What’s a trip to Australia without a proper visit to the beach?!
The final leg of our Australian holiday journey was a trip to Forster, the beach where Chris almost every post-Christmas holiday with his family and two groups of family friends growing up.
But before we headed to the beach, we flew from New Zealand to Sydney and hopped right quick on a train to catch up with the kids in Circular Quay and take some necessary touristy shots of the quintessential Aussie sites:
We were also finally able to catch up with Chris’ grandmother — and all of his other family members on his mom’s side — after missing them on Christmas when Nannan got Covid. Thankfully she was doing much better, and getting everyone together before heading off to the beach was absolutely the best.
We decided to head straight from dinner to Forster to make the most out of our few days left. That meant a three hour drive, but the girls did incredibly well, and Chris and Vince volunteered to take ALL THREE with them so that Cath and I could drive and chat in silence.
I mean, how sweet is that?
We arrived after dark, obviously, but once the morning hit, it wasn’t hard to see why Forster has meant so much Chris and his family. Here’s what we got up to during our few short days there.
And that was Forster, friends. It was the most amazing beach time, and I’m so glad we were able to make it work.
Then we were back in the car headed to our final night in Sydney before flying out the following morning.
It’s absolutely impossible to sum up what this trip and all of its parts has meant to us. I have 12,000 photos to relive the memories, of course, but I’m hoping to hold on to the feeling for as long as I possibly can.
Welcome back to my Holidays in Australia series, including a surprise 24-hour layover in San Francisco, Christmas in Australia, our anniversary and New Years Eve in New Zealand, and a visit to the beach that Chris visited every year growing up! We saw friends and family that we haven’t seen since before the pandemic (I blogged about our first trip out with Lotte & Grace in 2019, including here), and friends and family got to meet Emilia for the very first time. Emotions were high (in both the best and saddest of ways … traveling, and especially traveling with children, is never not fraught), but while I sit here typing this up, I honestly can’t believe it’s over. So very much planning and buying and packing (and stressing!) went into this trip, and it was definitely one for the books, friends.
I have, as you can imagine, approximately 12 million photos to add here and to look back on for years to come. I’m going to break the trip up into sections. First up — Christmas at Chris’ parents house in Bathurst. We were so excited to be spending the day with Chris’ NanNan, but she sadly came down with Covid (on Christmas Day, no less!) so our plans had to shift. Still, we spent the day with all Chris’ siblings and all of our Aussie nieces and nephews, and it was magical, nonetheless.
Swimming, sleeping, eating all the tasty treats and getting in as many cuddles as possible topped our list of priorities for this first half of the trip. We also managed to get in some kangaroo and cricket viewing.
After we spent the holiday in Bathurst we all packed up and drove to Sydney, where Chris and I would be leaving the girls before we headed off to our own separate little holiday in New Zealand to celebrate the New Year and our anniversaries (10 years married, 15 years knowing each other!). We stopped off at the Three Sisters in Katoomba along the way.
And that was the first third of our trip in a nutshell, friends! It was filled with all the love and fun that we imagined, and then some. Next up was our SOLO trip to New Zealand … until then, bis bald, friends!
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.
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 😉
^^ The Australian Olympic Stadium, which was pretty impressive in real life!
^^ Just about the best, most fun ladies ever to hang with.
^^ 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.
^^ And then there were fish and chips 😉 And beer. All the beer. (Actually I had cider, but still, you get the point.)
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.
^^ 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.
^^ Feeding the emus with Nan! What did I tell you — look at that face!
^^ 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.
^^ 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.
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.
^^ All these cute Connor grandkids together makes my heart pretty happy <3
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.
^^ It’s not so hard leaving your kids when you know they’re in great hands.
^^ 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.
^^ This is potentially my favorite shot of the entire trip <3
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!
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.
^^ Grace’s face in this picture cracks me up!
^^ Christmas morning with Auntie Sarah — is there anything better?
^^ I may or may not have purchased these Christmas outfits about four months in advance for way too much money. Totally worth it.
^^ Grace & Jasmine = all the cuteness you can possibly handle
^^ Lotte was a straight-up celebrity on this trip, and you just know she ate up every second of it!
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
^^ 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?!
^^ 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.)
^^ That Auntie Sarah is some kind of special — she always, always got the smiles out of our girls <3
^^ Introducing the girls to Chris’ grandma was most definitely a major highlight of this trip <3
^^ There were lots of other family members eager and excited to meet our littles, as well.
^^ 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.
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 ….
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 ….
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.
^^ A big ole’ plate of ribs for Robert’s birthday. (I refrained, obviously, but I’m told they were delicious.)
^^ This. Face.
^^ This boy loves his trains.
^^ It’s Dad’s job to carve the turkey every year, and he only eats about half of it while he’s doing so 😉
^^ 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.
^^ A blurry but still beautiful Grand Central.
^^ Mom and I made some gingerbread cookies that, much to my surprise, turned out pretty fabulous!
^^ These Connor boys … too cute!
^^ Beautiful Sydney in the background.
^^ So grateful for these Sydney friends of ours! (And so excited to meet their little baby, coming in just a few months now!)
^^ Watson’s Bay waves.
^^ Sydney blues.
^^ 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.
^^ 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!
^^ Kate works at Old Parliament house, and we were lucky enough to get an insider’s tour.
^^ I couldn’t agree more with this saying on display in one of the rooms at Old Parliament House.
^^ The Australian Coat of Arms at the new Parliament House.
^^ Bro and sis … duh!
^^ I call this one “Me, Kate and the Kangaroos.”
^^ 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 ….
^^ 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.
^^ 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.
^^ The Galapagos Giant Tortoise!
After the zoo we headed back to spend our final week — Christmas week — in Bathurst with the fam.
^^ The original Connor Clan.
^^ You can’t quite tell, but there’s a Nannan being hugged under there 😉
^^ Nannan with most (not all!) of her grandkids and great-grandkids!
^^ An impromptu game of cricket in the park … nothing more Aussie than that.
^^ These two.
^^ Andddd now we’re on to St. Louis! That’s Chris there, that teeny, tiny blob on the bottom right.
^^ Me in the teeny, tiny pods that carry you to the top of the St. Louis Arch.
^^ The view from the top = spectacular.
^^ 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.
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:
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 …
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: