Of Toddlers and Sushi

Today marks a month since we left Sydney. Though the adjustment back to the good old USA hasn’t been especially hard, they are definitely some things I’m missing about Australia and some things that I’ve had to adjust to here. For instance, last week I went grocery shopping with E. I grabbed some sushi to eat for lunch when we got home, and realizing that E would probably be getting cranky and peckish soon, I got her a cucumber and avocado roll. In Sydney all the kids eat sushi. It’s such an easy, on-the-go thing to give them. I’ve never given her any with raw fish, but she loves veggie or chicken rolls. There were little take-away sushi places all over the place in Sydney that were so easy to grab and go. They made bigger hand rolls that you could literally hold in your hand and eat (genius!) and they also had “baby rolls” which were perfect for toddlers.

Anyway, as we waited to checkout at the supermarket, E enivitably got hungry and I opened up her sushi. So many people stared or commented, asking “Is she eating SUSHI?!” Calm down people, I’m not feeding my one year old raw fish and yes, she’s eating sushi. Having spent the last year abroad, E is apparently now precieved as a very cultured toddler with a sophisticated pallet–if only they knew the truth!

Advertisements

Home Sweet Home

We’ve been back in Massacusetts for a few weeks now. I had meant to write a few posts before we made the big move, but between getting organized, packing and saying goodbyes I just simply ran out of time. So even though we’re back in the states, plan on a few more Sydney-related posts over the coming weeks!

The move back went pretty smoothly. The packers and movers were in and out in two days and before we knew it was time to say goodbye to our beautiful apartment with the stunning views. We decided to stay in a hotel the night before the flights since we no longer had anything in our apartment. We had nine suitcases, a car seat and a stroller and it required two trips to transport everything!

The flights went great. I had been kind of worried about how E would do since she’s a toddler now and just wants to run around all the time, but as usual, she impressed me. We had booked a 1pm flight from Sydney to Dallas, which was the latest flight we could get and was, until recently, the longest flight in the world! Our hope was that E would sleep for most of it. Since she had missed her nap, she fell fast asleep before the plane even started taxiing. We were on one of those new, double level planes and I was really impressed with some of the design features. We were on the upper level, and on each side of the plane, next to the window seats, there were these big cubbey-type containers. It was extremely useful for stowing all of E’s books, toys, clothes and blankets.

Goodbye, Sydney!

E had a good nap, but apparently decided that was enough sleep for her because she didn’t sleep for pretty much the rest of the flight. It made for some tired parents, I’ll tell you that!

No sleep for E!

The airport in Dallas was nice–and huge!–and I definitely preferred it to LA. We had to claim all of our bags and clear customs (which was somewhat challenging with the amount of luggage we had!), but luckily there was a super friendly porter who helped us. As soon as we started interacting with people in Dallas, I felt home. To me, Americans are, in general, a friendly bunch. I know a lot of the world views that friendliness as fake, but I really don’t think so. To have people be so nice and helpful at the Dallas airport was, quite honestly, a big difference from what I’d experienced at Sydney arrivals in the past, and even though this sounds silly, it just felt like a weight being lifted–I was almost home.

The adjustment to being back has been pretty good so far. E had absolutely horrendous jet lag that kept her (and thus us) up for most of the night for about a week. It was awful and I was convinced her nights of being a good sleeper were over for good. Luckily she seems almost back to normal, although she is a lot fussier around bedtime these days.

We arrived back in Boston just in time for some very unseasonable May weather. It was absolutely freezing and pouring rain for about a week after we arrived. It definitely took some getting used to for us–Sydney has definitely spoiled us in terms of weather! We had packed assuming it would be nice and warm, so we had to dig through our bags looking for sweaters and socks! I also discovered that my raincoat was apparently packed in the sea container, so I’m hoping it’s a fairly dry few months until I have it back!

Everything we had in storage plus our air shipment are now safely back in our house, which is a crazy mess at the moment. Since our bookshelves, bureaus, etc. are all in a container on a ship at the moment, we’re kind of winging it here. We don’t have places to put a lot of our stuff and our home decorations and furniture consist of a hodgepodge of random things right now. It’s kind of frustrating since we’re back in our house but aren’t really able to feel fully settled until our container arrives.

Besides the weather, one of the biggest adjustments for me has been something that I wasn’t expecting: I keep walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk! I’ve been fine driving, but for some reason I keep walking on the “wrong” side of the sidewalk and have to keep moving so I don’t bump into people. Another adjustment, something I miss, is the coffee! Australian coffee is sooo much better and I miss it so much–although I will say I’m happy to have my iced coffees back!

All in all, it’s great to be back. It’s so nice having my parents close by, being back in our house, and having our cat with us again. The weather is finally beautiful and E and I have been spending a lot of time at the park and the beach, both of which are less than five minute walks from our house, which is fabulous. I’m really looking forward to seeing what our second summer of the year has in store for us!

Some News

Many of you who know me may know this already, but for those who don’t, our time in Australia is coming to a close. While we were originally meant to be here for two years, we will be leaving after one. It’s a decision that felt right at the time, but now that leaving time is getting closer, I definitely have very mixed emotions about it. It will be great to be closer to family and friends and be back in our house with our cat. However, I finally feel pretty settled here–we have routines and friends and are familiar with the area. We also still have a lot we want to see and do here. I truly feel like it took a year to feel settled and comfortable here, so I think that the second year would have been easier. I feel guilty about taking E away from her little friends and pretty much the only place that she has known, but at the same time I’m glad she will be going back to family. It’s weird that the only memories she’ll have of being here will be through photos.

I’m not going to lie, our year here has been tough. Australia is so far away from pretty much everywhere else and it’s been hard not to be homesick. Moving to a country you’ve never been to and where you know no one is hard on its own, but doing it with a six month old baby definitely made things more difficult. Andy and I agree that if it had just been the two of us, things would have been a lot easier.

Though it’s been hard, I don’t regret our year here at all. We’ve done so many cool things, seen so many beautiful places and met some wonderful people. I will miss the great weather, gorgeous beaches and most of all the friends that I’ve made. We definitely plan on coming back for a visit or two in the years to come.

DSCN1606

DSCN1614

I will definitely miss this view every day!

Seeing Sydney from New Heights

Last Thursday afternoon, Andy and I did the bridge climb to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Aside from the horrendous jumpsuits they make you wear, the whole thing was pretty spectacular.

We chose to do the express route, which takes less time and is also cheaper. This route takes you on the lower arch of the bridge until you get to the center and then go up a steep staircase to the very top of the bridge. The views are incredible.

I’m not generally afraid of heights, but I must admit that I was a little nervous going into the climb. The whole experience is really well done though and I was so engrossed in what was going on and what I could see that I stopped being nervous.

They have you arrive for the climb a little early. My parents had again graciously offered to babysit, so we took a bus into the city a bit earlier and ended up with some time to kill. We strolled around the Rocks a bit and got cappuccinos and a snack before wandering down to the modern art museum for a bit. We then checked-in for our climb and were told that it would be over right around seven in the evening (longer than we thought!). They wanted to make sure that we’d had something to eat so we wouldn’t get faint. After checking in, we spent a few minutes in the little museum they have about the bridge and the process of building it. This museum is free and you don’t need to climb the bridge check it out. There is also a little theater showing a film about the bridge and I imagine it would be a nice place to pop into to cool down on a hot day while exploring the Rocks.

As we waited for our group to be called, we looked at the autographed photos of the celebrities that have done the climb. Among them: Oprah, Pierce Brosnan, Matt Damon, Ben Stiller, and the casts of “Modern Family” and “Glee.” Once we were called in, we signed waivers and were breathalyzed, then were given our lovely grey and blue jumpsuits. Because it was a warm day, we were told to just wear our undergarments under the suits and were then given lockers and dressing rooms to change in.

You aren’t allowed to take anything with you on the climb. The only exception to this is glasses or sunglasses, which attach to a cord that is attached to your suit. They also give you a hat which is also connected to your suit. Basically, there are a lot of clips on your suit that clip to other things. Everything is very well thought out and organized. On the climb, our guide told up that when the founder of the bridge climb submitted his proposal of opening a business leading people up the bridge, the government said no and gave a list of 64 reasons why it couldn’t be done. It took the man ten years to come up with solutions to all of the objections. I think he came up with some pretty ingenious solutions and I’m sure all of his hardwork is paying off with the amount of people that climb the bridge everyday and the amount each of them has paid–the bridge climb is not cheap.

For the climb, you are clipped onto a wire that runs the entire route; it’s pretty clever. After walking for a bit, we emerged right above and in the middle of the busy highway that runs across the bridge. We then made our way onto the lower arch.

001

Here we are on the lower arch, before going up to the top.

From the center of the lower arch, we climbed some steep stairs and came to the very top of the top arch. It was late afternoon and the sun was starting to set. It was a fabulous view.

We almost didn’t do the bridge climb because of how expensive it is. I’m so glad we did. For me, having been here almost a year now, I viewed the climb as kind of a celebration of making it through that year. It was a great way to celebrate!

 

A Day Date Around Sydney

Monday was a holiday here, and my parents graciously volunteered to watch E for the entire day! Andy and I decided to use the day to explore more of the city. There’s a lot that we’ve wanted to see and do that just isn’t really possible with E tagging along, so we tried to take full advantage of our full-day babysitters!

We decided to be really touristy and take the red sightseeing bus around. Since it’s a hop-on/off, it worked well for us to easily get around various parts of Sydney. We started the day at Bondi Beach, where our plan was do do the popular Bondi to Bronte walk. Of course it started heavily raining as soon as we got off the bus, but that was a good excuse to duck into a coffee shop for a cappuccino before starting the walk.

IMG_7349

On the sightseeing bus

The rain quickly tapered off and it turned into a beautiful day. Our walk to and from Bronte Beach was lovely and leisurely. We were tempted to continue the walk to Coogee Beach, but knew that there were other places we wanted to go.

IMG_7370

Starting our walk


IMG_7364

Bondi Iceburgs Club

IMG_7389IMG_7385

Our next stop was Chinatown for some dim sum (or yum cha as it’s known here). I had read up on all the best places to go and one happened to be pretty much in front of us when we got off the bus, so that’s where we went. In terms of ambiance, Din Tai Fung wasn’t really what I had in mind–I love the old school type places–but it definitely hit the spot in terms of taste!

2016-03-28 14.24.27

Clever decorations at Din Tai Fung

Din Tai Fung has been described as having the “world’s tastiest dumping” by chef Ken Hom, and Anthony Bourdain named their dumplings as the food he would travel half-way around the world to eat again. We ordered three types, and Anthony Bourdain’s favorite was definitely our favorite too. The bit of broth that seeps out when you bite into the dumpling added such a phenomenally delicious element.

2016-03-28 14.31.10

So good!

Sufficiently full of dumplings, we decided to make the quick stroll down to Darling Harbour to relax by the water and have a drink. Darling Harbour can be pretty busy and loud, but it’s a great place to score some fabulous deals on food and drink. Most places have happy hour deals and the hard part is deciding where to go! We picked a Spanish place and I had a fabulous Sangria while Andy had a beer.

After our drinks, we hopped back on the bus and hopped off by the bridge. We then walked through Barangaroo Reserve, a new park that’s recently been built on reclaimed land.

From there, I brought Andy to Lord Nelson’s Brewery Hotel, Sydney’s oldest pub. I had been there with my brother and we loved it, and I knew Andy would love it too. We sampled some of the beers and ended up getting an early dinner.

We ended our day out in Sydney by going on another big loop of the bus tour. We had meant to only go a few stops, but since it was the last tour of the night the driver apparently decided to take a slightly different route and didn’t go near where we wanted to get off. It was nice to sit on top of the open-top bus and drive around such a beautiful city as the sun set. We had a really nice day and were able to cross some things off of our Sydney to-do list.

Stay tuned for our next adventure…it involves this:

IMG_7436

 

Jenolan Caves

Happy Easter weekend! Easter seems to be a pretty big deal here. Everyone gets Good Friday and Easter Monday off, which makes for a lovely little break. We also discovered that a lot of places–including grocery stores–are closed on Good Friday, which just seems weird to me! School kids are also on a two-week break, and we’ve learned that seemingly everyone in Australia takes the opportunity to travel–including us!

My parents are here visiting, so we decided to use the Easter break to show them the Blue Mountains. We headed out on Friday morning and were hoping for better weather than we had last time we visited, but were not optimistic as the drizzle started as we headed west. It was cold and rainy as we grabbed an early lunch at our favorite dining spot in Katoomba, the Yellow Deli, but it started to clear up as we pulled into Echo Point to check out the Three Sisters.

When trying to book a hotel a few nights prior to our trip, I realized just how many people were using the long weekend as a good opportunity to travel. I didn’t realize just how busy it was going to be though, until we actually got the the Blue Mountains. It was absolutely packed!

My parents watched E as Andy and I made the steep trek down to the Three Sisters. It’s a fairly quick and easy trip, but definitely not for the faint of heart as it’s incredibly steep and a lot of the steps are carved right into the rock. The massive amounts of people didn’t help either:

IMG_7191

At the Three Sisters, waiting to go back up.

It’s been nice having my parents here for many reasons, one of which is so that Andy and I are able to do things we wouldn’t be able to do otherwise, like hike out here:

DSCN1968

IMG_7187IMG_7182

After Echo Point, we tried to go to Wentworth Falls, but it was so incredibly crowded that there was absolutely nowhere to park. We then decided to try and go to Scenic World, since it was so foggy the last time we went. Big mistake. Again it was insanely packed. We at least got some lovely views in.

On Saturday, we started the day with breakfast at an adorable cafe called Lily’s Pad. We then made the almost two hour drive to Jenolan Caves. The drive to the caves was long, but very beautiful:

IMG_7201

Luckily, we had booked our cave tour ahead of time and got there early, because it was just as crowded there as everywhere else. If we got there even ten minutes later I’m not sure we would have gotten parking.

From the parking lot, you make a somewhat steep and winding trek down to the Jenolan village. It’s an adorable place that looks like a little ski village. You enter the caves from a huge tunnel with various entry points. We opted to do one of the quicker and easier cave tours (the Imperial Cave) since we had E with us, which ended up being a good plan since E had a bit of a meltdown mid-tour. Even though a no eating policy is strictly enforced in the caves, the guide let us give E something to eat and she was right back to being her happy self.

There were a lot of cool formations to see in the Imperial Cave, but overall I wish I had seen more on a longer tour with less people. Some of the other caves at Jenolan look absolutely spectacular and I hope I can get back to see more someday. Here are some photos:

IMG_7277

IMG_7276IMG_7271IMG_7279IMG_7282

IMG_7207

DSCN2042

Here is my mom with E. Isn’t the blue water amazing?!

We had a long ride home to Sydney from the caves, broken up with a very welcome trip to a playground for E. On the ride back we spotted a wallaby hopping up a hill near the caves, and later saw some kangaroos hopping through a field. It was the quintessential Aussie way to cap off a wonderful weekend away.

 

Sydney Mardi Gras

In Sydney, Mardi Gras seems to be synonymous with gay pride. The two are combined into a month of fun events, with the capstone being the absolutely huge parade held last weekend. Leading up to the parade there were lectures, art shows and concerts, special nightclub events, etc., etc. Everyone was getting into it ahead of time on social media too. Look at this awesome shot:

I don’t know who to credit this image to, I got it online. If it’s yours, please let me know!

Some local landmarks and even a bank got in on the action as well:

I had heard so many good things about the Mardi Gras/Pride parade. It seems to be pretty world famous and there were reported to be about 10,000 parade participants and up to 500,000 spectators! Since my brother, Alex, was still here visiting, he and I went to check it out while Andy stayed home with E and did taxes. What a nice husband I have!

When we got off the bus in the city, there were people in crazy costumes and others in every type of rainbow clothing you can imagine. It made me wish I’d gotten a little more creative than the sparkly top I was wearing! We followed the masses and lucked out in scoring two prime spots right against the parade barrier.

The parade was supposed to start around 7:30, but since we were near the end it took a while to get to us. Luckily, some groups of bikers kept us entertained while we waited.

Once the parade got underway, we were not disappointed! There were so many unique groups and floats, many with fabulous costumes, music and choreography. It seemed like every type of group in Sydney wanted in on the parade action,: there were floats of doctors and dentists, teachers, politicians, ambulance crews, firefighters, etc. I thought this sign from the correctional officer’s float was kind of funny:

2016-03-05 20.36.54

I didn’t get the greatest photos from the parade since I only had my phone as a camera and it was dark, but here are some of the better shots:

2016-03-05 20.27.35

2016-03-05 20.26.39


The crowd was all super happy and it was a pretty family-friendly atmosphere overall. The next day, I read that there had only been six arrests. That’s really impressive for such a large event! Alex and I were expecting to see protesters at some point, but as we headed home we commented on how we hadn’t seen any and how nice that was. It’s kind of ironic though that in such a welcoming, inclusive place like Sydney–and in all of Australia–gay marriage is not legal. That was definitely a running theme in this year’s events, as people are really pushing to get it legalized and it may come to a vote this year. I was glad to show my support at such a fun and fabulous event!


The Australian Open of Surfing

My brother is currently here visiting, which is awesome. The timing of his visit is great too because it coincides with the Australian Open of Surfing, which is taking place right up the road in Manly. We checked it out last Saturday and it was pretty cool. The organizers are either amazing at predicting when big waves will be happening or had some pretty great luck, because the waves were the biggest I’ve seen at Manly. The beach was actually closed to non-competitors because of the rough surf.

We chose to go on the first day of the competition to avoid some of the crowds. That meant we missed out on seeing the skateboarding and the MTV sponsored concerts, but we were okay with that. We saw the teenage boys competing, watched a Crossfit type event, checked out the stalls and vendors, and showed my brother around Manly. He was really wanting a meat pie, so of course we had him try the delicious ones that we discovered on the Corso. Since it was a Saturday, the Manly Markets were on too, and we all picked up some nice souvenirs.

I love Manly. It has such an awesome summer beach vibe and was the prefect place for the surfing competition. Here are some photos from our day:

IMG_6755IMG_6747IMG_6762IMG_6772IMG_6776IMG_6743IMG_6824

Royal National Park

Last Friday, Andy took the day off and we headed an hour south to the Royal National Park. Once we got there, I couldn’t believe we were only an hour from the city–it truly felt like we were in the middle of the country.

Our first stop was a trip the visitor’s center for a map and then lunch at the adjoining cafe. E enjoyed watching all of the ducks that had waddled up from the nearby pond.

IMG_6642

There were so many options for things to see and do at the park, with lots of wonderful looking hikes and scenic vistas. Since we had a squirming toddler with us who always wants to walk on her own lately, we decided a big hike might not be the best choice for us and instead headed to the beach at Wattamolla.

Wattamolla was great. We parked near a cliff with a waterfall going down into a lagoon. The lagoon connects to the ocean on one side and it’s absolutely beautiful. There were lots of brave people jumping off the cliff, but we took the long way down on a dirt path.

We set up under some trees near the lagoon and went for a swim. There was a good shallow bit for E to play in but it also got pretty deep so it was great for swimming.

I loved Wattamolla and the Royal National park and hope to go back to explore some other areas soon. Here are a few pictures from the day:

IMG_6658IMG_6657IMG_6654IMG_6656IMG_6659IMG_6680

A Summer Birthday in February

Tuesday was my birthday. And not just any birthday–my first summer birthday!

We started the day with E’s first week back at Gymbaroo, which was very welcome after the long summer break hiatus. She’s now in the walkers class and is absolutely loving it. The first session included a bubble machine, a colorful parachute and lots of hand bells for shaking.

Since it was my first warm, summer birthday, I wanted to make sure that I got some time at the beach in. So when Andy got home from work, we headed down to the beach for some snorkeling. It was a beautiful evening and part of me wanted to cancel our dinner reservation, order a pizza and have a picnic on the beach.

2016-02-02 17.54.06

The thought of tapas won out though, and with our two trusty babysitters at home with E, we walked down to the Spit for a Moroccan tapas dinner at Afous. We arrived to warm greetings from the owner and were given a lovely scented oil to rub into our hands.  I think we got the best table in the place, with gorgeous views of the harbor and marina.

2016-02-02 19.16.33

The view from our table

We sampled lots of dishes and while they were all good, I have to say that I didn’t really love anything. I’ve noticed that a lot of food in Australia is quite salty and I felt that way about the food at Afous. Everything was beautifully presented and it was a nice night out, but I’m not sure it’s somewhere we’ll go back to.

2016-02-02 19.36.05

Some of our tapas

We headed home and had an epic game of Ticket to Ride, which Andy gave me as part of my birthday present. It’s a board game that I had played years ago and remembered being really fun. If you’ve never played it, I recommend it! Andy won, and won the rematch the following night. I’m of course preparing for a comeback!

2016-02-02 23.03.42

It was really interesting being in Australia for my birthday this year. Since most of Tuesday is still Monday in the US, and I also have friends and family in other parts of the world, I basically got two full days of birthday greetings which was fun. I loved being at the beach and could definitely get used to having a summer birthday!