Yesterday was my last working day. Official retirement date is 31 December but I have accumulated leave to cover the time from now until then and we plan to make the most of the first few months for our European adventures. Departure is next Monday, 10 July and, all being well, we will not be back until Wednesday, 4 October.
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Fewer than 50 days and counting

I posted here in February when we had 140 days to run to departure (91 working days for me) and were getting started on preparations. I’ve been meaning to post an update for ages and thought that last weekend as we approached the 50 day countdown would be appropriate. That didn’t happen for various reasons and we are now at 45 days to departure and I have fewer than 30 working days remaining. Barring any surprises I’ll teach my last class next Wednesday and be into my last lot of marking by the end of next week. It’s all becoming very real.

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Wellington, NZ, for ascilite 2012

Majella and I recently travelled to Wellington in New Zealand where I attended ascilite 2012 and Majella indulged in a little more tourism. We left home early on the morning of Saturday, November 24 (early enough to catch an 8:45 am flight out of Brisbane) and returned on Thursday, November 29 (on an even earlier 7:00 am flight from Wellington).

Our itinerary for the outward trip had us checking in at Brisbane around 6:30 am, necessitating a 4:30 am departure from Toowoomba and rising an hour before that. With the 3 hour time difference it was well after 2:00 pm when we arrived in Wellington. We took the bus to town, found Rydges Hotel and checked in. We had time do do some simple shopping for breakfast makings and to take a rest before heading out to meet Birgit who had sent a general invitation to colleagues who might want to meet for dinner. We found Birgit and Therese at the rendezvous point near Te Papa and walked up to Cuba Street where we ate mains at the Matterhorn before wandering off to find dessert at St Johns and then back to our hotel for sleep.

Sunday was my one relatively free day – just registration to be completed in the conference venue at Te Papa and an evening reception. We slept late, waking after 8:00 am, to compensate for our early start and the time shift on Saturday. By 10:00 am we had eaten breakfast in our room and headed out to see the sights. The harbour ferry had been delayed for mechanical problems so we toured a New Zealand navy vessel while we waited and then took the ferry around the harbour for a couple of hours. That took us to Seatoun at the southern end, across to Days Beach on the east side, past Somes Island to Petone, and back to the city. Although the sun was warm there was a strong, cool wind most of the time we were on the water so we were pleased to be back out of that. Once landed we walked to Te Papa where I registered for the conference before we found lunch at the market in Waitangi Park where there was also a festival associated with The Hobbit. From there we walked back through the city, took the cable car to the top of the hill and walked back down through the Botanical Gardens. In the evening I walked back to Te Papa for the conference reception while Majella ate at the hotel.

The conference filled my days for the rest of the week and I’ve recorded some thoughts about that elsewhere. Monday evening had another reception but Majella and I met up for dinner which we ate at Hotel Bristol where we had eaten on our trip in 2010. Tuesday night was the conference dinner. Majella declined that and ate at the hotel while I partied.

While I was at the conference, Majella managed some touristic activity including the walking tour of the city on Monday and several galleries/museums on Tuesday. On Wednesday she decided to make the most of The Hobbit premier experience and found a spot close to the action. After exchange of SMS messages (no WiFi in that part of town) and some effort I managed to locate her shortly after 4:00 pm and we watched proceedings on the red carpet until almost 7:00 pm. On the walk back to the hotel we stopped for dinner at One Red Dog.

Thursday morning was another early start – 3:30 am – for our shuttle to the airport, 7:00 am flight and drive home from Brisbane to Toowoomba.

The grand plan

Nancy suggested on Facebook that we need a map so that interested readers can know where we are planning to go.

I’ve been building a map with our overnight destinations (and intended driving routes as I worked out distances) in Google Maps. I haven’t managed to get it to retain all the planned routes but I expect we will deviate a bit most days in any case so those interested in exactly how we get from one place to another will need to follow along as and when we get around to sharing that along the way.

In the meantime the map below shows our planned overnight destinations – to city level but not necessarily more detailed than that. In some cases we will be staying more than one night.