An Easter Story

April 16, 2006 at 10:27 am (Uncategorized)

Easter in Sydney seems to be a pretty big deal. At work last week we all took a tea break to eat hot crossed buns in the middle of the workday. They also have a big Royal Easter Show (more like a fair than a show). My Easter was doomed to be a lonely one since most people went away and the ones who were here had other plans.

As a solution I went where I go everytime I need some downtime: the Botanical Gardens. I'm not even sure anymore how many times I've been there anymore, but it was beautiful today and probably one of the least crowded places in Sydney.

I started out by finding the horde of cockatoos that we had seen when we went on the Aboriginal tour of the gardens with Clarence. They were out in full force and there was a whole group of people taking pictures and feeding them. I was doing the same when I got charged by one that was not very well-kempt and possibly the crazy one of the group. Simultaneously, this guy sitting on a bench a ways away started trying to get my attention, so I finished taking photos and started on my way down to Mrs. Macquarie's Chair (one of the most scenic spots in the city). The guy got up from the bench and followed me for a while, mumbling something about how the birds had the hots for me . . . creepy. I guess weirdos hanging out in the park is true everywhere, even at 2pm.

I got some OK pictures of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge before continuing to wander around the lower gardens. Finally, I decided that I had not seen the last of the cockatoos, so I went back and ate some chocolate bunny while I waited for them to come down from the trees again.

What lured them this time was a group of people with birdseed. I tried to get them to come to me with a little grass, but they were not tricked. A lady saw me trying that on them and she gave me some of her birdseed, which was so nice of her. Then she went one step further and made sure that she took a good picture of me holding the cockatoo (see My Sydney Photos). It was amazing. The cockatoo kept looking at me after the seed was gone and he was on me for a long time. However, he also decided he was too cool to stand on my sleeve so I have some scratches on my arm . . . and now I probably have bird rabies or something.

That was the extent of my Easter adventures . . . a pretty productive one if you ask me.

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Adventures of a Wine-O

April 10, 2006 at 12:54 pm (Uncategorized)

This past weekend we had our trip to the Hunter Valley which is wine country if you are in New South Wales. Which I am.

A 2.5 hour trip north started off the day; as everyone on the tiny bus gently snoozed in anticipation of the depressants to come. Or maybe it was just that we all got up at 7:30am on a Saturday and watched Beau eat a bacon and egg sandwich for half an hour before we were finally off.

Once we got there, we started at McGuigan's- the first of four vineyards. Before any bottles were cracked we had our cheese tasting. We had five different cheeses and were all slowly chewing as the woman explained in graphic detail about the molds on cheeses. All of them were really good (we tried 5) but I still don't like Brie. There was another cheese that, during maturation, is scrubbed once every three days to remove the mold. That one was reaaaallllyyy good.

Moving onto the wine. I don't know what I expected but we tried an average of 10 wines at every vineyard. Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Port, Rose, dessert wines, it was all over the board. I have to say, by the third vineyard I was pretty nauseous. I also don't even know the name of the last one we were at. The second was Brokenwood and the third was Mount Pleasant. The last one specialized in liquers, so we tried three reds and three whites before we got to taste the good stuff. We had their version of Bailey's and a couple of other ones that I don't even remember because I was terrified of the Chili Schnapps that would be the finale. I survived, and it was crazy. They infuse their Butterscotch Schnapps with chilis so that it is sweet, but extremely spicy. I threw it straight back (on the suggestion of the bartender) and my throat was burning for a while.

It was a nice day. We had good weather and it was interesting . . . but I'm officially a beer girl. I thought that the experience might open me up to the world of wine, but all it really did was convince me that I don't really like it. Especially dessert wine. Eeeeck.

Nothing else really happened over the weekend . . . but today I got to go to the Australian Museum for part of my work-day. They sent me to check out an exhibit on pearls. I stupidly assumed that there couldn't be too much to see, but they had about five good sized rooms devoted to the exhibit. It went through every different kind of mollusk that produces pearls and all the details of what they look like, complete with actual examples. They also had a lot of historical references and looked at the history of pearls in society, mostly through paintings and artefacts. I learned some interesting things . . . for example, the queen conch sometimes produces pearls but this is unusual for a gastropod since their anatomy does not make it easy for something to get lodged in the right place. Also, the largest pearl ever found was inside a giant clam and weighed 14 pounds. Last, since mollusks evolved about 500 million years ago, they have been able to find fossil pearls that are between 210-230 million years old. It was a great exhibit and I am highly recommending it to all of my fellow travelers.

That's it for now . . . more paper-writing to be done this week and hopefully some flight-booking as well.  

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Pubbin’ Not Clubbin’

April 2, 2006 at 1:39 am (Uncategorized)

Yesterday was interesting. There are countless suburbs outside of Sydney and we got to see one: Glebe. The thing about Sydney is that unlike New York or L.A., most people are not crazy enough and property is too expensive to live in the city. There really is not a residential area or even many apartment buildings to be found in the City Centre. For this reason, everyone lives in the area around the city and many of the suburbs are awesome. Living in Kirribilli is not a good example of a suburb because it is extraordinarily expensive and there isn't anything to do. Going out to the city on the weekends is usually our first instinct, however it's also more expensive and so I have started my campaign to make us see more of the suburbs, starting with Glebe.

When I first suggested to Denise that we wander down there her response was, "What? Bleeb?". I told her that according to someone I work with (who lives there) it would be worth a visit for food at least, so we gathered Nina and Julia and the four of us went down there.

We took a bus, which is unusual for us. I had a nice (confusing) conversation with the bus driver when I was trying to find out whether Glebe was part of the red zone or if we had to pay extra. When the communication breakdown was resolved (I did not have to pay extra) we were on our way down George Street. Usually, I walk down George St so it was very strange to see all of the buildings that had become so familiar to me whiz by as the bus careened toward Town Hall. It was actually a very short ride; apparently Glebe is right on the border of the City Centre.

When we stepped off the bus we were a little unsure of what to do, having never been in the area, so we just started walking down the main street. After just a few minutes we were pleasantly surprised by the weekend market that was set up on one of the Public School lawns. We went in to browse, but it was late in the day so most of the stalls were closing up. Also on the main street were some neat shops and a couple of used book stores that we went into.

When it came time to find something for dinner, none of us wanted to make a decision. We settled on the "Mores Cafe" which was pretty good. A lot of Italian choices, but also some Turkish Pides. The cake that we shared for dessert was called 'hot chocolate' something-or-other, but it was really a lava cake and it was amazing. When I asked Nina why she wasn't going to have any she told me that she doesn't like chocolate. This fact may seem trivial, but it explains a lot. I have been throwing the hershey kisses that my Mom sent for Valentine's Day at her for the last month and she always throws them back or gives them to Denise. I thought she was just mad that I was throwing them at her, but now the truth has finally come out.

After dinner, the real adventure started. We took the bus back to the city, specifically into The Rocks. Starting at the north end, furthest from Circular Quay, we were on a mission to explore and have at least one drink at all of the pubs we passed. We probably could have stayed in Glebe and had some experience with the pubs there, however this is something that I have been wanting to do in The Rocks for the past month. Walking by all of these pubs on my way to work piqued my interest and it was just time to go.

First we went into the bar at the Mercantile Hotel. It was a clean little place and there were a couple of different screens showing rugby or footy games (I still don't know how to tell what sort of game is going on). We had a drink, but the live music wasn't going yet and the crowd was mostly interested in the games, so we finished up and left. It's not fair to say that the pub was bad though, because it was still early and we were still sober.

Next we stopped at The Observer, the reputed hang-out of "Chopper". We all got another drink (I got an Amber Ale this time instead of Toohey's New) and sat down to listen to the music. Although we looked everywhere and did not find Chopper, the guy playing his guitar looked like he should have been in a biker gang. He kind of sounded like it too, which was strange when he played a cover of 'Wonderwall'.

By far the most amazing thing that happened at The Observer was in the bathroom. Nina and I found a dispenser for pheremone wipes! The box that came out was labeled "Wipe On Sex Appeal" and had a warning stating, "can trigger powerful responses; use with caution". We brought it out to the bar where I hurriedly tore into it and wiped it all over Denise before she could object. She grabbed the wipe from me (this thing was like a moist towelette that you would use at a barbeque or something) and wiped it in my hair. Within 30 seconds we were all covered in pheremone. I didn't turn around to look, but Denise says that the guy at the table behind us was losing it watching us wipe that nastiness all over each other.

Once we composed ourselves, we moved on to the Orient. We have been there before, but Denise wanted to check out the 3rd floor. There is a dance floor up there that we had been unaware of on our last visit. The floor didn't open until 10pm (yup, still early), so we had a drink downstairs and watched another guy play the guitar. It wasn't long before ten o' clock came and Denise was off like lightning. On the third floor the bar was nearly deserted so Nina, Denise and I had a shot called 'squashed bug'. I have to assume that the name comes from the fact that the first liquid is green, but then the bartender put a little bit of kahlua in that sat on top and last was a red liquid that created a small dot of red on top of the kahlua. The shape of that dot actually could have been a squashed bug. In any event, it was a good one. I didn't have very high hopes for the dance floor; most of the music that we have come upon since we've been here has been disappointing. I am officially impressed though . . . the DJ played some good stuff- best of all, he played 'golddigger'.

We danced for the better part of an hour before I decided to catch the last ferry back to Kirribilli. Julia went with me since she lives up in North Sydney (doing a homestay) and she didn't want to miss the train. The last I saw of Nina and Denise was when they were waving goodbye to us as we walked down the stairs. It's 11am and Nina still isn't home. I haven't been across the hall yet to check on Denise, but who knows what they got up to.

Overall, I think I am more into the pub scene than the club scene. I have just been horrified/felt out of place whenever we have been out to an actual club, but the pubs were all very relaxed. Hopefully, I will get the chance to explore more of them, maybe even some suburban pubs!

Til then, I have to start my final research paper for Anthropology. I looked up the due date yesterday and was a little alarmed to find out that it's due a week from this tuesday . . .yikes. So now, it's off to the library scene for me.

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