Thursday, December 31, 2009

The almost $200 banana..

Time is moving so quickly if I do not record our trip every few days, I will forget. I am right now on the plane from Australia to Auckland, New Zealand. It is hard to believe our trip is already half over..

Our last day (yesterday) in Melbourne we went on a very long tour on the “Great Ocean Road” a 150 mile or so road that follows the ocean starting about 2 hours from Melbourne. We were on a small tour bus, only 8 people, which made it cozy and nice. The other folks were from other countries, one couple from Auckland so we got a bit of the lay of the land before we even arrive there. The day started at 7:00 AM. We were driven to our first stop on the beach where we enjoyed “Tea and Lamingtons.” Lamingtons are little cakes that are so good it makes you want to keep eating them so I am glad they probably do not make them in the states. Our first view of the ocean was spectacular but this was only followed by even more fantastic beaches as the day went on. We saw a forest with Koala Bears, a Rain Forest and ultimately were taken to “The 12 apostles” which are 12 monolithic structures jutting out from the ocean in majestic form. It was so beautiful words cannot even describe it or pictures capture it. The flies and people were out in force at this magnificent tourist attraction. So that dampened the experience a bit. That and the fact that we were whisked away pretty quickly from one site to another. If we had it to do over again I think we would rent our own car. Although the roads were pretty narrow and windy so that may have been a challenge on the left side of the road and all…H and I agreed it was probably best to let someone else have that task this time. There were several cyclists on this road..I can see why-it is a gorgeous place to ride. But the shoulder is narrow and think I would pass on that one too…The day ended about 10:00 PM back at our hotel (they fed us lunch and dinner too-quite nice)..

We had already packed for today’s trip. What a challenge to keep each suitcase under 20 KG!! I think we carried on board more than we checked. The airport today was also more of a challenge, I guess because it was International but all went well and we will arrive in NZ at 3:30 PM New Years Eve, hopefully with our tour guide for the next part of the trip awaiting us. We are doing a self drive tour but a company has arranged everything for us. So far, so good-we shall see as we go how good of an idea that is!

To step back a couple of days, my favorite day in Melbourne- we woke up and met one of my Internet friends, Alison for breakfast. We have met now 2 people I have met online that live in Melbourne-how cool is that! She was as delightful in person as her blog is..Felt like we already knew each other so well from blogland..We breakfasted in a little cafĂ© in one of the “arcades” (sidewalk malls). It was lovely!

Following breakfast we made our way over to the IMAX Theater in Melbourne, the 3rd largest IMAX in the world to see the ever so popular “Avatar.” I was a little hesitant knowing my seasick tendencies at these big screen, up close, things moving around in 3-D things, so I took a half of an Australian seasick pill and was fine on that account. The theater was packed but we had great seats and the funky 3-D glasses. The movie is pretty long and although I wish it was not so violent, it was a familiar theme..Bad guys vs. good guys in ultra spectacular images that will for sure earn these movie lots of Oscars. I loved it!

From there we went back and packed our bags, then headed out for more fantastic Chinese food (H can’t get enough of the real deal) before making our way to the live theater to see “Jersey Boys.” I really did not have high expectations of this play as anything that is not really “Broadway” is always a little suspect but I was sorely wrong. It was one of the best plays I have ever seen. The acting, the music and the great music and did I mention the music?!? It is the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and every hit was done to perfection. At the end of the show, the crowd went wild, in their seats. I stood up immediately for a standing “O” and looked around for those to follow and alas no one did. I guess standing ovations are a bit over the top for the Aussies. I finally sat down when I saw I was the only one. Hopefully the cast saw my little one man standing ovation for them. They were FANTASTIC! The perfect ending for a perfect day.

At home I guess things are pretty cold because we heard from Heather that our pipes at home have frozen. Damn! We had this happen a few years ago and remembered we had called the city of ABQ to come out and fix it so she did and they did and now all is well-thank you Heather! So nice to know she is checking on things while we are halfway around the world. Our next door neighbor sent us pics of our house covered in snow. This all seems like another planet away as we sweated around with 100 degree heat at the beach yesterday.

I had to dump some of my clothes to pare down the suitcases. It is amazing on how very little I can live with. This trip is teaching me this as well as a lot of other things. H and I travel so well together, which is good when you spend 24 hours a day together! We are best buds as well as married and tonite we celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary!

Addendum: I think our plane must have crashed and we have died and gone to heaven. We saw the New Year/anniversary in last night from our 5 star balcony in our 5 star Suite at the Auckland Hilton. They even have a “pillow menu” and a teddy bear on the beds and chocolates and bath soaps galore. We are on the harbor and at dinner at the most beautiful restaurant then watched fireworks at midnight off our balcony. WOW!

Only glitch came when a cute little dog at the airport (little innocent looking Beagle) sat by me and I guess that meant I had fruit in my bag and come to find out dang! I did have a banana (H tried to tell me I had taken one from Australia but I did not remember-duh!)…The guy at customs could have charged us $200 but took pity on the stupid Americans and did NOT charge us. That would have made for a very different arrival to NZ. BUT we got off lucky. And that dog was so darn cute-who knew?

We had banana cake last night to celebrate the almost $200 banana fiasco!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Melbourne loves to shop!

Day 5 here in Melbourne and we love it here! (think I mentioned this already)..We have traveled all over the central business district and beyond, mostly on foot. I would say after about 15 miles of walking and 2 blisters, I can say I am still in shape! I do not miss my bike one iota..maybe swimming a little...

The day after Christmas we went out on "Boxing Day" which is a National Holiday here which has nothing to do with fighting or anything. Traditionally it is when people were to "box up" the X-mas gifts from the day before. Now I just think it is a good excuse to go shopping and get some killer deals. Reminds me a bit of "Black Friday" back in the states when all the stores have ridiculous sales and crowds galore. And crowds we saw! Did our own little walking tour of the malls and "arcades" (alleyways with very cool shops) throughout the city. When we got to "Bourke Street Mall" where they do not allow cars and many mainstream stores are, we just stopped to take it all in. There were literally thousands of people in "Myers", a store comparable to "Penney’s" or something. We could not even move, there were so many people in there. It was nuts! There were lines outside of the Gucci store down the block. They must have been giving away purses or something!

It was a fabulous day which was topped off by an amazing dinner in Chinatown at the "Supper" Chinese restaurant. Real Chinese food..not the fake stuff we get in the states. It was jam packed too. Then we walked to the Italian part of the city and found a delicious Gelato place. We found one of the many, many parks here and sat to enjoy our cold treat. Fantastic dinner and I felt good we were walking so much so we could eat more!

The weather: It has been in the 70s during the day, some wind and cooler at night. I have needed a light jacket at times but not much. The weather feels perfect! I have a feeling it will be raining more when we arrive in New Zealand. We carry our light backpacks around, stuffed with jackets, water and snacks. It feels sacrilegious that I did not buy one thing at the Boxing Day sales. We are a bit worried about luggage weight though. Some of the airlines charge per kg for luggage. We were soaked $75 on our last flight for being about 10 lbs over the 40 lb limit. Do you know how hard it is to pare down to 40 lbs for a 2 month trip? Now after the almost bombing in Detroit, I have a feeling carryon luggage may be a problem, where I have managed to haul some of my heavier stuff. Guess we will see. About that bombing stuff. I am so disappointed and sad we still have to worry about this crap. I am not really that worried being over here. Australia virtually has had no problems with terrorists so feel we are pretty OK here and traveling to NZ. Now getting back to the US we may need to adjust things a bit as far as luggage goes. We will find out in a month!

Yesterday we took a tram (trolley car) down to St. Kilda Beach, which is south of the city..We saw the beach, walked along the promenade. again very clean area, people shopping at the Sunday market along the beach. Saw a very OLD amusement park was open-don't think I would allow my kids to ride on the rusty rides I saw! Had much character though..

We walked along passing many shops again in this area, some funky stuff, some high end. I called Richard, my friend I met on Facebook who did IMWA. He did VERY well at the race despite the heat. He lives here-met us in a little cafe and we had such a great time chatting with him for a couple of hours. What a great perspective to see from a local! It is amazing people here have no concept of "no health care" or "racism" Refreshing!!

We decided to walk back to our hotel. It ended up being about 7 miles or so by the time we got to the grocery store and home. H cooked us up a "home cooked" meal here in our little suite. I did laundry in the 5 star Laundromat, where it felt more like college when folks turn off your dryer, take your clothes out of the washer, etc. Hmm, this process took about 3 hours. Very annoying and our room now looks like something out of the movies with clothes hung everywhere to dry (I did not want to stay up to let them all dry after my dryer got turned off)..This is a small price to pay for what we are doing!

I thought I was coming down with a cold the other day. I started the cough, stuffed nose and everything. One day of "Cold-Ease" and I was fine. Amazing stuff!!

We got to "Skype" all our kids on Christmas Day..That was really special. We "saw" everyone except Lane, who is in Houston with her dad. Video skyping, although is VERY annoying when Oprah does it on her show, is the best invention ever!
Today is a low key day. So much to do here but I need some rest! We will be going to the movies tomorrow to see "Avatar" in 3-d at IMAX. Also have tickets to the "Jersey Boys" tomorrow night (Broadway play). Wednesday we will be on an all say tour of the "Great Ocean Road", a beautiful area south of Melbourne which is supposed to be spectacular. Then on Thursday our month in Australia is over! I can't believe it is almost over..but grateful we will have our month in New Zealand to look forward to-starting the New Year there will be fun.

We may cave and go to the top of Australia's tallest building today. It is 80 something stories high and quite a view from the top. There is also the Victoria Market and the famous Zoo. It may be hard to sit still today after all!

One thing I miss about home: Good TV. Everyone here is out and about and in shape we are convinced because because there is LACK of good television here. We can sometimes get BBC so we know kind of what is going on in the world..I have no idea who won "Survivor" or "Amazing Race" Oh well, maybe this is a sign I need to stop watching so much damn TV at home! I know I can watch all this on the computer but I am too lazy to do so. And Oprah is not online. Oh well!

Today is the 8th anniversary of the death of my sister Sara. Hard to believe she has been gone so long and missed so much of our lives! I have to believe she is somewhere watching it all..and we will see her again.