2015 Sydney Part II

And then there were two.  Nilufer flew back to reality and it was just Jessica and me on this crazy adventure.

Wednesday

The plan for today was to tour the Sydney Opera House!

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

We met up with our guide and the rest of our tour group.  Our guide was adorable and sang us a song about a koala!!  (Don’t call me a koala bear, because I’m not a bear at all!)

We walked through the smaller theaters and got to see the dancers practicing before heading to the actual backstage.  It’s amazing how large the opera house is!  We then got to visit both of the main auditoriums.

Close-up of the roof

Close-up of the roof

And learn more about the iconic roof – such as how they had a really hard time figuring out how to create the roof until they realized they could use a circle (sphere) to create the waves/shells.  This way the shells/waves would be uniform.

We finished up our tour and had lunch at the opera house.  The weather had turned slightly rainy.  What do you do in the rain?  Why, go to the zoo of course!  We took the ferry over to the zoo.

Why hello there

Why hello there

I finally got to see a Tasmanian Devil!!  They are actually kinda cute and they do spin around in circles.

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devil

The rain started coming down pretty hard and the zoo was getting ready to close so we decided to leave which worked out perfect as we just made the ferry!

I don’t remember where I had heard about the Queen Victoria Building (QVB) but a huge building from 1890’s that had been restored recently and had a huge dome was a building I wanted to see!  I convinced (or dragged) Jessica that we needed to see this building.  Since it was dark, I wasn’t able to marvel at the outside, but the inside more than delivered.  It had several beautiful clocks, old original tile work, and the dome.  Color me suitably impressed.

Inside the QVB

Inside the QVB

Thursday

How did it get to be our last day in Sydney?  And our last day in Australia?  If you are on my Christmas card list you may have picked up on I try to put a picture from my travels on it (and if you aren’t but you want to be, send me your address, I love to send out Christmas cards, but be warned you may also end up on my postcard list – I love to send out postcards even more than Christmas cards!).  I was determined to get a nice picture of me with the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge in the background for my Christmas card.  With that goal in mind, we walked back over toward Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair (we didn’t quite make it all the way).

Christmas Card worthy?

Christmas Card worthy?

We didn’t really have much of a plan for the day, other than visit the Sydney Wildlife Park with the hopes of being able to interact with a kangaroo.  We wandered back over to the Rocks and explored a bit (I would have liked to spend more time there, but it’s an excuse to come back!) before heading up to Observatory Hill to get a view of what else?  The bridge!

Sydney Harbor Bridge from Observatory Hill

Sydney Harbor Bridge from Observatory Hill

Rain had been threatening for a while and started to come down as we were leaving.  We walked down towards Darling Harbor and the Sydney Wildlife Park.  But guess who didn’t like the rain either?  The kangaroos!!  So instead of getting to interact with them, we watched them as they huddled under the heat lamp and out of the rain.

Our last stop for the day was another spot to view the bridge.  If we’d had more time, I’m sure we would have properly captured the bridge from every possible angle and every possible time of day!  It’s just so photogenic!  This particular view-point was near the Milsons point ferry stop, right by Luna Park.  The rain hadn’t let up so we were hurriedly taking pictures between rain drops!

Sydney Harbor Bridge at night

Sydney Harbor Bridge at night

Once we had enough of the rain, we made our way back to the hotel to begin packing for the next leg of our journey.  Stay tuned!

 

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2015 Blue Mountains

I hope you are enjoying these recaps!  I’m enjoying reliving my trip.

Tuesday

In researching what to do in Sydney, an excursion to the Blue Mountains came up several times.  The pictures of the mountains were stunning, so we added it to our itinerary.  Which meant we were up super early to catch the train to Katoomba (a two-hour train ride).

When we arrived in Katoomba, the rain greeted us.  Well boo.  We grabbed breakfast before stopping in a store to buy ponchos, hats and gloves.

Hat, gloves with the Three Sisters in the background

Hat, gloves with the Three Sisters in the background

We took a cab over to Echo Point where we were to start our hike.  Guess what?  The path we had planned on taking was closed (we had been planning to hike from Echo Point to Scenic World via the Giant’s Staircase).  In talking with someone at the Info Desk, we decided on a different path that would still take us to Scenic World (we would miss out on a close up of one of the Three Sisters and a walk through the rainforest).

Three Sisters

Three Sisters

At the Echo Point lookout, we gazed across to the Three Sisters before starting our trek towards Scenic World.  (The Three Sisters is a rock formation – the most common legend has the sisters being turned into stone to protect them.)

Hiking

Hiking

The hike became more of a game of try not to step in the huge puddles and look at that view!

Foggy view

Foggy view

We reached the Skyway that would take us across to Scenic World.  Halfway across the operator told us to look down to see an absolutely stunning waterfall!

On the skyway (like how we have Seahawks colored ponchos?)

On the skyway (like how we have Seahawks colored ponchos?)

After a fortifying cup of tea and some snacks, we took the cableway down to the rainforest floor where we wandered through the trees.

In the rainforest

In the rainforest

Before heading back up, we decided to detour slightly on the path we would have come by so we could see the waterfall.  It was more of a glimpse, and sadly not very photogenic.

Can you see the waterfall?

Can you see the waterfall?

We ventured back to the main path and took the railway up (so if you are counting, that makes three different types of transportation – skyway, cableway, and railway).  Even better it is purported to be the steepest passenger railway in the world!!

Inside the railway

Inside the railway

We caught a cab back to the Katoomba train station and caught the next train back to Sydney.  Our train ride was made interesting / horrifying by a verbal fight between a couple that had to have lasted at least a half hour.

We were *slightly* hungry when we arrived back in Sydney.  Good thing we had reservations at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant.  We were all super excited to try it, but sadly it did not live up to our expectations.  I don’t know if it was an off night or if we didn’t try the right dishes.  Oh well.  It was also a bittersweet meal as it was our last night all together (Nilufer was leaving a plane the next morning since she had a job to get back to).

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2015 Sydney Part 1

Saturday

We finally made it down to Four Mile Beach.  (Side question, why is it called Four Mile Beach when everything else is in kilometers?)

4 Mile Beach

Four Mile Beach

Soon it was time to leave and we began the trek back to Cairns to catch our flight to Sydney.

We arrived in Sydney just in time to drop our bags off at the hotel, grab dinner, and make our way to the Sydney Opera House.  In some ways we did plan our time in Sydney that well.  We missed Vivid Sydney and we just missed the opening of the Opera.  But we were able to catch a performance in one of the smaller theaters inside the Opera House.  We saw Lore by the Bangarra Dance Theater.  The performance was amazing!!

Going to see Lore

Going to see Lore

Sunday

Sunday morning was full of running a 10K.  After, we walked back along the water to our hotel.  We decided to keep it low-key today and decided to view Sydney from the water.  It was billed as a “tour” but there wasn’t much on the tour part.  However, the views were incredible!

Sydney Harbor Bridge

Sydney Harbor Bridge

Boat #selfie

Boat #selfie

Sydney Harbor

Sydney Harbor

We got off the boat to explore Manly Beach where we had some delicious fish and chips!

Manly Beach

Manly Beach

Fish and Chips

Fish and Chips

We finished off the night by visiting the Sydney Tower Eye.  While the view was amazing, and the green screen pics fairly entertaining, the overall experience was blah.

Green Screen Tower pic

Green Screen Tower pic

Monday

Cue the foreboding music.  The day started off fairly normal, although we had some interesting visitors at breakfast.

Right before one dive bombed Jessica's breakfast

Right before one dive bombed Jessica’s breakfast, glo

We had a light breakfast as we were headed to climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge!!!  I’m still not quite sure how this got put on our itinerary! :)

Climbing the bridge was a very time intensive endeavor.  First was signing the waiver followed by suiting up in a oh so fashionable jumpsuit.  This is where my problems started.  My jumpsuit was tighter than I would have liked and I started feeling closed in.  I asked the employee about it being tight and she just dismissed my concerns and told me I’d be fine.

We weren’t allowed to bring anything up with us, unless it was clipped onto our suit.  There was the safety belt/clip and attached to that was a fleece and a raincoat (just in case).  Other optional items to clip on were a hat, handkerchief, and gloves.  Top it off with a headset.

Then there was the practice run, up and down the ladders before we were finally ready to go.

The worst part (for me) was the beginning.  We were on a small platform and had to climb through these small archways.  I was feeling completely closed in and started freaking out.  Jessica turned around and asked how I was doing and barely got out words along the lines of “don’t talk to me, I’ll cry.”  I tried focusing on my breathing.  Breathe in, breathe out.  Take a step.  One more step.  Breathe.

Going up!

Going up!

Finally we made to the part where we actually climbed the bridge.  It was so much better.  No ceiling and the platform was wider.  I started calming down to try to enjoy the view.  Which was incredible.

At the top!

At the top!

What comes up, must come down.  I started panicking again knowing what was waiting for me at the bottom.  I continued breathing, barely holding on to my panic as we descended.

Don't look down

Don’t look down

We got to the bottom and I changed as fast as I could and got outside where I finally lost it.  If we’re looking for the positive side, I didn’t freak out completely (on the bridge anyway) and the view was incredible.  Now I have a story to tell…remember that time I freaked out while climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge?

What do you do after your climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge?  Well, you eat kangaroo and emu pizza of course!

Coat of arms pizza

Coat of arms pizza

No joke – its called the coat of arms pizza since the kangaroo and emu are national animals of Australia!  It was interesting, the kangaroo was pretty good, the emu was a little gamey.

The rest of the afternoon, we walked around exploring first the Rocks and the downtown Sydney.  Our exploring led us to ice cream.  Shocking!

Ice Cream!!

Ice Cream!!

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2015 Run 2 Cure Neuroblastoma

Its no secret I love to run races and I love to travel.  While I have previously had several US racecations, I had never thought to check and see about races for any of my international vacations.  And then I read about the Nike Women’s Series and adjusted my plans for Stockholm to take part in that race.  When I mentioned Stockholm to Nilufer, she asked about Australia and if there were any races there.  Why didn’t I think of that?!

Looking around for races, I was able to find the Run 2 Cure Neuroblastoma in Sydney, but it would mean juggling our travel dates by a day (in the end this turned out great because it allowed us to catch a show at the Sydney Opera House).

It was an early morning wake up our first morning in Sydney.  We made our way to the start line and enjoyed the pre-race warm up.

Warm Up

Warm Up

At the start line it became clear that most of these people were serious runners and there was a good chance we’d be last.  Again, its a somewhat silly fear, but a fear nonetheless.

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

The course (for the 10K) was to be two loops around Sydney’s Botanical Garden, by Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair.  I really wouldn’t have had any idea what I was in for except Kelly had already clued me in that Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair was where you could grab an iconic picture of the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

View of the harbor

View of the harbor

And go!  Sure enough, after the first turn we were towards the back, but we kept plugging along.  There were lots of ups and downs, but at the bottom of the first big down was the first glimpse of the water.

20150614_074053

The course was amazing – both along the water and through the Botanical Gardens.  Jessica, Nilufer and I got separated but that meant we got give each other high fives when the course turned around.

 

Second time around

Second time around

As I was nearing the finish line, the 5K was about to start.  This resulted in thunderous cheers for yours truly as I crossed the finish line!  It was pretty awesome!

Once we all finished (and none of us came in last!) we collected our medals and made our way back to the hotel to start our adventures in Sydney.  Stay tuned!

Finishers!!

Finishers!!

 

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And the search goes on

The job search that is.  Otherwise known as how I spent my summer off.  But with some fun mixed in as well.  While I knew this was going to be an endeavor and wouldn’t necessarily happen right away, there was a small part of me that thought it would all come together and the perfect job would find me and I wouldn’t even miss a beat.  That’s the way it happens in the movies and I’m so a Disney Princess.  Right?

Job searching is a lot like dating.  Weeding through the potentials until one catches your eye and you think maybe, just maybe, there could be some chemistry.  We seem compatible, why don’t we get to know each other?  The application is sent in.

A match is made – you are interested and they are interested so of course you must meet.  Here comes the first date (interview) jitters.  Will they like me?  Will I like them?  Will I say the right thing?  What should I wear?  (Even with a phone interview, the right outfit can help with my confidence!)

You progress past the first interview.  You think its gone well and you wait.  Wait and dissect every aspect – did I say the right thing?  Why did I say that?  Why didn’t I remember to say that?  Are they going to call?  Seriously, I said that?  They aren’t going to call.  No, no, no, they are going to call.

The call.  Perhaps for another date?  Perhaps for another date, but first they’d like to play the field a bit to see who else is out there.  Or perhaps to say thanks, but no thanks and the search begins again.

But while you wait, you start to dream.  I think I can do the job.  I totally can do the job.  I am going to rock this job.  If you are like me, and looking elsewhere you start picturing yourself in your new city.  I think I can live there.  Oh, think of the new running routes!  And restaurants!  And you start searching neighborhoods and apartments.  Don’t forget races!  You’ve completely pictured your new life, starting with accepting your new job.  Which of course will happen any day now.

Then comes the dreaded it’s not you, its me.  Or it actually is you, your experience isn’t quite what we wanted or we found a better candidate.  Just like that, the new life you had been imagining is gone.

There may be a sigh, or tears, or ice cream, or all of the above depending on how far and the depth of your dreaming.  The rejection stings.  Sometimes it more than stings.

All that’s left is to dust yourself off and pick up the classifieds again.

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2015 Great Barrier Reef

Friday

Great Barrier Reef Day!!!  It started out much the same as the day before.  Except at this point, we had to go to the Great Barrier Reef as we were out of time.  We walked down to the Quicksilver offices and were told it was going to be a rough sailing, but it was a go.  Nilufer decided to spend the day at the beach instead (as she gets motion sickness).

We get on the ship and they greet us with motion sickness pills or ginger pills.  Jessica and I both opted for the ginger as neither of us really get motion sick.  Let me tell you, that was one crazy boat ride!!  I love the water, I enjoy boat rides, but that was 90 minutes of huge waves.  There were several employees standing around with barf bags just in case.  And several people needed the barf bags.  Oh boy.  I almost lost it due to the smell of the cleaning solution.  But finally we docked!  We were at a massive pontoon and there was a buffet lunch.  There were several options – snorkeling, snorkeling with a guide, scuba diving, a semi-submersible, and an underwater viewing area.

Our first stop – snorkeling!

Let's go find Nemo!

Let’s go find Nemo!

There was a platform and fairly large roped off area where you could snorkel.  Oh my gosh, the coral, the fish – it was amazing!!  The colors of the coral and the fish don’t translate as well via pictures, but I’ll share a few of my favorites.  Those fish were fast!

Underwater

Underwater

Fishy!!

Fishy!!

 

Coral

Coral

And more coral

And more coral

Fishy!!

Fishy!!

I could have spent a lot of time out there but finally I came back on the pontoon to enjoy the buffet lunch before taking a ride on the semi-submersible where I saw a sea turtle!!

Mr Turtle!!  (not the greatest picture...)

Mr Turtle!! (not the greatest picture…)

Before we knew it, it was time to get back on the boat and head back to Port Douglas.  This time, we bought the sea sickness pill and the trip was slightly more enjoyable.

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2015 Chicago Rock ‘N’ Roll

We interrupt this travel series recap for a race recap!  Given my uncertain future (where I would be working or living) I haven’t signed up for too many races this year.  Well, too many for me that is.  However, when I found out Nilufer had signed up for Chicago, I decided to sign up as well.  Chicago isn’t that far from St Louis and most likely I’d still be in St Louis.  And then we convinced Jessica to sign up for the 10K – it was going to be an Australia reunion!

Jessica and I arrived Friday morning, but by the time we made it into the city and dropped off our luggage, it was lunchtime!  We found a burger place close to our hotel which hit the spot.

Expo

We then caught a bus over to the expo.  We picked up our bibs (5K, Half for me and 10K for Jessica).  I do have to say there was some confusion with the 10K.  The big course picture showed the race starting with the half, but there was a handout showing the new start line for the 10K.

Heading into the expo, I was excited to see Brooks Run Happy Island.  Several expos ago, I participated in the Run Happy Island activities to get my tote bag.  The tote bag came with me to Australia but was toast by the end of my trip.  I was sad to see the end of the bag but here was my chance to get another one!

First up was the wild bucking shoe!!  I asked for the easiest speed but I think he sped it up because I flew off the shoe fairly quickly.

Hold on!!

Hold on!!

The gait analysis was next (I’m still neutral, neutral).  The third leg was slightly different – instead of racing up Mt Crackatoa you had to try on a pair of Brooks shoes.  Very smart Brooks!  I tried on the new Ghosts and Glycerins and got my new bag!  Now I can finally throw away the old one.

We had a bit more fun at the expo before catching the bus back to the hotel.

Expo fun

Expo fun

We met up with Nilufer for dinner at Lou Malnati’s to try some Chicago style pizza!  It was pretty delicious!

Mmm, pizza!!

Mmm, pizza!!

5K

Due to some slight confusion I ended up being the only one signed up for the 5K.  I headed over to the start line.  Stepping outside I was greeted by heat and humidity.

The Bean!

The Bean!

I lined up with the expectation of just taking it easy.  And we were off!  The 5K took place mainly on the lake front trails.  The last mile was brutal, but with beautiful views.  It was right next to the lake, with no shade and the sun reflecting off the water.

Along the lake front

Along the lake front

My one sort of complaint was there was one water stop.  Normally for a 5K, that would be perfect or even more than expected.  However, with the heat it would have been nice to have another water stop.  But other than that, it was a lot of fun, and I got a medal!

And then this happened!!

2015-07-18 09.11.32

MEB!!

Half Marathon

It was supposed to cooler for the half.  I don’t know if it was necessarily cooler.  Or maybe that was due to the fact I was out there forever!  Prior to the race starting, the announcer even said don’t expect a PR due to the weather.  Oh boy!  I met up with Nilufer and we got ready to run.

Here we go!

Here we go!

I have been toying with the idea of shortening my intervals and decided to try it – 1 min run / 30 sec walk.  Nilufer hadn’t trained as much as she had wanted but was game to try the intervals.  However, if the run interval came while we were on a grated bridge, it would become a walk because I really didn’t want to trip!

Go go go!

Go go go!

I loved running through downtown Chicago – we zigged and zagged.  The one thing that was missing was bands.  There were no bands in the downtown section, but there were a lot of people on stilts.

Chicago!!

Chicago!!

Remember the 1 /:30 intervals?  Well, with the heat, humidity, and lack of training, we decided to switch it to :30 run / 1 min walk.  That seemed to help and we continued on our way.

The miles continued to click on by as did the water stops.  Every time I thought I needed a water stop, it seemed as if one was around the corner.  They weren’t always manned completely and I found myself having to grab my own water/Gatorade or wait for it to be poured.  But all in all the volunteers were fantastic.

My favorite stop was the sponge station!!  It was much needed at that point.

So close!

So close!

We turned onto Lake Shore Drive and downtown came into view.

So close!

So close!

It kept getting closer and closer and soon the finish line was in view!

Almost there!

Almost there!

And done!

Done and done

Done and done

We found Jessica and basked in our finished races!!  Hooray!!

Winnahs!!

Winnahs!!

 

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