Monday, October 20, 2008

My totally amazing trip to Australia!!

Australia has been on my list of places to visit for as long as I can remember.

So, back a few months ago I started having, what I called, an "Almost 30 crisis". I won't be 30 until January 2010, but that's close enough.

I started thinking back to high school and all of the things I used to enjoy. I was a band geek. I was in the string orchestra. I saw in the chorus. I was a Thespian (yes, Thespian... an actress!). I spent the summer after graduation performing at a local community theatre in a production of "Annie Get Your Gun".
I was 18 and I had big plans!

Those plans seemed to kind of disappear over the course of my college education... funny thing is, I don't remember my specific plans, but I do remember that I had some!

Anyway... maybe all of this reflection started happening as a result of my 10 year high school reunion back in June. I'm sure lots of people begin reflecting back on life as a result of these reunions.

So, I told Brandon about all of my reflection (and frustrations) and we discussed that maybe I should get away by myself for a week... of course when he mentioned it he was thinking I would go to Florida. :)

Totally thinking he would say "NO!", I asked if I could go to Australia! :)

LONG story short... He said yes, I got approved for an online visa in less than 2 minutes, I bought my tickets a day later, and a week later I was on a plane to Sydney!

**The day before I left, Brandon and I went to the UGA vs. Central Michigan game! My next blog will be all about that adventure!

I left on Sunday, September 7th and didn't arrive in Sydney until Tuesday, Sept. 9th at 6am... of course that was 4pm on Monday the 8th here in TN.

Saying goodbye at the Atlanta Airport

Me and my cousin, Brett.
Brett went with us to the airport. He works in the airport so he's handy to have around.
Plus, we kinda like him! :)

The flight was LONG! The first leg was from Atlanta to LA. I sat by a guy (can't remember his name now) who had tons of tatoos... I hate the take off and landing part of the trip so I thought I might distract myself by chatting with him about his tatoos. :)
He was very nice. He told me all about his tatoos and his job in the motorcycle industry that takes him all over the world. He was currently traveling home (LA) from Germany.

The leg from LA to Sydney... even LONGER! I was hoping to sit by some Australians so I could get the inside scoop on Sydney... no such luck. Instead I got 2 ladies from Minnesota (I think) who were going to Australia and New Zealand.

Flying in to Sydney at 6:00 am

My friend Evan met me at the airport... I met Evan online... I know, I know... save me the lectures on the dangers of meeting people from the internet. We had been in frequent contact for a while before I planned my trip... you know how you just "click" with some people? Well Evan and I "clicked". He's a great guy!

The 1st day we took the train from the airport and then another train to...

Circular Quay is where you can find...

The Opera House

From there we took a ferry over to...

It was a chilly day... Australia is in the southern hemisphere so even though it was the end of summer in Tennessee, it was the end of winter in Sydney. When the wind wasn't blowing, I was comfortable in my sweater coat.

I really enjoyed the zoo. The animals seemed so much closer than they are here in the states.

A friend of Evan's told him that we HAD to see the bird show so we made sure we caught it. Unfortunately, it was VERY hard to get pictures of the birds... they were VERY fast.
So begins my fear of birds... not all birds, but Australian birds... more specifically, birds from New South Wales (nsw). I don't think they like me very much. They must be able to sense my "American-ness". Every bird in the show swooped right down over my head. Even Evan started to get a little nervous... he moved a few feet away from me just so he wouldn't get taken out by a random eagle, hawk or owl!

*I have video to prove this point... just wait and see!

Other animals we saw...

Pygmy Hippo
Yes, this is a picture of a picture of a pygmy hippo. I saw him, but he wouldn't come close enough for a shot. Evan told me that no one would believe that this was actually the animal we saw... little did he know, my sister is just precious. :) She sent me a Facebook comment asking if he was really this close to me or if I had a really good zoom on my camera!
Sorry Erin! I just had to tell!

I was dying to see koalas... I really wanted to pet one and I made sure Evan knew that that was on my agenda. So, the first koalas we see... MANY MANY MANY meters (yep.. not feet. meters!) up in a tree! This was taken with a good zoom, Erin. :)

A wallaby with her joey
She literally hopped right past our feet. I was so excited! I probably looked like a stupid American, but I was so excited I didn't care!

This emu also walked pretty close to us. I tried to get Evan to walk over and touch it... I think he was scared! :)

It kind of waddles when it walks.

The view of Manly from the zoo.
I thought I was getting a picture of the Sydney coast, but Evan corrected me.

After the zoo, we took a train back to Bankstown. We had dinner at Subway where Evan and the "Sandwich Artist" laughed at me for asking for American Cheese!
I had to explain to them that there IS such a thing as American Cheese.
After dinner we ran over to the Cinema (not movie theatre) and saw "In Bruges". I do not recommed this movie! Violent and Vulgar! I actually fell asleep... who can blame me? I had been awake for 2 DAYS!


I crashed hard that night!

Evan had classes at the university (uni). He took me to get lunch at this "shoppe"...

The best I can describe it is like a small store front shoppe. You can basically walk in and order and walk out. We had chicken chili burgers... they are like a chili seasoned chicken breast on a hamburger bun. It was spicy and actually quite good.

After lunch I wanted to buy a book to read so he dropped me off at the local shopping plaza, Bass Hill Plaza...

Jack Pot! Target!

I wandered around the plaza and found this...

Yes, that is raw meat. No, I am not in a grocery store... I am just walking down the hallway in the plaza. Right there between a clothing store and some sort of fast food place is a "raw meat shoppe".

Evan had to head off to uni so I walked back to the hotel to drop off my purchases... It wasn't far. I could see the hotel from the parking lot.

On the way I passed...

No, not Burger King... Hungry Jack's.
I told Evan it looked like Burger King. I think he said it used to be a Burger King. :)

I'm standing across from my hotel... McDonald's was next door to the hotel. Just down the street we have a Midas and a Dominos! I felt so at home!

Here's something I found interesting...

The McDonald's cartons have a map of where they get the beef for their burgers! :)

I spent the rest of the day exploring Bankstown and the surrounding area. Sydney has LOTS of suburbs so I don't know where all I may have been that day, but I covered a LOT of ground!
**Camera died... sorry no pictures!

After Evan got back from uni, he picked me up and we went out for Chinese. At first I found it odd to be eating Chinese in Australia, but they I remembered back to 7th grade World Geography and it suddenly made very good sense to me!
**If you don't understand... check a globe! :)
It was probably the best Chinese I've ever had... Sorry good ole' Kim San... you just didn't compare!

I crashed after dinner!

Evan had to go to uni again. I needed to charge Amanda's camera so I tagged along to use the computer lab.
It takes an hour to get to The University of Western Sydney. It's near the Blue Mountains in Richmond.

After we got back from uni, we grabbed some dinner (I can't remember for sure, but it may have been chicken chili burgers again... they were beginning to grow on me!) and we watched a movie that Evan highly recommended... Serenity. It was different... sci-fi isn't normally my thing, but I enjoyed it.

I crashed early that night... I'm glad I did because day four was BUSY!

We grabbed a train to the Town Hall Station...

Evan and me on the train

When we got to the station, we walked around some... this was my first trip into the actual city area...

The monorail runs right through town

This is where we were headed...

Sydney Tower

Before we headed to the top, we did the OzTrek attraction... we laughed a lot! Every single guide we had was either Asian or British! Not an Aussie in the place!

The view from the top of the tower.

Evan commented that...
1. I was not taking enough pictures at this point and
2. I was not in any pictures
so he took over camera duty while we were atop the tower.

So, here I am looking out at the Harbor Bridge

After the tower we headed around the harbor...
We had lunch at Oporto. Check out their official website to get a look at the Bondi Burger. That's what I had for lunch... it's basically the same chicken burger we had at the little shoppe.

Darling Harbor
According to Wikipedia, we were very close to Chinatown and the Chinese Gardens... Had I known that at the time I would have insisted on going!

Cockle Bay Wharf

As we walked past the Convention Center, we noticed this water "hole/pit"... I can't really think of a better word.

Evan in the Water Hole...

I am only posting this video of myself so you can hear Evan's accent! :)
(Note: My pants are rolled up... I know they just look like they are too short... I didn't want them to get wet!)
Also note how the bird flies dangerously close to me... this is an example of how every bird in NSW treated me! :)

From there we went over to Sydney Wildlife World

I don't remember what kind of bird this is, but there were several of them in this big open "bird sanctuary" and they were the only birds NOT to attack me... although I have to admit I was nervous the entire time I was in there!

Me sitting on a wombat! No, he's not real! :)

Evan and a cassowary
Apparently it's the world's most deadly bird! (well according to the sign anyway!)

This wallaby made me laugh! Look how he's sitting!!

Then... the highlight of my trip...

Me & Charlie the Koala!
Charlie was born at Wildlife World. He was 18 months old... the same age as Riley. :)
I did get to pet him. He was extremely soft. I almost expected him to be a bit bristly, but he was almost downy soft.

After my photo with Charlie, we headed over to the Sydney Aquarium...

Aren't these tiny little penguins the cutest things you've ever seen!?!? It could probably have stood in my hand!

That massive shadow looking thing in the water... that's a sting ray! You can't really appreciate it's size until you watch the videos below...

I'm sure Evan remembers the name of these crazy fish/shark things (wobbegong... I was right, he knew the name)... I was just impressed with their size... compare them to the size of the exit sign!

There's Nemo... right in the middle of the picture... it's hard to see him because of the anemone.
Bubbles, Dory and Gill are swimming around at the top. :)

As we were walking to the monorail station to take a ride back to the other side of the harbor, I was able to get this shot... I think it's my favorite from the whole trip!

The Australian flag with the Sydney Tower in the background.
I love that the moon is in the picture as well!

We ended the day with a viewing of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.

Neither one of us was very impressed with the movie!
I did like the theatre! It was huge and very pretty.
When you by your ticket they ask you where you want to sit... front, middle, or back. We asked for the middle... then they assigned us seats!
I thought that was cool.

Evan had to work Saturday early afternoon so I lounged around and took my time repacking everything. I just enjoyed my last lazy morning before heading back to "real life".

That night after Evan got off of work, we went by his house and then headed off to Bondi Beach.
It was a chilly night, but there were tons of people out on the beach.
We walked down the beach side of the road... I tried to get pictures of some of the buildings all lit up at night, but I couldn't get the camera to cooperate. You'll just have to take my word for it... it was very beautiful!

Evan showcasing a little Turkish Delight.

Such a sad day... I had to be at the airport about 11:30 am.

Evan helped me load everything into his car that morning and we headed off to the train station.

Here we are on the train on the way to the airport.

I'm gonna admit... it was emotional leaving Sydney. I really LOVED being in Australia and I really enjoyed hanging out with Evan. Getting to know him and meeting his family were both great parts of my trip!
We've decided that we'll stay in close contact... in fact, he's coming to visit us in February! I'm excited to return the hospitality he showed me while I was there!

So, that's it! My Australian Journey!
I hope I get to go back one day... sooner rather than later! There's so much more of Australia that I'd like to see!


Heather said...

Looks like you had a wonderful time! Your facebook status makes a lot more sense now, thanks to this post. I was wondering how you knew an Evan who wasn't in the U.S.

Jenn said...

how fun! I'm not an animal fan (of any sort), but I think I would have to touch the koala's too. I'll definitely let Kristen know about your friend Evan!

Jackie @ Our Moments Our Memories said...

A-maz-ing!!! I can't believe you just packed up and went, that is so incredible...and your hubby is awesome for letting you go!

Evan's accent is very cool, but I loved hearing yours too. :)

Lucas*Jennifer*Noah said...

this is why I have an irrational fear of birds! I am so impressed you took this trip! Looks like you packed in a ton of fun stuff!

kristy.lynn said...

wow! looks like you had a blast!! i am totally jealous... how great of brandon to send you off like that!!

i totally know what you mean about the 'i'm almost 30 bit'. i'm in the thick of it myself. uggh!!!

Miss Debbie said...

Thanks for sharing.I'm so glad you had a great trip!