Adventures in Australia-March 2017

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March found me back outside enjoying the beautiful skies of Brisbane.  After the hot summer days, it was refreshing to be able to be outside again and not feel like you were melting

March also brought Champagne Tuesday’s. Ok, who am I a kidding, it was champagne day for every day the ended in Y.  My friend Madison flew up from Sydney to join in the festivities. She enjoyed it so much, she flew up again the next week.  ( Truth I think she really wanted to try the Pomegrante Baba Ganoush on Virgin Australia)

The group favorite of the 3 pictured was the Ruinart Rose. Definitely worth checking out if you are into bubbles.

I also had the pleasure of taking a trip to Noosa. Its a beach town located just north of Brisbane on the Sunshine Coast. I really did enjoy it,  but it’s the quintessential beach town. Great place to visit, but I am not sure that I could live there full time.

With fall settling nicely in Brisbane, I was happy to have the opportunity to get out and discover some of the local markets again. One Saturday found me at the West End market with some friends. Fortunately I had just eaten a large breakfast, because imagine my surprise to see Langos, Empandas and Arepas. I guess all the good food is hiding from me at these markets I have not been visiting.

Stay tuned for more adventures. Until next time, safe travels!

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Adventures in Australia-January/ February 2017

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Well I “survived” a Queensland summer. Barely. Brisbane was HOT.  In fact, the heat in January broke some records.  I grew up in Chicago, I thought I could handle the heat. NOPE.  The main reason is the Brisbane is an outdoor living city. Because most of the time the weather is pleasant, people tend to spend a lot of time outside. Well compared to Chicagoan’s, who spend 3-4 months a year in hibernation.

I celebrated my 1st Australia Day. It’s quite similar to the 4th of July in the States. Including fireworks

So what did I do for the few days I was actually in Brisbane?  I watched a lot of sunrises and sunsets from the inside of my air-conditioned apartment.

Other hot day activities included, actually going inside the Queensland Museum. Never mind I walked past it everyday for months. I went with some friends and I pretty sure we went on hottest day ever, because all we did was complain the entire 2 minute walk.  We almost skipped the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art, because it required a walk in the sun.
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For Christmas I had given my parents Opera tickets. I then started getting invites to all sorts of events at their local arts center.  Not that I was going to fly to Florida, but I could handle walking across the street to Queensland Performing Art Center (QPAC). I mean while I watching the world go by I could not help but notice the advertisements for shows.

Some friends were interested in going to see Ludovico Einaudi.  Given my new boyfriend ( OK, not really my boyfriend) Leslie Odom, Jr.  is just amazing on the ivories, I thought I would give Ludovico a shot.  Another friend was in town and I mentioned that “a piano guy” was playing. He wanted to go but could not find tickets for “The Piano Guys” Oops….. The concert was fun, something different. It’s good to get out one’s comfort zone every now and then.

I also took a detour on my way back from Bali to go to Perth. I had do something with the birdnest of hair on my head. Since it was first time going in summer, I decided to book a tour out to Rottnest Island.  I swear it’s amazing how quickly I forget vital facts like I suffer from horrible motion sickness. It’s an island in the ocean…….  I was ok for about the first hour of the boat trip. It was a cruise down the Swan River. Then we hit the Indian Ocean.  Um….. seriously… if anyone reading this hears me talking about getting on a boat… just say NO. It was horrible.

Rottnest is a car-free island. I knew my lazy self would not want to bicycle around so I opted for a bus-tour.  Which was good because it was air-conditioned.  The tour guide suggested I try the pharmacy for some drugs. Luckily I was much better on the return journey.  But I choose to leave the island early because I was just not feeling well and it was  bit hot. If you happen to make it out there, I would recommend plan on cycling around and going swimming. It looked nice.

I flew back to Brisbane, via Sydney on Virgin Australia. I took the morning flight and I passed on the breakfast option. So I was actually hungry but the time I boarded my Sydney to Brisbane flight. I fully expected the curried chicken I had twice a few days before. So imagine my surprise when I was offered something or Pomegranate Baba Ganoush. I don’t remember what something was, but it did not sound good and let’s be honest nor did the Pomegranate Baba Ganoush. But Burnt Fig Ice Cream surprised so bring on the Baba….. Oh man I about to fly somewhere on Virgin to eat that again. It was SO good.  Carrie P or Michelle, if you are reading this, please figure out how to make this for me. PLEASE

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End of February finds me back in Australia. Hopefully I’ll be staying put for the new few weeks. Unless of course I find a reason to get on Virgin flight……Until then, Safe Travels!

Bali, Indonesia-February 2017

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I remember vividly my first trip to Bali. It was when I first caught on to the game for free travel. I was so excited. And then my nephew got sick a few days before my trp. My sister had to attend to something out of town and her husband had a critical meeting. Grandma was in Florida, so that left the Auntie’s. Could I take a day off and help out? Who says no to a sweet 11 month old? Well I should have, the little germanator……  I was sick on my trip to Bali. So sick, I took like 2 pictures. And all I remember was it was HOT.

Fast forward 5 years, I had a credit on Virgin Australia, and  I was in between accommodations in Brisbane.  So it was an easy choice to go back to Bali.

 

This trip was so different then my first time. I actually took a lot of pictures. I hired a driver and went up to Ubud.  I was also able to stop by the John Hardy factory It was interesting to see all the jewelry being handmade.

I also visited some rice fields, some temples and made some new monkey friends.  And yes, I politely passed on the opportunity to hold a bat

Overall, this trip was quite relaxing. I had my first and last Balinese Massage. Even though I told her light pressure, she took light to be strong.  I ended up in bed at 6pm getting my cuddle on with some Ben-Gay.  It was hurt that I never need to experience again. So imagine my shock when I went for a facial the next day and was told it comes with a massage. And it was the same masseuse from the day before. OH NO….. first of all, what kind of spa gives a massage with a facial? I mean, ok if I had not been pulverized the day before, I would have been happy.  Luckily she was much more gentle this time. And no surprise, that when I went for my pedicure,  it also came with a massage.  The dumb move on my part though, was not all the massages, it was going out in the blazing hot sun covered in oil. I am burnt like a piece of bacon right now. And it’s the worst on the back of my legs… Just want I need before flying for 6 hours.

Now I am not proud of what I am about to write. I do not condone violence. And you should always check your temper before going to the airport.  And yes I need to learn to follow my own advice. I spent 8 days, hairbrush and pant free. So I was not in the best mood when I had to pack up and head back home.I had an issue with trying to check out, which included being double charged by the hotel.  (still trying to get that resolved). So needless to say I was not happy by the time I arrived at the airport.  The airport is modern and clean, so that was plus.  You have to have all your bags scanned before you can even get to the ticket counter. Well somehow I ended up in the middle of Chinese tour group.  I admit it looked odd. So of course I got stopped and asked for my ticket. I pointed and said it was at the ticket counter on the other side of security. “Where are you going? Why no ticket? Why are you in this line with this group? Again, where is your ticket?” Now while I am being questioned, I was also being pushed by the tourist behind me. And the guy was just not letting anyone thru. Thankfully I was wearing my Apple watch and I pointed to my next calendar item that showed I was flying to Sydney and he let me through.  Well there were annoyed tourists behind me and they were determined to get thru the line before me. HA not about to happen. There may or may not be video footage of me elbowing a silly gal trying to cut in front  of me. Or perhaps me kicking her suitcase when she tried to throw it in front of me. Or even still maybe me body checking her so I could through the metal detector.  Not confirming nor denying that any of that may have happen. But if it had I am sure some Indonesian security guards had a good chuckle.

Until next time…. Safe travels.

 

Vanuatu-January 2017

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Most people who have trouble sleeping maybe try some melatonin, herbal tea or some lavender. But not Flo, don’t be silly, Flo gets on a plane so she can get some sleep.

It’s no wonder I was having trouble sleeping, I was in the States, then Europe, back to the States then Australia. It also did not help that the bed in apartment I was renting was AWFUL. So after 5 nights in a row of no sleep, I made the executive decision to get some rest. I was not going to stay in Brisbane, because well, why loose an opportunity to travel somewhere new?  I was so tired, the thought of long plane ride took most places out of the running. Enter Vanuatu. There were direct flights from Brisbane and it was only 2.45 hours away on Virgin Australia. Perfect. Plus it would give me the opportunity to visit a new country.

Vanuatu, according to Wikipedia.,  is an island located in the south Pacific Ocean. It reminds of a Caribbean, for my US followers. The airport has one runway, so you land and then turn around to get to the gate.

There are not many chain hotels in Port Vila, the capital.  I booked in for 4 nights at the Warwick Le Lagon. I’ll be honest, I am not sure why. It was not bad, but I am sure if I done more research I would have chosen a different option.

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It has a pool, was on the ocean and the bed was comfortable. It fit my needs. The plus side was the food was pretty good for a resort. If anything the portions were too big!

So what did I do? I slept. I ate a bit and then slept some more. I felt like a new person!  I did make it out into the ocean. You did not need snorkel gear to see the fish. You just had to go about hip deep and well Hello!

I did not do any tours or go snorkeling or scuba diving. I just relaxed. And it was perfect.

I would not recommend flying just from the US to Vanuatu, because as nice as it was, it made the airport made the Port Au Prince airport look nice. However, if you are in the area, maybe doing some island hoping, I would definitely recommend it.  It was amazing, the people are beautiful and who does not love a bit paradise?

For the country counters, this is number 52 for me.

Until next time, Safe Travels!

Adventures in Australia-August 2016

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Shortly after my birthday trip, I headed back to Australia. Which should really read, Flo had travel drama. I had a little bit of weather trying to leave Chicago .

I eventually made it to Australia, but my bags did not. Since I was “home” it should have been fine. But then I remembered, in a moment of pure insanity, I had gotten rid of 1/2 my clothes. So all that remained were now missing, apart from my exercise clothes. When I am going to learn to pack properly?  My bags turned up about 36 hours after me, so in the end it was not too bad.

I arrived back to my first winter in Brisbane. I was looking forward to it, I just did not realize it was going to be, well so chilly.  Not that I am complaining after the heat in Chicago. Something else that is great about the winters. Festivals, tons and tons of festivals!

It was  like German Christmas markets minus the extreme cold weather. It was fantastic!

In another exciting news, the streets of Brisbane were transformed into a movie set for the upcoming “Thor” movie. I did “spot” Anthony Hopkins and Chris Hemsworth.

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Overall, August was a bit a of boring month for me. I was still recovering from being sick in the States. There was quite a few strands of nasty flu going around Brisbane, and I managed to get one them as well. So I did not get up to much.  Well my major accomplishment was that I stayed on one continent for entire calendar month.

Australia continues to surprise me. I am enjoying it more then I thought I would. I am hoping as spring is sprung I am able to get out and travel some more. There is so much to explore.

Until next time, safe travels.

 

 

 

Brisbane, Australia- February 2016

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Pages from MA2016xI think I’ll move to Australia, I thought one day.  Wouldn’t it be great if life was that easy. The universe has conspired to have me move to Australia. I am still waiting to find out why, but I am enjoying the adventure so far.

Booking a one way ticket is kind of a pain. For some reason, round trip’s tend to be cheaper. But if you don’t take the return, it’s considered a throwaway ticket. And well the airlines, frown upon that.

Since I was planning on being in Australia for at least a few weeks,  I tried to fly with one of the airlines I have status with, so I could utilize my additional baggage allowance. I ended up booking my flights on Fiji Airways. I would be flying Chicago to Los Angeles to Nadi to Brisbane.

For some reason, something kept telling me that I would not be flying on Fiji Airways. A few weeks before I was leaving,  I even started looking for alternatives. Which was quite odd because my ticket was non-refundable. I finally accepted I was flying Fiji Airways and decided to make the best of it.

Well 2 days before I was scheduled to leave, Virgin Australia posted on Twitter that due to Cyclone Winston, they were suspended flights to and from Nadi. **Twitter is a traveler’s best friend.  Hmmm I should check Fiji Airways. All flights for that day had been cancelled. A waiver was in place and I would need to call. And let the games begin.

I had made my booking with Orbitz. So I called them first. I was told I could cancel the reservation, but I would need to call Fiji Airways. I called was on hold for 15 minutes, got an agent and soon as I told my issue, the call was disconnected. So I then started looking to my options for another flight. I called United Airlines, oh sure we have a seat for you for $8,817.  I called American Airlines and I was able to book a flight in coach but us an upgrade for business for $1400. I could not provide my credit card fast enough. So new flight booked, I tried my luck with Fiji Airways again. After 45 minutes on hold, I gave up and called back to Orbitz.

After a quick hold, I explained to the agent my issue and asked could my itinerary be cancelled. He said no that I had to fly or lose the value. I tried to explain that the flights were not operating and so what were my options. He called Fiji Airways and they told him that if I wanted to change my flights I would have to pay a fee?  I said well that contradicts their website. He said I was misreading. Really?

So of course I asked for a supervisor. She called Fiji Airways and tried to feed me the same line. I politely referred her to Fiji Airway’s own website.  She came back and said, well the guy is now saying ok maybe they can put you on Qantas direct from LA to Brisbane, but they had not for sure cancelled my flight yet so I would have to call back. I said no, either cancel my ticket or deal with American Express. I’ve had enough. The supervisor came back on the line and said I was good to go. I had been rebooked on Qantas. And if I had any further problems with my ticket, to please NOT call back to Orbitz, but deal with Fiji Airways myself.

I have used Orbitz, a lot in the past, especially when I dealing with a weird itinerary. I’ve never had a problem, but I must say I would reconsider using them in the future after this little fiasco.

I can tell you with absolutely certainty, I will be avoiding Fiji Airways in the future. I am sure they are lovely airline, when things work.

My new home, for now…….

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Stay tuned for future travels from Down Under.