Camping at Blackdown Tableland National Park

May 30-31, 2015

Our first camping trip this year :)

180km west of Rockhampton, it is an approximate 3 hour drive to Blackdown Tableland National Park. The mountainous terrain of the tablelands provides a unique landscape featuring gorges, waterfalls and diverse vegetation. It is also the traditional homeland of the Ghungalu people and they ask visitors to respect their land and take a moment to acknowledge their spiritual ancestors when visiting.

Beautiful drive up!

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Camping is only permitted at Munall campground, with nearby walking tracks that are incredibly peaceful and lead to amazing lookouts. Entrance to the park is a 11km turn off from Capricorn Coast and a further 8km to Munall campground.

 

We managed our drive in a little Honda Jazz but a 4WD would certainly make the trip much MUCH easier. Have fun though!

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A map of the campground and surrounding trails

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Here is a short video of our time in Blackdown Tableland National Park!

And of course, some photos!

Our campsite at Munall. A very reasonable fee of $5.75/person/night.

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There are 3 main walking tracks.

We started with the 2.8km circuit Goon Goon Dhina track. It was incredibly quiet and peaceful, not another soul in sight. “An easy walk past old cattle yard ruins, then follows Mimosa Creek upstream to a Ghungalu art site. Signs along this track offer insights into the park’s history. Learn how Ghungalu people used plants for food and shelter.”

Constantly reminded how small you are in nature

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Saw sundews in nature for the first time!

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Lovely trails and plenty of still water. I’m sure it is quite pretty when water is flowing!

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We stopped to admire the Ghungalu art site

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We came across lots of prescribed burning in all areas of the park.

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A short drive away is the 4km (return) Gudda Gumoo trail that takes you a lookout and further to the gorge. Head down a flight of 240 steps to the base of the waterfalls and take in the rainbows cast over the falling waters.

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The water was frigid but I imagine this would be an amazingly refreshing place to swim and cool down in the summer!

Rainbow! But no pot of gold in sight… :(

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We saved the Mook Mook trail (2.4km return) for last and so glad we did – best scenery!

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A zombie?

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So gorgeous and quiet

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Look at this incredible view! No words!

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On our drive down and back to Rockhampton, we stopped to enjoy the scenery from a different angle :)

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Winning at the selfie game!

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See you next time!

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I should also mention… plenty of cows on the road! But they always look so grumpy and always covered in flies!

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Visiting Rockhampton Zoo

If you have a few hours to spare in Rockhampton, definitely check out the Rockhampton Zoo!

A completely free attraction within the Botanic Gardens that offers an opportunity to relax in nature and see over 50 species of animals native to Australia.

Not all exhibits were open and some enclosures were not in use. We imagine due to ongoing renovations from cyclone damages earlier this year.

Nevertheless, an enjoyable time walking around and meeting all the animals!

Chimpanzees

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Red seal coot birds

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Basking alligator

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Freshwater crocodiles trying to hide

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Sleepy koalas hanging out in the eucalyptus

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Kangaroos! Unfortunately, no interaction with them as you can at other zoos like Australia Zoo or Lone Pine

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Lace Monitors! So cute!

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Rockhampton Zoo even has an aviary! Small but with plenty of birds to observe :)

Royal Spoonbill

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Emerald Dove

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I don’t know the name of this bird!

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Bar Shouldered Dove

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Showing off

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And of course, as with any park… you will get Ibises looking for food :P

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Worth a visit, check out Rockhampton Zoo if you have free time!

Great Chinese food from Dragon Gallery

We definitely have a weak spot for Chinese food and were glad to find an establishment in Rockhampton to satisfy our cravings.

Dragon Gallery is located at 1/295 Richardson Rd – next to the Asian grocery store Food Sing Trading.

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A small, simply decorated restaurant with limited seating so don’t forget to call and make reservations to ensure a spot! While dining in, we also noticed a very steady stream of customers coming in to pick up their takeaway orders. And speaking from experience, perfect for a night in!

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There may be a wait for food if it’s a busy night, but service is always good with frequent checking in to make sure you’re enjoying your meal.

(Menus provided by Dragon Gallery)

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At our first visit with a few friends, we decided on one of the banquet options for value and variety.

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We decided on the $32/head option and were not disappointed!

Mixed entrees – mini spring rolls, fried dim sims, and fried mashed prawn with sesame on toast.

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The spring rolls were large and delicious with the perfect hint of five-spice seasoning, something I’ve never seen before. Dim sims were also great. The prawn toast, however, had so little prawn they seemed more like fried sesame bread. I’m a huge fan of prawn toast and make it quite often at home slathered to the brim with prawn paste so it made me a little sad.

Pork with vegetables in oyster sauce. The pork was tender, vegetables still crisp and the sauce not too overpowering or salty!

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Boneless crispy chicken in lemon sauce. Piping hot and crisp with a delicious sweet and sour lemon sauce – always a favourite.

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All the dishes were served with generous portions of Fried Rice. Unfortunately, I forgot to grab a photo but it was simple and delicious.

Mongolian Beef – Sizzling hot, incredibly tender and not overpowered with onions.

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Honey prawns. This dish is always a treat. Perfect when they’re fresh out of the fryer with a delicate crisp batter coating and tossed in a sweet honey concoction… delicious!

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Included in the banquet is the option of dessert – banana fritter with ice cream or deep fried ice cream. We chose deep fried ice cream that came on a bed of canned fruit. The batter was interesting… coconut based and crumbly. I think we would choose to try the banana fritters next time.

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We prefer dining in as the food is piping hot and fresh but takeaway is a great option as well – we love the family options! Your food is often ready in the time frame given when you place your order. The only disappointment involved with takeaway is having to get the food home before you can eat it. And in that time, crispy dishes can get soggy from the steam!

Head in to Dragon Gallery for some delicious Chinese food! You won’t leave dissatisfied! :)

Club Med Turkoise – Turks & Caicos

March 05-12, 2015

One week. One glorious week full of beautiful weather, gorgeous beach with turkoise waters, delicious food, sun and fun.

Where? Turks & Caicos. A British Overseas Territory consisting of the larger Caicos Islands and smaller Turks Islands, two groups of tropical islands in the Lucayan Archipelago.

More specifically, we stayed at Club Med Turkoise on Grace Bay, Providenciales (Caicos Islands – home of most local residents) – one of the most beautiful beaches in the world – ranked #2 on Trip Advisor!

As you might remember from our previous Club Med experience in Bali, we are huge fans of the Club Med all inclusive experience. The location, the activities, the food, and the people you meet are some of the best reasons to choose Club Med for a fun-filled, stress free holiday.

We were supposed to fly from Ottawa to Charlotte then onwards to Providenciales. Unfortunately, our first flight was delayed so we got re-routed from Ottawa to Toronto to Miami and finally Providenciales. Due to the delay, we didn’t arrive until late evening of March 5th as opposed to midday. A whole day, wasted! Thanks a lot United Airways!

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Morning came and all our troubles went away. What a beautiful, amazing place!

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For this trip, we bought an underwater camera that was also perfect for vlogging. I invite you to watch our video and check out our adventures in Turks & Caicos!

It is easy to see why Grace Bay is one of the prettiest beaches in the world. In addition, Club Med has the widest, cleanest, and nicest spread of beach on Grace Bay – definitely a winner!

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Crystal clear, turquoise waters at the perfect temperature. We spent many hours of every day in the calm peaceful ocean.

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The perfect summary to our holiday:

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Club Med Turkoise has the usual array of included activities such as tennis, basketball, and trapeze. What won our hearts? All the water sports!

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Sailing, kayaking, snorkelling, and paddle boarding… we tried to as many water activities in a day as possible.

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Snorkelling was twice a day and great! We even brought our own snorkels and masks but their provided equipment is pretty decent as well!

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So many things to do!

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Sailing quickly became a new favourite hobby. And we didn’t capsize once!

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The food was also great! The main buffet restaurant, Grace Bay Restaurant, was where we ate most of our meals. A repeating breakfast and lunch spread throughout the week but enough variety to keep us happy. For dinner, there was a different theme every night. We love food and there is definitely enough choices and something for everyone. Our favourite? Their famous white chocolate bread! Yum!

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The social aspect of Club Med is one of its main appeals. Most dining tables fit 6 people so you will always meet new people at meals (if not during the day). We met a variety of interesting and wonderful people!

They also have a reservation-only a la carte restaurant, Lucayan. We lined up to secure a table but were incredibly disappointed. The atmosphere is nice and it was really good to have a private meal with just the two of us, however, the food simply did not measure up to our expectations.

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Lastly, they have Sharkie’s Bar – one of our favourite spots to hang out in the afternoon. Simple menu with the best chicken burgers and fries. Food, drinks and fun live entertainment – what more do you want?

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Perfect beach for nice long walks :)

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Gorgeous sunrises and beautiful sunsets… every day!

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Sunrise from our room!

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Enjoyed numerous sunsets on the beach

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Did I mention the local beer, Turks Head, is pretty tasty? :P

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Last night on Turks and Caicos and one year anniversary of our engagement! How tanned we were by the end of our vacation!

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Couldn’t get enough and look forward to the opportunity to return! Thanks for an amazing time Club Med Turkoise!

Moments back in Ottawa

We had a few goals this time back in Ottawa:

  1. Spend time with family
  2. Plan our wedding
  3. Relax

Did we obtain our goals? Yes!

One of the things I was most excited about was seeing my grandfather. As some of you may know, my grandfather has been deaf my entire life. He had sudden loss of hearing shortly before I was born – I suspect the hearing loss was precipitated by a viral illness. He had contemplated a cochlear implant at that time but decided against it… until last year.

With the suggestion, help, and support of the family, my grandfather proceeded with a cochlear implant surgery on November 4, 2015. My mom sent me photo updates, including some very cute ones of my grandpa bundled up on the hospital bed before going into surgery. Unfortunately, I do not have those photos at this time.

I’m sure he was feeling quite anxious at the time, but what was even more prominent in his facial expression was optimism!

Yes, we are THAT family when a family member is at the hospital.

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Here are some photos of my grandpa after coming out of surgery – smiling and hopeful :) And aside from ugly stitches, he experienced no complications!

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After a month of healing, his implant was then activated, tests were completed, and he started (and still continues) his audiological training, with help from my uncles. What started off as indiscriminate clicking noises and echoes eventually became recognisable sounds and words, yay!

Of course, there were frustrations. My grandpa described not being able to set the perfect program for his implant, often returning from his appointments with more background noise than before, sometimes feeling dejected and unwilling to train. The annoyance of having the external transmitter continuously fall off – the magnet is not as strong as you think! He has tried different methods of securing the transmitter but it remains an inconvenience.

Upon coming home, for the first in my life, I had (mostly) a verbal conversation with my grandfather! By speaking slower, enunciating well, and using shorter sentences, I was able to freely converse with him! My entire life I have always spoken to him via notes (piles of paper and books have amassed over my lifetime) which take considerable time to write – what a change! My written Vietnamese is at the higher level it is today thanks to the dedication of my grandparents to teach me and the numerous opportunities to put it to use when speaking with my grandpa. I am also quite lucky because my grandpa said my voice is easier for him to understand compared to other family members. Now we can just sit and talk, with an occasional written note, how awesome is that?

I’m surprised at the lack of photos from our trip back to Canada this time… but here are a few fun moments back in Canada!

Note: From March 05-12th, we went to Turks & Caicos for a one week vacation. It was amazing and will be have its own post!

Target was having their liquidation sales during our time home. The sales were actually terrible and the cash registers were always freezing. Here we are waiting in line forever!

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We came home just after lunar new year. One of my favourite Vietnamese new year’s treats is Banh Tet (savoury glutinous rice with mung bean + pork or sweet banana filling, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed). One of the best things to do with leftovers is panfry the savoury mung bean and pork ones until its nice and crispy… thanks mom for the treat!

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And belated new year red pockets from the family, thank you!

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Having this little one so very excited every time you walk in the door. And constantly following you around and begging you for food at every opportunity. I miss Benny!

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Forgetting how dry Canada is! Cracked, itchy, stinging skin even with moisturizer!

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Enjoying some things you can only get in Canada, like ketchup chips, one of my favourites!

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They have even come out with ketchup Doritos… although I am not a fan.

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Regular stops at my favourite shop – Tim Hortons. I don’t drink coffee but dang do I miss the cheap, delicious, variety of donuts, pastries, and bagels. Now I want a bagel…

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And of course, with Tim Hortons comes Rolllll up the rim to win! Probably one of the most Canadian photos I’ve ever taken…

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Visiting my favourite bakery in Ottawa, Macarons et Madeleines, now at a new location! The best croissants, caneles, and macarons in town. Expensive, but delicious!

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Officially asking these wonderful ladies to be a part of my bridal party!

When my sister agreed to be my maid of honour :)

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Had to ask my cousin Janet over Skype because she’s studying in London

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Catching up over food and having 2 of my best friends say yes to being my bridesmaids!

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My sister went to Japan over her Christmas holidays and was kind to bring back some Japanese chocolates for us to try!

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Limited free time but still catching up with friends! Sushi at Kiko Sushi Bar – expensive but tasty!

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A visit to another favourite with Mike and Julia – Art Is In – where my brother now works! Amazing food and great atmosphere!

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Ruixi took me to a hole in the wall (Hung Sum Restaurant) for the best dim sum I’ve ever had in Ottawa – literally!

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Visiting my dad at Beechwood Cemetery for the first time in a long time!

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My sister had bought my dad these ornamental dog figurines (representing us) for his garden when he was alive. We brought them out to his grave years ago and although a little faded, they are still around!

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While planning a wedding, still making time to go on dates with my love! We did get a bunch of wedding planning finalised, but I will save that for another post!

A skate on the Rideau Canal for the first time in many years, all 16km – how we’ve missed it!

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Waiting in line at one of these huts…

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For some Beavertails and hot chocolate – not a visit on the canal until you’ve had this!

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Of course, we had to have a lunch date at Play, one of our favourite restaurants in Ottawa.

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Mike’s newfound love for beef tartare meant he had to have it at Play!

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The food and service almost never disappoints!

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Lots of silly moments with my family

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Quality time with the family… delicious onion ring poutine and burgers at The Works!

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Mom’s Com Hen (basket clam rice) – delicious broth, eaten with rice, ginger, shallots, alfalfa, pineapple, peppers, starfruit, mango, and basket clams!

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My favourite brand (President’s Choice) of hors d’oeuvres! Just cannot find anything like that here

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Can’t visit home without a trip to all you can eat sushi – a family favourite!

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We didn’t have any family events when I was back home, but I did get a chance to stop by and see my Uncle 2’s family!

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I also had the chance to see most of my other family members at different opportunities, which was nice!

A weekend out on Buck Lake to be with Mike’s family… always indulgent and fun!

Focus of attention on the newest member of the Brown family – Rinoa

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She look like a doll or what?

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But their cat… their cat is always trying to kill me. One day, I will need an epipen…

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A last meal out with Mike’s parents, introducing them to play!

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Our last photo together at the airport heading back to Australia – unfortunately my brother felt unwell and stayed in the car! :(

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Looking back now… what an unbelievably short trip :( Until next year!

Onwards to Ottawa!

February 24, 2015

Woke up, checked out, and headed to the airport. We were pretty excited! Dropped off our car and checked in without any hassles. Perks of being a Qantas Club Member – priority check in and lounge access!

Had some breakfast in the lounge and soon we were boarding our flight for Sydney. Shortly after that… onwards to Canada!

The flight from Sydney to Vancouver is always a long one. Benadryl helps to knock me out for most of it and the rest is spent on the computer or watching in-flight entertainment.

Had a crazy health scare during the long haul flight, but that is a story for another time.

Landed in Vancouver and passed through Customs & Immigration without any issues. And of course, we had Tim Hortons immediately ;) Next thing we knew, we were landing in Ottawa and seeing our families!

So nice to be home!

Flying to Brisbane!

February 23, 2015

The first 5 weeks of work passed by like a blink of an eye. Even so, we were already ready for a vacation, bring it on!

Hung out in the Qantas Lounge at the airport before flying back to Brisbane! Here’s the view!

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We picked up our rental car at the airport and checked in at our hotel – Riverside Hotel Southbank. Clean, modern, good size, and exactly what we needed! Had a daytime nap and rested in bed watching the Oscars.

So nice to being back in Brisbane! After resting, we had a lovely walk around South Bank, bought some Max Brenner chocolates for family, and stopped for a snack at Ahmet’s. Their dinner banquets are definitely worth trying friends!

Excited for food!

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Freshly baked Turkish bread glazed with butter and herbs ($5.50)

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With a side of Baba ghanoush ($4.90) – one of our favourite kinds of dip, made with roasted eggplant

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We also got some Mucver – Green zucchini fritters with tomato salsa, fresh mint & dill yoghurt ($11). Tasty, but much greasier than we personally like.

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Later that night, we went over to Matt and Kristen’s for dinner, joined by James and Kim! So, so nice to see and catch up with them! Felt like forever since spending time with them! Matt and Kristen made yummy chili con carne, James and Kim brought 2 kinds of cheesecake and we brought some wine. So delicious and filling, and in great company too! We miss you guys!

No pictures…sadface :(