We flew from Auckland to Sydney and arrived late in the evening. The next morning, we woke up and ventured out to see if we could get a good view of the Opera House and Harbor Bridge. We found the Royal Botanic Garden and walked through, admiring the flowers and trees. But the real excitement was getting to the edge of the water and looking out over the harbor. I've hoped to see Sydney for myself since I was a kid and the view was just as good as I had hoped!
It was really warm, so we stopped to get some lunch and drinks. When we were finishing up lunch, these giant lizards came up beside my chair. I had no interest in one of them accidentally touching me, so I leapt up very quickly. There were tons of giant birds (think small sandhill cranes) all around the tables too, looking for some lunch from dropped food.
After lunch, we went back to the hotel to cool off for a few hours. February is still the middle of the summer in Australia, so it was in the 80s and sunny on this Sunday.
That evening, we returned to the garden for an open air movie screening. There were tables set up along the water and we ordered dinner as the sun was setting behind the harbor.
This was such a fun event! This enormous screen was lifted by hydraulics from laying flat and we were able to choose seats to watch the movie, "Everything Everywhere All at Once". We had already seen the movie, but we both really enjoyed watching it again. The setting here was incredible too, with the sun setting behind the screen and the water glistening in the background. It was a great way to spend our one evening in Sydney.
Early on Monday morning, we took a train and bus about 3.5 hours west of Sydney to Mudgee. We were there to housesit and watch a dog named Rafe. I came across a site called "Aussie House Sitters" before we left the US and we applied to stay at this couple's house and watch their dog. We had 2 video calls before meeting them in person when we arrived at the bus stop in Mudgee. Mark & Sandy explained all the things we would need to know for taking care of their home and Rafe while they were out of town. They left early on Tuesday morning and we stayed at their home for the next 10 days.
Mornings started early for us, with a long walk and time to play at the dog park for Rafe. He's a very sweet Kelpie, which is an Australian breed of sheepdog known for farm work. Rafe grew up on Mark & Sandy's winery, but now enjoys his time as a city dog. He knew his routine and was very easy to care for. We enjoyed playing lots of rounds of fetch and chasing him around the back patio at the house.
Mudgee is a small town (smaller than Arcadia, Florida, but larger than South Charleston, Ohio or Upland, Indiana-hopefully that gives most of you a good picture!). It's very sleepy during the week, because many people come to visit for the weekend to go to the wineries that are all around town. We were able to walk everywhere we went the entire time we were in town. We particularly enjoyed a small French coffee shop, called Althea with incredible cold brew and bakery items for breakfast.
During our video calls with Mark & Sandy before we arrived, they let us know that there were 3 stores within walking distance from their home, Aldi, Woolworth's, and Cole's. When they said this, I was picturing Kohls, the department store. However, Cole's in Australia is a grocery store, which looks surprisingly like a Winn Dixie in Florida. It was so shocking how much this looked like our grocery store in Lakewood Ranch that Brennan had to take a picture and look it up. It turns out an executive who used to work for Cole's now has an executive position at Winn-Dixie in the US. The world really is so small!
The place we visited multiple times for dinner in Mudgee was Three Tails Brewery. They had an excellent bbq food truck and we enjoyed hanging out here. It was right down the street from the house, so it was very convenient and a great place to spend time in the summery evenings.
Our time in Mudgee finished on Thursday, February 16. We passed the keys back to Mark & Sandy, said our goodbyes to Rafe, and headed back to Sydney on both a bus and train.
While we were heading back to Sydney, we passed through the Blue Mountains. The views were amazing and it was fun to see another part of this gigantic country.
Our time in Mudgee was a great break from the quick, intense travel we've done most of the last 9 months. We were able to stay in one place in a home and able to reset a little bit in a way that was very helpful to both of us. While Mudgee is a small place on the map, I'm so glad we were able to get to know this town and have the experience of housesitting/petsitting.
We're Brennan & Megan
Since June 2022, we have been traveling to learn more about ourselves and the world around us.