If you’ve never ridden the train partially (or all the way) across the country, you ought to. In my view, I see Amtrak as a transportation service that facilitates three distinct economic tiers, and this mixture, along with the days-long, overnight-type long-haul, creates an interesting population within any given train. And so, the three tiers exist as such: the only form of transportation available to you, the transportation method of your choice, transportation as bookends to a luxurious vacation. Amtrak identifies these tiers as Coach, Business, and Sleeper. As a guide for first-time train travelers, I will simply outline the various benefits/drawbacks of each tier, and then, I will divulge some of my personal packing tips. Read more
Re: travel by locomotive
2017 May 24 [Wednesday]
Alright, so we’ve reached the end of this retroactive travel log. The only thing left to discuss is the culmination of the Best. Day. Ever. With two full days and one mostly full day left in Australia, we spent all of our time on the water, eating the last few items we needed to consume in order to make the trip feel like a success. Thus, on Wednesday, we spent the entire day on Bondi Beach, had a picnic and then ate some calamari at a little bistro by the water called Lush on Bondi.
I can’t remember exactly what we did on Wednesday night, but I have to assume it consisted of eating at Taste (a wonderful salads restaurant that offered everything from a baby beet salad to roasted lamb in a not-self-serve buffet style, that, for anyone who has been to Sydney knows, was common place. Each buffet-style salad bar place offered different items, and Taste was the best among them, at least on Bondi Road.) I know that over the course of the last few days we ate the best sushi we’d ever had, the best lamb we’d ever had, the best beet salad I’d ever had, the best chicken salad we’d ever had, the best burger we’d ever had, the best etc., etc., &c. Also, since I don’t remember exactly when we did what, but there are pictures, we bought chocolate covered strawberries at some point and won $5.00 AUD from a scratcher!
On Thursday, the lifemate had to convince me to go walk the Bondi to Bronte Coastal Walk. Uh, the only thing I can say is that I chose my lifemate, and he is a BAMF. We walked that magical coastal walk and found the Bronte Baths. All I can say at this point is, we had the Best. Day. Ever. After a nice afternoon swim, we finally stumbled upon a row of cafes that served both breakfast and burgers. So, I undoubtedly had eggs Benny on smoked salmon with a side of bacon while the lifemate, as usual, opted for a wagyu beef burger that, luckily, came with fries … I mean, chips.
I’d go into more detail about the day, but honestly, it’s a day I will never forget, and some things are best left to the memories of those involved as little secrets. Once we were off the beach and back in our Bondi Road neighborhood, I got my yearly haircut. Nothing special or fantastic, just a little trim, a new tradition (since I did the same thing whilst in Vancouver last year).
Friday was our travel day, but our flight didn’t leave Sydney until 2100. Nevertheless, we had to check out of our Airbnb (which, as a sidenote for those Airbnb hosts in Australia, INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS TO AND FROM SYDNEY FLY THROUGH THE NIGHT! This means that it’s nearly impossible to arrive in Sydney in the afternoon, near or around most Airbnb check-in times, and it also makes leaving Sydney a drag since most Airbnb check-out times are early in the morning, meaning travelers must either drag their suitcases around town all day or deal with the whole hassle of finding a locker, etc., etc., &c. Thus, if I were an Airbnb host in Sydney, I’d have early check-ins and late check-outs, which some sort of half-price pricing for the check-in/check-out days. I only say this because Sydney is unique in this, almost exclusively night-flight situation.) *sigh. Okay, so we were supposed to check-out at 1000, but since we’d had some issues with the host and whatnot, we thought that we’d just stick around a bit until the cleaner arrived. We were all packed and ready to go at 1000 so that when we were “kicked out,” we’d be ready to just leave with an excuse like we had the poops or something.
Anyhow, by 1030, we were ready to just get home, so we left, carry-ons in tow, and headed back down to Bondi. On the way, I got a cheap manicure, which burned some time. Then, we enjoyed the water for an hour or so with our last bottle of champagne that we emptied into a water bottle. By noon, we grabbed another bottle of bubbles, lunch, and picnicked on the grassy lawn above the beach. And then it threatened to rain. So, sometime around 1430, we lugged our luggage and ourselves via bus to Bondi Junction, where we perused a bookstore and ate more food.
The rest of the day is a bit blurry. We wanted to be at the airport by 1930, and so, we hopped on the subway to Wolli Station, where we caught a cab to the airport. The reason for this revolves solely around our wanting to bypass the airport surcharge. Again, I will write a post about this, eventually. Successful, we arrived at the airport around 1830 and were seated comfortably at our gate by 1945, waiting to board our flight back to Seoul.
Since I can only speak for myself, all-in-all this was the best vacation so far. Sure there were positives and negatives compared to our Vancouver trip, but as a whole, our vacations seem to be getting better. We landed in Seoul on the afternoon of Saturday, May 13th. By 2030, Boobs, our cat was home with us as we all lounged about unwinding from our travels. Until our next vacay, check out all the pics from our 2017 ETMC Travels: Sydney Edition!
2017 May 19 [Friday]
In vacation time, it’s Monday, May 8th, and amazingly enough, the Monday and Tuesday of this particular trip are intrinsically tied. Being as it is that I too am intrinsically tied to something, that thing being someone, that someone being an avid consumer of all things flicks, our Monday revolved around finding the only movie theater in the area that showed IMAX 3D movies. The movie in question?, why, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2, of course! As enthusiasts of high-quality public transportation and, by this point, long-time holders of the opal card, the lifemate and I thoroughly studied the public transport system of Sydney to figure out the best route to the HOYTS Cinema that was showing the film in question, in the desired format. We had more than a few options but ultimately decided to get there via the quickest route possible, and then we would spend the rest of the afternoon walking home through Centennial Park toward Bondi Junction where we would shop for new running shoes in the nearest official retailer of Under Armour.
Sometime around 1200, we hopped on the 333 bus to Bondi Junction where we transferred to the 355 that dropped us off at the Lang Rd. Near Fox Studios stop at which point we would disembark and walk through the Entertainment Quarter to HOYTS Cinema. We easily found the place, bought tickets for the late-night (at 2130, Ha!) showing the following evening and then were told that the IMAX theater was in a different location, a few hundred meters from the cinema location in which we were currently standing. Also, the 3D glasses had to be purchased separately for $1 AUD a pop. We sauntered on up to the IMAX theater location, bought our glasses, and then got some lunch. The off season was in full swing during this early winter month of May down under, but luckily there were a number of eateries still providing food stuffs to the common man or woman, sorry. We opted for some sushi and perched upon a picnic table built for giants. It was awesome. The sun was bright; the day was young, and so, we got back on our little legs and walked through the entire north section of the Centennial Parklands. There’s no need at this point for me to rabble on nonsensically since the pics are up on my photography site.
A few blissfully lonesome hours passed as we trotted through the empty grasslands, happy, sun-kissed and cart-wheeled out. Once through the park, we made our way to Bondi Junction and Rebel Sport. We each picked a pair of new running shoes, tried them on and bought them within about thirty minutes. What can I say?; we know what we like. After another quick swing through the Wooly’s liquor store, we grabbed a snack in the form of a Vietnamese bao, my very first bao experience. Uh, if you’ve never had one, there’s nothing I can say here, but if you have had one, fucking amazing!, right?
The rest of Monday was spent being drunk and silly, and I don’t remember what else we did. This is why I’m supposed to journal more effectively! Ugh! I say this every time. Dammit! Oh well, more this-and-that and such-and-such, and we went to bed.
On Tuesday, I woke at the asscrack of dawn, and with the whole “Sydney’s on the east coast/the peoples here fucking rise early and crash early/you never regret getting up early and having a nice, long, day” monologue running through my mind, I rolled out of bed at 0600. By 1030 we were back on the 333 to Museum Station in the heart of downtown Sydney where we popped an early squat at Scruffy McMurphy’s for the Monday night airing (Stateside) of the Warriors v. Jazz Playoffs Game 4.
The game was less than intriguing, and by this point, this is some seriously old news, but no matter, the lifemate had a nice morning watching some basketball, and I enjoyed my Cesar salad. Jk, jk, I like to watch basketball, for the most part, and that most part being … uh … the players, duh. Anyway …
After the game, we hopped back on the bus and chugged some white wine in preparation for a mid-afternoon … nap. Yes, we took a … nap. That’s what we did. I don’t remember what we ate for dinner, but then, you guessed it, we hopped back on a bus to watch the flick! At the very late hour of 2000, the bus we rode to get there the first time no longer ran its route, so we took the 380 directly to a stop that got us close enough to walk the rest of the way.
We arrived with more than enough time to spare, and when we entered the theater, there were only two other people in the whole damn thing, and guess what, they were in our seats, amazing, no? It didn’t matter, of course, since, after seeing the theater, we opted for higher (better) seats, and in the end, there were only six of us total. By midnight we were exiting HOYTS Cinema to a completely silent, deserted wasteland. There was no one to be heard or seen during our kilometer walk back to the bus stop where we could catch the bus back to our Bondi apartment. Sometime around 0100, we were drunk again, laughing, and watching Friends safely in our home away from home. I’m not sure when we fell asleep, but I think we went to a gas station mini-mart and ended up with a Sara Lee frozen carrot cake and ice cream. I’m not entirely sure when we bought what, but I thought this was a good time to mention that we ate gas station food, at some point.
And with that, I think I shall be able to wrap it all up in Part IV, next time! Happy Friday.
2017 May 17 [Wednesday]
So, obviously, I am disregarding the daily themes of this nonsense blog for the time being so that I may retroactively document parts of my and my lifemate’s most recent vacation/travels. Today, a Wednesday, ought to be reserved for the purpose of expressing things about which I wonder or whatnot, and now that I’m writing, something of that variety may actually reveal itself in the end. Firstly, however, I must insert a note here that I am also back to work on my writing writing (the serious stuff regarding my book and such). I still have 47 days and approximately 48,000 words to go before my final end date on July 12, 2017. Thus, I must admit that writing these little updates about our vacation seems less important, albeit somewhat important when considering the nature of forgetting. Therefore, I will do my best to get the details of our trip logged in a timely fashion, but with looming 1,000-word, far more important, fiction-writing, daily quotas, I promise nothing. Where were we?
Right, so we arrived at our Airbnb apartment after twenty-four hours of travel, walking walking walking, a little drama and ten flights of stairs later. Friday and Saturday were spent scoping out the King’s Cross and Newtown neighborhoods of the city, respectively. We were in specific search for something that we could not acquire, and so, by Saturday night, we conceded and proceeded to change gears and plan accordingly. This is that point where I now must reveal or reiterate (I don’t remember if I already spoke to this in the most recent post) that I either forgot to pack my camera or simply failed to take any pics during the first four days of the trip. I know that I must have had my camera the first day we landed because that’s when I shot the “Sugar Birds.” After that, however, I snapped zero pics until Monday. So, my words will have to do, which really is what I’m aspiring toward anyway, right?
Okay, quickly now since I don’t want to bore. On Friday, we slept in a bit and then hopped on a bus to King’s Cross (if anyone wants to know more about how to get around in Sydney via public transport, just ask, and I’ll write up a post; if not, I’ll just say that it’s easy but expensive). King’s Cross was a notoriously shady part of Sydney for most of its history, until about three years ago when the city decided to clean it up. For the purposes of my own naivete, I’ll simply state that we stopped through that hood for the … food. We ate gelato, found the naval base, scoped out a Woolworth’s (since we were planning on shopping at the one closer to our apartment, we thought we’d see what it had to offer), and then went back to our apartment, tired, disappointed and disillusioned. We failed to find the … food … for which we were searching. The area is quite posh, upscale, a reversal of its past notoriety. Then we regrouped at the apartment for an hour or two before heading down to Bondi Beach to a bar that was supposedly celebrating the “May 5th tradition of 420.” What a crock of bullshit! Again, disappointment soon followed, so we opted for libations and then went home and passed out by 2200.
On Saturday, we awoke feeling optimistic with new plans to travel to Newtown, another notoriously good place to find … food. We stopped in at the Happy Herb Shop where I spoke to the owner/healer lady for about thirty minutes before we both realized that she wasn’t speaking in code about anything and that, sadly, she did not have what we wanted. I did find out, nevertheless, that only about two years earlier, she could and would have easily and happily sold me the … item … I so desired right there in her shop. She was very apologetic and sent me off with a warning that I graciously heeded. Thus, the lifemate and I went in search for some real food. We stopped in at the self-proclaimed eatery of the stoned (yes, the … food … we had traveled so far to partake in was all around us, but we were not privy to it since we had no friends of direct connections of our own. At a time such as it is in Sydney, everything regarding the … delicacy is mum), D’Munchies, where we scarfed an amazing burger and fries and picked up a small tip. Unfortunately, the entire city of Sydney has gone cold to what was supposedly something so hot. By 1930 that evening, we conceded and made our way to the Wooly’s (Woolworth’s in vernacular, we soon learned) in our neighborhood. Happy again, we bought all sorts of goodies ranging from real muffins (yes, Seoul does not know how to make them) to lamb chops, asparagus to goat cheese and all sorts of dips, sundried tomatoes and garlic bread and western deliciousness we used to take for granted. We would return to that Wooly’s three or four more times to pick up libations in lieu of our disappointing discovery. Luckily, the liquor flowed freely and Wooly’s had an incredible “3 for $21” mix-and-match deal on wine. Needless to say, we drank about ten bottles of champagne (one of which is not pictured below since we bought it on our last day while burning time before heading to the airport … yea … we’re BAMFs [drunks] like that), five bottles of red (one bottle, one box that we left the rest of in the apartment cause we didn’t actually finish it), and four bottles of white (one box, completely finished, haha!) over the course of the trip, oh and lest not forget the bottle of Bulleit we purchased on our first night. Yes, we like to be … inebriated. Who wants to be sober on a vacation? Obviously, alcohol was not our drug of choice, but since it was the only readily available, legal substance, we had to do what we had to do. Come what may, right?
Despite not finding what we were looking for over the course of two days and two different neighborhoods, we, at the very least, got out of the apartment and perused the city. The rejection, however, and impending general disappointment of the trip as a whole all became a bit too much, and so, on Sunday, we woke with a new mental state about the reality of this vacation. We decided that the rest of the trip would be spent drunk on the beach, minus one more excursion to find the IMAX theater at some point. Champagne in hand, we finally hit the beach on Sunday afternoon for a precisely disciplined one-hour sunbath. We don’t get much sun here in Seoul, what with the skyscrapers lining every street and the horrid pollution, thus, we knew our bodies would be sensitive to the intensity of the Australian sun. Even in winter, we both returned with golden skin. The first day out, though, was spent very methodically slathered in sunscreen, turning and flipping so as to just introduce our flesh to a less-intense, 1500-hour sunshine. After exactly an hour, we clothed ourselves and picnicked on the grassy lawn just above the beach. I don’t remember what we did after that.
As a quick side note, I would like to interject that Seoul is absolutely a nighttime city; Sydney most definitely is not. People say that it used to be a great place to party and be out, but that was not the Sydney we witnessed. Basically, every shop and store was closed by 1800, and most restaurants shut down by 2100 or 2130 with the exception of one or two late-night joints, meaning they were open ‘til midnight. This was quite a shock to us, so we also had to shift our sleeping habits, rising early and sleeping somewhat earlier than usual. Also, Sydney and its beaches line the east coast of the continent, which means that the sun rises over the ocean and sets elsewhere, and since it’s winter down under, the days were shorter, which means that the sun left the beach cold and windy by about 1600. The time shift was also something we were not quite prepared for, but luckily, we adapted quickly and with the first few days spent scoping things out and getting a feel for the location, we were ready to suck this vacation’s dick by the time Monday morning rolled in.
And now the Wednesday Wonderer rears its curious head. I do wonder what the trip would have been like if we had found … the food we had so desperately wanted. Of course, we did not travel all the way to Sydney just for this one thing, but we did think that it would be a fun possibility. Looking back now, however, I do feel as though we may have lucked out in not finding it. I had a little bit of a pit in my stomach when thinking about acquiring it before we even left, and honestly, I’m kind of glad we didn’t. I don’t know what Sydney was like a few years ago, but I know what it’s like now. Sydney and the powers that be have cracked down, and its people are scared. The way I perceive the city is that she’s kind of a frigid bitch. You know the type, the hot girl who has always been hot, like so totally hot, and so, she’s never really had to work to attract people to her. Now, however, she’s kind of a butter-face, hidden in this facade of splendor and attractiveness, but once we actually get down under (haha), you find out that there’s not much there beneath the surface. The people are a bit frigid too, respectable and polite to strangers?, yes, but it’s just not a fun place. The reason for this I cannot know, perhaps it was I, and perhaps I am horrible, but what I wonder is if it is the fault of the government and what it did to “clean up” the city of its “disgraceful” lifestyle and habits. Unfortunately, what I did see was that something has changed, everyone we spoke to spoke to it. Hopefully, someday, Sydney, for the sake of its reputation and general future appeal, finds a balance between being able to provide the good time for which it is known and keeping its citizens safe. Until then, however, I will not return for a repeat visit.
And so, I leave it at that. With the first four days crawling by like time does when there’s much to be learned, the last week of the trip seemed to have escaped us in a flash once we settled in and really knew where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do. Until the next post about the rest of our time there, check out the 2017 ETMC Travels: Sydney Edition pics on my photography site! Lates.
She was a typical girl,
doing typical things,
in a typical way.