Monthly Archives: June 2014

The one with Sydney, Part I

Back to reality, yall! I was ready to sleep in my own bed (and see Barr), but was sad to leave such a fun ten days behind me. I have a slew of pictures, stories, and itinerary/activity ideas for those of you interested in visiting Sydney and/or Adelaide/South Australia wine country. If you are in this part of the world, I recommend both trips! 🙂

So you got a quick sneak peek into our Blanton weekend o’ fun in Sydney, but my next two posts will outline our activities and where we ate (duh) – along with lots of pics (again, duh). So without further ado…

I arrived on Thursday morning (Barr was slated to arrive later in the evening) into Sydney to gorgeous weather. It had been a bit chillier in Perth so the 70F temps were a welcome change! Our hotel was in an area of the city called the Rocks, which is basically one of the more historic areas of Sydney and also is nearby to the Opera House and Harbor Bridge — I really loved the location! Being close to Circular Quay was huge, and being able to see the bridge and Opera House from our hotel was a big plus!

Neighborhood map of Sydney (via Lonely Planet)

Even though I am still on my no sugar plan, I did deviate a bit during my trip – you only live once, right? Multiple folks and guide books recommended Adriano Zumbo’s patisserie and his famous macarons – obviously I was on board, and they didnt disappoint – the flavors are so unique; I limited myself to just one (rudy grapefruit and jasmine flavor), but they all looked amazing 🙂

I walked around the Rocks after my treat to work off the treat, and stumbled onto a great little late lunch spot called the Fine Food Store, where they had plenty of gluten free sandwich (Aussie speak = toasties) options – not to mention some great coffee, which was much needed after my 5AM flight! 

Barr arrived later that evening and we promptly hit the hay as we had an early morning ahead of us: we had a Sydney Fish Market behind the scenes tour bright and early at 6:45AM! I wish I could have taken some more pictures inside the fish market, but during the bidding process and within the actual market with all the seafood, photography is prohibited.

Barr rocking our fluorescent orange tour vest

Barr rocking our fluorescent orange tour vest

But watching the folks bidding upwards of thousands of dollars on large or rare fish was pretty cool! The tour itself was also a treat – our guide walked us down by the auction and through the different crates of exotic (and not so exotic) seafood, teaching us little tidbits about the fishing process, recipes, and other interesting information along the way.

One big crab

One big crab

One of my favorite parts of the tour was watching a chef take a giant tuna, fresh from the auction, carve it up within two minutes, and get to try a small bite of the fresh, raw tuna:

This became...

This became…

THIS! Nom nom nom - freshest sushi I ever did have!

…THIS! Nom nom nom – freshest sushi I ever did have!

After the tour, we grabbed a quick breakfast at Bill’s in Surrey Hills – I wish I had been “that person” and taken pictures of our food, but I was remiss. Suffice it to say that should you ever find yourself in Sydney, run – dont walk to Bill’s!

Bummer that Barr had to go off to work after breakfast, but I had the plan to head to the world famous Taronga Zoo. You can drive to the zoo, but I would recommend taking the ferry. I grabbed the express ferry from Circular Quay straight to the zoo. You can buy a ferry ticket in combination with a zoo ticket – couldnt be easier! Not to mention the views looking back on the city from the water en route to the zoo are breathtaking. The zoo itself is nice enough, but the views from zoo are what make it so special. As you can see:

En route to the Taronga Zoo

En route to the Taronga Zoo via the ferry

The Sydney Opera House from the ferry

The Sydney Opera House from the ferry

Giraffe in the foreground; Sydney in the background

Giraffe in the foreground; Sydney in the background

Sydney

Beautiful Sydney

And of course, some of the animals:

Koala bear, snoozing

Koala, snoozing

Kangaroo, snoozing

Kangaroo, snoozing

Penguin, swimming (just for Mike and Mema!)

Penguin, swimming (just for Mike and Mema!)

Friday was the day of the selfie (Lou - the ellies say HAY!)

Friday was the day of the selfie (Lou – the ellies say HAY!)

More selfies en route back to the city

More selfies en route back to the city – no shame

A friend had said that if you’re in Sydney and can catch a performance at the Sydney Opera House, do it – so we did 🙂

The Sydney Opera House in all her glory

The Sydney Opera House in all her glory

Miraculously enough, it was a performance that I (and even Barr! Bless him – such a trooper) were super excited about: Beethoven’s Emperor (Concerto no. 5). (Side story: growing up, my parents read this super cute story to my sister and I called Beethoven Lives Upstairs; I still remember that book to this day and educated my sweet husband on some of the biographical points of Beethoven’s life from recalling that story). Sadly, I only got one shot of the inside of the performance, but hearing Beethoven performed in the Sydney Opera House is a memory I will cherish forever.

photo 51

Prior to the performance, we grabbed a drink at the Opera Bar, which is adjacent to the opera house. I had done a run earlier in the afternoon by the strip of restaurants/bar, including Opera Bar, and it was packed all day and night. There was a little live band playing some fun music and the cocktails went down a treat. And of course, the view of the opera house and Harbor Bridge were pretty cool!

So there you have it – our first two days in Sydney: pretty packed, and we wouldnt have changed a thing! Stay tuned tomorrow for the final two days of the Sydney trip 🙂 Until next time…

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Sydney Snaps

I’m heading to Adelaide here shortly, but wanted to post some of my favorite IPhone shots from our weekend in Sydney – I’ll go through our little itinerary in a post (ok, probably 2-3 posts) next week. It was a great trip, as you’ll see below 🙂 Until next time…

I'm my mother's daughter - always planning! Though I freely admit it ;)

I’m my mother’s daughter – always planning! Though I freely admit it 😉

70 and gorgeous sunshine - not a bad place to spend winter

70 and gorgeous sunshine – not a bad place to spend winter

Zoo time - the Targona Zoo was a highlight

Zoo time – the Targona Zoo was a highlight

More from the Targona Zoo - so Prince George of Cambridge of me

More from the Targona Zoo – so Prince George of Cambridge of me

A view from the ferry to the zoo - the animals were cool, but the zoo setting is what makes the zoo so special

A view from the ferry to the zoo – the animals were cool, but the zoo setting is what makes the zoo so special

An impromptu night at the Sydney Opera House to see Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 performed - I was in heaven

An impromptu night at the Sydney Opera House to see Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 performed – I was in heaven

A trip to the Sydney Fish Market with a neat little tour

A trip to the Sydney Fish Market with a neat little tour

We ran the pathway trail from Coogee Beach to Bondi - an awesome way to see the coast

We ran the pathway trail from Coogee Beach to Bondi – an awesome way to see the coast

Icebergs

Icebergs in Bondi

A pit stop on our city bike tour with Bonza Bike Tours - highly recommend!

A pit stop on our city bike tour with Bonza Bike Tours – highly recommend!

Iconic Sydney Opera House

Iconic Sydney Opera House

Great way to cap off the weekend: seeing a sorority sister who was also visiting Sydney - the world is small, yall!

Great way to cap off the weekend: seeing a sorority sister who was also visiting Sydney – the world is small, yall!

The one where I learned the term “Perthed”

My friend (currently, yes, this is pretty singular) here in Perth introduced me to a new term the other week: Perthed. Before I explain, let me give you a bit of background.

Via Oh She Glows

Being more of a morning person than a night owl, one of the things that I really struggled with in Dubai was the fact that hardly anything opened before 10-11AM. I mean the earliest coffee shop opened at 8AM – a far cry from the 5AM opening time of the Starbucks back in Charlotte! On the flip side of this, however, was the fact that shops/restaurants stayed open LATE – it wasn’t unusual to have the malls open to midnight (and during religious holidays, sometimes open all night long!)

Fast forward to Perth: people here are definitely morning people – my kind of people! But for every positive, there’s a negative, and in this case, it is that everything – and I mean everything – here in Perth closes early. Malls: closing time 5PM. A restaurant’s kitchen usually is done by 9PM, and if you’re wandering in at 845PM, you’re getting some dirty looks for sure. The little street around the corner from us is bustling in the mornings, but is dead by 830PM. Now of course there are exceptions to this, but for the most part, one will find that this is the norm, especially during the work week.

Not a morning person? You may be in trouble here in Perth…

Back to the term Perthed – you’ve been “Perthed” if you go to the grocery store, a mall, a restaurant, you name it, and it’s closed already. And we’re not talking going at 11PM – we’re talking the grocery store is closing its doors to you promptly at 6PM! Oh you want some delivery or take away at 930PM? Too bad – Perthed big time (this is a true story from my husband).

PERTHED

No complaints here as I now know to make earlier reservations, pop to the grocery in the afternoon, and understand the fact that the people of Perth have mastered the art of day drinking 🙂

Well, I’m off to Sydney tomorrow morning for a long weekend with Barr and then heading to Adelaide in South Australia with a girlfriend  – there’s a great bit of wine country in that part of the country; we’re heading to the Barossa (pronounced Bar-rah-sa – say the “O” like an “A”) Valley (Penfolds, ya dig?!) and the Clare Valley. So any recommendations for Sydney, Adelaide or the Barossa/Clare, please let me know! I’ll definitely try to keep up a few posts (most likely picture heavy – the big girl camera is definitely making these trips!) over the next week or so – fingers crossed for sunny weather. Until next time…

The one about the adventures in the Swan Valley

Happy Monday, party people! I hope yall had great summer weekends (well, autumn in our case) – we went on a little adventure to the Swan Valley, just east of Perth. Here’s a map for a little perspective:

A quick day trip from Perth

A speedy 30 minutes outside of the city center one can find a beautiful little hamlet (actually it’s referred to as a shire) called the Swan Valley, full of gorgeous views and vineyards.

The shire of the Swan Valley

The shire of Swan

 

While not quite at the same magnitude as Western Australia’s wine country, Margaret River, the Swan Valley offers a number of small/intimate wineries, a smattering of microbreweries, and an abundance of local produce stalls.

Houghton Estate

Houghton Estate

So come Sunday, Barr and I decided to drive (in our electric blue Toyota Corolla, I might add) east for a bit of hiking and wine tasting (it’s not quite like Napa insofar that reservations for tastings arent really necessary – we stopped at the “most commercialized” winery, and it felt quite the opposite when you compare it to the Napa Valley). Anyway, I googled around and found a cute little hike called Bell’s Rapids trail – it was an easy 5.5k loop around the Swan River, offering some nice views of the river’s rapids along the way. It was 75 and sunny – doesnt get much better!

The Bell's Rapids of the Swan River

The Bell’s Rapids of the Swan River

Picture perfect day

Picture perfect day

Barr trailblazing!

Barr trailblazing!

A little fairyland

A little fairyland

Fairyland take 2

Fairyland take 2

We didnt see any sheep on the hike, but there were plenty of horses in the area!

2 1

And we werent the only folks making the most of the gorgeous weather and hike – there were a number of people picnicking and playing in the shallows of the river. Love this mild winter/autumn – hopefully it sticks around for a bit longer 🙂

My little adventurer

My little adventurer

photo 22So after our little hike, we stopped at a winery with a large cafe attached – we didnt do much research ahead of time, but figured we couldnt go wrong with the place with the largest sign. Houghton Wines was tucked back from the main drag, but had a huge open space/park where another slew of people (with tons of kids, too!) were enjoying lunch/wine on the lawn, listening to a little 3 person band.

Houghton Wines & Cafe

Houghton Wines & Cafe

The menu had a section for gluten free pizzas, so as soon as I saw that, I was sold 🙂 Wish I had snapped some more shots of the yummy food, but we had worked up an appetite:

The remnants of my prawn and bell pepper pizza

The remnants of my prawn and bell pepper pizza

Houghton Cafe menu offered a great selection of high quality nibbles

Houghton Cafe menu offered a great selection of high quality nibbles

And if you wanted to have some wine with your meal, you could walk up to the little cellar door bar, have some tastes, and order by the bottle or glass – cheers!

Great autumn day

Great autumn day

It was a nice little day trip outside the city – I would definitely recommend the hike, and while I really enjoyed the ambience and food of Houghton, we have since heard that the wineries “off the beaten path” also have cafes and a more extensive selection of wines – a challenge for next time!

And finally, happy (belated) Father’s Day(s) to all you dads out there, and extra special wishes to my dad, father in law, and two wonderful grandfathers – I miss yall more than words in a blog can describe, and am forever blessed to have you in my life!!

Until next time…

3

 

 

Uniquely Australian – Same, Same but Different

How you going?

A different greeting for me, huh? Well that is one that you will hear everywhere in Perth (and Australia – I definitely heard it at the Melbourne and Sydney airports!) A typical Aussie hello.

Now, I do not presume to know everything about Perth/Australia in general – actually, far from it; however, in the short time that I have been here, I have noticed more and more things (restaurants and shops mostly) that look and seem familiar to that which one may find in the states, but upon further inspection, something is…well, uniquely Australian.

I bring you Exhibit A – a picture of a cereal that I am certain many fellow Americans will immediately recognize, but look a little closer…

Rice Bubbles (as taken by a fellow Perth expat)

The Aussie version is a better different than our Yankee version (and can we talk about the fact that bubbles dont snap, crackle, or pop?!?!):

Rice Krispies (via Wikipedia)

Exhibit B: Hungry Jack’s. What does the Aussie restaurant chain logo below remind you of?

Aussie Hungry Jack’s (via Wikipedia)

If you guessed Burger King, you are our winner! Now this one has a bit more history/explanation behind it. I won’t bore you with something you can read about here, but the gist of it is that Hungry Jack’s originally started as an official franchise of the US-based chain of Burger King, but things fell apart (read the Wikipedia page – I’m no lawyer). Interesting fact: Australia is the only country in the world where Burger King operated under a different name.

Via Swaussie.se – click the pic for a story about the case in more layman’s terms

Exhibit C: Target.

Yall, when I first saw the iconic red Target signage here in Perth, I literally almost cried – actually maybe I even teared up a little.

If you’ve ever been to a real Target (and you have a soul/shopper’s heart and/or youve been Target-deprived), youll understand – it was like a piece of home right here in Oz. Imagine my supreme disappointment when I entered the Australian Target and noticed that, while similar upon first glance, there were just things off from the version in which I was accustomed.

Australian Target logo (via Targettrek.com)

vs.

United States Target logo (via Wikipedia)

Similar enough where you’re deceived into thinking they’re the same, but when you look a little closer, it’s just a tad different. What I dont understand is how Australian Target, which is in no way associated with the American counterpart, can get away with this trickery!!

Dont get me wrong, at its most basic, the stores are essentially the same (both sell a wide array of items from clothes to toiletries to home goods, etc), but the level of quality in the products and stores themselves are definitely different.

So there you have it. Three exhibits that hopefully demonstrate some uniquely (oxymoron now that I am thinking about it?!) Australian – similar, but different. Now I am not complaining – it’s nice to have things that remind me of the states here in Perth, and truly, Australia is so cool in that they are so patriotic and unique, probably more so than any place I’ve visited; maybe the fact that the country is so isolated/an island that they’ve really developed (partly out of necessity) there own mark on language, culture, products, food, etc. Given that, I will probably make a mini series on things that are uniquely Australian – there’s no shortage of material! 🙂 Until next time…

The one where I Quit Sugar (!?!)

Yikes, yall. I’m alarmed even typing the title of this post, but no, you arent misreading things: I, Abby Blanton self professed sugar addict, am going to (attempt to) quit sugar. The impetus behind this was a friend of mine, who happened to show me the book, I Quit Sugar, by Sarah Wilson (an Aussie!) Sarah, my friend, and I all deal with some autoimmune issues (in varying degrees of severity – mine is Celiac Disease) – Sarah’s own health issues became so challenging that she decided to rectify the issue by cutting back on sugar. Actually, one of the main premises in her book is “Autoimmune + Sugar = Bad”; sugar can really affect one’s hormones (duh) and this can spell unnecessary discomfort for those with autoimmune disorders (or anyone really!)

Gosh, I really sound like I’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid, huh? Given that, I wont regurgitate the book, but if you’re interested in learning more, check it out or the website I Quit Sugar. 

So, given my new found knowledge, the aforementioned friend and I are embarking on the I Quit Sugar 8 week detox program. In it, you basically are cutting back on sugar (natural and otherwise) for the first week before cutting it out for the remainder of the weeks. At the end of the 2 months, the theory is that you can reintroduce sugars back into your diet, but you wont have those same cravings. Honestly, yall I know I am addicted to sugar because it is day 2, and I have been suffering from withdrawal headaches – bad, right??

I have a feeling this will be me come day 5…. (via psychologytoday.com)

That being said, the recipes, meal plans, and shopping lists that we are sent each week really make things easy and delicious! (And dont worry, you can still have wine, I absolutely checked) 😉 Here’s a look at my first lunch: a homemade veggie bread topped with avocado/feta smash – yum!

photo-28 So wish me luck – I will probably be posting some of my thoughts, recipe/pics, and rants/raves of this experience over the next few weeks. Here’s to a healthier (happier?) Abby! Until next time…

Note: I am not paid to write about I Quit Sugar or the 8 week program. All thoughts are my own. 

100th Post!

Wow! I couldn’t believe it when I posted yesterday and I was on my 99th post. It seems crazy to me that:

  1. I have kept this blog up as long as I have
  2. There are people still reading the blog (!)
  3. That Barr and I have been abroad for almost 10 months
  4. We are now living in Australia, something that wasnt really on the radar when we initially embarked upon this adventure

To all of yall that have read, liked, commented, re-blogged, etc Abby’s Roads, I thank you 🙂 Your comments (either in person or virtually) mean so very much to me. I’ve so enjoyed writing about my experiences, some of them more exciting than others, and to receive such kind feedback is really rewarding.

So how about some stats? WordPress offers a few statistics regarding readership, and while I’m not a slave to the numbers, I do enjoy seeing the patterns.

  • The United States, United Arab Emirates, and Canada are the top three countries from which I get hits (now I just need to up my Australia readers to capture all my former and present home countries!) Now, to my (few) readers in Guam, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan: spread the Abby’s Roads gospel 😉
  • People are inevitably curious (okay, nosy may be a better word – but I’m guilty of it too!) because my top viewed post is back when I posted on what our apartment in Dubai looked like – pictures get people every time!
  • The 2nd most viewed post is one of my personal favorites, and I’m really honored and pleased to say that True Life I’m an Expat Housewife is a popular post as well.
  • One of the stats provided is the search terms folks have used to get to my blog. You have your standard “Abby’s Roads”, “Abby Blanton”, etc, which I would expect; however, I love finding out the random searches people use – some faves include: “eid al adha 2013 similar to old testament”, “bambi learning to walk”, “pecan pie in abu dhabi”, and “abby simpson biltmore wedding”. Whatever gets ya here, yall!

Anywho, I bit of a random post today, but again, thank you for stopping by – it truly makes my day! Until next time…(and have great weekends!!)

Home Sweet Home

The phrase “home is where the heart is” has never been more appropriate than it was the past few weeks, especially upon my return to Perth and Barr last night. I have been a lackluster blogger over the last 3 and a half weeks, but hopefully now that I am no longer on the road (or in the air) I can get back on a regular [blogging] schedule! Thank you to all of my family and friends who made this such a fun few weeks 🙂 And congratulations to the Haverlands and Radants!

Almost 26,000 miles traveled - each one well worth it!

Almost 26,000 miles traveled – each one well worth it!

So after hopping on the red eye from Perth to Melbourne, I flew back to the states to LAX. Quick Los Angeles visit (most of which was a jet lagged blur, I am sad to report), and then off to Charlotte to catch up with friends and do some last minute wedding prep.

Onward (via car this time) to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina for Bill and Sarah Craig’s wedding:

Wedding party + the bride to be!

Wedding party + the bride to be!

Wake crew at the rehearsal dinner

Wake crew at the rehearsal dinner

Sas and Bill are hitched!

Sas and Bill are hitched!

Barr doesnt call me the bag lady for nothin'!

Barr doesnt call me the bag lady for nothin’!

I stuck around in Hilton Head for a few days with my parents and some of their friends, who came in for a couples golf week – a great time to unwind and see/meet some of my parent’s friends:

The ladies at the Salty Dog in Hilton Head

From Hilton Head, the golf crew (all 8 of them) plus me headed just an hour south to Savannah, Georgia for some more golf (them) and relaxation (me):

Out in Savannah, GA

For Memorial Day weekend, the Simpson/Blantons part of the group flew onward to Houston, Texas. My grandparents and sister also came in town for the long weekend 🙂 We caught up with some great friends (old and new) for a Memorial Day BBQ and of course, played with the pups!

Dash, just lounging

Dash, just lounging, being adorable/perfect…the usual

My sister and I  with the dogs, of course!

My sister and I with the dogs, of course!

What do you want, buddy? (Food is absolutely the answer)

What do you want, buddy? (Food is absolutely the answer)

My mom and sister being festive (?) in some hats my Mema made

My mom and sister being festive (?) in some hats my Mema made – beauties, no?

When did he get so big??

When did he get so big??

The Simpson/Christy/Blanton crew at dinner

The Simpson/Christy/Blanton crew at dinner – three generations! 

Did we wear you guys out??

Did we wear you guys out??

After Houston, I flew to Santa Rosa Beach, Florida for the last leg of my trip: Barr’s cousin’s wedding! Kim and Matt’s nuptials were so lovely and their wedding day was such an embodiment of the two of them. And as always, it was great to see my in-laws (this is not a sarcastic comment – I love being with the Blantons! Though Barr was missed by all.) While there was a lot of rain in Santa Rosa Beach that weekend, we managed to have fab weather for the wedding day, and the weekend was a perfect way to cap off the trip to the states:

My mother in law and I

My mother in law and I at Kim and Matt’s rehearsal dinner

The bride and groom (on the right) with their wedding party at the rehearsal dinner (would you look at the view from the restaurant?!?)

The bride and groom (on the right) with their wedding party at the rehearsal dinner (would you look at the view from the restaurant?!?)

The happy bride and groom - their smiles say it all :)

The happy bride and groom – their smiles say it all 🙂

My brother and sister in law

Always a good time with my brother and sister in law

The extended family ready to celebrate Kim and Matt

The extended family ready to celebrate Kim and Matt

My sister in law and I

My sister in law and I

The radiant bride and groom!

The radiant bride and groom!

David and Todd are two peas in a pod :)

David and Todd are two peas in a pod 🙂

Cute Curry and MOB, Carol - both gorgeous inside and out

Cute Curry and MOB, Carol – both gorgeous inside and out

The groom's cake - loved this set up! (Google "Toomer's Corner" for some context)

The groom’s cake – loved this set up! (Google “Toomer’s Corner” for some context)

Thank you for putting up with all these photos (and some of them pretty poor quality at that! The big girl camera did not made it in my luggage this time around) – figured I’d jam everything into one post this time around! Until next time…