Sunday, January 29, 2012

December Holidays with the McConnells, Part 4

New Year's Eve, Sydney, Australia

Bus trip No. 2 for Lilly and Jeff:  The Embassy arranged a bus for anyone who wanted a round trip into the New Year's Celebrations.  The U.S. Consulate General opened the office (on the 59th floor with Harbour views) for the night.  So, we boarded at 1 PM for our second trip into Sydney that week. 

We had a great time with friends from the Embassy.  We had steaks at Phillip's Foote Restaurant in The Rocks and watched the family fireworks which set off at 9 PM from the edge of the harbour just below the bridge.  We did not have the best view, but we got a sense of the crowds.  Let me just say, it's not something I ever need to do again!  Even with the family festivies at that point the crowd was wild.  We tightly held onto the girls hands and headed back to the CGs.

The fireworks at midnight were amazing!  We had an incredible view, seeing the points along the harbour where the fireworks were setting off.  As part of the show, they played an all-Australian soundtrack along with the fireworks.  We boarded back on the bus at about 1:30 AM and rolled into Canberra at 5:00 AM.  It was exhausting, but a once in a lifetime experience.  Below I have provided a link to the fireworks show. 

Chico Negron, David and Susan Adams

Debby Negron and me

Here's the link to the 12 minute Fireworks Show:

December Holiday with the McConnells, Part 3

Sydney, Australia

Visiting Sydney at Christmas time is festive and fun.  It is so different from Canberra - in Canberra you really don't have many of those obvious reminders of the holiday -- street/store decorations, tree lightings, etc which is a shame especially for this girl who comes from a Norman Rockwell inspired community where there is snow (lots of it), decorated trees, the streets and store fronts are decorations and everyone is playing Christmas music.  A few days after Christmas, we took Lilly and Jeff into Sydney via Murray Bus Line.  This will be Lilly and Jeff's first of three bus trips into Sydney during this week.  I am sure if you ask them they will tell you that they have had enough of Murrays even though it is quite reliable and comfortable (as buses go, that is). 

We did all of your typical Sydney sightseeing.  This never gets old.  Sydney is a beautiful city with something new to see each time we visit.  We took a stroll down to the Circular Quay to show Lil and Jeff the iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridget then we strolled through The Rocks and were surprised to see the Markets  were opened.  We had a deliciously salty and buttery corn on the cob on a stick followed by $10 steaks at the top of Glenmore Hotel in The Rocks.  You can't beat the views at this rooftop location, however, on this particular day there was a very large cruise ship in the harbour blocking the Opera House.  Lil, Jeff and I had a morning run across the Harbour Bridge and then down along the Opera House.  We took the ferry to Manly Beach - a perfect beach day.  At night, we walked to Darling Harbour for dinner at our favorite restaurant, Malaya.  On the way back we enjoyed the Christmas tree at Martin's Place.

The Girls

Lilly and Jeff, Harbour Bridge

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House from Manly Ferry

Sydney Opera House from Manly Ferry

Manly Ferry

Manly Beach

Manly Beach

Manly Beach

Manly Beach

Manly Beach

Manly Beach

Manly Beach
Manly Ferry

Manly Ferry
Darling Harbour

Darling Harbour, Sydney
Martin's Place, Sydney

Christmas 2011

It's our second Christmas in Canberra, Australia.  You can tell by the clothing the girls are wearing and by looking out the window - it is early evening and the sun is still high in the sky.  We're just back from our trip along the Great Ocean Road.  It was a wonderful Christmas with Lilly and Jeff and good friends to help us celebrate.

Christmas Eve

Opening the Christmas PJs on Christmas Eve.
Bella and Chloe are finding the boxer pjs quite funny.

Christmas morning

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

December Holiday with the McConnells, Part 2

Lilly and Jeff arrived on our second day in Melbourne.  After a very long flight, they were both ready for showers and food.  After they settled into the hotel, we headed into Chinatown which was just a short walk from our hotel.  The hotel conceirge recommended a very good dumpling house - it was amazing!  I'd dare say one of the best Chinese restaurants we've been to in Australia.  I can't recall the name of the place, but I know I could find it again.  It was so nice to be with Lilly and Jeff again.  I really missed them a lot.  Lilly and Jeff were hanging in there despite any feelings of jetlag setting in.  To my surprise, both were up for a run in the morning.  So, we headed out not too early through the streets of Melbourne down to the Yarra River and back.  I love running in a new city - its a great way to really get to know the area.   We did a bit of sightseeing around the city, then with a rental headed off to Phillip Island to see the famous penguin parade.

Since picture taking is not allowed at the penguin parade I cannot show you what it was about.  Trust me, if you ever visit Australia, it is definitely something you want to add to your "must see" list.  At sunset, the fairy penguins come in from their day of feeding in the ocean back to their burrows along the beach.  This is such an amazing event to witness.  The fairy penguin is the smallest breed penguin, standing about 12-16 inches.  The night was cold and windy, but it was worth it. 
The following pictures are at the beaches on Phillip Island:

Lilly, Anabella and me

Aunt Lilly, Anabella and Chloe

The Nobbies on Phillip Island

Family photo

After our trip to Phillip Island, the next day we headed south to the Great Ocean Road.  We spent two days driving the Great Ocean Road.  This has got to be one of the most picturesque roads in Australia, following along the southern coast 280 kilometers or 175 miles from Torquay to Warnambool.  The weather could have been better, but that didn't stop us from swimming in the ocean at Warnambool.  Along the way we stopped at the famous Bell's Beach, saw koalas in the wild at Kennett River, viewed the 12 Apostles, lunched in Port Campbell and landed in Warnambool for some playtime in the ocean and salt-water heated pool (heaven).
Jeff in surf heaven, Torquay
Bells Beach - famous surfing beach.  Did not see one surfer though.

Anabella and Uncle Jeff

We spent our first night in the quaint coast village of Lorne.  We enjoyed drinks on the deck while the girls played in the ocean.  At this point, the weather was terrible - on and off rain and cold!

Kennett River - Along the GOR - after Lorne is a nice, somewhat unexpected spot to view koalas in the wild.  Here we are taking a walk along the dirt road where we spotted more than 6 koalas just chillin'.

"Our Ride" - this is for you Jeff, LOL.

The 12 Apostles

 We spent our 2nd and final night in Warnambool.  It was a lot of driving along the road, but it sure was gorgeous.  We enjoyed our half a day in Warnambool.  Lil, Jeff and I took a nice jog along the ocean bike path in the morning before heading back to Canberra.  The drive back to Canberra was incredibly long.  I'd definitely recommend the train over driving it any day.