Monday, June 26, 2017

Canada Travel: Vancouver & Pender Islands

We'd barely caught our breaths from returning from Oz when we were packing our bags again and heading back to the airport. A weekend away in one location promised to be an easier trip. So why did we still have so much stuff?!

Baby whimpered when we first boarded the plane, and we had to reassure her that she was not going to spend a lifetime on this flight. The one-hour trip to Victoria would feel like nothing to a pro traveller like her. She quickly adjusted and remained happy for the entire flight despite the crying babies and restless toddlers surrounding us.

Our final destination: Pender Island for Craig's cousin's wedding. But we'd never miss an opportunity to do a little extra exploring while we were away! It would be Erin's first time visiting Vancouver Island or any of the surrounding Gulf Islands, and the views from the window seat did not disappoint as we descended towards Sidney.

Having only a few hours before we had to catch our Pender-bound ferry, we opted to explore Butchart Gardens and have lunch at Brentwood Bay. Clear skies and a light breeze made for an enjoyable walk around both. Our little nature-lover agreed that it was the perfect add-on to our day.

First carosel ride!

Craig's family had rented a stunning VRBO property on South Pender Island. Its panoramic views and posh interior were enough to make anyone relax. We enjoyed some good quality family time both at the property and at the wedding itself, which was gorgeous and personal. It was there that we celebrated Baby's six-month milestone. Could she be any cuter???

We planned it to have time on our outgoing day to visit Victoria and all of its charm. Baby still wasn't sleeping without assistance so we were just exhausted by the end of our fourth day away from home. So we'll admit that we didn't make the most of what Victoria had to offer. But we did luxuriate at Beacon Hill Park (where we took a family nap on the grass), and we wandered the harbourfront. We also didn't miss the opportunity to get gelato and have a patio lunch. We know we've got our priorities straight...

All in all, it was a successful little trip. We send a big shout-out and congratulations to Nikki and Brodie for including us in their special day. Cheers to a life of adventure together!

Friday, June 23, 2017

NZ/Aus Days 53-60: Sydney

The week that followed was full of much lounging around and catching up with our great friends Kristen and John. We were thankful to have enough time in Sydney to casually see bits of the city while still enjoying lots of card playing, beach crawls, and time with Baby. We loved both the bustle, energy, and food of Newtown, and the chilled-out seaside vibe of Coogee.

We made sure to get down to the Sydney Harbour more than once to appreciate views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. For a sight so iconic to Australia, we weren't sure it would hold up to the images in our minds. But the Opera House exceeded both of our expectations in its size, unique architecture, and accessibility. We had drinks at the Opera House bar, took a quick look around the inside, and walked its perimeter.

Another highlight was taking a boat from Watson's Bay to the harbour so we could appreciate the Opera House and bridge from a different viewpoint. We'd highly recommend this for anyone visiting Sydney.

On our last day of our two-month-plus trip, the four of us visited the Blue Mountains, and, of course, finished the day off with lots of laughs, some great wine, a match of Wha-bam, and some sad good-bye tears. XOXO

Day 60 seemed to go on forever, and with good reason. We left Sydney at 10:30 am and had a very long 13 hour flight where Baby refused to go in the bassinet. We transferred through San Fran, departing for Calgary before we had technically left Sydney: 8:45 am on the same day. A rough couple of weeks followed as the three of us adjusted to the 8 hour time difference, significant increase in daylight hours, and re-taught Baby how to sleep independently again. But it was all worth it for the amazing memories we created together on our first-ever family travel adventure.

NZ/Aus Days 50-52: Jervis Bay

Two long driving days followed with a quick night's rest in Eden. Our favourite stop was the surf beach in Narooma where we ate lunch and strolled along the shoreline. The white sand squeaked as it was supposed to do at Squeaky Beach in Wilson's Prom (where it had been too wet from rain to squeak). The pristine beach was deserted and as we looked out at the waves we noticed a pod of dolphins swimming by. They gaily rode the waves towards shore and jumped above the surf. Delighted, we watched, as one leapt from the water straight up in the air like a dolphin at Sea World trying to tap a hanging ball with its nose. We almost begrudingly got back in the car as it was such a lovely place to stop and rest.

A brief walk at Bateman's Bay
We spent the next two nights in Jervis Bay where we lounged on Hyams Beach, saw kangaroos, and tried desperately to get Baby back on her regular sleeping schedule (with no avail). It was with weary legs that we drove to Sydney, glad that it was our last stop and that we had smiling friends waiting to spend time with us. A few nights of drinking Australian wine and playing Wha-bam sounded just about perfect right now.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

NZ/Aus Days 47-49: Sandy Point

We bid Melbourne farewell, and with it our friends, and continued on our way the next drizzly morning. We drove for what felt like forever along an uninspiring suburban highway that had us feeling thankful that we don't have to commute to work at home. Slowly the landscape started to change, and we were glad to finally turn Bo's nose back toward the coast.

Craig had picked a beach spot for us to stop at on Phillip Island. It had lovely sand and great views of the tumultous sea, and we joked that it had much less seaweed than his previous break spot. Unfortunately, the chosen beach was home to an endangered shearwater nesting ground and only one bird successfully left the beach that season. So... we had to do a lot of side-stepping around bird carcasses... and dying birds. :(  Nevertheless, we enjoyed the stunning view above.

We got back on the road heading to the complete opposite of bustling, trendy Melbourne. Three nights of solitude awaited us at our hideaway on Sandy Point. Where our Melbourne flat had been tiny, loud, and bright, this accommodation had oodles of space (as in, an entire king sized bed and bedroom for EACH of us!), the deafening quiet of a summer resort area in the off-season, and it was so dark that you couldn't see your hand in front of your face once the lights were out. It was perfect! The only similarity was the weather. At least the rain stayed OUTside our place this time. The other bonus? A short walk to a sandy beach, of course. We ventured out and were happy with our decision to come in fall for both the lack of people, and the lack of snakes on the grassy pathway to the beach.

Another draw of staying at Sandy Point is its proximity to the protected marine park, Wilson's Promontory. The Prom is host to such a variety of Australian wildlife that we were bound to see something cool. We set off early the next morning, and the day did not disappoint. We quickly checked the boxes of nearly all the classics: kangaroo, wallaby, emu, and echidna (and sadly a few dead wombats on the side of the road). Alongside the animals, the scenery was stunning. We walked another beach and drove to an impressive viewpoint. We would highly recommend setting aside a couple of days to explore this beautiful and wildlife-abundant area!

Friday, May 5, 2017

NZ/Aus Days 45 & 46: Melbourne for Reals

We got into Melbourne late in the afternoon and after getting groceries, feeding Baby, eating ourselves, and putting her to bed, we were more than pooped. We'd spent a lot of time in the car the last three days and were ready to stretch out and recoup. Unfortunately, the Melbourne Department of Transportation had different plans for us.

Our accommodation was situated right beside the above ground train station. For some reason, there was an apparent need for the trains to honk their horns when coming into the station. Loudly. Sometimes with two honks. So imagine trying to put a baby to sleep during rush hour when trains are arriving every three minutes from each direction. It was brutal. Then imagine trying to sleep yourself on a saggy mattress while the trains continued to do this all night long. Hell.

Maybe the day will turn around
So when we got up the next morning (note that we did not say "woke up" as that implies we were sleeping in the first place), the deluge taking place outside mirrored our moods. When the hail started coming down and water began falling (again, note the word choice - not "dripping"), and the apartment started to flood, it was laughably appropriate. Except that we were too busy throwing our bags on the bed and pulling the couch away from the wall to laugh.

But, you see, we had brunch plans because the thing to do in Melbourne is to go for brunch. So we got dressed, shrugged our shoulders at the pool of water on the floor, (and notified the owner), and went to brunch!

After a delicious meal and delightful conversation with Kirsty, we threw in the towel, (or more literally, threw it on the floor), and decided to cancel our plans for the day. Thankfully, Erin's cousin Ros is the most accommodating person in the world, and she agreed to come to us for the day rather than meet us downtown. To this, we were so grateful, especially when we discovered that our train station had closed due to flooding (though the trains still needed to honk when passing through the station!). We relaxed, got caught up, did laundry, gave Baby a bath, and had a much needed day at "home."

With the second night being not much better than the first, and our 2.5km drive taking 35 minutes in morning rush hour traffic, we were not feeling oh too happy with Melbourne. But we tried our best to give the city a fair chance. Whether it was Ros's upbeat personality, the fact that the sun finally came out, or that we were away from the infuriating beeping, we actually did find things to enjoy. 

Melbourne is trendy but not uninviting. It has a thriving art scene with interesting-looking museums that we would've checked out if we'd had more time. And we loved the alleyways with wall-to-wall graffiti. We sadly didn't get to visit the bar under the bridge because it wasn't open yet, but we did stop for a bite beside the river. Thankfully, for us, Melbourne's best attribute was its company. Thanks, Kirsty and Ros, for making our time there enjoyable!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

NZ/Aus Days 45 & 46: Melbourne

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

NZ/Aus Days 42-44: The Great Ocean Car Park

Okay, we admit it: we've been incredibly spoiled this trip. We had five weeks in New Zealand zipping along mountainous and coastal routes with the roads to ourselves enjoying breathtakingly beautiful scenery. So when we heard the words, Great Ocean Road, we kind of assumed that the road would hug the ocean.

To be fair, we were doing it backwards.
It worked better for us to go from Adelaide to Melbourne, meaning we were looking back for the best views, we weren't on the coastal side of the road, and we started, rather than finished, with the Twelve Apostles highlight. But nearly our entire first day of driving was through farmlands and brush without a wave or cliff in sight. How is this portion a part of the Great Ocean Road? We also had the disadvantage of needing to get a baby in and out of the car seat at most stops because the viewpoints required some walking. This was hard on all of us.

Despite our grumblings, we enjoyed the trip. Here are some of our favourite moments and places:

The Grotto
Gibson's Steps
The Twelve Apostles
The Twelve Apostles
London Bridge
We were so excited to spot our first koala on our own...
no cars pulled over or anything!