Well, kids, as you can see from my last post, I have just returned from Australia, 17 days in Australia to be exact. Which is why I have been a big, giant slacker in the posting department. Sorry.
I think the best way to break up my posting of this trip will just be to do it by region. So, one post for each city we visited. Let's start with Sydney!
First of all, if you are the person in charge of planning a work conference, and you know the Pope is coming to town, you might want to consider timing your conference so that it doesn't happen at the same time as the Pope's visit give or take a week. For one thing, any of your Catholic attendees probably won't appreciate you very much. Secondly, anyone who has to travel to and find accommodations in your city during this time probably will not appreciate you much either. I'm just sayin'. Some things to consider.
Anyway, I really liked Sydney, World Youth Day craziness aside. We stayed at the Sydney Harbour Marriott Hotel at Circular Quay. It was...fine. The hotel was nice, the staff were courteous, the room was clean. I wasn't overwhelmed, but it was ok. The one complaint I do have is that I asked for a robe, and they sent one up that smelled like smoke. I don't know if they didn't wash it after the last person wore it or if someone was smoking in the supply closet or what, but it stunk. Also, the 3AM fire alarm was a drag. Turns out someone down the hall from us was a smoker and couldn't drag his ass outside to take a drag. So, not really the hotel's fault, but still. Actually, it could have been the hotel's fault. Maybe whoever was wearing my robe and smoking in the supply closet finally went too far and set off the smoke alarms. Damn closet smokers...which brings me to...
my first public safely announcement: If you are injured or in some other way not highly mobile, don't get a hotel room on the 26th floor. I had never considered this before, but my knee was tweaked from all the walking around we'd been doing, and I couldn't go up or down stairs in a normal fashion. I had to do it old-people style where you put your left foot down a step and then, instead of bringing your right foot down to the step below your left foot, you bring your right foot down to the same step that your left foot is on and then start all over with the next step. I am here to tell you that if there had been an actual fire, I would have burned alive, probably on the 24th floor. So, I guess I should be thankful that it was just some thug smoking up robes to foist on unsuspecting guests.
Before all this nonsense with the fire alarms, we walked down to the Sydney Opera House. We tried to get tickets to see Hamlet, but it was in its last two nights of production and was sold out. The architecture is, of course, unique and fascinating. What was cool for me though was that it reminded me of the architecture of the Air Force Academy's Cadet chapel, which my grandpa helped build. When I say "helped build" I mean I think he was one of the lead guys on the job, but I'm not actually sure on that, so I'll have to do some fact checking. For comparison check out pictures here of the Sydney Opera House and this picture of the chapel.
After that we walked over to the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain which are huge! And quite lovely. They have some amazing trees and beautiful walkways and fruit bats, or flying foxes as they are more euphemistically called. Some people found the bats creepy. I kind of liked them. They were flying all over the place and chattering like crazy during the day, which surprised me. I figured they would be pretty quiet during the day and active at night. Shows what I know about fruit bats. They also had herds of cockatoos flying around. I'm sure the correct terminology is probably "flocks" but if you've ever heard these things, you'll agree it sounds more like a herd of cockatoos coming at you than a flock.
Anyway, the Royal Botanic Gardens have a lot of open space that doesn't involve bats or stampeding cockatoos, so don't let that discourage you if you're wary of either. It's a beautiful area and you can spend days walking around. Definitely a winner! Hawaii, take notes-this is how you do a botanic garden!
After all our walking around, we needed some food, and we found this little cafe called GG espresso, which was fabulous! And it wasn't just because I was famished and getting mean. I had the lemon pepper chicken, tomato, cheese, pesto and rocket on Turkish bread, which was one of the best sandwiches I've ever had. It was so good! The chicken was tender and had great flavor, the cheese was perfectly melted, the pesto was good but not overwhelming, the rocket (arugula) was fresh and the bread was light and crispy. The whole thing was wonderful! Sydney Airport, take notes-this is how you do sandwiches! My husband got the meat pie, which is not on the menu, but was also really good even though he burned off most of his taste buds on the first bite. A warning about meat pies: They tend to be served at roughly 800 degrees. Fahrenheit or Celsius, take your pick; at that temperature it doesn't really matter.
Speaking of food, we decided to go to Lord Nelson's Brewery Hotel for dinner. Instead of eating dinner there, we ended up trying some of their beer which is, as the name of the establishment implies, brewed on site. I'm not a beer gal, but I liked the Old Admiral and the Victory Bitter (not to be confused with Australia's Victoria Bitter or VB, which from what I could gather from the locals is sort of Australia's Budweiser-everybody drinks it, but it's pretty much crap.) I think we tried one other beer that night, but I can't remember which one it was. My husband wanted to try the Nelson's Blood, but they were all out. After finding the beer selection pleasing we decided to ignore the tempting menu and wander around the city a little more. At the time, some things seem like a good idea.
We walked around until we found the Australian Hotel, which apparently is some hot-shit, award-winning beer venue, but we found their beer to be far inferior to Lord Nelson's and their food was mediocre. My pizza, however, did make me laugh until I cried. Not because it was particularly funny, but because sometimes all the elements in the universe line up just right to make one split second in time so funny that you can't stand it. I ordered a cheese pizza, and as I was taking my first bite, I sort of sighed and thought, "I love cheese." This made me smile a little, and I knew that my husband had caught me smiling and was now wondering what I was smiling about. Then I thought about having to explain my wistful, "I love cheese," thought and that made me laugh, which made my husband ask, "What?" which made me laugh even harder because I thought about how ridiculous it would sound to actually say, out loud, "I love cheese," and how non-funny that is and then I thought about the disparity between the funniness of my "I love cheese," and how hard I was now laughing and that made me laugh even more. So, it just kept snowballing, and I probably laughed for a solid two minutes before I could pull myself together enough to tell my husband, who by this time was waiting for something really freakin' hilarious, "I love cheese!" which then sent me into peals of laughter for another minute or two. I'm sure anyone watching from the outside would have had no doubt that I was high as a kite, but I swear to you I wasn't. I just really love cheese.
I have more to report, but it's bed time, so I'll be back later with more.