Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Alice Springs

We had such a great time with Laurel's family over Christmas, it was bittersweet when they left. Bitter because they were leaving. Sweet because it meant that we were flying off with Olivia to the Outback! Olivia never got the chance to visit Ayer's Rock when she studied abroad in Queensland, and we hadn't been yet, so this was a perfect opportunity to go. We, of course, forgot to carry our camera in our carry-on bag, so we weren't able to take a picture out the airplane window, but below is why they call it the Red Centre. We grabbed this picture off Google images which in turn had it from some Thai webpage. At least I think it was Thai.

Alice Springs! We were pretty stoked to be there, and really weren't sure what to expect. We knew it was going to be hot, the weather forecast was saying consecutive days above 40 degrees Celsius, but past, that no clue. We did feel very welcomed, and the more Aboriginal Australian feel to the place was apparent as soon as we got off the plane.

Man, look how happy we are. You can't even tell from that picture that it felt like we were standing in an oven.

Alice Springs is the biggest city in Central Australia, which means that it's the only city in Central Australia. It's the second biggest city in the Northern Territories (after Darwin) with about 30,000 people. It's two and a half times the size of Texas, and almost all that land is desert. To give you an idea of how depopulated it is, Canberra has a bigger population than the entire Northern Territory. I guess the amazing thing, considering how barren it is, is that anyone lives here at all. 

Alice Springs- not close to anything.

Upon arrival, the first order of business, as always, was food. Since Olivia is gluten free, we were a little concerned that this might be something of a challenge. Fortunately, we found Racer's. A sports bar crossed with Applebee's, it had a menu so broad it could make The Cheesecake Factory jealous. Unlike The Factory though, it seemed to make everything well. And with surprisingly contrasting styles. Here is Laurel's burrito, smothered in gloriously gooey cheese.

And here is Olivia's chicken salad. She made sure to keep her pinky pointed out at all times while eating. Greg had Vietnamese spring rolls (not pictured but surprisingly good). Good job Racer's.

After lunch, we went over to the Reptile House, which billed itself as "the largest reptile house in Central Australia." Again, this does not mean much. It's also the only one. It wasn't too much to write home about, but there was a gooana named Frank just wandering around the place, which was a little surprising at first.

We like Frank.

This is some other crazy lizard. Also, check out how red that ground is!

Outside the bar where we had dinner was this kitty enjoying the warm concrete in the cool night air. He was adorable, and we love kitties.

No one just goes to Alice Springs. In the space of half a day we had already exhausted most of the things to do there that don't involve taking a four wheeler into the desert. There's just not that much to do there. Whatever there was originally, was burned to a crisp along time ago. Alice's main claim to fame is the jumping off point to all of the natural wonders of the Outback. Olivia found a tour company that offered 3 day, 2 night camping trips out of Alice that took us to Ayer's Rock, the Olga's, and King's Canyon, the biggest tour attractions in the area. Spoiler Alert: It was the greatest camping trip ever. Come back over the next few days for some amazing pictures.

Monday, February 6, 2012


Finally, after all the waiting, Christmas was upon us. The leading indicator was the house down the street.

Moonbug playing with her presents. Simon loves his toys too but was much less cooperative in allowing photographic evidence.  Thanks Elena and Steve!

The sisters and Simon.

Now anyone who knows the Jacksons, knows they go all out on Christmas. Tons of presents, tons of wrapping paper, it's barely controlled chaos. On Christmas Eve the most important tradition is The Sorting of the Presents. All the presents are taken out from under the tree and seperated into piles based on who they are for. We have been told that when we are not there, this takes about three times as long. This is for two reasons- the first is so they can be put back under the tree in an order that allows for a more even dispersion of present on Christmas morning. The second, and far more importantly, is to determine who wins for most presents and biggest presents. This year, Greg was the winner for most presents, and it was determined that everyone won biggest present for "Trip to Australia."

Christmas morning! Oh boy! Santa came!

Simon, of course, presumes that all presents with ribbons on them are for him.

We incorporated the Australian/British tradition of Christmas poppers into our holiday this year. They are paper tubes that make a loud pop when you pull them apart and generally have a small toy, joke, and paper hat inside. We were good Australians and wore the hats. Bob is seen here styling his pretty pink one while he inspects his new Camelbak backpack.

It's a Christmas of backpacks! Laurel and Greg got backpacks from Olivia for our upcoming camping trip to Uluru. Very exciting!

Phew! All that present opening makes you hungry. Time for the feasting! Take a look at Laurel's awesome new apron.

The feast! We kind of went all out this year trying to make a more Australian holiday dinner. After an appetizer of oysters on the half-shell, we feasted on grilled leg of lamb, potatos, tomatos, and onions on the grill, sauteed grean beans, and to really make it Aussie, plenty of cold salads. We had three- a mango and blueberry fruit salad, a grilled pumpkin and pine-nut salad, and a prawn and avocado salad. Delicious!

Oh my god, it was so amazing. Look at all those happy faces!

On Boxing Day we drove down to Pebbly Beach. We found a giant goanna just lounging in the sand. He looked like he was recovering from a big meal, too.

We have a new favorite tradition. Picnic lunch on Boxing Day eating all the leftovers from Christmas. Sadly, we don't think this tradition will be very successful in the Northern Hemisphere.

After the beach (the water was way too freezing to actually swim), we drove down to Bateman's Bay for a little shopping and to take a walk by the water. Very pretty.

What a great way to spend Christmas. We had so much fun with the family, it was a wonderful holiday.