Melbourne (pron: mel – bin)

Yep, that’s right.  As soon as we arrived Down Under we were notified that if we are going to “fit in” we better pronounce Melbourne as Melbin.  So we do!  🙂

This was our first trip after getting back from the states. We were SO excited!!

Our first stop: The Qantas Lounge a.k.a. free drinks at the airport.  The absolute BEST way to start a vacation!

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We arrived in Melbourne late on Friday night.  We took an airport shuttle from the airport to the bus station in the Melbourne CBD and could tell just from our walk to our hotel that it was a pretty neat city.  The next day, we woke up to this view:

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It was SO AWESOME!

The majority of the time, we were just our own little tour guides in the city.  We went there not really knowing what we should do so we made it up ourselves!  Sometimes that makes for the best vacations, right?!

The main mode of public transportation in the city is their tram system.

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Some of them were super old, like the first one, but they had really new modern ones too.  My favorites were the older ones.  For some reason I thought they were just really neat!

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This is us on the free tram.  They had a tram that just looped the city.  You can hop on and off as often as you wish so we took it for a ride!

Here are some more random pics from around the city:

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The city was FILLED with these little alleys.  It seemed that every single alleyway between buildings was utilized in some way, either shops, restaurants, street music.  Really neat!

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This is kind of a weird picture but it’s of the Federation Square in the city.  I don’t have a picture of the entire area because it was HUGE!  Tons of steps and chairs were all around this open, bricked area.  There was a big TV that showed movies and commercials and other things going on in the city.  It was really neat and a perfect example of how the city caters to the tourists!

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This is just to the right of the picture above.  Everywhere you looked, there were the cables for the trams and every intersection looked like an electrical fire just waiting to happen!

I feel like it is this way in all the cities we’ve visited in Australia so far, but the architecture is really mixed.  They are old cities so they have the dated architecture which reminds me of some European city but right next to the old building there will be an ultra modern building – all glass and white and bright.  It’s really neat and definitely makes the cities very interesting!

We were told we had to see St. Kilda!  It was about a 45 minute tram ride outside of the city to the coast.  Everyone that told us to go was right!  It was so fun!  I love seeing public beaches and in Australia they all seem so legit! A bunch of adults hanging out with their friends, having a beer and taking in the rays!

We just happened to show up during an air show!

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I think the neatest part of St. Kilda were all the boats out on the water!  It was SO cool – there were hundreds!

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Lunch 🙂

More of the beach…I’m telling you – I love the look of a crowded beach!  And thanks to a nifty Instagram filter you might just mistake me for hanging out on the beach in 1973…

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The next day we woke up to boat races on the river outside of our hotel.

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And since we had taken in the most of what the city had to offer we decided it was the perfect time for both of us to visit our first aquarium!

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I think this little (huge) guy is at the bottom of the Lake of the Ozarks… *gag*

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Yes, those are sharks behind my little honey bun’s head…and now I’ve officially scared myself out of ever diving again. Whoops.

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The sting ray was legitimately the size of a VW Beetle.

Can you tell we were like kids in a candy store at the aquarium?!  It was a blast!

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We ended the day, before catching our flight back to Brissy taking in some of the best sushi in Melbourne!  It was my first experience with a Sushi Train! I know, sounds a bit *ahem* fishy 😉 …but all it is a moving platform. The sushi chef prepares each plate individually and puts them on the moving platform.  Everyone is lined up and when you see something you like you grab it and enjoy! So quick, so easy and not nearly as relaxing as one would think!  Since only one or two of an item come out at once someone might pick it up before it gets to you…yeah, I know.  Stressful and totally worth it!  😉

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A few hours later we boarded our flight back to our ‘home for now’!

Oh, and shout out to Qantas…your free cocktails on all domestic flights during the week is still a real treat!

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Our Engagement Photo Session Down Under

As soon as we got engaged, we knew we wanted to get engagement photos taken in Australia – in the city we lived in when we got engaged!  It only made sense.

So, we got a recommendation from a friend/co-worker of Ben, Lauryn.  She used the photog for her engagement photos and he came highly recommended!  Jack did a great job including our 3rd subject: The City.

I have already posted all of them on Facebook so there is nothing new here. 🙂

Enjoy!

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The Floods (and a Cyclone?!)

Whoa. Yeah, I know.  I just made a mighty announcement that I’ve booked my flight to move HOME and I’m just now blogging for the first time since being back.  SO SORRY!  Not that a single one of you care since I talk to most of you daily anyway :))

Well… we’ve actually been busy to say the least.  As everyone knows, wedding planning is in full swing.  Which means so is planning for the Bachelorette (and the corresponding Bachelor) Party and pretending like I have showers to dress for (i.e. looking at Lilly Pulitzer dresses online WAY too often for anyone’s good.)  Besides that, we are spending most of the time daydreaming about our future life back in St. Louis and looking at houses for sale in our favorite neighborhoods!  It is SO FUN!

On to what we’ve been up to Down Under!

A few weeks after we got back, we experience our 2nd cyclone!  Our first was in Fiji.  And we really just thought it was a thunderstorm.  It blew in and out over night. No biggie.  This time around was slightly different.  We experienced a cyclone from 31 floors up!  Our apartment building was creaking, and swaying and whistling.  Really!  The wind was whistling. I don’t know what it was blowing through – our doors were closed but it was whistling!  I felt like the building could fall over at any minute!

After a weekend of cyclone powered winds and rain, it finally ended!  And in true Aussie style, the skies cleared completely!

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And the river flooded.

You can see how brown the water was!  They shut down the CityCat – the public transportation systems that run on the river.  There was so much debris running down the river the boats couldn’t travel safely.

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This was down at the Eagle Street Pier.  I’ve shown you pictures of this area before.  It’s our favorite place to get drinks or eat out.  The water flooded a few of the restaurants and closed the pier for a few days.  It was really pretty sad to see!  There were areas outside of the city that really flooded and because of the major flood in the city in 2011 (in case you’re interested: http://www.abc.net.au/news/specials/qld-floods/) a few years ago everyone was on high alert!  Luckily it was not nearly as devastating but it was scary none-the-less!

I promise…I’ll keep updating on what we’ve been doing.  I promise 🙂

BULA! {a Fijian Hello}

Ahhh…what a refreshing 4 weeks spent at home!  Well, refreshing isn’t exactly the right word.  While it was GREAT to be at home in the comfort of the states, hanging out with the ‘rents and spending much needed quality time with my Tillybear and my besties, we had some planning to do!  WEDDING PLANNING!

I know, it’s been a looooong while since I last posted.  I missed quite a few once in a lifetime events.  I’ll post about our trip home later.  Up first, FIJI!

Shortly after Ben and I got to Australia it was clear that we either had to take a trip to Fiji or Bali.  Both are equivalent to Americans taking a vacation in Mexico.  SUPER easy to get to!  After a few recommendations we decided on Fiji.  I mean…FIJI?!?!  A little because we didn’t want to feel left of out our families Thanksgiving celebrations, a little because I already had the days of work and a little because it was my birthday, we decided to go the week of Thanksgiving (and my 29th birthday!)

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Before we left my sister asked if we would be drinking a lot of Fiji water, which I hadn’t even though about!  Lucky for us, it was the complementary water at the hotel!  What else would it be?!  We were in FIJI!

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We arrived on Tuesday afternoon.  Our hotel was amazing!  The pools were beautiful and the view of the ocean was gorgeous!

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Every night, the hotel had happy hour with live music!

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And you had to hurry to get a good seat…

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The next day was my birthday.  I told Ben that all I wanted to do on my birthday was lounge by the pool…

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Have cocktails…

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Watch the skydivers land on the beach in front of our hotel…

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And not have to do a thing!  My wish came true!  It was the perfect birthday! That afternoon Ben and I went back to our hotel to get ready for happy hour when I found a bottle of Champagne in our mini fridge.  He had surprised me on my birthday with a bottle of champagne!  So that evening, instead of joining the other guests at happy hour we decided to enjoy our icy bottle of bubbly on the beach…in FIJI!

Now, this alone was PERFECT!  I kept thinking champagne on the beach in FIJI – what more could a girl ask for on her birthday?!

Well…Benny boo had more in store!  Once we were out on the beach, bubbly poured, he ran back inside, claiming he had one more gift for me.  Now, I wasn’t expecting another gift at all so this was quite a surprise!  He came back out with a wrapped box and it was clear to me what was in the box – HOT TAMALES candy.  I’m a HUGE fan and not having them in Australia makes them quite a treat when we can get a family member to send them over!  😉 😉

I opened my gift and sure enough, there was a box of Hot Tamales just begging me for me to dig in! Again, I’m thinking ‘champagne on the beach in Fiji with hot tamales – now, really, this is perfect!’  So without hesitation, I popped open that box and saw…

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Yep!  I have the most creative FIANCE in the world!  Shortly after, Ben got down on one knee and asked me to MARRY HIM!  **sighhhhh**

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Ben staged the look to capture in one shot…who knew I was marrying such a photog?!

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Now…on to the rest of the trip!  First, I must say, don’t go to Fiji if you aren’t super thrilled by lizards or frogs.  They were everywhere.  Frogs top my list of scariest animals so sleeping in a room with an inch crack at the bottom made me weary!

This is the best pic I could get of one of deadly creature…I cringe.

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The rest of the trip was a blur.  I spent most hours of the day staring my left hand and making the tightest fist a girl can make in fear of that beautiful diamond falling off my finger.  I swear, I might have even lost a little sleep thinking about my ring!  (and the frogs)

This was our most beautiful shot of the week.  Again, thanks to my photog fiancé!

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One of the days we decided to leave the hotel and head into the resort part of town.  The rest of the island (from what we saw) was a bit sketchy.  We grabbed lunch in the marina and got to do a little people watching.

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Although, I didn’t take any pics, Ben and I survived our first cyclone!  To us, it was just a rain storm but to everyone else it was a cyclone!

On the last full day in Fiji, we decided to hop on a day cruise to one of the smaller islands.  Luckily, the water in Fiji is SO calm.  Even during the cyclone, the waves didn’t even rival those in the calmest Gulf Coast town.

This is a picture from the boat ride.  Not even a smidge of a wave!

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The boat took us to a teeny tiny island about an hour from the main island of Fiji.

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You could walk around the island in about 5 minutes.  They provided drinks and food for the day and other activities like stand up paddle and snorkeling.

We took advice from the American couple that we made friends with and immediately after landing on the island we raced to tiki hut!

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Then we each (me, Ben and the American couple, Carrie and Phil) took a noodle and sat in the calm ocean water while Paul, the boat tour owner, brought us brewskis!  It was heaven!

SOOO – all in all, Fiji was the best holiday of my life! Sun, cocktails, Fiji water and nabbed myself a fiancé! 🙂

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Day to Day Down Under

Since I’ll be headed back to the states in less than 3 weeks (!!!!!!!) and Ben to follow just a week after (!!!!!!!) I thought I’d show a few random things that we have been up to. People keep asking for updates but in reality we are getting pretty used to our new digs and life Down Under.

We, in the Southern Hemisphere, are in transition from Spring to Summer and with that comes no Daylight Savings Time (which gives us more daytime hours with YOU!) but it also gives us more morning sunshine than you could EVER imagine.  Now, to me, this is FANTASTIC…but to my boyfriend, this is the worst thing to happen to a Saturday morning since he was too old to watch cartoons without judgment. 😉  During the week, this early sunrise causes me to also rise around 4:45am…I try to lay in bed until a more acceptable hour – of 5:30 before getting up to start my day.  I make some tea and get right to work.  Ben follows around 6:30 and is out the door around 7:00 am.  We don’t mess around down here!

 

The day is downhill from there!  Work, Starbucks, eat, work, workout, eat, work and have a glass of wine with dinner before starting it all over again…now you can probably understand why there haven’t been many updates! 😉

 

A couple weeks ago we did indulge in some Friday afternoon drinks with some of Ben’s co-workers and much to our surprise we were in for a little summertime holiday parade. A group of little kids came parading through wearing Reindeer costumes, Snowman costumes,  and Angel costumes in the middle of weather the felt only like July!  It was such a bizarre feeling…until Santa brought up the tail of the parade waving from an Audi convertible.  My mind was blown. I was impressed by the mid-spring parade and since then haven’t stopped thinking about how weird it is that it’s probably cold back home.

 

This is us at HH – enjoying a few brews at The Pig and Whistle.

 

There are decorations everywhere and Christmas music is playing in Starbucks now so I’m starting to get in the mood…now we’ll just need to turn up the AC so high that I can make Chili and read a book by heat of the sun that is radiating off the windows in our apartment.  Perfect!

 

 

Now, like I said, we have just been living our normal life on the other side of the world but I’ve taken a few pictures lately that I wanted to share.

 

This is in an area of the city on the other side of the river called South Bank.  It’s a hip little area filled with great restaurants, lots of ice cream shops and boutiques.  Every weekend they have markets in the area which are always packed and a fun place to walk through.  Ben and I have been the past two weekends.  Last weekend we did a little shopping and this weekend we went to dinner on Friday night and walked around.

 

It’s a little hard to see but this is the view of the city from across the river in South Bank.

 

 

And this is the casino. Every single time we walk by I ask Ben if we can try our hand at a little Blackjack and he immediately say no.  He needs to be a bit more spontaneous, right?!

This is through Queen Street Mall.  This is the main street of shopping in the city.  It’s always bustling but the crown definitely gets younger (and bit drunker) as the night gets later. 😉

 

On Saturday, we were invited to a BBQ to say “Bon Voyage” as an American couple ended their Australian stay and made their way back to the states.  It was at Ben’s co-workers house and we had a blast!  This picture is just to brag on my culinary skills…I mean – homemade buttercream frosting…don’t mind if I do!

And finally, the weather of our weekend.  For the first time since living here, we experienced a REAL thunderstorm – or 15 of them.  Just like at home, the Spring storms rolled through the city on Saturday and Sunday.  They were the cracking thunder, light-up-the-sky lightening, hail, torrential rain type of storms.  We could hardly see the building across the street from ours during the rain!  And we could truly enjoy it every time a new batch of clouds brewed and threw down because we didn’t have a car to worry about hail damage or a little Tillybear ringing her bell to go outside.  I LOVE a good storm!

 

 

 

Now, in just a few short hours we’ll be drowning our sorrows over missing Thanksgiving at home in Strawberry Daquaris and Pina Coladas poolside in FIJI!  I mean, we had to jet set to avoid feeling bad about missing out, right?!  Stay tuned and See ya soon!! 🙂

 

 

Noosa (er)

Hello all! I know it’s been a while but I totally forgot about our little day trip…To NOOSA!

Since we moved here we have heard over and over again “You two HAVE to get to Noosa!”…”My favorite driving destination is NOOSA!”…”The best beach near Brissy is NOOSA”…soooo, you guessed it!  About a month ago, Ben and I hired a car and drove north to Noosa (or “Nooser” which is how it sounds with an Aussie accent).  It was a very pleasant, uneventful trip.

Our first stop was at a little cluster of markets.  We stopped to walk around and indulged in a brat with sauerkraut.  Oh my – was it GOOD! 🙂

Now you can see what Australians look like 😉  Looks like you could be in St. Louis, eh?

Next we drove a touch east to the beaches of Noosa.

Here is a pic of us driving on the left!  I think both of us are actually kinda used to this now…Yep, that’s me taking a picture as a passenger on the left side of the car!  I still walk to the right side of the car to get in about 8 out of 10 times though.

The rumors were correct!  The beaches of Noosa were divine!

We laid out for a couple of hours and took in the beautiful weather before heading into town to do a little shopping.  Unfortunately, there was nothing I couldn’t live without (which is RARE for me!) so we hopped back into our little Prius to make the 2 hour trek back to the big city.

Cairns!

Waste no time!  Just 2 weeks after getting my dive certification, Ben and I headed north to Cairns – the Australian city just a short boat ride from the Great Barrier Reef.   Yep, that’s right – I don’t mess around.  If I am going to be a SCUBA diver I’m going to dive in one of the Natural Wonders of the World.

Just kidding.  I’m not stuck up – just happen to be that lucky.  :)!

We have had the trip planned since we first arrive down under so by the time it got here we were SO excited!  Warm weather, beaches, ocean – YES PLEASE!

We arrive late on Friday night. Cairns is the quintessential beach town.  Tons of restaurants, ice cream, souvenir shops & tourists!  We had a quick bite and called it an early night.

Our Saturday morning started at 7am.  We were to meet at the dive boat which was luckily in the harbour right outside of our hotel.

The boat itself was an awesome experience.  It only takes about 35 people each day so there was plenty of room for us to walk around and get to know the other (American) tourists.

It was about an hour and half boat ride out to reef and we had two different stops so we had a full day ahead of us!  There was only one other diver on the boat with us.  Everyone else was there to snorkel the reef.  This was SO comforting being that this was my first real dive! I pretty much had the divemaster all to myself for questions and tips.

The first stop on the boat was actually a small sand island which was a bird sanctuary.  Now, my love for birds is almost at the same level as my love for fish (why I’m ok 45 ft below the ocean is beyond me) so while the lovely Eugenia (a 75 year old woman from Georgia) wandered around looking for an extremely rare bird species, I stayed far away from that island stuck to the view of the reef!

At my request, we *hired* a digital camera for my first dive experience.  At first Ben had the camera.  I was way too nervous about my first attempt at the underwater world so he manned the pics.  Those are the only good pics we were able to get!  When I got my hands on the camera the pictures look like Mason had his tiny little one year old hands on a digital camera for the first time.  Needless to say, the quality of pictures was pretty awful.  Here are some cool ones that we were able to take.

Beware – WAY too many pics below…

This picture is just to give you a little perpective.  This was our dive guide doing a snorkle tour.  He swam down to show everyone the clam

Aren’t the clams cool?!  If your shadow went over them they would shut real fast!

I know it’s hard to see so I made a circle over it…that’s right!  It’s a SHARK!

This picture is a little eerie. It took everything I had not to think about how many living (BIG) things was in the same body of water as us.  How weird!

See Nemo down there!

I loved looking at all of the tiny fish living in the coral.  It was one of the coolest parts!

By the end of Saturday, we were BEAT!  Food, wine and bed!

Sunday morning we decided to take a day trip to Port Douglas.  It was a cute newer town about 45 minutes north of Cairns.

The drive was spectacular.  It reminded us of HANA!

We laid out of the beach…with caution:

After a few hours of walking around and laying out at the beach, we had officially finished with Port Douglas and continued on our journey north to the Daintree Rainforest.  We stopped at the Bruce Belchers Daintree River Cruise to take in some crocs in the wild!  I was a little nervous at first – afraid a croc would hurl its body at our flimsy pontoon but have no fear – our crocodile sightings were limited to 10 inch long baby crocs.

On our way back to Cairns we made one last stop at the Mossman Gorge.  Apparently this was a MUST SEE!  It was a little too cold to take a dip but still great to see and make the most of our trip!

The water was crystal clear!

 

Day three – somehow Ben knew where we were going!  I never saw a map or GPS and we never went back on our tracks.  He had somehow memorized a circuit – of WATERFALLS!

First we went into the Australian hinterlands – that means up a mountain!  It was a tight windy road but provides some amazing views of Cairns and the surrounding areas.  We ended up on the tablelands – this was mainly rolling farms.  Still amazing views!  We stopped off to see the cathedral fig tree – it was  MASSIVE!  There are a few of these fig trees in Brissy and their branches have hanging vines that root in the grounds and continue to grow.  They are really amazing trees!

We stopped off in a creepy little town.  I felt like I was about to be in a horror film! Luckily we made it out alive – with a tasty Aussie style burger, beetroot and all!

Off to the water falls!

And with that we were heading back to Cairns to check in for our 8pm flight home!

But not before we met a storm!  I took this as my chance to take a nap in the car while Benny got us back safe and sound.

I wouldn’t call it relaxing but it was SO FUN!

WAAYYYYY down under!

A few weeks ago I put my life in the hands of a 21 year old, bleached blonde, long haired Aussie boy.  No, I didn’t fake a drowning on the beach in Surfer’s Paradise a la Baywatch but I did get my SCUBA Certification!

I now have another form of identification in my wallet – my Certified Open Water Diver card issued by the Brisbane Dive Academy! And I LOVE it!

Here are some pics from my adventure WAYYYY down under…

 

We started out in the lap pool about 3 feet deep to help us get used to breathing under water and learning some basic (life saving!) skills.

 

 

 

We swam up and down the lanes (trying desperately not to look in the lanes next to us!)

 

 

 

 

Then things got serious – in the deep end!  We learned how to control buoyancy, share air and (most importantly) clear our masks when they were full of water! PHEW!

 

 

 

 

No, this isn’t a reenactment of the Dateline story of the American couple on their honeymoon but I really have no idea what we’re practicing!

 

 

Then on to the REAL stuff!  We did a total of 4 actual open water dives. The first was on day 1 and the other 3 on day 2.

 

This was the only other person in my course.  A lovely gentleman, of about 65 years of age – Fred.

 

Then it was my turn.  I some how managed to be geekier than Fred.

 

 

 

It certainly isn’t a sport for those that want to look pretty….

 

 

Before I knew it, the weekend was over and I am free to SCUBA dive anytime I want!

This was our crew – the woman on the left is a Divemaster in training, just along for Day 2 and observing – then Dom (the cute Aussie instructor- who Ben refers to as “Dom Ass”), me and Fred.

 

 

 

It was a BLAST and I’m THRILLED my loving boyfriend urged me to face my fears and do it!

Sydney – Part 3 (Finally, eh?)

Sunday was our last day in Sydney.  We were SO tired so we slowly made our way to hop on the ferry to Manly Island which was recommended to us by quite a few people (shout out to Aunt Bonnie and Amanda Boren!)

The ferry ride itself was the best part.  We got beautiful views of the city and harbor!

There wasn’t much going on on Manly Island but it was still beautiful.  TONS of little kids learning to surf, a few beach yogis and so many golden retrievers in one spot so I was able to get my puppy fix and tell a number of strangers about my little Tillybear! 😉

Here are a few pics from the ferry ride and Manly:

 

 

Manly Beach – see all those little kid surfers?!

 

 

 

 

 

See those dots on top of the bridge?  Those are people doing the Bridge Climb!

And with that our first weekend trip was over!  Time to head home….and SLEEP!