Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Blue Mountains

From Sydney, we took a day and hopped the train out to the Blue Mountains.  As we had successfully trained our kids to stay up late and sleep in mornings, we arrived around lunchtime and had to take the easy hike along the top of the canyon, instead of the more difficult hike along the bottom.  Dave was disappointed - I was relieved.  The entire walk was gorgeous - from the dramatic vistas to the bird calls and flowers, the cold waterfalls and the sweet conversations.  Because somehow, our time in Australia made us all like each other better, too.  By this point in the trip, Lilly and Sophia had imagined themselves into complicated worlds with many characters and loads of dialogue.  They played well on trains and on hikes.  Annika had proved herself as a world class hiker, and was only carried once on this hike - on a mad rush straight uphill to the nearest toilet.  Dave and I had relaxed to the pace of the trip, rarely having a reason to snap at the kids or insist that they hurry.  Australia was gorgeous - every aspect.  But this relational aspect may have been my favorite.

But notions of positive relationships do not good photos make.  The Blue Mountains, however, make incredible photos.


We fell in love with Sydney.  The city is filled with water, as the harbour creeps its fingers in and out of so many corners.  The sun shone the entire time we were there, and the Sydney Opera House sat gorgeously in the middle of everything.  We stayed north of the city and crossed the Harbour Bridge on our way in and out of town every day.  I just couldn't stop taking pictures.

Being a city on the water, Sydney also has a fun aquarium.  We spent a good morning checking out all of the strange creatures that live in the seas down under.  It was well worth the visit.

And, being a city on the water, Sydney boasts one of the largest fish markets in the world.  We scared the girls with the live monster crabs crawling on the floor, and then feasted on fried fish and cheap sushi.

We were in Sydney during the winter holidays, and the city had a very festive air about it.  As Sydney is a major tourist destination, it may always carry a bit of a chill circus vibe.  Certainly it did while we were there.  We saw some talented street performers, and Dave was even enlisted to help with this guy's stunt.  As he was less performing magic and more performing feats of strain and danger, it made me awfully nervous to see this man's balance relying on Dave as he juggled flaming swords with spoons jammed over his eyes.

As we were in Australia for the winter holidays, we chose to celebrate New Year's Eve at the year's first party - in Sydney.  We spent the afternoon on a large and fabulous playground in Darling Harbour, and then boarded a boat for an evening harbour cruise.  The cruise finished by parking in the middle of the harbour, facing the bridge for the 9:30 family fireworks.  It was loads of fun, and we were back in our hotel room and our jammies in time to watch the midnight fireworks on tv from our hotel room.  They were much more dramatic, but our timing was better.

Featherdale Wildlife Park on the way to the Blue Mountains from Sydney was another family highlight.  The park is a wildlife rehabilitation center and makes a home for many of Australia's native and unique animals.  We pet plenty of wallabies, snuggled a sleepy koala, and saw dozey wombats, noisy emus and dozens of other animals.  The park was small but well run, and the staff gave fabulous little talks about each animal while they fed them.  We now consider ourselves experts on dingoes.

It wouldn't be a week in Sydney without a day at the beach, so we hopped the train out to Bondi Beach on our one overcast day.  The beach is gorgeous and full of people on a summer Sunday afternoon.  We walked a seaside path from Bondi to Coogee Beach, popping into the water every so often and otherwise taking in the views.  We did not, I'm afraid, swim in the Icebreakers pool, showed below.  But doesn't it look fun?  Ocean waves crash up over the side even on a quiet day like ours, and the pool is filled with sea water.

We spent a week in Sydney, and easily could have spent longer.  In fact, given the opportunity to live on Sydney Harbour, I would go in a minute.  I'd even consider a home without views of the water.  Such a fun city.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Wilson's Promontory

We drove away from Melbourne in rental car, and spent the next 2 hours getting miles and miles away from the city.  Wilson's Promontory is a national park where the landmass of Australia reaches down to the island of Tasmania.  It is gorgeously untouched, with vehicles only accessing a small corner of the park.  The land is wild and windswept, the sky is big and blue, walking along the paths might bring sightings of wallabys or emus, and everything is gorgeous.

I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Our Australia trip began in Melbourne.  I knew when I placed Melbourne in the itinerary that this would be a unique part of our trip - less vacation and more holiday.  Melbourne has a reputation as a relaxed city, full of art and beach and cafes and shops.  Less a tourist destination for keeping our kids happy, but more a city for exploring and eating and shopping.  So we scheduled Melbourne for the days before Christmas, where we could buy gifts for each other, visit Santa Claus and relax in some nice cafes.

Melbourne was chilly while we were there, so we used our jackets and found ourselves comfortable.  This was as close as we were going to get to a white jacket, so we snuggled up in our jackets and didn't complain.  Once we left the south of Australia, the weather warmed up considerably.  But it was difficult to get into the Christmas spirit without much of a chill in the air.  Going to the beach on Christmas Eve was lovely, but didn't feel at all like Christmas.

When we landed in Melbourne, our luggage was not on the baggage carousel.  It was four days before we drove back to the airport to finally gather our things.  So, we ended up spending our Melbourne time in some unexpected ways.  I sat in a GPs office to get a new prescription for my thyroid - and now always pack some pills in my carry-on.

We spent more time shopping than we otherwise would have, but we had planned to explore the streets and arcades of Melbourne anyway.  And we found many of the shops were thrift stores and Salvation Army shops, which Sophia gained a young love for.  And we still had plenty of time for the Royal Botanic Gardens,

...the amazing St. Kilda Adventure Playground...

 ...and to eat, wander and photograph our way through the parks, arcades and alleyways of the city.

We stayed in Melbourne through Christmas Day, enjoying a lovely Christmas Eve dinner from a corner deli, another corner bakery and yet another corner wine shop.

Our luggage didn't show up until we drove out of town, and the girls' Christmas stockings were neatly packed inside one of those checked bags.  So Santa had a task in front of him that each of the girls believed he was up to - deliver the Christmas presents in stockings anyway.

Santa delivered them in tall, festively colored bags.  The girls found them satisfactory, so it seems that Santa worked his magic again this year.

We left Melbourne in a rental car headed to a national park, after popping into a Hillsong church for Christmas morning worship.  We all enjoyed Melbourne, its mellow vibe and how pedestrian and walkable it was.  But the most striking thing of all may have been the brilliant blue sky, which followed us all through our travels.