cruise trip posts and pics

the cruise trip is written up and posted.

  • day 01: singapore gardens by the bay, east coast food village
  • day 02: singapore to sydney
  • day 03: sydney farmers market, harbour, barangaroo, watsons bay
  • day 04: sydney fish market, darling harbour, harry’s
  • day 05: sydney fish market, embarkation
  • day 06: at sea, eating
  • day 07: melbourne cbd, qvm
  • day 08: melbourne: fitzroy gardens, mcg, docklands
  • day 09: adrift at sea with no propulsion
  • day 10: on tow
  • day 11: st kilda festival, beach, melbourne riverside
  • day 12: melbourne city circle tram
  • day 13: yarra valley fruit farm, winery
  • day 14: melbourne to auckland
  • day 15: rotorua lake, kuirau park
  • day 16: wai-o-tapu geothermal area, waimangu volcanic valley
  • day 17: hobbiton
  • day 18: waiheke island
  • day 19: auckland mission bay
  • day 20: long flights home

flickr sets:

some of the more unusual pics. The markings on this tree at gardens by the bay in singapore looks like a human face:
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door 5, sydney carriageworks market:
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sculpture on waiheke island:
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penguins taking a selfie, waiheke island:
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cruise trip day 21: home

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Got home tuesday, or rather, wednesday 1am. By the time I showered and put the perishables in the fridge it was 2am. Woke up around 6am for a bit, finally woke up 11am.

I usually unpack the minute I get home, but last night was an exception because I was simply too tired. I made up for it this morning as I was having my tea and my suitcase is already back in the wardrobe. Mum’s stuff is naturally everywhere, all over the dining table and sitting room. Lunch and dinner were food I’d cooked and put in the freezer before we left, I thought it’s a good bit of planning on my part. Two loads of laundry, Mum did some cleaning, I sorted letters that had accumulated in the postbox, paid bills.

There are a total of 1923 pics to sort and upload. Trip posts beyond Sydney have to be typed up. I’ve kept track of spending, so may be I’ll put it all in a spreadsheet if I get past the fear of finding out the final actual cost. The travel agent says the cruise refund may take 6-8 weeks, but in the meantime there’s the flight, hotels, car rental and additional spending to pay for.

The NYT had one of those short meaningless interviews with Chris Hemsworth about Australia. When asked which one souvenir travellers to Australia should get, he answered

Tim Tams

as it should be. I bought 16 packets of TimTams in total, including 2 of the larger value packs. They are selling special Gelato Messina flavours–salted caramel, coconut & lychee, choc mint and black forest–and I bought at least one packet of each. I also got dark, mango and of course original. Most will be gifted as souvenirs. I also got vegemite and NZ marmite for my niece.

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The one thing I bought for myself was an unexpected surprise. I knew before we flew out that the ship will miss Burnie, which was a disappointment because Tasmania is a huge bucket list destination and also because there would have been a visit to Hellyers Road distillery. I was over the moon to see the whisky on sale at Melbourne duty free. The choice was between full-sized bottles of 10 or 12 year or a box of three 250ml bottles: 10, peated, pinot noir cask. I decided on the 3-bottle pack.

cruise trip day 13: yarra valley

We aimed at getting the 10am shuttle to the airport (5am and 7am were simply too early). A bunch of other people had the same idea so it was a group of anxious people queuing up. The bus was late but it didn’t matter. We all managed to fit on it and we were cheering and clapping as we left the port. Someone said, “we’re free!” It’s been stressful, but it could have been a lot worse if the weather was poor or if they had problems towing the ship. The frustraion is the slowness and lack of communication from NCL. I still don’t know how we’ll get the 100% refund, how the future cruise credit will work and how to get reimbursed for the flight. Plus the Star is now known as the unluckiest cruiseship at sea.

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We got to the airport at 11am, picked up our rental car and headed to yarra valley. The drive itself is around 1hr, but the area is large so it took us a while to find a destination and drive to it. I found a leaflet for rayners orchard and that’s where we headed. Luckily we just missed a coachful of visitors so the place was empty. Peach trees could be seen from the car park, and peaches too, very tempting to just pick them.

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It was that in-between time between lunch and tea. Their café is quite basic, mum had ham sandwich and I had scones. The ham sandwich was really delicious, must be the butter. The scones were great too, normal cream rather than clotted cream. The best part of the meal for me was the tea that was strong and came in a proper teapot. We bought peaches and nectarines from the shop.

Seems to be off-season, several of the other fruit farms we visited were closed. We bought strawberries from a stand and made a few scenic stops. I didn’t have a detailed map so we muddled along. It’s okay, I was driving a big SUV and the valley is very pretty.

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We wanted to go to a dairy farm and ended up at a winery. There was time for some tasting while mum shopped. Tried the sparkling wine, pinot noir and riesling. Tiny portions, and I spit most of it out. Quite nice, but not nice enough to buy.

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The last scenic stop was near kangaroo grounds cemetery. Pretty farmland and rolling hills. I was looking in one direction and when I looked in the other, I spotted a group of wallabies. I think they’re wallabies as they are smaller. Mum was in the car so I dragged her out to see them. There’s a fence between us so I wasn’t worried. They were quite a bit away anyway. Such a nice bonus to end the visit.

Drove back to melbourne airport, checked into the hotel and returned the car. Not too many choices for dinner so we had nando’s again. This time I remembered to order sweet potato fries instead of regular fries.

cruise trip day 12: melbourne

The golden princess in in port, embarking passengers, so we can’t go into the terminal until after 10.30am. Pity the people who were planning on leaving the ship today. We took it easy, I spent the morning reading. It was nice to see the golden princess again, our alaskan cruise was on her.

Finally ventured out at noon. Got the tram and visited the tourist information centre to ask about airport bus. Have to figure out how to get from the port to the airport hotel tomorrow. Taxi of course, but the lady at the counter suggested we taxi to the city and catch the bus, which will be cheaper. In the end, it wasn’t needed. When we got back to the ship they told us there will be several free shuttles to the airport.

Not much to do; we’d seen all of melbourne that we wanted to see. Did some shopping at daiso, of all places. Got the hob scouring pad that worked so well, and some other ¥100 type stuff. Lunch was at nando’s. Shared half a chicken with fries. I got a beer and a ginger beer for mum.

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After several attempts over the past few days we finally got ourselves on a #35 city circle tram. Melbourne has a free tram zone and this one that goes around the central area is completely free. One circuit takes 1hr, we’d already travelled on more than half the route so it was kinda boring.

Tram back to port. I packed quickly and went upstairs to read while mum did her packing. I have a whole bottle of wine to finish today so I sipped while reading. The deck was almost empty, people had either left or still out in the city.

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Dnner at Le Bistro. Escargot, rack of lamb. Huge portion of lamb, 6 chops in total. The most I usually have is 3 chops. No dessert in the restaurant, tried the trifle at the buffet. No good so switched to watermelon instead.

Last task of the day is to settle the bill. Nothing to pay, I get US$89 OBC refund.

cruise trip day 11: st kilda

We woke up to a ship safely docked at melbourne. Seems like déjà vu to walk into the terminal and get a map. A volunteer greeter gave us lamingtons and told us about the st kilda festival. St kilda is the beach alongside port; the town centre is about 2-3km away. Except to get there on public transport means going on the tram to the city and changing to another tram.

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The festival takes place everywhere in the town. Various stages where bands played music, lots of food stalls, craft stalls, kid’s playground and amusement rides. All spread out along the entire beachfront so there was plenty of walking. The best part of the walking was I caught a porygon. I had the app open for some odd reason and it popped up suddenly, wasn’t on the nearby list. The beach is beautiful, a long stretch of white sand. There was a group of people playing beach netball and another group playing beach volleyball. And on the stretch of sand in between the two groups, a woman doing yoga.

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Lunch was free sweet potato fries from the nando’s truck and gozleme with lamb, spinach and cheese filling. I’ve been wanting to try gozleme, saw it at various places in sydney and melbourne but never have the appetite or time to try. It’s very nice. The flatbread crispy and the filling tasty and hot.

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I wanted to slowly walk back to port, so we started off doing that. It was very windy and lots of people were kiteboarding. Looks like it’s a lot of fun, probably takes considerable upper body and leg strength.

Took a couple of videos. Can hear the roar of the wind. Keep watching till around 28s, he gets lifted up above the water by the kite.

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In the end, the wind was too much and when sand started drifting everywhere including all over our faces we called it a day and took the tram back to the city. It was still early so we walked along the yarra for a bit. Riversides are always pretty.

Tram back to port. Late lunch / high tea at the buffet. It’s bavarian night so they had roast pork, cabbage salad and I was dying for a beer. Proper dinner was at Le Bistro, I cancelled the other restaurant reservations and we’ll focus on Le Bistro for the rest of our dining package. Mussels with cream sauce, crevette and crème brûlée. The mussels were so-so, although the sauce was great. The crevettes were meh, I still hanker after L’Ecluse crevettes after all these years. the crème brûlée was okay. Finished the 3rd bottle of wine.

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Full moon tonight.

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Played around with the camera. Hit the shutter as it was trying to autofocus, to get some nice bokeh-like effect.

Got a notice that the ship will leave melbourne on the 14th. We had planned to stay onboard till the 15th so now we have to find somewhere to stay on the 14th. The best option is airport hotel, so I quickly went on hotels.com. Not many choices, got holiday inn at the end. I also booked a hotel at rotorua for a couple of nights so we go somewhere other than auckland.

cruise trip day 10: on tow

It’s just like another at sea day, although we’re moving a lot slower. At least we’re moving.

Breakfast at the buffet, we’d given up on going to the restaurant. Egg white omelette with vegetables, bacon, black pudding, mushroom. Mostly spent the day reading at a table by the pool. I recognise a few regulars there already. A woman in her twenties with large headphones at a window seat, a couple quietly doing sudoku puzzles and a blind lady with her seeing-eye friend.

Queued up for phone and internet again. Since we have a car, I cancelled the original auckland hotel in city centre and booked a motel in the suburbs. Cheaper room rate and free parking. I spent the day worrying about getting my three simcard topped up and finally gave up trying. I need a credit card with UK address to purchase a top-up, argh. Either I change my credit card back to the UK or I’ll have to find someone to help me if I want to continue to use this number. It’s been working fine so far, no problems roaming in sydney or melbourne. I may even keep it as my primary phone because i can still use whatsapp and this way I don’t get junk calls.

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Lunch was from the grill: a burger (no bun), braised cabbage salad and paella that was the result of the poolside competition. Dinner at the restaurant: beef gnocchi, mahi mahi and bread pudding that looks like chocolate mousse. I’ve never seen bread pudding presented in a glass before, it’s like in masterchef or mkr when something doesn’t work they switch to a deconstructed version served in a glass. I’m on the 3rd bottle of wine. Left around 2/3 at Cagney’s last night and when I sent for it tonight they said the bottle broke so they’re giving me a fresh bottle.

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By this time there are 3 tugboats rescuing us. The Hastings is still doing all the heavy work towing us. There’s another one behind with a loose cable, to ensure we don’t roll and to steer, I’m guessing. A third is stuck to our staboard side, also for stability and steering? The captain says we’ll be docking at melbourne sometime after midnight and there’s a shallow dangerous part of the bay to negotiate beforehand. All credit to the tugboats, they’re doing a great job.

We made the news and there are even videos of us being towed; helicoptors were seen hovering above us.

edit: after I got home, I found this video of the ship arriving at Melbourne and the two tugboats docking us. What an amazing feat. The tugboats look so tiny compared with the ship, which at that point was an immovable monolithic object. The pilots are unsung heroes.

cruise trip day 09: adrift

Had to wake up early for NZ passport control, we were the first group.

Finished and there’s an announcement from the captain. The remaining working azipod suffered a breakdown during the night and we have no propulsion system. No wonder the ship isn’t moving. Apart from propulsion, everything is working. We spent the entire day adrift, dead in the water. We hadn’t gone far, around 75 miles from Melbourne, which is a blessing. The weather is also good, and the sea calm. The plan is to get towed back to Melbourne for repairs which may take 4-5 days. The rest of the cruise is cancelled, ie all NZ stops.

Everyone is in a state of shock. We all know about the azipod problems, which has caused missed ports since mid-December. Unlike the previous trip, there was no riot and people seemed relatively calm. The captain announced that we’d get 100% refund and 50% future cruise credit. I guess the full refund defused the situation somewhat but most of the passengers are from north america or europe and it’s a long way to come. Plus the refund doesn’t cover airfares, hotels and other spending.

Another announcement later gave us options:

  • stay on board, explore melbourne and continue with the ship to auckland
  • disembark, fly to auckland — they’ll reimburse up to US$350 airfare
  • disembark, go home — they’ll reimburse up to US$300 for flight changes

We discussed the options and decided we should make the most of our time and disembark. We can either stay in australia so it means changing our flight home; or fly to auckland and take in as much of NZ as possible. Mum has never been to NZ so it’d be nice for her to see more than just auckland.

They turned a couple of conference rooms into internet rooms and let us use their laptops to get on the internet. Long queue though; I put my name down and managed to get a workstation 2hrs later. They want us to limit our session to 20mins but the connection is so slow and there’s so much to do that it’s impossible to adhere to the limit. A quick search and we decided to stay in melbourne for a couple of days then fly to auckland. Auckland hotels are really full (I already know this weeks ago when I was planning the trip) so I’m relieved to find a reasonably priced one outside the city. Got rental car, got the flight from melbourne and we’ll go home on our original flight.

Pretty stressful day, although I wasn’t panicked. Worst case scenario, we stay with the ship. I’m also used to, and quite adept at, travel planning. I could see some other people not doing so well in rearranging their trips. I went back to the internet room later to email sis and mm, belatedly realising we should let them know we’re safe in case we make the news.

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Lunch was at the restaurant. We realise the lunch menu doesn’t change so our choices are limited. I had shrimp & rocket salad, salmon burger and berry sorbet. For dinner we went to our second speciality restaurant, Cagney’s steakhouse. Mum had the rib-eye and I opted for the huge 29oz tomahawk steak, which is enough for 2 people. That said, between the bone, sinew and fat there was a lot of waste. Too full for dessert.

With that steak, I went and did 5k on the treadmill. Long time since I ran, and I was very slow. Only managed to make up the time by doing intervals.

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Something like 16hrs after we suffered the breakdown, our rescuer finally made it out to us at 8.30pm. The tugboat Hastings looks tiny compared with the huge ship, and yet it’s capable of towing us back to port. We started moving ever so slowly around 9pm; I was at the bow watching and we all gave a cheer when someone noticed we’d started moving.

cruise trip day 08: melbourne

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Tram out to the city, got off at the parliament area. Picture opportunities at St Patrick’s cathedral, parliament building, hotel, theatre and the former treasury building turned into a museum. We headed towards Fitzroy Gardens, since it looked pleasant and interesting on the map. It’s quite compact, with a pretty conservatory, Cooks’ cottage and nice walks. Cooks’ cottage is the exact building that belonged to Captain Cook’s parents in North Yorkshire that was dismantled and shipped to Australia.

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I saw on the map that the MCG is only 10mins’ walk from Fitzroy Gardens so we headed there. Mum took a rest on a bench while I explored. The national sports museum needed entrance fee and I didn’t want mum to wait too long so I didn’t go inside. The shop was a gigantic disappointment. Boring t-shirt and expensive football shirts for sale.

Outside on the grounds were statues of sporting greats. A sculpture commemorating the first game of australian rules football played in 1858, Olympic champion Betty Cuthbert (I’d never heard of her before) and quite a few cricketers. I saw Neil Harvey, Dennis Lillee and Shane Warne. Should have walked to the other side of the stadium to see Don Bradman.

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Met up with mum again and planned on getting the #35 circular route tram but it didn’t arrive for ages and ages. Took a regular tram to docklands. In terms of feel, pretty similar to canary wharf. Lunch at black cod, a nice semi-casual fish restaurant. I had grilled barramundi and mum had the seafood platter of fried fish, prawn, scallop.

Tram back to CBD and discovered the tram to port isn’t working so walked across the river to find the bus to get back to the ship before 4pm.

Blueberry ice cream from the deck, read a bit. I found my favourite place, outside by the pool. Usually not that crowded.

The ship was supposed to leave at 5pm but there was a delay until 6.30pm because two passengers didn’t come back. I wonder what happens to their stuff. On a plane, missing passengers’ luggage is offloaded, do they do the same for cruise passengers? What if they manage to make their way to the next port and their stuff was offloaded at the last port? Do their cabin get sealed?

Dinner was at the Asian restaurant, no charge. Steamed dumplings, fried rice, pepper shrimp, tapioca pudding. Honestly, not very good. Needed 2 glasses of wine to finish the meal.

Walked 2.5 laps of deck 7, more reading.

cruise trip day 07: melbourne

Breakfast at the buffet, they have omelettes, eggs benedict and I discovered different sections. The American section has crispy bacon, sausage links, waffles, biscuits & gravy. The British/Aussie section has proper bacon, bangers, black pudding and kippers. Well impressed. There’s also congee.

Walked 4 laps on deck 7.

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Began seeing land late morning and people crowded at the bow to see the Melbourne skyline get bigger and bigger.

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Lunch was bbq by the pool of chicken and seafood. Have to say, food so far has been good. Not excellent, it’s hard to serve excellent food for thousands of passengers.

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We got clearance to go onshore at 2pm. There was a long queue at the terminal for the myki card and an express shuttlebus took us to the national gallery just south of the river. I remember the gallery and the eureka tower next to it although it’s been too long since I’ve been in Melbourne to remember directions clearly. What I do remember is the city isn’t very big so I found Flinders Street station, Federation Square and the CBD easily. Walked around the busy shopping areas and ended up in a Woolworths. Really hot day with the sun beating down.

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Took a tram to queen victoria market. By then it was almost 5pm and I was half afraid the market will be closed. And indeed the day market was closed, but we were lucky to find the wednesday night market just starting. Lots of food stalls and some souvenir and craft stores. There were lamb, bbq, porchetta, paella, pasta, turkey legs, sausages, pavlovas and lots more. We planned on having dinner back on the ship so we just bought lemonade and ate the strawberries we bought at the supermarket. The lemonade was expensive, AUD8 for one.

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Took the tram back to port. Dinner was really good: lamb shank and hazelnut soufflé. A part of me wanted to eat at the market, because I love street food. But the restaurant meal made up for it, and it’s included.

cruise trip day 06: at sea

tl;dr: spent the day eating

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Breakfast at the restaurant. i had pancake, sausages, bacon and mum had eggs benedict. Tea was a dreadful as expected: I asked for hot tea and got a pot of hot-ish water and some sort of green tea teabag. Good thing I have PG and the buffet has hot water.

Made more restaurant reservations and did some shopping.

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Then it was time for lunch, which was at the restaurant. Crab salad, chicken leg, lime parfait. Not too adventurous, tasted okay.

Read a bit, napped a bit, walked laps on deck 7. Bought a 4-meal speciality dining package for US$94, so average per meal around $25 per person. Also got a wine package that suited me: 4 bottles for US$110. I picked the chateauneuf for all 4, the rest were new world wines. $27.50 per bottle is around the same price at m&s at home. I can drink it at any bar or restaurant, and they will give me a tag and store it if I can’t finish the bottle.

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Dinner was at one of the speciality restaurants, Le Bistro. Escargot to start, lots of garlic and butter, yummy. Mum had duck two ways and I had filet of beef. The beef was too salty, the duck was good. Tart tartin for dessert was too sweet, again mum’s chocolate napoleon was better. The bill came to $62 but was included in the dining package. We’re ahead already.

cruise trip day 05: sydney embarkation

First things first, drop by the post office to send a couple of packages. The lady at the counter said I’m a good friend for sending timtams to my friends, especially considering the postage is three times the cost of the contents.

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Packed up, stored our suitcases at the hotel and took the train to the fish market for brunch. I ordered marron, dreadfully expensive and it’s only by obsessively watching masterchef and MKR did I know about them. Live, they look like dark lobsters. Cooked, they turn orange like all crustaceans and have a delicate lobster-like flavour. I also ordered steamed pippies and raw scampi. The scampi was really great, sweet with the taste of the sea.

Too much to expect mum to roll her suitcase to the cruise terminal so we took a taxi. Dropped our bags but decided not to board just yet. Time for one final gelato. I found the best flavour so far, salted coconut with mango salsa. Had another blood orange sorbet too.

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The Star looked nice with the opera house in the background. How wonderful to have a cruise terminal in the heart of the city. We have an inside cabin, #5585, mid-ship port side. It’s pretty much like other inside cabins on other ships. We’re impressed with the amount of space between the twin beds, the large shower and lots of space to hang stuff in the bathroom. As suspected, the itineray has changed because only one azipod is working. Burnie, Milford Sound and Napier will be missed. We get US$500 OBC and 25% future cruise credit.

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As per my usual routine, I went exploring around the ship. Nicely decorated, pretty without being gaudy. There’s a coffee bar in the atrium underneath the stage which people will like. The photo gallery is full of computers vs shelves for hardcopy photos. The gift shop is closed, but is the biggest I’ve come across so far. I pondered drinks packages but dismissed them because everyone in the same cabin must buy the same package and I can’t drink enough for two people. To use up some of the OBC, I made reservations at the speciality restaurants.

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One of my favourite places on cruise ships is deck 7 and on the Star it’s one of the best. Lots of space, very wide with lounge chairs.

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Dinner was at one of the MDRs, the Versailles at the stern. We’re already liking the freestyle dining, none of the first seating / second seating crap. I had steak frites and mum had prawns. For dessert the chocolate lava cake had unfortunately turned into plain chocolate cake although the milk chocolate mousse was good. I had a glass of malbec. Overall, first impressions of the food are good.

Watched the ship leave port at 7pm. Sailed past the opera house, inner bays, Manly. The bridgeclimbers on the harbour bridge gave us a cheer as we went past.

cruise trip day 04: sydney

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More leisurely wake up, left hotel at 10am. Destination was train and light rail to fish market. Forecast is 37-38ºC today and the sun was relentless. Good news is beautiful blue skies and a beautiful harbour.

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We had looked into going to a restaurant and getting a seafood platter yesterday but timing / location wasn’t right. This was way way way better. Around A$100 (vs around A$170-200 for restaurants) and we could pick what we want. We had lobster: one half tail grilled, the other half tail lightly battered, plus grilled prawns and grilled octopus; seafood salad, a dozen pacific oyster, cooked balmain bug and fresh sea urchin. I especially wanted the bug since it’s regional specific and I hadn’t had it for a long time. It tasted a little tough, but I could taste the sea and the brown meat was great. The lobster were both overcooked, tasted nice. The grilled prawn and grilled baby octopus were really nice. I bought the oyster and bugs from the second store on the right which was was less crowded, must remember to go back there next time. Hopefully next time is not almost 10 years later, I was last in sydney in 2007. Mum bought white peaches for dessert, we just stood in the shade eating them, it was sweet and fresh.

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Took the light rail to darling harbour, mainly shopping and walking around. More beautiful scenery around pyrmont bridge.

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I walked around while mum rested. All the way to the end of the pier near the maritime museum. There was a navy cutter, HMAS Vampire and a submarine HMAS Onslow. A lighthouse and several other ships too. Entrance was per ship, I think, no one challenged me as I walked around and other people were exploring too.

Bus to circular quay because we wanted gelato again. Very crowded at Gelato Messina. I was greedy and got 2 scoops: salted caramel and blood orange. Mum was even greedier and got 3 scoops: chocolate fondant, passionfruit, raspberry. She gave more than half of the raspberry to me, hahaha.

Walked back to the hotel, around 10mins. I saw kangaskan again so spent around 20mins walking around the hotel adding to my pokedex. I’ve been trying to play pokemongo all day. Sydney has a good selection and most importantly kangaskhan which spawns at around the same rate as starters at home; definitely better than farfetch’d. I have 5 at the end of 2 days of sporadic hunting.

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After dumping our stuff and taking a rest, we headed out again for dinner. Bus to Haymarket, stop at Coles for more shopping and then dinner was at the legendary Harry’s Café de Wheels. I had planned for the branch at Wooloomooloo but was happy I found a more convenient branch at Haymarket. Harry’s is a stationary food truck that serves pies. More specifically the tiger which is beef pie with mash, mushy peas and gravy. Very Aussie, very British. Not fine dining but very iconic streetfood and a must-eat whilst in Sydney. As tasty as I remembered, and I’m glad mum liked it too.

Back at the hotel before 8pm. Shower, packing and watching cricket (Aus vs NZ ODI). I bought a bottle of wine at Coles for A$7, I was going for beer but even VB was around A$6 so a nice bottle of Jacob’s Creek classic pinot is a better choice.

Cruise starts tomorrow. We’re being ambitious and planning a return to the fish market for lunch then boarding. Let’s see.

cruise trip day 03: sydney

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Took the train to the suburbs to carriageworks farmers’ market. The first sign was we got off at redfern station and saw people carrying bags of produce and flowers. Mostly locals at the market, families with kids. Our brunch was egg & bacon roll for me and apple croissant for mum. Juice to wash it down. It’s really casual, sitting at picnic tables or upturned crates. Bought a loaf of bread for breakfast the next couple of days, but couldn’t buy much else even though the fruit and veg were tempting.

Train back to the city, got off at tourist central aka circular quay. First stop was gelato messina. I had pear & rhubarb gelato and mum had chocolate sorbet. I tried other flavours but they were too sweet; this one was fruity yet the richness of the gelato came through.

Walked a lot in the area. From circular quay to the rocks, there was a market there today. A little rest then towards the newly developed area of Barangaroo. It started to get really sunny and hot, forecast was 27ºC and it felt like over 30ºC under the direct sunlight. We only stopped at a little pub in the new district for a much needed drink. The nature reserve is more like a small park, it led back to underneath the harbour bridge via another route. So we did a whole loop around that area.

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Since it was such a sunny day, we decided to take a commuter boat to watsons bay. The catamaran was fast and I stood at the bow which got really windy. Great view of the opera house as we made our way from the wharfs.

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Watsons Bay pier was very crowded, as befit a sunny saturday. What I remember is a walk uphill to a viewpoint back towards the city but we didn’t do that this time. Walked around the immediate area around the wharf and stopped for fish, seafood and chips. The fish, hake I think, was good. The calamari a bit soft the the fried prawns unmemorable. Had half a dozen oysters too, very fresh.

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Stayed on the same side of the catamaran on the way back, to catch views of the north shore. The harbour bridge against the sun too. I don’t know how but we found legs to walk around to the opera house and the botanical gardens. Took a rest at a bench at the gardens and watched a cruise ship leave harbour; this will be us in two days.

Dinner was at westfield underneath the sydney tower. Mum remembered lots of eateries there but at 7.30pm on a saturday almost all had closed. Yes, closed. We found a mexican place that was still open and had prawn ceviche and lamb taco. I guess the lamb taco is a local adaptation; it was tasty.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at coles for shopping. Tim tams for me and cereal bars for mum. Tired, lots of walking today.

RIP Phillip Hughes 63 not out forever #putoutyourbats

I love cricket. Summer in the UK, in the days before internet and cable, was spent a) outside playing in the garden and b) sitting in front of the tv watching cricket. In those days there were only 3 tv channels and during cricket season, BBC2 showed the test matches all day. Cricket was a new sport to me then, but I had great teachers. Between the likes of Richie Benaud, Christopher Martin-Jenkins and a revolving chair of experienced commentators, I learned how the game worked, how to score, the terminology and strategy.

I never got the chance to play (aside from bowling a tennis ball at the garden wall occasionally) or to attend a game in person (the only time I made it to Lord’s was for Olympic archery) and I don’t follow the sport as much nowadays (cricket channel is an expensive add-on to my cable).

This week, the cricketing world was shattered by the news that Australian batsman Phil Hughes died after being hit at the side of his head by a bouncer. I don’t know why, I’m even more affected by this accident than normal. We read about tragedies all the time on the news and they are all extremely sad. This one came as such a shock that it’s hard to put my head around it. People don’t die playing cricket, and for this to happen to a 25 year old, world-class batsman, it’s so awful, so awful.

Around the world, people are paying tribute to Phil Hughes on twitter, instagram and social media by putting their bats outside. The images under the #putoutyourbats hashtag are fitting, dignified and very powerful. This is from former Australia captain Adam Gilchrist:

I don’t have a cricket bat (on this occasion, substituting a baseball bat is not appropriate) and I lost my cricket ball during the move back from London. So all I’ll do is pay my respects silently, and share on these images instead. This next one is from the New Zealand team:

Sincere condolences to the Hughes family, but the thoughts of every cricket fan and player are also with Sean Abbott, whose pitch hit Phil Hughes’ head. It was a freak accident, there was no fault.

 

walking in the sun at parramatta

Woke up late, very nice day. The plan today is to visit Parramatta, another one that the “what to do in Sydney” guides said to visit. There are several ways to get there, and the most picturesque is by rivercat from circular quay. I got there at 11.40am and the next ferry left at 12.30pm, so plenty of time to walk around the area.

The boatride was nice. Took about 50 mins up the river.

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Parramatta was disappointing though. It got really hot — later I found out it was 30°C — and in parts there was no shade. According to the official tourist info book there is a Harris Park Heritage walking trail. I followed it, along a highway, stopping at a historical hut which was closed, and the rest of the trail was a footpath along the river. Nothing much worth photographing.

To top it all, I missed the 2.30pm ferry and the next one was at 4pm. I wasn’t gonna hang around for over an hour. So I walked back into town and got a train back. Quite dehydrated by the time I got back to Sydney Terminal station, and needed the isotonic drink quick.

Debated whether to go to gpo or foodcourt for dinner. Ended up at the foodcourt again, and most stalls were putting their food up for sale. Easy choice then, got some roast lamb, roast turkey, pumpkin and roasted veg. Plus a selection of fresh juices.

Have to go to bed early tonight. Flight’s at 8.50am tomorrow.

newtown, new town

My day ended early today, so there was time to explore and walk around. It’s great that sunset isn’t till late. I was reading about other areas of Sydney to explore and after reading about the “hundreds” of restaurants in the King Street Newtown area, it was easy to make the decision to visit. There are a few buses that go to Newtown from town, and it was easy to hop on one. I keep having to remember that Sydney is a small city because in no time at all I was there.

I don’t know what exactly I expected but it was … interesting. Mostly old buildings and small shops. The hundreds of restaurants are mainly cafés and Thai / Indian / deli places. It wasn’t even 5pm so too early to have dinner. Walked up and down, window shopping at the smattering of gift shops. I guess the nearest equivalent is that this is the Sydney equivalent of Mission, down to the second hand furniture shops, small record shops and places selling incense. Only it isn’t as cool as the Mission.

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There were a couple of potentially interesting places to eat but I finally decided on a deli kind of place. The reason was one of their specials is grilled halloumi and chicken schnitzel salad. Love love love halloumi. I also had a carrot, beetroot and celery juice and took away a slice of orange & poppy seed cake for later. Bus ride back to hotel was quick too.

Spent the rest of the night reading.

melbourne day 2

A stop-start sort of day. First meeting involved driving about 15 minutes to another suburb, getting lost (google maps isn’t 100% reliable) then having to call the people for directions. The meeting ended at around 11am. My next meeting was in St Kilda at 3pm, which meant driving another half an hour towards town. I found the place in advance and then realised I had a good couple of hours for lunch.

Drove up to Queen Victoria Market and did the same looping around the side streets looking for parking space thing again. This time there were no cheapie spots even though the meter wasn’t expensive. I wandered around the large market and was pretty much astounded at the collection. I was soooo tempted to buy all the fruit and veg I’d need for the next 2 weeks there.

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Lunch was at the food court. I had a choice of fish and chips, sandwiches, Chinese and Indian. I chose the Indian, had chicken biryani and a mango lassi. It was pretty good. More wandering around the other stalls — souvenirs, clothing, all sorts. Walked as far as the Old Melbourne gaol then back before having to head back to the car and drive to the 3pm meeting.

Wasn’t very productive that meeting. I had decided as soon as I entered that we weren’t going to use that company. But I still had to go through the motions, right. Meeting ended at 4pm and I changed in the car.

I’d forgotten that sunset was late, like London. So I had more time than I expected. Drove up St Kilda Road and initially found a parking space near the park. It was more expensive than I thought, so I actually went inside the park and found a space that was really cheap. Incredible that an extra 5 mins walk can save so much money.

First stop was the Arts Centre, with its interesting Eiffel tower like lattice structure. I didn’t go inside, just walked around the outside.

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Strolled leisurely along the south side of the river and caught a bunch of kids doing rowing practice. Their coach would be on a bike following them and hollering at them through a megaphone, it was pretty funny with all the shouting from the various crews.

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Dinner at the Southgate food court. Sweet potato and spinach salad, with a tapas collection — olives, stuffed peppers and prawns. They threw in a glass of wine with 3 tapas dishes so that was what I had. Very nice. There was an ice cream counter there that was far too tempting. I had orange and chai latte ice cream. Yummy.

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The rest of the evening was spent at the park, enjoying the late sunshine. Walked all the way to the National Shrine then back to the car. It was almost 9pm when I got back to the hotel.

melbourne

So I got up at 7am and checked out by 7.30am. Taxi to airport was quick and I even managed to bump myself on the earlier 9am flight (originally my flight was 9.30am). All in vain though because there was fog in Melbourne causing a backlog — we had to circle for half an hour before it was our turn to land.

Got a rental car because I worked out the costs. I’m not staying in town, and 1) the taxi ride would probably be huge to and from the airport; and 2) I need the freedom of a car. I had checked on google maps to get directions but didn’t print them out, just wrote the main directions on a piece of paper. The Hertz map was pretty brief so I was amazed that I got to the Novotel Glen Waverley with no need to stop or turn around. It’s a good 45 mins from the airport and is basically a roadside 3-star-ish hotel, a far cry from the Westin Sydney. Still, it’s fine by me.

After a quick unpack, I drove out to town to explore. I found a parking space at the park, yes it’s 15 mins walk from Federation Square but the meter was only AUD1.30 an hour. For 3.5 hours it only cost me AUD4.50, compared with AUD44 for the big carparks … eeeep.

Not a lot of time — had to get back to the hotel by 6pm for a call. So time for quick walking. First was the important Federation Square, with the impressive Atrium and the glass mosiac roof at the ACMI museum.

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Just behind Fed Square was the Yarra River, and next door was the historical Flinders Street station.

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From there it was across the street to Swanston and Bourke Streets, with shopping, trams, hotels, the entrance to Chinatown, street artists, the town hall and at the end of Swanston, the State Library. The camera was busy!

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It’s kinda unreal, it was sunny and I was in a polo shirt. It’s November, and Christmas preparations were already underway. Even a special Santa-only mailbox. Wow.

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Hit rush hour traffic on the way back, glad that I left early. Turned out I had two conference calls, one at 6pm one at 8pm. I was pretty tired and pissed off. Had to find some dinner so went outside to around the back of the hotel. Oh gosh, it’s bad. Typical suburb strip mall — pizza, fish and chips and a ton of Chinese restaurants. Even though I really didn’t want Chinese food it was the best of poor choices. I bought a roast pork and duck rice, that was it. Could have ordered room service but … didn’t feel like it either. Walking around the area it reminded me of Blue Island actually. 😛

Well, more of Melbourne proper at the flickr set

beach and sun

One meeting at 10am, then I was done. Still had some shopping to do — to get UV protective swimsuits for my niece; and sherlock’s advice was to go out to Bondi Junction. The Westin’s location was perfect for the train, a short walk to Martin’s Place station and 3 stops to Bondi Junction.

Walked around the high street, had lunch of pastrami bagel and iced tea (what, no diet coke?). Managed to find the swimsuits at various shops. Not surprisingly the best choice was at the last shop, after I’d already bought a couple of suits already. The cheapest purchase was at Target and the best selection was at the Cancer Society shop.

There was time, so I took the bus down to the beach, trying to find the Sculpture by the Sea exhibition. Couldn’t find it — I guess it’s along the coastal walk which was a bit far away. It was nice to walk on the beach, people watch and take pictures. This was taken at the side, the main beach was pretty crowded and I was glad to find a corner with fewer sunbathers.

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As this was Bondi, there were surfers galore. No wonder this is one of the most famous beaches in the world, look at that blue sky and the water. Picture has been resized but not photoshopped.

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Took the bus all the way back to town. Yeah, I kinda wasted the return journey on the train, but it was nicer by bus. It was supposed to be an express but it stopped everywhere. The people behind me needed to get to Circular Quay by 4pm but they realised with the non!express service they won’t make it.

Dumped the backpack in the room and went out walking around for the last hour or so that shops are open. Oh yeah, shops close at 6pm. Initially the purpose was to look for some beer but I ended up buying some souvenirs instead. Turned out that I could have bought the beer at the Coles around the corner. Hmm.

Didn’t have food left in the fridge so I went downstairs to the gpo for dinner. I was hesitant to eat at the posh steak or seafood restaurant and was happy to find that there were more casual choices — there were counters where people could order pizza or seafood or bar food. So I had some oysters and grilled dory and chips. A nice glass of shiraz/cab and it all came to something cheaper than one of the steaks at Prime. Much preferable anyway.

Need to get up early tomorrow. 9.30am flight means I need to leave the hotel by 7.30am.

day out in sydney

I reserved a rental car yesterday and I had to drag myself out of bed when the alarm rang. I tried to cancel online but wasn’t allowed to (duh, cos I said pickup at 10am and I tried to cancel at 10.15am). By then I was more awake so I walked over to the Hertz office and got the car.

Debated whether to have lunch at the fish market or elsewhere. Decided to go to Harry’s instead, since I have the car. Ordered the famous Tiger — beef pie, mash, peas and gravy. Was hungry so I got a plain hot dog as well. I prefer the peas more than the mash, should have gotten pie and peas with extra peas. Anyway, it was as delicious as I remembered it; sitting on the wood beams overlooking the Finger Wharf.

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The main purpose of getting the car was to drive out to Rose Bay and then further to Watsons Bay. Note to self: instead of wasting 20 minutes trying to find a parking space at the bottom of Watsons Bay, drive back up and park at the highest point. It’s an extra 10 minutes walking along the coast, it’s pretty and there are plenty of free spaces.

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Beautiful beautiful day, blue skies, clear seas and the cliffs were as spectacular as I remember. There was also an impressive view back into the harbour, of the city and the bridge.

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It was around 2pm when I left, so I attempted to go to Bondi. Attempted. Not that Bondi had disappeared or anything, there was so much traffic and it was impossible to find a parking space. So I drove along the beach, then left.

There was still time to go to the fish market, which was what I did. Parking was AUD2 for under 1 hour, increasing to AUD5 for each half hour after — obviously they want people to park and go. That made the decision easy for me, I bought a dozen Manning River oysters, a cold platter of lobster and prawns, and a spinner crab. Ate the oysters by the bay with a light beer (well, driving and all) and took the rest with me.

Returned the car at 5pm, and was back in my room by 5.30pm. Could have kept the car to drive around at night and returned it before work tomorrow, but couldn’t be bothered. Nicer to relax in the room. Plus I had laundry to do. Dinner of assorted fresh seafood was good — the crab was sweeter than even the lobster and the prawns were the sweetest.

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australia 2005

2016 note: didn’t write up the trip at the time and the pics were only found and uploaded in 2013. What I remember is we went to Sydney, then Brisbane and the Gold Coast to Surfers Paradise.

Rented a car, visited a night safari. I have a hard rock café surfers paradise polo shirt as souvenir.

2 dinners

So you’ve been living outta your suitcase for almost 3 weeks in hotel rooms. what do you do for food? Usually lunch at food courts around the office, but what about dinner?

One of the first things I do is to go to the supermarket or anywhere else I can get groceries, even if it’s only a 7-11. What I tend to get, drinks, snacks, fruit, sometimes yogurt. I empty the minibar fridge and fill it up with my stuff.

Back to dinner. I’ve bought whole roast chickens and bread and made sandwiches. I’ve bought take-out food boxes from food courts. Once in a while I’ll eat out, but hardly ever in proper restaurants.

Last night my colleagues took me out to dinner at Café Sydney, it was a rather upmarket place but the location was just strange. It’s at the perimeter of the top floor of a 5 storey building, and apart from the restaurant itself, the rest of the building has been stripped and is basically a construction site — concrete, wires, pipes are all in plain view. The open area around the balconey looked down to the site. Very interesting.

We shared starters — cooked bugs, mezze plate, polenta. For main course I had barrimunda fillet. Dessert was ice cream with rhubarb compote. 2 glasses of Pinot Noir for me. The bill probably came to something like AUD100 per person.

Today I walked the 20 minutes from the office to Harry’s Café de Wheels, a 24-hour pie cart at the side of the road next to Finger Wharf. Small menu, eat around the cart. Speciality were pies, British style, served with mash and mushy peas and gravy. The mash and peas were piled on top of the pie and a hole in the middle contained the gravy. yums. AUD4.80 a pop.

20 times price difference. Both really special and delicious. Such is the goodness of food.

go south, little one

NSW bank holiday today, so I have an unexpected day off. Still had the car. But even as I woke up I didn’t really know where I should go.

Went north yesterday, and I’ve been west to the Blue Mountains before. So it leaves south. So I drove down to the south coast, without much idea of where exactly I’d end up, and with no proper map either :)!

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Beautiful day, few cars, perfect for driving. By lunch time I ended up in Wollongong. The sounds of the ocean from the waves coming into the city beach could be heard from the car park. Very fine sand dunes and a strong surf. Very impressive. A bit further up is the harbour, with a beautiful lightbouse and small boat shelter. Had fish and chips again, this restaurant not as nice as the one at Port Stephens, a much longer wait and batter that was too thick. Congregation of seagulls outside by the tables again. Lots of people got swamped. And during one of the flybys, one of them snatched a calamari ring from my fingertips without me realising! Got a bit paranoid after that and finished eating very quickly.

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About half an hour from Wollongong was Kiama, a quaint-ish small seaside town. Most famous for the Blowhole, a gap in the rocks where waves crash up. The tide wasn’t so strong so the jet wasn’t that high, but the views along the coast were fabulous as usual.

Drove up to the lookout point at Saddlepoint Mountain, only 10 minutes away. By that time the sun was hiding behind clouds and it was getting dark, so it was a kinda wasted trip. It was really deserted up there, a bit eerie.

Weather changed dramatically on the drive back, for a whole hour or may be even more it rained very hard, the road didn’t have lights, there were lots of cars and I was in a hurry. Man I needed all the adrenalin and experience I could muster on that drive back to Sydney.

dolphins ahead

met up with sherlock and gf again, drove up to Port Stephens, or to be more precise, Nelson Bay. 2.5 hours from Sydney, mostly on a good long stretch of motorway. Got there round about lunch time, had some very fresh fish and chips.

We joined the Imagine, a 18m catamaran. I chose it over the other boats was cos the others looked like ferries and had too many people on board. Imagine can hold 60, I think we were about 30. Seating on the foredeck, with steel grid that opens down, so we could see the water surface.

It was very very windy out in the open sea, I was glad I took my sweatshirt. Tea was provided, that helped. Most people huddled on the deck but once the boat got going, I went and sat at the port side &ldquot;balcony&rdquot; (for want of the proper terminology), the bit that sticks out and feels closer to the sea. I was getting cold and considering going back inside when we spotted out first dolphin. At first it was just a couple of fins, but we got excited. The skipper turned the boat slowly toward the dolphins.

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And there they were, they started swimming closer and then they were swimming with the boat, under the boat, next to it, around it. From where I was sitting, I felt like they were right beneath me, every few minutes they’d jump up above the surface. Quite hard to photograph, especially with only my small camera. But it was still really special. I lucked out, I had the best seat in the house and I wasn’t budging.

All in all we saw 3 groups of dolphins, the final group ended with like 7-8 of them swimming in formation under me. By then my camera had run out of batteries so I just sat back and watched. It was unbelievable.

Once on our way back the wind eased up and I sat with my feet dangling over the edge, close to the surface. So what if my shoes got wet, it was fun fun fun.

The drive back was a bit tiring, had to really concentrate. But even after dropping them home I got back to the hotel by 9pm.

Funny thing is, I’m trying to type this up, I’m sitting at the desk and it feels like I’m still at sea. Rocking and rocking. Going off to bed now.

Sydney saturday

I booked a manual car, but they gave me an auto. Just as well, more comfortable. Still can’t believe how small the city is, it takes no time to go from one place to another.

Went to Haymarket to go to the market to pick up some souvenirs. Quite difficult to find a space, went round the block without getting a space. Of course, I didn’t know where to look for a space, not like the familiarity of London. Decided to go again one last time and then give up if no space. Lo and behold, a space turns up. No surprise.

Lunch at the fish market again. Unlike last week the sun was out full blast and it was really pleasant. Same menu, oysters, lobster and salad. If it’s nice why change. Had a light beer cos I’m driving. Quite crowded, had to share the outside table with a Korean? Taiwanese? family. At another table these 2 girls were being attacked by seagulls who were after their chips. The stupid birds get far too aggressive, have to constantly chase them away.

Drove back to the city to visit Paddington Market. Was lucky with parking this time, found a space on a side road off Oxford Street. Market is full of the usual jewelry, clothing, books, gifts and stuff. Didn’t buy anything, the most tempting stall was of refurbished wood mirrors and frames, really pretty. But of course too heavy to carry. Sigh.

Continued driving through to Rose Bay and Watson’s Bay and the Gap, the entrance to Sydney Harbour. Spectacular cliffs and beautiful scenery. You could tell you’re coming to something pretty when you see a lighthouse on your right and then the road curves down and you can see the cliffs. From one side of the bay there’s a nice walk to the other side, but I just parked at one end, walked a little bit around, drove to the other end and walked around too.

watson's bay cliff

The other side of the peninsular is a more sedate park and beach combination. A couple of restaurants, a pier, kids playing, a swimming area. Very pretty.

On my way back, stopped at Moore Park and Fox Studios. There was an exhibition there, but that’s the private entry.

relief

Late night shopping tonight. The streets don’t look so dead when I come out of the office. So much so I bought ice cream — fresh berries & panna cotta, 2 scoops.

Backtrack, had lunch with sherlock today, Japanese ramen that’s pretty authentic, for my not so sophisticated tastebuds, tastes like the ramen in Japan. Walked round a little bit after lunch and bought a couple of spare swatch straps for my new one.

Wasn’t too interested in shopping, never was. But was glad the eating places were open. Went to the food hall of David Jones and bought some quince paste, something I’ve only seen in Australia, and I think once at either Harrods or Selfridges. There are a few food counters there — grill, sushi, antipasti, noodles, oyster. I looked and I looked but none of them appealed. So where did I eat? The mmore common foodcourt next door at CentrePoint. Had a Florentine crepe — spinach & cheese. Took an apple & cinnamon crepe back to the hotel but only managed half. They have lime flavoured diet coke here, a new taste.

Friday tomorrow, what a relief.

rain, seafood, beach

Saturday was a dreary, miserable excuse of a day. Grey and drizzly. Didn’t go out till around 11am. Walked down George Street to Chinatown and the Paddy’s Market at Haymarket. Interesting, mostly clothes, bric-a-brac and a very nice fruit market at the back. So tempting. I wish I could buy more than the small bag of cherries and yogurt raison that I got. Also bought a couple of plastic bag holders, Aussie style.

Lunch was at the fish market, a short light rail ride away. Ticket was a bit expensive though, $5.20 return for just 3 stops. I had half a grilled lobster with chips and salad ($16.50), a dozen Australia rock oysters ($12). Pretty crowded, and even though it was raining people were sitting outside under the scant cover of not-large-enough umbrellas. After lunch and walking around the fish stalls I had a kinda brainwave. Seafood for lunch, why not seafood for dinner. Bought a bluewater crab (cooked) and 1/2 kilo tiger prawns.

Same train back to Haymarket and it was still raining. Walked a few blocks to Woolworths supermarket, yogurt, strawberries and some biscuits for the girls in the office, before heading back to the hotel. So nice in the room I didn’t want to go out. But relented and went out to Darling Harbour, walked round for an hour or so in the rain. Took the monorail back to the hotel and had the crab. Monorail was expensive too, $3 per ride.

Sunday my friend sherlock and gf picked me up from the hotel and we drove to Cronulla for lunch at a deli kinda place. Reminds me of small cafés behind Harrods. Sandwiches, salads, soups and stuff. One whole display cabinet full of desserts, brownies, cheesecakes, lemon pie. Too much food lately, so I just had pumpkin soup and a little bit of pasta salad. The bread that came with the soup was good.

Was full. Luckily the day was fine. Walked along the beach after lunch. The longest beach in the area, I read somewhere. Real sand. Surfers. Beautiful. After Cronulla we drove to Bondi. More sand. More waves. More beauty, even saw the sunset. For the first time in weeks, I’m not feeling the pollution and I can breath easier.

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Back into the city for a drink and Thai dinner. Yes, at the back of my mind I was missing mm, but it was nice to have company for a day. Occasionally one needs the some human contact.

sydney 1

I’m used to both short and long flights. The 3-4 hours to Singapore is easy, eat up whatever meal they serve, watch a film and it’s there. For long haul flights I have my own routine as well, eat, sleep, wake up when the lights come back on. My point is, I know where I stand on flights.

Now, 7 hours between Singapore is so neither here nor there. I can’t go on short haul mode cos I’ll get fidgety, and I can’t get into long haul routine cos there’s not enough time. I ended up eating a very small dinner, watching a film, sleeping for a little bit then watched another film. The end result is when i checked into the hotel at 10.30am I’d had very little sleep and was very tired. So when the hotel said the room wasn’t gonna be ready for 2 hours I got very annoyed very quickly. And that’s after my travel agent had requested early check-in. I told them that 12.30 is not early check-in.

Anyhow they managed to find me a room — originally I was on the 25/f which is an executive floor, they got me 19/f standard but gave me access to the executive lounge. The rooms are no different so I just took it. Unpacked, had a shower and a nap. Boy did I need that nap.

When I ventured out it was still lunchtime and there were so many people around. Had a kebab at a food court, then walked from the CBD to the Rocks, Harbour Bridge, Opera House and the Botanical gardens. Walk walk walk. By the time I left the park it was nearly 5, now I’m too tired to go out and eat. So tired.

More tomorrow, my feet hurt and I want to crawl into bed, even though it’s not even 6pm.

1999 sydney

It was an auspicious time to visit Sydney, a year before the Olympics construction at the site was on-going, Olympic fever gripped the city like nothing before. We also visted during the week of Mardi Gras but alas never saw any part of that.

Cliché though it must be, a visit to the Opera House and Harbour Bridge are a must. Both are truly spectacular pieces of architecture. The Bridgewalk where visitors donned special clothing and walked up to midway point of the top of the bridge was one of the most popular attractions, one which we passed on though. Visited both Bondi and Manly beaches, ate at the fish market, took the monorail round the CBD and Darling Harbour, walked around the shops at The Rock, went up to the top of Centrepoint. All very touristy behaviour. Hee.

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Sydney Harbour Bridge at sunset. Double wow.

Drove out to the Blue Mountains and to a wildlife park to see the koalas and the kangaroos. Neat. To Hunter Valley to visit the vineyards. Bought a couple of bottles of verdelho and sampled their cabernets and shiraz.

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