Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving in The Alice is a strange thing.  So familiar, and yet entirely different at the same time. For the rest of the town, it’s a normal Thursday. Shops are open, kids go to school, and the town functions as normal. The only exceptions is us Yanks.  We take the day off work, pick up the kids from school, and gather together to eat, and eat, and eat some more.  While most of America is enjoying the last of fall with it’s colorful leaves and crisp weather, we are hunkering down and preparing for temps into the 40s (100+ for those playing at home) for the next several months.  At least the stores are playing Christmas music.  Holiday creep hasn’t made it out of November in The Alice.  Yet.

We were invited to another couple’s home. We decided to brine and roast a turkey to bring along. Little did we know that there would be two other turkeys (fried and grilled), and ham to go with it.  I must give a shout out to Alton Brown. Even in this dry climate, the brine kept the bird moist even through transport.  The feast was wonderful.  Mashed and sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, dressing, pies galore, beer, port, aged Haitian rum and plenty of camaraderie.  Several locals stopped by after work to join us and while I’m not sure they understand everything behind the holiday, the idea of sharing food with friends seems to be universal.

We arrived at 2, ate at 4, and stayed until after 7. There were still plenty of folks there when we slipped away. The day was nice, and we all ended up in the back yard enjoying the nice weather. By that part of the afternoon, there seemed to be fewer flies out there than there were inside with the remains of our meal.

    Despite the good food and good times, it’s not home. Nothing will ever come close to the feeling of being with family and lifelong friends.  Spending Thanksgiving away from home, but in the States, is different, but being half a world away is just strange. We called to wish our families a happy Thanksgiving, knowing it was still Wednesday night there. Throughout the day, we kept thinking about what they day should be like, down to the silly details. We could picture the tables we would be sitting at, food that would be there, the serving utensils, the faces, sounds, and smells. No matter where on earth we are, nothing will recreate that.

The biggest thing that was missing? American football. There’s nothing quite like laying on the couch, stuffed full of turkey, and watch college teams play rivalry games.  The resident Detroit fan missed his Lions but was confident in the outcome (he wasn’t incorrect). Saturday was even worse! Luckily, we have cricket to watch. 🙂

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It was a Rock-wallaby!

Everyone likes kangaroos. However, in practice they’re like deer and can be annoying (hitting your car and eating your garden, for instance). They’re also not as active as you’d expect and really aren’t that cuddly looking up close.  Wallabies are entire different. They look like miniature ‘roos, hop around a good bit, and look like they need a good hug.

Right on the other side of the ridge our front door faces is a small Rock-wallaby habitat.  It also happens to be the site of a hotel.  Rather then cordon of the habitat, the hotel encourages guests and visitors to come and feed them.  For a dollar a bag, you can buy wallaby food, take a seat outside, and the wallabies will flock to your hands.  If you’re not  careful, the cuteness can overwhelm you.  Also, being devoured by wallabies is a terribly awkward thing to do die from.

The wallabies are so adjusted to a human presence that they give pretty good instructions on proper feeding technique. They will latch on to your arm and move it to the proper spot.  This can be painful.  Several of them don’t trim their claws and they will leave marks. Don’t try and move your arm.  They will hold on and fight you for it. They don’t bite, even when going for the pellets between your fingers. They also understand that being petted is part of the bargain.     

The feeding dynamic is interesting. If it’s been a busy day, the wallabies will eat slowly.  The won’t mob anyone and generally will be pretty relaxed. If it’s been a slow day they’ll queue, hiss, and slap their way to your hand. Not at you of course, but each other. Not being an expert on gender identification, unless it’s obvious (which it can be), I can’t tell if the females are more aggressive about for than the males. Watching tiny little kangaroos box is pretty darn funny. Can’t imagine why people would want to try though.

Here’s the pictures.  The cuteness is pretty overwhelming so be sure to only view in small doses.

Sydney – Darling Harbour

As our last day in Sydney dawned bright and pleasant, we decided to visit the Darling Harbour area.  We found a delightful pancake shop in the Rocks for breakfast. It was as close to an IHOP as we saw (but still miles away from a WaHo).  The food was great but we already began to miss American style bacon.  This is going to be a recurring theme over the next several years. We are strongly debating setting up a smoker to solve this issue.

Anyways, back to Sydney. We walked across the Harbour Bridge in the morning. There was a surprising amount of pedestrian traffic (including this cute dog) for being late in the morning. The breeze felt nice and it was a very nice walk.  We’ve talked about the cruise ship before so I’ll simply post another picture and move on.

Darling Harbour proper is a major tourist destination. The Ripley’s is there as is an animal show. The restaurants seem nice but pricey and catering to the expense account set.

However, away from the major feature is a very nice, modern play ground that we found teeming with children.  It would definitely be a great place to bring kids or even a dog to walk around. Sadly, the mob of children meant good pictures were difficult to be had.

 

A “hidden” gem is the Chinese Friendship Garden.  It’s at the south end of the park. Whenwe got there it was partially closed for a movie. The cashier took particular care to remind us that the pavilion in the center wasn’t original but only part of the set. Guess it messes with the feng shui of the place. This did make navigating the gardens a bit of a hassle though.

The gardens were beautiful.  There was a lot of cute wildlife and countless wonderful vistas.  The black bamboo was particularly interesting feature.  However, every rock, tree, bush, bench, and fish was symbolic of something.   It got to be a bit overwhelming and frankly a bit silly. The majesty of the place is obvious without having a dozen signs directing your attention.

Feeling in an Asian mood, we stopped in for udon and sushi for lunch. The udon was good, sushi, not so much. The filler in the rolls was tuna salad. Canned tuna salad. ‘Nuff said.

After lunch, we hiked past the Ford booth of the Sydney Auto show and hit up the

Powerhouse museum. It was a pretty cool science/technology museum. We didn’t get to see a working demonstration of the oldest surviving Boulton & Watt steam engine. By this point in the day, we were both pretty flagged out and pictures weren’t the first thing on our mind.

Instead we made it back to our hotel, knowing that early morning awaited us as we packed our bags for Alice Springs. Here’s the link for the album.

Sydney – Botanic Gardens and Taronga Zoo

After getting settled at the hotel, it was too early to take a nap (about 9AM local time) so we headed over to the Royal Botanic Gardens. One end of the gardens border the Opera House, so it seemed like a logical next stop for us.  The place was gorgeous but very different than any of the botanic gardens in the US.  It felt much more like a park. The wide open lawns gave way to some breathtaking views of the harbour and seemed designed for picnicking and relaxing in the sun.

This was our first introduction to the royal ibis which is almost as common in Sydney as a pigeon. Early in the morning, the garden welcomes a host of runners and other folks out for their exercise.

Tucked away at the far end of the garden is a lap pool overlooking the water.  Early morning is a busy time with nearly every lane being full of swimmers.  We poked our heads into the art gallery but by then were so tired, we shuffled back to the hotel bar for a short meal (a passable pizza) and crashed at 730. Here’s the album.

The next morning, we awoke at 3. And again at 4. And once more at 5. Finally at 7 we staggered out of bed and found breakfast.  We found a cute little cafe near the Quay and decided to head for the Taronga Zoo. Getting to the zoo is an interesting experience.  There is a direct ferry over, and then you take a cable car to the top. Much like the National Zoo, Taronga is set on a hillside. It’s slightly more convenient to navigate in that you start at the top and work your way back down to the ferry.  The zoo is well laid out with all the Australian animals near the beginning.  They also have a large number of exhibits that you can walk through and see the animals (birds and small mammals mostly) without the nuisance of bars.

Of course the stars of the zoo are the Koalas.  For $20 you can get your picture taken with them and then get 10 minutes to take as many pictures as you can possibly squeeze out.  We found out their fur is coarse, like raw wool, and that petting them in New South Wales is illegal. Even without that, they’re easy to spot at the zoo. I (Drew) was unimpressed by them.  I can see where the rumors of drop-bears come from because they have this look halfway between being asleep and saying “You lookin’ at me?”. We both wanted to snuggle one but we’ll have to find another place to do so.

We also got to see a wombat up close.  He bites, but that doesn’t stop him from trying to get petted.  The platypus was really cute but also crowded and dark so we couldn’t get pictures.  Seeing an echidna up close really made it look like a tiny little porcupine.  And of course the kangaroos and wallabies were pretty chill. It wasn’t that hot when we went but they were already sprawled out in the sun. The kangaroos looked suspiciously like Joe Camel. I really wanted to put some sunglasses on one.

So cool.

Around the Zoo there are dinosaurs. We saw a robot dimetrodon without his skin on and these tiny little raptors terrorizing some planters.  We could never figure out what they were for but we did like the the little guys. 

Here are the rest of our zoo pictures.  We’ll follow up with our last day in Sydney (Darling Harbour) here shortly.

Welcome to Sydney!

We landed in Sydney jet lagged, tired, filthy, and excited.  Kingsford/Smith airport seems nice – the multiple customs checks were weird but we didn’t have any problems there or with quarantine. The fine folks at Marriott were a life saver.  We arrived at 8AM and found a room all ready for us.  A quick shower and we were out on the town.  We’ll have specific posts soon about the Botanic Gardens (our first stop), the Zoo (day 2), and Darling Harbour (day 3) over the next couple of days.  Right now we want to talk about Sydney as a city.

We stayed at Circular Quay (pronounced key) which is a pleasant stroll from the Opera House.  It is as striking as you have been led to believe.  It sticks straight out into the harbor and dominates any view that isn’t of the bridge.  The roof looks like white sandstone until you get close and then it looks much more awesome. Sadly, our jet lag addled brains wouldn’t let us take in a show or tea.

We took a walk over the Harbour Bridge.  I like walking across bridges like this if for no other reason than it feels very cosmopolitan and slightly anachronistic.  Don’t expect us to climb it though – just being on the sidewalk was high enough (at least for Ashley)!  While crossing, we saw a cruise ship dock at the Quay.  Having spent a fair bit of time there, we were amazed to see a ship that size dock across from where we first had brunch.  Being up above the ship and looking down on it was a really cool sensation.  All pedestrian traffic on the bridge stopped to watch the boat.  I was surprised by the number of security guards posted on the bridge for the event.

We were unable to go into Luna park (only open at night), which is a good think since I’m not convinced the gate isn’t going to eat me.  Again, because jet lag had us in bed by 7 every night we were spared the glowing horrors that awaited beyond those teeth.

In all the time we’ve been here I haven’t seen one robin, blue jay, or tufted titmouse.  Instead, we’ve seen parrots and other cool birds. And lots of them.  Despite being brighter than Mardi Gras, I walked right past this fellow. Ashley had to direct my attention away from the lovely blue skies to watch him feeding.  The locals that walked by were unimpressed.

We didn’t get a chance to take the Sydney subway, but we did get to ride the ferries. Another favorite thing of mine is taking ferries around.  Don’t know why but I think they’re more fun than open air buses and a much more pleasant experience. These were as nice as the one I took in Seattle.

By about 530 each day had slipped past tired and into comatose.  Ordering dinner was challenging because you order at the bar (food and drink) and then it comes to the table. We couldn’t quite grasp this concept. Nonetheless, we had some good meals and some really good beer.

We’ll follow this up with some posts about the zoo and botanic gardens. Here’s the link for the rest of our pictures: Sydney – General Pictures