Vacations, Australia, Darwin

Darwin: Holy Crap, It’s Hot! (Day One)

We checked in at something like 1:30 a.m or 2:00 a.m. Sal had driven us from the airport to our hotel. It was very dark there, obviously, was no traffic. It was a good way to get used to driving on the wrong side, especially with the gazillion roundabouts that AU has. We stayed at the Palm City Resort and our room was OK. It didn’t look like the picture, but it was clean and we were tired and it would do. When we checked in, the woman warned us about Territory Day noise, which was happening on that Sunday night. It’s the one day that people in the Northern Territory can set off fireworks legally, and the local workers absolutely hate it. Every single person that lived there and mentioned it sighed or groaned. Luckily we were leaving the Sunday morning for Kakadu National Park, so we figured it wouldn’t be a problem there. We said it shouldn’t be a problem because we were leaving Sunday morning.  We slept in because we went to bed extremely late and we were both tired. It had been a long day between all that bike riding/walking and travel. Also: old.

I had read about the Parap Village Markets on Trip Advisor. They are only on Saturdays and that was when we were there, so we decided to check them out for lunch. We drove around a little bit and finally found parking. As we were walking to the location, we enjoyed the sun. It was a dry heat and was nice after cool/cold Sydney. Well, it was nice until it hit 11 or so and someone flipped a switch and it was hot, hot, hot. Like a torch. Like you need to be in the shade because you will noticeably wilt. It was a doozy.

It was impressive how many food stalls there were! I don’t think I’d ever seen that many options in the relatively small area that made up the market. It was impressive as there was food from several different countries.

mvimg_20180630_1139528924765395213916819.jpgThis is the only picture we got from the market, and thanks to Sal for at least getting this. I think we were jet-lagged; there’s a 30 minute time difference between New South Wales and The Northern Territory, after all! Excuses, excuses…

I got a savory crepe and Sal got Pho for lunch. Told you that had a big assortment of food! And yes, we don’t have pics of it. We spent our time trying to hide in the slivers of shade and eat quickly before the sun moved. After our quick meal we wandered around a little bit and did a tiny bit of shopping, then drove around aimlessly. Amazing what a 30 minute time difference can do to a body. Ahem.

We were going to go to a couple of places, but one was closed and the other one we drove by and decided against. We both had headaches and needed caffeine. We found a place where I could get a Diet Coke. It’s called a ‘grocery store’. Anyway, this little store was in a complex that happened to be right by the water.  It was very pretty, with a little restaurant there, too. We ordered drinks from the restaurant, too, so we wouldn’t get in trouble. Nobody cared.

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Pretty little harbor that not many know about.

What you can’t see from the pics is that each of these homes were gated in. I was sure it was to keep the crocs out. We were in croc territory now, after all!

Didn’t see any crocs.

We spent some time there relaxing and enjoying a) the light breeze, b) the shade, c) the views. We decided to go back to the hotel and take a little siesta. At first we went to the pool, but all of a sudden this very loud music started. And it was bad. We couldn’t figure out where it was coming from, but think it was from some festival that was happening that weekend. Needless to say, we didn’t stay there that long. We ended up Sal napped. I know there was more to see in Darwin, but frankly we were pooped and we knew we had a lot of driving and walks/hiking/hot weather coming up so we wanted to be rested. They don’t have Uber in Darwin, so we had to have reception call a taxi for us. How quaint! We didn’t want to drive because we wanted to enjoy cocktails.

I had read that the sunsets at the beaches, and in particular at the Darwin Sailing Club, were awesome, so that was our destination. We got there and the place was much bigger than expected. There was a wedding reception going on in one section, and a party in another, and tons of people everywhere else. We had to have our license’s scanned (it’s the law for clubs there), then try to find a seat. We ended up sharing a table with two cousins from Melbourne and had a nice chat with them. I am turning into my mother, as my ability to chat with total strangers improves. That sunset was pretty awesome, though…

img_20180630_1829503359336709435262219.jpgimg_20180630_1853251739913573815022504.jpgimg_20180630_180323116193074391813232.jpgWe grabbed a taxi outside the club and went back to the hotel. It was an early night, but that was good because we had an early start the next day. Thank goodness the music had stopped eventually. We slept like rocks, again.

Vacations, Australia, Sydney, Manly

Sydney: Sick And Manly Beach (Days Seven & Eight)

Sorry this is so late. I finally have a connection that is good enough to upload photos without timing out. Huzzah!

I’m combining the next two days because almost nothing happened on day seven except doing laundry and working out on a rowing machine for the first time. That’s literally it. I was definitely fighting something off, and never even left the hotel. It’s OK. My body needed rest. I had a sore throat and upset stomach and sleep was my self-prescribed remedy as I needed to be healthy, because day eight was the day I had purchased an e-bike tour. Manly Beach is a beach situated among the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia in Manly, New South Wales and is a place that Sydneysiders recommended seeing.

We got up early on day eight and finished packing and checked out. We had the hotel hold our bags, and they kindly gave us a key to use the gym area later on if we needed to (showers, etc.) as our flight was later at night. I would definitely recommend staying at The Grace Hotel in Sydney; our room was huge and the people were very friendly and helpful. We again went to the French cafe for breakfast, because my theory is when you find something good, you stick with it (see: marriage). They again only had one chocolate croissant, though. How is this even possible? We were there even earlier than the last time when they only had one left! Come to find out the chocolate croissants are not in high demand in Sydney. I was dumbfounded, and the waitress agreed with me that it was crazy they weren’t in higher demand. Those croissants are the bomb. I told Sal he could the lone pastry, since I needed a healthy breakfast before my adventure. He did end up sharing, because he’s a good hubby. And because he was full and still had half left Throwing any portion of that out should be a crime!

The trip to Manly required a ferry ride, which had great views, but it was cold in the morning so I sat indoors and decided on the way back I’d take some photos. I was supposed to meet at the information hut at the wharf, but I was early so I looked around a bit. When it eventually was closer to the meeting time, I asked the young woman at the information desk if she knew about the tour company Blue Bananas. She didn’t. I fleetingly wondered if I had been scammed, as it seemed like a name you’d remember. Ha. I needn’t have worried as I saw a man with a bike standing outside the terminal area, scanning the crowd. Sure enough, it was my guide Richard. I quickly discovered I was the only person on the tour. Sweet! We walked a bit to get to the other (my) bike and ran into a bunch of wild cockatoos.

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Nic: this place is bird city. I think you’d sort of hate it.

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Uncategorized

Technical Difficulties

Sorry, guys. I’m alive and well; Crocks and/or punching kangaroos haven’t attacked us. Yet. Long story short, my computer was gone (I’ll tell the story later) for a week, and now I can’t get WordPress to work on my computer, just my phone. I’ll be back in a day or two, promise!

Australia, Sydney, Vacations

Sydney: A Different Sort of Hike (Day Six)

It looked like we were going to have rain for the next day or two, which was actually OK with me. Even though the river cruise didn’t involve any walking, I’d more than made up for it all the days previously, and I felt like I was fighting something off and had a bit of a sore throat. I decided to rest and have an easy morning, then do the Hermitage Foreshore Walk, which was labelled as ‘easy’, during the forecasted break between rain showers in the afternoon. Relaxing felt so good! My body most certainly needed it. I eventually downloaded my route to my phone, just in case I lost my signal, and ventured out to find the bus I would need. Remember how before I said I actually had a good sense of direction in Australia? Well, my jet lag seemed to be gone, and thus I was back to don’t-know-where-she’s-going Neeners. Ah well, it was good while it lasted. I wandered around for a bit and eventually found the bus stop. Again, the buses do not have the stops listed anywhere on them. Thank goodness for smart phones.

The bus ride was uneventful, except for the stop where the driver turned off the bus and left. For a hot second I didn’t know what was going on. Strike? Why is everyone still on the bus? Last stop? Bus-napping? Yes, my mind can come up with a lot of different bad scenarios in a hot second. Turns out it was simply two drivers switching buses. Not sure why they switched, but the new driver was easier on the brakes so it was all good to me. The ride continued without issue.

I got off at my stop and saw this sign:
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No problem, but I remember thinking, “OK, this obviously is going to involve some stairs.” I was right.

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Australia, Vacations

Sydney: Riding On Boats With The Elderly (Day Five)

I had read about The Riverboat Postman Cruise about an hour north of Sydney via train on tripadvisor. I wanted to do a tour that was a little off the beaten path, as I’d have 10 whole work days alone to see the sites of Sydney. This definitely fit the bill. They describe the tour as such:

Come cruising with us on the Hawkesbury Mail Boat, the famous Riverboat Postman, and enjoy the magnificent scenery of the lower Hawkesbury River as we deliver the mail and other essentials (the odd bottle of whiskey or rum…) to the river-access-only settlements upriver from Brooklyn.

When I called to see if there was availability the woman asked me if I was OK with stairs and she explained there were 100 (up and down) to cross over from the train stop to where the boat took off in Brooklyn. I laughed at the piddly 100 step number and told her it was a drop in the bucket compared to the Coogee to Bondi walk. She asked if there were pensioners going. I told her it depended on what you considered a pensioner, and I shared my age with her. She said I was, “still young”. I thanked her for the compliment! It wasn’t until I got to the actual boat for the trip that I understood that comment. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself, as usual.

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Australia, Sydney

Sydney: Free Walk And Praying For No Stairs (Day Four)

I woke up and my body hurt. A lot. I hadn’t done so much walking three days in a row in ages and the massive jet lag obviously didn’t help the situation any. So, I did the logical thing and decided to rest and then… go on a walking tour in the afternoon. OK, maybe it wasn’t so logical.

There are free tours daily in Sydney, offered twice a day, and our guide was a young man who recently graduated from a theater program. As you can imagine, it was entertaining and goofy. And parts were very theatrical. It was free (other than tipping at the end, even though everyone tried to say you don’t tip in Australia – lies!) and entertaining and totally worth it.

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We met at Town Hall Square.
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And eventually made our way to Hyde Park, where our guide went through the Sydney’s history.
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A memorial to honour the victims of the Lindt cafe siege at Sydney’s Martin Place.
More than 200 hand-crafted flowers in mirrored cubes were inlaid into the pavement just metres from where the deadly siege unfolded three years ago, which claimed the lives of cafe manager Tori Johnson and barrister Katrina Dawson. Very touching.

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An art installation titled, Forgotten Songs. “… the artwork’s title was selected to celebrate those birds which were living in central Sydney “before they were gradually forced out of the city by European settlement”[5] The artist’s intention was to return the birds sounds to the city and make it as an important part of the city life.” (Wikipedia)
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Inside the CUstoms House is a miniature replica of the city, under glass, under foot. Pretty neat.
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A little historical mural in The Rocks.

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The tour was about 3 hours long. My goal for the day was to have the number of flights of stairs end up in the single digits to give my body a bit of a break. Unfortunately I still ended up with almost 20 flights. If nothing else, I’m starting to get a bit more used to it. I think.

I met up with Sal for dinner at Bar Luca, which had pretty amazing looking hamburgers. He decided to share one (I didn’t have any) and a few appetizers. Calories don’t count on vacation, right??

Nine hours of sleep would follow. The jet lag was slowly, but surely, going away. I think.

 

Australia, Sydney, Uncategorized

Sydney: Coogee to Bondi Walk And Stairs Insanity (Day Three)

There are two walks that Sydneysiders recommend the most to visitors: Coogee to Bondi, and the walk by Manly beach. I asked Sal which he wanted to do, as this was his last full free day in Sydney (he’d be working during the day from here on out while we were here). He chose Coogee to Bondi. I had read it was a moderate walk and a section had some stairs, but was doable. We asked the concierge, and were told it was about an hour walk. Foreshadowing!

But first we needed to fuel up and have breakfast at Gowings Bar and Grill. It took us a bit to figure out the restaurant was in a hotel and a few floors up. The place was funky and welcoming. The restaurant had good views and the food was very tasty and hit the spot. I’d definitely go back again.

We enjoyed our breakfast and talked about how we needed water for the hike, and Sal needed more caffeine; the jetlag was strong with that one. We stocked up at a cafe by the bus stop and waited — we just missed a bus by less than a minute. It didn’t take long, though; the buses to Coogee are frequent. It was a pleasant ride. The walking path was easy to find — just follow the crowds! The views? Simply stunning. I can’t stop mentioning how great Sydney is with the benches, and they are very much needed on this walk. We took a few breaks. You walk along the coastline most of the way and there are many hills and many stairs. After every bunch of stairs when you are at the top of the hill we’d say, “oh, this is probably the last set!”, and it never was until the very end at Bondi beach. Eventually, when we would start going down, we’d be worried because we knew it meant we’d have to go back up again! We were on to their games.

Coogee-to-Bondi-map1

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Australia, Sydney, Vacations

Sydney: There’s No Way I’m Climbing That Bridge (Day Two)

The top tourist attraction is the bridge climb in Sydney. It’s where they strap you in a safety harness and connect you to cables so you don’t die if you fall. It’s where you walk up a narrow walkway and go up about a gazillion stairs to get to the top. It’s where it’s super windy because you are very, very high and on a bridge, dinkus. It’s where you can’t even take your own camera, because if you drop it you’ll probably kill the people below you. Or something. A few of our friends told us it was a “must do!”. These friends obviously don’t understand how afraid of heights I am. The fact that it costs $200 USD to do it is just the icing on top of a horrible cake. I’m afraid of heights, and I like my life, so no bueno. I don’t need to pee my pants in front of total strangers. Or have a heart attack. You can, however, walk the bridge at the pedestrian/car level and still have great views. And it’s free! So we decided to do that instead.

We woke up to a sunny day after our 9.5 hours of sleep. We still woke up when it was dark, because we went to bed at 7:30 p.m. like centenarians. We found a little French cafe near the hotel for breakfast and it was the first time I’d ever had a chocolate croissants right out of the oven. Game changer. Apparently the chef had started baking later than normal, so I was the benefactor. Very lucky because it was oh so good. We finished eating and went to pay and the woman asked us what our plans were for the day. Like I said before: these people are genuinely friendly. She said if we return to the restaurant she wanted to hear what our favorite things were that we did. So she was friendly AND smart, luring us back into her establishment for a chat about Sydney’s best attractions. Madam, you already had a guaranteed repeat customer at ‘warm chocolate croissant’. We headed out and made it maybe four blocks before stopping for more caffeine (for the walk) and a snack. Hey, we still weren’t working at 100%, so…that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

We stopped at a little park on the way, as I kept spilling my tea trying to walk and drink at the same time. No comments on that one, please. Anyway, at the park look who showed up:

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bin chickens

I tried to shoo him away, but he noticed I was eating. Then I made the brilliant decision to give him a tiny bit of my treat. Real smart. And by ‘real smart’ I mean ‘real dumb’. He started following me. Did I mention these guys aren’t exactly tiny, and they are aesthetically challenged? I started high-tailing it out of there (pun intended). Sal helpfully laughed and took a pic.

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(Nic you would hate these creepy birds. They even scare me a bit.)

As you can probably guess, we left after this incident. We made our way to the stairs to get to the pedestrian walkway for the bridge.

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Australia, Sydney

Sydney: Initial Impressions (Day One)

We landed in Sydney at around 7:30 a.m. There is e-immigration here, which was new to me. It worked for Sal, but not for me, as my picture didn’t match (probably because I had my glasses on). It didn’t matter, because I only had to wait about 2 minutes to get it sorted and go through. Easy peasy. No stamp, though — boo! To top off the good luck, our suitcases were the first and fourth ones off of the belt. That has never happened to us before. Someone was throwing us a bone after the extremely long travel day. Customs just took our forms and waved us through. We’ve never gotten through customs and immigration in a foreign country so quickly. Thanks, Sydney! Points awarded!

We got out cash and decided to get an Uber and save a little money for the company, since this part of the trip is a work trip and they are paying. The Uber app didn’t tell us where to go to meet for pickup, but the airport is well signed and it was easy to find and not far from where we exited Customs.

It was an 8 minute wait for the Uber, which is about normal-ish back home at the airport, I guess. Our driver was a nice man originally from Cambodia. I don’t know if it was the jetlag or his strong accent, but I understood about 62% of what he said. (Those were the mathematically precise numbers my jet-lagged mind determined that I was comprehending.) He would say something and I would wade through the fog that was my brain at that point, and try to translate it. I did a lot of agreeing and saying, ‘ahh!’. Lord only knows what I was agreeing to 38% of the time. I did ask him if he could take us past some kangaroos. I’d like to think if he would have been an Australian native I wouldn’t have asked him that, but I doubt it. I guess we’ll have to wait until we get up north!

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Asiana, Australia, Flights

Who Keeps Farting In This Plane?

We had never spent so much time to get somewhere.

1.25 hours to JFK
+45 minutes through TSA (ridiculous!)
+14.5 hours to Seoul
+3.5 hours in Seoul
+10.5 hours to Sydney
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A really long time.

So on the ride to JFK we ran into traffic. Luckily we had a nice, fun driver to keep us distracted.

TSA was a complete joke. They were the worst I’ve run into, probably ever. So incredibly slow. They were pulling people’s bags if there was food in them to scan. There were more bags pulled to the side for searches than actually went through. One embarrassed woman had nine small bags of pretzels. I didn’t have food, but I had tums and my bag was scanned. Seriously? Tums?? It was at least 10 minutes between when my bag was pulled and when someone finally started checking it. I was biting my tongue the whole time. Thankfully we always leave early for flights because I’m paranoid about stuff like that happening, so time wasn’t an issue.

We flew Asiana again. I’m not going to lie, I was slightly concerned after my flight with them last time. My goal was to stay awake the first flight and hopefully sleep the second. Oddly enough, the only time I felt like the flight was dragging was when there were four hours left. I only watched one movie. I listened to podcasts and read a bit. I wasn’t that interested in the available movies. Sal got a few hours of sleep. The flight itself was fine; I did note that I am not really that much of a fan of Korean food. I prefer Thai/Indonesian/Vietnamese. The plane was a newer model, though, which was pretty good and it even had a little ‘lounge’ area with a small wall of couch seats (with seat belts) and windows.

This was our second time in Seoul in a year. We had a transfer there last year on our big Asia trip, but that time we got there late at night and this time it was in late afternoon. The place was hopping.  We’d already decided to do some wandering and get some steps in to stretch our legs. It’s interesting that at a certain point in the airport they have the exact same stores again, in the same order.

airportteddy
Is it just me, or does this bear look a little jetlagged, too? At the very least he’s not happy to be at the airport.

There was a quartet playing; we heard Beauty and the Beast, Star Wars, and Lionel Richie while we stopped and walked around. Eventually the crowds and stores were the same so we headed to the lounge. It was super crowded and we were quite sleepy at that point.

The second flight was in an older plane, and it showed. The bathrooms weren’t as nice and the seats themselves were pretty uncomfortable. This time I got the western food and it was not very good. Luckily I was still full from the first fight. I kept smelling gas (not petroleum) on this flight. It was bad. Thank goodness I had a scarf to cover my nose when it got so bad my nose hairs felt like they were curling. I couldn’t sleep until the mystery farting stopped. Sal fell asleep pretty quickly. He claims he wasn’t the guilty gasser. I was listening to music and playing a game on my phone when I started hearing a familiar sound: Sal snoring. I didn’t have the heart to wake him up and eventually he stopped. I slept a few hours on the flight. Not as much as I wanted to, but at least I got some sleep.

We arrived in Sydney extremely tired, but when we landed we got a second wind. It was exciting being in Australia for the first time and on a new-to-us continent. Next up: Sydney!