Monday, June 15, 2009

Adventures of Alex and Amy

May 29th - June 12th

Friday, May 29th

May 29th, the day that I had been counting down to for months finally had arrived. I woke up early, showered, and headed to the airport having decided to suck it up at pay the $15 for the "return" trip in and out of the airport so that I could wait outside of customs for Alex. Definitely worth it. I had to wait for almost an hour, with my neck getting tired from looking back and forth between the two exits, but finally he came out the door, dressed in cute new jeans, a yellow button-up and sport jacket, hauling his massive duffel with his signature yellow book bag on his back. Only he would choose to fly 14 hours in his "Sunday best."
After by accidentally taking the train in the wrong direction for one stop (guess my brain was a little muddled by the excitement of seeing him again after 4 1/2 months), we made it back to my house and settled in for a jet-lagged day full of laughing, talking and ordering in food.

Saturday, May 30th
On Saturday morning, we awoke early, starting the pattern of going to bed and waking up early that would last for most of the rest of his trip (I swear I was having sympathy jet-lag). We asked my flatmates for a recommendation for breakfast, and they suggested Deus Ex Machina, a unique cafe attached to a classic and custom-made motorcycle shop, actually one of the places that I had starred in my guidebook that I wanted to take Alex to. We walked down Parramatta Road (also called George St. and Broadway depending on where you are on the road) and started another trend, this one being breakfasts consisting of toast and eggs for Alex and something sickeningly sweet for me (in this case crepes filled with something like cream cheese with strawberries and orange sauce).
After breakfast we headed for Oxford St., a great street filled with shops and restaurants. We made our way to Paddington Markets and wandered around looking at the different stands. By this point, we were (of course) hungry again and grabbed some Thai food (only chopsticks were available -- eek!) - some sort of vegetarian medley for Alex and honey chicken for me (our new favorite thing) - and sat in the rain listening to two older men play ukulele.

Then, we walked past a cupcake stand and could not resist and grabbed some sort of apple caramel glutinous pleasure and ate it while watching the cutest bunnies in the entire world at the very-strictly "kids-only" petting pen. Seriously have never wanted to be a kid again more in my life. After tearing ourselves away from the bunnies, we stopped into the Australia Centre for Photography and shared speculations about the concepts behind the photographs. Some really excellent ones - I might stop back in this week. We headed back home for a nap and then I forced Alex to get up to go to dinner in attempts to get him on a normal schedule and ended up only making it as far as the pub across the street for a very sleepy meal - no recollection of what we got.

Sunday, May 31st
The next morning we woke up early again and headed to the Rocks to try out the infamous "Pancakes on the Rocks."

After a short wait, we were seated in the restaurant which had 0 character and cranky waitresses but excellent food. I (of course) got pancakes with grilled bananas and Alex probably got eggs. I'm going to just stop writing what we ordered for breakfast as we essentially got the same thing every morning.
After breakfast, we took the 35 second tour of Cadman's Cottage, which I have deemed the smallest historical attraction ever and wandering through the Rocks Markets we headed for the bridge, which always seems to be strangely difficult to find the stairs to, despite it being a very large structure. Still haven't quite figured out the best way to get there.

On our way back to Circular Quay it briefly started raining (it also did this a lot during his stay - little random spurts of rain and then sun) so we dipped into the Museum of Contemporary Art but sadly had to miss the room with all of the mirrors and lights that I had seen on my last visit there because there was a huge line.
After the museum, we impromptu-ly (so not a word) decided to take a ferry somewhere, and opted for Darling Harbour. From there, we made our way to Chinatown and managed to find a street with about 10,000 camping-supply stores, which was exactly what we were looking for as Alex somehow forgot to bring anything for the Blue Mountains (despite packing enough clothes that he claimed he wouldn't have to do laundry at all on his 17-day trip). After grabbing a new red hat, wool socks, and $6 garbage bag that would serve as a poncho, we headed to Chinatown and were immediately bombarded by Chinese women trying to convince us to choose their restaurant for lunch. We made a brief jaunt into the horribly crowded and cheesy Paddy's Markets before choosing a restaurant and splitting lunch. When we wandered up to George St. we came out right near the movie theater and decided to see Angels and Demons; Alex absolutely hated it, but I didn't think it was too awful. We settled in for an early night as we had to wake up early for the Blue Mountains the next morning.

Monday, June 1st
I hate Central Station. It is huge and confusing and always makes me nervous that I am going to miss my train. Despite this, we managed to make it to our 8:24 train on time and chatted on the 2 hour ride to Wentworth Falls. When we arrived, the weather didn't look fantastic, but it wasn't raining, and we met Lew right at the bottom of the stairs of the station. It was nice to see him again and he brought us back to Silvermere for rhubarb cake and tea ("white," as he called it, meaning with milk). After dropping our things off in our cottage (an entire cottage all to ourselves - bedroom, bathroom, living room, flat screen TV, balcony, kitchenette... fantastic), Lew drove us into town.

We wolfed down some paninis before heading to the Charles Darwin trail. We started from a different point than I had in February with the Marist guys and it was basically just like walking through a park trail. It was very well-kept with wooden walkways over all of the wet parts - didn't quite match my description of it being the hardest hike I had ever done in my life. But then, we emerged from the trail and were looking out over the massive fog-filled valley and the impressive Wentworth Falls, and the real hike began.

Now, he was definitely impressed.

We scrambled up and down stairs, over flooded out paths through the Valley of the Waters. I opted to have us avoid the "experienced walkers only" section of 7 sets of very scary stairs and we stayed on the National Pass.

I did pretty well until the last hour or so, and then I was dying. We managed to do the whole hike in less than 3 hours (perhaps why I was exhausted) and called Lew to pick us up from the conservation hut (which I was very happy to see). We lounged around the cottage for the rest of the night watching movies and ordered pizza from the least competent pizza delivery girl ever.

Tuesday, June 2nd
The next morning we walked into town to catch the train to Katoomba. We bought tickets for the Explorer Bus, which would take us around to all of the sights, and then grabbed another typical breakfast (they really know how to do breakfast here... we were very pleased with almost all of them). We wandered around the town for a little while until the bus came and took us to Katoomba Cascades. We took a short hike and ended up at the Furber Stairs at which point we split up, and for good reason. The path we needed to take to get to the "scenic railway" aka the steepest railroad in the world was at the top of the stairs, where we were. But for some reason, Alex thought it would be fun to go down the stairs, so I let him have his "fun" and I hung out on a bench for a while as our bus driver had specifically told us that anyone who went up the stairs would most definitely have to leave the area by ambulance as they were extremely steep. Even master-hiker Alex was a bit tired by the time he got back to the top, after many concerned hikers asked him, "You realize those stairs are straight up, right?" Crazy man.
After a short rest, we headed for the infamous scenic railway, which was more like a medium-speed roller coaster, but it was pretty fun - 415 metres long, vertical drop of 206 metres, steepest incline: 52 degrees, natural tunnel length: 80 metres.

From the railway we had a few options of routes to take to get to the gondola that would take us to a cable car that would take us across the valley. We opted for the longest hike (we thought) and set off. After a while we realized that there was no one following us, no one in front of us, and in fact, no one around at all. We kept going in hopes that we would find some sort of sign that would tell us we were going the right way, but in actuality we were hiking through the fog toward the Golden Stairs which were an unreasonable distance away. Oops.

Finally, by the time we got to the cable car the fog had lifted a bit and we were able to see some of the views that had been hidden all day. We started hiking toward Echo Point where we (hypothetically) would have a view of the infamous Three Sisters, which I was very excited to see. After tromping through horribly-constructed stairs that ended up being more like pools we made it to the fog-filled Echo Point with 0 visibility. So disappointing. We hopped on the bus again and got off at Gordon Falls where I unexpectedly got my view of the Three Sisters (finally), but from the other side, which made me feel like I kind of was getting my own personal view of it, which was kind of fun.

The fog had also lifted enough for us to see out over the tree-filled valley that was unbelievably expansive. After playing on the swings for a few minutes, we caught the bus to Leura Village, a cute little town with a train station that would be even closer to Wentworth Falls. We grabbed a few snacks, caught the train just in the nick of time (our timing was pretty much impeccable the entire trip) and walked back to the cottage. We heated up our leftover pizza, attempted to watch Lord of the Rings, and Alex was asleep within 8 minutes.

Wednesday, June 3rd
Wednesday morning we caught the train back to Sydney and spent the day recovering from our hiking days. We had free tickets for Terminator Salvation that night from FILMINK and ventured to Bar Reggio for dinner, a pizza place that my guidebook raved about. It was a bit out of the way but was really yummy. After Terminator (which was surprisingly good), we headed back for (shocker) another early night.

More later :-)

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