01 MAY 2019: “Have a nice vacation.” Everyone says it to you and to me too. I’ve learned to resist the temptation to explain how far from a vacation the trip really is. But, this time we were actually going on vacation.

We’re on our way home from Australia now and after 11 weeks, it was time. We stayed in eight different houses, apartments, and hotels along the way. I guess you could say we lived like locals.

For all but two and half weeks, we were in a little village on the south coast of NSW, where we’ve stayed a number of times in the past. We know where the kangaroos hang out - once right in our back yard. We know where the dolphins are likely to come in to feed. We know our favorite beaches and that low tide is the best time to walk on them. We know not to feed the parrots, because they will then gather in flocks of 50 and annoy the locals with their squawking, and we know the library bus came in every second week for half an hour.

Best of all we know many people, thanks to our daughter Jayne who has been holidaying there for many years. Some of them live there, others like Jayne come for holidays and weekends. They have always been wonderful to us.

We had no car for most of our stay, as Jayne was in Sydney working a fair bit of the time. No problem we ordered groceries on line, and Woolies as the Aussies call Woolworths, (a huge grocery chain), delivered groceries, wine, liquor, and beer the next day. I’ve always liked grocery shopping in the stores, so it was a bit of an adjustment, but once I got on to it, it was fine. I did miss reading the labels, Australia’s packaging is fun.

“Tasty cheese, or bitey cheese” sure says it all.

The delivery charges were more reasonable than putting gas in a car. They charge $7 to $9 for an 80 kilometre round trip. (AUS $1 is equal to about CAD .95¢)

Sydneysiders were astonished “You mean you’re staying here that long? What on earth do you do?” And that was the whole point, not much.

Air fares have come way, way down since we first started to go. This year I paid $1,249 return for each fare on United. Thirty years ago, I paid $2,800. Each. The trip was 22 hours in transit, with 2 hours in LAX on the way down, and 3 on the way back through SFO.

Our entire trip cost about $6,000 for 11 weeks. If you smoke, add $2,400.00 for a pack a day. That’s right, $32.00 for 25.

One of the tricks is to rent off season as you know and believe it or not February, March, and April are considered off season except for Easter week which is a school holiday. The ocean was warmer in April than in December, and January when everyone goes.

About six weeks into our stay, we were invited for an outing. A couple who we adore said “Would you like to spend the day with us, and have lunch? I have to drop in to a client meeting for an hour or so, but Sue will take you for a drive.”

This is polo country, in the highlands. The estates in the area were amazing. Joe pulled up to a huge building that looked very like a convention centre, which really didn’t suit well the English garden…. acres of English gardens. The charming new owner had just paid $7 million for the house and 60 acres, and according to the new owner, it needed a complete overhaul.

“It isn’t big enough, we need to add a second floor. Come on in and please make yourself at home.” I could have wandered around all day, but lunch beckoned. And what a lunch it was delicious. An Australian pie with a salad for $12.

Several of Jayne’s friends had us for dinner, and one Sunday evening there was a picnic on the beach, and the dolphins swam by, another night there was a big birthday party. Friends rented an Airbnb and came to see us and treated us to a great brunch.

We ran a doggy daycare for a favourite dog most days while her people went to the office. Mahony the Hungarian Viszla arrived with her three meals, treats, her bed, her towel, a couple of toys, and a homemade loaf of bread for us. Her people stayed for a glass of wine most nights when they picked her up. Bored? Not for a moment.

One afternoon as we were splashing back from the beach we heard. “GoTigercats!” It was a couple from Calgary, who we met while taking pictures of kangaroos. We had a chat and mentioned that we lived in Hamilton.

We rented four airbnb’s in Sydney in various neighbourhoods. That was great fun. They were all a good experience, clean with great beds and bedding. We enjoyed getting to know the various “hoods.” All of them were fine, but the warehouse rental in Newtown was just fabulous.

And yes, we did an International House sitter’s gig for four nights. We were butlers to Bonnie Girl, a retired greyhound. She required 30 minutes of exercise a week. She had the second bedroom with a queen-sized bed to snooze on, and a dog bed in every room. She was a delight to wait on and behaved exactly as her person said she would.

Weather? It’s Australia and it was lovely.

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Sam Ion

The expert on All Inclusives, Sam delivers up-to-date info on alternate Wednesdays in her column Not Just All Inclusives.

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