Our Final Days in Australia

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And so here we are, friends … we’ve arrived at our final two days in Australia. Le sigh.

Our last two days were filled with all the classic Australian activities, including checking out Circular Quay and the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, then heading out on the Manly Ferry to check out Manly Beach with some family and old friends. Lotte had the best time splashing around in the water with our friends’ son, who is one year older, and we’ve discovered G’s love of fish and chips, as was demonstrated by her eating all of Chris’ aunt’s fish after she woke from a delightful nap by the beach.

Continue reading “Our Final Days in Australia”

Kangaroos, Koalas, Cricket & Fish & Chips — aka Our First Two Days in Sydney

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^^ Look at this cute group of family who appeased us by coming to the Koala Park Sanctuary!

Are you keeping up with our Australia adventure so far, friends?! After spending Christmas and New Years Eve in Bathurst, gathering everyone together for some amazing family photos, taking a two-day date sojourn to Mudgee for some wine tasting, lapping the Mount Panorama racecourse, seeing kangaroos in the wild and meeting oh-so-many glorious family members, we were back in the car last Thursday to head to Sydney for our last few days in Australia. Our plans included staying at Chris’s aunt and uncles place (with their three amazing kids, all of whom had, coincidentally, visited us this past summer), and then moving on to his other aunt and uncle’s house, which was a bit closer to the airport and the beaches.

After the three hour drive on Friday from Bathurst to Sydney, we were happy to relax for the remainder of the day and swim in the fam’s amazing pool, while later in the evening Chris & I left the girls with Nan and Chris’s aunt and cousin so a couple of us could go see a cricket match – my first! I also got to see the Olympic Stadium, which was pretty cool, and eat fish and chips, which I am always on board for 😉

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^^ The Australian Olympic Stadium, which was pretty impressive in real life!

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^^ Just about the best, most fun ladies ever to hang with.

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^^ Cricket! Chris’s family spent pretty much the entire game explaining to me how everything works, and by the end I almost understood! (Although don’t quiz me, because I will definitely fail!) Either way, it was really fun to watch the game with everyone, and it was a close game, too, which made it even better.

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^^ And then there were fish and chips 😉 And beer. All the beer. (Actually I had cider, but still, you get the point.)

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The next day it was on to one of my absolutely favorite places in Australia — the Koala Park Sanctuary. Chris and I visited this place with his parents on my first trip to Australia, and I will never, ever forget the feeling of being able to actually touch a koala and feed a kangaroo! Now to be honest, in the nine years since that first visit, the park has gotten a little run down. Everyone was so nice to come with us on our little koala park adventure to see Lotte and Grace with the kangaroos and koalas, but honestly, this is definitely not a spot you’ll find the locals. Still, I say, it’s totally worth it. Of course G was far too young to understand anything, but the look on Lotte’s face was priceless, and I’d like to believe that somewhere in the back of her brain, she’ll remember. Actually, she had a lot of fun feeding the emus with Nan and Poppa, as well, so that was also fun! I had forgotten how many additional animals were at this place (because, koalas! and kangaroos!), so we ended up staying about two hours there.

Time well spent, I’d say.

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^^ The kangaroos weren’t all that interested in being fed the day we showed up, but seeing them this close up was cool enough on its own.

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^^ Feeding the emus with Nan! What did I tell you — look at that face!

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^^ And, of course, the reason we’re all here … to pat the koalas! I think Lotte was somewhere between amused and confused, but whatever it was she was thinking, it was pure adorable to watch.

img_5392img_5393img_5394img_5399 2img_5398 2^^ Absolutely love, love, love this crew, and everything they did for us to make everything on our stay so special.

Not even two full days into our stay in Sydney and we had accomplished quite a bit, including the Koala Park and the cricket game and swimming and playing and oh-so-much fun on top of fun on top of fun. My final post about our epic Aussie trip will be tomorrow, and I’ll share our beach visits and all the final things we did with the fam.

Starting to round up these blog posts is making me actually realize that the trip is over … and how exactly did that happen?! For all the planning and stressing and prepping we do for our vacations, suddenly, just like that, they are over.

Unless, like me, you blog about every last detail and share way too many photos so that you can relive them over and over and over and over again.

Who wouldn’t want to do that?!

Anyway, until next time — bis bald, friends!

A Day for Family Photos, a Sneaky Get Away in Mudgee & Our Final Days in Bathurst

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I mean, could this family be any cuter? The answer is no. No, they could not.

The day after Boxing Day, the Connor Clan headed over to a park in Bathurst to take some professional family photos. Of course waiting for professional photos to arrive really isn’t my thing, so you know I had to snap a couple of my own.

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^^ All these cute Connor grandkids together makes my heart pretty happy <3

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While there were a bunch of things that Chris and I were excited for when it came to this trip, one of them definitely was taking a night away, just the two of us. Believe it or not, Chris and I had not been away together just the two of us since we had kids, and I have only ever been away from Lotte for one night, and never from Grace.

In other words, some time away was definitely overdo.

So after our family photo day, Chris and I packed up and headed over to Mudgee, which was about two hours from Chris’ parents house. We stayed at the Parklands Resort & Conference Centre and took a wine tour with Country Escape Tours, where we visited three wineries, one distillery and a cheese making company. The town of Mudgee was so cute, and the wine tour was really intimate and fun. Unfortunately we did return to a pretty sick Lotte (the next day after we got back was when we brought her to Urgent Care), but sickness aside, it was really nice to take the time away.

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^^ It’s not so hard leaving your kids when you know they’re in great hands.

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^^ We headed out to Mudgee Brewing Co for dinner the night we were in town. They had live music and we ate outside in their pretty garden and I had a delicious shrimp salad. It was pretty great, friends.

After we returned and took a couple days to get Lotte checked out and feeling better, we spent our last couple of days in Bathurst ringing in the New Year with Chris’s parents and brother and his wife, taking laps around Mount Panorama with the girls and having a picnic in the lovely Cook Park in Orange with Chris’s grandma.

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^^ This is potentially my favorite shot of the entire trip <3

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And that takes us pretty much through what I think of as the first part of our trip. After Christmas and New Years in Bathurst and Mudgee, we packed up the car and headed back to Sydney to spend our final couple of days in Australia staying at Chris’s aunt’s place, and then his uncle’s, and touring around all the best parts of Sydney, according to us seasoned pros. I’ll take you through our final couple days in two more posts, but until then, bis bald!

Christmas Down Under

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So much amazing Aussie family goodness in that photo above, am I right?

Our Aussie Christmas Eve and Christmas were filled with good company, good food, and for the first time ever, no rain on my Aussie Christmas day! Seriously, though, this was my third time in Australia for Christmas, and it was the first time it didn’t rain 😉

Rain or no rain, we would have had a great couple of days celebrating Christmas with our family, anyway, We splashed around in the pool (well, Lotte & Chris did, while G and I spectated), cracked open some Christmas Bon Bons, and ate some delicious food.

Christmas was also the first day that Lotte & G got to meet all five of their cousins, which was only the most fun ever. Sophie was born three months before Lotte, and Jasmine was born only one hour after Grace! It sure was great finally getting all seven of these little ones together.

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^^ Grace’s face in this picture cracks me up!

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^^ Christmas morning with Auntie Sarah — is there anything better?

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^^ I may or may not have purchased these Christmas outfits about four months in advance for way too much money. Totally worth it.

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^^ Grace & Jasmine = all the cuteness you can possibly handle

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^^ Lotte was a straight-up celebrity on this trip, and you just know she ate up every second of it!

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An Epic Holiday Trip to Australia

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Man, oh man — do those look like happy faces, or what?!

I can hardly believe I’m about to write these words, but our epic holiday trip to Australia is over.

Sad face times one million, for real.

But, if the above picture (and all the 5,000 that are about to follow) are any indication, you better believe that an amazing, fantastic, wonderful, memorable time was had by all.

I’ll break our trip down into a couple different posts to cover some of the best parts, but I wanted to start off with a little intro post to cover some of the major points that I learned about traveling with two littles all the way across the world:

  1. Prep is great (and important!), but at the end of the day, you can never really know how your travel will go down. For example, I spent a small fortune on snacks and gadgets and toys for the kids, and while yes, we did use some of them, we didn’t end up using probably half of what we brought (clothing included). Still, I say it’s better to be prepared than to be without, and while the girls both ended up being pretty awesome on the incredibly long and taxing flights, I do think that having everything we had helped me relax a bit, since I knew we did all we could to make them comfortable. (P.S. When it comes to products, this Fly Tot inflatable cushion was pretty clutch when it came to Lotte’s comfort, since she is too big for a bassinet and too small to be comfortable just pushing her seat down to sleep. We were able to inflate it and put it between her seat and the back of the seat in front of her so she could put her feet up on it. It also worked well as a spot to hold extra toys.  The LapBaby was also good for G, since we could strap her to our waist and she and we could both have our hands free. Other suggestions I found useful (even if not necessarily for us) were to bring along sugar-free jelly beans for little ones’ ears for take off and landing, as well as Pedialyte powder packs — which, turns out, Lotte doesn’t like much — to keep them drinking and hydrated.) One other thing we found useful with prep was to really hype the airplane aspect up ahead of time. We made sure that Lotte knew we would be getting on an airplane and flying really long and far to see Nan and Poppa, and that we would be eating and sleeping and playing and watching tv … all on an airplane! And I think that helped, because for both flights Lotte kept saying things like, “I’m eating dinner on an airplane!” “I’m taking a nap on an airplane!” I mean, how often in parenting do we get to call something a flat-out win? Like, never, right? So I’ll take this one!
  2. Packing cubes rule the most. Especially if you’ll be traveling with a family, get some multi-colored packing cubes to throw everyone’s stuff in — they will change your life! You can keep everyone’s stuff organized by color cube, and you’ll be able to keep everything organized both in and out of the suitcase, as well.
  3. Do some healthcare research ahead of time. Lotte actually did get sick on this trip — a chest infection that included a fever, which was her first — but we were lucky enough to be with family who knew where to go and we were in a country where we spoke the same language. If we had been in a foreign area or a place where we didn’t speak the language, the situation would have been much more difficult. A quick trip to urgent care (or Australia’s version of urgent care, anyway) and a prescription of antibiotics later, and Lotte was back to her bouncy self in about a day. I’m grateful we were able to get her feeling better so quickly. My advice would be to check out where the closest hospitals and urgent care (or equivalent services) will be where you are traveling, and to be sure you can get across the important information in the language you’ll need to know to make things right. Find out the best way to cover emergencies overseas, as well, since your American healthcare plan likely won’t help you much, there.
  4. Don’t sweat the small stuff. No … seriously. At the end of the day, even the frustrating or silly or insane things that happen to you while traveling (within reason, of course) will be the funny stories you tell when you’re back home, or even more likely, they’ll be the things you completely forget. I know for a fact there were stressful times on this trip — how could there not be with a 2.5 and 1-year-old — but right now, I couldn’t really tell you what they were. Keep that in mind when you’re actually going through it, and remember to breath.
  5. No, there is no such thing as too many pictures. Sometimes I wonder if I spend too much time documenting our travels through photos rather than sitting with them in the moment. I’ve come to the conclusion that no, there is no such thing as taking too many pictures.

What’s that you say — you’d like some proof? Oh, okay, twist my arm why don’t you?! Here are some shots from our first two days. Yes, these are just from our first two days. Many, many more photos and memories to come, my friends 😉

‘Til tomorrow … bis bald! And happy 2019!
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^^ Pure bliss with Auntie Kate, who will be here in five days and is staying with us for two months! However did we get so lucky?!

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^^ Did I deflate this ‘Welcome to Australia’ balloon and bring it back with us so that I could frame it for the girls as a keepsake of their first trip to Australia? Maybe, maybe not. You’ll never know. (Except that yeah, I definitely did.)

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^^ That Auntie Sarah is some kind of special — she always, always got the smiles out of our girls <3

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^^ Introducing the girls to Chris’ grandma was most definitely a major highlight of this trip <3

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^^ There were lots of other family members eager and excited to meet our littles, as well.

img_3496 (1)img_3494^^ On the second day, we threw Lotte in the car and headed off to a place referred to as ‘the tip,’ which is essentially a big ole’ garbage heap where the kangaroos hang out. Gross? Maybe. Amazingly fun and exciting, especially when you watch your 2.5-year-old see her first live kangaroos? Most definitely.

More on our adventures tomorrow, friends!

2018: A Year in Review

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Well friends, somehow — and I’m really not sure how — this photo was taken on New Years Eve ONE YEAR AGO. 2018 is coming to a close, and since we leave for Australia the day after tomorrow, I figured I should put together my Year In Review post before we head out, and then just add Epic Australia, as I will from now on be calling it, once we’re back.

So without further adieu, here is a bit of what we got up to in the year that started with us expanding our little family ….

Continue reading “2018: A Year in Review”

Sun Valley Joins the Mountain Collective for 2015-16 Season

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Hi friends!

So I know you’re all: “Hey man, it’s May. And you’re over here talking about snow and ski passes and stuff. What’s up with that?”

Or some form of the above.

As any die-hard skier/snowboarder will know, season passes for places go on sale wicked early (as in I’ve been getting emails regarding my Epic Local Pass for over a month now, and I’ve already missed the deadline to sign up and receive 6 buddy passes along with it. Oops.) Anyway, the point is, the early bird catches the worm when it comes to ski passes, and this season there’s a whole lot more to love with the Mountain Collective 2015/16 pass, now that Sun Valley, Idaho and Thredbo, Australia have joined the fray.

If you live in the Mountain West — or even just plan to be in any of their six awesome locations for more than 3 or 4 days — this pass is absolutely worth it. Included with the $379 purchase are access to nine leading ski destinations, including Sun Valley, Idaho, Thredbo, Australia, Banff, Alberta, Whistler, BC, Aspen, Colorado, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, AltaSnowbird, Utah, Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows, California and Mammoth Mountain in California.

That’s a whole lotta great places to ski or snowboard, my friends.

Included in this deal are two days of skiing or riding at each of the nine destinations, plus a 50 percent discount on all additional days with no blackout dates. Pricing for the kids’ pass (ages 12 and under) is just $99 for the 2015-16 season.

Get your passes here before it’s too late! Hope to see you on the mountains ….

Bis bald, friends!

Wistful Nostalgia …

Can there be such a thing?

Well guys — Chris and I have been in Denver for about 3 1/2 weeks now, and while I’m not necessarily homesick, I would say I’m feeling a certain wistful nostalgia for all the plans we made last year and all the traveling we did. From South America to Australia to traveling cross-country — along with all the time we spent with my family at home in between — I loved every last second of it, and as Chris and I were just saying: we wouldn’t have changed one damn thing.

So I guess it’s a good thing that I haven’t had time to upload the photos from my camera since right after South America, then, because it afforded me the opportunity to relive November, December and the beginning of January all over again.

And I thought I’d share some of that here … you know, in case you wanted to partake in my wistful nostalgia.

Robert_Birthday^^ A big ole’ plate of ribs for Robert’s birthday. (I refrained, obviously, but I’m told they were delicious.)

_DSC0444^^ This. Face.

_DSC0456^^ This boy loves his trains.

_DSC0463^^ It’s Dad’s job to carve the turkey every year, and he only eats about half of it while he’s doing so 😉

Bryant_Park^^ Chris and I managed to make it back to the city in between hanging with fam, too. We even made to my favorite place in the entire world to ice skate — Bryant Park.

Grand_Central^^ A blurry but still beautiful Grand Central.

Gingerbread_Cookie^^ Mom and I made some gingerbread cookies that, much to my surprise, turned out pretty fabulous!

Connor_Boys^^ These Connor boys … too cute!

_DSC0469^^ Beautiful Sydney in the background.

_DSC0474^^ So grateful for these Sydney friends of ours! (And so excited to meet their little baby, coming in just a few months now!)

_DSC0486^^ Watson’s Bay waves.

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Sydney_Lights^^ Sydney blues.

Canberra_Winery^^ Chris and I were lucky enough to be able to spend a whole week with his sister and her boo in Canberra. Kate took the week off to hang with us, and it was pretty much the best ever. This little pooch hung out with us while we did some wine tasting at a vineyard in the area.

Christmas_Sign^^ Pssst…it really wasn’t. Because it was hot. And there was no snow. But it was still one of my all-time fave Christmas’ ever!

Parliament_House^^ Kate works at Old Parliament house, and we were lucky enough to get an insider’s tour.

Big_Things^^ I couldn’t agree more with this saying on display in one of the rooms at Old Parliament House.

_DSC0527^^ The Australian Coat of Arms at the new Parliament House.

_DSC0539^^ Bro and sis … duh!

_DSC0545^^ I call this one “Me, Kate and the Kangaroos.”

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Licorice_Factory^^ After Canberra Chris and I headed off to Coolaman to visit one of his besties from college. While there we took some time to visit the Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory (where I simply had to snap this photo because comeon!! Do these two not remind you of Lucy and Ethel working at the chocolate factory?! Simply the best.) We also ….

Shrimp^^ Had a seriously amazing seafood feast that included these babies — which are pretty much a staple in my diet any time I’m in Australia.

_DSC0578^^ After Coolaman we drove to the Taronga Zoo in Dubbo. This zoo is amazing, folks. We rented bikes (which I highly recommend), and rode around catching all the shows that we could. With over 4,000 animals and more than 20 keeper talks every single day, there is so much to see here. And the wide open zoo plan means that the animals are as close to their natural habitat as possible. It’s really pretty amazing.

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_DSC0708^^ The Galapagos Giant Tortoise!

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After the zoo we headed back to spend our final week — Christmas week — in Bathurst with the fam.

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The_Connors^^ The original Connor Clan.

Nan_Nan^^ You can’t quite tell, but there’s a Nannan being hugged under there 😉

Grand_Kids^^ Nannan with most (not all!) of her grandkids and great-grandkids!

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_DSC0827^^ An impromptu game of cricket in the park … nothing more Aussie than that.

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_DSC0853^^ These two.

_DSC0881^^ Andddd now we’re on to St. Louis! That’s Chris there, that teeny, tiny blob on the bottom right.

_DSC0887^^ Me in the teeny, tiny pods that carry you to the top of the St. Louis Arch.

_DSC0892^^ The view from the top = spectacular.

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_DSC0925^^ Dred and Harriet Scott statue in front of the courthouse.

And that’s it, friends. Nothing like a walk down memory lane (and a rockin’ blog for documenting it all) to make you feel better, right?

Bis bald, friends! And here’s to future plans and travels and adventures that are just as exciting as those of our pasts.

The Year 2014: A Review

Well, friends, it’s been quite the year! When I’m old and grey and looking back on my travels, this will certainly be one of my favorite years to reference. Here’s how our adventure-filled 365 days played out:

Continue reading “The Year 2014: A Review”

The Year 2013: A Review

Hi friends,

Well it’s that time of year again — the one where everyone takes a couple minutes to take stock of how the past 12 months have gone? This year has been a particularly important one for myself and Chris. It was our first year of married life. It was a year spent celebrating our marriage around the world with family and friends. It was a year that we made some pretty big decisions about our future (not yet shared here!), and one that had a lot of amazing traveling in it …

Continue reading “The Year 2013: A Review”

The Inspirational Animals of My Travels

As I sit here working on a passion project of mine — which, to be fair, I’ve been working on for the better part of a year now — I realized that I’ve up until this time passed up a perfectly lovely opportunity to give thanks to all the inspirational animals I’ve come across in my travels. These animals have been so much fun to meet and learn about, and I’m so grateful to them for being a part of the learning process that is traveling.

So without further ado, please meet some of my favorite animals I’ve met on my journeys:

Shawn_the_Koala^^ This is Shawn the Koala from the Koala Park Zoo in Sydney.
He’s the animal that started my whole project idea.

Shawn_talks^^ Can’t you tell he’s just whispering amazing ideas in my direction!

Kookaburra_Bird^^ This is a replica of a Kookaburra bird in the
Museum of Natural History. They’re known for their good-natured,
hysterical laugh, which can sound a lot like a human’s.

Red_Panda^^ This is a red panda — let’s call her Jia. This photo is from the
Philadelphia Zoo, which is sort of cheating because my real
inspiration came from the red pandas at the Central Park Zoo.
This was a better photo, though.

Pigeons_London^^ These are pigeons. And while yes, these pigeons are in London,
let’s be honest — the real inspirational pigeons live right here in
good ole’ NYC.

Chasing_Pigeons^^If we’re being even more honest, my true obsession with pigeons began
when I was a toddler and my parents lost me in the Piazza San Marco
in Venice because I was chasing them. That’s why I took this
dorky photo when we were back there in 2012.

What inspires you when you travel?

Bis bald, friends!

Link Love: Week of Nov. 18

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Hi friends,

Hope everyone’s gearing up for an amazing Thanksgiving. This is most definitely my favorite time of year, and I’m finding it hard to stop myself from buying up all the thick tights, sparkly skirts and fun jewelry that I come across.

Of course, when I come across travel deals that I’d love to splurge on, it’s much easier for me to tuck that credit card back into my wallet and save up for some faraway destination ….

Speaking of which, here are five great deals I’ve seen across the web this week:

  1. 7-night land package to the Galapagos Islands, from $1,299 (Travelzoo)
  2. $60-worth of wine and food at Bahr Che in New York, $30 (TravelZoo)
  3. 2-night stay for two at the Banff Caribou Lodge & Spa, $219 (Living Social)
  4. 6-day trip to Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day, including round-trip flights from Boston, Chicago, LA, NYC or DC, from $1,499 (Living Social)
  5. 1-night stay for two at the Mount Airy Casino Resort in The Paconos, PA, $99 (Groupon)

In the spirit of the celebratory season, I thought I’d also share a couple of the wedding photos my mother-in-law just sent us through from our party at the Algona Mount Panorama Estate in Bathurst, Australia.

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Bis bald, friends!

Photo via Flickr

Australia Part III: Ships of Sydney

^^ The Sydney Harbour's a real beaut - isn't she?
^^ The Sydney Harbour’s a real beaut – isn’t she?

Hey friends,

I’m back now with my third and final Australia installation. I seriously cannot believe it’s been more than a week since we’ve been back. Time honestly flies by.

So back to two Fridays ago, Chris and I were boarding our flight on Hamilton Island to meet up with our family back in Sydney …

Continue reading “Australia Part III: Ships of Sydney”

The Great Barrier Reef: AKA Chris & Cheryl Go on a (Belated) Honeymoon

Hi friends,

Welcome back. On to Part II of our Australian Adventure. Last Monday morning (was it seriously only last Monday morning?! Gosh a lot’s happened since then.) Chris and I left his house in Bathurst seriously early in the a.m. with his brother Ben and Ben’s girlfriend to head back to Sydney to catch our flight to … drum roll … THE GREAT BARRIER REEF!

^^ Flying over the Reef.
^^ Flying over the Reef.
^^ Be-aut-iful!
^^ Be-aut-iful! [Ed note: Please ignore the smudge on the lower right-hand side of my lens. It pains me that it’s there in some of my photos, and were I any good at Photoshop, yes, I would try to take it out.]

It only takes about two hours to fly from Sydney to the island where we were staying , Hamilton Island, which is part of the 74 Whitsunday Islands all located on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef. And thank goodness, because I was ready to get my relax on! The place we stayed — the Whitsunday Apartments — was actually a group of apartments … obviously.

^^ The view from our balcony. Not too shabby.
^^ The view from our balcony. Not too shabby.

So we had a kitchen, bathroom, dining room, living room and really huge bedroom. It was nice that we really felt like we were on our own during our honeymoon, but at the same time had the help of people in the lobby if we really had a question or concern.  The island itself is relatively small, and it’s pretty easy to walk to the majority of the places you’d want to go (like the downtown shop area, the other resort pools and stores, the beach, the place where you could eat breakfast with the koalas!), but it is pretty hilly, and some of the spots (like one particularly gorgeous sunset area), is much more easily accessible via free bus transportation, or …..

^^ Everyone on the island rents these little electric golf carts to drive around -- no one except the owner of the island is allowed to drive regular cars on the land. We only rented the car on Tuesday, as we were doing excursions the other days we were there.
^^ Everyone on the island rents these little electric golf carts to drive around — no one except the owner of the island is allowed to drive regular cars on the land. We only rented the car on Tuesday, as we were doing excursions the other days we were there.

It probably goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway — the beaches here are gorgeous. And during low tide, you can walk out for what seems like miles into the ocean, with all of these little pools of warm water around you, and tons of sea life surrounding you.

^^ Yup, it was jellyfish season. You pretty much have to be aware of that, then ignore it, or else you'll be obsessing over it the whole time you're in the water.
^^ Yup, it was jellyfish season. You pretty much have to be aware of that, then ignore it, or else you’ll be obsessing over it the whole time you’re in the water.

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^^ Having a drink poolside at one of the other hotel pools. Pool-hopping was one of my favorite things about the low-key feel of this island. It's like we were all one big happy family. No one cared where you were actually staying -- everyone was welcome everywhere!
^^ Having a drink poolside at one of the other hotel pools. Pool-hopping was one of my favorite things about the low-key feel of this island. It’s like we were all one big happy family. No one cared where you were actually staying — everyone was welcome everywhere!

While we spent most of the day Monday familiarizing ourselves with the island and the pools and the oceans, we wandered into town around 4:30, just to check it out, and ended up squatting at the Manta Ray Cafe, which turned out to be a great place to catch the sunset over the harbour, as well as to learn about some of the local wildlife from our waiter:

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^^ What? I'm not paying attention to you.
^^ What? I’m not paying attention to you.
^^ Oh yes I am. As our waiter pointed out (and as we later witnessed) the cockatoos on this island are not shy, and they WILL steal your food if you look away for even one second.
^^ Oh yes I am. As our waiter pointed out (and as we later witnessed) the cockatoos on this island are not shy, and they WILL steal your food if you look away for even one second.
^^ The fruit bats seriously come out at night. Ick!
^^ The fruit bats seriously come out at night. Ick!

On Tuesday we rented our little golf cart early in the morning, and then spent the morning eating breakfast with the koalas (yes, my favorite ever), and checking out the zoo.

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^^ Don’t worry — he was behind glass 😉
^^ Who knew this docile (and weird) looking bird would be Australia's deadliest bird. Doesn't he look like a turkey?!
^^ Who knew this docile (and weird) looking bird would be Australia’s deadliest bird. Doesn’t he look like a turkey?!
^^ I know, right. It's like, how can this  much cuteness exist in the world?
^^ I know, right. It’s like, how can this much cuteness exist in the world?

The rest of Tuesday was a pretty chill day for us. We checked out the island a bit more, had some drinks at the swim-up bar, slept on the beach, drove the car out to this spot with gorgeous views. You know — pretty typical Tuesday stuff.

^^ Just having wine and cheese and crackers on our awesome porch.
^^ Just having wine and cheese and crackers on our awesome porch.

^^ W

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^^ Goodnight, Great Barrier Reef.
^^ Goodnight, Great Barrier Reef.

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^^ This little guy landed right on my arm which, of course, caused me to freak out. Oh, nature.
^^ This little guy landed right on my arm which, of course, caused me to freak out. Oh, nature.
^^ And this little guy was staring us down as we ate our Fish & Chips dinner by the harbour. We think he's a baby stone-curlew. Whatever he was, he was seriously funny looking.
^^ And this little guy was staring us down as we ate our fish & chips dinner by the harbour. We think he’s a baby stone-curlew. Whatever he was, he was seriously funny looking.

Onto Wednesday. Wednesday was an amazing day because, as a wedding gift to us, good family friend’s of Chris’s got us a half-day boat ride out to Whitehaven Beach.

Oh Whitehaven Beach … how beautiful were thee? The beach stretches out over 7 km (yup, that’s Aussie speak), and is completely uninhabited. It’s received a ton of accolades, such as “Queensland’s Most Beautiful Beach,” and for good reason. The sand is pure white, and it never gets hot. Plus it’s so fine, it’ll clean your jewelry for you while you sunbathe.

Not too shabby.

Oh, and there’s some sort of ridiculous fine if you were to try to steal sand from it. Something like $35,000. So don’t do that.

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So that was how we spent our Wednesday morning — chillin’ on the most beautiful beach in the world. When we got back mid-afternoon we did a bit more pool-hopping and beach sleeping and eating and drinking and card playing … just general merriment.

Thursday, then, was the day of all days. On Thursday, we took a full day boat excursion out to the Great Barrier Reef. This tour included oh-so-much. There was a breakfast on the boat, lunch out on the pontoon once we arrived at the Reef and a tea service on the ride back. There was snorkeling equipment at the Reef, a glass-bottom boat ride and an open observatory deck from the pontoon. All of that was included in the price. ($225 per person which, honestly, wasn’t that bad.) You could also purchase some additional activities for an added fee, like Scuba diving (which Chris did), and a guided snorkel tour (which I did). So when we arrived, luckily Chris and I were the first group to go on our perspective diving and snorkeling tours. (A quick note about the jellyfish: Since it was stinger season, we had to wear wetsuits into the water. This was my first experience wearing one and I have to say — I didn’t hate it. I mean, they definitely aren’t the most attractive things … but they kept me warm and safe, so I’m okay with it!)

Then we met up afterwards for lunch, went on the glass bottom boat ride and then spent the rest of the afternoon snorkeling together.

Me oh my, it was amazing. Besides how gorgeous the Reef itself is (don’t stand on it or touch it! it turns to sand!), we saw Clown Fish (aka Nemo), sea cucumbers (which no one else was impressed with, but I was), giant sea turtles, clams the size of my body, this other fish that I don’t remember the name of that is so territorial that when my guide picked up a rock and placed it near the fish, he picked it up with his mouth and spit it out far away from him. Amazing. Plus tons of other awesomely colored and incredibly interesting sea life. Experience of a lifetime, to say the least.

Of course I didn’t take a ton of pictures here, because I was busy doin’ stuff (sorry), but here are a couple shots I was able to snap:

^^ Fish at the Reef, as seen from the glass bottom boat ride.
^^ Fish at the Reef, as seen from the glass-bottom boat ride.
^^ Some coral from the same ride.
^^ Some coral from the same ride.
^^ A view of the part of the Reef where we snorkeled and dove. Look at all that gorgeous green/blue coral under the water, just waiting to be checked out!
^^ A view of the part of the Reef where we snorkeled and dove. Look at all that gorgeous green/blue coral under the water, just waiting to be checked out!
^^ A storm was brewin' on our way back from the Reef. It made for some pretty awesome pictures.
^^ A storm was brewin’ on our way back from the Reef. It made for some pretty awesome pictures.

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Thursday night we had dinner reservations at coca chu, a restaurant that one of Chris’s aunts had recommended. We ordered delicious cocktails, a bottle of wine and more food than we could even possibly hope to eat in two days. (Seriously, our waiter even told us we ordered too much food. We can’t be stopped.) The food is South East Asian, and our table overlooked the ocean as the fish jumped in and out of the water.

Am I setting the scene enough for ya?

Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling all that well that night (major bummer). I think the travel and jet lag and drinking and eating had all finally caught up to me. No matter — it was still an awesome night with delicious food and fabulous company. That’s all you can really ask for, right?

Friday was our last day on the island, and we spent it doing a bit of shopping, grabbing some delicious breakfast at the local bakery and eating by the harbour, and drinking the last of our wine and beer on the beach. It was seriously sad to say goodbye to Hamilton Island and our little honeymoon, but we had the best, most amazing time. Chris and I both keep saying how we loved that the island provided the perfect blend of fun activities and adventure with just the right amount of leisure and relaxation. You can chose to do nothing at all, and still have fabulous time, or you can do all the activities your little heart desires. (Chris even took a 2.5 mile hike one day while I took a nap. Gotta love that.)

Friday afternoon it was back to Sydney to meet up with our families for our last weekend in Australia, as well as to take in the International Fleet Review.

But I’ll be back with that blog post next week 😉 Bis bald, friends! Hope you all have awesome weekend activities planned!

Our Aussie Wedding Extravaganza!

Hi friends,

So we’re back home safe and sound (booo!), and things here have been a bit hectic since we landed. (You can thank our cat and her terrible lungs, which have now been fixed, thanks to the surgical team at the Animal Medical Hospital and our dwindling bank account!)

Anyway, I finally have some time to blog today, so I’ve upgraded to a better photo package which hopefully should keep me blogging for the next couple of years. Fingers crossed!

Back to our epic adventure, this trip really was separated into three parts:

  1. Our time spent in Bathurst with all of our amazing friends and family for our (fourth!) wedding celebration and the baptism of our niece/Goddaughter
  2. Our honeymoon at the Great Barrier Reef
  3. Our last weekend in Sydney before we left, which just so happened to coincide with the International Fleet Review where over 20 ships from around the world docked in Sydney Harbour. (Plus they had the largest fireworks show Australia has ever seen … and Prince Harry was there!)

As I like to do (to keep the trip lasting longer, and to stop your eyes from glazing over at one ginormous post), I’m going to break my blogging about this trip into the three sections accordingly.

So back to last Tuesday, we had boarded a Qantas flight to Australia …

Continue reading “Our Aussie Wedding Extravaganza!”

We’re Backkkkkk!

Hey friends!

Chris and I arrived back home from our epic Australian adventure late last night, and I seriously cannot wait to upload all of my photos to share with you. We had our fourth wedding celebration, took a little honeymoon in the Great Barrier Reef and attended the weekend festivities for the 100 year celebration of the Royal Australian Navy in Sydney.

It was all spectacular! And while the jet lag hasn’t quite hit yet, I’m sure it will soon! Still, I’m hoping to post this week, so keep a lookout!

Bis bald, friends!

Aussies Have the Absolute Best Treats

My sister-in-law (love calling her that!) and her boyfriend arrived at our apartment yesterday from Australia for a visit. While I of course love Kate’s visits for no other reason than the fact that we get to spend lots of time together, it certainly doesn’t hurt that she brings all of this deliciousness:

Yum!
Yum!

The Allen’s snakes are my absolute fffaavvorrriittteeee!!! It’s very hard for me not to down the entire bag the moment it appears before me. Although I’ve never seen a bag quite as large as the one here that Kate brought. Great job, Kate!

 

The Excitement of Upcoming Travel

Hi friends!

Well we’re firmly into the second quarter of 2013 here, and it’s time for me to start getting excited about some of the trips we have planned for the rest of the year.

So let’s see. For starters, my in-laws will be making their way to the U.S. the week after next, and Chris and I will be heading to London with them to watch Chris run the London Marathon:

100_6027^^A little flashback to when Steph and I first visited London back in 2010

Then, Chris and I booked a trip out to Arizona to visit an old friend of mine for the weekend of July 4th. Neither one of us has been before, so we’re super excited. We’re going to go camping and hiking, and visit Lake Powell and Havasu Falls:

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September will be a big month for us, too. We’ll be heading to Australia to celebrate our wedding with Chris’s side of the family, and then taking a couple-day honeymoon to The Great Barrier Reef:

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^^A little memory from our last trip to Australia (written about here and here). That’s Shawn the Koala, the subject of my soon-to-written children’s book series. Seriously. It’s coming.

There will be another trip in September two weekends before Australia, but that’s super secret for now, as it’s a surprise trip in honor of Chris’s 30th birthday. Let’s just say—I’m super excited about it!

And that’s about it (for now)! Bis bald, friends! I’ll catch up with you again super soon …

Where in The World?: Dallas-Forth Worth, TX

Hey Super Bowl fans—are you heading to the big game this year? If you are, check out this great post on Fodor’s for ideas on what to do when you’re in Dallas-Fort Worth (you know, when you aren’t screaming at the top of your lungs at the world’s most popular football game).

And check out this lovely photo that Chris sent me as he continues his travels down under with his family:

Meat by Australia

Now that’s just mean.

Bis bald, friends!

Year in Review: Here’s to a New Year and Fabulous New Travels

Hi friends,

So 2010 comes to a roaring close at midnight tonight. Last year for New Years Chris and I were watching the fireworks explode over the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Still, this year I’m happy to ring in a new year with dinner at a good restaurant and drinks with friends afterwards.

Continue reading “Year in Review: Here’s to a New Year and Fabulous New Travels”

From the Archives: Australia Part II

Even though we had a great time site seeing, eating, scouting out kangaroos and soaking up the sun, my all-time favorite aspect of the trip was my never-ending Melbourne family

Back in the land of Oz we boarded an early morning plane (complete with a sad, screaming baby) on Jan. 2 for a short two-hour kangaroo hop, skip and jump from Sydney to Melbourne.
This magical place called Melbourne held special meaning for me, because we would be staying with my grandfather’s fantastic Italian family. With oodles of aunts, uncles and cousins—only about 1/8 of whom I’d actually already met—to catch up with, I knew it would be another whirlwind time for us, but well worth it. With only three full days to take it all in, that would mean more late nights and crack of dawn mornings, but we were up for the challenge. More Aussie photo memories after the jump.

Continue reading “From the Archives: Australia Part II”

From the Archives: In the Land Down Under

When in Australia, the first (and main) thing you should concern yourself with is seeking out these magnificent creatures in their wild habitat. Then, once you find them, do your best not to disturb them, cause they can be meeeaaannnn

I’m sorry I couldn’t think of a more original way to introduce the blog entry that is actually the most recent traveling that I have done—on this, my travel blog.

But it will have to do.

In December and January Chris and I took a trip back to his homeland for Christmas and New Years, and it was even better than I ever could have imagined. I have been thinking about how to write something up about the trip since I started this blog, and friends and family who have looked at it ask me how I could have gone so long without writing something about it. The truth is, it was such a detailed, long, multiple-journeyed trip, I wasn’t sure how to go about it. I think I’ve settled on letting the photos do most of the talking (and there are lots of photos). So without further adieu, here are some of the highlights.

Continue reading “From the Archives: In the Land Down Under”