We're home after our trip to Byron Bay. The break was good for us. This was our first proper family holiday (as in, Joan and I weren't simply tagging along Ben's work trip), and it was utter bliss. We filled our bodies with air and sunshine, and nourished ourselves abundantly. We went on long walks in nature, sipped kombucha in the afternoon sun, and each day lazed for a few moments on an outdoor couch with a book. These daily rituals made us feel alive and contented, so we're bringing them home with us. I'm currently on the hunt for an outdoor couch and over the weekend, I re-organised areas in our home and lives that don't fit. Things are good. I feel light and bright and beautiful. And happy to be home. The events of last month completely knocked Ben and I around, and our time away was rejuvenating. It gifted us clarity and vitality, and left us feeling, somehow, better than ever, despite everything that has happened.
After the physically + emotionally tumultuous month of June, we've pressed "reset" and are back living our normal lives. Ben has returned to work and I'm once more caring for Joan and our house full-time, along with my own projects and small amount of work here and there. We're back, yet with more clarity as to how we wish to live day-to-day. The nausea has gone and I'm feeling like myself again. I'm liking cooking again. I'm liking coffee again. I'm liking food in general again. And we're contemplating trying for a second baby, again. After a few more months of rest, that is. We're back. And yet we won't ever be the same. This wound has changed us. Our miscarriage added a layer of heavy and hurt to our souls that we are simply learning to live with. Though we also find ourselves with an extra layer of gratitude, for what we have now and what we will have in the future.
Speaking of gratitude, Joan is at a supremely fun age. Every age has its wondrous moments (along with normal developmental challenges, of course) but this one right now, just over a month from two years old, is particularly wonderful. She communicates with ease, as words, assessments and stories flow out of her. Grown-up words and sentences are spoken with adorable, personalised quirks, which we're attempting to imprint in our minds before she outgrows them. At the moment, "Seagull" = "SeaGYLE", and "parmesan cheese" = "pama cheese", which sounds very similar to "palm trees" (= "pama tree"), of which there were many in Byron Bay. This led Joan to tell her very own joke, looking up at a palm tree and saying in jest, "Hey pama tree, can I have some pama cheese for my pasta?". She cracks us, and herself, up. On our holiday, away from the tug of daily life, I could completely and utterly enjoy her. Ben, too. I am going to do more of this back home - make time to just be together, unhurried. My life is already slow and gentle and filled with these everyday bliss moments, but I want more of it.
This post was supposed to be about Byron Bay and, as usual, I got carried away talking about our lives. I suppose I'm thankful for the energy and peace our holiday gave us. Each September when I was growing up, my family drove to Byron Bay for a break, staying in a pink house at Wategos Beach. Ben and I now dream of a yearly Byron Bay holiday for our little family, though perhaps a tad more frugally than this trip, where we properly splurged and pampered ourselves. Isn't that a lovely thought? Here are some pictures from our holiday. At the end of the post, I have written a list of our favourite places to eat and things to do, as well as notes on where we stayed.
Cafes - breakfast and lunch
We fell into the habit of walking to the lighthouse first thing in the morning, then going out for breakfast. Joan would eat breakfast #1 at home before our walk, and for that we stocked up on local sourdough, yoghurt and fruit, and she'd nibble on leftover cooked veggies. We'd eat lunch either at a cafe or back at our rental home (more eggs and sourdough). Here is a list of our favourite cafes:
TOP SHOP Top Shop is a great place to eat, keeping both children and adults happy. They have chalk for kids to draw on the pavement and picnic rugs to sit on the grass outside the shop. Joan would park herself with the bucket of chalk and get multicoloured while we drank coffee (in the morning) or sipped kombucha (in the afternoon). We ate pastries, acai bowls and bircher muesli for breakfast, and burgers (the fish burgers!) + fries or quinoa chicken salad for lunch.
FOLK Folk was our absolute favourite cafe. They have a great, plant-based, sustainable philosophy. The menu is small (which I love), and the food and coffee are fantastic. I adored their "nourish bowl" and ordered it both times we visited. Ben branched out to try other dishes and Joan loved the banana maple loaf, as well as her cup of steamed, house-made almond + cashew milk (best I've ever tasted) with rose petals. She felt soooo chuffed with her "coffee". Everything was perfection.
WOODS Woods is the sister cafe to Folk, and after loving our Folk breakfast I knew I wanted to visit. One morning we drove to Bangalow and explored the little town. Woods' menu and space are similar to Folk, including ample space outdoors for kids to run around. And after breakfast we visited a cute little shop (more on that below).
ROADHOUSE Away from the main set of shops in Byron Bay, this cafe was located near our second accommodation and was filled with locals. We'd order coffees and grab an outdoor table, and Joan would walk about, patting puppies and taking her Thomas train for a ride on the chairs. The coffee, cold-pressed juices and food were all delicious.
NAKED TREATIES I feel super good when I eat lots of veggies and nuts/seeds. I also LOVE dates (raw cakes are my dream!), so Naked Treaties was a favourite because it makes food filled with my kind of produce. I'd often grab a delicious, veggie-packed "rainbow wrap" for Ben and I for lunch on the go. One day I took Joan here for a cake date, as they have a yummy selection of raw cakes + date ball type things. Whenever our veggie quota was low, we'd stop by to grab a cold-pressed green juice. That happened a lot, actually. When in unfamiliar or overwhelming spaces, Joan becomes less adventurous with food. And I understand, so I don't push it. She ate a lot of bread and pastries on this trip, so we drank a lot of veggie juice (and ate veg for dinner). I also bought their house-made tahini/tamari spread (kinda like vegemite) for Joan to have on her toast in the mornings.
THE FARM The Farm is a wonderful place for to visit. There is a giant produce store and cafe/restaurant serving delicious food, pasties and coffee, and they also have a playground and big fields of green where kids can run around. There's also animals to say hello to - pigs, chickens, cows... The macadamia trees are ripe for exploring, and we even collected and cracked a nut ourselves. Fresh macadamias = unreal. On one of our visits, we bought the tastiest spelt + walnut sourdough loaf at the produce store, made by The Bread Social. And on our final day in Byron Bay, we collected a bag of goodies (Ben's lovely colleagues had spoilt us with a picnic gift), sat on the lawn to devour bread, cheese, salami, olives, dips and raspberries. We saved the brownies and ate them at the beach on our final evening in Byron Bay, the sun setting as Joan splashed in the water. It was pure magic.
We went out to restaurants a couple of times, but Joan was never in her finest form, even when having a super early meal. Holidays are stimulating and tiring, and it was much nicer for us all to be at home, cooking and relaxing with a glass of wine. We'd roast veggies and have chickpea + fetta salads, use the BBQ to cook steaks, or simply have eggs again. Twice we got Japanese takeout, which was a superb treat. Here's where we did eat out:
HARVEST For the first 2 days of our trip, Ben was in work mode. He visited a local high school, where the kids suggested we eat dinner at Harvest, which is a 15-20 minute drive from Byron Bay. This place is classsssssy! Joan wanted to do nothing more than run around yelling + squirming + throwing herself in the path of waiters carrying dishes, so it wasn't exactly a relaxing meal (indeed, after this experience we decided to stay home for dinners). But we were well taken care of and the food was insanely delicious. The 5 minutes she did sit peacefully on my lap, as I ate my meal with a glass of wine, were glorious.
OSUSHI This was where we got Japanese takeout. The salmon teriyaki with brown rice made me so happy. We also loved the chicken yakitori skewers and an entree beef dish Ben ordered. Both times we selected the salmon as a main, then order a bunch of little bites, plus some miso soup.
MISS MARGARITA We got takeout from here on the first night. The burritos were super satisfying and we had a nice picnic on our Air BnB floor. I only wish I got a takeaway margarita. If that was even an option...
ASIA JOE'S We visited here once, too. This place has an Aussie-Asian menu that is packed with veggies. The food was fresh and tasty, and we planned on getting takeout from here, but OSushi won our hearts.
Lastly, we intended on visiting St Elmo, but each night we planned to visit, Joan was quite tired and we didn't feel like *not* relaxing over a glass of wine and tapas. Another time. Maybe in a couple of years Joan can babysit her baby sibling while Ben and I go out... Surely, right? I'm sure 4 year old Joan could handle that.
To See & Do
LIGHTHOUSE WALK This was such an energising way to start our day. Sometimes we'd begin our walk around Clarke's Beach, other times we'd park at Wategos and do only the final section of the walk. We were lucky enough to see whales most mornings, which was unreal. Joan loved running around the lighthouse and spotting bush turkeys as we walked. "Gobble gobble. TURKEY! Come out! Hurry up!", she'd yell into the trees. I feel like I have new muscles in my legs after just the handful of walks we did. And I love that it helped Joan get used to longer walks in the carrier (she's still quite small and light, and sits in the Pognae comfortably). We're going to get a hiking backpack thingo for her to sit in and continue with these long family walks.
BEACH Our favourite beaches were Wategos and The Pass. Bare feet in sand and sea is like therapy for your mind, body and soul. It was even warm enough for us to swim. We'd park at the beach for a few hours and Joan would run wild and free. The beach is her happy spot. She'd stay in the water all day if she could, no matter how cold it was. Side note: this is the sunscreen we use.
MARKET There's likely a market on when you're in town. Check out this page for information. Joan had a blast wandering around the stalls and giving coins to performers. I bought her a bracelet, which she adored, which melted my heart.
NEARBY TOWNS Our friends live in Mullumbimby, and one afternoon we met them in Broken Head. There are a lot of lovely towns and beaches to explore beyond Byron Bay.
MASSAGE I almost forgot to note that Ben and I got a massage! The most incredible massage ever. I never get massages, it's just not something I think to do. Ben does, however, and we booked him in for a couple of well-deserved massages on his (rare) holiday. The second one was with Addy who practices Ka Huna massage. She came to our accommodation, and when Joan and I returned from our mummy daughter date (to grocery shop, where we bought and ate carob bears), we saw the end of it through the window. I came inside and said, "I need that". The next evening I had the most amazing massage from Addy, who is such a kind and beautiful person. Here is her page. She also does pregnancy massage.
That's kind of it. We didn't do much beyond eat, walk and swim. And reading books while Joan napped. We had planned on visiting Minyon Falls but the weather was too blissful to spend more time in a car.
I had a list of kids and clothing stores to hit up, but when the time came, I didn't feel like shopping (likely due to the guilt over spending so much money on food and accommodation, not to mention a super expensive trip to the hair salon). We did visit Aimee Winchester's store that she co-owns, and bought a gorgeous piece on sale from her Little Winnie line. Her store is right by Woods cafe in Bangalow. Though we didn't purchase much, we had fun wandering the shops in Bangalow and Byron Bay. Joan LOVES shopping, and is (mostly) gentle and respectful of our instruction to "just look, don't touch". Seriously, the girl adores browsing, and would exclaim, "More shops!", whenever we left a store. In Byron Bay, the shops along Fletcher street were lovely (this shop is gorgeous, we wanted to buy positively everything). We did buy a couple of books for Joan from the fantastic Mary Ryan Bookstore, but that's it, really. Another reason why we didn't purchase a lot is because our suitcases were packed with woollen jumpers, gumboots and raincoats, and weighed a tonne. Despite looking at the weather forecast, we assumed it would feel cold like Melbourne and we'd have some rain. But we were blessed with Summer-like weather in the middle of Winter.
We stayed for two nights in this Air BnB studio and then the following six nights in this one. Because we booked our trip at the last minute, we didn't have many accommodation options, however we were really happy with both places. The first was over the road from Top Shop (kombucha on tap, allllllll day) and you could easily walk into the main town. The second was further away (still walkable, but with a toddler who likes to stop and smell every rose, it would take a while), yet because we had a car, that didn't matter. In terms of searching for accommodation, we knew we wanted a decent sized home with a washing machine and a covered-outdoor area for Joan to play in, as we anticipated a lot of rain (note, the first place didn't have that, but the second did). Our main accommodation (the second one) was pricier than we'd usual select, but again, we had few options available and were firmly in a splurge state of mind. And we were so happy we did, it was absolutely perfect. The place has a wonderful, relaxing vibe, and the kitchen/washing machine area/bathroom are beautifully and cleverly designed. Joan would fall asleep early, around 6:30pm, after a day of adventuring, and we'd put her to sleep on the downstairs fold-out mattress while we drank wine and watched Netflix on the other couch. Then, when we were all ready to sleep, we'd carry her up to the king-sized bed upstairs. And it had the most comfortable outdoor couch, which has us looking for our very own copy.
Is it too early to start looking for next year's accommodation? Because I've already begun. Tell me, what is your favourite month to visit Byron Bay? I know we got super lucky with the weather in July. And while I don't need it to be hot (because we live by the beach and I don't necessarily need a swimming holiday), I don't want lots of rain. I also don't want to go when it's peak tourist season. I like to be able to soak up the nature and nourish bowls in peace.