Ten weeks in Australia – who’s a lucky girl then?

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Yes, it’s not many people who are lucky enough to be able to take a ten week trip. And I’m also blessed by having a lovely circle of very hospitable family and friends in Australia, courtesy of my husband, who lived, worked and raised his family there. I managed to keep working just enough while I was away – I’m lucky again to work from home using the internet – but it’s hard to work as much as you want while not wanting to miss out on time with family and friends.

In a nutshell, it started with a beautiful family wedding in Thailand; moved on to a couple of days in Brisbane Central Business District and then to two weeks staying with daughter, son-in-law and three grand daughters in Fernvale, Queensland; incorporating a few days with friends in Brisbane and a trip up to the Sunshine coast hinterland and Maleny; then to friends in Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria; a few days with friends in Sydney and then near Tumbulgum with views across country to Mount Warning; more days in Brisbane and a family holiday on the coast at Noosa.

You do much more in ten days than you can possibly tell people about, but these are my –

Highlights:

  • Obviously getting to know the grand-children, and spending time with them in their normal lives. Skype is great, but time together is greater!
  • Wandering round Brisbane, visiting the Roma Street Parkland, and the Botanical Gardens; mooching along beside the river, shopping, eating…
  • Seeing bits of Australia we haven’t seen before – the beautiful hinterland of the Gold Coast and the Sunshine coast and inland from Melbourne. Mount Tambourine, the Glass House Mountains and the Dandenong range. Visiting the site of the Australian gold rush in Ballarat.
  • Enjoying the wildlife – the parrots and cockatoos seen daily; waking up to the unmistakable sound of kookaburras and Australian magpies; seeing wild hawks, eagles, wallabies and kangaroos.
  • Eating the food – lovely meals in so many places. Big shout out for the Three Little Pigs Bar and Bistro near Mount Tambourine though! Lovely wine and beer tastings – please take a bow Hargreaves Hill, Yarra Glen . Such nice fresh produce available in markets. Imaginative salads and delicious healthy food available almost everywhere.
  • Feeling like a resident in different iconic places – hopping on and off ferries in Sydney, and having the privilege of staying in ‘proper’ Australian homes. Fabulous!

Downsides:

  • Packing for a beach-side wedding, cold nights in a Queensland winter, and the decidedly cool, damp weather in Victoria in August. Next time, we won’t be going for a wedding, and will aim for the Australian Spring or Autumn, when temperatures are reliable ‘nice’. No jumpers or coats needed!
  • The cost of flying. Of course, it’s very expensive to fly around the world – so it should be. The domestic flights were expensive too, so next time we’ll be checking out the cheapest time to fly, and not flying once we are there. Our budget only stretches so far, even when we don’t need to book hotels around the place. Of course, for those without family in Oz there is always the option of a house swap. And you can get great deals on camper vans if you can be flexible. Relocating a van between Brisbane and Sydney, say, for $5AUS a day. Can’t be bad. It just needs flexibility and some thought.
  • The journey. The first time I flew to and back from Australia we flew mostly at night, and broke the journey with a 24 hour stop over in Singapore. This time, the stop in Thailand made the journey quite easy, but the return trip was horrible. We flew Malaysia Airlines and had booked out of Brisbane. They cancelled flights from Brisbane the day before we flew – so we had to fly to Sydney first. Of course, this didn’t cost us extra, but it added 6 hours to the journey. We then had a 5 hour stop-over in Kuala Lumpur – not my favourite airport – and the flight out from there to Heathrow was delayed. Of course, it was busy coming into Heathrow, so we had to circle London. When we landed Heathrow was very busy and it took ages to get our bags and get out. So – almost 36 hours in transit, and very little sleep. Not great, by any means!

In some ways ten weeks was perfect, as we really got into the life there. In some ways it was too long, and ‘real’ life was on hold for a large part of the year. I’ve also found that since we got back our calendar is getting complicated, and there are some people it looks as though we won’t see at all this year.

Even though it was winter in Australia, around Brisbane the weather was lovely during the day: just cold at night. Could be a great time of the year to visit further North in Queensland. As you can see from my photo, the water at Noosa was very inviting!

So the planning for the next trip starts here! Will we go round the world and meet friends and family in Florida and/or New Zealand? How long for? House swap? House sitters?

One thing is for sure, the more we think about the options, the more likely we are to arrange something that works!

Holiday in Oz

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Aah!  The sun! The sand!  The sea!!

It’s just five days since we returned from our long-planned trip to Australia.  Fortunately we spent the weekend in Cornwall, collecting the cat from her holiday with our friends Belinda and Jack, so we have had a gentle re-introduction to real life.

We were away for almost a month, and combined a holiday with catching up with friends and family and going to my step-daughter Yolly’s wedding to  Casey.

The holiday started with a short stopover in Singapore, which gave us the chance to have a proper rest to minimise jet-lag and see somewhere new.  Alec had been to Singapore once before, but this was my first long-haul flight, so everything was new to me.  We took in a sightseeing tour bus for an overview: singapore slings at the Long Bar at Raffles and the retail overload that is Orchard Road.

Next day we flew to Brisbane and I was lucky enough to have a window seat so could watch the moonlit clouds passing beneath, and then the dawn spreading out over the east. You can sleep most nights, but you only get views like that a few times in a lifetime (unless you are a very frequent flier).  This is Brisbane from the air:

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The first week was taken up with catching up with family and seeing something of Brisbane.  We stayed with Claudia and Justin in Paddington, a lovely leafy suburb with beautiful Queenslander houses (wood cladding, wide verandahs and tin roofs) and plenty of cafes, restaurants and independent shops.

The wedding was held at Woodlands at Marburgh, inland from Ipswich.  I’ll post some photos in due course – they are mostly on a mislaid memory stick at present!!  The wedding was lovely. Yolly and the bridesmaids and flower girls were absolutely beautiful, and Casey handsome and happy.  A very good time was had by all.  Al did an excellent job as father of the bride, and you would never have guessed that he was nervous about his speech.  Preparation is everything!

After the wedding we had a few days with the family near Noosa on the Sunshine Coast (where I snapped the feet pictured above).  The area delivers on the Australian beach holiday front with beautiful sea, sand and skies, as you can see from the shot of Noosa Heads.

noosa beach

We rented a big, slightly out-dated house at Marcus Beach.  The price was great though, so there were no complaints at all. And I saw my first kukkaburra. (Is that how it’s spelled?)

Then we visited Al’s friends Simon and Anne on their farm near Tumbulgum in New South Wales.  Fabulous setting with Mount Warning in the distance and wallabies, parrots, cockatoos, avocado trees and much more close at hand.  They held a wonderful barbecue to which they invited lots of old and new friends. We also enjoyed a pint (or a schooner, as they don’t do pints in Australia) at the Tumbulgum Tavern.

mount warning simons farm

 

Next on the itinerary was a stay ay Yolly and Casey’s house at Fernvale near Ipswich. It was much hotter inland, but the houses are well designed to be comfortable in the heat.  I really liked the fly screens all the homes have, which mean you can have the windows wide open without any worries that bugs and spiders might get in!  We enjoyed some delicious food, including pies from the world famous pie shop in Fernvale (115 varieties).  We also went for a drive up Mount Glorious, seeing some authentic rainforest and views that were, frankly, glorious, took a little walk beside lake Wivenhoe, had a picnic at the river and a trip into Ipswich.

at the river

 

That’s our friend Ian on the left hand side with Al, Yolly and the little ones.

It’s always true that time flies when you are having fun, so it was much too soon that it was time to head to the airport for the last phase of the holiday in Melbourne.  We were only there for three days, but packed a lot in mainly thanks to Al’s friends Judith, Eileen and Mike.  We started by catching up with Jo and Silvio (Al’s niece and her boyfriend) in the suburb of Prahran.  Lovely to see Jo and meet Silvio, and what a nice place they live in! Lots of buzz and great eating places.  On the Saturday we met Al’s friends (and now mine, I’m happy to say!) under the clock at Flinder’s Street Station.

Fliders St clocks

 

We took a river boat out to Williamstown, where we had some delicious tapas and sangria.

williamstown

 

Mike and Eileen had to catch a train, so after an irish coffee Al, Ian, Judith and I found a nice japanese restaurant on Flinders Lane and spent a very happy evening.

Next day Judith drove us down Mornington Peninsula for a most delicious lunch cooked by the talented Eileen.  We had a stroll around the marina and then drove out to Port Phillip estate winery for a tasting, cheese and biscuits and dessert.   What lovely people, and what a lovely way to end the holiday, because then it was back to the airport and home via Singapore.

So that’s the holiday in a nutshell.  For those of a nervous disposition, I can report a marked lack of spiders, snakes and sharks, although we did get out into the country to see the wildlife.  One small and harmless snake close to, and one running away from us as fast as it could from the car window in the bush.  One small and very beautiful spider that politely stayed in it’s web in the garden.  Don’t believe what you read about death lurking around every corner!