Palm Trees, Frangipanis and White Sandy Beaches

Friday, January 31, 2014

A palm tree growing alongside a white sandy beach with a turquoise ocean is all it takes for me to feel my pace change, my breath slowing and my heart feel happy.   It has been that way as long as I can remember, whether just looking at an image or being there in reality.  As the year came to an end and our summer vacation time arrived I was in real need for some palm tree gazing.  We have been holidaying in far north Queensland for over twenty years now and we never tire of it.  It feels like we are coming home as we have explored the area so well everything feels very familiar.

Let me take you back briefly to the beginning of last year and explain why I felt this was so needed.  As you may already be aware I'm a keen gardener and so spend a lot of time in both my own and helping others in theirs.  It was one afternoon when busily planting a new section of the garden that I had a bad fall.  I was getting near completion and obviously tired when I tripped and fell on both knees straight onto concrete.  Ouch, one doesn't fall lightly as we get older thats for sure.  Without going into further detail, months of pain followed. I had hoped they would heal and that would be that.  One knee did, the other needed surgery, so reluctantly I had it operated on.  Due to my health issues, I knew this will be risky and unfortunately my body has been attacking itself ever since. On a positive note both knees have got better, it probably won't be the same, I'll just have to be more careful.  So to be perfectly honest it really got me down, as I was unable to continue doing what I love most gardening and blogging.

What I needed to get me back on track was palm trees, frangipanis and a white sandy beach.  Flights were booked and we were off.

As we flew closer to our destination the land I could see out of the window turned from dry red soil to green rain forest and there along the coast were the all important palm trees looking as spectacular as ever.  All was well again and I could feel my spirits lifting. As we disembarked, the warm air was welcoming, not too hot as it was still early in the morning. We had arrived in the tropics without leaving the country and no need for passports or customs. Thats what I love about coming here, it's so easy.  We picked up the car and headed north, up the coast about an hour stopping for breakfast half way, at a lovely beach called Palmcove. There are coconut palms as far as you can see along with white frangipani trees ladened with scented flowers and of course the sandy beach. The sun was shinning and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Need I say more, it was perfect.

Next we travelled further north on to Port Douglas. It was a Sunday and we headed to the markets to pickup all our fresh supplies.  Years ago the markets were smaller and focused mainly on locally grown produce.  Over the years we have met some interesting people growing rare varieties of tropical fruit and vegetables.  One grower who I'll never forget grew custard apples, a number of different varieties.  He would encourage you to try all of them before choosing which one you preferred.  As you tried each one he would tell you what it tasted of like. One was like custard and cream with a hint of cinnamon, then there was one that tasted like lemon meringue pie. He was right, every time.  Sadly I haven't seen him in years or those varieties of custard apples.  I only hope they haven't been lost forever.

It's mango season and we find an old man selling them along with other things from his garden.  They were the best I have ever eaten, firm sweet and full of flavour.  I like to cook while on holiday I find it the best way to enjoy what an area has to offer.  We buy all the greens we need as well as fresh herbs, coriander, basil, mint which are plentiful and smell amazing in the warm air and lets not forget the chillies.  Avocados and plenty of limes are next.  I stop to buy paw paw, the lovely red variety, and have one in my hand checking to see if it is ripe when a man tells me that the best paw paw are at the next stall.  He explained that the locals only buy from there. We finish what we are purchasing and move on to the next stall, were we buy our supply of paw paw.   This is what makes shopping at markets so good, people are willing to share information whether it be a recipe or where to buy the best produce. He was right they were amazing, firm and really red. The flavour and texture were like nothing I have had before. Cut in half, seeds removed with a squeeze of lime, it was heaven.  We had these every morning for breakfast a wonderful way to start the day.

All we needed now was some seafood to complete the tropical Sunday Lunch menu.  Port Douglas is the closest mainland town to the Great Barrier Reef so the local seafood you can buy is from the reef or the estuaries along the coast.  My favourite fish from this region is coral trout, they are a really pretty fish red orange in colour with small iridescent blue spots.  We also buy some prawns they look equally as pretty as the trout.  We now have an abundance of fresh food, and  are all feeling a little hungry, so before heading off to prepare lunch we make one more stop at a market stall selling frozen fruit put through a machine which turns it into a soft serve ice cream.  You can have any combination you like made out of the local fruit, banana, mango, coconut or paw paw or even strawberry.  The possibilities are endless and a visit to the market wouldn't be complete without stopping to enjoy one of these.

There we were, sitting under the shade of tropical palm trees, with the scent of frangipanis in the air and a sandy beach not far from our toes. What a great start it was to what turned out to be a wonderfully, restful, relaxing, restorative week.

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