The story continued …
Monday 9th – We woke up and made an early start – finished packing the car – was one very full car when we were finished and then left. The drive up to Cambroon (Hinterland) took about 2 hours. We stopped for lunch on the way at Melany. From Melany to Cambroon was a really pretty drive – we were so high up and the bush was just so lovely. Our campsite was so cool – and we were the only people there! We spent the afternoon setting up our tent and getting unpacked. We drove to Kenilworth – the nearest town and had a coffee before heading back to our campsite and starting the fire. The night was super fun – being around an open fire is just so nice. We drank tea, cooked dinner, listened to music, toasted marshmallows, stared at the stars, filled our hot water bottles and put them in our sleeping bags, had baileys hot chocolates and just enjoyed being out in the bush! Slept really well – I think we were so prepared for the cold that we didn’t really feel it!!
Tues 10th – The campsite was home to deer so in the morning the campsite owners took us over to see them getting fed and we were able to hand feed little pete who was 7th months old and so cute! Gideon the goat was very old and funny. I learnt lots about deer – like the fact that they lose their antlers every year and they grow back with one more horn so you can count how old they are!! We also got to see the horses being fed! After breakfast we drove along the Obi-Obi road which was one amazing drive. Never before had I been scared that a road could be so steep that the car might actually roll back! It was so steep and we kept going past signs saying 5% increase, 10% increase even 16% increase!! But it was totally worth it as the views were amazing!! (at least for me – Claudette was doing an amazing job driving!!) We were just so high! We stopped at Mapelton Falls, which had a really cool lookout point that was suspended over such a big drop! We drove through Mapelton and shopped at Monetville, which was a beautiful historic town with so many nice boutique shops. We drove back to the campsite as the sun was setting and started our fire again, we had another fun-filled night around the campfire although it started to rain while we were having dinner and we held up for a little while but then our fire died out so we retreated to the tent where we stayed up late talking and listening to music.
Wed 11th – Well we had one rainy night but managed to stay dry and warm! We packed up early and drove up to Eumundi which was about 45 mins north. We had a stop at Kondalilla National Park and walked down to a beautiful waterfall. Drove on to the Eumundi Markets which were really cool – I could not believe how many people were there for a Wednesday not in school holidays! There were just so many stalls … couldn’t resist all the cool things – bought some tea and a few presents. Met up with one of Claudette’s friends for a coffee before walking around the other side of the markets, saw an albino snake! They closed at 1:30pm so we drove across to Maroochydore and went to the beach (because as Claudette says “you can’t come to the sunshine coast and not see the beach!”) it was a bit cloudy when we first got there but the sun came out soon after we got there and it was so lovely and definitely a good detour to make! (The water was ‘refreshing’ ). We drove back home – unpacked, and watched the movie ‘leap year’ and reminisced about Ireland!! (we totally went to some of the places that were in the movie such as the Rock of Dunnmase!!) Had dinner with her family – got recipe for boboite.
Thurs 12th – Was a sad day to think that I had to go back to Newcastle. Had breakfast and packed up, then Claudette dropped me off at the airport – it was busy as some flights were delayed and it was a little hectic checking in but I made it onto the plane before it took off. Was pretty tied by the time I got back to my house … it was a great holiday and so great to see Claudette.
In the third week of my holidays I flew up to Brisbane to catch up with Claudette (who you should be very familiar with if you have been following this blog!) I had the most amazing time with her… oh and the expert photos are thanks to Claudette as I forgot my camera (and lets face it … she is much better at taking photos than me!!)
Thurs 5th July – I had an early flight up to Brisbane – can you believe that a 10 hour drive is only a 1 hour flight! Claudette and her brother met me at the airport … was so exciting to see her lovely face again! We drove back to her place (in Capalaba, Redlands) where she pointed out awesome things on the way. Went over the most crazy bridge ever – called “Gateway Bridge” which looked like it just went up and then dropped off! Once at her house we sat outside in the sun and had a cup of tea and talked nonstop! Then we decided to Wellington Point (had my first ever official cold rock experience) and sat on the grass enjoying the sun. We walked out to King Island (yes walked as the tide was low) then drove to Cleaveland to watch the sun set which was absolutely beautiful. That night we planned the rest of our week and spent a bit of time looking up possible camping sites.
Fri 6th July – Had a sleep in as we had stayed up late talking, had breakfast and packed a picnic lunch. We then drove out to Mount Coot-tha (still unsure of how to pronounce it!) The lookout from the top was amazing – such a brilliant view of Brisbane – the cityscape, the port, the surrounding residential areas, the bushland – I loved seeing the Brisbane river winding around. We had our lunch at the top, took some photos and enjoyed the view. Then we drove around to the start of a walking track to Simpson Falls. Was a nice bush walk and a really pretty spot. Took some fun photos but it started to rain a little so we walked back. Driving back to Claudette’s house we took the long/scenic/detour/got a little lost road but did make it back safely!! That night we drove out to Yatala to taste their world famous pies (which did live up to their name) and go to the drive-in movies! One of Claudette’s friends Tim came along. Claudette has the coolest car in the world – a suzuki sierra and we transformed the backseat basically into a lounge room with the help of lots of pillows and blankets. Watched “Ice-Age 4” which was hilarious and I was laughing out loud the whole time followed by a slightly more serious “Spiderman” which was also good. Back at home we returned to our Leeds tradition of Baileys-hot chocolates! A perfect day!
Sat 7th July – We decided to hit the city … we caught a bus into Carindale and then caught a bus into the city (did you know they have bus ways in Brisbane where only the bus can drive!! – so cool so they don’t get stuck in traffic!!) We walked down to the Botanical gardens which were simply lovely… so green and on the water. We had our lunch and got tempted by a man selling strawberries so we bought a punnet which was totally worth it – so delicious!! There was a mangrove boardwalk so we walked along that and then across the Goodwill Bridge to South Bank. I am in love with South Bank!! It was just so beautiful – all the purple flowers lining the footpath! I loved the atmosphere, so many families and people just relaxing on the grass – we sat and read for a bit in the sun before walking past the man-made beach and up to the markets. Tasted a churio and then went into the entertainment hall as the Salvation Army was holding some sort of awareness day. They had their choir and band playing music so we went inside and listened to them for a few songs … they sounded great!! We then walked over the Victoria Bridge to Queen St mall and watched an awesome pair of street artists making paintings using spray paint (so cool!!) We then did a little retail therapy in the form of stationary shopping (my absolute favourite!!) Had a coffee and talked for ages then walked back to the bus stop and that night discussed Claudette’s 21st where she decided on a theme (I don’t want to ruin it cos I’ll write about it later but trust me it’s a cool theme!!)
To be continued…
So I have been back for 6 months now and while I miss the UK terribly, I am slowly re-adjusting to life back in Newcastle. Life has been exciting which has made me realise that you don’t only need to be overseas for adventures to happen, so I have decided to post about my adventures here in Australia!!
It’s hard to believe that it is once again mid-semester break, and that a whole semester has gone by. This time last year I remember getting organised to leave and start my semester abroad.
I have had a few prac days during this holiday period – two observation days at a voice clinic and two days at the John Hunter Hospital. They were all really interesting – my favourite was the paediatric feeding day where we went up to the neo-natal intensive care unit and saw some incredibly tiny babies.
Lucy came up for a visit in the first week of the holidays, it was really nice showing her around Newcastle. We drove up to see Bethany and Dan in Port Macquaire and stayed the weekend. They took us to a beautiful mountain lookout called North Brother where the view was amazing and stretched such a long way. (My ears were popping so much on the steep road incline!) We saw a koala sleeping in the tree above our parked car which got us all pretty excited.
Saw Snow White and the Huntsman at the cinema (have to love country towns which will hold off the start of a movie for 40mins while they let everyone in the line buy their ticket.) We visited their church on the Sunday morning and went to the town green and walked along the breakwater (really cool painted stones). It was fun spending time with my 2 sisters. Lucy and I drove back Monday stopping in at Medowie Macadamia Farm and had macadamia lattes. Have been reading the Anne of Green Gables series and loving them all over again.
Lucy and I then spent 2 nights in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. We wanted to stay somewhere that complimented winter and our guest house definitely did as the fire was perfect to curl up infront of. We drove straight to Echo point on Wednesday morning but were met with a heavy white fog. We had no idea what we should have been looking at as the fog was so thick but there were still lots of fellow tourists standing at the lookout point taking photos.
We decided to explore the town while it was so misty so walked around the main street. Went into the Paragon Café (so fancy) to have a look around and had a coffee at another café. We then checked into our room which was so pretty. We had tea. Had an awesome dinner at a café called ‘Common Ground’ which had been recommended to us by a couple of people – basically the inside of the café looked like a treehouse with branches everywhere and the tables and seats fitting right it. It was good food as well and we enjoyed the atmosphere of the place. We watched Northanger Abbey that night and got excited/confused over who was the good guys/bad guys. (I love how Lucy’s taste in movies has expanded to include old classic period dramas so I have someone to watch them with now!!)
Next morning we had a sleep in and enjoyed a relaxing breakfast in the dinning room (mood music, plenty of teapots to choose from) and planned our day. We drove to Scenic World where we bought a ticket on their sky-train down into the bushland. We then did a walk up to the waterfall and had our packed lunches sitting amongst the trees and the birds. We did the suggested round-trip walk which took us to the cable car which gave us a fantastic view on the trip up. We drove around the cliff rd to Leura – stunning views of the cliffs. Needing a bit of energy after our day we had a coffee at echo point (this time we could actually see the 3 sisters which were so beautiful) the fog kept coming and going so quickly – one minute it would be crystal clear and you could see for ages and then you would look down and take a sip of coffee and all of a sudden see the clouds engulf the basin so it was white wash!! We got all dressed up and went to the Fairmont Hotel and had a gin and tonic in the Embers bar (feeling very classy) on our way back to our room we had thai and chatted late into the night.
Our last morning we had another yummy relaxing breakfast and one last look at the view before driving to Leura again. We browsed the mains street shops and then walked to a teapot museum/cafe. It was crazy – there were just so many teapots everywhere!!! It was a house and each room had 3 or 4 shelves which went around all the walls near the ceiling and these were filled with teapots! Then in the actual rooms they had cabinets of more teapots and then there were rooms of teapots for sale! They also had a tea room with lots of nice tables set out for tea. It was lovely looking around but hard to choose a favourite as there were just so many! Then we decided to hit the road so we drove back to Sydney where I dropped Lucy off at the station. A brilliant holiday with a most brilliant sister.
My last day in England was really sad, but I woke up to a beautiful sight – snow on the terraces even if it was a bit gloomy and cold.
I finished all my packing and walked up to Wimbledon for the last time – it was turning into a crisp and clear day. It was sad looking around the shops and streets for the last time, I tried to take everything in and put it all to memory.
Aunty Susan waved me off as my taxi picked me up and drove me out to the airport. I went through really quickly, the lady checking in my luggage was extremely nice as it was 7kg over and she didn’t charge me anything for it!! Read and waited for my flight. The whole time not comprehending that I was LEAVING ENGLAND!! I felt like I was just going off on another short trip for a week or something but the closer to take off – especially when they called my flight I started to feel so devastated and sad that I was leaving.
My actual flight was pretty uneventful – the first half to Seoul I just couldn’t get comfortable or sleep at all even though I was tired. Watched a lot of movies and just thought about all the wonderful things I was leaving behind in England. My stop-over in Seoul I just walked around and then got onto another plane – I slept most of the way to Sydney. We were ahead of time and very early landing. When I was awake I kept looking at the map which shows where the plane is and once it was over Australia I started to feel very excited. Since it was so early and there were hardly any other flights coming in I sailed through immigration and customs and arrived before my wonderful welcome party! Was engulfed by my family – didn’t recognise Michael (as he is so tall now) and walked right to Mum – special mention to Bethany for the beautiful sign she made!!
And thats it – back in Australia after a semester abroad!!
My journey to Pesaro was complicated by the fact that there was a serious amount of snow the previous night which meant by the time I got to the train station in the morning there were hundreds of people all waiting around as trains kept on being delayed and then cancelled. Unfortunately mine was one of the trains that got cancelled so took a while to figure out what I should do as the line for the help desk was incredibly long! Was thinking that I might have to stay an extra night in Florence but as forecasts were for even more snow so in the end hopped on the next train bound for Pesaro – luckily the guard were very lenient about tickets because of all the cancelled trains. There was just so much snow the entire journey – so pretty! I got into Pesaro about 4 hours later than initially expected and was met at the station by Vanessa and Felicity. The next few days it was snowing and so cold outside that we spent more of the time at Vanessa’s house with her family and going on short day trips to nearby towns. Some highlights include:
– Getting taught how to play ‘Briscola’ by Vanessa, Claudia and their mum. It was a fun and very vocal card game which used Italian cards which were a bit different to our playing cards. It felt a little like 500 in the way of playing with a partner to win rounds with a trump suit. Vanessa mum was so patient with me in explaining the rules and playing with me in the mornings so I eventually kind-of got the hang of it. I bought my own pack of cards to take home with me and can’t wait to play again.
– Walking around Pesaro (a beach city) while it was covered in snow! We kept slipping all over the place. We went down to the beach and it was such an awesome but strange experience to be walking along a beach that has snow on it!
– Enjoying the many cafes and coffee types in each town we visited. Some nights we went out for a drink and the drink was more like a dessert! Seriously so many ways to have coffee!!!
– Enjoying ‘Italian Breakfasts’ which consisted of tea or Orzo (a hot barley drink) and dipping biscuits and then coffee. Delicious but a weird feeling to be eating biscuits in the morning!!
– Going to a supermarket. We spent ages looking at all the different foods. They had 2 isles of breakfast biscuits, 3 isles of pasta (seriously so many different types!!) and a whole isle of different oils etc!! So fun just browsing!!
– Having my hair cut at a local hairdresser. Vanessa helped translate what I wanted.
– Having amazing cooked meals by Vanessa’s mother – always delicious and fun family times – her Uncle sometimes came over and her family was always there for meals. The best Italian food I have ever had!
– Experiencing the regional trains and the way they can be delayed for at least 90 mins so we were often stuck in the little towns we visited!!
– Seeing how Italians buy takeaway pizza … I have never in my life seen such a big pizza box!!
It was such a pity that Pina couldn’t make it (there was more snow down south which was really effecting the trains) but it was such a great time to spend with Vanessa and Felicity and to experience Italy in a day to day situation, her whole family was so hospitable and welcoming and I hope they come and visit me in Australia!!
My last morning in Rome I spent by the Trevi fountain – it really was the place I loved the most in Rome – it just made it feel like I was in Rome so much! I had a cappuccino (yes it was ok to in the morning) and then made my way to the train station to catch my train to Florence. I had a little drama in getting to my train as they announced the platform number only 10 mins before it had to depart. The only problem was that the passageway to get to it was extremely complicated and the stairs to platform 3 were blocked and there was only a sign in Italian which I couldn’t read. Feeling a little anxious that I would miss my train and with no one else around I started panicking before running up to another platform and seeing a small walkway which linked to platform 3. Got there just as the guard was calling for final passengers and when he saw me he waited and let me on – a very close call indeed!! The train ride was very pretty and I got into Florence in the afternoon. My hotel was really close to the train station so I dropped off my luggage and then found the visitors centre where I got a map. I walked into the centre of town along a typical city street with shops on either side but after going around a slight bend in the street I found myself in an enormous open plaza where I seriously stopped in my tracks and laughed out loud to myself ‘wow!!!’ For before me was the Bell Tower, Baptistery and Cathedral in the Piazza de Duomo. It was breathtaking – so ornately decorated and big and just in the middle of a street of shops!! I walked around in awe of them and then sat down in a café overlooking them and wrote some postcards. Had another delicious Italian meal of Pesto gnocchi for dinner at a lovely little restaurant I then did some researching of things to see in Florence. Went to bed but couldn’t really sleep – I had bought a book earlier that day so I stayed up reading til quite late.
Day two in Florence started with the included breakfast at my hotel – a different experience but nice. There was such a change in the weather – a really chilly day – I wore all my layers but still my face was so cold all day! I had planned to go on a walking tour in the morning so went to the meeting spot but no one ever turned up for it so I went to the info centre and bought a self-guided book and walked around myself. Went in the big Cathedral in the piazza and looked inside, walked around the baptistery and read all about the bronze doors with panelling of New Testament stories. Then I went to the Duomo and paid 8 euros to climb to the top. It was a long climb – but half way up we walked around half of the dome at the base of the decorated level which was so cool as it gave a brilliant view of the painted mural depicting heaven and hell. From the ground level when I looked up at the dome I through ‘what pretty paintings’ but when I was at eye level with it I thought ‘how horrible and gross’ (as part of it showed people getting eaten and burnt!) Continued walking up the spiral staircase – the walls were covered in graffiti despite the numerous signs saying not to write on the walls. The view from the top was simply amazing and totally worth the 463 step climb as I got a 360 degree view of Florence and the surrounding mountains area. The houses were all terracotta with flat roofs and there were scattered among them big cathedrals, domes and other towers. It was so cool to see how big Florence was and how the city merged into the mountains. I stayed up there for about 20 mins just enjoying the view – I was there to hear the bells chime at noon.
I then walked to San Lorenzo Piazza where there was another Basilica church and some outdoor markets. After browsing for a little bit I walked up to yet another piazza (they are everywhere!) where I waited for the number 7 bus to Fiesole. The trip took about 20 mins and it was such an enjoyable ride – the views were so beautiful as it left the city and went up in the mountains. It was quite a windy road and Fiesole was the last stop at the very top. It was even colder in Fiesole which was a tiny village and so windy. Got recommended a place that had a pretty view to have lunch at which was a short walk up San Francesco street where I encountered lots of snow and magnificent views!! It was an amazing view back over Florence as I was really was so high up! I could see some of the churches and domes from the morning but they were so tiny now. The place the lady recommended was shut so after gazing at the view for a while walked back down and found a small cosy place that was open with a fireplace. Although the menu was in Italian I recognised the word ‘Risotto’ so went with that and it turned out to be a delicious brown rice, spinach and red wine risotto. Had a walk around the other side of the tiny town before my bus came back – past the cathedral with a strange looking tower, an old roman theatre (which sadly was closed) and along a road which gave views of the opposite direction to Florence – vineyards and villas nestled in the mountains all white with snow. Took some photos although my face was so frozen it was hard to smile! Caught the bus back down and walked back into the centre of Florence. I found an awesome stationary shop and bought some pretty Florentine paper (looking back now I wish I had bought more!) and then because it was still light (even though I was absolutely freezing) I went down to the river and saw the Ponte Vecchio – a bridge that was built up with shops and buildings on it. Was very cool walking along it (all the shops were jewellery shops and expensive looking ones) as it looked just like a street of shops but from the side you could see that it was a bridge over a river! Then I went back to my room and had a hot chocolate and snuggled up in bed with my book. I had such an amazing time in Florence – definitely in my list of top ten favourite places, I wish that I had longer to explore. (I guess I will just have to go back again in the future!!)
Christiane drove me to the bus station where I got my connection to the airport – spent the waiting time talking to Mum on skype which is always nice. After a quick flight into Rome I waited for my luggage and walked straight through customs – no passport check or stamp or anything which I was freaking out about a bit. (but then a French girl told me about the Schengen agreement) Caught a shuttle bus to my hostel – thought they had made a mistake as they dropped me off in a fancy looking street lined with hotels and I had only booked a cheap hostel room! But it was the right number so I tentatively rung the bell and entered the big door and found my hostel inside. My room was not ready so I got a map, left my luggage and went and found somewhere for lunch. It was the start of me discovering delicious Italian food! Had the special of the day at a nice restaurant in the Barabarini piazza which was just across the road from my hostel – tomato and vodka penne pasta and tiramisu and coffee (they just brought out an espresso!) Feeling energised I found my way to the Trevi fountain (less than 5 mins walk) and sat at the fountain for a while in the sun. There were lots of people there all throwing coins into the fountain and such a buzzing place. It was cool just to sit in the sun and enjoy the atmosphere and tried a gelato which was amazing!! Then got a little lost trying to find the Spanish steps but eventually found my way through the numerous narrow winding streets. Randomly bumped into a free walking tour that was about to begin so I went on that – it went for about 3 hours, traipsing around the streets of Rome – went into the Pantheon and an amazing church called St Ignatius with a fake dome that was painted but looked totally real (A true optical illusion!!) Our guide was really funny and told great stories and really knew his history which made it a really enjoyable tour. There are just so many statues, fountains and oblixes in Rome! A great first day in Rome!!
Tuesday I slept in a bit and then found an internet café before walking down to the Colosseum via some interesting streets, it took me a while as I stopped and looked in some shops, explored a supermarket and stopped at the Vittoriano. It was a massive white building which is nicknamed either ‘the white typewriter’ or ‘the white wedding cake.’ It had the tomb of the Unknown Soldier protected by two army soldiers. From there to the Colosseum I passed so many old roman building ruins. I couldn’t’ believe how many there were and how they were just in the middle of busy Rome! They were so big and terracotta brickwork. The Colosseum was just amazing! I bought a guided tour ticket in which the guide did a lot of talking and showing us pictures of what it used to look like. Apparently it used to be all white and sparkling inside as the seating was made from white marble blocks which is all gone now but you could see where the 5 stanza levels were and they went up so steeply! We were allowed to walk around the first and second levels and it was cool to look down onto the arena where they had reconstructed a part of it. The rest showed the passages and elevator systems where gladiators or animals would use to appear on stage to surprise their opponent. Learnt a lot about Gladiators and how the Colosseum worked which I had no idea about before the tour and it was really gruesome! After walking around for a while on my own after the tour and bumping into the two French girls I sat next to on the plane I used my ticket to get into another big area of roman ruins (I didn’t really know much about it like what it was called or what was there as there weren’t any brochures or info around.) Anyway I spent a while walking around this huge area where there were ruins of a big palace, roman baths and pretty much like a whole community. I did see a sign which said that part of it was called ‘Palatino’ and another area ‘Arco di Tito.’ Even though I really had no knowledge of what I was seeing it was still really amazing to see just how civilized the romans were and how it is all still around today for people to see! I saw again the two French girls so we swapped details and decided to meet up for dinner later that night. Got lost walking back to my hostel but it was nice as I saw lots of backstreets and found that everywhere there were fountains or statues – even in the tiny deserted backstreets! I really like the feel and look of Rome – all the houses have flat roofs and are all painted terracotta’s or other warm colours with big windows and shutters. Went back to the Trevi fountain and met up with the Two French girls (Helene and Charlene) and we found a really nice restaurant nearby and we all had yummy pizza. They were really friendly and it was so nice talking to them – they are policewomen and were on holidays as it was Chaleine’s birthday! It was a very fun night and nice not to have to eat alone (as I think that’s the worst part of travelling by yourself) Got back to my hostel rather late – no one was there – I think I was the only guest!!
I woke up to Wednesday and it was pouring with rain! I bought a bus ticket and rode to the Vatican City where I went first to St Peters Basilica. I had an audio guide as I went around inside – again I was blown away at how big a Basilica could be and how ornate it was inside. The dome was amazing – and the big alter was impressive (I had found out on my walking tour that the bronze was taken from the roof pillars of the Pantheon and made into the alter). There were so many memorials and statues for various saints and there was a big nativity scene. Had a true Spaghetti Bolognese for Lunch and an espresso to charge me up for the Vatican Museum. It was such an amazing place and full of so much artwork and sculptures. I made my way to the Sistine Chapel – it took you through some incredible hallways which were completely filled with paintings and murals – the walls and ceilings were covered with frames – no space to see the actual walls!! It was hard to take it all in and in the end you had to keep walking as I could have spent all day walking down one hallway there was that much to see! But going into the Sistine Chapel was just the best experience. It was so quiet but busy at the same time. There were seats along the edge of the room and I was lucky to find a space after standing for a little while which I appreciated as you just wanted to look up at the ceiling which your neck felt after a while!! I had an audio guide which was so helpful in explaining where to start looking as it was such a detailed ceiling. The nine middle panels were where you looked first as they are the famous parts of the Sistine chapel – with God and Adam stretched almost touching fingers. But it was split into 3 sections – depicting God, Man and Noah. The end wall was a massive depiction of the final judgement and the frescos on the side walls were equally amazing – one side depicting Moses’ life and the other side Jesus. There were no photos allowed so I had to make do with a postcard as a memento but I won’t be forgetting what it looked like for some time. I caught the Metro back which was so quick and easy and had an early night packing for my trip to Florence the next day.