Our year of winter

Can you believe just a little while ago we ticked over a year of traveling full-time, away from home? Yes, that’s right, a bit over 12 months ago we were reveling in the mellow winter days of Noosa, with average daily temps of 24c.

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Literally our front yard in Noosa with daughter and grandies making discoveries on the beach

There were discussions about what clothes we should pack from our minimalist holiday-town wardrobe for the coming year of traveling so that we wouldn’t freeze to death. We had no idea what we were in for.

We did know we would spend winter in the UK and Europe at the end of the year and so we opted to “toughen up” and get trip fit by starting our winter travels through chilly Sydney and frosty Melbourne, ahead of traipsing around and house sitting in New Zealand’s snowy South Island for a few months.

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Even when icy cold, the sight of Sydney Harbour is simply breathtaking

When we arrived in Dunedin we were welcomed by the most miserable cold wet day I’ve ever experienced, though Dave thought it didn’t come anywhere close to how Melbourne can be. We sat in a cafe for a while before braving the elements and moving on up to our first house sit, which thankfully came with a fabulous open wood fire. Dave could keep that fire pumping night after night.

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Sitting in our favourite St Clair cafe, warm and dry and we could use the free Spark wifi from the box on the street.

Anyone experienced with arctic living conditions will tell you that it is only cold when you’re outside, that homes, buildings and cars are well heated and you’ll be cosy and comfy the majority of the time. We found that to be absolutely true. Every home we stayed in over these past 12 winter months was beautifully heated, several with wonderful log fires (yes, I know about the environment). We even had a couple of homes with underfloor heating. Luxury! I must say that cold weather people know a lot about heating, but it must really cost them a fortune on energy.

Dave and fires are a great mix. He’s actually an expert fire builder and manager thanks to a Scouts upbringing, so he really has been in his element chopping and carting wood to and fro, getting that heating under control to keep us and the animals cozy.

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Fireman Dave in Mohon

I must admit I struggle with how to dress appropriately for cold weather. During “winter” in sub tropical Queensland, we generally tend to reach into the bottom drawer for a cardi or a jacket that may or may no longer fit, or even worse, last decade’s fashion. I had certainly never owned a pair of gloves and my extensive scarf collection consists primarily of floaty lightweight bits of pretty fabric. Warm hats and thermals were a mystery to me, so I had a lot to learn about layering effectively.

Of course we have previously visited other places in cold weather and I managed to just scrape by with Queensland versions of rugging up with vintage and sometimes borrowed gear. For some reason none of this has ever been a problem for Dave as he has a nice warm jacket that takes him everywhere, seemingly effortlessly. He probably got that all sorted out when he lived in Melbourne for a few years, where winter coat fashion is oh so chic. Queenslanders often stand out in Melbourne.

Cold as Bro! With all those layers I felt a bit like the Michelin Man on the boat deck at Milford Sound

We froze in some very nice places this past year, however Antwerp and Bruges would have been far more enjoyable without the icy rain. And there have been lessons learned about winter travel to some places. Scotland, for example, is not an ideal December destination but we did manage to take in some spectacular scenery from the train heading to Edinburgh and also up around Inverness in our hire car.

Bruges still pretty on a grim day
Bruges is pretty even on a grim day

 

Opportunistic shot of Dave being cold in Antwerp

 

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Nice and warm inside the train

 

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Icy in Inverness

 

Our delightful house-sit pets had their own ways of keeping warm.

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Boo in Melbourne could usually be found on one of the floor heater vents

 

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Poppy in Peckham had her very own electric basket heater

 

Louis in Timaru has the best spot in the house

 

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Baxter & Harry in Lawrence loving the fire and us.  Harry looking a bit embarrassed about hogging the fire 😉

 

At the end of our northern hemisphere stint of winter we flew home to a humid, sultry Brisbane morning. We sweltered in the 26c heat, as we’d become very much acclimatised to the cooler weather and in fact we both actually now prefer the cold. That said, Brisbane really is the most gorgeous city to be in the winter. Fresh air, clear skies and happy, relaxed people.

Brisbane really is so lucky to have fantastic public spaces for people to enjoy the great weather
Lucky in Brisbane, we enjoyed a typical winter’s day at South Bank, Streets Beach.

 

In Brisbane we had to reassess our wardrobe and so we hit our storage unit to pull out warm weather gear, the only problem being that with all our good living in cold climates, all our packed clothes had shrunk by a whole size!

So now we find ourselves back in a New Zealand winter, following a similar path to last year with a month in frosty Melbourne along the way.

Now that we’ve experienced our year of winter we think it might be nice to do summer for a while. So, we’ll soon head up to the North Island as spring and summer approach, then a few weeks of a Queensland summer (I swore I’d never do that again) and hopefully over to South America for some of their warm air. I’m actually looking forward to not carting all that heavy warm gear around with us and lightening the load.

As for food, in my opinion chillies have no seasonal boundaries though cold weather really is an ideal time to hook in to spicy tucker. Dave I both had cravings for food burn and were very excited to spy jars of our favourite chilli bean paste in our local New World supermarket. So for lunch this week we made the most of it and created a Chinese feast with Mapo Tofu as the star. Not quite as good as we found in China, but pretty darn close.

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This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Enjoyed your post…thinking it’s time to house sit in some farther away spots and perhaps enjoy some nice weather in North and Central America 🙂

    1. Lovely to hear from you, thanks for the comment. We’re planning to do Carnavale in Rio with our daughter in Feb and then some travel around Brazil as she has many contacts there. Really interested in house sitting while over that way and certainly North & Central America grab our interest. Never been to that part of the world, so will see how it works out.

  2. Lovely writing but some of the photos are not showing for me? I

    1. Gggrrr, I’ve had some issues with broken links for photos. Appreciate your report of this, thanks Sue, will check it out. xx

  3. Being an animal lover, I love love the photos of them keeping warm in winter! What a great idea to have a heating pad in a basket, for a cat. Those were, by MY estimation lucky housesitting jobs, that had animals involved.

    We have lived with heat and humidity in Nicaragua for six years and then Asia for two. I think one’s blood gets thinner and less able to deal with the cold after extended years of heat.

    Terrific post. Wood burning fire places are THE best invention, ha!
    Stay warm.

    1. Hi Peta, thanks so much for stopping by and leaving your lovely comments. Yes, it is such a pleasure looking after the pets and making sure they are warm and comfortable through the winter. We’re considering extended travel through SE Asia & South America, and the thought of the heat doesn’t turn us on. Though of course we would acclimatise soon enough, the same as we have during our year of winter.

  4. Haha! Love your photos of the kitties warming themselves! We thought (clearly wrongly!) that we found the only cat with a designated heating pat. There was even a piece of tape over the switch that controlled the heating pat so it couldn’t inadvertently be flipped off! The basket is a great touch though, perfect for snuggly kitties. Don’t know if we’d be up for a year of winter, maybe only in Australia!

    1. Hi Sam and Veren, thank you for reading the blog and your comment. Yes, we loved the heating pad and basket although it meant that Poppy rarely came out to play 😉 just like it is hard for us to get out of bed on a cold morning. Certainly, Australian winters are less severe (although Melbourne …….)

  5. We stayed for half a year in the UK from January this year and had enough winter for some time. We definitely prefer to follow the summer. Funny enough we also discovered that we like spicy food in winter (too).

    1. Lovely to see you here and thanks for the comment. Jan/Feb in UK can be pretty miserable really and we hope to get more of the sun for the next year.

  6. We are currently enjoying the wonderful temps in the Gold Coast, after 4+ months in hot and hotter SE Asia 🙂 So we are looking forward to the cooler temps of a UK Christmas. After 5 years traveling the world though we are finding it hard to beat the weather of good old QLD. Great to read about your experience.

    1. Hi Gavin & Jill, you are right about the Qld climate, and the Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast win for the summer months. Thanks for letting us know that you enjoyed reading the post, great to hear from you.

  7. Great blog. I think I went as far as opening an account with WordPress but never posted anything. We took the opportunity to take 5 months ‘off’ (pre-retirement) to de-stress (Nov 16) and combine a visit to our daughter and other family in Sydney with the phenomenon of house sitting. We loved it. We loved the uncertainty of where we would end up. We loved that we didn’t get bored. And, yes, we loved the fact that we could reconnect with each other following all the life stressors of getting married, buying houses and having children – and everything that comes in between. We met in Sydney, married in 1984 and came to the U.K. in 1985 and settled.
    Really enjoying your posts. Hopefully one day you can give me some tips ‘when’ we return to house sitting

    1. Hi Nancy, thanks so much for commenting. I’ve just been browsing through this morning’s Trusted Housesitters new listings and there are so many fabulous sits in UK coming up. Unfortunately we are unlikely to get over that way until maybe mid next year. House sitting has given us everything you mention and we tend to get a bit edgy when we are back “home” in Brisbane for too long. I would love to stay in touch and chat about this brilliant house sitting lifestyle with you. Sue x

      1. Oh yes that would be great. We came back almost a year ago now and unfortunately three days home and I had a particularly bad fall breaking my hands. With that and other extended family stressors with illness etc it seems they have been saved over the five months we were away. We are still registered with Mindahome so get updates daily and we find ourselves dreaming/longing to be in that garden/deck with that lovely dog!! But, at least we know now that almost anything is possible. By the way it is still freezing here! Take care. Nancy

        1. How terrible for you to break both hands, that must have been very painful and difficult to manage. I hope you’ve had a good recovery and yes, almost anything is possible. Best wishes, Sue.

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