Don’t miss the train

There was one train that stopped in Broken Hill, Australia and it only came a few days a week. I missed it and I was crying to the ticket agent while she was giving me options I couldn’t afford on my backpacker’s budget. I was in the middle of Australia’s outback and I guess I was going to be staying for another day or two. At the time it seemed like a horrible day, but these are the things that can happen while traveling.

To be fair, this was my fault. I arrived at the train station on time and waited for nearly an hour. There was an announcement over the speakers saying the already late train was broken down and they believed it would be an hour until it arrived at the station. It was early morning in Broken Hill, so I left to get a cup of coffee a few blocks away. While at a cute cafe I hadn’t visited during my time there I looked over the menu and ordered a small breakfast. I waited with my coffee for my carryout order to be ready and boxed up. It took a total of fifteen minutes and I started back to the station. I heard train noises coming from the station. I went running with my not very light backpack, coffee and bag of freshly cooked food to the Broken Hill train station a few short blocks away just in time to run up the flight of stair to see the last of the train pulling away. I yelled out and began to cry, a reaction I do not normally have when things turn upside-down on me. The ticket attendant tried to comfort me and give me options to get out of this lonely outback town. These options included buying another ticket leaving a few days later or getting a taxi to drive to the next town the train was stopping at and asking the train conductor to wait. The cab ride would be cutting it very close and the train would only be able to wait about fifteen minutes. I did not have money to pay a taxi to speed to the next stop a few hours away. I was also not able to get my money back from the train I had just watch leave without me. Still very upset and felling defeated I left the train station and walked down the road still with hot breakfast in hand. I Found a parking lot with a space for me to sit unnoticed under a ramp and called my mom. She did what all great mothers do and told me it was going to be all right and there were other options for me. I knew this to be true, but I was just so mad at myself. I let my mother talk softly to me as I ate my delicious breakfast still sniffling. With my head hanging low I went back to the small hotel I had just checked out of and explained my situation and asked for another night. The owner was so kind to let me go back to the same room which wasn’t yet made up.

I did make plans to leave and I was only delayed a single day. I caught a bus very early the next morning and said goodbye to Broken Hill once again and watched out the bus window a beautiful outback sunrise as the bus drove down Barrier Highway back towards Sydney.

Passengers rights on a flight.

There are times when you have the right and times when you must sit down and wait. According to the US Department of Transportation, there are rules in place that US airlines must abide by. If you are on a domestic flight the airline can hold you for no more then three hours and international flights for hours unless there is a safety issue. If you have been waiting in your seat with the same view of the tarmac for two hours the airline must provide food, water, and a lavatory.  In the United States if you have been waiting for three hours you must be given the option to get off. You may not see your checked bag for a while and may find it hard to book another flight, but you will be free of the same seat you have been waiting in for hours. Passengers who choose to leave a plane that has been delayed may not be allowed back on and is then responsible for finding another flight. If you are outside the USA there is still hope to escape a flight stuck on the tarmac, but you must wait four hours to be given the option to deplane and the same issues arise only on an international setting. Trying to track down baggage and book a new flight in a foreign land and losing the money on the flight you just walked off of are just a few headaches involved. These lengthy tarmac delays aren’t the norm, but it is always good to know what options and rights as a passenger you have.

The art of coffee in New Zealand

Although there are Starbucks close to everywhere New Zealand does coffee slower and much better. Like a lot of things in the country, Kiwis take pride in their coffee making. There are a few distinct differences when ordering coffee in New Zealand (and Australia). The two big differences are the flat white and the tall black. There are many other types of coffee available when you walk up the the counter. The barrister takes pride in the art of coffee in New Zealand. Every coffee is started with fresh roasted grounds perfectly pressed into an espresso machine. Drip coffee pots are very hard to find.  If you enjoy coffee then drinking four hour old coffee may not be your idea of a good coffee. Every coffee is made to order and is worth the wait and the line to get your morning coffee. It is not only in coffee shops and restaurants that this bean art is taken so seriously, gas station also follow suit with a coffee bar with someone there to make it. There is no stale coffee in pots or urns. So you better know what you want as you walk up and dont just say “I want a large coffee” because you will get a strange look. Most coffee is espresso based in many varieties.  You can get a large, not so strong cup of coffee called the Americano which is a espresso diluted with water. Short black, long black, short macchiato, americano, long macchiato, flat white, latte, cappuccino, mochaccino, piccolo, affogato, and vienna are all common espresso drinks you can find and should try. But the drink of the Kiwis is the flat white and its easy to see why. The flat white is 1/3 espresso and 2/3 steamed milk with mineral foam. It is still up for debate where this drink originated from . Both Australia and New Zealand both lay claim to starting this drink. It is a common and heated topic at times because both countries are very passionate about the coffee art.

  • Flat white• starts with a double espresso with steamed milk and foam. The difference between a flat white and an
  • Tall black • no milk, no sugar just great coffee, and strong

Coffee art is very trendy lately and New Zealand is no stranger to the beautiful creations made atop your coffee. As see above my cup of flat white has a little bird and a fern, a symbol of the country. The barista make it look so effortless as they dump the steaming coffee and creamy foam into a mug. But the most important this is the taste. The flat white is where the pride and the art comes in. It is much harder to make a pretty picture on top of a tall black. If you love coffee then try the local favorite of the area you are in. Go out of your comfort zone and try new things, you may never go back to drip coffee again.

Salamanca Market

Tucked away at the edge of town in Hobart is a lively street market. Early in the morning when the row on sandstone buildings have an orange glow, vendors are busy setting up for this large outdoor market. I cut through a park to head to the market and before I made it to the other side I was following my nose right to the fresh baked and fried delights that awaited. There were street performers playing for tips and vendors shouting out to potential buyers walking by. There are two main rows of the market headed down many blocks and including the local shops lining the road enticing market-goers to come inside. The entire scene is loud and colorful making me turn my head trying not to miss any sights. The people of Hobart are craft people making homemade items from scented oils children’s toys. Fresh cut flowers and all sorts of food make while you watch and wait.

I started down one row and was sure to stay on one side and try to only look at only that side all the way to the end and turned around and did the same to the other side of the side aisle to make sure I didn’t miss anything. There are two long and wide rows which I make sure I double back a few parts to make my final purchases and head out to the water for a break from the shoulder to shoulder people at the Salamanca Market. I had an amazing sausage roll with all the fixings and a flat white coffee as I sat and watched the hustle of the market from afar.

The Salamanca Market has been selling wares from 1972 in Tasmania every Saturday. It’s one of the most visited tourist attractions on the entire island of Tasmania. It’s free and it’s in the central part of Hobart how could it not be the most popular! Make sure you get up early on Saturday in Hobart tucked away in Tasmania. You won’t be sorry.

There is also more of a local market on Sunday morning in town. Consisting of cheese and dried meats tents, but mainly fruits and vegetables with a few food trucks. On Sunday I went out to the market to do some shopping it went from raining to pouring on my short walk down the hill to the closed-off road. I already walked these blocked a few hours before that morning and watched the vendors transfer their produce carefully from the car and trucks to the displays and not a drop fell. The whole morning it rained but that didn’t seem to dampen the buyers or sellers in Hobart. The slow precision of the umbrella looking over the goods stopped at the food trucks. The food trucks brought warmth and a lifeline through the rain. A few large tents in the center of the horseshoe for eating was a close cluster with no umbrellas. I had a great lunch in the rain with a few laughs under the tents. Just because it’s raining doesn’t mean the world is inside, go outside and splash in the world.

Manly Island

Going to manly Island on the Ferry is a slow peaceful way to some other parts of Sydney and great photo ops on the way of the iconic Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge. There are sailboats scattered all along the waterways and speedboats zipping by.

Getting off the ferry I was surrounded by small tourist shops selling food and beachwear. The boardwalk leads right out from the shops to the long stretch of golden sand beaches. Manly Island is a great Sydney surf spot and on a sunny day, there is competition for the good sets of waves. When I walked down the path along the beach there were two beach volleyball courts set up with bleaches on the beach for events. At the end of the path are an ocean pool and a health center with an amazing view.

The pink dolphins of Hong Kong

Away in an old fishing village, there are regular tours of something I have never heard of before, pink dolphins. More commonly called the Chinese White Dolphin but affectionately called pink dolphins for this unusual pink and white-colored dots making themselves stand out against the dark water. I found this tour in Tai O village, a once-thriving fishing community, now being overshadowed by a giant bridge connecting the Hong Kong cities of Zhuhai and Macau. It is the longest sea-crossing bridge spanning the Pearl River Delta. Tai O has been an attraction to see the local fishing culture and to catch a glimpse of the pink dolphins, but now the village has an added feature on the boat tour, to see the new record-breaking bridge. The bridge construction has been a threat to the rare pink creatures. Marine experts say the dolphins feeding and communication activities of these very social animals have been distributed. Hopefully, now that the construction is about over and the bridge is waiting for its grand opening the sea life will be left alone.

The Dolphins start their lives as dark calves until they grow into the famous pink spots. The pink spots are from blood vessels beneath the skin of the dolphins. There isn’t a great deal known about these pink dolphins of Hong Kong but the numbers don’t lie. The animals in the Pearl River Delta areas have seen numbers drop by eighty percent over the past decade.

Try as you may, but you will not find any pink dolphins in my photos. Like many others on the boat, I was never ready when these creatures would jump up to say hello. After many missed shots, I simply sat back in the first of the boat and watched pointed pink heads pop up and splash away just as quick. It was a calm end to a busy Hong Kong day.

Oktoberfest!

Welcome to the beer fest of all beer fests!

Oktoberfest in Munich Germany puts on a grand show every year for almost 7 million people starting at the end of September. But before you can drink a pint of beer there is much planning, prep, and building that must go on with a team of highly skilled teams create a new vision each year. There are 700 vendors ready to set up for the weeks of madness ahead. The area of the event is already a construction site by July and doesn’t stop for ten weeks. The first thing that comes to mind is the giant beer tents. There are 14 major tents and 15 minor tents. In the biggest tents, there can be upward of 8,000 festival-goers. The tents are made of all wood grounded to concrete that is poured every year. For the management, this is a full-time job planning and pulling off this annual party. Several thousand people come together to wrap up the project in the few weeks of construction. Tear down is about half the time of set up running around five weeks. Most parts are stored in storage containers and delivered to the storehouses in Munich

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I planned my visit for the opening day. It was a calm morning when I arrived with my mother and took a stroll down the main road of beer tents standing tall. By the time we doubled back, the roads were filling with beer drinkers waiting for the day to get started. We picked the Hippodrome tent and sat and had a bite to eat and noticed that most tables were reserved. We quickly learned that there is an opening parade and each owner comes into their tent and taps the first barrel and the beer drinking does not stop for a few weeks after. From the beautiful windows, I watched the parade roll by with barrels of beer and horse-drawn carriage and everyone was dressed for the occasion. There is such a buzz for the town for the opening day, Like the city of Munich has been waiting to unwrap its gift for months, watching the structures go up for months in town.

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My favorite photo of my mother joining me October Fest in 2013

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Yes, this is a blurry picture but they move so fast with all that beer! This was the best I could get an even more beer was rushing by, being gripped tightly by fingertips.

My advice is to get here early to get a seat or wait for the short lines of smaller tents. I definitely would recommend going to multiple tents for different environments in each one. If you have a larger group it pays to plan ahead of time and reserve a table in a tent of your choice. All of Munich books up for this beer event, so planning ahead helps get more of what you are looking for before it’s booked up. My last bit of wisdom is if you drink a few too many pints, there is a nice grassy hill to rest your eyes until the next round. It’s all a very happy party and the locals are waiting to welcome you in. Do your country proud, don’t make a drunken fool of yourself. We have all seen this too many times. Safe travels and smart drinking!

Windy Wellington

The Capital of New Zealand and tucked away at the bottom of the north island and is the gateway to the south island. The ferry across the Cook Straight runs from Picton to Wellington three or four times a day through two different companies, Interisland and Bluebird. But we didn’t come here just to leave. There are things to do and see in Wellington! The first place I feel most people are drawn to is the downtown waterfront area. The length of the water has shops, restaurants, and some museums lined up ready for the next batch of visitors. The weekend is the big draw for the waterfront, farmers markets and rummage sales going on every Saturday. Sunday has different events and activities going on all year. When I was there one Sunday morning there was a relay for life race going on. Being the capital city center you can count on various functions.

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The streets are narrow and are filled with endless shops of all kinds. Wellington is a busy city but a friendly one. Like most of New Zealand, their citizens try to look out for one another and give the benefit of the doubt. Wellington is a great city for a pedestrian. I never took a cab or bus while in the capital city. There is wide sidewalk twisting with every street even in the midst of road construction. There are so many fascinating places I passed on my many hours of getting to know this city I definitely didn’t have enough time to stop at them all.

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The best view and my favorite part of the windy capital city is the cable car that lifts to the top of the city. There are signs on the streets to direct you towards the ticket and the bottom of the cable car. Every ten minutes the car runs for a small fee and you will have two options. You can pay for a return ticket down or get a oneway ticket and walk back down to the city. You must take a oneway ticket and wonder the way back down. There are multiple paths to follow heading down and there are even maps available along the way. Lush green landscapes and manicured yards give way to a stunning rose garden. The rose garden was in full bloom on that warm day I found myself at the edge of row after colorful row. Not only roses but the exotic flowers from a place a half a world away from my own home. So it was all new and unique to me. The rose garden is The Lady Norwood Rosegarden and has The Wellington Botanic Garden just up the hill.

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Be local

Go local! We have heard it said, but what does that mean to you right now. If you are sitting at a desk not doing work you should be or sitting by a pool on a far away island you can find what is off the beaten tourist path of chain stores and malls if you look around.

Being a local in your current city, home town when you visit family, or find something local in a far away place. It’s always worth it to go local and see how people are going about daily life. If the locals love a great restaurant, it’s safe to say the food will be worth the trouble.

If you need to be pulled out of your fast food comfort food zone then listen to these reason why going local, anywhere, is important everyday.

  • Big box stores dont need anymore of your money.

Which do you think gives better service and quality, the multiple billion dollar corporation paying minimum wage workers who have trouble answering questions or the small locally owned businesses ran by a family and is tied into the community. I would rather put my money into the hands of a small business owner even if its cost a little more.

  • Google doesn’t always know everything.

There are places in this world (believe it or not) that are not connected to a Facebook page or Google maps. When you are in the far corners of the Earth you may not be able to understand what information is on the internet. If you happen to pass a place where the tables are full and there is a line, there must be a good reason and its usually worth the wait. “Greasy spoons” and “hole-in-the-wall” restaurants have some of the best homemade cooking in every city.

  • Locals know what’s happening

As you are strolling by a busy lunch spot for the afternoon rush of the blue collar area and decide to see what the fuss is all about then you have made it past the first step. The next part is tricky (not really) and involves speaking to others. Ask your server or eat at the bar and talk to a person near you. See what is going on around you. Even if you are asking about what is going on in your own area you still can learn about amazing places from word of mouth. When you are in a place with a language barrier there are always still ways to ask about great things to do. Draw a picture, translate a question, or hand and body language talking. It seems like a lot of trouble but the rewards can be amazing, even if it’s just the tale of getting lost on the way.

Supporting the little guys doesn’t just benefit the small business owner. It is good for you the consumer! Usually going small means it’s not a touristy spot and the prices are cheaper. In the cases that you pay for for an item chances are the quality is much higher then the cheaper box store version. I would rather purchase a homemade gift to a gift anyone could buy on Amazon.

This is a photo of a woman I meet selling woven elephants on the sidewalk outside a market. I gladly paid for this fine craftsmanship and a very unique souvenir from my time in Thailand. Go out and get lost, or meet your neighborhood Baker and make a new friend. It may be the most fun thing you do all week.

Melbourne, Australia Chinatown vibes

The Chinatown in Melbourne Australia in the central business district and is home to places of business, worships, and restaurants for the home of the longest continuous Chinese settlement. The Chinese originally came for the Australian gold rush and stayed for a new life. This small section of Melbourne is home to the Chinese’s New Year festival which lasts for a few weeks every year with fireworks and the waking of the dragon.

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Many people just pass by  Little Bourke Street on their hustle of the madness of the downtown. I can not say enough how amazing getting away from the droves of people can be. The hidden discovers to be found. Chinatown is missed often because there is so much to do in Melbourne. You can walk down the gate that is the start of Chinatown and see many different Asian restaurants and shops.  Chinatown has grown from one block with a gate on each end to now have grown to multiple blocks over the past few years. I learned that in American Chinatowns, there are mostly Cantonese settled there. In Melbourne, there is a much more diverse Chinatown represented. Why is that good for you? Many more types of food to try and more mixing of cultures.

When you make it to the busy area of CBD of Melbourne make sure you take time out to walk the few blocks of Chinatown. Even if it is just to see the beautiful buildings and for the free smells.

A first look at Melbourne Australia