Tag Archives: Travel

The one from the states

I’m baaaack! It’s been quite the blog hiatus for me, and I’ve really missed it! The past few weeks have been hectic with lots of travel (both flying and driving) and catching up with friend and family so taking a bit of time to get back in a routine has been a bit of a challenge. See what I mean?

Perth to Auckland Abbys Roads

December 12: Perth to Auckland (via Melbourne)

New Zealand Itinerary Abbys Roads

December 13 – 22: New Zealand travels

The itineraries, activities, and just general catch up on New Zealand deserves its own post – especially for those of you thinking about a trip over there – but in the meantime, here are some shots of our NZ adventure:

A chilly boat trip on the Doubtful Sound

A chilly boat trip on the Doubtful Sound

A teeny NZ library

A teeny NZ library

Paradise, New Zealand

Paradise, New Zealand

From New Zealand, we headed home to the states for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays:

December 22: Sydney to Dallas (onward to Houston) for Christmas (image via Wikipedia)

So much puppy time! And of course, a lovely Christmas with the Simpson side of the family.

Abbys Roads Holidays278

Dash loving on Barr on Christmas Day

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Our wee family on Christmas Eve

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My sister and I at the Nutcracker

Houston was just the beginning of our stateside travels:

December 22 - January 6: Houston to Memphis to Louisville to Charlotte to Durham back to Charlotte and back to Houston (Barr is back in Oz)

December 22 – January 15: Houston to Memphis to Louisville to Charlotte to Durham back to Charlotte and back to Houston…via Chicago, dont ask (and Barr is back in Oz)

From Texas, we headed to Memphis, Tennessee to see Barr’s brother and his wife, as well as some Charlotte friends who recently relocated there as well as some much loved aunt, uncle, and cousin time.

Then it was onward to Louisville, Kentucky to see Barr’s parents and grandmother – as always, it was too short.

We then headed eastward to North Carolina: Charlotte for New Year’s and then Durham for a wedding! It was amazing to be back in the Carolinas and we can’t wait to move back before we know it.

The Johnson cousins and their spouses - Matt was there in spirit :)

The Johnson cousins and their spouses – Matt was there in spirit 🙂

Enjoying a great dinner in Memphis

Enjoying a great dinner in Memphis

Stevie and Chris' lovely wedding in Durham, NC

Stevie and Chris’ lovely wedding in Durham, NC

WFU golf alums - such a great reunion!

WFU golf alums – such a great reunion!

Needless to say, it’s been a whirlwind with not enough time in any one place. And while the flights were long and the drives at times tedious, the trip to New Zealand, the hugs and relaxation with our parents and siblings, and the celebrations and chin wags with friends were all 100% worth it.

Sydney from the Taronga Zoo

Sydney from the Taronga Zoo

So there you have it: 3 weeks in a nutshell! I wish I had more pictures – I think we were just so focused on catching up with everyone that snapping a ton of shots fell a bit by the wayside; however, I did receive a lovely new camera as an early birthday gift, so hopefully Ill make up for lost time – and will of course be back with fun posts, pics and roads. Until next time…

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11 Things You Should Know About the Middle East {Dubai}

Someone passed this link along to Barr, and it gave us both some extreme Dubai flashbacks. I’m still putting together my Dubai vs. Perth Venn Diagram (yes, a Venn Diagram) and these little memes definitely hit close to home…particularly the “Inshallah” (God Willing) one below:

Image via ScoopEmpire

Honestly, anytime you’d order takeaway and ask for a time estimate for delivery, you’d hear “30 minutes, Inshallah“. A cab ride: “It should be about 10 minute drive, Inshallah“. Waiting in a government line: “You’ll be seen today, Inshallah.” A repair man coming to fix something at your flat: “We’ll be there this afternoon, Inshallah.”

You get the idea.

I jest, but ask pretty much anyone, and I think they’ll tell you I actually use Inshallah in my vernacular on a regular basis, so go figure…

These humorous little tidbits are not to say that I don’t miss Dubai – there are plenty of things that I miss big time (our friends, the hot weather, the shopping, the Arabic culture, etc).

Furthermore (and don’t worry, I won’t get too political on this point), I am doubly proud of the role the UAE is playing on a global level with regards to fighting terrorism and specifically ISIS.

So Dubai peeps: thoughts on the link above…and has anyone ever used one of those shattafas in the bathrooms? Alarming! 😉 Happy Monday all and until next time..

The one with Les 7 Cascades

One of the highlights of our Mauritian adventure was definitely the “Les 7 Cascades” hike (“The 7 Waterfalls”). We met an uber fun Irish couple at the hotel who had completed the hike a few days prior and they raved about it; they also recommended using the guide that was praised on TripAdvisor – he wasn’t part of a large company or anything, but rather just had his cell phone number up on TripAdvisor for people to independently book him as a guide for the day.

The reviews for Jay and the hike speak for themselves!

The reviews on TripAdvisor for Jay and the hike speak for themselves!

And let me tell you: Jay was worth the hype (the hike in it of itself was, too!) Les 7 Cascades was exactly that: 7 waterfalls essentially stacked one after the next, all in the middle of a fairly untouched forest in the middle of the island of Mauritius.

Jay, a 4th generation Mauritian with his family originally emigrating from Mumbai, told us he liked to start the hike from a vantage point across the valley from the waterfalls and hike so you could see all the waterfalls at once and get an idea of what you would be trekking.

They're a bit far off, but you can kind of see a few of the "cascades"

They’re a bit far off, but you can kind of see a few of the “cascades”

Another element of the hike with Jay that we really enjoyed was the fact that he took you from the bottom of  les 7 cascades and then you worked your way up to see them from the bottom up, whereas all of the other tour guides/hikers worked from the top down. Jay said that was a fine way to go, but if you started from the bottom (insert Drake song here) and hiked upwards, you could actually see the waterfalls as you went.

The start of the hike was pretty steep and it was drizzling, so when I slipped onto my bum about 15 minutes in, I was a bit worried, but thankfully that was the only “slip up” (and I had a muddy bum to prove it!)

The first of the 7

The first of the 7 cascades

The waterfalls and forest was of course gorgeous, but there were little (but DEEP) pools of fresh water that we could jump in and swim around – the water was chilly, but totally worth it!

A little paddle-around

A little paddle-around

A little climb up into the rocks so we could frolic in the waterfall

A little climb up into the rocks so we could frolic in the waterfall

And all the way through the hike, Jay provided a plethora of information about Mauritius: the Mauritian people, the flora/fauna, how things have changed over the years, and the culture around the island – he was full of fun facts! And of course a great photographer (plus his wife makes you lunch and a snack – amazing authentic Indian food!!)

It was a breathtaking hike with a top notch local guide. We had a great day! Until next time…

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IMG_7882 IMG_7801

 

The one where we celebrated our anniversary in Mauritius

Right around this time last year, Mauritius almost beat out Cape Town as our October Eid trip, and although we have never once regretted our choice to go to South Africa instead, both Barr and I always wistfully thought about the island of Mauritius.

Image via WorldAtlas.com

Armed with some Starwood points (and the celebratory excuse of our wedding anniversary), we decided to take the plunge and book a (direct!) flight from Perth to Mauritius. {The direct flight from Perth thing is a big deal – and all within 8 hours!}

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Mauritius is an independent island republic of about 1.2M people, and boasts an incredible multiethnic, multilingual, and multicultural population: French, Creole and English are the primary languages known and spoken and you see every house of worship on the same city block, which is pretty neat.

Of course tourism plays a big role in Mauritius’ economy, with plenty of serene resorts, crystal clear waters, and year-round temperate weather. It’s also a huge kite-surfing mecca. While we didn’t get an opportunity to learn kite-surfing this time around, that’s one of the next things on our bucket list! There was plenty of beach time, kayaking, hiking, and just general relaxing.

Pardon the photo-heavy post, but the shots tell the story of the trip! 🙂 Until next time…

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The one in Margaret River: Golf, Wine, ‘Roos & Views

We drove down to Margaret River on Friday afternoon, arriving just after sunset.  The trip was broken up into two hotels since we booked a tad late, and Friday night’s accommodation was the Rosewood Guesthouse – a charming B&B right in the village of Margaret River. There were even some other Americans staying there! It’s so rare to find tourists from the USA, given the long flights, but y’all: it’s worth it, trust me. 🙂

Saturday morning, which was Barr’s actual birthday, the birthday boy had his B&B special waffle (much better than any breakfast I could have prepared!), and then embarked on his annual tradition of birthday golf.

Birthday waffles at the Rosewood Guesthouse

Birthday waffles (and cereal, of course!) at the Rosewood Guesthouse – nom nom nom

I met him on the back nine and loved all the kangaroos that lounged around the course – they were everywhere, and we could literally be within five feet of them without them stirring or moving an inch.

This one is like me on the golf course: always in the bunker

This one is like me on the golf course: always in the bunker

Love this shot Barr caught

Love this shot Barr caught – it’s like they posed for him!

After the birthday golf, we headed to some wineries. Given its Mediterrean-esque climate, the Margaret River wine region is known for their Sauvignon Blanc Semillon and Cabernet Sauvignon wines.

Our first stop was Leeuwin Estate – it was really busy there, but the pourer was so congenial and took a lot of time to walk through their different vintages.

Leeuwin Estate tasting room and restaurant

From Leeuwin Estate, we drove back up north to Vasse Felix for lunch. We’d heard their food rivaled their wine, and we weren’t disappointed – one of the best meals I’ve had in Australia so far!

Our view from lunch at Vasse Felix

Our view from lunch at Vasse Felix – the weather was *literally* picture perfect!

Onward from Vasse Felix! Just a few minutes beyond, we made a quick stop at the Cape Lodge. We stayed at this breathtaking boutique hotel when we came down to Margaret River in 2007 (most of the pictures from yesterday’s post were from our time at the hotel). Anyhoo, we thought it would be fun to make a pit stop and reminisce!

Our Cape Lodge pit stop

Our Cape Lodge pit stop

Cape Lodge

Cape Lodge grounds

We then headed to our Saturday night accommodation, which was near Dunsborough: the Pullman Bunker Bay Resort. I don’t know what I was anticipating, but it wasn’t this:

Cape Naturaliste, near Margaret River

Cape Naturaliste, near Margaret River

The hotel was comprised of individual villas, all tucked into the greenery, with partial ocean views. There was even a heated pool which overlooked the water as well. And just a quick walk down from our room was this:

The beach on the Pullman resort

The beach on the Pullman resort

and this:

A lone surfer

A lone surfer

And around the corner from the resort, you got views like this:

I mean..

I mean..

and this:

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Cape Naturaliste, WA

and this:

So many different shades of blue :)

So many different shades of blue as the waves roll in

We really lucked out with the weather and our stays – beautiful all around!

The birthday boy taking it all in

The birthday boy taking it all in

Sunday was our whale watching day – eeek! …Stay tuned. Until next time…

Birthday weekend cuddles

Birthday weekend cuddles – he’s the best

The one about the short but sweet stateside visit

I’m sure y’all think I still live in the states given the number of times I’ve been back to visit, but unlike myself, this was Barr’s first trip back since we moved last September – crazy!! So this was a very long awaited, fun, and therapeutic visit “home”.

Our first leg had us laying over in Sydney for about 7 hours, but thankfully Barr’s excessive travel does have its perks and we got to enjoy the fab Qantas lounge at the airport, complete with a speedy spa treatment in house – oh la la! But first a snooze…

Qantas Lounge in Sydney - hands down the best layover I've ever had

Qantas Lounge in Sydney – hands down the best layover I’ve ever had. And check out the Sydney skyline in the distance

The impetus for this journey was our good friends, Billy and Alex’s, wedding celebrations in Louisville, Kentucky. Thankfully, this is also where Barr is from so we got to have some quality time with his parents as well 🙂 The wedding weekend was an absolute blast {understatement} and our time in the blue grass state went by all too quickly…

Deskins getting down

Deskins getting down – amazing couple, inside and out

The Louisville kids

The Louisville kids (and their significant others)

Smiles all around

Smiles all around

Great day :)

Great day 🙂

Celebrating big!!

Celebrating big!!

After our stop in Kentucky, we flew further east to the mountains of North Carolina to see my parents, grandparents, sister, and of course, DASH! We had the BEST time seeing our furry son, spending time with my side of the family, playing golf (a lot of golf), and playing tourist in Asheville.

Our little family

Our little family

This little buddy <3

This little buddy ❤

Dash and Raffles

Dash and his buddy Raffles

Long lost friends

Long lost friends – look at that high speed tail!

Mummy and me

Mummy and me

Mema, mom, and I on the Asheville Trolley Tour - always a tourist!

Mema, mom, and I on the Asheville Trolley Tour – always a tourist!

Happy 2nd birthday, Dash!

Happy 2nd birthday, Dash!

9 days visiting friends and family back in the USA was short, but oh so sweet. We had had a tough few days in Perth leading up to our trip so the visit was serendipitous timing. That being said, we were so happy to get back to Australia, just in time for the first day of spring – here’s to warmer temps and beach days in our future!! Happy weekend everyone 😀 Until next time…

The one about the re-entry blues

Have you ever returned home from a vacation and felt a little blue? The worst, huh? Well, coming back “home”, which is thousands of miles away from a majority of your friends and family, is doubly challenging, let me tell you. And maybe it’s just {partly} the jet lag talking 😉 Lack of sleep will do that to you, too!

Coming and going can be tough both physically and mentally, but getting back to a routine is key – and as my mother has always sagely told me, “You have to make yourself happy.” 🙂 This is all to say that I am of course happy – just getting back into the swing of things after a fun vacation or trip is always tricky.

So how can you cope with these so called re-entry blues? Here are some of my thoughts..

  • Stay busy! When you’re days are full, you don’t have time to miss family, friends, and hubby (at work) – head to the gym or go for a walk, grab a coffee (or glass of vino) with a friend you haven’t caught up with in awhile, explore your city (I, for instance, want to visit a new (for me) beach here in Perth
  • Unpack, clean, and de-clutter! Take a page out of Karen Simpson’s book and don’t be idle. Barr doesn’t like to unpack until about two weeks after returning from a trip, so I take it upon myself to unpack and reorganize (not such a sacrifice since I’m an organizer at heart). Also, after a few days/weeks away, cleaning up your home can be necessary and therapeutic.
  • Volunteer and count those blessings! Doing something for others can help you really put things in perspective. Sure, I miss my family and friends back in the states/Dubai, but heck, we live in Australia – who am I to complain? (Along those same lines, particularly when I can’t sleep due to jet lag, I remember a song from one of my favorite movies, White Christmas – just “…count your blessings instead of sheep…” That Bing Crosby really knows his stuff.)

  • Develop a new skill! Remember my knitting class? Well, I’m planning to sign up for another – with so many friends having bambinos, I want to make some baby blankies 🙂

So there you have it. Remember that you have to be able to make you happy – returning from a fun trip isn’t always easy, but staying busy is key. Until next time…

 

 

The one about jet lag

We’re back to Perth, and I’m back to blogging! It is a personal goal of mine to keep up the blogging on a regular basis – our long travels (and subsequent visits with friends and family) threw a bit of a wrench into consistent writing, but as we round the corner into spring (southern hemisphere, folks!), I am taking a vow to keep up the good ol’ blogging!

So before I launch into a review in (a few) pictures of our trip to the states, I thought I’d talk about my current state of mind: jet lag. After 38 (isn) hours of air travel and (exactly) a 12 hour time difference, to say we’re a little off on our sleeping patterns would be an understatement. When I fly those long haul flights, I try to drink lots of water and set my watch to the destination time as soon as I board so I can start the acclimation process ASAP, but there’s always an adjustment period. Some of the folks Barr work with do these long haul flights once a month (or more!) – I don’t know how they do it!

And this lovely face was BEFORE all our travel. You don't want to see the after...

And this lovely face was BEFORE all our travel even began. You don’t want to see the after…

It is said that traveling east to west (coming back to Perth from the east coast of the states) is easier on our circadian clock than went to east, and I would tend to agree. That being said, it is also said that for every time zone you cross, it takes that same amount of days (approximately) to recover – per that math, I guess we’ll be back on track in about 2 weeks…yikes!!!

Via MyHouseCallMD.com

So:

  • Staying hydrated
  • Shunning (or at least attempting to shun) naps
  • Moderate exercise
  • A alternating combination of melatonin and caffeine

….are some of my standby tips for battling jet lag…do y’all have any additions? I’m open to ideas, given my 8PM bedtime and 4AM wake up call! 🙂

Hope y’all had fab Labor Day weekends, and until next time…

The one where Perth is the most isolated city in the world

Is it? Well, it depends on the definition you want to use. Certainly a number of folks have quoted Perth as being so (myself and Barr included!) And just FYI, there’s an entire header in the Wikipedia entry dedicated to the top of “Isolation“. 

The nearest city to Perth with a population greater than 100,000 is Adelaide, which is still a whopping 1,300 miles away, not to mention the population of Perth (just shy of 2 million) is greater than all the rest of Western Australia, Northern Territory, and South Australia (west of Adelaide, that is) combined. Here’s a map for reference (I know I just rattled off a lot of Aussie geography…)

That being said, some also may argue that most remote city in the world (with a population in excess of 1 million) is Auckland, New Zealand. In the case of Auckland, the nearest city of comparable size or greater is Sydney, which is 1,348 miles away; however, Perth is a close second (we’re talking by a HAIR) using that same criteria, with Adelaide being 1,307 miles away.

Gives you a bit of perspective on the size of WA (via WestCoastAssist.com)

But this isn’t about Auckland. Back to Perth. Good ol’ Perth is  geographically closer to both  East Timor and Jakarta, Indonesia than Sydney. So for those of you that think the flight to Sydney is just a hop, skip, and a jump away, you are mistaken. (Though if anyone is so inclined to visit Sydney, we Blantons will meet you there!)

That brings me to the other thought with regards to Perth’s isolationism: you get very…I won’t say “comfortable”, but maybe used to…very, very, very long flights. It’s a way of life. I swear, native Perth folk are plane warriors; they’ve been dealing with these long flights (should they want to fly interstate or internationally) for forever. After having lived in Perth, I will never again blink an eye at a flight that is less than 10 hours.

So what is prompting this? Well, we’re off to the states (yes, again – and Barr is coming this time!) for some dear friends’ wedding and some much needed family time, and we are taking the Sydney to Dallas route…and yes, this is the longest flight in the world (by miles traveled) – this is a recent development after the Newark-Singapore route was cancelled last fall. We’ll be flying 8,578 miles non-stop, or around 15.5 hours.

SYD-DFW flight route (via broniesaustralia.com.au)

Ahhh Perth…we love you, you isolated city! Until next time….

The one explaining Dabbawala

No no, dabbawala isnt an Aussie slang word. Dabbawala refers to a delivery person in India – picking up hot lunches from the homes/kitchens of a worker/employee in the late morning and then transporting and delivering said lunchbox to an office, and finally returns the empty lunchbox back to the customer’s home in the afternoon.  Here’s a good visual:

Dabbawala delivery system in Mumbai (via MyDestination)

So what prompted this post, you may ask? Well, I went to see the foreign film, The Lunchbox, earlier today – a sweet, Indian film about the unlikely romance that blossoms as a result of a dabbawala delivery mix up (which as you’ll learn, isn’t all that common.) I won’t spoil the ending or the plot for you; however, if you get the chance, see the movie – so cute! Even if the character in the center of the picture below looks a tad creepy…

The Lunchbox movie poster (via Wikipedia)

Back to the dabbawalas.

This delivery system works so well in India (primarily Mumbai) because office workers in India prefer to eat home-cooked lunches, coupled with the fact that many Indian women (wives, mothers, daughters, sisters) work from the home and can utilize the dabbawala’s service.

The dabbawalas are impressive, yall! I did a bit of research after the movie, and they kept the service up during floods, monsoons, even the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai – there are currently over 5,000 dabbawalas working tirelessly in Mumbai delivering over 200,000 lunch boxes each day!

Love this b&w shot of a dabbawala – so cheery! (via Jwritings.com)

Indeed, the system is so impressive (and fascinating) that professors from Harvard Business School wrote a case study on the process – a quote from a report from NBC News:

So deeply imprinted that the dabbawalas rarely, if ever, make a mistake. Their delivery system has been awarded a six sigma level of efficiency. That means they make around one mistake in every six million deliveries. 

“A hundred things can go wrong along the way — tiffins delivered to the wrong destination, tiffins lost, tiffins broken — but they rarely do,” said Sawant. “Our motto is ‘error is horror.’”

Their delivery system has garnered international fame as a highly specialized trade, attracting Prince Charles and Richard Branson and warranting a case-study at Harvard Business School, visits from global delivery giant FedEx, and a series of documentaries.

Intriguing, right?? If it’s good enough for HBS, Prince Charles, FedEx, and Richard Branson, I’m sold 😉 Not to mention the tiffins (or their snazzy lunchbox containers) are super practical for warmed food – I love the 4-5 stacked compartments!

An example of a tiffin used in the dabbawala delivery service

Umm borderline obsessed with this colorful tiffin! (via Women’s Day)

So I’ll leave yall with a video I found in my googling – it made me cry (pretty easy feat in my case, but I guarantee that even if you’re not a crier – *cough Barr cough* – you’ll smile huge in the last minute or so): the dabbawalas make about the equivalent of $5(USD) a month, working rain or shine – and always on time at that! I love punctuality (*cough Barr cough*) 😉 The Indian head bobble is also prevalent in this clip – love!

Want to read more on the dabbawalas? Here are some of my favorite links that I came across:

Add this to my ever growing list of reasons why I want to visit India. 🙂 Until next time…