The Best Place to Live in Australia

Hi friends! I have a special guest over on the blog today, Rachel from A Nesting Nomad. We have both been working on a project with Currency Fair, but I will let Rachel share more about that… 
When I met Courtney back in July, we had so much to talk about. Despite following each others blogs for years (!!), as a new expat I had so many questions for her about what it was like to live in Australia, and Brisbane specifically – and why she moved here in the first place. What can I say, I’m nosy and I love a good relocation story.
A great opportunity arose recently for both Courtney and I to share our stories with Currency Fair, giving the reasons for picking our particular neighbourhoods within our respective cities. But today, we thought we’d continue the share-fest and tell you what we love about our cities. So here is why I think Sydney is the best place to live in Australia, and if you hop on over to my blog, Courtney will be making the case for Brisbane.
The harbour
Of course I’m going with the big ticket item first. It’s what most people know Sydney for – that big blue gem right in the middle of the city. There’s nothing like rounding the corner onto Circular Quay and seeing the Harbour Bridge and Opera House just sat there, facing each other across the water. Or going for a stroll in a nondescript suburb and coming across a sheltered beach with a killer view and not a soul in sight. It links the city from East to West, North to South; everyone loves the harbour and I don’t care what you say – as long as I live here I will never fail to go “oooooh” whenever I catch sight of it.

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Leighton the American

As you all know, Leighton was born in the wonderful country of Australia, BUT since Travis and I are only here on his work visa so she will unfortunately not get to be a citizen. It’s tricky, I know.

So on Tuesday the three of us drove to the airport, boarded a plane for Sydney, took a train to the city and then repeated that nine hours later. All to go to the American Consulate to report her birth (so she can be an American) and apply for a passport and social security card. Sidetone: They do make visits to Brisbane quarterly but they don’t post them anywhere so we could have saved two plane tickets, whoops.

Leighton was great on the plane ride (her third). She especially enjoyed the episode of Big Bang Theory I was watching.

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Weekending in Sydney

Hi friends! I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. I just got back from a busy but amazing weekend with my parents in Sydney.

My parents are currently on a month long visit to Australia and New Zealand. They started off by flying the longest flight in the world from Dallas to Sydney. I took off work Friday so that I could meet them there for the weekend before they headed off to visit my mom’s childhood friend in New Zealand.

The morning started off a little rough after I missed my flight check in by four minutes and had to get on the next flight. For the record it wasn’t my fault, my Uber driver somehow got turned around on the 15 minute drive from my house to the airport. There were tears shed (and more dollars than I would like to admit) but I got on a flight thirty minutes later.

It was so exciting meeting my parents in Sydney and getting to show them around one of my favorite Aussie cities. It was my sixth trip there and my fifth playing tour guide to someone from home (my sister, my in-laws, Sean, and Thomas and Jenn’s trips are all recapped as well).

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That guy really wanted in their picture. Continue reading

Friday Favorites: Sydney Tour Guide Edition

Happy Friday everyone!

Before I share all of this week’s exciting events, I want to remind you there are only two days left to enter the custom watercolor giveaway! All you have to do is follow one of the blogs on bloglovin’ (best app/website ever) or tweet about the giveaway. If you win you can have your favorite photograph turned into a gorgeous painting by The Painted Life. We had a similar one made of our first house and it’s one of my favorite decorations in our house.

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Be here to check out more of his work here and enter the giveaway below (don’t worry about using Facebook or e-mail to login they don’t spam, I promise).

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Now back to business- I just arrived back in Brisbane today from spending the past four days showing my lovely mother and sister in law around Sydney. We had a fabulous trip and figured it only appropriate to share my top five moments from the week for my Friday Favorites…

1. Strolling through Manly

Our first day in Sydney we took the iconic Manly ferry from Circular Quay to take a wander around the beach town. The views of the Opera house and Harbour Bridge from the ferry alone are worth your ticket fare.

IMG_2217The only other time I have visited Manly was in the summer when it was scorchingly hot outside and all we wanted to was lay on the beach. It was fun to stroll around in the crisp fall weather and enjoy a different perspective.

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2. Best Walk Ever

If you aren’t a stranger around these parts (blog parts that is) then you know how much I love the Coogee to Bondi Beach Walk. I mean I have talked about it here, here AND here. The views and weather made for a pretty stunning Wednesday morning walk.

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IMG_21803. Birdcage Alley

I have seen pictures of this art installment multiple times and haven’t had the chance to find it yet. I was glad that we had plenty of time this week to go seek it out. Tucked in an alley in the middle of the CBD are hundreds of birdcages suspended in air. There is also a pub conveniently located around the corner for a post-viewing beverage.

DSC_00704. Newtown

After we checked out Manly, Coogee-Bondi, Opera House, The Rocks and the Botanical Gardens we were looking for a unique, local spot to spend the afternoon. I remembered hearing about the artsy, hipster suburb of Newtown and figured we could scope it out. We wandered aimlessly through the grafittied streets, admiring the old architecture and funky shops. We went on a street art scavenger hunt and eventually broke for a delicious snack of Turkish bread and dips (with a side of vino, of course).

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5. Sydney Opera House Tour

Friday morning we scheduled a tour of the Sydney Opera House before our flight. I was skeptical at first if it would be worth waking up extra early for, but it did not disappoint. Since we went to the first tour we were able to have access to the two main theaters that are often off limits due to performances. In just under an hour we learned all sorts of facts and tidbits about Australia’s most frequented landmark. I will be posting more on what we learned later but it was definitely worth our while.
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Linking up with Andrea, Heather and Natasha for Friday Favorites!

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48 Hours in Sydney

48hoursSydneyWe had a quick 48 hours in Sydney last week at the beginning of Caroline’s visit, but I feel as though we made the best of our short time there. Here’s a look at how we spent it…

Day 1

We arrived in Sydney Wednesday morning and checked into our accomodations, The Royal Exhibition Hotel. That’s when we realized it was less of a hotel and more of a bar with rooms on top of it. We literally had to walk behind the bar and through a “staff only” door to get to our room. That’s when my lack of researching became pretty apparent. The location was very convenient, right in the heart of Surry Hills and directly across the street from Central Station, so we decided to forgive the slight stale beer smell. RoyalExhibition

The manager at the hotel suggested a cafe nearby while we waited for our room to be ready. We walked down the street to Cook and Archie’s for lattes and breakfast. The cafe was adorable and everything on the menu looked delicious, but I chose the Haloumi stack. It included several Aussie staples; avocado on toast, haloumi, poached egg and Dukkah. I’m getting hungry again just thinking about it.
HaloumiStackAfter checking in and cleaning ourselves up a bit, we headed toward toward Circular Quay to catch the ferry to the zoo. It wasn’t a short walk, but after sitting on a plane for 22 hours Caroline was ready to move her legs. At Circular Quay we bought our Zoo Pass (ferry and zoo entry combined) and walked around the Opera House while we waited on our boat. CarolineOpera

The ferry ride to Taronga Zoo was only ten minutes but provided some great views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House.

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We spent about three hours at the zoo taking in the animals and the vistas. That place is HUGE so we picked and chose what we cared about seeing. Our favorite were the lemurs, who love to cuddle and hug each other. We took the ferry back into town, did some shopping and headed back to the hotel. We met fellow Aussie blogger and former Katy resident, Abby from Abby’s Roads, for dinner at Botega. The place was hopping even on a Wednesday night which was a testament to how good the food was. We were bad bloggers and did not get any pictures of our food or each other but a wonderful (and delicious) night was had by all.

Day 2  

After our big first day we had a little sleep in and got a late start to the day. We got dressed, headed out for brekky at Gallery Cafe and scarfed down a wrap before hoping in a cab to the Coastal Walk.

EasternCoastSince it was already almost noon when we started to head to the coast we decided to cut off the first couple legs and start at Clovelly Beach. I have talked about it here and here, but this really is my favorite walk ever. The views are just unreal. BeachWalkoutdoorsy BeachWalk2CoastalWalkThe walk ends at Bondi Beach, where we walked around, enjoyed the best lunch ever at Bill’s (discussed here) before ending the afternoon laying on the beach. The weather was absolutely perfect and we couldn’t stop commenting on how amazing the day had been. Bondi2We cleaned up at our bar/hotel and had a delicious italian dinner at Franco Franco in Surry Hills. I really love that neighborhood and am so glad we got to stay there. After dinner we caught a bus to The Rocks where we did some wandering and enjoyed a nightcap on the rooftop bar of The Glenmore Hotel. It was standing room only so we were just creeping by this pole the whole night. I actually told Caroline we were “working the pole” before realizing that would imply an entirely different type of night. Whoops.

poleDon’t mind my frizzy hair, the focal point of the picture is the pole we hung out with all night.

The Glenmore has amazing 360 degree views of the Harbour, so it was the perfect place to end our whirlwind 48 hour trip to Sydney.

Linking Up with Travel Tuesday…. traveltuesdayspotlight-strasbourg

Friday Favorites: Live from Sydney

I’m coming to you from Sydney this morning. We actually should be back in Brisbane right now BUT my sister accidently booked our flights to Brisbane for the same day we landed in Sydney. Needless to say, travel rarely goes off without a hitch in this family (remember this incident). So we will be heading back to Brisbane shortly. While we wait on our flight I figured I would share this week’s favorites…

Banana Oatmeal Muffins

Looking for a lightened up banana bread alternative? These muffins don’t have any butter or flour in them and are quite delicious. Plus you just throw all of the ingredients in a blender and then bake! Sunday was my birthday, so I wanted to do one of my favorite activities- bake. Plus with Travis and I both traveling during the week we needed something easy to grab for breakfast or a snack. These definitely hit the spot, especially with peanut butter on top. Next time I might add one more banana (I used two for 12 muffins). What’s so funny is that I pinned this recipe a while back and just now when I went to find the link I realized that it was by one of my favorite bloggers, The Well Traveled Wife. I didn’t even realize it when I was making the recipe!

Follow my Healthy Treats Pinterest board for more lightened up recipes like this one.

Taking Route 

A few weeks ago the ladies from Taking Route e-mailed me asking if I would be interested in being their featured blog of the month. I was so excited and grateful that they chose my blog from the Oceania region, I immediately accepted their invitation. Here is the post that went live this week if you want to read a little more about me.

My mom first introduced me to Taking Route’s website after seeing one of their articles posted on Facebook. It was started by two expat women who live in Southeast Asia with their families. They post really great articles for expats and also host a lot of guest writers that talk about the ups and downs of living abroad. On their site they have a directory of blogs from each region of the world as well. If you are an expat, you should definetly stop by their site and check it out!

Sisterly Time IMG_1666I’ve been looking forward to this week since we planned Caroline’s visit over Christmas. She flew out of London Monday night and a short 22 hours later met me in Sydney (Wednesday morning in Australia). She’s our first visitor since we’ve gotten settled in and I’m so excited to show her around our home.

Coogee to Bondi Walk

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I first went on this walk with Travis last November (here). It was my favorite part of our trip so I knew I wanted to take Caroline when she came. The views were just as spectacular as I remembered and it was the perfect way to spend our afternoon. We actually cut out the first leg of the trip and started at Cloverlly Beach but I didn’t feel like we missed out on anything. After 11 hours of sleep and a 3 mile walk in the sunshine, Caroline was officially jet lag free.

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Our walk ended at Bondi Beach and we were on the lookout for a light lunch before hitting the beach. After walking around in search of the perfect cafe, we stumbled upon Bills. I had followed recommendations on our last trip and loved their breakfast. After looking at the lunch menu, Caroline and I decided to eat there. HOLY COW they had the best zuchinni fritters EVER. So good that we are still talking about them. I need them to open one in Brisbane ASAP.

They also have a London location called Granger and Co. with the same menu. If you are on that side of the world you need to check it out. You will thank me later.

That’s all for this week, I am off to frantically search Pinterest for zuchinni fritter recipes. I will be back with more Sydney tales on Tuesday. Have a great weekend!

Linking up with…

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Sydney: Sunday Strolling

Sunday was our last day in lovely Sydney. Our flight didn’t leave until late afternoon so we had the whole day to knock out everything we had left to see. And that we did.

We started with breakfast at Bills, which came recommended by multiple people. It was so cute, I would definitely recommend a visit if you are ever in Sydney. They have multiple locations around the city and also in London, Seoul, Tokyo and Honolulu.

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I ordered the Ricotta hotcakes with banana and honeycomb butter. Delicious.

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 Travis had the sweet corn fritters with tomato, spinach and bacon. Also delicious.

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Then we walked over to Hyde Park to walk around and see one of Australia’s first Catholic churches, St. Mary’s Cathedral.

DSC_0252Then we walked through the Royal Botanical Gardens and played with our new camera’s settings as you can tell by the following pictures.

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 We walked all the way back to the Opera House so Travis could look at didgeridoos.

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For lunch I wanted to go to Harry’s Cafe de Wheels. Harry’s is an iconic Australian food truck that serves pies, their most famous being the “Tiger Pie” which has mushy peas, mashed potatos and gravy on top of a meat pie. I first learned about Harry’s while watching The Bachelor Australia. The Bachelor Blake took fancy pants Laurina to eat there and she started crying that she didn’t want to eat a dirty street pie (unfortunately for you I could not locate a video clip). Whatever, I did want to eat a dirty street pie so walked ourselves back across the botanical gardens to Harry’s. If it’s good enough for Frank Sinatra it’s good enough for me.

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Then we had to make another pit stop before we headed to the airport to look at didgeridoos. Sadly we did not make any purchases, Travis wants to do a little more research.

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Well that was our weekend in Sydney, I hope you enjoyed following along!

PS A little bonus pic of my dad and I in Sydney back in ’88!

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Sydney: Coogee to Bondi Walk

I had first heard about the Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach walk on Abby’s blog and then saw it mentioned on pretty much every other “what to do in Sydney” list I found. It was pretty much the only thing I knew I wanted to do while we were there. We planned to wake up early Saturday and head out to Coogee to start the walk along the coast all the way up to the iconic Bondi Beach. The weather was actually chilly (meanwhile it was over 100 in Brisbane) and quite breezy but it made for perfect walking weather.

For reference, here is the route we took…

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 Starting at Coogee Beach we headed out along the path- only to take frequent breaks to photograph all of the beautiful views.

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People swimming in the little “pools”

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One of the most interesting sites we saw was this HUGE old cemetery. The Waverly Cemetery was opened in 1877 and houses the graves of many famous Australians including the first Prime Minister. It was also used in a Mel Gibson movie I have never heard of.

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IMG_1035This was Travis’ idea, I did not approve.

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During the 6k walk you go by 6 different beaches and several communities.

I thought this was really awesome- in the first picture you can see the neighborhood swimming pool, just hanging out over the ocean. Even though it was 60 degrees out and windy there were tons of people- old and young swimming in the pools and ocean. On the other side of the rocks was a beach and little park, all overlooking the ocean. All of this is just a few miles away from the city’s center, not a bad place to live.

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After we got to Bondi Beach we were starving and Trav had his heart set on some place called Doyles that was known for their fish and chips so we took a cab about 20 minutes away to Watsons Bay.

Little did we know there are two Doyles (across the street from each other) one that is take-away and boasts a $13.90 fish and chips meal and another more formal sit down restaurant. We went to the restaurant and realized their fish and chips meal was $40. We clearly were not at the right place. We sucked it up, ate some oysters and desert and got out of there. Next time we will be trying out the take away Doyles.

Then we set out on a walking path around Watson’s Bay because clearly we had not walked enough.

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You did have a lovely view of the city across the harbor

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A little windblown

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Travis practicing some animal photography

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Cute lighthouse on the path

Don’t worry there’s just a nude beach along the trail. The group of french college students really found this amusing. The man they tried to sneakily photograph did not however.

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 This was another one of Trav’s photo ideas and he made me take multiple takes which was quite uncomfortable as there were multiple nude elderly men several feet away on the beach.

Finally after almost 6 hours of walking we took a cab back to our hotel. After learning our lesson the previous night we decided to only rely on a recommended restaurant for dinner. One of my friends in Brisbane used to live in the area and suggested a German restaurant called Unas. I ordered the schnitzel and it was massive. I didn’t take a picture of it but I found one on their website to give you an idea of how large it was.

All for under $20! Travis ordered the goulash and some cabbage rolls for us to share. It was by far our favorite and the best value of a meal we had in Sydney. I managed to polish off that sucker and then we stumbled around Kings Cross in a food coma to try and walk off some of the 20+ lbs of food we had just consumed. It wasn’t much longer before we were in bed and watching the news. We party real hard on vacation.

Stay tuned for our last day in Sydney!

Sydney: Night at the Opera House

Happy Friday 🙂 As you are reading this we (hopefully) will be bundled up in my parent’s house in London. I can’t wait! But for now, let’s get back to Sydney…

As I mentioned in my previous Sydney post, as we were laying on the beach Friday afternoon we decided to buy tickets for a play at the Opera House. We hadn’t heard of anything that was playing but we figured it would be fun just to go.

We bought tickets to Switzerland, a suspenseful physcological thriller inspired by the author (and Texan) of The Incredible Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith. I figured suspense = me staying awake.

After our post beach nap we really didn’t have much time for dinner so we decided to just go to a restaurant by the Opera House. Bad idea. After spending $80 on a tiny salad (Travis) and a few strips of mediocre kangaroo (me) we were starving and grouchy. So we ended up here…

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A crepe food truck. We waited for almost thirty minutes for a chocolate crepe (not even Nutella) and it was not worth it. I did finish it though…

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I mean I would hate for our $9 to go to waste. Moral of the story: give yourself time to get dinner somewhere with a good recommendation (most likely not right in front of the Opera House).

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Here we are before the play. Travis was worried about wearing jeans but then I showed him this…

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As long as you have shoes, you’re good. I wasn’t joking here when I said Australians love to go barefoot.

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The play was in one of the smaller theaters but our seat were great! It was a two person play with no intermission but it definitely held your attention and kept you thinking even after you left. I would have enjoyed it even more if the gentleman on the other side of me had not made himself at home halfway in my seat.

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When we got out it was dark outside and the Opera House and Harbour Bridge were all lit up. It was so pretty (and chilly), it almost felt like it was November. Almost. Then I felt the heat from my awkward knee sunburn radiating through my jeans.

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We ended the night walking around The Rocks and popping into Fortune of War- which boasts itself as the oldest bar in Sydney. It was an old hotel that was turned into a pub, it also proved to be a prime people watching spot.

The next day was my favorite- get ready for picture overload later this week!

Sydney: Mainly Manly

We arrived in Sydney around 5 on Thursday afternoon (or is that evening, I don’t even know?!). We stayed in a little boutique hotel in a neighborhood called Darlinghurst just outside of the city center.

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Travis had to do a little work then we headed out to find a place for dinner. We wanted to try a bar/restaurant someone had recommended to Travis called Argyle. We looked high and low but for some reason we could not find it anywhere (don’t worry it was extremely visible and we found it the next night but it was a night club with a $10 cover) so we ended up just going to the first place we saw which was the Glenmore. The food was nothing to write home about but the rooftop bar looked over the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House and they had $6 beers (that is very big news here). Somehow this is the only picture I took…

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The area that the bar was in is called The Rocks. It’s a historic area of town that was one of the first colonies formed in Sydney in 1788. Now it’s a touristy area filled with bars and shops but the old stone buildings manage to keep some of it’s historic charm. It’s a really fun area that I would definitely recommend checking out! They also have markets from 10am-5pm every Saturday and Sunday where plenty of local venders sell artwork, house wares, food and everything in between. You can get more information about them here.

Friday morning we slept in until 8:30!!! Our bedroom in our apartment in Brisbane has huge skylight type windows that wake us up with the sun at 5am every morning so this was a real treat. We took a cab and headed to the harbor to catch a ferry to Manly Beach. While we waited on the ferry we walked around by the opera house and checked out what was playing.

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We took the slow ferry to Manly Beach which takes approximately 25 minutes. While we were on the ferry there were these military helicopters flying around above us and over the city.

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I had seen on the news that morning that the Bristish Prime Minister was coming in town before heading to the G20 in Brisbane, so I am assuming that had something to do with their presence. It was still pretty cool to see them so close to us. Something about helicopters really fascinates me.

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The rest of the boat ride went by pretty quickly and we got to enjoy some beautiful views of the city and ocean. Once we got to Manly we grabbed a quick breakfast and headed down to the beach. It was still early so it wasn’t crowded yet so we got to relax and watch the surfers.

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Not 10 minutes after we had set up shop on the beach a booming voice came over the loud speaker. They said that there were a large number of blue bottle jellyfish (also known as Portuguese Man o’ war) in the water and washing up on shore so to be careful because there is no immediate cure for the sting. They weren’t kidding either- the entire shore was covered in those suckers.

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Clearly I was not about to take any chances and never got past a couple inches into the water before nearly having a panic attack and running back to our spot.

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Travis clearly wanted to one of the 10,000 humans in Australia that get stung by those creepy invertebrates each year and hopped right in.

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I love this because the lifeguard is watching him swim in the surfing only area and waiting for his chance to gripe at him.

By mid afternoon the beach was packed and I had developed a very attractive splotchy sunburn on my knees (who remembers to put sunscreen on their knees?!) so we decided that was enough beach time for the day.

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So we headed to grab lunch and a beer on the strand. Manly is a really cute area and once again we discussed how we wanted to bring people here when they visit…

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While laying on the beach we made a spontaneous decision to buy overpriced tickets to see a play we had never heard of at the Opera House. So we hopped back on the ferry and headed back to the hotel to rest and get cleaned up.

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More on our night at the Sydney Opera House and Sydney’s Oldest Pub next time..