Friday, January 13, 2012

Still working on...

After being a for real Sydneysider for a week now, I thought I would share a couple of things I'm still getting used to here.

1.) Sidewalks--this one's a two-parter.  First, I cannot get over the fact the sidewalks never end.  (No, this is not a random reference to the Shel Silverstein book.)  Honestly, wherever you go in Sydney, there will be a sidewalk.  I grew accustom to sidewalks abruptly disappearing in Atlanta.  But, here I can walk and walk and there is always a sidewalk.  Second, I am still getting used to walking on the left side of the sidewalk.  I guess this is one thing that has become very ingrained in me and therefore difficult to change.  There have been a couple of times I have been walking down the sidewalk and I find myself veering off to the right.  It's a good thing I don't plan on driving while I'm here.  One of these days I will get the hang of it and stop almost walking right into people.

2.) Crossing the street.  In the same vain as the sidewalk, because they drive on the left side of the road, I keep looking in the wrong direction for oncoming traffic.  Because there are a fair number of sidewalks here, they actually have the words "Look Left" or "Look Right" painted on the street at the crosswalk.  But, when that's not there, I just spent the entire time crossing the road looking back and forth, left and right over and over again.  

3.) Commercials on TV.  Because much of the television here is American TV, we tend to watch shows we know we liked in the US.  (Except RBT, Random Breath Test.  I'll have to fill you in on that another time because it is decently hilarious.)  But, when they cut from the TV show to the commercial, I find myself almost jolted back to reality when I hear an Australian accent again.  Also, the only commercials I am used to that feature Australian accents are Aussie hair products (you know, "Add some 'rue to your do") and Outback Steakhouse.  For the first few days, I kept thinking that the Aussie brand was doing a ton of advertising here.  Then, I had to remind myself that it was likely for a different hair product.

4.) A/C--or lack thereof.  The majority of the places we looked at when we were apartment hunting didn't have air conditioning.  I never thought I would miss it quite as much as I do.

5.) Cricket.  I just don't get it.  But, people here LOVE it.  Todd has tried to explain it to me a couple of times, but it just seems a bit silly to me.  Todd bought us tickets to see a cricket match in a couple of weeks.  Hopefully when I see it live I will get the appeal a little more.

6.) Summer.  This is a bit of a silly one but I do enjoy reading fashion/lifestyle and food blog as well as checking out Pinterest.  All I see is fun winter layered outfits and yummy soups and stews and it's 75 degrees here.  (I should say 24 degrees here as another thing I'm getting used to is the temperature measured in Celsius as compared to Fahrenheit.)  But, I can't really complain about this gorgeous weather.

7.) Smoking.  This is one thing I honestly do not understand.  Sydney is such a health conscience city.  You can't even find sunscreen with less than a 30 SPF and there are all sorts of ads about skin cancer on TV.  Most people are incredibly fit and a good portion of their food is fresh and healthy.  With all of that, I cannot get over the number of people who smoke here.  Smoking is banned in most, but not all, indoor venues.  And, they just passed an ordinance than you cannot smoke in outdoor restaurants.  So, luckily it's not in your face most of the time.  But, if you walk down any street in Sydney you will find people taking smoke breaks.

8.) Kids in the passenger seat.  There have been quite a few occasions when I have been walking down the street and I see a young kid in the left hand front seat and just about scream, "Why is that little kid driving that car?!"  Then, I realize he is just a passenger.  Even worse is when I see no one in what I have always known as the driver's side, "Who is driving that car??!!"

9.) This view/the sunsets.  I keep telling Todd that I have "I live HERE" moments during the day because it is still a bit surreal.  Every night I point out the sunset to him--I wish these pictures could do justice to just how pretty it is every night.  

Monday, January 9, 2012

Catching Up

To continue from the previous post--after I returned from a good little run across the bridge Friday morning, Todd was awake and a little jealous of my run, I think.  So, we had a quick little brekkie and he headed out to run across his favorite Australian attraction. 

By the time Todd returned, we had to get a move on up to Chatswood where he works.  Todd had planned to have us join the regular Friday lunch crew from his office so I could get to know some of his coworkers.  The group had already decided where lunch would be that week and Todd did his best to prepare me for what they refer to as "the hanging duck place."  True story--there are actual hanging dead ducks when you walk through the front door.  The amount of authentic Asian cuisines in Australia is unreal.  And, this place would fall into that category.  But, the food was really good and it was great to finally meet all of the people I had been hearing about for the past couple of months.  I ended up sitting next to one of the more talkative people from Todd's office.  This guy has been in Australia for his entire life but apparently really likes Americans and American culture.  Because one of my biggest fears here is making a total idiot out of myself by doing something "wrong" it was great to get the Australian scoop from him.  No matter where we go, Todd and I seem to talk to people (both Americans and Australians) about the similarities and differences (most differences) between the two cultures.  It makes me wonder if we will ever get past that point or if that will always be a topic of conversation. 

After lunch, we ran by Todd's office so I could meet a couple more people and so we could print off just about every piece of information about ourselves.  We were planning on going to a cell phone store that afternoon and in order to get a post-paid mobile account (a cell phone with a contract), you have to show them about 17 different forms of ID.  They also want to know all about your job, etc.  To me, this was one of those lose-lose situations because they won't give you a cell phone without knowing that you have a job here but it is awfully difficult to get a job without having a cell phone.  At the end of the day, it all worked out and now I have a cell phone with all of two contact saved in there.

That night, Todd and I met up with the only other person I know in Sydney (the other person saved in my phone besides Todd) and her husband for dinner.  They are temporarily living very close to us and are actually looking to rent a place very close to our apartment.  We had a lovely al fresco dinner and took an after dinner stroll around the neighborhood.  On the way back to our place, I snapped this picture on the new phone.

The bridge really is impressive at any time of the day, but I think it's truly at its best at night with the rest of the city lit up behind it. 

By Saturday morning, I was itching to go to the beach as it was another gorgeous day.  Todd and I ran across the bridge to the Botanical Gardens (a huge green space in the middle of Sydney just by the Opera House) and walked around a bit.  I mentioned this area before as it was the first place Todd took me when I visited back in September.  It is wonderful and as you walk from one area to the next, you get the feeling you are being transported into various locations--there are places that feel just like the parks we have in Atlanta and then all of the sudden you walk under some trees and you feel like your in a tropical jungle right down to the crazy looking birds then you exit on the street and you feel like you are in an urban city again.  That is one thing about Sydney that I didn't know before I got here--it is constantly surprising you. 

Later that afternoon, we headed out to Manly beach.  We took a short ferry ride to Circular Quay (pronounced "key") which is like the Grand Central Station for ferries.  Then, one more ferry to Manly.  It was PACKED! 

Everyone I've met here has been saying that this has been a "cold" summer and clearly we weren't the only ones wanting to take advantage of the warm weather that Saturday.  From there, we walked to Shelly beach.  Luckily, Shelly beach wasn't quite as crowded.

On the walk in between, Todd was all about some water dragon spotting. 

After taking in the sun, we head back to grab our two ferries home.  That night, we went out to eat at a cute tapas places just down the street with Todd's work bff and his fiance.  Todd's office is a bit like the UN--there are people from all over the world working there.  And, this guy was no different--he and his fiance and both from Ireland.  They just returned to Sydney from Ireland where they were for a couple of weeks and have lived in Australia for about 4 years.  It was great to get a little advice from them about how to deal with living so far from family and friends. 

We had a bit of a quiet morning on Sunday and then met some friends to go to an area called Balmoral.  This little area is one of the cutest I have seen yet.  It is right on the harbor, has great little shops and restaurants and water access.  The beach area is all the way down at the bottom of a huge hill.  Luckily, once we walked down to join our friends at the barbeque, we realized that there is a bus that will take us all the up to the top of the hill.  Thank goodness Todd downloaded that transit app on my phone or else I might still be walking up that hill.  It was a bit of an overcast day.  But, it was perfect for sitting outside, enjoying some food and getting to know a few more people. 

On the way back, we hopped off of the bus to grab some groceries.  I was spoiled when we lived in Atlanta because I had access to some great grocery stores.  What they have here is not exactly Publix.  But, we went to one of the larger Coles (probably the biggest grocery story chain in Sydney) and were able to find just about everything we wanted/needed.  We have been able to find Australian equivalents to just about everything with a couple of exceptions.  For instance, the Greek yogurt here is not exactly the same and they don't have half-and-half, not to mention that it is impossible to read the nutrition labels. 

Yesterday, Todd returned to work and I started working a little harder on the job search.  When I needed a break, I wandered to the park across the street to do a little reading and had this as my view. 

Once Todd got back from work, we took a walk around the neighborhood and headed towards a park Todd had visited a few times. 

This time, instead of looking for water dragons, Todd did a little kookaburra spotting. 

I think the flight, the lack of sleep and change of weather has finally taken its toll on me.  So, instead of doing some neighborhood discovering, I ended up taking it a bit easy today and finishing cleaning up the apartment. 

So, that's it--our first couple of days in our new home. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The First 72--plus

I started writing this post with the title “The First 24” but then it turned into “The First 48” but somehow the time has gotten away from me and here we are in Sydney already over 72 hours into our time here.  The first 72 hours in Sydney have been a bit of a blur.  Instead of overloading you with info, I thought I would include a few different posts about our first few days here.  We arrived to an empty airport around 6:30 a.m. on Thursday and quickly cleared customs (after having to declare our "buffalo sauce"--something they don't have here in Australia).  It was such a relief to be able to come back to our apartment instead of heading to a hotel as we did the last time we arrived together.

We spent a little time unpacking just the essentials and headed out to grab a flat white (coffee) and run a couple of errands up the road.  We headed back towards the apartment and I suggested walking across the bridge as we didn't do that the first time I was here.  Todd wanted to change his shoes and grab our new fancy camera.  But, I knew if I went back to the apartment, I would be too tempted by the couches and bed and would absolutely crash.  While Todd ran up to the apartment, I waited outside taking in the beautiful day.  All of the sudden I look to my right and saw the only other person I know in all of Sydney walking up the hill.  As many of you know, just after Todd and I decided to make this move, I found out that someone who worked were I did in Atlanta was also moving to Sydney. She moved here about a month ago and has spent her time trying to decide which neighborhood she liked best.  Well, it turns out that one of her favorite areas is where we live.  We stopped to have a little chat and introduced her to Todd once he came back downstairs. 

After this random meeting, Todd and I made our way to the Sydney Harbor Bridge and walked across to the south side of the bridge.  Of course, we took numerous photos.

Then, we headed down to an area called The Rocks.  This is where the majority of the old bars (or hotels as they are called here) are located.  Side note--the reason these bars are called hotels goes back to the days when liquor licenses were only given to bars that provided alcohol to travelers.  These bars had to have hotel rooms in order to appear as though they were following that rule.  And, the name just stuck.  Some of these bars still have rooms you can rent but for the most part, they are all just pubs now.  So, we headed to one of the hotels in The Rocks to grab a quick bite--potato wedges--the same first meal we had here the last time I was in Sydney--and a drink.

After one drink each (more than enough for me after 24 straight hours of traveling), we headed back over the bridge to a neighborhood called Kirribilli.  We looked for an apartment in this neighborhood when I was here last time but couldn’t quite find anything we loved.  Todd has been spending a fair amount of time in Kirribilli over the past couple of months because one of his good friends from work lives there.  We walked under the bridge and sat for a bit by the water.  It was easily one of the most picturesque days I have seen in Sydney.

After that brief stop, we made our way back to the apartment through an area called Lavender Bay.  One thing I must point out is that Sydney has got to be one of the most hilly areas I have ever been.  And, I don’t know that I have ever climbed so many stairs in my life.  I’m hoping that I get a little more used to it so I don’t always reach the top of the hill huffing and puffing. 

Despite my best efforts, I completely passed out upon returning to the apartment around 4:00 p.m.  I really did want to stay awake all day our first day, but after sleeping very little on the plane, I just couldn’t fight it anymore.  Todd (who was able to stay awake all day) eventually woke me up around 6:30 and we grabbed a quick bite to eat at the restaurant about a half a block down the street.  Because this place is so convenient, apparently Todd got in the habit of grabbing dinner there by himself over the past few months when he didn’t feel like cooking.  At dinner, we kept joking that all of the staff members at the restaurant must have been shocked to see Todd with another person. 

We were both able to get a fair amount of sleep that first night, but I woke up around 5:30 a.m. knowing that I wouldn’t fall back to sleep.  Though unpacking would have been the most logical thing to do at that point, I didn’t want to wake up Todd with all of that commotion.  So, after doing what I could to tidy up around the rest of the apartment, I decided to go for a run.  It was a nice day but a bit overcast.  The most logical route was back over the bridge--I knew where I was going, knew it would be difficult to get lost and knew that I would have a great view the entire way.  It really was wonderful, but the wind on the bridge can get a bit brutal.  There were times when I felt like I was almost running in place because the winds were so strong.  Sydney is a pretty health-conscience city, so they running path across the bridge is a popular spot--not to mention all of the tourists walking across. 

More on the rest of our time here tomorrow...for now, here are a few more photos of our first day.