Tag Archives: sydney
April 11, 2012

An Invitation to Visit Australia

As I mentioned previously, Oksana and I have decided to spend a year living and working in Australia.  However, we’re trying very hard to replenish some of the savings we burned through traveling around the world, so playing the tourist isn’t something we’re planning to do while we’re in Brisbane.  Though it’d be a shame to live an entire year in Australia and not see anything outside of Brisbane…

So we’re making plans.  Plans which may involve you, especially if you’re one of our friends or family members (or pretty much anyone on our Facebook or Twitter list!)

Although I haven’t really had the opportunity (yet!) to share what happened on our Galapagos trip – the one where we invited friends and family to come along with us – both Oksana and I viewed it as a big success.  We had 5 people join us in Ecuador; a good friend, his cousin (who we’d never met at all), and a family of three I barely knew in passing.  We all hit the streets of Quito, found ourselves a luxury cruise at a reasonable price, flew out to the islands, and spent a week together on a boat.  Afterwards, our friend stayed an extra week with us in Ecuador, where we took him on a day trip into the jungle.  I think it’s safe to say a good time was had by all.

Solo travel has its own rewards, but there’s something immensely satisfying about sharing adventures with other people.  For that reason, I’m not only glad I got to travel the world with my wife, but I’m also thankful that other people joined us, as well.

I know that many people consider Australia to be on their “bucket list,” that is, a place they want to visit before they die.  If you’re one of them, why not consider joining us Down Under later this year?


April 23, 2010

Sydney Opera House Fireworks

Sydeny Opera House, Australian Idol finale with fireworks

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To celebrate the finale of Australian Idol in 2007, Sydney hosted a fireworks display over the Sydney Opera House.  Much of the story of how we came to see it is presented in Postcard Valet episode 8, but we never mentioned there how we took our photographs in it.

Oksana and I sort of knew there was going to be a fireworks display (even if we didn’t let on in the podcast), so we made sure to get set up beforehand.  What we didn’t know, was when the fireworks were going to go off.  The results were being broadcast live on TV, but it wasn’t as if anyone at Circular Quay had a television…

So we set up two cameras – one for video, one for stills.  The video camera was perched on a tiny tripod atop a piling.  The best we could do with our DSLR was to balance it a little lower down on a railing.  Unfortunately, there was a short stairway down to the water in front of us and other bystanders kept standing right in front of it.

We had the Opera House framed pretty well, but we had no idea how high up the fireworks would be so we just waited. And waited.

You can see in the podcast that when the fireworks finally went off, they were higher than we thought they’d be.  The camera was already set on manual with long exposures, so while I recomposed the shot with the video camera, Oksana simply tilted our still camera back and began taking successive 8 second exposures.  We had 10 files on the flash card by the end of the show, so I guess that means it was somewhere around 90 seconds long.  Seemed longer.

Some of those photos are overexposed, especially toward the end when they wrapped up the pyrotechnics display with a huge finale.  Others have too much smoke hanging in the air.  While this one might not be the very best of the bunch, it’s my favorite.

Canon Digital Rebel XT
Date: 25 November 2007; 9:03pm
Focal Length: 28mm
Shutter: 8 seconds
Aperture: F/10
ISO: 200
Photoshop: Cropped and slightly rotated.

April 12, 2010

PV008: Sydney Opera House

Wow, finally time to put this one to bed!  I’ve been thinking about and working on this episode for a long time.  Since 2008, if the time stamp on my Word doc can be believed!

Originally, when I was mulling over about how to tackle a podcast, I latched onto the idea of using a homemade teleprompter.  In theory, this would have had all sorts of benefits:

  • I could keep going with my blog-entry style of writing.
  • I wouldn’t have to practice speaking without notes.
  • At the end of the recording, I’d have a Google-ready transcript ready for posting.

In practice, however, the setup was clunky and the free teleprompter software really wasn’t very good.  I used our Sydney Opera House footage for a practice run and gave up well before the editing phase.  I did have the transcript written, however, and for fun, I’ve pasted it in, way down at the end of this post.  It’s interesting to see, after two years, what made the final cut and what was left on the cutting room floor.


January 31, 2008

Australia: The Blue Mountains

Dont know what happened, but I like the jaunty angle!

In planning our trip to Australia, it didn’t take a lot of brain power to realize we were not going to be able to see everything in three weeks. Australia is huge. Imagine if someone asked you for a three-week itinerary for all the points of interest in the United States. Planning a visit to a continent is like that.

After much discussion, Oksana and I decided to constrict our movement to just two locations: Sydney and its surroundings and Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef. Of course, three weeks is barely enough to explore either spot in depth, never mind splitting our time between the two. It worked for us, however. I only wish we could have made the trip out to Uluru.

While in Sydney, we managed to plan a quick jaunt out to the Blue Mountains. While still pretty close to the city – a couple hours by train – it was far enough away to almost be considered a third stop on our trip. If nothing else, the rugged landscape would be a nice change of pace from the city and ocean.

Everything I knew about the Blue Mountains came from a book I’d read years before called In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson. Two facts stood out in my memory. The first, that the “blue” in the Blue Mountains was actually a visible blue haze in the air from all the eucalyptus trees’ exuded oil. Second, that the mountain range was considered impassible by every explorer to make the attempt for the first 100 years or so after Australia’s colonization. I suppose the reason I remembered each was because I had trouble believing both.

As our train left the city behind and the Sydney suburbs gave way to forests, I found myself peering out the window, looking for a gap in the hillside large enough for a view to the horizon. Was the famous blue haze only visible when the weather was just right? Worse yet, could it be seasonal? I tried to convince myself that the tiny bit of haze I could see beyond the trees was actually blue.


December 11, 2007

Thoughts on Australia

The Sydney Opera House

We’ve been back from Down Under for about a week and a half now, but I’ve been consistently busy catching up with work and friends.  I plan to write a lot about our experiences in the Southern hemisphere once I sort through the 2500 photos and six-and-a-half hours of video we took.  I’ve got a month off from work beginning next week, and I suspect I’ll devote some my time to that (as well as belatedly writing down any thoughts on the unnoted items in my 2007 timeline above.)  In the meantime, I’ve jotted down a few observations on our experiences in Australia:

New Words
Australia has a great collection of new words for familiar things.  Dangerous jellyfish are ‘stingers;’ the Portuguese Man-o-War is a ‘Blue Bottle.’  Saltwater crocodiles are ‘Salties,’ which I think is a dangerously precocious name (like calling a grisly bear ‘Teddy.’)  I could probably sit down and think of a dozen more I picked up, but the only ones that come to mind right now are the decidedly British ‘rubbish bins,’ ‘fish and chips,’ and ‘lifts.’

How Ya Goin’, Mate?
“G’day, mate.  How ya goin’?”

He’s a mate, she’s a mate, everyone can be a mate!  I knew that Aussies said ‘mate’ a lot.  What I didn’t realize was that mate is gender agnostic. Which makes sense, really.  My mate is a girl.

I got used to mate, but “How ya goin’?” always sounded like someone couldn’t decide between “How ya doin’?” and “How’s it goin’?”


November 12, 2007

Australia: Day One

Darling Harbour Panorama

Well, we made it to Sydney.

The 14-hour flight from San Francisco wasn’t so bad. While the Qantas jet didn’t have any more legroom than the Alaska Airlines flights before it, they made up for it with many small amenities. We each had LCD monitors with movies, TV shows, and video games available. Thicker pillows and larger blankets were distributed alongside little pouches with a toothbrush, socks, and a card outlining our meal options.

Oksana struck up a conversation with the passenger next to her, Mary Lou, an Australian working in the travel industry. She gave us all sorts of tips on where to go, what to see, and how to get around. Very helpful.

Just before dinner, I took two Advil PM and then fought off sleep as long as I could. At around 12:30am, I flipped out the head rest’s “wings” and closed my eyes. Sleep with fitful, what with the occasional crying baby or bumped chair, but I essentially slept for the next 9.5 hours. A new Arlo record for in-flight rest!

We arrived at the airport on Sunday morning. Traveling overnight and crossing the International Date Line screwed me up so bad I had no idea what time it was back home.

We figured out the metro/train system, paid our $14 each, and caught the next ride into Sydney. Our stop was only two blocks away from the hotel.

Unfortunately, we were about five hours early for check-in. They offered to hold our bags for us, though, so after Oksana freshened up a bit, we hit the pavement.

Sydney is empty on Sundays – there’s hardly more people and cars than in Juneau, Alaska. It was a pleasant introduction to a big city. Our first stop was near our hotel, Hyde Park. The biggest structure there was a war memorial; we decided to walk through it. It was November 11th, Australia’s Veterans day, and “on the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month” they have a nationwide moment of silence. It was a little after 10am.

From the park, we headed west, to Darling Harbour. Darling Harbour is tourist central with its Imax theater, aquarium, naval museum, boat rides, art exhibitions, and parks. Everything was outrageously expensive, but the walk along the docks was quite pleasant. Oksana and I took a bunch of pictures, sat in the sun and the shade, and let the time pass us by. More than anything, we wanted to get back to our hotel at take a shower.

At around 2pm, we finally made it back. Our room turned out to be small, but full of niceties. A microwave and mini-fridge helped make up for the lack of internet access.

It was 3:30pm by the time we were done with our showers; we decided to take a nap. Oksana asked, “Should we set an alarm?” Nah. We’re on vacation!

Well… The first time I woke up was at 11:30pm. So much for dinner! We slept on, though by 3:30am, I was more than rested. We finally got up at 6:30am the next day – 15 hours later!

While flipping through a newspaper, I noticed the 5-day weather forecast. Two days of “Sunny” followed by three more days of “Mostly Fine.” That sums up our first day in Sydney quite well: Mostly fine.