It’s February. It’s damn cold. Holidays are gone. And we wish it would be summer again. So let’s evade ourselves to the other hemisphere.
I spent Chinese Golden Week holidays in Australia last October and this is a great excuse to tell you about. At that time Shanghai was really warm yet and Sydney received my baby and me with an inappropriate cold wind and rain which even locals were not used to for that time of the year. But why got annoyed by an unlucky weather when you visit Australia for the first time. Let’s take the chance wear your new season clothes. Food and drinks made the rest. I ended up at a local pub having the first of many wagyu burger and a pint of Australian beer. That very first day we visited an UGG store (there are hundreds and you can find the infamous boots even at a souvenirs shop) and I bought a real pair… but for my baby. Rain was giving us the day, so dinner at hotel was the best option and then bed. Next day would be better.
Opera House is the most known touristic spot in Sydney. I think I have dozens of pictures of it from many different perspectives. However, if the out part is very attractive, indoors is even greater. It’s an obligation to pay a tour if you are really interest either in music or in architecture. Meanwhile you can always watch part of rehearsals.
Our Sydney group was increasing as more family arrived on the third day. We walked around the financial district, visiting stores, fighting for a pub with enough room for lunch and ending the afternoon at Darlington Harbor, a very 80’s promenade. By the way it was my birthday and we went out for dinner to celebrate. Wow! Australians know about meat. Besides, I got thrilled with the great offer of different mustards. This is my French alter-ego who is ordering mustard at any time there is a plate of fries in front of me (I hate ketchup). There were Dijon, l’ancienne, white, English… and my 8-year-old niece dared to try some of them (she had hated mustard until that moment).
Finally sun came next day and we enjoyed the antiques market at the Rocks during the morning. On that location was where Australia was founded as the first fleets arrived there. A crapy place in the old times is now the most clean and posh antiques and art crafts market I’ve ever visited. Rain surprised us on our walk between the Botanic Gardens, crowded with Chinese people weddings, and Russel Crowe home. A shame he couldn’t go with us for that great Harry’s hot dog.
Last one to join the group was my husband who arrived next day. And it seems he brought the sun. We boarded on a ferry to Manly, cradle of surf. At this point I realized how important is beach for Aussies. No matter it’s cold, it’s Sunday and they spend the day outdoors in the beach. Neoprene suit and cozy hoody along with the board are part of the common attire. Palm trees, sun and waves do the rest.
Weather and appropriate clothing do not fit for Aussies and usually it works the other way round. I mean that maybe it’s raining and they will feel like wearing flip flops; it may be over 20 degrees Celsius and they will find the best option in UGG boots. It’s like dressing according to your own mood and no matter what’s going on outside; it’s like when the kids want to dress like princesses or heroes all the long day ‘cause they feel like that.
Our Sydney days arrived to an end and just the three of us took a flight to Melbourne. It surprised us in the best way. It’s a very modern and young city. You see college students everywhere and they risk more in terms of fashion. Restaurants are amazing. We just keep walking around the city for three days, enjoying the ambience, the outdoors life culture, the architecture with a mix of styles and that relaxed way of understanding life by Aussies.
After Melbourne the best part of our Australian trip began. I love road trips and it had been a while since I hadn’t got into any. It was the first for our 5-month-old baby and she behaved like a pro. The Great Ocean Road was waiting for us and a 4-day journey from Melbourne to Adelaide full of adventures was up to start. Our rental car was ready, but I made the last minute decision of not driving. Automatic car + wheel on the opposite side of the car made me feel scared. Scenic companion was a better option, even with the responsibility of giving correct directions and understanding the maps. We’re old fashioned, love adventure and don’t like those GPS gadgets. So, yes, we got lost sometime.
Surf and surfers had an important presence on our vacation. Our first stop was Torquay, the gateway to Victoria’s Surf Coast. They have a museum of the surf. Historic surfboards and amazing pictures share location with a very modern restaurant and several stores of main surf brands. Only the real waves were missing. So next destination was the iconic Bells Beach. Views from the cliffs are breathtaking and driving on the left helps to enjoy them even more. Our first day ended in Lorne, a seaside village where we met the happiest hotel manager in the world. We followed his recommendation of going for dinner to the wooden pier. Great seafood outdoors under the moonlight and our baby sleeping like an angel.
Another sunny day welcomed us next morning with the rays on our bedroom window. Shower, packing and go for breakfast with locals were the sequence of events. It’s amazing how much intense is the sun already in the morning in Australia in spring. We stopped at the beach for a short walk and water was cold like in the Pole. In one of the many natural reserves we tried to find koalas on the top of the top of eucalyptus and we got it. Lunch was in Apollo Bay, but the most amazing hotspots were still to come. The 150-year-old Cape Otway Lighthouse is a beautiful one; but more stunning are the views from the top as the construction is set on the top of the cliff. Then it came the star of the Great Ocean Road: the Twelve Apostles. We arrived there for sunset and despite the little fight to reach an spot for pictures and sightseeing, it’s one of the most amazing places I’ve ever visited. Next time I should got when no Chinese people are on holidays, preferably at sunrise. We arrived at Port Fairy at night. It was late so we didn’t have many choices for dinner. The pub in front of our hotel seemed a very handy option and it happened to be the busiest bar in town (and also the eldest one).
In Port Fairy the next morning I had the most incredible breakfast. It was a café on the main road 5 minutes walking from our hotel. Coffee was brewed with loving care and I paired it with an AVOCADO TOAST. Yes!! In a very small town in the middle of the Great Ocean Road in Australia. Ended breakfast I walked around and I got into a vintage goods shop. It was there when I realized that Port Fairy had something special. You do not find wherever those super cared little stores. This antiques spot had the most incredible treasures and the display had much of a taste. I really wanted to go back to Port Fairy only for the toast and the vintage goods.
We put on wheels to the countryside to give a rest to the sea. Acres and acres of land, prairies, hollow trees woods and traffic signals alerting you about the picturesque wildlife were a constant on our way to Coonawarra. We spent there the whole afternoon visiting wineries ‘cause there was nothing else to do. That evening we went for dinner at the earliest time we had gone ever. At 6 pm we were sitting on a table ordering a rib-eye and at 9 pm we were in bed. Still we kept dreaming with a second life running a farm in one of those lands close to the sea: surf, eco-wine and homemade butter all in one.
Fourth day was the last one on the road and we were intended to arrive to Adelaide in the afternoon where our family was waiting for us. We kept enjoying the countryside and we finally reach the sea again. Our vital needs required us to stop in the only one civilized spot where to pee and grab a coffee. This was Salt Creek, a meeting point for fishermen where you were nobody unless you were carrying trekking shoes, cap and an explorer waistcoat along with a rod and driving a pick-up. Local specialty was dry meat (hanging everywhere) and the Aussie version of chorizo. It was a shame that we made our ordered too soon and we didn’t realize about this until we saw all the locals having their chorizo sandwich and a huge plate of fries per person. I definitely need to go back. We took again the car and entered the marshes around the Murray river. We had to cue to cross it on a platform which connects both banks. We had lunch at a restaurant surrounded by vineyards where also organic food was promoted. Then we headed up to the hills and went down the valley to reach Adelaide.
We had passed over the equator of our trip in Australia. I was happy to be in Adelaide but some sadness was pointing out ‘cause our holidays were nearly finished. In South Australia’s capital we enjoyed its colonial architecture and great green areas. We went to museums and made a picnic at the Royal Botanical Garden. I loved the central market and how all the fresh food is displayed. Beaches have such a length that you really can enjoy the sand, sun and sea even in a town. Locals are all about beach life. You find all the activities you can imagine like life savers courses for kids. We spend one day in Glenelg Beach and we take another afternoon to sunbathe at Port Noarlunga in Onkaparinga. We went for a tour around McLaren Vale and we had to stop tasting wine ‘cause someone should drive. German villages are very popular in South Australia and in Hahndorf you can find the most interesting souvenir shops and even celebrate Oktoberfest. And of course you cannot leave Australia without seeing dozens of koalas, kangaroos, emus, etc. Clealand Wildlife Park in Adelaide Hills was a really nice spot to enjoy warm weather and nature.
Besides, Adelaide gave us great moments with our family and lots of anecdotes. Shopping is also great, but you really need to know what you want. I’ve made my shopping list for my next visit: a real good hat, a pair of kangaroo-leathered Chelsea boots and the crew-neck basic tees by Cotton-on. And then I have the baby shopping list: dozens of organic baby food pouches, UGG boots, sun-screen swimwear, SFP sun hat and also everything from the Cotton-on baby collection.
We put our foot very early in Adelaide’s airport and we suffer from a post-vacation crisis for many weeks.
Luckily Chinese New Year holidays start now and we’ll be cured again by the sun.