top of page
  • fortiergregory

Our First Visitors and the Adventures they Brought

As always, we'd like to apologize for this one being a little later than planned, (Ok, A LOT later than planned) but we did have some visitors back in January and February and we're just getting around to putting these updates out now. Hope you enjoy them anyway!

Also, it's important to remember that we are in the southern hemisphere so for us it was summer when these visitor arrived. We are now moving into fall here. (And have moved the clocks back an hour so we are now 14 hours ahead of east coast USA, which is better than it was in the summer months, we think.)

Watching Tennis at Federation Square

Our first visitors were Allison's parents, Nancy and Bob. The first visit was actually a mutual trip down to Melbourne where we met them for the Australian Open tennis tournament, which was awesome! We flew down to Melbourne on Thursday, 19 January (Nancy and Bob arrived in Melbourne a couple days before to start to get used to the time difference). The first day we wandered around the city, mostly revisiting places the parents had been to in their first few days without us. We did, however, get to the State Library of Victoria (Melbourne is located in the Australian state named Victoria, after the British monarch when the colony was established). The Library was gorgeous, with a huge collection of books, vast study/work spaces and several historical exhibits (although only one was open to the public when we were there). After the Library, we made our way back toward the hotel, where we walked through Chinatown and found Al's favorite dumpling shop from when she spent a few months there during her travels in the Asia-Pacific region (in the PG (Pre-Greg) time of her life!). Then, we made our way to Federation Square (the locals call it Fed Square), where there is a huge TV for people to watch local events. We sat for awhile to watch whatever tennis match was on at the time. We finally got some dinner and slowly made our way back to the hotel before bed.

At the Australian Open (AO)

Day two in Melbourne was all about "the tennis" as they refer to the weeks-long competition we know as the Australian Open. (Greg has had several Aussie's tell him they went down or where headed down to Melbourne for "the tennis." Luckily, he was in the know, being a slightly more than casual fan of the sport). Well, tennis we did! We had access to every court except for the second largest one based on our ticket. Tickets for the main court and the second court both come with grounds passes to see the other minor courts matches, but do not overlap with each other. We chose the largest arena because if you're going to the tennis for the first time you choose the largest arena we surmised! The day was jammed packed. We watched an American men's doubles match for a set, then moved on to a women's doubles match for a set or two, after that we meandered our way to the main arena to see the end of Stafanos Tsitsipas (who eventually lost in the final to Novak Djokovic) win his match fairly easily and finally Coco Gauff roll past Bernarda Pera, a fellow American.

Tiafoe v Khachanov

Or so we thought... as we were preparing to leave for the day, we found out that our "daytime" tickets allowed full access to the minor courts for the entire day, as opposed to being kicked out for the "evening" ticket holders. So instead of leaving around 5:30 as we expected to do, we killed some time getting souvenirs and waited for the night match on the third court: 16th ranked, Frances Tiafoe, an American, vs. 18th ranked, Karen Khachanov. Tiafoe, being one of Greg's favorite up and coming players, we couldn't pass up. We ate another meal of stadium food and made sure we secured seats for the match. Although Tiafoe lost, the match did not disappoint. It went four sets and a tie-break in the fourth broke the wrong way for Frances, but it was a great match up of two talented, young players!

The Ross Family at the Shrine of Remembrance

The next couple days were more wandering around and getting some classic Melbourne activities in and a little shopping as well. We went to the Queen Victoria Market, the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, and the Shrine of Remembrance. We went to dinner at 48h Pizza and Gnocci Bar, which Greg found on a list of best Pizzerias in the world. (It boasts to be the No. 1 Pizzeria in the Pacific and No. 13 in the World!) It also did not disappoint! It was also within walking distance of Allison's old apartment when she lived her PG life down under, so we stopped by to check that out as well, which was pretty cool! Finally, Greg made us go down to St. Kilda Pier in an attempt to see the world's smallest penguins. They supposedly hunt for food at night and are very active in the area, but the best viewing area was closed down for construction so we tried to see them from the pier, but are not sure we saw any. (Greg is convinced he saw a few, but no one else in our party is quite so sure). The sunset over the city was very nice though so we'd say it was worth the trek, maybe!

Sydney Harbor Tour with Bob & Nancy

After the Melbourne adventures, Nancy and Bob went their own way to Hobart, Tasmania and Canberra, ACT before meeting us back in Sydney the following Thursday. Thursday, we stayed low key and hosted them for dinner at our place and showed them around Bondi Junction. Friday, we took them on the Bronte to Bondi Beach walk and went to dinner in the Eastern Suburbs (close to where we live), where we found possibly the best Italian/Pizza place we've been to so far. Saturday, the parentals moved their accommodations from the Meriton Bondi Junction (our current home) to a hotel in the CBD. Once we got them settled in, we did some shopping at Paddy's Market and took a nice afternoon Harbor Cruise Tour (light on the tour because we supposedly needed our own headphones, but the charcuterie board was delightful!) In the evening we had dinner in Darling Harbor and watched the weekly fireworks show before taking Nancy and Bob back to their hotel and making our way home. On Sunday we met up for lunch a tour of the Hyde Park Barracks, where early convicts and then young immigrant women were housed. Afterwards, we strolled over to the nearby St. Mary's Cathedral to take a tour and learn more about the history of the Catholic religion in Australia. We then hung out in the Hotel Lounge until they had to leave for their flight. It was nice to see some familiar faces out here, but that is where our time with them ended before they headed back stateside via Hawaii and then San Diego to see Jillian and Tato, finally ending up back home in Raleigh.

Picking Chelsea up at the Airport

You may have thought that was it for our visitors, but a few weeks later (arriving in Sydney on 24 Feb), Greg's youngest sister, Chelsea, also made the journey down under for three weeks! Yes, three weeks! In our apartment! It may not have been the best sleeping arrangement - Chelsea was a trooper sleeping on an air mattress in our living room - but we made it through and had a good time doing it! (It helped that she brought a 3 lb bag of Starburst per Greg's request! Yes, we know, we haven't done a piece on food here yet, but know that Starburst candy are one thing we haven't found yet and it's a bummer for Greg!)

The first item on her list was the Coogee to Bondi Beach walk. You may recall we did this walk when we first arrived as well and it's not short! Haha. The total trip takes about 2 hours and that does not include stopping for snacks and photo ops (of which there are many)! So, after a low key day one, we jumped right into the long beach walk on Saturday. It was great, we saw some good beaches for Chelsea to check out later if she wanted and we got a ton of nice photos in. We got a late lunch at Bondi Beach and eventually made our way back to the apartment. We all got sunburn. We all put on sunscreen, but did not reapply thoroughly enough. It was only partly miserable, but it did lead to a few days of mellower activities and recovery during the day. That did not stop us, however, from catching a phenomenal sunrise at Bronte Beach (yes, you read that right, RISE! Greg got up for sunrise with the group Sunday morning and even said it was worth it (but glad now he doesn't have to do it again)). The cloud cover was just right and the waves made it even better when the sun came up right over the water. Bronte has the best angle of the nearby beaches and this one definitely confirmed that for us!

Sunrise at Bronte Beach

The rest of the time Chelsea was here was a bit of a blur so we are going to try to cover the highlights. At some point, Greg and Chelsea went into the CBD and Greg convinced her to buy a large brim hat to protect her current sunburn and from any future sun exposure. At several points Chelsea went on her own solo adventures: the ferry ride across the harbor to catch a dope city sunset, the walk over to Centennial Park to view the giant bats sleeping in the trees, the other attempts at beach sunrises that never were as good as that first one, and of course other beach trips, including a day where she spent most of her time in the water at Bondi Beach.

Jenolan Cave Tour

We did not leave her completely on her own, however. One weekend we made our way out to the Blue Mountains. We were hoping to spot some nature and found a tour of caves where it's also (allegedly) the best place to see wild platypus. The caves were awesome, but unfortunately, the trail that lead to the platypus pond was closed off due to some flooding. We did see some rock wallaby right off the path on our way back to the car. Al and Greg would have, or did actually, walked right by it, but Chelsea was on the prowl and spotted it no more than a few feet from them!. On the way home, it was sadly way too foggy to get a good view of the canyon and famous Three Sisters rock formation from the lookout we planned, but we decided to make a pitstop at a park that Charles Darwin had visited on his trip around the world on the Beagle. Al was excited to be in the same spot her favorite scientist was at one point! His namesake trail was closed, but it was still cool to stand at the trailhead where he had once been.

Greg and Chelsea took another trip while Al was at work the next week. They went up to Brisbane to visit The Australia Zoo: Home of the Crocodile Hunter! That was an awesome trip as well. They made their way to a couple gardens and eventually the hour drive to the town of the zoo. At this point, Greg had put it together that Chelsea was very much into seeking out wildlife while she was here so he found a couple small nature trails that might give an opportunity to see some. Nothing quite came of it that day, but read on to find out what we might have seen in the wild!

Greg & Chelsea at the Australia Zoo

The zoo itself was fantastic. We spent the whole day there, which I don't think either of us expected to do. Chelsea got to pet a kangaroo and got a photo with a snake (which was being held by a staff member). We saw everything at the park, including giraffes (one of whom is the tallest in the world we later found out), rhinos, koalas, kangaroos and, of course, crocs! (You may all remember that Greg has a healthy fear of crocs ever since our trip up North, and he still does, but seeing them in enclosures is less scary). We also saw the Australia Zoo Wildlife Warrior Show, which is an educational/conservation experience put on at the zoo each day. Our show featured several bird species, some snakes (handled by the staff), and the mighty saltwater crocodile. It was awesome! Highly recommend if y'all are ever in the area. We were even able to go to the veterinarian/rehabilitation hospital associated with the zoo afterward, where we saw baby snakes that were literally just born that day. They were the size of earthworms and the staff informed us that they would be released back to the wild in the coming days. Very cool.

On the way back down to Brisbane, we did some kangaroo hunting (not like with weapons, we just wanted to snap a few shots for Chelsea in the wild). As we might have mentioned in another post, kangaroos are like deer around here. They are abundant, don't have any natural predators, and are mostly considered pests, but they are so cool! We found a handful on a couple minor detours before we got to the hotel. On our last day in Queensland (the state Brisbane and the zoo are in), we made our way to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary where you can get a photo holding a Koala. It was way bigger than expected and we spent a good amount of time there. We saw a platypus (in captivity), Chelsea pet another kangaroo, this time one of the large red kangaroos, and she also did the Koala photo shoot! Once in a lifetime experience.

Greg & Chelsea on the Ferry

The rest of the time in Sydney was mostly laid back. Chelsea at this point kinda knew what she was doing and would do her own thing if Greg and Al were busy for whatever reason. We did get a nice rooftop sunset dinner in, and made it out to the darling harbor fireworks show again in the city. We also went on a small excursion to Bowral (where Greg and Al had brunch on the way to Canberra back in the Spring). There we did a couple short nature trail walks and went to a campground in search of wild wombats (they are nocturnal so we did not see any, but it was a fun little trip, also continuing the animal search theme of Chelsea's trip.) Chelsea and Greg spent her last full day up in Manly, while Al had to work. It was again nice to have some familiar folks around visiting. After Chelsea left, Greg put the apartment back together and immediately felt like there was a small void. Chelsea had felt like she'd been with us forever, but it also flew by.

We were glad to have family visit and hope you enjoyed the recap! If y'all are thinking of visiting, please do, we'd love to have you! (Except maybe not staying in our tiny living room). Until next time, be well!

State Library of Victoria

Al's Favorite Dumpling Spot

The Ross Family in Fed Square

Wandering Melbourne

Al & Nancy at a Side Court at the AO

Nancy & Bob at a Side Court at the AO

Greg Outside the Main Court at the AO

Al at the AO after the Gauff Match

Greg at the AO after the Gauff Match

The Grand Slam Oval at the AO

Greg with Nadal (Tricked ya! It's just an ad) at the AO

Bob & Nancy on the Botanic Garden Tour

Greg & Al on the Botanic Garden Tour

On the Balcony with a View of Sydney CBD

Coogee to Bondi Walk

Chelsea Exploring on the Bondi Walk

Al & Chels at the World Pride Mardi Gras Parade

Sunrise at Bronte

Greg & Chelsea Outside the Opera House

Chelsea with the Cockatoos in the Blue Mountains

Chelsea Getting to Meet a Kangaroo

Greg, Chelsea & a Little Snake

The Croc Finally Got Greg!

Wildlife Warrior Show, with the Crocs

45 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment

linda andryc
linda andryc
Apr 24, 2023

Such a good commentary of life with visitors down under! It's definitely wetting our appetite for a trip in 2024 now that we know you are able to stay for a while!

bottom of page