Australia, Darwin, Vacations

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.

Australia, Manly, Sydney, Vacations

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.

Continue reading “Sydney: Sick And Manly Beach (Days Seven & Eight)”

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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Continue reading “Sydney: A Different Sort of Hike (Day Six)”

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.

Continue reading “Sydney: Riding On Boats With The Elderly (Day Five)”

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.

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

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!

 

Sylvia's Stones, Vacations

Remembering Sylvia

I think in an old post I referenced Sylvia, but I never really explained how she’s part of our trips now. I know this is a travel journal, and not really all that personal, but as Sylvia is very much a part of our travels now I thought this post was overdue.

Exploring new destinations is so important and interesting to me, personally, that I love hearing about my friend’s trips or reading trip reports, etc. Not all people are like that, but my friend Sylvia definitely was. She used to love hearing about our trips in detail, and I loved reliving them with her.  When some friends and I (all from the US) visited Sylvia (in Canada) a few months after my trip to Africa, I was still high from the experience. Sylvia was basically a shut in at that point due to poor health, so one evening I asked if she wanted to see some videos we had taken on safari. The videos ranged from several seconds to several minutes, and there were over 70 of them. I had no idea we had so many, and I repeatedly told her we definitely didn’t have to watch them all. I thought it might be extremely boring, but she wanted to see them. We watched every single one and she truly enjoyed seeing the African terrain and marveled at the vibrant colors and the animals (especially the elephants).

Almost two months to the day after the visit Sylvia passed away. I truly struggled after that as I loved her dearly and she was the first close friend I had that passed away.  img_93276702323451657016472.jpg

I wanted to think of a way to keep Sylvia’s memory alive, and one day as I was looking around on Etsy I discovered these small marker stones that people get engraved to put on headstones, etc.. All of the sudden I knew exactly what we should do: get some stones made in Sylvia’s honor and start leaving them in the new places we traveled to.

img_20180525_1347432528280045699207948.jpgI wasn’t sure if it was crazy doing it, and to be honest I didn’t care. Sometimes it was tricky, sometimes it was teary, but it always felt right.

The first five stone placements can be found in the next post, or right here.

Sylvia's Stones, Vacations

Sylvia’s First Five Stones: France, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand & Vietnam

Stone 1 (France: Château d’Ussé)

We rented bikes and rode to the chateau that was said to have inspired the look of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle. It seemed the perfect place to put this first stone. We knew right away that putting the stone indoors would be wrong, plus we didn’t want to take a chance of someone finding it and throwing it away.

We wandered the grounds until we found a spot that was hidden away by a brick wall/doorway. The spot overlook the water and a quaint bridge, and was in the front of the castle. Sylvia definitely would have approved.

 

Stone 2 (Indonesia: Indian Ocean)

To date, stone 2 is the only one I asked for permission to place. We were on a diving/snorkeling trip and I wanted to make sure it was OK to leave a stone in the ocean and it wouldn’t be considered littering or whatnot. It was interesting trying to explain to my guide what I wanted to do, as English wasn’t his first language (although he spoke it quite well). He eventually understood, and on one snorkel when I said ‘how about next to that purple coral – she loved the color purple’ he explained that the coral would move away. He then suggested putting it in an anemone where fish already lived so it could be in an actual home. He said it wouldn’t hurt the anemone as it was just a rock. I loved the idea, so he dove under and placed it inside. Watching this video puts a smile on my face as I remember those clown fish that live there, too, and now they have a special rock representing a special lady. I think it would be a miracle if human eyes ever saw that one again.

 

Stone 3 (Singapore: Orchid Garden)

Singapore is the greenest big city I’ve ever been to. It’s spectacularly clean, with gorgeous parks, gardens, and green spaces. We went to the orchid garden and it blew our minds with the sheer volume and variety. I knew this was where the stone belonged. The problem was we didn’t want anyone to mess around with the stone, so we needed to hide it.  It was quite a busy area and because there were so many different turns and twists inside the garden, I doubt I could find this location again. I’m sure that the people who take care of the plants there could very well find this stone, but I’m hoping they leave it. A purple flower for Sylvia.

 

Stone 4 (Thailand: Private Island)

We were on a private island south of Phuket. No cars, no traffic, private pool, breathtaking views. Bliss. Such a peaceful spot deserved a stone, so we put it with the other stones around the pool, with the amazing water view. A beautiful place to rest.

 

Stone 5 (Vietnam: Rice Terrace)

Vietnam was somewhere I didn’t expect to like, but I fell in love with it. The people are kind and welcoming and the food is amazing (and I didn’t have Vietnamese food before the trip, so that was pretty lucky!). There were so many different spots that I could have left a stone, but the rice terraces with the beautiful views and amazing tiny village below was the spot of choice.

 

Planning, Vacations

Come Along For The Ride

We’ve finally gotten this blog together, and just in time! Our big trip begins in a week and a half to Asia. That’s very strange to see written out as I’ve been planning this trip for so long it’s hard to believe it’s finally here.

The Numbers

Countries:                                           4
Cities:                                                  15
Flights:                                                14
Longest Stay:                                     7 nights (only once)
Shortest Stay:                                    1 night (only once)
Hotels:                                                14
Overnight Boats:                              2
Length of Trip:                                  8.5 weeks

We will be updating as WiFi allows. I’ve read bad things about Bali WiFi, so you might not get any updates until we get to our second destination. I was thinking of listing out everywhere we are going, but it might be more fun for you to discover it as we are discovering the actual destination. So first up, Bali.

Are we insane for doing this, or is it the best decision we’ve ever made? Stay tuned!