Ok, the deep-fried Mars bar should be banned from all menus! Chocolate, Carmel and fried batter…this is not a fat-free concoction…who thought to put a candy bar in a deep fryer anyway? Veronica picked us up from the port in Sydney after our 14 day cruise in Fiji. After dealing with our visa at the India visa center (they finally approved us), she brought us to the famous Bondi Beach.
We grabbed lunch, fish n’ chips and a fried mars bar which I completely blame Veronica and Giff for ordering. Veronica introduced it and Giff supported it! We brought our fried food across the street to the beach and found a spot to sit for lunch. The weather was fabulous and people were out and about sopping up all the sun even though it was a work day. I can see by why Aussies love this beach, pretty close to the hustle and bustle of the city is a large stretch of white sand and surfers.
We got settled in at Veronica’s house but not too settled, tomorrow we leave for China! For dinner we all ate sushi and then the adults dug into some ice-cream for dessert. Giff decided it was the perfect night to break out the kava we had purchased in Fiji. We went into the kitchen and Giff and Pat made the batch of Kava Fijian style. The roots were already pounded into a powder, but they soaked the cloth full in a big bowl of water and then we sat in a circle drinking out of the coconut shell. The taste again was not exactly the best flavor I’ve ever had, but we all managed to sip a few bowls before getting ready for bed.
Giff and I were getting the last of our things packed up, our flight was first thing in the morning. We had some clothes hanging on the clothes line outside and it was dark out…Giff asked me to go get the clothes so they weren’t out all night. I told him they were still wet but went to go get them, which ended up being a big mistake. Veronica was asleep and Pat was in the shower…I couldn’t find the porch light so attempted to walk slowly in the dark to grab our clothes. I missed a step and fell hard on some toys twisting my foot on the way down.
Veronica woke up from the loud crash and came running outside, I was on the ground holding my foot. Giff came running out and saw that I couldn’t put pressure on my foot. He lifted me to the couch and after a few minutes, and a stress test performed on my foot by Pat… we decided to go to the hospital just to make sure there was no break. Is this really happening hours before our flight to China?
After too many hours at the very slow Australian public health care hospital, they confirmed with X-rays it did not look broken but was a bad strain and I needed to stay off it for 2 weeks. Ummm…staying off my foot for the two weeks we are in China is not really going to work.
We went back home to get the few hours of sleep we had left before needing to get up for our flight. Giff and I were totally bummed…is this going to totally ruin our trip to China? Why did I not turn the light on outside? Why did I do this to myself?
Today, our goal is to get our visas for India. We will be moving around pretty quickly from country to country and are hoping the Embassy here can accommodate us and get it processed today. The forms we had to fill out on the shared computer asked us things like what religion our dad has and whether or not we knew anyone from Pakistan…kind of strange. Once we had our answers filled in, we waited in-line until our number was finally called and were told only emergency visas are approved for same day. They said most likely it wouldn’t work but that they would submit it to see if it would go through for us. So, we left our passports with them and walked down the street to a little cafe to grab breakfast, a coffee and free wi-fi.
The manager at the cafe was super nice, he saw we were busy trying to book our hotel and flights for Thailand and called his travel agent to assist. After many hours working online, we walked back to the visa place only to find out, we were denied for same day visa. After some discussion back and forth, they agreed to process the visa with copies of our passports while we are on our Fiji cruise, then the one day we have between getting back from the cruise and going to China…we will drop our passports off first thing in the morning for them to use. They told us we had to pay the $125 each but that they couldn’t guarantee the visas would be approved. We obviously were not comfortable with this whole concept…pay for something that has a 50/50 chance of getting done but, we didn’t really have a choice. We need the India visa and already have our flights purchased to go there, so we hesitatingly handed over our credit card.
Once we got back to Veronica’s house, we all got ready and then drove over to Pat’s parents house. They asked us to have dinner and wine with them and we of course said yes. Their place was beautiful…large home sitting right on the water. The wine cellar had give and I grinning from ear to ear…it was under the house in a small basement-like room and was completely stocked with wine…as in no more space anywhere for another bottle. Pat’s dad is Italian and loves his wine. Dinner was great with fresh seafood and of course a bottle of wine, followed by Pat’s moms homemade dessert.
It was so nice to share dinner with the family…they really took us in and showed us the way through Sydney…our home is open to them (as soon as we find a home wherever that will be). After dinner, we went back to Veronica/Pat’s place and packed our bags for the cruise. We borrowed all kinds of dresses and suits since we have none and the cruise is considered formal.
Before arriving at the Sydney port to board our cruise to Fiji, we stopped at Target to grab dress shoes. Thankfully we had the dresses and suits but needed shoes to go with them. Target may not be the best place for shoes but we will make the cheap “pleather” work!
After our shopping excursions, Veronica dropped us off at the port. We walked up with all of our things and were surprised when a Princess Cruise rep approached us and said we would not be sailing today! There was an issue with the engine and they were flying an engineer from France to fix it. She said the earliest would be Thursday and today is Tuesday. She also said they may have to cut one of the ports. They said we could cancel the cruise for a full refund now or board the ship…stay on board for 2 days while docked here in Australia and then on Thursday after we know more about the engine…decide to stay on or cancel at that time. Giff and I looked at each other and decided to opt for boarding the ship. We handed in our luggage and went to the harbor to grab some lunch while we waited to board.
Once we got to the harbor, we realized the Melbourne Cup race was starting within the hour. It was a famous horserace and would be on TV. They had several people out collecting fun small bets on the horses…we placed our wages on a couple. We found a restaurant with a table right in front of the TV, ordered food and tuned in to see if our horses would be the winners. Unfortunately, we picked a couple really good horses but they placed 4th through 7th instead of 1st through third.
After lunch we got back over to the port where we got in line to board the cruise ship. After customs and check in, we walked on the boat and saw that it was a bit more upscale than other ships we had been on. The colors were a gold and cream and we started noticing right away the age of the other passengers…did we book a senior citizen cruise???
We found our room located right off one of the main floors. It was similar in size to the NCL cruise ship we had been on before…we unpacked and then started to explore the ship. The ship had a familiar layout…the top deck was large with lounge chairs and a giant big screen TV for watching movies under the stars. There were 2 formal dining rooms…we were assigned to one and had to attend dinner at our assigned time of 7:45PM nightly if dining there. There was a theater for entertainment and several lounges for chatting and drinking. There was also a gym and spa…unfortunately we were disappointed with the spa. It was very small and there was not an area for both men and women to lounge around. We also noticed there were 3 additional restaurants in conjunction with the main dining room. One was a pizzeria…pizzas and pastas, the other was a steakhouse but had an additional cover charge of $15 per person and the last was the buffet. All food except the steakhouse was free (included in the cost of the cruise). There was also a casino which could be dangerous…
We decided to sit down in the main dining room for an early dinner. We each had an appetizer, salad and entrée and of course dessert. The food was decent…not a super nice restaurant level of food but not fast food either. After dinner, we wondered around the boat and then watched a movie in our room.
After Veronica made us all crepe’s for breakfast and Pat showed us the proper Italian way to eat them (a bit of butter and sugar gently rolled between the paper-thin crepe), we all got ready and drove downtown.
The weekend market was set up with tons of vendors in the part of town they call “The Rocks” which is the oldest area of Sydney. It kind of had a New England feel to it. We had fun looking at all the crafts and gift items, of course tasting the chocolate and spicy dips along the way. After shopping, we walked over to the Bonza Bike Tour office (www.bonzabiketours.com) which our friends (Brian and Jill) from Hermosa Beach in CA own.
They hooked us up with a complimentary 2 hour bike tour of Sydney for not only Giff and I but Veronica, Pat and the kids too. The guides got us all situated…making sure we had the right helmet and bikes were adjusted to our height before beginning the tour.
Our group had about 12 people and one guide. The ride was slow-paced and we stopped many times to hear the history and stories of various parts of town. The main one being how Australia was founded which was due to Great Britain needing more space to keep criminals so shipped them to this island which is now known as Australia.
It was nice learning fun facts about the city and getting to see Sydney from the perspective of a bike ride, which allowed us to cover more ground quicker. We drove though the busy streets, by the harbor, through Chinatown, and around parks looking at both historical and new buildings in the area.
After our tour, we stopped for a bite to eat at a German restaurant/bar and ordered a light meal to munch on…of course, there was a live German band playing (they were probably in their 70’s) and Giff sneakily had them sing happy birthday to me as they brought out a thick piece of cake with a candle.
Once we got home, we enjoyed each other’s company knowing that tomorrow we will be leaving for our 2 week cruise to Fiji.
There’s nothing like starting the day with breakfast in bed! We ate our breakfast in our plush hotel robes and then got ready for the day.
We drove our rental to the drop off location and then walked around the city. It was very modern and clean. There were of course many shops and restaurants, and an area for pedestrians only to meander around. We noticed the contrast of buildings between the modern tall buildings and the 1874 St Stephen’s cathedral in the center of the city.
We picked up a travel book from a store going out of business and browsed through the market of craft vendors. We saw the same big sushi rolls we had seen last week and sat down to enjoy a couple. We also ran into a Pandora store and bought a little kangaroo to add to my “around the world bracelet”.
After our long day of exploring Brisbane, we went back to our place and had dinner and a movie. Tomorrow, we fly back to Sydney for a weekend before leaving Australia for our two-week cruise to Fiji and the South Pacific.