Wow what a trip, it was amazing, fantastic, and about a million other adjectives. The trip was a bucket list trip for sure.
Day 1 – It was lots of flying, we flew from Albuquerque to San Francisco, then to Sydney. Due to the time change, we flew out of San Fran around 11pm on Monday and landed around 6 am in Sydney on Wednesday. So jet lag is a real thing and now I’ve really experienced it.
We drove down the coast from Sydney, first through the Royal National Park. This is a costal park that had lots of winding roads and crossed a few rivers. Some of the bridges, didn’t have guard rails so that was kind of scary since we were driving on the wrong side of the road. Derek did a fantastic job and only tapped a construction road sign, In his defense it was in the road pretty far and on the left side so he couldn’t really see it. We stopped at one of the tracks (that’s what they call trail heads and took a couple pictures of the sweet gum trees)
After the Royal National Park we continued the trip down the coast to Clifton, where we stopped at Sea Cliff Bridge. It was a really cool bridge that they built that goes right over the ocean. We found a beach not much father and walked around for a few minutes. The South Pacific is the most beautiful blue color. Pictures do not do it justice. It was the first time I had ever seen the Pacific and I don’t think it will ever compare to anything else.
The road signs and just signs in general were pretty interesting but my favorite was the “give way” instead of yield.
We drove the rest of the way into Canberra and checked into the hotel, Derek went to the Australian National University to meet with some colleagues. We caught up after a little while and went to dinner at a local place for burgers and chips (french fries). They didn’t have ketchup on the table and I found out later that they call it tomato sauce and you usually have to ask for it because they usually use HC sauce, which is like a very vinegar laden steak sauce. Then we were really tired and had to go to bed.
Day 2 – Derek went back to ANU to work some before his lecture and I took a walk to the Australian National Botanic Garden. Even though it was winter there were still plants blooming, and some really interesting bushes and trees.
The Sweet Gum trees loose their bark and turn completely white. Kind of like birch trees back here, but with out the weird smell and black dots. Some of the trees even looked fake because they were so white and smooth like plaster. I walked almost to the top of Black Mountain which is one of the highest points in Canberra.
I walked back to listen to Derek’s lecture and hung around with him for lunch with some of the professors there. It was interesting to talk to them as I found out one of the professors had just come back from a 1 year maternity leave. That is apparently standard for Australia which I thought was really cool. Even the Dad’s get up to 4 months off, which is really incredible.
After lunch Derek had some more meetings so I went to the ginormous mall the Canberra Center and did some shopping for the kids. Heidi wanted a Stuffed Kola and James wanted some rocks. So I found a store called Australian Geographic and found both of those things there. The mall was pretty similar to ones in the US and there was even a Target there. I went in just to see what it was like and it was pretty much like one here. Very odd considering how far away I was. Shopping with Australian money was really odd too, they have paper dollars, but they have clear plastic sections in them to help prevent counterfeiting. They also have gold coins that are 1 and 2 dollars and silver coins in 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent intervals. Some of the gold dollars are smaller than the 50 cent pieces so its hard to know what you have unless you’re looking at them.
That afternoon we had a little time before dinner so we went to the Australian War Memorial. It was kind of like all the war memorials in DC in one place. They had a beautiful reflecting pool with an eternal flame and a tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They also have walls of remembrance where all the names of men and women killed in action are listed. They are covered with Red poppies as a sign of respect.
Inside they have a museum of all the wars that Australians have fought in. It was a really neat place and we were sad that we didn’t have more time there. Since they were closing we were able to watch the last post ceremony where they honor one soldier each night. They even have a youtube channel where they post them. It was beautiful and we were really glad that we stayed.
When we came out there were about 100 cockatoos just hanging around the grassy areas eating in the grass. They don’t really have a lot of pigeons in Canberra but they do have tropical birds that act like pigeons and are everywhere.
We still had a little time before dinner so we drove across the river to the old Parliament house, and then drove by the New Parliament House. They are like driving by the Capital when you’re in DC but you can actually get pretty close to them, which you really can’t do here.
We then went up to the top of Black Mountain, its the highest point in Canberra and has the Telestra Tower, which is a bunch of cell towers but they have an elevator that you can go up in, we didn’t have time to go up but we got to see some neat views of the valley and watched the tower change colors a few times.
We then went to dinner at the University Club’s restaurant that was really good. It was interesting to see what qualified as mash (basically mashed potatoes) with a different kind sauce that Derek said didn’t taste like any gravy he’d ever had. I also tried what I think is called pigface, it is an edible succulent plant thats a little sweet and salty. It was really delicious. We also found out that Australians really like vinegar, its on everything. I also drank a lot of Coke, probably the most I have ever had in my life. It helped with the jet lag, and for some reason was everywhere down there, while Pepsi was hard to come by.
Day 3 – We decided we wanted to go to the Sydney Australia temple while we were there. So we left Canberra pretty early in the morning, it was foggy but really pretty as we drove out. There were lots of cattle and sheep stations and wineries. We did not realize that just outside of the Capital was so agricultural. We also saw lots of Kangaroos off the highway, I was able to get one picture of a small mob, but we literally saw over a hundred eating in a field at one point. They are a lot like our deer and are everywhere and like to cause traffic accidents.
We were able to catch the last morning session at 11:15 at the temple. It was a really neat experience and everyone there kept asking us questions, I think they just liked to hear us talk. If you are around people that don’t interact with tourists a lot they think our American accents are pretty cool.
When we were done at the temple we decided to grab some quick food and went to McDonalds. It was kind of cool being in a different country and getting some food that was pretty close to normal. Derek said it taste the same but I’m pretty sure the fries tasted different. We had a young man ask us if we were Members of the Church, I’m pretty sure Derek’s tie and the fact that we were at McDonald’s 3 blocks from the temple was a give away but it was neat to talk to him. He was a new convert to the church and was really excited to meet us.
We drove back into Sydney and passed the Sydney Games Equestrian Center and Olympic park on the way back to the hotel. We also saw the longest town name we found in Australia, Woolloomooloo. It had us cracking up for at least 15 minuets. Driving through the city was kind of exciting, the tunnels looked a lot like the tunnels in Europe according to Derek, and they were really tight!
Once we dropped our stuff off at the Hotel and hopped a train to Central Quay (key) it was the big tourist stop in Sydney Harbor. This is where most of the ferries are, where the Opera House is located, Fort Denision and the Sydney Harbor Bridge. We walked around the harbor, and went to the Opera House. We just walked around the outside as it was too late for the guided tour. It was really cool to see it up close. In all the pictures it looks like the outside is plaster, but it is really tiles with a shell pattern on it. It’s also 3 separate buildings.
The tourists were crazy and so were the seagulls. They even had mesh baskets that would go over your food so that the gulls wouldn’t steal it. We ate on the board walk and I had the biggest prawns (shrimp) that I had ever seen or eaten. We waited until it got dark and then went and took a few more pictures of the Opera house and bridge. It was so beautiful lit up.
While we were in Sydney we took the train pretty much everywhere except the temple, as that was kind of far from the train station. It was kind of like the metro, but more like a real train. They were all double decker and there were tons of people on them. It is just a way of life there, almost everyone takes the train places.
Once we were back in the hotel we had a few exciting things happen, first I tried to flood the room as the shower drain wasn’t working properly and it was a flat floor bathroom. Thankfully they moved us rooms so we got one that worked. The flight home also ended up being canceled so we had to call and get booked on a different flight home. Thankfully we were able to get a different flight the next day, even though we couldn’t sit next to each other on the way back to San Francisco. I was just excited to be able to get home as we found out due to the cancelation the next flight out that had open seats wasn’t until Tuesday. While it would have been fun to stay a few extra days, we needed to get home to relieve the babysitters. Jim and Patty did a fantastic job watching everything while we were gone and I am sure they are super tired and excited to be back home!
Overall this was a fantastic trip and I would love to go back and see a few more things, and experience more of Australia. Next up is County Fair for the kids, they are getting excited to show the sheep and rabbits!