A few weeks of giving . . .
02.12.2009 - 02.25.2009
Watch out! Take hold of your children in the water! Dave is now catching waves!
The middle of February is holiday time for Dave and me. In the span of a week we have Valentine's Day and several birthdays, including that of Abe Lincoln, George Washington and me! These may not be your top holidays, but we like to celebrate in style and this year's gifts were creative, thoughtful and fun (and relatively cheap)!
For V Day, I gave Dave surf lessons. In Byron Bay, he joined 20-somethings Geraldo and Giseppe from Italy for a beginner lesson, but Dave's 30-something body outshined them. He caught good waves first and in my humble opinion he looked pretty good!
Dave was extremely creative for my birthday. He scheduled painting lessons for both of us throughout Australia, starting in Noosa. Our first lesson was with artist Bill MacKay. Teaching us quick techniques on how to use the brushes and paints, he had us working with oils within minutes. Our assignment was to copy a Cezzane painting and have it finished by the end of class in three hours. Neither Dave nor I had painted since elementary school. With that said, I don't think we did too bad. The MFA (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) isn't calling yet, but soon enough .....
Dave's masterpiece (unfinished)
There was also some much appreciated pampering to celebrate my 34th courtesy of my parents ... a hair cut, color, massage and a few other treats. Thank you! I'm glad most of you missed my two inches of grey hair ; - ) Let's save that for a showing in my fifties.
Ok ... back to our whereabouts for the past few weeks.
Coffs Harbour: For some reason this coastal town is known for two major things: surfing (understandable) and a big banana, which is on display on the side of the road. We're not sure why the big banana is so popular, but since I like bananas, we decided to stop and take a photo.
While in Coffs Harbour we also caught a junior surfing competition. In heats of four people, the surfers have 15 minutes to catch as many waves as possible and showcase their best moves.
From Coffs, we drove up to Lennox Head, a quiet town just south of the bustling Byron Bay. Unfortunately, when it rains in Australia, it pours, so we spent multiple days hanging in the crib and looking out the window. When the sun did flicker, we got a quick glimpse of the beautiful beach, a long stretch of white sand, primarily filled with kite surfers. (Not shown here!)
Dave also took a swim in Lake Ainsworth, which is surrounded by tea trees. The trees make the water a murky brown, but it is supposedly full of natural conditioners that are good for the skin.
Lennox Head had lots of holiday homes. I love this mailbox!
We also are amused by the road signs.
We were warned that our next stop in Byron Bay would be "touristy." However, we loved it! There was a fantastic downtown full of life and energy! It was full of fun surf shops, restaurants and bars. The town has about five beaches all along the same strip. This is where Dave took his surf lessons. We also hiked in the bush and along the coastline to see the town lighthouse with beautiful, rocky scenery.
My friend Cheryl recommended Noosa to us, which was our next stop, and we couldn't be more thankful. It was the first community Dave and I felt like we could relocate and live comfortably. Don't worry, realistically that won't happen! Noosa is broken up into several smaller towns: Noosaville, Noosa Junction, Noosa Heads and a few more. This is where we took painting lessons. We particularly loved all of the bike and hiking trails along the coastline.
Dave also spent time at the Eumundi Market with more than 500 stalls of crafts, food and music, while I was at the spa.
In Noosa Woods, we caught a beautiful sunset, before heading out to dinner, a treat in itself. Dave found a place that had a special two for one dinner, keeping in line with our budget, and he enjoyed telling me he bought the cheapest bottle of wine that came with bonus cadbury chocolates. I'm so proud ; - )
Back to reality (traveler's reality), one of my favorite things to do is go shopping for food. In every city, I just love browsing through supermarkets. I should work for Wegmans : - ) Plus, I found it funny that the big market here is Woolworths (for those of you who remember the five and dime store in New England, it is where all of my parakeets and gold fish were bought).
Too many granola bars to choose from.
Noosa was also our last overnight location with our Jucy Crib. It was sad to depart with our home, but in all honesty, the heat was killing us and we desperately looked forward to a good nights rest in an air conditioned hostel in Brisbane. I will miss living in a car, which we surprisingly did for two months, and would seriously consider making a campa van at home for local travel!
The last supper!
The last sleep in the heat!
But look at all of the storage space!
We'll miss our home on wheels for sure!
Relatively speaking we had a very conservative campa van. Check out the competition. Wicked vans are everywhere, each with a unique 'pc' quote. Fragile readers ... close your eyes!
Brisbane: Brissie, as the locals call it, is the third largest city in Australia, and our last stop on this leg of the trip.
It is a medium sized city, with a large arts community. The city architecture is a dichotomy between old and new.
The City Council building is industrial, yet modern.
Where as the casino in the former treasury building has a much older style.
Here are a few highlights from our walking tour of the city:
Bell tower at City Hall, with a view of a church from above ... looks like a doll house church.
Pagoda given at World Exhibition.
Sculpture and city view from arts center.
An interesting walking bridge.
An Australian White Ibis, a bird we see everywhere.
It was move in day at Queensland University of Technology. With our backpacks we looked like students, so got all sorts of freebies as we walked through. There were also some odd meet your classmate activities going on around town ... check out the elephant walk.
School kids on a field trip. Every school has a different uniform, which is mandatory. Some teens asked us about 'free dress' in the US. They seemed a little jealous. We also learned that Aussie and Kiwi students are in school longer than most Americans. They only get a six week summer break, with one to two week breaks every ten weeks.
This is a great family pool and beach area in downtown. Makes the Boston Frog Pond look extremely weak!
Every place you go there is a BBQ for free use ... shirt and shoes optional!
We also visited a retro club area called Fortitude Valley and wrapped up our tour at a popular street mall on Queens Street for a drink and some cricket, which we still can't figure out.
In closing, we are still amazed by how friendly everyone is in Australia. Unlike my experience in Boston, it is common for us to strike up conversations with people walking on the streets, at a beach or at a bar. Everywhere we go, people inquire about us and tell us more than enough information about what we should do, see and experience in their country. They are very proud of Australia, and we certainly understand why!
Even the immigrants have taken on this philosophy of kindness. When we visited the Contemporary Arts Museum, which exhibited the theme of optimism, we lucked out by parking poorly on a side street. A nice man named Herman, originally from Germany, came out of his house and started chatting with us. Herman, now in his 60's used to travel like we are doing and ended up staying in Aussie after meeting a woman. He took a liking to us and had us park in his driveway. He invited us inside his house to look at his art gallery as well. He was about to host a show to raise funds for the Melbourne Bush Fire victims.
A few sayings in case you plan to visit the land of Oz...
- I love Dave heaps. Heaps and/or heaps and mounds is used in almost every sentence here.
- How you going? This phrase for "how are you" is a common greeting.
- Easy. This is used at the end of sentence in place of the word ok.
- Reckon. I reckon that if you are reading this, you are one of the few people who reads our entire blog. This word is extremely popular. I think it has just been dismissed from the more casual American English language.
- Ta. This is short for thank you.
- Where is the toilet? This is the polite way to ask "where is the bathroom?" I find it sort of crass, but using the words restroom and bathroom don't get you very far.
Interestingly enough most Asians and Europeans we've talked with say it is much easier to understand people with American English accents than Australian, New Zealand, English, Scottish, Irish and South African accents. They say we enunciate each letter a lot better making each word more clear.
We're in Melbourne now. More on that soon!
We miss everyone!