Hello New Zealand! My first week. Eeeeekkk!

16 07 2014

Right, I didn’t want to do this, but I’m going out of sync because I’ve still not finished the Melbourne adventures with Kat McEvoy! So, I’m going in with the first bits of NZ action and will follow up with Melbourne. Sorry about that…. Let’s get on though with my first week in NZ :-)

My first week in New Zealand has been in Auckland and I’ve mostly been sorting myself out. It’s probably not going to make for vey interesting reading, but I’ll summarise for my own sake as a something to refer back to next year…

Monday
I arrive into New Zealand from a Melbourne around lunchtime even though my flight from Melbourne was at shit o clock in the morning. This is because NZ is 2 hours ahead of Oz. I decide to get the shuttle bus to the hostel I’m staying at which is more expensive than the normal airport bus, but it drops you right to your door. Convenient or what?
The only drawback with this is that there are several people in the bus and they all get dropped to their door. In my case I was the last to be dropped off and so I probs didn’t get to the hostel till around 3pm, but that did mean I had a little drive around different parts of Auckland.
Once I’d been dropped off I went in only to find reception was closed she it should have been open and no one around to ask about it… Bums. I try calling the number in the poster on the wall that says call this number if no one is in reception…. But I can hear the phone in reception ringing and there is clearly nobody in there! Another guest joins me as she needs a token for the washer and so we wait together and then another girl joins us who wanted to stay at this hostel but it was full so she had to go to one down the road which she doesn’t like so she wants to book in to this one as soon as she can…
We try the number again but no joy. Eventually, Campbell, the manger appears and seems surprised that we’re waiting for him… ‘Why didn’t you call me?’ He asks. ‘we did.’ I reply, ‘several times’ Then then picks up the phone and dials and fate about 27 rings the reception phone diverts to his mobile…. Clearly we weren’t letting it ring long enough, but when you can hear the phone ringing in a locked office you kind of think it won’t get answered… I might leave that on my feedback form, maybe amend the poster to say you have to let it ring a long time before it’s diverted…

Anyway, as there are several of us waiting and the other two have seemingly quick things to do I suggest they go first. Eventually I get checked in rather hurriedly as other people have arrived that need one thing or another.
So, key in hand I make my way downstairs to the room I’m sharing with 3 others… It’s small. For 4 people it is small and there is absolutely no storage, at all. It’s dark a raining outside and I’m feeling a bit flat and what with being tired and a bit disappointed with the hostel, missing Kat McEvoy after we had such a lovely time in Oz, I do a little cry :-( Just as I do one of my room mates comes in so I’m quick to wipe away the tears and pretend I’m ok. I think I get away with it and chatting to room mate one helps lift my spirits a bit. So I pull myself together, it could be worse, I think, so I decide to arrange my stuff as best I can and head to the nearest supermarket to get supplies for the week I’m here. I know this is really silly, but I love a new supermarket experience :-)
So, supplies in hand I walk back up the hill and along the Ponsonby Road back to the hostel. I find a spot in the food cupboard and fridge and set about having a cuppa and some biscuits in the lounge and catching up on the emails while making a plan for the next day…
It’s all going to be ok I think. The NZ adventure is underway…

Tuesday
I don’t want to skip over Tuesday completely but it wasn’t a very exciting day!
I have a lie in, I must’ve been tired!
Once I’m showered and breakfasted I take a walk into town to get my bearings.
First stop on the list is the library. Hurray for the libraries. If find out what I need to join and then I spend the best part of the afternoon writing myself to do lists and letters home, which felt nice.
Back at the hostel and I’ve figured out I need to get all the stuff I need for the next day ready the night before so I don’t disturb sleepers if I’m up before them. After tea I have a bit of time in the lounge before heading to bed so I’m ready for the IEP orientation tomorrow.

Wednesday
I’m up early and try to dress nice for the orientation at IEP Work New Zealand. I don’t need to dress nice for it, but it feels nice to make a bit of an effort rather than the usual stuff I’ve been wearing. I’ve time to go to the post office before the orientation, I’ve got souvenirs from Australia to post! Needless to say when the woman at the counter tells me it’s going to be $72.50 I nearly do a sick on the floor, but hand over the money and hope that people like them!!
I make my way over the road to the orientation which is not too far from the post office. As I’m part of the IEP working visa crew I get to make use of their office space, with computers, free wifi, free printing, help with travel and employment.
The orientation takes around 3 hours and we cover all of the things; culture shock, New Zealand chat, New Zealand history, how to buy a car, how to apply for a job, doing the CV, how to apply for the IRD number for the tax, which meant another trip to the post office, that sort of thing. They fed us choco throughout and even though they’ve had to do this presentation a lot of times, they are still really friendly, encouraging questions and ready to give advice on pretty much anything. Once we’d done the orientation I started to take a look for a help exchange for the next couple of weeks before my sister Tor arrives. I spent a lot of time going through all sorts of profiles and sent messages to the ones I was most interested in, one a llama farm :-) After a few hours doing that I headed back to the library to join proper. You get to choose from a range of membership card designs :-) I went for this one…

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I spend some time at the library checking for help exchange replies and I’m pleasantly surprised as I already have several replies, a couple of offers and some to say they couldn’t give me anything for the dates I wanted. I thought it would be sensible to leave it overnight to see if I got anymore replies.

I took a walk down Queen Street and stopped in at the bank of make an appointment of validate my bank account. I applied for it while I was still in the UK. I spoke to a really lovely lady and she booked me in with her colleague Connie tomorrow. Another tick off the list :-)

The library closes at 8pm and before I log out I see I have another message from a help exchange person, which sounds promising as the dates are perfect, I reply and suggest a phone chat which is agreed for tomorrow. Eeeeekkk!!! I’ll expect a call from the help exchanger host around 9am tomorrow :-)

I head back to the hostel to make tea and catch up with how the day has been for some of the hostel crew. There’s a really sweet Welsh girl, Lisa, who has just started working at the university and she’s always very friendly.

I’m feeling like I’ve had a pretty productive day :-) Bedtime!

Thursday
I’m up earlyish as I want to speak to Mr & Mrs Illingworth, before I speak to the help exchange host circa 9am. I’ve got the appointment at the bank at 10.30 so it’s all go :-)
Roberta the help exchange host called just after and we talk about what she would want me to do and for how long each day etc. Tasks include household chores, help with the 4 children and help in the restaurant they have in Russell. So, pretty varied and doable hopefully. Having spoken we agree that I’ll come to them from Monday 7th through to Saturday 19th July. Eeeeekkk!!! I’m excited and scared and pleased that I’ve got something organised. Another job added to the list is to sort out travel up there. It’s about a 4 hour bus journey up from Auckland and then a little boat trip over the water from Paihia to Russell. Next task though, the bank!
I arrived for the bank account appointment early and ended up waiting a bit longer than anticipated because Connie’s appointment was overrunning. Once I was in though things went smoothly and I validated my account successfully :-) it will take about 10 days for my real card to come through, in the meantime I’ve got a temporary one. Timing wise it should be ready for when I get back to Auckland to meet Tor :-) Hurray!
Another job ticked off the list.
The next thing is to organise transport for getting to the Bay of Islands. I did a quick search and then settled on getting the 0745 bus from Auckland Central to Paihia and then the boat across to Russell. Coming back to Auckland on the bus on the 19th ready for fun times with sister Tor :-) YEAH!
Tick :-)
Back to the hostel and another good organising day :-)

Friday
Friday morning was a chilled one and I took my time getting ready to go out to meet Alex Allan who used to work at work :-)
After a right old fanny faff bags of me getting the wrong boat Alex finally found me stuffing my face with delicious ice cream – a maple and pecan and a creme brûlée scoop. Yum! We head off for a little adventure which involves a drive to One Tree Hill, amazing vistas!

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We then head back to Auckland and have a walk to the Wynard Quarter to get some tea. I had a big old fish burger and Alex had an even bigger meaty burger! We enjoyed a couple of beers. It’s been lovely to spend some time with him, but a shame his wife couldn’t make it… I’ll meet her one day!
After tea we had a walk up to the sky tower and a mooch about and then we walked back to the car and Alex dropped me back at the hostel. What a gent!
It was good to see him, thanks for looking after me and taking me for tea :-)

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I’m feeling more organised for the coming weeks and so I’ve decided I’m going to be a tourist doing the coast to coast walk. YES!

Saturday
Another gentle start to the day and I get myself sorted out for doing the Coast to Coast walk. I’m excited. The sun is shining and I’m off! The walk starts down on the wharf/port front at the bottom of queen street and takes you through some reall lovely bits of Auckland; the university bit, domain, Mount Eden, One tree hIll… Some amazing vistas to be had as well as a bit of a nose at houses in the different neighbourhoods. The end is a but uninspiring – electricity pylons, public toilets and a bit of an industrial estate! It’s probs got a different feel in the summer…
So if I was to recommend this walk to anyone I’d say get the bus to Onehunga and do the walk back to the city. Still, I really enjoyed it and I reckon I did about 20km all in, although the official walk route is 16km I defo had more on either side…

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Oh and I like this dog poo bin in Cornwall Park..

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Saturday evening was pretty chilled, chatting to Lisa and Nicci at the hostel. Highlight included eating a Moro gold with nuts! I love trying the new choco and sweets but need to ration it! Naughty! So far I’ve tried a picnic, a Moro normal and a Moro gold as well as some party mix which was no where near as nice as Oz Cole’s party mix :-( Need to try pineapple lumps as they are pretty NZ and some fush things… The confectionary opportunities are endless!

After a pleasant evening I head to bed only to be woken up by two of the dormers doing smoochy sexy time!!! Now, I’m not sure what the etiquette around this is.. I find myself in a bit of a quandary for two reasons – I really need a wee so will have to disturb them at some point but the second is how I actually feel about having to share a room with this situation… Here’s what I concluded.. I needed a wee, I especially getting really desperate so I went for one, needless to say the smoochy time stopped after that and I couldn’t help feeling bad :-/
Here’s the three things that were going round my head
1. How inconsiderate!
2. Aaah, I hope they are having a nice time. Smoochy sexy time is nice :-)
3. I’m probs a bit jealous because I like smoochy sexy time, but defo not in shared hostel dorm and boy Joe isn’t here :-(

So in end I thought, the only way this is affecting me really is disturbing my sleep. While it’s not my bag, it’s clearly there’s so they should enjoy it. I did think though to is just something you hear about, but I can confirm it is actually a true story!!

Sunday
My last day in Auckland for now and I sort myself out for the help exchange, find where I need to get the bus from, which is actually really near the hotel I go back to to meet sister Tor :-)
I decide to get a Daiso/Countdown love gift to leave at the hotel for when Tor arrives.
After that I have a bit of library time and head back to the hostel to pack. I did have plans to go to the pictures later, but I just ended up getting tea at the metro centre instead, I had a nice katsu curry from a very chatty and polite Japanese man.

Belly full I head back to the hostel to find a new girl in our dorm. She’s just come back from Fiji and is heading back to Germany tomorrow. She goes on to tell me she has bed bugs, brought with her, in her stuff from Fiji. Nice. She then asks if she can borrow my flip flops to go over to the kitchen. I’m not comfortable with this situ. Can bed bugs attach themselves to flip flops? Still, I agree… I settle in for my last night at the hostel, paranoid the bed bugs are going to invade my stuff and I’ll end up infesting the help exchange house! How awful would that be?!
In my paranoia I decide to leave my flip flops there!
An early start to get the bus tomorrow so it’s an early night for me. Fingers crossed for a successful help exchange experience for both parties :-)





Melbourne – week 1

1 07 2014

I think I’ve caught up now with the Sydney chapter and it’s been a while since I’ve blogged properly and I’m now in Auckland, at Auckland City Public Library, to be precise. More on that in future posts. The next couple of posts will focus on Melbourne fun times.

I arrived into Melbourne by train, thinking that after enjoying the train journeys in Thailand so much that the same would be said of the Sydney to Melbourne journey. Ha! Not so! It’s a looooong journey to do by train, ours took around 13 hours as there was a bit of hoo ha with a broken down train around Junee. I can also safely say that the scenery was boring! Sorry, but it was.

On the plus side a man who was sat next to me for part of the journey told me all about the benefits of drinking bottled water rather than tap water and encouraged me to watch a you tube video all about it to the point where I had to write done the details and assure him that I would once I was on the wifi…..

I did have a good chat with a lady who was travelling with her mother to her uncles funeral. Her mother refuses to fly anywhere, hence the train journey :-) She was telling me about her grown up daughters and finding love in her life again after her husband dying some time ago. She’s off on an adventure in a camper that they are renovating, exciting! I’d like to do a similar thing in a Bedford bambi around the UK one day.

I also enjoyed a cup of tea and I spent a lot of time writing up my Sydney blog posts and reading a very trashy freebie from the iBooks :-)
If I was going to do this journey again, I’d fly! No, really, if I was going to do it again I’d go on the night time service.

Anyway I arrived into Melbourne around 19.30 and was greeted at the station by my great uncle Gordon, who I’ll abbreviate to GUG in this post. I stayed with him until the Saturday and then met up with the lovely Kat McEvoy for a week of girl time time fun time in the city :-)

It was good to spend some time with GUG, we explored the Great Ocean Road, went to Williamstown and had a mooch about Footscray market. I loved a walk around the botanical gardens and a bit of cake :-) We also had a walk around Fitzroy gardens and a mooch about Captain Cooks cottage.

Captain Cooks Cottage

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I also had chance to catch up on the secret crochet that’s come to other side of the world with and that will need sending back very soon! Still more to do on that so I’d better use my time during the first couple of weeks in NZ wisely!

It was good to hear about our family, particularly my auntie Maria’s side, who are Hungarian. She died some years ago, so it was good to see where they had started and spent their lives together after moving to Australia from the UK. I loved looking through old photos from their wedding, my mum and dad’s wedding, family holidays and visits and even some of us as children one Christmas when GUG was over visiting.

We had an invite from GUGs friend Edith for tea on Friday night, which was lovely. One of her daughters, Linda and her husband and two children were there too and it was a good meal followed by the most delicious cake! Everyone was really friendly and made me feel very welcome.

It was a good finish to the first week in Melbourne and I had that weird mix of feeling sad to day goodbye to GUG but also excited to be seeing Kat McEvoy for the first time since she left Brighton for her adventure year around Australia.

That’s where we’ll pick up the next post. CBD adventures with Kat McEvoy.

Williamstown

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Sunday – MCA, Manly, getting ready to leave :-(

22 06 2014

I get up to people watching the World Cup :-) I have breakfast, during which I have a really lovely chat with an older couple, pensioners; Mel and Pam, in Sydney to join a cruise round the pacific islands. We chat about their travels, my travels, their lives, my life. They are nice people to have breakfast with.

Saying bye to Mel and Pam, I get my pack up ready for the day and head out into the sunshine, which soon turns to grey skies and rain, but fortunately for me I’m already at the MCA :-)

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The museum of contemporary art is located on the rocks at Circular Quay. I get there in time for the 11am free tour of volume one of their permanent collection. I bloody love an arty tour and this was no exception. Frances, our arty tour guide was a really lovely lady, sooooo enthusiastic about the pieces in the collection that she’d chosen to share with us. She was also really encouraging, asking us what we thought of each of the pieces, what they said to us. Brillers.

We started off looking at a temporary mural on a big wall in the entry foyer of the gallery by Gwam Wei. That was all about the journey to Australia and was pretty haunting because the people were faceless and that freaks me out.

These are the ones I liked a lot…

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After Frances concluded the tour I revisited a couple of things, the video installation of the skateboarder in slow motion, like the dancing last night, was totally mesmerising.

As I was leaving the gallery I noticed the big cruise shop docked in at Sydney Harbour and thought of Mel and Pam boarding and getting ready for the off on their adventures :-)
I made my way to get the ferry to Manly for a mooch about.

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That’s one of the things I enjoy about Sydney. Getting boats to places. I guess if I had to do that every day it would get boring or tiresome and if it was a rough sea I might do a sick over my work clothes or even worse over someone else’s work clothes or I might get washed overboard or spill tea on myself or something. At the moment though, I love getting boats to places!

It’s a bit of a dull afternoon weather wise in Manly, but I soon find my way to the beach and before long my shoes and socks are off and I’m enjoying a pleasantly not too cold paddle. As I walk along I watch the surfers. There are plenty of them out on the water today and a number of lessons going on too. I’m thinking it looks difficult, but also fun and also really good exercise! I’d like to give it a try one day I think.

I head off the beach in search of a cuppa and mooch about Manly town. I can see why people recommended I come here. Even on a cloudy, chilly day it’s a pleasant place to be. Before I know it’s getting dark so I stop off in Coles to get something for tea and then head to get the boat back to Sydney. It is a choppy sea on the way back and I’ve chosen to sit outside as it’ll be my last boat trip here :-( I get sprayed by the waves and the boat rolls up and down. This is due to a big swell apparently. It wasn’t an unpleasant journey back, if anything it was a bit exciting!

As I head back for my last night in the hostel in Sydney I have a little think about all the fun stuff I’ve done this week and feel very lucky and very alive :-) I’m looking forward to what awaits me in Melbourne, but I am sad to say goodbye to Sydney.

High drama skies at Manly…

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Saturday – relaxy day, photos at the biblio, opera house adventures

22 06 2014

Le weekend! These last few days have flown by and have been jam packed full of wonderful activities and adventures :-) I did manage a little lie in today and a very leisurely getting ready for my day. I enjoyed stretchy time, another thing I’m missing about being at home, exercise! I mean I’ve done loads of walking, loads and a fair amount of cycling since being away, but there’s nothing quite like a run or a kettle bells session and I really miss Pilates so I’m getting some in whenever I can. It’s more difficult when you’re sharing a room with other people, but now I’ve got one to myself I can do stretchy time till my hearts content! Kettlebells I think will have to wait until I get to NZ. I need some new trainers and need to ask sister Illingworth very nicely to bring my PE kit when she visits in July :-) exciting!

Anyway, by the time I’d got myself sorted it was the afternoon so I enjoyed a leisurely stroll through town via market city, picking up a couple of tops and a lovely cardigan along the way, which is a bit naughty because I need to try and squeeze them in my rucksack! I have been told though it is colder in Melbourne than in Sydney, where for the most part it’s been tshirt and cardi weather. Anyway, all of my purchases were sale items, obvs… I know it sounds silly, but it was actually quite nice to browse clothes, it felt like a normal thing to do on a Saturday…
When I got distracted by clothes, I was on my way to the state library of NSW where they have galleries and on at the moment are 3 photo exhibitions. Each one fantastico. The first one was images of home from immigrant communities, the second was press photos, the third world 1440 photo competition entries. A really eclectic selection depicting all sorts from sport to nature to war to love to childhood.
I didn’t venture into the library itself, what a terrible travelling librarian I am!

By the time I’d finished in there it was time to go back to the hostel to get ready for the evening at the Sydney Opera House for M¡Longa. As I’ve not an occasion to dress up for in a while I thought I’d make a bit of an effort and I’m glad I did because it made me feel nice :-)

Feeling a bit fancy I hopped on the train and headed for, you guessed it Circular Quay. It all happens there you know! A short walk round the harbour and I’m at the Sydney Opera House. There are people everywhere having a nice time in bars and restaurants along the way. I’ve only a little bit of time to get a feel for the space which is geometric, wooden and concrete with bright red carpets here and there. Again, another wonderful vista of harbour bridge from the front opera house. I make my way to my seat. I love going theatres I’ve not been to before and on entering the Joan Sutherland theatre at the opera house I had a definite moment of wowzzles! It is a wonderful space.
I’m enjoying a text based convo with boy joe involving chat about G&T along with sweet and savoury snacks, when the lights go down and the performance begins.

It’s a hour and a half of non-stop tango based intricate, beautifully executed and truly delightful dancing. Lots of tight bum cheeks and very busy legs :-)

There’s a fantastic contemporary feel to a number of the dances and the one with 3 of the men is exquisite. Really. It is. It was so expertly put together, with movements requiring so much skill and they danced it with so much feeling and so fluidly. It was mesmerising. I loved it. It was one of those performances that had so much soul I was emotionally tired when it came to an end. Talk about passionata!
The man/woman combos were elegant, yet some were filled with turmoil and strife! Oh it was wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!
It was over so quickly, but I had a lovely time.
It’s a performance I think Iain Worrall would have loved and it prompted me to message him to say that when I get back we should go to some lessons for ballroom dancing or something. That would be a lot of fun items for sure and Iain has got fantastico rhythm what with being a drummer and all. Ooooh it would be fun, so Iain, if you’re reading this, that’s something you can find out about for when I get back, please :-)

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It’s a pleasant evening so I walk back to the hostel, stopping at Coles to get a snack on my way. Now, a food aside, I have eaten the best tasting mandarins while I’ve been here. I can’t get enough of them! They are delicious, so full of flavour and juicy. Yumo. So a mandarin and a raspberry and coconut yoghurt were the night time snack of choice :-)
Getting close to bedtime, but not too late for a bit of Skype time with boy Joe. Then it’s sleepy time ready for another day of adventures tomorrow in the form of the Museum of Contemporary Art and an afternoon jaunt to Manly.





Friday – whale watching, botanical gardens, governors house tour, Luna park

22 06 2014

Friday already! Can you believe it?! My time in Sydney is whooshing by and I’m having a lovely time. Missing home, missing people, but on the whole enjoying my adventures :-)

I like Sydney a lot, here are some reasons why…
> it’s very easy to navigate
> there’s so much to do! Really varied and lots of really cool free activities
> lots of things are very nearby or easily accessible by public transport
> there’s a free bus that whooshes you through the CBD, in my case to and from the hostel to circular quay
> people are mostly friendly and I’ve been offered help and directions around the train station
> you can eat all the things at anytime of the day and night

Anyway, today’s main activity is a 4 hour whale watching boat trip. Eeeeekkk! Before heading off i check out of my room ready to check into the next, hopefully quieter room later on this afternoon. Room stuff sorted.
I have breakfast and get to Circular Quay at circa 0845 ready to leave at 0915.
The boat arrives, me and a couple of others get on, the rest of the whale watchers boarded at Darling Harbour. A brief introduction to safety (this is how to put on your life jacket) by one of our two crew and out we go into the open waters. I’m excited! Even just to be on the boat, in the sea!
It’s a shame I can’t remember the names of the chaps that were crewing the boat, because they were fun, telling us what to look out for and some interesting whale facts, apparently whales have hip bones… I need to verify this though!
The migration of the whales starts around the beginning of June and peaks toward the end of June/beginning of July. The mothers and the calves come first so we’d missed them. If we were going to see any it would juveniles.
We had to look out for when the whales come to the surface to breathe and the puffs of water/air that come up. It wasn’t before long that a fellow watcher spotted some and we chugged over in that general direction. By law the boats cannot get closer than 100 metres to the whales. The crew made mention of this several times and that it was important that we didn’t crowd the whales as that would frighten them. I could see how this could happen as there were several other whale a thing boats out on the water at the same time as us and we saw then a bit of a race to the nearest whales, our boat didn’t go to them, as our crew pointed out, it would be too much for the whales and I’m glad they did that, because that’s exactly what I was thinking. There were plenty of other whales going by and it wasn’t long before we saw another group of 3, having an arm flap and a tail wave :-) I know it’s all the cliches, but it’s a really magical experience. Well, it was for me. They were humpbacks the whales we saw, but the crew said that orcas come that way too a d there have been blue whale sightings, but they are very rare. Minkys also migrate this way, whale-tastic!

As well as the whales swimming by there were loads of dolphins and they were just a delight :-) So playful :-) They kept trying to get a ride from the boat jumping through the water alongside us. Ace!

One of the things I loved about being out at sea watching for whales and dolphins is the sounds they make when they come up for air. Like a whooshing noise.

There were also loads of sea birds diving into the water to catch a tasty morsel or two.

I was having a lovely time, until I sat down! Now on the jaunt out to the sea I’d been sat down and felt fine. While we were spotting whales is been stood up and felt fine. I had a little sit down and after about 7 minutes I started to feel really queasy and thought I was going to do a sick! Booooo!!! I got to my feet and thought standing up would help and it did but the queasiness stayed so I went downstairs to the back of the boat, if I was going to do a sick over the side it wouldn’t be in front of other people!!!

One of the crew came down to go to the loo and he checked in on me, offered me water, told me to look at the horizon, and I started to feel better. Then it was time to go back. Once we got moving again the sickness feeling went away, odd hey. I’m glad though that I wasn’t like that the whole time as that would have ruined whale watch Friday :-/

I think we saw about 17 whales in total and loads of dolphins. I really enjoyed being out on the boat, not so much for the feeling queasy part, but on the whole it was a wonderful experience :-)

On the way back into Circular Quay I had a chat with a man called Colin form Adelaide. He, as it turns out, had been to Brighton on a meditation course! Imagine that. Anyway, he’s really into whales and invited me out join him at a museum at Darling Harbour, I politely declined as I was getting off at Circular Quay and had plans for the botanical gardens in the afternoon.

We got back at around 1pm, I said my thanks and goodbyes to the crew and Colin and made my way up to the botanical gardens which are very close by to Circular Quay and the Opera House.

En route to the botanical gardens I came across a house of the governor of NSW, Marie Bashir. She’s the first female governor of NSW. They offer free tours which cover a bit of the history of the place too. I was just in for time for the 1.30 tour, checked my bag and got my ticket from a very handsome information man, a bit of a Clark Kent look about him, and meandered along the driveway to meet the volunteer tour guide, Michael at the entrance to the house.

Now, Michael was a character, incredibly knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the gothic style house, it’s furniture, decoration and it’s history. He bloody loved the furniture and the decor of the house and had an inventory of all the pieces in the house, all of them and so could tell us anything we wanted to know about any piece of furniture! Imagine that!

We walked through the hallway of the house Michael pointing out the portraits of all the governors of NSW right back to the when the English colonised. Marie Bashir, the current governor is standing down in October after 13 years in office. Then here portrait will appear in the hallway and the last Englishman to be governor of NSW will be moved into the bigger hall where all the oldest of the governors portraits are.

We followed Michael through to the study, where the governor conducts any special, fancy meetings. Michael pointed out where there was an extension to the original building.
Moving on we enter a dining room. Very fancy. This is where ceremonial lunches and dinners are held with examples of menus from the different ages. It’s a a fairly modest room, but impressive in it’s decoration, fireplace and chandelier.

Once out of the dining room we enter a set of drawing rooms with the most eclectic mix of furniture and soft furnishings. According to Michael the governor of the day chooses what they want in each of the rooms and this mix is Marie Bashirs choice. I quite like it. A contemporary crimson carpet, is eye catching with a wonderful swirly sort of 60s pattern to it. A range of furniture from across the decades, stand lamps, settees and a coffee table are set out in the space of a drawing room where, we’re told Marie Bashir entertains regularly.

Out of the drawing rooms and back on ourselves to go into the final room of the tour, the ballroom. Now this room has wonderful vistas across the well kept gardens of the house and out over the harbour. I’ve already suggested to boy Joe that we might like to get this place as our not so small holding, in the future :-) It’s totally wonderfully located.
The ballroom has been restored, but the people that designed and decorated the rooms left detailed drawings, instructions, etc with the library so when it came to restoration, all the information they needed was there. Amazing.
Again Michael pointed out where there’d been an extension and we had before and after pictures of this too. I like seeing how the space has evolved from governor to governor.
This was to be the end of a vey enjoyable tour, Michael said goodbye and let us out onto the patio of the gardens of the house. I had a little mooch around, noted that there was a greenhouse :-) good for the small holding growing veg :-) I made use of the facilities for a wee and then made my way out of the grounds of the governors house, stopping to collect my bag from Clark Kent, where he was dealing with quite an odd man. He did very well and he looked very relieved when he’d done all he needed to with this chap! Anyway, I learnt some things, basics even, like who the governor of NSW is! I also enjoyed having a snoop round her house :-)
Hurray for living museums!

By this point my belly was telling me to put some food in it, so I took a walk into the the botanical gardens to find a spot for lunch. After a mooch around I settled on a bench looking out over the harbour to eat lunch. I love the botanical gardens. They are ace. I love the openness and the space and the variety and the views and the peace of them. You could spend hours and hours, and I did, spend a couple of hours just being there, taking it all in. Lovely.
I think this is something that Iain Worrall, with his keen nose, would like :-) Lots of different smells, nice smells, refreshing smells, sweet smells, cleansing smells as you walk through the different sections of the gardens.
There are various status, sculptures and fountains dotted around too. Lovely. Just lovely.

As it was starting to get dark, the gardens close at 1700, I started to make my way back to the hostel via Hyde Park! It’s miniature compared to the London one, but still a pleasant cut thorough and nice change from Pitt Street and George Street.
I’d no plans for Friday night, which to be honest was probably a good thing. I was so tired from the early mornings and long days so a bit of relaxy time would be good. I got back and checked into my new room, which I had all to myself! Imagine that. The rest of the evening was spent catching up with myself, skyping with Mrs I and that sort of thing. As I climbed into the bed, ready for a sleep I thought I might like a little lie in tomorrow :-)

Sorry I’m being so crap with pics… I need to upload to the flickr…

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Thursday – Blue Mountains day trip

22 06 2014

Tourist time is go, go, go! After a not great sleep, people were drunkenly doing that shouty chatting outside our window until the early hours and I was up at 0600 to get ready for my day out to the Blue Mountains.
Showered, dressed and breakfasted, my bag packed with all the things I needed for the day, including luncho, pasta pack up…

I made my way to the pick up point, at YHA central and joined a small minibus at 0745. We continued around town picking people up and it was probably around 0830 that we got on the road proper and on our way to the first stop on the day trip, Featherdale Wildlife Park. Now, you know I love the animals, so I have mixed feelings about this sort of place. Still, we were here so in we go. It’s only a small place and you can see animals; koalas, wallabies, kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, dingoes, bats, snakes, wombats, many, many, many birds and even a crocodile.
On the whole it made me feel a bit sad, some of the animals looked sad and a bit worse for wear, the Tasmania devil especially, and the wombats were doing a lot of pacing… The croc had pretty much a paddling pool. I have a thing about caged birds anyway, so this was a bit much as there were a lot of birds. On the positive side though the koalas seemed happy enough munching on eucalyptus and the wallabies and kangaroos were happy to take the ice cream cone of food I presented them with. We were at the park for around 45 minutes before getting back on the bus and on to the next stop Scenic World. All the while our driver and guide Dave telling us stuff about the area and around along the way. Parramatta for example, means place where the eels are, so there.

Also the Blue Mountains aren’t actually blue and neither are they mountains! What a swizz! The blue is caused by a thing called Rayleigh Scattering an in a nutshell is about light and reflections and magic. The mountains, well it is actually dissected sandstone plateau, so there. Anyway, either way, they are beautiful with loads of lovely walk adventure opportunities, one of which I opted for instead of the 3 rides at our next stop Scenic World.
Scenic World is a complex of 3 rides; two cable cars across different vista points of the blue mountains and a pretty much vertical railway into the valley bit. Instead of going on these rides, we only had about an hour at scenic world so I opted for an on foot adventure time and I’m glad I did. I found some lovely vista points looking out over and beyond the blue mountains. It was a beautifully clear day, the sun shining and a crispness in the air, which enhanced the smells of the trees as I walked a path with glimpses of the view beyond the trees to discover an opening which looked out across the dissected sandstone plateau, low clouds lingering in the distance, the sun gradually burning them off.
After a pretty quick explore of my near surrounding and a chat with a couple on the Juliet balcony look out point, who were on their honeymoon :-) I made my way back to the minibus to meet the other day trippers and head on to our next stop, Echo Point, where we’d be having lunch.

There was an option of having lunch as part of the day trip, but little miss organised had already got that covered :-) We stopped at a couple more vista points on the way to Echo Point and when we arrived we had about an hour for eating and more vistas. It’s from Echo Point that I got the best vista of the three sisters rock formation, which made me smile and think of my sisters, Tor and Sam :-) hurray for the sisters Illingworth!

Echo Point and luncho over I headed back to the minibus and off we went to the next stop on the itinerary, Leura Falls. This was a short step for more vistas and a little waterfall before heading on to Leura itself which is a pretty little villages yep place with some cool vintage clothes shops, a fancy chocolate shop and a wonderfully sugary smelling sweet shop :-) I was very well behaved and did not buy anything!

Back on the minibus and we start making our way back toward Sydney after a whistle stop tour of what I think has just scratched the surface of what the blue mountains have to offer. Again, another place I’d like to go back to one day to do more of the walks.

On the way back to Sydney, I fell asleep! It was a long day and I think I’m still adjusting to the time difference. Those 3 hours have had an effect it seems! Anyway, I was awake for the drive round the Sydney Olympic Park stuff which was pretty interesting, but, there wasn’t anything happening there, it was just to see the different parts of it. Once we’d done that it was time to get on the ferry boat back to Circular Quay and that was a treat. I love getting the ferry boat and coming back into Sydney in the dark was wonderful, the CBD and the Opera House all lit up :-) It kind of reminded me of Manhattan and our frozen adventures on the boat of New York!!

Back in Sydney and I’m totally knackered but it’s the Sydney film festival and I really want to go and see a picture directed by the fella that wrote the screenplay for Drive, Hossein Amini. I’ve fond memories of watching Drive with Jo Jones and having to hide behind a cushion at uncomfortable bits and feeling totally exhausted after watching it! What a picture! Other good memories of boy Joe with the soundtrack of that picture. So, I was keen to see this one, his directorial debut, an adaptation of a story and called the two faces of January. A totally different bag to Drive.
Anyway, long story short, it was sold out! Ha! So after a rush about I ended up going back to the hostel and getting myself sorted for another early start, Whale Watching! Yeah!

Oh and after another not good sleep because of the noise outside I asked to move rooms and I’m allowed to do that tomorrow :-) Upstairs and on the other side of the hostel :-) Yeah!!!

So, all good. I’m pleased I did the Blue Mountains day trip, as much as I like an organised activity though, I do prefer to make my own itinerary and if I was in Sydney for longer I probs would have done that. Still, I got to experience bits of the Blue Mountains, enjoy some outside time, some amazing vistas :-) Hurray for adventures.

Tomorrow. Whale Watching! Yeah!!

Blue mountains o clock fun times

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Wednesday – bondi beach, Coogee beach and evening art

22 06 2014

After a sort of decent sleep I got up, showered, dressed and breakfasted and did a bit of research about what I’d like to do.
I had a chat with the fella that was doing breakfast, Sean, he’s friendly enough and had some suggestions. I made a booking to go on a day trip to the Blue Mountains on Thursday and also whale watching on Friday morning :-) Exciting!

For this afternoon though, I decided on a coastal walk from Bondi beach to Coogee beach. So, I got the train to Bondi Junction then a bus to the beach, it took around 20 minutes in total and is was at the seaside. It was so wonderful to be back near the sea, I’ve missed it! A lot! The seagulls sound very different here, a harsher, more haunting cry than ours if you can believe that! More threatening almost…
Anyway, hurray for the seaside and my first glimpse of surfers, at Bondi Beach, ace! I didn’t spend a great deal of time at a Bondi and I wish I’d had more time to go back there, I liked it and I really enjoyed the coastal walk to Coogee beach.

It does go on to Maroumba but I didn’t really have time to get there as I wanted to get back to Sydney in time for the evening art at the NSW art gallery. Still, the Bondi to Coogee section took a couple of hours and I had a a cuppa in Coogee before heading back to Sydney.

The walk was wonderful, with some amazing vistas and skies and plenty to take in along the way; surfers, joggers, walkers, dogs, a cemetery, fancy houses, a wonderful variety of birds, etc. If you’re going to Sydney I would defo recommend this walk. It’s so easy to follow as well. Plenty of rest stops, food and drink steps water refill stops and wee stops. Ace.

After a very enjoyable afternoon I made my way back to the hostel for a quick turnaround before heading out to the art gallery of NSW where they have after hours opening on a Wednesday. I did a free tour of bits of their contemporary collection, which was great, the guide was very knowledgable and we had a look at some Sol Lewitt conceptual stuff and a bit of abstract stuff too. There was also live music and other talks and events happening there, plenty going on. I think my favourites of the stuff I experienced at that gallery were the ‘Start Swimming’ sign, the mirror window wall, the ribbon/streamers in the main entrance gallery bit and one of Sol lewitts that took up the whole wall, a white linear space surrounded by darker and darker pencil figures of eight all winding into each other.

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Leaving the art gallery on the courtesy minibus to take us back into town, I had a little moment of appreciation that the gallery offers this sort of guided introduction to some pieces of a specific collection and for free! Amazing.

Back to the hostel and an early start tomorrow, I’m being collected to go off into the blue mountains at 07.45! Eeek, so I hoping for a better sleep, that didn’t happen! Still blue mountains adventures a go, go up next :-)

Art…. It’s nice… Look!

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