Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I just got back from a weekend in Melbourne, kindly sponsored by AGSM. It turns out the PHarma and Biotech club (PHaB) is one of the most active here, and they needed a second representative to attend the AusBiotech conference for them.

More on my trip later. First, I've decided have to share something I've been thinking a lot about over the last few months. It will come as no surprise to most of you that I like nice things, and yummy food, and fun places to hang out. I mean I REALLY like them. I'm always thinking about them, talking about them, collecting information on them. Through all my many moves in the last five years I haven't been able to make myself throw out the massive box of magazine clippings and restaurant business cards I've been collecting. In fact, one of the best things about traveling for me is getting to see unusual things, eat different food, and discover new fun places to hang out.

I honestly get a rush when I go to a restaurant or bar or store that creates a cool atmosphere. My friend Elizabeth Merrit had her engagement party at The Park, in New York City several years ago, and I still remember how excited I got when I realized that the Japanese lanterns had been faux aged to look like they were wind-tattered. This weekend, my friends in Melbourne took us to a bar called Cookie, where there was no reason for me to get as jazzed as I did. But it was a bit dark, a bit crowded, a bit hip, and as I sat there over my glass of red wine (only one, lest you think it was all the alcohol), I was actually breathless. Which perhaps explains why I felt the need to blurt out to my friend Dan that, while I am interested in biotech, that's really not where my passion lies, dammit! Poor Dan.

All this is appropos of two things. First, I'm am at a crossroads in life (like always), and wondering how the hell to pull all the disparate pieces of myself together. Constructively. Second, my friend Karima has opened an online shop for Castle In The Air. Which rocks, and gives me the very same butterflies in my stomach. So I thought I would give her a shout out, and hope that some of you will browse the new store, and finally understand why I keep running back there even after all these years. And so that maybe you can share a tiny piece of the magic that keeps me going.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Arc en ciel

The weather here has been crappy the last couple of days. After a beautiful weekend, we've had several rainy, cold days. Kind of typical November weather, for the northern hemisphere that is.

I've actually found it very disconcerting to live down under in this regard. Halloween is approaching - my body knows it should be fall. I constantly think I smell that typical fall smell of decomposing leaves and woodsmoke. It even feels like the days are getting shorter. And yet it's exactly the opposite. We just jumped forward an hour in the spring daylight savings change. So I really have no excuse for feeling as gloomy and sleepy (two sure signs that its fall) as I do.

Especially when I'm walking to school this morning and am greeted with this:
My camera wasn't quite up to it, but you can see a bit of the gorgeous full rainbow that greeted me as I walked to school in the rain, and finally looked up from my (wet) feet.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Weekend update

This weekend, I did the following things:
1) Dove
2) Sat on the beach at Manly
3) Went to my first ever live basketball game, where we saw the Sydney Spirit play the South Dragons. Nicola's boyfriend plays for the Spirit, so we were rooting for the home team.
4) Explored a time corner of Chinatown. Casey and I were hungry after the game, so we went looking for dumplings. We didn't find dumplings, but we did stumble across a cool night market. Definitely need to go back.
5) Went back to Cargo. Danced, and had a great time.
6) Sat on the beach at Coogee
7) Had sushi at Sushi Suma with Anne
8) Wandered around Crown Street in Surry Hills which is absolutely adorable. I need to go back. First I need to win the lottery, so I can afford to eat at some of the yummy places I saw, which include a cafe called Coffee, Tea or Me.
9) Stopped in for a glass of wine at Mille Vini, which has one of the nicest atmospheres of any restaurant I've seen. And a really good tempranillo.
10) Sat on the beach at Bondi with Benedetta.

Over all, a very nice weekend, even if I didn't manage any of the "see Syndey" type things that are on my list. It was exactly the sort of time I wanted to have when I came here though. Time that lets me believe, for a short while, I really live in Sydney!


Last Friday, I dragged Antonio up to Manly to do an introductory dive with me. (You should have heard the fuss he made about having to get up at 7am. Wimp.) It may surprise many of you who know what a big baby I am about things like the ocean, and drowning, and crossing bridges over the ocean during an earthquake and therefore drowning in my car... but I've been wanting to learn to dive for quite a while. Partly on the theory that if I could breathe and see underwater, I wouldn't feel quite as freaked out. I wanted to sign up for a PADI certification course straight away, but given that the likelihood that I would panic and hyperventilate upon entering the water was significantly more than zero, I decided perhaps an introductory dive might be prudent first.

Antonio and I took the ferry over to Manly beach, and then were picked up by Pro Dive. We sat through a brief intro and instruction session with Mike, our dive guru extraordinaire. We then crawled into many layers of neoprene [I pointedly did NOT break out the camera], and headed over to Shelley beach, where there's an aquatic reserve. After proving to Mike that we could a) kneel on the bottom b) take our regulators out of our mouths, drop them, get them back and clear them, we set off swimming.

I found it very hard to control my buoyancy. At one point I started floating higher and higher, and Mike had to tow me back down. And at another I wound up stuck on the bottom, with my tank on the ocean floor, and no way to turn around and no way to get up. Mike and Antonio just floated there laughing at me. Eventually, I realized that I could float higher by taking a deeper breath, and sink by breathing out extra. Which perhaps explains why I went through so damn much air in our forty minute dive. Very tricky...

Anyway, we saw a very friendly blue grouper, a shy cuttlefish, an octopus, numerous fish, and two sharks. I haven't been able to figure out what type they were, but they were long, narrow, sand camouflaged and lay very still on the bottom. Very cool!

So that was my introduction to diving. Other than nearly freezing my fingers off, it was fantastic. So I'm going to sign up for a class as soon as I get back from Melbourne this weekend. And hopefully plan a trip to the reef soon. I've heard it's cool.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wine 2 - Chardonnay

This week we tasted chardonnay. We were a little ambitious, and tasted 6 different wines. I woke up with quite the headache. Here is the selection:
1) Wirra Wirra Scrubby Rise McLaren Vale 2007 unwooded
2) Innocent Bystander 2007 (this wins the award for best label)
3) Clonale by Kooyong Mornington Peninsula 2007
4) Wither Hills Marlborough, New Zealand 2006
5) Fifth Leg Western Australia 2007
6) Frogmore Creek Tasmania 2006

Frogmore Creek is actually right next door to Meadowbank, which we visited in Tasmania. They apparently are the winemakers for a lot the vineyards in the area, but they also bottle their own wine. I don't know how much I like their wines though, since it was the sixth bottle we tasted, and by then my tastebuds were distinctly numb.

The winner was the Wirra Wirra. I don't think any of us like oaky chardonnays, which is interesting. There are an increasing number of unwooded ones coming on the market though, which is exciting to me.

Weekend in Sydney

This weekend was nice, and mellow. I was fighting a cold, so after a big night on Friday, I took it easy. Friday I finally made it to Darling Harbour, and then on to The Rocks. We started with a drink at Cargo, which was a little too chichi, so we had dinner at Chinta Ria, and then drinks at Cruise Bar. I finally made it to The Argyle, which is a club in an old warehouse (much more historic and cool than the word warehouse usually conjures in the US). We ended the night with food at Pancakes on the Rocks, where the potato wedges were pretty disappointing.

I don't know why, but for once I wasn't tired at 10pm. It happens so rarely, I took full advantage. Of course then I pretty much spent the rest of the weekend sleeping.

I did find a very cute cafe on Sunday though, where I sat in the garden before heading to Bondi Beach.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Order! Order! I would like to officially convene the first meeting of the first chapter of Sydney Wine Aficionados Living Life On Weekends (don't ask, Casey did the naming, and yes, it spells SWALLOW). Our charter is as follows:
  • Meet weekly
  • Drink of the wines of Australia and New Zealand
  • Enjoy
  • Learn something
Last Thursday was our first meeting. Ordinarily we will meet on Wednesday, but we had to wait for Anne to get back from Tasmania. We've decided to taste 1 varietal per week, in the hopes that I can finally begin to understand what a pinot noir tastes like versus, say, a shiraz. We're restricting ourselves to Australian and New Zealand wines because we're here. And Australia makes a hell of a lot of wine, so why not drink some of it?

The first meeting did not begin encouragingly. In class that day we learned that the average wine drinker can't tell the difference between white and red wine when blindfolded. And then the organizers (that includes me) showed up half an hour late.

But by the end of the night, after consuming the four bottles we had intended to taste, plus the extra I had brought for insurance, we were all very merry. Some of us too merry - it seems Antonio and Jose had their first brush with Australia's Reponsible Service of Alcohol legislation and got chucked out of a bar later that night. I just woke up with a headache, and really purple teeth.

Anyway, last week's we tasted Shiraz. We had:
Kirrihill Shiraz Clare Valley 2004
Ebenezer Shiraz Barossa Valley 2003
Elderton Shiraz Barossa Valley 2005
D'Arenberg "the Footbolt" Shiraz McLaren Vale 2005 (this wine was named after a horse, and smelled like feet)
The Elderton won. And it sure was yummy.

This week - Chardonnay! Any suggestions?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Tas Mania!!

I had an amazing trip. Saw gorgeous countryside. Ate good food. Took too many photos. Didn't freeze too badly. Like I said - amazing.

First, the cast of characters:
Casey, Matt, Courtney and I from UCLA
Anne from Copenhagen
Antonio from Madrid
Benedetta from Milan
Jake from Dartmouth
John from Perth (and now at AGSM)
A big group, but a good one!

Day 1: Thursday We flew into Launceston on Thursday evening. Courtney, Matt and Anne went immediately on to Cradle Mountain, but the rest of us stayed and had a good meal in a pub called Three Steps on George. We started our journey through Tasmania's wines with a nice un-oaked chardonnay from Ninth Island. Then we crashed at Launceston Backpackers, which was really nice, except for John's snoring. And Antonio's annoying phone receiving text messages all night. I finally threw the phone at his head around 4am, telling him "deal with this". He did, by hitting reply, so for the next half hour we were treated to a flurry of beeps as his drunken friends replied.

Day 2: Launceston - Cradle Valley
At around 4:30am Casey and I gave up sleeping and set out for Cradle Mountain National Park. We drove through Deloraine, and then drove around a bit wasting time until a restaurant opened up so we could feed. We chose Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm, which was highly cute, and had a nice fire.

Then we passed through Sheffield and arrived at the Cosy Cabins in Cradle Valley by 9am, where we met up with Anne, Courtney and Matt who had headed up the night before. Too bad it was pouring the whole day. So we took short walks around Cradle Mountain Lodge. Then we took advantage of the lodge's swanky spa and boiled ourselves sitting in their outdoor hot tub overlooking the river. Not a bad life.

Afterwards, Casey and I had a nice wine a cheese tasting, continuing our tour through Tasmania's wines. I particularly liked the Wellington iced riesling paired with blue cheese. A very good combo. By the time we finished, the other 5 had shown up, so we played scrabble at the lodge, then went back to the cabin to cook pasta.

Day 3: Cradle Mountain
We were hell bent on getting into the national park and taking a hike. So even though the weather was kinda crappy, we set out to do a loop up to Marion's Lookout, then down the horse trail. For the first part, the hike was fine, although it would rain periodically. But as we got higher, the wind picked up, and the rain turned to sleet and then to snow.

Most of us were in jeans and sneakers. We did have windbreakers, but Courtney didn't even have that to cut the wind! As you can see, it got pretty intense.

But at the very end, even though I couldn't feel my feet for hours after, all was redeemed - we saw an honest to goodness platypus!!!! Very cool. Then later we went to a Tasmania Devil preserve. It seems there's a terrible facial tumor disease (there's something to worry about - contagious cancer) is attacking all the devils in the wild. Not cool, but the little devils sure are.

We ended the day back at Cradle Mountain Lodge, playing pool (with weird small yellow and red balls) and kicking Aussie butt at trivia. That is we were, until they asked us who coaches the Adelaide rugby team, and where the Australian Country Music Festival is held. But we still won some wine, which we drank so fast I don't even remember the name!

Day 4: Cradle Mountain - Maydena
We set out early the next morning. Four went Strahan (confusingly pronounced Strawn) for a ferry ride, and Antonio, Anne, Benedetta, Casey and I headed south as fast as possible - we were on a mission to taste wine. We passed through some incredible remote country, and the roads were very windy. You know you're not going to make fast time when they start announcing "straight road next 1km" instead of calling out the curvy parts. We didn't succeed in finding a winery that was open, but after 5 hours on the road we stopped at a picturesque salmon and trout hatchery and had Pancakes by the Pond. Then we spent the afternoon walking in the temperate rainforest and seeing waterfalls at Mt. Field National Park.

Something about the trees or the water or our failure to find wine to taste inspired us to start a wine club for while we're here. More on that later...

We stayed that night at Giants Table and Cottages, which was absolutely adorable. We had a fantastic pasta feast, and sat by the fire playing dominoes. We did not, however, see the platypus living in the pond.

Day 5: Maydena - Hobart
On Monday, the same five of us set out again, resolved to taste wine. The area of Tasmania we were in, the Coal River Valley produces a lot of pinot noir and dry riesling. Some of the pinot, and nearly all of the chardonnay produced there gets brought to Australia to be made into sparkling wines.

We started at Stefano Lubiano. They call tasting rooms here the 'cellar door', and I immediately understood why. We literally walked up to the door to the big building where they make their wine, and had the world's most informal tasting. The woman pouring knew next to nothing about the wines, but was very kind, and in the end we bought a very nice dry riesling and a couple bottles of pinot.

Then we headed to Meadowbank, which was in the Coal River Valley proper. It was much swankier, and so although we intended to have lunch at the restaurant there, we wound up just having few small plates to share.

Next we headed to Puddleduck Winery, where we met Polly and Bazil Brown, two very friendly Corgies. Finally, we hit up Coal Valley Winery, after which point we all decided what we really needed was a nap.

Hobart was beautiful. Set on the water, where the Derwent River joins the ocean, the town has lots of gorgeous old buildings. We wandered around for a bit, and then, tired of touristing, and cold again (Hobart is closer to Antartica that I generally like to be) we settled in for a sushi feed. The next morning we woke up frighteningly early again (4 am) and headed for the airport so I could be back in Sydney in time for class! Needless to say I was pretty useless, but at least I got my attendance points in.

So that was my trip to Tasmania. I can't pinpoint why I found it so fantastic, but I do know this - I've got the travel bug. So look for more trips coming in the next few weeks!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

And she's off, part deux

I haven't been posting much lately. Mostly because I haven't been doing much besides going to school. And I just can't find anything particularly interesting in that. Although to give a brief update, my final schedule now looks like this:
Monday - Marketing Strategy
Tuesday - Financial Statement Analysis
Wednesday - Business Ethics for 6 weeks, then Corporate Social Responsibility for 6 weeks
Thursday - Strategies for Growth

They're all pretty good classes, except when the Ethics prof starts lecturing. That's when I go back to sleep.

I have been having fun with Google Maps, so here's a link to a map of my life in Sydney. Not surprisingly you'll see many of the highlighted locations are restaurants I want to try. Check back for reviews.,151.224747&spn=0.035781,0.076904&t=h&z=14

The exciting news is I'm headed to Tasmania today (I know, way to bury the lead). I'm going with 8 others from AGSM - 7 exchange and an awesome guy from Perth, who will hopefully keep us all from running off the road as we try to drive on the wrong side. I'm not sure how much internet access I'll have, so I'll start with another map of our itinerary.

View Larger Map

And here's a link to some photos of one of the waterfalls we're hoping to see. I'm including it as inspiration.