The Wonderful World of Oz

September 3, 2019

Small moments

Filed under: Uncategorized — A @ 3:01 pm

I’m always inclined to remember the BIG stuff on our travels. Brandon and I have both talked about some of those from this trip already: the Great Barrier Reef, the art, the food (and wine and beer), the Opera House… Loads! So, in contrast to our highlight reels — and perhaps as a fun complement to Brandon’s recent highlights list — I thought I’d do a rundown of some of the tinier moments that were just as memorable but that I may end up forgetting years later. (Kind of going in chronological order here, not, like, order of importance.)

- I had to buy new shoes because I left my BEST travel shoes in the downstairs bathroom at our house in Columbus. This was pretty much the… second day in Australia, first thing in the morning. Anyway, the young woman working at the shoe store was REALLY nice and chatted with us and asked us how long we would be in “Brizzy.”

- One evening (was it later that same evening?? I can’t remember!), we ferried over to the other side of the river that intersects Brisbane and walked on this really cool path along some cliffs. The views were great, and I loved seeing the sunset reflected on the stone of the cliffs. I was kind of tired at the end of it, though, and ready to get on the ferry back to our side of the river. But the ride itself was also beautiful, which I wasn’t fully expecting; the icing on the cake was seeing all the lights along the river from the ferry. One of the bridges was lit up like the Indian flag, and my favorite was this cluster of trees whose trunks and branches were COVERED in orangey-gold fairy lights. Those trees were magical.

- The last day of our Bundaberg/Bargara trip had a few nice moments. The first was our morning walk on the beach near our resort. It was a lovely, pink-and-gold morning, and the beach was peaceful and the ocean calm. I left my shoes and jacket by the path, and it felt so comfortable and safe. “Here’s my spot at the beach; I’ll leave my stuff. See you later, stuff!” It felt like being a kid again. After a good walk through both the sand and the water, we made our way to some big black rocks in the tide that I enjoyed walking on. Being positioned in the tide the way they were, they were super smooth and round and easy to stand on, and they felt nice under my feet. Again, something simple, but I don’t want to forget it.

- The second thing on that day was a chance to talk with Bart, our tour guide. The restaurant where we had reservations for lunch somehow managed to set enough places for everyone in our group MINUS ONE, so Bart went and sat at a table by himself. Brandon and I joined him, so he wouldn’t be lonely. We hadn’t really gotten to know much about him, so it was nice to hear a little bit more about him. Turns out, his main gig in the tour guiding world is taking people out on fishing boats. Anyway, it was a nice chat, and I always like to try to remember our guides on adventures like that.

- For our last night in Brisbane, we stayed in a really cool “art hotel,” which I believe I’ve mentioned. Called The Johnson, but it’s written on the side of the building as [The Johnson]. Brandon had told me there was a whole series of these hotels through Australia, and he made a little joke about how he wants to stay at all of them. Spoiler alert: we didn’t. HOWEVER. When we got to Melbourne the next day, we were walking from the train station in our suburb (Box Hill) to get to our hotel for the first time, and I saw something that looked a “]” and said, “Wait. Is that another one of those hotels from the same series?” Brandon turned around and gave me the HUGEST mischievous grin. It was classic.

- The WiFi at the ferry terminal in Manly — outside of Sydney — offers you coupons when you log on for the first time. I got a free gelato. BAM.

I think that’s a good sampling for now.

September 2, 2019

The Sixth Continent

Filed under: Uncategorized — B @ 1:53 pm

So, I’ve now officially visited six of the seven continents (the seventh being the obvious). Getting there involved taking the longest operated commercial flight (Houston to Sydney), and our time in Oz was relatively short compared with many of our trips. We did manage to make the best of the time by focusing entirely on the east coast of Oz, spending several nights at each stop. Perhaps the greatest disappointment was the temporary closure of the train line from Sydney to the Blue Mountains. Because of this, we opted not to take our planned day trip there. We could have made it work - there was bus service operated in lieu - but part of the appeal was the train journey, and this did present me the opportunity to be flexible. And being flexible means having an opportunity to be considerate of my partner, and demonstrate my willingness to not insist on fomo. So, I was flexible, and we spent that day returning to Manly, where our time the day before had been cut short, and viewing a light show projected on the side of the Opera House.

Highlights of the trip:

- Snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef: far and away the #1 highlight of the trip. Honestly it surpassed my already-high expectations. In fact, in a way a misfortune made this fortune possible. When we embarked on our trip from Bundaberg out to the Reef, we were given the opportunity to do an intro scuba dive. I hadn’t planned on doing SCUBA because I thought you had to be certified in advance, but seeing this wasn’t the case I planned to give it a shot. And then I was medically DQ’d from doing it and had to settle for snorkeling after all. Though snorkeling was what I always planned and expected to do anyway, it was disappointing to be told I couldn’t do something. In hindsight, I think it was a blessing. What we saw snorkeling, I don’t think we would have seen with SCUBA. Too much time would have been spent on instruction about how to use the equipment, we would have had to stay close to the instructor, and we wouldn’t have full control over visibility in the way we did while snorkeling. The freedom of snorkeling enabled us to see absolutely amazing things. And apparently, we went at the right time: the Reef is suffering, and its splendor might not shine as bright in the future. In hindsight I am extremely glad to save SCUBA as an experience for some time in the future when I wouldn’t have to sacrifice an even greater opportunity: that of maximizing my time viewing the greatest underwater landscape in the world.

- Food: especially the extremely-great-value tasting menu we had at Supernormal in Melbourne (Asian fusion), and the unbelievably great barramundi we got as take-out from a seafood place at Barangaroo pier in Sydney. I didn’t really view Oz as a food destination, so we didn’t focus much on food over the trip but we did have some good stuff (including surprisingly amazing dumplings/dim sum for how cheap and dumpy the place was, and lamb sausage), and these were the two highlights. Also, the absolute cuteness of buying random bottles of Oz Shiraz at a bottle shop and having it with take-out at our hotels.

- The Opera House: All we did was really walk around and look at it, but I love this kind of architecture. It’s the icon of Oz, and just happens to be in line with my interests.

- The Great Ocean Road: I love contemporary architecture. I also love rugged coasts. Missing the Blue Mountains was tolerable because we saw such impressive rock formations along the coastline in Victoria.

- Wildflower Brewery: a wild ale place in Sydney. Actually what screwed up our schedule and cut our time at Manly short the first day. Shockingly more than worth it. Because this is maybe the second best brewery I have ever been to, after Cantillon in Brussels. Which is seriously bizarre, because has anybody even heard of this place???

- Art: I talked about this in one of my earlier posts. Art wasn’t even on my radar as something to see in Oz, and yet what we did see completely reframed how I will view art as part of future travels.

- The Johnson: One of the coolest hotels I have ever stayed at. And because I am awesome it was only $85/night.

- Petting Kangaroos: We didn’t just see kangaroos. We pet them.

- Also platypus: Because I have literally never seen one before in my life, even at our country’s best zoos. And that guy is crayzay.

- Cricket: I talked about the MCG in the Sportball post. It was a highlight if for no other reason than it made me realize there is a tour of Dodger Stadium I need to go on!! But watching cricket every other night on hotel TVs may have been the real highlight.

- Making Amy happy by going to Manly, and then going back to Manly: Because I love Amy.

September 1, 2019


Filed under: Uncategorized — B @ 9:49 pm

Some of the best experiences I have had while traveling were when I connected with local people. Because I am a huge introvert, I don’t generally seek out these experiences, but sometimes they happen organically. We were able to connect with some locals in Sydney while visiting several craft breweries. At one of these, one of the owners started up a conversation with Amy and at another, several local guys out drinking invited us to join them at the bar, and then decided instead to move in on the table we were sitting at. We talked about everything from the cost of living in our respective countries to our travels and even politics.

Two of the absolute highlights of my travels were a “travel ambassador” in Ireland inviting us to go see his girlfriend perform music at a bar in Dublin, and then us all drinking together at the show, and being invited to an Ifthar in Istanbul. (These are both documented in the respective travel logs for those trips). While getting into a conversation with locals at breweries doesn’t come close to those, I was still happy to get a chance to have some casual and organic conversations with locals. It’s too easy - and as an introvert I am too susceptible - to only interact with the service and tourist industries while you travel. While I probably won’t be creating a lot of opportunities myself to escape that bubble, when I do escape regardless it always enriches the trip and my connection to the country.

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