A Travellerspoint blog

Melbourne - and meeting a celebrity!

A week off from work was the chance to tick off Melbourne on my list of places to see in Oz

sunny 19 °C

You have to tick off the big cities of Australia, so no visit would be complete without seeing beautiful Melbourne.
I can see why my cousins moved there and why so many English people up sticks and make it their home. The parks are very "English" but with the bonus of nicer weather and stunning scenery along stretches of coast which would embarrass the likes of Blackpool and Scarborough.
So when I had a week off work at Easter (I know, I'm very lapse at updating this blog lately), I could resist a few days in Victoria - taking in Melbourne City and seeing the beautiful Great Ocean Road.
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One of the highlights of the trip was the Neighbours Tour - a must do if you're a fan now, or you were when you were a jobless bum who watched daytime television all day while supposedly studying at university.
A trip to the Neighbours set and meeting one of its stars is the Mecca of the television world. Well, if you’re in Melbourne it is anyway.
Our tour started when about 20 enthusiastic fans of the soap, which celebrates 30 years this year, crammed into the mini bus emblazoned with pictures of the set and installed with a television on which to watch the beloved cast.
The first stop was the studios themselves, where even if you’re not the diehard fan most people on the tour are and you only went out of curiosity and to say you’d “done it”, you can’t help but strike a pose in front of the Erinsborough sign. (Fun fact – Erinsborough is a loose anagram of Neighbours.)
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Next the bus takes you round to some of the sets where you can pose for pictures, including the Antiques store, Grease Monkeys Diner, Fitzgerald Motors, Dial-a-Kyle and of course Erinsborough High.
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Our tour guide for the day was Jerry and he helped me get swept up in the excitement of the visit, reciting fun trivia about the set and cast – such as the fact 28,000 people have worked on the show in its 30-year history.
After our drive around the sets and taking it in turns to pose in front of the shop windows, it was time to see the famous street itself.
Tucked away down a little family estate near the studio are the houses of Harold Bishop, Karl Kennedy and friends.
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The film crew and cast are only there one day a week, as the rest of the time it is the same as any other street with real people living there.
As the cul-de-sac isn’t really called Ramsey Street, Jerry produces a street sign we can carry round and pose with in front of the various famous houses. Any inhibitions about feeling like a geeky tourist are lost when you join in with everyone else on the tour by posing with the sign at various different angles in order to get your money’s worth from the day.
The last part of the three-hour day is the definitive highlight – meeting a star from the show.
Now at this point I have to confess I haven’t watched Neighbours in a while, so I was a little worried I wouldn’t actually recognise the cast member.
But I shouldn’t have worried, as Jerry announced on our way to St Kilda – a beautiful seaside suburb of Melbourne – that we were going to meet Alan Fletcher aka Dr Karl Kennedy.
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I couldn’t help but give a little squeal when I found out who we would be meeting and my excitement was definitely not met with disappointment.
“Fletchy” really is the nicest person you could possibly meet and spent ages posing for photographs and signing postcards for fans to take home and treasure.
He answered questions, spoke about what it was like to star in the soap for so long and spoke about his music career.
This is a brilliant tour for anyone, even if you’re not a regular viewer of the show, and you’ll come away with lasting memories and a story to tell.
Which basically sums up Melbourne in a nutshell.
I was lucky enough to spend five days in the area and packed in some wonderful tours and sightseeing expeditions of the city.
I photographed graffiti at the famous Hosier Lane, bought souvenirs at Queen Victoria Market, saw penguins as the sun set over St Kilda Pier, browsed antiques in Williamstown, sipped chardonnay while watching street entertainers on the Southbank and, of course, saw the 12 Apostles and the Great Ocean Road.
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The Great Ocean Road is another Aussie highlight not to be missed if you’re in Victoria – the state where Melbourne is located – as it is not only a chance to see the 12 Apostles, London Bridge and climb The Grampians, but you can also spot wild koalas.
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Now, I’ve been in Australia almost ten months, but I’m ashamed to say I’d never seen a koala in the wild until this trip.
Victoria has so many spectacular things to see and do and I know I could have done so much more, despite the fact I didn’t stop moving for five days.
A trip to Melbourne and the surround is one of those holidays where you’ll feel like you need another holiday to recover, as there is so much to pack in, but that is the best part.
It is a city where you’ll never be bored and you’ll come away with souvenir boomerangs and lasting memories.
You definitely won’t be disappointed.
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Posted by emmaabroad 00:06 Archived in Australia Tagged melbourne ocean australia great road st graffiti penguins koalas kilda neighbours neighbourstour hozier Comments (1)

Western Australia- Review

Perth, Rottnest Island and Fremantle

sunny 28 °C

Okay, so this review was written a little while ago, but I've just had the PDF back to confirm it was published in the Hull Daily Mail in East Yorkshire, England.

Enjoy....

SYDNEY Opera House and the Great Barrier Reef may hog most of Australia’s limelight, but travellers who want to see more of what the country has to offer head west.

large_01-Fay_Bar.._background.jpg Perth as seen from King's Park

The east coast may boast the delights of Surfer’s Paradise, a large expanse of coral in which to discover some of the most beautiful underwater worlds known on earth and Sydney’s charm and nightlife, but the west coast is one of the lesser known tourist destinations of the southern hemisphere.

Heading west to Perth, my travel companion Fay and I touched down at the airport and looked out upon blue skies and the most greenery we’d seen in the entire expanse of Australia – we honestly thought we’d returned home.
While Sydney has the hustle and bustle and Darwin, in the north, has the heat and crocodiles, Perth is the laidback sister city many Europeans miss out.

Much to their disadvantage.

The beautiful city sits on Swan River and has several enchanting beaches to choose from, including Scarborough, which could not be more different than its namesake in the UK, and Cottesloe, where families like to unwind on near-white sands.

Perth, like most of Australia, is a relative youngster compared to some of England’s cities and was named by Captain James Stirling in 1829 after Perth in Scotland.

However, before European settlers migrated Down Under, the Swan River Colony was home to the indigenous Noongar people and much of the Aborigine artwork is still visible along the waterway.

A little known Perth treat is Heirisson Island, where visitors can get up close to wild kangaroos. I spent a happy afternoon sat among them and got the traditional “kangaroo selfie” picture.

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Down the road from Perth, or a scenic train journey if you prefer, is Fremantle. Here you can delight the children with a daytime tour around the prison, or scare yourself silly on the adult-only night tour.

I chose to do both and enjoyed them in equal measure. Without wanting to spoil the surprise, you certainly need your wits about you for the night tour – a few hidden gems are added as secret extras you miss out on with the daytime tours.

180_07-Fremant..and_Rachael.jpg On the night tour at Fremantle Prison

However both include the history of the prison, which closed in 1991, and spectacular displays of the cell artwork. When the staff running the prison were told it was going to be closed and the inmates moved, guards allowed the convicts to paint and draw on their cell walls.

04-Cell_ar..ntle_Prison.jpg Cell artwork at Fremantle Prison

Clearly some of the inmates’ talents were wasted on crime, as one cell in particular has some of the most stunning artwork outside of an art gallery.

But I’ve saved the best for last, as one of my all-time favourite places to see is Rottnest Island.

21-Parakee..nest_island.jpg Parakeet Bay, Rottnest Island

At just 19 square kilometres, the tiny island has managed to pack in picturesque scenery, paradise-like beaches and oodles of wildlife.

The first thing that will greet you off the boat, which departs from Fremantle or Perth, will be a little friendly creature called a quokka.

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This furry cutie can only be find on Rottnest and looks like a cross between a kangaroo and a hamster. Unafraid of humans, they’ll happily hop over to you for a cuddle and pose for pictures. Their mouths naturally form into a grin, earning them the title of “happiest animal in the world”.
The best way to see Rottnest is by bicycle, as no cars are allowed on the island.

I chose to just visit for the day, and have regretted it ever since, as I would have happily spent an entire week there – snorkelling off the many beaches, photographing quokkas, and slowing my bike for snakes and geckos.

My German friend Christoph and I spent the morning at Parakeet Bay and went out into the sea to snorkel and try to spot some of the 135 species of tropical fish which call the area home.

23-Parakee..Emma_Wright.jpg Christoph and I snorkelling Parakeet Bay

In the afternoon we took to our bikes and saw salt lakes, large black geckos, snakes and, of course, more quokkas.

We called in at the Kingstown Barracks and posed for pictures at the Army Jetty. The weather remained perfect all day, although in the peak sun of the afternoon it did become a little too hot for cycling.

180_15-Emma_an..and_by_bike.jpg CYCLE BUDDIES

While travelling in Australia, I’ve been lucky enough to see sunrise and sunset at Ayer’s Rock, take surf lessons at Byron Bay, scuba dive with Nemo at the Great Barrier Reef and watch jumping crocodiles in the Northern Territory.

But the absolutely highlight for me has to be Rottnest Island.

I wouldn’t have known it even existed if it hadn’t been for a friend finding quokkas online. And I am eternally grateful she did.

I know the pictures on this page will never do justice to its unique wildlife and breath-taking views. So you’ll just have to go there yourself instead.

Holiday snapshot: Taking in the sights, sounds and smells of Western Australia. Cue sandy beaches, unique wildlife and plenty to see.
Holiday highlight: Cycling round Rottnest Island and getting up close with a quokka.
Must see: Heirisson Island’s kangaroos. Although they’re wild and cannot be touched, they allow you to get up close to grab plenty of photographs.
Climate check: At this time of year, expect anything between 20 and 40 degrees. September through to December is a more comfortable 25-30 degrees.
Return visit? Give me a one-way ticket to Rottnest Island any day. Western Australia will always have a special place in my heart.
Contact: www.perth.wa.gov.au or www.westernaustralia.com

Posted by emmaabroad 17:41 Archived in Australia Tagged animals travel australia best friends prison lizard western perth gecko rottnest quokka review fremantle photographs Comments (0)

Visa News!!!!

So excited for planning the next part of my adventure....

sunny 20 °C

So, this week I had some exciting news - my VISA for New Zealand has been accepted!

08-Heirisson_Island.jpg Me and a friendly kangaroo in Perth

Having spoken to many travellers in Australia, most who have been to NZ say they prefer it to Oz. I'm also not quite ready to return to "normal" life yet, so decided to look at New Zealand for the next leg of my adventure.

Was so happy when I got the email confirmation as it meant
A- I could stop panicking about what to do next
B- I could start booking things and get the ball rolling
C- Breaking the news I wouldn't be returning home yet and upsetting the family wasn't a waste of emotions.

17-Emma_Wr..with_quokka.jpg Cuddling a quokka on Rottnest Island

However, things will be a little different in NZ as I plan to work straight away, rather than travel a bit first like I did in Oz. The reason for this is simple - I have little to no money! You see, in the time since I last wrote, I haven't won the lottery or married a millionaire (which were obviously the preferred options) so I have to actually raise money myself.

And it's adding up fast!

Just put two flights on the credit card (ouch) and now need to sort some accommodation for the time I'm in NZ.

You see, being an old lady of 30, I need to enter the country before I turn 31. So I'm off there for a few days in April to see the sights and get my bearings ready for the big move in July when my Oz visa runs out.

Complicated? You have no idea.

My brain has actually been hurting a LOT these past few weeks thanks to a really confusing immigration website and the ticking timebomb that is my birthday.

IMG_3.jpg The family....surely they'll understand why I'm not returning just yet. :)

Deciding to go travelling when you're 30 sounds all poetic (it being a round number and all) but it is a (sorry mum) F**KING NIGHTMARE when you're trying to convince governments you're still young and fit enough to work in their country and not drop dead while doing it. I feel like writing a strongly-worded email to the people who consider 31 "too old", but have a feeling my visa may swiftly disappear if I do.

Delaying the inevitable return to the cold and job-low UK is filling me with dread already, so why not delay a few months longer to see some more of the world?

It's funny. I used to incredibly involved in my career. And I am certainly sure I will be again. But for now, the most important things in life are enjoying everything the world has to offer and not to regret anything I do. Not getting a regular wage or knowing where you'll be in a few weeks, or even tonight, can be a bit daunting, but it is the best adventure I've ever been on.

IMG_7949.jpg Lewis, Pippa and I enjoying a barbecue in the park

Who else can say they've done all the things I have in the last eight months? (Yep - it is actually 8 months today since I left the UK).

So proud to have done surfing in Byron Bay, scuba dived the Great Barrier Reef, cuddled quokkas on Rottnest Island, viewed jumping crocodiles in Darwin and walked across the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. And who knows what adventures I'll have in NZ? Glowworms, kayaking, scuba diving, hot springs and maybe even skydiving await.

Can't wait to set up my next "New Zealand" section of the blog.

Whoop whoop! x

90_IMG_7974.jpg Christine Morris and I messing about at Sydney Opera House

Posted by emmaabroad 17:03 Archived in Australia Tagged sydney auckland travel great visa crocodiles reef byron barrier quokkas Comments (0)

Looking after little ones - Au Pair Life

No office job for me!

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So after a hectic Christmas and New Year it was time to get on the job hunt again and earn some much-needed dosh.

After scouring the internet for the usual backpacker jobs and realising they all made me want to kill myself, I decided to go for something a bit different and applied for some au pair jobs.

Well - it has been an amazing learning curve and a true experience to remember. Firstly, I'm now getting to experience Australian life in the truest sense of the word by actually living with Australians.

For privacy reasons, I won't name the family, but I'll say I am looking after a five-year-old boy and two-year-old girl and it is the most rewarding thing ever.

The hours are perfect for me as I now have ample time to write during the day. I have weekends off to see my fantastic friends and I've made a new au pair friend too who is from France.

Looking after little ones means I have now re-remembered all the old nursery rhymes, learned some new ones and have "craft for kids" saved as one of my favourite searches on Google.

So far we've made a Great Barrier Reef ocean scene with moving parts, Chinese lanterns, dice, board games, a house, car and street for it to drive down. Oh, and we've also made a mess.

I now automatically pack snacks in my bag in case we go to the park, know which healthy foods the kids will love and which ones they'll scowl at me for for even considering placing on their plate and where the best places to play I SPY are.

My friend Danny wrote to ask how I was getting on the other day and my message went something like this "I've just taken the kids to school, hoovered the house and now going to exercise before seeing my au pair friend. Then doing the school run in reverse again." He thought I'd leap several years into the future!

Working with kids not only gives you the ability to revert back to being a child yourself (who doesn't like playing shop and colouring in?) but also reminds you just how old you've become (my ass doesn't quite fit the swings anymore and my energy levels begin to slow waaaaaay before theirs does).

I'm having so much fun and loving doing something I've never done before. Although I've done babysitting etc in the past, this is definitely more full-on and it's completely different looking after kids you're not related to.

I also live in a beautiful house, the standard of which I'll never be able to afford myself. I get to swim in the pool or enjoy the beach during the day, pop to the shops, or just write on my laptop when I have my hours off during school times.

This also means I get to write because I enjoy doing it, not because it is part of my job.

Totally loving life and being on a different path I thought I'd never explore.

This week has been all about getting ready for the next adventure too. But I don't want to curse myself by revealing too much too soon. So I'll save that blog for when everything is finalised.

Check ya later folks! xxxx

Posted by emmaabroad 17:34 Archived in Australia Tagged children australia friends au pair Comments (1)

Things they never tell you before you go travelling in Oz

Some of these I wish I'd known beforehand, others were just stuff you had to see for yourself

sunny 28 °C

Australia is big. Like REALLY big.
When you come to Australia you inevitably see the postcard of all of Europe fit onto the top of the Australian map. And according to Google, Australia is nearly three million square miles (2,941,299 sq mi or 7,617,930 km sq) of beach, dessert, rainforest, farmland, mountain, valley, city and outback. But even quoting the figures doesn't really do it justice. It's like, well big.
For example, Newcastle is practically next door to Sydney on the map. But it takes about three hours by train and just over two-and-a-half hours by car. That's not next door! That's Doncaster to Bristol on a day where no-one has driven into the back of a lorry on the M5.
When you have been here a while and chat to newbies, you'll find yourself saying things like "Oh, it's not far away, just a ten hour bus journey".
Never again will my commute to see my brother in London or a trip to Scotland for a long weekend seem long and arduous.
England is tiny. Australia is huge. Fact.

Alcohol - the most elusive drink in the country.
No offence Aussies, but I thought you all supped beer by the barbecue all weekend? We associate you with Fosters and alcohol and getting drunk. So why have you made it so bloody difficult to buy beer?
Firstly, you don't serve alcohol in supermarkets. (erm.....why?) We love picking out a tender piece of sirloin and then finding the perfect red to complement the meal. Or, you know, shoving some Doritoes in the basket then seeing what vodka cocktails are on offer.
Secondly, when we do find said "bottle shop" and purchase afore mentioned goods, why are we then presented it in a brown paper bag without handles? Not only is this awkward to carry, I feel like some sort of hobo with a dirty secret who is heading outside to swig from my bag on a park bench. Are you trying to make me feel bad on purpose?
And lastly, nightclubs. My God, you have to be a mathematical genius to get in. You have to recount the night's consumption before you go in (by the way, "a couple of wines" won't do it. They want sizes and exact figures) and possibly even do some sort of balancing test which would be pretty much impossible sober, let alone after 3.5 pints of beer over a four hour period. Officer. You also usually need two forms of ID. I don't even think my own mother holds this much personal information about me.

Hostels - the best places in the world, and the worst.
I stayed in one for three months in Perth. It housed 140 people when full, which is actually pretty small for a hostel. I met the most amazing people there and I really hope some of them will remain friends for life. We had our little family. I couldn't walk anywhere without bumping into someone I knew. If I went in the lounge, they'd be ten different options of people I could sit with. If I walked into the bedroom, someone would be there to chat to about my day. I loved Perth and the people who really made it a special place for me.
On the flip side, there was one horrendous night in Darwin where I would have happily performed a savage attack on the owners if I'd been given the chance. If I'd thought I could get away with feeding their dead corpses to crocs and blaming nature's own fun form of Darwinism on their deaths, I would have happily done it.

You will hear sex. And probably not your own.
Speaking of nightmare stays in hostels, no trip around Australia would be complete without one romantic evening hearing the loving whisper of a new-found partner tenderly moaning encouragement, ooohing and making all the right noises that tells a girl she is doing it right.
Unfortunately, if you're like me, the Romeo in question isn't whispering in YOUR ear, but that of the slut in the bed below you.
And when you're right above them in a bunk bed, not only do you get nauseous from the sea-sickness of the swaying bed, the moaning, groaning and what can only be described as "wet noises" will be 100 times louder than it would have been in any other part of the room because you are right above them.
Now guys may elbow each other, wink and say "waaaaay, free porn" but it isn't.
I felt violated, knackered, sick and I think at one point a little tear escaped as I questioned why I gave up a full-time, well-paid job and comfy double bed in a room I occupied ALONE, to listen to some slag and her slaggy one night stand having slaggy sex in a room with eight other people.
I curse the people who can sleep through it. I really do. Slag.

Other people's night-time habits are weird.
I spent three months sleeping in a room with a guy who spoke Swedish in his sleep. (He was from Sweden, so the fact it was Swedish wasn't that random). He did it almost every night for 90 days, then one day said something in English. I couldn't get back to sleep after that. What if he suddenly revealed something juicy?
A friend had a dorm mate who liked to sleep with the door open to get a draft. Unfortunately, he didn't appreciate the fact there were nine other people in the room who were all shivering and praying they didn't get robbed.
There will also be people in your room who get up for work at 5am and others who currently aren't working and therefore get in from the club at 4am. You will wake up with all of them for the first three months of travelling. After that, you'll be so tired you'd sleep on a bed of nails next to train line in order to get some kip.
I once awoke at 3am to the person above me making a "nom nom nom" noise followed by the "piiiist" of a fizzy drinks bottle being opened. She was snacking on cookies and drinking diet coke. Weirdo.

You're no longer an adult, you're a kid again.
In some ways this is awesome. For example, not having a job for four months was like summer holidays at school where you can just play outside all day, make new friends and generally enjoy everything around you. I've seen jumping crocs, laid on the most beautiful beaches in the world, screamed my head off on thrilling rollercoasters, drank and danced until the sun came up, cuddled a koala, climbed King's Canyon, canoed down rivers, met creatures that live nowhere else in the world and tasted amazing fruits and fish.
However, every time I enter a new hostel, I feel like a kid again for all the wrong reasons. Having to break the ice with room buddies, figuring out which group you fit into in the hostel, being told to make your bed (a hotel it ain't, you get presented with sheets on arrival. Similar to that scene in Shawshank Redemption when Andy first arrives at prison. Luckily I didn't get flea powder thrown in my face too) and heading down to breakfast at a set time, because if you don't, the free jam and cups of tea have all gone.

Random weird stuff
These don't really go into any category, but these are things I've listed in my notes as they've cropped up. And they're just weird.

  • You can get your dog and car washed at the same place. Many of them are sister businesses where you pop your pooch in one end and your car in the other. But who wants a wet dog on newly valeted car seats? I don't get it.
  • Bottle shops. Why make alcoholism difficult? See above.
  • There is no such thing as a 1 cent or 2 cent coin. So basically, if you're poor like me, you choose to pay on either card or do cash, depending on which works out best. For example, a product for $6.99 will be $6.99 on card and $7 in cash. However, if your shopping comes to $7.82, pay cash. They round it down.

Cha-ching 2 cents. In your face corporate chain.

  • Saying "mate" to girls. You make us sound like butch labourers.

Please feel free to add your own observations in the comments below. These are just a few of mine. I'm sure I'll add to them in the next six months.

Adios!

Posted by emmaabroad 16:59 Archived in Australia Tagged beaches sydney australia outback hostels friends darwin travelling tips perth blogs Comments (2)

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