February in Australia

At the beginning of February was the Super Bowl. I watched it on my 2nd monitor in the office since it started at 10:30 am on Monday morning in Australia. That fact summarizes one major thing I miss about home. Sports that I want to watch are on during the morning and afternoon which means I am at work and not able to watch games with a beer as I would prefer.

Outside of my family and friends plus U.S. sports being at an unfriendly time, there is not much about Australia that I do not like. February is similar in weather to August in the U.S., so it was hot and humid just like back home in Maryland. You get afternoon thunderstorms and that great smell in the air after a thunderstorm has rolled through the area. A huge difference is that I am a 30-minute ferry ride to beautiful ocean beaches.

February started off amazing as Cathy flew out to visit for two weeks.

She had a great time exploring around town during the week. The first of the two weekends we went out to Manly Beach. A nice laid back beach vibe and not too busy which is important. You also get a great view of the Sydney Harbor Bridge on the ferry to Manly.

The second weekend we flew down to Tasmania and had a phenomenal time. By luck, there was a Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart for the weekend, so even our down time walking around the harbor was interesting.

One Saturday we had booked a day trip to Wineglass Bay and Freycinet National Park. 

Sadly, Cathy had to fly back home to Baltimore the day after we got back from Tasmania. I cannot wait to see her again in June. Until then we do FaceTime. Noon here in Australia is 8 pm back home which is a good time for both of us.

Two weeks after Cathy left I was out to dinner on a Tuesday evening. I was feeling a little lonely, and I decided I needed to get out and explore more of Australia rather than sitting around Sydney. So right then and there I booked a flight and hotel in Melbourne for that coming weekend. Whereas I feel Sydney has a San Francisco vibe to it, Melbourne appears more like Portland. The Melbourne people are more laid back and friendly, and life seems a little slower and relaxed than Sydney is. 

I did not take many photos, but I did get a few at the Melbourne Zoo.

Below are some miscellaneous things I have done or noticed that I want to jot down.
- The legal drinking age is 18 in Australia. Think you feel old at a bar back home in America?
- I was in Australia for three weeks before I even saw Foster's beer. There is a ton of smaller local brands here, and Fosters does not have any traction. I wonder if it is more of a regional beer in other parts of the country.
- If you go to Melbourne and like diverse culture and people, then you should walk from Flinders downtown past the museum and up to the Fitzroy neighborhood.

Wrapping up on a great note, lets look at what the folks in Sydney did when there is a road called Batman Lane.

1st Weekend in Sydney

It is Sunday morning, and I am writing this from the Paramount Coffee Project which serves some phenomenal espresso.

It is so very weird for it to be Sunday morning but football isn't on today. It will be Monday morning at 7:00 am when the Packers vs. Falcons game kicks off. The positive if that I will be awake, but the negative is I will be at work.

The past few days, I have explored further and further from my apartment neighborhood. Yesterday I walked an hour to get to Balmain village. It was a beautiful day at 72ºF and mostly sunny, so the walk was perfect. The area itself is great with a ton of small shops and restaurants and importantly no brand name places. On the way there, I walked across the Anzac Bridge which had some perfect lighting for backlit photos.

On the way back I used the ferry for the first time to take me from to Circular Quay. It was near sunset, so I was taking a bunch of photos a few of which look great.

Circular Quay is the main ferry terminal and is right next to the Sydney Opera House. The trip allowed me to get some great closer photos than you can get all the way across the water near the Park Hyatt.

These are some random miscellaneous thoughts I had these past few days.

  • The Darlinghurst neighborhood is full of hipsters, and it feels like I never left San Francisco.
  • Cars are right-hand drive, and you drive on the left instead of the right. This right-hand thing extends to how people walk on the sidewalk and even on escalators (stand on the left and pass on the right). I am not even close to used to it yet, and I keep looking the wrong way at intersections.
  • People like to drink here. More than once I saw a table full of guys each with a personal pitcher of beer.
  • Music is very American and a lot of hip-hop compared to places in the US. Even this coffee shop I am in at 9 am as I type this is playing a lot of Kanye, Lil' Wayne and Kendrick Lamar and not the edited versions. I love it, but this is atypical from home in the US where it would be classic rock or cheesy pop music at most coffee shops.

To wrap up, below is a cheesy selfie from the ferry. 

My first 24 hours in Sydney

As I type this, it is 7:14 am on Thursday, January 19th, 2017. According to Flightaware.com, My flight landed in Sydney almost 24 hours ago at 7:55 am on Wednesday, and that was after a 14-hour 20-minute flight that took off from Los Angeles on Monday at 10:57 pm. How about that for a change of time and scenery and a "lost day"?

Luckily I slept well on the flight and arrived in Sydney refreshed with the goal of staying awake until 10 pm to try and stave off the jet lag as quickly as possible. After making it through customs and immigration, I sought out an ATM for Australian dollars. I used that money to purchase a pre-paid SIM card from Vodafone and once online I was able to let the family know I arrived safely.

Speaking of money, Australia is different from the US system quite drastically. First, there is no penny equivalent. Second, there is no dollar bill as instead, it is a coin. Third, the notes are vibrantly colored, and different sizes that get bigger as the denomination increases. I am missing a 10 dollar bill and a 100 dollar bill in the photo, but I do have all the coins shown.

A quick trip to my temporary apartment and I was in the room and ready to explore and grab lunch. It was 90ºF at 11 am, so I lathered up in sunscreen and left to explore Sydney.

My first destination was the PayPal office so I could get a feel on the daily walk to work I will take starting on Monday. It was a nice 20-minute walk through the core of the business district. It is a shared office building so no PayPal logo, but it is in The Rocks neighborhood and a three block walk from being on the waterfront and looking at the Sydney Opera House.

After taking the above photo, I did that exact walk and headed over to the waterfront to see the Opera House. Tourist Goal #1 accomplished.

Turning around from looking at the Opera House and you see the beautiful Sydney Harbor Bridge. The pilings are beautiful architecture from afar and up close the stonework is gorgeous.

From there I head back to the hotel to unpack and recharge my phone. I am not fully unpacking as when I got there the company told me that a newly opened apartment in a nicer building was available at the same price. I plan to view that apartment today or tomorrow and make a decision whether to switch or not.

After a short rest in the apartment, I head back out into the city this time seeking local Australian beer. The first place I found was a half block from my apartment called 3 Wise Monkeys. 2 average Australian beers later I was ready to find a different watering hole.

My goal of staying awake until 10 pm did not pass and I ended up heading to bed around 8:30 pm. I awoke around 4 am this morning, and I am counting that is a win against jet lag as I am now only 2-3 hours away from being on Sydney time. That is not too shabby for my first day if I must say so myself.

Now on to some random things I noticed about Sydney during my first day there.

  • Everybody seems to walk about with a smile.
  • I downloaded an app to do metric to imperial conversions until I get used to metric.
  • The light switches are all the opposite in my apartment. Press down for on and up for off. On top of that, about half of the outlets have a dedicated switch on the same plug directly above them to activate the power to that particular outlet.
  • Apple AirPods have not been released here yet, so I was stopped at least ten times yesterday with people asking about them. Before you ask me, yes they fit, and no they do not fall out.
  • There seem to be as many restaurants as people. All the food looks amazing too, and I am very excited to try it out.
  • With the above statement noted, the people here seem to be the fittest city I have ever seen. I have long thought it was Miami, but it is not even close.

An odd flight home for Thanksgiving

On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I was set to fly from Oakland back to Baltimore. I arrived at the airport about 90 minutes before my flight. I grabbed a quick beer at Pyramid Tap Room right behind the security line and then head over to my gate.

The flight ends up being about 25 minutes late to land, but no big deal. Then we start to board, and it is the slowest boarding ever. Even two flight attendants noted it out loud while chatting near me.

I’m sitting in seat 3C on the left aisle. Some guy gets on near the end of boarding who seems to be rambling on and on. I cannot tell if he was drunk or not all there in the head. He takes a seat two rows behind me in the middle seat. One of the last people to board is looking for one of the last available middle seats, and he yells out “sit on the floor.” Ahem, that seemed weird to say to someone.

Next, I swear I hear him mention something about blowing up the plane. But I turn around, and the people in the two rows behind me who would have heard it all seem like nothing happened. I chalk it up to me mishearing something and go back to my pre-boarding ritual of playing Solitaire. The guy keeps rambling out loud, but again I chalk it up to him being drunk or missing a few marbles.

As we push back, I see the attendant look oddly at someone behind me. She walks back, and the guy in the middle rows tells her, “The guy behind me has been talking about blowing up the plane and going up high and never coming down.” She asks did anyone else hear it and 2 or 3 other people say yes. I mention I heard it, but no one was alarmed earlier, so I thought misheard it.

So she runs up to the front and radios the captain. We are not yet to the runway but we are taxing that way. The plane makes an abrupt stop, and we sit there for a few minutes. Then we make a turn, and the captain mentions to everyone that we need to make an unexpected return to the gate and apologizes for the delay.

At this point, the people near me are getting nervous, but the rest of the plane knows nothing about the situation. Once we make it to the gate, we sit there without opening the door for a while which I assume was giving time for police to be there. Finally about 15 minutes after we turned back to the gate the door opened and the stewardess invited the person to leave with her. He totally seemed out of if and did not realize what was happening. I think that he must have been missing marbles and not drunk, as even drunk people know when they are getting asked to leave a plane there must be a problem.

Once he walks off the plane, an attendant asks the people in his row which bag was his, and they take that out to the police. The captain comes out and makes a statement to the plane about the situation and tells everyone to relax because the police already believe this to be a mock threat. He asks that we stay seated and wait for the police to finish arresting the man and then we will head out.

We are now an hour behind schedule, but whatever, I am on the plane, and it is non-stop to Baltimore, so no layover worries like some others on the aircraft. So I chill out and fiddle around with my phone for a while. The police come onto the plane and ask for people to provide statements if they heard it clearly. I say I did not so I did not provide one. After about 20 minutes those who did provide statements come back onboard and the plane cheers as it is now time to go.

At this point, the captain re-appears up front with a solemn face. He states to the cabin that while he and police agree the threat was not credible, yet for an abundance of caution, they are going to empty the plane of passengers and baggage (including bags down below) to be able to use K9 dogs to check for any problems.

So my anxiety goes to 11 at this point, but the captain says for everyone to be calm because we will be flying on the safest flight in the country. He makes a good point, and I chill out a little bit. To deplane, we all had to line up on the jetway on the right side with our carry-ons on the left side. Once about 1/3 of the plane had filled the full jetway, a bomb-sniffing dog walked by sniffing everyone’s bags. All clear with our group, so we were let out to the terminal. We were asked to stay close as the goal was to re-board within 20 minutes. Haha, there was no chance of that in my opinion.

So I head out to grab water and grab a snack for the ride. Back at the gate, I see the final group coming off the plane and outside they are starting to re-load luggage into the cargo hold. So it looks like we will be taking off after all.

We finally take off 3 hours behind schedule and thus landing around 1 am in Baltimore. Everyone with a layover is screwed and will be getting put up in a hotel. I, on the other hand, will take an Uber home and sleep in my bed for the first time in over a month. Wahoo.