4,578 Miles: Copenhagen Spring Break 2022

We are still in shock that we have a senior amongst us. And we were even more in shock when that senior basically begged us to let him go on the Senior Spring break trip with his class. We really never saw him as a Senior-trip kind of guy, and we realized this was going to be our last Spring break together as a whole family, but nonetheless, Russ and Jack planned to head off to the Moon Palace in Jamaica (with a mini-ski trip in Breckenridge tacked on at the end).

This left me with two teenaged boys and a canvas the size of the entire first week of March.

On Thanksgiving night, Russ pulled the trigger and booked tickets for Tucker, Theo, and me to go to Copenhagen, Denmark.

[Sidenote: Why Copenhagen? We got that question a lot. A whole lot. When I was a senior in college, I had a poster pinned to the wall of my apartment bedroom (in a complex we affectionately called “Surrey South” because it was certainly south of just about everything). It wasn’t the most earth-shattering or cutting-edge poster created. Athens’s legendary band R.E.M. was photographed, in black and white, standing on a pier. Above the photo, “R.E.M. copenhagen” was printed in pale lavender. I loved that poster. Maybe it was the water in the background or the seemingly exotic (at that time) locale, but for some reason, this poster inspired me to want to visit Denmark one day. Then that day finally arrived…]

I promise the text was in lavender, not gray…

Fast-forward 29 years and here we are. The opportunity had arisen. We jumped on it.

We never use a travel agent to plan our trips. I prefer to do it the old-fashioned way: hard core research. I read several books about Denmark (including Helen Russell’s The Year of Living Danishly, which I highly recommend even if you have zero interest in ever setting foot in Denmark), scoured the internet for recommendations, and bought a hard copy of a map.

Three months later, we had a rock solid, jam-packed itinerary and were ready to go.

Then, the Russians invaded Ukraine.

I bet you didn’t know that Copenhagen is just 1100 miles away from Kyiv (roughly the same distance as from Atlanta to Boston). It’s less than 900 miles from Copenhagen to Lviv (Atlanta to Philadelphia). Did this make me anxious? You bet your sunflowers it did.

Then, adding to my ever growing pile of worries, Tucker tested positive for Influenza A early in the week we were scheduled to leave.

After several sleepless, prayerful nights, and a round of Tamiflu, we decided to postpone the trip by one day (of course, one day wasn’t going to expediate a cease-fire, but it did give Tuck another 24 hours to be fever-free).

don’t these two look excited about getting on an overnight flight?

Because we’d switched flights, our seats were now in the middle section of the next-to-the-last row. Tucker, still riding a Tamiflu high, promptly fell asleep.

The woman in front of me, however, decided to recline her seat as far as it could go (obviously, not very far) and then play videos games without headphones for the entire flight. The only way I can sleep on a plane is by putting my head on my crossed arms on the lowered tray table. This woman kept leaning back and pushing and readjusting herself every 15 minutes or so which eventually escalated into a passive-aggressive turf war involving shoving from both sides (her going backwards and me retaliating frontwards) until finally–about 5 hours later–I leaned up and said, “you’re not even trying to sleep! You’re just playing video games on your phone!”

Theo’s not a great plane sleeper either, so we landed in Amsterdam with 2/3 of us feeling like something the cat dragged in.

We were on a pretty tight schedule to make our flight to Copenhagen, so we hustled along through Customs and then walked the 352 miles to our next gate. Schiphol airport is massive. At one point I wondered if we were missing something–like a plane train–but no: it’s just a sprawling place.

An hour and a half later, we were on the ground in Copenhagen. Our apartment was supposedly right off the Metro line, so I’d read up on how to catch the train from the airport to the city center and then switch lines to get to the stop that was supposed to be near our place.

Chalk it up to supreme jetlag, but I could not figure out the ticket kiosk. And for some reason, all of my credit cards were asking for a mysterious passcode that I did not know. There was no one around to ask for help either. I did have one card that I knew the PIN for, so we bought 3 tickets and headed towards the train…but couldn’t figure out how to scan them. At that point, we threw in the towel and decided we’d just play the dumb tourist card if we were to get caught.

After much longer than it should have taken, we rolled in to our apartment on the 5th floor. The Danes weren’t kidding about their gifts when it comes to design. This place was fantastic.

We were all about to gnaw our arms off by this point, so we dropped our bags and headed back out the door to find dinner.

I’d read that Copenhagen was the most bike-friendly city in the world…they weren’t kidding about that, either.

We had no idea where we were going, but we ended up walking down the Stroget, the upscale shopping area that doubles as one of Europe’s longest pedestrian-only streets. We found a cozy little Italian restaurant called Mama Rosa’s and sat in an upstairs window which provided prime people-watching abilities.

One of Tucker’s first comments? “Dude, everyone here is so stylish…and good looking.”

With our bellies full and our bodies warmed up, we caught a second wind and decided to walk a little more. We specifically wanted to find the sidewalks with the trampolines in them. (Yes, you read that right.) What we also discovered is that Copenhagen is delightfully compact and easily walkable.

When I was searching for an apartment through AirBnB, I found several options to stay in Nyhavn which is the iconic harbor that apparently is hopping at night. That made me a little nervous, so we instead were out by the lakes, which sounded like the ‘burbs. But after walking around that first night, I realized we’d hit the jackpot of accommodations: we could walk to Nyhavn in about 20 minutes (basically a straight shot down the aforementioned, super-safe pedestrian only Stroget), but we were in a quiet area, away from the crowds.

I jest. There were not really any crowds. Copenhagen in early March apparently isn’t a tourist destination (though it should be).

sidewalk trampolines!

Denmark is known for being the happiest nation on the planet. We scouted out these trampolines embedded into the sidewalk right near the riverbank and began to see why this was the case. It was cold. It was windy. It got dark very early, but it wasn’t raining or snowing, so little Danish families were out walking along the canal banks, and people were eating outside at cafes lining Nyhavn (all snuggled up in warm, fuzzy blankets provided by the restaurants). There was something so playful and fun about bouncing your way down a sidewalk for no reason other than to be a kid again and bounce.

We popped into this seriously dive-y bar to warm up after our trampolining. There were only 2 other people inside the tiny, cave-like space, and it was filled to the brim with random seafarer-type decor. We had ourselves a good laugh.

From the surly Cafe Malmo, we headed back to our apartment for the night. Our walk home was stunning. Copenhagen is squeaky clean, walkable, and safe. We were learning that we’d hit the jackpot with our spring break destination.

There was even had a 7-Eleven less than five minutes from our apartment, so we got Icees for a nightcap and picked up some water and snacks before finally calling it a night.

1,646 Miles: Costa Rica, part I (Spring Break 2020)

Not gonna lie: it was hard to come up with a Spring Break destination after the unbelievable awesomeness of The Big Trip.

However, even after doing such ridiculous things as climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, snorkeling in Moorea, and hiking around Piha in New Zealand, the boys still wax poetic about our Spring Break trip to Costa Rica back in 2017. A quick search on SkyScanner (I can’t recommend this site enough!) back in October showed flights to San Jose coming in at a significantly lower price than flights pretty much anywhere else, domestic or otherwise.

So back to Costa Rica we go!

Little did we know (obviously) that the nasty virus brewing in China had begun to claw its way around the world, knocking out–or seriously putting a damper on–Spring Break plans of many of our friends. Luckily for us, as of March 3, Costa Rica is still Coronavirus free (though we did learn yesterday that 2 cases have been confirmed back in Atlanta).

[Actually, since first drafting the paragraph above, there are now 2 suspected cases here in Costa Rica. Oof.]

[And triple OOF: by the time I finally finished this post, Coronavirus has fully derailed our nation.]

Our flight down to San Jose left Friday, February 28. We sat on the runway for over an hour while TSA searched for a bag to remove from the plane. We were never told exactly what that was about, but we speculated it was someone who’d gotten cold feet due to rumors about the Coronavirus and about being cramped up inside an airplane with 150 other people for 4 hours.

Once on the ground in Costa Rica, we breezed through Customs only to be stalled by a rather inefficient system at the Hertz Rental Car agency. Russ checked in, signed all the paperwork, and was then told we needed to take a shuttle to get to the rental car lot. This being Latin America, things move slowly; we were told the shuttle was scheduled to arrive in “a little while”.

The shuttle finally pulled up 15 or so minutes later, we hopped in, and the driver immediately hopped out.

Five minutes later, we head off on what we thought was a quick jaunt over to the rental car lot. Twenty minutes later we were finally deposited at the lot, and Russ had to re-do the paperwork while enduring some haggling and confusion over insurance. All in all, procuring the rental car was close to an hour-long procedure which meant we were closing in on midnight (2 a.m. our time).

A Hertz worker finally whipped around with our car: a little white 5-speed compact number with no license plate. “No problemo!” said the Hertz worker when I pointed out the missing plates. “No problemo!”

Again, since it was midnight and the Hertz lot now had a line of people snaking out the door, we decided to let this issue go and headed to the hotel instead. Driving a car around Costa Rica is challenging at best, so having an unmarked car didn’t even register as an additional worry.

We were up and at ’em Saturday morning and began the 83 mile drive up to Monteverde, a bumpy, curvy journey that wound up taking over 3 hours.

behold, the iguana crossing sign…

As the name implies, Monteverde is up in the mountains…the steep, steep mountains. Our little unmarked car was not mentally (or physically) prepared for this drive. You know it’s steep when you have to drop down to first gear to grind up a hill; we inched up many steep, gravelly inclines that we likely could have walked up faster. We joked that the car had 2, not 4, cylinders and that our old gerbil, Digger, moved faster in his exercise ball that this car could…hence the nickname for our car was born: the DiggerMobile.

(FYI, Monteverde is the name of the region known for its cloud forest; Santa Elena is the name of the tiny town in the middle of it. Three narrow, sparsely paved roads form a triangle around the village of Santa Elena.)

We finally rolled in to Santa Elena tired, hungry, and predominantly carsick.

Our first priority was lunch. The Digger-Mobile struggled mightily with the steep hill up into Morpho’s Restaurant, and once we parked, we were happy to part ways for an hour or so. Our meals were great, and we hopped back in the Digger-Mobile for the short ride up to our hotel.

El Establo was a great call. The resort is basically carved into the side of a mountain and every room has an incredible view.

Jack checking out the view of the Peninsula Papagayo from the check-in area

We settled in to our rooms, tried to figure out how the A/C worked, and then decided to hike up to the pool for a bit before our first official Monteverde adventure began at 4 p.m.

a most interesting room lay-out

Roughly an hour later, we were at Sabine’s Smiling Horses, ready for a sunset horseback ride.

Our guides didn’t really speak much English, but the 2-hour ride was spectacular…

We watched the sun set over the Nicoya Peninsula which is about 80 miles away from Monteverde.

After our adventure with los caballos, it was dark and time for dinner. Rather than go to the Italian place I’d scouted out, we decided to eat at the first pizza place we came across that also had an easy-to-manage, flat parking lot (the struggle was real for the Digger-Mobile). The exterior of Pizza Natcha was quite charming; the interior was quite, um, simple.

The meal was nothing out of the ordinary–except for the incredible dipping sauces that came with our pizza. One was a bright yellow fiery pepper sauce that was surprisingly awesome (no one else in my family would even try it), and the garlic-olive-oil combo for the bread that came with Theo’s pasta was also great (and subsequently removed any concern about a vampire attack).

We were the lone guests until roughly 30 minutes into our visit when a group of about 10 twenty-somethings sauntered in, each carrying their own 2 liter bottle of soda which we obviously thought was a little odd. The waiter/bartender/owner started pouring shots of something out of a dusty violet colored, unlabeled decanter he’d pulled from the top of a refrigerator (that is, OFF the top of the refrigerator). He carried the tray full of them to the new clientele, and Russ stopped him to ask what they were.

The rest is history…in a flurry of Spanish, the waiter balanced his tray on one arm, pulled one of the shot glasses off, handed it to Russ, patted him on the shoulder, and then walked off.

the bottle looked like it was full of cigarette butts covered with some type of liquid
I actually cannot believe Russ took a shot of this stuff

We had no idea what it was, but thankfully, it did not taste like moldy cigarette butts. Before we could get the waiter’s attention again to ask what on earth Russ had just imbibed, the power went off.

thank goodness the iPhone has a flashlight

Only in Costa Rica, right? The power didn’t just flicker in the restaurant; there was full pitch-black-lights-out-darkness all over the town. We turned on a phone flashlight and hustled outside to see the most magnificently star-coated night sky. After a good and eerie 10 minutes, the power came back on and we were able to pay (cash only as the credit card machine was fried).

Before we left, we asked the waiter once again what crazy stuff was in the purple decanter. We learned that Russ had done a shot of the famous Costa Rican liquor, guaro, the production of which is supposed to be government controlled. We are 110% certain the guaro at Pizza Natcha was the furthest from government controlled you can get–a.k.a. it was some Tico moonshine–yet Russ lived to see another day, a statement which sounds cliche until one gets back to the internet and looks up guaro, only to find this disturbing article.

Back at El Establo, we learned that the earlier power issue was due to some absurdly strong winds. A wind warning had been issued (we weren’t told anything more than that), and the wind was shooting straight up the side of the mountain, rumbling over everything in its way. The winds were blowing so hard the doors of our rooms were shaking. It sounded like a hurricane, and all 5 of us slept terribly. (In fact, wind forecasting is a big deal in Monteverde; there’s even an app dedicated to forecasting wind speed, gusts, and direction.) We aren’t kidding when we say we spent a night listening to a constant howling, screeching, wall-rattling wind.

Needless to say, Team Herakovich was a little tired and irritable the following morning. After breakfast at the hotel, we headed over to SkyAdventures for a hanging bridges tour. We had previously done a hanging bridges tour in Arenal during our last trip to Costa Rica, and we still speak fondly of Donald, our incredible guide, who could hear the frantic scurry of an animal–and then identify said animal–from half a mile away.

Marlin Perkins ain’t got nothing on Donald…

Our guide for the hanging bridges hike in Monteverde was no Donald. Well, to be fair, he perhaps was the botanical equivalent of Donald. And while plants are cool, if they aren’t your thing then it’s really hard to get excited and stay excited about hearing intimate details about them for 3+ hours.

crossing the last hanging bridge which also was the longest and highest (there’s a reason why they save this one for last…)

After a wee debate over whether we should zip-line, we opted instead to head back into town for lunch. I had the honor of commandeering the Digger-Mobile, and, in a feat sure to go down in the annals of Herako-history under Impressive Moves by Mom, I was able to parallel park the Digs on a steep, one-way street, with absolute textbook precision. The boys in the backseat cheered and complimented me–something that rarely happens with a gaggle of teenagers.

I had read fantastic reviews about a little taqueria called Taco Taco, but when we first saw it as we pulled into town the day before, my crew shot it down. However, the next time we cruised by–after our dinner at Pizza Natcha–Taco Taco piqued a little more interest. Its patio was strung with lights, and we could hear music playing and people talking; in short, it was the most hopping place in town.

So after our jungle hike, I insisted we finally go there with the promise that if it was terrible, we would send someone around the corner to fetch crepes.

It was not terrible. In fact, it was the best meal I may have had in Costa Rica. If you’re in Santa Elena, it’s well worth the 3 or 4 trips around the Santa Elena triangle to find a parking space. You must eat there. Trust me. (In full disclosure, we did have one child who still wanted a crepe, but the crepe station was closed. They all settled on ice cream for dessert instead.)

We spent the afternoon packing up a bit and trying to rest up for our upcoming night hike. Tucker wanted to go back up to the pool, so he and I made the required hike straight up the mountain. On the way, we passed the very bizarre peacock coop.

One of my sons observed that this peacock was “literally flexing.” There certainly was a lot of prancing, shaking of tail feathers, and A-game level of flirting going on, but this guy got shot down over and over. Tucker and I found it hilarious.

I walked back down to my room and found Russ and Theo very excitedly flinging potato chips off the balcony. I peeked over the edge to see this:

…a pair of very cute coatis. We are 99% sure we shouldn’t have been feeding them garbage snack foods like potato chips. Sorry about that.

The one thing on Russ’s bucket list for the cloud forest region was a night hike. After cross referencing a million reviews, we settled on the night hike at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve.

Every review I read stressed the importance of being in a small group for the night tour (the more people you have, the louder they are; the louder the group is, the more skittish the animals are). As taxi after taxi kept pulling up the gravel drive to the Reserve and dumping out tourist after tourist, the more irritated I got. I thought I’d registered us for a small group tour with a maximum of 8 people in it, which would mean at most only 3 others would join us, but then I’d also thought I’d signed us up for the tour that started at 5:30pm and here it was almost 6:00, and we were still milling around outside the ranger’s office.

I’d forgotten one important thing: how Costa Rican time runs…very slowly.

Around 6:15, a van full of official looking tour guides pulled up, and the mass of tourists awaiting the night tour was divided up into smaller groups. We wound up being paired with a Canadian family of 3. We were all given flashlights and set off on a trail.

Our guide was fantastic, and like the aforementioned Donald, was a wizard at spotting critters in the dark. I was really good at pointing out clumps of moss hanging from tall trees. (They sort of look like a sloth.)

The trails at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve are incredible. If we had it to do over, we would have skipped SkyAdventures and would have come to the Reserve and hiked around by ourselves. Each trail is very well marked and well maintained. We wished we could have seen this place in the daytime.

We had a late dinner at Tramonti, an Italian roadside place halfway between the Reserve and our hotel. The parking lot was packed to the gills, and we were nearly 45 minutes late for our reservation which made us worry, but we walked in and were ushered right over to a table with our name on it. Costa Rican time was on our side.

The food was tasty, and afterwards you walked up to the register and paid without a ticket or proper check, somewhat on the honor system. Costa Ricans are some of the nicest, most trustworthy people on the planet.

We rolled back in to the El Establo with our fingers crossed for a less windy, more sleep filled night. The next morning we were headed back to one of our favorite beach towns: Tamarindo.

9,280 Miles: Part VII, The Bonus Material

…the one all about the snacks.

It’s no exaggeration to say we have the least adventurous eaters on the planet, so whenever we travel, we always get a laugh out of the [non-]snack options we encounter (though Tucker did insist on trying Vegemite…and nearly hurled).

Australia did not disappoint in this area…not one bit.

are they crackers? chips? chicken jerky? We will never know…

Fresh pet food option right next to a fresh human food option. One stop shop.

9,280 Miles: Part VI, Our Last 2 Days Down Under

We found ourselves down to just two full days left in Sydney. A slight sense of panic began to set in; we did not have enough time here.

A little over 9,280 miles away from Sydney, Australia, lies a tiny little town in South Georgia known around the world for its incredible sweet onions. And on this Sunday (July 21), on the shores of Manly Beach, it was known for being the hometown to not one but two visitors. In an epic example of just how small the world is, we set out to meet up with a classmate of mine from Vidalia High School who currently lives in Manly Beach with his family.

We braved the weird automated ferry ticket machine again and hopped on an early boat out to Manly Wharf. We weren’t scheduled to meet up with Carlton until lunchtime, so we had a little time to wander around by ourselves.

The ferry across Sydney Harbour was amazing and gave us some cool views back towards the city (again).

We walked from the ferry across a clean, vibrant (for relatively early on a Sunday morning) shopping area straight over to the beach.

Even though it was pretty warm out, the winter ocean was still ice cold. That didn’t stop Tucker and Theo from venturing out, however. Luckily, Russ had predicted something like this and had brought along their swimsuits so they didn’t have to wear wet clothes all day.

Jack wisely opted to steer clear of the water.

My main form of communication with Carlton had been via Facebook messenger…which, of course, was not the most reliable way to make contact. Russ was still the designated roamer (meaning his phone was the only one we had on us that was connected to wi-fi), and I’d failed to get Carlton’s number. Clearly, a dumb move on my part.

We were to meet Carlton at a restaurant called The Boathouse on Shelly Beach. After our two polar bear plunge participants had changed back into dry clothes, we walked down the beach a bit to the restaurant. It’s an adorable little place with first-come seating. The plan was to meet at noon.

Noontime came and went. The boys were starving, so Russ ordered a side of chips, and in the process we discovered that the menu was going to be a struggle for our crew. We waited a little longer. My crew–most of whom were not fired up about meeting an old friend of mine in the first place–grew restless. I realized I had no way of contacting Carlton to find his whereabouts.

We reluctantly decided to bail, and I felt absolutely terrible about it. We began walking back towards Manly, and I stopped and turned towards the beach to see if he might have been waiting there for us. He wasn’t, but when I headed back to join up with my family, Russ whistled and pointed back toward The Boathouse. Carlton had arrived.

it’s such a small world…

Seeing him halfway around the planet was surreal. Carlton is a very well-loved Vidalian, known for his wit and kindness. He did very well in school (obviously), and now has a fabulous career in Australia. (We had a great time laughing about his wife and daughter’s first trip home with him to Vidalia.)

We quickly agreed that Facebook messenger is not an acceptable form of contact; he had no way of telling us he was running late. We also ditched The Boathouse and headed back to Manly Wharf for a late lunch at La Cantina (again). While Carlton and I could have probably spent the rest of the afternoon howling with laughter while we caught up, I knew I’d maxed out the boys’ patience (though, for the record, they all thought Carlton was pretty awesome).

And despite our earlier frustration with Facebook, we managed to blow both of our feeds up with the above photo which was captioned as, “Just two kids who grew up together in Vidalia–9,359 miles away–hanging out in Australia.” (And, yes, I’d specifically hauled that t-shirt out to Manly with this very photo being taken in mind.)

Manly is a lovely little area. The ferry ride back to Sydney was smooth, sunny, and speedy (Carlton had told us he had the best commute on the entire planet, and we have to agree). We walked around the Opera House a bit before heading back to our apartment. Russ took Tucker and Theo out to the park, and we cobbled together a random dinner at home.

Monday arrived, and we couldn’t believe it was our last full day in Sydney. We spent the morning at the Australian Museum, which was outstanding.

This place is phenomenal. It’s the oldest museum in Australia (established in 1827), and it’s gorgeous.

There is a huge hall off to the right that’s filled with cabinet after cabinet of peculiarities. The museum also runs an incredible light show called Treasures Illuminated right over the floor two times a day; it’s a must-see.

The rest of the museum was equally as fascinating.

We finally pulled ourselves out of the museum and walked across Hyde Park to the Barangaroo area based on a recommendation from Carlton.

Hyde Park–like everything in Sydney–is clean, well maintained, bright, and happy.

Barangaroo is a newly redeveloped commercial area that also includes ample green space, though–to be fair–the area was still partially under construction when we visited. There’s a giant food hall called The Canteen that looked amazing, but had too many choices and too many long lines. The boys and I wound up walking a little farther down the road to Bel & Brio where we found fresh pizzas and salad in the market.

There were tons of unique, adorable shops tucked into every corner you could find. We wanted to walk out across the park towards the water, but there were construction barriers. All in all, Barangaroo is a funky, artsy area that would probably be an awesome spot for a date night.

We took a cab back to our apartment and began the sad process of packing up. Tucker and Theo had begged for the entire week to ride one of the Lime bikes we’d seen everywhere (the savvy reader will recall that Theo’s obsession with wanting to ride one of these things actually started back in March in Santiago…). Russ took the two of them back to the park for one last time and–yes!–to finally rent one of those bikes.

For our last dinner in Australia, we headed back to our neighborhood favorite: Vini e Cocina.

There was a pizza buffet type deal going on…but you got to order whatever type pizza you wanted, and they’d bring it to you. The boys ate their weight in pizza, for sure, and we had tasty leftovers for our last breakfast in Australia.

The light while we walked home after dinner had such a peculiar look to it–bright and luminous, even though it was after 9pm (and somewhat cloudy). Being in the Southern hemisphere really makes the sky stand out to me, but the sky here was even more spectacular than the night skies in Chile. It’s certainly a view we will never forget.

It’s not an exaggeration at all to say we were very, very sad to leave Sydney. Russ, in particular, absolutely loved it there. We all agreed that if we were to ever move to another country, Australia would be at the top of the list (don’t worry; we aren’t going anywhere).

We flew out of Sydney around 11:30am on July 23, heading to our third stop on The Big Trip: Auckland, New Zealand.

I was fascinated with the departure signs in the Sydney airport…so many exotic locations! We couldn’t believe how far away from home we were.

9,280 Miles: Here Come the Roosters! Sydney, Part V

Saturday morning came, and it was as crisp and clear and beautiful outside as we’d ever seen. (Seriously. There’s something about the air in Australia…we loved it beyond words.)

Russ made a fantastic–albeit random–decision a few days before and had gotten tickets for the Sydney Roosters game that afternoon. We know absolutely nothing about rugby, of course. But on a run through the park, Russ had noticed that the Roosters were going to play right at the Sydney Cricket Ground, which happened to be walking distance from our apartment.

When we woke up that morning to what felt like the most glorious morning in late October, we knew Russ had made a great call. It felt too great outside to even think about museums or indoor activities, so we headed back to Bondi.

I mean, can’t you just smell that clean, crisp beach air?

We walked down to the boardwalk and discovered that an outdoor ice skating rink had been set up.

Ice skating.

In July. (Very novel for Northern Hemispherers, that’s for sure.) Jack opted to go for a stroll while we waited for Tucker and Theo’s time slot.

sending my 15 year old out on the Bondi-to-Coogee path; he only went out to the point past Icebergs (far left)

Tucker loves all things X-game related (skateboarding, surfing, rock climbing…you know, all the dangerous sports), so he wanted to check out the Bondi Skatepark.

Aussie skaters are just as daredevil-y as American skaters, btw

Along the boardwalk/path right in front of Bondi Beach is the Bondi Beach Graffiti Wall. Our trip to Valparaiso, Chile, had educated us a bit on art of graffiti and had shown us how beautiful it can be when done correctly. The Waverley Council took a unique approach to combat wayward spray paint wielding defacers, and opted to require that artists obtain a permit prior to painting. Artists must apply for this permit which allows him/her to design and paint one particular section of the wall which will remain untouched by others for roughly 6 months (Aussies–being Aussies–are good and respectful rule followers). Lucky for us, July is the switching time; the area was covered with artists [legally] creating new murals over old ones.

Their methods were fascinating. This wasn’t a “grab a can of spray paint and have at it” thing; much like the street art in Valparaiso, these were incredibly well-thought-out, complicated murals painted by professionals. Watching them paint was hypnotizing.

Then it was ice skating time!

Watching the boys ice skate with waves crashing behind them on Bondi Beach was surreal.

We cobbled together a makeshift lunch from a few different restaurants (Bondi Trattoria; The Bucket List) and did a little souvenir shopping before heading back to the apartment.

Then it was back to the apartment to get ready for the Roosters!

there was a lot of fighting over who got to nest in this little nook beneath the stairs…
one of the bluest skies we’ve ever seen…

The Roosters were playing at the Sydney Cricket Ground because their regular stadium, the Sydney Football Stadium, is undergoing a massive refurbishment. As you can imagine, the Cricket Ground is pretty spectacular; we’d never been to one before but the fancy cricket areas and cricket club member areas reminded me a little of Augusta National. Check out the required dress code for members.

The only thing we knew going in to the event was that the hometown Roosters were going up against the Newcastle Knights.

We knew we were going to absolutely love this when we could hear the fans singing the Roosters’ fight song as we were walking in. This may be the most perfect fight song in the history of fight songs. (Trust me: you MUST click that link.) To further hit home just how incredible this little ditty is, I’m including the entirety of its lyrics below…

Easts know how to play the game; they play it hard and fair
Easts know how to win the game; they win more than their share
They’re great to see in action, these boys who show the way
Put the Roosters on the field, they’ll show you how to play!

Here come the Roosters, the best we’ve ever seen
The red, white and bluesters, the Eastern Suburbs team
“Easts to win” shout the cry that everybody knows
If you play this football game beware the Roosters crow

They’re great to see in action, these boys who show the way
Put the Roosters on the field, they’ll show you how to play
Here come the Roosters, the best we’ve ever seen
The red, white and bluesters, the Eastern Suburbs team!

Do you see that? That’s THREE STANZAS worth of unabashed, hardcore Rooster spirit, right there. The author of this jingle gets mad props from me; it takes lyrical dexterity to coin a new word to rhyme with “Roosters” and no nickname rolls off the tongue quite like “the Eastern Suburbs team.” Every single fan, young and old alike, belts this entire song out whenever something good happens on the field (…er, pitch), whenever something bad happens, and whenever else they jolly well feel like it. There are no words to describe the awesomeness of it. Here’s our reaction as we walked to our seats for the first time:

The fight song lit a fire under us; we needed to up our Rooster spirit…

…so we made a pit stop at the free face-painting booth.

The sun began to go down, which only added to the ambiance. (FYI: sunset in Sydney was at 5:07pm that day…southern hemisphere winter and all.)

The Roosters crushed the Knights 48-10. We had no idea what was going on, but there was constant action, so we just cheered when the crowd around us did. That Saturday we were the Roosters’ biggest fans ever.

We had a blast.

more fight song singing on the way out…

We were very sad to see the game end so quickly (rugby games are only 80 minutes long (with a 10 minute rest period in the middle). It was electrifying being around that many people in their element. We walked back to the apartment, riding the high of sweet, sweet victory, and displaying our unending support of our new favorite Eastern Suburbs team by singing the fight song (which we’d memorized after our nonstop exposure to it).

Once back at the apartment, Russ pulled up a recap about the game. Give it a read…it’s hilarious (and best read aloud with an Australian accent). While we knew next to nothing about rugby, we were hooked. We closed out one of the best Saturdays of the Big Trip tucked up in our cozy apartment, singing the Roosters song and watching old clips of them playing…which still didn’t help us figure out the rules or the terminology, but that didn’t put a damper on our moods one bit.

It was a perfect Saturday.

9,280 Miles: Sydney, Part IV

Friday morning (July 19) was beautiful: clear, crisp, breezy, and calling for us to be outdoors. First stop: Darling Harbour.


The Children’s Playground here (inside the massive Tumbalong Park) is something else; it’s not often you stumble across a playground touted as the best in an entire country. Even our 15 year old was drawn to it. One thing’s for sure: the Aussies have no fear of heights.


Tumbalong Park also houses the Chinese Garden of Friendship, a place that makes just about every must-do list. Its name certainly does not invoke how awesome (and surprisingly large) this place is, nor does it give any hints as to how intricate and thoughtfully created it is. The Garden is truly a quiet, green haven in the middle of Sydney. We did not anticipate spending over an hour there, but once we started weaving along its intricate paths, we didn’t want to leave.


From the Chinese Garden, we ambled over to the actual harbour for lunch. We were sucked in by Harbourside.

This next paragraph may make many of you shudder. Harbourside is a waterfront shopping mall. Egads. A mall. When the rest of Sydney was laid out before us. I know. But hear me out.

We were starving and having a hard time agreeing on where to get lunch, and we knew Harbourside housed a little diversion called 9-D Action Cinema, so we poked our heads inside to assess the food court situation. Here’s what we found just inside the main doors:

…a crazy bungee jump/trapeze type flipping apparatus…

…which our daredevils, Theo and Tucker, had to try.

While Russ handled that mayhem, Jack and I wandered the food court and settled on a depressing little facsimile of our beloved Willy’s, The Mad Mex. I think the rest of the gang ate pancakes from McDonald’s. It was a sad meal, indeed.

At this point, we should’ve ditched the thought of the 9-D Action Cinema, but oh no. We were already deep inside this vat of kitsch, so we weren’t about to give up yet.

We forked over way too much money for the menfolk to take a 9-D (is that even possible?) “ride” on a rollercoaster. I sat outside the cinema and people watched. I made the better choice.

All of that bouncing–both virtual and actual– coupled with a sub-par lunch had left a few folks a little green around the gills, so we hailed an Uber and headed back home. Actually, saying we “hailed” the Uber is not right; we called several Ubers, each of whom was having a hard time finding us due to lots of one way streets and the fact that we’d wandered back through The Children’s Playground and Tumbalong Park, between 2 gigantic office buildings, and out to the edge of what appeared to be a large interstate highway. And to make it even more confusing, because we were Americans who still couldn’t remember the whole “drive on the left” thing, we were on the wrong side of the divided highway.

Uber after Uber would go blazing by on the other side, the driver honking his horn at us and waving his arms, with no way to stop.

We eventually resorted to a very dangerous game of human Frogger to get to the other side, but as we were still on a highway, there was no way for a driver to stop. So we trudged farther down (or up?) the highway until we could cut off onto a side street where we finally were able to catch a ride. The entire process took well over an hour.

We recouped at the apartment for awhile before our biggest outing of the week: the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb.

We opted for the sunset climb–an adventure that the website said was to take 3.5 hours, which made us a little nervous. Russ isn’t a fan of climbing up really high things. (Plus, three and a half hours sounded like a lot of physical exertion.)

Fear not, friends: it does not take 3.5 hours to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge. A great portion of that time is spent checking-in, watching the video on its construction (which was fascinating–it took 8 years to build, they used over 6,000,000 rivets…), getting suited up, getting trained, completing the practice climb, and then waiting for your “go time” with your guide. They stagger groups going up on the bridge. We’d lucked out and were in a group of just the 5 of us (and our guide), but there was a very large group who’d finished their pre-climb checklist barely 2 minutes before we did. Our guide tried calling the powers-that-be to hopefully get us leapfrogged ahead of the big group, but he had no luck.

So we were stuck behind a group of 12 climbers, none of whom looked particularly fit or adventurous.

While technically you are continually attached to the bridge, the tether that connects your climbing suit to the 1″ diameter or so metal railing doesn’t feel like it would do much to even slow down a stumble, much less halt a fall. We tried to not focus on that.

The climb starts out easy enough; you ride an elevator up to the bridge base, and the guide hooks you in there. Then you have to walk out across the flat part to where the actual arches begin. The flat part is roughly a quarter of a mile straight out to one of the four giant pylons that appear to support the arch of the bridge (you’re several stories above a large grassy plain). From this point on is where it gets a little more interesting.

There are a lot of steep, narrow ladders bolted into the side of the pylon, and you weave and climb your way up those. The ladder part was the most frightening to me; they aren’t very wide and the footpad of each rung was shallow enough that your entire foot wasn’t on it. There’s also the updraft (and noise) from the 8-lane highway running directly beneath you that gets in your head a bit.

Once through the ladder part, you pop out to the open-air arches and an incredible view of Sydney. This part of the climb is not strenuous, but it is still a little nerve rattling which was exacerbated by the fact that we were climbing at a snail’s pace due to the large group ahead of us. This same large group caused us to miss seeing the sunset from the summit of the bridge, so once it was finally our turn to cross the top from the east side of the bridge to the west side to begin the descent, it was full-on nighttime. Our little group was a little disappointed to have missed the sunset, and we were more than a little irritated with the massive hold-up the slow group was causing.

Thankfully, the way back down was decidedly faster (though no less harrowing on the ladders), and as we were about to start our descent, our guide pointed out the Southern Cross–our first time seeing it–which was spectacular! The night sky in the Southern hemisphere really is different; you can’t help but notice it.

Once we made it back to firm ground, we unsuited, peeked at the photos they’d taken of us during our climb, opted not to purchase them (we felt they were exorbitantly overpriced, but in hindsight maybe we should have tried to barter them down a bit), and walked up the road to grab dinner at one of Sydney’s oldest pubs, the Australian Hotel. It was crowded and a little rowdy, and the pizzas were a great way to top off a great day.

That marked 4 days down in Australia…only 4 more left to go. The Big Trip was going by way too quickly.

9,280 Miles: Off to the zoo–Taronga (Sydney, Part III)

My boys have always loved the zoo.

Jack’s very first trip to the Atlanta Zoo; January 5, 2005

In fact, they adore all animals, big or small, land-dwellers or sea-dwellers.

Sadly, little boys do tend to grow up, and weekend trips to the zoo begin to dwindle. While Zoo Atlanta is indeed great, after our 10,000th trip there, we felt like we’d seen all it had to offer. But throw a new venue into the mix and we’re all game; we’ve been to Farmer Sue’s Art Barn, the Georgia Aquarium (of course), the infamous Animal Exit off I-16, and just about any petting farm we come across. So when the opportunity presented itself to visit the world renowned Taronga Zoo in Sydney, we could hardly wait.

The zoo lies across the Sydney Harbour in Mosman. We bought ferry tickets at Circular Quay (through an ATM-like machine that oddly only lets you purchase 3 tickets at a time) and headed out before the zoo had even opened. The 12-minute trip across the harbour is smooth and lets you see Sydney from a different vantage.

We hopped off the ferry and onto the SkySafari gondola which whips you up the hillside and over the entire zoo and deposits you at the very ornate front gate. We bought tickets, grabbed a few maps, and made our way in.

when the main entryway looks like this, you know it’s going to be a pretty interesting place

We were initially on a mission to find a koala, so we hung a sharp left and set forth into the Australia Walkabout section.

Holy cow. The Taronga Zoo is squeaky clean, well laid out, and enormous, and it has the absolute coolest animal habitats I think we’ve ever seen. We popped in to the Australian Nightlife exhibit which was–of course–pitch black dark, so all the tiny critters in there would participate. There was a whole lot of scampering and scurrying going on in there. Our gerbils would have been fast friends with these guys…

(While one used to be able to actually hold a koala in Australia, folks figured out that it really stresses the little guys out–big time–so they put the kibosh on human physical contact with them.)

To enter the kangaroo/emu/wallaby area, you push open a gate, walk into a small holding area, close the first gate, and then walk across to open a second gate–so there’s a two-door system going on which we thought was pretty clever. Right outside the second gate, there’s a sign reminding folks to stay on the path.

This is an underrated reminder because there are no barriers between you and the creatures as you walk along this path. We were stunned to find ourselves walking along just three feet away from kangaroos.

We were truly floored to find ourselves so close to these guyss. And it didn’t stop there; the majority of the Taronga habitats are this way, so you constantly find yourself up-close-and-personal with all sorts of critters.



…but there are also critters just free-roaming which is a bizarre (and quite fun) experience.


this bird was fascinated with Theo’s dominoes…

The seal show was campy yet worthwhile…and a nice opportunity to sit down for a bit.


We spent far too long watching the antics of the lemurs…fullsizeoutput_fa91

And we couldn’t believe just how tiny (and, frankly, humanlike) this baby gorilla was…



Everyone knows Australians have the best accent around; they also have some of the best words around…like “muster”. Here’s the best we could muster:


And then, after several hours of wandering around the awesomeness of the Taronga Zoo, we finally decided it was time to head out. We walked back up to the main gate, and Russ set about getting an Uber. While we were waiting, Theo–who was in serious domino building mode–sat down to make a video clip. This bird–perhaps the same bird who’d earlier shown interest in Theo’s dominoes–followed us out the gate and into the courtyard, where he proceeded to come at Theo and peck at his dominoes. No fear in this one (the bird or Theo).


Our cab finally arrived and rather than go straight back down to the ferry we’d arrived on, we opted to get dropped off in a different area: Lavender Bay Wharf. While the name sounds lovely, there wasn’t too much to see at this tiny port, so we bought our return ferry ticket and waited on the boat.


Ah, Luna Park. I was hoping we would not see this as I am not an amusement park fan and didn’t want to spend a day sitting around waiting for folks to ride rides. (Luckily, a sail-by was enough, though the name did come up a few times from Tucker whenever we asked if anyone had an idea of what we should do.)

Back in Circular Quay, Theo got sucked in to a bizarre busker who was balancing on a bicycle on top of a pole held up by four volunteers suckers. The show dragged on and on and on and when he started juggling knives, we knew it was time to go.

We grabbed a quick snack at The Rocks Cafe (for Russ and me) and Gelatissimo (for the boys) and then headed back to the apartment. 

The fabulous Centennial Parklands was basically in our backyard, so Russ took the boys over there for a little downtime while Jack and I relaxed and read in the apartment–or at least I tried to relax…until Russ started sending photos of the daredevils on the playground… 


Thankfully, they all returned in one piece, and we walked back out to grab dinner at Vino e Cucina, which was a perfect way to wind up a perfect day.


Yes, Paddington, we absolutely do love you.


9,280 Miles: Bondi to Coogee (Sydney, Part II)

(This one’s going to be flooded with photos, so consider yourselves forewarned…)

Before we jet off on any trip, I spend way too many hours reading everything I can get my hands on about our destination, solely to steel my nerves. What typically begins as a Google search on must-sees in a city often winds up with a trip far, far down the deepest rabbit holes of the internet. These crazy diversions often yield interesting sidebars, and I wind up with a solid list of things that we absolutely cannot miss. The Bondi-to-Coogee Coastal Walk was one of those can’t-be-misseds.

After an interesting breakfast at our apartment (interesting due to its composition: cheese, crackers, dry cereal…), we hopped in a cab for the surprisingly quick ride out to Bondi Beach. It was Wednesday, the 17th of July…we think.

There’s no other way to put it: Bondi Beach is spectacularly beautiful. It’s huge and wide and rounded and–well–just like you’d imagine a place known all the world over to be. There’s something about the beach in winter, too, that makes it even more magical. We fell in love. Hard.

An incredible paved trail wraps around the steep cliffs that surround the inlets housing several beaches between Bondi and Coogee. Like everything else we encountered in Australia, this nearly 4 mile trail is impeccably maintained and absolutely beautiful.

Before we could get started on the trail, someone had to take a peek at the skatepark…

We wound up lingering around Bondi for close to an hour because we just couldn’t pull ourselves away. We saw something incredible in every direction we turned.

After taking more photos than you can shake a stick at, we finally set out on our walk. We headed south on the trail and before we even got our heart rates up a notch, we came up to the world famous Bondi Icebergs Club and its fascinating, cliff-hanging pool.

this is one tough dude, swimming in the middle of winter in an unheated, ocean-filled pool

Once past Icebergs, the next stop is Mackenzie’s Point. The rock walls making up the sides have some fascinating designs and patterns carved into them courtesy of being eternally pelted by ocean winds.

We managed to keep moving along, though we were absolutely amazed at every turn we made.

We shimmied around a rocky point and then took a ton of steps downwards toward Tamarama Beach and its Surf Life Saving Club–a club which I think I would not want to be a member of.

From Tamarama Beach, the coastal walk takes you around another point and down to the largest beach on the Bondi to Coogee walk: Bronte Beach.

these people are certifiably crazy; the waves were huge, there was a riptide warning, and the water was ice cold

From Bronte Beach, the path takes you up some steep stairs and on the edge of a road that’s lined with ridiculous houses overlooking the sea. Keep walking and you’ll go back down some more stairs (did I mention the path is chock full of steps leading up and down and up and down?) to a boardwalk that runs between the ocean and Waverley Cemetery. The cemetery opened in 1877 and is spectacular in a creepy, hanging-on-the-side of the world kind of way.

From the cemetery, we kept trekking and came upon the Clovelly Bowling Club. The Australians love them some lawn bowling; we stumbled upon several different lawn bowling clubs while we were there. This one was particularly appealing, and we seriously debated going in for a game, but in the end, hunger prevailed. (It’s also very difficult to say “Clovelly Crocodiles” five times fast. Give it a try…)

We wrapped around Shark Point, headed through Burrows Park, and wound around the skinny inlet of Clovelly Beach before tackling a very steep section of the trail that runs parallel to a road. Once we came over the top of the hill, Coogee Beach lay out before us.

Coogee is a quaint little suburb of Sydney dating back to the early 1800’s. We were starving, so we headed in to the Coogee Pavilion for lunch. Afterwards, Theo and I moseyed back to the incredibly cool game area inside the Pavilion while Jack, Tucker, and Russ headed over to the beach. (Tucker made the moderately unwise decision of getting in the water and then was wet and cold until we made it back to the apartment.)

The Coogee Pavilion was outstanding: it was lively and had tons of food options, and the game area in the back was a marvelous surprise filled with giant versions of tons of classic board games (think Scrabble and Backgammon) and not one single electronic or video game.

The Bondi to Coogee walk is a manageable distance, but there’s a lot of ups and downs going on, so at times it was slow going. It’s also a visual overload of beauty, and we didn’t want to miss a single thing. All this is to say we were dog-tired afterwards and headed back to the apartment for a much needed lie-down (we were still a little off due to jet-lag, too).

That night we took it easy once again. I wandered into the village of Paddington and found the cutest wine shop, Paddington Fine Wines, with the cutest sales clerk, Rosie. Russ wandered off in his own direction and found an incredible Italian restaurant we would end up visiting two more times before we left.

The fresh air definitely did us some good. We were finally adapting to Australian time (more or less) and were already dreading this portion of our big trip coming to an end. By the end of day 2, we were Australia fans for life.

9,280 Miles: Sydney, Part I

(Actually, that’s a bit of an exaggeration; Honolulu to Sydney is “only” 5,071 miles…)

We managed to stay awake for the duration of the flight, which was relatively smooth with the exception of one batch of fairly bouncy turbulence as we crossed over the Intertropical Convergence Zone (where the north meets the south around the equator). However, right when we were bobbing across this patch, we were treated to two brothers (not ours!) a row in front of us getting into a fist fight. This altercation was so bad that one of the flight attendants got up out of her seat to come speak to them. (Their parents–seated a row in front of the boys–were headphoned up and somehow unaware of the mayhem taking place right behind them.)

Then, about 45 minutes out from landing, Russ was waiting in line for the restroom when one of those same boys walked up to the bathroom line and proceeded to hurl. On the floor of the plane. Russ barely made it out of the way. The poor thing’s hurling didn’t stop there. UGH.

Did you know that when you fly into Australia from another country, you have to stay seated once you finally arrive at the gate while they come on and fumigate the plane? It’s called “aircraft disinsection,” it’s conducted by “biosecurity officers,” and it’s a little creepy. Flight attendants go down the aisles and open every single overhead bin while the biosecurity folks stand ominously by the doors to the plane. Then they walk up and down the aisles, emptying umpteen cans of spray insecticide into the bins. Between the poor kid throwing up left and right and the dissemination of copious amounts of insecticide, we were beyond ready to exit that plane.

Rather than roll our bags down the barf-aisle, we clambered across the middle row and then down the opposite aisle–all while being screamed at by a flight attendant for not going the right way. Um, sorry-not-sorry. We are steering clear of Patient 0 and his mushroom cloud of germs.

We zipped through Customs despite me not being able to put my hands on the printed copies of our visas; I pretty much dumped every single thing out of my backpack and all over the floor trying to find them before the Customs official said, “no worries, mate; they’re recorded electronically.” Deep breaths.

We hopped an Uber and headed out to Paddington and our home for the next 8 nights.

After the prequisite arguments amongst the boys over sleeping arrangements, we all fell into bed and crashed hard–only to wake up in the middle of the night absolutely freezing. Hello winter in Australia.

view up the street towards the market in Paddo

Our little neighborhood was adorable, walkable, clean, and comfy. We loved it and we loved our apartment (especially once we figured out how to turn on the heat). It served as a fabulous home base for the next 8 nights.

strolling through Paddo in search of breakfast

Science museums are normally our jam, so our first stop Down Under was the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. Also known as the Powerhouse Museum, this place was on every single “must-see” list I uncovered. The Powerhouse also featured a special Apollo 11 exhibit in honor of the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing. We were all pretty fired up.

also, shout out to one of the boys’ favorite science teachers–Ms. Maas-on-a-Rock 🙂

Maybe it was because we were exhausted and had no idea what day it was. Maybe it was because the Australians were on their winter school holiday, so the place was crawling with itty-bitty kiddos. Maybe I’d overhyped this place. Maybe…just maybe…our boys have outgrown science museums (Russ and I were truly saddened at this possibility). Regardless, we were in and out of the Powerhouse much faster than I’d anticipated.

[Revisiting the MAAS website now, however, makes me realize we just hit this place at the wrong time. While there were some bizarre exhibits (“The Ideal Home“, for instance), there were some really cool things, too. Like The Wiggles exhibit…I mean, like the vertigo inducing Zero Gravity Space Lab.]

(not the Zero Gravity thing…just a cool prism thingy)

From the Powerhouse Museum, we took an Uber to The Rocks and set out to find a lunch venue.

Australia has a very unique history; the British–once they’d discovered there was a giant mass of land way down there in the Southern hemisphere–decided it was a great place to ship out some of their convicts…a destination prison, if you will. Despite what most folks think, these convicts weren’t all that terribly dangerous; people were sent to the prison colony for petty crimes like stealing a bag of sugar or cutting down a tree. Sending criminals to Australia was actually a way for the British to remove a segment of their population that the Brits had deemed were less than desirable due to their poverty levels. Not the best moment for Great Britain.

Anyway, the remnants of the prison colony are in the area now called The Rocks, and The Rocks was our next stop for the day. But first, lunch.

I think we ate our weight in guacamole and queso at the El Camino Cantina

After lunch, we walked around The Rocks a bit; it’s one of the oldest areas in Sydney and is filled with quaint European-ish buildings and cobblestone streets. The area also stands in the shadow of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

If you turn around, you’ll also find yourself (somewhat) face-to-face with another Sydney icon: its Opera House. We walked a little ways around Circular Quay to get better views.

We made a pit stop for the boys to get some ice cream and then we headed up to the fabulous Blu Bar on the 36th floor of the Shangri La hotel. While the Blu Bar technically wasn’t open yet, the Aussies once again proved they are the nicest, most accommodating folks on the planet by humoring us and even serving us a drink. Bonus points for the Barbie Themed Tea Party going on in the lobby, too…

HTH Dominoes hard at work

After the Shangri-La and a bit more ambling around, we were once again running on fumes, so we headed back to the apartment. Russ set out to find a market for wine and snacks, and he came back praising the little neighborhood and all it had to offer. It felt like a perfect October night, and we all piled up on the sofa to watch a movie, marveling that we were halfway around the planet from our home.

We were smitten with Sydney already.