Archive for the ‘Australia’ Category

The Great Ocean Road: Redux

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

The next day was another early morning as we had to leave our hotel around 7 am to meet the great ocean road tour bus. I debated not going with my family to do this tour for the second time and spending the day curled up with my laptop and some room service, but I figured that since this was supposed to be a family vacation and all I would suck it up and just go. At the very least I could be sure that dad would do something ridiculous that would embarrass the family, and who would want to miss out on that.

 

Start of the Great Ocean Road

 

phallic

It takes about two and a half hours to get from downtown Melbourne to the start of the Great Ocean Road, and true to form Melbourne was overcast, windy, chilly, and rainy. The driver we had for our trip didn’t do nearly as many stops on the Great Ocean Road as the driver I had the first time did, although this might have been because we had a much bigger group with us, or because since it was now winter there were less daylight hours to spend on the road. Regardless of how many stops you make the one stop everyone makes is at the Twelve Apostles rock formations. The Twelve Apostles are the seven remaining limestone rock formations that sit away from the shore, there used to be twelve but over the years erosion has left only seven.

 

The 7 remaining apostles

 

Given that this is one of the main attractions on the Great Ocean Road, it is the longest stop the tours usually make, they give you about 45 minutes. So Mom, Dad, Julie and I piled out of the bus when we got to this stop to check out the formations. We wandered around for a good twenty minutes or so before heading off in different directions. Since Julie, Mom and I are all capable of telling time, we were back on the bus when our 45 minutes were up and of course Dad was nowhere to be found. Julie and I were quite unconcerned about this. I mean, he is 50 something adult male in reasonable mental standing and therefore it is reasonable for us to expect that he can take care of himself. Mom seems to feel otherwise.

She started pestering us as to his whereabouts, which of course we had no more knowledge about than she did. Soon her pestering turned into suggesting that one of us should go after him since she couldn’t get very far on her bum ankle. Julie and I made eye contact and without words knew that neither one of us would be volunteering to do this alone, so I asked her if she would go with me. Julie and I tossed this idea around for another minute or so as Mom moved from worrying to a full fledged panic as the bus driver began counting everyone on the bus. As the bus driver comes by to count us Mom explained that Dad was still missing, and the driver seemed unconcerned since it was an adult that was missing and not some small child. Little does he know that my father being missing is perhaps worse than a small child being missing because at least a child knows that he should not be out on his own, whereas my father still thinks he is capable of wandering off without supervision. Mom tried to explain this, but the driver only laughed.

Finally, seeing the desperation on mom’s face Julie relents and we both got off the bus to search for Dad. Having never been a member of a search party Julie and I made the rookie mistake of splitting up, and of course as soon as we had run off in opposite directions Dad showed back up on the bus, thus shifting Mom’s panic from where Dad was to where Julie and I were. Since I hadn’t made it as far away as Julie had, I heard Mom when she yelled at me to come back, and I did, but then we were still one person short.

The bus driver has counted the number of passengers on board at least twice, and as mom and dad both pester me to go after Julie (didn’t they get that this didn’t work the first time?) the driver shuts the doors and begins to drive through the parking lot towards the highway entrance. Now both parents are panicking and practically pushing me up to the front of the bus. Why the responsibility to find Julie who Mom sent to look for Dad falls on my shoulders I don’t know, but I suspect it just has something to do with shit rolling downhill. So I go up to the bus driver and sheepishly explain that my sister is still missing and he looked considerably less than pleased. Our family has held the whole group up a good ten minutes and he seems even more frustrated when I explain that I have no idea where she is and the only recourse is to go out after her myself. Embarrassed and frustrated I take off after Julie and luckily it isn’t long until I find her and we are both back on the bus. As soon as we are, we dig into Mom for sending us out after Dad, and in response Mom yells at Dad for not being able to tell time. Dad of course absolves any responsibility for the situation saying that by the time he was on the bus Julie and I were the ones missing. So in other words, everyone ends up disgruntled and frustrated and its another lovely day with the Lapointes.

in case you forget

 

Thankfully the rest of our trip on the Great Ocean Road passed uneventfully and we got back to our hotel in Melbourne around 9pm that night. We went to bed almost immediately after returning to the hotel because we had to be at the airport by 7 the following day meaning we had to be in the lobby waiting for our shuttle pick up by 5. This was to be our last night in Australia, next stop- FIJI!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March of the Penguins

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Thankfully the next day our flight wasn’t leaving at some un godly hour, instead we got to actually see sunlight before boarding the shuttle to the airport. We had a lazy morning packing and getting checked out of our rooms until it was time to meet the shuttle, which showed up over thirty minutes late due to some road construction delays. When we got to the airport we learned that our flight had been delayed too. Dad, who had spent two hours sitting on the runway at LAX with Julie due to a Qantas delay was growing quite impatient with this routine (not that it takes much to make him impatient) and he said “ You know I could work for Qantas. I would just have to be able to say, sorry for the delay. “

Eventually we did get onto our flight and once we arrived in Melbourne it was much chillier than it had been in Cairns. Since it was getting close to the end of the day we didn’t have any time to explore museums, so instead we checked into our rooms and headed down to the hotel bar for a light dinner and of course mom and dad got drinks, thus continuing the “Lapointes Get Hammered Tour.” After dinner Julie and I gathered up some $1 and $2 coins and headed to the Internet kiosk in the lobby to catch up on our facebook news feeds and check our email before heading up to bed.

Even though our tour of Phillips Island didn’t start till 1pm the following day, we had decided that we would get up early the next morning and spend the day exploring the city. So we got up the next day around 9am, had a quick breakfast at a cafe we found near our hotel and then headed towards Federation Square, which is the center of downtown near where all the museums are. I wanted to take everyone to the Australian Center for the Moving Image, a free and very interactive museum that I had really enjoyed when I was in Melbourne, and I thought that even Dad and Julie who have very little patience for museums, might enjoy this one. We arrived at the museum around 9:30am and since it didn’t open till 10 Dad and Mom explored the area around federation square while Julie and I sat at a table in the square to take advantage of the free wifi. Around ten we headed inside the museum and consulted one of the docents as to what exhibits were on for that day. Dad couldn’t have said more than three words to this woman when she asked “So what part of Ireland are you from?” In the United States people ask him if he is from Australia, and apparently Australians think he sounds like he is from Ireland. I don’t see why a Boston/New England accent is so hard to place but once even in Logan Airport in Boston someone asked him where he was from.

Interacting with some street art on the way to Federation Square

What is happening here? Art is happening here.

Car from Mad Max, Dad was pretty excited about this

Can Can dress from Moulin Rouge

 

After spending a few hours wandering through the museum we ventured back outside to a sunnier day than we had left, as it had been rainy and overcast when we had woken up. Given the pleasant change in weather I decided that we should check out some of the street art that Melbourne is so famous for, so we headed over to Hoiser Lane, one of the most famous alleys in Melbourne. Last time I was in Melbourne Seth, Jordan, Lyndsay and I had spent easily 30 minutes carefully examining and gawking at all the amazing works of art we found there. Mom, Dad and Julie were quite content just to walk through it at a normal pace and tell me it was cool. Another thing that Melbourne is famous for is its many hidden alley ways as they hold art, galleries, cafes, and lots of shopping outlets. I steered us towards one where I knew we could get some great burgers for lunch. After eating we headed back up towards our hotel to meet up with the shuttle that would take us to Phillips Island.

Healthy burgers for lunch. Dad and I both got Veggie burgers which were incredible.

More street art

 

Phillips Island is  a small island that is located 140 km southeast from the city of Melbourne and is approximately 10,000 hectares in side. In addition to the town of Newhaven, which has a population of 428 people, the islands other residents all live on the Phillips Island Nature Park. Wombats, koalas, kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, parrots, birds of prey, and reptiles can all be found here, roaming free, but the most famous inhabitants of this park are the Little Penguins which nest there and come ashore in groups every night to do so.

Before reaching Phillips Island we made two other stops. The first of which was a petting zoo where Dad had his first real life encounter with a kangaroo. He seemed slightly less than amused, but mom seemed to really enjoy herself, although she was a bit timid at first to feed them since they can be a bit grabby.

Mom feeding a kangaroo

Dad staring it down

He gave in. They are so soft.

wombats- they bite!

After leaving the petting zoo our next stop was a koala sanctuary. By the time we got there it had started to rain, and since it was a bit chilly out, all the koalas were bundled up into balls sitting in the forks of trees sleeping. I can’t say I blame them. It was a rather miserable day to be outside. So that was somewhat disappointing. But I did manage to spot one of these:

A kookaburra! Do not be fooled by the cute exterior, these things make an obnoxious amount of noise and they are LOUD.

Roughly another hour on the bus found us at Phillips Island about an hour before the penguins were expected to begin coming ashore. We wandered around the visitor center which was buzzing with activity. They had a fairly good exhibit on penguins that showed the different types of penguins and talked all about the breeding and social habits of the fairy penguins that nested on the island. It was all very well done. They even had some nesting boxes with little viewing holes in them and you could see some penguins that had not ventured into the ocean for the day. Around 6:30 it had gotten dark enough for the penguins to come out, and so we headed down to sit on the bleachers lining the shore. It was a cold and windy evening and it was still lightly drizzling. Mom, Dad, Julie and I huddled together to try and stay warm, but I don’t think any of us were really dressed to be sitting on the beach in the rain in the middle of the winter so we were cold.

 

While we waited the park rangers explained that every night the number of penguins that come ashore varies a great deal due to the moon being out and tides and such. They have seen as few as 20 and as many as 2,000 in a single evening. Since the moon was full that night we were told not to expect a huge number, because this would increase visibility for predators thus making the penguins a bit more timid about coming out onto the beach. The penguins have had a rough time in the past few decades with the introduction of species not native to Australia, like foxes and feral cats as they have taken a dent out of the population. Penguins can only have one egg at a time, but they have survived somehow. We kept hearing them referred to as “determined little birds” and they really are.

 

We shivered and waited for about 15 minutes before we saw the first penguin emerge from the water. It is unusual to see only one, as they typically come ashore in small groups of four or five called rafts. They do this because when you are a tiny little penguin there are many predators out to get you and there is safety in numbers. We watched this lone little penguin come out of the water and timidly make his way out of the surf until he was almost halfway up the beach and then he broke into a waddling run to get to the low lying bush where he would be better protected from birds and such. The ranger had told us that we should only spend half our time on the shore as once the penguins had come out of the water they could be better observed further up the beach socializing and coming home to their mates. We saw that first one, and then about two small rafts of five or six before the rain really started to pick up and we decided we had enough and were ready to head inside. As we did we saw some of the penguins waddling up beside us.

Since the penguins can be easily startled, we were not permitted to take pictures, so here are some that I stole from the Phillips Island Penguin Park website:

 

We got this close

Totally could have reached out and touched one

ADORABLE. DO WANT.

 

By the time we got back to the visitor center we were cold, wet, and somewhat disappointed. While the penguins we did see were adorable I think we had all been expecting to see a few more than the twelve or so we ended up seeing.

Dad said “I’m gonna tell people that there were so many penguins that we had to walk on them to get back to the visitor center. The sea was blackened by penguins.”

The four of us all got a very overpriced cup of hot chocolate in the visitor center before getting back on the bus and headed back into the city.

No running over penguins please

On the Reef

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

The next day we all got up early, packed and headed to the airport to meet our flight to Cairns. It was my last morning in Sydney and I left it on a cold and dreary day. Thankfully, when we arrived in Cairns it was bright and warm. We were picked up from the airport by a Sun Bus shuttle driven by a very talkative Australian woman. On the 45 minute drive from the Cairns airport to the Meridan hotel in Port Douglas  she talked all about the amazing diversity of wildlife to be found in that region. We heard about venomous spiders, sting rays, jelly fish, crocodiles, and snakes. It really made all of us enthusiastic to spend time outside. By the time we got to our hotel and checked in the day was winding down, and even though the temperature was in the 80′s it was still technically winter, so the sun started to set around 6pm.

Hotel in Port Douglas

Pool at the Meridian, also the view from our room

The beach in Port Douglas

After checking in we headed out to the beach, about a two minute walk from our hotel, to take in the last remaining half hour of sunlight.

Parents

tiki hut living

Having had a late lunch in the airport we weren’t terribly hungry, so mom went to the grocery store to buy some munchies and a cheese plate for us to snack on, and dad went to the bottle shop to get a bottles of liquor and a bottle of tequila. Since Julie is of legal drinking age in Australia, dad was fascinated by the idea that he could do shots with his youngest daughter, so once he got back to the hotel with his bottle shop purchases he started pestering Julie to do a shot with him.  I think he had anticipated Julie being unable to throw back a shot of tequila without wincing, but once she agreed to do a shot with him, she did so without even flinching. Clearly that side of the Lapointe family can take their alcohol, I can’t say the same for me and mom. Once the novelty of this had passed we snacked and watched some movies on TV before all turning into bed.

The next morning we were up quite early to meet a shuttle that took us to the Marina so we could meet up with Sailaway, which was the boat service we booked for the day to take us out to the reef. Sailaway is one of the smaller companies that does trips to the reef from Port Douglas. They use a small catamaran boat that takes about 30 people out each day, and they sail out so its a very green operation. The ride out was a bit chilly since it was so early in the morning and it was a bit overcast, but by the time we got out to the low isles where we would be snorkeling, the sun had come out and it had warmed up quite a bit.

Our Yatch for the day. Sailing Away!

Riding the boat out to the low isles

Low isles

shrimping boats in the distance

Ready to snorkel!

We were given wet suits, fins, and snorkel gear and then shuttled out to the islands in a small glass bottomed boat. On our way to the island we were able to see all that was below us through the window in the bottom of the boat. We saw all sorts of colorful coral in all sizes and shapes and all manner of wildlife. There is a very large sea turtle population on the reef, and as such they are a big draw for tourists, but we were cautioned not to get to close or to touch them at any point. Our tour guide said “Sea turtles can get to be hundreds of years old, and the last thing you would want if you were a hundred years old would be someone chasing after you in a funny looking mask.” Point taken.

We managed to see quite a few sea turtles and they were HUGE. We also spotted some clown fish, and they were much smaller in person than I thought they were going to be. Mom and dad set out together and looked quite comical trying to get out to the deeper water in their flippers with their pool noodles in hand. Dad was especially uncoordinated, and towards the end of the day his noodle started to get away from him, and in diving after it he got too close to the coral and impaled himself on the reef. He was ok, and just kept laughing about how of all the dangerous things in Australia that could have attacked him he ended up bleeding because he ran into a stationary object. Julie and I fared a little better, although Julie was a lot less daring than I was when it came to getting close to the reef.

Sea turtles! One of the main attractions of the day

Nemo= found.

We snorkeled for about three or so hours, taking breaks whenever we needed them. Around 2pm we loaded back into the glass bottomed boat which took us out to the bigger boat where we had an amazing lunch of shrimp, kebabs, fresh fruit, sandwiches, beer, wine, salad, and assorted deserts. It was such a relaxing way to end a wonderful day. We could not have asked for a better tour company or better weather. As we were finishing up lunch some of the smaller children that we hanging around the back of the boat noticed that we had attracted some friends. Three or four black finned reef sharks were circling our boat, so we began to throw them the leftover shrimp shells and heads, which of course only attracted more marine attention.

black finned reef sharks eating our leftover shrimps

beautiful blue water and a reef shark lurking below the surface

Once back in Port Douglas we headed back to the hotel to shower and change, and then walked up the main street to find somewhere to eat dinner. We landed on this rowdy bar/brick oven pizza restaurant called Rattle and Hum. Since we had a big lunch we all ordered light meals and drinks. I had to assist Julie in ordering a cocktail since she had never done it before. I started her out on a Cosmopolitan, a nice girly classic. After a long day out on the water none of us were up for too much excitement after dinner, so we all went to bed fairly early.

Surfing the Daintree

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Monday morning we were up early again to meet a shuttle, this time to the Daintree Rainforest, which was about a two hour drive from our hotel in Port Douglas. The sun bus driver who picked us up was an older German man, who, like so many others we have met in Australia, visited the country when he was quite young on a whim, and liked it so much that he never left. He had a thick German accent and talked to us about Europe and Australia all the way up to the rainforest.

Lookout over the Daintree Rainforest

The family- I'm pretty sure my father is incapable of smiling

As we were getting closer to our final destination the foliage on either side of the road got more and more dense and we started to see lots of signs for cassowary crossing. A cassowary is a large black flightless bird that is quite mean. It is the largest bird to be found in the pacific region and definitely the largest one in Australia. While it can be found in parts of Paupa New Guinea and on some island nations in the pacific, the largest concentration of them can be found in tropical north Queensland in Australia. Since cassowaries do not fly, they forage for food on the forest floor, often eating fallen fruit, and they are capable of eating many fruits and plants that would be toxic to other animals. Interestingly, cassowaries are solitary birds, only paring up during mating season, and once the female lays the egg it then becomes the males job to build the nest and incubate the egg by himself. These animals look more ridiculous than intimidating, but they have thick razor sharp claws that are capable of doing serious harm if provoked, and from what I have heard this is easy to do, i.e. they are mean. While these birds are very populous in Queensland they are slowly working their way onto the endangered species list due to habitat loss and being hit by cars, hence all the signs. While we saw a bunch of these signs on our drive up, we had to stop and get a picture of this one:

They've got jokes

The bottom sign had previously been a speed hump sign, until someone with a sharpie and a sense of humor had a better idea. We all had a good laugh at this. But seriously- cassowary roadkill is serious business! It happens!

After 2 and a half hours driving up through the foliage we finally arrived at the base office for the jungle surfing company. There we were met by a different shuttle that took us another ten minutes to their base camp of operation where we were each fitted with helmets with nicknames and harnesses.

Looking so thrilled

Fitting nicknames. Julie- Elektra, Dad- Peter Pan, Mom- Mother Earth

Once the basic rules of the day had been explained, our family, along with about ten others headed up the mountain through the rainforest to the first platform where our jungle surfing would begin. On our walk the tour guide started talking to us about the Daintree. The Daintree Rainforest is the second biggest rainforest in the world after the Amazon, and at 1200 square miles it is the largest area of continuous forestation in Australia. It is also the second most diverse environment on the earth after the great barrier reef. Our guide told us: “On this ten minute walk you will pass by more species of plants than you would if you were to walk across the entire continent of North America.” It has been estimated that upwards of 430 species of birds live in the canopy of the forest and the region is also home to many animals that are endangered elsewhere like the cassowary and the tree kangaroo.

Once we arrived to the first platform we were hooked onto the zip line and one by one sent to the next platform. It took about an hour and a half to get through all seven platforms of the course, and the views along the way were stunning. At times you could see beyond the trees to the pristine blue waters of the reef.

Starting out

Mom and dad swinging through the trees

Safe on the platform

I was Barbie. I didn't pick it obviously.

All the Lapointes tethered to a tree. Dad making another awful face.

Towards the end of the course as we became more comfortable we started to get daring, and when someone suggested that we try going upside down we all had to try. Well, everyone except mom who was having enough adventure already just being up in the air that high.

Julie struggling to turn herself upside down

me upside down!

Dad said that this way all the blood would rush to his head and he would get smarter

Mom arriving safely but looking quite flustered

"Growing up sucks" all too fitting for Dad

It's true, we do!

After we had completed the course we went back down the mountain to meet up with our German driver who took us back into Port Douglas. On the drive back Mom asked if he had any restaurants he would recommend in Port Douglas, and he said we should check out this local place on the water called the Tin Shed. The woman who had driven us from the airport had also recommended this, so we figured we would check it out. Instead of going back to our hotel we had him drop us off at the restaurant instead. We arrived around 4:30pm so the sun was getting low in the sky and all the boats that had been out fishing and doing reef tours were beginning to come in. The views were wonderful.

Watching the sun set and the boat come in

ready to eat

We were all pretty hungry since we hadn’t eaten lunch, and this restaurant, a bastion for locals in the area, turned out to be one of the cheapest places we had eaten in Australia. Julie and mom both got seafood while I got a pasta dish and dad picked at everyone elses food. Once the sun went down it got a bit chilly, so after we ate we headed back to the hotel so we could shower, pack and sleep since we had another flight to catch the following day.

Lapointes Reunited

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Mom and I were up early on Thursday morning to check out of our hostel and check into The Menzies in downtown Sydney where we would be spending the next two nights and meeting the other half of the family assuming they had survived the flight. This was a big assumption. While I was excited for my mom to come to Australia early, dividing our family in this way meant that we were leaving the two least capable members of it behind to get through two flights and a layover by themselves. Mom’s anxiety about their arrival began almost immediately after we woke up that morning. Their flight was supposed to get in around six am but we had checked their flight status the night before and learned that it had been delayed two hours.

We arrived at the Menzies, checked into our rooms and then found a place to stage our stake out in the lobby. I was quite relaxed, I mean even if something had gone wrong it would be no fault of ours. Mom had given each of them a stapled, color copied, and laminated copy of everyones passports, credit cards, travel documents and visas, trip itinerary, and details on the location of our hotel in Sydney. All they had to do was get off the plane, find their bags and then locate the bus driver who was scheduled to pick them up and would be looking for them. Even if something did go wrong, neither of them had an international cell phone so there would be no way for them to reach out to us for assistance. So basically all there was to do was wait. Or at least thats all I thought there was to do. Mom found all sorts of other things to do, like try to predict what had gone wrong, mentally work through the worst case scenario, call the bus company thinking they would know something about wether or not they had arrived, pester me about checking the Qantas website to search for updated flight information, inform the concierge desk to look for them even though we already were. Mom was jumpy and anxious like anyone married to my father has reason to be.

We sat waiting in the lobby for a little over two hours and I watched moms breath quicken everytime a bus or taxi stopped outside the hotel. Around 11:25 we had this exchange.

Mom: I’m so anxious! Why aren’t they here yet, are you sure the flight information said they were only two hours delayed?

Me: YES. For the last time YES. I don’t know why you are so worried, relax, there is nothing you can do.

Mom: I should go get my blackberry so they can call us, do you have your phone? Where is your phone? you should go get it.

Me: What exactly are they going to call us from?

Mom:….well….I don’t know …can you just go get it please?

Me: No, they aren’t going to call us, and even if they do, what can we do?

Mom: If they don’t get here by 11:30 I’m going to–

Me: You’re going to what? Implode?

Thankfully around 11:35 they did arrive. They looked worn and weary but for the most part they appeared to be intact.  After a few minutes of hugs and hellos we all headed upstairs to our respective rooms so that dad and Julie could put their stuff down, shower and change. As it turned out, their flight had been delayed because there had been some sort of problem with the fuel pump, and so they had sat on the runway at LAX for two hours waiting for that to be resolved, thus turning their 14.5 hour flight into a 16.5 hour flight. Needless to say they were quite thrilled to no longer be on a plane or in an airport.

For our first day in Sydney Mom had booked us a hop on hop off Captain Cook cruise, which runs all day and goes to various attractions in and around Sydney Harbor. So after Julie and Dad had recovered a bit, we went to Pancakes on the Rocks for lunch and then got on the boat and headed towards Taronga Zoo, the premiere zoo of Sydney. Taronga is home to over 2,600 animals and is located north of sydney harbor on 52 acres of land by the water.  Taronga is an aboriginal word meaning “beautiful view” and this is perfectly fitting as the zoo has some of the best views in the city, but I feel like this is probably wasted on its animal inhabitants. It would be the US equivalent of putting a very fancy zoo somewhere in the hills of LA overlooking the city. Beautiful, yes, but it means that admissions is crazy expensive to pay for the massive real estate bills.  Taronga is one of only two zoos in the world that breed platypus, thus a platypus occupies their official logo.

It was a chilly and blustery day, and so most of the animals were hiding or sleeping. Dad became very frustrated by this and kept saying “This is a zoo with no animals! Great! We should go to the botanical gardens because at least we know the plants would be there!”

Entrance to the Zoo

Giraffe and Zebra exhibit and the Sydney Skyline

We wandered around the zoo from 2pm until it closed around 5pm and then took the boat back to our hotel. Julie and Dad were exhausted and while it was good that they managed to stay up the whole first day, they were ready to get to bed. So we headed back to the hotel for an early dinner in the hotel bar and then up to our rooms for an even earlier bedtime.

The next day we were all up fairly early and after breakfast at a small cafe near our hotel we set out towards Paddy’s Market, or as dad came to call it- Trinket Heaven. My father is very persistent in his search for “trinkets.” For a man who doesn’t like to spend money he has an odd tendency to snatch up the most inane and useless objects he can find. I steered Mom and Dad and Julie through the maze of market stalls at Paddy’s and watched in horror as they purchased the most awful touristy items that could be found. A stuffed kangaroo, an Australia t-shirt, key chains, boomerangs and all sorts of other tacky and useless items. Not wanting to waste the whole day there, or any more money on kitschy trinkets I made every attempt to push them towards an exit. Once I was finally able to pull them out of the market we headed towards Central Station where Mom and Julie would catch the train to go to Featherdale Wildlife Park to pet marsupials for the day. Since I had already been twice and dad had no interest in going, we went instead to the University of Sydney to explore the campus and then walked through Darling Harbor and then along the water to the Sydney Harbor Bridge where we walked halfway across the the pylon museum.

Julie at featherdale with a koala who is awake- very rare.

Mom, Julie, and a marsupial

Feeding time

View of the Opera House from the Sydney Harbor Bridge

Sydney from the Bridge

Dad and I had a pleasant day catching up, and the weather was beautiful so walking along the water was breezy and picturesque. Around 6 we headed back to our hotel to meet up with mom and Julie. Since this was our last night in Sydney and Julie was of legal drinking age in Australia mom demanded that we go sit somewhere on the water and have a Lapointe family cocktail hour. When mom and I had taken the Opera House tour a few days before we had received a 20% off voucher for the Opera House Bar, so we headed there. The opera bar was a popular happy hour spot and it was crowded, but we each got a drink and took in the nighttime views of the bridge and the opera house before setting out in search of dinner. It was in this moment that dad officially dubbed our vacation the “Lapointes Get Hammered Tour.”

For dinner we headed back over to Darling Harbor to the Black Bird Cafe so that dad could get a kangaroo filet. Julie, who had pet a kangaroo earlier that day was mildly horrified that the same animal could be eaten with a side of vegetables, but dad wanted to try it. I think Australia must be the only country that eats their coat of arms.

A tasty coat of arms

Dad ended up not really enjoying his kangaroo filet because he enjoys his meat fairly well cooked and because kangaroo is such a lean meat it has to be served very rare. After dinner we walked back to our hotel and packed our suitcases to get ready for our 10 am flight to Cairns on the Great Barrier Reef.

On the Beach & Inside the Opera House

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

There has never been a Lapointe family vacation that did not involve a beach or large body of water in some way. Even though it is winter in Australia right now, Mom was determined to not let this stop her from getting to the beach while in Sydney.  Her one request for our last full day by ourselves was that we go to a beach so she could put her feet in the Pacific Ocean. So after getting up this morning and spending a few minutes at USyd using the Internet to skype, we caught the bus to Central Station and then the train to Bondi Junction, and then another bus to Bondi Beach. Once there we had a light lunch and a pastry at my favorite café in Bondi- The Gelato Café. Unlike last week when I did the cliff walk with Kaela and her mother, today was a beautiful bright warm sunny day, and the beach was buzzing with surfers and families enjoying the weather.

Mom puts her feet in the Pacific Ocean at Bondi

Graffiti art at Bondi Beach

Surfer standing on his head for reasons unknown

A beautiful day at Bondi

So many surfers

Local wildlife

After spending a few minutes on the sand we started the cliff walk which goes is a roughly 5 km walk, but we only did the first leg of it which ends at Bronte Beach. We got off a Bronte and then took the bus back to the train station where we caught the train to Circular Quay.

On the cliff walk

We walked from Bondi to Bronte beach- thats Bronte in the background

While I have taken many people to see the Opera House when they have come to visit me this semester and I have walked around the exterior many times, I had not taken the official Opera House tour, but I definitely wanted to. Mom and I had attempted to do this on Monday but most of the performance spaces had been closed then do to rehearsals taking place, so we had agreed to revisit on Wednesday. So upon arriving in circular quay we went straight to the tour center and purchased tickets for the 4:00pm guided one-hour tour.

After meeting our tour guide, Daniel, everyone in our tour group of about thirty was issued a head set, and the tour guide had a microphone that he spoke through which we could hear in our headsets. Mom and I both remarked on what a brilliant way to conduct a tour this was since the guide never had to shout and you could always hear him no matter how close to him you were. One of the rules for the tour is that you were not allowed to take pictures inside of any of the performance spaces. This is because many of them have sets built inside of them that are under copyright, and the stage hands and musicians that work inside these spaces have signed privacy contracts that do not allow them to be photographed while they are working. Therefore, all my pictures are of the exterior hallways and lobby spaces of the opera house.

The first space we were taken into was the smallest one, which is a square theatre that has seating all the way around and chairs that can be brought out to fill the floor, or the floor can be left empty. This space can be used for intimate concerts, children’s shows, or any theatre performances that are done in the round. The second space we went through was the concert hall, which is acoustically designed so that no microphones ever have to be used and the sound evenly distributes throughout the entire room. The opera hall is similarly designed, so that the performers never have to use microphones, and a person sitting in the front row will receive the same quality of sound as a person sitting in the back row. In total the Opera House consists of seven spaces:

The Concert Hall, with 2,679 seats, is the home of the Sydney Symphony and used by a large number of other concert presenters. It contains the grand organ, the largest mechanical tracker action organ in the world, with over 10,000 pipes.

The Opera Theatre, a proscenium theatre  with 1,507 seats, is the Sydney home of Opera Australia and The Australian Ballet.

The Drama Theatre, a proscenium theatre with 544 seats, is used by the Sydney Theatre Company and other dance and theatrical presenters.

The Playhouse, an end-stage theatre with 398 seats.

The Studio, a flexible space with a maximum capacity of 400 people, depending on configuration.

The Utzon Room, a small multi-purpose venue, seating up to 210.

The Forecourt, a flexible open-air venue with a wide range of configuration options, including the possibility of utilising the Monumental Steps as audience seating, used for a range of community events and major outdoor performances. The Forecourt will be closed to visitors and performances 2011–2014 to construct a new entrance tunnel to a rebuilt loading dock for the Opera Theatre.

When the city of Sydney first decided to put an opera house on Bennelong Point, there was a contest held for architects everywhere to see who would get to design it. Hundreds of designs were submitted and discarded by the selection committee, but it was an American judge who arrived late to the judging process who asked to see the discarded designs that selected the design by Jorn Utzon, a Swedish architect, which had been placed in the discard pile initially but ended up being the winning design. The initial drawings done by Utzon were very crude and were more sketches than blue prints. He had no idea how he was going to construct the sails of the opera hose, and so work commenced on the base while Utzon and a team of mathematicians and architects worked on how they were to build the rest. This caused significant delays in the building process as the technology to be able to construct the building had to be invented.

The design work on the shells involved one of the earliest uses of computers in structural analysis, in order to understand the complex forces to which the shells would be subjected. In mid-1961, the design team found a solution to the problem: the shells all being created as sections from a sphere. This solution allows arches of varying length to be cast in a common mould, and a number of arch segments of common length to be placed adjacent to one another, to form a spherical section.

The tile pattern on the outside of the shells is the design it is because Utzon saw the same pattern on a woman’s bathing suit one day and he was quoted as saying ” I liked the way it flattered her curves” and hoped that the same pattern would flatter the curves of his design. The tiles themselves were triple glossed ceramic tiles so they would shine in the sun, but would not have reflective properties. Also- due to the triple glossing, even if they get dirty any amount of rain water rinses them off so they never need to be cleaned.

In the middle of construction on the project the governor of Sydney changed, and the new governor was not as patient or forgiving of Utzon and his expensive and time consuming project as the previous one had been. Tensions arose and got so bad that Utzon abandoned the project, returned to Sweden and a new group of architects were brought in to finish it. Utzon never returned to Sydney to see his completed masterpiece, although he was re-commissioned by the opera house board in 1993 to refurbish one of the interior spaces and draw up plans for several of the opera house spaces for the future. He died a decorated and famous architect, and now his son works with the opera house board to continue his fathers work and the refurbishing and updating of many of the interior spaces.

Tile detail

Inside the opera house- The famous opera singer Liberace hated this carpet and refused to have his picture taken in this area according to our tour guide

Harbor views from inside the Opera House

More internal opera house views

This glass was made in France, and it is special glass that expands and contracts with cold and heat. It is attached to the beams on elbow joints to allow for this movement. The opera house is called a "living sculpture" and not a building by its architect Jorn Utzon

The original cost estimate given in 1957 when work began on the Opera House was $7 million. The original completion date set by the government was 26 January 1963 . The project was not completed until 1973, ten years late, and it ended up costing $120 million, so it went over-budget by more than fourteen times.

The worst place to be in bad weather as the wind gets tunneled through here, and since the building has no rain gutters all the rain slides off and into this space.

on the inside

After finishing our tour the sun was setting, so mom and I found a bus back to Glebe. On our way back to our hostel we stopped and got some Thai food to go, and then did laundry at the hostel while we ate. When we wake up in the morning we will check out of our hostel and take a bus downtown to check into the Menzies Hotel near Circular Quay, where Dad and Julie will meet us assuming they made both their flights. So as of tomorrow all of the Lapointes will be in Sydney (hopefully). Here’s Hoping!

I never get tired of this view

Wines, Cheeses, and Chocolates

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

One of the last remaining things to do on my Sydney “To Do” list, was to go on a Hunter Valley wine tour. Hunter Valley is one of the largest river valleys in New South Wales, and is most commonly known for its wineries and coal industry. Pokolbin is the centre of the wine country, and it is located about three hours northwest of Sydney. Much of the rolling countryside around Pokolbin is under vine with the traditional Australian grape varieties of shiraz and Semillon as well as extensive plantings of Chardonnay, Cabernet, Savignon, and small quantities of Pinot Noir. Most of the valley is comprised of vineyards, restaurants, shops, golf courses and country guesthouses.

Doing a tour out there was a somewhat pricey thing to do on my own, but I figured with my mom here, and my dad and my sister not yet here, it would be a perfect thing for us to do. A bunch of my friends had done them and given me recommendations as to which tour company to go with, so mom and I booked a tour with bus pickup from Sydney and met the bus at 7 am on Tuesday morning out of Central Station. Our bus driver, Michael, was very a amiable and talkative old fellow, and since Mom and I were the only people being picked up from Sydney, we got to drive with him by ourselves all the way up to the valley. Before even getting into the valley we started seeing wild kangaroos. They were just hanging out on the hilltops by the dozen. The bus driver was just casually pointing them out, but as soon as he did mom started to squeal with delight. Kangaroos are a fairly common occurrence in the woods of Australia, so much so that they have become quite a pest, but people still get pretty excited to see them out and hopping about. Once we reached the valley we picked up 13 more passengers from various resorts and hotels in the valley and then our tour began.

The first vineyard we went to was a small family owned one that only produces 5,000 cases of wine each year, and grows all the grapes they use on their property.  Every time a member of the family has passed on they have named a block of grapes after them. We sampled six different wines, three reds and three whites. Two of the whites, both sweet ones and one sparkling, mom and I really liked. We ended up purchasing them both.

First vineyard- Earnest Hill

The two vineyards after that were Savannah- which is the only vineyard in the valley that makes champagne, and First Creek winery. We didn’t like any of the wines at Savannah, but one of the Shiraz reds caught us off guard at First Creek. Generally mom and I aren’t that into reds, but this particular one had very soft talons and a lighter taste than most reds and we liked it so much that we bought two bottles.

wine barrels at First Creek- the third winery we went to

wine tasting at First Creek Winery

With Shiraz wine purchases in hand

After first creek we stopped at a hotel cafe for a light lunch. Mom and I ended up chatting with some of the other people on the tour during lunch. We met this family with a 15 year old son who were native Australians of Italian decent. They were saying how they were trying to plan a family vacation to the US to go to Las Vegas since it was only a 15 hour flight. ONLY?! Mom and I were both shocked that he was able to make 15 hours on a plane seem like a pithy amount of time, but he made the point that flying from Australia to another country many flights can be up to 26 hours, so 15 by comparison isn’t all that bad. After lunch we went to the smallest, but most picturesque vineyard, Blueberry Hill.

Label logo for Blueberry Hill- the fourth vineyard we toured

wine country as seen from Blueberry Hill

Blueberry Hill Cellar Door

By the time we reached Blueberry Hill we were somewhat wine-d out. There was one more large winery after that, the only one whose product can be bought overseas, but we didn’t taste anything we really loved at either of these places. We spent very little time in the actual winery at the last vineyard, and more time at the cheese shop that was located right next door. This cheese shop makes all of its cheeses on site and you can do a sampling of everything they have there, so naturally mom and I made a B-line for that as soon as we finished our last wine tasting. They also make spreads and jams which are also available for tasting. One of the best cheeses they make there is their signature golden rind, which mom and I both loved, but at 30$ for a fairly small wheel of it, we both kinda decided we could live without it. The last stop on our tour was a chocolate shop where we got to sample the fudges they make there in addition to some of the other candies they make. What a perfect way to top off the day, with a little chocolate. In this shop they also had a number of food oddities, so we wandered around for a few minutes looking.

Chocolate Pasta?

After the chocolate shop we dropped everyone off at their respective hotels and the drive back to Sydney we spent in relative silence as we dozed off, woozy from all our wining and dining. We were dropped off back at Central Station where we took the bus back to Glebe Point Road. It had been a beautiful and mostly temperate day, but it had been very windy in the valley, and once we had returned to Sydney the wind was still blowing quite fiercely and since the sun had gone down it was quite chilly. We weren’t terribly hungry, but we thought a bowl of soup and some bread might be in order. Near our hostel was a place called the Glebe Point Diner, which I had never been to, but we thought since it was a “diner” we could get something cheap and basic there. We were quite wrong. Although it looked modest enough from the street corner, once we were inside we found that it was actually quite swanky. We arrived towards the end of the dinner rush, so we ended up being seated at the bar facing a huge wall of wines that they offered. Several of the wines we recognized as being from the vineyards we had toured, which was cool. Mom really had her heart set on soup, and she perused the menu for such an item but came up with nothing. Everything there was quite high end and complex. When she told the waiter that all she was after was a bowl of soup he recommended the crab soup, which she had overlooked on the menu, but happily ordered.  I ordered a pumpkin and goat cheese tart. As we waited for our food we watched the chefs in the small kitchen work. There were four of them and we were mesmerized by their grace and precision.

Images of the Glebe Point Diner

When we got our food both of us were taken aback at how delicious it was. Given the snooty appearance and steep prices we had mentally prepared for small portions of pretentious food, but what we received instead was a wonderful meal. Once we had finished eating we walked back to our hostel and were able to get to bed at a more normal hour- 10pm.

Mom Arrives!

Monday, July 4th, 2011

Mom’s flight was supposed to land in Sydney at 6:30 am on July 3rd, but as nothing can ever be simple in my family this of course did not happen. As she was nearing the 15th hour of her trans-Pacific flight the captain came over the intercom to tell the passengers that the Sydney airport was shrouded in fog, and therefore they could not land there. Instead they would be making a slight detour trip to Brisbane (453 miles north of Sydney) to sit on the airplane on the runway there until they could be cleared for a landing in Sydney. By the time Mom actually made it to Sydney it was close to 11 o’clock which means that she had been traveling for over almost 30 consecutive hours. Luckily she had arranged to get a shuttle from the airport to our hostel and I didn’t need to meet her anywhere, otherwise I would have been waiting for quite a while. Not having slept  hardly at all on the flight she arrived at the hostel and we had our hugs and hellos before she demanded to know where the shower was located.

After a shower and a quick change she was feeling more human (and certainly smelling better) and I thought she would want to take a nap to sleep off some of the jet lag as almost everyone else who come to visit has wanted this. Not my mother. She was not going to let the flight beat her, so we set out in search of lunch and then got to walking. She wanted a picture in front of something quintessentially Australian to put up on the internet so that she could prove to friends and family that she had survived the flight and had arrived safely. So of course after lunch I steered us towards the opera house.

She has arrived!

Me, Mom, and the most photographed building in the Southern Hemisphere

We walked from Glebe to Darling Harbor and then along the water to Sydney Harbor. We stopped in Darling Harbor for an hour or two to take in some street performers and soak up the sunshine and the lovely 70 degree winter weather. We even enjoyed our first official alcoholic beverages together as we sat at a table on the water chatting. We must have walked a good three miles over the course of the day, but mom kept on trucking. We walked around the craft markets at the Rocks and popped into a few opal jewelry stores to have a look. By 5 pm the jet lag had finally caught up to her and we found our way back to Glebe and enjoyed a light dinner at an outdoor Spanish wine and tappas bar before heading back to the hostel. We were in bed by 7pm, which in the world of me is utterly absurd. I was tired though for not having slept but a few hours the night before due to restlessness. We were both sleeping quite soundly until about 2:30 am when mom’s blackberry started ringing. We both started grumbling and through our grunts had this conversation:

Mom: Valerie…Valerie! What is that?! Turn it off!

Me: Mom, I think thats you’re blackberry, its ringing

Mom: Who in the world could be calling me?! Someone better have died.

I stumbled across the room to pick up her blackberry, and by the time I found it we had missed the call. On the call log it said that Home had called and Mom started assuming the worst. We thought it was Dad that had called us so we decided to call back. To our surprise it was not Dad, but Julie who answered the phone. That conversation went something like this:

Julie: Hello?

Me: Julie! Did you just call us?

Julie: Yeah, why?

Me: It’s 2:30 in the morning here!

Julie: ….o…I forgot about the time thing

Me: You just FORGOT that its a whole different day on the other side of the world?!

Julie: Yes. Look, can I just talk to mom?

I handed the phone off to my mom. As it turned out nobody had died, Julie just had some menial question that did not merit us being woken up at such an ungodly hour. After we hung up with her neither of us could get back to sleep and we ended up talking until the wee hours of the morning when we finally fell asleep for a few hours. We woke up the next day with a list of Sydney Sights to see. First we walked up Glebe Point Rd and had a light breakfast at a local cafe and then continued up the street so I could take Mom around USyd.

Mom at the University of Sydney!

Not only did I attend Hogwarts this semester, but I was a Gryffindor Lion too!

So excited to be at USyd!

After walking around and showing her where I had interned and where all my classes had been we sat in Fisher Library for a few hours so we could skype with Julie and Dad and listen to them panic about their impending solo travel mission. We walked Julie through what to pack and how to navigate the airport, even though mom had left a large packet of information behind for her and dad that contained all their travel documents, vouchers, important phone numbers and directions to everywhere they needed to be, all neatly numbered, collated, and color coordinated of course. Despite all this, we were both painfully aware that we had left the more inept half of the Lapointe family behind, so we were willing to field their panicked questions for a while. After leaving USyd, we hopped on a bus down to Circular Quay to check into an opera house tour, which wasn’t available that day due to rehearsals taking place, but we were still able to walk around the inside of the lobby and the outside of it. After leaving the opera house we made our way through the botanic gardens before grabbing a small salad to tide us over till dinner.

Botanic Gardens

As the sun was setting and the temperature beginning to drop we hopped on the bus back towards Glebe where had dinner at my favorite Australian mexican restaurant, The Flying Fajita Sisters, and then turned in for another early night.

A beautiful day

Back to Broadway

Monday, July 4th, 2011

Knitted street art

Since living by myself I had been feeling a little lonely, so I decided to venture back to Glebe for the day. I also needed to drop off one of my bags at the hostel that mom and I will be staying at, which was also in Glebe, so after a leisurely morning I took the train from Bondi Junction to Central Station, and then took a bus to the hostel where we had a reservation. Once I had put my bag into storage I was facing a full day with nothing else to do. I thought about taking in another movie, but there wasn’t much else I was interested in seeing, and at $15 a pop for a movie ticket I like to be sure I want to see something.

Since it was a warm 70 degree winter day and I had worked up quite a sweat hauling my suitcase around I decided to pop into the Broadway Shopping Center to grab a fruit smoothie to cool down. I hadn’t been in the Broadway center in a few weeks, and even when I had been in there most of the time I had by passed almost everything in there to get to the grocery store. So this time around, with smoothie in hand I took my sweet time. I had remembered Kaela saying that there was a pet store somewhere in the mall, and where there are pet stores there are usually puppies so I set our with that vague goal in mind.

I meandered around three floors before finding the pet store in the corner of the third floor. I did indeed find puppies, and I was not disappointed by their cuteness. With a smoothie in hand and puppies in view, my mood lifted significantly.

puppies- instant mood lifter

Cuteness is spilling out everywhere

Furry little balls of adorable

Shameless marketing ploy, I used this network while I was in the mall, and it wasn't all that. Just goes to show you that things in thongs tend to be worthless.

After a little more wandering I found myself in a book store, one of my favorite places in any mall. This one was particularly large, and as I browsed I found no shortage of things I wanted to read and own.

Anyone who is around to be looking at this book clearly survived 2009 just fine, which might be why its been marked down to $2.

I browsed through the humor and travel sections, my two favorites, and ended up leafing through this little gem:

I learned that 98% of white people are thoroughly predictable

Some memorable exerts from Christian Lander on what white people like:

TRAVEL

“White person travel can be broken into two categories- First World and Third World. First World is Europe and Japan, and man, this travel is not only beloved but absolutely essential in the development of a white person. Every white person takes at least one trip to Europe between the ages of 19 and 29. During this time they are likely to wear a backpack, stay at a hostel, meet someone from Ireland/Sweeden/Italy with whom they have a memorable experience, get drunk, see some old churches, and ride a train. What’s amazing is that all white people have pretty much the same experience, but all of them believe theirs to be the first of its kind, so much so that they return to North America with ideas of writing novels and screenplays about it. Upon returning home, they will also find an affinity for a particular beer or liquor from a country they visited. They use this as an excuse to mention their travels when at a bar. “Oh, I’ll have a Czechznlishiyush Pisner. You see, that was my favorite beer when I was traveling through Slovenia and the Czech Republic.” The second type of white person travel is Third World. This is when they venture to THailand, Africa, or South America. Some do it so that they can one-up the white people who only go to Europe. As with Europe, white people like to believe that they are the first white people to make this trip. As such, they should be recognized as special and important individuals. That’s right, by going to a country, riding around on a bus or train, staying at a hotel or hostel, and eating, they are doing something important for the world. If you are someone who lives in a country that white people liked to visit, there are some things you can do for personal gain, the best of which is to make them feel fantastic by saying how you’ve never seen a white person before, and that you are amazed by their ipod- “a device that plays that many songs? Impossible!” They might give it to you, then you can sell it for profit. Repeat as necessary.”

STUDY ABROAD

“In addition to accumulating sexual partners, binge drinking, drug use, and learning, white people consider studying abroad to be one of the most important parts of a well-rounded college education. Study abroad allows people to leave their current educational institution and spend a semester or a year in Europe or Australia. Though study abroad is offered to other places, these are the overwhelming favorites. By attending school in another country, white people are technically living in another country. This is important, as it gives them the opportunity to inert that fact into any sentence they please. “When I used to live in {insert country}, I would always ride the train to school. The people I’d see were inspiring.” If you need to make up your own study-abroad experience they all pretty much work the same way. You arrived in Australia not knowing anybody, you went out ot the bar the first night and made a lot of friends, you had a short relationship with someone from a foriegn country, you didn’t learn anything, and you acquired a taste for something (local food, beer, fruit). This latter point is important because you will need to be able to tell everyone how it is regrettably unavailable back home. It is also important that you understand the study abroad ranking system. Europe/Australia form the base level, then Asia, then South America, and finally the trump card, studying abroad in Tibet. Then there is the conversation killer of studying abroad- Africa. If you studied in Africa, it is usually a good idea to keep it quiet: it will remind white people that they were too scared to go and they will feel bad. Use this only in emergencies.”

HIGH SCHOOL ENGLISH TEACHERS

“Though white parents do a good job of introducing their children to culture, literature, and creative writing, they can only take them so far before the inevitable rebellion sets in at 12 or 13. At this point, the parents must hand off their child to a high school English teacher, who is responsible for educating the child in literature, art, creative writing, and New York City. Many white people will have up to four different high school English teachers during high school, so how do they choose the “one”? While you would think that this is a complicated procedure requiring the forging of a deep bond, ungraded poetry, and the lending of extracurricular books, it really isn’t so complicated. The way that a white person identifies the “chosen one” is dependent entirely on who guides them through The Catcher and the Rye. Simple as that. The high school English teacher is instrumental in leading white people toward arts degrees and eventually careers in law, nonprofit, and media, or as high school English teachers. The latter course represents the “white circle of life.” The importance of high school English teachers goes far beyond everyday life. They have inspired such classic films as Freedom Writers, Dangerous Minds, and Dead Poets Society. In fact, white people are so convinced that teaching high school English can make a difference that the U.S. government has created “Teach for America” to accommodate the overwhelming demand from white people to teach underprivileged children about the importance of Faulkner. But how is this information of any use in day-to-day dealing with white people? Its value is twofold. First, white people who are unhappy with their jobs will often say they wish to go to graduate school or to teach high school English. So whenever a white person is complaining to you about their job, giving them the advice to become a high school English teacher is always welcomed and appreciated.”

The whole section on study abroad I found to be shockingly accurate, and even though my favorite english teacher is the one that got me through Catcher in the Rye, that isn’t why I like her. In fact, I never thougt Catcher in the Rye was all that great. I thought Holden Caulfield was just depressed and whiny. Before I knew it two hours had passed, and it was getting dark. Thats what happens when I go into book stores, hours of my life just disappear. To finish out my day I purchased an apple strudel scone at the bakery on the corner to munch on while on the train and headed back to Bondi for my last night in my swanky high rise.

A Final Farewell

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

For Kaela and her mothers last day in Sydney they wanted to do the beach cliff walk that starts at Bondi Beach. We woke up around 10 am and took the bus from Bondi Junction to Bondi Beach. Unfortunately the weather was not cooperating with our beach walking plans, because just as we got off the bus the wind picked up and rain started to fall. We walked across the street to the beach anyway, but after less than 30 seconds we decided that this could wait. Earlier I had suggested that if we were going to be in Bondi we needed to check out this amazing little gelato cafe that Yaella had once taken me to that had the best pastries and cakes. We had initially planned on doing that after the beach walk, but the rain drove us inside the cafe early.

Even though Kaela and her mom are both on weight watchers I insisted that they have at least one sweet thing being that this was their last day in Sydney and the sweets at this cafe were too incredible to pass up. I ordered an apple apricot fruit slice and Kaela and her mom split a chocolate almond pastry roll with a dollop of ice cream, which is quite decadent by weight watchers standards. We chatted and enjoyed our sweet indulgences as we waited for the storm to pass. By the time we were done eating the clouds had parted and the sun had appeared, so we headed back out towards the beach.

Even though it was still a bit cloudy out, the rain had stopped and the sun was peaking out every so often, so we began our walk. One of the first big sites on the path is the Bondi Icebergs Winter Swimming Club. This club started in 1929 by a group of dedicated local lifesavers who wanted to maintain physical fitness and swimming skills during the winter months, ( and had clearly never heard of the indoor pool). They formed the club and ever since have occupied a prime location on the edge of Bondi Beach where they have two outdoor lap pools, one being olympic sized, and a large club house that has a bar, poker machines, and several large meeting spaces. While it is certainly impressive that people would voluntarily swim outside in 50-60 degree weather, to call it the ‘iceberg’ club is a bit of a stretch I think. It rarely gets colder than 48 or so degrees in Sydney. Now if this outdoor swim club was in say, Boston, MA, then yes, by all means call yourself the iceberg club, or better yet, the hypothermia at risk club.

Bondi Icebergs Swim Club

Cliff walkway

I'm the little mermaid, obviously.

The last remaining apt 18 ladies

The water is such a marvelous shade of blue here

The walk took us from Bondi Beach to Tamarama beach where we caught a bus back to Bondi Junction. Once there we went up to the apartment gathered up their luggage and went back downstairs to catch a cab so they could make it to the car rental place and begin their drive up the coast. Once we had flagged down a cab we had quick hugs and goodbyes and off they went. And then there was one. Now I’m really all by myself.

Southern ladies in the southern hemisphere

I will be living in my swanky 18th floor serviced apartment until July 2nd when I will move to a hostel in Glebe to await the arrival of my mother who will join me for a few days before the rest of my family arrives. Now that I am completely on my own in the land of Oz I am finding that it shimmers a little less. While I do love this country and I have been so grateful to have had this experience, it just isn’t the same without my study abroad family, who are now all back in the states. The days I have left before my actual family arrives will be quiet and quite possibly lonely. What can I say? I miss my Glebe family. Australia is hardly the same without them.

These are my people