Eastern Pacific Crossing & LA Arrival

We departed Hilo Monday afternoon and headed toward Los Angeles. Clearly we needed to sail a little faster than we had prior to our stops in Hawaii, because, we averaged 22 knots per hour, compared to around 18 on our trip north from Tahiti.

The seas were very calm and the skies mostly clear.

Very few whitecaps and clear skies

Of course, since I am always up early, I took a couple of sunrise pictures.

Wednesday Morning
Thursday Morning

This morning, we were all stop at 5:00 AM, right in front of San Pedro Harbor, waiting for the pilot boat.

San Pedro in the distance

After the pilot boarded, we headed in.

Entering the harbor

We passed the Royal Princess

And the USS Iowa, BB-61, now a museum ship

And finally to pier 93

We were off the ship by 8:30, in the rental car by 9 and on our way to Palm Springs. We arrived home just before 11 AM and took this picture with Mouse in the garden.

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig!

Just before leaving the ship this morning, I took a shot of the ship’s position, showing total distance traveled was 9,292 nautical miles, or 10,693 statute miles.

I will post a few pictures that the ship’s photographers took, once I can digitalize them.

After that I will keep this up for couple of weeks before we start our driving trip later this month.

30th Anniversary Trip

We are departing on the 12th for Maui. This is the first leg of our long planned 30th Anniversary Trip. After a week in Maui and 3 nights on Oahu, we fly to Fiji for 4 nights, then on to Sydney. We will spend 10 nights in Sydney, including April 7th, which is the actual anniversary of our meeting. On April 8th we board the Golden Princess for a 27 night cruise to Los Angeles, stopping in New Zealand, French Polynesia and Hawaii. I will be posting pictures and commentary from our trip. Check back often to see what’s happening.

On our last trip to Hawaii. We are ready to make some new memories,

Honolulu and Hilo

The day before we arrived in Hawaii, we spent part of the day before in a very desirable location on the ship, high up on Deck 15, in the stern of the ship. There are two loungers there, overlooking the ocean. We grabbed the two seats and spent a couple of hours. But, as you can see in the pictures, Bill and I had entirely different ideas about the appropriate clothing. The wind was howling and I needed a sweater.

You would think I was in Wisconsin

And Bill thought we were in Florida

We arrived into Honolulu around 7 AM. Since I was in line waiting to get off early, Bill took a couple of pictures as we entered the harbor.

View toward Diamond Head as we headed in

Downtown Honolulu and Waikiki

Following Grand Princess In

As I mentioned, I waited in line to get off early, since I needed to pick up a rental car in Waikiki. There were 18 people ahead of me in line, none of them US Citizens. When immigration came on board, they split us into two lines, US in one, and non-Us in the other. I was now first and just has to show my passport and off I went, with over 2500 passengers behind me waiting to leave the ship.

We didn’t have anything special planned for the day. The weather was not great, so we did some shopping and then drove to the North Shore for lunch.

Back on board, we watch our sail away from Honolulu

I know, another sunset!

The Grand Princess, across the harbor from us.

Later, we had dinner in the Crown Grill with friends. We sailed through the night (very slowly I assume) to reach Hilo this morning.

This is our last stop before Los Angeles.

Sun rising just as we enter Hilo Harbor

Small town of Hilo in the background

View of port side bridge. Captain at far left

In this picture, taken port side, aft, you can see the Staff Captain eyeing our position relative to the pier, while the Ship’s Captain operates the side thrusters to move us into position.

Again, we had a car rented for the day, well partial day. We picked up the car, headed in to Hilo town to do a little shopping.

Bill with Hilo Town in the background

Then Bill and I drove to our favorite beach on the island, Kehena Black Sand Beach.

Bill on the path down to the beach

The black sand is actually very fine volcanic rocks, pulverized by the unrelenting waves over eons.

After a couple of hours at the beach, we headed back to the ship. It is all aboard at 3:30 and then we sail for Los Angeles, scheduled to arrive Saturday morning.

Before I end, I received a picture from another guest of Bill and I underwater on the Tahiti dive.

Until Los Angeles!

Arrived on Maui

After a nice dinner with Bill’s brother, Bob, at Daily Grill, near LAX, we flew Tuesday morning to Maui. We will spend a week here biking, spending time at the beach and scuba diving.

It was nice seeing Bob. Can you see the resemblance?

Bill and I are settled into our 1st class seat, waiting for departure.

I rarely take photos from planes, but today I did as we approached Kahului.

Day at Sea: Pollywogs, Shellbacks and Crossing the Equator

A little before 2 AM this morning, we crossed the equator. I was disappointed that we crossed in the middle of the night, but got up, nonetheless, to film the moment using the ship’s current location feed. Here you can see 00:00:01S and 00:00:00N at 11:47 UTC which was 1:42 AM, ship’s time.

And a moment later, we were in the Northern Hemisphere.

Earlier, on Wednesday afternoon, we witnessed the crew Crossing the Equator Ceremony, presided over by King Titan and his court. The pollywogs, those who have never crossed before, we forced to kiss the kings feet, covered with various slimy foods and then later hosed down with a firehose. My only thought, was that this is far tamer than on board US Navy ships in the 70s. Of, course, I suspect a lot of what was allowed then, would not be sanctioned today.

By now the pollywogs are covered in puddings, jams, ice creams, and who knows what else.

And finally, the newly initiated Shellbacks, are given a cleansing rinse from the firehose.

It was fun to watch and gave some of the crew a break, from what I am sure are long and tiring days at sea.

We continue on our path to Honolulu. We arrive there early Sunday morning. Until then!

Sea Day

We had a quiet day at sea. I did a spin class in the morning and both of us went to the gym and stretched in the afternoon. I really don’t have pictures. But the sunset this afternoon was very nice, although we didn’t actually see the sun set.

This squall to the right of the sun was part of the entire setting.

It made for some pretty cloud formations.

The bright spot in the middle near the horizon is all we saw of the sun as it set. I sat on the balcony hoping I would get a peek of the sun. Well here was my peek.

Today will will cross the equator. There will be some kind of ceremony, but I don’t know exactly what.

Moorea – Overcast and hot and steamy

Early this morning, just after 5 AM, we slipped quietly out of Papeete, on our way to Moorea. Had we sailed directly there, it would’ve taken, maybe, 30 minutes. But, since we were not scheduled to arrive until 8:30 AM, the captain sailed around in open ocean for a while.

I mentioned hot and steamy. How about 90/90, ninety degrees and 90 percent humidity. A nice afternoon rain would be welcome about now.

Once we were anchored, the ship used tenders to take us ashore.

Here you can see the tender heading in to Moorea. These tenders are also the ship’s lifeboats, so they serve a dual purpose. Bill and I let the early morning rush to shore subside before we headed in.

Bill was amused by this picture. He thinks I have Mickey Mouse ears.

And here is a view of the ship from the tender on our way in.

Here are a couple of pictures of the surrounding landscape. Unlike its neighbor, Tahiti, Moorea does not have a city. There are just small villages situated between those rugged peaks and the ocean.

We took a taxi to a nearby white sand beach. The water was beautiful and warm. Although, since the day remained overcast, the water was not the brilliant blue it can be. We sunned on the beach, went swimming and read for a couple hours.

After the beach we had lunch at nearby restaurant and headed back to the ship, where Bill is watching the afternoon movie, “50 First Dates” and I am trying to get this posted before we set sail for Hawaii.

Well that is all for the day. We are in Hawaii the 28th and 29th. Until then!

Party Under the Stars, Arrival Papeete and Scuba Dive

Last night the ship had a Polynesian themed party after dinner. Bill and I donned our sarongs and headed to the Lido Deck for some fun. The pictures look a little weird because of the lighting on deck.

Here we are, just arriving at the party.

We had a nice time dancing and then Bill really got going.

But, of course there was a pool. And Bill couldn’t resist.

Bill even got our friend, also named Bill, to tag along. And you can guess what happed.

And, of course, this was all caught by the ship videographer and will be on the cruise DVD. But, we don’t really have a DVD player to view it, but I suppose we will have to buy it.

After a nice sleep, one in which we needed the air conditioner for the first time. We sailed into Papeete, French Polynesia.

I got out on deck just in time to take this as we sailed past Moorea, where we will be tomorrow.

As we entered the harbor, there was a small pod of Dolphins playing in the bay.

And here we are approaching Papeete.

After breakfast, we went ashore to buy a SIM card and gets some French Polynesia Francs.

These dancers

and musicians greeted us as we disembarked.

Then it was off for our dive

I think he was suppose to welcome us to the dive shop, but, apparently, was asleep on the job.

There were only 7 divers on the trip, but since 3 were not certified divers, we went to a spot that was rather shallow, since uncertified divers can only go about 35 ft deep. We did have a friend with an under water camera take a picture of us. But, we don’t have the file yet. When we do, it will post it.

There were two wrecked boats and a plane to check out. Although, I was uncomfortable with how strong the current was on the return to the boat, we had n OK dive, but nothing spectacular.

After the dive, we headed back to the ship for lunch. We have a sunset cruise scheduled for this afternoon, but the weather may not cooperate. We will overnight in Papeete tonight and sail to Moorea, early tomorrow morning. We will have more later.

Days at Sea

We departed Auckland in the afternoon of the 16th. Our sailing to Papeete is taking 5 1/2 days. Because of the International Date Line, we actually had two April 18ths. I am writing this on the morning of April 19th.

I thought you might enjoy knowing a little about our day. Just like at home, and everywhere we travel, I get up first. The International Cafe is open 24 hrs and have coffees, teas and pastries. When I get up, I go down have a Latte and check email using the laboriously slow internet. Eventually Bill is up and we have choices for breakfast. Just one floor down from us is the large buffet with far more choices than we will ever need. We have done that a couple of times, but as you can imagine, I am very leery of their eggs.

After breakfast, we both try to do something active. Some days Ride the stationary bike.

This is one of the bike stations, just waiting for me. I seem to run off the track on the virtual bike path, because my concentration drifts to the sea view. Oh well!

I have also been talking TRX classes. TRX uses your own body weight as the resistance.

Here I am exercising my tri/biceps

and here the TRX strap suspends my feet off the ground while I do push-ups.

Bill and I have also been doing stretches. Bill has always done this, but it is new to me and I can tell you, it is making a difference in my posture and various pains.

Some days, I do a spin class, which is designed to mimic a multi-faceted segment of the Tour de France. So, it has much higher hill profile than I am accustomed to.

After morning exercises, we sometimes just sit on our balcony and read or watch the waves pass by.

For lunch there is the buffet, a pizza stand, a burger, dogs and brats stand, or you can go for a full table service lunch. Bill and I like casual for lunch and have not done the table service.

In the afternoons and evenings, there are various games/activities. There is also movies on the wide screen at the mid-ship pool area. Yesterday we had an invitation for cocktails in the Grand Suite. The guests staying there are from Honolulu and received an upgrade offer from Princess. it is 3 to 4 times larger than our suite.

This is Bill on the balcony, which takes up most of the stern on the Baja Deck.

And this is the sitting room. I don’t see Bill and I ever sailing is this suite. We don’t cruise enough to get complimentary upgrades and we certainly can’t pay that much. But it was nice to see.

After cocktails in the Grand Summer the, we went to the movies.

And look what we watched. It was almost a sing along.

After the movie, we went to Club Class Dinning area, which has very attentive waitstaff and extra menu items.

There are so many choices on what to do each day. We tend to go to things that keep us active, eat sensible lunches and breakfasts and try healthier choices at dinner. But, who could refuse Bananas Foster last night?

So, this will either post later today, or if not, when we arrive into Papeete on the 21st. we are now on the same side of the date line as you, just hours earlier.

Auckland and Waiheke Island

We arrived into Auckland about 8 AM. On our way in, we passed an island at the entrance to Hauraki Gulf. We were rewarded with a beautiful sunrise. I know that I post a lot of sun rises and settings, but I do enjoy them.

As we approached Auckland, were headed straight to the downtown.

We would pass just beyond that row of cranes behind me. As we sailed past this ship, I was intrigued. Evidently it is for vehicle transport. I think it is a bit odd.

We moored at the berth right next to the ferry building, which was good, because we were taking the ferry to Waiheke Island for our Taste of Waiheke Tour, which included 3 wineries, an olive oil production facility and lunch.

This is the ferry terminal building was completed in 1912 on reclaimed land out of sandstone and brick. it is on the New Zealand list of protected buildings. The actual ferry piers are just in front of the building. The terminal building itself has numerous restaurants and shops.

We rode to Waiheke Island in the interior of a modern ferry and I didn’t see any photo ops. Once on the island, we were picked up by our guide and we set off for Stonyridge Winery.

The wines were nice, but since we already had so many bottles, we didn’t buy any there. But we did have a moment with the cat.

and took some nice pictures of the roses at the ends of vine rows.

As usual, Bill knew their names.

I did not. At Stonyridge, we were lucky to see the harvest of oilives on the many trees surrounding the vineyards. Apparently they utilize backpackers, to help with the harvest. A canvass tarp is placed under the tree and then the worker uses an automatic shaking device to free the olives.

The winery sells the olives to the nearby Rangihoua Estate, the next stop on our tour. At Rangihoua, we tasted several of their olive oils and bought a couple to take home. We were again lucky since they were pressing the olives, when we arrived.

Olives just arrived from Stonyridge

The pressing machine in the background

11.844 kilos and logbook to record amount

The 11.844 Kgs dumped into barrel with dates and processors name.

After leaving Rangihoua, we drove to casita Moro, a Spanish style vineyard. Here we had Spanish tapas paired with our wine tasting. The owners are New Zealanders, with a love Spanish wines and foods.

With Anika, our tasting hostess at Casita Miro

Anika explaining the vineyard in the background

With our bottles of Madame Rouge and Summer Aphrodisiac

I am taking a picture of the label of Summer Aphrodisiac. The wine maker is giving it some pretty special attributes.

Our last stop was at a spectacular vineyard high up above the sea. the wines were nice, but we really have enough already onboard. But the views were stunning.

All in all, a beautiful day. We are now back on the Golden Princess. Preparing to depart for French Polynesia. We will post then.

Rotarua, Whakarewarewa Maori Village and Polynesian Thermal Spa

We had a great day on our first stop on New Zealand’s North Island. After sailing all night and into mid-morning, we arrived at the Bay of Plenty and made our way to the pier at the foot of Mount Maunganui.

On our way into the Bay, we experienced the first sunrise on April 15th, Bill’s birthday, 19 hours earlier than at home. New Zealand is the closest major country to the Date Line, so we welcomed Bill’s birthday early.

As we approached the pier, the ship stopped, and two tugs pulling in opposite directions turned us 180 degrees.

Once we were in position, they both pushed us sideways to the pier.

Before heading for our tour, I took a picture of the ship. You can see why we had to be pushed in.

Today, we had a 7 hour tour planned that would take us to Rotorua, and the Maori village. Before arriving at the village, we made a stop at a kiwi fruit farm. The Gold Kiwi, was new to us. We were told that Trader Joe’s and Costco have in the US. I think is is much more flavorful than the green.

We had a walking tour with Chief (His Maori name was not pronounceable).

The village is a communal village, with the cooking area, being one of the several steam heated lakes. They also have a communal bathing area using the constantly flowing hot water from the springs.

Here he is just pulling corn on the cob out of the lake. We were offered a piece of corn. It tasted fantastic. They can cook vegetables, rice & other grains, and fish. High fat meats cannot be cooked in the pool, because the fat would coat the surfaces.

After walking the village with Chief, we went to the Cultural Presentation. The performers sang, danced and did the Haka, the traditional Maori war dance,

After the village, we spent an hour and a half soaking at the Polynesian Thermal Spa.

We then returned to the ship, where we had dinner in the Italian specialty restaurant, Sabitini’s. The table next to us also were celebrating a birthday, and the BD girl was born in1962, so both are 57 today.

A great day, perfect weather interesting places and sharing all that with the man of my dreams. Happy Birthday Bill!

At Sea, somewhere along coast of New Zealand’s North Island

We have a strong enough internet signal, so I am going to try a quick post. We have been at sea all day today (Sunday NZ time). It is mostly cloudy, but every once in a while we get some sun.

This was earlier today, with just a patch of sun off our balcony.

And this was just now (4:42 PM, Sunday, NZ time)

Today, I biked 10 miles on the Virtual Bike. I used a bike path in Spain as my route. Then, we met friends for lunch in the British Pub lunch set up in one of the restaurants.

After lunch, Bill and I walked 2 1/2 times around the Prominade Deck, which is 1 mile, then went and stretched in the fitness center for a half hour. We do enjoy sea days!

Akaroa, Lunch in the Village and Wine tasting Tour

After a smooth overnight passage, we arrived in the village of Akaroa. There is not a pier or wharf long enough for our ships, so we anchored out in the bay, and used tenders to shore.

Bill on the pier, with the Golden Princess in the background.

After arriving on shore, we walked along the waterfront checking the water front stores and choosing a restaurant for lunch.

Clearly the town is keyed toward the tourist trade. In fact, our ship was the last of the season, and after we departed, the villagers planned a festival celebrating the end of a successful tourist season. We were not invited,

After lunch we joined a small group to do two wine tastings. Our first stop was French Peak Winery, owned by our tour guide and her husband, who is the wine maker.

Here we are in the tasting room, Renan, the winemaker and his wife, Joey. We tried their Rose’ from Pinot Noir grapes, an oak aged Chardonnay, and their, 2108 Pinot Noir Partage, just bottled last week.

Which, we purchased.

After French Peak, we drove down to the waterfront for a little picnic.

Here Joey serves cheese, local olives and breads, served with a Rose’ from a nearby winery, Black Estate. That winery is too far of a drive, so we got to taste, but not visit.

The last winery was high on the hill overlooking the village and bay. The owner, is a retired architect and his house on the side of the hill was evidence of his skill and taste. The winery is Meniscus, known for their Rieslings. They were great and we bought a 2016 vintage.

We are on the deck overlooking the vineyard, bay and village, in the distance.

This small group tour was one of the more memorable that we have taken. As a bonus, proceeds from the tour support a local conservation and support group for the Korora Penguins. Joey’s Mother founded this organization to support habitat for the penguins and eradicate non native predators that had depleted the colony. She has been honored by international conservation groups for her work. Check out http://www.pohatu.co.nz for more info.

We returned to the ship on the last tender very satisfied that we had chosen this particular tour for our day in Akaroa.

Fiordlands National Park and Dunedin

After sailing two days, we arrived at Fiordsland National Park. We did not go ashore, but sailed into and out of Milford Sound.

Arriving Milford Sound.

Water fall deep into Sound

Back at sea, approaching Thompson Sound.

Thompson Sound approaching Doubtful Sound. it is called Doubtful Sound, because Capt. Cook, thinking there was nothing there, wrote Doubtful on the chart. later exploration revealed a long narrow sound that connected to Thompson.

After spending most of the day in the park, we set sail Port Chalmers, arriving early the next morning.

We could see Port Chalmers in the distance.

Entering the port, notice the road right at water level going around the point. There are no highways in this part ofNew Zealand,

we were going to dock just past this log loading pier.

After we arrived, we had a rail tour planned.

The platform at Dunedin Station. the ride was to be about 1 1/2 hours each way with a stop in the village of Pukerangi.

We would travel through 12 tunnels and over countless bridges.

The train going up was great, making several stops along the way for photos.

A small creek empties into Taieri River

Nice view of River. We had lunch on the train and headed back down the gorge toward Dunedin. About halfway down, the train came to a stop and the tour guide told us there was a light indicating the train was low on water. Since we were at the only water tower on the right, the engineers were checking it out.

A few minutes later, the guide came back, but before he spoke, I could see the separated engines handing down the track. It seems, the one engine, could not continue and the train was too long to pull the cars alone.

So, we waited for almost an hour, for the replacement engines to arrive. The passengers divided into two groups: those who were agitated and wanted something done now, and the others who were calm, understanding and knew the ship would not leave without us. I am happy to say that Bill and I were in the later groiup. Great conversation and a little wine made the time pass by.

In the end, we arrived back at Dunedin Station, pictured here.

And had a quick walk around town, before heading back to the ship for an on time sail away.

Last Full Day in Sydney

Sunday was our last full day in Sydney. It was also the anniversary of our meeting 30 years ago in San Francisco.

We had a leisurely day, doing some shopping, picking a few things we might need on the cruise.

In the morning, our Airbnb hosts, Paul and Raymond, came by for coffee. We had a very enjoyable time getting to know them.

Around 5:30, we departed for Doyle’s on the Beach, a long time Watson’s Bay eatery. The Doyle family has been running this fish restaurant for over 134 years. Getting to Doyle’s was part of the fun as we took the ferry just at sunset past the Harbor Bridge, the Opera House and the Sydney skyline.

Of course, right across Circular Quay is the Harbour Bridge.

Once we arrived at Watson’s Bay, we checked in with the restaurant and went to a nearby bar for a glass of wine. Afterwards we were seated at our water front table at Doyle’s. Thank you to our friend, Ray Hatfield, for recommending Doyle’s. It was a memorable experience.

I went with a seafood sampler appetizer and a John Dory fillet, grilled and served over steamed vegetables. Bill chose garlic prawns for the appetizer and Fish and Chips, made with beer battered flathead. When Bill’s dish was brought to the table, my only thought was, we could have shared. It had 6 large filet strips and a mound of fries. Bill thought it was some of the best fish he had ever eaten. Both dishes were excellent and the service team was very attentive. We were quite satisfied with the experience. For wine we chose a 2015 Rockford Moppa Springs Grenache, Mataro, Shiraz. We tend to like Red wines and this smooth tasting blend went perfectly with our fish. By a the way, in the US, Mataro is known as Mourvèdre. Eating fish in Australia can be a challenge for Americans, because none of the usual fish varieties are available, so you have to ask questions to get the kind of fish you like.

After a fun evening, we returned to the flat and turned in because we had an early morning excursion planned.

Around 5 AM, we got up and I checked the Harbour cam, to make sure it was not too late and set out to

welcome the Golden Princess, our home for the next 27 days, into Sydney Harbour. Just as we approached the Opera House, we caught our first glimpse of her.

As you can see, the lighting was a little challenging, as the sun was rising behind the ship.

Bill was pointing our where our stateroom is.

And I wanted a picture with me, the Bridge and ship.

So, after accomplishing our goal to meet the ship, we headed back to the flat, to pack, have a FaceTime champagne toast with Brian and Gary, our best friends from Wisconsin and to get ourselves and our two months worth of baggage and the wines we bought in Australia back to the Golden Princess for our 4 PM sailing to Los Angeles.

Next blog will be from the ship.

Sharing Centennial Park with Bill, the Rocks and Dining High above Sydney

I posted about my bike ride to Centennial Park. While riding through the beautiful park, I thought, ‘Bill should be here.’ So, as part of our planned ride to return our rental bikes, we detoured through Centennial to give Bill the chance to enjoy the park.

I knew Bill would want to see the roses. Even though it is late into the fall, there were still lots blooming.

We walked the bikes through the garden.

I am always amazed at his ability to recognize specific roses. I can say that is a yellow rose, etc., but Bill knows the names of most.

I am playing with captions and alignment. Bear with me.

And of course, Bill would enjoy this colorful Autumn tree.

Notice the woman in the background. I think she is doing a Vlog (video blog), although her stand was not stable and kept falling over.

After leaving the park, we biked towards The Rocks, to return our bikes. We stopped for lunch along the Bourke Street Cycleway. Our table was just a few feet from the Cycleway and, we could keep our eyes on the bikes.

When I was working on the planning for this trip, I read about Sydney’s cycle network and looked forward to riding. Well there are several city wide Cycleways to use, and lots of “share the road” on lesser traveled streets. But often, those end and drop you onto a busy thoroughfare with the choice of fighting traffic or illegally riding the footpath (sidewalk for my fellow Americans).

It made riding Sydney challenging, frustrating and exhilarating, all at the same ride. You just never knew when the beautiful Cycleway would end and drop you on to the A44 highway!

Anyway, the bikes are safely back at the rental shop. And that was our last ride in Sydney (and most likely for the remainder of this trip).

The bikeshop is in the Rocks, which is the oldest settlement in Australia, dating to 1788. The name refers to the sandstone buildings erected in the area, rather than any geological formations.

On the weekends, the Rocks come alive for the market, with countless booths, with food, artisan products and music.

Bill bought a fun shirt, from the artist/designer and we headed back to the flat for an afternoon rest before dinner.

We always enjoy revolving restaurants, even though, at times the novelty of the space outshines the quality of the food. Restaurant 360-Bar and Dining, high above Sydney at the Westfield Center Tower excels on both counts. The views are spectacular and the Chef creations were equally impressive. We both had 3 course prix fixe meals.

For entrees, Bill had miso glazed Wagyu Short Ribs and I, a ham hock terrine. Ham hocks, I guess you can’t totally get the country out of this city boy! For Mains, Bill selected Kurobuta Pork Loin Chop and I had my favorite cut of beef, Rib eye. Both were served with a Red Wine reduction sauce and pomme purée (mashed potatoes to us yanks). We selected a nice New Zealand Pino Noir. We finish with desserts, mine a fancy ice cream sandwich and Bill’s, an Apple/blackberry parfait. The food and service were great, and the night views spectacular!

The lighting and reflections in the glass did not make for great pictures, but fun none the less.

All in all, a very fun evening a thousand feet above Sydney!

On the way back to the flat, we passed the Queen Victoria Building and Sydney Town Hall. I thought both looked impressive at night. And snapped a couple.

This remains one of my favorite buildings in Sydney.

on our way home, we caught a glimpse of the tower. We were just dining at the top of this tower.

Until tomorrow!

4 Williams, Sydney Olympic Park, Pizza and Figs

Friday was still a little wet, with lingering showers from the overnight rains. We decided to have breakfast out and walked 15 minutes to a restaurant called Three Williams.

I wondered about the origins of the name and after a little research found that the name honors three men named William, who were important to the development of the area, William Redfern, who the town was named after, William Chippendale, namesake of the neighboring suburb and William Hutchinson, who was a prisoner transported from London in 1799. He became a successful businessman and public servant.

But, today there was, at the very least, a fourth William in the house. I usually do not post pictures of food. Today I have made an exception.

My meal, a simple , poached eggs with sourdough toast, bacon and avocado was very well presented and tasty. But Bill’s breakfast was extraordinary.

This brioche French toast was topped with house churned vanilla ice cream, encrusted with toffee shavings and caramel/toffee sauce. The combination of the sweet and crunchy made for one of the best French Toast that either of us have had. Yes, Bill shared with me.

After breakfast, we returned to the flat and let the lingering rains move on before heading out to Sydney Olympic Park, home to the 2000 Olympic Games. We took the train with our bikes,from Redfern to Lidcombe. From there is was a short bike to Olympic Park.

With over 35 KM of bike/walking trails, we didn’t have time to do it all, but we completed the River Heritage Circuit and parts of the Olympic Circuit. Some parts were closed for preparations for the Easter celebration later this month.

We rode the path to the end along the Parramatta River.

And had Curry Chicken at a stand in the Blaxland Riverside Park, which is a well developed area for children to play. On this overcast weekday, it was almost empty, but we can imagine how it might be on a sunny weekend.

On the Olympic Circuit, we passed the ANZ Stadium, commonly known as Sydney Olympic Stadium.

Here in the background is the stadium and arena area of Olympic Park. we then rode the short distance back to the train station and headed back to the flat.

Later that evening, we went back to the GDR bar and afterwards out to a small wood fired pizza restaurant nearby, called La Coppola. Our pizza was tasty and well prepared. Bill had an Australian style Caprese, with a big round ball of Bufala Mozzarella, surrounded by halved cherry tomatoes, basil and olive oil. I could not resist the special fig salad, with quartered figs, a round of burrata and topped with a little sweet sauce, basil and nuts. It was delicious and since Bill did not want any, I had the whole thing to myself.

I know, enough already with food pictures. Well, we had a fun day, went to the Oxford Street area for a little while, and then to bed.

Shopping, Afternoon Bike Ride and Rain

Thursday’s forecast was for a chance of rain the throughout the and rain likely into the evening and overnight. Bill and I decided to have our first breakfast out. We chose The Grounds in the City, a very popular restaurant near Town Hall.

When we first arrived, it appeared very busy, with a long line, but then noticed that was for take-away. Once we found the checkin station, we were seated immediately. Once I looked at the menu, I knew what Bill would have, steak and eggs. I had a few more choices, but finally settled on the Grounds Green Brekkie Bowl, which was a fantastic combination of white quinoa, avocado, Brussels sprouts, charred broccolini, grilled haloumi (which at first I thought was chicken), pine nuts, poached egg, and wide leaf parsley. I had it with a side of Australian style bacon. In addition to being beautiful and healthy, it tasted great.

After breakfast, we went shopping. First we visited The Queen Victoria Building, a Romanesque building, built as a Market Place in the late 19th century by Sydney Town. The building is only 98 ft x 620 ft. It has five floors above ground, plus a basement, filled with shops and dining.

It is a little difficult to get proper angle for a shot. but, you can see the narrowness of the Hall, this from the 1sr floor looking down to the ground floor.

I love this clock. The ship hanging from the rod between 3 and 4 is actually the second hand.

On our last trip to Sydney, we had High Tea in one of the Tea Houses in the building.

We bought a small gift for our house (and cat) sitter. Afterwards, we looked for a few for items, that we wanted for our cruise.

Finished with shopping, we headed back for the afternoon, to wait out the coming rain.

Well, the rain looked like it was holding off a bit, so I decided to get a little bike ride in before it started. Bill decided to take it easy at the flat.

Centennial is only a couple miles away and I managed to log 16 miles before the rain began.

I could see the rain in the distance.

I looked for a sign to identify these trees, but didn’t find one, after getting back, I did an internet search and the trees are Tibouchina, also known as Brazilian Spider Flower.

It is well into fall, but a few roses still blooming.

These guys were not the least bit intimidated by the speeding bikes.

The skies began to darken and I decided to head back. Soon the rains began and it rained most of the night. We stayed in and had the last of the leftover pasta.

Obelisk Beach, bike out and bike/ferry return

Wednesday was forecast to be the nicest weather day of our time here. We planned to go to one of the nice beaches on Sydney’s harbor waterfront and spend part of the day. You can reach the beach by bus, but we elected to ride our bikes.

When we got up, however, there was a dense fog. But the forecast remained nice, so we set out while it was still very foggy. The first part of the trip we had already biked on our Harbor Bridge Ride. The nice thing about this part, is that we can reach the bridge using parks and totally protected bikeways.

Here is a picture of the Kent Street Cycleway, in downtown Sydney. Sometime along Kent Street, we noticed the fog beginning to lift and by the time we crossed the bridge, the sun was out.

That part was easy, but once we got past the bridge, we were on surface streets. It wasn’t too bad in North Sydney, but when we reached Mossman, and Military Road it was like Chicago’s Magnificent Mile at Christmas. Sidewalks loaded with people, strollers, older people with walkers and the road packed with cars. The walkers reminded me of the scene in The Producers, when Nathan Lane’s character, Max Bialystock, is taking money from widows, all lined up using walkers.

Well, we eventually got past all that and the road narrowed and became far less busy. We stopped along Middlehead Rd. for a break and took these pictures

From there is was only a short ride down to the trail to the beach.

We spent 2 1/2 hours enjoying the sun, splashing in the slightly brisk waters. Given the nature of the beach picture taking is frowned upon, so I don’t have any to share.

After having the lunches we brought with us, we headed back, electing to ride the short distance to the Zoo Ferry Wharf and ride the ferry back to Circular Quay, from where we rode back to Redfern.

We met a couple of guys on the beach from Seattle. They have spent two months here and are heading home tomorrow. it was nice chatting with them.

NSW Southern Highlands: Wine, Bikes and more

Whenever Bill and I spend more than a few days in a city, we like to plan an excursion into the nearby countryside. Tuesday, we rented a car from carnextdoor, sort of the Airbnb of car rentals in Australia. The advantage was that I could specify that the car have a bike rack. We loaded our rental bikes onto the rack and headed south to the Southern Highlands. We parked in the little village of Bundanoon.

After a quick lunch at the local deli and a visit to the local bike shop for route recommendations. We set out to ride into Morton National Park. Overall, the ride was only 7.29 miles total, but the route took us to several overlooks this very impressive “Grand Canyon” of Eastern Australia.

Bill on the park trail just after entering the park.

This expansive view is from an overlook called Echo Point.

For once my selfie face is not all distorted. It helped that the light was such that I could actually see the screen.

These two were taken at Bonnie View lookout.

We took this at our last stop in the park at Grand Canyon Overlook. This beautiful canyon was created by the Bundanoon Creek, which is today, quite small. The are a couple of falls in the park, which were too remote for us to see. We really didn’t have the time, because we wanted to visit a couple of wineries on our way back to Sydney.

Although it took an hour and a half drive each way, we really enjoyed the day trip. The cute town of Bundanoon, high in the Southern Highlands, has a definite Scottish feel. Intentionally, I’m sure. And the park with its magnificent (bonnie) canyon was quite a treat.

On The way home, we stopped at two wineries, the first was Cherry Tree Hill Wines in Sutton Forest, where we really liked the whites and the second was Tertini in Mittagong. The wines at Tertini were really nice. We bought bottles at both stops and headed back to Sydney. You might ask, “why no winery pictures?” Well, in both places the industrial metal sided buildings were not particularly picturesque.

So, instead you get a picture of our car. We took Uber to where the car was parked. The exact location was texted to me 15 minutes before pickup time. We had to inspect for damage, upload pictures of all sides, including the car top, to the app. Then request a code to unlock the lock box to get the key. On the return we did that process again. It was not a particularly simple process. If I hadn’t need the bike rack, the local Budget/Sixt would have been just fine. But I needed the bike rack. The night before, the owner had texted me, “that he had chucked the rack on!” And that was worth all the hassle of picking up the car.

Thanks, for reading. We have a few more days in Sydney, so I’ll keep posting.

Royal Botanical Garden, Opera House, crossing Sydney Harbour Bridge, Luna Amusement Park

The morning began partly cloudy, temperature in the low 60s and 20 percent chance of rain. We planned a route that used parks, bikeways and low volume streets to make our way toward the Harbour. Here is our route.

The first few miles were great, but then dark clouds began closing in and the rain started. At that point our 20% had become 100%. Luckily for us, we were near the Sydney Art museum and there is a cafe called the Pavilion right across the street. We ducked in and had coffee and split a waffle. The waffle was interesting to us, because it was deep fried, much like Funnel Cake. Not the healthiest, but really good with mixed berry jam, butter and maple syrup.

You can’t see it well, but this is where we enjoyed our stop to wait out the rain. Only 20 minutes or so and we were ready to go. And that was the only rain of the day!

We rode out to the end of Mrs Macquarie’s Point and took some nice photos of the Bridge and Opera. Mrs. Macquarie was the wife of the Governor of New South Wales in 1810 and apparently some convicts carved a chair for her in the sandstone on this point.

We then walked our bikes through the Royal Botanical Gardens to the Opera. No riding allowed, although the path was wide enough, we played by the rules.

After exchanging my bike for one slightly larger, we headed for the bridge and pedaled across.

As we approached the other bank, we noticed a small amusement park.

So we decided to visit it and we had lunch there.

Bill is always a young kid at these places!

After lunch we made our way back across the bridge. Notice that the bridge bike path ends on these steps. Up or down, you have to use the bike ramp and push.

On the return , we rode on the Kent Street Bikeway through downtown Sydney. There weren’t really any photo ops, so here are a couple more from earlier in the day.

In front of Archibald’s Fountain in Hyde Park. Archibald was a newspaper editor, who paid to have the fountain built in the late 1920s.

Bill in front of St. Mary’s Cathedral near Hyde Park.

We rode back to our flat in Redfern. I thought you might like to see our digs.

On Tuesday we are renting a car and driving to the Southern Highlands for some bike riding and later wine tasting. Stay Tuned!

Relaxing Weekend in Sydney

After arriving Friday afternoon, we spent a relative quiet weekend. After getting settled into our flat in Redfern, we went to the local market to pickup supplies for our 10 night stay. We are planning on eating breakfast in most days and dinners, some in and some out.

This weekend, we did just that. On Friday night, we went to a restaurant called Continental. It had a variety of European dishes. I had a very nicely done Bratwurst, with mashed and sauerkraut. Bill had a pork cutlet with red cabbage. Both well prepared.

We did have to wait in the bar, called GDR. I was amused by the name. That is the English abbreviation for German Democratic Republic, commonly known as East Germany. Apparently, I was thinking too seriously. GDR stands for Gunther’s Dining Room. Gunther being the owner.

We spent Saturday getting to know our neighborhood and I made spaghetti with Italian sausage for dinner.

On Sunday, we picked up the bikes we are renting for the week and rode a nice 12 mile ride around some of the harbor. At times the ride was difficult, having to dodge, pedestrians, skate boarders and dogs. We did see quite a few riders on High Wheel Bikes, also known as Penny Farthing bikes. I will try to get a picture.

Here is our bike route.

Although we did not take many pictures, here are a couple. Today we are going to ride to the Sydney Opera House and the across the Sydney Harbor Bridge. We will do better!

I have to somehow find a way not to look so stupid when taking selfies!

After biking , we went to Infinity Bakery, known for their meat pies. We each ordered Chicken and Mushrooms and I also ordered Mincemeat and Eggplant and Bill had Pepper steak. All were quite yummy, although, eating two pies each, was probably a little much. So much, that dinner last night, was tomato soup. We were both still full from lunch, and of course, from the couple pints of beer, we drank to wash the pies down.

Special Bike Ride – Last day in Fiji

On Thursday, our last full day on Fiji, we drove about an hour south of our resort to Cuvu Beach (pronounced Thuvu). We had an excursion booked in the afternoon, but we drove down in the morning to make sure we knew exactly where is was located. Our plan was to check out the little town and have lunch.

As we were driving by we noticed the entrance to Shangri La. we decided to check out the resort and have lunch there. We were given a tour of the property, had a nice lunch at the beach restaurant. Afterward we drove back to our checkin point for the excursion.

This is one of the pools at Shangri La. As we were walking around there was a table where they were making hair rolls. I grinned, took my cap off and asked, “what do you think you can do for me?” The young woman quickly responded. “Lots of super glue and even more extensions.” Well, I decided to pass on that.

There were some beautiful cloud formations. We tried to capture one in pictures.

Then we drove the short distance to the other side of the bay to Ecotrax. Here is our bike for the afternoon.

These are old sugar cane cars on a 11 KM section, modified to use two bicycles as propulsion along the old cane train narrow gage track.

While we were checking in, Bill made a new friend.

There were six cars used for the group. We were in the last on the way out and first returning. We had the extra weight of the tour guide and her gear, but we also had pedal assist, if needed.

This was a stop along the way. Brittany, the tour guide, told a series of jokes, none of which I can remember. I do remember thinking, this would have been a lot more interesting in the shade!

Like here, for example.

But, in the end, we were rewarded with an hour at this beautiful beach. We swam or waded in the almost bath temperature water. Brittany and Dolly served us fresh tropical fruits, which they had purchased at a village along the route.

They even had a coconut with two straws for each couple.

Here is Dolly, taking a selfie with Brittany, Bill and me in the background Continue reading “Special Bike Ride – Last day in Fiji”

Nice Dive and Dinner at the Marina

We had a dive scheduled for yesterday morning. To get to the boat we were shuttled to to the Marriott Momi Bay. It was about a 50 minute ride down the coast.

Looking back at the Marriott, as we head toward our first dive site.

Bill as we left the Marriott dock.

We are both enjoying the boat ride

Bill coming up after first dive.

During our Surface Interval, the clouds began to build and has 2nd dive had far less light at depth.

These two pictures are me coming up after the 2nd. It is highly unusual for Bill to be out first.

After returning to the hotel, we went to the Marina for dinner.

After a long day, we both crashed right after dinner.

Quiet Day on Fiji – Visit to town, spa treatments and Fire Dancers

Bula! The Fijian greeting, you hear it everywhere, since the people are so friendly. We woke up to a rainy morning, but by mid-day it had cleaned nicely and we drove into Nadi town to get gas, visit the market and just look around.

Here I am at the edge of the market.

We did notice there were many vendors, but selling the same vegetables. After visiting the market, we stopped for lunch at a Chinese Restaurant. We were seated and given menus and drinks, and then nothing. Finally, Bill noticed this box on the table. Apparently, until you push the device service button, they will leave you alone. So he pushed it and classical music played somewhere in the back and the server came promptly. Well, when it came time to pay, we learned and pushed the Bill button.

After lunch, we headed back to the hotel. The weather had cleared and it was a beautiful day. We spent a couple hours at the adult pool, which was nice and quiet.

After very relaxing facials, we went to the beach bar for sunset. The first picture didn’t give a hint of how spectacular the sunset would become, but we were in for a surprise.

After dark, just as we were thinking about leaving, a group of dancers came to entertain. The lighting was not great, but I think you can see well enough.