Wednesday, July 22, 2009

When you see the Southern Cross for the first time, you know why you came this way.

Back at work tonight, and I can't say how much I would rather be on Vacation. SO, I'll use this as a nice summary of events over the past couple weeks. I took a journey down under to Melbourne and Sydney. For the first time in I don't know when, I bought and paid for a plane ticket. Confirmed seat, and even though I tried to sweet talk my way into business class, I was relegated to seat 49F. Apparently, if I would have non-revved or was a jumpseater I would have most likely been moved up. Sad ain't it.
Also, being a plane person I feel I should describe the Boeing 777. Wasn't too horribly uncomfortable.. Well at least not for the first few hours. Being used to flying cargo planes and in the cockpits of RJ's, the touchscreen movie, TV, music, and games feature was a lot of fun. FYI, apparently they don't edit the movies on planes like they used to. I watched Caddyshack on the trip back and was surprised to see topless scenes left in. Nice!
Anyways, about six hours into the flight I popped a couple Tylenol PM, ate a sandwich, and crashed. I woke up in time to change clothes, enjoy the tasty breakfast (airline food is the same everywhere), and fill out the customs forms. Why they hand out customs forms an hour after departure and say not to lose them is a mystery… any idea how strewn about things can be after 14 hours on a plane? I do.
I wish I would have gotten the passenger next to me's email. He had just graduated with his masters in architecture and couldn’t find a job. Thus, he decided to take off and be unemployed in Australia for a year. I'm jealous a little. When I asked his plans, he had none other than 2 weeks of a hostel in Sydney reserved. Awesome!
After getting into Sydney, I stood in line for 2 hours or so to check in for my flight to Melbourne. I found it amusing how much more relaxed they are down there at the airports. None of this taking shoes off or interrogation at the checkpoints. Very smooth, very relaxed, barely a line. And amazingly the whole flying thing was a lot less stressful. Leaving Melbourne was even better.
So, I left Louisville at 4 pm on Wednesday, and I landed in Melbourne at about noon on Friday. Thursday didn't exist for me.
I made my way to my gracious host's apartment, and she had been very nice and gotten me a tram pass. Using the Melbourne tram system is an art, and I managed to only get on the wrong one a few times. They are great for of mass transit if you have no time deadlines, or really destination to get to. I would have killed for a pocket map of the routes. But alas, I muddled my way through. The time in Melbourne was nice. I made sure to go have a drink with Chloe on arrival…
A little background on Chloe. Apparently this painting of a young, nude girl was once hanging in a local art museum, until it was forced to be removed by those persons with strong Victorian (the time period, not the state) sensibilities had it removed from public display, to save the children's eyes from falling upon it. AT this time, a pub owner bought it and hung in the pub. I can only assume this happened around the end of the 19th century. Now, fast forward to 1999 and a young starry eyed southern boy was preparing for his first trip abroad, which was going to be Australia (later changed to Europe due to scheduling conflicts). I mentioned one day while getting a haircut to my barber that I was about to head down. And older gentleman waiting his turn for a haircut told me I should go find a pub there in Melbourne, where they had a huge painting of a naked woman on the wall (huge I guess is an art term for 6 feet tall). Apparently he had been there during his army days back during the Korean War or something. So I found her, and ever since I make a point to go have a couple there.
I spent the next couple days exploring Melbourne city and surrounds. Gaie and I took a nice wine tour up into the Yarra valley. I'm not a wine connoisseur by any means, but we were instructed on the process of sampling and what to look for. What I got out of this was mostly that the wine country outside Melbourne is beautiful and that you should drink the wines you like, not worrying what's proper for what meal. I apparently like Port, or similar fortified wines. I also like a few other ones. I seemed to like more and more as we went on… could be the large amount consumed. It was very educational and interesting. Not to mention nice to see the country side.
Other must see destinations in Melbourne… the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The MCG is apparently (and I learned this on the tour) the center of sport history and tradition of Australia. Also one of the largest stadiums in the world, dating back to 1853 when the original grounds were established, it can hold the capacity of the the Birds Nest Stadium and the Water Cube from the Beijing Olympics, and still have an entire upper level empty. It's a lot of people. It's a very nice stadium, and i walked on the "hallowed ground" on the field where they play Aussie Rules Football ( a game I don't get, it's like a violent padless form of US football with less rules), Rugby ( another game I don't exactly understand but seems to be ridiculously popular as the entire city of Sydney shut down to watch a game while I was up there), and Cricket (which is like "baseball with out the steriods… one match lasts 5 days and there may not even be a winner at the end").
Also, I love how Melbourne has what look like these little dark alleys where they've just set up cafes and bistros. You would think you might get mugged walking down the crevasses between the buildings, but there in the middle are tables and some really fine food establishments. Also take a walk by the river, more good dining options (though more expensive) and street performers. Seems the people of Melbourne like to eat.
Next it was off to Sydney for a couple days. I do love Sydney, there's something that just strikes you when you exit the train at Circular Quay and see the Opera house gleaming to the right and the Harbour Bridge reaching out on your left. I was feeling a little homesick and ready to get back until I got down to the rocks that night. I went down to the Mercantile Hotel (hotels are often just pubs), and sat down next to three gentlemen who I shortly discovered were the UPS crew on layover. You can spot pilots in public easily once you know what to look for, and being in a bar increases your chances… to paraphrase Brian from Family Guy " An airplane.. Where there's a plane there's an airport, and where there's an airport there are pilots, and where there's pilots there's a bar".
Next "hotel" down they had live music signs out. Everywhere seems to have people playing music there. I really dig that. While there, I met a couple of girls also visiting Sydney, Swanny from Germany and Erica from Minneapolis (via Vancouver). We ended up closing the place down that night and having a generally grand time. Of course more Americans showed up, and now I have new Facebook friends :-). It was a fun time… and really got the "this is why I travel" feeling. That and the great beer…
Oh I nearly forgot that… back in Melbourne I ventured out ti the Carlton & United brewery. That's where the Victoria Bitter comes from… and it is soooo yummy. I went on a work holiday, which they were nice enough to compensate me for with 2 extra schooners ( 12 Oz glass) of free beer. I tell you the Aussies know how to make you feel welcome.
Anyways, back to Sydney.. My last full day I took off to Manly for lunch and to head to the beach. Even though it was cool out (low 60's) there were still people swimming and surfing. Insane. This was the day I totally kicked my diet to the curb and had some fish and ships for lunch.. I spent the afternoon shopping for a few souvies, wandering around the Rocks (the original settlement of Sydney), and then back to repack for the early morning departure. A visit to the Kings Cross area ((which looks to have been cleaned up since last time I was there… no hookers or junkies bothered me this time), and then back to Scubar for some more music (and rugby) before settling in.
And not to leave Oz with out at least one lasting impression, one of my hostel roommates came stumbling in that night, and he brought a friend with. Well, I had set my alarm for 6 AM, but luckily the two of them decided to ensure I was awake by having not so quiet sex. At least she wasn't a screamer and I wasn't the guy in the top bunk. So, after the show was over, and all of us were awake (I'm not sure the others needed that wake up call either). The funniest thing was when one of the other guys in the room, a Korean guy, decided it was time for a bathroom visit right after amorous couple had completed their fun. He opened the door to go out, the light from the hallway flooded through the room to light up a young girl (cute too) sitting there in t-shirt pulled down to cover most of her while searching for her discarded pants. The look on the face is probably the most embarrassment I've ever seen. Being awake, I took off to the shower. Then off to the airport for the journey back.
At least the flight back was empty enough to have a vacant seat beside me. We were served lunch over Fiji, Snack just northwest of Christmas Island, and breakfast shortly before landing. This time though, I left Thursday morning at 9:25 (well 10 AM since we were late for a stupid Maintenance reason… spent 45 minutes trying to get permission to go without a portable oxygen bottle, found out they couldn't, and took another 20 minutes refilling it… why didn't you just refill it to begin with?). Anyways, We left at 10 AM and flew all day, through the night, and landed in Los Angeles at 7 am on Thursday. Again, it kind of messes with my head. The Delta agents were nice enough to push me to the front of the line in customs so I could have a shot at making my jumpseat. It didn't work, thanx to the baggage people. I did however barely manage to make the next flight, where I discovered the joys on inflight internet and onboard trivia games.
After about 18 hours aloft, I made it to Atlanta, met Grace while she waited for her next flight, got JoHnathans car and was at the Newnan Taco Mac by 7 with Jersey. I would like to thank Jersey for accommodating me and allowing me use of her house and JoHnathan for letting me drive his hot rod around. I was able to spend lots of fun time with jersey, get up to visit my family, see some other folks around the area, and add to my beer list at the Mac. However, I wasn't feeling well Friday and felt I was too ill to make it back for work Saturday night, a serious eye problem. So I was able to get the day covered and spent another night down south. For Jersey's early birthday, we checked out the Senoia nightlife with Grace, Tanjoe, and Charity. Who knew Senoia had a nightlife??? The band could have been better (and played something from my lifetime) but we had fun just getting together… or I did at least. We also learned that Tanjoe are haviing triplets.. So good for them!
I hopped a plane back to Louisville, drove home in my still ailing car. Going shopping this week for new wheels. I was slightly confused when I drove up to my house. The landlords had freshly painted the doors (now black instead of white), shutters, and front porch. I almost thought I was on the wrong street. I also learned the downstairs has been rented out to a girl who is "cute" and works at Churchill. I may have to make friends! I suppose I should get back to pretending to work. I think I'm going to start spending more time moving about these days, money permitting. It was a little refreshing to get out of the country again. Where to next?