Monday, August 30, 2010

Photo of the Day

Centre Place

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


If we take a jump in the wayback machine, and stop off before that trip to Tassie, way back when, Shannon and I had our first non-relative visitor. My colleague and friend Ashley made her way down to Australia for about 10 days. You'd think, working for an airline, that a lot of colleagues would drop in. But no.


We started with a weekend in Sydney, where we checked out a lot of the usual suspects.

My favorite part about the trip up was our jaunt out to Manly, where Ashley had, like a local, scoped out a loop to walk that took us out on one of the many heads and back into town. If you didn't know, we could have been anywhere, and not in the largest metro area in the country.

Sunday was fairly mellow, with some breakfast, a trip to the botanical gardens, and the biggest rookie mistake of my space available travel career.

All three of us managed to get cocky, and not check the loads on the Qantas flights we were trying to make, since they leave every half hour or so. This was a grave error, considering that we also neglected to factor in the start of school holiday in one state, and the end of it in another. Needless to say, we didn't make any flights, eventually gave up, got another hotel, and took the UA flight the following morning, which, was predictable, empty, and we sat in first class. Like you do.

Ashley works her ass off, and was content to have as much down time as busy tourist time, which makes for a super easy house guest. We spent time checking out different parts of the city, but never with any tremendous agenda.

There were museums, there were breweries, there were cafes, there were walking tours, there were beach trips, but rarely with a strictly fixed plan, which is actually really nice from a host's perspective, as well.

We did have a weekend to get out into rural Victoria and show off some of the regional sights. We spent a Saturday going around the Yarra valley with the three of us, as well we Melbourne colleague Robin, and her wonderful designated driver/husband Darryl. We stopped at a number of wineries, some better than others, as well as the Coldstream brewery (which was tragically, a little disappointing, but the wedges were good).

We spent a rainy, crappy Sunday as a party of three taking in the better parts of the Great Ocean Road, including

The Bay of Islands

The Grotto

London Bridge

Loch Ard Gorge

The Twelve Apostles

And an obligatory stop along the Cape Otway road, where one is nearly guaranteed to see koalas in the wild. We were fortunate that the rain didn't send them to warmer accommodation.

(Not a koala)

Return via the GOR and inland with mixed views in the rain.

And that was that. Ten days pass, and our house guest leaves. But always great to see a familiar face down here. And let that be a guilt trip for everyone who hasn't dropped by :)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

New Zealand Wants To Be Like Australia

Just when we thought there was nothing that could hurt you in NZ...

The public is being advised to supervise dogs and children on an eastern Auckland beach after toxic sea slugs were discovered there for the first time.

Warning signs will be put up this afternoon on Kohimarama Beach after a slug containing tetrodotoxin was found by a woman walking with her dog.

The poison is the same as that found in the vomit of two dogs that died last winter after visiting North Shore beaches.

Original Article

Monday, August 16, 2010

Midweek Baseball

Just back from a trip to SF to stop by the office. One thing on the agenda was to head to the Giants game on Thursday afternoon.

Most of the week's weather looked like this. Those who visited us in SF may recognize our old house.

But, after lunch, for (what I'm told) was the first time in ages in the city, the weather became really nice.

Free baseball and vendors buying beer all afternoon? Not bad.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Photo of the Day

Lake Tyres State Park

Friday, August 6, 2010

Air New Zealand Lounge, Auckland

Great lounge...

Or the greatest lounge?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tasmania, Day Five

Monday. The last day. I hate that feeling.

Early departure from Launceston, and up and over Mt. Blackwood where we were treated to this view of the valley.

Up onto the Central Plateau Protected Area, where we made a few lake stops. Nothing especially dramatic in the area, but it was really pretty, and there were areas of high desert and high plains.

We made stops at Great Lake...

and Arthur's Lake...

before coming across the random find of the day: Nant Distillery! This was one of those things that you see out of the blue when driving down the road. We stopped by and decided to take a tour.

The facility is an old mill from the 1800s that has been restored to a functional state. They still use the waterwheel to turn the mill to grind the barley. Pretty cool stuff. Clearly a lot of work went into the project, down to new wooden teeth on some of the gears.

The tour was quite good. It was just the two of us with the distiller, and he was quite willing to answer questions. We ultimately took about 70 minutes of his time. I learned a ton about how whiskey is made. It's quite fascinating, and the similarities to beer production in the early stages are pretty neat.

This is a pretty new operation, at just about two years old, so despite a little signage talking about cellar door sales, there really isn't any product for sale yet. They did have samples from smaller barrels that had been produced, so naturally, we had a taste. The verdict? Damn good whiskey. Kicks the pants off Hellyer from a few days back. Extremely smooth, great flavors.

All in all, a good experience, but it had its negatives. It seems that a lot of the boutique food and drink producers in Tassie charge for tours but not for tastings. There was a charge for the tour here, and at $20 it was a little high, but again, I was fine with it because I really got something out of it. However, I was pretty bummed that he then proceeded to charge us for a tasting as well. That was rather a killjoy. I'd recommend a stop here if you've got an interest in how the product is made, but otherwise, perhaps wait until the product is actually available for sale.

Of course, I fear that the end product will be too expensive to actually purchase. Thanks, Aussie taxes.

The stop at Nant took a good chunk of time, so we had a fairly casual drive back to Hobart. We stopped in Richmond for coffee and ran into this lovely bridge.

Then we went down to Seven Mile Beach, and soaked up a little bit of sun.

And then we made a quick stop up at the Mount Rumney Lookout just above the airport and enjoyed the view for a while, before grabbing a local tallboy and sitting along the water on the Fredrick Henry Bay and watching the afternoon sun dwindle away.

And that was pretty much that. An uneventful flight home, and it was back to reality. Of course, reality was a bit on the atypical side, too. A great vacation, all around, and I hope to make it back to Tasmania one day to do some hiking, and to see the east coast.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tasmania, Day Four

Wynyard tried to redeem itself on Sunday morning, but we motored anyway.

Back towards Cradle Mountain we go, but not before a quick stop at Hellyer George State Reserve. Just a quick walk down by the river, maybe 15 minutes or so. Pretty, but not a ton going on.

We made it to the mountain, and the weather was significantly better than the day before. We were very pleased with our choice to come back the next day. We opted to do a hike that was billed at three hours up to Marion's Lookout. That seemed like just about enough, because despite the lack of rain, it was still pretty cold and very windy. We had to pay attention to ice on the trail, and there was ice still on the top of some of the ponds. The walk starts at Dove Lake. You can see the base of Cradle Mountain proper in the background, with the peaks in the clouds.

All of 20 seconds into the walk, this cheeky wombat waltzed by, not phased by anything.

Some smaller lakes on the way up.

Crater Lake, just below Marion's Lookout.

Dove Lake from Marion's Lookout.

Cradle Mountain, still shrouded in clouds. By this time, the weather was starting to roll in fairly hard, so we started heading back down.

Cradle Mountain again from the bottom at Dove Lake. This was the best view we had all day, but you can still see the clouds we had been standing in.

After making a quick lunch back at the car, and being harassed by some rather aggressive ravens over it, we rolled on to the town of Railton, where stopped at the Seven Sheds Brewery. They had a few good brews, and we left with a couple tall boys. Being winter, there were no tours of the hop garden available, but from what I could see out the back, it would have been a pretty quick tour.

Continuing the gastrotour of Tasmania, we stopped at the Ashgrove Cheese factory, where they let you sample far more cheese than is possibly healthy. If you were to get there earlier in the day, there would be cheese making to watch, but alas, we had to settle for samples and a bit of history.

From here, it was a casual Sunday drive to Launceston. It was pretty, but rather uneventful. We did have a nice stop in Deloraine.

Launceston was a pretty sleepy town, possibly due to it being a Sunday night. Not a whole lot going on, and we didn't stick around much the next morning.