Archive for the ‘Botanical Gardens’ Category

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

The Orientation Process Continues!

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

I don’t know what is causing this but everyday almost everyone is waking up around 6 or 7 am without an alarm, myself included. I am sure it has something to do with jet lag/being on the wrong time zone but its a very odd feeling to wake up and have no idea why. Usually when this happens to me its 2 pm when I needed to be somewhere at 9am, so I ususally wake up in a panic and scramble to find some device that tells time to confirm my fears. While the fleeting moments of panic are still there I have been pleasantly surprised to find each time I found a clock that I have woken up 1-2 hours earlier than I needed to.

SO in other words, this country has caused nothing short of a miracle to occur in my life. Let us all pray this blessing does not soon pass.

The first order of business when I awoke for day two was to find my luggage! Luckily it had in fact arrived when they said it would, and was waiting for me in the lobby of our hotel at the concierge desk. I have never been happier to see suitcases in my whole life.

I scampered upstairs with my suitcases bounding behind me and quickly found my shampoo and clean clothes. This was blissful.

45 minutes later it was time to head down to meet up with the rest of the group. Today was going to be all about living in the city and learning where things were. Our tour guide Russ, a native Aussie took us on a three hour walking tour all over the city. We started our tour in Hyde park which is very central and houses the Australian War Memorial.

Australian War Memorial

This building has four corners and there is a statue on each one. A member of the airforce, marines, navy and the fourth one is a woman. Russ was explaining that Australia was the first nation to grant women the right to vote, and that equality has always been a big part of AUstralia culture. Since women ran the country while the men were away at war during every major conflict, they are featured on the memorial. Inside of it is a sunken statue of  solider. It is sunken in so that you have to bow your head to look at it, assuming a position of reverence. The statue has three sets of hands supporting it that represent his mother, his wife, and his daughter. These women symbolize the past, the present and the future of Australia.

Also in Hyde park is this statue of James Cook. Much like Christopher Columbus he did little more than stumble into a large land mass, mistake it for something else, and get credit for finding it when someone else was already there. Essentially he is the Christopher Columbus of Australia. Why we can’t properly credit people for discovering our countries baffles me. I took the picture from this angle because our tour guide showed it to us from this angle and made some interesting comments about his….telescope.

As we made our way downtown towards the shopping district we could see the Sydney Observation tower. At the top there is a very fancy revolving restaurant. Being that the hotel we were already staying at was 80 floors high we were told not to waste our money to see the views from atop this thing as it would be expensive and no better than the ones we already had in our hotel.

This is part of the shopping district. Almost all the stores are located in open air alleyways like this. They are really quite beautiful and you can just wander in from the street without having to go through doors.

Throughout Sydney there are a bunch of public parks that feature the work from local artists. The design in this fountain that Russ is standing in front of is from a local artist. Also- since the soil in Australia is so nutrient poor the trees there never loose all their leaves completely since they don’t have the recourses to replace them all at once like the trees in the US do. Instead they loose a few all year round.

We also walked through the Botanical Gardens. When you first walk in the sign says “feel free to pick the flowers, climb the trees, walk on the grass and feed the animals” I thought this was really refreshing how they encourage a hands on experience when in the United States it would be very “NO TOUCHING”. The big white bird in this picture is really like the pigeon of Sydney. THese things are EVERYWHERE. They are very friendly and will eat out of your hand. Here, Russ is demonstrating how they will sit on your shoulder and eat out of your hand if you let them. They have a particular fondness for banana bread we found out. Many of the students tried this, one guy even had about 4 birds on him.

The botanical gardens back up to Sydney Harbor, where the famous sydney bridge and opera house reside. Of course everyone wanted a picture of this stunning view. I’m fairly certain all 80 kids from my program have this exact picture only with a different person in the foreground in every one.

Harry's Meat Pie Stand. These things are world famous apparently. None of our group was incredibly blown away by them. They were kinda bland, and not great food for an 80 degree summer day.

After our walk around the city we stopped at Harry’s meat pie stand for lunch off of the Harbor. Supposedly these things are amazing and quite famous in Sydney. I didn’t eat the tradition version, because it has meat in it, but instead opted for a veg version.

Harry's Meat pies with potato, mash pea, and gravy. Mine was a vegetarian one. Obviously this is not mine because I would never put coke zero (read:POISON) into my body.

It’s like a pot pie with a serving of mashed potatoes and smooshed peas on top covered in gravy. Its good but certainly not the life changing experience it was built up to be.

After lunch we all were loaded onto a bus and taken to Featherdale Wildlife Park http://www.featherdale.com.au/

It is a very nice facility that is a hybrid between a park and a zoo. While the birds and more dangerous animals were kept in cages the more docile ones were allowed to roam within the permitters. So you could be looking at a pretty exotic bird in a cage and all of a sudden a kangaroo goes bounding past you. Its really awesome. This darling little guy was the first animal we met. He is a newborn baby wallaby, and very sleepy as you can see. But o so incredibly soft and cuddly.

Baby Wallaby

There were also Koalas EVERYWHERE Almost all of them were sleeping in trees, which looks very funny and uncomfortable but they don’t seem to be bothered by it in the slightest.

To me they kinda look perpetually hungover. But also very cute and cuddly. And so incredibly soft.

The Kangaroos and Wallabys are very docile creatures and do not mind at all if you play/pet them. They are very friendly/indifferent. Also super soft. I think one of the major genetic traits of marsupials is that they are really soft.

tiny penguins! They huddled in a little group like this and it was adorable. I was so tempted to scoop one up and let it live in my bathtub for the next four months.

My favorite. So beautiful

Being that Australia has been so isolated from the rest of the world biologically the animals have evolved quite differently, or sometimes very little evolution has taken place at all. This lizard is a very close decedent of the dinosaurs, and he looks it too.

This crocodile is MASSIVE. The inclusion of the girl on her cell phone in this picture was intentional to give it some sense of scale. It was FRIGHTENING to be that close to such a gigantic and ferocious creature.

These guys are wonderfully fuzzy. And as long as they can still get to their food they don't really care what happens to them.

kookaburra!

So after we finished up at the wildlife park we went back into the city and had the rest of the night off. I went with some friends out to dinner at a sushi bar. I am not a big fan of sushi but they were very hell bent on having some since it is so plentiful and cheap in sydney. The quality of fish here is also a lot better than it is in the states. The water around Australia is actually very clean. SO clean in fact that they have begun to attract sharks. While this may seem alarming and unrelated, if the plankton and organisms at the bottom of the food chain have food to eat and can swim in the water then they attract bigger organisms, and this goes all the way up the food chain. So if you have a body of water that is attracting large predators like sharks you have a very flourishing and healthy ecosystem. So if you ever get bit by a shark, look on the bright side, you were swimming in a very healthy ecosystem when it happened!

So after my sushi dinner experience I have gone from a casual dislike of sushi to a passionate one. Luckily it was cheap and I didn’t waste too much money discovering this. After that some poeple elected to go out, but after a long day of marsupials and walking I was quite exhausted and decided to hang out with some friends in the hotel and then call it a night.