Tuesday, April 29, 2008
After shopping, we had tea at a very fancy tea room in the Queen Victoria Building. The whole building is just about the nicest mall you’ll ever see. Ornate tile floors, stained glass windows above each store front, granite tile sinks in the bathroom (or maybe I should say “toilets”, as that’s what they’re called here). The tea was excellent (I decided that milk and sugar in tea can be a good thing!) and the pastries…oh, the pastries. Incredibly light pastries. Oh, and scones. Now, these were definitely not the type of scones we have in the US. They were moist. And oh so light. Mmm…mmm…good!!
Monday, April 28, 2008
The very tall sandstone cliffs add to the beauty of the mountains. The cliffs, combined with the greens and blues of the trees, make a stunning contract in textures and colors. It would be really fun to come back here some time and be able to stay longer, hike, etc.
The top picture is the Three Sisters. It’s a classic image of the Blue Mountains. Aboriginal legend states that a medicine man was tasked with fighting an evil beast and in order to protect his three daughters while he was away, he changed them in to stone. He did kill the beast, but not before being changed in to an animal himself and losing his ability to turn the girls back into humans again. Thus, the Three Sisters are still visible today.
When planning what to pack for this trip, I contemplated the weather, expecting it to be in the 70s most of the time, with cooler days and evenings in the 60s. That’s what weather.com told me, anyway. So, we were a little unprepared for the SNOW that hit us in the Blue Mountains. The high temp was no more than 46, with probably a wind chill in the 30s (strong, biting wind) and snow/sleet flurries on a couple of occasions. I even purchased gloves at one of the gift stores to keep my hands warm. Chalk that up to another dumb traveling decision: I even brought gloves with me, thinking I might need them at the pool if I were cold and wet, but of course I left them in my suitcase at the hotel yesterday morning. Oh well!
You can sort of see the different shades of blue in this photo. Imagine a whole valley that blue.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Yesterday, we left our comfy little apartment in Perth and flew to Sydney. The flight took most of the day…since it left an hour late, is 4 hours in length, and we lost two hours along the way. So by the time we arrived in Sydney and got to the hotel, all we did was eat dinner and go to bed.
Today, we took the bus to Circular Quay (pronounced “Key”). We shopped in a great market in “The Rocks” neighborhood and found some more great buys. This market is only open on weekends, so we’re really thankful we got the timing right!
After shopping, we headed to the Opera House for a tour. It was a little surreal to both of us to actually be standing in and around the Opera House. It’s such an iconic image for Sydney and for Australia that it just seemed unreal that we were actually there. The tour was fascinating! We learned all about the construction and even saw some of the designs that were rejected. Good thing, too, because they were all rectangular and boring!
After the Opera House, we climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge! We walked along this very beam! I first learned about the Bridge Climb from “The Amazing Race” back in 2001. I’ve been wanting to do it ever since! Mom wasn’t sure she would be able to do it…a couple of doctors (including one in the family) advised her against it, but after talking with the Bridge Climb people this morning, she decided to give it a go. She did great! We summitted! See the flags in the top picture? We were standing up there! It actually wasn’t scary at all. Incredible views. Daylight on the way up and dusk on the way down. Very cool!
Did you know that there are over 1.5 million tiles in this roof? The architect spent over a year working with a tile company on the design of these tiles! They take on different hues, depending on the light.
Friday, April 25, 2008
We've had a great trip so far, seen some really cool things, had some good adventures (including almost getting a $300 speeding ticket today...thankfully the cop was in a good mood and took pity on the foreigner and only gave me a "caution"), so I really can't complain. And, we're off to Sydney tomorrow morning! Harbour Bridge here I come!
The girl on the right in the above picture is Alicia from San Francisco. We got to know each other this week by swimming mostly the same events. We also ran into her twice outside the competition. This photo was taken about 5 minutes before hopping in to the slightly cold water. And for those that know me and water temperature, if I thought it was cold, it was pretty dang cold. But, once the race started, the water temp felt great.
I'm somewhere in this mass of swimmers. Perhaps the second one since that's where I finished up. But, I think there were 2 girls ahead of me at the start, one may have been in the younger age group, so I'd guess I'm the third one in this photo. Who really knows.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Amazingly, I didn't take any pictures today. So here are a couple from previous days.
We drove to Fremantle this morning to go back to the markets (Mom is looking for a couple items for some friends of hers) but when we walked up, the doors were closed. Turns out, they're only open on Fridays and weekends. Whoops!! Guess I should have checked that out online before driving over there. It's a good thing it's only about 20 minutes away. Mom got a pastry (a daily treat for her) and then we headed back to Perth. We attempted to shop a little in downtown Perth but gave up due to lack of parking. We ended up just eating lunch at the hotel and then watching "National Treasure" on TV before heading to the pool.
The 400 free was today. I swam okay and got second place. The girl that won wasn't in my heat, so we weren't able to race. I was ahead of her split at the 300 by a whole second, but she must have an amazing finishing kick because she ended up beating me by .33 one-hundredths. This is the same girl that came from behind the last 100 of the 800 to win, too. Oh well.
Tomorrow is the open water swim. It's 3K...1.5K down the Swan River and then back. Should be fun!
Also, a random thought: we just returned from dinner. Kangaroo was listed on one of the restuarant menus that we glanced at while walking past. After petting one yesterday, I could never eat it. They just seem too gentle and sweet. I don't have that same "conviction" about cows, chicken, pigs, etc. But there's just something about the kangaroo that makes them special to me now and I can't imagine eating one.
Standing behind the blocks before the 200 free. That's me in the black suit (it's actually blue but apparently it looks black when wet) and the black cap, the fourth swimmer in from the left.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
See the joey in the momma's pouch?
Any guesses on what this is? A Tasmanian Devil! Did you know that was actually a real animal? I sure didn't. This one was doing his daily exercise routine in his enclosure. He ran down the path, looped around, and then down the path again. Over and over. He's sort of funny looking, isn't he? A cross between a pig and a dog?
Then, we finally saw the Indian Ocean! All the stories I've heard about miles and miles of beautiful, white sand beaches are true. The ocean was relatively warm. I just stuck my feet in, but it would have been a good temp for a swim.
On Tuesday, we took a ferry down the Swan River. We passed the most expensive house in Australia along the way. It could be yours for only $84 millon. We then ferried over to Rottnest Island. No cars allowed on the island. Every one bikes around, so I managed to get Mom on a bike for the first time in 30 years...last time she rode she broke her jaw. She was pretty nervous at first, but she did great! Next stop: Tour de France!
The island also has some inland lakes, which are up to 7 times saltier than the ocean. The salt, combined with the algea, makes them look pink. Notice the pinkish/purplish color on the far right of the above photo?
Sunday, April 20, 2008
After the meet, we walked through Kings Park. It's a huge park built on some bluffs that overlook the Swan River, another river with a native name that I can't remember right now, and the city of Perth. It was established in the early 1900s by settlers of Perth who wanted to preserve the early "feel" of Perth and Western Australia.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
After swimming, we were starving! We had passed a little restaurant called "Woodpecker Pizza" on the way to the pool several times, so we decided to try it for lunch. It was yummy!! We split a shrimp, canadian bacon, and mushroom pizza. Man it tasted good! We both really liked the decor of the restaurant, too. Those are wine bottles hanging on the far wall in the picture. Every thing I've read says that it's not necessary to tip the servers, but it feels so weird. I always feel like we're cheating them out of something.
After lunch, we headed to Fremantle. It's about 20km south of Perth. Fremantle has quite a history of prisons. Most of the town and infrastructure was built by prisoners fresh off the convict ships from England. We toured the Fremantle Prison, which was in use from the 1850s until 1991. One of the most shocking aspects of the prison is that they used a "bucket system" for toilets...even in 1991. The prison guards even learned not to walk down the center of the main cell block or they'd end up with human waste dumped all over them from the upper cells.
Prisoners must have been shorter back in the 1850s!
After the tour, we did some shopping in the Fremantle Markets. If you've ever seen "The Amazing Race", the markets are somewhat like some of the markets they've been to on the show. Lots of little stalls, with vendors selling everything from jewelry to clothes to Aboriginal items to photos to boomerangs to food. We didn't have enough time to browse through everything we wanted to yesterday, so we're going back there this morning before I swim the 200 free in the afternoon.
We concluded the day with a fabulous dinner. I had a fillet, which is apparently pronounced "fill-it" here and Mom had duck breast. We also enjoyed a bottle of wine from New Zealand. Overall, it was a great day!
Friday, April 18, 2008
The pictures are of the Swan Bell tower and the view from the observation deck on the tower. The tower holds 18 *big* bells that were brought over from a church in England. We got to try to ring the bells....it's really hard! The top of the tower provides beautiful views of the city of Perth and the Swan River.
This is the outdoor competition pool.
I swam the 800 free last night. Supposedly it never rains in Perth, but a thunderstorm blew in right before my heat, so the event was delayed about 2.5 hours. I swam okay, not great, and got 2nd place. The 200 back is this morning and then we're headed to Fremantle in the afternoon to take in some of the history and shopping.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
We arrived without incident yesterday. Well, mostly without incident...I managed to drop my laptop while going through security in Sydney. Oppss!!! But, it booted up and is working like a charm so far.
Driving on the left side of the road is an adventure (for me, my mom is scared spitless...not sure what that says about my driving?). I'm getting the hang of it, but the hardest part is that the turn signal is on the right side of the steering wheel. The wind shield wipers are on the left. So almost every time I try to signal, I first turn the wipers on, yell out "Dang it" and then try to actually turn the signal on before turning. Oh, and down is "right" and up is "left", so that's backwards too. And apparently Australians don't believe in a lot of street signs, so we've had a few "detours" but it's a beautiful city and we're beginning to get it figured out!
I haven't taken any pictures yet but will do that today and try to post some soon.