Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sydney Days 2 & 3

After our trip to the Blue Mountains we were pretty pooped, but I wanted to see the Paddington Markets, and they are only on Saturday, so we got up and took the train in again.  I think Daniel spent most of his time just sort of wandering around, and at one point walked across the Harbor Bridge.  His big victory of the day was discovering a Hungry Jacks (what Burger King is called over here) that had free refills.  He bought a paper and just sat and guzzled soda for a half an hour.  This was probably the highlight of his trip so far.

So while he was in carbonated beverage heaven, I went shopping.  Well, window shopping anyway.  First up was Paddy's Market.  The info I read on it promised boutique like stalls where up and coming designers get their start and a large produce market.  The produce market part was true.  Here's a particularly funky looking fruit I saw at several stalls called a Custard Apple.  They look nothing like an apple, and have a hard time believing they taste like custard, but they did give off an aroma similar to an apple.  The orange fruit next to it is a persimmon, just in case you aren't familiar with them, but we do have them in the States.

So the produce market was fun and actually had pretty good prices, but the rest of the market was just flea market junk, so I didn't stay long.  Next I was on to the Strand Arcade.  It's an old shopping center with expensive Australian designers and jewelers for the most part, so again, I was window shopping.  The building itself was pretty enough to keep me interested.  Here's a pic:

I went there mostly to see Dinosaur Designs, a famous type of Australian jewelry or jewellery as they spell it here.  They are known for their chunky resin bangles in particular.  It was fun, but a pair of stud earrings that looked like a piece of plastic were $75, so I just looked.  If you'd like to picture it, click for their website here.  I didn't stay there too long either, and then went on to the Queen Victoria Building.  The QVB is a goregous building, again, of upscale shops, although the building connects with walkways to Westfield Sydney (more upscale shops, but in a modern mall setting), and a couple other mini malls that started to get down right confusing.  I took some more pictures so you can see the pretty architecture outside and the main dome inside.  They also had Art Deco ironwork, stained glass, and giant clocks suspended from the ceiling.  

Shopping here was fun because you got to see all kinds of pretties I, at least, don't normally get close enough to touch--Versace dresses, Chanel bags, Prada and Louboutin shoes, Omega watches, Hermes scarves, etc.  I still didn't touch them because I didn't want to be forced to buy them should I smudge them in anyway.  Still it was nice to be close enough to do so.  Probably the cheapest store I found was actually GAP.  I went in mostly just because it felt like home.  That's weird, right?  Still, it wasn't the GAP I was used to I noticed because a pair of jeans was ON SALE for $100.  I even got to wander into expensive chocolate boutiques and steal some yummy smells :) Still, after awhile I got tired of just window shopping, so I headed over to Hyde Park.  It was very pretty and right on the edge of it was St. Mary's Cathedral (which was unfortunately closed) and a temporary ice rink they had set up for winter.  It was funny to watch people ice skate in 65 degree weather.  They had these seals you could push kids around on, which I thought was infinitely smarter than trying to actually get a kid to skate.  

Hyde Park was pretty big, so I walked a good stretch of it, taking pictures of flowers I will not bore you with.    I even sat in the sun for a bit.  Here was a nice memorial garden that was part of it named for some King or two.  You can see St. Mary's in the back.  I apologize for the color on these pics, but it was very bright out, and it tended to wash out the sky and background.

They also had a fountain with turtles that spit water, which I enjoyed especially.  At the other side of the park was at the ANZAC WWII memorial, which oddly enough seemed to be a hang out for skateboarders.  There were plenty of kids chasing bubbles and an old lady feeding birds from her hand--just nice stuff.  Plus, as an added bonus I got to witness a marriage proposal.  She said yes.  Here's a pic of the happy couple right after.  

At this point I joined back up with Daniel at Hungry Jacks and we headed home.  Sunday I went to church again in the morning (Daniel had too many busy days in a row and slept).  The morning service wasn't too different from the evening one expect I sat in a pew.  A few of the people from the previous week were there and said hi.  I discovered where all the families had been hiding--the morning services.  I stumbled upon the nursery by accident, and boy were there a lot of kids.  It made me feel like I was back at Eway :)

After church we headed back into the city, this time to see the Botanic Gardens.  They were sort of like Hyde Park with interesting little gardens, fountains, and people enjoying the sun.  It was much larger, though, like Central Park size.  Again, more pictures of flowers I won't bore you with, but we did spot some more wildlife.  In addition to several of these Australian White Ibis:

I discovered by the women's restroom a tree with weird hanging stuff.  It took me a while to realize they were lots of bats, sleeping during the day.  I ran back to tell Daniel he had to come look.  He was sitting on a bench where he had managed to find a paper to read while I took pictures of flowers.  I was about to tell him he need to come with me when I looked up to see that several more bats were directly over him.  I told him to look up.  He got a little weirded out and quickly got out of his seat.  They were dead asleep, though, so they didn't move as I took a picture.

We decided to hunt up some dinner before our show at the Opera House started.  We headed to the Rocks where they were having Aromafest--a coffee festival.  We were hoping for some good local street food, and it didn't disappoint.  We got Japanese pancakes called Okonomiyaki.  They make them from mung bean flour with veggies like cabbage, carrot, and onion, and then throw in meat of your choosing.  Daniel got a seafood mix and I got beef.  Then she suggested I top it with mayo and BBQ sauce.  It was pretty good, if a bit greasy.  

Finally, it was on to our show.  We went to the McDonald's Ballet Scholarships--which was a dance competition that had already gone through a couple of semi-finalist rounds, so this was the big deal where they crowned the winners, decided by a distinguished panel of adjudicators (never once did they shorten that to judges).  It was MCed by a local celebrity we think was a Melbourne news anchor.  Because he needed no introduction, we were left in the dark.  Daniel said he reminded him of Troy McClure on the Simpsons.  

The dancing was really good, done by mostly 16-19 year olds that because of the school system here, where already in full time dance schools to become professionals.  We saw 4 jazz and 4 contemporary groups compete, and 8 soloists in classical ballet.  Some of the contemporary ones were really weird, for you SYTYCD fans, think Sonja Tayeh, then kick her up about 10 notches and add really obnoxious music.  I enjoyed the rest of it, though, and even the weird ones had incredible technique.  They also had some guest performers while the judges decided, including an inner city kids hip hop group.  This was very funny.  Clearly, they don't have inner cities like we do, cause these kids had zero swag.  It was a bunch of white kids and a few little Asian girls smiling widely in Harry Potter costumes.  This was no gritty urban dance troupe crumping.  I said to Daniel, "Hey, where's the kid that still has a bullet in his shoulder or something?"

I thought the evening was very fun, but I'm sad to say the inside of the opera house is not very exciting.  You can see it here:

We had tickets in Box D, which were the cheapest because you were to the side of the stage, but I thought they were fantastic.  You were right on top of the dancers.  You can see our view here.  They wouldn't let you take pictures during the performance.

Finally, I had to share this.  While we were waiting for the train home, I spied this very funny bit of graffiti.  Daniel said as long as you are going to do that sort of thing, you might as well have fun with it.  

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Blue Mountains and Jenolan Caves

I'm going to post a few photos, but if you'd like more, here's the links: Blue Mountains 1 and Day 2.  I tried to put captions so you know what you are looking at.  There's a few more still to post, but it takes time to upload all of them.  Here in Australia there's no such thing as all you can eat internet.  So once we've hit our allotment for the month (which was about halfway into that album), it slows down to dial up speed.

Thursday we headed to the Blue Mountains, which are about 2 hours from Sydney.  I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, but got the impression they were sort of like our Blue Ridge Mountains--smaller than the Rockies and covered with trees and other green things.  This was pretty close to the truth.  They even have a lot of rhododendrom bushes, although I think I read these are Himalayan varieties.  They are a bit different than the Blue Ridge Mountains when it come to the actual rock formations, though, which reminded me more of Sedona if they could actually grow trees in the desert.  Our first glimpse of the mountains was at Wentworth Falls.  We climbed a lot of steps down and then unfortunately back up to get closer to the falls.  On our way, we ran into a couple who had American accents, so we asked them where they were from.  Charlotte.  Weird, huh?  Two hours away from Durham, yet we met them clear across the world.  We haven't actually run into very many tourists from the States so far, so it was even weirder that they were from NC.

Next we stopped in the cute little mountain town of Leura.  It reminded me a bit of Blowing Rock.  Lots of cute overpriced shops with nice things.  I even found a stationary shop (there are lots of those here, much to my delight) that sold Kate Spade notecards 10 for $65 and $89 address books.  I like to look at this sort of stuff and laugh at the price tags, but Daniel says it makes him worry about our priorities as a society.  We did find a cheap snack finally at a bakery in town.  We got homemade raspberry jam donuts for $1.50.  They charge about $3 for one Krispy Kreme donut here, so this was a steal.  We didn't feel too guilty about it after all those stairs at Wentworth falls.  I kept looking for Bygone Beauties, which boasted a collection of over 300 teapots.  Much to Daniel's relief, we never found it.  I took him through a teapot exhibition at the Mint Museum in Charlotte once and he's never let me forget it.  I thought it was wonderful, but he did not.

Next we went to Echo Point, where the overlook for the Three Sisters was.  I tell the story behind the name in the captions in the Picasa album.  It was very peaceful and beautiful and dizzying if you looked down.  We were glad we did, though, as we spied that someone had lost a shopping cart over the edge (also in the album).  It sort of weird to finally lay eyes on something you've seen over and over in guide books.

We went on to Blackheath, where we took in Grovett's Leap.  Here's a nice picture from that.

Finally, we headed back to Katoomba, where we were spending the night in this nice hostel.  We made ourselves dinner and then headed back into town to walk around a bit.  This meant a lot more trudging up mountains, but was pretty.  I found a gourmet food store that I wanted to take back to Cronulla with me.  Unfortunately, I didn't have much use for it then.

We slept well at our hostel and had our cereal and gold kiwi for breakfast.  Lindsey told us that kiwi in the US is only tart because they harvest it so early to ship it over there.  She said the kiwi here would be much sweeter.  She's right, more so than about the vegamite being good.  They even have a special variety here called gold kiwi that are even sweeter than that, and are a pale yellow.  There was an adorable French family that ate breakfast at the same time.  They had a three year old daughter who came to breakfast in a shirt and striped tights--no skirt.  She sang little songs she made up to herself and had a stuffed kangaroo that hopped around with her.  She also had sea creature finger puppets that flew through the air with more singing.  Her mother apologize for her making noise, but I assured her I thought it was delightful.

We headed out to Jenolan Caves, another hour further from Sydney.  The last bit was on a very, very narrow and twisty mountain road where you could only go about 10 miles per hour.  I was trying not to hyperventilate and watch for wombats and kangaroos at the same time.  They had several signs warning of their crossing, as well as a 15 km stretch where the cows weren't fenced in, either.  I saw three kangaroos that had met their maker along the road--enough to make me take the warning seriously.

We arrived at the caves in one piece and bought our tickets for the Orient Cave tour.  That cave had just been revamped with a new lighting system and was supposed to be spectacular.  While we waited, we had lunch at a picnic area.  I had made tuna salad, or at least as close as I could come to it.  I could not find pickle relish or pickle chips or anything but those fancy little gerkins you put on relish trays.  I had to cube them up to approximate pickle relish.  We had several kookaburras and lorikeets that were pretty aggressive about wanting to share our lunch with us.

After lunch, we took a self guided tour of the Devil's Coach House and Nettle Cave, that had an audio guide with it.  It was very informative (read: my eyes sort of glazed over when they talked about limestone formation).  I was impressed with just that, and it was the freebie that you got when you bought a cave tour.   Here's a pic of the Devil's Coach House.

Finally, it was time for the Orient Cave tour.  It did not disappoint.  It was a tight squeeze at times and a lot of stairs, but well worth it.  It was just gorgeous.  Daniel had been spelunking before with a friend, where he lost his glasses in the dark and mud and the dad by some miracle was able to find them.  I hadn't ever been in one, though, and it was just breathtaking.  I guess this is a particularly showy one, though.  Here's a couple of my favorite pics.

After the caves it was back up that windy road and then we took Bells of Line road back to Sydney.  It provided us with more beautiful Blue Mountain scenery and cows and sheep.  I even saw a couple of lambs.  We got back tired but having enjoyed the experience.  I made mushroom swiss burgers on the barbie for dinner.  Daniel said I was making the neighbors jealous from the smells.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Around Cronulla

I've mentioned before how big the waves are, and a couple of you mentioned you'd like to see them.  So, we finally got some pictures taken in the last couple of days.  Keep in mind that all of these are taken at low tide.
First, here's the sandy part where you could actually walk down to the surf.  Even there, there's a bit of a drop off, and I wasn't willing to go down any further.

To give you some scale, here's a guy surfing, and some middle schoolers using boogie boards in the "smaller" waves.  

The waves come up so high, there's a wall running along the beach so the waves don't get people walking along.  Even so, at high tide, you can't walk buy the wall, because the waves crash over it.  Here's Daniel sitting on the wall I'm talking about.

You can see a lower wall below the swiss cheese like wall with holes.  Here's a couple of pictures of the waves hitting the lower wall and splashing at least 10 feet into the air.  At high tide the waves do that all the way up to where Daniel is sitting.

Pictures don't do it justice, but hopefully that helps.  This beach is about 2 blocks from us.  We walk along it at least once a day.  Daniel likes to come out at night, too, to look at the stars.  We can't identify any of the southern hemisphere stars yet.  

Here's a picture of the mall at Cronulla.  There's a few other large busy streets, but this one has the most shops and goes on for while.  At the far end is where we catch the train to Sydney.  All those tents belong to restaurants so people can still eat outside even though it's a bit colder.  

They put all kind of things together here that wouldn't normally be next to each other at home.  For example, in one building in town it houses a couple random retail shops, a bakery, a movie theater, a grocery store, the public library, and their welfare office.  The mall at Miranda where the Aldi is has four stories of normal mall type shops and restaurants as well as pharmacies, a Target, a Walmart (called The Big W here), Aldi and 4 other grocery stores, a fish market, several butchers and bakeries, a Bed Bath and Beyond store, Krispy Kreme, two food courts, and Dollar like stores.  And I've only managed to cover 2 of the four floors in the two times I've been there.  

The last two days we have just hung around Cronulla and Miranda (3km away).  Tomorrow we are going to drive out to the Blue Mountains (sort of like Skyline Drive in the Blue Ridge Mountains).  We're spending the night and then seeing Jenolan Caves the next day and heading back.  On Saturday we're heading back into Sydney to do another walking tour and for me to see all the neat shopping areas.  I think Daniel's going to walk across the Harbor Bridge while I do that.  It's a thing, not just him being dramatic about walking off a bridge instead of shopping.  Sunday we'll see the Botanic Gardens and go to the Ballet competition at the Opera House.  

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My Pre-course Test: What Do I Know Already?

I defy Mark Twain, open my mouth, and brag of my ignorance.

This is what I already knew about Australia, before any research.  I think I will fail any sort of reasonable test.  When I went from Virginia to Oklahoma for college, I had to look at the map to remember where Oklahoma was.  It was just out of my consciousness.  Australia is harder to miss on the map, but it doesn't get mentioned everyday.

General Knowledge

  • The Outback
  • Sydney Opera House
  • Kangaroos
  • It was peopled entirely from criminals. I'm obviously not claiming quality nor quantity of information. 
  • They were very important during the war (WWII) and the moon landing (satellite transmitters).
  • Toilets there flush backwards.


  • That girl that used to be married to that guy from Mission Impossible
  • That animal guy
  • There are others, but since I can't distinguish a British from an Irish from an Australian accent, I wouldn't know for sure.

The Arts

  • Crocodile Dundee
  • On The Beach. This a book about Australia awaiting a nuclear winter. I don't know why I read it in high school.  It was good but didn't have a happy ending. 
  • Australia the movie, with the Mission Impossible girl
  • The Band Midnight Oil (see Beds Are Burning. Really see it - it's a good song and video) 

 If Americans are honest, I think they would admit most of our knowledge of Australia is from Crocodile Dundee.  This is not all due to some great moral deficit.  We are blessed with a country that spans a continent.  Unlike Europeans, driving 4 hours does not put us in the middle of another culture and political system (excepting such differences as between North and South Carolina).  We don't have to know about other places to survive.

I still think it's a good idea, you know for peace, love, and understanding and yummy foreign foods.  So I hope I'll leave with a fuller picture of this place than one of a bunch of prett-much-Americans throwing another shrimp on the barbie.

I wrote this while on the plane.  I've already realized some things I need to do.
Todo list, item #1

Write a letter of complaint. Durham is not capitalized in the back of the Quantas in flight magazine. I have come to accept that it will always be an incorrect and misleading Raleigh hyphen Durham even though they don't do Dallas hyphen Fort Worth.  But Raleigh-durham is demeaning.  It's way overdoing it to really care at all. I mean, Cary doesn't have to worry about being named at all - they have the power and money, so they don't have to care about it being Cary-Raleigh-Durham. But one capitalization doesn't seem to be too much to ask for.too much for which to ask (Queen's English?).

Monday, July 25, 2011

Church and Sydney Day 1

We went to church on Sunday night.  In our earlier trip into town we noticed an Anglican church that had a 6pm service.  It also had a really cheesy banner with a lion that said, "Fear the Maker."  It's the sort of thing that if we saw on a church back home, we'd definitely not try it as it screams fundamentalist church.  However, I thought to myself that I shouldn't make assumptions based on American culture.  I also told myself, it's at 6pm, so we can sleep in.  At home we go to church at 5pm, so going back to waking up early on Sunday seemed much harsher than any fundamentalist message we might have to sit through.

I'm very glad we did not make assumptions and tried it.  It was delightful.  It seems that at this church the have two services in the morning that are traditional Anglican high church services, but the 6pm service was an interesting mix of liturgy, Hillsong type praise music, and laid back emergent style community and preaching.  There were about 20 people there and it was in a spare room, not the main church building, set up with tables, chairs, and couches.  A nice woman named June invited us to "slouch on the couch."  Don't mind if I do.  The people were very friendly and welcoming, seemed to be all singles, and were a mix of young singles and what looked like older singles (either through divorce or widows).  The pastor was young, probably our age, and just like at Emmaus Way, people could interrupt him, crack jokes, etc.  Turns out his brother lives in Lancaster County (married an American), and he had been to a good bit of the East Coast.  We talked to a few others that had been to various parts of the States, too, as well as got some good sight-seeing advice for while we are here.  They had coffee/tea and snacks and even had a light dinner afterward we were invited to, but couldn't keep our eyes open long enough to attend.  They are having a potluck (or bring a plate, as they called it) next week, so we'll see if I can whip something up.  I just thought I was off the hook for potlucks while we were gone.  It was just nice to read the same Bible we knew, sing songs, pray, and have people that are genuinely glad you are there.  The service was really good and just what we needed.  They even had communion that week and were kind enough to let us know that we didn't have to be Anglican to take it.  

We got back home, ate some soup, and I feel asleep.  I went to bed at 6:30pm the first night, and made it to 9:30 that night.  I'm shooting for at least that late tonight, but my eyelids are drooping, and it's only 8pm.  Daniel went for a walk along the beach, and saw both some great stars and the city lights of Sydney.

We saw the city up close today for the first time.  We can walk to a train stop from the apartment, so we just rode in.  It was easy and the trains come often, so that was nice.  We got off right at Circular Quay (pronounced "key"--yeah, I don't see that, either).  Straight ahead was the Customs House, which now houses a library.  They were supposed to have self guided walking tour brochures there, so we went in.  A very helpful librarian helped us find where they had hidden them.  We sat on the steps there and ate our packed lunch and then set off on the Colony tour, but not before getting this pic of Daniel in front of the Customs House.

We sort of got immediately distracted, because when we turned around away from the Customs House, we caught sight of the Harbor Bridge and Opera House.  So, Daniel did one of his famous long-armed camera shots to get both of us in.

Here's another one of me "holding up" the Opera House.  We did that with the Arch in Paris, too.  I guess maybe that's our "Oscar wave" picture.

We went inside the Opera House to the box office to buy tickets for a ballet competition.  This was both because I really, really wanted to see something at the Opera House, preferably dance, and a frugal move.  They let you walk all around the outside of the OH for free, but if you want to see the concert hall and the like, you have to pay $35 a person for the tour.  However, if you go to one of the events, obviously you get to see the hall because you are sitting in it.  I decided before we left we should just buy tickets to something $35 to see and then we get to see the inside of the house and some sort of performance.  We did even better, as they had some $25 seats to this particular event.  So, we get to see a ballet competition and the inside of the house for $10 cheaper than the tour!  

While there, I used the restroom, and noticed this oddity.  Only at the Opera House would they back light the toilet paper.  I felt this was a bit much to highlight the half ply.  Let's say we take the money we spent on lighting, and buy two ply.  

After the Opera House, we got back on track with our Colony tour.  It took us to a lot of the older buildings that the first settlers/convicts built.  They really just built right on top of the rocky coast, making for lots of hills that reminded me of San Francisco or Lisbon.  There's lots of great old ironwork everywhere, too.  You couldn't go too far without a view of the water, either, so it was very pretty.  It rained briefly, but just enough to get a lovely double rainbow over the Opera House, but you can't really tell in the picture I took.  Like a lot of cities, the old historic areas have interesting architecture preserved, but are now occupied by trendy shops and restaurants.  I felt like Bob and Inga on their volksmarches, today. That tour took us all over the city in all sorts of little nooks and crannies and down places I'm sure tourists don't normally go. It was a fun way to introduce us to the city.  One other oddity we saw that the tour pointed out.  What do you think this lovely cast iron structure is?

Is it a telephone booth or a lovely bus stop?  Nope.  It's a urinal.  Apparently they used to have these all over the city in colonial times, but now there's just the one left.  

Well, I'm sure there was more to report, but I"m so exhausted I can't keep my eyes open. I'll beat this jet lag at some point, but not tonight.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Our Day of Airports

Balcony overlooking back yard area

Bathroom with gloriously hot water

Bedroom--Can you spy Daniel's head?

Desk, where our "wireless" internet plugs in.

Dining area


Laundry area--similar to those we used in Europe

Living room

Grandma's molasses--I can whip up a batch of Amber's cookies if I like!
And thus begins the blogging of more details that you could possibly want, but there’s currently nothing to do but watch informative bulletins/image control about LAX on monitors.  “Like a fine wine, we are getting better with age—please excuse the construction.”  Not clever enough to hold my attention.  Whatever happened to real TV in the airport?  I remember learning about both the death of JFK JR. and Michael Jackson at airports (Reagan and Sevilla, respectively).  So maybe you don’t want to spring for CNN, but what about say, Fox, so I can watch the So You Think You Can Dance results show.  Oh well, I guess I’ll catch up in Sydney with Daniel’s magic TV streaming software.
We went to bed late, assuming we wouldn’t sleep much, hoping we could sleep in since we didn’t have to leave for the airport until 12:45pm.  Sarah arrived to ferry us and our 200+ pounds of luggage to the airport.  No traffic or anything weird, so we arrived in plenty of time and she was kind enough to loiter to make sure the airport scales told us the same thing that the bathroom scale did—we were under 50 lbs a suitcase, but just by a few ounces.  We accomplished this partly by putting heavy things in our carry-ons—more about how that came back to bite us later.
Security not only did not care about my Cimzia, when I tried to mention it to a TSA agent, she cut me off and said, if we see something we want to know about, we’ll ask you.  Okay.  Daniel was worried about x-ray/slash aggressive padding down, but we just had to go through the metal detector.  I’m not sure why not everyone had to; I guess the extra security is random.  There was some grumbling about putting more than one thing in a bin amongst the agents and eye rolling, but no one actually mentioned to passengers that this was not what we were supposed to do.  It was still a fairly quick process since we were at the Southwest Terminal, so just Southwest passengers.  We bought severally overpriced wrap sandwiches, and just finished eating in time to board.  We left on time and arrived early.  We got three drinks, a 6 pack of Oreos, 2 bags free and they didn’t blink an eye at our overstuffed carry-ons.  Have I mentioned how much I love Southwest?  We’ve (fingers crossed and knock on wood) ever had one of our nightmare airport experiences with Southwest.  I am a little sad that they seem a bit more straight-laced than they used to be.  They didn’t even make the crack about, “If you are traveling with a child or someone acting like a child, secure your oxygen mask first.”
We arrived in Phoenix without incident.  I was a little worried because we were sitting next to a woman with a Pomeranian in a soft sided mesh carrier.  He yapped exactly twice in five hours, and that’s it.  She let him pop his head out of the bag a couple of times, but otherwise I guess he was asleep under the seat.  I totally do not see a cat ever agreeing to that without being heavily drugged. 
We had about an hour before our next flight.  We walked around a bit in hopes of finding an airport In-and-Out, but settled on Wendy’s.  We also signed up for a credit card.  Yes, only the Chases could manage to sign up for a credit card on a layover.  It was for a Southwest Rewards card and we got $1600 in free tickets (in theory, we’ll see) out of the deal and two free t-shirts.  I think Daniel was wavering with just the tickets, but that free t-shirt tipped him over the edge J  Just kidding, it was the tickets.  We still haven’t bought our return trip from LAX tickets yet, so hopefully they’ll be free.
A quick hour flight to LAX, another free drink and two packages of honey roasted peanuts later, we were done with our Southwest portion.  Again, on time.  Again, I ooze Southwest love.  My wonderful frugal husband immediately went out to the parking area to retrieve us two smartcartes for free.  No five dollars a carte for us.  I told him they should make you deposit a quarter like they do at Aldi and they might get people to return them to the place where you have to pay five dollars again.  He pointed out that a quarter would probably not be enough incentive for people other than us.  I guess that’s probably true.  We loaded up our carts and since it was a lovely 70 degrees outside, decided to just walk to the Quantas Terminal—the farthest terminal from the one we came in at.  It took us about a half an hour, especially since we can’t read maps and started in the wrong direction.  Then it turns out that Quantas leaves from a special secret terminal that’s a guy’s name, not a number, and involves going to a third level and a walkway.  We had to get directions twice.  Still, we had plenty of time and were enjoying the weather and exercise before a 16 hour flight.   
We arrived at the Quantas Counter and were greeted by a Frenchman.  That really should have been our cue to run.  Actually he was exceedingly polite for a French person, but you could still tell we were trying his patience greatly.  We were informed at this point that our 50 lb/23 kilo bags were fine, but did we know we could only have one carry-on and it couldn’t exceed 7 kilos?  Noooooo we did not.  I swear I read through all the Quantas baggage stuff, but somehow this did not come up.  My bag weighed 14 kilos and Daniel’s weighed like 12 apiece.  We are now both drenched in panic attack sweat and trying to figure out what to do.  Checking a bag meant another $180.  However, he was kind enough to point out that if we put 10 kilos worth in one of our bags, an overweight bag was just an extra $52.  We still had to go back and forth several times asking is this light enough now?  Does my Cimzia cooler count as a separate bag, can Daniel have two if they are both lighter?  So on and so on until I’m quite sure we had reached the very end of a Frenchman’s very limited amount of patience.  I kept thinking, “Where’s the Aussie agent telling us, ‘No worries, mate,’?”  Once we got even close to 7 kilos, he was like, that’s fine, just go. 
By this time we are really freaked out, especially since we still haven’t gone through security, and he was very skeptical about my Cimzia getting through.  I guess I might still have trouble in Sydney, but the LAX TSA agents so did not care.  Again, didn’t want to know about it, didn’t want to look at it.  They were even cracking jokes.  I asked if I needed to go through the metal detector or the x-ray, and one agent told me, “Aw, you can just crawl under that table there.”  The other went “beep, beep, beep,” laughing while I went through the metal detector.  I think they realized at some point that I was too keyed up to appreciate the humor, because they just waved me on. 
We sat at our Quantas gate for about an hour and half before we boarded one of those huge planes that has two levels.  I never got to see the second level.  We were in steerage.  Actually, it was nice.  It was a tad more leg room, slightly wider seats, and these sort of positional wings at our heads so you could lean to the left or the right while you slept.  We were the back row of the first section, right next to a bunch of bathrooms, so we didn’t have to climb over anyone, and we could have reclined all the time and not bothered anyone.  The crew was nice enough, and the food was pretty good for airline food.  Daniel and I were both enamored with the tea.  It was so good.  He kept asking how they did it.  I said it probably had something to do with staying with the commonwealth.  If we hadn’t thrown tea in Boston Harbor, we would probably know how to brew a decent pot, too. 
Other than a really awful nauseous migraine right when we boarded (which thankfully phenergan took care of), it was pretty uneventful.  I actually slept at least 9 hours of the 15.5 hour flight.  They served us dinner at what was around 2:30 am our time and then breakfast at about 4:00 am Sydney time.  Neither made sense when you thought about it, but they were the right times according to my stomach.  I only even got in one movie and one episode of Glee on our little personal video databases.  This one was especially cool because in addition to lots of movies, tv shows, music, and video games you find on those things, this one also had books (both read to you and you could read on your screen), and lots of good travel information.  I watched a tourism video on Sydney and Adelaide, as well as looked through an abbreviated version of a Lonely Planet guide book.  It was a good refresher course since hadn’t looked at a guide book in months. 
We arrived in Sydney and went through our first customs check fairly quickly.  I have another stamp in my passport!  We had to declare our medicine and that some of our shoes were dirty and that we had been to a rural area in the last 30 days.  That trip to Indiana actually slowed us down way more than my Cimzia.  As an isolated island where agriculture is important, they are much more militant about whether you are tracking in insects or plants than anything else it seemed.  They even have dogs trained to sniff out produce and dairy and stuff like that. 
After the first customs gate, we collected our bags and discovered smart cartes were free, so we didn’t even have to debate whether or not we should pay for them.  It was a good thing, because we had to wait over an hour to get through the long line at quarantine.  They confirmed I had medicine, but didn’t ask what kind and didn’t care to see Cimzia, prescriptions, or anything.  They just said, okay, and sent me on.  They did ask Daniel what kinds of medicine he had.  He rattled off three or four, and they said, “We don’t know what any of those are.”  He informed them they were antidepressants, and they waved him on, too.  The longest time we spent in quarantine was actually for the mud on our shoes.  They actually took them away and hosed them down thoroughly.  I guess I can’t complain about a free cleaning off of caked on Carolina clay.  However, if the little space heater doesn’t dry them soon, I may have to look like a German tourist with my socks with sandals.  They said because there was a chance that some of the dirt might have been picked up in Indiana that they had to hose it down, even though we assured them we didn’t actually come in contact with any livestock.
Dirt free, we exited to the main part of the terminal.  We looked for Liam, the son-in-law that might or might not be there to pick us up.  All told, it was now 2 hours past our arrival time, so it was not shocking that we didn’t find anyone holding a sign for us, if he had ever been there.  We felt like hobbits, so we had second breakfast at McDonalds.  We had the Mates Brekkie Box, which was two sausage mcmuffins, hashbrowns, and coffee for me and soda for him.  I realized I forgot to ask for cream or anything, but I guess there coffee automatically means latte, so I was fine with that.  Our friend Elizabeth told us the meat tastes a bit different here, and it did.  I don’t know if it was just beef sausage or the different kind of beef she was talking about (slightly more gamey—think venison).  Still it was plenty tasty.  We got in line for a taxi.  This felt very much like America as it was an immigrant driving a big old Ford.  He was nice, and charged us what my research said he would charge.  The very first restaurant we saw outside of the airport was a Krispy Kreme.  That was a shock, but certainly a pleasant one.  We don’t even have those in the Northern part of the States, so I was taken aback that it was here.  Lots of McDonalds, KFC, and all those other fast food chains we are familiar with, too.  It was rainy and a bit cold—probably 50s.  Sydney reminds me a lot of LA.  Large sprawling city with palm trees and Spanish style architecture—again, a surprise.  Cronulla is a southeast suburb, and looks pretty much like any suburb.  We found the apartment and got the keys from the letterbox without incident. 
I have showered and feel human again.  Daniel is snoring away in bed.  The apartment is simple and clean and will do us fine.  However, if there is a thermostat to turn on the heat, we can’t find it anywhere.  There’s plenty of blankets and a down comforter, so the bed is warm, and there’s a little space heater for the living room, but it’s a mite chilly.  I’m glad I packed my slippers at the last minute. 
I had fun rummaging around the kitchen.  When I left, I had oyster sauce and shrimp paste in my fridge, to name some of the weird ingredients I have on hand.  I was very surprised to find oyster sauce and shrimp paste in the fridge here, too!  We both apparently have a passion for Asian food.  In fact, most of her ingredients are for Asian or Indian food.  It’s a good thing I know what they are, because half of it isn’t labeled, and I’m not sure too many people would know what black mustard and fengueek seeds look like.  She’ll have a good time with my kitchen then, including my entire cabinet of Indian spices and 660 curries cookbook.  No cookbooks here, so we’ll see what I come up with.  She does have a couple Bill Bryson’s I haven’t read and CDs I actually like (Harry Connick, Jr. and Michael Buble).   There’s even Chris Issak and Roberta Flack for Daniel’s somewhat eclectic taste.   Oh, and I had to mention, Lindsey, that there is Vegamite and it smells disgusting.  I’ll try to be brave and try it at least once.  Amber, you’ll never believe it, so I took a picture, but she has Grandma’s molasses in her pantry.  I guess you could live here.
Well, this is already astronomically long.  A prize to you if you made it all the way through.  Daniel should be up soon, and then we can go grocery shopping.