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Australia – My time in a land Down Under

Earlier this year, just before the UK went into lockdown, like I literally just made it home in time, I took my first ever trip to Australia. I left in February and returned around 5 days before Boris delivered the message to stay home. I will be forever grateful I got to take this last adventure before months of quarantine.. although I made my own adventures and realised how beautiful my home town can be (Lockdown Adventures blog coming soon).

I flew economy with Singapore Airlines, with a connection in Singapore. I’ve explored Singapore before and just wanted to get straight to Aus so opted for a 6 hour layover rather than a few days as some people like to do. My experience with Singapore airlines is one of the best I have known and I have flown long haul with Emirates, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Etihad and more but for me Singapore Airlines tops the lot.

I mean they brought ice cream round, had the most leg room I’ve ever had in an normal economy seat, the staff were friendly and the food was good (as far as plane food goes). Singapore Changi Airport is my favourite airport ever and the best for a few hour layover. A few years ago after a few days in Singapore I went to the airport and checked into the rooftop pool, lying in the sun, having a dip in the pool, all the while planes were taking off and landing over my head.

The entry to the pool cost around $17 Singapore Dollars but for that you also receive a drink, towel, use of the pool, jacuzzi and a changing room facility equipped with showers, perfect to freshen up before your flight. This trip, I wasn’t connecting in the terminal for the rooftop pool, but was for the amazing butterfly garden.

Walking through those doors into an array of flying colours, the floor lined with beautiful tropical plants and the walls covered in flowing waterfalls, you would not think you were waiting for a flight in an airport, what a perfect little escape. There is so much to do in Singapore airport aside from the pool and butterflies.

There is a slide, Cactus garden, Sunflower garden, Entertainment deck, Orchid Garden plus so much more and if your connection is more than 6 hours then you can take a free tour around Singapore starting from the airport, around the city and then back in time for your next flight.

This trip to Australia was bitter sweet for me, it is a place I had always wanted to visit and had been excited about it for months but a few weeks before this trip my family suffered a devastating blow, we lost my beautiful Nan. I am a very family orientated person and my grandparents have played a huge role in my life since the day I was born. When my parents worked my Nan and Grandad would  look after me. They would take me out to Chester for the day and rent a boat along the river, have me and my sister for sleepovers every week and turn it into a movie night with chocolate and cake, they taught me to swim, they taught me a lot of things and other than when I have been away travelling I have seen them every day of my life. Even as an adult whenever I would have a break from work I would call in for a brew and my Nan would always have food ready for me, She was such a feeder.

She was the most caring and loving Nan you could wish to meet and her and my Grandad were childhood sweethearts and have been married for more than 50 years. As I grew older they became the type of Grandparents I could do anything with, they would come with me into Liverpool for cocktail afternoons, we would go to the races together, we would go out for lunch and go away on holiday together too. They were amazing and I know I am so lucky to have had them into my mid 20’s. So loosing my Nan and her leaving behind my heartbroken Grandad, its just been one of the hardest points of my life. I try to live life with a positive outlook and to always be happy and positive but seeing my Grandad without my Nan is something I just cannot get used too. He lost his sparkle and his smile for a while. So leaving for Australia just a few days after her funeral was a big worry, in one way I just wanted to get away from real life and escape but on the other hand I could not bear the thought of leaving my Grandad.

Since we lost Nan back in January I have seen him every day, whether it’s a quick cuppa or we go out to spoons for lunch, He is and always will be a huge part of my life, he puts on a brave face for me but he has had to face so much this year without her. He turned 80, faced the craziness of a pandemic and lockdown and he took his first holiday all without her. I did take the trip down south with him and did not realise how amazing Devon is.. future blog on Exmouth coming your way soon. The second that flight left the ground I broke my heart, the tears came and I felt so guilty leaving him. He had been a comfort to me through loosing Nan, when I am with Grandad I still feel close to her. Grandad gave me my Nan’s eternity ring and I am so grateful that I have a way of keeping her with me no matter what. I fully feel the energy from her soul is embedded in that ring and now placed on my finger I will forever feel her by my side.

I took this trip to Australia with my parents and sister it had been a dream of all of ours for quite some time and my mum and dad are literally the coolest, most fun parents you could ever wish for.. they have a desire for adventure, its literally where I got it from and they will always come party with us.. when we travel together as a family I feel like were 4 best mates travelling together.

I called grandad most days that we were away and he wanted nothing more than for us to go on our new adventure, not worry about him and have fun. He was okay but I was so happy to hug him when we got back.

Our first stop in Aus was Melbourne. We rented an amazing apartment from air B n B right in the Docklands area of Melbourne, nestled by the water and only moments from the city. We landed around 9pm at night and so jumped a taxi and headed straight to it. Wow it was gorgeous, not right at the top of the block but it felt like we had a penthouse suite.. gorgeous modern kitchen with a breakfast bar, corner couch and high tech TV, the comfiest beds and amazing balconies that looked out onto Victoria Harbour on one side and the Yarra river on the other.

We dumped our cases and was straight out onto the first balcony, seeing the lights of the city and the boats bobbing up and down it just felt surreal. I was literally stood on the other side of the world and filled up with emotion.

After travelling for 24 hours I needed 2 things.. Real Food and a bed. It was late and so we popped to a supermarket and grabbed bread, toast was literally the best thing after hours of plane food. Quick, easy and comforting and then I settled down into bed.

The next morning the sun was peeping through the curtains and I just couldn’t wait to get out there and explore. I was up, showered, dressed and ready to go by 8am. When I first arrive in a new place I love nothing more than to use the first day to just wander around, get a little lost and take in my new surroundings. In Melbourne there is a free tram service within the city and The Docklands fell into the route but I just feel like you take in so much more and get your bearings better when you’re walking. So on went my Nike trainers and little backpack and off we went.

Every corner we turned I was in awe, walking along the Yarra river, people sitting along the edges in swanky bars and restaurants, music playing & drinking coffee before work, I loved the vibe already. I stopped at every single one and read the menu. Food and drink is a very important part of my travels and so I check out all the best places to go. We walked along the river to the Royal Botanical Gardens, most of the walk spent ducking from the white and yellow parrot like birds swooping over our heads and hanging from the telephone wires. (I come to find out they were actually Sulphur – crested cockatoos).

The Royal Botanical Gardens Victoria were beautiful, the first day we had some cloud and a little chill in the air, it was February and coming to the end of their summer. We wandered for a while round the different areas of the gardens from the Eucalyptus lawn, to the tropical glass house and the Fern Gully, it was all so colourful and interesting. I did see a few huge cobwebs and started to panic that a tarantula was going to appear from the plants. The Ornamental Lake is the best part and is just the perfect spot to sit and have a relax in the sun, I wanted to carry on the exploring so just walked around but it is a perfect spot to spend a few hours.

One of my favourite parts of Melbourne was The Laneways. Situated in the central business district of Melbourne are numerous lanes and arcades, dating from the Victorian era, these ‘laneways’ of narrow streets and pathways filled with cafes, restaurants and street art are a must do in Melbourne. I spent hours wandering through the hustle and bustle of the laneways, hundreds of cafes and quirky little restaurants with people sitting out in the middle section enjoying a wide array of drinks and food. There was everything from Italian to Turkish to Greek.. the choice for lunch was so hard.

There were cake and chocolate shops with the most magnificent looking desserts on display in the windows. We eventually decided to grab lunch at the ‘Mock Turtle Café’ .. we got the cutest table under gorgeous patio heaters, right in the heart of the laneways, perfect for my people watching habit. I had THE nicest Chai Latte ever, so nice I drank it within a few moments and ordered a second. For lunch I had Avocado and poached eggs on sourdough. Insanely good, I highly recommend this as all of our food was delicious.

Jetlag is a killer and after walking for hours, the pool back at the apartment was calling my name. I headed down, dressing gown in hand, swam in the heated pool, hopped in the hot tub and the lay on a sunbed and got lost in my kindle for a few hours. Exploring is amazing but I always love that time to relax too.

That evening we got dressed up and headed out to a restaurant that we’d sussed out earlier in the day. Plus 5 was its name and it was gorgeous, right on the river with an outdoor terrace, it was still a bit chilly to sit outside. Swanky inside and live music on the weekend it was just up our street. We ordered a gorgeous bottle of red wine, I always have red wine with food it’s my fave. We had a Morgans Bay Shiraz/Cabernet and it was around $45 Australian dollars so not far off £25. They had a huge menu of funky cocktails and amazing G&T’s plus a wide variety of food. The main meals ranged from $14 – $26 Australian dollars, I highly recommend the pizza, it was perfect, my fave was the Diavola, we loved it so much we ate there a couple of times.

The next day, the sun came out to play, I still wore jeans and took a jacket but I was so happy to see the blue sky. We had a morning walk around the waterfront, through the Flagstaff gardens and up towards the Queen Victoria Market. This market is a big landmark in Melbourne and is actually the largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere, spanning 17 acres, its safe to safe there was lots to see. The market is open every day except Mondays and Wednesdays, it offers locals and visitors a wide variety of fruit, veg, meat, poultry and seafood, as well as special delicacies. There is also a large non food related section selling bags, clothes, jewellery and handmade arts and crafts. I didn’t buy anything but just enjoyed the vibe of the place.

After a good few more hours of walking and exploring we stopped for a well deserved rest, The General Assembly on the South Wharf was our lunch location. Of course I ordered a fizz and we sat on the terrace outside with a view of the Yarra and city just in front, the food was not my favourite here, a bit pricey for what you got and in general not the best standard. Perfect location for a drink and a break with a gorgeous view but maybe skip on the food or at least order something different than the chicken burger.

From Melbourne we hopped onboard The Celebrity Solstice and headed for Sydney, more about the ship in a separate blog….. ( Cruising blog coming soon).

After a few fun days at Sea, we approached Sydney, we came into port at 6am so I set the alarm to be out on my balcony for sunrise and to see Sydney come into view. Stepping out into the warm morning breeze, pinks and purples filling the sky and the outline of the Sydney Harbour Bridge & The Opera house coming into view, my eyes welled up.. again. I am a very emotional person as you may have guessed, but one of the most famous cities in the world coming into view, one that you’ve seen in films and in pictures and always dreamed of going, being stood there it all just felt so surreal. All I could think of was my Nan.

We got off the tender right next to The Opera house, I stood and looked at it for a good few minutes just in awe that I was about to go and explore Sydney, Australia! It was hot during the time we spent in Sydney, 40 plus degrees at some points. Just walking around was so exciting, through the buildings, round the harbour  and under the bridge.. because it was so hot and I was literally dripping wet we decided to jump on the hop on/hop off bus to get our bearings first. The loop on the bus was one of the best I’ve seen, covering the whole city and more, the best transport in the gorgeous hot weather was to be up on the top deck with the wind blowing a breeze through my hair, You can get a ticket for the day for around £20 PP.

After a loop we hopped off at one of the locations I was just dying to explore – Bondi Beach. The sun was blazing down I just couldn’t wait to get down in the water, we decided to have lunch first at a stunning little place called ‘Hotel Bondi’ … We sat outside on the terrace with a view of the beach just in front, bare foot surfers walking past ready to hit the waves was just making me all the more excited. The place we had lunch was amazing value for money, all of our food was gorgeous and so cheap considering the location, I ordered the chicken tacos and a refreshing ice cold beer!

After our pitstop it was finally time to hit the beach, during lunch I had decided to have a little look how many shark attacks there had been in Bondi lately, not that it’d put me off my swim but just out of interest, there had been a few in the last few months, none fatal thank god but you know that they’re out there. On the walk down the beach, I kid you not a fin came out of the water and I was expecting a scene from ‘Bondi Rescue’ to happen before my eyes. After a moment of panic and excitement that there might be a Great White just meters away, more fins popped out of the water and I realised it was dolphins.

How incredible, paddling in the shallows off the Tasman Sea and a pod of dolphins jumping in the waves, just what a perfect experience of Bondi. After a dip, it was impossible to find shade anywhere and it was hitting 45 degrees so the shop for an ice lolly in the shade was my idea of heaven. From Australia we headed across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand but that’s for the next blog. I loved every minute of my time in the land down under, it lived up to all of my expectations and more. We squished Australia and New Zealand into one trip but there is so much more of Australia I aim to see in the not too distant future, the people were lovely, the places were amazing I just want to see more.

My future plans for Aus include The Whitsunday islands, Diving in the Great barrier reef, The Gili islands, Perth, The gold coast, The Blue mountains and Fraser island. I’m already planning my next adventure down under and I cannot wait!

  1. François Wasserzug on Blog

    Merci Natalie pour ce beau voyage à Hawaï. Reportage et ressenti très différents par rapport à la Crète, sans doute…

  2. Paul Davies on Blog

    Loved all the articles…esp Ibiza . You have a unique style of writing that draws the reader in. Can’t wait…

  3. Thomas Barter on Home

    What an wonderful blog! Thanks for sharing these beautiful memories with us! Continue to amaze us!!

  4. Helen Walters on Blog

    We were in Panormos this year and have booked for next year -a special place . Your blog has refreshed…

  5. Francois on Blog

    Félicitations pour l’ écriture de ce récit ainsi que pour les belles photos. On a l’ impression de participer à…

13 thoughts on “Blog

  1. Wow ! Love the New Zealand blog….I’m looking to go around New Zealand one day and never thought about doing a cruise.. Love the pictures of the Sounds ..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love your blog! I love Crete and this introduced me to new places! Excellent writing/narrative👍❤️! Appreciated all the well placed pictures. I’m a retired English teacher so I enjoy seeing young ones use their talent and skills. Bravo!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my goodness. I lost myself in your Crete blog…I just want to Be reckless and go pack my case and get on the next flight to Crete …..you’ve gave me a bit of escapism in worrying times..Thank you..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Félicitations pour l’ écriture de ce récit ainsi que pour les belles photos.
    On a l’ impression de participer à votre voyage !!!
    Un grand BRAVO

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Loved all the articles…esp Ibiza . You have a unique style of writing that draws the reader in. Can’t wait to see your other destinations…. I’m planning my holiday for next year to Ibiza and I will be taking up some of your suggestions . Will keep you posted..

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Merci Natalie pour ce beau voyage à Hawaï.
    Reportage et ressenti très différents par rapport à la Crète, sans doute parce que je ne suis jamais allé à Hawaï !!!!
    Votre “travail” est remarquable.
    Profitez bien de votre jeunesse et de votre joie de vivre, mais prenez soin de vous en ces temps difficiles.

    Liked by 1 person

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