Farewell Manly, Hello Prahran.

Friday.

I woke up at 6:30 this morning with the realisation that I’d forgotten to pack a drawer of cutlery. Why can’t my brain remind me of these things at a relevant time, for goodness sake? I stumbled sleepily into the kitchen and yanked the drawer open, that’ll remind me when I can be bothered to actually get up.

All packed and ready to go

All packed and ready to go

The final few things were cleared up and packed before Silvio went off to work. The removal company called me just before 9am to say they were around the corner, and I decided I had just enough time to pop over the road and find out if they sold tea in the shop. They did – oh joy! – and while I was waiting for mine to brew, the shop owner Michael chatted to me and greeted other customers by name, he was so nice that I felt kind of sad we hadn’t been in more often.

Removal van

Removal van

Out goes the sofa

Out goes the sofa

Our stuff barely took up a corner of the van

Our stuff barely took up a corner of the van

The movers turned up, three stocky guys in an enormous truck, who declined my half-hearted offer to help carry a box or two. I stayed out of the way but couldn’t resist taking a few photos. We’d been worried about whether all of our things would fit – we may have had a “few” more boxes and bags than we’d originally estimated … well, if our stuff took up more than a tenth of that truck space I’d be surprised.

They were done in a little over an hour, all of our things safely wrapped in blankets and secured against the truck with ropes. I was relieved it was done, although much more worried about the delivery the following day, which would involve carting everything from the loading bay to the basement car park to a shared lift … shudder … don’t even want to think about it yet.

I went for a wander along the beach while I waited for the cleaners to show up. It was a bit worrying handing over our keys when they didn’t seem too sure who our real estate agent was to return them to, but hopefully that will all work out just fine.

I dawdled along the beach again, up to Ash’s Table, where I found I couldn’t resist their fish and chips lunch. Time was ticking slowly by, as I wandered back through the Corso to the Wharf Bar. The weather was turning, the sea was choppy and the wind was picking up; the clouds were threatening rain but I really wanted to sit outside in the jetty bar. I’ve had so many fun times there, joining the crowds on sunny afternoons and balmy evenings, but today it was empty apart from me, my wine and my laptop. I found a spot tucked under the umbrella and watched the sea dancing in the wind, and the minutes winding down to the ferry.

Wine at the Wharf Bar

Wine at the Wharf Bar

Perhaps I should have felt more sad to actually be leaving Manly. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was feeling – mostly, just impatient to get the next few stressful hours of travelling and shifting boxes out of the way. I was pretty unsettled – it was the second furthest I’ve moved (after leaving for Australia) and by far the most difficult logistically, but exciting, and sad, all at once.

The ferry pulled away and I watched the wharf recede and disappear as we turned the corner. At Circular Quay, Silvio arrived from work, and we headed out to get our plane. I was delighted to get an earlier flight, but with the heavy winds and crappy weather, all the planes were delayed, so we ended up leaving right about when we should have. At nearly 11pm, finally … we were home.

Saturday.

My phone jerked me out of a much needed sleep shortly after 8am. I tried not to sound like I’d just woken up as I answered it to the movers, who were not far away. We had just about enough time to jump out of bed and make a cup of tea, but not quite enough to drink it, before the van was pulling up outside.

Boxes starting to arrive

Boxes starting to arrive

Sofa in the new house

Sofa in the new house

The bedroom was crammed full

The bedroom was crammed full

They had four guys and a stack of trolleys, and before we’d really even woken up properly, half of our furniture and boxes was already upstairs in the new flat. They were done in just over an hour, paperwork signed, over and out.

We went back to the apartment a bit shell shocked, wondering how our boxes had managed to somehow multiply overnight on the van, or at least that’s how it seemed … the spare bedroom was absolutely full, we couldn’t even get into it, and the living room was complete chaos.

The living room was pretty full

The living room was pretty full

Something somewhere had leaked, there were a few damp looking marks on the boxes and I could smell something like vinegar, so I started with the stinkiest box and discovered a leaky bottle of balsamic. Luckily we’d used a LOT of newspaper so there wasn’t much damage, although it did reek for a while.

Eventually, we burrowed a path through the boxes big enough to rearrange the bedroom furniture, then we cleared a few more until we could put the TV back up. I made seemingly endless trips with bags of rubbish, and we stuffed things anywhere they would fit until the boxes were all empty, and straight away advertised on Gumtree, please, somebody, come and take them away! And on Sunday morning, somebody did :)

Somebody please take them away!

Somebody please take them away!

I dug Quackers out of his box, the poor thing had been packed fairly early on, and I don’t think he had a very comfortable position :( His head isn’t quite straight anymore, which gives him a permanent rather quizzical look. He’s now safe and comfy again, back in his old spot on the shelf.

Quackers in the new home

Quackers in the new home

In the afternoon, we were starving – we’d barely had time to eat anything for breakfast before carting boxes around. Luckily there’s a pizza shop right downstairs … I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a pizza quite so quickly, or enjoyed it quite as much, except possibly that one time in Byron Bay :)

Dinner. I was too hungry to take the photo before.

Dinner. I was too hungry to take the photo before.

On Sunday morning, we took a trip over to Prahran Market. It isn’t as big or as cheap as the Queen Victoria Market, but they had some nice food stalls, and we picked up some steaks to get the barbecue going again with – yum!

I didn’t want to spend all day on Sunday unpacking, I had a new job to prepare myself for on Monday morning, but it felt pretty good to get things organised. By the end of the day, everything was unpacked – the wardrobes are full, and we still need more storage, and definitely some extra shelves for the gazillions of photos, but that will get resolved over the next few weeks. The walls look wonderful, especially with the sofa, and with softer lighting the living room is really cosy and comfortable. Home sweet home!

Last days

Wednesday: my last day at Atlassian.

Since the news of my departure became public, I’ve been really surprised at how many people have said that I’ll be missed, and commented on the impact I’ve made. I mean, of course, I know I’m awesome ;) but it’s come as a really pleasant surprise to hear from others that I will be missed. Maybe it’s part of a big guilt trip conspiracy?

My last day was a mix of feelings. I’m sad at leaving behind a place that I wouldn’t have chosen to move on from yet, but I’m excited – and a little anxious – about the future and the unknowns that await me there.

In this final Sprint, my team had decided to try not having stand ups, but there was one scheduled for my final day. I was a little suspicious – in fact, I had wondered if they would do something to my desk on my last day, like wrapping it in tin foil or something. I was relieved to arrive and everything was as it should be.

At 9:45 the team gathered, and I was trying to compose an update – why is it that in those few minutes of walking to the stand up, I always forget what I’ve been working on? Luckily this time, I didn’t need to, to my surprise, the team presented me with a gift: a beautiful Wedgewood teapot! I wasn’t really expecting anything (well, maybe some jelly beans!) and I was impressed that a team of guys could choose something that suited me so well and was really pretty. It was so well packed I didn’t want to take it out before it got to Melbourne so I haven’t tried it yet, but I can’t wait to find a shelf or somewhere to put it out in the new place.

IMG_0011_2

As the day went on, other people stopped by my desk to chat, and I made slow progress on my final work trying to complete an upgrade task. After lunch, a last packet of jelly beans from the lolly bar, and a final check in, I was done. My team lead presented me with a card (so many signatures, I was pretty blown away), I packed up my things, returned my swipe cards and signed out of HipChat: “BAAAAAIIIIIII!”

Leaving was strange, I don’t know what I expected. As I walked to the ferry, I hoped that the upgrade task I’d been working on would finally get through QA, and it was weird to think that there was nothing else I could, or would, do to make it happen now.

Thursday: my last day in Manly.

All week, I’d been saying that if I could go back, I’d have finished work last Friday and had a week off. Today, I was glad that I didn’t, because I really wouldn’t have known what to do with myself.

I spent the morning finishing off the packing, labelling the boxes and tidying up. There isn’t that much left to do, except to stand in front of the stack of boxes, sigh, and wonder where we’re going to put it all. I think that if I’d had a week off to do that, I’d have driven myself insane.

I headed to the beach at lunchtime, and wandered along the Steyne, paddling in the shallow water. It was a little too cold for me to go for a dip – there were loads of people in the water, but I’m just a big wuss when it comes to the cold, I’ll leave them to it. It was nice to just get my feet wet and sandy.

By the surf club, I got a cup of tea – no fridge in our apartment, so no tea for me there – and sat on the beach, drinking my tea and reading my kindle. It was lovely and sunny, warm, comfortable, except for the sand blowing across me.

I met Andrea for lunch in Jellyfish, salt and pepper squid with aioli, yum! And wine, double yum! I had promised myself that on my last day in Manly, I would buy a picture from Saltmotion, a lovely photo gallery that specialises in pictures of Manly beach and waves, so after lunch we headed over – I’d already picked out two that I wanted! The first was a beautiful underwater shot with blue tones that would look amazing in our bedroom, and the other one was a sunrise shot across to Shelly beach, that would remind me of Manly from the new apartment.

Back home with the post-shopping glow, I sat out in the garden reading but it was so hard to relax. In the end I went back into town and found a new “Manly beach” keyring (my old one was rusty!) … and a half bottle of Jacob’s Creek Chardonnay, well that’ll keep me going in the garden for the rest of the afternoon …

By the time Silvio got home, it was too cold to sit outside, but the blogs were almost done – result :) we packed what we could of the things that were left, and headed out for a meaty dinner at Ribs and Rumps …

And that was it, my last day and night in Manly, for a few months anyway. I’ll be back for a visit before too long, providing Andrea will have me to stay! ;) I’m now sitting in the wharf bar on Friday afternoon, whiling away the last hour or so with a glass of white wine. Today has gone from sunny and warm to windy and cold, so I’m the only person braving the jetty bar for once, but it’s nice to watch the choppy sea across the wharf and hear the light rain spattering across the umbrellas.

IMG_0020_2

Our things are already well on their way, and it won’t be long now until I say farewell to Manly too. It’s been awesome, but now it’s time to find out what the next chapter holds. I can only hope it’s as good as the last one :)

Painting a Rainbow

After our first visit to the flat to start moving things in, it was a looooooong two week wait before we went back, this time to paint the walls, over two weekends. I couldn’t wait! Somewhere in the back of my brain, I knew it was going to be hard work, but I didn’t care, it would be so much fun!

This is fun

This is fun

The first weekend started with a late Friday night flight, it was gone 1am by the time we finally got to bed, and the prospect of jumping out of bed early to start painting had lost its appeal. In the end we got off to a slow start after shopping for breakfast and a delivery.

I like painting, I’m less keen on taping, but it’s a necessary evil. Eventually, we started on the bedroom. This will be our main bedroom, and the walls will be a lovely bright blue. The paint went on pretty easily, and was looking great, even after just one coat. But there was no resting, by mid-afternoon it was time to move on to turning the living room orange and red …

Taping

Taping

From white to blue!

From white to blue!

First coat done!

First coat done!

The orange paint was a bit of a disappointment, it was quite thin and quickly obvious that we’d need at least three coats – as if we didn’t already have enough to do. It was still pretty fun though – and drinking beer whilst rollering helped to make it even better … (I left the edges to Silvio!)

With a lot of hard work, we managed to paint a second coat in the bedroom as well as finishing the first coat of both the orange and red in the living room on Saturday. As we got up after a quick takeaway dinner (from Hooked again – I think I already am …) to finish painting the red wall, I was utterly exhausted – even more so than after the first weekend – at least we’d had time to eat out then! I was so glad to collapse into bed, I don’t even remember closing my eyes …

The first coat in the living room done

The first coat in the living room done

Suddenly, it was Sunday morning, and yet again there was no rest for the wicked. To have any chance of finishing the apartment the following weekend, we had to be up and working hard again early.

By the time we had to go on Sunday, we’d finished a second coat throughout the living room, and the walls were looking much more even. The red paint was starting to run low, I was crossing my fingers we’d have enough to finish it off when we returned.

With so many different colours, and a limited amount of paint brushes, we were washing the brushes several times during the day. I was highly amused when Silvio used his hairdryer to dry them off after :)

Drying the paintbrushes

Drying the paintbrushes

After a long trip back to Manly, I was really tired. It was my last full week at work, and by the end of it I was wishing I had decided to finish that Friday, and had a few days to relax in Manly the following week!

But no, it was back to the airport and on another late flight, Sky bus, taxi back to Prahran. As we walked in the front door to the apartment, I think both of us had the same reaction: “It’s very orange!” And it is – it’s pretty bright, but I love it. It knocks the spots off the old white walls, anyway!

On Saturday, I went off to do one of my favourite things – shopping! I had a list of places to go for various things we needed, while Silvio stayed home to attack the painting for the final room. Dennis would also be visiting to put up our new blinds and drapes.

After a stressful start when the car we booked had a flat battery, I was off – it was a beautiful sunny day and actually pretty pleasant driving along the highway. I forgot my iPhone cable and window mount, so navigating was a bit challenging, but I only got lost once, and that was because Google maps was WRONG!

Out and about in Melbourne

Out and about in Melbourne

I got home to find we had lovely ceiling-to-floor dark blue drapes in the bedroom, and finally a little privacy from the blinds in the living room. They looked great, especially in the bedroom, it made the place feel even more like home.

Bedroom curtain

Bedroom curtain

New blinds!

New blinds!

Temporary bed in the new room

Temporary bed in the new room

Silvio was almost done with the bedroom – amazing! I got started taping the living room for its final coating, and over the afternoon we managed to finish the orange paint and repaint the second bedroom with a final coat of light green. Our apartment is a rainbow of colour :)

Second bedroom all painted

Second bedroom all painted

On Sunday, with the natural morning light filling the apartment and highlighting the inconsistencies on the red wall, Silvio did a final coat, stretching the red paint to last across the whole wall, even with a bit left for final touch ups if we need them.

Morning light in the living room

Morning light in the living room

I sat outside on the balcony with a wooden table that we don’t have room for in the apartment, sanding it and then painting it with a special protective woodstain so that we can use it outside. I can’t wait to see it all finished (3 coats later, with 16 hours drying time, it’s going to be a while …!) – it’s nice to have things that you have to put a bit of effort into!

Working outside on the table

Working outside on the table

The second weekend was definitely a lot less exhausting than the first one, and it was a big relief to know that at least all the painting is done, now all that’s left is bringing the rest of the furniture from Sydney and finding somewhere to fit it all in – that, I am NOT looking forward to!

Moving to Melbourne, part 3: weekend visit

I slept like a kid at Christmas the night before we went to Melbourne to get the keys for the new flat, waking up at regular intervals only to be disappointed it still wasn’t yet time to get up. 5:30 still felt too early when it came, although watching the sun shine pink and gold over the city was nearly enough on its own to make the tiredness worthwhile. I braved a chilly wind on the front of the ferry to take dozens of photos.

Sydney opera house

Sydney opera house

From the quay to the train station to the airport, I was impatient to get to the lounge, where a yummy breakfast of pancakes was waiting! I was so disappointed to find that the machine seemed to be out of mix, until one of the staff pointed out that there was another one – yay, pancakes! I topped off my healthy breakfast with some raisin toast (what? It’s got fruit in it) but failed miserably to get the coffee machine to dispense any hot water for tea, so I had to wait until we were on the plane for that. 

Pancakes!

Pancakes!

In Melbourne, suitcases collected, we got on the Sky bus into the city before finding a taxi to the developer’s office to collect the keys to our new home. It was so exciting (despite being about ready to fall back to sleep again) – Silvio went in while I waited in the cab, it seemed to take forever, but finally he was back with an enormous white box and two giftwrapped packages, which was all very exciting. 

At the apartment block, we buzzed ourselves in to the rather posh looking, clean and sparkly lobby (wonder how long it will stay that shiny?) and squeezed ourselves and our cases into the lift (hope the furniture fits …) On our floor, at the end of the corridor, we found our door and looked at each other with huge grins: our new home! 

Having already seen the photos, it wasn’t a big surprise, but my first impression of the new flat was how lovely and light it was inside. The floors had been replaced since Silvio’s initial inspection when they’d fitted the wrong ones, so the living room and bedrooms were all finished with beautiful light wood. Everything in the kitchen was new and shiny and clean and the entire place was empty apart from our two small cases and the bag of gifts from Caydon (that wasn’t going to last long though!) I wandered through opening cupboards and wardrobes and inspecting everything, while Silvio sorted the keys and unwrapped the presents: two coffee cups and an engraved keyring. I immediately assumed ownership of one of the mugs, which got plenty of use that weekend for tea. 
We didn’t have much time to gaze around though, we had a van to collect, things to buy, storage to empty. At the van rental place, we were told to our dismay that the van was 2.2m high – our basement parking spot has a max height of 2.1, and our internet research had indicated this van would fit! I wasn’t looking forward to trying to find on-street parking in Prahran on a Friday night, that’s for sure. 

How do I get in to this thing?

How do I get in to this thing?

Living out of suitcases

Living out of suitcases

Much needed bed

Much needed bed


In the meantime, we were off appliance shopping – yay! I love shopping, any kind of shopping, although Silvio would probably have been happier with a nap instead. Despite that, a few hours later, our new fridge – complete with a rack for wine bottles :) – was ordered for delivery on Saturday. It was late afternoon when we finally made it to Silvio’s storage unit, where we had to at least pick up the mattress, bedding and bed base to be able to sleep. We didn’t do such a great job of packing the van, I’m sure the rather sour faced lady in the office was secretly sniggering at our efforts as we tried to push the mattress in before remembering there was a side door, then tried several different ways to fit in the bed base before we finally got there. 

No more room in the van

No more room in the van

Back at the apartment, we looked at the height of the barrier in the parking lot against the van, and decided it was worth a try. Silvio inched it forward and luckily it fitted – carrying all that furniture to the lift would have just about finished me off. The building manager set up a lift dedicated to us, which was great – it just stayed where it was with the doors open until we had filled it and took it up to our floor, where it stayed until we emptied it and went back down for the next lot. I just hope we’ll be able to book the lift and do the same for the big move from Sydney …

The final trip of the day was back to the storage to fill the van with the rest of the stuff from storage. It all went in, just about, and we left it in the car park and headed out for dinner, feeling exhausted and grimy, but too hungry to wait any longer.

Hooked!

Hooked!

Dinner was awesome! After pancakes in the lounge that morning we’d survived the day mostly grazing on the go, but Silvio had been talking about “Hooked”, a fish and chip cafe just around the corner – I didn’t need asking twice. They brought us a salty, steaming carb fest, which I doused with malt vinegar – MALT VINEGAR! I don’t think I’ve had that before in Australia – and then we devoured it, with a glass of wine, before crawling home.

I couldn’t wait to try the shower, and it didn’t disappoint – lovely hot, pounding water. Just one minor problem though … it had a major leak, spouting a stream of water on to the ceiling! Hopefully that’ll be fixed before our next visit, but in the meantime we made do with a fix using a sponge and a hairband :)

There, I fixed it

There, I fixed it

Saturday morning, we had time for a lie in since the van was already filled – yay! But then the long job of emptying it via the lift – it was a lot harder than the previous night, since most of the stuff was in smaller boxes. By the end, I was running up and down the corridor between lift and apartment, desperate to get to the end of the pile.

Before we got too into the unpacking, we had a visit from Dennis, to look at some blinds and drapes. He spent quite a while explaining the different options, it was all kind of fun really, like shopping without leaving the house. The rest of the day we mostly spent unpacking and trying to sort through a mountain of stuff, deciding what to keep and what to get rid of, and then trying to figure out how to get rid of it – some things were too big for the (miniscule) garbage chute.

We had time to go out for lunch before the fridge arrived, where we got free drinks (yay) when the food was slow! It was good too, I’m going to be so spoilt when we move here.

Back in the apartment, I got the sample paint pots out :) It was so much fun – I slapped reds and oranges on the walls in the living room, blue in the main bedroom and a light green in the second one.

Painting a rainbow

Painting a rainbow

Later, we headed out to IKEA for yet more shopping, we didn’t end up buying much except a bin, which we definitely needed. When the fridge finally arrived, the poor delivery man had to wheel it all the way through the car park to the lift. As we were walking down the corridor, I joked, “it’s just a few stairs once you get inside …” He didn’t seem too amused though, I think he might have believed me.

Later that night, Silvio set up his keyboard and a retro bar stool, and sat practicing while I drank red wine and squinted at the paint colours, trying to imagine what the room will look like painted. The music was pretty relaxing so I hope he keeps it up :) I’m not sure where on earth the keyboard is going to fit though, maybe on the balcony …

Calm in the chaos

Calm in the chaos

View from the balcony

View from the balcony

Chilling with the keyboard

Chilling with the keyboard


On Sunday morning, we went early to a local paint shop to buy the paints and find another sample while we still had the van, then went to Tusk for brunch. I had a craving for eggs with hollandaise sauce, it was really good, although we couldn’t get a table in the place we’d really wanted to try – maybe next time.

For the rest of the afternoon, I tried to sand a table so that I could paint it with some outdoor protective stuff and use it outdoors, while Silvio played the keyboard again and we tried to tidy up before heading back to Sydney. We both wanted to stay! It already feels like a home. But it won’t be long now, that was last weekend and next weekend we’ll be going back to do proper painting – I can’t wait!

Sunrise from the ferry

Sunrise from the ferry

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 …

Back to Christchurch … and Home

It was time to start making our way back to Christchurch after the luge, the camper van was due to be returned the following day. We had picked out a place to stop along the way in Timaru and booked a site (lucky we did too, got the last one!), but we still had a few wineries to drive past along the way!

Lunch at the Gibbston Tavern

Lunch at the Gibbston Tavern

We stopped in at Gibbston Tavern for a late lunch – they did make wine but sadly didn’t offer tastings, although the glass of white I drank with my fish and chips was really good. We sat under an umbrella outside in the garden, enjoying the view, and just about staying dry as the rain started to kick in again …

Weather closing in

Weather closing in

There was a small winery called Remarkable Wines in a shed right next door to the tavern, obviously I couldn’t possibly miss this last opportunity! The owner was serving the wine for tasting and was very knowledgeable and passionate about his wine, which made the whole experience really great. We ended up buying three more bottles to take back with us – I wanted to take six bottles home, but Silvio was insisting that we would never fit that many in our cases. I hoped we would, because otherwise we’d have a lot to drink between then and the flight …

Remarkable Wines

Remarkable Wines

In Timaru, we had a nice site under a willow tree – it was fairly cramped but not too bad, we were glad to know we had our hotel room in Christchurch lined up for New Years’ Eve, it was such a busy time.

Camper van

Camper van

The weather had turned colder and it looked like it was going to throw down the rain but it never really did. Despite the cold, there were people swimming in the outdoor pool on the campsite – I wasn’t that brave though! We had a fairly quiet evening and a chilly night, I was glad to be in the van and not a tent that day.

On Monday, after a lazy breakfast cooked in the campsite kitchen, we headed back to Christchurch. The first stop when we arrived was our new home-for-the-night – A PROPER ROOM!!!! I didn’t think I’d be quite so happy to be back in a building, but it was so nice to be able to get out of bed and stand up instead of scrambling out of the van, and not to have to walk across damp grass to the bathrooms!

We unpacked the van and within minutes the room was a disaster zone, after six trips up the stairs with various bags I was getting slightly worried about how we would get it all home …

Before even thinking about that though, we had to find the Ezywash to clean the camper up and return it. My navigation was typically not great: “OK, go right here. Oops, no, I mean your other right … the map was upside down …” but we made it there. It was a big, empty self service car wash – we started out with the vaccuum cleaner, and that thing was so strong, not a speck of dust could have survived, I’m surprised the seats were still in place when we’d finished. Then the fun started: Silvio parked the van in the washing bay, we fed in the tokens, took down giant hoses and pressed the button to spray soapy water on the van. The hose had a mind of its own: the pressure of the water sent it wiggling in all directions and spraying its soap across the van, I’ve never had so much fun in a car wash. Finally it was done: sparkling and clean and ready to go back to its home.

After the barrage of information when we collected the van, the drop off was almost a disappointment: we drove it in and they just took the keys and waved us off. It was strange to be on foot again! We walked back across Christchurch to the motel, it was another gorgeous hot day and quite pretty meandering along by the park. We had decided to stock up on fancy snacks and ice cream and spend New Year’s Eve at the motel before heading out to the park for the fireworks (must be getting old and boring!)

Back at the motel, I performed a miracle and repacked my suitcase, with three bottles of wine safely stowed in the bottom with a thick blanket wrapped around them. Somehow, everything fitted!

By 11pm, all the fancy snacks and cheese from the Gibbston Valley cheesery was gone and so was the last bottle of wine that we weren’t taking with us, we’d gorged on ice cream but even Silvio couldn’t finish the whole tub. We headed out in the direction of the park, but had no real idea where the music and fireworks would be – we were hoping to see something as we got closer!

We followed the small stream of people, occasionally passing randomly drunken ones going the opposite way, until we could hear the music and find the party. It was busy but not crazy, I guess Christchurch isn’t really a huge party town. Just before midnight the band on stage played Living on a Prayer (well, the crowd sang most of it!) before they brought out a bagpipe player in a kilt (why?) to bring in the New Year. There was the usual countdown followed by fireworks – we were almost directly under them, it was pretty magical watching them flower over our heads. The fireworks were short and sweet, the bagpipes were already wailing out Auld Lang Syne, and 2012 was consigned to the past. We went back to our motel to finish the wine :)

January 1, 2013: it was a fairly chilled start, no need to rush for our afternoon flight, a glass of wine in the lounge before boarding, then back home via train and ferry, a sweaty walk up the hill with our heavy cases, and we were HOME!

I was a little sad it was all over, it was such an amazing trip … but now it was time to sort through the ridiculous amount of photos, write the blog, and plan the next one!!

Adventures in Queenstown

From Wanaka to Queenstown was not very far, the Milford Sound flight was booked for early afternoon so we had time to stop in at a winery along the way. The one I picked was, typically, closed! Luckily there was another one close by, Amisfield, where we picked a yummy pinot noir and a surprisingly good rose to take away with us. At the last minute I asked about good places to go for Chardonnay and the sommellier suggested I try one more: an oaky sauvignon blanc … and then we were leaving with three bottles instead of two.

Busy barman at Amisfield

Busy barman at Amisfield

We carried on to Queenstown, with Silvio’s budgie smugglers and my bikini still spread across the dashboard of the van drying out from our swim the previous day.

Excited!

Excited!

We drove around Queenstown airport before we found the little hangar for the Milford Sound flights, and crawled into a tiny aircraft just wide enough for two cramped seats, fitting about nine passengers in all. The bumpy flight across the mountains, Silvio wrote, “made me entertain the thought of displaying my breakfast to the other passengers, only personal pride and gravity saved them”.

Our flight path

Our flight path

Snowy mountains

Snowy mountains

River

River


The views out of the window were really amazing, we could see the Shotover river with the small red jet boats streaming down it, then the snow capped mountains followed by aquamarine lakes opening up below us as we grew closer to Milford Sound. Despite that, I was glad when we touched down, I think my breakfast was still safe but my stomach was also beginning to churn.

Mountains from the wharf

Mountains from the wharf

On the boat, we headed all the way through to the mouth of the Sound, where we met two cruise ships coming in. It was sunny, but with huge, heavy clouds sagging over the mountains that rose right from the sides of the water. There were several waterfalls cascading down the rocks, but with the dry weather there weren’t as many as when it rains. Apparently, Milford Sound is beautiful no matter what the weather.

Waterfalls

Waterfalls

Waterfalls

Waterfalls

Waterfalls

Waterfalls


We were pretty far south and near the coast, so it wasn’t very warm despite the sun, and the wind on the boat was fierce – my hair was soon whipped into a birds nest and I dreaded trying to brush it afterwards. The top deck was fairly packed, but I managed to take a few nice photos of the misty river between the mountains. On the way back, we saw a bunch of young seals sunbathing on some rocks – apparently these were the young male seals that had been thrown out of the pack, and would grow stronger before returning to find a mate.

Seals on the rocks

Seals on the rocks

The flight back was much smoother – whether because we took a slightly different route, or maybe the wind was less, who knows, but we were both glad. I took photos of mountain tops poking through fluffy clouds, and the late afternoon light making the hills look blue.

Low clouds

Low clouds

At the holiday park in Queenstown – the first place we hadn’t phoned ahead to book, not having had any issues so far finding a spot – there was only one spot left for the night, right outside reception. We grabbed it anyway – the most expensive place of all the ones we stayed in, as well – I guess that’s what you get for coming to Queenstown so close to New Years.

View from the campervan

View from the campervan

Camper at the site

Camper at the site

Quackers at the campsite

Quackers at the campsite

Still, it was close to the centre of town, so we headed to a local place for dinner. We must have been early because it was empty, and we easily got a table outside with an awesome view out across the lake. We were messing about with the self timer on the camera, balancing it on the cutlery and trying to line up photos, when the waitress finally took pity on us and took one for us. I had lamb and Silvio went for the fillet steak, it was all delicious … I seized the dessert menu afterwards, I’d already seen the pavlova on it – a New Zealand specialty apparently. Silvio suggested we share it, but I pretended I hadn’t heard … (ok, I’m not that bad, I let him have a spoonful in the end).

Dinner time view

Dinner time view

Cheers!

Cheers!

Yum

Yum


On Saturday morning, we drove out to the Shotover river to have a ride on the jet boat. We were pretty early and had quite a wait – those guys were sending out two full boats every fifteen minutes, we calculated that they must have been making a mint! We finally got kitted up with damp black jackets and bright red life vests, and only just missed out on sitting in the front seats!

Ready to go on the boat

Ready to go on the boat

The boat driver warmed us all up for the trip by speeding up the river and spinning around before coming back for the obligatory photos, then we were off downstream. The river wasn’t very wide, and he swung the boat close to the rocks until we all screamed – even knowing he did this dozens of times a day without hitting them, it was hard to believe as we sped within a whisker!

Shotover jet

Shotover jet

Every so often, he spun the boat in a full 360 degree turn, sending a big splash across all of us and raising noisy shrieks, it was great fun. On the return journey he described the river in the winter with blocks of ice, apparently there are only a few weeks a year when the boats don’t operate although I’m pretty sure it must be freezing when it’s icy … glad we came in the summer!

Lunch at Wild Earth

Lunch at Wild Earth

After our wild river trip, it was back in the van and off towards Cromwell for lunch at Wild Earth, a winery and restaurant that we’d been recommended to try. All of the food is smoked in barrels and matched to the wines they produce, so we opted for the taster menu with six small dishes. Obviously, I also decided to go for the matching wine selection! It all arrived beautifully presented on a long wooden plate – it was all delicious, although the lamb with a 2008 pinot noir really stood out. The setting was really pretty as well, we sat outside in the garden where we could look across the hills.

Lunch platter at Wild Earth

Lunch platter at Wild Earth

Selfie!

Selfie!

Being silly

Being silly


Although it was good, the food left us wanting dessert but as it had already taken a long time to arrive we decided to stop somewhere else along the way home. We’d passed loads of wineries and one cheesery, so that seemed like a good place to make a stop! We tasted some really good cheeses, and ended up buying a lovely sweet cheddar (the thought of which is making my mouth water still while I’m writing this!) and a tasty blue cheese, with the intent of saving them for New Year’s Eve back in Christchurch. We also tasted some chardonnay and pinot noir in the winery and bought another bottle to add to the growing collection in the van!

Later that afternoon, back at the campsite but in a new site that was a bit quieter, we had decided to head out to go up in the gondola to the luge but it wasn’t meant to be: the heavens opened just as we were making our way out of the campsite!

20121230_115443

Luckily the weather cleared up overnight and on Sunday we made it over to the gondola. The luge was like a toboggan with small wheels underneath and a track nearly 1km long; we bought five rides but it was so busy that we kept getting stuck behind slower riders! We amused ourselves on the chairlift up to the top by making stupid poses for the camera halfway up, didn’t get to see any of them apart from the last one which was actually quite nice, so we bought it :)

On the very last ride, we finally lost the slow riders and sped down, taking the corners on two wheels, it was all over far too quickly and we came out giggling.