Posts Tagged With: Sydney

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 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

100 days to go

100 days to go, 100 days to dream. Time is seeming to fly super fast now. I have dreams regularly about our trip. I have a few smaller trips between now and then which will really make the time go by fast.

What is left to do? Well, most everything is paid for already in regards to lodging. The only places that are not fully paid for yet are our place in Nelson and our place in Auckland. I plan to pay for Nelson on May 1 and Auckland on June 1.  We also have one hotel room that we have not paid for yet. Other than that, all hotels/apartments have been paid for so we won’t have that expense when we return. That is usually the biggest travel expense and it has been nice to spread it out over the last few months.

Airfare – fully paid for. We bought our tickets over to Australia/New Zealand using frequent flyer miles so those were relatively cheap. But I had to buy flights within Australia and New Zealand. I bought those in the fall once I knew our itinerary.

In regards to car rentals – one has been prepaid and two I was not able to prepay. And honestly I can’t find a better rate than what I booked so those probably won’t be prepaid before we go. I can deal with that though.

Activities are mostly all booked and paid for. This month I can book our Alcatraz tickets (yes we are spending a day in San Fran before we go) and our Sydney Observatory tickets. Our lodging in Sydney is right next to the Observatory so we will do that one night. I have two excursions booked but I cannot pay for them yet as they could be cancelled if the weather does not cooperate. I call those excursions the Pandy Excursions. Pandy was my great aunt that passed away in November but she taught me that you only live once and sometimes in life you need to splurge. So those two excursions, if they happen, I will dedicate to her since they will be our splurges. In fact, my motto on our trip will be “What would Pandy do?”.

I still can’t believe we have reached the 100 day milestone. It seemed so far away when I booked our first plane ticket at 330 days away. My brother gets married in 33 days and then the kids get out for the summer in 71 days. Those two countdowns will make the countdown to our trip fly.

Categories: Auckland, Nelson, San Francisco, Sydney | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Trip planning update

Well, it’s now November 20th…the trip is coming together.  I *almost* have the itinerary completed.  Just when I think it is final I think of something else.  I only have two areas to work out – the North Island stint between Wellington and Auckland (4 nights – I am looking for only two locations there) and if we fly into Invercargill or Dunedin before heading into Queenstown.

I may have reserved all of our apartment rentals at this point.  Right now for the North Island I have us booked in a hotel for three nights, but I may change that.  I’ve reserved our rental cars as well, and only have one more flight to book.  So I’m feeling like we are getting there.  I’m the type that likes to go on vacation with everything fully paid for except for meals, so for me I like having everything booked way in advanced and paid off before we go.

Places we have apartment rentals for are: Sydney, Port Douglas, Queenstown, Nelson and Auckland.  We are in hotels for Christchurch, Franz Josef, Punakaiki, and the North Island (possibly).  I have to admit that apartment rentals keep us sane when traveling as a family.  By the end of the day we all need our own space.  An apartment gives us the capability to spread out and relax on our own.  It also allows us to prepare our own meals in case we aren’t in the mood to eat out.  It also helps us pack light as we can use a washing machine in the apartment to wash our clothes every few days.

The kids are starting to become more interested in the trip as well.  The boy would like to go to Puzzling World in Wanaka, New Zealand.  The kids also want to go skiing when we are in Queenstown.  The boy has also requested a helicopter tour…we will possibly do that at the Franz Josef glacier but with it being winter there is a high probability that the ride might now happen.  And the girl may participate in the Sydney zoo’s Zookeeper for a Day program.  It looks pretty neat.  I have been telling the kids to expect clothes this Christmas since we’ll be doing some expensive outings on our big trip.  They were not too thrilled 🙂

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Australia booked

Well, the Australia portion of our trip is now fully booked, except for the flight from Australia to New Zealand….

I ended up doing a complete 360 on the Australia part. Originally I wanted to visit Tasmania and Melbourne but then my husband reminded me he needs to work while we are in Australia so flying between Sydney and Tasmania and Melbourne would be too much checking in and out. So now we are going to stay in Sydney a little longer and then visit Port Douglas, based on the advice of my brother and people on a TripAdvisor forum.

Port Douglas is about an hour north of Cairns. Cairns is one of the gateway cities to the Great Barrier Reef. However, there is not an actual beach there. Port Douglas on the other hand has a four mile beach and is also close to the Daintree Rainforest, Mossman gorge, and a river where crocodiles live.

So now the plan for Port Douglas is to go zip-lining above the rain forest, enjoy the beach and try to relax for a few days before we head to New Zealand. I plan to take the kids to the Great Barrier Reef at least once but I hope we can go twice. It will depend if they like it or not.

I have the lodging booked for both cities as well.  We are staying in a townhouse very close to Circular Quay in Sydney. That is one of the central places for public transportation. And in Port Douglas we are staying in a resort where we will be very close to the beach and there are huge salt water pools that the kids will love swimming in.

Now – I just need to get my husband to start working on New Zealand, otherwise I am going to plan everything there. I keep asking him for help but so far I have gotten no feedback from him except for Australia.

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