Sunday, April 29, 2012

One Last Stop and Back to the Boat

Trying to figure out where to stop after Sydney wasn't easy at first but we had been lugging Mark's Paragliding Kite around with us for three weeks so I insisted he find us a place to go. We stopped for a coffee and donut just north of Sydney and Mark did a little online research. We though we had hit the jackpot.

A paragliding site that does lessons but is open for flying and has cabins onsite to stay in for $40. Sounded good to us. Mark and I stayed in a few cabin type hostels in NZ last year that were pretty nice and reasonably priced as well so we were looking forward to it....that is until we arrived. These weren't nice little cabins - they were kinda dirty portables. Basically we had signed up to camp and didn't know it.

We weren't real pleased but we were too far from any town to do anything for the night so we decided we'd stay. It's funny because Mark and I did some serious hiking last year and camping wasn't a big deal the difference this time was that 1. we weren't expecting it so we weren't prepared and 2. with MM we want to stay in clean places and after Sydney we were ready for something nicer (this is what I get for saying it can't get any worse.)

We figured if Mark got to fly it didn't matter we'd buck up and stick it out so we stayed the night and then the we highly disappointed the next day when there was to much wind to fly. We looked for a hotel to stay in but there really wasn't anything close so we decided we'd give it one more night even though we didn't really want to since everyone said that the wind was supposed to get better the next afternoon.

You guessed didn't (a few really experience guys flew but Mark just isn't to that level yet) so we had had enough of that place so we headed out highly disappointed. Hopefully Mark will get some flying in soon. They really make it hard here.

We headed for Brisbane and decided to stop and visit with some friends before getting back to the boat. We had a nice lunch and then since MM loved the Ferris Wheel in Sydney so much we thought we'd give it another go since Brisbane has one of the largest in the world. He was a little fussier this time but it was nice anyhow as the car was airconditioned and gave a talking tour of what we were seeing.

The next few days we spent in a hotel in Redcliffe and worked to get the boat back in the water. Mostly it was Mark spending time at the Marina while I tended to the baby at the hotel, doing laundry, and catching up on other things that had been neglected for a few weeks.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Oh Sheep! - Sydney here we come...

I'm not sure how I missed the conversation where Mark told me there were giant "things" around Australia that people apparently go in search of but, when Mark yelled out from the backseat in excitement about a giant sheep I just about killed us coming to a stop in the middle of a round-about. I thought I was gonna hit someone or something. This is the only one we have seen but apparently there are maps so you can go hunt them down.

When we arrived in Sydney I have to say we were a bit disappointed with our accommodations. Mark and I frequently choose to stay in hostels over hotels. There are a few reasons for this. It's obviously cheaper - although we always get a private room and en suite (with a bathroom) if possible. The main reason however is that we can meet other travelers which can be really fun. Hosteling is not for just the super young anymore... well mostly not. Many places even have family rooms available. Our hostel in Sydney was not one of these places. We stayed at two Nomads in NZ last year and both were nice and clean. We would highly recommend the one in Queenstown, just ask for a room in the front of the building so you don't have to hear the bars till 4am. So when looking for a place in Sydney we thought it'd be a good choice. Wrong! We ended up in this dingy room where the window was completely covered by the air conditioning. We weren't happy about it but at least it was a heck of a lot cheaper than the hotels.

After we finally got checked in and a little lunch we decided to go ahead and walk the mile and a half down to the Opera House. I've always wanted to see it! It's been on my bucket list forever. Mark on the other hand was only there for me. He had zero interest in seeing it or anything else in Sydney (just another big city). When we got down to the water it truly was a spectacular sight. We walked around to see if I could get a ticket to a show. I had a few options and choose the Sydney Ballet. I was going to get a cheap seat but my awesome husband said no way and pushed me up a few categories so that I had a great seat. Then I asked about tours and they said one was starting in 5 minutes. This worked out great because it meant Mark wouldn't have to come back down for a tour (and I'm not sure I would have gotten him too). We were pushing it a little with MM because we had been in the car a few hours, walking around the city a few hours, and now were going on an hour long tour without the stroller and no diaper bag since we couldn't have a backpack so we just grabbed a diaper, the wipes, a blanket and wished for the best. Especially after being told I'd have to carry MM up and down 200+ steps.

The building is simply amazing inside and out. Every detail has been thought of and I couldn't wait to see a show there the next night. Mark was even impressed by it and said he was glad I pushed to go there because it was worth seeing for sure. And I was able to keep MM quiet with my brilliant mommy skills - yep I just kept feeding and bouncing him. Boy was I tired at the end. But somehow I did manage to get a few pics one handed while holding my child - it is so hard to get Mark to take any and he insists on moving the camera as he takes photos so they never come out.

A Perfect Day. That is what I would call my Thursday in Sydney. We enjoyed the morning, had lunch Hyde Park and then sat and enjoyed playing with MM. Mark wanted to send me down to the Opera House early to have dinner on my own but what fun would that be. We were walking back to an italian place we had eaten on our first day and came across a Thai restaurant a block from our hostel. It you are ever in Sydney eat at Capital Thai. I saw Drunken Noodles on the menu and got excited. This is the dish I used to eat when I worked in DC and hadn't seen it on a menu since. And Capital Thai didn't disappoint. It was a great meal. I got dressed for the ballet and headed down. It was nice to take a long walk through the city on my own. Don't get me wrong I love MM with all my heart but you miss a lot when you are paying attention to a baby. Walking to the Opera House I noticed all these things I hadn't seen the night before.

The Ballet was amazing!!! If you are in Sydney go see the ballet. Especially if they are still doing Infinity. It is three 40 minute ballets and they are fantastic. I think even someone who doesn't care for the ballet would enjoy these. I couldn't have asked for a more enjoyable show and in such an amazing venue. It'll be top night for me. Only thing that would have been better would be if Mark and MM could have been there. Thanks to my hubby for "babysitting" (why is it babysitting when the dad watches the kids?).

Friday was a slow day since it was Good Friday and not much was open. So we did one of my favorite past-times...Letterboxing. In brief it's treasure hunting. People carve stamps and plant them all over the world and then leave the directions to find them on various websites including AtlasQuest

There were two listed in the Botanic Gardens so we went for it. I couldn't find the first but Mark was able to find the second one and it had a bonus for us. Last year we picked up a hitchhiker (a stamp that doesn't have a home but travels from box to box) in NZ and this box had one as well so not only did I get a stamp for the box but I also got to swap my hitchhiker. It was a big project as I hadn't stamped my book with my last hitchhiker and I needed to make sure everything was stamped in each book.

On Saturday we drove south for what should have been a 45min drive but ended up being more like an hour and a half because of the direction the GPS took us. We were checking out a possible Paragliding sight for Mark. It was to windy for him to fly and he didn't have his Australia visiting licence yet but we wanted to see if it would be somewhere we should head back to. After checking it out we decided that it wouldn't be worth sticking around for.

Easter Sunday was super fun. I told Mark we were going to the Royal Easter Show. He thought it was going to be some stupid little thing but bucked up and came anyhow. He didn't realize that it was actually a really big fair. We had a great time - Mark didn't take his computer out the whole day. For anyone who knows Mark they realize how big that is. MM loved it to. He checked out the animals and watched various shows. He really loved the Ferris Wheel. Just kept looking at it so we decided we'd take ride. while loading up he wasn't so happy but once it really got going he really enjoyed it.

The big thing to do at the Royal Easter Show is to buy at least one "Show Bag." Mark and I didn't really understand the whole thing so of course we had to check out the Show Bag tent. WTF. These bags are supposed to big deals but from what I could tell they were just a big rip-off. They again I'm from the US where bigger is better and we always buy in bulk.These bags go from $5-100. The cheapest being full of toys you'd find at the dollar store at home and probably wouldn't want your kids to play with. Then we saw bags full of back-issues of magazines. That's right we couldn't sell them on the news stand so pay $16 bucks and you can have a few copies. One of my favorites was the Powerade bag. $20 and you can advertise Powerade on a cheap bag and get a bottle of Powerade and a few small candies inside. The other was the mentos bag. $10 gets you some mentos and a few other treats. These bags are such a big deal. While waiting for our table for dinner and watching Mark and MM's first rodeo. We chatted with a couple of women and asked what was the appeal. They truly thought they were getting a great deal. All I have to say is God Bless America. Only if you are used to the ridiculous prices in Australia do these bags look like a bargain.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Canberra - Australia's Capital

Canberra is the capital of Australia so we decided that we should try to visit there if we got the chance. Since we took the inland route we would be passing to close to not swing down and see it. When we got to our hotel we felt as if we were still far from the city but in fact we were only about 10 minutes. The city is interesting because it is a totally planned city. Sydney and Melbourne fought over who would get to be the capital and so it was decided that a new city would be built. A contest was opened and an American Architect from Chicago submitted the winning plan. It is very similar in design to Washington, DC.

In the morning we headed into town and our luck was with us again. When we stopped at the iSite we were informed that we could tour the parlament building for free and with no reservation and if we hurried we'd make the 10am tour. So we hopped back in the car. We couldn't believe how little security there was for a government building. We had to go through the metal detectors but Mark brought in a drink and I was wearing a hat and we had all the baby stuff with us but it wasn't a problem. Even if we hadn't planned on taking the tour the building is almost completely open to the public.

You can even rent this ballroom for weddings and private functions. The tour guide told us she believed it only cost around $5000 to do so and not to quote her so of couse here I am quoting her. That is a tapestry of a painting that hangs outside right outside the room.

The building was very interesting and again designed by an American architect. The seating in the two chambers are green and rose based on the eucalyptus tree and some flower.

After the tour we took the elevator to the roof of the building and took in the view then off to lunch.

After lunch we hit the National Museum but weren't really impressed so we headed over to the...

...War Memorial Museum which we enjoyed much more.

After watching the closing ceremony for the museum we sat in the grass out front with MM and I took some pics of my favorite guys.


MM loved the flag and yes Mark even took a few of me.

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