Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Australia (Part 2)

Picking up from where we left off

IMG_3400 My TechEd schedule was very conducive to sightseeing. There wasn’t a single day where I worked later than 3p. Wednesday I was in for about 3 hours, done by 2p, and it was off to the beach. The sand was remarkably soft and fine, and the sun was just fantastic. We did witness one of the lifeguards going out to rescue some poor kid who’d gotten himself caught up in a rip current. After seeing the lifeguard (who wears nothing but a Speedo), Karin was ready to head out to be the next victim to be rescued, but couldn’t stomach going into the cold water.[1]

IMG_3383_thumb3[2]After our beach trip we ventured out to find dinner near the convention center. The Italian place we found was one of those where they had an old Italian out front who insisted it  was the best Italian joint in town. I don’t know if it’s the best, but it was certainly very good food. However, we did learn very quickly we weren’t in the US. Upon sitting down I (of course) ordered a manhattan. The waiter turned to Karin and asked if IMG_0127_thumb1she wanted a cocktail. Karin’s a bit more varied (that’ll be the word I’ll use) on her cocktail selection. The waiter bragged about the fact  that their bartender worked at TGI Friday’s in London. Now, bragging that your bartender worked at TGI Friday’s certainly isn’t normal here in the US, but Karin figured a lemon drop martini would be a safe bet. A few minutes later my manhattan arrived. It’s the one pictured on the left. Yeah, definitely not in the States. We were also informed that they were out of citrus vodka, so there would be no lemon drop today. The food, however, more than made up for the disappointments with the drinks.

IMG_0131 On Thursday Karin really found her bearings around town. She used the time that I was at work to go explore the city of Gold Coast, perusing the little gift shops and even finding her favorite little coffee place (and her new favorite coffee drink, a caramelized mocha). Since I was off working, I did put her in charge of finding something to do that day when I was done. She settled upon a duck tour. If you’ve IMG_6240 never done it, it’s an open air boat that doubles as a bus. When you’re in a city that’s on the water, the best place to see it is from the water. The tour took us down the river, and past where the rich people live. My new goal in life is to have a house on the river with a helipad.

IMG_3407 That night we found ourselves at a place called George’s, which is a steak/seafood place. One thing that I always try to do is sample whatever’s local.[3] The big thing in the area we were in (Moreton Bay) is bugs, which is a form of lobster. I had mine grilled, topped with cheese and a cream IMG_3405 sauce of some variety. I can say I’m glad I had them, but probably never again. They just have a weird taste to them; you could sort of tell they were lobster, but not really. We also started dinner with a lobster bisque that was chunkier than any bisque I’d ever seen before – although it was delicious.

IMG_3415 Friday was a relatively boring day. Karin and I grabbed lunch before heading out of town back to Brisbane. Outside of it being cloudy one day in Gold Coast we couldn’t have asked for better weather, so sitting outside, enjoying a couple of cocktails and munching on some food was a fantastic way to spend the afternoon while waiting for Anthony to be done. That night it was a quiet dinner at Anthony and Shane’s house and an early bed time (which was needed).

IMG_6343 Since we hadn’t had a good chance yet to explore Brisbane, Karin and I headed out to go roam on Saturday. Anthony suggested we walk along the South Bank, which is the bank on the opposite side of the river from the city. Since again the best place to see a city on the water is from the water, the walk offered up some fantastic views of the city.

IMG_6492 Along the way we stopped to visit The da Vinci Machines, a travelling exhibit featuring mockups of designs from da Vinci’s notes. Overall the exhibit was above average, and it’s amazing to see what he had come up with centuries ago. da Vinci had inventions for military machines, seafaring vessels, and of course flight. While many were never actually made in his lifetime, many of today’s machines are based on his ideas, including double hull boats. The item above is a primitive scuba mask, with a floating buoy for the hose so the person can breathe.

IMG_6694 From there we took the City Cat up to the cruise ship harbor. The City Cat his a high speed ferry that runs up and down the river in the city, offering some fantastic views and is a great way to travel.[4] There was a cruise ship in port, so our plans to sit by the water and enjoy a leisurely lunch were dashed as the cruise ship blocked any view of the water. But we made the best of it and enjoyed relaxing outside.

That night was River Fire, which is part of the annual Brisbane Festival. It features huge crowds, fireworks over the city, and a flyby by two F-111’s with their afterburners on. We had a pretty good vantage point, and it was beyond cool. I’ll get pics of that up later.

Alas, Sunday morning brought our time for our trip home. I had a two hour layover in LAX before heading off to my next destination (Tampa, FL at the time) and Anthony the night before assured me that it wouldn’t be a problem. Alas, he jinxed me. We were a half hour late taking off as a baggage door wouldn’t close and a fridge didn’t work (they fixed the latter by just bringing on dry ice). Then upon landing (only 20 minutes late) there was a bunch of baggage carts in front of our gate. After deplaning we were then informed that the baggage door now wouldn’t open. I didn’t get to the other side of security until after 8:30a (flight was at 9). Yeah, I missed my flight.

We’re already talking about going back again next year.

[1] It was spring in Australia after all.
[2] Editor’s note – This was a mistake from the earlier post. We went here on Wednesday, not Tuesday.
[3] This proved to be a bit of a challenge in Australia, as outside of vegemite there really isn’t a such thing as Australian food. It was basically the same thing we’d get back in the States.[5]
[4] If you ask Karin it’s also a great way to get a sunburn.
[5] Yes, I’ve tried vegemite – it’s terrible. Watching Karin try it for the first time was comedy.

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