Happy New Year, everyone! Since our last blog we’ve had a relaxing summer break, before we gear up for a busy and exciting 2013. Christmas this year saw us at beautiful Lord Howe Island for a relaxing week, and January has allowed us to get caught up on some personal photos that we’ve been waiting to share with you for a long time. We got so busy in 2012 with our wonderful clients’ wedding and engagement photos that we ended the year with quite a backlog of our own travel and family photos (my Dad may have likened us to the producers of LOST or Breaking Bad… sorry to make you wait, Dad)! ;) Over the next few blog posts, we will share some of the fun we got up to last year. So, without further ado, let us introduce you to our most patient clients of all: my parents and sister (who technically visited at the end of 2011–gasp!)
It was my parents’ first visit to Australia, and their first visit to the southern hemisphere! As they are not big international travellers, this trip was several years in the making. I couldn’t have been more thrilled to finally get to share a bit of this beautiful country with them. Jeff and I have come to love playing tour guide for all our visitors, so we had the Martin’s Oz Highlights Tour all planned out for them, starting with a glimpse of Far North Queensland. We based ourselves for a few days in gorgeous Port Douglas.
Swimming in the Great Barrier Reef was on the bucket list for both of my parents, so we knew that was a must-do, though I had to convince my mom that she would not be the oldest person on the boat. Happily, there were plenty of other “mature-age” snorkelers! ;)
Jeff and I have been lucky enough to visit the Great Barrier Reef several times now, and the part of the reef that we saw on this trip was definitely our favourite. From Port Douglas we travelled on the Silversonic to the Agincourt Ribbon Reef on the outer part of the Great Barrier Reef.
The corals were definitely the healthiest we’ve seen in the Cairns to Cape tribulation region, with no shortage of beautiful fish. Jeff and I did a scuba dive, though the corals were just as amazing viewed from snorkeling on the surface.
I’ve never ceased to be amazed by giant clams like this one.
While we were up north, we took a drive up to the scenic rainforest village of Kuranda, to see the famous butterfly sanctuary:
We spent some time walking the trails in the rainforest and admiring the crazy vines tangling every tree and plant in sight, and getting up to some true Martin family goofiness:
We came upon this beautiful beach at sunset and went for a stroll.
The soft sand was perfect for drip-castle making! For those who are not familiar with this type of sandcastle construction, it is a sort of vertical zen-garden method of sandcastle building, recommended for patient types with attention to detail! My dad taught my sister and I how to do it when we were very young and its always been my favourite way to make a sandcastle. The specimen here, however, is pretty pathetic and should not be taken as an indication of our skill…
Before we left the rainforest, we also experienced a delicious dinner at Flames of the Forest. The evening included traditional Aboriginal stories and the soothing and soporific sounds of the didgeridoo.
The following weekend we took off for the Hunter Valley for some wine-tasting fun. My parents discovered their new favourite wine, which also became mine: Hunter Semillon, specifically the type that has been aged at least 5 years. We tried some particularly tasty varieties here at McWilliams Mount Pleasant Vineyard.
There was certainly no small amount of delicious Hunter Valley cuisine consumed on our trip!
Our adventures didn’t stop there! Later, we hopped down south to Melbourne for some sight-seeing, tram riding and November horse racing. Melbourne is of course famous for its often cold and unpredictable weather… but on a sunny summer day, I think Melbourne is just glorious.
For those who don’t know, the fascinator and hat fashion in Australia and England is non-existent in America (a shame—what a fun accessory). My mom and I entertained ourselves for a good hour in David Jones looking for the silliest, most fun hats we could for Melbourne Cup. We ended up not choosing the truly outrageous ones—though I was tempted to go with something truly gargantuan. I still thought it was a bit funny that my hat made me taller than my very tall father…
Though we didn’t win big, we managed to win back nearly all that we bet and spent on chips—for this wimpy gambler, that’s not bad! Before leaving Melbourne, we took a quick trip down to see the little penguins and catch a glimpse of the beautiful coastline.
It wasn’t long before we were back in Melbourne with my beautiful sister Kate, who came to visit us over the Christmas holiday.
We just love the Melbourne laneways, with the ever-changing graffiti artwork, European-style cafes, vintage and boutique shops, and youthful vibe.
We had just received a new Lens Baby as a Christmas gift, and had some fun trying it out around town.
My sister Kate is incredibly funny and as you can see, she makes amazing faces. It’s faces like this that I remember frequently from our childhood. Love it!
It wasn’t Kate’s first trip to Australia, but she had never actually held a Koala before, so that (along with some Kangaroo feeding) was on our list!
As you may know, you can’t hold a koala at every zoo and wildlife sanctuary; the zoo must have a minimum number of koalas so that they can be rotated sufficiently to minimise stress to the animals. We visited Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane, where there are koalas galore. Lone Pine has multiple enclosures for their koalas, including (my favourite) the “Koala Kindergarten”, with dozens of cute babies! When I paid to get my photo taken with a koala here years ago, they handed me a large geriatric specimen with wiry fur and a musty smell—clearly he came from the Koala Nursing Home (poor old thing). Kate, however, got to cuddle this cute young one. How cute is this?!
We got up to quite a bit more in Queensland, but that will have to wait for a later blog!
Jeff and I had such a blast with my parents and my sister. Mom and Dad, thanks for visiting us and thanks for being as patient as a Breaking Bad fan in the midst of Season 5. I think you need to visit again so that we can re-do the photos and take even more. ;) This wasn’t the end of our travels with Kate—check back soon for the next two blog posts, where we will share some of the photos from our Christmas road trips. First we’ll feature more of Victoria, where we—quite literally—bounced along the Great Ocean Road. Then, we’ll tell you about our 4WD camping trip on the spectacularly beautiful Fraser Island, one of my personal favourite places in all of Australia! Until next time…