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

 

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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

 

Lorikeets at Port Stephens

Lorikeets at Port Stephens

Last year we went up to the Port Stephens area and stayed over one night in a place called Tea Gardens. I wrote about it here. It was quite wet last time, so we agreed to go back another time and go sand boarding down the biggest (moving?) dunes in the Southern Hemisphere.

We went back in July, with my friend Ellie who was visiting from the UK. Handily she’s been to Sydney a couple of times before, so we could do some slightly different things to the usual visitor stuff.

We headed up Friday night, and stayed two nights in the YHA Samurai Bungalows which came recommended. It was good value and in a nice setting surrounding by tropical looking bush. Allegedly there are koalas around the site and a diamond python, but we only managed to spot the dog and a few kookaburras. We had a cabin room and used the camp kitchen to cook up some bacon and eggs on the barbie for breakfast, Aussie style.

We spent a fair bit of time trying to spot koalas around the area, sadly unsuccessfully. We also did a lot of activities including visiting an avocado farm, a winery (with sampling and purchases), sand boarding, putt putt (mini golf), lunch at the lighthouse with lorikeets and a yummy dinner where Ellie and I shared a dessert tasking plate with 4 mini desserts each –  yummy! 🙂 Matt even got in a spot of climbing.

Putt putt with swinging obstacles

Putt putt with swinging obstacles

Sand boarding is a pretty mental activity, like sledging, but with sand dunes! In Port Stephens, near Anna Bay are some of the biggest moving sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere. We paid $20 each and went for a very bumpy fun ride in a bus across the dunes. We got dropped off at the big dunes where we could ride the sandboards down the dunes as much as we liked. There was a small slope to practice and a bigger one. Walking up the dines was quite a bit of effort, so we did about 7 or 8 rides each before our legs gave up. About 50% of the time we ended up with a not entirely smooth landing, getting covered in sand. It was good fun, but the sand got everywhere! I still have it in my bag and coat pockets 3 weeks later! You have to sit on the boards, no standing is allowed for safety reasons and I can see why – staying on it sitting down is hard enough! We escaped with only be getting one minor injury – a scrape and bruise on my leg where Ellie crashed and I hit her from behind.

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Ready to sand board

Sand boarding!

Sand boarding!

I’d recommend giving sand boarding a go if you get a chance – just know you’ll get sand everywhere!

Sand boarding bus

Sand boarding bus

My Agricola farm

My Agricola farm

Liking: Living in the new flat. There are lots of birds, its very green around, and apart from the trains its pretty peaceful. I’m also enjoying being able to walk to work, which takes about 25 mins. I see a lot of birds, including parrots, kookaburras and even a couple of bush turkeys!

Disliking: I was ill with a horrible virus and off work for a few days. It really knocked me out and I slept for 16 hours one day!

Watching: While I was ill I watched a lot of Wire in the Blood on my iPad. I really like that show. now we have the internet back finally I’m back on the iPlayer, and we’ve started Coast Australia seeing all the places we need to go and visit!

Playing: We bought a new game called Agricola – all creatures big and small. We already have Agricola which is a farming game where you collect animals, grow crops, feed your family, improve your farmhouse all to get points. This version is for two players, and mainly all abut the animals. That was my favourite part of Agricola anyway, so I like the new simple version.

Consuming: I have found a new exciting kind of biscuit through work. Its called a Monte Carlo, and is like a jammy dodger only much better becasue instead of shortcake the biscuits are oaty like a hob nob. And inside as well as chewy jam they have a creamy filling. Tasty! The new oven is much more powerful than the last one. The last one needed you to cook things for at least double the recommended time for them to be anywhere near done. This one, even with it adjusted for the fan its about half. So since moving in we’ve had a few meals on the slightly well done side! We’ve tried out the café down the road which does a yummy brunch.

Buying: In the old place we had two outdoor chairs and a small table. Now we have a giant table on the big balcony, so we bought six more chairs and cushions to go with it. We also bought all the chemicals for the spa so have been learning some chemistry about that, and got an almost free rubber duck thermometer!

Thinking about:  Holidays. We’re doing some planning about holidays at the moment, to see about buying leave for next year. We only get 20 days basic, and have to use 6 at Christmas for the shut downs, which doesn’t leave a lot, especially if we come back to the UK for a visit.

Visiting: In early June we had a Bank Holiday for the Queens’ Birthday – huzzah! We got invited away with our friend Paul and a bunch of his friends, who hired a big house down the south coast near Nowra. In the area there is good sea cliff climbing and awesome beaches. We had a great weekend including cream tea, a visit to kangaroo valley, climbing (of course), BBQ, roast dinner, walk on the beach and a game of sardines in the big house.

Missing: My old job – sad I know. My new job is fine, but I really liked my old one. We also missed some good friends weddings this month which we would have loved to be at. All the bets Mr and Mrs Frame! 🙂

Looking forward to: At the end of June we’re going to the Dubbo Western Plains zoo, way out west. You hire bikes and cycle around as its a big safari park, so I’m looking forward to seeing all the animals. We also have Ellie from the UK visiting for ten days, so we’ve got some exciting plans lined up for that too.

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So I pretty much spent April in the UK on holiday, visiting friends and family. So here’s a quick run down on that:

Liking: Top of the list of course is seeing all my family and friends in the UK who I have missed a lot. Also having access to all the things I’ve been missing, like Marmite, familiar clothes shops, fields and seeing generally old stuff. Also I found out a couple of weeks in to my trip that we had our new visa granted, so we can stay on working in Australia without getting deported and I can start my new job – this was a very big relief!

Disliking:  It was pretty damp the first few days of my visit and quite a few other days too. I’ve noticed a few differences like not having anywhere to fill up water bottles, kids smoking down lane ways and the high cost of trains (which only have the one level). Also the flight was very tedious and on the way back I ran out of films I actually wanted to watch.

Watching: I’ve watched some BBC news and Series 1 of Wire in the Blood which I got downloaded on my ipad. I’ve also started Dexter in the iPad and finished Season 1 just after I got back. On the plane out I watched American Hustle, the Book Thief, the Secret life of Walter Mitty (poor) and half of Series 4 of Downton Abbey plus some Big Bang Theory. On the way back they didn’t have the rest of Downton Abbey which was pretty dissapointing. Instead I watched 12 Years a Slave (the best of the bunch), Frozen, 47 Ronin, Savin Mr Banks and Last Vegas. 

Consuming: . So many things! Marmite, cream teas, welsh cakes, chips with vinegar on, fish and chips from the chippy, melting middle fish cakes, pub grub, dairy milk, mini eggs, dark chocolate hob nobs, full Englaish breakfast, roast dinner (both on the same day) the list goes on…

Buying: Clothes! One of the main issues I have in Sydney is a lack of affordable decent work clothes which suit me. I’ve been stocking up on my trip and got a couple of pairs of Clarks work shoes too.

Thinking about:  Where is home? (Deep stuff). I keep referring to going back to Sydney as flying home, but then also feel like the UK is my real home at the same time.

Visiting: I’ve been touring the south of the UK visiting a lot of people and places. In all I’ve stayed in 8 different places (one twice).

Missing: Matt – I didn’t see him for most of April!

Looking forward to: Staying in Australia longer and getting stuck into a new job (although my lazy side would quite like to carry on slacking!). In the UK I also did some planning with our friends coming to visit in November, and we’re taking a trip with them to the Great Barrier Reef which I’m excited about already!  

 

Our house in Feb 2013 just before we left

Our house in Feb 2013 just before we left

I’m coming to the UK soon for a holiday. In fact, I’m probably in the air now. Before leaving I thought about all the things I want to do while I’m over, and here’s the list. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Visiting:

1. See family
2. See friends
3. Hang out in a country pub, preferably with a fire
4. Visit a building over 200 years old
5. Walk in the countryside, potentially with a dog
6. Have some chips on Brighton beach
7. Go and see our house and nose about inside

Food and drink: (There seem to be a lot of things in this category)

8. Drink a lot of tea
9. Eat a proper cream tea
10. Eat a pub dinner including chips with vinegar on them
11. Eat a roast dinner
12. Eat a lot of marmite and buy lots of smuggle home
13. Eat melting middle fishcakes and Tesco veggeburgers (not together)
14. Have a BBQ using charcoal

Purchases: 

15. Go clothes shopping (including in H and M, Next, Debenhams and of course Marks and Spencers)
16. Get some work shoes from Clarkes
17. Buy the board game Cards Against Humanity

Other stuff 

18. Watch the BBC News
19. Play board games
20. Go on a single decker train
21. Complain about the weather
22. Sort out some stuff we left in people’s attics (not my idea of fun, but I feel a moral obligation)

I’m looking forward to you Poms stll at home helping me out with these!

08. March 2014 · 2 comments · Categories: Guest post · Tags: ,

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When our friends Phil and Rhiannon visited, we came up with a new idea – guest blog posts! Rather than us doing all the work, we figured we could get our guests to write a bit about their trips to Australia and stays with us. Not only does it save us a job, it adds some variety for you and promotes tourism!

So, here is our first guest blog post from Phil and Rhainnon

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Name(s): Phil and Rhiannon

Home: Godalming, England

How do you know Matt and Elly: Originally from the University of Surrey Canoe Club

When did you visit and how long for:  We visited Australia from the 16th Nov 2013 but we arrived at Matt and Ellys on the 26th. We stayed in Sydney for 3.5 days and then Matt and Elly joined us for a further 4.5 days exploring Melbourne, the Grampians and the Great Ocean Road.

Have you been to Sydney before? No

Have you been to Australia before? No

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We were already planning to go to Australia when we found out that Matt and Elly were considering the move, so we may have been one of the few people looking forwards to them heading out there.  We quickly arranged our visit once their jobs and leaving date had been sorted.

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As this trip wasn’t solely to see Matt and Elly, we started off in Port Douglas where we visited the Great Barrier Reef (amazing) and Daintree, the world oldest Rainforest (also very very good, and we got to see a wild crocodile). We then got the train to Airlie Beach for the Whitsunday Islands and whilst no cheaper than flying and slower the break from the airport was nice and the opportunity to see the scenery meant we got to see, albeit briefly, a lot more of Oz. Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island were lovely. Firstly we went sea kayaking and came back engaged(!), then we had a failed sailing trip when the other clients found their sea legs were really rather nonexistent (but did briefly see ex canoe club member Tris) and then had a couple of lovely days at a resort, enjoying the facilities, exploring and going out to visit Whitehaven beach. 98% silica, very clean, white, uniform, 7km long and squeaky – definitely worth a visit!

 

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Next we arrived in Sydney. We found a very reasonable tour and host rate of two large jars of Marmite and lots of Dairy Milk. Unsurprisingly we did a number of the main attractions starting with the harbor bar, eating some kangaroo and emu pizza, getting a ferry to Watsons bay, walking over (although not up) the Harbour Bridge, visiting Hyde Park, eating some Nitrogen Gelato, visiting Bondi and going walking in the Blue Mountains.

Melbourne followed Sydney but we arrived there in a very roundabout way travelling first along the Great Ocean Road and through/around the Grampians. I don’t want to go into too greater detail to our Melbourne travels as I want to leave Elly and Matt something to blog about but I thought that Koalas were easier to spot than I imagined, ‘The Grotto’ on the GOR was unexpectedly good, the Grampians were very hot, Crazy Golf was not to be and that the King Kong puppet (in the theatre story of the same name) was outstanding but the story needed a happy ending!

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Verdict:  8/10   Definitely go and visit – there is something for everyone and of course, Matt and Elly to see, – but when people tell you that food is expensive, imagine it as expensive and multiply it by another 1.5! It would be almost perfect if it was British Countryside sort of green and also a little bit closer to get to…

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