Monday, 10 November 2014

Two weeks Down Under





Well I been quiet on here for a short while, those that follow the blog via its Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/SingaporeTales?ref=hl will know that this is because hubby and I have just spent 2 weeks holidaying in Australia. When we came to Singapore we just knew that however a short time we might be here, we couldn't miss the opportunity to visit Australia. It's a place we probably would never of had the opportunity to do so from the UK, unless like many others we emigrated. 

When we started planning the trip we wrote a long list of places we dreamed of visiting there, Sydney Opera House, Harbour bridge, Great Barrier Reef, Uluru, kangaroos, koalas, penguins, emus, the Out Back, Blue mountains, vineyards etc etc..... the list was endless. We then looked at the map and reality hit us, AUSTRALIA IS BIG!!!

After much planing we narrowed it down to what we could squeeze into 2 short weeks (even then we haven't managed to do everything on the list) and we set off with grins on our faces "we're going to Australia, the otherside of the world". OK maybe not the otherside of the world to SG but it's is from UK!



Stop 1.

Sydney and area 



We landed in Sydney, deposited all our bags in the hotel in the CBD and headed the 10 min walk straight down to Circular Quay and off course Sydney Opera House, hubby's life long dream was to visit here and he admitted to having goosebumps when he saw it. Amazingly the first people we spoke to there were Singaporeans who wanted their photos taken :)






We spent a few days in Sydney and walked the CBD, Harbour Bridge (across not over too too expensive for us $250!!! per person) we explored the Botanical gardens, government house. 







The cityscape views were amazing and it was a delight to see so many old buildings. Not only old but very very grand, solid and massive in size too. I guess the UK city centres lost many of these buildings throughout WW2 . 














One of my favourite places was The Rocks, an area of houses dating back to the turn of the 20th century many of these homes are rented out as public housing. In The 1920s the bubonic plague broke here and the area at many times has been subject to the threat of demolition, but its has survived. It is however under threat again not of demolition, as the buildings are now "heritage" but those living, extremely cheaply, in the public houses are under threat of being "moved" elsewhere and the houses developed and of course the rents/sale values will soar, being in a prominent, central area of Sydney. To be honest, although sad for the residents, the area is somewhat run down and forgotten and something needs to be done, without killing the historical atmosphere of the place of course. 




After a beautiful first day that evening Sydney was hit by a freak weather storm, SG lightning and floods, with quite substantial damage being caused, power failures, transport stoppages and even snow in the nearby Blue mountains. We took a trip on the ferry to Manly on a stormy day with the water looking very choppy. As the ferry was turning out in the bay the waves became huge, I was filming but just as it appeared the ferry was going over I stopped!!! Certainly an experience I won't forget in a hurry.

Manly I loved, so many 1920/30s bungalows and homes, Due to the weather the beach was closed which gave us the place pretty much to ourselves - bliss, well pretty much to ourselves apart from those strange wet suited clad creatures that are surfers. The large waves were magnets to them and there they were out in the stormiest part of the Bay. We spent the day walking around the Manly spit. The place empty apart from us, trees down and branch debris blowing around. We met an interesting volunteer at the information building who gave a passionate and informative history of the area. If you go there it's well worth visiting this charitable information post. 










We couldn't come to Sydney and not go to Bondi beach now could we?? So the next day we hopped onto a bus (transport certainly seemed easy) and arrived to a beautifully sunny, but still breezy day. We spent a couple of lovely hours walking up and down the bay, spotted lifeguards from the TV programme Bondi Rescue - OK I admit it was probably me and not hubby who was lifeguard spotting ;)  We later walked south along the coast passed Icebergs, the outside swimming pool, at the edge of Bondi and then around the cliff side and down along the coast.







We left Sydney and flew to Melbourne where we picked up the hire car and drove south down to the coast. I have to admit I'm glad it wasn't me driving, those lorries are HUGE! 

Thoughts as we left Sydney on my first impressions of Australia, both good and bad..

Can be as cold as UK
Cornwall on steroids
Like childhoods memories of holidays with grandparents. Sydney does Victorian grandeur and shops better than the British!
Old buildings still in use, high streets still going strong, no charity shops, healthy community.
So many old buildings more than expected.
Very like home, trouble reminding myself I am in Australia. 
Like England with a bit of USA, Paris, San Fransisco etc etc thrown in.
Friendly people.
Beards are popular!!
All manner of people, all looks.
Man walking his cat on a pink lead.
Downside - too comfortable, easy, homelike, hoping Melbourne will make me feel I'm on the otherside of the planet 
lots of people smoking on the streets.
Don't have the comfortable holiday "freedom to be anyone" feel in Sydney, yes I did in Manly and  although not in Bondi. Bondi stunning but I prefer smaller coves south of Bondi. 

Stop 2.

Lorne (Great Ocean Road - OCR)


Well the Great Ocean Road certainly lived up to expectations! Words can't really do justice to the clean, turquoise and white rugged cliffs and sea. Boy it was cold though! that wind has come straight from Antarctica!! But it was clear, clean fresh and so good to breathe! Have to admit think I may have just got a little used to Singapore's constant heat and I really struggled with the temperatures!!




Lorne was lovely, we were out of season pretty much so it was relatively quiet, always a plus for me. Flocks of cockatoos and galahs (rose breasted cockatoos) were seen everywhere, just as seagulls are in UKs coastal towns and villages. What amazed me most was seeing parrots flying around. The bird life is certainly more colourful that the UKs birds.





We stayed in a Victorian, wrought iron, verandered hotel at the end of the bay, close to the pier, where we walked in the evening to watch the fishermen, who were all Greek, there seems to be a large Greek community here. 





We drove along the coast winding backwards and forwards (no straight roads here) and walked into the Otway Forest away from people where we were so excited to see koalas in the trees. It took us awhile but once we'd got our "eye in" we spotted numerous ones. We were even more delighted, as we then rounded a corner, there was one sitting by the road! He or she casually sauntered in front of us, across and down the hillside to his next tree - magical. This day we also spotted kookaburras, but I have to admit by the end of our holiday we had seen so many we were quite blase about them! 





Stop 3.

Apollo Bay 

The day we drove here we detoured into the Otway Forest, along a never ending, twisting, narrow, picturesque road with the straightest and tallest trees I've seen, shooting up from the hillside. We stopped and visited the Otway Fly, a 600 metre long, 30 metre high metal tree canopy walk. Great experience especially for someone who doesn't like heights, I was truly chuffed with myself. http://www.otwayfly.com





Then on to Apollo Bay, a large windswept unspoilt bay, with huge white horses of surf, extremely invigorating to walk along the front, again having the place pretty much to ourselves. 




A trip out from here that is a must was the drive further along this magnificent coast line to view the Twelve Apostles. Bedruthen Steps in Cornwall but on a gigantic scale. Certainly on my list of must sees, although I expect it would be extremely crowded during the peak season. 





Take another visit to the Cape Otway, the second most southerly point in Australia and visit the Lighthouse there, an idyllic if isolated windswept spot and the drive up and down to sit is through more gum forests where sadly the gumtrees are dying although nobody understands why. These trees are home to more koalas which we saw and sadly their food source is dwindling away. Although sad to know these trees are suffering, the silver of the trees against the bright blue skies gave to stunning photo opportunities.






I sadly bid farewell to the south coast and fresh sea air and we drove back to spend the last part of our trip in the CBD and exploring Melbourne. 

Stop 4.

Melbourne.

I'm not sure what I expected from Melbourne, too be honest whenever I thought of here it was always as, that's where Neighbours is from!!! Hubby had flatly refused to visit "Ramsey Street" so that was definitely off the itinerary :)
We headed straight to the information centre at Federation Square, a place I would end up coming to each day as there's free wifi. A great idea to get people to come together. 
Melbourne is a busy, quirky, artistic city where it felt like almost anything goes, especially tattoos, beards and pink or blue hair!! Clearly an artistic centre. Lots of rough sleepers and an awful lot of smokers, something that surprised me throughout our holiday, I had always had the impression of Australia being a health conscious nation.









Over the 4 days we were there I think we pretty much walked every street within the inner city. From Victoria Park, Botanic Gardens, museums,Yarrow River walks, the magical shopping arcades which reminded me of my forgotten childhood, a memory of what the UK used to be like. Tall statuesque buildings. Various districts with differing architecture, Oh and trams mustn't forget the trams!




Singapore and Singaporeans are renowned for their love of food and eating, but I have to say Melbourne is right up there too. The food again was incredibly fresh and as before massive portions. After day 2 I literally couldn't eat dinner that night, I would of exploded!! The streets are lined with cafe after cafe and everyone seems to be completing business there rather than in their offices. Parks were being used for recreation and at lunchtimes those in suits exchanged them for shorts and sportswear and were seen running around the parks, grabbing a quick bite, before back to an afternoon of work. 
The city itself is an eclectic mix of countries, architectural styles, ugly tag graffiti and amazing street art. It felt like anything goes here. 







Victoria Market is a must for any visitor, from the tourist "souvenirs" and clothing, to the utterly gourmet delights of the fresh meat, fish, delicatessens that made us salivate and plan how we could some how transport the whole place back to Singapore. We had hunted and researched somewhere we could get some real aboriginal art and found this lovely lady and her son in a "shop" Koorie Connections, on the edge of the market. An aboriginal herself Julie Peers has,over many years, grown the business where grandmothers produce the artwork and help provide for their grandchildren. She has won many awards and we must of spent a good hour of more with her as she explained about many of the ladies, the history and helped us to understand the artwork. We're delighted with that we purchased. She can be found here http://www.enjoygram.com/koorie.connections.altair 


We went up the highest skydeck in the Southern Hemisphere and on our last day took the tram just a few stops to the coast at St Kilda. Here we walked along the pier, watching just about every form of  waterborne transport and sport you could possibly think of and spotting two penguins asleep in the rocks, before a walk along the front then returning for a final meal signalling the end of our trip. 











Thoughts as we ended our second week 

Week 2. 
Melbourne flat, industrial but suddenly we feel we're in Australia. Flat low lying bungalows, gumtree lined roads /and scrubland.
Signs for kangaroos 
Galahs, parakeets and cockatoos everywhere. Cockatoos in flocks out fighting and scavenging the seagulls for human food.
Beautiful cyan blue skies and Tasmanian sea again Cornwall on steroids.
Small towns/villages still with the architectural Heritage in tact, a blast from my childhood. 
Great too see the independent stores thriving.
People so friendly, say hello "g'day" as you pass by.
Now I'm on holiday!!
Would I spend all the money from UK to get here? - home away from home, can see why people from UK wish to emigrate here. 
HUGE portions of food!


Thoughts on the Australia we visited and experienced.

Only saw and experienced a tiny tiny portion of this massive island, so my thoughts would no doubt change and evolve under different visits. I was surprised that I had to keep reminding myself I was in Australia, the otherside of the world to the UK. Everything seemed so familiar and yet different at the same time, one moment in Paris, then San Francisco, New York, York, Newcastle, Edinburgh and on and on. At every turn of corner I felt I was transported to another place, both familiar and slightly unsettling at times. I hadn't expected this but thinking of Australia's history and that's it's still a relatively "new" country I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Maybe to truly feel I was in Australia I needed to visit the outback, Uluru, somewhere that could only be Australia. The country is huge, the portions are huge! The people incredibly friendly outgoing and so enthusiastic :)

A terrific holiday, a place I never thought I would visit. I'm a very lucky lady.