Friday, August 8, 2008
Cold, Wet and fun Blue Mountains!
Blue Mountain Tour with Sydney Wilderness Tours
The day started off great except Warren's cold started and I thought I might get one too. We started out at 7 am and came downstairs to see a small turqoise tour bus. Tish our wonderful tour guide was right on time for our pickup in from of the apartment and greeted us and set the pace of the day.
We had one more pickup but the person was a no show…so it was the Canucks - Team Canada and the Brits - Team Yorkshire - 6 of us including Tish for the day! We were off for a grand old day.
We had to drive over the Sydney harbor bridge and enjoyed the great view as we circled below first and then up on the bridge (left hand side).
Through some tunnels and onto the Featherdale Park - an Australian Animal park. We were concerned about the weather but were pleasantly surprised by how great the weather and the visit to Featherdale was. There were few people there as we arrived before the park opened and were excited to practically have the place to ourselves. We even got to see the Joey poking out from his mother’s pouch! We all got to pet a koala and Warren got to see a Tasmanian Devil!
Next stop a Freezing cold windy walk to see the "Three Sisters" - as seen below. We lasted long enough to take a picture then ran back to the warmth. Tish then helped us decide what rides at Scenic World we wanted to do. We were concerned it would be too cold to do them, but Tish assured us that they would be ok. She was right!
First we took a cable car along the canyon, then the cable car ride as it was so windy they should have called it the sway ride but it was fun never the less. Trish met us on the other side and took us to the steepest incline ride in the world! - It had a dropcable car ride where the drop is at a 55 degree angle….doesn’t sound like much but you start off lying down and end up standing up.
We took a quick tour of the mining area at the bottom of the ride and the queued up for the cable car ride backup. A quick wander through the gift shop and we were off to lunch. We were really ready for lunch! We were starving!
Lunch was at the Wentworth Country Club where we feasted on fish and chips, Chicken wings, salad, pasta, wine soda, and apple crisp for desert. The restaurant had a great view overlooking their golf course but by this time it had started to rain heavily and we didn’t go back outside! We decided to wander around the shops in the town of Leure and then drive back to the Sydney Olympic Park. Warren had a long nap was interrupted buy a stop at a UGG boot outlet - Melanie and Montana bought comfy slippers and back on the road - I started to feel a cold really come on!
The tour ended off with a trip around the Sydney Olympic park where we got to look at pillars of the 45,000 volunteers that made the games such a success. We even found a "Melanie Bishop" on one of the poles.
Tish was a great tour guide and kept us informed throughout the tour. I would definitely recommend Sydney Wilderness Tours to anyone wanting to see the Blue Mountains - We loved them as Tish made it work even though the weather was poor we had a great day!
Tomorrow - onto Melbourne!
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Entering the Matrix - Day 2 Sydney
So where was I – Oh yeah – Second day in Sydney
Matrix Tour – at 10 am we met up with Janice from Sydney Movie Tours. http://www.sydneymovietours.com.au/
We contacted Janice before we arrived in Sydney and asked her to do a specialized tour of the Matrix as it was filmed in Sydney and Warren is the biggest Matrix Fan! So it was perfect! Wow what a tour! Janice was great! She brought a DVD player and showed us the scenes first then showed us the spots. We walked for what seemed like miles and got to see some amazing spots! We even got to “act out” the scene in front of the waterfall with the “Girl in the Red Dress” on Martin Place.
Fountain where the "girl in the red dress walks by"
This is the building that Neo tried to jump out of in the beginning but failed to and got arrested in the beginning of the movie.
Mr Quack is pretending to the the black cat in the "deja vu" scene - where Neo sees the Black Cat twice and Trinity says "Oh no they changed something in the Matrix!"
We ended up at the Sydney hospital and rubbed the Boar's nose for good luck!
After the tour we ended up at the Rocks area, and had lunch at a hotel. This was one of the first places we felt a bit of misplaced prejudice. – food was good – service was rough. But Montana got to try her first Aussie Meat Pie – mmmmm yum!
Here is a Video I put together of our Matrix tour:
Next we took at taxi back to Paddy Market (the proper market was on today – like a flea market of sorts). Montana was in heaven! She bought a sweatshirt and a scarf! We looked for UGG boots and enjoyed the time. Warren got a little bored so he decided to go to the casino that was nearby. Montana and I got some girl time and ice cream and sat down by the harbor at Darling Harbor. It was fun. We then walked up to Pitt Street Pedestrian Mall for some shopping. We met Warren back at the Apartment and Warren had great news! He won some money at the casino and we all decided that we wanted a nice dinner out. We both saw the same place for dinner and suggested it at the same time! It was a great seafood restaurant in Darling Harbor called Jordans. http://www.jordonsrestaurant.com.au/home.html (We have since learned that Jordan's has closed their doors - we are sad to hear that!) We walked over and had a discussion on whether or not the pedestrian bridge over the harbour moved for boats. Well I didn’t think it did as the monorail went over it – Warren thought it did. Well as he decided maybe I was right, the horn blew as we were walking over it and everyone made a mad dash! We couldn’t believe it. Apparently it does move but not often – only once a day max and we were talking to a guy who lived in an apartment overlooking the bridge and he said he has never seen it move! It was freaky and really cool to watch! We had a great dinner, Montana had steak and Warren and I had fish. My first taste of Barramundi since I arrived back in Australia! YUM!
We sat outside and wished that Toronto had a harbour like this to enjoy!
Back to our cold apartment to sleep!
Tomorrow our day tour to the Blue Mountains!
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Travelling Down Under
It is 6:47 am in Toronto on Sunday Morning and 8:47 pm on Sunday evening in Melbourne Australia (where we are right now). This is the furthest south Warren or Montana have ever been!
Arriving in Sydney
Our Jetstar flight was pretty great. We were in their "Star Class" and sat in the first row so we had lots of room. The flight was about 10 1/2 hours and we left at 9:30 am on Monday and arrived at 4 pm on Tuesday afternoon. That always freaks me out.
We could feel the cold as soon as the jetway was opened. It sure was winter. Now by no means is it like winter in Canada, but when you just came from Hawaii it is cold! We got our luggage and we looked for the taxi stand - it turned out to be a taxi rank - not stand and it cost about $50.
We stayed in a 2 bedroom serviced apartment - Meriton Pitt Street Serviced Apartments - it was perfect for what we needed, except for one major thing. The thermostat. Apparently the council or whoever approved the building permits for this building, stated that the thermostat had to shut itself off every 3 hours. No matter what. Now in the summer this may not be such a big deal, but we soon learned how bad the winds and cold could be - we were ALWAYS cold in the apartment. Warren was up several times in the night turning it back on again.
As for jet lag - we did ok - I was usually first to bed by 8-9 pm and then Warren and Montana would follow. We would be up anywhere between 4 am and 7 am - which did great for communicating with people back home as this was the end of their work day. It also gave us more of a day.
That first night we were tired and hungry, so it was off to a local pizza and italian joint. Then back to unpack and crash.
The first morning we were up early, so we set off for the Opera House and Harbour Bridge at about 7:30 am. It was cold, but it was also quiet! We got to enjoy it almost to ourselves. There were only a few tourists, and lots of picture opp's.
The day started to warm up and we then we jumped on the double decker hop on hop off bus. We used the bus to see alot of the city. It was amazing, Every time we went to get on it the bus was there for us. We never had to wait.
We took the bus around to Darling Harbor and decided to get off there. We loved Darling Harbor - this is where the Chinese Gardens, the Sydney Convention Center (where the Sydney International Boat Show was on), the Sydney Aquarium and lots of shops and restaurants.
Warren wanted to see the Chinese Gardens, so this was our first stop. We had so much fun here! We came across a little shop in the gardens that rented costumes so you could take pictures in the gardens as Chinese Emperors or princesses. So Warren and Montana got dressed up and we took a ton of pictures! It was so much fun. Before you knew Montana and I were fighting Matrix
style kung fu in the middle of the gardens!
We then went to find Paddy's Markets. It turned out the markets were not on that day - however the mall was open. So off for another adventure. The food court was all Asian Food - so Montana introduced me to Pho - an Asian soup - it was yummy. Montana and I decided that each day on our trip we were to have an adventure! - This was one of them for me!
Next we decided to get back on the bus and continue on the tour. We jumped off at Kings Cross and found a little British Lolly Shop - mmmmm Choclate Eclair candies~
20 minutes later back on the bus to the Australian Museum stop and a short walk across High Park to the shopping area. Checked out the Coach store - some prices were TWICE as much as home! It was surreal! Overall we are finding prices higher than home, keeping in mind that the VAT is in the price already - things are still quite more expensive.
That night we were tired so we found a burger joint and went back to the apartment and ate dinner and caught up on Big Brother - Warren my genius husband worked out an Internet solution so we could watch our TIVO from anywhere in the world!
Off to bed at about 9 pm!
Next Day - Matrix tour!
Stay tuned and please post your comments! We love to hear them!
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Sun, Shopping, Surfing and Sand!
We awoke to that beautiful sunrise over Diamond Head. It was awesome sharing it with Montana! Unfortunately it was too dark to take great pictures.
But here is Waddles and Mr. Quack on our balcony over looking the beach and Diamond Head.
Another Tip – If you aren’t big breakfast eaters or are looking to save some money, make sure your room has a fridge – if not use your ice bucket. We aren’t big breakfast eaters and knew we would be waking up early, so we bought cereal and milk from the dozens of “ABC stores” in the Waikiki area. (It really is incredible how many there are – more than Starbucks!) We had our breakfast had some Internet time (uploading pictures to Facebook etc.) and decided to go for a walk.
All the stores were closed (It was 7:45 am by this time) so we hit Starbucks and sat out on their patio watching the people go by.
We then went for a walk along Kalakaua Ave (the main strip along Waikiki Beach). Most of the stores were closed, but
We found the story teller Hawaiian God Stature and had to take pictures with her.
Shopping and Turtles!
We started to walk back and did some shopping. We made it made it back by 10:30 am and were starving. We found a Coco Cove store that had the salads like we like in New York – the one where you choose the lettuce and then the ingredients and they toss it for you – they also had Panini’s. So we decided to take some food back to our room and enjoy our balcony and view. It was perfect! We even got a picture of the turtle! By the end of the weekend we saw 4 at one time!
We then took a taxi to the Ala Moana Center. It is the largest outdoor mall in the world and the largest mall in Hawaii. Montana wanted to use her gift card she got for her birthday (THANX MOM) so we headed straight there. She did quite well and was really excited!
We went into the humongous food court with foods from every part of the world and were all amazed at the size of it and the variety! What was funny was that we all decided that a hot dog was all we wanted. So a Nathan’s Hot dog it was! Montana also had a bubble tea – well at least one of us enjoyed the ethnicity of it all!
We also found a lulu lemon athetica store! It was awesome to see a piece of home (lulu lemon is a Canadian company).
It was time to return for our afternoon swim and I promised Montana that we would go and find out about surfing lessons. So back to the hotel and onto the beach.We found a great guy to give Montana a lesson in the morning – Corbin – he asked us to be there by 7 am for a lesson in the morning. We knew we would be up!
We went for our swim and then got ready and went for sushi – our favorite place in Waikiki – the Restaurant Suntory in the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Area. We sat at the sushi bar and were excited to see it was the same Sushi chef as last year. It was a great dinner.
Montana then wanted to “pick a pearl” so we wandered through the International Market Place and she picked a stall to pick a pearl. She was really excited, and chose a larger than average pearl. She chose a silver ring setting, and was really happy with how it turned out.
We were in bed by 10 pm – afterall it was 4 am at home!
First Surfing Lesson!
We woke early again and Montana was excited to go surfing. I was a little nervous about it but I felt good about the instructor that we chose the day before. There was a large long board surfing competition going on. So there were a lot of surfers out there.
We paid for a group lesson but there wasn’t any other participants so Montana ended up with a private lesson. They did a quick 5 minute on land lesson, then an hour in the water.
The lesson included the use of a surfboard and surf shirt to wear.
Out they went and before you knew it Montana was up on her first wave! I was amazed at how easy it came to her. Corbin would set her up and then off she went!
Needless to say she had a blast!
As the hour went on I could see how tired she was getting. When she finished the lesson she said her arms were killing her! I can see why – It looked like a lot of work!
We decided to spend our Sunday as a “lazy day” so we got showered and went for an early lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. We had a great table overlooking the street and we could watch the people go by. As usual the portions were huge so we took the leftovers back to the room for dinner.
We wandered around the shops again and then went back to the room to watch “The Matrix”. This is Warren’s absolute favorite movie and it was shot in Sydney Australia (where we are heading to while I write this!).
We have arranged to do a movie tour that is mostly a tour of the locations that the Matrix was filmed in on Thursday. Montana had not seen it yet, so it was a perfect idea to have a lazy afternoon watching the movie. I think she liked it – I was glad to be refreshed as I hadn’t seen it in a few years. Warren has seen it a dozen times!
We sat out on the balcony and watched the masses of beachcombers, surfers and swimmers. It was the day before school started so it was really busy on the beach! This time we saw 4 turtles in the same spot. In fact there was a man swimming quite close to one but couldn’t see it, the turtle came up for air and scared the man half to death! It was hilarious to watch him swim away fast and furiously. I am not sure if he knew what it was! I think he scared the turtle just as much as he was scared!
We then went for our afternoon swim and looked for the turtles to no avail. I guess it is easier to see them from 18 floors up!
Dinner consisted of leftovers, and another salad from the salad place – it was yummy and not too much! We were all tired, but had to pack up as we had an early morning flight to catch – this one on JetStar – the Qantas charter airline. They have a star class service and section which is a little more money but worth it! We each got an individual movie player with a pretty good selection of movies. And meal service. In the regular section of the cabin you can rent a unit and pay for meal service before you get on the plane. I think it is a great way to do it.
Ok so we have 4 hours to go on a 10 hour flight – hmmm now what? PSP? Another movie? Gossip Girl (I promised Montana I would catch up so we could talk about it!)
Well Waddles and Mr. Quack are excited to be on their way to Australia and we are about to fulfill on a life long dream for Warren!
I am not sure if every blog entry will be this detailed as it took over 2 hours to do. But we will do our best!
Leis, Limos, and Waikiki Beach
Wow, where to begin, Right now we are again hurdling back in time – oh wait no - now we are going forward in time – in fact we just went over the equator and are about to pass the international date line. – So it is 8:00 pm in Toronto on July 28th – HAPPY BIRTHDAY APRIL!!! And it is 2:00 pm in Hawaii (where we just came from) and we are on our way to Sydney Australia. Where it is 10:00 am on Tuesday July 29th ! HAPPY BIRTHDAY DANNY! - It’s hard to wrap your head around sometimes.
Leis and Limos
So where did I leave off on the last blog entry. I am not sure if I shared with you the rest of our flight and our limo ride from the airport to the Westin Moana Surfrider in Waikiki. I had arranged for a limo to pick us up as last year when Warren and I arrived in Honolulu, we had a heck of a time renting our car and then maneuvering our way to Waikiki. The traffic at 3:00pm is unreal – apparently Honolulu has traffic all the time, typical city that grew before it’s infrastructure did.
So to make it easy I found a company that was recommended by a contributor on TripAdvisor that offered an airport transfer with lei service.We used ABC Limousine Service. So yes we got leied at the airport! (clean those minds up!) We didn’t tell Montana – we thought it would be a great surprise to see a limo driver holding onto a card with her name on it and welcoming her with a lei in the traditional Hawaiian way. She was excited in a 13 year old way. She said “SICK!” We are getting that people react different ways to new experiences at different ages. LOL!!!
The driver took our bags and while we waited for the driver to get the car (Yes we felt important) another limo (that I thought was ours came up)
I panicked as I thought – ok I guess that I should have done more research on this limo company! – But when I went to talk to the driver it wasn’t our driver! Thank goodness – So my recommendation is to use Martin Kims ABC Limousine - This was the car we actually had!
We had a wonderfully relaxing transfer into Waikiki with Montana bartending
Ok maybe she was drinking as well!
Arriving at the Westin Moana Surfrider
We arrived at the Westin Moana Surfrider and were greeted by 2 lovely Hawaiian ladies that gave us a cold cloth, some lemongrass iced tea and another lei. The hotel itself is beautiful! It is one of the original and had lots of class and history. Everytime you walked in the lobby you could imagine ladies in full dresses from the turn of the century walking with parasols.
We got a glimpse of the ocean and Waikiki Beach as we walked to the front desk. It was exciting to see that beautiful blue and turquoise ocean again.
Waikiki was busy. Really busy. This is why we only stay in Waikiki for a few days. The beach was busy as were the stores.
We booked with our points for the room we were to stay in and decided to spend the extra to upgrade to a one bedroom suite. This was one of our better choices. With a little extra money and “relating to the world of the front desk person” (always be friendly to the people who check you in – make sure you get what is going on for them – be interested in how their day is going – not only is it great to meet new people but it is a great way to get extras) We ended up with one best rooms on all of Waikiki Beach. It was absolutely amazing! We could see the whole beach from the Sheraton Waikiki to Diamond Head. It also had one of those celebrity toilets! It had a built in bidet, seat warmer etc. Montana and Warren thought that was just really cool!
We spent a lot of time in our room as we were adjusting to the time difference etc.
Waikiki Beach, Surfers and the Turtle
As we were overlooking the Beach and the water – we could see all the swimmers, surfers, beachcombers , the sandy areas under the water and the rocky areas. As we looked out I saw a turtle! A huge one! It was great watching him (yes all you SBI’rs! I couldn’t believe it a Turtle!!!) – In the whole 2 weeks we were in Hawaii last year we never saw one turtle! The people that were in the water had no idea that he was there!
We were hot when we arrived and were excited to be in Waikiki so we chose to go swimming right away. Now this is where I messed up – I didn’t make sure we bought a waterproof camera to take pictures of us bobbing around in the water. Boy was it fun!
We were tired but needed to eat. Last year we never made it to the famous Dukes for a meal. So I pre booked it for our first night. The meal was ok. But I think it was hard to tell as we were so tired. So we had their salad bar and a few appetizers. We requested a table by the water and were not disappointed. The view was beautiful.
By 8 pm we were exhausted. I never even realized I had fallen asleep until I woke up at 4 am! By 5 am Montana woke up, so we decided to let Warren sleep and we went out on the balcony and watched the sunrise over Diamond Head. It was beautiful!
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Our First Day! - Our Travel to Hawaii!
More excitement, once we were on the plane and started to settle in, the flight attendant served, orange juice, champagne or water. Warren made a mimosa (orange juice and champagne), and as we were settling in I managed to do what I do and knocked the glass all over my leg, the floor and the table. So I started off a little wet. Later the flight attendant offered to take our picture, the 3 of us. Warren picked up his wine and it spilled on my tshirt and pants! So I don’t drink, and I smelled like I had just been at a booze up in a brewery (as my mom would say).
Here are Mr. Quack and Waddles enjoying their “First Class” seat!
The food was ok. Montana was excited to “experience” the meal service. You know food you don’t have to pay for and the white tablecloth and the real glassware and cutlery.
Warren had a couple of drinks and had an hour nap. Montana is happily watching the last episodes of Gossip Girl she missed during the school year and at camp.
I don’t sleep well on planes, so I worked on a page for the website and then thought – I should do our first official entry for our blog!
So only about 5 hours left. Hmmm maybe I will try for a nap – most likely not – more PSP time or maybe a movie – ahhh vacation!
Oh by the way, I haven’t seen Warren this excited or relaxed in awhile! It’s like our wedding day! He can’t stop kissing me!
Love to our families, and if you are a reader of the blog or a visitor to http://www.excellent-vacation-ideas.com/, stay tuned – our adventure has just begun!
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Waddles and Mr Quack are getting ready for their Vacation!
Their trip is fully booked and they are off to see and experience many new things in Hawaii and Australia!
Here they are packing!
Waddles found his sunglasses!
And they just bought new hats!
Keep a lookout for updates!
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Waddles and Mr. Quack's (and our) Big Hawaii and Australia Trip is Fully Booked!
Not long now!
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We look forward to having you on our adventures and the adventures of Waddles and Mr Quack!
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Our trip's planning is completed and ready
1 very excited family!!!
Stay tuned to get the full update on where we will be and what we will be doing.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Melanie and Warren's Windsor and Detroit Adventure!
Happy Canada Day!
Warren and I took a mini break to Windsor, Ontario Canada this long Canada Day Weekend. We like to go to Vegas for our mini breaks, and usually stay at Caesar's Palace. However, due to other work issues, we didn't want to be too far from Toronto in case we had to come back quickly. (which thankfully we didn't!). The casino in Windsor was recently bought out by Caesar's and their mother company Harrahs Entertainment. They invited us to come down for the weekend and see their changes. Wow what an improvement!
We stayed 3 nights in their new Augustus Tower. The rooms are beautiful and really make you feel like you are at Caesars. It was kind of neat. We ate at Nero's Steakhouse the first night (everything but the steak was great - they have to do something about the food on this property). Warren won some money so we were all set to go shopping on Saturday. Michael Bolton was playing in the property's new entertainment centre, the Colossium, so the Casino was packed.
We were stunned at how long the line was to cross the border through the Windsor Detroit Tunnel. It was a Sunday and all the Michael Bolton fans were returning home. Also we heard that the Detroit Tigers had a home game that many Ontarians were going to see.
We went shopping at Sym's, a discount shopping store - and found out it was closing :-(. Then we went up I75 to the Great Lakes Crossing Mall in Auburn Hills, MI. When we arrived we found a Costco and decided to check it out. Being from Canada we saw many cool things that we can't get at home so we picked up a few things. We then went over the the Great Lakes Crossing Mall and spent a couple of hours wandering through it. The mall is a great enteratinment destination as it has shopping, movie theaters, great restaurants- including a GREAT sushi restaurant- and a Gameworks.
That night we took it easy and played in the casino a bit. We went over to Summerfest - Held at Windsor's Riverfront from Jun 19 - to July 1. It was a carnival and looked like fun, so we went over there for a little while. We have been looking for a mascot for our Excellent Vacation Ideas website, and as we walked by the ducky pull game - Warren saw them! So we just had to chance our $10 and pull some ducks to get our mascot!
We won! - Actually we won a larger prize, however we couldn't imagine carting the larger stuffed animal all over the world. So the wonderful girl Jessie gave us Mr. Quack and Waddles! She let us take her picture and we told her that she was the start of the internet stars Waddles and Mr. Quack!
I think we need a better picture - look for them throughout our blog in the future!
On Monday, we went over to Detroit to check out the MGM Grand Detroit and to meet Tracy at Wolfgang Pucks Grill for dinner. We decided to leave early to check out the casino etc before we met Tracy for dinner. It was a good thing we did. We took the tunnel over and when we got through it they had closed the border and were doing random searches of cars. A lady 2 cars in front of us in a Suburban, had her most of her car taken apart! This went on for a good 20 minutes. When we arrived at the border crossing agent, he asked us where we were going. It is always a good idea to be truthful - especially when they are being this careful at the border. So we told him we were going to "check out the MGM property". He asked why we weren't going to the Caesar's Windsor - we said we were staying there. He then proceeded to write up a slip and told us to pull over - the worst words to hear when you are crossing into a US border these days!. So of course we did what we were told and pulled over. They told us to get out of our SUV and leave all electronics and take ourselves into the office. So we did as we were told. We went in and they took their time going through our things and "writing us up". As we were sitting in the office (feeling like we were either criminals or in a movie), we decided then that we weren't going to bother coming over to Detroit anymore! It was getting to be too much trouble - especially as we were honest the whole time! But alas they let us go on our merry way and one of the "searchers" of our car opened a compartment in the SUV that has been stuck for 3 years - we joked with him and he said "we are a full service operation here!" We arrived at MGM and the new property is beautiful, until you walk in the doors and smell the smoke. I forgot what that was like as we don't smoke and the casinos in Canada are smoke free. We walked around a bit and found the baccarat lounge (Warren's Game) - I call it the big peoples lounge as it is always hidden away and the supposed "High rollers" go there. It's quite interesting who you may meet in there. A lovely casino host, James Daniels, came over to introduce himself. He was awesome to talk to and he made us dinner reservations for the Wolfgang Pucks. He really made us feel welcome and made us feel better after all the hassle at the border. I then went to meet my new friend Tracy, that I met online. We had an awesome dinner, talking about building our websites, getting to know each other, and the food was amazing! It was the best dinner and desserts and company of the weekend by far! Thanx for a great dinner Tracy!