Blue Mountains Road Trip

blue-mountains-2-of-20After almost two years down here in Australia, we finally made the very short trip to the amazingly beautiful Blue Mountains. What we were waiting for, I do not know. We set the tone for our holiday away by having a leisurely morning before we jumped in the vehicle and headed west.

Our first stop was in the village of Wentworth Falls. A friend had recommended that we absolutely needed to stop at Conditorei Patisserie Schwarz. Oh. My. Goodness. That was very good advice. We had a lovely lunch consisting of the Aussie staple food, meat pie, and Schwarz’s soup of the day, which was I believe Hungarian Goulash. I’m not certain, but I am certain it was all delicious. Before we left, of course, we had to buy pastries for the road!

Feeling chockers (very full!) we got back on the road, but not for long. We took a little jaunt to visit the actual water fall of Wentworth Falls. I’m not going to lie, I’ve seen bigger, much bigger waterfalls, but it was stunning scenery. I didn’t realize just how much I’ve missed the mountains.

blue-mountains-4-of-20The bird life in the Blue Mountains was extraordinary.

blue-mountains-5-of-20Continuing on, we came to the Three Sisters rock formation. According to a version of Aboriginal legend, the three sisters of the Katoomba tribe, living in this valley, fell in love with three brothers from the wrong tribe. A battle ensued and the girls were turned to stone for their protection. Unfortunately, the witchdoctor who did the deed died before he could turn them back into girls.

blue-mountains-9-of-20We found another glorious view at Govetts Leap near Blackheath. You can’t really tell from this photo… well maybe a little bit. Look over to the far left. See that bit of yellow? Great swaths of this color filled the valleys and hillsides. It was almost like taking an autumn leaf-peeping drive in Utah.

hedgehog-fabricI couldn’t resist stopping at Blackheath Haberdashery & Fabric. Really, I just love any place that has haberdashery in the name! I did find this super cute Japanese fabric by Sevenberry. I also took a quick peek in the House of Wool; they had a sweet collection of yarn.

blue-mountains-16-of-20As evening drew near, we arrived at our destination, Jenolan Caves and the Cave House hotel. The accommodation was built in 1897 by architect Walter Liberty Vernon, in Federation Arts and Crafts style. The simple, yet comfortable rooms are decorated to be reminiscent of the late Victorian, early Edwardian era. No TV. No wi-fi. It was wonderful. We had more delicious food in the grand dining room at Chisolm’s restaurant in the hotel.

blue-mountains-13-of-20After dinner, the young woman at the front desk urged us to walk down to the Blue Lake, so named because of the light refraction caused by dissolving particles of limestone. While strolling along we were treated with a sighting of the resident platypus. A perfect ending to a perfect day!

blue-mountains-19-of-20The next day we started off with more yummy food! The dining room served up a huge buffet, with sausages, bacon, beans and toast, yogurt, fruit, muslii, and of course coffee, tea, orange juice, and milk. Oh and there were even pastries, but I had been spoiled by Schwarz’s the day before.

After another lazy morning, we took our cave tour. They have several different caves you can tour, all for different fitness levels and adventure seeking levels. We viewed Chifley Cave, a very moderate choice.

blue-mountains-20-of-20My favorite formations in the cave were what they named “shawls”, these bits that look like fabric draped across the way. The other highlight for me was the precocious little boy who chatted up our guide and was full of witty remarks.

Apparently this is where I stopped taking photos, with the Nikon anyway. I was in such a state of relaxation, that it just did not occur to me. We left Jenolan and headed northwest to Bathurst to stock up on provisions for the rest of the weekend to be spent in a cozy little cabin that we found on AirBnB.

All in all it was a heavenly weekend full of rest, de-stressing, and reconnecting . And best of all, now that we know just how quick and easy a trip it is up to the Blue Mountains, our plan is to make many an escape up there on hot and humid summer weekends! There are so very many more sights to see and little villages to explore!

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Catching Up

Brisbane (1 of 30)I’ve become a lousy blogger. It’s true; I’ve gone from posting most every day, back in the crafty beginnings of my blog, to posting three times a week, which I thought was really slacking. Now it seems I’ve dwindled down to a few times a year.

I wrote awhile back about deciding what I want my blog to be, and I keep coming back to wanting it to be a documentation of what this journey has been. In years to come, I want to be able to look back on this and remember this crazy thing we did. I also hope it can be of help to other people who are thinking of making such a move. I haven’t been documenting very well!

Yes and no. I mean I keep a handwritten journal, and that of course has all the nitty gritty details that I don’t want to put out in cyberspace for public consumption. And that public consumption would be why I’ve not been posting. I know when we blog, we are making a choice to put ourselves out there. And we choose how much to put out there. Anyone who reads a blog and thinks that now they know a person is mistaken. There are those bloggers who over-disclose. I choose very carefully what I share; sometimes I share personal information, for example in speaking about my depression. I choose to share that because there are so many people out there who struggle with depression and who feel alone. If I can reach one person and let them know they are not alone, then that’s a good thing. I found myself in a situation though, where I felt too exposed, and the thought of blogging made me squeamish.

But you know what? I have a hard drive full of photos of beaches, kangaroos, rivers, gardens, art, historical sites, and other images of adventures we’ve been on here that I need to write about before I completely forget what they are.  So, I’m going to make a concerted effort to get back in the blogging groove.  I’ll be back with some stories of places we visited last year, and I’ll work my way up to the present. I promise. For real this time.

 

The River City of Brisbane

Brisbane (5 of 30)Story Bridge

After two months shy of a year living in Sydney, we finally got to travel to another region of the country. True, Craig has been down to Melbourne on one occasion, but he was working, and didn’t see any of the city. This time, on another business trip, I tagged along for a visit to Brisbane. Why had no one told me about this gem?

Brisbane (1 of 2)The Old Windmill

Approaching Brisbane by air, I looked out to see vast swaths of green, forested areas, interrupted here and there with a small clearing containing a swimming pool. The blue-polka-dotted fabric of green made me laugh. As we stepped directly off the plane into Brisbane, the first impression was an oven blast of heat and humidity, but during a quick taxi ride to the hotel I already became enamored with the city. After depositing our bags, we set off to explore.

Brisbane (25 of 30)The ceiling of the Regent Theatre

The capital city of Queensland, Brisbane is nestled in the hills and valleys of the winding Brisbane River, named in 1823 after the governor of New South Wales, Thomas Brisbane. We hopped aboard the City Hopper, the free ferry that loops the river bends of the city. The site of today’s Brisbane began as a penal colony from 1824 to house the worst offenders of the Sydney convicts, until 1842 when the Moreton Bay area became a free settlement.

Brisbane (15 of 30)Air Raid Shelter

Aboard the ferry, on our way to a free concert at South Bank Parklands, we were waylaid by a big storm that came through. The ferry moored to wait it out and we enjoyed the light show and the cool wind. Later we heard that 100,000 lightning strikes were recorded by Energex, the local energy provider. The storm quieted and we disembarked at South Bank, too late and too wet for a concert. What I discovered there, though, was worth it. Epicurious Gardens is a gorgeous produce garden, dedicated to teaching the public what real food looks like. They even make the harvest available to the public. What thrilled me about this was being about to see what the new White’s Creek Community Food Forest and Orchard, that I wrote about a few months ago, will be once it is established.

Brisbane (2 of 2)South Bank Parklands

On Monday, I took advantage of the Brisbane Greeters program. It’s a free service in which a volunteer takes a group on a 2-4 hour tour of the city. Our volunteer tour guide, Coral, gave us a wonderful overview of what the city has to offer, from gardens to historical sites. She was a wealth of interesting information, and I made a list of places to return to for extended visits.

Brisbane (9 of 30)Splashing pools at South Bank

Back on South Bank, I visited Queensland Museum, Queensland Art Gallery, and the Gallery of Modern Art. I barely touched on any of them. There was so much to see, and I found myself frustrated with my lack of stamina. I wanted to keep going all day, to see every single exhibit.

Brisbane (12 of 30)Queensland Art Gallery

On our final day there, I visited the Roma Street Parklands, the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens, the Regency Theatre, and City Hall. There was still so much more to see. The city is a beautiful blend of old and new, with new modern architecture built around the older stone buildings, and the very present history sitting side by side with the vibrance that is today’s Brisbane. I intend to go back!

Brisbane (3 of 6)City Hall
Brisbane (4 of 6)The former Regent Theatre, now the visitor center

Say Yes to Life

cooks river greenway birds freelance writer (28 of 31)I’ve enjoyed writing for local Ciao Magazine, because it gets me out seeing places and meeting people that I never would otherwise. Last week, I was working on a piece about bicycle paths in the Inner West. I needed to go take photos, but was really not motivated to do it. I had a cold, I’d recently hurt my back, and all I really wanted to do was curl up with an ice pack and a glass of bourbon. Instead, I grabbed my camera and hopped on the bus. I’m so glad I did.

cooks river greenway birds freelance writer (2 of 31)My first stop was at a section of the GreenWay, a green corridor from Iron Cove down to Cooks River, where there are some existing bike paths, and the local councils are working on putting in more. I didn’t see a single bike rider here, but I did see drunk Santa passed out under a tree! I never would have got to see that if I’d stayed home!

cooks river greenway birds freelance writer (14 of 31)My next stop was Cooks River.  I was wandering down the path waiting for cyclists to go by, when I spotted something up ahead in the distance. Birds! More specifically, Great Cormorants.

plastic covered cormorant (1 of 1)It wasn’t until I was home and looking at my photos, that I saw this poor guy covered in plastic. I had noticed an incredible amount of garbage floating in the river. I called the wildlife rescue for that area, and they said they’d send somebody over to look.  I hope they were able to help him. I never did hear anything back.

cooks river greenway birds freelance writer (6 of 8)Continuing my bicycle-turned-bird walk, I came across something that did make me squeal out loud. I’m glad there weren’t many people out that day. This is my first ever sighting of a Royal Spoonbill! I’m going back with my telephoto lens to get some better pics. Maybe I’ll drag the husband along, too.

cooks river greenway birds freelance writer (8 of 8)I stalked this Australian Pelican for quite a way down the river, until he got weary of me and flew off. I was fiddling with my camera settings and completely missed him swallowing a mouthful of fish.

cooks river greenway birds freelance writer (7 of 31)This is a Purple Swamphen. I never knew there was such a thing.

bike ride freelance writer (3 of 4)Later in the week, in the course of an interview, I was asked to go on a bike ride. I’ve been on a bike only once in the last 21 years, and that was two years ago when Salt Lake blocked off downtown streets for their Open Streets event. The thought of riding in Sydney scared the crap out of me, so at first I gave excuses of why I couldn’t do it. I don’t have a bike; I’m on deadline. Well, she had an extra bike. Something inside me sparked and said, “say yes to life!” I took her up on her offer.  That is definitely something I would not have done if not for that assignment. What started out as research for an article, turned out to be a chance for me to overcome fear, and I felt like superwoman afterwards!

Festival of the Winds – Let’s Go Fly a Kite at the Beach

Festival of the Winds (1 of 13)The sun is out, the days are warm, and the time has come to shed the shackles of winter. Sydney turned out in droves – droves I say! – for the Festival of the Winds at Bondi Beach on Sunday. We traveled to Bondi Junction by bus and train.  At the train station, the line for the bus on to the beach was an hour or more wait, so we gave up and took a taxi.  With all the traffic, it still took over 30 minutes to drive 4 kilometers.

Festival of the Winds (9 of 13)It was worth it though, because the primary reason for our excursion, aside from serious cabin fever, was to meet our new friends from the U.S., Tami, Jeff, Lexy, and Austin.  They arrived in Sydney just a few days ago, to make Australia their home.

Festival of the Winds (7 of 13)The kites were fantastic.

Festival of the Winds (11 of 13) I’ve never in my life seen so many kites in one place.

Festival of the Winds (4 of 13)There were dragons, sea animals, a pirate ship, and endless more variety. This appears to be a rite of spring here in Sydney; it’s been going on for over 35 years.

Festival of the Winds (2 of 2)Some people would have been better off watching the kites instead of sleeping!

Festival of the Winds (13 of 13)When’s the last time you flew a kite?

Wandering the Streets

Glebe Point Road and Broadway (1 of 10)
The bright, sunny day here in Sydney called me out early this morning.  It’s been rainy since Monday and it’s so funny how everyone keeps apologizing for Sydney not putting on better weather for us!  I rather enjoyed the rain.  And the sun.

When you’re out walking, it’s important to remember where the cars will be coming from so you don’t get run over.  Look right, left, right before you step off that curb!

Glebe Point Road and Broadway (2 of 10)
At first, we wondered if we’d lose our bearings without the mountains or a temple spire to guide us.  We kept a map handy the first couple times out; now, though, it’s all starting to make sense.

Glebe Point Road and Broadway (3 of 10)
The city is filled with gorgeous, old architecture.  Pay no attention to the lady in the window.

Glebe Point Road and Broadway (5 of 10)
Beautiful flowers blooming in the gardens.

Glebe Point Road and Broadway (6 of 10)
This is a place we’re becoming very familiar with!  It’s the Broadway shopping center, with four or five floors of almost everything you might want or need.  Get a haircut, a massage, and deck yourself out top to toe.  Then pick up a new phone or computer, and stop at the reject shop, which is like a dollar store.  When you finish that, sit down for an amazing coffee and a pastry before you go do your grocery shopping.  Our friends clued us in to a gem of a market in the basement.  It’s called Harris Farms; you can get fresh produce, baked goods, organic meats, cheeses, and lots of imported yummy things in jars.

Glebe Point Road and Broadway (7 of 10)
I only just noticed the skull on the tooth!

Glebe Point Road and Broadway (8 of 10)
When you’re walking on the sidewalk, remember to keep left just like driving.  This also goes for escalators.

Glebe Point Road and Broadway (10 of 10)
I ventured up Glebe Point Road a bit and found Sappho Books, Cafe & Wine Bar.  This almond flour cake found me.  And more coffee.  I thought it might be too early for wine.

We’re Going to a Land Down Under

Photo courtesy of Adam Campbell

My world has turned upside down.  This is appropriate because, yes it’s happened, we’re moving down under.  I feel like I should be happier about it, and I AM happy about it, but my emotions are all a jumble.  My feelings surrounding the move are all mixed together with my feelings about losing Rose, and losing my home, my current life.

We’re going to start a new life, and that is exciting!  We get to reinvent ourselves in a world where nobody there has expectations of who we are supposed to be.  And still, watching my nest walk out the door, twig by twig, in exchange for a handful of dollars, is wrenching me apart.  I am seriously coming to terms with my attachment to things.  I am appalled by how many things I have!  I keep thinking about how much money I spent on all those books and bowls and coffee cups.  As I exchange them for pennies or give them away I feel alternately resentful and relieved.  With everything that leaves I feel lighter.  Yet even as I vow to never collect that much stuff again, I am regretting that book or those latte bowls from Anthropologie.

I had a stack of the latte bowls and a set of dishes from Pottery Barn.  I really never actually used the dishes anymore.  They were big and bulky, I was tired of the color, and they chipped easy, but I was seriously attached to selling them, to recouping some of my money that I spent.  I posted them on Craigslist and we had a yard sale.  They didn’t sell.  In the end, I gave them to our next door neighbors who never would give us the time of day and who send their dogs over to poop in our yard.  It felt good!  In some weird, twisted way, I felt like I was getting even with them.

Letting go of all of our stuff is serving two purposes.  Part of it is just the reality of seriously downsizing to a tiny apartment, and not wanting or being able to pay to have all this crap shipped across the world.  The other part is that these things take up life energy.  If we take everything with us that is currently keeping us bogged down, we won’t be able to reinvent ourselves.  I see this mostly with all my old art supplies and the junk I’ve collected to do mixed media art.  I look at it and feel regret thinking, “oh, I never got around to making this idea I had.”  If I haul those undone art projects with me, there’s a good chance I’ll be hauling the regret with me, as those things continue to sit in a box undone.  But I’m also hauling an old idea of who I’m supposed to be.  If I’m free of all those expectations I have held of myself, I’m free to find out who I am without them.  I also feel like this myriad of tools and supplies for my various crafty and art interests keep me from focusing on what is most important to me.  It’s busy work to keep me from going after the life I really want.  I am ready to charge after that life with full passion.

All of this worry about things isn’t even the scary part of the move.  I’m worried and mournful about leaving my friends and family.  My children.  My granddaughter.  The really real truth is they live hundreds and thousands of miles away, so phone, facebook, and Skype is how we currently communicate.  We can still do that across an ocean.  And we will come back to visit.

I need to get back to work.  I’m attacking the kitchen today.  My posts in the upcoming weeks are going to be patchy, as we’re frantically trying to sort, pack, clean and get the house sold.  I will check in from time to time and share this life-upturning experience.