Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy Christmas

I only have one more sleep (as they say in Oz) until I get to leave for the other Az to join my family, brother and parents for Christmas! The nice thing about flying east is that you arrive before you've left, so I will get there on Christmas Eve.

Tonight is neighbour Mark's big family Christmas BBQ! He recently bought a new BBQ grille and has practised in preparation for the big event tonight. A customary Aussie Christmas food is seafood, especially big, fat prawns! In a previous post, you can see a picture of Nick contemplating a large prawn before devouring it during our Christmas dinner last year here in Oz.

All morning on TV are stories on how to pick the best ones, which types are the best right now, etc. They even have "Live Coverage" of the Fish Market in Sydney so you can plan when to fight the madding crowds and traffic jams to get that fresh seafood. I did notice this last year and thought it was pretty funny, but in Oz, seafood is serious business.

I'll be leaving the Fatherland (or since the weather on the Island has been bitter cold, maybe it's the Motherland) on 8 January and back to it on the 11th, so not much time really to catch up with friends and family once back in Washington. At least Craig Sweet is over from Japan and we'll get to share a few bottles of fine wine. Hopefully, I can catch up with the Marquands as well since I missed them last summer. My local relatives are throwing a belated Christmas dinner on 4 January and that'll be great to see them as well. It's a full schedule once back on the Island. This might mean no new blog entries for a while unless I get some time, not that I'm consistent in writing anything anyway. Honestly, I try to only put in interesting things in this blog and I'm sure, fail often. But if you've read this far, it's your own fault, lol.

Have a very Happy Christmas and great, prosperous New Year! Comment, write, know you're thought about and cared for often.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Near Death Experience in Perth

G'day. I'm here to tell you I've survived....so far, but the day is young. It's 11am Sunday and I went out for breakfast a couple hours ago. It was starting to get warm so I closed down the apartment to give the air conditioner a chance to keep things cool. After brekky, I walked around the shopping district, exploring hallways and alleys that I haven't seen before. As mentioned earlier, this is a 3 block by 4 block area, riddled with throughways, multi-levels and is sometimes a maze to get lost in, a shopper's paradise. I'm not a shopper. Some of the alleyways have names such as the Trinity Arcade which is so named as the shopping district swallowed up this old church and has added associated things as the Abbey Deli and a store that sells all kinds of religious stuff, mostly Catholic.

But what does this have to do with near death? It was the walk home. I took a longer way trying to find an Army Surplus Store (yes, they have them in Oz, too) that I'd passed by earlier and noticed some camo on display. Naturally I thought of cousin Steve Mak and wondered if he has the compleat collection of Aussie camo. I didn't find the store again, and in spite of drinking plenty of water this morning, began to feel...blonde. No, not feel a blonde, feel like one as in a little light in the head. I gave up my search for camo and headed back to the apt. when (funnily enough) a blonde followed me right up to the door of the apt complex. She had a clip board, looked official and said in a nice Scottish brogue "It sure is hot this morning, it's already 39C!" I don't know what 39C means but when I checked on line just now, that means somewhere between 97F and 102F! The weather centre say 97F and you know me, I don't like to embellish things...too much. Suffice it to say, it IS hot! It's only 11AM! I only have 1 beer in the fridge...THIS IS HELL! THIS REQUIRES SURVIVAL TACTICS (and hopefully, combat pay).

I'll venture out for supplies after I rehydrate, drink my lonely beer at noon...I have principals. Well, maybe sooner as actually it's already 2:30 in the Gong, so it should be all right.

More later providing my survival plan works.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Ferry to Freo

This entry is kind of out of chronological order as this is about the journey to the 3 masted schooner SS Leeuwin. At the end of Barrack Street is the wharf where you can catch ferries that go up and down the Swan River, no not Swannie River. At the mouth of the Swan River is Fremantle, about a 20 minute drive from Perth but on the passenger ferry, takes about an hour and a half. I think most of the time is in avoiding all the sailboats that are out in the constant trade winds off the Indian Ocean.

Fremantle or Freo as the natives refer to it is a great sailing capitol. I hope I can get there to explore this weekend as there are plenty of marinas, sailboats and a new Maritime Museum that you can see the silhouette in the sunset shot in a previous blog entry. The SS Sea Sheppard is located there as well, which is a more radical anti-whaling vessel than Greenpeace sporting several Imperial Japanese flag decals on it’s bridge. Apparently one for every whaling ship they’ve interfered with their operations. My joke about “I suppose no Frenchmen are allowed on board?” wasn’t met with laughter.

The ferry trip to Freo, the sail aboard the SS Leeuwin made for an incredible day. Even some of my pictures from the trip made it onto the company’s homepage where company business and social activities are mentioned.

As you can hopefully see from the pictures, there must’ve been over 200 sailboats out that Saturday arvo (‘afternoon’ in Australian). The Fremantle Doctor (tradewinds that usually blow in the arvo. Of course, they shorten it to “The Doctor” which sounds better than the Freo Arvo) was blowing strong and steady and made the heat of the day bearable. Hopefully in one of the pictures, you can see the 3 dolphins that were riding the bow wake from the ferry.

It was just a damned fine day!

Another guest has committed to visiting the land down under. James, who took over for me in Seattle when I left, and very good friend Dawn will visit the last 2 weeks of January. They have friends in Sydney as well and are looking forward to thawing out from the Korean winter as they’re both now teaching English there. You too, could have excellent adventures in Oz. Your room awaits.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Traveling Tips

G'day. This is just a tip that I've found out for all you travelers. I am staying in Perth for about 11 nights and 5 of those nights were in a typical hotel room. Actually to call the IBIS typical is an understatement as the rooms are so small that even the cockroaches have rounded shoulders. They are notoriously small and at $155 per night, on par with other hotels that have normal sized rooms and probably more amenities. I don't really want to disrespect IBIS but want to provide a great idea as an alternate to hotels in general and that is to rent an apartment. Most in Perth prefer a one week minimum or at least you'll get a much better rate for a week. I'm in a 2 bedroom as they didn't have a 1 bedroom available but still, for only $3 more per night, I have a huge and very new apartment! This would be great for 2 couples or a family traveling as it includes clothes washer and dryer and a kitchen with all the utensils. These pictures, while boring, are of the interior of the apartment.

It is about the same distance from the office as the hotels, just on the opposite side of Northbridge which is the restaurant, pub and nightclub district. As before when Walker's was at the north end of Boeing Field and I used to go through the parking lot of the local tavern when I walked to work, I would tell people it takes me 10 minutes to walk to work and 3 hours to walk home.

Hopefully this weekend I'll have a day off to go to the Swan Valley which is wine country! Also, beer and distillery country! Fortunately its only a 25 minute train ride to where you can catch a shuttle that makes the loop of most of these fine businesses. Naturally I'll take some pictures as I'm sure NOT to remember the finer details of the adventure.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

SS Leeuwin, Fremantle, WA Australia

As mentioned earlier, my coworker Grey Mackay used to be volunteer crew aboard this replica. They do similar programs for troubled youth as the Lady Washington, taking kids out for 1 month sailings, teaching them seamanship, responsiblity and learning the satisfaction of working as a team. You can see more at www.sailleeuwin.com. Leeuwim is the southern most point in Western Australia and there are plenty of things named after it such as a recently closed restaurant, the Chewin' Leeuwin.

Anyway, Grey invited me out to join in a twilight sail from 4PM to 7PM (no DST in WA) and it was great! 90F temperatures and a good steady wind. We even saw a whale breaching and flipping us off. A great day for sure!

Hopefully next weekend, I'll get to go to Swan Valley, this area's wine region, not to mention all the microbreweries and a couple distilleries. I'd better take pictures as I'm bound to forget that day. Fortunately there is a 20 minute train ride to the area where you can catch a shuttle that makes the rounds for you. It should be good and I've already gotten tips on which places are the best!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Perth Pictures

Here are some pictures of the aforementioned bits about Perth, the mall, one of the throughways between blocks in Medieval theme as there are several other throughways with different feels. Also, the Bell Tower, view out of my room, Strawberry walled coffee shop and other only-in-Perth sites.

More later

Friday, December 4, 2009

Dateline: Perth

G'day my many followers (that means 4, 2 of which are a duplicate). I'm temporarily in Perth to work on the dreaded quarterly surveys or as I've nicknamed them "the dreaderlies." Ok, not very clever but at least this is a new adventure in Oz. And an expensive one.

Due to the business nature of Perth, mostly miners and bankers, costs seem to be through the roof. I know housing is expensive and never really did go down much during the latest economic crisis but to go out to eat and drink is just crazy! A pint of imported or local made beer is $8 - $10 a pint! Compare that with back home at about $4.50 or so. Meals are typically $15 - $20 for lunch and $25+ for dinner. You can find somewhat cheaper such as the little neighbourhood Korean joint where I was pretty much the only non_Korean there. The special bowl of noodles and various meat items was $12. And that was just a bowl of noodles, no salad nothing else.

While I'm at work this Saturday morning, I'm going to take a ferry to Fremantle and sail on the 3 master schooner SS Leeuwin, www.sailleeuwin.com. It should be a great twilight sail as already the temperature is 97F and it's not even noon yet. I forgot the cable to hook up my camera but will post pictures of this and my other adventures in Perth.

Btw, the small downtown area is great with a 2 block by 3 block area as a pedestrian shopping mall the connects over the main train station and into another pedestrian mall between the City's and State's art galleries and museums. Very nice as I walk through this on my way to the office. On the 'other' side of the tracks joining up to the galleries is an area called Northbridge that is about 6 blocks by 3 blocks of their main restaurant and bar district. I walked all over this area last night finally coming to the Korean place to eat. I did stop in at the Elephant and Wheelborrow for an expensive pint as well as Rosie O'Grady's before that. Almost broke and hungry, I had to get my bowl of noodles and mystery meat. Just kidding, as there were pork ribs and shrimp involved among the hot spices. The way I like it.

More later.