A Night at the Opera…Mixed reviews from this couple…

Luna Park at night.

What can I say?  Tom didn’t love it. But, of course, I didn’t expect him to. Although, in the past, I’d noticed him listening intently when a few opera singers performed on various episodes of “America’s Got Talent.”

Last night, he didn’t express a glimmer of enthusiasm over the performance at the Sydney Opera House other than his pleasure at seeing how much I was enjoying it. That’s worth something.

Cloudy night at the opera house.

He didn’t grumble or have a scowl on his face, nor did he dose off.  It lasted less than two hours, during which I was totally engaged and enthralled. I’ve always loved opera after being introduced to it by my Harvard-educated, musical genius, doctor uncle who could sit at his baby grand piano and play any aria from memory. He left quite an impression.

When it ended, we made our way to Wharf 3 to catch the next Manly Ferry, which takes off every 30 minutes. Little did we know the treat we were about to receive in taking the photos we’ve included today, too many for one post.

Tourists chose the upper deck to take photos as we did.

As we entered the ferry terminal in Circular Quay, Sydney, I suggested we climb the steps to the outdoor upper deck to sit outside to cool off on a humid night. It was a great plan when we found suitable seating and views that literally left our mouths agape.

Sure, we knew Sydney had a lot to offer. We’d reveled in it on six past occasions when our cruise ships sailed from the exquisite harbor. Over the past week, on four occasions, we visited Sydney, three by taking the ferry.

But, nothing we’d seen earlier could match the perspective from the top of the ferry, even on a dark cloudy night after seven cloudy days and nights in a row since our arrival one week ago today. Thus, we share today’s photos with excitement over this amazing city, in many ways, the most beautiful city we’ve seen so far in our world journey.

The interior of the Joan Sutherland Theatre of the Sydney Opera House. 

As for the remainder of the evening’s photos, we took several from the interior and the grounds of the Joan Sutherland Theatre at the Sydney Opera House, which we’ll continue to share in posts to come. 

Having ordered the tickets almost a year ago, we had perfect seats, four rows from the stage, dead set in the middle. See our photo below taken from our seats.

Our seats were only four rows from the stage and dead center in the theatre, seating for 1507. There are two large theatres and several smaller theatres in the complex. The cost for these two excellent seats was AU 190.15, US $146.50.

No doubt, the theatre is beautiful and interesting. However, there are many steps to navigate to get inside the theatre. For those who may have difficulty with stairs, there are elevators and a few escalators. For the full experience, we did the many flights of steps, making our way through tourists who were sitting on the steps, as shown in yesterday’s post.

As for the remainder of the day, we’d left the house at 1:30 pm to catch the bus arriving at 1:59 pm. We made it to Manly in time for the 2:15 pm ferry. With the recent inclement weather, about 10 minutes of the 25-minute ferry ride was particularly rough, but we didn’t give it a thought.

The building of the Sydney Opera House has an interesting story. Click here for details.

Arriving in Circular Quay, we walked through crowds and commotion to make our way back, the second day in a row after our flub showing for the opera one day early. We’d decided to dine early, before the show, since we hadn’t eaten earlier in the day. 

With a 3:00 pm meal, we’d be set until returning “home” when the evening ended, and if hungry, we could have a snack of homemade coconut bread with butter with a small bowl of organic Greek yogurt on the side for me. (I’ve been taking “big guns” probiotics and eating yogurt twice a day since my recent two-week round of antibiotics).

The Sydney Harbour Bridge after dark.

We’d considered the same restaurant as the prior day since they were able to accommodate my diet.  But, we tried to branch out and try something different. Shortly, we were seated in a high-end Asian fusion restaurant only to discover there wasn’t a single item on the menu that would work for me, except plain steamed veg and chicken, which held little appeal.

We thanked the waiter but decided to leave. I wasn’t sure the pans they’d use would be “gluten, starch, and sugar-free.” Why take a risk? We meandered back down the boulevard checking menus along the way, only to discover the only restaurant that would be suitable was the same where we dined the prior day, Searock Grill.

I ordered the same grilled chicken salad, and Tom had a steak and chips instead of the prior day’s fish and chips. The steak was perfectly cooked medium rare and was thick and juicy. We didn’t order beverages.

The Sydney Opera House at night.

What surprised us was the fact that the prices were higher on Sunday than they’d been on Saturday, plus a 10% weekend service fee was added. But then, we recalled a mention on the news of increased prices on Sundays due to many workers receiving higher wages on Sundays.

Our bill was AU 41.80, US $32.20, still not too bad for the high-end area, which surely would have been considerably more in the evening. The food was good and fresh, although yesterday’s service was sketchy. 

With tips not necessarily rendered in Australia due to higher wages than in the US and many countries, we didn’t hesitate to leave the restaurant with nary a token tip left on the table. While in Australia, we followed suit as per the locals, tipping only for exceptional service. 

View of a small portion of Sydney’s skyline at night.

Once back in the US, we’ll be tipping in the typical US manner, from 15% to 20% of any restaurant bill. Add state and city taxes, and a meal may be as much as 25% to 30% more than the cost of the meal and beverages. I guess we’ll be heading to Costco for pre-made meals to bring back to our hotel when not out dining with family and friends. 

At the end of the ferry ride back to Manly, we crossed the busy street to a taxi stand and grabbed a ride back to our holiday home at the cost of AU 7.40, US $5.70. Then, we maneuvered our way up the long steep, winding walkway to the house in the dark. Luckily, Tom had his LED flashlight attached to his RFID wallet, lighting the way for the uneven walk up the hill.

View to Circular Quay from an upper deck on the Manly Ferry.

Amid our immigration worries, overall, it was a good weekend and first week in Manly. Unusual for us, we dined out four times, once with Bob in Manly, another in the Rocks area of Sydney with friends Linda and Ken, and twice in Circular Quay near the Sydney Opera House.

Today, we’re making a favorite dish and staying put planning this week’s menu. We’re trying to figure out what we need to purchase to last only through next Sunday night, just if we have to leave the country for good, as of next Monday’s immigration office meeting. We shall see.

Be well. Be safe. Be happy.

Photo from one year ago today, March 20, 2016:

One year ago, we got a kick out of watching cattle wander back and forth through the barren vineyards Okurukuru Winery in New Zealand. For more photos of the winery, please click here.

Horrible weather in Sydney…Opera House tickets tonight…Happy St. Patrick’s Day!…

This cockatoo stopped by for a visit, alighting atop Bob’s medicinal Papaw tree in the yard.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to those who celebrate. Today, March 17th in the US is also eldest son Richard’s 50th birthday. Happy birthday, Richard! It’s hard to believe you’re 50!  Richard is a highly successful real estate agent in Henderson/Las Vegas, Nevada with nothing but five star reviews in Zillow. (See here for details). We wish you continued success and much happiness and look forward to seeing you in July!

Evening walk through a portion of the shopping area near the Manly Ferry.

Today around 3:00 pm, we’re off to the Sydney Opera House in this outragous weather; windy, rainy and cold.  Bob will drive us to the Manly Ferry which will bring us within a 20 minute walk to the venue. 

Fish Cafe in Manly where we dined this week.

The only part of the trip that concerns us is that 20-minute walk from the wharf to the opera house in the event the pouring rain continues. We’re not concerned about getting soaked on the return walk to the ferry. It won’t be fun to be soaking wet while sitting in the theatre during the performance. 

Daily specials posted outside the restaurant where we dined with Bob this week. The highest-priced items on this menu at AU 36.90 is equal to US $28.42.

Bob has supplied us with an large umbrella which along with our hooded parkas we hope to stay dry.  Unfortunately, our parkas aren’t necessarily stylish for the opera but we have nothing else to wear. Plus, the only shoes I have that are appropriate for my outfit and the long walk are black sandals. So it goes.

We were early and the rush of diners had yet to arrive at the popular local restaurant.

This is a reality of our lives of world travel…if we chose to partake in a more dressy affair, we don’t necessarily have the appropriate clothing. As always, we’ll make the best of that which we have on hand. It’s worked on formal nights on cruises and will certainly be sufficient for the Sydney Opera House.

My plate of grilled barramundi, vegetables and a side of sour cream.

According to the theatre’s website smart casual is acceptable although they say many attend wearing formal attire while others may be dressing more casually. It was a relief to read this comment. Overall, Australians tend to dress casually for most events although they certainly can “dress to the nines” when they so desire.

Tom, with little interest in grilled fish, ordered the fish and chips.

Although no photos will be allowed during the performance, we’ll bring the camera in a waterproof bag and take as many photos as possible of the exterior and interior of the world renowned theatre which we’ll share in tomorrow’s post.

Bob dined on the grilled swordfish and salad.

Today’s photos are from a night out to dinner with Bob at a popular seafood restaurant in Manly. The beachfront area is rife with shops and restaurants which we look forward to browsing when the weather improves. Since our arrival five days ago, its been raining each day. 

Aquarium in the Fish Shop Restaurant where we dined  with Bob earlier in the week.

A week from Monday, we have a scheduled appointment at the Australian Immigration office in Sydney, after which we’ll know what we have to do in order to be able to board the cruise to the US on April 22nd. We’ll keep you updated on how this rolls out.

Manly Beach across the road from the restaurant.

For those who celebrate, have a safe and fun-filled St. Patrick’s Day. While in Ireland in September, 2014, we didn’t kiss the Blarney Stone after we heard dreadful stories about it. 

DSC03477
Us, in front of the Blarney Castle in Ireland in September, 2014.  Click here for this link.

Instead, we kissed one another with Irish on our minds although Tom kissed it twice on previous visits to Ireland (before I came on the scene). According to Ancestry.com DNA test results Tom is 99% Irish, certainly sufficient to warrant celebration on this special day.

Happy green beer day!

Photo from one year ago today, March 17, 2016:

For a heartwarming and equally heartbreaking story of a favorite alpaca we so much loved, Mont Blanc, please check our year ago post.  Please click here for the details

Creating our own good news…Planning for the future…

A fishing boat tied to tree at the beach.

In yesterday’s post our heads read, “Bad news keeps coming and coming… How do we handle the risks?”

After rethinking this negative heading and after watching more bad news on TV, we turned off the news and started thinking positive thoughts as to how we can reframe our thinking during this difficult period in our country, in our world’s history?

It’s easy to get caught up in all the negative press much of which is often over reported, over dramatized and over exaggerated to enhance viewership. How easily we can become entrapped into this cycle!

The way out? Don’t let it get inside our heads! This is not easy, but it’s doable, just like everything else we choose in our lives. We can find joy within the framework of our lives or we can allow ourselves to let outside influences have a profound effect on our daily lives.

The ocean is extremely shallow in this area.

I suppose in part, I’ve become engrossed in the negative news since our arrival in Phuket two weeks ago when we discovered we had English speaking news the TV which we’ve had on all day while we’ve stayed indoors as I continue to recover. That’s easy to do when one is housebound after an illness, injury or surgery.

Although I remain somewhat housebound, in an attempt to avoid the outrageously bumpy roads we must travel to get to the highway, yesterday we had no choice but to get out when our food supply had dwindled down to a completely empty refrigerator.

Tom could probably grocery shop without me, but it’s important for me to get out and besides getting out is uplifting. I’d brought along the camera hoping to take a few photos, but again it was cloudy and rainy. I never took a single shot.

A fisherman looking for a possible catch.

Once inside the huge market, Tom pushes the trolley as we both become engrossed in the shopping mode ending up having a good time selecting from the array of fresh, organic, non GMO foods, free range eggs, grass fed meats and wild caught fish.

During this outing, I started thinking of the last place we lived where we grocery shopped on a regular basis which was the three months we spent in New Zealand living on the alpaca farm from January 19 to April 15, 2016.

We arrived in Bali on April 30th after a cruise.  One month later I was injured, somewhere around June 1st.  Here we are over two months later, while I’m still focusing on recovering. 

How we ever managed all the tours on the Mekong River cruise baffles me when now I gingerly maneuver through each day desperately avoiding bending, twisting and sitting too long. I continue to feel confident that my limited level of activity is contributing toward my attaining a full recovery in months to come.

Close to the shore, this fisherman may be looking for squid.  Fried calamari is a popular dish in Thailand, especially for tourists. These circles are fishing pools.

In time, light exercise and more walking will be appropriate but for now, easy movement combined with rest seems to be most effective. I suppose all the activity on the river cruise may have been detrimental to my condition when there were days that my Fitbit showed over 10,000 steps. 

For now, I stay under 3000 steps a day frequently getting up and down engaging in light household activities that don’t include any bending or lifting. It would be great to get outside to walk the neighborhood, but the ruts in the road are so many and so deep, even the most surefooted of walkers is taking a risk.  Falling would not be good.

Back to yesterday, when we returned from shopping Tom put all the refrigerator items away while I sat at the dining table cutting veggies for our salad and side dishes. 

Island across the bay where numerous boats stop to enjoy the sandy beach.

We purchased two roasted chickens, deliciously seasoned with cinnamon and lemon grass (a Thai thing), one for each of two nights. Adding a huge salad and two side vegetables, fresh green beans and asparagus, rounds out the meal. 

As I chopped, I was thinking about getting my thoughts outside of this news related state of mind.It was time to turn off the TV and start planning again.  Tom loaded his favorite radio podcast on his computer, Garage Logic (from KSTP 1500, Minneapolis, Minnesota), that often has us howling with laughter.

We were able to tune out the limited discussions of negative news to make a point of listening to the endless chatter that easily elicits rounds of hearty laughter from both of us. 

A short time later, sitting at my computer, (the day’s post was uploaded hours earlier) the research began and the first thing I tackled was booking tickets for the Sydney Opera House for March 19, 2017. It’s a good thing we’d booked tickets now. Based on leftover available dates there wouldn’t have been tickets remaining if we waited any longer.

The water is barely ankle deep at low tide.

The tickets and great seats we chose are for a Sunday at 5:00 pm. The day of the week was irrelevant to us. Us retirees find days of the week for activities less significant as when we were working when Fridays or Saturday nights were preferred for most social events. It doesn’t matter now.

Let’s face it, opera is not Tom’s first choice of entertainment although I’ve always been a  huge fan. However, the idea of spending a few hours at the famous opera house is an experience neither of us wanted to miss during the 40 days we’ll spend in Sydney from March 13 to April 22, 2017, while awaiting the 24-night cruise from Sydney to Seattle.

Its this very cruise on April 22, 2017, in exactly 8 months 17 days, that will take us back toward the US. After an Alaskan cruise ending on May 26, 2017 we” fly to Minnesota where we’ll stay seeing family and friends for six weeks. Later we’ll be heading to Nevada to see more family for another three weeks. Then, we’ll be off “for the world” once again!

Phuket consists of hundreds of smaller islands.  For more information, please click here.

The simple process of booking the tickets for the Sydney Opera House reminded me of how much the future holds, especially seeing family and friends for a total of nine weeks and then, the journey continues on.

We can choose to create positive news in our lives, news that can take us away if only for awhile to live life to the fullest in the best way we can.  

Now, we’re back to researching for the future! May you find ways to incorporate good news into your daily lives!

Photo from one year ago today, August 5, 2015:

Boats docked at the marina in Port Douglas, Australia. For more photos, please click here.

We landed a vacation home in Sydney!…Itinerary almost completely filled until October 31, 2017…

Chaise lounges, gas grills and dining table outdoors overlooking the bay.

When we went back and forth via email for a vacation home in Sydney for the 40 days we discussed in yesterday’s post, we were relieved and excited to have wrapped up this time frame later in the day.

Of course, dealing with Aussies is always delightful based on our past experiences. Oh, dear…am I stereotyping Australians as outrageously warm and friendly? 

 View of the North Harbour and Manly Cove, from the property. A view, WiFi, a clean and updated property is all we need. No screens? We’re used to it by now.

I suppose in a way it may be a stereotype of a nation of people but it’s utterly irresistible to avoid doing so when they, like Kiwis, are some of the most friendly people on the planet.

No doubt there are exceptions, but we’ve yet to experience anything other than pleasant and memorable interactions after spending approximately six months in their presence after arriving in the South Pacific on June 11, 2015. 

Walk out from the kitchen to the beautiful yards and gardens.

We spent three months in Trinity Beach, Australia, a month on two Australian cruises, and now over two months here in New Zealand, giving us ample time to make such a general assessment, albeit it is biased after having such great encounters.

And yesterday was no exception when we pinned down the lovely apartment in an oversized bed and breakfast type house overlooking the bay with a private fully equipped apartment. 

Additionally, there are two separate bed and breakfast bedrooms with baths, common areas, and daily continental breakfast. 

Modern kitchen with everything we’ll need.  No dryer.  No dishwasher.  No big deal to us!

Overall, prices for vacation rentals are high in Australia especially close to Sydney, as is the case for this property.  At AU $200, US $152, NZ $224 per night, this is the highest price we’ll have paid in our travels to date with the exception of hotels and short-term rentals of less than two weeks.

We perused hotels with kitchen amenities such as a small fridge, microwave, and coffee pot but prices were even higher.  Adding the cost of dining out if we stayed in a hotel, we’d easily have spent over AU $394, US $300, NZ $441 per day, well over our budget.

Based on the fact that this property we chose in Sydney, actually Manly Beach, has not only excellent public transportation but there’s also a free shuttle close to the property that travels to the local shopping areas, beaches, and restaurants which we certainly use frequently.

Master bedroom in apartment.

As a result, we won’t need a rental car which once we made all the calculations we discovered this property makes it possible to stay within our budgetary guidelines. Having made this determination, we proceeded to confirm the 40-day reservation with peace of mind and enthusiasm.

With a wide selection of walking trails and paths close to the property, we’ll be able to get out for exercise and to absorb the many beautiful surrounding areas and attractions. 

An easy bus ride will take us to downtown Sydney, the Harbour Bridge, and the Opera House where hopefully we’ll be able to see a performance, a must-do in this city. 

The lounge where guests mingle might be a fun spot to meet other travelers.

The performances for the Opera House aren’t yet posted for 2017. I made a notation on our online calendar to book something as soon as the upcoming performance becomes available.

Sydney has a wealth of tourist attractions we’ll surely visit. We’ll put on our “tourist” persona and go with the flow, seeing everything that appeals to us while living in this amazing city, sharing photos and details here each day.

We’ll arrive in Sydney on a cruise on that particular occasion on March 13, 2017 (more Sydney layovers will follow for many upcoming cruises) departing on April 22, 2017, a little more than a year from now.

From there, on April 22, we’ll take a 24-day cruise from Sydney, Australia to Seattle, Washington, USA for another cruise to Alaska and then off to Minnesota and later Nevada to visit family. 

Whew! We’ll be busy. We love it all!

May all of you stay busy and entertained doing some of those things you also love!

Photo from one year ago today, March 20, 2015:

A year ago today, we posted this photo of Tom and our dear friend Richard who recently passed away. We’ll always miss him and the amazing times we had together during our four months in Kauai. For more photos, please click here.