A Travellerspoint blog

Next Up...

preparing for my return trip to Australia - and for the first time, New Zealand.

sunny 13 °C


I'm heading back to the sunny beaches and [overpriced] beer pints of Sydney, Australia, and as I did the first time around, I'm going to chronicle my adventures in another Travellerspoint blog. Hooray for you, my lovely blog follower! Hopefully this one will be just as interesting as the first one, minus all the bumps and bruises (no testing my travel insurance this time!)

Here's the address: http://ajschratz2.travellerspoint.com/ (pretty much the same as the first blog site, just with a "2" at the end of my name.)

It's not quite updated from the holidays, but I'll be sure to get on that once I've reacquainted with some of my favo(u)rite people in one of my favo(u)rite cities in the world. I leave TOMORROW! (or Monday, depending on when you read this.)

Happy 2011!


Posted by Alykat 13:32 Archived in USA Tagged home travel packing Comments (0)

Back to Reality

the holiday's over...but I still have two weeks of summer left!

sunny 27 °C

Since returning to Danville, I've found that, apart from the vast quantity of art my parents have acquired over the past year, everything is pretty much the same. Even reconnecting to my old friends and family has felt easy and normal, as if we're simply picking up where we left off a year ago.

Walking around Danville, I've started to notice a number of things I hadn't before: the number of trees abound, the friendliness of everyone from shopkeepers to baristas to passerby, the cleanliness of the streets (and the number of trash cans! Sydney seems to have maybe two in the whole city) and just how good that sun feels when I'm reading on a lounge chair in my backyard.

I've spent the past week catching up with as many people as I can at family parties, lunch dates, nightly hang outs, going to the beach, shopping excursions, and over the occasional beer at Pete's Brass Rail (I am in the Connoisseurs 100 Club, but I have about 94 to go!), and even though I miss everyone back in Sydney a lot, it's hard not to enjoy this.

It's good to be home.

Posted by Alykat 18:31 Archived in Australia Tagged lodging Comments (0)

The Last Supper

my final weekend in sydney

sunny 22 °C

I had a fabulous last weekend - an aptly named "Farewell Extravaganza" - in the city to culminate my incredible yearlong experience.

On Thursday night, a few of us met up and headed to World Bar in Kings Cross, where I spent one of my first memorable nights out back in July '08. Usually the bar features three floors with different types of music on each, but tonight only the techno floor was open, so my small party of friends and I ordered our beers and teapots (actual porcelain teapots filled with cocktails, which are then poured into little plastic shot glasses) and enjoyed them on the patio.

On Friday, my flatmate Shellie and I traveled across the harbor to check out Luna Park, the old amusement park I'd been meaning to go to since...well, a year ago. (It's the one with the big clown's mouth as an entrance.) Turns out the rides are all SUPER expensive - even one ride on the Ferris wheel cost a whopping $10 - so we just took in the sights, then walked back across the Harbour Bridge to Circular Quay. I'd done this a couple times already with Megan and Paddy, but since Shellie had never walked across, it was cool to show her the awesome view!

That night, a huge group of uni-mates and I walked over to Purple Sneakers, my favorite indie club just down the street from UTS (and thus an easy walk from Geegal), where we drank and danced into the morning hours.

On Saturday, I met Shinny for brunch in Kings Cross. We went to a little cafe that was run by a friendly old Italian man, who entertained us for hours with his notebook/scrapbook collections: photos from his European travels, magazine cutouts of Prince Harry and Prince William (who he thinks are just lovely, haha), and his favorite actress, Cate Blanchett (whose picture was displayed on the cafe windows.) To walk off our food, we meandered through an organic farmers' market, then separated so I could collect some last minute souvenirs from The Rocks market.

That night, Paddy and I went to dinner at a little Italian place near Darling Harbour - the same place we had one of our first dates. It was cute: the place is called Mamma's and it's pretty chill, but we still dressed up to impress each other. :)

After dinner, we walked home to change, then caught a cab to the Sydney Swans vs. St. Kilda Saints AFL game (I've started to enjoy the sport at this point.) Greg (from the last Saints game) was there to cheer his still undefeated team on, while Paddy, Dylan and our friend Herrick clapped for the Swans. The game was a nail-biter, and the Saints ended up defending their undefeated status with an 85-84 win.

On Sunday, Paddy and Dylan - being the marine biologists - headed to the Sydney Fish Markets to gather ingredients for the stupendous Last Supper they prepared for me and several other Geegal friends: shrimp tempura (okay, so it wasn't on the barbie), grilled calamari, salad, and bread with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and dukkah (dipping spices). But first, a group of us headed to my favorite beach, Coogee, for one last swim in the ocean. The girls, Shellie and Anja, refused to go swimming in the cold water, but James, Dylan, Paddy and Pedini all joined me. I didn't have a choice anyway - I was thrown into the waves.

After dinner, we sat around chatting into the night, but I made sure to thank everyone for the incredible year over what I called "The American Send-off": a shot of champagne served in red plastic cups. :)

Monday was pretty much all packing and tearful goodbyes before my stuff was loaded into Rob's car, Paddy climbed in the back seat, and we drove away from Geegal. Although Rob had to take off just after I checked my bags, Paddy sat with me at the airport coffee shop for a good 45 minutes as we rehashed all the good times from the past 12 months and made lists of our most memorable times.

The walk through customs and into the waiting area felt like the longest trek of my life as tears streamed down my face. Clutching the heartfelt letters I'd received from various friends before I left, I boarded the plane, settled into my narrow economy seat (no upgrade for me this time - and this seat, being just in front of the cabin kitchen, didn't even recline), and let my farewell to Sydney and all the wonderful people who had shaped my year there flow as silent tears down my cheeks. It had been the best year of my life, but I was ready to return to the familiarity of the US, of California, of San Francisco, and of home.

Posted by Alykat 00:45 Archived in Australia Tagged packing Comments (0)

Splendour Bender Weekender

dubbed by most as "the best weekend of your life"

sunny 19 °C

I've made my way to several unique Aussie festivals over the past year: electronic Parklife, all-Aussie Homebake, summer favorite Big Day Out, Sound Relief to raise funds for the Victoria bushfires, and last weekend, I attended what has been referred to as "Australia's best festival of the year": Splendour in the Grass.

The festival took place over two days in Byron Bay, located a solid 12 hour drive from Sydney just below the NSW/Queensland border. The little beachside Berkeley-esque tourist town is quite sweet, with its yummy wraps and coffee stands next to boho boutiques and open air bars that pump with music at midday.

On Thursday morning, Paddy and I packed the car (his younger brother, bless his heart, had loaned us his car for the weekend), then started the grueling drive up the coast. I've done this drive a couple times - on the Greyhound bus back from Brisbane in October, and up towards the Gold Coast with Bonnie and her family in November - so I was relatively acquainted with the scenery: turnoffs to the beach, crowded cities bustling with activity, other sleepy towns with not much more than a few restaurants and a petrol station, and of course, The Big Banana at Coffs Harbour (the banana plantations town.)

One unique stop we did make was in Frederickson just outside Kempsey at Fredo's Pies. The roadside sign advertised its 50 pie variations, including kangaroo, chili and pasta, ostrich, and its "famous" crocodile pie, so we turned off to sample the reptilian pastry. It wasn't bad, actually - the skin was about as tough as chicken, but I thought it tasted like fish.

We had a 10-person house waiting for us just outside Byron, but a few of Paddy's friends go to uni in Lismore (30 minutes west of Byron), so we stopped to hang out with them at their uni bar for the night.

The next morning, being that it was Friday, we lazed around the residences for a bit, then hopped back in the car and drove to Lennox Heads, where a yummy fish and chips shop overlooking the beach caught our attention for the next couple hours. The water was freezing, being that it is winter here, but the weather was absolutely beautiful.

The night was pretty uneventful: a few drinks and some munchies with the folks staying at the house (it was basically a Batemans Bay reunion) as we prepared for what was going to be a hectic next couple days.

The festival featured a mix of national and overseas talents, ranging from the Aussie hip-hop and hard rock to dance, acoustic, electronic and DJ sets over five stages on a massive muddy field:
- Hilltop Hoods (who put on a fantastic show Sunday night)
- Bloc Party (fun English dance music)
- Gutter Twins (Aussie acoustic guys; I’d never heard them, but we popped in for a few songs and they’re great)
- the Beautiful Girls (laid-back, reggae-style; awesome)
- Brooklyn duo MGMT (who was actually pretty crap – much too quiet and they seemed to have stage fright)
- Friendly Fires (a great electro party on the dance floor)
- Sarah Blasko (I actually didn’t see her, but apparently she’s amazing on stage)
- Grinspoon (Aussie rock, reminded me of AC/DC)
- Flaming Lips (didn’t see them either, but they’re headlining a tour on Treasure Island in October with MGMT)
- White Lies (young Aussie rock)
- Dananananakroyd (from Glasgow, Scotland – their name combines the Batman theme song with actor Dan Akroyd’s name, haha. I missed their set, but I heard on the radio that they’d split the crowd down the middle, then had everyone hug as many people as they could during the song.)

Since there was a decent size group of us, we set up a meeting spot at the big shows (Hilltop, Bloc Party, Friendly Fires, etc.) at the front left pillar, and then just wandered to check out the different stages. It was a great festival and I really enjoyed a lot of the music, but

Monday was recovery day at the beach just near our Suffolk Park (Byron) house, and then we grabbed lunch in downtown Byron before starting the long trek home. On the way, we stopped at The Entrance on the Central Coast (where the channel enters the Tuggerah Lakes) and chilled out for a bit before continuing back to Sydney.

Now that I’m in my last week in Australia, I’m planning to spend my time at the beach (the weather’s on my side at the moment), at weekend markets with friends, going to one last AFL game, surfing (yeah, I’ve been here for over a year and STILL have not been on a surfboard. Lame) and hopefully having a shrimp on the barbie before I depart my year on holiday and return to my busy American life.

It’s been quite an adventure.

Posted by Alykat 21:14 Archived in Australia Tagged events Comments (0)

Sydney Fish Market

the least fishy-smelling fish market I've ever been to

overcast 8 °C

At 6:30 a.m., I trekked out towards Darling Harbour to finally check out the Sydney Fish Markets - something that's been on my to-do list since...oh I don't know, September?

The Sydney Fish Markets are the world's second "best" fish market in the world; the title belongs to Tokyo, Japan. The comparison is mind boggling: Sydney sells 100 crates of seafood every hour, but the amount they sell in two weeks is about equivalent to what Tokyo sells in ONE DAY. That's a lot of sushi! The Japanese are quite particular too: a good tuna, fitting specific length and quality guidelines, can go for as much as $40,000 per fish, so it's usually flown in by helicopter immediately after it's caught. Holy cow.

The tour was quite cool: our guide, Greg, took us out onto the auction floor, where we were able to see wholesalers bidding on the crates of fish via a keypad and a Dutch-made auction clock. They could purchase several kilos of fish with the simple push of a button - no yelling necessary - so it was much less noisy than I was expecting. It was also much better smelling: because they're so careful when it comes to caring for the fish they're looking to sell, they made sure the fishes' bad bacteria (aka, the icky fish smell) was kept at a minimum. Makes me wonder why other fish markets don't smell as nice....

The market prides itself on its sustainability. Bycatch - unwanted fish that get caught in the nets when they're fishing - are sent off to be made into fertilizer and other products. Since my Sustainable Enterprise business class spent weeks working on slideshows and holding debates about the future of sustainable fishing in Australia, I was much more engaged in what Greg was talking about (and I've learned a lot from Paddy and Dylan, who are both studying marine biology.) What a great education I've gotten here. :)

Posted by Alykat 05:20 Archived in Australia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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