Just when we thought our lives couldn't get more interesting and adventurous, along came 2018.
We began 2018 committed to selling the family home in Dural in the first half of the year, and moving to live somewhere in Sydney nearer to most of the family (with apologies to Oliver - moving to Brisbane wasn't an option!). We also decided that I would end my tenure in China around the middle of the year and re-locate to Sydney. I'm pleased to say that both objectives were achieved with relative ease.
Having sold the house in April for about what we hoped to get, we packed up and moved out in late June. I say "we packed up" but it was Frances who did all of the packing on her own - a truly Herculean effort. Shortly after that I finished my time with Caterpillar in Beijing, ending almost 15 years of working and living in China and Hong Kong since the end of 2000. We then headed to Itay to spend the European summer in Capestrano with family and friends.
We returned to Sydney from Italy in early September, bought ourselves a lovely new Mazda CX-5, and started searching for somewhere to live (to rent for the time being while we consider our options for buying back into the property market). Our initial focus was the inner west of Sydney around Abbotsford, but the pickings were slim for places that met our needs. We eventually settled on a lovely, near-new three bedroom apartment in Wentworth Point which is a relatively new suburb on the peninsula between Homebush Bay and the Parramatta River at the northern end of the Sydney Olympic Park precinct. Wentworth Point is on the western side of Homebush Bay, and is connected with Rhodes on the eastern side by a bridge for buses, pedestrians and bikes.
Our apartment is on the seventh floor with a large balcony that extends around two sides, and although much of the view is of surrounding high rise buildings, we do have a reasonable enough vista to ensure a pleasant outdoor recreation area. The interior is deceptively large and comfortably accommodates our furniture and bits and pieces (although our storage cage in the cark park area is full to the brim). It is a five minute walk to the Sydney Olympic Park ferry wharf, with a regular ferry service to the city (including a stop at Abbotsford near to the girl's apartment), and we are well served by government bus services as well as a free local area shuttle bus to nearby Rhodes station. We are surrounded by nature reserves and a vast array of walking and bike riding trails, not to mention the proximity to all the facilities within the Sydney Olympic Park. We've bought ourselves a bike each and we get out pedalling as often as possible. We're only 20 minutes drive from the girls in Abbotsford (or similar time by ferry) which is half the time it took us to drive there from Dural. We'll let everyone know our new address and contact details by email.
Shortly after we moved into the apartment we had a huge party to celebrate Emma's 30th birthday. Ironically, the venue by the water in Rhodes, directly opposite our new home in Wentworth Point. The birthday girl and her 70 or so guests of family members, friends and work colleagues enjoyed a fabulous evening celeberating the milestone. Everyone there has played a role in helping Emma become the amazing person she is. We are extremely proud of her and are grateful for the wonderful collection of family, friends and supporters Emma has in her life.
With retirement still a few years away, I've been lucky enough to maintain a professional connection with China to keep myself occupied, and to help fund our humble lifestyle. I've been hired by an old friend to work for his security consulting company doing China-related due diligence research and report writing for specific clients. The beauty of this arrangement is that I can do the work from home in Sydney or Italy or anywhere, as long as I have access to the internet.
2018 Travelogue (so far)
We kicked off the year with most of the family and a couple of friends getting together for a short camping trip at the Basin campground on the shores of the Pittwater on Sydney's northern beaches. It's a beautiful spot only accessible by ferry from Palm Beach (or a very long hike carrying all your kit from West Head). Highly recommended for Sydney folks who like camping but don't want to travel too far to enjoy the great outdoors.
Frances and I travelled to Mumbai in India, to participate in the Mumbai Marathon running festival along with 50,00 friendly Indians and foreign visitors. I ran the half-marathon with an Indian work colleague, and Frances did the fun-run/walk with his wife. After the running festival our friends showed us around Mumbai before we travelled to Aurangabad (for a work visit) and then to the resort city of Goa. It was just a short glimpse of a vast country with such a diverse and rich history and culture. We will return.
I travelled to Kobe in Japan for a four day gathering of the Caterpillar Asia security team, hosted by our regional boss. Each day's itinerary included professional dialogue in the morning followed by site-seeing and cultural visits in the afternoon and evening. A fascinating culture and a fabulous country to visit.
Frances travelled to the UK to see her mother, family and friends and then on to Italy. Meanwhile, I had a weekend in Melbourne attending a reunion at the Edithvale Aspendale Football Club catching up with old friends and former teammates, many of whom I hadn't seen in nearly 40 years.
With the clock ticking on my time in China, Frances and her good buddy, Catherine flew to Beijing from Sydney for a final week-long shopping and site-seeing visit. They also travelled to Xi'an to visit the famous Terracotta Warriors and to be treated to some local hospitality, culture and cuisine by our friend, Lan.
Late June to early September
Shortly after packing up the house in Dural, Frances was on a plane back to Italy. I returned to Beijing to tie up my loose ends there, and joined Frances in Capestrano a few weeks later. For the next month or so we hosted an array of visitors from near and far, including an old pal from Durham in the UK, a friend from Auckland, and a family of our good buddies from Papamoa (NZ), and a friend of Rhiannon's from Dubbo. Rhiannon and Emma and arrived in early August, followed a short while later by James and Monique. A highlight was celebrating the Italian Ferragosto festival together. We took our guests to all usual places such as the beach, Rocca Colascio, Campo Imperatore, Scanno and Santo Stefano and did fun things like canoeing on the Tirino River, hunting for bargains at the Sulmona market, cycling along country trails, visiting Roman ruins, swimming in a nearby lake (that we've only just discovered), relaxing by the pool, and of course eating and drinking lots of local food and wine. I even played some indoor cricket in our Cantina with my great young Kiwi mate (who I reckon will play for the Black Caps one day).
Rhiannon, James and Monique headed off to other parts of Europe, meeting up again in Copenhagen before travelling together to Iceland. Meanwhile, Emma stayed with us and continued to enjoy the Capestrano summer in the company of some her Elston relatives James, Debbie, Jamie and Becky, and Chris, Sarah and Lucy. Emma especially enjoyed a number of visits to a nearby eco-tourism farm owned and operated by an Irishman and his Dutch wife (with their four children under the age of 10).
As always, it was lovely to spend time with our established network of friends in Capestrano, and to make even more new friends along the way. We also had the privelege to spend time with our friends Fabio and Jessica and famiy at their little retreat in the mountains at Pagliare di Tione - and we were thrilled to become honorary members of their little socieity, Il Melo di Nonno Dario (The Society of Grandpa Dario's Apple Tree).
I returned to Sydney at the end of August while Frances took Emma to see the sights of Rome and to meet up with Rhiannon for their journey home. Frances arrived back in Sydney in early September and the rest, as they say, is history.
Shortly before we moved into our new digs, we travelled to Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast to attend the wedding of our friends, Phil and Lan. We knew Phil, and his late wife, Lynne from our time together in Guangzhou (and it was Lan who hosted Frances and Catherine on their visit to Xi'an earlier in the year). Also attending the wedding was another pair of great friends from Guangzhou (and since), Graham and MIng. It also gave us the opportunity see Oliver, and my nephew, Cameron and his lovely family, as well as spending some quality time with our dear friend Diana.
Watch this space......
So here we are again, with yet another lovely home to share with any of our family and friends who just happen to be in Sydney and need somewhere to stay. And don't forget to let us know if you're planning a trip to Europe and perhaps we can convince you to squeeze in a visit with us at our little casa in Capestrano.
Keep well, and much love from us xx
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