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Houston–>San Francisco–>Sydney–>Great Barrier Reef–>Melbourne–>Tenterfield–>Auckland, NZ–>L.A.–>Houston.

Yeah.  It was like that.

Australia.  A country I NEVER thought I’d get a chance to go see.  Thanks to one of my talents given to me by God, and of course inherited from my parents (photography), it carried me there to shoot a wedding for an Australian couple I met on my 2010 trip to Europe.  I have kept in contact with several friends, including one from my 2005 trip to Europe, and got to see several of them on this journey of mine.

I got to stay with families all the while that I was there.  It was incredible.  I’ll start with Sydney.

SYDNEY| NEW SOUTH WALES

I stayed with Bel and her family, who came over from Spain.  SUCH a nice and hospitable family.  I got to meet a lot of family members, they had a big feast with paella (OMG yummmm), and enjoy the weather and company of Bel, her parents, her nephew, brother, sister in law and on and on.  When I left, her parents presented me with a silver pendant necklace of a boomerang…it’s a tradition in the family, they all have one, so that they will always return.  :) Isn’t that awesome?  Thank you very much, Mr. & Mrs. Inglemo.  I hope to come see you again.

Bel took me so many places.  Maroubra, Coogee, Bondi & Manly Beach, The Botanical Gardens, the Westpac Tower for a birds eye view, the QVB for shopping, a place for me to get more Havianna flip flops (or thongs as they call them), That said, only one stands out in my mind.  It’s what I have decided was my favorite spot in all of Australia–even over the white sands and clear beaches of the Whitsunday Islands.  It was a place called Mahon Pool.  It’s located just to the left of Maroubra Beach.  There’s an actual natural pool where fresh ocean water fills and constantly refreshes this man made area where swimmers can exercise without worrying about current, or worse, SHARKS!  Surrounding that area are a bunch of old reef rocks that the waves crash up on.  We sat there for a bit and it was so easy to lose yourself in thought.  A great thinking spot.  Anything spot.  Even though on the way back up the rocks, I fell and banged myself up (as you’ll notice in any pictures of me located on my arm).  Anyway, below are a few shots of Sydney, starting with the amazing Mahon pool.

I loved these trees below.  They were all over the place and at the beaches.  Norfolk Pines.

 

 

 

GREAT BARRIER REEF: WHITSUNDAY ISLANDS::HAMILTON ISLAND & WHITEHAVEN BEACH| QUEENSLAND

Seeing this part of Australia was incredible and unforgettable.  I’ll never forget how beautiful the water was and how PERFECT the temperature was.  Nice and cool, and no sharks, hooray!!!  I got all the way up to my chest in the water (which for me is a HUGE deal, since I fear the water and all the monsters within).  This is also where I got to shoot my couples engagement photos, which will be documented in another post.  Stay tuned for that;) There were a few other pics taken in this section, but I chose to omit them.  They involved an empty bottle of red wine, consumed by your’s truly, and me passed out on the bed being accosted by the lovely Gem & Scott!

As you can see below, I got burned, which is a NO NO.  But what was I supposed to do?  Their freakin’ SPF only goes up to 30 and I need like….70!

 

MELBOURNE | VICTORIA

I got to stay with my mate, Amanda in Melbourne and she is so lovely.  I also got to see my friend Merran, who came to see me from Canberra.  Melbourne is a very artsy city.  Different pieced everywhere and very modern sculptures.  I could live there.  Amanda and I walked…and drove everywhere!  She made sure I saw it all as well.  The shopping in Melbourne is freaking awesome.  Loved it.

While I was in Melbourne, I had an incredible opportunity.  The Melbourne Cup at Flemington is the biggest horse race in the nation.  In fact, it’s called “The Race That Stops the Nation”.  You see all the women dressed up in their best, adorned with the latest fascinators and the men all wear suits or some sort of crazy get up to get recognized on TV.  It’s a holiday for all that live in Victoria, and there isn’t one person that isn’t watching that race.  One day, Amanda arranged for us to go to one of the little zoo’s so that I could see the local wildlife.  A DINGO ATE MY BABY!!  I loved watching the dingos play.  We also got to get up close and personal with a koala.  He was so adorable and we got to see a baby, too!  Afterward, we proceeded to get lost with Amanda’s possessed GPS, but finally found our way to Puffing Billy, the only steam engine train left in Victoria.  It takes you up the mountain and the views are amazing.  All of the conductors are volunteers and the were SOOO nice and these beautifully colored birds (Rosellas?),hop right on you and eat seeds out of your hands.  HEHE!  I would say it was my most memorable experience in Melbourne.

We went shopping the first full day, and then met up with Merran in Federation Square, which is seriously cool and full of nightlife.  All I have to say is, thanks SO much for scaring the hell out of me by telling me about your freakishly large Huntsman spiders guys!!  If you’re curious as to what they look like, click here.  I also got to meet two of Amanda’s sisters and their husbands, and their kids.  They live right on the beach, and it’s beautiful!  We had a BBQ, and no, they don’t put shrimp on it.  I did happen to try Kangaroo while I was in Australia, btw.  It’s RED!  I loved Amanda’s sisters.  They had such funny stories to tell.  One thing everyone seemed to ask me while I was in Oz was “Do you like Obama?”.  *sigh*.  Not going there.  :) The beach in Melbourne was different from all the others.  There aren’t any waves, just a steady current.  It’s very peaceful, and they have these cute colorful huts (garage) on the beach that apparently cost the same as a house!!

Below is a little Koala joey!  Isn’t she cute?  Her momma is up in the tree above her. 

 

 

 

BYRON BAY | GOLD COAST | NEW SOUTH WALES

Didn’t really visit here, but drove through on my way to shoot the wedding in Tenterfield, and got a few beautiful shots of Byron Bay.  Crocodile Dundee has some land somewhere in here!!

 

EVERYWHERE!!!  | AUSTRALIA

These pesky suckers were the BANE of my existence while I was here.  For the most part they didn’t bother me much, but when you got in a patch of them, you’ll get about 50 just chilling on your purse or your back or your whatever.  Little devils.  Despite them, would I go back?  In a heartbeat.  AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE!

 

 

 

xx

 

Pompeii~ A town that was buried for 1700 years under volcanic ash from a nearby volcano that erupted unexpectedly in 79 AD.  The poisonous gas that the volcano released reached the people before the lava, and they died in route of their every day life.  The lava and ash that followed preserved the bodies exactly as they were.  After discovery, someone filled the encasements of the bodies with plaster and that is what you will see below.  It’s very sad.  One man is crouching trying to cover his face from the gases, another woman you will see is pregnant and laying face down trying to protect herself.  Also, there is a cast of a dog that was thought to be chained up at a local residence.

As for the little town surrounding Pompeii, I wasn’t impressed.  It was just little shops and stands with mostly junk to sell and a restaurant with mediocre pizza.  Pretty disappointing for being famous for ‘where pizza originated from’.  Driving through the part of Naples that we did was also pretty depressing.  It [to me] was a downer.  I just Googled a few pictures of Naples, and apparently, there is a coast.  Huh…guess we were on the wrong side.  I also got a few shots of Ange while we were dragging around in the hot sun!  This chic rocks…just sayin’.

Anyway, it was interesting.  Now I can say I’ve seen Pompeii.  Joy.

These little suckers were TINY!

And for your viewing pleasure…A brothel bed!  Told you these suckers were tiny!

The pictures I took in Rome are probably not what you are going to expect.  I took very few iconic pictures of famous monuments from the outside.  I had so many opportunities, but Rome is so big, and SO full of life, that you are constantly on over stimulation mode.  I chose rather to enjoy my surroundings and relax rather than keep my eye behind the lens.

There were so many things I COULD have taken pictures of, but I don’t think I could incorporate the true energy of this city.  There’s simply too much.  The Spanish Steps, The Collosseum, Piazza Navona (my absolute favorite place to be in Rome), Pantheon, the food, the shopping, the GELATO, the art (which I bought a beautiful canvas from an artist at Piazza Navona) ~ I could go on and on.

I think bestie said we must have covered 10 miles of walking in one day.  My feet were screaming at me.  I was in serious miserable pain from those suckers.  So much so that when we had dinner right across from the Colosseum at dusk, and the sky was a perfect deep blue, and the Collosseum was lit with its lights…I didn’t even feel like pulling my cam out for a picture.  That said…I did manage to score myself a beautiful pair of authentic quality tan leather italian shoes.  Love them.  And yes…as you will see below…you’ll see random groups of men driving Ferrari’s in packs around Rome!

Gemma and Scott are another couple from Oz (Australia).  I didn’t get to spend near as much time with them until our trip was almost over, but I DID manage to capture them at dinner one night with Gemma’s fabulous new dress she had bought just that day!  Loved it.

I love their chemistry in camera (and out).  They were so easy to pose and it’s not always easy being the one in front of the camera.  Scott was so cooperative (which is a HUGE thing)…guys are sometimes kinda stiff.  Isn’t he a hottie??  Seksi beast is coming out!  He knew how to love the camera like no man I’ve ever met!!   Most of the poses I took of them were serious, which was what I asked of them;  that was the mood I was wanting to capture with these two.  Being behind the camera is a funny thing sometimes.  You can look at someone a 20 times and not really see everything there is to see.  This couple is without a question attractive.  The thing I saw was how truly beautiful Gemma is.  I saw her plenty of times on the trip, but never really grasped her beauty until I looked through my lens.  She’s brilliant.  And as sweet as a ‘Banana Lollie’;)

Cheers, you two.

If you’ve ever spent enough time around Aussie’s, (and I recently have), you know that they have shortened terms for everything;)

Meet Megan (pronounced Meegan) and Warren.  For short?  Megs & Waz.  And I bet if someone asked them where they had the best bruschetta, they’d say “Floz”.  My honorable word gift to them, meaning Florence.  How did I do guys?  Can I get some love?

Anyway, Megan and Warren have a long history.  They were high school sweethearts.  She liked a few of his friends, but he liked her.  Finally, at one point, he drove hours over summer vacay to follow her and her family on a family beach holiday.  By the end of the weekend, they were hooked on each other.  That was 10 years ago, and they have been together every since.  They only recently got married, and the trip that I met them on was their honeymoon.

These two, I swear, you would think they were newlyweds.   …..Well they are, but they’ve been together for 10 YEARS people!  They seem like the relationship is still as new as though they had only been dating for the past 2 months.  We’d be on the bus and Megs would laugh and laugh at whatever Waz was whispering or mubling in his seat next to her.  They’d play funny jokes and wear their neck pillows on their heads just to laugh at each other.  Seriouly, one of my favorite couples from the trip.  So so so glad I met them and that we hit it off.

That said, we did get an early start on meeting them in London.  We were hanging out at a local pub having a few drinks and they were at the bar.  I noticed they were Australian (and again, if you know your Aussie’s, those peeps KNOW how to TRAVEL).  Being friendly and talkative as I always am, I asked if they were on the Contiki tour.  Turns out, they were.  If we hadn’t gone to that bar, we may not have known how awesome they were and pal’d up during the tour.

Megs, Waz~ You guys hold a special place in my heart.  Thanks for the new words…sunnies, bathers, mozzies and thongs…lol.

Tuscany.  Probably the prettiest region of Italy in my humble opinion.  I felt like I didn’t have enough time to see everything the first time I went, but I def got a feel for it this time.  We had a lot of leisure time during the day.  My favorite thing?  The bruschetta.  Second best I have ever had, runner up to the incredible Sicilian herself, Lacy Dagerath, fellow dear friend and photographer. 

Night time in Florence…*sigh*…we have a history.  I obliterated myself the last time I went and swore I was gonna play it cool this time cause no one likes to be on a 4 hour bus ride with a hangover.  Hangover indeed.  Florence has a different payment system when you go into the bar.  You get a card, and after you have filled up three punches (three drinks) you pay.  You can’t exit the club without having your card ‘exited’.  I filled two of those.  With what, you may ask yourself?  Red Bull and vodka.  6 of them.  I’m telling you…Europeans pour their liquor and they aren’t sheisty like peeps around here.  They pour the same way they do in Vegas, know what I mean?  One drink and you’re in a good mood.  Two and you’re having the BEST time!  Three and you’re chilling on the couch just nodding your head to the music and enjoying yourself.  Four and you’re on the dance floor.  Five and you’re heading back for the sixth already while bestie is yelling at you to “stop drinking, we’re leaving!”  Six and you’re calling the bouncer at the door unkind words while waiting for him to hail you a taxi.  …..At least that’s how it went for me.  I never tossed, but I was sweating bullets on that bus.  Still, wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Below are a few shots of things that made me smile.  Funny thing how some of these buildings have stood beautiful for thousands of years, and our modern contractors can’t build a house to last 5 years without something going wrong.

Meet Rona and Mervyn!  I am SO glad to know them.  They just had a baby a few months ago, and the lucky couple decided to get away on holiday for a few weeks.  This couple is so very cute.  They treat one another so nicely and I just smile when I think of them having their morning and evening coffee and cigarette routine each day.  I loved listening to Rona speak.  She has such a soft voice and her pronunciation is so perfect with each word.  Mervyn is so kind and gentle.  His smile is genuine and the way he and Rona look at each other makes you contagiously happy.  The shots I got of them are some of my favorites, not because of the scene and not because of the people, but the way those people look at each other with such endearment.

Happiness can be seen so clearly, even from far away.