Reflecting on 2011

_It’s hard to believe that we have been living in Sydney for a full calendar year.  The year flew by, but it’s because we were having so much fun.  Some of the highlights from the year…

The year of travel

Hong Kong – It was a whirlwind of a trip and the weather wasn’t ideal, but it only took a long weekend to learn that HK is a very cool city.  When people say “shopping is a sport” there, they’re not kidding.  Endless shopping and when compared to Australian prices, shopping at great value.  Memorable food moments—a great dinner at Japanese restaurant Zuma (although, a small lapse in $ conversion led to a mistake purchase of two $25 glasses of champagne #fail) and a formal Chinese dinner at the worldclass Peninsula Hotel where we were served Peking duck with white gloves.

Jervis Bay – Again, weather wasn’t great, but we had so much fun with our then-new friends Ryan, Lindsay, Gustavo, and Giselle (unfortunately, each couple have since moved and we miss them).  Bocce ball, charades, and our first live kangaroo spotting.

Blue Mountains – Yes, the re-occuring theme in 2011 was the shit weather—and Blue Mountains was the worst.  After ponying up a little extra for a room with a view, we rocked up to the Mountain Heritage hotel in white-out fog.  But that didn’t stop us from checking off a combined three hats at two beautiful restaurants.

Hawkesbury River – We have learned that the way to travel Sydney’s regional destinations is to rent a house with friends.  It’s much better value.  For Sara’s birthday, we rented a 6-bedroom mansion with a stunning view, 9-foot pool table, swimming pool, and hot tub.  Between snooker, dice, and poker, several hundred dollars changed hands in gambling.

Hunter Valley – “The Hunter” is one of our favourite destinations in Australia.  There are few better places to spend a sunny afternoon than on the hill top at Bistro Molines.  We’ll be planning another weekend getaway to take advantage of our Pepper Tree membership in their private club room.

Melbourne – With Anton, Emma, Persia, and Deus just an hour plane-ride away, we visited Melbourne on several occasions.  Melbourne is a great city with fun shopping, dining, and a great sports culture.  Deus’ first birthday was a highlight for sure.  That baby probably had the nicest birthday of anyone I know in 2011.

Port Douglas – We waited all year for this trip and it did not disappoint.  Our resort, Thala Beach, was situated on a private beach the twice the length of Bondi w/ very clean and roomy bungalows.  Highlights included scuba diving and snorkeling, boozy coconuts, and our introduction to Chateaubriand.

Fiji – This surprise birthday trip was a quick one (most people we met were there for two+ weeks), but memorable.  Fijians are a lovely bunch, and our resort was on a beautiful, quiet island.  Highlights include swimming in a massive cave, world class snorkeling just 10 metres off the shore of our resort (arguably better than the Great Barrier Reef), and of course the sea plane commute to get to and from the island.

Thailand / Bali – This vacation (which we planned and paid for months earlier) capped off a bit of a travel spree at the end of the year.  The locations were picturesque, but what made this trip truly great was seeing family and friends who we had not seen in year (or more).

The year of the foodie

It was the year of the foodie.  Our bar budget was greatly reduced, but what we saved from drinking we made up for with eating.  Sydney food scene is exploding and it seems like we tried every restaurant in Surry Hills, and then some.

We also started cooking quite a bit.  Since we’re no longer physically able to go out two nights in a row any more, a night at home in the kitchen (or on the BBQ) is actually a good way to spend time.

The year of the career change

Each of us made pretty significant moves out of the ever arduous advertising industry this year.  Esther has been working at Google for the better part the year.  McKay will be working at Salesforce.com in 2012.

The year of new friends

Although it seems like just yesterday we moved into this apartment, it seems like forever ago that we were entertaining each other weekend after weekend.  We’re so thankful to have a great group of friends who always keep us on our toes.

The year of the second bedroom

Thank you so much to Grace (sister), Peter (dad), Gordo, Anissa, Christine, Emma, Casey, and Ryan (post-thanksgiving dinner “nap”) for making good use of our second bedroom.  We hope more people take advantage of Hotel Assaad-Brown in 2012.

Thank you to everyone who has spent time skyping and hanging out with us in 2011 and made it one of the best years of our lives.  And for those who we don’t get to talk to often, we miss you and stalk your lives on Facebook.