Monday, August 24, 2009

National Vacation-part two (Sydney)

We left Gold Coast pretty early on Friday morning, June 26 and headed for Sydney. We had a reservation at the Westin, Sydney starting Friday night so we wanted to get there at a decent time (not 5 or 6 am the next day). We arrived right before Midnight, found the hotel (which wasn't as easy as you'd think it should be), found a parking spot (also not easy) and Josh went to check us in while I stayed with the kids. I was feeling a bit nauseous so staying in the car and out of the night air was my idea of a good time. After about 10 minutes Josh came back and got in the car, just as I was about to ask him where we were going he says "they won't let me check in because the reservation is in your name." Are you serious? This is so annoying! Half in tears, tired, now more nauseous and just plain ready to go to bed, I storm out of the car and into the hotel. The lady at the counter says "How can I help you?" I need to check in so I tell her that. then I say "I'm a bit upset that you wouldn't let my husband check us in tonight and that I have to come in to do it myself" She starts in on this "it's policy" garbage to say that the reservation was made in my name and therefore I have to check in. I told her that we are joint owners and both on the account and, therefore, there is no reason for him not to be able to check in for us. I was a bit mean but I was tired and cranky and hormonal to boot. She starts checking us in and I calmed down a bit. I finally apologised and told her I was tired, pregnant and nauseous and just plain wanted to stay in the car until it was done. She changed into a different person, offered me a seat and whatever else she could do for me (funny what pregnancy can do for you). She offered me room upgrades (which she should have anyway) and got all checked in and sent me out with a bellhop to unload the car.

The girl unloading the car was so nice, maybe in her early 20's and eager to help out how she could, but very knowledgeable. We unloaded a lot but hadn't told the hotel just how many kids we actually had, so trying to not be up front about them while they were all asleep (for once). I took Caleb up with me (we had to walk past the front desk to get to the elevator) and I got all of our stuff put into the room while Josh parked the car and brought up the rest of the kids. Our room was big and spacious with a great view from the 20th floor. We had 2 double beds and quite a bit of space. Caleb kept looking out the huge windows at the street saying "car, cars Momma. Look car cars!" Just as I expected Josh would be there any time, there was a knock at the door so I answered it. It was the bellhop and she had brought us more towels, soaps and toiletries as well as another bed "we were talking and thought you guys might like another bed with all the troops you had in the car." Talk about nice and helpful. Our first night may have started out crazy, but we definitely picked the right hotel to stay in while in Sydney. I highly recommend the Westin on Martin Place in Sydney and you can feel free to tell them I sent you.

On Saturday we did some shopping and walked around a bit but really didn't do a lot past that. On Sunday we made a trip across the bridge to go to church. We attended the Greenwich ward and they were so friendly. While at church we found out that the temple was closed until Wednesday morning so we basically had Wednesday and Thursday to go while we were there. We got some names and phone numbers for people who might be able to watch the kids for us while we went and headed back to our room.

On Monday we went to the Sydney opera house and walked all around it. It was a nice, long walk that took us about 20 minutes to get there but it was worth it. The kids all marveled at the look of the opera house and loved all the docks on the water and the bridge just over the water. It was a beautiful day and we all enjoyed ourselves. We thought about taking the tour until we discovered that it would cost us close to $200 for the whole family to go-not worth it in our books. We stopped at the gift shop and let the kids each pick out a small, inexpensive something before heading on our way back to the hotel again. On the way back we discovered a really cool looking park. It had what appeared to be pieces of decorative stone from a building that was no longer together and they were all spaced out to look nice. There was a photo shoot with a model (who looked really unhappy and uncomfortable) and they took up about half the rocks but they took a break just after we got there and didn't resume shooting until we were about ready to leave again. The kids loved climbing on those stones and the especially loved posing for pictures on them-Raven was the camera ham that day, I think I must have got about 20 pictures of her alone as she kept yelling "Momma, take a picture of me on this rock!" We found a fountain to play in on the way back and discovered a free Australian currency museum that we tagged for another day when our kids weren't complaining about sore feet.

On Tuesday we went to the currency museum and Noah especially really enjoyed seeing all the money and learning a bit about how it was made. It was a self-guided thing and pretty quiet in the other side of a bank but it was free and really cool. After that we went to a park and found a place to sit and have lunch. We made sandwiches and had mandarin oranges and the kids enjoyed chasing the birds away and climbing a tree that was nearby. We kept having to look for Caleb as he would chase a bird and keep going until we called him back and he'd turn and see how far he had gone. The other kids all kept pretty close though. After lunch we headed to the Australia museum of Sydney. It cost us just under $50 for the family because we opted to see the exhibit on mammoths that they had going too. The kids loved the mammoth exhibit and all the bones and videos and everything that was meant to be touched. When done there we saw the rocks and gems, stuffed animals, dinosaur bones, insects and so much more. We were in the museum for hours and the kids really enjoyed themselves. We finished off with the kids' activity corner before we left (we knew we'd never see anything else if we started there). We then hit the gift shop and picked out one small something under $10 for each kid and some things for ourselves before they kicked us out of the museum (you'd think they all wanted to go home or something). It was just starting to get dark when we got outside so we put on our jackets and took a leisurely stroll back to our hotel, picking up some dinner at Pizza Hut on the way.

On Wednesday we decided to see the botanical gardens. It was right near the opera house but not quite as far. There were so many trees and flowers to see and there were even a ton of bats that lived in the trees. The kids loved the walk along the ocean too. It was kind of windy and chilly so we didn't stay too long. We hit the gift shop to see what they had (not nearly as much as others) and spent very little there before heading back to the Westin again.

Thursday was laundry day so we went walking to the laundromat the hotel recommended. After a very long walk with a heavy load, we discovered that the place was not a do-it-yourself thing. They told us where another one was and we went walking again. It wasn't where they said it was so we stopped to ask directions again. Nobody knew anything so we headed back to the hotel again and pulled out the phone book. After locating a place and calling to make sure it was what we wanted, Josh took the boys for a drive (no, it wasn't walking distance as they told us) and I put the girls and Caleb down for naps. When we got up we got in the car to head to the temple. It took us 30 minutes just to drive the 5 or 6 blocks to the bridge with all the traffic and one way roads and then we missed our turn a few times and finally found the home of the family who had volunteered to watch the kids. We arrived there at 7:15 and the last session of the night was due to start at 7:30-the temple was another 20-30 minute drive from their house. We were bummed but knew that we wouldn't make it in time. So we sat and talked to the family and got to know them a bit and then took the kids to the temple to walk around. It was freezing so we didn't stay very long but we took some pictures and talked with the kids about temples and had a really nice night.

Back at the hotel we got everything folded and packed and loaded into the car again so that we could head off to Melbourne on Friday morning. It was a nice, long week in Sydney and I took so many pictures that I'll have to upload onto Kodak photo gallery for all to see-I'll let you know when I get to that one.

Monday, August 17, 2009

National Vacation-Part one (Brisbane/Gold coast)

Ok, slowly but surely, I'm finally catching up. Here goes.

The kids last day of term 2 was June 19th so our plan was to be out of here bright and early on Saturday morning, June 20th. That is until I realised that Josh was working a mid shift Friday night and wouldn't be home until just after 8am Saturday morning. So we pushed our schedule back a bit and I had almost everything ready to load into the car when he got home instead of the night before. Josh loaded up the car while I gathered the things that weren't by the door, I took a shower and we headed out around noon.

We had planned far in advance, mapping out our route using Google maps and that type of thing and put it all into a book to keep it together. So, off we went with the plan of making it to Tenant Creek before nightfall. As we turned down the road the directions said to, it was a road we recognised-the one that we took to go to the aboriginal camp called Mulgabor where our church has a small building and some great members. Of course we weren't turning down the road that went there, but instead continuing on down further. About 60 miles down this "highway" it suddenly turned to a dirt road. We continued driving it because the directions said to, but we were leery about how long the dirt road would last. We drove this dirt "highway" all day and through a lot of the night. After dark we dodged suicidal kangaroos, who hopped to try and get into our headlights (thank goodness we were faster than they were). Then there was the wild pig laying on the side of the road. Josh was driving at this point, slowed the car to a stop and pointed the headlights to see what it was. We saw it was a pig and Josh starts honking the horn at it. trying to figure out what his problem is I said "um, hunny, it's dead". We had a pretty good laugh and joked through the rest of our trip "piggy, why are you sleeping?!"

Around midnight the road finally turned back into pavement and we rolled into a town called Boulia just before 1am. The gas stations were all closed and we weren't going to make it to another town before we ran out of gas so we found a motel and pulled in. Of course, being a small town, it was also closed but had a bell for after hours and Josh rang it. The clerk answered the door in his boxers, gave Josh a room and key and set us up to pay in the morning. The room was pretty nice and we got about 6 or 7 hours of sleep. The price was much less than we expected it to be for a small town in the middle of nowhere and we were much in need of the rest.

Sunday morning we headed to the gas station, filled up, found the best road atlas ever (to avoid any further dirt highways) and headed out again. We drove nice, paved roads all day, only stopping to make sandwiches or use toilets along the way. Our reservation was in Gold Coast, near Brisbane for Sunday night so we kept driving. Around 5 or 6pm we decided that we weren't going to get there any time soon so we called to let them know that we were coming but that it wouldn't be early. At that point we anticipated arrival around 2am. At around 10pm we pulled in to use a toilet and discovered something sticking out of the front, right tire. upon examination we decided that it was a small bone (possibly from any of the numerous kangaroo carcasses we ran over or near or the suicidal rabbit that dodged back and forth and ran under the front bumper of the car-the kids were quite unhappy about that one). But the bone wasn't causing problems and we had a spare tire so we kept driving. We arrived at the hotel, The Sheraton resort and spa, Gold Coast, around 5am Monday morning, exhausted and ready for some sleep in a real bed, and we checked in without any problems and went to sleep. When we got up sometime in the afternoon, we ate some lunch and went to find a grocery store to restock our supplies for the week.

On Tuesday we went out to the car and started to drive, only to discover that the tire with the bone in it was now flat. Talk about an answer to prayers that it waited so long to get that way. We changed it for the spare, got directions to a place to fix it and went that way. The tire was not patchable because the hole was in the sidewall of the tire so we needed a new one. They had a good, used tire they sold us for $45-this included putting it on the rim & putting it on the car (this we didn't expect for the price). The guy even aired up the spare and put in back under the car for us. We were feeling like we got an awesome deal as this would have cost us at least twice that in Alice Springs.

It rained a lot during our 5 days in Gold Coast (and they insisted that they were having a drought) but we still managed to play at the hotel's private beach, collect some shells and have a good time there. We found a really cool playground for the kids and spent most of a sunny afternoon there. We walked through the huge mall on the rainy days.

We had spoken to our friends in Alice Springs about going to the temples along the way and who they might know in each location that could help us out with kids so we could go. Some of them had family in Brisbane who agreed to watch the kids for us one day. On Thursday morning we headed out nice and early to get to where we were dropping the kids. We made it there without any problems and with plenty of time. Tui was so nice and was so helpfull. We headed off to the temple and got lost along the way. Our session was due to start at 11:30am and, after stopping to get directions, we arrived at 11:40. The next session was due to start at 5pm that night. A bit upset and not knowing what we should do, we parked and walked in figuring that even if we couldn't get in to do any work that we would at least take some pictures and walk around the temple. When we got to the desk they told us that they had some sealings we could do and that they were short people to do them. We excitedly grabbed our clothing and dressed to go in. It was beautifull and the spirit was so strong. We were down to the last few sealings and I suddenly started feeling lightheaded and not good. I asked to sit down and did so. I sat through a couple more and then I was done. If I sat there any longer I was going to pass out. I knew they had less than 5 minutes left but that was going to be too long so I asked to step out of the room. It was so hot in there and the hallway was so much cooler, it was almost instantaneous relief but I felt really dumb for having to leave when they were so close to being done. I sat a couple minutes and then everybody else was leaving so I walked with them back to get changed. In the changing rooom one of the other ladies came in and commented to me hoping I was alright. I told her whathad happened and she said "are you pregnant?" Now, what part of me feeling overheated and lightheaded said I was pregnant? It caught me off guard. I answered yes and she saithat she had once had a similar experience but she sat there until they were done wishing that she had stepped out and very nearly passed out herself. She said that she admired me for stepping out instead of sitting there and suffering-I think I needed that beacuse I was feeling a lot like a shmuck.

After we put our things into the car we grabbed our camera and walked around the temple to take some pictures and feel the peacefullness that is the grounds of the temple. Once we were finished we drove through the city (thank goodness for that road atlas we bought, we would have been driving the one way roads for hours without it) and headed back to get our kids. We visited a little and then thanked Tui for her help and headed back to our hotel. Once there we found a place to do laundry and packed everything up so we could head out for Sydney the next morning. We wanted to be out at a decent time so we weren't driving until all hours of the night to get there this time. We really enjoyed our time in Brisbane and Gold Coast, even if we didn't get to go and do and see very much. Perhaps someday we'll get to go back again and see more.