Archive for December, 2010

HNY

They certainly know how to do it in Sydney.

Happy New Year to everyone back in Blighty, and to the ace friends I’ve made all over the world this year. 2010 wouldn’t have been half as good without you all xxx

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Today was officially a holiday, ok?

I’m in a weird lull between Christmas and New Year where I can’t crack on with Nuffield stuff as offices are closed and farming types are all off BBQ-ing hunks of meat with their families or desperately trying to get the rest of their crops in between showers.

Having grappled with my Nuffield guilt, I decided to just give up and embrace my touristy side with a day in Sydney city centre.

sydney
It’s actually a much nicer place when you’re not speed-walking or dragging luggage through it.

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Dear Pierre Cardin…

…your suitcases suck. Big time.

There’s nowt like being forced to drag what feels like a bag of rocks through a busy train station and then down busy pavements in blazing sunshine after the wheel on your case explodes.

It’s even better when you somehow manage to find yourself on cobbled streets you never knew existed, get what remained of your pathetic, broken suitcase wheel jammed in a hole, and then spend five minutes kicking and swearing at the thing until it finally comes loose.

It’s a shame about my afternoon annoyance as I’d had a nice morning out and about with Norm, checking out the edge of the Blue Mountains.

I had been sad I’d missed out on the range the first time I passed through New South Wales, so it was nice to get up into the hills for a breath of – exceptionally chilly – fresh air (pic by Norm).

Me looking cold

Before I left to get my train back to Sydney I had to make sure Norm was properly kitted-out in some rather nifty headwear.

Norm in FW hat
That’s the southern hemisphere promotional work done then.

A big thanks to Norm and Mrs Norm for a smashing 24 hours. I hope I wasn’t too scary and you eventually got over your nerves…

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Aussie Tweet-up

Guess who I bumped into today?

Norm and goat

That’s right, only Big Norm ‘off of’ Twitter.

I’ve headed about an hour out of Sydney to Richmond to say hello to Norm and his goats.

While he may type that way, Norm doesn’t speak in 140 characters or less, so we had an interesting evening putting the world to right on climate change, social media, rural internet and asteroids.

Goodness only knows what the goats, and indeed Mrs Norm, thought of their strange visitor. The place’s other residents didn’t seem too impressed, anyway:

Alpaca

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Boxing Day races

What could be better than spending your Boxing Day going to see the start of the famous Sydney to Hobart yacht race?

Shame this was all we managed to see of it:

Yatchs
Unfortunately, Princess and I assumed the ships would set sail in the harbour, so didn’t bother to check the start’s actual location.

When they weren’t there, we set off on a racing speed-walk along Sydney’s coastline to hunt them down, not realising the coast’s made up of loads of meandering inlets.

After two hours of near-running in serious humidity we finally spotted the boats a couple of miles away, with no chance of getting closer before they’d whizzed off around the headland. The rubbishy photo above is thanks to a 48x zoom on my camera.

Still, Boxing Day wasn’t a total loss. We headed back to Darling Harbour for a few drinkies around the harbour and then got around to finally having a proper Christmas dinner:

Christmas dinner
Hmmm… Stupidly named chocolate

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Well, that was different

It’s weird enough waking up to Christmas morning when your friends back home are in the midst of their drunken Christmas eve celebrations.

It’s even weirder to open the curtain to find Christmas morning is a balmy 27 degrees and the sun’s blazing in a completely blue sky.

But what totally threw me was the fact that it was business as usual on Bondi Beach.

Bondi

The cafes were open. The restaurants and bars were open. The florist’s, bakers and news agents’ were open. Heck, even the McDonalds was open.

And they weren’t just selling stuff to us Christmas orphans – locals were out buying lattes, having not-so-festive toasted sandwiches for lunch and drinking beer on the sea-front before hopping down to the beach for some sunning and surfing.

The run-up to Christmas in Australia has been a massively understated affair, and today hasn’t really been any different. The fact it was so chilled-out and relaxed made it feel like any other Saturday rather than a special occasion, which was great for any impending feelings of homesickeryness.

Princess and me

Of course, it helped that I got to spend the day with my Nuffield partner-in-crime, Princess. It may have been make-shift, but there was no better way to get through so much champagne, rum and festive chocolate than with my fellow lobster. Hmmm, toasty legs… x

(PS – Santa obviously realised it was too hot to bring me a Christmas jumper, hence the t-shirt. Much better than a hungry caterpillar).

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A Christmas orphan

I’ve flown back to Sydney, bringing Christmas to Bondi Beach.

Christmas

No, the other cards didn’t arrive in time.

It’d had better be sunny on Saturday or I’m going to be mightily narked I’m missing quality bingo prizes, mouldy carpets and the Twelve Buffets of Christmas.

Anyway, for those who avidly follow my blog (hi, mum), you might’ve noticed I’ve missed a few posts over the last few days.

I have actually written them, but there’s only so long I can bear sitting in a McDonalds trying to upload them to a repeatedly crashing WordPress – especially when it’s Christmas eve (I’m 11 hours ahead of you British slow-coaches).

So, you’ll have to wait til later to find out what I’ve been doing.

I’m sure you’re all on tenterhooks.

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Size isn’t everything

I fell for it again today.

Not having much old stuff in the country, touristy spots attempt to make up for what they’re lacking in age by promoting their size.

There was the giant cassowary near Cairns, the enormous bull in Rockhampton and the whopping wool bales in Hamilton.

The other thing guidebooks and signs like to boast is that a particular building or monument is the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere.

Time and time again I’ve been sucked in by the claims, repeatedly going along to gaze at  what invariably turns out to be an averagely-sized lump of rock, lighthouse or tower.

It wasn’t until earlier this week that someone pointed out to me why I’d been repeatedly disappointed. Aside from Australia and New Zealand, there are few countries in the southern hemisphere which have enough money to go throwing about to build super-tall structures.

I thought I’d learned my lesson, but today I went to Adelaide’s botanic gardens, to the largest conservatory on this latitude.

titchy green house
Having perhaps been spoiled by the amount of real rainforests I’ve visited over the past few weeks, I can’t say I was particularly impressed at parting with my dosh to see a few trees in greenhouse which didn’t seem much bigger than the one my grandad used to have on his allotment.

Still, it was nice to see a few plants from home, even if the offering from the East Midlands was a rose called Sir Cliff Richard.

Happily the rest of Adelaide is much more impressive. The place seems to have been built by people who were more than passing fans of wide open spaces, English architecture, pomp and grandeur:

adelaide
Much better than an over-sized piece of fruit…

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Christmas shopping for cowgirls

The one good thing about being away from home at this time of year – aside from the freezing temperatures, the snow, the travel chaos and the fact my usual festive venue, Chez Ma and Pa Stocks, is slowly going mouldy thanks to a flood – is that I have avoided hours of Christmas shopping.

Not having anyone to trudge around the shops for over here makes a nice change, but it obviously means I haven’t got anyone doing any shopping for me in Australia either [cue sad violin music].

But before I have any of you sobbing and reaching for your tissues, you really don’t have to worry – I’ve been shopping for my own Christmas present today.

There’s nothing like a good pair of shoes to keep me happy:

New shoes
Who needs shark skin…

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A sign of things to come

If there’s one thing Australia knows how to do, it’s signposts.

Aside from the previously-mentioned helpful ones to keep you awake on the roads, there are dramatic signs warning you about the dangers of the general surroundings:

Australian signs 1
There are signs for stupid tourists:

Sign for stupid tourists
And signs for… well, I don’t know what kind of person would need instruction on this:

crazy toilet sign
There are also warnings against running into trouble with the local wildlife:


Danger signs
As well as signs about avoiding inadvertantly squishing the ones who don’t want to bite your arm off or pump you full of venom:

Australian animal signs

My very favouritist sign though has to be this one I spotted as I was about to catch the ferry back to Adelaide from Kangaroo Island today:

Penguin sign
I assume this was warning about the possibility of the island’s population of Little Penguins crossing the road rather than about the presence of chocolately biscwits…

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