Monday, October 31, 2011

Road Trip 2011: Epilogue

I learned a lot over the past two weeks:

  • Four-poster to futon: I slept on six beds over eleven nights and had comfortable, uninterrupted sleep in them all. Two nights home in my own bed, all my aches and pains have returned. We need a new mattress, stat. Either that, or the dog, cat and husband need their own room!
  • You do not need to have previously met people IRL for them to be friends. Spending time with people I had only known online was great - thank goodness for ABAChat and Facebook.
  • Solo travel is great. Solo travel as a female is still great. The single downside is there isn't anyone to watch your carry-on luggage when you go to the loo at the airport, so you have to squeeze it into the cubicle with you!
  • Apps are ace: I used two apps on my Android phone which made everything so managable:
  1. Tripit was amazing - it even tracks your flight details for you: it knew my gate had changed before I did! (If my phone hadn't been flat on my return trip, it might have told me Qantas had issues!)
  1. Packing List  was terrific: I was able to work out all I would need to take, divided up into various bags and then just gather it all ready to go - and check I had it when I left each stay.
  • If you are going to use your mobile phone as a GPS in a rental car, yes - do pack your dash mount. I didn't.
  • Audio books on CD make long drives much more enjoyable, as does your whole music collection on a memory stick.
  • My aunt once queried the modern trend to carry drink bottles of water everywhere. I have worked out this is because we don't tend to punctuate our days with multiple pots of tea! It is much more hydrating than you think.
  • B&B accommodation wins hands-down over motels at much the same price and cuts out all the middle-men - your money goes directly to the owners.
  • Cousins morph into your aunts, uncles and grandparents over the years - quite disconcerting when you haven't seen them in a while!
  • I much prefer art to depict real life in a way I can see it - abstract is too abstract for me.
  • Second-hand bookshops are always staffed by people with a passion for books, a tendency to chat and piles of books they are getting around to shelving. The best ones have a resident cat or dog and the ultimate also serve tea!
  • It is much wiser to post your book purchases home by mail than try to squeeze them into your luggage.
  • The Goodreads app is essential to prevent doubling-up! There are two - I prefer this one
  • The BEST gadget I had with me was a last-minute purchase at Coles before I left - basically a double adapter with two USB points - I could charge my phone, Kobo and laptop all at once with access to only a single, standard power point. I think it was $15.
  • Don't take your tripod and really don't lug it to dinner at Parliament House, just in case - you won't use it!
  • Do use the Facebook check-in feature - it keeps the family informed you are safe, let's hosts know you are on your way/made it safely and is fun for everyone else to track your travels!
  • Finally - I could so make this a regular habit! Which State should I visit next time????

Oh, and I so want a new car! I hired a Kia Sportage and fell in love! 
Dear Santa, I have been a very good girl ...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Road Trip: Day Twelve

After a good night's sleep, a shower in the wonderfully-rainbow-tiled bathroom, breakfast of pancakes, I was on the road again for my final day.

My rental car needed to returned at the airport at 2pm and my flight checked-in at 3pm, so I had a few hours to play with. I headed straight to Glebe, to visit the book-mecca of Gleebooks, famous among used-books buyers and Bookcrossers. What I wasn't expecting, though, was to find the suburb of Glebe so much to my liking! With multiple book-shops along its strip, including one with a cafe where I drank chai, and the absolute bonus of a huge outdoor market where i browsed happily until I headed to the airport.

All went well with my flight and it was only as I and the other passengers waited for our bags that we found out we were, in fact, the last flights to touch down with Qantas for some time, as the news spread that the company had gone into lock-out mode in defiance of ongoing strikes and stop-works in recent months. I had just escaped being stranded in Sydney and while I would have, no doubt, plenty of beds offered, and a three-day buffer til I need to be back at work, others were not so fortunate. My shuttle bus home included a woman who should have been flying home to Macau, but was - instead - returning to her friend's home while alternate flights were found. This is the news  on a global stoppage which will affect many. Thankfully, I was headed home to bed!!!!

Road Trip: Day Eleven

Waving farewell to my cousin Bruce, I set off to catch up my cousin David! Bruce is my father's nephew, while David is my mother's yet it turns out they both live in the Parramatta area! David an I caught up over tea in the local shopping centre and he told me we hadn't seen each other since my daughter was born in 1987: I told him she turns 24 this weekend, so it had been that long!!

To ensure I didn't go too long without tea, I headed straight off to visit my friend Linda for her birthday!

(Yes, I changed shirts in between, due to the heat!)

Then I set off for an unexpected, but delightful addition to my trip: an invitation from Nicole to take part in her group's Movie and Dessert night and an offer of a bed overnight! She and her family made me so welcome - and I was thrilled to see the wonderfully decorated home they share, which is painted with my favourite primary colours and decked out with Ikea furniture! In fact, their home is to be featured in an upcoming Ikea family magazine and, by coincidence, Nicole and her lovely baby Quinn, were featured in the Sydney Morning Herald the day after my visit!!!

Photo from SMH article

The evening was wonderful, such a vibrant group of mums and babies - and desserts! This group take their home-baking seriously!!! I was made so welcome and it was fantastic to see the breastfeeding DVD I had heard about but not seen - Baby Baby Oh Baby which you can preview here. I am going to buy a copy for the Breastfeeding Centre as it will be great for the classes we run there and the mums who visit.

Road Trip 2011: Day Ten

I spent the day driving around Sydney, first visiting the NSW Branch office of ABA - the Sydney equivalent of my own workplace, where I caught up with Liz and Linda and drooled over their extensive refurbishment since my previous visit in 2005. Inspired by our own Breastfeeding Centre, they recently established a Breastfeeding Lounge and have rearranged their office space to provide private and public consultation spaces to support breastfeeding mothers. You will notice they also embrace purple as a theme colour!!

There was a slight detour to a bookshop and the bonus of just the orange backpack I have searched for for ages - half price! - and some lunch, then back on the road.

Next stop was to see  my lovely friend Anne and give her the the crocheted hat I made just for her. Chemotherapy is her focus right now and I was so happy she was up to a visit. We talked and laughed and she loved her hat, then showed me her beading, giving me a beautiful necklace of purple and just a hint of gold-orange. Before we knew it, there was only time for her husband to take photos of us giggling like school-girls, she bedecked in a purple jacket and scarf and her new hat, setting off her jammies just perfectly! And she donned Winona, her new wig, which made her look like a wild, young thing.

This is how Anne made sure I saw her house, with a string of Helpline stickers, which I completely missed as I was giving way, along with all the other traffic, to a slowly strolling Brush Turkey crossing the road!

(I don't drive with camera in hand, so this is someone else's turkey!)

Back to my cousin's house and then out to dinner at Darren and Amy's and more baby cuddles :)

Road Trip 2011: Day Nine

After a wonderful evening chatting with past ABA and current Facebook friend Aine and her husband, it was up and out the next morning for my very first time seeing the sights of Katoomba - or not! It was the most hysterical experience as Aine, who works with tourism in the Blue Mountains, proudly took me to the lookout onto the famous Three Sisters and pointed them out to me:

Oh well, at least I hadn't come from japan, like the poor confused tourists I asked to take our photo!!

This is what we should have been able to see:

Not to mention that only the day before, my online friends had been frantically warning about the bush fire in Katoomba, deliberately lit, just at the foot of this very lookout. So recent, the staff hadn't yet removed the warning signs (probably the rain was too heavy to do so!)

In case the mist/fog/rain is too thick for you to read it, the words warn "Bush Fire. Trails Closed" LOL.
The entire area stank of wet fire. I think it was out.

There was nothing left for it - Aine went to work and I went - shopping :) nearby Leura was just the thing and I spent the rest of the morning browsing and had a wonderful lunch at a cafe before hitting the road toward the city.

On the way, I stopped in to see Debbie - after a bookshop and hippy shop detour! Lovely to have tea and goodies surrounded by her purple walls!

I arrived in Parramatta in good time and dry conditions and headed tot he home of my cousin Bruce and his wife Sharon. The rest of the day was spent in conversation, then their son Darren, his wife Amy, their 2yo old Chloe and 2wo baby Keiran arrived for dinner and some breastfeeding talk!! And then to bed.

Road Trip 2011: Day Eight

I woke up from a wonderful night's sleep to a breakfast of cereal, omelettes, tea and conversation with my hostess and the other guests at Winter Rose Cottage in Bathurst. I then took some time in the beautiful garden:

Not long after, my friend Samantha came to collect me and give me the tour of Bathurst. First, a lap of the Mount Panorama racetrack, at 60km hour, a little slower than the pros a couple of weeks ago!

However, not being a petrol-head and being exposed to the racing side of the location far more than I could ever wish due to my father and then my husband being fans, I focused on the the panorama instead, which you will agree is pretty stunning.

We then headed off for tea and pastries, book shopping, the local art gallery, fossil museum and a honey farm shop/cafe and before we knew it, it was school pick up and time for me to hit the road.

Next stop: The Blue Mountains! My luck ran out just as I passed the border of Bathurst and the threatening rain finally hit. I drove up the mountains in a downpour, making the whole adventure just that little more challenging, but finally my GPS found the home of Aine and I was safe for the night in Katoomba.