Country Diaries

Month: September 2016

English country escape

My vision of our new country life looks something like this – an idyllic English village nestled in the heart of green, rolling countryside. A rural oasis where stress simply melts away and delightful neighbours pop round for a ‘spot’ of tea.

After ten years in Sydney, we’re ditching city life for a ‘tree change’. I’m dreaming of cosy little cottages with wooden beams and wonky walls, filled with Chesterfields, books and love.

I’m going to need an Aga for knocking up delicious, home-cooked dinners, and a darling little garden where I’ll spend hours doing lovely, therepeutic ‘gardeny’ things.

Now, any country-dwellers reading this might be chortling into their Tetleys at the sheer naivety. But that’s the grand plan – England, countryside, cottage, wellies, growing stuff.

‘We’ is myself, fiancé Jim, and very spoilt dog, Winston – an Aussie pug who currently enjoys long  short walks on the beach but has yet to set paw in a field.


When we first moved to Sydney, I loved city-living in it all in its gritty, urbanness and couldn’t get enough.

I would have sworn you’d never catch me living in the countryside. All that nature? No thanks!

I needed shops, bars, expensive gyms with spinning classes and Japanese yoga. (I never did go to that yoga class, but liked knowing it was there).

A lovely Aussie bottlo’ on the corner of every street was vital for handy wine-buying. Plus a choice of little delis should I suddenly crave lemon and garlic Sicilian olives with my vino.

But over time, something really weird has happened. Those things don’t seem quite as important as they once were. Apart from wine – wine is always of the utmost importance.

We have become old jaded by city life with its loud, honking traffic and jostling crowds. Long hours in corporate jobs, commuter chaos and expensive everything gradually wearing us down.

A rural revelation 

Rural living suddenly feels as though it would be blissful, not boring – a gentle, peaceful ramble through life, rather than the exhausting fast-paced sprint of city-living.

We could’ve just moved a few kilometres out of Sydney – to a little beach town on the southern coast. But we missed family and friends in the UK, plus the countryside is so very green and lovely over there.

And of course, when living in an English village, fabulously good looking men like Jude Law may stumble into your cottage, drunk and confused.


A few things to consider before moving to the British, or any other sort, of countryside:

  • Are you ok with your own company? Like really, really happy being completely alone? We loved city-living when we first moved to Sydney but increasingly spend our weekends at home, pottering. If you thrive on live music, small bars and an eclectic dining scene – rural living might not be for you.
  • Practicalities. Broad-band, shops, gyms. Can you handle the lack of them? And wine – where does the wine come from?
  • Commuting and work. Unless you’re working from home, or in the village shop – things could get tricky. We have vague notions of doing ‘something online’ but you might want a stronger plan than this.

So long, Sydney

So here we are, unravelling our Sydney lives – quitting jobs, saying goodbyes, sorting, packing and chucking our things.

Good things have happened for me in Sydney and I will always, but always, miss her blue skies, warm sun and delicious jumbo seafood.


And so here we are. I’ve started this blog – part journal, part travel guide and insights into our new, country life down the line.

Undoubtedly there will be challenges ahead, but now in the face of disaster (such as aforementioned wine-buying difficulties) I can say, “oh well, it’s good for the blog” and write a funny little story in the face of adversity.

My darling, supportive fiancé tells me that at 35, I’m far too old to be a blogger and ‘the blogging boat sailed years ago’. But really, I don’t care about that. (This is not entirely true, I do care a bit)

As I now find myself ‘funemployed’, writing about things I like, and places I go, strikes me as a rather lovely way to pass the time.

I hope you’ll join me!

Claire x

Have you recently moved from city to country? I’d love to hear about it! What challenges/triumphs did you face? Where do you get your wine from??

48 hours in Sydney

Sydney is a show pony – a teasing minx with her blue skies, beaches, boats and sparkling harbour. After a decade dining, drinking and discovering in this superb city, here’s my 48 hour guide.

Day One –  sails, seafood and small bars

The Rocks is Sydney’s historic, and tourist, centre and your perfect starting point to drink in superb views around the harbour including the iconic bridge, and Opera House.

The Rocks

Take the mandatory snap in front of the gleaming white sails of the Opera House and meander down the charming, cobbled laneways where European settlers first came in 1788.

The Rocks is the best place to get a flavour for Sydney, past and present and spending a pleasant morning checking out the many art galleries and tea shops.

History buffs can take in a walking tour to hear the colourful stories of convicts and sailors from this interesting area and colourful weekend markets are filled with an abundance of colourful goods from crafts to indigenous art.

Sydney Fish Market

When you’ve had your fill of culture, a spot of lunch? I firmly believe your first meal in Sydney should be seafood. If you want to taste the freshest in town – and you really should – head to Sydney Fish Market.

Smelly, lively and bustling – this is a working port and you’ll need to fight your way through the crowds. There’s a handy bottle shop, bakery and fruit shop with juice bar for those ‘dining’ in.

Seafood can be cooked to order and you can pick up platters of the best Balmain bugs, blue swimmer crab and lobster mornay in town without paying extortionate restaurant costs.

Stock up on everything you need and find a patch of grass outside – just beware, the hungry seagulls don’t get to your chips before you do.


For an afternoon exploring a different side to Sydney, head to Newtown, a couple of kilometres out from the CBD and just ten minutes on the train.

Newtown is the seedy heart of Sydney’s inner-west. Definitely not the glitziest part of Sydney – but if shopping, dining, drinking and people-watching is your thing – definitely worth a visit.

Newtown’s main drag, King St, is a melting pot of students, hipsters, basket weavers and goths. It’s also the best Sydney spot to discover amazing vintage shops, quirky boutiques,  and eclectic dining – anything from African to Scandinavian goes.

While you’re there, be sure to check out some of Sydney’s best – and quirkiest – small bars.

We lived opposite Earl’s Juke Joint for two years before realising the grotty, old, butcher’s shop complete with metal grille on the door was actually a front for one of Newtown’s most happening bars.

Day 2 – boats, beaches and beer

Devote your second day to one of Sydney’s many great beaches. Of course, you might want to visit Bondi, but a day trip across the north side of the harbour bridge to Manly is my recommendation.


Grab ferry from wharf three at Circular Quay and skim across the shimmering harbour to Manly. This is also the secret to nabbing the best views of the opera house and harbour bridge.

The ferry takes exactly thirty minutes, passing the opera house and wide-toothed smile entrance to Luna Park – Sydney’s iconic 1930’s amusement park. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a dolphin or two en route.

Once you arrive in Manly, you’ll notice the pace of life kicks back a notch. Folks round these parts are relaxed, they leave their attitude – and often their shoes – at home.

A pleasant morning can be passed chilling at Manly Brach or exploring the shops on The Corso. The wharf offers a range of dining options – lobster rolls at Wharf Bar and wood-fired pizza at Hugos. The popular Bavarian Beer Cafe offers humungous rustic plates of sour kraut and schnitzel and a vast selection of beers, served ice cold Aussie-style.

Shelly Beach

A short walk down from Manly, lies Shelly Beach. The water here is only about 12 metres deep and very still, so its a great spot for beginner scuba divers.

If diving’s not your thing, Shelly Beach has electric barbecues, toilets and showers so you can easily pass a pleasant afternoon.

Head back to Manly in time for sunset – you won’t regret it. At  Manly 16ft Skiff Club, you can nab yourself the best views across the beach.

Grab a cold beer and order the lobster-topped seafood platter teaming with delicious Balmain bugs, Aussie prawns and calamari. Sit back, kick off your Havaianas, and enjoy the view as the sun sinks on your second day in Sydney.

Have you been to Sydney? What were your favourite spots? 

Quitting work for travel

 Leaving a job with no safety net can be unnerving – our careers can contribute to a sense of identity, offering up reassurance, stability, and of course – that handy pay check.

I considered all these things very carefully – and then I left my job.

To follow our dreams of globetrotting for a few months, then relocating to the English countryside, it really was entirely necessary. Yet it didn’t feel very sensible.

I’ve spent ten years slowly climbing the corporate ladder. Now, in one roll of the dice, I’ve chosen to slide down a snake back to the start of the game. I should feel horrible right?

Nope, I feel great! Hello freedom – quality time with my dog, lovely pottering and trashy reality TV. The bliss of waking up gently in the morning, rather than diving out of bed in a full-blown panic as soon as the alarm goes off.

Now, before I get ahead of myself, I’m aware this initial rush of euphoria may fade and in another week or so, I’ll be rocking in the corner, wailing ‘what have we done?

Reassurance, stability, and that handy pay check are rather useful things in life, after all.

And I’d be lying if I said anxious thoughts don’t occasionally creep in. The big one – are we crazy?  A decade spent building careers and a home, only to detonate it all and start again.

Fellow Sydneysiders keep delighting in telling us we are totally mad to leave. A guy from Gumtree yesterday picking up a table I was selling inquired where we’re off to.

“Tree change. English countryside,” I explained. “Ha, that won’t last,” he said. “You’ll soon be back in Sydney.”

“I know, we must be totally mad,” I pre-empted. “All that rain. Completely off our heads. What a pair of idiots! Ahahahaha”

But of course, we wouldn’t actually be doing it in the first place unless we thought there was a chance it might be quite pleasant.

And best of all, if the ‘madness’ of following our dreams doesn’t work out – we can always return to city-living, corporate jobs and a big serve of ‘sensible’ again any time in the future.

Has anyone else left their job to travel, or move overseas? Any regrets?

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