LunaClown

In Sydney the closest thing we really have to a Theme Park is Luna Park. Its sort of like a permanent fun fair, with about 12 big rides, some kiddies rides and lots of stalls where you can pay money to try and win cuddly toys and other tatty prizes. The entrance is guarded by a big scary clown whose mouth you have to walk through to get in.

They have some 241 deals, so we went with a couple of friends recently on a Friday night to take advantage of the deal. We spent a good 3 hours of the evening there and Matt and I made it on all of the main rides. I felt a bit quessy by the end, after the upside down ride and all the spinning, so we decided not to sample the doughnuts and ice creams.

Sadly the old rickety looking roller coaster was shut, but here’s a summary on the other rides:

Tango Train: We went on this first. Two of you sit in a car and go around in a circle, up and down bumps. It starts backwards and then goes forwards which is faster. The ride lasted quite a while so did get a bit repetitive but was good fun. You get squished to the outside so I spend a while amusing myself trying to hold on against the gravity and seeing what it was like with my eyes shut.

Carousel: As you might expect. I called my horse Sunshine becasue he had a yellow mane and the ride made me think of secretive undercover spy meetings and Greys Anatomy. Yes, I’m strange.

Getting air in Coney island

Getting air in Coney island

Coney Island: Coney Island is a cool adventure space with lots of fun things including a mirror maze, wobbly walkways and some giant slides you go down on mats. Andrew got airbourne!

Ferris Wheel: Pretty standard Ferris Wheel, but with awesome views over the Harbour Bridge and Opera House.

View from the ferris wheel

View from the ferris wheel

Hair Raiser: This is probably the second most extreme ride in Luna Park. It cranks you up a pole higher and higher, to 50m, where again the views are really cool. Then, without any warning or even stopping from going up you drop really suddenly. I was definitely screaming / manically giggling!

xx

The Hair Raiser

Tumble Bug and Spider: These were both ones with two people cars, where ou get spun around a lot and spun in all sorts of directions. Quite good fun.

Dodgems: Another classic. I passengered with Matt and we managed to lap some of the others a couple of times. Apparently the lady was telling me to put the camera away but I didn’t hear her at all!

Moon Ranger: This was the most extreme ride in the park, like a pirate ship, but which went fully upside down. At first I really enjoyed this one, but then when it was fully upside down 3 or 4 times it would stop and leave you hanging there for what seemed like ages, which I didn’t really appreciative. The restraints were really tight pushing on your stomach too.

Ranger

Ranger

Rotor: This was the most unusual ride. Three of us (Andrew wasn’t feeling well and knew it would make him feel worse) went in without any idea what it was, and had the whole ride to ourselves. Its a black round room with a wheel in the middle. You hold the wheel and they start rotating the room and then you go and stand against the edge. As they speed it up you get stuck against the wall and cant move! Then the floor disappears and you stay floating stuck to the wall! That was quite a surprise. It spins for a long time and you can try moving your arms and legs out which is pretty strange, and then when it stops you fall back down to the floor which is now lower! I liked the simplicity of it, and the element of surprise about what happened!

For $25 each (241 price) it was worth it for a fun night out, but I certainly wouldn’t pay $50. It’s quite a small place so I don’t expect we would go back very soon, but if we have visitors who want to go I’d more than happily go again and pretend to be a child!

Gangsters

Gangsters

Tucked away behind Circular Quay is the Justice and Police museum, based on the old police building and courthouse.

Entry is only $10, and recently they had a special exhibit called City of Shadows, based on thousands of old police photos from the 1920s which were recently found in a warehouse

The museum is small, but really interesting, especially the special exhibition. There were three section with photos, one about historic Sydney, one of crime scenes and one of criminals. The photos have been made into a film with voice-over which you watch as you first go in. The crime scene pictures were quite harrowing. I watch a lot of crime and detective dramas on TV, but knowing its real is pretty different. A lot of the pictures had blood and violent scenes, and quite a few had actual bodies in. There probably should have been a warning about it for the children!

Grizzly crime scene

Grizzly crime scene

The pictures of the criminals were all done as portraits, rather than just standard mug shots. They don’t know the story, but it seemed like the photographer asked them to pose how they wanted, so a lot of ganger character came through in the shots. They were really interesting to look at, and some of them had accompanying stories about their crimes.

Lady gangster

Lady gangster

In other parts of the museum you could sit in the judges chair, go into the cells (which were pretty small with nothing in, and used to hold 12 people), and see the old reception room complete with original furniture. One room was full of weapons ( including guns, axes, swords, daggers, maces and other grizzly implements). Some of them had actually been used to murder people.

Its not really on the list of major tourist attractions in the city, but it was definitely worth a visit. And there was this…. 🙂

Police Dog riding a mini car!

Police Dog riding a mini car!

 

12. July 2014 · 1 comment · Categories: Reviews
Roomba eating a cable

Roomba eating a cable

In the UK we had a Henry Hoover, and he was great. We used to feed him a lot of plaster and bricks from our walls, and tiles from our kitchen floor – but he never complained!

We left Henry in the UK though, so bought a dodgy Volta hoover when we got here for $95. It was rubbish and stopped working altogether after about 8 months. We tired a new filter which worked for about another month before it became totally useless again. Now Matt loves gadgets, and we had a few discussions about the replacement hoover. Over a few months he gradually wore me down about getting a robot hoover. After a lot of cynicism I eventually gave in, and we purchased a Roomba 780 (the newest one).

Here’s some features: 

  • Roomba uses ‘lighthouses’ for navigation. These basically divide the flat into 3 zones so he (yes, he’s a boy) finishes one before doing the second and then the third. This makes him more efficient and also helps him find his way home to his dock at the end.
  • You can program him to automatically clean at particular times and days, so he can work away while you’re out. You can also just turn him on when you want
  • He has a spot clean mode so if you make a big mess by dropping something he will circle around and sort it out without needing to clean the whole flat
  • He has a load of different behaviours to help him navigate over cables, round furniture, along walls and get in and out of tricky spots. He also detects ‘cliffs’ so he wont drop off things. We don’t have any so haven’t tested this and aren’t brave enough to put him on the worktop!

So how do I rate him?

Well, there were some teething problems. At first he didn’t get around very much of the flat at all before giving up becasue he was full. In fairness, we hadn’t hoovered properly for a while because the last hoover died and he took a while to be delivered. He also managed to get stuck under the TV stand on a cable.

Overall it is good not having to hoover so much, and I do appreciate that. It certainly appeals to my lazy side. Roomba is quite good at going over cables and wires without getting stuck, although if they are lose he can pull them out and eat them. That means he then jams, stops cleaning and goes to sleep!

Some of the other issues with Roomba, include:

  • He doesn’t clean behind doors, or under Matt’s floor-drobe as he’s not cleaver enough to move things. We have a dust buster for doing the bits he cant reach.
  • He does sometimes miss bits, but on the flip side he does pick up a lot of dirt you cant even see (I think he just eats the carpet personally)
  • He’s a bit noisier than I expected
  • I’m not sure its very efficient, as  he takes a long time to do the flat, but apparently its low power
  • The main problem is his bin is very small, and often gets full before he finishes the flat, eve though its not that big (see earlier comment re eating carpets). This means he doesn’t often do the bedroom and ensuite properly. You can buy a bigger bin attachment which we will probably do.

So in summary – its good if you don’t want to hoover so much, but not totally perfect!

 

Our kayak

Our kayak

In March we finally got around to hiring a kayak and going for a paddle on the Harbour.

We got a duo (for two people) and of course Matt got the back seat so he could control the steering with the rudder and encourage me periodically by saying “Keep paddling Elly”!

We rented it from Spit Bridge, which is in the Middle Harbour. Its quieter up there as the main Harbour gets really busy with lots of boats and can be quite choppy too. We went for the 5+ hours option, and started about 9.30am. The rental company had a pretty laid back Australian attitude. They gave us a map, but nobody asked us if we had paddled before or had any idea what we were doing. We paddled until about 3.30pm which turned out to be pretty hard work! We were both knackered by the end and very achey the next day.

Captian Matt

Captian Matt

There were a lot of pretty fancy yachts and sailing boats around, as well as some houses with seriously good views and water access. We saw a lot of fish and birds, and luckily no sharks! We did practice some ultra fast paddling a few times, in case we needed to escape in a hurry! We paddled around lots of little coves, some of them quite peaceful as they were too shallow for the big boats. We went up to some Mangroves and stopped a couple of times for a Tim Tam snack in a picnic area at a wharf, lunch on the beach and then  a final stop for an ice cream before dropping the boat back off. 

Me and my kayaking hat

Me and my kayaking hat

The boat people warned us about some winds expected in the afternoon, and sure enough they came. We got off the water about 9- minutes before a giant thunder storm which was good timing. The weather the next day was pretty wet, so we did well with our choice of day.

It was a good day out and I’d be keen to paddle some other bits of the Harbour or other places in future as its a good way to see things and get some exercise too. It felt cooler on the water compared to when we got off it. Next time though maybe we wont try and go quite so far!

 

Fancy houses

Fancy houses

17. May 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Reviews · Tags: ,
Crab woven from fishing net

Crab woven from fishing net

We’ve been meaning to check out the Australian Museum for a while. Its the oldest museum in Australia and opened back in about 1855. Entry was $15 each, and we spent over 2 hours wandering about, so pretty good value.

They have temporary and permanent exhibits. The temporary one was on the T-Rex, but as the main museum had a dinosaur section anyway, it didn’t seem particularity Australian, and was full of noisy children we passed on the extra $9 to go and see that.

Some of my favourite exhibits were:

Indigenous Australians: The museum starts with an exhibit about Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islanders which was interesting and informative with a lot of information about historic racism during and since colonisation. There was also a lighter side with lots of animal sculptures and artworks made by indigenous people. I particularity liked the giant fish and crab sewn from old fishing nets. 

Chapman Mineral Collection: This was a big collection of shiny rocks and gemstones. There were easily several hundred there, and they were generally very pretty and shiny!

Crocoite (from Tasmania)

Crocoite (from Tasmania)

Surviving Australia: This exhibit had information on lots of venomous and deadly animals and some live creatures too. I learnt about a crazy kind of venomous shell which you shouldn’t pick up!

Birds and Insects: There was a big room full of several hundred stuffed native birds. It was interesting to see all the different ones in one big collection. I liked th colourful parrots and cockatoos as well as some of the big birds like the pelican, emu and albatross.

Skeletons and dinosaurs: There was a room full of skeletons including different kinds of animals and a skeleton rider on a skeleton horse. There was a separate exhibit all about dinosaurs too, which was good if slightly overrun with children!

The museum was a good way to spend half a day, and was certainly jam packed full of more information than you could possibly take in.

Creepy skeletons

Creepy skeletons

 

14. May 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Reviews · Tags:
Bluebells

Bluebells

In March I ended up between jobs, and although I had a new contract signed, I couldn’t start work until the nice Immigration people granted us a new visa, and we had no idea how long that would take.

So, after spending some weeks in Sydney, making pasties, cakes and nice dinners and very quickly getting fed up, I figured it was a good time for a trip back to the UK. We weren’t planning on heading back until Summer 2015, but with free time to kill it seemed like a good plan, and overall Matt would be less jealous than if I went to New Zealand, Fiji, Bali or Thailand!

I flew back with Cathay Pacific. I’d not been with them before, but as I waited a long time to book flights they ended up being more reasonable than Emirates. As they’re the national carrier with Hong Kong, that’s where I stopped over briefly. It was 9.5 hours there, then 2.5 hours in the airport and 12.5 on to London. I got bored after a film and some comedy on the first leg, looked at where we were and had only made it to Darwin! The flight was very dull and I didn’t really sleep (as expected). Overall I think the Emirates service and food is definitely better, but you do pay more.

I managed to get over the worst of my jet lag in about 4 days, although for a bit longer I was still getting sleepy in the afternoon and waking up a bit early. On the way back it wasn’t really an issue at all. I landed at 8pm, got to the flat and sorted for bed about 10.30pm, had a pretty good sleep and was then mostly OK.

Over here, I wrote a list of the things I wanted to do on my visit, and I made excellent progress, and very fast near the beginning. After the first week and a bit I’d done almost everything or had it in the diary. That said, there isn’t a limit on how much I wanted to do each thing, and I can always eat more marmite, socialise more, eat more and shop more! In the end the only thing I didn’t do was have a charcoal BBQ as it rained at Easter. It would take me too long to write about all the exciting things I did, so here’s an overview and some thoughts.

Propaganda in the Cox spare bedroom

Propaganda in the Cox spare bedroom

I did feel cold at the beginning of the trip, but got used to wearing extra layers and made a mental note to bring some slippers with me next time! It was really great seeing people in person, and I got pretty excited about the shops, fields, old things, marmite and the price of peppers!

Travelling around and doing lots of socialising is pretty tiring! Next time I’ll try and spend more time in one place and make people come and see me. I was over a nice long time, and it did feel like ages, so in future we would probably condense that – mainly out of necessity for not getting much annual leave as much as anything else.

Doing a couple of yoga sessions with friends was great. I did the first one the day after I arrived, which was a great way to get over some jet lag and all the aches and pains from the plane.

I’m still not sure if my trip was a holiday or a visit. Some of it was like a holiday, but then I did live for 30 years in the UK, and have only been gone just over a year, which made it more like a visit to the old stomping grounds. Maybe it would have been more like a holiday if I wasn’t unemployed at the time.

I also pondered “where is home?” I visited our old house which was pretty strange as I met the people now living in it. Its still mainly in good condition which is great. I referred to coming back to Sydney as going home a few times. I suppose it is where I live now, and where Matt is, but then again its not where I grew up or where the majority of my friends are. I suppose its just semantics really anyway. For now I reckon they can both be home.

It was very nice to be back, but it did also make me realise we’re not done with adventuring at the moment and aren’t ready to move back just yet.

Finally, there’s a few things which either surprised me, or I enjoyed unexpectedly:

  • Seeing friends that I didn’t think I’d be able to catch up with was excellent
  • I really enjoyed the company of people’s pets – that’s Chekov, Rocky, Yoda, Chewy and Bink (even when Yoda did try and wake me up in the morning by jumping in my bed)
  • Hearing proper posh and West country accents
  • Doing baking in other people’s houses and
  • Doing jigsaws (this confirmed it was indeed a holiday)
The cat invasion (Yoda, Chewy and Bink)

The cat invasion (Yoda, Chewy and Bink)

Rocky

Rocky

Tristan

For our first wedding anniversary (yes that’s right, the first one, in September 2012), Matt bought me tickets to see the Lion King musical. We went in Jan 2014!

Let me explain. The Lion King was on in London at the time and I’d been keen to see it for a while. Matt decided we’d buy tickets together so we could agree the date. But because of our busy social life at the end of 2012, spending most of December in New Zealand and then an incredibly busy first 6 weeks of 2013 before emigrating to Australia we never found time to go.

But I’m not one to forget a present, and luckily the Lion King is now showing in Sydney so of course I was owed a trip! We went on Friday night so grabbed some food first after work and headed on in. The Show was at the Capitol Theatre in central Sydney, which is the main theatre and opened back in 1928 (see here for more history). I have to say the inside is not to my taste at all! Its very decorative, but to me looked like it was done by a dodgy builder with sub-standard plastering and painting skills (sorry!).

The show itself was excellent. At the beginning and at various points int he show the animals and cast sing and dance their way down the aisles. Noticing this the first time was cool, especially when I turned around some more to see a giant elephant coming down our asile! The show itself has a lot of great dancing and choreography as well as the well known songs. There was a drummer at each side of the stage lifted up so you could see them which was also good.

My favorite thing was the costumes for the animals. Lots of them were really good, and looked and moved just like the real animals. I particularly liked:

  • The giraffes – These were one person bent over with stilts on their arms and legs with their back angled like a giraffe and a big puppet head.It must have been pretty hard for them to walk around and I was impressed
  • The cheetah – This was one lady at the back of the puppet cheetah who controlled its movement with poles. It moved and slinked along just like a real one.
  • The gazelles – To do a herd of gazelles each person had a gazelle model on their heads and each of their arms. They bobbed up and down and moved their arms to make them run like a herd which looked really smooth
  • Pumba –  Pumba is a good comedy character and this really came through in his costume and acting
  • The hyenas – Although kind of scary looking the hyena costumes were cool. The actors had to do the two hyena arms with one of their arms and the head with their second arm, which must have been very awkward but again the movements were really animal like.

I think I was marginally more wowed by King Kong, becasue of the epic set, giant Kong and effects, but of course anything with lots of animals in always gets my vote! The Lion King also had a better feel good factor, given its Disney heritage.

Hakuna Matata! 

12. April 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Reviews · Tags: ,
The boar with the luiky nose

The boar with the luiky nose

When we were down in Melbourne we did the ‘I’m Free’ city tour. Knowledgeable, friendly people in bright green t-shirts take you on a walking tour of the city for about 3 hours. There isn’t a fixed fee, and they’re not paid, but instead you pay them a tip of what you thought the tour was worth at the end.

The Melbourne tour was really very good, so we said that at some point we would try the Sydney equivalent and we got around to it back in January. Although we’d been here nearly a year by then we figured there were bound to be some things we hadn’t seen yet and we didn’t really know a lot about the city history, so it seemed like a good chance to find out.

We met our tour guide Dee outside Town Hall and spent some time working out what major attractions they were likely to take us too. We got most of it right, expect the tour missed out Darling Harbour, although it did get a mention. First up we heard about the history of Gorge Street and how it didn’t used to be so important, hence ending up with a cathedral you enter via the back door as it was built facing the main road at the time which then became disused. We headed up to the Queen Victoria Building after that where we discovered the statue of Queen Victoria’s dog which talks, and that the historic clocks inside have figurines inside which move on the hour including an hourly beheading of Charles I!

We discovered plenty of other places on our trip including the inside of Customs House, the First Fleet memorial, Australia Square and the Rum Hospital (with the lucky boar above), and learnt about some of the city history too which was good. Just like in Melbourne our guide was knowledgeable, friendly and enthusiastic. We also got a map which had a good list of attractions on it, including some more obscure ones which we will try and see this year – like Hyde Park Barracks, the Rocks Discovery Museum, the money museum and plenty more. Lots of these are free too which is great! 

I’d totally recommend the tour, if you’re new to Sydney and have a few hours to spare or you’ve been here a while and want to get to know it a bit better. 

Artistic bird cages (with sound)

Artistic bird cages (with sound)

09. April 2014 · 3 comments · Categories: Reviews · Tags: ,
Outdoor cinema, with bats

Outdoor cinema, with bats

The summer here is typically predictably fine and warm, and a selection of outdoor cinemas pop up at a few places around Sydney.

I was keen to try one out, so we signed up for the Hobbit 2 (the Desolation of Smaug) at Centennial Park for a Friday night (see here).

You can either get standard tickets for $18, or ‘gold grass’. Gold grass gets you your own giant bean bag, a spot right in the middle, plus a hot food service until the film starts. We went with the normal seats and considered hiring a bean bag separately. They were $9 and could clearly fit two although in the end we didn’t need one. We got there nice and early so manged to grab a prime spot, right on the edge of the gold grass to pretty central, plenty close enough to the screen and in the amphitheater style wide steps so we got to use one of the steps as a handy backrest. We could lie down against it which was pretty comfy.

You aren’t allowed to take along seats with legs on as they block other people’s view. We borrowed a Thermarest chair from Penny at work (thank you) which was nice and comfy and took a picnic blanket to sit on, a mini camping pillow and of course a hoodie to wear. The screen was a giant inflatable one with supports each side. It did wobble about in the wind a little bit, which made for some interesting distortion effects! As the sun set there were lots of pretty large bats flying about which was cool.

The film started at sunset (8.15pm) and was three hours long so it was pretty late and chilly by the end. Next time i’d definitely take a second blanket to snuggle under. Also at the end Matt did say “You’ll have to fill me in on the last 20 minutes” as he’d gone to sleep!

We took along a lot of snacks to munch on and ended up buying a bottle of wine there too as I didn’t realise you could bring drink until the last minute and we didn’t find a bottle shop on the way (doh!). Overall it was a excellent evening lying under the stars eating yummy things watching a good film. The actual cinema is a similar price. I’m glad we went and would certainly go to another one.

 

Stalagtites

Stalagtites

In January we had a long weekend for the Australia Day Bank Holiday. We spent it up in the Blue Mountains and had an awesome sheep roast with some friends on the Saturday. On the Sunday we went to visit the Jeonlan Caves, which have been on to the To Do list for a while. Thy’re about an hour west of Blackheath up in the Blue Mountains and there are about 12-15 different caves which you can visit there (all for a few of course). You can read more about them here.

Cave curtain

Cave curtain

We picked out the River Cave as its one with smaller groups and I liked the sound of the underwater River Styx and reflective pools. We’ve been to a few caves before, including recently Hastings Cave in Tasmania (see here) but I’ve not seen one with a big river in so decided to go for something different. The tour was 2 hours for $42 and is labelled as the most strenuous with over 1200 steps!

Twisty cave feature

Twisty cave feature

Before we even got on the tour the drive into the caves was cool, with the entrance including driving through a massive cavern. We were a bit early so went for a walk along the outside lake first, which was very blue becasue of all the suspended limestone particles. We also saw my firsty wild deadly red-bellied back snake. It was on a path which you could easily avoid and marked with this helpful warning sign! (Alight, so I’ll admit I walked along it when there was no snake there, and then when we came back via the higher path about 20 minutes later, there was Mr Snakey. Had the sign said it was a deadly one I might not have gone there!)

Snaaaaaaaaake

Snaaaaaaaaake

Anyway, onto the tour. Our guide was called Sam, was very friendly and took a pretty relaxed approach to the tour which ended up taking about 2 hours 20 minutes so we got some extra value for money in! There were probably about 25 of us on it and the tour included part of the popular Lucas Cave too. Some of the formations in the caves were very cool, particularly the large curtains, stalagmites and stalactites with sparkly crystals in which were very pretty and of course the pool of reflections. The water was so clear and still you could see in the pool really well, it was super reflective and it was in a big cavern all of its own with a walkway along the side. Also we didn’t end up accidentally in Hades, which is always a bonus!

Pool of Reflections

Pool of Reflections

We will probably go back to see some of the other caves which only take groups of 8. The Orient Cave is the oldest in the world (I think) and the Temple of Baal is meant to be very good too. With our tickets we get half price on all other cave trips for a year too and we’re bound to be back int he area for some climbing sooner or later.  

Rock wallaby actually on a rock

Rock wallaby actually on a rock

Albert and I

Albert and I

Soon after we first arrived we bought annual Merlin passes which are a great value way to see a lot of Sydney attractions. They included Madame Tussaudes in Darling Harbour.

This isn’t really the kind of attraction which would usually interest us, but as it was effectively free with our pass we thought we might as well check it out. The place is divided into about 12 sections including things like history, movie stars, A list, musicians, world figures and sports. Its fairly heavily geared around the big ticket celebrities with some other world figures thrown in like President Obama, the British Royal Family, Einstein, the Dali Lama and some heavyweights from the medical profession too. Being in Sydney there was some bias to famous Aussies including Paul Hogan, Hugh Jackman, Kylie, Danni, Rolf Harris (no mention of any scandal) and Dame Edna.

Mark Webber

Mark Webber

We went on a Sunday so it was pretty busy, especially around the more popular figures where people were queuing to have their photos taken (the longest one was for One Direction which had its own queuing system set up). There were props provided which you could use in your photos like a Crocodile Dundee hat, which I thought was a good idea.

I thought the wax works were pretty realistic. You definitely got a creepy feeling looking closely at them that they were going to move and make you jump! (Well I did anyway). They had a Justin Beiber which amused me as one man was walking around and said ‘Ah, there’s Beiber. I wanna punch him!’

It was worth seeing and I’m glad we went, but I certainly wouldn’t have paid the walk up price of $40. In all we probably spent about 45 minutes there. 

After we went to Pancakes on the Rocks pancake house. Matt won a $50 voucher to go there at a chin up competition at a friends circus event. The pancake house is open 24/7 to meet your pancake needs at any time of day or night. They have a selection of both savoury and sweet pancakes, breakfast pancakes and also meals not involving pancakes for those who want to go to a pancake house and eat something you’d find at a pub! We started with some savoury pancakes of course. Mine was mexican beef which was OK, but nothing massively exciting. The real win was in the dessert pancakes. Matt had Devonshire pancakes (buttermilk bancakes with clotted cream and jam) and I went all our for the Jaffa Pancakes. These had orange segments in grand marnier sauce aside chocolate buttermilk pancakes with cream and vanilla ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce and chocolate chips. Yummy! I was defeated,  couldn’t even finish it all and thought I might explode. The chocolate pancakes were an excellent idea, and although they were slightly dry all the sauce, ice cream and booze soaked orange pieces covered this up pretty well. If you twisted my arm I’d definitely go back for some dessert pancakes.

Rolf Harris

Rolf Harris

 

Not quite the king of the jungle

Not quite the king of the jungle

Whilst in Melbourne on holiday with Phil and Rhiannon from the UK, we took the opportunity to go and see King Kong the musical.

This is new and is only on in Melbourne. The organisers have guaranteed they won’t put it on anywhere else in Australia because it too big and complicated to move. And if they do we get a refund of the ticket price, the flights from Sydney and a nights accommodation!

The show was in the Regent Theatre, a 1920s style building which was super ornate, both in the theatre itself and the other rooms.

The plot follows the standard King Kong tale where aspiring Director Carl Denham and young actress Ann Darrow travel to the mysterious Skull Island to film the ‘beast’ for his new film.

The show was truly awesome – in the sense of actual awe, where you go ‘wow’! The show features a cast of over 50 and the most high tech effects I’ve ever seen in a show. Before you even get to the 30 foot King Kong there were all sorts of set changes, a lot of excellent projection including with infrared sensors to pick out people’s outlines and project directly onto them, and a floor that rocked about like the ship. The ship has a mad Scottish captain who was entertaining.

King Kong himself was amazing. The first scene he appears in when he picks Ann from the vines was done very well and actually pretty scary! He was 30 foot tall, weighs 1.1 tonnes and is mainly moved by a series of men moving and jumping to pull on wires or lifting his legs. He moved really like a real gorilla which was impressive. His head is robotic and the facial features were all very realistic and made you actually feel very sad for him. Zips or panel on his body opened up to show red lights underneath when he got hurt. His noises were really loud and he came nice and close out to the audience quite a few times. There was also a surprise other giant animal which was very cool.

The show itself was a good spectacle with lots of singing and dancing with big choreography, cool outfits (including ladies in furry grey kong leotards!) and good music. Some of the singing was a bit variable, but I often find that with musicals. There was some artistic licence going on, but it was within reason I thought. The ending was quite abrupt and sad, so if they do re-run it I think that could definitely be improved.

I managed to resist the $35 cuddly Kong at the end!

I would totally recommend the show to anyone who has the opportunity to go and see it. For me it definitely raised the bar in terms of projection and effects. I’d give it a 9.5/10 as it only lost points because of the sad ending and a bit of dodgy singing.

Every year around Bondi Beach for about two weeks they have the FREE ‘Sculptures by the Sea’ festival, which does what you could expect. It’s been going 17 years, so it must be good!

According to the guidebook its the largest annual sculpture exhibition in the world, and the largest free cultural event in Australia! There were over 100 sculptures (107). Knowing it would be busy, we went one weekday evening after work. It was popular, but not stupidly busy. The area between Bondi and Tamarama beach is very scenic already, so with added sculptures there were some pretty cool views.

I’m not particularly arty, but sculpture is probably my favorite kind of visual art. I really enjoyed it, especially with the sculptures out in the natural landscape rather than in a gallery. Admittedly some of them were pretty weird, and I didn’t really ‘get’ them. Here are some of the highlights for me.  I added some artistic commentary from the brochure in places.

Like a flower swaying in the wind – One of two moving sculptures.

sculpture6

Multiverse – Cool stacked discs which reminded me a bit of a mountain cairn. Apparently this actually ‘expresses conundrums of time and space and refers to the idea of multiple universes’. So there.

sculpture9

Ocean cathedral – Archway made of bamboo which framed the landscape…’transient and ephemeral, swaying in the wind.’

sculpture8

The Great Bondi Sharehouse – This was fabric anemones and sea creatures attached to a big rock. They were really bright and colorful so looked really cool against the rock.

sculpture10

Diminish and ascend – Very cool staircase pointing off into the air. ‘A compelling perspective illusion that requires the viewer to literally diminish to ascend’.

sculpture7

Nomadic city – Mini tents filled with plants on the cliffs and powered by solar lights. This one was cool in a weird way and reminded me of some crazy spot Matt would think its a good idea to camp in! Really its a commemorative work to nomadic communities displaced from their homelands.

sculpture4

Plastic world – A globe of the Earth made of plastic rubbish left in the sea.

sculpture3

East of the Mulberry tree – the legend of the ten red crows – Crocheted polypropylene crows

sculpture2

Passage secret – Big metal oval you can look through out to see which ‘pushes the boundaries of reality to open portals into another dimension’! Maybe we should have walked through it, but I went with the ‘don’t touch the art’ approach.

sculpture5

Horizon – My favorite. A ball filled with water on the cliff which reflects the landscape and sea back, upside down. It acts as ‘a monument to the coastal landscape and the constant line of the horizon.’ Yours for a mere $80,000!

sculpture1

Which do you like best?

Parliament House

Parliament House

We went to the nations’ capital Canberra recently for a weekend.

When we mentioned this trip to any Australian the normal reply was “Why?!”. Most of them had been there though, so we figured we should to. There is actually a fair bit to do in Canberra and we could probably have stayed another day, maybe even two. I don’t think its worth adding on to a holiday to Australia unless you have a couple of months to spare, but as we’re living only about 3 hours drive away (5 if you try and leave after work on a Friday!) it was worth a visit.

We drove down on Friday night. On the way you pass Goulburn which is famous for merino sheep and wool. In Australian tradition of giant things – they have a giant Merino. Unfortunately it was dark when we got there, but I still got the obligatory photo. Funnily the sheep used to be in the town center, but when they built the bypass visitors dropped off so they relocated it. Its now just by the main road, next to McDonalds and Subway!

Saturday morning there was a Farmers Market on our campsite. We checked that out with an awesome sausage sandwich for breakfast, and picked up some yummy bread, cheese and muffins for lunch.

After that we headed to the main attraction – Questicon – a science museum. Its mainly aimed at kids, but we still managed to spend 3.5 hours there! It was very interactive. We went to a show on perception in the theater and went in an earthquake simulator. My favorite bit was the 360 degree swing. Using mainly your own momentum you get strapped in the swing and see if you can do a 360 turn! Matt managed it, I wasn’t quite strong, heavy or co-ordinated enough, but it was great fun.

Awesome 360 degree swing at Questiocon

Awesome 360 degree swing at Questiocon

Next stop was Parliament House with the giant 4 legged flag pole and various official rooms which you can wander round. They were setting up for a big awards event and played BeeGees Staying Alive as we left which amused me enough to do a little dance! We went back to the campsite and dinner via the War Memorial and Mount Ainslie lookout.

On Sunday we went to the Australia Museum. This had lots of cool exhibits including Aboriginal History and a replica skeleton of a giant wombat type dinosaur! There was also info on the rabbit proof fence they put up across the whole length of Australia in WA, a cart that came from Scotland to Oz, back to Scotland and then back here again and a Citroen C7 that had driven all the way round the country! (IT might have been the first car to do that, I can’t quite remember).

One of Rolf Harris' wobble boards

One of Rolf Harris’ wobble boards

Sunday afternoon we went to the Telstra Tower on Black Mountain reserve where you can look out over the city from the tower which had some good views. After that we went for lunch and a walk around the Botanic Gardens before heading home again.

Canberra was a bit of a strange place. It was designed and built as the capital, so has some textbook town planning and street layouts going on. It was really quite quiet really, so I guess a lot of people only come int he week for work and then live somewhere else.

Flower in the Red Soil Garden

Flower in the Red Soil Garden

 

drag1

My inner motorsport enthusiast was super keen to go and see some Drag Racing recently at Sydney Dragway. It was the Sydney finals.

We went on a scorchingly hot Sunday when it hit 35 degrees with not too much shade. The day opened with a marching band playing the Rocky theme tune – awesome! 🙂

Basically two cars go head to head to see who can cover a 1/4 mile track the quickest. They record the top speeds as well. There were a whole host of different categories, and I didn’t really understand what the difference between them all . They had Nitro cars, alcohol powered cars, door slammers (?!), outlaw (?!) retro cars, drag bikes, full on dragster cars (Top Fuel) with parachutes and some others which I can’t remember.

The word of the day was definitely noisy. We took ear plugs and certainly needed them. Everything was really loud, especially the custom dragsters – they got to over 400kph and the ground literally shook when they raced.

It was a pretty entertaining day, and you could walk around the pits and see the repairs and work being done on all the cars. I have to say though 7 hours was a tad too long to watch two cars going in a straight line, so we might not go for the whole day next time!

It was also a total bargain. We paid $40 each online and when we got there, because was female, I got the laydee price of $20, so got $20 back. We also got free Top Gear magazine and another motoring magazine too. There weren’t any men in dresses and heels though which was a slight disappointment.

Brooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooom!

drag2

murderannounced

Being a detective and general murder mystery fan, I snapped up the opportunity recently to see A Murder is Announced, a Miss Marple Play, at the Sydney Theater.

The show started at 8pm, so first off we went to the Hyde park Night Noddle Market which is on as part of Good Food Month. There were about 40-50 stalls selling a whole wide range of different Asian foods, and lots of lanterns and cool lights. We started with duck pancakes which are my favourite. Unfortunately I was disappointed by $5 for one piece of duck in a pancake which was roasted breast and not even crispy – boo! Things improved with 8 Dim Sum to share and a selection of mains – crispy squid, salt and pepper prawns and BBQ pork. We went for pudding too – mini pancakes with strawberries and chocolate sauce – not terribly Asian by very tasty. On a weekday it was full with hardly any seats, so I imagine it would be hectic on a weekend.

Then it was off to the theatre. After a quick beverage in the theatre bar and some excitement over the combined Dyson tap and hand-drier in the ladies, it was time for the show. We had second row seats AND nobody say in front of us, so the view was excellent!

The story is about a murder being announced in the personal section of the local village newspaper, and the events that follow (including more than one murder). The set and the acting was soooo British, including the location in the small village of Chipping Cleghorn.

I loved it, although Matt found the play had a few too many elderly female characters for his liking. There was overly floral furniture, Royal Daulton, wing backed chairs, china tea sets, a tea trolley and cucumber sandwiches! 🙂 There were a lot of plot twists, especially at the end – certainly hard to guess whodunnit.

Who or what is your favourite detective or show? (I’m torn between Poirot and Midsomer Murder. Probably own we are here the total Britishness of Midsomer swings it!)

My room (bottom right)

My room (bottom right)

I recently had a week off work, and Matt didn’t. I’d been working hard, so was keen to make the most of the time, but wanted to be a bit considerate and do something Matt wouldn’t be massively jealous of.

After some thinking I decided to go to Mangrove Ashram. An Ashram is a center of learning for Yoga. It is the largest one in the Southern Hemisphere, and just under 2 hours north of Sydney out in the bush. I booked in for 3 nights. I had a recommendation from a friend that it was good, so decided to be brave and get over my fears that it might be full of hippies! (Not that there is anything bad about hippies, I do have hippy tendencies…)

There is a daily program, with some variations each day. There is a fair bit of free time which I mainly spent reading an talking with other people. I also went on a bush walk up to the cliffs at the top of the Ashram which was good – nice and peaceful.  I arrived just before lunch on the first day and settled in. I soon got talking to people and met a lot of people to speak too on the second morning at the visitors meeting.

Two of the three mornings I managed to make it up for the 5.30am yoga class. I’m not a morning person so it was a big challenge for me, but it set me up really well for the day. You end up feeling very awake and refreshed. There was silence each night from 8.30/9pm when the evening activity finished until 7.30am after breakfast. I even managed that too!

One of the daily classes was Yoga Nidra which is Yoga for ultimate relaxation, and it is totally relaxing. So much so I had an embarrassing moment on the second day (after the 5.15am start). You do the class lying on the floor, covered with a blanked for warmth. I was listening, I was relaxing, it was going well. Then the teacher said ‘and now we’ll end with three Ohmmms together’. I thought, ‘Its a bit off doing Ohmms on the floor, but OK.’ We did them, I opened by eyes and then realized everyone else was sat up. I had fallen asleep! Oooops! I manged top stay awake the next day!

I did some volunteering slots in the kitchen to help out, and discussed some book readings at the morning meetings. We also watched a film called The Way about the Pilgrims Way in Spain/France which was good and another film all about Yoga.

The other bit I really enjoyed which surprised me a lot was the Kirtan and chanting. I’d never heard of Kirtan before – its basically singing hymns or mantras with a harmonium playing. Some of the teachers played and sang really really well. We did quite a few sessions of it and I really liked it. The first time I actually found it quite emotional and I don’t know why – allegedly because my heart was touched or opened according to the Yogis. Quite a few other people I spoke to said they were also reluctant initially but then really liked it.

The classes were all quite gentle and relaxing, nothing very strenuous. I did get some help to practice my head stands which was much appreciated. The food was very tasty – all vegetarian and mainly vegan too. One day we got chocolate cake for a birthday – yum! The whole place was just really relaxing. It did take me a little while to wind down after my hectic work and life, but after the first afternoon I was totally in the tempo of the place. The people were all really lovely and just the whole place had a really positive, caring amazing vibe. I came back feeling great!

I would definitely  go back, although with a limited amount of holiday and loads of places I want to explore then probably not for a while! It definitely made me want to do more yoga which I’m doing.

I was really pleased I tried something that I was initially a reluctant about. I had a really good time, ended up feeling great and learnt some more about myself – including finding out I like things which I hadn’t expected. Why don’t you try something new this month? You don’t know, you might like it!

Any questions or thoughts?

09. November 2013 · Write a comment · Categories: Reviews · Tags:
Navy ships

Navy ships

After the Saturday fireworks of the Sydney Naval 100 year Fleet Review, on the Bank Holiday Monday we had tickets to look around all the boats. For $3 each (plus a comparatively huge $8 postage) it was a bargain. You can read about the first day and fireworks, here. 

We started off at Garden Island, which is where Matt works. We did a historic tour of the Island – it was good to have a nosey about and the chapel had some pretty cool stained glass. We went on three boats there:

  • HMAS Darwin (Australian)
  • NNS Thunder (Nigerian)
  • Mayalsian ship

The NZ ship was doing missile demos as we waited, spinning them around.

Missile

Missile

 

There was a free ferry back to the Opera House, so we hopped on that and went to the second site at Bangaroo. In there were the Aussie, American and British ships. Unfortunately just after we arrived the HMS Daring (the British ship) closed to visitors. We went on HMAS Paramatta (Australian).

I liked seeing the control rooms and noseying about the ships. Matt was obviously very much more interested given that (a) he works on that sort of thing and (b) he is a boy and they like ships, especially big ones with big guns!

 fleetreview
23. October 2013 · Write a comment · Categories: Reviews · Tags:
Helicopter

Helicopter

Recently it was the Australian Navy’s 100 Year Fleet Review (see here).

The Australian Navy has now been around for 100 years, so to celebrate a whole host of war ships and tall ships got together in Sydney and there was a massive firework, projection and laser show over the October long weekend (yes, we get a long weekend in October here, but not in May).

For us there were two parts of the Fleet Review. On the Saturday there were lots of ships to look at in the Harbour, fly-bys and a fireworks show. In a separate post I’ll write about the Money where we went on to a whole load of the ships for a proper nosey around.

Matt is more into the details than me. I know there were fly bys by a Hornet which is super fast, and the Australian equivalent of the Red Arrows. The city was packed. On Toby’s recommendation we grabbed a cheeky afternoon drink at a cool spot on the Harbour with views of the bridge, which not many tourists know about! We watched the spectacular up at Observatory Hill which has cool views to the Bridge and along a lot of the Harbour.

Our viewing spot

Our viewing spot

I found the start of the show a bit disjointed because we couldn’t see much of the projection or hear the music. Because the show covered such a big area of the Harbour I don’t think many people would have seen the whole thing, unless they were on a boat or in the sky. We got a good view of the full thing later on the TV replay! It was cool to have been there to see it, and the fireworks got really epic and very loud towards the end – the giant bangs.

More on the boats themselves another time…

BOOM!

BOOM!

My trusty kindle

My trusty kindle

Before I get into the topic of my recent readings, I’ll start with a confession.

I have a kindle and I love it. My mum used to be a librarian, Matt’s dad works in printing so there’s a bit of a book bias in the family! I hate reading things on a computer screen, so if I have much to read at work I do tend to print things out. I love the smell and feel of a nice old book so wasn’t convinced about the kindle at first, but now I am totally converted. The main reasons I like it are:

  • The e-ink is just like reading a real book – no glare or computer like qualities at all
  • You can fit so many books in one small space – perfect for holidays travelling and even the train to work
  • Loads of books are FREE – yes, free. Those published before a certain date and those from new authors don’t cost you a penny and
  • Its easy to hold – no pages to fiddle with

So there you are. I read a lot of books on the Kindle, My favorite genres are fantasy and crime, with some non fiction and easy reading thrown in for good measure. Here’s some of the books I’ve read recently:

Game of Thrones (all 5 books), George R.R. Martin: These are awesome! I read them all before seeing the two series on TV. I can’t wait till the next book, although I’ve sort of forgotten where it all got too. The characters are well developed and I love all the fantasy stuff with dragons and mythical lands. The names f people and places in books can be a bit hard to follow, so probably watching the TV show first would help give you an idea of how it all fits together. We will be watching Series 3 soon!

The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkein: I read this last year ahead of the film coming out again, after reading it first in Primary school (I was an advanced reader!). I love it almost as much as GOT.

The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling:  I read this quite recently. For me the book was a real contrast between two sides of the story. On the one hand was the banal small village politics of local Councils and on the other was a gritty, and at times harrowing story about the teenagers and children around the village who get involved in drugs, self harm, unprotected underage sex, abuse and death. It was though provoking and I was interested that JK Rowling could write well about some pretty hardcore issues.

Life of Pi, Yann Martel:  I haven’t seen the film of this, so the book had me a bit confused at first as its a bit obscure and philosophical / religious. I’m glad I persevered though, its a great story. Who can’t like a book with a tiger called Richard Parker?

The Penal Colony, Richard Herley: This was a random Kindle book, about a man sent to a Penal colony on a remote Scottish Island. There are no guards and people have to spend the first week fending for themselves in the wild before they are accepted into the colonies. I really enjoyed this book as it was a bit different.

What have you read recently? Any recommendations for me?