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Settling in Sanur

I arrived in Sanur knowing I would settle here for my final part of Bali.
I had good intentions of jumping on a boat to Nusa Lembongan and also of taking a day trip to Uluwatu and Nusa Dua… but my sciatica was in full force against me, my stomach was still not right and I decided that it was OK for me to just lie on a beach for my last two days and rest, eat well and prepare myself for my journey home.
So that’s what I did. I found a place to stay, opened my suitcase, pulled things out and felt pleased to know I would only have to repack it one more time!

The Lonely Planet coins Sanur as the youngest of the Three Bears – not too crazy like Kuta, and not too sleepy like Nusa Dua. Neither of which did I visit: Kuta didn’t appeal to me in the slightest, and Nusa Dua was on my to-do list, but maybe next time.

I enjoyed walking the entire length of the promenade and LOVED that fact that I got hassled twice. Only twice. This may have been due to the festival Galungan which took place on my second day there and meant that many businesses were shut and locals weren’t around to bother me!

I loved the fishing boats stacked randomly on the beach up and down the coast – some looked like they’d been there for so long, but it may have only been a few hours. In a place like that – you feel compelled to eat fish! I wanted to give those fishermen the business of my taste buds!

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Sanur and Bali seem so far far away from me now, as I sit at my desk wearing jeans and a long sleeved top. Oh how I loved the food!
Check out this beautiful Mahi Mahi fish I had on my last day, and the beer I rewarded myself with afterwards…

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I also made use of very cheap massages, facials and manicures, and let’s not forget that I found Hardy’s supermarket wonderful for all my gifts and nicnacs to take home – I’d only been trolling about 21kg, which felt like more, but I had up to 30kg allowed…

Final thoughts on Bali…

The Balinese are a kind nation, who have welcomed tourists with open arms, and in some places I sense this has been slightly to their detriment. But then Bali is indeed what you make of it – it can be entirely what you want it to be. If you want a resort where you need to do nothing other than change from your bed to your sunbed – you can have that cheaper than in Australia – and if you are game you can venture out for some cheap food, booze and clothes. If you come over with surfboards tucked under your arm looking for the ride of your life, it’s pretty much a given. And if you want to get off the beaten track, sample the cuisine, walk through rice fields, feel the energy in a temple or calm yourself with yoga – you can do all of that too. I don’t think the last option is very advisable when you are a single female, lugging around a suitcase and 2 years of thoughts and feelings to process topped with a bad back and a keen sense adventure without the budget to cater for it.

But what a great two weeks in the end – I was tested a little, I treated myself as much as I could afford to and I was touched by some of the people I met and the moments I shared.

I came home with stories to share, a tan to show off (not easy when you have to dive into winter wear…) and a blog that I think needs to be continued as I find my way around at home in the UK and figure what to do next.

Watch this space folks!

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Food in Ubud

How are you going to eat INdonesian food? It’s so spicy!
Wrong! Indonesian food isn’t necessarily spicy – it can be if you want it to – but there are variety of choices!

I did my best to sample to local fare in Legian and once I have done the 5 staple dishes, I felt it was time to try more. Ubud is renound for its fabulous food and abundance of restaurants. As you walk down the street in Ubud each building is either a restaurant, cafe, accommodation or a shop. Most places are offering local dishes, artfully served and delicious in every way.

Banana pancakes, fresh fruit and Balinese coffee for breakfast
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Nasi Campur – Fairly typical lunchtime cuisine. This is the vegetarian version – meat also possible.
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Vegetable curry – know how to make this now!
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One of the only things I had planned to do was a cooking class – so I could go home with something practical other than just a suntan and a few cheap sarongs (can’t afford a lot else!) so I took a class in Bumu Bali, on Monkey Forest Road.
We started with a tour of the local market – with Made, our 18 year old tour guide/cooking teacher, myself and a German/French couple. This made things interesting as at times we had a 4 way translation going! Made might mis pronounce something, which I would re-itterate and then it was translated into French and/or German. Or vice-versa a German word was translated into French, which I figured out in English, to tell Made who told us the Indonesian word… tiring!

First stop: Ubed markets. These are partially underground and relatively quiet as far as markets go. The smell is something to note and the the place doesn’t look or feel clean in any possible way. Even Made commented on the “funky” smell! This is where most of Ubud buy their groceries and a number of them are unrecogniseable to the Western pallette. I wish I had taken a paper an pen, as I cannot remember what most of them were!

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Next we went into the darkness of the underground part of the market – a maze of darkly lit stalls, squeezing past vendors and buyers, a musty smell and rice, spice and more rice!
Made talked us through the spices that most Balinese kitchens have, where they come from and what forms you can buy them in. I realise now, having done the cooking class that a number of spice can’t be bought in the UK, so I should have invested…

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Next came the class…

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First we learnt how to make Basa Gede – which is a basic spice paste – used as the base for many dishes.
It contains all of this:
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and usually is ground by hand with a mortar and pestle. However- thankfully many modern ladies use a blender!

The next dish prepared was indeed my favourite – Tempe Manis Otherwise known as sweet tempe. I my default did a vegetarian course, which interesting though it was used tofu and tempe as the base for all the dishes. I am not sure if I can sway my family to eat “vegetarian” food, but oh my goodness if I can whip this dish up again I’ll be happily eating it all by myself!

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Next on the list was Vegetable Curry – which I forgot to photgraph as I was too busy eating it! And finally Balinese fried banana – bit of a heart attack – at least the idea is, but the batter itself uses half wheat, half rice flour, so it’s light enough to not feel too guilty…

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And not to forget palm sugar! Used in everything and it makes it all so delicious!

Watch this space readers – plenty more to come – Rice terraces, Amed coast, a whinge about solo travel, and a bit more on Candidasa and Padangbai…

Ubud wanderings

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I spent a couple of days wandering around Ubud, with no real plans to speak of. I am getting quite tired of racing around trying to see things and exhausting myself, and one of the merits of travelling by yourself is that you can afford the luxury of doing things your way. So I dipped in and out of shops, galleries, down gangways and sat down in cafes to enjoy cups of tea, fresh juices and iced coffees. Not a bad way to spend a few days, however I noted that although Ubud is supposed to be quieter and more relaxed, it has indeed become a tourist hub and it’s impossible to walk down any street without noticing this.
Signs are written in English everywhere, drivers are desperate to get you in their car to show you the “real” Bali, There is an abundance of salons, cafes, restaurants and accommodation to fit every budget.And there is a tourist price tag on most of it unfortunately.

Speaking to a couple of locals I am informed that Ubud before Eat, Pray, Love was a completely different place – a small town centred around the market, surrounded by rice fields and a slower pace of life. Now however, the regular flow of tourists ( a large number of Americans not surprisingly) who stay and the huge number of day trippers means traffic is often very congested and it can take over an hour to drive the length of Monkey Forest Road, which is a couple of kilometers. It also means that those attractive looking street facing restaurants on that street come with exhaust fumes as well as the constant hum of scooters.

I am please I went – glad I got to sample the local fare, as well as learn to cook it, and also happy to have the opportunity to get out and see the are surrouding Ubud.

More to come…

Up to Ubud

15/10/13
Ubud

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As I write this I am sipping on very sweet strong coffee, and eating a freshly prepared fruit salad, sitting on the balcony of my $15 room. Instead of rushing off sightseeing, I am taking it easy, trying to work with the Ubud rhythm and also taking a moment to catch this blog up!

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So I arrived in Ubud yesterday afternoon. I had a driver take me from my hotel in Legian all the way to Ubud. Davy was a well informed man with little to say, but questions he could easily answer. Interestingly the journey was shared with another guest from the same hotel who was from Melbourne – so thanks to my Australian experience we found we had plenty to talk about between commenting regularly on the alarming number of motorists with no helmets on, cyclists with no helmets on and that despite the somewhat erratic nature of the roads I noted that about 90 % of vehicles on the road looked brand new, and I didn’t see any with signs of previous accidents. Much as I love driving, you’ll know from previous posts, I have to say Indonesia is not somewhere I would willingly rise to the challenge.

On our way to Ubud, as predicted we stopped at a number of places. Yes of course these were all very interesting, and even a few things to be learnt by watching people creating works of art or traditional crafts, but I couldn’t help feel that I was a bit of disappointment to my driver and owners of the places we visited, as I didn’t once put my hand in my pocket to make a purchase.

I didn’t take any photos ( and quite probably wouldn’t have been allowed ) of the ladies working on silk batiks, or the jewellery makers working on filigree earrings and the artists in different stages of their 3 week paintings. I really do appreciate seeing things like this, but can’t help but feel a sense of desperation as we are steered into these places and looked upon hopefully as tourists with money who might make their day.

Once arriving in Ubud a communication problem, a traffic jam and a very hot day meant that finding a place to stay was a little more stressful than needed. We drove past the first two places I wanted to try and by the time I realised we were looking for somewhere to drop me off, all I could do was jump out of the car in traffic and run to a few of the many guesthouses that Ubud is abundant with. I was going to go for a little luxury – hoping for a pool in a lush green garden, but what I ended up with – where I am sitting now couldn’t be better.

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Right down the end of a gang ( small lane way ) I found Rice Paddy Bungalows. Having tried a place recommended by the Lonely Planet which was revolting, and another place in the same gang as this which looked mosquito ridden I was happy to land upon this. There’s only 6 rooms here – in three buildings and set in a lovely green garden. Cadek, who later told me his name was lying on the ground when I poked my head into the garden. “Yes?” He said smiling, as he jumped up and put his t-shirt on. He showed me the available room – up a steep set of stairs, but wonderfully spacious, spotless and incredibly good value. It’s a large room with a beautiful 4-poster bed ( I have always wanted to sleep in a 4 poster bed!!) and a bathroom which is kind of a wet room. I have a large balcony with table and chairs, breakfast included and wifi in my room. Not to mention the very friendly staff who asked me politely where I was from etc but thankfully did not ask me where my boyfriend was or enquire as to why I was travelling alone – two questions I am already tired of answering – so much so I have taken to wearing a fake engagement ring!! Kedak also came all the way with me back to the car to collect my suitcase. When I asked if he’d mind helping me I hadn’t realised he’d be willing to take it all the way there and then – to my shock – pick it up and carry it on his head up the steps to my room!

Everytime I have met Cedak he as greated me warmly, remembering my name. This morning, I woke up nice and late for once and once he saw me on my balcony he rushed up to offer me the breakfast menu. What arrived was delicious indeed – A banana pancake drizzled with honey, a black coffee and fruit salad of banana, papaya, pineapple and melon. Incredible value for just $15 – compared to the revolting room I stayed in the previous night which I paid $4o for!

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https://www.facebook.com/ricepaddy.bungalows?fref=ts

Bali beginnings

“I have absolutely no desire to go to Bali” “Everyone goes there!” “I don’t know why you want to go to Bali”
“I wouldn’t go to Bali if I were you, it’s not safe anymore” “Ooooh you be careful there in Bali. it’s quite dangerous you know” “Why go to Bali? There are so many other places you could visit”

Just a few of the reactions I got when I told people I was spending two weeks in Bali on my way home to the UK.
I consider myself to be fairly streetwise, not as well-travelled as I would like to be, but an optimistic, open-minded traveller in any case. These comments, although disappointing, were not going to put me off visiting a country that has been on my wish list for many many years. Yes, I indeed had conjured up (possibly unrealistic ) images of white sandy, palm-fringed beaches and those lovely bed-like seating areas in beach bars to sip long drinks and watch the sunset. I also had a serene, green country in my mind, where people take life slowly, do yoga, eat well and live our dream. Of course I know I had to reduce and re-check my own expectations, but what I can conclude after my third day is that Bali clearly is what YOU make of it.

Forgive me for the lack of pictures in this post, but perhaps thanks to my flight, a lot of moving around, carrying heavy bags and the emotional stress of saying goodbye to so many people – my body seems to have decided that now is a good time for it to hurt. A lot. So I have been trying to walk around with as little as possible, meaning my camera very often gets sacrificed for a bottle of water. At this point I also wish to add that this post (and entire blog) is merely my opinion, and my musings on what I have observed and experienced. If I am offending anyone ( I probably will ) then please do not comment – as I won’t post it. I have to say this, as I once wrote something that a reader disagreed wildly with and wrote so in a comment which I deleted.

My first port of call was Legian – supposedly much less frantic and touristy than Kuta, and a little less snazzy than Seminyak. I think someone told me there are 6 flights daily out of Perth to Denspasar, Bali – so it’s little wonder that tourism has exploded, Australians are everywhere and catering for the masses means that some of Bali’s charm might have been reduced. It’s not hard to escape the fact that this once small, probably quaint seaside village has now morphed into a “cater for all” type destination. You cannot walk down the street without people calling out “Hello Darling shopping? Nice looking! Transport? Taxi? Nice things! Bloody good price ( this made me hoot the first time I heard a little Indonesian man tell me in an Aussie accent that he would give me a “bloody good price”). Every restaurant offers you the 5 same dishes – Mie Goreng, Nasi Goreng, Chicken Satay, Gado Gado and seafood Laksa. On the same menu you will find steak and chips and every Western item they can think of. It’s also not hard to ignore the fact that there are large (sorry but they are), tattooed Australians walking around in Bintang vests, and yes true to the stereotype – often sunburnt. We have the equivalent undesirable tourists from the UK who make me cringe when I am on holiday, trying to hide my nationality, so I am not bashing the Aussies, just the ones that embarrass me.

Walking on the beach brought it home to me – it turned my stomach in fact. This apparently beautiful 12km strip of sand was littered with plastic waste – coming from the sea. I had my beer on a sun lounger, watching the sunset, so I could say I had done it. But I didn’t enjoy being hassled by the sellers, not did I want to even put a toe into the revolting looking water.

Now I am sounding very negative I know, and I didn’t even go to Kuta – imagine what I would say about that! But as I said, I think Bali is what you make of it. For many Australians it’s a cheap get away – cheaper than going somewhere locally. You have got guaranteed sun, cheap food, beer, clothes and services ( massages start from just $6 – If I were Australian I’d be flying over for pampering alone!) and your dollars can probably get you a nice hotel with a pool if the beach isn’t appealing. If you surf – I imagine everything else is a bonus.

But I am generalising wildly of course and speaking of the stretch from Kuta to Seminyak – the most popular tourist areas and easiest to get to from the airport.

In my case – I am certain Bali has much more to offer. I have eaten those 5 dishes, had a massage, manicure and pedicure, done my sunset beer, and then started to get a little irked by constantly feeling like people saw me as a walking cash machine and keen to spend. So I am heading inland to Ubud, for a change in pace, a change in atmosphere, a slight change in temperature and to try and find the essence, not the tourist face, of Bali.

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East coast family and friends

08/10/13
The Three Monkeys
West End, Brisbane

I am sitting in a cafe I am very fond of in Brisbane with just two days left in Australia.

My back hurts, my shoulders are sore, I am tired, I have just cried a little bit into my iced coffee and I wondering if I just tried to achieve too much in the last 3 weeks here.

Since leaving Perth I have raced up and down the East Coast trying to fit everyone in and keep everyone smiling.I’ve travelled on trains, planes, buses, cars and even a taxi. I have pulled 23kg + my laptop + my backpack around (and listened to EVERYONE tell me it’s too heavy, ask me why I have so much, and tell me I will hurt myself. Very helpful comments and questions kind people – please note this – NO tired traveller who has painstakingly given and thrown away many many things wants to ever hear this!) and I have not slept more than 4 nights in one bed, which used to be fun, and now at 29 it’s just exhausting!

As I sit here in Brisbane with watery eyes waiting for painkillers to take away the pain that is wriggling across my upper back, I worry that I have tried to do too much and have potentially made my two week Bali adventure an uncomfortable experience.

But in the name of optimism and good blog stuff let’s look at what I HAVE managed to get done over here recently.
First of all, three and a half lovely days with my new-never-met-before-Maltese-Italian-Aussie family that was filled with food, laughter, stories, love and more. I met so many wonderful people that I even rearranged my last few days in Australia to see them again.

Then a train ride from Brisbane through the NSW hinterland back to a much loved home from home on my lovely cousin’s organic farm. Four blissful days were spent cuddling cows, playing with dogs and horses and laughing till I cried, in some favourite locations too.

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May I say that these four days might have been four of the most memorable in Australia? And let’s not forget the food feasts! I was staying with an incredible cook and also a chef, yet I won our rendition of Come Dine With Me, with my Spanish themed evening – and even got a certificate! One of my proudest moments!

Images from Bundjalung National Park

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Then there was another early departure and a terribly emotional bus trip north as I realised, as one does unexpectedly sometimes, that such a lovely experience as that would never be repeated again and the many fond memories I have started to build up will soon be nothing but memories. Of course I have known ever since arriving that the end would come, but it is sad to leave a place you have been back to a number of times, knowing it’s your last.

I arrived in Brisbane transit centre and sat there for over an hour as my connecting bus was delayed. All I really wanted to do was put my head on someone’s shoulder and go to sleep, but maybe not wise to do that to a stranger!

A little later than planned I arrived at Nambour and was met by a great uncle, who confessed he couldn’t remember meeting me! When people make such a fuss about you spending time with them, it’s a little disconcerting when they say they can’t remember what you look like.

Three days were spent on the Sunshine Coast, filled with plenty of stories, spectacular views and glorious food. Highlights include my 77 year great uncle beating me to the surf at Mooloolaba, a lunch at the magical Secrets on the Lake and some very cheap, yet delicious fish and chips!
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Lake Baroon
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After my time in Bli Bli I was taken up the coast to Noosa and handed over to a friend for the weekend. My cattle station friend ( we’d met when I was “doing my time” on the station) and I had plenty to catch up on and did this eating copious amounts of cheese, drinking too much beer and chilling on the beach in between.

I sadly never made it to Noosa Heads, as thanks to a public holiday parking was almost impossible.

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A drive down to Caloundra for lunch at another great uncle’s and thanks to a lift in the land cruiser life was made easier. Thankfully I didn’t attempt public transport twice that day as because of a “new” public holiday the Translink website was mistakenly telling me and every other commuter in Queensland the WRONG information. So after a relaxing few hours in Golden Beach, catching up with another relative, I had a rather sticky and stressful commute back to Brisbane.

Since arriving back here I have had another Maltese-Italian banquet and met more family members! I have had a wonderful lunch with another cousin, and yet to come morning tea with my bush family mum and dinner out with another cousin, then lunch with more relatives.

I will be unable to do anything other than sit on the beach once I arrive in Bali!

my Maltese connection

04/10/13
Noosa, QLD

Look out from Mt Coot-tha
Panorama of Brisbane from Mt Coot-tha look out

I arrived in Brisbane airport, one I am so very familiar with now, about 2 weeks ago. I was tired, and a bit hungover. I wasn’t sure what to expect – only that I was going to be suitcasing it up and down the east coast to tick boxes and fit everyone in as best I could before departing. Some I am certain I will see again, others I’m not so sure. Age plays a bit part in the uncertainty of repeat visits – but true to my word I made it back to connect with my Maltese family here in Brisbane.

Not being one to reveal myself, nor the identity and privacy of my friends, family or those I meet on my travels – It’s a little hard to express this visit in a blog.

What I wish to say though, was that leaving this part of my family after just three and a half days in their company – having met a number of people who I never knew existed – sharing stories, photographs and filling in the gaps of a bit of family history, was harder than I imagined.

I was treated like a long lost (which I suppose on one level is true) much loved member of the family. Stories were shared of my Maltese grandmother – the Aunt of the relative I was staying with – and her time here in Australia 60 years ago with my father and his father.

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Lots of tea and coffee were drink as we caught up on lots of history

The three of them arrived in 1950, when my dad was just 8 months old. They arrived on a boat, as many did, as “ten pound poms”, as many did and left two years later, as some did. Their time was short, but the memories have held fast for many years. They left, but other members of my Nana’s family stayed, having permanently relocated here from Egypt. And so the Maltese side of my family set up their lives in Darra, Queensland.
I was so fortunate to be invited into this world, and welcomed so openly. I ate fabulous Maltese and Italian food (They are a Maltese-Italian family), drank homemade wine, fresh coffee, listened to Italian conversation and found a piece of myself in these people. I met a number of second cousins (My dad’s cousins), their spouses and their children and was told I had barely scratched the surface.

There are two sides of my family here in Australia. On my mother’s side there are my Grandmother’s brothers and their children. Many of these I had met from various visits over the years, and who I have happily reconnected with, as well as cousins I had heard of but not met until now.

But back in January last year, shortly after arriving from the UK after my Christmas break I’d had lunch with a cousin of my mum’s and was walking back to another cousin’s house where I was staying when it occurred to me that these weren’t the only people in my family who lived in Australia. I had no idea where my dad’s family were living, or even if they were still alive. I just felt I needed to do something – I thought it would be nice to locate the house my dad lived in as a toddler and take a photo of it, so I called him and asked if he could find the address. What do you know – the next day I had jumped on a train and was spontaneously knocking on the door of a total stranger to me, who I’d been told was my second cousin. After an understandable amount of confusion I was welcomed in for a cup of tea, and then sent to another house a few doors away to repeat the same speech to another cousin I hadn’t met before. It was a mad decision to jump on the train that day – with no notice and just arrive at someone’s door – but perhaps one of the best decisions I have made so far, as I unearthed a whole group of interesting, loving, caring souls who welcomed me as though we’d known each other for years.

It’s worth mentioning that I never came to Australia to specifically meet any of these people – I came on a mission of my own to find my own way, answer some questions and to see what I could do for myself here in Australia. Everyone that has come to me, or become part of my life here has been such a wonderful bonus that they deserve a place in my blog.

Brisbane from Mt Coot-tha where I was taken for a visit.

Brisbane skyline

Panorama of Brisbane

Last few words from Perth

During my last week, I had a couple of days off and thankfully one of them was drier than the rest so I had the opportunity to wander around Perth freely rather that dodging showers.

After a very cheap lunch with a friend (a Thali curry voucher purchased from Groupon in a bid to eat as many different and interesting cuisines as I could before leaving Australia) I wandered over to the State Library for a gander. Both here and in Melbourne, The State Library has been a bit of a refuge for me. It’s a place that’s free, had air conditioning (not that that was a need of it in recent months) internet and in the case of Perth a really great range of second hand books just outside of the gift shop, and of course – nice, clean toilets. The café in Perth is particularly good, if anyone wants to check it out – coffee and a muffin for $6.90 which is pretty good value for Perth! Today I skimmed over the books I knew I couldn’t buy, but managed to find what I was looking for. A copy of the story I had enjoyed reading T & S many times when we rented it from our local library.
I bought it and went for a coffee outside – enjoying people watching, as well as glancing up at the oriental visions on the large screen. It’s akin to Fed Square (Melbourne) I suppose and a place I have often sat in for a ponder between appointments, or in the early days of Perth – just because I did not want to go back to the house I was living in.

Jumping on the tourist bus next I headed up to King’s Park to spend a couple of sunny hours before sunset. I realised I had never been to King’s Park on my own. In fact could only count 5 visits, which seemed a shame, as there was so much I hadn’t yet seen. My first was an unenthusiastic outing with the first family I worked for – then there were two dates (neither went any further) and I’d been there twice with friends who were visiting. I also realised I had always stuck to the same path which never leads anywhere new, so off I headed – quite literally taking the path less trodden, camera in hand for an almost meditative walk through the Spring offerings of the Botanical Gardens. I stopped to take photographs whenever I wanted, doubled back as many times as I felt necessary, sat down to enjoy the view a number of times to ponder over my time in Perth. I did feel, as one often does, sad to be leaving at that point. Perth has suddenly burst into bloom, and thanks to the awful amounts of rain we’d been having – moments of sunshine were really to be cherished. The perfumes and colours that were splashed across the park were stunning.

Although I was happy not to have to make awkward conversation (unsuccessful dates) and pleased I had nothing else to concentrate on other than myself, there is always that little part of me that wishes I were holding someone special’s hand.

Anyway, enough of that drivel – a good couple of hours were spent wandering around at my own pace (some of you will know how slow this is) enjoying the moment – stopping to smell the flowers and capture the moment whenever I wanted to.

Here’s a few snaps of the day.

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What does an Au Pair do?

My day officially starts at 7:30am when I leave my “house”, that is my granny flat in the garden, and I walk about 12 steps to the back door of the house.
On a good day I will have had time for a peaceful breakfast and might even be strolling over with a cup of tea in my hand. Yorkshire Tea, purchased recently, which makes my day start an awful lot better than Bushells.

Breakfast time consists of teamwork to get T & S dressed and fed, so T can get out of the door for school on time with Dad. It doesn’t always go smoothly – Fridays are particularly painful mornings. When the TV is switched off – my preference – the morning is a breeze. When it’s on, which it usually is – it’s anyone’s guess what will happen.

After T goes to school, S and I can start our day. My morning tasks are getting S to have some breakfast, as it’s unlikely this was successful earlier, and a second attempt at dressing her. When she is pottering about with the dog, or today’s teddy, I unpack and repack the dishwasher, tidy the kitchen and make a start on the laundry, make the beds and have a think about today’s plan.

If I haven’t already had a conversation about tonight’s dinner, it will be written down somewhere. Making dinner is an important and enjoyable task for me, so it needs to be factored into the day’s plan.
Very often S and I will pop to the local shop to top up on ingredients. She will go in the pushchair, and my bag will be loaded with snacks and supplies and off we go. Sometimes we pick something up and turn around and go back. Sometimes we have coffee together in the cafe. And less recently due to bad weather, we will come home via the park.

Most sunny days lunch is a picnic at the park. We sit on the picnic benches together making crow noises and discussing what dogs are doing. We lie on the grass and find shapes in the clouds, sing songs on the swings or we go on an adventure to the wooded area of the huge park we live near to “see what we can see”. This is a general term I use for any journey we embark upon, as it seems to give it some purpose.

After lunch S usually has another energy spurt, so whizzes around the back yard on her bike if we are at home, and I use the opportunity to lock the dog away and make dinner. Not locking the dog away, as I very quickly learnt but surprisingly often forget, very often results in something or everything being stolen by the pesky Labrador.
S often helps me make dinner: I give her a bowl and she does “mixing” which consists of her collecting all the peelings and leftovers in her bowl – we often season it, add water and “taste” it to see what she has created.

On these recent boring rainy days I have been doing a number of little baking activities – scones, or cupcakes perhaps, which we later eat at a teddy bears’ picnic in my granny flat, sometimes under the table if it’s raining really heavily! Getting a 3 year old interested in baking isn’t difficult. I measure things out, she pours them in: complimented all the time on her great pouring skills. We can’t wait until it’s in the oven, so we can both be naughty and lick the bowl.

After a few stories and cup of tea it’s time to locate shoes (never an easy task, as they never stay on for long) and a cardigan, a book or two, some snacks for the ride, water and anything else I can think of before we head to school to collect T. Very often I have to do “fast walking” because the previous tasks took longer than I wanted them to and we race to school, nattering all the way, looking for things to point out, so S doesn’t fall asleep.

T gets a high 5 if he’s eaten all his lunch. If he hasn’t, “nasty nanny” makes him eat his sandwich before he plays footy. We hang out at school for as long as the weather and the caretakers allow, or we head to a park and we kick and pass the ball or have running races before heading home. Apparently I am “awesome” at this. I have tried to teach him “English football” (I refuse to call it soccer) but I can’t get him to stop picking the ball up!

Dinner comes round pretty quick, as I’m doing a few last minute adjustments and bringing in the washing, it all happens at once. Countdown is on: tidy up music is playing on my computer, play area is tidied, hands are washed, table is set and bottoms are on seats for a 5pm sit down. The 3 of us sit together and enjoy our dinner with silly conversations and mostly good manners. Politeness and table manners are greatly rewarded and seeing empty plates and smiling faces makes me happier than I can express. Dinner done, everything is put away and we might just have time for a story before mum gets home. Or if she’s stuck in traffic we run the bath and they hop in. To pass the time we sing songs about frogs, or tell stories.

When mum gets home, we have a debrief and the children turn from calm collected creatures to manic little monsters on their second, third of fourth wind of energy, so I bid my farewell and head to my room.

I later meet with a fellow au pair and friend and we go for a good stomp and a vent… often all the way to the shopping centre for frozen yoghurt.

Doesn’t sound bad? No, very often it’s wonderful. I adore T and S and on GOOD days they are my two best friends…

Perhaps I need to write a post on the trials and tribulations of life as an Au pair…

Margies madness

I should have blogged this ages ago! I am so far behind!

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaay back in June I was getting itchy feet, so a friend and I decided to hire a car and take it to Margaret River. It’s a small town about 3.5 hours south of Perth synonymous with good food, wonderful wine and great surf breaks. Travelling on a budget doesn’t always get you those things – but I never travel anywhere without making great memories, laughing hard, breathing deeply and taking it all in. So this is how I did it:

I hired a car from Europcar which was a bus ride, a train ride and another bus ride away from us. I managed to get the only manual car in the depot, as for some reason Australians tend to favour autos. Driving without using a gear stick is not driving in my opinion.

Then I got a friend to jump on board.

Then I found two backpackers who also wanted to go to Margies (how the locals call it) on Gumtree. Pick up the car, pick up the backpackers and all pile into the TINY car whose suspension and tiny engine are now being tested.

We hit the road and as we get closer to Margaret River the clouds get heavier and heavier and it starts to rain. Not before I spot Gracetown – which just HAS to be visited and photographed.

Then we try and check into your hostel but reception is closed for a few hours… Check in done, rain sets in and we race to the coast in hope of catching a sunset in a rain break. We get totally drenched, but we’re on holiday so it doesn’t matter right?

Going out involves THE only pub in town where I spend more than I want to on beer and the following day’s hangover inhibits me greatly.

Sunday afternoon arrives and it’s time to make my way back to Perth even though it feels like I have been here 5 minutes. So I take one of the backpackers who wants to go back, and we amble our way back up the coast stopping here and there to admire the view, do a cartwheel on the beach, shelter from the rain and drink a crap coffee to keep me awake on the drive back top Perth.

On arrival back in Perth I drop my backpacker off at his new hostel, then my friend and arrive home waking the dog as I park “my” car outside the house and go inside. Exhausted, happy and nostalgic from another weekend well spent in Australia.

Then nearly two months later I get round to blogging about it, having forgotten the details that make people laugh but hoping my photos make up for it!

Gracetown

driving

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in comes the weather

Margaret River mouth

Surfer at the river mouth

and now I can't remember which ones!

and now I can’t remember which ones!

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rain rain rain

Yallingup

Yallingup

Yallingup

Yallingup

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Cape Naturaliste