A library of London

I don’t believe there is ever not a good time to travel, and leaving a Sydney summer for a European winter is no exception. Plus, for a girl who finds herself as entranced with fairy lights as I do, London leading into Christmas is a fairytale. Too busy staring up at the strings of lights floating above to navigate the streams of people falling out of buildings, cafes, and tube stations below. But ever so happy.

The first glimmer of the trip sparked from the idea to surprise his younger brother who had been living abroad for the year by turning up at the local derby at Wembley Stadium, creating a memory that floods warmth through your body – “no f#@king way” – and didn’t take much convincing from there.

So with four days in London, and an excited and unexpected tour guide, what do you do?

The first twenty-four hours were a whirlwind. Filled with surprises, station-hopping, and sub-par temperatures, we rode the high until we collapsed back in our perfectly positioned London pad. At 7.30pm – thank you, jetlag.  Wandering around Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland we wasted our first few pounds on carnival games we knew we couldn’t win, and warmed our weary fingers with Bailey’s hot chocolate and good old German beer. With Mariah already filling the air, it really was beginning to feel a lot like Christmas, and with his brother back by his side I could tell he already had all he wanted.

One of the things that excites me about travel is having an excuse to eat out for as many meals as you just can’t seem to justify back home. And when we eat, we do it well. Warned about the state of coffee in the UK, our first breakfast at The Modern Pantry was very well received. The savory waffles drizzled in maple syrup and pulled pork eggs benedict definitely didn’t disappoint either. And apparently, without realising, we’d brought a taste of home back to Henry. Coffee. We even stopped for a second cuppa at Prufrock on the walk home.

A stroll through the Camden Markets, where a bubble-machine from the circus shop almost had me in tears thinking it was snowing already, was followed by a proper stuffing at Southwark Tavern with a bunch of Breislin’s who we worked out, I hadn’t seen for almost ten years. Many jokes were made about putting the ‘convicts’ back in their cells (the tavern used to be a prison), and it just felt like home. Funny thing about family.

A walk along South Bank and across Millennium Bridge, we ended up watching the the setting sun trickle through the city’s shades of grey from the top story of a boutique shopping center across from St Paul’s. It pays to know people who know the city inside out. Looking at you, Viv.

Anyway, that’s enough words for now. But don’t worry, there are more to come. A whole load more. For now, have some pictures.

E x

A Christmas in the Country

Off to Orange we go, after a quick pit stop in Thirlmere for his family Christmas (it’s on the way, right?). Loaded with ham, turkey and all the trimmings, plus some pretty sweet Santa sacks, we messaged mum to get the Christmas pudding in the oven and hit the road.

It would be the first time in a while that the whole family would be together again and with the parents considering moving to Orange permanently, it was kinda sorta a big deal. I’d been promised wine, wineries and warm weather, which sounded like a win to me.

Day 1.
A second round of Christmas was toasted with an early coffee from Byng Street Local Store, a meander around Cook Park, a fiddle with my new drone, plums freshly picked from the trees lining the streets outside, and a table set with a 1986 Penfolds. Adorned with Santa hats we cracked crackers, swapped stories, mesmerised with magic, and drank a drop or two. Or three. Okay, it was five.

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Day 2.
Once more shops had begun to swing open their doors again after the Christmas break, we headed to the new local Omar by Academy Coffee where we ended up staying much longer than expected after he started talking to the two guys behind the machine about coffee. No surprises there. But with the promise of a menu filled with bagels to start in the next few days, we promised to be back again soon.

A breakfast big enough to fill our Christmas-stretched stomachs at The Agrestic Grocer, followed by a visit to Thornbrook Orchard to try our hand at fruit picking (one of the last surviving forms of slavery in Australia, according to Jack). If the kilo of apricots we got for $6 didn’t fill us up, the trip to Lake Canobolas for a picnic of Christmas leftovers surely did.

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It was a chilled afternoon in front of the cricket, as he was getting a withdrawal headache from being away from it for too long, followed by a pub crawl with the parents. First stop was to the Union Bank, sitting in the beer garden staring up at the ivy covered building while sipping on a lychee spritz. Then just around the corner to the Lord Anson, an old-school English pub where we feasted like kings on chicken parmys the size of our face, which I managed to finish much to his surprise and pleasure for not having put money on it. Last but not least, we ventured to the Greenhouse, a new nine-million dollar wonderland on top of the Orange Ex-Services Club, where mum tried to sign in using her library card, and we considered buying a beer tower each but settled on a wine just because of the way the Spanish guy behind the bar said it.

Day 3.
Rise and shine and off to Racine Bakery for a breakfast of baked goods, before heading back to Omar by Academy where we are now ‘known’ enough for him to get a free coffee thrown in to his already three-shot coffee order. Convincing ourselves that it’s definitely 5pm somewhere in the world, we headed to Ross Hill Wines for the 10am tour and tasting, and were taught all the tricks of the trade by owner James Robson himself. Having tried ten wines by twelve, and now be able to talk about tannin, comment on climate and organise oak from tank, we learned that not all chardys are crap and that white wine can be cellared (if you can wait that long). Oh, and that Ross Hill is the goods.

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Next we headed to Heifer Station where I not only got introduced to my spirit animal, the llama, but also two baby llamas, along with the most randomly awesome chickens I have ever seen, a Shetland pony, and a solid-looking sheep called Brutus. Oh yeah, and there was wine. Orange is definitely starting to grow on me.

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With the hangover starting to kick in around 2pm, which is never a good sign, we headed to Groundstone Cafe for some hip food before a solid siesta in the afternoon. You know what they say – start early, end early. Just in this case it was very very early.

Having become regulars at the Racine Bakery, for dinner that night we headed to Racine La Colline, the restaurant behind the institution. Up a winding, vine-lined dirt road we found the beautiful restaurant sitting atop the hill, picturesque water tank dripping in ivy, a garden overflowing with roses and lavender, and the smell of fresh hay. Three beautiful courses were enjoyed with the sun beating softly against my city skin. Best of all, Thursday night are training night, so we both enjoyed ourselves for only $50 a pop.

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Day 4.
We made pack-up day a picking day by heading to Huntley Berry Farm on our way home. A non-for-profit farm run to support those with a disability where visitors are free to roam the paddocks of produce, picking from the plentiful berry trees and vines and pay by the kilo at the end. We scored strawberries, the best blueberries, the ripest raspberries and my first mulberries. There is heaps to choose from, even vegetables. Highly recommended.

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So Orange, with your wine and your weather, your coffee and your croissants, your rolling hills and restaurants, you’re a place I wouldn’t mind calling my second home.

You have my tick of approval, mum and dad.

E x

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N.B: To put a name to the face

There is something that often comes up whenever I’m having a conversation about the ramblings I post here: who is he.

For most of the people I talk to, they know who he is, because they also know him, which is great and should settle any anxiety the anonymity may cause. And yes, I post photos of him, so the questions remains: why don’t I just use his name? For me, the reason is quite simple, but one that I deliberated over for quite some time in the beginning.

He is obviously a very personal aspect of my life, and this blog is a very public one. While I’m happy to share my adventures with those of you interested in following them, there are some things that I’d prefer to keep to myself: namely him. 

And yes, call me hypocritical, because I have shared the names of other friends I’ve traveled with in the past, and have decided that I will do again in the future, but I’m sorry folks, he is just one thing I’m going to keep all to myself, because when it comes to him I’m selfish like that. Sorry, but I’m not sorry.

See you all in Japan in a few weeks.

E x

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Hey from Railay Bay

Railay, Railei, Raylay, Rayliy – the beach with a million different spellings, and even more cases of severe sunburn. But not me, I’ve been living it up with massages under the trees, a massive sunhat and so much aloe vera from Santa. It’s my little slice of paradise. Whoever said you can’t have the cake and eat it too clearly hasn’t been here.*

But it hasn’t just been a process of relocating from the sand to the water and then back again. We’ve been quite adventurous to say how relaxed we all are. After spending too much time floating on top of it, we decided to check out what it was like under the water, so headed to the Phi Phi Islands to scuba dive. Being my first time I must admit I was a little nervous. But with a severe case of #FOMO and a promise that I would find Nemo, how could I say no. Not only did I get to live the plot of both Finding Nemo and Finding Dory, but also saw the shorts for the third part of the franchise, Finding Crush – the story of a turtle that falls out of the EAC and ends up in Phi Phi. Call me for info, Disney.

Surviving a gnarly storm on the ride home, we were greeted by the most incredible sunset I have ever laid eyes on that night. Such is the way in paradise.

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Next on the to-do list was venturing to a cave we had spotted on the side of one of the encroaching cliffs of the bay, in which we had decided there was a lagoon. “An easy walk” we reminded ourselves as we trekked through bushes and vines and up steep rocky tracks. At points I felt like we were trekking Everest, but I was quickly put straight. Dripping with sweat out of places I never knew sweat could come, and informed by climbers that we were definitely lost, we descended the cliff to the beckoning beach below. No lagoon but plenty of opportunities to practice our power poses, so all was not lost.

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Dolled up with a fresh $8 manicure that resembled a time when I used to paint my nails with whiteout in primary school, we headed to somewhere nice on the other side of Railay – a bamboo bar overlooking, and at some points overhanging the water. Intoxicated by reggae music, we ate, drank and reached a new level of relaxation as the afternoon disappeared beneath us.

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Keen to catch another sunset, we jumped on some kayaks and explored the cliffs from another angle. No cave was left undiscovered, no matter how small it may have looked from the outside…and unsurprisingly turned out to be on the inside. Pulling up on shore for a quickie to check out the Penis Caves, and watching some real-life David Attenborough shit as a water lizard caught and devoured a crab, it was fair to say we’d reached our peak enlightenment for one day.

A chef-cooked meal for us at home, plus some fresh juices from down the beach that we’d spiked with tequila. Does life get any better?

E x

 

*pre-quantum physics.**

**Don’t worry if you don’t understand – this is an in-joke.

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Kristmas in Krabi

Twas’ the night before Christmas and all through the resort,
the team was searching for a fun activity of sorts.
The Kris Kringle presents were bought and wrapped in all kinds,
each excited about the next day and the presents we’d find.

Sad to leave the Sarojin but keen for adventure,
to another part of Phuket our plans had us venture.
A car ride to the unknown and a longtail boat to follow,
the beauty of our destination was not hard to swallow.

Swims in the sunset and beds in the trees,
incredible cliffs overhanging and thieving monkeys.
A never-ending buffet and a daring fire show,
meeting new friends, and tequila as BYO.

A Christmas tree made from palm ferns and all sorts of flowers,
fans on full blast and nothing but cold showers.
Santa nailing the gifts even though we’re not home,
calling family far and wide over the phone.

Swimming in the sea as warm as a bath,
trying to find cool and undiscovered paths.
With plans to kayak, dive, and swing from a rope,
island hop, in-house chef and puzzles – not sure how I’ll cope.

A Christmas spent away can seem like no Christmas at all,
not sure about you, but whatever this is, I’m having a ball.
Got to go explore caves before we lose the light!
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

E x

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