Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Travel Guide: Sydney, Australia Part 2

Travel Guide: Sydney, Australia Part 2

Continued from: Part 1

Day 5: Friday afternoon was time to head North to the Central Coast and Laura’s family. Her parents had arrived two weeks earlier and had already made the journey. With the very kind lend of Kate’s car we drove 2 hours – stopping only for Slurpees – and arrived just in time for dinner.
We were staying in a tent set up under an awning in Laura’s Nan and Pop’s back garden as the spare room was occupied. We dumped our stuff and headed out for pizza.

Day 6: Laura’s Pop’s 90th birthday party. Although Pop didn’t turn 90 until the Tuesday the whole family attended a 3 course meal at the local bowling club. The distances traveled by some, even within Australia, were mind boggling. We forget living in the UK that a quick drive in Oz can sometimes be 6 hours. There were almost 50 attendees in total and after a good feed there were speeches, tears and a poem from us. It was a lovely celebration.

Day 7: After a day of indulgence Sunday was a day to relax, kind of. Laura’s Grandparents live on the edge of Tuggerah lakes and a short stroll across the road leads to the banks. Our Sunday was spent on a 5km stroll around one the lakes. As with all Australian activities it was a chance to meet more wildlife. From the spiders hanging in their massive webs to the cicada skins you can’t not see wildlife. The kookaburra’s and lorikeets provided the soundtrack and the pelicans and blue tongue lizards made for an entertaining sight. The rest of the day was spent catching up with family.

Day 8: After a day at home we took the opportunity on Monday to head The Australia Wildlife Park located half an hour away. It was a favourite of Laura’s growing up and for some reason we had never visited when we lived in Sydney. I loved it. It is exactly the kind of thing I think you should do when visiting Oz. While neither of us are fans of zoo’s we love a wildlife park. As it was a Monday we had the park pretty much to ourselves. We had talks by keepers, met an alligator, stroked a giant tortoise, feed kangaroos that were bounding around freely. Avoided ostriches that seemed a little too eager to peck, watched Tasmanian Devils try to eat a keepers boots and trousers, touched a snake, watched a platypus chase dinner and walked very quickly through the spider section. 

Can you spot the Tasmanian Devil, Alligator, Lorikeet, Iguana, Platypus, Echidna and Crocodile?!
Ah thanks for this thought:

The weather was not on our side for a lot of the day but even with torrential rain I loved it. Seeing the koala’s snuggling up and hearing the Dingoes howl made me feel very much like I was seeing things I wouldn’t get at home. According to the keepers it’s actually better to visit in the cooler weather as the animals are more active which makes a lot of sense. It also didn't stop our photo opps....

Day 9: With family heading back to various places we spent the rest of our time on the Central Coast catching up with people before they started their journeys. It was great meeting kids who hadn’t been born the last time we were there and we loved being able to enjoy some quality time with everyone.

Day 10: Bank to Sydney. 
Our drive back included 2 pit-stops, the first was to see the pelicans being fed at The Entrance:

The second stop was Somersby Falls - highly recommended! The website is here: http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/picnic-areas/somersby-falls-picnic-area

Somersby Falls is beautiful. Three levels of amazing waterfalls with each level offering something different. The top waterfalls provide the stunning views and lots of 'holes' to wander through. The middle falls have the largest surrounding area and provide a sense of being 'lost in a jungle' and the lowest level are where the water runs strongest and the sun breaks through on to highlight the water.

Then to Sydney and straight for our second lot of Yum Cha. We couldn’t leave without having our fill and that we did. It was SO.GOOD!

From city to beach our next stop was Manly beach to wait for Kate to finish work. This time the wind was less crazy and as it was a ‘heatwave’ all the sensible Aussie’s were in the shade. We however were on a mission to get some colour before heading home.

That evening we met up with Laura’s parents at a local RSL, they were with Kate’s parents and like one big extended family we dined while taking part in pub quiz. These are the moment we miss most. The ability to gather loved ones at the drop of a hat and relax together.

Day 11: Kate had made sure that this trip was one we will always remember and our 2nd to last day was definitely a trip highlight. Our 3rd wedding day. I posted about it earlier here: Our third wedding

Still I tear up remembering this. For so many reasons the day meant so much.

Of course for me I was also exceedingly happy as it was day two of the heatwave and as the wedding was a Hawaiian themed garden party it meant we were outside all day. With the pool to cool off in and the BBQ fired up for snacks it was a day dreams are made off.

Day 12: We flew out in the evening leaving us most of the day to relax and enjoy day three of the heatwave. As Kate’s parents had the pool it made sense that we chilled out there. Plus the evening before had seen us battle cockroaches that had joined us in Kate’s flat (I tell you Australian wildlife is relentless and everywhere) so I was happy to be avoiding a final day showdown.

The day was tinged with sadness as all last days are. If only Sydney was closer. If only Kate lived next door. If only…..

The trip was wonderful, the good times plentiful and the memories made to last.

Sydney really does offer a holiday with diversity. The mix of a vibrant city with miles of golden beaches – including Bondi - and the variety of water based activities mean you can make the trip as jam packed or as relaxing as you like. However you choose to experience Sydney I can promise you one thing you won’t forget it in a hurry.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

SUP Yoga - Sydney, Australia

In part 1 of our travels we had a jammed pack few days, check it out here! However Friday was a day to try something completely new - Stand Up Paddle-board (SUP) Yoga.

As you may know we started Yoga back in January and so far we are really enjoying it. Our thoughts on the experience are here.

I had avoided looking into what was involved with SUP Yoga for fear of chickening out and that proved to be the right move. We pulled up to Manly Cove and joined a group of people on the beach. Once there were 10 of us an instructor joined and the full scale of what we had signed up to was revealed.

Step 1: Paddle-board around the cove

Step 2: Throw your oar into a kayak stationed on the other side of the cove

Step 3: Paddle on your knees to the designated area and secure both ends of your board to the parallel ropes set up in the water

Or use a Laura :)
Step 4: Yoga

Step 5: Undo paddle-board, collect oar, paddle back

Seemed simple. That was until you factored in that neither of us had paddle boarded. This was all happening in the sea, complete with waves. Oh and you know fear of falling in and not being able to get back on. Not to mention deadly Australian wildlife that is never far away. 

Thankfully I seemed to figure out the paddle boarding part and while it may not have been graceful my style got me from the beach to the yoga area. Laura’s attempt was a little less successful. In fact Laura became a pro and getting back on but a high centre of gravity and erm boobs seemed to make staying up a little harder. The benefit was some great photos though – thanks wifey!

The yoga itself was enjoyable. Not quite as hard as an actual yoga class but that may have been because the moment I really felt the stretch seemed to coincide with the moment I felt the water. The warm water made the falling in almost refreshing but the getting back on the board was hard work and certainly put me off taking too many dives.

I pulled out more poses that I ever thought I would and really enjoyed that the class was paced in a way that allowed you to try as hard as you liked. This also meant that while the pro’s were balancing in impossible poses Laura and I were doing our own SUP Yoga photo shoot.

The group itself was a real mix. Some had paddle boarded. Some had yoga’d but non-one had done Stand Up Paddle-board Yoga so everyone faced their own challenge.

We can’t recommend it enough though and were sad we couldn’t fit a second session in.

At the end while packing away our boards and paddles we found out that our instructor was from Idaho – what are the chances! Like Laura she had left Idaho some 10 years earlier and while Laura had reached the less sunny climes of the UK the instructor had made her way to Oz.

If you fancy trying SUP Yoga while in Sydney check out the website here: http://www.flowmocean.com.au/ 


Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Travel guide: Sydney, Australia!

Australia. The land down under. Oz.

We loved living in Sydney and our last visit did a great job of reminding us of why we miss it. In fact if Oz was a quick flight away I’m sure we’d visit it annually. Alas as it is almost 22 hours of flying from the UK it takes a fair bit of planning and annual leave to make a trip worth it. We did a 3 hour stop in Doha, Qatar so our flight split was London Heathrow to Doha = 8 hours then Doha to Sydney 14 hours. Qatar Airways are brilliant btw - great seats, entertainment and lovely food. 

We crammed our 2 weeks with friends, family and memories to last a life time. As with our Road Trip around California we thought we would do a high light list instead of realms of posts on each day but if you want more information or are planning a trip Sydney side let us know.

Part 1
Day 1: we arrive at 7pm and as we had kept ourselves awake for the last 8 hours of flights we were already feeling tired. A light dinner, catch up with our bestie Kate and we were ready for bed.

Day 2: A chance to relive the Sydney days. Stop 1 was the view over the city from Manly side. As we lived in Manly we fell in love with our view across the harbour. From Sydney Harbour National Park point you can admire the view while capturing all the Sydney landmarks.

From the city view to the beach we couldn’t let our first day pass with a trip to the beach. Unfortunately the wind was against us and sunbathing turned into more of a sandstorm survival but the sea was lovely and warm and it was good to feel the sand between our toes (less so in our eyes, ears).

Manly Beach
Day 3: With the wind still causing chaos Kate had decided that a hike would be a good way to get out and enjoy the sun without getting attacked by the sand. The destination was Barrenjoey Lighthouse. It features in the opening sequence of Home and Away and the view at the top of the grade 3 hike is stunning. With beautiful beaches spanning out below and almost Jurassic Park like jungle sounding you it is out of this world. Even with the wind we could feel the heat but the exhilaration at reaching the top meant it was the perfect way to spend an afternoon.

Our reward was an evening of indulgence at Chica Bonita Manly. Put simply this place does delicious food. The food is Mexican influenced and the place is queued out regularly. It is a whole in the hole and menu is simple so it is easy to make a choice. The flavours were strong but not overwhelming and everything was so fresh - including the cocktails. 

Day 4: Our Sydney city day. You can’t go to Sydney and not spend a day wandering the city itself. The mix of buildings, the history, the shops, the landmarks, Sydney has it all. We arrived on the Manly Ferry, our favourite way, and landed in view of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. Our first stop, however, was lunch in China Town. A straight march up hill and through the main city area meant we arrived starving for Yum Cha. Otherwise known as Dim Sum this Chinese special allows you to sample all sorts and is delivered to your table for you to review. Think Yo Sushi but authentic and much more delicious.

With full bellies our next activity was the Chinese Garden’s. While most people would be content wandering around, admiring the beautiful environment we weren’t. Well WE were but as Kate and Mel had ever been we felt it necessary to pay the AU$10 per person and walk around in full Chines dress. We posed for other visitors photos and even got offered tips from a lady who thought we were paid to work there (we refused of course).

As evening fell we made it our final mission to visit all 12 zodiac signs made from lanterns and decorating the harbour side in honour of Chinese New Year. Laura made us pose with the signs associated with our birth year and all went well until we reached the last lantern and a thunderstorm made its entrance. In less than 3 minutes we were all completely soaked. We took the fast ferry back which takes 15 minutes instead of 25 and were glad to make it home swiftly. That was until we met our new house guest, a Huntsman spider as big as my hand. Kate as a true Aussie dealt with it like a pro. Laura and I ran…….and screamed…..and hid.

Day 5: Friday and our last day in Sydney. Kate had planned a morning of SUP Yoga for us. Read all about in our next post here.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Happy Valentine's Day - Love really is all around!

Sometimes in life we look at each other and can't believe we got so lucky. Our lives since getting together have not always been been easy, in fact anyone who has followed our story will know that start was a little rocky but that said over the past few years we have taken some pretty big steps together and seen our lives improve dramatically.

Getting married was one of those significant steps and with it the official bringing together and uniting of our lives. We have always shared friends we met together but the wedding brought our old friends closer and into 'our world'.

One of those friends is a wonderful lady called Kate. Her and Laura have actually been friends from childhood and we were lucky enough to live with her briefly when we moved to Oz in 2010. Getting to know Kate back then was great but it was after we left that our joint friendship flourished. She became a natural choice for both of us as head bridesmaid and it led to a part of our Idaho wedding speech that leaves me with a tear even now. 'Laura was always my sister and while she was meant to marry my brother to make it official I am not sad that didn't happen, in fact this way I get an extra sister' (I may be paraphrasing).

Our time in Australia was split between staying with Kate in Sydney and with Laura's family on the Central Coast. There will be posts to follow that highlight our goings on but as it is Valentine's Day I wanted to share something so filled with love, so kind and so thoughtful that it should bring a smile whether you celebrate today or not.

On our return from the Central Coast Kate and her friend Mel had organised a Hawaiian themed party at her parents house. It would involve Kate's parents, Laura's parent (who were also out in Oz) and a few nearest and dearest. We had bought Hawaiian shirts especially and thought the day would be spent in the pool and with a true Aussie BBQ. The day did include that, and it was much needed as the temperature was well in the 30's. However what we didn't expect was that Kate was throwing us a wedding.

We will get the footage edited ASAP but here's the scene....it's hot. Like really hot as polyester Hawaiian shirts don't breathe, and we have diet cokes in hand providing refreshment. We plan to jump in the pool imminently when Kate disappears, On her return Laura and I are asked to stand. Mel places veils on us and we are told we are getting married.....

Here's the ceremony in full:

'Today we are here to celebrate the return of some of our favourite people. Now seeing as we live so far apart and we don't all get to see each anywhere near as much as we would like, we thought we would throw a party to able to celebrate all the events we have missed over the last few years. So, here's to all the birthdays, Christmases, new year’s, Easters, Thanks giving’s,  Thanksmases, Australia days, fourth of July's, St Georges days, Halloweens, labour days, Queens birthdays, anniversaries and the reason for us all being together last. A certain wedding in the mountains. 

Now I told you both that Mel and I had been planning the ‘Welcome to summer tropical Hawaiian theme party’ for pretty much the last decade but it's taken a super special occasion to make it happen. I also told you that we had tweaked the idea just a tad because you were coming.
Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the welcome to summer tropical Hawaiian wedding theme party!
Seeing as you got married in England and had your wedding in the states, we figured, why should Australia miss out on the love?!

So....    Clear throat. 

Take it away Father Bob (Kate's Dad).

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today in the presence of this flamingo to witness the super legal and binding wedding ceremony of our beloved Laura and Sarah. Part 3!

OFFICIANT: You fell in love by chance, but you're here today because you're making a choice. You both are choosing each other. You've chosen to be with someone who enhances you, who makes you think, makes you smile, and makes every day brighter.

You're about to make promises to each other that you intend to keep. You're going to vow to take care of each other, to stand up for one another, and find happiness in the other. You're teaming up and saying to the other, "Every experience and photo I am going to have, I want you to be a part of."


Will you, Laura, keep Sarah as your favourite person — to laugh with her, go on adventures with her, support her through life's tough moments (like having to eat Kate's horrible pumpkin seed bread), be proud of her, grow old with her, and find new reasons to love her every day?

LAURA: I will.

Will you, Sarah, keep Laura as your favourite person — to laugh with her, go on adventures with her, support her through life's tough moments (like SUP yoga), be proud of her, grow old with her, and find new reasons to love her every day?

SARAH: I will.

OFFICIANT: Will you, Laura and Sarah, be each other's partners from this day forward? Will you bring out the best in one another, share your happiest moments together, and love each other absolutely — for the rest of this lifetime and for whatever may come next?


(Ring Pop exchange)

OFFICIANT: Rings have been chosen for you to wear rings as a reminder of these promises. People often say wedding bands are a perfect circle, with no beginning and no end. But these rings did have a beginning. They're adjustable so have a gap at the back to start with. Like you two, they're also as solid as a rock. Although it's more rock candy than an actual rock but hey, you've already got rocks on those fingers and these ones are way bigger. They will also have an end as they are sweets so will probably be eaten by the end of the day. What you should take from these rings is that it is important to be solid in your love for each other, to be sweet to each other, to be flexible for one another and to always bring a smile to each other’s faces.

Final words.

Laura and Sarah, we have watched you grow together over these last two years and can't imagine either of you without the other now. May your love always be celebrated by those around you. The first wedding was legal, the second was enchanting, but hey, the third times a charm. And now by the power vested in me by Kate telling me I was going to be officiating, I now pronounce you wife and wife. You may kiss your bride.'

And just like that, in between the tears we were married in Australia, our home for 2010. We can't thank Kate enough, for the wedding, for the amazing words, for the thoughtfulness and for the love and kindness she is always so ready to give. This wedding, along with our other two, will be remember always. We really are lucky ladies.

We then jumped in the pool - not something that happens on most wedding days i'm guessing but much needed on ours. 

Valentine's Day should be a reminder that love is not something that only occurs between a couple, love really is all around us. Whether you celebrate Galentines with your girlies, Gayentines or any other form of Valentine's remember love is inclusive, if you give love you are never alone. Just remember to tell those that you do love - actions may speak louder than words but it's always nice to hear. 

So with that 'Happy Valentine's Day - we love you'.