Monday, February 20, 2017

Byron Bay

Only once in our half decade (!!!) living in Australia have we visited Byron Bay, not far over the New South Wales border to our south.  It only takes 2 hours without traffic (which happens approximately never) so it's kind of ridiculous that we haven't been back since.

Enter, Das German Visitors.

That's a crappy picture, but fits the spirit of Byron nicely.  Spur of the moment, no regard for aesthetics and more than a little grungy.

Martin went to grad school with a disproportionately large number of Germans, who are a rockin' good time and our lifelong friend base.  When one of them, Tall Paul (not small, but tall) was traveling Oz with his girlfriend Melle for a month we got to planning what we would do together.

Brisbane is a great place to live.  The ultimate destination in Australia, I would argue.  But for tourists?  No, sir.  It is not a must do destination.  I always advise people to give Brizzy a miss if they have limited traveling time on the continent.  It pains me to say this, but it's for their own good.

Byron Bay, on the other hand, is widely known on the tourist (backpacker, especially) circuit.  Since the weather was piss poor the first and only time we visited way back in 2012 we decided to make this our meeting place.  It's such a chillaxed place that it provided the perfect backdrop for our little reunion.

Sabrina from Sydney, former backpacker and now temporary skilled worker (like Martin originally was) joined us from Sydney.  So it was a legit reunion!

Being the height of summer, holy shit was it hot.  Not NYC hot - only the center of the sun rivals that - but it was still hot.  Let me get my complaining out now, otherwise this whole post will be peppered with it.  We had to put the brakes on some of our planned activities in the interest of not dying.  I don't know what the exact temp was but it was approaching 100 (37C) with high humidity.  Which sucked!

We tried to hike down Minyon Falls and swim at the base.

But we were not successful in our endeavour.  The several liters of water we packed were nowhere near enough to get us down to the bottom of that waterfall and back up again in that heat.  Plus it hasn't rained much lately, so the falls weren't rapidly gushing.  The pool at the bottom probably would've been a let down.  That's what we keep telling ourselves, anyway.

Look at the top of the picture at that guy, for scale.  Look how close he is to the edge!  Crazy!  It was so far down, even being on the safe viewing platform was hard to look down.  So clearly too far to hike.  Man, he was so close to the edge.  Madness!

So we kept our outdoorsy activities to a bare minimum and just hung out, eating and drinking instead.

No complaints about that!

My favorite thing about Byron was chilling on the beach after the sun went down, with BYO alcohol and all the people watching you could ever dream of.

Singing, glow-in-the-dark hoola hoops, public drinking, merriment.  Such a funky vibe.  We were definitely on the older side of the crowd, but there were some people old enough to be our parents in attendance.  And the best part?

Silent disco!  You probably can't tell what that is from the picture, but it's many people wearing headphones, jamming out in total [outward] silence.

I'm so old I've only read about these things, never seen one in person.  Our German visitors joined in.

For a mere $10 rental fee you could flip between three channels (green, red and blue) each playing a different type of music.  And dance in the waves until your heart is content.  I joined in for a while and even my curmudgeonly old arse found it fun.

We did emerge in daylight hours long enough to hike up to the Byron Bay lighthouse.

We do this everywhere we go, but I really think this one is the most picturesque as far as lighthouses go.  View ain't bad, either!

This one even offers tours inside upstairs, which was nifty and a first for us.

And the best part of all, we saw a pod of dolphins on the hike up.

Martin even caught one jumping out of the water!

How cool would it be to be those surfers so close by?!

Of course we took the obligatory shot at the easternmost point of mainland Australia with the whole gang.

The wind is blowing Martin's hat up, making it look hilariously sombrero-esque, LOL.  Here we have a Viking in a Mexican hat, three Das Germans, and me!

We took Monday off work (one of precious few non-wedding vacation days this year) so we had to cram a lot into that one vacation day.  By "a lot" I mean lots of food!

Throughout their month in Australia I learned Paul and Melle had eaten a shamefully low number of traditional Aussie dishes, so I took it upon myself to remedy that.

First dish, meat pies:

Few things are more Aussie than a meat pie, especially one from the renowned Yatala Pies (so popular there are government-issued road signs pointing in their direction).

Next dish, potato wedges with sour cream and sweet chili sauce:

Better than any plate of fries you'll ever have.

I didn't get a picture of the perfectly cooked kangaroo from the barbie and Tim Tams, but you get the picture.  If you come to Australia, on my watch you damn well will be eating Australian food!

We stopped in Surfers Paradise to check out the beach and myriad sets of fake boobs.

Neither were a disappointment, but unlucky for you I only got a picture of one.

Then in Brisbane we took a spin on the ferry to see the skyline at dusk.

Brisbane is worth a stop for travelers who aren't doing a rushed whirlwind tour of Australia, don't get me wrong.  And if you ever become a temporary skilled worker yourself, Brizzy is the place to be.

Back in 2014 when two of Martin's other grad school classmates came to visit, they took this hilarious picture of a drunkard napping on a bench at a bus stop.

Looks like somebody missed potty training lessons
Since we live only a few blocks from this hallowed ground, we returned to recreate the magic.

Minus one wet patch.

Brisbane was Paul and Melle's last stop on their tour of Australia, so as we went back to work on Tuesday they flew back to the land of sauerkraut and lederhosen.

It felt like we got an actual vacation out of this weekend, even though we were a mere 2 hours from home.  It was great to reconnect with friends we haven't seen in 1.5 years.  We love having visitors, so come on down to the land down under!


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Christmas 2016

Due to the insane expense, we seem to only travel outside of Oz every other Christmas.  To celebrate my first Christmas as an Aussie we stayed put this year.  We went 1 kilometer offshore to Coochiemudlo Island to stay with friends.

Casa de Hampton
We'd been to "The Cooch" several times before, and even took Martin's parents there three Christmases ago.  Laura, who I last saw in NYC in August, was back in Bris for the holidays and this house belongs to her boyfriend's parents, who very graciously rolled out the red carpet for us.

In true Christmas style we spent most of our time eating.

 It wouldn't be a party unless Laura busted out her American turkey deep fryer and fried us up a bird!

And the ham was actually cooked on the grill, which I'd never seen done before.

It was all done up so nicely!  And festive!

There was no lack of Christmas spirit, for sure.

It rained pretty badly most of our time there, but this kept the temperature to a reasonable level so I was more than happy to stay undercover on the sweet balcony.

Enjoying a few LOLs.

And adult beverages.

And party games.

Shockingly it did clear up for half the day on Boxing Day (remember, Queensland screws you on holiday weather without fail) long enough to get in some beach time.

Most importantly to enjoy my fabulous new pouch couch, direct from the USA!

This thing is a magnificent concept.  It's made of tent material, is super light weight, and all you have to do to inflate it is fill it with air.

Then enjoy.

After 3 nights on The Cooch it was time to return back to the mainland, but we were not destined to go home and be hermits.  We immediately headed north and battled awful holiday traffic up to the stunning Sunshine Coast for more pseudo-family time.

We went up to stay with Trish, my friend Pia's mom.  Pia lives back in the USA now (the all freaking do) so she doesn't have a daughter here and I don't have a mom here.  Match made in heaven!

We are Scrabble fanatics.  We'll fit as many games into a day as we can.  As many as we physically can!

The world needs to see this, because I won!  Well, I won once.  I have a few decades less experience under my belt so this might be the only time it ever happens.  I get my arse whooped no less than 99.9% of the time.

Beyond Scrabble (Martin is not a fan) we didn't do a whole lot besides hang out, read and go to the beach.

 That's the beauty of the Sunshine Coast, the slooooooow pace of life!

I would like to showcase my mad parallel parking skills, or as they call it here "reverse parking".

I had to do it with a row of people waiting (and watching!) behind me and I rocked it on the first try, in my school bus-sized car.  I am ridiculously proud of this achievement.

Back in Brisbane we had a few days to hang out and relax with Laura and BJ before we had to go back to work and they had to go back to weather that doesn't broil your skin.  What's the best way to "enjoy" stifling hot weather, you ask?  The pool, of course!

We've lived in this apartment complex two months shy of 2 years and had never been in the pool before!  Can you believe that?!  The fast is over, we've broken in our pool.

Nothing beats Christmas at home with family but in the absence of that, hanging out with friends and pseudo-family is a damn good Plan B!