Saturday, June 25, 2011

Manly Service Apartment

South Styne, Home to Sydney Penguin

Our third week in Australia found us looking for cheaper accommodations closer to the beach.  After a weekend in the Novotel, arguably the nicest accommodations at Manly beach, we moved across the street to the Manly Shores Holiday apartments.  For the first time in three weeks I found myself with cooking utensils and an oven! Here I come Coles!

Public saltwater pool oceanside, Manly
For those unfamiliar to beaches, there are all different kinds.  Manly is a high surf beach, home to former champs such as Layne Beachly and Barton Lynch.  There are a number of surf schools and places to rent a board, as well as surf competitions almost every weekend.  Because of the strong currents and high tides, anyone with kids are advised to use the nearby Shelly beach, which is what we did.  If Manly weren't so popular with tourists in the summer, we would have chose to live there.  We just couldn't see ourselves fighting the huge crowds from Dec-Feb.  It is an amazing place to Whale watch, home of the only Australian penguin, and tons of great stores along the Corso (shopping area).

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Melbourne Conference

Cafe in the middle of Yarre River, Melbourne

Once a year I find the opportunity to travel with Paul for work.  Since we have yet to find a place to live in Sydney, I was all too happy to go with him to Melbourne this week.  We decided flying was not nearly as exciting as driving the 1100 KM down the scenic Australian ocean road.  The hills and huge eucalyptus trees just outside Sydney were gorgeous, but I was so saddened to find so many dead Kangaroos on the side of the road.  We spent the first night in Eden, a small mostly dutch settlement with spectacular ocean views.  Had this been anywhere in America, the population would be 300,000 instead of 3,000.  Every house was positioned on a cliff overlooking ocean and surf.  We had a typical fish and chips meal with extra sweet Ausi ketchup.  In the morning I snuck a bag of authentic black licorice from the Dutch Accouterments shop.  I later discovered I hate authentic salty dutch licorice - it tastes like the ocean.

Smartgrid Mobile

While Paul was busy attending a SmartGrid conference, the kids and I had the chance to check out Melborne tourist attractions. We spent a day at the Melbourne Museum, rode the free #35 red tram the entire loop around Melbourne square, caught a tour at the sports museum / former Olympic Stadium, but my favorite experience was Fitzroy gardens.  Shaped like a union jack overhead, Fitzroy is home to Captain Cook's cottage, a fairy garden, and a fun playground.  Melbourne is a very artistic city and in the winter, reminds me much of Berlin.  We had dinner with a sweet Portugese couple who know how to cook, laugh, and entertain children amazingly well. I had to admire how well behaved (and tri-lingual) their twins were. Alas, the road home is not nearly as exciting as the journey there, but still worth the trip.

Ana @ Fitzroy Park

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Eden & Kiama on the Princess Highway

Old fashion Dutch licorice shop

Our drive towards Eden was filled with the electric excitement you only feel on a maiden voyage in a foreign land. My husband is highly addicted to this feeling, and you can hear his excitement in the video above. With U2 reveling in the background, we made our way down the princess highway past the town of Kiama. The main attraction here is the Kiama blowhole, a short walk from the main town beach. We stretched our legs, enjoyed the stroll, and stopped for chocolate on the way out of town.

Paul @Eden Point lighthouse next to the Killer Whale museum

Eden is even smaller than Kiama, with a population of around 3000. It is an old dutch settlement founded along the snowy river. The Dutchmen traveled here to help build the hydro-energy dams along the river, and undoubtedly fell in love and never left. You can see traces of their roots in the architecture and shops in town. We enjoyed a nights stay and breakfast at the Econolodge near the killer whale museum. The cliffside ocean views are just as spectacular here as in Sydney, and I enjoyed actually getting to hear the ocean over the roar of cars and city streets. The next morning we made our way to the southernmost point in Australia, seen in the video below.

Kiama beach nestled in the Blue Mountains

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sydney Royal Botanical Gardens

No trip to Sydney is complete without visiting the Royal Botanical Gardens.  With stunning views of the Opera House, Harbor Bridge, Fort Denison, and Wolloomooloo, you can walk the entire Farm Cove in a little under an hour.  Kids will love to feed the wild Cockatoos, or visit the Poolside cafe and see the large navy vessels parked at the wharf.  It is here that I discovered Sydney's fragrant smell comes from its abundant Fig trees.  I have since tried several figs and while the dried ones are too sweet for my liking, the fresh ones are divine.
North Depot ruined Statue Park
There are several other nearby attractions reachable from the Botanical Gardens, such as the NSW State Library, The Rocks dining and sightseeing, even Darling Harbor.  If you are this close to the Harbor Bridge, now would be a great time to walk across.  A climb to the top will cost you nearly $250 Ausi dollars and is a chance of a lifetime, but most Sydneysiders consider it a tourist ripoff.  Its fairly easy to get Opera House tickets and we paid as little as $30 for cheap seats.  I would stick to daytime visiting when with kids, as there are druggies who use the park as their night hangout.

Woolloomooloo Bay view from Botanical Gardens public pool

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Vivid Sydney 2011

Vivid Sydney, a celebration of light in the middle of Australian winter, marked our arrival to our new home country. For the first week we stayed in the Four Seasons and Shangri-la hotel while we adjusted to a new climate, time zone, and culinary palat. Our accomidations were superb in spite of only having 1 room for 4 of us. We had nightly views of the opera house magic, daytime shopping downtown, dinner at the rocks, and quick access to circular quay. The Shangri-la hotel pool in Sydney is something out of a movie. The entire hotel smells so good, but is seriously expensive.

"Mom, can we take one home?"

My first impression of Sydney was that of a relatively quiet town. I was expecting it to be much warmer and didn't think it smelled too strongly of the sea.  On the contrary, the fig and gumtrees give it a sweet aroma and everything feels very clean.  Internet access and television programs are a bit behind, but I enjoyed watching classic scooby-do.  We are no strangers to hotel living and the fun wears off after two weeks when you have kids.  The constant pillage of milk from any available vendor, lack of a kitchen, and suitcase wardrobe are the annoyances you find at the end of every day.  Serious travelers go this way for months, but not usually with two small children.

Sydney Opera house, Four Seasons

The general feeling was of happiness to have reached an amazing point in our lives. Part of me secretly hopped our belongings would be lost at sea, or that our hotel maid would be told to clean our quarters indefinitely.  I am extremely grateful for the experiences my husband's career has allotted for our family, regardless of the ensuing hardships it sometimes requires.  The occasional single parent role is a small price to pay for such an opportunity.

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