Russell January 2021

For many years now a friend of mine has been trying to get me up north to stay at her farm cottage, but it’s never happened for many reasons. But this Xmas break we picked a date and stuck to it and it actually happened.

Selena picked me up in her brand new car and we headed north. Our first stop was at the Eutopia Cafe which I have driven past many times and always thought I should stop in because it looks so cool and very different. So I was really happy to be stopping there for coffee after all these years.

My joy didn’t last long, as they didn’t have any Covid check in QR codes displayed anywhere and there was no hand sanitizer anywhere and no soap in the toilet. Luckily I always have some with me and I asked for their QR code. They were quite rude about it and gave me a look that said: “this is not Auckland – we don’t have Covid”. So we didn’t stay there to drink our coffee, we took it back to the car and drunk it on the way. Turns out a week later somebody with Covid visited that cafe and it became one of the locations of interest!

In the past when I have asked Selena where her cottage is she has always said somewhere north of Whangarei, so I thought we were headed for a place near Whangarei. So when she asked me how hungry I was and would I be ok till we got to Russell because there is a nice hotel there she wanted to go to for lunch, I was very surprised but very happy to be going there for lunch. I have been to Paihia but never Russell and I had an Irish flatmate in Japan whose claim to fame was that she’d worked at the “Duke“. Which is a famous hotel in Russell and one of the earliest hotels in New Zealand apparently.

When we made it to Paihia we had a bit of a drive round to see how much it’s changed since I was there back in the early 90s. Then we headed for the car ferry that takes you from Paihia to Russell. We drove on to the pier after a really short wait up the road and then the pier MOVED! Well not really but I thought it did – turned out what I thought was the pier was actually the car ferry. Guess I was expecting something big like the Cook Strait ferry or maybe even the Devonport ferry. But this thing was more like a floating platform that moved. I was hoping to get out and move around maybe even get a drink or something – but nope – we were trapped in the car! For a whole 10 minutes LOL.

After a really great lunch in the grand old Duke of Marlborough we strolled around Russell, bought some supplies for the cottage and headed for the farm.

We took a slight detour to see one of Selena’s favourite spots where there is a house tucked in to the hillside and for some reason made me think of Hollywood and Marilyn Monroe.

Finally we made it to the farm – what a stunning place. Nobody around for miles, lots of land for cows to stroll around and a view of the ocean. So peaceful and so quiet, it was going to be very hard to leave this place.

Shortly after arriving we grabbed a few drinks and went for a stroll down to a small river that runs through Selena’s land – she called it a stroll, I’d call it a trek across dangerous terrain and wilderness. While seated by said river and enjoying the nature I saw a random cow appear out of nowhere and as I tried to remain calm it got closer and closer. Eventually I exclaimed: “COW”, which Selena thought was hilarious, because she couldn’t see the cow approaching from behind her. Till I yelled out: “There’s a COW headed for your river”. I thought I was safe on my side of the river but apparently the river didn’t make any difference to the cow and it crossed over in order to get a closer look at us which is when I took off very quickly up the steepest bit of terrain I could find knowing it couldn’t follow me. I had no idea though that this was a mountain climbing cow and the hill meant nothing to it. Selena tried her best to shoo it back to where it belongs – turns out the herd of cows don’t belong to her and had somehow broken through the boundary fence, probably lured over by the smell and sound of naive Auckland city folk (and alcohol).

That’s the cow that chased me – it didn’t want to face me once it saw the camera and we weren’t on good enough speaking terms to ask for it to pose for a photo.

The rest of my time on the farm was awesome, Selena even lit a fire for me and scared off a few curious possums. The cottage was wonderful – filled with books, plants and beautiful old furniture – and each piece had a fascinating story of where it had come from and what its history was.

Thank you Selena for a wonderful trip.

A Very Heidi Xmas 2020

After the long and first of several lockdowns in Auckland, Heidi and I decided we needed to plan something to look forward to, and after the fun Xmas Eve and Day we had last Xmas we decided (after much research of prices and locations etc) on Wellington for 5 days. We started out thinking Sydney would be good, but the uncertainty of another lockdown and the frequent promotion of “stay local”, we decided it would be cool to be in Wellington for fun rather than work for a change – we know where everything is and we both have friends down there.

Thursday 24 December – Day one

Heidi picked me up and we headed for the airport early afternoon, giving us plenty of time for a bit of shopping and a drink before boarding the plane wearing facemasks.

After arriving in Wellington we realised we would need to rush to the supermarket to get alcohol supplies before going out for dinner as the shops might close early, so we decided to get the taxi to stop and wait for us while we bought beers etc on the way to the hotel. I said to Heidi I was a bit unsure about this plan because the taxi driver could drive off with all our worldly possessions, but Heidi assured me we’d be fine. Guess what – as we walked out of the liquor store fully laden with at least a week’s worth of alcohol we discovered the taxi was gone!!! I thought to myself that this was not a good time to be right. Turns out he had parked over the driveway and had to move a little bit up the road ha ha.

Because our suitcases combined were too big for the taxi boot my suitcase was in the front seat and we were surrounded by all the alcohol and bags which looked hilarious when we pulled up to the hotel and the doorman kindly opened the taxi door for me and I kinda fell out of the taxi surrounded by booze! It did seem an excessive amount of stuff for just two people for a few days in a hotel. It’s not like we were going camping and needed a whole lot of equipment. Still – the doorman graciously placed all our bags and alcohol on one of those flash suitcase things and wheeled it away while we checked in.

The hotel was so pleased to see me back after staying with the Intercontinental in Sydney for my birthday back in February, that they upgraded us to the newly refurbished rooms on the top floor – thank you Intercontinental.

Dinner was at Charley Noble which was just across the road from the hotel and very very popular. The service was awesome and the food was amazing. Poor Heidi is not a fan of Oysters but I can’t help myself, if they are on the menu then that’s what I’m having (turned out I had a lot of Oysters on this holiday – sorry Heidi).

After dinner and a few beers I decided it was time to decorate my room for Xmas and build a Lego Xmas tree in time for the big day.

Xmas Day 25 December 2020Day two

We planned to have our special Xmas Breakfast delivered to our rooms around 8:30 and knowing everybody in the hotel would probably be doing the same thing, we knew we had plenty of time for showers and get ready. So… hilariously when our breakfasts arrived early we were both in our showers and the poor room service guy was running backwards and forwards knocking on our doors trying to get one of us to let him in. We both opened our doors very wet and grappling with a towel at the exact same time – poor guy did not know where to look or what to do!

After that very eventful start to our hotel style Xmas Day we settled in for a wonderful day or relaxation, much more food, presents, endless Xmas music videos and of course alcohol.

By late afternoon we were over the Xmas videos (well I was still good, but Heidi was over them after the first two I’m sure), so we switched channels and discovered there was a whole channel dedicated to Winter Olympics and that’s how we learnt you could in fact ski uphill.

Xmas Dinner was a flash affair with 5 courses of amazing food and the cutest puddings ever.

Boxing Day 26 December – Day three

Today we got to enjoy the Boxing Day sales without all the stress usually associated with this day. We could just walk out the front door of the hotel (no parking issues), walk a few steps to all the best shops on Lambton Quay, make the most of the great prices available and drop off the shopping back in our rooms once our hands were full and head back out again for more. Best buy of the day for me was from JB Hi Fi (which had moved and proved quite hard to find the entrance), the Bose wireless noise cancelling headphones – beautiful sound and so comfortable unlike the things I bought from Apple that were definitely not designed for ears like mine.

After all that shopping we changed for dinner and headed out to the restaurant at the Rydges Hotel – The Portlander. The food was amazing and we spotted someone drinking a fabulous looking cocktail called a Neopolitan which looked so good we had to have one (or maybe two I don’t remember). It tasted just like Neapolitan ice cream.

A friend met us at the hotel for dinner and came back to one of our rooms to finish off the night with a rather large glass of Baileys Red Velvet Cup Cake liqueur.

https://www.baileys.com/en-us/recipes/baileys-red-velvet-cupcake-martini/
Our friend took this photo after dinner before heading back to the hotel and I think it captures how we felt perfectly.

Sunday 27 December – Day four

I think the Baileys may have been a mistake! Or perhaps it was the sheer size of the tumblers we were drinking out of. Or could it have been the Neapolitan cocktails or beers? I’ll never know but let’s just say neither of us felt much like a big day trip north when we headed out for the train station.

Today we went to Cape Palliser Lighthouse which is at the very bottom of the North Island. The plan was to catch a train to Featherstone where a friend of Heidi’s would pick us up from and drive us to the lighthouse. BUT thanks to some renovations at the train station we had to catch a bus!!! Travelling on a bumpy lurchy bus was not ideal in our state. Luckily we only had to catch the bus as far as Upper Hutt and then transfer to the train for the rest of the journey. The train journey was not too bad but it did travel through what must be the longest tunnel in the world – it went on and on forever.

We had no idea which way the train was going to go, so Heidi sat in the seats we assumed were going to face the way we were headed. We were wrong!

To get to the lighthouse we drove past a few spots where the Lord of the Rings was filmed which was cool and then finally we made it to the lighthouse. Only problem was… it was at the top of a million steps.

I’m very proud to say I made it. The photo doesn’t really do a good job of showing how steep the stairs were or how many there were, but hopefully you get the idea from the fact there is a special resting platform a third of the way up.

Once at the top I had a huge sense of achievement, and am very grateful that I still have a certain level of fitness that enabled me to make it all the way to the top.

On the way back to Featherstone we stopped at a Seal colony and the Lake Ferry Hotel for a well earnt drink. Apparently the Lake Ferry hotel is very famous, but I’m not convinced.

After that we stopped at a few vineyards to try some famous Martinborough wine.

It was a big day out so we had a very quiet dinner back at the Portlander restaurant which just wasn’t as much fun as it was the night before.

Monday 28 December – Day five

Our very last day was tidy up time and a bit of relaxing before heading home for Auckland.

Dunedin 2020

At the end of November I got to travel to Dunedin for work, which is where one of my best friends lives, so I was very lucky to get down there and have 4 fun filled nights with my friend.

Because of Covid 19 I haven’t been on a plane or travelled outside of Auckland since February and I had some reservations and was a wee bit nervous and my biggest concern was – how do you eat and drink on a plane when you have to wear a mask? Turns out you just take it off!

Air New Zealand - over Mt Taranaki

Sunday 22 November – Day one

My friend Kelly picked me up from the airport and we drove straight to my hotel to drop my bag off.  I was staying at the Quest (serviced apartments) and there was nobody at reception, I had to ring them and get them to open the door remotely which didn’t work, so eventually they had to send someone to open the door.  So glad I didn’t need to go to the toilet.

From there we went to Kelly’s home where I got to meet her husband, read a story to her twins and have KFC for dinner.  Then she dropped me back to the hotel.

Monday 23 November – Day two

After a very short walk from the hotel I turned a corner and saw the Dunedin Court and very famous train station.  The weather was stunning, the buildings looked like something out of a movie and I thought how lucky am I to be working here for the week.

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At lunchtime I raced out to take photos of as much as I could before getting something to eat and heading back to work. First stop was the Dunedin Train Station which is apparently the second most photographed building in New Zealand (the first being the Sky Tower in Auckland, apparently).


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Across the road from the train station is the old Cadbury factory and a cool old building with the names of what it used to be called many years ago.  This amused me because when I was a kid I belonged to the Hudson’s Cookie Bear club and I had forgotten all about that.

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Then I headed past the stunning Dunedin Court to look for some lunch.

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After work I walked to the Otago University to meet Kelly and have dinner in the Lone Star restaurant.  After dinner we walked back to my hotel past more beautiful buildings and fascinating historical shops.

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Tuesday 24 November – Day three

Another stunning day in Dunedin – which made me feel so lucky because Auckland was suffering from flooding and my garden needed it thanks to the stupid water restrictions. 

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After work Kelly got dropped off outside my hotel and we headed to La Porchetta for dinner with Bridget.  Afterwards Kelly and I went back to my hotel for a couple of wines while we waited for her bus home to arrive.

Wednesday 25 November – Day four

Another stunning day in Dunedin with perfect weather.

At lunchtime I headed back to the railway station to check out the inside of the magnificent building.

After work Kelly picked me up and drove me all the way to Larnach Castle. This was something I have wanted to see for many years and has now been ticked off my bucket list – thank you so much Kelly. We knew the castle would be closed by the time we got there but I hoped I would still be able to see it and get a photo of it maybe peeking through a hedge or something. The man at the gate said we couldn’t go inside but we could definitely walk around it and enjoy the gardens. And it was worth paying the garden entry fee because at last there was the castle in all its glory and the gardens were beautiful too.

From there we headed to Saint Clair for some dinner with a fab ocean view.

After that Kelly drove me back to the city for a walk around the amazing Otago University buildings.

Thursday 26 November – Day five

My last day in Dunedin and as you can see it was a stunner – vivid blue sky and not a cloud in sight.

Then it was hometime – the airport was kinda groovy and had some cool stuff to look at, my fave was the old NAC Boeing 737.

Lockdown 2020

The COVID-19 (Novel Corona Virus) which started in Wuhan China late December 2019, forced New Zealand in to lockdown on Thursday the 26th of March.  Prior to this I started working from home on Monday because I had a laptop and was not involved in any face to face training that week so I could.  News of the lockdown came on Monday afternoon, so I raced to the supermarket before the inevitable panic buying set in leaving nothing for me to buy on the shelves.  I’d seen videos of other countries and the awful behaviour of people buying up all the toilet paper and desperate people punching each other in attempts to get at least one pack.

Luckily when I got there I only had to wait in a queue of about 10 people and only took 10 minutes before I got in to the supermarket.  It had a strange surreal feeling about it, people behaved weirdly and one lady with her friend going up and down the aisles at the same time as me constantly commented loudly so everyone could her how virtuous she was, on how they were only buying just enough to get buy on and shame on all these other people.  However she wasn’t virtuous when it came to the 2 meter distancing rule coz she constantly got way too close to me, which made me speed up my shopping but as luck would have it, she ended up right behind me in the checkout queue.  I gave her the death stare but she was too busy bragging about her minimalist shop to notice.  Her trolley was overflowing – how many people live in her house?

My supermarket had plenty of toilet paper but no bread!

While heading back to my car a slight panic attack set in as I thought the stress of the world closing down had got to me and my car looked strangely different.  It had changed colour and one wheel was all rusty (had I driven through some rusty coloured puddle?).  But then the car parked next to it backed out revealing MY car.

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What are the chances eh!  I never see any other cars on the road like mine, it’s not really very common, it’s a bit old now.

On the drive home it felt like the world was ending, everybody was driving like maniacs, far too fast and doing strange things like U-turns in weird and dangerous places and like they were the only cars on the road.  It felt nice to get home and close my garage door shutting out all the madness.  And so started this blog post, I thought there would probably be many more strange events that would fill a blog post and be a reminder to me one day when I can look back at all this, and think oh yeah – that’s right, that did happen.

The underpants incident.

One morning while getting dressed for working from home, after putting on boxer shorts and a tee shirt I had this random thought that the black boxers looked just like shorts and who would know or care if I didn’t put shorts on today.  Even if I attended a video conference for work nobody would ever see or realise I wasn’t wearing shorts.  However that is not something I would do, so I put some shorts on and laughed to myself how much the shorts really did look like the boxers, just a little bit longer.

Later that day I went to the mailbox… just as I got to the end of the driveway having walked past several people and houses I had a terrible thought – I wasn’t wearing any shorts!!!  I did a very weird kind of maneuver as I tried to pull down my tee shirt to cover up this fashion disaster, in case anybody was looking.  A moment later I remembered I was indeed wearing pants and I could breathe normally again.

The Bush is Closed.

One Sunday morning halfway through lockdown I set off for my usual bushwalk, really looking forward to seeing the beautiful huge trees and getting out for some fresh air.  As I approached the path that takes you in to the bush I noticed a man staring at the track and I thought he better hurry up coz I don’t want to come too close to him while entering the track.  But he just stood there and soon enough I caught up to him.  He told me it was closed and sure enough there was a brand new fence blocking our way in to the bush!  Shortly a very fit jogging lady turned up and then an elderly couple came walking down the hill.  We all just stared at each other and then turned around and headed back the way we came from, all in different directions.  I guess there are parts of the bushwalk that would be impossible to get past someone without entering their bubble, so they had to close it to keep us safe.  I’ve never seen that many people headed for that track ever.  I’m always alone!

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So I went for a longer walk along Onewa Road.  It was strange to see no cars on the road.  Onewa Rd is one of the busiest roads on the North Shore.

You can’t buy Wine or Beer on Easter Sunday.

I usually go to the supermarket on a Sunday evening, but with the lockdown I know this is not the best time to go and now that I have to make my lunch every day, it’s important to go while they still have cooked chickens available so I can eat some kind of meat for lunches during the week.

So I have been keeping a very close watch on the Google “popular times to visit” chart.

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I rushed out when I saw there was a dip in the chart and it turned out to be very wise as there was only 4 people in the queue and I only had to wait about two minutes.  I managed to get a chicken no problem, but shock horror I could not buy any wine or beer!!!  How did I not know this?  I drank up all my wine last night happy in the knowledge that I would be able to replenish my stocks the next day.  But no – all the alcohol was trapped in cages, like animals in a zoo – only to be looked at but not touched!

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Things I missed the most while in lockdown:

  1. Hugs
  2. Buying my lunch
  3. Mitre 10
  4. The TV Guide

Things I learnt while in lockdown:

  1. I can make my lunch every day and be creative if I have to.
  2. You can’t buy wine or beer from a supermarket on Easter Sunday.
  3. I am on a lot of emailing lists – including every single chemist I have ever brought restricted medication like Voltaren from.

And now New Zealand has moved from Level 4 lockdown to Level 3, we were in level 4 for 4 weeks till the 28th of April – but I’m still working from home and living in a bubble, so it doesn’t feel any different to me.  I still can’t get hugs or go shopping in Mitre 10 and I still have to make my lunch.

My Garden Makeover

A friend of mine asked me back in January how my courtyard was looking these days.  It was quite a timely question because another friend of mine had recently paid some students to do a massive clean up of her backyard and I had looked longingly at her very tidy garden and wondered what it would cost to get someone in to tidy up mine.  So I told the friend who asked after my courtyard and I told him what my other friend had done, he offered to do the same as he was currently between jobs and looking for something to do.  The next weekend he came round to have a look at what was involved and guestimated what it would cost.  Done deal!

So here is the before pic – a bit overgrown but looking very lush.  I really just wanted the Leaning Tower of Yucca to be chopped down and get rid of all the wild bromeliads in the corner.  My friend recommended water-blasting, repotting and planting some stuff in to the small strip of dirt at the back.  Ok!garden 1

Thursday the 6th of February was Waitangi day so my birthday holiday had officially begun and my friend turned up to get stuck in, another friend decided it would be fun to join in (she’s crazy).  So here they are trying to chop down the massive yucca with a very small handsaw!garden 2

At the end of the day the yukka was chopped down but there was a big mess and we all had places to go so we had to just leave it like this…garden 3

I wasn’t feeling very comfortable about it looking like a tornado had swept through, but by the end of day two I was loving the new garden and even thought the yucca looked kinda cool where it was laying waiting to be removed, so I suggested we leave it there, as it might act as a garden edging and stop mulch and soil from ending up on the cobbles.garden 4

My friend dug a massive hole which took hours big enough to plant the bamboo and we hoped it would survive the transplanting.  (I’m pleased to report that a month later not only did it survive, but it’s thriving and no less that 5 new shoots have appeared.)  This leant itself to the creation of a little Japanese corner.garden 5

After the water-blasting the whole backyard looked brand new and I love it.garden 6

Even the frangipani did some late blooming to add a beautiful finishing touch.
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From upstairs…garden 8

I think it’s nearly ready for visitors.garden 9

The timing of the work on my courtyard could not have worked out better.  As we are now in lockdown my backyard is the only place I’m allowed to go, so I get to enjoy it every day for a lot longer and much more regularly than ever before.

My 2019

Sometimes it’s easy to look back on a year and think it wasn’t a very good year, maybe it’s because the bad things that happened stick out more than all the good things.  So I decided to look back through all the photos on my phone as a reminder of all the cool/awesome things I did in 2019.  So these are the main highlights:

January

~ Sculptureum with Barb & Tony in Matakana.
~ Built the Disney Castle out of Lego.

February~ Trip to Palmerston North with Una.
~ Massive birthday bridge walk to the Huia Dam with the gang.
~ Birthday lunch up the Sky Tower with Dad & Paula.
~ Heroic Garden festival with Barb.
March~ Built the Taj Mahal out of Lego.
~ Te Papa, Wellington day trip with Heidi and the gang to see the Terracotta Warriors.
April~ Went to “The Mousetrap” at the ASB Waterfront Theatre with Michelle B.
~ Day off work to enjoy High Tea at Sugar, Chelsea Sugar Refinery with Heidi.
May~ Reconnected with all my old friends I used to work with in London back in 1988, through a Facebook group that found me.
~ Tried on-line grocery shopping for the 1st time & decided it’s not really my thing.
~ Built the Flintstones House out of Lego.
August~ Christchurch for work & my nephew cooked me a special dinner in his flat.
~ Finally gave in and joined Netflix, there was a Lego documentary I really wanted to see, exclusive to Netflix.
~ Hit my broadband limit first time ever – thanks to Netflix.
September~ Grand opening of the Xmas Heirloom Co in Milford with Heidi.
October~ Home & Garden show with Barb which led to the buying of an awesome Italian Coffee Machine.
~ Auckland Marathon with Barb (watching out for Tony of course).
~ Sky City Convention Centre fire – not a highlight but a major event.
~ Auckland Brick Show with Arian.  7th year, 1st one was in June 2013.
November~ Auckland Lego Store finally opens in the brand new Westfield Mall, Newmarket.
~ Celine releases Courage.
December~ Special Xmas lunch with Dad, Paula & Karyn (Xmas Eve).
~ Christmas with Heid in the Cordis.
~ Waiheke Island with Heidi & friends.

 

Sydney 2020 Day Four

February 14 – Friday

My last day in Sydney, and one of the many kind things the guy at reception did for me when he upgraded my room was ask me what time I was headed for the airport and extended my check out time till 12:00 for me.  So that meant I had half a day to enjoy the amazing room and do some last minute shopping.

I figured I had enough time to race to the Westfield Mall to check out Myers Lego department and then go up the Sydney Tower, the sun was shining so it was a great day for going up the tower.  The salesperson in Myers said the same thing about the Sydney Skyline set – it has been retired.

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My trip up the tower was probably the fastest “been there done that” sightseeing I’ve ever done.  I even asked the girl selling tickets how long it would take.  Crazy question I know but I needed to know if there was a long wait to get up there – there wasn’t.

I made it back to the hotel in time for one last look at the spectacular view, grab my bag and check out.

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Because it was so hot I contemplated getting a taxi to the airport, but then I had noticed a lot of taxis driving around with their windows open, so I didn’t like my chances of getting a taxi with air conditioning.  Plus if there was traffic I’d be quite stressed, so I caught the train which was fast and easy and nowhere near as hot as the one I caught from the airport.

I made it to the airport with plenty of time for several beers and shopping, but I think that should have been the other way round, because it was hot and I was thirsty so I drunk many beers quite quickly and then went shopping.  This of course made the purchase of the really expensive new Apple earpods with noise cancellation very very easy.  But I love them, and thank you to everyone who gave me birthday money – this is what you bought me.

Oh and as I passed through bag search, guess what I found… the Lego Sydney Skyline Architecture set, for about $20 cheaper (duty free) than what it would’ve been if they’d had it in any of the stores I went in to.

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The flight home was fun and I managed to finish off the movie I started watching on the way over – Judy, starring Renée Zellweger.  The flight even had wifi so I needed to take a picture of something so I could post it on Facebook (seemed like a good idea at the time), so this is the pic I posted.

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Getting my bag and going through customs etc was easy and a very kind friend was waiting outside to pick me up and take me home.

Sydney 2020 Day Three

February 13 – Thursday

My Birthday and my whole reason for going to Sydney.  I woke up earlier than normal because all these wonderful birthday wishes started happening at about 6:00 am because that’s 8:00 in New Zealand.  So I was wide awake and enjoying the rainy overcast view (cooling everything down for me) when my magnificent room service breakfast arrived.

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Eventually at about 9:00 I set out for the Apple Store to buy myself a birthday present.  The weather gods even decided to stop the rain as an added bonus for my birthday, so I set out in glorious sunshine.  However the glory didn’t last long – the Apple Store was CLOSED FOR RENOVATION!!!  Seems I’m doomed to never get inside that particular Apple Store, it wasn’t open back in 2015 when I was last in Sydney either, click here to read about that day.

That completely threw me and I completely forgot it was my birthday and didn’t really know what to do after that, so I stayed on the flash new air conditioned tram till I got to a stop near Paddy’s Markets.  When I was 16 my parents took the whole family to Sydney for the August school holidays and one of the places we went to was Paddy’s Market – it was cool.  There was so much amazing stuff you couldn’t get back in New Zealand and the coolest thing I bought was a Nintendo Octopus game.

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Sadly the Paddy’s Market of 2020 was nothing like the 1981 version.  Or maybe it is still cool I just didn’t like any of the stuff they were selling now that I’m not 16, it seemed like a never ending $2.00 shop with row after row of identical stalls, so crammed with cheap stuff that you couldn’t move around each stall to have a proper look.  But I did find some Stubby Holders which was on my list, so it was worth it just for that.

After the markets I headed for the Chinese Garden of Friendship which I really enjoyed and it only cost $8 to get in.  The garden is set amongst some really tall buildings so at times when I looked up it felt like I had been magically transported to Hong Kong.  There were the biggest frangipani trees I’ve ever seen in full bloom and these gigantic lizard things that just lay around everywhere (I nearly stood on one, not sure which one of us got the biggest fright).

After that beautiful relaxing experience I headed for the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium with a quick stop at McDonalds along the way.  The aquarium cost $45 to get in and definitely was not worth it.  The best part (and probably the reason I went) was the lovely cold air conditioning keeping all the fish & penguins cold.  I got to see a Dugong but the whole place seemed run down and creepy.  The penguin expedition was over in about 30 seconds!  So glad I didn’t need to queue up for it.  Check out this sad penguin in dry kinda ugly conditions.

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Last time I was in Sydney I caught a ferry back to Circular Quay from Darling Harbour and it took about 10 minutes, so I thought I’d do the same thing this time.  I asked the ticket man which peer for the ferry to Circular Quay and he pointed me in the direction of a ferry that looked more like a hydrofoil than a ferry, so I thought things have really got flash in the last 5 years.  45 minutes and about 20 stops later, me and several other tourists realised we were miles away from the Quay and certainly not headed in the direction we should be in.  One lady asked a crew member if this ferry was going to Circular Quay and he said no – so they hurriedly got off, but it took me too long to work out what they had asked the dude and what just happened.  So I got off at the next stop and luckily the ferry returning to Sydney was just pulling in.  It took another 45 minutes to get to where I was supposed to be going, so all up a 10 minute ferry ride took me an hour and half.  At least it was a pleasant trip around the very expensive North Sydney harbour suburbs.  I guess a 90 minute harbour cruise for $6 is a bargain.

Here we are heading in the wrong direction getting further and further away from the city.

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According to my iPhone this is Drummoyne.

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90 minutes later this was a very welcome sight.

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So… after all that I wasn’t really sure what to do for my birthday dinner.  I really didn’t feel like getting all dressed up to sit somewhere flash all by myself, so I bought a box of beers, a lot of junk food and thoroughly enjoyed my wonderful hotel room with the stunning view.

 

Sydney 2020 Day Two

February 12 – Wednesday

Very exciting morning, I went on a tour of the Sydney Opera House.  The tour was fun, educational and well worth taking the time to do – I loved it.

At the start of the tour you have to put on these headsets and receiving devices which was not a good look or a good feel and I said to the guide “do I really have to“.  He explained the device was so I could hear him talking no matter which way he was facing or how far away from him I got, which is perfect for someone like me who always straggles behind the pack, taking photos and looking at things just that little bit longer than everyone else.  After only a couple of minutes I was loving the headphones.

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We got to see inside several of the different theatres and learnt how all the different stages work and watched a video on the history of the Opera House.

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From there I went back to the hotel to enjoy my incredible room and view and then headed out to Bondi Junction on a bus.  The bus departed from a stop right across the road from the hotel so it was easy, with no wait time and I got to see a lot more of the real Sydney than if I’d caught the subway.

My reason for going out to Bondi was not for surfing (ha ha) but to find the Lego Shop and some hard to find Australian TV show DVDs in JB-Hifi.

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Interestingly the Sydney Lego Shop wasn’t any better than the one we have in Auckland and I was disappointed they no longer sold the Sydney Skyline architecture set, apparently it’s a retired set and I’d missed out.  I never really wanted it before now, because the Opera House in the set looks weird and there is a building I didn’t recognise.

 

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While there I found a great place for a very late lunch called Lobster Tail Seafood with a great view of the Sydney skyline from an outdoor deck.

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I did manage to find a couple of the DVDs on my list in JB-Hifi but I didn’t manage to find my way out of the 5 floor Westfield mall.  I had to consult a directory map touch screen several times.  Exit is not a search option, but Bus or Train is!