WOW pretty much sums it all up. Aussie and her people are AWESOME (or is that.... Aussome? :roll). We visited Grace OZ in her hometown (she AND her hometown are fabulous), went to a wedding where my 13 y/o son was best man, met many wonderful people and saw many amazing things.
Here's the things we ran out of time before doing, so are on the list for the next visit: Rottnest Island, Manly & Bondi Beaches, Kings Cross & Darling Harbour & Paddington Markets, Indian Pacific train ride from Sydney to Perth, Underground Motel, camel rides, Taronga Park Zoo, and sea kayaking.
Here's the things we did that we will definitely do again the next time we're in Australia: Fremantle, Kings Park, Surfing, Monkey Mia, Featherdale Wildlife Park, Mt. Lofty, visit Grace OZ & her family (we even gave her an American Quilt, handmade by my mother).
Here's the food we fell in love with: Chips with Malt Vinegar and/or chicken salt; custard (TOTALLY not the same as American custard), white tea, meat pies, and REAL scones with REAL thickened cream. And the barramundi wasn't too bad - despite the fact that as a general rule I hate fish!
And here is a brief highlight of the fabulous things we did this time around... Fremantle Markets: had our sketches drawn by a sidewalk artist, bought some neato pottery, fish & chips. Monkey Mia: got to stand up to our knees in the sea while wild dolphins came up and swam right by us (within touching distance), flew over the Pinnacles on the way, laid on the absolutely stunning beach (topless tolerant, too!) - we decided that family reunions there will be required every 5 years from now on!!!. Blue Mountains: shopping & scenery, the candy store at Leura is to die for. Kings Park: beautiful landscaping, climbed the DNA tower, picnicked there twice. Sydney: Harbour cruises, trains, buses, taxis, Circular Quay, The Rocks (highly recommend the Harbour Rocks Hotel), Featherdale Wildlife Park where we got to be the very first visitors to see, hold, and take pictures of a brand new baby wallaroo, walked on The Harbour Bridge, ate dinner in the revolving restaurant of the Sydney Tower, tea in the Tea Room at the Queen Victoria Building, a wonderful symphony show at The Opera House, and Mom got to go to church at Hillsong, which is apparently world famous. Perth: Geocaching, a perfect and utterly fabulous wedding, Burswood Dome craft & quilting show (where I found Definitely Different Bears, the neatest company ever - and spent waaaay too much money on really unique and wonderful bear kits & doll patterns, lol), Perth Zoo, Ms. Maudes, surfing lessons & swimming in the Indian Ocean. Adelaide: Central Markets, Victoria Square, Mt. Lofty, Hahndorf, Glenelg, Haigh's Chocolate shop.
And much, much more. The Aussie folk are astoundingly friendly, the weather could not have been more ideal, security in the community and the airways was high, and everything was so beautiful over there. I join the ranks of people who've been to Australia and never wanted to come home. Well actually, I did want to come home, because I missed Mister and Big Buddy Weasel - but Wee Weasel could have happily stayed there for the rest of his life. As it was, I bribed several years of chores out him by promising that since he now has an Uncle in Australia he has my permission to spend as much time there as he's allowed by the Authorities, so long as he earns the ticket money each time. I imagine he'll be back every summer, and he's already researching immigration laws, looking for ways he can get there permanently as soon as he's 18.
I know that several of you were anxious for news of my trip, including Grace OZ - although I've been in touch with her individually of course. So here you go. It was the best vacation of my life. Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.