Posted in Travel sparks

Newcastle, you beauty

This week, I am up in beautiful Newcastle (on the coast, about two hours north of Sydney) doing some work. And although my focus is on work, I wasn’t going to miss the chance to go for a walk this morning – and I happened to catch an amazing sunrise on my way out, then a kinda creepy thick fog rolled in and shrouded my walk back to the hotel. Throw in a gorgeous beach, break wall, busy shipping port, fisherman and lots of hungry pelicans and it was a pretty awesome walk all round. Here are some pics…

Oh, I almost forgot. My day really started at 3.30am, with a crazy loud alarm, followed by two bright fire trucks and evacuated people in their PJs (from the apartment block across the street from the hotel - all ended up ok.)
Oh, I almost forgot. My day really started at 3.30am, with a crazy loud alarm, followed by two bright fire trucks and evacuated people in their PJs (from the apartment block across the street from the hotel – all ended up ok.)
Nice start to the day for walkers and runners.
Nice start to the day for walkers and runners.
So pretty.
Nice view, seagull.
Nice view, fisherman.
Nice view, fisherman.
Nice view, giant ship.
Nice view, giant ship.
Awwwww.
Awwwww.
And the fog starts rolling in...
And the fog starts rolling in…
Hello? Anyone out there?
Creepy…
The break wall near Nobby's Beach.
The break wall near Nobby’s Beach.
Road to nowhere. (Not really, it leads back to the carpark, but felt very spooky this morning.)
Road to nowhere. (Not really, it leads back to the carpark, but felt very spooky this morning.)
Posted in Sydney sparks

View from the Bridge

Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day in Sydney and I was meeting my great friend ELW and one of her (very lovely) sons in Darlinghurst, one of Sydney’s inner city suburbs where the cool crowd crosses paths with the homeless crowd & ladies-of-the-night crowd. We were having breakfast so, in true Camino training style, I thought I would walk from my home on the north side to make the most of the beautiful day. And get in an 8.5km walk before breakfast.

Here are some pics from my walk across the Harbour Bridge. The view is pretty spectacular and I committed to walking that way more often to check out our pretty city. If you’ve not done it before (or not for a while), I really recommend that you do.

Our House
Our House
Our House, as seen through the Harbour Bridge fencing
Our House, as seen through the Harbour Bridge fencing
Looking up
Looking up
It looks like a cage, but I promise it doesn't really feel like it
It looks like a cage, but I promise it doesn’t really feel like it
Looking out to the Heads
Looking out to the Heads
And there's (part of) the city
And there’s (part of) the city

It reminds me of the Dr Seuss book…DID I EVER TELL YOU HOW LUCKY YOU ARE?

Posted in Travel sparks

I love Melbourne

This isn’t a Valentine’s Day post, but I want to declare my love for the city of Melbourne. It’s so easy to navigate and full of interesting people and it’s just so COOL. (Even when it’s just so HOT, like yesterday – which stayed in the high 30s through to the night time and made walking around town a bit of a challenge.) In Sydney, a lane way between buildings in the CBD is generally just a lane way, for rubbish or truck deliveries or drunk men to wee in. In Melbourne, a lane way between buildings in the CBD could be a funky bar, a series of restaurants, a gallery for street art, a shopping haven or a market. For the record, it can also be for rubbish or drunk men to wee in – I want to add that to be fair to my Sydney. But for the most part, this city just seems to get it right. Here are some pics from my wanderings.

A shopping centre display of giant beach balls called Amazeballs. Yes, really.
A shopping centre display of giant beach balls called Amazeballs. Yes, really.
Like the ancient ruins in Rome, you'll just be walking along and oh, HELLO AMAZING STREET ART.
Like the ancient ruins in Rome, you’ll just be walking along and oh, HELLO AMAZING STREET ART.
Down the lane way - a gallery of street art.
Down the lane way – a gallery of street art. And a whole lot of dodgy graffiti too.
A funky bar tucked into a tiny lane way.
A funky bar tucked into a tiny lane way.
Lane way restaurants and cafes.
Lane way restaurants and cafes.
The Blender Lane Artists' Market, where I met an amazing lady selling incredible photos mounted on reclaimed wood to raise money for orphanages and schools they're building in Africa. This lady volunteers a lot of her time in addition to her day job as a domestic violence social worker. Just amazing.
The Blender Lane Artists’ Market, where I met an amazing lady selling incredible photos mounted on reclaimed wood to raise money for orphanages and schools they’re building in Africa. This lady volunteers a lot of her time in addition to her day job as a domestic violence social worker. Just awesome. Other than that, I was the only non-tattooed dork in that crowded Lane, I tell you. 
And sometimes, a lane way is just a normal trashy lane way. Even in Melbourne.
And sometimes, a lane way is just a normal trashy lane way. Even in Melbourne.
This franchised fast food operation has to have one of the best names on the planet.
This Melbourne institution, a franchised fast food operation (errr derrr) has to have one of the best names on the planet. 
The beginning of the Queen Victoria Markets night time session with market stalls, heaps of bands, lots of food and drinks, and a bzillion people enjoying the summer sun.
The beginning of the Queen Victoria Markets night time session with market stalls, heaps of bands, lots of food and drinks, and a bzillion people enjoying the summer sun. Such a great atmosphere, though the market stalls weren’t that interesting.
And on a really hot night after a really hot day, nothing beats an old school handmade lemonade slushie. In a bio cup, because that's so Melbourne. Love it.
And on a really hot night after a really hot day, nothing beats an old school handmade fresh lemonade slushie. In a bio cup, because that’s so Melbourne. Love it.
Posted in Travel sparks

The veritas about Harvard

I am a bit of a dork, so I was very excited to visit Harvard when I was staying in Boston. On another beautiful day in that great city, I walked across the Charles Bridge and over into Cambridge, arriving first in MIT territory. I stopped for breakfast and there were two chaps at the next table discussing something suitably smart – they were speaking English, but I still couldn’t really understand what they were talking about – one guy had written an algorithm or something something and the other guy was talking about trade secrets law across the USA something something. Being a gold star eavesdropper, I felt more clever just for listening in on their conversation.

One of the first-year student dorms. I think I would work harder just by living and studying in this beautiful environment.

 

It sounds hard to believe, but you can just feel the smarts in the air in Cambridge – lots of bright young things from around the world and all over the country fulfilling their dreams of studying with the best at MIT and Harvard. It’s a fantastic place to visit – am sure it would be great to study here, but perhaps that’s another story for another day.

I went on a walking tour led by a current undergrad student and he was full of interesting facts about the place. I was intrigued by the payment system they have: the cost they quote is around $54,000 per year (including tuition, books, accommodation, food etc). That sounds pretty horrific, but the guide assured us that relatively few people ever pay that much to attend Harvard – if your family’s combined income is less than $75k, you can attend FOR FREE. And if your family’s combined income is less than $180k, you’ll pay no more than 10% of that (ie, $18,000 PER YEAR). He didn’t go beyond that, but presumably they’re the people that pay a little closer to the quoted figure. What a great system, I reckon – if you’re smart enough to be accepted to Harvard, then your family’s financial status shouldn’t be a barrier to entry. Right on.

The guide showed us the gigantic and very impressive library – from the outside only, as you need a Harvard ID to actually enter the library. Apparently, they have an incredible collection of books stored in their underground stacks and there were certainly a lot of students heading to and from the building. I think the beauty of the buildings and surrounds must really help with study programs – especially when you’re studying alongside some of the brightest minds in the world. I can’t remember spending too much time in the library or hanging out in the grounds of Sydney Uni, but I’m not sure whether that says more about the Uni or more about me…

Had to snap this student leaving the library with a big bag of books. He looked like he might just be the next Bill Gates.
Apparently, it’s good luck to rub the foot of this statue of John Harvard (the 3rd most photographed statue in the USA). This tiger mother was pushing her two daughters to do so, even though the little one had to keep jumping and stretching to try and reach it. Awkward. Especially since there is a rumour that students often try to wee on that part of the statue as a college prank.

And, last but not least, is it just me…or was DONALD SUTHERLAND on my tour of Harvard?

Dear Harvard, in one form or another, I really do hope I’ll be back. (If only I could have ended with a Donald Sutherland line rather than an Arnie line, but I’m not really that familiar with his work – I really should have asked him while I had the chance.)

 

Posted in Travel sparks

Hello, my name is…

Here are some pics from our morning walk in Dun Laoghaire, back in Dublin. (You pronounce it Dun Leary, in case you’re ever in town and want to sound like a local.) Really though, no one could really blame the non-Irish for mis-pronouncing Irish words and names – things here are rarely as they seem, so I generally ask before I try to pronounce. For example, test yourself on these Irish girls’ names: Caoimhe, Cliona, Ailbhe (yes, that’s right: Quee-va, Clee-na, Al-va); and then there are these Irish boys’ names: Daithi and Feidhlim (yep, Dah-hee and Fail-im).  There’s also a boy’s name that sort of sounds like you’re clearing your throat – Cathal (sort of Co-hol). Sometimes I used to think that my Irish friends were making the names up just so they could giggle as I tried my best to sound authentic.

An overcast day at Dun Laoghaire.
Dun Laoghaire walk.
Sure, just more ancient ruins on an emerald island.

And although he isn’t part of the natural beauty around Dun Laoghaire, I couldn’t resist this pic of Crocs Man, in the window of one of the shops there. Unfortunately, he’s not for sale. Although he probably wouldn’t fit in my suitcase anyway, so I think it’s for the best.

Hello, Crocs Man.