December Update: Hanging up our backpacks

December Update: Hanging up our backpacks

In December we finally reached the end of the first leg of our travels, and arrived in Christchurch (on New Zealand’s South Island) where we plan to live for the next year or two.  It’s been a long old journey to get here — longer than we planned in both time and distance.  So all in all we were ready to hang up our backpacks for a bit.

Except that we had a family Christmas to be at, 1400 km away.

More on that below… for the moment suffice to say we’re back in Christchurch now, we’ve got nothing more ambitious than a weekend trip planned, and frankly that feels wonderful.  I’ve been enjoying going to the swimming pool regularly, eating lots of home cooked food, volunteering at a community garden, catching some live music, hanging out with friends.  Re-iniviting a modicum of routine into my life.

I’d become so sick of being one dimensional: travelling, talking about travel, writing about travel, reading about travel.  It’s a joy for me to be adding other things back into the mix.

But already, after a few weeks of staying still, I’m feeling enthusiasm building for travel again. This makes me marvel even more at how low my travel motivation had got.  Which was you know, really, really low.  Put it this way, at one point in November I started crying because I had to check out of a hostel before I’d had time for a shower. I may also have cried at having no milk to put in my tea.

Reaching breaking point with travel is not something I expected to happen to me…

Continue reading at our new home…

Hutong clans: exploring backstreet Beijing

Hutong clans: exploring backstreet Beijing

We’ve just finished our breakfast.

We’re sitting greasy fingered and sated, on low red plastic stools crammed into the corner of a tiny back alley shop. Dim light shrinks the room further, not reaching the edges, and the walls are busy with Chinese characters. Layered thick with decades of posters and signs. Everybody else in the room is Chinese, and they’re all looking at us expectantly, faces alight with bemused mirth.

As is common for us in China, we have no idea what we’ve just eaten. There were pancakes involved, and vegetables of some sort. Possibly other things. But it was delicious, and we smile at the room. Everybody beams back, and they all have a good old laugh. I’m sure they’re laughing with us, not at us. Possibly.

This is backstreet Beijing, and two foreigners eating pancakes are the funniest thing that’s happened all week. The camera phones come out. Everybody has to see this.

China is not for the camera shy

Five minutes later we’re leaving, with a bag of mystery pancakes to go, and contracted pupils from the repeated camera flashes. And we’re still grinning — all this mirth is infectious.

Being constantly photographed in China is something that I was at first bewildered by, quickly found endearing, and then slowly but insistently began to find irritating.

Really it’s all of those things: odd, charming, annoying.

That breakfast time I was firmly charmed by it, but by the afternoon cracks had appeared. Literally and metaphorically. But it would be hours until that happened. In the meantime, bellies full, we were off to delve deeper into Beijing’s hutongs.

Continue reading at our new home…

Collisions in Melbourne: Art that stuck in my head

Collisions in Melbourne: Art that stuck in my head

Happy 2017 guys! I’m going to start off the year with a short tale of a piece of art I saw last year.  One that’s stuck with me, lodged in my mind.

It contained what to me is a rare combination of qualities: an invitation to empathetic connection that struck very deep, and a joyful visual beauty. The kind of beauty that makes your heart feel lighter in your chest.

This piece of art crops up in my mind sometimes still, a small thing sending big ripples though my thoughts. And one that holds extra wonder because I came across it unexpectedly.

So I’m sharing this now, while you might have the chance to see it too!

Continue reading at our new home…

November Update: a new home!

November Update: a new home!

So, it’s been a while. A few reasons for this, but the most exciting one is, drumroll please…

Salt With Your Coffee has a new home! You can now find us at!

As with any new home, the decor isn’t quite how I want it yet, and I haven’t quite figured out where everything lives. But the main thing is there’s plenty of room, and plenty of flexibility to make the changes I’ve got planned over time. I hope you don’t mind sitting on boxes at the house warming party. I’m attempting to hold myself to the mantra that done is better than perfect.

Before I get on to what else we’ve been up to recently, a tiny bit of admin on following the blog now it’s been rehoused.

  1. If you follow the blog by email you should have got an email telling you about this post.  If that didn’t happen we’d be very grateful if you could let us know!
  2. If you follow using Facebook then nothing’s changed, you’ll still be able to see new posts on our page.
  3. If you follow with your WordPress account then you’ll still see new posts in your reader, but if you want to get email notifications then you’ll need to sign up for emails manually on the new site.  Sorry about that!

Phew! Moving on…

It’s been a busy few weeks for us. Lots of changes. Really the biggest one is arriving in a country where we plan to stay for a while: New Zealand. I’m not sure how long that ‘while’ will be, but let’s just say that I’ve bought myself a coffee mug and a swimming pool membership, and I’m getting a library card.

Continue Reading… at our new home.

The Maosoleum: paying Mao a visit in Beijing

The Maosoleum: paying Mao a visit in Beijing

Want to see a waxy faced dead communist?  This is your place.

We had to check out Mao after visiting Lenin in Moscow, and it was a markedly different experience.  While the Lenin mausoleum is fairly small and understated, and most of the visitors when we were there were tourists, Mao’s final resting place is a Big Deal.

Lenin’s mausoleum: kinda small.

Actually, Mao is the only embalmed and displayed Asian leader not to have been preserved by the Russians. Fun fact.

We arrived bright and early at Tiananmen square, and after passing through three separate body scanner and pat down security checks, we were finally allowed to join the queue for the mausoleum.

I’m amazed we didn’t need our passports.

They’re big on security in China. You need to have yourself and your luggage scanned every time you enter a train or metro station. So it’s like going through airport security every time you want to hop on the tube. We quickly learnt not to bring a bag. Continue reading “The Maosoleum: paying Mao a visit in Beijing”

Margaret River Roadtrip: wine, wildflowers and woodsmoke (also beer)

Margaret River Roadtrip: wine, wildflowers and woodsmoke (also beer)

A few weeks back we took a road trip around the Margaret River wine region in Western Australia.  AKA glutton’s paradise.  Seriously.

If your idea of fun is bouncing from winery to brewery to cheesery, by way of beautiful beaches, cute lighthouses, and pretty forests packed with wildflowers and wildlife, this is your place.

It’s definitely our place.

If you’re wondering what happened to China (industrial waste, mostly) I thought I’d spare you an unending torrent of China posts by going off the chronological rails a little.  I haven’t given up on China, but I’ll be punctuating tales from the world’s loudest nation with some other bits and pieces.

We had such a brilliant time stuffing our faces and soaking up nature in Margaret River, so sharing this trip seemed perfect for the first China palate cleanser.  Enjoy!

Day 1 — A crafty vineyard and beer by the bay

Our first stop on the glutton’s trail was Vineyard 28, just off the Forrest Highway, about half way between Mandurah and Bunbury.  We were drawn in by the promise of quilts (I’m into quilting), but really we were there to taste some wine.  Which scared the pants off me. Continue reading “Margaret River Roadtrip: wine, wildflowers and woodsmoke (also beer)”

October Update: On the road again

October Update: On the road again

Big news this month is that we spent almost half of it in one place, for the first time since April!  We’ve been doing a lot of hanging out with family and general normal stuff, as well as a few short trips and days out.

Slowing down and spending an extended period of time in one place has been great (mental wobbling aside), and it’s made me really think about how we want to travel as we continue on this trip.  I got the idea of deliberately spending a month in each place from a fellow blogger, and right now that sounds very appealing — digging a bit deeper into places, as well as retaining some aspects of routine, and avoiding burnout.

Something to think about anyway.

But couple of days ago we sorted out our next step in our travels, so it’s on the road again today!  More on this below. Continue reading “October Update: On the road again”