DOWN UNDER PART V

Day 15, 01/05/15 – Port Douglas 

Our vacation was coming to an end and it was time for a road trip. After breakfast at a cafe nearby the hostel, we rented 2 cars and started the drive to Port Douglas, our last destination. The trip there was long and until this day I hadn’t seen any giant spiders (or any spiders at all, actually) that everyone kept warning me about. (Not) lucky for me, this was about to change. During the drive we stopped at a rest area to use the bathrooms. Some important background information: today I wear glasses because my eye sight is terribly bad; when we were in Australia I hadn’t been to the eye doctor in almost 10 years. I just kind of lived life in a blur… (Another reason to go back down under, to actually see the country clearly!) Anyways, there I was, minding my own business, just trying to pee, when I looked up and – remember, now, I have terrible eye sight – I saw a giantHUGEscaryBIG spider on the ceiling above me. And for me to see it? That thing really was giantHUGEscaryBIG, ok?

The fact that I made it out of there dry is a wonder…

Later on, when we were about 45 minutes away from  our house in Port Douglas, we were rerouted due to an accident. This meant we had to turn around and do a 2 hour loop to get to the house instead. We were tired and hungry but – to put things in perspective -safe! So, the detour really wasn’t such a big deal. It was getting late though and we wanted to find a place to eat. We stopped at a small cafe off the road in the hopes of getting dinner. Unfortunately they were closing up. Fortunately they said we could still order tea and french fries. So there we were, eating an unconventional dinner, to say the least, when the second spider sighting happened. This guy was smaller than my bathroom buddy but fatter. He was so fat I wanted to cry.

Andy was brave enough to capture the following picture:

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Makes me shiver every time I see it…

Day 16, 01/06/15

This was one of our lazier days during the trip. We ended up arriving around 11pm the night before so everyone slept in. This was my favorite place we stayed during our trip. Similarly to the other places we stayed in, the house had 3 bedrooms, a full kitchen, a living room, and a huge patio, but, unlike anywhere else, this place had a pool!

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Brunching
After everyone was up, we made brunch and had a few coffees and Bailey’s. The rest of the day consisted of some shopping for souvenirs (the only kind of shopping I like, aside from grocery shopping), swimming, lounging, and reading.

For dinner we found a place on the downtown strip and had really good pizza and beer.

A perfect, relaxing day!

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So burnt though…
Day 17, 01/07/15 – Great Barrier Reef

It was time to snorkel at the famous Great Barrier Reef! Remember how I’ve mentioned I’m not the biggest fan of the ocean? Well, I was kind of overcoming it… I was ready for the long boat ride out to the reef (it was actually such a massive boat you didn’t really feel like you’re on one; which is my favorite kind!). I was prepared to lunge my body into the MIDDLE of the ocean and snorkel again. Everything was going to be fine. I wasn’t going to cry that day. Have an anxiety attack? Nope, no way. I had just been sailing for like, 1.75 days. I was practically a mermaid.

…If mermaids hyperventilate and cry and bail on scuba diving.

On the way out to the Great Barrier Reef, Mike and his parents decided they wanted to try scuba diving. (Wendy was pregnant and Andy wasn’t feeling well so they couldn’t go.)

“Hey, Ashley, do you want to go scuba diving too?” They asked.

“Uh, sure.” I agreed, slightly hesitant but not all too worried.

How bad could it actually be? I thought as we sat through our Scuba Diving Lesson.

Well, it turns out, the middle of the ocean is freezing and you actually sound like Darth Vader breathing under water and it’s a lot to just hear the sound of your own breath when your emerged (literally) in one of your biggest fears and the equipment is really heavy (before you get in the water) and the little fish you see swimming around you aren’t cute or colorful or beautiful, they only serve as reminders that you are in the ocean – in the middle of the ocean – where the sharks and the whales and the sunken Titanic lives and, and, and … everyone else was fine with all of these things…

Mike, Barb, and Dan were whizzing through the 3 tests we had to pass to go under while I just sat there – first on the verge of tears – and then full blown crying, circa 2007 crazy Britney Spears meltdown style. I would not be going scuba diving.

Instead I sat and cried alone while Mike, Barb and Dan where below the Great Barrier Reef and Wendy and Andy were above it on a helicopter ride. Luckily things move fast on the Reef and everyone was rejoined in half hour. THEN it was time to snorkel.

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Mike fully submerged snorkeling (I wasn’t brave enough)
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Snorkel selfie (please note my  purple noodle – that, yes, only small children and the elder were also using)
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GBR coral
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Mike’s fish selfie (I’m in the background with the orange fin)
The coral was beautiful at the Great Barrier Reef (of course it was!) but the water was a little choppy and hard to swim in. Snorkeling here is a once in a lifetime opportunity though and I am so thankful I was able to do it (even if I thought the coral at the Whitsundays was better…… shhhh).

When we got back from snorkeling it was raining hard in Port Douglas. Perfect for nighttime swimming!

Day 18, 01/08/15 

This was our last day in Australia before me, Mike, Barb and Dan flew back to North America. We pretty much just swam, read, and packed this day before our final dinner. We specifically went to a place that served crocodile but disappointingly they were sold out. We still ate there and reminisced about our trip, drinking wine and beer before saying goodbye.

After dinner we got gelato (which they Do Not let you sample before buying) and went back to the house to pack the rest of our things. Our flight wasn’t until 1am which gave us the full day and most of the night to soak up the last of Australia.

This trip was a once (maybe twice, since Wendy and Andy still live there!) in a lifetime adventure. I am so happy I was able to go and explore the land down under with my  boyfriend and his family.

Capture
The only picture of all 6 of us!

BONUS FEATURES!

Day 19, 01/08/15 (again) – Hawaii 

We technically left  Australia on the 9th since our flight was at  1am  and since we were flying back to the Northern hemisphere, we got to re-live the 8th. In Hawaii!

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The view from our hotel
Mike and I were able to book a 2 night, 1 day layover in Honolulu and it was a great end to a great vacation! We arrived around 7pm, went to the hotel to drop off our stuff,  and then looked for a place to eat dinner.

When Mike and I first started dating, I went to visit some family on the big island. I had also just turned 21 and became obsessed with Mai Tais. I would order a Mai Tai everywhere Mike and I went in the beginning our our relationship and we now joke that I was an expensive date because they aren’t cheap drinks! I was excited to experience a Hawaiian Mai Tai with honey and, because of it, probably ordered a few too many rounds! The rest of the night was a blur of island music, live dancing, and a tipsy walk back to the hotel.

Day 20, 01/09/15

The next morning around 4am I woke up feeling terrible. I wish it was only a hang over that could have been cured with a greasy breakfast and a ton of water but… instead…  it was… the… MAN FLU!

Andy had been sick the last couple days of our trip in Australia with the “man flu” and I’m positive I got it too. To make it worse, we were on the 20th floor or something in our hotel and I remember feeling the whole building swaying in the morning winds. So nauseating!

I eventually drifted back to sleep and then woke up again feeling slightly better. The hotel were we stayed in (which, coincidentally, was the same hotel I had stayed at with my mom years before when I was a little girl) offered free breakfast and gave you a To Go lunchbox (that we still have) so you could eat breakfast on the beach. I loved this idea and we happily enjoyed our tea and pastries with a side of sea breeze that morning.

After breakfast we walked around a bit and then went for a swim in the ocean. Mermaid Status, Right!? Well, not technically… the beach we went to had a little cement wall about 20 yards out so you could enjoy the ocean without having to worry about riptides or sharks. I guess I’m not the only one scared of that big, bad ocean!

Wading water with Mike in that tiny, walled off part of the Pacific Ocean is one of my favorite memories. We spent the afternoon talking and splashing and it was so, so lovely.

Having worked up our appetites we ordered giant salads and iced teas from a little beach front hut. I was feeling mostly better by this point (probably all of that vitamin D) so it was time for happy hour! Mai Tais round two. We ended up back at our hotel, sitting outdoors at the bar, enjoying the last  few hours of daylight.

For dinner we really wanted to go somewhere authentic but that’s hard to find when you’re staying in the most touristy area in Honolulu. We walked the strip for a while (saw a Cheesecake Factory and were actually baffled at the amount of people in there – I’ll never understand going to a chain restaurant while on vacation) and finally settled in at a rooftop Cal Mex restaurant. By this time my (wo)man flu was on it’s way back with a vengeance. I remember ordering a jalapeno margarita, thinking the spice (and tequila, maybe?) would help me feel better. What a mistake! After 2 sips, I realized I was $12 out and still feeling terrible.

Sadly, my sick-self cut our last night short. We went back to the room, Mike poured a drink, I made tea, and we watched TV …hearing the waves crashing in the background (jk).

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Last dinner in HI
Day 21, 01/10/15

Our official LAST  day of vacation. I woke up still not feeling great but what can’t the beach cure, right? Mike swam in the closed off section from the day before while I sat on the beach, toes in the sand, tea nearby, talking on the phone with my mom and then my grandma and then my grandpa and probably my dad too. I had only emailed and texted my family while I was out of the country so it was nice to hear their voices and fill them in on all of the adventures!

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A cup of tea and the beach. I’ll take it. Any day.
After Mike got out of the water, we ate breakfast on the beach again and then went back to the hotel to pack. We took a shuttle to the airport, had lunch and a Kona Brewing Company beer, and were on our way home again. Three weeks later, with a ton of stories, a lot of pictures, and probably a few more wrinkles (from both the laughing and the sunburns).

Xx

#VegOut

♡ Ashley

PS.

You can check out a video of our trip here

 

UNDER UNDER PART IV

Day 12, 01/02/15 – Airlie Beach

After packing all of our stuff in Melbourne, we flew north to Airlie Beach. Here we stayed in another hostel and had plans to go sailing around the Whitsundays the next day/night. We stayed at Magnums hostel and I was impressed yet again. This hostel had a little bit more of a party vibe than the one in Apollo Beach. It was on the main strip of a down town and had a bar + pool tables on the property. It also felt like you were camping out in the jungle because of all the tress surrounding the rooms.  It was pretty hot up north so I was thankful  the rooms had AC. The only thing that was mehh… were the outdoor bathrooms/showers but, as I’ve learned from vacationing with Mike’s family, travelers cannot be picky!

For dinner, Wendy found this amazing place called Fish D’Vine that was both a restaurant and a rum bar. Suffice to say, we found our spot for the evening. After chowing down on fresh fish we headed to another part of the restaurant to sample different rums. It is a joke between my dad and Mike that I (the girl) never gets to drink the “man’s drink” (whatever they are drinking). I told Barb about this cruel game and she was sure to include me in the boys sampling of every rum which was (pricey for Mike haha) appreciated!

After we were well and buzzed (except Wendy, mom-to-be!), we went back to the hostel where Mike and Andy played pool for a bit.

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Ashley and the boyz

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Mike joking around, me clearly entertained…
Day 13, 01/03/15 

We woke up early this day to go on an overnight sailing adventure. Remember how I mentioned I have a fear of the ocean? Yeah, I was feeling pretty anxious about being on a sailboat for 1.5 days. Plus, I suffer from motion sickness so I was skeptical about how I would do on this trip. I think this is another instance of not really realizing how much fun you’re having while you’re having it and then, in retrospect, understanding it actually wasn’t all so bad. …Granted the weather was pretty raining the first day we were out; Mike and I got terribly sun burnt; and there were these wretched little things called March flies biting all of us. However, looking back, there was also breathtaking scenery and some good laughs too.

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Really contemplating this whole sailing thing… (just prior to this I got a text from my dad telling me about the time he threw up fruity pebbles all over the deck from sailing as a kid. I was sure I was going to puke at some point.)
The captain and skipper of our sailboat were entertaining and well versed in weathering the waters from years and years of sailing. I forget their names now but I’m glad we were on board with them. On the first day  out at sea, they dropped us off at Whitehaven beach to explore and relax for 2 hours. This beach was INSANE! Like, the most gorgeous, picturesque beach I have ever been to. Like, if I was rich, I would fly (and then sail, I presume) everyone I loved here for my wedding.

I couldn’t believe how pretty it was except that, while we were there, it was raining – which obliviously put a damper on the experience. So, if you can imagine all of us sitting on this immaculate beach, in our sting suits (which are basically wet suits but made of lighter material), trying to take cover from the rain in a few bushes way up shore, eating Tim Tams and drinking beer (eventually deciding to go for a walk up and down the beach instead of just sitting and stewing in our own gorgeous misery). It is a pretty funny scene and one that I would repeat in a heartbeat.

Willingly going sailing again? A completely different story. Am I glad for the experience? Yes. Would  I do it again? Never. Luckily I was so sun burnt and tired, I fell asleep fast and hard the night we spent on the boat and the next day was a lot better than the first but, still, I want to see someone try to get this girl on a sailboat again…

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Mike swatting at the March flies

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IS THIS REAL!?!?!?!?

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Below deck #mate
Day 14, 01/04/15

We woke up the next day to MUCH better weather and had breakfast on the deck with a nice side of annoying March flies. Not the best way to start the day… Luckily, we did some amazing snorkeling shortly after to make up for the aggravating little (but actually big, by fly standards….) flies.

As mentioned, I am pretty scared of the ocean and was certain I was going to die while snorkeling.

I’m happy to report the feeling was an over-exaggeration!

Our first snorkeling stop was the best. It was in this (safe-feeling) little cove with gorgeous coral and so.many.fish. I had never been snorkeling before but I really enjoyed the experience. And I only saw myself getting attacked by a shark (or an alligator as the skipper so nicely informed me that alligators are actually more dangerous than sharks) a handful of times.

The second place we went wasn’t as good but still had some pretty nice coral to look at. After snorkeling we had a tea break back on the boat and then did some REAL sailing. (The first day we mostly traveled by motor because the winds weren’t strong enough to sail.) Actual sailing was a lot of fun …just sitting on the side of the boat – letting the men do all of the work – and enjoying the sensation of your toes dipping ever so slightly into the water when the boat leaned on it’s side enough…

But I still stand by my point that I will never go sailing again. Besides, we were sailing back to shore – I’m sure that had something to do with my excitement.

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Obliviously a natural

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Our skipper in his “bed” (he really did sleep in there!)

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Casually sailing and taking it allll in, especially Dan the party man
When we got back to land (I  wanted to kiss it!), we headed to the hostel to shower and get ready for dinner. We went to a place where there was $15 meal + drink deal (a steal in Australia, ok!?) but weren’t all too impressed with the food. I specifically remember I ordered nachos and they were terrible. Word to the wise, don’t even try to order Mexican food in other places unless you are in California (or, of course, Mexico). After eating, the boys left us to play a few arcade game while we stayed at the table and chatted until a bachelor party came and basically fell in love with Barb. Wendy and I were chopped liver. 

#haveyoumetBarb

To be continued…

 

DOWN UNDER PART III

Day 9, 12/30/14 – Apollo Bay

It was nearing the end of the year and time for us to explore a new part of Australia. With the car we rented the day before we drove along the Great Ocean Road to our next destination, a small beach town called Apollo Bay.

I think now is a good time for me to mention that Australia – even though it is a whole other country on the other side of the world – reminded me a lot of home in California. Which can be nice for a homesick lady like myself! The Great Ocean Road was as beautiful as the Pacific Coast Highway back home. I remember feeling like I wasn’t away from home at all on that drive. Does this mean I appreciated the Great Ocean Road less? Possibly. But I don’t think that’s a negative thing. It just means I’ve experienced great beauty and great beaches in my life. And who doesn’t want that??

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Great Ocean Road
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#photobomb

We stopped in Lorne for lunch and ate at a beach side cafe and it was pure bliss. I don’t remember what I ordered (aside from a glass of champagne) but I do remember the warmth of the sun, the scenery, the company. It was all good.

After lunch we set out on a quest to spot koala bears. Wendy and Andy knew of a place where they just hang out in trees and you can see them up close and personal, in their natural habitat; another cool thing to see outside of the zoo! There were a lot of koala bears to see and, naturally, even more people trying to snap pictures of them. We were probably there for 15 minutes when we decided it was time to continue on to Apollo Bay.

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A wild koala bear … taking a midday nap

In Apollo Bay we stayed in a hostel. This was my first time staying in a hostel and I was pretty indifferent to the experience. It was a lot cheaper than a hotel (obviously) so it was a good choice from a planning standpoint.  When we got to the Apollo Bay Eco YHA we were all pleasantly surprised with how great it was (likely setting my expectations far too high for any other hostel I stay at in my  future…). Each couple stayed in their own room that had a queen size bed, some hooks to hang your towels and what not on, a small desk, and a patio overlooking the downtown area. Not too shabby for a hostel, I’d say! There were shared bathrooms – that  is never preferred – but wasn’t bad at all. YHA also had a huge kitchen, large common rooms, a TV room, and a giant deck. Luckily we were able to snag a common room every night we were there to hang out in.

Mike’s family stayed in this night to play  games but I wanted to explore the new town we were in so Mike and I went out to dinner at a cute little tapas place. We ordered a bunch on small plates (including lamb intestine, yummmmm… #not) and sangria.

Day 10, 12/31/14 

New Years Eve

One of my biggest fears is the ocean and up until this point I didn’t have to worry about it too much. Don’t get me wrong, I love the beach and enjoy swimming, as long as it’s in a pool or a lake – a “controlled” body of water! The ocean’s massiveness and general unknown-ness freaks me out so I was hesitant to try stand up paddle boarding in the ocean on new year’s eve.  Actually, hesitant is an understatement. I was downright scared to do it but, here’s the thing about traveling with a family that isn’t your own (or at least for me), you can only complain or say “no” so many times… SUP in the ocean it was!

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Catching a wave! …almost
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Practicing in the bay

Thankfully we started in a little bay and then made our way out to the ocean. I caught one wave (with some major assistance of the instructor) and every time I feel off the board I desperately scrambled back onto it as quick as I could, seeing an image in my head of a giant shark’s mouth coming right for me, but, aside from a few minor panic attacks, it was fun and I’m glad I did it.

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Beach bums reading

After our lesson was over, we just hung out on the beach for a while and soaked up the sun. Then we went back to YHA to get ready for a fancy new year’s eve dinner. Here we tried kangaroo (which was sugar glazed so, sweet and a little chewy) among other good food. After dinner, we settled into a common room for games and to celebrate the new year on the deck with champagne and fireworks.

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Kangaroo!

Day 11, 01/01/15 

New Years Day

I don’t remember making any specific new years resolutions last year (unlike this year), probably because we were still traveling and I knew it would be a feeble attempt to work out and drink less.

Our stay in Apollo Bay had come to an end and we were heading back to Melbourne to pack for the last leg of our journey. On the way back we stopped to see the 12 Apostles, which are quite amazing to see in person! Then it was on the road again to get back. I don’t remember much about this day aside from the Apostles and a little roadside makeshift picnic we had on the drive back because we were all hungry and had a bit of bread, cheese, grapes, and nuts in the car.

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Two of the Twelve Apostles

To be continued…

DOWN UNDER PART II

Day 5, 12/26/14 – Melbourne

We stayed at Wendy and Andy’s apartment in Melbourne and explored the Botanical gardens on our first full day in Melbourne. It was summer and I remember this day being really nice. We had a picnic by a little pond and walked around for a bit. Then, on a whim, we went to a soccer match. By this time it had cooled off a bit and it didn’t help that we were sitting in the shade.

This was one of those weird moments that, while I was living it, I was like yeah, okay, this is fun, I guess…... Because, you see, I think realizing you are happy while doing something and realizing that you were happy while doing something are two different animals. Sadly, I think the former is harder to accomplish. While I was at the game, I was having a good time but not the best.time.ever. I’m not the biggest sports fan, it was cold, blah, blah… Except, now, looking back, I think, that was the best time! I was in Australia with my love and his family, having a few beers, and just hanging out – what more could I have wanted?! (Besides maybe a hot dog… This blog and my quest to be more veggie friendly didn’t exist back than, by the way;)

Anyways, after the game we went to one of Wendy’s friend’s house for a BBQ or “shrimp on the barbie” as we kept joking. When in Rome, right?

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A picnic in the botanical gardens
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Soccer!

Day 6, 12/27/14

I’m pretty sure this is the day we went to brunch (which Melbourne is well known for!) and I got this amazing bruschetta with poached eggs. I also got a green juice here and fun fact, everything is more expensive in Australia except the green juices and smoothies. A pleasant surprise for a California health nut.

(Another fun fact, flat whites were on every menu when we were there – before Starbucks sold them – so not to be too hipster or anything… but…)

After brunch we took a 3 hour free walking tour of Melbourne which was interesting and fun. Plus, I’m always game for a good, long, walk. There are these hidden alleyways in Melbourne with hole in the wall bars and restaurants. We didn’t go to any of them so, another reason to go back! Most of these alleys are also filled with graffiti.

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Alleyway graffiti
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An afternoon spent lawn bowling

Next up was lawn bowling, something I was hesitant to try (and that only Mike knew, until now!). The thing is, I’m not particularly …coordinated and I was nervous to learn a new activity with Mike’s family, knowing that I would likely be terrible at it. Now I can’t remember if I was any good or not but I do know it turned out to be okay – fun, even – like most things we are scared to try. After lawn bowling we went across the street for dinner and I remember getting a huge burger, fries, and a salad.

Day 7, 12/28/14

Barb and Dan went shopping; Mike, Wendy and Andy went swimming; and I was on my own for the morning! Armed with my phone/GPS and the lingering craving for another green juice like the day before, I set out on an adventure. ..Granted my adventure consisted of walking about 6 city blocks, buying a green juice, and going back to Wendy and Andy’s…

This day was gorgeous – all sunny skies and warmth – and after a lazy morning, we went to the conservatory for afternoon high tea. At tea, there was an all you can eat buffet with mini sandwiches and …other stuff that I wish I could remember! We each had 2 pots of tea and then it was time for drinks and an outing to go see little mini penguins at St Kilda pier. I have to say the wildlife sightings on this trip remains one of my favorite things! Little penguins live in the rocks at this pier and at night people gather around to watch them come in from the ocean. We were lucky to see a few and they are still some of the cutest things I’ve seen in my life.

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Green juice sippin’
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High tea #pinkiesup
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Little penguin at St. Kilda pier

 

Day 8, 12/29/14

On our last full day in Melbourne we rented a car to do some final exploring, that included both wine tasting and enjoying hot springs – two of my  very favorite things! I remember we stopped for lunch at this cute little Greek restaurant and I was able to get my falafel, hummus, and pita fix while everyone else noshed on delicious pizzas. We also saw wild kangaroos which was crazy for me since I’ve only seen them in the zoo.

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Wild kangaroos

 

We went to this place called Peninsula Hot Springs in the evening and it was my favorite part of the trip! This place is gorgeous, with all of these natural hot springs scattered throughout the grounds, a Turkish bath , small pools to do cold plunges in (more on that later) and a cute little cafe to eat at. We started our hot spring escape at that cafe. I ordered a roasted vegetable and quinoa salad with an earl gray tea. I remember feeling totally in my element at this place. It was so relaxing and clam. After eating, we started to try out the different hot springs; there were all different kinds from really hot ones to ones that you could do light stretching in. There was also a reflexology walk (basically a bunch of different sizes and shaped stones that you walk on) that Mike and I loved and did at least five times. There were also these deep but relatively small in diameter pools of cold water that you could jump in between hot springs called “cold plunges.” These were supposed to help with circulation among other things and, while it was freezing(!), it was also invigorating.

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Peninsula Hot Springs
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Bliss.

To be continued…

DOWN UNDER PART I

In 2014 Mike and I went to visit his sister, Wendy, and her husband, Andy, in Australia. We were lucky enough to go for 3 weeks and I wish I had written about the trip when we returned but unfortunately I didn’t get around to it. Now, too much time has passed for me to recount all of the details of the trip but, luckily, traveling with Mike’s family means there was a spreadsheet! Below is a summary of what we did each day and a few pictures of life down under.

Mike and I had a rocky start to this trip (one that I, unfortunately, remember too well) and had major difficulties getting from California to Sydney. These included, but are not limited to; flight delays due to weather; flight delays due to not having a captain to fly the plane; missed connecting flights; LAX closing (I didn’t know airports even closed…) and leaving us stranded in dirty Los Angeles (sorry lalaland lovers!) overnight; booking a hotel because of said stranded-status on the wrong day (since it was already past 12am – and technically the next day – we couldn’t book a room for “that night”); after finally finding a hotel to stay at, being kept awake because of a “telly” (high school flashback, wussup); and washing our underwear in the sink for days because our luggage stayed in America long after we had left.

We were supposed to meet Mike’s family – his parents, Barb and Dan, who arrived a week ahead of us, Wendy, and Andy – in Sydney on 12/21/2014 (the 2oth in California because of that whole national dateline thing…) but we didn’t get there until the 22nd. Nonetheless, we got there!

Day 1, 12/22/2014 – Sydney

We arrived in Sydney and took an Uber to the airbnb that we rented. The house was a nice, 3 story place. Each couple got their own room, there were 3 bathrooms, a kitchen, living room, and big deck for us to relax on. I remember being pretty stressed that I didn’t have any luggage to unpack but there wasn’t anything we could really do except shower and borrow some clothes. Luckily Wendy and I are close in size and she lent me shorts and a top.

Barb and Dan went for a walking tour of Sydney while Mike and I got ready and had a much needed drink (even if it was probably before 10 AM!) with Andy. Wendy couldn’t join in the celebratory cocktail because we found out that she was pregnant with baby Ella. It’s pretty crazy to think about that now, having met Ella this past Christmas when we went to Canada.

Andy’s uncle lives in Sydney (or nearby?) and recommended a place for lunch where you grilled your own food. I’ve since forgotten the name but still remember how good the lamb was! We spent the afternoon grilling and drinking beer before taking a ferry to Manly beach. It was insane to see the Sydney Opera House with my own eyes and I think the moment I realized I was actually in Australia.

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Grillin’

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Eatin’

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Sydney Opera House

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Yaas

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A windy afternoon
At Manly, the beach was windy (a sort of premonition for the trip) and we all quickly decided another drink indoors sounded better. We then took the ferry back and headed to the airbnb where I’m sure we figured something out for dinner and then fell fast asleep.

Day 2, 12/23/2014

At this point we learned that our luggage was still in Los Angeles and that we would be given ~$60 a day for clothes until it arrived. Being without our stuff was difficult, as to be expected. It was nice that the airlines were giving us money for clothes but it also meant we spent a day shopping while in AUSTRALIA when we could have been doing way more interesting things. Also, in case you didn’t know, Australia is expensive! I wondered what $60 would even get me. Thankfully we found this store called Cotton On that was basically like a Old Navy in Australia and there was a huge SALE! We stocked up on underwear, dresses (for me), shorts, shirts, and bathing suits to get us through the next couple of days without our luggage.

After our shopping spree we walked (in the rain) to a Mexican restaurant nearby and then went back to the area where our airbnb house was located. The boys found a pub with table tennis and the girls did some browsing of a cute downtown area.

The relationship between girlfriend and S.O.’s mom is stereo typically strained, which is why I feel extra lucky to get along with Barb swimmingly! I’m prone to being homesick but traveling with her (and, of course, Mike!) greatly reduces any feelings of anxiety.

Day 3, 12/24/2014

Christmas Eve 

Wendy and Andy actually live in Melbourne which meant none of us were “home” on Christmas eve or Christmas. This was also the first Christmas that I was away from my family which was (paradoxically) really hard and easier than I expected at the same time…

Mine and Mike’s luggage was still MIA so we didn’t have tennis shoes to join on the Blue Mountains hike that Barb and Dan went on. This is still a bummer for us and one of the big reasons why we want to go back to Sydney one day!

Instead of going on a group hike, Wendy, Andy, Mike and I went to explore. Thanks to Wendy’s excellent documenting skills, I know we walked from Bondi to Bronte beach which, according to Google maps, is just over 1.5 miles. The walk was gorgeous but windy! We stopped along the way for lunch and I ordered the fish n’chips. Before we left, everyone was telling me how fresh the food in  Australia was and I found it to be pretty true! I would say the fact that I still remember the fish and chips I ordered over a year ago means something…

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A little rest on our walk

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#GoPro
After beach bumming for most of the day we took a bus back to the airbnb and grilled  Christmas eve dinner on the deck.

Day 4, 12/25/14

Christmas day

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Christmas morning!
We woke up to stockings (thanks Barb and Dan!) and enjoyed coffee with Bailey’s and mimosas. We lazily ate breakfast and opened presents, trying to really get into the Christmas spirit.

Mike and I STILL hadn’t got out luggage by this point and we were leaving for Melbourne later that day, which added to the stress. Luckily we knew that they had arrived in Sydney. It was only a matter of actually getting them… We deiced to go to the airport early in an effort to track of bags down while Barb, Dan, Wendy, and Andy went to the Botanical gardens.

After more miscommunication and scrambling around, we finally got our luggage! …Only to part with it again for the quick flight to Melbourne.

To be continued…