Good on ya’ Australia (and goodbye!)

The kids finished their internships and had wonderfully positive reports from some of the most prestigious schools in and around Sydney.  Good on ya’ Fellows (Aussie for ‘good job!’).  We met one last time at the Opera House and got a final group pic.  I cannot wait for the kids to get back home and let it all digest.  We are postponing our final assignment until the fall so they can have time to process everything that has taken place over the last 7 weeks.  Thanks Queens for making all of this possible, it has truly been an unforgettable, life altering experience!

Watson’s Bay and Doyle’s on the Wharf

There is nothing like a week of rain to make one appreciate the sunshine in Sydney!  This week has been gorgeous and just the weather I needed to take off on a sojourn to the famous fish n chips joint in Watson’s Bay, Doyle’s on the Wharf.  I needed to catch the ferry out to Watson’s Bay but I wasn’t sure which one to take and so I asked a friendly pirate I saw in a local souvenir shop.

No, that is NOT Missy!

I met Missy (a fellow food lover and 5 kg success story) on the ferry and we took off for the wharf.  I had been on the Manly ferry but this route hugged the shore and took us several places that I had yet to visit, which is always a plus!  I had read online that we needed to visit Doyle’s on the Wharf vs Doyle’s on the Beach because according to several locals, the ‘real’ Doyle’s is the Wharf location. You order out the front window, wait patiently (kinda patiently) and take away in a cardboard box (the other Doyle’s is the ritzier sit down restaurant).

Right near the order window!

Our meal finally came (one order fish and chips + one order seafood platter = two happy eaters!)

The fish came with a sweet chili dipping sauce (we had to buy tartare sauce separately) and lots of lemon.  Just caught that morning and eaten by 2 pm.  So good and filling, we couldn’t even eat it all…I know, what a surprise!

After we gobbled up our food we decided to walk around a bit before catching the ferry back.  We came upon the Sydney Harbour National Park.  I wish we had more time because the views of the South Pacific were stunning!

We turned around to walk back and got a great view of the city as well!

Keep the sunshine coming Sydney!  We only have one more week and lots left to see and do : )

Bay Bugs and Macarons

One of the foods I wanted to try once I got to Australia was the Moreton Bay Bug.  It is only found in Australia and is supposed to taste like lobster.  I have been hunting around Sydney for them and had yet to find a restaurant that serves them.  Luckily I stumbled into Cafe Sydney on Monday and they were on the menu.  Let me say that once I arrived in the cafe I immediately realized I didn’t really belong there (entrees for $30…mains for $55…seafood platter $135?!?  Really?)  But once I saw the Bay Bugs on the menu I knew I had to plunk down the $27 for the appetizer portion and check another thing off my ‘to-do’ list.  Best $27 I have spent on food in a while!

During lunch I got a text from Brad saying that he had been given the day off and so we met up in Manly to check out the sites!  We walked by this newly opened pub and found it to be quite hilarious..

Are we in Key West?

The sign reads “Hemingway’s food and liquor  Come in, it’s mad”.  I guess it was opened by a few construction workers this last week with the goal to sell really cheap American food.  It is right on the water so I am certain that the cheap American food will be less of a draw than the view itself.

I then drug Brad to my favorite patisserie in Sydney (Charlotte needs another patisserie, Amelie’s is not enough!!)  Adriano Zumbo is a famous pastry chef over here and his treats are wonderful!  I always love to get a few macarons (not macaroons, completely different)  They come in delicious flavors (salted caramel, kaffir lime and ginger, carmelised palm sugar….yum!)  Here a few that I didn’t get to, yet!

The ‘cookie’ has a crisp outside and the inside of the cookie is kind of a meringue/marshmallow.  The filling is creamy and sweet and luscious!  We also opted for an “Enter the Dragon”

which is kinda the consistency of a Twinkie –  if a Twinkie was made in heaven.

The website lists its ingredients as “taoated white chocolate mousse, coriander cremeaux, peanut caramel, dried chilli sable and almond sponge”

Yum!

Whale Wars!

Spotted in the Harbour this weekend was the ‘Bob Barker,’ part of the sailing fleet (along with the ‘Steve Irwin’) of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.  They are the guys that shoot water rockets and paint balls at the Japanese whaling ships on the show ‘Whale Wars’.  

Blue Mountains – Wentworth Falls

Last week it was Katoomba and the Three Sisters, this week, Wenworth Falls.  It was the toughest and the most beautiful hike I have been on in a while.  Justin, Katlin, Lindsay and Deanna – good on ‘ya for making it through!

We took the train from Sydney and once in Wentworth Falls, started our journey at the Darwin Walk

So fresh faced and energetic!

Along the path we came across so many scenic photo-ops!

At the top of Weeping Rock Waterfall

Once through the Darwin Walk we started descending down the Falls.  First stop, the top!

View from top of the Falls

Did we really need this warning sign?

Umm, don't worry, I won't!

On the way down we passed lots of smaller falls   – this is Queen’s Cascades

Then back down the Giant Staircase….

Deanna remembers these from last week! Ahh, my quads!

Hard work but some spectacular views

Katlin and Justin check out the view!

Then came more steps

More views

More steps

So much steeper in person, I promise!

And a few more steps

Then came the middle of the Falls

And more scenic views

Bottom of Falls

Then the fun began…

After the picturesque view about, we turned the corner to this

Yes, it was narrow!

And then this….

View from the top

Really?  A ladder screwed into the wall of the cliff?  Well at least there is only one, right?  Wrong!  We did this 5 more times, 3 of which without the protective cage around us!  So proud that we all made it and soldiered on to the next falls, which made it all worthwhile!

After this the trail got a little dicey.  There had been a good deal of rain and it had washed away part of the trail.  But it didn’t stop us!

Here is Katlin navigating her way across the creek

Only to find this ‘bridge’ awaiting us

Looks sturdy, doesn't it?

Wait for the close-up…

No wonder Lindsay was excited when we finally found the ‘way out’ sign!

Little did we know we had a bit more to go…including some other ‘rustic’ pathways which added to our adventure!

The creek had washed out the original path

But as with all the challenges along the way, they yielded beautiful results!

Empress Falls

Then we started the trek all the way out to the top

I see sunshine!

One of the MANY steps we climbed on the way to the top

And finally….the top!

What a view!

And there was much rejoicing by the hikers….tough lot they are!

Grrrrrrrr!

We all stopped at the Conservation Hut for a much needed meal.  It was nice and sunny and felt wonderful to sit and rest for a bit!

Nom, nom, nom!

After a snack we walked back to town and caught the train to catch a bit of the WinterFest (or as Lindsay was told, ‘FeralFest’) and to take a quick peek at the Three Sisters since the sun was out this weekend, compared to snow flurries last

but it was FREEZING and the wind was blowing and we were all tuckered out so after making our way through the WinterFest crowd

we hopped the train and headed home!  What a great day of scenic beauty, hiking challenges and sunny skies!  Thanks guys!

Winning!

Lindsey and Josiah invited me out to watch the State of Origin game last week.  For those non-Australians, that is a rugby grudge match that takes all the best professional rugby players from the state of Queensland and the best from the state of New South Wales, places them on a team based on their state of origin (get it?) , and then play a best of three series.  Kinda like a bastardized version of the All-Stars or Pro Bowl team, if those teams were determined by where you were born, not whose teamed you played on.

Anyhoo, we got to the pub to watch the game only to find out that there was trivia going on that night.  Let’s suffice it to say we focused a little more on the trivia than the rugby (although I will report that NSW tied the series up after a miraculous come from behind try (goal) at the end of the match(game).  Very excting!)  Our efforts were rewarded with a 3rd place finish

We're number 3! We're number 3!

(note: if winning was determined by jauntiness, Josiah and his scarf would have rocketed us to first place!)

Yeah us!

An afternoon at the movies

Went to a movie the other day, and $18 movie.  Yes, $18!  Ugh!

The movie, Snowtown, was really good, albeit slightly gorey (I mean it is the true story of an Australian serial killer, how could it not be!) but the highlight was the concessions stand….unbelieveable!

Where is Willy Wonka?

This is only one side of the concession stand.  It is all self-serve, grab and go.  I think the girl behind the counter thought I was crazy because I kept gushing about it!

The other thing that is different is that you are given an assigned seat when you buy your ticket.  The ticket girl asked where I wanted to sit and I said ‘center’.  She gave me my number and since there was no one else in the theater I sat in the right row but moved over one seat to the left so I would be in the center of the theater. The movie was getting ready to start when a guy came into the aisle and no joke, said I was in his seat and would I move over one.  There were 7 people in the whole theater and we were the only two people in our aisle!  Crazy!  He took his assigned seat seriously!!

Walkabout Wildlife Park – amazing!

Angel and Katlin’s home stay family invited me along to the Walkabout Wildlife Park last Monday. It was a rainy day and I had orgininally hoped we were going to cancel but I am SO glad we didn’t.  One of my favorite days so far in Australia!

The park was an hours drive north of Sydney and so Alisan, (homestay mom) her two boys, Xander and Zack (who I think are 12 if I remember correctly) Angel and Katlin picked me up and off we went.

I was really hoping we’d some some wildlife up close and personal, and we did!

Look at all those kangaroos!

A wallabie!

Emus!

Koala!

Mamma and joey!

And this was all within the first five minutes of being there!

We then decided to actually walk around the park.  We got to throw boomerangs and then went to look at the Aboriginal artwork on the cave wall

Not sure if you can see the hand prints in red on the back wall, but they are there!

Squigglebark Tree

We came upon this tree and you can see on the bark all of these squiggle marks.  They are caused by the larvae of an insect who burrow into the bark and lay their eggs.

The whole gang!

Here is the whole group.  After a walk in the bush we were back to observing the rest of the animals in the park. But it started to rain so Katlin and Zack had to build a quick shelter

We lucked out and followed the feeding lady (wheelbarrow filled with stinky meat and a big old kangaroo leg!)

We got up close and personal with:

Dingo devouring a chicken..we were in the cage while she ate!

Fruit bats (of flying foxes)...yes, they are huge!

Tassie Devil with aforementioned kangaroo leg

and the little Bilby

We had a great time and as an American, to be so close to kangaroos that you could pet them was really an unforgettable experience!  Thanks to Alisan and the rest of the clan for inviting me along.  I loved it!

Blue Mountains!

On Saturday, several of the Fellows (Brad, Rochelle, Matt, Lindsay and Deanna) headed out to the Blue Mountains.  It was included in our train pass and although 2 1/2 hours from Sydney, we had all heard about how beautiful they were and the hiking trails available so we hopped on board (after much delay due to track construction) and headed west.

We had been warned it was colder in Katoomba (the stop on the train line and epicenter of the Blue Mountains) so we made sure to bundle up.  The first stop once we got our hop-on hop-off buss passes was Echo Point, home of the Three Sisters.

The story goes that the “Three Sisters’ had fallen in love with three princes from a neighboring village.  Their dad, of course, was not happy with this crush and in order to protect them from the boys’ advances, had the witchdoctor turn them into stone fully preparing to turn them back once the boys skedaddled.  Unfortunately the witchdoctor was killed in the meantime and the girls sadly remain under the spell to this day. Not bad looking I would say…

The landscape reminds me a bit of the Grand Canyon,but greener….really gorgeous!

a little grey due to the sleety rain…hope you can still grasp the grandeur

Got a few shots of the kids from above …

and straight on

Think it's cold??

The three girls with Three Sisters

Although we enjoyed the main attraction we decided to get to hiking (mostly so we could warm up!)  We headed down the Giant Staricase, 800 steps down, mostly carved out of the rock, to the bottom of the cavern…

Not too steep...yet!

View from one of the stopping points

Again (refer to Cairns pics), Matt is 'King of the World'

The steps were really steep and at times seemed to be carved right out of the rocks..

From my vantage point

800 steps are a looong way down…..

Yes, they are as steep as they look....actually they are steeper!

We finally made it to the bottom of the cavern and were lucky enough to come across to natives to the forest….

Hobbit 1

Hobbit 2

The boys had some quick man time exploring a little cave we came upon

Note the blood red eyes of Brad.....outbreak!

Matt was overtaken by his evoluntionary past….

The bottom of the cavern was a temperate rainforest and was green and lush and filled with large ferns and monstrous trees

as well as a slice of Hollywood

An extra from the movie 'Deliverance'

We kept hiking, came across the Leura Cascades and enjoyed the waterfalls

As with all things, what goes down, must go up…..so we started the long trek back up

The forest was misty and cool and took on an eerie Lord of the Rings feel at times….here is my fav pic

Is that Legolas in the background?

Matt and his mountain goat hiking skills led us back up to the top.  It was strenuous!  It took us a good 45 minutes to climb back to the top.  Can you tell my the looks of the faces in the pictures who had a harder time coming back up?

Rochelle LOVES hiking uphill!

Which of these two is the smoker?

We made it back to the top and were famished!  Found a hotel and ate our faces off!

After eating we heading back into Leura to catch the train and came upon a pastry shop with this prophetic sign….

It was freezing all day long….we were so looking forward to hopping on a warm train back to Sydney, so glad they turned the air up on the train….no joke!

Didn’t seem to bother Matt a bit..

What a great day!  Will have to try to head out there again before we head back home ; )

Jerry and Sandy, they rock!

We have been really fortunate (with the exception of just a few, refer to Justin’s post!) to have some great homestay hosts.  Went to dinner at Sandy and Jerry’s house the other night and we decided to take a few “American” family photos, Olan Mills style…enjoy!

Jerry, Claire (import from France) Sandy, Missy and Alise

Note head cocking and Creepy McCreeperson expressions