Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ozsomeness: Part 2

After being back here in the winter wonderland for almost a month now, I'm starting to think my visit to Oz was some sort of magical dream.  Luckily, it wasn't, and I have pics to remind myself I was actually there.  They make me quite happy.

So, we really went big on the travels the second week of the trip.  Mel showed me lots of gorgeous places, and some funny little animals...

Rottnest Island, a 30-minute ferry ride from Perth.  Holy moly, it was beautiful.

Looking awesome on the bikes with Ellie and Mel.  We spent two days biking around Rottnest (or Rotto, as the Aussies call it), hopping off the bikes at various beaches along the way to jump into the marvelous water to cool off, since it was scorching hot there.   Mel and Ellie's friends, Sue and Cam, joined us for the trip to Rotto, and they were really cool.  These were two of my favorite days of the trip, just so much fun!

Ellie going no-hands.  This interior part of the island was SO hot.  I thought vultures were going to start circling at one point.  I also barely had my eyes open most of the ride...the sweat/saltwater/sunscreen/flies in the sunglasses combo was a bit much for the eyes.

These adorable little quokkas are the reason the Dutch explorers called the island Rottnest, a.k.a. rats nest.  They look like large rats, but they're cute.  They're all over the island, and they hop around on their back legs like little kangaroos.

Look at the color of that water!!

Looking for seals at the tip of the island...didn't spot any, but it sure was pretty out there.

Hot, sweaty, and loving it.

After all the Rotto fun, we made it back to Perth just in time for the Australia Day festivities. 

 The day began with the Havianas Australia Day Thong Challenge.  (Americans: they call them thongs instead of flip-flops.)  Here we received huge yellow flip-flop (I'm sorry, I can't call them thongs) rafts and attempted to beat the world record of people on rafts in the water at one time.  Our beach (Cottesloe) actually won, at the expense of 2,088 people frying in the sun like pieces of bacon on inflatable yellow flip-flops while waiting to get everyone situated in the water.  It was a hot one that day!  Our group definitely ended up getting off the rafts and pulling them over ourselves as sunshades at one point.  A good time was had, nonetheless.

Australia Day also included tasty Aussie treats and watching a gorgeous fireworks display over the river at Mel's parents' house.  The sun decided to take a break for a bit in the evening, which was a nice relief after the morning's frying pan experience.

We kind of hit the wall after the travels and Australia Day, so we took a break for a day and chilled out.  Feeling revived, we packed up and headed north to Mel's brother and sister-in-law's home in Jurien Bay for the weekend.  Thanks to Johnny and Sam for the wonderful hospitality and amazing fish!

Johnny took us out in his boat, and we got to see sea lions!  They started showing off and swimming around us.

Cute little guy, hamming it up for us.

Johnny also took us on a little safari in the bush near Jurien Bay.  Anne, Bernard, Mel, Johnny, and I got up at the crack of dawn for some roo-spotting, and it was well-worth the early rising.  This is our band shot.

 We found some!

And they saw us. 

It was really dry out there, but really gorgeous, especially in the early morning.

We also saw a group of emus running in a line, but those guys were way too fast for me to catch with the camera that early in the morning.

After the safari, we had an amazing lunch, then headed out to the b-ball court on the beach...

Mel's showing us how it's done.  It was a warm one that day (think I've said that about every day?), so we didn't last too long out here.

On the way back to Perth from Jurien Bay, we stopped to see some pretty limestone formations called the Pinnacles (and Ellie, they were cool!).

In line with a popular belief non-Aussies have about Australia, these signs really are all over the place.

One final photo from the road trip: Mel performing maintenance on the car again, this time with Noosh and Ori helping out.

We spent the last few days chilling around Perth, and checking out the city. 

Taking the little ones to beautiful Kings Park.

Mel and I leaving for our night out (thanks Ellie!).  Delish cocktails and tapas at Duende in Leederville, then drinks in Subiaco.

My last night in Perth was spent having dinner with Mel and Nader's lovely families, who were so welcoming and wonderful to me during the visit.  Many thanks to everyone!

What an absolutely amazing trip, with the best hosts ever.  Thanks for everything, Mel, Ellie, Noosh, and Ori (and to Nader, as he helped sponsor the fun)!  I'll definitely be back, and with Ken next time.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Ozsomeness: Part 1

Two of my very best friends that I met in Norway, Mel and Ellie, moved back home to Perth.  I was very, very sad when they left, and couldn't imagine not knowing when I'd see them again.

So, the morning before they left Oslo, I booked a roundtrip to Perth during a time when Ken would be working non-stop and out of town.  It also happened to be during some of the coldest, darkest weeks of the Norwegian winter.  No complaints here.

Thus, I found myself with two of my favorite girls, in an absolutely gorgeous and warm place, for two and a half weeks.  

Although living internationally isn't always the greatest, I thank my lucky stars daily for the experience, the opportunity to travel to amazing places, and the chance to meet friends that will forever be a part of my life.  I do miss home dearly, and will be ready to get back to a "normal" life in Portland later this year.  And I'll be a-okay with that, because I'll be able to look at this time for the rest of my life and see how pretty damn fantastic it all was, and to be thankful that we didn't pass up an opportunity to do something to keep life fresh and interesting.  

That said, I never dreamed a trip to Australia would be a part of this experience.  It was a tremendous treat to get to spend this time with some beautiful friends, and to see a new corner of the world.  I will cherish this little treasure of a trip, always.

Thank you Mel, Ellie, Noosh, and Ori, for showing me your gorgeous homeland.  It was such a gift to spend this time with you.  Your hospitality was incredible!

There were too many photos to put all of this goodness into one post.  So, here's the first half of the beautiful adventure...

Insanely gorgeous Scarborough Beach in Perth.

Enjoying some brews at Little Creatures in Fremantle.

City Beach.

The summer clothes came out to play!!

Sunset at City Beach.

Danny & Kelly made us the most delicious picnic dinner on the beach in Bunbury.  Thanks for your hospitality and your amazing prawns, Dan & Kel!  It was lovely to see you again.

Nature tour and wine tasting in Margaret River.

Forest near Margaret River.

Gorgeous coast.

Voyager Estate winery.

Watershed winery.

Funky flowers.

Sunset at the beach in Prevelly.

Mel and I completed the first half of our adventures with changing a tire at 5am, in dresses no less, outside our hotel in Prevelly.  Luckily, the tire-changing kits on modern vehicles seem to be designed with stranded females in mind, so it was all good.

So yeah...good stuff!  Part 2 coming soon...

Monday, February 6, 2012

Alpine & Bavarian Adventures

I just returned from two and a half weeks in an amazingly beautiful, warm, sunny place called Australia.  But first, since I never finished writing about our Christmas and New Year's trip, here's a little more winter before the summer...

After spending the day with Katrin in Steyr, we took the train to Salzburg.  We then spent the next day exploring Salzburg before the arrival of our fun friends Holger and Annett, who live a few hours away from Salzburg.  

I generally have a low tolerance for musicals, so I can't say I'm a Sound of Music fan.  We had to watch it in 7th grade music class, and I'm pretty sure I can't tell you anything about it now.  I thought about watching it before we went to Salzburg, just for kicks.  Then, I realized there were about a million other things I'd rather do than watch a musical.

However, apparently a lot of people go to Salzburg because of the Sound of Music.  We just heard it was pretty, and had good access to skiing (for Ken).  Both of which were true.

Salzach River.

Old Town.

View of the surrounding Alps from the castle in Salzburg, whilst sipping glorious glühwein.

Loved these Christmas decorations at the castle against the blue sky.

There was a room full of scary marionette puppets at the castle (and by "scary" I mean regular marionette puppets, which are frightening by nature).  This photo op made it a little less nighmare-ish.

Unicorns at Mirabell Palace.

Fountain at Mirabell Palace.  There were a lot of people taking pics by this fountain, and I later discovered that's because they sing some song around it in the Sound of Music.  Eeek.


Holger and Annett joined us the next day, and they drove us outside of the city to Flachau for some skiing in the Alps.

The fellas enjoying a little après-ski.

Annett is normally the ski queen, but unfortunately her back kept her from it this time around.  Thus, she had to hang with me as a non-skier.

While the guys skied, we took a horse and carriage ride in a little village!  This activity appeared to be meant for children, but we thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Nice scenery.

Pretty day.

Petting the nice, steamy horses afterward.  It was chilly, and they worked hard.

It was so great to get to hang with friends during the trip - we had a lot of fun.  Thanks for meeting up, Holger and Annett!

Munich was the last stop of the holiday trip.  Holger and Annett dropped us off in Munich on their way home, so that saved us a train ride.  At this point in the trip, I'd fallen off the photo wagon.  But here are a few...

A stroll through the English Garden.

One last round of glühwein for the holiday season.

Best meal of the trip, pumpkin ravioli at a beautiful food hall in Munich.

And that seems to be about it for the Munich pics.

One last story, and then you can go.  

We were in Munich on New Year's Eve, so we decided to go out around 11pm to find a cool bar where we could ring in the New Year.  All dressed up and ready to go, we headed out on foot from our hotel near the central station...then we encountered people setting off fireworks all over the sidewalks, in subway tunnels, etc.  They were flying around everywhere!  We had not yet had a drink at this point in the evening, so rational fear still functioned in our minds.  Thus, we settled for drinks at the hotel, and listening to the sound of fireworks throughout the city until 12:30am.  Still a good time, though, and we'd already had plenty of good times on the trip!

Moment of Zen: Not getting hit by errant fireworks.