Celebrating Tom’s birthday last night…It’s Christmas Eve on this side of the International Dateline!! Traditions for world travelers?

Mersey Beach bluff where we went to dinner last night.

Last night we made the 30 minute drive to the town of Devonport for a reservation we’d made at Mrs. Jones, a popular upscale restaurant located on the ocean near the mouth of the Mersey River.

Veterans Memorial in Devonport, Tasmania.

I made a reservation at 6:30 last week for a table by the window. After the pleasant drive through the ocean/riverfront town, taking multiple photos along the way, we arrived at the restaurant well before our reservation, planning on a drink at the bar and then seated at our table.

A historic house under renovation in Devonport.

As it turned out, all of the window tables were marked with signs stating “reserved.” None of those tables were assigned to our reservation, much to our surprise and disappointment.

Another historic house on Devonport.

When shown the other seating options for two located against a bare wall, none provided the romantic ambiance we’d hoped for. As far as I was concerned, I’d have been happy to sit anywhere had it been OK with Tom.

But, as we’ve learned so well in our lifestyle over these past years, we can decide what works for us.  I wasn’t upset at all when he said, ‘Let’s do something else!” 

A small lighthouse on the Mersey River.

There’s no doubt the food would have been good and we’d have written a great review for the establishment. We place no blame on the owners or staff for being unable to fulfill our expectations. That was our choice to say no.

Instead, we enjoyed our drinks at the bar, were as gracious as possible that we’d changed our minds based on choice of table and within an hour were on our way out the door.

Live entertainment at Drift Café on the beach.

A casual dining spot, Drift Café, is located downstairs from Mrs. Jones Restaurant where diners were enjoying live music, casual dining, seated at tables and on the grass, creating a lively and festive scenario. We decided to dine there and join in the festivities overlooking the Mersey Beach Bluff. Today, we’re sharing some photos of each establishment.

Entrance to Mrs. Jones and Drift Restaurants.

Tom ordered a juicy bacon cheeseburger with chips (fries) and I had a chicken and avocado salad.  The food was great, the setting was ideal and we had a great time.

Today, Christmas Eve, we’re making our usual tradition of steak and lobster, well, not quite lobster. We’d purchased the Filet Mignon from the meat market in Ulverstone after visiting Pedro’s Restaurant and Fish Market to see about purchasing the lobster. 

The restaurants adjoin a beautiful park and recreation area.

In Australia, lobster is called “crayfish” and is outrageously expensive. Since both of us prefer the tail only as compared the remainder of the body, it made no sense to pay AU $51, US $36.60 for a .11kg (4 ounce tail). 

Pedros Restaurant and fish market seemed to be a great spot for seafood most of which is battered, fried and wouldn’t work for my way of eating. The smell was intoxicating. We’d hoped to buy crayfish (Australia’s version of a lobster) here, but the cost was prohibitive for the small tails. 

Instead, we purchased jumbo prawns which will go well with the tenderloin. The menu: garlic butter sautéed prawns, Filet Mignon with sautéed portobello mushrooms, fresh green beans and side salads will make for a fine Christmas Eve dinner along with the bottle of wine we purchased for the occasion. For dessert? Homemade low carb, sugar-free fudge. 

Lounge/bar area in Mrs. Jones Restaurant.

Today, the warmest day since we arrived in Tasmania three weeks ago, we’ll spend time outdoors on the front veranda overlooking the sea while waving and saying Merry Christmas to passersby who walk and jog along the sidewalk in front of our vacation home.

Life is good. We pray it is for all of you as well. Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate and happy day to those of you who do not.

Photo from one year ago today, December 24, 2015:

A year ago at Tom’s birthday dinner in Fiji my rumpled lobster juice soiled clothes were a sight to see after dinner. Click here for details.

A birthday celebration in Fiji…Memorable for both of us!.. My faux pas at dinner!…

Tom in front of the tall Christmas tree at the Pearl Resort in Pacific Harbour, Fiji on the evening of his 63rd birthday. 

Last evening at 6 pm, Alfaan picks us up for the short taxi ride to the Pearl Resort and Spa, a popular resort in Pacific Harbor known for excellent dining options including Seduce Restaurant, where we’d arranged an early  dinner reservation.

The lobby at the Pearl Resort.

It’s not that we prefer dining early as is typical for some seniors. We’ll easily wait to dine until 8 pm on cruise ships and when dining out with others. However, when we’re alone, with a goal of taking photos before dark, we often opt for an earlier reservation.

My amuse-bouche of prosciutto-wrapped asparagus with truffle mayonnaise with dollops of balsamic sauce.

As has been the case over the past few weeks, it’s been raining almost every day, often all day and night with no sunny breaks in between. We haven’t used the pool in over a week when the sun peeked out on two extremely hot and humid days when only by lounging in the cool water did we experience a little relief.  

Tom’s amuse-bouche of sushi with raw fish and truffle mayonnaise.

Once we arrived at the resort, taking a few photos inside and out, we stopped for a drink at the main entry area bar for less than optimum service. It took 15 minutes for Tom to get his papaya Margarita after placing the order. I ordered bubbly water with lime. Fiji time. 

At this point we wondered if the Seduce Restaurant would be the five star establishment as claimed by many reviewers in TripAdvisor. As it turned out we weren’t disappointed at all. 

He ate two plates of bread.  I didn’t say a word.

As a matter of fact, we experienced some of the finest service we’ve had in a long time, readily leaving a generous tip for our server. Impeccable!  Perfect timing!  Warmth and kindness! Attention to detail!. All elements of great service by most diners standards.

Complimentary wines with dinner.

The food? With weekly menu changes, the options were limited with four starters (none of which worked for me or that Tom would like), four entrees and four sides. The entrees included small portions of potatoes of one variety or another which I swapped for a few cut spears of delicious crunchy asparagus.

We both selected the same entrée, a platter of garlic butter, grilled seafood including mussels on the half shell, prawns, lobster tail, scallops and local tender white fish. The portions of each item were small, although together the servings were adequate. 

My fresh plate of food after the previous lobster tail went flying off the plate.

Tom’s platter included the roasted potatoes and, get this, he ate eight slices of a baguette dipping it in olive oil and balsamic vinegar! Guess he’s had his bread fix until we head out again tomorrow for the Christmas lunch buffet back to the Pearl Resort for the buffet in the Riviera Restaurant.  

Tom’s similar seafood platter with roasted potatoes.

Our meal began with a complimentary amuse-bouche, Tom’s a sushi roll as shown in this photo (first time he tried sushi, didn’t love it, ate it anyway) and mine was tailor-made asparagus wrapped in prosciutto with a truffle mayonnaise…small…delicious. I could have made a meal of that alone.

The entrée was buttery and delicious. I’d handed over my phone for the food list before ordering leaving me unconcerned that my meal would be perfect, and it was.

Tom was served this flourless chocolate cake with raspberry coulis and a scoop of coffee-flavored ice cream. 

As soon as our plates arrived stacked with seafood, our waiter asked if we’d like a photo taken of the two of us.  Tom started to stand saying he’d come over to my chair and crouch down next to me for the photo while I grabbed the camera off the table. 

My rumpled lobster soiled clothes were a sight to see after dinner when our waiter took this photo.

As I picked up the camera to hand to the waiter, the strap caught the shell portion at the end of my lobster tail and alas…my lobster went flying in the air landing on the floor with pieces on my lap and upholstered chair.  Oh, my.

If we didn’t have an audience I’d surely have gone into hysterics. Tom surely would have joined me. After all, it was a precious lobster tail over which my mouth had been watering.

The commonly seen  Fijian lali bell, used to announce special events was located near the entrance to the resort.

Our kindly waiter wiped up the mess and brought me a totally fresh plate. I could tell it was an entirely new plate of food when I noticed the numbers of the items and the arrangement had changed.

Cleaning up my clothes luckily all dark with a moistened linen napkin, we proceeded to enjoy our meal and each other. Complimentary wines were included with the meal and my adorable piglet, drank both the red and white after downing his Margarita, leaving only a few sips in the sizable glass of white wine, once the beautiful complimentary birthday dessert arrived unbeknown to either of us.  He always stops drinking alcohol when he has a dessert.

Christmas décor near the entrance to the resort.

I’d mentioned it was his birthday upon making the reservation and once again as we were seated.  One never know what treats a fine restaurant may have in store for an unsuspecting birthday celebrant. He wasn’t disappointed when the luscious complimentary plate arrived after the table was cleared and cleaned. Chocolate cake. That had been a while.

He didn’t weigh himself today nor did he care. Once the Christmas buffet is over tomorrow, he’ll be back to eating low carb with me and will drop any gain in a matter of a few days. Last night, he fit into a dressy pair of shorts he hadn’t worn comfortably in a few years. 

Fresh flowers in a Christmas display in the lobby.

Back at home by 10 pm, we got comfortable and watched the finale of Survivor Cambodia, which we’ve saved for this particular evening. With Cambodia on our itinerary in less than seven months, it was particularly fun to watch that series. Not that we’ll be living as they do on that show. Ha.

With the humidity rampant making sleeping uncomfortable lately we’ve turned on the wall air con unit when we’ve gone to bed. With the comfortable bed, good blanket and cool room, we’ve managed to get some decent sleep these past nights, for the first time in many months after the heat in Savusavu.

Unusual display table in the lobby. Lots of legs.

OK, folks, that’s the story of the birthday celebration.  Tom expresses a heartfelt thanks to all of the good wishes through email, comments, and Facebook. He had a great time reading and responding, appreciating every birthday greeting. 

Today, Christmas Eve on this side of the world, we’re staying put in the pouring rain, sending Christmas greetings to family and friends. I’ll cook a lovely dinner, nothing special, just a nourishing good meal…minus bread, potatoes and dessert. 

For those on this side of the International Dateline, Merry Christmas!  For those celebrating Christmas Eve tomorrow, Merry Christmas!

Photo from one year ago today, December 24, 2014:

The photo was taken from our lanai in Pahoa on Christmas Eve day. With 12 of our family members having arrived on the Big Island, everyone busily scrambled to unpack, prepare for Christmas and partake in exciting Big Island adventures. Tom and I stayed home busily spending the day preparing home made pizza for Christmas Eve dinner and food to pack for the Christmas Day picnic at a beach park in Hilo. For more details, please click here.

The summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere…Longest day…Fijians forgo political correctness and celebrates Christmas..

Christmas tree on the set of FijiOne news channel.

Today is the Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere,  the longest day of the year. It’s the first day of summer to those of us south of the equator and the first day of winter to those north of the equator. 

We never paid attention to this phenomenon in the Southern Hemisphere in our old lives, never giving it a single thought. Living south of the equator gives us another perspective of the massive size of the earth. Here are a few facts:

“Northern Hemisphere Summer Solstice

Southern Hemisphere Summer Solstice

(Australia, New Zealand, South America, Southern Africa)

First Day of Summer?

The first day of spring, summer, fall, and winter can either be defined using astronomical events like solstices and equinoxes, or they can be determined based on meteorological factors, average temperatures.

In the USA and some other areas in the Northern Hemisphere, the Summer Solstice marks the first day of summer. However, the official date for the first day of summer varies depending on the country’s climate.”

There are no poinsettias or Christmas cactus plants in the stores, only colorful flowers blooming year-round.

As well as our observation of the massive size of the earth and its many differences, it’s a good time of year with the holidays imminent to acknowledge that the Christmas season, although celebrated by no less than 32% of the world’s population, obviously isn’t celebrated by all. 

Many other non-Christians celebrate the Christmas season as a time to acknowledge their own faith with the accompanying festivities and gratitude. To speculate that 50% of the world’s population observe the Christmas season in one manner or another is not impractical by some estimates.

With “political correctness” seeming more important than good wishes for those who do celebrate, we all struggle with to whom to say “Merry Christmas” and to whom we say “Happy Holidays” when in fact many of those who do not observe Christmas have no particular holiday they’re celebrating at the moment. It’s perplexing.

Saying “Happy Holidays” to a person who’s not celebrating a holiday is comparable to saying “Happy Birthday” when it’s not their birthday. Duh?

Suva Market’s Christmas Celebration
This year’s Suva Market vendors’ Christmas photo. (Not our photo)

In Fiji, they toss political correctness aside and say “Merry Christmas” to all. Fijians are warm and friendly people, kind and generous, never with an intent to offend or hurt anyone of any nationality or religious affiliation. 

Banners flew over the downtown area in Suva with “Merry Christmas” proudly emblazoned with a “no worries” attitude (a popular expression in the South Pacific and the UK) as to who this may apply to or not. If it doesn’t apply, “no worries,” look away, ignore it and move along.

Fijians don’t purchase and decorate trees for Christmas. They have all of Nature’s bounty to celebrate every day of the year.

What if we all simply expressed our holiday greeting of the moment to those we’d like to address with our own celebratory expressions such as a lofty, “Happy Chanukah,” or “Happy Diwali” responding to those offering their personal heartfelt message with a simple, “And to you as well!”

When Diwali, the Hinduism holiday and five-day Festival of Lights celebrating good over evil, occurred while we were in Vanua Levu signs were posted all over the village announcing the upcoming celebrations. 

No doubt, signs celebrating Christmas are scattered throughout the village now. No one is offended. Let those who chose to announce and celebrate their special holiday and we can all choose to observe it or not. It’s not that complicated.

No, I won’t go into a tirade about PC behavior in many parts of the world and how it’s become difficult to speak without careful forethought on what may spew out of our mouths to avoid “offending” someone. 

As a child in a public venue in the 1950’s I don’t recall hearing anyone spewing derogatory comments about any religion, people, or faction. They were kind. Overall, aren’t people still kind 60 plus years later? 

It takes only a moment to stop to appreciate the colorful surroundings in Fiji.

Well, at least while we’re in Fiji this Christmas season we can say “Merry Christmas” and if someone says “Happy Bodhi Day (on Bodhi Day, Buddhists from the Mahayana tradition celebrate the Buddha’s attainment of enlightenment), we’ll simply say, “And, to you as well!”

The heat, humidity, and pouring rain have continued for five days and five nights. Our laundry didn’t dry after three days so I brought it indoors hoping it will dry.

Today, we’re off to the Arts Village for a few supplies and chickens. Two weeks from today, we’ll be boarding the ship to New Zealand. Sixteen months from today, we’ll be boarding the ship to Seattle. 

Tomorrow, in this part of the world, on December 23rd  is Tom’s birthday which we’ll celebrate. And, I’ll say, “Happy Birthday” only to him but…in this case, he won’t reply, “And, to you as well!” 

Photo from one year ago today, December 22, 2014:

One year ago today, we moved into the house next door which we’d continue to share with TJ, Sarah, Nik, and Jayden while our other two families, arriving the next day, shared the house next door. For more photos, please click here.