I mean it is not quite the real thing, but you can get the gist and watch friends whilst having an extraordinary large mug of coffee. Don't have high expectations but it is a nice gesture to a themed Friends cafe. And hey... you can still have a nice drink and be with your actual friends!!
There are many parts of Guangzhou which are 'tourist' attractions and 'must see' places which I have not visited yet and given that we are flying home at the end of June - I have written a list of places I want to go. Yuexiu Park is one of these, so Kat and I went off exploring.
Now, it is not because of these giant, garish structures that this park is famous for...this was an installation in the Park for Chinese New year festivities! It is the largest park in Guangzhou: with 3 lakes; the famous Statue of the Five Rams; Zhenhai Tower (now Guangzhou Museum); RNF football stadium and many other sights all in 212 acres!
Chinese New Year installation work: Year of the Pig.
Our didi driver dropped us at a different entrance to the one we should have got for the 5 rams, however we had a lovely walk around the park looking at the Chinese New Year additions and before finding the right place for the statue!
Fables and other art in the park
Five Rams Statue
Guangzhou has been named the 'City of the Rams' and this is an emblem of the City. This is due to a legend which said that 2000 years ago, when the city was poor and suffering from famine, 5 immortals came riding in wearing 5 different colours on 5 rams who were holding sheaths of rice in their mouths. The rice was left and the rams turned to stone and from this day the city was no longer poor thus becoming rich and popular!
At the end of a steep set of stairs, this is quite amazing to look at. But other than that, nothing much else here!
Zhenhai Tower (now Guangzhou museum)
A grand building which now gives you a historical journey floor by floor of Guangzhou's past to present. The views from the top balcony are good too... and strangely the second biggest football club in Guangzhou (RNF) have their stadium just below this building too!
A short walk from the five rams entrance, is the Sun Yet-sen memorial hall and on route we found a beautiful temple which we walked around.
Sun Yet-sen memorial hall
Famous for being a forerunner of the Democratic revolution in China, there are many memroial halls in China for Sun Yat-sen, but this one in Guangzhou is the largest. Inside there are exhibitions and concerts held here (including Dua Lipa last year!!) In the grounds there are many ancient trees as well as beautiful landscape gardens to walk around.
On my run this Sunday morning I enjoyed not listening to music and taking in this beautiful city and being thankful for the opportunities I have had here. I enjoy a Sunday run as it is not a commute, it is a way of enjoying the scenes around this area which are quintessentially Chinese in nature. From Tai Chi to sword dancing to badminton to table tennis, this is all going on along the Pearl River in the morning. Now we live in the centre, we live right next to Canton Park, so you are 2 minutes walk away from green space and a lovely place to be.
In the afternoon Matt and I went over to Beijing Lu to explore and see the decorations for Chinese New Year and then enjoyed a cycle back along the river.
After a lovely lunch with Bex and Rich, the boys went off to leaving do and we went to explore this area in Guangzhou. We cycled along the path adjacent to the river in the beautiful sunshine (so nice not being so hot and humid at this time of the year!!) to reach this art village, Rectory.
It has been made in the grounds and buildings of an old canned food factory would you believe and is visited by tourists and locals (to take many pictures).
After a wander around this quirky place we found a quaint little cafe and sat in the gardens for a good natter and cycled back to the city centre. Definitely worth a visit here to have a lovely walk in a quieter area of the city and to look at the boutique shops here too.
Thursday 3rd January: Exploring Sydney and Manly
After a great cafe breakfast near the pedestrian entrance to the Sydney Harbour bridge, we strolled across to see one of the most iconic buildings in the world. It was stunning against the blue sky and water, jutting out with such presence. We then headed over on the ferry to Manly, to explore this part of Sydney and the views were even more spectacular!
We hired bikes and cycled up to the North End of Manly, which had spectacular views back across the water towards Sydney and was a lovely way to explore. After a lie down by the beach, we met up with Rachael and Stephen, good friends of Rob and Tav, who were super lovely and honeymooning in Oz!! Enjoying a few drinks before heading back across to Sydney!
Friday 4th January: Bondi to Coogee coastal walk
Navigating the Sydney transportation we hopped on a bus early Friday morning to head over to Bondi beach. It was great to see more of the centre of Sydney on route to Bondi and when we arrived, it did not disappoint.
We first went to swim at the iconic 'Iceberg Club' which looked STUNNING. I was really excited to swim...especially as I do a lot more of this after having a pool at work. However, I really really did not enjoy swimming in cold salt water!!! I found it such a surreal experience and so hard to properly breathe when I was swimming! But nonetheless it was a great experience and place to be and I just went back to granny style breaststroke so all was ok!!
In the evening we had booked to go to 'O Bar' restaurant which was at the top of one of the tallest buildings in Sydney and is a revolving restaurant with stunning views over Sydney. It was beautiful with amazing food and views as well as being so fun that your view changed every few minutes! And it was even better that our first view of the evening was the Harbour Bridge and Opera House in the day and then later on at night too after a magnificent sunset!
The waitress that served us looked so familiar to me and I said to Matt, I am sure that is Jenny who I used to go to Woodroffe with... and would you believe it, she came back and said; 'You're Lucy' 'You're Jenny' I replied!!! It was crazy that someone I was at school with was here in Sydney at this restaurant working!! Amazing! I love things like this... and made the night even more memorable.
After a wonderful meal and a lot of lovely wine, we went out to a bar to meet up with Butters (he went to Exeter Uni and knew Matt well) who now lives in Sydney. It was so fab seeing him, especially in Sydney, catching up on his Australian life!!
Saturday 5th January: Botanical Gardens
We walked around 'The Rocks' area which was an area of history in Sydney and was now a shopping and eating area. There was a market being held with local crafts and artwork, where I bought a little momento for when we have our own place!!
And then wandered over to the Opera house to do the tourist shot!
After wandering around the Botanical gardens Matt and I went off for a slight detour to meet previous colleagues and friends from Bohunt who had now moved to Sydney! It was such a treat to see them both and I am so happy that they are loving their dream life here in Oz. And it was also amazing to meet little Henry who is an absolute sweetie and is already learning 3 languages - in awe!
Our last night finale was over the harbour from us, on the waterfront, at a highly recommended seafood restaurant, Catalina. The food was absolutely exceptional, (as was the wine selection) and it was a beautiful way to finish our incredible Australian trip off.
Australia really is a special place and I definitely want to come back again one day. It has been an amazing adventure, from spending such quality time with relatives to having a blast with such wonderful friends, there are so many memories I will not forget. Thank you so much for an incredible holiday and can't wait to see you beautiful pair again when we get back... mainly for Round Two of Monopoly Deal to overturn Robs rule!!!!
New Years Eve: Byron Bay
On our journey to Byron Bay, whilst going along the Gold Coast through Broadbeach, we went via a scenic spot inland, known as the Natural Bridge. And despite the windy hills and near car sick experience, it was absolutely worth it!! The views whilst driving were magical and I could not quite believe that we were in Australia!! And then the walk itself to the little waterfall was lovely and broke up the journey too.
Then we reached our destination, an Air bnb stay at Belongil beach in Byron. It was such a cute place, set back from the little road and across from the beach. It had everything you needed and I wish we could have spent longer here, it was amazing!
After a team t shirt ceremony, shrimps on the barby, we got our fancy clothes on and headed down to the most prestigious NYE party in Byron! There was a live DJ, drink, food and we bought in the New Year in style... not many photos but you get the idea!
New Years Day
We enjoyed time on the beach and then Matt and I went down to 'Balcony Bar' in the town centre for a celebratory NY day meal.
Wednesday January 2nd: Sunrise and Sydney bound!
Then we arrived in Sydney and we are staying in a little air bnb in Kirribilli which is just across the harbour from the Opera house and at the opposite end other harbour bridge, which is really cool!
Celebratory drinks for Vicki and Rob's engagement!
Although there have been many drinks in-between their arrival and their engagement happened pre-Australia, we wanted to make a special night for these special two! We went to The Botanist which was a cool underground bar/restaurant before heading out for some Thai.
Friday 28th December: Reunited
THEY MADE IT!!! How wonderful to have the second half of our trip to enjoy it with Rob and Tav. We enjoyed showing them around Noosa and a lot of beach time today before a big Mexican meal which Ant and Anna hosted. Very excited for Fraser Island exploring tomorrow...
Saturday 29th December: Fraser Island
After hearing such wonderful things about this biggest sand island in the world, I was really excited to have the day exploring. We booked onto a tour through; Fraser Free Tours which included our lunch and all the transport to and from the Island as well as around the Island itself, visiting many of the tourist spots all in one day. I could not rate it highly enough, I was a bit apprehensive about going around in a big truck for the day, but because it was busy at the different spots anyway, it did not make a difference. Everyone kept themselves to themselves on the bus and then went and explored our different ways before the meet time. Our driver Andy was really knowledgeable and we were lucky as we saw two Dingos (they are native on this island). Hopefully the photos and brief descriptions will give you an idea of this tour - which is a MUST for the East Coast.
Boat over and our first stop Eli Creek, where we also enjoyed a tea and biscuit stop!
Then Tav and I rode upfront and we saw the first Dingo!!
Second stop: Meheno Shipwreck
Third Stop: Coloured Sand (my least favourite stop...)
Fourth stop: Central Station and BBQ lunch
After a looped walk around the area, we had the ultimate Ozzie BBQ of steak and salads, like being in a restaurant not the middle of the jungle!!
Last stop: Lake Birrabeen (my FAVOURITE)
After a short walk through the dunes you arrive at this stunning lake with crystal clear waters and the whitest sand. Breathtaking and beautiful, we wished we could have had more than one hour here to enjoy it even more.
Sunday 30th December: Brisbane bound
So sad to say goodbye to the Ozzie Broads after such an incredible time staying with them and exploring their new home state! Will miss them a lot and cannot wait until we can visit again or when they next come to the UK!
Off the four of us went in our hire car to Brisbane for a night stay prior to heading down to Byron Bay for our New Years fun. We stayed in the Stamford Plaza, which was right on the river front and boardwalk which was a great spot to be in. I was slightly in awe as the Brisbane Tennis competition was on and there were a lot of top players staying at our hotel. The concierge did tell me that Nadal was staying in the penthouse... but I am not sure whether he was just stringing me along!!
Our Christmas holiday started with an overnight flight to Brisbane, met by Uncle Ant and Auntie Annalis!! Very excited to see them after so many years and now over the other-side of Australia too! After being reunited with my cousins, who are now ALOT more grown up than the last time I saw them!! We spent the afternoon at the beach, at 'Little Cove' just up from Noosa main beach. It is so beautiful with the trees, the stunning beach and the colour of that water!!!
Friday 21st November: Noosa Spit
The part where the ocean comes in and meets the river, so we had the best of both worlds, a more calm area for kayaking and swimming and then you could go out to the sea as well. It was a nice place to have shade under the trees and also it was only a 15minute walk down the beach to the main street, Hastings Street where there are lots of eateries and shops.
Saturday 22nd December: Australia Zoo
Matt and I went out on the road down to Australia Zoo, which is about an hour from where we are staying, so we couldn't not do it!! It was a great day out, with the highlights, the koalas, croc show and the tiger show. It was great to be driving again and we had a lovely day, albeit in 35 degree heat!!!
Sunday 23rd December: Conondale National Park, Booloumba
We headed off out into the Hinterland of this area of Queensland to Booloumba Creek, which is about 45minutes from where we are staying and just outside of a town called Kenilworth.
It was great fun off roading in the Hilux up the steep and winding dirt tracks and through the lakes before we parked up and walked around the area. We enjoyed swimming in the fresh water lakes as well which was really refreshing.
Monday 24th December: CHRISTMAS EVE!!!
Starting the day with an early round of golf, Matt and Ant went for 18 holes whilst I enjoyed a lie in! matt enjoyed seeing the kangaroos out on the course too. We met down at Boardwalk Bistro, where Anieke works, for some lunch and then headed to the Cove beach for the afternoon with Mia, Anieke and Coner.
Starting the morning with a few presets, secret santa and a big brunch was exactly what we needed! And to top it all off, we spent the afternoon on the beach and then had a BBQ for dinner. DELISH. Very different from the usual Christmas festivities but that made it even more enjoyable as you can't compare the two! You can see the day through pictures much better than my words can describe! But it was so lovely in 7 years to have our first Christmas Day together :-)
Boxing Day: Lazy morning and beach times
Thursday 27th December: The Everglades
About a 30-40minutes drive in land from Anthony's place is a vast Everglade system, where there are waterways spanning 60km, with amazing trees and nature framing each edge. There are only two of these in the world, the other being in Florida.
We tried to do a walk alongside Noosa Everglades, but it didn't really work as you can't walk along the bank. The best way to see this is to either kyack up it or go on a little boat cruise up it - maybe next time. Still it was lovely to be in the woods and walking, and to see some of the views which are stunning.
We ventured to small towns on our drive back to Tewantin; Kin Kin was very quiet... Ramona, not much better but we did find a little pub for a drink and some cute antique places. And then we stopped in Cooroy, which is the next big town outside of Tewantin/Noosa area for some meat pies as a lunch snack!!
In the evening we experienced an RSL Club (Returned and Services League) with Ant and Anna for out evening entertainment. It is a big institution which is set up to help the retired and serving Ozzie's in the army. There are 100s of Pokie (slot!) machines where you can gamble away all your change... then they do lots of different raffles (there was a meat raffle when we were there...) and food and drinks are all at a subsidised prices due to the money from the pokie machines being made. It was a really fun night and probably my lasting memory will be the bus ride back!! And also being one of the youngest groups there!
The annual flat crawl around the building took place this Saturday with 6 doors made this year. Each flat had a theme/game to do when you were there which was entertaining and was lovely to see all the different Christmas decorations! We had mulled wine and the staff apace choir at one, a drinks station with a homemade shot roulette and Mario Kart, another with pass the parcel (each layer was a mini spirit!), beer pong... and the list goes on. We were the finishing door and hosted a 'Matt of the Day' as it was coined, with several mini sports challenges (archery to the stack of beer cans, golf put down the kitchen, darts...) it was very fun and people enjoyed it!! A very fun end to the term and a fab last '12 doors' before we leave next year!!