What a great week. This trip, while it was the first of what I expected from this job, it was also my first time to Australia, in fact, my first time to the southern hemisphere, so I was rather excited. I was able to tack on 3 free days among the work, and in typical Swenson “Kamikaze travel” fashion, I fit a lot in. If every trip is like this it will kill me!
I left Denver at 8pm on Friday, changing in Los Angeles, and leaving there at 11:45pm my body time. I was nervous about feeling good after an all night flight in a middle seat so I was focusing on that.. But since it was so late, I had no difficulty falling asleep. And since I sleep so well, I slept most of the trip, and awoke for breakfast. In the middle somewhere I turned on a movie, but couldn’t stay awake… so slept. Got into Sydney at 7:30am and had the whole day ahead of me. I didn’t fight any jet lag at all during the trip.
After checking into the hotel, I walked downtown. Number one on my list was the Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge, and The Rocks section of town (a shopping district pretty much between the opera house and bridge) that has a street market every Saturday and Sunday. So I hit the shopping first, fun stuff, street music, street food, then walked over to get a good look at the bridge. I considered walking across it, but decided my #1 priority should be the opera house so I walked that direction.
On the way, I passed a cruise ship in port. I saw a free contortionist show where “bendy Wendy” crawled into a 16″x16″x16″ glass box. I also saw a couple Aborigines showing and selling their native wares.
|Entertainment in line
I walked around Circle Quay to the Opera house, and naturally “fell” in line with the crowd… When the crowd stopped, I realized this was actually a line (or queue as I should be calling it), so I asked someone what was going on. It was “open day” at the Opera House, a rare day when they let the public tour the building, backstage, costumes, everything… Cool. I stayed in line. Long line, an hour, but worth it. Turns out there are 5 theaters. Beautiful inside and out.
|I was amused at this
|Beautiful geometries inside as you might expect!
|The Main Theater
|A lego Opera House Replica
|Barbie in a Sydney Opera House Dress
When I got out of there, I headed off to grab a Sydney Geocache then stopped to sit on the ground for a few minutes touching my toes to the grass. Touching the earth is supposed to help with jetlag as your body can identify with your location in the world… Hokey, I know, but feels good and doesn’t hurt.. In fact it felt GREAT after walking all day. Then I hightailed it back to the hotel to get cleaned up to go out with the team leader who invited me to Sydney this week. We walked to a popular destination close to my hotel, Darling Harbor.
|The view from the IBM office, unfortunately no very clear days. And the glass interferes with the photo.
I had been invited to help an Australian IBM team prepare and interview with a university to provide a facilities system that includes TRIRIGA. We met long days Mon-Wed, two days in Sydney and a day in Melbourne before interviewing at Monash University in Melbourne on Thursday. I felt lucky to be able to experience two places in Australia in my week long trip. (And of course I was able to geocache in both). I also felt lucky to work with and get to know some Australians. The IBM building in Melbourne is right on the vibrant river walk, and my hotel was across the river about 1/2 mile away so the walk to the building and back alone was full of adventure, and beautiful.
|Look closely (click on the photo)
The URS building (who I used to work for).
|The IBM Building (who I now work for)… Good move?
Thursday evening after the interview, my colleagues left town, but I decided to spend another day in Melbourne. I started off by meeting up with a friend, Julie, that I met on the Send Out Cards Cruise 4 years ago (to the day apparently). Julie used to work in an area just south of town on the bay near Port Melbourne, the ritzy port community.
We had dinner at a restaurant she used to work at that overlooked the beach. Obviously, I don’t know her very well, but since we met, she and I have kept touch on Facebook. I was so glad to have a local Australian friend to show me around and learn a bit about the area, plus it was really nice to catch up. On the way to dinner we stopped at the beach at the famous Brighton Bathing Boxes. (http://www.brightonbathingbox.org.au/).
All week long I had been asking and planning what to do with my free Friday and Saturday. I was very tempted to go to “Philip Island” where people watch the colony of penguins that come in from the sea to roost every night… BUT all the Australians I asked about it indicated that it was a tourist trap, it cost a lot of money to ride on a huge bus for half the day and meet up with 1000 other tourists and stand on the edge of pier with a chance to glimpse a penguin. The final deciding factor was the review that said they “loved it, and the tour gives you binoculars so you can see them.”.. hummm! I agreed there was better things to to with my time.
|One fatality of the trip… my curling iron which melted into two pieces!
I did however want to see animals. It seemed animals are one thing that sets Australia apart. So in the end I rented a car and drove 80 kilometers (on the wrong side of the road) to the Healesville Animal Sanctuary, which was really just a small zoo that specializes in Australian animals in natural environments. But the treat was the drive, through the lovely Yarra valley, wine country, and alpaca country. I was keeping my eyes out for alpacas and saw a bunch of kangaroos… then a few miles later a bunch more lying in someones field, and when I stepped closed to get a closer look they scattered, hopping away and over the fence into the adjoining farm… Very cool!
I also loved the birds in Australia. I’m not a huge bird watcher but they have beautiful and interesting birds there. These Ibis with the long curved beak are like geese, messy, no one likes them and they are obnoxious, having been known to peck at children. In the zoo they were shooing them away from the school kids because they were trying to steal their sandwiches. Then Cockatoos were everywhere! They were like pigeons or sea gulls here. Lots of other parrot type birds around too, flying right in front of the car.
After the zoo I went to a nature park with hiking trails and such and took a picnic lunch I had bought at the grocery store. There was a girl feeding the birds there. Cockatoos, parrots and even a wild kookaburra. Cool!
On the way home I passed an Alpaca ranch (coincidentally “Santa Fe Alpacas“), so I decided to stop in and see how alpaca life was different in Australia and US. It was very interesting and brought back lots of memories. I got spit on by his girls. Many things the same, a few different. Like us, their show industry is somewhat corrupt and doesn’t reflect the fleece industry. Their major customer are the Chinese, so a lot of their marketing focuses on that. I think the biggest difference is that realizing the labor is too high to process their fleece, they combine the fleece in their country and ship it by shipping container to Peru and have it processed there, then they stock their store with products made from Australian grown, but Peruvian processed fleece products. We would be ahead if we did that here, as our Alpaca industry is strong but out product industry is weak.
|I also happened by a “little league” Cricket practice going on. Surrounded by the “gum tree” (Eucalyptus) forest.
The next morning I drove out to the “Queen Victoria Market” a football field sized farmers market/shopping market. I paid for 1 hour of parking and saw only a small fraction of the shops. I could have been there all day. Big variety of quality of things, but lots of life there. They I drove by the Botanical Gardens and around that section of town, lovely views of Melbourne there, before returning the car and flying back to Sydney.
|Queen Victoria Market
|The Royal Arcade
I only had a couple adventures due to driving in Australia. The biggest was the one time I did pull out on the road on the wrong side. Looking up there were cars coming right at me in my lane, so I pulled off to the right to let the traffic pass. They did, SLOWLY, as they were not sure what i was doing. The fourth one was a cop who stopped to ask what I was doing. “Well,” I explained, “I missed my turn and so turned around and saw the traffic and decided to pull over until they passed.” So the cop asked, “Uh, ok, but why did you pull over to the right?” And honestly I had no answer except that I am an American (Doesn’t that explain it all?). He said “OK, just so long as you don’t have a head-on.” (Say that in your best Australian accent and you’ll get it!). Other than that the troubles were only that about half the time I got into the car and was half way in before I realized that I was getting in on the passenger side, and I think EVERY TIME I turned the corner I turned on my windshield wipers, trying to be very conscientious about using my turn signals.
Sydney again and Manly
In Sydney I did a little more shopping, had my last “Pie Face Pie” and decided to take the Ferry to Manly Peninsula as my last Australian adventure. First Pie Face…. I love Pie Face and want to open a franchise here. I spent the week asking everyone I met what was “Australian food”. Apparently there is none. The only suggestion was a government promoted diet of “meat and 3 veg”. Sydney and Melbourne are pretty cosmopolitan and the Asian influence is obvious there, so we ate a number of Thai meals. Nothing else stood out… except Pie Face. Pie Face has small street stores that sell meat pies. I loved the idea, they were different than something you find here, and although not gluten free they were darn good. Only had a couple but I’m ready to make my gluten free version here.
The ferry to Manly was pleasant. It’s still early spring in Australia so somewhat nippy (since of course I sat outside!) but nice. it took about 1/2 hour. Then on Manly I walked the mile long strip of obviously tourist focused stores to the main Manly beach. I walked up the beach a bit looking at the kite surfers (popular in Australia) then thought about grabbing dinner. But I wasn’t really hungry (Pie Face having just been consumed) and no restaurants struck me, so I headed back to the wharf thinking I might just catch the sunset going back to Sydney.
Took the ferry back to Sydney, walked back to my hotel (got to see at the Australian folks out on a Saturday night.. My the skirts are short, or am I just old!). Next morning flew back to the states, my plane landed in Los Angeles about 3 hours before I took off!
Meanwhile at home it’s Halloween and Nai has carved his first Jack-o-lantern. We made Masks from Wintercroft.com… Very cool! Thanks for the suggestion Sara Grubb. And I am getting ready to travel again tomorrow. I’ll save that post for next time.