Thursday, September 12, 2002

OK, so now it is almost halfway through September and we flew home on September 1- but I want to try to record the balance of our trip anyway. So, where was I – Sydney day 2 Ithink…

Time to walk through Darling Harbor (a few blocks from our hotel) to get to the Aquarium at the far end. Aidan as per usual greatly enjoyed the fountains – and there was quite a variety of water features to admire. One was a “wall” of water set in front of some restrooms under a freeway on-ramp (I think) that would periodically start and stop. I had a great deal of trouble persuading my son to move on – and this was only the 1st one we came to! There was also a rather nifty playground – unusual use of small manmade hills and canopies that made for an nice sculptural area to look at from passer-byers perspectives. Aidan saw a little tram go by a few times – a fake train thing. Of course he NEEDED to ride on it. It just cruised the length of the Harbor area for $5 or something like that. I put him off hoping he would forget about it… So we finally made it to the Aquarium. You get to thinking sometimes that these places are very large as they take so long to traverse with a toddler. Yet when you walk them alone a few days later in under 15 minutes … Aidan certainly adds a dimension to your perspective of a place!

The Aquarium was fairly large and a good one. I think there is at least one other Aquarium in the Sydney area but I think this is the main one. There is rightfully an emphasis on Australian critters. Just inside the entrance is a Platypus viewing area. I guess they are nocturnal creatures as both here and at the zoo the area was dark. They were smaller than I imagined but fun to watch zipping around. Dave & Aidan were captivated. As I sat in the dark on a bench with Quincy, a couple of Asian women managed to see and be captivated by my youngest. As usual, wanting to hold him. We spent a lot of time in the first area which had smallish tanks with various “local” fish and crustaceans and pooped out for the latter stuff which was really probably the better stuff. There was an outside area where you could watch seals laying around and go in a tunnel thru the water to watch them swim by – should they ever get off their rocks… (they didn’t for us). There is a nifty shark and friends (?) area where you are in a glass tunnel so they can swim on either side and above you. Aidan liked the frogman cleaning the tank with a vacuum hose. Quincy screamed. He is NOT good about napping anywhere/anytime in his stroller etc like most kids. He found the Aquarium too stimulating and couldn’t let himself go to sleep. It looked like there was an equivalent tunnel tank for reef type fish that wasn’t open which would have been good. There were some decent reef exhibits tho to view. Pretty fish. The closest we would come to the Great Barrier Reef – this trip anyway. Pete had tried to get us there but the cost at such a late date made it seem a poor choice. We grabbed a so so bite to eat in the cafĂ© before exiting. Then Aidan reminded me of my promise of a tram/train ride… So we left Nanma & Pop in possession of Quincy (peacefully sleeping at last) and headed off to the other end where we could visit those toilets under the freeway next to the water wall… Nanma & Pop caught up with us quickly. They headed back to the Aquarium in the evening as it was open til 10 and tickets were good all day - while I put the kids down. I was envious. I am sure we must have done something else that day – perhaps that was our Vietnamese dinner night.

Tuesday morning we caught a bus outside our hotel to Circular Quay (the central area where buses, trains & ferries all stop very close to the Opera House). It is a short walk into the Botanical Gardens leading down to the Opera House. I planned to take Aidan on the little tram ride 20 minute tour of the Gardens that we had taken when we had our few hour stop over at the very beginning of our Down Under Adventure. Phyllis & Dave elected to join us for the ride and save their legs a few steps. It was quite a different experience than the first time – mainly in that the gardens were relatively empty. I had last been there on Anzac Day – a national holiday. The weather was still nice although perhaps a bit cooler – and a nice spring day instead of a nice fall day… I then saw how Aidan was nodding off so we headed home on the train for a nap. After a long naptime the boys and I went out for a mid-afternoon meal down at near the ferry wharf on the otherside of the Aquarium. I had spotted this place when visiting the Aquarium – they had nice pizzas and salads and outside seating with large umbrellas to keep the sun off. We had a very pleasant time of it. Afterwards we just killed some time while waiting for the ferry by watching the monorail (or model-rail as Aidan calls it) and taxi boats and tourists. We took a ½ hour ferry ride to Circular Quay – the wrong direction from our hotel and by myself I could walk there in that time – but that wasn’t the point. Trying to get in as many vehicles as possible in one day! Did I mention that we rode the monorail to get from our hotel to the harbor for lunch? Bus, train, tram, monorail, ferry – pretty good huh? The ferry ride was also at sundown and took us across the river to the giant face at the closed down amusement park. Cool. Talked to a nice South Afrikaner woman – she and her husband and 2 boys (both about 2 yrs older than mine) had been in the same monorail car as us. She had done the bridge climb and highly recommended it. Maybe next trip… We met a lot of South Afrikaners in New Zealand too (including my hairdresser). Phyllis and Dave, well, I don’t really remember what they were doing with their time – either ferry to Manly or visiting the Opera House or??? They were home after kiddie bedtime.

Wednesday I think was zoo day (I may have my Tues and Wed confused here). A nifty set up whereby you need to take the ferry across the river to get there. Beautifully situated so that you have vistas back to the Opera House and bridge and skyline at various points. A great sunny start turned into rain shortly after our arrival although we did get warm sunny weather again before we left. We just missed getting to stand next to Koalas – but did get a bench under shelter. We saw more platypus. Saw a seal lion show – you know the kind – they do tricks for fish. Saw a bird show set on a cliff with the city view behind. Fed giraffes some carrots (too bad I got lousy photos of this – it was pretty fun) – Aidan was intimidated – the giraffes have VERY long (black) tongues! They were the one animal he said he wanted to see at the zoo. Again there was a really pretty view of the city. Phyllis treated us all to ice cream cones – very popular with Aidan! I had grabbed a very good warm croissant sandwich that Aidan & I shared as we walked – but P & D hadn’t had any lunch. A peacock showed off his tail feathers – seemingly to Aidan – as we finished our ice creams. We saw some other animals like mountain sheep or goats and gorillas and meerkats. Unfortunately the San Diego zoo spoils you a bit. This zoo wasn’t that large and had fairly mainstream animals, but they had done a good job of using their site. We took a gondola up from the ferry (Phyllis took a bus) and then mostly just walked downhill back to the ferry. Dave enjoyed the tiger pacing right beside the viewing glass. We headed back to the hotel where we enjoyed some good Chinese takeout from SuperBowl. I’m pretty sure I have Tues and Wed mixed up here as Wed night Pete arrived after the boy’s bedtime from Auckland (finally finishing his project after several 16 hr days) and Phyllis & Dave had just gotten home from an afternoon at Manly Beach.

Anyway – we were happy to have Daddy join us at last. Pete had put in a request for viewing Manly & Bondi Beaches from before he ever left NZ so of course Thursday it was time to head off to the beach… Bondi Beach. We took a couple of buses to get there and got to see a few more neighborhoods on the way (looked interesting to me). Bondi is a huge crescent of white sand and crashing waves with requisite surfers. I think in season it can look as crowded as those Coney Island pictures you see. It was truly some of the finest sand I have seen. After letting Aidan do a little raking in the sand we headed off to the right (as you looked at the water) where my Lonely Planet book (and emails with friends) said you could do a nice cliff walk down to a couple more beaches/communities. I think we did about 2.5km along the cliffs. Really very nice. We had some concerns as there were quite a few stairs near the beginning – and we were toting a stroller and heavy backpack on it and Phyllis has bad knees etc. But soon it was an easy walk with almost no steps to traverse. We sat up high (on conveniently placed benches) and gazed out to sea. A very pretty sunny day. The next beach along had a toilet for Aidan and a small playground for a little break. The next one along had a series of cafes with waterviews although they were further from the water/beach than my book had suggested. We had a good bite to eat mid afternoon before catching a bus back to Bondi Junction and a train to the city. P & D had offered to babysit if Pete & I wanted to go out. So we took the opportunity (after bedtime of kids) to go across the street to the Market City or whatever it was called (mall) and catch a movie. I am drawing a blank on what we saw – it was Tom Clancy with Ben Afleck action flick – and pretty decent although it was about nuclear attack on Baltimore and it bothered my sleep a bit the next couple of nights I have to say. It may have been the 1st movie I saw in a theater since Harry Potter with my Mom at Xmas time last and sleeping infant Quincy in my lap.

Friday P & D headed off on a long bus trip to Canberra – the planned city capital of AU. The rest of us took advantage of the beautiful sunny day to head to Manly Beach on the ferry. The ferry lets you off on the river side and then you pass through a fairly short street/plaza (no cars) to get to the ocean beach. Again there was wonderful fine grained bone white sand. I really liked it especially compared to the NZ sands as there were no shells and rocks in it for Quincy to put in his mouth. He really couldn’t even get the sand in his mouth (and after one taste he gave up anyway). We had a nice lunch at a hole in the wall health food place with courtyard seating. Quincy by this time was being fed anything on my (or anyone else’s plate I could access) that was reasonably soft and didn’t have any of the main no no food (egg whites, raw honey, peanuts, etc.) He has a MUCH more varied baby diet than Aidan did at this age. There was a little tiny beach side playground for Aidan. We also enjoyed taunting the waves (we also got our rolled up pants a bit wet). Quincy enjoyed the feel of the sand and the experience of crawling thru it – you should have seen the glee in his little face. A good day out all told.

Saturday the whole crew headed down to the Opera House via a long walk thru the Botanical Gardens and a couple little stops at the convict (?) museum (we only saw the entrance but it looked like it was a well done museum) and the Library (had a Gallery we thought we might want to see). We thought we might try to take a tour of the Opera House (and all 200 steps along the way). But we didn’t really see any tours that day (lots of Matinees etc instead) and we couldn’t come up with a good plan to deal with the kids/stroller etc. So we settled for my only “nice” meal in Sydney at one of the waterfront outdoor Opera cafes. Really very good and made Bev happy. I’d only been there a week… A bit of confusion afterwards occurred. I think P & D were trying to catch a ferry to head the other way on the river. Pete was interested in another ferry ride too. I wanted to look around The Rocks area (we had seen it on the Explorer Bus oh so long ago – older houses and buildings out of limestone etc). I ended up giving Pete my vehicle pass – and him running off with my wallet (accidental??) leaving me with a 3 – 4 km walk home with just a map in hand. I had a very nice time and walked out under the bridge to almost the end / point. I was very attracted to The Rocks and would love to stay there “next time”. Mostly a 2-story area with tree lined streets – very restful after the hustle and bustle of Chinatown. I tried to photograph what I think of as “traditional” Sydney residential architecture – sort of row houses with a party wall between each unit that extends beyond the rest of the structure in all directions by a foot or two. And iron railing work on the balconies that reminded me of New Orleans. I hadn’t seen quite this style before and am a bit curious about its origin. There were great looking shops. I went in a couple – very high caliber crafts, art and wood working. Regretting my lack of wallet… I also wandered thru a street festival or craft fair of very high quality for that sort of thing. Then I wandered down the residential streets past a few quiet hotels then I ended up back at the end of Darling Harbor again. Past were I had shared pizza and salad with the kids. Past the Aquarium. Over the bridge that led to the Maritime Museum (would love to visit next time). Checked out a mall on the other side. I had made NO purchases in AU so far – and it was almost time to leave! Of course our bags were overflowing already. But I spied a T-shirt or 2 I liked and a couple small gifts I’d like to have… I was back to the hotel at our 5.30 meeting time – Pete was late with the boys – Quincy was a bit hungry! We had leftovers thanks to our big frig, microwave and previous asian meals. Pete & Dave had a date to see a movie at IMAX in Darling Harbor at 8. I wrestled Aidan & Quincy down so that I could get back to the shops at that mall before 9 p.m. closing time. Pete never knew I was gone… It was interesting to be out there on a Saturday night. The Harbor was bustling with families and kids (teens) eating out and hanging out. Then it was home to try to pack up.

By 9 a.m. the next morning we were fully packed up with nothing to do before our 11 a.m. supposed taxi pick up for the airport. Phyllis stayed behind but the rest of us headed back to – you guessed it – Darling Harbor – for a bite to eat. Not a stellar meal but reasonable and cheap. And a view. It rained closed to the end of our meal and of course we had packed our rain gear. But we had plenty of time for it to cease before we headed back. Then the shuffle of bags down the elevator to the lobby/street began. No trolleys, 15 (+) bags. Then the wait for that taxi. Oops! It is broken down somewhere. Finally we pushed P & D into a taxi and we tried to wait for one of those station wagon taxis to come by. Nope. Finally I hopped in a taxi with Aidan and left Pete & Quincy and a few bags. Dave met us with a cart at the airport and Pete followed behind by 5 minutes or so. I think we had gotten off close to 45 minutes after we had planned. Fortunately 1) United wasn’t very busy and especially 2) Phyllis is a Premier member and can use the 1st class lines. In addition our crummy 53rd row seats magically became row 32 bulkhead seats where we could hang up sleeping babies… Being only one row apart from P & D (who also managed to have window, aisle and empty middle in an almost full flight) was MUCH better than being 20 rows behind them as originally planned. Then we settled in for a 14 hour flight that arrived before we left… (1.30 p.m. getting in at 9.30 a.m. I think it was). I watched all 4 movies – sort of – had already seen Spiderman. There was some stupid teen boy sword movie (Pete seemed to like it). But the other 2 were decent. P & D took Aidan for dinner. Q slept reasonably well in the bassinette for at least 6 hours of the flight – and in my arms a few more hours. Waking of course for every meal. Dinner/snack/beakfast were served. A got 8 hours sleep. Pete probably something similar although a bit less I would suppose. I got zero sleep. I am just now getting about round to normal – it would help if I got any 8 hour nights but somehow that never seems to be in the cards! Oh yeah – thanks to Phyllis we were also in the United extra legroom section of the plane. All in all a pretty decent flight. Helps to have grandparents along J To our great surprise, at the other end a taxi driver managed to get all 6 of us and our 15++ bags into ONE van taxi! Then he forgot to turn on his meter. I hope he got a very large tip! San Francisco was sunny and quite warm for our arrival. Our house was dusty and needed a clean. Oops – meant to call the cleaning lady before leaving NZ. Pete spent quite a few hours clearing Aidan’s room back out of all the stuff stored there when we had sub-leased the apartment. Aidan’s room has a new skylight. Ugly but I don’t think it will crash down if we have an earthquake – and hopefully this one doesn’t lead either. We are still getting sorted out although we are almost there. It was tempting to just sort of throw a lot of stuff away on our arrival – heck, if we can live out of a few suitcases for 4 ½ months – how much do we really need all of this…stuff… Aidan and Quincy were both just priceless. It was like Christmas had come early – only maybe 2 or 3 Christmases. Aidan was a little butterfly flitting from one toy to the next “daddy did you know I had a Scoop? Mommy look at this train!” Quincy just had big eyes and a big round “O” mouth and delighted in the fact that he could explore all sorts of toys with no consequences from his brother as A was too busy at the other end of the room. That of course has changed. We have had to lay down ground rules and assign some toys as Quincy toys. Aidan would like them all to be his of course. Good thing about going away is that Aidan really doesn’t remember a lot of things and thus it is easy to not have him play with his tiny little toys (chewing/choking hazards for Q) or to tell him toys belong to Q.

Another night I will get into more of the Q & A dynamics. I also need to tell about some of the very cute things A has had to say that may not have made it into blogger in the past. And we start preschool Friday.

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