Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Koalas and Kangaroo Burgers

The month of August had us escaping to beachy heaven and the perfect weather of the Gold Coast, Australia. This trip could not have been more tailor-made for us. One direct flight to Brisbane and a quick trip in the car and you're there. Plus, the time zone change is only two hours, so there's no dealing with a grizzly, jet-lagged baby (or parents)... and did I mention the weather is PERFECT?

Wishful thinking - if we could just pack her up and ship her over in the cargo hold this flying with babies stuff would be a piece of cake!

There were not too many adventures on this trip, just sweet, blissful relaxation. Everyone got to wind down. Mum was more chilled. Dad was more chilled. Baby was more chilled! Three chill pills for the Stice family.

The days started with a walk on the beach. It didn't matter what direction you headed in, you would never run out of beach. 

Looking towards Coolangatta...
Looking towards Surfers Paradise...
Bring on the death marches! 

We ate like Kings. We love having our own kitchen while on vacation. Supermarket shopping is some of our favorite. How else would you know that Australia produces celery the size of a small child?

At the top of our food list was kangaroo burgers, which we grilled down by the pool. A side of CC's corn chips (Australian Doritos) and you've got yourself a meal.

Was it weird that a couple days later we would be visiting our meal, the kangaroo, at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary? Not really. Kangaroo burgers are delicious. 

The Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is fantastic. It's a beautiful reserve with lots of animals and some fun shows.

Some of the first koalas Derrald (and Maddy) have ever seen.
 We arrived a little late for the sheep shearing demonstration but grabbed a seat at the back in time to see this guy get a haircut.

Maddy loved it.

When Maddy gets excited it often results in a shrill vocal exclamation not unlike the sound you'd expect of some kind of bird, or wild animal. She trills. And shrieks. And I swear the entire audience would turn around and look at us every time she did it, as if they thought she was part of the show. 

Then again, maybe it was seeing all this lot that got Maddy so excited - just like being at home!

All the floors in our unit were carpeted. This was something new for our wee girl who is used to hardwood HK floors so she really perfected her crawl on this nice, soft flooring. 

Mr.Turtlebag along for the ride.

She was introduced to her first dump truck...
Practised her pulling up and standing...
There was also a fair amount of mischief making.

Apparently some of us prefer shoe to kangaroo burgers.
She knows she's not supposed to be playing with this electric socket... she's choosing to do it anyways.
And that pool I said we were grilling burgers beside? Yeah. It was heated. But not quite enough for us oldies so we jumped in the hot tub instead...

I'm not sure what Maddy is doing in this one - some kind of dance? 
And just because I feel like it... here's a few bonus pics.

Suitcases = fun times.

Chillin' out after a walk
When did she get this grown up? This girl is hardly a baby any more. She's approaching full on toddler. Yikes!

Niño? Niña!

After our wonderful stay in the South of France we ventured even further south into the lands of Catalonia to further our adventures. And boy oh boy, adventures we did have.

Not unlike the people of Hong Kong, the people of Spain also had trouble identifying the gender of our sweet Madeline Rose. Whereas back in the Kong, we are usually met with an incredulous "girl???????? are you sure???" thankfully, the Spaniards tended to react more indifferently upon discovering she is, in fact, a nina.



We heart Barcelona.

What a fun city! There is SO much to see and do. Having heard for many years that this is a city we would love we were so excited to finally be visiting. And it did not disappoint. We stayed fairly near the center of town, close to a building we referred to as "the cucumber" (officially, the Torre Agbar) and were able to walk to the beaches of Barceloneta, La Rambla, the Sagrada Familia and tonnes of other stuff including museums and shopping areas. 

Next to "Glories" station and the Torre Agbar Cucumber building.
One common occurrence on this European vacation of ours was the appearance of Derrald's misplaced frustration. It actually became quite funny. One poor Spaniard working at a gas station got quite the scowl when he told D he could not take a credit card (if you've got time for a 20 minute rant and you want to see some unbridled rage at it's best, just tell Derrald you don't take a credit card), it was cash only. The guy turned out to be delightful and was so excited to try and speak English with us, D came back to the car feeling very sheepish. 

Our stay in Barcelona started with another one of these occurrences. It did not begin on the best foot. Our little apartment-hotel that we'd booked online charged us A LOT extra for having Maddy with us. It came as a bit of a shock to poor Derrald (who is still getting used to the idea that this daughter of his is going to cost him a pretty penny) and he took out his frustration on the man who was checking us in. Sadly, this man was not the manager, nor was he the owner of the establishment. He was basically the janitor. That's right. He was the guy that would come and clean our room everyday. The decision to charge us for having a baby was not his. Suffice it to say, apologies were made and we spent the rest of our stay trying to be extra nice to the guy who cleaned our bathroom.

Anyways, back to Barcelona!

Let's begin at the beaches and La Barceloneta. What a cool beach for such an urban area. Really they are a series of linked beaches and you can walk from one to the other right up the coast line. It's crazy to be in the thick of urban sprawl one minute and then cruising through (topless) beach babes the next. (*the term "babes" being used very loosely here...)

You can see Montjuic in the background of this picture
There may have a been a death march or two, there always is when we find a sandy shore line. 

Derrald lead the way.

And the way included taking us through what I shall now refer to as "Dong City". For those of you delicate petals out there, I'm sorry, this story is not for you. For the rest of you dirty birds, let me tell you the tale of Maddy's first nudist beach experience. 

It did not last long. The beach was not long in length and we did not linger. In fact, we stumbled across it rather unawares. It began with Derrald urgently hissing at me, "Hayley, look! Over there! A naked guy! Follow me." He made a beeline for the man in his birthday suit and I, obediently, followed. Not two steps had we taken before Derrald turned around and hissed "there's another one!" I guess I do more looking down into the sand than I thought because I hadn't noticed anyone. And I wasn't sure I needed to notice now. It was like we were at the zoo spotting camouflaged reptiles. "Look! There's one! I found it!" But once our attention had been drawn to the "free" state of the beach around us there was no stopping it. Suddenly, the whole stretch of beach was littered with men laying spread-eagled in the sun, standing free facing the ocean, mouses out of the houses people. And they were ALL men. All of them. Not a nude lady among us. I was stuck trying to keep up with D, trying to keep it together, trying to be mature and not laugh hysterically, but I was trailing behind... trying to pick my way through a mine field of ... well, balls. I honestly did my best not to giggle but it mostly ended up in me snorting and snickering a bunch. Be mature about the whole thing, Hails! Just a bunch of naked dudes hanging out with other naked dudes. 

Dong City.

It was so... ugly. So so so ugly. 

We later noticed a sign "Playa Naturista" or something like that. Wish we'd noticed the sign a little earlier...

Maddy did the only thing a girl would want to do in this situation, she shut her eyes and slept through it all.

Back to clothed society, where only the statues are naked (and usually the much more attractive female form).

We rambled down La Rambla and explored the fantastic side streets.

Side streets that made you think of other time periods.

Side streets that opened into magic courtyards.

We gorged on Gaudi.

Gaudi House...

...where mermaids live.
Gaudi Church...
...made of sand?
Gaudi Park...
...home to the Gingerbread Man.
We took the funicular railway up Mount Tibidabo for some spectacular views and to visit Sagrat Cor, Barcelona's answer to the Sacre Coeur in Paris. 

Mount Tibidabo in the distance on the left and the Cucumber (Torre Agbar) on the right.
This funicular is over a hundred years old!
We saw right across Barcelona.

At the top of the temple of the Sagrat Cor there is a giant standing Jesus. You can take an elevator up to the top but one of us wouldn't let the other one of us visit the giant Jesus. One of us is lame. 

Oh yeah, there is also a carnival park up there...
So we resorted to taking photos and using the camera zoom.

The architecture in Barcelona is fantastic. There is such juxtaposition and contrasts. There are also a lot of modern buildings that have very interesting design factors. 

Torre Agbar in the distance... the city is served by a series of trams as well as subway/bus.
 Maddy officially started rolling over by herself in Barcelona. She also turned five months old and she felt pretty proud of herself on both accounts.

The last story I will share about our fabulous one week stay in Barcelona happened on our very last day there. We had already checked out of our hotel and packed up our car. We were to be driving across the other side of the country to San Sebastian. 

Our car, a little Peugeot. It was tiny and awesome. D got into the local spirit and parked right up on the sidewalk while we ate our sandwiches for lunch.

On our way out of the city we thought we might stop for one last bask in the glorious Spanish sun and one last play in the sand. We parked our little car right in front of the beach, checked to see if there were meters, didn't see any, and so jumped out for a quick 30 minute play.

Here are the points you should keep in mind as we move forward:

* there were only one or two other cars in the parking lot
* there was no visible sign saying we should pay for parking
* our car clearly had foreign plates, was full of suitcases and a baby seat
* we were at the beach MAXIMUM thirty minutes
* we left EVERYTHING in the car including, wallets, passports, diaper bag and shoes.

The beach was gorgeous. It was one of the most beautiful days we'd had so far. I didn't get any photos (remember, we left everything in the car) but our joy echoed that of our earlier beach experiences and might have looked a little something like this:

After our very quick little jaunt in the sun we returned to our car, or at least, the spot where our car should have been. 

There was no car. 

Just space. 

My heart dropped into my stomach. I felt sick. 

"I'm sure our car was parked here" I said, desperately hoping Derrald would turn around and say something like "What are you talking about woman? You know we parked one block that way!" But he didn't. He said "We did". 

I don't think I have ever wished so hard for my car to have been towed. Please, pleeeeeeease let it not be stolen. 

It took us a little effort to confirm but I hailed a passing tow truck and aided by some imaginative gesturing we discovered our car had, in fact, been towed. No warning. No ticket. Just immediately towed. Within 30 minutes of being at the beach (probably less). 

We also discovered that we could collect our car by picking it up from the depot... but remember how we left everything in the car? 

We had no money. No money = No taxi. 

The truck driver pointed us in a vague direction of "that way -->" and we set off on foot... but remember how we left everything in the car? 

We had NO SHOES! 

A twenty minute walk in "that direction -->" was starting to sound horrible. I must have been in some kind of shock because all I could say was "but we have no shoes" over and over and over again. 

Finally, we managed to hail a taxi (with the idea that we would pay him once we got to our car) and by some weird stroke of fate I pulled a 5 Euro note out of a pocket I had been keeping it in. This is the same 5 Euro that D had been pressuring me for days to give to him, to put in the wallet, to spend on something. I have no idea why I refused. I insisted on keeping my 5 Euros in my secret little pocket. And this was it's moment to shine. I triumphantly pulled out my treasure and we paid the taxi driver. We then scrambled out in our bare feet (picture me bare foot with a baby strapped to my chest - I looked pathetic) and wandered down in the dirtiest underground parking lot ever to find someone who would charge us an extortionate amount of money to then walk another 10 minutes in the grimy car park to find (and release) our car. 

Crisis averted.

And I put on my shoes.

The relief that our car had not been stolen far outweighed our annoyance at having had our car towed and the event quickly became a funny tale rather than a horror story.

Oh Barcelona, you scheming wench. We love you even though you tried to take all our money.