Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Coming home the long way - Cuba, Mexico, Vegas, San Fran, Hong Kong, Perth

Once upon a time there was a girl who lived in London and loved to travel. And eat. A lot. Then one day her husband got a job in the lovely sunny city of Perth (what a clever boy) and together, they decided that maybe it was time to go back to their homeland. So they packed up their house (complete with an entire box filled JUST with beer glasses and other alcoholic related paraphernalia) bought a plane ticket (actually, make that plane ticketS, plural...) and set off back to the land down under. The long way. And here goes my story.


Leaving London was HARD although I don't think I realised it at the time. There was the moving part. I hate moving. The packing bit. I hate packing even more. Dealing with issues like lost mail, apartment cleaning, disputes about bond. Fun. And of course, the goodbyes. I have met so many wonderful people in London, it was hard to say goodbye, especially when some goodbyes might actually be forever!

It's only really just starting to sink in now that we've gone, we're settling into Aussie life and I'm missing people (in particular a big sister and baby nibling spring to mind...) the lifestyle and other bits and pieces. 

Uncle B getting in one more cuddle
with his littlest nibling.
Baby Bjorn + hands free = beer!
This was definitely one
of the worst goodbyes for me

London, UK - August 2014

When we left, I think I was too excited to be sad because we had a HUGE trip ahead of us. So let me tell you all about it. But first, a confession. 

For those of you who follow me on instagram (be careful, it can become an addiction. One I am slowly trying to cope with due to the fact that internet at home continues to evade me - but wait for my next blog post for THAT scintillating story) I have to apologise for the photos included in this blog post. They're all ones from my phone, most of which I've put up on instagram because well, I'm a PC girl and now I have my Mac, I'm still trying to work out the little things. Like how to get photos off my camera, onto my Mac easily. Perhaps by the time my next post rolls around I will have figured that one out (or skyped my Mac expert sister and asked her).


I wasn't exactly sure what to expect of Cuba but what we got was certainly different to what I was imagining. It's almost like the country is stuck in the 70s with no real 'newness' to speak of. Actually, that was something I quite liked about it. There were no big corporations, no fast food outlets and no recognisable brands (except for Havana Club rum of course). It was quite rustic and gritty but not in a horrible way.

The taxis were COOL in Cuba!
Havana, Cuba - September 2014

What was horrible though, was the food. Ugh. It was TERRIBLE! My friend J had warned me what to expect but I didn't quite believe it. 90% of the food we had was just yuck. Although do cocktails count as food? Cause they WERE good! And cheap, oh so cheap! 

As well as the rum museum, we went to the gorgeous beach, visited a Cuban cigar factory which gave me newfound respect for how they make Cuban cigars. It's quite incredible and is almost beautiful to watch.

Day one of holidays, complete with 
$2 icy cold beers. Life is sweet!
Havana, Cuba - September 2014

Not a bad place to start our holiday
Havana, Cuba - September 2014

We also took a trip to Vinales in the mountains which was just lovely. We visited a tobacco farm and I think highly insulted the owners because we didn't buy any of their organic cigars. They did NOT believe that we couldn't get them back into Australia and we sat there for what felt like hours, in silence, while they just stared at us, half expecting us to change our minds and say, "Aw what the hell, we'll take 40!"

While B got a cigar, I got a coconut!! First I had
the juice, then they cut it open for me and
I ate the entire thing. - coconut piggy!
Vinales, Cuba - September 2014

Our view at the end of our walk. Stunning!
Vinales, Cuba - September 2014


Officially my favourite country in the whole world (so far). I LOVED Mexico. I had wanted to visit here ever since I watched a Mexican cooking show on tv and it did not disappoint. We went to Playa del Carmen first which was touristy, but not too over the top. The beaches were wonderful, the shopping was excellent and the food was out of this world. We ate it for lunch and dinner for seven days straight and I was STILL not sick of it. Old El Paso is officially dead in my eyes. That is NOT proper Mexican food!

The best food of our trip. TONNES of grilled meats,
loads of sides, heaps of sauces - incredible!
Playa del Carmen, Mexico - September 2014

The best place for food, also did
gigantic frozen margaritas.
Yes, that's my 'this is AWESOME' smile.
Playa del Carmen, Mexico - September 2014

Yoga on a very stormy beach.
Playa del Carmen, Mexico - September 2014

All that yoga calls for some relaxation under
a palm tree.
Playa del Carmen, Mexico - September 2014

Our private hammock on our private balcony
overlooking the pool. I'm not actually as
close to the ground as I seem to be.
I didn't eat THAT much Mexican food...
Playa del Carmen, Mexico - September 2014

We then visited a water park called Xel Ha on our way to Tulum. It's not a Wet n Wild, waterslides and wave pools kind of water park though. It was one where you could swim with dolphins, hold a parrot, float down the river on a tube, snorkel with beautiful fish, cannonball off cliffs, flying fox into the water and continually get scared by giant iguanas roaming around the pathways (this was me with every single one we came across. They're scary ok?! Don't judge me!) The bonus - apart from the stunningly beautiful scenery and that we had the only sunny day that week, was it was all you could eat and drink all day. Yep, that's right! Margarita? Sure! Frozen daiquiri? Why not. Pour your own beer - damn right! Oh yes, it was a wonderful place! Thanks to M for the suggestion, best travel tip ever!

Beautiful Xel Ha. All the water
here looked this perfect
Xel Ha, Mexico - September 2014

Our next stop was Tulum. We stayed in a gorgeous beach front cabin which was quite literally OVER the water. Our bath was outside overlooking the ocean. We had a swinging day bed and no electricity. Yep, no lights. It was what B called an eco-hippy-resort and I LOVED it! The electricity disturbs the turtles that nest on the beach so it's all about candles and relaxation. This meant we were in bed by about 9pm every night and awake before 7 because there were no curtains. 

Our hippy hut!
Tulum, Mexico - September 2014

Swinging on our swing!
Tulum, Mexico - September 2014

What a view!
Tulum, Mexico - September 2014

More beach yoga. How could I not?!
It was perfect yoga conditions!
Tulum, Mexico - September 2014

On a less fun note, we hired bikes and took a back road to get back to our resort. And by back road, it was more like off road. Rocks and bumps, holes in the dirt track followed by a PROPER off road track that was teaming with flies and blood thirsty mosquitos. And then we hit the end of the road. A swamp. Meaning we had to turn and go allllll the way back cause it was a no through road. The whole time it was raining and took over an hour. It was a horrible experience but I guess travel can't all be margaritas and sunshine.  

Inside, outside and the view from our eco
hut. It was hard to stay grumpy when
this was where we were.
Tulum, Mexico - September 2014 


From hippy delights to the bright lights of Vegas. What a contrast! We spent a night on the outskirts of Cancun before flying to Vegas and I must admit, having working lights, a proper shower and not having to coat yourself in bug spray every night was AWESOME.

Saying goodbye to Mexico with a trip
to the supermarket (I love a good
foreign supermarket!) with some
mega Oreos. No, we didn't buy them!
Cancun, Mexico - September 2014

Vegas. What can you say about it? That place is nuts!! Our first night we arrived and were dressed and out the door in less than 40mins. To say B was excited was the understatement of the century. He was buzzing! All glammed up in my high heels and sparkly Vegas dress, I immediately noticed I was overdressed. To the point that all the people around me were in flip flops, shorts, bikinis, singlets or in some cases, no shoes at all. Awkward...

The classiest casino around.
Las Vegas, USA - September 2014

Ok, so we WERE in the Hooters Casino but still, I had at least expected shoes! On L&G's recommendation, we had to try the famous Hooters chicken wings and I'm pretty sure that's what made me sick for the next two days! Still, when in Vegas, one must try the local eats!

He's got his wad of dollar bills
ready to rock (and gamble!)
Las Vegas, USA - September 2014

The colours, the lights, the cocktails -
Vegas is like nothing I've ever experienced!
Las Vegas, USA - September 2014

Day two, B went to a shooting range and had fun with weapons. It's not really my style and beside, I would prefer to spend my money on clothes or shoes! Speaking of which, we went to the famous Vegas outlet stores and spent up big. Buying so much stuff, that we had to buy another suitcase just to fit it all in.

We celebrated our second wedding anniversary while in Vegas and B surprised me with a helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon. It was INCREDIBLE. One of the very best things we've ever done in all our travels. Amazing views (we got to ride at the front next to the pilot!) breathtaking scenery and a picnic lunch with bubbly makes for a pretty good anniversary!

BEST anniversary present ever! Thanks B!
Can't wait to see what he'll get me for year three!
Las Vegas, USA - September 2014

Front row seat!
Las Vegas, USA - September 2014

Incredible. We had the most perfect
day for it too!
The Grand Canyon, USA - September 2014

Another thing ticked off my bucket list!
The Grand Canyon, USA - September 2014

I found it TOUGH to find healthy food in Vegas. We ended up at The Cheesecake Factory (a real place for all you Big Bang fans!) and the food was good! In amongst the dedicated cheesecake menu, the all you can drink soft drinks and the main menu that went on for pages and pages, I was delighted to find a healthy menu. I jumped at the chance to eat vegetables and baked fish. Divine! Don't worry, we also had cheesecake and it was delicious! We tried to go for something simple, rather than the double chocolate or red velvet or dripping with caramel or sugar with sugar topped with sugar options. Plain vanilla cheesecake with fresh strawberries - perfect! Except the strawberries were dipped in a sticky pink sugar syrup and piled with whipped cream. American's sure know how to ruin the simple pleasures like fresh fruit!

The lights, the noise, the heat in Vegas are all out of control. It's so over the top and just in your face all the time. We visited Old Vegas (so cool!) mastered the skills of getting free drinks in casinos in the quickest way possible, went to see Mystere by Cirque du Soliel which was wonderful, and had the BEST steak dinner thanks to our incredibly generous friend TF. Seriously, this steak (oh, and lobster too, nearly forgot about that!) was melt in your mouth. The sauces were amazing and it came with bacon and brie tater tots - awww yeah! Complete with a bottle of Sonoma Valley red, it was one of the best meals we've ever had (with a price tag to match). From this, it sounds like all we did in Vegas was eat but I assure you, a lot of gambling was also done. B even tried out the pokies at the airport, getting his fix right up until we had to board the plane. 

The Mirage our fancy home in Vegas!
Las Vegas, USA - September 2014

The lights of Old Vegas
Las Vegas, USA - September 2014


The first thing I noticed about San Fran was the number of healthy places to eat. For our first meal, I had a salad and I nearly sighed with pleasure. Health food stores on every corner; I could order a burger without the bun and they'd wrap it in a giant lettuce leaf for me; the best sushi of my LIFE; organic, vegan, vege wraps at the food markets - I was in heaven!

Grilled chicken 'burger' in a lettuce wrap.
They must grow the most enormous lettuces in
the US!
San Fransisco, USA - September 2014

There was a whole bakery dedicated to gluten-free
foods! I thought it would have been rude NOT
to try a sweet cheese danish.
San Fransisco, USA - September 2014

The most incredible sushi I've had in my life
(and I've eaten a LOT). The Sumo Roll on the
right rocked my world. Ah-MAZING.
San Fransisco, USA - September 2014

Cold pressed coffee made with almond milk. I nearly
squealed with excitement when I found this!
San Fransisco, USA - September 2014

To counterbalance all the good food I ate, we took a trip to the Sonoma Valley for a wine tasting day out and it didn't disappoint. Actually, if I'm honest, I found most of the wines only ok. Drinkable definitely, but nothing to write home about (B called me a wine snob). Still, it was a great tour and a definite must do if you're ever in American wine country.

The Golden Gate Bridge. On
our way to our wine tour and also
proof that I did take photos of
things other than food.
San Fransisco, USA - September 2014

We visited Alcatraz (SUCH an amazing place, great audio tour too) and the famous worlds crookedest street. We explored the crazy touristy piers and did a LOT of shopping. I say 'we' but really, it was B who went on a shopping bender. These happen maybe once every two to three years so I am always very relaxed and just let them run their course. "What do you think? Should I buy it? Should I get it? It's on sale!" were the words I heard over and over again on our three days in San Fran. I spent so much time waiting outside the mens change rooms at Macy's department store, that I even witnessed a guy trying on a tie, checking himself out in the mirror, then bolting for the nearest exit. Err... did anyone else see that??

Typical tourist spot. The crookedest street
in the world - Lombard Street.
San Fransisco, USA - September 2014

Ridiculously enormous gummy bear anyone?
No. We didn't buy it (we didn't have room
in our suitcase, sorry L!)
San Fransisco, USA - September 2014


Leaving San Fran on a 1am flight meant we flew all night and arrived in Hong Kong at 5 in the morning. Finally on Perth time, we were able to get rid of our jet lag here, meaning we were right as rain when we arrived in Aus.

Hong Kong was great! A bustling city filled with delicious food, cheap electronics (hello from my brand new MacBook Air) and busy little street markets. When we checked into our hotel, the lovely staff said they would have our room ready by 11am so we didn't have to wait until 2pm to have a sleep. 

We went in search of breakfast and very nearly ended up in a McDonalds until we discovered a local restaurant where the man spoke very good English. We had bowls of delicious noodles and yum iced coffees before setting out onto the streets to explore. When 11am rolled around, we crossed our fingers that our room would be ready and hooray, it was! We showered and collapsed for a much needed sleep.

On our two day visit, we also saw the symphony of lights, tried all kinds of dumplings and street food, had a massage so hard that I was bruised the next day, got lost on the metro, and bartered hard to bring home even more amazing trinkets and souvenirs. Honestly, B is brutal, he drives a hard bargain. I'm sure most owners think he's going to be a pushover and then he takes them to the cleaners! Mamma Mia (only those who witnessed B's hardcore bargaining in Thailand for L&G's wedding will understand this one. I know Italian isn't the main language of Hong Kong). 

Symphony of lights
Hong Kong - September 2014

Dim sum for breakfast, cheap and cheerful!
We ate where the locals ate and were NOT
Hong Kong - September 2014

Some sort of street food. B loves to try random
things in local markets!
Hong Kong - September 2014

Beautiful buildings in Hong Kong. And this is
hashtag no filter too! I found them fascinating.
Hong Kong - September 2014

And now I'm sure everyone's FAVOURITE part of my blog - the travel magnet update, complete with my personal ratings!

Nothing but magnets for sale in this shop.
Brilliant! Although surprisingly not the only
dedicated magnet shop we came across
on this trip!
Playa del Carmen, Mexico - September 2014

* Cuba - a Cuban cigar. Obviously! 6/10
* Mexico - a sombrero topped with a miniature Corona and taco. Bravo Mexico, bravo! 7/10 (a full blown taco would have been even better - no such luck).
* Vegas - typical pictures of Vegas landmarks behind the glitter-water filled 3D magnet with two tiny dice that roll around in the water. Nice. Classy. 7/10
* Vegas - a mini football that doubles as a bottle opener. Only purchased because it's from Hooters 7/10
* San Fran - a mini replica of their famous trams. Classic, not tacky 7/10
* Hong Kong - a skyline showing the symphony of lights 6/10
* Hong Kong - a bowl of noodles complete with tiny chicken wings, bok choy, chopsticks and noodles hanging off the chop sticks. Bought simply because it was a food magnet, 3D and is AWESOME 9/10 (it loses a point because we bought it at the airport so it was expensive).

And here they are, in all their glory
Perth, Australia - October 2014


Final stop, Perth Western Australia. We're here! We're back! I still can't quite believe it! But I'll save all our Perth stories, my cuddles and adventures with my niblings, the 'fun' of setting up home, all for next time. Cause I'm actually a bit worried. What will I talk about now? Do I need to change my blog name to LifeLove??Food... 

THE END (for now).

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