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:

2018_Sydney_June7-7

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.

2018_Sydney_June7-16

2018_Sydney_June7-1

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

2018_Sydney_June7-22018_Sydney_June7-62018_Sydney_June7-5

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

2018_Sydney_June7-17

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!)

2018_Sydney_June7-15

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

2018_Sydney_June7-12

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.

2018_Sydney_June7-14

 

Wandering can be a great distraction!

This is a quick wrap up of our quick visit to the Mid North Coast and Northern Rivers area of NSW for a few days late last week.

While I am waiting to go back to work (administrative issues have prevented me from returning as soon as I would have liked) we thought we might take a few days away from the dramas of an international relocation, not having our own home to live in and camping with the in-laws, and waiting for our delayed and much travelled goods shipment (it went via Dubai from the USA on it’s way to Sydney) and get away from it all for a while.

We wandered up the coast of NSW, exploring some towns we haven’t been to before, as well as investigating possible job opportunities (Andrew still needs to find a job).

On our first day we drove up the coast along the much improved, but always under construction, Pacific Highway (now known as the M1 or A1, depending on where you are). After about 5 ½ hours driving, we landed in the NSW country town of Grafton; a place I had never visited before. It’s worth a look.

GraftonClocktower

Grafton Clocktower and one of the many pubs in the background

JacarandasEstablished in 1851, Grafton sits alongside the Clarence River and is home to jacaranda tree-lined streets (the jacarandas were originally planted in the 1870s by a local seed merchant). In spring the town puts on a spectacular display when the trees erupt in masses of mauve blossoms. During the last weekend in October and the first weekend in November Grafton hosts its famous Jacaranda Festival (Australia’s longest running floral festival); I’d love to check this out some time (we were too late in the season this visit, as the jacarandas, although still in bloom, were well past their best).

From Grafton we drove north through Broadwater, sweet town that it is – it’s home to a large sugar mill and is the center of the region’s sugar industry (lots of sugar cane growing in the Northern Rivers area) and then on to Ballina.

I’ve heard a lot about Ballina – it’s a coastal town and well known for its relaxed lifestyle, beaches, seafood, fishing and other water sports. Ballina is also home to the Big Prawn:

BigPrawn

Australia has a fascination with BIG things – besides the prawn, we have the Big Merino (Goulbourn, NSW), Big Pineapple (Nambour, Qld), Big Guitar (Tamworth, NSW), Big Galah (Kimba, SA), Big Lobster (Kingston, SA) and the Big Banana, which we drove past at Coffs Harbour (always a family favourite), just to name but a few!

BigBanana

Our last stop was Port Macquarie – this is a place I definitely want to return to for a stay of at least a few days, maybe a week! Established in 1821, Port Macquarie, like Newcastle, was founded as a penal settlement, replacing Newcastle as the destination for convicts who had committed secondary crimes in New South Wales.

Port Macquarie is an idyllic spot, sitting on the NSW mid north coast at the mouth of the Hastings River. It is home to some wonderful beaches and also to the Billabong Koala Park (I didn’t get to visit, but maybe next time), and the Koala Preservation Society’s Koala Hospital. There are also about 75 koala sculptures around the town – all uniquely decorated – fun!: PortMacKoala

StrawberriesGrowingJust outside of Port Macquarie is Ricardoes Tomatoes and Strawberry farm. This is definitely worth the visit (and a great family activity if you have kids in tow). There is a little café where you can grab some lunch and also pick up some of Ricardoes own produce: rich red tangy Tomato Relish (I got some of that), delectable rich tomato Pasta Sauce and unique Strawberry Conserve, and other local products including preserved olives and olive oils, and locally-grown macadamia nuts, honey and eggs.

Besides all of this, you get to pick your own fresh strawberries – yum!:

Strawberry – it was great fun!

CateStrawberries