Tag: Sydney

15 years ago today…

In high school, I was in a special program and one of the classes was an economics class.  I was an absolutely dreadful econ student, but the teacher, Mr. Zinn, was really cool.  So cool, in fact, that as an alternative to all the Europe trips students could take “where you just go visit a bunch of churches” (not that there’s anything wrong with that), he was putting together a trip to Australia and New Zealand, as he had done before.  Originally, we were supposed to go in 2000, but no one would be quite ready to go in that timeframe, and plus there was the whole Sydney Olympics thing happening around the time we planned to go.  So we decided the trip would take place in July 2001.  Two students from a previous trip decided to go; and of course, my parents decided they needed to chaperone and my uncle and a friend of the family ended up joining as well.  Due to alphabetical order of last names, I was fortunately seated next to the cute guy on our trip (bonus:  he had a bag of fun size Twix bars for the flight).

On July 11, 2001, we left for our trip.  Just getting to Australia was a little more challenging than we’d anticipated; we stopped in Fiji for fuel and spent an hour circling Sydney.  After an hour, our pilot gave up and flew us to Melbourne, a city we weren’t even scheduled to visit.  No one had gotten enough sleep to be useful and yet we set out to explore the city where we’d gotten a bonus night.  I was so tired, I announced my intention to go to bed, at which point my parents insisted that that was silly and I needed to go out. I think the thing I remember most about that evening is nearly nodding off numerous times while sitting down to watch the cheesy tourist-bait movie they showed in the tower, but I’m still glad my parents had the sense to get me out of the hotel.

Uncle Ken and I in the Great Barrier Reef
My uncle and I in the Great Barrier Reef.

We spent a couple of days in Cairns, which is in a rainforest and serves as a sort of gateway to the unparalleled beauty of the Great Barrier Reef, before heading to Sydney.  I remember snippets of our time there:  The bus tour around the city to see Olympic sites, Bondi, Manly, going to the fancy jewelry store to learn about opals and buy the best ones in town, freezing as the wind blew off the water as we waited for our Opera House tour to begin, our cheeky tour guide Megan, going to the Blue Mountains despite feeling awful, going to Planet Hollywood for dinner with most of the rest of my classmates, everyone buying Australian-made cowboy hats (yeah, I have no idea why that happened).  But needless to say, the city had a hold on me. Afterward, I would tell anyone who would listen that I wanted to live there one day–if only it weren’t so far away…

me and Sydney Opera House in background 7.17.01 crop

We spent time in Auckland and Rotorua, New Zealand, where we did home stays for a night, took boats through glow worm caves and saw locals perform a haka.  Yes, the country is exactly as green and hilly and gorgeous as all the movies show it to be.  (Go see Taika Waititi’s fun and wonderful Hunt for the Wilderpeople in theaters now–there are some knockout shots.)

So how did this trip change my life?  It showed me what travel can do to you–make you obsessed with places you’ve been, where you see things both natural and man-made that you could never have imagined and you can engage with a different way of life.  And yes, I still miss Sydney (Hobart too) and want to go back even though there are so, so many places I haven’t been yet, entire continents that I haven’t even touched.  It’ll happen, one day.

me on BridgeClimb 12.25.13

How has travel changed your life?  How do you want it to?


I spent my last two weeks in Sydney taking acting classes at the prestigious NIDA (during January they have short summer sessions), which was a blast, and tying up some loose ends before I left, including seeing things I hadn’t gotten to yet, like the Pylon Lookout.  Of course, the last real bout of nice weather we had was during my week at NIDA, so the only real time we had outside was during lunch. I was glad I wandered over to the Australian National Maritime Museum to see their really cool exhibit about Vikings–since the weather wasn’t great, I figured I might as well see a museum.  For my birthday, I went to Quattro Formaggi to get tiramisu and a glass of wine and later that night went out for Indian food and gelato with my French roommate Lulu.  My last full day in Sydney was Australia Day, so I wandered down to The Rocks for some of the festivities.


I’ve been back in the States for a week now.  It took me a few days to get back on a somewhat normal sleep schedule, although even in the past day or two I’ve still found myself desperately tired around 3 p.m.  I spent the weekend catching up with friends in Northern Virginia, and this week I’ve been getting more into “real adult life,” i.e. making necessary phone calls and writing e-mails, although my suitcases are still mostly full because I have no idea where some of those things will go once they’re unpacked.  Now that I’m back in Richmond camping out at my parents’ house, I plan to get a little more acquainted with the city and try not to take it for granted as much.  For example, a friend’s pictures of the graffiti murals along the River Walk have me really curious to see them–I had no idea they were there.  I’ll be sure to report back here or on Instagram or Facebook on what I find!

There are a number of things I wish I’d done in Australia this time, but I felt like the time was right to come back to America, not to mention how much easier it is to be here in the same time zone with family and friends.  But you can bet I’m still looking at travels in the near future.

What have I been up to?

What have I been up to?

  • I had heard a lot about Bronte Beach and how pretty it was, so since I’d never been, I decided to go on Wednesday, one of the two nice days we had last week (guys, it’s been raining A LOT).  I walked around Waverley Cemetery, which I had also heard was pretty, and indeed it was, although a stark, somber contrast to the gorgeous beaches surrounding it.  It’s right on the Eastern Beaches Coastal Walk, so you can see the hills of spires and tombstones as you walk by.  I walked from Clovelly up to Bronte and back. It’s a fantastic photo opportunity. Also, I went to the much-talked-about Three Blue Ducks for dinner–my burger and beer were pretty tasty.  (It’s supposed to be an awesome place for brunch.)
  • I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art in The Rocks for something to do, and hey, it was free and an excuse to get out of the house.  I’m not a big fan of contemporary art, and that still holds true.
  • I also went to the Art Gallery NSW in The Domain (a big grassy area where they have sports fields and concerts and such) and really enjoyed it.  There’s currently an exhibition on American art (America:  Painting a Nation), so I felt I had to go see it–and I was glad I did.  The Museum itself is a gorgeous building that is worth a visit just on its architectural merit, not to speak of all the gorgeous works it contains.  It’s free (unless you want to see one of the visiting exhibits), so you really have no excuse not to go.
  • I’ve also been watching a lot of Tom Hiddleston videos (he’s Loki in the Thor and Avengers movies, in case you don’t know).  It’s a little embarrassing (I can’t believe I missed seeing him in Sydney last month!).  But this is going somewhere, I promise:  I was rewatching The Avengers on Netflix (Australia doesn’t have Netflix, but there’s a workaround and finding it made me feel like an evil genius).  However, the internet went out (it seems to do that every time the phone rings–are we still living in the ’90s?) and I happened to look out my window.  Drawn as I am to shiny things, I had to find out what the one is in the top righthand corner of this photo, and I couldn’t figure it out even using the really awesome but overwhelming Star Chart app I downloaded, so I decided that the next night I would go on a tour of the Sydney Observatory.  The Observatory itself was pretty cool (it’s on a hill that affords a pretty great view of the ANZAC Bridge too), although the tour was sort of informal.  The group was asked if we had any questions, and there weren’t many, so the guide was sort of spouting off information nonchalantly.  He had a good sense of humor at least.  The Observatory itself has a lot of neat things worth looking at, old telescopes and charts and books about the transit of planetary bodies and objects over time and that sort of thing–you know, as an observatory should.  Day tours are free, so I hope to go back and check it out again at some point (if you actually want to see the telescopes and the 3D movies, you have to pay extra, but when you think about it, if you’re going to see the telescopes, shouldn’t you see them at night so you can use them?).

    The shiny thing is Venus…I think.
  • Friday I went back to The Village Bizarre in The Rocks in an attempt to actually do some of the stuff there.  I managed to get an appointment to have my hair fixed up, but I would have to wait a couple of hours.  Well, that was how long I waited in line for the fortune teller seated across from the hairdressers (hey, I was curious what she had to say even though I take it with a few grains of salt, although I am a little ashamed to admit that I waited that long).  I was worried that it would finally be my turn for the fortune teller when it was time for my hair appointment, but I had just finished my consultation with her in time to get my hair done, so that worked out.  And if what the fortune teller had to say was true, 2014 should be a pretty awesome year…

    Me after getting my hair done
  • This week, I’ve been battling a sore throat.  I’m hoping it doesn’t turn into anything worse.  I’ve been downing vitamins, hot water, tea and honey in an attempt to make it better, and today it does, so hopefully the worst is over.  I would hate to be travelling to Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road while sick!

Until next time…

Things I’ve discovered

  • Glebe Market:  A huge market of food and vintage clothes, among other things.  It’s in the Glebe neighborhood, which is eclectic with lots of restaurants, cafes, and specialty stores…and a giant mall.
  • Balmain:  More spread out than Mosman, but with more to offer and closer to the city
  • Kangaroo and camel are tasty
  • Australia’s biggest horse race, the Melbourne Cup, is always on the first Tuesday of November at 3 p.m.  It’s basically their Kentucky Derby.  No, I don’t know why it’s on a Tuesday in the middle of the afternoon, but many stores shut down at least long enough to watch the race, although some close for the afternoon or indeed the entire day.
  • The New South Wales Writers’ Centre:  I signed up for a creative non-fiction writers’ conference here last weekend and found out that this place is not all that far from where I now live in Balmain.  Cool place (with free WiFi!) that is offering space to those participating in NaNoWriMo (which I sort of am, but in a very non-committal way…)
  • Powerhouse Museum:  Like a science museum with a lot of interactive exhibits, clearly meant for kids but worth a visit for anyone.  I went mostly to see the exhibit about the Beatles’ sole trip to Australia at the beginning of their illustrious career.  I also enjoyed the Playing With Light exhibit.
  • The David Jones department store in downtown Sydney is huge and is what most every American department store wishes it could be.  Also, I want to move into its Foodhall.
  • None of the malls I’ve been to here make any sense to me.  They are big and difficult to navigate and sometimes flow seamlessly into other malls.  For example, The Galeries, the QVB, the Strand, and the Westfield shopping center downtown are all essentially in the same place.  And one of the two David Jones stores was an astounding 8 floors. Also, why must people walk all the way around the world to get to the next escalator?
  • I really wish I’d brought more long-sleeved shirts.  We may be going into summer here, but there are still plenty of days where I wear my North Face jacket unabashedly.

In actually exciting news, I’m going to see the Great Ocean Road in two weeks!  Look it up on Google Images and you’ll understand why I’m excited.

Until next time…

My month in Mosman draws to a close

On the up side, I have a place to live come Friday.  Actually, I was supposed to move out Thursday but my host and I were both confused on the date.  He agreed to let me stay an extra night for free since I brought back beer on Saturday after I won a six-pack at one of the last Sydney Craft Beer Week events.  Win-win.  Anyway, on Friday I’m moving to Balmain, a really cute area of town that may even have a little more to offer than Mosman (not just the fact that it has three Indian restaurants to Mosman’s 0) even though the demographic makeup is largely the same (older people and yuppie families, all white–something I hadn’t really bothered to think much about until one of my hosts in Balmain mentioned it).  I had never been before until I went to check out this spare room at a house last night, and since I got to town a little early, I decided to walk around for a bit.  I really liked what I saw, so I’m pleased that I will be living there.  I’ll be renting a room in the house of an older couple who also rent out a room to a 30-year-old French woman, so maybe not ideal, but with Balmain being so close to the city, I should be able to just jet back and forth with no problem (have I mentioned how much I love taking the ferry?  No traffic jams on the water, and the scenery is unreal).  And hey, I’ll still have a room to myself!

But all this makes me a little sad about leaving Mosman.  I had mostly gotten the hang of the bus routes around here.  I get recognized at one of the little cafes in town.  I’ll no longer have easy access to the best tiramisu I’ve ever eaten and an inexpensive sip of good bourbon (also home to the spiciest thing I’ve ever eaten).  I won’t walk by the tailoring shop on the way into town and be able to gaze at the gorgeous dresses in the window.  I can’t just catch the bus to Balmoral Beach and be there in 10 minutes (not that I’ve been there since I went the other week, but hey, it’s nice to have that option).  I’ll miss the nice IGA 15 minutes’ walk away.  Getting mail from my PO Box will require a couple hours’ field trip, although hey, mail is nice (hint hint 😉 ) and it’ll be good to have an excuse to come back to the area.

And then there’s the matter of how much I’ll miss this apartment.  Waking up to be able to see the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge from the living room window has been pretty amazing.  Plus, the view from the roof is hard to beat, especially during fireworks shows.  Also, I got to live mostly alone, although even when my host was here, it’s been fine.


So Mosman, I’ll miss you.  But I’ll be sure to visit.

Can I afford to be picky?

Looking for a new place to live come November hasn’t been easy.   Places that sounded too good to be true are, people haven’t responded to my queries, 8 people live in the same apartment in a slightly-out-of-the-way part of the city and still pay $800/month…sigh.  I had thought if worse comes to worse, I could stay in a hostel for a couple of weeks.  A month in a hostel is even more expensive than living in some of these apartments, but at least I wouldn’t have to be part of a lease.  But this week I stayed in a hostel, Backpackers By the Bay, while in Airlie Beach (a town that serves as a jumping-off point for the Whitsundays or where you can drink with other people from the numerous hostels in town, and even then the nightlife was pretty quiet) and wasn’t crazy about the experience. At almost 29, I think I’m a little too old for this, although I did see “older” people staying at the hostels amongst the dozens of under-25s.  Maybe I just like having a room to myself and not having to share with other people. Maybe I like something a little…nicer.  Or I’m too picky.  Am I not adventurous enough? I mean, if I’m in a room alone, I’m not going to meet anyone else unless I go out.  Or maybe I just really hate bunk beds and don’t relish the idea of reliving the college dorm experience all over again.  (Living with people you already know and are on good terms with is completely different to living with strangers in a revolving-door situation where people leave and come in without you ever knowing when they’ll be there.)

Instead of apartment searching, I had this hostel experience in the Whitsunday Islands.    For the record, the hostel itself was fine for what it was; it was clean and no one there seemed like a terribly questionable character.  Some of the other guests said they liked it because it was more chill than others they had been to. All the people who worked there were very nice and more than happy to help you organize trips (you could even get deals booking through them) or arrange your stay around when you would be on said trips.  The islands themselves are exactly as beautiful as any pictures you may have seen online–they need no filters to pretty them up.  The water is crystal clear and waves undulate from jade green to a deep, vibrant aqua.  Whitehaven Beach is particularly beautiful with its white silica sand.  Of course, there are plenty of companies that offer cruises out there, including sailboats that you can actually spend a couple of nights on.  I chose a day trip via Whitehaven Xpress, which was surely more casual and entertaining than any of the other cruises I could have gone on (when I asked a woman working at the hostel which tour I should go on, she asked, “Do you want to make friends or be around families and old people?”). The guys on the boat were very funny, although occasionally they’d crack and let it be known that they were finding it stressful that most of the passengers that day didn’t speak English.  They would joke with (sometimes about) passengers and with each other, climb around the boat like monkeys, and generally have a good time doing all of these things while largely making it look easy and fun.


Upon getting back to Sydney on Thursday, I figured I needed to really devote myself to looking for a new place to live.  I’ve looked at several reputable housesitting websites after reading about this idea on some travel blogs, but a lot of the assignments are short-term and I don’t really want to be moving every week.  I’ve also given thought to roaming around the country a little more, but I don’t know where I would store my giant suitcase while doing so.  I’ve gotten advice from a couple of locals and expats about where to live and where not to live in Sydney, so hopefully soon I’ll be cozying up in a decent place in a fun part of town where I live with cool roommates and not paying a ton of money to do so.  I guess we’ll see what happens.

Until next time.

What I’ve Been Up To

Tuesday last week I was able to watch a Freedom of Entry military parade through Mosman (part of the International Fleet Review).  The parade was short, but it was really cool to see a few hundred people (many of them schoolchildren) turn out, many of them applauding the servicemembers.  That evening, I was uber-touristy and went to Madame Tussauds and the Sydney Tower.  I had arranged to go to Madame Tussauds first and then head to the Sydney Tower so I could be there during sunset.

The tower wasn’t far from touristy Darling Harbour.  On the way there, I happened by the Queen Victoria Building (QVB), a large mall in a gorgeous historical building.  I’m going to have to take a tour of it at some point.

A clock in the QVB
A clock in the QVB

On Wednesday last week, I went to the suburb of Chatswood to see what I might find at the mall there.  The answer was a really large and confusing mall similar to those in America in that it did not have much that I cared for or would even use.  I did find that department store Myer not only had out their Christmas stuff (which involved snow and glitter–don’t they have any tropically-themed Christmas decorations here?) but was also having a fantastic book sale.  I had to tear myself away before I bought too much.

Friday I went to nearby Balmoral Beach and discovered that it was even more gorgeous (and much larger) than Clifton Gardens on Chowder Bay.

Sunday I took the ferry downtown and wandered around The Rocks, a historical part of town that is now home to a lot of bars and restaurants.  It so happened that there was a market where a large number of vendors were selling clothes, jewelry, and crafts.  After fortifying myself at Pancakes on the Rocks (where there are many  ways of making pancakes even more unhealthy than they already are), I decided to walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which enabled me to get pictures like this one:

The bridge is not as long as you’d think:  It’s only 3,770 feet long.  There was another market happening in Kirribilli, just over the bridge.  I also happened to discover a bar that shows baseball, which surprised me, although on Monday I discovered that select NFL games are aired here on cable.

Tuesday night I wandered around Hyde Park during the Night Noodle Markets sponsored by the Sydney Morning Herald.  A ton of restaurants (almost exclusively Asian) set up shop here to sell small tastes or entire plates.  There were also several beer and wine gardens, too.  I was glad my host told me about this–otherwise I might not have known.  The setup was gorgeous.


I’ve spent a fair amount of today assessing which bank would be the best to go with and figuring out how to open a PO box here. Sounds like fun, right? Until next time…