A Nice Break

A change is as good as a holiday, but a change and a holiday is a whole new me. Let’s talk about this in two parts:

Bali

Nathan came with me to Bali for a long weekend (and is an absolute hero for doing so – his work schedule was hectic but he still carved out some time for us). It was so… needed. After all the everything of this year, it was our first time to actually just enjoy each other’s company. Nathan used some points to get us a little chalet at our resort away from the hustle and bustle of the main area, and it was blissful.

And we’ve had many conversations about whether we need a twelve foot bed in our house and a pool in our backyard (answer is yes, duh).

After Nathan had to go home, I went to Ubud to stay in my favourite little bed and breakfast style hotel. The plan was that I would just write and write and write – this didn’t happen to the extent that I hoped for. First reason was that fluctuating power in Ubud meant that my laptop electrocuted me while charging, twice. Second reason – the medication I’m (still) on for trigeminal neuralgia has had two nefarious effects. It has given me a rash all over my body that has been driving me mad. The second part is that the medication is well known for turning people into bumbling zombies. We’re talking major cognitive deficits. I have struggled with things like paying for my prescriptions with a credit card or ordering from a menu, so as you can imagine, writing has been an insurmountable task*. So I didn’t get much done. But reading has been fine, swimming for about 4 hours a day (I have a tan!) and eating – I found a warung near my hotel that made the most amazing tuna curry (I know – tuna in curry? I was shocked too, but it’s really good) that was so delicious that I went back for it three times.

Here’s a story though: one night, I went out for dinner and made my first fatal mistake – I ordered beef carpaccio. In low season, in a regional area. It came out from the kitchen and I could immediately smell it. Like a toilet. I froze up, knowing that I was the only person in the restaurant, they would see if I flung it into the bushes, and I would die of shame to send something back or refuse to eat it. So I ate it. Tasted like a toilet too (I imagine). I struggled on through, diplomatically eating about two thirds of the plate before fussing with the remaining slices to make them look smaller and hiding them underneath some rocket. It was so bad, and yes, I paid for it later. Only for about thirty six hours, but still – I am so ridiculous that I will risk getting typhoid or whatever rather than hurt a stranger’s feelings.

Aside from that, my trip was calm, peaceful and uneventful. I skipped a lot of things that I usually do – no massages, no classes, no sightseeing, not a lot of shopping. Just a lot of restorative time by myself to recover from the year that was.

Home

When I got home, Dad had put in a mammoth effort and put a shower in our bathroom for us, after nine months of having to go to Mum’s every day. It took him three weekends, but I can’t even describe how much this has changed my life. Yes, seriously. The day after I got home, I just woke up, had a shower in my own house at my leisure, put on clean clothes, and it was such a revelation. There is so much self-esteem and positivity in being able to do these small rituals of self-care.

Conclusion

Both of these things together have signaled such a fresh start for me, it’s unbelievable. I came home full of hope and optimism, like I’d shrugged it all off and the year’s worth of bad things was all behind me. It was such a relief, and now I finally feel like I can get on with things. Aside from the novel, I have a bunch of upcoming projects and instead of approaching them with dread, I’m so excited. Instead of feeling tired before we’ve even begun, I can’t wait for what the future holds.

* This is slowly getting better. I am weaning off the medication because the flare seems to be over, so we’ll see how this goes. It’s really hard to be a writer who isn’t writing, and it’s especially hard when everybody is crowing about their NaNoWriMo triumphs and you are averaging 300 words a day. But it’s coming back. Maybe January will be my novel writing month.

I Write This From the Pool

Seriously.

I’m in Bali. Nathan was here for the first weekend, now I’m on my own. I’ll write more when I get home, but it’s all about sleeping*, eating**, swimming***, writing**** and reading***** right now.

* Luxuriously for as long as I want.

** Lobster rolls and dragonfruit and mahi curry.

*** Every single day, sometimes twice (part mermaid, after all).

**** Trying, mostly.

***** Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain and Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman at the moment.

Whirlwind Sydney Weekend

It’s no secret that I’ve had a rough year. I was meant to have a manuscript written by now, but that didn’t happen. We were meant to have a solution on the shower situation, but it still hasn’t happened (at least it’s a lot closer now). I’m still having issues with my leg, I’m still trying to get even just to the level of health and fitness that I was at pre-leg calamity, and a bunch of other hard things have happened as well. So it was so nice to get away for the weekend for the RWA annual conference in Sydney.

I stayed at the ultra-plush Sofitel Wentworth, and was thrilled that there was a little book in my room with photos of when Charles and Diana stayed there (it was the last place that they publicly danced as a couple), the Queen went to a gala in the very ballroom I was in, Andrew and Fergie were there too, plus Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, and a whole bunch more. I loved all the chandeliers and beautiful flowers, and it’s gorgeous when hotels have grand pianos being played in the lobby. And it was beyond brilliant to finally have a long, luxurious bath in a marble bathroom (while eating chocolates, of course).

The conference was good – numbers were down, so it wasn’t quite as hectic as Adelaide was. I met some people and learned A LOT. I didn’t pitch this year, but I did completely embarrass myself by sitting next to a legendary writer who has sold millions of copies of her work and has won so many awards, and I asked her if it was her first conference and what genre she published in. She was gracious, but I was mortified to see her on stage two seconds later and I realized who she was. Luckily this seems to be a regular thing – one of the panelists recounted when she met a lovely woman in a conference buffet line and asked her whether she was published yet, and it turned out to be Nora Roberts.

The whole thing was pretty exhausting though. I’m looking forward to next year – it’ll be in Melbourne, which automatically makes things much cheaper, plus the theme is extremely conducive to me potentially wearing a mermaid tail to the cocktail party – may have to bring Nathan along to push me in a wheelchair, we’ll see!

Some photos:

 

A tiara for the cocktail party

On Monday, I had a little bit of time to kill before my flight home, so I wandered around Circular Quay. Sydney is not my favourite city by a long shot, but it’s kind of magical around the harbour. I went to an oyster bar right on the water with a view of the bridge, and sat in the sun for a long, grazing lunch. The water below was clear turquoise and teeming with little puffs of jellyfishes. I ate three different types of oysters and some delicious crab on toast (sounds really boring, let me elaborate: king crab with aioli, capers, pickled fennel and lemon on toasted ciabatta – fixed it, sounds loads fancier than ‘crab on toast’). Also try angasi oysters if you see them on a menu – they are a native mud oyster that I’d never tried before, and they were so good.

I had previously asked Nathan if he’d come up for the weekend with me (he didn’t want to because he likes Sydney even less), but that was the moment that I wished so much I could have shared with him. But there will be other times, I’m sure. And I think he secretly enjoyed having some time at home by himself to indulge in his secret bachelor behaviour (he did NOT buy a bucket of frozen pre-fried chicken from the supermarket this time, thank god).

Statues and Stories

I’ve hinted more than a few times, but I guess it’s time to let the (still hypothetical) cat out of the bag – we’re planning a big honeymoon adventure. For a few reasons:

  1. I’ve never been to Europe, and Nathan hasn’t been (except to the UK) in a very long time.
  2. You only get one honeymoon, if all goes to plan.
  3. So far we’ve only traveled to Japan, Bali, Hobart and Sydney together – we need to branch out.
  4. We have some other post-wedding plans that will change life as we know it forever, and big trips like this will suddenly get a lot harder, a lot more expensive and a lot less romantic.
  5. The more I travel, the more I feel like I have stepped into so many different lives, and the more I have to write about.
  6. It will be so much fun!

Our vague plan at this stage is completely subject to change, but involves France, Italy and the UK. We’re still not sure how many weeks away from work is feasible for both of us, or what the best itinerary is. But we would love to see Paris, Normandy, Versailles and Alsace, then do a road trip south through various cities and villages, ending up somewhere like Nice. We will probably catch trains a lot in Italy; we want to see Rome, Positano, Pompeii, Pisa, Napoli, Capri, Sorrento and of course Florence. In the UK we have a few people to visit, but I basically have the world’s longest list of literary landmarks and locations to see – gonna get my Jane Austen on, for sure.

And I will listen to The Light in the Piazza the whole time and wear 1950s skirts, a straw hat and little gloves.

Japan with Nathan, Part Six: DisneySea

Last Japan post (finally), I promise! But this is the big one. Doing the whole Disney thing was another thing that I had put off both other times, because I wanted to do it with Nathan. He admitted that he was a bit half-hearted about the whole thing in the lead up, but we were both utterly blown away. It was the most wonderful day ever and I just wish we could have spent more time there. There’s no point in me going too far into the nitty gritty details, because there are blogs all over the internet by hardcore Disney fans who have been to all the parks in the world and have literal strategy guides and multi-day itineraries mapped out, so I’ll leave that stuff to the experts.

Anyway, a few recollections and a million photos: I was amazed at the level of detail. The monorail to get from the train station to the park had little Mickey shaped windows. The Christmas decorations everywhere were all gorgeous, and all the gift shops in different zones were all themed or had specific special items that weren’t available anywhere else in the park. We didn’t see a single piece of litter, and when somebody dropped their popcorn, previously unseen staff members (sorry, “Cast Members”) zoomed seemingly out of nowhere and had it all cleaned up in less than ten seconds. There were surprisingly few children there (maybe 20% or less of the total crowd) and they seemed generally well behaved. And after going to a Disney park in Japan, I’m so glad we didn’t go to the original American one first – everybody was so polite at this one, you didn’t feel like you had to watch your bag at every moment, people waited in orderly lines with no pushing or complaining, everything was just efficient and punctual and pleasant. Somehow, I don’t think that would have been the atmosphere anywhere else in the world.

Anyway, photos!

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^^ We got a few nice photos together, a few by ourselves.

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^^ Nathan loved the Arabian area. Even the food court seemed like a place where Aladdin was going to jump out a window at any moment. This photo of him on the carousel is one of my all time favourites; he is so excited, he looks like a kid who won a prize and just met their hero and got a puppy on their birthday which is also Christmas.

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^^I was winning all the style awards with my fabulous sartorial decisions, as usual. Nathan said I looked like a kid who’d dressed themselves for a school field trip and was sure they had covered all the important bases – “Disney hoodie, check. Miss Bunny hat, check. Socks and ballet flats, check. Emergency popcorn supply, check.”

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^^I loved the fact that the centerpiece of DisneySea is Ariel’s castle. She normally gets overlooked for Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, and as a part-mermaid, how could this not be my favourite? Plus, Thumper really enjoyed his scallop croquette sandwich served in a clamshell bun.

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^^ I was so tired by the end of it all, like falling asleep on my feet. It’s a long day, there’s a heap of walking and waiting in lines, and so much to take in.

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^^ Nathan was pretty tired too.

But it was so wonderful.

My biggest tips for anybody who is thinking of going:

  • Wear trainers. Not even cute sneakers, wear proper sports shoes with cushioning and support and everything. Do not attempt to look stylish or sexy because you will be on your feet non-stop for over 12 hours, and you will be kicking yourself if half of that time is spent either limping around the park or having to sit around on park benches because your feet are so sore.
  • Take a small backpack – if you buy stuff during the day, there are plenty of coin lockers around to store it all in. All the rides have a little pocket on the back of the seat for you to put a small bag in.
  • Get there early and head straight for one of the big rides to get a FastPass straight away. There is a time limit on when you can apply for your next FastPass (like, say, in two hours time), so you want to start early. Some of the rides had queue times of 90+ minutes, so you will definitely want to take advantage of the FastPass system for the bigger rides.
  • There is an app called TDR Wait Time Check that gives estimates on wait times, which helps you decide which rides to head to next. It also gives you information about whether any rides are closed, if certain parades or shows get cancelled, etc. Not always 100% accurate, but it helped.
  • Wear layers.
  • Buy one of the popcorn buckets (they are pricey, but cute!) and get cheap refills all over the park. There are different flavours in different ‘lands’ – my favourite was black pepper, but there was also salted, caramel, chocolate and cappuccino that we saw. It’s also handy having popcorn in a bucket because then you have a snack if you have to wait in line.
  • And of course, you and your sweetheart/mum/BFF/whoever must wear matching hats. It’s practically compulsory.

But overall, it was completely magical and I can’t wait to go back.

I’m not sure what the highlight of this trip was for me, but Disney was up there. I think Nathan loved the trains and the deer the most. But every moment of it was just so much fun, it really was an adventure. And it was so good to experience it all together. We will be back – Nathan’s already planning to go back after 2020, because apparently a Nintendo-themed land is opening at Universal Studios. And I never did manage to get my Harry Potter wand. There were so many other things that we planned but ended up running out of time, but I suppose that’s to be expected when you are only in a country for less than two weeks.

Next time! Because there will definitely be a next time!

Read my other posts about Japan here:
Part One – Getting There
Part Two – Fushimi Inari Shrine
Part Three – Hiroshima
Part Four – Nara
Part Five – A Bunch of Things