Getaway to NSW
If you read my previous post on Machu Picchu, you would have seen me mention that I’ve been too busy to blog as I’ve been having ACTUAL holidays. I have to admit, I’m not really too sorry about that fact.
I would forgive you for thinking “Sure, you’re a teacher, you have holidays all the time – can the excuses and do some writing!”. You would even be forgiven for thinking that I have nothing better to do on my holidays then think about witty, entertaining things to share with you, my dear reader. However, we’re now at the end of week 2 of term, and I’m only just getting a chance to slow down…right before I go away this weekend!
I will agree that, perhaps, my blog has been over-taken with travel-related posts for the past few months or so. But can you blame me?
I once said that I didn’t want to be the type of blogger who let writing about life get in the way of, well, living. To me, if I’m worrying about what I’m going to write, instead of creating experiences to write about, then that’s just counter-productive. Don’t you agree? I promise, one day soon I’ll get back to the more ‘lifestyle’ aspects of my lifestyle blog, but for now you’ll just have to enjoy the journey with me.
On Wednesday a few weeks ago, Ryan and I jetted off to create some new memories. We were finally, FINALLY going down to New South Wales to visit some friends of ours, Katie and Simon.
I met Katie when I worked at The Walkabout bar in the Temple district in London. We shared numerous 8pm til 3am shifts, bonding over exhaustion, putting up with pompous Londoner customers, and our mutual crazy outlook on life, the universe and everything in between.
When we both went our separate ways we made time to meet up again in Spain and Scotland, and when Katie finally made the big shift back to Oz (a good year after Ryan and myself) we were lucky enough to have her and her boyfriend, Simon, come and visit us in QLD. They were even so kind a couple of years later to visit us for our wedding…so a visit down to their stomping grounds of Newcastle was long, long overdue.
As I was on school holidays we decided to make a real break of it. We packed our bags, and headed down for a 5 night mini-break, with Bondi, Sydney, Newcastle and the Hunter Valley on our itinerary.
Usually when I am going on a trip, I am pretty obsessive about planning. Where will we stay, where will we eat, what will we do? However in my post-Term 1, post-Dirranbandi exhaustion, I slacked off a little. Heroically, Ryan stepped up to the plate.
We planned to do things a little differently and give Airbnb a try. We settled on a room in a two bed, two bathroom apartment 5 minutes walk from Bondi Beach, that was occupied by a single Gen-Y lady, Kate. Kate was really friendly, gave us heaps of advice on the local area, and welcomed us to make ourselves at home. We barely saw her for the rest of trip, so it really was like having our own apartment for a few days. Despite the hike up 3 flights of stairs, it provided all the necessities. It was super comfortable and we settled in very nicely, and it didn’t hurt that there was a load of trendy cafes 500 metres up the road and the beach 500 metres down the other side. I definitely would recommend airbnb for travellers wanting to save a little bit of money and live like a local for a little while!
Unfortunately, compared to our steaming hot Queensland weather, Bondi was a bit on the chilly side. We ventured to the beach once or twice, and took a gorgeous walk along the coastline from Bondi Beach to Tamarama for some epic scenery. I would love to live closer to the beach in QLD…but definitely the Sunshine Coast I think.
(I’m wearing a strapless bikini, just FYI).
The rest of the time we ventured into Sydney CBD as Ryan has to attend some meetings for Kapiche. I opted for a little bit of shopping, and the next day a little bit of sight-seeing (for Ryan’s benefit) and a whirlwind exploration through the oldest city in Australia. We visited the must-dos, Darling Harbour, Sydney Opera House, and had lunch in a lovely Italian restaurant with a view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. When Ryan had to run to another meeting, I hunted down Harts Pub, which had been recommended to me by my friend Dan, for a quiet place to have a beer and post my Dirranbandi blog. On the way I found the Rocks Discovery Museum, a really intriguing look into the pre- and post-colonist past of The Rocks district and it’s surrounds.
I know it may not really be of interest to most people, but having taught the journey of The First Fleet several times, I really find it fascinating to see first hand some of the artifacts from this time. If only I could bring my class on an excursion! I really love the Rocks district, and am a little sad that we didn’t spend more time exploring it at a more leisurely pace.
Finally, on Saturday, it was time to move on to Newcastle to visit Katie and Simon. We hired a sexy black Mercedes C200 (as you do), slid open the sunroof, connected to the bluetooth stereo, and were on our way.
My family is from Newcastle. My mum was born and grew up there, and she and my dad moved back there after they left England. In fact, despite my deep-seated love for all things Maroon’s related, I was born there (ssh, don’t tell…). We used to drive down there from Brisbane regularly to visit friends and family, however I haven’t been back for a good 9 years. I knew all the names, all the places, from my childhood and discussions with my family, however I didn’t ACTUALLY know my way around or what to do or see there. Luckily, Katie and Simon had that all sorted.
We only had a short time there, so we went to the most important places – Nobby’s, Newcastle Baths, Merewether, the ANZAC Memorial walk, and a quick drink stop at Merewether Surfhouse, an amazingly cool place overlooking the beach.
I could definitely see myself living in Newcastle if I was to move back. It’s just a cruisy, laid-back city with a beach 15 minutes in any directions. Katie, I’m sorry! I don’t know why I took so long to visit!
We ended the day with home-made pizzas, beers and boardgames – a few of my favourite things. That’s the best thing about travelling to visit friends, in my opinion. The mixture of sight-seeing adventure, and chilled out home-style ambiance. If I had a friend in every city, I can guarantee I would never be too long in one place.
The other perks of having friends in different cities, is that THEY sometimes have friends in high places. Katie and Simon both work at the Crown Plaza Newcastle, and when they told us that they had a free (yes, you read correctly) voucher for a night at the Crown Plaza Hunter Valley, we jumped at the chance to join them and experience some of the finer things in life in New South Wales’s premier wine growing region. Not only that, but they knew the manager of the hotel and would we like to be upgraded to a villa suite? Don’t mind if we do!
The next day we hopped back in the Merc and drove the half our or so journey to the Hunter Valley. I got to drive, in fact! And I didn’t even crash, not once. I hope you’re proud of me. It may have had something to do with all the flashing lights and beeping sounds, not to mention the reversing camera?
First stop was our hotel to drop off our stuff. We were thrilled at the size of our suite, and couldn’t believe how lucky we were to be spending the night here!
We tootled off to our next destination – The Scarborough Wine Co. – where we were treated to a complimentary wine tasting and cheese platter (thanks to some different friends of Katie’s). We were so impressed we bought two bottles, and Ryan announced “I might actually like this wine tasting stuff after all!”. We headed out the back of the winery, and the view was spectacular. Ryan and I agreed that we could definitely see ourselves retiring somewhere like this!
Next we headed to Two Fat Blokes for some lunch, and purchased a small but amazing selection of goodies from the deli. After stuffing our faces and stopping off for another photo op, we decided to part ways for the rest of the afternoon – the boys would head to Potters Brewery while Katie and I headed back to the hotel for a chat by the pool, followed by other girly stuff like drinking too much wine, eating too much cheese, and singing along to cheesy power ballads, making big plans to start a band together (I’m sure the villa’s neighbours didn’t mind at all).
The night ended with me buying 3 pizzas for myself from room service, Katie and Simon passing out on the couch, and an unexplainably smashed wine glass. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem like we were classy enough to last in the Hunter Valley, but we could pretend for just one night!
Monday saw us say our sad goodbyes, before climbing back in the Mercedes for one last hurrah through the Sydney traffic to get to the airport.
I have much more of an appreciation for Sydney and Newcastle since this holiday. Before, it was always a place I used to live, or a place Ryan sometimes goes for business. But now it’s a place to go to have a good time, see some good friends, have some great food, and visit some amazing places. I will definitely be back.