Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Down Under, Day #1 - Arriving in Australia

In November of 2012, I got a facebook message from my best friend, Stephanie, that read in part, " I will be leaving...this summer and headed to Sydney for three years. I can't imagine going to the opera house with anyone else." And right then and there I started planning a trip to Sydney. I didn't really think it would actually happen because I was still paying doctoral tuition and I don't make great money, but I really wanted to go. It has always been my dream to visit Australia, ever since my aunt and uncle went when I was in 3rd grade. Throw in the Opera House and that amazing accent and I have been smitten with the land of Oz for most of my life

About a year ago I really got serious about trying to figure out a way to go visit Stephanie. I was saving money, including graduation, Christmas, and birthday gifts. I decided to just go for it, and I never looked back.

Once I bought the ticket, the planning started in full force. I checked out every travel book on Australia in our public library and read them cover to cover. Stephanie was going to be working some of the time, so I knew I would be on my own during the days. Friends told me I definitely needed to climb the Harbour Bridge, and I knew I wanted to see a show at the Opera House. In addition to Sydney, we were hoping to plan an excursion out of the city. Stephanie thought I'd want to go to Melbourne, Brisbane, or the Great Barrier Reef. Um, nope... I originally wanted to do some sort of Outback adventure, but then I read about Kangaroo Island in one of my travel books. And I was sold. I had never even heard of Kangaroo Island, but there was no doubt in my mind that if we could make it happen, I wanted to visit there.

Fast-forward to June 14, 2014 - the day finally arrived! I couldn't believe I was about to fly halfway across the world for two weeks in Australia with my best friend. My flight left Atlanta around 6pm, with a 2 hour layover in Dallas (yes, Dallas!) before the 15 hour flight to Brisbane, a short layover, and an hour flight to Sydney. Whew! It was a whirlwind trip, but totally worth it. I had a bulkhead seat for the long overseas flight, so I was able to stretch out and actually got some decent sleep.
In my seat for the long haul - DFW to Brisbane!
The same lady sat in the window seat from DFW to Brisbane and from Brisbane to Sydney. She lives in Sydney, and when she found out this was my first trip, she offered to switch seats with me when we started our descent so I could see the city from the air. I couldn't really see the city, but the views were amazing regardless. We flew over the city, turned back around and flew back over the coastline before landing. What a gorgeous Australian morning!

Because Stephanie was at work when I arrived on Monday morning, so she sent a car to pick me up at the airport. Talk about special treatment! And I was really thankful not to have to take the train or a taxi to her apartment - the driver took me right to the door, the concierge asked "Are you Stephanie's friend?", and next thing I knew I was on the 17th floor walking into a beautiful apartment with an amazing view. 
The view from Stephanie's balcony looking toward Darling Harbour
The view from my bedroom window
The view from Stephanie's balcony toward the CBD (Central Business District)
After some breakfast and emailing home to let the parents know I arrived safely,  I tried to take a nap but with no success. I was too excited! So I took a shower and then headed out to explore. Stephanie knew exactly where I would want to go first - the Opera House - so she left me directions on how to walk there. It was only a 15-minute walk through The Rocks historic district, and then there it was! That building is so impressive, even more so in person. And the day was absolutely gorgeous - the sun reflecting on the harbour was glistening, and it was even warm (it's winter in Australia right now). I walked around Circular Quay and out to Bennalong Point where I was up close and personal with my favorite building in the world! After walking all the way around the Opera House (and taking pictures, of course!), I spent some time in a few little souvenir shops before just sitting on the wall by the harbour and reveling in the view. 

I made my way back to Stephanie's house around 4:30, and she planned to be home around 5, so I sat down on her couch to watch the sunset while I waited for her. I didn't turn on the lights - it was plenty bright in there with the sunset. Well, I dozed off, and when I woke up it was pitch black and I had no clue where I was or what time it was! Turns out Stephanie's meeting went long, and it was almost 6pm. I hadn't slept very long, but I slept hard! She got home about 10 minutes later and we spent our first evening catching up, going out for an Italian dinner, planning for some of the coming days, and turning in early because we were both worn out. It was a great first day in Sydney, and I couldn't wait to see what the next days would bring... 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Summer Days, Post #7

This week was more of the same - work, work, work. The only thing really unusual was the weather. The week started off hot and humid, but Tuesday afternoon we had quite the cold front come through, and Wednesday through Saturday were well below average. Four days with highs in the 70s, in July, in Texas - I'll take it! 

Day 53 - Rabbit hunting from the balcony
 Day 54 - Brodie finally found a spot to relax under my desk during "bring your dog to work day" at Cambridge
 Day 55 - Woah, is that RAIN?!
 Day 56 - the furry face that greets me at work each day
 Day 57 - enjoying a walk on this unusually cool summer day
 Day 58 - Look, an Oreo! Fun times at the dog park.
 Day 59 - Finally finished my 2011 scrapbook!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Summer Days, Post #6

Well these pictures are nowhere near as exciting as those in the last 2 posts from the previous three weeks. This was my first full week back to work, and it was a busy one! 

Day 48 - On Wednesday, Brodie went to work with me. 
I think the day in the office wore him out!
 Day 49 - We have a class schedule for 2014-15!
 Day 50 - Another sleeping puppy pic
 Day 51 - My "water Westie"
 Day 52 - freshly painted toes (I went for something different!)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Summer Days, Post #5

Day 40 - loving the kangaroo I brought him from Australia
 Day 41 - celebrating Dad's 60th birthday by tubing the river
 Day 42 - patriotic pups at Mom & Dad's house
Day 43 - Happy Independence Day!
 Day 44 - Family fun in the pool
 Day 45 - Finally made it back to Texas!
Day 46 - Brodie's happy to be home
 Day 47 - starting to create the 2014-15 class schedule

Summer Days, Post #4

Two weeks of Australia pics for Summer Days:

Day 25 - first sight of the Sydney Opera House!

Day 26 - Chinese Gardens of Friendship, walked nearly 8 miles

Day 27 - Sunset over the opera house

Day 28 - holding a koala ("Koko") at Cleland Wildlife Park

Day 29 - Seal Beach, just one spot on our VIP tour of Kangaroo Island

Day 30 - Steph and me at the Remarkable Rocks on Kangaroo Island

Day 31 - exploring Adelaide before flying back to Sydney

Day 32 - fun times with my best friend in Australia's Blue Mountains

Day 33 - hiking on the cliffs from Manly to Shelly Beach

Day 34 - a very windy day in Darling Harbour

Day 35 - walked across the Harbour Bridge to get this view

Day 36 - surfers at Australia's famous Bondi Beach

Day 37 - amazing sunset behind the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Day 38 - one final day together in Sydney

Day 39 - last glimpse of the Opera House from the train to the airport