Epic update time….

Tomorrow we head to Spain for five days, and I thought it might be nice to write a blog about our travels. I went back to check when was the last time I updated this site, and my last blog post was OVER SIX MONTHS AGO. Apols. So I thought I’d catch it up before Spain, as quite a few things have happened since then… It’s going to be less words, more pictures. A highlights reel, if you will.

London – the Harry Potter exhibition at the British Library! A two-day conference titled ‘Reformation on the Record’ at The National Archives in Kew. And finally, Keat’s House, Hampstead.

Oh yes, a wee jaunt back to Australia for eight weeks. Christmas, friends, family, new babies, beautiful Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula, Macedon, Adelaide, and surrounding South Australia. The weather, folks. The weather.

And back to bonnie Scotland – more jaunts to the Borders, including St. Mary’s Loch, my first foray to Dumfries & Galloway (Grey Mare’s Tail), the Christmas markets (technically back in 2017), two lots of cat-sitting, Stanza Poetry Festival in St. Andrews, numerous other wee events/festivals/fairs, lovely Cramond beach, and SNOW. Lots of snow.

I am a lucky woman.


JASA Conference (Canberra)

This weekend, I fully embraced my book-nerdness, and went to Canberra for the Jane Austen Society of Australia (JASA) weekend conference titled Emma: 200 Years of Perfection. Mum and Marnie had agreed to come with me, and use the opportunity to see Canberra and catch up with friends while I was diligently absorbing all things Austen. It was nearly as good as our 2014 tri-generational European extravaganza! (See earlier blog posts).

We drove to Canberra in a day, and didn’t even have to leave early! Mum and Marnie picked me up at 9am, we loaded my stuff into the car, and off we went. Apart from a couple of lightning fast coffee/petrol stops and a lunch break in Holbrook, we drove straight along the Hume Hwy for the whole beautiful, sunny day, and arrived at the Rydges Capital Hill hotel in Canberra at 5.30pm.

Holbrook for lunch

I was at the Forrest Suite at 6pm for dinner, having joined a table with the handful of others who I know from the Jane Austen Society of Melbourne. We were joined by some Sydneysiders and enjoyed a three-course meal, discussing all things Austen, before meeting the speakers for the conference.

Ooh, fancy!

Speaking at the event (as well as MC-ing and generally organising), was JASA president Susannah Fullerton, who lectures on many different writers and their lives. I’ve heard Susannah speak many times and she always has something interesting to say. Emma is her favourite novel of all time, so this weekend was a project very close to her heart.

Also joining us were married American professors Sayre N Greenfield and Linda V Troost, who have written extensively on Jane Austen adaptations (among many other things), Canadian professor Barbara K Seeber who has written about the role of nature and animals in Jane Austen’s work, and British professor David Norton, who spent most of his career concentrating on the history and textual importance of the King James Bible before returning to Jane Austen in his ‘retirement’.

It was a good introductory session with lots of questions and laughs, but it was early to bed for most of us afterwards, ready for a full tomorrow. Marnie and Mum had been out gallivanting but we put the heater on, tucked ourselves in, and read our books until we dropped off to sleep.

We were up early, and I have my charming cold that I thought I got rid of last week which made for an interesting night’s sleep. Nevertheless, I was at the conference at 9.30 to collect my conference folder and buy a very small amount of things – I am on a strict budget. (Most of the stuff in the photo I either already had or was complimentary!)

I have already eaten at least one of those cookies.

First session was Barbara Seeber on Jane Austen and animals, describing not only the role of animals in Austen’s work, but also how certain characters are given animal characteristics – it’s not obvious, but the evidence is there! This was followed by morning tea and a chat with new people from all over Australia and New Zealand. Linda Troost and Sayre Greenfield did a joint presentation next on Emma and multimedia, concentrating on the three most recent productions – the 2009 BBC miniseries, the Bollywood adaptation titled Aisha, and the multi-platform web series, Emma Approved. Having seen two out of the three productions discussed, there was plenty of new insights for myself to discover!

David Norton spoke about Mr Knightley and Emma as lovers – a very sweet and swoon-worthy analysis of the timeline of the novel, pinpointing the moments their relationship changed. After lunch, Susannah Fullerton spoke about the locations in Emma, geographically and historically, and the significant details that the locations tell us about the scenes and characters that inhabit them. After question time with the speakers, in which passionate debate took place about the benefits of different Emma adaptations, it was time for another break!

Mum, Marnie, and our Sydney cousin Margi picked me up to drive around Manuka while they decided where they would eat dinner. I chattered and they listened politely, and then we headed back to the hotel for Midsomer Murders before dinner began.

On Saturday nights the conference attendees are invited to dress in Regency attire. I didn’t, and there was only a handful of the 150-ish dinner guests who did, but they looked lovely and received lots of compliments. Apparently at the Jane Austen Society of North America conferences (5-day affairs that have between 600-700 attendees), most people dress up every day and they have pop-up stalls to hire costumes if you don’t have any.

I came back to the hotel room at about 9.30, and finally finished Emma, which I’d been rereading, with a head full of new insights that made it twice as fun. Thankfully, I had a slightly better night’s sleep.

The next morning I was back for more, buying a couple more bits from the stall. I bought a second hand copy of Villette by Charlotte Bronte in a beautiful old binding. I was standing with Marnie and we opened the book and the handwritten name inside was J. Fowler, which was Grandpa’s name. A really special, slightly spooky coincidence!

Sayre Greenfield spoke first this morning, talking about words in Austen and particularly the language in Emma – what do all those pauses and dashes signify? Barbara Seeber spoke about the challenges of teaching Austen, including the often unconsciously gendered readings, where criticism is applied to qualities in one character, but not to the same qualities in a character of the opposite sex.

After morning tea, Linda Troost delivered probably my favourite talk of the conference, which discussed whether Frank Churchill was a good guy or not. She used a close reading of the text to separate what the narrator and what Emma thought Frank was thinking, and what his motives were, contrasted with what he perhaps is actually thinking and what his motives are. For anyone who remembers the scene in Box Hill and his many comments about Jane Fairfax, you would have an idea of how interesting this became. David Norton concluded the conference by speaking about the wonderful, comical, pitiful, brilliant Miss Bates, also touching on what Sayre was analysing about the dashes and pauses in her speech. Miss Bates, according to David Norton, is a lot savvier than we perhaps give her credit for. (And he also threw in a reference to how she was a sort of Austen counterpart to Hagrid in Harry Potter – ten points to David).

And then it was finished! Thank yous were said, and gifts handed out. We went downstairs for one last meal and I sat with yet another group of lovely people. I have felt very welcomed on this conference and made a lot of new friendships. I dashed around at the end to say my goodbyes, and then met Marnie and Mum out in the hotel foyer. We left Canberra at 2.10pm, and I walked in my front door at 9.55pm. And we only stopped briefly for dinner and once for coffee, and didn’t speed! On the way home, we reported on our weekends and reminisced about our European trip. I am a lucky girl indeed to get to travel with my mum and my grandmother, and if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have been able to attend this weekend, so I am exceedingly grateful.

Oh, and today it is one month exactly until Sean and I leave for Japan!

Mini-holiday in Sydney

Okay, so six days isn’t exactly a mini-holiday, but it is compared to the last time I hopped on an aeroplane.


We were up at 5, dragging our sleepy selves into the car and driving to the airport (thank you Sean!) to park in the long-term carpark, which is surprisingly good value when you book ahead. We snarfed down an egg and bacon roll and I dozed most of the flight to Sydney, though I will forever be amazed at the length of the flight. It feels like the blink of an eye compared to getting to Europe, and even Japan.

We took the train from the airport to Padstow and my great-cousin Margi picked us up because she’s wonderful like that. We dropped our stuff at her place, sunscreened up, and took the train into the city. We found an amazing place for lunch near Central Station, and had absolutely enormous sandwiches (mine had apple in it. Delicious, bizarre apple sandwich.)

We wandered up Pitt St to window-shop, stopping in a gorgeous little bookshop called Elizabeth’s Bookshop before heading to the Town Hall. While we were having a look around, we heard some gorgeous music coming from the St Andrew’s Cathedral. We stuck our heads in, and were promptly ushered into a free concert with the NSW Police Band! Let me tell you, the acoustics in that place are truly heavenly. There was a fantastic clarinet soloist and a wonderful vocalist. We were easily the youngest people in the audience, and when we came in this gorgeous little old lady smiled at us, and I saw her close her eyes and tap her feet to ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’. I left afterwards feeling the sort of peace that comes with being immersed in good music and good cheer.

After the concert had finished, we headed across the road to Books Kinokuniya, which is an absolutely enormous bookstore and a place I would like to live in one day. I was terribly restrained over the whole trip. I bought a grand total of two books, and one of them was at the airport, but it was such a pleasure to browse these shelves I had never seen.

By this time, we were ready for the I’m Free Tours walking tour. This is a wonderful tour, the same company that I used to work for in Melbourne, and I wrote a recap of their Sydney tour when I did it last year. This time we had Ross as a tour guide and he was, obviously, wonderful. We met some lovely people on the tour, and finished in beautiful, sunny Circular Quay. We were hot, exhausted, and sunburnt, and climbed back onto the train to Padstow with very sore feet. At Margi’s place we bought Thai takeaway and had a great chat. I was in bed, asleep, by 10pm, like the wild thing I am.




After breakfast Margi drove us to the station again, because she is lovely and could tell our legs were sore after yesterday! Sean treated himself to a hot shave at a barber shop and I walked to the State Library of NSW which is absolutely beautiful (though the La Trobe Reading Room at the SLV is hard to compete with). I did some Xmas shopping at the Library Shop (okay, so I bought a few more books in Sydney than I disclosed earlier, but they were gifts!) and drank a hot chocolate in the cafe, reading, which is pretty much my nirvana.


Sean came and found me after his shave and we went for a walk to find some lunch. We went into a Royal Lounge pub called the Angel Bar which served beautiful sandwiches with a drink for a really decent price and was all dark wood, fuzzy carpet and very old-school decor. We went for a walk through Hyde Park after lunch, but I was getting very hot and bothered, so went to the shops off Pitt St and got my hair chopped off by a nice Italian girl from Verona who layered it nicely.

Afterwards we got the train back to Padstow and went for a swim in Margi’s pool. I have not experienced such hot weather for a long time. However, tempting as it was to sit in the pool all day and night, Day 2 of our trip was actually Sean and myself’s fifth anniversary, and we intended to celebrate it properly. We dressed up (sadly we had failed to bring weather-appropriate clothes but we did our best), and went back into the city for dinner at Ippudo, for the tastiest ramen you ever did taste. We got a table (thankfully), and some pork and chicken buns with our huge bowls of ramen and managed to finish nearly all of it. The staff were lovely, yelling loudly in the kitchen in Japanese and putting on a big show of it, and I really, REALLY hope they open one in Melbourne soon (though Ajisen Ramen is also good).

We headed to Circular Quay for ice-cream and a leisurely walk to the Opera House, stopping to take photos and prevent ice-cream dripping all over ourselves. We headed inside the Opera House Bar to collect our tickets and get a drink, I saw MELINA FREAKING MARCHETTA sitting with a friend. For those of you who don’t know who she is (but should), she is the author of Looking for Alibrandi and many other books, including one of my all-time favourites, On the Jellicoe Road. I can’t think of any living author (except maybe J.K Rowling) who I would like to meet more. I panicked and babbled to Sean about what I should do and if I should say something, and I ended up just approaching her like a creepy stalker and saying something along the lines of “Your books mean so much to me *random gushing and mumbling* can I shake your hand, thank you for writing, I love you”. She smiled politely and thanked me and introduced me to her friend she was sitting with who turned out to be her publisher so I immediately asked to shake her hand as well and then backed away with this crazed look in my eye before I asked her to adopt me or something, and I went back to Sean and my face was bright red and I tried not to cry or faint or anything. Absolute bliss.



On a crazy high (my stomach was in knots of adrenaline and I couldn’t finish my drink), we headed into the Drama Theatre for a performance of Switzerland, by Joanna Murray-Smith. The play is about the writer Patricia Highsmith and a young man who comes to visit her from the publishing house. It was written like one of Highsmith’s thrillers, and Sarah Pierce as Patricia Highsmith was mesmerising. It was such an engaging, brilliant piece of theatre, it even helped me forget about The Marchetta Experience.

We headed to The S.G afterwards, it being one of the places recommended by Ross for good craft beers, and I had a kiwi cocktail and flattened Sean at the Tekken-style arcade games. It was a great little bar, good music that wasn’t too loud, tucked off York St with a great looking menu. Then it was home time, back to Padstow in the incredibly hot night.


I think this day reached about 38 degrees, so it started pretty slowly, with a sleep-in, another swim, and lots of reading. Margi drove us all the way to Bounce Hostel near Central Station to save us from being roasted, and we dropped our luggage off. If you ever come to Sydney, STAY HERE. It was fantastic. We had a private room with a private bathroom, and it was better than plenty of hotels I have stayed at. It has a rooftop lounge where you can meet plenty of wonderful people from around the world, and you can ask housekeeping to make up your room every day with fresh towels and toiletries. It’s not the cheapest place we’ve stayed, but for Sydney and for the service it provides, the price is more than worth it.

We headed back to our awesome sandwich shop from Day 1, but I ended up having chicken banh mi from the Vietnamese place next door which was just as good. Then we got on a bus to Glebe. Glebe is a pretty student-y, Brunswick-y sort of place where I’d been told there are some great book shops. We headed in for iced chais and coffees to Sappho Books, which I could also comfortably live in, and next door to Gleebooks which I will one day make my own. Okay, maybe not, but it made me physically sick with envy that I could not visit these bookstores whenever I wanted.

We were, however, roasting, so we headed back to the hostel to check in properly and generally freshen up a little. After cooling off (our room had aircon, Foxtel, and tea and coffee in a hostel!), we dropped past Frankie’s for drinks and a slice of pizza – a wonderful little underground bar with hundreds of the owner’s family photos pasted all over the walls as decor.

Then we walked up to Cadman’s Cottage, to meet for another I’m Free tour, this one through The Rocks (and a bit shorter, at 1.5 hours instead of 3). Our guide, Danica, was lovely. The tour takes you up through The Rocks with plenty of stories about convicts, protests, and pubs, as well as plenty of beautiful photo opportunities. It’s less walking than the day tour, but is very hilly, so wear good shoes.  We had dinner at what was supposed to be a nice pub, but we were a bit disappointed – though this was the only time on our trip that we were actually let down by our expectations. Then we went back to the hostel to sit on the rooftop bar, where we chatted to a couple from Montreal on their honeymoon (though I ended up early to bed once more!)





After a sleep-in, we headed to the Strand Arcade in search of breakfast. We sat down at a place called the Strand Espresso, which served chai frappes that have now become my favourite thing. We went for a long, meandering walk (the day was much cooler, thankfully), window-shopping up Elizabeth St and across the Royal Botanic Gardens. We nearly got lost in the grounds of Government House, but it was a picturesque trip! We made our way to Circular Quay for coffee and sat in First Fleet Park watching people and ibis alike.





For Sean’s birthday, my parents had bought him a craft beer tour in Sydney, and we met our guide, David, at 2pm. He was friendly and knowledgable, combining his interest in beer with some great information on Australia’s history and how it tied in with the historic pubs we were visiting. A lot of the pubs on the tour we had actually heard about on The Rocks tour last night, but we hadn’t actually been into any of them yet. We visited six pubs – the Fortune of War, the Australian Hotel, the Glenmore Hotel (the best and most affordable view in Sydney), the Lord Nelson, the Hero of Waterloo (with a haunted piano, a creepy history, and an utterly delightful jazz band with a singer who played the saxophone and looked about 85), and the Argyle. The tour is inexpensive, and as a result, the beer is not included in the price of the tour, however they do provide the Coat of Arms pizzas to share from the Australian Hotel, which has kangaroo and emu meat on the pizza. As a lot of you know, I don’t actually drink beer, so it was a cheap day for me! I had a cider and a wine along the way, but was more content to listen to the tour, take photos, and enjoy The Rocks on a less-sweltering day.


Afterwards we went out for more drinks at Phillip’s Foote with some great people we had met on the tour from England and the Netherlands, all of whom were now living in Sydney. Meeting other people has always been one of my favourite parts of traveling and Sydney did not disappoint. We actually had to leave sooner than we’d liked, because we were on our way to dinner with a Swedish girl we had met on the day tour on Wednesday! We had invited Paulina to have dumplings with us and Mel, our friend from Melbourne who is studying in Sydney. We headed to World Square and stuffed ourselves full of dumplings while catching up with Mel, then headed to Yogurberry for frozen yoghurt (not Sean’s favourite thing, but he was outvoted 3 to 1). Then it was back to the hostel. Sean socialised, and I went to bed early and read my book like the Nana I am!


It was another stinking-hot day, so we dressed for the heat, and headed to Circular Quay for a quick, greasy breakfast before jumping on a ferry to Taronga Zoo. It was perfect ferry weather, with beautiful sunshine, lots of excited kids, and sea spray cooling us down. We took the Sky Safari up over the enclosures and I didn’t even get scared. Yay me. We saw heaps of animals, so many that I’m just going to list them cos this blog is getting loooong:

– reptile presentation with black-headed python and blue-tongued lizard
– reptile house with about a million different reptiles (and I actually managed to glimpse all of them, usually they are too well hidden)
– chimpanzees with tiny BABIES clinging to them and coming right up to the windows!
– giraffes
– elephants
– aviaries of birds with beautiful coloured koi fish in the ponds, close enough to touch
– deer
– pygmy hippo
– gibbons
– leaf monkeys
– otters (sleeping! boo!)
– fishing cat (who was a show-off)
– the seal show, with clever seals, and a very loud wailing seal in the actual exhibit
– amazing animatronic dinosaurs
– wombat burrow with bonus hopping-mice
– free-range chickens, ducks, emu and kangaroo (Sean followed the emu around and I ran away from it)
– QUOKKAS! (sleeping! boo!)
– backyard to bush house including beautiful stick insects and spiders
– gorillas were not on show due to “family bonding”
– penguins
– tigers
– lions
– fennec foxes (I really would love one for Xmas, guys)
– tapirs
– meerkats
– the ever-elusive dhole, which is apparently a dog? But we never saw it…
– koalas
– komodo dragons
– corroboree frogs
– the bird show (including clever, well-trained birds such as a barn owl, a brolga, cockatoos, some kind of buzzard that breaks open emu eggs with rocks, and a galah that flew to an audience member, took a gold coin from his hand, and then returned it)





Sufficiently hot and exhausted after a brilliant day, we caught the ferry home, headed back to Bounce for a shower, then back to Frankie’s for more pizza and drinks. We took the bus to Darlinghurst on a quest for Gelato Messina, which seems a tad more organised than the Smith St store because there is less space to fill in the shop. Then back to the hostel for more socialising!


Our last day! We checked out and left our bags at the hostel while we went out for one last Sydney breakfast. We went to the ANZAC War Memorial in Hyde Park, which was just as beautiful as I remember, and was opened exactly 80 years previously, so they had a function going on in one area we couldn’t access. Then we walked back up Macquarie Street to visit the Museum of Australian Currency Notes which is free and contains a surprisingly interesting (to me) exhibition on the history of our currency. I had one last chai frappe at the Strand Espresso before we headed back to the hostel to collect our bags and took the train to the airport. We were home by 7pm that evening, and it felt strange to be back so soon. I loved seeing more of Sydney, having the time to relax between racing around sightseeing, though there are plenty of things that we have saved for our next trip. Hopefully it won’t be too long, but in the meantime, planning is half the fun!

Thanks for reading, by the way. If you got through that whole thing, congratulations!

An unexpected fall into Sydney


Long time readers of my blog (hello, three or four people that you number!) might recall my last dealings with Jetstar, when I went to Japan with family. Due to the 18-hour delay on our flight to Narita, we were each issued with a $100 Jetstar voucher. It was set to expire in September, and I hadn’t given it too much thought, because I figured I wouldn’t have the time to go anywhere. But after receiving my August roster, and noting that I had a spare two days, I thought I’d check it out regardless. $77 later (plus the voucher money), I had plane tickets to Sydney. I didn’t get too excited until I realised it had probably been a good thirteen years since I had been there, and started to realise how much I had forgotten about it. I was able to stay with Margi (Mum’s cousin) and it was so good to catch up with her and see Padstow again.


Dad and Riley drove me to the airport, and as we turned into the carpark, I got an email from Jetstar to say my flight had been cancelled. Ah, Jetstar. Not that it surprised me, but I figured I may as well go inside and talk to someone at the desk. Luckily they were able to fit me onto a flight that only left half an hour later, so we all sat in the food court and waited. Ever since my first European trip, when I was 18, I have simply loved being in airports. I don’t even know why. I think I just associate them with traveling and all the great experiences that go along with traveling. Either way, I get really giddy and excited in airports. I’ve even managed to get over my fear of flying. I mean, no one likes flying (and if you do, you’re weird and I don’t want to talk to you about it), but I’m over that phobic sense of doom that comes from being in the air in a big metal box.


Margi picked me up from Sydney Airport because she’s awesome, and I had the best night’s sleep in one of the comfiest spare beds I’ve ever slept in. Perfection.


I got up early on Tuesday (well, 7.30, but that’s pretty early considering I was on holiday) and walked to the train station. The sun was already warm and delicious and there were no clouds, and I was listening to a Sonya Hartnett audio book and Padstow is gorgeous, and it really was such a gentle and perfect start to the day. It took about fifty minutes from Padstow Station into Town Hall Station, because luckily enough, Sydney Airport is on the same line as Padstow, which is handy for visitors. I bought a hot chocolate and a bacon and egg muffin and sat in this cute little cafe to wait for the walking tour to start (I was way early). The walking tour I went on was run by I’m Free Tours, and most of you will know that I was a guide for this company in Melbourne for about five months this year. Annoyingly, I had to give it up because uni was too demanding of my time, but I wanted to do the Sydney tour, which has been running for four and a half years! My guide, Justine, started the tours with her boyfriend Ross, and was really interested when I told her I had worked with the tours in Melbourne.


We started at the Town Hall, and walked through the Queen Victoria Building. We saw the Pitt St Mall, and Hyde Park, including Raymond the dancing pensioner, made famous in a Tropfest film! Woo! We walked along Macquarie St and saw the old rum hospital and the Hyde Park Barracks Museum, and Sydney’s oldest church, St James. The little cross on top was once the highest point in Sydney….
St. James’ Church – formerly the tallest building in Sydney
We walked down Martin Place, peeking in at the anchorwoman reading the news, and saw the enormous GPO, with the ANZAC cenotaph in front. We saw Sydney’s sweet attempt to compete with Melbourne’s street art/laneway culture – in Angel Place, they’ve suspended a canopy of 110 empty birdcages as a tribute to the many species of birds driven out of their natural habitat by the building of the city. It was quite beautiful. We had a break in Australia Square, with the charming sculpture of the ‘Waiting’ businessman, by Seward Johnson Jr. After our break we kept walking, heading up to Customs House with it’s scale model of Sydney beneath a transparent floor. That was pretty impressive. Customs House also had a number of swastika-like symbols in the foyer, and a sign up explaining why they had chosen to keep them there, despite the very negative Nazi connotations associated with the symbol. The swastika, at some point or other during history, has been appropriated by most major religions and stands for peace and Customs House says it’s important to remember it’s lovely origins, and try and reclaim them.


We headed through the beautiful Circular Quay, past buskers and holiday makers, saw Cadman’s Cottage and walked up through the Rocks. I’m Free Tours also offers a night tour of the Rocks at 6pm (all nights except Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve) that goes into more detail about it’s crazy history full of mystery, murder and mayhem. I had planned to do it, but found myself far too tired, so I’ll save it for my next trip. We did, however, see some parts of Rocks on the normal day tour that were interesting: the only roundabout in Sydney where it would be legal for me to graze my sheep; the Hero of Waterloo pub, famous for getting sailors drunk, waiting for them to pass out, then kidnapping them and forcing them into slave labour on ships; and a view and explanation of the history of Fort Denison. The tour finished at the Overseas Passenger Terminal, with a perfect view of the Opera House. The tour was chock-full of interesting history and trivia about the city, much like the Melbourne tour. It’s such a good way to spend a morning, and includes heaps of useful info about what to do during your stay. It also includes a free map with info on free stuff, cheap eats and attractions, and transport. Most importantly, make sure you TIP. Yes, it’s free, but it is the guide’s job. They make no wage or salary, so they live off their tips. As a former guide, take it from me. TIP DECENTLY.



After I’d finished the tour, I stopped for lunch of roast pumpkin, apple and chestnut winter salad and a cider and I sat outside and basked. I headed to The Rocks Discovery Museum which provides a pretty comprehensive history of the area divided into four ‘eras’ – pre-European colonisation, as a convict settlement, as a port, and the 20th century history. I had a huge chocolate ice-cream and went back to Customs House and lurked around their library trying not to spend all my spare time indoors. By the time I hopped on a train back to Padstow, I was nearly asleep on my feet. I accidentally power-napped when I got home and lay down on the uber-comfy bed, but half an hour later I was up again, and spent the night catching up with Margi and eating pizzas. Bliss!


The next day I let myself sleep in for an hour, but I was still on the train and in the city by 10.30am. After breakfast, I did the Writer’s Walk around Circular Quay, which comprises about 60 plaques set into the ground stretching all the way from the Opera House, round Circular Quay nearly to the Overseas Passenger Terminal on the opposite bank. I think I managed to miss a few plaques (I don’t think I quite reached 60) but I took photos of some and read every word. They encompass both living and deceased writers, who are with Australian or who have visited Australia. For instance, May Gibbs and Banjo Paterson are obviously mentioned, but so are Charles Darwin and Arthur Conan Doyle. It was a real eclectic mix. 
I headed into the Museum of Contemporary Art because it was so close by, but, embarrassingly, I didn’t look at any of the art. Instead, I spent lots of money on presents at the gift shop. I was waiting to start a guided tour, but I was investigating my map of Sydney and thought I’d try the Art Gallery of NSW instead, so I walked from Circular Quay, through The Domain, to the Art Gallery. I stopped for lunch and had a grilled chicken burger with avocado and Swiss cheese and then spent an hour wandering around the European collection at the Art Gallery. It’s handy knowing what I like to look at most – pre-20th century European art – because it means I can be in and out of an art gallery quickly, particularly if I’m pressed for time. The Art Gallery of NSW has some really beautiful sculpture as well.
ANZAC memorial at Hyde Park
I walked from the Art Gallery, back through The Domain and down into Hyde Park and went to the ANZAC memorial. It’s a really solemn place, but strikingly beautiful with a really moving ‘sacrifice’ sculpture in the middle. There’s also a little museum on the bottom floor which is free to look at (as is everything I did today!). My legs felt like someone else’s, so I headed back to Padstow, stopped for an orange juice at a nice cafe near the station, and walked back to Margi’s. Margi really kindly drove me to the airport and I was on a plane, with a stomach full of airport pad thai by 6.30. Sean picked me up in Melbourne and I went home to unpack!

It was a great mini-break, and a wonderful way to rediscover Sydney. I’ll definitely be back soon, but I still maintain that Melbourne is better. I also really enjoyed sightseeing on my own – moving at my own pace, doing only the stuff that really interested me, eating HUGE amounts of food…yeah. Loved it!


Okay, so the more perceptive among you may notice that I am writing and uploading this blog post while I am supposed to be in the air, somewhere between Cairns and Tokyo. The reason I am bending time and space like this, is because I am not actually in the air. SURPRISE! We got up at 3.45 this morning, and Mum drove myself, Dad and Marnie to the airport where we met Margaret. We checked our baggage and bought some breakfast and waved goodbye to Mum and then snoozed on and off on the three hour plane flight to Cairns, which went more or less uneventfully all things considered. When we got to Cairns, we had the smallest of dramas with some nail scissors packed in our checked luggage, but all was resolved within ten minutes. We then spent a pleasant few hours in the terminal, browsing shops and chatting and eating morning tea. We had to be at our gate at 11.35am to board our flight, which was leaving at 12.05. I called Sean and Mum to say a last goodbye because I won’t have my Australian SIM over in Japan.

At 11.35 on the dot, the announcement came over the terminal – our flight was cancelled due to maintenance issues and was delayed until 6am the following morning. An 18 hour delay. I sort of had one of those out-of-body experiences while the announcement was being said. We all sat still and listened, wondering if it was a joke, or some kind of mutual group aural hallucination. Apparently it was not, and we followed an absolutely enormous pack of people down to baggage claim to recollect our bags. Now, we were so organised and efficient this morning, that we were among the first people to check our baggage. We were rewarded for this by being the last people to collect our bags, as everyone else’s luggage was piled on top of ours. During the distribution of baggage, the carousel broke. Twice. About a year later, we made our way back through to where we originally checked in and then proceeded to wait another couple of centuries, at the very back of the line, to find out where we’re staying the night. I could feel pieces of my brain falling away like a wet cake (thank you for the analogy, Black Books), but we eventually got on a mini bus that took us to the Cairns Colonial Club. We queued for a bit longer, before a nice man told us just to go eat something, and then he would bus us to our ACTUAL hotel (which is the Palm Royale Cairns).

It’s hot in Cairns. Hot and sticky and humid and this is weather I did not pack for. So I am currently sitting in the hotel lobby on their wifi without my shoes because all I have are thick socks and walking boots. AND THEY HAVE A BEAUTIFUL TROPICAL POOL HERE AND GUESS WHO DIDN’T PACK BATHERS. Our room is nice though. Dad and Marnie and Margaret have gone into Cairns, but I’m too tired, so I’m going to finish this blog and sit by the pool with my (white, white) legs in the water.

Oh, and we have a 2.45am wake-up call tomorrow. In order to catch the 3.15am bus to the airport, and check-in at 4am. Never mind. Hopefully we’ll all be so steamrollered by exhaustion that we’ll sleep all the way to Narita. It’s nowhere near as bad as it could have been, and I’d much rather be on a safe flight, free of maintenance issues, but by golly it’s not how I pictured starting the holiday. Dad is a superstar and has sorted the hotel and the phones and the friend that we were going to catch up with tomorrow and let them all know. I guess we’re also extremely lucky because we are English speakers. There are a lot of Japanese people stranded, and not all of them have good English skills, and it would be terribly confusing for them. But it’s heartening – not once have I seen a passenger get rude or aggressive to staff. It would be a douchey thing to do, but I somewhat expected it, and it’s not the poor staff’s fault that the plane is broken.

Hopefully, (crossing all appendages), the next time I blog will be from Tokyo!

Our Cairns hotel room


Beautiful pool I can’t swim in!


I’m guess skinny-dipping’s always an option…