Friday, May 30, 2008

The Last Plane Out of Sydney's Almost Gone...

I can't believe how fast it went, but alas, here we are at the end of the road. It's 7:30 AM on my birthday here in Sydney, but it's 5:30 in the afternoon at home on the 30th. By the time I get to Philly it will be just before midnight on the 31st and we will have covered another 12,000 miles.

I can't begin to say how much fun we've had on this trip. I've reveled in all my favorite Aussie things, places and customs. From Sydney to Tasmania to the Ocean Road to Melbourne to the Outback and now back to Sydney the three weeks passed all at once in the blink of an eye, while at the same time creeping by at a snails pace. When I think about our first day here, it seams like a year ago, but when I think about going back to work in a few days it all seams too soon.

My family has always been a traveling family, by which I mean we went on a lot of trips, not that we moved around like a military family or anything. Earlier this year they were in Ireland, and last year they went to Turkey. When I was a kid we spent a month in Europe one winter (where oddly enough the joke began that I hated to walk places, ask Inky how much that's changed. I must have lost 10 pounds on this trip with all the walking I've made her do.) and when I was a teen I went with my Aunt, Uncle and cousin to Russia for a month. So traveling is kind of in my blood. I have this desire to see things I can't see at home, but also to see how the things we do have at home differ in places I've never been. That's why I watch TV on vacation.

All I know is, Australia never disappoints me in any respect. It's a nation full of friendly people, amazing sights, great food, exciting cultural events and enough of all of it to take up a few months let alone the last three weeks. It will always be a special place to me, a place where I feel comfortable yet still able to see and do something new.

During the trip, Inky and I have been talking about the next trip we'll take. I love Oz so much that I would love to come back here, but I think we'll do Europe for our 10 year anniversary next summer. The plane flight is way shorter, and we can collect a few more cities, places and attractions.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Holy Crap That's Good!!!

There are so many wonderful things about traveling, but one of my favorites has always been trying new things to eat. When we get back, I'm planning to regale you with stories of Tim Tam (of which Inky and I have procured a large supply to take along home with us) Schweppes Lemonade, Picnic Bars and others, but this post is about pancakes. Ricotta pancakes to be more specific, from a famous Sydney area eatery called Bills.

Inky and I took the train to Central Station and walked up the big ass hill on Albion St to the Crown Street Bills, in Surry Hills. There are other things on the menu that all sound amazing, but we were there for ricotta pancakes and we weren't leaving without them. They come with honeycomb butter and a sliced banana, which along with the syrup makes the whole event feel more like desert than what it actually is: brekkie at lunch.

The pancakes don't taste like cheese, the ricotta just serves to make them a bit lighter and provide a different texture. Once you let the honeycomb butter melt over them and douse them with the syrup you are in for a complete taste experience. Add a slice of nana and it borders on perfection. Anyone visiting Sydney has to find one of the three locations and partake of these little bundles of goodness. I'd put them right after the Bridge, The Opera House, Bondi and Manley.

This is our last full day in Australia, at this time tomorrow we'll be in the air headed east... way east. Tomorrow is also my 32nd birthday and as a gift I'll get to enjoy a 38 hour birthday. From the time the clock strikes midnight in Sydney tonight till the time we land in Philly almost two full days will elapse on my watch, but it will all fall under the same day on the calender. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go enjoy my last day in Sydney and my last day as a 31 year old.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Snakes, Spiders, Crocs, Sharks and.....

Now that we've left the outback, I'll admit it, I was on edge out there. Every time a fly landed on leg I checked to be sure that it wasn't a spider. Every time I saw a stick laying in the scrub brush, I looked twice to be sure it wasn't a snake. Now that we're back in Sydney and we're headed back to the beach, I'll be on the lookout for fins cutting through crystal blue water.

This is a dangerous country, to be sure. I think the constant specter of death keeps the Aussies on their toes, which in turn makes them more vibrant. Most Aussies you meet really seem to embrace every moment of life. They are very passionate about their work, play, food, sport and adventure seeking. And I guess it makes sense too. If you lived on an island that contained all of the most deadly snakes and spiders you'd probably seize the day too. The best we can conjure back at home is black bears, rattle snakes and disaffected suburban kids with their dad's guns.

Inky and I are setting out into Sydney today, but we only have a small amount of time left in the Lucky Country. So I'm going to try to enjoy every second of it, as if these spiders were following me around:

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Setting Sun

It's 7:30 AM on Wednesday the 28th here at Uluru. For some odd reason, it is already 8:00 AM in Sydney, Melbourne and the rest of the Aussie east coast. Who's ever heard of a half hour time zone? It is 6 in the afternoon, Tuesday the 27th back home, which is where I'll be in a few days. First, I have to turn 32 in Sydney, Los Angles and Philadelphia, but once that's done it's back to work and everyday life.

All these things were bumping through my head last night as Inky and I stood on top of a dune in the outback watching the sun go down over the blanket of red sand. Everything heavenly is magnified in the desert; the stars are brighter at night, the sunrise is more grandiose and the sunset comes with more blaze and brilliance. I also think that the lack of human development allows for a more natural brain function, and it was amid all these criteria that I began to ponder what my life will be like when I got home. As the orb slipped from view, and the sky blazed red, purple and orange, I realized that I don't have a whole lot of time left in this world when measured against eternal totems like Uluru.

I need to get busy living on my own terms, which is an easy impulse to have when you haven't punched a time clock for three weeks and have been living in vacation mode. I don't understand how it is we are supposed to balance the requirements of life with the things we actually enjoy, but I swear that I'm going to do more to find out. I know that my one constant, my rock if you will, is always with me and without her I'd be lost. So, when we get home, I'm going to do everything in my power to be sure that Inky and I live the life we want, and not just the one we're expected to.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Mars Bitches!!!

On the same day that our nation was landing on Mars, Inky and I were doing about as close as one can do while still being on earth. We landed at Uluru, which is smack in the middle of an orange landscape. The rock it self is over 1000 feet tall, and the path around it is 5 kilometers long. Inky and I checked into our campground and then went and checked out the big, beautiful rock.

There is no describing Uluru without seeing it for yourself. They tell you it will be bigger than you think, and it is. They tell you there is much more feature to it than you can see in pictures, and there is. Knowing all that, we were still taken aback by how amazingly brilliant it is. We considered it from a far, studied it from up close and walked in and out of its many rocky folds. When you look at it, it's almost as if some benevolent force poured it millions of years ago, and then set about the task of carving cool features into it. There are caves big and small, and long black ruts from where the water has been flowing over the side for eons. Throughout the the day the surface seems to change color, and the rock itself seems to look different depending on the vantage point you have of it. It is truly amazing.

At night we watched the sun go down, and returned to our camp for dinner in our cabin. Since we are staying at a campground and the hotels and restaurants here are WAY overpriced, we just hit the grocery story and laid in supplies when we landed. So we'll have a lunch and two dinners in our cabin, all of which we got for $40 bucks. Now that's budget traveling!

Today, we rose before the sun and went back to the rock so we could watch the sun go up. I think the thing that most impressed us was the amount of people who turn up to watch the sun come up on the rock, rather than the sunrise itself. Just as with sunset, you stand with your back facing the celestial event to see what effect the suns movements will have on the rock. Hoards of people watched the inert piece of rusted rock, as this beautiful outback sunrise took place right over their shoulder. It just goes to show you, crazy things happen in the outback.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Weekend in Melbourne

Today is our last full day in Melbourne, and Inky and I spent our lazy Sunday out and about at the various markets around town. We started off by wondering along the St. Kilda Esplanade and picked up a few trinkets for some of the people back home. Some times you just can’t resist when you see something cool.

After our crushing visit to the MCG for footy on Friday night, we busied ourselves over the weekend seeing more of this beautiful city, that we had missed last time. We got to see a protest by Macedonians who feel like the Greeks are fascists and we also got to see a long line of teenage hipsters in a queue for a midday rock show. That’s what I love about a big, vibrant city like Melbourne, there is always something going on.

You would think that I wouldn't want anything to do with the MCG after watching the Cats get slaughtered, but we went back on Saturday to tour the Australian Museam of Sport. It's a combinaton of hands on modern day interactive museam and a gallery of the oldest of old school. I mean, in the cricket section they had the Melbourne Cricket Club's china from back in the day, and, well: see for your self: Racist dishes aside, it was a great time, and we got an added bonus too. The game on the docket for that night was the annual Dreamtime at the G game, which recognizes the contributions of Aboriginal players on the national game. To celibrate that they brought in Kev Carmody, Paul Kelly and Peter Garrett to sing "From Little Things Big Things Grow" which is one of my all time favorite songs, and we got to hear them sound check the song three times. It was like a very cool, very repetitive little live show all for us.

We did a bit of shopping, and then walked around the Telstra Dome, which is the city’s second Football stadium. There was a game going on, and they have a screen that faces out to the promenade so you can watch from the outside, and so, we did for a bit. We had dinner on Saturday on fabulous Acland Street in St. Kilda, and we liked it so much we went back to another Acland location for lunch on Sunday.

We have loved our time here in Melbourne, and I am very sad to be leaving her behind. But, I am over the moon about the fact that we are finally going to see Uluru! I don’t know if we’ll be able to get on line there, but if not, I’ll update the blog in Sydney.


Friday, May 23, 2008

AFL Footy: Cats v Pies

Wow, did that suck. But I'll get to what happened on the pitch in a moment. Inky and I took a tram from St. Kilda up to Federation Square last night and then walked over to the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). As soon as you cross the Yarra river you can see the MCG's lights all blazing down on the pitch, which served as our signal to get ready for the Footy.

The students became the teachers, as we walked with two girls from New Zealand who thought we were Expat Yankees living in Oz, and were asking us all about the game. We told them about how fast and exciting the pace of footy is, and also told them that the Cats are one of the best teams in the comp, and that they should have the Magpies for dinner. Oh well, but again, I'm rushing.

Our seats were again right behind the goals, just like the game we went to in Tasmania last week. After settling in for a moment, we used our "pass out" to go out to the area surrounding the MCG where all the food stands are. We got two burgers and split a drink and "chips" all of which only set us back $20, which was fine since the burgers were huge. We had planned on getting some meat pies, but couldn't find the stand, so we went with what was close.

Seeing a game at the MCG is amazing to say the least. I've been to Fedex Field in Landover with 100,000 other screaming Skins fans, but there is something about the shape of a Cricket Oval that makes it look 10 times bigger. The MCG holds just over 98,000 sports mad fans, but you would have thought it was twice that many. They watch the game intently, and almost seem to rise as one in approval or in scorn. Even a small perceived oversight by a ref leads to a collective murmur that sounds like a roar.

I would have loved if my first trip to "the G" had been to see a famous victory for the Cats, but it was not. Inky, decked out in her Cats scarf and I in my Geelong Hoodie sat and watched as the boys from Collingwood had their way with the defending champs. The Maggies won 20.14 (134) to 7.6 (48) a complete victory to say the least. And so it was that my team, who were 8-0 this year, and 27 for their last 28 including a championship won by well over 100 points, fell in front of my eyes.

It wasn't all bad, however. as we met some amazingly nice people. The family in front of us were all Collingwood supporters, but they we're very engaging with us and even gave Inky a Tim Tam. We talked about Footy and NFL Football, and the players that have bridged the gap, ironically one from Collingwood (Sav Rocca) and one from Geelong (Ben Graham). Even though the Cats got their assholes pushed in by one of their arch rivals I loved every moment of our time at the football last night!

***Note: This post originally appeared on the now defunct blog "Inky and the Sports Guys" and has been imported to TGWOOfY for continuity purposes.***


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Alert the Media (and XL): Greazy Drinks!

Two years ago and for many different reasons, I gave up the grog. It was never a big deal for me, and if I'm being honest, I wish I had done it sooner. I never reached a point where drinking caused me real trouble, but in the end taking the trouble to drink never had a point to me. So, for the better part of two years I have gone with slim to no booze. I had a half a beer on XL's 31st birthday and I had a shot at our 10 year reunion, but that's about all.

At the Footy last weekend I had just about a whole Carlton Draught but that was all. But last night Inky and I met up with a person she has been in touch with here in Melbourne and she wanted to go to a bar down on Swanston St. So, I had a beer. Then, I had another. Inky put away three but I called it quits after two. I figure, when in Australia do as the Australians do. (Veronica: "It's a saying." Ron: "Really? I've never heard of it.")

It's Friday morning here in St. Kilda, and while Inky and I digest breakfast and do a bit of web surfing, we know we have another footy game ahead of us. I think I'll have a beer again at the MCG tonight, because that would seem the thing to drink along with my meat pie. I know if I went to Green Bay to see a Packers game, I would have a beer with my bratwurst, so, you know... when in Melbourne...


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Four Seasons in One Day

Inky and I made our way back the the big Victorian cities by way of the M1, which runs through what I could best describe as "Small town Australia." Google Colac Victoria, and you'll get the gist. Along the way, we hung a right at the aforementioned town and took a small, windy mountain road down to the Otway Fly Tree Top Walk (pictured right) which is a huge system of metal walkways through the rain forest. You bounce along the slim catwalks among the canopy of the rain forest and you get amazing views.

We spent Tuesday evening in Geelong, which is the home town of the Footy team that I follow. We stopped at the stadium store so we could get our gear for the game we are going to on Friday night, and needless to say, I was like a kid in a candy store. We got the chance to walk along Corio Bay before some bad weather blew in, and settled in for the night.

After dropping the car off at the airport on Wednesday morning we made our way to St. Kilda which is a trendy and cool city suburb. From the time we left Warrnambool to the time we got to St. Kilda the temperature must have gone down by 10 US degrees. Today we are just south of the Queen Victoria Markets and its about 55 out. I guess its true what they say about Melbourne weather, you really can get all 4 seasons in just one day.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Island Hopping of a Different Kind

After our relaxing weekend in Tassie, Inky and I headed for the Launceston airport for our trip from the little island to the big island. Air travel in Australia is a bit of fresh air for an American. At Sydney we made it from the steps of the train to the door of the plane (through check-in and security) in 10 minutes. Launceston was just as fast, since it is a 4 gate airport. The real trip was being able to walk from the gate to the plane on the tarmac, and then mount the stairs to enter the plane.

After our 55 minute flight from Tassie we touched down at Melbourne's airport. That's when the fun really started! We got our rental car and headed toward the Great Ocean road. This was my second time driving on the English side of the road, but it doesn't get any easier. Luckily, I didn't have to do too much driving in a city setting, which causes most of the problems when getting used to the other side of both the road and car. Instead, we headed down the 43 to the M81 and then onto the M1. We passed through Geelong (home of the Cats) and stopped and had a spot of lunch at Hungry Jacks.

Driving the Ocean Road is both very taxing to a US driver and totally worth any hassle. The views are amazing, but the road is treacherous to say the least. Think: BMW add where the car rips through cliff side hairpin turns. Then replace the BMW with a Hundai and the ripping with slowly negotiating, and you have our trip along the GOR.

The end result was amazing, however, when we arrived at the 12 Apostles. The Apostles are large chunks of rock that stood pat when the rest of the cliff face erroded away eons ago. We got to the viewing sight at nearly 4:00 and had the pleasure of watching as the clouds rolled by and danceed with the sun in the background, all while the Apostles stood stoically in the foreground. It was truley breathtaking! We are spending the night in a sleepy holiday town called Warrnambool, tonight and, Tomorrow we set out for Geelong, via a stop at the Cape Otway Treetop walk.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Launceston: Why are the pretty ones always so dumb?

When Inky and I planed this trip, we knew we wanted to come to Tasmania. If one in a 10,000 Americans come to Australia, then about 1 out of 10,000 of them come here. We have the tendency to do things percicly because they are not popular, hence our choice to spend the weekend, not in bustling Sydney or Melbourne, but in sleepy Tassie. Furthermore, those who do make it to Australia's Apple island tend to chose Hobart over the river city, so we are in the minority of the minority of the minority of the minority. Get it?

This is a staggeringly beautiful place to be sure. As I said before, the far south in Oz corresponds to the far north of the US and UK. That makes Tassie like the northern UK islands, and a bit like the remote parts of Northern New England. There are vast tracts of pasture, endless waves of rolling hills, and huge amounts of forest land. Launceston is blessed with three small but lovely rivers: The the North and South Esk which, when they run togeter form the Tamar.

In the Australian fashion the city is dotted with beautiful parks and public lands. While walking in City Park before our brekfast we spotted the Port Adelaide Power working out, and doing kicking drills. It seamed odd to just happen upon a professional sports team in the park, which was still damp with due. I guess the Hawks had York Park wrapped up for workouts, and so the Power had to find another patch of grass to use. In the end, I was lucky to keep Inky from running and jumping one of the footy players.

Then there is the resplendent beauty of Cataract Gorge and the trails that run along it. The travel gods bestowed us with some unseasonably good weather, and got to walk along the gorge in bright sunshine and mild temperatures. Walking has been the real theme of this trip, and it has been no different here than it was in Sydney. Thank god that the hotel has the big whirlpool tub so we can treat our aching feet at the end of the day.

Once we were done at the gorge, we headed to York Park to watch the footy. It was great to see a sporting event in another country, but even better to make our first one a small town affair. The drawback, both to the footy and the visit in general, is that Launceston is indeed a sleepy town. The game wrapped up at just about 5, and by the time Inky and I had walked back to the hotel (about 4 blocks) and got ready for dinner, almost everything was closed.

Launceston has a great downtown mall along Brisbane Street, and we were quite impressed as we walked along it toward the gorge earlier in the day. But now, at 6 at night, everything was shuttered and dark. I'm not one to trash small town folk for keeping things quaint and at their own pace, but I think someone needs to talk to their chamber of commerce about maximising opportunity's. There were 10,000 people here to see the footy and there was hardly any place for them to go and eat, drink and celebrate after the win.

All that said, I'm very happy we were able to make it to Launceston, and I've found the city to be a great place to relax and unwind from the fast pace of Sydney. If you get to Oz, come on down to Tassie, just be sure to bring some snacks with you.


AFL Footy: Hawks v Power

I swear I didn't set it up this way, but Inky and I found ourselves in Tasmania when there was a footy game going on. Five times a year the Hawthorn Hawks become the Tassie Hawks and play home matches at York Park in Launceston. It would be like the New York Giants and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers playing at a DIII Stadium in Akron Ohio, but it is an amazing treat for Tassie footy fans.

Inky and I started our day off by each downing a Carlton Draught and then settled into our seats in the Northern Terrace. We were right behind the 4 goal posts and had a great view of the whole field. We got to watch one of the AFL's most prolific goal kickers in Buddy Franklin as he booted six 6 pointers for the match. The Power (who played in last year's Grand Final) pulled ahead early, and lead by as much as 39 points in the game. The Hawks stormed back to win 17.15(117) 15.12(102) after pulling away late in the third term.

We were also intently watching the Geelong score as they fell behind early to Richmond, but got into good form to win by 30. That means Geelong and Hawthorn are both undefeated and careening toward a huge clash down the road. It also means that Geelong is still undefeated going in to their game on Friday at the home of Footy, the MCG. Inky and I will once again be behind the goal for that one, and I'll let you know all about it then.

***Note: this post originally appeared on the now defunct blog "Inky and the Sports Guys" and has been imported to TGWOOfY for continuity purposes.***


Friday, May 16, 2008

In The Lucky Land, Better Lucky Than Good.

On our last trip to Australia Inky and I found ourselves hemmed in by some of our plans. That’s not to say that we didn’t have a great time, because we did, but we weren’t able to be too spontaneous. This time around we didn’t book too much in advance, and I must say it has gone swimmingly.

Upon arriving in Sydney from Newtown on Wednesday we went to the Hotel we stayed at last time only to find them fully booked. Likewise there was no room at the inn on either side, and for a second I thought we may be screwed. I jumped on the web and searched on three different sights only to find the Mantra on Kent, a four and a half star hotel. The price was just a bit more a night than we had planned on, but the room was also considerably better than we could have imagined.

Rather than a hotel room, we got a 1 bedroom apartment, complete with kitchenette, king size bed, a TV area and a very nice bathroom. We thought it was more hotel than we were worthy of, that was of course, until we got to Tasmania. While sitting in that great room on Kent St I once again jumped on the web and searched a few different sights, only to find the City Park Grand, Launceston.

This place is an amazing find, and its dirt cheep. It was once known as the Albert Hall, and has recently undergone a massive renovation. It sits right next door to the famous James Boag’s brewery and is just blocks away from the Footy Stadium, York park, and only a few more blocks from one of Launceston’s great attractions: Cataract Gorge.

The room is a cross between a well appointed city hotel room and a relaxing country get away. It features two huge beds, a sprawling living room with flat screen TV, and a bathroom with a huge shower and a whirlpool tub. I feel guilty that we got this room for next to nothing, a guilt which is compounded by the fact that we appear to be among the first people to ever stay in this room. Maybe that’s why it was only listed on one website.

The place also has a great little restaurant called Q22, that Inky and I enjoyed quite a bit last nigh. The food was of a very high quality, and the service was fast and friendly, but the place was also very laid back and lacking in pretension. There is still so much more I need to see of Launceston before I can speak intelligently on the subject, but, I will say that it appears to be an amazing amalgam of a sweeping Irish countryside like view, small town sensibilities and 21st century refinements. That is, at least when seen through the lens of our hotel.

Well I think it’s about time to put on my terrycloth robe and read the voice of Tasmania, the Mercury. We have a Footy game to get ready for, and a walk to the Gorge too.


This is Sports Centre Mate

One of the things Inky and I love about Australia is that they are sports mad here. Think of that face painting, zuba pants wearing dude you know who is way over the top, and you’ve got just about every Aussie sport supporter. So it is no surprise that they have a few different cable networks that bring them sport all day everyday.

I was surprised find out that ESPN is one of them, however. Inky and I checked into our hotel in Tasmania to find that the US version of SportCenter was on. So I got caught up on what was going on back home, which was nice. Then upon waking up this morning I got to watch the Aussie SportCenter, which looks exactly like its US cousin.

They have an identical set, and use all the same fonts, graphics and transition devices and most importantly the same sound. During the breaks they promo live NRL, Rugby Union, Cricket and PTI? That’s right; they have an Aussie version of Pardon the Interruption. It is kind of a surreal experience to sit in my hotel this morning (7:00 PM yesterday at home) and read about the football game that I’m going to later today, while watching New Zealand v England cricket highlights which were then followed by Spurs vs Hornets game 6 highlights.

That settles it, there is no reason to go home now.

***note: this post originally appeared on the now defunct blog "Inky and the Sports Guys" and has been imported to TGWOOfY for continuity purposes.***


Bondi = Paradise

I didn't want to write a huge long rambling post yesterday, so I decided to do the one about the genius that is the pie stand, and save this one for today. After walking from our hotel on Kent St to Hyde Park, Inky and I spied the Coke sign that heralds your arrival at Kings Cross. "The Cross" is a combination of a haven for backpackers and the red light district for the city of Sydney. So, we decided to take a walk over there to see what it was all about. It was the middle of the day, so there was no debauchery to be found when we were there, but we did walk through a huge cloud of pot smoke at one point, so...

Once in the Cross, we realized how close we were to Woolloomooloo, where we feasted on meat pies. I looked at the map while I ate, and realized that we could be to Bondi beach in no time, and so off we went. We walked back to the Cross and hopped the train to Bondi Junction then it was on to the bus to the beach.

There are no words to describe how amazingly beautiful Bondi is. It's like god took out a set of scissors and cut a crescent shaped bay from the coastline. Even on an Aussie autumn day, the whole place was bathed in brilliant sunshine, and everything had a vibrant glow about it. We walked along the beach, and then took the coastal walk south toward Bronte Beach, about a 3 mile round trip.

I'm not a beach person, and Inky is so pail that she is considered a shipping hazard, but I could have stayed at Bondi all day. It is hilarious to me that there is a whole nation of people who are only here because the bureaucracy of the time in England plucked their ancestors up and sent them here, as punishment. If you ask me, the punishment is the dreary and rain sodden London autumn. Lets just say that the Smiths couldn't have been Aussies.

After our trip to the beach, Inky and i did the only thing that made sence to follow it up: ate sea food. I had prawns the size of Andre the Giant's thumbs, and Inky had Barramundi, all with a Harbour view. To say that we are living well would be an understatement. Oh, and President Bush, thanks for the $1,200.00. We're using it to stimulate an economy, just not the one you intended it to.

Today, we walked along the observation deck at the Sydney Tower (which is alternately called the CentrePoint Tower or the AMP Tower etc) and got some amazing views of the whole emerald city below. Nowhere else in the world can you stand on top of a building and see all the way to multiple world class beaches on one side, and a breathtaking mountain range on the other, all with a first rate city of 4 million in between.

With all that said, we left Sydney for Launceston Tasmania, which is like the Portland Maine of Australia. What is far north in the States is far south in Oz, and you don't get much farther south than this. Launceston is a city of less than 90 thousand people, and yet it is bustling with action this weekend. You see, the Hawthorn Hawks of the Australian Football League call this place their second home, and they are in town to play a game this weekend. Inky and I are going to walk the 4 blocks from our hotel (more on the digs later) to the game tomorrow and get our first taste of live AFL footy!


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Down Unda Food Review: Harry's Cafe de Wheels

Inky and I covered a staggering amount of the city of Sydney today, from the City Center to Bondi beach with stops at Hyde Park, Kings Cross and Woolloomooloo along the way. (More on Bondi and the Cross tomorrow.) All told we must have walked 10 miles so I didn't trouble me when we shoved a few pies into our mouths next to Woolloomooloo Wharf.

Harry's has been a Sydney institution for over 60 years, and after eating one, I know why. The pie contains chunks of beef in a rich sauce. That is topped off with a big scoop of mashed potatoes and then a smaller scoop of mashed peas. It is all topped off with some more brown gravy and then handed to you, stabbed with a fork and ready to consume.

Inky and I both wolfed our way through the first one, taking time to break through the roof of the pie, and mix the peas and mashed with the pie contents. I made the mistake of trying to eat the pie by hand, only to be scorched by the pie's payload. Fork in hand, I then dived into my second pie.

The food isn't the only attraction at Harry's, the lay out is great too. The little cart they are sold out of is coated in pictures of famous people who have eaten there before. Once you get your pie you sit on a stone wall facing a navy yard on one side, and a pier of some of the most expensive apartments in the world on the other. (Rusty Crow lives there!) Some how, eating a meat pie astride the richest of the rich and the navy makes all the sense in the world.

Inky and I made sure to buy a pie for all our brothers who couldn't be here today (read: XL) however, rather then spill some of it out on the curb, we just ate it. If you ever make it to Sydney, run, don't walk to Harry's! Tell 'em Greazy sent ya! It won't help you any, but tell them all the same.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

On King Street, I'm a King

So Inky and I rolled out of bed pretty early this morning and made our way to Newtown train Station. We went to bed thinking we'd either go to Manly or up to the Blue Mountains, but we changed our minds on both accounts and decided to plop ourselves down in the heart of Sydney. We got an absolute steal on a one bedroom apartment for the next two nights, and so we are staying on Kent St, just south of Market.

After enjoying the amenities at our new digs for a bit, we walked down Pitt St. towards the harbour. We've seen the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House before, but we couldn't resist the chance to spend more time taking them in. We walked all through the Royal Botanical Gardens, stopping from time to time to lay on the grass and enjoy the fact that we're in Sydney. I was completely grossed out by the Flying Fox (nobody said anything about a BAT) but I couldn't stop taking photos of them. (The Photo you see here is a tree filled with flying foxes)

After a bit more exploration of the city, including another trip to The Rocks, we headed back to our temporary flat to take a break before dinner. We renewed a Greazy and Inky in Sydney tradition by going to Darling Pizzeria in Darling Harbour for take away. I got the Pizza while Inky went and got the Crisps and Lemonade (It's Australian for Sprite Mate). We sat by the water and watched a bird pimp chase all the other birds away from his crumbs as we ate our little meal.

After we got our grub on, we walked down to the end of Darling Harbour to see the now shuttered building that housed the 7 douche bags from the Real World Sydney. I think it absolutely sucks that those mental midgets got to live in such a cool place, but I digress.

We still have a bit of night left, and we haven't yet decided what to do with it. Then, tomorrow we get to start all over again. We have a meet up scheduled in Manly and we're both excited to meet a few Aussies.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Fucking Hostel

Fourteen hours on a plane is too much! Seriously, if I didn't love this country so much there is no way I'd ever go through that again. Luckily for Inky and I, the Aussie dollar is strong and the Greenback isn't, so the plane wasn't nearly as full as our '05 trip. Sure the conversion rate blows, but at least we didn't have a third person in our row as we spent our endless evening over the Pacific.

From the time Inky and I went to bed on Friday night, until we got to Sydney 60 hours had elapsed. Of that 60 we spent 36 in transit and I may have gotten a grand total of 10 hours of sleep, all told. Once in Newtown, we decided to skip the early morning nap and walk around town, but now we are going to succumb to an afternoon nap.

We are at our Hostel now, which is very nice mind you, but I find myself wondering if we are too old for this kind of travel. There are all sorts of cool kids, disaffected uni students, and eurotrash 20 somethings here and we stick out like a non-trad at a kegger. It's just such an amazingly cheep way to travel, that I couldn't pass it up. And the place we are at is very nice, trendy and cool.

I think tomorrow may be a toss of the coin type of day. It's either heads and we go to the Blue Mountains or tails and we go to the Beach. Stay tuned to TGWOOfY to see what we pick.


Leaving on a Midnight Plane to Australia

At this very moment I am somewhere over the Pacific, heading south toward the international date line, the equator and then Australia. (you've got to love this feature that lets you put your posts on a timer!) We land at 7:25 Sydney time on Tuesday the 13th, which is 5:25 in the afternoon on Monday the 12th back in Pennsylvania. I am going to try and post a few times from the road, to let everyone back in the States know what we are up to, and if I can work it out, I'll also post some pictures.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

To Shave or Not To Shave

I remember going on a trip out west with my Aunt, Uncle and Cousin when I was 10 or so. Many things stand out from that trip (not the least of which was the fact that I wrote my first "novel" that summer, longhand and in a marble notebook. It was a murder mystery, but I couldn't bring myself to kill anyone off, so the detective had to solve the case of the guy who was putting all these people in a coma. It's a shame I couldn't read my own writing, because I bet it was a good story.) but I also remember the fact that my Uncle didn't shave while we were traveling. He is s guy who is always very put together, so to see him with 5 o'clock shadow was strange, let alone a few days growth.

I dress pretty well, but god knows I hate to shave. Despite being of Italian decent I don't grow facial hair particularly well, and as such I can go a few days without shaving and still look passable. After about four days it is obvious that A) There are kids in 8th grade that can grow a better beard then I can and B) I should just shave already and get it over with.

With the prospect of 27 straight days that I don't have to work ahead of me, I am toying with the idea of giving a beard a shot. The longest I have ever made it in the past was 8 days, back when I was working third shift, but I broke down when it got really itchy. I don't know if I'll make it more than a week, but I do have a bit of a head start since I haven't taken razor to face since Monday morning.

So what should I do?


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Why lug your luggage?

Inky and I are just a few sleeps away from leaving for our second trip to Australia. I'd like to say that we're making last second preparations, but, most of what we need to do before we leave has been done for some time. We did a practice run on our packing about a month ago, when we were trying to settle the one thing we weren't decided on yet: How much do we take with us?

On our last trip, which was a week shorter, we took two full size suitcases, two carry on suitcases and we each had a "personal item." That was a lot of stuff to lug from place to place, and was only made bearable by the fact that we only stayed in three hotels the whole time. This time around I figure that we will stay in as many as 10 or 11 different places, meaning we had to cut down.

Plus, it's not like Inky or I are fashion plates or anything. We both tend to wear tee shirts and jeans to just about any non work function, so we decided to be bold. We are eschewing the big suitcase and only taking a carry on bag. The bag will contain everything we need for three weeks in Oz, and will double as a carry home device for the loot we acquire while there. I've got a second pair of pants, 6 shirts, 3 undershirts, 6 pair of socks, 6 pairs of drawers, a pair of shorts and a tank top. That's it, that's the list.

Not enough you say? We'll see. There may come a time on the trip when I don't feel like doing laundry, or when I struggle to get the still folded clean clothes to fit in the bag with the dirty ones, but I doubt it. I'm the guy who packed for a wedding on a cruise ship in a backpack. Plus, I love the one major benefit of going light on this trip: no checked bags. That means that we are free to split the airport the second we get off the plane.

I feel like a genius with this set up, but I could be wrong. Check back to TGWOOfY throughout the rest of may to see how it goes...


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Oh God: Please Please Please Let This Happen

When Inky and I went to Australia back in '05 we were deeply immersed in our Anchormania. We could hardly go more than a few minutes without quoting the 2004 movie "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy." Our sickness got so acute, the we even began quoting "Wake Up Ron Burgundy" which was the alternate cut movie that was released right to DVD.

Now, after four years, the words of Ron, Brick, Champ and Brian are just a part of our lexicon. The movie was eminently quotable, but my obsession with it was based more on the people around me, both at home and at work, who conversed with me in Anchormanees. We all thought the dream died back in '05, once the hype died down, and the last of the ironic Anchorman themed tee shirts were sold at Hot Topic.

But now there's hope that it will live and breathe again! Adam McKay, the director of the first film, has said that he hopes to get the cast back together to make a second (or third depending on how you look at it) film. I don't know if they would pick up where the last movie left off, or if it would be a prequel, or it they will be on a rocket to the moon, and I don't care. Let the critics say that it is stupid and lowbrow, and I'll go see it all the same.

Neato gang!


Sunday, May 04, 2008

I'm Gettin' Too Old For This Shit

The very best part about a gathering of long time friends, is that nothing is out of the realm of possibility. Even though we can't quite go at the pace we did in college, we always seem to have a memorable weekend. After all the boys arrived on Friday, we threw a football around, played some video games and some of them played golf. That night we had what was supposed to be an innocuous poker game, but the booze was flowing, and we had a douche nozzle in our midst.

I don't know how you handle someone you don't like, but that some of your friends do, but I have a tendency to be nice, but at a distance. Affable avoidance would be the best term to describe how I deal with this particular shit stain of a human, but sometimes you get trapped. Past traps have included this guy spilling beer on my poker table, then insulting it, him throwing a video game controller against a wall while disparaging an entire race of people, and male genitalia, not to mention him once humping a keg while spilling beer all over the rug. Funny, we never seem to go to events at his house, at least not since he got married.

This time the trap I found myself in was him talking about his iPod (in that way like he was the first person to ever own an iPod) and me making the mistake of talking about my iPod and the number of CDs Inky and I own. He asked if he could borrow some of our CDs sometime, so he could avoid paying to download songs, and I did what i do whenever someone I don't like asks me for something that I don't want to do for them: I put him off nicely. "Sure, I'll help you move, if I'm free that weekend." "Oh yeah, I'd love to come to your house to see your vacation slide show." "I'd love to go on a date with you, but I have class that day. What's that? Oh yeah, I do have a Sunday class."

He either didn't realize I was placating him with no intention of lending him CDs or he didn't care. So he took it upon himself to go upstairs into our office, while Inky was sleeping mind you, and he helped himself to two or three dozen CDs. Long story short (too late!) we ended up telling him he couldn't take the CD's, which for some reason exasperated him enough to cause him to stomp up my steps like a 5 year old and barge out of my house, for what will prove to be the last time. As Inky would say: Who does that?

Unfortunately, all the hubbub surrounding this attempted CD theft cause me to fall down on the job, and I let on of my actual friends leave the house when he should have just stayed and slept it off. When the phone rang at 12:30 I knew if couldn't be anything good, and when I answered and and heard a PA state trooper on the other end, it wasn't. My buddy was picked up for DUI and it fell to us to take care of him. Inky, XL and I decided we'd all go to the courthouse together, but we had some time to kill.

After abandoning a trip to the diner, we wound up in the parking lot of Micky Dee's, just across from our small town gay bar. They were having a huge party (RuPaul was in town) and they ran out of parking spots quickly, so people chose to park in this lot that we were in. As XL and I wolfed down our burgers, Inky spotted the first boot on a car, there were many more. We sat in the car, windows down, and watched as people came from the bar in their best suits and dresses to find their car's booted. It was like being in a duck blind, watching as the 6 foot guy in the prom dress and 4 inch red heels chased after the tow truck yelling "you fucker!"

After dropping Inky off at around 3, XL and I hung out till 4 to get our friend. We then drove him up to his house in Harrisburg, and made it to bed at 5 or so. When we woke up the next afternoon, it was finally time for the reunion to start! We piled into the van, and everyone had their fill of food and drink, but mostly drink. I think everyone had a good time, and I know some people had a better time then they might have liked to, thanks to Al Key Hall. After driving the really drunk people home, I turned in at 3:30. I can say I had a blast, I can say that, but I'm getting way to old for this shit.

Australia in a week!


Friday, May 02, 2008

Let's Hear it for the Boys

So Inky and I are on the verge of leaving for Oz, but we have one hurdle to clear before then. This weekend is our 10 year college reunion, and all my boys are in town. Last night we played Tiger Woods golf for a few hours after dinner, and then three of us went out for what passes for a night on the town in York. After hitting three bars we called it a night around 3 in the mo'nin. Today we had lunch, threw the football around and some of them have gone to play golf while I await XL's arrival.

Poker, the reunion and a baseball game lay before us, and through it all I will once again relish feeling like I'm 20 again. When we are all around each other the sophomoric humor is rampant and anyone who sees us couldn't possibly think that we met in college, let alone could spell it. When we're all together we have a tendency to make a lot of dick and fart jokes, which somehow seemed more acceptable at 21 as compared to 31. They make us laugh, however, and if laughter is the best medicine, we're doing ourselves well. I like to think that it keeps me young, but in the end what it does do is give me a bit of a taste of what my youth felt like. I can't keep these hours, and do these things night in and night out like when I was 20, but it sure is refreshing to do once a month or so.