Friday, 14 December 2012

We're Back!

And I bet you didn't even know we were gone (unless you are a blog reader we also see regularly in person).

We got back on Wednesday from a month in Australia, with a stopover in China. Niall and Antoinette very kindly picked us up from Chatellerault station after our epic return journey (Sydney - Shanghai - Beijing - Great Wall - Beijing - Paris). They also very kindly supplied us with delicious home made leek and potato soup and a loaf of bread for our supper so I didn't have to prepare anything in my travel addled state.

The Great Wall of China.

Our trip was to visit friends and family of course, and we spent time in Canberra, staying with Simon's brother Jon, his wife Rosie and assorted teens and twenty-somethings (an ever shifting configuration of neices, nephews and their boyfriends and girlfriends). Jon and Rosie generously lent us a vehicle -- a great gas guzzling Mercedes 4WD that we had something of a love/hate relationship with. It was much more convenient than hiring a car, and when we went out west we fitted right in (we got lots of friendly waves, as though people knew us -- all those big silver 4WD obviously look the same to more than just me...)

The visit to Canberra was primarily to attend Simon's father's 80th birthday celebrations and my sister's 50th. The weather was a bit variable, but included the hottest November day for a decade (naturally, the day we went out in the bush hunting for orchids...)

Sydney Harbour Bridge.

From Canberra we went to the coast both north and south of Sydney. North to check out where Simon's sister Elizabeth and husband Vic have bought a house and where his parents are planning to move to. South to visit friends Rick and Helen in their new house. They live in an area we've been to several times before (just across the bay from where my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2009). It's somewhere that is fairly high up on our not very long list of places we think we might like to retire to.

Then we went up to south-east Queensland to stay with my parents. This coincided with a heat wave and temperatures in the mid-30s. I caught up with old quilting friends Trish L, Trish O, Margie C, Margie P, Diana and Hilary. Simon went off to Brisbane and hung out with his former band members, Matt and Greg and their mate Andrew (who also lived in London at the same time as us). Heading back to Canberra to return the car we went via Lightning Ridge, an outback opal mining community, dodging emus, kangaroos, sheep, cattle and feral pigs all the way.

A gecko on my parents' kitchen window.

We spent our last weekend in Australia in Sydney, catching up with one of Simon's oldest friends, Alex, and his partner Stefania, as well as our very dear friend Liselle. My sister recommended a block of serviced apartments in central Sydney, and from this ideally situated base we had a great time walking along the beach tracks from Bondi to Coogee, and the next day catching the ferry across the harbour to Manly. Saturday walking along the coast was sweltering, so we all dressed for extreme heat on Sunday, only to freeze as it clouded over and rained. Oh well, the company made up for it, and we survived.

As we had a long wait of 20 hours between flights in Beijing on the way home, Simon booked a hotel (courtesy of Air China) and a guide and driver to take us to the Great Wall. Apart from being slightly wrong-footed by Air China landing us in Shanghai and organising the transit permits there rather than Beijing as we had been expecting, this all worked extremely well. Day time temperatures here were about -3C on the Wall, which is about 1000 metres above sea level, and +3C in Beijing (which is still about 600 masl).

Emus on the roadside, west of Thallon.

And now we are home and very happy indeed to be sleeping in our own bed again -- even if the weather is dismal.

15 comments:

Tim said...

Welcome home... dismal, init!
Still... there are still a load of Christmas markets for you to get your teeth into... Abilly tonight [Driasabone needed], La Celle Geunand [tomorrow] and Grand Pressigny [22nd]... certainly looks as though you enjoyed yourselves!!

Ken Broadhurst said...

Welcome back, S & S. Get out the rain gear and stay warm.

Colin and Elizabeth said...

Yes Welcome back and get out those thermals you will need them!

chm said...

Wow! What a trip! I'm sure you enjoyed every exhausting minute of it.

Niall & Antoinette said...

Glad the soup was ok ..... still recovering from Great Wall envy! ;-)

Tim said...

Welcome back indeed! Was the 4x4 big enough to see from space too? (jealously)v Pauline

Susan said...

Thanks all. The trip was much better than I had feared it was going to be, but all those hours on the plane is still a slog.

Pauline: you may not be able to really see the Great Wall from space, but you certainly get a good view of it from the plane.

Herman the German was big, but by no means the biggest vehicle on the roads with us.

GaynorB said...

Welcome home to France. We are very envious (for a number of reasons)but are very glad that you had a good time. We look forward to reading and seeing more about your trip.

Nadege said...

Lucie of "Le jardin de Lucie" was in Australia too.
It is such a long trip. Did you get to see Leon and Sue at all? I know you didn't mentioned Melbourne, but they could have met you in Sydney.

Susan said...

Nadege: I saw that Lucie was in Australia -- she was there a bit before us, and further south.

We wanted to meet up with Leon and Sue, but couldn't fit in a trip to Melbourne on top of going up to Qld -- 1000km in opposite directions.

Jean said...

Well fancy that, I didn't even know you had gone !!
What a great time you had !! Glad you got back safe and sound. And however dismal it is chez vous, if it's any consolation it's always worse here, chez nous in Dreary Derbyshire !!

(It was -7°C yesterday, deep frost at 11pm, some thaw overnight and our drive and the pavements sheet ice this morning. So bad that I chickened out of walking Lulu up to the fields - she couldn't even stand up herself !! Now it is milder, 6°C, chucking it down with rain and thoroughly horrid.)

Liselle said...

If it helps to know, even Sydney is a tad dismal today, albeit in a steamy rather than sub zero way. It was fab to see you both and i love the photo from the Great Wall mini-break. Looking forward to another catchup over on your side of the world before too long.

Susan said...

Jean: I've seen the pics -- the UK is covered in frost!

Liselle: a fortnight of drizzle forecast for here, so just 'a tad dismal' sounds delightful :-)

GaynorB said...

The sun is shining in sunny Staffordshire, but not, I fear, for long...

Hope things have brightened up in Preuilly.

SweetpeainFrance said...

How wonderful an experience to have tales from the outback. Undoubtedly your post is just a small flavour of stories to share about amazing places in the world.... and here you are in France!!!!