Australia

10 Things I Learned While Travelling the World

I’ve been back in Canada for a little less than a month now and have had some time to decompress and to think about my trip.  At first, I thought I hadn’t really changed at all during my travels, but it actually has in a million tiny ways.  I’d like to share that with you now:

10. The Journey is the Thing

My trip had no specific goal, other than to relax, enjoy and experience the world that was far away from home.  This turned out to a great way to travel and, for me, to not focus on the result, but to really take the journey for what it was – an adventure into the unknown.

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9. We are all the Same

I included this in my last list, but I want to say it again.  I love people, and the truest realization I had again while I was overseas is that we are all, at our most basic level, very similar.  We just want to be happy; to have enough food to eat, a roof over our heads, some people who love us and a purpose in life that brings us joy.  I saw all kinds of people living in many different ways as I worked though six countries, but they all have this in common. We are all part of one big human family, and it doesn’t matter where you are from or what you are doing with your life, some things are the same within all of us.

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8. Travel is as Easy and as Hard as you Want it To Be

PATIENCE.  This one virtue has eluded me my whole life, and nothing cures the need for control than a less than smooth travel experience.  I learned about the essence of the journey in my search for patience as I met setbacks and mishaps along the road.   I learned how to be more adaptable, to let things slide, and to only care about the most important things along the way.

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7. Roll with the Waves

This one is a good follow-up to #8.  When I rolled with the upsets along the way, the journey got even more interesting: I saw some things I would otherwise have missed, or had a completely new experiences I wasn’t expecting to have.  By saying “Yes!” I got into more trouble, saw more unexpected things, and had more impromptu adventures than if I had stuck to a strict schedule and followed it the whole way along.

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6. Pay Attention

I learned that there is beauty in the details.  That every city is an intricate mess that somehow works in its own unique way.  That the road less traveled sometimes results in a washed out car or monkeys attacking your windshield.  To stop and save the kittens, get lost on a bike and get found again, and that fun can be found in every airport, bus station, or boat ride.  By paying true attention to my surroundings, I was also able to glimpse into the local life of the people, and have real experiences from the country I was visiting.  That, to me, is priceless.

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5. Embrace the Inner Hippie

I’m normally a goal-oriented, round the clock, by the book kind of person.  To escape that mentality for a while and embrace my inner beach bum was an enlightening experience.  I had whole days with no plans and nothing to do, vague ideas of where the day would take me, and days where I just went with the flow.  That rarely happens in my “real” life in Canada, and it was refreshing to break out of the bubble of who I think I am and step into the sandals of my inner Hippie Goddess.  She is someone I want to know better, and a side of me that I won’t soon forget now that we’ve been re-aquainted!

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4. Trust the Kindness of Strangers

In my travels I stayed with family friends, friends of friends, new friends and people I didn’t even know at all. I was welcomed into countless homes with open arms, to people eager to share in my travel journey and get to know me.  I feel SO blessed to now have friends from all over the world, and want to thank each and every one of you for your hospitality and help in exploring all these new places 🙂 If you ever travel, and someone recommends that you stay with a friend or you have family/friends to stay with overseas, DO IT! It will completely change your perspective on the country you are visiting, because you get to see it through the eyes of a local.  A thousand thank-you’s again to all those who put me up while I was abroad!  You are welcome to return the favour here in Canada anytime!

3. Comfort Zones are Boring

I did something new and crazy in every country I went to: Surfing in Indonesia, Parasailing in Philippines, and even Skydiving in New Zealand.  Get out of your comfort zone and try some new and crazy stuff.  It will enrich your travel experience and add a whole new level of fun.  Besides, that’s what travel is for: new experiences and adventures! It doesn’t matter how scared you are – do something wild and crazy!  eat that cricket off a Bangkok bug cart!  Take the jet boat ride through the canyon!  Throw yourself out of a plane! These things are the highlights of my travels as I look back on them now, the times I challenged myself and really went for it.

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2. Theres No Place like Home

Canada is an amazing country. I learned this while I was abroad through other travellers stories about my home country, that it is a well-loved place in the world and worth exploring in its own right.  Talking about it with others made me realize how much I love being a Canadian and how lucky I am to call this place my home.  I never really appreciated it until I left for a long time and realized what a phenomenal place it is.

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1. I am SO lucky

The fact that I was able to pull off this trip still boggles my mind.  There was so much planning involved – a years worth of time and effort went into it, and now that I’m back I can see what a privileged position I hold as a citizen of Canada.  I have enough food to eat, a roof over my head, and friends and family who love and care about me.  The rest is just gravy!  Upon returning I went to my bathroom and turned on the tap, thinking back to all the times I didn’t have access to fresh water on my travels. Something as simple as turning on the tap can take on new meaning after travelling: it represents all that we take for granted, being from a first world country were every comfort is provided for.  I feel that, now, I am able to name how lucky I truly am.

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Well. That’s it!  I’m sure I will update this blog again in the future as life takes me on more travels, but for now I am happy to have landed back in Canada, ready to take on the world 🙂

xo

D

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Melbourne Footy Madness

My weekend in Melbourne was unreal!  I laid low on the Friday during the day because I had lots of catchup blogging to do and wanted to conserve my hard-earned cash for a fun night out 🙂  I met my friend Matt from University in Toronto at the main station downtown, and we headed off into the night to a trendy hotspot called Cookie for some Asian inspired eats and drinks.  He is traveling through Aus with his girlfriend for a year and they are loving the Melbourne life!  I was able to get a locals perspective from him about the city and we swapped travel stories into the night, stopping at another trendy bar before visiting his girlfriend Shayna at an upscale chocolate shop for after drinks hot chockie and macaroons, my kryptonite pastry snack.  We had to call it a night after that due to the gross rain (again, same as Vancity!) but we made plans to meet up for the football game the next day and catch up some more.

I woke up on Saturday to find Torrance had made a delicious vegan brunch for us, and we ate on the porch as her flatmates`beautiful cat Oscar looked on.  What a cutie!! I was ready to party on this footy grand final day, and we got an early start at the casino that afternoon where we settled in to watch the game.  I got to meet some of Matt and Shayna’s friends and hung out with their crew as we downed beers and watched a close match – wasn’t quite sure who to cheer for, so cheered for the winning team of course!! We hung around the casino after the game, eating a mediocre meal at the Italian restaurant and wasting some money at the poker machines.  It actually wasn’t all wasted cause the guy beside us ended up winning three thousand dollars and treating us all to a drink – score!!
After that we went to Chapel Street, another neighborhood close to St. Kilda for more drinks.  I wish i could remember the name of the trendy bar we ended up at but I was honestly too far gone at that point to take note – I had been drinking since one pm, give me a break!  I DO remember that we had extremely good chips at a place called Lord of the Fries after that, and I excitedly ordered a Toronto dog which wasn’t even that good, I just ordered it cause it made me homesick lol.
I decided that I could somehow walk home after that, and got a wee bit lost before miraculously ending up at the restaurant that Torrance was working at without too much effort!! I literally walked by and was like “oh, this is it! what luck!” We walked home though St. Kilda and the area was still pumping, people were celebrating the win for the Hawks late into the night.  I, however, needed to get home as I had to catch an 8am flight back to Sydney. EW. It was actually the worst the next morning, i needed a nap when I got back to David’s house, he graciously sacrificed his beauty sleep to pick me up from the airport.
We had a fun Sunday downtown after that, ending up going to the aquarium and the wildlife park down in Darling Harbor, and ate an amazing meal at the Meat and Wine Company on the harbor where David used to work, so we were treated like royalty!  I had my last day in Australia today, it wasn’t actually very exciting, I took a walk around my now-homey feeling neighborhood and had one last cup of delicious coffee.  Tonight we are going for Sushi (very Aussie, I know) and will be celebrating a successful six weeks in Australia!  I feel like I managed to pack a lot into my trip.  Tomorrow I board the plane to New Zealand and start the last leg of my journey around the world!  Onwards to Middle Earth!!
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The Melbourne Experience

Melbourne reminds me of Vancouver in a hundred little ways – although there are no mountains, there’s an ocean, the weather changes every five minutes, the people are hip and trendy, the coffee is delicious, there’s a hundred things to do and a great restaurant culture, and a hundred little communities that are worth exploring.  I was lucky enough to have a friend who lives in trendy St. Kilda, I went to film school with Torrance and she’s only been in Aus for three months, living the life in Melbourne.  She and her flatmates welcomed me into their home (and on their couch) for almost a whole week, I’m super thankful to them for letting me crash with them!

My first evening in Melbourne was pretty laid back, it was super easy to get from the airport to downtown on the SKybus, and then onwards to St.Kilda on the tram, a rail network that links the whole city and makes it super easy to get around.  I got into St Kilda with a few hours to spare, so I went down to the beach and put my toes in the water while getting acquainted with this lovely suburb.  It comes complete with its own kitschy beachside amusement park, cool cafes and delicious bakeshops.  I gorged myself on sushi and grabbed some maps from the local hostel, checking out what to see and do while I am in town.  There was so much free stuff to check out!! A plus for me cause I am on a super budget at this point in my trip – three months of travel can really do a number on your bank account!
I met up with Torrance after she was done work and we had a great meal together, catching up on several years of news and stories, we both have had some major moves and good stuff happen to us, along with a couple dozen friends in common, so we needed mucho catch up time!  The next day I was off to explore the city, first taking a walk with Torrance through Saint Kilda to an animal sanctuary she is considering volunteering at (complete with cute lil piggy in the yard!) and then boarding the tram for downtown.  Now, Torrance had said I could take my chances on not paying for the tram with a little refillable card, since the transit cops hardly ever checked, so i got on the tram without paying.  Luck would have it the MY tram on THAT day would get checked as we went downtown, I was almost fined an outrageous $200!! NOOOOOOO!!!!
Luckily I was able to play dumb and prove that I had just gotten there yesterday and played up my Canadian accent (i just got here, eh?) and I got away with it!! The transit cop was NOT happy about letting me go, but he knew and I knew I was NOT going to be paying any ticket, so I was able to get off.  Yes!! I was a bit shaken after that, and walked around the CBD aimlessly for a while, gawping at the buildings and the architecture, modern mixed with Victorian. I loved it! I wandered through the pedestrian only Bourke St Mall at all the shopping I couldn’t do (probably for the best as I still have to carry all my stuff on my back) and stumbled upon the Parliament Buildngs and the Cathedral of Saint Paul.  I ate lunch in Chinatown (can’t get away from those!) and went up to the Queen Victoria Markets to see the action there (there was none, market was closed. damn.) The downtown of Melbourne is actually pretty small, so I thought I would conquer the ultimate downtown walk and attempt to walk back to St. Kilda via the beach!  It took me a while – about two hours – but I needed the exercise and love exploring new places so it was worth it – I only got lost once!
I also saw the Southbank – which is the entertainment area on the bank of the Yarra river across from the city, and the State Library, which impressed me with its bohemian historic feel. I wandered around in there for a while, there were some really good free museum-like floors where the history of Melbourne was laid out and the history of the library as well.  I walked and walked and WALKED along the shore, there’s TONS of beachfront and the day was warm, so I didn’t even mind when my feet started hurting as the sun went down!!  That night we had a chill dinner at home and hung out with Torrance`s roomie over a bottle of wine.  I knew the weekend was going to be messy on account of the Auusie Football League Grand Final, so I wanted to save some energy for that!!
My second day in Melbourne was full of more free adventures.  I visited the National Gallery of Victoria (free) and marveled at their Picasso, Matisse and large collection of Southeast Asian Art.  I also loved the large-scale art project in the lobby of the gallery with a hundred bowls floating in a shallow pond, making music as they clinked together.  I walked up to Federation square, which was packed with footy festivities and revelers, but it started to rain and I ducked into the Cinema museum (my fav!) for an hour while it rained outside.  Fed Square is an interesting `main hub`of activity in the CBD, right by the central station and a very vibrant part of downtown.  Even though the architecture doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the historic surroundings, it’s an interesting place to visit.  I spent all afternoon typing and catching up on emails in a super cute hipstery cafe called Thousand Pound Bend, which is off a little alleyway in Melbourne’s downtown.  There’s quite a few little laneways sprinkled throughout the downtown, that hold unmarked bars and cool shops and places to eat,  I loved exploring this city!
That night I got a text from Torrance – she would be late cause she found a stray dog and was waiting for animal services to come and pick her up!  The dog was extremely cute, large and malnourished so after I paid her a visit I bought us a bottle of wine and headed home to make us some dinner.  Torrance and I also found time to redecorate her room and she made me some delicious vegan meals as well! Yum!  After some active days, I was ready for a sleep and wanted to me rested up for my awesome weekend!!

 

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Chillin at Avoca Beach

I spent my last weekend in Sydney visiting my friend Rachel and her hubby, Brendan in Avoca Beach which is about an hour from Sydney to the North.  The train ride out was picturesque, it winds through the countryside and along the bay and it was a nice day so I was able to enjoy the view.  My friend Rachel picked me up from the station in Gosford, a little town about 20 minutes from the coast where she lived in North Avoca beach.  It`s a gorgeous seaside town, and after I got a driving tour of all the beautiful beaches along the way, I settled into the Swan household for the evening.  I was treated to several new Aussie beers beachside at the beer garden, and caught up with  my friend over (a great many) drinks and delicious Thai food.  We had a blast, I even got to take in some footy and got to listen to some Aussie musicians that I hadn’t heard of before.

The next morning was Rachel’s birthday, so I got to be a guest at her birthday brunch with the whole family!  Rachel lived with my family in Canada for a while, and I had forgotten her parents had also visited, so it turned out her family knows my whole family, it was great to chat and hang out with people who knew all about my life in Canada and to experience a taste of beachside life outside of Sydney.  After a seaside breakfast at the surf club on Avoca Beach, we hit up the local markets where there were trinkets, antiques, handmade crafts, clothing and food for sale.  It was a perfect way to spend a lazy sunny Sunday, and I bought some gifts and even a few trinkets for myself!  I loved the beachy atmosphere of the town, it was super friendly and reminded me of some of the summer neighborhood markets we have back home in Toronto.
After the markets we had a “sausage sizzle” with Snags (sausages) and Rissoles (home-made hamburger patties) and I sampled some good Australian beer (on fifty lashes, coopers ale) on the front deck of the Swan household, and then was treated to a scenic drive of the surrounding area, including a visit to the beach where Rachel and Brendan had gotten married six months earlier, and a stop of ice cream as well.  The surrounding ares is gorgeous, national parks are all over the place, and it seems like a great family community so close to the city.  I’m glad I’ve been able to get out of the city so much while I’m in Sydney and into the surrounding countryside, it’s very different from the rest of Australia, and stunningly gorgeous!  I feel pretty lucky to have so many friends in this country – I think I will be back to take advantage of this country sooner than later, there so much that I missed, and more that I want to see!
After a sunny afternoon train ride back to the city, I was ready for my next adventure – a week-long trip to Melbourne, to catch up with some more Aussie and Canadian friends.  My plane ride was pretty uneventful as far as rides go, only an hour and a half to get there.  I ditched my big backpack for the week so it was fast and painless – I didn’t even have to wait for my luggage!

 

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My Last Week as a Sydneysider

My last week in Sydney was a perfect mix of downtime and sightseeing.  I’ve tried to save my money for Melbourne and New Zealand, so I took it easy for a few days and caught up on my emails, registered for school when I’m back in Canada and caught up with some friends and family as well. I did have some outings, though, and made the best of my time left in Sydney.  One day trip brought me back to Chinatown and Darling Harbor, where I thought I might go to the Aquarium but then cheaped out when I saw how much it was!  40 bucks?  No thank you – that’s my daily budget!

I started my day in Chinatown where I was on a mission to do some cheap souvenir shopping at Paddy’s Markets, a bargain type of mall where there were tons of stalls selling cheap souvenirs and useless crap.  I love useless crap!  But I refrained from buying too much stuff cause of course I have to carry it all on my back.  It’s a good deterrent from spending too much.  After checking out Chinatown ( I think I’ve been to about a hundred Chinatowns on this trip) I went down to Darling Harbor, which was gorgeous in the daytime as well.  I walked all along the harbor, checked out the tall ships around the Naval Museum and walked all along the Cockle Bay Wharf, with its trendy shops and restaurants catering to the hundreds of tourists milling around.  I had sticker shock at the aquarium after that, and decided to go instead to the Queen Victoria Building, which I had stumbled upon the other day and wanted to check out in more detail.  The QVB is actually a part of downtown Sydney called the Strand Arcade, a gorgeous stretch of Victorian buildings (now more populated with office buildings and suits) where you can wander and gawp at all the buildings.  But the obvious centrepiece is this gorgeous “mall” (I use that word lightly as it looks NOTHING like any mall you’ve seen, its super swank) with beautiful columns, staircases and very expensive shops and cafes all catering to Sydney’s business élite and upscale shoppers.  I had a way overpriced coffee and some delicious macaroons while people watching and had a great afternoon just browsing and window shopping.  Yay!
I also took a day trip to Manly Beach, you have to catch the ferry there from Circular Quay, and the harbor views are unmissable.  I took tons of pics of the opera house and the Harbor as we passed.  I got to Manly kind of late and only got an hour or two of rays, but it was fun to walk around and see both sides of the beach, I wish I had time to do some of the coastal walks around the area, but it was getting dark/cold and I needed to get back on the ferry to watch the epic sunset over the harbor on the boat!  It was my last beach day for a while, as Melbourne is not going to be very warm and I’m not expecting New Zealand to be either, so it made me super sad as my fabulous tan is fading.  I worked so hard on it all summer!! WHYYYYYYY.  I know, I’m so hard done by. Ha ha ha.
One more fun thing I did this week was drop in on a house party with David and his friends, I met a ton of great people and partied the night away.  I’m loving the laid back Aussie lifestyle, it’s so easy to get into the swing of things here, I think if I wasnt starting to miss home I might consider setting myself up in Sydney for a while!

 

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The Blue Mountains (Are Actually Blue)

I wasnt sure what to expect from the Blue Mountains, which is only about an hour outside of Sydney and a huge tourist attraction for both locals and visitors alike.  We drove up through windy roads, and even though the mountains are not anything like what we have in Canada (spoiled!), they were still pretty majestic.  Our first stop was Flinders Lookout, where you could see how these hills got their name. Apparently the eucalyptus trees give off a certain chemical into the air that gives the surroundings a blue haze-like appearance, you can see in my pictures in some places it looks quite thick.  You cant see it up close, but you can smell the amazing eucalypt trees – it was great to be out of the city and into the wilderness for a couple of days!  We climbed down to see the falls – there are hundreds of little and big waterfalls in the area – and soon realized it would be a climb-y kind of day – I think I conquered about a thousand steps!

The next stop was Katoomba, to see the famous Three Sisters.  These rock formations are the subject of many myths, as they look like three maidens emerging from the rock face. They really are stunning, there were TONS of tourists taking pics and enjoying the sights.  Me and Dave looked around Katoomba a bit before settling into our hotel in nearby Leura, where I dragged David into every touristy shop in sight. We also took a trip to the scenic lookout by our hotel for some more spectacular views of the mountains and some hair-raising heights!  It was movie night at the hotel that night so we watched a couple flicks and drank some more delicious Hunter Valley wine that we had brought.
The next day we drove back the long way around the mountains so I could take in the spectacular views and see a few more sights, like Govetts leap and a few more waterfalls.  I think one of the best parts of our weekend was when I got to go to a “Sausage Sizzle” at David’s family’s house! It was so fun  to meet his fam, and see how Aussie life happens outside of the touristy areas.  They had two big ol dogs and a gorgeous pool and garden.  Dinner was delicious, and i had an authentic Australian beer to go with it!  It was a seriously good weekend – one I wont forget!  the Blue Mountains were totally iconic, if not a little kitschy as a tourist attraction, still it was worth the trip to experience them.
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Sydney Sights and Sounds

My second week in Sydney was a lot more fun and active, on account of the fact that my cough was FINALLY clearing up and I could go out and enjoy some of this fabulous city!  There were definitely some highlights, the first was Bondi Beach.  It took me about an hour to get to the Beach on transit, I had been there last week but only during the evening for dinner, and I hadn’t had the full-on BONDI experience that I wanted!  Once I got to the beach, I snooped around a bit, checking out the shops and getting some lunch.  The beach is beautiful, not like the other beaches in Australia because it is surrounded by city buildings and shops, not at all secluded and tranquil like some of the spots I’ve seen but still really beautiful.  The beach was not to crowded as it was a weekday, but it was super windy so I couldn’t lie on the beach too long. Wah!  After my beach day i was finding sand in my hair, my ears, and my clothes for a while – dammit!

Another highlight of my touristy week was checking out the famous Sydney Harbor and the Opera House.  I took the train into town and got off at Circular Quay station, the heart of all the tourist action in downtown Sydney.  It is unreal. I am not exaggerating when I say it is one of the most iconic and beautiful harbors I have seen in my life.  I touristed around the Opera House, goggling at it from up close and from every angle – its has such an unusual shape, its hard to figure out how it stands up!  I also took a walk around The Rocks, which is a tourist district on the harbor where all the convicts settled by the port, kind of rough and tumble area in its day.  It’s completely sanitized now, while still retaining its charm as a historical district.  I stopped in at one of the delicious bakeries in the area and had a yummy lunch consisting entirely of baked goods (oops) and I regret NOTHING! NOTHING!
Some of the other highlights of the week included the customs building which had a miniature replica of the city under glass in the front foyer so you could actually see all of the city from above, and going for dinner at Wagyu in Chinatown where you could order all your food from screens on your table that was instantly brought out to you as soon as it was ready – no waiter required!  I also sampled some Nitrogen Gelato (heaps better than boring normal gelato) and hung out one evening in Darling Harbor, a beautiful harbor on the other side of Sydney with a gorgeous view of the city and great nightlife!  My next stop was the Blue Mountains – it’s time to climb some steps, baby!

 

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Wine Tasting in Huntah Valley

Our journey to Hunter Valley (or “huntah” depending on what side of the equator you are from) started with a beautiful scenic drive north away from the city, through the country for about two hours until we reached our destination, the Brimbadeen Estate, a local winery that had cabins built into the hillside for incredible views in our little cosy cottage.  The hosts were lovely, bringing us welcome baskets and wine with goodies we could sample while we stayed with them. Cute!  We checked out the surrounding countryside that night, and I was treated to the finer points of a “footie” match, Aussie rugby is one mean sport!  We also got caught up with our election news, there is a big federal election going on here in Australia right now, and its pretty entertaining to watch how different Aussie Politics are both in the election and in the sports game we were watching!  The next day we got an early start on planning our route of wine destruction.

First stop was Iron Gate estate, a winery I had never heard of but that David was familiar with.  Oh my god did they ever let us sample the whole place!  We must have had ten tastings at the first place alone!  I laughed while thinking “We’re not in Canada anymore” because we didn’t even have to pay for our tastings, nothing in the entire day!  It’s enough to make someone guilty enough to buy a couple of bottles of wine!  Our next stop was my pick, I’ve always been a fan of Lindemann’s, so made it a priority to stop there, where we sampled yet another few wines and I hit the jackpot with a ten-dollar bottle barrel of wine, which I picked through and made some excellent purchases! We needed lunch at that point, and there is a gorgeous café just off the cellar doors of the winery, so we ate gourmet pizza and drank yet more excellent wine.
The boozy afternoon was not done yet, as we still had a cheese shop to check out (yummy but expensive) and another brewery, AND another winery!  The brewery was a super fun place to visit, very historic, we got the ever-sophisticated “beer flights” and I sampled ginger beah, wheat beah, and a few other delicious choices! Mmmm. Beer.
The last stop was De Bertolli wines, where I couldn’t resist but pick up another very cheap bottle of delicious wine – I’m hooked!  We decided to have a wine party, complete with meats and cheeses, while we watched the election results (lol) so we headed to the supermarket and laid out elaborate cheesy dinner plans to go with our copious amounts of wine.  It was a fantastic day, I really got a sense of what Hunter Valley had to offer and was able to sample and buy some of the best wines coming out of the country, i feel pretty spoiled by my experience there with an incredible view and excellent company.  The credit has to go to David for this trip, he planned it all out and it was fun b/c he’d never been there either despite being so close to it, like the Niagara region for us Canadians! Thanks David for taking me exploring in your country, I’m loving ‘straya’ more and more every day I stay here 🙂
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A Much Needed Week off in Sydney

I Love this CITY! My time in Sydney so far has been really relaxing, a perfect recovery breath in the midst of all my travels.  I’ve settled into apartment life with my friend David, who lives close to the city in the suburb of Leichhardt, the little Italy area which reminds me of Toronto a lot. I’ve spent a bit of time this week recovering from my Asian Bird Flu as I lovingly refer to it, I’ve been feeling sick-ish on and off since Malaysia and am happy to have some time to sleep and get myself over whatever is attacking my insides at the moment!  In my first few days I had dinner overlooking the Opera House (very memorable!) and saw all around the harbor area, saw Bondi Beach and sampled some of the nightlife there, explored Leichhardt and the Little Italy area, read, relaxed, recuperated and generally tried to save $$ cause there are lots of things I want to do in Melbourne and NZ, i need to make sure I have enough to do the other things I want to do.  I’ve been watching lots of Australian movies (Chopper, Ned Kelly, The Castle, Crocodile Dundee) and got to sample a famous meat pie from Harry’s down on Finger Wharf one night as well. Also in the books, I’m planning to visit Melbourne at the end of September before I jet off to the last country on my list, and some visits to friends who live in or near Sydney as well!

This weekend on the agenda is the beautiful Hunter Valley, a wine region not too far from the city which produces some of the best wines in the country, including the Sparkling Shiraz which is exclusive to the area. Mmmm. Wine.
xo
D
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Cairns, Sunshine City

I am at the northernmost point in my trip, and Cairns is a gorgeous place!  It’s nice and warm, the weather is perfect, and there are tons of backpackers chilling out and great activities.  There’s no great beachfront, but there is a man-made lagoon area where sunbathers can hang out.  I walked around the city on my first evening, there was live music spilling out of the doorways, lots of shops still open,  and even an outdoor movie theater in the town’s square!  I am totally coming back some day to check out this city again, it’s not a huge place but there are SO many activities, I only got a small taste in the two days I was there, and decided to go and check out some waterfalls in the tropical rainforest on Captain Matty’s Barefoot Tours.  I boarded the bus early on the Saturday morning, not knowing what to expect out of the day.

It was a sweet tour, there were some little hikes to gorgeous waterfalls (not one, not two, but three!) lakes and mountainous areas that showed off the region around Cairns really well, and we got a taste of all things Australian, some new music to listen to on the bus and a history of the surrounding area.  Our guide Gili was hilarious, made the day when he rescued someones Go-Pro from the natural waterfall rock slide, my favorite part of the tour.  We saw a Cassowary in the wild, one of only 1500 of these endangered birds that are left in the surrounding area, we got a good close look at it too, which is apparently really rare.  I slid down the rocks into the pool even though it was a bit cold, it looked so fun! We even got to sample some Aussie goodies like Tim Tams and coconuts from palm trees ( which are actually not native to Aus!).
I went out that evening with some people I met on my tour, first drinking goon (ugh) and then hitting the Woolshed to dance on some tables. It was a bit of a gungy backpacker bar but it was pretty fun to watch the ultra hammered people fall off tables!  We went to a second bar attached to our hostel which seemed like the nicest/biggest bar in the area, and danced the night away with an assortment of people, a pretty multicultural crowd for Australia!  Seems like Cairns is a big draw b/c it’s actually closer to Asia + other countries than Sydney/Melbourne.  I took myself home as the club was closing, i had only one more day to check out Cairns before flying off.
I had to pack and check out before stowing my locker in storage then sneaking back up to make myself breakfast in the communal kitchen 😛 I had a not so nice goon-over, and decided to check out the Lagoon and try to get in some snorkeling before leaving for the airport later.  I lazed around at the Lagoon after walking through the main beachfront area, and have decided I really like Cairns and would totally give it a second shot with more time to look around the area and explore all the activities.  I finished up with a dip in the Gilligans pool and said goodbye to (what i thought would be the last of) tropical Australian weather! My flight went off without a hitch, and soon I landed in the Sydney Airport where there were a few new adventures waiting for me! The best part about Sydney so far is my friend David, who I met in Vancouver when we both lived there.  He’s already picked me up and welcomed me into his house for the next few weeks while I explore Sydney and the surrounding area. I feel glad to put an end to the frantic pace of my trip so far and just to stay put for a little while in the same place – after all, I’ve stayed only up to three nights at EVERY place I’ve been to so far – 5 countries, 2 months! Whew.
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