A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: AndyGem

The life and times of two pommes

More tales from down under

all seasons in one day 13 °C
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Take a wild guess what we have been up to! I'll give you a clue.... it involves lots of typical touristy things like stroking kangaroos and eating them...obviously not in quick succession. But, I must firstly inform you all that we are no longer tourists of this huge diverse country - Andre has been granted his sponsorship with the sewers, and I have been tagged along too! Yippee! So we have been granted a 4-year visa to stay and play, and for those of you worried we may never return to English shores rest assured we won't be here forever...Andre is missing his BBC News far too much! :)

Here is a quick run down of what we have been up to over the last few weeks:

Xmas in July - While you lot have been enjoying the summer sunshine take pity on us here freezing our butts off in the wind and rain (no sympathy I'm sure). So we had a party to warm up the winter and a Christmas theme seemed suitable. Think oodles of food and gallons of mulled wine - beef and yorkshires, reindeer dip, mince pies, sherry trifle and er.. a bottle of sambuca, very traditional! We even had secret santa which certainly got the guests mingling, and of course I was the angelic pink fairy on the tree.

Footie Legend - With shiney new boots Andre hit the circular pitch for his debut trial of Aussie Rules at our friends work tournament. He certainly made an impact and will go down in the tournament history as the FIRST guy to be given a match ban for 'rough play'. Oops! Adapting from rugby was obviously not as easy as envisaged. My role as a side-line WAG however suited me perfectly, especially while I was dog-sitting little pup Freddie.

Tazzy - Tasmania is Australia's smallest state, it's about the size of Ireland, and in my opinion very reminiscent of the English countryside with rolling green hills, quaint little villages and flourishing wildlife - truly beautiful! We explored the amazing convict architecture at Port Arthur where Andre tried on some leg irons to see what it's like to be married. We patted a grumpy kangaroo, Andre yelped at the swooping birds and we marvelled at the grizzly Tasmanian Devil - he really does exist, and likes to run round in circles like the cartoon!

Surfers Paradise - Re-united with Ricky we took a trip to sunny Sydney to see the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Manly Beach and to watch New Zealand victoriously beat the Aussies in the Tri Nations, hoorah! Andre chose a hostel/prison cell in the heart of the red light district so we got a good glimpse of the seedy side, but what a fab party-place it is! The boys dodged the sharks down at Bondi Beach with their first experience of riding the waves, well, if you can call paddling on your stomach surfing. Sorry boys, I do commend you on your bravery with the cold water!

Other Highlights:

[*]Gawping at naked ladies wrestling in chocolate with members of the audience sponging them down. I was the only one to witness this entertainment, much to the disappointment of a few people.

[*]Banning Andre from the 37% alcohol Australian-brewed Bundeburg Rum. It comes in cans pre-mixed with coke for hard-core fans, eugh!

[*]Sport is certainly on the agenda with a Thursday night squash session and practising our golf swing at the driving range. Andre is determined to prove his worth on the water when he partakes in a rowing course, I have already got him used to the training by shouting at him while in the bath.


So, thats it from us, sorry to waffle on....I have put photos of all these events up so feel free to laugh and comment. I hope you are all well, and please let us know whats been happening in your worlds as we miss you all terribly.

Posted by AndyGem 22:04 Archived in Australia Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

There's a first time for everything!

Seeing the sights with Margaret and Ricky

all seasons in one day 10 °C
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Time is certainly flying isn't it? And while you lot have been enjoying a scorching heat wave we've been wrapping up in thermals and rain macks. But we're not sad about that...oh no! We've had our first set of visitors to entertain and we've brightened the days with trips away and new experiences. This has certainly been a few weeks of 'firsts':

First Kangaroo Sighting - To see these amazing hopping creatures in the wild is certainly a sight. Although you know how they move it is still a bit of surprise when you first see them jumping away like grass hoppers, it's hard to believe they can travel at such speed by bopping up and down. They are timid little things, well, not so little in some cases, and the ones in Victoria are generally grey in colour. We got a very close encounter when one baby roo came across our path in the Yarra Valley...nearly giving Andre a heart attack in the process. The roo was ok though, Andre is still a bit jumpy. :)

First Wine Tasting Extravaganza- After our first drive round the fabulous Yarra Valley wine region Andre and I were hooked on the plentiful flow of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. There are so many wineries to visit and so many delicious wines to taste that even after our third trip we still haven't seen it all (yes, we're hooked). Andre chauffeured Margaret, Ricky and I round last weekend on a grand tour which took us right into the hills and into some of the big estates. The big expanse of land known as the 'Yarra Valley' is in fact so big that different areas specialise in different grapes due to the diverse weather conditions. We'll be connoisseurs before you know it, and hopefully Andre won't just go for the cheapest bottle of plonk from the supermarket next time!

First Big Road Trip - We took a nice long weekend down the scenic Great Ocean Road, which is a coastal route travelling west from the city. There are some amazing sights to see along the way with some of the best surf and beaches in Victoria. The journey is steeped in history, not only was the road built by over 3,000 returned servicemen in remembrance of those who died in WW1, but along the way there are remnants of ship wrecks and historic buildings such as the Cape Otway Lighthouse. One of the highlights has to be the obsure Twelve Apostles - which is false advertising because there aren't 12 - but it is definitely worth seeing these impressive crumbling rocks jutting out of the white water. We also got our first sighting of the cuddly cute Koalas which just sleep in the trees all day and sometimes wake to munch on some leaves. Ahhhh! I want one!

First Aussie Rules Footie Match - It had to be done, we had to get into the AFL (Aussie Football league) someday, and considering Victoria is the main state that plays it/lives it/breathes it/doesn't broadcast anything else but/we thought we'd give it a try. The stadium (MCG, or called simply the "G" by locals) is only a short walk from our flat, and it's very impressive indeed. To show you just how passionate these supporters are they pack this venure out every weekend with over 90,000 fans, and unlike footie at home woman, children, gran, grandad, dog, cat are all welcome. We were a bit perplexed at first because its a strange game and a mixture of everything - the ball is shaped a bit like a rugby ball, they punch the ball like volleyball, dribble like basketball, kick like football, jostle and mark like netball and play outside the lines on a circular pitch like nothing else. We were also puzzled by the number of random people running on the pitch in fluorecent tracksuits, and the large number of referees, and the changing length of time for each quarter. It took me a while to even know who was playing, but there was such a great atmosphere you can't help but get involved, we'll just bring big rugs to cover up next time and a flask of hot tea.

First Drive to Philip Island - Just a short drive away from Melbourne is a little island which harbours an array of surfers beaches, cute wildlife and quirky shops. Philip Island is famous for its Penguin Parade which they have made into a bit of a spectacle, so much so we were put off by the price and decided not to wait out in the cold for 2hours to watch the little black and white birds waddle up the shore. We did see lots more lovely Koala's though in a purpose built sanctury and learnt a bit more about these nocturnal fluffy bears - Fact 1: they are not related to the bear family. Fact 2: they sleep for 20 hours a day. Fact 3: they are marsupians - raise their young in a pouch. Fact 4: they eat eucalyptus. Fact 5: I love them and want one as a pet. Whoever is coming to visit in the summer please expect to be taken to see my fluffy friends, and also pay over the odds for the penguins. :)

So, all is left is to thank Margaret and Ricky for their lovely company and for you to check out the photos. Enjoy the sun while you can.. it won't last long! (ha! i'm just jealous).

Lots of love XX

p.s. Here is a list of new Aussie words we have learnt:

- Ambo's = ambulance
- Salvo's = Salvation Army
- Bogan = chav
- Grog = alcohol
- Manchester = bedding/sheets
- Reef 'n' beef = surf 'n' turf
- Snag = sausage
- Sanger/sammo = sandwich
- Chow tucker = Chinese food
- Chook = chicken

Posted by AndyGem 03:54 Archived in Australia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (2)

Winter is Upon Us

As the temperature drops we decide to try and get even colder!

semi-overcast 9 °C
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Since the last blog we have been settling into the typical Aussie lifestyle rather nicely... regularly eating our favourite kanga bangers, sampling the local Yarra vino, and popping next door to the Crown Casino for a spot of Black Jack. Yup, we're turning into obese, alcoholic gamblers! :) Not really mother, we have also been rather active and healthy aswell, I forced Andre into a long run round the nearby parks last week and in return he forced me to go diving in the freezing 11degree sea yesterday. Brrr! As you can see by the video below I am less than impressed. Diving in cold water is something we had never experienced before and considering I turned purple with the chill I don't think it will be a regular winter occurance. Visibility was pretty poor and although we saw lots of huge starfish, some puffer fish and a baby sting ray it didn't quite warrant the sheer numbing pain to our extremities. What wimps we are eh! In the last week the weather has turned rather nippy but we are reliably informed that this is about as bad as it gets, so it won't be long before we can get into our wet suits again. Maybe!

Despite our visit to the slot machines we have been clawing back our money with our employment earnings. I now have two..yes two...jobs on the go; I am still pleading for tips in the cafe by night and by day I am also smiling sweetly on reception in a law firm. The pay is a bit better and I get a great view of the city from the open plan office on the 36th floor. Andre also tried to supplement his income by doing a bit of grass cutting for a couple in the suburbs...or so he thought! He wasn't quite prepared to be asked to do a multitude of other heavy chores such as landscape gardening, ten tonne lifting, plumbing and electricity. Needless to say 'Handy Andy's' DIY business won't be starting up anytime soon.

While Andre has been swotting up on his home improvement skills I have been mingling with the stars at the Australian Good Food Show. Gordon Ramsay cooked up a bit of controversy with his usual crude comments as I am sure you have heard. He created such a stink that even the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, scorned him as a 'low life'. And we thought the Aussie's had a sense of humour! I also got to see the Master Chef boys in action and get tips from celebrity chef Matt Moran which was a real treat, but probably really boring for everyone else so i'll shut up about food now. I thankfully restrained myself from buying super-duper pans, a portable garden, and other 'essential' kitchen items, those sellers can be quite persuasive though, especially after sampling most of the Hardy's wine range.

As you can imagine our wine tasting knowlegde has been increasing as we recently took a trip out to the Yarra Valley to taste some of the locally produced liquor. Although the grapevines were not out in full force it was still beautiful out on the estates with the Autumnal colours covering the countryside. We stopped at Panton Hill winery for a quick look round and ended up with two bottles of red and a gorgeous aromatic fortefied wine... well, after all the tasting you feel guilty if you don't buy something, and the reds are an investment anyway!

Although we are living in the state of Victoria, which has been dubbed the Swine Flu Central of the Universe, we have not yet been struck down by the piggy sniffles. And please don't let that put you off a trip over here if you were considering it. We just said goodbye to our first visitor who departed unscathed, and we have two more arrivals this week. Bargain hunter Papa found a great flight deal on Trailfinders starting from £399.. 'Cracking Gromit!'.

Anyway, hope all is well at home, enjoy the gorgeous summer sunshine while it lasts...we're only slightly jealous. :)


Posted by AndyGem 04:02 Archived in Australia Tagged living_abroad Comments (1)

"Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours..."

Settling into Melbourne life

all seasons in one day 10 °C
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G’day Pommes! Strewth, we’ve been here a while now...5 weeks to be exact, and I have already adopted the wonderful Aussie twang. Not really, I’d never depart from the Queen’s dialect, although, being English has been a slight limitation for my career prospects and I’m pretty sure most Aussies have an aversion to us as a nation, which is probably sport related. But they still seem to love the Queen, and aside from brushing aside any other history with the UK it’s the Royal Family they cling to and adore...much more so than we do. For those of you unaware it’s the Queen’s birthday on the 8th June, and we all get a day off work to celebrate.... woo hoo! If I remember rightly England doesn’t share this same benefit, very odd. Anyway, for those of you clever enough to note I wrote the word ‘work’, yes, I am also in the world of employment, sort of – I am on trial at a quirky cafe in Fitzroy called Umago, so as long as I don’t scare the customers away with my ‘posh’ accent then we should have some money coming in! About time you say! Well, yes, but I am going to have to pull my socks up if I am going to make my millions doing waitressing here, because tipping is not something of a tradition. It seems if you liked the food and service you don’t tip, and if you loved the food and service you still don’t tip! What an outrage! Don’t worry though, I’ll get them parting with their dollars using my Cheshire Cat smile. :)

Andre’s job is also going well, and he is starting to get into the sewage business, not actually into it obviously, but he does have to go on site and see it. Luckily he has a very dull sense of smell but I brought him a peg for the days he is on site. His sponsorship is still on its way, so when it comes we’ll get a subsidy on our rent, which will be very handy now we are living in a lovely fully furnished flat close to the river Yarra, right in the thick of it. We are 5 minutes walk from Federation Square (or Fed Square as it more commonly called), so there is always something fun and amusing going on like live bands, entertainers and sports screening. The other day it was Buddha’s birthday so there was a celebration in the square with stalls, food, crafts, cooking and a person dressed up as a giant, cuddly Buddha. One of the activities was to write on lotus leaves thoughts of enlightenment and love, and one little kid wrote the most poignant words – ‘Dear Buddha, I hope you are OK’. Ahhhhhhh! There is also a museum which has fabulous aboriginal art and the Aquarium is only 5 minutes away too!

Now Andre has his spanking new Holden Ute (a kind of car/truck thing which everyone seems to own), which he is very proud of, we have been able to venture out and explore the wilderness. Public transport is not the best for getting into the suburbs so having a vehicle is the best way to see the sights. Our first trip was to the Mornington Peninsula with its vast range of wineries and farmland, little villages and beaches to discover. As you venture out of the city there is a wide expanse of greenery harbouring animals and crops, and its nice know this retreat of activities is so close. When I saw the yellow, triangular signs with Kangaroo’s and Koala’s on I thought we were bound to spot some, but no such luck on this outing. We did find this fabulous Maze and Lavender Gardens, where we had to hunt for gnomes and fairies in the trees much to Andre’s delight. Ha! Actually he quickly got fed up of finding these little friends but we still got a lolly for our efforts, yay! (I have to add that a lolly is just a little jelly sweet over here, a tiny bit disappointed to get a jellybaby after all the gnome hunting effort. Hey ho!)

So we are really getting stuck into Aussie life now, and we are even becoming quite partial to succulent kangaroo steak now and again – Luke, I have added a picture as evidence. Indeed, this gamey meat is very lean and good for you, and because Kanga’s eat less grass and excrete less methane they are better for the environment too! We are also catching up on the favourite childhood soup Neighbours, surprisingly some of the old chaps are still going strong – Lou is still behind the bar, Toady is still ugly, Susan and Carl are back together, and Jelly Belly is still a legend! Sad as it may be we are missing UK TV terribly, as the standard of broadcasting here, in our opinion, is a load of rubbish. The only programme I enjoy watching is Australian Masterchef, which is a far cry from the days of Lloyd, but it’s entertaining non-the-less. I am in fact getting into my food at the moment, trying to focus my thoughts on a possible vocation in the field, and although my course on ‘food writing’ got cancelled I have started a blog about increasing my fine food knowledge - which is being trialled by a great chum (Thanks Vivien!). So unless she tells me to stick to waitressing them I will send you a link if you are interested in following my food adventures.

Until next time, I hope you are all well...and we hope to get internet in our new flat soon so we can get back on skype.

Tara for now! XX

Posted by AndyGem 20:30 Archived in Australia Tagged living_abroad Comments (1)

Video Footage - Super Man

Swinging Andrew.. again sorry about the angle, I can't change that

sunny 30 °C
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Posted by AndyGem 22:20 Archived in Laos Tagged bicycle Comments (0)

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