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The Voyage of Spectacle Travel

The Voyage

Spectacles

Andy and Melissa are sailing around the world on their 48-foot sailboat, Spectacle.

The Position

Bali, Indonesia

The Pictures

The Voyage of Spectacle

Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Spectacle in Sydney — Day 1

Posted by: melissa

 The alarm went off and we were all really dragging.  That little tease of sleep wasn’t totally satisfying, but after a caffeinated beverage, a slightly less intense adrenalin-high kicked in to assist us through this day.  We moved the boat over to Rushcutters Bay to the D’Albora Marina.  Once we arrived and tied to the dock, I suddenly became obsessed with bathing … a hot shower was my mission in life.  So we packed up the shower bag and headed up to the office to get the key to the facilities when the quarantine guy showed up.  He delivered a minor admonishment for leaving the boat without clearing quarantine, and I didn’t care.  I said something to the effect of:  “I haven’t showered in over 9 days so I need you to clear me and my person immediately because I am going to the shower right now.” 

Andy stayed with the quarantine guy as he looked for potential dangers, organic material, and introduced species.  His services cost AUS $416 making this the most expensive check-in process we’ve ever experienced.  He indicated that a good chunk of the charge was overtime to come on a Sunday.  We could’ve avoided overtime rates by staying on the boat until Monday morning, but that just wasn’t in the cards.  And he did take out all of the garbage in a fancy trash bag with official “Danger” and “Quarantine” stencils on it.  Whatever.  I didn’t care as I was luxuriating in a hot shower! 

Icebergs at Bondi Beach

Icebergs at Bondi Beach

As it turns out, Andy’s close friend from Mizzou was visiting Sydney on business travel from Bangkok, where he now lives and works.  As we pulled into the marina, Jason was waiting for us with hot flat whites and wow that was the most delicious coffee I’ve ever had!  After we cleaned up a little, we jumped in a cab and headed over to Icebergs, the famous restaurant with sweeping views of Bondi Beach.  We had a fabulous lunch with plenty of wine, and experienced the same “land sickness” episodes that we usually experience at our first onshore meal.  I started to relax a little, but I still felt like I was running pretty high on adrenalin.

After lunch, the boys went to check out the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia which is right next door to our marina.  The CYCA sponsors the annual Sydney to Hobart race which is both famous and infamous.  Since we had just crossed the Tasman, we were feeling a special affinity towards those brave enough to take on sailing in those latitudes!  Additionally, tenants at D’Albora Rushcutters are welcome to the private bar and restaurant so I’m sure we’ll be taking advantage of that in the future!  I, on the other hand, went for a relaxing lay down with my book.

Soon it was time to get up and eat again!  There’s so much great stuff to do in Sydney, and with Ryan on his last day, and Jason in town to visit, we were eager to get to it! 

We hopped in a taxi and went to an area called The Rocks which is right on the Bay and across from the Opera House and Harbor Bridge.  It’s a very cool part of town with all sorts of outdoor bars and restaurants and people milling around, so we decided to sit down and have an adult beverage.  We happened to be there during the Luminous Festival, and Sydneysiders were treated to huge, high-powered light shows with the Opera House as the canvas.  It was absolutely stunning and mesmerizing. 

Finished with cocktail hour, we headed to dinner at Quay, which is considered one of the very best restaurants in Australia.  It’s perfectly located also across from the Opera House so our viewing of the light show continued all evening.  The food was amazing, the wine was exquisite, and the company was fabulous … a truly magical night and a far cry from fighting the elements in the Tasman Sea!

Tour of the Northern Beaches with Friends from Billy Kwong

Posted by: melissa

About a week ago, we had dinner at a fantastic restaurant called Billy Kwong.  Billy Kwong is not an actual person, but the first name of one owner and the surname of the other owner.  Kylie Kwong is a celebrity chef in Australia specializing in Asian fusion cuisine, and she was there that evening standing in front of the semi-exposed kitchen at the service pass-through expediting orders.  The food was outstanding.  As we left, Andy waved and gave an effusive thumbs-up towards her, and she gracefully stepped to one side and gestured a bow to the uniformed chefs in the kitchen.  So incredibly classy. 

Anyway, Billy Kwong’s is quite a small restaurant, and as such, the tables are small and very close together.  In these types of scenarios, I always know that we’ll be making new friends since Andy just can’t not talk to the other tables … he’s very outgoing, he can’t help himself!  So, we met a lovely couple … Chris and Angela who live in Dubai and are visiting family in Sydney.  Suffice it to say, they are engaging people with very interesting and unusual life histories, and we got on like a house afire.  We had dinner together last week at a restaurant called Buzo, which was very fun because of good company but less successful for the cuisine.

Chris and Angela invited us for Yum Cha and after a delicious and super fun lunch, we decided to play hooky from boat preparations and take a drive to the northern beaches and Broken Bay.  We were especially interested in seeing Broken Bay since we had already decided to skip it by boat and head straight for Newcastle.  Those suburbs of Sydney are very beautiful, and the car tour turned into pitchers of beer by the water, and grill-it-yourself steak dinner and wine.  We didn’t get much done today, and we’ll probably delay our departure by one day at least, but who cares.

Off to Hunter Valley

Posted by: melissa

I woke up fairly early and headed out to get a flat white takeaway and rent a car.  Unfortunately, the Europcar office conveniently located about a block away from the marina is closed on Sundays.  I returned to the boat, jumped on the internet, and found a reasonably priced car available at the airport. 

I failed to note the location of the airport, however, and after a taxi ride where I wondered if the driver was actually taking us out to a deserted pasture to rob us and kill us, we finally arrived to the tune of a $60 fare.  We got the rental car, started driving, and while looking at the map and the road signs, we were overcome by suspicion of a taxi scam.  Oh well, live and learn.  At the very least, Europcar is letting us return at the local rental office so we don’t have to endure another cab ride to oblivion.

Hunter Valley is the wine producing area of New South Wales.

Hunter Valley is the wine producing area of New South Wales.

The road to Cessnock, the jumping off point for the Hunter Valley wine country, is rural.  We got lost several times, and the signage is pretty bad … none of those huge and reflecting traffic signs with bunches of grapes to show you the way.  Most importantly, we were really hungry having skipped breakfast and then stuck in the taxi. 

After passing several Macca’s (the Australian nickname for McDonald’s) and Hungry Jack’s (the Australian Burger King), we came across a couple of small take-out cafes that were just too sketchy to venture into.  I’m not being stuck up, but I just can’t eat a sausage roll from an establishment called Smelly’s, and the thought of out-station Australian Chinese food was just too much to bear.  We finally happened upon a hotel pub and restaurant, and ordered soup and chicken fingers thinking it to be fairly safe.  Unfortunately, the chicken wasn’t cooked all the way through – seriously, how can you screw up chicken fingers?  We left still hungry but armed with plenty of jokes about our upcoming bout with salmonella.

We drove into, and promptly out of, the rather charm-free Cessnock within a few minutes and missed the tourist office all together.  After a rough day so far, wine-tasting was exactly what we needed!  So Andy directed us to the nearest cellar door…

Back from Hunter Valley

Posted by: melissa
Spectacle at the Dock in Newcastle

Spectacle at the Dock in Newcastle

We spent Sunday night at a nice and pretty famous inn called Peppers in Pokolbin, where we had a surprisingly good degustation menu for dinner … scallops, quail, and veal, all very nice.  We also enjoyed delicious dessert called “Night at the Movies” with savory popcorn-flavored sorbet, Coca-Cola jello, malted milk balls, sweet Sprite sorbet with pistachios, and a couple of other chocolate items with creative twists on candy treats.  Very yummy!  We then passed out watching an Australian 60 Minutes special on the American Amish. 

On Monday, we had breakfast, did some wine-tasting, and met three guys, all Ph.D. candidates in math, in the area after a convention in Sydney … one from South Africa, one from Colombia, and one from Switzerland.  All three were wickedly smart and super interesting.  We had a lovely late lunch together, and then Andy and I drove home to Newcastle.   

Back in Newcastle, we took advantage of having the car, drove around a little just sight-seeing in general, and ended up at the local brewery at Queen’s Wharf for some televised rugby league, beer, and burgers.

“The” Sandwich

Posted by: melissa

If you do nothing else in Saigon, you must have “the” sandwich. 

I can’t take credit for finding this, as it has already been well-discussed and well described by several foodie blogs including eGullet (which I use alot), and Noodlepie (fantastic archives on Vietnamese food).

This sandwich is absolutely transcendent — a certifiable “Holy Cow!” moment.  I cannot recall ever having a better commercially available sandwich — anywhere, anytime.  Of course, your mileage may vary, but it’s hard to imagine any person who doesn’t despise pork, cilantro or BBQ sauce not loving it.

The chef operates a stand, outside of residential alley, with a small charcoal grill on the curb.  The sandwich comes wrapped in a piece of paper (oftentimes an old phone bill or receipt) secured with a rubber band.  Pull up a plastic step stool as a seat in the alley, watch that the passing motos don’t run over your feet, buy a water next door (for the same price as the sandwich itself), and dig in.

They are not large – I had 2, Andy had 3, and it wasn’t a disgusting pig-out.

There’s nothing to “order” — it’s the only item for sale.

A couple of notes at variance with the Noodlepie blog post:
(1) The price is now 10,000 dong (approximately 55 cents).
(2) She sets up well before 5:30 p.m. — we went at 2:00 and she wasn’t there and came back at 3:45 and she was in full swing.
(3) By 8:00 p.m., she was done for the day (our first attempt was unsuccessful).

Finally, be sure you are at 37 Nguyen Trai in District One — there’s at least one other 37 Nguyen Trai (we didn’t make that mistake but easily could have).

All I can say is, “You’re welcome.”


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