bluemangroup

We went recently to see the Blue Man Group at The Star in Sydney.

I wasn’t very familiar with them before Matt suggested it, but after a bit of You Tube learning and finding out it was only $50 a ticket we thought we’d give it a go.

The show is really hard to describe. Things it included were:

  • Three men all painted in blue who don’t speak
  • Drumming on lots of things including pipes and drums covered in paint
  • Hijinx with paints
  • Clever projection with animations
  • Scary audience participation (luckily we weren’t picked)
  • Comedy type sketches
  • Giant bouncing lit up balls and streamers in the audience whilst dancing

I think it was worth $50, but I’m glad we didn’t pay more than that. The drumming bit was really good, especially on the pipes and I liked the projection bits too, but I wasn’t convinced by the comedy. We were sat fairly far back so probably didn’t get the full experience.

Overall verdict: 6.5/10. Worth a trip if you get a cheap ticket

One night after work we went on a night tour at the Sydney observatory for some star gazing.

There were a few bits to the tour: walking around the museum yourself, 2 telescope viewings, some 3D films and looking at the stars outside.

They had two different telescopes, a fancy high powered new sciencey looking one, and another that was more ‘classic’ and over 200 years old. We saw Saturn and Venus through these respectively. Saturn was cool, you could see the actual rings clearly. In comparison Venus just looked like a star really. I liked being in the towers. They are made of copper and the roof spins around depending on where you want to view – it made me think of mad scientists cackling manically.

The films were good for making you think about the scale of the universe and our significance in it. Our guide was good at explaining things and answering questions – Matt and I couldn’t resist some tricky ones about the shape of the universe and whats outside of it. Mind boggling stuff.

Definitely worth a trip.

The photos didn’t come out too well. We did see some cool lanterns from the Korean Buddism Festival on the way home, so here’s one of those instead! 

Koala paper lantern

Koala paper lantern

31. August 2013 · Write a comment · Categories: Reviews · Tags:
Big guns

Big guns

Back in July we went on a trip to the Australian National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour.

With Matt working on things for the navy, I was a bit worried about being bored stiff while he spent hours looking at every last thing. Luckily, it was actually pretty interesting! I’ll apologise now for my totally incorrect use of naval terminology.

Although its a museum its really interactive, and you get to walk around several different boats and a submarine. Here were the highlights for me:

Going on the submarine (HMAS Onslow): It was pretty cramped down there, I definitely couldn’t work on one of them, even though I’m short enough to not bang my head too much!

Boarding the submarine

Boarding the submarine

Replica of Captain Cook’s HMB Endeavour: This was pretty interesting. Having thought the submarine was cramped, the bottom desk of Endeavour took it to a whole new level, where you literally had to crawl around on your hands and knees! I liked all the old school wood, and couldn’t resist a piratey ‘Yaaaaarrrrrr!’ when we boarded!

Elysium Antarctic Visual Epic: one of the special exhibits they had when we were there was a photography exhibition from National Geographic photographers visiting the Antarctic. This was very cool, particularly all the shots of penguins!

Verdict: Certainty worth a visit, even if you don’t think you’ll be interested!

Captian Elly!

Captian Elly!

 

Soooooooo cute

Soooooooo cute

Ever since I found out about it, I’ve been wanting to visit Australian Reptile Park. It’s about an hours drive north from our place, up towards the central coast and not near any public transport, so I’ve had to patently wait until we got a car.

Now I love reptiles, and used to have them as a pet, so this was a pretty exciting adventure for me. On top of that, the name is slightly misleading – although its focussed around reptiles, probably more than 50% of the park is for Australian wildlife and birds. This means kangeroos, koalas and of course super-cute wombats!

I had an awesome time! 🙂  Most of the day was a highlight, but here were some of the particularly awesome bits:

Patting a wombat: He was sooooooooooo cute. They are well up there with penguins in the favourite animal stakes now. so far at zoo’s I’ve only seen them asleep or with their heads buried in food bowls, so getting to squeal over how cute they were up close, AND give one a stroke was brilliant. I also managed to accost a kangeroo for a cuddle, and pat a koala too – hopefully he didn’t give me chlamydia – most of them have it you know! :-S

Reptile show: The reptile show was cool, with the worlds largest kind of gecko, a tegu, baby croc and python that nearly strangled the keeper. There were lots of other shows on throughout the day with talks from the main keeper who was a bit of a comic character! One had a rattlesnake which impressed me – the rattle was much louder than I’d have thought. (Luckily you don’t get them in Australia though).

Rattle snaaaaaaaaaaaake

Rattle snaaaaaaaaaaaake

Elvis the crocodile: Elvis is another 5 meter long ‘big boss croc’ from up in Darwin. We didn’t get to find out much about his life story like we got a Wild Life Sydney, but we did get to see him being fed chickens off a stick, which was good to watch – the bang as he snapped his jaws shut was pretty impressive, along with his jumping skills.

Elvis the Big Boss Croc

Elvis the Big Boss Croc

Tasmanian Devils: Again, we’d only seen these guys asleep before. The ones here were really active which was good to see, and we found out some more about the conservation work going on. The Tassie Devils are in danger becasue of a disease, so the Reptile park is helping support a program to breed them in captivity to ultimately make sure they don’t go extinct. I gave some money and got a badge!

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devil

Galapagos tortoise: The giant galapagos tortoise went on a walk around the park and got to have his lunch while lots of people patted him! His shell was cool, huge and nice and warm! 

Tortoise lunchtime

Tortoise lunchtime

Verdict:  This gets no less than an awesome 9.8 /10! I just had to deduct a bit becasue I can live without the spider exhibit, and they failed to provide me with a decent cup of tea! (See, I’m still British at heart!)

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?

 

Cooperage and a crane used to build the Harbor Bridge

Cooperage and a crane used to build the Harbor Bridge

Recently we got a Public Holiday for the Queens Birthday – this makes me chuckle as it doesn’t exist in England! On the Saturday, my friend Toby and his girlfriend Kendall organised an excellent adventure around Sydney.

Like any Australian adventure we started off in a coffee shop! (Although being stereotypically English Toby and I had tea). We went on a tall ship through the Harbor up to Goat Island. Normally the tour is on a pretty regular boat, but the tall ship takes over in winter when the main boat has maintenance – I reckon the tall ship version is much better – I couldn’t resist a couple of pirate ‘yarrrrs’ too. On the boat was a ‘free’ (included) bar with all you can drink wine and champagne! On Goat Island we had a yummy buffet lunch with very tasty ham and prawns, plus more wine.

Convict Hut

Convict Hut

 

After that was a tour of the island. Goat Island is a mix of things really. Back in the mid 1800’s it housed convicts, so there are some old building from then including a cooperage where they made barrels, an armory for storing large amounts of gun powder and a replica wheeled porta-cabin which used to house 20 convicts for up to 18 hours a day. There were some old buildings and houses as well as a listed crane they used to build the Harbor Bridge (which they don’t know where else to store) and some more recent industrial style buildings. From the island you get a good view back to Sydney including the bridge, opera house and Darling Harbor. A couple and their three kids live on the island – we reckon it would be a pretty cool place to have a lot of adventures growing up, although less good once you want to start hanging out with your mates on the mainland and going to the pub.

We heard the story of one of the convicts called ‘Boney’. After getting about 1,500 lashes for bad behavior and not seeming to mind, he ended up chained, naked, to a rock in the island for two years! The name Goat Island is a bit of a mystery and on maps its shown as Cockatoo Island, which is actually now the name of another island in the Harbor. The thinking is that this was originally Cockatoo Island, but when all the convicts arrived all the gum trees got chopped down and the Cockatoos migrated to the next island which was then named after them. Long ago there were apparently three goats on the island who made it on the journey from Africa.

Boneys Rock

Boneys Rock

After the island tour we went on a longer tour around the harbor and then back. The trip was excellent and if you wanted to get seriously drink on the free bar that would have been totally doable too! I think we were pretty restrained really. After the boat ride we went to the Lord Nelson pub on the Rocks which has its own micro-brewery and went around the market until it was time for the Vivid light festival and an excellent dinner(separate posts coming soon).

Overall score: 8/10 – Thank you Toby and Kendall! I’d definitely recommend doing the tour on the tall ship.

Recently Matt went for a week’s crack climbing outside Brisbane, so we took the opportunity to spend a weekend in Brisbane.

From Sydney its about a 1.5 hour flight, or an 11 hour drive! We stayed in town as we didn’t have a car. There is lots to do around Brisbane (including the koala park) which we’ll pick up another time. Here are some of the highlights:

South Bank: The south bank is a nice landscaped area with a cool walkway covered in pink flowers and an artificial beach and pool. I’ve swum in it before at night with nobody else around, which was cool with all the city lights, and just quite surreal!

Wheel of Brisbane  On the South Bank is the Wheel of Brisbane – essentially a mini London Eye. We took a ride on that for $15 each. You get your own pod (as long as it isnt busy), audio commentary and do about 5 laps round. It was a good way to see the city.

Wheel of Brisbane

Wheel of Brisbane

Brunch and other food: A lot of our time in Brisbane was spent eating! We had some awesome brunches which I really enjoyed. There were loads of restaurants and cafes offering a wide variety of yummy things. We had ice cream too (of course), and other snacks including a nice Italian dinner with my friend Simon who moved from our London to Brisbane office last year.

Queensland Museum: We went around the free Queensland museum which had quite a good range of things including natural history, info about all the natural resources in Queensland, an Aboriginal section and a collection about collecting.

Sea turtle at the Queensland Museum

Sea turtle at the Queensland Museum

Ferry trips: We brought Go Cards to travel around Brisbane public transport, but it turned out we didn’t really need them at all. From near where we stayed there was a free ferry which takes you up and down the river to basically wherever you want to go. They had an open top deck too so you got a good view of the river attractions cruising up and down at a nice leisurely pace, including the Story Bridge.

Clock tower: I got a last minute ticket for a trip up the Brisbane clock tower. You go up in one of the country’s oldest lifts, get to see inside the clock face and get cool views from the top. Its in an ‘old’ 1800ish town hall building which reminded me of England.

Kangaroo Point: Matt would be upset if I didn’t mention this. Kangaroo Point are a load of cliffs on the bank of the river where you can go climbing. If we get the opportunity to go back to Brisbane we’ll have a go at some of the routes. It is floodlit at night too, so you can climb any time.

Kangaroo Point

Kangaroo Point

Star Trek: A bit random I know. The cinema in Sydney is about $20, more for 3D. By Sunday night we had slightly run out of things to do, and walked past the cinema by our hotel. A 3D films was only $11, so we went to see Start Trek. I enjoyed the film, as well as the popcorn and maltesers! The maltesers here taste funny, but I reckon I can get used to it.

Overall verdict: 6.5/10. Good place to spend a weekend, but for longer than that you’re best off having a car to get out and about to some places beyond the city center. We could have gone to some other free museums too (including modern art) but that’s not really our scene.

Barrenjoey

Barrenjoey

Recently on a sunny Saturday we got a car from the car club and went up to the Ku-ring-gai National Park.

Its about a 40 minute drive from our place, up towards the north. You pay an $11 parking fee for the park, which can be used in any one that day. You can get an annual pass for $65 for all the NSW parks which is a total bargain and we’ll do once we have our own car.

We had lunch at the marina with all the posh yachts and went for a couple of walks to West Head and the highest point in the park. From West Head the views over Lion Island and over to Barrenjoyey and the other side of the Palm Beak spit were really cool. We walked down to the beach, and then back up 589 steps to where we started (yes, I counted!)

Lion Island

Lion Island

From the highest point you can actually see across all the park back to the tall tower blocks in Sydney CBD (look *really* closely below). Sadly we didn’t see any kangeroos, bandicoots or wombats, but there was a weird bird like a turkey! The park was surprisingly quiet for a weekend and we’ll certainly go back once we have our own wheels.

Ku-ring-gai National Park

Ku-ring-gai National Park

View from Balls Head

View from Balls Head

Ten minutes on the train towards the city, and then a ten / fifteen minute walk is Balls Head Reserve. Its a piece of bushland in the city, right on the North Shore of the Harbor  You can walk about on a couple of trails, with lots of rocks and plants. In a few places the path goes down by the water, where you get some really cool views across the Harbor to the city and the Harbor Bridge.

At the entrance is a cool giant wide tunnel where they use to load coal into trains. There are still all the chutes in the roof and you can walk through the gloom and damp into the park.

There are picnic spots (one by a cave which looked very cool), aboriginal drawings and a giant tunnel you can walk through which used to be a train line. There was a spider with a giant web too, which I didn’t appreciate – Matt took its picture and I went and waited a safe distance away where I couldn’t see it!

Verdict: 7/10. A nice spot of countryside in the city, near our flat, with excellent views. I expect we will go back before too long.

02. June 2013 · 1 comment · Categories: Reviews · Tags: ,
Stripey fish

Stripey fish

Now we’re living in Australia there are lots of new holiday options! One of the top places on the list is the Great Barrier Reef. Doing some diving there would be particularly cool, so we’re thinking of doing a weekend course down in Sydney so we’re ready when we get there.

Now I don’t really get on with either swimming in the sea, or being under water so I’m not convinced about diving. But the excitement of cool fish might outweigh that. I didn’t want to pay $150 or so for a diving course and hate it, so we bought a couple of snorkels to test that out first. We went down to Clovelley Beach back in April. Its near Bondi with a fairly big man made inlet, so you’re protected from the waves.

I didn’t like getting in, that was probably the worst bit, apart from general drinkingk of salt water! Right at the beginning we saw a giant Blue Grouper which was really cool. It was at least a meter long, and really very blue even in the sea. Becasue it was the first thing we didn’t get a picture of it unfortunately, but then didn’t see anything else that big!

Lots of fish

Lots of fish

The snorkelling went OK, without incident apart from Matt breaking a flipper strap. There were lots and lots of cool fish to see, and I didn’t really swallow too much water. I was surprised quite how much wildlife there was around right next to all the people swimming about. We need to go on another snorkelling adventure to try again before the diving course I think. After several practices in the swimming pool (yes!! only when nobody else was there though) I didn’t go fully underwater with my snorkel so that’s the next stage.

Byeee!

Byeee!

Overall verdict: 6/10. We saw cool stuff, but it was still a bit scary! I’ll go again though. Next time we’re going to try the underwater nature trail round the corner and hopefully see more cool things.

30. May 2013 · Write a comment · Categories: Reviews · Tags:
Gromit riding a hoover

Gromit riding a hoover

The Sydney Powerhouse Museum has a ‘unique and diverse collection that spans history, science, technology, design, industry, decorative arts, music, transport and space exploration’.

And, importantly, in May they also had a Wallace and Gromit exhibition on invention. It was $17, which included entry to the Powerhouse Museum which is normally $12 anyway. You walked in though the entrance to the house which was coo.They had some of the film sets which I really appreciated, and then lots of things about invention, intellectual property and patenting. There were games and gizmo’s to play with, and at the end you could make your own veg for the garden out of green playdough. I made a not very good Gromit head. Matt made a ship.

We went on a free guided tour of the museum, which is huge. They have collections on all sorts of things including technology (with robots), transport, space ships, chemistry, steam engines, ‘lace’, clothes, student design projects, engineering competition projects, upcycling, an olde country bush shop, musical instruments, a kids zone about ‘The Wiggles’ (never heard of them) and probably more things I have forgotten!

'Lace' weaving

‘Lace’ weaving

 

Overall verdict: 7/10. Wallace and Gromit were good. I would have loved to see more sets and things from the films. The shop wasnt selling the films (or any Wensleydale) – we would have almost certainly bought both so bit of a missed opportunity for them there. The Museum is well worth a visit – just allow a lot of time!

Gromit measuring his courgette

Gromit measuring his courgette

 

26. May 2013 · 10 comments · Categories: Reviews · Tags: ,
Some of our Board Game collection

Some of our Board Game collection

Me: ‘Matt and I like Board Games’

Other person: ‘Cool, like Monopoly?’

Me: ‘Nooooooooooooo!’

There are so many better Board Games than Monopoly! It goes on for hours usually, everyone apart from two people get knocked out who then go round and round forever getting gradually more fed up! I thought I’d do a quick post on some of our favourite games. In England we used to play them a fair amount with friends, which was usually a good fun evenings entertainment. Here we are making new friends, so will be trying to induct them into Board Games soon!

Classic Games:

Carcasonne: This is a popular classic. You build a country with towns, farms, chapels and roads and get points for putting people on these. Different things are worth different points. Most points wins.

Munchkin: I love this game. You are a warrior in a dungeon, fighting all sorts of crazy silly monsters, trying to get to  Level 10 first to win. You can help your friends in return for later favours, or totally gang up on them!

Ticket to Ride: You build train lines between places.Different pairs or destinations are worth different points and you get more points for longer lines.  A good transport planning game with a lot of strategy in it (more fun than a train game sounds). Most points at the end wins.

Tantrix: A game from New Zealand, nothing to do with sex! We bought this in Puzzling World in Wanaka where we went with the Mills’s. You join up hexagons with colours on to make lines and rings of your colour. Lines are 1 point per tile, circles are two. Most points wins. Simple concept, lots of strategy. Matt is much much better at this than me!

Last Night on Earth: Our good friends the Paul’s in England own this one. Some of you are zombies and others are heros. There are many different game scenarios to keep you entertained, where the heroes need to complete a task or survive the night alive. Zombies win by eating all their braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaains.

 

 

Munchkin and Munchkin Quest

Munchkin and Munchkin Quest

Recent Games

We have brought a few games here in Australia:

Munchkin Quest: Munchkin is for 3 or more people, and takes a bit of learning, so we have recently got Muchkin Quest, the Board Game version for 2-4 people. We’ve not played it yet, but it looks like it’ll be just as good if not better than the original.

Gloom: You have a family. You make them miserable and then they die. But its humorous, and you tell stories about it. You can upset your opponent by making their characters happy. The one with the lowest self worth score once all of one family are dead wins.

Domion: I can’t think how to explain this well, as it is quite complicated, but good. There are lots of different options of cards which you use and trade to get gold and buy things to get you victory points. Most points wins. This is really good for two people as there are so many options its different each time.

Pandemic: You are a medic team who need to save the world by wiping out four different viruses. This is really a cleaver game in terms of how viruses spread and you cure them and pretty addictive. You can play with a different number of ‘epidemic’ cards up to 6 to make it harder. So far Matt and I have saved the world with 4 epidemics, so will try 5 next.

What games do you love?

 

 

Taronga Zo

Taronga Zoo

 

I love animals and I generally love zoos too (as long as they have nice big enclosures).

We went recently to Taronga Zoo in Sydney which is not only a zoo, but also a good adventure, because:

  1. You go there on a ferry out across the Harbour
  2. You get to ride in (or out) on a cable car and
  3. The views back across the city to the bridge and Opera House are cool

We spent a good 5 hours there going around, and I could easily have stayed for longer. They have a wide selection of animals including a lot of native ones including the obligatory koalas, kangeroos, wallabees, wombats, emus, Tasmanian Devils, spiders (ewww) and playtpus (not sure if that’s plural?!). Sadly the penguin area was being refurbished, so none of them 🙁 It wads a bit too busy at the start but got a bit quieter once we wandered about.

I loved all the animals with the exception of the spiders which are still haunting me periodically. *Shudder*.

Here are my top 5 animals:

5.  Ecidnas. It turns out, like platypus, ecidnas are ‘monotremes’ which means they are egg laying mammals. So like the platypus they are the only kinds of animals that have eggs and milk and can (theoretically) produce their own custard! (Thanks Paul Millis!)

Echidna

Echidna

4. Seals – we caught the seal show where they do dives, jumps, flipper stands, shake hands, ‘speak’ and eat a lot of fish as rewards. Seeing them splash about was good entertainment, and they seemed to enjoy it too.

Seal jumping

Seal jumping

3. Elephants. The elephants had a couple of babies which were super sweet. We watched the keepers giving one of the little ones a shower which was just adorable. They told it ‘front foot;’ and ‘back foot’ and ‘turn’ and it even did what it was told – mainly – with some food as an added incentive.

Elephant

2. Koalas – predictable, I’m sorry, but they are properly cute. Of the 6 koalas we saw, 2 were actually awake (and eating eucalyptus) which is a good record as they spend 20 of 24 hours a day asleep.

Koala

Koala

1. The wombat! I love this not-so little fellow and took a LOT of pictures of him. Unfortunately he was munching his supper on all three times we walked past and Matt got a bit bored waiting for him to do something else. I could have watched him for ages. I really wanted to give him a big cuddle, but I don’t think he would have appreciated it really!

Wombat

Wombat

Verdict: 9/10. Could have got a 10 with some penguins, and less other people!

What are your favourite animals?

 

Background 

Before coming to Australia my job was as a Transport Planner, so I know all about cars and public transport and all that malarkey.

In England Matt and I both drove to work, generally not in the same direction, so we were a two car household. We drove to the shops, around town, went away for the weekends in the car, made a load of trips to Homebase, and so on and so on.

Now, in Sydney, we are carless. We live 3 mins from the station and both get the train into work, so for the main that’s all fine. But sometimes you need a car – we’ve been buying lots of big items and there are loads of places to go around Sydney which are quite hard to get to without a car.

Cars here depreciate much less than in the UK, so getting a second hand one is a pretty pricey business. We are saving up with a view to getting a car, but it will be a few months yet before we have enough cash. In the mean time sometimes you need a car, and hiring one is expensive and a bit of a pain as its a long walk!

Nadine the i30

Nadine the i30

Go Get Car Club – How it Works 

So, we have joined the Go Get Car Club. I know about these from work, and was quite interested in how it would work out. We will see how it goes and maybe just stay in the club rather than buy a car and blow the cash on a giant holiday!

We pay $9 a month on the Go Occasional Plan and then either $71 a day with all miles or $8.55 an hour and $0.40 per km. You can pay more a month for cheaper rates when you have a car, or pay nothing and pay more each time. We might go up a level if we use it a lot but thought it was better to work up than overspend at the beginning.

There are about 7 different cars in walking distance of our place. You book them online (or can do it on the phone too) and extend your booking if you take too long at Ikea, say. All the cars have names too. You get a swipe card which you swipe on the windscreen and the keys are inside. You check for damage and make sure its in the book already or give them a quick call. And off you go! There is a fuel card for fuel if it is under 1/4 full at the end of your trip.

Pros and Cons 

Pros: 

  • No massive cost to buy a car
  • No ongoing costs for insurance, tax and servicing and
  • No hassle sorting out any of the above

Cons:

  • Its not as convenient as just hopping in your own car
  • You use a car less becasue you think about paying for it each time (whether this is actually a con is debatable!)

I think its ideal for us at the moment as moving gave us an opportunity to change our transport arrangements and try another way. Whether we carry on or not will remain to be seen! We definitely make fewer trips than we would if we owner our own car, as the temptation to just get in it and pop out somewhere is gone, because you have to pay each time you do that. But I know people totally miscalculate the true costs of owning and running a car, so maybe it just makes you understand it better. I feel a spreadsheet coming on….

Why not see if there  is one near you?

09. May 2013 · Write a comment · Categories: Reviews · Tags: ,
Pirates of the Caribbean at the Sydney Opera House

Pirates of the Caribbean at the Sydney Opera House

Two of the biggest Sydney icons must be the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. We have walked over the bridge and go over it on the train most days on the way to and from work. Having been here a couple of months we needed to check out the Opera House properly.

You can do  tours of the Opera House for about $35, but for the full on experience we wanted to see a show. Having done the new British class test recently, we’re not ‘elite’. Mainly becasue we don’t have a massive wodge of money I guess, but also becasue we don’t do things like opera, ballet and art galleries! So we were quite pleased when we looked on the website and found out the Sydney Symphony Orchestra was doing Pirates of the Caribbean – one of our favourite films!

After some deliberation over the $100 price tag, we decided it would be worth it, so off we went one Friday night. Inside the Opera House is quite concretey. If you walk to the back you get good views over the harbour and of the bridge all lit up at night.

We were about 8 rows from the front. The orchestra were on a stage at the front, with a screen behind them. The film was projected with the speaking and the orchestra and choir did the music. It was pretty cool to see them playing along, and see all the different sections get involved for the different bits of music. The atmosphere was good, and Johnny Depp on a big screen is always nice, but I would have preferred the music a bit louder.

Verdict: 7/10  Worth a visit. The action sequences were a bit hard to follow and watch the orchestra at the same time and Matt prefers the 5.1 surround sound speaker system! (You cant each culture!) I’d go back and see something else.

06. May 2013 · 2 comments · Categories: Reviews · Tags: ,

One recent Saturday, we ended up free from late afternoon, so decided to head over to Sydney Aquarium.

The aquarium is in Darling Harbour, by Madame Tussaudes and the small zoo. We had free entry with our Merlin annual passes (=bargain) and it was open until 8pm so we had plenty of time to look around.

The aquarium was pretty quiet, apart from a very large group of tourists, which were quite hard to avoid sadly!

Sydney-Aquarium1

My favourite thing was the Duck Billed Platypus. I’ve not seen one before and it looked pretty cute and weird. Did you know…(and I didn’t learn this at the aquarium, it is an obscure fact I know anyway) that the platypus is the only animal (I think, and may be wrong) which could make its own custard, because it produces both milk and eggs? Weird hey? I don’t imagine it would be very nice, and I don’t know how it would stir it with its little flippers, but there you go! The playtpus was a lot smaller than I thought, and we only saw it for a very short time before it hid away – I will be back another time to try and get a picture.

After that the sea horses were pretty cool, especially the Weedy Seahorse which looks like seaweed.They have them in the Harbour and round and about, so hopefully we will see one when we go snorkelling one day.

Being Australia, there were a lot of sharks in the underwater observatory bit, plus some dugongs, rays, cool looking fish, anenomes, crabs, lobsters, eels and a whole host of other aquatic stuff.

Overall verdict: 6.5/10. The place wasn’t massive, and with no penguins or sea turtles its only going to get a 7 at most. More platypus viewing would probably take it up to a 7.5. I need a better lens to get decent photos there too!

Fishy

Fishy

03. May 2013 · Write a comment · Categories: Reviews · Tags:

After our trip to the mountains we had a day to spare, but wanted to keep it cheap, so we used our bargainacious Merlin passes and went along to the Sydney Tower Eye. It was Easter time so they had a chocolate model of it which you could win if you guesses its’ weight – sadly we didn’t see a giant gold rabbit up there though.

Sydney Tower in Chocolate

Sydney Tower in Chocolate

At 309m its the tallest building in Sydney, and opened in 1981. Its above Westfield shopping centre, near the middle of town. There is more information about it here.

Firstly on the trip you go to a ‘4D’ cinema and watch a film about Sydney, here the floor wobbles about, you wear 3D glasses and get sprayed with water. After that its up the lift to the observation deck. The views around the city area really good. Partly I think becasue Sydney is a pretty nice city to look at, with Darling Harbour, views out to the end of the harbour, beaches, bridges, some interesting buildings and so on.

View past Garden Island to the Harbour Mouth

View past Garden Island to the Harbour Mouth

It was good to go once we had been in Sydney for a while, so we could pick out a fair few landmarks, including our offices. Matt’s office on Garden Island is the second headland in the picture above, with a view out past Manly to the mouth of the Harbour.

For some extra money you can go and walk about outside too.

Verdict – 7/10. Worth a trip as part of a combo deal, but not brilliant value just on its own

 

13. April 2013 · 2 comments · Categories: Reviews · Tags:

Over about 10 days around the Easter weekend is the Sydney Royal Easter Show at the Olympic Park. This is basically like an agricultural / country show with lots of animals, competitions for said animals (and other things like cake decorating, wood chopping) a fun fair and a big old fashioned show with fireworks.

Tickets were $35 each, which included return public transport.  I thought this was a bit steep originally, but we had an excellent time at the show, and decided it really was excellent value for money. We arrived about 1pm and stayed till 9pm! Here are some of the highlights (or at least things worth a mention!)

Chips on a Stick: These were a much better foodstuff. Basically you get a potato, chop it around in a swirl, stretch it out, put it on a stick, deep fry it and then cover it in seasoning. Again, worth a try, and I’d probably eat it again for the novelty value.

Chips - On a Stick!

Chips – On a Stick!

Dagwood Dog: This is a a saveloy sausage, covered in really doughy batter, deep fried, on a stick and dipped it ketchup type sauce. It is a fair classic apparently. I didn’t mind giving it a try, but I’m glad I didn’t have to eat a whole one and am not likely to have it again!

Koala, wallabee and bilby: Bilby’s are an animal I’d not heard of before, but they seem to be all over the place at Easter. Its somewhere between a mouse and a rabbit. The show had a ‘Save the Bilby’ tent, which also had a koala and walabee in – awwww.

Koala - check out the two thumbs

Koala – check out the two thumbs

Showbags: Showbags take merchandise to a whole new level. Again, something I’d not really come across before, they had a whole massive room dedicated to about 60-70 different types of showbag. There is one for everyone apparently. They ranged from sweets of all kinds, magazines, Muppets, Disney, boy toys. The idea is to take money from kids (well, their parents  in exchange for a brightly coloured bag full of more brightly coloured plastic and sugar. Also it seems one showbag is not enough – some kids had 4 or 5 of them! We gave in and got the $2 Bertie Beattle showbag which had (apparently classic, but really not very tasty) Bertie Beattle chocolate and sweets inside. I really wanted the Kermit one!

Bertie Beetle chocolate

Bertie Beetle chocolate

Wood chopping: The wood chopping contests were excellent! We watched quite a lot of these. There is a horizontal chop, where the guys stand on a big horizontal log and chop it between their legs! One side is anchored to the stand with bolts, so they don’t fall off. Even more fun was the tree felling wood shopping. This was crazy! Basically the ‘tree’ is marked into about 5 vertical sections. The men have giant sharp axes, and two planks. First, they chop a notch in the first section, then they wedge in the plank, jump onto it and stand on it to chop the next section. They then stick the second plank in, jump up onto that and carry on. The first one to get to the top and then chop the top off the tree, whilst standing on the plank, wins. It was seriously impressive stuff!

Woodchopping

Woodchopping

Woolworths Fresh Food Tent: No fair is complete without food! There were some pretty awesome produce displays, where farmers had made giant countryside scenes out of fruit and vegetables. One even had a goanna (lizard) made of seeds. We went to the tent about 4pm, which was a mistake. There were a LOT of free food samples, which could have been our lunch! Samples included: chilli sauce (Matt got a free lanyard for having the hottest one); smoked salmon; fruit bread; speciality bread; pesto; yoghurt; wraps; crumpets with nutella; fudge; bill tong; wine; crackers; nuts; muesli and even wine!

Camp Draft: It turns out camp draft is nothing to do with poorly insulated tents. Its people on horses chasing cows around posts. Pretty entertaining viewing once you know where they are meant to be going!

Camp Draft

Camp Draft

Rodeo: I’ve not seen a proper rodeo before – this one had a series of different activities, most of which can be described a mental! It started with one-handed bare back horse riding (bucking broncho style). You score points by staying on and not putting a second hand down for 8 seconds and then get more points from there. If that wasn’t silly enough, next up the cows with giant horns got involved  Two teams of two men on horses chase the a cow each. One man in each pair then jumps off the horse, and the first one to literally wrestle the cow to the ground wins. The finale was bare back bull riding – seriously mental. Luckily there were no major injuries.

Rodeo riding (next shot is the man on the grass!)

Rodeo riding (next shot is the man on the grass!)

Verdict: Overall, at least 8.5 out of 10. Sadly we missed the pig diving (yes!!) as it wasn’t on much, the evening show had a very weak plot and there was no competition for humongous vegetables! Definitely well worth a trip for all the other bits though.

Pig Diving Cake!

Pig Diving Cake!

 

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

We were lucky enough to have Matt’s sister Lizzie and her friend Steph come and stay with us for a few days recently.

They decided to power on through the jet-lag after an epic jounrey via 11 hours in China. After some traditional bacon and egg rolls for breakfast, we got the bus over to Bondi and went  on the Bondi to Coogee beach walk.

The walk is about 6km along cliffs, with about 6 different beaches on the way.

The world famous Bondi was the first stop. We didn’t see the TV crews, but there were plenty of Bondi lifeguards in their traditional blue outfits. Apparently its smaller than it looks on TV. It was about 28 degrees, so the beach was packed. We had a quick paddle in the sea, got some free sweets from a shop and decided to head on down the coast to find somewhere a bit quieter.

Tamarama was the next beach, which was small but nice. Matt, Lizzie and Steph braved the fairly big waves and went for a swim.

Tamarama Beach

Tamarama Beach

Round the corner we got to Bronte, where it was time for an ice cream!

After Bronte was Clovelly. On the way was a giant graveyard and bowling green on the cliff! Clovelly had a big concretey platform you could sit on, and loads of people snorkelling. We were on the look out for a shop selling snorkels during the walk, but sadly didn’t find one. We have some now, so will be back to Clovelly soon.

Just around the coast a bit more was Gordons Bay a nice secluded bay with an underwater snorkelling and diving trail which is well reccomended.

Gordons Bay

Gordons Bay

The Coogee stop came just in time as the jet-lag was starting to get serious for our visitors, and we were feeling the heat. We got the bus back home in time for dinner.

You can find full details of the walk, here 

Verdict: 8/10. Very good walk, nice and convenient from the city. Would have been even better with a snorkel and a shop selling proper ice creams!