Monthly Archives: July 2017

Day 10: Daintree River and Cape Tribulation

This morning we continued to explore the Northeast coast of Australia. Our morning started with a 45 minute drive to the Daintree River. There we had a reservation for a 9:30 river cruise where we would look for crocodiles and other wildlife. I had booked this with Solar Whisper as that company had smaller boats and also had great reviews on TripAdvisor. Their website advised better viewings closer to low tide and hence we did a 9:30 tour.
I was not sure if we would see any crocodiles. I would have been happy to have just seen one. We saw several of various sizes. The first one we saw was a two year old crocodile. Next we saw a one year old crocodile. After that we saw a crocodile named "Eric" or "Erica" as they are not sure if it is a boy or a girl. They start naming the crocodiles when they reach about age six as before that age crocodiles are seen as prey, even to other crocodiles. We then saw the crocodile that dominates the area – Scarface. This was a huge crocodile. Crocodiles are territorial and one male usually dominates an area and forces other crocodiles out. Following our Scarface encounter we ended up seeing at least three more crocodiles. It was pretty exciting.


We also saw some beautiful birds, crabs, and tree frogs. The birds were various colors – some of them were Kingfishers, Yellow Bellied Sunbirds, Great Egrets, and several Herons.  The birds and frogs were just as exciting as the crocodiles.
After the crocodile cruise we needed to cross the Daintree river. We had to take a very small auto ferry across the river. Fortunately we did not have to wait long for the ferry. It is a quick five minute ride and it just continues to go back-and-forth across the river. This ferry crossing is the only way to get up to the Cape Tribulation area so it plays an important role in the local area.


We proceeded to head towards our next destination. On our way there we briefly discussed cassowaries, large birds that are quite dangerous to humans. The kids asked if we would see one and I replied most likely we would not. Less than five minutes after saying this we spotted a cassowary crossing the road. I was able to snap a couple of pictures though they are not the best. The people in the cars in front of us though got out of their vehicles to take pictures. People are generally stupid. These birds can kill you with their claws and they can move quickly.  Hence we stayed in our car for photos.


We continued on our journey. We eventually stopped at a little rainforest boardwalk that ended on a beach. While walking on the Dubuji boardwalk we saw a monitor lizard. It was pretty cool to see and very large.  Once we reached the beach we saw several pieces of coral in the sand.

Following the boardwalk/beach bushwalk (as they call it here) we proceeded to Jungle Surfing.  This is a company that takes you above the rainforest canopy and you zip-line on top of it and within it.  The first three jumps you do tandem with a partner, and the last three jumps are by yourself.  Everyone enjoyed it.  There was also one jump where they encouraged you to go upside down.

Zip-lining ended around 4:30 and we promptly made our way back to our lodging before dark.  I ended up making a taco dinner and then we all headed to bed.

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Categories: Cape Tribulation, Daintree River | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Day 9: Cairns

We departed Sydney this morning at 8:50 AM on a Virgin Australia flight. I find it interesting to note the differences between airlines. On Virgin they had people board the plane from both the front and the back. The flight safety announcements were recorded but the flight attendants seemed to do the motions in sync. I often wonder how the things airlines do impact the amount of time it takes to load a plane, and which airline has found the most efficient method. I also wonder what the impact would be if people were charged for carryons versus checked luggage, but then I wonder what the impact would be to the ground crew with the increased checked luggage…I think about these things way too much.

We arrived in Cairns around noon. Right away I could tell there are many Asian tourists here. I went to use the toilet and there was a huge sign telling women to sit and not squat….

We then went to pick up our rental and it was a comedy of errors. First – I had received an email from Hertz telling me I had to check in at the desk. We waited for about 15 minutes to get to the front of the line and then the woman tells me since I am Gold I can just go to the booth by the rentals. So we then trek over there. Get there and the woman tells us our car is in stall 230. It was a massive van. We then realized that the keys we had did not open that car….and realized the wrong car was in the stall. The woman inside told us to just go hunting for the car we were supposed to have. We finally found it and then discovered the car was missing a floor board on top of the spare tire. So then we had to get another car….car number three turned out to work for us and then we were off.

We headed to the Cairns Esplanade car park. We parked the car there and then walked to a chain called Grill'd because I read that they had gluten free rolls there for burgers. As we walked there we had to pass the massive pool and Rachel wanted to swim in it immediately and did not want to eat lunch. Anyway, we ate lunch and my burger was delicious. Too bad that chain is not in the US. I cannot remember the last time I was able to order a burger and bun in the US.

Next we headed back to the gigantic pool to go for a swim. Initially Jonas did not want to go in but then he changed his mind. The pool was awesome but a little cold. It was the largest pool I have ever swum in. Parts of the pool had a sandy bottom. It was like swimming in the ocean.

We were not in Cairns very long but my quick observation was that I was thankful we were just stopping through here and not staying here. There is no beach in Cairns. Half the fun of being on the coast of Australia is to be able to walk along the beach and dig in the sand. The area we were in also seemed very touristy- restaurant after restaurant, and there were a lot of people around. I also observed many camper vans and several cars that appeared to have extra gas cans with them. My guess is that the cars with extra gas have been traveling in some of the more remote areas of Australia.

We left Cairns around 3:30 and headed to Port Douglas where we were staying. My brother and Rachel's teacher had both recommended Port Douglas and they also both recommended staying at the same place. TripAdvisor people also suggested Port Douglas over Cairns as well.

The drive to Port Douglas was beautiful. Unfortunately I did not take a lot of pictures today….it reminded me a little bit of Hawaii with the mountains on the left and the ocean on the right.

We made it to Port Douglas an hour later. We proceeded to our rental and Jonas was the first one inside. The look on his face was priceless. This rental was my splurge rental. The unit we are renting is two bedrooms, two baths and two floors. It has three different outside areas. You cannot see the ocean from the rental but it is right beyond the vegetation and you can hear it from the unit. It is in a lovey area where you can walk around and feel secluded.

I left the family at the unit and headed to the grocery store for food. David took the kids to the beach while I was gone. There are two things one needs to be careful about in this part Australia – crocodiles and man-o-wars. There can be crocodiles in the ocean and dusk is one of the times they are most active…so they needed to be on the lookout for these while they played.

I came back from the store and made dinner. We did not end up eating until 8 and by this time the kids were super tired as we had to wake up early to catch our flight. We ate dinner and then told the kids to go to bed.

So not the most exciting day but tomorrow should be more adventurous!

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Day 8: Sydney (Taronga Zoo)

Today was a much more leisurely day than our other days have been.  We woke up “late” and took a 9:50 ferry to the Taronga Zoo.  We ended up staying there until 3 PM and then decided to head back to the rental to relax.  Well, that relaxing turned into just chilling at the place until it was time for bed, though at one point David took Jonas out for dinner while Rachel and I had dinner here.  It was kind of nice though as tonight was our last night in Sydney and it gave me a chance to pack things up, do laundry, and tidy up a bit.

Jonas – always observing when on public transportation

Photographing the photographer taking a picture of the bridge

The Taronga Zoo was AMAZING.  I have to say this was the best zoo I have ever been to.  I’ve been to the Washington DC Smithsonian Zoo, the San Diego Zoo, and the Tokyo Zoo (and other much smaller zoos).  There were several things I liked about the Taronga Zoo.  First, the way the exhibits blended with the scenery.  There were also several ways one could view the wildlife – for example the Red Panda.  We were able to observe this from above, from below, and even eye level as they have several different vantage points.  Second – the way people were able to interact with the animals.  There were several walk through exhibits.  Some of these included walking among kangaroos and emus.  These animals were not caged, but they did not come near the humans.  Third, I really enjoyed the animals.  I was slightly concerned the animals in the zoo would not have much of an Australian focus, but the majority of the animals show-cased were from Australia.  For those of you in the US you will be happy to know that visitors are learning about the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake and Deer.  We chose to skip the deer exhibit – we see enough in our daily lives.  And finally, the Taronga Zoo has the best zoo views in the world!

One of the many views from the zoo

Rachel probably could have spent the whole day here, but eventually we reached a point of where we were all just too tired.  There were all sorts of native Australian birds wandering around the zoo which made lunch an unpleasant experience as Rachel was terrified of these birds.  They are your Australian version of sea gulls.  There were large birds wondering the food court area of the zoo.  There were large birds on the outside as well.  We originally decided to eat outside but Rachel could not relax due to the birds so I took her inside.  I thought the birds would not be as disturbing there…I was wrong on that point.  As we were trying to eat a large bird hopped onto our table and I was wondering if it was socially acceptable to be shooing large birds away….

Australian “sea gull”

 

My favorite animals to observe were….anything Australian.  I did particularly enjoy the Tasmanian Devil display.  They were actually bigger than I expected.  I also enjoyed watching the kangaroos. They all seemed so relaxed and they seemed to be observing the people.

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devil

For Christmas, Rachel wanted a camera…she instead received an instax camera.  While it doesn’t take the best pictures, it does allow Rachel to take a picture and create an instant memory for us…because let’s face it – do I have time to get pictures developed?  Before our trip I bought several packs of film for her and two miniature photo albums for her to store the pictures in.  She took several pictures today of animals that interested her.  Some pictures came out better than others.  But her pictures are a great way to see our trip through her eyes and what she wants to photograph.  She took pictures of the Tasmanian Devil, Zebra, Hippo, Goat, Crocodile, Birds, and the Kimono Dragon.  Her Zebra photo is my favorite of the day.  She’s also taken pictures of the Opera House, Sydney Harbour bridge, and Blue Mountains.  And let’s not forget about her pictures of the suspension bridge at Parsley Bay.

Photograph by Rachel

So far I am loving this vacation.  My husband and I work hard during the year that it can be difficult for us to have a lot of time together as a family.  The kids are *mostly* getting along because they have no choice.  We rarely turn on televisions when we travel (though both kids have some sort of i-device so they can still do things on there…).  We are spending time together as a family and enjoying that time.  The kids have not complained about being bored yet.

I am very sad that today was our last day in Sydney.  I never dreamed that I would enjoy this city so much.  I am so grateful we decided to add it to our itinerary.   I think one could easily spend a month here and have plenty to do.  I felt completely safe walking around.  The public transportation was easy and clean.  The people speak my language.  The city is beautiful, the people are nice, the location is magnificent.  There is minimal traffic in the central city.  Even though it is winter here, we have had wonderful weather.  I think due to these facts I may have to bump Sydney over Paris in my list of favorite cities….it was well worth the fifteen hour plane ride to reach her.

*Side note:  Guess what Rachel and I found one minute after it closed?  A gluten-free bakery….sigh…that brought tears to someone.  I already know though where we are having lunch tomorrow, hopefully they have awesome gluten free buns….I guess if we had not stopped at McDonald’s for more gluten free french fries than we might have stumbled upon the bakery before it closed…

Native Australian birds found through out the zoo

Goat.  He wanted his picture taken.

Freshwater crocodile

Zebras

Cutest Koala there ever was

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Day 7: Blue Mountains

This morning the kids and I caught an 8:18 train to the Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountains are about 50 km to the west of Sydney. The train took roughly two hours to get to the Blue Mountains. We rode the train to Katoomba. I love riding trains as you really get to look at the scenery.

While on the train I started researching transportation to Scenic World from the train station. Scenic World's website mentioned two different bus companies that one could take from the station. I went to both of these companies websites and discovered both of them were going to be over $44 AUD for myself and $22 for each of the kids. It seemed a bit high for us who just wanted to go to one site. These buses were more like hop-on, hop-off buses. But I knew that we weren't going to be doing any of that. I then noticed that Scenic World was not too far from the train station. It was 1.5 miles away. So my thoughts were we could walk there. Finally, I noticed the public bus went there. It was actually super convenient. The bus stop was right across the street from the station and we arrived at Scenic World eleven minutes later.


Scenic World is a tourist attraction at the top of the Blue Mountains. They have a cable car, skyway, and incline train. You can take those to various hikes. We took the incline train down to the valley. The incline train is supposedly the steepest one in the world. Without moving your seat it is at a 54 degree angle. Moving your seat you can make it a 64 degree angle. So of course we chose that option.


In the valley there are boardwalks everywhere. We had a leisurely stroll on the boardwalk and tried to walk quietly so we could try to observe the wildlife. We saw one large bird, but besides that we just saw smaller birds. It was interesting to see the differences between their Mountains and ours. The Blue Mountains are comprised mostly of eucalyptus type of trees.

We took one of the longer walks in the valley floor. Then we took the cable car back up to the top. The kids decided they wanted to ride the incline train again so we rode it back down and then rode it back up again. After that we rode on the skyway and then we caught the bus back to the train station.  We ended up catching the 2:14 train back to Sydney.

I'm not sure if it was worth the experience in the end.  The kids enjoyed it, but it was four hours on trains to get out to the Blue Mountains and a whole day.  We could have spent the extra time exploring Sydney.  However, we did get to ride on the world's "steepest" incline train.  We did get to experience some of Australia outside of the city of Sydney. We were able to make comparisons of their mountains compared to our local mountains.  And the kids seemed to have fun.  I think it was one of those things that if I did not do, I would have regretted it…but having done it now, it was not one of those things that I needed to have done. Another thing we got to see which I neglected to mention above was the Three Sisters rock formations. I do love to look at rock formations (seriously).

We got back to our rental a little after 4:30 PM. We took a short break to freshen up, and then headed to an Italian restaurant on the water, due to the fact that they had a gluten free dinner.  We finally had a dinner out!  We enjoyed our dinner, then came back to our rental for about fifteen minutes before we headed to the Sydney Observatory for our 8:15 PM night show.  Rachel lasted about half an hour for this, and then I needed to bring her back to our rental. Fortunately, our rental was right next door to the Observatory so it was not that long of a walk. My husband reported to me that Jonas fell asleep during the planetarium part of the tour but perked up after that to view Saturn up close.

The *plan* for tomorrow is to sleep in, and then go to the Taronga Zoo, and then figure out what we want to do after that.  Tomorrow is our last full day in Sydney.  I am really going to miss Sydney.  It is now up there with my other favorite great cities of the world – San Francisco, Paris, and Berlin.  I honestly can't figure out which one I would put as number one and which one I would put at number four. The thing I love about Sydney is that I still don't see a lot of traffic for a city so large, and I love the harbour that I see everywhere I look.  I've also been loving the transportation options.

Categories: Blue Moutains | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Day 6: Sydney

We seem to be turning a corner on jet lag.  I won't say we have passed that corner yet, but we are getting there.  Last night I was so tired I could barely finish my blog post and I slept for 10.5 hours straight.  Both kids went to bed "early" and woke up at a normal time.  As I type this though at 9:20 Australian time Jonas had already fallen asleep around 8 PM while Rachel was still up.

Today we woke up and took a ferry from Circular Quay to Manly beach.  We did not have a lot of time to spend there as we had tickets for a performance at the Opera House.  The kids declared that we would have to come back to Manly beach to spend more time there.  I told them we could possibly do it on Friday, but I want to maybe visit Bondi beach and then take a walk along the water to Coogee beach.  We'll see though what happens on that day.

We spent about an hour and a half at Manly beach and then we caught a ferry back to Circular Quay.  There David met up with us and then we split up with the kids for some food.  He took Jonas to get Fish and Chips, while Rachel and I enjoyed a large McDonald's french fry.  That is a real treat for us as we cannot eat McDonald's fries in the states due to allergens.

After our "lunch" we proceeded to the Opera House for a performance by the Bangarra dance group.  Rachel was the one who originally found this performance.  The performance was called Bennelong, and it was about a well known aboriginal who was one of the first Australian people's to have contact with the British.  We actually saw the show with school groups as originally the show was set to end July 22, but it looks like since we initially looked into it they extended their performances by a week.  The show was interesting and about an hour and fifteen minutes.  I think I would have enjoyed it more had I still not been recovering from jet lag, as the dark lights and the sitting just made me want to nap.

Following the performance, we could have taken a tour of the Opera House with the school groups, but instead we decided to go visit Parsley Bay Reserve to see a suspension bridge.  To get there we took the Watson Bay ferry, then walked about half a mile to Parsley Bay Reserve.  I have to say, this was well worth the visit.  It is a nice little reserve.  The walks made me truly feel like I was in Australia.  The bridge was very scenic, and the water around it was lovely.  It is the type of place you could have easily spent all day there and just enjoyed relaxing there.

When we decided to go there, our only problem was that the ferry was not running past 4:45.  I determined that we could either take a taxi back to our lodging, or we could figure out public transportation.  We opted for the later.  There was a bus stop a half a mile from the park and the bus that went there took a route that stopped a few blocks away from our lodging.  I am extremely pleased with our decision to take the bus.  I love riding public transportation whenever possible in a new city.  I love the people watching and I love the scenery.

Thus – we took the bus back to near our lodging.  Once we got off the bus Rachel was ready to go back to the rental whereas Jonas was getting hungry.  I suggested he come with me to the grocery store which was actually underground in the metro station.  So he came with me while Rachel returned to the rental.

Once again – we did not eat out 🙂  We had dinner back at our rental.  We do not plan on eating in every night, but for now that is what works for us.  The kids are tired, the parents are tired, and we don't want to deal with meltdowns at restaurants (from either the kids or the parents).  We've been out exploring all day, we are still fighting jet lag, we just want to come back and relax.  And even though I'm on vacation as well, preparing meals and washing dishes is never so bad on vacation as it is during daily life.  This is also one of the ways of which we save money when on trips – eating meals in the rental is much cheaper than going out to eat each night….

Now that I've been in Sydney for a few days, here are my observations.

  • People:  The people of Sydney remind me of the people where I am from – very diverse.  There are ALL nationalities represented here and it is very diverse. I am sure other parts of Australia are not like this, but ANYONE would fit into Sydney.
  • Harbor:  Wow – it is awesome.  I see why people settled here. Every way you go there seems to be another awesome harbor or water view.
  • Geography:  I have actually been surprised with the geography of Sydney.  I was expecting the harbor, but then I was guessing relatively flat land.  It is the complete opposite.  It is similar to San Francisco but the hills are not so steep.  Buildings and streets seem to be cut into rocks.  As you go through out the city you see various types of rocks.
  • Transportation: That is GREAT around here.  You can take a ferry to all the major places, and then transfer on a bus or subway.  There is a daily cap of $15.40 for adults and $7.70 for kids.  So once you exceed that amount in a day your transportation is free for the rest of the day.  By the time we took the bus back to our lodging, Jonas, Rachel, and I all had free transportation…so the ride back only cost us around $3.50 for my husband.  I've found the ferries, metro, and bus to all be clean and pleasant experiences.
  • Walk on the Left: One of the hardest things to remember because I just want to walk on the right!
  • Weather:  So far we have been blessed.  The weather each day has been wonderful.  I would say highs in the 70-75 degree range, and plenty of sunshine.  Tomorrow will be colder, but seeing as it is winter here I am thankful for the weather we have had so far.
  • City Traffic: Sydney is the largest city in Australia with a population of over 5 million, but the traffic situation in the downtown area seems nothing like it does in big cities like Chicago, New York, and San Francisco. Perhaps it is due to the many transportation options available?  Perhaps it is due to the many high rise buildings so people can live where they work?

Overall, I LOVE Sydney.  I love looking at the architecture, the flora, and the fauna.  It does remind me of San Francisco except smaller hills.  I am so glad that we made the decision to come visit here and I can see why many people visit.  Sydney is a place I feel we could stay for a month and still not come close to seeing everything we wanted to see.

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Day 5: Sydney

This was certainly an interesting day….Jonas went to bed super early last night and ended up waking at 1 AM.  Rachel woke at 4 AM.  I woke at 6:30 AM.  Due to the time the kids woke I was worried how our day would go. The kids were real troopers.  They made it to after dinner before going to bed tonight.  Hopefully jet lag will not be as bad for them today as it was yesterday.

Today we ended up walking to the Sydney Sea Life Aquarium.  It was pretty cool.  The major exhibits involved walking through large tunnels to see sharks and other types of fish.  They also had a tiny penguin boat ride.

Following the Aquarium wondered around Darling Harbour. The kids ended up getting frozen cokes and sprites. They charge a whole lot more for those here then they do in the US. We walked on some walkways and enjoyed the beautiful weather.

Next we headed back to the townhouse for lunch.  Then after lunch we headed to the Sydney bridge walk.  We walked to the top of the Sydney harbor bridge, it was pretty cool. They only take 14 people up in a group. Each person has to wear a bridge suit and everything that you take up there is attached to the suit. No cameras are allowed.

We stopped for ice cream on the way back to our rental. Then once we got back I started making dinner and asked my husband to do his best to keep the kids awake while I did that. Rachel fell asleep but she woke for dinner. We finally had the dinner I was going to make Monday night. Following dinner the kids immediately went to bed.

I am hoping the kids and I wake up pretty early tomorrow as if we do we are going to take a ferry to one of the beaches.  If not, we'll come up with something else to do.

Australian jerky anyone?

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Day 4: Sydney

Our flight landed right on time.  There was some confusion as we went through immigration.  We could have gone through the expedited line but the guy told us the electronic passport readers was a faster line.  We waited in that and then someone asked us how old Rachel was and then told us based on her age we had to go through manual processing.  So at that time we went back to the expedited line and continued on our way.

Passing through customs I declared that I had food on me and that we had been swimming in fresh water lakes.  Both of those seemed to be no big deal and nothing was confiscated.

Next up on the agenda was getting a sim card  for my phone.  I researched international costs for my phone using Verizon while we were gone and it was going to be $10 USD per day for very limited data.  Or, I could pay $25 AUD (the equivalent of around $20 USD) and have 6 gb of data and unlimited text and calls.  Seemed like a no-brainer to me.  The Vodafone booth was right as you exited customs.

After getting the sim card we got cash from an ATM and then waited in the taxi queue to catch a cab to our lodging.  You could take the train from the airport, but the cost of that is roughly the cost of a cab. Plus we would have had to walk half a mile from the train station with our luggage….so the cab seemed like a no brainer.

We arrived at our rental around 9 AM. We are staying on Agar Steps, right next to the Sydney Observatory.  We have a two bedroom townhouse which makes it really nice to be able to spread out.  There is also an outdoor space and a park next door. The best two things about rentals versus hotels are kitchens and laundry!

The parents decided to nap, where as the kids decided they did not need to.  Now, we all did get sleep on the plane, but when I was in the cab I realized I was dozing off.  I set an alarm so I wouldn't sleep past 11:45 AM, but then I changed that to 12:15 PM 🙂  We finally were ready to set off around 2 PM.  First order of business was to find somewhere to eat.

I had a printout that had several gluten friendly restaurants.  We decided to try Mexican and eat at a place called Mad Mex.  The first location on my map apparently does not exist there anymore (or we could not find it).  Luckily there was another location a ten minute walk away so we headed there.  Both Rachel and I ordered tacos on corn shells.  After I had eaten my first taco my husband pointed out to me that they looked like they were flour tacos and not corn.  I went back to the restaurant and asked them to double check and at that point the woman realized that they were in fact flour tacos.  Apparently someone had put the flour tacos where the corn ones normally were.  This is my first "known" about exposure to gluten in over a year so I am curious as to what the effects will be…Rachel only had two bites of her taco before we realized, where as I had a full one.  I thought the tacos tasted really good.

After we had our late lunch Jonas was complaining about not feeling well and you could tell the kids were tired.  We decided to split up.  I took Rachel and we ended up riding a ferry round trip, then we took a metro train and got groceries.  

The first place we went to they had no gluten free substitutes so we walked a couple of blocks to another grocery store, which later we realized was actually in the same building as the original grocery store.  When you eat gluten free and you go into a new grocery store, or a store in a different country you spend a lot of time walking the aisles and looking at products that are gluten free.  We found some GF cookies, GF pizza base, and GF bread.

On our way home from the grocery store I passed a wine shop a block from our townhouse.  I dropped the groceries off and then I headed back to the wine shop.  

I asked the shopkeeper to recommend a good Australian Chardonnay.  For kicks I asked him if he had heard about Yellow Tale wine, which is supposedly Australian.  He had not.  I also noticed the price his shop was selling La Crema for and it made me chuckle.  It is a moderately priced wine in the US (between $12 and $18 I think), but in his shop it was $54 AUD.  I need to go back to his shop and see if he sells Cakebread – I'm sure he doesn't but it is a US wine that he really needs to try.

After my visit to the shop I was hoping to make dinner at our rental.  For dinner I had planned on making spaghetti and corn on the cob, per Rachel's request.  However while I was typing this post Rachel ended up putting herself to bed, and Jonas was already sleeping, so it will be interesting to see what happens tonight.  I am curious how jet lag will affect all of us this week. So, instead of cooking dinner tonight I will be enjoying Hoddles Creek Chardonnay and Cheerios. I guess tomorrow we will have the dinner I had planned on making tonight.

Categories: Sydney | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Day 3: Somewhere over the Pacific

We arrived at the airport about an hour later than we had planned to arrive. There was a minor complication that actually had me stressing for ten minutes. When I applied for our Australian visas I accidentally put my dad's birthday as my son's birthday. I realized that right after I did it and I had gone to the Australian website to see what I needed to do to fix it. The FAQ said to just apply again. So I did…and that was the end of that.

Well, when I went to check in my son they said there was a problem as he had two visas in his profile and as a result the agent could not check him in. She was going to need to place a call to get the visa removed. I was concerned because I was not sure how long it would take to fix…and I was worried he would not be considered checked in and his seat would be given to someone else.

The agent came back ten minutes later and all was well. We then proceeded through security and then headed to the lounge for twenty minutes. The lounge was ok – not as nice as the Delta lounge at JFK. The bathroom was really small – there were only two stalls. And I was not impressed with the food options.

We arrived at our gate right as they were starting to board. We waited in line and took our seats. Rachel and I were in the first row and the men were right behind us. The first thing the flight attended did was confirm that Rachel and I had the gluten free meals.

We got settled in our seats and then we enjoyed a pre-departure beverage. I had champagne, Rachel had a Coke. Take off then occurred around 10:50 pm and we settled in for a fifteen hour flight!

The goal for me on this flight was to stay up as late as I could before falling asleep. This was because we were landing in Sydney around 6:50 AM and I wanted to wake up as close to that time as possible.
By now you may realize that we flew business class to Australia….our four business class tickets cost us roughy $350 for ALL FOUR tickets. We were able to do this as we have saved our miles for years. We also took advantage of generous credit card sign up offers. We knew that if we were ever going to fly somewhere business class that it would be to Australia…that is one of the longest flights you can take and there are not a lot of options on getting there.

Two hours after taking off we received drinks and an appetizer. At first I was slightly excited as the appetizer for Rachel and I had rolls on it. I quickly asked if they were gluten free and then our appetizer was quickly wisked back away. We then received another appetizer….Rachel was being a real trooper…she was extremely tired and was upset when she saw other people eating bread. She really misses good bread…


I asked the flight attendant if Rachel could get her meal a little early since she was starving, and they were fine with that. I was so excited when that meal came out and it was plain chicken, rice, and broccoli. Three things which I knew she would eat.

After dinner the rolled out the ice cream cart. By this time it was 1:30 AM Pacific time. I had vanilla ice cream with hot fudge sauce while Rachel had vanilla ice cream with whip cream.

Following dinner and dessert I changed into the pajamas. As I walked through the cabin I observed many people were already asleep….yet my kids were going strong. By this time we still had eleven hours plus left of the flight. I changed my seat into a bed and actually managed to sleep for at least seven, possibly eight hours. When I finally got up there was still three hours remaining of flight time.

I drifted in and out of sleep for the next hour and a half. When there was 1.5 hours left of the flight they started waking passengers up for arrival. They asked me if Rachel and I wanted a beverage and we both had a Coke. Less than than two minutes after they handed us the cokes Rachel managed to spill hers all over my seat and my pants. I packed extra shirts for all of us but neglected to pack extra pants…since I figured we were more likely to spill on our shirts than pants….

Breakfast was served and our gluten free meal was actually sufficient enough for Rachel and I. She had some fruit, I ended up eating potatoes and an omelette.

After breakfast service it was time to start cleaning up. I put my contacts in and brushed my teeth. I cannot believe how fast the flight seemed to go by. I didn't even finish the only movie I started….

I am not sure what to expect with customs. I plan to declare everything. I have a mini cooler that contains food and while I think I can bring it all in to Australia I would rather declare it and have them check it than face a fine. Additionally the kids and I have been in lakes in the past week, so our shoes and clothing may need to undergo some scrutiny.

Once we exit customs we have a two things we need to take care of before we leave the airport. We need to obtain Australian dollars from an ATM and I need to get a SIM card for my personal phone. I have a work phone that is enabled for international service but I really only hope to use that when I am on wifi only, and it costs $10 a day for that. If this was just a one week trip I would be fine with that but since we will be gone a while I would prefer to spend $20 AUD for a lot more data.

I have to say this flight flew by. This was my first experience in business class and it was wonderful. Normally when I fly overseas I don't feel rested and feel like I need a nap immediately. However right now I feel like I could go siteseeing. I think we will check into our lodging, change our clothes, and go explore….and then probably come back in the afternoon for an hour nap or two. I wonder how jet lag will be for us over the course of the next week.

Categories: Sydney | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Day 2: San Francisco

We started our day by sleeping in. My husband took Jonas to get breakfast and I took Rachel to get breakfast. Her breakfast was ice cream…which she had desperately wanted the night before but I had said no but promised her she could have some the next day…

We then went and picked up our rental car which was a few blocks away from our hotel. While I waited for David to bring the car to the hotel I noticed my work cell phone was not in my bag. I temporarily panicked for ten minutes but eventually found it back in our hotel room.

Our first stop of the day was a walk on the Golden Gate Bridge. It took us a while to find parking but eventually we found a spot. We walked out to the first tower. While looking down at the water we spotted a whale. That was pretty cool and it was one thing Rachel really wanted to see on our trip so we can cross that off our list of things to look for.


We then left the bridge and headed to the Marin Headlands park. David and I were married here at the Rathbone battery. Jonas exclaimed that the site was pretty cool, so I am glad he was impressed with the location.

We left the battery and then hiked to the Point Bonita lighthouse. This is the location we had wanted to get married at but due to staffing cuts at the park it was not able to happen. There is a short hike to a suspension bridge that goes over to a lighthouse. The hike was nice and Rachel enjoyed watching birds from the lighthouse.

After the lighthouse hike we headed to Muir Woods. We caught a bus at Pohono St. in Saulsalito. The bus took about 35 minutes to get to the park. It takes 35 minutes to get to the park as the road is very windy. We did a quick hike to see the giant redwoods and got back in line at 5 to catch our return bus. We ended up having to wait until 5:24 for our bus back, which was not as bad of a wait as I thought it would be. We had debated just driving to the park but I am glad we did not do that. The park definitely has limited parking and the bus, despite its lines, was the best option. The other great thing about the bus was the kids had no electronics so they were actually looking out the window.

We got back to the car around six and then decided we would make a quick stop at Pier 39 to see the sea lions, as Rachel really loves animals. This turned out to be a mistake. It took us forever to get there and then to the airport….we finally got to the checkin at 8:50…about an hour later than we originally planned to arrive.

Categories: San Francisco | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Day 1: San Francisco 

The kids and I left Minnesota to head to San Francisco today. We had to connect in Denver and actually had to run to catch our connecting flight. We were the second to last people on the flight. Initially we were not sitting together but a flight attendant was able to have someone move seats so Rachel could sit with me.


We arrived at SFO on time. Unfortunately we had to wait a while for our bags. While we were waiting I realized that the information desk could load Clipper cards. So while we waiting for our bags I loaded our Clipper cards with some money. This turned out to be a smart move as by the time we got to the BART station there was a huge line of people waiting to buy transit tickets. My kids LOVE riding public transit. My husband currently has a list of all the public transit systems the kids have ridden across the world, so we will have to add the BART to this list.


We took the BART to the Montgomery Street station which was right outside of our hotel, the Palace Hotel. My husband and I got married outside of San Francisco and this was the hotel we stayed at. Unfortunately when we got married there was a city wide hotel workers strike and there were picketers outside the hotel. Our stay this time seems as it will be much nicer  – no picketers, eighth floor, and view over New Montgomery street.


After we checked in we dropped off our bags and then took the F line streetcar to the Bay Street station. There we caught a 5:55pm night tour to Alcatraz. It was very cold on the island. We enjoyed the tour and then took the ferry back to San Francisco at 8:40. When we got back to the city we were very lucky as our F line street car had just arrived at the station.



We then headed back towards the hotel….but since none of us had really had a proper meal since this morning we took the street car one stop farther so we could eat at California Pizza Kitchen. By this time we were starving!


After dinner we headed back to the hotel and waited for my husband. Fortunately his flight landed 40 minutes early. We had not seen him since Saturday night so we were all anxious to be reunited. 

Tomorrow morning we are all sleeping in and will then site see around San Francisco.

Categories: San Francisco | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

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