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Heatwave!

Before I start, apologies for the hiatus in my blog. Life, especially over the school holiday and festive period, can be hectic but I am back! And to prove we were still exploring our new surroundings at Christmas time, enjoy these now unseasonal photos of the Hunter Valley Gardens Christmas Light Spectacular!

For those of you who live in Australia, you will know that the East Coast is experiencing quite the heatwave with multiple days in a row over 40 degrees, so as you can imagine getting out and exploring is fairly uncomfortable. I have found the solution to this is trying to spend most time outdoors around sunrise and sunset when the heat of the day is less intense. Going for a run or walk in the morning or evening is much more pleasant and you can easily fit in 10,000 steps in this time. This has the added bonus of allowing us to enjoy some spectacular shots of the sun on Lake Macquarie.

Summer in Australia also means cricket and we decided that it would be un-Austratralian if we didn’t experience the excitement of the KFC Big Bash League, a 20-20 match format where each side only has 120 balls to score as many runs as possible. This leads to big shots, lots of runs and plenty of wickets! We attended the last match of Sydney Thunder‘s season against the Adelaide Strikers. Unfortunately this ended in a defeat for the #ThunderNation but it was a great day out and allowed us to visit the Sydney Olympic Park for the first time. It is fantastic to see the venues from the 2000 Olympic Games being put to such good use. 

With meteorologists predicting that the heatwave is now over for this year, I hope to be able to bring you news of our summer fun in the coming weeks. My sister is visiting from Scotland and we have lots of exciting experiences planned for her to enjoy as much of the Aussie lifestyle as possible so please check back soon for more adventures around the world in 10,000 steps. 

Summer in the Hunter Valley

December marks the start of summer here in Australia and, with temperatures reaching 37C today, it feels that it may be a baptism of fire for these new expats. So what do you do when it’s too hot to explore by foot? Usually I would suggest exploring a museum or similar in air-conditioned comfort, but on this occasion we had been invited to a morning tea at the Hunter Valley Gardens as annual pass holders, which was followed by a tour of the gardens on their miniature train. At this time of year, the gardens are most well known for the Christmas Lights Spectacular and I will take you on a virtual tour of the lights closer to Christmas, but this visit allows me to show you the beauty of the gardens in daylight.

The Hunter Valley Gardens were opened in 2003 on the site of former vineyards and paddocks and encompasses 60 acres,  subdivided into ten distinct gardens traversed by 8km of walking paths. However, with the temperature rising, we took the easier option of hopping on the train for our tour. 


Having passed through the rose garden, which holds more than 8,000 roses, we moved on to the formal garden; European-style with topiary, terraces and a wishing fountain, not to mention the huge Christmas tree! 


Passing by the 180 year old elephant gates, we entered the Indian Mosaic Garden with its teahouse overlooking the lake before visiting the Chinese Moongate Garden, the entrance guarded by Chinese dragons. 


A particular favourite with my kids is the Storybook Garden which features various fairytale characters and excerpts from their stories. They love reading the nursery rhymes out loud and having their photographs taken alongside the statues. 


Almost at the end of our tour we entered what is perhaps the prettiest of all the gardens, the Oriental Garden with its Japanese Pagoda reflected in the waters of the pond, before circling the lakeside path to make our way back to the entrance. 


The train tour was a great way to get our bearings and provided an overview of the layout of the gardens, as well as giving us some much needed shelter in the sweltering heat. But nothing beats getting up close to the displays and we returned to our favourite areas, allowing us to work towards our 10,000 step count. I plan on revisiting the gardens in the coming weeks to bring you highlights of Australia’s biggest Christmas lights display but in the meantime enjoy this preview of the festivities at the Hunter Valley Gardens. 

Santa Dash in Summer

One of the most surreal things about Christmas in Australia is the fact that it is in summer. Coming from the Northern Hemisphere and specifically Scotland, it is difficult to feel festive when the temperature is soaring. That was until today when we took part in the Variety Santa Fun Run 2016 around Newcastle, NSW. Despite having lived just outside the city since August, we have not really had a chance to explore the CBD so this was a great opportunity to see the sights along the route having soaked up the festive atmosphere at the start line. As we waited for the race to begin, we were entertained by dance troupe Jingle Bellies before the Marching Koalas played some seasonal tunes to get us into the Christmas spirit.


When the starter pistol was fired, surrounded by around a thousand fellow Santas (and a couple of Santa pups), we made our way from the Honeysuckle Hotel on the harbourside to Nobby’s Head lighthouse on the coast before heading back to the start/finish line. The race took us along Merewether Wharf, a prime example of the regeneration Newcastle has seen in recent years. This area was originally the site of industrial cargo sheds and warehouses but is now home to hotels, restaurants and high-end apartment buildings.


We took our time so that we could enjoy the occasion while admiring Newcastle’s various attractions and numerous beaches. Nobby’s Beach, with the lighthouse serving as its backdrop, is particularly popular with the Novocastrians (people of Newcastle). Overlooking Nobby’s Beach from the hillside above is Fort Scratchley.  Built in 1882 to defend Newcastle from the threat of Russian attack, its guns were not actually fired until WW2 when Newcastle came under the bombardment of a Japanese submarine in 1942, the only occasion that Australian coastal artillery engaged an enemy during the war. 


Around 6km later, having paused en route for an ice cream pit stop, we crossed the finish line, hot and a little tired but pleased to have had the opportunity to explore Newcastle. I also managed to chalk up most of my 10,000 step target!


We really enjoyed the day especially as it was to support such a good cause. If you would like to find out more you can visit our fundraising website which highlights some of the great work that Variety does for children.

With the countdown now on for Christmas, in the coming weeks I will take you on a virtual tour of Australia’s biggest Christmas light display: the Christmas Spectacular at the Hunter Valley Gardens. It is unmissable if you are in the Hunter Region in the months of November to January.

Are you going to be taking part in a Santa Dash during the festive season? What are your plans to discover the world this Christmas? Leave a comment below to let me know.

This weekend’s step target: 20,000 steps. Actual total: 27,450. 

Where I live (or why 10,000 steps a day should be easy)

The foreshore path alongside Lake Macquarie is bustling as usual. No matter the time of day you will always find locals walking, running and cycling alongside the lake. Today is no exception with a large group of school kids cycling past the mother and baby group pushing their buggies. Lake Macquarie (or Awaba in the language of the Awabakal people) is the biggest permanent salt water lake in the Southern Hemisphere and yet it does not seem to attract many tourists. Not that the locals are complaining; more room for them!

We moved to the Lake Macquarie area in August 2016 after an amazing one month stay in a villa at the Crowne Plaza in the Hunter Valley. As beautiful as the Hunter Valley is, we are used to the convenience of living close to a big city having moved from the outskirts of Glasgow in Scotland. So after much research, we decided that Lake Macquarie would be perfect for us. It is just outside Newcastle, the second biggest city in NSW, is only 45 minutes from the vineyards of the Hunter Valley and takes less than two hours to reach the bright lights of Sydney.

One of the lake’s main attractions is the much loved lakeside path which stretches for 18km from Booragul to Belmont along its north shore. Not that we need to cover the full 18km for a good workout! In just 10,000 steps we have plenty of time to admire the view, spot the variety of exotic birdlife around the lake and people watch as fishermen, paddle-boarders and jet-skiers sail by. Walking from Warners Bay to the next suburb of Eleebana, we pass over the Red Bluff Pathway, a 380m long elevated boardwalk built above the water which affords the kids a great view of the fish below.

On reaching Eleebana, the Lions Park has a beautifully situated BBQ and picnic site where we (and the hungry pelicans) watch the boats bring their catch ashore.

If you are here on a Friday evening during summer, you will want to make your way back to Warners Bay to catch the free weekly Music in the Podium. That’s when Lake Mac really comes to life. Crowds descend on the foreshore with their picnic blankets and baskets to enjoy an al fresco dinner and listen to an eclectic range of bands at the podium. 

​​This week we are entertained by the Jumpin Jukebox Trio, with The Proclaimer’s 500 Miles being a particular favourite, while the kids play by the edge of the lake, before sitting back to enjoy the sunset.


Obviously in the Southern Hemisphere we are lucky that it is heading into summer and are able to get out and enjoy the weather but you might just be surprised at what is happening in your local area, especially with Christmas coming up. For example, what better way is there to take 10,000 steps than by dressing up as Santa and exploring a new city or rediscovering a familiar one with lots of fellow Santas???  We will be running in the Santa Fun Run around Newcastle on Sunday 27 November in aid of Variety Australia – the Children’s Charity. More on that in my next installment but you can read all about it on our fundraising page.

Leave me a comment below to let me know what you are doing at this time of year to get out and discover the world ten-thousand steps at a time.

Target – 10,000 steps. Actual total – 12,000 steps

santa-dash

 

Moving to Australia is an adventure, right?

“Moving to the other side of the world is such a brave thing to do. I couldn’t do it.”

I have heard these words, or similar, many times since I moved to Australia in July 2016. Words of admiration for this ‘bravery’. The idea that moving to another country is an adventure in and of itself. I have recently come to the realisation that this is not in fact true. Life only becomes an adventure when you get out there and discover the world. Otherwise, you are just living the same life that you had back home, with a different view from your living room window. I was doing the same things, just in a warmer climate.

I decided that I had been presented with an amazing opportunity and I should be taking advantage of all that it had to offer. I had to get out there. But where to start? Combined with this desire to discover my surroundings came an understanding that being fitter would help me achieve this goal. I had very little awareness of just how active (or inactive) I was until I got my Fitbit Alta.

fitbit

The sense of achievement you feel when the fitness device on your wrist announces that you have reached your 10,000 step target really shouldn’t be underestimated! Nor should the motivation to reach that target in as interesting a manner as possible. I want to see as much of this world as possible. Why not make it fun for myself and my family? And so the idea for my blog was born. To discover the Hunter Region and  NSW and Australia and the world in general 10,000 steps at a time! Keep checking back to hear about my travel and fitness goals. Your daily step target needn’t be boring. Why not discover the world 10,000  steps at a time?