Saturday, September 22, 2007

Tassie Day 1: Sydney to Hobart

It's ridiculous that it has taken me this long to update the blog. We've been home for more than a week now. So now I have to backtrack a couple weeks to our Trip to Tasmania. Wish me luck!


We got back from the Blue Mountains, did some laundry, and promptly fell asleep so we could wake up bright and early on Battle of Britain Day to catch our flight to Hobart. We arrived on the allegedly dreary island of Tasmania to find blue skies and crisp, fresh air. Myth 1 busted.

After driving around the western part of the Hobart suburbs in our huge, fancy rental car; eating a tasty lunch in a teeny town cafe; and stopping at a scenic overlook at the first of many expansive but empty white-sand beaches, we made our way into the city to our hotel (the Hobart Tower Hotel).

The desk clerk filled us in on the facts, including that we had just missed the famed Salamanca Market. If Molly had been with us, missing the market would have been a minor tragedy. But as it was, no one was too upset. However, from the photos we later saw on postcards, it looked like quite the weekly market. Puts our little Belmar Market to shame.

We explored the city on foot, had a nice cappuccino, wandered around some more until I realized that I'd left my purse at the nice little coffee shop Yikes!! We quickly backtracked to the shop (which was nearly closed) to find that my purse was still there ... as was all my cash. Whew!

The main goal of our walk was to find a sushi restaurant (or any decent-looking restaurant) to return to for dinner. After walking in circles and exploring the touristy docks area, we realized that Hobart (or at least the part we saw) was not exactly a gourmet town. After a very expensive drink at a corner pub ($17 for three beers), we walked in circles again, finally winding up at an Indonesian takeaway restaurant. Quite tasty and very filling, but not the fresh seafood I was hoping for.

Fortunately, we got lost on our walk back home and were able to work off most of our meal! During our meanderings back to the hotel, we stumbled upon the more happening part of town (oddly enough, not in the "tourist" region and a mere three blocks from our hotel), where we found restaurants and pubs and cafes galore. Apparently the desk clerk led us wrong. Perhaps saving this part of Hobart for the locals?

We were exhausted by the time we got back to our room and promptly fell asleep ... at the early hour of 8 p.m.! Lazy buggers!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Belated Blue Blog

OK ... I don't have a fantastic connection right now, so no photos. Really, they are coming. We only have about 300 to choose from! Anyway, backtracking a bit to last week.

After Mark and Alan finished delivering the Meals on Wheels meals, we loaded up the little Honda Accord with enough food to feed 10 people for at least a week. We had 6 adults and 2 kids for 2 days. The hour or two drive out of Sydney was painless (except for a minor detour in North Sydney), and we arrived at the rental in Leura in time to unload, eat a quick snack, and go for a short hike to see our first true views of the Blue Mountains.

The mountains reminded me a bit of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the States. They really are blue and spread our for miles (or should I say kilometers?). The difference is that we were on a ridge that just dropped off to an expansive eucalyptus forest below. Incredibly beautiful. But also very daunting. The forests looked impenetrable!

We went on two hikes in the mountains. That first day we took a pretty mellow one with the kids to see the view of the mountains and then down to what I think was called Gordon Cascade. The next day we rode the world's steepest train down into the heart of the forest. From there, we walked along an incredibly well-maintained boardwalk through the forest and read all about the different flora (mostly trees plus at least one poisonous vine). We parted ways with Molly and the kids, who rode the cable car up out of the valley. The rest of us trekked through the woods along the base of the cliffs, knowing full well that eventually we were going to have to make our way to the top to get out.

Indeed, after a beautiful, refreshing 2-hour hike, we climbed more than 1,225 steps (yes, I counted each and every one, if only to keep my mind off the interminable climb up up up).

That night we recovered over a delicious Rosh Hashanah dinner with WAY too much food (although we truly missed Anne's challah!). We then relaxed with a New Year soak in the hot tub, which was located right on the edge of the cliff overlooking the valley. Beautiful!

The next day was a little dreary, so we drove around, checked out a few more lookouts, and then played in the park with the kids while we dined on leftovers once the sun came out.

It was a brief trip in a beautiful spot and I would love to go back for more exploring, hiking, and maybe even some shopping in the cute little towns.

Check in again soon for photos and updates on our next adventure--Tasmania!
Have a g'day!
-Tara and Mark

Where in the World are the Joffes?

Just a quick note to let you know that we are alive and well. So much to catch up on, but so little time. Warning you that long posts are on their way, so load up your drinks and snacks and get ready to settle in for a long read or two. But no worries ... it won't be coming for at least 20 hours!

We are in Launceston, Tasmania, today and are heading back to Sydney this afternoon after doing the Cascade Gorge walk and driving around the bay. Another blue-sky day in the allegedly gloomy and rainy Tasmania.

We miss you all!
-Tara and Mark

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Off to Leura

We will be out of touch for a couple days. Once Mark and Alan return from delivering the Meals on Wheels, we are loading up the car and heading off to the town of Leura in the Blue Mountains. I don't know a thing about the Blue Mountains, but from what little I've seen online, it's going to be beautiful. Chilly .... but beautiful!

Ever since we arrived, Molly has been telling us that Tuesday we would be taking Ariel and Lily to see some sort of flower thing based on a book and then she mentioned the name David Jones. I just assumed David Jones (OK, all you Aussies, laugh it up!) was the author and that it was going to be some kind of floral display at the botanical gardens or something. So we gathered up Lily and Ariel from their respective schools, dropped off Alan's tennis gear at the club, and then trekked to the train station. The kids were great and loved the train and the escalators.

Once in downtown Sydney (my first day in the city proper since we got here), we walked a couple blocks toward a park, which is where I assumed we were going.

I was wrong. Apparently David Jones is like the Nordstrom's or Nieman Marcus of Sydney. Or perhaps comparing it to New York City's Macy's would be more appropriate in this case. Like Macy's, David Jones has beautiful window displays. Their spring theme was tons of fresh flowers adorning scenes out of a book called Animalia by Graeme Base. Each window, like each page in the book, was based on a different letter (P for penguin, L for ladybug). It really was beautiful, but not at all what I was expecting!

I had actually been to David Jones nearly 8 years ago when we were here for Christmas/the Millennium. I remember walking and hearing all the Christmas carols and getting all misty-eyed and nostalgic for home. Now this time, as we were taking pictures of Ariel and Lily in front of a giraffe, a man sat down at the piano and played Grandpa's version of "Tara's Theme" (which is actually "Lara's Theme" from Dr. Zhivago; not "Tara's Theme" from Gone with the Wind). So there I was, standing in David Jones, getting all misty eyed again.

After we made it all the way around the store, attempting to spot the little dragon in each display, Sharon showed up--just in time to take Lily to the little girls' room! We then went off in search of hot chocolate for the kids and a coffee for each of us. Turns out that this was no mean feat. The first place (our original goal) was the Lindt chocolate store. Unfortunately they were closed for a special occasion. So we lugged the kids across the street to another coffee lounge, but this one wouldn't let us sit inside because they were mopping the floor, and it was too cold to sit outside (not to mention the fact that (1) there were no tables and (2) all the tables were filled with businesspeople in suits and ties looking none too thrilled when we all showed up). So then we trekked back down the street to another very posh-looking coffee shop. Apparently they were closing up, but the guy was super nice and let us sip our coffee while he cleaned up. Even gave us a croissant for free! (I guess they were just going to throw them out anyway, but still very nice.)

So, now here I am. Finishing up some work and getting ready to go celebrate Rosh Hashanah in the Blue Mountains.

Enjoy the rest of your week!
Mark and Tara

Monday, September 10, 2007

Time Warp

I just realized that the dates that appear on our little blog site are set to U.S. time. Heh. I'm definitely living in some weird time dimension. My computer is still on Colorado time, otherwise I would have no clue what time it is in the States. Then I can add or subtract hours to determine who is doing what on the East and West coasts.

We did go for a walk today (now yesterday), but not to get fish and chips. Plans are always in flux. Instead, after I finished up some work, Alan and I did our best, but failed, to do the Sunday crossword puzzle (on Monday), and then he and I and Mark went for a walk around the neighborhood. (Note that the neighborhood is situated on the South Head entrance to Sydney Harbour, with Watson's Bay on one side and the ocean on the other, so it's a very nice neighborhood walk.)

Everything is starting to bloom (although I think things are always in bloom here). Brilliant red bougainvillea, delicate white myrtle, birds of paradise, all sorts of fruit trees, and myriad other plants I could never begin to name. (I don't even know the names of the plants in our little garden at home.) I don't know if it's jasmine or what, but there is something out there that smells deliciously sweet, as well as the stronger smell of eucalyptus. (The photo is of Molly and Alan's garden.)

The other day on our walk a huge bird swooped in front of us and landed on a branch. We were within 5 feet of it, right at eye level. It was some kind of cross between an owl and a hawk. OK, so maybe it was one or the other, but we could not figure out which. Beautiful bird. Then today we saw larakeets (like parrots but smaller) all flitting around the branches of this huge tree that didn't have any leaves but that had brilliant red spiky flowers. And than on another branch was a kookaburra just sitting there looking very cute and fluffy. So much wildlife and greenery! All the bird calls sound like something out of a jungle scene in a movie. (The Kookaburra link above has a sound clip of kookaburra calls, and that's just one of the birds we hear here!)

Well, now it's Tuesday. I never did post this last night because (1) I wanted to add links and such and (2) we left for dinner at Rose Bay Hotel, home of Monday Night $10 t-bone steak dinner (which actually doesn't sound like that good of a deal to me, but maybe that's cuz I live too close to Nevada, the land of $4 all-you-can-eat steak dinners). Then this morning we met some of Molly and Alan's family friends for breakfast. I had a delicious stack of French toast with grilled bananas. Yummy! So much food!!

Now Mark and Molly are off grocery shopping to stock up on food for our trip to the Blue Mountains, Alan is off on a meeting, and I'm just sitting on the couch, working and watching the clouds roll in over the HarbOUr. Rough life.

Speaking of work, I should get back to it. The Media Manager is calling my name!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Let's Go Fly a Kite

Let's see, where did we leave off? We did eventually motivate for a walk Saturday night, in time for a beautiful sunset over Watson's Bay and then a pretty cold rainstorm before we made it home. We had enough time to dry off and get into warm clothes before heading out with Sharon and Ben (Mark's sister and brother-in-law) and Greg (Mark's brother; Karen, Greg's wife, was not able to get a babysitter in time) for dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Bondi Beach. (Yeah, Mexican in Australia. Who knew!) The food at Mojito's was actually not bad, although you pay $8 for chips and dip and you get a decent-sized bowl of chips with teeny-weeny little bowls of dip. Dining out is not cheap here! After a couple pitchers of sangria, we walked off our meal along the "boardwalk" at Bondi. I was practically a zombie by the end of the evening (more jet lag?), and promptly fell asleep once we got home.
Watson's Bay

Good thing too, as I had to get my beauty rest before Sunday morning's festivities: family photo time! For once, Mark and I were the best behaved of the bunch, sitting and posing without any squirming, fidgeting, or whining. In the end, all our little nieces and nephews shaped up, and I think the photographer was able to get some nice shots.

A little later in the day, Ben and Sharon called, inviting us to see the Kite Festival at Bondi Beach. When we first arrived, there was barely any wind. But the kids were entertained with face painting and whirly-cup rides. As we stood in line waiting to get Ariel and Lily on the bungy-jumping trampoline ride, the wind picked up and suddenly the sky was filled with kites of every shape and size. It was kind of freaky to turn around and see hundreds of kites just hovering overhead, like a swarm of oversized, multicolored insects.

With the wind came cooler weather, so we warmed up with a cup of coffee as we watched Ariel and Lily (who had patiently stood in line for nearly half an hour) jump on the bungy jumping thing. (Truth be told, it was Ben and Ariel who stood in line, while Lily ran around getting her face painted, etc., with Molly and Sharon.)

After another ride on the whirly-cup ride, Ben and Sharon headed off to visit friends, and we ventured to Surry Hills for sushi (finally!). But, alas, most restaurants here in Sydney are closed in the afternoon and the sushi place wasn't even open on Sundays. Boo hoo. So, instead, we walked most of the neighborhood, which is on the verge of switching from a fairly dodgy section of Sydney suburbs to the hip new place to be, and wound up eating doner kebab sandwiches (lamb) at a little take-away Turkish restaurant. Quite tasty.

This morning we woke up at 6 a.m. to catch the ESPN production of the 2007 World Rafting Championships from Korea. We hadn't seen even a second of footage from the race. It was actually a decent production, with a couple good interviews with Mark! Now Alan is off playing tennis (oddly enough, after waking up at 2 a.m. each morning to watch most of the U.S. open, he and his mates did not reschedule their weekly tennis game in order to watch the finals), and Molly is about to go to the gym.

Mark and I don't have any plans for the day, although there is not a hint of a rain in the sky, so we might walk toward Sydney along the harbOUr and see if we can find a good spot for fish and chips. Yum!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Lazy Saturday

Well, we didn't make it all day without sleeping. Mark napped for an hour and then I slept for two. Probably a good thing, as I really don't think we would have made it through dinner! The entire Joffe family dined together last night for the first time in six years. Quite the occasion! There was more tickling, with everyone ganging up on Mark and almost getting the upper hand. And then Greg began teaching the next generation of Joffes and Bergers the family card game...Scrooge.

I was asleep almost before everyone left and didn't even fidget again until 5 this morning. Mark and his dad were already awake, watching the U.S. Open and then the rugby World Cup match between Argentina and France (Argentina won ... a huge upset). I did about four hours of work and then stumbled upstairs for breakfast.

Some family friends were coming for tea, so Alan and Mark and I went off to a wonderful bakery to get some treats and stopped at the butcher shop for biltong (a delicious South African "jerkey" ... yum!).

We had a nice visit with the Bergers (as opposed to the Bergers ... who also showed up). Confused yet? One is pronounced Burger and the other Berdger. Go figure. Now we are resting up before meeting the "Berdgers" and Greg for dinner. (OK ... the "Burgers" are family friends from South Africa and the "Berdgers" are Sharon and Ben).

It's a gorgeous day. Big puffy clouds in the sky and tons of boats on the harbor (Mark is sitting here correcting my spelling (hmph) ... apparently now that I'm in Sydney, I have to change my spelling. HarbOUr. Whatever!) Of course, we're just lounging around and being incredibly lazy. Maybe we'll motivate for a walk, but I doubt it. I'm blaming it all on jet lag.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone! Aren't you glad I'm not sending these missives as long emails!?!


Thursday, September 6, 2007

Sleepless in Sydney

We made it safe and sound to Sydney, helicopter escorts and all. Apparently we landed at about the same time as Mr. V. Putin and possibly the leader of someplace like Singapore. Nothing like landing in the midst of the APEC conference. But the airport was very empty, as were the streets. Most likely because they declared today a "national" state holiday for New South Wales and they encouraged everyone to get public transit from the airport rather than having friends and relatives meet them. Lucky for us, Molly and Alan ignored the warnings and were waiting for us in the main terminal.

The flight was ... very long and very cramped. I am indeed spoiled after my time in first class to Korea. Mark made me just close my eyes as we walked through the business section when we boarded and de-boarded. I won't say anymore about that because it will just make me grumpy and sad again.

We stopped by Greg's house this morning for a quick hello (Greg is Mark's brother) and then headed over to Sharon's for breakfast (Mark's sister). I sipped my tea and ate my eggs and bagels as Mark had tickle-fests and played hide and seek with Ariel and Lily (our niece and nephew). At about 9 we headed to Mark's parents' house, where a nice hot shower awaited us. Aaaahhhh!!

Greg, Karen, and their kids (Ilan and Lara) showed up a little later for a nice visit. I did my best to keep my eyes open. Our goal is to stay awake all day and then sleep through the night. Only about 8 more hours to go!! Yeesh. I don't think I'll be much good at conversation tonight. I just hope I don't fall asleep in my challah!

Once we take some pictures, I'll make this blog a little more interesting.

Love to you all,