Love letter to Maria.

I mentioned in my last post that thanks to my sister visiting, I’ve recently gotten to see some parts of Tasmania that hadn’t yet been ticked off my to-do list. Maria Island was one of those on our itinerary, and I’m glad we left it for last because it was spectacular and I didn’t stop singing its praises for at least a fortnight after our trip. If someone even vaguely mentions short walks or day trips, I get started again. This post will no doubt send me on another spiral. It’s for good reason!


Maria (pronounced like Ms Carey, not Mrs Von Trapp, and yes I know it doesn’t have an H on the end but trust me, just get into the habit, blame the British) Island, despite being a little island off the east coast of a little island, actually has a fairly detailed white history. Two convict settlement eras, an Italian entrepreneur’s silk and wine productions and a cement factory, even a couple of hotels in the 1800s and early 1900s before the great depression ended that enterprise and the island became mostly farming land until the 1960s.

In the early 1970s, Maria Island, the entire island, became a national park. Ghosts of Maria’s history lurk all over the island, mostly in building form, with those buildings in various stages of ruin and repair. Exploring the island is a heady mix of crawling over ruins (ok, don’t literally crawl over them, respect the past mate) and traversing the natural beauty. You’ve got beaches, bush, cliffs, meadows, rivulets, and wildlife to encounter on foot or by bike (BYO or hire one). You can day trip it or camp overnight, either in tents or in the old Penitentiary building.

The Assistant Superintendent’s Quarters at Darlington.

My sister and I did a day trip, heading over on the ferry at 9am and returning at 4:30pm. Our backpacks were packed with lunch and full water bottles, and our walking shoes were on our feet. Ready. To. Go. I would heartily recommend anyone heading on a day trip hit the two short walks that Katie and I did, first to the Painted Cliffs (via the Oast House) and then back through Darlington to the Fossil Cliffs. Both of these walks are part of Tasmania’s 60 Great Short Walks, and they’ve made me want to tick more off the list…

Spot the wombat!

Time your visit to the Painted Cliffs for low tide, as even then there’s a bit of scrabbling over the rocks to get to the other side. But it’s worth it. Just look at them.

Take me back.

We had a little sit down at Hopground Beach after cliff-crawling and had some lunch, then stopped in at Darlington for a gander at the Coffee Palace before hitting the trail for the Fossil Cliffs.

*praise hands*

Despite heading over on a full-to-the-brim ferry and visiting in the middle of the summer holidays, our day at Maria Island didn’t feel overwhelmed by other people at all. The busiest spots were the Penitentiary at Darlington (bustling with campers) and the Painted Cliffs, because we were all there for the low tide that morning. Apart from that we crossed paths with a few other pairs of walkers on our journeys, either walking in the opposite direction, or passing us when we stopped to take in the view or sit and eat (or both at the same time).

Fossil Cliffs.

We rounded the bend from the airstrip back to the Commissariat Store with maybe forty-five minutes before the ferry was due, so it seemed only right that we should take our shoes off and play on the beach until then.

Commissariat Store. Beach is opposite.

We did not encounter much wildlife (Katie was slightly brokenhearted over seeing only one very shy wombat all day) but dawn and dusk are the best times of day for those sightings, as well as the Reservoir Circuit, which was the other short walk we didn’t get time for on our trip. It will definitely be at the top of my to-do list for my next visit, and I’m even thinking of overnighting in the Penitentiary… but we’ll see about that. Maybe a bit creepy, and I’m certainly no camper.

In any case, I fell a bit in love with Maria Island on our visit, and I’m surprised more people don’t talk about visiting. I think a lot of locals went to Maria on a school camp when they were younger and so it’s got that precedent for them, but honestly, I enjoyed our day there a lot more than the peak season visit a week before to Freycinet’s Wineglass Bay lookout. I’m still very glad that I did both, but Maria Island wins for me, hands down.

A+ dumdums.

2015 in summary: the best.

Every year for the past few years now I’ve watched the end of the year roll around and everyone bemoan it as the worst year ever. I’ve joined in a couple of times, but my life has always been more swings and roundabouts. The last couple of years in particular have been strongly to that theme (2012 hit a crazy high peak when I partied my way out of Brisbane and moved to Hobart, the following couple of years were mixed with good pals and fun times vs broken ankles and call centres) but this year? This year’s come up trumps for me.

I had no idea what this year had in store for me as I came around the bend. I mean, I knew some things. Every year starts with the alcoholic celebration of Ginuary, so I can always confidently lock that away (it makes for a very busy January for me, actually) but 2015 started with friends and fireworks, flings and fancy foods. And then it got even better.

One of the things on my to-do list when I moved to Tasmania was to find a job I was passionate about and excited to do. I did struggle, when I first got here. It remained the only thing I hadn’t been able to tick off in my first two years here—it turns out that in Hobart, who you know will often get you places, and I moved here not knowing anybody. But then in January of this year, a little boutique budget hotel I’d been making heart eyes over since it opened advertised for a new staff member. I had style. I had flair. I was there. That’s how I became a member of Team Alabama. (But really, I submitted a cover letter intended to charm the socks off the manager and then I had an interview with her and then I was there.) February was chaotic as I saw out my notice at the call centre and started training at the Alabama in time to be flying solo behind the counter in March.

My favourite seat.

The view from reception.

I dropped back from full-time call centre work to my permanent part-time role at the Alabama quite happily, as it coincided with my friend Liv moving in for a few months. Seriously, the stars aligned and said, “Mem, you can survive switching from FT to PT for a couple of months because someone else is going to pay half the rent and utilities you’ve been paying on your own!” Honestly, without Liv moving in, I wouldn’t have felt confident doing that. And without Helen and my mum and a few other friends who demanded that I go for it, I wouldn’t have felt confident even applying for the job. Bless my invaluable support network.

After a couple of golden months of part time work and part time chill, I knew I wasn’t quite going to survive the rest of the time, and Liv wasn’t staying permanently, so the goal of obtaining a second job that I’d also enjoy was quickly becoming a priority (and a challenge). I applied for a few things here and there. I went to a couple of interviews where my heart clearly wasn’t in it and it showed. I’ve never been good at interviewing. But then MONA advertised roles for Dark Mofo, my favourite festival. I told Kel, my boss at the Alabama (and very quickly one of my new favourite people) that she should hopefully expect to have a reference check or two coming her way. She worked her special brand of magic, I interviewed for a Dark Mofo front of house role, and got not only that but the offer of some potential hours in MONA’s front of house team ongoing (and the potential quickly became actual).

Honestly, 2015—you’ve been infused with some kind of juju that I can’t just put down to timing, or luck, or effort.

Working Dark Mofo was a real treat. I fell hard for the festival the first year it was on, so hard that a group of friends from Brisbane came down to enjoy the second year of the festival with me. They came down this year as well (much to my absolute delight) but balancing working at the festival with spending time with pals meant that I was pretty exhausted. That’s actually been the biggest challenge of the second half of the year for me—balancing my work life, my social life and downtime has been a struggle that I think I’m only just now getting the hang of, and allocating enough time for friends and family who visit from interstate is probably my biggest challenge. I keep forgetting how crucial that time with those folks is, and then I feel awful about not spending as much time with them as I possibly can. To Jordan, the feast team, mama, the Perringtons and Fatboy: I’m sorry. I love you. I’ll do better. Welcome to the new years resolution I literally just worked out as I was typing!

Feast Team 2015.

Feast Team 2015.

Back to Dark Mofo. The festival was full of running around, stuffing our faces with winter feast food, resetting a hundred mice numerous times only to watch them explode all over the stage to a rapt and awed audience response (and establishing working relationships with my first MONA staff pals through the mice), playing in light beams and holding precious Piccinini babies. Once the festival was over, I stayed in the front of house team, working casually and fitting my availability around my regular Alabama shifts. For a couple of months after Dark Mofo, I kept working at Detached’s The Shadows Calling exhibition featuring Patricia Piccinini and Peter Hennessey works, growing more attached to the weird furry baby (officially known as the Offering) and the other staff working at the exhibition. Most of us started with Dark Mofo so we had our own little Detached crew, nice to have when you start working in a team of over a hundred people!

MY BABY / The Offering, part of The Shadows Calling.

MY BABY / The Offering, part of The Shadows Calling.

I’ve gotten to know a lot of my MONA teammates over the last six months and so my circle of friends in Hobart (and my Facebook friends list) is steadily expanding. Being an extrovert, this is such a good thing for me, and has certainly added to 2015’s list of many, many positives! From regular pizza dates (holla Local Pizza you my soul pizza) to gallery openings (plug for Visual Bulk) to staff parties (let’s not talk about that one) to serving MONA coworkers drinks at the Alabama, I’m feeling nothing but good vibes.

I had a couple of enforced breaks during the year, the first to Melbourne in April (driven by tickets to see Noel Fielding, enhanced by catching up with mobs of pals, getting my nails did all fancy at Blonde Tiger, eating amazing foods at places like the Town Mouse and Bomba (just to name a couple), and riding trams). In August, I booked a lil solo holiday up at Cradle Mountain, which happened to fall the day after a huge amount of snow did. The break was perfectly timed, as I’d been working myself a little too hard prior to it. I finally ticked the Dove Lake circuit off my to-do list (distressingly beautiful in the snow), and I finally got to properly walk in some big ol’ fresh snow (after missing out on that experience while in Quebec for Christmas 2013 with a broken ankle). White winter holiday of my heart!

May have cried driving through this.

May have cried driving through this.

I did some other fun things this year, too. I went to Panama festival with Helen and Kelsey. I spoke on stage, accompanied by other wonderful people telling their own amazing stories, in front of a bunch of people at the Tasmanian Writers and Readers Festival, and my story was broadcast on the radio. I was on the radio a bunch, actually—I’ve learnt that this is just part and parcel of having friends who are radio presenters, but still fun. On the radio I’ve talked about Ginuary, my broken ankle, helping my friend make a music video in beautiful Tassie. I’ve enjoyed Tassie. One night in the middle of winter I went and played in the sea sparkles down at South Arm with Holly, and I won’t forget that hour of giggling any time soon.

My year’s ended exceptionally, too. My sister came down from Sydney to spend her holidays with me (despite me working through most of them, see a couple of paragraphs up for my apology) and thanks to her to-do list I’ve done a couple of things myself in Tasmania I hadn’t yet done. I guess this included hosting my first orphan Christmas (I sent a text message to my mum saying WHY DID YOU NEVER TELL US HOW MUCH CHRISTMAS FOOD COSTS but it was worth it for fond memories, happy faces and leftovers). On the Sunday after Christmas, I drove my sister and I up the east coast to Freycinet National Park, where we did the hike up the mountain/stairs to Wineglass Bay’s lookout. I wouldn’t actually recommend doing this trip in one day, it’s a lot of driving… we were knackered but we survived! Just yesterday we started the day with some zebra feeding at ZooDoo, another place I hadn’t been before. The day prior to that I missed out on what appeared to be an absolutely brilliant day of adventuring around the Tasman Peninsula and swimming with seals, but I didn’t put my hand up for it (I regret this!) and so my sister went on a day I was working. See again my new years resolution for 2016, but at the same time, I gotta earn da moneys in order to do da things…

Tonight, as per Hobart tradition, we are headed up to the Eyrie for drinking, board games and a stellar view of the fireworks. I’ll be surrounded by some of my favourite people, reflecting on the year that was and smiling the whole time. To everyone who has helped this year be my best year ever—whether you know it or not! If we spent time together this year, you absolutely did—thank you. See you real soon, or a little later, but definitely sometime.

Peace out, 2015. You’ll be a very hard one to beat. <3

I did it all for the BBQ.

Any excuse to take a couple of days off and head up to the north west corner of Tasmania is a good excuse, as far as I’m concerned, and when my friend in Burnie offered up her little Weber BBQ to the first taker, I put my hand up. Excuse given, I roped in my partner in crime and we hit the road… first stop being the Texas Pantry in Moonah, maybe fifteen minutes down the road, because sustenance was required for our big day.

reuben

Sustenance and sandwiches. (Reuben not bad, but I prefer Montreal style aka TOO MUCH MEAT.)

The next detour was for beautiful Ross (no, not a dude, not a beautiful dude but a beautiful little town) to visit the bakery. We’d recently seen this article from the local paper that claimed Ross Village Bakery was the inspiration for a Miyazaki film, so we had to go and see with our own eyes.

But first, look at Ross.

But first, look at Ross.

I’m not inclined to believe it was the inspiration, and even the resemblance is a little fuzzy, but sure. Whatever gets you excited. I’m all for excitement about things, and if the wooden-walled bakery in Ross is going to draw tourists out there and they’re going to be excited and stay excited and spend their tourist dollars, then that’s wonderful for all involved. I was a little more cynical about the bakery, but what I wasn’t cynical about was Ross in autumn.

Look at it.

Look at it.

From Ross we were going to make a beeline for Burnie, but as we were turning off for the north west, I spotted something with my eagle eye. Something else I’d recently read about. The new Tasmanian Food & Wine Conservatory! Who knew Sassafras was so close to the north west? Not me. Probably lots of other people, but not me.

Revoltingly picturesque.

Revoltingly picturesque.

We were close to closing time, but the lovely ladies were still happy to make us coffees (and sell me my beloved Henrys ginger beer, still only available up north at this time) before we carried on our merry way to Burnie and the BBQ.

Our delightful friend Jenny was willing to host us at her place, despite us only knowing each other On The Internet until we pulled up in her driveway. Such is the joy of online friendships these days! Who am I kidding, I’ve been showing up at online friends’ doors for ten years or so now, and I will frown at anyone who says online friendships don’t count as real friendships.

Moving on.

Jenny and her partner Jeremy took us down to a classy establishment on the Burnie waterfront to drink cocktails with little fluoro animals perched on the rims, and then we all went wandering to try to spy the penguins that live under the boardwalk. Based on our utter lack of success this evening, to this day I refuse to believe that these penguins exist, possibly even doubting that any penguins exist anywhere in the wild. I’ve been lied to and I won’t stand for it. I did, however, get a fun shadow shot of the four of us, right around the moment we gave up hope.

Four people, zero penguins.

Four people, zero penguins.

I did at least get treated to a cat on the trip. Travel cats are very important to me, as a person very fond of cats (we’re not saying crazy cat lady, it’s not necessary). This one wasn’t overly friendly but did have the benefit of a white C mark on her black face. No, her name was not Ceefa. She didn’t particularly want to snuggle but she was still a cat, and that was good enough.

Sunny girl.

Sunny girl.

So we drank our drinks in Burnie, we had our sleepover, we DID remember to load the weber BBQ into the car and then we bundled back in to start the journey back home again. Now, I can’t do a journey without stopping at a few places on the to-do list, and for us that morning Ulverstone was the place to be, so I could finally eat at Thirty Three Cups.

It helped that Jenny couldn’t hold back from raving about their smoked chicken and corn fritters dish.

Three fritters, please.

Three fritters, please.

Correct. She raved so much that nobody wanted to be left out. And that was despite everything else on the menu looking super appealing, too! The specials board almost tempted me away but in the end, I had to be a part of it. And hot DIGGITY, nobody was even mildly disappointed! In fact, I’m going to be very hard pressed to order anything but the fritters on future visits—and oh yes, there will be future visits. Thirty Three Cups is now a must-visit.

We also traipsed through a few stores full of homewares and knick-knacks, jewellery and antiques, and my biggest regret is that I didn’t purchase this.

Totes grouse.

Totes grouse.

Never mind. Maybe it’ll be there waiting for me on my return…

And thus our spontaneous BBQ adventure did endeth, travelling back down the highway to Hobart, marvelling at the beautiful autumnal scenes and trying to remember to stay focused on the road enough to not crash and die so that one day soon we can do it all again.

Eyes on the road, please.

Eyes on the road, please.

A weekend in Panama.

I don’t like camping.

I just find it really in tents. (This joke works better out loud.)

I just find it really in tents. (This joke works better out loud.)

I’m not one of those sorts—and there seem to be a great many of you, to be honest—who get excited about camping and bush walking and the Great Outdoors. I’m just not into it. I’m a child of the internet, of screens and amenities and microwaves. The Easy Indoors, if you will.

And yet, every so often, I think, “what the heck”. These whims are generally linked with music festivals, and I get tricked into thinking that my love of music overrides my dislike of camping. If I leave it long enough, I also get tricked into thinking that my love of music overrides my dislike of music festivals.

This, dear readers, is how I ended up at a festival called Panama.

IMG_7478

To its credit, Panama had a heckload of pluses. Only in its second year this year, Panama limited tickets to 1000 punters only, was located on a property in the middle of nowhere (aka Golconda, roughly north east Tasmania), boasted a small but neat line-up for its two days of music, and was certainly on the more affordable end of Australian music festivals. I roped a couple of friends into joining me, we bought Friday passes to get up there early and get settled the day before the festival rush, and we road tripped our way to the great land of no phone reception, narrowly avoiding a speeding ticket for 16km/h over the limit (great north eastern magic) as we rushed to make it in the gates on time.

IMG_7495

Friday night went better than expected, I won’t lie. While I’m not a fan of camping, I am a fan of assembling tents. I’m not sure why. The great satisfaction that comes with completion, perhaps? Let’s go with that. We scored a lovely posse just under a tree and got our two tents up without fuss as the sun was setting before a brief exploration of our surrounds. The festival grounds were a stone’s throw away, as were the drop toilets. Ah, camping. Ah, yes.

This makes camping look WAY better than it actually is (though this moment was A+).

This makes camping look WAY better than it actually is (though this moment was A+).

Saturday morning was slightly more eventful. Saturday morning was a harsh reinforcement of my dislike for camping, and Saturday morning was the one lingering memory of a festival called Panama 2015 I will take to my grave. Saturday morning I found a leech in my hair. It was big, it was fat, it was thoroughly sated after gorging itself on my scalp, and it fell into my hand as I ran said hand through my hair. It wasn’t the best way to encounter a leech for the first time, I’ll say that much. Do you know what’s generally tough to come by when festival camping? A hot shower. I spent an hour and a half sitting in my car, focused on the rear-vision mirror and desperately trying to clean my bleeding scalp and hair with baby wipes. It went as well as it could have gone while my scalp was still bleeding thanks to the leech’s anti-coagulant bite.

I got out of the car for the first time in an hour and a half, convincing myself to leave it be and try to enjoy the rest of the festival, when a bee stung me on the neck.

Look, the rest of the festival was fine. The drinks were good, the food was (mostly) good, the rest of the insects on the property left me alone. The crowd was lovely, chilled and not obnoxious at all (I won’t miss you one bit, Splendour in the Grass punters!), and even contained a number of faces I knew from down in Hobart. The property was beautiful (that dam!). The music was great—there wasn’t one performer or band that played that left me thinking, “I could do with not hearing this”.

Ben Salter and Friends.

Ben Salter and Friends.

But I’m never, ever going again.

Despite the festival looking like this at peak times.

Despite the festival looking like this at peak times.

And these excellent companions.

And these excellent companions.

And beautiful drizzly mornings like this.

And beautiful drizzly mornings like this.

And this zero waste policy that was actually 99.9% effective all weekend.

And this zero waste policy that was actually 99.9% effective all weekend.

And this picturesque crap just hanging out in the middle of the festival ground.

And this picturesque crap just hanging out in the middle of the festival ground.

I’m actually serious. WITNESS.

How to ten year bestiversary.

Ten years ago, I met the love of my life.

I remember the date, and will always be able to remember it, because it was the same day that Muse played at the Brisbane Riverstage, back when Muse were still cool (it was the Absolution tour). A small gang of us gathered together to go see it, and this gang kind of remains bonded by heart forever, and it all started at that Muse gig. I think I’d met Emma through the boys before that night, but it was only then that we actually got to talking and found out we both worked administration desk jobs when most of our friends had cool, fun, interesting lives that we lived through vicariously. We swapped work email addresses and the rest, as they say, is tucked away in a nutshell, or something like that.

So, September 2014 marked ten years of cool times with my best gal: the Ann to my Leslie, the Bey to my Nicki, the Wayne to my Garth, the Emma to my Mem. This was a good excuse for her to come visit me for a week of lady dates and minor splurges in the name of hetero-lifemateship.

I'm not so secretly twelve years old.

I’m not so secretly twelve years old.

Emma visited in my first year of Tasmanian life, accompanied by her husband Phil. We didn’t explore much beyond Hobart then (apart from a fun afternoon down the Huon at a Willie Smiths open day—before the Apple Shed was renovated), so for Em’s next visit we decided to go a little all out on a tour of a couple of my favourite places.

Day one involved a big drive, talking literally non-stop the whole way up the highway to Launceston and finally stopping for lunch before Em had a car nap as we wound up the north west. I always seem to drive that road in the late afternoon, prime time for the setting sun to stab me in the eyeballs. Maybe one day I’ll be sensible enough to spend a night in Launceston and then get up early to drive the coastline? This was not that day.

A big drive with a nutty finish.

A big drive with a nutty finish.

Stanley, little town of my heart! I make no secret of loving this corner of the north west the most… it’s probably my favourite place on the whole island, for sentimental reasons and volcanic plug reasons and just look at that green grass. The north west is always so beautifully green. We settled into our sweet accommodation at Stanley Seaview Inn, then headed down to the Stanley Hotel for dinner. The seafood chowder wasn’t as amazing as my memory of it, but after dinner we bought a bottle of wine from the little bottleshop space and (after we got back to the Inn, realised the wine had a cork and there was no corkscrew at the Inn, got back in the car and drove back to the hotel and got them to open the bottle for us and then drove back to the Inn again) we grabbed some blankets from our room, sat out on the bench looking out at the township and the glorious Nut, and drank the bottle.

The next morning it was time to conquer THE NUT! And by conquer I do not mean walk up it. No. Chairlifts all the way, but then the 2km circuit around the top of the volcanic plug. It was just as magical as I remembered.

lifeys04 lifeys05 Lovin' that nut.lifeys06lifeys07lifeys09 lifeys10 lifeys11

Sorry not sorry for the photo spam, you know? Continue reading »

New York, I love you.

Let it be known that I’m really good at procrastinating. I finished the text for this post exactly three months after I flew out of JFK Airport at the end of my holiday. I guess I’ve been holding onto it, savouring it, because once the blog posts are done then it’s properly over and I can’t swan about indulging myself any more. My holiday photos are dropping off the start of my photo stream, one by one, and each one to go is a pin-prick of sadness.

The positive of all this time is that my broken ankle is 98% recovered. I’ve been using the 98% description for a couple of weeks now. My foot doesn’t hurt much at all, except when I pivot quickly, but I don’t think ankles are really designed for that anyway. I’ve got a lot of cool scar tissue in my ankle that I can push around, thanks to all the ligaments I tore good and proper, but yeah. All healed up and walking on two legs like I was never crippled—so I guess these posts kind of take me back to those painful days of forward-planning and disappointments and struggling through my holiday as best I could. But I gosh darn did it, and it’s a story I’ll have forever.

Tourista Cool Beans.

Tourista Cool Beans.

So let’s finish the story. Here’s my recap of the last week of my holiday, picking up from the end of my last blog post.

Continue reading »

NO. SLEEP. TILL BRKLYN.

Yes, I am the first person to ever reference that when talking about a trip to Brooklyn. Let’s talk about Brooklyn! I am bummed I didn’t get to explore Brooklyn more, but I’m blaming freak snowstorms for that. What I did see of Brooklyn, I loved. Of course. Nobody is surprised.

This post isn’t entirely about Brooklyn—I decided to break my NYC posts up into Brooklyn and Manhattan purely based on our two different accommodations. There’s a fair bit of Manhattan in this post, but this week was our Brooklyn week. If that makes sense. It does to me.

Check out my boss subway-riding mum.

Check out my boss subway-riding mum.

This time I’ve done all my musing within each day’s rundown, so please click through for a full read of what I got up to!

Continue reading »

From Quebec City, With Love.

Here goes the first of my holiday nostalgia posts. I’m reliving the magic of my North American break via blog post and I’m taking you guys with me! I tried to stay on top of posting while I was travelling, I really did. I even started this post on a train from Québec City to Montréal on December 27th. The one line I had drafted was “I am writing this while on the ViaRail train from Québec City to Montréal”.

20140127-221102.jpg

Literally just out the window.

I won’t tell you about the trains yet, though. Let’s talk about my magical week in Québec City. People don’t lie when they say Québec is a corner of Europe in North America. So much French! My rudimentary efforts at learning French on duolingo actually paid off a couple of times (“he wants to stop at the bank” dear taxi driver thank you for humouring me) but the rest of the time I was mostly disappointed that nobody wanted to talk about black cats and eating apples. Every person who asked us where we were from was scandalised that we’d chosen to leave the warmth of Australia for the bitter cold of Québec City. The grass is always greener!

20140127-221221.jpg

Or whiter, in this case.

It WAS bitterly cold, too. And we loved every second of it. I didn’t get to spend a lot of time out in it due to my broken ankle, but I made the most of it. I stared at the beautiful snowscapes just outside the window. I told myself that one day my ankle wouldn’t be broken any more and I’d come back to Québec City with two working legs so I could explore within the walls of the beautiful Vieux-Québec and take the boxy funiculaire down to the Rue du Petit Champlain, the beautiful shopping street that is shown in so many stunning wintry Christmas photos. It would have been near an impossible feat on crutches. Even without decent snow shoes, walking around Québec City was treacherous—as my sister in her Doc Martens could attest to!

I found the powdery snow the easiest to hop through, as my rubber-based crutches and my own solo Doc Marten would crunch down into the powder and it’d feel like fairly stable grounding. The worst was old snow that’d been crunched down into ice, and I was even wary of ground that didn’t have a powder covering. The good news was that it snowed often enough in Québec that there was usually powder everywhere! Still, having to go any further on crutches than 50m or so was fairly exhausting anyway, and with the added concentration, balance and mild panic from the new terrain I had no experience with meant I was very easily pooped out. My most terrifying crutches journey was downhill one short block on an icy sidewalk from a lunch spot to the ecolobus and is still seared into my memory a month later! I literally crawled onto the bus once I’d made it to the door. Being temporarily crippled means temporarily sacrificing a great deal of your dignity.

20140127-222204.jpg

My sister, the able-bodied jerk.

To be honest, the holiday was probably about as challenging as I’d expected it to be, so at least it wasn’t any worse?

And there were so many wonderful things about it, they far outweighed the negatives.

20140127-222555.jpg

Somewhere between Québec City and Montréal.

Continue reading »

Memmy White Cripsmas!

20131222-150743.jpg

Hello from snowy Quebec! Wait, WHAT? This holiday has actually been in the works for three years or so, when my family decided we wanted to experience a proper White Christmas for once. We settled on Quebec City so we could also squeeze in some time in New York for NYE and my 30th birthday in the early new year. All our tickets were booked back in July; trust me to break my ankle five weeks out from the trip.

20131222-154410.jpg

Yes, it’s a break—a hairline fracture on my talus (ankle) bone and an avulsion fracture (chips of bone) off my fibula, where the ligament tore. Yes, I’ve just travelled for forty hours in a full cast, on crutches. No, it was not fun, and no, I didn’t even get any sweet upgrades because all our big flights were packed full for Christmas. Yikes.

I followed the normal precautions for long haul flights: my fibreglass cast was bivalved (/split by the awesome cast technician at RHH Wellington Clinics and then held together with Velcro) and I began daily blood-thinner injections a couple of days before flying. Unfortunately the packed planes meant there were literally no opportunities to elevate my ankle at all. My leg was mega swollen after the longest flight (13.5hrs from Shanghai to New York) and stayed that way until I finally got some decent sleep (almost 12hrs) in my Quebec bed—it was a big relief to wake up and find it normal again today. There’s a higher risk of DVT for leg injuries so I was pretty panicked last night, but everything feels a-ok today.

The travel itself was exhausting, broken leg or not. My poor sister got lumped with being my packhorse through the airports (four: Sydney International, Shanghai Pu Dong, New York JFK and Quebec Jean-Lesage). We travelled for forty hours and through three time zones. Which way is up? Neither of us are very good at transit sleeping and gathered only 7-8 hours of sleep each in bits and pieces over the duration of the trip, some on flights and some on airport benches.

20131222-170537.jpg

There are pros and cons to travelling with a leg cast. The cons generally outweigh the pros, but I’m a big fan of getting whisked through security gates and customs. On the flipside, I’ve been fairly thoroughly patted down four or five times in the last few days (each time by a female security officer at an airport, just to clarify). I haven’t really gotten to browse around at airport shops because once I’m delivered by wheelchair to a waiting area or gate, the wheelchair is whisked away until it’s time to move on, so I’m back to my crutches. I’ve gotten better at them in the last five weeks but they are still exhausting and I can’t go more than a couple of hundred metres without needing a few minutes of recovery time. My sister not only carried my crutches and coat when they weren’t in action but also fetched me food and drinks, and scouted for nearby bathrooms (also a con for some waiting areas I was left at… good job, airport staff). But we survived.

My favourite moment of the trip (apart from my sister bemoaning a little French boy’s ability to speak fluent French when she couldn’t, and the “aviation radish” on our PVG>JFK flight) was our final flight.

“I want to stay awake until we take off, just in case we can see the lights of Manhattan,” said Katie. I agreed.
We both promptly nodded off while the plane was taxiing to the runway.

It was ok though, because we snapped awake just before take-off. We saw…some lights? Maybe Manhattan? Probably not, but let’s say they were. Right after that we fell back asleep, and woke up moments before the “ladies and gentlemen, in preparation for landing:” announcement. Though it felt like only moments after we’d nodded off, it was actually an hour and a half, at least. Perfection.

Now we’re settled in our first accommodation in our Quebec (mum and stepdad arrived a couple of days earlier), it’s time for the real fun to begin! … Except that there’s currently an ice storm raging outside. Hahaha. Oh, dear. An extra full day of resting my leg and shaking off any jetlag is probably for the best, though. We’ve been hanging out in our PJs in our lovely apartment, eating fresh pastries and drinking tea, listening to Christmas tunes and painting Christmas nails, all while watching gusts of white whipping around in all directions outside. Pretty magical.

20131222-154930.jpg

Baby’s first cast.

I know I was in Melbourne only a few short weeks ago, but I returned again quickly for a very good reason: the wedding of two beautiful long-time friends. Our group of friends (the original posse I was a member of while discovering who I was as an adult) flew in from right along the east coast, from Brisbane to Hobart, in order for a reunion and party weekend of epic proportions. Most of us FIFO guests organised to bunk in together in Airbnb accommodation, in order to spend as much time as possible in each other’s company. These are friendships that will last my entire lifetime and I miss these people fiercely on a regular basis.

20131118-223727.jpg

However, as much as I want to wax on about my beautiful friends, this post is for whinging instead. I’m almost thirty years old and I’ve finally broken a bone, hooray! Except not hooray. And possibly even maybe no I haven’t. The joy of injuries! At the least, I have a grade 3 (“severe”) ankle sprain (aka a torn ligament). There’s a small chip of bone that’s come away, too, and at the most there could also be a hairline fracture in there too, but I won’t find that out until Monday’s CT scan (over a fortnight after my original injury, no big deal or anything).

20131127-162042.jpg

I mention both the Melbourne wedding and the injury because the injury happened directly after the wedding. Thankfully not DURING the wedding! But literally directly after the wedding. I suppose it’s a half-decent story for the future:

Continue reading »