Brisbane in a whirlwind

Glen and I flew to Brisbane on Friday afternoon for an extended weekend visit. He had enrolled in a conference so it was a good excuse to check out this part of the country. It had been more than ten years since I’d been to Queensland, and most of that was spent in the Gold Coast with only a brief visit to Brisbane.

We arrived around midnight and collected the hire car. The rather embarrassing part of that experience was being unable to find the hand brake. There wasn’t one and no matter how much we searched between the sides, beside the seats or around the dash, there was nothing that looked like it might release the brake and make the little red light disappear. Glen had to go ask where it was.

It was a foot brake. We had a good laugh about that.

I drove us through the impressive tunnel out of the airport towards our accommodation. We took a bit of a gamble after the signal for Google Maps disappeared (being so far under the ground) but luckily came out at the right exit and pulled into our accommodation.

We’d booked an AirBnB place for Friday and Saturday nights which was close to the hospital where Glen’s conference was. It was a spacious place and had everything we needed, except that the air conditioning was only in the living room and not the bedrooms. Eventually the air filtered down the hallway to us and Glen found a pedestal fan in one of the cupboards so Brisbane’s humidity didn’t stop us from sleeping.


On Saturday morning we went for breakfast at The Nest, down the road from where we were staying, before I dropped Glen at the hospital. My friend Chris then came and picked me up, whisking me away on a personalised tour of Brisbane and its surrounds.

We went for a coffee in Milton at La Dolce Vita, a kitsch cafe that has Roman statues out the front and a replica of the Eiffel Tower on the roof. We didn’t so much as have coffee as have Nutella-based drinks (a Nutella Chai for Chris and a Nutella milkshake for me). We whiled away about an hour or more catching up on everything. We hadn’t seen each other for over two years so it was wonderful to get this time to get into it all.

From there we went to Mt Coot-Tha and the botanic gardens. Chris was really keen for me to see the tropical dome, which, as the name suggests, is a dome-shaped greenhouse that is even more humid than the already humid temperature outside. Palms and ferns, lily pads and lizards abounded, providing a home for plants that are true tropical (as opposed to sub-tropical).

We also checked out the fernery and the bonsais, then walked through the children’s forest, seeing more lizards and giant beetles. A brush turkey also crossed our path.

From the botanical gardens, we then went to d’aquila National Park, albeit only a small part of it at Mt Glorious. The national park covers a large area and it took a while to drive through it to where Chris wanted us to see. We drove along windy roads, sadly seeing evidence of the danger of travelling through this area. As we reached one part, an ambulance drove away and police officers were directing traffic. On the side of the road people were crying and hugging each other, while others looked over the drop. We don’t know the outcome but it looked like it wouldn’t be a good one.

When we reached Mt Glorious, Chris parked the car and we went for a walk through the rainforest. The temperature dropped in the forest, which made the walk much easier. As we headed down one path, a wallaby bounded across the track in front of us and stopped in the scrub on our left. On the right, we spotted a second wallaby that thumped the ground with its foot every now and then to alert others to our presence. I was stoked to see one wallaby, let alone two. We saw another couple as we continued our walk. They weren’t the only wildlife we saw, however.

We heard more birds than we saw, but we were thrilled to see a few fantails flying around, their tails spread out like…well…fans, obviously. And another treat was seeing a large black skin. I started a bit when I saw the scaly skin but fear soon gave way to fascination as we watched it slip and slide down the hill.

The trees were amazing as well, so tall and straight, and plenty with vines or stag horns growing on them. It was unusual to see them growing wild as my experience of them is often of them stuck to a board and strung up on a tree. Often dead or dying.

We got to a lookout over some falls (though the water was rushing much) and then took the track back up the hill. It was much harder going up than going down.

After we got back to the car, Chris drove us to his place so I could check out his pad and then we went for a late lunch at South Bank, settling on a Mexican place before getting some ice-cream made with nitroglycerin??? from Nitrogenie. South Bank is an impressive area. Sure, it’s where all the tourists go but that’s because there’s stuff going on. Plenty of restaurants, a market, free and open swimming pools with fake beach (and hot shirtless men), as well as museums and art galleries.

We then went back to the apartment to meet up with Glen and Jimmy. We chilled out for a while and then went back to Southbank, meeting Dean, and having dinner at a Japanese restaurant called Ginga (which we later learned is part of a chain). Lots of food and talking, then a short walk and some ice-cream (again) before heading home. It was a full-on day and I was more than ready for bed at 11pm.


Sunday morning, Glen, Chris and I went for breakfast at Harvey’s Bar and Bistro, enjoying the balmy air and the feeling of actually being on holiday. Breakfast was well proportioned and tasty (I had poached eggs with grilled halloumi, of which Glen took half, and the boys had potato rosti).

Glen wanted to check out an exhibition that was displaying at Queensland Art Gallery so we went back to Southbank to check it out. We went to the wrong gallery to start with but luckily they’re close together so it didn’t take long to find the right one.

We took a quick trip around the exhibition (it was small to begin with) and then, because it had been over an hour since we’d last eaten, we had coffee and dessert at the cafe. One of the cool things we saw was an area setup for drawing based on the patterns that appeared in a painting.

What you do is you pick one of four pieces of paper which has an outline on it of a woman, a tree, a parrot or a man. The outline is transparent so you place the paper on the table which has patterns on it. You then draw in the patterns on your outline. You’d think it’d be overrun with kids but every person using it when we were there was an adult. Apparently it’s usually only adults on it and they stay there for a while. It was really nifty. We stayed to complete our art and then we decided it was time to go.

We said our goodbyes to Chris and headed south to Currumbin Valley to see Jay and Jenni and their two kids, Jediah and Jordella. They’ve got a beautiful block of land that looks out across lush green forest, and a recently installed infinity pool and spa. The view is spectacular and the area is so relaxing and beautiful. I think we were there about 15 minutes before we were in the spa.

Drinks, fresh prawns, chatting and swimming – what a way to spend an afternoon and evening. The thunder and lightning rolled along after a while, and then a bit of rain, but it was just heavenly. So relaxing. We ate a delicious roast chicken dinner and then, because we could, we got back into the spa and pool.


Waking up was a bit of a struggle but we managed to sleep in a while, getting up in time to see the kids off to school and Jay off to work. Glen and I were totally non-committal with our plans for the day but we reassured Jenni we could look after ourselves and so she was free to go surfing nearby. We lounged around for a while. I had another swim. Then, as we were deciding what to do, Sandi got in touch. We didn’t realise she was in Brisbane but she was free for a couple of hours so we packed up the car and drove back to Brisbane to see her and her son, Frankie, for late yum cha.

More chats over good food, catching up on two years (or more) of what’s been going on in our lives. We talked about kids as well as it’s still very much front of mind for Glen and I and whether we’re going to try for them or not.

Sandi had to go pick up her other son from school so we said goodbye and went for a wander around the shopping centre. Glen had a shave and a haircut while I bought shoes. By the time Glen was finished it was time to go to the airport and drop off the car.

We got there with plenty of time to spare, returned the car, went through security and waited at the gate. Our Brisbane mini-adventure had come to an end. I think we’ll definitely come back, especially as we seem to know more people than we expected in the city. I’d also like to get up to the Great Barrier Reef before much longer, and the Daintree too. Not sure when we’re going to find the time…

We arrived back in Perth at about 9pm. The five-hour flight home was comfortable as there was a spare seat between Glen and I so we could spread out a bit more. David, who’d been house and cat sitting for us, was there to pick us up, which was a relief as we didn’t have to pay for a taxi (which from the Virgin Domestic Terminal is a bit more expensive). Back to work tomorrow.

To camp or not to camp

With the Queen’s Birthday long weekend on the horizon, I was anxious to make use of the glorious three-day stretch that would soon be available to us. We had considered going to Darwin to see Simon but due to Glen’s work and the limited number of non-stop flights from Perth to Darwin, we wouldn’t be able to spend a worthwhile amount of time there. There were few other options open to us that we hadn’t been to recently (namely Sydney and Melbourne) and so we fixed our sights closer to home.

Prior to leaving Toronto, we decided to make a concerted effort to be a “tourist at home” and see a few of those things that locals know about and direct tourists to but rarely check out themselves. One of these is the Pinnacles, an outcrop of limestone columns situated just two and a half hours north of Perth. I’ve lived in Perth my whole life and not once in 30 years have I been. Glen’s the same (though older and has failed at this even longer than I have).

Combined with seeing these geological wonders, it’s also wildflower season and if there’s something that WA is known for, it’s wildflowers. Once again, apart from the ones that I’ve seen locally, it’s not something I’ve made an effort to go look for. Fortunately there are a number of national parks near the Pinnacles so seeing one led to seeing the other.

The Pinnacles are near the coastal towns of Cervantes and Jurien Bay. Both are popular destinations on long weekends and school holidays which, in the case of the Queen’s Birthday weekend, happen at the same time. Originally I’d suggested to Glen that we rent a room at a motel or hotel in either of these places. We could go for two nights, see everything there is to see in the region, and it would all be wonderful.

Then someone mentioned camping.

Camping: who’s idea was it anyway?

Glen and I have been together for 11 years this October and camping has been mentioned a lot over those years. Glen used to be a scout. He used to enjoy camping. It doesn’t seem to matter that over 11 years we have spent one night in a tent and that was last year in Canada. I think the last time Glen went camping was probably when he was a scout. Nevertheless, I came on board with the idea because we’d talked about it so much and it seemed like a good idea.

We were excited to go buy new camping equipment and I got thoroughly into a beginner’s guide to camping website that told me all I needed to know. We then needed to go buy it all, but a couple of friends came to the rescue and offered us a lend of all their stuff. Grateful for not having to spend hundreds of dollars on equipment we may not ever use again, we picked it all up a couple of days before our trip.

We then had a problem. We had all the gear and I’d hired a car to get us there (our car probably wouldn’t make it) but we didn’t have anywhere to set this stuff up. The caravan and camping sites were all full but luckily, if you can call it that, the football oval would be setup for overflow camping at $25 a night. This seemed like it would have to do. After all, we still wanted to go. We had all the stuff. Why wouldn’t we camp?

On Saturday morning we loaded up the car with all the stuff and an esky full of food. We had plenty of snacks for the drive up there. The car was filled to the brim and we’re lucky we don’t have a dog or children because they would have had to stay behind.

It was a beautiful day for a roadtrip. We soon got out of the city and headed north up the Indian Coast Drive. We made our first stop at a lookout where we could see out to the ocean, took some snaps of wildflowers, dodged some Japanese tourists and then, feeling righteous that we were exploring this great nation of ours, got back in the car and continued up the road.

We arrived into Jurien at 12:30, stopping in at the Visitor Centre for some information about Lesueur National Park, the nearby caves, and where to go for fish and chips. We found the place, parked, ordered our food and then headed to the beach to eat our dhufish.

Jurien Bay was heaving with people. There were cars everywhere, people wandering aimlessly across the road like they were on holiday, morons throwing food to seagulls so they’d swarm, and a general throng of humanity. We sat and ate our food, a cool wind coming off the ocean and blowing away our initial thoughts of spending the afternoon on the beach and going for a swim.

We’d earmarked Lesueur National Park for the next day, after we’d braved a night of camping. You may notice that I said a night. I think the day before we’d decided two nights was excessive and we wanted to enjoy a bit of the weekend in Perth so we chiselled it down to one night only. It was about at this point though, sated with fish and chips, windblown and cold, that we decided one night wasn’t necessary at all.

That’s right. We were forgoing camping entirely.

Wildflowers and Flies

We figured we could quite easily see wildflowers at Leseur and the Pinnacles and still be back in Perth at a reasonable hour. The drive out to Lesueur was filled mostly with us trying to find good reasons why, after telling everyone we were going camping, we didn’t actually go camping. I don’t think we managed to convince ourselves but in the end we were ok with that because we were going to be sleeping in a real bed that night. We figured that at least we’d been prepared so that if the car broke down along the way, we had something to sleep in.

Without the stress of having to go pitch a tent that evening, we enjoyed what the region had to offer. Lesueur National Park is an 18km loop that you can drive. There are a few set tracks that you can explore on foot but otherwise it’s a 40kmh drive around the loop seeing an amazing diversity of flora. Even one side of the road is vastly different from the other. We stopped along the route to take photos, though the flies quickly reminded us what we hate about Australia in the summer. I’d packed fly nets that went over our hats so that made things much more bearable.

The wildflowers were beautiful. There’s no doubt about it that they put on a good show at this time of year. We saw plenty of banksias and dryandras. We even saw some donkey orchids (which remind me of chromosomes). And one part of the park just seemed to be dominated completely by grass trees. There must have been hundreds of them dotted along the slope looking like green-headed Grugs.

We didn’t just see flora of course. A bearded dragon ran out onto the road ahead of us and we slowed to watch him while he watched us. And then further down the track a bird of prey flew beside the car. When we left the national park and drove down the dirt road back to the main road, we stopped to watch a blue-tongue lizard ambling along. We got out, took some photos, he hissed at us and we continued on our way.

The Pinnacles

After Lesueur it was about a 45-minute drive to the Pinnacles. Being mid afternoon the light was starting to shift and we were beginning to get excited about how the Pinnacles would look at that time of day. We drove into the carpark, had a quick look around at the shop (where Glen bought some wildflower seeds) and then we went looking around the Pinnacles.

It’s a really unusual landscape. One person said how much it looks like something out of Star Wars and I suppose that’s a fitting description considering it’s a desert. But what’s weird is that to get there you go through coastal bushland and then suddenly you’re in a desert area with shrubs dotted about the place. It looks so plonked, so alien.

We wandered amongst the stones. I had expected all of them to be incredibly tall but most are about 6 foot tall or shorter. There are various stands of them, which does lend itself to the theory that they’re petrified tree roots. We took plenty of photos, even getting down at dirt level to get a different perspective. A galah flew out of one of the stones but that appearance paled in comparison to the sudden arrival out of the bushes of an emu. I’ve never seen one in the wild before so to watch this oddly designed bird stalking across the sand and violently pecking at bushes was a real treat.

Satisfied with what we’d seen we headed back to the car and began the journey home to our comfortable beds. I’m glad we took the time to see this part of the state, even if it was only for a day. I wondered afterwards if I would recommend visitors to check them out and I think, if they were into weird natural landscapes, that it’s worth the trip to see them. However, I’d definitely suggest combining it with either a look at wildflowers or a swim at Jurien Bay.

A weekend in Sydney

Before we left Toronto, our friend Cameron said he would be going to Sydney in September for work. We thought he presented a wonderful opportunity to get over east and visit him, as well as Glen’s dad and sister, who live over here. We booked our flights soon after getting back to Perth and took the early flight at 5:30am on Friday 4 September. While we weren’t overly happy about this at 4:30am on Friday morning, getting to Sydney with most of the day still to spare was pretty good.

Glen’s dad and stepmother met us at the airport, at which point I said hello and goodbye and they went off to lunch, while I met up with Leisl and we went into the city for a meeting with a sponsor of the not-for-profit that I’m involved with. The meeting went for about two hours, and was productive. I was a bit wiped out by the end of it but nevertheless continued on.

I bid farewell to Leisl at half three and then I walked down to Cam’s hotel to meet him. It was a bit bizarre to see him all the way over this side of the world, yet at the same time felt completely natural. Perhaps because it hadn’t been that long since we’d seen him last, or maybe it’s just the brain adapts quickly and you move on with what’s presented to you. Either way it was great to see him.

We caught the bus (yay for the Opal card) down to Bondi Junction where Glen and I were staying at Anna’s place. Incredibly convenient location as it’s not in the hustle and bustle of downtown but still well connected. Glen had had a nap and done the washing, after having lunch with his family. We hung out for a little while before getting ready to go to dinner at China Lane in the city.

Glen and I had been there before, liked the food, and were able to get a table. We had a great Italian waiter who was only too eager to ply us with drinks. The food was excellent too, though we probably should have ordered a smaller portion of pork belly as the one that came out would have easily served four, yet I don’t eat pork, so it had to be demolished by two. The boys did well and only a few pieces were left.

After dinner we walked down to Circular Quay, had a sticky beak around the Opera House and then headed up to Oxford St for a walk around and another couple of drinks. We settled on Stonewall (just after the cops had sorts out some violence), had a drink, sat for a bit, and then went for a hot chocolate from Copa Cubana (which was actually really good). We didn’t stay out too late and before long were on the bus heading home, ready for sleep.


I woke up on Saturday feeling like I was on holiday. We didn’t have any pressing plans, our booking for 11 people at yum cha not taking place until 11:30. We lounged in bed for a while (waking up at our usual Perth time so it wasn’t really a lie-in) before getting ready, and getting morning beverages and a little nibble from The Cook and Baker. The place was busy with locals after their lattes and cakes and croissants. The almond croissant Glen bought (which I had a bite of) was massive and incredibly heavy. We only got through half of it.

We caught the train to Central and then walked to Market City, giving directions to an American family who were looking for the harbour. I hope they made it there in the end. Yum cha was at The Eight and was a relatively big gathering. There was Glen and I, then Paul and Ella, Miranda, Henry and Andrew, and then our friends, Cam, Neha, Julian and Andre. Serving after serving appeared on the table. We had lots of good chats with people, but as is usually the way, it all ended too quickly and we were leaving. Still, it was great to catch up with friends and family.

From there, we went with Cam to meet his friend Andrew who lives in Melbourne but is from New Brunswick. We met at Town Hall, waiting in the park for a while, watching a fight amongst a couple of people living there. Cam was wary of the ibis wandering around, what with the PR for Australia’s wildlife being what it is.

It took us a while to find Andrew as Central is so big but we eventually met up, then got on another train and headed for Circular Quay. The opera house was heaving with people, probably more that usual because the Festival of Dangerous Ideas was on. We couldn’t find a place to have a drink so we went walking, heading vaguely in the direction of The Rocks. We finally settled on The Argyle, which had comfy sofas and jugs of Pimms. We talked a lot then finally tiredness got the better of us and Glen and I voted to head home for a nap.

A short couple of train rides later we were back at Anna’s and laying down in bed. I think we napped, but not for long. Then the messages began to fly about what to do for dinner. This is always fraught as hunger makes things harder. Eventually Cam made an executive decision and chose a Thai place on Oxford St that had excellent reviews. We were just grateful that a place had been chosen.

We were lucky to get a table, with Glen and I arriving just before Cam and Andrew and grabbing a table before it got even busier. Andrew went and got the wine. We ordered the food. Food came. We ate and drink. We had a couple of tofu dishes, a couple of chicken curries and a salt and pepper barramundi. The meal was really tasty and the restaurant a good find. Being rather full we declined dessert.

Next stop was the Colombian for a drink and then to Palms with its ‘retro’ (but occasionally fabulous) music. We drank. We danced. We left before midnight. We said our farewells to Cam who’s on his way to Japan on Monday.


We didn’t have any plans other than seeing Glen’s dad and stepmum on Sunday, especially what with it being Father’s Day here. They arrived a bit earlier than expected so a lie-in past 9:30 wasn’t possible. But that was fine. It got us moving. We showered, they arrived then went for coffee, and we packed, then went on our way.

We went to Barangaroo, the new ‘urban renewal project’ on the harbour which opened that day. Having just watched the third season of Rake, Glen and I couldn’t help but draw comparisons between Barangaroo and the casino development by the fictional Tikki Wendon. Add to that the satirical Utopia and it was a bit like walking through an intertextual landscape. The parklands are nice, if a bit manicured. It’ll look worse when the casino is up.

After our wandering around, and taking many photos, we went for lunch at an Italian restaurant nearby, then walked around the harbour to the Park Hyatt for afternoon tea. We then checked out the markets at The Rocks, then sat for a bit on the top floor of the Museum of Contemporary Art, which has such a great view, I’m surprised it wasn’t busier. This is also the location of a New Year’s Eve party that we’re contemplating going to so stopping in here was fortuitous. Yet to make a decision though.

At 4 we walked back to the car then drove to the airport for our flight back to Perth. We were there with plenty of time to spare and through checkin and security promptly. Unfortunately, due to some fault with the plane, we were delayed about three hours. They never fixed the problem so we were swapped to a smaller plane. Still, considering there are plenty of worse things that could have happened, getting home a few hours late was pretty mild.

It was a great weekend; not too rushed, packed with friends and family, and the weather has been great too. We’ll be back at New Year’s with another Canadian friend so we’ll do more of the tourist things then.

Back in Perth with a vengeance

It’s been a busy week, and not just because I returned to work on Monday. My first week back at work was pretty good. I eased back into the routine, and the workload wasn’t horrific either. I’m only working Monday to Thursday so by Wednesday afternoon, I realised I only had a day and half left before I was off again. It was wonderful. The work is fun too and there are lots of projects coming up so it’ll give me the chance to flex my creative muscles and do some interesting things. Trying to fit the gym and writing around work will take a little bit of time.

On Tuesday evening Glen and I joined a couple of friends for rock-climbing. Jason and Chris go every Tuesday and we decided we’d give it a shot. Glen happily exclaimed when we’d discussed it at yum cha on Sunday that he used to go, though then had to think about that and qualify it by saying it was actually more than ten years ago. Nevertheless, we went on Tuesday. I think I’ve only ever been once before and that was in high school.

We hired our guy, went through the demonstration then climbed for a bit. We did about four or five climbs each and then, having satisfied that curiosity, decided it wasn’t really for us and left after about an hour – much to Jason and Chris’s sadness. I’m just glad we went and we were sociable.

I joined the nearby council gym on Wednesday after a few days of deciding which would be the best gym to join based on cost and convenience. One gym was going to give me an excellent price but as it was in the city, it wasn’t all that easy to get to on the days that I don’t cycle to work. In the end I settled for the one that’s literally a street away. I missed out on getting the 2014-15 price by a day! But in the end paid less than I was expecting to at this gym. I worked out on Wednesday and Thursday and felt good for having gone.

We collected our new bikes on Wednesday afternoon and cycled them home. I’ve yet to cycle to work on mine (tomorrow) but Glen did a practise run to his work on Friday. He says it definitely feels like he’s going faster but it still took the same amount of time. I’m hoping I’ll be able to get to work in a solid 25 minutes, as opposed to the 30/35 it used to take me. Cycling in the cold crisp morning is not something I’m looking forward to but I’ve got my cloves and ear muffs handy (thank you, Canada!).

Our new mattress arrived on Thursday. I wasn’t home but Glen was. As it’s a king size mattress and we’ve never had one of them in this house before, it was all a bit touch and go whether it would get up the stairs. It only just made it up there after a lot of effort. It was totally worth it though (especially after sleeping on old single mattresses all week). It’s comfortable, cosy and so wonderful to sleep on. Plus, when Glen moves on his side of the bed, I don’t even notice. Heaven!

On Friday on my day off I took my grandmother to the doctors and then Glen and I had lunch with her like old times. Afterwards, Glen and I went to pick up our cat Smudge from her foster mum’s. We loaded up the car with her three-storey cat condo and all the toys, kitty litter and biscuits she’d accumulated. She was already in the cat carrier which made things easier. Once we got home and unloaded everything, we let her out. She immediately ran to the downstairs toilet and hid underneath the cabinet and that’s where she stayed for about 12 hours. She was not happy to be home.

She allowed us – and my mother-in-law – to pat her and give her scratches, which was unusual. And then on Saturday evening she eventually emerged and decided to sit on the coffee table and then on me and then next to Glen and then in her igloo and then repeated the whole cycle. She was slowly coming out of her, rather rotund, shell. (She has to go on a diet.)

She’s gotten bolder since then, jumping up on the bed in the middle of the night (only to be whisked away to her bedroom by Glen – who’s allergic). She’s also decided that our bedroom wardrobe is her spot now and I have to remember not to close the door and lock her in there. I don’t understand why she doesn’t want to come sit in front of the heater with us.

As well as all this, we’ve been very sociable – though we’ve found that by the time it gets to 8 o’clock we’re pretty much done for the night and wondering when it’s bedtime. I think it has something to do with the shorter days here and our body clocks aren’t quite used to it yet.

On Thursday we had dinner with Sophie and Ian (which did go late so good on us), filled with good food and a lot of laughs. Soph didn’t think we’d come back from Toronto so she was shocked – and pleased – that we’d returned. On Friday we went out with Bree and Rohan to go Paul’s birthday at the Brisbane. We ate food. We caught up. It felt like old times.

We had brunch with Marco on Saturday morning at Sayers, an old haunt of ours, and then Glen’s mum came for lunch (bearing herbs and vegetables for the garden). On Saturday evening we went for dinner with my sister and cousins at Kitsch Bar, trying another place that had popped up since we’d been away.

We caught up with Dad and Donna for brunch on Sunday at a vegetarian/vegan place over the train tracks from us. In the afternoon Glen and I took things to work – clothes, lunches – so we didn’t have to cart them on our bikes, and then we went to Bunnings and bought a worm farm (I’m so glad we’ve got one again). And then in the evening we caught with Dion and went to Lucky Chan’s Noodle Bar in Northbridge before getting some dessert then coming home to watch Masterchef.

It’s been a weekend of eating, and a full on week. Looking ahead we’ve got a lot coming up. I don’t know how this happened, but definitely not going to knock it.

Our first week home

We’ve been back just over a week and we’ve been busy. On the Friday we returned, despite being tired from the flight, I was keen to knock a few things off our ‘return home’ list. First up, a fridge, then a bed, and then phones and internet. With the fridge and the bed, it seems that stores are desperate for your business nowadays and offer discounts on discounted prices without being asked.

For example, the woman at the first place automatically knocked a couple of hundred off the fridge (but we didn’t end up getting it). We almost bought a new curved TV with OLEDs for $4000 but luckily, we left the store before we handed over any money, and then laughed in the car that we’d almost bought the damn thing. Shopping tired is a dangerous thing.

We eventually bought a fridge from the place down the road which was even cheaper again. The beds was a hard one though (no pun intended). We tried one shop. I slept on nearly every mattress and finally narrowed it down to one that I liked. But Glen had gone into the store next door to use their washroom (yes, I wrote washroom. Canada still has its teeth in me.) and they also sold beds and mattresses, so after getting one price from the store I was in, we then went next door and got the hard sell from them and eventually got a good deal on a bed frame, side tables and a king mattress. They said they’d deliver by the end of the week (meaning Friday just gone) but it’s Sunday and we still don’t have it, which is rather annoying.

We then went into Subiaco, had some lunch, bumped into Kerrin, then went to iiNet to set up internet and get phones. The salesman was uninspiring and not very good at his job. We nevertheless walked out with a bundle including SIMs for our phone which were meant to work in the next couple of hours. They didn’t and it took me going into the store the next day to get mine to work. Glen’s required another two phone calls after that to get them to work.

We’ve seen a whole lot of family since returning to Australia. Friday night we went out for dinner with members of both families. This was also the first time we’d gotten to meet Glen’s nephew, who is one year old now. He’s adorable, though not yet enamoured with his two uncles. We saw more family on Saturday afternoon, and my grandmother on Saturday night, then went up to Chidlow on Sunday afternoon to see yet more family on Glen’s side. Chidlow was nice as it was the first time I’ve been ‘out in the bush’ for a couple of years. We didn’t see any kangaroos but I did see some 28s (parrots) and some white-tailed black cockatoos. It was a beautiful day too.

Through most of the week, we slept at Dad’s though Glen spent a few nights at our home alone because there was one single mattress that we’d kept. I eventually borrowed another single mattress and moved it home. Driving up and down the freeway between the two houses was starting to get to me. Not that it’s a long drive but it’s not a great drive and I was sick of it after only a few days. I don’t know how people do it every day.

We unpacked everything pretty quickly, I’d say. Considering how many boxes there were. We moved all the boxes to their relevant rooms and then started unpacking from there. Glen couldn’t believe how many boxes were going into his study. It was kind of like Christmas. “And who’s this one for? Glen!” I still had plenty to go through.

I managed to get rid of about six boxes of books, a box of CDs and a whole lot of papers. I’ve still got one bookshelf full of stuff but there isn’t a lot of other things dotted around the place now. My study is pretty much setup, though I’m waiting to move the couch back in there and looking forward to buying a new desktop computer. Glen also threw out a lot (though he’s squirrelled a lot of stuff away into the cupboard). Unfortunately my external hard drive that I brought back from Canada has stopped working and I’m concerned I won’t be able to retrieve what’s on it: namely every photo I took during the past two years. I get a sick feeling in my stomach just thinking about it. Trying to remain hopeful.

We’ve been shopping for more things like clothes horses and rubbish bins (Bunnings), glasses, towels and chopping boards (IKEA) and a vacuum cleaner (Harvey Norman – again, another bargain as they price matched with Myer and we got it for about a third off the original price). We also bought new bikes from the store down the road on Saturday. They’re amazing. So light. It might actually make riding a pleasure now.

Glen’s been working in the garden a lot. The planter boxes that Glen made still have some things growing in them, other than weeds. We have a lot of mint, thyme, parsley and oregano. We even have some rhubarb. The vines along the lattice (which is broken thanks to the builders putting up the new fence which is shorter than the one before) are mostly dead. The rest of the garden is covered with weeds. Glen has attacked it all with gusto and made great progress. He even chopped down an invasive tree that had grown so tall while we were away (it had been planted by the tenant).

Other than that, we haven’t been doing much socialising as yet. We’re a bit stranded at the moment without a car and my headspace has been all about settling back into the house. We’ll be getting the cat back soon, which will be nice.

I’m missing Toronto a lot, probably more than Glen, who’s happy to have his garden back and not to be constantly asked where his accent comes from. It’s particularly hard at the moment as it’s summer in Canada and friends are going hiking, or enjoying the sunshine, or going travelling. I also miss our apartment and the view. And I miss our friends. I return to work tomorrow which will be an adjustment, having not had to work a full day in quite a while. Trying to fit in the rest of my life around that is going to be difficult as well, and I still haven’t been to the gym. Or been writing.

Still, life isn’t bad. I’ll adapt before long and then will have something to compare to. Perhaps Toronto will be home again. Perhaps not. Time will tell. And it has only been a week.

As for this blog? I’d like to keep it going but calling it Two Aussies in Canada and writing about non-Canadian things seems a bit odd to me. I’ll have a think about it and see whether it’s worth setting up a new one or just continue with this. We’ve got some travel coming up (though not in Canada) so it’d be good to put those adventures somewhere.

The long journey home

We tried to sleep late again and got a little bit further into the day. We went for breakfast on the hotel, came back, worked on our laptops and then, with an hour left to spare, decided to get some sunshine and fresh air. Taste, a free food festival, was happening a couple of streets away (we could see it from our window) so we figured we’d check it out.

Now when I say ‘free’ I mean that entry was free. Everything else inside had to be paid for. We went through the security lines with their big signs saying, ‘No guns!’ then got patted down. Bit confronting to think that guns are in such supply that they need to tell people not to bring then to a public event. Strange.

We didn’t stay long. We didn’t want to buy the food tickets. We walked up a ways then turned around, returned to the hotel, checked out and jumped in a cab. The ride was quicker than expected so we arrived with plenty of time to spare. This meant we could hang out in the business class lounge!

Check-in was pleasant and quick. Security didn’t take long either. We then went into the loung, ate some food, drank some drinks, listened to some terrible tv show where men suspected of cheating on their girlfriends undergo a lie detector test (all while screaming and shouting at each other). Ugh. It was dreadful. Eventually I asked for it to be switched to anything else. We got baseball. That was heaven in comparison. Meanwhile a couple were having an argument in the corner about how much money they’d saved on a taxi ride and why the husband disregards the wife so often. He sounded like a dickhead.

Eventually it was time to board. Our seats were in a group of eight separated from everybody else, and there were only two other people in our area so it was like it was all ours. How decadent! We settled in. We had some drinks. The lunch service was extensive. I finished reading my book then started watching movies.

First was The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron. It was terrible. Lazy plot and writing, filled with explosions and fight scenes that got boring after a while. Even James Spader’s voice wasn’t enough to save this film. The second film was much better: Woman in Gold with Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds. It was about the true story of an Austrian woman’s fight to have Klimt’s Woman in Gold returned rightfully to her after the Nazi’s stole it. Excellent film. I had tears. The third film was a French film called Une heure de Tranquillitė. Typical comedy, light-hearted and fun.

After the movies, I slept on and off for five hours. It’s such heaven to be able to lie flat on a flight. Then it was breakfast (or rather dinner) before we landed in Hong Kong. Our 16 hour trip had come to an end…though we still had farther to go.

We went to the loung briefly as our stopover was only short and then boarded our flight to Perth a little late due to bad weather around Hong Kong. Business class was a lot more full this time around. We got fed and wanted. We slept for a few hours but due to the ‘short’ 7.5 hour flight and two meals (couldn’t miss eating), we didn’t get long.

We arrived in Perth at 5:30am, about half an hour earlier than expected. Passport control was a breeze thanks to the ePassport thing. Our luggage was waiting for us. There was a bit of a queue at Customs and Glen was expecting big trouble over the wood ornaments we had in luggage but they waved us through. I think we were waiting outside by 6am and because everyone knows international passengers always take so long to come through, no family were there waiting for us.

They eventually arrived. We had a coffee/tea and then got in separate cars because we had so much luggage and then went back to our house in Maylands. We’d had everything moved from my grandmother’s and dumped in our place a few days before. I couldn’t believe how much stuff we had and dreaded the unpacking. But we could do that later. We closed up the house and went back to Dad’s.

And did I mention how bloody cold it is here? By no means is it Canadian winter cold but the houses are not built for winter and we’re not wearing seven layers. It’s horrendous!


In limbo in the Mid-West

Tiredness, blackout curtains and having nowhere to be weren’t enough to stop us from waking up at 7am. True that due to the time difference between Toronto and Chicago, 7am was 8am to us, but wouldn’t you think we could push past that and have a nice lie in?

Apparently not.

We got up and took our time getting ready before rumbling bellies sent us out into the streets, fighting against the flow of office workers, and walked to a cafe that we’d been to before. We ate food. It wasn’t as good as Glen remembered but it filled a spot. We discussed what we wanted to do in Chicago. Having been a few times before, we didn’t really have much we wanted to see so we went over some old ground.

We walked down last the Art Institute and saw a silver cowboy on a silver horse (sculpture), then continued down to our main goal, the statue of Daphne. Unfortunately it wasn’t covered in vines so we didn’t get to see the full effect this time (in the right season the sculpture is covered in vines, leaves and flowers so gives the impression of being Daphne the wood nymph). We then walked past the big Native American sculptures, up through Millennium Park to the Cloudgate and then back to the hotel.

We spent most of the rest of the day in the hotel. I felt a little guilty but as we’d been to Chicago a few times before, there weren’t many must-see things left to do. I think we also just wanted to do not very much. Champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries arrived as a gift organised by Dave, much to our surprise. The strawberries were delicious, though.

We had a nap in the afternoon. I then went to the gym as I hadn’t been for about a week and was starting to feel crappy. In the evening, we walked down the street and had dinner at Petterino’s. They have caricatures on the walls and we were sharing dinner with Bebe Neuwirth, David Hyde Pearce and Robin Williams. The food was good too. We took a quick de

Once back at the hotel, we stumbled upon My Big Fat Greek Wedding on the TV so watched that, had a laugh, and then went to bed.