Monday, 15 January 2018

Grace's Great Voyage Down Under, Week 9: last-minutes, souvenirs, and goodbyes.

In case you missed my posts so far in this series, I'll reiterate the key point I cannot seem to say often enough: I am not a travel blogger. 

However, I really want to share some things about my recent travels. 

I’ve decided to write posts in the future about my trips to various Other Places – but not necessarily the way a seasoned traveller and blogger might. I’m going to write about specific things, moments; some will exist in a big compilation post while others may stand alone. For instance, if I had an especially magical dinner date, or discovered a secret spot nobody had told me about, or even just had a conversation with a native (of which I have already had many, in Australia!), then that might exist in its own post.


I'll miss the locals, the ones we'd see on the beach, in the cafes or browsing the shops. The more mature man who'd walk the length of the beach each morning, wearing his white DEAD PANCREAS GANG logo shirt. The handsome, cheery baristas at the tiny kiosk in the wall. The pair of old ladies who'd have their padded deck chairs and towels set up under the 'willy trees' at the bottom of the steps onto the sand, every day at 7am. 

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One night I find myself standing in the dark outside a bar, live music coming out of the open windows, tears threatening to spill and feeling totally ready to return to my safe bubble because I am truly, completely 100% done with this shit.


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I was walking down the street from the apartment, wondering where to go for a nice breakfast, alone. Then as I walked towards this one place, one we've been to before just for coffee, that do 100% gluten free and crazy amounts of veggie/vegan options, I heard 'The Greatest Showman' soundtrack. It was playing on the cafe's speakers, full blast, and the manager, barista and chef (all men) were singing along. I had to eat there.


I'd love to live right by the sea, and be able to set up camp like this every day.


I can't remember a time when I didn't see Acai bowl advert banners on every street corner, and outside every other cafe.


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My heart hurts. Or does it? I think I'm just pissed off, actually. Yeah, I am. I'm full of angst and ache, and it needs to come out. I know, I'll write a blog post...

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It's our last night in Burleigh Heads, and we're finally visiting that famous, enormous restaurant place that boasts a rooftop bar. (Which isn't really a rooftop - it's the second floor of the building, but with no ceiling. Just a wooden pergola. Whatever.)
I'm sipping my 12 Year Old Dewar's, and we're spotting bats flying overhead, spreading their fat black wings just above us, against the deep blue sky. One loops around and around, and then settles, hanging in a tree. I have now actually seen a bat landing and hanging, in a tree.

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Sydney was just how I remembered it. But this time, I knew more people there. I got to see Sara & Laura one night, then Jo the next. It was so strangely lovely, catching up with friends of mine, miles from home. And I loved the places we went; Kinokuniya might be the greatest bookshop I saw my whole time in Aus, and Mojo Record Bar was the funkiest (and darkest, and noisiest) bar in Sydney. 

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Seeing the Opera House and then the Harbour Bridge up close several times, then from a plane window as we departed, still didn't make them seem real. Walking across the Bridge - after Mama tried to dissuade me, lying and telling me it was actually not designed to be walked on, 'it's just a road!' - looking out over the harbour and feeling the wind tear at my hair, then tilting my head back and gazing up at the very prow of the half moon shape overhead...I couldn't believe I'd climbed it, 9 years ago, at just 15. 

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I accidentally left my 70% dark Green & Black's chocolate, what was left of it anyway, in the fridge in our room at the Travelodge. So if any readers are staying - or working - in Sydney's Travelodge on Wentworth Ave, do check the little fridge in room 1320. Consider it a gift. 

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I had vegan pancakes, made from bananas and piled with summer fruits, in a cafe I forget the name of in The Rocks. It was a panicked order - Mama had already decided, and the waitress was staring at me patiently, so I pointed at them and yelped 'vegan pancakes, please!'
Then as I ate them, the magnificent flavours and freshness were overpowering me, giving me barely any head space for regular thoughts - but I suddenly had a tiny brain wave, smacked the table and said: 'I always thought he meant bananas topped with pancakes, right...but maybe Jack Johnson's girlfriend was vegan, and so she needed banana pancakes like this!?'

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As the plane taxis round and then sits on the tarmac for 20 minutes, I turn to Mama and say 'well, at least this gives Nana enough time to get lost on her way to pick us up.'





Everywhere I go, my brain tries to find similarities with where I've already been. I am waiting at a crossing, looking up at a tall building, and it mutters to me 'this could be London.' I walk through a park, birds chirping and the sun brushing me lightly through the trees, and I hear a whisper: 'just like Winchester.' Does anyone else get that? Your mind needs something familiar; it yearns for what it's used to. It works hard to relate everything back to your past, which should be behind you. 

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We finally go for lunch at Cardamom Pod, a plant-based place I ate a life-changing crunchy peanut butter and chocolate brownie in during my first week out here. There are so many options, all of them wildly different and obscenely healthy. But I go for the simple "ham", tomato and "cheese" toastie. Because if there's one thing I've missed from deep inside my heart since I went dairy free exactly 2 years ago...it's a cheese toastie. And y'know what? It hit the spot. 



The day before we left Burleigh I walked out to the beach alone, and got a coffee from the family's favourite place. The barista - the one with the bright eyes, far apart above his nose, sparse gold hair sprouting on his jaw line - asked me, 'where are your olds, then?!' after telling his colleague not to bother offering me an iced coffee ('this one likes it hot!'). When I explained, he asked about London (as all Aussies seem to) and then when I told him about first discovering his little kiosk almost 5 years ago, at Auntie M's wedding, he exclaimed 'no way! That would've been me, too.' How funny. 
I took my little long black up the hill and perched on a rock in the shade of a palm, looking out to sea and drinking in the blues. I let some tears out, as I'd had some rubbish news that morning but also I was so sorry to be leaving. Not the country - I am ready to go home - but just this place, right here. It's perfect. 

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Goodbyes are always painful, but sometimes they can be just about bearable. 

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The most perfect breakfast - once the feta was picked off, that is. Oops.

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This is it. The End. My 9th week, my 65th day, my 1,560th hour (I think?). I am so sorry to be leaving, but excited to return. Thank you to everyone who's read this little 9-part series, and kept in touch with me while I've been half a world away. 

2 comments

  1. Whilst I absolutely love reading about your Aus trip, and agree there's something in seeking the familiar (we have the same alma-mater, and that city is beautiful)! I feel the need to add, in a non-related, but definitely related for the cheese of your dreams: Purezza in Brighton is an absolute dream of a place, all vegan and an absolute delight, if like me you don't do animal products or wheat! Just thought I'd help a fellow veg/dairy free person out, as the good places are like gold dust!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Chloe. It's so lovely to read you're a Winch grad, too!

      Is Purezza the place near Kemptown? If so, I think I've been there! Amazing plant-based treats.
      You are an angel. xo

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