A Travellerspoint blog

Byron Bay

A truly special place

sunny 20 °C
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At Sydney airport we got a free wine sample and when the guy offering this heard my accent he said which part of Ulster are you from? His story was that his Dad was originally from Dungannon (and played rugby many times for Ulster) and his Mum from Belfast. In 1972 his Dad was in the Police and he was warned that he had 3 months to get out (because he was a well known local rugby hero he luckily got a warning). They then fled to New Zealand where the son was born and the family have lived there ever since. He says he visits Belfast every 18 months and did a great Belfast accent – it’s a small world alright.
The flight to Byron Bay went great and we arrived at Byron which is essentially a small village with a hippy vibe which has a stunning backdrop of beaches and mountains. There are strict rules on development there – all buildings are low rise and no McDonalds etc allowed. The weather was gorgeous and we checked into the Byron Bay Motor Lodge Motel – this was the first motel that either of us had ever stayed in. When we think of motels we think of the movie set up whereby someone usually gets stabbed by some crazed red neck trucker – the reality in this case, at least, was very different – nice room, friendly hosts and a pool. We then started walking along the beach towards the most easterly point in mainland Australia and Byron Cape lighthouse. On the way back the sun was setting and the sky was orange behind the distant mountains and as the sky darkened I have never seen as many stars in my life. I have heard work colleagues say about how nice Byron Bay is – it is a truly special place – the nicest we have seen so far on our trip.
That night in the pub we met in with a few blokes – one guy was from Tasmania and he had such a strong Aussie accent – his Mum was also originally from Belfast. I asked him if Tasmanians ever wanted independence from Australia – he said Tazzies were different from people on the mainland, (even more laid back if that’s possible), but he was as “Australian as a dingoe’s dongo” – can’t really argue with that.
One of the pubs was the Railway bar – train services stopped several years ago but the bar still goes strong.
Tomorrow we head to Surfers on route to Brisbane. We expect Surfers will be everything Byron Bay is not – brash, commercialised and loud. However looking forward to surfing there and going to Hooters (I’m a classy guy aren’t I).


Posted by cooneys 00:45 Archived in Australia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Bondi Beach & Blue Mountains

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Bondi Beach & Blue Mountains
On Sunday morning we walked the length of Oxford Street on our way to Bondi. Most of Oxford Street is small boutiques, bars and restaurants and it reminded us of Lisburn Rd & Islington. From Bondi Junction we grabbed a bus out to North Bondi which took us the length of the promenade. We then walked at the water’s edge along Bondi. The weather was unusually nice for this time of year (21c and sunny) and it was great to see all the surfers lining up in the water to catch a good wave. It felt amazing to be actually there – we had seen it on TV so often. My dull headache seemed to dissipate immediately.
The prom and style of many buildings reminded me of some beaches in the south of England – the place looked familiar.
We then started the cliff top walk to Coogee beach. The first place we passed was the Bondi Icebergs’ outdoor salt water swimming pools. This is a swimming club that proudly swims whatever the temperature and they get their name from meetings whereby all members drop huge cubes of ice into the pool to make it even colder for them all to swim in. After that they all go to their social club that looks out over the beach and get very merry – sounds like fun!
The coastal path which snakes its way past several beaches was stunning. It was the most beautiful coastal walk I’ve ever had. Once we got to Coogee Beach we hit the lively beer garden of the Coogee Bay Hotel. I have to say Aussie beer is much nicer than the Carlsberg type muck at home, and colder. Another thing I had been previously told which I now know is 100% true is that no one sells or drinks Fosters lager – it’s simply not seen in Australia. The main brews I’ve seen in New South Wales are Hahns, VB, Coopers and Tooheys which are all very nice indeed.
That evening we took it quite easy – we headed to the Glebe area. I wanted to eat something healthier as it felt like my belly was literally increasing in size every few hours with all the food and beer but it didn’t quite go to plan when we went to a Spanish cafe and wolfed freshly baked churros con chocolate into us. Oh dear!

On Monday morning we headed by train to Katoomba which is in the heart of the Blue Mountains. The journey took about 2 hours and was very nice apart from a religious fanatic trying to convert Michelle and me to Catholicism. I kid you not! We were sitting minding our own business when this black gentleman probably in his late fifties and with a huge crucifix and bulging eyes starting preaching to an elderly lady near us and then turned his attention to us. He reminded me of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and started bible thumping in earnest, the evil of abortion etc. and at top volume. He started praising Mel Gibson (which is particularly sticky territory these days) and he gave us a postcard of Madonna and child (the religious one, not Madonna the singer and her latest African baby import). After 10 minutes which seemed like a lifetime he wisely gave up trying to convert and left the carriage.
We knew Katoomba would be much colder than Sydney and wore several layers but we still weren’t prepared for the cold when we got off the train. It was sunny but only 4c! Brrr – it was like a cold winter’s day in Belfast – such a contrast to the warm sunshine the previous day at Bondi. There were some Chinese tourist that got off the train shivering wearing shorts and t-shirts. After Michelle bought a woolly hat we headed down to Echo Point which has a lookout of a huge rock formation called ‘The Three Sisters’. The view was unbelievable, I have to say we were blown away by it and in the cold morning sunshine there was a blue hue (caused by the eucalyptus forests) which gives the mountains their name. For us the view and scenery was up there with the Grand Canyon – we were so impressed and felt so lucky that the visibility was so good (the lookout is notorious for impenetrable mist).
We then went for lunch and a really nice hike and soon warmed up.
On return to Sydney it was actually raining and as the evening progressed it turned really stormy so we had a chilled night and had a nice meal at our hotel.
We’ve one more day in Sydney and we are hoping to take in Manly, Botanical Gardens, the Opera House and walk across the Harbour Bridge. The 5 days has felt like an ideal amount of time to see the city and tomorrow we’ll be heading north to Byron Bay.
I’ve added a couple of photos of Bondi and the Blue Mountains (hopefully the blue hue can be visible in them).
Talk soon amigos!

Posted by cooneys 08:18 Archived in Australia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Sunday Morning In Sydney

sunny 19 °C
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As predicted I have a dull pain in my forehead this morning but hopefully it should improve with a cuppa and a bit of fresh air. Yesterday was a fantastic day.
In the morning we went to Darling Harbour and enjoyed walking the boardwalks there and had a BBQ lunch and then explored more of our neighbourhood, Surrey Hills, which has lots of really nice bars and restaurants.
We then headed out to the ‘Sydney Soccer Stadium’ (Why do Aussies and Yanks call it soccer! Its football!!!). When we got there a pub was full of hundreds of Rangers fans from all over the world – Ulster flags galore and huge banners from Johannesburg and Brisbane. The bar had also organised for a stream alongside the bar to cascade blue water. We met up with Emma and Kyle in a nearby German bar which served my favourite Hofbrau beer from Munich. It was fantastic to meet up with them again and we enjoyed a few beers watching the game. Rangers lost 1-0 to AEK Athens but it didn’t matter and I’m sure we’ll lose to worse teams in Scotland this season. After we went for a really fab Mexican in Surrey Hills and went to several bars – hence the dodgy head this morning which (paracetamol hasn’t lifted yet).
I was wearing the new Rangers jersey and lots of people came over to us for a chat as a result. One guy was a lifelong Celtic fan living in New South Wales for 30 years but hadn’t lost one bit of his Stranraer accent. Another bloke ran out of a restaurant to me when he saw me walk past in the new jersey and asked where I got it as he thought it was lovely – it was kinda strange having a guy ask me about my outfit – it was like a queer eye for a straight guy moment!
We really enjoyed Emma & Kyle’s company and it was sad to part company at the end of an excellent night. They’ll be back home at Christmas so I’m sure there’ll be a few nights out then. They are enjoying their time in Oz and are taking the opportunity to do as much travelling as possible over the next couple of years – in September they are heading to Vanuatu in Fiji which sounds amazing. Emma wanted me to pass on a huge “Hello!” to everyone at UB Marketing.
Really surprised and pleased how little jetlag we’ve had – apart from a couple of hours on the first day it’s been great. Today its blue skies outside so I can’t wait to explore Bondi Beach and then do the 6km cliff top walk from Bondi to Coogee (once Michelle gets out of her pit!)
I have attached a few new photos - talk soon!

Posted by cooneys 10:04 Archived in Australia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

G'day Sydney

overcast 19 °C
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The flight from HK to Sydney went very smoothly and watched a few movies though I got very little sleep. There was a complimentary newspaper I’d picked up at the airport - the South China Morning Post. Unbelievably in the Hong Kong Property section there was a very random half page article about the Northern Ireland housing market containing a quote from Ulster Bank’s Derek Wilson re the latest Housing survey – I couldn’t bloody believe it! Also there was a lot of RBS advertising as soon as we had stepped off the plane at HK. Is there no escape!!

One of the movies I watched was ‘The Hangover’ which was really funny– the guy (Doug) who goes missing in it reminded me of Ricky and one of the other main characters was a cross between Mark Drennan and Andrew Hanna! If you’ve seen the film you’ll maybe know which one I’m talking about.

Also watched the British gangster classic ‘Get Carter’ starring Michael Caine as an East End gangster going up to Newcastle to exact revenge on whoever killed his brother. 1st time I’d ever seen this film and it was brilliant especially the cinematography and how it built up the suspense. Incidentally I couldn’t believe how much gratuitous nudity there was in this 1971 film. Every few minutes Caine was rolling around with another eager young lady or phoning a naked Brit Ekland for a bit of a “chat” – it felt like every time Michelle looked at my screen there was a rather ample 1970s breast on show often followed by a tut of disapproval from my good lady. The 2 hour long film oddly seemed to pass by very quickly!

The journey is over!!
Yes we finally arrived at Sydney and it is strange to fly somewhere so far away and when you arrive everything is in English and looks and sounds so familiar. Normally when I go on one of my very rare foreign outings ;) a 2 or 3 hour flight brings you in contact with German or Polish or Dutch etc. I obviously knew people in Oz spoke English; I’m not that much of a wally, but it’s still a wee bit strange. What I’m already also struck by is the natural friendliness of the Aussies, even the guy at Immigration control who started chatting away to us like we were his mate – very different experience from United States customs which makes me so nervous I must look as if I’m anxiously hiding a bag of Colombia’s finest where the sun doesn’t shine.

When we got to our hotel we had a quick swim and then headed out to the Opera House and Harbour Bridge in hazy sunshine but didn’t quite make it there. On route we stopped for a bite and then the jet lag and lack of sleep really started to kick in – feeling dazed each step felt like you were walking in deep sand and we gave up and headed back and set the alarm clock for 4 hours sleep – we felt that if we had any more we wouldn’t sleep that night. It felt amazing being able to lie down on a flat bed instead of an airplane seat where lying on your side is pretty much impossible. Enjoyed the deepest sleep of my life and feeling a hundred times better we then headed out and took in some of the sights and a few bars. The opera house and bridge looked cool – it was strange seeing something for real that you’d only ever seen on TV, magazines etc your whole life – it almost seemed unreal.
When we got back to the hotel at about 1am we were wide awake so we ordered some room service beer and watched the film “In Bruges” (starring Brendan Gleeson & Colin Farrell) on the notebook – we were sitting on our sofa with a thick blanket up to our waists like 2 pensioners watching the Twelfth!
Went to bed at 4am
Was awakened before 7am by a loud whirring noise – the type of siren a submarine sets off when it realises a torpedo is coming its way! At least the type they do in the movies (Red Oktober / Das Boot). The racket came from a construction site – it was quiet after that but that was me awake and that is why I’m typing this entry at 7.30 am.
Today we are looking forward to meeting up with Emma & Kyle in Sydney, (who are now living in Canberra about 180 miles away), and taking in a Rangers match. C’mon the teddy bears!! I never thought I would ever be at a Gers game with Emma – I’m sure she didn’t either! Since they’ve moved over here Kyle is missing real football but I’m not sure how much he’ll see watching Rangers – we’re hardly Barcelona! The game will certainly be interesting for her anyway!
The weather is currently a little dull but set to improve later– so we may well leave our planned walk along the cliff top path from Bondi to Coogee beach until tomorrow when it’s meant to be much sunnier and hit a museum and shops today before the footie. Michelle is still in “snoozeville “and likely to be so for another wee while. I’ll sign off now and hopefully my next update will have some photos of us meeting up with Emma & Kyle – I reckon our meeting up with them could end up quite messy – the Bondi walk on Sunday will likely be taken with a slight hangover. Talk soon!
(Ps u can check out and scroll through any new photos and vids I’ve posted on those sections of the blog.)

Hotel below

Posted by cooneys 10:00 Archived in Australia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

On our way!

Belfast City - Heathrow - Hong Kong - Sydney

storm 31 °C
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We're now at Hong Kong airport, will be boarding soon for the final leg to Sydney.
So far we've had a few hours at George Best airport, about 5 hours at Heathrow and then a 12 hour flight to Hong Kong.
Now its another 9 hours to Sydney but the cold beers are really helping matters. Due to arrive at Sydney at 11am (oz time - bit different from chico time) on Friday morning (Sydney is 10 hours ahead of UK).

Michelle has written the following update - as Michelle's is the English teacher I thought she would do a much better job than me of the 1st blog.
Only other comment that I have to add is that Hong Kong airport rocks! Nerd fact - its the 3rd biggest terminal in the world (after Dubai & Beijing), more importantly the beer is ice cold. A few pints taste divine after a long flight. So far I've noticed that Hong Kong people really are a mix of British and Chinese - very efficient and friendly (Chinese) and very well mannered re queues etc (British).
Here goes Michelle's first entry along with photos of us after travelling for 24 hours - i think my stubble is half way between George Michael and Kevin Heavern!

We left our house on Wednesday 28th at 2pm and after a short delay and a few pints arrived at Heathrow.
After trailing around some restaurants to find somewhere that would double' Simon's burger, we settled on the safe bet of TGI's. Several beers later Simon had peaked, however another delay meant that we were a bit grumpy by the time we got on the plane.
The Jumbo Jet was like a flying hotel and after gawking enviously into 1st class luxury we arrived in our ikea like chairs, the place we would call home for the next 12 hours.
The range of entertainment was excellent. With so many films, tv shows and music cds we didnt even need to plug ourselves into our well stocked ipods.
We both managed to get a good bit of sleep. When Simon woke up he saw that we were above the capital of Kazakhstan on the flight tracker - he excitedly looked out the window but failed to see Borat waving back at him - how disappointing!
"Breakfast" arrived shortly after. The choice was eggs or pork. Obviously I went for the eggs but ordered Simon the meat - how could it go wrong? Well, Simon's meal was a snapshot of what his old age dining will be like - mushed rice with shavings of pork will help ease him into his denture days in the future!
So we're now in Hong Kong airport where it feels much less foreign than Heathrow with all its Middle East passengers. Its 31 c outside and when we landed fork lightning from a passing tropical storm lit up the sky like a Christmas Tree. Simon assures me that planes are fine in these conditions. After Simon's Chinese food baptism we opted for a sports bar to help kill a few hours. Next stop - Australia!

Posted by cooneys 22:50 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

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