We landed back in Australia on the 10th of December 2012, setting foot on home soil for the first time since we left on the 20th of July 2010.
To stretch out our travel time for as long as possible, we flew into Brisbane where we caught up with friends and family before hiring a car and driving down the east coast to Newcastle over the course of a week. We stopped off at various places along the way and spent a couple of nights each in Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour and Tuncurry. It was the first time I’d been to any of those places and we were particularly impressed with Byron Bay. We knew it was popular and expected it to be packed out, but luckily we must have beat the main summer holiday rush because it wasn’t busy at all. The town has a nice laid-back vibe and the many beaches certainly are beautiful: some of the nicest, clearest water I’ve seen at an Australian beach.
Alex stayed on in Newcastle to be with his family over Christmas and I ducked down to Melbourne to spend it with mine. It was wonderful to see them again after so long! My dad came over to visit while we were living in London but I hadn’t seen my mum since we left Australia so it was particularly nice to see her again after all this time.
And, much to my delight, our cat Jonty (who has been living with my parents while we were away) remembered who I was! (And he didn’t hold our extended absence against me as I’d feared he might.)
So what’s it like being back in Australia after all this time? It was a bit strange at first, mostly because we didn’t go home straight away. Spending our first week and a bit travelling through parts of Australia that were new to us gave us the strange sensation of things seeming both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.
The main things I’ve been struck by since our return are things I used to know but had forgotten in the meantime. Some random observations and impressions…
- Houses and property that locals consider small seem almost enormous to us after living in apartments for so long.
- Likewise, pet dogs are often bigger than we must have been used to!
- People seem to apologise more than they do in London, just for the sake of being polite. It’s refreshing – I don’t think people do it as much in London because for fear of inviting blame.
- Some chains commonly seen in Britain have made their way to Melbourne – spotted Zara and WH Smith in the city. Bring on H&M!
- People in retail shops are too friendly. ^_^; I don’t really want to respond to two or three “hello”s and “how are you”s when I’m just sticking my head in a shop for a quick browse. I used to work in retail myself so I know they’re required to do it, and it’s really just a common courtesy, I guess I just got used to being ignored in shops. :P
- Eating and drinking out is so expensive – up to $40 for a main meal and up to $20 for an alcoholic drink! Of course it’s not always as bad as that, but it is pretty bad in general…
- Internet is painfully capped and expensive to boot.
- Petrol is cheaper than in the UK though!
- Dan Murphy’s has an excellent range of international beers that we can enjoy while reminiscing about our travels (as long as we don’t compare the price between here and where it comes from).
- James Squire seems to have overtaken Coopers as the Aussie beer de rigueur.
- Also, alcoholic ginger beer seems to have become quite popular in Australia (yay!), as have flavoured ciders.
Otherwise it’s been strange but nice seeing familiar sights again, especially with fresh eyes. I also noticed a lot of changes around Melbourne – new shops and restaurants, and a lot of the ones that are still there have been rebranded. (Looking good, Commonweath Bank.) I went on a bike ride with Dad on Boxing Day which culminated in a view of the city skyline from the bridge near the MCG. Every time I come back to Melbourne after time overseas this sight brings an automatic big smile to my face: that little handful of skyscrapers – so small compared to so many other cities, but it’s home.
I came back up to Newcastle to join Alex and his friends for New Year’s eve and we’ve been up here since then.
We both officially return to Melbourne on the 10th of January.
So, the next task is to settle back into Melbourne and return somewhat to The Real World. I don’t have any New Year’s resolutions but I do want to get back into swimming, cycling, cooking, baking and knitting, most of which I neglected while we were living in London. My Mum also recently introduced me to Zentangle which I’ve played around with and find inspiring. Then there’s that wedding to plan, and I’m sure our travelling days aren’t over. And I’d like to keep blogging, of course – I’ve got a few ideas up my sleeve. :)