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Doing my thang in Waimea Bay, Hawaii

Doing my thang in Waimea Bay, Hawaii

Wow, talk about a snowball effect. You go a couple days without blogging, then suddenly that becomes more than two months! What is wrong with me?! To any readers whom I’ve managed to retain over my prolonged absence, I apologize for my disappearance and promise that it won’t happen again. I’m back for good, and determined to keep on a regular blogging schedule. And hopefully I can make it up to you in this ridiculously long and overdue post that violates all the rules of proper blogging length.

So where have I been? Well, from July 19-September 3 I was zooming all over the great United States of America. First stop: three weeks on the island of Oahu for work to cover Honolulu hotels (I took that surfing photo).

Hawaii is about a 9-hour flight from Sydney, and I had an easy time adjusting to the time change (since we were 20 -now 21 – hours  ahead it just felt like I was four hours behind, meaning I was tired in the morning and wide awake at night. What else is new?). Anyway, the weather is gorgeous, the people are super nice, and the food is generally awesome (at least if you like pork, ahi tuna, and tropical fruits), but I wasn’t a huge fan of Oahu. It kind of felt like a giant shopping mall (there are about 12 Le Sportsac stores and three Burberry boutiques along a 1.5 mile stretch, for instance) and not what I would want if I were flying 5+ hours from the mainland to get to a tropical island.There are plenty of gorgeous spots on Oahu – Lanikai, the North Shore, Hanuama Bay – but unfortunately most hotels are far away from those lovely sights.

Lanikai Beach, just outside Honolulu.

Lanikai Beach, just outside Honolulu.

Of course, for me coming from Australia I couldn’t get enough of the malls, cheap (yet high-quality!) clothes, Cheesecake Factory, iced coffee at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and stores that were open till 11 pm.I’ve never felt like such a disgusting materialist, ha. I totally get why the place is a huge hit with Japanese tourists (and a decent amount of Aussies as well). But if you’re going to pay to get all the way to Hawaii, it seems like Maui, Kauai and the Big Island are the places to go. Some of my lucky bastard colleagues got to cover those– I think I should have gotten a hardship bonus since I was staying in beat-up 1960s high-rises while they frolicked at the Four Seasons, but whatevs.

Anyway, for me the highlight of Hawaii was that I got to do a lot of surfing on Waikiki. I’d never really done it before, but there are lots of great surf schools, and the waves are very long and gentle, particularly in the summertime.  In fact I enjoyed it so much that I would wake up extra early during my last week (since our days were jam-packed with photography and writing) and hit the waves before 8 am. Anyone who knows me is aware that I am NOT a morning person, but I enjoyed surfing that much. I am legitimately stoked to take some more lessons at Bondi and hopefully get into it a bit here as the summer weather moves in. By the way, except for the past three days (a long weekend, as luck would have it), it’s pretty much been 70-80 and sunny every day since my return. Excluding that whole weird dust storm thing, of course.

So moving on, from Hawaii I flew to San Francisco, where I attended my friend Brian’s wedding. It was a beautiful ceremony, held at Crissy Field right in front of the Golden Gate Bridge, and I had a great time catching up with some of my friends from Berkeley. One of my favorite aspects of the wedding: this 10-piece mariachi band that played at both the ceremony and the reception:

They played a fantastic version of "Here Comes the Bride"

They played a fantastic version of "Here Comes the Bride"

I was in the Bay Area for four days, so I also made it out to Berkeley to see my friend Shimrit and hit up my two favorite food/drink spots (certainly in the Bay Area, and possibly the world). First we grabbed beers at Jupiter, a local brewery that also has the most amazing beer garden (and pretty excellent pizza, too). I’m of the belief that there is no better place on earth to spend a Sunday afternoon than in said beer garden:

Ah, heaven

Ah, heaven

Afterwards we took a nice long walk over to my old ‘hood of Rockridge, where we met up with another friend to partake in the Bay Area’s best deep dish, Zachary’s. I mean, I’m not even a tomato fan, but I only wish this picture could begin to convey how succulent their ripe tomato sauce is, particularly when combined with spinach, mushrooms, and a doughy flaky crust. I apologize if drooling ensues:

Spinach-mushroom deep dish to die for

Spinach-mushroom deep dish to die for

What a way to remember the Bay Area! As magnificent as it is – and boy is it ever! The air still smells of flowers just like I remembered – I was itching to get back to NYC. I took my good old reliable JetBlue flight from Oakland (totes the best airport given the lack of crowds and free wifi) to JFK, and as the plane descended toward landing I actually got tears in my eyes when I saw the Manhattan skyline. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t miss something about New York – my friends most of all, but also the excitement and energy, the restaurants, the shopping, the people, the parks…I just love so much about it. Even my husband, who dislikes plenty about NYC, admits that living away from it has made him appreciate it and even miss it. Anyway, I was there for two fantastic weeks in which I was able to soak up so much of what I love about it. Highlights included:

  • Seeing HAIR on Broadway with KT; one of my all-time favorite musicals and SO much fun. At the end of the show the audience is invited to dance on-stage with the cast. I certainly never thought I’d get to sing and dance on a Broadway stage, ha.
  • Going to Whole Foods in both Union Square and TriBeCa and just wandering the long, clean, item-packed aisles. After four months of Coles King’s Cross I was thisclose to falling to my knees and crying.
  • Ditto for the Strand, where I loaded up on books to bring back, heavy suitcase be-damned, since books here cost about three times as much (I wish I was exaggerating, but sadly I’m not).
  • Sample sales!
  • My dear friend Casey’s bachelorette party in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where we went bowling, then danced all night at classic hipster spots Bembe and Savalas, then topped it off with greasy food at a diner at 4am.
  • Speaking of late-night shenanigans, traversing the city – from the Upper West Side, to the West Village, to the East Village, to Alphabet City, to a Greenpoint rooftop – over the course of a crazy night with my best friends. We barbecued, we ate at a great tapas restaurant, we made new friends at bars, and it all ended with a ridiculous dance party at a stranger’s apartment, where I somehow managed to run into a roommate that I lived with two years ago. Nights like that only seem to happen in New York, but they always seem to happen.
  • Seeing Gossip Girl being filmed IN FRONT OF MY OFFICE. Can’t wait for that episode.

Even though a heat wave struck the city for about five days during my stay (and to compound the problem I was crashing in an apartment with no fan and no AC), I had just the most amazing time. Here are a few favorite shots:

First Dunkin Donuts sighting, at JFK. That woman clearly thought I was crazy for snapping a photo, but I'd like to see her go four months without Dunkins coffee!

First Dunkin Donuts sighting, at the JFK baggage claim. That guard clearly thought I was crazy for snapping a photo, but I'd like to see him (?) go four months without Dunkins coffee!

The new High Line park, adjacent to my office. I love these benches that look out over 10th Avenue.

The new High Line park, adjacent to my office. I love these benches that look out over 10th Avenue.

A baseball game (yay America!) at the new Citi Field, where the Mets continued to suck as much as ever.

A baseball game (yay America!) at the new Citi Field, where the Mets continued to suck as much as ever.

Typical weekend commotion in Union Square (as seen from the second-floor cafe at Whole Foods)

Typical weekend commotion in Union Square (as seen from the second-floor cafe at Whole Foods)

Chillin at dusk in Washington Square Park

Chillin at dusk in Washington Square Park

Everyone taking pictures of everyone else with their iPhones in Greenpoint.

Everyone taking pictures of everyone else with their iPhones in Greenpoint.

The Empire State Building on a hot and hazy afternoon.

The Empire State Building on a hot and hazy afternoon.

I can never really get enough of NYC, but I had places to be in New England! I grabbed a seat on the fabulous Bolt Bus (again, love the free wifi) and rode my way up to Boston, where my parents and Charlotte met me for a tearful reunion at South Station. I spent the night with them in Hingham (one of my all-time favorite spots in summertime, I just wish I’d taken a picture), and the next day headed back into town to meet up with Bridget. While she was at work I meandered around my home city, marveling at how much certain things have changed (my old apartment on Marlborough Street is now a ridiculous single-family home, the Greenway park that’s supplanted the Big Dig mess), but comforted to find that every Dunkin Donuts was exactly where I remembered it. Yes, it’s the important things that matter.

My favorite place in Boston, the Public Garden.

My favorite place in Boston, the Public Garden.

I was overjoyed to see Bridget, and things got even better when Chelsie arrived from NYC that night. The next morning two more of our high school friends, Thayer and Courtney, joined us and we packed into Bridget’s car to head up to Maine for Casey’s wedding. Car rides with friends never seem to get old – we might as well have been 17 and heading to DQ like back in the day – and I def appreciated it all the more since I’ve missed my friends so much over these past months. If there is anything I wish I could bottle up and ingest when I’m feeling particularly sad and lonely here, it’s the laughter from moments like that. God I sound cheezy, but that’s what living on the other side of the world will do to you, I guess.

Highlights of Casey’s wedding:

  • World-famous Lobster Rolls at Red’s Eats in Wiscasset:
I'll say it again: YUM.

I'll say it again: YUM.

  • Casey joining in to sing with her new-husband’s band during the reception.
  • Loading up on nips of alcohol at the New Hampshire State Liquor Store (again, totes appreciated how cheap everything was).
  • Dancing like crazy with my friends at the reception.
  • The after-party in a bar shaped like a pirate ship. What more could you want out of a wedding weekend?
The beautiful bride & me. One upon a time we had Salt-n-Pepa dance parties and Beastie Boys posters on our wall.

The beautiful bride & me. One upon a time we had Salt-n-Pepa dance parties and Beastie Boys posters on our wall.

After Casey’s wedding I headed over to my parents’ summer house in New Hampshire, where I caught up on sleep (oh right, that), got in lots of quality time with the dog, and basically inhaled all the piney woodsyness I could muster.

Charlotte by Lake Winnipesaukee. She continues to be the world's cutest dog.

Charlotte by Lake Winnipesaukee. She continues to be the world's cutest dog.

A view of the White Mountains from Jackson, NH. New Hampshire at its finest.

A view of the White Mountains from Jackson, NH. New Hampshire at its finest.

With the Moms at our summer house.

With the Moms at our summer house.

After a few days I flew back to NYC, where I finished up some work, drank as much Dunkins iced coffee as I could, then prepared to finally, at long last, fly back to the hubs…and home. Because after more than six weeks of traveling and living out of a suitcase (I don’t recommend that last part), it became clear to me that Sydney has joined Boston, Berkeley, and NYC as places that I think of as home, mainly because that’s where my husband is, and that’s where our life is right now. On the way I stopped in LA for an 8-hour layover, and spent a great afternoon walking the beach and eating Mexican food with my old friend Carinne. Check out this sunset in Manhattan Beach (wildfires were raging, making it extra stunning):

Califooooornia...

Califooooornia...

And then I boarded my V Australia flight and to make my way back to Sydney. The 14-hour trip in economy was a bit more arduous this time around (I love you forever, business class!) but it wasn’t too bad. I sleepwalked/skipped my way through customs (if they’d tried to take my Annie’s Mac & Cheese away we would’ve had problems) and found my wonderful husband in the arrivals hall. Best of all, I made it back just in time for our anniversary.

Since returning I’ve been catching up on work, hitting the gym (it’s amazing what not exercising regularly will do to one’s mental state), catching up on DVR’d shows like Project Runway Australia and Packed to the Rafters, planning our upcoming vacation (more on that later) and re-watching The Wire on DVD. If you’ve never seen that show, I can’ recommend it highly enough. There is nothing else out there that even comes close in terms of quality writing, richness of characters, and plot.

So now I’m totally starting to ramble and I think it’s time to wrap things up (just for now!). Here’s the final tally on some truly ridiculous statistics:

Miles Traveled: 20, 741

Flights Taken/Airlines Flown:7 / 5 (Qantas, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Virgin America, V Australia)

Days Living Out of Suitcase: 47

States Visited:6 (Hawaii, California, New York, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire)

Tacos Consumed: 12

Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffees Drunk: 167 (approx.)

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