When we went to Dubbo we also dropped in at the Cultural Centre. This is a free place, with an art gallery and a small museum. It also has a good cafe, where we accidentally stuffed ourselves with a late lunch big enough for 3 or 4 people!

The museum had lots of old things from the area, including some crazily narrows shoes and a replica of an old school classroom. The wooden desks with ink wells and space for books inside reminded me of the desks where I went to primary school, and they even had old books in them!

Back to school

Back to school

The art was particularly good. They had a few different exhibits, including some ‘designs’ for silly futuristic things like a flying polar bear farm (?!?!?!) and an exhibit from a competition on making art out of everyday rubbish. The pictures of my favourites are here. They’re a lizard made from a tyre, a fox made from chicken wire and old curtains and a penguin made from an old gas bottle. He looks pretty mean with a cigarette in his mouth.

Tyre lizard

Tyre lizard


Penguin from a gas bottle

Penguin from a gas bottle




Taronga zoo in Sydney is great. You can go there on a ferry, ride a cable car and it has great views over the city, not to mention lots of cool animals to see. I wrote about it here.

They have a sister zoo, Dubbo Western Plains. It’s 5-6 hours drive west of Sydney, past the Blue mountains, on the edge of the outback. We headed out there one weekend in June, setting off on Friday after work, and stayed in a cabin In a caravan park. As it’s winter and inland it gets to low single digits at night, so camping wasn’t on my agenda! On the drive out we hit 1 degree, and it was 3 degrees in Dubbo by the time we got there.

You can stay in the zoo itself, which includes some additional animal tours. It’s very expensive though, so it decided it was better to save money for another stuffed animal for my collection! We stayed in a cabin in Dubbo, which was 70’s retro and

I love animals, so needless to say I enjoyed the zoo. We had bacon and eggs for breakfast there looking at the lemurs on an island in the lake.

had a massive fan heater bolted to the wall. It did heat the place up nicely, until you turned it off!

The zoo is really more like a safari park. The main route around is 6km, and you can hire bikes to cycle it, or a golf cart! Needless to say we went for the active bike option. I managed to cycle around without any accidents, just one near miss with a kid running at me on a narrow path whilst looking behind him. I shouted at him! You only ever ride for a little while, then stop and go and see the animals. Its the same if you drive – rather than being like Longleat you need to park and get out to see the animals. The ticket is valid for two days, so you can go back the next day if you’re really keen.

By fluke we managed to time our route around to see feeding time with the hippo (called Happy), elephant (called Cuddles) and the Siamang apes. They were all very cool, and the apes were really noisy – it sounded like they were signing a song and were great to watch. Near the end it started to rain, but we managed not to get too wet. Here’s a load of pictures of cute things!













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!



It’s weird that now we have been here over a year, the same major events are coming around again. The Vivid light festival is one of my favourite Sydney events, which I wrote about before, here.

This year I went twice, once on my birthday and then again the following weekend with my friend Toby. Again the projection onto the Opera House was my favourite part. The Opera House is very cool anyway, and when its transformed with the lights and music I find it amazing. The show had animal patterns, a video game, a section about the construction of the opera house where they built and took it apart, it got splatted with paint and had lightning hit it.

Customs House and the Contemporary Art Centre both had big projections on them too, as well as other installations like giant inflatable white rabbits, lit up boats around the Harbour and a musical fountain in Darling Harbour.

I didn’t take my tripod along but managed to get some relatively good pictures hand holding my F1.8 fixed 50mm. Here’s some of my favourites.











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



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! 

John Lennons glasses

John Lennons glasses

In Sydney, on the edge of the Harbour overlooking the Opera House if the Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia. They have a free collection which changes regularly, and rotating paid exhibits to.

Since November there has been a series by Yoko Ono there called War is Over! (If you want it). Tickets are $20 and I thought it was worth a look. There are about 25 different works there, and I spent about 90 minutes going around. The works include sculptures, installations, interactive pieces, films and photographs. The theme (according to the booklet) is about “capturing the power of the human mind to transcend the present and wish for a better world in the future, without conflict”.

I enjoyed the art, and here are some of my favorite pieces (some of this stuff is a bit profound):

Play it by Trust: Another interactive work, these were chess sets where all the pieces on both sides are white. The piece is originally from 1966. Once you start playing and the pieces mix together its hard to know who’s piece is which, the idea of competition breaks down and it is meant to create a shared understanding and a new relationship based on empathy rather than opposition. Like in a real life battle or war I guess, if you realise we are all people. Matt wasn’t there to play a game with me, but given that he wouldn’t have been able to win i’m not sure he would have enjoyed it!

Play it by Trust chess set

Play it by Trust chess set

Telephone in maze: This is what it sounds like. The maze is made of perspex, and very disorientating as you can’t easily tell where the walls actually are. When you go in they warn you to put your hands in front of you as they’ve had a few minor injuries! I was OK inside the maze, but may have had a slightly embarrassing moment when I tried to go into it in a place which wasn’t the door! (Ooops). 

Doors and sky puddles: This was a big room, with a out 10 upright and a couple of fallen over suspended tatty doors with small messages from Yoko on them. On the floor were puddles coloured like the sky – sky is a recurring theme in a lot of the pieces. The booklet says ‘doors are just a figment of our imagination’ and barriers exist in our mind as much as in reality and that we need strength and courage to pass on through them. This idea resonates well with me. What barriers do you make for yourself? What if you didn’t? (A problems not a problem until its a problem).

Doors and Sky Puddles

Doors and Sky Puddles

We’re all water: This is named after a song with John Lennon, and is a wall full of glass bottles, all full of the same amount of water. They all have names of famous people on them from Charles Darwin to Hitler and Cleopatra. The idea (I expect) is all about highlighting the commonality between different people. It made me think about the nature of the self – briefly, until that all became a bit profound.

Touch me III: This was weird. Its about violence done to women and is a series of boxes, with silicone body parts in it laid out in a body shape, some of which have become deformed and worn over time. You’re invited to touch them, which I did. It was very strange as the silicone was a lot wobblier and softer than I expected. That’s all.

Vertical Memory and Wish tree for Sydney: These two pieces were on a similar theme of participation. In the first one you wrote where you wanted to go on a luggage tag and put it into a suitcase (I really had to think about narrowing my list down for that one). The second one was you wrote down a wish and tied it to one of several lemon-scented eucalyptus trees out on the balcony overlooking the Opera House. Its about Yokos belief in the power of the mind to effect positive change. 

It’s definitely worth a visit if you like art, even a little bit. Hopefully this post wasn’t too out there!


l there is

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.


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


Day 8: Southport to Hobart

2298km, 36h, 47min

In the morning we took the short drive to Hastings cave and went on the first tour of the day. The tour guide Laura was very knowledgable explaining about all the different formations and giving us some broken stalagmite out hold. The cave itself was very impressive with lots of different formations including stalagtites with horizontal bits coming out the sides called helictites. I’d not seen these before and scientists don’t agree how they form, maybe capillary action.

Inside Hastings Cave

Inside Hastings Cave

At the visitor centre are also Thermal springs which average 28 degrees, and entry is included in the ticket. We went for a look but rather than natural looking springs the water is pumped into a fairly small swimming pool which was brimming full of families with kids and inflatables, so no chance of any actual swimming. I dunked my toe in and the water didn’t feel especially warm so we decide to give them a miss and head straight into Hobart.

After a bit of parking faff we managed to make it to Hobart in time for the weekly Salamanca market with over 300 stalls. There was lots of jewellery, wooden products, local food and crafts. I managed to escape with just 1 pair of earrings. It had elevated up to a toasty 28 degrees so I was a bit warm for any proper browsing.

Over the Christmas period the Taste of Tasmania festival was also on right next to the market. It was held in one of the giant wharf sheds with stalls outside too and food vans near the entrance. There were loads of local foods and drinks on offer including wine, beer, juices, oysters, berry products, cheeses, ice creams and international foods too. It was incredibly busy being a warm Saturday afternoon so we opted for a bacon and gruyere potato rosti outside, followed by a nice cream sundae dusted with sherbert which Matt wasn’t quite expecting and made him cough!

After a quick trip to Treasure Island camp site to put the tent up and a mince pie, we went back into Hobart for the evening. Mainly by coincidence and a bit of internetting we were lucky to catch the end of the Sydney Hobart annual yacht race. We saw the winner Wild Oats XI come in through the harbour from a prime spot and they then sailed (motored) right past us to moor up for their prizes. Being by the harbour we were obliged to go for some fish and chips after that from one of the floating fish and chip stalls. We pieced the one shaped like a fish! Matts chip box had an unfortunately collapse due to too much vinegar which bought the circling Chip Vultures (seagulls) very close! Out of spite at their incessant annoyance he picked them up and put them in the bin in the end! For pudding we went back to the Taste festival and had ice cream sandwiches – locally produced ice cream sandwiched between two freshly baked warm cookies – yummy!

Wild Oats 2

Wild Oats 2

Day 9: Around Hobart.
2406km, 39 hours 15 mins

From early on on our trip we had two key activities for Hobart planned out – the MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) and Putters mini golf! We picked up a leaflet about Putters on the ferry. Not only did it have an indoor and outdoor course, the leaflet also entitled us to a free fries and soft drink so we really were obliged to go. Of course we signed up for both courses ($22). The first one was outside with lots of water features which were both scenic and hazardous to my playing! Along with the sand traps they caused me a lot of penalty points and I lost by quite a lot. But having won the earlier pirate mini golf, that made it one all.

Inside we played the decider with a lot of friendly banter. This time the course featured a lot of wood and tubes and tunnels to transport the balls up down and around to different parts of the holes. My game was match improved, and I even did some decent putting from longish distances which normally I’m rubbish at. I totally psyched Matt out and won by a massive 12 points in the he mend, which took me to 2-1 up including the Pirate golf! We had our free fries which were massive and tasty with Cajun flavour salt. The frozen raspberry fanta was just weird though so we won’t be having that again!

Mini Golf Round 2

Mini Golf Round 2

As the sun was mainly out we decided to make another trip up Mount Wellington to try and see the views of Hobart. The top was cloud free with excellent views although totally freezing. It was only 4 degrees and with a lot of wind it definitely felt below freezing. There was even a small amount of snow left on some of the big rocks at the top.

Back on top Mount Wellington

Back on top Mount Wellington

After lunch half way down we headed to MONA. Unfortunately it wasn’t free like my book said but the lady took pity on us and let us in for the concession rate of $15 instead of $20. The book was also wrong about the opening times and it was shutting at 6 instead of 7 so we had just over 2 hours to look around. MONA is bit, over 4 levels set into the hillside by the river, so we were a bit rushed looking around. They had a thing called the O Device which you use – its an iPhone with info about all the exhibits loaded on including audio so there are no signs. Matt loved it, I personally found clicking through and all the searching ruined my experience of wandering about looking at art and made it too disjointed. Maybe i’m too old fashioned!

Matt and his O Device

Matt and his O Device

Some of my favorite bits were a gigantic metallic head with robotic birds and moving bits inside, sculptures by Hubert Duprat and a giant Buddha. It is made using a giant mold with incense from temples in Nepal so it smelt nice too. Unfortunately its head had fallen off (!!) but I thought this made it more interesting.

Incense Buddha

Incense Buddha

That evening we took the main opportunity of the holiday for a meal out and went to a curry house called Annapurna. It’s one of the highly rated places in Hobart and according to their sign also Tasmania’s best curry house 2013 (out of how many we don’t know!) After the tasty meal we went to see some more of the boats that had arrived from the yacht race and ate some more ice cream sandwiches from Taste of Tasmania for desert.

Exciting news – we have a new page on our website!

On our fridge, and in more detail in my head, we have a To Do List. It’s not one of those boring ones about hoovering and chores though, but about all the places to go and things to do while we’re over here in Australia. We’ve added the new page to share it with you and you’re more than welcome to give us ideas too! I’ve also summarised what we have done so far with handy links in case you want to know about something in particular.

You can get to it by clicking the button under the main picture called To Do List (to the right of Home) or by clicking HERE.

City Circle Tram

City Circle Tram

At the end of our trip along the Great Ocean Road we spent two nights in Melbourne with Phil and Rhiannon.

Melbourne is just over an hour south of Sydney on the plane, so a bit cooler and more temperate weather wise. It has a lot of culture going on, being a UNESCO City of Literature, the Australian capital of coffee and chocolate and a foodie and shopping lovers dream. Quite often we’ll meet people and discuss being from the UK, and they’ll say we would like Melbourne becasue its very European. It definitely has more of a European city vibe than Sydney in the main city center, maybe becasue of more historic buildings, dodgy weather (yes I know some of Europe is hot) and lack of beaches.

There is a lot to do, but we weren’t there long, so we picked out some of the key stuff:

On Monday night we arrived, had some yummy Laksa noddles near our hotel and went for a wander around the city. We were lucky to see some Christmas projection onto the Town Hall  a bit like the Vivid festival.  We also found Federation Square and the Yarra River.

On Tuesday morning we decided the best way to pack in a lot was with a free city tour from I’m Free. After a quick coffee in the library coffee shop we headed out on the tour with our excellent guide, Dan. Dan was friendly, knowledgeable, had a good style and pace, kept things interesting and got in a lot of jibes about Melbourne being better than Sydney – most of which were pretty dubious. There is a big rivalry between the cities dating right back to when they were first founded. The tour covered the historic and modern bits of the city including the Parliament, parks, Gaol (where Ned Kelly was hung), Street Art and lane ways with fab cafes. We learnt a lot about the history of the city in an interesting way, and the 3 hours went by very quickly. We did pay Dan a good tip but it was still excellent value.

Expo building

Expo building

After a yummy pancake lunch in the lanes we headed to the Immigration Museum as in the words of Dan ‘ the story of immigration is the story of Australia.’ Its also the story of the Shorts  now, so I found it really interesting from that perspective too. They museum had a timeline of immigration over the last 100 years and a replica boat with different cabins dating back to the late 1800’s. It was good to learn more about the history including the £10 Poms and made me feel better about our 24 hour plane trip – better than 30 days on a boat! There was a good exhibit on Identity and racism and we got to to the Citizenship test and passed with a score of 18/20. We also got to interview prospective immigrants and decide whether to let them in or not which proved entertaining!

Tuesday night we had a nice meal at the Hairy Canary and went to see King Long at the theater. More about that here.

On Wednesday the weather was a bit dodgy and wet. We started off with a very intellectual middle class trip around the library which is also a museum. As well as lots of old books and maps and a very cool octagonal reading room we got to see Ned Kellys armor and learn more about him.

Library Reading Room

Library Reading Room

Melbourne has a free tram which runs around most of the city, so we caught that after the library to check out the Harbor area. Its not as good as Sydney! We skipped the Glow Golf in the end as the reviews were dodgy and we didn’t have too long to spare. After another tasty lunch of burgers it was time to head back to the airport and fly back to Sydney. Leaving Phil and Rhiannon at the airport for them to go to Singapore and us to Sydney was pretty weird, but I was very brave and didn’t cry!

There is plenty more to see in Melbourne, and luckily for me i’m spending some more time there in January. Also on the list are:

  • St Kilda area and its fab cake shops
  • The zoo
  • The Eureka Tower and lookout
  • Botanic Gardens
  • The James Bond exhibition (maybe more for Matt)
  • Vampire cabaret (intriguing)
  • Art galleries and of course
  • Shopping!
Street Art

Street Art


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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


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


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.


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!


Which do you like best?


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!)

The wine haul

The wine haul

In late October Matt and I went for a weekend away in the Hunter Valley. We had it booked before his work trip came up, and thought we might as well go again and see some different wineries. You can read about our first trip here.

We headed up Friday night and got dinner in Cessnock on the way. We stayed just north of there in the YHA for a bargainacious $85 a night. It was in a good rural location although the showers were cold!

Adventurously, we had hired bikes for the Saturday to ride around the wineries! Given the last time I rode a bike resulted in a broken helmet and a lot of scrapes, I was a bit nervous, but decided to face my fear! We did well, and I reckon we cycled about 25km! It was mid 20’s in termprature, so pretty warm but not too hot with a nice breeze. The day went a bit like this:

10am: Drive to Cessnock for breakfast – bacon and egg rolls to set us up for the ride

11am: Get the bikes and helmets all sorted and set off up the road

12am: First winery – Calais Estates! I was well ready for a nice chilled white after the longest cycle i’ve done in a long time.

12.30pm: On to Waverley Winery. The only winery doing aged wines, although the lady was vague about what counts as aged. We enjoyed the 2006 Cab Sav.

1pm: First Creek winery. I really enjoyed a lot of the wines here, and our pourer was very friendly and helpful.

2pm: Lunch at the Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop. We had the large cheese pizza and chips to share. It was  totally epic amount of cheese. We didn’t even have space for a nice palette cleaning ice cream after.

Cheese overload

Cheese overload

2.30pm: Tamberlaine winery. These guys make organic wine and some ‘biodynamic’ wine too. I was keen to go as we had some of their wine at a restaurant and really enjoyed it, but none of the ones we tasted really hit the mark. Heading off from there we cycled past a dead kangaroo which was pretty upsetting.

3pm: Olive, jam, chutney, oil and balsamic tasting at the Hunter Olive Centre. We bought some caramelised balsamic – yummy!

4pm: Final winery – Hungerford Hill. The winery is shaped like a barrel. They had some good drops worth a trip back for too.

Proof of me with a bike

Proof of me with a bike

After a shower and rest back at the YHA we walked 450m for dinner at Potters Brewery just up the road. We were stuffed by then really so didn’t managed much more food and drink before tottering off to bed tired, full and happy!

We didn’t buy any wines on the Saturday, but made some notes (yes – In am that organised) and went back with the car and picked them up on the Sunday – after another nice breakfast of course (Eggs Benedict and smoked salmon for me and with Bacon for Matt.)

At Waverleyx we inquired about the free case. Turns out they had some 1999 Chardonnay and 2001 Shriaz that were getting near the end of their lives. They reckoned most were fine, there might just be the odd bad one as long as we drank them soon. So we took the plunge and spent $100 on fancy aged Cabernet Sauvignon for Christmas and took the 12 free bottles! We also went back to my favorite winery from the first trip – Pepper Tree – to buy their liqueur wine I didn’t buy last time. Turns out it sold out, but I got the summer substitute version which was also pretty yummy!

We went on a house long wine tour at Tyrells for $5 too. It was jam packed full of information and very interesting. The guide was good and the winery has loads of history, still being family owned in the 5th generation. At the wine makers reunion dinner of 17 guys they drank 84 bottles!

We ended up with 20 bottles, slightly more than planned but with the free case they came in at an average of just over $10, so can’t complain! For the wine buffs, we got:

  • 2 x 2010 Organic Pianco Puro from First Creek ( a mix of Verdelho, Chardonnay and Semillion)
  • 1 x 2011 Late Harvest Shiraz from First Creek
  • 2 x 2013 Hunter Valley Early BIrd Semillion from Hungerford Hill
  • NV Muscat from Pepper Tree in fancy bottle
  • 2 x 2005 Cab Sav from Waverley Wines
  • 6 x lottery 1999 Chardonnay from Waverley Wines and
  • 6 x lottery 2001 Shiraz from Waverley Wines

All in all a top weekend! 🙂



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.




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!

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?

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.

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.