Arriving in Sydney

I have just arrived in Sydney Australia where I am going to spend about a week. For this visit I will be with family. My cousin and his partner live in Sydney and I am meeting up with them and my aunt who will be joining me from the USA. I’ve been away from family & friends so long so it is nice to break up my solo travel with some family time.

My aunt has arrived before me and secured our shared hotel room. I travel from the airport to our hotel by using public transportation instead of uber or taxi to save some money. There is a train from the airport but I must do a switch at one of the stations. The travel isn’t too bad except it is a little confusing finding my next train with the construction at Central station – I find myself walking back and forth a couple times to find the correct platform. I do finally find my train and arrive to my destination station at Kings Cross in the Potts Point neighborhood. The map shows a short walk to my hotel but 75% of it is completely uphill. Not so much fun with my heavy backpack on a warm day.

Potts point seems like a safe area. Many things are in walking distance and there are some nice cafes nearby. Most importantly we can walk to my cousin’s place from Potts point if we desire.

My first day in Sydney is low key. I get to see my cousin’s apartment in the city. It is in a great location with some good views.

The next morning I wake up and read the news before I start getting ready to walk around town with my aunt and cousin. While I am checking the news I come across an article on the Australian fires, an activity that is normal for me during the last couple weeks. The fires have been quite terrible but in the latest news I read about a fire tornado. A truck has flipped over and a volunteer firefighter from Victoria has died. Shocking as that news is to read it is even more shocking when I realize I recognize the name of the firefighter. A year and a half earlier I traveled to Peru on a tour with him and his wife. During that trip they were celebrating their honeymoon and now they were expecting their first child. I am heartbroken to read the news. Unfortunately I had not kept in touch with the couple directly but we had a Facebook group that was created to facilitate the sharing of group photos. I take some time to pause and reach out to some other tour members to let them know what I had learned. These fires are horrible and are really taking their toll on the country. It leaves me conflicted because I am now in Sydney and today is new years eve. Sydney is known for their fireworks displays. Despite the horrible fire conditions the fireworks are going on as planned. I would not blame Sydney if they cancelled them. A cancelled firework display after I have traveled this far would be disappointing but understandable. The government decides the activity seems low risk since Sydney is sort of protected by the city. The show goes on I guess…

Once we meet up with my cousin we wander around the city a bit today.

We walk across the Sydney harbor bridge. I notice the setup for the fireworks show. The bridge will close later in preparation for the fireworks display.

View of brutalism building . People say it’s ugly but I sort of like it.

We stop at a historic pub for a pint. There is supposed to be a trap door. We have fun looking for it.

Walking through the Royal Botanical Gardens.

My aunt and I head back to our hotel to clean up and grab some snacks and drinks for the evening celebration.

Once at my cousin’s we snack and enjoy the view, patiently waiting for midnight.

We head to the roof and soon the fireworks start.

What a fun once in a lifetime (maybe) experience!

My aunt and I walk back to our hotel since there is no way we’ll be able to pay for surge prices on uber. Luckily there are lots of people out late so it is pretty safe.

Good night!

Boats, brown cafes and NDSM

After my visit to Rijksmuseum I went on a scheduled boat tour with Those Dam Boat Guys.

TDBG is a tour of the Amsterdam canals in a more casual way. They encourage you to have “supplies” with you (whatever that may be) to relax. It is as educational as you want it to be. Our particular tour guide told us some general things but kept it light.

It was a beautiful day so we really just took in the views.

Our boat guide recommended a brown cafe right by where our boat tour ended so I decided to check it out.

Brown Cafes are historic Dutch pubs that get their name from the brown color inside (said to be a result of years of smoke).

After a long day of sightseeing in Amsterdam I decided to see some local flair. I took a boat ride out to the NDSM. NDSM is a former shipyard turned hip spot.

UK Pubs : Camden

One of our last stops was the borough of Camden Town, in northwest London. It is an interesting and eclectic part of London. We visited because my cousin now lives close to this area. Originally I wanted to make it out to the famous Camden Lock Market but we never seemed make it during opening hours. Instead we wandered around town and visited a couple of pubs.

 The Worlds End 

The Worlds End pub is sort of a landmark in Camden. It was a nice meeting place across from  the Camden tube station. The Worlds End pub is a large establishment and its history boasts famous past visitors (like many other London pubs). While we were in here I saw a belligerent drunk old man spill his beer all over the hallway and a yuppy girl break a red wine bottle all over the floor (I guess she was going to a party afterwards). It seemed to be a mix of different types of patrons. The music was heavy alternative.

The Camden Eye

Another pub close to the Camden tube station is The Camden Eye. The pub was busy on arrival but we chose to eat in the empty dining area upstairs. The upstairs was much quieter and provided us a view of Camden Town. We experienced our last fish and chips here but they had an interesting pizza selection (the names too).

The Earl of Camden

Our final pub visit was to the Earl of Camden. We happened upon trivia night. We tried to play along but the topics were more international and British in nature. It proved to be challenging for our group. An adorable large dog was calmly hanging out in the pub while his owner had a few drinks.

UK Pubs: London

Here is another round of London Pubs to visit.

The Punch Tavern

The Punch Tavern was a good place to get some traditional British grub. It was also a fantastic place to get sticky toffee pudding – our obsession while vacationing in the UK.

The Red Lion Pub

The Red Lion Pub is another one of those historic pubs that is now corporate owned. We did not eat at this pub but we were able to sample some beers that we have never tried before.

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

One of the most unique pubs we visited was Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. It was a multi-story historic pub with lots of character. Dining there proved very confusing. We tried to eat at the room on the main floor only to be told it was closed (no information of its opening). We were told to try upstairs. Upstairs again we were told it was full and that there is no waiting list. We wandered around a bit and decided to ask again if we could be seated on the main floor for dinner. Suddenly we were seated. I guess things are sort of informal and unorganized. If you are to visit, keep trying, you may get a different answer. The dinner experience was charming from the food to the wood shavings on the floor.

UK Food and Fun: Edinburgh

A couple of months ago I spent a couple days in Edinburgh.
We spent much our time eating and drinking around town.
Many of our days started with a hearty gourmet breakfast at our bed and breakfast.

And on the day we couldn’t make breakfast, we were given this breakfast to go. It made our entire tour van jealous.

I got to try my first cream tea at Clarinda’s Tea Room. It was a delightful experience.

One day we took part in the touristy Scotch Whisky Experience. The highlights of the experience is the whisky tasting and entrance to the largest Scotch Whisky collection in the world.

We got to see some interesting looking whisky bottles.

The evening is complete with a nice dinner made with fresh ingredients. We had a great meal at The Outsider and it was completed with a dessert platter and a sherry.