Archive for the ‘bus system’ Category

Pacific Sun, Surf, and The Best Mexican Food I Have Ever Had

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

Today was the first day I have been able to sleep in, and it felt lovely. I awoke around 11 (still way earlier than I get up at home, so there is progress to be made.) After a quick spot of brekkie I grabbed my laptop and camped out in the hallway for a few hours for wifi access. Then I got a call from Matt Ballew, a friend from high school who is also studying in Sydney through a Boston University program. He told me where he was and said that we could meet at the bus station and head to the beach for the day. He didn’t have to ask me twice.

He gave me directions to his apt, which of course I proceeded to get wrong, but a few phone calls and U-turns later I had figured it out and found him and three of his BU friends at the central bus station. We got on the bus towards Bronte Beach, about a 40 minute bus ride, but we were actually headed for Tamarama Beach, which is just a short walk from there. The way beaches work here is that instead of it just being an endless expanse of shoreline like it is on the east coast of the US, the beaches are all these cove type areas, and each one has a different name, although they may be less than 1 km apart, such is the case with Bronte and Tamarama. Even though the beaches are often close together, each one has a different culture attached to it, in the same way that Rehobeth beach has a different culture than Virginia Beach or the Outer Banks.

Tamarama beach is often referred to as “Glamarama” due to the number of gays that tend to frequent its shores. This is of course why Matt wanted to go there. That and because last weekend was the kickoff of the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras celebration, the largest pride celebration in the world, so there are lots of gays arriving in Sydney for the festival. The festivities generally stretch a few weeks, with the official kickoff being in late Jan, and the big street parade in March. The universe has aligned in my favor for this particular celebration as the street parade falls on my birthday!!! I can think of no way I would rather celebrate my birthday than with all the flamboyant gays of Australia in a giant drinking, dancing street parade. I can’t wait to write that blog post, its going to be wild.

So we arrived at Bronte Beach and walked the 1 km over to Tamarama. The views on the way were spectacular.

Bronte Beach

Tamarama

Bronte Beach is where the first surf lifesaver club originated. Surf Lifesavers are volunteers who are trained to perform life-guarding duties, but it is also a social club that hosts competitive surfing events and other social events. The yellow and red tent on Tamarama beach is where they sit. They also post yellow and red flags on the beach and you are supposed to swim in between the flags as that is where the rip tide is not, so it is where it is safest.

The ocean is so brilliantly blue here.

Sunbathers/potential skin cancer victims.

After some swimming and a good amount of catching up with Matt he suggested that I grab my camera and we climb some of the rocks that line the cove. Never having seen real tidal pools this was actually really neat. When we were there the tide was in, so many of the rocks were underwater, but he said at low tide you can walk a good 100-200 feet off shore just by climbing over the rocks.

The rocks were very slippery, but the views were well worth it.

Some of the tidal pools were a few feet deep and so people brought their little children over and treated them like baby pools. Dogs are not allowed on most Australian beaches, but over on the rocks is fair game, so we saw a bunch of dogs playing.

Dogs playing in the ocean!

I wonder how much these houses go for. I would guess minimum an arm, two legs, and your first born son. And thats probably lowballing it.

Tidal pool

Tidal pool wildlife, also Matt's toes.

Sea Anemones!...or rather ocean anemones....?

Ugh. So lovely.

Yep, still reflecting sunlight. Awesome.

After an afternoon of sun and surf we took the bus back to central, and after Matt had changed and rinsed off went to my apt so I could do the same. My roommate Jill ended up talking to Matt for a good 20 minutes about boston related things since she goes to Mass Art College and he goes to BU. Once we left my apt we headed up towards USyd, because on the way is this little mexican restaurant called The Flying Fajita Sisters. While I had been cautioned by my sophomore UMW roommate Mary Cait not to eat the Mexican food here (she studied in Australia last semester and had a bad experience with a burrito where they put parsley on it instead of cilantro) I was willing to put my faith in Matt when he told me that it was amazing. It sounds odd to say, and even more bizarre to have lived the experience, but I had the best mexican food I have ever had…IN AUSTRALIA. This seems completely counter-intuitive, as when you are in rome you should do as the romans, and when you are in Australia you should probably not try to eat cuisine that is from the complete opposite end of the earth, but I did, and it was life-alteringly good.

For an appetizer we had chips with three different dips, made from scratch on the premises. One was some sort of cheese with fresh chilies on top, one was refried bean infused with some sort of delicious spice, and the other was a green mystery dip that was just as mysterious as it was deliciously amazing. All three were served hot, and the chips were also warm and made form scratch on the premises. Because it was a saturday evening I had to of course get a cocktail (T minus six days till I’m legal in the states!) After giving the drink menu a careful look over I settled on a water melon, mint, citrus concoction that had some sort of tequila in it. AHMAZING. Next course was grilled fajitas. Since Matt and I are both vegetarians we opted for the grilled mango and cheese fajitas. I squealed with delight when I saw this on the menu because my love of mango is passionate and endless. However, the addition of cheese is an odd thing that I never would have thought of, but works amazingly well. The outside was crunchy, and the inside was sweet, thick, and had a hint of nutty saltiness due to the cheese. My taste buds reached a state of nirvana somewhere around the second bite.

For dessert we went with fried bananas finished with coconut creme, sprinkled with toasted coconut and white chocolate and a coconut and lime brulee. Words do not express the sheer blissful delight that washed over me with each spoonful. I had truly died and reached culinary cloud nine.

Banana, coconut and white chocolate. Brilliant.

Blurry, but o so tasty. Brulee is french, not mexican, but so wonderfully tasty.

Drinks, chips, and a dinner cruise to culinary nirvana.

After we had finally pulled ourselves away from this small island of mexican heaven we walked back to Broadway st (the main drag that separates where he lives and where I live) we hugged, said our “see you laters” and went our separate ways. I spent the rest of the evening catching up with my roommates and watching odd australian movies on tv. I collapsed into bed around 3 am full and happy. This country continues to surprise me in the most wonderful of ways. I mean mexican food in the pacific on the complete opposite side of the world? WIN.

A Pacific Playland

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

UNSW courtyard

Today was the first day where I had no scheduled activities. It felt odd to be set loose in this wonderful city and have nothing but my whims to guide me. Of course the first place my whims wanted to take me was the beach. It was 85 degrees and sunny today, the ocean beckoned.

Jill needed to get some administrative things taken care of at the University of New South Wales, which is close to Coogee beach, so I told her I would tag along and we would navigate the Sydney bus system together so long as we got to end the day at the ocean. She agreed and we were off.

The bus stop is less than a 6 minute walk from our apartment, and being a beautiful day (read: LOW HUMIDITY, a blessing I do not take lightly growing up in the sweaty hell pit that is Virginian Julys) the walk was very pleasant and the suburb we live in is quite cute. The tricky part about getting on the bus is buying the bus pass, which wouldn’t be hard if anyone who worked in grocery stores in this country spoke English. Much like in the United States, Australia seems to have a problem with the lower income inhabitants not bothering to learn the native language. Such is the case with most of the grocery store owners across the city it would appear. We spent a good 8 minutes trying to explain that we wanted one way student bus passes to zone 3. I don’t know what this small asian grocery store owning woman thought we were asking for, but she seemed very flustered by our request and didn’t understand enough to grant it until we had repeated ourselves in at least six different ways with animated hand gestures.

With bus passes finally in hand we found the bus we needed and 25ish minutes later arrived at the University of New South Wales. We had to ask some friendly aussies for directions to the main admin building, but once we found it Jill was able to take care of everything she needed to do quite quickly and without difficulty. I was kinda amazed at the ease at which we were able to accomplish everything. American universities could use a crash course in university management from the aussies.

I thought this was really unique looking

Apparently childrens cancer is a huge issue in Australia. I saw a poster on the UNSW campus that said by your 16th birthday your chances of surviving a cancer have decreased by 50% or something like that. I though this logo looked alot like the street artist Banksy.

UNSW Logo

UNSW walkway. The whole campus is very modern.

After getting all of Jills academic issues sorted out it was time to find the beach. We were told by a student guide at UNSW that we should take a bus, but looking at the map we decided we would save the money, enjoy the beautiful day and just walk. The nearest beach was Coogee, and with a map in hand we headed for the shore.

We probably walked a little under a mile, but just as we were getting tired we saw the ocean peaking out ahead of us. Suddenly our strength was renewed and we booked it the last .25 miles or so all the while watching the water line draw closer to us.

Getting close!

SO CLOSE!

COOGEE BEACH!!!

We spent several GLORIOUS hours at the beach. It was a warm day with low humidity ( it doesn’t have to feel like you are inside someone’s mouth when you walk outside?! WEIRD.) We swam in the pacific ocean and watched all the surf school students paddling out. They had some monster seaweed in the surf there but otherwise the sand was white and the ocean was blue and the houses in the surrounding area were adorable.

THE PACIFIC OCEAN!! I wish I could adequately describe the excitement level I was experiencing in this picture but I feel like my face says it all.

My darling roomie

What a perfect way to end a day.

On our way back from the beach we stopped in this very small privately owned pizza place for dinner. It was completely adorable and as we were sitting there families were coming in and shaking hands with the owner and ordering “the usual” it was adorably quaint. Of course getting home was tricky as we had walked from UNSW after taking a bus and now would need to find a bus station and a different bus route. Despite our best navigation skills (read: Jills, not mine as I am well aware of my limitations and they certainty include navigation of any kind) we managed to get lost. But the wonderful thing about getting lost in Australia is that the people are super friendly, the weather is warm, and the scenery is wonderful. So even though we ended up wandering around the city for about an hour and a half we didn’t really mind. As it got dark I finally suggested that we catch a cab, and within moments of deciding this one pulled up next to us, we climbed in and zipped home to glebe.

We were both laughing about it and ended up seeing a good portion of the suburban areas of the city, including two of the big parks here. I guess it is true what they say, not all who wander are lost. We thought we were lost but really it turned out to be an adventure. Once we got back to the apt we were exhausted from a long day of sun, surf, and sightseeing so after a few hours of catching up with our other roomies and internet-ing we passed out. Another day in Australia extremely well spent.

The southern hemisphere sun is intense. It requires a cool demeanor.