Pictures from Australia: January to April 2011

As you might expect, especially if you’re familiar with my itchy trigger finger on the camera, we take far more pictures than you see on the blog. If you’d like to check them out, you can find them on my Flickr page. I’ve recently uploaded a bunch of sets for your viewing pleasure… the shots from the Power Plant Exhibit are particularly cool. Finally, if you use Flickr, you should definitely add me as a contact!

Darling Harbour – January 2011

Bondi Beach, Sydney Harbour, Manly – January 2011

Sydney Harbour, Coogee Beach, Chinatown – January 2011

Symphony in The Domain – January 2011

Lunch at the Scarborough Hotel – January 2011

Australia Day – January 2011

Sydney’s Hyde Park and Botanic Gardens – January 2011

Power Plant Exhibit – January 2011

Chinese New Year in Sydney – February 2011

Sydney Miscellaneous – February-April 2011

Sydney’s Royal Easter Show – April 2011

The Royal Easter Show: Sydney’s County Fair

Like catching fish in a barrel

As part of our ongoing quest to attend a variety of Australian events and festivals, we somehow stumbled upon Sydney’s Royal Easter Show. The name is a bit ambiguous really… what exactly are they showing? Turns out the answer is: all sorts of stuff. The Royal Easter Show is a bazaar, carnival and county fair all rolled into one massive event. For 10 days leading up to Easter, it takes over the Olympic Park grounds outside of Sydney. Since we were planning to visit Melbourne for the Easter weekend, we decided to go early.

Land on a lily pad, win a Kermit!

As is often the case, transportation was a breeze. A train from Central Station took us straight to the Olympic Park in 20 minutes and dropped us off right at the entrance. Upon entering the show, we checked out a couple demonstrations, like this guy showing off some new fishing tackle. We then made our way to the carnival area, where Kristen skillfully launched enough frogs onto moving lily pads to earn herself a brand new Kermit the Frog plush.

A banana stand but no Bluths in sight

In addition to the carnival games, there were aisles upon aisles of  storefronts selling everything imaginable. Most of it you probably wouldn’t want to buy, but there were plenty of people happy to sell it to you. There were also some rather entertaining takes on American culture at the concession stands, but I, an Arrested Development fan, found this one to be particularly fun.

A wood chopping competition

Next stop was one of the smaller arenas to observe the wood chopping competition. For those of you who have never attended a wood chopping competition, they, well, chop wood. Lots of it. Forklifts are required to cart giant logs into the arena and wood chips out. A job better left to the machines, you say? Not for these strapping lads, who managed to hack through a rather sizable stump in around a minute or so.

Moving on, we stopped by a fenced in area where several horses were running around getting some exercise. We would have moved on pretty quickly were it not for Frank the horse. Frank was hungry, but apparently he was supposed to be exercising. However, every time the supervising cowboy wasn’t looking (and sometimes when he was), Frank would attempt to steal a snack from a nearby bucket of food. Of course, the cowboy would catch poor old Frank and yell “FRANK!” I’ve never seen what I would call a guilty looking horse before, but they’re pretty easy to spot.

Caution: Cattle Crossing

As it turns out, the livestock on display was the, er, meat of the Royal Easter Show. There were warehouses and showrooms filled with cows, pigs, chickens and all sorts of other farm animals, often accompanied by displays and demonstrations educating the general public about various farmyard processes. Though most of the animals were confined to pens, they were occasionally moved around for various reasons, at which point you better stay out of their way!

Guess who's about to fall in?

One of the items on the afternoon agenda that caught our eye was the Husqvarna Lumberjack Show. We expected it to be something along the lines of a lumberjack skills demonstration. Turns out we were half right. While the lumberjacks in question were indeed skillful, they were also performers, so they had a whole Dumb and Dumber routine going on as well. Even so, it was still pretty entertaining.

The night concluded with a Australia vs. New Zealand rodeo competition (the Aussies won) and some automotive demonstrations (dirt bikes and utes) that unfortunately had to be toned down due to recent rainfall. A good show all around and felt just like home 🙂

The Royal Easter Show Rodeo!

All around Sydney: Botanic Gardens, Tropfest, Mardi Gras and Surfing

Posts have been a bit sparse as of late, but with good reason: we’ve been busy with a lot of rather uninteresting stuff. I started on a telecom project in Melbourne in the beginning of February, so I’m traveling there every week. Kristen has been immersed in classes, team meetings and coursework, so she’s been busy as well. Nonetheless, we’ve still been able to fit a few things in here and there.

A leisurely day at the Royal Botanic Gardens

At the end of January we took a walk up to Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens, starting at the north end of the Domain and going all the way up to the Opera House. The Botanic Gardens are host to a variety of native Australian plants and some wildlife as well (mostly birds and spiders). A great place for a picnic or just some general relaxation, the Botanic Gardens also hosts the St. George OpenAir Cinema, an outdoor theater with a spectacular backdrop.

Power Plant exhibit at the Chinese Garden of Friendship

Later that night, we stopped by Darling Harbour for the last weekend of the Power Plant exhibit at the Chinese Garden of Friendship. A combination of light, sound and pyrotechnics, we were able to see and hear parts of it from the corporate apartment, so we made sure to stop by and see it for ourselves. It ended up having a bit of a outdoor Haunted Mansion feel, with sections eerily lit by old floor lamps, lots of fire and a variety of odd sounds coming from all over the place. Unique though, and worth the visit. Keep an eye on my photo gallery… more pictures are on the way.

Representing Glass City Films at Tropfest

Tropfest, the world’s largest short film festival, is held in Australia every year. The main event takes place at the Domain in Sydney and is broadcast throughout the country. Coming from humble beginnings at the Tropicana Cafe in Darlinghurst, it is now quite a sizable event, with a record national audience of 1,000,000 people this year (of which 100,000 were on site at the Domain). Films must be less than 7 minutes long and must premiere at the festival, where the top 16 finalists are screened and a winner is chosen. We stopped by for some of the films and were lucky enough to catch the winner on the big screens. Of course, we also had to represent our favorite film studio, Glass City Films!

Mardi Gras in Surry Hills

Sydney also celebrates Mardi Gras, but perhaps not in the same way as other cities. In Sydney, Mardi Gras is also the Gay Pride Parade and is billed as one of the largest (if not the largest) in the world. Featuring close to 10,000 participants and upwards of 300,000 spectators, the parade and ensuing after party are often cited as a must-see event for the worldwide LGBT community. We didn’t make it to the after party, but after getting past the barricades, we found some prime undercover real estate on Oxford Street to watch the festivities and stay out of the rain.

Kristen and friends at the MBA Cup after-party

Every year the students from AGSM in Sydney and MBS in Melbourne meet up for a weekend of friendly competition. Alternating between Sydney and Melbourne each year, this year’s competition (in Sydney) includes a variety of academic and athletic events, from debates to rugby. I didn’t attend most of the events, but I did tag along for the volleyball game and was happy to participate when they needed a couple extra players. Sydney ended up winning the majority of the events over the weekend, so to celebrate the victory (and help the Melbournians drown their sorrows), the after party was held at the Beach Palace Hotel.

Hawaiian Night at the ThoughtWorks Team Hug

Twice each year, all of ThoughtWorks Australia gets together for a staff meeting, affectionately called a “Team Hug”. This year the meeting was held outside of Sydney at Ettalong Beach and included a variety of talks from ThoughtWorkers and a rousing Social Justice-focused keynote from Roy, the founder. There was also a Hawaiian themed party on Saturday night, so I made sure to acquire a classy Hawaiian shirt and a hula skirt to complete my outfit.

Our first surfing lesson!

If you were to ask me before our trip what sport I thought I would become good/better at when I came to Australia, I probably would have answered something like “surfing” or “volleyball”. Turns out the answer is actually “bowling” … I was on the team for a corporate challenge and a weekly bowling outing has persisted in Melbourne for the travelers. We’ve still had time to try out surfing though, and while our first attempt was thwarted by rough waters, our second attempt was successful and we were both able to get up for at least a couple seconds. It’s not easy, but it sure is a lot of fun. If you plan to learn to surf when you visit (and you should!), Maroubra Beach is an excellent place to start. It has a nice sandbar that makes it easy to get out to where the waves start to break and it’s a bit less crowded than some of the other beaches.

All in all, not a bad way to spend a couple of months. We’ve got a couple of exciting trips on the horizon though, so stay tuned 🙂

First-Hand Guide: Renting in Sydney, Australia

Our corporate apartment. Thanks ThoughtWorks!

One of our first priorities after arriving was finding a place to live. ThoughtWorks kindly subsidized a corporate apartment for our first month but, given the duration of our stay here, we needed to find a place of our own. We were warned prior to arriving that this would be a challenge, but we weren’t entirely prepared for what it actually entailed.

Sydney and its nearby suburbs have a notoriously low rental vacancy rate, currently 1.5%. By comparison, the rental vacancy rate in the U.S. is 6.2%, the lowest level since 2008. As you can imagine, it’s a landlord’s market here in Sydney, so trying to find a place takes a lot of work.

Houses by Coogee Beach

So what does this actually mean? Well, rental units are obviously still available and come on the market regularly, there’s just a lot more competition for the better places. This became apparent when we showed up for our first inspection and saw 10 other groups of people waiting to see the same place. Inspections are essentially open houses and are normally scheduled for a 15-30 minute period on Saturdays. Since most people will plan to visit as many units as possible, we often would see the same groups at 2 or 3 different places.

Many of the people who attend an inspection will submit an application, so visiting a variety of places and locations is a must. We originally considered living by the beach but ultimately decided to live in the city. Units in high-rises tended to have more predictable layouts and within walking distance to everything we need, including multiple modes of public transportation. Also, finding a house was primarily my job, so looking in the city was easier than trekking out to the beach 🙂

Our new apartment!

As you might expect, renting a place quickly becomes a numbers game… the more applications you submit, the more likely it is that you’ll be the one picked by the landlord. However, we found that some real estate agents, usually the smaller ones, were willing to schedule private inspections during the week in addition to the public inspections on the weekend. This turned out to be very helpful, since, if you schedule an inspection early in the week and submit an application on the spot, it’s likely to be reviewed by the landlord before the public inspection hits. Assuming you look like a reasonable tenant, you have a much better chance of getting the place.

In the end, that’s what worked for us. We found a few places we liked via open inspections. We weren’t selected for one of the places we applied to and another was already taken between the time we saw the place (Saturday) and the time we turned in our application (Monday). However, one of the places we found through a small real estate agent and viewed on a Tuesday was ours a few days later.

Chinese New Year: the Year of the Rabbit

Kickoff at Belmore Park

Culturally, Sydney reminds us in many ways of London and major cities in the U.S. You can find most of the same stores here and the standard of living is pretty much on par. One of the most noticeable differences, though, is the significant Asian influence – it is to a degree that you’re unlikely to find in those cities. Even outside of the sprawling Chinatown district, East and Southeast Asian restaurants seem to outnumber the others. It’s hard to walk more than a block or two without seeing a Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Korean or Japanese establishment, and many of the stores and bars are of Asian influence as well.

It’s no surprise then that Chinese New Year is a big event here, and since we live on the edge of Chinatown it was essentially unavoidable. The festivities started even before the official kickoff, with small entourages of dragons and drums occasionally passing by on the streets. The official kickoff was in Belmore Park on January 28th and included food, drinks, music and other attractions.

They made rabbits out of all sorts of things

This being the Year of the Rabbit, rabbit statues and rabbit-themed things could be found all over the place, ranging from the normal to the strange to the downright creepy. There also were a variety of activities and giveaways at the kickoff: at one point I was wandering around with a stick of incense, unsure of how to properly dispose of it without accidentally committing some sort of egregious cultural faux pas.

We managed to make our way back without causing too much trouble and ended our New Year activities for the evening and the weekend. The celebration was a week long, culminating in a big parade the following weekend and, you guessed it, fireworks!

One of many Chinese Dragons

The following weekend, we ventured out to secure a spot along the parade route, which took over a significant portion of George Street before continuing through the rest of Chinatown. The parade was well done and included a variety of acts from all over eastern Asia. Though the relationship has had its ups and downs, Chinese-Australian relations have historically been mostly positive, in part due to China being Australia’s largest trading partner and Australia’s significant natural resource exports to the country.

Leftover Floats: Year of the Pig!

The floats were quite elaborate and were interspersed between lots of performers, although we suspect that they started to run out of ideas once they started rolling out all of the floats from previous years: “Hey, we’ve got these things that are just lying around for the next decade, why not throw them in too?” I couldn’t include pictures of them all, so here’s a shot of the pig, the patron animal of mine and Kristen’s birth year.

We could definitely tell when the parade was near the end though, because they really started to run out of ideas at that point. Basically, anything that looked like a rabbit was a valid candidate for being paraded down the street. As a result, I will conclude this edition of “Life with Kristen and Ryan” with a game: Name That Cartoon Rabbit! First correct answer in the comments wins a prize, local pickup only 🙂

 

Name That Cartoon Rabbit!

Australia Day: Celebrating the arrival of the First Fleet

Me and Kristen and an opera house

Australia has a number of national public holidays, some of which you may celebrate (New Years Day, Christmas Day) and some you may not (Anzac Day, Boxing Day). There are also state holidays that may happen at different times on the year (or not at all) depending on what state you happen to be in. One of the most popular holidays is Australia Day, held annually on January 26th to celebrate the arrival in Sydney Cove of the First Fleet. Sailing from Great Britain and containing close to 1,500 people (including 778 convicts), the 11 ships reached Botany Bay between January 18-20, 1788.

Teaching the Aussies American football

Of course, depending on your perspective, the landing of the First Fleet might not be something that merits celebrating. Due to the negative impact of this event on the indigenous Australians (Aborigines), the day has also been called Invasion Day and Survival Day, among others. This hasn’t really caught on (I suppose it would be a bit difficult to market), but protests and demonstrations occur most years.

Nonetheless, Australia Day is like Independence Day in the United States, a day of picnics, drinks, music, festivities and fireworks, all of which we planned to take part in. We started the day with a picnic in Rushcutters Bay Park, near the Potts Point neighborhood of Sydney. Assuming that they would be difficult to find in Australia, I packed a black and yellow American football alongside my Terrible Towels for occasions just like this.

Australia Day bands in The Rocks

After spending a few hours at Rushcutters trying to teach the Aussies how to throw a football, we worked our way over to The Rocks, one of the historic areas of Sydney, to meet up with Kristen’s classmates and see a couple of the bands. From there we walked to Darling Harbour and Cockle Bay for dinner and the fireworks. During dinner the bar was televising a cricket game between the UK and Australia, so with the help of one of Kristen’s classmates, I now understand the game (more or less).

Australia Day Fireworks at Darling Harbour

As in the States, the night ended with fireworks, always a crowd-pleaser here in Australia. I think there were a variety of fireworks shows all over the city, but we opted for the ones in Darling Harbour, which are nice and close to our apartment. And, as you might expect, they offered some nice opportunities for yours truly to work on his night photography skills. I unfortunately didn’t have a particularly ideal vantage point, but I think I was able to get a few decent shots… you be the judge.

With Kristen's classmates and one extra

We stopped for a group picture on the way out… see if you can figure out which one isn’t part of our group 🙂

Exploring the Coast: a visit to the Scarborough Hotel

Me and Pat

Our third weekend in Sydney marked our first excursion outside of the city limits. On the occasion of Pat Sarnacke being in town to start his sabbatical, Darren suggested a trip to the Scarborough Hotel for lunch. An hour drive south of Sydney, the trip took us through most of the Sydney metropolitan area before working our way through the Royal National Park. Though around 85% of Australians live within 50km of the coast, there are only a handful of large cities. Scarborough, like many of the coastal towns, is a small area situated amongst hills, cliffs, beaches and the Pacific.

The coast and the Pacific

The Scarborough Hotel isn’t actually a hotel, although it, like many other drinking establishments, has “hotel” in the name. This is a holdover from past liquor licensing laws that often required pubs to provide some manner of accommodation. Though this requirement has since been phased out, the license is still called a “Hotel license” by the Office of Liquor, Gaming & Racing. The hotel also holds the distinction of being the oldest licensed premises in Wollongong, dating back to 1886. In fact, according to the Scarborough Hotel website, the town was actually named after the bar, not the other way around.

Lunch at the Scarborough Hotel

The hotel has a nice restaurant and a few bars, but the real draw is the outdoor seating area situated at the top of the cliff. Overlooking the ocean and a few secluded beaches, the area is evidently a popular place for weddings and other events. We unfortunately didn’t make it down to the beach, but we saw a few people who had worked their way there, either via an adjacent beach or down the cliff somehow (we couldn’t quite figure it out).

Sea Cliff Bridge - photo by Jon Bragg1

On the way in and out, we passed over the Sea Cliff Bridge, a spectacular cantilever bridge built in 2005 to avoid regular rock falls on the existing portion of the coastal Lawrence Hargrave Drive. The bridge offers spectacular views of the coastline and has been featured in a number of auto advertisements. We unfortunately didn’t have time to stop, but I wouldn’t mind passing by again to take a few shots of my own.

 

Kristen and me

 

1. http://www.flickr.com/photos/festivefrog/1558301874/

Sydney Festival 2011: Symphony in The Domain

Our second week went by smoothly. Kristen officially started class and I’m still getting to know my way around the ThoughtWorks office and the CBD (Central Business District, for those of you just tuning in). Sydney, though not an exceptionally well-laid out city, has an abundance of high quality public venues and festivals to make use of them. One of the most prominent is the aptly-named Sydney Festival. Held every January since 1977, the festival includes close to 100 music, performance and art events spread throughout the city.

The Domain and the skyline

Some of the most popular events are the open air concerts in the Domain, an extensive set of parks, museums and monuments on the east side of the city. Only a 10 minute walk from most of downtown, the Domain is Sydney’s equivalent of Chicago’s Millennium and Grant Parks; an expansive green space for events, festivals and general recreation (I play soccer there every Monday). It is part of a larger downtown park system that includes Hyde Park to the southwest and the Botanic Gardens to the north, with the iconic Sydney Opera House at the northwestern tip. Check out the map for a better idea of the layout.

Music in the city

We attended the second of the three open air concerts, called Symphony in the Domain. An event that normally attracts upwards of 80,000 people, it combines the feel of Ravinia with the location of Pritzker Pavilion. This year the Sydney Symphony was accompanied by readings from Shakespeare and the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs.

Bats in the Domain

We arrived pretty close to the start of the show, so we opted to grab a seat in the grass off to the side, though still in view of the stage. While waiting for the show to begin, Kristen headed over to the concession area to get us a snack while I took a few pictures of the area. One of the first things we noticed were the bats. Native to Australia, grey-headed flying-foxes, also known as fruit bats, are abundant in the parks of Sydney and can be seen roosting in the trees.

1812 Overture with Fireworks and Cannons

While the entire concert was great, what primarily attracted us (Kristen in particular) was the finale performance of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. A staple of Ravinia’s Labor Day Spectacular (which we’ve attended twice), the 1812 Overture is often accompanied by pyrotechnics of some sort. In this case, the performance was accompanied by fireworks, cannons, and fireworks coming out of cannons… an excellent way to end the show.

Like most major cities, there are always an abundance of events, shows, concerts and festivals going on in Sydney. For example, in a few weeks we plan to attend Tropfest, Sydney’s short film festival. You’ll find plenty to do when you come (and you should!)

First-Hand Guide: Traveling to Sydney, Australia

So you’re considering a trip to Australia, yeah? Great! It’s a bit daunting, I know, but once you make it here, you’re bound to have a fantastic time. Hopefully this guide can help answer most of the questions and concerns you might have about making the trip.

Make no mistake about it, Australia is a long way away from, well, almost everything. A flight from Sydney to New Zealand is at least 3 hours, Tokyo is 10 hours and Los Angeles is 14 hours.

Most itineraries from the US will route through either LAX or San Francisco (SFO), and, depending on your preferred airline, you can probably fly to one of those cities directly (United, American and Delta fly direct to LAX from their major and some minor hubs). Depending on your time and airline preference, you also can fly non-stop from Vancouver on Air Canada or, starting in May, you can fly non-stop from Dallas on Quantas, although the DFW-SYD flight stops in Brisbane first.

I’ll use LAX as my example, since that’s what we did. Flights from ORD-LAX are about 3.5 hours; JFK-LAX is about 5. You’ll probably want to give yourself some extra time prior to your international flight, since that gives you a buffer for delays and should increase the chances that your bags will make it.

As I mentioned, LAX-SYD is about 14 hours. Flights usually leave between 9-11pm and land at around 6am two days later. We left on January 6th and landed on January 8th, so I’m sure something interesting happened on January 7th, but I wasn’t there for it! Of course, you regain that lost day on the way back (you land the same day as you take off). You’ll be flying on a large plane, probably a 747, so there will be movies and other entertainment available.

It’s not a fun flight, but if you’ve been on other red-eyes, it doesn’t feel that much different. I personally didn’t really notice much of a difference compared to my flights to Brazil and Chile (10 hours apiece). You leave at night and arrive in the morning, so a few hours here and there don’t really make much of a difference. Just hope that you can get a bit of sleep on the plane, although it probably won’t make your first day in Australia much easier.

As you might imagine, flights are expensive. Expect to pay at least $1500-$2000 per person for a round trip ticket, depending on when you book and when you want to visit. You can attempt to book with points, but Australia is difficult to obtain using award travel, so you’ll need to be flexible with your itinerary and diligent about calling the airlines for availability.

Fortunately, with each ticket comes two free checked bags on most US carriers, which you’ll want to stick to, since both additional and overweight (>50 lbs) bags cost around $200 apiece each way. Australia is a pretty casual place, so pack light and weigh your bags before you leave home. More information is here, depending on your airline: United – American – Delta.

Once you arrive, you’ll be dealing with an actual time change of around +16 hours (SYD – US EST), though the impact on you is actually only 8 hours (Sydney is 8 hours behind and 1 day ahead of the US East Coast). Based on the rule of thumb that it takes about 1 day per hour of adjustment, it’ll probably take a week before you’re fully adjusted, though you’ll probably feel good enough to stay out all day by your 2nd or 3rd day. I’ve heard that the adjustment during the trip back is more difficult, although I haven’t experienced it yet.

Once you arrive, there are plenty of places to stay, and from what we’ve heard the hotels are pretty good. We haven’t stayed in any of them though, so definitely check out reviews online and see what is available, especially if you have a particular award program affinity.

Sydney is a very walkable city, so I’d recommend booking a hotel that’s reasonably centrally located. If you look near downtown Sydney, known as the CBD (central business district), you’ll probably want to find a hotel bounded by the water on the north and west sides, Elizabeth Street on the east side and Liverpool street on the south side. This will ensure that you’re no more than a 20 minute walk to restaurants, shopping, nightlife and major train, bus and ferry stations.

You can also look for hotels near the beaches (there are some) or use something like VRBO if you want to rent a house. I wouldn’t recommend going too far outside of the city so as to keep your transportation options open, so no farther south than Maroubra or farther north than Dee Why.

Unless you’re planning a trip significantly outside of the city, don’t rent a car. You can get just about anywhere by ferry, bus or train, which is much cheaper, almost as convenient and a better way to experience the city. For day trips, you can usually organize something through a tour company, although the light rail system around Sydney is pretty extensive. Sydney also has car sharing through GoGet and they allow drivers with foreign licenses, so that’s an option for longer stays.

Regarding trip duration, I’d recommend staying for at least 9-10 days, since it’s a long flight to get here and you’ll need at least a day or two in Australia before you’ve adjusted enough to the time change. While there’s plenty to do in Sydney, you also might consider using it as a jumping point to visit other cities/states in Australia (Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Cairns, Perth, Tasmania), other locations (Uluru [Ayers Rock], Great Barrier Reef), or other countries in the neighborhood (New Zealand, Indonesia, Singapore). Wikipedia has a great article on Australian landmarks to help you get started.

In short, come visit! As a trip, it’s a significant undertaking, but you won’t regret it, promise 🙂

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Week in Review: Our first 7 days in Sydney

The Opera House at night

It’s been an exciting and exhausting first week in Sydney. I spent my first week in the ThoughtWorks office meeting people and getting work and personal affairs in order (IDs, bank accounts, etc). We’ve also started the search for an apartment, which we’re told will be a challenging process. In the meantime we’re mostly living out of suitcases, as we don’t want to unpack everything while we’re still in the corporate apartment. It takes a bit of time to dig around and find what we need, but we’re getting by.

Kristen spent the week in orientation, getting to know her new classmates and professors. Her class of 48 people represents 19 different countries, so she’s certainly getting the international experience she was looking for. If you want to know more about her MBA activities, you’ll have to bother her, since she’s been a bit lax about posting to the blog 🙂 I did get a chance to meet a few of her classmates at Cruise Bar though… they’re an entertaining bunch.

Classmates Jonathan and Daniel

We spent most of Saturday checking out apartments and getting to know various areas around the city. We’ve seen a few nice and not-so-nice places; the mix gives us a good lay of the land so we know what to expect from the housing market. We mostly looked at houses and apartments in the Surry Hills area, which reminds us a lot of the North Halsted neighborhood of Chicago and whose main street, Oxford Street, is like Halsted Street on steroids. Lunch was at Zambrero, which is currently in the running as an adequate Chipotle substitute (I’m already starting to go into withdrawal). I’ve heard good things about Guzman Y Gomez though…

Always listen to Larry the Lifeguard!

Since we couldn’t look at apartments on Sunday (most open inspections take place on Saturdays), we decided to check out more neighborhoods instead. First stop was Coogee Beach, another of Sydney’s eastern beaches. Unlike Bondi and Manly, there aren’t many surfers due to the calmer waters, so the swimmers don’t necessarily need to stay between the flags (the area of the beach off limits to surfers and more closely monitored by the lifeguards).

Giles Baths at Coogee Beach

Coogee also features a number of baths, which are sheltered ponds carved into the rock on either side of the beach. They are perfect for spending time in the ocean without having to fight the surf. Giles Baths, on the north side of the beach, is essentially just a big hole carved into the rock, but Wylies Baths, on the south side of the beach, has a fully enclosed pool, sun decks and restaurants.

The Coogee area is great, and though we’d considered living near the beach, the public transportation options for the eastern beaches are a bit limited, so we’re probably going to stay closer to the city.

Chinatown

We ended the day a little closer to home with a visit to Chinatown and the surrounding markets, although Paddy’s Market was closed by the time we arrived. One of the nice things about living near Chinatown is that we’ll have front row seats for the Chinese New Year celebrations on February 3rd. We’ve already seen a few dragons on the street as the area prepares to usher in the Year of the Rabbit.