological dig exposition, and many rotundas where picnics can be enjoyed, away from the bustling streets of Orchard Road and the like.  All these items and exhibits make the morning walk from the hotel that much more interesting.  You may want to use the fitness station.

Within the parklands are some older style buildings.  I was interested to see included in the marriage registry building, a Registry of Muslim Marriages.  There was a Muslim couple having their photos taken and they were dressed in black.  (I wonder what the black means if white stands for purity in a western wedding? Mmm.) In the ‘lowlands’ area of the park is the Galleries Utama and Viridian Art House.

I’m glad I chose this magnificent location to stay these few nights.  I can look out towards other hotels and ask “why would you stay in a matchbox full of tight rooms spilling out onto the busy pavements of Singapore?”  I think whenever I return to Singapore, I will be considering to return to the relaxed estate lifestyle of Fort Canning Park.


140323 Gardens by the Bay

I’ve often thought about my own garden as being in heaven. The lush green leaves and new growth just excites me during the spring and the yellow, orange, and red colors in the autumn tell me that ‘I’ve had a good summer.”

It was not until I entered the brilliant “Gardens by the Bay” today, that I realised Heaven has moved to Singapore.  If you ever take a flight to Europe, and you’re the slightest bit interested in gardening, take a few days off in Singapore. I stayed at Hotel Fort Canning, which is a boutique hotel with 86 rooms just close to Orchard Road. You need to be prepared for some walking but the parkland around the hotel is great to enjoy that early morning walk before a day of retail therapy.

The first wonder of the modern gardening world, the “Gardens by the Bay” is what I just said – it is WONDERFUL! You can travel by train or taxi or by ‘leg’ from the city or from your accommodation. A walking frame would make the journey quite arduous indeed, but for those fitted with a comfortable pair of sneakers, the walk through the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and shopping complex is well worth-while.

Someone in Singapore has a great imagination.  Setting up gardens is one chore but the design of Gardens by the Bay is another.  Featured are more than 500,000 plants from over 2,200 species. These plants are featured outside and inside in the very large ‘cooling’ houses.  The Flower Dome features 9 different gardens from 6 different countries – an extensive array of Baobabs, cacti, plants from South Africa, South America, California, the Mediterranean region, and Australia – yes, kangaroo paw of many varieties.  The changing Flower Field Display currently displays the War of the Roses.  In the next couple of months, there will be many tulips shipped in especially from Holland.

The second ‘cooling’ house , is the Cloud Forest.  You can explore the highlands amidst orchids, pitcher plants and ferns from the cool-mist Tropical Montane region.  Featured is the World’s tallest indoor waterfall at 35 metres in height.  In this cooling house are 7 ‘discovery’ zones; the Lost World, a Cloud Walk, a Treetop Walk, Crystal Mountain, Earth check, +5 Degrees and a Secret Garden.  Each two hours, automatic misting is turned on to water the gardens, and you feel like you are in the highlands of a tropical rain-forest.

After taking the lift, you stroll along suspended pathways around the forest. The vertical garden is covered with various kinds of orchids and other tropical plants. These plants expose some beautiful blooms of magnificent colour.

As you exit the dome, the gift shop is filled with souvenirs of top quality surprises for friends and family, as well as to keep the memory of a great garden vividly in your mind.

I took an Audio Tour through the extensive themed gardens outside – there can be lots of walking if you wish, as an alternative.  You can stroll the 22-metre high OCBC Skyway.  In the evening, there is a free light and sound show called the OCBC Garden Rhapsody using these large man-created metal trees.  These structures have more vertical gardens growing up the entire ‘tree’.

This area is permanent and is a must see whenever you come to Singapore.  In fact, Singapore used to be a ‘stopover’ point but today, it is a ‘destination’ in its own right.

In a fews days, I will have to return to my ‘summer burnt’ heaven in Australia. Now, thats not a good ‘gardeners’ thought at all.