Introduction to Sydney

Introduction to Sydney

FYI, I’m making this post at the threatrequest of May.  I think its mainly because she enjoyed the story too much, not sure if others would too.

This past week, I had to travel to Sydney for a work related conference.  I’ll stop with any boring work reference now and head straight into the true story.  The trip was meant to be quick travel as I was flying out on Tuesday evening and returning Wednesday evening after the conference.  I arrived on time for my departing Sydney flight so that I could take the very last seat on the plane.  I assumed my flight position which means I connected my noise cancellation headphones and started the evening’s movie, The Dark Knight Rises, on my tablet.   We took off and everything was great.

Upon our decent, I started to think that it was interesting that I was able to finish so much of my movie before we landed.  Maybe the flight was longer than I actually thought it was.  Being the last one off the plane, I was able to give the typical head nod to the flight attendants as I de-boarded.  One of the flight attendants even made an effort to say “Sorry for the evening and I hope your night gets better.”  I thought initially that this was weird, but continued to exit the plane.  Upon entering the terminal, I saw a very large line of people at the airline’s customer service desk.  I thought “Well that’s weird, I guess we were late and many people had missed their connection in Melbourne.”  But thing something really hit me.  “Wait a minute, this isn’t the Melbourne airport.”  I was back in the Sydney airport.  Apparently, we had flown to Melbourne, circled a few times, and then returned to Sydney due to the heavy fog in the Melbourne area.

You may now laugh at my stupidity for not realizingrealising that this took place on my flight.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.

When I was finally mentally capable of understanding what took place, I joined the other passengers in the line and waited to determine my fate for the evening.  Being the last passenger on the plane, this took awhile for me.  Finally, I reached the desk and discovered I was booked on a flight the following morning at 6:30AM.  I’d be put up in a hotel for the evening and could return home the following morning.  The shuttle service for this particular hotel had stopped running for the night (11:00PM+) so I would need to take a taxi which was not reimbursed.  Joy!

I connected with some random strangers from the flight and we shared the cab ride.  This is where the story starts to go down hill as the cab driver had never heard of the hotel and was dependent on us to look it up from our phones.  When we actually pulled up to the hotel, I traded glances with the other passenger in the backseat.  From the exterior, this was probably going to be the worst hotel I’ve ever stayed in.  Inside, the remaining passengers were waiting to receive their hotel keys and end their terrible evening.

I’m not going to lie.  About 4-5 different passengers returned to the front desk 5-6 times after being given their key because either A) The key would not work on the room or B) There was already someone staying in the room.  My key at least worked the first time, but that might have been my punishment upon looking inside.  Keep in mind that I’m not a hotel snob like some people we know.  I have very low standards and can usually get by no matter what.

This.  Was.  Different.

This was a hotel that would have been perfect for any cliched horror movie scene.  Maybe I should have taken pictures but I’m certain that upon viewing the photos, we all would have found evidence of ghosts in the background or something like that.  I setup my suitcase near the door as I was unable to lock the door.  Hopefully my would-be intruder would hit this and wake me or I’d go quietly into the night.  I refused to sleep under the covers for a plethora of health code violations.  Instead, I slept on top of the covers and pulled the cover from the extra bed onto me.  Only 4 hours until I could leave for the airport.

In the morning, I took the earliest shuttle possible back to the airport because anything was better than this hotel.  While waiting for it to depart, one of the passengers commented “This neighborhood is very interesting.  There are houses all around here.”  Another passenger quickly responded, “those aren’t houses, they are brothels.”  We all laughed and then continued to laugh when I quipped “I bet they have better rooms.”

I did finally make it back to Melbourne Thursday morning but only after being delayed….again….by fog.  Funny that after living in SF for many years, I had to travel to another country to finally have fog cause me delays.  Hopefully the next trip to Sydney will not result in the same horrific, wild ride.  Below you will find two pictures showing how the fog scene looked in Melbourne on the day I was meant to return.

Maybe even the weather takes this whole Melbourne vs Sydney rivalry serious.

Footy-ball

Saturday night, May and I were able to attend our first AFL or “footy” match.  AFL is the professional league for Aussie Rules Football which is quite cultish in this area of Australia.  You can think of it in the same realm as college football in the southeast but condensed to a much smaller area for the most part.  I caught a few matches on television when we first arrived and really took to it.  I just had to understand the rules first.

The sport itself, in my mind, is a combination of football, soccer, and rugby.  The basic premise is to score points by kicking the football through the middle uprights of the field.  That gives you 6 points.  If you hit it through the uprights on either side, then you are given 1 point.  For those not following that Madden style logic, the team with the most points at the end wins.  With teams of 18, your job is to work the ball down the field via kicks, running with it (and dribbling it, sort of), as well as handballing it.  This keeps the game in constant action until the end of each quarter, though we struggled to figure out if that was in 30 minute blocks or whenever the screaming horn decided to sound.  In other words, watch this video for a better depiction of an AFL game.

We chose this particular game as we wanted to check out the Melbourne Cricket Ground (a.k.a. The G).  The G stands as a marvel to behold upon entering due to its behemoth size.  To wrap your head around its size, the field of play, fence to fence, alone sits at 173.6 meters long (189.9 yards) and 148.3 meters wide (162.18 yards).  It can seat 100,024 people which ranks it as the 12th largest stadium in the world.  Its record for largest capacity is 130,000 so true capacity has some room to bend apparently.  I do find it quite funny that I’ve been to 3 of the top 20 largest stadiums in the world and 2 of those 3 were due to college football in the south.

Another big reason we chose this particular match was because it was between the bitter rivals:  Hawthorn Hawks and the Geelong Cats.  As one person from my office informed me, “think of it as the 49ers and the Seahawks”.  This statement was quite true as the game went on when one particular Cats player ever touched the ball as the chorus of boos would fill the stadium.  Apparently, he left the Hawks several seasons ago to join the Cats.  At least that was the version of the story I caught from the Cats’ fans sitting behind us.

To allow us to truly enjoy the game without having a particular team, May and I each decided to pick a team and enjoy the trash talk.  With her exhaustive research, May sided with the Cats due to their logo and better color choice than the opponent.  This left me with the Hawks and thankfully a W in the Win column at the end of the night, but it was stressful in the first half as Geelong took a nice lead.  The second half was a different story though.  Here’s a write up of the game to summarize it better than me.

All in all, it was a great time and we discovered many new things about Australia:

  • Having Lady Gaga one arena over and AFL on the same night made for some interesting combinations of people in close proximity
  • Watching a game live helps you understand it so much more than watching it on TV
  • The massive size of the G in person is amazing to see.  The field and the thought of running up and down it for 4 quarters makes me tired without taking a single step.
  • AFL club songs are interesting:  Hawks and Geelong.
  • You have probably read this entire post pronouncing Geelong incorrectly.  Don’t feel bad, we did too.
  • Pronouncing Geelong pails in comparison to Adidas.  It will take you half the commercial before you realize it.
  • And finally, whenever a bird poops on May it is the funniest thing you will ever see and will make your night at the G even more enjoyable.

Happy Hour, Markets and St. Kilda Beach

I have to say that this weekend is off to a pretty great start. On Friday, Ben finished work a little early so we headed out for happy hour. We live right near the river where there are a lot of restaurants that are connected to the Crown Promenade and Casino. As far as we’ve tried, they’re all pretty great and we intend to make our way to every one. However, the drinks are VERY pricey! Most have happy hour deals listed though, so we started off there. Then we moved on to Ponyfish which is a bar built directly under one of the bridges, sitting on the Yarra River.

At Ponyfish, we had a few more drinks and chatted up with a couple of guys who were in town for business from Canberra – the capital of Australia. They taught us some of the differences between Union Footy and League Footy a well as some good spots along the coast to visit. Afterwards, Ben and I were in need of something to soak up our drinks so we ended up at a sort of fast food chain called Pie Face. They make all types of savory pies in individual sizes. The steak pies were a perfect post-happy hour pairing.

Ben continued the indulgence by stopping at a cafe and getting a doughnut while I bought a second steak pie. No judgement! We got back to the apartment and laughed about the fact that we still managed to be in bed by 11pm. I’m sure others were just starting their nights – we are definitely old!

Saturday morning we got up and headed to South Melbourne Market. We’ve been a couple times now. It’s less than a mile walk from our apartment and sort of like a built in farmer’s market that’s open 4 days per week. Melbourne and the surrounding suburbs have several of these types of markets – another great one a mile in the other direction is Queen Victoria Market (more about that one another time).

Anyone who has come to visit us in SF knows how much I love farmer’s markets. So of course I’m over the moon that I get to do most of our grocery shopping here. There are different vendor stalls both inside and outside for fresh produce, meat, seafood, bread, and even things like housewares, random gifts and clothes. We picked up some groceries, I tossed back a couple of fresh shucked oysters – SOOOO TASTY – and I even bought a rolling grocery bag for future trips since we have no car and are embracing the pedestrian lifestyle.

The weather continued to be nice and warm so I convinced Ben to head out to St. Kilda Beach. I have been dying to get out to the ocean and didn’t care if it was still a little too cold to lay out or get into the water. In my opinion, it’s just great to be at the beach and take in the scenery. Apparently we were not the only ones who had this idea but I managed to get some pictures sans people and it was almost warm enough to make it feel like we should have summer wear on. The water is very clear and I’m looking forward to summer!

St. Kilda Beach is a little like Santa Cruz or the beaches in the Northeast back in the states. There’s a boardwalk that runs along the sand with some nice cafes/restaurants and Luna Park which is a small amusement park with rides and carnival games. We didn’t go into the park but instead walked along the beach and a couple of the piers.  In the rocks, we even got a peak at a penguin!… and a water rat but that was not cute.

Now we’re just resting at home until it’s time to head out for footy!

 

 

It’s Friday and the Sun is Out!

It is actually pretty warm today! It is getting towards 20 degrees C though not quite there (upper 60’s F) and with the sun out it feels much warmer… unless the wind blows. It’s a nice break from some of the cold rainy weather we’ve had.

Melbourne is said to be a city in which you can experience all 4 seasons in a single day. The clouds move quickly and the temperatures with them. People dress in layers and always carry an umbrella. All in all, it feels a lot like San Francisco during the colder months, with added rain. However, I’m dreaming of warmer days to come…. you can remind me of that if/when the weather gets above 100 degrees F.

On days like this I excitedly look towards the ocean from our balcony and the water looks so blue. I had to stretch my hand off the balcony to get the attached picture – don’t tell Ben! I hope it’s that blue up close. I can’t wait to explore the coastline but need things to warm up a bit.

In the meantime, the plan is to get out a little this weekend. We’ll do some shopping at the farmer’s markets and we’ve got tickets to our very first footy match! We’ll be seeing the Geelong Cats face off against the Hawthorn Hawks at MCG which is the stadium you can see from our apartment. I tried to take a more close up pic – it’s the open stadium with the big lights to the right of the tower structure.

It’s supposed to be a good match up and rivalry. I’m sure Ben will post more about it along with AFL in general. Footy is very popular here and people ask if we’ve picked a team yet – I guess we better get on it. Perhaps we’ll come out of this game a Cats or Hawks fan. Based on nothing more than the uniforms and logos, I think I prefer the Cats!

Here are a few fun Aussie phrases to carry you into your Friday. They don’t like to pronounce a lot of r’s and if a word ends in “er” then it’s often replaced with an “ah” sound. Stay tuned for weekend updates!

  • Whatta ya after? = What would you like to order?
  • How ya traveling? = How’s it going?
  • Give it a go = Try it
  • No worries = Your welcome or No problem
  • Rubbish/Litter = Trash
  • Fillet = “t” at the end pronounced – sounds like “fill-it”… we both agree, it’s just wrong
  • Coriander = Cilantro
  • Capsicum = Bell Peppers
  • Dinkum = genuine or true

 

 

Ice Bucket Challenge

I didn’t think this was going to be my first entry for this blog while in Melbourne, but any time is a good time to start I guess.

For those that are unaware of the craze sweeping the internet, the wiki entry for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a great place to start. Interesting to note that one theory states that this started in New Zealand.  The videos by RDJChris Pratt, and Bill Gates are some of my favorites.

This isn’t one of my typical charities, but the challenge seemed fun.  It’s just a shame that I missed my 24 hour deadline.  I hope my location and temperature make up for that little detail. Also, keep in mind that I had to ask the building manager to borrow a bucket and of course I had to explain why I needed it which prompted a laugh followed by “Of course I can provide a bucket for that.”  Entering the elevator lift on my way back to the apartment, a stranger looked at me and said “Ice Bucket Challenge?”

Enjoy the video and I can’t wait to see the videos from the people I challenged.

[youtube=www.youtube.com/watch?v=773eThBGliQ]

If you don’t want to dump a bucket of ice water on your head, then just donate to ALS!  In the end, everyone will benefit.

Settling into Melbourne

Here we are in Melbourne, Australia. G’day mates! So let’s get some of the not-so-exciting stuff out of the way. The first couple of weeks were a bit of a blur fighting jet lag and trying to find a place to live, but we managed just fine.

  • Apartment
  • Cell phone
  • Appliances – fridge, washer, dryer
  • Utilities and Internet set up
  • Furniture….

We’ve moved into our new place and it’s great…except that the only furniture we own so far is a bed (for the guest room). Since our belongings, including our own bed, will not be arriving for another 3-4 weeks, we figured it would be important to have something to sleep on. So to all our friends and family who plan to visit, there is a bed awaiting you – you’re welcome!

Otherwise, we are getting ourselves situated. We’ve ventured out a little bit  in between getting all our essentials and logistics in order. However, with the colder [and sometimes wet] weather, we are looking forward to exploring the area as it warms up in the coming Spring. Among other things, the opposite schedule of seasons will be a new one to get used to.

We’ve embraced city living and have moved into a brand new high rise building equipped with all the bells and whistles – concierge service, large gym, lap pool, sauna, rec room, theater room, indoor and outdoor event spaces with full catering kitchen and outdoor grills, theater room, massage room and even a virtual golf room.  Our apartment is definitely fancier than we are. Good thing they didn’t charge us for the frills.

We are on the 35th floor of the building and have a pretty fantastic view. Our balcony faces away from the city center and looks out onto one of the AFL stadium and sports centers. On the far left, we get a glimpse of the Yarra River and on the far right we can see the ocean.  It’s especially pretty at night when everything is lit up.

Ben has started work and seems to have hit the ground running. The Aussie office has wasted no time in putting their new resource to work. I try to remind him that it’s a positive thing since he has a bit to prove with a new office and region and I have absolute confidence that he will blow them away.

I’m starting to think however that this was all a ploy to turn me into a housewife. I’ve spent the past week doing chores and making meals to be ready on Ben’s arrival. I keep telling him that this is not the “lady of leisure” image I quite had in mind. 😉