Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Medical Checks Completed

The Australian government wants to make sure we are healthy enough to live temporarily in Sydney. So, before they will grant our visa, we had to undergo Medical Checks by an approved Panel Doctor. Luckily there was a panel doctor in the L.A. area who could see us right away.
The kids each got a 2 minute look over. It was kind of like the check ups they give each other with their toy doctor's kit. Look in your ears, listen to your heart, say "Ahhh". Next.
The grown ups had to get chest x-rays to prove we are not bringing TB into the country with us. I am not kidding you when I say this was the most antiquated x-ray equipment I have ever seen. It looked something like this:

If my skin starts to take on a strange glow we will all know why!
Hopefully we will "pass" the medical tests and our visas will be processed quickly. We're still hoping for a March 1 start date in Australia. We'll just have to wait and see!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

G'Day Mate

It's time for the weekly restaurant review.

The G'Day Cafe
Location: The Rocks

The G'Day Cafe is a quick, inexpensive place to grab a bite to eat. There is a small outdoor patio in the back where pigeons love to hover and grab discarded chips (translation: french fries).

On each table is a large box of Kleenex. I guess facial tissues are an acceptable substitute for napkins here. Never mind that they stick to your skin and disintegrate when wet. It is made from paper and you can wipe your face with it, right?

The menu featured burgers and sandwiches so it seemed like a pretty safe place for a quick lunch. But things aren't always how they seem in Oz.

When the waitress finally arrived to take our order, I had a couple questions about the menu. The conversation went like this:

Me: "What kind of cheese is on the roast beef sandwich?"

Waitress responds with blank stare.

Me: "Is it cheddar or swiss?"
I thought if I presented the question in an easy to understand, multiple choice format I might be more likely to get a response from her.

Waitress: "It's just normal cheese."

At this point my man steps in to come to my rescue. He moves on to cheese colors.
Him: "Is it yellow or white cheese?"

Waitress, clearly exasperated by our complete lack of knowledge about basic normal cheese finally responded: "White cheese"

When the food arrived the roast beef did, in fact, have some variety of sweaty white cheese on it. It also had huge raw mushrooms on it, which was a bit surprising but not completely unappetizing.

We were also surprised to see that the burgers are topped not with tomatoes but with sliced beets. Interesting.

Overall, I would avoid the G'Day Cafe. I'd rather make my own sandwich with not so normal cheese and wipe my face with a real napkin, thank you very much!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Drumroll Please . . . . .

For those of you waiting with bated breath to see which rental we selected . . .
The wait is over! Our rental application was approved this week!

Take a look at where we will be living for the next two years.
The apartment on The Esplanade. Doesn't that sound glorious- to live on a street called "The Esplanade"? It is 230 sqm (translation: 2400 square feet) of brand new luxury living.

We'll be eating breakfast on the balcony looking at this view of Balmoral Beach:

I'll be making lunch here:

Soon this gorgeous living room will be scattered with toys and this beautiful dining room will be littered with crayons and biscuit (translation: cookie) crumbs.

Yes, it has a guest suite and yes, you are invited.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Checking out the City

After touring homes we had one day to spend on our own in Sydney. During the day we walked the harbour (that's how they spell it!) bridge.

Here's the view of the Opera House from the bridge.

We saw these thrill seekers doing the Sydney Bridge Climb.

After crossing the bridge we grabbed a ferry at the Luna Park ferry station. Luna park is a little amusement park that can be seen from many locations in the city. It looks picturesque across the harbour.

But up close it is a little freaky! I think most American kids would be a little leery about walking through this giant toothy grin to enter the park.

The ferry ride back was lovely. Sure beats sitting in traffic on the 405! Here's the view from the ferry.

Later that night we were surprised to find ourselves in the middle of the Sydney Festival First Night. The streets were packed with twenty-somethings wearing ridiculously short dresses. I only wish I'd had enough gumption to take a couple photos! Seriously, the dresses worn by these girls would be sold as shirts in the US. It was certainly an interesting look into Sydney's nightlife.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Not What I Expected

Upon arrival in Sydney one of the first things on my list was to get myself a pedicure. I hadn't worn thongs (translation: flip flops) for months so you can imagine how desperately I wanted to get some lively shade of pink painted on my toes! I made a booking (translation: reservation) to get one at the hotel salon.

Let's just say it was not what I expected.

When you get a pedicure in the U.S. the person doing the sanding, buffing and polishing generally sits on something like this:

The customer usually sits in a chair, or if it's a nice place you might get a fancy massage chair like this:

So you can imagine my surprise when she walked me to a back room and told me to lay down on a table like this:

I almost stopped to ask for clarification:
I'm here for a pedicure so my feet will look good in thongs, not for a bikini wax so I'll look good in a thong, right?

I climbed up, awkwardly bending my legs (while wearing a skirt) to soak them in the foot bath placed at the end of the table. The rest of the process was pretty standard although it took at least twice as long as any U.S. pedicure I've ever had. The whole ordeal cost me $75 plus a tip (which I later learned is not expected in Australia).

And, of course, my pretty pink toes were smudged no less than 3 hours later while traipsing through the Botanic Garden.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

House Hunting

The main reason for our jaunt down under was to find a suitable place to live. To help us on this quest we were paired with a friendly and ultra-knowledgeable relocation agent. We spent two days peeling ourselves in and out of her 2 door Saab convertible looking at about 20 rental properties. The homes were gorgeous, the views world class, and the weekly rental prices sky high. But hey, we've got to live somewhere.

How would you like to wake up to this view of Balmoral Beach?

Or maybe take a bath here:

We also loved this one:

There are definitely worse places in the world to live. Stay tuned to see which one we get.

Let's Eat

Eating out in Australia is . . . interesting. I'm a bit of a picky eater in America, so adjusting to Australian food will be a challenge for me. I've decided to write a weekly restaurant review for my blog. Even if I don't enjoy eating the food I'm sure I'll enjoy writing about it.

Swagman's Post Courtyard Cafe
Location: The Rocks

This restaurant is in a great location in the heart of The Rocks. There is a large shady courtyard in the back surrounded by sandstone walls. They serve breakfast all day and that's what we ordered.

I chose scrambled eggs- well done with "brown" toast. I've never ordered scrambled eggs well done before but I have discovered that if I don't specify this the eggs will be served runny and half cooked. I also ordered an apple juice with ice. Again, if you don't ask for ice in your drinks you won't get it.

The service was good and the food arrived quickly. The eggs (although still undercooked IMO) were pretty standard breakfast fare. I was even willing to accept the slightly burned and over buttered heel of bread presented as toast. What really took me by surprise was the apple juice. I've never seen anything like it. It was opaque, with an inch (I mean 2.5cm) of frothy foam on top. I have no idea if there was ice in there or not as I could not see through this concoction. I guess it was fresh unfiltered juice- but not exactly what I had in mind.

Since I couldn't get excited about drinking thick juice I asked for water with ice. The waitress promptly came back and presented me with a glass of water. Floating on the top were the three smallest ice cubes I have ever seen. I had to laugh. Is ice expensive in Australia? Is there some conspiracy to prevent Americans from enjoying an ice cold drink? Why are they so stingy with the ice?

Bottom line on Swagman's Post: If you're looking for a no frills breakfast or lunch it's a good place to stop. I wouldn't bring out of town friends here, but I wouldn't cross it off the list either.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My First Look

Since I was actually able to sleep in my first class pod, I arrived in Sydney Wednesday morning (where did Tuesday go?) somewhat rested and ready to check things out. Here's a few photos from my walk down to Circular Quay (why it's pronounced "key" I have no idea) and the Botanic Gardens.

Above: A view of the hotel and skyline from Circular Quay.

Above: View of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge from the Botanic Garden.

Above: View of the Sydney skyline from the Botanic Gardens. The downtown area is referred to as the CBD (central business district).

I guess I'm not the only one who needs this reminder! Driving on the left will take some getting used to.

After touring the Botanic Gardens I was ready to head back to the Shangri-La for a quick rest. My new flip flops had left my feet blistered and my $75 Aussie pedicure (more on that here) smudged. I was wilting in the humidity so it was a relief to plop down in the air conditioned hotel room with my Frommer's guide to Sydney.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Getting There in Style

I've been reading for weeks about how universally loathed United Airlines is with people traveling from Sydney to LAX. People will go to great lengths to avoid United Airlines. Some will even choose to fly through Asia- adding umpteen hours to their trip as long as they don't have to set foot on a United plane.
All of this was quite disturbing to me because we fly United.
My sweet husband is one of those people who goes places. Frequently. He has racked up all kinds of status and privileges on United. He gets access to a special lines, lounges, and priority tags for his luggage.
So United has us locked up in golden handcuffs.
And just to make sure it stays that way they gave us complimentary first class upgrades for this trip.

It's really not fair to give someone a seat like this on her first flight to Australia. Fourteen hours in the air is nearly tolerable in a 6 ft 6 inch pod that lies completely flat. Unfortunately, my first trip down under in first class was also probably my last. But, I did enjoy it!
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