South Island New Zealand

Hello again! We hope that you are all enjoying your summers. We have seen in the news that it has been quite hot in the US, so we will try to send some relief your way with some winter photos from our travels around the South Island of New Zealand.

After Melbourne, we flew across the Tasman Sea to Queenstown, NZ. Ali and I visited Queenstown on our 2019 trip and found it to be a great base to soak up views of the Southern Alps. Queenstown is famous for adventure sports – bungy jumping, skydiving, etc. – and is also right near the major New Zealand ski resort of Cardrona. Overall, Queenstown is sort of like the Kiwi version of Aspen, Colorado.

We had the chance to revisit one of our all-time favorites hikes in Glenorchy. (By the way, if you have ever seen New Zealand on tv, in a movie, or a computer screensaver, it was probably Glenorchy!) Here are some photos from our hike.

Driving around the South Island is a key part of the experience. The mountains are simply spectacular and there are dramatic views everywhere.

AND, New Zealand has one of my absolute favorite peanut butters! I’m not staying you should fly around the world for a peanut butter, but if you’re there anyways, it’s worth a try.

Unfortunately, it rained quite a bit of the time we were in Queenstown, but we made the best of it with lots of reading, coffee shop sitting, and short hikes with our rain gear on. It was that much sweeter when we did get those brief sunny moments you see in the pictures.

Our final stop on the South Island was Milford Sound. Milford Sound is actually a fjord and sits on the southwestern coast. It’s all drama – mountains rising up from the ocean, waterfalls galore, and heaps of wildlife (esp. fur seals). After a somewhat harrowing drive (although easier than we had feared) in our budget Mazda Demio through a steep mountain tunnel and around many switchbacks (don’t look at the dropoffs!), we boarded a short guided cruise to fully appreciate the sound. The pictures do not do it justice, but you get an idea. I’d recommend a quick Youtube of Milford Sound if you’re interested.

After 9 days on the South Island, we flew north to Auckland. One last look at the Southern Alps!

Melbourne, Part 2

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Hello, hello! Our second part of our Victoria trip took us to the Great Ocean Road, which runs along the bottom of the Australian mainland.

We did not drive the entire road (about 150 miles); we drove from Torquay to Apollo Bay, which is little past Lorne on the map above. The drive was so beautiful and reminded us a lot of the Big Sur portion of Highway 1 in California.

We stopped at the Australian National Surf Museum in Torquay, which was fun. Torquay and Lorne are world-class surf spots and both host annual international competitions.

We stayed in Lorne, where we enjoyed walking along the water and watching the surfers:

ANDDDDD watching koalas in the wild!

It’s true! We saw not one, not two, but EIGHT unique koalas. I really like koalas, and Tim went out of his way (God bless that Timmy!) to find places where they might be spotted. We drove to a particular road where there are a lot of eucalyptus trees and sure enough, we found them. Or I should say Tim did—he has a gift for spotting koalas. You have to look for a gray bump way up in the tree. They are difficult to see, especially since they don’t move much. We did see one climb down a tree, but the other seven were all fast asleep as the trees blew in the wind. The koala in the photo above was just hanging out in his tree on a popular walking path overlooking the ocean. Nice life! It must be sweet to be a professional napper.

We said goodbye to the Great Ocean Road and headed back to Melbourne for a couple of days. We don’t typically do tours on our trips, but we decided to take a tour of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, which is known as the ”G.” It seats 100,000 people and hosts cricket games (of course), but also Australian Rules Football (footy), rugby, soccer, and concerts (in fact, Billy Joel is playing a one-night only Australian concert in December). Our tour guide is a full member of the Melbourne Cricket Club, which is kind of like a country club for cricket. There are 100,000 members and over 200,000 people on the waiting list. Our guide told us that he put his children on the waiting list on the days they were born. One just got his membership at age 28. We spent some time by the field, in the locker rooms, the different guest rooms, and more.

The G also is home to the Australian Sports Museum, which had some really cool exhibits on Australia’s Olympic history and national sports. Footy was our favorite (more to come about footy and other sports in another post). We both really liked the knitted Team Australia jumper from days gone by:

I think it would look very nice with my pink hat.

The museum had lots of interactive exhibits, so we tried our best at kicking the footy (similar to kicking a field goal in American football):

We also tried to make sense of cricket with this interactive guide:

I think we will need to do some more research on cricket.

We were sad to leave Australia because we like it so much. Tim described the Aussie generosity of spirit, and I could not agree more. People were so kind and welcoming—it was really inspiring. We flew from Melbourne to Queenstown, New Zealand. Upon arriving in New Zealand, we were promptly handed four Covid tests, one to be taken on the day we arrived, one to be taken on Day 5, and the rest in case we needed to check the accuracy of a test. Fortunately, we have tested on Days 0 and 5 and all were negative. We set up our little science bench in our Airbnb.

Hope everyone at home is doing well! Talk soon.

Melbourne, Part 1

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Thank you to everyone for your kind comments and well wishes thus far. They mean a lot to us, especially when we are so far from home.

After leaving Tasmania, we took a short 75-minute flight north across the Bass Strait to Melbourne. Melbourne is located on the southeast coast of the Australian mainland. It’s the second largest city by population (just behind Sydney) at around 5 million people. However, it felt busier than Sydney with more skyscrapers, busy sidewalks, and traffic.

We stayed in a high-rise apartment just south of the Central Business District (CBD). The views above were from our apartment window!

Over our five days in the city, we walked quite a bit touring the different neighborhoods. Melbourne is known for its cafe culture, so of course we tried coffee around the city. In Australia, most people drink espresso rather than coffee as we normally know it in the US. Ali and I found our favorite drink to be the “long black” which starts with hot water topped with a double-shot of espresso. It’s kind of like an americano in reverse.

Some views from around town – including a sweet VW van and an homage to Foz (a bar named Gimlet).

What impressed us the most about Melbourne (and really all of Australia in general) was how friendly most people are. There is just an overall spirit of generosity that pervades the place. We had lots of nice interactions with people who were excited that we were visiting, wanted to share about Australia, and were just overall at ease and kind. Ali and I have kept commenting to each other that Australia is a lot like the US, but with the volume turned way down. There are problems in Australia like anywhere, but there is not nearly the same polarization and tension. Politics is not a part of daily life in the same way. There are no angry bumper stickers (very few bumper stickers in general), much less politics on the news, and election seasons here are WAY shorter. I’m sure if we were here longer we would become more tuned into dynamics here that we are missing as tourists, but our impression over 31 days in Australia is of a gentler, more positive way of life. Literally, “no worries” is said in practically every interaction with an Australian. It’s Australian for “you’re welcome.” We really like it!

A good example of this is the way people drive. In general, people drive the speed limit, or at most 5km/hr over. Much of the reason is that speed enforcement is everywhere. There are speed cameras on most of the roads issuing automatic tickets to speeders. You simply do not see people aggressively switching lanes or driving way over the limit. I asked someone about it and he said, “Once you get that first, second, or third $300 speeding ticket from a camera, you realize that it’s too expensive to drive fast because the cameras will always catch you.” While I can imagine these would be deeply unpopular in the US, I would argue that the results speak for themselves. We have not seen any accidents on the road. A quick Google search showed that Australia has about 1/3 the number of road deaths per capita than the US. Over the month, we have driven many kilometers and spent lots of time in the cities and have yet to hear even a single car horn.

Lastly, Melbourne is a great city for books. We got lost in some great bookstores during our walks in the city. The very best book-hunting was in the State Library of Victoria. Check out these views in the main reading room!

Our next post will feature a road trip from Melbourne along the Great Ocean Road of Victoria. Stay tuned for surf and koalas!

Tasmania, Part Three

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Freycinet = Red ; Kelvedon Beach = Purple; Bruny Island = Blue

We made a few final stops in Tasmania before returning to the Australian mainland:

1. Freycinet National Park in the northeast (red circle in the map above)

Freycinet is admittedly one of the more touristy parts of Tasmania. The third picture is from the lookout of Wineglass Bay, which can be swarmed in peak season. We climbed 1000 steps to get there at the end of a 7 mile hike (that’s an exact number – there is a 1000 step staircase with lots of signs reminding you to be prepared). Currently, local officials are debating a proposal to build a large resort in the area catering specifically to Chinese tourists. Our AirBnB host from 2019 is one of the many residents fighting the development, since the area is already stressed in terms of its capacity for visitors. While we enjoyed the views at Freycinet, we will probably explore more on the western side of the island if we are fortunate enough to visit again.

2. Bruny Island (blue circle)

Bruny Island is divided into north and south halves with a narrow spit of land connecting the two. At the “neck,” we climbed a large set of steps to get this view. The cheese platter and beer from Bruny Island Cheese Co. sat a bit heavy on the climb up.

3. Kelvedon Beach (purple)

Kelvedon Beach was a particularly great spot to “fossick” for shells. Fossick is an Aussie word for searching for things, especially along the ground. We had a bread and cheese lunch at the beach while driving up to Freycinet.

On our last day in Tasmania, we returned to Hobart for some final goodbyes. We drove to the top of Mount Nelson and took in the view from the signal station. The signal station was used in the mid 1800’s to communicate not only with ships in the harbor, but also to send messages across Tasmania. They used a system of flags and watchtowers to relay a message across the island in about 15 minutes. By hoisting a series of flags, you could spell out any word. Each watchtower kept a book that detailed all the possible combinations of signs.

Ali and I were sad to leave Tasmania. It’s a place that we have really grown to love. It’s quiet and wild. In many ways, it reminds us of a bigger, more rugged outer Cape. Just add in a network of ridiculously windy, narrow roads, a collection of flora and fauna seen nowhere else on the planet, and a history as a place of exile for convicts (fairly or not) from 10000 miles away.

As our plane took off from Hobart toward Melbourne, I had a great view of Mt. Wellington out the window to our left. Mt. Wellington looms large over Hobart, you can see it from nearly any point in the city. I watched it for as long as I could. I thought about all the great memories from two weeks on the island, in addition to the two weeks we spent in 2019. It was such a gift that we had the opportunity to visit again. I tried to soak up the view of the mountain and remind myself that I was still in Tasmania for at least that moment longer. Then, the stranger in the window seat next to me lowered the window and put his head on it to sleep. Oh well. We hope to see you again soon, Tassie. You’re only two stops (San Fran, Sydney, Hobart) and 27 hours of flight time away from Tampa…

Tasmania, Part Two

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Blue Star was our house. Red Circled island is Maria Island.

After spending our first four nights in Tasmania in the capital city of Hobart (see the south-coast center of the map below), we moved to the Tasman Peninsula in the southeast. The blue star in the southeast corner is Eaglehawk Neck where our AirBnB was located. Eaglehawk Neck has an interesting history since it is a 400m wide spit of land connecting the Tasman Peninsula to the rest of Tasmania. Port Arthur, the famous penitentiary for British exiled convicts is further south on the peninsula. Since anyone escaping Port Arthur would need to pass through the narrow neck of land, it was guarded with watchtowers and dogs. It was sad to think that such a beautiful place caused so much human misery.

Our house in Eaglehawk Neck was a perfect example of the classic Aussie beach shack. Much like a Cape House, the Aussie shack is a state of mind. It emphasizes the outdoor light, ocean views, and has a relaxed, comfortable vibe. Below are views from the house looking out at Pirates Cove and the Tasman Sea. The house faced east at the water, so each morning, Ali and I set our alarms to wake up early and watch the sunrise. Since sunrise was around 7:30am, that wasn’t too hard to do! The house also had a wood stove, and Ali proved herself to be a strong and capable fire marshal.

After we left the shack, we took a day trip to Maria Island off the east Coast of Tasmania (see red circle above). Maria Island used to be a convict camp (like most of Tasmania), but is now a wildlife refuge. We saw heaps of wombats, kangaroos, and a stray wallaby or two. Also, there are plenty of white and black cockatoos (quite noisy!).

It’s already July 5th here, but to those of you who are still on the 4th, happy 4th!

Tasmania, Part One

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Tasmania is the little heart-shaped island south of mainland Australia. It is one of Australia’s states (like New South Wales and Queensland). We flew from Sydney to Hobart, which is a quick 75 minute flight. Tasmania (or TAS or Tassie) is a wild place. It is rugged and has many, many unpaved roads. We started in Hobart, the capital city of Tasmania. It is similar to Portland, Maine—a maritime city with lots of fishing, gray skies, and good food. We spent the first day at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens and Willie’s Apple Shed, which has amazing hard cider and food (our large slice of apple pie is not pictured).

We also spent time at Mount Field National Park. It is about an hour and a half from Hobart, and we walked three trails—Tall Trees, the Lady Barrett, and the Russell Falls.

On our final day in Hobart, we visited Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary which is an incredible refuge for animals that have been injured or orphaned, often by road accidents. We were able to take a tour and visit with a young wombat, some kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, and a host of wild birds.

Bonorong is not a zoo. They do have permanent residents who are no longer able to live in the wild, including Fred the white cockatoo, above. Fred was a pet and is over 100 years old. He is very loved. He even has a letter from Her Majesty celebrating his 100th birthday. The Tasmanian devil above was hurt in an accident and will not be able to be released back into the wild. However, Bonorong has many other devils that they rehabilitate behind the scenes (to ensure that they stay as wild as possible) and release. One of our favorite animals, Maria, is a devil that we saw back in 2019. She had a brain injury and is blind in one eye. She runs laps throughout the day and seemed to be very content. She is still at Bonorong and is still running! The work that is done at Bonorong is so impressive. They have volunteers all over the island who collect injured or orphaned animals and bring them to be checked out (like the quoll x-ray above), treat them, and either release the animal or provide a great quality of life at the sanctuary.

We left Hobart for Eagle Hawk Neck, which is on the Tasman Peninsula. We will provide an update of our time in that special place, but I will whet your appetites with some photos of our amazing Airbnb. It was designed in the 1960s by an architect and is a classic example of an Aussie beach shack.

As we all know, Tim loves maps. We were chatting today about why we like Tasmania so much. I think the map below says it all.

Thanks for keeping up with our adventures!

Blue Mountains

Sorry for the delay since our last post! We are currently in Tasmania and our internet has been spotty.

From Sydney, Ali and I picked up a rental car and drove 2 hours on the Great Western Highway into the Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountains are a favorite weekend destination for city dwellers from Sydney – kind of like how people from Boston might drive up to New Hampshire for a long weekend. There are lots of small towns along the way as you climb up into the mountains, with better and better views as you go and lots of opportunities to hike. Overall, the Blue Mountains reminded us of winter in New England – quiet small towns, early sunsets, leaves off the trees. It was nice for us to really soak up the winter experience. It’s a season we don’t get to experience in Florida, so we built our summer travel around recapturing it!

Our AirBnB was in the town of Blackheath in a restored 1930s house. Ali built a fire every night in the wood stove and we listened to our classic Winter Cape House playlist (think Gord’s Gold, Gordon Lightfoot) music while making dinner. We even drank some Australian wine in honor of Foz.

Our 1930s Blackheath “holiday house”
Check out this Australian King Parrot on our back deck!
Mema’s pom-pom hat made it all the way to Katoomba.
Looking out into the Grose Valley
Grand Canyon Track – Blue Mountains
This hiking track took us about 700ft down into the canyon and along the rock ledge. Lots of stairs to get out!
Before the stairs!
Australian bushland. Check out all the eucalypts. We saw a wallaby soon afterwards. More wildlife to come in our next posts.

Suffice it to say that we really enjoyed the Blue Mountains. Besides enjoying the amazing house and walks, we appreciated the rugged, wintry feel of the place. It didn’t hurt that we found a great brewery nearby in Katoomba – Mountain Culture Brewing – that brews great beer, including New England IPAs. And yes, all the way in the mountains of New South Wales, they refer to juicy, citrusy IPAs as “New England IPAs,” just like in the US. I thought that was a nice homage to our homeland.

We hope that you are all doing well. More to come soon from Tassie.

Sydney

“Don’t worry about the world ending today. It’s already tomorrow in Australia.”

 – Charles M Schulz

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Hello from Australia! Last Thursday, we flew United from San Francisco to Sydney—a 15 hour flight. Fortunately, Tim and I each had a two-seat row to ourselves. Our flight took off at 11pm PST. We ate our dinner (Tim and I both agreed that we could not decipher the sauce on our pasta. Soy? Tomato?) and settled in for the long haul. I immediately crawled into a fetal position and slept off-and-on (mostly on) for about 8 hours. What can I say? I fell asleep at the Magic Kingdom on a bench while chaperoning one hundred students during Spring Break. I inherited the ability to sleep in uncomfortable and unexpected places.

Tim was very excited to watch the flight map throughout the ride. It was fun to see the sun chasing us as we headed to Australia, and we were both happy to watch the sunrise outside of our window. The above photos are on our approach to Sydney. Can you see the Harbour Bridge?

We arrived in Sydney at 7am local time, and made it to our Airbnb in Potts Point around 9am. We decided to get breakfast at a place that we loved in 2019, a little place in an alley called Room 10. It was a little chilly and it only has outdoor seating, so it uses the classic Australian/New Zealand source of heating—a blanket. Most places in Australia and New Zealand do not have central heating, and a lot of people sit outside in winter. I think this would go over very well with my father. ”Put on a hat, Alison!”

You can drape a blanket over your lap while you enjoy your flat white (as I did above) or around your shoulders. Most restaurants have a basket of blankets for indoor and outdoor dining. Many places in Sydney specialize in healthy, plant-based options, which is my idea of heaven. The salad above is one of the best lunches I’ve ever had.

We stayed in a neighborhood that abuts the Royal Botanic Garden, which is absolutely stunning. We walked through it every day to reach Circular Quay, the transportation hub for Sydney. (Like San Francisco, we did not have a car and relied on trains and buses, which was a great way to see the city.) We took a ferry to Cremorne Point, which is about a ten minute ride across the harbor. Not a bad view from the ferry, right? Cremorne Point has historic Arts and Crafts homes lining the walk. We ended up walking the loop at Cremorne Point three times during our stay.

We spend a lot of the summer walking. On average, we walk about 10 miles per day. There are so many beautiful places to walk in Australia and New Zealand; two of the most famous walks in the Sydney area are the Spit Bridge to Manly Walk and the Coogee to Bondi Beach walk. Both Manly and Bondi are very famous beaches known for surfing and rock pools. When we saw the rock pools (see photo below), we thought of Uncle Mike Delouchry. He would love them! They are pools that are built on the side of the ocean, and most are fed by the tides. In Bondi, there is an Iceberg Club, where you have to be nominated by another member and swim at least three winter weekends per month. The air temp right now is hovering around 65 degrees and the water is about 70 degrees. Both the Manly and Bondi walks were spectacular.

On our final night in Sydney, we decided to return to Manly on the sunset ferry. We saw the sunset over the harbor on the 30 minute ferry ride and arrived in Manly just in time to watch the surfers catch some final waves. We had a great pizza made by a man from Turin, which we visited four (!) years ago when we were in France. He was so friendly and we chatted about our brief time in Italy. One of our favorite things about traveling is meeting people along the way. On our return to Circular Quay, we saw the Opera House lit up as part of a lights festival in the city (Vivid Sydney).

It was sad to say goodbye to Sydney. It is such a fun, vibrant city. We picked up a car this morning and drove to the Blue Mountains. We are staying in a 100 year-old cottage with creaky wooden floors and a wood stove. We are so grateful for the opportunity to travel in the way that we do. Thank you for following our adventures.

San Francisco

We normally think of our summer trips as a book divided into chapters. This summer, San Francisco is the book’s preface. Without giving too much away and without going on too long, it sets the stage for the rest of what follows. In this case, San Francisco brings us to the Pacific Ocean and prepares us to switch into “summer mode.” We stayed here for two nights to help break up our long trip from Florida to Australia.

Ali and I have both been to SF several times before, but this trip really opened up the city to us in a new way. Part of the reason is that we got to explore a number of different neighborhoods that we had missed on previous visits. One of these was Outer Sunset, located on the western edge of the city and right on the ocean. This is where our AirBnB was located and we both loved the fact that you could see the ocean down our street and hear the waves from our studio. The downside, however, is that it was a bit far from downtown. But, SF has lots of public transportation so we took buses and trams to get around, in addition to lots of walking. Another neighborhood that we really liked was the area around Divisadero. Great coffee shops and places to eat. We hung out here quite a bit. Last, but not least, is the area around Mission Dolores Park. Here, we spent most of an afternoon enjoying spectacular views of the city, while laying out in the shade of the palm trees. It didn’t hurt that the park is right next to Bi-Rite which has fantastic sandwiches, ice cream, and other treats.

Of course, in addition to exploring the neighborhoods, we added a few of the classic SF attractions, including Fisherman’s Wharf, the area around Oracle Park (SF Giants), and rode a cable car. We are now in Sydney and will share an update from Australia soon!

Cable Car Selfie
“Everywhere you look, everywhere you go, there’s a heart…”
Grilled cheese (animal style), fries, strawberry-chocolate shake. In-N-Out. Best and cheapest meal in the city!
Mission Dolores Park
Pacific Ocean in Outer Sunset
Love this mural of the cyclist and the bison near Haight-Ashbury

Summer 2022!

Hello Everyone! It’s been a minute since we posted, but we hope that everyone is doing well. We are excited to share our summer travels with you again. This will be the sixth summer that we escape from Florida.

This year, the pandemic continued to add uncertainty to our planning. If you asked us in January, our plan was to spend the summer in England, Wales, and Scotland. I had even booked the flight from Tampa to London (nonstop on a great deal!). However, at the end of February, Australia announced that it was re-opening to tourists. Given how much we enjoyed our time there in 2019, I started a not-so-subtle ground campaign to pitch the idea of changing our summer plans to Oz instead of the UK: — “Hey, you know I just saw on the news that Australia is re-opening.” — “I ordered us a Tasmania wall calendar. Wasn’t that trip fun? Look how cute those Tasmania devils are.” — “It’s so hot here! Wouldn’t it be nice to have winter this June?” — “Look how expensive these UK prices are! The exchange rate is much better on the Australian Dollar than the British Pound.” “The Points Guy just had a great article on how few tourists are in Australia at the moment.” Then, in March, we learned that New Zealand was also re-opening its borders to Americans starting in May. It was clear what we had to do. We are grabbing our vaccination cards and heading south.

This summer, we are doing a remixed version of our 2019 trip. We will repeat some of the highlights we liked best (Tasmania, South Island New Zealand), while adding some new places to explore (Blue Mountains, Melbourne, Great Ocean Road Victoria, and a surprise finish (Hawaii) to break up the long ride home.

Here’s an overview of the trip itinerary:

  1. San Francisco (2 nights)
  2. Sydney & Blue Mountains (9 nights)
  3. Tasmania (12 nights)
  4. Melbourne and Victoria (12 nights)
  5. South Island New Zealand (9 nights)
  6. North Island New Zealand (5 nights)
  7. Big Island Hawaii (6 nights)
  8. Massachusetts (7 nights)

Total: 63 nights away, 23,682 mi of flight distance

The Big Picture – lots of Pacific Ocean!
Australia and New Zealand in focus (1. SYD 2. HBA 3. MEL 4. ZQN 5. AKL)

Like our other recent summer trips, we have found that the benefits of packing light outweigh the costs. We are each bringing only a backpack and a small carry-on. At the moment, Ali and I are both working on our packing checklists to make sure that we only bring the most useful items. Items that collapse, zip, or fold up are highly prized. It’s a fun challenge to reduce your belongings to the essentials for a while. And, it just makes life easier when you are on the move. An added wrinkle is that we are packing for all four seasons – from full summer in Hawaii and Massachusetts to ski season in Queenstown. Lots of layering. Honestly, the hardest part though for Ali is leaving her books behind! E-books only for the summer.

We hope that you can join us for the ride. Ali and I are so grateful for all of your love and support.