A very happy new year! Hope you had a lovely Christmas break. Can't believe we missed our chance of a white Christmas, but then again we're glad to have been away for what sounds like a very chilly winter so far. Hope the snow didn't cause too many problems getting around.
Since we last wrote, we stayed put in Sydney for a couple of weeks. It was really nice to properly unpack and have a base for a while, rather than moving on to new places after a night or two. Oh, and bricks and mortar made a very welcome change from camping!
We really loved Sydney. It's a fab city; sunny, laid-back, beautiful harbour, plenty of green spaces, excellent restaurants, cool bars etc etc. We also loved seeing old buildings again – didn't realise how much we'd missed them. We're so lucky in London to have so much history around us at every turn...
We had a lovely Christmas Eve, strolling around the harbour and pretty botanic gardens in the sunshine, and of course taking the obligatory photos of the bridge and Opera House (including one slightly ill-judged one where we're precisely blocking both landmarks...) It was exciting for me to see these icons up close and personal for the first time (Roland had been to Sydney before.)
We had a perfect Southern Hemisphere Christmas day: clear blue skies and hot. We packed ourselves a picnic (didn't quite rustle up a 'barbie' but did manage shrimp!) and enjoyed pulling crackers (not a euphemism) on lovely Coogee Beach. There were lots of others celebrating away from home, so there was a fun atmosphere – and our special package of goodies from Texas and cards from back home helped us get in the festive mood too!
It was a great one-off Christmas as a novelty, but it being hot and not being with family and friends means it doesn't quite feel like the real deal. Back to turkey, Quality Street and lolling around on the sofa next year!
We've managed to catch up with a few friends from home while in Sydney – we've really enjoyed seeing familiar faces after so many months away. Caught the ferry to Neutral Bay for a really lovely lunch at Dave and Carolyn's gorgeous place, and met their cute little boys, Matthew and Josh.
And then there were our VIP visitors from England over for New Year! We had a great few days with Eloise and Rob, who were incredibly lucky with top weather for their whole stay.
Ace negotiator Rob also managed to wangle us free tickets to the rooftop bar of their hotel so we had an excellent spot to watch the fireworks and see in 2011 together. They also shouted us to a posh lunch for our Christmas present which was a real treat – delicious seafood right by Sydney harbour on a beautiful day, hard to beat...
Our time with them flew by and we were sad to say goodbye, but we had a lovely time (and thanks again for the emergency deliveries from M&S Eloise!)
Testing our stamina post New Year's Eve to the limit, we went to watch Roland's DJ friend Will playing on New Year's Day. Great to see Will too, and meet his girlfriend and friends.
We also managed to catch up with Eve (a work friend of Roland's) and Krissy (a work friend of mine) in our two favourite Sydney haunts – the Opera Bar and The Argyle. Good to see them too. We were even joined by a sort of celeb in the form of Elvis Costello's brother!
One afternoon, we took the ferry to Manly beach which we really liked (even the actual getting there was scenic) – right up until the point we both thought we'd been stung by jellyfish... The lifeguard made an announcement shortly after – apparently there were lots of sea lice and they were what was stinging people. Nice!
We also went to Bondi Beach another day but it was disappointing – just a bit tacky and run down, and really packed. Bit of a shame really when there are so many other much nicer beaches in Sydney.
Our time in Sydney wasn't totally culturally devoid though – we checked out an Annie Lebowitz photography exhibition and also enjoyed a rainy Boxing Day afternoon at the cinema (thoroughly recommend The King's Speech – we both thought it was excellent.)
And then of course there was the cricket... Roland even bought himself a cheapy radio which he's had glued to his ear for seven weeks. We went to watch the second day of the fifth test in Sydney. 'The Hoff' was in attendance, as well as Parkie, so we were in good company. It was my first ever cricket match and it was a fun day out, with a lively but friendly atmosphere. So now, in theory, I'm familiar with a 'Silly Mid Off', and I know at least a couple of the Barmy Army's favourite numbers...
We were reunited with Ruby yesterday, having parked her for two weeks in an area the hostel recommended to us, but which we later learnt was a bit rough. Luckily, she escaped her Christmas sejour unscathed and started first time.
We drove up to the Blue Mountains, a couple of hours outside Sydney, but unfortunately were thwarted by bad weather. Couldn't have told you whether the mountains were blue, yellow or otherwise through the thick black cloud and rain... It was also a chilly re-introduction to camping!
So this morning we cut our losses and headed back to the coast, on our meandering route to Melbourne. We're currently near a place called Wollongong, with some really pretty and mostly empty beaches (and more importantly, a great deal more sunshine).
We're planning to hug the coast on our route to Melbourne and stop off at a few places, before getting there in time for our next sporting adventure, the Australian Open tennis on the 20th.
Hope all is well back home, and that the return to work wasn't too hideous...
Katy, hope you had a good birthday and congratulations to Gaby and Sam on the birth of little Maggie – look forward to meeting her later this year.
lots of love
Helene and Roland xxx