They say that ‘travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer’ and I whole heartedly agree. With the wedding day over, it was time for the honeymoon. The honeymoon was traditionally a time when newlyweds got to know each other in a secluded and intimate environment. Some suggest that the term was used to represent the sweetness of the beginning of marriage (honey) and the waning of love, like the waning of the moon. The term dates back to the sixteenth century. Nowadays a honeymoon for most Westerners is an exotic holiday. Ours was the trip of a lifetime and any homesickness we felt was quickly eased by a trip to Starbucks – we found one in every country we visited, that’s globalisation for you!
Our round the world trip began in Singapore. We arrived to a humid temperature and got a cab to our hotel. After a quick freshen up, we headed out to Singapore Zoo. For the first time since a child I saw a panda in captivity and more than one. A 2007 study suggested that there were only 27 pandas living in captivity outside China so a rare sight. They are magnificent, endangered animals and were well worth a visit to the zoo to see.
There was also an elephant show which showed just how talented and versatile this huge mammal is; with their trunks they can lift anything from a blade of grass to a heavy log – or even the hat of its keeper! At the end of the show I got to feed one fruit and vegetables which was a highlight for me as elephants are my favourite animal.
That evening we went to Raffles Hotel, opened in 1887 and named after Stamford Raffles the founder of modern Singapore. I wore my Biba dress which I got in the sale and reminds me of the blue dress Carrie wears to Charlotte’s baby shower in the first Sex and the City movie. Raffles is an icon of Singapore opened in 1887 which oozes glamour and sophistication with its white marble colonnades. The Hotel has been immortalised by many writers and as I sipped my Singapore Sling I could only imagine what it might be like to stay in such luxury and history. Unfortunately the famous Long Bar was closed for a private function so we sat in the courtyard bar. From there we got a rickshaw into China town. The poor man could barely move faster than a walking pace, so it was certainly a hair raising experience with the traffic of modern Singapore. We feasted in Chinatown before returning for a well earned sleep.
The following day we walked around Fort Canning Park to immerse ourselves in some of the country’s history and then onto the museum of Singapore. We took lunch in the Chimes district. We then had a leisurely boat tour from Clarke Quay which passed the famous merlion – a mascot and national personification of Singapore with the lion symbolising Singapore’s original name which meant ‘lion city’ and the fish symbolises Singapore’s origins as a fishing village.
We then took a taxi to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel to meet a friend who Phil worked with some years ago and he now works at the landmark hotel. He gave us a guided tour including the observation deck; if Raffles is colonial luxury, this is modern day luxury and to think we could have had a friend’s rate room had we not already booked our accommodation in Singapore. Any fans of formula one will recognise the hotel from the TV – it has 3 distinctly imposing towers with what looks like a surfboard on the top. There are many high end shops inside and the mall even has a small river running through the middle. We watched a light show and enjoyed dinner at one of the hotel restaurants. It was then time to catch a late night flight onto Sydney.
I awoke as we began our descent into Sydney. Once in Sydney we made our way by train to the hotel. We began by walking around to get our bearings and then went on a boat trip to Manly Beach. The beach was everything you imagine an Australian beach to be; white sand and warm sea and the guide book suggested this was more worthy of a visit rather than its better known counterpart Bondi. Whilst in Sydney we climbed the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge. It was a fantastic experience and we got a lovely view of the famous opera house. We later also went up one of the towers of the bridge for another great view of the city.
Now I kept shopping to a minimum for my husband’s sake but walking down the main street, what should I spot but a Kookai. Kookai was the brand I loved from about the age of 14 that has now all but disappeared from British high streets. Of course I had to have a look around and it just so happened that they had 30% off footwear and I couldn’t resist these black suede boots.
We visited Taronga Zoo, which is reached by boat and got to have a photo with the koalas and feed some little penguins with fish. What a sight it was to see Giraffes against the backdrop the city of Sydney.
We also took a coach trip out to the Blue Mountains and saw the three sister’s landmark. The predominant natural vegetation is eucalyptus forest which gives off a distinct odour. It was an absolutely beautiful area of Australia that words just cannot give justice to; which we viewed from Scenic World
which consists of a cable way, Skyway and a railway. The railway is the steepest incline railway in the world at 52 degrees and you ride through the rainforest setting and into Jamison Valley. It opened in 1945 and I have to say the modern carriages feel much safer than what they rode in then! The day ended with a trip to Featherdale Wildlife Park (yes we were all zooed out by the end of the trip!) and we got to stroke a koala and hand feed kangaroos.
Other attractions included the Westfield Tower for more views and a bar called Orbit which revolves whilst you enjoy your cocktails at 47 floors above the street level. This also gave us a perfect view of Vivid – the Sydney festival of light. The opera house looked amazing as intricate patterns and pictures were projected on it in light.
From Sydney our next stop was Ayres Rock where we were given a bottle of champagne on arrival to celebrate our marriage. The temperature was very high and it was a dry heat with lots of pesky flies. Our first site of Ayres Rock or (Uluru as the aborigines call it) and the lesser known Kata Tjuta came on a morning camel hike. Each time I go on a camel it doesn’t get anymore comfortable but it was beautiful to see the sunrise over the rock whilst travelling a traditional way and our camel was a cutie called Muriel. When we returned from the ride we were given traditional billy tea (tea made in a billy can and baked beer bread (damper) with quandong jam (outback native fruit). The billy symbolises the spirit of exploration of the outback. Seeing the rock change colour with the sun was truly remarkable. The rock is sacred to the aboriginories and the stories that go with it are truly awe inspiring as are the bits of original artwork that remain on it in places. Whilst at the resort we also did a sunset trip out to the rocks and enjoyed champagne as the sun went down.
We tried a traditional Aussie BBQ whilst we were in Ayers Rock; where you ordered your raw meat and then cooked it yourselves. I sampled kangaroo (quite nice) and crocodile which was rather chewy. As our plane took off – I watched as Uluru gradually got smaller and smaller until I could no longer see it.
Next stop was Melbourne. In some ways I preferred Melbourne to Sydney as it is more like London with nice green spaces. This hotel was by far the nicest hotel we stayed in for the whole trip and again we were welcomed with champagne. Our first visit was to the famous Victoria market where we picked up a few bargains. There is a free tram which goes around the main bits of the city which we went on.
No trip to Melbourne would be complete without doing the Neighbours Tour. I haven’t watched Neighbours for years but grew up on it so was keen to see the famous Ramsey Street. Real people live in Ramsey Street and it is called something else so was a bit of a let down to be handed the Ramsey Street sign from the mini bus to pose for pictures. We met a star from the show – Toadie’s cousin, Stingray (not that I could have told you who he was although he was cute!)
There is a prison in Melbourne which you can visit and this is quite an experience as you are met at the entrance by an actor dressed as a police officer and treated how the thousands of prisoners who went there until 1994 were treated.
The best trip we did in Melbourne was a trip out to Phillip Island one evening. Crowds gather on the beach and wait for the penguins to return from their days fishing and make their way up the beach to their homes. The first ‘penguin parade’ was in the 1920s when residents began taking tourists out to the beach by torchlight.
Next stop was Cairns. We arrived to rain and were taken straight out to Port Douglas. We stayed in a resort with chalets which was very nice and were welcomed with a bottle of wine. A mini bus ferried you into the town and we managed to eat in a different restaurant each evening. We had a booked trip out to the barrier reef which was amazing. We went in a glass bottom boat and saw a turtle and I did snorkelling and saw various beautiful fish.
Port Douglas is home of the 4 mile beach and it consists of beautiful sand, shaded by palm trees and a wonderful warm blue sea. We hired a car which is fairly easy to drive as they drive on the same side of the road as us. We went on the Kuranda mountain railway and saw amazing waterfalls on our climb up to the village. We visited a Koala sanctuary and I actually got to hold one which was amazing, they are really soft like a teddy bear but have sharp claws. We also drove to Cairns zoo for a night safari. It was great seeing the crocodiles being fed and afterwards we got to participate in billy tea and then traditional musical entertainment including the wobble board!
We were taken out to the Daintree National Park and Cape Tribulation; ironically it rained in the rain forest. This was an area of outstanding natural beauty with emerald green foliage and beautiful waterways. Whilst there we went on a boat trip in search of crocodiles and got quite up close and personal with them; it was a river you definitely wouldn’t want to fall in to!
At the airport I couldn’t resist a souvenir purchase of some new Ugg Boots. They are probably fakes as there are so many on sale in Australia that are but they look the part and say Ugg on them so I am happy.
We waved a fond farewell to Australia and jetted off to Auckland in New Zealand. We only had a couple of days stop here and essentially it is a city like any other and not a way to get a true picture of the wonders of New Zealand. We were given a sneak peak though with a trip out to Waihieke Island. Mount Eden was a wonderful site to behold and we also wandered up to One Tree Hill – in no way related to the series One Tree Hill I was disappointed to discover. We had a lovely meal in the Sky Tower revolving restaurant whilst we were there too. I discovered that the reasons New Zealanders are referred to as Kiwi’s is because a bird that originates there is called a Kiwi – there was me thinking it was because of kiwi fruit! I had a further blonde moment when I asked why there were so many souvenirs relating to sheep – of course the famous New Zealand lamb!
Mount Eden with Auckland city in the background
Enjoying Waihieke Island
Our final destination was San Francisco. The flight to here was the hardest given we took off from New Zealand on Saturday night and arrived in San Francisco on Saturday lunchtime. The weather was warm but with a cold sea breeze and we both ironically got sunburnt here rather than in Australia. Pier 39 is the hub of the bay with many restaurants, shops, street performers and a lovely old carousel.
You can also see the sea lions that have made their home here which is fascinating – you will hear and smell them before you spot them! We went on an urban safari which was basically a jeep ride around some of the sights, including a close up of the famous Golden Gate Bridge although the view was obscured by the thick fog which covers it most of the day.
The afternoon of this day was spent at Alcatraz Island. The prison began as a military prison and was a federal prison from 1933-1963. It was a very sobering experience and is brought to life by the staff and exhibitions. One escape attempt in 1962, immortalised in the movie Escape from Alcatraz remains an unsolved FBI case which certainly fires the imagination.
Alcatraz, view from the bay
We did the big bus tour and we sat up top in the open whilst it travelled over the Golden Gate Bridge which was certainly an experience – it felt as though your face was being ripped off in the cold wind! Lombard Street is the most twisted street in the world and we watched as cars made their way down there – which has since been banned.
The cable cars are a prominent feature of San Francisco and holding on to the outside as they make their way up and down the hilled streets is certainly an exhilarating experience not to be missed.
I managed to seek out the Mrs Doubtfire House, we saw the painted ladies which are old victorian houses which are beautifully painted and we also took a wander through china town which was huge with a beautiful gate at the entrance and shops selling traditional Chinese vegetables such a bok choy.
I got a policeman to pose for a picture with me and boy was he tall!
I loved the city, it had a great vibe to it. As the famous song says, I left my heart in San Francisco!
The trip all too soon came to an end and we made our way back to good old Blighty. Settling back into work after all that time off certainly was a struggle. I’m already thinking about the next holiday.