Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Back Home

We're now back home in the UK after our 2019 Australian adventure, and although we had a wonderful holiday, were sad to leave and I was sad to say goodbye to my sister, I'm happy to be back home with our lovely dog safely nestled amongst us. 

It's strange how much you miss your dog when you're away. We were lucky to have the company of my sister's dogs and other dogs in her family, but it's not the same. It's like not having a member of the family with you.  Our girl was so happy to see us when we picked her up yesterday, and didn't sulk at all this time, which is definitely progress.  She liked the Kangaroo treats and Kong balls I bought her too.

I'm forever amazed at how much happiness our dog brings us, and our home too.  Just to flop down in your own space is a big luxury in my opinion, and one that I'm very grateful for.  We visited our allotment on the day we got back.  Having arrived back in the UK at 6.30am, after picking up the dog, we were home by 9.30am and trying to avoid sleeping as much as possible.

OH and I wandered to the allotment, to see how things had fared in our absence.  Luckily, thanks to being included in our allotment site's What's App chat group, some of our fellow plot holders volunteered to water our plot during the really hot days we were away.  We are intending to return the favour now we're back.

As a consequence, the plot looked very good and everything had survived in good order. There weren't really any tomatoes ready yet, but there were quite a few cucumbers to harvest and a few beans and carrots.  The sweetcorn wasn't too far off either which was amazing.  Here are a few photos:

We stayed and did some weeding, as quite a lot of weeds had grown up over the past few months.  There's still more to do, but we made a start. We do both really love our plot these days.  I'm surprised at how much OH has taken to this one. It helps that it is so close, being just around the corner, but he's almost taken over it. I'm not complaining though, as with everything, it's team work that makes things work and enjoyable.

When I got back home, I fell asleep on the sofa for 4 hours, after not sleeping at all on a 22+ hours journey. We were then back in bed again by 9pm.

I have one more day off today and then I'm back at work. I'll be posting a couple more holiday posts, including my personal reflections and learning from our trip, which is always something I try to do on any visit to another country. In the meantime, I need to get some more sleep. I'm writing this at 4am after waking at 1.30am with a headache.  I think I might be dehydrated from the flight, as I'm feeling a bit better after a glass of water, ibuprofen and a vitamin C tablet. I'm hoping it's not some sort of lurgy caught on the flight, as there was lots of coughing and sneezing going on around me. Urgh!!

Later today, I will be dog walking, grocery shopping, unpacking, doing laundry and generally preparing myself mentally for returning to work. Thankfully, looking at the sales figures whilst I was away, everyone managed perfectly well without me, so I'm hoping things will be under control when I get back there tomorrow. In addition, an e-learning deadline, that I thought I had to meet today, has been extended for a month, which means that my last day of leave is my own to do as I wish. I'll keep you posted with how it goes on my return.

Friday, 26 July 2019

Brisbane and Beyond

After leaving the Gold Coast, we decided to venture south of the Queensland border to Byron Bay in New South Wales. It was an interesting place, very popular with young people and backpackers, with a kind of alternative culture to other places we've visited in Australia. It was very busy on account of the fact that the Splendour in the Grass music festival was on on the weekend we visited and we saw hundreds of festival goers being bussed to the venue from the town and beyond. LB was very jealous, as there were some very good bands playing there.

We had some lunch in a local bar and visited a few vintage shops before heading back to my sister's house on the outskirts of Brisbane.  We managed a quick stop at a proper Op Shop or Charity Shop on the way out of town, which we enjoyed.  The ladies working in it were very chatty and friendly and even offered me a glass of champagne, but I couldn't stop as OH and LB were waiting outside for me. I bought a few small things, spending about £6-£7.  It was our first chance to thrift shop on this trip.

The following day on Sunday, we ventured into the centre of Brisbane for the day, via the new local railway station that had been built since our last visit. It took about an hour to get into Brisbane Central Station, but cost only about $5 AUS which equates to about £3 each way.

On arriving in Brisbane, we first of all visited a Suitcase Sale, (LB's choice) which was essentially a car boot sale, but everyone sold their items out of a suitcase. LB and I had a good wander around the 40 or so stalls, but I didn't find anything I wanted to buy.  LB did, of course, which was probably be to expected.  It was mainly students selling surplus clothing, shoes, etc., but was a great concept, well attended and also had live music playing.

From here, we walked across the Victoria Bridge to Brisbane's South Bank, which, similar to the South Bank in London, is one of the main cultural quarters of the city.  Here you will find the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), the Queensland Art Gallery, Queensland Centre for Performing Arts and the Queensland Museum and Science Centre, to name a few.  On this visit, we decided to explore GOMA and the Queensland Art Gallery.

I have to say that I just loved the indigenous art works in the Queensland Art Gallery. They totally reflected the artists' love of their country's flora and fauna and their respective cultural beliefs, customs and life experiences. The colours were so vibrant and the painting styles very unique and interesting. Totally refreshing. I absolutely loved wandering around these galleries.

GOMA was also very interesting.  Here we saw a free exhibition of Australian still life artist Margaret Olley. The most fascinating part of this exhibition was the film about her life as an artist and national treasure. The other free exhibition we saw was by an artist called Ben Quilty who amongst other works, including a fabulous self portrait, painted a prize winning portrait of Margaret Olley shortly before she died.

After leaving the Art Galleries, we continued down the South Bank, enjoying a drink in front of the Lagoon, a man made beach and swimming area, created on the banks of the Brisbane river. A genius idea, complete with it's own life guard station. Here are a couple of pictures of this area. 

We were also fascinated to watch numerous people playing Pokémon Go, as they walked along the South Bank, some using as many as 7 or 8 different mobile phones simultaneously. Completely bonkers, but each to their own.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Brisbane, a beautiful city with a very chilled vibe. Definitely worth a visit if you're travelling Down Under.

Friday, 19 July 2019

Moving On

Our last morning at the Gold Coast began with a wonderful sunrise and more visitors (six this time, they must have come to say goodbye!)

We were a little sad to leave, but we've had such a great time here that you can't have any regrets.  We got lucky when we booked this apartment.

If anyone is contemplating a trip to Australia's Gold Coast, you could do a lot worse than to stay here. The Sunbird Beach Resort has great facilities and is just a short walk to the beach, cafes and restaurants. It is situated on a quiet, uncommercial stretch of the coast, but has everything close at hand and fabulous facilities.   We'll miss the gym, pools and tennis courts, but we made very good use of them whilst here. Here are a few last pictures of the facilities for anyone interested:

The Apartment Building

Outdoor Pool Area

Indoor Pool with Jacuzzi Pool

Sauna (I didn't make it in here, but OH did a couple of times)

Tennis Court (Floodlit at night)

Cute Gym Cabin with a good selection of equipment.

Plus squash court in the basement, not pictured.

(Please note, I'm not sponsored to write this, but am just very happy to share a positive experience. We booked through Booking.com)

Thank you Sunbird Beach Resort for a lovely stay. Feeling refreshed and restored we left and set off on the rest of our 2019 Australian adventure.

Bye Bye Gold Coast

It's Friday night and our last night on the Gold Coast.  My sister came up to join us for the day today.  We were a bit sweaty on her arrival, on account of having just had a game of squash. I've not played for 20 years, so I was extremely rusty and OH is a much better player anyway and just thrashed me in every game we played.  It was fun though.

We all just hung out in our apartment, at the beach and around the pool today. Some very colourful birds decided to hang out with us at one point. It's always feels such a priviledge when something like this happens. I tried to get a picture of them, but because the light wasn't too good it didn't come out very well. I think they must have been some type of parrot or parakeet. Very pretty, but left bird droppings everywhere - not quite so pretty.

We all went to a local café for lunch today and then walked up to another resort this evening for a drink and to visit a local market.  We came back via a tram, which was quite novel, if a little expensive.  It would have been cheaper to book an Uber for the four of us, but not the same kind of experience. My sister has now gone home and we are spending our last night here in our apartment just chilling and watching TV.

We're feeling ready to leave now, as there has been an big influx of visitors to the resort today, including lots of young children, so it won't be quite so quiet and blissful around here this weekend.  We leave at 10am tomorrow, which is perfect timing really, not that I have anything against children, LB was one once, but now she's 16, she's virtually an adult and holidays are very different. Everywhere we went tonight was busy actually, as lots of people seemed to have flocked into the area for the weekend. It gave us more of an idea what it must be like here during peak periods.

Tomorrow, after packing up, we're going to head off to explore the coast south of the Gold Coast, possibly stopping at Byron Bay if it's not too far, before returning to Brisbane and my sister's house later in the day.

We've really enjoyed our stay here and would definitely recommend it.  We would definitely come back, as it's a great place to spend some time relaxing, watching the surfers and generally just enjoying Australian beach life. The weather has been quite warm, but not scorching hot, so for once I haven't actually burnt after being out in the sun. That is progress for me. Let's hope it continues.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Relaxing on the Gold Coast

We are now three days into our stay on the Gold Coast and we are loving it. In two visits to Australia, this is the first time we've been able to chill at the beach and enjoy the sunshine and relaxed, laid back living.

Waking up to beautiful views of the ocean, lovely bright sunlight and the ability to fill our days doing whatever we want to has been wonderful.

After settling into our apartment, Tuesday was spent getting a bit more active.  OH and I started the day by using the facilities on hand and had a game of tennis. I hadn't played for a number of years so was a bit rusty, but it was great to do something more energetic.  I then spent 15 minutes in the gym on the rowing machine, after which we walked up to the next resort, hired some bicycles and took a ride up the coast.

When we got back, OH and LB went swimming in the sea, whilst I enjoyed a leisurely lie by the outdoor pool, followed by a swim in the warm indoor pool and Jacuzzi pool. It was a pretty energetic day all told, but we felt much better for it and the jet lag is receding rapidly. In all honesty, the facilities at the apartment are fantastic and there are still more to try with a sauna room and squash court if we ever get around to trying them.

Wednesday, was a totally different kind of day. It started in a similar way, with another game of tennis and a bit of time in the gym, then we had to take the bikes back to the hire place and met up with OH's cousin and his wife who live 20 minutes away.  We all went for some beers and lunch before heading back to their house for more food and to meet the kids who were returning home from school.  We haven't seen them as a family for several years, so it was great to catch up with their news and spend time with them. We had a fabulous day with them, eating, drinking, laughing and generally just enjoying their very hospitable company, before returning to our apartment much later.

Today, we'll be back to chilling by the pool and doing our own thing. Here's a couple of pictures of the poolside here. We virtually had it all to ourselves this morning.  Bliss!

Monday, 15 July 2019

Australia 2019 - Blog #1

On Saturday, after 27 hours of travelling, we finally landed safely at Brisbane Airport at 4am Brisbane time. I was my usual Zombie-like self, after an arduous long haul flight, during which I didn't sleep a wink. I tried using a newly purchased neck cushion and took a Dr Bach's night melt, which usually does the trick at home, but no joy, sadly.

We were lucky though, to be picked up from the airport by my sister and her family who have taken great care of us for the past two days and we are now well on our way to getting over the inevitable jet lag. I've just gone with the desire to sleep when it hits, which I know people say isn't a good idea, but sometimes it's just impossible to resist it. It has been lovely to spend a couple of days with my sister and her family catching up with each other's news and just spending time together.

We are now feeling a lot better.  We still get tired in the afternoons and have short sleeps, but I think that another day or so and we'll be back to normal, which is much quicker than our last visit, which took almost a whole week of waking at 3am, before I got back to a normal sleeping pattern.

Yesterday, OH, LB and I packed what we needed and headed down to the Gold Coast for a few days in our hire car.  It's only an hour or so from Brisbane, so it wasn't far to go. We were early for our apartment, so headed off to do a food shop. I ended up buying a new jacket for £15, as it has been quite cold these last couple of days, and I didn't have anything suitable to wear outside on chilly mornings and evenings.  The jacket was inexpensive though, as it was reduced from £40 in the sale and looks pretty good on, so I'm fairly happy with it and more importantly, I feel warm in it.

LB and I also visited a Japanese store called Daiso, which is a kind of Japanese pound shop, although most things cost £1.50, not £1.  I bought a few bits in there that will be useful back home.

When we finally got into our apartment, I have to admit that it was a little disappointing in comparison to the website photos, but it is perfectly adequate.  It does have great views of the ocean and the mountains though, and is in a quiet part of the resort, which suits us and which more than compensated.

My sister may join us later in the week for a night or two and we should be visiting OH's cousin and his family who live here, in a couple of days time.

In the afternoon, we took a short walk on the beach, which is just across the road, but it was a little chilly today, so we didn't swim. We checked out the apartment facilities too, which include a tennis court, (we're booked in to have a game this morning at 8am), a squash court, a small gym with rowing machine (the only thing I ever use), indoor and outdoor swimming pools and a sauna.  Plenty to enjoy and make use of during our stay.

Today, I think we'll hit the pool or beach and then maybe head down to Surfer's Paradise, a busier part of the resort for a good look around.

Monday, 1 July 2019

Holiday Prep

We are now counting down the days until we fly off to Brisbane, Australia to visit my sister and her family. I can't quite believe how quickly it has come around and I'm looking forward to a total break from the UK and it's messy politics and the unrelenting pace at work.

We've booked a five night stay in an apartment on the Gold Coast, south of Brisbane, shortly after arriving in Australia.  I'm hoping my sister and some of her family will join us for some of our time there, and OH has family there that we will probably visit during our stay.

I am looking forward to recovering from the inevitable jet lag laying by a pool or on the beach, which is only a few hundred yards from our apartment. Waking up at 3am in someone else's house and padding around trying not to wake them up can be a challenge, so I'm hoping this will be a good alternative. The apartments have tennis and squash courts, a sauna and Jacuzzi and a small gym too, which sounds ideal. I'm definitely packing my trainers and hoping to get a bit of exercise after a long flight.

Talking of the flight, there was talk that Extinction Rebellion would be holding a protest at Heathrow from yesterday right up until just before our departure, using drones to cause disruption, but they don't seem to have done so thus far.  I'm not sure if the demonstrations have been called off or just shortened, so I'm keeping an ear out for any news on this score, as this could cause us to have severe delays in getting away.

It will be winter in Australia at the time of our visit, so I'm not expecting raging heat, but hoping for 20 degrees centigrade or more, some of the time. I don't like extreme heat at all and Saturday's 30+ degrees was far too hot for me.  I spent all of the day in the house, which stays surprisingly cool in hot weather. Even the dog has been choosing to come inside out of the heat and stay cool lately, which is progress for her.

I'm looking forward to getting started on my packing and am taking lots of very lightweight trousers and tops which won't take up much space or weight in my suitcase. We probably will need a sweater or two to wrap up in, as I'm led to believe that the evenings can get chilly.

Last night, itching to start  packing, I decided to go through the things in my wardrobe and start to put aside the items that I wanted to take.  This involved trying a few things on and rejecting them on the grounds that they didn't look all that. I'm vowing to keep it minimal this trip.  After all there's a washing machine in our apartment and at my sister's house, so I can wash and re-wear my favourite things, so there's really no need to take anything other than those things that I really enjoy wearing and feel look good on.

I'll keep you posted with my packing progress.

Floral Fancies

I thought whilst I was in the mood for blogging that I'd create another quick post about lovely flowers in the garden and elsewhere. It always feels more summery when the flowers start coming out and it feels like it's been a long slow road to summer this year, compared with the early onset summer heatwave we had last year. Our garden has been slow to get going, but a few things have come through.

The first garden revelation was my orange blossom.  I have to admit that I didn't prune it last Autumn, so it was a bit crazy this year, but I loved that about it. Wild and magnificent.  Here it was in all it's glory (all the flowers have died and petals dropped now!!)

Just yesterday some lovely self seeded red poppies started flowering.  I caught a quick picture as they never last very long. OH wanted to pull them out of the raised bed and he did pull some out, but I insisted on keeping most of them until they flowered and I'm glad I did as they are glorious.

The baskets that I planted with pink geraniums are also doing much better.  They were also slow to start flowering well. They add a nice splash of colour to the decking.

On account of my peony not flowering this year, when I saw these beautiful peonies in Lidl for just £3.50, I couldn't resist.  A few days later and they are opening up beautifully. I just love them.  Well worth the money if you ask me.

I hope your garden is blooming.