Trip Start May 27, 2010
Trip End Aug 31, 2011

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Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Monday, February 27, 2012

Mum and Geoff dropped us at the airport on Wednesday morning where, yet again, I burst into tears having to say goodbye. It's emotional living away from home! But we were ever so grateful for the opportunity to go home and enjoy the party they put on for us. It has been a special time in our lives and to be able to share it with the people that mean the most to me made it even more so.

We dropped our bags off and got through to the gate only to realise that our flight was full of Asian school children, some donning their breathing masks. I still wonder sometimes whether they are protecting themselves from outside threats, or whether they in fact are the threat and are protecting us from them! Anyway Phil and I were seated separately. It was only a 55 minute flight so it was ok to spend that time apart. But when I sat down, old mate sitting next to me started chatting away, asking all sorts of questions about my life, and generally sounding more Aussie than I'd heard anyone speak in ages. He was off to Sydney for work, he's been to Shepp before, and he now knows more information about me than I perhaps should've offered.

A shuttle took us to our hotel in Potts Point and we decided to make the most of the day. We walked from the hotel to Circular Quay, and when we reached Woolloomooloo (so many o's!) we found Harry's Pies on Wheels. Emma had worded me up about these Harry's amazing pies, but I didn't think we'd get the chance to go looking for it. As it happened, Harry's pies found us! So we sat and had a curry pie which, dare I say it, was heaps better than the curry pies we have at Villa Park! And then set off again to walk through to Botanic Gardens. Hearing some odd noises, I looked up to see bats hanging in the trees. Cool! Walking a bit further, we ended up at Circular Quay, bought our tickets and hopped on board the Manly ferry. We took in the view from the back of the ferry and made the most of the free wifi, checking our emails as we crossed the harbour to Manly, but also took in the size and scale of the bridge that we would be walking over come Friday: the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I must say I was a little scared about how my body would cope with the climb -knowing how much it hurt when I did it as a teenager it was sure to hurt me more this time!

It was nice to visit Manly, but we were left wishing we had taken our swimming gear with us so that we could cool off. Australia was turning on the weather for us and giving us some of its summer finest. Instead we settled on fish and chips followed by a couple of ciders and a game of pool. I did pretty well to beat Phil, and when two other guys walked into the room he made a quick exit, not wanting them to know he got beaten by a girl! After getting the ferry back we got the train to Kings Cross and walked the small distance to our hotel. Seeing the sights of Kings Cross made us grateful we were staying that little bit further away! We had a bit of a rest and then headed to the Sugarmill for dinner and a few drinks. We wandered around the streets for a while after that looking for another place to have a drink, but ended up tired and wanting sleep so we made a bee line for the hotel.

Rested, we headed over to Bondi as planned on Thursday morning. I hadn't been to Bondi for many years and Phil hadn't been at all, so it was nice to take in the scene that we normally only get to see on Bondi Rescue. We set down our new beach towels - Phil's a map of Australia, mine a big $100 note - and slip slop slapped. The water was nice, but the waves were too rough for me, and feeling the water tow underfoot was enough to convince me that I didn't want to become a Bondi Rescue statistic. So I jumped out and retreated to my towel, leaving Phil to try and master his bodysurfing skills. Hoppo and Natho came and moved the flags, and when Phil came back he pointed out a fully clothed Indian lady who had almost drowned but thanks to some surfers, made it back to the water's edge.

Despite the sunscreen I still ended up a little bit burnt, so we went back to our hotel to clean up and then got the train over to King Street in Newtown. Four o'clock was close enough to beer o'clock so we had a couple of VB's in a pub and tried to play pool while a lesbian couple looked on, putting us both off our game. So we found another venue to play pool in and I bet Phil, two out of three. Apparently that's what happens when you concentrate! We had some dinner at a cute garden cafe before calling it a night.

Friday was bridge climb day. I put on the new shoes I bought specifically for the walk, but had to take them off again and replace them with the Dunlop Volleys supplied by the Bridge Climb people. I was told my shoes weren't "covered in enough". It was probably better anyway. New shoes walking up many steps = certain blisters. Phil was happy to learn that he would be clipped on to the bridge as opposed to free walking without some sort of safety harness, and after slipping into the super-attractive climbing suits, we headed off with the guide and began the walk. I had pre-arranged with Phil that he would walk behind me, just in case I needed someone to push me up the steps if I became too tired. Thankfully the ascent was made at a comfortable pace and I didn't have to call on his pushing skills. He's very good at it mind you - sometimes when we're going up stairs or up a hill he pushes me along. It's great! Anyway it was such a great day to do the climb, so clear and the breeze was amazing to cool you down when the sun got too much. The old boy at the end of the line kept on saying how amazing it was that he'd ticked something off his bucket list, and it was actually lovely to see someone so excited about achieving one of their goals. He was so chuffed about having made it to the top that he wanted to do it again straight away. Good on him.

Going down was the worst, and I could feel in my calves that I was going to be sore tomorrow. It was a great relief to get the suit off at the end of the climb, and even nicer to get a spray with the water fan on the way down. We collected our photos and certificates (I'm now a Master, having done the climb twice now) and stopped at the nearest pub at The Rocks for some lunch. I was definitely going to need a rest before we met Gemma and Chrisco in a few hours' time, so we made our way back to Potts Point for a rest and a shower, and then headed back to The Rocks to meet the guys at the Lowenbrau.

It was great to catch up with my two former London housemates, and we visited a couple of bars and sank a few pints. I must've lost count of how many I'd had though, because when we went to go to another pub, I was refused entry. The bouncer had asked how much I'd had to drink, and when I said "Oh we've just been drinking at that pub up there" he decided that wasn't the right answer, and said that I was too drunk and they wouldn't let me in. Outraged, I said "is this for real? Am I on candid camera?!" but nothing was going to change this guy's mind, so we wandered off and bought a cider at a place that was not far off closing for the night. Sydney really let us down, and if the doormen are like that everywhere, I don't think we could live there. Gemma, Phil and I got a bus to another pub but when we didn't like the look of it we got some pizza, got a taxi and headed home.

Phil and I had a bit of a sleep-in on Saturday. We hadn't made any particular plans for the day, predicting that we'd more than likely be hungover from the night out with Shazza and Chris. But we woke up feeling fairly fresh which was a nice feeling. So we decided to get the ferry around to Darling Harbour and have a look around there. I ordered myself a cider and a $24 parmagiana (when did Australia get so damned expensive!) and had to send it back when it came out cold. Relatively satisfied, we wandered around the harbour for a while, had an ice cream and walked back through the city. We were going to meet Gemma that night for some more drinks but were refused entry to the venue she was in, so we had a few beers in the Tooheys pub next door. When the band got too annoying to bear anymore we walked around the corner to a boutique pub that we both agreed was more our scene. When Phil was at the bar I got chatted up by some dude who asked if the seat beside me was free. Asking if I was here alone, I said "no". He said "boyfriend?" and I said "husband", and with that he shrugged his shoulders and walked off. It was the first time that has happened to me since being a married woman, and it felt good!

We were flying out of Sydney on Sunday night. We packed our bags and then got the bus to Gemma's flash pad where she made us a lovely lunch. It was strange to see her cooking in a house other than 51 Grafton Road! It was great though and we really enjoyed being able to spend a couple more hours together before we jetted off.

The shuttle collected us at 2.45 and it took an hour or so to get to the airport thanks to the bad day the cranky driver was having. We didn't mind though - the less time spent in an airport the better I say! I'd stocked up on Tim Tams and Chicken Crimpy Shapes and contemplated - for a very brief moment - buying some Ugg boots. I curse Ugg boots every time I see someone wearing them in England, wearing them like they're hiking shoes or something. So I'm not quite sure why I thought it was a good idea to buy some, but decided it was probably knowing that they would be the final reminder of what a great time we'd had, and a final link to Australia.

The flight to Bangkok was really bumpy, and again Phil had to cover his arms so my fingernails didn't dig in too much, and had to put up with my squealing whenever we hit a patch of turbulence. We were up the very back of the plane, so not only did we feel the movements from side to side, we also felt them up and down, so it was an uncomfortable journey to say the least.

After another long flight we eventually made it to London, relatively fresh considering we'd been in the air for 23 hours. We still had to get the tube back to Marylebone and then the train to Birmingham, but this was a drop in the ocean compared to the flights we'd endured.

Once we were home we were happy but weary, and knowing we both had to work the next day forced us to catch up on some sleep and leave the washing for tomorrow.
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