Tuesday, September 9, 2014

We heart the Peades and Gerringong

What can I say about the Peades? I can still remember the exact moment they came into my life. I opened a package that I received in the mail from EF, the organization I did the exchange trip with in high school, and saw a white sheet with information about my new family, a picture of Dave and Lorraine in the living room before heading out to a gala of some sort, a picture of Matt skiing, a picture of Dan in the Daintree Forest and a photo of the amazing house at 9 Armstrong Ave. I felt so lucky to be able to go live with this family.  Then, with my 10th grade picture in hand, my new family picked me up from Sydney airport and I can still see Lorraine's face coming towards me and giving me a big hug...with my photo in hand.  Who would have known that after 18 years I am still going to see them.  They ARE my family now and I miss them when we are not there. I have been there more times than I can count - about every year or 2. Dave has been there many times, Ava twice and Arlo now. We spent 3 months living on the street below Dave and Lorraine and it was such a wonderful 3 months.  Ava and Arlo both love them to death.  And, could they be any sweeter? They are there to help with anything, cook up amazing meals and always, always, always make me laugh, think and enjoy. I love them so much. And not only do we have them, but we also get Warren and Deb too.  Perched so perfectly on the south end of Armstrong and also the kind of people you just want to be around.  So smart, so funny, so engaging.

Who would have known that the investment my parents made in high school would have paid off so well?

And Gerringong.  I still consider it one of the most amazing places in the world.  And, it turns out we have been to quite a few places now. The beautiful beaches, amazing people, idyllic lifestyle...you can't help but love it.

Taronga Zoo - winner for best view at a zoo

We spent a lovely day at Taronga Zoo with Rhiana, Ava and Will. What a great way to spend a few hours - seeing animals and their amazing views of downtown Sydney.  They have it made. If they can't be in Africa, South America, the Outback, etc., they are lucky to be in this zoo.

Seriously - these giraffe's better understand what they have going! Million dollar views!

The awesomest road trip ever

Brisbane => Byron Bay => Woolgoolga => Hunter Valley =>Sydney

We took an amazing road trip with the whole family before leaving Australia (tear). We flew to Brisbane from Darwin after leaving the Ramseys in the Outback.  We rented a car with the plans of exploring the coast back to Gerringong over the next 6 days.  We spent the night in Brisbane and walked around the city for a few hours the next day.  Brisbane was much cooler than I remember from 12+ years ago.  Maybe I have a new perspective with kids, but lots of good restaurants, great parks, kid activities, etc. And, bonus - Ava lost her snaggle tooth!

Then it was off to Byron Bay with a quick ride through Surfer's Paradise. Byron Bay is a popular spot, and I can see why.  It has a great "vibe", beautiful beaches and great food. We spent 2 nights in a new "eco" lodge.  The cabins were great and the ground were pretty special, but unfortunately I think the owners are taking the lodge more down the hippie commune route than just normal eco-lodge for non-hippies. I have a feeling most people will feel uncomfortable there .There was already a "love nest" building...not sure what exactly goes on, but I have some thoughts.

So, we ate some great sushi one night, spent time at the beach the following day with a nice dinner at a local pizzeria and explored around nature at our lodge trying to search for platypus in the river.  We weren't successful, but it was fun trying!

Byron Bay Lighthouse

Byron Bay Sunset

After Byron Bay we continued down the coast and made a stop in Woolgoolga, staying at the Waterside Cabins, which were brand new and quite nice, I must say. A short stroll away from one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever been to - see below. We had the whole place to ourselves. The other unique tidbit about Woolgoolga is that it has a mosque and large Sikh population that were there before Europeans came. For a fairly small town, to have a huge Sikh population mixed with country folk was super cool.  Their biggest celebration of the year is Curry Fest and everyone was into to it.  We missed it by 2 days :( Dinner that night was at amazing place that had a huge kids play area, including a jumpy castle, games, a movie playing and an awesome kids menu.  Ummm, yes please! The next mornings breakfast before heading out was a cute little cafe on the main street and we had Baghdad Eggs and Curry Eggs.  We were heaven!  Oh, and an awesome back garden with a huge sandbox and toys.  My kind of place...my kind of town.

From Woolgoolga, we went to Port Macquarie to visit the Koala hospital, which was super cute.  It was all rescued Koalas (most from bush fires and getting run over by cars).  Such a cool place. We ate lunch at the Tacking Point Surf Club - you can see someone was quite hungry and tired by that point. And mostly upset that the shop closed after we ordered lunch because we promised him a popsicle and then it wasn't going to happen :(

From there, we powered it all the way to Hunter Valley - the famed wine region of NSW. We stayed at an awesome alpaca farm.  Big hit with Ava and Arlo! We woke up to rain, thunder and lighting that soon dissipated and we were able to walk around and feed all the animals. We drove around the countryside, visited the Hunter Valley Gardens (watched a helicopter take off and land a few times) and then headed for Sydney!

We arrived in Sydney in the early evening and took a long walk around just taking in one of our favorite places in the world.  We settled on the Opera Bar for our last dinner - it was a beautiful night, it wasn't crowded and the food isn't horribe - it can actually be ok. The kids were just having so much fun playing around there and we were happily drinking wine and beer and enjoying the views.  I mean, how can you not?

I have to get some pictures of me in here. There are rarely any taken...and this is what I get. Oh well.

We love you, Sydney!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Outback

We have been to Australia so many times but have never been the actual Outback.  After a nice bloomin onion to start off the trip (kidding!) we flew to Darwin. We stayed at the waterfront for a couple night and enjoyed the wave pool and walking around town.  Then, the Ramseys came to join us in a super cool colonial house.  From the house we explored Litchfield National Park - the giant termite hills (the magnetic ones and regular ones) and a amazing waterfall that we were able to swim in (no crocodiles!). Pretty much every other body of water in the Northern Territory has crocodiles in it...but they said they checked that waterfall out and they hadn't seen any.  Still a bit scary! We also visited a crocodile park near Darwin - whoa - some crocodiles are HUGE. I had  no idea how big they got.

After 3 hot days in Darwin, we went to Kakadu National Park.  We did some hiking, visited some vistas and saw some amazing crazy old cave paintings.  They were something like 6,000 - 20,000 years old. Insane! We also did a crocodile river/wetlands cruise, but really only saw one crocodile - but it was huge. The tail was giant - though unfortunately we didn't get to see the full body. We stayed in a cabin in Kakadu, which was quite the experience. The cabin was kind of small, but we had fun making dinner, drinking and hanging out...and the pool was fun.

After Kakadu, we went to Katherine Gorge, staying in another cabin, but one that was huge and brand new. We did a river cruise in the Gorge, seeing amazing cliffs and rock formations and also more cave art - that were even older I believe. We went to this crazy "hot" springs that was kind of creepy.  It wasn't really hot since the air temperature was about 100 with 99% humidity and the water was maybe 90...I guess it would have been hot springs in some parts of the world. The crazy thing about the springs was that there were huge, really scary spiders all over.  Not super relaxing.

We loved spending the time with the Ramseys - mostly at night after the kids went to sleep and we had some drinks and laughed a lot. It is just awesome that this was the 3rd country along the way that we met them in.  More to come!

Photo fail. Dave was trying to get them to "hold up" the termite mound.

The craziest frog stuck on the convenience store window!  Ava loves to say that the frog is saying "I want chips, give me chips!"
Feeding fish in Darwin