Tag Archives: apartment

St. Kilda Bound in Melbourne, Australia

Quick catch-up because we are about to have a wildly busy week. We are moving into a new apartment on Wednesday and the shippers are coming to deliver all of the household items that arrived via shipping container from Europe last week. Whew!

It took several weeks of looking for an appropriately-sized apartment to rent and we had one extra requirement that most people don’t have — we needed a lock-up garage to safely store all of Mark’s work tools. Let’s be truthful, that’s practically impossible to find in the extremely popular inner Melbourne area that we were looking in! But I was persistent and finally found not only a groovy apartment with polished hardwood floors and LOADS of closets in a 1950s era apartment, but it also had the wish-list garage AND it was on the top floor so there is NO noise from neighbours walking around overhead. Hooray!!!




Sunny bedroom

Sunny bedroom

Tiny 1950s kitchen with original cabinets!

Tiny 1950s kitchen with original cabinets!


The kitchen is going to need a LOT of refinement because it’s teeny-tiny and actually has all of the original 1950s upper and lower cabinets in place along with a grotty and very small refrigerator, but we’ll get there. Thank heavens we brought our brand new and energy efficient refrigerator with us from France. And we have the agent’s permission to make ‘refinements’ to the kitchen.

All in all, we’re just happy and grateful to have found 90% of what we were looking for — and we are in our first-choice neighbourhood with trams on our doorstep, good shopping nearby, the inner city is a mere 10 minutes by tram, and the beach is around the corner. Again — hooray!

More soon (I hope!).

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Perhaps France For Now?

There are days when we can barely believe that it has been 14 months since we left Australia to live and work in Europe on our ‘Grand Adventure’ that was meant to last for a mere 6 months. As I edit photos for my various stock agencies, it is a bit startling to comprehend that some of the images from England, Scotland, and the Netherlands are either a full year old or very nearly there.

Living out of a set of suitcases and snap-lid containers, packing and unpacking every few weeks — well, let’s just be truthful and say that it is getting more than a little tiresome on occasion. For several months now we have been acknowledging a growing sense of travel fatigue. And it never fails that when you need one particular item of clothing, it’s always right at the bottom (or even worse, in the middle!) of those two practically-body-bag sized suitcases that came with us from Oz.

We carry rather a lot of technical gear too — computers and multiple cameras, lenses, 3 back-up drives, a printer, and more — much more. So all of that needs to go into separate bags that go in and out of the van every time we arrive and depart. And did I mention the basic household items and cooking supplies?

Each time we leave, it takes us several hours on the day prior to departure to get organised and go through the checklist as we repack. Then on the day of departure it takes approximately 2 hours for the darling Mark to repack the van so that it all fits into the back like puzzle pieces. Guess what? We are both tired for an overlapping day each and every time we change locations!

Checklist and paperwork for getting a Carte du Sejour -- a French residency card

We just need to stop for awhile — and we are completely uncertain if this is the final stopping place (country-wise), but FOR NOW we’ve decided to give France a try. The photo above is my checklist from the Prefecture in St. Lo and my paperwork. I am getting my residency card for France — the Carte du Sejour. Mark doesn’t require any of this since he’s already an EU citizen by holding a British passport.

The plan (which, to be truthful, is always in flow!) is to wait here in Normandy for a few more weeks until the laminated card comes back from the government offices in St. Lo. When we went into the offices yesterday to inquire about the time, they told us that it would take at least another 15 days and I have to come pick it up in person since they won’t send it in the post. Today Mark is in Coutances getting his Auto-Entrepreneur paperwork done so he can work as a freelance artisan here in France.

Once we have all of the paperwork in hand, we’ll go down to the south of France for a much shorter time than originally planned, and then go on to Italy for awhile. And after that? It’s likely to be either a trip to the USA to visit family or, if our schedules don’t line up, looking for an apartment to rent here in France for at least 6 months and finding some renovating or building work for Mark. I really need to get stuck into the editing work for several uninterrupted months since there is that big a backlog!

The idea of completely unpacking and seeing ALL of our clothing for the first time in 6 months is rather thrilling, too!

Writing and editing in my pajamas

Now, while the house is quiet and Mark is out, I’m going see just how much I can get accomplished in the next few hours. Feet up, MacBook on my lap, good internet connection — life is good. But it will be even better once the key that opens the front door goes into our OWN little home — no matter how long we live there!


Oh my — not going quite a smoothly as expected. Mark has to show the registration office here in France some paperwork indicating that he had a business in Australia and that he was in business for himself for over 3 years. Well we certainly do have all of that paperwork, but it’s in a box in storage in Australia! Who in the world would think to travel overseas with your former business paperwork with you?

I’ll keep you posted as I try to determine how to get the Australian government paperwork that we need. Sheesh! Another time-wasting challenge that I really don’t need! There goes my productive work day. (sigh!)

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Living Like A Local at Coogee Beach in Sydney Australia

Intense glare, stunning heat, sunburnt bodies sprawled on every inch of sand, men in swimming trunks wearing Santa hats, and the unmistakable fragrance of coconut-scented suntan lotion — it all conspired to give me a serious flashback moment to childhood Christmas holidays spent on Florida beaches. But then the smell of beer and sizzling sausages combined with the overlapping Aussie or British or Irish or Scottish or German or French or whatever other accents and it jolted me back to the 21st century. I looked around and knew that I was in Australia for Christmas at the beach.

I didn’t try to take an expensive professional camera with me on Christmas Day because we would have gotten jostled in the thick crowds. The picture below was taken on Boxing Day — the very next day after Christmas — and the crowds were back to a manageable size. But this gives you a glimpse of this little piece of heaven.

Boxing Day at Coogee Beach in Sydney, Australia

Even the ‘Mums and Bubs Pool’ (aka Mothers and Babies Paddle Pool to you non-OZ folks) was thinned out compared to the previous day. But as you can see by the clock on the Surf Life Saving Club building, it was late in the day and rather a lot of people had already packed up and gone home.

Beachside Mums and Bubs Pool at Coogee Beach in Sydney Australia

We are currently enjoying our final week in Australia and the beachside Christmas which is quintessentially Aussie. We were able to have this final holiday in Australia because we were quite generously given the keys to a friend’s apartment which sits just up the hill from these scenes — a less than ten minute walk away. She lives in such an idyllic spot and we feel very blessed to be living in her gorgeous apartment while she is out of town.

Sometimes it’s the little things that allow you to relax into your holiday a bit more thoroughly — and having a full sized kitchen, a big deep bath tub, a spacious living room, and a view of a beautiful beachside neighbourhood has certainly contributed to our sense of well-being. I’m not a loving-the-sand kind of person but Mark certainly is. There are days when he goes down for a swim three times in one day. And watching the stress of our former lives just melt off of his face is quite joyous.

I do enjoy the beach scene as a spectator and observer. And as you can see, there is always something worth taking pictures of!

Gateway to the Baths — a natural pool set in the rocks.

Coogee Beach is around the bend from the well known surfing spot, Bondi Beach, but Coogee is definitely more laid back and family oriented.

Back down the hill from the apartment where we are “living like a local” is a very convenient street that contains well over a dozen cafes and restaurants along with pharmacies, gift shops, numerous banks, doctors and dentists, and a full-sized grocery store. Just like our previous stay in North Sydney, the proximity of all of these stores allowed us to shop for food and supplies every few days and cut our daily expense budget in half or less.

I’ll be sorry to see this end tomorrow, but we are off on an evening flight to Kuala Lumpur, a one day layover, and then it’s on to cold and wintery Amsterdam for a week before we travel to England. What a shock to the body that change of temperature is going to be!

We will be arriving in Amsterdam on the morning of New Year’s Eve. After a bit of sleep to recover from the jet lag, we will be ushering in a New Year AND a new life in the Northern hemisphere. And yes, we will be “living like a local” there, too.

Stay tuned for more travel adventures and a wrap-up of our temporary life in Sydney!

© Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
Please respect the copyright of all text and photos on this website.
All rights reserved.

Living Like A Local in North Sydney

Travel writers and savvy individuals have known for years that the best way to fully appreciate a place was to settle in for awhile. Instead of paying a ‘flying visit’ or staying in a hotel, more and more people now choose to live in a short-term apartment or house rental so that they can shop in the local stores, cook in their temporary kitchen, and get a feel for the neighbourhood in a way that they never would have if they had been cossetted behind the walls of a hotel with room service and daily housekeeping services.

When you remove the bag carrying, room cleaning, food cooking, concierge, and front desk services of a hotel, you will frequently discover that apartment or house rentals can save you a substantial amount of money over the cost of a very average hotel. And if you value your privacy the way we do or you enjoy the opportunity to sleep late occasionally, you’ll appreciate the fact that no one will knock on the door in the morning to ask if you want your room cleaned.

We had an extraordinary opportunity recently when, instead of renting them out, two dear friends lovingly offered their two apartments to us at no cost for our 16 day stay in Sydney. We had just sold our house in Australia and had a 16 day period to fill prior to flying on to Amsterdam at the end of December. We would be staying in Sydney during the weeks before and after Christmas and any available rental apartments would have already been scooped up. The offer of these two apartments was both a wonderful surprise and a huge blessing!

Sydney is a very accessible metropolis with a comprehensive train and bus system, City Rail and Sydney Buses, linking the various neighbourhoods. The Sydney CBD (Central Business District) is a short distance from the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, but we were headed for the opposite side of that same bridge and the neighbourhood of North Sydney which is served by two different train stops at Milson’s Point and the North Sydney station.

A ten minute walk from either of the railway stations took us to the apartment, but I hadn’t expected it to be eight stories up in the air with views over the rooftops in that incredibly hilly neighbourhood. If you click on the photo and then look about 3/4 of the way over on the right, you will see a flag flying. That is atop the Sydney Harbour Bridge and we had the most wonderful view of the pre-Christmas fireworks over the bridge by simply standing on the balcony.

View of North Sydney rooftops from 8th floor balcony

I have to admit, I certainly got more of a work-out than I had expected every time we went out to shop or sightsee and I was huffing and puffing quite dramatically on the first few days there! But we found everything that we needed within a fifteen to twenty-five minute walk and the variety of shops and restaurant choices made our stay in North Sydney quite enjoyable. And I began to get fitter in the process of taking those daily walks!

One afternoon whilst on a trip to the bank, our curiosity got the best of us and we followed a stream of people who were descending on an escalator that dropped down beneath the pavement that we had been walking on. It became obvious as soon as we reached the bottom that we had arrived in the middle of a mall.

Greenwood Plaza in North Sydney-full sized underground shopping centre

The initial narrow hallway led into a bright and open two-level full-sized mall that was operating beneath the office buildings, cafes, shops, and streets above. Greenwood Plaza was a pleasant surprise, especially when we found a rather nice organic butcher, a lovely fruit market around the corner from a full-sized grocery store, a health food shop, and dozens of other beautiful shops. This well-stocked shopping centre was the perfect discovery to help us stay on track with our budget travel and healthy lifestyle concept of cooking our meals from fresh ingredients.

Narrow lane in North Sydney

North Sydney was certainly a delightful place to “live like a local” for a week. Old stone cottages on narrow and hilly lanes co-exist with looming high-rise commercial buildings on busy hilly streets and then give way to glorious hilly parkland that sweeps down to the water’s edge beneath the bridge at the Sydney Harbour. You may have noted the “hilly” theme of North Sydney, but it is gloriously green and leafy and relatively quiet compared to many other parts of this hustle-bustle city.

North Sydney park at base of Harbour Bridge--taken by Mark Harmes

Unless indicated, all photography by Deborah Harmes.