A Travellerspoint blog

November 2008

Thanksgiving in Australia

rain 72 °F

I'm not sure if you've seen the pictures by now, but we did a full Thanksgiving meal here in Sydney. We invited some of our local friends to come and dine (and some actually showed up) and experience some real American culture. Dawn made an unbelievable turkey. Green bean casserole (with from scratch fried onions), mashed potatoes, and apple pie were all served. Dawn did a fabulous job. The highlight of the entire meal were the BISCUITS! Never had a biscuit tasted so good.

The meal took longer than expected to make, but I think that was primarily because we had to use the smallest oven known to mankind. It is a gas oven (which you have to reach to the back of the oven to light, I now no longer have any arm hair) from an era before electricity. It also didn't help that our kitchen is the size of a small bathroom. When our guests arrived, they were immediately put to work to make the gravy and finish mashing the potatoes. The meal was worth the effort.

Dawn went through a minor hassle to get a turkey. The grocery stores don't stock up on turkeys this time of year in Australia. The butcher was flabbergasted when Dawn asked for a turkey exclaiming "You're the 10th person today, what is going on!?!" After hearing the explanation about American Thanksgiving, the butcher offered to have a fresh one ready on the morning of Thanksgiving but Dawn wimped out and got a frozen turkey instead.

There were four of us total on Thursday evening to celebrate Thanksgiving, and we did all the traditional activities. Everyone went around and said what they were thankful (thanks to my sister's years of insistence I can't get through a Thanksgiving dinner without this tradition), the wishbone was pulled, and we realized we had cooked enough food to feed three times as many present. I ate turkey biscuits for the next two days :).

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News of my biscuits and Dawn's pie traveled fast and we were quickly invited to another Thanksgiving dinner Friday night. This time it was strictly an American affair (7 of us total). The men talked football (American, not Aussie rules) and even ventured into some fantasy football discussions. There were 4 attendees from South Carolina, 2 from North Carolina, and 1 from Alabama. Dinner was held on top of a roof near the Harbor Bridge, so the view was spectacular (you could see the Sydney tower, the opera house, and the bridge). My biscuits were a success (only southerners can really appreciate a good biscuit) and we had a great time.

After eating and socializing past midnight we decided to go out on the town and continue socializing in the many bars in Sydney (we went to the Rocks which was featured in a previous post).

We had a great time with our new friends, but nothing could replace being at home with our families on Thanksgiving. Hope yours was as good as ours!

- Mike

Posted by Mike.Flynn 00:12 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Moving into our house in Glebe

all seasons in one day 78 °F

After the trip to Collaroy, we came back into the city to move into the flat. Three weeks of staying in hostels, sharing a bathroom with 20 other people, sleeping with 7 other people in the room, walking to the grocery store for every meal, sleeping in a bunk bed, and everything else associated with sleeping in a hostel was finally over. We were finally going to be getting some personal space and not having to live out of a bag.

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We got back into central Sydney and boarded the tram to Glebe (about a 10-minute ride). Glebe is just slightly west of central Sydney. It is a hilly area and sits much higher than downtown. A nice breeze blows through the streets, which I’m hoping will be much appreciated as the summer heat arrives. Small shops and cafes line the main street, and you have a much more local feel to the area (instead of the tourist driven area of Chinatown and downtown Sydney). You get a good view of the tall buildings in downtown Sydney from Glebe, so you have a nice, constant reminder that you are right next to one of the largest cities in Australia.

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We moved into a two-room flat in an old house just off the main strip in Glebe. From the outside it looks like a simple house with a lot of character. Upon walking inside I realized that the house was much larger than I originally thought. The house is divided into 12 flats. The flat in which Dawn and I are staying is located in the front of the house (the large bay window on the right). Our bathroom window faces the front of the house (the window just left of the bay window), so our neighbors get a great view of me taking a whiz in the morning.

The house doesn’t have any air conditioning, but I’m hoping with the afore mentioned breeze that we’ll be able to survive. Since the house is older, the windows must be propped up with blocks of wood so that they remain open. Instead of being able to open the windows entirely, I am forced to have to deal with the window only being opened six inches (needless to say I’m on the lookout for larger blocks of wood). The landlord was very specific on making sure that we use the blocks to prop open the window because the Germans staying in our room before we left had cracked the largest window by allowing it to slam shut. The windows also sits very loosely in the frames, so I’ve propped little bits of cardboard in the windows to keep them from rattling at night in the wind.

I’ll give you a virtual tour of our place (and upload a video/pics later, I have to clean the place up after all the Thanksgiving meal messes). You walk in the door and are immediately in the kitchen. We have a bar fridge (bought off a 1-eyed man in Glebe), a gas oven/stove, and a book shelf for a pantry.

You keep walking straight (about 4 steps) and you enter the bathroom. Like I mentioned before, the bathroom has a very large window in it (convenient for ventilation) and offers glorious views to our neighbors of all my bathroom activities. I could close the blinds, but then the breeze doesn’t come through. The bathroom “door” also doesn’t really work. It is a sliding partition, but it is no longer connected to the track, so you can close the partition, but it is not actually connected to anything. This isn’t a problem until the wind blows and the door pushes into the kitchen. The first time Dawn used the bathroom, she called frantically. I came running in expecting there to be a red-back spider or something else life threatening, but she just wanted me to hold the door closed until she finished. After she was finished I immediately fashioned a device that would hold the door closed even when the wind blows.

Walk back past the pantry (bookshelf) and take a right, you’ll see the entrance to the two bedrooms. The larger, front-facing room is to the right. My desk and the kitchen table are in here. The smaller bedroom is to the left. The bed and wardrobes are kept in this room.

Pictures of Glebe are up and I will have pictures of the inside of the flat up shortly.

We are having a great time, but are constantly thinking of all of you!
- Mike

Posted by Mike.Flynn 02:16 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Photos Uploaded!

Photos of the hostels in Sydney, walking around Sydney, Port Stephens, Collaroy, and Glebe are now up!

There is also a video of me on top of Tomaree Head.

Posted by Mike.Flynn 02:11 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Collaroy Beach

all seasons in one day 70 °F

After our stay in Port Stephens, we decided to come back into the city to get ready for the move-in on Saturday. Dawn was in charge of picking out where we were going next (I can have opinions on where to go just as long as they match hers). However, Dawn choose to wait until after we checked out of Port Stephens to determine where we were going to sleep that night. As expected, places in the city are all booked up for the weekend, so we still stayed a little ways outside downtown in a beach area called Collaroy Beach.

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As soon as we stepped off the bus, you could tell we were at the beach. The strong ocean smell was in the air and a stiff breeze was coming in from the ocean. Our hostel was only about 100 yards from the beach, so we took a stroll in the sand after checking in. The sand was not as white or as fine as Samurai Beach and the large waves were slamming into the shore. It was not surprising to not see any swimmers, but the beach was a popular area for runners (it looked like an organized workout group running sprints in the sand). Dawn also found out that lonely Indian guys like to go to the beach to pick up the ladies. After the stroll, we headed back to the hostel to unwind.

Being near the beach always inspires me to eat seafood, and Dawn had been craving some fish-n-chips since we arrived in Sydney. We decided to grab a bite to eat at one of the cafes right near the beach. It was a little after 2pm and we discovered a trend in the eateries in Sydney—the kitchens are only open during lunch time and dinner time, no late lunches. Apparently it is common practice for shops to close their kitchens during the afternoon (even though in two of the places I saw the kitchen staff just lounging around in the background). We ended up having to get our food at a Chinese takeaway stand (Australia for takeout, you don’t order food “to-go”, you order food “takeaway”). Despite the look of the place it was actually some of the better fish-n-chips I’ve had.

Collaroy Beach is one in a strand of beaches that extend north of Sydney. I don’t imagine that it is as popular as some of the other beaches in the Sydney area (like Bondi or Manly) and I couldn’t really see spending more than a couple nights there. The strip is only 200 yards long, the beach isn’t terribly large, and the ocean is not very conducive to swimming. Collaroy does have this cool area where the waves crash into a pooling area where people go to swim (it’s like a swimming pool supplied with salt water). That really all I can say about the area.

The weather was nice, the hostel wasn’t too shabby, and we met a nice English couple. We only stayed two nights, and that was really just so we had some place to sleep close to Central Sydney and be close for moving in on Saturday. I’ll do a write up about our new place once we get situated!

Cheers!

Posted by Mike.Flynn 05:52 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Port Stephens

sunny 80 °F

We decided to take a couple days away from the city and go to a place called Port Stephens (which is about 150 miles north of Sydney). We are staying at the Samurai Beach Bungalows, which are in the Tomaree National Park.

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When we arrived, I knew that we had gone outside the city. There were no large buildings, the houses were spread apart, and we had passed several horse farms on the way out to Port Stephens. The bungalows are nestled in a rain forest and a cacophony of bird calls. A large dog came bounding up to greet us and the check-in to our room occurred on an outdoor patio. The place was beautiful and very calming. Our hostess, Sandy, showed us the bushman’s kitchen (an outdoor covered area with a grill and propane fired burners) and the path down to our room. The rooms were basic, but very nice. We had a little refrigerator unit, a bed with night stands, and large windows with views into the forest. There was porch with a sitting area and a table.

We quickly realized that we had no food, and there were not exactly any cafes around the hostel. We hired (Australian for rented) some bikes and decided to trek to the closest grocery store. We mapped out the course recommended by Sandy. We were given some beach cruisers (bikes with only one gear setting) and were off on our way. Sandy recommended we look for koalas along the way, which sounded like a nice idea…until we got on the road. The road she had us get on to go to the grocery store had a speed limit of 90 km/hr (60 mph) and it has not been my experience that Australians follow speed limits too closely. The cars were a worry, but the buses and trucks nearly made me fall off my bike. The speeding cars combined with one gear bike and a trip up a long, large hill did not leave much time to watch for koalas. We eventually made it to the grocery store in one piece. We even stopped by the bottle-o (the liquor shop) to buy some beers which conveniently went into Dawn’s basket on the front of her bike.

The next day after I got some work done, we headed out to Samurai beach (walking this time). It was a pretty path through the woods down to a pretty secluded beach. I think dawn picked Samurai beach because it was a “clothes optional” beach and she was looking to take in the sights. It took about 45 minutes to walk down to the beach and we were surprised to find the beach mostly deserted. We decided to do some exploring and walked towards some of the rock cliffs for a better view of the beach. Off in the distance we saw a man doing some surf fishing…with no clothes. It took a second to realize as I thought he just had a flesh colored shirt on and white shorts, but nope, he was naked. At first I was a little embarrassed, than strangely intrigued. I had never given notion to the idea of fishing naked, but it suddenly seemed like an interesting idea (giving my boys a breath of fresh ocean air). I made a mental note for something to try in the future and we continued walking. I then started to notice that the beach wasn’t quite as vacant as it seemed. There were a couple men hiding behind the dunes sun bathing. Another man had set up a partition behind his car so that no one would see that he was naked (but we all knew). After what seemed like an eternity walking through naked men, we finally reached the cliffs. We climbed up the middle of the cliffs, took in the view (filtering out male parts), and then went back to the hostel.

We decided that we may want to go into town for some dinner, so we took the bus to Shoal Bay. The most scenic part of Port Stephens was Tomaree Head according to the national park sign we read at Samurai Beach, so we decided to check it out. It was a very steep hike up the mountain, but the view at the top was absolutely worth it. You could see the three bays surrounding Port Stephens and the beaches that connected them. The national forest surrounded everything. You’ll have to check out the pictures once they are posted. It started raining on our way down, so we grabbed some food to cook back at the bushman’s kitchen (Dawn wanted one of the famous Flynn egg & English muffin sandwiches).

Since the hostel is in the national forest, there is a far amount of wildlife surrounding the bushman’s kitchen. The most daring was the kookaburra bird. At first it was cool that this unique bird got so close to us, but we started to realize he was just waiting for the perfect time to snag some of our food. The first night I was cooking BBQ chicken on the grill and he stole a piece as soon as I took it off the grill. So when I was making the egg sandwiches, I made sure to leave nothing available for the bird. I put the finished sandwiches between two plates and started to wash the pans I had used. The bird knocked the top plate off and stole one of the eggs. The bird went from being cute and unique to being obnoxious and annoying. The only saving grace was that the bird prompted Dawn to sing her kookaburra bird song over and over again :) (I tried to get a video of her singing it but she absolutely refused to be recorded).

It down-poured that night, so it gave us a good chance to relax with some of the people also staying in the beach bungalows. We played a furious game of UNO, which was way more fun than I remembered. I started to notice that people took a perverse pleasure in dealing me the draw-4 and skip cards. Quiet time was at 11, so we all shuffled back to our rooms. It was very soothing listening to the rain hit the roof of our room, but I had to drag myself out to attend a staff meeting that night at 1:30am via a conference call. The “internet room” was an outdoor patio with wireless access. All the lights are out, so I’m sitting in the dark in the middle of a rain forest with a million mosquitoes. You guys at work should appreciate the levels I’m willing to go just to hear your voices ;).

The next afternoon Dawn and I decided we wanted to hike through some more of the national forest and possibly see some koalas. We hired some mountain bikes (instead of the beach cruisers) and headed off. We missed the path entrance we had intended, so we continued on to the sand dunes at Anna Bay. It reminded me of the dunes at Kitty Hawk in the outer banks. Dawn and I climbed to the top and were rewarded with another glorious view of the national forest. Again, make sure to check out the pictures. We did catch a koala on the way back to the hostel.

Next stop, Collaroy Beach in Sydney.

Posted by Mike.Flynn 01:22 Archived in Australia Comments (3)

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