Words of wisdom

Words of wisdom

Saturday, September 24, 2016



 After 4 glorious, if extremely jet-lagged sunny days and nights in Sydney, it was time to catch an early morning flight to Melbourne where I had agreed to a 3-week house/pet sit in the suburb of Carnegie. (Car-NEIGH-geee). 

I landed on a very wet and soggy day and found the airport shuttle bus into the City Centre (CBD) without a problem.  The Aussies like their signs and they are plentiful and very helpful.  I was being met by my homeowner, Scott, at the main train depot.  He knew what I looked liked from photos on the Trusted Housesitters' website, while I was willing to be picked-up by a strange man!  

Everything went smoothly as Scott, an IBM exec, was waiting to help me with my luggage and also give me a brief tour of the CBD before we caught another train to Carnegie.  We hopped on a local tram and headed to Federation Square,  a huge, public space whose buildings are very architecturally unusual. 

Within Federation Square is The Atrium, a 5-story glass-shard enclosed event space.

   There is also a Civic Center, The Edge Theater, The National Gallery of Victoria, SBS Headquarters, The ACMI -Australian Center for Moving Image -which was showing a Scorsese retrospective, ZINC - another performance and event center, a massive outdoor theater screen AND the Melbourne Visitor's Centre - which is where we were headed.   Scott wanted to make sure I had enough maps of the area and a list of things-to-see-and-do to keep me occupied for the 3 weeks they would be gone.

We left  the Visitors' Center with at least 5 pounds of books and brochures and enough ideas and suggestions of what to see-and-do for the next 3 years!   After a quick lunch, we headed to Flinders Station where I purchased a refillable transit pass good on all trams, trains and buses during me stay.     

Flinders Station
I just love how the grand ol' train stations throughout Europe, and Australia as well, have been preserved and still used as a main transportation hub.  

I must say was a little surprised how extremely modern the condo was where I would be staying while caring for my small charge Moxie!  

Everything was push-button and digital.  After a quick lesson on which buttons to push to make what work (ha - that didn't work!)  Scott flew off to join his wife Julie and two daughters, who had proceeded him to Europe, and start their family vacation.

Moxie is a small dog - not really a long-haired chihuahua, not really a miniature terrier -  just tiny and very yippee and not a cuddlier.  She seemed to be happiest when dressed 24/7 in her pink fleece coat. and snuggled in one of the 6 doggie beds scatted throughout the house.  But her greatest joy was to stand outside, behind the fence, and bark loudly and continuously at anything or anyone that passed by.  I emailed the owners to ask if there had been complaints from the neighbors about her barking but was informed that everyone in the building worked, so no one was home to complain.  So I let the little darling bark as long as she wanted - until I couldn't stand it any longer.

For a small dog, Moxie had well-developed kidneys, being used to Scott and Julie being gone during the day.  This allowed me the opportunity to go off and explore Melbourne for more than just a few hours at a time  - Yeah!

On first bright and sunny day (it is very wet and a bit chilly down here, as it's the middle of their winter) I headed into Melbourne's CBD to meet up with the folks at I'm Free Walking Tours for a 3- hours tour.

Melbourne is Australia's oldest city modeled after a typical English capital city. The buildings are stately and large, the sidewalks are broad, the trees are huge and everywhere,  the museums are excellent and plentiful, and the transportation options are numerous, on-time and will take you anywhere you want to go throughout the city and surrounding suburbs.  Melbourne has a huge and diverse ethnic population (the largest population of Greeks outside of Greece and a lovely and large Chinatown.)   Below are just a few of the photo's I took on my tour and during the many subsequent trips I made into Melbourne during my 3-week stay.


Sweet treats in a Arcade window
Graffiti lane

Downtown Yarra River view 

Royal Theater

Chinese wedding pix on Parliament steps 

One of many shopping arcades

A designated laneway just for graffiti artists
Glass domed ceiling at the train station

Arcade tile floor
One of many laneways
Chinatown entrance
Founded in 1831 and situated on Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne is the perfect walking city as it's completely flat. When you aren't even looking, you find some fun and unique public art, great craft markets and hysterical safety posters! Melbourne soon became one of my very favorite cities of all those I have visited.



But the very best thing that happened during my stay in Melbourne was meeting Angela Daley.  Her husband's job had taken them to Chicago, which they called 'home'  over a year. While there she found and joined my favorite group, International Women Associates (IWA).  They had returned home to Melbourne just before I arrived and we both had received emails from mutual friends telling us that we MUST connect.  They were right - it was instant friendship!

Angela lives in a beautifully restored Victorian row house within walking distance of the CBD where she still works as a legal librarian (very part time).
For our first meeting, I trained to her side of town and she gave me a tour of her neighborhood before having a delicious lunch in her lovely kitchen.  Once we got started talking we couldn't seem to stop and lunch went on for literally hours!  She finally put me on the train to home but not before she had introduced me to one of the major reasons to live in Melbourne,   The Queen Victoria Market

What started as a fruit & vegetable market soon added meat and fish halls, fresh fruit and soon The Elizabeth Shops were added to showcase crafts and house goods.  And then there are all the eating options.   Name a type of food or nationality and you will find it at simmering, steaming or grilling at The Queen Vic.

But what blew me away was the Deli Hall.  OMG!!!  If I could move in here and never leave, I would.  I have never seen so many beautiful and delicious displays - salamis, cheese, olives, sweets, and breads of all shapes and sizes, etc. etc. etc.

On another sunny day, and our last day together, Angela suggested brunch downtown overlooking The Yarra River then a visit to an outdoor craft fair before hopping a tram (where I forgot to look left first before looking right and almost ended up in the tram drivers lap!) out to St Kilda.  This quaint, seaside suburb is great for sightseeing.  We had a chance meeting and a long chat with  a very talented Aboriginal artist at work, did some shopping, and stopped for  a hot coffee and tasty sweet to recharge our depleted batteries!

It was a perfect day, but so hard to say goodbye to my wonderful new friend

St. Kilda's pier
Entrance to amusement park

My friend Angela

The unusual 'dot' painting that is specific to the Aboriginal people

The National Gallery was having a retrospective of Australian clothing designers from the 1800's to today.   For me, a must see and a great way to spend one of my last rainy days!  



My 3 weeks had flown by but just before leaving Carnegie I stumbled upon this tiny, corner coffee shop and absolutely had to stop and ask why?????.....it's named for, features pictures on the wall of, and even has a jar to raise money to bring its namesake, comedian, actor, gopher-loving and golfer-extraordinaire BILL MURRAY to Carnegie, Australia!


It turns out the owner is just a great fan - whose name also happens to be William Murray.  He has already arranged for great accommodations for Bill, will get tickets to a rugby match and of course, a provide a few rounds of golf on the area's best courses.  Now all he has to do is raise the money to cover all this (plus the airfare).  Oh-  and then talk Bill into coming!

Hey Bill, as a fellow Chicagoan you should come on down! You will love Australia, adore Melbourne and enjoy meeting the fabulous people who live here.

But now the time has come for me to say farewell to Australia and head to 'A Land of Two Halves'.

Until next time in New Zealand......

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Oz - as the Aussies called their homeland, was my destination when I left Los Angeles on May 30th.  I plan is to spend the next 11 months exploring a bit of Oz, a lot of New Zealand and a totally relaxing month in Indonesia on the island of Bali.  

First stop after a really decent, but very long flight on Virgin Australia, 


I use AirBnB almost exclusively whenever I can.  I like the idea of renting from a local.  I find that almost all AirBnB hosts go out of their way to make you comfortable and also share all they know and like about their city.  

I chose to stay in the Potts Point area for my 4 days in Sydney.  I was the guest of Cassandra and her partner, Fabian, in their beautiful Camelot Hall AirBnB. Check out the photos of this great place!

Arriving late afternoon, I followed her great directions, taking the tram from the airport to downtown where I switched to the Potts Point area's local line, leaving just a few blocks to the condo.   She did forget to mention that she was on the top floor of a 3-story walk-up. Thank goodness Fabian was home to welcome me and carry my suitcase up all the stairs!

I had my own bedroom with a large sunroom overlooking the private school across the street. I barely remember but I think I napped, found somewhere nearby for dinner and fell back in bed at the end of the day.  

The next morning I could not figure out the pop-pop-popping sound that was coming in through my windows.  I stumbled out of bed (jet-lag sucks) and find that at 6:00 a.m. the students across the street are having basketball practice and what I am hearing is a ball being bounced up and down the cement court!

Since I am wide-awake - and have been since 3 a.m. -  I decided to just stay up and go exploring. Cassandra is the manager of a very well-known Sydney art gallery.  Fabian is a film-maker and director and is headed to Germany for work. They are expecting their first child - soon - and my room will become the nursery.  She had told me before I arrived that I would probably see very little of them during my stay and find them both heading out the door at 7 a.m. - Good morning - Good-bye - Have a great day!

The kitchen is supplied with all the necessities for a lite breakfast and after a nice cup of tea and a piece of fruit, I was off to see what Sydney was like.  Since I really wasn't very observant on my arrival, so what a pleasant surprise to walk out the door, cross the street and see this view....

With my trusty city-map downloaded on my iPhone (as usual, I purchased a SIM card at the airport to use for the duration of my stay in Oz) I learned it would be an easy walk to get  here ↑ but first had to walk down here

     At the bottom of the stairs, I can follow the road that winds around the harbour all the way to the famous Opera House. While standing on the corner waiting to cross the street, one of the ever-popular and plentiful Hop-on-Hop-Off buses makes an appearance, stops and asks if I would like to Hop-on?  Why not?!

I paid the 'senior fare' and off I went for a 4-hour tour of Sydney.  This was a perfect way to spend most of the day, especially since my body was still in a completely different time zone and I knew I would have to crash and nap during the afternoon.  I had a signed-up for a 'free walking tour' the next day with I'm Free Walking Tours so I knew between the bus tour and a foot-tour,  I would only see most of Sydney and but learn a lot of history as well.

Speaking of history, when I was doing research before I left the States for the best book to read on the history of Australia, the most highly-recommended book was this one -     Though fiction, it is similar to James Mitchner books where you get a great story intermingled with a complete history of the country, including the flora and the fauna!   

But back to Sydney.  I took 100's of pictures of the new and the old buildings, both big and small.  I learned that Sydney is a hilly city - should have figured that out from the stairs! Of course, we know that the British sent their convicts and low-life's here to either perish or survive.  A hardy bunch those criminals, the first group arriving in 1788, survived and flourished.  Australia officially became a British colony, these newcomers treated the native Aborigines abominably, they built big cities around the coastline of their new country and left the hot, arid middle-section, to this day, barely populated.  They gave us 'G'day', Crocodile Dundee, shrimp-on-the-barbie', Cate Blanchette, Nicole Kidman, Russel Crowe, Hugh Jackman and those hunky Hemsworth brothers.  They also gave us Vegemite, UGGS (though the New Zealanders will argue that one), the dual-flush toilet (yet to make it's way to the US), koala bears, the Great Barrier Reef, kangaroos, Wi-Fi (really - invited by a scientist in Melbourne), some really good beer and wine and of course, the World Heritage Site Sydney Opera House. There are many more contributions, but this was enough for one day's touring.

New South Wales Library

St Andrews Cathedral

The Right Honourable William Bede Dalley, PC - Scholar, Patriot, Statesman

Central train station
Taking 'green' to the next step

The harbor is bustling with people and places
Victorian homes still dot the streets

Harbor entertainment

Under the Harbor Bridge (you can walk across)

At the end of this very busy day, I met Chris Heidrich,  founder and owner of AirTreks for dinner.  Chris arranged my air travel for my entire trip.  He and his wife now live in Sydney.  He runs AirTreks huge RTW travel business from this part of the world while his partner heads up the Seattle-based US headquarters. 

The next and my last full day in Sydney included an early morning Insider's Tour of the Sydney Opera House  and then an afternoon ferry-ride to Manly Beach to visit with a friend.

First, THE OPERA HOUSE. Amazing!! I had to arrive at 6:45 A.M.  Why such an ungodly hour, you might ask?  Because when you are touring the backstage(s) and working areas of the House, you need to do this when the actual workers and performers are not working or practicing or performing.  I'd figured out how to hop the local tram and the walk from it to the Opera House. It was well worth the early start to be there as the sun was rising over Sydney Harbour.

Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and our small group of 7 (Indian, Japanese, Australia, American and Norwegian) learned so much about the inner-workings of this magnificent performance center.  

Our tour guide standing amongst huge amounts of equipment including boxes and boxes of stuff, lighted acoustic circles,  big stages and small performance areas. The tour ended with a delicious full English breakfast in the performer's dining room.

I was upset that there were no live performances at the Opera House the 2 nights I had in town, but I was there during VIVID SYDNEY, The Light, Music & Ideas Festival.  I only had to walk outside my door once the sun set to find sights such as these - the city and all its building and bridges spotlighted in brilliant color! Street performers were everywhere, music could be enjoyed by just walking down the street. The Opea House changed it's light display nightly - one more amazing than the next.

I took the local ferry to met up with Lauen Evanosky, a fellow Peace Corps volunteer, for a late lunch on Manly Beach - where she has recently relocated and now calls home.  The ride over and back was so beautiful and relaxing.  Lauren picked me up and gave me a great tour of the area beaches - where surfing rules and they have these amazing salt-water swiming pools that are incorporated right into the beaches.  It was fun to catch-up and reminisce about our time on St. Kitts.

Cruising past the Opera House

Sydney Harbor Lighthouse

Seawater, seaside swimming pool

Aussie surfer


I returned in time to pack, enjoy a great dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant and be the up bright and early to catch the tram to the airport for my flight to Melbourne. I enjoyed my stay in Sydney - I could have stayed longer - but I have a house/pet sit to get to.  Farewell from Sydney....

Unitl next time......