Perth and Sydney, Australia!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Whenever Brian and I do things or see people that were a part of my childhood, it always leaves a strange, sinking feeling in my stomach. But a good one? It's hard to explain. It first happened when I took him to my childhood home and elementary school in England in 2013. It felt surreal walking through the halls and classrooms I walked through for 10 years with my boyfriend from another country. Needless to say, our trip to Australia last month was full of emotions. I didn't grow up going often, but since my dad's entire family lives there, it still feels familiar (and we'd see them as regularly as we could in England or Iran and now the States), and seeing him spend time and get close with people I love so much was incredibly special. All of this to say, lots of photos from our trip to Australia below...!


We had a seven-hour layover in Dubai on the way there, and we decided to take advantage of it and leave the airport. We took a taxi to the mall (one of the world's largest), where we drank milkshakes, saw the iconic fountain show and tried to take a quick nap by the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building. I ran into an old friend at the airport in Chicago who happened to be on our flight! She was spending the week in Dubai visiting her boyfriend's family. We were so sleepy after a 15-hour flight (and had a 11-hour one to go...), we were jealous Betsy's travels were done at this point.

Whenever we land somewhere with family, the welcoming committee is very big and very welcoming (like, my latest trip to Iran). I've always shared stories about this with Brian, but it was so great for him to experience it, too. My cousin's husband, Justin, showed up in a USA shirt and Arsenal scarf. Side note, these two are best buds. They got to know each other a few years ago when Justin came to Chicago for our wedding, but the bromance really blossomed this trip. 

We spent our days going to breweries, wineries, restaurants and beaches. Not only was it warm, it's almost summer there, so things were in what's a late-May spirit for us (schools closing for the year, families planning their summer vacations). Indigenous flowers and plants we've never seen were in full bloom, too. It was such a welcomed change from cold, dreary Chicago.

My uncle's backyard is small but mighty. He has pomegranate trees, a grapefruit one, a lemon one, and a lime one, too. I've always wanted a citrus tree and was fascinated that this is something everyone has there.

Australians are very serious about their coffee. A coworker of mine who just spent a few months working in Sydney told me this before we left, and we saw it first-hand. Coffee breaks are long and black drip coffee is not welcomed. We had dozens of flat whites, and I was very into this turmeric latte.

My grandma has always sworn she can tell fortunes by reading the grounds of coffee cups. We put her to the test several times — we'll see if her predictions hold true :)

On our way to Perth, hour 20-something of sitting in a small airplane seat, I told Brian I was so frustrated that it took this much effort to see my family — something others around me seem to get to do easily and often. But, so many moments made the long journey worth it. Getting a glimpse of their everyday lives and making these memories are something we will never forget.

My family found out about Brian's love for Dominos (and his goal to eat it and see a soccer game in every continent), and we had it several times in two weeks. Their toppings were wild (Korean beef, tandoori chicken, cocktail shrimp...), nothing like what we're used to.

Since we were gone on Thanksgiving day, and Brian's family runs the Naperville Turkey Trot that day, we kept the tradition alive by going for a 5K run of our own. It was so hot, though, and after a week of breweries and wineries it felt extra tough.

One afternoon Justin took us on a walking food tour he created. We went to several of his favorite places and ordered his favorite dish at each to share. It was so much fun trying lots of different things, we've decided to steal the idea and do this when guests visit us, too. Our favorite was the duck liver parfait at Cantina 633, but it was all so good (apple strudel at Freddie Strudels, pulled lamb and pearl barley at Sayers Sisters, drinks on a patio I can't remember and pastries at Mary Street Bakery).

We were really into Australian burgers, which have pickled beets, grilled pineapple, a fried egg and spicy mayo. I'm excited to replicate them at home this winter.

My grandma lives alone, and I was really inspired by the things she does every day to stay happy and active since my grandpa passed. For example, she has her favorite positive poems and quotes in Farsi taped to the inside of her pantry. That way she can read them every morning when she goes to grab breakfast. She read them to us, and they were such a nice way to start the day, focusing on gratitude instead of the long list of to-dos ahead.

There were jacaranda trees everywhere, which turn from green to purple in the spring. My cousins live steps away from Hyde Park and one of our best days was spent picnicking with them, looking at the trees and chatting for hours. I mentioned that Brian and Justin's bromance really blossomed this trip — here's proof :)

My family catered this trip to our interests, so we spent our time eating, drinking, looking at the ocean and watching sports (B took his first Perth Glory game very seriously). They truly spoiled us, every day we'd talk about how grateful we are for this experience before we fell asleep.

After a week of Perth, the two of us went to Sydney (which is a five-hour flight away, much longer than we thought before booking). We'd contemplated going other places (Bali, New Zealand, Great Barrier Reef), but ultimately decided on Sydney for the city feel. I'm so glad we did, we were both blown away. So many cool things to do, eat and a great vibe overall. We rarely agree on places we could see ourselves living, but Sydney won both of our hearts instantly.

We took a red eye flight, which we've never done, and I found it so disorienting! We landed at 6am, exhausted and grumpy. We couldn't check into our Airbnb until the afternoon, so we went to The Fine Food Store for a long breakfast, and it was one of the best meals of our trip and a great way to recharge.

Seeing the Opera House up close was so cool (I wish we had had time for a show), and the Opera Bar was an awesome happy hour spot. We thought it'd be touristy and mediocre, but it was packed with locals and had great drinks. Then, dinner at Billy Kwong was truly a trip highlight. A friend of mine who is from Sydney had said her favorite meal in the whole city is Kwong's crispy duck with plum sauce, and we decided we had to try it since B loves duck. It was remarkable. As were the mussels. One of the best meals of our lives.

Our day at Bondi Beach was so relaxing. We ate breakfast on the beach, did most of the coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee, had the best fried fish and grilled octopus of our lives.

On what was supposed to be our last day in Sydney, the city had the worst rainstorm in 44 years. We checked out of our Airbnb, dropped our suitcases off at a storage facility and ducked into a cafe, unsure of what to do next. We eventually made it to the Museum of Contemporary Art (which has a great brunch menu), where we found out our flight was canceled. We spent the next half of the day in that corner, trying to figure out new flights and a place to stay that night.

After the rain stopped, B suggested we try to go to walk through the Royal Botanic Garden and go to Harry's Cafe de Wheels. The night before, we saw a huge busload of Asian tourists stop to get meat pies there. We wondered what it was, looked it up and saw it's a Sydney staple. I loved it, but B wasn't one for the mushy peas. Also, it started pouring again immediately once we got there (two miles from our bag storage, no umbrellas).

By the time we checked into our hotel, we were drenched and exhausted. We had spent most of the day in the pouring rain or inside scrounging for WiFi. I was ready to get into bed, crack open the overpriced Pringles box in the hotel snack box and spend hours watching trash TV. B, on the other hand, was trying to see if we could get a table at Mr. Wong's, one of Sydney's most popular restaurants. I really wasn't in the mood to go, but I didn't want to rob him of the opportunity, so we figured we'd give it a shot. The ginormous restaurant was packed at 6pm (on a Wednesday!), but we waited for a table, and I'm so glad we did. We splurged on several courses (we didn't quite understand why the duck pancake appetizer was $50, but now we do, respect it and would do it all over again) and had such a nice time chatting, talking about the future and where we hope to go, in every way, next.

I'm so glad we got an extra day in Sydney because we wouldn't have gotten to go to Taronga Zoo otherwise. We're not typically zoo people, but this was recommended by too many people to ignore and was such a fun experience. You take a ferry to the zoo, and it's a five-minute lift up a hill once you get there (the giraffes have the best view of the city!). There were so many cool hands-on experiences, and a lot of the animals just roam around. If you're ever in Sydney, we can't recommend it enough.

It was strange seeing so many Christmas trees in hot weather. I know it's hot in places like LA, too, but it's at least winter in LA. It felt so strange that schools were closing for summer break in Sydney and Perth and Christmas trees were going up at the same time.

Brian's credit card came with a pass that gets us into airport lounges for free, where we typically load up on snacks. At the Sydney airport, the pass gets you $75 in free food/drink at a restaurant instead. We had less than an hour but didn't let a cent go to waste.

We came back to Perth for a few days where we ate more Dominos pizza and said hard goodbyes. I always forget how hard it is to leave until the last day when I have a lump in my throat from the moment I wake up. I love these people and am so grateful to have spent this time on the other side of the world with B. We'll be back, I'm sure, and I can't wait for that trip <3

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