the leroys

Welcome to the 55th blog post! *cheers of excitement flood the room*

Hey party people, what’s been going on? Well, Covid-19, among the obvious tragic circumstances, has brought to my life a glimmer of hope and perhaps some good; I’m exaggerating, my life is great. It’s reignited my passion for photography and my excitement to learn new things. In this realisation, I’ve been delving deep into the dark web (not really) for new knowledge, to learn more about videography and of course nerding out on camera gear that I want (currently manifesting approximately $8000 worth of things that I need; I repeat, need). And in doing so, I’ve been getting familiar with Youtuber, Mr Peter McKinnon (and his doppelgänger Squarespace Pete) and friends. I’ve come to the realisation that I want to make films and vlog and post cool stuff. When I was younger and used to travel a lot with my Pop, he would always make sure we had a good point and shoot camera and he would encourage me to take video for the highlights film he would put together when we got back to Australia. I was shameless and totally didn’t care what anyone thought of me (usually they couldn’t understand a word I was saying anyway!).

Over time, I’ve developed barriers, assumptions and subconscious ideas of shame and embarrassment, and in the last couple months I’ve come to realise that they are all just limiting beliefs and my ego talking. Time to be vulnerable and authentic and approach every situation with intention to learn something new and enjoy the journey. Stay tuned for positive vibes and possibly a vid or two.

Ps. Jessie from ‘The Jessie Williams Podcast’ is absolutely incredible and I totally recommend listening to her content. She is all about manifestation, fitness and healthy lifestyle. She talks to some really eye opening topics and strategies to up-level your life. Please, do yourselves a favour and check her out!

Anyway… The photos! So, I went to the Mount Barker markets the other day and took my camera in hope to practice filming and stepping outside my comfort zone. I was drawn to something that sounded like sunshine, so I followed my nose and ended up at The Leroys. They are a band predominantly made up of the ukulele (and talented humans of course) and sung many of the classics. I was encouraged to get in on the action, so I hopped to.

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.

somewhere over the rainbow

Most days went along the lines of ‘Eat, Sleep, Gym, Repeat’ up until we started work. In between, we chatted within our new estate and became friends with Rachel and Emma. Steering away from going crazy (and only just avoiding it), we ventured out to Rainbow Falls, positioned on the opposite side of Alta Lake; a somewhat short distance. We took a taxi from Whistler Village to the base of the trail (we probably could have walked but.. the more you know, right?) So, fresh and ready we spend fifteen minutes looking for a trail leading in the direction of Rainbow Falls. Clueless, we begin to walk into the forest.

We eventually figured out where we were going, only to have been confused as to whether we passed Rainbow Falls or not (we did). A lovely, serene walk all the same and a perfect time to take in the cool, fresh air and appreciate mother nature.

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italy / day twenty-three / firenze

Late checkout has us steadily packing up and we soon walk to the train station for a quick bite before our train arrives at Port Nuova. We had a bit of trouble with our seats, but third times a charm. Once in Florence, we disembark the train and lug all of our bags to the B&B Hotel, to save a couple dollars. We followed the Google Maps route, of which took us straight past the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, where we were swarmed with seas of people. Among the street vendors, an evangelist approached Jordan and grabbed his arm as we dragged our bags. She was very persistent and after politely asking many times for her to let go, Jord had to push her away from him. The walk was no more than three kilometres, so we thought it would be a breeze, but we were absolutely exhausted by the time we got to the hotel. After brainstorming reasons as to why it was so freaking busy, we realised that it was ‘Liberation Day’… 

We get to the hotel and collapse into the bed. Once we gather the strength, we head towards the river at the end of the street. There’s a nice breeze and a park filled with heaps of people enjoying the sunshine, kicking soccer balls and throwing frisbees. When we’re closer to the city centre, we turn down a street and search for somewhere for dinner. We end up with some delish cocktails at ‘Soul Kitchen‘ and add on their buffet style dinner deal for €2. Pretty decent and cheap!

italy / day twenty-four / firenze

By this day, I think we were starting to get quite exhausted. Excited not to be searching for breakfast, we tried to start the day off with the hotels’ breakfast buffet (extra €7.50 each), but it was absolutely atrocious. The limited spread consisted of cold, grey, scrambled eggs, plastic sausages and some cereal, of which I took the last bowl. Also, the cutlery was dirty and the automatic coffee machine was pumping out some seriously mediocre black liquid. We went past the reception on our way out and explained to them our horror, in hope of getting reimbursed.

We ventured into city centre to checkout some of the sights, including the Duomo and Bell Tower, Uffizi Gallery, Vechio Museum and Pitti Palace, but every single entrance was blocked by extremely long lines and expensive tickets, and the whole dance was becoming quite overwhelming. We take a breather near the river and checkout some local shops. In an effort to not waste our day, we rearranged our plans and left for San Gimignano. Approximately a fifty minute train ride to Poggibonsi, then a forty minute bus ride to the old medieval town. A little messy, but we got there A-OK.

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Once in the town, the hype becomes apparent and we are soon immersed in the mystery and beauty of this incredible place. Back in the twelfth and thirteenth century, within the town walls, two rival families,  Guelphs and Ghibellines, would seek to ‘out-do‘ each other building tower houses of increasingly higher and higher heights, for power and political control. Towards the end of the Medieval period, there were seventy-two tower houses measuring up to seventy metres tall. San Gimignano draws in many tourists with its mysterious, medieval history and incredible landscapes. 

We spend the rest of the day staring out at the rolling hills and exploring the streets of this unbelievable town. I have pasta and a sneaky Aperol spritz for dinner, as the sun slowly disappears behind the gothic style buildings. We finish with some world famous gelato for dessert. On the way back to the bus, we gather the balls and pop into one of many torture themed museums. Although creepy and unfathomable, we found it really entertaining and it was one of the highlights of our trip.

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Unfortunately, we ended up  stranded at Poggibonsi station for about ninety minutes, as our train had been delayed. We were so hungry once we arrived back in Florence that we went for second dinner on the way home.

italy / day twenty-five / firenze

After a much better sleep than the previous night, we set out to a breakfast place that had previously caught my eye, ‘Rooster‘. The menu is comprised of westernised breakfast food with fresh juices and specialty coffee galore. I really loved the rustic interiors and groovy furniture. Jordan got a beef breakfast burger and strawberry banana smoothie and I got a potato hash with eggs, onion and cheese, and a basil detox green juice – SO FREAKING GOOD!

Instead of trying to do all of the main attractions, we chose to go to the Uffizi Gallery. We lined up for about an hour and it was majorly packed inside, but I’m really glad we checked it out.

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A little walk around and we pick out a cocktail bar, ‘Buca 10‘ to relax and share some alcoholic beverages, and a tasting platter. We spent a couple hours sitting and chatting about our trip, places we had visited and plans for the future.

We spent our last night in Florence taking it all in and taking it slow. We had some dinner in a quiet piazza and watched the sky turn all hues of orange, pink and purple. A very enjoyable end to our last night in Florence.

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 four / siracusa

Our time in Taormina came to a close, as our tummies attempted to settle in the bus ride back down the mountain to the train station. A semi early breakfast and quick getaway allowed us to be in Siracusa by lunchtime, after a two hour odd trip.  The trip into the city was very different to that of Taormina. A lot more industrial, fuel refineries, junk graveyards, abandoned trains, boats and shipwrecks. It was a light walk with our gear to the hotel, Caportigia. The boutique hotel that was once an old warehouse, was now fully refurbished with beautifully restored high ceilings and gorgeous decor. Once checked in – and changed into something a little cooler, we ventured into the new city. The short train trip changed the entire landscape and scenery. The area was a lot more open and flat with lots of sandstone coloured buildings and large paved walkways. We walked down to Ortigia, an island namely the historical centre of Syracuse. The scene was definitely european beachy, with only shorts and singlets in sight. There was also no shortage of cocktails/wine/juice bars.

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_MG_4930After a nice walk, we had a light lunch at the Sunset Bar, consisting of fresh sandwiches. My crusty bread roll was filled with buffalo cheese, speck, tomato and rocket. I finished my lunch off with some fresh strawberries and cream.

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Ortigia was filled with plenty of historical buildings with no sparsity of churches. After choosing a church to enter, I was told to put on a poncho otherwise I was not to enter (hahaha have you seen anything more ridiculous)

 

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I think the water was a little nippy

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After the church fiasco we dove down into some old war caves that ran underneath Ortigia. We wandered through the extensive tunnel system, very easily loosing ourselves in the mysterious place. It was unusually quiet with very little tourists. A relaxing and very interesting way to spend our afternoon.

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underground in the old war tunnels

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After a great day full of sunshine and exploring the beautiful Ortigia, we steered away from the touristy restaurants along the coast of the island, and headed inland to a little seafood restaurant recommended by one of the staff at the hotel, La Lisca. The staff there were friendly and more than happy to help with translating their daily changing menu, dependent upon the product available at the markets nearby. We requested that the kitchen simply send out a couple of favourite starters and staple mains for us to share. It was quite different to what we were expecting and it was exciting trying the unusual foods. At the end of the meal, one of the owners, that had been serving us all night, plonked a bottle of house made limoncello on our table and a couple of glasses for us to enjoy – best limoncello I’ve ever tasted!

italy / day three / taormina

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Ate a balanced breakfast of goji berries and orange jam crostata, then jumped on a bus to Casteloma, a smaller village, higher up the mountain. The bus took about twenty minutes, skilfully manoeuvring the bendy roads. The road came to a dead end in a square, where the bus dropped us off and turned around to make his next leg. It was much quieter once we reached the top. There weren’t as many tourists, and besides a couple motor cycles, there weren’t many vehicles either. The pathways between the old buildings were narrow and the majority of Casteloma seemed to be inside, asleep. This was perfect because we were able to pleasantly explore at our own pace.

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After following some signs to the outskirts of the town, we decided to walk down to Madonna De Rocca, instead of catching the bus. We started on an overgrown path that soon dissolved into suburbia. At first it didn’t seem very far, but we were soon mistaken, and ultimately, very confused about how on earth we were to get there. The homes were scattered all over the hillside and there was no clear path.

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view of Madonna de Rocca (on lower hill to the left)

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crazy trail down the mountain from Casteloma into Taormina

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Casteloma, high up in the mountains

Sweaty and exhausted from climbing stairs and walking on deserted trails, we stopped for a breather and an aperol spritz at a cafe nearby. Once rehydrated we continued a little further on from Madonna de Rocca to a castle that we had seen when we were back in Casteloma. Once at the top, we came to a locked gate (my favourite!), which was soon conquered by the great Pop, Jordan and Lily.

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Once sneaking inside the gates to some of the most spectacular views you have ever seen, we were getting a little peckish for something a little more hardy.  We walked down another ten thousand flight of stairs to the main street of Taormina. We ended up getting a couple pizzas to share at ‘Porta Messina’, after being rudely turned away from ‘Bellini’, for sitting down at a table and asking to share (this was for lunch at a simple cafe, completely empty). We filled our bellies and took a trip to the botanical gardens.

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After all the days we spent admiring the blue waters from above, we took a cable car down to beaches below. The sand was made up of shells and rocks, where Jordan and Pop skipped a couple stones. The place was crazy deserted, but I could see just how busy it would be in summer. After a little scouting and climbing, the sun started to disappear and we headed back up for a nice, last dinner in Taormina.

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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.