27 November 2010

A New Home...

Yes, I fell off the planet!  Even bruised my backside & stubbed my toe in the process.  Blogs don't get written when you're off the planet I'm afraid, so my apologies for any inconvenience/withdrawals experienced. 

To recap..  We arrived in Canberra on 15 November '10.  Scott's new company were kind enough to give us the use of the company apartment until we found ourselves a new home.  Our new home is in Barton - a suburb within the Parliamentary Triangle.  It's within walking distance of both Kingston and Manuka (pronounced Maa-nuka - go figure!  I woulda pronounced that Man-ooka.).  Both these suburbs have great cafe's and restaurants, so we're stoked to have found a great apartment in a perfect location.

This is a scale model of Canberra and the Parliamentary Triangle.  If you click on the picture, it will enlarge & you'll see where I've marked our apartment.

On the morning of 24 November '10, I collected the keys from the agents in Kingston and headed HOME to meet the removalists.  I was really lucky and they actually arrived early!  If anyone is looking for removalists in Australia, I can highly recommend BFR Removals - pricing was very competitive, staff were friendly and very helpful.  There were some minor glass breakages, but that was because I did the packing & hadn't put enough padding between the glasses.

So onto the job of making a home for us in this new apartment.  No pressure - just our first house guest the following night! 

 Aside from our suitcases, these few bags were what we traveled down from Brisbane with.  There were a few things which couldn't go into the container for one or other reason.  That's the front door in the background and the kitchen hiding behind the bags.

We have boxes to unpack!

Making progress (or had I just shifted the boxes...?)

 The fridge was just a centimeter too wide for the fridge space - dammit!  Luckily there is this space around the corner from the kitchen.  It's supposed to be a study nook and leads onto the laundry.

All the IKEA boxes in the spare room waiting to be assembled.

 Scott in his element!  Assembling our new spare bed so Julian would have a place to sleep.

Wooohooo!!!  I just love this day-bed!  True IKEA genius with three storage drawers & that whole drawer unit pulls out so that it can be a spare double bed.  The perfect solution for a smaller 2nd bedroom in an apartment.

Drowning in boxes!!!

Excellent progress!  I worked like a demon.

Who knew that I could accumulate so much shit in a bathroom...  And there's not a stitch of make up there.  I'm really not sure what all that is and where it's now hidden.

First night!  Pizza and beer were definitely the order of the day.

 Our 2nd night and our first guest!  Scott & Jules having a chin wag over a beer or 3.  Scott & Jules were at high school together in Port Elizabeth - Grey Boys High.  

 3rd day and time to put my feet up with a well deserved ice cold beer.

 The view from our balcony looking back towards Kingston.

 Scott joining me with feet up & beer.

Remember our trip up Mount Stromlo to the burnt out observatory?   Well these are a couple of pics I took up there.  I was on the lookout for a good frame for them & this is how it turned out.

And now we're all settled in.  I took the following pics this morning.  Yes, I know that that messes up the continuity of this blog (me? anally retentive? never!), but it seemed the best place to put these in.  I'll do separate blogs for the stuff in between.  

 Yes, that's my old surfboard.  It's got plenty of dings along the way and we're a fair distance from the sea, so we found another use for it.  

 It's great to have such a spacious, sociable lounge again after that long narrow space we had in Moggill.

 The kitchen's nice and neat with a surprising amount of cupboard space - half those cupboards are actually empty!  I've gotta be careful not to start accumulating 'stuff' to fill them.

Photo walls!  My bathroom on the left and the spare room at the end.

 The en suite - Scott's bathroom.  And when we've got guests, it's plenty big enough for me to share it without us bumping into each other.

 Our bedroom

 My bathroom - or if we've got guests, their bathroom. 

 The guest bedroom and our study.

 Neat little desks (thanks again IKEA!) - just big enough so they don't end up getting too cluttered.

So this is our new home.  Family & friends - this is an open invitation to come and visit us here in Canberra.  It's a beautiful city and we'd love to show you around.  Please let us know if you're heading our way, we'd love to have you visit!  

23 November 2010

A Whole New Adventure Begins!

Our last couple of weeks in Queensland were spent with Geoff & Pearl in Robina on the Gold Coast.  Fitting considering this is where we spent our first two weeks in Queensland.  On 2nd November, Scott started with the new company and spent 2 weeks in training at their Brisbane branch.  Which meant early mornings - we were up at 4.30am so I could get him to the train station by 5.10am.  Scott thoroughly enjoyed those train rides - with his iPod and his Kindle - 3 hours of pure Scott-time.  And with the stresses of the past months receding, it really was a welcome break.  Queensland Rail are trialing a "Quiet Carriage" on the Robina/Brisbane line where the last carriage is the quiet carriage - no mobile phones, loud music, talking, screaming children, etc.  For the most part, this system works - except on a couple of occasions when a group of drunk indigenous people boarded the train & started harassing Scott for pointing out that it was, in fact, supposed to be a quiet carriage.  LOL!  Talk about living up to the stereotype!

I thoroughly enjoyed Scott's early mornings 'cos I'd get my walking shoes on & head straight to the Burleigh beach from the station and spend an hour & a half walking walking from one side to the next & back again.  I'd then head for Nook Cafe at the Burleigh Beach House for a great coffee which I'd take down to the park & drink while trying to read my Kindle.  Not an easy feat when you have all those hot surfers going for their morning surf....  But I suffered through it all....  

We had plenty of farewells with friends and family.  Our last night in Moggill saw us having dinner & copious amounts of bubbly, white wine, red wine and Tia Maria with our wonderful neighbour Dearna.  Wow!  I haven't had a hangover like that ever!  But with plans for Dearna to visit us in Canberra put into the diaries for mid-Jan 2011, it wasn't goodbye.

Time just flew over those last couple of weeks on the Gold Coast!  Plenty of great dinners with Geoff & Pearl, the McGuickens and a couple of awesome sushi lunches with Doug at Coolangatta. And of course, our 'official' farewell at Geoff & Pearls' place with the McGuickens & the Gold Coast Wellssss.  What a great memories to take with us on our latest adventure!  And we've got the McQuickens thinking of a ski holiday our way next winter....  and Doug thinking along the same lines...  Visitors most welcome!!!

 Watching the Sharks whip some WP butt in the Currie Cup final!  Go Sharks!!!
At Geoff & Pearl's were Scott, Kerry, Shawn & Mac

 Kerry & I at dinner at Taboon - a fabulous Middle Eastern restaurant in Robina

 Taken on a Saturday when I took Scott walking with me - also North Burleigh overlooking Miami Beach all the way to Surfers Paradise

Looking back over Burleigh beach towards the Burleigh Heads

This is the spot I usually drank my coffee, read my Kindle & let my gaze wander...

 The kids table at our farewell - Chris, Shawn, Jazzie & Megs

The grown ups hanging out in the kitchen

 Shawn & Chris started up right where they left off last Xmas - playing in the pool

 The cutest little munchkin!

 Me with my brother, Doug & his dodgy mo' (in aid of Movember)

Munchkin busted on camera scoffing chips while the other kids were in the pool!

 It was just too tempting....  Megs bending over at the side of the pool....

 Coffee & choco cake after Pearl's awesome seafood risotto - Pearl, Kerry, Megs & Geoff

Our beautiful room at Geoff & Pearl's 

Saturday 13 November we were up at 3.30am and hit the road at 4.30am.  Wooohoooo!  Canberra here we come!  But first, a 2 night/1 day stop at Smiths Lake.  Friends of ours, Ange & Michael have a house down that way.  Unfortunately we happened to be there on a weekend they couldn't be there, but it was a perfect mini-break around the halfway mark.  From Robina to Smiths Lake was 616km.

We thought we'd gotten a great early start....  only to realise that when we crossed over into New South Wales, we lost an entire hour!  Instead of being 5am, it was 6am!  Damn!  

Gold Coast to Smiths Lake = 616km
Smiths Lake to Canberra = 557km
Total = 1173km

 Us next to the Clarence River, Mclean, NSW

 Us at the Ferry Park Cafe

Delicious brekkie!

 Coffee, brekkie & my netbook - a quick email to update family on our progress

 Then we hit a snag...  There was a head on collision on the Pacific Highway & they'd closed the whole highway.  Cars were backed up for kilometres!  We tried to take a detour but came up about 2kms short.  So we waited - luckily we had a spot of shade and we were just patient.  There really wasn't much we could do without a 4x4, so we chatted to other people in the jam to pass the time.

 Our little Astra just wouldn't have handled that fire track...

 We made it to A&M's stunning holiday house at Smiths Lake around 4pm and just lazed about the back deck watching birds & drinking a toast to Dad with his favourite wine - a Groote Post Shiraz.

The back deck (click the pic to enlarge)

At around 5pm, the brush turkeys do a runner from the reserve to somewhere - it's the official start of happy hour!

 Scott having a snooze on the daybed

 Coming upstairs to watch the sunset

 Scott sipping on his shiraz

Sunday morning coffee on the front deck

Elizabeth beach

 We did try and go for a swim but it was absolutely FREEZING!

 SquEEky sand!!!!

Sunday night we had delicious pizza from Huey's on Blueys - scrumptious thin base with really inventive toppings!  We even bought an extra one for padkos (food for the road).

Sunday night was very early to bed - ready to rise at 2.30am for a departure by 3.30am.  Up we got, showered & hit the road at..... 4.30am!!!!  I'd forgotten to change the time on my mobile phone!  Bleh!!!!

Our first wee-stop - The Big Rock service station on the Pacific Highway - not very clear in the dark - see the pic below.  Aussies have heaps of "Big Things" all over the country.

Nearing Sydney!  Getting very excited!

My turn to drive again

Welcome to the Australian Capital Territory!  We arrive in Canberra - our new home!

 The apartment block we're staying in to begin with - a serviced apartment that the company rents for when they have larger contracts & need to bring in technicians & programmers from out of state.

 Lounge/dining room looking out to the balcony

Main bedroom (with bedding changed to our own - see below)

 Walk-in closet

 And THIS is what I found in the bedside table.....  to be fair, the company has only just rented the apartment, so I don't think it belongs to any of Scott's colleagues!  Needless to say, I immediately stripped the linen off the bed & put our duvet cover on and new, clean sheets!
Pretty styling wrap-around balcony with a view over Lake Burley Griffin

Scott's first morning at work in Canberra

 I took him into the office which is behind the airport - next to an air force base

One of the streets I parked in in Kingston while apartment hunting - very pretty

 On our way up to Kingston village for a beer & a bite

 Scott on the balcony at sunset

 What a fiery sunset!

 The hot air balloons take off just down the road from us at dawn

 Heading out for a walk

 Park at the end of the road

Scott getting in the way of the camera!

The camera got hijacked!

 An jogger offered to take our pic - we're such tourists!

 Scott becoming one with the tree

 Scott branching out

 Chatting to the swans which followed me all the way down the walkway wanting dinner

 Scott wearing his new work shirt

When we arrived on Monday, we hit the ground running and went to our first rental viewing.  I spent the next three days scouring the internet and running around looking at apartments.  I came to two conclusions.  1.  Real estate agents have magic cameras and are wizards on Photoshop because their photos bare very little resemblance to the actual properties.  2.  Canberra is a damn expensive city to live in!  The reason for this, I found out, is because of the exorbitant salaries the public servants earn - landlords can get more, so they don't accept less.  So we had a choice - lower our standards and live in a dark, damp hole at a reasonable rent, or be prepared to spend more on living in a decent apartment.  We chose the latter and I found us a great apartment very close to Capital Hill which is still within walking distance of all the cafes, bars & restaurants of Kingston and Manuka.

As I write this, it is only one more sleep and we move into our new home!  Woopee!  I collect the keys tomorrow morning and the movers arrive mid-morning.  This is the part of moving I really enjoy - the unpacking.

The location of the two apartments

The Google street view of our new home

 Very happy Scott with some sangria at our local Portuguese restaurant - Vasco's

 Enjoying the sangria!

 A delicious mixed grill for 2

And churros dipped in chocolate for desert - to die for!!!

 Scott woke me up on Saturday morning to show me the hot air balloons!

Time for some exploring...

 Scott making us brekkie before we head off

We spent the day driving and looking - getting a feel for the lay of the land

 Our first stop was to have a look across at Parliament House & Capital Hill

 Then up to the Australian War Memorial - the is looking back down towards Capital Hill

 The War Memorial

 Fountain at the War Memorial - we'll come back here - together with ANZAC parade, this is a full day's excursion.

 Next stop, the Telstra Tower on Black Mountain - hopefully the car would start again!

 We thought this would be a great way to get a bit of perspective on the size and layout of Canberra

 Scott gearing up for some adventuring

 The scale model in the foyer

 360 degree views!  Awesome!

The people looked like ants below

The city centre on the left and Lake Burley Griffin.  The company apartment is right over on the other side of that smaller bit of lake left of centre.

 The inside viewing deck

 The outside viewing deck - Scott balls were twinging...   That's a VERY low railing when you're 66m up!

 Googlie eyes!

 One time I'm happy to be short - it made the railing higher!

 We passed a rowing regatta (was told it wasn't called a race!) along the way.  Tanya, Jamie - think you should move to Canberra - see, they row here!

We came across Coppins Crossing (Coppin is my Mom's maiden name) and just had to stop for a couple of pics

 Looking through the crossing at what the last flood had washed up

 Being tourists & posing for pics!

Scott had seen some white domes on a hill in the distance so we started heading in that general direction.  It turned out to be the Australian National University's Mount Stromlo Observatory - or what was left of it after the fire storm of 2003 which destroyed 3 of the telescopes.  They now have another facility at Siding Spring in NSW.  It was really interesting walking around the ruins and I got some really lovely pics.  I've also just found a walking guide for the area with all the info on the ruined buildings.  Another spot to head back to!

The 74" Reflector which was damaged by fire in 2003

 Scott in front of the 74" Reflector - they obviously re-worked the outside but the inside is a complete ruin.

 Looking up towards the Satellite Laser Ranging Observatory - this is still operational

 Lovely gardens

 This is the Gwynvill sundial - you use your own shadow to tell the time - damn accurate too.

Some wild roo's in the gardens 

 Beautiful views from the Observatory gardens

 The ruins of the 26" Yale-Columbia Refractor
 Scott in the ruins

 Scott outside the abandoned visitors centre

 A panoramic view from the observatory

 The ruins of the 9" Oddie Refractor

A perfect spot for a ham radio fundi to contact his mates -  I bet Dad woulda loved chatting to this guy!

 Looking across from the observatory to the Telstra tower (zoomed)

 The stunning avenue to the Governor General's residence

Back in the city after our country drive, we turned into the suburb of Yarralumla to check out some of the embassies and high commission buildings from around the world.  




USA - obviously with the most security!  

 South Africa

 Funky Finland


 We also took a drive around the new houses of parliament at the top of Capital Hill

That is one ENORMOUS flag!

 The Captain Cook Memorial Jet

With it's inauguration in 1970 to commemorate the bicentennial of anniversary of Captain Cook's discovery of the East coast of Australia.  This jet, when running at full capacity, can reach up to 174m.  It was a beautiful day and there were a whole bunch of kids who took pedal boats out so they could get soaked under the jet.  Think that's a great idea for a hot weekend - will put it on the list of things to do...  the list is growing! 

(send me your ideas for a caption to this one!)

First impressions of Canberra?  Traffic is a dream - being the only planned (from scratch) city in the world, it certainly has the traffic congestion down to a minimum.  Apparently all major roads have been planned with the capacity to be widened in the future.  Good thinking!

There is SO much to see and do here.  If you like outdoor lifestyle, this is a great place to live.  Cycle paths are absolutely everywhere - most roads, when built, were built with cycle lanes included.  Canberra is pretty with plenty of parks, beautiful oak tree-lined streets, sports fields and of course the lake.

It's by no means a bustling metropolis!  The Kingston/Manuka area have fantastic restaurants, shops and cafes which is why we wanted to be in this area.  But it's not a big city.  During the day the wide streets almost seem deserted.  But the village is all hustle and bustle from Monday thru to Sunday nights.  

We're both looking forward to moving into our new apartment tomorrow.  Unpacking our things is going to be like Xmas come early!  With a weekend to settle in, we have our first visitor next week - Julian - a school mate of Scott's who lives in Sydney will be down here.  And then it's not long before we head up to Sydney, my Mom arrives, Xmas, New Year, Dearna's visit....  Life is on the up 'n up!