VIVID Sydney!

For the last 2 days of Becky’s stay, we went to Sydney, primarily to check out VIVID! We stayed close by the quay – this was the view from our hotel room:

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VIVID Sydney is in it’s 10th year this year and is a 23 day festival of light (and music, and ideas), but mostly it’s about the great lighting displays.

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Our first night in Sydney, we took a Sydney harbour boat cruise to see the lights from the water.

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Our second night (in the rain), we walked around the Quay and The Rocks area.

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Doesn’t the Sydney Opera House look amazing (even in the rain)!

There were some great displays, but I particularly enjoyed the “Beautiful and Dangerous” display which projected magnified images of various infectious bacteria and viruses.

It was right up my alley (as a bacterial scientist) and connected with my artistic self as well.

Besides seeing VIVID, we shopped – of course (Becky was still looking for family gifts to take back to the US), we walked through the botanical gardens (and found a giant fly!)

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and we visited the Art Gallery of NSW. I particularly liked this oversized Captain Cook:

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I was keen to see The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries on display at the gallery. I didn’t know this was a series of 6 tapestries. They were fabulous and were made around the year 1500, by an unknown maker and rediscovered some 300 years later in the Château de Boussac in France.

It was a lovely weekend (even if Becky was a bit under the weather) and it was great to have her visiting me for the past 2 weeks.

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A visit to Blackbutt Reserve

Today I took Becky for a visit to Blackbutt Reserve to view a few of our native animals.

We were lucky to fit the visit between rain showers.

We saw some kangaroos:

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Some very sleepy koalas:

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Some native birds:

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Sulphur crested cockatoo

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Kingfishers

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Gouldian finch

But really, for me, this was just an excuse to visit the wombats again.

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Sally (3 year old common wombat)

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Clyde (15 year old common wombat)

Wombats make me very happy, and it was nice to share them with a friend who had never seen one before!

Sightseeing around Newcastle

With Becky visiting from Texas, I have had an excuse to do some activities that I have wanted to do, but not got around to.

Yesterday we did a river boat cruise along the Hunter River.

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We left from Newcastle Harbour (where the Hunter River meets the sea) on board one of Nova Cruises boats and cruised up to Morpeth.

 

The trip along the river is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. It was a lovely day for it – pleasant and relaxing. From the harbour, we travelled up to Hexham where it is necessary to lift the bridge for the boat to pass underneath. I have never experienced the bridge going up, so that was good to see.

There were lots of interesting things to look at along the way as well.

I love an old, ruined building.

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Morpeth was established in 1821 and was a bustling river port in colonial days. It is a lovely historic town right on the Hunter River, with National-Trust listed buildings, craft and antique stores and some lovely, scenic places to eat or sit, relax and grab a coffee. We shopped a little and had lunch.

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Historic Morpeth bridge from the Hunter River

Newcastle harbour is home to the largest coal exporting port in the southern hemisphere, and as we were coming back we saw a fully laden ship on it’s way out of the port. These ships are huge.

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A visitor from Texas, USA to Newcastle, NSW!

 

My friend Becky is currently visiting us from Texas. We meet through the pilates class at the local gym in Sherman whilst I was living there, and now I would consider her one of my best friends. Becky has been in Newcastle now 5 days. We have been exploring a little and I have been showing of the parts of my town (with plenty more planned). But today is a bit of a rest day as Becky picked up a cold on the way over (we’ll blame the aeroplane germs). So I’d thought I write a little about what’s happened so far.

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A lazy Sunday afternoon drink listening to some live music at Queens Wharf

We have done a bit of walking, well, quite a bit really. We have been along the harbourside, past the beaches, visited the Christ Church Cathedral, have done a spot of shopping (how can you not?) and have taken a few photos. It’s been fun!

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Christ Church Cathedral

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Newcastle Town Hall and the pool in front of Civic Fountain

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Becky and the pump house for the Newcastle Ocean Baths

Becky has written a couple of blog posts about her adventures so far. Check them out here.

We also took a drive up to the Hunter Valley vineyards and tasted some excellent wine. Andrew was the designated driver so we could enjoy what was on offer. Besides the good wines, there are also some lovely, picturesque views. The following pictures were taken at Audrey Wilkinson vineyard (excellent wines). We also visited Tulloch wines (also very good wines),  before having some lunch. There is something for everyone in Hunter Valley wine country, from boutique vineyards through to the large well known wine makers, and many excellent places to stay and to eat – so come and visit and spend the weekend (or week) relaxing in the Hunter Valley.

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Red roses means red grapes

 

This is the first time I have had a non-family member house guest in a long time. It certainly makes you pay more attention to what is around you (and clean up after yourself more). Seeing your surroundings through the eyes of a visitor from overseas will give you a new perspective on things. There are subtle differences between the USA and Australia, from light switches and power point switches to not so subtle differences, like driving on the other side of the road, and it’s fun to be able to discover and comment on these with a friend.

Tomorrow we are going on a Hunter River cruise to the lovely town of Morpeth. We are both looking forward to that.

 

 

A Visit to Houston

So, I am spending a couple of days in Houston with a friend.

Yesterday, after a 5 hour drive from Sherman, we took in some culture and visited the Museum of Fine Arts Houston

I was particularly taken by the Roman Vishniac photographic exhibition and his photographs of Jewish life in Eastern Europe. Many poignant and candid photos giving the viewer a real glimpse into a life that many of us can only image, particularly those taken in post war Berlin. I could have spent so much longer pouring over these images; it was fabulous.

I also got to enjoy some more classic paintings from the masters – Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet & Matisse.

  

I have seen some wonderful art whilst in Texas – we miss out on so much in Australia, where we have to wait for a special traveling exhibit.

Also at the museum is the Shadow Monsters interactive display – we made scary shadows and had fun! Great for young and old! 

  
There was also a fabulous interactive LEGO building exhibit where you could indulge your inner architect or city planner. Everyone is encouraged to add to the LEGO city creation.

  
The MFAH is a very interesting museum and is spread over 2 buildings. Between the two, is an interconnecting walkway which is a piece of art in itself – a light tunnel, where the color changes every 6 minutes.

  

If you get to go, Thursday’s are a great day to visit as entry is free!

Anyway, the reason I am in Houston is that I am accompanying a friend on a business trip – so I took the opportunity to see a little more of Texas and poke around a little in Houston. My friend is a well respected quilter and author (Becky Goldsmith) and is attending the Quilt Market in Houston. Now, this ‘convention’ is a BIG deal – I didn’t realize just how big. More later!