It’s a brand new year. We’re back at work with a few more memories and a few more pounds [to be shed]. We decided that we wouldn’t go back to the states for Christmas. It was the second Christmas in a row (and ever) that we’ve spent away from family and while still sad in ways, we had a wonderful time with friends exploring more of this country – that was the whole point of coming out here right?
So what did we do?… A long weekend of wine tasting in Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale (South Australia), another Aussie Christmas with friends waking up to presents and spending the afternoon at the beach, Tasmania with a couple old friends visiting from the states and topped everything off with a spontaneous afternoon cliff jumping into beautiful clear Aussie water. We continue to feel grateful for all we have and are determined not to waste these moments.
Now, let’s get to what you really want…the pictures!
Hope you’re comfy because this is going to take a while. We have officially celebrated our first Aussie Christmas!
Ben and I both love the holiday season and are especially keen on Christmas. It was difficult imagining a hot summer Christmas thousands of miles from our family and friends. In fact, it was the first either of us has ever spent away from our families. Despite this, we knew we had to take advantage of the situation. We are in a beautiful country with amazing sites and it’s SUMMER!
Ben’s firm shuts down for the holidays. Technically, the offices in the states also close but that never meant the work stopped. Here, on the other hand, the company is SHUT DOWN. So Ben got a little over 2 weeks off. To add to the merriment, a friend from work offered to lend us his car for the duration since he would be visiting family up north. After a brief lesson to make sure Ben was comfortable driving on the left side of the road (crazy!), he deemed Ben suitable to drive and left the car in our care.
We kicked off the holiday with a viewing of Elf at an open air cinema on St. Kilda Beach. We met some meetup group friends (see Geelong Wine Festival) and enjoyed the free ice cream and not so free wine and food. It was a lovely warm evening and a perfect way to commence the mashing up of Christmas and summer!
The next day we headed out on a road trip along Great Ocean Road (GOR). GOR is a lot like Pacific Coast Hwy (PCH) in California. Both hug the coastline and offer beautiful views. Both are winding roads that can take a while to navigate, partly because you continuously stop to check out the views and partly because it’s easy to get caught behind slow drivers that don’t pull off to let you pass. However, I’m a little sad to report that GOR has a bit of an edge over PCH.
PCH does provide uninterrupted gorgeous views while GOR has substantial sections in which your view is obstructed by brush or is actually too far from the highway to see. Nonetheless, GOR has direct access to many of the beaches along the way so there are ample places to stop and the colour and clarity of the ocean is unmatched by the Pacific. If that isn’t enough, then you throw in the main attraction of the GOR – the 12 Apostles. But I’m jumping ahead a little….
The first night we stopped in a small beach town called Lorne. A little disappointed because it was a cloudy day, we took it easy and met up with a couple friends who were coincidentally also staying in town. We had great beach views from our hotel and were visited frequently by cockatoos on our balcony. I have come to the realization that a couple cockatoos on your balcony is adorable and exiting, but 5 cockatoos staring in at you first thing in the morning is creepy and feels as if they are conspiring.
We set aside the next day to explore some of the rainforest. Did you know they have rainforests in Australia??? You probably did, but I was ignorant of this fact until very recently. We set out early in the morning and saw Erskine Falls and then made our way further up GOR into Otway National Park to check out the tree top walk. This consists of a steel structured treetop canopy walkway and is the longest and tallest of its type in the world. The views were amazing and we felt like we were walking through FernGully!
Then it was time to move on towards the Apostles. The 12 Apostles refers to a group of limestone stacks off the shore that have formed due to erosion. The name is a bit misleading. There are actually only 8 structures today but there were only ever 9 to begin with (1 of them collapsed a few years back). There are also a few other of these stacks within a short drive of each other so we made the rounds. Aussies may not be the best counters but these formations completely live up to the hype!
We stayed in Port Campbell which is just 5 minutes from the site. It’s a tiny town of just 500 but since the weather was looking to be unpredictable, I wanted to ensure we had the best chances of seeing the Apostles in all their glory. And my strategy paid off big time!
I read that they were most beautiful at sunset and sunrise. So, we checked into our hotel and headed out to see the famous site. We were stunned. They are absolutely breathe taking! They were so beautiful in fact that I told Ben we had to come back and see them again for sunrise. He looked at me doubtfully and laughed that I was not exactly a morning person. This is true but never underestimate the things that can motivate me! 😉
5:30am we were up and back on the shores for our second look. Yet again we were in awe. The light was completely different and everything looked golden and bright. Then I realized I had forgotten our Christmas hats! The whole point of this trip was to get some holiday pictures that we could share with our loved ones stateside.
Sooooo….. we just had to go back through a third time! Thankfully, I have a very patient husband who has learned that once I get something in my head it’s hard to dissuade me, so he didn’t fight it. As a bonus the weather was completely in our favor and we got some fantastic pics!
Then, alas, it was time to head home. We stopped and took more pictures along the coast (with our hats) since the weather was so nice. Spotting a kanga and koala from the road officially made it the best road trip ever. We made one final stop at Bells Beach where the Rip Curl Pro surfing competition is held yearly and then we two happy expats arrived back in Melbourne for Christmas eve.
Christmas morning we woke up and opened presents and stockings. Ben even made breakky – something he only does once a year, if that! Along with heaps of candy, we got a few crackers in our stockings (called crackers in the UK while Aussies apparently call them bon bons) – they are cardboard packages filled with a novelty toy, a joke and a paper crown that you are suppose to wear all day. When you pop them open they make a loud “cracking” sound. Family had also sent over some gifts and we felt very loved and grateful.
We spent the rest of the day at the beach with friends. It was certainly fun playing on the beach and we consider ourselves beyond lucky to be here but it definitely did not feel like Christmas. We hope you enjoyed your holidays where ever and with whom ever you spent them!
It should come as no surprise that Christmas is one of my favorite favourite times of year. Therefore, I was unsure how it would be “celebrated” here especially after hearing that they don’t go big. Well, apparently someone didn’t let the city of Melbourne know this. They pulled out all of the big decorations and even provided a festive map so that you could find all of the decorations easily around the city. Well done Melbourne. Well done.
More updates to come from May due to our recent trip along the coast. Until then, you’ll have to just enjoy these holiday pictures. I tried to add captions to tell you more about them.
Sorry for the lack of any type of posts or pictures, at least for those non-facebook followers. May headed back to the states for a wedding leaving me alone in Melbourne to fend for myself for 3 weeks. That basically meant that all of my survival skills went to trying to cook a meal that didn’t kill me and therefore updates would be a luxury. But now that I’m here to give you an update, it just means it is going to be very random. You’ve been warned.
Thanks to work, I was sent to Sydney for a week to complete training. While many would view this as a great way to sight see, I ran into two problems: weather and work. Work is the obvious one since I would be in a meeting room all day, every day during the week so I would be left with little time in the evenings to venture out. The weather was the worst the first two days thanks to a storm that rolled in. And by storm, I mean super ultra monsoon of rain.
However, when it subsided, myself and a colleague made our way out. The primary stopping point would be the Opera House (of course) but prior to that we had 3 minor stops that are of interest to point out. The first is Home Thai, a spot for dinner one night that I thought was fantastic. For the price and quality it really hit the spot and I’d offer others to try it out if nearby that section of Sydney. The second is Baxter Inn, a bar that one would never find if they did not know where to look. If you can’t find a whiskey here to enjoy then I believe you might never find a whiskey. Finally, my crocodile burger at Blackbird Cafe. This was lucked upon as the weather was turning poor that evening and we needed food prior to returning to the hotel to end the night. I’ve had alligator before not crocodile. I can’t quite explain the taste as it was different from many other things. The texture could only be described as what you find in a vegetarian burger patty. That will turn many of you off from it but I would easily order it again as it was quite tasty.
Now of course there was the Opera House. I’d have to say that sitting in front of this beautiful structure with the Harbour Bridge occupying the other portion of my view was magnificent. I could have easily sat here all night just looking around at the lights and sounds of Sydney. I’d describe it more but it wouldn’t do it justice. Of course, neither do my pictures as my smartphone’s camera was pretty bad as well. I might have at least one reasonable picture in the group but don’t get your hopes up. May is the one with the legit camera phone.
We moved from AFL and Rugby and now we are on to the Football Federation Australia A-League. That means soccer to the normal Americans. Thanks to friends here in Melbourne, we were treated (by paying our way) to the Melbourne Derby between Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City FC. This game lived up to the “hype” as it was a scoring bonanza. While the quality of play was not exactly “A” league material, we did get to see loaner David Villa in action as well as get a taste of the Melbourne Victory fans. The fans were really into the game from start to finish and made me long to sit in their section just to partake in the soccer h0oligan festivities. Hey look, I think they are trying to start a riot fire again.
Christmas in October?
And finally, its Christmas time in October. In the states, we would always complain about the Christmas season edging earlier and earlier with each passing year, but we’ve never reached the early saturation of October. I see this more as a byproduct of no large holidays to push the season out. In the US, we have Halloween and Thanksgiving. That’s not the same here. One thing to note in the pictures below is the cost of the Christmas tree in the picture. At that price, I can guarantee that we will not be getting that one. If that’s the normal prices, then I’ll be wandering the streets with a hatchet and eyes searching for a reasonable tree.