A 282-day adventure by Simon
  • Day272

    Day 14 - #Thatchersontour - Sydney

    December 30, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    We had a bit of lazy morning as we were all pretty exhausted from our long day exploring the Blue Mountains yesterday. When we eventually made it out we headed down to Bondi Beach for a lazy afternoon on the beach. Bondi is a gorgeous beach and surprisingly wasn't too busy which was nice. Mandy even managed to score us 3 sun loungers which I took full advantage of whilst Simon, Tom and Lucy went to play in the sea.

    For dinner, we headed out to an Italian restaurant called Pompei's just off from Bondi Beach. It's an authentic restaurant run by Italians and the food was absolutely delicious! I had ravioli and Simon tried a pasta dish with snapper. This was all washed down with 4 bottles of rose and some yummy gelato! Such a lovely evening!
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    Jackie Blake

    Sounds like heaven x

  • Day271

    Day 13 - #Thatchersontour Blue Mountains

    December 29, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    Our early bird tickets for Scenic World in the Blue Mountains meant we had to arrive before 10am, so with a super early alarm we were all fed, showered and ready for about 7:30am. At Scenic World you can ride a funicular, a cable way, a skyway and walk along numerous boardwalks through the rainforest, all of which give you breathtaking views of the Blue Mountains. We opted for the funicular first to take us down to the rainforest walk as it looked remarkably like a rollercoaster over the edge of the cliff. Once in the funicular you had three seat settings. The original 52 degrees, a more laid back option for the oldies and a thrill seeker ‘cliffhanger’ 64 degrees. Naturally Blake, Lucy and I opted for the cliff hanger! As soon as we went over the side of the cliff we all had to hold on for dear life as there were no safety lap bars like a rollercoaster and we all went flying out of our seats! The funicular has been operating since 1945, (albeit with a few upgrades) descends 310 metres through a cliff-side tunnel, emerging into ancient rainforest at the Jamison Valley floor. Here we had 3 options of a 10, 30 or 50 minute walk through the rainforest. We started off with the 30 minute walk but soon realised that these times were better suited to your Granny so ended up finishing the 50 minute walk in around 25. On the way we saw a stream / spring, miners hut, a ventilation furnace and other left behind pieces from the mining times. At the end of the walk was the scenic cableway to take us back up to the visitor centre. On the way up we got a great view of the Three Sisters, Orphan Rock and Mt Solitary.

    Back at the top it was time for the finale (and the one Dad was least looking forward to) the scenic skyway. Suspended 270 metres above the ground, the Skyway provided us with yet more breathtaking views. It even had an electro-glass cabin floor so you could see right down into the rainforest. The glass floor wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it would be and even dad had a look down through.

    We took a quick pit stop for lunch before jumping on the Explorer hop-on-hop-off bus. Our first stop was the Blue Mountains Chocolate Company. Here we enjoyed some yummy free samples of chocolate along with coffee / milkshakes to wash it down. Our very own Willy Wonka (aka Dad) also got to watch some chocolate being freshly made.

    After consuming rather a lot of chocolate we thought we had better walk some of it off so our next stop was Honeymoon Lookout. From here you can see where the Blue Mountains get their name. The Blue Mountains are full of many different types of eucalyptus tree. The eucalyptus oil together with the dust particles and water vapour in the area, scatter short rays of light which are blue in colour. From Honeymoon Lookout you could visibly see a blue haze over the forest canopy.

    From here, we walked back towards Echo Point where along the way there were some stunning backdrops for many a shameless family photo. Just before Echo Point you find the Giants Staircase. There are 998 steps in total which take you down to the bottom of the Three Sisters. The steps are treacherously steep so to get to the bottom is a bit of a commitment. You can however walk down the first 100 or so steps to Honeymoon Bridge which takes you across to the first of the Three Sisters fairly easily. Three of us started the staircase but once Lucy saw the steps up close she soon retreated back to the top. Holding on to the handrail at all times Blake and I made it down and back up again and then we all finished the walk to Echo Point. Here were more incredible views of Jamison Valley and it’s surrounds, including a great view of the Three Sisters.

    We then hopped back on the bus to Leura Cascades, another short downhill bush walk to a small waterfall. Feeling pretty pooped and having seen a lot of lookouts and waterfalls we missed the next couple of stops and headed on to Leura Village. Unfortunately a lot of the shops were closing so it was only a quick visit.

    On the way back to the car we spotted some nice looking dinner spots in Katoomba Village so we stopped off there for some yummy food before driving back to our apartment.
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    Jackie Blake

    We are going to the blue mountains in August, not sure about the rides !!!! X

  • Day270

    Day 12 - #Thatchersontour - Sydney

    December 28, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    We hadn't had chance to pick up any breakfasty bits so we went out for breakfast to a cafe I found on Trip Advisor called Trio. When we arrived we were told there was a 40 minute wait however they managed to squeeze us in in only 20 minutes. I'm not surprised that people wait for this place as the food is absolutely amazing. I had a vegetarian breakfast which came with sourdough toast, poached eggs, feta in truffle oil, tomatoes, kale and spinach whilst Simon had Nutella French toast with caramelised bananas. We are going to have to come eat here again!

    Stuffed to the seams with brekkie, we headed over to Manly for the afternoon. After picking up the Thatcher's some opal cards we hopped on the bus to Circular Quay and from there we got the ferry across to Manly. From the river you get a great view back over the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.

    In Manly, we headed straight to the beach and set up our towels on the incredibly busy beach. You can certainly tell that it's the holidays now. Long gone are the days when Simon and I were the only people on the beach. The lifeguards were warning people that there had been a number of bluebottle jellyfish washing up on to the beach so it was best not to swim if you didn't want to get stung. That was enough for Simon and I however Tom braved it and returned an hour later unscathed. On the way back home, we stopped off at Woolies and grabbed some bits for dinner for a nice quiet evening back at the apartment.
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    Jackie Blake

    Nice xx

    Tricia Little

    Glad you all had a great time in Sydney. Now I think you should reverse your trip instead of leaving. Lol. 💋🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾

  • Day269

    Day 11 - #Thatchersontour - Sydney

    December 27, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    It's now time to head to our final destination of the Thatcher's Christmas holiday down under and our 9 month adventure. It's crazy to think that 2 weeks today we will be touching down in London although I don't want to dwell on that depressing concept too much!

    With our bags all packed, we checked out and headed to the airport, destination Sydney! Sydney is an hour ahead of the Gold Coast so despite the flight only being an hour and a half, we didn't land in Sydney until 3:30pm. After collecting our luggage we all bundled into the shuttle to pick up our hire car. As you can imagine between the 6 of us, we have rather a lot of luggage. We have ordered a 7 seater car but when the lady driving the shuttle bus saw how much luggage we had she was like, I don't think you are going to fit that in the car! We have hired 7 seater cars in both Melbourne and the Gold Coast and had no problem getting the luggage in those so thought nothing of her comment. That was until she brought around the hire car. To start with it didn't look like it was even going to fit the 6 of us in the car, let alone the luggage as there were only 5 seats. Turns out that there are 2 very tiny seats that pop up in the boot! She was right though, there is no way that we are going to get us and the luggage in the car so Tom and Kevin went in the car with the luggage taking up the entire back 5 seats and the rest of us jumped in a taxi.

    The view from our Sydney apartment is absolutely incredible, with panoramic views out over the ocean. It's also only a 10 minute walk to Bondi Beach so an awesome location as well. We didn't have any time for the beach this afternoon though as we were off to the Sydney Opera House to see The Unbelievables. The Unbelievables is a variety show full of comedy, dancing, magic, circus acts and live music. It really was an amazing show and was everything you could expect from a variety show, funny, mesmerising and jaw dropping. One of my particular favourites was the ventriloquist Jay Johnson and his little friend Bob. The sword swallower was also very funny however his act did make me feel a bit queasy, especially when he swallowed 3 swords at the same time. The comedian was hilarious and the all of the circus acts were really impressive, including the quick change act and the sand artist that rearranged sand on a lightbox into lots of iconic sights around the world, to Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World. It was also amazing to not only see the Opera House from the outside but watch a show there too. Thank you Kevin and Mandy for getting us tickets!
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    Jackie Blake

    I will be there soon !!! X

  • Day268

    Day 10 - Thatchersontour - Australia Zoo

    December 26, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    Today we visited Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo which is something I have been really looking forward to! It's a couple of hours up the East Coast from where we are staying but it was well worth the trek. We got to see lots of Aussie wildlife that we haven't been able to see in the wild which was amazing.

    One of the big highlights was definitely the Wildlife Warriors Show. We got to see a variety of amazing birds including an Andean condor. We are fortunate to have already seen condors in Peru however seeing them up close makes you appreciate how big they really are. The different birds flew all around the Crocoseum which was pretty cool. The highlight of the show however was definitely the big old crocodile. Three extremely crazy guys got extremely close to the enormous croc to show us a variety of behaviours the crocodile displays in the wild including the almighty death roll. It was an incredibly tense few hours and I was literally on the edge of my seat. It is a wonder how one of them didn't lose an arm!

    The tiger demo with Reggie the Sumatran tiger was also very impressive. Pacified with some milk the keepers demonstrated how they undertake medical checks on the tigers such as looking at their teeth and eyes. We also got to hand feed kangaroos, see more cute cuddly koalas and wombats as well as lots of other native Australian wildlife.

    Towards the end of the day, Kevin and Lucy booked themselves in for the koala experience for some koala cuddles so Simon and I decided to do a tour of the Wildlife Hospital which is next to the zoo. What was meant to be a 30 minute group tour turned into an hour long private tour which was amazing. Our tour guide Brandon was so knowledgable and he took us around each part of the Wildlife hospital, including the outside koala area where they slowly rehabilitate koalas so they can be released back into the wild. Whilst we were there, a tiny baby roo whose mum had been killed by a car had been taken in and the vets were looking at her. The baby roo was only 6 months old and didn't even have its fur yet. The vet talked us through what she was doing to treat the roo and even let us stroke its soft velvety body. Such an amazing experience!
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    Jackie Blake

    Ahhh how sadxx

  • Day267

    Day 9 - #Thatchersontour - Gold Coast

    December 25, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 33 °C

    It's Christmaaaaaaaasssss! And no one is feeling Christmassy at all!

    We woke to glorious sunshine pouring in the window for what is set to be a scorcher of a day! Mandy bought us all Christmas t-shirts to help get us in the Christmas spirit so we all donned those for breakfast. After breakfast we headed to the beach for a Christmas swim in the sea. We didn't expect it to be very busy but turns out that lots of Aussies go to the beach for Christmas Day! There were loads of families with gazebos set up, tables, chairs, BBQ's and eskies. It was so surreal to be in the lovely warm ocean on Christmas Day! It was so nice though that we stayed in the sea until our hands were wrinkly before heading back to Sanctuary Cove.

    Back at our villa, we tucked into our body weight in cheese and biscuits before a relaxing afternoon in the pool. We decided against the traditional British turkey Christmas dinner and instead did as the Aussies do and had a BBQ! Unfortunately there were no shrimp on the barbie (as we weren't sure whether they had gone off and didn't want to risk food poisoning) however we did tuck into some delicious steak, burgers and sausages and ate them outside.

    In the evening, we FaceTimed the fam. It felt strange that our Christmas was nearly over and everyone's back at home was just beginning! We have both thoroughly enjoyed our first Aussie Christmas and it was made all the more special that the Thatcher clan could join us too!
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    Jackie Blake

    Marry Xmas xx

  • Day266

    Day 8 - #Thatchersontour - Gold Coast

    December 24, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 31 °C

    On the way back from the beach yesterday, we spotted a huge outlet mall so after a late breakfast we went there for a spot of shopping. A couple of hours later, with the Thatcher's laden down with lots of pairs of trainers and some hats, we headed to the beach. Before the beach we stopped off at a 'It's a knockout style' giant inflatable on the ocean. I didn't fancy it so I lay in the sun with my kindle whilst Simon, Tom and Lucy bounced around for an hour. They said it was pretty hard going clambering around all the bits and we did catch the occasional glance of Simon and Tom pulling Lucy out of the water by her life jacket, but they had lots of fun. They ended up coming out 5 minutes early as Tom cut his foot however I think they were glad of the excuse as they were all pretty pooped!

    Even after all that exertion they still wanted to hire a surfboard and go surfing so we headed to the main beach in Southport in search of some waves and a surfboard. Unfortunately we couldn't find anywhere to hire a board so we opted for a coffee break at the beachside cafe instead. Mandy tried her first Lamington (an Aussie cake) as seen on many episodes of Neighbours.

    We then stopped off at a more sheltered beach where we saw some paddle boards for hire (I seriously don't know where they get their energy from) however as the wind had picked up it would have been a full body workout to keep yourself from ending up in Sydney so they settled for a swim and sunbathe instead.

    When we got back to Sanctuary Cove it was dusk and perfect kangaroo spotting time so we took Mandy and Kevin to where we saw them before. There were probably around 20 kangaroos hopping around and we managed to get a great video of a joey hopping in and out of his mums pouch!
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    Jackie Blake

    Wow Roos xx

  • Day265

    Day 7 - #Thatchersontour - Gold Coast

    December 23, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    The Thatcher's haven't had much opportunity to work on their tans so today we headed off to the beach. We decided to take them to the small beach we found near Burleigh Heads which is along an estuary. It's the perfect place to relax and swim in the calm water without having to battle against the waves. We spent the entire day here switching between sunbathing and swimming as it was a very very hot day!

    Late afternoon, with a couple of pink Thatcher's, we headed back to Sanctuary Cove for some dinner. After dinner, we took the golf buggies out for a spin to the Marina and stopped for a delicious espresso martini at one of the bars.
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    Jackie Blake

    Factor 50 lol x

  • Day264

    Day 6 - #Thatchersontour - Gold Coast

    December 22, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    We were out of the apartment and on our way to the coach station just after 6am. To give the Thatcher's the full travellers experience, we loaded ourselves up with all our luggage and made the 15 minute journey to the station on foot. Whilst we are sad to say goodbye to Melbourne for the final time, everyone is looking forward to some beach time on the Gold Coast.

    We arrived at the airport nice and early so had plenty of time for some brekkie and a quick massage in the massage chairs. We were also offered an emergency exit seat each for no extra charge. Bonza! I have never had the luxury of extra leg room on a plane and it was amazing! If we can somehow wangle that on our flight back to the UK I will be very happy.

    After touching down in Coolangatta airport, we picked up our luggage and the hire car and headed over to the New South Wales / Queensland border for the obligatory tourist pics before heading to our accommodation.

    We are staying in a resort called Sanctuary Cove and the villa is amazing. We have a pool and 2 shiny golf carts to cruise around in which is very exciting. Mandy and Kevin's room is absolutely enormous, with a luxurious ensuite and walk in wardrobe. Just down the road we spotted a shopping centre with a supermarket and some restaurants, so after unloading our luggage we headed out for some lunch and to do a big supermarket shop for the week.

    By the time we got back is was gone 4pm so we decided to give the beach a miss until tomorrow and instead us kiddlywinks took the golf buggies out for a spin. The resort is completely kitted out for buggies and they have their own lane on the side of the road and everything. Whilst we were exploring we happened across a small field completely full of kangaroos which was cool especially for Tom and Lucy who haven't really seen any kangaroos yet. We also made our way down to the Sanctuary Cove Marina which is full of lots of luxury yachts and very posh shops, including a theatre and a golf buggy shop. You don't actually ever need to leave the resort, it's crazy. A dramatic contrast to our usual traveller digs.
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    Jackie Blake

    Cool xx

  • Day263

    Day 5 - #Thatchersontour - Melbourne

    December 21, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    It's our last day in Melbourne and we don't have any activities planned so whilst the Thatcher clan hit the shops, Simon and I went to the Library on the Dock to check out an art exhibition. The exhibition was called Peace Not War: Art That Takes A Stand and addresses peace, war, violence, homelessness, Indigenous issues, refugees and violence in our society. It was quite a small exhibit with a couple of interesting pieces. I'm not sure if I'm artsey enough to understand most of it but Simon really enjoyed it (he's a changed man).

    The Library on the Dock was in the Docklands area of Melbourne which we haven't been to yet so it was good to check it out. It was a gorgeous morning and the crisp blue skies against the tall buildings alongside the docks was very pretty. We then headed into the city for some lunch. We both fancied a yummy sandwich of some description so we headed to Centre Place, a great little laneway with lots of hole in the wall sandwich type shops. We stumbled across a place called Jungle Juice selling some delicious sounding bagels so we stopped there. Despite being a tiny narrow shop, smaller than our lounge there were around 7 or 8 tables in there, all squished together. Squeezing ourselves around the tiny table and ordering from menus made out of classic children's books made us feel like true Melbournians and the bagels were to die for! Simon went for a Reuben which came packed with salt beef and I opted for a halloumi bagel which had heaps of fresh avocado, delicious! To wash it down I had a apple, watermelon, ginger and mint juice and Simon enjoyed an iced cappuccino.

    Feeling nice and full we headed off to meet the happy shoppers and check out a rooftop bar, aptly named Rooftop Bar! It was on top of a 7 story building so I feel like we got the true rooftop experience.

    We have a very early start tomorrow as we are catching the 6:50am Skybus to the airport so after the rooftop bar we headed back to the apartment to pack.
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    Jackie Blake

    Looks lovely x

    Jackie Blake

    Looking forward to the Sydney blog !!!! Xx