Claudia’s 30th!

My gorgeous cousin Claudia turned 30 a week ago! I hadn’t seen my Queensland family in a while, so it was a good opportunity for a quick trip up to Brissie :)

Me and some of my Aussie family

Me and some of my Aussie family

With all the moving stuff going on it had to be a flying visit, but I did it in style, starting off with a nice relaxed glass of wine in the Qantas lounge … Which pretty much set the tone for the rest of the evening. Caseyand Justin picked me up at the airport – Claudia had gone off to get her make-up done, so I met up with her and Yolly at her place for bubbly, gifts and dress choices before heading out to the Mexican party. It was also her brother Harry’s 18th birthday on the same day.

Birthday girl

Birthday girl

Harry's balloons

Harry’s balloons

Blowing out the birthday candles

Blowing out the birthday candles

It was a fun night, plenty of food including an amazing cake (I went back for seconds the next day!), cocktails (with rosemary?!) and more bubbly stuff …

Suffice to say I was a bit worse for wear the next day. We went for brunch at Ruby’s – amazing, bubble and squeak hash browns with eggs and hollandaise sauce, freshly squeezed juice, I wolfed the lot before I remembered to take a photo!

Winter in Brissie

Winter in Brissie

The weather was absolutely beautiful, high twenties at least (in the middle of winter!), so I spent most of the day soaking up the sun on the balcony and recovering. We stopped by to say hi to Clare and eat MOAR CAKE before I had to head back home.

Moving on to Melbourne Part 2: Too. Much. Stuff.

Renting a room or an apartment in Australia is pretty different from the UK. For one thing, hardly anywhere is furnished, not even with a fridge or a washing machine.

So it wasn’t really surprising that two single people, both with hobbies that require a fair bit of equipment (like scuba diving, camping, and climbing), and one of those with a small addiction to shopping, accumulate rather a lot of … stuff.

A couple of weeks ago, Silvio got to see the new apartment for the first time. He texted me afterwards, “There are some good things, and some not so good”. My heart sank: I had a feeling that the “not so good” was going to be something to do with space … and I was right. We already knew we would need to sell a few of our things, either because we already had two of the same, or because we wanted to replace them with new, but it was time to take a long hard look at EVERYTHING and think hard about what would have to go.

Luckily, neither of us are too sentimental (well OK, I can be, a bit) – moving to Australia knocks most of that out of you, since the cost of bringing things across is so astronomically expensive that you just can’t ship every last little thing. It was time to get closely acquainted with Gumtree.

Gumtree is a funny place. Some things sold within hours with no quibbling over the price, some people have successfully bargained me down, while for other things I held my ground. Some adverts have been sitting on the site for two weeks without a single enquiry! It’s impossible to predict what will shift easily, and what won’t.

I advertised a couple of cheaper items for a fiver each, with no luck, yet after marking one as free it was gone within an hour. Some people text to arrange a time to visit, then never reply, some arrange a time and don’t show up. I’m not sure which is worse!

One thing I was really struggling to get rid of was my stacks of flower pots, even for free. On Saturday morning, on my friend Becc’s good advice, I put them all outside with a sign saying “Free – Help Yourself”. Somebody obviously did, because they were gone in less than two hours!

I’ve tried to find friends who will benefit from some of my things, and given bags of clothes away to charity shops, and it’s not always easy – especially when things are in good condition.

I’m trying to focus on the good feelings: that somebody else is enjoying it, that I feel “lighter” with less stuff, and that I would rather live every day in a tidy, less crammed apartment than keep all the things for the one time in a blue moon that we might want it :)

We’re still not done. The last few things remain for sale on Gumtree, and the spare bedroom is getting more and more stacked up with boxes containing those things that we ARE taking with us (note to self: got to tell the movers that we may have underestimated how many boxes …)

“Where are we going to put this?” Silvio asks twenty times a day as we’re packing. “I don’t know how this is all going to fit …” I don’t know either! I suspect Gumtree is going to be my friend for a little while yet …

An Indulgent Weekend.

It was our weekend away to spoil ourselves, to celebrate the end of Silvio’s assignment in Melbourne with a bit of luxury. It wasn’t quite as relaxing as we’d hoped, with the apartment almost-but-not-quite settled and our to-do list for the move growing with each day, but you know … first world problems!

View from above Wentworth falls

View from above Wentworth falls

The drive up was pretty easy, despite taking the wrong road at the junction just after Neutral Bay, will I ever learn that road layout? We arrived just after eight, found a parking spot in town to go to a restaurant, stepped out of our warm car, and BRRRRR OH MY GOD THE LAST TIME I WAS THAT COLD WAS IN THE UK LAST SUMMER. What a pair of wusses Sydney has turned us in to! We found a warm restaurant and ordered soup and far too much food before venturing back out into the cold.

Upon arriving at Melba House, we met Sue and the adorable Izzy, a fluffy bundle of a dog who immediately demanded cuddles before sniffing our bag in search of snacks :)

We were staying in the Dame Edna suite, a gorgeous room decorated with plenty of pink (I loved it), a huge, comfy bed piled with blankets and a bathtub with pink candles! Unlike most houses in the UK, Australian apartments rarely have baths, so this is definitely a treat.

Yummy breakfast

Yummy breakfast

Sue brought us a breakfast menu to place our order for the next morning, it all sounded yummy, but I can’t resist pancakes with maple syrup – done! It arrived around 9am, with a steaming pot of tea, fruit juice and piles of strawberries … all finished off with home baked cookies.

Just checking emails ...

Just checking emails …

Water blowing back up

Water blowing back up

On a cliff edge

On a cliff edge


On Saturday, we flicked through the book of bush walks, and feeling brave, picked the National Pass – classified as “hard”. Hey, we’re fit enough, it was a beautiful sunny day (albeit rather windy), we have hats, scarfs, gloves, plenty of layers :)

It's cold up here

It’s cold up here

The walk started off easily enough at Wentworth Falls picnic area, with views across the valley and look out points down to the falls, where the wind was blowing the flowing water back up, creating a rainbow. Further down, we crossed the waterfall on stepping stones, then embarked on a downward path, around stony cliff edges and down a lot of stairs.

Stepping stones

Stepping stones

Heights are not really my favourite thing, but luckily there were plenty of rails to hold on to, and some breathtaking views across the valley and back up to the waterfalls. Going down the steep steps was harder than I’d anticipated, well, there was half a pancake worked off maybe. I couldn’t help thinking that to get back to the car, at some point, we’d have to come back up again …

We were lucky though, throughout most of the walk the path was virtually empty and the weather stayed sunny the whole time.

We've made it halfway!

We’ve made it halfway!

We passed the halfway mark, carried on across another waterfall, then found ourselves on the way back up. It wasn’t too bad at first, a few stairs, a flat bit, a few more stairs, until we got closer to the end and I found myself on what seemed like a never-ending staircase up. Hundreds of the bloody things … I stormed breathlessly up, past groups of tourists taking a break, wishing now that I hadn’t worn quite so many layers. On the bright side, I think I worked off the pancakes.

Under the waterfall

Under the waterfall

Looking out from under

Looking out from under

Under the overhang

Under the overhang

The entire walk took us around two hours (the book said three, the signs said four, we win!) and was really beautiful. By the end, my scarf was tied around my waist, the gloves were in my pockets, and Silvio was down to a t-shirt. After our energetic walk, we clearly deserved a good meal. We drove into Leura and meandered along looking for a parking spot on a busy road … the driver behind us did not have much patience though, and soon sped past blaring the horn, how rude!

We walked past a few places advertising scones with jam and cream (I looked longingly back …) and ended up in a pub, with mulled wine and a yummy charcuterie plate with thin salty fries … it hit the spot! Service was pretty slow though, so we headed back to Melba House for dessert, Silvio had had his eye on the homemade banana bread since we had arrived. We weren’t disappointed either, it was so good.

Watching the water

Watching the water

Later in the afternoon, we tried to build a fire in the bedroom fireplace but without much success – the kindling sticks caught OK, but we couldn’t get the larger logs to catch. It was disappointing, after our long walk I was looking forward to cosying up by the fire with a glass of wine, but it wasn’t to be.

There was a book of menus from local restaurants, so we browsed through and decided to go to the Rooster, called and booked a table. It was only a couple of blocks away, so we bundled up and made our way along the dark road … only to realise as we’d arrived that we’d left our bottle of wine at home! So it was all the way back to get it, and then back to the restaurant, by which time we were nice and warm and HUNGRY! (I was kind of glad that we went back, it was a nice New Zealand Pinot, but I have to admit I’d have happily ordered a bottle in the restaurant and not done the extra walk :) my legs were still sore from all the steps).

Walking across the falls

Walking across the falls

I had duck with orange sauce, Silvio had lamb and a good portion of my duck. He observed that he eats 70% of the food, while I drink 70% of the wine, sounds like a perfect balance to me.

We woke up on Sunday morning to more delicious breakfast smells! A delicious plate of bacon, eggs, tomatoes, and mushrooms arrived in our room, with tea, juice and toast, mmmm, I love being spoilt with food.

After another lazy breakfast, we packed up and headed out to Echo Point to see the Three Sisters and wander along the paths through the wood – it was another gorgeous day, but I wasn’t really in the mood for more steps.

OM NOM NOM

OM NOM NOM

Scones and JAM

Scones and JAM

Selfie

Selfie

We stopped off at Solitary in Leura, a favourite place of mine that I’ve visited with Andrea and my parents on previous trips. Our final indulgant feast was scones with cream and jam, my mouth still waters just thinking about it …

We headed back to Sydney, full of carbs and sugar, warm and slightly sleepy and definitely more relaxed than on the way in!

Moving on … to Melbourne! Part 1: Job Search

Two years ago, with no idea that I would come along and turn his life upside down, a slightly grumpy Italian man – who vaguely resembles Aragorn – looked at a plan for an apartment in Prahran, Victoria, and decided it looked like a good place to live one day. Yesterday, that deal was finally sealed.

And that’s why, in just over six weeks’ time, and after nearly two years living by Sydney’s northern beaches, I’ll be packing up my life again and heading off on a new adventure.

I’ve had a long time to get used to the idea of moving to Melbourne, and a few visits to get an idea of what life will soon be like. Fewer beaches, better bars and restaurants. Less sunshine, less humidity. Queen Victoria Market, a new job, and a home of our own, well, Silvio’s own but close enough.

A year ago, I was pretty fresh out of the process of applying for a new job with Atlassian and a new visa. The entire process took around two months from start to finish, and I had no desire to go through it again. Moving to Melbourne, I declared, was definitely a long term plan, to happen when I didn’t have to go through the visa changeover again. This was no problem: the completion date for the building was moving back and there was no rush.

Over time, the memories faded and the promise of a new home became more real. On weekends in Melbourne, we visited the site, where the shell of the building was slowly breathing life into the artist’s sketches I’d seen. As the completion date became more concrete, we began to talk more about the possibilities of moving, and gradually our plans moved further forward, until we were considering how soon we could move after returning from our trip home in November.

I liked my job though and I didn’t really want to think about finding a new one. For a long time I nurtured the hope that I could stay with Atlassian and work remotely. I tried to ignore the warning signs of restlessness when I worked from home – I still wanted to believe I could do it every day, even when I accosted Silvio as he walked through the door in the evening, desperate for company after just one day alone.

In May, Silvio was posted to Melbourne for two months, and with the completion date looming at the end of July, this somehow triggered everything to fast forward. We started to consider moving before the trip home, perhaps in September, and I began to consider whether changing job would be an option after all. I still had no idea if working remotely would be a possibility, and much as I wanted to believe it was, I was starting to admit to myself that it wouldn’t be ideal, either for me or for my team.

For the first weekend of June, I travelled to Melbourne to spend the long weekend in Sydney, then work from Melbourne for a couple of days so that we didn’t have to spend quite so much time apart.

On Saturday, we headed over to Prahran to visit the show apartment – the building was virtually done, although the inside of it was very much still in progress. I was thrilled to see the huge, “rain” shower heads in the bathroom! It’s the little things :)

On Tuesday, I sat working at the kitchen table in Silvio’s corporate apartment, with a view out of the twenty-fifth floor window across the city, feeling lonely and restless. By Wednesday afternoon, I couldn’t sit still, probably partly because of the gallons of tea I’d consumed, but I felt like I was going crazy. I watched HipChat waiting for conversation, tried desperately to find the zone, but failed. At some point during those two days, the “remote” in working remotely struck home. I need to be around people. Sadly, but not without some excitement … I thought, it’s time to start the job hunt.

I was lucky, in many ways: I’ve spent time at some very good companies, I have good contacts, and it seems that there’s a shortage of developers in Melbourne, so there are a bunch of great companies who were willing to train me in something new. What started out as feeling around for opportunities very quickly turned into several serious job applications – all working with Ruby on Rails.

The start of the process was intense: for nearly three weeks I spent my evenings crafting solutions to code tests, sitting up until midnight fretting over why my Cucumber tests wouldn’t pass, or trying to learn how to use the Ruby option parser. The hard work was worth it when I was invited for interviews – yay!

I had expected the whole process to take far longer than it did in the end. I had an early offer, which significantly reduced my stress levels. I was determined to all of the applications through to the bitter end though, despite being tempted many times to just accept it. I’m glad now that I didn’t – I met so many people that I feel like I’m almost part of the Melbourne Ruby scene already :)

Attending interviews was an experience: I found myself leaving each time thinking, “that place is my new favourite”. By the end of the process, I had to force myself to take the time to let everything settle before making a final decision – and I found that my heart was pulling me towards a place with a passion for travel and a reception area full of books of possibility: Lonely Planet.

So that was the job sorted … well, except for those awkward details like signing documents and sorting the visa (again). Oh, and the sad conversations with my current colleagues at Atlassian – that wasn’t so much fun either. On the plus side, at least I was there for the (once again, amazing) End of Financial Year party!

greenhopper

Time to celebrate? Well, maybe – but actually, the rest of the stress was only just starting …