Christmas in WA Summertime

I didn’t want to wait too long in between posts, gotta keep my momentum going. Also, going through these pictures is such a pleasure since I have such fond, warm memories of this trip. So back to a normal detailed post! This one is in recent history so hopefully I haven’t forgotten too many details.

Around this time last year, our ayi from China, Amy, contacted us and let us know that she was going to marry her Australian boyfriend in Perth in December. We hadn’t booked our summer or winter tickets yet, so we thought, why not? We bought tickets to Perth for the entire 3 weeks of our winter 2019 break. It was bold! It was far! People thought we were crazy! Luckily, my sister and her husband agreed to meet us waaaay down under for Christmas like they do every year. they spent a week in Sydney before meeting us in Perth.

We left foggy, cold Pristina on the evening of December 17 and after 3 long flights, arrived in Perth around 2am on December 19. We grabbed and Uber to our hotel for the night and tried to sleep. It was difficult, but I think we logged 5-6 hours before we were up to have hotel breakfast, check out and get our rental car. Shortly after that, and with a steep learning curve of driving on the left, we were at our airbnb for the next couple of weeks. We got a smaller place than usual because we were on a serious budget due to our MNE house payments. But it suited our needs, and was literally steps from the beach.

We hit up some shops for essentials, but by then Amy and Rich (her fiance) were asking us to come over and hang out. Despite the wretched jetlag, we were too excited not to. It had been 18 months since we’d seen Amy last and Paul didn’t want to wait another day. So we took the quick drive over to their place (we had picked our place based on its proximity to them), and Rich made us a delicious dinner of roasted lamb and veg. Paul and Amy were so happy to be reunited! I had to hold back tears. All I could think about was the last time they’d seen each other, holding each other until the last second before we boarded the ferry for HK. My heart soared for Paul and for her, they fell back into step telling each other stories and playing together. They gave us a tour of their home, which is beautiful! Rich is a contractor, and he had rehabbed the whole place. The back yard was a summer Mecca, pool, putting green, bbq area, darts and a pool table. It was fantastic to be back in the company of people who feel like family. We’d traveled with Rich before, but he is one of the most laid back guys I’ve ever met so it’s easy to fall back in step with them.  We drove back home and on the way home, we got stopped by the police! They pulled us over because we had our brights on, which was only on accident because we kept getting the handles for blinkers and windshield wipers mixed up. It was quite jarring, having only been driving for 12 hours in the country…

The next day was low key, I went for a run into unknown areas and ended up at a beautiful park on the edge of the water. Unfortunately, I underestimated the power of Australian sun and had a pretty bad sunburn for the next two weeks. 😦

The next day, Rich was going to travel out to his aunt and uncle’s house in Collie, WA to install some cabinets. It’s about a two hour drive into the bush of Australia. He invited us to join them, and we didn’t have anything else going on so we said sure! It was a little strange to travel out to somebody’s house that we’d never met and spend the day and night with them, but it was a gorgeous drive and his family were so welcoming and familiar that it felt like home. Before we left, Paul helped Amy make some dumplings to bring with to share, he’s getting better at it!

We got there in early afternoon, and after Rich had installed the cabinets, we went out to explore the area around Collie. It’s a very small town, but there was a cool old mine that’d been filled with water. You could swim there, and the water was such a cool color of blue. From there we went home, showered and headed over to watch their Christmas parade. I swear we could have been in Fredricksburg, it was so much like TX. Paul filled his pockets with candy from the participants of the parade, and then we made our way back home to have a feast at Rich’s family’s place. It was great fun. We drove back the next day and stopped at a local butter/cheese place and made some purchases while Amy and Paul had fun taking pics with the emus. We even saw some wild ones on the way back!

By then, it was 3 days before Christmas, so Amy and Rich graciously took Paul while we hit the mall to do some serious Christmas shopping (we’d done none!). The next day, we headed into Perth to pick up two of my favorite people! We killed time at a cool brewery called Blasta. I only had one sour beer (which was awesome!) since I had to drive us all home. Andie and Ben got in around 9pm and we headed back out to Rockingham to get some sleep.

When we woke up, it was Christmas Eve! Donnie went off golfing with Rich for most of the day, so the rest of us packed our stuff up in the kayaks and walked down to the beach for a picnic. It was my first Christmas eve spent sitting on the beach watching Paul play in the water and sand. I had to stay in the shade because my sunburn was in a bubbly state at that point. Having Andie and Ben there make it so much better! Ben is a good sport with Paul and they had a good time kayaking in the shallow water. After a day in the sun, we headed home to prep dinner, which happened to be a Mexican feast! I think we were all a little sun spent, so after an early wrapping party we headed to bed ready for Christmas day.

We woke up slowly on Christmas day and opened presents after everyone had their coffee. Paul, of course, had the most to open and it was fun to see his reactions to all of his gifts. He got a new iPad since he had shattered his last one, and he was soooo happy. In the early afternoon, we headed over to Rich and Amy’s place with presents and Christmas Curry to share. I didn’t really want to impose for too long, but we ended up being there past sundown. Paul stayed in the pool ALL DAY. We took turns going in with him, but it was a little too cold for my taste. Andie and Ben did the most time with him. Rich’s family came by in waves, we met his kids and his brother and his family maybe even some others. It seemed like so many people stopped by. Finally I convinced Donnie it was time to go, and we headed home to hang out for a little bit before bed. Donnie and I did manage to take a short walk out to watch the sunset, which did not disappoint.

The next day, we decided to brave the crowds with the tourists and headed out to Penguin Island. It was close by, so we booked the short (but expensive!) ferry out to the island. Unfortunately, at that time of year, the penguins are all hiding and molting. We did have some fun hiking around the island though, there were some spectacular waves that Paul couldn’t resist. It was a poor substitute for going to Rottnest, which we had wanted to do, but still pretty cool. We hurried back to beat the line for the ferry and hustled home to change before heading to the mall to watch the new Star Wars film. It ended up being a busy, but fun day. 🙂

The next day was Paul’s 9th birthday! We decided to have a beach party, but we’d need to stake out a place with a table for a party. We had hoped that Amy and Rich could join us, but their wedding was the next day, so they had a lot going on the next day. Donnie, Ben and Andie went out to stake out a place, while Paul and I prepped to have a fun day at the beach. We brought sandwich stuff, chips, drinks, a cake we made together, presents and of course all the beach stuff to play with! It was a clear, hot day so Paul went straight down to the water with Andie and Ben when we got there. Unfortunately, there were jellyfish! Paul got a minor sting, but it hurt him for about 45 minutes pretty badly. Andie and Ben also got stung, but they handled the pain better. When he was feeling better, we had cake and opened presents before heading home. I felt bad that Amy couldn’t make it, and that he’d had a jellyfish sting. But now he sure has a story to tell about his ninth birthday. 😉

And suddenly it was Amy’s wedding day! I had agreed to be her matron of honor, although I had no clue how to help. She needed someone to go with her to get her hair and makeup done and get ready for the wedding. So Rich and Amy picked me up around 9am and he dropped us off at a friend’s who was doing Amy’s hair. I’ve never been in a wedding as an adult before, so I tried to be as helpful as possible. We got Amy all ready, had a small snack and then piled in the car to head to the wedding venue, which was a small park near where they lived. She was so happy; she just kept telling me she wasn’t nervous at all, just happy. I was nervous! We didn’t have a practice, so it was all done on the fly. Donnie showed up with Paul, Andie and Ben just as the ceremony started, which luckily was pretty short and informal. I only had to walk down the aisle before Amy and her son, then hold the bouquet while she took her vows. I did get to sign the marriage certificate though! We all went back to Amy and Rich’s house for the reception. His kids had set up a wonderful ‘grazing’ table and Paul of course went back in the pool. After the family toasts and some dinner, we called it a day and went home. We missed cake, but I was so tired!

Even more suddenly, it was Andie and Ben’s last full day before flying back to Sydney and then on to Seattle. So we set up a plan to go on a wine tasting tour. There were some nearby wineries and also Donnie’s favorite Australian brewery called Feral. We did a few winery tastings, nothing was too impressive though. When we got to Feral, they basically told us there was nowhere to sit, everything had been reserved, but the place was empty. We talked them into letting us sit at one of the tables, promising we’d leave before they got there. The beers were tasty, and the company was fantastic, but we had a ways to drive home. We made one more winery stop on the way home, Donnie and Paul got in a paddle boat and went around the river while Andie and I enjoyed a glass of wine. It was a bummer that none of the bottles were really that tasty. I was sad that it was Andie and Ben’s last day, and felt a little guilty they’d had to do mostly family stuff while they were in Perth. I seriously enjoy every moment we have with them.

The next day, we packed up our airbnb (Andie and Ben were leaving, but we were moving in with Amy and Rich), and then drove up to Fremantle for a walk and some lunch before dropping Andie and Ben at the airport. It’s always hard to say goodbye to them, and I am hoping against all odds we’ll reunite this summer. If not, it will have to be in the fall or winter this year. Thank you, A&B for always going the extra mile to be with us. It means the world.

Now there was a week left in Western Australia, with no plans on the docket. We had booked a hotel in Perth for a few days at the end of our stay to be close to the airport, but also to not overstay at Amy and Rich’s place. They were newlyweds after all! On New Year’s Eve, we headed to the beach and got a little too much sun and beverages, so we all fell asleep that afternoon. Everybody except Paul and Amy who made a Chinese food feast for us for dinner! We all woke up and had a marvelous dinner, but nobody made it to midnight except me and Paul, and just barely. I gave him a big kiss and we settled into sleeping our way into 2020.

The next day, on a whim, we decided to head down to Margaret River. This is a well known wine region, and is supposed to be really beautiful. It’s about a 3 hour drive down south of where we were in WA. We booked the only room left online, a small cabin not far from downtown and also not too far from where Rich’s brother was camping with his family.

It was another beautiful drive down there, we made a stop at a winery and brew pub before pulling up to our cabin for the evening. Luckily we had packed a cooler, and some other essentials. The cabin was not quaint, it was more like being at camp. Haha. But it worked for what we needed it to. Amy and I went for a long walk, and the boys went to find beverages. We all met back up on the patio of a hotel in the small town we were staying in, Augusta. I think we just had ramen for dinner and went to bed early after that. Not much to do when you’re camping. 🙂

We were slow to get up the next day, and had big plans that slowly pared down. Everybody except for me headed out to do some rough riding on the beach in Rich’s brother’s truck. Donnie even did some driving and they had to get out of a few sticky situations. After some food, we all headed out to visit a lighthouse on the farthest tip of the western part of Australia. It was a glorious day, warm and windy and was cool to see how life used to be at the lighthouse museum. From there, we grabbed our beach stuff to watch the sunset at Hamlin Bay. It was cold! It even rained on us a little bit. It didn’t stop Paul from playing in the waves. We didn’t make it to sunset, so we took our frigid bodies back to the hotel restaurant for dinner, which hit the spot! It wasn’t the day we had planned, but it was still a fun day!

The next day, we packed up, cleaned and left our little cabin. We drove back separately to Rockingham, and stopped for some shopping before getting back to Rich’s to pack up to head to Perth the next day.

Saying goodbye to Amy the next day was just as hard as it was when we left Shenzhen, but knowing that we met up this time makes it more real that we’ll be seeing them again soon. She is family and they were so warm and welcoming I couldn’t imagine a better time. It’s been hard for them lately with her back in China to finish work and him in Australia, but I hope they’ll be reunited again soon. She is such an amazing lady, and this visit proved it more than anything. We really love her.

From their house, we got family pedicures, did some grocery shopping, then headed out to our hotel for the next few days. It was right in downtown Perth, so a super cool location. There was a waterslide park set up just down the way, so we took Paul for some sliding before heading out to try some Australian Texas BBQ. It looked tasty, but it was NOT as good as Rudy’s. It was fun to try it out though. We did run across a brewery on the way home, which was just lucky happenstance. We stopped for a beer, but were a little to full to hang out for too long.

The next day, we did a family workout. I went for a run, and Donnie and Paul rented bikes to go around the harbor in Perth. It was HOT and not an easy run, but we headed to the pool afterwards and mostly just relaxed. We went to Blasta for our final dinner in Australia, which was delicious of course. 🙂

Our travel home was anything but easy. In Perth, they had trouble checking out bags to Pristina due to the changes Turkish Airlines had made. It meant that we would have had to pick up our bags in each stop and there just wasn’t enough time. Fortunately, they figured it out at the last minute, but it was super stressful. Then on our flight to Istanbul from Kuala Lumpur, they re-routed us to Baku. We’re pretty sure it was to avoid the airspace in the middle east. And sure enough a plane was shot down the next day. This meant we missed our connection in Istanbul, which meant a hotel stay and flight out the next day. We had to go straight to work from the airport. Not a fun way to end a spectacular trip.

If you haven’t been to Western Australia, you are seriously missing out. It is so wonderfully comfortable, familiar and also fantastic. The beaches were NEVER crowded and always stunning. The people remind me of Texans, super friendly and willing to help. It’s a tad expensive, but it’s so worth it. I would totally go back every year if it weren’t on the opposite side of the Earth, but we will definitely be visiting again in the coming years.

Thanks for sticking around for this super long post!!

Love to all,

j

 

 

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