Getting Over Post-Vacation Blues

It’s been a month since I got back from my Australia trip, and I’m still dealing with serious post-vacation blues. After three weeks of warm weather, gorgeous scenery, and being surrounded by friendly, happy locals, my transition back to reality has been a bit rough. But before I go on, let me quickly acknowledge two important things:

1) Yes, I realize that not everyone gets to go on vacations to Australia, and complaining about how hard it is to come back home after a trip like that is not going to garner a whole lot of sympathy from others. Believe me, I get it.

2) I also recognize the fact that I came home to 60 degree “winter” in San Francisco, not two feet of snow in New England. Sure, I had to stow away all of the sundresses and shorts I wore during my trip, but I also didn’t have to step off the plane and face a polar vortex either.

This post, however, is not supposed to be about me feeling sorry for myself. Rather, I hope it’s helpful for when you too get a case of the post-vacation blues. And with the extra expectations of honeymoons in particular, lots of couples have an even tougher time transitioning back to “real life” when they get back home.

So, below are the things that I recommend doing after you get back from a great trip to ward off the blues. I hope they’re helpful for you as well:

  • Try to focus on the things back home that you missed the most during your trip. For me, it’s usually thinking about how much I missed my dog, having groups of friends to go out with, and Whole Foods.
  • Recreate your favorite meals from your trip at home, or go out to eat at restaurants that serve them. I’ve been on a laksa and noodles kick since getting back from Australia, so I’ve been visiting different Asian restaurants around SF and (gasp!) even experimenting in my own kitchen.
  • Hit up World Market or BevMo to purchase your favorite international beverages and snacks. Sadly you won’t be able to find Tim Tams in the states, but you can buy these identical Arnott’s biscuits instead. Yeah, you’re welcome ;)

Continue reading

Real Honeymoon: Vietnam & Sri Lanka

I’m excited to share our first real honeymoon of 2015! There are several more in the pipeline, so make sure to come back to the blog in the next few weeks to read those as well. This week’s real honeymooners Gaya and Tim recently got back from an exciting honeymoon in Vietnam and Sri Lanka where they spent time with friends and family who live there. Read all about their trip and check out the gorgeous photos below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

Our honeymoon started on Dec 15th – Dec 22nd [2014] in Vietnam, then Dec 22nd [2014] – Jan 2nd [2015] in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka Elephantride

Riding elephants in Sri Lanka

Friends in Sri Lanka

Honeymooning with friends in Sri Lanka

Here’s the breakdown:

  • 3 nights in Ho Chi Minh City (stayed with friends)
  • 1 night in the Mekong Delta (at a homestay)
  • 2 nights in Hoi An (at a homestay)
  • 3 nights in Jaffna (stayed with family)
  • 2 nights in Trincomalee
  • 1 night (but recommend 2) in Kandy
  • 1 night Nuwara Eliya (recommend staying here or here)
  • 1 night (but recommend 2) in Bentota
  • 3 nights in Colombo
Vietnam_Hoi An2

Vietnamese food… yummmm

Sri Lanka seafood

Sri Lanka seafood


How long was your trip?

Our trip was approximately 3 weeks.

Hanging out with friends in Vietnamese rice paddies

Just hanging out with friends in Vietnamese rice paddies

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination(s)?

Tim and I are both Sri Lankan, but he has never visited and I haven’t been since I left, which was close to 25 years ago. We knew that Sri Lanka would always be our honeymoon destination.  Vietnam was nice as well. We have some friends that live there and we thought this would be a good opportunity to go and visit them.

Traveling around Sri Lanka with friends

On the road in Sri Lanka


The best part about our honeymoon was…

This is such a hard question to answer; there were sssoooo many great parts of our honeymoon. Vietnam is such a magical country, rich with culture and a heighten sense of movement. Sri Lanka is just absolutely beautiful, only 25,332 sq miles in total area, and every area, every mini city is so different from the last. We also were fortunate enough to travel with some friends for portions of our trip. But if I had to pick just one part, it would have been the history that I was able to discover in Sri Lanka.

Sigaria

Sigaria

Sri Lanka dancers

Sri Lanka dancers

Sri Lanka tea estates

Sri Lanka tea estates

Hot springs in Sri Lanka

Hot springs in Sri Lanka

Continue reading

Christmas in Byron Bay

When I told my Aussie friend Emily that we were coming to Australia for a few weeks, she immediately said we’d have to visit Byron Bay. (She said that anything further north at the end of December would be too hot and humid, so we appreciated her rec!) A quick flight from Sydney, Byron Bay is a very popular holiday destination for surfers, yogis, backpackers, and new-age hippies who want to pretend that it’s still the 1960s. It’s also just an overall wonderful place for families and couples as well. The area has actually modernized a lot since my last visit in 2005, but the gorgeous scenery and laid-back vibe are still there.

IMG_4110

Main Beach

IMG_4128

Lots of pretty street art in Byron Bay

IMG_4302

Do you want to build a sandman?

To get to Byron Bay from Sydney, you can either drive up the coast for nine hours, or you can do what we did, which was a one hour flight into Ballina Airport, then the $16 Xcede shuttle bus into Byron. (The alternative is hiring a $95 taxi at the Ballina Airport for the 30 minute drive to Byron, or just renting your own car.)

IMG_4343

Happy as a kid on Christmas morning!

IMG_4284

Walk from Watego to The Pass

Byron Bay gets packed over the Christmas holidays, so we booked our hotel months in advance. We absolutely loved our stay at Aaron’s at Byron (can you guess who picked the hotel?). Its sister property (Aabi’s at Byron) is supposedly fabulous, too. Just a short walk from the center of town, Aaron’s had everything we needed: modern and spacious rooms, nice pool and spa, and even a communal kitchen and BBQ… that we never used. But we liked knowing that we could’ve cooked if we had wanted to!

IMG_4279

The beautiful bay

Hello, wallaby!

Hello, wallaby!

We spent our four relaxing days in Byron visiting the various beaches, hiking up to the lighthouse, and trying the local restaurants. In the evenings we met friends from Sydney at the Beach Hotel (“the Beachie”) for drinks in the beer garden.

At the top of Cape Byron

At the top of Cape Byron

IMG_4165

Eastern most point of Australia’s mainland

Cape Byron lighthouse

Cape Byron lighthouse

Continue reading

Overnight Trip to Jervis Bay

When planning out the final days of our Australia itinerary, we were deciding between a few different options: an overnight trip to the Blue Mountains, wine tasting in Hunter Valley, or spending a night near Avalon and exploring Sydney’s northern beaches. They all seemed fine, but I thought we could find something else that was even more exciting.

Luckily, I somehow came across this blog post about Hyams Beach and immediately thought to myself, “Yes! I want to go to there!” I showed the gorgeous beach pics to Aaron, and he was on board right away as well. Jervis Bay was the perfect destination for our quick getaway from Sydney.

Biggest dilemma in Jervis Bay: which beach is the best?

Jervis Bay, where your biggest worry will be choosing a favorite beach

Since we got a bit of a late start on planning and it was right before Christmas, most of the accommodation in the area was already booked up. Had it been available we probably would have stayed at The Huskisson, but we settled for an Airbnb room in Sanctuary Point that worked out just fine.

Our Airbnb host told us to park there, I swear!

Our Airbnb host told us to park there, I swear!

The towns in the area are a bit spread out, so we were glad that we hired our own rental car in Sydney* rather than taking a shuttle from the airport. Without traffic, the drive between the Sydney airport and Jervis Bay should take about 2 1/2 hours, but we made stops in Gerringong and Berry along the way.

Quick stop in Gerringong

Quick stop in Gerringong

Jervis Bay is famous for dolphin and whale tours, beautiful camping sites, and sprawling national parks. Both nature-lovers and beach bums alike love it there, and for good reason. I actually did a day trip to Jervis Bay back in 2005 as well, but we had dreary weather and the only thing I remember about it was collecting shells on a pretty but gloomy beach. We may have done a dolphin boat tour as well, the memories are very blurry. Little did I know, Jervis Bay is home to some of the most stunning beaches I’ve ever seen anywhere. What a difference good weather makes!

IMG_3880

Deep thoughts in Jervis Bay

We only spent one night in Jervis Bay, but we made the most of our time there and attempted to visit as many beaches as possible. One of the best ways to accomplish that is by doing the beautiful White Sands Walk. Although it was impossible to choose a favorite, our top five beaches in Jervis Bay were:

  1. Hyams Beach
  2. Hole in the Wall
  3. Cave Beach
  4. Greenfield Beach
  5. Blenheim Beach
IMG_4023

Hole in the Wall

IMG_4015

Hole in the Wall

IMG_3825

Blenheim Beach

IMG_3935

“Hi, Mom!” at Hyams Beach

IMG_3979

Cave Beach

Selfie at Greenfield Beach

Selfie at Greenfield Beach

Continue reading

Weekend in Coogee Beach

I’m dismayed to report that we are back from our three-week Australia trip, but I’m going to try to hang on to the Aussie spirit for as long as possible with several upcoming blog posts starting with this one about our weekend in Coogee Beach.

The gorgeous Coogee coastline

The gorgeous Coogee coastline

Coogee holds an especially important place in my heart because it’s where I lived when I studied abroad at UNSW several many years ago. Historically a quiet beach suburb in Eastern Sydney, Coogee has transformed into a lively neighborhood full of locals and travelers alike.

In front of my old house

In front of my old house

The main strip, Coogee Bay Road, is full of cafes and shops, and the local beach is fantastic. Below are my top Coogee recommendations:

Where to stay: accommodations in Coogee aren’t terribly cheap, but we felt like our money was very well spent at Dive Hotel. The location next to the CBH and across the street from the beach can’t be beat, the owners and other guests were incredibly nice, and they have really cute dogs – Lucas and Ruby! If you get doggie withdrawal when you go on vacation, this place will be perfect for you.

IMG_3754

Outside of Dive Hotel

IMG_3651

Bonding with Lucas

What to do: go to the beach, of course! Coogee is not a surfing beach, but it’s good for swimming and sunning. You should also do the beach walk north all the way to Bondi (approx 1/2 hours), or south to Maroubra. Either way you’ll love the gorgeous scenery. *Pro tip: the beach walk toward Maroubra is much easier for runners.*

IMG_3482

Panoramic view of Coogee Beach

IMG_3502

Beach walk toward Maroubra

IMG_3644

Love the concept of this beach library!

IMG_3738

Crowded day in Coogee

IMG_3574

Coogee pools

IMG_3667

Gordon’s Bay (north of Coogee)

Continue reading

Five Days in Bondi

Our time in Bondi Beach, one of Australia’s most iconic places, is winding down quickly. We’ve had our ups and downs here over the past five days (downs specifically referring to the internet*), but overall it’s been a really great week.

Bondi Beach time!

Bondi Beach time!

We originally wanted to stay in an apartment for our five nights in Bondi, but everyone we contacted through Airbnb said that they had already rented their places out. I think there’s just a very large demand for short term rentals in the area, so property owners cross-list their places on multiple rental sites and then forget to update all of the various availability calendars once an apartment is taken.

IMG_3438

Since the apartment option was out, we booked a room at Hotel Bondi, directly across the street from the beach. Our original room was large and airy with an updated bathroom, but since it had zero internet connection we were moved to a tiny room with a gorgeous beach view. Although we felt cramped, it was hard to say no to a view like this:

Room with a view!

Room with a view!

It was another work-week for us, so we had to spend most of our time in front of our computers, but when we could get away we explored the village, hiked and ran the coastal walkways, tried a bunch of different restaurants, and worked on our tans. Below are some of our favorite bits.

– If there’s only one thing that you do during a visit to Sydney, it should be the coastal walk between Coogee and Bondi (or vice versa). I used to do it every Sunday when I lived in Coogee, and this past week I did at least a chunk of it every day. The scenery is unbelievable, the exercise is good for you, and the people-watching is top notch. Do it, do it, do it!

FullSizeRender (14)

Tamarama

IMG_3391

Waverly Cemetery

Continue reading

Weekend in Melbourne: CBD & Fitzroy

While the first part of our Melbourne weekend was spent driving the Great Ocean Road, we devoted our Sunday to exploring Melbourne itself.

Flinders Street Railway Station

Flinders Street Railway Station

A friend who recently lived in Melbourne highly suggested that we stay either in the CBD or Fitzroy, and gave us a list of bars and restaurants that we needed to check out. You can see her entire list of Melbourne food recs here, but below are the places that we personally visited (and loved):

– Manchester Press: we started our day with coffee and bagels from Manchester press. I knew we’d have a lot of eating ahead of us that day so I *thought* that it would be a light brunch, but boy was I wrong. We ordered a lox bagel and a avo-feta bagel, and when the plates arrived I couldn’t believe my eyes. There must have been half a salmon on one bagel, and at least three whole avocados on the other – the portions were huge! Aaron sure didn’t complain, and both bagels tasted great. The place was quite crowded, but the waiting list moved pretty quickly.

Light brekkie

Light brekkie

Everyone loves bagels

Everyone loves bagels

– Queen Victoria Market: after brunch we walked over to Queen Victoria Market to work off our bagels. A lot of the stalls were pretty generic and looked like a Sunday market anywhere in the world, but the indoor food and drink stalls were truly impressive. We especially loved the coffee at Market Lane Coffee in the dairy produce hall.

     IMG_3131

Continue reading

Weekend in Melbourne: Great Ocean Road

Simply put, 48 hours in Melbourne is not enough, but Aaron wanted to make a go of it anyway so we did just that. And even though we weren’t there for very long, we had a pretty fantastic time.

The airport is situated about 22 km from the CBD, so rather than taking a pricey taxi (~$65) we opted for the SkyBus ($30 for two people) to Southern Cross station then walked over to our hotel from there. We decided to stay at the Citadines on Bourke because of its central location and reasonable price tag, and we were very appreciative when they told us we’d been upgraded to a room on their top (25th) floor. We had a delicious Indian meal at Red Pepper, then called it an early night. We had a big day ahead of us, after all.

Saturday was the main event: the Great Ocean Road! When I first went to Melbourne in 2005, everyone told us to drive on the Great Ocean Road but I was naively skeptical about doing so. Being the native Californian that I am, a drive along the ocean sounded rather ordinary and I wasn’t convinced that I should devote an entire day to doing that when there were so many other things to see within the city of Melbourne.

But, and you can already guess where I’m going here, I was totally wrong. My friends and I rented a car, listened to Fine Young Cannibals’ “She Drives Me Crazy” on the radio far more often than anyone our age ought to, and had an amazing day. I knew that I wanted to recreate those memories with Aaron.

Renting a car in Melbourne’s CBD is super easy. We used Redspot, which had a location right around the corner from our hotel, and headed off toward Geelong.

Beep beep!

Beep beep!

Our first stop was Torquay, home to some of the best surfing in the world as well as to a couple of the most famous surf companies (Rip Curl and Quiksilver). We picked up some takeaway coffee from Sticks and Stones Cafe and headed over to Bells Beach to watch the surfers do their thing.

IMG_2914

Candidate for “Greatest Dog Ever,” Louis patiently watched his owner go for a surf

IMG_2899

IMG_2854

IMG_2808

After a quick photo break in breathtaking Anglesea, we drove on toward Lorne. I remember a lot about my previous Great Ocean Road experience, but I have no recollection of Lorne whatsoever! I don’t understand how that’s possible as it was my absolute favorite stop this time around. *Shakes head* Anyway, Lorne is a major stop along the Great Ocean Road, and time permitting we would have happily spent an entire weekend there. The beaches were gorgeous, there were plenty of interesting shops along the main road, and a huge variety of different restaurants. We grabbed a milkshake at The Bottle of Milk (though they are famous for their burgers), tried Australian-Mexican food for the first time at Mexican Republic, and actually came back to Lorne at the end of the day for dinner at Chopstix.

Anglesea

Windy in Anglesea

IMG_2967

FullSizeRender (8)

Continue reading

Five Days in Manly

Sadly it’s our last day in Manly, and it is scary how fast the first part of our Australia trip has flown by. It’s been a work-week for both of us – Aaron has been going to his firm’s office in the CBD while I’ve been working in our apartment and a coffee shop next door every day. And even though we’ve needed to spend most of each day in front of our computers, we’ve still managed to see quite a lot around this part of Sydney. Below are some of our favorite things in Manly:

– The main Manly Beach (Queenscliff, North Steyne, and South Steyne) is fantastic, but there are other less crowded and equally beautiful beaches nearby. Take an easy walk or jog to tranquil Shelly Beach, or hike on over to the gorgeous Freshwater (“Freshie”) and Curl Curl Beaches.

The walk to Shelly Beach

The walk to Shelly Beach

Freshie

Freshie from above

Boardwalk to Curl Curl

Boardwalk to Curl Curl

– Living next door to Foundry FiftyThree this week has been quite fortunate for me and my budding coffee snobbery. The ambience reminds me of a super cool coffee shop in Silverlake or the Mission, but because it’s full of Australians it’s obviously so much better. I can only speak to their cold drip coffee, but it’s served in a beaker and tastes wonderful. I highly recommend their avo toast, as well.

Work work work

Work work work

Continue reading

Oh, Sydney, I’ve Missed You!

It’s only been about 24 hours since we arrived in Sydney, but it took me no time at all to fall back in love with the laidback Aussie lifestyle. Nearly 10 years have passed since my semester abroad at the University of New South Wales, but my love for Australia has remained as strong and steady as ever over the years.  So when my husband was offered an opportunity to work there for a few weeks, I immediately looked into how I could come along, too.

This view will do just nicely, thank you

Despite this being a working vacation for both of us, we’re planning on seeing quite a lot over the next three weeks. The fact that we have to spend 10 of those days working has actually made us do a lot of planning in advance and we’ve put a lot of thought into where we’re going to stay and what we’ll do in our time off.

IMG_2505

Shot taken during my morning run

IMG_2477

Just a prop… probably

This work week we are staying in a lovely Airbnb apartment near the beach in Manly. After we landed at the airport, we took the train to Circular Quay, purchased some Opal cards, then hopped on the first ferry to Manly. Whether it’s your first or fifth time in Sydney, the ferry ride to Manly is absolutely breathtaking with picture-perfect views of the Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House, and all of the multi-million dollar homes and yachts throughout the harbor.

IMG_2450

Not a throwback!

Harbour Bridge

Harbour Bridge

Home sweet home

Home sweet home

Continue reading