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My 2011 would not have been considered a very busy travel year for a full-time traveller, but it was a busy travel year for me since I did it all in my allotted leave from a full-time job. That’s yet another upside of living in Australia: it’s legally required that we get 4 weeks of leave a year, so I at least have some time to indulge in my travel habit!
Since I only relaunched this website at the very end of 2011, these summaries currently will not link to more detailed post. However, as I gradually start adding those posts, I’ll come back and update this one as well.
What a month to start the year off with. I started the year off watching fireworks go off all around us in Hong Kong. The first day of the year was spent rushing around Hong Kong with my good friend Cleo trying to fit in a bit of last-minute sightseeing (although we missed out on the Big Buddha) before I flew back to Australia.
Being in Brisbane was just as memorable as any travel I could have done because the city was knocked out by the worst floods since 1974. I was lucky enough to not be personally affected, but my suburb was right in the middle of it, my office basement was flooded so we couldn’t get into the building at all for a month, and my friends had 1.7m of water in their house. Out of all of this came something amazing: the Mud Army. I have never seen so many people, armed with shovels, brooms, and gumboots, rushing to help out others in need. Even when people couldn’t physically help — or there were too many people cleaning up already — people were there with boxes of food, impromptu barbecues, and the like. People of Brisbane, you are inspiring.
The one thing that didn’t happen in January was a trip to Melbourne and the Australian Open because I got sick with a chest infection and a foot infection shortly after the floods and had to cancel. I’ve got another trip booked in 2012, and *fingers crossed* it will happen this time!
February was all about getting back to normal after the big events in January. I didn’t even travel around Brisbane as much as I usually would since my office was still out of action, so I spent a lot of time working from my couch instead! The only place I went of note was The Spit on the Gold Coast, where Bluedog Photography had a photography workshop with a fire twirler. The beach there, with the lights of Surfer’s Paradise in the background, was a great spot for some evening photography!
Because of the flooding in January and its pollution of the Brisbane River, the UQ Wakeboarding club was unable to run as usual. Instead of jumping into the Brisbane River every Sunday, we had two weekend-long camping trips out to our campground at Lake Moogerah. The campground had been mostly taken over by the dam (which went from 65% to 100% with the January rain), but we still had just enough room. Plus, all the extra rainfall meant that the waterfall was much more fun to play in.
This month marked the end of James’ 4-month snowboarding trip in Whistler, which he wasn’t so happy about…but I was happy to see him!
This year’s Easter break was a super long weekend — we had 5 days off because Anzac Day fell on Easter Monday, which became “Easter Tuesday” instead. This meant we had plenty of time to go to Sydney for James’ sister (and my old flatmate) Kate’s 21st birthday. Before the family celebrations, we made time to go to Taronga Zoo to see the red pandas, baby elephants, and great views of Sydney Harbour. The other highlight was visiting Adriano Zumbo’s Balmain patissiere. Even though we had to wait for over an hour to even get into the store, it was worth it to finally get to try his famous macarons (including my favourite, the hot cross bun macaron).
May was a very busy month! Early in the month, I went up to the Sunshine Coast for a weekend with James’ family, which included a short trip to Point Cartwright to watch the sun set over Mooloolaba. A week later, I was back up the Sunshine Coast, but this time I went to Eumundi for the annual “Australian Body Art Carnivale,” a big celebration of all things body art. I went to see the painting & the catwalk, all of which was very impressive (and looked very good in my black & white film photos that I was shooting for my darkroom class). I ended up staying a bit longer than expected after my car had a conniption and decided that the dashboard would look much better if lit up like a Christmas tree. It turned out that this was the fault of a software bug in my engine. Silly software engineers.
I spent the next weekend stopping over in Singapore to see my Dad. We had a great time being complete tourists, which included riding the Singapore Flyer at sunset, going up Marina Bay Sands at night and watching the laser light show from the top, walking all around the waterfront, sweating buckets at the Chinese Garden, and eating lots of good food. I wish I had a hawker stand to eat from near my house!
Then it was on to England. I stayed in London with a friend for a night, who very nicely put up with my night-time photography habit after we went to Billy Elliott the Musical (which I recommend)! Plus, I got made fun of by a policeman in front of Buckingham Palace when I asked why there was so much security (apparently it’s entertaining when an American doesn’t know their president is in the country). From there I went to Cleethorpes and spent nearly two weeks with my family celebrating my grandparents’ 90th birthdays. I love Cleethorpes in May — it’s so colourful and it’s light for something like 18 hours a day…if it’s not raining.
June started with a few days at my grandparents’ house before I had to say goodbye and fly back to Australia. Soon after, a friend from university arrived and I finally got to show someone the sights around Brisbane! We went to O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, which is about 1.5 hours away but one of my favourite spots in the region, since it’s a rainforest…on top of a mountain. We did the treetop walk, froze to death during the birds of prey show, and attempted to feed the lorikeets without much success. Back in Brisbane, we went ice skating on the temporary ice rink set up in King George Square and drank some lovely mulled wine. I also got to introduce her to the local wildlife at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, and she decided that wallabies are adorable but koalas are a bit scary!
My friend came back to visit me after touring around Australia, so I got to play host once again. We went up the Sunshine Coast for a day and saw Mooloolaba and the wreck of the SS Dicky before going up Wild Horse Mountain to see the sun set over the Glass House Mountains. And, to celebrate the most American of holidays, we went to a gun range and learned how to shoot rather large rifles and had an incredibly large plate of meat for dinner. Plus, we got night time views of Brisbane’s lights from both the CityCat and the top of Mt. Coot-tha.
In the middle of July, I visited a small village called Abbeystowe to the north of Brisbane. It plays host to the Medieval Festival, which is a huge gathering of all sorts of re-enactors. I saw jousting, a Romani village, sword fighting, medieval musicians, and people skinning an actual deer…just to name a few! It was well worth the price of admission ($25).
In late July, my mother came to visit me for a week. I didn’t have the time off work to do quite the trips we did last year (to Fraser and Daydream Islands) but we still had a lovely weekend that was split between the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast. On the Gold Coast, we stayed at an amazing beachfront hotel in Coolangatta which very quickly became one of my favourite places in Queensland. My mother was a bit concerned about staying on the 13th floor but she got over it when she saw the view! We ticked an item off of Mom’s bucket list when we went jet skiing on the Gold Coast broadwater up to South Stradbroke Island — and now she wants to go again. We also went to a dinner & show at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and went for a drive through Springbrook National Park, where we found out that the “Best of All Lookout” is aptly named.
The beginning of August was very work-centric because we had a release due out at the end of the month. In between long stints at work, I was at home taking care of my poor kitty who got hit by a car and ended up with lots of scrapes and a collapsed lung (he’s much better now).
At the end of the month my company rewarded us for our hard work by giving us time in lieu. I found out that I had ten days — which had to be used within two weeks — on a Monday, so I bought a plane ticket for the following Sunday and took off to America. The plane ticket that I bought to go back to Australia was only $50 with my mother’s frequent flyer miles…and it was in Air New Zealand business class! Ooh the luxury…
I spent the beginning of September hanging out in Texas. It was great to catch up with friends that I hadn’t seen for at least a year in both Houston and Austin, and I got to see my brother’s new workplace in San Antonio. I got to enjoy the 108 degree heat and avoid it by scouring the air-conditioned Labor Day sales.
I had a little bit of time at home before I flew out to New Zealand for a weekend of Rugby World Cup madness. The day of the Australia vs. USA game in Wellington was a hoot because everyone was talking about/getting ready for the game…and everyone was cheering for the USA (with the exception of the Aussies that had jumped across the Tasman). I got an awesome shirt that said “USA to lose by under 30…yes we can!” that attracted a lot of random conversations that I thoroughly enjoyed. And no, the US did not lose by less than 30. We lost by 62, but oh well — it was fun anyway and I was happy for Australia to win. It was great getting to hang out with Bobbi and Rick as well — Bobbi and I got treated to the longest Indian dance show ever in Wellington Town Hall before they finally turned on the All Blacks game on the big screen!
Early in the month, I used a Scoopon to go whale watching on the Gold Coast’s Tall Ships. We had a raging storm that morning but the boat still went out, and while the seas weren’t all that high, lots of people still got seasick. While we did see two whales (and one breach) the trip was disappointing because the boat really wasn’t designed for whale watching — it had one outdoor area in the front, and one in the back that was being used as a sick bay. Whale watching boats really need to have multiple wrap-around decks, like The Spirit of Hervey Bay.
On October 24, the Queen came to Brisbane for a whirlwind visit. My workplace is not too far from South Bank, where 40,000 people gathered to see her, so I went along and managed to snag a photo or two (which my English grandparents appreciated)!
November was a calm month. We spent a weekend down in Tweed Heads, where we stayed in cabins along the river. It’s a lovely location and great for the event we were down there for — our friends’ Nautiques Owners Reunion. I finally went wakeboarding again (for the first time in a year) and managed a whole ten minutes before my arms got too tired (and my knee gave up).
The middle of December saw us back up the Sunshine Coast, this time for a friend’s birthday and the family Christmas…and of course, the traditional coffee on the Esplanade. It was a nice dose of summer before I got on a plane and headed to England for Christmas! It’s been a very relaxing holiday at my grandparents’ house. We’ve ventured out a few times, but it’s mostly been about spending time with family.
What’s in store for 2012?
London, arctic Sweden, Stockholm, Singapore, and Melbourne…and that’s just January!