Day Three Down Under

 

It’s day three Down Under and I am just beginning to shake the jet lag.  While Rocket-man toils away at work I set my sights on finding a post office, a meat pie, and the National Museum of Australia….not necessarily in that order.  And, I’m happy to report that  I managed to do all three.   I’m feeling quite pleased with myself.

Making use of the hotel’s wi-fi so as not to incur hefty international Verizon charges, I had looked up the nearest post office on Google maps while at breakfast.  Scribbling on a piece of paper, I made a note of the main streets to get there and hoped that I could find the place since 1) I was on foot in inclement weather, and 2) I get lost easily.  I definitely wasn’t thrilled about the weather.  It was barely 36 degrees, windy, and drizzling. My weather App hinted snow (thankfully that didn’t happen!).  Google maps showed that it was a 17-minute walk to the post office.  

So, I’ll confess that I am a bit map-challenged.   Sometimes (not always) I can’t find my way out of a wet paper bag. God forbid there is some sort of solar flare that fries all manner of telecommunications and satellites and with it  navigation systems!  I am just not the best map reader–my eyes easily glaze over when looking at a map due to visual overload.  It’s not so much that I cannot read a map, it’s that I cannot read a map fast.  This of course can be a source of irritation for my husband.  Rocket-man would ask: Which way should I turn on such and such street?  And me….looking at the map, would nearly seize with fear knowing that it would take me more than a moment to figure it out.  Long enough, for sure, to where Rocket-man would get exasperated which in turn would cause buttons to be pushed and….well….you get the picture.  

I know;  It’s simply a matter of practice.  The more I do it, the better I become.   So, imagine my delight when  I found my way to the post office!  Up the main boulevard I went, and then through side streets ….past a Catholic high school, then on around to a small public library, through a run-down residential area…a grocery store here and there, and McDonalds too, various little Vietnamese and thai restaurants and even Canberra’s DMV.  When I got to the post office I was relieved….pleased…and….

…struck by a throughly wonderful aroma.  

Oh my. Something good is cooking somewhere!  

And there it was.  Elaine’s Pie Shop. The “Sir-man” Jeff had said I must do three things to embrace the full Aussie experience and noshing on meat pie was one of them.  I’d already checked off the Vegemite experience…for good I might add.  Thoroughly disgusting!  

I peered through the window and could see dozens of meat pies in a display case.  My eyes lit up like a child at Christmas.  I could feel the saliva increasing in my mouth just looking at those meat pies.   I looked at my watch.  Damn.  It was only 9 a.m.  I had finished breakfast just a half-hour before.   Oh God…the aroma of the pies was almost overwhelmingly irrisitable…. impossibly divine.  

This is not good.  I simply cannot eat a meat pie, now!  

I cannot even purchase one for later; I’ve got no way to warm it up and no utensils in the hotel room.  I am not going to rush this decision.  I can tell from the wonderful smells wafting through the cold morning air that this is one gastronomic  meat pie experience that must be savoured properly…preferably with a glass of wine.  I’ll have to plan on returning tomorrow.  Promise!

Having mailed my postcards, I turned my resolve to finding the National Museum of Australia.  Back up the long boulevard I go.  It’s a long way on foot.  I could take a bus but I am determiined to get some steps on the pedometer.  It takes me an hour to get there.  By then,  I’d racked up six miles in steps on my Garmin VivoFit and my fingers, despite gloves, were numb with cold from the long walk.   A hot chocolate would be terrific about now.  

Still, it was a lovely walk despite the foul weather.  Mine was a solitary walk; After passing the city center, I rarely saw another soul as I made my way on the path around lake Burley Griffin towards the museum.  I’m guessing weather was a factor, although there were plenty of cycling commuters on the main boulevard which impressed me given the weather.  These folks weren’t out for a recreational, pleasure ride either; it was clear they were commuting to or from work.  

I hadn’t been at the museum for more than five minutes when scores of uniformed school children in plaid blues and reds…. ties for the boys and proper length skirts for the girls, descended upon the place.  Their typical-for-their-age loud voices and boisterous activity pierced the quiet of the place in short order.   Normally I would have been just a tad irritated, but  I was feeling supremely content with everything that I had accomplished in the day so far.

The National Museum of Australia is a lovely little gem in a city that is full of ultilitarian (read….dull looking and even boring) government buildings.  I happily passed an afternoon leisurely browsing through exhibit after exhibit.  There was lots to see and learn …from the artwork of the Aborigines to the handling of the rabbit population that all but ravaged most of the continent (worse than fires!)….and much more.   I even saw a perfectly taxidermied kangaroo, which is probably the closest I’ll ever get to seeing one Down Under…during this trip anyway.   

Mr. Kangaroo

 
The only downside of the day was that I had to enjoy all of this alone.  I certainly felt bad that Rocket-man wasn’t able to share in the experience…or my sis and family either for that matter.  What a blast that would have been.  And I felt an even greater pang of regret that he wasn’t able to help me with my lunch selection;  I all but inhaled a chicken and leek pastry-puff topped pie.  I selected this menu item at the museum’s cafe because of course I had meat pie on the brain.  Rest assured….Elaine’s Pie Shop is still on my radar before Friday is come and gone.  

My eyes are weary…my legs are achy and sore.  I’ve covered over ten miles on foot today.  

It’s time to turn in and dream of another day more, Down Under.

Thankful for this opportunity for Down Under bliss.

Tasty Chicken and Leek puff pastry pie.

Down Under? Oy!

I spent the last week with sis and company. We spent three full days enjoying the beach in North Carolina followed by a couple of days in Northern Virginia. It was a much-needed respite even though it was hotter than Hades and  it wasn’t a full week of zoning out in a beach chair staring out at the ocean. We even managed to not spend the entire time talking about the sad state of affairs with our mother. I took long walks along the shoreline, humming whatever tunes popped into my mind the entire time as I let the cool ocean water tickle toes and ankles. We looked for shells at every opportunity—Alexandre carted an entire bucket full of shells back to Virginia— and we even went crabbing in the dark of night. Now that was a blast I’d never experienced in all of my 57+ years!  The Poodle and Nica-Roo the beagle were on sensory overload too as they ran after crabs skittering about in the sand. We laughed ourselves to near exhaustion that night!

Back in ‘Bama-land I am still on a high. I’ve just got confirmation of another upcoming trip. It’s no secret that Rocket-man is away on business travel a good deal of the time. Folks ask why I’m not traveling with him on some of his more “exotic” business jaunts.  Two words would best answer the question: It’s expensive!  Many of his business trips are scheduled last-minute which would make purchasing a ticket for me a costly proposition. And, even if a trip is scheduled within a reasonable time frame, it often gets changed or cancelled due to whatever is going on with his job. So, when Rocket-man came home last week and said it looked like he was going to Australia on business travel I nearly knocked him over in my rush of excitement.

Can I go, can I go….PRETTY PLEASE…. can I go!?

No shame here folks:  I spent my first six months after I moved to ‘Bama-land binge-watching McLeod’s Daughters on Netflix, if that doesn’t tell you how excited I am about the prospect of traveling to Australia.
map-of-australiaAnd so it is now official. Next month, we are off to the land of Down Under (Canberra, specifically with two days in Sydney).  It matters not that it will entail 30-some hours of travel. It matters not that I will be stuck in coach whilst Rocket-man is enjoying business class. I’m traveling to the land of Koalas, Kangaroos, Uggs, opals (my birthstone, as it happens to be), and good wine.   Unfortunately, it’s only going to be for ten days (four and a half of which are travel days!) but I’m mighty stoked to be able to visit another continent (the island continent!)…the worlds sixth largest country…the world’s largest island.

Having said that, I just so happened to have picked up a book about a month ago about Australia (not knowing about this opportunity mind you). I was perusing the shelves in the travel section at Barnes & Noble when the cover caught my eye:  A kangaroo carrying it’s baby in her pouch. The title of the book: In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson. Knowing that the author is a world traveler who writes interesting, fact-filled accounts of his adventures peppered with a wonderful sense of humor, I purchased it without even reading the back cover synopsis.

Once home, I hadn’t even made it through the entire introduction when a thought hit me square between the eyes.

I cannot complain about living in insect hell anymore.

Case in point, here is a paragraph in Bill Bryson’s introduction, In a Sunburned Country:

“It is the home of the largest living thing on earth, the Great Barrier Reef, and of the largest monolith, Ayers Rock (or Uluro to use its now-official, more respectful Aboriginal name). It has more things that will kill you than anywhere else. Of the world’s ten most poisonous snakes, all are Australian. Five of its creatures—the funnel web spider, box jellyfish, blue-ringed octopus, paralysis tick, and stonefish—are the most lethal of their type in the world. This is a country where even the fluffiest of caterpillars can lay you out with a toxic nip, where seashells will not just sting you but actually sometimes go for you. Pick up an innocuous cone shell from a Queensland beach, as innocent tourists are all too wont to do, and you will discover that the little fellow inside is not just astoundingly swift and testy but exceedingly venomous. If you are not stung or pronged to death in some unexpected manner, you may be fatally chomped by sharks or crocodiles, or carried helplessly out to sea by irresistible currents, or left to stagger to an unhappy death in the baking outback. It’s a tough place.”

 

Okay then!  And I want to go there?

So yes…Australia has the greatest number of reptiles of any country in the world (a total of 755 species…yikes!) and 140 varieties of snakes in addition to 32 species of sea snakes! One hundred of these snake species are venomous and of those, 12 are deadly…as in that’s it, lights out, deadly.

Hmm…..let’s think about this trip.

Back in my working days I had a boss, Jeff, who was detailed for some weeks on a project in Australia.  Jeff brought back little souvenirs for everyone in the office.  Mine sits on a shelf in my family room.  I don’t recall asking my boss much about that trip; our work environment simply didn’t lend itself to much casual chit-chat. Still, I kept in touch with Jeff following my move from Northern Virginia to Southern California.  He’s still working the salt mines, as it were, while I’m still a beach bum…(a beach bum sans the beach mind you).  I follow him on Facebook because his photography is breathtakingly amazing and because, well…he’s a fair dinkum kind of guy (Aussie speak for genuine and trustworthy).  Following my divorce seventeen years ago, he gave me a chance when I desperately needed it.

So I sent him an email.  I told him about the book that I was reading.   I said something to the effect: I’m just amazed you came out of Australia alive….in one piece.

Jeff, being a quiet man of few words, replied with an email that contained only this:

 

I hope to make it out alive!

I hope to make it out alive!

Folks, I’m trying to not get my knickers in a knot over this.  I just hope to make it back alive….and in one piece.

Stay Tuned!