Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Websites Listed in My Favorite Bathroom Book (Part 14)

Every time I do one of these posts, I have to look back at the last post to figure out what number I'm on.  Well, I just looked, and the last time, I forgot to put a number. So, I went to the next one back.  It was 12. So I didn't number the 13th post. It looks like I'm very superstitious.  Well,  I am pretty superstitious, but not really about the number 13.  I didn't leave out the number on purpose. Maybe subconsciously I did.

Last night my subconscious had a conversation with Josh Radnor about grieving for the endings of our favorite TV shows. I was about to ask him how it felt to be on a show with an ending disliked so strongly by people. But I decided to be polite and not speak about it.

ANYWAY...yeah. I should get back to the business of the day.

I'm going to look at another website listed in my favorite bathroom book.

Today's website belongs to Pinetrees Lodge on Lord Howe Island.  From what I read in my bathroom book, Lord Howe Island is not a place you can drive to. You have to take a plane, and it takes a couple of hours. I'm wondering how much it costs.  I think I'll check.

I'm looking at Qantas now; tickets for late February. How much would that cost me?

If I'm reading things right, the cheapest I can get is $1076. That's pretty costly.  Just to fly two hours?  Well, 2.5 hours each way.  Oh! Just to clarify, I'm looking at flights from Sydney, not the United States.

I can get flights from Sydney to Hobart for $168. Although it's their basic starter pack, which means you don't get much included.  For example, you have to pay extra for your baggage. Still. With all that added on, I'm sure it doesn't come close to $1076.

I wonder why it's so expensive to fly to Lord Howe Island. And I also wonder why people pay the money. What's there that you can't find elsewhere in Australia?

Lord Wiki's travel guru sister says that Lord Howe Island is the most expensive domestic flight in Australia. I wonder if it's an environmental issue. Do they want to limit the number of human footsteps treading on the island? Do they want only the wealthy to visit?  Is it regarding a tax and/or fuel issue I'd never manage to understand?

I'm not easily finding answers to my question. Maybe no one knows. Or maybe I'm not looking hard enough. But for now I'm going to skip it and explore the Pinetrees Lodge website.

Their home page says, Pinetrees Lodge is famous for exceptional meals, personalised service, relaxing spa treatments.... That sounds rather lovely. But don't a lot of Australian resorts offer that? Or maybe food at Pinetrees Lodge is extra exceptional. And maybe the service is super personalized.

They say in the next paragraph that their regular guests have also been to places like Hawaii, Bali, and Tahiti. But they return to Lord Howe Island. Ah...but they don't say here that the guests don't also return to Hawaii, Bali, and Tahiti. Maybe their guests are just very wealthy, and can afford to return to all their favorite places multiple times.

Lord Howe is a World Heritage site. That's pretty impressive.  I imagine there might be people who visit because they have a goal of visiting as many World Heritage Sites as possible.

Here's the massive list of World Heritage Sites.  Australia has 19 of them.  Some are kind of general. Tasmanian wilderness? Would that include any wilderness areas. Cataract Gorge?  Would that count? I hope so, because we've been there.  Other places on the list we've been to are the Sydney Opera House, the Blue Mountains, the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne, and one of the Australian convict sites.

Here's something I like about the Pinetrees Lodge. They say they can provide food for all dietary requirements. I like that attitude so much more than the attitude I saw at the King's Canyon Resort.

On the home page they say there's no last minute flight deals to Lord Howe Island. They suggest booking early.  So maybe I'll try that on the Qantas site.

I'm looking at prices for December 2015.  The cheapest there is $990.  But maybe I'm looking at a bad time. Maybe there are cheaper times to visit Lord Howe Island.

On the Pinetrees Booking Page, there's some deal where if you book with them, they'll get you cheaper flights.  That sounds pretty cool. I wonder how much money you'd save.  On the home page, they say you can save up to $600. But I'm betting that amount of savings is rare. I'm guessing the amount you save is based on when you go. I'm sure they'll get you a better deal if you go at a time where they're less busy and hoping for more business.

Pinetrees has a Lord Howe Island history page. I'm going to read through that.

The island was first spotted on February 17, 1788.  That's a few weeks after the First Fleet landed in Port Jackson. Again, my brain malfunctioned. I was trying to look up Jackson Cove instead of Port Jackson.

The First Fleet ship that sighted the island was HMS Supply.  Well, actually the crew from the ship sighted the island.  As far as people know, the ship itself wasn't capable of discovering anything.

HMS Supply and her crew were heading to Norfolk Island so they could establish a penal colony there. They saw the island, named it, and then stopped for a visit on the way back to Sydney.  I'm not sure if they stopped at all on the way there. I'm guessing not, but I could be wrong. Maybe they stopped for a very short visit.

The island is named after a guy named Earle Richard Howe. Lord Wiki says he was a British naval officer. He did work in the American Independence War. I think he was on the British side, but was kindly and sympathetic towards the Americans.  I'm not sure the United States appreciated his love. Because there's a list of places here named after Howe, and none are in the United States. Although maybe the list is missing things.

Here's something exciting for British royalty fans.  Richard Howe is an ancestor of Prince Diana and her offspring (and children of the offspring).

Back to the history page. It says the island was not inhabited at the time of discovery. Is that truly not inhabited? Or are we talking about a Terra Nullius type thing?

Well, Lord Wiki agrees with the website about it not being inhabited. Although it was at least inhabited by non-human animals. Do they not count?

The history page says the first settlers were from New Zealand. They came in 1833.

Now they're getting into the resort history.

There was a guy named Captain Poole. He came to the island with some servants. Two of the servants (Thomas and Margaret Andrews) stayed on the island and started working for a guy named Dr. Foulis. They had a daughter named Mary.  Mary married a whaling guy and they started the resort, which was originally called The Pines. I wonder why they named it that.

The family history goes on and on. It's pretty interesting, but I'm not going to repeat it all here. If you're interested, you can read it for yourself.  If you're extremely interested in the history, there's a book you can buy.

Oh. No wait. I don't think you have to buy it. The book is available for free online.

This is actually VERY cool.  I've never seen this before. It's this thing that makes you feel like you're looking at a real book. It makes a cute flipping noise each time you click on the turn page thing.

I've seen websites that use something like this to convey small bits of information, but I've never seen a whole book provided.

The book has a lot of nice family photos.

There's a page about population. It says in 1833 there were nine people.  By 1869 there were forty. I wonder how much of the increase came from migration and how much came from sex.

The book actually looks pretty interesting. I might save it and read it in my free time.

In the last paragraph of the history page, they say Pinetrees is now run by the sixth generation of the original family. They're named Dani Rourke and Luke Hanson. Then they have children named Elsie and Pixie. I wonder if Elsie and Pixie will want to run the resort when they're adults.

This 2011 article has a photo of the Rourke-Hanson family. The island had some problems. There were falling tourism numbers, and something about milk.  It seems they used to trade in unprocessed milk, but the New South Wales government put an end to that.

The article talks about the financial crisis, and how it led to there being less tourists. During the Christmas season, the Pinetrees Lodge had vacant rooms. That was quite unusual.  In the past, it was hard to get a booking.

I wonder if things have improved now.

Here's an interview with Dani Rourke.

The date here says January 7, 2015, but I think that's today's date and not the date of the actual interview. It would be a coincidence if the article was published the day I was learning about the family. Although I guess it's not too weird. It could happen.

Rourke  and her family didn't spend their whole life on the island. I'll probably read about that in the free family history book I plan to read later.

They moved to the island in 2010 from Sydney.  I wonder if Rourke spent any of her childhood on the island.

They have no mobile coverage on the island. But they do have Internet.  Rourke keeps up with her mainland people with Twitter and her blog.

Rourke's mother and her sister were the previous owners and caretakers of the resort. Then her mother died, and Rourke decided to take over.

She did grow up on Lord Howe island.  She went to school barefoot. I love that. I don't think it is something that happens in Sydney much, but I do think there are places on the mainland with that lifestyle.

Though I can't really understand why people would want to pay the money to VISIT Lord Howe island; I can understand why Dani and her family want to live there. It sounds lovely, and there's all that family history.  I would definitely want to make the same choice. Leave Sydney and return to my idyllic childhood home. Although she's not the child anymore. She's the mom.  But still. Adults can also have fun and relaxing lives.

Rourke talks, in the interview, about how their family's sea change wasn't all smooth sailing.  They were all very sad about her mother dying. Then they had to adjust to the major career changes. Prior to being a resort woman, she was a lawyer. It's just like the TV show! Although in that, the lawyer...Well, no. Actually, she was a judge, I think.  And when she moved to the sea place, she was still a judge.

I wonder if Rourke misses her lawyer work.

Rourke says, After six months, I'm happy living at Lord Howe. So now I know the article was published in 2011, and not today.

Rourke says the island's permanent population is 350. Everyone knows everyone and there's a lot of gossip.  A part of me thinks that would be bothersome. Another part of me asks what's the difference between that and a family where everyone gossips.  My dad forwards us emails with family gossip—who is having what problems. Then I'm left wondering...are we supposed to know this?  Should I contact the person having the problem—give them my love and express my concern? Or am I not supposed to know?

I think the basic rule of gossip is if you don't want everyone to know, don't tell anyone.  Or at least know who in your group forward emails, and/or uses other forms of spreading the gossip.

Here's Dani Rourke's blog. Like me, her blog had a name change. According to the interview, originally she called it, Ultimate Sea Change.  Now it's called Living on Lord Howe Island.

It looks like she's not blogging much. She has a recent post from a few days ago. But the last post before that was February 2014.

The most recent post is about kid's copying their parents. Her daughter made a discipline chart for her father using stickers and a hanger. If dad is good, he gets a gold star.  If he gets angry, he gets a dark pink sticker. If he makes her do a swimming lesson when she doesn't want to, he gets a pale pink sticker.  There's a picture of the hanger there.  Poor dad has only gotten one gold star so far.

There are stickers not mentioned in the blog pos—a purple one. I wonder what that stands for.

I wonder if the dad wins a prize if he gets enough gold stars.

I'm kind of fascinated by this family and their life on Lord Howe Island. I'm tempted to bookmark the blog as well.

Actually, I'm going to do it.  She was originally on Blogspot, and that blog goes back to 2011.  I think I'll start at the beginning.  I might get bored with it eventually.  Sometimes I bookmark things with grand plans, but then I lose interest and drop the whole thing.

I'm going to go back to looking at the Pinetrees website.

This page talks about what you should bring and what the lodge provides.  The provided-for-you list includes umbrellas and a small selection of toys. Since the Rourke-Hanson family has their own young children, they might have a good idea of what children like. Although not all children are the same. Still...it's nice that they provide some toys.  I wonder if they clean the toys. Well...even if they don't, parents can do their own cleaning.

As for their list of things to bring, most of it is stuff we typically pack. But then they suggest torches, raincoats, and reef-walking shoes. We don't usually pack those things. When I was a child we did camp things, and then we'd bring torches. But I don't think we've ever taken them on a regular holiday.

I do vaguely remember buying torches for our time in Port Stephens. Or maybe we just wished we had bought torches.

This page has a description of their food.  They provide a big breakfast: fresh fruit, yogurt, cereal, homemade bread, and then a choice from their daily menu.  That includes more bread, an egg dish, a salad, or quesadilla.

I wonder if breakfast is included.

On the home page, they said they can make food for all dietary requirements. Here they say MOST dietary requirements.  That's probably a better way to word things. Otherwise, what are you going to do when someone walks in and says, I require human flesh for my breakfast.

On the food page, they invite you to download their daily menu. It hasn't been updated, though. The menu I'm seeing is from November.

They offer duck and salmon, or a light vegetarian option.  For dessert, there's poached pears in rose water. Rose water makes me think of Middle Eastern and Indian food.

This page of the website talks about kingfish and how it's the most important ingredient on Lord Howe Island.  They say some guests eat kingfish for every night of their stay. But to make things more interesting, the chefs serve it in a variety of ways.

The website says the kingfish is sometimes caught by the guests themselves. I wonder then if they get a discount on the meal.

Here's their accommodation page.  They have a variety of options. I'm assuming they vary in size and price.

The Transit Hill Room includes an outdoor living space and large garden. Is the garden private? If so, that's pretty impressive. From the photo provided, it's looks pretty big.

Some of the other rooms have gardens. And they also have cottages. The four bedroom one has three bathrooms.

On each accommodation description page, they suggest I watch a video about daily life at the resort. I'm going to do that now.

There's a guy in the video arranging pillows. I can't tell if he works at the resort or if he's a guest. I can't say it makes me excited about the whole thing. Maybe pillow arranging is supposed to be relaxing? Maybe it's a new hobby in Australia?

Most of the video doesn't call out to me. The one scene that does is 1:21. It's all these people hanging out together outside. It looks like a party. So strange that it attacks me. I don't like parties.

The daily life on the resort kind of reminds me of a cruise—the relaxation and food bits. And I like that stuff on the cruise, but after awhile, I think it gets a bit boring. That's why I like that they also have shows, games, and dances.

Then again, I did okay at the holiday parks and that was mostly just hanging out doing nothing.

I have fun relaxing.  Maybe it's the difference between casual relaxation vacations and luxury ones. Luxury relaxation is about gourmet food and spa treatments. I'm not really into any of that.

Then again, some of the people visiting there are probably not all into that either. There're probably people like me, sitting around reading novels, playing games on their laptop, and trying to befriend the birds. They just didn't show up in the video. The video's probably going for a certain image.

I'm watching the video again to make sure I didn't miss anything.  I'm now thinking the guy arranging the pillows works at the lodge. It's not some person desperately trying to entertain themselves.

Here's their activity page. I don't think it includes pillow arranging.  They do have diving, snorkeling, surfing, swimming, fishing, walking, photography, and bird-watching. I'd like the walking and bird-watching. Photography would be fun for me if it's casual. If it's serious, Tim would like it.  I might like the swimming and a little bit of snorkeling.

The swimming page says you can wear goggles and see fish just by swimming. I'd like that.  I also like that, as they say, there's no crocodiles, stonefish, or stingers. Although this is right after they compare their weather to the Sunshine Coast. It's kind of like they're inferring the Sunshine Coast has crocodiles. I didn't think they did.

Well...YIKES. This article says saltwater crocodiles have been spotted in the Sunshine Coast. They're suspected sightings, though, not confirmed. And who knows, some dangerous animals might make their way towards Lord Howe Island. They might already be there. The Pinetrees website mentions a lack of crocs, stingers, and stonefish. They don't say anything about sharks.

I was about to say something about snakes and spiders; but then I went to the walking page. It says there are no venomous spiders or or snakes. Actually, they say poisonous, which I think means you get sick by EATING the spider.  I'm thinking they made a mistake. Or it can be a clever way of making you think there are no spiders that will sicken you with a bite.  So...you go to Lord Howe island and end up with horrible bodily damage inflicted with a spider bite. You complain about the false information and they say No, you read things wrong. We didn't say there are no venomous spiders. We said there are no poisonous spiders.

The bird-watching page doesn't mention parrots.  If I was bird-watching in Australia, I'd definitely want to be at a place that has parrots. Although I'd probably like the other birds as well.

The main bird attraction at Lord Howe Island is the woodhen.  The New South Wales government has a webpage about the birds. They live only on Lord Howe Island. Unfortunately, they've had a rough time of things and are endangered.  People are working on getting the numbers up.

Here's a page about the island.  The location is 600 kilometers east of the Australian mainland.   They say their nearest neighbors are New Zealand, Norfolk Island, and New Caledonia. I'm guessing then that those are less than 600 kilometers away.

People fascinated by botany might get excited by the environment page. Lord Howe Island's star plant is the Kentia Palm.  It's originally from Lord Howe Island, but now it's grown in various places around the world.  Lord Wiki says it's often used in California.  Oh...you know. I think it might be the palm trees that are often seen there.  Lord Wiki says it's used there, because it resembles the coconut palm, and the coconut palm tree doesn't  grow well in California.

I've been googling and reading the past few minutes. I'm getting the idea that California has a lot of different palm trees, not just the ones from Lord Howe Island.  I don't think they're the main species. I think it would be cool if they were.

Here's a page about living on Lord Howe Island.  The local school has thirty students and goes up to year six. Older kids can do distance education or go to boarding school on the mainland.

It's very expensive to build a home on Lord Howe Island. Houses are usually small and adults often end up moving in to their parent's home. When land is for sale, it's first offered to people who already live on the island.  If no one wants it, people outside the island can buy it. BUT they have to agree to be permanent residents. It's not sold to people who want Lord Howe Island as their vacation home.

It sounds like a very close knit community that doesn't want a bunch of outsiders living there. It's very exclusive. In some ways, it seems a bit snobbish. But in other ways...it kind of sounds nice. I don't know. I kind of like how they seem to have a strong sense of community.  It almost makes me feel like I'm anti-migration. But no. It's not that.  I think they want people who are truly committed to the community.  I think they want people whose families have been there for generations; and if not that, new people who will stay for a long time.

There are some ethnic implications though. There are photos here of the islanders.  I don't see anyone that's not caucasian.  Well...no. I think I see someone who might be Asian.  And it doesn't mean the island is racist.  But if you limit newcomers; and the people who have been there for generations are all white, it might be hard for people of other ethnicities to become islanders.  Then again, with a population of 350, I don't think you can expect a huge variety of ethnicity. If they had a population of 10,000 people and they were all white, that's probably more disturbing.

Here's a page about the services offered on the island.  There's one general practitioner, and there's one hospital.  Some emergency patients are flown to Sydney. That would make me a bit nervous.  I wonder what emergencies they can and cannot handle.

The island has Catholic, Anglican, and Seventh Day Adventist churches. I wonder if there are any Jews, Muslims, or Hindus on the island? Any atheists? Pagans?  I'm sure since everyone knows everyone's business, everyone also knows everyone's spiritual beliefs.  I wonder if people who stray from the Jesus stuff are well tolerated. Are they accepted?

Now I'm looking at the weather.  It seems ideal.  They say, Statistics aside, Lord Howe's climate is ideal. When the Australian mainland is 30-40 degrees Celsius in summer, Lord Howe provides some welcome relief from the heat. When the southern states are cold in winter, Lord Howe is warm.

I would love that. I think I'm kind of in love with Lord Howe Island. I still don't want to visit. I'd like to live there. That probably won't ever happen. So the other thing I'd love is to read a novel about the island. A fun light kind of thing like the Aussie equivalent of Mauve Binchy. Monica McInerney would fit that criteria. Has she written anything about Lord Howe island before? I don't want to read anything dark and depressing, or one of those books without quotation marks.

I'll have to look around later to see if there are any books. In the meantime, I have Dani Rourke's blog.

Okay. Now I'm going to look at rates and packages. If I had any
desire to visit Lord Howe Island as a tourist, I'm sure with this page, I'd change my mind.

Well, the prices are expensive, but it's very inclusive.  In either May or Sept-Nov, there's a seven day package that starts at $1780 per person.  I think that price would get you the smallest room.  The package includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, and afternoon tea.  Plus, you get free wine at dinner and free activities during certain weeks.  It's kind of like a cruise.  How much do they usually cost?

I'm going to try to find a price for a seven day Australian cruise.

Well, P and O Cruises has a seven night cruise that's $1299 per person.  That's cheaper than Lord Howe Island. But on Lord Howe Island, you don't have to worry about seasickness.  You do have to worry about airfare, though, and that's expensive. For the cruise, you could drive to the departure port. And if you decide to fly to Brisbane, I think the price will be much more reasonable than the Lord Howe flight price.

Their testimonial page has only Australians. Most are from New South Wales. Then they have one from Queensland and one from Tasmania. Do international people not visit often?  Or did they just not leave a testimonial?

Some families return every year. That's nice...almost as nice as living there. It's kind of like us going to the lake house.  Or actually, it's like us returning to Disney World. Now I'm thinking that I've been a bit ridiculous moaning about the price of Lord Howe Island. Our family vacations in one of the most over-priced locations in the universe.  Flying there is usually pretty cheap, though.

One person says there's no WiFi.  I thought they did have it. Maybe islanders do, but not tourists. Or maybe they have the Internet that's not wireless. I forgot what that's called.

I forgot to look at their facilities and services page. That has the information about the Internet.  They have limited broadband Internet, which you can access in their Internet room.  So it's not a place to hang out on social media.  It's a time to get away from all that.  But if you need to occasionally contact people, that's available. You're not completely cut off from the world.

Children eat separately. They have a special kid's dinner with kid's food.  When I read that now, I think it's so cool. If I read that when Jack was young, it would make me anxious, because I know he wouldn't have wanted to separate from us. Some kids are like that. I know Jack's not the only one. When Jack was two, Tim and I searched for places we could vacation. Almost all of them offered childfree dinners.  It pretty much seemed like the whole vacation was about taking a vacation from your child. They keep your child busy all day and night so you can have grown-up time.  The only place I could find that emphasized parents and children being TOGETHER was Disney World. And that's how we ended up joining the Disney Vacation Club.

There are places that offer both family togetherness and separation.  Cruises are a good example. Child activity centers are provided. But there's usually no pressure to use them, and you still usually eat dinner together.

I'm wondering though. At Pinetrees, what do they do with children who want to eat with their parents?  Well, they do say parents often watch their children eat from the bar.  So, there's that. What if a child wants the parent standing right behind them?  Is that allowed?  Or does it not happen often? Are most kids there okay with eating at the kid's table and then letting mom and dad have their own romantic dinner later?

It says here that After dinner, kids can enjoy the freedom and safety that Lord Howe provides, or have an early night. The two of you can enjoy a romantic dinner together.

So children are just left alone?  We did give Jack some amount of freedom at the holiday parks. But he was six/seven then.  I'm not sure I'd be brave enough to leave him alone in the room when he was younger than that. And even when he was six/seven...and older, I'd feel bad leaving him alone for a whole dinner session.

 I think there also might be a difference between being an only child and one with siblings. A child with sisters and brothers might be more willing to stay in the room alone while mom and dad eat.  I think Jack would have been lonely. And there's no mobile service, so it's not like you can give them a phone and tell them to call you if needed.

Well, I'm going to quit here. I had a lot of fun learning about Lord Howe Island, and look forward to learning more.