Monday, February 25, 2013

My Excellent Adventure Down Under

The Queen Victoria Building

I thought it was about time I took you somewhere! How about the Queen Victoria Building? It’s actually a mall now, but here is a brief history provided by their website:

The Queen Victoria Building, now affectionately known as the QVB, was designed by George McRae and completed in 1898, replacing the original Sydney markets on the site. Built as a monument to the long reigning monarch, construction took place in dire times, as Sydney was in a severe recession. The elaborate Romanesque architecture was specially planned for the grand building so the Government could employ many out-of-work craftsmen - stonemasons, plasterers, and stained window artists - in a worthwhile project. Originally, a concert hall, coffee shops, offices, showrooms, warehouses and a wide variety of tradespeople, such as tailors, mercers, hairdressers and florists, were accommodated.

This link will take you to their website:

This is some mall, let me tell you. It's just a couple of blocks from our hotel/apartment, so it's within easy walking distance. There are almost 170 shops and restaurants! It has at least 4 different levels, the stores getting more and more exclusive as you go higher and higher. Fabulous restaurants, too! This is where I had that fantastic piece of lemon meringue pie (cake by Aussie lingo).  I wish I liked to shop (I missed out on the shopping gene); I’d go over here more often!
Remember this? Yummy!

The architecture is astonishing. You have to remember not to walk around with your mouth gaping open! In fact, the building is so beautiful that it is used for wedding photos; we saw 3 different wedding parties the afternoon we were there. Can you imagine any mall in America as a backdrop for your most important day? Rather than just talking about it, let me show you some of the pictures we took:

A view from the top floor
So much stained glass!
So very pretty; I can see why wedding parties like to have photos taken here!
This clock chimes on the hour, quite lovely
I had to get at least one shop in, yes? This one is for my sister-in-law, Lola: a shop of your very own!!

Looking down to the other floors... BIG, isn't it? If you look close to the balconies, you can see tables and people.. this is how restaurants/cafes increase their seating capacity. You can sit down out there and the hard working waiters run up and down waiting tables all day. All the waiters I saw were slim and fit! lol


This was a great way to spend a rainy afternoon, walking with my husband and having some pie and tea for an afternoon break. Like I said, I'm not a shopper, but if I were, this mall could do severe damage to our bank account! It is a great place for people watching, too.
I hope you enjoyed seeing this little bit of Sydney. I have many other places I will show you as our adventure down under continues!


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My Excellent Adventure Down Under

What Am I Doing Here????
Part III

So… are you curious about what I’m doing all day while hubby is at work? No? Well, I will tell you anyway… I am accomplishing the Number One item on my list of ‘What I Will Do in Australia’ and that is: Nothing. Not a thing. J  Ok, that’s not quite accurate; I am getting things done. But not what people expected me to do. And I’m okay with that, because my reality and those expectations are nowhere near the same. This trip, for me, was MY TIME. For the first time in my life, I would have no obligations.

This type of lifestyle is a huge departure for me. I am regimented. I have things to do and people that depend on me, and it’s been that way as long as I can remember. I went from childhood home to marriage to children/work/life/divorce/remarriage with no ‘me’ time in there anywhere. I am always up at 5:30 a.m. I keep busy, doing all those things busy people do. So the idea of doing nothing but what I wanted was a bit overwhelming. How do you do that? Won’t something fall apart?

Knowing that hubby would be working at an intense rate, I brought projects, projects, and oh yeah, some projects. Some are computer projects: organizing those photos that have been dumped into the ‘photo’ file on the computer for the last 8 years or so, cleanup general files on the computer, etc. Exercise more. Really learn to meditate. Read. Sleep. Sightsee (that will be covered in part IV). Twiddle my thumbs. Get to know hubby again. Think. Write. Play Angry Birds, a lot! Improve my tatting skills. You get the idea. Basically, whatever my mood was for the day would be my agenda, with a few chores thrown in. And I have to say, I’ve done very well for myself.

I am relaxed! I can’t remember feeling this relaxed! My mornings are s l o w. The first week or so, I was out of bed with hubby and busy busy busy, then I remembered I wasn’t supposed to be doing that this trip! So I started sleeping in. First till 6 a.m., then 6:15 a.m., then 6:30 a.m. This morning, I didn’t get out of bed until almost 7 a.m.! I read my online morning stuff; I eat a slow, leisurely breakfast. I do a few chores and catch up on any correspondence/bills/emails. I have a nice cup of tea. I catch a few friends on Facebook or Words with Friends. I try to meditate – I’m just not very good yet at turning my brain off. I do some form of exercise. Oh yeah, I could get used to this!

After lunch, I’m ready to get into a project. I work on my writing. I love working on this blog. The hardest part of writing is showing up! Writing is enjoyable for me, but doesn’t come easy. I write/delete/write/edit. I make notes. I do some research, depending on what I’m writing about. I’ve done some of the computer work; those photo files are looking better and better, and I will soon be able to actually find photos as I need them! I haven’t done much book reading or tatting; I have improved my Angry Birds skills. However, the best thing I’ve done is spend the last 4 weeks with someone I’ve wanted to know better over the last few years, me! And I’m beginning to like her, more and more!

One thing I have learned about myself: I am not a city girl. I love being here; it is exciting, but I am ready for something other than buildings and traffic noise and food smells wafting in through the open windows and yes, my windows are usually open because I prefer that to air conditioning. Fewer people to move through on the sidewalk would be good. No cigarette smoke would be fantastic! Some bird sounds would be nice. Some plants and grass would be great! A yard to dig in would be even better! I am a suburban or country girl for sure.
I’m learning to speak for myself. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? I’m almost 60; surely I would know how to do that. Actually, no, I have very little experience with it. I have always done what I thought others wanted me to do or hear me say. I would just ‘go along’. Don’t make waves. You know what I mean. A small example would be dinner: my pre-Australia response would likely be “whatever you want to do is fine”, but now, I speak up. If I want a steak, I want a steak! Hubby likes it! If I’m by myself, I have to make myself clear, especially to the poor Australian who is trying to understand my Texas/California-speak. I am learning to be unafraid to say what I need or what I mean. This is huge for me. In a way, it’s a matter of survival, because I am in an area where I don’t know anyone or where things are. I have to fend for myself. Guess what! I can do that!
For all of you who are working out of the home and in the home, dealing with family responsibilities, life responsibilities, etc., I want you to know that I truly appreciate this time. I am not without some responsibilities here, but they are certainly greatly reduced. I wish each of you could find a way to do this, and I would encourage you to figure out a way to find at least 15 minutes of private time a day if not more (an hour would be the best!). I’ve seen all those Oprah shows, too, and know how impossible it sounds to do that, but give it a try, or as they say here in Australia, give it a go, mate. You just might find out that you really are your own best friend!

Next time: Part IV: Sights to See

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

My Excellent Adventure Down Under

Part II, Where We Live

We had a lovely little 1-bedroom apartment on the 36th floor of an apartment/hotel (The Meriton) in the business district of downtown Sydney. I felt like I was in Manhattan! I’ve never been to Manhattan, but I’ve seen it on TV a lot! It felt very “citified” for a suburban housewife like me. Surrounded by tall buildings, a view of a harbor not too far away, the hustle and bustle! Everything was going to be great! This was our BIG adventure, sans les enfants et famille, just us!

Sunday was a blur after flying all night and staying awake all day and through dinner. We managed to get a good night’s sleep and wham! It’s Monday! Hubby was up getting ready for work at 5:30 a.m., so I walked into the kitchen to get a few breakfast things out (we did grocery shopping on Sunday, too). And what is the first thing I see? The beautiful harbor view? A blue sky? That hustle and bustle of the big city? Well, in a way, there was hustle and bustle all right….right there, running in a tiny trail across my kitchen counter – ANTS! I couldn’t believe my eyes! Since ants are one of my most hated pests at home in California, I felt like I had somehow manifested all my fears into this sci-fi reality here in Sydney. I was on the 36th floor for Pete’s sake! And these ants were so tiny, microscopic almost… and FAST! I’d actually picked up a Windex-type cleaner at the grocery store on Sunday (yes, I know, compulsive cleaner), so, having ant experience because of living in SoCal, I attacked that line with the spray cleaner and voila! the ants disappeared, but not for long. A call down to the desk produced some surprised desk clerks and a surprised houseman at my door with a can of bug spray. Now, this first week/weekend in Australia just happened to be a national holiday- Australia Day, so the hotel was packed.  The hotel was sympathetic but had no other rooms available at the time, so for about a week, every day, twice a day, morning and afternoon, those little guys would show up.  So we waited and sprayed. I just couldn’t believe it. Our breakfast cereal truly became 'cold' cereal as I stored all our food in the refrigerator now!  The hotel was good to their word and after a week, we were able to pack everything up and move to a different apartment.

This new apartment is actually a little bigger with a better view (and no ants!), sort of a 1-bedroom penthouse to me! We have an entryway, a combination living/dining room, a tiny kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, laundry room with washer and dryer, and a balcony that is probably great but I'm too chicken to go out on it (too high!). Pretty much all the comforts of home without having to tend to a yard J …  and while I think of it, the water in the toilet does not swirl in the opposite direction; let me just dispell that myth right now! We are way up on the 43rd floor with a great view of Darling Harbor. I thought that was just a quaint description of the harbor, but it really is called Darling Harbor and on Saturday nights, they shoot fireworks off at 9:00 p.m., just like Disneyland! It's loud and spectacular!  

As a friend of ours said, being in Sydney is the closest thing to being in L.A. while being out of the United States. Sydney is great; it’s a busy city, but it feels so much like L.A. that we have to remind ourselves we are in a foreign country. The temperature, the terrain, the vegetation, and hundreds of people walking around all day… it’s like being in the South Bay in L.A. with the exception that it actually rains here! We have floods to the north and fires to the west, just like L.A. winters, although it is summer here. The food is fabulous, and the people are very nice. And those accents! Yes, they do say “g’day”, “no worries”, and call everyone “mate”.

So now you know how I ended up here and where I am living while I’m here… but do you want to know what I’m actually doing while hubby is at work?

I’ll get to that in Part 3….

Monday, February 11, 2013

My Excellent Adventure Down Under

Part I, The Beginning

So here I am, ‘down under’, in Sydney, Australia. Everybody wants to go to Australia. It’s been on my bucket list, too. So how did I make the trip? Well, let’s start with the backstory, shall we?

Flashback to August 2012. Hubby comes home from work one day with the dreaded announcement “I’ve been laid off.” Such a familiar phrase uttered too many times in too many families far too often these days. You try not to panic but the reality is; you’re panicked. Anyone know a company looking for a great CIO in SoCal?? We were very fortunate that my husband had severance pay. So he set about looking for work, and I set about vowing to pinch pennies as best I could. A few weeks later, hubby mentions that he had been offered a job in Australia. Really? Do we want to go? For a variety of reasons at that time, for that particular position, the answer was no.
December 2012 comes along, and Australia is mentioned again, this time for a different position. The idea is intriguing and frankly, there are no other jobs knocking on our door at the moment. The decision is not an easy one in many ways. I am/was the chief babysitter for our grandson and for many reasons, this was a difficult choice for me, least of which was the position it put my daughter and her husband with daycare. I’ve been a single mom; I know how hard and expensive it can be. Fortunately, our grandson was already enrolled part-time in a preschool that he just loves so from his perspective, staying in school longer was a great idea; my daughter also understood what a unique opportunity this was for us, so the decision was made that yes, this time we would go. Another factor was that we weren’t actually moving to Australia; we would be going for several trips over the course of 4 months or so, so why not?

I have never traveled to a foreign country before. I have a passport, because my husband has had to travel and we felt I should have one in the event I needed to go to wherever he might be. I have been into British Columbia but at the time, you only needed a driver’s license to go over, so that little passport of mine didn’t have a single stamp in it. What in the world do I take? We would be gone this first trip for 7-8 weeks. That’s a long time for someone like me who’s only used to quick trips to visit relatives! And then it hit me:  pack for a long vacation, silly! So we did. But then there’s travel insurance, notifying credit cards and bank accounts, making sure I can pay bills online in Australia, and details, details, details. Every time we thought we had things pretty much under control, something else would appear that needed to be attended to. Eventually, we plowed our way through all those things and finally, at last! we were on our way to LAX on Friday afternoon, January 18, 2013.

We had not had to go through international security at LAX before, well, at least for me and it had been pre-9/11 for my husband, so we decided to get to the airport early. Can’t be too careful, dontcha know? We were scheduled to fly out at 11:30 p.m. and yes, there we were, at LAX by 5:30-6. No comments, please! Interestingly, there are no real restaurants after you go through international security, so we had a nice, leisurely dinner before and then walked on through. It was probably the easiest trip through security I’ve ever had to make! Not a huge line, no extra-nervous TSA agents, just do the normal strip-down of shoes, etc and walk through the x-ray machine. That was easy!

So, there we were, feeling like we were the first ones at a party (an L.A. thing) and no one else in sight. It was kinda nice, at first. Eventually, other passengers for other flights showed up, as well as passengers for our flight. First flight left, and there we sat. Other flights came and went and then, yes, you guessed it, the delay announcement. Our plane was coming from New York and apparently, bad weather won so our flight was delayed 2 hours! Ok, we were already going to be flying all night, but sheesh, I usually go to bed at 10! This was going to be way past my bedtime! But you deal with it, because you have no choice. Just as 1:30 a.m. approaches, we’re told we have yet another delay- the plane simply isn’t here yet. Oy vey. Finally, we board our plane and get ready for takeoff. It’s around 2:15-2:30 a.m., and we settle in for a 14-hour flight. Hubby and I don’t sleep well on planes, but let’s just say we made it unscathed, landing in Sydney on Sunday morning around 11:15-11:30 a.m. When you fly from the U.S. to Australia, you fly over the International Date Line, so although we left on Friday night (Saturday morning), we lost most of Saturday somewhere over the Pacific Ocean and ended up in Sydney on Sunday. Just don’t think about it too hard.

We’d been told by several people we know that have traveled internationally that one of the best things you can do for yourself after a flight like this is to NOT go to sleep. We did pretty good, getting to our hotel/apartment in downtown Sydney, unpacking, keeping busy… until about 4:30-5, when I sat down on the couch. We were meeting my husband’s boss for dinner at 5:30… and if hubby hadn’t had better resolve than me, we would have missed it. My eyes got so heavy! But we made it, dinner was lovely, and we headed home to bed.
Stay tuned.....