31. July 2013 · Write a comment · Categories: Reviews · Tags:

 

imax

On our quest for things to do indoors in Sydney, we went recently to the Imax in Darling Harbour to see the new Superman film.

According to the website its the biggest screen in the world! I can believe it – its gigantic! We at about 4 rows from the back, and you still couldn’t see the whole screen without moving your head about. I wouldn’t have wanted to be much further forward. It was totally immersing, and the 3D worked very well on the huge, curved screen. Unfortunately I always need a wee (and yes, I do go before the film starts), and because the rows were about 80 seats long with no aisle I had to cross my legs for most of the second half! 

The film itself was good. There was quite a lot of back-story about how superman ended up on Earth which I liked, Russell Crowe was good, the 3D worked very well rather than being an add on gimmick although the Lois Laine character wasn’t very inspiring. There were a few slightly dodgy bits of plot, but no more than most action films! Definitely worth a watch.

At $30 a ticket is not cheap, but considering the cinema in Sydney is about $20 normally its not so bad in comparison.

Verdict: 8.5/10 (but pick your film and seats carefully).

Every now and again I don’t mind a bit of art.

Recently I went with Ellie to check out the Art Gallery of New South Wales, in Sydney. Its open late till 9pm on a Thursday, so perfect for after work, and they put on a free bus to take you back to the train station.

There are 4 floors, with collections showing European, Asian, Australian, Modern, Contemporary and Aboriginal art.

I’m not any sort of art critic, but there were three pieces in the gallery that I really remember. I guess they are the ones that promoted some sort of emotional reaction, all different.

They give evidence

They give evidence

The first one was from the Asian gallery and was called ‘They give evidence’.  Essentially its 16 larger-than-life human sculptures, lined up in four rows, holding their arms out with empty clothes / body forms of people and children in them. Its all about social oppression and injustice. Their faces were creepy, and walking around in between the sculptures did make me feel sad, even before I read the explanation. It reminded me of something similar at the Holocaust museum in Berlin and was all in all pretty thought provoking.

The second piece was definitely modern art. In one of the museum alcoves I came across another sculpture, this time of a dead body covered in a sheet with its legs poking out, and black and white photos of rooms on the wall. (Stick with me). This was all a bit freaky. By the end of the body was a sign next to a door which I started reading, thinking it was an explanation. It was actually about low lighting, enter at your own risk, inform someone before you go in. Slightly confused I wondered if it was an exhibition, so I tentatively tried the door. At this point the security man noticed and asked if I wanted to go in. I confirmed I could, had a quick think about it, and said OK. He pointed out to me another door in another bit of the museum, and told me I would come out there.

Creepy art

Creepy art

So, in I went. Inside was very dark. It was like a basement, with a series of disorientating rooms, doors, low ceilings and very low light. Now in normal circumstances this was nothing to be concerned about, but the whole dead body outside the door really made me on edge right from the off. Walking in at first I just felt a bit creeped out, like when you go on a Ghost Train and you know something is going to scare you, you’re just waiting for it. I really expected someone to jump out at me! Nothing happened, but this just made it worse. The tension just went up and up and my heart started going faster and faster. In the dark I felt alone, and frankly, scared. It was confusing which way to go. I just really wanted to get out of there. At one point I thought about going back the way I came, but remember it being too confusing and thinking I would just get lost! I don’t mind the dark, I don’t mind small spaces, but I do read too many horror books, and it felt like a really bad place. I was probably only in there a couple of minutes, but I was so relieved to find the door out.

I’m not really sure if it was ‘art’, but it certainly had a big impact on me. If it hadn’t been for the body out the front, I wouldn’t have had nearly as much of a reaction – which makes it a good lesson on how the context of something can make you think totally different about it. 

To end on a lighter note, the final piece I enjoyed was a washing line full of fruit bats. Yes, that’s right! It was a four section rotary washing line. The washing line was decorated with aboriginal patterns, and from it were hanging 100 or so papier mache fruit bats. I just thought it was really fun, quirky, and I like animals, so it made me smile.

Batty art

Batty art

Anyone else seen some good art recently?

 

The Baxter Inn wall of whiskey

The Baxter Inn wall of whiskey

Down a lonely looking alley way in Sydney, and further down a concrete stairwell, we recently found The Baxter Inn, one of the Top 10 small bars in Sydney. It specialises in whiskey.

Luckily we had the address, or we’d never have found it. You go down an unmarked access road into what looks like a loading bay. We spotted a man there who turned out to be a bouncer, so when we asked for directions he pointed us down the equally unassuming stairwell into the basement. I see why they have someone outside!

We went on a Monday night. There were a few seats left, but it filled up more after we arrived. Normally there is a queue to get in apparently (one in one out), so pick your time carefully.

Inside are two large walls stocked full of over 300 different kinds of whiskey on 5 or 6 rows of shelves, which the barmen access via moving stepladders. There place has a sort of 1930’s American smooth vibe, and free pretzels!  As well as the straight up whiskey you can have whiskey cocktails and whiskey with freshly made apple juice, which apparently is a classic!

Verdict: 8/10  Good place, worth a visit, be prepared to stump up some cash though!

N2 Nitrogen Gelato

N2 Nitrogen Gelato

We have had my friend Ellie (confusing I know) staying recently, and have had an action packed time. The weather has been very rubbish, so we sought out some indoor activities. One of our trips was to N2 Gelato. 

N2 gelato make gelato using liquid nitrogen! Its super fresh, super creamy (well, milky) and super smooooooooth. For $6 you get a massive tub, which is pretty reasonable for Sydney really considering you get the nitrogen wizardry thrown in too.

Ooooh, sciencey

Ooooh, sciencey

 

They collect the nitrogen from a machine, put it in a jug and pour it in the mixer with the ingredients and it atmospherically pours all over the bench, looking all sciencey (complemented by lots of conical flasks with mysterious liquids in them, big glasses and white coata). We sampled the black salted caramel and the passion fruit sponge flavours, both of which were pretty yummy.

They make sorbet too, and the flavours change every week, so there’s the perfect excuse to go back. AND its about a three minute walk from my office!

Hope all you folks in the UK are enjoying the summer weather with some nice ice cream!

Slated black caramel flavour

Slated black caramel flavour

P.S There is an informative article on the difference between ice cream and gelato, here.

Twisties are awesome!

Twisties are awesome!

Lately, in July, we have been:

Liking: Having Ellie visit and motoring about. We’ve been out and about a fair bit in the car, which is great. More about that in upcoming posts, and having Ellie visit from the UK was great (although people at work did seem a bit confused at times, when I seemed to be talking about myself in the third person).

Disliking: Rain! It was the wettest June on record in Sydney. In between getting soggy we used it as an excuse to play board games, including our latest addition, Agricola, based on making a farm. I love making herds of sheep, cows and boar.

Watching: Rome Series 2. After finishing Series 1 in June, with all the wet weather we cracked right on with Series 2 – that’s not finished too. We also went to see the new Superman at the Imax (see separate post on the massive Imax!)

Consuming: Lamingtons. For my friend Ellie’s visit we ate lots of tasty things, including some traditional Australian Lamingtons. They are 2 layers on vanilla sponge, with jam in the middle, chocolate on the outside and sprinkled with dessicated coconut. They are totally edible, but I’m still not convinced by the coconut. Give me a classic Victoria Sponge any day! I have also been seriously liking Twisties. They are like Nik Naks, but cheese flavoured and awesome!

Buying: Not a lot. After buying the car and a surprise parking fine from when we were in the car club, we’ve been skimping a bit this month. Turns out its a $165 offence to park not in the direction of traffic. Now we know! 

Working on: Bids bids bids. Work is hectic, soon to be very hectic. So hectic I got given another underling. My empire is expanding!  

Thinking about: A holiday. Were thinking of heading to Darwin and the Kakadu National Park late September time. We want to learn to dive here before going to the reef, and apparently Tasmania is fairly like New Zealand. Darwin and the Northern Territory look like the Australia you always imagine – all red, dry, dusty and full of crocs!  

Visiting: Lots of places nearby in the car. We have had my friend Ellie visiting at the end of June so we did lots of things including a boat trip in Ku-Ring-Gai, a trip to Palm Beach and Barrenjeoy and lots of places in Sydney.

Looking forward to: an upcoming trip to the reptile park! I love reptiles, and used to have some as pets. The reptile park also has kangraroos, koalas and wombats, so should prove to be an awesome day out! 

What have you guys been up to?

Palm Beach

Palm Beach from Barrenjoey

Palm Beach is about a 45 minute drive from our place.

Palm Beach is a pretty affluent area and where they film Home and Away. The beach is attached to a massive bit of rock called Barrenjoey Head with a lighthouse on top. From the air the whole thing makes a mushroom shape, with water on both sides. To the east is the Tasman Sea, and to the west is an inlet which looks over to West Head and the Ku-Ring-Gai National Park.

We went for a walk up Barrenjoey Head and went on the half hourly tour of the lighthouse which runs from 11am – 3pm on Sundays. For $3 it was a bargain (although you also have to pay about $5 an hour for parking). You got to see old photos of the area and go up the tower. The views our to see and Ku-Ring-Gai were good (if windy) and we even spotted evidence of a few whales out at sea.

Barrenjoey Lighthouse

Barrenjoey Lighthouse

After the walk we had lunch at the The Boat House which is right next to the pier where they film Home and Away. It was very busy, and justifiably so as the food was both excellent and massive! (We had calamari, steak sandwiches, chips, massive smoothie and of course some tea). We managed to grab a seat outside with prime waterfront views across to Ku-Ring-Gai. I’d definitely advise eating after the walk, we were too stuffed for much afterwards!

View from the Boat House cafe

View from the Boat House cafe

Barrenjoey also has climbing, which Matt will get around to writing about sooner or later!

Kurtosh

Kurtosh

I am getting into yoga at the moment. Luckily the studio is about 5 minutes walk away, and even more luckily its next to an awesome cake shop called kurtosh!

I fairly regularly walk past, sometimes popping in for a quick browse and sample! Recently with Ellie visiting, we had an excuse to go properly.

Kurtosh is a small chain of several cafes, named after ‘Kurtoskalacs’ – Hungarian pastry based chimney cakes (see here). The pastry is rolled out in a thin ribbon, and wrapped around a wooden cylinder to make the chimney. They’re then baked in a rotating oven, fresh to order in about 10 minutes, and served lovely and warm. They make a whole lot of other delicious looking and very tasty cakes too including cookies and chilled cakes.

There are 7 flavours – some like nutella are added in before the pastry is rolled out, others like cinnamon or nuts go on just before baking.   

Nutella kurtosh

Nutella kurtosh

It was a tough choice, so on our visit we went for a nutella version and the classic cinnamon too. They are $7.50 each, or $8.50 for nutella. Really one between two would have been fine, unless you’re really hungry! On balance I slightly preferred the nutella one. The flavour was yummy with the runny nutella in the middle and it was glazed which was nice, but slightly doughy on the inside. The cinnamon was nice too, with a slightly better texture inside.

Sydney is an awesome place for food and I love that there is more (often better) European food than you get in the UK, which is much closer to Europe.  

Anyone eaten or made anythign super tasty recently?

06. July 2013 · 1 comment · Categories: Settling In · Tags:
Our Hyundai i30 (and balloon!)

Our Hyundai i30 (and balloon!)

After about three months in Sydney without wheels, we finally gave in and bought a car – hurrah! Here’s a Q and A style summary.

What car did you get?

Its a Hyundai i30 Elite. Petrol. 5 doors. Automatic. MY13 (=new) in metallic blue.

Automatic?! Elly, what were you thinking?

It turns out automatics are a lot more popular here. The majority of people learn to drive in them, so only have automatic licences. That means reselling manuals is much harder and they don’t retain their value so well. Also, Sydney traffic is a right pain, so we were persuaded into taking the lazy option. It does have a manual over-ride although I’ve yet to work out how to use it.

Why didn’t the car club work out?

There were a few reasons we decided to get our own wheels. The main factor was that we will mainly use a car for weekends away, which work out very expensive in the car club. The sheer convenience of our own car was a big factor too, and if we see it an an investment, we can get a big chunk of money from selling it when we come home. Also, the car club people annoyed me with their silly rules on fuel receipts and cheated me out of money – grr!

How did you pick what to get?

We did a fair bit of research and looked at SUVs as well for ground clearance for dirt roads, but decided we didn’t need one of those in the end. We narrowed it down to the i30 (voted Australia’s best small car) and the Honda Civic spaceship model. After driving both of them, making an Elly style comparison table and haggling with the salespeople about what the price actually was, the i30 was l round value for money (although not quite as cool looking!)

How come you went for something new? 

Well, it turns out the car market here is quite different to the UK. I would never have got a new car in the UK. Our starting point (having come from having two cars about 10-12 years old, which both had a lot of problems and ended up costing a lot of money) was we wanted something about 2 or 3 years old. Looking into it, depreciation here is much less for some reason. There aren’t a lot of cars for sale that a few years old, and the ones that are are only about  $2,000-3,000 the cheaper than a new one. Bearing in mind that the new ones are new (having had no thrashing about or other unknown history), come with full warranty, capped priced servicing, green slip, stamp duty (yes, see below!) and breakdown cover all chucked in, going new is a pretty sensible plan once you’ve saved up the money.

I thought Stamp Duty was for houses?

Me too! Here, when you buy a car (even a used one) you pay 3% of its value to the Government as stamp duty! For new cars this is included in the price. You also pay a ‘rego’ (car tax – also included on ours) and need a Green Slip which is basically third party insurance. Then you can add on more insurance to upgrade to fully comp if you like (obviously we did this for a new car!). Also, you pay more for black and white number plates rather than yellow ones – weird!

How were the salesmen?

Pretty much as you might expect! We met some pretty useless ones, and had an interesting (fun?) time haggling with them at the end. I was fairly pleased with my overall negotiation skills.

What features has it got?

There are many features. My favourite ones are:

  • Dual zone climate control – I am always cold in the car, Matt is normally too hot. This is great! 
  • Automatic mirrors and welcome – when you have the keys in your pocket, and wander near by, the mirrors (ears) fold out and the lights flash at you to say hello!
  • Push button start – This makes me feel like being in a space ship!
  • Sat nav – we have no idea how to get anywhere at the moment! 

There is also Bluetooth which Matt appreciates. Oh, and it came with a free balloon! (That’s now no longer with us).

Hows  it going so far?

Good! I am loving having our own car again. As well as getting out and about to cool places I’m happy just to be able to go to a supermarket that isnt the equivalent of a Tesco Express which is pretty much where we have done most of our shopping so far.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After my recent adventure to Goat Island with Toby and Kendall, and trip to the Vivid festival, they had organised a dinner surprise, to the 360 restaurant which is at the top of the Westfield tower (see here). (In the picture its the tallest building, the thin tower with the round bit at the top.)

The restaurant has good food and a very extensive wine list. It’s called 360 as it has a 360 degree view around Sydney, AND it revolves, about once an hour so you get the whole view from your seat. This can be a bit confusing if you get up to go to the loo!

The views from the restaurant were really cool, especially as the Vivid festival was on so we got to see lots of buildings all lit up and with projections on them. We even caught the end of the Darling Harbor firework show too.

I can’t remember the full details of the food and wine, but essentially I ate and drank: Mixed starter with yummy meats, olives and oysters; roast duck breast; roasted pumpkins; Tasmanian red wine; lemon brulee tart with red berries and seriously good Italian desert wine. The pudding, desert wine and pumpkin were particularly good. I was surprised by quite liking the oysters as previously I’ve just found them to be too slimy and salty!

Getting a picture was a bit tricky as the floor revolves around as you try and take them!

The restaurant isn’t cheap, but actually given the views its not unreasonable for the whole experience compared to other restaurants in the city.

Overall verdict:  8.5/10. Brilliant views, good food and wine and excellent company too. I reckon this would be a good choice for a special occasion and to take visitors.