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Saturday, 11 August 2012

Here we go again

Hmm, remember those ideas I was talking about? Well, here we go. A little over 4 months of returning to Scotland Mollie and I find ourselves on the plane returning to Perth having made the decision I never thought I could or would take; to leave Scotland, to leave family and fab friends and take up a position in Perth WA. But what was the alternative? The alternative was returning to Scotland and trying to start afresh  in the area I moved to with Graham as a teenager and built our future together for nearly 16 years. Even after 6 months away,  upon returning I discovered that memories can still hurt and so the  alternative is not an option.  So how did it all happen?  About two  weeks before returning to Scotland I replied to an  email from a teaching agency which I had signed up for which had teaching positions advertised. I received a reply the following morning asking where was I and could I attend an interview? I had already planned two road trips; one to Margaret River and one to Exmouth.  So an interview was scheduled on the Monday before flying home Tuesday.  The position was working as a Teacher of the Deaf in two mainstream schools on the fringes of Perth.  As I flew home I was uncertain as to what would come out of the interview but felt confident that our future was back in Scotland with friends. On Friday 30th March I woke to an email offering me the position with a starting date of 6-8 weeks! There have been a few hiccups along the way even turning the position down after asking for more time which was denied.  That's when the 'alternative' sinks in and despite the love and support of friends I realise that the alternative would be harder to live than the complete unknown in another country. So here we are. On a one way ticket to Perth.  The past few weeks have been far from easy and many a time I wondered what on earth I was doing.  I wasn't enjoying my job at Lossie so that went. Once I had been freed up from that it made it easier to organise things. A list was made. Removal companies for quotes, start getting rid of items I didn't want to take, decide what to do with house, cancel direct debits, get rid os items that would be surplus in Oz etc etc  The house has been one of the hardest things to sort out. Trying to make decisions on something that is very emotional resulted in me changing my mind about Perth many a time. Our family home that was to be our forever family home, where we returned to after sneaking off to get married :-) where we brought mollie back to after being born. The decision I came to eventually was to sell but the current climate doesn't mean that my house will sell any time soon so it is now up for rent. It took me a while to reach that point. I felt ready to let the house go but it wasn't so keen to let go of me.   Towards the end, once the removal men had been in and taken all of my furniture I continued to stay in the house which I wish I hadn't. It didn't feel right and I really didn't like it.  So for the last week I have been saying goodbye to friends. The hardest thing in the world. Friends that I have come to rely on over the two years and who have done so much for us. It wasn't easy making the decision to leave them behind and start all over again. But new friends and new adventures await. Plus, I'm sure we will become a very popular holiday destination in the next few years with friends and family.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The End.........

The End..........

WOW!!!!! Can it be? Are you sure?

I tried unsuccessfully to try & round this up yesterday before we left but our last day i asked Mollie what she wanted to do. I actually gave her 2 options; the beach at Rockingham or the Armadale Lizard place. Lizards and snakes won which  didn't surprise me. I can't remember if I have mentioned this place before but it is pretty cool & only 15 minutes along the road. We have visited it in total 4 times including yesterday and I still haven't tired of it. Just as well it's only $15 to get in. Mollie isn't free!! We got a really nice surprise yesterday when we arrived. The staff know us because Mollie and I are always there for so long. Anyway, one member of staff, an older guy called Chris who volunteers two times a week, in fact most of the staff give up their own time. Firstly when we arrived I was told we didn't need to pay because we were Chris's friends (I put a donation in the box instead) and then Chris appeared with a book that he had been holding onto to give to Mollie. He said he'd been carrying it around for the best part of a month hoping that we would come back!! The book is 'Animals of Western Australia' including snakes and lizards of course. Mollie loves it and I was so touched by it. The book has his name in it. He was given it by someone special but I'm going to keep that to myself. He now thought Mollie would enjoy it.  Chris spent ages with Mollie and I pulling out another snake for Mollie to hold, I declined on this occasion. After feeding a few lizards some little baby boy chucks, grass to Zorro the pony and the three musketeer donkeys, patting Rebel the dingo and handling the snake we left. It was quite sad to think we wouldn't go back. 

It all feels a bit surreal now as I sit on the plane heading back. I know what Mollie and I have grown accustomed to over the last 6 months and its been good. We have thoroughly enjoyed the hot sunny days, discovering new an different places, revisiting old places with fond memories of Graham, swimming in the ocean and listening to the shrieks of cockatoos, Gullahs and lorikeets. I keep thinking of all the places we have been to and still feel quite amazed. Many an Australian has said to me that we have been to more places than many locals. The excursions we have been on including the Great Barrier Reef (Ningaloo I hate to say is better!!) Australia Zoo, The Whitsunday's and of course getting to watch Andy Murray play. The people we have met have been fab and no doubt have made the trip. It could have been a very lonely trip but instead Mollie and I have encountered nothing but generosity and genuine friendliness from everyone we have met.

I know I have changed over the last 6 months. A lot more determined and alot more confident. Some of my bounce is returning and I can see Mollie changing too because of it. I've enjoyed the time with her and showing her a stunning part of the world and watching her face on many occasion as she takes things in but on the other hand laughing as she appears non plussed upon seeing The Sydney Opera House from a very nice hotel suite or being in South Bank, Melbourne during the Australian Open. 

I'm ready to make some decisions about our future and what I think is best. I couldn't have done that before. I would be lying if I said I don't have a few ideas up my sleeve but you will just have to wait and see how they materialise, nothing set in stone yet.

I hope you have enjoyed your glimpse of Australia because you have been with us all the way round. I'll be well chuffed if you have lasted this long. I know there is lots that I haven't written down in here but I look forward to catching up and sharing it with you over a large glass of red or white (it has to be from Margaret River or Australian at the very least!) 

We have just under two hours flight time and then I have a car booked to make the final part back up north. Only a 3 hour drive north, that's not even Coffs Harbour to Surfers.......Hmm no surfer dudes either.


We've done it! 

"Pennie And Mollies Big Adventure" is now over.
Xxx

Friday, 23 March 2012

Are you sitting comfortably (part 2)

For the first time in nearly 60 days since arriving in Perth I have woken up this morning and it isn't sunny!!! Ooooh we might get a storm :-)

So much for the next night and part 2! 

I thought I would take the opportunity to sneak on here whilst Mollie was asleep and try to finish off the last of our trips. I reiterate - are you comfy???

Where did I finish off? Oh yes, Albany.

Tripadviser has been really good at delivering lovely wee places that you would never expect to stay in as they aren't in the brochure or they are too small that they go unmentioned. However, there is a lovely wee B&B down on the beach in Albany which is run by an older couple. They were just fab. I got a deal on the room as it was a last minute thing, they recommended a resteraunt in town and even offered to give us a lift in so I could have a glass of vino which I didn't. Breakfast in the morning is cooked by the couple. Mollie was given freshly squeezed apple juice and pancakes which she asked for with fresh strawberries! Lovely. Had it not been for a certain cat called Cubby and  meeting some of George and Ritas friends out at Serpentine then I would have stayed for another night.
The main thing in Albany to do seems to be to visit the Whale World. This isn't a zoo type place with lots of lovely whale types, nope it is the remains of the last whaling station in Australia!! It took ages for Mollie and I to get there but it was well worth it. We took the guided tour around the place (which is set on the most gorgeous beach I may add) which lasted nearly an hour. You are then free to do the film shows and revisit some of the exhibits that were on display. One of the exhibits includes the full skeleton of one of the last whales caught by the men of the station. The film show was really informative about Whales and what happened. I watched Mollies wee face as she realised that people used to kill whales and that some countries still do. The actually place still has all the machinary in place so people can see how things were done. It is well worth a visit if you are passing lol!

We ended up staying at the Whale World for longer than I anticipated as it was soo good and Mollie was obviously enjoying all the artefacts and information that was on display. We also took a wee walk down to the stunning beach at the side of the building. I can't get over how gorgeous the beaches are here. People do look after them.

Right, on the road again from Albany and it is a straight - very straight and long VERY long journey back to Byford on the Albany Highway. In fact in some parts I can see at least 5 miles in front of me, probably more. The neighbour had given me a DVD palyer for Mollie which I think was the one thing that kept us both sane on the drive back. The towns are few and far between on the road. I stopped at one for a rest and to get a bite to eat but there wasn't much on offer to be honest. I checked my phone which has a wee navigation tool on it to see roughly how far I still ahd to go. No reception! I only got receptuion back 30 kilometres from Byford. So, back to the road again. For a long time I passed barely 2 cars. It sort of gives you the feeling that if the car broke down, with no reception and very few passing cars or fuel stops you could be stuck for a while! Hmm, not a nice thought. I eventually pulled back in to Byford at just after 7pm absolutely shattered.

George and Rita have friends about 20mins drive away who are both teachers and so I had arranged to go out and see them - oh and they also had horses which was the main reason. They were just lovely. Chris and Robyn Brown. Mollie and I went initially just for coffee but ended up staying for lunch. They had a collection of horses, chickens, quails, ducks and a rooster which Mollie loved feeding. Hmm, she will be doing something to do with animals when she is older, I can jsut see it.We had a fantastic time there and guess what? More new friends lol

I already had flights booked for Exmouth which is up in the northwest of WA. Towards the end of the week after Margaret River trip a cyclone appears to be heading for North West! Noooooo! Fortunately Cyclone Lua decides to stay up by Broome and then head inland. as a result when I am boarding the plane with Mollie on Sunday 18th March along with 30 other men!!! I ask the stewardess if I'm on the wrong flight (or the right flight?!) and she laughs and say that the cyclone prevented the guys being flown offshore so they were all heading up to Exmouth for chopper flights now. Ahhh!

The flight up to Exmouth is nothing less than spectacular. We fly over turquoise blue water and fire red ground below. I've taken loads of pictures of it so I won't forget but I don't think I will ever forget this.

As we land at the airport which is a tin shed with two doors. Through one doors is arrivals and the other departures. A partition splits the two sides! Anyway, it is roasting hot and I run to get another bottle of water. I try to hire a car with no luck so the wee shuttle bus it is. I have booked The Novotel for 4 nights for Mollie and I which is our last bit of relaxation before the journey home. The hotel is situated right on the beach but also has two pools and views of the sunrise in the morning.
Check in goes smoothly and we are taken up to our room. Before we even get there Mollie spots a lizard. Not a wee 5 cm skink think but a .5m  lizard. I hear "coooool, mum did you see that?!" coming from her. It's already late afternoon and 38 degrees so I need to cool down as does Mollie. Pool it is.
Monday we meet a German / Swiss couple who also have a 4 year old daughter called Ella. Their English is perfect unlike the daughter who doesn't speak or understand a word. We get chatting and before we know it we are all heading to Lakeside Beach which is round in the Cape Range National Park which is full of rugged limestone ranges and 50km of beaches! There is heaps of wildlife including wild emus, lizards and snakes. Don't go wandering off in to the bush is the warning.
The beach itself is gorgeous. Lakeside is one of the flatter ones and doesn't have as much of a rip as some of the others do. The reef is also within 5 mins swimming so we can all go and see it. Mollie has her won wee snorkel set and is delighted to see a ray, nemos, angel fish and other delights. A fab day. Remember what I said about Ella not speaking English? Artilla (husband) and the girls go looking for crabs in the rocks beside us. I watch them trying to work out how to share the bucket. They don't argue as they know they can't understand each other!! So that was Monday. Tuesday was a glass bottom boat out on to Ningaloo Reef. Mollie doesn't snorkel as the cyclone has left the sea quite rough and even I find it quite tiring. There is a strong current too so she stays in the boat with a couple of the guides but she loves watching all the fishes through the glass. She also gets to see some of the photos that the owner, Alek has taken and compiled on his undersea folder. I get a chance to snorkel. The reef is utterly amazing and I would go as far as to say better than the Great Barrier. There are loads of fish, the coral isn't damaged and the colours coming from them are spectacular. But it comes to an end all too quickly.  The afternoon is spent beside the pool where Mollie displays more of her swimming capabilities with dives in and swimming down to touch the bottom of the pool although it is only just over a metre deep.
Wednesday I at last am able to get hold of a car for the day. The comopany gives you "100km free" I laugh as when I drive back round to the Cape National Park to visit some of the other beaches including Turquoise Beach I have already travelled 70kms by the time I reach them. I did look at a place called Coral Bay but that was 150kms south and I didn't come here to drive. It can wait for another time. Turquoise Beach / Bay is a lovely beach with tropical blue water the temperature of a bath! the coral is even closer than Lakeside Beach we were on and to the delight of Mollie we found little holes coming out of the sand. The last of the baby turtles had been making their bid for freedom that morning. We could see the little flipper tracks heading down to the water. If I had been on the ball we should have pitched up earlier and we might ahve seen them. Nevermind. Another fab day on the beach which I may add was nearly empty.

Exmouth is famous for the Whale sharks that come in each year and I did mention them before. When we arrived at the hotel there was a big board at the entrance stating that indeed the whale sharks had been spotted and were in the area. My first thought was "book it!" However, after speaking to the receptionists and some other people I decided against it. A few reasons. The boat has to go quite far out to find them and it can get really rough. With the cyclone passing through the sea was even more choppy. I would be allowed to get in the water but Mollie wouldn't and I felt that I would be too stressed thinking about her on the boat to really think about enjoying the moment. They were also wanting to charge over $200 for her to sit in the boat! So for the moment it's one experience that will have to go on the bucket list and hopefully it won't be there for too long. We will definitely be returning to Ningaloo and if you are ever in Oz I thing you should visit it too!

Well guess what? The sun has finally appeared. The weathr did say that some sort of trough was bringing rain and storms Yippeeeeee! In all the time we have travelled round Oz I ahven't seen a decent storm. I might yet!

Anyway, with 3 days to go packing and cleaning is beckoning. I think I still have it in me and time to do one more posting before we return. But the adventure is nearly at it's end.............................

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Are you sitting comfortably? (part l)

Are you sitting comfortably?? (part 1) 

This is going to be a long un!!! 

I'm aware i have neglected the blog over the last couple of weeks and its not that we havent done anything, the complete opposite. We have been up to loads but time is galloping on. It's hard to believe as I sit on the balcony of the Novotel Ningaloo, looking out onto the Indian Ocean, in 28 degree heat (it was 38 during the day)  but this time next week Mollie and I will be sitting on a plane Scotland bound. I don't think I ever believed that this week would come. but it has and Mollie and I just need to make the most of the last few days we have..........

So, what's been happening? Well I decided to go on a little road trip to a place called Margaret River. The place is a hidden gem!!! It has over 200 wineries with frequent wine tastings and live gigs attracting locals and many from further afield. We headed down on the Monday holiday, Labour day which was a good call. My side of the road heading south was empty but the other side heading north - nose to tail!!!!! Aussies really like heading to this place for a break and I'm not surprised. The area is in the bottom south west of Australia and stretches from Bussleton to Augusta and then along the coast to Albany. I had planned to do a wee circuit which was to follow the road round to Margaret River with a stop in Dunsborough and then Margaret River and then onto Albany. 
The drive down to Dunsborough was fine with the exception of temporarily losing Pob! Mollie left him in a Tourist Info place. Eeeeeeek. A quick turnaround and he was rescued. I don't know who was more upset, Mollie or me. Graham gave Mollie Pob (Pooh Bear) and Tigger when she was born and I suppose it feels as if he is here.

Bussleton has the longest Jetty in Australia I think. We bypassed it due to the Pob incident and headed to Dunsborough. It was no more than three hours driving to get there from Byford which in Scotland can get you to Edinburgh from us (oh yes it can!!!!! Lol) I'm getting used to the fact that to get anywhere here you either fly or drive and be prepared to drive long distances. I found us some accommodation in a reasonable motel and then headed out to have a look. The first thing you notice is that the beaches are STUNNING and the water is just gorgeous. Clear blue, warm and teaming with life. There was even a wee boy fishing off the beach with his mum. Mollie was dying to see what was in his bucket. 
A wee play in the park and then a  nice bistro dinner in the pub next door(The Pour House) Beautiful! 

The drive between Dunsborough and Margaret River is full of things to do. the wineries really kick in but there are also caves, light house, mazes, cheese factory and chocolate factory. Some deserve more time and attention than others of course but we did do it all. I did initially want to just stay for one night at Margaret river but we didn't get a chance to do everything on the drive down so a quick change of plan and we now have an extra night in Margaret River. On the Tuesday after leaving Dunsborough we headed for Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse which Mollie loved. There was a tour that you could do so we did it. We got to go to the top and got to check out the workings of it. It was good. You could see for miles. 
The lighthouse looked down on to a stunning beach called Bunker Bay which again was just beautiful. The temperature, after leaving the lighthouse was climbing so we had a quick bite to eat and then onto the stunning Bunker Bay Beach. There was a bit of a wave which Mollie had great fun on. I didn't want to leave but we had to get a move on. 

The ticket we had for the lighthouse allowed us to get discount into the Ngilgi caves so we departed e lighthouse and headed for there. Its only a 20 minute drive. These caves are awesome. You can decend down to around 30 odd metres down though, at it's deepest it's 50 odd but the public doesn't go that far. The guide explained all the formations we were looking at. They also have a 'fairy' cave which Mollie thought was brill. The deeper down you go your breathing becomes very laboured due to the decreasing oxygen that far down. I got lots of pictures so maybe you Geography types can maybe explain to me again what I was looking at. 

The day was disappearing and I was desperate to find somewhere to stay. We hadn't done any of the play areas, the maze, chocolate factory etc so I was going to have to return to them the following day. I had seen a motel in trip adviser with a good write up so that was it - sorted. So Tuesday had been pretty full on. Wednesday was much the same. We managed to squeeze in; a morning at a maze place. Fab! We got lost!.........a cheese factory, a winery and the Margaret River chocolate factory. I did do tastings as we went round each. I felt ill by the end of Wednesday. I must have done them in the wrong order!!! Anyway, another packed day. Oh, we finished off each day, Tues & Wednesday with a trip to the beach. It's about 15minute drive from Margaret River but again it had powder soft sand and clear blue seas. It got better and better. The drive to the beach is fine except for all the black bare trees. Back in November there was a big bush fire which ran through those parts. It devastated a whole area of bush, shrubbery and trees. It's quite sad. Mollie asked lots of questions about it so it must have affected her too. She did remember about the bush fires in Queensland too.

The drive from Margaret River to Albany is a long one.It took nearly 6 hours and that was with a quick pit stop for fuel and a tree top walk called Valley of the Giants, which was gorgeous but very scary!!! what happens to your fear when you are younger? You have none!!!! As you get older you certainly believe that the metal walkway way above the trees will fall and you with it!!! Hmm, maybe not but it's worth bearing in mind. Back in the car and off to Albany. Alot of the beaches on the coast were actually closed due to the threat of or previous fires that had occurred in the area. 

Eventually we hit Albany. It is a loooooong road. Again no accommodation booked but trip adviser helped us out. A nice b&b down by the beach. 


I'm off to bed so part ll is tomorrow x

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Itchy Feet!

I was emailing someone the other day and the reply I got surprised me a little - I was told I had been a bit quiet! lol Maybe I haven't posted as much as when we were on the Eastern coast but then things have also slowed down here.
Evelyn came and I think had a really good time. I took her to some of the places that Mollie and I had already visited including Fremantle, Perth, Armadale, and Rockingham as well as a few places we hadn't. One place  I sort of stumbled upon was  Swan Valley which is nothing short of food heaven (2nd to Margaret River!) It's about an hour north east from Byford and is 30km or so of wineries, cheese places, a chocolate factory, a bee hive place which sold all sorts of different honey and candles and even more wineries. The land gives way to mainly farms and so most of them also sell watermelons, grapes, corn etc from the front of the house. The wineries (have I mentioned them?????) are in abundance!  We stopped in at one called Lancaster and you do literally pitch up, have a few tastings and then decide whether or not you want to buy any. There is no pressure if you don't. You just walk away and roll I mean walk on to the next which is 50m down the road. The travel companies do wine tours and you spend the afternoon walking from one to the next. I did a small tasting of a couple and then bought a couple of gorgeous bottles. BUT I wasn't too bothered as tomorrow Mollie and I are heading off on another wee road trip. I've got itchy feet to get on the road again and realloy to see some decent things you need to be able to do that. So, tomorrow we are heading off to Margaret River which has an abundance of wineries, the main chocolate factory of the Margaret River Chocolate company. there is also beaches in abundance, the Bussleton Jetty which is nearly a mile long (Seriously!! Google it) and lots of other stuff to do so here we go again on our mini adventure.
there is loads to do here but I'm now down to my final three weeks and finances are scraping the barrel so I have had to be select with where we go. I have booked a trip up to a place called Ningaloo Reef where the Whale Sharks come in to feed from March onwards. I'm really hoping that they will be there but the tour guide did say it can be in to April before they arrive. Watch this space. Mollie will just be so excited. She seems to be thriving on an appetite on anything to do with marine life. I did look at driving up to Exmouth but then thought better of it. Had this side of the country been on the first part of our journey no doubt I would have been driving to Broome or Darwin (not actually recommended by the way!) As daring as I am I'm not that daft and besides we are near the end of our trip and I don't fancy 15 hours on a dusty, dry road up north. Flights are booked and we head there in two weeks time.

Today was a lazy day down at Rockingham Beach which was packed with families which was lovely to watch. No jelly fish which made it even nicer. The families all gather down on the grassy area behind the beach with their eskies and picnic hampers and fold away chairs and get settled for the day. It's a holiday tomorrow, Labour day (they get countless holidays here) and so many families tend to get together and enjoy beach  and BBQ time and make a family gathering out of it. This is one of the last holidays before heading in to Autumn / Winter time. I did laugh when I saw the winter stock hitting the shops the other day. Leggings, woolly jumpers, hats all in the windows of the shops. The minimum it normally gets to here is 12 degrees. Last time I heard it was something like that in Scotland and most folk were out with short sleeved tops on! It's still a while off  before the temps drop here anyway. It was a balmy 35 degrees today and tomorrow I think it's to get warmer.
I'm quite looking forward to our little trip down south. Do me a favour. Next time you go to the wine section in Asda or Tescos try and find some wine from either Swan Valley or Margaret River. You won't regret it  - promise.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Changes

It has hit me today that in 5 weeks time Mollie and I will be on a plane back to the UK and I hate to say but..........I don't want to!

I'm aware that I haven't written for a wee while. I'm not sure what has prompted me to do so but things have slightly changed from my original plans. We have still to hit the Margaret River region but that is on the cards next week for sure. The weather will hopefully be somewhat cooler than it has been. We also have someone staying with us at the moment, my mother in law Evelyn. I invited her out to show her some of the sights here as I knew she had never been this far and I suppose to show her what life has been like for Mollie and I and how happy we are. Sadly there is now a tinge of regret as it's not going as well as I hoped but then what did I expect?

Anyway, Mollie and I have still had the opportunity of exploring lots of places. We have had quite a few beach days at Rockingham, Cottesloe and Mandurah. The beaches here are stunning but I think I have already said they are some distance away. But Mollie and I have had some fantastic free days on them so that makes them worthwhile. Oh! Remember that snarky thing I mentioned before? Well it's still there!!!! I couldn't swim 300m out to a small pontoon raft which was anchored just off of the beach! I'm not sure if I'm paranoid or over cautious! But then the wee shark lookout helicopter flew overhead so I was happy to think I can try it another day.......Maybe!

We have also headed into Perth on three occasions now. It doesnt have the same vibe that Melbourne does but it is an up and coming city with expansion constantly happening. The city is lovely as it sits on the Swan River. If you look at a map you will see that the river looks exactly like the shape of a swan hence the name. I took Mollie to a park the other day within the Kings Park called Synergy Park. It was fab with loads of climbing things and swings and walking things to do. As I looked around people were actually holding their kids parties in the park. The free BBQ facilities which the council provide make it so easy to do. (Don't think the Moray Council budget would entertain that idea this year) anyway, a fab time there and today we visited Fremantle on the train. It took a bit of time getting there and maybe I should have taken the car but Fremantle doesn't make it easy for you to park. It is hideously expensive and limited spaces. So it's less hassle to take the train. Fremantle is full of coffee shops, boutiques, side streets oh and the most fantastic shop if you are the mother of a small girl!!!! We came across a shop called The Pickled Fairy. It was fab! Full of fairy dresses, glitter, wands, wings, tiaras, sparkly slippers. There was even a lucky dip bag where you could pay $2 and receive a little prize! We will return to Fremantle very soon and I suspect a fairy dress might be making it's way back to Scotland. Anyway, google it and see what you think.

I know we still have 5 weeks to go but I'm aware that it will pass in no time - just like the last four and a half months have. I can't believe it. Mollie has changed so much and grown. She talks ALL THE TIME!! She is definitely not shy now! Me? I've changed too! A bit more confident and a bit more able to take on what life can throw at me but mostly I've started to enjoy life again. I haven't done that for a while. So, we still have a road trip to do and then possibly a wee return trip to Melbourne!!! We shall see! One thing is for sure. We will be cramming as much as we can into the next 5 weeks. 

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Perth

We have now landed in Perth and have been for a little over a week and so thought I would expand a bit on where we are and what our plans are for the next wee while.

We left Melbourne on Saturday 28th January (where on earth did January go to? This has been the quickest January EVER!) on a flight at 6.15am. With the flight time and the time difference we actually landed in Perth at 7.05 am! It was going to be a long day!

The reason we are in Perth is another home exchange but this time the people are actually coming to Scotland!! The owners, George and Rita, we have gotten to know fairly well over the last few months. They are a lovely couple. Originally from Liverpool but left back in the 70s to head here. when we met them at the airport I swore they had just stepped off a plane from England! their accents haven't changed!!

A quick run down of the house and the area. We are staying in an area south east of Perth city called Byford. Armadale seems to be the next biggest town to here. There is nothing really in Byford, it is classed as rural but not bush! You have to go another hour inland to be 'bush' The house is in a quiet and fairly new development. Prior to the houses being built the area was just vast open fields filled with kangaroos! Guess what? the kangaroos are still here ! When we arrived George had around 6 in his garden quite happily munching on his shrubs. The house has a lovely verandah out the back which looks on to the remainder of the field. I think George said something about it being developed for an old folks home which will be a shame. Every day so far Mollie and I have loved watching them hopping around. they are quite cheeky as you can see them in peoples gardens or hopping over the fences. I am unsure as to how to upload pictures on this otherwise I would get a few up. Anyway, they are very cute to watch as they sunbathe under the trees.

The house as I said is lovely. Open plan living with bedrooms off to the sides of the house. The verandah at the back of the house looks on to Georges immaculate garden with Frangipanis and Honeysuckle type flowers. As I sat on the big comfy chair I was hit with all the tropical smells. Lush! they also have a swinging chair in the garden which is lovely to sit and read in mid afternoon. The temperatures when Mollie and I arrived were actually up in to the high 30s thankfully for the last few days it has come down to high 20s though this week I see it is starting to climb again.

Since we have arrived Mollie and I have already been invited to a couple of BBQs with the neighbours and been asked to stand in on a volleyball game!!  I have been looking at things to do and places to see in this area and sadly the things to see and do are huge distances away so Mollie and I are going to hit the road again for a few days - not right now but soon! In the south there is an area called Margaret River region which has an abundance of wineries and food type places. It's also very pretty. Then there is the North and a place called Shark Bay and Ningaloo Reef where you can snorkel with the Whale Sharks! Unfortunately we have missed them but the reef still looks fab. the distance to get there though is pretty big. No bigger than anything I have already tackled but not sure if I'm up for another monster drive. So I don't know. Margaret River is a must and we can do that in a 3-4 day round trip. Hmm but Shark Bay does look pretty cool!

We do have a charge to look after! A ragdoll cat called Cubby who is just lovely. He prefers to sleep in the bathroom sink all curled up. He isn't getting much peace at the moment with Mollie trying to give him lots of cuddles. He did a disappearing act yesterday which did cause me to panic! Eeeeek! I knew this trip was going too smoothly! But thankfully he did turn up today. I have spoken with George and Rita and they seem to have settled in well to Scotland. The heating is working (phew!) and the wine rack is fully stocked. They will be fine.

So this is our last stop before we head back to Glasgow. I really can't believe where the time has gone BUT that is still 7 weeks away. Lots of time to do lots of exploring and wine tasting. Oh if you are ever looking for a good wine you won't go wrong with a Sauv Blanc from Marlborough Region (NZ)  or the Margaret River region. (WA) I wonder if I can sneak a few celler door type bottles in my bag?
Right, I promised Mollie a beach day tomorrow so I'm off to get the bag ready. Enjoy the snow folks
Pennie
xxx

Saturday, 28 January 2012

P is for........

P is for...........

Packing!

The dreaded word again. I've spent today sorting out clothes and tidying the house that we are in. I've come to dread the last few days we spend in an area as it means saying goodbye and making sure that I have packed EVERYTHING!!! Would you believe that the only thing I have lost in the whole trip is a hairbrush! Now out of 4 months travelling that's not bad. 
So today I have gone round the house and cleared all the little things that have been lying around, all of Mollies toys, clothes, books etc This packing session actually has been one of the hardest as not only are we leaving very good friends but also a fantastic city. Melbourne has been fab. I'm also leaving in a manner not quite how I would have liked. Due to some tennis event going on (more about that in a bit) the flights out of Melbourne have doubled for two days. As a result I'm having to leave slightly earlier in order to catch the couple in Perth (another P) who are flying out to Craigellachie in a few days time. The downside is that Mollie and I are leaving before the family of this house return. Very sad. I assumed we would see them to say goodbye. Maybe it's better this way. It doesn't feel like it though. We have had full use of Rick & Cheryls gorgeous house in Cheltenham, Melbourne with pool. In return all we have been asked is to look after the two cats which Mollie has been delighted with. 
(Mollie did turn round to me the other day and whispered how she would like a dog and that she was more than capable as she has looked after her Nintendogz very well for quite a while!!!!!) 
Cheryls brother & sister in law have also been so good to us with meals at theirs, gatherings on the beach and childminding for me. I couldn't have hoped for a nicer family. So to leave without saying goodbye feels very wrong but they understand. 
Leaving Melbourne is also a wrench. I can't believe we have been here nearly the whole month but we have had such a fab time. So what have we been up to? 
Well cast your mind back to the beginning and we had our lovely few nights in The Langham with drinks and meals on South Bank before we headed out to Cheltenham which has been more laid back with days beside the pool and the joy of watching Mollie swimming and diving like a fish. We have also enjoyed 
evenings on the beach with temperatures still up in the high 20s watching the sun set. Magic. A horse trip round the city was on Mollies to do list so we did! The highlight of this part of the trip has to be going to the tennis. When we first arrived there was the hype and the build up to it. I remember sitting in Federation Square with Mollie at the start of the competition and watching the huge screen they havemup showing the games. The Aussie players did take up most ofnthe air time. Hewitt had the locals beside them selves at one point.  Anyway, people just turn up, pick up a (sponsored) deckchair and sit and watch it. The evening matches can get really busy. You can't fail to notice the atmosphere and social interaction that goes on during this time. It's magic. Seeing as I had come all of this way I desperately wanted to go and see Andy Murray in one of his matches. I had to quickly get to grips with the ticket system. It is fairly easy - once you understand who is playing where and what time and of course prices which increase the nearer the final it gets.

Andy Murray sailed through the first round and so before ticket prices increased too much i thought it best to get in at the early stage. Cheryl's sister in law had agreed to take mollie giving me a child free, tennis packed day! Yippeeeee!  So 2nd round and Murray has drawn Edouard Roger-Vasellin. Some French dude. Unseeded shouldn't be a problem and it wasn't. He won in straight sets. But I had the chance to watch Tsonga play as well as a ladies singles match: Petra something or other who just got put out in semis i think. She was a good player. Anyway, I had the chance for the day to soak up the atmosphere, have a glass of wine in the Jacobs Creek area (and get a wine glass!) and watch some great tennis. It was fab. I will never forget.

I did think that that would be my only chance to see Andy Murray butnwhen I found myself at a loose end on Wednesday AND Andy Murray was playing I thought well..........why not? I took Mollie this time to show her what it was all about. The only tickets available were actually in the sun and with a 4 year old and temperatures in the high 20s you can't do it. When you see the people looking cooked on the television in these seats they are! They aren't that comfortable because the sun on them is so intense and you aren't allowed to move out of them that often. The officials are quite strict about when you can and can't move. My seat in the Hisense arena was in the shade and I found it quite cold. Towards the end of the match, 3 set I think, I managed to do a hot seat swap with another lady for a few games  and boy I was toast by the time  a game had been played. So definitely not with a 4 year old. So instead I got ground passes which allow you to wander round the area, visit some of the outer courts and watch the less profile games. Except on this day Rafael Nadal was warming up!!!! Cooooooooool. He is even fitter in real life. He was attracting quite a crowd but he continued to do some practice shots and get some feedback from his coach for some time. He is quite something to watch. Mollie and I had a fantastic time going round the stalls. There are loads of freebies. Most of the sponsors have a tent with some sort of giveaway. Mollie spotted a face painting tent with a MASSIVE queue! I explained to her that it could be a while but no she was dead set - she wanted her face painted. 45 mins later after standing in the heat, it was our turn. Mollie asked for a flower and she got one. "what would mummy like?" I was asked. Eh?!  Ok, Scottish flag please. Hehe well Andy was playing and I wanted to support him. Melbourne Park where the tennis is staged has huge tv screens all over the place with lots of grassy areas. So we found a shady spot and settle in. We had a fab afternoon watching the tennis and getting involved in all the tennis frolics.

Our return walk to the city after the match was along the Yarra with a gorgeous evening sun. Federation Square was becoming busy with people turning up for the match between Djocovic and Ferrer. Funnily enough i had forgotten about the war paint on my face but the number of people that stopped me to speak to me about the tennis was unbelievable. Anyway, I wished I could have stayed but no I had a little person to get fed and returned to bed. We have had sooooooo many late nights it's unbelievable. Mollie sleeps longer than I do!! 

P is for PANTS! I watched Andy Murray being beat last night when the game should have been his. My cousins girlfriend, Karen, was handed two tickets to the final from her boss (a perk of the job she is in!!!)  and we both hoped that it might have been Andy Murray in it. He played really well though so maybe next year.

Parking ticket!!!!! Don't ask but I was given a parking ticket on Australia Day!!! I will be appealing. 

P is for Perth which is where we are heading for next. I have had A swift look at things to do but beaches and surfing might feature!!! Wait and see. I am well aware thou that the weather is not high 20s but high 30s so how we will cope I don't know.

I am very sad to be  leaving Melbourne. We have had such a great time and made so many friends. The vibe from the city and the events that happen here make it such an easy place to slot into. I'm hoping we will be back at some point. In fact Promise. We will be back. 

P is for plane which is what I'm boarding in.............6 hours time. Pants! It was 35 today and it felt it. By 7.30 this evening it was still 30. Now it is 27 so it is cooling down but it is still very sticky. How will the couple from Perth, WA cope with our 5 degrees?! I might put them off Scotland forever?! At least it's not snowing though I think they would quite like that mind you so would I right now. Eurgh

Night night 

Saturday, 14 January 2012

The Langham

Friday 6th January and Mollie and I are hugging, crying and waving goodbye to my friend Janet and her family. I actually didn't want to leave Mypolonga. There isn't very much going on but life seems to be very simple or maybe it's as complicated as we make it. I don't know but Janet and Hans work hard, they have two fabulous girls and with the exception of wanting the house finished, which as the 40 degree days increase the time span for the house will also increase. Anyway, they are very happy and I'm somewhat envious of what they have but so grateful that we had the opportunity to live it.

I had booked a flight with Virgin Australia this time from Adelaide to Melbourne. I had had enough of JetStars antics and 20kg strict weight limit. So Virgin has a new customer. I was checked in on time, no stress; lots of lovely ladies at the desk, bags were fine, I was even asked if I wanted Mollies back pack / car seat checked in (no cost!!) The flight actually left early and arrived early at Melbourne yippee! As a result my cousin hadn't quite made it to meet us (I'm not one for big greetings in airports anyway!!) Anyway, Virgin flight was fab!

Mollie and I stayed with my cousin for the night in St Kilda, Melbourne. Mollie loves Greig and Karen his girlfriend. She thought this was ace and to be honest it gave me a bit of respite. Greig did offer if I wanted to go for a run round Albert Park (F1 circuit) in the morning then I could. Sadly towards the end of my stay at Janets I pulled some muscles in my back again so a run is out of the question but it's still on my to do list.

Saturday was Greigs last day off and as we were only there for the night we headed away as a group for the day. There is a lovely area in Victoria called Mornington Peninsula. Many Brits settle there. It has beaches, all amenities you could ask for, it's very green with lots of open spaces and it's also a short journey to Melbourne CBD if you want to head in for anything. So we headed there for a drive out. It was lovely and would have been even better had the sun shone. We sat at a picnic table, shivering trying to eat a picnic with around 20 seagulls watching our every move!! Its the only downfall with Melbourne, the weather. It can change so rapidly and can get very hot but also very cold. It must have one of the most varied temperatures of any major city!! A wander and a chat and then back to St Kilda.

For the next three nights I had booked Mollie and I into a hotel on melbournes South Bank. I booked it for personal reasons but the more people I speak to the more of an attitude I get from others about the place!! Four years ago when Graham and I first visited Australia and did our own mini tour with Mollie a mere 8months old, Graham booked The Langham as a surprise for me because that's what he did. Surprises. Back then I remember just being gobsmacked at the place but also the look on Grahams face when we stopped there. We had such a fab time in the two nights we were there. We had lots of walks along the river, we watched the street entertainers with great delight and we had a lovely meal out together as the hotel has a baby sitting service. When I walked in to the hotel again it was like literally yesterday that we were there. Except it wasn't and so much has changed. It hurt as soon as I walked in the door. I did think that maybe this wasn't such a good idea. nevertheless, I checked in to discover that yet again - guess what? A free room upgrade. A grand river view room. Our room had a view of the pool area below, the Yarra river and the Melbourne skyline which I have many pictures of.

Mollie had been very excited about reaching the hotel. Not because Justin Beiber was here last month or because the Indian cricket team stayed during their latest test. Nope, it was because it had a pool!! My memories of the pool area were somewhat different to how I found it. I thought the pool was on the rooftop overlooking Melbourne but in fact it was on the 9th floor with sliding doors which open up and allow you to look out over the Melbourne CBD. There is a large outdoor seating area where you can sunbathe or just sit out and read. Far from peaceful with Flinders Street station in the background but again you can watch the world go by You can imagine where our first stop was anyway. So a quick dip and then changed to head out or a bite to eat. I had arranged with my cousins girlfriend, Karen and her sister Claire to meet up which we did. I completely failed to notice the time and we were actually heading out at 8pm. This wouldn't be a problem normally but with a four year old some of the resteraunts can get quite aggitated about having a child after 9pm. However we managed to find a place that we were in before called Leftbank. It had big comfy seats in a lounge area through the back of the main bar. It was lovely. So there we sat and chatted and ate and laughed until........11.15. Hmm maybe it was a bit later. I nursed a large glass of wine and a cocktail for three and a half hours. It wasn't a night for drinking, it was a night for laughing and talking and although I didn't realise it I actually needed it after arriving at The Langham. Mollie was still up and in good form at that time although funnily enough when I put her in bed and said I would be through to tuck her in in 5 she was already asleep. I headed to bed thinking surely social services would be tracking us down in the morning. Thankfully they weren't.

I was recently asked by someone quite close why I'm visiting places that hurt me so much and I don't know. I don't know if I'm looking for good memories or for Graham or even if it's just my way of saying goodbye. But it's nice to chat to Mollie about these places where her daddy was and how he fed her chocolate for breakfast on Easter Sunday at the Langham much to mums disapproval all those years ago. Or how I sat in the very same bar area after she woke up one night with a sore tummy. So, yes a very nice hotel but the memories from the place are worth way more.

Breakfast is a feast in itself at this place. They have every concievale item for breakfast - except porridge!! I made a comment about porridge or the lack of it to a young Portugese chef( I quite like porridge when I'm away) anyway he muttered something about not knowingvwhat it was and then 10 minutes later returned with a HUGE bowl of it. I had just eaten muesli and toast!!! The young waitress at the table started to laugh as she saw my dilemma. Refuse the bowl and hurt the guys feelings or eat it after already having eaten way more than I normally would for brekkie. So I ate it but didn't finish it. The next morning the waiter spotted us arriving and promptly arrived at my table with a bowl of porridge. Smaller than the previous days I hasten to add. Mollie spotted the chocolate fountain the first morning. There were bowls of strawberries, kiwi, marshmallow and other bits at the bottom. You could have anything cooked as well as Chinese or Japanese selection of noodles, rice, soup etc etc.you don't leave hungry from this breakfast that's for sure.

This part of the trip wasn't meant to be action packed. I just wanted to linger and take in where we were so we spent the days walking up the river, a bit of shopping, coffees out, swimming in the hotel pool and watching the street entertainers which Mollie loved. I saw a couple of good singers which I hope get a break at some point. There was the incredible irish escape artist with terrible jokes and the man on the unicycle who also had terrible jokes and that's how they earn their money?!!

So nothing exciting. Mollie did want to do the horse carriage round Melbourne so on the day we went to find them they weren't there so I have promised her a ride in the next few days. She still has gifts from people back home which will more than cover the trip.

My only wish for this part is to see Andy Murray at the Australian Open so watch this space. I'm on the case.

We are back in Cheltenham, Melbourne which is funnily enough where we first started our trip. We have seen and done loads since we were last here and also changed alot. I remember when I first arrived and hanging out the clothes looking at every cobweb and spider thinking 'are you poisonous?' but today it wasn't a thought at all.

He weather here for the last week since we arrived has been cool to say the least but tomorrow that hopefully changes. It's due to get to around 28 tomorrow. I gave had trousers on for the last few days. Looking forward to getting some shorts or a dress on tomorrow. This house has a pool so I know what Mollie will be doing.

I have had a few comments from people about reading this blog and I'm surprised with how many of you are following us. Thank you 

I hope the mild weather continues with you guys and that there isn't even the hint of the 's' word.

X

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Mypolonga Happy New Year x

New year

Happy New Year from a very hot, very dry Mypolonga, Murray Bridge. 

Stunning That's how I would sum up our current destination. Mollie and I are staying with an old friend of mine from Balwearie, Janet  and her husband in their gorgeous home an hour north of Adelaide. It is well off the beaten track, nothing else around them and is almost self sufficient. It is amazing.
Janet and Hans actually built it themselves and it is by no means finished but you can see what they are trying to achieve and they are doing it themselves.

About 2 years ago Janet and Hans were running there own Rose business. They were running it from their 20acre plot they had purchased in order to get the business going. However, as I'm discovering water is a major focal point out here. Us scots we like to discuss the weather. Aussies in south Adelaide like to discuss the water levels which is fair enough. Janet and Hans had been running the business for a few years when the government then changed their water allowance for the business. They had been running it on 20% but the government or water authorities were playing with their figures each year until finally 18 months ago they cut it to 7%, of what I don't know but it wasn't enough to run a Rose business!! so stress levels dictated that they gave up. Hans returned to uni to do studying in water management and works in a water recycling plant and Janet does Rose budding or grafting I think it's called. Anyway, the pair of them work blooming hard to achieve what they have here.

Mollie and I have thoroughly enjoyed touring round their garden (there are no roses now!) Janet grows; cucumbers, tomatoes, courgettes, pomegranates, peaches, onions, garlic, strawberries, raspberries, grapes, figs and countless other things that I can't remember. Mollie loves going into the garden and picking things with Janet's two girls Amber and Isla. Then they see it before them on the table that day.
Mollie has thoroughly enjoyed playing with the two girls and I'm glad we made this stop. She has had the chance to have fun instead of being dragged round the country with me. It has taken a bit of the pressure off of myself a bit too. 

So what have we been up to? Well the weather does dictate what you can and can't do sadly. When we first arrived the temperatures were lovely. High 20s during the day and clear skies at night so the heat disappeared. However this didn't last long and since Hogmanay we have had 40+ degrees which is not nice. It's too hot outside by mid morning. The best part of the day is first thing in the morning and then by 11am it is way too hot to do anything though the girls have been jumping in and out of the pool in the garden. By 3pm the heat has drained the girls (and us) and so it really is time to sit and do very little. Either DVD or craft stuff. Everyone gets pretty cranky when it heats up. One day we experienced not only the heat from the sun but a hairdryer effect wind too! That was bad. Every time I walked out the door to see to the chucks or help with washing it was like opening the door to a hairdryer blowing in. 

We have travelled to a couple of places around the area including Murray Bridge which is the equivalent to Elgin (on a much smaller scale though!) The other big thing in this area is the Murray River which has loads of activity in/on it. Janet took us there for a day last week when the temperatures were just beginning to lift. It gave the girls a chance to jump in and out of it. Whilst there we saw loads of activities; jet skies, boats, water skiing, wake boarding, big inflatable things! Lots of families had made it a day trip bringing down BBQs tables and chairs! Brill.

Hogmanay was a worry for a wee while as I wasn't sure if we would make the bells as with the heat and using so much energy in the heat it fairly pants you! However we did make it and Hans, Janet and myself sat and talked into the night only to hear the fireworks going off in the distance which indicated a new year had started - for Australia at least. It was quite weird to be one of the first to be starting the year. Normally I'm at home watching the Aussie celebrations on the tv. Not this year though! Not quite at Sydney harbour though but nevertheless equally as good if not better. Good wine, good company. Bliss. Hans did state his own new years resolutions and so did Janet. I was asked and said I don't normally make them but on this occasion I will settle for just looking forward - not back.

Today, Tuesday 3rd we headed to a place called Mannum which is further down the river. The girls had a fab time playing in the play park, playing with the bubble wands that we bought them and gymnastics stuff which is my input lol. Lots of cartwheels, handstands and round offs. Three happy girls. Mollies cartwheels have improved no end! When we got back in the car I read 42degrees on the car dashboard. Ouch!! 

This evening Hans took Mollie and I about 15mins further inland to a vast open bushland area where we saw kangaroos in the wild. Yayyyyyy! First a couple jumped across our path and then we saw around three poking their heads up in the long grass before we spotted one under the tree. He watched us for ages before hopping off. Mollie was delighted. 

This part of our trip has been inspirational as well as a chance to take stock. I have enjoyed many a night chatting outside with Janet and Hans (witha nice glass of Marlborough) talking well into the night. Have I watched any television in the week we have been here? Nope. Not one bit. Mollie has eaten all of her food including the fruit and veg on her plate. At least half of it has come from the garden which I suspect has helped. We have also enjoyed many a day out and about in the area whilst the girls play, run and laugh. When it was too hot yesterday we headed to the tenpin bowling place at Murray Bridge which was ace. Guess who won? Not me! Mollie won. Seriously! She was delighted. There is one downside to living in the country in this area and it is of course those things with 8 legs. Believe it or not the main one in this area which is dangerous butnyou nevr see is the red back. However, as I said you never see it but you do see other kinds. Big hairy ones which look way more frightening than they are and millipedes and earwigs. I can handle them. But the things with 8 legs - never. Janet is getting used to my screams! 
 
I'm not sure there is anything else I can say about this part of our trip. It has been fantastic to catch up with Janet. In some ways she hasn't changed a bit but in others she has changed so much. I am in awe of what she and Hans have got here and so glad we have had a chance to be part of it. There isn't one night I have not fallen in to my bed and gone to sleep within minutes of hitting it. That's why it has taken me so long to get this bit written lol.  

I have already booked our flights on for the next part of our journey. On Friday 6th  catch a plane back to Melbourne. I'm hoping to get tickets for the Australian open whilst we are there. Oooooh Andy Murray watch out. I just might be there with the old face paint on. Or then again I just might be there cheering him on! That would be good. Right, I'm exhausted. You know where I'm off to!