When I first arrived in Sydney last Saturday I was extremely impressed with how streamlined the process was to get through customs; such a change from the previous trips. The new system in Sydney International allows all Australian, New Zealanders, and Americans to electronically scan their passports, and print out a passport ticket, similar to getting a ticket from the “Fast Pass” machines at Disney.
You then follow a line through swing arm gates, and have your photo taken (or a camera looks you up and down to make sure you match your passport.) Once you pass the “look alike” test you are through to baggage claim. The days of passport stamps are now replaced by technology, and while I am all for a faster process, the scrapbooky side of me will miss a stamp book.
Following baggage claim, you present your customs form and passport ticket one more time to an officer who directs you to a lane for more screening, or straight on through to the waiting area. Luckily I didn’t require any additional screenings, and was sent down the lane that led straight to the crowds of people waiting for friends and family.
It’s always such anxiety searching for someone in the waiting area… You have made it through customs in less than five minutes, passed all the checks, and all of a sudden thrown into a sea of people searching for their loved ones. Ben always manages to spot me before I find him, and while we aren’t ones for PDA, a massive hug was long overdue.
As we headed to the “car park” aka parking garage, an overly excited Ben got us off on the wrong level. Purple looks like red right? At least it’s better than the first time he picked me up from the airport. I won’t go into detail on that, but it has something to with never getting a ticket when he pulled into the garage. This time he made it in and out of the garage in 59 minutes exactly and only had to pay $16 for parking – yep! garage parking prices are ridiculous!
The original plan was to spend our first night together in Sydney before heading to Newcastle on Sunday. As Saturday approached our plans started to change as we recalled the last trip I took to Australia and how exhausted I was early in the afternoon; we decided this wouldn’t be the best weekend for us to spend in the city. Additionally, Gay Mardis Gras was on and the hotel prices were sky-high all over the city.
After 36 hours of travel, all I wanted to do was eat, sleep, and shower… oh and find some deodorant. FYI, if you ever take a big trip like that, pack deodorant in your carryon. You can thank me later.
As we headed to Newcastle we got stuck in massive traffic and rain leaving the Sydney suburbs, so we stopped at the Pymble Hotel. I always get confused by these “Hotel” things. In America a hotel is a place where people stay for the night, in Australia they are pubs, and sports bars, sell great food, and some have overnight accommodations, but not all of them, it’s just a bit odd to me.
Ben and I split a Chicken Caesar Salad and my very first plate of San Choy Bow. San Choy Bow is minced meat, in this case pork, wrapped in crisp lettuce and eaten with your hands… aka a lettuce wrap with minced meat. It was either extremely good, or much better than my airline breakfast because I gobbled that down!
Once we made it to Newcastle I knew that I was practically useless for any kind of socializing or unpacking, so a shower was taken, and I passed out for six hours. Clearly I was not adjusted to the time change.
Ben brought in my bags and hung out with the boys before eventually taking a nap too. Have I mentioned that moving in with Ben also means living with two other boys, Andy and Simon? They are Ben’s Sister in Law’s younger brothers. Both are great guys, and definitely keep the house full of excitement.. as if a house filled with Ben and I isn’t exciting enough!
After a long nap, we headed out to The Terrace Bar and met up with the boys’ previous housemate Andrew, aka Wicksy. The bar was pretty cool. It is a small space, with two floors and a rooftop, hence the name. The roof is only open during the day from my understanding to keep the noise level down in the neighborhood. It was a great casual spot, with local beers, and good music.
We chatted with the bouncer a bit about guns in America before heading out. If there is one thing I have heard more than anything in Australia it’s about guns and how “everyone in America has a gun,” they don’t understand it, and I am constantly answering questions about it. I tend to agree with the Aussie ideals and anti-gun system they have over here, but guns are the American stereotype so I know those questions won’t be ending anytime soon.
We spent thirty minutes at The Terrace before heading to The Exchange Hotel, a much larger bar with a live band. Again – a “hotel” but I didn’t see any accommodations, and I don’t think I would have wanted to stay here if there were. Don’t get me wrong, it was a cool place, but it is in no way the right atmosphere for sleeping. While at The Exchange we met up Ben’s Sister in Law, Liz, who was in town for a Bachelorette party. It was great to spend time with Liz and meet some of her friends. The bride, Rachel, studied abroad in North Dakota so we spent a long time chatting and she was able to give me some pointers on big differences she noticed between the two countries.
Leaving the bar a bit early, we walked down the street and got “after pub food,” aka Kebabs.
Ben has raved on and on about how good Kebabs are, even my little sister is on the kebab bandwagon after studying abroad in Italy, so I was excited to finally try one. They were right! It was delicious; I would eat these not only after the pub but any time of day!
Kebabs are a Turkish sandwich made with meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie and served in a flatbread or pita, rolled up like a burrito. Adding in extras reminded me of ordering at Subway, you had your choice of vegetables and tabouli, as well as sauces including garlic, humus, and sweet chili. I got all the veggies, tabouli, and cheese, and had the kebab maker add on whatever sauces he felt would make it an authentic experience.
After two hours of sleep (a six hour nap probably wasn’t the best idea) Ben and I spent Sunday lounging around the house, watching a movie and eating a HUGE Aussie breakfast: eggs, toast, thick cut bacon, and sausage. Oh, and I can’t forget all of that food was covered in barbecue sauce!
That evening we went down to Nobby’s Lighthouse and walked the trail around the Lighthouse just as a storm started to roll in. The views were spectacular during sunset! I cannot wait to bring my camera down there for more photos. The lighthouse is also open every Sunday to take tours and head to the top, so we plan on doing that soon. Walking along the beach was the perfect end to my first weekend Down Under.
I am really excited to get caught up on blogging and share things with you in the moment. Thanks for bearing with me as I get adjusted.