I have lots to tell...but no wifi or internet connection in either place we have stayed. I will finish the tale of the fantastic Australia trip when I get home (probably Wednesday).
Monday, March 30, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
There are a bunch of kangaroos living on the hill behind the war memorial in Canberra, which the boys all went to see the night before I arrived. We decided to go to the top of the hill and hike down on the paved path down. It was gorgeous, beautiful sunset and views. And we got to see some 'roos at the bottom. Most of my pics didn't come out very well, but if you want to see all of them click here.
The last pic is of my dinner from Banana Leaf restaurant, which had fabulous food, with all the meals that could be made gluten free noted on the menu. Everyone's food was really delicious and visually appealing.
Posted by lola coca-cola at 11:20 AM
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Today we hit up the Canberra Glassworks, where we got to see some fantastic glass artwork. We also got to see a team of glassworkers, one of whom was obviously an assistant or apprentice. They were making gorgeous bottles; we watched them make three, pretty much from start to finish, one right after the other. I took a few videos, which I will post at some other time, as they will take way too long to upload. Then my camera battery died. We poked around some shops, then caught the bus back. We parted ways so P could skype her kids and I shopped at a health food store and a grocery store.
I decided to then take the afternoon to rest, as I've been passing out at around 9 and I really want to be awake to try to see the kangaroos tonight. Wish me luck!
Posted by lola coca-cola at 11:34 PM
After we got back from the botanical gardens, we decided to head out to the National Gallery of Australia, which has a fabulous collection, especially of impressionists, which are some of my favorites. It also has an amazing Aboriginal Memorial, which you can read about here, but it seems like it is verboten to make images of it. There were amazing paintings and 200 painted tree trunks representing log coffins and different aboriginal groups. You can see a small picture of it here. The building itself is also very visually interesting on the inside, with twists and turns, windows in unexpected places, and views like alleys through the building. The gift shop was disappointing, though...
After a thoroughly enjoyable time, we went to the cafe at the National Portrait Gallery and I got an iced coffee. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it had no ice in it, rather it had a layer of ice cream frozen into the bottom of the glass and a generous serving of whipped cream on top. Refreshing!
Just a few steps towards Lake Burley Griffin we found a part of Reconciliation Place, pictures of which you can see in this slide show:
I think P and I were both really moved by it (you can read more about it here). We then proceeded through a sandstone tunnel to the lake, which is part of Commonwealth Place, in addition to the constellation paving in the slideshow above. It was, apparently, a gift from Canada.
We then proceeded to the Australians of the Year walk, which was actually very interesting. We had heard of a few of them, but most of them were unknown to us.
After a little rest, we all (there are six of us from San Diego here right now, two wives and four mathematicians) decided to go out for dinner and ended up at Gus's. We had no idea it was of any historical significance, just that it was good.
Posted by lola coca-cola at 10:35 PM
We decided to go to the Australian National Botanic Gardens on Wednesday, which was fantastic. It was free, as was the guided tour we took. Unfortunately, the abundant orchids were not in bloom, but it was very rewarding for a plant geek.
And you may notice, if you decide to subject yourself to the full slide show, that I took pictures of the pastry case in the cafe. They had many gluten free options, which I felt obligated to record for posterity. And I had a chocolate mud cookie--delicious.
Posted by lola coca-cola at 8:02 PM
By the time we got back to the hotel we were both tired an sweaty (and my legs were sore from wearing my FitFlops for the first time in months). I took a shower and waited for Larry to get back, then we went to Three Mothers Thai restaurant, which was very good.
It was really nice, with lots of history, and really a perfect afternoon. I like the name of the cafe
And both P and I were enamored of this couch
The outside of this museum is really amazing too--here is this loop thingy--it seems like you should be able to walk all the way around it.
More of the outside. P said she had read that all the braille on the outside is words in the Aboriginal language.
And we both really liked these big wooden benches (I don't really know why).
One of Larry's co-workers' wife decided to come along sans kids as well, and she was set to arrive on Tuesday. We weren't sure if she would arrive on the same bus that I had taken, or an earlier one, so I planned to go to the bus station at both arrival times just in case. When I didn't see her get off of the first, I hung around the area where the bus station is, poking around shops, and also a "Supa" IGA (supa because it had liquor, I think). It had a decent amount of both gluten free and organic stuff. I also decided to check out a convenience store to see if I could find a drink. As I was almost done perusing the aisles, the man behind the counter asked me if he could help me. I said no, and he said that I had to leave, that he didn't have time for me to just be looking in his store. I don't think I've ever been kicked out of a store before, but it makes me want to go browse many times a day and never buy anything.
Anyway, I went back at the later time and still no P. When I got back to the hotel I found that she had somehow gotten by me at the earlier time and she had showered and was ready to go out. We agreed that the National Museum of Australia would be a perfect afternoon jaunt and headed out.
It turned out to be a bit more of a walk than we had bargained on, but nice and mostly by the lake, where we ran into some lovely swans.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
After a lovely dinner at Sammy's, we decided to trek up to where Larry had seen kangaroos the night before. It was about a half hour walk to the Australian War Memorial, passing the basket handles and many war memorials (Korean, Boer, etc) on the way.
We waited and waited, but I was too tired to wait until full night time (about 9pm) for the kangaroos to come out. We did see lots of suphur crested cockatoos, and one or two more varieties of parrots (probably lorikeets and something else).
They were really everywhere.
Posted by lola coca-cola at 1:59 AM
Monday, March 23, 2009
As you may or may not know, Larry has been planning to attend a conference in Australia for some time now. I hadn't planned to tag along, for various reasons, but in the last month I changed my mind and also decided not to bring Nina (too long a flight, too expensive). Which worked out great because Arwyn has been staying with us and agreed to take care of Nina (with help from friends and Mima). I booked a comparatively inexpensive flight with Qantas out of Los Angeles, which is a little inconvenient, but the tickets to LA were upwards of 500$...
When I got to LA, just for kicks, I asked how much it would be to upgrade (I meant business class, but I think the agent thought I meant first) and when he told me, I almost fainted--8 thousand american dollars. Seriously. Coach it was, then. And it was fine, I ended up having three seats to myself and slept some of the time. I also started (but couldn't continue past the first half hour) the movie Australia. I did watch, in its entirety, Changeling with Angelina Jolie. She gave a good performance, I thought, and though the movie was super sad, I enjoyed it. All in all, I had a great experience with Qantas (especially the Cadbury's hot chocolate).
When I got to Sydney at 8:20 am, I just had time to clear immigration and customs, use the bathroom, and hit an ATM. Then it was off to catch my 9:30 Greyhound to Canberra, and it was good that I bought the ticket ahead, because the seats are assigned. I tried to stay awake, camera at the ready, but I kept waking up, which means I had fallen asleep, sometimes for big chunks of the 3 hour ride. The bus station was about a 15 minute, easy walk from the hotel, where I took a shower, busted open some nuts from the mini-bar, and set out again in search of coffee. The hotel is at one end of a pedestrian shopping area, so that wasn't hard. I hit Target and some grocery stores (I love to go to grocery stores in other countries). Then I went back to the hotel and waited for Larry to be done with work.
We had Arwyn's (and now my) friend Ryan staying with us for about a week. In addition to being a lovely person and a delightful house guest, she is also a talented hair dresser. Of course we all had her do our hair (even Nina, I will post about her first haircut later).
She did a fantastic job.
And we were all really, super sad to see her go.
Posted by lola coca-cola at 8:39 PM
Sunday, March 22, 2009
We spent Sunday driving to Canberra (CAN-bra). We ate dinner at the Wagamama and the very friendly waitress filled us in on places to see kangaroos. One was the Australian War Memorial; it is close to where we had been to scout out our trip to work, so we went there. She told us they would be littering the ground; while that wasn't quite true, we did find them after just a bit of searching. It was totally amazing to see them hopping around. Definitely worth a 14 hour plane ride.
Posted by Larry at 12:55 PM
Saturday, March 21, 2009
When I was first planning this trip, I was anticipating having just one day in Sydney and hoping we'd see enough to have some sense of the city. I think we've done that and now I even get to spend another couple of days here next week with Lorien.
I believe I left off with us about to walk across the Harbour Bridge. We did that and over on the other side were thinking of taking the train back across. The lady who worked in the train station encouraged us to buy a 24-hour pass; I imagine that for most tourists that would have been the right choice. Our next planned stop was to go to the Botanic Gardens, and we were discussing whether to take the train to Circular Quay (Key) and walk into the Gardens or go to King's Cross and walk back (through Wooloomooloo, which had it's appeal) to the Gardens. The lady came back and said:
Go to Circular Quay in the daytime, go to King's Cross at night. At King's Cross, you find good pubs, strip clubs; everybody needs to go to good strip clubs.
We ended up taking a ferry back across instead. Since we timed it wrong, we took the ferry to Darling Harbour instead of Circular Quay and so we learned that our hotel was incredibly close to Darling Harbour. The guide book I have from the library had a lot more restaurants listed in Darling Harbour and we had dinner at Zaaffran, an Indian restaurant where we sat on the balcony looking over the harbour. The appetizers were excellent; we had the palak patta chana aur aloo ka chaat and the makkai pakora. The dinner wasn't as notable; maybe because we were getting to be really tired, maybe because people started smoking around us.
Before dinner, we did make it to the Royal Botanic Gardens. I'm sure the plants were cool, but we were mostly interested in the birds. We saw a couple of ibises, a magpie (and one of the guys says that one of our co-workers was at Australian National University in Canberra and was regularly attacked by the magpies during mating season), some lorikeets, and huge numbers of big bats (technically flying foxes). We were there before dusk, but we still saw some of the them flying around.
Posted by Larry at 12:54 PM
Friday, March 20, 2009
It was definitely a long flight, but I had a row of three impossibly uncomfortable seats to myself and I even managed to sleep a little. I traveled with three colleagues from work and we're spending the day walking around Sydney. We made it to see the Opera House and we're planning to walk across the Harbor Bridge next. We walked past the hotel where Lorien and I will stay later next weekend and it is in a pretty darn good hotel; I'm sure we'll post about that then.
We were very lucky to be able to check in when we got to the hotel this morning; I've rarely been so happy to take a shower. Work is putting us up at the Grace Hotel; if you click on Rooms, I'm staying in the Deluxe Room. It's almost too bad the weather is beautiful and we want to spend the day walking around a brand new city.
Posted by Larry at 6:49 PM