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.

We met at Town Hall Square.
And eventually made our way to Hyde Park, where our guide went through the Sydney’s history.
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.

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)

Inside the CUstoms House is a miniature replica of the city, under glass, under foot. Pretty neat.
A little historical mural in The Rocks.


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.


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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:

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.

(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.

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

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!

Continue reading “Sydney: Initial Impressions (Day One)”

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
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.

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!


Australia, Planning, Vacations

An Unexpected Upcoming Journey

Once we decide where we are going each year, the first thing I check is if we need any immunizations. For the most part, the shots aren’t really a big deal. However, when we had to get the Japanese Encephalitis vaccinations (multiple spread over a period of time) before the big Asia trip, I got a little sick each time. This immunization basically expires after two years, so my goal was to never have to get it again. Luckily Japan was high up on our list of travel destinations, so Japan it was.

I started my research and started to come up with a broad itinerary. I downloaded an app and every day I’d spend a bid of time trying to learn how to read Japanese. Of course I spent a lot of time on TripAdvisor, as well. Things were coming together until…

Hub found out he was going to speak at a conference in Sydney.

Now Australia was on the list, but it was not high on the list. It’s very far. But it would have been silly not to take advantage of the fact that we could combine work and vacation, meaning work would pay for a significant amount of expense. So Sydney it was/is.

Suddenly I had to start from square one with the research, and semi-quickly, because we were leaving in three months.

Did you guys know that a lot of things are trying to kill you in Australia? And speaking of that, don’t get me started on the crocodile stories. I made the mistake of doing some research, and now my Google news feed blesses me with any new horrifying crocodile stories that happen in Australia. Great!

But the more I researched it, the more excited I got. And all of the sudden, it’s next week. We will be on planes for over 24 hours. Whew. This will definitely be the furthest we’ve gone. I will try to take you along for the ride and hopefully share some of the amazing things I expect we’ll be seeing and doing (WiFi permitting).

So buckle up, people. We’re headed to the other side of the world.

Click here!



Thank You, Anthony

As I said in an old post, I inherited my love for travel from my Grandma. She used to go to Europe pretty much every year, and bring me back a doll or some other keepsake. She or my Grandpa would tell a few tales of where they’d been or what she’d seen. Honestly, I don’t remember much, but I do remember the general feeling of excitement and adventure.

I never thought I’d be able to travel beyond the U.S. or the Caribbean. The first time I went to Hawaii, when I got married, was a bit of a dream come true as I never thought I would make it there unless I was extremely lucky. I was indeed.

When I moved from middle America to the East Coast it was ait of a shock, but it was ultimately a very good thing for me. I was exposed to new things that I hadn’t experienced in the Midwest. I moved to a neighborhood where I was most certainly the minority. I started trying new foods that either weren’t available back home, or that I was just too scared to try. I fell in love. I got married and we slowly started to do some traveling. Most of it was to our families. As we got older and had more expendable income, we traveled more often.

We started watching travel shows, and came upon Anthony Bourdain’s shows. This tall, geeky, self-assured man would travel to places I didn’t know that I wanted to go to. Each episode not only offered some crazy food he’d try and moan about, but more importantly showed landscapes and people that were simply amazing. I remember watching several of his episodes in Thailand and Vietnam and thinking, “Maybe we should go there?”. It was something I hadn’t even considered before.

Bourdain made it less scary to go to places where people didn’t look like you, and taught you that it was actually silly to be nervous about these places in the first place. The last episode I remember watching was him in Vietnam actually *driving* a motorbike. Not just riding it. And he looked totally comfortable.

It’s really odd to me that I had no idea the impact he had on me until I found out about his death. I didn’t understand why I was so upset. I mean, I always thought he was a good guy with maybe a little bit of jerk thrown in, but why was this so unsettling when obviously I never knew the man? I came to the conclusion that if it wasn’t for his shows I probably would never have gone to Asia or to Africa–the two best trips of our lives so far. Hell, I probably would never have gone further than the 100% comfortable places, and I would have missed out on so much. I would have missed all the best bits.

So thank you, Anthony. You opened up the world to me. RIP.