Thursday, April 24, 2008

Breaking Records, Working Girl, and Anzac Day

Well...I read in the paper today that Sydney has broken a 15 year old record...we have now had 12 straight days of rain. More impressively, it's been 77 years since Sydney has experienced 12 consecutive rainy days in April. Joy. Drought, indeed.
Sorry about the non-existent posts but I've been busy at my quasi-job. That's right. Phil got me a very part-time job at his office working the front desk when the regular girl is out. I worked one day last week and yesterday and today. Yes, DAGS...that beloved answering-the-phone job. Never thought I'd volunteer for it. I feel like a dork when I can't find the right employee on the phone ext. list or at times can't understand the Australian accent over the phone, but who's going to fire the boss's wife? :)
Tomorrow is Anzac Day, a national holiday here in Australia. It commemorates April 25, 1915 when the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzacs) landed on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey during WWI. They fought there for 8 months and had 25,000 casualities. Every year they start the day with memorial services at dawn. Or earlier. Since the soldiers (or diggers as they're called here) landed at 4:28 am most cities and towns across the country have early services. The one here in Sydney begins at 4:00 am. Yikes...I don't think we'll make it. But we are going to try and go to the parade later in the morning.
Tomorrow night we fly up to Cairns for a long weekend. We'll explore the rainforest on Saturday, get on the boat which will take us to the dive boat on Sunday morning and spend a few days snorkeling and diving the Barrier Reef. Who am I kidding...I'll probably spend most of my time on the deck with a good book or three, but I will snorkel some and maybe try scuba diving. I'll post some pictures when we get back.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Darling Harbour, The Real World Sydney House and the Powerhouse Museum

After meeting Phil for lunch I decided to walk down to Darling Harbour. I had a mission from our last trip home from my friend, Faith to find the The Real World Sydney house. (Don't worry, Gregg, my mission of finding you kangaroo-skin soccer shoes is next.) So it is.

Darling Harbour is an area of Sydney that is a popular place to walk around because it has lots of shops, clubs, restaurants, parks and museums. Phil and I had walked down here last weekend and went to the Imax Theater to see U2 in 3D. (not huge fans of U2 but it was impressive to see and hear Bono on a 8 story movie screen.) There's a big kids' play area here as well. Below is a picture of the paddleboat pond and the bungee trampoline. Looks fun.

As I walked further I passed the Chinese Garden of Friendship. This was built in 1988 as a gift from the city of Guangdong. The two carved dragons represent the sister cities of Guangdong and Sydney. (Of course, the guidebook.)

All of the walking led me to the Powerhouse Museum. I had read (yes, the guidebook) that it was Sydney's most popular museum. was okay. Kind of reminded me of the Franklin Institute back in Philly but not as interesting. The exhibit that I did like, though, and the real reason I went was the traveling exhibit on Diana, Princess of Wales. Now that was cool! I saw all kinds of personal effects, lots of dresses/gowns, home movies, funeral condolence (not sure of that spelling) books and I was this close...this close to her wedding dress with the 25 foot train spread out! ( was behind glass, but still.) One of the signs in that room said that over 1 billion people watched the wedding on tv. (Including yours truly with my mom and sister.) Ah...good times.

Oops...I forgot to add the pictures of Darling Harbour so here they are.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Look out Sydney, I'm Driving Now!!

Well...let's not get crazy. I only drove to church and back on Sunday morning but it is something. It's a good 20 minutes or so each way, so it counts. Now I've fondly nicknamed the jeep "Beast" because well, I feel like I'm in a tank when I'm in it.
My first amazing feat was to get Beast out of the parking garage (or car park as they they call it here). Picture a lot of backing up, going forward, backing up, going forward. And that was just to get out of the parking spot. Phil kept reminding me to make wide turns and crank the steering wheel all the way over when I made the turns in the garage but one thing at a time. I'm still trying to get used to everything being on the opposite side of the car.
I never realized how instinctual driving is. My hand would go to dials, switches, and the gear shift that wasn't there as my eyes would automatically go to the rearview mirror that wasn't there. This is going to take a lot of practice.
Once I got on the road, I believe we were crossing the Harbor Bridge when precious Phil glanced at his watch and remarked, "Hm...maybe we should've left a little earlier. Do you see all the cars that are flying past us?" Okay...yes, I was going a bit slow..but give me a break. It was my first time.
Another thing to get used to is the tendency to drift to the left while you're in the lane. Phil kept reminding me to "Watch your lane". I was getting flash backs to being 16 sitting in the car with my driving instructor.
We made it to church just fine. I asked Phil how I did and again...sweet thing...said, "Well...besides almost taking off the side of the car a few times in the parking garage, not bad." Good enough...I'll take it.
After church I drove to the local mall where we eat at the food court every Sunday for lunch and even drove home. Not sure if I'm ready to solo yet...okay, I know I'm not ready to solo yet, but still, it felt good to finally try.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Windsor, Whitewater Rapids, and Almost Face-Plant on the Streets of Sydney

On Saturday, we hopped into the jeep for a drive about an hour northwest of Sydney to the town of Windsor. (named after the royal town on England's Thames River.) (yes..the guidebook again.) The town was established in 1810 and reminded us a bit of New Hope for those blog readers of PA. Lots of bikers. We parked in front of the Macquarie Arms Hotel which has the claim to fame of having been used continously as a hotel since 1815 except from 1840-1874 when it was a private residence. Shown below is the outdoor walking mall that is the town's main drag.

Windsor is a town that's in an area of Australia called the The Upper Hawkesbury because the whole area surrounds the Hawkesbury River. Had to get a picture of said river, so...and look, a smiling Phil too.

Windsor has this restaurant called the Clydesdales Restaurant. It looks like a stagecoach that is pulled by Clydesdale horses that seats up to 8 diners and takes you on a 2 hour tour of the city while you eat. Cool, I thought. Not cool, when I looked online and found out that it was $145 per person. Yeah, right. So we ate at Windsor Seafood and had that good ole' stand by-fish and chips.

We then drove to find the town of Wilberforce. Yes, my blog readers of Cedarville knowledge...just like the Wilberforce near our alma mater. You drive a curvy road looking at farm fields, see a tiny little sign that says "Wilberforce", you blink, and you miss the entire town. And yes, it was also named for the English guy in Parliament that ended slavery in England. Not much to see, but smelled quite a bit thanks to the local farms so we turned around and pressed on.

We drove down to Penrith where the whitewater stadium is that was used in the 2000 Olympic Games. Very cool. We walked around the course and determined that we would be back to actually do it sometime.

After a bum-kicking by Phil in a heated game of miniature golf (sigh...another choke by yours truly) we drove back to the city to pick up some Pizza Hut for dinner. As I walked towards the car I'm still not sure what happened. Yes, I realize that there is a step down from the sidewalk to the street...but in the words of Phil who watched the whole tragedy," One minute you were there and the next you were down in front of the car." I'm happy to report the pizzas were never in jeopardy. I bravely held on so they wouldn't go sliding under the parked car in front of ours by the curb. Alas...that meant I landed on my knees. Hard. Still holding the pizza boxes. Man...that hurt/stung like the dickens. Four bandaids later and knees that were scraped up and ached like an old lady, I gamely limped around the rest of the evening. All is well today, though. And tomorrow I'll blog about my stunning achievement of today...I actually drove around Sydney. Yes...that's right.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Around Hyde Park

Well all is normal and right with the world now that Phil is back. He was away in Singapore for a few days. (What...I'm going to announce that I'm all alone in the apartment, nee on the continent of Australia for any local crazies to read and get any ideas?) Seriously, our building is like Fort Knox to get into so I felt plenty safe, but still...I have blogged previously about my imagination. Enough said.
After meeting Phil for lunch, I wandered off in a new direction of Sydney. I walked down Macquarie St. towards Hyde Park, "a welcome haven of greenery in the heart of the city." (Of course I'm copying my handy guide book. ) It was created in 1810 and has a couple of cool features. Pictured below is the Archibald Fountain. It commemorates the alliance of Australia and France during World War I.

Directly behind the fountain is this cool walkway that leads to the Anzac War Memorial. Have you ever been in a park where the trees form this sort of canopy feeling? Like you're in a cathedral made of trees? Take a look.

The Anzac War Memorial which was built in 1934 (hence the art deco style) commemorates the lives of all Australians who have died for their country. Anzac stands for (I think) Australia and New Zealand Army Corps. Coming up on April 25th is Anzac Day which is a national holiday and sounds like it's like our Memorial Day. Inside the memorial was a room that had a bunch of displays from World War I up through the current Iraq war. And because I was there by myself, I could fully enjoy reading each and every plaque and sign which I love to do in any museum about history without the impatient foot tapping of Phil. Nice.

Finally, here's a picture of St. Mary's Cathedral which is just on the edge of Hyde Park. It's Australia's first Catholic church that had begun building in 1821 and opened in 1882. If you can see the count down clock in front of it (I think it says 97 days) that is how many days remain until the Pope comes to Australia for World Youth Day. They've already begun to talk about road closures and such. Joy.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Must Blog About the Flugtag

Since we'd returned to Australia, Phil had told me several times that on Sunday after church we were going to the Botanical Gardens next door to watch the Flugtag. I know...what? It turns out it was a very popular event...60,000 people were in the Gardens to watch the first Red Bull Flugtag in Sydney.

Red Bull's definition of Flugtag: (floog-tag) n. 1. Flying Day 2. A human powered attempt at flight

In a nutshell it was a competition of teams that built human-powered "airplanes" and tried to fly them off a 6 m ramp sitting on top of a barge anchored in the harbor. Apparently Red Bull has been doing these competitions around the world since 1991. But this was their first time in Sydney. Over 35 teams entered "airplanes" they had built to try to win. Each were judged on 1. distance 2. creativity of their machine and 3. pre-flight performance.

The winner with an impressive 14.5 m flight was a crew of mullet-wearing fisherman who "reeled in a victory" (hee hee) with their giant Flying Flounder. No, I am not making this stuff up. Check out to see some video of the competition.

The dates and locations for the 2008 US Red Bull Flugtag competitions in case you're interested are:
Tampa Bay 7/19/08
Portland 8/2/08 (Wendy???)
Chicago 9/6/08

[Disclaimer: No, I'm not on the payroll or anything. Haven't even tried the stuff. My resident expert (Phil) claims, "It tastes how sweat socks smell." Just thought you might like a good laugh. I know we did.]

Thursday, April 3, 2008

And the Winner Is...

Yes...I won our Amazing Race and beat Phil in to Sydney by almost 5 hours. First let me say though, my victory was made sweeter by my good flight over. Yes, I said good flight over. While en route to San Francisco, Phil was behind the scenes online with United and managed to upgrade my flight from San Francisco to Sydney to business class using his miles. Isn't that the best thing you've ever heard of?! What a guy!! So I was able to stretch out and actually slept 8 and 1/2 hours of the flight! Who knew that a couple of Dramamine tablets would knock me out like that?! I will make note of that for all future flights.
Unfortunately for Phil his demise in our race was sealed in his stop-over in Toronto when he was severely delayed. Something about trying to re-fuel the plane but they couldn't get the hatch open to put the fuel in. After a lovely 3 hour delay he was finally on his way to Vancouver. But alas, he could not catch up.
Once in Sydney I was able to realize another first. My first time getting a taxi all by myself. I know...what's the big deal...but when you grew up in a neighborhood surrounded by the corn fields of Ohio and then moved to the suburbs of Philly where you drive yourself everywhere, it was a big deal to me. As I sat in the back seat I took a good look at the profile of my driver I secretly named Igor (just in case I needed to identify him in a police line up), memorized his id number posted on the badge on the windshield (in case I needed to phone in the numbers to the authorities), and generally kept a pretty good idea in my head of where we were going. I mean really, what if he just started to drive off somewhere and take me away to the dregs of Sydney's underworld never to be heard from again? How would I stop it? I don't know any kung-fu moves. Could I really open the car door of a speeding car and roll out on to the side of the road to escape?
Okay...nothing like that happened. He drove me safe and sound right to the apartment. Made polite conversation. No problems. Everything was just fine. But where do you think they get the ideas for most of the movies on the Lifetime channel? By the way, I named him Igor because I thought he looked a little Russian mobbish to me. (And of course I know oh so many members of the Russian mob.) Yes folks, the above is yet another reason why I don't watch suspenseful/scary movies. My own imagination is quite enough, thank you very much.