Thursday, December 15, 2011

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...

Summer! So as you can imagine, it doesn't really feel much like Christmas here in Oz. Last week it was sunny every day with temperatures in the 80's, but this week has been slightly cooler and hasn't blessed us with quite as much sunshine. There are still Christmas decorations out and the mall is mobbed with crazy Christmas shoppers, but it does seem that the smell in the air is just not the same.

Holiday parties are in full swing, and I was lucky enough to be invited back to my temp job to join in their Christmas celebration yesterday. It was certainly a festive and enjoyable afternoon, and tomorrow night holds two additional parties in store, one cocktail-style "unofficial" party for my old job, and Erik's work party, which involves dinner, bowling, and lots of booze. Speaking of booze, there is lots of it flowing as the temperature rises, and consequentially summer is known as "silly season" here in the land down under. I think that's a term that I'd like to take back to the States. :)

In other news, I'm a bit more than 4 weeks post bike crash, and while I am back on the bike for commuting purposes I haven't felt ready to venture out on any long exploration rides. I have been spending lots of time in the pool using the jog belt but no actual running yet. I'm hoping to head out for a run sometime in the near future. No job yet, but I did finally receive my criminal background check from the FBI and I'm officially registered to teach in Melbourne! Unfortunately it's a bit too late, as most jobs for the next school year were filled in September and October, but I haven't completely given up hope. If a permanent job opportunity is not available, I will likely end up doing some substitute teaching when the school year begins, which pays fairly well and would allow for more flexibility for traveling with Erik.

And remember that break in that occurred back in September? Yesterday the last thing was fixed, and nearly 3 months later, we have our house back together again. It certainly is a good feeling and now I'm excited to start preparing for our first guests, whoever they may be. Any takers?!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


When my birthday rolled around back in October, Erik surprised me with tickets to Sydney, and this past weekend we took the trip! Flying domestic within Oz is rather cheap compared to the US, and we flew Tiger Airways, considered a budget airline, for about $100 per person. I do remember being able to fly from RDU to BWI for that price back in 2005, but I'm not sure that is do-able anymore!

We arrived on Friday evening around 7pm, checked into our hostel, and grabbed some dinner nearby. I was a little concerned about what might await us in our room at Eva's, but it was very clean and about half the price of most area hotels, so I couldn't complain. We had our own room (with 2 single beds...a screw up on their part which they did handle well upon check-out by charging us a slightly lower rate and providing us with free transport to the airport), and 3 shared bathrooms in the hallway. After dinner, Erik led us on a walk. I wasn't totally sure where we were going because it was really dark and their weren't many lights or people around, when all of the sudden I saw this:

This was an absolutely unforgettable way to see the Opera House and Harbour Bridge for the first time. Such an amazing view and we were the only people around to see it. The next day there were hoards of people in that same spot, which made it even more surprising to me that we were so secluded on Friday night. After some self-portrait taking and a bit of walking along the water, we headed back for a relatively early night in.

On Saturday we did a big walking tour of Sydney. Starting at our hostel in the Potts Point/Kings Cross area, we walked through the Botanical Gardens on our way to the Opera House.
No, these are not bats. They are flying foxes and they are actually killing the trees in the Botanical Gardens!

From the Opera House we walked around Circular Quay to The Rocks, both bustling areas with lots of people and a street market with handmade items. We then headed across the Sydney Harbour Bridge for some amazing views of the Opera House. We did not pay the $200 to do the bridge climb, though we did consider paying $11 to go to the top of the pylons, but we thought we had a pretty sweet view from the bridge already.

After that we went in search of food on Pitt Street, where there is some serious shopping galore, complete with a brand new Louis Vuitton store with storefront displays of animals made out of purses! I didn't get a picture of the crocodile or kangaroo in the window, but I did find a picture of what one looked like.

Pitt Street was rather exhausting, and from there we went to Hyde Park to hang out and rest. We watched a chess match take place on a life-size chess board in the park, which I now realize I should have photographed! At that point we met up with two of my friends, Joe and Pete. I met Joe and Pete on a Contiki Tour of Europe back in 2004. Joe made it over to our wedding, but I had not seen Pete since Europe. It's actually amazing how much a trip like Contiki can bond people that when you see them many years later, you catch up just like the trip was yesterday. Pete drove us out to Bondi Beach for a cool view of the city.

We had dinner and beers along the beach and then headed back into Kings Cross to end the evening. It was SO great to see Pete and Joe and it was totally random that we were able to meet up because Joe lives all the way up in North Queensland and Pete lives about two hours south of Sydney.
The boys told me to dedicate this to you, Tandi.
On Sunday we took the ferry over to Manly Beach to meet up with a childhood friend of mine.
View from the back of the Manly ferry
Manly Beach
Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate, and a few minutes after we arrived at the beach it started pouring. However, we had a fabulous lunch with my friend Brian and his wife Amy, followed by drinks at his place and a lovely ferry ride back into the city that evening.

It would have been a cold and windy bridge climb for these folks!

It was awesome to catch up with Brian and to meet Amy, and I hope that we get the chance to see them again soon! After the ferry ride back to the city, we headed to the Australian Heritage Hotel for dinner to meet up with Erik's friend from college who happened to be on his honeymoon (can you believe how popular we were in Sydney this weekend?!) with his lovely wife Nicole. It was great to hear about their trip, as they had been to New Zealand and also to a few other parts of Oz before arriving in Sydney. They were on their way to Fiji for the last few days of their adventure. The restaurant had decent pizza, but more importantly an amazing beer selection, and we really enjoyed trying some different beers that evening!

On Monday we checked out of the hostel and caught a bus back out to Bondi, where we did the Bondi to Coogee cliff walk. Talk about gorgeous scenery! It actually started to rain at one point on the walk and we had to cut it a bit short due to timing for our flight back to Melbourne, but it was totally worth going back to Bondi for the walk.
Bondi Beach
How would you like to do your swim workouts in that pool?

Another pool right on the beach, and I think this one was free!
Overall we had a stellar weekend filled with lovely friends, good food, and beautiful sights! This will certainly be a birthday trip to remember.