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Monday 25 Mar 2013
Newcastle, Australia

Champagne again? Oh, if you insist...

Way back in January, Ailsa and I went on a trip to Myanmar (Burma).  There we met some lovely people and spent two weeks in their company.  Anna and Bryan were kind enough to invite me to stay when I reached Australia.  As luck would have it, my Sydney dates coincided with their annual Good Friday Champagne Breakfast.  Don't you just love it when things work out like that...?

I caught the train from Sydney up to Newcastle on Thursday lunchtime and met Anna at the station.  Her first words to me were: "You've got a suntan!"  YESSS! Someone noticed at last! I'm still hoping that I might be browner than my friends in England by the time I get home in August...

After a tour of Newcastle, we stopped at the supermarket and deli to buy the champagne, cheese and cold meats for the buffet tomorrow, then went back home to meet Bryan.  He has been slowly dismantling the house next door but one - selling, salvaging or donating the materials as he goes - ready to start building their new home when they finally settle on the right design.  Just after getting home from Myanmar, he broke his toe so has been limping around for two months.  Today, he managed to stab hinmself in the calf with a stray nail sticking out of a plank of wood, so was limping even more and feeling a bit sorry for himself.  He didn't fancy going for a swim, so Anna and I headed down to the beach and dived straight in without him.  I got a great deal on two new bikinis in Sydney so I was very happy to try one out and make the most of the water even if it is a little (a lot) colder than Fiji.

We walked around to a lovely Vietnamese restaurant for dinner and sat outside.  It was very fitting to be eating Asian food with Anna and Bryan, reminiscing about Myanmar and our trip together.  I really enjoyed catching up with them. Their house was very reflective of their characters.  Their travel souvenirs were everywhere, plus artwork and photos they have collected over the years.  Outside they had a lovely deck area with an overgrown jungle of plants and trees around and below it which felt very cosy and welcoming.

Anna is a keen knitter - she was working on a pair of socks even during the welcome meeting in Yangon, which I wasn't sure quite what to make of at the time.  I was sleeping on the sofabed in her craft room.  It was exactly the kind of room I would love to have one day: Pigeon holes stuffed full of brightly colored wools; bookshelves full of knitting books; a pinboard full of project ideas; a big computer desk and her favourite pictures and ornaments on the walls.

On the morning of Good Friday, I helped them to lay out the food and prepare the house for their guests.  A good friend, Tom, drove up from Sydney in time to help set up too.  He was a very interesting chap - a specialist travel agent with a wealth of travel experience and stories.  I enjoyed talking to a variety of people at the party and snuck in a few baby cuddles with some of the little ones.  One of the best moments was the look of pure glee on the face of a young girl with Downs Sydrome who had managed to get hold of the wooden spatula in the Nutella jar.  She systematically licked every last scrap of chocolate off it, then took it to the sink to be washed before it went back in the jar! Just brilliant.

The last of the guests left about 5pm and we sat out on the decking feeling exhausted but happy.  To stop us falling asleep too early, we went for a walk up the sea wall past the lighthouse at Nobbies Point.  It was a lovely walk watching the sunset behind the cranes and towers of Newcastle's huge port, still warm, but windy enough to blow off the cobwebs.

The next morning, I borrowed Bryan's trip notes and got my Burma diary back into the right order again.  It was alarming how much I had forgotten about already.  With the long running e-mail battle I've had with Intrepid over the way the trip had been run - commissioned out to a local company rather than run by Intrepid themselves - and their pathetic response to our feedback and concerns, I had been in danger of forgetting the good things about the trip.  Myanmar was a beautiful country with lovely people and we made some good friends in our travel companions.

Tom gave me a lift back to Sydney, dropping me off right on Ali and Will's doorstep in Bilgola, saving me a three hour train and 90 minute bus ride, for which I was very grateful. 

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Zobeedoo's Big World Adventure, Part I

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