Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!
Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia, February 10, 2013.
Today, we made a trip to Bondi Beach. (Yesterday was Manly Beach).
I have always wanted to visit Bondi Beach, ever since I read an article about an NFL football player who used to play for Miami (Ricky Williams?) that was in “Sports Illustrated.” The football player pitched a tent near Bondi Beach and refused to play. Despite a multi-million dollar contract, he wanted to stay in Australia and smoke whatever he was smoking. Thus began the lure of Bondi Beach, for me.
We took the bus from Circular Quay and the bus went through the gay area of Sydney (which is having a Mardi Gras like celebration right now) and observed shops like the Saigon Queen (Vietnamese food). Because it is Sunday, things seemed somewhat slower than normal, as they used to feel on Sundays in Iowa City in the days when the state-run liquor stores were the only game in town and so many businesses closed that it felt like the entire town had closed down.
Bondi as the clouds roll in.
The clouds began to roll in around 4:30 p.m. and we took the bus back. Now, we’re debating our evening’s activities. The movies are pretty much all “old” by my standards. I saw most of them during the Chicago Film Festival last October, which was nearly 6 months ago. I did get to see “Hitchcock” here, but the others are me going for the second or third time (“The Impossible” and “Silver Linings Playbook,” for example).
Tomorrow is our last day here. We need to do something memorable.
Stacey aboard the ferry on our way to Manly Beach.
Today, we set off for Manly Beach by ferry.
Manly Beach, Feb. 9, 2013.
A short walk down Young Street to the ferry station and we set sail for Manly Beach with Stacey. We learned at the Sydney Museum across the street that the beach got its job when the aborigine natives approached the British ships and were found, by the sailors, to be “manly.”
Craig at Manly Beach, Feb. 9, 2013.
Blue sails in the sunset….
The weather was beautiful: high 70s to low 80s and sunny, at first. By 4:30 p.m.. the clouds had come in and the beach was slightly chilly, so we packed up and did a little shopping. (Stacey bought a new black dress to wear to her concert tonight.) I bought a beach towel and Craig got a new shirt, to wear in Cancun.
On the way to Manly Beach by ferry.
We were on a tight schedule to get Stacey back to shore so she could shower and get ready for her Saturday evening out with friends, but before leaving Manly Beach we ate fish and chips and barundi grilled fish (Craig) at an outdoor venue. Much better than the many thousands who are without power tonight in the northeast of the U.S. (Chicago, we hear, is getting a slightly less-intense version of Storm Nemo).
Stacey, with the Sydney Opera House in the background.
Manly Beach, Feb.9. 2013.
Tomorrow, we may either go to Bondi Beach or out on a whale-watching boat.
Me at the Galaxy Bookstore on York Street in Sydney, Australia.
The Galaxy Bookstore at 131 York Street in Sydney, Australia, hosted a book signing on Thursday night, February 7th, from 5 to 8 p.m. A paranormal romance book club meets at that time, and I had the opportunity to speak with some of the members as they began their group discussion at 6:30 p.m. I also cleared it with Dave, the store manager, that I could roam the lower level of the independent bookstore, which has been operating in Sydney for 40 years as a family-owned enterprise.
Allison, me and Chrissie the evening of the Galaxy Bookstore signing in Sydney at 131 York Street (Feb. 7, 5 to 8 p.m.)
Cath and Dom Zartarian (honeymooners) at dinner in Darling Harbour.
Our friends from the cruise ship the Celebrity Solstice, who had been driving about in Australia since the cruise and had visited friends in Brisbane, Cath and Dom Zartarian, returned to Sydney because they left today (February 8, Friday) to return to England. They came to my book signing, so three continents were represented.
RED IS FOR RAGE, second in THE COLOR OF EVIL series.
I offered purchasers of THE COLOR OF EVIL a free electronic copy of Book Two, which went “live” today on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Three of the book club’s members took me up on it, so I shall be sending them the book from my files and I hope they enjoy both the first and second installments in what is to be (at least) a three-book series.
Craig and I at a restaurant in Darling Harbour with our friends Don and Cath Zartarian.
After the signing, we stopped in Sweeney’s, an old style pub next door, and then went to Darling Harbour for dinner. The pictures below are of our evening meal with good friends Dom and Cath.
There are many of the same food chains here in Australia that we have in the United States, but they sometimes go by different names.
Through the Circular Queue Free Bus window you can see the Hungry Jack’s sign.
For instance, Burger King, here, is Hungry Jack’s. Of course, there’s been a bit of a flap here lately over the admission that there is horsemeat contained in the burgers at Burger King in New Zealand. Aside from an insane desire to neigh, I see nothing wrong with that. Although I must admit that I have NOT eaten a Burger King burger since leaving the States.
MacDonald’s restaurants are referred to as Maccas.
then there is the chain PieFace, which specializes in things like Shepherds’ Pie.
Tonight, we had thin crust pizza from Pizza Hut. We ordered sausage and mushroom. The sausage looked (and tasted) exactly like pepperoni, but the pizza was good. Cost? $32 for two larges.
It’s also interesting watching the local politics played out in the papers. It seems, to me (an admitted objective outsider) that someone has it in for Julia Guillard, the current Labour Party Prime Minister. She has lost one of her undersecretaries (he just wants to quit) and another is charged with 150+ counts of using his Labour Party credit card to order hookers, clothes, meals, etc. The Thompson fellow denies all charges and showed up on “the telly” with his wife by his side to tell the world that he will fight all charges, which, coincidentally, have been increasing. (Originally, he was charged with 150 counts of fraud, but now he is charged with 154 counts of fraud.) I joked that he must have ordered 2 more meals and 2 more prostitutes since the original charges were filed.
New Zealand National Museum.
The problem is that the opposition party has a really slimey looking dude (name: Tony Abbott) running against Julia, who has recently begun sporting frame glasses. The announcement of national elections to be held in 7 months seems to have sent the country into a tizzy. There’s also been a lot about Qantas Airways joining forces with Emirates Airlines for various purposes. Qantas had announced it was doing great in 2011 and then, suddenly, announced the exact opposite, causing them to want to combine forces.
Craig Thomson has been released after posting bond on his 154 counts of (alleged) fraud. Also in the news is a million-dollar land scam designed to benefit one particularly crooked politician and family, which was uncovered and is now being litigated.
February 4, 2013: First day on the Qantas project, creating a jet plane full of people made of sand.
Sand In Your Eyes (www.sandinyoureyes.com) is the longest running Australian sand sculpting company. It was formed by Master sculptor Dennis Massoud more than 20 years ago. The team is currently sculpting a Qantas airplane. complete with tail fin and passengers in seats, in front of Sydney, Australia’s Common House at the foot of Young Street. February 5, 2013, was the second day on the job for Massoud’s team, which has sculpted sand all over Australia and in locations as diverse as the Gobi Desert in China and Luliang Province. In fact, the work assignments have taken Massound around the world 9 times in the past 7 years. He has been offered an assignment, which, if he accepts it, will tie him up for 3 years creating the biggest world’s largest sand sculpture from 38,000 tons of sand, with a base 100 meters across and 38 meters tall. Massoud was the 2003 winner of a sand sculpting competition in Denmark in 2003.
One of Massoud’s team prepares the sand on Day One in Sydney, Australia, in front of the Commons House.
Crowds are absolutely stunned by the detail and creativity of Massoud’s team of sand sculptors. The most commonly questions asked are “How can you do that?” and “Is it just sand ?” The answer is, “Yes, it is just sand but a lifetime of skill and experience is necessary to learn to mold it into lifelike forms.”
A few seconds before this was taken, Dennis Massoud cautioned me about touching the sand on the sides of the “chair.”
Me as Qantas passenger.
Massoud, himself, began sculpting sand as a small boy of 7 on Australia’s beaches. When surveys are taken at major events where the creativity of Sand In Your Eyes is on display, sand sculptures have proven to be the most popular form of entertainment. In shopping centers it’s quite common for crowds to swell by 50 to 70%.
“Don’t touch the chair arms!” (say with spirit).
Massoud’s team has worked in locations as remote as the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, and remote islands such as the Mariana group, as well as in places as sacred as Gothic cathedrals or as chic as the only eight-star hotel in the world, the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi.
Sand in Your Eyes (www.sandinyoureyes.com) is the only Australian sand sculpting company that’s affiliated with the prestigious WSSA ,World Sand Sculpting Association. The founder of WSSA, Gerry Kirk, is the grand master of sand. He holds four Guinness book world records involving sand sculpture that have never been broken.
Plane in progress.
The team of approximately 20 sculptors have been at work in front of the Commons House in Sydney for 2 days and there is a contest associated with the sculpting that involves a free trip. In allowing me to sit in the plane seat under construction, I signed a release and was cautioned not to touch the sides of the seat. When I appeared to be brushing the seat with my arms, Massoud rushed over to caution me.
I’ll be back tomorrow, on Day Three, to see how the Qantas display shapes up.
February 3, 2013 – Anish Kapoor designed what is popularly known as “The Bean” which graces Chicago’s Millennium Park. He is best-known for his sculptures involving mirrored surfaces, and is one of the British sculptors along with Tony Cragg, Richard Deacon, Shirazeh Houshiary and Antony Gormley. The exhibit of Kapoor’s work began December 20, 2012 and will continue until April 1 of 2013.
Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia.
The exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, Australia presents a wide range of Kapoor’s sculptures, including one of his most famous, the 2006 stainless steel sculpture entitled Sky Mirror, which has also graced Rockefeller Center and London’s Kensington Gardens,and currently stands in front of the Museum, reflecting the clouds on Sydney Harbour. The giant mirror measures 10 meters.
The largest sculpture resembled a giant egg and weighed 24 tons. It is the 2009 sculpture “Memory,” which looked like nothing so much as a warped football/basketball/soccer ball.
At the Anish Kapoor Exhibit, Feb. 3, 2013, Sydney Australia Museum.
A gray day here in Australia with temperatures near 70 Fahrenheit. We watched “Network” and “Midnight Express” till 3:30 a.m.. so we got a late start.
Much like my obstructed view in Chicago, we can see the Harbour but the view is obstructed by buildings.
Stacey joined us at 3 p.m. and we took off for Circular Quay Theater, 2 blocks away and saw “Silver Linings Playbook.” Cost of an adult ticket? $18. Cost of a ticket for a senior? $11.
Cornet player Paul Wheeler and me, post movie, in Sydney, Australia.
Afterwards, we strolled next door and had fish and chips and burgers at a bar nearby where Paul Wheeler played cornet.
Stacey and Craig and I on Circular Quay on Saturday, February 2nd after the movie “Silver Linings Playbook.”
We walked back to Bridge Street and Stacey left to “socialize” with her friends.
Craig and cornetist Paul Wheeler.
Tomorrow, we’ll hit the Museum with the Anish Khapour exhibit. We already visited the Museum right across the street from us and the Mint and Parliament and also strolled past the Hospital.
Ringo Starr is touring Australia. It’s like a European-ized version of the United States. The cornet player was invited to the book signing on Thursday (5 to 8 p.m.) at the Galaxy Bookstore on York Street.
Wednesday, January 16, 2013: First day on the ship. We do not sail until tomorrow. We ended up sitting out by the pool, but Dad’s suitcase did not come very promptly, so he did not get to get in the hot tub with us. Our evening meal was shrimp cocktail, prime rib, mushroom soup and profiterole with pecan ice cream and chocolate sauce. Scrumptious.
Stacey & Craig with Sydney Harbour Bridge in background
, January 17, 2013: Second day actually ON the ship and setting sail at 6:30 p.m. for Melbourne. We had dragged our suitcases from the Holiday Inn in the old part of Sydney down to the cruise ship (Celebrity Solstice) without benefit of a cab. Today, we did not sail until the evening, so we went ashore and took a Jet Ski boat trip that was quite wet. It was my pick and cost $60 per person. We put on red ponchos, but that didn’t help much. We got our seat assignment changed from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and, tonight, we met Dom and Kath, who were from Manchester. Tomorrow we are going to take part in a wine tasting onboard ship. Dom and Kath are newlyweds and seem quite nice. Tomorrow is the “dressy night” in the dining room.
Sydney Opera House.
Friday, January 18, 2013: Third day. At sea. After our late dinner seating, everyone was so tired that the movie Stacey selected (“Jeff, Who Lives At Home”) was incomplete when we turned it off and retired at midnight. At that point, I was the only one awake, and I wasn’t watching the film at all, as I saw it at the Chicago Film Festival year before this (2011) with the Director present to answer questions. So I continued reading my selection (“Odd Thomas: The Apocalypse” by Dean Koontz), obtained from the free onboard Library. (I had planned to take John Irving’s latest, but I didn’t grab it in time and it was gone.) You can just take a book and you are simply asked to return it at the end of the cruise. Sort of the honor system. Someone topside was reading a book that had, in big letters, WILSON, and I commented that it was too bad it wasn’t one of MY books, but it underscores the prevalence of the surname “Wilson” in the world of literature (or anything else.) At breakfast today, the Captain came on and announced that we had traveled 270 nautical miles and had about 285 nautical miles to go, i.e., we are roughly halfway to Melbourne, which is, according to Stacey, about a 9 hour drive by car. We are traveling at 18 knots. It is 70 degrees Fahrenheit and the water temperature is 68 degrees Fahrenheit. There are 20 to 25 mph winds and we will arrive in port around 3 am. There are reports from the Melbourne area of forest fires raging out of control. The town of Toongabbi reported a temperature of 43 Celsius (about 110 degrees) and Shane Fitzsimmons of some authority reported on our in-room TV that the Newell Highway was closed in both directions. We were told all this on the elevator by an Aussie couple and Craig responded, “I guess I’ll have to look for smoke,” which convulsed them with laughter as they departed the elevator, since we are roughly 300 miles away. The Captain’s quote (Words of Wisdom, he called them): “Borrow money from a pessimist; he won’t expect it back.” Not sure what that has to do with anything, but, at 2 p.m., we are scheduled to go to wine tasting with our old friends Dom and Kath also in attendance ($23 per person). Stacey and I purchased the Coca Cola plan, which allows you unlimited Coke products, as long as you only take one at a time. It costs $8 per person, per day, and we definitely have been getting our money’s worth, as the cost, per Coca Cola, is about $3 otherwise. This is an American boat, which means that all my pluggable items (hair dryer, curling iron, electric rollers) work. Stacey is the one who needs an “adaptor.” This will all change when we return to Sydney for 2 weeks, at which time we will need all the adaptors we can get out hands on. They sell for about $12 per adaptor down here in stores near The Rocks, but the Holiday Inn put a $32 charge on our bill until we returned a borrowed one. I also posted one time, from our hotel room, and I had to sign on and got kicked off quite late. Rather than purchase 24 hours (for $22.95), I purchased one hour for $10 and, later, after we watched Stacey’s friends plan at the bar, $10 for another hour. Unfortunately, with 5 minutes left in my hour, the machine kicked me off. I thought, “Oh, well,” and signed on for (yet another) $10 hour, but the computer would not allow me access. Therefore, Craig had to argue about taking the charge for $10 off for the last hour (which I did not use, it being close to 1:30 a.m. at the time). We did succeed in getting the $35 in bogus charges removed, and the hotel was so close that we could walk to the boat pulling our luggage. I thought I would be unhappy that I had taken my computer AND the normal 2 bags I travel to Cancun with (one for clothes, one for make-up) but, so far, I have been very happy with my choice of garments, which ignored all the “It’s hot” stuff and brought lightweight sweaters, etc. to wear with lighter-weight garments. I am wearing my sleeveless blue-with-silver dress now and I found a blue top that compliments it (but not the one bought to go with it, which I could not find). We ate breakfast a few minutes ago, and it was a huge buffet with most things one would expect at breakfast. (eggs, sausages, bacon, hash browns, corned beef hash, fruit, etc.). Only the orange juice was sub-par. Apparently, it is made from concentrate and the concentrate had run out in our dispenser, leaving us with water. I drank a fruit juice (like Hawaiian punch) that was like that given us as we boarded. In order to board after disembarking, we have to show our key card, which has a picture attached to it. They are very particular about NOT bringing booze onto the ship. They put your luggage through a metal detector and, if booze is found, they confiscate it and store it in the duty-free room until after the cruise. I am happy because, being an American ship out of Miami, the cruise offers Berenger’s white zinfandel by the glass, which almost no one in Australia has, according to Stacey. We will sample various wines at 2 pm today, and then, tonight, is the Captain’s Welcome with fancy clothes. I plan to wear a fancy black jacket with white cuffs and a sparkly clasp and a long black velour skirt. Tomorrow’s temperature is going to be only 72 Fahrenheit, so my outfits will be fine, although Stacey, who started her sojourn in Melbourne, says there isn’t that much “tourist-y” to do in that city. I’m not paying for Internet on this cruise, since it is slow and unreliable and extremely pricey.
Saturday, January 19, 2013
Downtown Melbourne, Australia.
We arrived in Melbourne today. I got up at 8:30 a.m. , showered (no bathtub, unless you forked out an additional $4,000) and we set off for Melbourne. I knew little to nothing about Melbourne. We found out that the Australian Open Tennis Tournament was going on about 2 miles from where we were. We walked up and down Swanston Street and had a drink at an outdoor café. (I ordered a lemonade from Schwappes, and it tasted like 7-Up). Here, they call “McDonald’s” Maccas. One Krispy Kreme donut was $2.50. At home, you could probably buy a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts for $2.50! We tried to go to the Aquarium, but the line was horrendously long, so we got out of line and went to an Internet Café, instead. I got a nice note from Pam, at home, and a note from Pan, my friend in Minneapolis, saying her account had been hacked and not to open any mail from her. My impression(s) of Melbourne were that it was not much different than many seaport towns: nothing architecturally interesting, etc. The homes we saw along the trolley route reminded me of the homes in Mesa, AZ in that they didn’t have any basements and were relatively alike. The park (and hotel near it) were kind of grubby and flat. It wasn’t my favorite Australian city by a long shot. (Of course, it’s only the second one, and I’m not likely to visit many others.)
Sunday, January 20 We danced to Beatles music in the main area after dinner. Stacey had a Swedish massage. I had a facial. We were at sea. I watched “The Exotic Marigold Hotel.”
Monday, January 21
Milford Sound, Dusky Sound, Doubtful Sound, New Zealand (Dusky is only reachable by boat.)
Dr. Jose (Hernandez?) from Mexico told me about the Alaskan cruise involving a helicopter ride. Tomorrow, the Milford Sound stop where only 120 people live but over a million people a year visit. One of the wettest places on Earth. Sand Fly Point is mentioned for the end of a 6 hour run to that point. Different things to see coming in to Milford Sound: waterfalls—some of them are fed by moss—so thick that it can absorb water and hold it for day and feeds the waterfalls for days afterwards. Water falls over one kilometer (over one mile). With the very high falls, they don’t actually get to touch the water of Milford Sound, which gets blown away. Mitre Peak is named after the 5 peaks of a Bishop’s mitre. Rock faces all the way around. Rain forest going all the way around. The Elephant and The Lion are the most famous peaks. We pull in at 7 a.m. tomorrow. Mitre Peak, The Elephant and the Lion are the 3 we will see upboard on deck. Mitre Peak is 1700 meters out of the water and one of the most photographed peaks of N.Z. The top is often shrouded in mist and clouds. We should be able to see at least a portion of that big mountain. New Zealand is a hiking center. “No worries.” It’s possible to climb Mitre Peak if you have overnight and don’t mind falling. I0 hours one way. Below the water, it is a similar temperature in winter and summer: cold all the time. The water flows down the cliffs and gets soaked by the tannens from the plants and creates a unique sea water barrier that blocks the light. With that light being blocked by the tannic water, black coral and other weird sea life forms are fostered. Black coral usually lives 500 meters below the surface, but you can see it only 10 meters below the surface. It is a popular dive site. The temperature can be challenging for a beginning diver because of the tannic water, you can’t see much.
Tuesday, January 24, 2013
Dunedin, New Zealand, just opposite our private deck, on the hill.
Today, we sailed into Milford Sound. It is rocky with mountains with fog on top. Stacey and Craig went upstairs to take pictures. I followed along, but not until about 10 a.m., at which point the boat had sailed in, turned around 360 degrees, and was sailing out. We will sail into Doubtful Sound at 1 p.m. It is now 11:30 a.m. Stacey has (apparently) lost our TV control, so we now cannot watch anything on our in-room TV, which sucks. It was cold on the deck, and I could never find Stacey and Craig. I eventually went into the dining room and had a roll, some fruit, and some juice and talked to a couple from Dallas/Fort Worth area. If we can relocate Stacey, we may be able to relocate our TV control, but, otherwise, we are screwed. We have several channels and free movies IF we can find our TV control to use our TV. My shots from the on-ship doctor seem to have left little “bumps” at each side of my mouth. I wonder if the Pearline is suppose to disperse downward over time? Otherwise, I have 2 little “gopher pouches” on each side of my mouth, which is interesting, to say the least, but not quite what I thought was the desired effect. At least it was not as painful as Restylane in Cancun, with just an ice cube.
Wednesday, January 25, 2013 Spent the day in Dunedin (Port Chalmers) New Zealand and took a train ride, which I hope to illustrate with photos.
Sydney Airport on arrival at 9 a.m. Australian time, after leaving the U.S. at 10:45 p.m. on Sunday, January 12, 2013. Arrived Tuesday, the 15th at about 9 am.
Drove for 3 and 1/2 hours to Chicago, then flew from Chicago to San Francisco for departure (4+ hours). Began trek to Australia (13 and 1/2 hours) and was happy to find out that I was on an aisle seat and there was nobody in the middle between me and a nice girl from Canada (Edmunton). I could not sleep and watched “Trouble with the Curve,” part of “The Words,” and lots of re-runs of “The Big Bang Theory” before landing in Sydney and going through customs.
Traveled approximately 7,500 miles and read a lot of magazines before going through customs.
Australian customs crowd,
Holiday Inn near the Rocks in Sydney,
Checked into Holiday Inn at the Rocks (Old Sydney) right across from where our cruise ship is docked at 10 a.m. Aussie time. (It was something like 7 p.m. our time, as they are 16 hours ahead of us.
The cruise ship (The Celebrity Solstice) is visible from our Holiday Inn window.
Here is a picture of our cruise ship from our Holiday Inn window. We move to the Celebrity Solstice tomorrow and begin sailing for Melbourne and New Zealand after that.
Stacey and Craig at Gigi’s our first night, for dinner.
Tonight, we had dinner with Stacey at a nice restaurant (Gigi’s), pizza and lasagna: bill $74. Gelato for dessert. Afterwards, we would go listen to some of Stacey’s flatmates playing at a local bar.
James Morrison on lead vocals, Miles Frasier (in Deere hat) on lead guitar.
Here are The Morrisons, all graduates of Sydney University in music, with Stacey sitting in on one song. Lead guitar Miles Frasier has on his John Deere hat, courtesy of Yours Truly.
Miles, up close and personal, sporting Moline’s Deere hat. The group sang “Sweet Home, Chicago” for Stacey.
I sent John Deere shirts, hats and memorabilia ahead to thank all of Stacey’s friends, especially the Frasiers who took her in for the holidays.
Jimmy on mandolin, Stacey (Wilson) and James (Morrison), aka “Morry.”
Stacey sat in on one of the songs, by invitation, with James Morrison, Jimmy, Ian (on bass) and Miles.
Downtown near our hotel in Sydney, Australia
Some random shots taken of buildings in the area.
I think this might be City Hall, but all I know for sure is that we are on George Street, near the docks, which is a very trendy, nice area of town. All of Stacey’s friends in Australia were very kind and nice to us (which is more than I can say for the one person I know in Australia) and we had a great evening hanging out with the extremely talented young musicians.