Back in Sydney

So after our slight change of plan, we are now well settled into our new life in Sydney and it has begun to feel like home far quicker than expected. Unfortunately it has been a little more difficult to keep the blog up to date, as the last six weeks have consisted of us both starting new jobs and finding somewhere to live. However, hopefully I will have more time to write in the coming weeks, with lots of exploring to do in Sydney and the surrounding area.

5F5623BC-1EB7-44BE-9D57-0EAF88EEF1AC

We spent the first three weeks in Sydney staying in our friends amazing apartment in Bondi, which was a great place to begin life in a new city. While we enjoyed living so close to the beach, we decided to look for somewhere closer to the CBD for our own flat.

9CEE14DE-F940-4A49-A00C-282E84452B3B.jpg

After looking around lots of suburbs, and viewing a number of flats of varying quality, we decided on the area of Glebe, in Sydney’s popular Inner West. The bustling suburb is home to a great mix of shops, cafes and restaurants, all centred around the busy Glebe Point Road. I will put together a more detailed post on Glebe in the coming weeks, but it’s fair to say we are very happy with our choice so far, and have been busy exploring all that the area has to offer!

 

Our flat is located just a short walk from Glebe Point Road, and we are sharing with a Brazilian/Canadian couple who have lived here for several years. The spacious two bedroom flat is located at the top of the building on the third floor, which means the view of the city from the balcony is brilliant, especially at sunrise.

07B3B581-43F4-4F89-8601-B810052DC9D0.jpg

As for work, we were both lucky enough to be offered the first job we were interviewed for, and we are now already a month into our contracts. Rachael is working as a Senior Clinical Consultant, while I am back in the exciting world of Management Accounting.

After the initial shock of retuning to work following three months off (and the first Monday was truly awful), we have managed to get our brains working again, and have settled back into the Monday to Friday routine.

IMG_6743.jpg

 

I am working right in the CBD, and the views from my 28th floor office are great, with glimpses of the Harbour Bridge between the surrounding high-rise buildings. It also means I am just a five minute walk from Circular Quay, and I have already spent several lunch breaks sat watching the swarms of tourists and admiring the view of the Opera House. It definitely beats a business park on the outskirts of Coventry for location!

DC33E9F1-F1B9-4946-8F28-1B16809D2CCF

Rachael is working well out of the City in the sprawling western suburbs, with her office located in Bella Vista, a 40 minute drive from Glebe. However she does have the luxury of travelling to work in her brand new company car, so try not to feel too sorry for her. I certainly don’t as I wait at the bus stop each morning.

Although most of our exploring is currently limited to weekends, we have still managed to see plenty of what Sydney has to offer already. Hopefully I will have more time to write in the coming weeks, and give lots more updates on our adventures.

 

 

Brisbane continued…

With the campervan gone, our travelling around Brisbane was a little restricted compared to what we had become accustomed to. We found the public transport to be fairly limited compared to other cities, with the river making it even more difficult to travel around, despite the ferry network. However, we did still manage to make a few journeys out of the more central suburbs during our week in the city.

We decided not to bother with public transport at all for our trip to Teneriffe, a suburb on the east of the city. Instead we again made use of the CityCycle bike hire scheme, cycling all the way along the north bank of the river from the CBD, making use of the great cycleways. However, as you travel further away from the centre, the bike stations become more sporadic, and we very nearly went over the 30 minute limit for each individual journey on several occasions.

Bikes.jpg

The journey itself took us around the area of New Farm, including the large New Farm Park and the nearby Brisbane Powerhouse. The imposing former power station has been converted into a cultural hub, and now hosts a variety of plays, concerts, exhibitions and other events.

IMG_6631

As for Teneriffe, the affluent suburb was probably one of the nicest places we visited in the city. The area played an important part in the Australian wool trade, and the vast historic wool stores have now been converted into luxury apartments. These are surrounded by plenty of high-end restaurants, as well as the very impressive Green Beacon Brewery, itself housed in a converted warehouse. Despite me trying and failing to convince Rachael to drink beer for years, the barman here was able to manage it in a matter of minutes. We both sampled some of the greats beers on offer, before continuing our walk along the river, passing plenty more waterfront apartments and private boats.

 

IMG_6638

Given our love of street food, we were sure to find the time to visit the Eat Street Market, which is located in Hamilton, to the northeast of the city. The former container wharf has been converted into a vast entertainment complex, built from 180 shipping containers and containing countless food and drink stalls, two stages and an outdoor cinema!

The amount of choice was almost overwhelming, but we managed to sample a number of dishes before we were defeated, including Langos (a Hungarian fried bread), Japanese noodles, and some very enjoyable loaded potato skins.

IMG_6661

After a great night of food and entertainment at the market, including some very impressive street dancing, we took the ferry back to our apartment in East Brisbane. Unfortunately this one of the very fast CityCat ferries, which meant my attempt to photograph Eat Street from the outside was less than successful, although it still made for a nice effect!

Eat Street.jpg

As always when visiting a city we were keen to to find a way to view Brisbane and its  skyline from up high, so we made sure we visited the Brisbane Lookout at Mount Coot-tha. After a short but winding bus journey from the city to the summit, we were greeted by spectacular panoramic views of the city and its surroundings. Unfortunately there was heavy cloud in the sky, but visibility was still great.

We spent around an hour at the summit, taking in the views from the various platforms, as well as the Kuta cafe, where we enjoyed some coffee and cakes before returning to the city.

2830B6D8-4E9A-489C-AAE5-E9E641D40D03

One common criticism of Brisbane when compared to the other major Australian cities, is its proximity to a good beach, a key aspect of the Australian lifestyle. While there is the man-made Streets Beach at South Bank, this doesn’t really count, so we decided to check out Redcliffe, once the most popular seaside destination for residents of Brisbane.

It is fair to say we were underwhelmed by the town itself, where the seemed to be very little going on, and it had some similarities with some of the UK’s more neglected seaside resorts. The beaches were even more disappointing, especially given the proximity of  the Gold Coast to the south, and Sunshine Coast to the north.

Of more interest was Redcliffe’s role in launching the career of the Bee Gees, which we were unaware of prior to our visit. The Gibb family migrated to Redcliffe in 1958, and it was here that the brothers got their first break, singing during intervals at the Redcliffe Speedway, before being offered their first radio gig.

This is all commemorated by Bee Gees Way, which was opened in 2015 by Barry Gibb himself, and includes a life-sized statue, a gallery of more than 60 photos, and 13 album covers.

IMG_6333.jpg

Despite our initial impressions of Redcliffe, we did still enjoy a short walk along the foreshore, and past the busy jetty, just in time for another great sunset. After taking a few more photos it was time to return to Brisbane.

IMG_6334

We had a brilliant week exploring Brisbane, and it’s a great city with lots to offer. We especially enjoyed our daily walk or cycle along either side of the river, particularly the areas around South Bank and the CBD. There was a great choice of bars and restaurants in Fortitude Valley, while we also really enjoyed the alternative vibe in the West End. The weather was certainly more tropical, and while we got caught in several huge downpours during the week, the daily 21°c temperature was certainly better than the winter we are used to!

However, with Rachael having been offered a job as a clinical psychologist in Sydney, we decided to change our original plan to stay in Brisbane, and book flights back to New South Wales. There will be lots more updates to come as we settle down into our new life in Sydney!

 

Our week in Brisbane

Having very reluctantly given back the campervan with no issues, we checked into our AirBnb which was in East Brisbane. On arrival, our hosts Mike and Anna gave us a great suburb by suburb guide to the city, and lots of great ideas about where to visit during our stay.

After enjoying sleeping in an actual bed for the first time since Hong Kong, we were feeling refreshed and ready to start exploring the city. Brisbane is dominated by the huge river of the same name, which winds and bends its way through the city.  We therefore decided to start with a ride on the free CityHopper ferry service, and were soon in sight of Brisbane’s imposing skyline, as the ferry slowly chugged its way towards the CBD.

IMG_6421.jpg

We were immediately impressed by the very shiny and modern CBD, with its mix of large pedestrianised shopping precints, and towering office blocks. We spent some time wandering along the crowded Queen Street Mall and surrounding streets, which are packed with shops, cafes and restaurants. Our favourite was Coffee Anthology, where the coffee and cakes were so good we returned for a second visit, and there was even a coffee taster board for me to try!

IMG_6627.jpg

There has clearly been lots of development in the city in recent years, with this set to continue for some time, judging by the huge cranes dotted around the skyline. This makes for an interesting mix between old and new architecture in places, no more so than around the Museum of Brisbane’s clock tower.

4A9301FA-0B8A-4A57-AE83-143D799B9511

However, it’s also very easy to escape the bustling streets with a visit to the nearby City Botanic Gardens. Although relatively small, the Garden’s riverside location make it the perfect place for a relaxing walk amongst the huge trees.

IMG_6681.jpg

Our next stop was in Fortitude Valley, one of Brisbane’s most popular nightlife spots. Created as Australia’s first dedicated entertainment district, it is home to a huge variety of bars and restaurants, with a very diverse crowd to match. During the week we managed to visit a number of these, and had some very good food and drinks from both Taps and the Royal George. Just a short walk from here we found the Wilson Outlook, which has brilliant views across to the landmark Story Bridge, with the CBD in the background.

51D31AE8-A0AF-4D5D-8617-5A7C69ADE5B0

Staying north of the river, we also visited the suburb of Milton, home to the Suncorp Stadium and the XXXX Brewery. However our highlight was the Scratch Bar, a small but very busy pub, which has a fairly unique ‘bring your own food’ policy. We were sure to make the most of this, ordering a pizza from the award winning Arrivederci pizzaria, which was delivered to our table, as we sampled the great selection of craft beer and cider on offer.

We also spent plenty of time exploring south of the river, making use of Brisbane’s CityCycle bike hire scheme, and riding along the banks of the river from our apartment to the South Bank precinct. Similar to the scheme that operates in London, CityCycle allows you to hire bikes from stations located around the city. It’s a great way to explore Brisbane, with lots of cycleways, and 24 hours access costing just $2 (£1.25) each, as long as each individual journey lasts less than 30 minutes.

IMG_6549

The South Bank is one of the most popular areas of Brisbane, and is home to restaurants, parkland, the Wheel of Brisbane and the Streets Beach. Unfortunately the man-made beach was closed for some winter renovations during our visit, but we still enjoyed the areas impressive riverside views, as well as some great brunch from Denim Co.

C57F3EB3-1815-4540-B6E3-9C29F09E639A

Possibly our favourite suburb of Brisbane was the West End, a very diverse and alternative area, centred around the very popular Boundary Street. There was the usual mix of bars, cafes and restaurants, as well as some great beer from Catchment Brewing Co.

We also had another go at kayaking while we were in Brisbane, which was booked as a leaving present by our friends Chris and Megan. Picking up the kayaks at Kangaroo Point on the south of the river, we paddled our way downstream, past the CBD and under the Story Bridge, staying as far away from ferries as possible. This time we had our own kayaks, and Rachael was shocked to find out she would have to do all the paddling herself, but it was a great experience, and an ideal way to see more of the city.

Our apartment in East Brisbane was just a short walk from Woollongabba, and the Gabba stadium, an Australian Test cricket venue and home to the Brisbane Lions AFL team.

2DA39C34-2245-4757-B0BA-88E71147D4C4

We spent Sunday afternoon watching our second AFL game, a resounding 121-64 win for the Lions against the Freemantle Dockers, and just their third win of the season so far. Although well below the full 42,000 capacity, there was a great atmosphere and we definitely understood a lot more of the game this time.

 

 

 

 

The end of our road trip

So after 57 days we finally made it to Brisbane, the last stop on our road trip, where we begrudgingly returned our campervan. Here’s a few interesting numbers from our epic journey:

  • Total miles travelled: 7,223
  • Total miles walked (according to my sometimes dubious Fitbit): 505

IMG_4645

  • Total amount spent on petrol: $1,898 (£1,200)
  • Total number of campsites: 38 (21 were free)
  • Total amount spent on campsites: $787 (£498)

Continue reading

Exploring the Glass House Mountains

On our last full day before handing back the campervan, we decided it was only right to finish our roadtrip with a visit to one more of Australia’s many incredible National Parks.

The Glass House Mountains are a series of 11 rocky outcrops, that were formed by volcanic activity, and rise up dramatically from the otherwise flat surroundings. They are located in the Sunshine Coast region, just 68km north of Brisbane. It is possible to climb all but one of the mountains, with the largest Mount Beerwah off limits since a large landslide in 2011. Given our limited time, we were pleased to manage to reach the summit of two of the smaller peaks.

Before making a start on the mountains, we decided to begin the the day with what we hoped would be a leisurely visit to Kondalilla Falls. The 4.7km trail started by taking us past a series of rockpools and stunning views across the valley, before a deceivingly gentle descent to the base of the huge falls.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Continue reading

The Gold Coast

We had heard lots of bad things about the Gold Coast before our visit, and it definitely doesn’t have a great reputation amongst many Australians, as well as some of our friends living in the country. It is generally thought of as being a tacky and overdeveloped tourist destination which is best avoided, much like an Australian version of Blackpool.

However as with everywhere, we arrived with an open mind, ready to find the best it had to offer. We were actually pleasantly surprised, and the Gold Coast has plenty going for it, especially if you are willing to look a little harder.

But first, the bad stuff. Surfers Paradise, the most popular section of the coastline, was exactly what we expected. While the beach itself is nice, they’re not exactly in short supply in Australia, and the huge high-rise apartment blocks and hotels towering over the beach do sort what ruin it. As for the resort itself, you can see why it is popular with young Australian holidaymakers, but it was overcrowded and full of cheap looking shops and restaurants. Definitely not the sort of place we enjoy visiting.

IMG_6234

Continue reading

Byron Bay

We were expecting Bryon Bay to be one of our highlights of the East coast, and it didn’t disappoint. The small coastal town has long been a popular destination for hippies and those seeking an alternative lifestyle. Famous for its beaches, surfing and laid-back culture, it is now incredibly popular with backpackers and Australian tourists alike.

Watching the sunrise from Cape Byron lighthouse is a must do when visiting Byron, and we decided to do this on our first morning there. After setting our alarm at 4am, and making the steep climb up to the lighthouse, we arrived just in time as the darkness began to lift.

However yet again we picked the wrong morning, with the sun struggling to break through the thick cloud, and the strong winds making it incredibly cold. We really should have checked the weather forecast the night before!

IMG_6083

Continue reading