Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sydney Part II days 4-8

Rachel and I were particularly excited about Featherdale because it has only the native Australian animals. As we left the bus a man was holding a baby wallaby and Rachel went up to see it, she said she had been waiting all week to see one and so the man said "If you've come all this way to hold one, here you are!"

The Wildlife park was so nice and we could have spent much more time there, but we were on a schedule and so onward we treked to the Blue Mountains. We planned our AU adventure in July for 2 reasons, one was timing certainly, but secondly it was to get a taste of winter. Why we chose not to take coats (that we had brought) is debatable but there was a definite chill in the air at least 20 degrees cooler once we hit altitude. We even got a taste of sleet for a short while after lunch while waiting for the bus.
The Blue Mountains were amazing and beautiful. Very grand and such spectacular scenery. The three sisters rock formation was cool and the other scenery was outstanding. By the end of the day the sun was setting and the temps were dropping further, we were happy to be riding home on a cozy bus. We did chose the 'fast return' option so to avoid being stuck on a bus in rush hour traffic we rode a ferry home from Sydney Olympic Park, home of the 2000 games. Boating into the harbor at night was so pretty, sadly my camera couldn't do justice to the city lights.
Friday we decided to set out on foot, we headed first to the Sydney Aquarium which was super. We were there at the peak time of day so it was a bit crowded in spots, but neat nonetheless. The highlight for me was that we finally got to see the platypus, the only native animal we had missed at the Featherdale zoo. After the Aquarium we set off again toward the Queen Victoria Bldg. (QVB) and old market restored into a mall, then on to Hyde Park, The Australia Museum, St Mary's Cathedral and some other random sites like the clock tower and the AU stock exchange. By days end were were ready for a beer and a sitdown.
Saturday was our last full day & night in Sydney. We had a lazy morning, then checked out the "Rocks Market" and did some shopping and seeing the sites. Some very talented artisans (and some junk too) were there. I also finally did some opal shopping and my sweetheart was very kind to me, black opal earrings and a pendant (made easier by tax free and a favorable exchange rate!).One interesting thing about our cool antique hotel was it's proximity to Sydney's oldest pub, "The Fortune of War". Our room faced the street and so every night we'd hear the drunks roll out about 3a.m. It was a bit annoying, but mostly funny. One night a gentleman serenaded us with a salute to the RAF for at least 3 blocks. After dinner and getting the kids showered and settled Pat and I decided to join in the fun downstairs and settled in for a couple of pints with the crowds. We met some ladies from Melbourne and a newly wed couple from Brisbane and had a pleasant chat with them all. Back up stairs by 11 feeling like we had tasted the local flavor.
Sunday was meant for travel, we hated to leave, but everyone was looking forward to sleeping in their own bed. To the airport by noon, Sydney to Cairns from 3-6pm, then the L-O-N-G wait till midnight at the Cairns airport. Nothing but vending machines available at that time so Pat used the last of our AU $ to hire a taxi to go off airport and get some hamburgers. $70 for dinner isn't unreasonable , unless you consider it was 4 hamburgers, 2 bags of chips and 2 cokes! Anyway it was tasty and makes a good story. The flight from Cairns gets in at 4 am Guam time, it's a long trip, but one I would do again in a heartbeat. AMAZING OZ

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sydney & AU = Amazing (Days 1-4)

Sydney~ July 2009

Two plus years ago when we knew we were headed to duty on Guam I said to Pat "I will go happily, but I want to see Japan and Australia while we are out there in the Pacific" He graciously kept his promise and the result is that we had an absolutely fantastic vacation or 'holiday' as they say Down Under.

Flights only leave Guam for Cairns AU twice a week so with our cheap (frequent flyer) tickets in hand off we went. The other side of the coin is that you have no choice on times so we left at 6pm and arrived in AU at 10:30pm, too late to make any connecting flights to Sydney. Off to the hotel we went for some sleep. The next morning we were off to the airport. I saw a funny sign and reached in my purse for the camera~ DAMN. I had taken it out on the plane to take a picture and it seems that it never made it back into my purse. Fortunately Rachel had my old camera so at least we had something.

Arrived in Sydney mid afternoon and made our way to the hotel without problems. We chose to stay at The Russell in the 'Rocks' historic area. This deep harbor area is where the first convicts and other new immigrants were dropped off and where Sydney was born. After some years of hard time it is now a quaint and busy tourist area near the opera house and other interesting stuff. The hotel itself was built in the 1800's and has a lot of charm and quirks too. We were tired and hungry from travels and so found the 'Lowenbrau Keller' and settled in for a few pints and some delicious German food.

As if the scenery and ambiance of AU wasn't' enough the food, beer and wine were out of this world. I guess after living on Guam for 2 years where everything is imported and sometimes a bit on the 'less than fresh' side I was overwhelmed by the freshness of EVERYTHING. Back to the hotel for some sleep....

Tuesday Pat and JP opted to make the 3.5 hours Sydney Harbor Bridge climb. It was a perfect day and so off they went. Rachel and I did some sightseeing on our own including some museums and one of the bridges pylons. When we made the trek to the top coincidentally we saw the boys beginning their ascent. Pretty cool! We met for lunch about 1 and then did the family tour as we explored the famous Opera House and Royal Botanical Gardens. Beautiful. Stopped by the grocery store to stock up on some provisions for an early breakfast and for Rachel then on to another delicious dinner at a pub like place and early to bed since we had 2 big tours coming up.

Wednesday we rose early, ate breakfast in our room and were at the pick up stop at 7:15. Today was a tour about 2 hours outside Sydney to the Hunter Valley and the surrounding wine country. The countryside was so pretty, even in winter and the wine tour was fun. We met people from the UK, Canada and even some other Australians, we were the only Americans and the only people with kids so we were a bit of a novelty. Pat will never let me live down the fact that I somehow managed to lock the door on the buses bathroom, how that happened I don't know~ we hadn't even had any wine yet! We had fun tasted a lot of nice wines, learned something about production, had a great lunch and even watched "Australia" on the ride home that night. Whew

Thursday, another tour , this time out to the Blue Mountains. You'll have to read the next post to learn the rest.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I won't quit my day job...

For the past year, my friend Lora has been urging me to sell my greeting cards through the gift shop she managed. I finally gave in. In a small way she was right. It's certainly not enough to retire on, but it is extremely humbling & satisfying to think that people like my craft enough to pay $ for it. These are just a sampling of my wares. The best sellers are the "Guam themed" and I am putting out a grouping of Military life themed as well.
(Sorry some of the pictures are sideways, I can't seem to fix that on the blog)