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Monday, 22 August 2011

Getting away

Arran, Aiden and I have been away for an extended long weekend. It came about when an "ultra endurance point-to-point" mountain bike race in South Australia, called the Mawson Marathon, got cancelled about 3 weeks out. Arran did the race last year and thought it was good enough to do again. Last year, Aiden and I flew to Adelaide to meet him at the end and we stayed a week in the Barossa (part of our plan to visit and sample all the wine regions in Australia). 
 Aiden and I in the main street of Angaston, SA

This year Arran thought we do a similar trip but stay in McLaren Vale. This didn’t really “tickle my fancy” and all, being 30 weeks pregnant and not being able to enjoy the ‘fruits’ of the area. Plus the thought of dragging a 2 year old around cellar doors…well enough said.

Arran, not wanting to waste the opportunity to escape on his bike decided to do a self reliant 3 day trip starting in the Blue Mountains and ending up in the Southern Highlands, where I could pick him up.  He sold the idea to me by offering to have a little break at “The Beach Bach”, Culburra Beach. We stayed at this great little holiday house last year after Christmas. I found it on Stayz last year during winter when fed up with the cold weather and with no holiday to look forward to I decided to book somewhere to stay after Christmas. It was expensive but I paid for it out of my tax return and then didn’t worry about it.

It was better than it looked online and across the road from the beach. Once we arrived there we invited a couple of friends, Simon and Julie and their son Henry (who is basically the same age as Aiden) to spend New Year’s Eve with us. It seemed a bit sad to spend NYE alone, stuck in a house while Aiden slept. Simon and Julie were in the same boat with a small child. Simon and Julie accepted immediately and said they would bring food for dinner. Happy days. Simon and Julie are outstanding cooks. We rave about them to other friends. We love going to their house for dinner. They cook "hatted" restaurant quality food and Julie has a real passion and talent for cakes. Special cakes. Cakes made to look like other things. Simon and Julie arrived with French champagne and lobster for NYE dinner. Happy, happy days.  They came for 2 days and we had a nice beach holiday together.

As such, I was really looking forward to visiting Culburra Beach and “The Beach Bach” again. Culburra beach is not the prettiest of places. It has a combination of fairly ordinary fibro and brick houses and a collection of million dollar new builds to take advantage of a great holiday spot overlooking a pristine beach only a couple of hours drive from Sydney. It has very few facilities and shops and I suspect most residents until recently when Woolworths opened, would make the drive to Nowra for supplies. I guess this is part of the appeal.

I was to set out from Sydney around 11.30 am to arrive at Culburra Beach mid afternoon. I had hoped to settle in and get dinner cooked while waiting the arrival of a shabby looking, bike-worn Arran. Not to be. Got a call from Arran around 9am asking pitifully if I could pick him up from Mittagong, where he had arrived very cold and worn out. He was worried he was suffering from hypothermia, from a combination of riding in the wind and the cold and the rain for the last 2 days, and not being able to get warm at any point.  Between tending to a small boy, completing an exit interview with an employee finishing with the company via phone in two stages (one where he didn’t tell me anything and one where he did!), trying to organise unsuccessfully to get a candidate tested for a role we were recruiting, I managed to pack the car with food, clothes, toys, more electronic connectivity devices than one family needs (iphones, Mac Books, work Dell laptop, ipads…) and got in myself in the car to take another work call.

Aiden and I drove to Mittagong in the miserable rain and the wind, which didn’t dampen my thought of a weekend away because I remembered that “The Beach Bach” had a lovely fireplace. In summer it wasn’t much use but would be perfect for staying indoors and catching up with my un-read fashion magazines (September issues!!), blogs and books, while lying on the fluffy floor rug. We found Arran at a bakery café where he had been keeping warm and drove the 80 or so k’s to Culburra Beach.  A quick stop to pick up the house key and we were off again.

Arriving at "The Beach Bach" we piled out of the car carrying various bags with us to the back door. The key was a little hard to get working but I remember this was the case last time. The lock is quite close to the door jam which makes it hard to turn. We both tried. No banana. Arran went round to the front door which the real estate agent said was open. Nope. It wasn’t. And the key didn’t work. Back to the agent to get the right key! Annoying but it was only a short drive. We would be in soon.

Nope. We had the right key. To the wrong house!!!  Arran had booked "The Beach Batch" not "The Beach Bach" They are 3 houses away from each other! Arran had quickly booked the house on Stayz and didn’t really look at the photos assuming there could only be one Beach Bach. Apart from getting over the initial disappointment of not staying the house I had been looking forward to all week (as well as the only holiday house we would have ever stayed in twice!) it got me to thinking that there are really two types of holiday houses you can rent. And I don’t mean houses or apartments that are owned by large companies or hotel chains. I’m talking about holiday houses that are owned by a family, perhaps for their family and friends to use and that they rent out during the year to help with expenses.

The Generous Holiday House
People who fit out their holiday house with the things they love, and the things that makes being in their holiday house comfortable. We once stayed in a massive house in Bowral with a large group of people in easy reach of a mountain bike event. It was a stunningly huge house but that’s not what put it in this category. It had the BEST stocked kitchen I have ever seen anywhere. The owners must love to cook and entertain and that kitchen made the Christmas in July dinner we cooked there easy and fun. It also showed a generosity of spirit that they were willing to rent their house out and let people they don’t even know get the same pleasure from that kitchen that they obviously do.

The “Beach Bach” at Culburra beach is a little the same. It has an amazing design aesthetic which I absolutely love. I like to think that the owners usual place to live must be fabulous, because their holiday house is just so cool and beachy, but not in a beachy-must-stick-shells-on-everything kinda way. It has the combination of second hand and new furniture that most holiday houses seem to have (I always imagine that someone's grandmother has died and left some furniture that the family didn’t know what to do with. So it ended up in the holiday house. Mismatched and dated but fine to sit on in your slightly damp cossies). 

Not the “Beach Bach”. The furniture that looks to be second hand (coffee table, dining table, perhaps the Danish styled retro arm chairs) blends effortlessly with the new (white leather lounge, fluffy rug, lighting). It has fabulous artwork and trinkets and a thoughtful layout. The Beach Bach also has a great kitchen and in addition has a well stocked pantry which guests are welcome to use. Often when we go away to a holiday house we forget those little things that are always there….salt, pepper, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, glad wrap, foil etc. The Beach Bach owners are generous in spirit in letting us use these items.

I imagine the people who own these types of holiday houses are great hosts.

The “You can stay here but don’t have too much fun on us” Holiday House.
This house is where the owners, maybe from self preservation of their prized possessions, keep many of the house items locked away. I do understand that having a locked cupboard in a holiday house is a good idea. If I were the owner there are a number of things I would keep there for our use so we didn't need to bring each time. Clean bed linen and towels, beach towels, toiletries etc. I’m sure there are other things as well. 

But there seems to be quite a few things locked away in this house. Case in point. “The Beach Batch” that Arran actually booked is still in a great location and has lots of room (its 3 doors away from the house we thought we were renting). If you were here over the summer it would be a great place to share with a group of people except that:
·      The pantry is locked! I didn’t bring any basics with me as "The Beach Bach" has them! Plus there is no place to put our pantry items except on the bench and there is not much bench space.
·      There are no bedside lights in the bedrooms! I love reading in bed and the room that Arran and I are sleeping in has bedside tables and powerpoints right behind them!! But where are the bedside lamps? Maybe they got stolen by the previous occupants or are they in one of the multitude of locked cupboards in the house?
·      There is a great lounge room upstairs that has these huge new and comfy lounge chairs, a couple of nice retro arm chairs, muted colours and a view of the ocean. But where is the TV? Is it locked away so we can’t use it? There is a BIG TV downstairs hooked up to a playstation. Where are the games? The TV is also fuzzy because it needs to be hooked up to a digital box. Is this locked up with the playstation games?

There is an underlying feeling in this house that says, we only trust you to a point. We won’t be staying here again.

You are probably getting the feeling we stay in a lot of holiday houses. We have stayed in a few since Aiden was born, mainly so Arran could convince me to attend yet another mountain bike event. Running water, a fridge and toilet are pretty handy with a small boy to look after. And I am less then willing for this to happen again….

Notice the book light attached to the book for reading? I even have a bedside lamp when camping!

  This is Aiden and I at a 24hr Mountain Bike event. In Canada. We are sleeping in a tent. At the event. It’s not even a proper tent. It has a big wide opening at the front where the cold can get in. The bike track is RIGHT OUTSIDE THE TENT! Aiden (4 months old) is in the sleeping bag with me because it got so cold during the night I was worried about him. And the traitor of a person who was supposed to be riding a bike was taking a picture of us instead! This is why we stay in holiday houses instead of camping at mountain bike events!!!  ;-)

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