So now the blog is back, here’s a quick run down on the good stuff I got up to between the end of May and the end of August. That’s pretty much three months of things, so this is a bumper post!

Working in Winchester: At the end of May and start of June I went back to the UK for work for three weeks for a special project, based in Winchester. I was going back for a holiday anyway, so the trip timing right beforehand worked out quite well. I had weekends and evenings free, so managed to fit in some good socialising while I was over. Highlights included a whole lobster at Loch Fyne with Kim, Tom, Rhiannon and Phil from the canoe club on my birthday and dinner with Southampton Uni friends at Rick Steins fish restaurant. I also went for work at night time to some road works nio the A303 at Popham. I got to wear full high vis and a hard hat – glamorous!

Birthday lobster

Birthday lobster

Rhiannons Hen Party: As I was back in the UK early for work, I got to start my holiday early and made it along to Rhaiannon’s hen party. It was great seeing everyone, especially as I didn’t think I would make it.  We did an aerial yoga session which was really fun! We got to do lots of crazy poses, with lots of hanging upside down and a fair bit of screeching and giggling! (OK that was mainly me!)

Aerial Yoga!

Aerial Yoga!

London: Matt arrived at this point for our actual UK holiday, and we went for a day trip up to the big smoke. We went around the Tower of London like tourists which i’d not done before, went on a Beefeater tour and saw the Crown Jewels. Later on we met my dad and Flick for a trip to the art gallery and a yummy crispy duck in Chinatown, before walking back to the station past Buckingham Palace.

Tower of London

Tower of London

Stourhead: We went for a walk around Stourhead gardens, which were beautiful. I don’t think I’ve been there before, which is surprising becasue its so close to where I grew up The views and landscaping were really nice.

Stourhead Gardens

Stourhead Gardens

Brighton: We went with the Shorts down to Brighton seaside. We played on old school amusements, went on the pier, the big wheel, the Voilks electric railway, went around the lanes, had fish and chips and I even got a cream tea! Happy days.

Amusements in Brighton

Amusements in Brighton

 

Southampton: We met my Uni friends for an epic and very tasty picnic at the park down in Southampton and then went for dinner in the evening. It was lovely catching up with everyone, and pretty scary seeing how all the children had got so much bigger!

Southampton Picnic

Southampton Picnic

Gruffalo: After a night in Bath with my nan, we went around Westonbirt arboretum, and met a Gruffalo hiding in the woods!

Me, dad and the Gruffalo!

Me, dad and the Gruffalo!

Royal Ascot: A bunch of 8 lovely ladies went along to Royal Ascot for ladies day. The weather was glorious. We had another epic picnic, along with plenty of fizzy wine. This is the only kind of alcohol you’re allowed to take in yourself – tragic! It was great fun getting all dressed up and hanging out in the sunshine. I even had a couple of wins, including a fairly good one and ended the day about £65 up! Woo.

Lovely ladies at Ascot

Lovely ladies at Ascot

Leith Hill Geocaching: Around Horsham we went for a geocaching adventure up Leith HIll, and helped Kate find her first one (I think). We also found bacon and maple syrup flavoured popcorn – nice!

Leith Hill Tower

Leith Hill Tower

Porter wedding: The key event in the 2015 visit was of course Phil and Rhainnons wedding. It was a really lovely day, and we were their witnesses. It was great to see them so happy and catch up with a lot of our friends who we hadn’t seen for a long time.

Phil & Rhiannon's Wedding

Phil & Rhiannon’s Wedding

Germany: I spent 5 nights in Germany, visiting my brother and Lucia, and meeting my new niece, Ella for the first time. She is super cute and very well behaved. I didn’t drop her and she wasn’t sick on me, so overall very successful! I took her a play mat which my friend Bex made which we had fun playing on. I found a sausage vending machine (yes!) and mistakenly ordered the normal (not small) size schnitzel one evening, which turned out to be TWO schnitzels!

Owen and I at German Garden Show

Owen and I at German Garden Show

Peak District long weekend: We had an amazing weekend in a giant cottage up in the Peak District. We arranged to get a bunch of people together from Horsham friends, climbers and canoe club. A lot of them didn’t know each other before, but it was a great weekend. We have a common love of board games, so played a LOT of those, as well as doing some geocaching walks with great scenery and having a massive BBQ – the British way, with charcoal. I managed to squeeze in an extra cream tea too.

Peak District Shennanigans

Peak District Shennanigans

Bristol: After the Peak District it was the end of our holiday, so Matt flew back to Australia. I stayed on and spent some time in Bristol with my mum in hospital, and got to stay with the Cornishes. John introduced me to the Navy game Uckers, which I promptly lost my first game of in spectacular style after a rookie error! I did later go on to beat him. We also went on an adventure to fund some Shaun the Sheeps which was exciting, and I bought a Union Jack Gromit souvenir.

Me and Ice Cream Shaun the Sheep

Me and Ice Cream Shaun the Sheep

Blue Mountains Snow: I got back to Australia  in late July, and it was cold! We went up to the Blue Mountains with some new friends to stay in a cottage for the weekend and go climbing. On the Thursday before we left it snowed up there, and there was still snow left when we got there on Friday which was pretty exciting! Unfortunately on Saturday there were a lot of road closures, which meant we couldn’t go climbing, so we went for a nice walk instead. Although chilly it was nice and sunny. In the evening we drank mulled wine, had a nice meal and unexpectedly played a game of Munchkin!

Snowman in July!

Snowman in July!

Fort Dennison: Matt took me on a surprise trip to Fort Dennison, for a tour and then lunch in their fancy restaurant. Fort Dennison is a small island in the middle of the Harbour, which you get to on the ferry. It was used for defense and sending convicts into isolation. We went on a tour around and up the tower, and the views back to the city were amazing.

Fort Dennison View

Fort Dennison View

Top Gear Festival: We had tickets to the Top Gear festival earlier in the year, but it got posponed after the Jeremy Clarkson issues. They re-badged it as ‘Clarkson Hammond and May Live’ and we went along. They did the ‘Cr-Ashes’, a series of car based games with the Top Gear guys against an Australian Team. England ended up losing quite badly, but it was good fun. The three wheeler football at the end was especially entertaining, as they kept flipping over.

Cr-ashes at the 'Top Gear' show

Cr-ashes at the ‘Top Gear’ show

UK again: The next weekend was the one my mum died, so I went back tot he UK unexpectedly to sort things out. It was a very sad and stressful time, but it was also nice to see family again. I went on a nice scoping trip with my brother to Glastonbury, somewhere my mum really liked and where we used to go quite a lot when I was little. It has a good hippy atmosphere and lots of nice shops and cafes. We walked up Glastonbury Tor which i’d not done before, and went back there to scatter mum’s ashes after the funeral. We took my niece Ella to meet my nan, her great-grandmother in Bath which was nice.

Owen, Martin and I at Glastonbury Tor

Owen, Martin and I at Glastonbury Tor

Once I got back at the end of August we went for a climbing trip in the mountains one day, and I even did a climb as well as reading two books! We also  went for pie at the famous Harrys Cafe de Wheels, before seeing the show Les Mis. We watched the move on DVD the week before as I’d not actually seen it. It was a good musical, although didn’t quite make it into my Top 4 (Wicked on Broadway, Lion King, Phantom of the Opera and Avenue Q).

Next time i’ll do a shorter post on September.

Pie Palace

Pie Palace

 

Building the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Building the Sydney Harbour Bridge

If you want to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge it will set you back at least $300. On the other hand, you can go up on of the pylons for $13!

We’ll do the Bridge Climb eventually, probably when we have some visitors who want to do it. But in the mean time, we thought we’d go up the pylon.

Inside there is a lot about the history and building of the bridge, including a lot of facts about it and cool pictures from when it was built. The views at the top are pretty good, and you dont have the fence in the way like you do when you walk over the bridge itself. You also get a good look at the bridge itself from another perspective, and a good view of the people actually climbing it.

Bridge view

Bridge view

Here’s some Sydney Harbour Bridge facts:

  • The bridge took 8 years to build, with 1,400 men. 16 sadly lost their lives. It cost $4.2m.
  • The bridge is the tallest steel arch bridge in the world, measuring 134m from top to the water. Is the second widest long-span bridge in the world. The Port Mann Bridge in Vancouver is wider.
  • The bridge has 52,800 tonnes of steel including the arch and approach. Only 21% of this was from Australia though. The rest was imported from England.
  • The bridge has about 6 million rivets. There were all made in Australia.
  • The bridge can expand and contract with heat by 420mm on the deck and 180mm on the arch.
  • The bridge was meant to be opened (on 19 March 1932) by the NSW Premier with some ornamental gold and opal scissors. But a Captain Francis de Groot from the New Guard parliamentary group beat him to it by riding up on his horse and cutting the ribbon with his sword! He got arrested, they tied it back together and then carried on with the official opening.
  • The bridge used to have a rooftop cattery in the 50’s and 60’s with lots of white cats.
  • You pay between $2.50 and $4 in tolls to drive south over the bridge. Its free to go north.

 

View of the Opera House

View of the Opera House

CitySeaPlane

Sydney from the sea plane

In July we went on an ariel adventure over Sydney in a sea plane with my friend from the UK Ellie and her friend Jen. We spent a while trying to decide between going in a sea plane or helicopter and in the end decided given the amount of water around the harbour, it was most appropriate to go in the sea plane. We flew out of Rose Bay, in the south west of the harbour. The ride was $255 (about £125) for 30 mins of flying time. We actually got more than this which was good value. From when we taxied along the water to landing again was actually 45 mins. To get to the plane we got a ride in a little boat too.

There were two rows of seats behind the pilot, so 4 people was the ideal number. With 6 someone people would have been sat in the middle so the view wouldn’t have been so good. We got headsets to wear and the pilot gave us commentary about all the places we were flying over as we went.

Matt in the Sea Plane

Matt in the Sea Plane

Once we were all settled in with our life jackets, headphones and seatbelts we taxied along the water and took off. You could see the exact moment when we left the water from the spray stopping which was cool. We cruised up the coast at between 1000 and 1500 feet, pretty close to all the scenery and buildings so the views were very cool. We flew up the coast past Manly, Palm Beach, Barrenjoey and around the Ku-Ring-Gai NP.

Barrenjoey from the sea plane

Barrenjoey from the sea plane

On the way back we did a figure of eight loop around the city so got some very cool views of the city. It was a great experience, and would have been even better in sunny weather. It was a bit grey the day we went, but still awesome. It was a bit bumpy and my stomach did end up feeling a bit ropey, I think partly from the whiff of fumes before we took off and landed. It was fine within 10 minutes though, and all fine after a bacon and egg roll at the nearby cafe!

Our Sea Plane

Our Sea Plane

 

Gangsters

Gangsters

Tucked away behind Circular Quay is the Justice and Police museum, based on the old police building and courthouse.

Entry is only $10, and recently they had a special exhibit called City of Shadows, based on thousands of old police photos from the 1920s which were recently found in a warehouse

The museum is small, but really interesting, especially the special exhibition. There were three section with photos, one about historic Sydney, one of crime scenes and one of criminals. The photos have been made into a film with voice-over which you watch as you first go in. The crime scene pictures were quite harrowing. I watch a lot of crime and detective dramas on TV, but knowing its real is pretty different. A lot of the pictures had blood and violent scenes, and quite a few had actual bodies in. There probably should have been a warning about it for the children!

Grizzly crime scene

Grizzly crime scene

The pictures of the criminals were all done as portraits, rather than just standard mug shots. They don’t know the story, but it seemed like the photographer asked them to pose how they wanted, so a lot of ganger character came through in the shots. They were really interesting to look at, and some of them had accompanying stories about their crimes.

Lady gangster

Lady gangster

In other parts of the museum you could sit in the judges chair, go into the cells (which were pretty small with nothing in, and used to hold 12 people), and see the old reception room complete with original furniture. One room was full of weapons ( including guns, axes, swords, daggers, maces and other grizzly implements). Some of them had actually been used to murder people.

Its not really on the list of major tourist attractions in the city, but it was definitely worth a visit. And there was this…. 🙂

Police Dog riding a mini car!

Police Dog riding a mini car!

 

Vivid1

It’s weird that now we have been here over a year, the same major events are coming around again. The Vivid light festival is one of my favourite Sydney events, which I wrote about before, here.

This year I went twice, once on my birthday and then again the following weekend with my friend Toby. Again the projection onto the Opera House was my favourite part. The Opera House is very cool anyway, and when its transformed with the lights and music I find it amazing. The show had animal patterns, a video game, a section about the construction of the opera house where they built and took it apart, it got splatted with paint and had lightning hit it.

Customs House and the Contemporary Art Centre both had big projections on them too, as well as other installations like giant inflatable white rabbits, lit up boats around the Harbour and a musical fountain in Darling Harbour.

I didn’t take my tripod along but managed to get some relatively good pictures hand holding my F1.8 fixed 50mm. Here’s some of my favourites.

vivid4

 

vivid3

 

vivid2

 

VividRabbit

 

vividdog

 

18. June 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Ramblings · Tags: ,

Back in late May we moved house. The two part video tour of the new place is coming soon. Ahead of that I thought I’d just write a little bit about moving.

Firstly, terminology. I always say moving house – I guess because I have generally lived in houses. But actually we moved from a flat to a flat. But you know what I mean. (In fact, taking the terminology thing even further, the technical Aussie term for our place is a unit. Someone once explained the difference to be between a unit, flat and an apartment, but I don’t remember. Feel free to enlighten me if you know).

When I got back from the UK in early May we started looking at places as we we’re bored of our view of other flats, the noise of the builders, and paying for a third bedroom of space that we didn’t really need. I explained before, flat hunting in Sydney is a horrible process of looking around places in a 15 min window, with a ton of other people, generally on a Saturday morning.

We were aiming to get a water view, or at least a better view. On the first Saturday we looked at three places, the current one we got being the last we saw. There were probably about 20 other people nosing about. I instantly liked it, and thought maybe it was even a bit under-priced, even though the sneaky agent arranged the viewing when there were track works so you couldn’t hear the noise from the train line out the back. We put in an application, but expected someone else to pay over the price so we wouldn’t get it (but we did!). It has a very green outlook, not the water view we wanted, but it’s very good and having a hot tub is very cool!

We said we would get someone to move us to avoid the faff of lifts, but in the end the process were too high, so we bribed some mates with beer (thank you!) and hired a van. We also decided to hire these Boomerang Boxes, so we didn’t need to bother buying and selling or scavenging a load of boxes. They were very convenient and the two sizes stack nearly together, they are nice and tough and they came with wheely dolly which made moving 4 or 5 of them at a time nice and easy. I’d definitely use something like that again. We also hired a trolley with the van for $15 which was great for the stuff like the fridge and washing machine.

Boomerang Boxes

Boomerang Boxes

 

When we moved into our first flat we had two suitcases each, so it was very easy! The removal people bought the things off the ship and we gradually bought things ourselves or ordered big things and had them delivered. On actual moving day there were a few differences with moving in the UK I noticed, like:

  • In the UK you hope it won’t rain. Here we hoped it wouldn’t be too hot. It was late autumn and I was still in shorts and a t shirt
  • We moved from flat to flat so had to take all our stuff don in the lift which was a pain. Luckily our new place is entrance level so we only had one set of lifts
  • You often can’t park outside your place because in a flat you don’t get your own drive way. We did fairly well with parking spots, and for once being near the builders paid off when we moved one of their cones and snuck into a space next to their work site once they had finished for the day.
  • When you’re happily driving your van, remember not to park in a convenient space against the direction of traffic or you’ll get a $165 fine

Apart from that it’s still a lot of effort and you’ll end up needing wine and a take away by the end!

Stay tuned for the video tour.

Hot tub!

Hot tub!

The main pavilion in the Chinese Friendship Garden

The main pavilion in the Chinese Friendship Garden

 

Near the centre of Sydney at the bottom of Darling Harbour is the Chinese Garden of Friendship.

It was built as a  symbol of friendship between Sydney and Guangzhuo in China, to mark Australia’s bicentenary in 1988. The garden was designed and built by Chinese landscape architects and gardeners following the Taoist principles of ‘Yin-Yang’ and the five opposite elements—earth, fire, water, metal and wood. Unlike western-style gardens, there are no planted flowerbeds or manicured lawns. Instead, wild aspects of nature are recreated in landscapes that feature waterfalls, mountains, lakes and forests. Admission is $6.

You can walk around the garden itself quite fast if you wanted to, easily in under half an hour, but that wouldn’t really do it justice. I sat about reading my kindle for a while, enjoying the peace and quite. There is also a tea shop where you can have tea and dumplings.

Chinese Garden waterfall

Chinese Garden waterfall

The garden is in a busy bit of the city, but its got a good sense of calm.The waterfalls and ponds are very scenic, and of course the pavillions too. There were a few lizards about too, with one quite big one. On my way out I also spotted a couple of these colourful Rhino sculptures. They were all around the city to raise awareness of Rhino conservation. If you’ve got week or so in Sydney I’d put it on the list to have a look around, and Chinatown is right nearby for some crispy duck after or nitrogen gelato!

Rainbow Rhino

Rainbow Rhino

 

30. April 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Outdoors · Tags: , ,
City from Watsons Bay

City from Watsons Bay

We’ve been to Watsons Bay before, and I took a day trip back there recently. I was actually planning to go to Manly, but 30 minutes before the ferry left it was full up with tourists so I changed my plans and went to Watsons Bay instead! Its about 30 minutes on the ferry across the Harbour and we’ve often recommended it to our visitors.

The reasons Watsons Bay is a good place to visit are:

  • You get to cruise on the Harbour past the Opera House for about a $7 ferry ticket (who needs a $60 tour?!)
  • Doyles (famous here) have a chip shop there with excellent fish and chips – both a cafe style version and a upmarket restaurant if you want to splash some cash
  • You can sit on the relatively quiet beach and look back at the Harbour Bridge in the distance – look out for the nudist section though (depending on your preference of course)
  • There is a gelato shop and I can personally highly recommend the chocolate sorbet
  • There’s a park to sit in and read a book if you want some shade or to escape the sand
  • Up the hill is a bit of a cliff top walk with great views over to Manly and the other way to the city
  • There’s less tourists there than somewhere like Manly

 

Watsons Bay cliffs

Watsons Bay cliffs

 

 

12. April 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Reviews · Tags: ,
The boar with the luiky nose

The boar with the luiky nose

When we were down in Melbourne we did the ‘I’m Free’ city tour. Knowledgeable, friendly people in bright green t-shirts take you on a walking tour of the city for about 3 hours. There isn’t a fixed fee, and they’re not paid, but instead you pay them a tip of what you thought the tour was worth at the end.

The Melbourne tour was really very good, so we said that at some point we would try the Sydney equivalent and we got around to it back in January. Although we’d been here nearly a year by then we figured there were bound to be some things we hadn’t seen yet and we didn’t really know a lot about the city history, so it seemed like a good chance to find out.

We met our tour guide Dee outside Town Hall and spent some time working out what major attractions they were likely to take us too. We got most of it right, expect the tour missed out Darling Harbour, although it did get a mention. First up we heard about the history of Gorge Street and how it didn’t used to be so important, hence ending up with a cathedral you enter via the back door as it was built facing the main road at the time which then became disused. We headed up to the Queen Victoria Building after that where we discovered the statue of Queen Victoria’s dog which talks, and that the historic clocks inside have figurines inside which move on the hour including an hourly beheading of Charles I!

We discovered plenty of other places on our trip including the inside of Customs House, the First Fleet memorial, Australia Square and the Rum Hospital (with the lucky boar above), and learnt about some of the city history too which was good. Just like in Melbourne our guide was knowledgeable, friendly and enthusiastic. We also got a map which had a good list of attractions on it, including some more obscure ones which we will try and see this year – like Hyde Park Barracks, the Rocks Discovery Museum, the money museum and plenty more. Lots of these are free too which is great! 

I’d totally recommend the tour, if you’re new to Sydney and have a few hours to spare or you’ve been here a while and want to get to know it a bit better. 

Artistic bird cages (with sound)

Artistic bird cages (with sound)

Exciting news – we have a new page on our website!

On our fridge, and in more detail in my head, we have a To Do List. It’s not one of those boring ones about hoovering and chores though, but about all the places to go and things to do while we’re over here in Australia. We’ve added the new page to share it with you and you’re more than welcome to give us ideas too! I’ve also summarised what we have done so far with handy links in case you want to know about something in particular.

You can get to it by clicking the button under the main picture called To Do List (to the right of Home) or by clicking HERE.

City Circle Tram

City Circle Tram

At the end of our trip along the Great Ocean Road we spent two nights in Melbourne with Phil and Rhiannon.

Melbourne is just over an hour south of Sydney on the plane, so a bit cooler and more temperate weather wise. It has a lot of culture going on, being a UNESCO City of Literature, the Australian capital of coffee and chocolate and a foodie and shopping lovers dream. Quite often we’ll meet people and discuss being from the UK, and they’ll say we would like Melbourne becasue its very European. It definitely has more of a European city vibe than Sydney in the main city center, maybe becasue of more historic buildings, dodgy weather (yes I know some of Europe is hot) and lack of beaches.

There is a lot to do, but we weren’t there long, so we picked out some of the key stuff:

On Monday night we arrived, had some yummy Laksa noddles near our hotel and went for a wander around the city. We were lucky to see some Christmas projection onto the Town Hall  a bit like the Vivid festival.  We also found Federation Square and the Yarra River.

On Tuesday morning we decided the best way to pack in a lot was with a free city tour from I’m Free. After a quick coffee in the library coffee shop we headed out on the tour with our excellent guide, Dan. Dan was friendly, knowledgeable, had a good style and pace, kept things interesting and got in a lot of jibes about Melbourne being better than Sydney – most of which were pretty dubious. There is a big rivalry between the cities dating right back to when they were first founded. The tour covered the historic and modern bits of the city including the Parliament, parks, Gaol (where Ned Kelly was hung), Street Art and lane ways with fab cafes. We learnt a lot about the history of the city in an interesting way, and the 3 hours went by very quickly. We did pay Dan a good tip but it was still excellent value.

Expo building

Expo building

After a yummy pancake lunch in the lanes we headed to the Immigration Museum as in the words of Dan ‘ the story of immigration is the story of Australia.’ Its also the story of the Shorts  now, so I found it really interesting from that perspective too. They museum had a timeline of immigration over the last 100 years and a replica boat with different cabins dating back to the late 1800’s. It was good to learn more about the history including the £10 Poms and made me feel better about our 24 hour plane trip – better than 30 days on a boat! There was a good exhibit on Identity and racism and we got to to the Citizenship test and passed with a score of 18/20. We also got to interview prospective immigrants and decide whether to let them in or not which proved entertaining!

Tuesday night we had a nice meal at the Hairy Canary and went to see King Long at the theater. More about that here.

On Wednesday the weather was a bit dodgy and wet. We started off with a very intellectual middle class trip around the library which is also a museum. As well as lots of old books and maps and a very cool octagonal reading room we got to see Ned Kellys armor and learn more about him.

Library Reading Room

Library Reading Room

Melbourne has a free tram which runs around most of the city, so we caught that after the library to check out the Harbor area. Its not as good as Sydney! We skipped the Glow Golf in the end as the reviews were dodgy and we didn’t have too long to spare. After another tasty lunch of burgers it was time to head back to the airport and fly back to Sydney. Leaving Phil and Rhiannon at the airport for them to go to Singapore and us to Sydney was pretty weird, but I was very brave and didn’t cry!

There is plenty more to see in Melbourne, and luckily for me i’m spending some more time there in January. Also on the list are:

  • St Kilda area and its fab cake shops
  • The zoo
  • The Eureka Tower and lookout
  • Botanic Gardens
  • The James Bond exhibition (maybe more for Matt)
  • Vampire cabaret (intriguing)
  • Art galleries and of course
  • Shopping!
Street Art

Street Art