Simon and Blake

Joined March 2017
  • Day282

    Bon voyage

    January 9 in Australia

    The day has finally arrived for us to pack our backpacks for the final time and start the mammoth journey back to, what people have been telling me, a very cold Bristol. I actually woke up to the rain coming in through the window and hitting me in the face, which is pretty impressive considering the bed is on the other side of the room. It almost feels like I'm home already. Even little Frank must have sensed we were sad about leaving as he bounced into our room for some morning cuddles. As we loaded up Kevin and Mandy with all of our souvenirs and excess winter clothes, our bags were very pretty easy to pack (even with the two huge bags of Scooby snacks I'm bringing home for my mother). We had to check out by 9am and our flight isn't until 10:20pm so we headed to the airport to put our bags into storage so we didn't have to lug them around all day. Fortunately Kev and Jake (our free walking tour guide) gave us some very useful tips of travelling to the airport. Instead of getting the train all the way to the airport, if you get off at Mascot and then get the bus you can save yourself $18. So that's exactly what we did and instead of paying $36 between us we only paid $0.30!

    Not wanting to spend the day at the airport we decided to head out and explore Newtown. Newtown reminds me a lot of Gloucester Road, with heaps of vintage shops, cafes and other hippie delights. We broke the day up a bit with some lunch in a quirky little cafe called Cuckoo Callay just outside the station. You'd think I would have learnt from my snozcumber incident last night but instead of a coffee, I thought I would be all healthy (it is January after all) and try a Matcha latte. Now I knew it was going to be green but what I didn't realise is that it was going to smell like seaweed. It was so revolting I couldn't even finish it! Surprisingly Simon didn't mind it so he finished it off for me.

    After a few hours of mooching around the shops and Simon taking some snaps of graffiti we headed back to the airport. Fortunately we were not in any rush as the trains were having a right mare, with signalling problems causing all kinds of delays. Then when we got on the bus from Mascot the driver beeped another car and the horn got stuck. The engine then started making all kinds of strange noises and stalled when we reached the next stop. It took him a good 15 minutes to get it started again but to be fair to the guy he was persistent. It's a miracle we made it to the airport though.

    After a very long day wandering around and then 24 hours worth of flights ahead of us we decided to book ourselves into a lounge just so that we could have a shower and freshen up and not feel revolting before we even started. It turns out however that due to Simon's numerous flights in business class for work, he's acquired himself a silver membership with BA which gets him and one guest into the business lounge. Well what a waste of money that was! It does also get us both into a business lounge in Hong Kong for our 3 hour stopover which is a definite bonus. After paying for the lounge we thought we had better check it out so after the obligatory mooch around the perfumes, we headed over to the lounge. This is my first time in a lounge and I didn't know what to do with myself. Simon however, a seasoned business flyer, didn't waste any time in showing me the ropes and soon came back with a gin and tonic and a rum and ginger ale in his hands. After tucking into some grub we thought it rude not to check out the Qantas lounge as well. I'm glad we moved on quickly as this lounge is so much better than the other one. There is a fully stocked bar with lots of lovely wines and prosecco, a cracking cheese selection and a gelato bar. Before I got started on the wine and gelato I went for a shower which was also epic! My own little bathroom with a fresh towel, shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and hair dryer. I even got my own fresh bath mat! I am actually living the dream right now. If it was socially acceptable to get into my pyjamas, I would be in heaven! This is definitely making the whole journey home a lot easier.

    It's nearly time to board our flight so I will check in with you all again when we reach Hong Kong.
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  • Day281

    Day 6 - Randwick

    January 8 in Australia

    It's not as hot as yesterday but it's still extremely hot and muggy so we decided to head back down to Coogee Beach for a lazy afternoon. We decided against lying on the beach and instead sat up on the grass again in the shade. I know its our last day in Australia and of our 9 month adventure but we have achieved and experienced so many incredible things, it was nice to spend our last day relaxing in the sunshine, next to the beach with a good book before we return to the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

    Around 4pm, there was a huge clap of thunder and the heavens opened! I think it must be the worlds way of preparing us for our return to England. We didn't fancy walking back in the rain so we caught the bus back up the hill to our apartment.

    As it's our final night we decided to treat ourselves and go out for dinner. We had imagined a nice meal on a rooftop by the beach but that idea was washed away with the rain. Not letting the rain dampen our spirits we decided upon a Lebanese place not far from the apartment so we could run there if we needed to. It was BYO as well so we stopped off at the bottle shop and picked up a bottle of Pinot Noir on the way. We started off with a trio of dips which were absolutely delicious but for my main I made a little (ok maybe a big) faux par. I went for courgette stuffed with herbs and rice in a tomato sauce. In my head this sounded absolutely delicious and I was thinking of a lovely roasted courgette in a chunky tomatoey sauce. What I got however was a real life snozcumber! Simons face when they brought it out to me was an absolute picture! It was one very sorry looking boiled, peeled courgette floating around in a watery tomato soup. It tasted pretty bland as well. Hey ho, nothing that half a bottle of wine can't fix and it made us laugh. Simon went for the beef stew with rice which was a flavour sensation in comparison and tasted pretty good.

    Despite the snozcumbers, it was still a lovely way to end our 9 month adventure.
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  • Day280

    Day 5 - Randwick

    January 7 in Australia

    Today was the HOTTEST day Sydney has had in 80 years and it was no joke! We left early to get supplies for breakfast and lunch and were both dripping in sweat when we got to Woolies before 9:30am. After gaining an ever so slightly pink complexion yesterday we decided it best we stayed out of the sun until at least 2pm. We used this time to write blogs, watch Netflix and more importantly, play with Frank!

    At pretty much 2pm we hopped on a bus towards the centre to visit the Rocks weekend market. It hadn’t cooled down much but with the sun not being right above us it was easy to walk in the shade. The market was full of souvenirs, various Australian animal leather goods and other nicknacks we weren’t that fussed about so we soon got bored. Instead we opted to have a drink or two in the Opera house bar. We started with a deliciously refreshing jug of Rosé sangria followed by a couple of beers.

    The evening was still sooo hot so we opted for Netflix led on top of the bed with the fan on full blast!
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  • Day279

    Day 4 - Randwick

    January 6 in Australia

    After our walking tour yesterday we thought we'd have a lazy beach day. Coogee Beach is around a 20 minute walk from the apartment so we headed there. Being a Saturday in the summer holidays, it was absolutely packed but we managed to find ourselves a little spot near the water. After a couple of hours of tanning / swimming (the sea was absolutely freezing), we retreated into the shade in search of some lunch. Indiana and Luke had recommended the Coogee Pavilion which sits just off the beach. It's a bit fancy but the food was good. I went for the mini lobster roll which was lovely but most certainly mini! I finished it within a couple of mouthfuls before Simon even got his giant pizza! After lunch it was too hot to sunbathe on the beach again so we sat up on the grass just above the beach in the shade for the rest of the afternoon.Read more

  • Day278

    Day 3 - Randwick

    January 5 in Australia

    I did really enjoy the bus tour however you just can't beat a good old free walking tour. Our tour guide for our last of many walking tours on our trip was a very enthusiastic theatre and media graduate called Jake. With theatrical grandeur he shared some of Sydney's convict history and showed us around the sights.

    In addition to the main sights such as the Opera House, Hyde Park and the Harbour Bridge, Jake also took us down a couple of laneways. Now Sydney's laneways are by no means as sophisticated as Melbourne's and are in the very early stages of opening up however there was a very cool art installation in Angel Place. It's called Forgotten Songs and consists of around 50 hanging birdcages of various shapes and sizes. As you walk underneath them you can hear various bird songs. The songs change throughout the day so in the morning you would hear birds that are most active in the morning and then in the evening, birds that are most active then.

    Every Friday there is a Foodies Market in the Rocks so after the tour we headed there in search of some lunch. Here they were doing gourmet kebabs of all kinds of things such as octopus, kangaroo and crocodile. Not having tried crocodile yet we gave it a go and to be honest, it wasn't very nice. It's hard to describe what it tastes as it doesn't taste like anything I've eaten before. Simon probably explains it best when he says it tastes like a "slightly fishy rubber band".

    After lunch we walked across the Harbour Bridge to take in the incredible views of the Harbour. It was very windy up there so I dread to think what it would have been like for the people climbing over the top!

    Indiana and Luke, our Airbnb hosts, recommended that we check out The Ritz Cinema which was walking distance from their house so in the evening we went to watch The Greatest Showman. It was a bit of a treat but it's our last week so what the heck. The cinema itself is a gorgeous Art Deco building and the interior was still in its original Art Deco style too. The Greatest Showman, staring our mate Hugh, was also amazing.
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  • Day277

    Day 2 - Randwick

    January 4 in Australia

    We had a lazy yet productive morning catching up on the blogs. We still have quite a few to write but we have now made a significant dent on them. It was also very hard to concentrate with a very cute playful puppy snuggling into the side of me. Simon even had to take himself away and lock himself in the bedroom to finish writing his post so that he wouldn't get distracted by Frank!

    After some leftover Thai for lunch we donned our active wear and headed out along the Coogee to Bondi coastal walk. The walk took us past some gorgeous beaches, coastal cliffs and even a spectacularly located cemetery. We didn't quite make it all the way around to Bondi as we have spent a lot of time at that beach already and instead had a ice lolly and a swim at Tamarama Beach, which is funnily enough very close to our previous apartment.Read more

  • Day276

    Randwick

    January 3 in Australia

    We had to depart our Bondi apartment today as we were checking in to an Airbnb in Randwick and the fam were heading to the IBIS hotel next to the airport. After looking at the scraps of food we had left we decided to head to the little cafe just around the corner for breakfast. I went for a cheese and bacon croissant and Blake a bran breakfast muffin.

    We took a short uber ride to our next home where we were greeted by Indiana and her cute pug puppy Frank. After a little rest and maybe some play time with Frank we decided we would head to the Sydney aquarium. Semi forgetting it was the holidays and the light rain showers meant the queues when we arrived were huge. Kindly a member of staff was walking the line and mentioned if we booked the tickets online that the queue to go directly in would be much shorter.

    To say it was busy inside was nothing short of an understatement but I’m pretty sure we got to see it all. There was everything from sea horses to nurse sharks, manta rays to two enormous dugongs. There were also two lots of penguins which you could see either waddling around on ice or darting about the water below. I’d say it took us a good 2 hours to see it all.

    Back at the Airbnb we may have slipped into an afternoon nap as we were totally exhausted from 3 weeks full of adventures. For dinner we lazily ordered Thai to fill the hole left from not being able to order it the other night.
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  • Day275

    Today I'm being introduced to my first city open top bus tour (at least I can't remember having done one before). There are 2 routes you can take, the Bondi Tour and the City Tour. With Bondi on our doorstep, we all boarded the bus by the beach. As you get on you get given some headphones and after finding your seat you sit back, plug in and enjoy the ride.

    The bus took us North of Bondi and around the coast, past Rose Bay and into the CBD. From here we got some great views of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. In the city we swapped over to the City Tour which took us round to Darling Harbour where we hopped off for some lunch.

    Back on the bus after lunch we carried on around the Harbour, past the bridge and through The Rocks, the historic quarter of Sydney. Just past the Opera House, near the botanical gardens we all hopped off again as Tom and Lucy wanted to do a spot of shopping at the Westfield Mall. Our travellers budget doesn't quite stretch to clothes shopping so Simon and I decided to walk through the botanical gardens to Mrs Macquarie's Chair. From here you get incredible views of the both the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. It was a little bit of a walk so by the time we made it back to the mall, they had finished their shopping and we hopped back on the bus to Bondi.

    It's our last night with the Thatcher's, so we thought it rude not to have a nice meal out together before they head back to sunny England. The original steak restaurant we tried to get a table at had a 90 minute wait, so not wanting to wait that long we did a quick Trip Advisor search and settled on another steak restaurant further down the road, called Macelleria. It's a butcher / very high end fast food style restaurant where you picked your steak from the counter and then they found you a table and you waited for them to cook it for you. They also do burgers and sausages but we all opted for steak. Whilst we were all waiting patiently in the queue, Tom turned round to me and said 'Hugh Jackman is over there' and OMG there was Hugh and his wife ordering some takeaway steak. Now if Hugh Jackman is eating there you know it's going to be a pretty good god dam steak! Trying to keep our cool and not stare, we sat at our table (fortunately right next to Mr Jackman) and sneakily took a picture. He was a lot more laid back than I imagine LA celebs to be, stood there in his boardies with no shoes on. Whilst there were definitely a few people that twigged who he was, nobody bothered him and just let him do his thing. As you can imagine I was very excited! Anyway, back to the steak. It was quite possibly the most amazing steak I have ever eaten. It was absolutely delicious, especially accompanied by a very nice glass of Pinot Noir. Feeling very satisfied, we headed home with a quick pit stop in Ben and Jerry's for some ice cream.
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  • Day274

    We didn't get back from the fireworks until gone 2am so we had a super lazy morning and didn’t get down to the beach until gone midday. Tom, Lucy and I decided to hire a surfboard between us to improve on our pro surfer status whilst Mum, Dad and Blake opted for tanning on the sun loungers.

    Unfortunately the sea was a lot rougher today than it has been so we really struggled on the board. After an hour of not really getting anywhere we dropped the board back to camp and opted for a paddle instead. Even that for the most part was hard work so Lucy and I retreated to sunbathe too.

    Once back and all showered off we decided to order in a Thai however UBEReats was SOOOO busy by the time we figured out what we all wanted, the restaurant had stopped taking orders. We instead ended up with an Indian which was super delicious and as it didn't arrive until nearly 10pm, was demolished in around 5 minutes.
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  • Day273

    Day 15 - #Thatchersontour - Sydney

    December 31, 2017 in Australia

    It's New Year's Eve in Sydney which means only one thing, fireworks! To say I have been really excited to experience this is an understatement. After much deliberation over where to watch them we settled on Pirrama Park. We had been warned that if you wanted to get a good spot then it's best to get there early so in the morning Simon and I walked down to Woolies to grab some bits for a picnic and some much needed snacks for the long day ahead of us.

    Armed with our picnic, we headed back to Trio for breakfast. I decided to order slightly outside the box this time and went for chilaquiles which was a scrambled egg, spinach, cherry tomatoes, tortilla chips and guacamole concoction. I'm not sure if I would choose it again however it still tasted good. Simon went for something a little less sweet than the Nutella French toast and opted for a Reuben sandwich instead. The portions as always were absolutely huge so we wouldn't be needing to tuck into our picnic anytime soon.

    Pirrama Park opened at 2pm and we arrived not long after. We were some of the first people in there so we got a great spot with an amazing view of the Harbour Bridge. With 10 hours to go until the main event, we made ourselves comfortable and played cards / took a nap in the sunshine. One thing Simon and I have gotten very good at over the last 9 months is waiting. Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go (10 points if you spotted the Dr Seuss quote there).

    To make New Year's Eve even more special, we were also joined by my Uncle Chris, Auntie Jo and cousin Emily, who are also on holiday in Australia over the Christmas / New Year period.

    In addition to the midnight fireworks they also do a slightly shorter display at 9pm. This display was pretty spectacular so we knew that we were going to be in for a big treat at midnight. As it got closer to midnight the crowds grew and there was an amazing atmosphere. Unfortunately due to the amount of smoke that the unimaginable number of fireworks being let off created, accompanied by the wind blowing in our direction, meant that we couldn't really see the last 4 of so minutes of the display. The fireworks off the Harbour Bridge however were still incredible and it's a certainly a magical New Years Eve I won't be forgetting anytime soon.
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