Happy Fourth of July

The holiday feels and looks a bit different this year. Many firework displays and BBQs have been cancelled or postponed. If you are celebrating with people outside of your household please be safe as COVID-19 is still very real. Beyond the social distancing, the current political and social injustice issues have also put a damper on celebrating. That being said I think all Americans can agree that being an independent nation is a good thing. Stay safe this Fourth of July weekend.

Most of my 4th’s have been spent stateside – eating hotdogs, going to the pool or beach, baseball games, and lots of fireworks. I have also spent some memorable holidays abroad as well.

The first time I remember being away for the holiday was after my senior year of high school. I was on a school trip to Europe and on July 4th we would be in Berlin. I remember looking for ways to celebrate and had bought sparklers randomly. That night the entire group gathered around outside and we lit the sparklers and sang Happy Birthday to America. Looking back on it we would have been seen as obnoxious Americans if someone passed us, but if I recall correctly there weren’t other people around. I remember everyone in the group just being so happy.

A few years later I was in Poland during the holiday with my mom. Earlier that trip I bought wedges with a red, white, and blue star design. These are only acceptable to wear on Memorial Day, the Fourth, Labor Day, or (at the time) themed sorority events. I never understood why they were sold in a store in Poland, but I considered them a great find. On the actual holiday we were in the seaside town of Sopot and went to the beach. I wore my firecracker pattered Lilly Pulitzer shorts.

Five summers ago I found myself in Aruba on the holiday with my parents. That entire trip was so much fun. We went horseback riding, boating, and stayed at a beautiful resort. Unfortunately, my only pictures from the actual 4th are of an Acai bowl. Most of that day was just spent on the beach.

This year I’m at home – we’ve grilled this afternoon, I’m going to try my hand at making a themed dessert, and round off the night watching Hamilton. Happy 4th of July!

Mommy & Me in Oz – Week 3

I’m a bit behind on writing because I had flown to Fiji the day after my mom left Australia, but it’s fun looking back on our travels. The best way to describe week three is bittersweet. We were looking forward to where we were going, but it was also my mom’s last week traveling with me. As much fun as she was having I also could see she was missing home and having a normal routine. Living out of a suitcase isn’t for everyone and it can get old.

Monday/Day 15 – We woke up early this morning to catch the shuttle out to the ferry to Rottnest Island. The ferry took about 2 hours and upon arriving we have lunch at Dome café. After lunch we walked to Discovery and checked in. We walked around the area to become acquainted with the surroundings and the beaches close by. We had the first spotting of quokkas and then had dinner at Pinky’s Beach Club. 

Day 16 – Today was a full on relaxing beach day. With the exception of needing to get our door fixed. We had breakfast on property, walked to the lighthouse, and then to Geordie Bay. I also snorkeled a bit around the Basin before getting ready and going to dinner at Rottnest Hotel. 

Day 17 – Our last full day in Rotto. We have an easy morning and then do a tour around the island in the afternoon. The tour starts with a train ride to the guns on the island. This was a huge piece of machinery created for WWII to defend Fremantle port. It was never fired, but still impressive. We have lunch on the train ride back and then go on a bus tour around the rest of the island. For dinner we ate at Pinky’s again. 

Day 18 – Today we had to check out, but had until 5ish for the ferry. I rented a bike and rode around the island making pit stops to snorkel. It was a beautiful day and I was sad to leave Rotto when it was time to board the ferry. At the port we grabbed an Uber to take us to our hotel and we decided to stay closer to the airport. 

Day 19 – Flying to Melbourne today for our last stop. We arrived in the evening and checked into our hotel. The room was small, but wow this hotel had everything figured out. For dinner we went to the hotel restaurant, Lord Nelson. The meal was great and my mom really liked the wine she had. After dinner we called it an early night.   

Day 20 – Today we were off to fit in as much of Melbs as possible, but first on the agenda was to buy a new laptop charger. Then we had breakfast and coffee on Degraves Street. We shopped around a bit and checked out the Queen Victoria Market. We had an afternoon pick me up in the form of sticky date pudding. Then we were off to St. Kilda to see the sunset and penguins. It was chilly and we didn’t stay on the pier long and then went on the search for a dinner spot. We landed on St. Moritz and it was great! 

Day 21 – My mom’s last full day in Australia and of course she insisted on doing laundry in between our activities. Today we ate breakfast downstairs at the hotel and then went to the South Street Market. In the afternoon we went to the famous Hopetoun Tea Room for dessert. We walked around Melbourne CBD a little bit and saw the street art on Hosier Lane and AC/DC Lane. We munched all day so didn’t need a big dinner. We grabbed some small bites at Lord Nelson. 

Day 22 – Mom’s flight was in the early afternoon so after wake up and goodbyes I ordered her an Uber and she was sadly back off to the airport.

Week 2 Recap and Week 1 Recap.

Rottnest Island Glamping

Most Rottnest Island visitors come for day trips and as a result there aren’t many accommodation options. Hotel Rottnest is currently being redone so we were limited to the only other hotel or a unique option – glamping. When I saw the glamping option whilst researching I was stoked, but I wasn’t sure my mom would go for it. To my surprise she did, so Discovery Rottnest Island here we come. 

Everything about the property online looked awesome and we decided to book three nights. At the time of booking there was only one type of tent option and that was the accessible tent, which can accommodate four people. The set up is one large king bed and a bunk bed. This would be perfect for a family, but a little too much room for my mom and me. There’s an en-suite full bathroom and a kitchenette also within the tent. It is very very nice and not “roughing” whatsoever. The walls besides the bathroom and the front are a thick canvas. You can’t roll them completely up like a normal tent, but there are window areas that you could roll up for extra light. The front wall had a sliding glass door and two full windows. 

We enjoyed our overall stay and I would recommend this property to anyone looking for a unique holiday destination. It’s important to be transparent so I’ll also go over the cons of the experience. The website is a little misleading and not clear. The way specifications were written it seemed like there was also laundry en-suite, in the tent. This is actually not the case at all. You can have the cleaners do your laundry for a fee or walk pretty far on the island if you wanted to do it yourself. Obviously, this wasn’t a deal breaker, but it was more like false advertising.

The second thing was that they should have been clearer at check in about how things run. They didn’t mention that there wasn’t a cleaner daily (only if you stay 5 or more nights) and more importantly they didn’t mention that all the towels that are in your room are meant to last your entire stay, this included beach towels. So regardless if you stay one night or three you’ll have the same towels. Not a huge deal for the bathroom towels, but a bit annoying for the beach/pool towels. Either way it wasn’t mentioned to us at check in, and we only had one type of towel in our room so we didn’t realize we had to ration our towel usage. On the same caliber they also didn’t say that about the toiletries they put in the room. One bar of soap, shampoo, conditioner, etc. for your whole stay regardless if it’s one night or longer. We had our own so it wasn’t a huge deal, but still it should have been mentioned in an email beforehand or at check in.

The third “issue,” and this one was actually an issue, – wen realized the first night our door’s lock was broken. When we informed reception they couldn’t do anything about it that night. Not a huge deal and we placed a suitcase in front of the door while we slept. The island feels pretty safe so we didn’t feel an immediate threat. The second day when maintenance came to check it out they didn’t think they could fix it that day due to lack of parts on the island. This would mean another night without a locked door, but more significantly leaving our belongings in a totally open room during the day as they didn’t have any safes in the tents. We weren’t really cool with that. After much deliberation we were offered to change tents, but we really didn’t want to have to pack up and move everything again. They ended up working their magic and fixing the door so all was well.

Now comes the last and final complaint I had about the property. Our second day when we were going through the issues with the door, we had the absolute rudest, disrespectful, and condescending front desk staff member ever. Honestly, I travel a lot and have been in many hotels, hostels, resorts, etc. and I have never encountered such a spiteful worker. She was young, probably around my age, obviously didn’t like her job and thought she was above it. I’m really not sure what her problem was, but she was terrible. And fine hunny if you want to be rude to me I will give it right back to you, but don’t you dare disrespect my mom, which was what she was doing and in front of other guests too. It wasn’t a good look for Discovery. I really don’t want to dwell on it because once we spoke to the Assistant Manager, Maddie, everything was smoothed over, fixed, and compensated over. Maddie was seriously a godsend and great at her job, but it is a shame that she had to get involved in the first place. 

So those were the woes of the property, but everything else was pretty great. They are located right between two beaches so you can take your pick or hop around. Substantial breakfast buffets were included with our stay. The tent itself was really nice, but one night was stifling hot even with the fan on – so maybe earlier in the summer is a better time to visit. I think my mom’s favorite part of the property was the food at the restaurant for dinner. The chef made a fantastic menu with great specials daily. Quokkas were plentiful around the property. You could find them around and under the tents during the day and at night they came out in packs everywhere. I would highly recommend staying here if you come to Rottnest Island. 

Hotel Review – Darling Harbour (Sydney)

Darling Harbour is the “other harbour” in Sydney the main one being where the sort of famous bridge and drying plates or sails building (aka the Sydney Opera House) is. Darling Harbour is typically less crowded with tourists and has more of the business/convention crowds, given the close proximity to the Sydney Convention Center. On Fridays, they have fireworks, although all fireworks have been put on hold since last year because of the bush fires. This Friday’s fireworks (the 8th) have not been cancelled yet. Darling Harbour is in a prime location because it’s an easy walk into the CBD, but not directly in it. The new Light Rail/tram makes it easier than ever to travel west from Central Station. 

My mom is visiting me in Australia as of Monday and there was no way she would do the hostel life so I went on a search for hotels. Our first hotel on her trip is Novotel Sydney Darling Harbour. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I haven’t stayed at a Novotel before, but I was blown away with the lobby once inside. It was spacious with high ceilings and beautifully decorated. The check in and check out process was smooth with the front desk staff being super friendly and accommodating. 

The room itself wasn’t show-stopping and smelled a little musty/muggy until you turned on the AC to circulate air throughout. It was a decent sized, clean, and we had two beds. The TV was enormous, but there were two main highlights of the room: first being blackout curtains that wow really worked wonders and the second being was the bed. The bed/pillows were so comfortable. I would stay here just for the amazing night’s sleep. 

There was also a little gym, tennis court, and outdoor pool on property. Happy Hour ran around the lobby level bar from 4-6pm each day with $6 beer, wine, and spirits. They also had pretty amazing chips “fries” for a little nibble. 

My mom wants me to make sure I note the great service we received. She had dropped something down the drain and the engineer/maintenance worker came so quickly to retrieve it. She was shocked by how quick and efficient they were and not expecting a tip, but just doing their job. 

I had three sort of negatives with the hotel, but they wouldn’t deter me from staying here again or recommending this property. The first and main one was I tried ordering room service Sunday night. When calling I asked if a specific dish was vegan and was assured it was. When it was delivered it had a side of mayo (okay I don’t have to use that), but then it was covered in cheese. I called back and she said they would remake it vegan. When it came to be delivered the second time I was greeted to no mayo or cheese, but the attendee told me the chef had said it wasn’t prepared vegan. That was an eye roll moment especially as they didn’t have any other vegan options on the menu except fries. At that point on a Sunday night it was too late to have anything else delivered either. The second negative, was that our room wasn’t turned over after the first night. We had placed the sign to make up the room, but it must have been misread as do not disturb. Not a big deal, but then when they did make up the room after the second day they left an extra sheet around the room. The attention to detail just wasn’t there. Finally, the third con isn’t directly related to the hotel, the light rail stop was directly below the hotel, but it was so hard to get to and signage was so poor. I’ve found that this is kind of the light rails thing, not being able to find it or make it easy for riders, but as a hotel guest it should be easier to know how to get to the light rail and harbour side. Not spending a chunk of time roaming a garage.

This is definitely a hotel you would want to stay at on a business trip to the city, but I also think it’s a good option if you want to get out of the center of the CBD. The value was great and the night’s sleep was awesome.

Back to Sydney and Australia Day 2020

I’ve officially been traveling and away from home for four months (eek that means I’m a third of the way through my year long visa). It’s crazy how quickly time flies by. It’s obviously been a long time away from my family and friends, but it’s also been jam packed with new memories and experiences. I’ve been really reflecting on my decision to move to this side of the world and realize how lucky I am to have this opportunity to live abroad.

I’m not settled down in one place and I’m not sure I will any time soon. However, I’ve spent the most amount of time in Sydney and it has sort of become a home base. I have my favorite spots and have also met amazing friends here. After, every trip when I get back to Sydney it feels a bit like coming back home.

I flew back last Wednesday and even though I was only away for six weeks I think a lot of change has taken place in the city. The lock out laws are a thing of the past; the light rail is now operational; it’s significantly hotter/muggier outside; the T8 train now goes from the airport to Circular Quay – no transfers necessary; those are just a few things I noticed. It is great to come back to a city and see all the progress and changes that occurred over a few weeks. I think when you live somewhere you don’t really notice these types of things because it’s part of your daily life.

My time back in Sydney has been busy. My first full day back I had brunch at Speedo’s Cafe and had to say goodbye to one of my first Sydney friends as she is now off to New Zealand and Bali before heading home to Spain. Then I attempted to go to Bondi, but it was a bit too steamy to stay out very long. I did get to see some filming for Bondi Rescue.

The weekend held another brunch, this time at the “most instagramable spot,” at Social Hideout. Then my friend J and I explored the surrounding neighborhood of Green Square and Rosebery. I really loved this area and could potentially see this as a future apartment area if it comes to that point. Later that evening we went to the markets and got dumplings in celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year.

Now that brings us to Australia Day. Before coming to Oz, as an American I incorrectly associated Australia Day with a Fourth of July type of holiday. I thought that it was fully a national holiday of celebration. Then once you’re in Australia you realize that there is a much deeper and darker side to it in regards to the Indigenous people of this land. I am in no means an activist or claim to know nearly enough to educate others on this topic. That will be my self-assigned homework. What I did know is that Australia Day was going to be a long day full of city-wide activities, many of which are “fun” and celebratory. If I was going to partake in these activities, I wanted to at least start the day honoring/acknowledging the other side of the holiday and get a bit cultural. I woke up early to make it to the 7:45am WugulOra Morning Ceremony at Barangaroo Reserve. This morning’s event included the ancient custom of a smoking ceremony, dancing and singing performances, appearances from NSW’s governor, and more. Afterwards, I headed to the Rock’s Market and then to Manly. We went to a cute brunch spot, Girdlers Cafe, tried to go on the beach but were prevented from going into the water by bluebottle jellyfish, and went to the wharf instead. Then we bounced around more and went to a house party out in Pymble, where I finally got to experience and Aussie BBQ. It was a nice, but long day. I’m glad I didn’t go over the top and was able to “celebrate” in a mindful way. First Australia Day in Oz was a success, but now I’m going to do some historical research.