, , , , , , , ,

If there's one thing Massachusetts is great at, it's Thanksgiving

Today I’m going to try and wrap up my recap of Beege’s wicked awesome visit. For one, it’s now been a couple weeks since she left us (SAD), and for two, I’ll be leaving Sydney myself tomorrow for a 2.5 week trip around Southeast Asia. I am MEGA-pumped. We’ll be visiting Singapore, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand, and I promise to post zillions of pictures (or thereabouts) upon our return. Crazily, tomorrow (for us) is Thanksgiving, and on Friday when it’s Thanksgiving in the U.S. we’ll be in Singapore. Not that I was planning to cook a turkey or anything (the hubs doesn’t even like turkey that much!), but it’ll definitely be a little sad being so far away from our families, and I’m not holding my breath about being able to find cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, or the Cowboys game on TV. However, I certainly have a great deal to be thankful for, and I’ll have no problem thinking about all of that over the next few days. To everyone else out there wherever you are, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, and to my friends and family back [way, way] East, I love you all very much.

Ok, enough schmaltziness. Picking up from where we left off with the wine tour to the Hunter Valley, that alone was a full and exhausting slate of activity, but little did Beege and I know that the day was just getting started. After we got back to our apartment, the hubs called to see if we were up for meeting some of his work colleagues at Spice I Am, one of Sydney’s most renowned Thai restaurants. I’m never one to turn down Thai food, and we’d been talking about visiting the original Surry Hills location (essentially a hole in the wall, but the food is allegedly better and cheaper than the snazzy location on Victoria Street) for a long time, so off we went. After an excellent dinner, we grabbed a drink at a nearby bar, where there happened to be a live funk band playing. Hilariously, they were like the whitest Australian dudes I’ve ever seen (all of them blond, wearing flowered board shorts etc.) and one of them was rapping. Oh, this place! Meanwhile, a couple backpacker chicks in hoodie sweatshirts, who I assume were on drugs, were hippie dancing on a small space between the bar and the band as if they were on the lawn at a Phish concert. Beege and I found the whole to be very entertaining.

After a couple schooners (the Australian version of pints), we decided it would be an excellent idea to do karaoke at a nearby bar called Ding Dong Dang, which is pretty much universally acknowledged as Sydney’s best spot for karaoke. It was pretty great, with spacious private rooms, HD tv screens (you know, for watching the bizarro Korean videos that accompany each song), and two different digital jukeboxes. They had beer in a refrigerated case up front (A$5 for a can of VB), just to keep things festive. We ended up spending about three hours there, and I can’t even remember all the songs that we sang, only that I was extremely hoarse afterwards. I think we all agreed that the top performance went to the hubs and Beege (pretty much the whitest girl I know, since she grew up in New Hampshire), who did a rousing duet on 50 Cent’s “P.I.M.P. Oh my God, I’m laughing hysterically again right now just thinking about it.

What are we singing here? "You're the One that I Want"? "Like a Prayer"? "I Touch Myself"?

Not surprisingly, on Friday we were all pretty worn out (we were both up for almost 24 hours straight, and drinking for most of them!). Beege and I essentially sat around the apartment doing almost nothing until 3pm, when it occurred to us that we should eat something. I suddenly had a huge hankering for dim sum (they call it yum cha here), and so I endeavored to find a restaurant serving food in that weird window between traditional lunch and dinner. In New York, particularly in Chinatown, restaurants are open at lunch and they just STAY open until they close. Unfortunately, countless Internet searches here told me that places closed for lunch at 2:30, only to re-open for dinner at 5 or 5:30. WTF Mate? Finally I found a place that looked like it was open straight through, and so we headed to Chinatown to have a go at East Ocean (seriously, look at this illustrated yum cha menu and tell me your mouth isn’t watering!).

Naturally, when we arrived the chippy hostess told us that they were done serving yum cha, but we pouted enough (or more accurately, played dumb and pretended not to understand her) that she said we could have yum cha if we ordered immediately. I don’t think I’ve ever sat down at a table and ordered so quickly, and it was weird because the waitress was, like, hanging over my shoulder. What’s more, they were out of about half the things we tried to order, but I can say that their pork buns and steamed dumplings were excellent. After our semi-satisfying meal we headed down to the main outdoor arcade in Chinatown around 4:30, only to discover that East Ocean has a stand where they sell most of their yum cha items to go! I wish they’d told us when we walked in that we could get everything outside, plus there were a ton of other stalls selling all sorts of other Asian street food. I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a late-afternoon snack.

After snagging some bubble tea, we walked back to the apartment, where we proceeded to cook a low-key dinner in anticipation of Beege’s big Sydney finale on Saturday: the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb.

The view from Observatory Hill, where I waited for the intrepid climbers to do their thing

Beege and the hubs arrived to the modern headquarters on Cumberland Street in the Rocks and were sent upstairs to don their onesy suits, so I headed out to nearby Observatory Hill to do some reading and try to catch a glimpse of their two-hour “Express Climb.” Apparently the Express Climb is different from the traditional climb in that you walk along the inner arch (rather than all the way along the top) and then take a staircase to the top of the bridge at the end. It also takes about an hour less. So the weather was kind of cloudy, but I still put on sunscreen just in case because the sun is so strong here. Unfortunately, I neglected to put it on my neck and shoulders, even though I was wearing a wide-neck shirt. Long story short, the sides of my neck got ridiculously burnt, to the point that it hurt to carry a bag around on my shoulder for a week. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

About half an hour before the group was due to return from their climb, I walked down to the little park at the end of the Rocks that’s right underneath the bridge. It actually has a fantastic view of the Opera House, and offers some nice shade and grass for chilling out.

A typically gorgeous Sydney day

Just as I was walking down underneath the bridge, I noticed a group of climbers walking along the catwalk on the way down from their climb. I realized I’d be able to spot Bridget and the hubs on their way down, as well, and sure enough took them by surprise and got them to wave as they were heading into the tunnel back at the bridge climb headquarters. I think this picture turned out the best, though:

When they walked back into the headquarters, all in their matching jumpsuits, they kind of reminded me of NASA astronauts. They both gave the experience a big thumbs up, and verified that I probably would have freaked out at the very top where there were open spaces and you could see straight down to the water below. Most of it was just walking up stairs, though. Afterwards, we went to a nearby bar, the Glenmore Hotel, where we were able to eat lunch and have drinks on their beautiful roof deck. I highly recommend it for the atmosphere and awesome views.

Following lunch we were all pretty worn out/sunburnt, so we walked through the CBD so Beege could pick up some souvenirs for her fam (including a mini Ugg boot keychain for her Dad, who’d requested authentic Australian Uggs), and then headed home. We stopped in the Domain to take some pictures, and as Beege and I were sitting on the grass we both noticed a sculpture on the front lawn of the Art Gallery of New South Wales:

At first glance, what do you see here?

Me: “I’ve never noticed that sculpture before. That’s cool, it’s a match. But what is that right next to it?”

Bridget: “I don’t know, but it looks very phallic…almost shriveled.”

Me: “Yeah totally, that’s exactly what I was thinking.”

The hubs: “Seriously? Both of you? It’s A BURNED MATCH.”

Bridget and Me: “Ohhhhhh, now I see.”

Yeah, totally ridiculous. We proceeded to roll around on the grass laughing hysterically for about five minutes (meanwhile the hubs marched down the hill, shaking his head incredulously). I blame our initial reaction on the fact that our high school campus was filled with phallic sculptures; now I automatically assume everything is in some way sexual.

Anyway, we made it back to the apartment and chilled out for a few hours, before heading off to Beege’s big farewell dinner at Bondi Social, a place overlooking the beach that I’d heard great things about. Sure enough, the views from the balcony are spectacular:

Not pictured: Eurotrash cigarette smoke

Less than spectacular: the restaurant’s service, which tottered between flaky and non-existent. Our waitress couldn’t speak English – we had to point to things on the menu, and she had to bring the bartender over to tell us they were out of a key ingredient for one of the cocktails we’d ordered – and she seemed to be the only server handling all the tables on the crowded balcony. What’s more, people kept coming outside to smoke, and rather than go to an empty corner they seemed to prefer standing right over our shoulders and ashing onto our table. Fun times! After they didn’t pick up on my extremely dirty looks, I finally snapped and asked the waitress (in a loud, slow voice) to make them move. They probably thought I was a high-maintenance American but whatever– don’t ash on my table fools!

Anyway, the food ended up being pretty good. It’s all tapas style, and my favorite dish was doughy duck pancakes. The whole thing was such a shitshow, though, that the food almost seemed beside the point.

After dinner we headed back to our neighborhood and grabbed a drink at a local pub, then we turned in, physically exhausted by the long, hot day and mentally drained by dinner.

Beege had a noontime flight the next day, so we had a bit of time to hang out in the morning. Naturally we chose to watch one of our favorite Brit/Aussie shows, Property Ladder. LOVE that show. During the week we’d also watched most of this season of Project Runway: Australia, and I was relieved to see that Beege found it as hilariously entertaining as I did (the contestants were far funnier than their American counterparts, and the editors are much crueller).

From start to finish, Bridget’s visit was filled with laughter and fun, just as I knew it would be. I’m still exhausted thinking about all the stuff we did (my parents are now slightly more scared to visit, I think), but having been through it all once now I think I have a better idea of how to pace ourselves. I just hope I have the opportunity to play hostess many more times over the course of our stay here.

Unless I find a spare moment and an empty computer during our trip, I’ll see y’all in a couple weeks. Again, Happy Thanksgiving!