Tuesday, April 27


Wow. It seems I only blog when I travel - maybe I should have just made a travel blog... Nope, I just checked, I've blogged about other things. Whew.

Anywho, I am now finishing day 12 in Sydney (I had to open my calendar app to figure that out). Where in the world does the time go? Unbelievable.

OK, highlights... I went to see Wicked last week. It was just as fantastic the second time. I liked the London production better (oh dear, does that make me sound pretentious?), but I'm not complaining.

I booked a bus tour to Port Stephens:
Reptile Park
Dolphin Watching
It was a lot of fun, not quite what I expected, but fun.
The reptile park was kind of a let down. Here I go again, I'm going to sound pretentious... First item on the agenda: pet a koala bear (yup, at a REPTILE park). Now, koala's are adorable, and who wouldn't want to pet one? But, this wasn't my first time petting a koala. Second item on the agenda: hand feed kangaroos. Again, so adorable, etc. but also again, not my first time. And don't even get me started on the enclosed alligators. I've canoed in alligator-infested waters. Not that my friend and I knew that when we started canoeing. The park ranger who helped us put our canoe in the water casually mentioned "oh yeah, watch for alligators, oh, and don't grab any overhanging branches as there might be Water Moccasins." NICE - but I digress.
The dolphin watching was neat. I thought there was supposed to be swimming with the dolphins - I even bought a swim suit (since I forgot to pack mine), but what it turned out to be was "OK, now we've seen the dolphins, you can go ride on the boom net for 5 minutes." Well, I wasn't going to change clothes for 5-10 minutes in/on a boom net when it wasn't even while we were dolphin watching.
After the dolphin watching, we drove to the sand dunes near by and went sandboarding. It was AWESOME!! I'll admit, I was a little nervous at first - not that I'd get hurt, but that I'd look stupid - but it was so much fun. This was, really, the highlight of my day. I learned, though, that I prefer smaller tour groups - this tour was an entire bus load, and it seemed less personal and a little rushed.

Just because I've fed kangaroos before doesn't mean I'm not going to do it again...

Entrance to Port Stephens


Sand dunes (from the bottom)

Sand dunes (from the top)

My sandboard and me

Sunday was ANZAC Day.
Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, and is commemorated by both countries on 25 April every year to honour members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli in Turkey during World War I. It now more broadly commemorates all those who died and served in military operations for their countries.
Even though it was raining in the morning, I went out and watched the parade near my hotel. I got all choked up (yup, I spelled that chocked up at first) seeing the older men march by. It was really touching.
After the rain cleared up, I took the ferry across Sydney Harbour to the Taronga Zoo. Great views of the city!! I highly recommend it. Oh yeah, and there were animals (including a brand new baby elephant). He was so cute!! As I was leaving the zoo, the weather started acting up again (good timing), so I called it a day.

Baby elephant (so cute!)

Sydney Harbour from the zoo

ANZAC parade

Giraffe with the city view

Because Sunday was ANZAC Day, Monday was a public holiday, which meant that no one would be working at the Sydney office, so I got the day off, too. I took a bus tour to Canberra (pronounced Can' bur uh NOT Can bear' a - oh yeah, make fun of the silly American), the national capital. It was quite fitting, I thought, for the ANZAC Day holiday, right? One of the guys in my office here described Canberra as an interesting "non-place."
The site of Canberra was selected for the location of the nation's capital in 1908 as a compromise between rivals Sydney and Melbourne, Australia's two largest cities. It is unusual among Australian cities, being an entirely planned city. Following an international contest for the city's design, a design by the Chicago architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin was selected and construction commenced in 1913.
We visited the National Museum, Parliament, and the War Memorial. I must have been having an emotional weekend, because I got all choked up... again (and yup, spelled that chocked up... again). I learned that, sometimes, I really don't like the constraints of being on a guided tour. There was a street of war monuments (kind of like the U.S. National Mall) that I would have liked to walk up at my leisure, but, oh no, we had to stay on the bus as we quickly drove past them with the driver saying "On the left is the Vietnam Memorial," "Oh, on the right is the..." I couldn't even focus my camera before it was out of my view. Very frustrating.

Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial

Parliament House

Lake Burley Griffin

Wow, I hope this entry doesn't make me sound too negative. I really did have a great weekend. I know that I'm quite blessed to have this kind of experience!

Tuesday, April 20

Livin' in a land down under

Last Wednesday evening, I flew, for the second time ever, to Sydney. Having done it once before, I had prepared myself for 15 ½ hours in coach. I hadn't even bothered to ask Delta to upgrade my seat because I knew that it was impossible because my ticket wasn’t purchased in the right “class.” As I was waiting in the Delta Crown Room in Los Angeles I head the most beautiful words ever: “Will Sydney passenger *me* please check in at the front desk?” My heart started beating a little bit faster… I had dared hope that something like this would happen, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up only to get them dashed. So, I checked in at the front desk. Joy of all joy, the lady handed me another boarding pass telling me that coach was overbooked and so the folks at the gate upgraded my seat. Business Class, baby – for 15 ½ hours! I couldn’t believe it. We even had the cool seats that reclined flat – like a bed. Granted, the flight was still 15 ½ hours, but it was SOOOO much nicer. Have I mentioned how much I love Delta right now?

Business class seats

So, I arrived in Sydney Friday morning, met up with my colleague to get some work done later in the day, and generally just lazed about.

My hotel is right on the edge of Chinatown, so there are dozens upon dozens upon dozens of Asian restaurants near me. The only difficulty is figuring out which restaurants are good and which restaurants should be avoided. And, of course, there are the restaurants where the menus aren't in English, so I wouldn't even know what to order. On Friday night, down one of the streets in Chinatown, there were several street vendors out selling food, so I bought some dinner from a little Dim Sum place. So yummy! However, since I can’t eat Asian food every night, I’ll have to expand my wanderings.

On Saturday I spent the morning trying to find a swimsuit. I have a weekend activity planned, and it requires a bathing suit – I thought I had packed mine, but alas… I went to a Target and a Kmart (yup, they have Target and Kmart here), however, I couldn’t find one. My colleague is going to help me look later this week. I’m hoping for the best.

Water Fountain near Darling Harbour

A guy playing drums and bottles on a street corner

Also on Saturday, I visited the Chinese Friendship Gardens near Darling Harbour. It’s quite a beautiful little place in the middle of a bustling city.

Found a church on Sunday – there were all of 50 people in Sacrament Meeting (if that), and four of the 50 were missionaries, and one of the 50 was me. After church I had to hike a mile or so to catch the train back to Sydney – good thing I took a cab TO church or I would have been all sweaty for church – icky! I didn’t realize how hilly the Sydney area would be. The walk was beautiful, though.

More to come…

Saturday, April 3

1st Birthday

So, the Saturday before I left for Boston, I went to my great-nephew's first birthday. He is just too, too cute. Thanks, Amber, for letting me come join you!

Watching him eat his cake was so cute (and yet, I had to watch my gag reflex). I guess the only baby cake Amber could find was red velvet... makes an amazing looking mess.

Chocolate Coma

So, while searching for things to do in Boston, Amanda found a chocolate tour - only available from January through April. We both decided that it was so unique, we had to do it (not to mention… chocolate). It was a lot of fun, but after it was over, the thought of chocolate (or even anything sweet) made me want to puke. Even the little chocolates placed on our pillows that night were just too much.

We started the day off by having a chocolate cannoli and hot chocolate at a local bakery in the North End (Mike’s Pastry – it came HIGHLY recommended, and now I can highly recommend it). It was so yummy, but, looking back on the events of the day, it probably wasn’t the best idea to start the day of our chocolate tour with… chocolate. We should have had some protein or something. Oh, well, what’s done is done. (and, it really was good).

So, our chocolate tour started at 12:15. We started off by going to the Top of the Hub restaurant (52 stories up – great views). Our tour guide mentioned that we would probably get something light and airy at this restaurant, and we were in no way to ask for more (holy crap, what a thought). However, we didn’t get something light and airy… we got a dense chocolate torte-like thing, and a small tart on the side. Here we were guided by Chef Amour (a guy dressed as a chef with a fake French accent - I was tempted to speak to him in French just to see what he'd do).

After Top of the Hub, we went to the Omni Parker House Hotel (home of the Parker House Roll, and America's longest continuously operating luxury hotel). Beautiful décor, and a delicious slice of Boston Cream Pie (OK, I keep spelling cream in French – crème – so if that shows up… sorry).

For the final act, we went to a chocolate bar at The Langham. Holy cow – chocolate and more chocolate. There was a chocolate fountain, chocolate crepes, chocolate pasta, chocolate mousses, specialty cakes, fresh made donuts, fresh baked cookies, tortes, a signature chocolate bread pudding and more. I know why this is the last stop on the tour – by this time, we were very limited with the amount of sweets we could eat. At least I was.

From all that was available, this is what I had (the mango pudding and fruit tart were just to mix it up a bit)

I’m really glad Amanda found this – it was a very “out-of-the-ordinary” thing to do.

A week in the Hub

I learned something last week (while I was working in Boston) – weird, I know. Anyway, did you know that Boston is called “The Hub?” I didn’t. Why is it called the Hub, you ask? Evidently, in 1858, Oliver Wendall Holmes referred to the Boston State House as the “Hub of the Solar System.” With a few modifications, the nickname stuck.

It happened to be Restaurant Week in Boston – meaning that participating restaurants offered 3-course dinners for a fixed price. So, of course, at least one night, my co-workers and I had to take advantage. The restaurant we originally intended to go to didn’t have any reservations until late, so we decided to just walk down Newbury Street (recommended by the hotel and the folks at the Herald) and find something. We found 29 Newbury Restaurant, and it was delicious! I think my co-workers were a little embarrassed that I was taking pictures of my food, but who cares, right?

Lobster Roll at Legal's

Seared scallops with oranges

Peach chicken with beets and a risotto cake

Anywho, my friend, Amanda, has been working in New York for the past several weeks, so we decided that she should fly to Boston Friday night and we’d be tourists over the weekend. In addition to the basic tourist-y stuff (you know, like the Freedom Trail), Amanda found a 3-hour chocolate tour – I’ll talk about this in a separate entry.

When I had packed to leave for Boston, weather.com said that temperatures were supposed to be upper-40’s/lower 50’s (which they were until Friday), so I packed accordingly. However, the weather on Saturday was in the 30’s. Since I wasn’t prepared for cold, I had to go shopping for a scarf on Friday. I know, poor me, yeah? Amanda and I started early on Saturday (since the only flight from Boston to Salt Lake on Sunday was at 6:30 a.m., we only had Saturday to play), and since it was soooo cold, I ended up buying some gloves, too. I hadn’t packed any sweaters, so I had to layer my shirts. All of this resulted in a color disaster.

Color fashionista - flashing my html symbols

Amanda and I walked the Freedom Trail, took our chocolate tour, froze, shopped, and ate at an Italian restaurant in the North End for dinner. The food at the restaurant came highly recommended, but the reviews we found online said the service was severely lacking. Maybe the reviews planted thoughts in our heads, but we found the service to be severely lacking. However, the food was delicious (I had the Pasta Bolognese)! When our waiter tried to give us the dessert menu, Amanda practically shouted “No dessert menu!” Our chocolate tour had satisfied our sweet tooth (and then some), and I really couldn’t contemplate even looking at a dessert. Boston is an amazing place – so much history.

Pasta Bolognese

Paul Revere's grave

Walking the Freedom Trail (yes, the bricks mark the trail)

Here lived Paul Revere

Old State House (near the site of the Boston Massacre)

One if by land... the Old North Church

Faneuil Hall (don't even ask Amanda to pronounce this...)

Bunker Hill (I was told by the folks at the Boston Herald that no self-respecting Bostonian would go here... good thing I'm not a Bostonian)