Wednesday, January 25, 2012

3 weeks till 100!!!

Alright, so I have been lacking in my Arizona 100th Birthday MUST DOs... but then I remembered, I actually have a whole other year if I include the 100th year in my plan :) DONE!! Here is the updated list:
- Phoenix
- Glendale
- Mesa
- Chandler
- Tempe
- Gilbert
- Scotsdale
- Bisbee
- Tombstone
- Sedona
- Payson
- Prescott
Montezuma's Castle
National Parks:
- Grand Canyon
- Arizona Science Center
- Heritage Square
- South Mountain Park 

Northern Arizona
Jerome (NC)
Slot Canyon (NC)
 - Lake Powell
Oak Creek (NC)
Havasupai Indian Reservation (NW)
Lake Mead (NW)
Hoover Dam (NW)
Wupatki National Monument (NC)
Flagstaff (NC)
- Route 66
Sunset Crater (NE)
Meteor Crater (NE)
Petrified Forest National Park (NE)
Canyon de Chelly  (NE)
Monument Valley (NE)
Navajoland (NE)

Southern Arizona
- Arizona State Museum
- El Presidio Historic District
- Mission San Xavier del Bac
- Pima Air and Space Museum
- Saguaro National Park
- Tucson Mountain Park
- Kitt Peak National Observatory
Sabino Canyon
Mt Lemmon
Organ Pipe Cactus National Park (SW)
Tumacacori National Historical Park

Western Arizona - hopefully will complete this on my way to Disneyland next month!
Lake Havesu - London Bridge
Colorado River

- Desert Botanical Garden
- Heard Museum
- Pueblo Grande Museum
- Phoenix Art Museum

I have so much I need to do!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Day 17: Sydney (Day 3) - THE END

On my last full day in Sydney, I had done everything I wanted to do in the city! When planning my trip to Australia I planned my time in Sydney to go through a Sunday so I could go to Hillsong Church. I have listened and sung Hillsong music for years at church and in my car. I was so excited to go to the main church that produced some amazing worship music. It took me a bit of the morning to get to the bus station. The bus for Hillsong was super late, which made me anxious about whether I had actually missed it or not. Fortunately the delayed bus gave me the opportunity to meet Theresa and Brian! They are the sweetest couple who were also visiting Sydney and going to Hillsong for the first time. They have grandkids my age and were visiting them and their son in Sydney for a couple weeks.
Theresa and Brian were from New Zealand, but originally they came from Northern England, so we talked a lot about the places I had gone to and New Zealand, which I wanted to visit.

But back to Hillsong...
The church is a lot smaller than I expected, and sadly the main Hillsong band was touring the U.S. and the main pastor Brian Houston was visiting the campus in New York.
Hillsong United was leading worship however, and I love them!
It was such a powerful morning and I loved being there! It reminded me of going to Hillsong in London with my parents. The message was about seeking God and after the amazing adventure that I had had over the last couple of weeks, it was a timely message.
After church I met Brian and Theresa back on the shuttle back to the train station where we met. They invited me to join them for the rest of the afternoon. I was so thankful that I had finished wandering the city and had nothing on my agenda for the day, so I was more than happy to go where they were going. We went to lunch together at the Subway in the train station and then walked through the city to catch a ferry that would go through the Sydney Harbor back to Circular Quay.
We had amazing conversations, the three of us, as we walked through the city and then sat on the ferry back to the city. I had spent three days mostly alone and talking with God and I was so in need of a good talk. This couple was such a blessing. As we sat on the ferry Theresa told me how she and Brian had been married for nearly 40 years, but Brian had only become a believer 4 years ago. What an amazing testimony of prayer and trusting God. I was so blessed. They were so sweet and fun.

The Harbor, from the ferry windows, whizzed by and before we knew it we were floating beneath the Harbor Bridge.

It was a lovely afternoon and I was sad to part with them when we reached Circular Quay. After promising I would be visiting them in New Zealand soon, they headed back to their son's house, and I went to pick up my luggage from my hotel and switch to my new hotel.

My friend Chris had set me up with an amazing deal at the Four Points Sheraton in Darling Harbor. It is the largest hotel in Sydney and overlooks the harbor. I absolutely LOVE hotel rooms and was looking forward to the rest of the day relaxing in my nice hotel.
When I got into my hotel room I immediately did the normal thing and dove onto the fluffy, perfectly made bed and danced around the room to my heart content! I wanted nothing more than to take a bath and watch a movie and sleep, but I needed food before settling in for the night. I was willing to pay anything to make sure I didn't have to leave the hotel, so I splurged on the dinner buffet! So many delicious dishes! I sat alone, which was strange, but still delicious.
After dinner I got my relaxing bath and then watch Victoria & Albert on my lap top and edited the dance video Phoebe and I had made!!!
Then I slept in the fluffiest King sized bed!

My trip ended the following day in the morning when the shuttle came to pick me up for the airport. I have to admit, I was ready to go home, however I was still sad to leave Australia. I felt like I left having accomplished all I wanted to do in this amazing country, but there is still so much I would love to go back and do!

But my arrival back in phoenix was well worth the sleepless night! My parents and younger brother, Tyler, were there waiting at the gate for me! I was so happy to see them and then while we talked in the terminal, I heard little kid sandals smacking against the floor coming toward me and before I knew it, Emolyn was right in front of me! Shawn and Nicole surprised me by coming to meet me too!! So lovely to be home with family!

I will finish by saying that Australia was THE greatest and wildest adventure trip I had been on! From crocodile attacks to holding a koala; From jumping off a 164ft tall platform to swimming 30 feet deep into the ocean on the Great Barrier Reef; from walking through the streets of Sydney to walking through the Daintree Rainforest - I had the trip of a lifetime!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Day 16: Sydney (Day 2)

When I woke this morning I was determined to have a game plan rather than just roaming around the city. I had gotten a map from the tour guide the day before, so I took it and mapped out all the sights I wanted to see and then started my day.

First stop was through Hyde park again to get to St Mary's Cathedral. I am such a sucker for old and ornate cathedrals.

The journey continued through Hyde Park I reach the "rum hospital" again and this time I had time to rub the procelino's nose and hope for good luck!

A short walk away I got to the Royal Gardens and spent a good amount of time wandering through those grounds. It was overcast and so the gray cloud cover made the day feel rather chilly, but the grass was that much more inviting and smell of the flowers was that much more aromatic.

There is a part in the gardens were it juts out into the Harbor and it is from there that the more popular images of the Opera House and the Harbor bridge.

It is also in this spot where I found Mrs. Macquarie's Chair. Mrs Macquarie was the wife of a prime minister of Australia and she loved to sit in this spot and watch the ships come in. There are a lot of places around Sydney names for this Prime Minister, and this spot is for his wife.

I made my way aimlessly across town to the Sydney Aquarium next. The Aquarium is attached to a Wildlife park too with kangaroos and koalas, but since I had seen those already, I was only interested in the underwater life.

 Now I have seen my fair share of fish and stingrays, and clown fish. After the Great Barrier Reef, I feel I had gotten enough of them. So going through the aquarium, I was most excited about the sea turtles, mantees, and sharks. Especially the sharks!
 The sharks were pretty dang awesome. I will confess, I stood in front of this window exceptionally long trying to get a good picture with a shark in it. I finally got a good one of me smiling and low and behold, it turns out the shark behind me was smiling too!!

I think one of the most fun parts about my time in Sydney was being able to aimlessly walk around the city and loose myself in the streets and the maze of buildings. I would sit or walk and had no expectation for the day. I could decide on what I wanted to do and had no one I had to run it by. It was heavenly to be able to think and dream and spend hour after hour talking to God... sort of like I was on a date with Him.

After the aquarium, I walked along Darling Harbor for a bit and looked in the shops and stuff. I even sat in a coffee shop and had a chair tea with biscotti. Then I made my way to Paddy's Markets. This market is a huge indoor shopping area with countless stands selling useless touristy, knock-off junk - I loved it!!! It reminded me so much of Camden Markets in London, but without the high fashion and delicious asian food. I bought a pocket watch there and generally enjoyed being able to scan the merchandise.
Then it was back to the hotel where I nursed my horribly aching feet.

Day 15: Sydney (Day 1)

I woke up early for my first full day in Sydney. I had planned a month before to take a Blue Mountain Day Tour with OZ Experience. The Blue Mountains are a national Heritage site and are on the list for the must see sites in Sydney....
Unfortunately, the tour never happened. Apparently there was a misunderstanding with the tour company and when I said I was going to take the tour, they took it as a maybe and requested I confirm my tour 2 days before the tour day. Sadly I had no internet for the 2 days before leaving for Sydney and so I never got their confirmation request... and so they never came to pick me up. My whole itinerary for Sydney was shuffled in a moment.
I walked back to the hotel rather frustrated and dejected (since I had walked 20 minutes to the meeting spot) and crawled back into bed and opened my computer to plan the day.

Since the free walking tour I had planned on taking the next day was offered daily, I decided that is where I would start my time in Sydney.
The walking tour started at 10a, so I started to make my way to town hall where the tour started. My hotel was right across the street from Sydney's central park. Oddly enough, this park is called Hyde park, which is actually the major park in London, England... as I discovered A LOT of the stuff in Sydney is names after places in London, down to their metro stations.

Upon entering Hyde park, I came upon the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) memorial.

I then leisurely made over to town hall to meet the walking tour.
This free walking tour was awesome. What was most interesting is that the sites we were taken to were not the most popular sites in the city, so I felt like I was getting an even more well-rounded view of the city.

Sydney Town Hall
Around Sydney there are these plaques in the ground that say "eternity". There is even one in the bell tower of the Main Bank of Australia building. The story goes that the word "eternity" was being written in chalk all over Sydney mysteriously. It occurred for years and years before anyone knew who was doing this.
Come to find out a man named Arthur Stace, a reformed alcoholic had heard his pastor, John G. Ridley, say "Eternity, Eternity, I wish that I could sound or shout that word to everyone in the streets of Sydney." He was inspired to do just that. So for a period of over 35 years he wrote that word countless times throughout the streets of Sydney.

Queen Victoria Statue

Inside the QVB (Queen Victoria Building)
There are two clocks in the Queen Victoria Building. One shows different scenes from Australia's history and the other shows scenes from England's history - one of the silhouettes shows Charles I being beheaded.

Fountain in Hyde park
We were shown the "Rum" Hospital, which at one point was actually the meeting house for the Australian parliment. It was actually built using profits from rum sales, making the Australian government building funded by alcohol. Out front there is pig, known as Porcellino. It is believed that if you rub its nose you will be lucky. He was decorated for Daffodil Day for Cancer Research.

The Bank of Australia, is supposed to be the Sydney equivalent to London's Big Ben... unfortunately even the people of Sydney acknowledge that it is a most lame attempt.

Above the Bank of Australia sign is the Australian Coat of Arms
 A little while into the 3 hour walking tour we stopped for a short break in Australia Square and saw this statue sculpted by J Seward Johnson. It is incredibly intricate all the down to the watch on his wrist.

Then we continued on making our way down closer to the Harbor. In once of the lawns near the water's edge there placed the actual Anchor and canon from the Norfolk Island wreckage from the HMS Sirius. This ship was the flagship for the first group of settlers to form a colony in Australia.

Then we moved on to the Harbor and full view of the Harbor Bridge.

The first  settlers house in Sydney
Our next stop was to the area of Sydney known as the Rocks.

 The Rocks were historically the slums of Sydney and the site for Sailors to find entertainment. It is now the site for shopping markets and bazaars.

After taking a walk under the Harbor Bridge, we arrived in full view of the Sydney Opera House. There we ended the tour and I was left to finish exploring on my own.

The Sydney Opera House is the most iconic thing in Sydney. I remember seeing is in the 2000 Summer Olympic Games. It was like seeing Big Ben when I first arrived in London. It was the sight that made it real that I was actually in Sydney. You actually can't go into the main part of the Opera house unless you pay for a very expensive tour, but walking around the outside and look in the lobby was definitely enough for the little architect in me.
The building is shaped in order to look like the sails of a boat. It was designed by Danish architect, Jom Utzon, who won the privilege to design the building in global contest.

Oddly enough my favorite part of the Opera House was actually the bathrooms. The sinks were crazy interesting. The counter was actually waved and each of the dips was a sink. The sinks didn't actually have drains, but instead the water would run off the back of the sink into a trough and then drain out of site. Seriously is was super cool. It seemed that even the detailing in the bathroom kept the water theme of the waves and sails of the ocean.

After I had gotten my fill of the Opera House I decided to walk down to Circular Quay for lunch. I was desperately craving a hamburger and was glad to find a Burger King for lunch. Actually, it wasn't called Burger King, but instead it is called Hungry Jacks in Australia - same menu, same logo, but different name. Apparently when Burger King franchised out to Australia, there was already a trademarked Burger King restaurant in Perth or something like that, so they had to change their name. I got a simple whopper meal (which cost the equivalent of $12 in the US) and ate in the Royal Park in view of the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge.

Found these awesome building fragments to sit on while I ate.
After my quick lunch, I decided to go spend the rest of the day in Manly Bay across the Harbor. I was told my a family friend, Greg, that I should visit Manly Beach while in Sydney and it would seem that everyone else I spoke with from the receptionist at the hotel, to the tour guide on the walking tour. So after lunch, I went down to circular Quay, bought my ticket, and headed out to spend the afternoon and evening across the harbor.
While waiting for my ferry to depart I was thoroughly entertained by a kid out from of the terminal, who was seriously skilled!
Jack Dawson
Quote by Jack London in the walkway
The main reason why everyone told me to go over to Manly is because the views of the city from the middle of the Harbor are not to be missed.

the opening to the Pacific Ocean

Upon arriving to the Manly Harbor I had really no idea what I was going to do with myself. I wandered around the shops and then sat at the beach for a bit and watched the surfers.

 While pulling into port I had seen a rather old looking building on the top of a hill that looked all British and ancient, so I decided to go exploring for it before I grabbed dinner. Turns out it was an old seminary that  is now an international business school... nothing too fantastic, but then you get the view of the beach down below.

I felt a little odd strolling around the grounds with no one else around. I also felt like with all the international flags hanging over the entrance, I was afraid there were going to be armed guards keeping watch over a foreign diplomat. But then I stumbled on a group of students playing rugby and figured I was not intruding on an international meeting.
After taking in the gardens and then walking back down the hill, I bought a cornish pasty for dinner and ate it while watching the darkness fall over the waters. A pigeon and I had a stare down over a couple of fallen crumbs and then I was ready to head back and go to sleep.
If I thought the look of the harbor in daylight, the view in the darkness was even more sparkly and beautiful!