Friday, February 28, 2014

Down Under - Day Twenty Three, Friday, February 28, 2014, Sunshine Coast, Australia

G'day mate.

Coffee at the Beach.  Kylie, Darcy, Stevie and Julie
Stevie and I hopped on a plane to the Sunshine Coast today to visit dear friends from Aspen who moved back to Australia several years ago.  The Sunshine Coast did not disappoint ... the sun was shining brightly, something we haven't seen for the past three days.  We had a fabulous day visiting and catching up with Darcy and Kylie who live in a beautiful area near Noosa. 
The beaches are beautiful.   Julie, Kylie, Darcy and Stevie.
We stopped for coffee on the beach.  The blue waters of the Pacific and the white sand beach was seductively appealing.  
The walkways along the beach are stunning.
I could sit on that beach for days and never get enough.  I'm thinking I could definitely come back here!!  I loved the walkways along the beach that stretch for miles around the peninsula.  

While wandering the walkway along the beach, I was introduced to the Australian Brush Turkey.

Brush Turkey
The not particularly attractive birds  are everywhere.  I'm thinking, hey, this must be pretty handy around Thanksgiving, but then I realized Thanksgiving is an American holiday AND apparently, the meat is quite tough. We met a guy on the walkway who told us how to cook one.  He said to put the turkey in a big pot of water with a brick and boil it until the brick was tender.  Sounds tasty, yes?

When I decided to visit New Zealand and Australia, everyone advised me to go to Australia first because I'd be disappointed in Australia AFTER visiting New Zealand.  But I'm not convinced.  I've found Australia to be beautiful, interesting, cosmopolitan, and I find the beaches very alluring.   The two countries are quite different, but I can't say that one is hands down more beautiful.   

Lunch at Bistro C in Noosa.
It was just marvelous spending the day with Darcy, Kylie and later in the afternoon, the children.  What a beautiful family.  When we got together, we picked up where we left off like no time had passed between us.  Thank you for making us feel so welcome and at home.  Be careful guys, I may take you up on that invitation to return.  How about November???

Flying Fish Restaurant 
Stevie and I returned to Sydney around 6:30 to a great dinner at The Flying Fish.  Situated on the wharf, The Flying Fish is renowned for their skill with seafood and passion for seasonal produce.  Serving only foods that are indigenous to the area, their Asian inspired flavor combinations were sooooo tasty.  Yum.  We've been on force feed for the past 23 days anyway.  Why stop now???

More news later.  

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Down Under - Day Twenty One, Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - Tasman Sea AGAIN

Today is our last day at sea ... the Tasman Sea ... AGAIN.  And it's rockin' and rollin', which seems to be the norm for this part of the world.  My dear friends in Queensland said they couldn't believe that Stevie and I crossed the Tasman in a boat!!  Information we could have used BEFORE we planned this cruise.  Well, here we are again, heading to Sydney.  

Molly LOVED the cheese fondue.
Desserts Galore!
Traditionally, Seabourn has their "Galley Lunch" on the last day of a cruise.  They open up the galley and serve lunch buffet style.  The kitchen is spotless and food was EVERYWHERE.  

Just what I was looking for ... more food!  I must say, the cheese fondue was an excellent way to start the grazing.   Shrimp, Crab Legs, Veal Piccata, Beef Tenderloin, Sushi, Soups and much more.  There was truly something to tantalize any tastebud. 

After an incredible massage this afternoon, I spent the rest of the afternoon packing my suitcases.  I hope they send Hercules to gather my bags.  I don't know how they got heavier because I haven't bought anything here.  Well, I did buy a Kangaroo Scrotum Bottle Opener for my son (let's see if he's reading this).  But that's certainly not heavy.  Seriously, I can't lift these suitcases.  I'll have to "cash whip" a bellman to get them to the hotel room and then to the airport in a few days.   So if you've agreed to pick me up at the airport in LA or Aspen ... bring a fork lift!!

Bob, me, Paddy, Stevie, Carroll, Molly and Ellen in the Odyssey Lounge.
We gathered tonight with our new friends, Carol from Nassau, Paddy from Australia, Carroll and Molly from Houston and Ellen and Bob from Laguna Beach, for cocktails in the Observation Lounge followed by a nice farewell dinner.  We all exchanged phone numbers and email addresses and have vowed to keep in touch.  

Chocolate Lava Cake for me and all of my friends.  Yum!!
Oh yes.  I almost failed to mention that Chef Martin made my favorite dessert for the entire table tonight as a little farewell surprise. 

Of course, I finished every bite!!
I'm not sure if he's happy or sad to see us leave, but it sure was nice of him to make the chocolate lava cake again.

Heather.  Do you see the resemblance??  
Heather, one of the Seabourn's talented singers, stopped by our table tonight.   Molly says we look like sisters.  Poor Heather.  She's just stunning.  But she was a sport and posed for this photo.

I'll miss my new friends, but sure look forward to seeing my home friends and family.  Love and miss you all.  More news from Sydney tomorrow.  Hopefully, the internet will work better at the Hotel!!

Down Under - Day Twenty, Tuesday, February 25, 2014, Geelong, Australia

Dear Mom and Dad and other Readers,

Please forgive the delayed blog posts.  The wifi system on this boat does not work well.  Sometimes it takes an hour to download one photo.  Frequently, the internet just cuts me off in the middle of a blog and I loose everything.   It took two days to complete yesterday's post.  Hopefully it won't take that long for today's post because, frankly, there is not much to report.  

Geelong is one of these ports that makes me go ... really???  Why are we here??  It's the second largest city in Victoria, but there is really not much here.  There are two car factories that are closing down soon because the wages are so high, they've priced themselves out of the market.  When those two plants shut down, I'm not sure what will be left.  However, I will say that the folks who greeted us when we came ashore are some of the nicest, kindest and informative people we've met.  They handed out canvas bags with all sorts of brochures inside and happily offered directions to various places in town.  I went for a 6 1/2 mile walk along the beach and through the gorgeous Botanical Gardens.  

Painted Pilings line the beach area.
Local artists have decorated pilings along the shore by painting them to look like people.  Quite cute.  They also have a huge swimming area that is surrounded with a wall of steel bars that reach down into the water all the way to the sand to keep sharks at bay.  

Swimming Area has a diving platform and floating islands.
They don't advise swimming in an area that is unprotected.    The beach was lively, colorful, spotless and filled with people enjoying a beautiful summer day.  

After trying to walk off some of the food I've had to eat lately, I returned to the ship, ironically for lunch.

Tonight is the last formal affair on board and Stevie and I were invited to have dinner with the head of the Odyssey's Hotel Division, Hubert Buedhart.  

Ellen and Bob join us at the Observation Lounge

Before dinner, we met Bob and Ellen for cocktails in our favorite spot, the Odyssey Observation Lounge.  You remember Ellen and Bob?  She's the one who paid $50,000 to find her husband.  As it turns out, I've really come to like Bob and Ellen.  But for 50 grand, I would have held out for a Becket kind of guy.  

Heather and Meredith

Annabelle our dance instructor.

We had a lovely dinner and then went to the Main Salon for the evening's show.  The kids on this ship are adorable and very talented.  The show was great.  

I finally got to wear the dress that was so heavy I had to take it out of my bag to lighten the suitcase in order to get it below the weight limit so it could be checked for our flight to Auckland.     

Holding the Walls to get back to the room.

Oh, I forgot to mention, we're back in the Tasman Sea and it's rockin' and rollin' again.  We held on to the walls to get back to our staterooms.  

We turned in early preparing for our last day at sea before landing in Sydney on Thursday morning.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Down Under - Day Nineteen, Monday, February 24, 2014 - Melbourne, Australia

Land Ho!!

Melbourne Skyline at sunrise.  Nirvana!!
What a "luscious" sight this morning ... the Melbourne Skyline.  Stevie and I were almost giddy with excitement.  As the sun peaked over the clouds to illuminate the city,  hot air balloons dotted the sky  and lingered over Melbourne's skyscrapers.  After four days at sea, we are thrilled to set foot on terra firma today.  

Paddy and Stevie at Shrine of Remembrance.
We left the ship this morning to tour the city with our new pal, Paddy, who hired a taxi to take us to see the sights of Melbourne.  Melbourne is a very modern, clean and progressive city of around 4 millions people.  The taxi driver didn't know a lot about Melbourne, but Paddy certainly did.  We visited Gallipoli Memorial Gardens and the "Shrine of Remembrance", honoring fallen soldiers.  Paddy told us about the battle of Gallipoli and how the Australian soldiers were slaughtered largely in part because the British had their morning tea before they went to the battlefield.  By then, thousands of Australian soldiers had been killed and defeated by the Turks.  The "Shrine of Remembrance" is located in a beautiful garden overlooking the city.  

Australian Grande Prix 
Our "Race" Car for the run on the track of the Grande Prix.
Then the driver took us to the actual track where the Australian Grande Prix will run in a few weeks.  We ran the track in a taxi!  What fun!!  Imagining the race car drivers zooming around these streets in a few weeks was such a thrill.  We didn't set any records ... well, maybe the slowest run around the track, but it sure was fun.

Tea Time in Melbourne with Stevie and Paddy.
Typical "Lane Way"
"French Connection of UK."   What were you thinking??
The afternoon was for tea and "retail therapy" in Melbourne.  Known for their "Lane Ways" we found plenty of interesting shops and restaurants along the way.   This photo depicts a typical Lane Way, cluttered with people and little cafes.  In the USA, we'd call this an alley.  
Block Arcade "Lane Way"
We stumbled upon a beautiful area called the Block Arcade, which was originally part of a building.  Now converted to a Lane Way, the original tile mosaic floors were left in place.  As my friend, Carolyn would say, this is more "our kind of place."  With upscale shops, bakeries and cafes.  

What's up with a scale next to the bakery??

But WHY would they
Lunch at Segovia's Cafe
have a scale in the hall of this Lane Way?  After tilting the scale we walked right to lunch!

Tram ride to downtown Melbourne. 

We returned to  the ship just in time to leave for our sommelier walking tour of Melbourne, visiting restaurants off the beaten path that are  supposed to be some of Melbourne's best kept secrets. 

Our first stop, at the end of a dark alley that one would normally never venture down in the USA, The Deanery, touts being a "wine bar" that serves food.  
Good Wine and Food at Deanery
We had three wonderful wines and very good food matched to each glass.  I was surprised at how the food actually complimented the wines.  Nice stop.

Then on to a Japanese place called Chiodo Chiodo.  Now anyone who really knows me can attest to the fact that "ese" foods - Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese ... you get the point ...  are NOT my favorite choice on a good day and this place didn't change my mind.  
They actually served beer with the first course of fried corn balls.  (I didn't know corn had balls, but apparently it does.)  The next course of salmon was served with saki.  Pretty foul tasting stuff.  Let me just say, I wasn't sad when the server dropped and shattered the large bottle of saki.  The last course of pork belly was OK and the red wine they served was marginal.  So in my humble opinion, the Jap Joint was a bust.  

Our last stop was a place called Seamstress, a trendy little establishment in historic Chinatown housed in a 120 year old former textile factory, warehouse and one-time Buddhist Monastery.  We climbed the rickety stairs to  

Seamstress.  Three Floors of fun.
Upstairs Bar/Speakeasy.

Stairs going up from the Sweatshop to Dining Area.

 find a delightful little restaurant.  Each floor is set up differently to resemble from textile to finished product.  The basement is the Sweatshop Bar, like a New York basement bar, with straight up counter service serving local beers and bourbon whiskey.  

The middle floor is the restaurant and dining area featuring a canopy of sweeping fabric, colorful floral arrays and iconic sewing machinery and serves an amazing pan-asian menu.  The top floor is like a
New York Speakeasy with ancient wooden flooring and colorful clothing hanging from the ceiling and jazz and blues music blaring.  This was by far my favorite haunt.  Food and wine as well as the atmosphere was interesting, entertaining and delicious.

Electric Trans Run Across Melbourne.

Back on Public Transportation. The Tram.
It was an exhausting walk!!

After our restaurant tour, we hopped on the tram and shopping carts to return to the ship for our "Rock the Boat" concert poolside.  

But first, we had to go to the Dining room as the Chef had prepared a special dessert for me.  Chocolate Lava Cake.  If you remember, I mentioned that his former pastry chef attempted this dessert last night and failed miserably.  

Chef Martin is happy that we are happy. In his kitchen, if the chef ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!!
His new pastry chef did an excellent job and we enjoyed our lava cake.  Chef Martin Kitzing came out personally to make sure we were pleased.  I cleaned my plate.  He was pleased.  

So ... We've been on this ship for a couple of weeks now searching for a venue with good music only to find bands singing to a much more "mature" audience.  (Yawn!)
Cast from the shows on Seabourn Odyssey.  
But tonight, the whole crew, singers and entertainers were performing GREAT dance music at the Rock The Boat Party, which was poolside so we could enjoy the lights of Melbourne's skyline.  The dance floor was full and people were clearly having a GREAT time.  At least Stevie, Molly, Carroll, Paddy and I were!!  

I think Paddy was enjoying himself!!
Paddy danced with every pretty girl on the ship and I've got the photos to prove it.  He was having such a wonderful time, it just made us happy to watch him.  
Working on those dance steps.
I practiced my dance moves - learned from three dance classes on board - combining various steps from The ChaCha, Waltz and Jive to create a totally new dance.  My sweet dance instructor, Annabelle, said it was unlike anything she's ever seen.  Not sure exactly what she meant by that.  But I was having a grand time.  

Singing Bruno Mars song ...  Just the Way You Are.
I felt the need to assist the singers with a couple of songs.  I'm sure they'll have a performance contract for me to sign - but alas ... I have to disappoint.  My schedule just will not permit me to sign on as entertainment with Seabourn.  This was hands down the most fun evening on the ship.  Somehow, Stevie and I have come to know most of the passengers and crew.  We had 'em all on the dance floor with us!  A good time was had by all. 

Melbourne, Australia Skyline

The party wound down as we departed Melbourne on our way to Geelong.  The band packed up their instruments as the lights of the city faded away.  Time for us to turn in for the night, too.  Until tomorrow ...  

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Down Under - Day Eighteen, Sunday, February 23, 2014 - Tasman Sea

3rd Day at Sea ...

Well, I managed to stay secure in bed last night.  What a ride!!  Believe it or not, it's still rough out here today.   Since I awoke early, I headed to the gym.  First one there!  I had my choice of rides, which is no real consolation since I felt I'd been on a ride all night long!!  But  I selected the recumbent bike and rode for 40 minutes, then on to the treadmill for another 20 minutes and then to the floor for stretches and plank.  Maybe I worked off one of many glasses of champagne.  The workout left me feeling invigorated and ready for the day at sea.  So I immediately went to breakfast with Stevie, Molly and Carroll. 

Aft deck with Molly.
Looking for another activity after breakfast, I settled for a few hours of sunning on the aft deck of the ship, a secret place that Molly told me about, where we are out of the wind, have two hot tubs, a full bar and lounge chairs, all of which matched perfectly with the sun.  I have Spa appointments this afternoon followed by dance class.  Fun, fun, and more fun.

We passed the small island of Tasmania this afternoon.  First land we've seen in three days.  Sure looked good.  A mutiny crossed my mind, but the island looks very small and all I could think about was the Tasmanian Devil.  I'm sure that's where he's from and I don't want to come face to face with him.  So, we'll journey on to Melbourne, where we're expected to arrive tomorrow morning.  Thank goodness.

Stevie and Paddy

Odyssey Lounge for cocktails.  Carroll Molly, Julie and Paddy

After properly frying myself on the aft deck, we gathered in the Odyssey Lounge for cocktails at 6:30 followed by a delightful dinner in the main restaurant, where the chef prepared a special dessert just for us, Chocolate lava cake.  

Something about a man in uniform!
But the lava cake had no lava.  The chef came to the table to see how we liked our special dessert, at which time we pointed out there was NO LAVA flow.  He said his NEW pastry chef would have that corrected and he
These gals clean up well.
would have our chocolate lava cake for us tomorrow night.  I had visions of the old pastry chef walking the plank and very quickly told the chef how delicious the cake was even without the lava.  But alas, he was determined to replace the pastry chef.

Molly Sings "At Last" to her brand new husband.
We ran into our new friends at dinner, Stevie, Meredith, Chris, Dymtre and Julie
After dinner, we took over the downstairs bar.  The singer took a break and Molly jumped on stage to entertain.  She was fabulous.  The more I get to know Molly, the more I love her.  She's so full of life and so much fun!!  Carroll is one lucky man.

Gathering around the star of the show, Molly.

Practicing my new moves with dance instructor Annabelle.
Oh, by the way, did I mention the seas finally calmed?  We had a lovely cruise this afternoon.  I'm so happy.  I'm really tired of tying myself to the bedpost at night to keep from falling out of bed!!