Our Last Hurrah

The end is nigh, in just 3 days I’ll be on a plane homeward bound.  It was very easy for me to decide what I wanted to do for my very last weekend here in the sunny land Down Under.  Maya and I both wanted to do the one thing that we can’t do any where else, our favorite thing that we’ve done here in Australia, we wanted to cuddle some kangaroos.  And, because what Aussie weekend would be complete without it, we headed back to the beach for one final day of fun in the sun and surf.  It was a weekend about reliving some favorite moments.  A weekend about wrapping it all up in the best way we could think of.  A weekend about saying goodbye to this place we have grown to love very dearly.

Come rain or shine I was determine to pet a kangaroo this weekend.  I knew I couldn’t leave Australia without doing it one last time.  The forecast was calling for a few showers but we headed out to Australia Zoo (Steve Irwin’s zoo) in search for some kangaroo cuddles and a fantastic crocodile show.  We ended up with a beautiful, chilly Queensland autumn day and the rain stayed away.

We caught the crocodile show made famous around the world by Steve Irwin and Animal Planet.

5-28-11 Croc showing off his skills [640x480]

We cuddled as many kangaroos as we could and spent a lot of time with a mummy kangaroo and her “big” little joey who was bravely testing out the outside world.

5-28-11 Maya and the belly scratcher [640x480]

5-28-11 Mum Roo with Joey eating some grass [640x480]

5-28-11 Joey came out to do a little exploring [640x480]

It was a day as magical as it was the first time we did it.  Truly there is nothing quite like getting up close and personal with such an adorable, soft, beautiful animal.  We loved every minute of our time with the roos and will cherish our memories of them for many years to come.

Sunday we weren’t too sure what to do at first.  There were a few different things we were considering but settled on one last day at the beach.  We headed to Main Beach on the Gold Coast for a chilly, breezy day of surf, sand and a bit of sun.  The air temperature and water temperatures weren’t super warm and not many people were in swimming.  Maya braved it with Lorne for a few minutes but spent the majority of the time on the sand.  Lorne and Maya worked on digging a big hole again.  It all ended up being a bit much for Maya and she did something she rarely did as a baby and NEVER does now, she fell asleep on the beach.  She used me as a beach chair and my big belly as a pillow and passed out cold for about an hour.

5-29-11 A cloudy, breezy day at the beach [640x480]

5-29-11 Chillin' on the beach [640x480]

5-29-11 Digging another big hole [640x480]

5-29-11 Maya using Mummy as a beach chair [640x480]

We ended our last hurrah weekend down at our favorite little river front restaurant eating Maya’s all time favorite food, pizza.  Lorne got to enjoy a few beers too.

5-29-11 Pizza Dinner at Boardwalk Bar & Bistro [640x480]

5-28-11 Lorne enjoying his pizza and 3 beers [640x480]

With our last weekend behind us and more memories than we can count tucked away we are getting ready for the journey home.  The bags are slowly being packed and we are gearing up for the big marathon trip home.  Maya and I are excited to be getting home but will miss Lorne and will look forward to him joining us at home in a month.  We’ll also miss our home away from home.  Australia has been good to us.  We’ve done more than we ever imagined possible and will definitely this place when we are gone.

Winding Down

It feels like just yesterday that I was writing about our arrival and getting settled in here in Brisbane and here we are 3 months later already and I’m writing about winding things down.  Time has gone by so quickly.  In a mere 10 days Maya and I will be saying goodbye to our down under home away from home and heading back to St. Louis.  It really is true what they say, “Time flies when you’re having fun!”

We’re definitely ready to be heading home.  Ready for the comfort of our own beds and getting see our beloved kitties and hang out with our dear friends again, but, part of me will definitely miss this place.  Part of me wants to stay.  The past 3 months have been amazing and have definitely made me fall in love with Australia.

This past weekend was the first of our last two weekends.  Since winter is rapidly approaching here in the land of Oz the temperatures have been steadily cooling, which means perfect beach days are often few and far between now.  With only two weekends left we feel the need to really make them count.  Unfortunately, the forecast for the weekend wasn’t great.  There was rain predicted for both days.  But, we were determined to make it work.

Luckily, we were able to miss the rain both days.  We left our adventures just as the skies opened up.  It worked out perfectly and we ended up making a few more memories to take home with us.

Saturday we stuck around town and headed up Mt. Coot-tha to check out the views of the city from the look out at the top of the mountain and then headed just down the mountain to the Brisbane Botanic Gardens for another meander through the gardens.  The views of the city and beyond from the top of Mt. Coot-tha were beautiful, even on a hazy, cloudy day.  We wandered around the look out for a little while, soaking it all in before heading down to the gardens.  Lucky for us a bunch of flowers, including cactus flowers and tropicals that weren’t in bloom last time were beautifully in bloom this time around.  We wandered around the gardens, stopped to let Maya climb all over the rocks in the cactus/rock gardens that she loved so much last time and had a nice picnic lunch up at the top of the gardens before heading back to our apartment just as it started to rain.  It was a lovely day.

5-21-11 View of CBD from Mt. Coot-tha [640x480]

5-21-11 Beautiful coral cactus flowers [640x480]

5-21-11 Can't get enough of the rocks [640x480]

Sunday morning we woke to find cloudy skies and more rain in the forecast.  Maya really wanted to go to the beach, and even though it wasn’t going to be a particularly warm day and we might get rained on, we decided to test luck and head to Main Beach on the Gold Coast.  It rained on us on the car ride there, but the skies cleared up by the time we got there and we managed to squeeze in a couple of hours at the beach before the rain clouds rolled back in and the skies opened up.  The beach was practically deserted, something we haven’t experienced at Main Beach, it is usually hoping with people.  There were a few other families and a bunch of surfers enjoying the rough waves, but that was it.  It was cool for swimming but Lorne and Maya managed to get in for a little bit.  We spent most of our time busy on the beach digging a big hole in the sand.

5-22-11 A quiet cool day at Main Beach [640x480]

5-22-11 Big jumps over the waves [640x480]

5-22-11 Lorne and Maya begin the big hole dig [640x480]

We ended our weekend having dinner down on the river at our new favorite restaurant, Boardwalk Bar and Bistro.  Every Sunday they have a special where you get a personal, wood fired pizza and a beer for $7.  Plus, you get to sit right by the water and enjoy the atmosphere that only cheap beer and pizza can offer.  Lorne especially loves it because he gets to drink mine and Maya’s beers since one of us is pregnant and the other a bit to young for beer drinking.

The weekend ended up being perfect, even if it did a rain a bit.  Now we are down to just one weekend left.

Where, Oh Where Are the Toilets

In the time I’ve spent here in Australia I’ve noticed something very odd.  There is a serious lack of restrooms, bathrooms, washrooms, loos, toilets, whatever you want to call it.  Now, truth be told, if it weren’t for the fact that I am very pregnant and the mother of a potty trained 3 year old who likes to wait until the last second to tell me she has to go pee, I may not have even noticed this phenomenon.  But, I am both of these things and thus have very much noticed the serious lack in adequate amounts of toilets available for public use.

Finding a restroom here is like finding a needle in a hay stack.  Restaurants don’t even have restrooms most of the time (at least the downtown ones anyway, it may be different in the burbs).  And, since there aren’t that many toilets and often one public restroom is responsible for handling the load of all people within a one mile radius that may need to urinate while out in public they are usually extremely busy.  I just don’t get it.  Why the lack of toilets?

Before our trip to Sydney I thought maybe it was a Queensland thing.  I thought maybe the little and big beachside towns and the CBD of Brisbane were alone in their desire to not provide enough toilets.  However, upon visiting the lovely city of Sydney I discovered that Queensland is not alone in this.  Sydney had an even more serious lack of toilets, which, I didn’t think was possible.

Here in Brisbane I have it down to a science.  I pretty much always know where the closest public toilet is to where ever I happen to be, or at least the most likely places to find them.  So, when we are out and about in Brisbane I’m usually good.  Sydney was a different story.  On one of our days we had to practically run at least a kilometer from where we were in order to find a toilet for Maya.  She was crying by the time we got there because she had to go so bad and as always the line up for the ladies room was out the door so Lorne had to take her in the men’s room and just butt in front of an old man waiting to use the facilities.  I mean that is crazy, especially since we were in a very busy, highly touristy area at the time.

In Sydney sometimes the only toilets around are pay toilets.  That’s right, if you gotta go it’ll cost you 50 cents.  Now what if you don’t have change on you, what are you supposed to do then?  Keep walking and hope you run into a free public toilet before it’s too late!

5-14-11 50 cents to pee [640x480]

The only thing I can glean from this serious lack of toilet facilities is that Australians just don’t have to pee very often.  Perhaps it is a result of the fact that beverages cost an arm and a leg so people aren’t drinking as much and therefore don’t have to pee as much, I don’t know.  I do know that it has been a serious hassle to my ever full pregnancy bladder.  I’ll be glad to go into a restaurant when I get home and know that if I have to pee part way through my meal I won’t have to walk half a mile down the street to the nearest public restroom.

Whirlwind Trip to Sydney

2 full days and 2 partial days, 2 plane rides and 4 train rides, 3 very tired people, and 300 pictures later and we are back in Brisbane from our whirlwind trip to Sydney. What do you get when you try to cram a week’s worth of adventure into just a few days? You get a whole lot of excitement, adventure, sore feet, exhaustion and pure fun. We may be tired and it may take us all week to recover from the trip but it was absolutely worth it.

5-15-11 Sydney Harbor [640x480]

When we planned this trip to Sydney we knew we were going to have to fit a lot of stuff into the few short days we were there.  Sydney has a lot to offer, there is a ton to see, and we wanted to do and see as much as we possibly could.  I don’t quite know how we did it, but we somehow managed to drag ourselves around the huge, very crowded and busy city that is Sydney to see and do all we set out to.  We had such an amazing time.

Our first day in the city was a short day since it was also the day we flew in.  We had arranged our travel so that we’d arrive in the morning on the first day and scheduled an early check in at the hotel in hopes that we’d have most of the afternoon to explore a bit of the city.  Our plane was on time, actually it was a tiny bit early, and the train got us into the CBD (central business district or downtown) very quickly.  We made our way towards the hotel from the train station, stopping for a quick bite to each along the way.  We arrived at the hotel just in time for our 12pm early check in.  Unfortunately, the hotel was not able to get us or any of the other guests who filled the lobby waiting on their early check ins, into our rooms.  Bummed, we made our way to a park near by and killed a couple of hours there until we could finally get into our room at 2pm.  We quickly dropped off our bags and headed out to make the most of the few hours of daylight that remained.  Given the limited amount of daylight that remained we didn’t do a lot that first day but we did manage to wander around Hyde Park, check out the magnificent St. Mary’s Cathedral and wandering around some of the extremely busy downtown streets.   It was a good first day in Sydney.

5-14-11 Anzac Memorial in Sydney [640x480]

5-14-11 Magnificent church [640x480]

5-14-11 A View of Sydney tower [640x480]

Sunday was our first full day and we had a packed itinerary intending to make the most of our time in Sydney.  We woke early Saturday morning and headed out the door with a plan to head down to the harbor front to check out the world famous Sydney Harbor, Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge.  We had discovered the evening before that there was a half marathon going on in Hyde Park and parts of the Royal Botanic Gardens on Sunday morning so we made our way to Hyde Park first to cheer on the runners before meandering into the outskirts of the botanical gardens, along the water to make our way down to the harbor.  As we walked along the water front path we stopped often to admire the views of the water, the city skyline and the first glimpses of the opera house and harbor bridge.  Our walk down to the harbor that first day was beautiful.  Getting to see the world famous attractions of the harbor, the opera house and the harbor bridge was just incredible.  It is amazing to see things you’ve only ever seen on television or in photos in person.

5-15-11 Family shot with opera house and Sydney bridge [640x480]

5-15-11 Sydney Opera House [640x480]

5-15-11 Up close shot of the Opera House [640x480]

After strolling along the harbor front and wandering around the Sydney Opera House for a while we made our way over to the Sydney Harbor Bridge.  We walked part way across and stopped at a lookout to check out the incredible views afforded from being so high above the water.  You can pay to climb up the bridge, and I”m sure it is amazing way up at the top, but it is seriously pricey and they don’t allow young children (they probably don’t allow pregnant women either, but I didn’t check).  We were happy with the views we got from the walkway across the bridge.

5-15-11 The Sydney Harbor Bridge [640x480]

5-15-1 Maya and Lorne on Sydney Harbor Bridge [640x480]

5-15-11 Our view of the city from Sydney Harbor Bridge [640x480]

As if that wasn’t enough fun and adventure for one day we decided at the last minute to check out the Sydney Aquarium as well.  After consulting our map we headed back through the downtown to cross a different bridge into Darling Harbor, home of the Sydney Aquarium.  Our feet and backs definitely regretted the decision later but it was worth it.  We had a great time checking out all the marine life.  Maya especially loved watching the sharks swimming all around us as we made our way through the glass tunnel that runs through the middle of the shark tank.  It was a great ending to a perfect day.

5-15-11 Close up shot of a shark at Sydney Aquarium [640x480]

Monday, full day number 2, was another jam packed day of fun.  The plan for our second full day was take a ferry across the harbor to Taronga Zoo and spend a fun filled day with the animals.  We were up and at ’em bright and early again to make our way back down to the harbor front in order to catch our zoo ferry.  The ferry ride across to the zoo was awesome.  We had heard that seeing Sydney from the water was an absolute must, and it is.  The views from the water of the skyline, the further away suburbs, the opera house and the harbor bridge are incredible.  However, to our surprise the best views of the day awaited us on the other side.  The Taronga Zoo is built into a very steep hill with the entrance to the zoo being at the very tip top.  There are two ways to get up to main entrance, either by bus or by gondola.  We went for the obviously more fun option of the gondola ride.  The views back across the harbor and down on the animal exhibits were amazing.  Even more amazing views awaited us in the zoo.  We saw some amazing views back across to the city from the zoo as we meandered through the animal exhibits.  The giraffes definitely scored the best view.

5-16-11 Family shot on the zoo ferry [640x480]

5-16-11 Checking out the view back at the city skyline [640x480]

5-16-11 The giraffes have quite a view [640x480]

We spent the whole day hanging out with the animals and had a fabulous time.  After exhausting ourselves at the zoo we made our way back across the harbor to get some dinner in The Rocks, one of the oldest areas of Sydney.  We had pancakes to die for at Pancakes on The Rocks a very popular restaurant that specializes in dessert style pancake meals.  I had found this place a few days before we headed down to Sydney and was really looking forward to eating there, and boy it didn’t not disappointed.  Our dinner of pancakes, fresh strawberries and ice cream was delicious.  So yummy, aren’t you jealous 😉

5-16-11 Digging into our pancake dinner at Pancakes on the Rocks [640x480]

Our final day in Sydney was another partial day since we had a plane to catch at 2pm.  We got yet another early start as we wanted to make the most of the few hours we had before we had to head to the airport.  We loaded up the stroller with our bags and headed out.  The plan for the morning was to wander around the Royal Botanic Gardens before heading to Circular Quay on the harbor front to catch our train for the airport.  The gardens were beautiful.  Since it is almost winter here in Australia there weren’t a ton of flowers in bloom, but the plant life that was thriving was beautiful.  We saw a ton of cockatoo parrots throughout the gardens and several trees filled with sleeping bats.  Plus we go to see some more amazing views of the city and catch a glimpse or two of the opera house from deep within the gardens.  It was a nice, relaxing way to end our trip to Sydney.

5-17-11 A ton of parrots eating under a tree [640x480]

5-17-11 The trees at the gardens were filled with sleeping bats [640x480]

5-17-11 Pond with city view at the gardens [640x480]

It may have been a whirlwind of a trip but it was absolutely incredible.  Our goal was to make the most of our time in Sydney and that we did.  We filled our days to the brim and had aching feet and backs at the end of the day as our reward, but we did and saw all the things we intended, plus some.

There is definitely something about seeing things in person that you’ve only ever seen on television or in photographs, things you thought you’d never see in real life. Sydney is a world famous city filled with world famous attractions.  The skyline, the opera house, the bridge, it all more than lived up to my expectations.  I hope that one day I’m able to get back to Sydney to see it all again.  Until then, I’ll hold moments like this in my memory and marvel at the fact that my 3 year old daughter has done things and seen things many people will never get to do or see in their lifetime.

Adventure Within An Adventure

Arguably, we are in the midst of a once in a lifetime experience.  We knew going into this that the things we would do, the places we would see, the experiences we would have, would likely be things we’d only get to do once.  Traveling to Australia is a big deal.  It takes enough time and money that it isn’t something a person is likely to do over and over again (although I’ll be hankering to come back after this experience).  When this opportunity came up we knew we couldn’t pass it up even though it meant I’d be spending part of my pregnancy here in Australia and would have to figure out prenatal care while I was here.  Even though it meant I would have to travel back home alone, with a 3 year old and while 32 weeks pregnant.  Even though it meant that Lorne wouldn’t be coming home until a  mere 4 weeks before my due date.  We couldn’t let these things get in our way, we knew we had to do it.

When we were planning our trip our goal was to do and see as much as we could given that Lorne would still have to work all week long (and we haven’t found a money tree yet!).  Australia is a huge country, we’re talking indescribably huge, and seeing everything, or even a small part of it, is difficult if not impossible.  We didn’t let that stop us.  From the moment we arrived we have been doing our best to soak it all in, to see as much as we can.  We can’t travel to all the places we would love to go, time and money just won’t allow it, but we’ve made the best of the time we do have and we’ve explored our little corner of Queensland to the fullest. I’m proud of how much we have made our time stretch, of how much we’ve been able to do and see.

Time is winding down for Maya and I.  In just 3 short weeks we’ll be heading back home.  This weekend we are heading out on a little adventure within an adventure to help us feel like we made the most of our time here.  We are heading to Sydney.  I figured we couldn’t come to Australia and not see the one place everyone knows, see the sites most famous around the world.  So, in the wee hours of tomorrow morning we will head out to Sydney.  We’ll spend 3 days exploring a different city.  Seeing sites most will only ever see in pictures and on television.  We’ll soak it all in, create even more fantastic memories to take home with us.

We were determined to leave here feeling like we had done all we could given our time and money constraints.  When I board that plane for the long journey home I know I will feel like I’ve made this adventure all it could be.  We’ll have memories to last us a lifetime.

Look out Sydney, here we come!