Sunday, 18 May 2014

The 39(000000000000) Steps

Last weekend we had another lovely trip to the Blue Mountains - this time with friends! Our friend Sophie was visiting from Perth, so Jan, Kym, Michael, Gina, Sophie and I monopolised a room at a lovely youth hostel (hah, can you believe they let ME into a "youth" hostel?!) for a night, and spent the Saturday and Sunday out in the great fresh mountain air. Once again the weather came up trumps (I still have my pessimistic British mindset when it comes to weather - someone said it would be chillier in the Blue Mountains than in Sydney so I went armed with mittens, hats, winter coats and scarves, only to end up walking around in my vest top).

So Kym, Michael, Jan and I set off early on Saturday morning (Sophie and Gina were to join us later) and drove the couple of hours to a small village called Leura. Here it was gorgeously sunny, with that autumnal nip in the air that is just perfect. We parked up and went for a large breakfast in a little cafe, then wandered around the artisan street market they had on. It is one of the cutest country towns we have seen so far - so of course we took no photos whatsoever. Never mind, when you all come and visit, we will definitely be taking you there to coo over all the cutesy shops - including an AWESOME chocolate shop. So you can see it then, okay?

After all the breakfast and market samples and chocolate, it was time to burn some calories, so we went to Katoomba falls and had a wander around all the lovely waterfalls. This was the beginning of the weekend's large amount of steps, the nature of waterfalls being that there is a top and a bottom and it is the duty of the tourist to see both. So down we would go and up we would come, and beautiful it was, and yet we still have no pictures of it. Blame Jan. I do.

We then headed off to our youth hostel (hahaha) and checked in. I argued very strongly for the top bunk (the room was 3 bunk beds) and Jan graciously let me take it. Which is all great until you have to make the damn bed and you end up hanging off the sides by your toes and/or pulling some extremely advanced yoga positions just to tuck the sheet under the mattress. No wonder this is for the youth - I am just not that flexible anymore.

After that I made the fatal mistake of getting under the duvet. BAD MOVE. Now I am warm and comfy and outside looks a bit grey and then we start talking about port and wine. And then Sophie and Gina arrive, all ready for a walk.... NOOOOO!!! We eventually compromised on a half-hour walk followed by a trip to the bottlo (bottlo = bottle shop = off licence = outdoor (if you happened to grow up in Birmingham)). So off we went to look at more waterfalls:

Grey but still beautiful. No, NOT ME, the view - you cheeky so-and-so! 
This walk had rather a lot of steps involved as well, the nature of waterfalls having... well, you know. Half-way round, Jan saw a signpost for another viewing point, which elicited a somewhat shrill response of, "NO! You said 30 minutes then wine!" from myself and a lot of laughter from everyone else.

Rather stiffer of leg, we headed back to town and, in the manner of all proper hikers everywhere, adjourned to the pub for the evening. The rest of the evening is somewhat hazy - although I seem to remember it did involve mulled wine, red wine (cold), pizza and a live band. And of course there are no photos to prove it. Plus, my winning of the top bunk all came to naught - as I fell asleep on Jan's bottom bunk and he had to take the top one. Hrumph.

Next morning I noticed with some concern that my legs were still quite stiff from the steps the day before - and today was the walk of 1,000 steps. No hyperbole that - the Giant Stairway it is called, and giant it indeed is. The stairway is cut into the edge of the cliff (somewhat vertiginously so in places) and descends 1000ft into the Jamison valley. And, boy, did I feel EVERY SINGLE ONE of those steps. I was walking like Mr Soft from those old Trebor ads by the end of it. And that was just the first part of the walk:

To the left, the three rocks are the famous "Three Sisters". In the distance you can kind of see the blue haze that give the "Blue Mountains" their name.
Smiling through the pain - and with the winter jacket I didn't need.
After the many steps of agony, I Mr Soft'ed it along the flat part of the hike, along the valley floor, to the scenic railway that takes you back up to the top again (thank the merciful Lord, because they would have had to leave me behind to become a feral savage if they way out involved any more steps). The term "scenic railway" is slightly misleading, as it's more of a "giant machine dragging you backwards up a steep incline", which is slightly disconcerting, but also quite fun.

In the way of evil consumerism you are deposited straight into the gift shop at the top, where they conveniently neglect to mark the way out, so you are left stumbling around looking at all the cheesy merchandise that weak-willed people will be conned into buying. Fools! Ahem, so, anyway, I bought this:

We then walked back across the the top of the valley to where the car was parked, just in time for a bit of sunshine:

Sunshine schmun-shine - I am British, I WILL wear my rain jacket, even thought the sun is forcing me to squint at the camera.
We then had a well-deserved late lunch, before setting off back to Sydney. All in all, a fantastic weekend - good hikes, good food, excellent company - and only my right buttock still hurts!

Friday, 2 May 2014

An exciting(ly quiet) Easter

After the last few exciting weekends we've had (when I nearly re-named the blog "Altitudinal Adventures because we were off the damn ground so much, or "Alcoholic Adventures", because...well, you know) I am happy to report we had a much more down to earth Easter weekend. It wasn't without its own excitement, though - when I woke up on Easter Sunday, the "Easter bunny" had visited and left the obligatory chocolate eggs around the house for me to find. I suspect I had WAY more fun than is healthy for a 35-year-old adult in trying to find these, especially when I discovered the most valuable, majestic and pleasing of all eggs - A KINDER SURPRISE! I am sure, as a grown-up, I should be expected to say a Faberge egg or something of its ilk, but frankly they don't have toys in, so what's the point of that?!

I was working over most of the weekend, but I had Easter Monday off so we trotted out to the shops again. (On a side note, did anyone else realise Westfield was in fact an international brand of shopping malls?! I got confused when they opened a second in London, but they are all over the place here like a capitalist rash).

The first thing on our list was something we have wanted to buy for, oh, at least three months now and also concerns that good news I've been blathering on about. *Cue drum roll for the announcement of good tidings. Feet thumping or banging the table is acceptable - but don't spill your tea!*. WE ARE UNCLE AND AUNTY!!  Hurray! Due to our little nephew Emil coming much earlier than expected and interrupting his parents' house move, we have waited until everyone was safe and settled in their new house before we sent anything. The new family are all doing well, so it's happy days! Well, happy until Jan rejected out of hand my idea to send Emil a kangaroo costume and make Jan's sister dress him up and send us photos. I mean, come on, that's what babies are there for! So we settled for trying to find a suit with a kangaroo on it instead. And guess what, people?!?! THERE WERE NONE. WE ARE IN AUSTRALIA AND THEY HAVE NO NATIVE ANIMAL-RELATED BABYWEAR. What in the heck is that about? I doggedly dragged Jan around all the baby shops and it was all fluffy bunnies this and giraffes that and toy planes the other. I was singularly unimpressed. I mean just because kangaroos are a pest and given half a chance they will kick you in the chest and claw your face off, is that any reason to omit them from children's clothing? I think not. And double guess what?! NO KOALAS EITHER!!! I just don't know what's wrong with these people. We eventually found a stuffed toy kangaroo, but even that was on the lower shelves of the toy store, tucked away in shame. TUT. Finally we found a souvenir shop full of mainly tacky things, but guess what they also had?!
That's all we wanted, Australia...
A nice alliterative kuddly kangaroo kushion, now winging it's way to Germany...
 Next on the list was a rather contentious item. A previous attempt to buy one ended in me flouncing out of a shop in a supreme strop due to a "communication breakdown" between Jan and I and several pushy shop assistants who insisted on repeatedly asking if we needed help, even though WE JUST TOLD YOU WE ARE FINE, GO AWAAAAAYYYY. Ahem. So this time, we sat down as a mature couple, who can address and work through problems, and laid down the ground rules for what the terms "duvet" and "duvet cover" actually meant. And it worked! We purchased the best duvet set on God's green earth and now, when I am not to be found reclining on the sofa, I am under our new duvet, which has made me the happiest person in the southern hemisphere! (Let's not even get started on the bliss that is the new kitchen bins we found that actually fit in the kitchen! Let's celebrate)!

I have also discovered my new favourite place... Pottery Barn!  We walked around that shop and then tried to put a rental deposit down to see when we could move in, because it's just housey heaven, with twee trinkets and fluffy blankets included. We found a duvet cover for the new duvet, and... wait for it... a clock that looks like a stopwatch! Oh. The. Ecstasy.
My precioussss...
When we wrapped the day up with buying a TV cabinet to replace to cardboard box the TV has been on up until now. I started having palpitations with the joy of it all and Jan had to bring me home. 

Ignore Lara. The big showoff. Look at the shiny shiny cabinet instead...
So now the flat is looking a bit more homey and we are loving it. Since the Easter weekend we have also bought a buffet console sideboard table thing to go in the dining room, but that's not coming until July (because it is hand crafted by blind kangaroos who have devoted their life to carving furniture and the complete destruction of all kangaroo-related childrenswear from the world). We have also bought a SODA STREAM GET-BUSY-WITH-THE-FIZZY machine and another duvet cover which is FLUFFY and.... *thunk*. Sorry. That was me passing out from all the domestic bliss.