Old Colombo, 2015

When my daughter was 2 years old, we decided to go to Sri Lanka. My husband had never been before and my parents came along for the ride. We landed in Colombo in one of the hotter times of the year when you are sweating after five minutes and as soon as you get out of the shower.

My Aunty Maryann and Uncle Tommy were kind enough to put us up in their house in the city- big enough for us all now that their two daughters had moved to other parts of the world. The house was tiled and airy with an open courtyard and many fans.

My daughter loved the tuk tuks in Colombo. Nothing delighted her more than setting off in one with her grandparents and chasing my husband and I in another. On our first tuk tuk ride to the local Kol Pitti market, we happened upon a parade for the St Thomas College annual cricket match. There were lots of floats with music, people hanging out of cars waving flags and revellers zooming around on motorbikes.

Kol Pitti market was filled with colourful fruit and vegetables, live chickens, raw meat and a fish stall. From there we took another tuk tuk to the Galle Face Hotel overlooking the Indian Ocean. A white washed leftover relic from the colonial era, the hotel was beautiful and the kamikaze cocktail in the 1864 bar was well made.

The next day we went to Colombo Fort- an old part of the city that had only just been reopened. The clock tower was tall and striking and I loved the elephant heads on one of the old buildings. My parents enjoyed pointing out old eating and drinking haunts that they hadn’t been able to get to for a while and we stopped at a yummy short eats restaurant for lunch.

One of my favourite buildings was the old Dutch hospital with its various courtyards and fancy shops. From here we braved the FOSE market in Pettah. It was ridiculously busy and a world away from the local market. Every imaginable item that you could want was for sale- from toys to food and souvenirs to clothes.

Related posts: It’s a Sri Lankan Thing, Sri Lanka, 1998, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, 1994

 

New Caledonia, 2014

In the approaching winter of 2014, my husband’s family including assorted partners and children, flew to Noumea for a week. We stayed at the Hilton Hotel where our balcony overlooked the pool, Anse Vata beach and Canary Island.

The weather was not the beach weather we had hoped for, being rain with sunny periods. Definitely not swimming weather. Although that didn’t stop me trying, resulting in a very short lived dip in the cold pool, before it started raining again.

We made the most of it anyway and the holiday became all about eating instead. And what a great place for this to occur- in French food heaven. There were the decadent coffee shops, the fantastic French bakeries with sticks of bread and fancy cakes; and our favourite, the French supermarkets with Cote D Or, French wine and yummy carbonara chips. All delicious.

My husband and I also managed to escape for a date night in a French restaurant called Astrolabe in the next bay for a lovely traditional three course dinner. And I had the best Carbonara pasta with raw egg that I have ever had in an Italian restaurant in the hotel complex.

On our first day, we caught the bus to the city market. The bus trip was entertainment enough for our one a half-year-old daughter, but she was very excited by the local musicians playing when we got there too and danced up a storm.

The market overlooked the boats of Port Moselle and had lots of fruit and vegetables for the locals, plus colourful souvenirs for the tourists.

The following day, we caught the bus all the way into town to Coconut Trees square, which funnily enough had lots of coconut trees; and a gazebo. I found a Mango shop amongst all the expensive French clothing shops and we found some French children’s books for our daughter. We also saw the old coach house, Moselle Bay and many colourful murals.

We took a walk along Promenade Roger Laroque to Lemon beach- the beach next to ours. The promenade also had a train running along it that my daughter enjoyed along with the statue of Marilyn Monroe outside the Rock café once we go to the beach.

One day, we dragged the whole family to the Aquarium of the Lagoons to see the coral, fish and related sea creatures. My daughter liked the hands on kid’s section and I liked the porthole windows that you could see luminescent jellyfish through.

On our last day, we took a walk up the hill to Rte Due Ouen Toro for a view over the island and all the beaches we had visited. On the way back we found a large park with lots of swings and dolphin bins. It was heaven for the kids and I’m sure they wished we had found it earlier.

Related posts: Fiji 2008, It’s a South Pacific Thing

Dolphin Swim in Hawaii, 2014

The one thing that I definitely wanted to do while I was in Hawaii for my bestie’s wedding was swim with wild dolphins. I had previously had a Sea World dolphin experience with my bestie, where we had swum with trained dolphins, but I still really wanted to make contact with the animals in their own habitat, where it was their choice if they wanted to approach you. A few of the others had swum with manta rays at night, but this didn’t appeal to me, it was the dolphins that I wanted.

We took a boat trip out of Honokohau Harbour. It was lovely to get out on the water and get a perspective of the coastline and all the places I had seen while I had been here. We saw Kona town, Mokuaikaua Church, the bungalows where we were staying plus other mountains and beaches I had not seen on land.

In the water we saw manta rays, whales and of course lots of dolphins. I couldn’t wait to get in the water with them. We put on our snorkels and dove in. We swam next to a pod of Spinner dolphins and the first thing I noticed was that they were very fast! It was very calming floating above them and they weaved around below us, but also very tiring swimming in open ocean.

Back on the surface, the dolphins weren’t tired at all and seemed very fond of performing jumps, spins and flips. It was a wonderful experience and I was so glad that I had been able to have it along with my bestie’s parents, her new husband, Janeen and her boyfriend.

After the boat docked, it was time to leave for the airport for some last minute shopping on the big island before an overnight stay in an airport hotel in Oahu and an early morning flight back to Sydney and my little family.

Although being away from my husband and daughter had been strange, I wouldn’t have missed my bestie’s special day for the world and it also inspired the idea for us to take a child-free girls trip at least once a year no matter where we were in the world.

Related posts: A Hawaiian Wedding, 2014, Hawaiian Road Trip, 2014, Solo trip to Hawaii, 2014, USA, 1990

 

A Hawaiian Wedding, 2014

I had never been a bridesmaid before, despite having attended 50 weddings; so it was awesome to be asked by my bestie, have a dress and jewellery bought for me and get my hair and make up done. Most of all, I felt incredibly honoured to be a part of my bestie’s special day and to have the opportunity to feel like a part of her fantastic family.

The day of the wedding, it was raining. There had been talk among the locals of a 50-year storm that had been brewing, but I really hadn’t paid much attention until then. But raining it was, with waves so high, they were crashing over the sea wall onto the area reserved for the ceremony and reception.

Panic ensued, as well as a trip to Walmart to see if we could stock up on umbrellas, gumboots and tarps. With the ground soaked through and the waves and rain showing no sign of abating, the groom put in a call to the bride to postpone the wedding until the next day. My bestie took it quite well all things considered.

Being housebound due to rain, the evening turned into a pre wedding party with much drinking and dancing- Australian style. The groom was an Aussie after all, so there were enough of us around to take control of the tunes.

Wedding day take two went much more according to plan. The beauty team returned to make us all look more beautiful than we already were again and there was pre ceremony photos and champagne for the ladies of the wedding party.

The sun was out and the waves were still curling beautifully, but not too big; except for that one where my bestie, my bestie’s sister Janeen and I were taking sunset photos with our back to the ocean and it sneaked over the wall, making us run!

The ceremony was lovely and the guests were few enough that we could all fit on one long table under chandeliers for the reception. Dinner included gazpacho and lobster with an ice cream station- definitely my kind of desert.

It rained a little on the dance floor, but that didn’t stop anyone. Some of the wedding party ended up jumping in the pool, including the bride and her two bridesmaids. Hair and make up came out unscathed and the party continued – now that’s value for money.

Related posts: Hawaiian Road Trip, 2014, Solo trip to Hawaii, 2014, Canada, 2011, Fiji, 2011, Destination Thailand, 2010, The Seven Year Itch

It’s not how good the music is, it’s who you’re dancing with

I heard this saying the other day and it made me think.

The dance floor could be the coolest one in the country with the hippest people and the best beats. But if you are there by yourself, with people you don’t really know and don’t really like, then its really not that much fun.

The funkiest cocktail bar with the best drinks can end up being a dive in the basement if you go with the wrong people and the music is too loud. The best restaurant in the trendiest suburb can be lack lustre if you go with people who aren’t that fussed with fine food.

Of late I have been catching up with a few friends from various parts of my life and it made me remember that these people are in my life for a reason. No matter what we are going through in our lives, even if it means we can’t catch up as often as we would like, when we do see each other life seems better when shared with these people.

There are the old work friends who I’ve kept in touch with because it’s not just about the job we did together, but I actually really like them as people as well. Their lives are diverse and interesting and they offer different perspectives on life.

There’s the wives of my husbands friends who have been around for over a decade or more and are now my friends in their own right. They make restaurants more fun and Saturday nights a family bonding experience for everyone.

And there are the special friends from near and far who and know my history and me better than I do myself. It is for these friends that I am truly grateful as they have the ability to pull me out of a dark place for a reality check and make me smile no matter how bad life can seem at the time.

Friends remind you that you are not alone, you are not crazy and it’s actually the rest of the planet that has gone mad.

So whether your daily soundtrack is Portishead or Ministry of Sound, it’s the people you are listening with that can make all the difference in the world.

Related posts: Real Friends vs Digital Friends, Friendship: Great Expectations?, People vs Place, By special request 

Hawaiian Road Trip, 2014

My bestie’s sister Janeen was tour organiser extraordinaire and had many activities planned for us all while were in Hawaii for my bestie’s wedding. A girl after my own heart, she wanted to see as much of the big island as she could, so I was happy to tag along with the family and other assorted American and Australian wedding guests.

On my first day we headed straight to Kona Brewing Company for a morning beer tasting. In Kona town we checked out Mokuaikaua Church, Hulihe’e Palace and the harbour. We also found pearls in oysters at a local jewellery shop and some cocktails in a bar with a sea view. For lunch, we went to for a real soft shell taco Mexican lunch- very tasty.

The next day, a van of 11 of us went on a road trip to Umauma Falls to go zip lining. I was excited for the road trip and the opportunity to see more of the island, but not so much the zip lining. While everyone was busy doing flips as they zipped along I was apparently gripping onto my line “like a koala bear.”

The green countryside, the river and the waterfalls were beautiful though, and worth my discomfort. I also enjoyed the less adrenalin pumping activity of walking across a suspension bridge to a viewpoint of the falls.

On the way back we stopped at Akaka Falls State Park for a pleasant stroll through the forest to one of the highest waterfalls in the world- Akaka Falls- that drops into a crater.

Back in the van, we drove on the Saddle Road from Hilo through the middle of the island in volcanic fog- a gentle reminder that we were living on an island with an active volcano. I had seen some amazing pictures of lava flowing into the sea at an art gallery in town and wish that I had more time to travel over to the other side of the island to see that.

We stopped an the infamous Fish & Hog café for dinner which had great American diner style food, including the biggest slice of lemon meringue pie I have ever seen in my life.

The day before the wedding Janeen and I donned our custom made bridesmaid t-shirts and took the bride for a manicure and pedicure in her matching bride t-shirt. In an impromptu hen’s night, we decided to go to the luau at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel for a dinner and show with my bestie’s cousin Lyle as the honorary male bodyguard.

We got seashell necklaces, tried to dance the hula and twirl balls on string. Dinner was a traditional pig dug out if the underground oven and as much punch as you could drink. The show started with the shell trumpeter of the royal procession and there were dances from all the islands of the South Pacific including fire dancers. On the way back to the car we met a man with a macaw.

Related posts: Solo trip to Hawaii, 2014, USA, 1990, It’s a South Pacific Thing

Solo trip to Hawaii, 2014

My first solo trip in many years was when my bestie got married in Hawaii and asked me to be a bridesmaid. Leaving my one year old at home with my husband for 8 days, I flew to Kona on the big island of Hawaii via Oahu.

Most of the wedding party was staying in a few private bungalows on the property where the event itself was to be held. It was strange to be travelling alone again and it took me a while to get used to only having to feed and cloth myself again. But before long I fell back into old habits, heading to my bestie’s parents house every morning to be fed breakfast. Unfortunately I never really got out of the habit of waking up early.

The bride and groom to be were staying in the main bungalow with large living areas, a pond with koi and a pool with spa. Most importantly, the house backed onto the ocean with a sea wall separating the garden from the rocks and waves. This is where both the ceremony and reception was to be held.

My bestie is a master of décor having renovated many houses around the world as they moved around for work; so the main house was also being utilised as decoration making central. Everything from the hair pieces to the table settings was made with the love and care of many helping hands.

The verandah off the main bungalow was utilised for social gatherings and sunset watching and what beautiful sunsets they were. Living on the east coast of Australia, I relished the opportunity to see the sun dipping into the water just as it should be.

There were some small markets across the road from the bungalows where you could buy food for lunches and souvenirs. I purchased a t-shirt for my husband and the cutest little blue Hawaiian dress for my daughter, with a matching flower bracelet of course.

After the sunset on my first night, a few of us walked to the Royal Kona Beach Resort for dinner. The hotel looked like a cruise ship pointing out to the ocean, affording fabulous ocean views from Don the Beachcomber Restaurant which specialised in Mai Tai’s.

With only 30 or so guests attending the wedding and everyone arriving a week or more earlier, it was the perfect opportunity to catch up with some like the groom, my bestie’s sister Janeen and her boyfriend; and meet others like my bestie’s brother Chris’s new girlfriend and the groom’s best friends who would make up the other half of the bridal party.

Related posts: USA, 1990It’s a South Pacific Thing, The Seven Year Itch

Perception is reality

What is real and what is not?

Often people perceive that your life is prefect, especially when Facebook only records the good times. But in reality, all is not always as it seems.

But does that even matter?

Is someone perceives that things are all rosy, then it must be the truth right? There is no point asking questions, when everything seems fine and would you even want the real answer anyway? People believe what they want to believe after all.

I’m all for focussing on the positive things in life, and a lot of being on social media is about big noting yourself so that people think that you are awesome/want to be your friend/want to give you that next job.

We all do it. No pictures of tired eyes as you have been up since 3am looking after a baby, instead there is the picture of your bundle of joy smiling and laughing. It doesn’t matter if this only happens 10% of the time.

No pictures of Saturday night at home in your tracky dacks on the couch, instead a picture of you and your girlfriends having cocktails at the latest cool bar. It doesn’t matter if this only happens one night of the year.

No pictures of the dusty motel you stayed in on holiday, instead Instagram pictures of the gorgeous beach that was a half a day drive away. It doesn’t matter if you never even had time to set foot on the sand.

No job title of blogger on LinkedIn, instead you are an award winning published author. It doesn’t matter if you’ve actually only ever been paid once in all those times you have been published.

So should we all just be more honest? Or is it easier to just go on through life thinking everyone has perfect lives with adorable kids that never cry, a hectic social life, fabulous holidays and the best job in the world?

If perception is reality, then maybe we are all better off with the perception and after long enough, perhaps this will become your reality anyway. It’s all about positive thinking right?

Or perhaps the key is finding out who you can be honest with and choosing who you want to let into your reality. Otherwise aren’t we all just living a lie?

Related posts: Dreams vs Reality, I’m happy for you, Having it all?

Singapore, 2013: Part 3

On the way back home from Europe, my husband, daughter and I stopped in Singapore for a couple of nights mainly to see friends, and to shop of course.

We went shopping on Orchard Rd and saw the colourful statues on the steps of ION Orchard. The usual suspects were visited- H&M, Uniqlo, New Look, Marks and Spencers, Mango and Zara. And as usual, our bags required much repacking to fit in the purchases. I’m not sure it would be very healthy for my bank balance to live in Singapore.

After our day of shopping, we caught up with Cynthia and Tony plus my husband’s friend Drew for dinner at Din Tai Fung. The matching kids cutlery was very cute and the food was good as always. Cynthia and Tony had left their daughter at home with their helper Rosie so they came back to our hotel on Orchard Rd for an after dinner drink before it was bedtime for my little one.

The next day we went to visit Cynthia and Tony and meet up with their daughter. Our daughters seemed to like playing together and were more curious about each other this time. It was nice to see them everyone here again six months after my solo trip here with my daughter.

We went to the local roti house for lunch, which was ridiculously cheap and packed with school kids. The little ones had to sit next to each other of course and it was amusing to watch them copying each other.

After lunch, we went back to Cynthia and Tony’s place for a nap and a swim in the lovely pool in their apartment complex courtyard. The little ones enjoyed splashing around with a novelty turtle pool toy and it was a great place to rest while we waited for our evening flight back to Sydney.

As always, the visit was not long enough, and there was barely time for a quick after swim shower before heading to the airport. Until next time…

Related posts: Singapore, 2013: Part 2, Singapore, 2013: Part 1, Javea, 2013, Barcelona, 2013, Versailles, 2013, Paris, 2013, Belgium, 2013: The Place, Belgium, 2013: The People, Hong Kong, 2013: Part 2, Hong Kong, 2013: Part 1, Fiji, 2013

Holidays are…

Preparing and researching

Booking and planning

Packing

Excitement

Waiting impatiently

Airports and QANTAS club

Arriving in your new temporary home

Unpacking

New places and new things to see

First experiences

Navigating a new city

Temples and churches

Old towns

Landmarks and lookout points

Road trips

Landscapes

Having fun

Swimming

Walking

Enjoying the sunshine

Not letting the rain stop you

Watching shows

New food to try

Markets

Bars and restaurants

Having the time to enjoy a meal

Not cooking or washing up

Meeting new people

Sitting and people watching

Quality time with the little one

Catching up with friends

Cocktail hour

Uninterrupted conversations

Laughing

Pampering

Having the time to shop

New clothes from your new favorite shop

Souvenirs to take home

Photos and memories to keep

Not worrying

Thinking

Having the time to notice rainbows

Watching old movies

Card games

Finishing a book

Sitting and doing nothing

Napping

Drifting

Not wanting it to end

Booking the next holiday.

Related posts: Happy Holidays, Random Public Holiday Ramblings,  Kid at Heart