Sydney, Day 3

Sydney, Day 3

Today we decided to do the Coogee to Bondi coastal / beach walk – a 2.7 mile walk along the beautiful coast of New South Wales, Australia. It was raining pretty hard when we woke up around 8 AM, so we lounged until the sun came out around 9:30 and took off to the bus station. We waited about 10 minutes for the 373 bus to drive us 25 minutes to Coogee beach. On the bus there were two barely 20-year-old looking guys trying to get this young girl in a Ponzi scheme type company that sold “lotto” tickets. It sounded super shady but listening to their “sales” pitches helped pass the time waiting to arrive at our beach destination.

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It was still a bit chilly, so my Lululemon jacket really came in handy and the sun felt great when it finally hit us. The coastal walk is a paved walk that runs for miles along the water and is full of stellar views. There is quite a bit of walking up and down hills and cliff sides and, while it wasn’t thaaat tough, we didn’t realize how sore we still were from the Tongariro Crossing a few days prior until we started going up some of the hills!

With stopping to admire some of the views and chasing our hats around as they got blown off our heads, the hike took us about two hours. We even watched a whole bunch of kids surf the turbulent waves out on the water.

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Eventually, we got to Bondi Beach, one of the most visited tourist sites in all of Australia. There were quite a few people swimming in the sea water filled baths and surfers, but the beach itself wasn’t too packed.

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We were starting to get hungry so we walked down the shops and restaurants to find a spot to eat and ended up getting some delicious Chai tea lattes while watching the waves hit the water. Ryan really wanted to try McDonald’s (or “Macca’s” in Aussie lingo) so we stopped there and he got a Big Mac and fries. It actually tasted quite different from the US version, especially since the Ketchup (or tomato sauce in Aussie) is much sweeter.

I was in the mood for a meat pie since I had yet to have one in Aussie and they are one of my favorite Aussie delicacies! I found a little place called Funky Pies on the way back to the city and got a butter chicken pie that was sooooo flaky and delicious. (As I review this blog post entry, my stomach is literally rumbling for this pie 4 months later! It was THAT yummy). Good thing we had a 1.5 hour, 3 mile walk back to our hotel to walk it off.

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After quite the walk and a bunch of hills, we finally got back to the hotel. We showered and packed up to stay at my aunt’s house for the night. We walked down to the Central Train Station, filled up our Opal cards, and hopped on the train to her stop.

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It was super easy to find the right train and the train was very clean. My aunt was waiting for us at the station and it only took a few minutes to get to her house where my cousin and uncle was waiting. We watched some football, drank wine, and snacked on some delicious cheeses and bread with olive oil, balsamic, and dukkah – my new favorite combination!

Once my sister arrived, we enjoyed some amazing conversation, roasted chicken, fresh oysters, prawns, potatoes, and a slew of other delicious things. I have to say, both my aunt and my mom are excellent cooks! The amount of fresh produce and seafood avaialbe in Sydney only makes it even better.

It seemed like we talked for hours could have gone on for a few more. It was so great to catch up, get juicy / funny stories about my mom and aunt growing up together, and reminisce about the times my sister and I visited Australia or when my family came to the US. I have to say, my Australian family is absolutely amazing and I couldn’t have been happier to see them or finally introduce them to Ryan.

Eventually, we were stuffed and tired and hit the hay to rest up for another early morning.

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Sydney, Day 2

Sydney, Day 2

My mom is from Sydney and has quite the family over in Australia with 3 brothers and 1 sister that all have kids around my age. I grew up visiting them throughout the years it was about darn time that I introduced my husband to them. After years of trying to make that happen, today was finally that day!

My sister, Ryan & I made a delicious breakfast of eggs, bacon, and toast, at the hotel and then we took off to find some coffee, a birthday card, and wrapping paper for my Aunt who celebrated her birthday in the day prior. We went to a few grocery stores before finding a card and had to go to a bookstore to find any sort of wrapping paper or bags. The differences in what stores carry in the US and AU are incredible. Almost every store in Australia is unique and has super cute designs. Chain stores / restaurants are much fewer and farther between. I quite prefer the Australian stores to those in the US.

Once we got what we needed, we ran back to the hotel, grabbed the gift, and took off in a cab to Ripples Chowder Bay for brunch. The view from the restaurant was beautiful and we had two big tables for the 20 of us! I can’t tell you how happy I was that everyone was coming in from all over Sydney for lunch with us. Ryan did a great job trying to remember who everyone was and we were all in great spirits.

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Since there were so many of us, we had a prix fixe menu, though the waiters were having trouble rounding us all up to order since we were all socializing! Oops.

Our first course was either deliciously buttery prawns or a goat curd salad with beet root. I got the prawns and could not have been happier. They were 8 inches or so long, buttery, and melted in your mouth.

The second course was either risotto, barramundi, or what most of us had, the steak with mushrooms and sweet potato puree – so scrumptious!

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Dessert option 1 was meringue – an Australian dessert of the most fluffy, cloud like pastry you could imagine. Ryan tried it and kept saying he “made a HUGE mistake” ordering the chocolate moose!

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After a lively lunch, we took some family photos of all of 11 cousins and then my sister, Ryan, and I with my aunts and uncles.

It probably took us about 30 minutes and some serious corralling from some of the cousins to get us out of the restaurant and into the cars since we were all chatting so much! We ended up in my cousin’s car to drive back to her and her husband’s new apartment. They just recently bought the place to start their new family and it had an amazing view of a national park off of the back balcony. We even saw a few kookaburras in the trees!

We had some great conversations and catch up time before it was time to head back to Surry Hills. My aunt and uncle were kind enough to take us on a brief tour of downtown and drop us back at the apartment. It was so great to see everyone!

While brunch started at noon, we didn’t get back until 6! Time flew so fast and we were pretty hungry when we got back so we took off to an Indian place that my sister had been wanting to try called Masala Theory. It was a “neo-Indian” cuisine an we started with some deconstructed samosas that were to-die for! We then split some amazing lamb chops in a mango puree, flaky naan bread, and a green veggie curry – yumm!

That restaurant turned Ryan into an Indian food fan – something I’ve been trying to do for years! We were stuffed and were glad to walk some of it off on the way back to the hotel.

Sydney, Day 1

Sydney, Day 1

5:50 AM wake ups don’t seem too bad when you are jet lagged and your body wants to get up at that time naturally. Within 15 minutes, we were dressed, had the rest of our PB&Js for breakfast, and were walking down to the car to head to the Auckland airport for our flight to Sydney. We had to fill up the gas tank and couldn’t find a station until we got to the airport. We paid for that $2.18 a liter which is like $5.36 per gallon! After we got over the sticker shock, it was back in the car to the rental drop off, onto a shuttle to the airport, and through security to our gate. We grabbed some yummy banana bread while we waited for the plane and were on and ready for take off in no time. I ended up watching The Kingsman on the 2.5 hour flight to Sydney and we celebrated with some champagne (its 5 o’clock somewhere right?!) and had an AMAZING view of the city from the plane.

Customs in the Sydney airport was the quickest and easiest we had ever experiences. We used the electronic portal which took our picture and printed out a form that we gave to the customs person. He gave us the “Go!” in under a minute and we picked up our bags, went through one last security check, and were done in probably 15 minutes. Most of that time was spent walking! We exited the airport and took a cab to my sister’s extended stay apartment in Surry Hills.

Little did we know, the extended stay place was an old hospital and was converted into a hotel and my mom was actually born where we were staying! My sister came out and we had a big hug reunion! I was so happy to see her – it had been 5 months and we are insanely close. Getting to spend a week with her in our mother’s homeland was so special.

We went up to her place to unload and then took off to Sydney Harbor to meet my friend from college, Monique, who was also living in Sydney. The plan was to take the ferry over to our favorite fish & chip / calamari place called Doyles on The Beach. We had tons to catch up on during the ferry ride over to Doyles in Watsons Bay and the weather was perfect for the ride there.

Growing up, my family would go to Doyles every time we visited Australia to see my mom’s side of the family. My sister and I have so many good (and tastey) memories there. We even saw Elton John there once (leave it to me to be within 5 feet of such a legend and not realize it until he left)! With all of that history, I had to introduce my husband to Doyles.

We decided to order a few things to share so we could taste a varriety of dishes. We got some of the most buttery oysters I’ve ever had, barramundi (an Australian fish), salmon, fish & chips, steamed veggies, and some Doyles wine to top it off. It was so light and delicious!

You can walk from the Doyles’ beach up to the cliffs that separate the harbor from the ocean so we decided to do a little trek to walk off lunch. Both Ryan and I were still sore from our 6 hour Tongaririo Crossing hike, but we somehow made it up the hill to the views.


We also had a great view of Sydney harbor on the way back down!

After we were done fiddling around, it was back on the ferry and back over to Sydney harbor. We decided to grab a drink at Opera Bar, a bar literally under the Sydney Opera House that overlooks the harbor bridge. It was a great spot for people watching and seeing all of the very aggressive seagulls attempt to steal food!

After that, it was back over to Crown Street in Surry Hills for another drink and a little pizza. We ended up at The Dolphin Hotel, which looks small form outside but opens up to a two story bar and restuant inside. It was filled with graffiti and so cool. We learned that bars are actually called “hotels” in Australia because, up until 1980, all bars had to provide hotel rooms for those who over indulged. I had no idea!

With such an early morning, were fading quickly, so we said goodbye to Monique and headed over to a grocery store to get fresh eggs, bread, and fruit for breakfast. I definitely loaded up on passion fruit (my favorite fruit that are far too small and expensive in the States). After we were stocked up, we went back to the hotel and watched an episode of Black Mirror before heading to bed.

Sonoma Bachelorette – Part 2

Sonoma Bachelorette – Part 2

We were taken to a little, three-sided barn where a long table was set up and we, yet again, had personalized menus for the party! All of those touches made things very special. Additionally, there were bread sticks and all of the girls went crazy of them – they were live savers after all of that wine from the vineyards before!

About half-way through our tasting, our wine connoisseur told us to grab our glasses because the rest of the tasting was on the go! He showed us around the grounds, through the barrel room, and into the vineyard…

They even had a chicken farm with multiple chicken coops and a peacock! After we finished the tour and the wine, it was time to hop back into our Sonoma Wine Tours shuttle and head back to our Airbnb.

We had three or so hours before our dinner reservation, so we decided to take full advantage of our awesome Airbnb’s back yard and jacuzzi! We popped some bottles, played “never have I ever”, and laughed until we were in tears.

Eventually, it was time to get ready and call Ubers to head to Harvest Mood Cafe for a delicious dinner. We were sat on the patio and it was pretty chilly, however, that kept us awake and talkative (we were all pretty tired from the day’s festivities). I had a delicious pesto pasta appetizer and chicken main, and then we all sang happy birthday to my sister and shared her celebratory chocolate cake (which may or not have been a good idea as there was debate to if she had mono or not!). It was so yummy but we sped through it so we could all get back inside into some warmth. While it was 70 and sunny during the day, the temperature dropped into the 40’s at night and we were not prepared!

While the initial plan was to go out after dinner, we were pretty tired, so we headed back to the Airbnb and to bed.

Sunday May 28th –

Today was “explore downtown Sonoma” day! We had a relaxed morning getting ready, eating bagels, and figuring out the game plan. We called some Ubers around 11 AM and took off to Sonoma square!

We originally wanted to do lunch at the famed The Girl and the Fig restaurant, however, even though we arrived when the doors opened, they did not have any tables open for the entire day! Roche Winery was right next store with an amazing patio, so we decided to go there instead. As luck would have it, the wine seller told us that The Girl and the Fig would deliver cheese and charcuterie to us on the patio, so we got the best of both worlds!

The wine was flowing, the cheese and meats were scrumptious, the weather couldn’t have been better, and I was with all of my best friends. I literally could not have been happier than I was on that patio.

After a few hours of enjoying, we decided to walk around the square and explore the stores and other wine cellars. Our first stop was the Sonoma Cheese Factory which, as you guessed, had lots and lots of cheese! Even better, they had wine and free cheese samples! We walked around and tasted all of the yummy cheese varieties and browsed all of the fun knickknacks they had for sale.

We continued our walk and smelt the incredibly seductive scent of freshly made ice-cream cones at Scoops. After being told by multiple people throughout our trip that Scoops was a must try, we could not resist some home-made ice-cream.

With ice-cream in hand, it was time to find some more wine. We found this enchanting flower path that led us to yet another tasting room!

The winery that we found had an awesome deal on wine bottles, so we bought quite a few, and the wine sellers told us we could drink the wine in the park! What a perfect plan. We walked back down the flowery path and about half of us made it across the street to the park before the other half was called back. A woman from a different wine room ran out after us and told us that we could get arrested for having wine outside of the part (which was about 100 yards away). We decided to “risk it” and all ran dramatically back across the street with great (sarcastic) relief when we made it unscathed! It was pretty fun being rebellious!

We found a nice area in the park to sit and enjoy our wine. About 30 minutes into that, this strange man in a dress shirt, athletic shorts, and Crocs started talking to us and was so creepy we had to move! We were getting pretty hungry at this point, so we decided to go to Sunflower Cafe for a Turkey Pesto sandwich that hit the spot.

The last place on our agenda for the day was Muscardini Cellars. They were having a big Memorial Day Weekend celebration with live music and they had a beautiful outdoor garden, so we were excited to check it out.

Unfortunately for us, the music was actually the day prior to our arrival, but we still had a marvelous time in the outdoor space.

Eventually, it was time to head back to the Airbnb for spaghetti night (sorry Betty)! For some reason, I was under the assumption we did not have enough garlic bread, so we asked our Uber driver where the best garlic bread in town was. He suggested some restaurant that was “on the way” and I called ahead to order a $25 loaf of garlic bread.. Let’s note that there was a lot of wine involved in the decision-making process here. Anyways, we get to the restaurant and I bought this giant pizza box filled with bread. About five minutes of driving later, our Uber driver stops on a hill and announces we were at our Airbnb – which was definitely false. Somehow the GPS had the right address but wrong county and we drove 20 minutes in the wrong direction! Oops. I supposed the good thing was that the other girls had pretty much finished cooking dinner by the time we finally arrived back with our now 3/4 full box of bread. We relaxed by the fire pit on the patio while, enjoying what was left of the sun’s rays, until the food was ready.

Dinner was delicious and, afterwards, we played bachelorette party games until late in the evening!

Monday May 29th –

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. We spent most of our last morning packing up the Airbnb. My sister was able to get us brunch reservations at The Girl and the Fig so we drove over and had a relaxing meal on their patio.

We were all tired, but in good spirits, and we decided to go to the Palace of Fine Arts on our way back to San Fransisco airport.

The Palace of Fine Arts was built for the Panama-Pacific Exhibition in 1915. It was massive and so impressive. I would have never imagined such a thing would exist in the middle of San Fransisco!

The drive back to the airport was scary. Waze took us through the middle of San Fran and up some hills that were so steep, we didn’t think we were going to make it! I was driving and the girls in the back of my car kept telling me to “stop messing around”, since the accelerator on the car didn’t seem have enough power to make it, and to “just keep going!” through stop signs since stopping on the angle seemed like certain death. It was like a roller coaster and, thankfully, we survived! We made it to the airport and back to Dallas all in one piece.

Special thanks to all of my amazing friends who made this weekend one of the best of my life! Also thanks to M. Hood for taking some great photos!

Playa Del Carmen – Day 4 & 5

Playa Del Carmen – Day 4 & 5

Today we finally got to sleep in! Getting out of bed was incredibly difficult with the super fluffy pillows, ridiculous amount of room to stretch, and cloud like covers, however, the siren call of our 10 AM massage somehow got us out! We had a quick and delicious breakfast at the buffet and headed over to the spa.


The Yhi Spa smelt amazing and instantly relaxed us. We changed into robes and went outside to the private jacuzzi area. I was all about the cold-water Jacuzzi, as it soothed my burnt back, and Ryan hung out in the hot tub. After 5-10 minutes, I tried out the sauna and the mint steam room – ahhhhhh so nice! Eventually, we were taken upstairs to the couple’s massage room. The spa was one of the nicest I have ever been too and it was one of the best massages of my life! The pressure was perfect, the only downside was it went way to quickly.

After the massage, we walked to the pool and hopped into the day bed we reserved with towels. We ordered some drinks and Ryan got a burger for lunch. After lounging for a while, we hopped in the pool and watched the very enthusiastic water aerobics teacher do his thing with about 30 people in the pool. It was funny and I couldn’t help but join in for 10 minutes. We made our way over to the pool bar to meet up with the group from Vermont that we talked to the day prior, grab a volleyball, and play water volleyball. After about an hour or so before we decided to get out of the sun and back into our cabana for a nap. It was heaven!

We had a 7:30 reservation at Bana – the hibachi / Asian fusion restaurant. I love all things sushi but Ryan never gets “full enough” from sushi dinners so we don’t go often. In this case, it was all you can eat, so we ended up ordering over half the menu; spicy edamame, rock shrimp, a pineapple crab roll, a tuna roll, tuna nigiri, sea weed salad, pork egg rolls, sea bass with sweet noodles, shrimp pad Thai, and two desserts.

We did not go hungry this trip!

We ended up going to the Blue Agave cocktail lounge after dinner for some strawberry margaritas and tequila tasting. That was delicious, and needless to say, I was in the mood to dance after those exotic drinks. There was a funky band playing at the outside bar on the adult’s side so we enjoyed and danced to their music the rest of the night.

Day 5 – The last day in Playa:

Last day in paradise! We woke up early so we could enjoy a quick breakfast and head to the beach. Being pretty burnt, we decided to snag some lounge chairs under an umbrella and relax for the last 2 hours of our stay. The water was a bit choppy and the wind was blowing, but it was so relaxing and warm. The beach in Playa is much narrower than that in Cancun and there are quite a few more reefs so you should be careful where you enter the ocean.

Ryan started to itch and we noticed he had red bumps on his hands and legs! They were pretty concerning so, after we finished on the beach, we quickly showered, changed, packed, and went to the front desk to check out and to ask for a medic. The medic came and said that his bumps were either a sun rash or reaction to the microorganisms in the seaweed. We had been using SPF 30 and apparently, if your sun screen is not potent enough, you can get sun poisoning, so we will be upping the SPF in future. The medic gave Ryan some Benadryl cream and that seemed to lessen the irritation and redness almost immediately! Thank goodness.

With a less itchy fiancé, we went to the Market restaurant for some Italian fare before grabbing a taxi and heading to the airport for our quick flight back to the Lone Star State.