Mother-Daughter Bonding Down Under – Week 2

I can’t believe the second week with my mom has already drawn to a close. I am so thankful she extended the trip to three weeks because the original plan was just for two. We still had to cut out some major things to fit into a doable itinerary, but we are having a blast.

Our first week, we spent mostly exploring Sydney and the surrounding area. For week 2, we left New South Wales and technically stepped foot in three other states (Northern Territory, South Australia, and Western Australia). I say “technically” because SA was only for a layover and I don’t think that counts, but in the same regard I can now say I’ve “technically” been in all of the Australia’s states. Don’t worry SA/Adelaide, I promise to visit soon. This week was a lot of firsts for both my mom and me and I’m so glad I was able to experience it with her! 

Monday/Day 8 – Early morning flight from Sydney to Ayers Rock airport. We are going to the OUTBACK, BABY!! Major bucket list item for both of us, but for different reasons. Full on blog posts coming soon, but I’ll just highlight for now. We had avocado toast at the airport before taking off. We arrived around noon and were able to check in to the resort straightaway and had a small lunch at the resort. After cool and rainy Sydney, we were shocked by the heat, sun, and flies which met us in the Outback. Our first priority was to buy fly nets and a hat for myself. We have big dinner plans tonight at the Sounds of Silence dinner. We start off the evening with sunset canapés and bubbly with a breathtaking view of Uluru. Then we had a gorgeous dinner and ended the evening with a viewing of the Field of Light exhibit.  

Day 9 – Had a chilled morning and rode around the property, saw an educational talk on aboriginal culture, and had a dip in the pool. Later in the day we actually enter the Uluru–Kata Tjuta National Park and do a guided tour. Concluding the night with sunset, small nibbles, and bubbles. 

Day 10 – Our last full day at the resort. I make use of the pool again and we go to a “Bush Talk” at the resort and learn about Australian and local native bush foods with a tasting of seasonal seeds, fruits, and spices. The evening brings what I was most looking forward to in the Outback – the camel ride. We leisurely ride for about an hour and watch the sun set. 

Moose the baby camel

Day 11 – We again have a chilled morning before departing via bus to Alice Springs. My mom acted very motherly here and did some laundry before we left. In the meantime I made a stop to the “Funny Farm” and spent some time with the baby camels and misfit animals. It’s a long scenic ride, but the commentary from the drivers was great. Along the way we saw wild horses, camels, dingos, and others four legged animals. I also may have gotten some shuteye. It’s already getting dark when we pull in so we explore the hotel and have dinner onsite that night. 

Day 12Valentine’s Day – I snuck in a cheeky swim in the AM before heading into the town for brunch. Then this was a full on travel day as we were heading to Perth connecting via Adelaide. We arrived in Perth in the evening and opted for dinner at our hotel. The air is so refreshing here and we take an evening walk. 

Day 13 – Vegan brunch and then my mom’s dreams came true when she held a koala. She can now leave Australia content. Her dream became a reality at a visit to Cohunu Koala Park, which we took Uber to and from. For dinner we went to the hot spot, Petition Kitchen, and had a really great meal. 

Day 14 – Tried to get an early start and headed to Fremantle in the morning. We spent some time exploring the area, had lunch, and walked around the markets. Then we took the train to Cottesloe Beach. We strolled on the beach for a bit before heading into Cottesloe Town for an early dinner. Taking the train back into Perth my mom somehow convinced me to get a pedicure, but with the store’s credit card machine not working I ended up paying for it myself…. treat yo’ self, right? We have an early morning ahead of us with more excitement ahead for my mom’s last week down under. 

Catch up on what we were up to our first week. 

Last week I had my mom rate the restaurants we had eaten at. This week I asked her to rate the accommodation we had stayed at to date. Obviously, all of the properties were very different and across the entire country (you can’t really compare a basic NYC hotel to an Arizona resort to a Chicago high-rise hotel – if you get my drift), each with their quirks, but this is her opinion from best to least favorite of the properties we have stayed at during her two week stay in Australia: 

  1. Hunter Valley Crowne Plaza 
  2. Sails in the Dessert – Uluru 
  3. Doubletree Alice Springs
  4. Fraser Suites Perth 
  5. Sydney Novotel Darling Harbour
  6. Sydney Rydges Sydney Harbour 

Mount Cook – New Zealand

Mount Cook was a bittersweet stop. It marked leaving Queenstown and that my time in New Zealand was drawing to an end. If this trip made me realize anything it was a new found love for mountains and lakes. I was really looking forward to staying near the famous Mount Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand.

On our drive we stopped at Lake Pukaki. Oh my goodness was this lake stunning. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it before. The blue was just unreal with a mountainous backdrop. The water was also unmoving and the lake was surrounded by rocks of all shapes and sizes (perfect for skipping). 

The little town surrounding Mount Cook seems tiny, but our driver told us that they have strict rules on the colors of the buildings so they blend into the landscape. I thought that was a brilliant way of planning the city and keeping everything true to nature and not just catering to tourists.

Our first day in Mount Cook was beautiful and something we were told doesn’t happen often. We had a clear view of the mountain the entire drive and day. We were encouraged not to waste the day and check in quickly to fully enjoy it.

We did the Hooker Valley track and it was unbelievable. The track each way was just over 3 miles and filled with gorgeous views of Mount Cook, the Southern Alps, Lake Pukaki, and Hooker Glacier. There were beautiful suspension bridges throughout and gorgeous scenery. It was a nice walk to really take in a gorgeous day. Before turning around you end at Hooker Lake, which has floating icebergs in it! Plunge in if you dare into the ice cold water and you’ll have the bragging right of saying you stood on an iceberg in the middle of summer. We really took our time making the entire walk and then hung out by Hooker Lake for a bit, the total trip time was about 3 hours. You can do it quicker or even slower if you choose to lounge around and have a picnic by the lake. Around the lake the weather was cooler because of the surrounding mountains, but most of the actual walk was very hot with the sun over us.

Given the remoteness of the area and care taken to protect it the light pollution is very limited here, therefore the night sky is incredibly clear once it’s dark. Feel free to grab a mate and go star gazing, but note if you come during the summer that won’t be until at least 11:30pm, but it’s worth it.

Accommodation – Mount Cook Lodge

Recently refurbished Mount Cook Lodge was a treat. It was basically staying in a hotel room that was converted into a four person dorm. They renovated in November so it still felt clean and fresh. The ensuite bathroom was the biggest perk as it was spacious, clean, and stylish. On the second level there was a restaurant/bar with an outdoor terrace so there really wasn’t any reason to venture out. The staff was also very friendly and gave the environment even more of a hotel feel. I think there were other hostels in the area, but this one would be my pick. Location and cleanliness of it would be hard to beat.

Back to Sydney and Australia Day 2020

I’ve officially been traveling and away from home for four months (eek that means I’m a third of the way through my year long visa). It’s crazy how quickly time flies by. It’s obviously been a long time away from my family and friends, but it’s also been jam packed with new memories and experiences. I’ve been really reflecting on my decision to move to this side of the world and realize how lucky I am to have this opportunity to live abroad.

I’m not settled down in one place and I’m not sure I will any time soon. However, I’ve spent the most amount of time in Sydney and it has sort of become a home base. I have my favorite spots and have also met amazing friends here. After, every trip when I get back to Sydney it feels a bit like coming back home.

I flew back last Wednesday and even though I was only away for six weeks I think a lot of change has taken place in the city. The lock out laws are a thing of the past; the light rail is now operational; it’s significantly hotter/muggier outside; the T8 train now goes from the airport to Circular Quay – no transfers necessary; those are just a few things I noticed. It is great to come back to a city and see all the progress and changes that occurred over a few weeks. I think when you live somewhere you don’t really notice these types of things because it’s part of your daily life.

My time back in Sydney has been busy. My first full day back I had brunch at Speedo’s Cafe and had to say goodbye to one of my first Sydney friends as she is now off to New Zealand and Bali before heading home to Spain. Then I attempted to go to Bondi, but it was a bit too steamy to stay out very long. I did get to see some filming for Bondi Rescue.

The weekend held another brunch, this time at the “most instagramable spot,” at Social Hideout. Then my friend J and I explored the surrounding neighborhood of Green Square and Rosebery. I really loved this area and could potentially see this as a future apartment area if it comes to that point. Later that evening we went to the markets and got dumplings in celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year.

Now that brings us to Australia Day. Before coming to Oz, as an American I incorrectly associated Australia Day with a Fourth of July type of holiday. I thought that it was fully a national holiday of celebration. Then once you’re in Australia you realize that there is a much deeper and darker side to it in regards to the Indigenous people of this land. I am in no means an activist or claim to know nearly enough to educate others on this topic. That will be my self-assigned homework. What I did know is that Australia Day was going to be a long day full of city-wide activities, many of which are “fun” and celebratory. If I was going to partake in these activities, I wanted to at least start the day honoring/acknowledging the other side of the holiday and get a bit cultural. I woke up early to make it to the 7:45am WugulOra Morning Ceremony at Barangaroo Reserve. This morning’s event included the ancient custom of a smoking ceremony, dancing and singing performances, appearances from NSW’s governor, and more. Afterwards, I headed to the Rock’s Market and then to Manly. We went to a cute brunch spot, Girdlers Cafe, tried to go on the beach but were prevented from going into the water by bluebottle jellyfish, and went to the wharf instead. Then we bounced around more and went to a house party out in Pymble, where I finally got to experience and Aussie BBQ. It was a nice, but long day. I’m glad I didn’t go over the top and was able to “celebrate” in a mindful way. First Australia Day in Oz was a success, but now I’m going to do some historical research.

City Spotlight – Brisbane

Brissy was the last major stop on my scouting of East Coast cities to eventually (potentially) settle down in for longer than just a couple of weeks. Whenever you talk to anyone who lives in Australia they present mixed views of Brisbane. Most will say don’t waste your time and others tell you that you’ll love it. So I didn’t know what to expect. After spending just a couple of days here I also have mixed feelings towards the city too. It’s not as crowded as Melbourne or Sydney, but it’s bustling and growing so you feel the potential, however something is missing. The major negative for me about Brisbane is that there isn’t a beach close by. They did try to alleviate that issue with creating an urban beach called South Bank.

During my full day in Brisbane I took the free ferry (City Hopper) from South Bank to Sydney Street. I then walked back making stops along the way (including lunch and a little bit of shopping). For lunch I stopped at Felons Brewing Co., this was recommended to me by a group I had met in Byron Bay and it was right on the water. I’m so glad that I stopped here and was really impressed with the recommendation. It was exactly what I needed before continuing exploring.

That evening I took a HIIT Australia class. I was so excited to finally take one of these classes because I’ve been following the company/founders on Instagram for years. For dinner that evening I tried Vietnamese food for the first time at Viet de Lites.

The highlight of my time in Brissy was going to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. I’m a total sucker for animals and I had loved visiting Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary in the Gold Coast when I visited last. I arrived early in the morning to get the most of the programming (and I was also flying out that evening so I was limited on time). The first thing on the agenda was the lorikeet feeding. It was so loud and hectic, but awesome to experience. One even landed on my head, but thankfully I didn’t get pooped on. Then I went over to the kangaroo and wallaby enclosure to feed and pet them. Afterwards, I attended the free flight raptor bird show. The birds were tremendous (and scary). I spent the rest of the time walking around and saw other animals/exhibits, before ending the experience with holding/cuddling a koala. Trust me this doesn’t get old. Koalas to me seem kind of majestic and seeing and holding one feels surreal. If you go to Brisbane make sure to take at least half a day to go to Lone Pine.

Before heading out to the airport I wanted to check out the West End. I didn’t have too much time to explore, but I walked around a bit and then grabbed some roti. I would definitely go back and spend more time in this area.

My overall impression of Brisbane was positive and I definitely didn’t have enough time here, but I’m not sure I would want to live here long term – maybe a couple of months would suffice.