SALT WATER // Torquay, Australia

I can’t quite come to grips with the fact that it will be Easter next week, and it is somehow April already. How has this year flown by so fast already? It feels like it was only the other day that I was finishing university and settling into full time work, but the days are flying by. Working full time certainly seems to make time slip through my fingers, with weekends being treasured and passing by all too fast.

A couple of weekends ago Chris and I packed up our little car Friday morning and hit the road as soon as the work week ended, driving out West towards the famed Great Ocean Road. My brother recently moved to Torquay, so we took that as an excuse to hit up this beautiful part of the country.

We pitched a tent at the Torquay Caravan Park, and found our campsite literally metres from the main surf beach. Chris took it upon himself to take an evening swim, whilst I kept warm and dry on the sand.

We spent our night hanging out at Blackman’s Brewery, a decent establishment we stumbled upon within 30 seconds of walking down the street. The next morning we were up early, and walked along the Esplanade.

It was a cloudy weekend, but the sun did occasionally come out. No complaints from this easily sunburnt gal.

For coffee, we checked out Cup of Love Coffee, a cute little shipping container set up nestled next to the brewery from the night before.

Chris insisted on another swim before we packed up camp – so the above photos are from the main surf beach again, but in the morning light.

We met up with my brother and checked out his new share house, before hitting up the beach at nearby Jan Juc. The boys somehow managed to convince me to join them for a dip (I am mildly terrified of the ocean, among other things), so I splashed pathetically in the shallows for awhile. Nevermind the 12 year old girls smashing out a surf comp right next to us!

I admittedly haven’t spent much time down along this area of the coast, despite its proximity to Melbourne. Having my brother living in Torquay will certainly be an incentive to head down this way a bit more frequently! Not to mention it is near the beginning of the fantastic Great Ocean Road, which we ventured down later that day… but that is enough beach photos for one post!

– Reanna

WINE & WHIMSY // Yanakie & Fish Creek, Australia

Summer is technically over in Australia, but the days are still long and the weather is still warm. But sometimes Mother Nature likes to keep us guessing, so when we woke up on the second day of our long weekend in Yanakie we found that the skies had opened and torrential storms had set in! Not to be perturbed, we all ventured out the Foster Market, but once the thunder and rain began rolling over we quickly packed up and headed to an early lunch at Fish Creek Pub. By the time we had finished with our meal, the skies were like this!

With the sun set to stay, we made our own small wine tour for the afternoon. Despite growing up in South Gippsland, I haven’t been to many wineries in the region! I suppose my appreciation for wine didn’t really set in until I moved to Melbourne.

Our first stop was Waratah Hills, a quite modern looking establishment that was packed with visitors for the long weekend. We skipped the indoor area and settled down outside with a few local wines to try.

Half our group headed back to Yanakie after the first winery, while the rest of us persevered on to our second stop, Basia Mille. It involved driving along an unassuming dirt road for several kilometres, but it was totally worth it. The views over the nearby Shallow Inlet were stunning, and the vibe was a lot more chilled out.

The following morning we were set to head back to Melbourne, but Chris and I squeezed in one last walk along the beach. The tide was out, so the beach wasn’t as beautiful as the previous evening due to a plethora of sea grass, but it was still worth a few snaps.

We stupidly wore bare feet, and attempted to cut across the sea grass on our way back. However, we ended up knee deep in sludge and sand, and I was quick to request we head back to higher ground!

South Gippsland is such a wonderful part of the world, and I am glad I still get the opportunity to return there to visit family. Sure, I don’t think I could ever return to living in the area, but it is nice to visit as an adult and appreciate a different side of the beautiful landscape.

– Reanna

IS IT THE WEEKEND? // Wilsons Promontory & Yanakie, Australia

Routine still feels elusive to me some days, but I feel like I am finally falling into the swing of things during the week. I feel pretty lucky that I get to work nine to five, Monday and Friday, as I can finally enjoy the luxury of weekends, and when they arise, long weekends.

This past weekend coincided with a Victorian public holiday on a Monday, so we were treated to what feels like yet another long weekend this year, not that I am complaining! The weekend further coincided with a family event, so Chris and I found ourselves in the countryside with his family for a perfectly chilled out weekend down near Wilsons Promontory.

Well, perhaps the ‘chilled out’ part started after a stunning hike up Mount Bishop. The views were absolutely 10 out of 10.

The hike itself was easier than Mount Oberon, the main mountain hike in Wilsons Promontory. We did the whole walk in less than two hours return, despite the information booklet advising a two and a half hour return trip. I guess it depends how long you stop at the summit to take in the views!

I spent a bit of time at Wilsons Promontory as a child, however it is still probably one of my favourite national parks. The scenery gets me every time, and there are so many hikes that I haven’t even done yet. I really want to get back for some overnight hiking one day, as I haven’t done one since I was in high school!

After our hike we headed back to our accommodation at Yanakie Caravan Park. Admittedly I had never stayed in Yanakie before, but it turned out to be a beautiful caravan park only a five minute drive from the gate to Wilsons Promontory. The park was booked out for the long weekend, and the beaches were full of holiday makers taking in the early Autumn sun. It was like Summer never left!

The beach extended around the corner from the main beach, so we clambered over some rocks and enjoyed a private little cove for a few hours. I was taking these photos from the shade of the overhanging trees, yet I still managed to score myself some painful sunburn!

We could even admire the distant mountains of Wilsons Promontory from the beach, providing a perfect backdrop to the already amazing beaches. I can’t believe places like this were so close to home for me when growing up, and I am only truly beginning to appreciate them all now as an adult!

– Reanna

NOT QUITE YOUR REGULAR PROGRAM // Sydney, Australia

Life has been particularly chaotic these past few weeks, and with good reason – Chris and I have moved from our beloved North Melbourne to South Melbourne! It has been almost a month since we moved, and whilst it was no great feat (two people living in a small apartment thankfully only meant a small truckload of belongings), settling into a new house, new area, and going to Ikea far too often has made for weekends doing nothing almost being unheard of.

Additionally, February coincides with Chris’ birthday, my birthday, and our anniversary all being within one week. We usually try and go away around this time, and so last weekend we shipped ourselves off to Sydney for a quick long weekend trip!

We flew in Thursday evening, which we planned in order to have a stress free start to a trip. However after a horrible plane ride (for me), congestion at Sydney airport, and me leaving my bag in our Uber (I got it back!), we were utterly spent by the time we arrived at our Airbnb in Surrey Hills!

Thankfully we started fresh on Friday morning with a walk to the Botanical Gardens.

We walked out to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair for some great views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the city.

Despite the gloomy looking weather, it was actually quite muggy and warm!

As we had been to Sydney before, we were happy to take a slower pace for the day. We essentially just wandered through the city, talking and occasionally stopping for snacks and coffee.

It certainly seems a lot gloomier than I remember now that I look back at these photos!

One thing I like about Sydney is all the old buildings in the CBD. Sure, Melbourne has its fair share as well, but it is certainly a different look.

Eventually we made our way over to the Sydney Fish Market. We had a great time eating there last time, and we managed to get there early enough to avoid the throngs of tourists that arrive at lunch time. It is a beautiful spot to eat and drink wine! Beware of the birds, though.

Full of wine and food, and feelings a bit lazy, we caught an Uber back to our Airbnb for a rest. Turns out our apartment had some pretty killer views!

Eventually we regained some energy and walked back down to Circular Quay to catch the ferry to Manly. This was one of the Sydney ‘must do’ attractions we missed out on last time, and the views certainly did not disappoint. My camera skills, on the other hand, were terrible, so please enjoy the one half decent photo out of the fifty odd that I took!

Despite still being cloudy, it was definitely warm enough for the beach. I was skeptical at first, but it ended up being a lovely afternoon to play around in the water for awhile.

That evening we stayed in Manly for dinner and some drinks at the 4 Pines Brewery, before catching the ferry back to the city.

There was a pretty stunning sunset on the way back, and the views were just as good a second time around.

Being the party animals we are, I think we ended up in bed at a reasonable hour, despite our incredibly chilled out day. But it was exactly what we needed!

– Reanna

PAST & PRESENT // Beijing, China

It has been a busy couple of weeks around here, with tonight being the first time that finishing off my holiday photos has even crossed my mind! I thought I only had one more post to go, but turns out I took million photos of street food… but that will come in the next post!

My last couple of days in Beijing involved a hodge podge variety of activities, influenced by both dismal air quality and wanting to spend as much time as I could catching up with my fried before I flew out. I was also admittedly running out of things to do, resulting in me deciding to check out the National Museum.

In my stupidity I thought I would be fine going to the Museum, however it turns out trying to go anywhere near Tianenman Square on a Sunday is going to result in a long wait! Entering both the Square and the Museum required security checks, so long story short, I spent a lonnnnnng time walking around and waiting in lonnnnnng security lines.

Entry to the Museum is free, and it is incredibly big, so one could easily come back over a few days and visit different exhibits. As I was meeting my friend for lunch I only wandered through the Ancient China exhibit. To keep my good luck rolling I entered at the most recent end of the exhibit, so I ended up going backwards in time. All well!

I met my friend nearby and we headed down a hutong for lunch and coffee at a super cute, totally hipster cafe. Rooftop hutong photos are always mandatory. Not featured: the neighbours chickens.

As a bit of contrast to the all the historical attractions I had been visiting, we checked out one of the ultra modern shopping centres in the CBD. It was certainly a change, and consumerism galore. Not to mention some of the high end fashion shops featured living models (like, literally some poor young girl standing in the window of a shop) and robots that greeted you as you entered.

We caught a bus and finally visited Atmosphere, a bar at the top of a hotel in the centre of the Beijing CBD. Being a Sunday we had not trouble getting a seat by the window, though apparently visiting on a Friday and Saturday window seating involves booking in advance and having a minimum spend! The cocktails were reasonably priced and the views were great, but the windows were filthy from the smog! Hence, the lack of photos. We also passed the iconic CCTV Headquarters building, seen above, on the way.

The next day I ventured off early to check out the Olympic precinct. It was a rather odd experience, with the area feeling quite deserted! A giant concrete boulevard ran what felt like several kilometres, and whilst walking the length of it I encountered few others.

As per my tourist obligations, I checked off the ‘Birds Nest’ and the ‘Water Cube’. It was absolutely freezing on this particular day, so I was quick to catch a glimpse of each location and keep moving!

I walked to end of the boulevard, and into a man made park. Again, it was also eerily quiet, especially for Beijing!

I had plans to meet my friend for lunch again near the Lama Temple, and in my typical way I arrived far too early. After a coffee stop I explored the area a little more, venturing to a nearby park.

I honestly think I am in love with Chinese gardens – they are so peaceful, yet at the same time full of life and a hub of local activity.

My friend coincidentally popped out of the metro station early as I settled down to read and wait, so we grabbed lunch down a nearby hutong (always!) and huddled in another cute cafe to keep warm for the afternoon.

More adventures were to be had on my final day, but as per usual there are too many photos! Only one post to go, and then I might finally be up to date with my life.

– Reanna

FINALLY, THE GREAT WALL // Gubei Water Town, China

During my first visit to China in 2015, I managed to travel nowhere near the Great Wall of China. When I began organising this trip to Beijing, visiting the wall (as well as my friend!) was at the top of my priority list.

There are numerous sections of the Great Wall that can be reached from Beijing, give or take a couple of hours. However, as luck would have it my friend’s university was organising a trip to Gubei Water Town, a tourist resort built at the base of the Simatai section of the Great Wall. I was able to join the trip, which worked out perfectly as we were taken directly to the town in under two hours via a private bus. So much easier than navigating public transport!

I was so excited when we got of the bus, as the town was covered in snow! It was only a small covering, but enough to have this little Aussie gal excited.

From what I could gather from the limited English information about Gubei, is that the town is actually a rebuild in the style of traditional Chinese water towns. The town is a ‘resort’, in the sense that one has to buy a ticket to enter the town. There are shops, food stalls, roaming entertainment and museums, rather than locals living in the area.

The Great Wall in the distance! I was basically crying from excitement at this point.

We left the tour group and headed straight for the wall. I am so glad we did, as by the afternoon clouds had set in around the mountains.

We decided to save our money and ‘experience’ the wall by climbing along to all ten watchtowers, rather than catching a gondola to the top of the wall. This turned out to be the best way to see the wall, but also the most exhausting hike! The wall was incredibly steep, and less well kept than other sections of the wall. As a result, the steps were crooked, narrow, and a bit all over the place! At the same time, this made the wall feel a bit more authentic, as it wasn’t crawling with tourists and rebuilt.

After the first few watchtowers we stopped for a picnic lunch. Despite being freezing cold in the water town, after hiking for half an hour we were all ripping off our layers, beanies and gloves! It certainly got the heart rate pumping.

I basically couldn’t wipe the smile off my face the whole time, even through the pain of hiking! The wall was so much more than I imagined, with such stunning views of the wall sprawling ahead for miles, the mountains, and the snow covered forests.

As I mentioned before, there weren’t many other people on the wall, which meant we were able to get some amazing uninterrupted views.

Everyone else we did see was struggling as much as us though! These photos don’t do justice to how steep this was.

Best. Day. Ever.

After spending a few hours hiking to the top, and back down again, we were in desperate need of a break. We had a coffee stop (and wifi, gotta upload all those photos!), before spending the remainder of the afternoon exploring the town.

An absolute novelty of the town to me was the purpose built design of the ‘snack street’. Numerous street vendors sold traditional snacks (pancakes, skewered meat, tofu, cakes, etc), which were only worth a few dollars each. However, the street was completely cash free – every transaction and order was placed through ‘wechat’, a kind of messengers/facebook/eftpos hybrid app that seems to do just about everything possible in China. I would have starved if my friend hadn’t been there and able to use wechat!

We made one last trek to get this stunning night time view of the water town, before heading back to the bus. Totally worth stretching our legs one more time.

Whilst Gubei Water Town is a bit difficult to get to via public transport, it is totally worth visiting to check out the Simatai section of the Great Wall, as well as exploring the town itself. So if you are ever in Beijing and considering which part of the wall to visit, consider Gubei!

– Reanna

TEMPLE OF HEAVEN // Beijing, China

I had around 10 days in Beijing, which afforded me the luxury of taking my time to explore the city and not desperately try to cram everything into a few days. Plus, it was so cold that I had to regularly stop for coffee to warm up, and catch up with my dear friend!

During the week I had most of the day to occupy myself, as my friend had his Chinese classes. Being so cold in Beijing, I was often pretty slow to start in the morning. Plus, I had to spend at least half an hour planning out where to go and how to get there – Beijing is big! On this particular day I was treated to more clear skies, so I set off to the Temple of Heaven.

The Temple of Heaven is not so much one temple, but rather a large imperial park full of various religious buildings and sights. The main building was the above structure, the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests.

Some of the other buildings included animal sacrificial halls, and kitchens for preparing meals to place in the temples as offerings.

Above if the Imperial Vault of Heaven, and below is the view from the Circular Mound Altar.

After a few hours I wandered back to my hostel is the Xisi district and met my friend for a late lunch. The Xisi area has basically zero English, but thanks to my friend’s Chinese lessons we were able to enjoy the delicious spread below!

Dumplings are mandatory with every meal.

After lunch we went to Beihai Park, another former imperial area.

We wandered around the semi frozen lake (which I found amazing – I had never seen it in Australia!), before climbing up to the hill top temple for some stunning views.

Bless my luck for getting a relatively smog free Beijing!

One of the things I loved about all the park lands and gardens in Beijing was how they were used by the locals. Older locals who are retired tend to flock to the areas, for dancing, singing, card games, walking, or in the case of the man above, writing! It was great to see such areas being utilised so much.

It wasn’t until we exited Beihai Park on the opposite side to which we entered that we stumbled across the best photo angle!

The night was spent catching up over two-for-one burgers and cocktails in the Sanlitun district. Walking around an immensely modern part of Beijing after exploring imperial parks all day was certainly a contrast!

– Reanna