By the time I hit Sydney, Australia (on September 11th), I was ready to CHILL OUT for awhile. Not only was I “travel-exhausted” in general from the past seven months, but the week prior I had been staying at hostels on my own and had quite a few late nights out with hostel friends (you meet SO many more people when you travel solo!) and I was ready to just slow down for a bit. Since my visits to the next three cities in Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide) would involve staying at friends’ houses, I was ready to just take in “normal family life” with them all and have a nice time catching up and spending time together.
First up: SYDNEY
I spent a total of nine days in Sydney, and was fortunate enough to stay with an old college friend of mine, Megs, her husband, Alex, and daughter, Kate. It was so wonderful to be greeted with smiling, familiar faces! In addition, they just got a Cavoodle puppy a month or two prior, so I was ECSTATIC to be able to spend time with an adorable dog as well. [click here to see a video of me playing with ADORABLE Ginger, the puppy.] I had been greatly missing my dear Sonny (my Yorkshire Terrier dog) back home, so I was appreciative to have a canine friend to walk and play with during my time in Sydney.
Alex and Megs have a nice home in a suburb just outside of Sydney, and I could get around quite well on my own, as there was metro station nearby (a 20 minute or so walk). In general, though, it was SO wonderful to be with friends, back in a REAL HOME… I was actually a bit overwhelmed by it in the beginning. Well, in a GOOD way. After months and months on the road and throughout Asia, it was WONDERFUL to sleep in a REAL bed, eat a REAL home-cooked meal (with all the foods and spices you could ever want!), to have a NICE and NORMAL shower, and to have a washer and dryer that gets clothes TOTALLY CLEAN and TOTALLY DRY and SMELLING GOOD! Take a look at the post I made on Facebook (to the right) about my excitement about being in a REAL home for the first time in so long. In addition, I was also inspired by their food shopping and cooking, as they purchase and eat a LOT of interesting fresh vegetables and fruit (bought straight from a farmer), and Megs made all kinds of delicious and unique meals and salads while I was there!
Anyway, so I spent the first two or so days in Sydney just around the house, relaxing, resting, and catching up on computer stuff. The rest of the time was somewhat busy, but somewhat laid back… and was mixed with family and social time with Alex and Megs and their friends, along with alone time where I wandered around the city for HOURS on end, coming home with blisters on my feet and ready to crash out in bed immediately! Since I had visited Sydney back in 2010 and did a lot of touristy things with my friend Julie, there
wasn’t as much urgency this time around to hit any big sites. But I did, however, fit in a lot of nice things… did a hike/walk from Spit Bridge to Manly Beach [click here to see a video from our hike], saw a show at the Sydney Opera House and enjoyed dinner and wine beforehand, visited Bondi beach and watched the surfers, took a ferry under the Sydney Harbour Bridge over to Darling Harbor, walked walked walked EVERYWHERE around town, had a lovely wine-and-cheese pairing dinner, visited the Contemporary Art Museum, attended a lovely birthday dinner party with some great people, experienced a drag queen show at the Imperial Hotel [click here to see a video from the show], walked all over the Botanical Gardens, and had a lot of amazing meals and WAYYY too much wine!
In the end, it was a lovely stay with great friends (THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH, MEGS AND ALEX!!) and I was sad to move on!
[To see my photos from Sydney, click here.]
HOWEVER… I was excited for my next stop: MELBOURNE!
I initially planned to just stay at a hostel in Melbourne for an undetermined amount of time, but a friend of mine from back in Los Angeles (Shira) was kind enough to put word out on Facebook to her friends in Australia, and a family in Melbourne offered to open their home to me! (THANKS AGAIN TO YOU GUYS!!) The mom, Justine, had been friends with Shira “back in the day” and warmly welcomed me at the airport when I arrived (on Friday, September 20th). We shared lunch together in a nice farmer’s market area and then back at the house I met the rest of the family: the dad, Bernie, the three 10-11 year old daughters: Peri, Shaini, and Marley, and their GIGANTIC “Groodle” dog, Mo. They were prepping for a big Shabbat dinner (a big Jewish family dinner) that night, in which I joined a group of their friends and family later on for a DELICIOUS meal! I then ended up spending most of that weekend thereafter with the three girls, who were curious and fascinated by my travels, my American accent, and pretty much everything about me. 🙂 They really were a riot! It was also interesting listening to them talk about their lives, their friends, and their interests… it’s amazing how smart and tuned-in that 10-year-olds can be nowadays.
Besides family time, I got around Melbourne a bit… in the remaining four days I visited Federation Square [see video here], walked to the Docklands, took the tourist tram around the city, spent some time in St. Kilda and Luna Park, met up for dinner and drinks with an old friend, Michelle (who I originally met back on my Euro-tour in 2006), visited the Australian moving image museum, bummed around the National Gallery of Victoria, walked through Fitzroy Gardens, had lunch with a friend-of-a-friend (Alex) in a lovely park in the city center, went to the dog park with Justine and the girls (OMG their dog, Mo, is absolutely AMAZING… he’s like a real person, and truly a “gentle giant!”), and just had a lot of nice meals and home time with the family. Again, I had been in Melbourne before, back in 2010 with Julie, and we even did a side trip from Melbourne to Adelaide along the amazing Great Ocean Road, so on this visit I spent more time relaxing and just walking around the city, rather than feel the urgency to hit a ton of tourist spots around town. Furthermore, I was feeling a bit under the weather, and was starting to REALLY miss being away from James, so I was fine with taking it easy that week.
[To see photos from my time in Melbourne, click here.]
And speaking of “taking it easy”, I continued this mindset as I moved on to ADELAIDE!
I decided to visit Adelaide mainly to spend time with my good friend, Janelle. Janelle is another person I befriended on my 2006 Euro trip, and I also spent time with her back in 2010 when Julie and I stayed at her house and went on a fun wine tour together. When I arrived at the Adelaide airport (on September 26th), we immediately set out in her car, headed south to Janelle’s family’s vacation home down in very small beach town, Middleton. On the way, we drove through the McLaren Vale wine region and stopped at a few wineries and tasted some lovely vino! We spent two nights at “The Shack”, which is the nickname for Janelle’s vacation home, and ate out and had drinks at the nearby neighborhood restaurant/bar. Some of her friends joined
us on the second night for drinks and such, and we drove around the cute little nearby towns for shopping, food, and spotting whales.—that’s RIGHT! We saw whales!!! At this point in my travels, I had spent one month along the eastern coast of Australia, where the whales were SUPPOSEDLY in the middle of their winter migration, but I hadn’t seen ONE whale… until now! [Click here to see an amazing video of one of the whales we spotted!]
Back in Adelaide, we spent the next five or so days at Janelle’s mother’s house… enjoyed a LOT of wonderful home-cooked meals, visited the nearby beach town of Glenelg, watched movies, had lunch and wine at Henley Square, drove all around town, and had a few nice dinners out on the town. The weather was pretty dreary the whole time I was around, so we spent more time at the house… but I was perfectly fine with that! THANKS AGAIN TO JANELLE AND HER MOTHER, ANNE, FOR THEIR WONDERFUL HOSPITALITY!!
[To see photos from my time in Adelaide and Middleton, click here.]
At the end of my stay in Adelaide, it was October 3rd: six weeks after we initially arrived in Australia! I really hadn’t expected to spend that much time in the country, but I was glad I had the luxury to take it slow, visit lots of friends and spend quality time together, and really soak it up. THANK YOU TO ALL THE WONDERFUL AND GENEROUS PEOPLE I STAYED WITH ON MY TRAVELS!! I felt SO fortunate and appreciative for the amazing hospitality!
I was also glad that my overall experience in Australia was a mix of everything: diving the Great Barrier Reef with James, Marty, and Ann, then our crazy campervan journey down the coast of Australia , then a little together time and alone time throughout Queensland, and then my own adventures throughout these three cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide) visiting friends, staying in houses, and experiencing a lot of down-home time.
As I sat down in my seat in an airplane headed for South Africa, I closed my eyes and smiled about all the moments in Australia I would cherish… and then smiled wider, as I knew it was time to move on to the next page in our crazy travel-story. I would finally be reunited with James again after one month apart (the longest we’ve been apart so far!) in Cape Town, South Africa, for a whole new three-month adventure ahead.
Stay tuned for South African stories ahead…