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