home sweet home

It’s official, we have returned home.

I’m currently sitting inside our humble abode amongst the hills, wearing some comfy activewear after a workout on the deck. I just ate some overnight oats with mango, as I listen to the sweet ‘hold’ music that myGov has graciously forced upon me. And when I say myGov, I’m hoping to soon have a positive outcome from Centrelink. And when I say Centrelink, I mean that I am completely and utterly unemployed.

Let me back up a bit, as most of you are aware (and if not, you have literally been living under a rock, about fifty feet down, in the middle of the desert), that COVID-19 has paralysed the economy and sent everyone into isolation. The virus has caused a drastic change in our plans, alike most, where we are simply taking life as it comes. I’d say we’ve done an above satisfactory job of staying calm and dealing with this logically.

Jordan and I were perusing through some of the shops in Whistler village when we overheard “Have you seen the emails? How about Vail closing the mountain..”. Yeah, a major shock to the system. Vail Resorts, the company that Jordan and I work for (or did work for?), the company that operated Whistler mountain and Blackomb mountain. The number in the red notification bubble, over the mail icon on my phone, grew and grew.

The next day we were called into work, at the roundhouse on top of the mountain, for a full clean and pack down of the restaurants and kitchens. Most of the emails suggested reevaluation of the sudden closure in a weeks time, but I remained wary. The packing up was extensive and not something you’d go to the trouble of doing unless you were shutting down for a while. Before boarding my beloved gondola back into the village, I said goodbye to the space I’d worked in for the past few months and made sure to take in the incredible view, knowing full well that I wouldn’t return this season. Content, I stepped in the gondola and enjoyed the ride one last time.

Our return flights were booked for approximately six weeks time, which was too far away. We decided ten days from then would be good, thinking that Vail may open the mountain again and we’d get a couple more snow days.

A couple days went past, as we learned that we had officially been laid off and the closure of the mountains for the rest of the season. The Core gym, that we attended daily, soon closed too, along with many of the retail stores and eateries. Whistler village was a ghost town. In light of very recent events, Jordan tried to see if we could change our flights again, with worry of not being able to return home. The prices had raised considerably and it was almost impossible. Luckily, Jordan didn’t give up and we secured seats on an earlier Cathay Pacific flight.

It was a long five days of hoping; hoping our flight wouldn’t be cancelled or and that we could still get out of Canada, hoping that we could still enter Australia and that we wouldn’t get sick, hoping that we wouldn’t get stuck in another country and that our bus to Vancouver wouldn’t cancel. A long list of hopes and a lot of prayers.

The trip:

  • Our bus did cancel, but we booked a different one.
  • It snowed the morning we left. Our taxi driver informed us that road clearing had stopped and hopefully our bus would still go to Vancouver. The snow stopped for thirty minutes and begun again once we were out of Whistler.
  • My amazing friend and inspiration, Brooke, farewelled us at the airport with a smile and an elbow bump. Our flight was delayed in Vancouver due to a medical emergency on the previous flight. We sat near the gate, as we watched two paramedics, ten or so police officers, two detectives and a handful of flight staff and cleaners wander on and off the flight bridge. The airline gave us food vouchers to use whilst we waited. The pilots made up time and we arrived in Hong Kong with time to spare.
  • The Chinese government declared they were closing their borders. Our flight left at 12.05am, past the deadline, but was luckily exempted. The flight was also quite empty, they didn’t even bother bringing the food and drink carts down the aisles. I was able to stretch out across some seats and get some sleep.
  • Our Sydney leg did cancel, but it was redirected to Melbourne. We moved through customs swiftly and munched on some hungry jacks in the domestic terminal. After passing the time with a couple games of ‘shitswitch’ (a game I learnt from Jordan and his best friend Jarred, where you use a normal deck of cards to play UNO and the winner is dealt one less card every round until someone has no cards left), a flight attendant came around checking the tickets of the ten or so people waiting at the gate. We learnt that they needed a minimum of two passengers in the exit rows to legally operate the aircraft and were struggling to find suitable occupants. 
  • Luckily, we arrived in Adelaide, and were chauffeured to our home in the hills by a double masked, sanitiser enthusiast and very kind mother-in-law. They issued everyone on the plane with forms regarding our compulsory fourteen day quarantine, that we filled out and handed to the police officers awaiting us as we disembarked the plane.
  • Our house was super clean and our cupboards were filled with food. All our plants were thriving and Jordan’s grandma, Nana Di, had stocked us up with toilet paper and plenty of gluten free pasta and bread.

It’s day five of quarantine and we are very much delighted to be spending our isolation in our wonderful home. Coming back from a working holiday really highlighted the areas of my life that I am grateful for. From the pretty average work, expensive groceries and rent, and just lack of ‘things’, is not something that I was used to. On the first day of quarantine, I just felt completely overwhelmed with happiness. The property that I live on is wondrous, we have collected so much cool stuff over the past years, we have our own space, we are close to and with family, our families support is epic, we can smell and hear, taste and see, we are healthy and able to move around however we like., We really are so lucky and blessed to live where and how we do and I hope I never forget this feeling.

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On another note, I am super sad not to be tearing up the slopes on my Nidecker board and I’m already planning a trip to visit another mountain this year. Hopefully the corona virus will settle down soon and we can continue what we enjoy and do best.

italy / day twenty-six / arrivederci italy

Day Twenty Six was mainly spent travelling. We walked from our hotel in Florence to the station, but this time we took the back streets and it was quite enjoyable. I may have even detoured us past ‘Roosters‘ in hope of a green juice to-go – great idea might I add! We arrived at the station and everything was in a bit of a shamble. Thankfully, we had bought tickets a couple days ago, as there were major delays, pushing each train to Termini back approximately two and a half hours.

We changed trains in Termini to the Leonardo Express, taking us directly to the airport. We chose to stay in a hotel nice and close to the airport, as our flight was scheduled to leave early the next morning and we didn’t want to be delayed or anything. Instead of cabbing it, we, once again, chose to walk, as we would need to take their shuttle tomorrow morning. Well this was fun, wasn’t it..? The three kilometre walk started off in high hopes, then we ended up on a highway with about half a metre of space from the sidelines of the road. Let’s just say we were thankful to get to the hotel. We stayed at the ‘Best Western’ airport hotel. The rooms were really cosy and clean. We changed into some activewear and hit their gym for a couple hours. We had some delicious Chinese takeout for dinner, as we sat in bed and watched Iron Fist.

Such a fun, happy end to our holiday.

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Sadly, we didn’t end up sleeping for very long and we were up and out of bed by 4.20am. The hotel shuttle cost us, a criminal, €8 each to the airport, so thank goodness we walked yesterday. We got on the plane A-OK.

Although I was sad to leave Italy, I was happy to get back home to Australia. This trip couldn’t have happened without my amazing husband, Jordan, and Pops incredible generosity and enthusiasm to travel. This trip has enlightened me in so many ways and I am grateful for everything that I have been able to do, see, taste and experience. I am so blessed to have everything that I have in Australia and how everything is simply at my fingertips. This trip has helped me to understand just how important my relationship is with Jordan and Pop and there’s no one I’d rather travel with and share in these adventures. On a final note, here are some of my favourite pictures of us:

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italy / day eleven / roma

I sneakily smuggled away some pastries for the road after our last breakfast at Corte de Francesi. We took a taxi to Brindisi airport (I swear they were going at least 140km/h), because we were flying past all the other cars. We checked in our baggage and boarded a plane to Roma! A bus trip to Termini and a short walk, and we were at what would be our hotel for the next six days, Alpi Hotel.

As soon as we arrive, Pop takes a nasty tumble on some of the steps in the hotel and bumps his head (which we later found out that he broke a couple ribs and ended up getting pneumonia; what a bloody trooper!). Not the best start, but we patch things up with a band aid and some ruby red strawberries, left by hotel staff with compliments, and continue on with our day. Obviously, we are very hungry again and grab some super tasty focaccias (Pizza Shop 341 SNC), which filled a good hole for the next kilometre.

Checking out the city on foot, we end up at the Trevi Fountain. It was amazing, but the place was crowded with so many tourists and people trying to sell stuff to you, that we continued on pretty quickly. Though, we did stop into an awesome store that let you build your own magnum ice cream; which of course we tried.

We moved on from the square and headed for the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, an old palace gallery and home, partially open to the public, in the heart of the city. We had accidentally stumbled on to this magnificent place on our previous visit to Rome. We got some tickets and a portable handset guide, and wandered through the many rooms of the palace, admiring the incredible paintings that filled the ceilings and intricately detailed floors, not to mention the hundreds of artworks strung up through the gallery.

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We finished our day with a special dinner at L’eau Vive, a restaurant completely run by Carmelite nuns, to celebrate our first night in Rome. We started with asparagus and leek soup, then I had lamb chops with tomato, beans and this lovely creamy pepper and thyme sauce for main.

italy / day ten / otranto / gallipoli

Started the day off with a great spread in the old tannery, then made our plan of attack for the day. We only had one day but we wanted to fit in the equivalent of two day trips. The lady at the reception wished us well, even though I’m sure she didn’t believe in us. Via train, we travelled to Otranto, a village on the coast. A short walk from the station through the suburbs and the path spits you out right in front of the most magical, crystal clear turquoise waters; extremely inviting for an afternoon dip.

 

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We walked along the esplanade admiring the boats and watching the little fishies swim around the rocks. We temporarily lost Pop for a bit and went on a search. Lots of little shops lined the narrow streets, selling touristy gizmos and local knick knacks. We eventually found Pop after scouting out the colourful streets.

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We take a brisk walk back to the station to catch the next train back to Maglie, to then go to Gallipoli, in the opposite direction. This worked well for the most part, until a heard of teenage kids suddenly appear on the platform and pile into the same little carriage of a train, heading to the same destination as us. Luckily they all got off about half way through and we could stretch our legs a little more.

 

At the final stop, the driver pointed us in the direction of the older town, down to the port. Although the salty wind whistled up the main road and it was much chillier, we couldn’t go past this ginormous gelateria. As we approached, the old town could be seen clearly as the mainland was separated by a bridge and a castle stood tall and proud, just to the left. The receptionist had given us some free tickets to actually go inside, which ended up being really cool.

 

 

Passing through the cobbled streets, we tried some pistachio liqueur and a traditional biscuit, taralli. I found this beautiful olive oil bottle that I bought to use in our new house. A leisurely walk to the point at the edge of the town, we grabbed some dinner and sat outside overlooking the ocean as the sun went down. Pasta and fish was on the menu.

 

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On the way back to the station, I had neglected to realise that the trip back to Maglie was actually only half way by train and the other half by bus; which we spent another thirty minutes waiting for. Whilst we waited for the bus, very late at night in the middle of nowhere with very little people around, we got chatting to a friendly, frizzy haired guy holding a guitar and his friend. Turns out he was a pretty serious 16 year old musician, with big dreams. I participated in the music jargon and whipped out a jazz tune. It was really fun.

 

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21st

Let me start by saying.. Have I got some stories for you.

Instead of having a big party or hitting the town for my 21st birthday, it was decided that we would travel. From April first, all the way through to the start of May, an entire month abroad. My Pop, very generously, offered to fund my flights to Italy, along with my accommodation. Pop and I used to travel together all the time, but since leaving school, getting married and building a house, we haven’t been able to go on many trips since. This made it possible for us to travel before we move into our new house and for Jordan and I to spend some time together, whilst he is in between careers.

My Pop planned most parts of the trip. He was to meet us over in Italy and spend the first two and half weeks there, and fly home. The day trips to different towns, what train to catch, best places to eat, accommodation; everything was planned to a ‘T’. Jordan and I were to stay on for another nine days together, to do what we like, then head home at the start of May. It was, for the most part, organised. All we needed to do was get on the airplane.

The lead up was pretty hectic. Jordan was working as Head Chef at Lenzerheide, so I was barely seeing him. I was also taking all the work I could get. And not to mention, March 30th – April 2nd was Easter weekend. I also had some issues with changing my name to my married name, so I could change my passport. In the end, I got my passport (on the last possible day it could have been delivered) a couple of days before we left. I must say, I did cry in the post office when the office lady gave me the small parcel.

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Once we were on the plane, all of my worries disappeared. There was no reason to think about work, or people, or things we may or may not have forgotten. It was just pure happiness to be spending some time alone with Jordan and disappearing for the month (even if it was on a crowded, long airplane flight).

We tried to bring a small stash of food on the plane, because let’s be honest, plane food just sucks. I was surprised by our first meal, which was dinner, slow braised beef with mashed potatoes and carrots. But the problem was that it got my hopes up for the other meals to come – which were disgraceful.

The flight itself wasn’t bad. We sat in the middle of the plane for the first fifteen hour odd leg to Doha, then on the window for the next six hours to Rome. It was already organised that my Pop would be waiting to meet us in Rome as we exit the International airport – but that didn’t happen. We spent about forty-five minutes trying to find Pop and figure out what happened. After speaking to a couple different information desks and piecing together the brief information that each Italian had given us, we realised that his flight had been delayed in Abu Dhabi for five hours, causing him to miss the next flight – a short, though expensive, domestic flight from Rome to Catania, Sicily.

After hesitation, contemplation and speaking with ground staff about the situation, Jordan and I decided to check-in to our domestic flight and go through security to our gate. Everything was okay. Pop would just get on a later flight when he got to Rome, but would have to pay nearly triple what he originally paid (insurance), and arrive at the hotel in Catania. The main problem was that we didn’t have any money changed over to use for something to eat and transport to the hotel. We had to get a small amount changed over at the airport because there was no else to go. This was seriously expensive and an absolute rip off. I very much suggest that you change money over prior to travel somewhere other than the airport and/or get a card that has minimal to zero charges on international purchases. We weren’t that smart. Ahh you live and you learn!

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We chose to catch the bus as the hotel was on the other side of the city and a taxi was going to charge us something absurd. We boarded the bus with two backpacks, a suitcase (never again!), Jordans duffel/backpack and two surprisingly bulky, but squishy travel pillows. Oh, and a bag of food and my handbag, which I held very closely. The bus took an entire hour and was the very last thing we felt like doing, but it meant we could splurge on a nice relaxing dinner.

Once at the palace-like hotel, we checked out the room and tried not to sit down or dawdle. If I stood in one place for too long, I could’ve fallen asleep. We dragged ourselves down to the reception desk, on very little sleep, and asked about somewhere we could eat that was close by and inexpensive. She looked at us sympathetically and picked up her phone. Five minutes later, without much more than a ‘wait here’, a car picked us up and took us to his restaurant close by. We were taken to a table and the Head Chef came out and explained the entire menu to us, item by item.

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We ended up getting a lovely platter of cold meats, cheese, olives and breads to start, and of a course a glass of wine. Then pasta and steak for mains. Half way through my pasta, I started to go into a serious food coma and was literally falling asleep at the table. We paid for our meal and the man drove us back in his car again to the hotel.

Up at the hotel room, I got a second wind and had a much needed shower – thank God for hot water and good pressure. We were then graced by Pop’s prescence – HE MADE IT! After being delayed for so long and things not going as planned, I was impressed by how happy Pop was. Although the false start, we were here and the trip was off to a good start. It was nice to be all together. I think our heads hit the pillow and we were fast asleep before Pop had even gotten to his room down the hall.

 

 

the honeymoon comes to an end

A celebratory mimosa, bacon pancakes and black coffee (apparently fried rice for Jordan) went down well as our last breakfast of the honeymoon. You couldn’t keep us out of the water that morning. We absorbed every last bit of Vanuatu, snorkelling, paddle boarding and appreciating this wondrous island.

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On our way out of the resort, we were escorted right to the shuttle bus and seen off by all the staff that were currently on. The bus ride to the airport was quiet. Neither of us wanted to go back home, knowing the biggest time of year awaited us at work and the aftermath of the wedding, and also the stresses of our new house We sat in silence, hand in hand, staring out the window, just wanting to catch a plane to another country, keep on travelling. Unfortunately, time, funds, commitments and responsibilities were slightly more important than wearing nothing but underwear inside a little hotel room as it rains, looking over the Seine river reading a book or snowboarding in Whistler, flask of fireball in hand. It was peaceful though. We watched everyone go about their day to day and got to see some of the towns that we quad biked through, again.

The airport was packed. There were three flights leaving all in the space of two hours. Once we past through security, everyone funnelled into this tiny little departure lounge with a 5mx5m duty free shop, two tacky gift shops and a counter that sold ice cream and alcohol. The rest of the room was filled up with people. Lots and lots of sweaty people frustrated and annoyed that the flights were delayed. We sat on the floor in the corner of the room, as all the seats were taken – the door to the VIP lounge would open every couple minutes, forging a gust of cool air our way, making it bearable. Once we finally boarded our 110 minute delayed flight to Brisbane, we checked our connecting flight to Adelaide. It didn’t look like we were going to make it. Up in the air, everyone had gotten so hungry, including us, that they sold out of basically all their food.

As we were landing, the hosts went through all the connecting flights and ones that were cancelled. We still didn’t know what we were doing until we got off the plane. Someone was holding a sign with our name on it. As we approached, she proceeded to hand us a bundle of papers including a cab fair card, times for bus shuttles, a $50 food voucher each and our booking sheet for our hotel room – SCORE! The airline had organised us a hotel room to stay in for the night, as we had already missed our flight. When we got to the hotel, we made sure to use the entire $100 on delish takeout from the joint restaurant downstairs and even watched a movie, savouring an extra night of the honeymoon. Pitifully, we had to get up really, really early the next morning as they had placed us on the earliest flight back to Adelaide.