Category: 2008


Unlike the world outside the US’s lack of fascination with the Oscars and the Super Bowl (the latter I understand, but not the former), the Olympics are a world-wide event. Everyone everywhere cares.

Next stop…..London!

While I was completely out of the loop for the 2004 Olympic games in Athens (I was finishing up my summer in NYC, commuting 2 hours each way to work during the first week and then dealing with first week of school (and my last semester ever) issues the second week), I do remember the 2008 games in Beijing. I was living and working in Sydney, which was like beyond perfect. I was in a sports-mad country living with people that actually could give Americans a run for their money in many sports! I would have felt kind of depressed, kicking ass and taking names (the Aussies thought this saying was hilarious!!) if I was still living in New Zealand during the games. It was all around a very interesting experience.

Sydney Olympic Parade, Winners!

Everything pretty much took place in nearly the same time zone. There was very little recapping as Sydney is only 2 hours ahead of Beijing. AWESOME! But since a lot of the sports were set to American East Coast time, I remember there being issues with swimming as usually the main events take place at night, but so they could be broadcasted live to the east coast, somehow NBC struck a deal with the IOC to have them in the morning, so they could play live. Which meant they aired around lunchtime for us. Not the worst thing ever, as the job I was working had a TV in the lounge and it was on the entire day and people would gather for a few moments here and there to watch certain events.

Sydney Olympic Parade, not to shabby!

Also, being the minor huge media nerd I am, I remember Channel 7 (the station that covered the games back then) having reports on the US coverage. It’s like NBC was its own event! They talked about how much space NBC took up, how many employees they brought over and the security measures in place for NBC and only NBC. It’s something that obviously does not get covered in the US and very interesting to hear.

Sydney Olympic Parade, the most they won, still awesome!

It was weird watching events without Americans. I don’t think NBC has ever done that. And actually, back in 2008 the only event there were no Americans in was like girls handball or something. Something I did miss, was the montage packages. No one can put a spin on any story like the US. I missed that! I cheered for countries in the following order: US (it was nice to have some patriotic pride after a year and a half!), Australia and then New Zealand.

So very very London at the Sydney Olympic Parade.

A few weeks after the games ended, all the Australian Olympians went on a national tour of the country, doing parades in each state capital city where a variety showed up for each. Ohmigod, could you image if they had to do that in the US?! It would take like a year! Anyway, since by then I was unemployed, I went to the parade in Sydney. Super fun! I actually recognized some people I had seen on TV a few weeks prior up close in person and actually remembered their names! And funny enough, watching the games now, I am like, those names are still sounding familiar. Love it.

Libby Trickett of swimming fame.

Steve Hooker (hehe, that name!! That hair!!) of pole vault fame.

Moral: If given the chance, I would highly recommend watching The Olympics in a country other then your own (especially if you are from the US). You learn a lot and get another perspective of a worldwide event. Just another life experience that you can not get within your own borders.

Looking down George Street during the parade. Go Green and Gold!

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I was in New Zealand and Australia for exactly 2 years and 2 weeks. But with my timing, I was actually away for 3 Academy Award ceremonies. Growing up in Los Angeles, this was a huge deal. As I have gotten older (and cared about movies less and less) the deal has gotten smaller in my mind. But like someones sports teams that changes towns, I still keep an eye on them. What is getting buzz, what got too much buzz too early and is now left for dead. I care less, but I still find the whole thing kind of interesting. I might search out the best picture after the fact, but only when it finally makes it to TV. My favorite joke is that when I was flying back from Australia/New Zealand, I had the choice to watch Slumdog Millionaire, but chose High School Musical 3 over it. My reasoning? You try reading subtitles on that tiny little seat screen! So there are my priorities.

Anyway, for the most part, the Academy Awards are not a big deal overseas. Most countries has their own version of them and unless your country has a movie in contention (a-hem, Lord of the Rings), New Zealand didn’t air them on any channel and they are only on satellite in Australia. Not really the free-to-air channels we are used to in the United States.

The first year, I had just arrived in New Zealand hostel hopping. I waited until the show was over (like mid afternoon Monday) before I hopped online to read about the show. THE DEPARTED won that year, a movie I had not seen at the time (I would eventually see it later in 2007 on Sky Movies in New Zealand and then a bunch more during my time backpacking down the Australia East Coast in later 2008) and for the most part had no interest in. To me, it was too long. Though I was happy that “Marty” finally got his statue!

The second year, I was at my job and one of the perks being that I got to watch a lot of TV. I mean A LOT. We had a channel on our tv’s that was a feed of whatever the people in the satellite room were getting fed in at the time, usually whatever big event was happening around the world (I didn’t realize this before and missed the Super Bowel a few week prior, even though the commercials are filtered out of the feed) and today was the Academy Awards. We all had our owns tv’s and all changed them to the same channel and watched the show in our cubes, all laughing at the same part. Jon Stewart hosted that year. Since the show aired in the later afternoon on a Monday in New Zealand, the show ran long (of course) and everyone left the office, except for me. I had to see the end, even though I didn’t know what any of the best picture movies were. Most had not come to New Zealand yet, as they were smaller pictures that year. I do remember Diablo Cody won for Juno and I was really happy. I was also on chat with some friends back home who were watching and couldn’t believe that I was watching the show live, same as them with no delay. Oh, I was a nerd, I felt so special! The show did not air on any channel that year in New Zealand.

The third year, was a bit different. I was on a week long tour from Adelaide to Alice Springs (I just realized I never wrote about my tour! DO’H!). The big event during that ceremony was Heath Ledger getting nominated (and eventually won) after his death for the latest Batman movie. Most of that tour, we were out of cell phone range, which of course was nice. And since the tour was so long, we all kind of lost track on what date and day of the week it was. But once we got to Ayers Rock, my pals on the tour, an Irish couple I hung out with the most, started texting their friends back in Ireland to find out who won what. And I remember sitting around a picnic table in the Ayers Rock campgroup when the text came in that Heath had won! The three of us were so happy!! The rest of the group didn’t care (damn Euros) and even the tour guide, who was Australian thought Heath was a wanker or whatever. We found out the results from the rest of show during our meal and it was the most surreal way I ever “watched” the show before. When I got back to Melbourne a week later and had like 7 hours of computer time to waste before I left the country, I watched so many videos from that show.

And ever since then, I haven’t really cared about the show. I work in the film industry now and I could not careless about the show and who wins. But of course, I keep watching. If you were traveling during a major tv event, would you search it out to watch it live?

Used: 2008, 2009

I remember one of the first times I heard of someone I knew flying Air New Zealand. They flew from LAX to LHR. That’s right! You don’t even need to fly anywhere near New Zealand to experience New Zealand hospitality. But the first time I flew them was actually just a really quick trip return from AKL to CHC over Easter Weekend as they have the most flights within the country (duh) which is super helpful for a major holiday weekend when everything is expensive anyway. Flying domestic in New Zealand is a joke anyway, especially compared to what I am used to in the United States. I worked in central Auckland and got from my work to the airport by taking the shuttle and passing through security and sitting at the gate within an hour. Like I said, JOKE! You don’t even need to show ID to board a domestic flight.

Anyway, it was a pleasant but a generally unmemorable flight as it was only a little over an hour. I loved the airport in Christchurch, they have this awesome open air deck in the domestic terminal were after you pass security you can watch the planes land and take off, outside! I loved watching all the tiny Air New Zealand planes doing their business. I am so used to only seeing huge planes, that it was so funny to see tiny propeller plans flying!

View from the outside deck at CHC

Later in the year, Air New Zealand had a major promotional push in advertising their trans-Tasman flights across the ditch to Australia. They were becoming major players against the strong hold, Qantas. They upgraded tons of their planes and the types of planes they used to only use on long-haul flights, they were now flying just a short 3 hours to various ports to Australia. I barely even thought about it when booking my return flight to Australia after my summer vacation back in New Zealand, as they were cheaper than Qantas anyway from Christchurch to Sydney. It wasn’t until I boarded the plane that I remembered about their upgrades. And they were awesome! My favorite perk, individual screens on every seat. Actual meals served. And of course, a nice, smooth ride, as the plane was a lot bigger then the Qantas jet I had flown over on a month earlier.

I got so excited a few weeks later when I made plans to fly back to the US. Air New Zealand ended up being the cheapest option out of Melbourne, with a quick layover in Auckland. Back in 2008, you had to pay an exit fee when you left New Zealand and I was 50cents short in cash my fee when I left Christchurch (so I had to pay with a credit card, annoying!) but since I had a few hours to kill in Auckland, I was happy to have the extra cash to buy food and magazines and other last minute items. I was so excited for a last minute trip to Auckland before I finally came home even though I never left the airport. I just loved my time there so much, I was so happy to have once last goodbye. You don’t pass passport control when you transfer plans in Auckland, but you have to go through security again. I had a whole bottle of water with me, which they asked me to toss, so I backtracked and tossed the water in the sink in the bathroom so I could pass with my empty bottle, one of my flying tricks of the trade. I went through metal detection again and filled my bottle up at the various water fountains in the terminal. So annoying and a waste of water! I specifically wore one of my favorite New Zealand t-shirts for the ride home and when I boarded the plane, the flight attendant commented on how much she liked my shirt!

Me in my All Blacks Kiwi shirt, moments after walking into my parents house after 2 years and 2 weeks overseas! My dad made this awesome sign.

The flight back was awesome. Great selection of movies and tv shows, which is key for me. I watched and caught up on so many shows I hadn’t seen in months that I doubt had even aired in Australia or NZ at that point. Awesome selection of movies. I love telling people that I chose to watch High School Musical 3 over Slumdog Millionaire (have you ever tried to read subtitles on those tiny screens?!). Don’t remember the food, though we got served a lot, so I am sure it was good. One of my favorite parts was how they did drink service. They gave us all cups at our first meal and we were supposed to save them. A flight attendant was continuously walking around the cabin with spare cups (just in case) and a pitcher of water and all you had to do was hold your cup up and they would fill it up for you on request. You didn’t even need to leave your seat! I lost my cup at one point (in those small seats and area?! I know, it happens) and they happily replaced it, though I did like that they tried not to. And I felt bad when a few hours later I found my cup at the bottom of the pocket. The seat space is pretty big too, way more than Qantas. I was impressed with it and I am not a big person anyway.

The tail in Auckland. Rainy, of course!

Something that I didn’t experience, but my family did when they came to visit me. Apparently, they used to have a code share with Air Pacific, the Fijian airline which is one of the few routes that you can fly from LAX to AKL, but you have to stop in Fiji. My mom first booked tickets for her and my dad and a week later booked my sisters ticket on the same route for the same price. They all show up at the airport to check in and apparently my sister is booked on the Air New Zealand flight. Same times, same route, just a different terminal. There was no note anywhere on the ticket about this and they didn’t know until they showed up at the airport. And what a huge difference between the airlines! My parents were jammed in while my sister had whole rows to herself, since they all flew over Christmas. My sister said the flight attendants welcomed all the kids with gifts because they were “skipping Christmas” (They left on the 24th and arrived in Fiji on the 26th). But at least they evened out on the way back. My parents got the Air New Zealand flight after their Fiji layover while my sister was stuck with Air Pacific the whole way because we realized that Air New Zealand only flew from Fiji to LA on certain days and my sister stayed longer and flew on a different day.

Adopted home, home on the range!

Moral: Air New Zealand doesn’t fly too many routes outside the south pacific but if I am flying somewhere they go, I will make them a priority, thanks to their service. Plus, I miss New Zealand tons and anytime I can grab a little bit of it, I will take it. They vary in price and even if they aren’t the cheapest, if they aren’t too different in price, I would take them into consideration depending on how long the flight is. I would love to fly them over to London someday! How fun!

7 Links

Since I am all about jumping on bandwagons, I was so happy to be included into the latest craze that is My 7 Links sponsored by Tripbase. And of course, thanks to my buds over at Vagabond3 for recognizing my awesomeness! (or were they just out of other bloggers to recommend? I’ll never know! Kidding guys:-))

This idea actually comes at a good time for me as well, as I just celebrated my blogs one year anniversary! I have been nearly constantly posting 2-3 posts a week for the entire time and don’t intend to stop anytime soon! My list of potential posts is still really long and I have some trips in the pipe this summer, which I will be posting about soon after, so no shortage of content anytime soon. In celebration of my one year(-ish) anniversary, I will be doing a contest soon too, probably sometime in September, when I am back from my trips, so keep a look out!

And without further adieu, here are some posts that might have gotten lost in the shuffle over the last 13 months:

MOST BEAUTIFUL
Out my window in Auckland

Picture posts are really the best. This one got a ton (for me) of comments and just goes to show that even in New Zealand’s largest town (I still can’t call it a city. A million people?! LAUGH!), The Big Smoke as the locals call Auckland, is still more beautiful then 99% of the world.

MOST POPULAR
Hawaii Activities

Up until now, I never knew what post had the most views on my website. I don’t really keep track of stuff like that. Color me surprised when I found out that this post has the most views! Guess y’all love Hawaii. For someone who is not a beach or sun person I love Hawaii too! I have been to Oahu twice and will be finally making it to The Big Island in less then 3 weeks to celebrate my (big) birthday. Keep a look out for more on that in August.

MOST HELPFUL POST
Working Holiday Visa – Americans Only!

Seriously, why do more people not know about this? Why doesn’t everyone take advantage? ‘Nuff said.

MOST CONTROVERSIAL POST
ACB Hostel

While the post is not controversial, the subject is. People freakin’ hate this place! Granted I stayed here over 4 years ago (seems like yesterday, kill me now how fast time is flying!) things might have changed. Yes, it looks like an office building and is huge, impersonal and a machine, but it has everything the backpacker who just landed needs. I just have fond memories of this place if only for when someone from customs asked me where I was staying and when I said something along the lines of Central Backpackers Auckland, he said “ACB” and I said yes. Even the locals know about this place. Can’t say locals in any American city know about their cities biggest hostel.

MOST SURPRISING SUCCESS
2008 Elecion

Car In Syndey, Australia, 2008

Like the election itself, people were passionate about this post too. Since I was overseas for the entire election, I didn’t get to experience the craziness in the US, but got a different perspective in New Zealand and Australia. Which is why this post surprised me!

DESERVED MORE ATTENTION
Off the Beaten Path – Sydney

Besides pretty much everything my first year? Kidding.
Everyone does all the basics when they come to Sydney. What they miss are the small treasures while still never leaving the CBD. Places like this are my favorite parts of the city. I don’t want to know everyone’s favorite pizza place when it’s 40 miles away. I like my tourism to be walking distance.

MOST PROUD OF
Foot Issues

Besides everything? Of course, all the posts hold special places in my heart, but oddly, this one effected me almost for a majority of my time overseas. I am proud on how well I managed a minor medical emergency while overseas and then got compensated for it after I got home.

I think everyone else I know has been tagged, except for some smaller blogs that I love that will never read this, so the chain letter will end with me. Who knows what kind of bad luck this will bring me. Oh well!

Used: 2008

I read a lot on how expensive things are in Sydney, especially how expensive it is to eat. I don’t know if it is because I grew up in Los Angeles or came from Auckland before coming to Australia, but I didn’t think it was that bad. Also may have been what I chose to eat. I am the worst eater in that I can eat the same thing for days on end and I don’t really care. I am not a cook, so I survive on the microwave. When grocery shopping, I always took note on the sales and when they ended, so I filled up on my stock items when they were on sale. I never bought that much at one time. I only drank basic juices and tap water. The big thing was I rarely drink alcohol, so that saved a lot but when I did drink, I would drink locally, which brings the price down a bit. I loved farmers markets.

And one of my big finds, which I am surprised more people haven’t mentioned, especially for tourists staying in the CBD of the major cities, are the end of day food sales. Food courts cover downtown Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane where lots of office workers buy their lunches on a daily basis. At the end of the day, these places sell their left over food for deep deep discounts. What they were selling for $10+ at noon are now $5 or less at 5 and 6pm. Just wonder the food courts at the end of the business day and while the choices might not be as great (lots of pastas, asian food, pizza and salads), the discounts are deep. These are great for backpackers looking for cheap meals at the end of long days who don’t want to cook (perfect for singles) or even locals looking to pick up something sort of fresh (hey, it was made that day, how bad could it be?) for dinner that night. Not all eatery’s do this, but enough do to make it worth stopping by.

Moral: In Sydney, Westfield Sydney on Pitt Street was one of my favorite places as they have a huge eating hall and a good amount of cheap food as well as Centrepoint across the street. There are too many food halls in Melbourne to name. Do you have any favorite places to eat cheap like this in Australia? Not everything is Australia is outrageously expensive as people say. There are deals to be found for everything.

Used: 2007/08

After seeing Stephanie’s post on Twenty-Something Travel on pictures out her various windows while she was traveling, it reminded me of all the pictures I took out my balcony when I was living in Auckland. The way the sky changed so often, it was amazing and I took so many pictures. I lived on the 15th floor of a 18 story building, facing east (home!) into the harbour where I could watch the cruise ships come in and out (something for some reason I LOVED!) as well as Devonport on the North Shore, Rangitoto and parts of Waiheke Islands. But it was the sky change that was so dramatic over the seasons.

Sunset

Love this colour of sky!

Typical day in Auckland, rain!

Low riding clouds

Harbour reflection on the building next door.

Rare sunny but typical summer day in Auckland.

One of the many many cruise ships in the harbour over the summer

But more typical for Auckland evening

Not edited at all, one of the weirdest skies I saw when I lived in Auckland!

Typical weekend day on the harbour, sail boats everywhere!

Getting ready to rain

Funny sky with rainbow!

Moral: It was this view and window that sold me on the apartment. How could you not choose to look at this every single day for 9 months?! I loved coming home every day to enjoy whatever the view had to offer that day. There was rarely any smog and all the change was always natural, which is so not what I am used to. I love experiencing small differences like this in everyday life in another country.

Used: 2007/2008

If you hadn’t noticed, I read. A lot. I stopped buying books for the most part back in 2004, because it was getting expensive. I still buy the occasional one when I travel as souvenirs but other then Harry Potter and the previous Kristin Gore book, I haven’t bought a book since 2007. When I arrived in New Zealand, I brought 5 books with me and finished reading them within the first 2 weeks which I swapped for other books at the local used book store and various backpackers I snuck into. While I was waiting for jobs to come through when I was in Auckland, I spent lots of time reading books, sitting in the Central Library. In fact, when the temp agency called me to tell me I got my favorite job ever, I was in the library and ran out immediatly to take the call. When I figured out I was going to live in Auckland long term, I immediatly looked into getting a library card. I liked the quality of the books the libary held and I was anxious to not have to be in the building to read them. It looks like things have changed a lot since I lived there but here is what I had to do:

Since I wasn’t in school and I didn’t have a permenent address, I had to get a temporary subscription to check out books. I had to get a note from my boarding house saying that I would live there for at least 4 weeks, my passport with my visa and I had to pay a NZ$70 bond, $40 of which I would get back on proof of my receipt when I left the country and I was limited to 5 books at a time. I felt that was a decent ask. The Auckland library charged for EVERYTHING. Want to put something on reserve? Cost. Overdue? Cost. The reserve thing was probably the worst thing, if I lived there forever. I didn’t mind it too much as I could only check out 5 things at once, and rarely made it past the recently returned shelves in the front of the library when searching for new things to check out. Since I read so much, I had a weird system going on. I would actually only check out 3 books at a time and when I would get down to my last book, drop off two and pick up two. They also had automatic check out, which was awesome, so I never even had to talk to anyone. A few times, I wanted to check out more then 5 books, so I would go to the counter and the librarian would override the system so I could check out more. It was New Zealand after all, no one cared. I loved the selection of books that the library held. It held American titles that I had been wanting to read, British books that were titled different in the US and Australia and New Zealand titles that I had never heard of and you can’t even buy in the US! The variety was awesome.

Love it! Being a total nerd, I kept track of every book I read, title and date read, so I could do the math at the end of my year and see how much I got “charged” per book. When my visa was extended and I went to the library to get my account extended, I think they were supposed to charge me another $30 for another year, but they didn’t and just extended my cancel date. After living in Auckland for 16 months, I read over 160 books, which is about 3 books a week and ends up being about 5cents a book. I feel like I got my moneys worth. When I brought my receipt back for my refund, the girl at the counter didn’t know what to do, since she had only done it once before. No one saves the receipt and they won’t give you your money back without one. But cheapskate me, I held on to that sucker and kept it in my important documents bag.

Moral: I quite enjoyed my time with the Auckland library. Since I read so much, I didn’t care too much about what I read. I mean, I had some choice in the matter, but I couldn’t request anything without getting charged, so I was pretty much stuck reading whatever they had. At least it was a huge selection. I loved browsing the recently returned section and picking out what to read for the week.

Getting ready to read! Desk at my first place in Auckland, New Zealand

Used: 2007/2008

Before I left for New Zealand, I never cared about my hair. My hair is a thick wavey mess that I grew up with people that had no idea what to do with it. I went to Supercuts everytime it annoyed me and I needed it removed. There, they would just shorten it for a reasonable price and I would repeat the process every few months. I just didn’t care. After living in Auckland for a few months, it was time to get my mess straightened out. My boss at worked used to live nearby where I currently lived in Kingsland and suggested a salon that was around the corener. She used to go there, but her stylist had left a while back and now went somewhere new. Since I had no idea what to expect, I just walked in one Saturday and made an appointment for later that day with Mandi. I had never been to a stylist like this before! It was interesting to “talk” about my hair and what I did with it and what I expected from it, I had never done anything like this before. I loved my cut! A quick wash and good conversation while cutting was a great way to spend an afternoon. The price wasn’t too bad either, around NZ$70, plus it’s not expected to tip, which was so so so weird, especially for a service like this. But when in Rome. That was in July or something of my first year in New Zealand.

My short, layered hair after a visit to the salon!

After I got my second work assignment later that year, I waited until my boss was back in town and called for another hair appointment. I called too last minute and I wasn’t living in the area anymore so I had to wait an extra week for a slot to meet with Mandi at the end of October. I got the same cut, which is back to being typical me, always getting the same thing, time after time. But the thing that helped the most, after all these years was getting in thinned out. Ohmigod, what a life saver! Anyway, I thought ahead this time and dorkily made an appointment for 4 months from then for another appointment. And then after the next appointment, I was starting to think about moving on, so I made my last appointment for the day after my last day of work at the end of June. Since I met with Mandi 4 times over the span of 16 months and never tipped her and I loved my cut each and everytime, at the end of my last appointment, I tipped her a few $20’s, for all the times I didn’t tip but wanted. Hell, I am American, we tip for good service! And I had great service, I felt she totally deserved it. Even if it’s not expected, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

One of the best front face pictures EVER of me, with my new salon hair!!

Getting my hair cut was one of my favorite everyday things to do in New Zealand. I loved getting my shagged thinned and cut and I love feeling clean after!

When I found out when my work’s holiday party was in December and knew I would be back in Auckland for that, the first call I made was not to book my flight or place to crash, but to book a hair appointment. Unfortunatly, Mandi was out on maternity leave, but someone else did my hair and I loved it just the same!

I wasn’t in Australia very long and never had the work I had in New Zealand and therefore didn’t have the money either, but I was there nearly 6 months, which is a long time to go without a cut of any kind, especially for hair like mine in the hot weather of Australia. After I finished working in Sydney and started traveling down the east coast, I stayed in my own room that had an ensuite and chopped off my ponytail. I wonder what the workers who cleaned it up the next day thought happened with all that hair in the trash. It didn’t do exactly as I expected, but since my hair is so thick, I cleaned it up as best I could and the only person could tell what had happened was me. A few days after I cut my hair, I told someone what I had done and they said they could hardly tell. And in looking back at pictures, it kind of is hard to tell! I didn’t want to cut my own hair while I was still working because I knew I couldn’t get it neat enough for a job, which is another reason why I wanted to get my hair fixed on my return to New Zealand, to clean up the mess I made.

2 days after I cut my own hair, you can't even tell!

Can't even tell. Plus there are prettier things to look at, check out the view behind me!

Since I have been back home, I have been to various salons every few months, never finding one I like nearly as much as Mancini in Auckland!

Moral: Some of my favorite things when I was living abroad was doing everyday life things. Hair cuts, grocery shopping and laundry were things I looked forward to, hair cuts especially. And because of what I experienced in New Zealand, I now go to proper stylist here at home! Another thing I brought “home” with me. Love it.

Used: 2008

Besides the main, popular things to do in Sydney, here are some other, cheap things I did when I lived in town:

I went to the Pylon Lookout at the Sydney Harbour Bridge because I got a free ticket with my Bridge Climb on the previous day. After dropping a bit a dosh there, I followed it up with an all free day. So here I was! It is actually a great alternative if you don’t want to pay for the Bridge Climb or are short on time. There is loads of information as you walk up to the top and you can spend all the time you want taking pictures at the top.

Me and The Opera House from the top of the Pylon

View of the Harbour Bridge from the Pylon Lookout

Nearby the Pylon Lookout is Sydney Observatory located nearby in Observatory Park. It is free to visit the grounds and permanent collection, which actually is kind of weak. It was dead empty when I was there and once you get inside feels more like a house then anything. I love space and love visiting observatories in other cities and have enjoyed all the ones in the Southern Hemisphere, but this one was a little bit of a dissapointment, especially for a city the size of Sydney. Maybe the pay options at night are better, but the perm exhibit, eh.

A short boat ride away is Watson’s Bay which is in the far east on the south shore. Gap Park is a beautiful park and great overlook, but unfortunatly is also a place where a lot of people jump to commit suicide. There are lots of parks as you walk farther south, including the beautiful Lighthouse Reserve. I walked into the residental neighborhood of Valcuse which has AMAZING houses and a little inlet of Parsley Bay Reserve where lots of families were pickniting and I grabbed an afternoon ice cream. I then hiked back to Watson’s Bay to catch the bus back to town.

Watson's Bay, Gap Park

View from Watson's Bay back to the City

Watson's Bay, Gap Park, facing north

Beach at Shark Bay (typical Australia reassurance)

Beach at Parsley Bay

I lived in Potts Point which isn’t too far from the Sydney Jewish Museum which is free on public holidays! Being pretty broke, this was a great day to visit on Labour Day! I have a pretty big interest in the Holocaust (went on the March of the Living when I was in college, which was amazing and interned at the Shoah Foundation my last semester in school) and that was pretty much the majority of the this museum. For a generally Christian country (seriously, even more so then the US), this museum is great for the city. They were going through some changes when I was there, which was a little annoying, but the exhibits were really well done. On a personal note, the one thing I wish this museum had more of was on Jews coming to Australia. There was a little bit on that, especially around World War II, but since I know a lot about it already, it felt like rehash to me. But for the people of Australia, this museum is a great resource. Fun fact, there have been Jews in Australia since the First Fleet and since then has kept a pretty much kept the same percent in relation to the general population (which is only about 0.5%)

I think Opera House is one of the most beautiful buildings in the modern world and the Essential Tour was really awesome. Loads of information and we got to go places that most of the public doesn’t normally get to go. The guides were really excellent and professional and even thought it’s a little on the expensive side (bring your student ID for a minor discount!) I thought it was well worth it.

Me inside the Opera House playing with reflections

Killing time one weekend, I decided to bit the bullet and do one of the most popular tourist things to do in Sydney is get out on the water and go whale watching with Bass and Flinders Cruises. Getting out on the water was one of my favorite things to do in Sydney, so this was a perfect excuse. And I picked the best day! It was warm and sunny and the middle of winter when the whales are out in full force. We saw tons once we got out of the harbor and in the open water. It was a great half day trip. There are loads of companies and I am sure they are all pretty similar on price and tour and both do pick ups in Darling Harbor and Circular Quay so see if there is a package deal with other stuff you want to do or just spin a wheel and pick whichever. My company was fine, plus they had a marine biology student on board to answer any questions we may have had!

Cliffs at the Edge of the Harbour of Sydney

Cliffs at the Edge of the Harbour of Sydney

Lighthouse in Sydney Harbour

Art Gallery of NSW is free and a pretty awesome museum. It’s large and has a pretty extensive collection. I went on a weekend and it was pretty crowded. It has a decent mix of the old and new, so there is something for everyone.

Flying Foxes in The Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney

The State Library of NSW is not as good as the State Library of Victoria but it does also have pretty extensive collections and exhibits, most, if not all, are free. I didn’t have a library card when I lived in Australia, so I couldn’t access a lot of the library, but I did enjoy the exhibits. A great place to explore when you are broke and have time to kill!

Ducks in the park in Sydney

Moral: Sydney isn’t all Bridges and Opera House, shopping and eating. These are just some of the places that tourists might not think to head to when in town, but in this expensive city, there are still great places to explore on the cheap. These were perfect places to kill time at in between jobs, when you have tons of time and no money.

Used: 2007, 2008, 2009

While I lived in New Zealand for 16 months, I never owned a car. I got my first job and lived in Kingsland, so I didn’t have a use for a car on a daily basis. I took the bus to work and on the weekends, took the bus or train where ever I needed to go most of the time. I hired a car for long weekends out of town and on a random weekend around town.

The weekend I hired a car to hang around town all weekend, I went to the Stardome, went out to Piha on Auckland’s west coast, drove up to Orewa for brunch and drove around Whangaparaoa pennisuela before coming back into town and making a pitt stop at the mall to stock up on groceries.

I rented cars from a variety of places. When first looking for cars, I went back to ACB and ordered a car from the travel desk and they used Ace which worked out well. I am picky about breaks and they were a little iffy, but for a quick weekend trip around town, they were fine. The radio was also iffy, but acceptable. Plus, like most car rental places in New Zealand and Australia (reason #55483950 why they are like the US) they rent out automatic cars. No reason to put my manuel skills to test here, which is probably a good thing, driving on the otherside of the road an all (not that there is much traffic to worry about in either country, especially compared to Los Angeles). When I wanted to rent a car a few weeks later, I went back to Ace and hired the car on my own. Car rental shops are stocked with maps, so don’t worry if you didn’t bring maps as well as there aren’t many roads anyway. Just get from one I-site to the next, and you’ll be sweet as. This second car I got in, from Ace, I buckled up, got settled, looked down, manuel. While I know how to drive a manuel, I hadn’t driven one in years and while I had driven on the left hand side already, I knew they offered automatics for no additional fee, so why take anything else? I told them I wanted an auto and they traded me, no issues.

When it came time to rent something for the family and for 17 days, I knew I didn’t want to drive around in an Ace car for that long a time. I had seen Explore More cars around town and they always looked really nice and clean and new. Plus, they rented out station wagons, which I thought would fit us well and the price seemed okay. Not terribly cheap, but not outrageously expensive, they seemed to fit what we needed. Plus, they had depots in Christchurch and Auckland, which is where we were picking up and dropping off the car. Sometimes, dealers give deals, like free boat rides, if they need cars in one part of the country or the other, but since we needed the car for so long and over the holiday period, no such luck on deals. It looks like things have changed a lot (they now have cars out of Queenstown!) and they used to only have one depot in Auckland, which was in town and not near the airport at all. Since the same company who owned Explore More used to also own the Airbus, you could ride that for free into town if you were picking up a car. Since I wanted to pay the balance for the car with my EFTPOS card, I had to go in person to the shop in Auckland for them to run my card. When I did, I asked for a bus ticket because I had to get out to the airport to meet my family as we were immediatly flying down to Christchurch to pick up the car. They happily obliged! Yay for a free bus ride! The car was awesome, we had no problems. They also gave us a free ipod adapter, but I also had my itrip, so we were covered. We had a hard time figuring out the trunk at first, but thankfully figured it out before we left the Christchurch area. It was also a little bit of a tetris game getting all our luggage into the trunk, but my sister and my dad mastered that quickly, so they were put in charge of that. Other then that, a great car!

Me driving the station wagon

Playing tetris with the station wagon

I actually rented from them again when I was in the Christchurch area. They picked me up in town to get the car and also dropped me off at the airport when I left. I hired the tiniest car, as it was just me, so cute!

The Dot I hired over Easter weekend, 2008

When it was time for me to come back to New Zealand for summer vacation at the end of 2008, I first went to Explore More, but they were booked solid for their smallest class of car and there next level up was too expensive for me for the time I need. Since I was booking everything from Australia, it was already a bust that they didn’t have an toll free Australia number, as lots of tourist places do, even for New Zealand. When flipping through a backpackers magazine, I saw and ad for Roadtrip Rentals and there was a toll free Australia number to rent cars in New Zealand, so I called it. I got a super friendly guy on the phone and asked about CHC to CHC rentals for the 13 days I needed and got that sorted. Before I hung up, I asked him if they did rentals from Picton to Greymouth for only 3 days. 3 day rentals were hard for me to book because that time of year, most places had minimum time limits of 4 days while I only needed a car for my three day trip from Picton to Greymouth. He said he could totally help me out with that, as I was renting the car for 13 days, he would just couple my rental together so I wouldn’t have to pay more for the short rental and I would get the 2 week rate for my split rental. I was so happy after this phone call, having my rental for New Zealand all straighten out. The cars I got from this rental company were fine. Nice, clean, small cars. Hell, I even slept in one when I was in Mount Cook! Perfect for that. I even left my bag at the rental agency in Christchurch, since I had to drop the car off early, but had all day to wonder the city. They let me leave it free of charge, I just had to pick it up before they closed for the day.

Moral: Hiring a car is super easy in New Zealand. Loads of places rent to 18+ with no charge, but that wasn’t an issue for me. According to their driving website you are supposed to get a local license after being in the country for more then a year, but when I was there, it was wicked expensive (like NZ$70+) and I would have had to take the written part again, even though my current license was still valid. And when I went to hire a car everytime, they never asked to see my passport which is the only record of when I entered the country, only my current and valid license, so it’s not like they were strict about this. New Zealand is also the BEST place to “learn” how to drive on the otherside of the road. Since the population is super tiny, if you accidently drive on the wrong side of the road for a moment, there is a super tiny chance you’ll hit someone. When I started, I made so many mistakes that I hadn’t made since I was 16, it was totally weird! But I loved it. I am so glad I didn’t end up buying a car, but I loved driving and all the companies I delt with were awesome.